What's funny? What isn't? And why do I never get a laugh when I tell that joke about the moose?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Yo La Tengo!

There’s no delicate way to put this: The New York Mets suck. They SUCK! They Suuuuuuuck!!!

I mean, stick a hose in them and you can use them to clean your carpet.

I don’t care if they DID win eight games in a row recently, they still suck. The New York Mets could win the World Series for the next three years running, and you would STILL have to say that, overall, they sucked.

Obviously, I am a long-time Mets fan.

While it’s true that the New York Mets—what was that word again? Oh yeah, SUCK-it’s also true that they are one of the funniest baseball teams that has ever existed.

Why is this? Watching someone try earnestly and fail is painful, even tragic. But at some point, it stops being painful and starts being funny. Eventually it becomes hysterical. If we stop and think about it, we probably feel bad about it. (We still laugh, but we feel bad about it.)

My usual position is that other people's pain isn't funny. But then there are Mets stories like this one:

Back in 1962, during the Mets first (and possibly most futile) season, ownership had stocked up on two kinds of players: Has-beens and never-weres. The 1962 Mets were a perfectly awful team. You could not have set out deliberately to create a team so misbegotten.

Playing center field for the Mets was an old-timer, Richie Ashburn—close to the end of his career, but still with some baseball skills. Richie Ashburn had a problem—Elio Chacon, the Mets shortstop.

You see, every time a batter would pop up a ball to short center field, Richie Ashburn would run for the ball. He then did exactly what he’d been taught to do since childhood: He shouted “I Got It! I Got It!” indicating that he could and would catch the ball.

Inevitably, right after Ashburn yelled “I got it!” he would be crashed into by Mets shortstop Chacon, who was running for the ball himself. The ball would land untouched in the grass, and the batter would usually end up on second base.

Ashburn was beside himself. What the hell was wrong with Chacon, anyway? Was he deaf?

No, Chacon wasn’t deaf. He was simply from Venezuela and had never learned to speak much English.

Ashburn sought out a bilingual teammate who agreed to act as intermediary. After talking it over with Chacon, the teammate told Ashburn that the Spanish phrase for “I got it” was “Yo La Tengo!” If Ashburn shouted that, the teammate said, Chacon would happily give way.

Dubious, Ashburn approached Chacon. “Yo La Tengo?” he asked.

“Si, si,” nodded Chacon, who had been feeling a bit frustrated himself. “Yo La Tengo!”

It was only a few days later that another pop fly was floated out to center field. Ashburn, trotting for the ball, yelled out. “Yo La Tengo! Yo La Tengo!” Chacon, who had been headed for the ball, pulled up short and gestured for Ashburn to make the catch.

Ashburn relaxed and settled under the ball. Only to be crashed into by Mets left fielder Frank Thomas, who didn’t speak Spanish.

The ball landed for a double.

Ashburn did the only sensible thing—he quit baseball at the end of the year.

(By the way, the alternative rock band “Yo La Tengo!” got their name from the incident. I don’t know why they picked the name, but their music is pretty cool.)


  1. 1) Funniest Blog I've read today ...

    2) I never could get used to seeing Richie in a Mets uniform ...

    3) Richie Asburn, Elio Chacon, and Frank Thomas walk into a bar ...

  2. >3) Richie Asburn, Elio Chacon, and Frank Thomas walk into >a bar ...

    ... and the bartender drops dead of amazement that none of them bumped into each other?

  3. Hi Dave!

    The original Mets engendered affection. Today's Meties engender resignation--or if you have the energy--the desire to KICK someone.


  4. Another Yo La Tengo video (and funny, too):


    I've met them and chatted with them a couple of times - very nice folks.