Bristle and shamrock

For as long as there has been a Bites, there have been regular skirmishes with Steve Maviglio. Back in the day, Bites and Maviglio would go ’round and ’round over whether his old boss, Gov. Gray Davis, was completely inept, or just in the pocket of his corporate masters.

That was a different time, and this is a different Bites. Now Bites just fights with Maviglio over whether Kevin Johnson is really a Republican or just takes lots of Republican money.

Of course, that all started before Steve switched from being one of K.J.’s biggest fans to being the man’s paid campaign manager. He’s been officially on the job for about a week now, and will shepherd the campaign through November. During much of that time he’ll be “on loan” from his regular gig as head flak for Assembly Speaker Karen Bass. Welcome aboard, Steve.

A couple things to look for: First, Maviglio’s hire might actually help Johnson win back some Democratic street cred with voters. Sure, Fargo’s still the choice of the local Democratic Party. But don’t be surprised if Johnson comes out against Proposition 8, a.k.a. “Proposition Hate,” the November ballot measure that would take away the rights of gays and lesbians to get legally married.

The Johnson campaign will keep hammering Mayor Heather Fargo on crime, and possibly ride it all the way to City Hall. But there’s an interesting sleeper issue out there in the proposal to build a new Kings arena at Cal Expo. It’s too soon to say how this will play out, but one scenario has Johnson acting as an enthusiastic cheerleader for the plan, while Fargo, who’s been-there-done-that, remains lukewarm.

Finally, Maviglio can be an ornery bastard when he wants to be, but he gets that the Johnson campaign’s media strategy has been atrocious. He promises to “kick some scumbag reporters’ asses,” heading into November. Bites is paraphrasing/making stuff up here. He actually said something about being “more accessible,” but you get the idea.

Crap like this would make anyone want to drink and fight. Joe Devlin says he goes to Sacramento River Cats games “maybe a dozen times a year.” Most recently, he was walking into the stadium and noticed two Irish flags and a banner proclaiming it was Irish Heritage Night at the ballpark. “I think, ‘That’s kind of cool,’” Devlin, a proud Irish-American, recalled.

Nothing seems too out of the ordinary, or too Irish, for much of the night. A little Irish music over the PA, and that’s about it, until the third inning. That’s when a leering Lenny the Leprechaun arrived on the scene—capering around in front of the bleachers and tossing swag to the fans. The announcer pattered along over the PA, “When Lenny’s not throwing T-shirts, he’s throwing fits and singing ‘Danny Boy’ at O’Mally’s Pub.” Hilarious, right?

“If they did that with any other ethnic group, there would have been a riot. If they put ‘Jose’ in a sombrero and the announcer said, ‘When Jose’s not throwing T-shirts, he’s taking a siesta behind the Taco Bell,’ people would have f–––––– flipped out, and then sued,” Devlin later told Bites.

Worse, when Devlin asked for an explanation of the, um, overly broad characterization of Irish heritage, he says he was told, “Anytime you do something related to culture, you will offend people.”

Being only half-Irish, Bites is only half-astounded at that answer. The other half just wonders why Lenny was all the Cats could come up with.

After all, Devlin noted, Japanese Heritage Night featured a ceremony honoring Japanese-Americans interned during World War II and Japanese American ballplayers of the era.

What about Thomas Cahill’s “How the Irish Saved Civilization?” Devlin asks, which chronicles how Irish monks preserved much of the West’s literary heritage during the Dark Ages. Sports crowds love that stuff.

“When it’s done right, it enriches the culture and shows understanding of the culture.” When it’s done wrong, you get Lenny the Leprechaun.

The worst part, says Devlin, “As far as the way real leprechauns look, Lenny wasn’t very convincing.”