Monthly Archives: September 2015

If you don’t understand sports fandom, THIS is why…

Adam Wainwright struck out Carlos Beltran in October 2006 to end the last post-season game at Shea Stadium. The next year, the Mets roared out to a big lead in the National League East, but the team felt soft pretty much all year long. Even with a 7 1/2 game lead with 17 games left, it didn’t feel like things were settled. And they weren’t. The Mets lost their entire lead in the last three weeks of the season and lost their playoff spot to the Phillies. Then they collapsed in 2008. Then ownership got sucked into the Madoff thing. Then the dark years came, where winning was something other teams cared about.

Everyone else got to have fun in October, it seemed, except the Mets. In fact, 26 of the 29 other teams have been to the postseason since the last time the Mets were there. And this year looked like more the of same.

As an aside, this year has sucked on a personal level. Health issues, work issues, car issues… The dog wigged out during a storm and gouged a hole in the washer hose that I didn’t see and it flooded the kitchen and my daughter’s room. A former work colleague died.

And there were the Mets. They flew out of the gate at the beginning of the season and gradually got worse and worse and worse until it was just like last year and the year before and the year before. There were injuries and pretty soon they had a guy who 29 other teams passed on, a guy hitting .164, batting cleanup.

On top of all the other crap, this team that I loved since childhood, was once again slouching toward irrelevance.

At the trading deadline, they were on the fringe of the race–better than they’d been in a while, but certainly not good. And they weren’t playing great ball. They blew a huge lead to a bad team (the Padres) at home and that seemed to be it. Then ownership and management did an amazing thing…

They invested in the team. They decided to try to win and made some moves that showed they cared.

Trading deadline moves aren’t always successful. In fact, they made a trade for a guy name Carlos Gomez, then backed out of it. Gomez eventually got traded to the Astros, where he’s been terrible. The Mets made another move to Yeonis Cespedes and caught fire. August was magic. September not quite as magic, but still great.

Yeonis Cespedes.

And then, yesterday, 2007 died. Nine years of frustration died.

I still have some challenging things to deal with, but yesterday, for a day, things were amazing. I don’t have the baseball package this year, so I had to follow a pitch-by-pitch simulation on MLB.com until the ninth inning, when the MLB Network carried updates. Jeurys Familia–the guy who stepped in when the previous closer was suspended for performance-enhancing drugs–struck out Jay Bruce–a guy the Mets almost traded for instead of Cespedes–and nine years and two chokes vanished.

It was 7-2 in the top of the ninth when David Wright came up with two runners on. Wright is the only guy left who was on that 2006 team. His career was in jeopardy earlier this year because of a back injury. His potential career end seemed to be indicative of the Mets’ futility. His home run, the one that the put the game out of reach, was the moment when what happened became real.

Mets captain David Wright celebrates.

This year has been awful. And it’s foolish that 25 guys playing a game 1100 miles away, guys who don’t know me and wouldn’t think of me twice if they did–it’s foolish that their ability to play a child’s game means something to me. And yet it does. It made my day. It showed that change happens and that amazing things are possible.

Why go through all that crap? Why put yourself through all that angst over a stupid baseball team?

This is why.

This morning, I’ll get out the overpriced blue shirt with orange script on the front and I’ll wear it proudly.

Tomorrow may suck, but for today, no matter what, I’ll walk with a bit of spring in my step.

 


Right doesn’t make might

In response to the whole gay-marriage debate, a lot of people steadfastly oppose marriage for them gays. Gays and lesbians are them, the enemy, a group of people who don’t quite measure up. Because their understanding of what is right is being tipped over, the steadfastly-against people are pushing back. Their order of things is being upset and they don’t like the change.

Those people are bigots and schmucks and haters.

And the simple truth is, if you go back enough years, those people are me. I grew up in rural upstate New York. I was about as religious as Sam Malone, but I knew the gays were wrong. In fact, you didn’t even have to be gay to get your ass kicked. If you were due for an ass-kicking, people called you gay and used that as justification for said kicking.

St. Sammy the Babehound

I was wrong. Over the years, my viewpoint has changed. And now, my view is that Jesus died for the gays, too and it’s my job to do my best to love them just as I would love everyone else–even fans of New York City’s lesser baseball team. (I fail frequently on this point.)

So when I hear someone else railing against gays and I condemn that person for being a backward-ass schmuck, I’m condemning myself. I used to be that backward-ass schmuck. I still am in some ways.

The truth of the matter is that everyone is on a journey. Everyone is moving from one set of beliefs to another. If I believe your beliefs are wrong, I get to do that–everyone does. You have to. But then what?

If you’re wrong, then I’m right, right? And if I’m right, end of story. Right?

Well, not exactly. What if I’m not right? What if neither of us is right? What if someone else is right? What if there is no right on this particular issue? What if the only stands is the least-wrong approach?

And, even if I am right, is that all there is? Is humanity best serviced by my doing the I’m-right dance and rubbing your nose in your overwhelming stupid wrongness?

Or is there something else I can do? Can I look beyond your overwhelming wrongness to understand why you’re wrong (wrong equaling “thinks different from me”)? Can I take an approach that goes beyond “I’m right, you’re wrong this is why I sing this song”? Can I engage you in dialog to make understand better and see person another right way or even another righter way? Or are we best served by just accepting that people can disagree and it doesn’t make them horrible.

I spent far to much of my life thinking that being right was the ultimate moral high ground. Right makes might. Except it doesn’t. I spent far too much of my life being dead right. Separated by my overwhelming rightness.

Maybe we could use fewer people who are right and more people who reach beyond that and listen and care about the people who are wrong.

And maybe I’m the first person who needs to read this on a daily basis.


Cranky

I don’t know why, but I’m super cranky today. Maybe I had cranky-making dreams. Maybe it’s the way Windows 10 isn’t getting along with my laptop (Tip for everyone reading–go to the manufacturer’s website before you upgrade your OS and make sure your laptop is covered. Even if it was a midline laptop when you bought it three years ago.)

For the record, cranky is okay. We’re people, not robots. We’re not going to be shouting for glory every day of our existence.

It’s what you do with cranky.

Today, someplace in Saudi Arabia, a 21-year-old man is going to be beheaded and crucified for protesting against the government and possessing an illegal firearm (a charge he denies). That’s right. They’re going to behead him and then they’re going to crucify him as a warning to others, presumably.

I don’t include that because it makes me an awful human being for bring cranky. I include it as a cautionary tale about crankiness.

To be fair, in Saudi Arabia, we’re talking about institutional crankiness. This guy wasn’t tortured and isn’t being executed because someone had a bad day and let it spill over. Executions like this are what happens when we fail ultimately as human beings–the ultimate in crankiness.

I can’t behead someone or literally crucify them, but I can contribute to the circle of screaming. I get cranky then someone else is cranky to me and I figure, hey, I’m cranky and respond with proportional fire power. And then we’re both cranky. And then we cranky two friends and they cranky two friends and so on and so on and so on. Like the shampoo commercial, only with yelling.

So, today, I will try to do my best to break the circle. No promises, but that’s the plan. I won’t save the guy’s life in Saudi Arabia, but it’s what I can do today.

And if I screw it up, then I have a fresh day tomorrow to try again.

Not that it’s okay to be cranky today, but I’m less likely to be cranky tomorrow, if I stop beating myself up about it.


Resilience in the age of change

We’re in a time of change. The pace of change now is rapidly increasing, allowing us to move faster and do more. And the people who pay us haven’t missed this. It’s generally accepted that we need to do more in less time with less help than ever before. Email, texting, and cell phones make work always just a mention away. And that’s before the crap that rains down sometimes outside of work.

If you pay attention to the news, the next threat, be it ebola, radical Islam, rising oceans, obesity, or the Republicans/Democrats, will certainly doom us all.

And that’s before each person’s specific crap happens. Even the Bible was clear on the fact that things can be tough. No less than Jesus said that in this life we will know suckiocity (John 16:33 [New Revised Chris Edition]).

The big challenge is how to wade through the rising tide of crap and still manage to have a soul and a life worth living. I’m no expert, but the following things have made it easier for me. As in all things, your mileage may vary and I may be full of crap.

  • Realize you aren’t alone. No matter what you’re going through, someone else is probably going through the same thing. They could be as close as the next desk, or as far away as the other side of an internet connection in another country. Find them. If nothing else, you’ll understand you aren’t the only one.
  • Realize your trouble can help someone else. If there’s someone going through that you are, you can help them through. Your experiences, having gone through it, can help someone just starting. Make it about someone other than you.
  • Understand your track record. The majority of us aren’t useless losers. We’ve all accomplished things. We’ve all, every single one of us, been successful at something. Seek out that track record. Lean on it. If you don’t feel like you’re that successful person any more, then think about what they would do and do that. Understanding you aren’t a failure allows you to…
  • Have faith that it will get better. This is a hard one. Not everything gets better, depending on how you measure. But there’s always something after the thing that ends badly. Even death. Even if that something is nothingness for you, it’s better than some of the things that can precede it. Without the faith that something better is in store, it’s unbearably hard to get through.
  • Believe in something bigger than yourself. Earlier this year, when health and work were playing Whack-A-Mole with me (I was the mole), two things got me through. There was one other person on the project I couldn’t leave, and my family was there for when this got done. A lot of days, that was the only thing that got me out of bed. It was enough. As time progressed, a third thing became important: God. I grew to believe he wouldn’t abandon me, though sometimes I wondered. To quote the great Shepherd Book from Serenity: I don’t care what you believe in, just believe in it.

  • Just do it. Some days, you have to just do it because you’re going to do it. Sometimes it comes down refusing to give in, as trite as that may sound. This one is tricky because it doesn’t work for very long. Not without the other things.

  • Understand there are no style points. Winning is winning. Sometimes surviving is winning. Don’t expect to be elegant and graceful for everything. Do your best and be kind to yourself when your best is less than you want.

 


Why purity is a killer…

 

Purity sucks.

I’ll just say it. Purity sucks.

We’re awash in purity in the world today. You have to be a pure Democrat/Republican/Christian/Muslim/Mets fan/insert your description here. Variation from the norm is viewed as traitorous or worse. You’re a RINO, DINO, Cafeteria Christian, infidel, not a true New Yorker, or whatever.

Early in the year, when Mets ownership was trotting out excuses for not making moves, a Facebook friend (actually, the spouse or son of a Facebook friend), went ballistic on me for daring to say that Mets ownership wasn’t serious about winning. A true Mets fan would ride it out and support his team without question, win or lose. As someone who’s spent far too many Octobers thinking more about the Yankees than the Mets, I disagree. I want my team to win and I’ll call them on it when they don’t try.

The same holds with politics or religion. Two cases in point:

  • Kim Davis. She’s wrong. Period. She swore an oath (something you aren’t supposed to do, according to Scripture, by the way) to uphold the Constitution. Then, she said, “Nope. God’s law trumps the Constitution.” Aside from the issues of hypocrisy–defending the sanctity of marriage while you’ve been divorced multiple times–putting God’s law above the Constitution could ultimately find God’s laws outlawed in favor of a different God, one with a different cultural origin.
  • Hillary Clinton’s emails. It may be true that Hillary Clinton broke nary a law in conducting important national business from her own email server. Jeb Bush may have done the same thing while he was governor of Florida. The content of the emails may have been classified after they were sent. Even if all of that is true, it doesn’t matter. If I were employed in a lesser position at the State Department and I were passing classified materials on my own mail server, I would justifiably be fired. And when you’re Secretary of State, you’re going to get enough people trying to reduce your stature without feeding them ammunition. It’s a bad idea that speaks of extraordinarily poor judgement, regardless of the letter after her name.

Yet, in both cases, the pure, the true believers, see only their side–more correctly, their side’s side. And then they rally to it because, you know, my side is right.

The Internet allows us a boutique existence, where otherwise intelligent people can start with what they think, then find sources that agree with that and base their viewpoints and arguments around that information. When conservatives do it, that’s rightly derided as “taking their orders from Rush.” Dittohead often isn’t a term of endearment.

But conservatives aren’t alone.

Rule number 1 is that my side is right. When rule number 1 is threatened, everything is re-arranged so that rule number 1 isn’t threatened any more.

That’s fine when you’re rooting for a baseball team. It’s not great when you’re trying to figure out how to move the country forward.


Right now is about what you can do today

I can still do a vinyasa. The real deal. Start in plank, go to chaturunga, maybe throw in a push up every now and then, then go to upward dog. No knees on the matt. No cobra pose. The real deal for me (your mileage may vary and that’s perfectly okay).

Except mine was, you know, manly

I used to be able to do that as many times as Tony Horton ordered. No more. Six months from now, maybe I won’t be able to even do one. Or maybe I’ll do than I can now.

Right now, six months from now’s not important. Right now is about what I can do today. I came, I did the yoga. I feel good.

Right now is about what I can do today. It’s about me. Not about what that guy buzzing down the running trail did. It’s not about what the woman on her way into Orange Theory did.

I could have sat and felt sorry for myself for not being able to do those things, but I did what I could do. Some people can do a lot more. Some people struggle to get out of bed. But they aren’t helped and I’m not helped if I worry about what they can or can’t do.

Right now is about what I can do today. I can’t run 17 miles any more. I can’t pump out a dozen pull ups. I can’t do the mother of all our movements, jump knee tucks. I can’t do whatever torture the evil Shaun T has in mind. So what?

Jump knee tuck. The mother…

I could do yoga and I did it, to the best of my ability. You can’t do better than your best.

Life ebbs and flows. Sometimes you’ll find yourself blowing away what you’ve done before. Some days it’s a major victory just to get out of bed.

Whatever the limits are, that’s what they are. Done. End of story.

Wishing they were different, comparing your limits to what you did last year or to what others can do, that’s grounds for defeat.

Right now is about what you can do today.

Take care of today today and when tomorrow comes, worry about what you can do then.


The moment

A contestant on Jeopardy answered the Final Jeopardy question this week “What is the love ballad of Turd Ferguson?” If you don’t know the answer and any guess will be wrong, you might as well go for the laugh.

Turd Ferguson is a reference to a Saturday Night Live Celebrity Jeopardy skit in which Burt Reynolds (played perfectly by Norm McDonald) tells Alex Trebek to call him Turd Ferguson because “It’s a funny name.”

As funny Final Jeopardy questions go, nothing will match “Who are three people who’ve never been in my kitchen?” But it was funny.

So I got a laugh because someone who had no chance at getting a question on a game show right decided to have some fun. And it made the day a little better.

There’s always trouble in life. It goes with the job description. Only the dead have seen the end of crap that ruins your day.

So why not take the laugh where it’s there? Why not take joy at collecting things to send overseas to your daughter? Why not look at your little dog curled up in a circle and let it melt your heart just a little? Why not cut up a touch on a call that’s just like any other call on any other day, just so people smile once or twice?

It’s pretty neat not to have to stop to pay your toll any more, but you can’t pay for the person behind you any more. What a cool way to just make the next person’s day that much better!

So here’s a challenge…find something today that makes you happy. Maybe it’s the annual Pumpkin Spice Latte invasion. Maybe it’s the fact that your team won last night and its magic number gives you opportunity to think of your second-favorite player.

Maybe it’s your dog or your garden or the way your wife looks at you when you say something she didn’t expect. (No, not that way, the good way.) Maybe it’s the sunset or the smell of the cinnamon brooms at the supermarket. Maybe it’s a child’s soft breath on your neck as he sleeps, head resting on your shoulder.

The problems in Syria and the freaking check book and the unmanageable problem at work will all be there tomorrow or when the moment’s over.

It’s not selfish to take the moment. It’s selfless. As a friend used to tell me, car can’t run without gas. Give yourself gas. (See, I was making a joke in the moment there. Of course the fact that I had to point that out probably invalidated the joke…)

You can’t be there for others if there’s nothing there of yourself.


“And I was thankful”

I think it was the disgraced Bill Cosby whose routine said that he walked five miles to school, barefoot, in the snow. Uphill. Both ways. And he was thankful.

I’ve relayed before that when I was a kid, Little House on the Prairie was on and they had a Christmas episode. Times were tight at the Ingalls family home, so all the kids got for Christmas was like a stick and a rock and a small piece of hard candy that Charles found under the cushion in the couch or something. And they were thankful.

Little House on the Prairie, a delightful show with an uplifting message. I hated it.

My  dad loved telling us that story. I hated it. A stick and a rock and a nasty old piece of candy suck. I’ll go on the record to say that I will never be thankful for a stick and a rock and a nasty old piece of candy.

But that’s not the point anyway. No sane person is going to be thankful for bad things.

The trick is accommodate those things, allow for them, and still to be thankful. If you want me to do that, that’s another story.

Even God says that’s stuff’s gonna suck sometimes. “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.” Duh. But a separate section, one I read this morning, says “Always be thankful.”

It doesn’t say, “Hey be thankful for every bad thing.” It says to always be thankful.

Bad things have been legion this year, and yet here I am, at least for the moment, able to use my high-speed Internet to write a message that maybe 25 or 30 people will read, regardless of location. I’m in a climate controlled house instead of weathering the Florida summer as God intended it to feel. I’m drinking coffee. And I still have my health, more or less.

Ahhh.

So it’s okay, when you walk in the valley of the shadow of awful, to rant about the injustice of it all. It is injust. But without taking stock of the things around you that make life worthwhile, there’s no balance. And those things exist. Your friends and family. Your dog–even if he etches the word kill in the closet door. The fact that Castle has another year to go.

Written by Max, or as we like to call him “Cujo.”

You can’t get there, wherever there is, without looking at those things, too.

 


Deadspin thinks the Republican debate means we should dissolve the US

Deadspin is a hip, snarky, self-aware website written in blog format, a kind of Buzzfeed for sports. Like any self-important sports website (cough, worldwide leader), it also dabbles in politics. And like many hip, snarky, self-aware websites, its worldview skews proudly and self-righteously left.

And that’s okay. There’s a place for hip, snarky, and self-away on my computer.

Until today.

Today, in response to what his Deadspin article called “the f__ing clown show” called the Republican debate, writer Albert Burneko, wrote this flaming pile (for reasons that will soon be apparent, I’m not linking to it):

Any polity that can produce such an outcome should be abolished. Dissolve the United States, replacing it with a set of city-states, villages, and thinly-peopled hinterlands; let every public that wants one have their own Carly Fiorina or Bobby Jindal, and let everyone else go about their business.

To be fair, the relationship between some of the candidates–Mike Huckabee comes to mind–and lucidity can seem coincidental at best. And maybe Deadspin was engaging in hyperbole to make a point (Republicans are so bad that any country that allows them doesn’t deserve to exist?). But the article was headlined Dissolve the United States and it ended the way it ended.

It’s become fashionable among the hip, snarky, self-aware left to wield a very broad brush. And they aren’t alone in that. Nor are they alone in the race to perceived political (that is, ethical) purity.

But the overreach exceeds hyperbole.

The United States is the place where a guy named Albert Burneko write that drivel without mysteriously vanishing. The United States, for all its faults and flaws, has had more black chief executives than many of the countries Mr. Burneko probably idolizes. The United States, for all of the people Mr. Burneko dislikes, has had a stunning social turnabout when it comes to acceptance of gays and lesbians in a relatively short time period.

In a free country, in a country where you can write what you like and without being tortured to death, people get to follow Mike Huckabee. They get to say “Hey, maybe it’s not a good idea to give away control of our borders.” They even get to say, “I think we should make law based on a couple verses in Leviticus and one or two in the New Testament.”

Freedom means that people get to say, and vote for, things Mr Burneko thinks are backward and ignorant.

And he get to write things that many other people think are backward and ignorant.

Any country that allows that doesn’t need to be dissolved, it needs to be valued and refined. And that means we get to listen to people like Donald Trump, Mike Huckabee, and even Albert Burneko.


In defense of not defending political correctness

This morning, after having completed yoga, I posted this on Facebook:

There are stories out there, primarily coming from Catholics that say yoga is Satanic, which is silly. One said that vinyasas come from Satan. THAT, I believe.

The references about Catholics and yoga wasn’t gratuitous. The Vatican’s chief exorcist, Father Gabriele Amorth, said that practicing yoga is “satanic; it leads to evil just like reading Harry Potter.” An priest in Northern Ireland said that people practicing yoga may be led into the “Kingdom of darkness.”

So my statement, which is really a set-up for a joke about vinyasas–low push-ups, stopping about an inch from the ground, moving into an upward-facing dog. And it offended someone, who mistook what I wrote for an attack on her religious beliefs. She was told that yoga is to be avoided because of its links to Buddhism and viewed my statement as an attack against her beliefs.

Evil! Pure and simple!

I pointed out that I respected her right to disagree with me, but I didn’t attack Catholicism, just the idea that yoga is Satanic. That’s not the same as saying “avoid it because it’s Buddhist.” I also noted that yoga allows me to contemplate God, which I did while butchering every move except the one where you lie still like a dead guy.

When you do yoga, Satan celebrates.

An opinion piece in today’s Washington Post that says pushing back against political correctness is both wrong and rude. The article concentrates on transgendered people and the current trend to start using Mx. in place of Mr., Mrs., and Ms.  But it also says that attempts to ban Huckleberry Finn because of a specific racial slur are silly.

The articles holds up The Economist‘s style guide, which recommends avoiding gratuitous offense when possible. On its face, that seems like a sane approach, a slightly more graceful statement of what my style guide says (Don’t be a schmuck.).

The problem comes with the definition of gratuitous. Having someone feel like I demeaned her faith–knowing that and not removing my statement–could be considered as gratuitous. Knowing it’s possible that I could offend someone if I made that joke again, let’s say in this blog post, could certainly be considered gratuitous.

For some, the use of words like bitch and thug is gratuitous. Bitch is a substitute word for pejorative for women, this one referencing anatomy; thug is nothing more than an acceptable replacement for the n-word. So the next word used in the same context as bitch or thug is also offensive. The issue isn’t with the word, but the concept.

I know women for whom bitch is a third-rail word. I don’t use that with them. But I won’t remove it from my vocabulary. For one thing, it works (in the right circumstances). For another, eliminating it shoots at least three perfectly good songs to hell. (Also, Robert B. Parker used thug in an appropriate non-racist way in Spenser novels for almost 35 years.)

Spenser and Hawk: recipients of advanced degrees in thuggery

The Post article would suggest that those defenses are illegitimate. Language changes. And the fact that Mick Jagger, Meredith Brooks, Elton John, and Parker used the words in the past, does not mean those words or, by extension, those works, are justified today.

Because I know some people offended by those words, using them is arguably gratuitous.

So it comes down to where you draw the line.

Vocal defenders of political correctness are morally certain. The act of someone being offended makes the expression absolutely wrong regardless of context or intent. End of story.

In other contexts, that’s fundamentalism, a view that is always certain but often wrong. It’s a risky approach to trust control of culture to fundamentalists of any type.