Sunday, June 12, 2016

A Pocket Protector


Yes, that's a pocket protector. It's on the windowsill in my mother's kitchen. Those are indeed pens and pencils in that pocket protector.

Not very highbrow stuff, is it? I mean, there is likely zero interest to any of you about a pocket protector and a few writing utensils.

*****
Some really bad stuff happened in the wee hours of this morning in a place full of joy and excess: Orlando, FL.

There is a club there called Pulse. It's billed as a gay club, and that's relevant, sadly. Early this morning, a man walked in and essentially executed 50 people.

Out of what is now being called the worst mass shooting in US history, we are getting the usual rhetoric. People are angry and, in this Presidential election year, going to social media to let loose.

To which I say no. Hell, no. Not today.

Oh I reacted also. I read things and then I sat down and wrote, quite honestly, one of the angriest posts in the nearly 10-year history of this blog.

Yet I keep coming back to the same thing: not today.

But I get it. I really do. You're mad and disgusted.

You're angry. Horrified.

Fifty. More injured.

It seems like it is a form of terrorism. Is it because it was a gay nightclub? ISIS? Some other group? Just random hatred? All of the above? None of the above?

At the moment, it's not important.

Again, fifty are dead. At least that's the report.

We know nothing, but we think we know it all.

We don't.

Fifty. At last count.

Leave politics out of it today. I don't care if you're proud you voted for Chris Murphy, if Trump sucks, if it's Obama's fault, if you're a Tea Party member, or if you want to somehow go back and lay it at the feet of George Washington.

Right now, I'm thinking that fifty families aren't concerned about the politics of it all .

Not yet. There will be plenty of time for that.

But. Not. Today.

Think of Mina Justice, whose son Eddie was there, and according to the Associated Press:
He told her he ran into a bathroom with other club patrons to hide. He then texted her: "He's coming." 
"The next text said: 'He has us, and he's in here with us,'" she said. "That was the last conversation."
I don't think politics are on her mind.

UPDATE: Per the list of victims from the City of Orlando website, Eddie Justice has died. He was 30 years old.

Friends (I'd like to believe I can call you that), today is not about you. It's about those in Pulse Nightclub in Florida.

A gay nightclub.

Where 50 people died this morning.

Fifty.

Focus on that.
*****

So we're back to the pocket protector. It's still not making any sense to you, is it? You see, that pocket protector was likely last used in early 1989. Those pencils and pens no doubt worked off some kind of paperwork from a plumbing supply company in Yonkers.

My mom put those out just recently. They belonged to my father.

I'd rather look at a dirty old pocket protector, then think about politics or gun control right now.

It's a terribly sad day in our country, and I don't say that to be trite. We've seen bad things in recent years, and sadly we've become immune to it until we realize it's worse than normal. Then we go into either blatant phony outrage, or "thoughts and prayers."

It's all about "me me me."

Blech.

Not today.

Reflect. Pause. Tell someone you love them. I just did, simply because we never know.

Think about those fifty people.

Or find a pocket protector that makes you smile.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Ali: The Self-Appointed Greatest

Before he was Ali, Cassius Clay met four British lads in Miami in 1964.
I wasn't going to write about Muhammad Ali. I just wasn't. Like Prince, I was just going to let it go.

You know Prince died, right? Not Elvis or John Lennon or McCartney or Dylan, but Prince. Huh. OK.

Anyway, that's my point, even if you liked the person who has passed (I had some regard for some of Prince's music, and liked Ali), you're a horrible person (and likely accused of being a racist) if you dare to show any warts. At least according to comedian and "radio personality" Jim Norton.
Well thanks there, pal.

Then I read the most brilliant obituary in the Wall Street Journal by author Jonathan Eig. FULL DISCLOSURE! Jonathan has been on Nutmeg Sports with me and is a Facebook friend whom I've interacted with. We haven't had tea at the The Plaza. I've never met the man in person.

That being said, this obituary is so amazingly outstanding that it must be shared.

It allows us - the reader - to not simply think Ali was "The Greatest" but that he was mortal. Flawed.

So many people have taken to social media today to laud the great Ali, and deservedly so. Ali was a tremendous boxer, but I hasten to say he was the greatest ever. Sugar Ray Robinson and Joe Louis immediately spring to my mind. My dad, who enjoyed boxing (one of the last things I ever remember watching with him was a Mike Tyson fight) said he felt Rocky Marciano was the best.

I'm not saying Ali wasn't the greatest. I'm not saying he was either. I'd probably take Sugar Ray Robinson, but boxing is not my area of expertise.

Ali was The Greatest (see what I did there?). Why? Because he told you so. He was a brilliant marketing showman. He defined it. He was crazy quotable. The interwebs are littered with his quotes today. Heck, even baseball's poet laureate announced the news.

Oh but back to the work of Mr. Eig. You see, I was born around the time of Ali's conscientiously objecting to going into the Armed Services. I lived in a house with a father who wanted to serve his country in Korea and couldn't due to his debilitating arthritis. So we had the two-headed monster of recognizing Ali's brilliance as a boxer, but also the very-common feeling of him dumping on the country.

Amazing how time, the great equalizer, can soothe that. If any quote stunned me in Jonathan's obit, it was this one:
In a career full of seemingly magical feats, Ali’s greatest trick may have been his transformation—from one the nation’s most reviled characters to one of its most beloved. 
Bingo.

Read on and discover how Ali was critical of Dr. King. Can you imagine?

But Ali was the most gifted of people, in that he worked magic to make Americans of the 70s and 80s begin to forget his objecting and embrace him as a boxer, humanitarian, and personality. He was a nearly one-man PR crew, although he had plenty of people by his side (and no small assist handed in by a certain Mr. Howard Cosell, speaking of sports).

Indeed, with the exception of Michael Jordan, he's the most famous face in the history of Sports Illustrated. It's without question that he's one of the most famous people in the world.

Who was better to light the cauldron at the Olympics in Atlanta in '96?

But he was also very real. That attention he craved through his bombast carried into a personal life of failed marriages and myriad affairs.

That's why I love this obituary so much. It allows us to see Ali for all that he was. Civil Rights activist? Yes. Conscientious objector? You bet. Great boxer? Oh my yeah. Funny man? Hahaha, of course.

Flawed? Without question. The truth is, despite the politically-correct bluster of today, we are a nation who likes our heroes slightly flawed. Save for a Lou Gehrig (please read Eig's brilliant biography of him, Luckiest Man), we can generally find some warts in everyone (and Gehrig was habitually cheap, by the way).

Mickey Mantle once told Billy Crystal to be truthful when it came to portraying his story. Mickey told us all he was no role model. The end of his life, when he told us that, were his finest hours.

So rest in peace, champ. Thanks for the many moments of making a young boy laugh, but also for teaching me hard lessons about heroes at an early age.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

No-Hitters

Jake Arrieta, working on his no-hitter in 2015 in LA. (Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)

I just finished watching Jake Arrieta of the Cubs finish no-hitting the Reds.

I love love love love no-hitters. Of course, they're the less exclusive brothers of perfect games (295 vs. 23 as of tonight), but I love them both.

I've watched or listened to too many to count (both perfectos and no-no's).

David Cone. Dwight Gooden. Felix Hernandez. Johan Santana (what a farce). Dave Righetti. Jack Morris. The list goes on.

I remember sitting in the parking lot at Stew Leonard's listening to Jon Miller cal the end of Tim Lincecum's in 2014.

I remember missing every pitch of David Wells' perfect game in 1998 (the first one by a Yankee since Don Larsen - of course - in 1956). I was at a convention in Las Vegas, and found out via TV, and literally yelled.

I caught Cone's in 1999 while in a friends' car, and refused to change the radio. That drive from Albany to Danbury was something to remember.

As social media began reporting tonight's gem, I began to pull myself together for where I would watch the event. Of course, I would also address the so-called "curse."*

* It's said that if anyone says the words "no-hitter" or "perfect game," it curses it. This includes fans, players, coaches, concessionaires, taxi cab drivers, clubhouse attendants, and kindly little old ladies.

And broadcasters. Most of all.

Yet there's this guy - name's Scully - and he's called 20 no-hitter and three perfect games. Somehow, he has said those dreadful words in just about all of them.

Just saying.

So whenever I watch one, I'm reminded of a rainy Saturday: September 4, 1993 at Yankee Stadium. I didn't think the game would be played, and there were only 27, 125 on hand at the glorious old House.

I was there, in the lower deck right field seats. Jim Abbott - born without a right hand - worked his way through a talented and upcoming Cleveland Indians lineup. A group that, in fact, would be in the World Series in both 1995 and 1997.

The rhythm of a perfect game or no-hitter carries is as such: You largely downplay the first couple of innings. In fact, you might not even know what's going on. Innings 4-6 are when things start getting real.

After the sixth inning, people know**. Now the nerves kick in.

** Except for some of the people I was with that day.

In the seventh inning, the buzz builds. The stomach begins to churn.

In the eighth inning, the knuckles get whiter. Get through the eighth, and it's probably time to text, call, or contact your friends via social media.

To the ninth inning. You're jumping at every pitch. You're growling at Kenny Lofton for trying to bunt (BUNT! You wuss!) his way on. To paraphrase Mr. Scully: you're seeing the game with your heart, and not your head.

Two outs to go. This is brutal.

One out to go. Just throw the damn ball.

Then it happens. The ball hangs in the air for an eternity. The umpire calls a third strike. Wade Boggs strikes out swinging.

It's over.

In the ballpark, you're high-fiving strangers, because you now share something that millions will say they were at, but only (in my case), 27, 000 were. You're glowing. You never want it to end.

Of course, assuming your team won.

I smiled all the way home that day, and watched it again on TV later. On the other hand, I glared at the screen when six (yes, SIX) Astros pitchers combined to no-hit the Yankees in 2003.

Interesting side note: the Yankees still have no been no-hit by one single pitcher since September 20, 1958, when Hoyt Wilhelm beat them 1-0.

For me, I'll always have Jim Abbott. Along with the scorecard.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Final Opening Day for Vin Scully


There's a finality to today.

Vin Scully, the voice of 1000 Vin Scully Avenue (so dedicated yesterday), will ascend to the Vin Scully Press Box at Dodger Stadium in the City of the Angels, at Chavez Ravine, and begin calling his final opening day.

You think I talk about it too much. Write about it until it's over-the-top. Criticize, mock, and laugh at me. I embrace it all.

But we're never going to see his like again.

Ever.
Vin is second from left, and wife Sandi is third. (Photo: Rick Loomis/Los Angeles Times)
From the Duke and the Boys of Summer through Koufax and Drysdale to Garvey and Fernando to Gibson to Piazza to Kershaw. He's seen it all.

He told us the Dodgers were the world champions. Saw the greatest game ever pitched. Witnessed the year that had been improbable, when the impossible happened. Told us about 29,000 and a million butterflies.

We pulled up a chair for him.

We only have approximately 80 games left.

Savor it. First pitch is in about an hour.


Sunday, April 10, 2016

Thoughts on the Lawn and The Boss

Yes, I mowed that...and I liked it!

I mowed the lawn today.

Between, essentially, May and the end of October, that would be standard operating procedure. But on April 10 (National Siblings Day, because Everything Must Have a Day), when it's only 46 degrees, and the ground is still sort of soft from the winter, it's a little unusual.

But that's me. Weird, I suppose.

I loved it.

I mean, the thing to understand is that I wanted to make sure the mower would start. It did (after I jumped it off my car), so I wanted it to run for a bit. So...I mowed. Some of the grass didn't go wrong from having it cut (including in that image above). The rest of the yard benefitted from having the twigs and tree branches mulched up.

Don't get me wrong. I won't enjoy it in the not-too-distant future. When it's 95 degrees and the grass is too high.

Yet that time is often my time, in that while my phone is omnipresent, I can still sort of zone out. Maybe I can listen to a ballgame of music (and, yes, good music). Many times, I just think. Which is dangerous.

Blog posts get written after I think.

I will dispel with the #Robcasting, thus sparing my thoughts on things like Bo Bice and Rob Thomas* (Jesus, can stores not play drivel that pounds a spike into your brain for hours after you listen to it?).

* More proof that looks matter with music.

Therefore, I will not climb back onto the American Idol soapbox (that's where ol' Bo comes in...I mean, who really likes him? Nickelback fans?). Oh believe me, I wasn't done the other night. That was the tame version.

I smiled a lot as I buzzed around the yard. My hands were cold, but the smell was that of spring. Of summer. I could smell the cut grass, albeit mixed with the exhaust of the machine, but after it was over it smelled of warm, sunny days.

Of lots of catches with footballs and baseballs.

Of my comfy folding chair with the little tray that pops up to hold a cold beverage and a book.

Of taking a walk or riding a bike.

Of kids playing (even if they're all playing a video game. Sean included).

Despite the thoughts of wanting to write about things that grind my gears, I enjoyed being outside as the daylights faded and the evening grew even cooler.

Sunday nights aren't always my favorite anyway (Sean has gone back to his mother by then), so it was nice to just do something that perhaps seemed strange to others.

*****
A final thing, and this has been percolating in my mind for about 48 hours: Bruce Springsteen can do what he wants. I know he's socially and politically active (yeah, go play another Dem fundraiser). All well and good. Part of what puts him in that line of Woodie Guthrie to Bob Dylan.

But...

Deciding to bail on a concert in North Carolina 48 hours before showtime just isn't cool. Some kid in Greensboro has never seen you before. Some family has booked a hotel or plane tickets to get to this show. Let's be real: if you were a nobody trying to make it, you'd play the show. But because you have more money than you know what to do with, you can afford to be socially conscious.

I get it, Boss. You're the man of the people and you care about human rights. But try telling people that when they can't afford to plunk down $200 to go to one of your shows.

You and I weren't on the best of terms recently, for multiple reasons. I feel like you've lost touch. Something has been ruined for me. As I've said before, maybe it's because I couldn't afford to see you more than that one time, thus rendering me a terrible fan**.

** Yes, there are people who really think this way.

Let's be clear: the North Carolina "bathroom law" isn't cool, but it isn't entirely what meets the eye either.

This isn't a "shut up and sing" thing. It's a "make good on your commitment to your fans" thing. A little more lead time to cancel it, and I'd likely think nothing of it. Forty-eight hours before the gig? No.

We'll make up eventually, I suppose. But let it known that I never had such issues with Mssrs. McCartney, Lennon, Starr, and Harrison. Or a Mr. Lewis of Marin County, California.

You were born to run, Bruce. Back to the mansion on the hill. But don't look for Crazy Janie. She's with Rosalita, trying to get the machine that's a dud, out stuck in the mud, somewhere in the swamps of Jersey.

You left her there.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Adios, "Idol"


I'm going to try to be polite about this.

Apparently, "American Idol" ends tonight. The short version is, I have never - ever - ever multiple times - cared about that show.

But since I'm writing about it, I suppose I'm guilty of caring tangentially. So hey, where's Dunkleman?

I care about quality, and am pretty damn passionate about music. I have long believed that American Idol played a role in the death of popular music. Ot at least in the damaging of it.

Let's let Dave Grohl speak:
“When I think about kids watching a TV show like American Idol or The Voice, then they think, ‘Oh, OK, that’s how you become a musician, you stand in line for eight f*cking hours with 800 people at a convention center and… then you sing your heart out for someone and then they tell you it’s not f*ckin’ good enough.’ Can you imagine? It’s destroying the next generation of musicians! Musicians should go to a yard sale and buy and old f*cking drum set and get in their garage and just suck. And get their friends to come in and they’ll suck, too. And then they’ll f*cking start playing and they’ll have the best time they’ve ever had in their lives and then all of a sudden they’ll become Nirvana. Because that’s exactly what happened with Nirvana. Just a bunch of guys that had some sh*tty old instruments and they got together and started playing some noisy-ass shit, and they became the biggest band in the world. That can happen again! You don’t need a f*cking computer or the internet or The Voice or American Idol.”
Indeed.

Here's the thing: talent is talent. If you want to believe Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood are talented (they are, but I don't think much separates them from what's currently out there), then they would have gotten discovered, just as Dave Grohl implied. Because at the end of the day, the public has a way of deciding. I mean, hey, it didn't quite go for all of the winners, right?

Don't get me started on Adam Lambert (it still sickens me that Queen went on tour with him). Not an "Idol" winner, but he was still part of the circus.

It takes good material and talent to make it. From there, it's fairly hit or miss. The public does occasionally make mistakes, or get caught up in a fad. Then we all wake up and say, "What the heck were we thinking?"

When it came to "Idol," I was never in.  The same goes for The Voice and anything else. As you can imagine, I was no fan of any effort to have a sports broadcasting talent show. I mean, ESPN's "Dream Job?" Really?

Then again, I can't imagine you'd like it if, after years of studying and toiling to succeed in your job, a talent competition came along to find you a colleague/replacement.

Anyway, I'm in the minority. I get that. While the rest of the world fell for Simon, William Hung, Paula, Randy (DAWG!), Justin, Kelly, Carrie, the Soul Patrol, Ryan-freaking-Seacrest, and whatever other godforsaken stuff that went on for 14 years, I stayed vaguely aware of it all.

But virtually never watched.

Peace out, "Idol". Rock on.



The Simpsons Judge American Idol by sir-roddick

Saturday, March 26, 2016

It Matters


I was looking at something a moment ago when I let out a big sigh.

It is well known that I sigh. A lot. Some of the sighs are exasperation of one form or another. Others are just a result of my breathing pattern.

This, indeed, was exasperation.

In the midst of video games, The Big Bang Theory, Vin Scully talk, dinner and other home activities, Sean paused to check on his old man.

Yes. He thinks I'm old. He reminds me of it frequently.

Sean: "Daddy? What was that sigh for? Are you OK?"

Me: "Yep" (as I sighed again).

Sean: "You don't sound it."

Me: "It doesn't matter."

Sean: "Yes it does. It always matters, and you sounded upset."

Me: "I'm fine. Just foolishness."

He's becoming a bit of a "teenager." Yep, it happens. But he still cares a great deal about his dad, and I'm thankful for that.

Holy cow. I love that kid.

And a Very Good Evening To You


Our friend Mr. Scully is beginning the swan song of 67 years of magic in the broadcast booth. The Dodgers can say they're not replacing him, and believe me, they can't. If they think what they've hired or have in mind or currently have on staff will suffice, they're nuts.

There are people (present company included) who will care about the Dodgers only because of Vin. Next year, they go right back to the being the hated Dodgers. Once a bum, always a bum indeed.

But for now, let's enjoy the approximately 87 games that the master will give us in 2016. He met the media yesterday for the first time in spring training before calling his first spring game. The gremlins at MLB.com (or here at the Exit 55 Rest Area) won't allow me to embed the video.

Vin and Joe, circa 1984. Yes, I want those jackets. Photo courtesy Getty Images

Also worth watching is this wonderful tribute to Vin's Game of the Week partner, Joe Garagiola.  Here are Vin and Joe, calling a 1987 weeknight game on NBC as the Royals (and George Brett, again) beat the Yankees.

There was a reason why I hated George Brett. He devoured the Yankees.