Here is your open thread for February 23, 2020.
Today is the birthday of Howard Jones. I have many guilty favorites from Jones’ synth-pop catalog, but I’m going with this one because it was the one used in Better Off Dead:
It’s also the birthday of George Frideric Handel (1685), so if this were a classier blog I would have gone with one of the many luminous great works of art he composed in his illustrious career. But none of those compositions were in Better Off Dead. So.
Former major league All-Star Bobby Bonilla turns 57 today. He retired from baseball after the 2001 season, following a career in which he hit 287 home runs and batted .279 playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Mets, Baltimore Orioles, Florida Marlins, Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta Braves, and St. Louis Cardinals. Since he no longer plays for any of those teams, Bonilla is no longer being paid by the Pirates, Orioles, Marlins, Dodgers, Braves, or Cardinals.
But Bobby Bonilla is still being paid by the Mets because Bobby Bonilla’s agent — Dennis Gilbert — was a genius. Wikipedia offers a nice summary:
After his subpar 1999 season, the Mets released Bonilla, but still owed him $5.9 million. Bonilla and his agent offered the Mets a deal: Bonilla would defer payment for a decade, and the Mets would pay him an annual paycheck of $1.19 million starting in 2009 and ending in 2035, adding up to a total payout of $29.8 million. Mets owner Fred Wilpon accepted the deal mostly because he was heavily invested with Ponzi scheme operator Bernie Madoff, and the 10 percent returns he thought he was getting on his investments with Madoff outweighed the eight percent interest the Mets would be paying on Bonilla’s initial $5.9 million.
So this season, the Mets will be paying 57-year-old retired former Met Bobby Bonilla about the same amount they’ll be paying 26-year-old Brandon Nimmo to actually play every day. We Mets fans think about that a lot, but keep in mind what I noted about this arrangement back in 2015:
You may think that Bobby Bo is the overpaid beneficiary of a sweet deal. But the team simply made a promise, deferring payment of what Bonilla was rightly owed based on magical thinking about the future growth of its investments. The story, in other words, is a lot like the so-called “pension crisis” for a lot of public workers. The main difference is that the Mets — unlike a lot of rat-bastard governors — are honoring the deal they agreed to.
The great Niecy Nash celebrates her 50th birthday today. Aziz Ansari and Emily Blunt turn 37. (Ansari is a very funny comic, but I’m not sure anything he’s done is funnier watching Emily Blunt shoot Tom Cruise in the head over and over and over in Edge of Tomorrow.)
W.E.B. DuBois was born on February 23, 1868. In his most famous work, The Souls of Black Folk — published in 1903 — DuBois said, “The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line.” He was not wrong. And because the 20th century was unable to resolve that problem — or, perhaps, because the 20th century was unwilling to accept the resolution of that problem — we can also say in 2020 that “The problem of the 21st century is the problem of the color line.”
Finally, today is the feast day of St. Polycarp, a second-century Christian leader who was reportedy a follower of John the Apostle. Polycarp was a “bishop” of the church in Smyrna — a Greek city in what is now Turkey. Because he bore the title of bishop, Polycarp is often portrayed in religious art wearing a big pointy hat and carrying a scepter, even though bishops in the second-century church did not wear such hats or carry such scepters or really play anything like the kind of role we imagine when our 21st-century ears hear the word “bishop.”
Polycarp was martyred on February 23, 155 or 156 CE, by the coward Lucius Statius Quadratus, Roman proconsul of Asia, because Polycarp refused to burn incense in worship of the emperor. (Here is another marked difference between the Christianity of the second century and the Christianity of our day: those early Christians had not yet incorporated worship of empire and emperor as an acceptable/mandatory duty of their faith.)
Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. And talk amongst yourselves.