Jose Canseco

January 4, 2011

Here is a slugger miraculously, awe-inspiringly oblivious. He is at the end of the road, clad in the uniform of a team he just joined and will within a matter of days be released from. His surroundings seem barren, bush league, speaking of the silences we all try to avoid and obscure. The tale in numbers on the back of the card is one of encroaching decay, early years of sturdy cohesion giving way to the spindly, fractured records of a faltering itinerant. The slugger is beyond even the faintest awareness of his apparent demise. Give him a bat and a uniform to leave jauntily untucked and some object to prop one foot up on and he will strike a biceps-displaying pose and project an aura of complete calm certainty. Jose Canseco, at the time of this photo, is finished. There would not be another card in his likeness, or another major league game in his future, and all the numbers on the back of his card, which by the time of the card had already begun to seem pretty iffy, would soon enough in the minds of many be rendered as insubstantial as the promised riches in a collapsed Ponzi scheme. Even the team whose uniform he is modeling for likely the one and only time would soon be erased from the face of the earth. Jose Canseco is finished. The Expos are finished. Everything is finished. But Jose Canseco remains utterly free of doubt.

I can’t say the same. I always get the new year off to an enervating start by trying and failing to bring time itself to a halt, and my inevitable failure to do so always delivers me back to real life in a particularly agitated, fearful state. I attempted the impossible task of stopping time this past weekend, as I usually do when one year collapses into another, by moving as little as humanly possible and eating mounds of salted fatty starch and watching various television marathons depicting the end of the world. As I went back and forth between Twilight Zone episodes, a plodding 1994 miniseries version of The Stand, and, most terrifyingly, a Jersey Shore marathon to which my previously uninitiated eyes were drawn as if to a flaming multicar wreck on the highway, everything eventually blurred into one seemingly endless meandering narrative shifting back and forth from black-and-white to color and from lonely cold war paranoia to leaden post-pandemic Christian fable to a particularly hideous nightmare vision of the End Times in which leather-faced 20-year-olds with the rigid cartoon-hideous builds of plastic 1980s action figures are incarcerated in a brutish Sisyphean loop of teeth-baring, preening, slap fights, and grunting zoological copulation. The latter dystopia, identified periodically as “Season Two,” seemed to be situated in Miami, Florida, which as it happens is the place listed on the back of this Jose Canseco card as “Home.” Canseco’s self-satisfied smirk, his tan, his necklace, and his unnaturally bulging musculature all mark him as a prototypical member of the race of orange dim-eyed humanoids doomed to survive into the senseless mutant aftermath beyond the apocalypse.

Anyway, the reentry into everyday life after my year-opening orgy of ominous television marathons is always difficult, but this year seems particularly tough. The defining thread of this year’s narrative of global collapse was, after all, a “reality” show, set not in the future but in the present, suggesting that we may already be living through the apocalypse. Put another way, this does indeed seem to be Jose Canseco’s world.

The card at hand suggests as much, and it also implies that the best way to endure the insistent idea that everything is finished is to ignore it completely, as Jose Canseco did the day he was asked to pose in the uniform of the Montreal Expos. Jose Canseco continues to smirk in the face of doom to this day, this new year, nine years after he took his last muscular cuts. He has not appeared in a major league game since the photo for this card was snapped, and for most of that time it seemed certain that this would be his last baseball card. But lately the 46-year-old has been campaigning to get a spring training tryout from any team that will have him. The slugger ensures all prospective employers that he can still, as he last did twenty years ago, “lead the league in home runs.”

May we all imagine such preposterous glory forever.


  1. This dude is the spittin’ image of Ozzie Canseco…

  2. Brilliant and hilarious. I’d like to inject whatever juice you’re on.

  3. Great piece Josh. I see the holiday season did you well.

    Of course, Canseco didn’t say which league he could lead in HRs. It could be the local little league for all we know.

  4. That’s some good wordsmithery there.

  5. I can’t really focus on Canseco because I’m too distracted by the hideous design of that Topps card. Was that really the 2002 design? Yikes.

  6. What a fantastically hideous card! I miss the Expos. I wish I could say the same for Jose.

  7. “dim-eyed humanoids doomed to survive into the senseless mutant aftermath beyond the apocalypse”. Brilliant and hilarious!

    The 2002’s must have escaped me entirely–that is one ugly-azz card.

    I also attempted to stop time New Years Day by flipping between Twilight Zone, Three Stooges and later Larry Sanders marathons. If those options were available every day , time would indeed cease.

  8. What the hell is it with New Year’s Eve? Why is it so inevitably, inexorably the absolute nadir of my year? Again and again and again — horrors, bad ideas, profound dread, existential nausea.

    Used to be I’d have horribly alienating moments — crammed three to a stall with other idiots at “Cokie’s,” staring through windows at people apparently having the time of their lives, walking home alone at 5am with a swarm of harpies of my own fabrication lowering around my head, a whole parade of memories amounting to so many overstimulated molecules vibrating in the void. I’m past all the idiocy, but the horror remains. I spent last Friday night drinking a few glasses of “ass juice” (cheap champagne) with Kelsey, Matt, his ladyfriend, and the girls watching three straight episodes of “Animal Hoarders” before consciousness blessedly retreated.

  9. And while we’re on the subject of existential nausea, let it be known here in this hallowed commentorium that Josh’s 1977 Red Sox are one measly defeat or Kansas CIty win away from pennant extinction in my Play That Funky Baseball replay league. They now go home to face the dreaded Yankees for three, but here’s the silver lining: Even in death, Messers Yastrzemski, Fisk, Rice, Carbo, et al. will have a chance to eliminate the pinstriped brownshirts with their very own calloused hands. Let us wish them luck!

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