“There isn’t enough mustard in the world to cover Reggie Jackson.” —Darold Knowles, Oakland A’s, 1973
Once a year on the 4th of July weekend, the world focuses its curious attention on the freak show known as Coney Island for the formerly Japanese-Dominated, highly anticipated athletic event known as Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. Half-drunken crowds watch with glee and mouth-foaming fervor as contestants literally cram voluminous amounts of the mystery food down their throats like a starving 2-year-old child to the tune of a 10,000 dollar prize and accolades that only a B-movie actor or 3rd rate hip hop artist could receive.
On a whimsy, I attended this event with my then bikini-clad girlfriend in the summer of 2006. She had short blond hair akin to cliche-80’s-movie–ruskie Brigitte Nielsen of Rocky 3 fame, and turned her nose up at the event. And I, like much of the crowd, was pleasantly buzzed and was absolutely tranquilized by the spectacle. This prototypical American shit-show was a much more desirable choice than loitering on a dusty and windy East Coast beach while old, perverted chess players eyeballed the thin, blonde California Girl. Ever the narcissist, she had been turning heads and inheriting carnal thoughts since she was a pre-teen princess growing up in a leafy-green small town tucked away in the north side of the Golden State. Soon thereafter, our relationship inevitably passed from this world as painlessly and quietly as a good death.
And in my hazy state on that sunny New York day, I started wondering how eating hot dogs was a gluttonous spectacle, and “being” one in the baseball world was to be the same: an all-encompassing, excessive consuming force who craves attention, and Reggie Jackson certainly was emblematic of this. The parallels were astounding–similar to the hot dog eating affair, New Yorkers voraciously consumed gossip newspapers, amassing some sort of love/hate affair with controversial NY Yankee Jackson in a similar manner–the “grotesque” that lovingly had a sprinkle of S&M around the edges. Pure, unadulterated spectacle display for a boorish native culture that prides itself on vulgar personality and shoving mass quantities of filthy odds and ends down its own throat for the sake of a story and cheap titillation. A sort of Coney Island of the viscera.
Pass the mustard.