Bullying is becoming a dying art. When I have kids they won’t have any idea what a guitar solo is or what it means to laugh at the Jeremy Johnson’s of the world for being chased around with socks filled with pennies in front of his job while he yells “NahSonNahSonNahSon chill.” We don’t like to admit it but having bullies around in your childhood are what’s necessary in making a man a man in the adult years. If I wore a fedora and skinny jeans with Candy Land sticking out of my backpack in elementary school I knew I would be pelted with aids jokes and kicked in the shins for even thinking that was a good idea. Today’s kids on the other hand can do that and they’ll be completely fine. The teacher’s will stroke their ego with a gold star that says “YAY, INDIVIDUALITY” in big letters.
If any kid decides to make fun of Mister or Miss individuality then a slew of soccer moms will castrate the child from the schoolyard society and plaster a scarlet B on their chest. (What bugs me is that the fedora kids will have friends yet the funny ball busting 9-year old will sit in their room wondering where he went wrong all those years.) Just the thought of coming down on kids for being the dirty rotten scoundrels they are is such a foreign concept.
This week though bullying made a return and I was relieved to see it. The best part was there were no soccer moms or focus groups to stop a maddened crowd of fans who have been blue balled by losing all these years. During the second inning of the one game wild card playoff between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, Johnny Cueto stood on the mound against not only the Pittsburgh Pirates, but also a record setting crowd in PNC Park. The masses unloaded on Cueto after years of staring at a team that was somewhere in between Nodding Off on Heroin and the Blackest Part of the Universe, on the Heisenberg Scale of Excitement. It wasn’t that Pirates fans hated Cueto either. They would have destroyed anybody who stepped on the mound. The thing is, fun is such a new feeling to them it was as if they couldn’t take all the positivity. The awfulness they have lived with their whole lives as Pirate fans needed to make a guest appearance on their special day.
The bullying started when Marlon Byrd, the only bright spot for the 2013 Mets that wasn’t named Harvey or Wright, unloaded on a pitch by Cueto and dumped the ball into left field. CUETO chants had been simmering throughout the early parts of the game and that homerun set off a powder keg of mean you can only get in cities where the cold hurts your bones. The CUETO chants were so piercing to his ears and soul, you could see Cueto do the the forced poker face that is so blatantly obvious to everyone around whenever someone is rattled.
Now in all fairness to Johnny Cueto, very few people could handle this sort of situation. I don’t know if there is anybody on the list after Bill Burr, Andrew Dice Clay, and George Carlin. The only way to get passed tens of thousands of people sarcastically chanting your name when you aren’t a seasoned comedic veteran is to be as inept to everything around you as Morrie from Morrie’s Wigs in Goodfellas. If you’re dumb enough to poke killers, something like drunk assholes in a stadium is a walk in the park. I guess Johnny Cueto is neither Bill Burr, Andrew Dice Clay, George Carlin, or Morrie, because OH BOY, did he shit the bed.
Following Byrd’s homerun the CUETO chants got louder. So loud in fact he dropped the ball while fidgeting with his hand on the mound. It wasn’t any fidget either. It was a contrived version of that I-Got-This fidget pitchers unintentionally do when they are on a roll. Since it was clear he wasn’t doing well, everyone noticed right away how bad he was at masking how frightened he was. To watch him try to muster up the I-Got-This swag was hilarious in its own right.
Right after he dropped the ball the entire crowd erupted in laughter like he was Carlin doing the Seven Dirty Words. Carlin never got that type of response for his set though. When Cueto gave up the second homerun nobody would have faulted him for committing Suicide by Police through the officers in the dugout. There was no going back from there either. The crowd knew they broke a professional and it only took one inning to do it. Cueto’s fragile mind was as torn apart as Jack Torrence after a shot of whiskey in a snowed in hotel. Old yeller mercifully left the game with one out in the fourth and didn’t strike out a batter. ESPN analyst Brian Mazzuchowitzsky says the blood spatter from Cueto shooting himself in the face spelled out redrum against Dusty Baker’s lucky Steve Bartman poster.
In that short inning Johnny Cueto went from a millionaire athlete who played for a playoff baseball team to a dorky cross between every neighborhood’s Jeremy Johnson and the Try-Too-Hard-To-Be-Cool-Attitude displayed by Todd from Breaking Bad. The best part is that since his reaction went from amped to public meltdown in less than an inning, Johnny Cueto will be bullied at PNC Park, and hopefully other stadiums too, for the rest of his career. This is the standard formula for schoolyard bullies so I figure the same concept applies to fans also
The main reason I was happy to see Johnny Cueto get a monumental verbal beating was because I have gotten a peek into a moment of his luxurious athletic life. My friend and I were leaving Shea during Cueto’s rookie season when we passed by him all decked out in Ed Hardy walking alongside two women with skirts that started at their belly button and ended at the pelvis. In that moment he was the shit and if I were in his shoes, I’d put myself in similar situations with women who will forever have a Miss Teen USA body.
Now I just figure bullying is such a foreign concept to Cueto. I’ve seen the awful demeanor of star athletes who believe in their own hype. I went to High School with Jason Gwalntey. He was supposed to be the next big thing in the NFL and now he’s allegedly robbing people because life didn’t work out the way he thought it would.
For sure if someone doesn’t realize wearing Ed Hardy makes you a douche then you clearly haven’t been bullied as a child and didn’t learn proper skills like rebounding from crappy situations and not dressing like a box of fruity pebbles (The best insult John Cena told the Rock). As the star athlete everyone loved probably loved Cueto. (Oh my god, I’m being such a hater right now.) Knowing his life has seen a lot of love because of a talent that involves throwing a tiny ball really hard, it’s hilarious to see him react to feelings the Jeremy Johnson’s of the world dealt with all throughout high school. The CUETO chants were so loud, and so gut wrenching to his psyche, he couldn’t even hold a baseball in his hand. For the first time in Cueto’s life he became the dork in his natural setting of the baseball diamond that called him king for so long. There is a real poetic justice to that.
In a way you could equate Johnny Cueto on that night to the immune system of a Christian Scientist’s child. (Keep in mind bullying is the medicine for this analogy.) Christian Scientists don’t believe in giving their children shots so when they get something as common as the flu, they either die or become severely handicapped for the rest of their life. As a high caliber athlete for all of his life, Johnny Cueto never took the proper shots. It didn’t matter how many leopard print shirts with tiger faces he wore to school, people still kissed his ass. After years of avoiding his shots, there Johnny Cueto was in the center of a sold out PNC Park shaking like a christian scientist’s child whose circulatory system was fried by the flu.
My prediction for Johnny Cueto’s meltdown is that he becomes the new Brad Lidge. We all remember Brad Lidge. A dominant closer who was never the same after Albert Pujols’ homerun against him in the 2005 ALCS. I don’t see Cueto rebounding either. Pittsburgh will forever haunt his dreams the way Pujols’ homerun follows Brad Lidge everywhere he goes. This is what happens when you don’t get a healthy dose of bullying as a child.