PSS Winter '13

PULTENEY STREET SURVEY - WINTER 2013

Bookshelf

The Juju Rules

by Andrew Wickenden ’09

Hart Seely ’74 can’t help but help the New York Yankees and juju is his means. Juju is “an anecdotal science rooted in the theory that every living being has a cosmic purpose,” Seely writes, “and yours just might involve a couch and a channel changer.”

Seely’s hilarious new book, The Juju Rules: Or How to Win Ballgames from Your Couch, tracks his frustrated love affair with the New York Yankees and his unflagging attempts to will wins for them. Part memoir, part instructional manual, part satirical homage to the national pastimes of baseball and winning, The Juju Rules includes everything you’ll ever need to know about racking up wins for your team without actually playing – from showing the proper respect to your TV set, to the ineffectiveness of lucky shirts, to God’s role in a win (“Never ask God to choose sides in a sporting event”).

Seely is an award-winning reporter for the Syracuse Post-Standard. His humor and satire have appeared in The New Yorker, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, National Lampoon and on NPR. He is the editor of Pieces of Intelligence: The Existential Poetry of Donald H. Rumsfeld and coeditor (with Tom Peyer) of O Holy Cow! The Selected Verse of Phil Rizzuto. He lives in Syracuse, N.Y., with his wife and children.

Where did you start with The Juju Rules?
I originally set out to write a 300-page Shecky Green monologue about the Yankees. It was the sorriest thing you ever saw. No soul whatsoever. So, like a B-movie scientist who drinks the lizardregeneration serum, I inserted my life story into the narrative. This process consumed about 18 months. Somewhere in the second year, I honed in on “juju” – the magical thinking I’ve done all my life, consciously and unconsciously, to help the Yankees win games. After that, “The Juju Rules” – all 27 of them, playing throughout my life – began to write itself.

The Juju Rules is laughout- loud funny. What molded your sensibilities about humor writing?
Richard Nixon taught me to appreciate humor. Before Nixon, I believed jokes about matters such as the President of the United States could only be a little funny – tisk-tisk stuff – always maintaining some fundamental level of decorum. Then came Tricky Dick, who not only inspired the harshest satire I ever saw but who then validated it by getting booted from office. Not only were the jokes funny, but they were right. For me, after Nixon, humor changed. It became dangerous. It could defeat a President. And ever since, nothing has been sacred, as long as it makes people laugh.

Some readers will shake their heads at this. They’ll say it’s a long downhill slide when respect for institutions such as the Presidency fly out the window. But I think without ridicule, democracy is dead. Our ability to mock the Thurston Howells and Charles Montgomery Burnses is one of the few great things we preserved for our grandchildren (along with our t-shirt collections). On my deathbed, if I can recall Nixon drunkenly talking to the portraits of Lincoln and Jefferson, I will go to the next stop smiling.

Who are your favorite humor writers?
My favorite comedy writers are the ones nobody calls comedy writers. I never read a book by Kurt Vonnegut or Richard Russo that didn’t make me roar with laughter. No great writer – from Philip Roth to James Lee Burke – gets there without being funny. The funniest stuff comes with a side dish of sadness.

With the caveat that by asking this question, I’m breaking Rule 1 of juju (“Don’t ask anyone what they’re doing”), what kinds of juju have you been up to this season?
If the Yankees win this year – and I’m not predicting they will (Juju Rule No. 21) – I hereby claim credit. On May 21, my Yankee reality blog launched an international Juju intervention, which is also known as a “Charging of the Mound.” At the time, the Yankees were floundering. They quickly won 20 of the next 25 games. I’m not making this up. The Yankee season was saved. Of course, some would have you believe the turnaround resulted from improved pitching and hitting. Those people are Cub fans.

After that … well, you’re right about Rule No. 1. Frankly, I see no reason to reveal to this publication – which circulates to known Redsockleaning operatives – secrets of the Yankee juju machine. What happens in our war rooms is not meant for the ears of Dustin Pedroia’s radical followers. I’m keeping quiet.

What are you working on next?
Wish I knew. This fall I plan to launch another book project. But whatever I start will likely morph into something else. Maybe I’ll write a tell-all about my years at Hobart – naming names, settling scores, holding old-but-still-twitchy feet to fires. I’ll have the option of publishing it – or keeping quiet. Here’s a question for the ancient ones, the Hobart alumni circa 1974: How much is silence worth to you?

 

Nightstand: What are you reading?

AMY ALVORD ’95

Lacrosse Director, Westport Youth Coach

One of the many books on my nightstand is Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now. It reminds me to enjoy myself, to help my players have fun, to be real and to remember that expectations I put on myself and my players are not as important as what’s going on with them at any given moment.

SCOTT IKLÉ ’84

Head Coach, Hobart and William Smith Sailing Team

The greatest moment in sports of the 20th century belongs to a team of amateurs and a coach who together beat the greatest Soviet hockey team ever assembled. That’s the story behind Wayne Coffey’s The Boys of Winter. Call it a fairy tale, a Cinderella story, but it is a story that makes us believe in miracles and reminds us of the best that sports has to offer.

LAUREN READ ’09

Sports Clerk, Burlington Free Press

I am currently reading The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman. I have a history degree from William Smith, so I read anything I can to keep up with my love of history. My job takes care of my other love, sports.

 

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