Wednesday, April 23, 2014

"El Gigante y El Ciego." (The Fat and the Blind.)

Back in 1975 when I signed on to man the esquina caliente (hot corner) for the Saraperos de Saltillo in the Mexican League, the team was made up of a bunch of cast-offs and oddballs.

I had chosen to try out for the Saraperos for exactly that reason. They were new to the Mexican League, having joined it in 1972 and they were perennial cellar-dwellers. I figured of all the teams in the league, I would have the best chance of playing with the Saraperos.

Back a century or more ago, a centerfielder named William Ellsworth Hoy played for the Washington Nationals and the Cincinnati Reds among other teams. In 14 years in the big leagues, Hoy amassed more than 2,000 hits.

He also carried the nickname “Dummy.” He was stone-deaf, having contracted meningitis at the age of three.

The Saraperos had no deaf players back in 1975, but our starting catcher, Luis “El Gigante” Mantequilla was partially blind in his left eye.

Mantequilla’s blindness was of the baffling sort. The way I understood it, his vision was a bit like the vertical hold on an old television set. There were times you could adjust and adjust and the picture would keep flipping. And other times, inexplicably, when the picture would be just right.

In other words, there were times when El Gigante could see out of his left eye, and times when he could see nothing at all.

But when he could see, watch out! He stood only 5’6” but weighed well in excess of 350 lbs. And he had the strength of ten men. When the bus in which we traveled to games had a flat, more often than not, El Gigante would lift one end while the tire was being changed.

And when Mantequilla could see (which happened without notice about once every four or five games) he could larrup the pill into the next county, or even the country after that.

One afternoon, we were playing the Pericos de Puebla, the Puebla Parrots, when El Gigante dug in at the plate. The pitch came—a tirabuzon (screwball) and it bent so sharply that the plodding Gigante couldn’t dodge it. It hit him square in the right eye.

The big man tried to shake off the pain, he tried to continue playing, but in short order our Manager, Hector Quesadilla ran out to home and yanked him from the game. El Gigante was now blind in both eyes.

The next day, however, in a double-header, a doble juego, against the Tabasco Olmecs, Mantequilla was back in the line-up as usual, overcoming the admonishments of Quesadilla to take a day off.

“Estoy bien,” Gigante said. “Estoy bien.”

Strange as it seems, Mantequilla was indeed “bien.” Though he was blind now in both eyes, inexplicably he was hitting like never before. Whereas for months his batting average was below the storied “Mendoza Line,” (The Mendoza Line is an expression of batting incompetence based on the exploits of shortstop Mario Mendoza) now the fat man was blasting the ball.

His average climbed like the temperature of Hell in August, until it finally settled in and held at the improbable height of .477. With power.

 Before long, his nickname “El Gigante,” was replaced by “El Ciego,” the blind.

It doesn’t matter what league you play in, and it doesn’t matter if your physique makes the Michelin man look svelte, if you’re hitting .477 with 54 homers with one-third of the season left, major league scouts will flock to you like frat boys to flat beer. The scouts came in droves. They came brandishing contracts. They came will all sorts of mammon, from Lucullan feasts to ample temptations of the flesh.

“Estoy bien,” was all El Ciego would mutter. “Me quedo aqui.” I am fine. I stay here.

The scouts took a hint. They gave up recruiting Mantequilla. And it’s a good thing they did too. Because after they left, the lucky/unlucky batsman got hit once again in the noggin. And just as inexplicably, this blow restored his vision, 20/20, to both eyes.

Now that he could see, he could no longer bat. His batting average plummeted like a runaway elevator.

At the end of the season, when I hung up my spikes, El Ciego/El Gigante/Luis Mantequilla hung up his.

The world doesn’t need another fat .220-hitting catcher. 

No matter how good his vision.

Advertisements for Myself. Part the First.

We all get them:
The assignments no one wants.
They’re complicated.
They’re for something ugly.
Or they come in at 4PM and they’re due at 10AM.
Or they’re long and political and as such could eat you alive for months.

I do assignments like that.
Hard assignments.
In fact, I actually revel in them.

I can handle them and make them good,
because, frankly, I’m too stubborn to be defeated by them.
No matter what they throw at me, I’m going keep coming back with something good.
I’ll see it through.
Make it happen.

Try me.
My name is George Tannenbaum and I approved this message.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Judge not.

Apropos of nothing, my friend from blogging, the surpassing Dave Trott, sent me a quotation the other day. It's been knocking around my cranium for the past 72 hours or so.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; ...if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
― Theodore Roosevelt

Years ago I was reading something about WW2 and I noticed that at least among US Armed Forces, the ratio of enlisted soldiers to officers during the war was about 10:1.

Today, that ratio is 5:1.

In other words, proportionally there are twice as many officers today as were needed to win the greatest armed-struggle in the history of the world.

I suspect the same "officer-creep" has happened in advertising. Watchers/commenters have replaced doers. Committees of Gurus discuss work without having the ability to actually do work.

Accordingly, the empathy for those whose face is "marred by dust and sweat and blood" has diminished. Those "cold and timid" who sit in judgment are unwilling to walk a mile in your shoes. Actually, they want you to walk a mile. Just so you're far away from them.

I've never been in the Armed Forces and really, I mean no disrespect to anyone. But life, no matter what you do, is not a spectator sport.

Virtual reality will never replace the real thing.

Theoretical ads will never do the work of ads that actually run.

Judge not.

Bad mood Tuesday.

I write a lot in this space about the over-blown proclamations spouted by various branches digital advertising. As far as I can fathom, I've never willingly clicked on an ad on Facebook or Linked In, never responded to a sponsored post, never reacted to a tweet, or viewed a frame of syndicated content and never once witnessed or participated in a 'conversation about a brand.'

That said, I suppose I've been giving mass media a free ride. I haven't excoriated it the same way I've disparaged digital work.

It seems to me that :30-second spots can proceed one of two ways. They can be so entertaining that they make you feel good about the brand or about your relationship with the brand. Or they can impart useful information that prompts you to act.

Most spots I see do neither of these. They aren't entertaining enough to be entertaining. And they aren't informative enough to be informative.

They fall somewhere in the middle. 

They are either a stand-up comedian with bad jokes.

Or a college lecturer with no notes.

Painful. Or empty.

Last night, I suppose wallowing in this thought, I happened upon another type of advertising failure: the 'help wanted' ads on the site "Working, Not Working."

These ads try hard to be hip, funny and au courant. But they fail. They fail in every fiber of every phoneme.

Here's just a bit of the poison I read. If you're this tone-deaf in advertisements for yourself, what hope do we have that you'd produce astute work for others?

"We know what you’re wondering…is this one of those job posts where XXXXXXXXX is looking for a Copywriter/Art Director dynamic duo in theirNew York office where everyone is a part-time magician and some of them have blue hair? Yes, yes it is."

Here’s the deal: XXXXXXXXX is looking for an experienced Senior team to take all this unicorn hair and turn it into magical site/content designs in our New York office. Yup, unicorn hair. 


We know what you’re wondering…is this one of those job posts where XXXXXXXXX is looking for a Senior Copywriter in their New York City office where everyone is eccentric and some of them wear Warby Parker glasses? Yes, yes it is.