If you were at work or otherwise engaged in trivial matters Tuesday and only saw the final scores of the first two playoff games, you might have thought they were both pooches, the Cardinals beating the Dodgers 8-3 and the Red Sox beating the Angels 9-3. The night game probably looked a little better if you caught the score while you were engrossed in the vice-presidential debate: Twins 2, Yankees 0.
But those scores don't begin to tell the story. You can't draw any conclusions from the score these days, you know. You didn't know? You must not be a NASCAR fan.
NASCAR, really the last bastion of propriety, taste and manners in this vulgar society of ours, fined points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. $10,000 and 25 points in the championship standings Tuesday for letting slip a swear word in an exuberant post-race interview on NBC Sunday.
Asked in Victory Lane what it meant that he'd won at Talladega Superspeedway for the fifth time in his career, a jubilant Earnhardt said, "Well, it don't mean shit right now. Daddy's done won here 10 times, so I gotta do a little more winning. But we're gonna get there. He was the master. I'm just following in his tracks."
The f-----g b-----d! What an a-----e! Good for NASCAR for punishing that s------d.
It didn't take long for the idea of changing on-field results because of potty mouth to catch on in other sports, which is why those baseball scores are so misleading.
The Dodgers actually beat the Cardinals 11-8 Tuesday, but they were docked eight runs after Adrian Beltre, asked what it meant to become the first man ever to hit four homers in a playoff game, said, "It's f-----g amazing, man, but it's just one win. We've got to kick their a---s again on T------y."
And I never even knew Thursday was a bad word.
The Red Sox beat the Angels, but the score on the field was 14-12, not 9-3. The Angels had nine runs deducted when a long-range microphone picked up third baseman Chone "You Need to Know I Pronounce My First Name 'Sean' to Get This Next Joke" Figgins reacting to a crucial throwing error by yelling, "Chite!" The Red Sox were dinged five runs retroactively for Pedro Martinez's 2001 comment about Babe Ruth: "Wake up the damn Bambino and have me face him. Maybe I'll drill him in the a--."
The Twins pounded the Yankees 7-0 but had five runs removed because no Twin used a bad word. Everyone knows the rules are different where the Yankees are concerned.
In the past NASCAR had only taken points away from drivers for mechanical violations, which makes sense because cheating on the track can result in a driver being awarded points he didn't earn. But this year the circuit announced that it would fine drivers for bad language, a reaction to the FCC crackdown that followed Janet Jackson baring her breast at the Super Bowl, which I mention to boost page views.
NASCAR had punished two drivers on the lesser Busch Series for language fouls earlier this year, but they were out of the championship running. Earnhardt was leading the Nextel Cup standings, and the deduction dropped him to second place behind Kurt Busch, who reacted by saying, "Hot s---! Really? That's f-----' weird," and was promptly docked 25 points himself.
This process repeated enough times that your Great Aunt Sadie, driving the '78 Chevy Malibu for Team Polident, is now the Nextel Cup leader.
This might surprise you but I'm in favor of this trend of policing language. I've come a long way since my days as a free-speech extremist. I have a kid now and I'm glad someone is making these c---------s on TV watch their f-----g mouths.
NASCAR went from a minor regional sport to a national obsession thanks in large part to brilliant marketing of the colorful personalities of the drivers. It's about time those drivers were forced to become dull automatons who refuse to show any individuality or say anything that might rock the boat or be otherwise worth listening to.
Aggressive pursuit of this strategy should have NASCAR enjoying the commercial success of professional tennis in no time. Baseball and the other major sports would be g-----n fools not to get on the m-----------g bus.
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Fox cliché watch [PERMALINK]
Fox Sports pre-game host Jeanne Zelasko was fairly subdued Tuesday as the postseason got underway. I think like all great orators she was just starting slowly to set up the audience for the later fireworks.
She turned over the broadcast-opening purple prose duty to a narrator, who intoned sonorously over a montage of shots of some artist chick wandering around Manhattan with a sketch pad, intercut with real and poorly re-created playoff and World Series highlights. Note to Fox production designers: Next time you hire an actor to imitate Carlton Fisk jumping up and down to celebrate his famous home run in the 1975 Series, hire one who jumps like a guy.
This column loves to record the golden words of the Fox broadcast openings in the baseball postseason. I call it the Jeanne Zelasko cliché watch, a feature that last year inspired CBS Marketwatch to call me a bully, which I think was an insult to Zelasko, a professional broadcaster, as though she were some delicate flower who couldn't be criticized.
But never let it be said that I can't be sensitive, so this year it's the Fox Sports cliché watch, in which I'm sure Zelasko will be a star player. Here were the diamonds that fell from the lips of Fox's sketch-montage narrator Tuesday:
"The only thing predictable about October is that it will be just the opposite. And just when you think you've got it all figured out, this month, this game, will leave you breathless. And for every thrill of the autumn chill there will always be unforeseen heartbreak felt by so many. And the only thing to be certain of: There will be a tomorrow.
"And in the midnight of the hour of the fall, baseball magic can be [rewarded?] with one crisp crack of the bat. And the one sure to win will not always win. And the last team standing is anyone's guess, because no way, no how, can you ever script the month of October."
Zelasko then chimed in, repeating the word "script," I think, because it had been inaudible underneath one of Fox's patented pointless sound-effect whooshes: "No, you definitely cannot script it. They know that here, 161st Street and River Avenue. Eighty-one years ago a ballpark was born and a pinstriped legend began in the heart of the Bronx, a tradition of winning that has stood the test of time.
"Ah, but can it take another showdown with the Twins?"
That's not just writing, folks. It's typing! That non-ad-libbed "Ah" really tied the whole thing together, don't you think?
Previous column: Big-a-- playoff preview
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