Monday, May 01, 2006

Heeeeeere's Johnny

Nice shirt, jerkface.

Gotta admit, I'm torn on the How Should We Greet Johnny? debate. The sentimentalist in me remembers that he was nothing but a delight to watch during his four seasons here, running into walls and slapping clutch hits all over the field and smiling through the good times and the bad. His whoa-dude persona and furry visage of course came to symbolize the 2004 World Champion Red Sox . . . hell, I'll believe until my final innings that a team of Ya Gotta Believe nutjobs such as Damon, Millar, and Manny were absolutely necessary in exorcising whatever ghosts were tormenting the franchise. Smart guys and realists don't rally from 3-0 deficits.

And I suspect you might recall that Damon got it done on the field in the biggest moment as well; I don't think the significance of his performance in Game 7 of the life-affirming victory over the Yankees can be overstated, try as I might.

Okay, so he's one of Them now. But he was Ours once, and I suspect once his playing days are over, he will be again. Nothing he can do in New York short of teaching A-Rod to grow a set of . . . uh, courage . . . will top what he accomplished here.

And yet . . .

The vengeful side of me can't reconcile the fact that he plays for the goddamn Yankees now. He made the conscious choice to plunder his Boston legacy, and while the financial difference in the offers from Good and Evil was significant enough that he can justify switching allegiances . . . well, like I said, he's still playing for the goddamn Yankees now, and ultimately that was a choice he, his slithering agent, and his bubbleheaded wife made. He basically sold off our memories for $12 million dollars.

Further, he's still trying to have it both ways, commenting on the state of Sox at the appearance of any microphone, protesting a little too much, kissing our asses and telling us it wasn't his choice to leave, while in the meantime popping up on predictably tacky ads in execrable YES Network propaganda to talk about playing before "the best fans in the world." Hint: he doesn't mean you. I realize he's trying to get into the good graces with the fickle New York fans, some of whom still regard him as the enemy, but Damon isn't bright enough to pull off such duplicitousness. What's that t-shirt say again? Looks like Jesus, acts like Judas, throws like Mary. Yeah, I've got to get me one of those.

In my usual roundabout, contradictory way, I suppose I have come to this verdict: If you can't ignore him (the one reaction, or non-reaction, that might actually affect him to the point he goes 0-fer-the-series, but something tells me 35,000 Sox fans couldn't pull off the silent treatment), I say cheer him raucously during his first at-bat, offer an appreciative thank-you for all the good times as a Red Sox . . . then boo the living hell out of him as you pelt him with batteries for the remainder of his days with the enemy. But only the small ones, people. AA's and such. No car batteries.

Seriously, stay classy, New England. If you can, show Johnny Damon that you've moved on, too. Cheer him, then let him have it. Show him that in the minds of Sox fans, he's nothing but another soulless, clean-shaven multi-millionaire in pinstripes now.

Even if our hearts might tell us something else altogether.

(Update, 4:45 p.m.: Just heard Damon's press conference. He couldn't have been more gracious, and even managed to backhandedly compliment his new team once or twice. Aw, bleep it. I'd cheer the dude.)

( Update, 7:17 p.m.:. . . which would have left me in the not-so-vocal minority, as it turns out. I mean, the "Johnny sucks!" chant was a little much - even he looked surprised and a tad bummed by the viciousness of it all. I almost - almost - felt bad for him, at least until my clear-eyed wife said, "He deserves it! He didn't have to go to the Yankees, did he?" Fair enough, but I think I'll save the real anti-Empire venom for A-Fraud and Giambalco from here on out.)