“Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown”
Film buffs will recall that quote from the 1974 movie, Chinatown, a great example of contemporary film noir, brilliantly directed by Roman Polanski with memorable performances from Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, and John Huston. Robert Towne’s script won the Academy Award (the only win out of 11 nominations!) and is still studied in screenwriting classes. If, somehow, you haven’t seen the movie, you should --- it’s a classic. The quote above is the last line in the film. Chinatown is not a “happy ending” movie and concludes with private investigator J.J. Gittes (Nicholson) leaving a tragic scene with his former L.A. police detective colleague Luis “Lou” Escobar (Perry Lopez), with Escobar delivering the line “Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown.” According to Mark Hughes at Quora.com :
"Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown" means "you can't change things, it's the way things are and the way they will be, regardless of how much you tilt at windmills." The line is about the futility of fighting injustices and darkness in the world.
Last night, after the New York Yankees pulled off a 5-4 victory over their ultimate rival, The Boston Red Sox, the first thought that entered my mind was, “Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown.” To understand how that quote perfectly fits the history of one of the greatest sports rivalries requires some explaining, particularly to anyone who is not an avid baseball (and particularly a New York or Boston) fan.
Friday night’s game was a perfect example of “you can’t change things, it’s the way things are and the way they will be, regardless of how much you tilt at windmills.” Red Sox and Yankee fans are diehards --- and pretty genuinely hate their storied opponents. There is a long history here, going back to 1920 when the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees and suffered “The Curse of the Bambino” until 2004, when they were finally able to win the World Series. Throughout the rivalry, beating the other has always been paramount and, while the Yankees did dominate the 20th century, Boston has held sway in the 21st (winning 3 World Series to the Yankees 2). Friday night’s game in the Bronx was a classic example of how these teams continually break the hearts --- or elevate the senses --- of their fans.
The Red Sox, riding an 8 game winning streak came into Yankee Stadium as “hot as a team could be.” The Yankees, for their part, have been clinging to second place (they had a moment in First a couple of weeks ago) and have been struggling of late, losing to Toronto on Thursday without scoring a run! For seven innings last night the Red Sox pitchers not only shut out the Yankees, but only gave up two hits. The Yankees have had difficulty hitting recently so, as a New York fan, I was discouraged, to say the least. So much so that I flipped the TV to HBO to watch Bill Maher, assuming the worst.
About 20 minutes into the “Real Time” program I grabbed my phone and looked at the MLB At-Bat app, assuming I would see that the game was over and my beloved Yankees had gone down to defeat at the hands of the dreaded Red Sox. Lo and behold, the box score showed the game was now a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the 8th! Immediately flipping back to YES (the Yankee Sports and Entertainment Network), I saw the Yanks plate their 4th run and take the lead! Before the inning was over they added an “insurance” run and, headed into the 9th were winning 5-3. And here’s where the “Chinatown” affect creeps in.
Aroldis Chapman, the Yankees “closer,” signed an $85 million dollar contract for 5 years this winter --- specifically to pitch in situations like the one we were facing last night. With the Yankees nursing a two-run lead, the fire-balling Chapman (he has recorded a pitch at 105.1 mph!) is expected to come in and “close” the game. And this is where the Lovely Carol Marie, never secure in the Yankees’ ability to seal a win, essentially said to me, “Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown.”
Chapman proceeded to walk the first three batters he faced, loading the bases with none out. At that point Fate, in the person of Aaron Hicks, the Yankees left-fielder, intervened, turning a Steven Benentendi fly ball into a double play (with Hicks throwing Eduardo Nunez out at third base) --- although one run did score, making it a 5-4 game now with two outs and men on first and second. Chapman got Mitch Moreland to fly out to center field and the Yankees won.
All I could think was, “Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown,” knowing my friends who are Red Sox fans were feeling as if they had been tilting at windmills this particular evening, entertaining the notion (sure of it, after seven innings!) of a 9-game winning streak. But that’s how this rivalry goes. In 1978, the weak-hitting Yankee shortstop, Bucky (“F-ing”) Dent, hits a homer over the Green Monster in Boston to win a pennant clinching playoff game for New York. Aaron (“F-ing”) Boone does the same thing --- in the 10th inning of a 7th playoff game --- in 2003 and Boston fans continue believing in the Bambino’s Curse. Until 2004, when the Yankees watch their 3 games to Zero lead (in a 7-game playoff) disappear as the BoSox go on to sweep their way into the World Series and then, finally, win it --- breaking the Curse!
That’s what it’s like being a Red Sox or Yankee fan on a weekend like this. The Yanks and the Sox, in first and second place, battling in the Bronx. Next weekend they will be in Fenway Park on Lansdowne Street in Boston. And millions of fans, after each game, will turn to a friend and shrug, simply saying, “Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown.”
(This BLAST is dedicated to the irrepressible Craig "Lambo" Lambert --- a great writer and diehard Red Sox fan.)