Ruth and Consequences

 

Babe

It doesn’t feel like fourteen years.

That’s how long it’s been since the Yankees and Red Sox last met in October. It was the year when A-Rod became the biggest four letter word in baseball after being traded to the Yankees. The year when Curt Schilling became the biggest four letter word to Yankees fans. And it was the year when the Sawx erased an 0-3 deficit in the ALCS and took down the Bronx Bombers, giving Babe Ruth a much deserved sleep after eighty five long years.

As a Yankees fan, it was a fucking nightmare.

My team was Vegas buttah that season. They were Shakespeare on paper and savagely expert at winning big moments once the leaves turned. They owned the diamond in a way Liz Taylor would’ve appreciated, and they were spit roasting the New England Nine over the first three games of the 2004 ALCS to the tune of 32-16. The Evil Empire was primed and ready to quash the rebellion and take their arch-rivals out in a four game sweep. It was over . . .

And then Dave Fucking Roberts stole second base off the great Mariano Rivera and changed everything. When Roberts scored to tie the game at four in the bottom of the ninth, it was a tremor and when Big Papi smacked a two run walk off homer in the twelfth to stave off elimination . . it was a quake. But when Big Papi hit another game winning homer in extra innings the following night to cut the Yankees lead in the series to three games to two?

Shit . .  got real.

The rest became Dickens, with a tale that two cities will take to their blessed baseball graves. To anyone who calls the 2018 division series between these blood rivals a chance for pinstripe redemption . . or reaffirmation for the Bosox, well . . they have no idea what they’re talking about.

This, ain’t that.

Truth be told, I’m glad the “Curse of the Bambino” won’t be painting the corners of this series. As romantic a notion as it was, it also happened to be complete bullshit.

The “Curse” refers to a long held notion by certain baseball peeps that when Boston sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1919, it unleashed a sinister pox on their title chances forevermore. What these peeps were saying, in essence, was that shitty management and even shittier performances in pressure situations had nothing to do with the fact that Boston couldn’t win. It was all Babe Ruth’s fault. For eighty five years, the Yankees behaved like the grown ups at the table by taking care of business and collecting more hardware than a mechanic. While the Red Sox played hide and seek with Babe Ruth.

Okay, when the light hitting Bucky Dent did this to the Red Sox in the 1978 one game playoff at Fenway . . the dramatic effect was Bambino’esqe. But it was one game, one lucky shot.

Between 1919 and 2004, the Red Sox won the division title five times and the pennant twice. And it would be worth noting they beat out the Yankees to do so each time. Hell, it could be argued the other New York team delivered Boston its most wicked October pain when they did this . . .

And no, Babe Ruth never played for the Mets.

The Yankees and Red Sox didn’t meet in a legit playoff series until 1999, after MLB expanded the playoffs. Their 2004 tilt was only their third playoff meeting, ever. And ooookay . . the memories of what happened the year before were still fresh in the minds of every New Englandah worth his chowdah . . .

But Aaron Boone’s family tree ain’t got the Babe sitting up in it, so there’s that. Quite simply, it was the self full-filling prophecy of an organization that tripped over its shoelaces more than Charlie Brown. All that bad juju was their own damn fault, but like every other loser, the Red Sox had to blame someone else. So why not the dead guy?

Until 2004, when they stopped taking no for an answer and made October theirs for the first time since Woodrow Wilson was in office. And it pains me to say this but Imma do it anyway. That’s how it had to go down, if the Red Sox were ever going to get past all the curse nonsense. They had to rip the hearts out of every Yankees fan, the way New England’s heart was ripped out inside all those winters that came much too early. It was only fair.

Tonight isn’t about Bucky Dent or Dave Roberts, Ron Guidry or Curt Schilling. Big Papi and A-Rod are making tee times now. Aaron Boone will take the field, but this time as Yankees manager. All those names have been replaced with Judge and Torres, Betts and Bogaerts, Sale and Happ.

The Sox have won three World Series titles since breaking through in 2004 while the Yankees haven’t won since 2009, so yeah . . things have changed considerably since they last faced off. And while I never did buy all that curse business, let’s just say I wouldn’t be upset if the Babe decided to tune in.

For old time’s sake.

 

 

Living Monday like a rock concert

Why does Monday feel like an accident? It’s like we’re cruising down the interstate inside a couple days supplied to us by Don Henley and the next thing we know, a day comes out of nowhere to sideswipes our asses. And the worst part is, our insurance won’t cover the damage since the day really didn’t come out of nowhere. We saw it coming for days, in fact.

Mondays roll like that. They’re used to being the punchlines divvied up by their more fortunate calendar compatriots. Tuesday gets off on knowing at least it’s not Monday. Wednesday is the hump day darling . . Thursday is the Eve of Friday, whose proper is disco lemonade to our senses. Saturday is so dang popular that Chicago wrote an anthem for it, and Sunday is where all the other days come to chill. All the other days excepting for Monday, which ain’t fetching an invite on account of all the mellow it harshes, just by being in the room.

And so this Monday finds the Dubs as the baller kings who just sent LBJ off in search of a funky town where he can reclaim his crown. And I want it to be Miami . . with KD and Kawhi. Because Mondays can be for dreaming too.

Monday is Trump in Singapore, in an historic meeting with the dude from that Seth Rogen movie. And like . . . what’s the worst that could happen?

And speaking on Monday . . are we like . . at war with Canada yet? Because I’m not sure whether Trump and Trudeau hate each other or whether they are very much in love. . .

Monday is figuring out why Anthony Bourdain is gone much too soon, and knowing that we’re never gonna figure it out. Because he took all those thoughts and voices that never quit his brain, with him. We were thieved a genuine voice and immense talent. And it happens every day, to names not famous. And sometimes? We just need to be thankful for the time we have.

Monday is being knee deep in a baseball season whose news is going to be stolen away in snippets from now until October. Like with Nadal winning France again and Bob Baffert cementing his status as best trainer ever with Justify’s triple crown win . . and the World Cup coming strong.

Monday is wondering why we need another Jurassic movie, and its realizing because Jeff Goldblum is as good a reason as any.

Monday is letting go of what’s not coming back and taking hold of what’s ahead. It’s making the best of things. It’s putting a face to the name of the moments that are waiting for us. It’s kicking ass, taking names and it’s living as if Monday isn’t Monday at all.

Monday is taking me back to the summer of 1984. Back when I thought Orwell a putz when it came to predictions. Must’ve been the mood.

 

Things That Made Me Go HmmMonday

I’m not sure who my mind thinks it is, inviting these thoughts and observations over at all times of the day and night. But I’m not going to complain, since that wouldn’t change things anyhow. Instead, Imma serve up a sampling. Please . . silence your phones during this post so that the voices in my head don’t get all pissy with me.

The Russians Are Coming!- Is it just me, or do these peeps end up in every conversation? From fixing Presidential elections to laundering money in London, playing a dangerous game of Chess in Syria and using Reddit as a propaganda machine. Talk of the Russians has become so insidious that some are even accusing them of playing one side against the other in the NFL’s anthem debate. And don’t go reading the Drudge Report to get the latest lowdown, because that Matt Drudge guy is a Russian agent.

So what’s fake and what’s worth being concerned about? Hard to say, seeing as how there’s so much Russian chatter out there. Which really, is the point. Because the Russians have found their time; a time when highly sensitive information is bought and sold at breakneck speed and mysteriously shrouded third parties are privy to plenty of our ‘mo. The Putin’s World watermark is deftly crafted conjecture, gone viral. To wit, the Russian Question is a thing. And it’s being peddled with street corner privileges that never mind the placebo effect. Our imaginations will pay retail, and that’s all that matters since we’ll never know the whole truth.

We never do.

Major League Baseball Is Cheating Again- Stop me if you’ve heard this one. Baseball shattered the record for most league wide HR’s hit in a season last year whilst also setting a record for revenues. Well, if you lived through the Mitchell Report Era of the game where performance enhancing drugs laid waste to the sanctity of the sport’s most hallowed records, then you know where I’m coming from.

So what’s going on? Is this power surge simply a wonderful coincidence? Is it the baseballs that are juiced? Are hitters watching more Chuck Norris flicks? Or is better living through science having at it once again?

If I had to place a bet in Vegas as to where all this muscle bound intrigue is coming from, I’d go with data. The emphasis is weighted to this shit like never before. From a la carte pitching match-ups to shape shifting diamond defense to terms that seem to have been penned by Black Sabbath. Terms like WAR, Exit Velocity and Launch Angle. The science has overtaken the soul, the numbers have crunched intuition. As such, you have a bevvy of buff specimens whose mandate is all or nothing.

As much as I love the MLB, the truth is, they are being paced by every other league not named the NHL. So this boom or bust version of the game, it keeps the former national pastime relevant. Romance be damned.

Use Your Voice- A bunch of my fellow bloggers follow The Voice. And well . . they got me all curious and such. So I consulted YouTube for the final tabulations, and I found this little pixie, Brynn Cartelli. Those pipes are some hot buttah goodness, tell you what.

Light It Up- Watched HBO’s remake of the classic dystopian tale, Fahrenheit 451 this week. I knew the casting was going to rock the house, with Michael Shannon playing Captain Beatty and Michael B. Jordan in the role of Gus Montag. But I had NO idea I would love it as much as I did. The movie is thematically faithful with scenarios that eerily dovetail the realities of our technological day and age. It’s scary to think, but in some ways? We’re already here.

IPA’s- I’ve lambasted the craft beer craze for years, but truth be told, there is plenty of talent out there. They’ll never replace my starting lineup, but as a pinch hitter/substitution? Batter up!

The Meaning of “Me Too”- Is one of solidarity. And it only matters if the voices are heard. So the next time someone complains about “another one” coming forward, ask them if they would be so flip if that another one was a wife, girlfriend, mother, daughter or close friend. Personally, I hope every last voice that wants to be heard, is. There’s no expiration date for this kind of thing.

LeBron James is going to the NBA finals. Again. With these guys . . .

The Anthem Debate Gets Sillier- Which is exactly what happened when the league announced that any player who kneels during the anthem will incur a fifteen yard penalty for his team. Reprimanding peaceful protests isn’t very patriotic. But then again, this was never about patriotism. It was a workplace conflict of interest. Some of the players simply wanted to create a dialogue while some of the owners felt the protests would hurt their bottom line. The irony here is that the overwhelming majority of peeps on BOTH sides of this debate care deeply about their country. The nuances have created the chasm. And that, is silly.

In closing, here’s to our freedom to be silly. It is provided to us by the brave men and women who put their lives on the line every single day. So that we may have a place to debate and discuss and most importantly . . .

Dream.

 

 

 

Dear Sports: I’m Just Not That Into You

When did sports become so unlikable?

It used to be that sports was a respite from the everyday; a temporary form of escapism that was fun and legal. It was a snow globe fascination whose import was clear as life and death but whose suspension of disbelief allowed us to dream like children. It was a gloriously forgiving province where loss was temporary, victory was forever and next year was a sweet promise.

Being a sports fan these days is like being stuck in a marriage that went too long.

Major League baseball used to feel like summer. A day at the ballpark was like a picnic on steroids (pun intended). Now, the early and late season games feel like Stalingrad, and they last just as long. Home runs are no longer celebrated, they’re investigated. I’m just thankful the emphasis on analytics wasn’t around back in the day or it would’ve killed those moments supplied by Bucky Dent, Bill Mazeroski and Kirk Gibson.

The NBA has become a three point shooting contest that feels like a two and a half hour commercial for licensed product. Defense is optional and humility a foreign word. There’s no Jordan-like presence to provide stability and a rooting interest for Association fans. We know LeBron is the greatest player of his time because his Instagram page says so. And Kevin Durant went from darling to dickhead faster than a WWE wrestler.

I feel sorry for the NHL, because they seem to be doing things the right way. But truth be told, it doesn’t feel like hockey when Canada has gone twenty four years without a Cup and we have clubs in Tampa, Nashville, Anaheim and Las Fucking Vegas.

And that brings me to the NFL, whose wild popularity says more about us than it does about them. Love of this sport feels increasingly narcissistic, as the actual games seem to have taken a back seat to gambling, fantasy league and social commentary.

The new normal for keeping score includes police logs, contract disputes and TMZ-like reports detailing every aspect of the players’ personal lives. None of which feels like escapism, in the least bit.

Ask the casual fan about pro football and their response will probably have something to do with the anthem protests. And is there a better example of much ado about nothing than those protests? Colin Kaepernick became the face of a movement to which he never quite understood the gravitas. His gesture- to kneel during the national anthem in protest of the inequities of a country that purports to be all about equality and fairness- was a righteous one. Kaepernick meant well, and he did donate over a million dollars out of his own pocket to various causes in the aftermath. But his message was mitigated by failed optics that made him look as if he was more interested in symbolism than substantial change.

On the other side of all that, the irony is that he was right on about the double standards that exist in our power structure. Because he and several of his peers who kneeled with him are still looking for work; in a league that has been filling roster spots with lesser talent in a transparent blackballing effort.

Meanwhile, the San Francisco 49ers (Kaepernick’s former team) are holding serve on whether or not to cut linebacker Reuben Foster. They’re going to let the courts play out first as Foster faces two felony domestic violence counts and a felony weapons charge for possession of an assault weapon. Basically, Foster beat the shit out of a woman but his team won’t cut bait just yet because he can help them win.

How many fans are going to ‘quit’ watching games over the Foster story, the way they vowed to quit when Kaep took a knee? And why isn’t President Trump railing on about how the NFL will employ dog killers and men who batter women . . just as long as they don’t kneel.

Sports used to live somewhere else, far from the worries and troubles of our every day lives. Nowadays, it’s like a pain in the ass neighbor who throws a party and trashes our property. And while I still dig the games, I find myself increasingly detached from the box scores and standings I used to know by heart.

If this truly was a marriage, I’d file for divorce.