Because life is a series of edits

Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

500

In Books, Calling, Family, Internet, Places, Places & Spaces, Seminary, Sports on April 21, 2009 at 11:09 am

If anybody's still reading, you know I've been dragging my feet a bit on this, my 500th post here at Second Drafts. The reason is partly due to the fact that I haven't had much to write about (or time to write about it), and partly because I've been waiting for just the right topic to inspire me for this post's supposed significance.

Significance, however, is overrated. So, to bring some closure (at least for now), I thought I'd give you a peek into what I'll be doing over the next four months and simply call it a post. Of course, I may throw a picture or thought up here every now and then just to surprise folks, but for now, consider this the official start of my blogging sabbatical.

In the meantime, here's what I plan to be doing:

May
1-3: First official Dunham family camping trip of the season
8-10: Meet with potential ThirtySomewhere publishers in Colorado Springs
14-15: Covenant Seminary baccalaureate/graduation
23: Westminster Christian Academy graduation
29: School's out for summer

June
ThirtySomewhere writing/editing
Covenant Seminary Bookstore (one day a week)
5-7: Clayton Community Theatre's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
12-14: Clayton Community Theatre's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
15-27: Westminster Christian Academy Summer Seminar in South Dakota
29: St. Louis Cardinals game

July
ThirtySomewhere writing/editing
Covenant Seminary Bookstore (one day a week)
19-25: Dunham family trip to Florida
27: St. Louis Cardinals game

August
ThirtySomewhere writing/editing
Covenant Seminary Bookstore (one day a week)
10: St. Louis Cardinals game
13: Westminster Christian Academy first day of school
31: ThirtySomewhere manuscript to publisher

In terms of the work, I tend to write best in the early morning, so when I'm not traveling or working the bookstore, my daily schedule will involve getting up at 4:30 or 5 a.m., writing for 3-4 hours, and then editing/revising a couple hours that afternoon. My goal will be 1500-2000 solid words (about 4-5 pages, double-spaced) per day. If I can put together 100-125 good pages and edit them together with roughly the same number from Doug by end of summer, we'll be in great shape.

So, stay tuned/subscribed for the occasional pic or progress report, but any prayers and general words of encouragement for the project are greatly appreciated.

Have a great summer.

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Saturday Morning Summary

In Education, Family, Places, Places & Spaces, Sports on March 14, 2009 at 8:10 am
Here's the latest:
  • I finished up the third quarter of school at WCA on Wednesday by doing a six-hour grading blitz all day on Thursday, then meeting with dozens of parents Thursday night and Friday morning for parent/teacher conferences. Apart from the hassle of getting ready, I enjoy talking with parents – I get to be pastor, counselor, and friend during the time. Spring Break in one more week!
  • The girls and I had a really good bike ride yesterday afternoon, riding from Maplewood all the way to The Hill and back. Though a bit chilly, the girls did great, though I'm probably not going to take them out on a busy Friday afternoon again (too much traffic). I wish we had some trails around here (or a bike rack for one of our vehicles to be able to drive to some).
  • I'm working the bookstore all day today (that is, 9:30-2:30) – the first Saturday shift I've worked all year. I'm bringing two administrative assistants (a.k.a. "Frick and Frack") with me, so I'll at least have some entertainment if things are slow. 
  • Speaking of books, I'm reading too many right now (roughly eight). I'm also having problems staying awake between chapters. I hate when that happens.
  • Somehow, I've fallen behind in my online seminary studies again. I just don't have the time/really enjoy sitting and listening to recorded lectures from five years ago, especially on this particular topic. My teaching and learning class is going a little better, but I've got some work (read, write a case study, etc.) to do before class Tuesday night.
  • Last night, I watched part of the Mizzou/Oklahoma State game from the Big XII tournament. Mizzou apparently won (I went to bed), and looks to have a pretty easy path to winning the tournament against Baylor as Kansas and Oklahoma were upset earlier on. But don't count on them just yet: historically speaking (and I'm talking decades here), the better Mizzou's chances tend to be, the worst they do. And yes, you can quote me.
  • Speaking of sports, there's a great cover story on Albert Pujols in Sports Illustrated this week. Sounds like Albert got my email from a month ago…or not.
  • For those who haven't figured it out yet, the new Facebook design is actually Twitter with a blue paint job. I still don't get the fascination.
Have a good Saturday, folks.

A Letter to Albert Pujols

In Sports on February 11, 2009 at 6:27 am

Dear Albert,

I'm sure you've heard the news about Alex Rodriquez admitting to using illegal substances to enhance his baseball performance. While I've never been much of an A-Rod fan, I am a fan of yours…but I confess I'm nervous.

I'm nervous, Albert, that you're a fraud as well – like Rodriquez…like Bonds…like McGwire. I'm nervous that your name is on a soon-to-be-released list of drug-doers, and if and when the evidence gets too overwhelming to refute, you're finally going to come out and say how sorry you are – not for what you did, but for the fact that you got caught.

And that's going to break my heart, Albert, along with millions of others who look to you as at least one – just one – player who happens to be great because he is rather than because of the drugs he does.

Which player are you, Albert? Can you say – before God and everybody – that you're honestly and truthfully the real deal? I need to know, because right now I have very little reason to care about baseball anymore. I'm sick of the business of it and of the players who will do anything for an edge.

I just want you to do your best, Albert, because your best is enough…or at least I think it has been. Has it been your best, Albert, or the drugs' best? I'm sorry I'm asking, but baseball has left me no choice.

I don't pretend to know the pressure you're under, and I don't mean to come off sounding ultimatum-ish, but if you fall, I'm done with baseball. I love the game (or the idea of what it used to be) and have always thought of you as an old-school player in a 21st-century uniform, but if you're no different from the overpaid junkies who can't hit a baseball unless they're on something, it's over, Albert. I'll never watch a game again.

Help me, El Hombre. You're my only hope.

Nervously,

Craig

Live-Blogging the Super Bowl

In Sports on February 1, 2009 at 5:09 pm

Based on absolutely nothing resembling an informed pick, I'm taking the Steelers over the Cardinals, 28-21. I'll add a few thoughts and observations throughout the evening below concerning the commercials, halftime show, and overall Super Bowl spectacle.

  • Dumbest post-game question of the evening (asked of Steeler quarterback Ben Roethlisberger): "What did you learn about yourself tonight?" Seriously?
  • The Steelers are thanking President Obama?
  • If anybody wants an example of modern day idolatry, check out how football players bow down to the Lombardi trophy. Golden calf, anyone?
  • Okay, the eTrade baby made me laugh. "Shankapotamus." Hilarious.
  • Game over. Steelers win.
  • Pittsburgh scores. With the extra point, that puts the score at 27-23 Pittsburgh. How about those prognostication abilities, eh?
  • Question: Why are the sideline television reporters always women?
  • Note to self: Avoid GoDaddy (as if I didn't know that already).
  • I can hear the "I want to thank the Lord Jesus Christ" already: Warner to Fitzgerald, touchdown. Cardinals lead 23-20. Whoa.
  • Safety for the Cardinals. 20-16, Pittsburgh.
  • Pepsuber?
  • Touchdown Arizona. It's a one-possession game at 20-14. Seven minutes to play.
  • Cardinals making a come-back? Warner starting to pick apart the pass coverage.
  • Coke Zero take-off of old Mean Joe Greene ad at least funnier than what we've been subjected to thus far. Cash4Gold ad with Ed McMahon and M.C. Hammer humorous (especially Ed's "Goodbye, old friend" line).
  • Fourth quarter. Would sure like to see Warner and company make it a game, but the penalties are killing them (91 yards worth so far).
  • More ads: Transformers (bleh); Career Builder (not bad); Heroes (the football version with Elway, et. al. wasn't bad earlier on). Liked the insects taking off with the Coke bottle (my girls liked that one, too).
  • Dumb penalty (running into the holder) against the Cardinals gives Pittsburgh the ball back with four downs on the 5-yard-line. Cardinal defense holds but Steelers score, making it 20-7 Pittsburgh.
  • First round of second half ads: Coke: Avatar; Bridgestone: Hot Item; Denny's: Thugs; Monster: Need a New Job? Did everybody just spend money on ad space instead of the ads themselves? Lame.
  • Well, I give the Boss an A- for great sound and energy; only thing I would have changed is Bruce playing less to the camera (the dialogue with Stevie seemed a little contrived, as did the stageslide into the camera). Still, a rockin' performance.
  • Listening to "Workin' on a Dream" now – first time I've heard it. Catchy, but it sounds a little too Boomer-ish for me. Now we're talkin': "Glory Days." Man, the band sounds great (Bruce, too).
  • "Born to Run" – that's more like it (albeit a shortened version). My six-year-old just told me, "Dad, you should be doing that." In another life, maybe.
  • Okay, Springsteen's on with "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out." Why start with his guitar on, but then toss it (literally) before the end of the second bar? Horns sound good.
  • Wow. Harrison's 100-yard interception return for the Steelers is not how the Cardinals wanted to end the first half. Can't believe he stayed in bounds all the way (they're now reviewing). Steelers up (at least for now), 17-7.
  • Signal's back. Not sure Pixar's next film, Up, appeals all that much to me. Cardinals intercept with two minutes to go before halftime. Bring on the Boss. 
  • Missing the current batch of commercials due to the train running by our house (for some reason, it leaves us with either a scrambled frozen picture or a black screen with a "No Signal" in a blue box). Guessing I missed nothing, or (more likely) the best ad of the evening.
  • Cardinals score, making it 10-7. Two great throws by Warner (despite almost biting it on the TD throw). Surprised by how much older Tiger Woods looks in the Gatorade commercial (guess age is catching up with him as well).
  • Beginning of second quarter. Will Ferrell in Land of the Lost? Sad. Looks like they didn't even try to tap into the 70's retro-coolness of that show from my youth. Actually laughed at Pepsi's "I'm Good" ad, but the female ten-and-under crowd are digging the Budweiser Clydesdales. Steelers up 10-0. 
  • Steelers up 3-0. So far, the "Refresh" Pepsi commercial is decent, but the Bud Light commercials have blown chunks. I never thought the "Drinkability" campaign was all that strong in the first place, but it's certainly not when they try to make it Super Bowl funny.

Summarizing on a Saturday

In Education, Politics, Seminary, Sports, Westminster on August 23, 2008 at 11:31 am

I recognize the past week has been less than impressive in terms of original content. Here’s an attempt at righting that wrong:

1. As I see it, the selection of Joe Biden as Barack Obama‘s running mate makes a lot of sense…in the short term. Biden personifies age and diplomacy more than Obama does, and his infamous tongue will serve well in swatting away John McCain‘s attacks, thereby letting Obama do what he does best in focusing on the positive. Long term, though, the Democrats are going to be stuck after eight years, as no one’s going to elect Biden because of his age, and I don’t think even Hillary will be in the picture by then (though I still wouldn’t count her out in this race – stranger things have happened).

2. If McCain chooses Mitt Romney, I think he’s done. The two don’t even like each other, and both bolster the “rich, white guy” stereotype that unfortunately marks the Republican party. Maybe this is why Romney is actually a VP possiblity – it sends a message to the conservative base that McCain really is one of them – but that’s not going to be too motivating to moderates and undecideds weary of the stereotype. Picking Romney doesn’t seem very much of a maverick move for the Maverick, but I’m not sure who else in the Republican party would be. How about Ron Paul?

3. With the Olympics finishing up tomorrow, I have mixed feelings about these Games in China. My hope is that, through all the interaction with other countries and greater exposure to democracy, something would stir in China that, down the road, would bring real change to the lives of her citizens. My fear, however, is that any such seed will be rooted out, no thanks to the softened stance of mainstream American journalists (particularly NBC, who patronizingly broadcasted the Games) and the IOC‘s UN-like oversight of the whole spectacle in general. It will be interesting to see what comes of the investigation of China’s women’s little girls’ gymnastics team, and what the world’s response will be to the verdict (if indeed any is given).

4. I register for fall classes at Covenant this coming week, and then start the following Tuesday. I wish I had a little more of a breather between my summer course and the beginning of five new hours this semester, but I don’t get to vote. If all goes well, I should finish a master’s in theological studies in May of 2009 (that’s this coming spring!) and a master’s in educational ministries in May of 2010. Neither is that far away, but it still feels like miles to go before I sleep, as these folks must similarly feel.

5. Speaking of sleep, I have an uncanny ability to get some. I swear I was asleep twenty seconds after my head hit the pillow every night this week. My co-teacher, Larry Hughes, says I must have a clear conscience; I assure him it’s just that I’m tired.

6. I really like my classes at Westminster, and boy howdy, is it ever easier doing this the second time around. Whereas the first year seemed so much like walking in the dark and trying to teach something along the way, this year would seem to be the one in which I really figure out what exactly I’m teaching and the best way to teach it. I’ve got a great schedule, some cool kids (ones I’ve had and ones I haven’t), and I’m pretty pumped about taking bigger steps this year toward being a great teacher.

7. The new header above is not final. My friend, Kent, is playing with a couple design ideas after some feedback I gave him on the one above, so I should have the final one up soon. Hang with me.

I’ve got pictures and smoke detectors to hang, a few books to finish, and some email to catch up on this weekend, so I’ll wrap it up. If you’re still around, thanks for reading.

Summer Plans

In Church, Education, Family, Friends, Places, Places & Spaces, Seminary, Sports, Young Ones on May 24, 2008 at 6:46 am

My friend, Ed, asked for a post on what summer holds. Here it is.

1. I’m one of seven Westminster teachers taking 28 high school students on Summer Seminar to South Dakota for two weeks in June. Over the course of a 12-day trip to and through the Badlands and Black Hills of South Dakota, students will explore the theme of “shalom” (restoration) through three, two-day course cores in literature, ethics, and science. The culmination of the course will be a writing project that integrates a travel journal, a guided project (literary analysis of readings, poetry, photography, etc.), and their understanding of the Christian worldview (I’m in charge of this “integration” part). Should be fun.

2. Speaking of Westminster, I’m hoping to take a half-day a week to work on my teaching. I’ve kept a semi-detailed calendar of what I covered (either intentionally or unintentionally) each day this past school year, and I’d like to give that some evaluation and attention in order to figure out what I actually taught and how to do it better. Armed with some honest feedback from my students and revised scopes and sequences from the Bible department, I want to put some good work into how to teach as a more effective translator.

3. In addition to thinking about teaching, I’ll be participating in a class offered by Covenant titled “Spirit, Church, and Last Things” online this summer. After my experience with Ancient & Medieval Church History this past semester (good class, but I wasn’t as consistent as I wanted to be in keeping up), I’m not all that thrilled about online learning, but you do what you’ve got to get in the classes you need to finish a degree.

4. I’ve got piles of books from a variety of genres that I want to read. Personally, I’d also like to get back to more devotional reading and journal writing as, for better or worse, the blog has taken over the time I have in the past done both, and I can feel the difference in heart and hand. There’s just no replacement for meditative reading and writing, but I’ve not done much of either for a long while. Oh yeah, I’m also supposed to be writing/finishing the first draft of a book this summer.

5. I’m working on some leader development training and initiatives for Memorial for this summer and fall, and hope to do some planning/recruiting for those. Unfortunately, this is an area that got bumped to the back burner this past school year because of my first year teaching, but I’m glad for the request and opportunity to still be involved in this way a year later. I think our family is also going to start attending a small group over the summer, which should be interesting (I’m not really much of a small group guy).

6. While I’ve not really gained any significant weight, I’d like to shed some pounds and actually get back on an exercise regimen of some sort. For whatever reason, I just enjoy exercising my brain much more than I do my body. Guess I’m just too Neo-Platonic for my own good.

7. We may get some tickets to a couple Cards games in July – just when it’s hot enough to really be miserable. I imagine I’ll do a fair amount of yard mowing, grilling, and sweating this summer, not to mention cursing the I-64 construction still going on (it will be interesting to see how increased tourist traffic during the summer months affects things; so far, we’ve managed, but it’s getting old).

8. We’ll also make a few weekend trips to the farm over the summer, as there’s nothing better than sitting with a cold glass of iced tea out on the back patio listening to the corn grow. I’m sure there will be pictures.

9. While buying a house and moving is, I suppose, still a possibility over the next couple of months, the further we get into summer, the less excited I’m going to be about it. Obviously if the bank warms to our terms soon, we’re not going to walk away from things, but we’re not exactly going house-hunting either.

10. Of course, the best part about summer will be being home more with Megan and the girls – playing in the backyard, going to the library, reading books, renting and watching a flick, seeing friends, and just being a family. We’ve tried to keep formal activities for the little ladies to a minimum, so we’re hoping it will be pretty laidback. I want/need to read to them more at night (Megan’s been handling most of that all school year), as I don’t want to miss the window here – they’re all just growing up so too fast.

In a nutshell, that’s our summer.

Coach’s Couch

In Sports on April 6, 2008 at 8:05 pm

After an opening six-game homestand, the St. Louis Cardinals are 5-1, winning two of three from the Colorado Rockies and sweeping the Washington Nationals by way of (surprise) great starting pitching and an offensive line-up that’s finding the gaps in the outfield.

In my mind, the biggest liabilities the Redbirds have are its middle relief (to quote my friend, Nick: “Isn’t Russ Springer, like, 50?”) and perhaps too good of a start to the season (pardon my pessimism, but I’m bracing for a bit of a letdown on the upcoming roadtrip, which will be lousy since we’re playing the likes of Houston and San Francisco).

Still, after watching my first game of the season this afternoon (we don’t get FSN Midwest, so we can only watch games on KSDK – usually Sunday afternoons), I must admit it was fun seeing the Redbirds play today. It felt like good, honest baseball, and here’s why:

  • The new guys (and there are many) are all still fighting for jobs, realizing that part of their evaluation includes their attitudes; in my opinion, traded veterans like Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds did more whining than playing over the course of the past few years, and that got old fast
  • From what I’ve read, most of the players seem to have their heads screwed on straight and are still in awe of making it to the big leagues; gone are the likes of Scott Spiezio and the late Josh Hancock, who sadly let baseball become something they did between drinks
  • We’re playing who we have and not pining for who we don’t; in other words, because of the early success, there are fewer laments along the lines of “If we only had (insert favorite Cardinal on the DL here),” which has huge mental implications for those in the starting line-up (not to mention the fans)
  • Statistically speaking, we’ve yet to allow a team to score in the first three innings of a game; it’s amazing how much this plays to Tony La Russa’s coaching strengths (he’s better with a lead than without one, though he’s not bad then, either)

Can the Cards win 100 games this year? Most have said it’s doubtful, but I wonder, especially if they can play the game as kids just happy to be here rather than as free agents looking for their next contract. We also need to get El Hombre in sync (strangely, he’s had a slow start, though he’s still batting .353 and is on base over half the time from walks), as he’s key to keeping the younger guys in line, both on and off the field.

I’m taking the ladies to our first game on the 18th, as the Cards host the Giants (it’s Anheuser-Busch Wall Calendar Night – woot!). I’m sure we’ll all have a better feel even then for where the season may really be going.

Any readers who are Redbird fans? What have I missed?

Play Ball!

In Places & Spaces, Sports on March 31, 2008 at 4:40 am

Busch

The Cardinals officially open their season at home today against the Colorado Rockies. I’m interested to see how much all the off-season changes (and there have been many) pay off, particularly the much-mentioned bringing up of “homegrown” players from within the system. We still have no pitching (a starting rotation of five righthanders?), but it’s baseball, so it can’t be all bad.

Now if somebody could get something done with Crater Ballpark Village, St. Louis might be taken seriously as a city with an actual downtown. Here‘s what it’s supposed to look like if it’s ever finished (er, started); here‘s what it looks like now (and has for a year-and-a-half). While the city decides what to do, can somebody at least sod this eyesore so families can picnic before a game?

Play ball!

Mizzou-Rah

In Sports on December 1, 2007 at 2:00 am

My college roommate at Mizzou and TwentySomeone co-author, Doug Serven, blogged his thoughts concerning the big Missouri/Oklahoma game this weekend. Doug is an R.U.F. campus pastor at OU, so he feels some loyalty tension, but as his feelings about Missouri football are mine (and as his blog doesn't have permalinks – come on, Serven!), I'm posting them here.

I have struggled over what to write about the Missouri Tigers. They are the number one football team in the nation. This happened last in 1960, and they promptly lost that game to hated KU. I don't even like typing those letters in a row.

So it's huge. I've suffered through almost 20 years of personally caring about Mizzou. The football team was 3-8 all four of my years there. I saw most if not all of the homes games in person. I was taught to have extremely low expectations.

They continued this trend through the nineties, except for a brief bright spot with Corby Jones at quarterback and Larry Smith as coach. I remember Julie and I went to homecoming while we were in seminary, and Mizzou was playing Texas. That seemed like a stupid choice to me, and I was prepared for another loss. But they won! I couldn't believe it. They went to a bowl game that year, and it had been a long time. I think they lost.

Brad Smith was supposed to be the next big deal. He was really, really good, but then we'd lose to KU in the last game and tank out in a bowl. I couldn't watch anymore. I think this season is the first time I've watched a whole game from start to finish. It was just too painful.

So there hasn't been much to cheer about. I went to the OU game here, and I felt conflicted. I have grown to appreciate and enjoy the Sooners. I like to cheer for a team that wins sometimes, and they win often. It hurt me when they lost to LSU and USC in those championship games. So I stood there and was confused. But, as Mizzou had the lead at the start of the fourth quarter, I knew I wanted them to win.

And they lost. It ended up not even to be that close, since Mizzou scored in the last minute to close the gap to 10 points. But I was glad OU won. They had a chance to play for another championship. Until they pooed down their leg in Lubbock (another game I attended).

So now: is Mizzou the best team in the nation? I doubt it. But someone has to be there, and no one else has held it or seems to want it. So it might as well be the Tigers. OU fans are spoiled to be sure. But I'm rooting for MU; if they win they will play for a national championship! If they lose, I'm sure I'll hear about it.

But remember this: it isn't Texas; it's Mizzou. They aren't your natural rivals. Be happy for them if they win. After all, they're your second favorite team.

Go Tigers.

Lemonade Concessions: Baseball’s Underbelly

In Sports on September 17, 2007 at 10:33 pm

I took my five-year-old to the Cardinals game tonight. We had two free tickets (courtesy of the St. Louis public library system), right behind home plate in the upper deck – nice.

We took the train from Brentwood to downtown, found our way up to section 451, and decided to get a lemonade as our one treat of the evening. The girl working the stand was very nice and told me the prices (which were not very nice). Sensing my hesitation at plopping down $6.50 for a lukewarm lemonade (complete with souvenir cup), she said she’d “work something out” by giving us a refill if we wanted one “all because of the little lady” (i.e. my daughter, who played the part and smiled adorably).

While I usually consider myself pretty shrewd when it comes to reading people, I somehow missed it on this one. Taking her at her word, I gave her $6.50 for a lukewarm lemonade (complete with souvenir cup), told her I’d be back in a couple of innings, and we made our way to our seats.

Three innings later, I went back to the stand with cup in hand. Because I didn’t want to get the girl (she was probably all of 20) in any trouble in front of other customers, I made sure the stand was empty before I approached, put my souvenir cup on the counter, and asked her if I could have the promised refill. Sure, she said; no problem.

As she prepared the second lemonade, I made small talk, observing that it must be a lot nicer working games in the cooler temperatures of September than the beastly weather we had in August, to which she smiled and agreed. Then, as she put on the lid and gave the lemonade a shake before handing it to me, I mentioned how much I appreciated her “working something out” with the refill, wondering to myself if I should give her a tip or something because she was about to give me a two-for-one deal.

I didn’t have to wonder long; all of a sudden, the smile was no more and it was business as usual. The girl put the second lemonade on the counter, stuck out her hand, and said I owed her $3.25. I balked, realizing I’d just been had.

Pausing, then pulling out my wallet, I let my disappointment and disapproval come out a bit more than I would have liked: “It would have been nice to have known you were going to charge me on the front end.” Her silence confirmed her initial intention to “work something out”; namely, that I would come back and pay $3.25 for water, ice, and a lemon (minus a second souvenir cup). What a deal.

Realizing I was in the presence of Vegas-like genius, I paid her the money, grabbed my second lemonade, and staggered back to my seat, spending the next three innings dumbfounded at how I had just been had in a very legal way. My daughter enjoyed the second lemonade, which helped, but I was still reeling from somehow missing the free refill bait and switch.

To make matters worse, the Cardinals lost, 13-11. Worst of all: because it was a school night, we had to leave at the end of the fifth inning when the Redbirds were losing 7-0 (yes, for those keeping track, that’s 17 runs we didn’t get to see).

Thankfully, though, we did make it home with our $9.75 plastic souvenir cup.

Saturday Smatterings

In Books, Pop Culture, Sports, Thought on September 8, 2007 at 8:26 am

Some links for an overcast, rainy Saturday:

Hot Time in the Cool Town Last Night

In Sports on September 2, 2007 at 3:12 pm

It’s the first beautiful weather weekend in at least a month. Apparently, St. Louis had the third hottest August on record this summer, and we’ve been here for a majority of it. All this made made last night’s Cardinals game with my three youngest that much more enjoyablem, as it was an absolutely perfect evening complete with low temps and a cool breeze. We had a great time watching the Redbirds pull up to .500 ball, a place they’ve not been since April 15th.

Despite my lack of faith in July, manager Tony LaRussa, along with a couple key younger players in Ryan Ludwick, Brendan Ryan, and especially Rick Ankiel, have really surprised me. Now just a couple of games out of the National League Central, the Redbirds have the most momentum of any team at the start of this September. It would be fun to make the playoffs again.

In other sports news, this weekend Mizzou beat Illinois 40-34 in the Arch Rivalry game last night at the Edward Jones Dome. This may not seem that big a deal on the opening day of college football (especially compared to the Appalachian State upset of Michigan), but having spent two years in Marching Mizzou back in the early 90’s, trust me when I say it’s not everyday Mizzou alum get to take pride in their football team.

As the girls and I left Busch Stadium last night, downtown St. Louis was packed with folks wearing Mizzou black and Illinois orange, as well as all the fans wearing Cardinal red. It was fun to see the city so alive and to be with three lively and lovely ladies to enjoy it.

Stick a Fork in Us

In Places & Spaces, Sports on July 19, 2007 at 10:09 pm

We’re done.

On Barry Bonds and Baseball History

In Places & Spaces, Sports on July 9, 2007 at 7:09 am

It’s been a while since I’ve talked a little baseball, so with the All-Star Break upon us and the season being half over, I thought now might be a good time. My Cardinals have been playing better, but I was hoping they’d have made it back to .500 by now. According to the PECOTA version of the postseason odds at Baseball Prospectus, the Cards have less then a 2% shot at making the playoffs while the Milwaukee Brewers have an 85% chance (hat tip: Viva El Birdos). In short, it doesn’t look good, but there’s still half a season left.

It was interesting reading the buzz generated by Barry Bonds and the San Francisco Giants coming to town this past weekend. Bonds is only five away from breaking Hank Aaron’s all-time homerun record of 755 and, up until last week, Cardinal fans were deathly afraid he was going to do it in St. Louis. The overratedly “classy” Cardinal Nation booed Bonds every time he came to bat because of the whole steroids thing, which seems incredibly hypocritical considering their once-beloved Mark McGwire all but confessing in a congressional hearing a couple years ago to his own steroid use in breaking the one-year homerun record in 1998.

But I digress.

I don’t particularly love or hate Bonds as a player, but I do wonder how baseball history will judge him. This passage from David James Duncan‘s The Brothers K, in which one character writes of the rise and demise of Roger Maris, would seem to apply:

“Insofar as the word ‘radical’ implies a drastic departure from accepted thinking and practices, it is only accurate to say that this crewcutted all-American Midwest farm boy (Roger Maris) was in fact the first famous radical of the Sixties. Who but a radical would sacrifice all-around excellence to focus on a single, iconoclastic facet of his experience? Who but a radical could earn so much antipathy from the meat-and-potatoes populace for so little reason, but still go on choosing public misery for the sake of his cause?

As this increasingly two-dimensional, nerve-powered, lifetime .260 hitter mounted his anxiety-ridden assault on the most famous feat of the three-dimensional, muscle-powered .342-hitting bon vivant whose bat built Yankee Stadium, even the most rabid New York fans began to feel that something odd was going on. Mickey Mantle also hit a lot of home runs in 1961 – fifty-four of them, in fact. But the contrast between his and Maris’s homers was vast.

The Mick was just a canonical hero on a roll – a contemporary legend in chivalrous competition with legends of the past. Maris was a new kind of creature altogether. If Ruth was the Sultan of Swat, Maris was the Technician of Boink. For the sake of these boinks he had virtually given up the game of baseball, or at least given up the all-around game he’d played better than anyone just a year before. And the trouble that resulted was, in a sense, the same trouble into which the entire industrial world has fallen: obession works. Not beautifully, and not without tremendous costs. But for Roger E. Maris it worked sixty-one times.

Numbers, for all their vaunted accuracy, can be amaingly inaccurate little doodads. When Ruth’s record finally teetered and fell, Maris found that in the opinion of many he hadn’t scaled a height or conquered a legend at all: he’d become an object of dislike. Many people felt and even behaved, as if he were more the assassin of a legend than a conquering hero. When the Holy Relic Manufacturers trotted out their ’61 in ’61 trinkets, the stuff wouldn’t sell; when the kids took to the sandlots the following spring, they went right on pretending they were Mantle and Berra and Mays; when Maris himself began his ’62 season in a slump, the fans booed his game and emotions into a complete collapse; and when the Yankees traded him away to St. Louis, instead of retiring his number, they casually handed it to Graig Nettles a few years later.”

This is why St. Louisians love Stan “the Man” Musial – he did it all (offense and defense), year in and year out. Bonds and McGwire may hold homerun records (albeit with asterisks because of steroids), but guys like Mantle and Musial (or for a more local and contemporary example – Albert Pujols) tend to garner more honor over the long haul for their overall quality of play.

London Logo

In Sports on June 4, 2007 at 4:23 pm

london-2012.jpgThe new logo for the London 2012 Olympics has just been released, complete with hubbub over the fact that it is “hideous,” too youthful in appearance, and a waste of Olympic money (as if this were the only such example).

Having designed logos before (and not having seen the other designs that were considered), my guess is that maybe they could have come up with something a little more…oh, I don’t know…legible? What are your thoughts?

On Josh Hancock

In Places & Spaces, Sports on May 5, 2007 at 10:22 am

At the risk of perhaps stepping on a few St. Louis toes, I wanted to contribute a few thoughts to the ongoing discussion surrounding the death of Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock last weekend. I would have done this earlier, but time did not allow. I also wanted to wait for the police report before throwing something out here not substantiated by the official investigation. On the backside of that investigation and report, my perspective has not changed.

Living in St. Louis, I’ve been amazed by the outpouring of sentiment from what is called (annoyingly so, in my opinion) “Cardinal Nation”. People have created makeshift memorials and left flowers outside of Busch Stadium; you would think everyone actually knew the guy and just had him over for dinner during the last homestand or something. Though I appreciate the show of sympathy/empathy for Hancock, his family, and the Cardinals organization, the depth of it seems questionable to me, and mostly a function of Hancock being semi-famous.

While I respect the Cardinals as being one of the better organizations in baseball, I have been intrigued by how much of a hero they seem to have made Hancock. Granted, he was on the team and part of the Cardinals “family” (one of the most overused and misdefined terms of the past week), but would the Cardinals have done half as much of the public memorializing that they have if Hancock had actually killed someone driving drunk a week ago? Would a victim’s family have stood for that? Would the public? Are you kidding me?

Listening to the first half of the press conference on the radio yesterday, I was once again reminded how hypocritical the media (as well as our country) is when it comes to issues of morality. Immediately following the Cardinals’ opening statement, multiple reporters in the room began asking about the team’s alcohol policy for the clubhouse and on the plane. The implication of the questions was clear: the Cardinals (having once been owned by Anheuser-Busch and still playing in Busch Stadium) must have contributed to Hancock’s death in some way, and surely you’re going to do something about that to protect “young” ballplayers like the 29-year-old Hancock (who also happened to be an adult). Since when does the media care about morality, legislated or otherwise?

Though the Cardinals did not allude then to any need to make changes in their current policy (Hancock, after all, was drinking at Shannon’s, not at Busch), in this morning’s Post-Dispatch, I read that the team caved to the pressure with a “CYA” move, pulling alcohol from the team’s clubhouse (though not from the visitor’s clubhouse), as well as choosing not to serve alcohol on return plane trips since players would be driving home from the airport. Are they going to stop handing out marijuana in the clubhouse and on the plane as well? Oh, wait a minute – Hancock (again, a 29-year-old adult) somehow got that all by himself.

I realize I may sound somewhat cynical, but I have yet to hear anybody raise these questions in the midst of the swirl of emotions surrounding Hancock’s death. I don’t mean any disrespect to Hancock or his family and I’m sorry he died, doing so with so little personal resolution in his areas of addiction. I’m sorry for the Cardinals and the hurt their personnel have experienced in the midst of what is (so far) their worst start as a team since 1990. I’m sorry for the fans – particularly the young ones, who are again having to understand that, as glorious a game as baseball is, those who play it can be not so much.

But most of all, I’m sorry we live in a fallen world that still believes the lie that morality covers a multitude of sins. Last I checked, that was still love’s job.

The Postmodern Wave

In Humanity, Places & Spaces, Sports, Thought on April 26, 2007 at 3:26 pm

pomo-waver.jpgGoing to a baseball game with seminarians is an interesting experience. While they appreciate the nuances and gentle rhythms of the sport, the real fun is the discussion between pitches. Personal, cultural, and theological conversation is what seminarians live for, and watching baseball live is especially good for this kind of interaction.

Take, for instance, my conversation with my friend, Rob. Rob and I sat next to each other for the entire game, remarking how low Cardinal batting averages were of late, watching our kids consume large amounts of popcorn and peanuts, and enduring the volume of the group of middle-schoolers sitting in the row behind us.

The middle-school group’s leader was desperately trying to start The Wave (in the second or third inning, no less; baseball etiquette really frowns on this before the seventh). The guy was genuine in his attempts (and his kids loved him for it), but not too many other folks (including us) were all that interested (though we played along so as not to seem rude).

Of course, if you’re at all seasoned in the fine art of watching professional sports live, you know that, for The Wave to really catch, it has to be started in the lower seating sections so those sitting above can see the effort and join in; no one’s really all that interested in what us schmos up in terrace reserve are doing.

Anyway, as Rob and I were watching this guy get increasingly frustrated with the 40,000 or so people in the stands who weren’t standing up, we started talking about the nature of groups and why this guy would have the expectation that people would actually have the desire to stand up and do The Wave just because he was trying to get them to do it.

And that’s when it happened: randomly and without warning, Rob stood up and did his own personal Wave – “The Postmodern Wave” I later dubbed it – as if to say that no one can tell him when and why to do the The Wave; rather, as a child born into postmodernism, he would do The Wave (or not) when he felt like doing The Wave (or not), and no one could or should try to convince him otherwise.

It is this spirit of the age that you see in the pic above (aptly captured by Ben Porter). Notice all the people sitting behind Rob not doing The Wave; observe Rob’s detached (almost bored) look as he stands and raises his hands in some expression of exultation that doesn’t match anything going on in the game (as evidenced by the aforementioned crowd looking in the complete opposite direction); take note of Rob’s faded cap and green shirt, neither of which contributes to his support of the home team (even despite his preference for the Redbirds).

Obviously, this deconstruction of modern sports cheering practices was a significant moment in the ongoing history of postmodernist thought that needed to be recorded somewhere; thus, in the spirit of philosophers Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault, I do so here.

(As a follow-up to my previous post, it didn’t rain on us, Megan and her mother took one for the team by taking the girls to Build-A-Bear, and the Cardinals won 5-2 – only their second win at home in nine games. Good time had by all.)

Take Me Out to the Build-A-Bear

In Family, Places & Spaces, Sports on April 25, 2007 at 9:02 am

We, along with 50 other friends and acquaintances who benefitted from Megan‘s Ticketmaster-like talents (minus the service charge) are due to go to our first Cards game of the year tonight. Unfortunately, I’m concerned rain may spoil our fun: there’s a 40% chance of precipitation forecasted for both today and tonight, and while that’s less than 50/50 odds, it’s in situations like this that we always and inevitably come out “winners”.

The girls are pretty pumped to go, and Megan’s parents are in town from Tulsa to go with us as well. We’ll take the Metro in to avoid traffic and feel urban, as well as cart in all the drinks and goodies we can to avoid spending anything at the stadium (though I’m not a beer drinker, the principle of an $8.50 Bud Light is immoral, so this is our family’s little personal protest).

In addition to taking in the game (or the rain – whichever we get to watch), the girls have gift certificates from the grandparents for the Build-A-Bear Workshop that they’ve been holding on to since Christmas and plan to redeem to “build” their very own “Cardinal Bear” (which seems more than a little confusing in terms of the scientific classification system of animals).

As you might be able to tell, I’m not all that excited about the prospect of four more stuffed anythings in the house (you’d think I’m a taxidermist with as many stuffed animals as we have around here). But, at least they’ll be enduring symbols of the little ladies’ pre-pubescent loyalty to the home team (or that’s what they’ll tell me when we’re standing in line for half-an-hour missing the one inning in which the Cardinals actually score a few runs…).

Opening Day 2007

In Sports on April 1, 2007 at 2:00 am

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Baseball opens today, April 1st (no foolin'). Cardinals host the Mets tonight at Busch. Glory. In honor of the occasion, here are two favorite quotes about the greatest game ever invented:

Terrence Mann (played by James Earl Jones) in Field of Dreams:

"Ray, people will come, Ray. They'll come to Iowa for reasons they can't even fathom. They'll turn up your driveway, not knowing for sure why they're doing it. They'll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. 'Of course, we won't mind if you have a look around,' you'll say. 'It's only twenty dollars per person.' They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it; for it is money they have and peace they lack.

And they'll walk out to the bleachers, and sit in their shirt-sleeves on a perfect afternoon. They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they'll watch the game, and it'll be as if they'd dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick, they'll have to brush them away from their faces.

People will come, Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It's been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again. Ohhhhhhhh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come."
Fox Mulder (played by David Duchovny) from The X-Files:

"I'm reading the box scores, Scully. You'd like it. It's like the Pythagorean Theorem for jocks. It distills all the chaos and action of any game in the history of all baseball games into one tiny, perfect, rectangular sequence of numbers. I can look at this box and I can recreate exactly what happened on some sunny summer day back in 1947. It's like the numbers talk to me, they comfort me. They tell me that even though lots of things can change, some things do remain the same."

If those aren't enough to get you excited about 162 games between now and October, read artist Makoto Fujimura's experience with Cardinal baseball last summer (it's kind of long because of the Yankees references, but be sure to read to the end for the Redbird redemption).

Play ball!

Put Me in, Coach, I’m Ready to Play

In Sports on October 14, 2006 at 4:18 pm

pitching.jpg

In case you mistook it from Friday night’s television broadcast of the Cards beating the Mets, the picture above is from a trip to the farm back in July (the corn in the background probably gave it away – not much of that at Shea Stadium).

I used to pitch in high school (going 6-3 my freshman year for the varsity Tornadoes), and played shortstop or third base when I wasn’t pitching. I didn’t throw particularly hard (maybe in the upper 60s at best), but I had a good curveball and could throw it for a strike or make hitters chase it out of the strike zone if they were guessing wrong (which I always loved).

In general, I was a decent fielder on the infield, but could sometimes get a little wild throwing across the diamond to first if I was deep in the hole at short or charging a ball up the line from third. Maybe that’s why I always preferred the mound – I felt most in control of things there (even when my pitches may not have been…in control, that is).

Offensively, I always batted second in the line-up as my inside-out swing and (usually) consistent contact made for good hit-and-run success as I hit to right-center a lot. My batting average was in the low .300s, and my on-base average was above .500 (almost .600 my senior year, .598 to be exact).

As a team, we played .500 ball, but not much more. And, if memory serves, we never made it out of the regional. Still, those were good times, and to this day I remember certain games (and even particular at-bats and great plays) that bring a smile to my face.

While I experienced a fair amount of success in my sports days, I always felt like I understood the games (baseball and basketball) better than I played them. I knew what needed to be done in just about any given situation; I just never had the pure, raw ability to get it done myself.

Perhaps this is why I find myself increasingly talking to the television as to which pitches need to be made, when the hit-and-run needs to be on, and why Jeff Weaver should have never been in Game 1 against the Mets long enough to give up that two-run homer to Carlos Beltran. I know I was never good enough for the big leagues, but that’s what makes for a really good armchair coach, right?

Last night, as we were watching the game, our oldest asked if I realized I was talking to myself. Somewhat embarrassed (and with my wife holding back a laugh), I acknowledged that, indeed, I did; I was just waiting to see if anyone was listening.