Category Archives: sports

I lied.

Actually, it wasn’t a lie. I meant it when I said it. No more politics. But in what passes for politics today, if you disagree with someone and they play Powerball and the numbers don’t hit, they lied on their Powerball ticket.

Hi, my name is Chris and I’m a liar.

I also voted for Gary Johnson. The very first post-mortem I saw Wednesday morning–the very, very first–said that this election was my fault because I took a vote that should’ve been Secretary Clinton’s away from her.

Ha! Ha! Very funny! I suppose that's some kind of Trump joke. (Yeah, actually it is.)

Ha! Ha! Very funny! I suppose that’s some kind of Trump joke. (Yeah, actually it is.)

Except I was never going to vote for Secretary Clinton. Not because of hated or misogyny or homophobia or Islamophobia. Not because I’m a moron. Because I disagree with her policies.

It’s a fact that you can disagree with someone without hating them for no reason other than their skin color or ability to make babies. Even if you’re a white Christian male.

I’ve covered this before, but I believe that abortion will never go away because of laws, but it should be safe and rare. I know, I might as well be a villain in a Margaret Atwood novel. Or, you know, former President Bill Clinton, that reactionary bastard.

Check it. When I wear this outfit and crop the picture just right, I look like the captain of the Enterprise

Check it. When I wear this outfit and crop the picture just right, I look like the captain of the Enterprise

I believe in immigration control. If Mexico can control its southern border, so should we. We should also find a workable solution to make sure migrant farm workers are treated better and that their children have better educational opportunities, given the transitory nature of their lives.

I believe in the First Amendment. That means this is not a Christian nation. It’s a free nation. If you want to practice Catholicism, Methodism, Islam, Judaism, atheism, or any other ism, this is your place. You can do what you want, but you can’t compel me. I also believe there are far bigger things to get worked up about than a paper coffee cup (maybe like the taste of the crap coffee inside it, for one thing).

That said, I also believe that there are a lot of people using a specific religion to convince people to kill other people who aren’t part of that religion.

I believe in the Washington Redskins, the Cleveland Indians, and the Atlanta Braves. I believe that Colin Kaepernick can do whatever the hell he wants during the anthem and that NFL fans can boo him for it, if they choose. I believe if Roger Goodell were competent, he’d have applied the Goodell rule (if one person is offended, we have to have the conversation…) to Ray Rice before he was forced to.

I believe it’s an abomination to pay taxes so we can entice companies to move jobs overseas. I believe no company should be too big to fail. I believe in care for veterans and that Congress should follow the same laws we do.

I believe that ideally, health care should exist in a free market and that was we had before the ACA wasn’t that. That said, if you want to see amazing innovation and economic growth, find a way to untie health care from jobs with big companies.

While I believe that the First Amendment guarantees religious freedom, but that Jesus had some pretty good ideas about how to treat people, even if they wear a Trump hat or post on Democratic Underground.

I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three da…oops, wrong list of beliefs.

And I belive that most people can live with, if not agree with most of those beliefs. That we seem to be driven apart in spite of the fact that most of us, when we aren’t holding up political signs, are decent, rational people, makes me wonder about the people doing the dividing.

So I’m a liar. And probably I’m a hypocrite. And a million other crappy things.

So be it.

I checked with your spouse and you aren’t much better.

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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.

 


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.


On being The Goat

Little roller up along first…behind the bag! It gets through Buckner! Here comes Knight and the Mets win it!

As a Mets fan, those words are magic for me. That’s the moment when another year of disappointment magically turned to victory. That’s the moment when the number 1986 took on a special meaning to me. It’s a moment about undeserved second chances and victory. It’s special enough that I didn’t have to Google Vin Scully’s call (above).

For a Red Sox fan, that’s the moment Bill Buckner got the same middle name as Bucky Dent and Aaron Boone and Denny Galehouse. It’s the same middle name England’s Laura Bassett may have today across the pond.

You see, Laura Bassett scored a goal in the last minute to lead Japan to a 2-1 win over England in the World Cup semi-final. Laura Bassett plays for England. She was trying to kick a ball out of bound and inadvertently kicked it into her own goal. In other words, she essentially lost the match for England. That’s what people will remember. Just like Bill Buckner’s error. She’s (drum roll) The Goat.

What they won’t remember is that England had a lot of opportunities they didn’t capitalize on–resulting in the 1-1 score late in the match. What they won’t remember is that Bassett didn’t put the ball in a position where it was appropriate to try to kick it out of bounds. What they won’t remember is that Bassett was part of a team that is one of the top four in the world.

They won’t remember the thousands of hours she spent becoming one of the best soccer players in the world. Or the victories she helped manufacture to put England into a position to be playing to advance to the World Cup final. They won’t remember Bassett being hugged by a teammate after the loss.

They’ll just remember the loss.

Sports is cruel. It’s a way for everyday people like you and me to be part of a bigger cause. The Wilpons aren’t just cheap for not putting the Mets in position to win, they’re evil and stupid and horrible. When Walter O’Malley moved the Dodgers to LA, he was hated as much as Hitler and Stalin.

Bill Buckner’s error was 29 years and three World Championships ago and Red Sox fans of a certain age still treat his name as a curse word.

It’s understandable. But it’s also unfair.

I’ve never blown something quite this big, but I have blown things. I’ve let people down in key situations. I’ve been inconsolable because of things I’ve messed up. I’ve wanted to crawl into a hole and pull the dirt down over me.

And if you’re honest about it, so have you.

Sports demands that we remember goats as goats. Laura Bassett basically allowed Japan to advance to the final. But there’s no way you can look at the picture of Buckner leaving the field alone or Bassett buried in her grief without feeling some level of empathy.


Deflategate exposes NFL’s flaws, but not how you think

Deflategate! A four-game suspension! Cheating! Conflict of interest! Brady! Goodell! Super Bowl! Cheating! CHEATING! CHEATING!

As the NFL gears up for its 96th season, this latest scandal seems to be the dark cloud it can’t run away from. To hear the chattering classes talk (and talk and talk) this is the biggest championship scandal since the 1919 Black Sox took money (or not) to throw the World Series and make the world safe for Kevin Costner to make baseball movies.

Pardon me, but what a joke.

That anyone considers whether underinflated footballs even close to the NFL’s biggest problem is proof that the league has far bigger problems.

An unscientific poll of my son’s fathers indicates that were he younger and wanted to play football, 100% of those polled would be against the idea. It’s not that I think that the stronger women get, the more men love football. It’s because of Mike Webster and Dave Duerson and Tony Dorsett and Junior Seau and Joe Namath and Andre Waters and Ray Easterling and the list goes on. Most of these guys played football in the 1970s and 1980s and are now either dead or facing serious health issues as a result of the game’s effects.

Hall of Fame center Mike Webster suffered the equivalent of 25,000 car crashes from playing football.

That’s back when players weren’t roughly the size of Delaware and didn’t run the way a slow wide receiver ran back in the day. Now they’re bigger and faster and one has to wonder whether the toll will be larger when today’s players are three or four decades down the road.

My son’s father isn’t the only one who would question playing.

Then there’s the domestic violence angle. To be sure, football doesn’t have a corner on this market. Ask any number of wives and girlfriends of professional baseball, hockey, and basketball players. Ask Hope Solo’s family. (Her husband, by the way, is former NFL tight end Jerramy Stephens, who was arrested in 2012 for allegedly assaulting Solo. The charges were dropped.)

But, for all the other commissioners’ flaws, and they are legion, none of them handled their domestic violence cases as poorly as Commissioner Goodell handled the Ray Rice issue. When you add Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy, all within the same general news cycle, it’s not good for the league. Especially not considering the checkered innuendo-filled past of recent top draft pick Jameis Winston.

You could call Aaron Hernandez, recently found guilty of the first-degree murder of Odin Lloyd, an anomaly. After all, it’s one NFL player. It’s not an ongoing pattern for the league, but it’s still there.

To be fair, all of these issues have received media coverage. But the Deflategate “scandal” seems to be covered more extensively.

In the grand scheme, it doesn’t matter very much whether Tom Brady knew about the footballs or shared his emails as requested by the league. Ask Junior Seau’s family. Ask Odin Lloyd’s family. Ask Janay Rice.

Tom Brady is the least of the NFL’s problems.


Deflategate’s difficult double standards

It’s tempting (and true) to say that in the eyes of the NFL, deflating footballs is twice as big a deal as beating the hell out of a woman in an elevator. (Brady’s getting a four-game suspension; Ray Rice infamously got two games.) But it’s also problematic on a number of fronts.

First, according to the NFL “it is more probable than not that Tom Brady … was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities … involving the release of air from Patriots game balls.” More probable than not that Tom Brady was at least generally aware? He also might have had mean thoughts about the Indianapolis Colts defensive backs. What’s the penalty for that?

If Brady was possibly at least generally aware that the footballs were being tampered with, then what about his center? His receivers? His running backs? Bill Belichick? Patriots owner Robert Craft? Isn’t it possible they were at least generally aware?

What about the writers who cover the Patriots? Is it more probable than not that they were at least generally aware? Kind of like how almost every baseball writer of the late 90s was at least generally aware that baseball players were juicing? (Fairly likely, since Thomas Boswell initially brought the whole thing up ten years earlier.)

Washington Post baseball writer Thomas Boswell

Also, there were at least 649 other baseball players each year who were at least generally aware that Gaylord Perry was doctoring baseballs. Just saying.

Comparing Brady’s initial penalty to Ray Rice’s is also a problem. Tinkering with footballs is as least twice as big a deal as a professional athlete beating the hell out of his girlfriend, apparently.

Except that Rice eventually received a far greater penalty and it’s more probable than not that Brady’s will be at least generally appealed and reduced.

The record of the NFL and other sports leagues (including women’s soccer–I’m talking about you, Hope Solo) has been abysmal in that regard. That said, the comparison can be taken too far. If you compare Brady to Ray Rice, it’s also tempting to say that Pete Rose’s gambling offenses are infinitely worse in the eyes of Major League Baseball than, say Bobby Cox’s alleged spousal abuse or Chuck Knoblauch’s domestic assault arrest.

And that’s where the problem comes. I don’t agree with the NFL’s assessment of Brady. If they don’t want a situation where the balls can be deflated, they need better controls. (His supposed offense is like suspending Perry’s catchers for being at least generally aware that he applied seventeen tons of Vaseline to baseballs over his career.)

That said, Pete Rose (1) knowingly violated a well-known Major League Baseball rule that’s (2) posted in every clubhouse in the game because (3) when you bet on your team in some games, you’re effectively betting against them in others.

Sports leagues should suspend their players for domestic abuse. But they also need to ability to punish players (and others) aggressively for threatening the integrity of the game. It’s not about justice, or some time-honored tradition of fair play (which, honestly, doesn’t exist in any professional league). It’s about keeping the league and the game viable.

When you come down to it, that’s what all the suspensions are about.


My worthless baseball picks

It is opening day, the day when everyone up north huddles inside and waits for the weather to catch up to the sports calendar. The day baseball becomes available pretty much every day from now until Halloween. And the day I embarrass myself with baseball picks pretty much guaranteed not to be right.

National League East
1. Washington Nationals
2. Miami Marlins
3. Atlanta Braves
4. NY Mets
5. Philadelphia Phillies

National League Central
1. St. Louis Cardinals
2. Pittsburgh Pirates
3. Chicago Cubs
4. Milwaukee Brewers
5. Cincinnati Reds

National League West
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2. San Francisco Giants
3. San Diego Padres
4. Arizona Diamondbacks
5. Colorado Rockies

American League East
1. Boston Red Sox
2. Baltimore Orioles
3. Toronto Blue Jays
4. Tampa Bay Rays
5. NY Yankees

American League Central
1. Cleveland Indians
2. Detroit Tigers
3. Chicago White Sox
4. Kansas City Royals
5. Minnesota Twins

American League West
1. Los Angeles Angels
2. Seattle Mariners
3. Houston Astros
4. Oakland Athletics
5. Texas Rangers

Wildcards
NL: Marlins, Pirates
AL: Orioles, Mariners

League Champions
Dodgers over Nationals
Red Sox over Indians

World Series
Dodgers 4, Red Sox 3

MVP
NL: Giancarlo Stanton
AL: Mike Trout

Cy Young
NL: Stephen Strasburg
AL: David Price

Surprise stories
1. Mets break poorly from the gate, Terry Collins is not fired. The Mets hold a fire sale in July, but the Wilpons still don’t sell.

2. The Astros will hang around .500 much of the year.

3. The Padres won’t mesh well and will be worse than people think.

4. Pete Rose will be re-instated just before the All-Star game.

5. The Phillies will get less than they want for Cole Hamels.

6. The Cubs stadium problems will affect the team’s play.

7. Major League Baseball will sweeten the deal and convince St. Petersburg to allow the Rays to look for a home in Hillsborough County.

8. Rumors will start that the Athletics or Rays may relocate to Montreal.

9. The National League will adopt the designated hitter starting in 2017 as part of the new collective bargaining agreement.

10. After the Dodgers win the World Series, Vin Scully announces his retirement.