While it might be considered questionable taste to find humor in something as serious as the events unfolding in Cairo, there have occurred moments when laughter is not only possible but, even, irresistible. Such humor, prompted by television, is but a mind goose from the not-so-little screen. And now that Mubarak has finally left office, we'll soon find out if 18 days of protest in search of "democracy" will have created any degrees of separation from the benevolent Egyptian Army?
It must have been a case of seeing one too many rocks or Molotov cocktails tossed near the Nile River that nudged one of my right-brain neurons. I began thinking about sports franchises and the scouts who find tomorrow's great athletes. Memory produced thoughts of the late Bob Feller whose recent summons to baseball's great bullpen in the sky recalled discovery of the corn-fed fire-baller by a scout who saw him pitch in Van Meter, Iowa, then signed the 16-year-old for $1 and a ball autographed by the Cleveland Indians. Feller's finder was named Cyril C. Slapnicka, a name I've enthused about for more than 70 years.
Suddenly, I was wondering if any scouts for major league baseball or the National Football League, viewing those Mubarak protesters in Tahrir Square, had witnessed an arm of potential professional sports greatness. This prompted satirical thoughts of film including recollections of a very early (1936) Judy Garland movie titled "Pigskin Parade" whose plot involves the discovery of a hayseed farmhand (Stuart Erwin) who helps propel melons to the market place by throwing them into a net held 50 yards or so away by kid sister Garland in her feature debut. Quite naturally, he becomes a passing sensation, his team (Texas State University) defeats mighty Yale and, as Casey Stengel used to say: "You could look it up."
Alas, I watched TV for many hours as Egyptians threw awkwardly whatever they could get their hands on before I arrived at an obvious conclusion: Egyptians may have worse arms than the French. With the French, it appears to be all in the wrists that are, well, inclined toward pronounced limpness. About the most conspicuous French athletic accomplishment has been watching memorable bicycle pileups at the Tour de France.
Let's assume, as an excuse to create this column, a superior arm did arise from the street ruble. Further, let's give the arm's owner a name: Tutankhamon Isu Ismahbaba who, concurrent with the uprising, is a student at the Institut Francais d'Archeologie Orientale (IFAO) where his singular interest in sports has been as a member of the varsity badminton team. Young Tut's only experience throwing anything into the air other than shuttlecocks occurs during summer vacations when he feeds tourist-transporting camels from a very safe distance.
Our story begins with the Cairo revolt and discovery of Tutankhamon by Sisyphus Slapnicka, the great grandson of Cyril C. Slapnicka, the aforementioned finder of Rapid Robert Feller. Sisyphus, as founding father of the International League of Uphill Stonerollers, had come upon difficult times prior to the fortunate sighting of Tut. Only the Manilla Folders, one of six teams in the ILUS, had been able to acquire any real spectator interest largely because of topographical home field advantage and Slapnicka was at wit's end--easily reached in Cairo by passing Cheops, grabbing a left at Chaphren, and taking a right at Mycermus.
It is during scenes of scuffling at Tahrir Square that we learn through flashbacks the sad story of young Tut's interest in archeology having been forced upon him. His father, the renowned Neferkaher Isu Ismahbaba, had pushed the lad, then five, into a life of grime in excavation hell when he demanded the boy dig practice potholes in the streets of Cairo in preparation for a life of searching in ancient ruins. By the time Tut was 13, the command to please his father had resulted in diggings so large that the fishing community transformed Tut's vast handiwork into ponds commodius enough for impressive quantities of Nile perch (Latos Nicoticus often called African snook). Nile perch grow to as much as 440 lbs. and young Tut eventually found himself the subject of much Cairo conversation; it was about then that he enrolled at IFAO where he vowed participation in more modest digs after going cold turkey regarding what his father had prompted.
Having seen on CNN that Tut was capable of throwing a Molotov cocktail 400 feet, Slapnicka, a part-time scout for the New York Mets, arranges for the team to sign the youngster on Oprah's channel despite Regis Philbin's plaintive plea that Tut, lacking major league experience, was not ready for the big leagues and should spend some time pitching for the Notre Dame varsity.
Naturally, there's a love interest in the story. It's the CNN reporter, Daisy Diaphanous, and who can ever forget her iconic remark about one-time Mets pitcher Tom Seaver that sets so much in motion? "I haven't seen an arm like that since Tom Terrific" became a comment that reverberated throughout baseball's hallowed halls and the Mets suddenly became Tut's destiny.
The press, of course, has a field ay with the pitching phenom who, like the early Feller, at first has control problems while notching as many walks as strikeouts. It is after a momentary falter in which he sets a nine-inning record for bases-on-balls that a New York Post headline screams: "Sphinx Stinks." Tut's being drafted by the Mets is referred to an an "Egyptian conscription," his message to the baseball world ("I flip, you zip") is called an "Egyptian encryption" and his wondrous 105 mph fastball the "Egyptian Conniption" because of the fits it gives hitters. David Letterman, citing an "Egyptian prescription" as "good for what has long ailed Mets fans," describes the hurler's most successful pitch location as being "right corner low, swift, and un-hittable." Time magazine even solves a lagging circulation problem by getting Tut involved in an Egyptian subscription promotion.
Mets management, in a highly-critized move, makes a Charlie Finleyan attempt to get Tut to change his name thus recalling the story of the Kansas City Athletics' owner who once offered pitcher Vida Blue $10,000 to trade his first name for True. The Mets ask Tut to switch his name to King Tut and Egyptian officials, already vexed trying to figure out how to make democracy work, get into an uproar over lobbyists representing Egypt's greatest tourist attraction amidst accusations of "pyramid schemes."
A further plot development occurs when Brooklyn-based baseball birthers claim that Tut is really a Jew born in Flatbush and is the love child of Dodger great Sandy Koufax and entertainer Barbra Streissand.
Streissand, re-united with Koufax, makes Egyptian travel plans to reprise her "Yentl" character and writes, produces, directs, edits and makes chicken soup for the cast of "Gentle, Dental, Yentl," a film of many conflicts. Yentl, confused about her identity as a dentist, is torn between her first love, root canals, and wisdom teeth extraction. Interested in what may be more than a transitory relationship between her calling and methods employed during Egyptian excavations, the intellectually curious Yentl/Streissand arrives in Cairo and finds time to do a film promotion concert among the tombs and palm trees. Our final scene finds a celebratory Streissand performing her concert whose musical numbers include: (the closely-associated-with Lady Gaga) "Teeth," "The Toothbrush Song" ("Brush, Brush, Brush Your Teeth" sung to "Row, Row, Row Your Boat") and "All I want for Christmas Are My Two Front Teeth."
Hit of the multi-media show is a 3-D version of Steve Martin's classic "Dentist Song" from "The Little Shop of Horrors." In great demand, it continues to be shown on the sides of rotating pyramids in the Land of the Pharoahs. When last seen, the highly-reclusive Koufax was hiding among the shadows of Cheops.
To be continued some time.
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