January 2009

Being There (Part II)

Usher.jpgI didn’t attend just the inauguration this past weekend. Since the four days were jam-packed full of all sorts of goodies, I decided to partake in as much as the cold would allow me, which is how I found myself at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday afternoon. I have never seen such a star-studded event. In fact, I have never seen such a star-studded few days. If you were watching during the inauguration, you may have noticed that Jay-Z, Puffy and Magic Johnson were all up in the stage. And of course, Oprah. But this did not even begin to compare to the concert. Shakira and Usher singing with Stevie Wonder. Tom Hanks’ salute to the Great Emancipator. Jon Bon Jovi dueting on “A Change Gonna’ Come.” Jamie Foxx’s Obama impression. Denzel! Tiger! The Boss! The list goes on and on. All we needed was Jack Nicholson and it could have been court side at a Lakers game.

However, there was also something a little weird about the concert. Each performer acknowledged the crowd as they finished their piece but then each one of them also gave a little bow towards the man who had brought them there. The President elect gave only a short speech and he wasn’t even the one who ended the program (that honor went to the lovely Beyonce). But I couldn’t shake the sense that this felt more like a coronation than a concert. Now, I in no way want to imply that the event was intended as such nor do I think that our new President would think so of himself. It just felt kind of strange.

guardsmen.jpgBut if you really want to talk about strange, let me tell you about the locked-down state of the nation’s capitol. Almost every street corner had either police or National Guardsmen standing around. I’m not sure exactly what their function was and to be honest, it didn’t really bother me that much. But, it’s just a little disconcerting when in every place you walk in the town where you live, there are camouflaged men and women standing around.
 
humvee.jpgAll in all, though, it was a weekend to remember. It definitely had its highs and lows and I really wish that the 70 degree weather we enjoyed just a few weeks ago would have held off for this weekend instead. But, despite some miscues during the oath, power peacefully transitioned and the United States showed once again why “We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense.

So, that brings our RSBS salute to the inauguration to a close. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go continue my attempts at thawing out.

-A

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Being There (Part I)

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Yes, I was. Yes, he did. Go crazy, folks! Go crazy!

As my friend, Mr. Lung, mentioned yesterday, I was indeed present at the inauguration of our 44th President, Barack Hussein Obama. And honestly, the only way I can describe the event is by comparing it to an early (or possibly late, although I have no experience with that) season baseball game. You know the kind of game I’m talking about, where you think you’re wearing plenty of layers but you figure out 30 minutes into it that you will never be warm again. But at the same time, you don’t care about a couple of numb fingers and toes because moments like this don’t come along every day.

Even now, I’m trying to sort through all the emotions that come along with an occasion like this. Of course there’s pride in knowing that for all our faults as a nation we always find a way to overcome them. And there’s hope, echoed in the words of the inaugural address, “Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.” There’s also a little bit of uncertainty because, let’s face it, these are not easy times in which we live and, as the President said, we all share in a “collective failure to make hard choices.”

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But I guess what I feel most of all right now is relief. Relief that the unwashed hordes will soon leave my city. Relief that almost all disasters were averted. And relief that the stewardship of the country has passed into the hands of President Obama and his team.

At the same time, there were also events that left me conflicted. I freely admit that I am no fan of former President Bush and I’m sure I’ve written many scathing criticisms of him in these pages. But, the man was still our democratically elected President and because of that he deserves respect. Perhaps his opinions and his decisions don’t always deserve respect but the man and the office do. That’s why it left me a little unsettled today to hear people booing whenever President Bush’s face was shown on the screens. I understand the atmosphere and I understand the strong feelings. But, even if the inauguration felt like a sporting event and even if President Obama is the Michael Jordan of politics, there’s no excuse for booing his competition.

So, there you have my initial, unvarnished thoughts. And I’ll bring you more along with a roundup of the absolutely ridiculous coronation, uh, I mean concert I attended on Sunday.

-A

Day One

barack obama inauguration.jpgMotivating.

Gallant.

Inspiring.

Epic.

Captivating.

Unprecedented.

Intriguing.

Historic.

Daunting.

Simply awesome.

All on Day One

And among a sea of people…

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Our very own Allen Krause was there.

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More to come on this historic day…

What Joe Carter Taught My Dad About His Son

joe carter.jpgIf you called me an insane, obsessed, socially maladjusted freak in regards to my passion for the game of baseball, you would be absolutely correct.  Try as I might to cover up the idiosyncratic ticks that put me at the top of the weird charts, there really is no denying my beyond reasonable quirkiness.  In fact, baseball has long affected my dating life, my filial responsibilities, my job.

So you can imagine the worry and fear experienced by my dearest friends and loved ones when the MLB Network officially launched earlier this year.  It has been alluded to that since the network aired, getting in contact with me has been harder than taking Sarah Palin seriously.  This I cannot deny.

Besides getting the inside scoop on all things off-season baseball from the Hot Stove Show, shedding man-tears watching Mookie’s grounder trickle between Buckner’s legs and vehemently arguing/defending the selections of Prime 9, I have also been forced to evaluate the roots of my undying passion for our national pastime and why it means so much to me.

Which takes me back to the beginning…

baby jeff lung mike lung.jpgUnlike many young boys, my father had very little to do with my interest in baseball.  As great a man as he was (still is), he always had a calm reserve — an indifferent nature towards the game.  Sure, he was a fan of sorts; but he wasn’t nuts about it in any way.  His sister was.  Yes, it’s all her fault.  My dear Aunt Alice and her husband, Uncle Iggy, were absolutely wild about baseball and they molded me into a young, opinionated, domineering superfan at an early age.

Indeed, no two people had a greater effect on my psycho-following of the St. Louis Cardinals.  They ate, slept and breathed Cardinals baseball (still do); their fiery enthusiasm infected me before I could even walk.  Upon reflection, my earliest baseball memory is the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s front page color photo of bedlam at Busch after the 1982 World Series.  Emulating Jack Clark’s short swing and despising Don Denkinger came soon after.  With the help of my aunt and uncle, it wasn’t long before I was memorizing the starting lineup of the ’85 club and dreaming of being Ozzie Smith. 

My father took a backseat to this unruly creation of a Redbird child.  While supportive of my decision to “go crazy, folks, go crazy” while reenacting Ozzie’s fist pump around the bases, it was clear that Dad didn’t quite understand what all the fuss was about.  Despite the quizzical looks he gave when I argued to stay home and watch the game rather than go to the video arcade, he accepted the fact that his son was some kind of weirdo.

As soon as I could operate the VCR, I was recording any and every baseball game on television.  During the long the winter months I watched those games with the same intensity with which I watched them the first time.  Then I’d watch them again.  And again and again.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for jeff lung mike lung.jpg“What are you doing, Jeff?” my father would say.

Shh.  It’s Tewksbury versus Sutcliffe, Dad.  Pena’s gonna throw Walton out at second. Wait and see.”

“But you’ve seen this game already.”

“I haven’t seen all of it.  There’s too much going on all at once.  I’m watching just Pena this time.  Just Pena.  Watch.”

And he would… he would placate my desire… because he saw how important it was to me.

It was very important to me.

My parents were divorced.  It got ugly at times.  I lived with my dad, separated from my sister, who lived with my mom a hundred miles away.  While my childhood spun around in chaotic circles of arguments, misunderstandings and fear, the melodic pace and harmonic rhythm of baseball calmed me like no drug ever could: the unique sound of Tom Brunansky’s bat, a whipping line-drive snagged by Pendleton at third, a Ken Daley strikeout.  No matter what the final score, baseball, with its disregard for time and its indifferent ability to create heroes and villains and bystanders, became the one constant in my life.

It kept me sane.

So it was October, 1993, and I found myself in a certain state of panic.  I was a selfish 14 year old boy who couldn’t imagine missing Game 6 of the ’93 Series and I wasn’t about to be quiet about it.  In Tulsa, Oklahoma at the time to cheer on my dad (a marathon runner) in the 15k Tulsa Run, my complaining escalated — eventually becoming more annoying than persuading.  The race was long over, but we were not anywhere near a television; the game had started and the anticipation was killing me.

“Dad, we have to go watch the game!” I whined.

“Okay, we will.”

“No, now! We’ve already missed the first inning!”

“We will.  We’ll go in a little bit.  It’s just the Blue Jays and Phillies anyway –

“Just the Blue Jays and — Dad, it’s important!  We have to go!”

Several shrills of suffering and an hour or so later we were finally in the comforts of a relative’s home, watching the game.

My dad rested his tired legs and read the newspaper while I glued myself to the t.v. set, still jittery, shaken, upset from missing the first five innings of play.  It was 5-1 Blue Jays and Dad uttered: “See, it’s gonna be a blowout anyway, Jeff.”

I grit my teeth.

And when the Phillies went on a tear in the seventh inning, scoring five runs to take a 6-5 lead, I looked back at him and said, “This is why you can never turn off a game, Dad.  Anything is possible.”

Dad managed but a glance away from his paper.

The ninth inning rolled around.  I shook with nerves at the suspenseful drama, mystique, myriad possibilities.  Dad was unmoved.  “Game’s over, Jeff.  Mitch Williams is coming in.” 

“You never know, Dad.  You never know.  You have to watch.  Just watch.”

Williams walked Rickey Henderson.

“Just watch, Dad.  Please.”

Fed up with my whining, he reluctantly put his paper down just in time to see Devon White fly out. 

Paul Molitor singl
ed.

Joe Carter dug in. 

I heard the rustling of Dad’s newspaper again, but before he could get into the reading position I shot him a glare so vicious, so maniacal, so threatening that he had no choice but to put it back down and focus on the game… just in time to see this:

http://xml.truveo.com/eb/i/168978778/a/5f62953ab8dba73576711df5b5a4d647/p/1

Unaffiliated with the Blue Jays, unaffiliated with the Phillies, but fully affiliated with the wondrous game of baseball, I shot to my feet and screamed like a little girl.  My whole being gushed with excitement, with incredulity, with a burning sensation never before felt as Carter jumped and ran the bases.

I looked at my dad, his jaw on the floor, eyes lit up like the Skydome fireworks.

“Did you see that, Dad!?!  Did you see that!?!”

“I… I saw it.  I don’t believe it but I… I saw it.”

“Don’t you see, Dad?  Anything’s possible.”

“I guess you’re right.  Anything is possible.”

If you can dream it, it can happen.

That’s the lesson baseball taught me, the lesson Joe Carter taught my dad, the lesson that comes from having a father who believes in you…

I love you, Dad.  And don’t forget… you can’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.  You said it yourself on October 23, 1993.

Peace,

Jeffy

Michael Young’s Jedi Mind Trick Still Needs Work

Micahel Young.jpgThe Michael Young saga in Texas has officially come to an end with Young agreeing to move to third base in order to make room at shortstop for the rookie Elvis Andrus.  Despite his initial fussy defiance towards Rangers GM Jon Daniels’ dictatorial decision, Young now appears content to accept his fate as his inability to master the Jedi mind trick is exposed once again.

Remember?  Back in 2003, Young told management he would not move from second base to shortstop to make room for Alfonso Soriano; but the force was weak with him and he eventually did what he was told.

I highly doubt we’ll see an end to his failure at misdirecting the thoughts of those in power.  It just seems to be his m.o.  To prove this, the video technicians at RSBS located early footage of Michael Young as a little leaguer, which documents his sloppy approach to controlling the minds of others:

Pay no attention to the anachronisms in this video.  They’re there to trick you. 

And don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.

Peace,

Jeffy

The Commish

bush_little league.jpgAn interesting discussion arose yesterday based on Jeff’s post about Bud Selig’s “coolness.” Basically, the question of who Selig’s successor will be introduced itself into the commentary and made for some light jabs at the soon to be ex-president. However, the more I think about it, the more I think that the best possible person for the job would be my old friend, George W. Bush. Think about it.

There’s no possible way that GWB could run the league more ineptly than
has Selig. Now, I know his record of fiscal spending has not been what
one might call conservative but Bush’s handling of the Rangers as a
managing partner showed the first flash of business acumen that had
made his father and grandfather rich men. And who knows, maybe that
compassionate conservativism would make him want to help lower ticket
prices. I can dream, right?

Additionally, the man knows and loves baseball. You get that from watching him and from listening to him talk about the game. The Rangers definitely became a better team under him than they have been in the past several seasons and his actions made construction of a new ballpark possible. In addition, his dad even played baseball while attending Yale.

All of these things make him the anti-Selig. When I see Bud walking around, I get the feeling that he’s never even worn a baseball glove. He’s the guy who’s mom pinned a note to his shirt to get him out of gym class in middle school. It would be a nice change to have someone who actually cares about the game shepherding the league.

As if these weren’t reasons enough, I’ll leave it to the man himself to give the best reason of all. In the words of our 43rd president, “I never dreamed about being President, I wanted to be Willie Mays.”

So, it may still be a few years away but I would like to officially nominate George Walker Bush to be the next commissioner of Major League Baseball. And George, if you need it, I’m sure my friend, Mr. Lung, would be more than happy to be your chief-of-staff.

-A

The Verdict: Selig Still Not Cool

bud selig.jpgIn an innocuously desperate attempt Thursday to prove to MLB owners, players and fans that he is indeed “cool”, Commissioner Bud Selig failed even the slightest of notice despite donning some super-slick tip-top-trendy chick-magnet Blublockers.

Ironically, he did turn heads by becoming the first person to ever replace himself as Captain Obvious when he cautioned MLB owners about the failing world economy.  (*Selig originally became Captain Obvious when he warned the league that some players may in fact be using steroids and other PEDs.  This, of course, came after ten years of simply ignoring said problem while MLB made mad money off now twice-said problem.)

After an emergency board meeting with RSBS interns, I conclude that the moniker “cool” will never be applicable to Bud Selig.

Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.

Peace,

Jeffy

Diplomacy at the End of a Stick

bat_chavez.jpgWell, if you have been reading this blog for any length of time you know that I have a special place in my heart for the baseball-mad Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and its idiosyncratic, coffee-swilling leader. It has been awhile since we last checked in but let me tell you, it never gets quiet down there.

For instance, just yesterday El Presidente had the national assembly allow a referendum that, if passed, would let him stand for unlimited terms as president. To put it in other terms, he’s basically a more rotund and more friendly with Iran version of Michael Bloomberg. But really, can you fault a guy for trying? Who knows how many terms FDR would have served if he wouldn’t have croaked in office.

There is also some other sad news out of Caracas. The Cleveland Indians’ Venezuelan scouting supervisor died in a car crash Sunday night while on his way to a baseball showcase. Now, I have no love for the Indians and I have to admit that my first thought upon reading this was that it was a great opportunity for the Tigers to make their move.

However, I’ve said it before and I truly believe that baseball is one area that the US has not exploited enough in its diplomatic efforts. Although not as popular as soccer, it is a uniquely American sport that has come to be enjoyed and even dominated by southern neighbors we haven’t always treated so well. Is there a better way to illustrate the American Dream in Latin America than by sending previously indigent kids out as ambassadors to show how they have succeeded in the United States?

So, even as the Bolivarian Revolution seeks to institutionalize itself and continues to demonize the US, it’s nice to know that guys like Henri Centeno are out there bringing the American Dream to life for a few kids and proving that maybe we aren’t so bad after all.

-A

January 15, 1979: The Day the Earth Started Moving Again

kirk gibson tigers.jpgMy venerable colleague and longtime friend, Allen Krause, has been alive for thirty years now (as of today); I just put myself in his shoes and realized how miserable he must be having not seen his precious Tigers win a championship for a quarter of a century.

So this one’s for you, Al.

Just pretend Ernie Harwell is saying “Happy Birthday” while Gibby circles the bases.

Happy friggin’ birthday, pal!

Peace,

Jeffy & RSBS Dear Readers Galore

What In the Ahmadinejad Is Wrong With Allen Krause?

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.jpg
Sometimes I can’t help but claw my face off and scream: Is this really happening!?!?!

Apparently, it is.

My errant, crass, flagitious friend and colleague, Mr. Allen Krause, channeled his inner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and once again said something he shouldn’t have by blaspheming the fairest of all sideline sports reporters in Erin Andrews.  All of Ms. Andrews’ gangly gawkers (me included) are hereby pissed off.  And we are tired of Allen’s unbending defiance towards she and all her… er… beauty.

It must stop.

For the same reason I can’t understand why Tyler Perry is allowed to make movies, I cannot even begin to understand how Mr. Krause is able to continually force his imprudent worldview upon the dear readers of RSBS.  Sure, Erin Andrews’ sister, Kendra, is an attractive lady.  But she ain’t no Erin:

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Unless I’m consistently finding myself in the mood for beyond fictitious hair colors and high school senior-year picture poses, I’ll take Erin any day of the week.

And let’s not forget what really makes Erin tops among the Andrews sisters: she knows baseball.  Not only does she know it, she reports it, and she looks smokin’ hot doing it.  Any time a woman can distract my ogling eyes with a learned baseball vernacular which includes the tenets of situational hitting, bullpen side-sessions and last minute lineup changes, she automatically jumps to the top of any and all lists.

So until I see Kendra Andrews get felt up by Bruce Pearl or hit on by Joba Chamberlain, I’m sticking with the better half.

To stay on the subject of my myriad intangible crushes, I can’t help but wish there was some other connection between baseball and American Idol other than my inexplicable home-wrecking obsession with them both.

Say hello to Idol‘s newest doll-face, er… I mean, Idol‘s newest judge:

kara dioguardi.jpg
This might be a good time to push aside my man-crush for Albert Pujols and get on board the Kara DioGuardi train.  You might know her for her hit songs sung by other women whom I am sickly attracted to like Carrie Underwood and Christina Aguilera as well as Mr. Krause’s cherished boy-toy hero: David Archuleta.

In any case, I’ll take a sleeper car.

rickey henderson baseball card.jpgAnd for fear that you may have missed it, folks, last night on MLB Network’s Hot Stove show, Victor Rojas and Harold Reynolds had a sit-down discussion with the great Rickey Henderson in which Rickey said: “…my mom is the reason I’m goin’ to Coopertown.”

That’s right. 

Coopertown.

I hope Rickey still has his legs ‘cuz it’s a long way from Tennessee to New York.

Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.

Peace,

Jeffy

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