Happy Amar'e-ween!

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I really can’t explain this holiday, this Halloween. When I was a kid, on the mean streets of the Upper West Side of Manhattan, our holiday was simple, and probably not dissimilar to that of non-city folk. We hit all the houses in the neighborhood, passed each other notes as to which well-meaning obesity-obsessed Moms -- a rule of thumb was that their kids tended to shop in the Husky section -- were passing out fruit and which depressed single Dads hadn’t bothered to/didn’t know where to buy the economy-sized bag of Hershey’s Miniatures and had instead grabbed a fistful of actual, entire bars of chocolate at the local bodega. (As a side note, though I’ll eat pretty much any candy, I think the Hersh-Mins are all royally overrated. Krackel is a Nestle Cruch wanabe that's dry and oddly-coated in some preservative; the less said about Mr. Goodbar, the better)

That is not Halloween as it exists in the city today. In the five boroughs, Halloween resembles is an extended bro-tastic, liquor-soaked bacchanal, every profession or mini-celebrity tarted up and transmogrified into some Slutty [Whatever The Thing Is] avatar. For instance: this, which is either satire or a sadly cut-rate Fairuza Balk advertising for a courtly Edward Norton in American History X mode, is a Slutty/Sexy Hitler costume. All these costumes will be seen again early on November 1, achingly sad and more-achingly hungover, distressed and out of date.

And then there are the more fervent types—a thing we never saw in our old UWS Halloweens—that screech spittlingly that this is a night that celebrates (somehow) both PAGANISM and SATAN, and that there's something something truly dark-sided in a kid wearing a plastic Dark Knight mask. Presumably even the crappy ones your Mom got at Woolworth’s with a shirt/smock with words like, “Batman! POW!” printed on the front.

One individual I did not expect to be a part of this particularly American madding crowd is the Knicks hobbled 100 million dollar PF/C, Amar’e Stoudemire. For one, as recently as two years ago, STAT seemed to get as much of a bang out of dressing up as the rest of us.

Evidently, that’s no longer the case. Earlier today, he released this Ghostbuster-y anti-pumpkin logo via Instagram with the caption, “As the Children of Israel (Jacob) we must separate ourselves from anything pagan. #BlessedBeTheCreator #YHWH #GodBody”

Two, outside of all the nifty things he does on the court, Amar’e Stoudemire’s clearly an inquisitive, spiritual guy. His ongoing quest to plumb the depths of his (possibly apocryphal) Judaic roots, his trips to Israel, and so on, but I never associated The Chosen People™ with anti-Halloween jeremiads. Execute a quick Google search and you’ll see that for the Orthodox/Conservative set, it is verboten.

The argument(s) seem to be partially out of some sense of misplaced jealousy that Purim doesn’t get the publicity it should combined with the same finger-wagging about encouraging Paganism/mischief making/children acting like…well…children that forms the basis of the non-Semitic version:

Let me tell you about a wonderful Jewish holiday: once a year, our children dress up as sages, princesses, heroes and clowns. They drop by the homes of our community, visit the infirm and the aged, spreading joy and laughter. They bring gifts of food and drink and collect tzedakah (charity) for the needy. You guessed it—it's called Purim, when it's customary to send mishloach manot—gifts of food—to one's friends and even more gifts to those in hard times. Flip it over (October instead of March, demanding instead of giving, scaring instead of rejoicing, demons instead of sages, etc.) and you have Halloween.  There you have it: a choice of one of two messages you can give to your children.

In that context, I guess it’s easy to fathom STAT raining on everyone’s parade. The fact that it took a couple of years for his understanding of his newfound religion to take full, glowering flower explains the wacky bearded good timer-y of the recent past.

That said, and with all due respect to Stoudemire's new faith, taking a firm stand on kids getting candy is the dumbest use of a celebrity soapbox one can possibly take. Given the problems this country/this world faces, I think the fact that everyone under the age of 13 or so is going to be bouncing off the walls due to a sugar rush ranks pretty goddamn low.  

And naturally, I’m equally horrified by the commenters on said Instagram posting. The site’s scrubbed most of the truly nasty, vicious bigotry but take my word for it, it was a wet sack of awful and the trolls who felt compelled to write such things are lousy people.

The thing is, silly as his stance seems, I want STAT (and other athletes) to speak their minds. I want another generation of John Carloses and Muhammad Ali’s. I want them to step outside of the branded, commodified boxes that their slew of handlers/corporate masters cram them into. I want it even when it’s barbaric and reactionary and derptastic and I violently disagree with every uttered sentence.

It’s pretty easy (and possibly disingenuous) for me to demand that someone put their wallet at risk, even if it is already a ginormous billfold, but I think these players we watch and root for would be a helluva lot more interesting were they to do so.

That's less easy to hope for when what passes for discourse is what STAT served up: a dumb logo, and then dumber anonymous shouting at screens depicting a logo. Anyway, more candy for the rest of us.

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