Saturday, June 15, 2013

No. 355 – Brothers in Arms

Performer: Dire Straits
Songwriter: Mark Knopfler
Original Release: Brothers in Arms
Year: 1985
Definitive Version: On the Night, 1993

Aside from being featured prominently in the finale of one of my favorite Miami Vice episodes, Out Where the Buses Don’t Run, this song also played a role in my inaugural season in the Flint Journal Rotisserie League.

My friendship with Dave flourished in the late summer and early fall of 1990 as the Wonkas clung desperately to a lead they held the entire season. During down times on the copy desk, to amuse myself—and Dave, who was kind of on an island out in Fenton—I composed parody songs to my beloved though infuriating team. When others in the league, who were above such shenanigans, got word of it, they ridiculed me pretty good. Well, that just made me want to do it more.

I can’t remember how many I did. It might have been as many as six. The ones I remember for sure were End of the Line by Traveling Wilburys, Everybody Wants to Rule the World by Tears for Fears, When the Levee Breaks by Led Zeppelin, We Are the Champions by Queen, of course, after I won it all, and this song. You all remember Wonkas in Arms, right?

As I mentioned, most of the guys in the league took the whole thing just a mite too seriously. Many said they did certain things only to aggravate me. I think part of it, however, is they had too much emotion wrapped up in it themselves. Then along comes this newbie who drafted Cecil Fielder—the only Tiger no one else really wanted—and showed them their rumps. They didn’t like it.

It didn’t take much to get certain parties’ undergarments in a twist, as they say, so who exactly was doing the aggravating here? The difference was, I wasn’t trying. And as it became more clear as the season rolled along that my team WASN’T going to fall apart, the teeth-gnashing and open rooting for the only team that had a real chance to catch me increased.

I can’t remember now exactly how it happened, but one of Dave’s messages in the Rotball general forum became misinterpreted and blown up as Dave openly saying he was going to rig a lopsided trade between his team and my Wonkas. The truth is no such deal was ever discussed. Dave wouldn’t do it, because he wouldn’t cheat … and like the die-hard Mets fan that he is, he still thought his team had a chance even though it didn’t.

The message led to all sorts of accusations that any trade I made would be protested vigorously by certain parties, let’s call them Sam and Seamus. (Gee, is it any wonder why this league splintered the year before I joined?) But two funny things happened:

First, it led to a blatant and obvious three-way rigged deal between Sam and Seamus and the second-place team. (Doing the thing you accuse others of is the hallmark of hypocrisy, don’t you think?) The deal was promptly and soundly rejected by the commissioner without any need for a protest.

Second, and more ironic, it led to exactly the thing they hoped to prevent—a trade between me and Dave that did in fact clinch the championship.

By this time, Dave and I started to have lunch together at least once a week, and our favorite place was Ryan’s. An all-you-can-eat buffet for $6 was right in the wheelhouse of two strapping young men. We’d go there, load up on grub and plot ballgame or card-show strategy.

Well, just before the trade deadline in August, Dave came in more aggravated than usual. After all the Rotisserie League shenanigans and additional shenanigans at the hands of The Journal softball team, which had a lot of cross-pollination with the Rotisserie league, he reached his breaking point.

As we sat down with our buffet trays, he said one thing directly to me before anything else: “OK, you HAVE to win. Who do you want?” Without another word, he opened his notebook to his roster.

Well, like any baseball team, I could use some pitching. We played in a keeper league, and Dave had two pitchers who were at the end of their contracts and thus free agents, so he couldn’t keep them the next year. Their names: Dave Stewart and Dave Stieb. How about I take them for, say, Tino Martinez, a superhot prospect, and a minor-league draft choice in 1991? Done. The deal went through, and as I recall there was a surprising lack of gnashing of teeth.

Obviously, that trade helped me a lot down the stretch, but I’m not sure it was the thing that put me over the top. I might have mentioned this before, but I won the league on the last day of the season, when my whole team went nuts. I got four homers, but the key stat was nine batters on base in 11 innings, because that stat was so tightly bunched. Stieb did in fact pitch that day.

I suppose when it came down to it, the rest of the league were fools to make war on my Wonkas in arms …

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