Nomaaaah, and teamwork…

I feel like such a choad when I do what I’m about to do – write something here in response to something someone else wrote. But hey, you gotta do what you gotta do.

Ben’s blog this week is about the Red Sox trade of Nomar Garciaparra to the Chicago Cubs. Good topic, but I gotta disagree with Ben here and agree with the article he’s ripping into. It was time for Nomar to go in Beantown.

I do agree with Ben that it’s absurd for music fans (or sports fans for that matter) to expect their favorite players to not only make music they love but also be people they’d want to invite over for a game of cards. Where I think he goes a bit wrong here is that if the real problem with Nomar was that he wasn’t getting along with his teammates and playing like, well, a member of the team, then that is a real and serious problem that management had to deal with.

Just to play Devil’s advocate, it’s also entirely possible and probable that the Red Sox management dumped Nomar simply because he was going to be a free agent anyway after the end of the season and they wanted to use his value to try to get a jump on getting decent replacements for him.

That qualification out of the way, I’ll get to my point. In a band or on a baseball team you have to play for the team. If you’re playing for yourself then not only are you doomed to failure, you’re a dickhead. No individual player ever won a championship, no matter how brilliant he was. Hell, if one great player could bring his team a championship Barry Bonds would’ve given the Giants a truckload of them by now because he is, without a doubt, the greatest player in the game today, and has been for a long time. The Giants have exactly zero World Series trophies, just for the record, from Bonds’ tenure on the team. In contrast a bunch of good players who play brilliantly together have repeatedly won championships. Just look at the Anaheim Angels in 2002, the Diamondbacks in 2001 and the Florida Marlins in 2003. And just to really draw this picture into relief, the D-Backs in 2001 and the Marlins in 2003 both won their championships facing the New York Yankees, a team loaded with future hall-of-famers who could’ve handed their team a victory if championships were won on the backs of individual performers.

Likewise, bands with star performers whose talent isn’t integrated into making the band better but rather channeled towards making everyone aware of their own personal brilliance usually suck eggs. When was the last time you found yourself walking down the street humming a Joe Satriani tune? How about something by Steve Vai or Jeff Beck? These guys can all play the guitar in awe-inspiring ways, but none of them can carry a band or deliver a memorable tune that people want to hear again and again. And yet take a band like the Hives, not a one of them a virtuoso, or even personally recognizable musician, and they crank out one memorable, catchy song after another. Your taste in bands will probably differ from mine, but you probably get my drift here.

Why could AC/DC thrive after their frontman and lead vocalist, Bon Scott, croaked? Not because they replaced him with a better singer or a sexier and more compelling frontman. They could march forward and prosper because they were a band. The collective identity is greater than the sum total of the parts. And they remembered that the fundamental unit of exchange in pop music is the song. It’s not the guitar player, the singer, the drummer, the bass player, the record label, the video, the tour, the album or any of the peripheral stuff that people get obsessed with in music. It’s the song stupid. And a great song transcends the people who played it, the people who recorded it, the people who wrote it, the people who sold it and even the people who bought the record it was on.

I’ve been in a lot of bands, and the bands who were able to do things I was proud of and happy to be a part of were like a gang, which is sort of a nerdy music dork’s version of a team. We went to battle together and everyone came back with the same number of scars. Anyone not willing to pull his weight (and occasionally the weight of a bandmate who needed a hand) was not long for the band. The greatest musical failures I’ve been involved with were always centered around putting up with someone who wouldn’t get with the program for a bit too long.

So, as a fan, I don’t give a damn if Nomar is a great guy. I don’t care if he eats roast kitten for lunch three times a week. As a fan I just want to see him rocket one into the street past the outfield fence and make great plays on the field. But as a teammate if he’s a fucking jerk then I don’t care if he bats .750 and is able to single-handedly keep the opposing team from scoring 99% of the time. If I’ve got a job, I’ve got to come to work everyday and I really don’t need to do that AND put up with some jackass downer with a rotten attitude. The less I enjoy my job the less well I’m going to do it, so while Mr. Fantabulous Ballplayer may be able to play circles around me with his eyes closed and a gerbil stuffed up his ass, putting up with his bullshit is going to ruin my ability to keep my mind on the game. The same applies in music. I’m not interested in playing beside someone who is God’s gift to rock if his bullshit makes me want to hang up my guitar and never play again.

It remains to be seen whether or not Nomar will be regarded as a different sort of player and person by his new teammates in Chicago. However, if he is a prima donna with attitude to spare he’s gone to the right clubhouse with the right Manager. If Dusty Baker could keep a lid on Barry Bonds, Jeff Kent and the rest of the egomaniacs he managed in San Francisco he ought to be able to make Nomar feel right at home. For now though Dusty’s got plenty on his plate, what with trying to get Sammy Sosa to stop being afraid of getting close enough to the plate to hit the outside pitch.

Comments are closed.