Regular readers may have noticed something happening around ScienceBlogs. As PZ pointed out, a little malware somehow infiltrated the ScienceBlogs collective, and many of us appear to have turned into zombies. It’s a veritable Zombie Day, complete with illustrations by Joseph Hewitt, creator of Gearhead.
Obviously, with anything having to do with zombies, there’s only one thing for this blog, namely a certain undead German dictator with an insatiable thirst for human brains, who leaves idiotic analogies in his wake. Unfortunately, with the 2008 election being behind us, there was a dearth of suitable material for a new Hitler Zombie opus right now. (Where are all the political hacks comparing people to Hitler willy nilly? They were always so reliable before!) More importantly, I was up most of the night working on a grant last night and wouldn’t have had time to compose a new Hitler Zombie brain chomping adventure. So I cheated and picked a couple of my favorites. This one dates back to 2006 and, as far as I can tell, has not been rerun since then. If you haven’t been reading at least four years, it’s new to you! Enjoy. It’s also particularly appropriate given that just a month ago Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga was robbed of a perfect game by a bad call on the last out, and I noticed that the superstition actually does hold sway. Until the blown call, none of the sportscasters breathed a word even in the ninth inning about the fact that Galarraga was pitching a perfect game. Not a word. The superstition exists.
Baseball and the never-ending hunger
Deep within Yankee Stadium, a timeless evil had arrived (well, an evil around 65 years old, anyway–well, 121 years old if you count its entire existence) shambling through the dark service corridors and halls, on a never-ending quest to satisfy its unquenchable hunger. Why it had come to this place, it did not know. Perhaps it was drawn by the eminations of pure baseball evil that routinely flowed from the so-called House That Ruth Built. Maybe it was because this place was a an icon of its hated enemy from a previous life, representing the national pastime favored by that enemy and emblematic of its culture. Maybe it was tired of its usual fare of politicians and pundits. Maybe it just needed a change of pace.
Or maybe, just maybe, deep within what instincts remained of its rotting brain resting in a shambling, charred corpse, it sensed the possibility of its greatest triumph yet since it had joined the undead–a triumph of illogic and ridiculousness hitherto unseen, even among his many exploits.
Michael Kay took his headset off in smug satisfaction. As the announcer for the Yankees on the YES Network, he was known for being more of a cheerleader for the team than making even the pretense of being an objective announcer, and indeed he had just lived up to that role in a big way. The Yankees had just taken over first place in the American League East, pulling ahead of the hated Red Sox. They had just crushed the Blue Jays 8-1. Life was good. After some pleasantries with his partner and the rest of the on-air staff, it would be time to go home.
But first, he had to answer nature’s call.
He wandered down the dark, dank hallways of Yankee Stadium. As he did so, he noticed an odor. It was familiar, yet not quite familiar. No, it wasn’t it the smell of spilled beer that often wafted through the halls. Nor was it the faint tinge of urine that could be sometimes detected in the hallowed halls on really hot days. It smelled like….meat. Rotting meat. But not quite.
He shrugged his shoulders and entered the bathroom. Oddly enough, it was empty. He headed for a stall for some privacy, in case some unruly loitering fans decided they needed to expell the many beers they had consumed back they same way they went down. In the distance, he could hear the chanting of the fans, “Blue Jays suck! Blue Jays suck!” He smiled, and opened the door to the stall.
Charred, rotting, skeletal hands grasped him by the head, one on either side, and pulled him into the stall. The door slammed.
The only sounds that could be heard were Kay’s scream, mingled with a gutteral cry of, “Braaaaiinnns!”**
Still no response.
The clear box stirred and came to life. Multicolored lights flashed, and the machine made a low humming noise. “What is it?” Orac asked testily. “Can’t you see that I’m analyzing the linguistic structure of a new batch of limericks and jokes. Endlessly fascinating. I don’t see how such limited minds as you humans can come up with such complex linguistic forms.”
Since joinging the ScienceBlogs collective, Abel had become used to Orac’s little diversions into seemingly bizarre studies. It was just part of the territory. Perhaps it was how Orac dealt with being a clear box of blinking lights. He continued, “Orac, tune in to the ESPN radio station in New York City. They’re discussing something that may be of interest to you, the topic of whether an announcer talking about a perfect game can affect the outcome and ruin the perfect game.”
“A silly superstition about a game. I fail to see what would interest me about this. It’s just magical thinking that leads to such superstitions, and I have never been able to fathom such irrationality.”
“You’ll see. Just tune in:”
KAY: You really believe that has something to do with whether someone pitches a perfect game?
CALLER: It has nothing to do with you personally.
KAY: What does it have to do with?
CALLER: It has to do with…if you’re…if you’re forecasting..if you’re saying the game on TV, you cannot–it’s baseball etiquette–you cannot forecast the game.
KAY: No, I don’t agree with you. That’s not a professional broadcaster. Why shouldn’t I say it? Why? Tell me, Jimmy, why?
CALLER: Because…because it’s just baseball etiquette.
KAY (interrupts): No, tell me why. Don’t tell me it’s baseball etiquette. You know, it used to be etiquette to have black people as slaves. It’s over. Tell me exactly why. Tell me why. (Talking over CALLER.) Jimmy, tell me why. Why can’t I say it?
CALLER: Because…because it’s just baseball etiquette.
KAY: That’s a stupid, stupid thing to say! You’re not giving me a reason. Baseball etiquette? There’s a lot of rules that don’t make sense. That’s why there was Nazi Germany putting people in ovens. Well, that’s what they told them to do. That’s a stupid, stupid reason! Oh, it’s baseball etiquette. It’s just ridiculous. Well, I followed orders! I did what I was supposed to! Well why? Well, they told me to. But why? Well, they told me to. Well that’s just asinine, absolutely asinine. People actually believe this. They actually believe this. Mindboggling. Absolutely mindboggling. You make no sense. You know how clueless you sound when you think that a broadcaster can affect what happens on a game? How stupid you sound? How infantile?
Orac was silent.
“Orac?” Abel said.
Silence. Orac stopped blinking for what seemed like an eternity.
A weak whirr emanated from the clear box, and the lights slowly started turning on, one by one. “Oooh,” said Orac. He looked distinctly unwell, if such a thing were possible for a machine.
“Why didn’t you warn me? That, without a doubt, has to be the most potently idiotic Hitler/Nazi analogy that I’ve ever heard. My logic circuits took a big hit just listening to it. It’s made all the worse by the fact that, had Kay not thrown in the bizarre analogy to Nazi soldiers’ defenses at Nuremberg that they were ‘just following orders’ when they ‘put people in ovens,” he would have been making sense. Kay was arguing against the baseball superstition that an announcer can ‘jinx’ a pitcher in the midst of pitching a perfect game by saying that the pitcher is pitching a perfect game and thus cause him to screw up and give up a hit. It is indeed a silly superstition. However, the juxtaposition of the rationality of criticizing a childish superstition combined with using perhaps the most ignorant Nazi analogy ever was momentarily too much for my logic circuits. It actually did me damage, and my repair circuits are working very hard right now. I fear the monster has become strong again. It’s not every day that you can hear an announcer for the most depised baseball team (except for the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut area) comparing baseball superstitions to both one of the most shameful practices the U.S. ever engaged in, its history of slavery, and one of the most horrific deeds in history, namely the Holocaust.”
“Oh, it’s even worse than that,” said Abel.
“What do you mean? Explain.”
“You didn’t listen to the end of the segment.”
“Play it,” said Orac”
“Are you sure you’re up to it?”
“Well of course I am,” snapped Orac testily. “I wouldn’t have told you to play it if I weren’t”
“Very well,” said Abel, “Here we go:”
KAY: You know, sometimes I believe there are no gods, the way the world goes.
(LONG, PREGNANT PAUSE)
Co-Host Guy: I think your eye is bleeding.
“My eye would bleed, too, if I had one,” said Orac. “There he is, ranting against superstition and even expressing agnosticism at the end of his segment, a sentiment of which PZ would no doubt approve, hot on the heals of such utter irrationality of comparing belief in silly baseball analogies to slavery and the Holocaust.”
“Where will the monster strike again?” asked Abel.
“I must calculate. I had thought that, with the midterm elections coming up, the monster would be returning to its traditional repast and once again begin feasting on the brains of politicians, leading to the inevitable comparisons of their opponents and their opponents’ parties to Hitler. As rare as that may be, this one caught me a bit by surprise. Baseball? Even I didn’t see that one coming. Before I return to my search and calculations, though, I have just one thing to say.”
“What is that?” asked Abel.
“Clearly, the Yankees have the announcer that they so richly deserve, even more so thanks to the Hitler Zombie.”
**As always, translated from the German!
[Note #1: Thanks (I think) to Jonathan Dresner for letting me know about this particular example.]
[Note #2: As regular readers may know, Orac really detests the Yankees; so he’s really enjoying this one–well, as much as it’s possible for a clear box of lights to “enjoy” anything.]