Perpetually doomed and angst-ridden Boston Red Sox fans have found comfort in a book called "The Curse Of The Bambino" that recapitulates all the plagues that have visited the Sawx since Babe Ruth was sold to the Yankees.
I'm working on a book that will explain why, from its aborted start to its stupefying finish, this baseball season was a hollow log, and why the football season is headed in the same direction. My book is called "The Curse Of George F. Will."
Chapter One: La Russa, The Genius.
Will suspected La Russa was a genius the first time they met. "It takes one to know one," Will confided to his Quote Boy. Their initial conversations were about curves: La Russa impressed by The Laffer, Will fascinated by Blyleven's. Friends were amazed at how much they had in common. Martina Navratilova, a frequent dinner companion, recalled that Will and La Russa once spoke for eight straight hours on the Hegelian ramifications of the sac bunt. "I thought you did it to get the runner over," Navratilova said, "but George and Tony made me see it in terms of the 18th Century post-Industrialist welfarism. Now, I get a full, new sense of intellectual stimulation when Carney Lansford is up. . . . "
Oh sure, you thought it was coincidence that in the same year Will's "Men At Work" was the No. 1 bestseller that baseball suffered a lockout, that Pete Rose went to prison, that George Steinbrenner finally so degraded everyone in sight that he had to be excommunicated, that the extraordinary was rendered commonplace with 237 no-hitters, that the defending champions were swept from the World Series, and that instead of rings, the reigning owner is giving all her players gold-plated pooper scooopers. You thought that JUST HAPPENED? Not hardly. It was -- let me sneak another plug in here -- The Curse Of George F. Will. This is what happens when you buy a book about baseball from a man who looks like an usher at a Whiffenpoofs concert.
By the way, if the nominations aren't already closed, how about Esther Canseco for Country-Western Wife Of The Year? Esther doesn't just stand by her man, she's out there firing mortars. She called La Russa "a punk" for benching Jose in Game 4. (Georgie, did you hear that? A "punk." Mon dieu! The man is a genius.) After they put Jose on the pine, Esther washed her hands of the whole deal. "Let 'em sweep us," she said defiantly. "I should have worn a red dress." This is one hot tamale, huh? Cher's got nothing on Esther.
Face it, the Series barked. The Genius sat paralyzed, and was outmanaged by Sweet Lou Piniella, who appeared to do nothing brainier than glance admiringly at his $85,000 gold watch. (A cheesehead, Georgie, unappreciative of the nuances.) Smart buy, CBS, shelling out $1 billion for baseball and getting 14 playoff and Series games for the price of 21. (What a banner year for CBS. The Super Bowl is 55-10; nobody with a pulse watches past the half. The NBA Finals are a near sweep. The NCAA final, Duke-UNLV, is a slaughter; Duke falls so far behind, Brent refers to them as "the Broncos." The baseball all-star game has huge chunks of rain delays; it finishes at 3 a.m. Hawaiian time.) And please, don't anyone tell me how good Jack Buck was on the Series. Buck was completely disengaged. He didn't even listen to Tim McCarver. If they had any less chemistry, they'd be inert. Some broadcasters paint pictures. Buck should be painting houses.
On to the NFL, where parity has become a joke. Do you realize that if the playoffs were determined today, the Dallas Cowboys would be a wild card team? I am not making this up.
People twittered when Buddy Ryan boasted the Eagles were "a playoff caliber football team" even after that comatose performance against the Redskins. (Wasn't that a horrendo game? I mean, really, you wouldn't feed those tapes to Schottzie. If you think Chip Loh-andwideleft-miller was bad, what about Roger Ruzek? Martin Mull can kick field goals from 28.) But who does Buddy have to beat to get in? The juggernaut that is Tampa Bay?
Of course Eric Dickerson and Bo Jackson can come in and be great right away without practicing. Who's going to stop them? Have you any idea how bad the supposedly good teams are? Minnesota is capsized at 1-5 after trading the 1990s for Herschel "Oh, I Think I Lost It In The Lights Again" Walker. The L.A. Rams, everbody's sexy choice to unseat the 49ers, are 2-4; coo-coo-ca-choo Mr. Robinson. Philly, Cleveland, Pittsburgh are under .500. Defending Super Bowl doormat Denver is 3-4. These were all playoff teams last year. Green Bay, the dark horse pick to pop out in the NFC, is 2-4. Other than the 49ers and the Giants whom do you trust? The Bears' defense, sure, but with Harbaugh at QB? The Raiders with Schroeder? Miami and Buffalo from the leaky AFC Least? Seventeen of 28 teams have losing records; Tampa Bay, of all places, isn't one of them.
Why is the NFL so bottomheavy? I think you know the reason. It's -- dare I say it again? -- The Curse Of George F. Will.
Let me tell you a story. On Sunday, an eerily familiar man was spotted in The Squire's box at RFK. ("More chardonnay and brie, Lesley, and cut the crusts off those ham sandwiches!") Perhaps you think it's a coincidence that the game he picked to watch was so torpid. The man I speak about is not generally known as a football fan -- oh sure, he loves the single wing, because it reminds him of his favorite decade, the 1910s -- but he was eager to learn. Lip readers in the press box saw him distinctly say to Charley Casserly: "I am thinking of writing about football. The division of labor fascinates me. It's Aristotelian in origin, you realize. Perhaps I could meet with Coach Gibbs, to ascertain if he's a genius."