Pop culture time capsule: How Jamie Moyer’s pitching is like Pavement’s “Brighten the Corners”

Posted on October 27th, 2008 – 1:00 PM
By Michael Rand

Continuing a theme started last week with the comparison between Fugazi and a long TD drive, we present a treatise on Phillies pitcher Jamie Moyer (the oldest man alive) and Pavement’s “Brighten the Corners,” that band’s fourth CD and best studio release. We will not go song-by-song this time. Here we go with the reasons why:

*Because looking like you are not trying is harder than it looks — in fact, it often means you are working even harder. In sports, effortlessness is sometimes the result of an extreme physical gift — a certain glide. In Moyer’s case, it comes from the fact that he couldn’t break a pane of glass with his fastball. Thus his easy soft-tossing is actually a pitch-by-pitch maze filled with potential wrong turns and necessary precision. In music, effortlessness is sometimes confused with extreme disinterest. In Pavement’s case, it is damn hard to have such a sparse, jangly sound and pull it all together into excellence. It is also harder to play slow than to play fast. If someone said to you, “Run as fast as you can,” it would be easy (at least in theory). But if they said, “OK, now run 5/8ths as fast as that,” it would be a lot harder. Moyer and Pavement have created a dynamic out of both necessity and attention to craft. Exhibits A and B: Track 1 of BTC and Game 3 of the World Series.

*Because both lull you into a comfort zone before snapping you back to attention at the crucial moments. Moyer lulls hitters into a false sense of security and (theoretically) saves his best stuff to get out of jams. Pavement throws out a bunch of non-sequitur lyrics but then slips in stuff like, “You’ve been chosen as an extra in the movie adaptation, of the sequel to your life,” and you say, “Whoa, wait a minute.” When you throw slow, the good stuff really stands out. Always keep the hitter/listener off-balance.

*Because even the title “Brighten the Corners” makes us think of an 84 mph fastball on the inside black, followed by a 76 mph change-up on the outside black.

*Brighten the Corners was recorded in July of 1996, essentially the same time Jamie Moyer was turning his career around. This was a dozen years ago, before the modern (high-speed) era of the Internet, when it was OK to be slow.

*The chorus of the fifth track, “Old to Begin,” seems to have been written specifically for Moyer. “Old to begin — I will set you back, set you back, set you / Old to begin — I will set you back, set you back, set you.”

*“Terror Twilight,” however, is more comparable to Don Mattingly’s 1995 postseason.

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