Wednesday, May 27, 2015
THE STRAW THAT STIRS THE DRINK
Like many of you, I like to watch highlights of the various sports games across the country on the plethora of media outlets available to us today. ESPN, YES, SNY, NBCSportsNet and even the local channels show a good highlight or two. I listen with excitement as passionate sportscasters call the highlights, web gems and awesome antics of today's best athletes. But this week, more than once, I heard analysts say what I feel are forbidden words in sports because they draw attention to cockiness, ego and yes, Reggie Jackson. "I'm the straw that stirs the drink," Reggie Jackson is quoted by Robert Ward in Sport magazine in June 1977. "It all comes back to me." Seriously? Even today, that quote just gets me. And there is no one, I mean no one, that even remotely comes close to being any team's straw that stirs the drink. But let's look a little closer at those who have been referred to as that golden straw.
A quick Google Images search yields not only Reggie Jackson in various poses and time periods, but a number of other athletes supposedly worthy of the "Straw that stirs the drink" adjective. In the upper left corner is our old friend, Jason Giambi. Definitely not someone who should bear the name of "Straw that stirs the drink" but perhaps his cockiness gave him the opportunity to wear the signature ego booster.
How about in the middle of the first row? That's our pal Paul O'Neill, who will live forever in Monument Park. According to an article in ESPN, he is known for "his fiery personality, often beating up water coolers when he wasn't successful. Girardi, a teammate of O'Neill's, said the first thing that comes to mind when he thinks of O'Neill was his competitiveness, but there was more to him." You'd have your head handed to you in a sling if you didn't charge hard down the first base line or give 110% when O'Neill was around. Was he a "Straw that stirred the drink"? Maybe, if your criteria is grit and fervor versus cockiness and superstar status. He offered consistency and clutch hits. His career as a Yankee shines with a .303 batting average, 185 home runs, 304 doubles and 858 RBIs. A respectable straw, perhaps, but more like a warrior; his real nickname.
Moving to hockey, Evgeni Malkin took on the straw adjective last year when he swirled a trail of negativity around his late arrival to training camp last season. The negativity also blistered around his attitude toward the Penguins' general manager and his own head coach. Then there was the mysterious injury involving a golf cart. Wherever he looked, the media kept their eye on him and kept the negativity alive. Here lies the ugly side of the straw.
Manager Gene Mauch hangs out in the second row next to Malkin in the black and white frame. Last year marked the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Philadelphia Phillies' collapse lead by then manager Mauch. The Trentonian wrote a piece about the anniversary of the Phillies' big choke and had this to say about the then Fightn' Phils. "They were fun to watch. They were ferocious battlers, driven relentlessly by a young manager named Gene Mauch, who was a brilliant tactician who was feared by his own players and positively loathed by opponents. He was seldom patient and nearly bankrupt in interpersonal skills." Fiery, perhaps like O'Neill and even Jackson, the Phillies' Manager may have been the driver of the Phils' success and at the helm of their big loss. He stirred the drink and then drowned in it. "I don’t believe the Phillies would have been in first place if someone else had been managing the team. But I also don’t believe the humpty-dumpty crash that eventually doomed them would have occurred if someone else were managing the team," stated the same article.
Then there's Alex Rodriguez, often referred to the modern day "Straw that stirred the drink" Ohio State college basketball stars Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft called the two "Straws that stir the drink" and lastly tormented Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback Ben Roethlisberger who most definitely donned the straw in his comeback wins for the Steelers.
Do any of these guys deserve to be called the "Straw that stirs the drink"? Did Reggie? My grandmother had a phrase for people who were too full of themselves. She would say SPS; which means, Self Praise Stinks. It's one thing to compliment someone for their successes and talents, and it is another to compliment yourself. No one wants to hear a wind bag brag. It's annoying. Reggie was annoying. A-Rod is annoying. And anyone that calls himself a "Straw that stirs the drink" or calls anyone else a "Straw that stirs the drink" is plain annoying. It draws attention to negativity, cockiness and yes, SPS. Just be the drink and refresh everyone with your talent, passion and overall contribution to your team. Now that's a drink I want to drink!
--Suzie Pinstripe, BYB Senior Staff Writer
BYB Hot Stove Columnist
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