The dumbest story idea I ever heard was from my city editor at the Toronto Sun, who, in 1977, wanted me to go to Newfoundland, club a baby seal to death and write about the experience.
I laughed, went back to my desk, and laughed some more.
That should have been the upshot of whatever transpired recently between a New York Times sportswriter and his editor.
Instead, the reporter traveled to Atlantic Canada, packing a hopelessly dumb story idea.
The premise: Jose Bautista is nicknamed Joey Bats and there is a place in Newfoundland called Joe Batt’s Arm. What’s up with that?
Here’s the classic shaggy dog story, published in Saturday’s paper:
JOE BATT’S ARM, Newfoundland — At first glance at a map, you wonder if this little fishing hamlet on a remote island off the northern coast of Newfoundland is playing a gag on everyone.
Maps are notorious pranksters.
After all, Canadians are discovering amusing ways to celebrate the Toronto Blue Jays’ return to the playoffs for the first time in 22 years. The CN Tower in Toronto is lit in blue lights, and a famous coffee chain is selling Blue Jays doughnuts.
Forget all those famous comedians from the True North. The Hogtown Phallus and Tim Hortons are truly representative of what amuses Canadians.
So why couldn’t Joe Batt’s Arm, a little town on Fogo Island, have changed its name to honor the team’s biggest star, Jose Bautista, a.k.a. Joey Bats.
Note: Inquiries concerning geographical nomenclature in Canada, proposals concerning new names, or changes in the form, spelling or application of existing names may be submitted in writing to the appropriate Geographical Names Board of Canada member.
Perhaps the island residents who watched Game 5 of the American League division series saw the dramatic pose that Bautista struck after hitting a mammoth three-run home run. He chucked his bat defiantly toward the Texas Rangers’ dugout, his left arm remaining shoulder high, parallel to the ground and curved like the cove that defines the shape of this town …
A satellite image of the cove was also used by Michelangelo to fix the angle of David’s left arm.
… It’s a natural. Draw up the papers, a quick proclamation at Town Hall and voilà: Joe Batt’s Arm.
Dear Borough President Diaz: Please draw up a quick proclamation to change the name of the Bronx to A-Rod’s Syringe.
Who would notice in a country with towns named Saskatoon, Stoner, Skookumchuck and St.-Louis-du-Ha! Ha!
Or in a country with towns named Cut and Shoot (Texas), Frankenstein (Missouri), Hell (Michigan) and War (West Virginia).
There is only one problem.
“It’s not named for him,” said Edmund Decker, a 72-year-old retiree and former fisherman who was born on Fogo Island.
Mr. Decker is not the only source of this information. You could have stayed in New York and phoned any of the 35 million other Canadians who know there is no town in their country named for Jose Bautista.
This isn’t one of those pitiful how-I-failed-to-get-the-story stories. It’s an I-know-there-is-no-story-but-I’m-going-to-write-it-anyway-and-the-Times-is-going-to-publish-it-anyway story.
It goes on and on, nearly 1,000 words, much of it devoted to non-Bautista detours, including: the legend of Joe Batt, who supposedly washed ashore from one of Captain Cook’s ships; the sad state of the cod fishery, and the exotic accent of Newfoundlanders.
There is also an ad for “the recently built Fogo Island Inn, a modern, environmentally friendly luxury hotel with a stunning view of the North Atlantic.”
Throw that shaggy dog a $1,000-a-night bone.
The story concludes: “Just west of Fogo Island, there is Too Good Arm. It just has to be named after the Mets’ pitching staff.”
Has to be. No question.
And what about all the places possibly named for Mets’ hitting star Daniel Murphy?
Get the Times travel office working on the next road trip, with stops in:
Murphy Cove and Murphy Lake, Nova Scotia; Murphy Settlement and Murphy Corner, New Brunswick; Murphy Beach and Murphy Corners, Ontario; Murphy Creek, Saskatchewan; Murphy, Georgia; Murphy, Idaho; Murphy, Iowa; Murphy Cross Roads, Alabama; Murphy’s Corner, Arkansas; Murphy Ford, Murphy Fork and Murphysville, all in Kentucky.
Don’t forget Matt Harvey, the Mets’ starter in Tuesday’s Game One of the World Series.
Better book that trip now to Harvey, New Brunswick; Harvey, Arkansas; Harvey, Illinois; Harvey, Iowa; Harvey, Kentucky, and Harvey, Maine.
What about Syndergaard, Saskatchewan? DeGrom, Louisiana? Cespedes, Puerto Rico?
I made up those three.