NASCAR NONSENSE & WACKINESS, SINGLE-A MASCOTS

July 19, 2009

Ray Ratto, of the SF Chronicle, told us about Jeremy Mayfield who may be completely bat-guano crazy. “He may also be a man of extraordinary principle. Or
maybe it’s just the methamphetamine talking.                                                                         
 Now read those three sentences again and tell me you’re not
hooked on what comes next.                                                                                                                                              
Of all the bizarre stories that have graced our eyes this year, this is the platinum standard – or double platinum standard, or even kryptonite standard. Nothing tops it, and nothing will, not for awhile. Nothing comes close. Not Burress or Beckham, LeBron or Lesnar, not Kobe or Kung-Fu Panda. This is the one, and you may want to strap on the Kevlar before you advance.                                                                                  
Mayfield is a NASCAR driver (hang with us here) who tested positive for meth (ahh, I see your eyelids twitching) by NASCAR (OK, shades of baseball and
football testing), fought the subsequent suspension (now it seems like
Roger Clemens, sort of), even going to court to get an injunction against his suspension (now it’s way like Clemens), was re-tested positive by NASCAR (OK, now we’re getting into serious vendetta territory), and his stepmother was one of the people who ratted him out (see? I told you this would get weird), and then he spoke out.                                       
Now here comes the good stuff. Wait, the good stuff? There’s good stuff after this?            
“She’s basically a whore,” Mayfield told ESPN’s David Newton of Lisa Mayfield. “She shot and killed my dad.”
OK, beat that.
Now Mayfield may be fully bughouse, but these are not cards one generally plays in defense of oneself, especially if the lawyer standing at one’s side happens to be present and ready to interrupt at a moment’s misstep.                                                    
He surely has grudges he’d like to share. His father, Terry, died two years ago of what a North Carolina medical examiner called a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest, but Mayfield said his stepmother would be served with a wrongful death suit.         
And then he spoke again.                                                                                                             
“She knows what we’ve got on her,” Mayfield said. “For her to come out and do this is pretty ballsy. Everybody that’s ever known me knows I never, ever have been around her for more than 10 hours of my life. She’s a gold digger. I knew that from Day 1.”And then he spoke again, claiming that NASCAR is paying his stepmother for ratting him out.                                                                                                                             
 “It wouldn’t take much money. She tried to get money from me,” he said.                      
But because a step mom versus son cage match isn’t enough for you in these jaded times, Mayfield gives us more, doing what we always claimed baseball’s
performance-enhancing drug users should have done – fight the tests.                                    
And, ever helpful, he speaks again. He ripped NASCAR, and its chairman, Brian France.                                                                                                                                    
“Brian France talking about effective drug programs is like having Al Capone talking about effective law enforcement,” Mayfield said. “They’re playing this high school s-, they better be ready. I’m coming after them in a big way. I’m prepared to go all the way and have the backing to do it if it takes everything I’ve got. I’m not going to back down for something I didn’t do.”                                                                                         
And he wants to get back to racing, presumably for NASCAR.                                         
Now tell me again about tennis player Richard Gasquet (tested positive for coke, said he got it kissing a girl who had coke on her mouth, and got off), or Steve McNair’s end, or Arturo Gatti’s or … well, or anything.                                                                        
This is the zenith of whack-job stories, and no strange tragedy, outrage, silliness or actual sporting event will top it, not for months at least. What could top it?
The National Flame-Thrower Fighting League? Lawyers in catapults? Roger Goodell climbing an erupting volcano just to show how physically vibrant he is?                            
Yes, as weird as our culture has become, this is a truly special tale, one that will cause even the sports and entertainment worlds to stop and regain their bearings.
Maybe you could make up one part of this one, but its pure scorched-earth totality? Not a chance. If Sony Pictures can’t get the “Moneyball” project rolling even with Aaron Sorkin, this is the movie for them, no question.                                                                    
True, this may not work for you sporting purists who want more about the Giants or A’s or NFL training camps or whatever is supposed to happen to Stephen Curry, but sometimes you have to forget the local angle, sit back, take stock and breathe in the madness. Because just when you think it can’t get weirder, it
does.                                  
Put another way, Brett Favre’s next news conference comes in 13 days. Unless he’s got eye-pecking hawks, talking boars, a bloody two-by-four and Vikings coach Brad Childress wearing only a welder’s helmet and a Speedo, Jeremy Mayfield has won the 2009 Our Culture Has Lost Its Damned Mind Perpetual
Trophy.
Single-A leagues are pretty low on baseball’s importance scales. So where do their mascots rank? Plaschke tell us the unrecognized jobs they do for the sport:
“Welcome to a veritable Baseball Country Jamboree, the Class-A Lake Elsinore Storm, the mascot capital of the sports world, a place where the characters are  complex but the motto is simple.
“When our fans leave here, most of them don’t remember the final score,” says Allan Benavides, assistant general manager. “But they all remember the fun.”
The mascots indeed go all out here, far out, way out, and the return is truly priceless.
A summer evening at this charming Riverside County field known as the Diamond is like a walk through a motley, magical park.
Between every inning, it seems, a different type of creature runs on to the field to run, jump, dance or just hit someone. Sometimes they toy with fans, other times they taunt opposing team, often they just spend the 90 seconds humiliating each other.
At various points on this weekday night in a game against the Stockton Ports, the field was filled with male strippers, thuggish cats, a monkey pounding players with pool noodles, and a cardboard robot who so furiously danced, his duct-taped head fell off.
And, of course, there was that strange, scary race.
“Sometimes we wonder if anybody is even watching the actual game,” Gillett says.
Virtually every minor league team in baseball employs characters like this. What makes Lake Elsinore unique is the scope of their zoo.
They have 11 mascots, more than the number of players in their team’s lineup.
They have an actual director of mascot operations, a college graduate with a budget and a mandate.
They have a real locker room for the mascots, complete with air conditioning and closet space.
They even employ mascots to perform normal club duties while in uniform, having them serve as both mascot and stadium worker at the same time.
Thus, the rabbit scoreboard operator.
I am not making this up. Sports is also about the luck, which is pretty much how Lake Elsinore came to acquire all these mascots in the first place.
Last year, a local costume shop went out of business and offered costumes for $50 apiece. Thus, the Lobster, the June Cat and the Grounds Crew Gorilla were
born.
Jackpot the Rabbit was a costume left behind by a former sponsor.
Scoop is a human ice cream cup given to them by an ice cream store.
Hamlet, the light blue sea creature, is an old Storm mascot that is supposed to be some sort of dragon from the nearby lake.
“The Loch Ness monster of Lake Elsinore?” Gardenier says. “Works for me.”
The banana was purchased this year as a dance partner for — surprise — the Gorilla.
Then there is the Robot, which was something that Gillett built this year for ’80s Night. Great idea, but not very practical, as he learned earlier when he lost his
head.
Then there is Rally Cop and Party Boy, two truly human mascots who race on to the field at odd times and act racy.
Rally Cop, who is Gillett dressed like an officer, runs out in the ninth inning of a close game and throws foam baseballs inscribed with insults into the opposing team’s dugout.
Party Boy is an intern who runs out and does a male strip tease whenever the skit requires that one of the mascots be distracted.
Various employees play the characters, with the only requirement being that they must be willing to go through several shirts and lose several pounds each night in the 100-degree heat.
“You drink a lot of water,” Gardenier says. “And you hope the kids don’t hit you where it hurts.” On this summer evening, the other team doesn’t seem bothered, plays hard, Lake Elsinore and Stockton battling pitch for pitch until the very end, when the game reaches its climax.
This occurs, of course, when Jackpot the Rabbit finishes his scoreboard work and walks across the field to return to the locker room.
Kids line the railings to wave and scream and ask for his autograph. He stops for every child, poses for every photo, and by the time he drags his overheated, exhausted body into the tunnel, the stadium is empty, leaving many with only one unanswered question.

Who won?

Who cares?

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