"Please, please, please hit a homer...save us...save me, this is killing me!"
In a sports bar last week in Marina del Rey, Calif., a loud, plump, thirtyish Bronx gambler named Rocco, watching the TV above the bar, was begging, pleading for New York Yankee third-baseman Alex Rodriguez to tie a playoff game with a clutch homer. It was desperation time. The Bronx Bombers trailed the Detriot Tigers 3-2, in the bottom of the ninth. The series was tied 2-2. The winner advances to the next round and the loser spends the next few months moping.
"I got seven hundred bucks riding on this series," screamed Rocco, who obviously didn't care that he was annoying other patrons and making an ass of himself. He wasn't even drunk. He clearly was just being Rocco.
In the game, fearsome Tiger closer Jose Valverde, who had just disposed of Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano with seven pitches, had his sights on A-Rod.
Rocco roared in his bullhorn style: "This is it. Two out. You're our last resort." Some last resort. He was already 0 for 3, with two strikeouts, one in the seventh with the bases loaded.
Valverde stared at A-Rod. The camera zeroed in A-Rod's face.
"Oh no, oh no! Look at A-Rod's eyes, he's scared, the pitcher has him psyched out," Rocco moaned, pounding the bar with his fist. "A-Rod is done...done dammit. The pitcher owns him. Look at how A-Rod is holding the bat. Swing and a miss, by a mile. You idiot!
"Look he's putting those pitches just where A-Rod can't get a good swing at 'em. He has A-Rod fishing. Look at how A-Rod is holding the bat. That's not his normal way. The way he's holding it says he's scared. That guy owns you, A-Rod, he owns you. He's the warden and you're the prisoner."
Interrupting his rant, Rocco put his hands over his eyes. "I can't watch this. It's an execution." But his blinders lasted only a few seconds.
The rant resumed: "Get this over with, A-Rod. You can't connect if you're scared. I hate you, A-Rod, God I hate you. You're costing me money, you ass. Ball one. At least you didn't bite on that one This guy is deep in your head, A-Rod. He's smells fear. He's gonna strike you out. You're cooked. I just know it."
Rocco was on the money. A-Rod struck out meekly, on just four pitches, dragging the Yankees and their season down with him. The bar crowd cheered the Tigers, prompting Rocco to retaliate: "To hell with all of youse. I'm a Yankee. I was born a Yankee. In my crib my baby blanket was a Yankee blanket. That's how much I am a Yankee!"
Rocco paid his bill and walked slowly out, anguish in every step, muttering: "You're a bum A-Rod, a real bum. It's October. Why can't you be like Mr. October? Reggie Jackson wouldn't have struck out. He would have hit a home run and saved us. But you, they should drop you in the East River.
"I wish I was home. I should be in the Bronx at a time like this. They'd understand. I shouldn't be here."
Amen to that.