Struggling to sleep after a night of debates and post-season baseball. Undecided is right. Why do the pundits focus on Alex Rodriguez's slump and not Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera. Or the fact that Jason Verlander uses five pitches at varying speeds including a 99mph fastball he delivers just before his killer change-up. Who knows? Obama fought better in the second debate. Not dead yet. Does Mitt Romney have a son named Chet? He should. Why can't A-Rod hit? October pitching is absurd. Maybe he needs glasses. New York wants to trade him to Miami for slumping for two weeks. They want his throat, he owes them, has had too many hot girlfriends to not hit in October. I was in Seattle when A-rod became a Mariner, a rookie. I remember the little phenom, his young mom, the relaxed nature of his machine-like hitting. He's benched now, punished for humiliating the city on national TV. I bet he can't sleep either, envisioning all those swings and misses. I'm sure he's tired. As tired as I am right now.
It was back when Alex Rodriguez was in college in Miami. Obama was just getting into politics and the two met at a party thrown by Michelle's roommate. Alex, quite a bit younger, liked Obama, could tell he was a good listener. He chose to tell him of his dreams to be a professional baseball player, maybe even a New York Yankee. Obama looked into the boy's eyes, could see the passion, the drive. He decided to tell Alex that he had dreams too. His was to become the president of the United States of America.
Alex was impressed. "President?"
"Yes. I want to pass healthcare and Wall Street reform, tumble on out of whatever war I've inherited from the A-hole I beat. I want to breathe life back into the auto industry, repeal "don't ask don't tell," topple Gaddafi, tell Mubarak to take a hike, protect a remarkably crucial and surprisingly fragile list of women's rights which includes the right to choose. I want to reverse torture policies, boost fuel efficiency..."
"I'm going to be rookie of the year and be the most valuable player at least three times," Alex said.
Obama nodded. "Oh, really. Tell me more."
"I want to be player of the year, the hitter of the year, a twelve time all-star. I want to win the homerun title five times, be a slugging percentage winner, a total runs and base leader, and by 2012 I'd like to have 647 homeruns, 512 doubles, 2901 hits, 1898 runs, 1950 runs batted in, 318 stolen bases, 1217 walks, and an on base percentage of 384."
Obama was smiling in that way he does, looking at the kid from the corner of his eye. "I love your optimism, Alex. I wish you all the luck in the world."
Alex's face was flush with excitement. It happened every time he spoke of his dreams, those hall of fame numbers. He could hear the people of New York cheering for him, loving him, nurturing his career through highs and lows, the way the city of Baltimore did for the great Cal Ripken Junior.
"Okay, enough boys," said Michelle. "You'll both be cherished as American heroes for whatever you accomplish. If not by the masses, then at least by your mothers. Let's take some beers and hit the boardwalk."
Obama, Michelle and A-Rod walked three blocks to the beach on a particularly starry night. They rode the tilt-a-whirl, ate cotton-candy and found a splash-booth where a heckling clown waited to be sunk if you could hit the target. The clown was screaming at Alex, "Come on big guy, you look like you have the arm of a dead, old lady. Let's see what you got."
Always the competitor, Alex was ready to sink this guy. A handsome, sandy-haired man in a V-neck sweater sold him three baseballs to throw. The man looked like Mitt's adult son, Chet Romney. Chet said, "Get him wet and win," and flashed his superb teeth.
Alex reared back and fired the first ball. It missed the target by an inch.
"You're a hack," yelled the clown. "You stink, you suck, you think you matter in the world but you don't. How could your mother love you, you colossal disappointment to society!!"
Alex stared at the clown but said nothing. He continued to get hazed.
"Look at you, Mr. Perfect, Mr. Everything, Mr. LOSER!"
Chet began to draw a crowd, waving his arms, pointing at Alex. "Come see this, come see," he said. The people all looked liked Mitt's adult sons. There were twenty, maybe thirty white men. There were no women in the crowd.
"Come on, Alex," said Michelle Obama. "Knock him off."
Alex clenched his jaw and fired the second ball even harder. The ball soared over the target, blew a hole through a Churro sign and settled underneath the freak tent a hundred yards away.
"Embarrassing IDIOT," said the clown through a bullhorn. "Mr. Ridiculous, Mr. Impressive, Mr. NOTHING! In front of your friends! You suck worse than I thought!! You are the worst example of a man I've ever seen! You make me humiliated to be associated with you. If YOU represent ME then I hate ME! THANKS A TON FOR MAKING ME HATE MYSELF!"
"Don't listen to it," said Obama. "Come on, Alex, you can do this. Concentrate. Just do what you do. Nail that target."
The young Alex knew he was overthrowing, something his coaches had been telling him for years. Big games, high stakes. He'd get himself into a tizzy, trying to impress, to smash the competition, to make everyone proud. The result was failure.
Alex glanced back at the huge crowd of smug, entitled men. He took a deep breath and envisioned a ground ball had been hit to him at shortstop. He even dipped his knees, touched his glove-hand to the pavement as if fielding. And when he came up to throw he honed in on the bulls-eye, and let it rip. The ball hit the target in the center with a BANG but for some reason didn't trigger the release. BANG, right in the bulls-eye but no reward. The clown cackled, his head back, screaming into the megaphone. "MR. SUCK!"
"It hit it!" yelled Alex.
"You couldn't hit the side of a barn you, HACK."
Chet and his minions laughed at Alex, their arms folded.
"Mr. Perfect, Mr. Awesome, Mr. Mediocre," screamed the clown.
Alex began to walk toward the heckler. "It's rigged! Of course I can't win. You rigged it."
"What's that Mr. LOSER?" said the clown.
"It's FIXED!" yelled Alex, pointing. "It's a scam! I lose before I even throw."
Obama approached him, put his hand on his shoulder. "Let's go, Alex."
A-Rod looked at the faces of the people watching.
"Boo-Hoo," mocked the clown. "So much promise for such a little man."
Obama smiled, his eyes nearly closed, a squeeze from his grip. "It doesn't really matter if you hit it or not."
"I did though. I did hit it."
"But you didn't drop this jerk."
Alex listened to the clown heckle him all the way off the boardwalk. The group walked back to the house and said goodnight in the driveway. Obama told Alex that he'd be looking for him in those Yankee pinstripes. Alex told Obama he'd be watching him too.
Obama and Michelle drove off but had one stop to make before heading home. The sink-tank. He paid Chet for three baseballs at a dollar each.
"Hey, it's the hack's friend," barked the clown. "Mini-Hack. Why don't use the same noodle arm as the last loser, Mr..."
"You sunk him!" said Chet, as the clown got drenched.
He lifted himself from the pool and got back on his mount. "Beginner's luck. I'd like to see you do that again you big pile of...
Chet was giddy as he patted Obama on the back. The minions buzzed joyously about what they'd just seen.
"Nice throw," said Chet. "I've been watching for days and you're the only guy to sink the clown twice. You did exactly what I've been telling all these idiots to do. An over the top throw and never take the target out of your sight. Very nice. You have one more ball."
Obama shook his head. "I've hit it twice. This last ball is for you," he said. "Take what you know and what you've learned by watching others. Show us how to hit the target. "
Chet looked down at the ball in his hand, and then to his crowd, his brothers.
"Do your best, friend."
Chet looked ill. He had no swagger, no advice for himself. He was silent. A child on stage, so many watching, locking-up.
"It's time to throw the ball," Obama said.
Chet swallowed and looked at the target.
"It's Mr. ADVICE," yelled the clown. "Mr. Know-It-All who laughed at other people's attempts. Now look at him, not so smart after all, Mr. Hypocrisy!""
Chet's face turned an off-white, his shoulders slouched.
"Throw it. Throw it. Throw it," the crowd began to chant.
Obama walked up to him and put his hand on his shoulder. "You can give me the ball back," he said softly, so no one could hear. "I gain nothing from your fear."
Chet placed the ball in Obama's hand. With a bowed head he walked slowly into the crowd, and disappeared.
Obama squared off, to face the clown.
"OH, GREAT!" said the clown. "Looks who's back. Mr. WONDERFUL. Mr. SAVIOR, ready to throw. Mr. PERFECT Mr. THRILLING, Mr...."
"It's Mr. President," said Obama. "But you can call me Barack."
And I woke up.
The headlines online say it all.
A-ROD AND YANKEES FAIL
PUGNACIOUS SECOND DEBATE MAY HAVE FRIGHTENED SUBURBAN HOUSEWIVES AWAY FROM VOTING BOOTHS
BASEBALL TEAM FROM DETROIT NAMED "TIGERS" MOVES ON TO WORLD- SERIES
YANKS LIKELY TO DUMP A-ROD IN OFFSEASON
PRESIDENT CAUGHT SMILING, AS ELECTION LOOMS
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