Sunday, April 17, 2011

Why Dykstra Matters

Were she following the Lenny Dykstra saga, a certain aunt of mine would say of the man: “He’s not right in the head.” And she’d be right on the mark. The fate that has befallen this onetime baseball star, and more recent Wall Street whiz kid, is at once tragic and darkly comedic. Personally, I’d prefer remembering Dykstra as the scrappy spitfire nicknamed “Nails,” who furnished Met fans with one of their greatest baseball thrills in 1986. We will not soon forget his dramatic walk-off home run in the National League playoffs against the Astros.

Fast forward a quarter of century and Dykstra’s athletic sheen has altogether evaporated. The gritty baseball player giving his all, and clearly maximizing his talent, is yesterday's news. In its stead is a freakish caricature wholly divorced from reality. Bankrupt and arrested for selling off things under a trustee’s guardianship, Nails sees things a bit differently. He doesn’t for a nano-second feel he bilked individuals and lenders with what could best be described as No There There investments. In fact, he considers those seeking redress from him “derelict losers” and “whores.” Dykstra even compares himself to "that Indian dude” named Gandhi. After all, just like Mahatma Gandhi, he too has lived on the streets and, of course, been persecuted. Indeed, ol' Lenny believes the big banks might assassinate him.

Nails has apparently had a sea change of heart as well. His new mission in life, he says, is aiding and abetting folks facing home foreclosures. You see: He knows what it’s like to experience a foreclosure. He actually knows what it’s like to face multiple ones simultaneously. Funny, though, but it’s kind of difficult sympathizing with the guy here. He’s hardly a poster child for the genuine victims of foreclosures in what are ugly economic times.

So, you ask, why does ultra-wacky Lenny Dykstra matter—a man who bounced a check made payable to a working girl, which is about as low as one can get? Well, for starters, he typifies so much of what’s gone awry with society of late. The ballplayer who began his career as a skinny kid exits the game a power-hitting RBI man with a Frankenstein monster-sized head and a prematurely wrecked body. Soon after baseball, he amasses some serious dollars in the guise of investment genius. But among the financial rubble of recent times, individual tales of deceit and greed like Bernie Madoff's and Lenny Dykstra's are repeatedly plucked from the cinders. It seems that greed and excess always attract greed and excess.

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