Jose: the good, bad and ugly

Dan Rodricks

August 09, 1991|By Dan Rodricks

Let me just say that most of the men I know -- call it juvenile, call it pectoral envy -- wish they were Jose Canseco.

He's huge. He's got the shoulders, the biceps, the triceps -- and a tight waste and the kind of backside women enjoy, well, gawking at; some even like to take pictures of it. He's a hunk who can hit a baseball a country mile, and he can steal bases. His face is not exactly matinee idol gorgeous, but, compared to some of the Homers playing major league baseball, he's not bad.

Yeah, that Jose. He's big and famous and rich. He makes between $4 million and $5 million a year. He drives a Ferrarri. He's supposedly a friend of Madonna.

Most of the men I know, when offered Madonna's friendship, would cry out, "I am not worthy! I am not worthy!" the way that disoriented, brain-fried youth, Garth, does on "Saturday Night Live."

Yeah, Jose is different all right.

When he comes into the on-deck circle in his tight Oakland A's uniform, muscles bursting everywhere, some of the women swoon and the men sit there and stew in their twisted Freudian jealousy.

Jose Canseco -- sex symbol.

As I said, most of the men I know would like to be Jose, just for a day. They would like to have all his attributes -- except for one.

The jerk cells. Most of us wish they hadn't been poured into the mold, but they were.

Yeah, that Jose -- he puts the "er" in jerk.

He's a hot dog. He's arrogant. He's Mr. Wonderful. He has played out the athletic superstar bit to its most exploitative, grotesque dimension. He has a tendency to gross people out. In rTC professional athletics, he is the guy Americans love to hate, and for male sports fans, as I said, a lot of this resentment is built on envy.

Enough of the psychology. On with the story.

Jose put on a display in Baltimore a couple of weeks ago which should have firmed up, in the Baltimore mind, his image as the guy we're going to love to hate for a long time to come. This is great for the box office. The Orioles should be ecstatic when he comes to town, for there just isn't a player on the home town team -- for better or worse -- with Jose Canseco's repulsive charisma.

There was a night game on Saturday, July 27th. The A's blew the Orioles away in the first few innings. It was a disaster.

Early in the game, I saw a woman I know, an attractive advertising sales rep, run down from her box seat at Memorial Stadium to snap Jose's picture. The hunk was in the on-deck circle and when he saw this smashing woman lean on the rail with her camera, he eyed her, leaned into a batting stance and assumed his best pose.

What a guy, that Jose.

Later, in about the fourth or fifth inning, another young woman, in tight denim cutoffs and her best Sunday-go-to-meetin' Highlandtown halter, ran up to the backstop with a camera and took Jose's picture. Jose posed for her, too.

What a guy.

In the ninth inning, over by the Athletics' dugout, about seven or eight kids, about 10 to 12 years of age at the most, assembled near the rail to attempt to get their hero's attention.

Kids love this guy. He's a superstar. He's famous. He's a champion.

These particular kids were Canseco worshipers. They had a hand-made sign professing Jose devotion. A couple of them had Jose Canseco T-shirts.

And Jose, standing in the on-deck circle, ignored them.

"Hey Jose," yelled Barry Desroches, a fan from Crofton who was seated nearby. "Hey Jose, come on, turn around. These kids are wearing your T-shirts! You're getting royalties from them!"

Jose refused to turn around.

The man's a giant, you know. He's heard the annoying voices of America's youth countless times, crying out for him, trying to get him to wink, to smile, to even -- can you believe it? -- sign an autograph for free! And here they were again -- little street urchins squealing, "Jose! Jose!"

He stood in the on-deck circle and ignored their pleas.

Barry Desroches yelled, "Hey, Jose, you're a great role model, a------!"

And there began the scene, now famous from its broadcast on local television, of big Jose Canseco repeatedly daring this unruly fan to come down on the field for some hand-to-hand combat. Hemingway would have loved the scene.

Of course, there was no fight. Barry Desroches was ushered out of the stadium. Somewhere along the way he decided that no amount of pectoral envy could make him want to be Jose Canseco. I like his attitude. The man calls an A an A.

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