I’ve never much cared for January. It’s a dormant time of year, and life seems to slow to a halt in a number of ways. The weather keeps folks indoors more, and most people’s social calendars reside in some sort of nadir between New Year’s revelry and Super Bowl parties. After the often anticlimactic end to the college football season, we’re left with mid-season NHL & NBA, plus some early-season college hoops. This week’s Texas-OK State barn-burner aside, that’s not much. I suppose it is a decent month if you’re a fan of the English Premier League or the Heineken Cup, but you let’s face it, you’ll need to pay a bit extra and still be fortunate to see very much of the action.
And baseball is off the radar entirely. January bites.
The Hot Stove has even grown cold; we’re wandering on the desolate tundra between the flurry of free-agent inkings and the first sparks that come with pitchers and catchers. Mets fans are in a particular no-man’s land this winter. I guess we’ve been spoiled with off-season excitement the past couple of years; this year . . . not so much. The last two Januarys have seen Omar’s press conferences compete with, even outshine Steve Jobs’ Macworld unveilings. In ’07, though, the Mets are content – probably wisely, considering the circumstances – to rest upon the platform of the last couple of years and let the iPhone dominate the month’s buzz.
Not only has it been a drab off-season for Mets transactions, but it’s been a grin-and-bear-it scenario where we can’t even stir up some excitement with some justified hollering. Every big name – hell, every name whose mention didn’t induce an ugly scowl – got scooped up by a GM other than Omar Minaya, and yet I’m strangely grateful. Quite a number of this winter’s free agent contracts already loom like prison sentences for the team and its fans; everyone in town will be counting down the days until it comes off the books like a paroling, and in the meantime, a GM with a cash commitment or two like that is like a man with a prison record looking for work. Good luck with all that.
Every year I naïvely think that stability and sensibility will creep in and balance Major League Baseball’s fallible economic structure, and every year I look increasingly foolhardy. A small handful of teams skew the numbers and screw the system by displaying less fiscal responsibility than the dozen clowns in Rob’s and my rotisserie baseball league. Honestly, Rob, wouldn’t Brian Sabean and Tom Hicks get laughed out of the room in our league? It becomes farcical; you just get the sense that there’s more logic at work with the team intern playing Sudoku than in the execs working contract negotiations. Let the culpability be shared, though – Scott Boras, you are bad for the game and you will get what’s coming to you.
And so the best thing about this off-season is that the Mets did next to nothing. Hooray. Though the re-signings of Tom Glavine and El Duque should prove to be worthy ones (barring quadragenarian breakdowns), we’re left to celebrate one significant landing of Omar Minaya this winter, his landing into the world of discretion and prudence. It’s actually something worth lauding, but not today. It’s January 18, and it’s too damn cold to think positively.
In keeping with the new MLC triad of themes, we’re also amid the annual worst six weeks of the year for music. Around the holidays, it’s understandable that not much new music is released, what with most record companies eyeing Black Friday for the biggest new arrivals. Also understandably, bands take a break from the road to be at home with the families (or substance abuse habits) for the festivities. Somehow, though, there is a continued lull of record releases and touring resumptions that doesn’t break up until the last week or so of January. More reason to be “down on Jan.”
In the meantime, there’s plenty from 2006 to keep hearing. Been doing a lot of driving lately, not by choice, and a few albums have kept me cruising along. My Morning Jacket’s live double disc-er “Okonokos” gets me through a chunk of miles by itself. TV on the Radio is a uniquely funky operation, worth checking out if you want to stray from the straight-ahead. The Drive-By Truckers keep churning out kick-ass southern rock (with a modern edge), and I was recently introduced to the Band of Horses and their song “The Funeral”; the track hasn’t made its way out of my head, much less my car.
Speaking of funerals, Rob and I had to go to one this month, and that’s cast as large a rain cloud over this month as anything. When gauging the loss of our friend, it’s substantial in our three areas of discussion at MLC. Baseball players got sports therapy and the local teams got hearty support from him; he was a large enough force to be the biggest fan I knew of Pearl Jam, the Stones, the Black Crowes, U2, and Big Country; he also could put more beer away in one sitting than any individual with whom I’ve shared bar space. What a void there is now.
And how do we cope with these losses? By drinking, of course! It’s in this area alone that I enjoy this dreadful time of year. My most relished bar order is the McDLT – the age-old Irish pairing of hot-side-hot Irish coffee and a cold-side-cold Guinness. (I just made up that name, but I’ll be using it from here on out.) And the dead of winter is the ideal time to warm up with a mug of spiked java and a hearty stout. I found myself wishing for colder weather if only to order it; now that winter (in full effect) is here, the twin beverage order is not quite enough to justify the chill, but it’ll do, lad. It’ll do.
Here’s to sunnier days, newer music, and the submerging of sorrows sixteen ounces at a time until they float away harmlessly. Here’s to the Omar Show in ’06-’07, a show about nothing. And here’s to Dave Flynn, the original “Nutty Irishman.” God love you, kid.