Results tagged ‘ sports ’

The ‘Rona gives you time to think and reminisce

Ernie “Big Ern” Young

Around 1993-1995 I completely lost interest in baseball. Being in my early 20’s my childhood interests waned and became retrograde, as they tend to do, and in my delusional mind my new interests were a bit more sophisticated and engaging. My interests in music and punk rock in general were blossoming into a near obsession as I decided to join a garage band, and I was also delving into the literary and modern art worlds: doing my duty as a young person trying to “figure it all out” with a speculating, cynical and sometimes critical mind.  And as much as I loved to scan the box scores, I just didn’t have time anymore with my band-mates, job, and girlfriend needing my immediate and rapt attention.

***

F. Scott Fitzgerald thought that one of his pals had invested too much time writing about baseball. “A boys game,” Fitzgerald said, “with no more possibilities in it than a boy could master, a game bounded by walls which kept out novelty or danger, change or adventure.” I couldn’t stomach Fitzgerald’s stuffy writing and disagreed vehemently with this statement. (I valued Descartes opinions much more, and wasn’t his vocation to think about thinking?…the absolute essence of the game) So after reading a tiny smattering of the classics: Genet, Hemingway, Hesse, Volmann, Didion, Auster, I decided one day through a haze of smoke that baseball was indeed a cerebral sport more suited to a literary rather than pictorial culture and returned to it for the ’96 season. The A’s were still the same pile of dung that I had flushed 3 years earlier, finishing 3rd in the West with a 78-84 record, but the game was interesting to me again, even fun. It was a catharsis that I hadn’t seen before.

***

This was to be Mark McGwire’s last full year with the “Elephants” (his trade the next year was devastating and truly the end of my childhood) and he finished with 52 homers. This was also Jason Giambi’s first full year and he finished with a pathetic (for that time) 20 round-trippers. I attribute this to youth and the lack of steroids–a reputation that would turn out to haunt both players. Terry Steinbach was typically solid behind the dish; and a fan favorite with a funny name, Geronimo Berroa was coming into his own. There was also a curious player, Ernie Young, who hit 19 homers that season, never to hit more than 5 in any other season in his career.

***

As I enjoyed another season of watching my lovable losers, I had decided that baseball not only doesn’t acknowledge the passage of time, it ignores it. Then began my post-adolescent and lifelong obsession with the game that has taken over my daily existence with mind-boggling statistics and an even stranger anomalistic visual affair. I find that the more I know about this game, the less I know about this game. It keeps unfolding in ways I could never imagine.

My Corona

“My, my, my, my Corona.” –sang in the vocal stylings of the Knack’s “My Sharona.”

These are fantastical times. This Corona virus has run the full gamut and has completely taken over my life. I’ve been washing my hands upwards of 30 times a day, and like everything else that becomes an obsession in my life, it is imperative that I know every single detail about the origins and life of this villain. Listening to NPR and reading the NY Times has been vital in comprehensive avoidance and genuine insight to this fiend. This is a time of high anxiety.

All of the major sports have been cancelled and college and high school students have been sent home. I went to the library today and it was all but deserted, the only homeless person within eye-shot was wearing a mask. I went to the grocery store to stock up on food as to not leave the house for at least a few days. We are all pariahs, avoiding each other at all costs and giving anyone a side glance if they so much as come within 3 feet of you.

Whatever you do…don’t. touch. your. face. Donald Trump, notoriously obsessed with germs refuses to shake anyone’s hand, as does anyone in this time of trial. I listened to Trump’s presidential briefing (for the first time in his term) and his bravado and positivity seemed like more posturing even though he called for a national emergency in what can be seen as a hushed tone. After a carousel of “geniuses” were paraded on the mic (each one talking an average of 45 seconds, and included a representative from CVS) VP Mike Pence didn’t hesitate to put Trump on a pedestal in an embarrassing display of window dressing obviously written by someone who understands the President’s psyche. There were many hollow slogans of strength, patriotism and resilience in a fairly standardized ending.

I feel better already. (eyeroll) Let us not forget that Trump once downsized this virus comparing it to the flu and even went so far as to call it a “democratic hoax.” It seems to me that we as the people are going to have to fight this together by learning as much as we can about this virus with our elected officials having very little credibility or competence. Good luck to the readers of this blog and to us all, and as Tom Hanks famously said, “There is no crying in baseball.”

Spring Training is here! A’s to win the A.L. West in 2020.

I didn’t even shell out the six bucks for a copy of Baseball Prospectus.

It’s not important that I bring to task a Spring Training update; personally I find them to be tedious, but I suppose I must write something considering that this humble dissemination has over 2,500 followers and people actually read the thing for crissakes.

After last years embarrassing one game playoff loss to the Devil Rays, the following remarks swirled in my mind: pointless, not again, now what?, same old shit…who in the hell is Yandy Diaz? The ever graceful and future ace Sean Manaea blamed himself for the loss although it was a team effort as the offense was anemic and made to look bush-league. Watching the game was every bit the “Babylonian” experience.  This squad, however, isn’t a “soft reboot” as the youngsters have aged a year and have playoff experience with the following players expected to have a breakout year: Matt Olson, Sean Manaea, Mark Canha and Ramon Laureano. Little was added or subtracted this off-season because of the aforementioned. The template for most prospective playoff teams is a daily set lineup, (depending on L/R matchups, of course) and this team doesn’t have many question marks. Bob Melvin should only have to  do a bit of airbrushing here and there.

No Spring Training review is complete without a contrarian view and the second base/bullpen situation must be addressed here. Second base: Franklin Barreto has proven to be impotent, still can’t lay off the slider, and has spent more time in Nashville than Johnny Cash. He has two things going for him: he is young and the A’s front office refuses to get fleeced in the Josh Donaldson trade. Sheldon Neuse should get a look at the position as well because of the big season he had in the desert for Las Vegas. Bullpen: This was definitely a weakest spot as the ‘pen blew more than 25 saves last year with most of the guys being question marks except for Petit and Hendricks. I wouldn’t be surprised if a couple of non-roster guys made the team. Melvin will be working with patchwork and will be criticized many times this year for how he handled it whether it be his fault or not.

I see no reason why this team can’t pull together, win a roll of the dice in the playoffs and haul the “piece of metal” as Ron Manfred so elegantly called the WS trophy. I think the Nats of 2019 proved that miracles can still happen when you have strong pitching and a lineup that works together without one self-absorbed prick mucking up the works.

Super Bowl shit show (literally)

“Shakira’s ass is amazing.”

I woke up late Sunday morning to gallop on down to the local coffee shop when I found a rolled-up cocaine-laden ten dollar bill on the ground. My lucky day, I thought. The neck bearded hipster behind the counter was talking to what I previously thought to be a homeless person about “simulated reality” before the conversation segued into Brad Pitt’s 1999 vehicle Fight Club.  I love this violent and political story-(although I find the characters to be juvenile, simplistic and self-serving)-of disenfranchised middle-class masculinity but this wasn’t the time or moment for a conference and debate.

“I highly recommend the movie in addition to the novel. It’s worth the time and it helps put the book into perspective,” said the espresso expert, and moments before I was about to disconnect his head from his flannel wearing body he takes my order of a medium black coffee with a splash of half and half. It was about 1 o’ clock so I headed over to my “baseball buddy” Manny’s house to watch Super Bowl LIV. We decided to play a game of Madden 2019 to kill time and he proceeded to “shart” on himself moments before halftime. Gross. After showering he eventually beat me 27-25. (Did you expect this blog entry to reek of any sort of profundity? The joke’s on you.)

The game itself was a pretty well played, entertaining enterprise and this may be America’s first look at a future super star in Patrick Mahomes. There was laughter at the mostly contrived commercials, debate on the attractiveness and booty mass of J-Lo and Shakira, beer drankin’ and pizza eatin’. Need I say more? The Chiefs eventually pull it out in the 4th quarter in a exciting affair, 31-20. Manny fell asleep and I walked home in a semi-drunken state pondering the game and thinking about the upcoming baseball season with a sort of mild euphoria.

Spring Training starts February 12th.

 

Mike Piazza sounds off on all the young whipper snappers

Prefers the heavy metal over the hippity hop.

The following was taken from Mike Piazza’s autobiography, “Long Shot.”

…I wouldn’t have felt (my age) at all if the music in the clubhouse weren’t hurting my ears the way it did. When it comes to music I feel like I’m as open-minded as anybody out there, but (the A’s) had a young roster and, well, man. I like rap just fine–hell, I was wearing gold chains back when Olivia Newton-John was getting physical–if it’s classic rap, or even the new stuff when there’s a strong rhythm to it. As a thrash-metal guy from way back, I feel like I can handle some rough language and graphic lyrics; but some of the more contemporary rap is so blatantly hard-core that even an old Slayer and Anthrax man like me has a tough time dealing with it. I guess it’s a matter of age and tradition both. You have to understand, I came up with the Dodgers when the stadium music consisted exclusively of Nancy Bea Hefley at the organ. When that was cutback to modernize the atmosphere–to make the ballpark sound like every other ballpark–they turned to entrance music, with each player picking a theme song. With the Mets, I recall Tony Tarasco coming to the plate to an X–rated, in your face rap number that had the whole stadium sounding like a bad-ass clubhouse.

Can’t say I cared for that.

Houston, we have a problem! (Did Mike Fiers save baseball?)

He’s on Fiers!

“You better get your head and your ass together or I will take a giant shit on you.” –Full Metal Jacket (1987) or Rob Manfred to the Astros (2020)

The scandal involving the Houston Astros has been disputed and pondered more than all the John F. Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories combined and I’m just about to put it to bed with a lullaby and an Ambien. The waltz of the heart and mind just wont let me contemplate ostentatious behavior for too long before the disappointment of the inevitable keeps me looking elsewhere for a more positive spin on things. Baseball, with its cult of the masculine hero-worship all but cold and lifeless should think about robot players…never mind the umpires. We will cease to worry about self-centered, money hungry, skin-sack douche-bags–at least until the robots rise up and destroy humanity a la The Terminator.

Where’s Kyle Reese when you need him?

Alas, no one really cares about baseball too much until football season is over and it looks like (at this point in time) former baseballer and pitcher Pat Mahomes’ son is going to showcase his unique skills in the Super Bowl. This is the time of year to huddle inside, watch some gridiron, avoid the cold, crush a few man-sodas and eat pounds of meat off the party tray after expertly picking around the gherkins and radishes. A friend of mine laughs at the new Budweiser “hard seltzer” commercial and compares it to Zima. He has no idea that these things are all the rage with college kids. Ok, Boomer.

That’s all I got for now…I’m off like a dirty shirt!

One hell of a New Year’s!

Had one hell of an ending to 1985, which may or may not be remembered.

Mike Norris awoke on New Year’s Day 1986, in bed with a 300-pound woman he did not immediately recognize. He staggered to the Oakland dive where he had spent New Year’s Eve. The bartender was the only person there. The wall behind the bar was mirrored. Norris saw his reflection. It horrified him. Usually a proud dresser, he was wearing the previous night’s clothes. They hung on his thinning frame as sad as sails on a windless day. “Major league ballplayer, my fucking ass,” he snarled at his reflection. Norris was another New Year’s casualty.

People fall into two camps when it comes to New Year’s Eve: they either love the celebration and dish out 100 dollars on a ticket to a party where they proceed to get smashed, or they do something totally low-key – because what’s all the fuss about?

Whether you’ll be celebrating in style this year or snuggling up on the sofa at home (and perhaps even falling asleep before midnight), you’ve no doubt had some shockers of a New Year’s Eve before. Haven’t we all? Here’s one of many horror stories:

New Years 2010. I was the sober driver for some friends until around 11 pm before I headed off to a midnight party in Silver Lake at some sort of McMansion that was supposedly alt-rocker Beck’s house. At the soiree, realizing I needed to catch up, I immediately began pounding Red Bull vodkas. My friend immediately told me to “drink this”, which I did. Pretty quickly. Only later did I discover “this” was a pint of 50/50 Jack Daniels and coke. (The legal kind, although the illegal kind was being passed around in the open by dicey “Hollywood types” and hanger-ons.) By the time 12AM rolled around I was spinning and tanked. As the clock struck midnight, I grabbed a girl next to me (who was a beautiful brunette and a local celebrity on some sort of news program) and we had our midnight kiss – which swiftly turned into the two of us fighting to reach the toilet as we both projectile vomited all over the bathroom. She wanted to make out afterwards and I politely declined. I always wonder if Beck woke up the next morning to find the collaborative technicolor yawn that he no doubt had his maid clean up.

Stay safe out there. Happy 2020.

 

Happy Holidays from The ‘Fro

bah-humbug.

The Holiday season is upon us yet once again. I know a lot of people love the holidays, but all the crass consumerism and overcast/rainy weather puts me in a sort of pessimistic mood. Alas, I do enjoy time with my family, as we’re all getting geriatric and slower, and the Christmas turkey smothered in gelatinous gravy is something I could never complain about. There is also something special about watching kids opening presents with a pure jubilation that is hard to replicate at my age and is a much needed recess from the ills that one faces every day on this planet. That being said: I expect to spend a lot of time sleeping, sitting on the toilet and imbibing on spiked egg nog. Sometimes being less than exemplary is the most comfortable narrative.

The World Series seemed like it happened an eternity ago (who won again?) and no one seems to care about anything besides the Gerrit Cole and Anthony Rendon signings. Maybe these guys will buy a small island or perhaps a third world country with their earnings as the fans cry into their 15 dollar beers. Baseball is getting a bit ridiculous when a guy can pay my rent with the money he made from one pitch. It’s kind of ironic that MLB is promoting baseball in the inner-city but none of these kids could actually afford to attend a live game much less buy a hot dog. Baseball will certainly have a conundrum on their hands when all the Boomers start to become worm food in the coming decades. It’s certainly time to adapt or face the humiliation of antiquity: if you ignore them will they come?

There is no reason to get your panties in a bunch…Rendon and the Angels will continue to lose because of piss-poor pitching and horrible front office decisions, (like the Pujols signing) and Cole will be every Yankee fan’s wet dream until he loses a couple in a row and their fans have a collective idiot brain implosion. This shit-show will be completed with fans calling into sports talk radio with heavy Bronx accents and a million asinine complaints. (why didn’t they pitch Joe Blow in the 7th? ad nauseum.) I mean, who really gives a shit about global warming and plastic pollution when the Yankees are losing!? You dumb hippies.

The A’s lost Tanner Roark and Blake Trienen to free agency, but no one on Oakland seems to be crying in their soup as the fan-base threw up a shoulder shrug. Don’t expect the Oakland ball-club to make any evocative moves this off-season besides signing the minor-league guy nobody wanted and turning him into a star. There were whispers of acquiring second baseman Jed Lowrie but that news was about as exciting as your mother-in-law spending the weekend on the couch or the dog vomiting on the rug.

The Ass-tros prove to be ass-holes

nana nana boo boo, go stick your head in doo doo.

Baseball, in its never ending quest to mind-fuck, has presented me with more questions than a Jim Morrison midnight acid trip on a Santa Monica beach during the apocalypse of the Four Horsemen while a werewolf rubs salt crystals on his body and howls at the moon.

In the baseball scandal of the decade, protagonist Mike Fiers announced that his teammates, the Houston Astros stole catcher signs electronically during their 2017 World Series title, relegating the team to the moral garbage heap of Pete Rose, Barry Bonds and the 1919 White Sox. Every ill-informed gas-bag has thrown their opinion into the fray, and I suppose I must do the same considering that I subscribe to both.

The above offense certainly slanders baseball’s unwritten rules, and the Astros should be punished accordingly. The coaches that knew about/masterminded the offense should be suspended for life or fired, but the World Series title shouldn’t be taken away (although Yankees and Dodgers fans may disagree) as that would cause even more confusion and would destroy what little credulity the average working class fan has in a large, money-hungry conglomerate such as MLB. Let this be a reminder and momento mori for what little integrity there was in America’s Game. Commissioner Rob Manfred, largely ornamental and as interesting as a piece of blank paper certainly has a conundrum of epic proportions on his hands.

Fiers and the Astros will forever be tangled in a 21st century sociological courtship of slander, deceit and moral ambiguity…until the next scandal. The whole ball of wax is exhausting, tiresome and seemingly never ending. Welcome to big league sports and modern day capitalism.

Jose and Ozzie try to get laid

The following is an excerpt from Ron Darling’s book 108 stitches

Big pimpin’ (that’s Toni in the middle.)

My time in Oakland introduced me to some of the game’s greatest characters, Cassanovas, too. High on both lists was Jose Canseco, who’d already been a perennial All Star and was MVP by the time I joined the club. This was back before the time of steroids tarnished Jose’s reputation– and with it his fellow “Bash Brother” Mark McGwire, who followed Jose’s 1986 Rookie of the Year campaign with one of his own in 1987. The two sluggers were like princes of the Bay Area who could do no wrong in the eyes of the A’s fans, who loved to watch them bash the shit out of the ball, then bash the shit out of each other in celebration each time one of them bashed another of their mammoth home runs.

What a lot of folks forget about Jose Canseco is that he had a twin brother named Ozzie, who briefly played for the A’s as well. I’ll never forget it though–not just because Ozzie was bouncing around the Oakland organization during my time with the club, but because of the particular ways he and his brother bounced…or, guess I should say, because of the particular ways they rolled.

My first wife, Toni, and I stepped into the elevator at the team hotel one evening, just as Jose and Ozzie were stepping off. We greeted each other on the fly, they were in some kind of hurry–off to paint the town Kelly green and gold, I guess.

As the elevator doors closed behind us, Toni looked at me and asked if those two guys were twins.

I said, “Yeah, they’re twins.”

She said, “Well, they both tried to pick me up.”

I said, “Welcome to the big leagues.”