Teflon Tuna

Maybe it’s the Starter jacket and all the Gatorade showers. Bill Parcells‘s reign in New York began during Ronald Reagan‘s administration, and the events of last week prove that the Tuna has the thickest Teflon-coating since the Gipper. Even in the wake of his sudden departure from the Jets this week, which leaves this star-struck franchise again at ground zero, Parcells is, amazingly, getting more credit than blame. Sure he was an improvement over Rich Kotite, but in the free-agency-era NFL, one playoff appearance in four years hardly qualifies as a miracle. (And does anyone remember that in ’97, Parcells held the number one draft pick, an established QB, a future all-pro wideout in Keyshawn Johnson, and still couldn’t convince Peyton Manning that he should take a couple million dollars to forego his last year of eligibility at Tennessee?)

But should we have expected anything more than a quick exit, stage left, from Parcells? The Giants are only now recovering from his post-Super Bowl departure (that time his health was to blame), and the New England Patriots haven’t come within a Drew Bledsoe bomb of the big game since he bolted (that time Robert Kraft was the scapegoat). But without a bum ticker or a loose-cannon owner to pin it on this time, Parcells should’ve been sashimied in the press for again abandoning ship. But nooooo.

Contrast this with Rick Pitino, the outgoing Celtics coach/GM, who’s been characterized as the ultimate coaching carpetbagger. Yet despite his rep, every program he’s been involved with—from Boston University, to Providence, to the Knicks, to Kentucky—has undergone an orderly transition (and, with the exception of the Celtics, each team ended up in much better shape than before he came aboard). As usual, it comes down to style. Pitino’s sharp-dressing, fast-talking, multi-advice-book-writing demeanor makes him an easy target, while the media seems convinced that the lumbering Parcells is too frumpy to be duplicitous. It’s that kind of thinking that gave us the four scariest words in the English language: President George Dubya Bush.

Keeping Score

Sharp-minded readers may recall that Jockbeat reported last year on The Football Albums, a pair of NFL-themed CDs by the California indie-rock band DiskothiQ. Now DiskothiQ frontman Peter Hughes has published The Baseball Diaries, a fanzine-style first-person account of the 31 ballgames he attended in 2000—mostly Major League, but with a smattering of minor league and even Little League contests tossed in along the way. Whether focusing on ballpark rituals like sneaking down from the nosebleed section to the box seats or philosophizing on broader conceptual matters (“There is an undeniable safety in rooting for a team you know is going to lose, and therein lies much of the appeal”), Hughes is an astute observer of the game, with a point of view that provides a nice mix of the romantic and the cynical. A typical excerpt, taken from his account of a Mets-Dodgers game, goes like this:

Tonight we got to see how the other half lives. Specifically, the half that through some mysterious confluence of circumstances ends up occupying those prestigious new “Dugout Club” seats behind home plate at Dodger Stadium, where it can engage in its habitual cellphone chattering, air-kiss planting, cocaine snorting, Wolfgang Puck cuisine eating, and non-baseball watching in a setting far more novel than merely, say, poolside at the Mondrian. . . . All of the above-enumerated nonsense aside, when you’re sitting sixty feet from home plate at Dodger Stadium on a perfect summer evening with your every whim being catered to by a friendly and attentive wait staff and all the free Dodger dogs you can eat, well, it’s easy to fall prey to the illusion that all—and I mean everything—is right in the world.

Each entry concludes with a “Memorable Heckle” (from an Angels-White Sox game: ” ‘You hit like a girl!’ shouted a frat boy after Frank Thomas fisted a bloop single over Mo Vaughn‘s head. Realizing his omission, he added, ‘A big girl!’ “). But the real value of The Baseball Diaries comes not from its details but from its cumulative effect—it’s not just a series of ballgame recaps, it’s a six-month chronicle of Hughes’s life, filtered through the cultural lens of live baseball. It’s addictive stuff, and fans who are counting down the days to spring training would be hard-pressed to find a better cold-weather read. (Available for $4 from Sonic Enemy Press, 160 Mulberry Street, Rochester, NY 14620; make checks payable to Peter Hughes.)

Negligent Pet Owner Identified

Mystery solved.

I let the dogs out,” admits Ken Hitchens, standing in the icy driveway of his modest Warren, Michigan, home. “They had the mange and my wife wouldn’t let the kids touch ’em.” Little did the 41-year-old Chevy worker know that the dogs—a cocker spaniel, a Yorkie, and two black labradors—would soon be saluted in song, in the Baha Men’s “Who Let the Dogs Out?,” now a shout-along in stadiums across the country. “They were OK dogs,” says Hitchens with a shrug, “but they weren’t so worth singing about.”

A local TV station first ID’d Hitchens last Wednesday. Given the popularity of the song, public reaction to Hitchens has been surprisingly muted. “I got a couple crank calls from football fans,” he says, “and a PETA lady hit my daughter with a sign, but that’s about it.” His friends have been more supportive. “The other day I didn’t have to pay for a beer frame.” While Hitchens has heard the hit song, he doesn’t own the record. His musical tastes run more along the lines of mid-era Billy Joel—”I like Glass Houses”—and country star Faith Hill, whom he describes as “pretty.”

Does Hitchens plan on adding to his newfound notoriety by letting out any other pets? “Nah,” he says. “I only got a hamster left, and that’d make for a lousy anthem.”

Contributors: Allen St. John, Paul Lukas, Brian Parks Sports Editor: Miles D. Seligman