Thursday, April 29, 2010

Gregg Doyel wants the sun to stop being smug just because it sustains all life on Earth

Gregg Doyel is continuing to creep closer to that Andy Kaufman territory where the only thing he has left is to fake his own death.

College football writers (some would argue Doyel is neither a writer nor is his subject football) seems to have a complex about baseball, right up to the great ones such as Dan Jenkins and Rick Reilly before he was Rick Reilly, Inc. Doyel stepped right into that stereotype with his swing at people who criticized the Philadelphia Phillies slugger's five-year, $125-million contract extension:
"Law and Sheinin and, again, lots of people like them -- like Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated, who was mostly neutral on the extension until he noted that players in Howard's age bracket typically aren't worth such a 'bold bet' -- make their argument based on the numbers. Which is why I hate numbers, or why I hate numbers when they're applied as the end of a discussion. Numbers shouldn't end the discussion in baseball. They can help start it, and they should definitely help shape it, but they should never end it. Numbers are handy as a tool, but anyone who relies exclusively on a number is a, um, tool."
That line, "I hate numbers," is so choice. It's trolling writ large, and countering it with logic and semantic data is just giving the little shaven-headed solipsist (once described as a "well-compensated bomb-thrower") what he wants.

Instead, the best counter is to tell a mostly true story about what comes to mind whenever I read a Gregg Doyel column.

This kind of story is true in the sense the stories Future Ted Mosby tells to his children in the year 2030 on How I Met Your Mother is true. Some details are embellished, some are pure fiction, some of it is the way one would like to remember it, but it captures the character of all individuals involved.

Doyel's columns always call to mind these batshit crazy right-wing letters to the editor that a guy named Brad Leonard (not his real name) on my first-year university residence floor used to write to The Queen's Journal.

This was in the era when there was a neo-con wave rolling through politics in the U.S. and Canada. It was easy to take in Brad, with his private school education and poster of Mike Harris on his wall, and see him as this Young Republican from hell. I recall his homepage claimed, "I'm Upper Canada College's most infamous old boy, with the possible exception of Conrad Black."

Truth be known, he was more of an iconoclast than an ideologue, who could take it as well as he dished it out. He clearly delighted in hacking off uptight people who are convinced they are right in all things, who are never hard to find at a university. One morning, I was sitting in the cafeteria eating breakfast, probably with a girl from my film class I was interested in and Brad walks in, probably wearing a Dole-Kemp '96 t-shirt, and says, "Did you see it? Did you see The Journal? There's 10 letters attacking me!"

Needless to say, once I was outed as a Friend of Brad, my chances with that girl were less than zero. Sure, Sags. Blame him.

As time went on, though, Brad became more disposed to a right-of-centre viewpoint. He had a reputation to uphold, so his letters to The Journal veered more into satire and over-the-top, yet self-aware self-parody. It was, screw them if they can't take a joke. He had more name recognition among people in our year than anyone getting paid to write for The Journal, deservedly so.

It just so happened that every year at Queen's, the Golden Words, which is a humour paper, does a parody issue of The Journal.
It just so happened that in 1999-2000, when two people involved with this site were Journal editors, one of Golden Words' editors was Jay Pinkerton, who has since gone to some renown as a humourist. It just so happened that Jay Pinkerton and I, both literary men, both redheads, both left-handed, had a connection, having attended the same small high school.

There's a chance, given that tie, someone would have at least asked, "When are you going to spoof us" or maybe even suggested they have every letter in the op-ed section of the parody paper be from Brad Leonard -- but get Brad to write each one. He was a good sport. It would be a final chance to really give people a few laughs, let them know it was all just for grins, and there would probably be a day when he would look back on horror on what he put his name to at the age of 19 or 20.

Perhaps that chance encounter never happened. What did happen is that when Golden Words parody of Journal hit the streets, every letter was from Brad. He had graciously simulated a full-on meltdown long before anyone had ever heard of Glenn Beck. Dear Editor: I just realized my last letter wasn't conservative enough! That sort of thing.

And then there was the priceless pull quote:
"Excuse me? You have a 'right' to sunshine?"
Suffice to say, that day will come when those exact words appear in a Gregg Doyel column, the one he'll write when the only thing he hasn't ripped is the sun, which has had a free pass for far too long and thus should be destroyed. Excuse me? You have a right to sunshine? Only it won't be so obvious if he's kidding.

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