Monthly Archives: August 2015

In which Chris admits is man crush on Vin Scully again.

The last time the Dodgers opened the season without Vin Scully in their employ, the Korean War hadn’t started yet. Harry Truman was president. NATO had just been born. The Braves were still in Boston. The Athletics were still in Philadelphia. The Orioles were in St. Louis (as the Browns). And Mickey Mantle hadn’t yet played his first Major League Baseball game.

If you count the history of Major League Baseball from the beginning of the so-called Modern Era, starting with the birth of the American League in 1900, there have been 116 seasons. Vin Scully has called Dodger games for 67 of them. And after next year, his sixty-eighth, he will stop calling Dodgers games, assuming God doesn’t invite him to pull up chair between now and then.

Vin Scully harkens back to a different era in baseball, an era when the game was about stories and pictures painted in your mind because there were no Jumbotrons or high-definition score boards the size of Montana can show you in intricate detail everything down to the number of pimples on the next greatest phenom. The game was played for most on the radio on soft summer afternoons. The broadcaster was more than a reporter, he was a engineer of image and a director of imagination.

Since 1950, Vin Scully’s seen all the phenoms–the ones who made it like Mantle, Koufax, Griffey (both of them), Ripken, Pujols, and Kershaw. He’s seen the ones who didn’t make it. Hartung and Hurdle. Orie. And Tim Leary, who never got to join the line of Mets pitching greats, but pitched for the Dodgers in the 1988 World Series.

He’s seen the Dodgers play in a bandbox, a football stadium, and their current home–a 54 season old gem that’s still among the better venues in the game, in spite of the plethora of new-look baseball places.

Dodger Stadium

You could almost take the famous Field of Dreams baseball speak and replace the word baseball with Vin.

They don’t make them like Vin Scully any more, because no one says things like ‘a cotton candy sky with a canopy of blue.’ It’s not cutting or snarky, with a self-referential bite. But it sure does paint a picture.

Cotton candy skies with a canopy of blue. I wish I could write like that, let alone speak like that.

In an era when most announcers insert themselves in the biggest moments, loudly screaming about the events the fans can see and hear themselves, Scully is smart enough, good enough, and secure enough to allow the story to tell itself.

Scully’s call of Kirk Gibson’s 1988 home run may be the best sports call ever. Painting the picture as the tension mounted with each pitch. Gibson, baseball’s grittiest player and against Dennis Eckersley, the game’s most feared reliever. Imagine David against Goliath, if both of David’s legs were injured.

God picked that moment to honor Scully, as with a full count, he noted that Steve Sax was on deck, but the game right now was at the plate. And the game was at the plate as Gibson took an unlikely swing that didn’t look like much but did the job.

As Gibson’s miraculous home run climb into the dark Los Angeles night, Scully said, “High fly ball into right field. She iiiiissssss…gone!” And then he went again the instinct any sane human would have to tell the story of Gibson’s miracle and he let the pictures speak for themselves.

ESPN’s comments are notorious for bringing the trolls out of the woodwork. When I looked at the story about Scully returning and retiring, I didn’t see a single angry, stupid, or trollish comment. Not one.

When Scully announced he’d return and be leaving, he was characteristically modest. In 2015, when only the loudest voices are heard, it can almost seem like a false modesty. But this is the guy who invited you to pull up a chair, as if you and he are watching the game together. The guy who let’s the story tell itself and only gets in the way when necessary. To him, the game is the attraction and he’s just a friendly tour guide.

Scully’s love affair with baseball is deep and long and unshakeable, through strikes and lockouts, bad teams, horrid ownership, and scandal upon scandal.

For fans, the love affair will continue long after Scully has said good night for the last time. But it will lose a little sparkle. There are many pretenders to the throne, but only one modest, articulate, and ultimately finite king.

The truth about our anti-Christian culture

When I’m in the mood for music, I listen to 97X here in Tampa. It’s got new music I like without much contemporary rap (c-rap, for short), without dubstep and that synthesized nonsense, and without a mess of syrupy ballads. So I’m listening the other day, sort of not paying close attention–because guys have attention deficit disorder.

Anyway, all of a sudden I hear a spot saying 97X is giving away tickets to Rock the Universe at Universal Studios. Sure, whatever. I don’t go to Rock th…wait, Rock the Universe? That’s all Christian rock. Tampa Bay’s new rock alternative is giving away tickets to a Christian Rock festival, and they’re advertising it.

Then again, Panic! At the Disco has a song 97X plays a lot called Hallelujah, which includes the lyrics All you sinners stand up, sing hallelujah. Show praise with your body, stand up sing hallelujah. Say your prayers, say your prayers, say your prayers.

And though it ended five years ago, TNT aired a show called Saving Grace in which the premise is that a cop named Grace–played by the super buff Holly Hunter–has a guardian angel named Earl who tells her she’s going to hell if she doesn’t change things.

Oh, and the biggest crowd to ever pack Raymond James Stadium? That was for a U2 concert–a concert in which the majority of the 75,000 people there at one point seemed to join Bono in singing Amazing Grace. That was before more than 100,000 people did it at the Rose Bowl.

You may have heard of U2, a band with Christian-influenced lyrics all over their 35 years of existence. Along with the Great Wall of China, lead singer Bono’s ego is one of the few things you can see from space with the naked eye.

The point is, it’s almost Labor Day and it’s never too early to start grousing about the War on Christmas (and the War on the War on Christmas and the War on the War on the War on Christmas).  It might not come today or tomorrow, but it’s coming, and sooner than anyone wants.

Sure, gays can marry, but if that were an attack on Christianity, churches would be forced to bless those marriages. They aren’t.

As we’ve previously covered, me and the massive Chris Hamilton’s Stuff staff, most people just want to get to the end of the day. Bitching about someone saying Happy holidays doesn’t accomplish that.

All my tears in a bottle

Yesterday, I wrote about a letter to myself that’s supposed to help me come to terms with the fact that 2015 will not go down in history as one of my top-ten favorite years.

I’m not whining. And I know there are a lot of people who’ve had worse years. But it’s been hard. As a man, and a manly man at that, let me just say that I’ve watched Field of Dreams far more often than normal this year. And I expect I might watch it some more.

Exception: Watching Field of Dreams

So here’s the warning–I’m gonna get all God-stuff on you. Not religiony, but God stuff. Because this year has illuminated God for me. It’s shown me that I can’t do it alone. It’s shown me that God’s arms are sometimes attached to other people’s bodies and some of those bodies aren’t sure about the concept of God.

What it hasn’t shown me, at least not to my satisfaction, is that God gives a damn.

If you’ve ever seen Poltergeist–the real Poltergeist, not the unnecessary remake–you’ll remember how they got Carol Anne back and how the mom had the stripe of gray hair and started a bath and was going to color it and everything was over…

If you’re from the 80s, you have to agree that Jobeth Williams’ hotness was always underrated.

…except it wasn’t.

The ghosts came back because the greedy real estate company only moved the headstones. THEY ONLY MOVED THE HEADSTONES!

And while all hell was literally breaking lose, the target of the ghosts, little Carol Anne sits in the bed and pleads, “No more.”

That’s what my prayers have been like this year.

And recently, a passage from Psalm 58 has come to mind a lot. You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in my book.

Maybe I’m foolish. It happens. Maybe I’m just falling for the idea of something that doesn’t exist. But the idea of a God who cares, who keeps track of my sorrows, who collects and keeps track of my tears–that idea appeals to me. It gives me comfort and makes me feel that someone is with me beyond the people whose arms He’s used.

A guy at work once said something that really stuck with me: most people are just trying to get to the end of the day.

It’s one of the biggest truths I’ve ever heard articulated. And if that’s true, then most people aren’t going to be swayed by your stance on gay marriage or the war on Christmas. Your protests that popular culture doesn’t accept Christianity will ring hollow.

They’re just trying to get to the end of the day. And maybe they don’t believe in a God who collects all their tears. So maybe it’s up to you to act as a proxy.

Or me.

The Letter

I had homework this week–write a letter to the guy who didn’t know six months ago, that he’d do Triometrics one morning and wouldn’t work out again. It was intended to be a letter to help me come to terms with what’s happened since Monday, February 16, the last day I worked out. (Not that I kept track…)

Triometrics. It’s like plyometrics, except, you know, different.

There’s a very good chance that guy who managed stress through workouts and found his strength at the bottom of a sweat-soaked tired body is no more. And because of what’s been necessary the last six months, I’ve never really come to terms with that. So I had to write that guy a letter.

So yesterday, I started writing and what I thought was going to be a heavy, difficult, angst-ridden exercise was something much different.

I started by calling that guy a poor son of a bitch. For one thing, he likes the Jets. For another, I know what he has to go through. But that’s when the surprised happened. The letter became about encouragement and realization. It became about strength and resilience and untapped potential and stubbornness and loyalty and love.

It can be best paraphrased by something a very close friend posted on Facebook the other day from Winnie the Pooh, of all things. It’s a quote from Christopher Robin to Pooh bear.

Promise me you’ll always remember (emphasis mine), you’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.

How could I be otherwise? I have the guts to root for the Jets every single year. (Okay, maybe that’s not so smart.)

But that letter was a great exercise.

I can’t handicap where I am right now, but there’s a very good chance I will never work out again, at least not like I used to. I may never get another chance to curse the heat of the Florida summer while I try to squeeze out two or three extra miles. In fact, I may never run another step. Ever.

I’m still not comfortable with those potential facts. I have a lot of work to do to accommodate that reality.

But as much as this year has sucked–and its suckage has been legion–it hasn’t beaten me. I’m brave, and strong, and in every way except picking sports teams, pretty smart.

And there’s one other things–there’s something bigger for me. I’m not alone. For me, it’s God. I’ve always had a hard time trusting in that kind of massive, undeserved love. (Honestly, if it’s deserved, it’s not love; it’s payment for services rendered, which is something else.) This year when that kind of love has propelled me and supported me, I think I’m ready for that.

Maybe that’s not your thing. But whatever it is, without it, all the Christopher Robin stuff is damn near impossible.

Another baseball-as-life metaphor (everyone loves those)

Busch Stadium. St. Louis. August. Hot and miserable.

Heat wafts up in waves from the great green lie–a carpet where there should be grass. Where there would be grass if not for the damn football team.

It’s like standing in a parking lot on the hottest day of the year, except while you’re working out. This is awful.

I come set, breathe in and let it out slowly. The runner dances off first–a catcher who hasn’t stolen a base for as long as his pudgy little legs have pretended to propel him. I glance over any way. He makes a kissing motion with his lips.

Really? Jackass.

Might as well pitch. That’s what I’m here for. Kick and deal.

And it’s beautiful. The ball tumbles forward, arching up, then breaking sharply down and in and his knees buckle just like they’re supposed to. And for once it feels good. Except for one thing. Freakin’ Doug Harvey–they call him God. Apparently, God is either blind or just wants to torture me today because he doesn’t move. Then he says it.

“Ball. One and two.”

No, that’s strike three, dammit. But arguing with God is useless.

My shoulders sink. It’s 2-0, top of the third and I’ve had to use every bit of magic I have just to keep it that close. My right toe throbs. My elbows and ribs hurt, my back aches, and it feels like I’ve already thrown 227 pitches today. Which wouldn’t be so bad, except we couldn’t take off leaving Pittsburgh last until until almost three and we got to the damn hotel at quarter after seven. Crappy sleep, what there was of it, all night. Again.

The return throw smacks my glove as I look in the dugout.

Manager’s not coming. Bastard. I just got done pitching, six innings of garbage time two days before. In the heat. In Pittsburgh. Two day games in August in three days. Mop-up, then a surprise start. Someone had a twinge in their arm and I’m the guy. Again.

I shake my head.

I’d like to say I can feel the sweat running down my back, but my back is slick with it. Every part of my body is slick with it, except maybe the bottoms of my feet.

I stink. I’m sore. No one in their right mind would want to be around me.

And we do it again.

Two fingers. The curve. Because that worked so well the last time. No, not this time. I’m taking at least a little control. I shake him off.

Two fingers again. Because suddenly no one understands the meaning of No.

Two fingers.

Fine. Moron.

This time, the batter’s expecting the curve. As I knew he would. But my curve ball’s pretty good. Although I strain to believe it, I actually don’t suck at my job.

No solid contact. Ground ball to short. Should be a double play.

Instead, it scoots under and past the glove. The crowd–and it’s always a damn crowd in St. Louis–is invigorated and everyone runs. The baserunner–the guy who blew me a kiss–bolts to third. The batter–the guy who got two gifts he didn’t deserve–rounds first, his eyes as big as plates.

And I haul my ass to back up the plate, because sprinting is awesome when the air temperature on the field is 130 degrees. I swear they use this place for brick-over pizza on off days.

No one says a word to me as the ball is returned to the infield and then to me as I trot back to the mound. There is, you know, no walking on a baseball field.

I take a second behind the mound. It’s hot and I’m sore and basically alone out here. I get to do that.

“Come on, will you? It’s boiling out here.”

If you’re a shortstop and you just blew a double play, it’s a good idea to keep your damn mouth shut.

I come back to the mound for what I know will be more hell. Even a fly ball makes it 3-0, and the way we score runs, it might as well be 100-0.


Coach is coming out. The guy who works with me on a regular basis, but not the guy who’ll end my misery today. That’s not his job. He makes no expression as he comes to the center of the diamond, motioning my catcher back behind the plate.

“Jesus,” I say before he can get to me, “how the hell am I supposed to do this? I’m doing my job and it doesn’t matter.” I know it’s unprofessional, but it’s been a hell of a road trip. I’m hurt and he knows it. And yet I’m here, which should cosmically count for something.

It counted for me getting my ass reamed in the paper interview the other day from some guy who never threw a baseball in his life and has no freaking clue what my job really is.

Coach makes a placating motion with his hands.

“You know I’m not taking you out.”

I’m careful not to shake my head. My shortstop can get after me for taking a break, but I can’t show him up or God or anyone else.

“This is bullshit. I’m better than this. Jesus, could I get some help?”

A slight delay. Coach always uses a slight delay when he’s talking to someone who’s upset. “Yeah. You are. You’re very good. But this is what it is. This is what you get.”

It’s so hot. Everything hurts. And I’m so, so tired. Coach knows and he obviously doesn’t care.

“This is the game you get to play every day. Are you sure you want me to take you out of it?”

I need to respect Coach so it feels wrong to drop the word that’s closest to my lips right now, though I suspect he knows what it is.

I glance toward the shortstop.

“Worry about pitching. Not him.” He doesn’t mention the runner’s on third because I couldn’t make it to first to cover the bag–because I’m playing hurt. No excuses, though. Ha!

I bite my lower lip. This sucks.

“Come on. Let’s go. You have work to do.”

Then he goes back to the dugout.

I’m gonna FORCE you to see this because BY GOD, my side is right

Way back in the ancient past, when I lived in Northern Virginia, there was a miners strike of one sort or another. To build awareness of and sympathy for the cause, miners decided to drive side-by-side, twenty miles an hour. During rush hour. On the Beltway.

Flash forward (more years than I choose to admit) and the same thing happened yesterday. Protesters decided the best way to raise awareness of what was going on in Ferguson on the first anniversary of Michael Brown’s murder/Darren Wilson’s self-defense was to form a human barrier across I-70, a major St. Louis interstate. At rush hour. Surprise!

Aside from being dangerous, these awareness-raising activities are smug, arrogant, and not likely to be effective. Put another way, if I have to pay the holy crap, you were late picking your kid up from daycare fee, which often involves a financing plan with 43 easy payments, I’m not going to be favorably inclined to your point of view.

You’re late and I hate you. And so does Ms. Beth, who had to stay late.

When I pointed this out on (yes, I am an idiot) Facebook, I was told it was an awareness-raising exercise. The fact that I’m a moron was, I think, implied.

Pardon me, that the only awareness being raised here is my awareness of your hand grabbing the back of my neck and trying to force me to see things the way you do.

And it’s not just the liberals. Periodically, pro-life people feel the need to show people graphic pictures of dismembered fetuses because, after all, if your cause is right, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.

And I’ll admit, there are times and circumstances when breaking the rules is required. There was this thing called the Revolutionary War that went a little bit beyond civil disobedience.

That said, if you’re trying to hurt people to raise their consciousness, why stop at screwing up their commute? Why not really raise awareness by smacking them in the crotch with something? Then not only do you raise their awareness, you could also win cash money on the funniest videos show.

What’s deserved, what’s real, and what’s complicated.

There’s a lot of talk lately about who deserves what wage. People who work at McDonald’s deserve at least $15 an hour. If they deserve that, then what do teachers deserve? What do paramedics deserve? And do you know how many teachers we could pay with what A-Rod makes each year?

We could pay 12 gazillion teachers with what A-Rod makes

If I’ve learned anything this year, it’s that what you deserve has very little to do with what you actually get. (Bear with me, please…)

The fact of the matter is that if you work at McDonald’s, you don’t deserve anything other than to be treated decently and paid the market rate for your work. If you can work together and find a way to make the market rate $10, or $15, or $3 million, good for you. The wage structure in this country was influenced forever by workers banding together to influence how they were compensated. You can debate all you want about unions now, but you’re blind if you don’t understand the difference they made about a century ago.

Many people don’t realize that early labor leader Samuel Gompers was Wilford Brimley’s father.

Deserving has nothing to do with anything. A-Rod doesn’t deserve the money he gets any more than Oprah, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, or Toby Keith do. A-Rod makes the money he gets for a lot of reasons, starting with the dismantling of the reserve clause and the efforts of people like Curt Flood and Marvin Miller. You can argue that free agency has ruined baseball, and I can argue that a system in which your employer has perpetual rights to your services at a wage they determine (that’s what the reserve clause did) is unAmerican. Then there’s television fees, merchandise fees, and the fact that people will gladly pay $150 for a polyester shirt with A-Rod’s number on it.

Curt Flood (l) and Marvin Miller

So if fast food workers can convince enough people that they should get $15 an hour, more power to them. But nothing happens in a vacuum. When McDonald’s starts playing people $15 an hour, it will try to get by with fewer people. Some stores are already experimenting with self-order kiosks. Service is likely to decline (not just at McDonald’s but at all affected establishments), and fewer high schoolers are likely to land their first jobs there.

McDonald’s with self-order kiosks

You can debate the moral appropriateness of those effects all you want, but like what’s deserved, it’s irrelevant.

The more fundamental discussion is what the proper role of business is. Are businesses there primarily to make money, or to provide employment? If it’s to make money, at what point do you have to force a business to take care of their employees? Should healthcare be mandated? Should hours worked be capped? Should Jimmy Johns be banned from forcing their workers to sign non-compete agreements for their sandwich makers? (For the record, Jimmy Johns is dead to me and Jersey Mike’s is way, wayyyyy better anyway.)

If businesses should exist to provide employment, at what point does the bottom line matter? Since most businesses are small businesses, should they be forced to forego profits (and increase risk) to pay higher wages? Since bigger businesses also have investors (and those investors often include people’s retirement funds) should investors take a back seat to employees?

It’s not always as simple as a meme or bumper sticker would make it out to be. When Gravity Payments CEO Dan Price raised his company’s minimum wage to $70,000 a year, some of his people quit. They figured if the poor performers were getting $70K for their work, why should the top performers–the people who worked evenings, weekends, and holidays, get the same or only slightly more?

Gravity Payments CEO Brad Pitt

Greed! some people roared. As someone who’s worked his share of evenings, weekends, and holidays this year, I take a different approach. If I did that and got a 2% raise and someone who coasted got a 33% raise, I’d question why my time is so much less valuable than the people who didn’t put in the effort. It’s not greed, it’s human nature.

I’m not saying Dan Price is wrong. I’m not saying I’m necessarily right.

But as we move into the heart of presidential election season, a mere 16 months before the big day, everyone’s trying to boil complicated stuff like this down to sound bites. And to be honest, people like Bernie Sanders can make their sound bites sound more appealing. How can you argue with “Everyone should be taken care of”?

Bernie Sanders, Socialist and Hair Club for Men member

Ask the people who quit Gravity Payments.