An irregular posting from the New York Observer‘s mens’ blog, The Cockpit—in which our manly hero reads the New York Times and realizes Peter Sagal has been utterly unmanned.
The Incident at Comiskey
OK, so I’m reading the New York Times Magazine, and I’m in “The Funny Pages,” which everybody likes to say isn’t funny, ha ha, get it? Except, you know, all the complainers are New York Times readers, by definition, which means they don’t know from the funny pages, ‘cuz if they did, they’d know that funniness is by no means a necessary quality for the actual funny pages, ‘cuz otherwise Broom Hilda and Non Sequitur and Dennis the Menace would have been kicked to the curb long since. And Cathy, Jesus.
What defines the “funny pages” is that they have the FUNNIES on them, aka the comics, which the pedants should be warned are not necessarily comical, for instance, again, Cathy. Although some of them are comical, like Mark Trail. Man, it would be boss if Mark Trail showed up in Cathy and punched Cathy in the face. Pow!
Except Mark Trail wouldn’t really punch Cathy, because though Mark Trail is namby-pamby in many ways and should never have quit smoking his pipe, Mark Trail is still at heart a Man, and a Man does not punch a lady in the face, even if she’s a fucking annoying sow like Cathy, because the funnies traffic in archetypes and Man-Punching-Woman-in-Face is not an appropriate archetype for light entertainment.
Anyway, what makes the real funny pages funny pages, as opposed to the New York Times Magazine’s egghead “funny pages,” is that they are built around the graphic arts. Right? Pictures. Like the Coll-Egg-Table Eggers Family, where the people write in with their own egg-pun drawings. Calling the New York Times Magazine an “egghead” product put me in mind of the Eggers, which I love. The New York Times M-Egg-azine! Egg-dited by Ger-Egg Marzor-Egg-ti! Eggers, man.
But back to punching women in the face. Or not punching women in the face.
So one of the non-comics, non-funny parts of the so-called “Funny Pages” of the New York Times Magazine was a “True-Life Tales” entry, a first-person essay, by Peter Sagal, host of “Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me!” on National Public Radio. Peter S-Egg-al. First-person Egg-say. Pure gold, the Eggers.
Anyway, so the story Peter S-Egg-al has to tell goes like this: he is at a Chicago White Sox game, with his family. The man in front of Peter S-Egg-al’s wife is standing up to cheer for Paul Konerko as he bats with the bases loaded. Peter S-Egg-al’s wife “activate[s] her considerable Blond Charm”–S-Egg-al’s words–and asks this Chicago White Sox fan to sit down and stop blocking her view.
The fan tells her that, given the circumstances, she should stand up if she wants to see.
In what I guess is supposed to be pathos, S-Egg-al describes how his 8-year-old daughter is scribbling in her journal and paying no mind.
I can’t even paraphrase this next bit.
“Paul Konerko popped out. The Guy sat down, deflated. Beth tapped him on the shoulder and said, with a big smile, ‘Well, that was worth standing up for, wasn’t it?”
OK, if both central characters are men, the story ends right here, because one of them has 1. demanded that a fan cheering the home team sit down, 2. taunted the fan for his team’s situational failure in personal terms, and 3. actually initiated physical contact between the two. The story ends because the complaining, taunting, shoulder-tapping party has received the only acceptable answer under the circumstances, which is to say, a punch in the face. And it is difficult to continue narrating a whimsical personal essay when one is stretched out under the seats of New Comiskey, semiconscious and dribbling blood and teeth out of one’s mouth.
To his infinite credit, the White Sox fan settles for cussing her out. As anyone would do if accosted and insulted by a stranger in public space.
And now Peter S-Egg-al steps in and takes over the cussing and suggests the guy change seats, and the guy points out that he has had his seats for 12 years, and declines to back down. By now, S-Egg-al is a victim of his own manhood, because you have to stand up for your wife, even if your wife is totally and disgracefully in the wrong. So to the extent he can do anything, he is doing the right thing in the context of the narrative. His wife has put him in an atrocious situation. OK, so far, so good.
So they insult each other a little more. Then the wife tells the guy to please turn around, and he turns around. And then, OK, I gotta quote again:
“Then she said to me in a full and clear voice: ‘Don’t be bothered by him, Peter. He’s just a tiny, tiny man who has to pick fights to make himself feel better about his awful, sad little life.’”
That’s funny, ’cause I thought he was a guy who was JUST TRYING TO WATCH A BALLGAME. Until some chick picked a fight with him.
So Peter S-Egg-al has taken his family to the ballpark, even though his daughter has no interest in watching the game and his wife is grossly or willfully ignorant of baseball etiquette, and while there, the S-Egg-al family has picked a fight with a White Sox season-ticket holder who just wants to see Paul Konerko get a hit with the bases loaded. Now–again, within the context of the narrative–the correct thing for Peter S-Egg-al to do is to get the family the hell out of Comisk-Egg Park and never bring them back. Then, he will have done his best manly duty under impossible conditions.
Unfortunately, that brings us to the meta-narrative.
That is: after undergoing this humiliation, after sitting by as his wife insults a stranger for the crime of trying to root for the World Champion Chicago White Sox, Peter S-Egg-al then TURNS AROUND AND PRESENTS THE INCIDENT AS A LIGHT ESSAY FOR THE “FUNNY P-EGG-GES” SECTION OF THE NEW YORK TIMES M-EGG-AZINE.
Now millions of readers know that his wife is a psychopathic shrew. He has sold out his family.
Every time I hear his voice on NPR now, I will think of what a total raging bitch he’s married to, and how she ruined some poor dude’s attempt to watch a White Sox game in peace.
All in all, I’d rather read The Lockhorns.
Tom “Ballpark Frank” Scocca