“Mazel Tov”. It’s a catchy phrase, isn’t it? We Jews like to use it whenever we can: at Bar Mitzvahs, weddings, when your uncle buys a new car (and pays below the dealer cost!) when you realize after sitting through all nine hours of “Wicked” that the tickets were free, and during other equally joyous celebrations.
And yet I can’t think of a better use of “Mazel Tov” than to thank God that 2009 is over. In fact, let’s try it. 2009 has come to an end; Mazel Tov. No, make that Mazel Tov! How about this: MAZEL TOV!!! (Feel free to add smiley faces or an LOL at the end of your use of the phrase if it feels right.)
Seemingly everyone and every media outlet is dwelling on the close of the first decade of the 2000’s, which began with non-stop stories about Y2K and ended with non-stop stories about the TSA. (By the way, any potential shoe-bombers reading this article can expect an old fashioned butt whoppin’ from the Shan-Dawg if you pull that on one of my many flights. I’m serious. This is 5 feet and 5 and a half inches of absolute fury waiting to be unloaded.) But I’ll save my Mazel Tov for a more specific cause: the close of one of the more ridiculous and abjectly stupid years that I can remember. In a year of many mishaps and embarrassments, let’s consider three big ones that will always stand out in my mind, and makes the coming of 2010 worthy of many other Hebrew words I don’t even know.
In no particular order:
2009 CHICAGO SPORTS – This is a topic for which the term “Oy” was originally coined. Everywhere you look – and no, I’m not including the Chicago Blackhawks, a team that from 1995-2008 had the same number of fans as does NBC’s “Chuck” – Chicago teams were brutal this year. The White Sox limped along all year, only redeemed by a rare perfect game by pitcher Mark Buherle. By mid season, their GM traded away arguably their best player, someone who’s also one of the best hitters of the last 15 years in all of baseball, then claimed, “hey, we’re still in this thing”. No, Kenny Williams. You were not.
The Bulls? A team that once won six titles in a decade turned a playoff LOSS to the Celtics into a marketing campaign. Then they refused to re-sign one of the best shooters in basketball despite his desire to stay here, and as of this writing, are holding on to a coach who’d previously never coached a basketball game on any level during his life. (Why they didn’t just call me to do the job is both curious and highly insulting.) When a franchise that gave the world Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen is now happy just to lose a tough playoff series, you know the glory days are long gone.
Which brings me to my beloved Chicago Cubs. Everyone knows the Cubs are a century-plus long disaster. That’s not exactly breaking news. Indeed, for roughly 29 of the 35 years of my life, the Cubs have been an absolute laughingstock. But this year, they achieved a whole new level of bad, by signing a player (Milton Bradley) whom everyone in baseball knew was crazy. The Cubs then proceeded to appear shocked when he started acting crazy. Imagine Dennis Rodman without the talent, sense of humor, or likability. That’s Milton Bradley, folks. But it wasn’t all Milton’s fault. Alfonso Soriano, who made about $140,000 per RBI, accidentally forgot how to play baseball. Giovanny Soto apparently discovered Lou Malnatis. And Ryan Dempster started to resemble, well, Ryan Dempster. You want to talk about a jinx? Is it a coincidence that one of the most disappointing Cubs seasons in a half century occurred after they jettisoned their one Jewish pitcher, Jason Marquis? I think not. Marquis went on to become an all-star (which, no doubt, made his mother very, very proud) while the Cubs were out of the pennant race by mid-summer. Perhaps new Cubs owner Tom Ricketts needs a reminder that about half of the Cubs’ fan base arrives at Wrigley via the Purple Line and a trek from the north shore. Might not be such a bad idea to hang onto some tribesmen in the future.
THAT GAP CHEERLEADING COMMERCIAL – I like the Gap and have shopped there long enough to remember their old-school, western-tinged ad campaign with a low-voiced dude singing, ala that guy from the Oak Ridge Boys (don’t pretend like you don’t know who I’m referring to), “Fall Into The Gap”. But their recent cheerily cryptic ad with the little girls who resemble the cast of “Annie” on speed screaming to me that I should “talk to the moose” has gone too far. It’s been burned into my consciousness, to the point where occasionally I have visions of that one girl who clenches her arms and emits what appears to be a blood-curdling scream while her friends sing that they love their comfy sweater. (Granted, those visions could have something to do some bad decisions made at a Dead show, but I digress…) My point is this: I don’t care how cute your boots are. Please stop yelling at me and do not come back in 2010. Hey mom and dad, guess what? Your kids need Valium.
THE TEA-BAGGERS – I came out of the womb a liberal, a fact that many of you who’ve read my columns must be aware of based on the inordinate amount of Sarah Palin references I try to squeeze into each OY! article. (The Beatles re-released their catalog? What a perfect excuse to bash Ms. Palin!) But this goes beyond mere politics. Let’s face it, regardless of one’s political affiliation, both sides have a whole lot to dislike. But a certain group of Americans, who proudly refer to themselves as “Tea-Baggers” (I’ll let the term and its myriad ironies speak for itself), took political insanity to a whole new level this year, and made Keith Olbermann and Rush Limbaugh look like two of the more measured people in the world. (Self-involved note: be sure to catch “Rush: The Musical” at Second City e.t.c. starting this February. You’ll love it. Or be very offended. I kind of hope for both.)
The debate which so passionately (and loudly) moved the Tea-Bagger types became not about any salient issues, but rather such fantastical concepts as whether or not our President would oversee death panels, kill your Grandma, and choose which Americans would get healthcare. The words “Hitler”, “Nazi”, and “Socialism” were overused more than once – usually without any regard for their actual historical connotation or power – and all the while the President was disregarded anyway because he allegedly wasn’t even an American. It’s tough to argue with ill-informed conspiracy theorists, and any reasonable attempts were thwarted with foaming-at-the-mouth yelling and screaming at town hall meetings. At one point, Arlen Spector was nearly shouted to death by a man on Medicare who passionately didn’t believe anyone else deserved to be on Medicare.
By the end of the year, things had calmed down considerably, but the summer of 2009 – and its corresponding healthcare “debates” will likely be remembered as one of the darker and more stupid eras in modern American history. It did confirm the theory that if you give a crazy person a microphone, he’s probably gonna say a whole lot of crazy s**t. (One particular supporter of the tea-bagger cause, who makes a whole lot of money as host on a major news network, spent a good amount of his time either crying or calling the President racist. Sometimes in the same breath. That this man has an inordinate amount of followers makes even proud Americans like me want to head for the tropical paradise of Canada in a hurry.)
Of course, a whole lot else happened this year. American Idol crowned their 27h meaningless winner, Michael Jackson ascended to that Neverland in the sky, and, horror of all horrors, Tiger Woods enjoys more than just golf. (Why this was a bigger story than the torrid affair of a “family values” Southern governor is worthy of an entirely different column. E-mail me directly if you’d like my warped take on this.)
On a personal level, the year wasn’t a total wash; I was fortunate enough to experience a few pretty great moments in 2009. “Rod Blagojevich Superstar” became my first hit, my family and friends were happy and healthy, and I was given the honor of writing for Oy! That said, here’s a pint-sized “Mazel Tov” for the good moments of 2009, but a gigantic, all-caps “MAZEL TOV” that the year is over. Onto better and bigger things in 2010, and may each one of you reading this experience nothing but peace, love, and prosperity going forward. Is that worthy of an emphatic Mazel Tov, or what?