Mario Cuomo’s funeral was here in New York City Tuesday, and it got me thinking about missed opportunities, and wasted talent.
Cuomo was an early political hero of mine; growing up in N.Y. as a political junkie-kid and discovering I was a liberal, there was no one bigger to look up to than Cuomo, then the towering governor of New York.
He spoke so eloquently, and so passionately, about equal rights, about income inequality, about the destructiveness of Ronald Reagan’s policies, that I completely fell in political love for the first time (sometimes it goes great when that happens; other times, when I fell hard for John Edwards, well, not so great.)
His speech at the 1984 Democratic Convention was, until Barack Obama came along, the best speech I ever heard while it was happening; it was on the radio and we were in the car on a family vacation and my Dad, a big Cuomo fan, wanted to hear it (I’ve pasted the clip above).
He was so thunderous, so eloquent, so … right that we wanted him to run for President right then and there.
Surely, in 1988 he would run, we figured. There was no one standing in his way in a weak Democratic field. Mario Cuomo was going to be President, a real, true-blue liberal in the White House.
Only, somehow, he didn’t run. We were crushed. Then, come 1992, again it seemed like he was destined to cruise into the job. The first George Bush was wildly unpopular, the Democratic field was jumbled and without a front-runner, and Cuomo’s name recognition towered over everyone.
And still, Cuomo demurred, and eventually decided not to run. The press called him “Hamlet on the Hudson.”
Again, it was crushing for me as a young liberal that he passed up going for the biggest job in the world. Why, why would this man choose to miss an opportunity he was so clearly qualified for? (His son, N.Y. governor Andrew Cuomo, a man I also think would make a good President, answered that question at the funeral Tuesday: “Beccause he didn’t want to, that’s all.)
There were always rumors as to why he didn’t run, rumors about his father-in-law’s alleged Mafia ties, rumors about financial improprieties in his past. But Cuomo himself never talked about any of that, and the theories continue (Steve Kornacki at MSNBC.com has a really good column with a theory why he didn’t run here.)
I was angry at Mario Cuomo for a while after ’92, angry we lost probably our last real chance at a liberal progressive in the White House. I saw it as a great missed opportunity.
But Cuomo? Maybe he just didn’t want to be President. And that’s hardly a sin.
**The Baseball Hall of Fame 2015 Class was announced Tuesday, and as usual, there was plenty of hand-wringing and criticism, as Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Craig Biggio and John Smoltz were elected to be memorialized in Cooperstown forever
“How could Mike Piazza not get in, that’s a joke!” the NY media cried. (Answer: He used steroids, quite obviously, which has been verified by many, many former players.)
“Why don’t the writers put Bonds and Clemens in, everyone was using steroids back in the 1990s and early 2000s?” is another rant I saw everywhere. (My answer: So because everyone did it, we should put two major, unrepentant cheaters in? No.)
Anyway, the one legit complaint I have every year is the pompous, self-important members of the BBWAA refusing to let anyone be voted in unanimously. That there were three percent of voters who didn’t vote for Randy Johnson, and nine percent who didn’t vote for Pedro Martinez, is absolutely ridiculous; those voters should have their credentials stripped, and their voting privileges going to someone else.
Let me tell you something about Pedro Martinez: I’ve been watching baseball for 35 years, and he is the scariest pitcher I’ve ever seen. Watching him live, which I was lucky enough to do twice, was practically a religious experience, and I hated his guts because he was a Red Sox and then a Met.
His curveball? Unhittable. Changeup? No chance. Fastball? Dominating. He had an aura on the mound that I’m guessing Bob Gibson had, just a sense you had that when he was out there
**Finally today, I know I’m WAY late on seeing this, but it’s so good that I have to share it, in case some of my fellow “Serial” obessives haven’t seen it yet. Two weeks ago “Saturday Night Live” did a brilliant, hilarious spoof of Serial, investigating the story of one “Chris Kringle,” and they nail the voices and details of the real “Serial” so perfectly, I was amazed.