Sunday, June 16, 2013

Bad Role Models

One of the hazards of doing a food and beer blog is that, through eating and thinking about food and beer all the time, it's kind of easy to develop a bit of pooch around the waist.  I know it's not good for me, and it's something I need to work on eradicating, but it sort of comes with the territory.

On the flip side, I also like to spend some of my free time watching sports.  Now, sitting to watch isn't exactly good for my waistline, but you'd think that watching athletes in prime physical condition run and skate across my TV screen would serve as visible motivation for me to get in better shape.  These guys could be considered role models, in a way.

I was a 13-year-old sports obsessed kid who read Sports Illustrated but didn't have cable TV when Charles Barkley made his famous role models remarks: "I'm not paid to be a role model.  I'm paid to wreak havoc on the basketball court."  I might have been naive or uninformed about a lot of things in my middle school days, but I'd heard the stories about Barkley--the bar fights, the spitting incident, the on-court fights (those were the best; I was really just a future hockey fan, as it turns out).   So his comments gave me something to think about.

Now, as an appropriately-jaded adult, I don't really have any delusions about athletes being role models--not for their off-the-playing-surface behavior.  But on-field, it's hard not to be impressed.  The current athlete is in better shape than ever before in sporting history: lean and muscular, ripped and toned, fast and strong.  But then I look at my baseball team, the San Francisco Giants, winners of two of the last three World Series, and what do I see?

Bellies.  Big, round, bouncy bellies.

Exhibit A: Pablo Sandoval

Best baseball game giveaway ever?
Also known as the Kung Fu Panda, this is where you have to start with the Giants.  Sandoval won the World Series MVP last fall, hitting three home runs in Game 1 of the Series against the Tigers and ace Justin Verlander.  Sandoval is round and jovial and an amazing athlete; the team has sold tons of Panda hats over the past few years.  Yet the team has also now coined the term "Operation Panda" for the offseason workout program to help get Sandoval to shed those many excess pounds.

It hasn't really worked.  Sometimes injuries get in the way, as do his offseason visits to Venezuela to have too much of his mother's clearly-delicious home cooking.  He might be at his biggest now.  And yet he's had a really good season.  Leads the National League in All-Star votes for a third baseman.  Clearly, he is a terrible role model.

And not just for me, but for my cat.  I sometimes call my cat, Peanut, "Kung Fu PandaNut" in honor of his similarities to Sandoval.  They sort of look the same--orange and white (fur and uniform), big bellies jiggling, and incredible athleticism.  We've had our own Operation Peanuts over the years, to no avail, and were just told by a vet about a special new metabolic diet food for him.  We'll see about that.

Exhibit B: Guillermo Quiroz

It may not be fair to pick on Quiroz, a career minor leaguer who has stuck around to become the Giants' backup catcher this year at 31.  When your starting catcher is a real American hero, it's hard to care much about the backup.  But Quiroz has provided the fireworks of a game-winning home run against the Dodgers, so he's already won me over for the year.

And look--not a bad belly!  This guy's played in just over 120 big league games over the past decade, so it's not like he's living big.  It's a funny thing about catchers--their position might be the most physically demanding, what with all the squatting, but they also seem to end up the thickest of any position player (pitchers are another story).  Why?  I'd think the belly thickness would only make it harder to squat.

Maybe it's just a trend with the Giants, though.  Sandoval started his career as a catcher, in fact.  And here's a shot of Bengie Molina, who began 2010 as their starting catcher until Buster Posey supplanted him.

Exhibits C & D: Jean Machi and Jose Mijares

I'm grouping these two together because they're a pair of relievers who have partnered for one of the more random sights to come from a baseball game this season.  How do I politely describe it?  Well:

Machi (left, passing gas) and Mijares (center, smelling it)

Anyway, it's unlikely that many kids grow up saying they want to one day be a middle reliever, so it's a reach to call Machi and Mijares role models in any way.  And hey, Machi is like Quiroz, a career minor leaguer who just made the majors last year at 30.  So good on him for making it and even contributing, though the excessive flatulence can't be helping his cause in staying in the majors.

Mijares?  Solid lefty out of the pen.  And while he doesn't have the biggest belly on the club, it's his double chin that's most impressive.  Hey, I'm not going to say anything--but is that chin-strap beard really the best look under the circumstances?

It's all good.  The man has gotten to ride through the streets of San Francisco alongside his wife in a World Series parade.  There are a whole lot of people who can't say that.

So there you go: role models, the whole lot of them.  Keep it up, boys.  As long as you keep winning, of course.

**Sad Panda Addendum**

As I dragged my feet in posting this, some unfortunate injury news for Sandoval: he has a foot strain and hairline fracture, though he's played through the latter for several years, and is now headed to the disabled list.  Is it weight related?  Who knows.  But it opens the door for a temporary, in-season Mini Camp Panda.

Does this mean I have to learn a lesson from all of this?  Well, sure, I could afford to drop a few pounds myself this summer.  Maybe the sight of a lean, mean, Panda machine will inspire me.  If only I had an entire training staff to kick my ass into gear and the money for a private chef.  Alas, I'll have to do it another way--green smoothies and lots of simple chicken and fish and salad dinners.

Check back in in a couple months and we'll see where everyone stands, cat included.


  1. Looks like the Panda's headed for San Jose on a rehab assignment... doesn't sound like a particularly serious injury. I think the Giants have handled the weight issue reasonably well over the past few years - they've provided incentives for Pablo to stay fit, and warned them of consequences if he doesn't, but it seems they've recognized as well that if he's hungry and unhappy he's not going to be productive. Sounds like my line of reasoning when considering whether to have that second pork chop.

    On a side note - I've noticed a surprising number of fellow Giants fans (and NorCal transplants) since I moved to Albany three years ago. Looks like we need our own Finnerty's-style watering hole up here!

    1. I was amused to notice during today's bench-clearing incident that Mijares stood on the Giants bench in his sweatshirt and basically stuck his belly out as far as possible--as if this were the most intimidating pose he could strike. This team is pretty hilarious.

      Anyway, I've been surprised, too, by how many Giants hats I've seen worn around here since arriving last summer. Somehow we all need to band together at least for one night to take over some pub for a Giants fan viewing party!