Tom Hanks was Wrong, Sometimes There is Crying in Baseball

In the 1992 movie a League of Their Own Tom Hanks’ character admonishes one of his female baseball players for crying in the dugout by saying the often quoted phrase, “there’s no crying in baseball.”

On Thursday night in Yankee Stadium there was in fact crying allowed in baseball as New York Yankees’ closer Mariano Rivera said goodbye with class, composure and a few tears on a teammate’s shoulder.

I did not watch the moment when it happened live as the Yankees game against the Tampa Bay Rays was not televised in my market.

But when I woke up Friday morning to check out the game highlights from the night before there was a link to video of the moment Mariano left the mound for the last time.

I figured the video was worth watching since the teaser said that Derek Jeter and Andy Petittie were the ones to take Mariano out of the game which by itself is unusual. I figured it would be nice to see the tribute before heading off to work.

With all apologies to Tom Hanks who famously said that "there is no crying in baseball," I maintain there are times when it is allowed. Photo R. Anderson

With all apologies to Tom Hanks who famously said that “there is no crying in baseball,” I maintain there are times when it is allowed.
Photo R. Anderson

In hindsight I was not prepared for the video.

Once Mariano’s teammates arrived on the mound and it was clear that this was the last time that he would leave the mound in Yankee Stadium the emotions finally erupted and as he buried his head in his teammate’s shoulder the tears began to fall from his eyes.

The television broadcasters did the right thing and did not speak over the moment as broadcasters often try to do since they are taught to fill every moment of dead air.

But in that nearly eight minutes of dead air emotions rang true and the human element of sports was allowed to shine through.

Mariano went through the dugout and hugged each of his teammates before getting pushed out for one last curtain call as the hometown crowd cheered for him one final time.

Of course Mariano was not alone in shedding tears. There were people shedding tears throughout Yankee Stadium as the moment unfolded. And as I was watching the video I found myself shedding tears as well which certainly caught me by surprise.

Like most of baseball I am not a fan of the Yankees. As I have stated before there were certain Yankee players such as Don Mattingly that I rooted for growing up but by and large the Yankees were always the team that stood in the way of my Orioles and Rays reaching the postseason so it was hard to root for them. I also did not care for the free spending of the Yankees who seemed to treat the other 29 teams as their farm teams and cherry picked free agents from other teams year after year to build their super rosters.

But the moment on the mound Thursday night was not about a Yankee player or any other team for that matter. It was about a man who had given his all taking a curtain call and knowing that there would never be another moment like that.

As was the case during this year’s All Star game players from both teams and the entire crowd gave Mariano Rivera a standing ovation and a tip of the cap for a career played free of controversy in an era that needed players to look up to.

So as I watched the video I too was caught up in the emotion of the moment and had some tears flow. I later learned I was not alone in the show of emotions after the fact as the host of one of the sports talk shows I listen to on the radio admitted that he too had been brought to tears by the moment.

The closest baseball comparison to Mariano’s moment that I can think of in my lifetime was when Cal Ripken, Jr. broke Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games played at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Cal Ripken, Jr Photo R. Anderson

Cal Ripken, Jr
Photo R. Anderson

The baseball schedule had been arranged so that the record breaking moment would take place at the Orioles home ballpark so that the Oriole nation could share in the celebration.

Much like Mariano Rivera, Cal Ripken, Jr. played the game the right way and spent his whole career with the team that drafted him.

I do not think I cried when Ripken broke the record, but I do recall it being a moment of extreme happiness as the player I had followed for as long as I could remember broke what many thought would be an untouchable record.

So like that night so many years before when all eyes were on Cal Ripken, Jr., Thursday night belonged to Mariano Rivera and the fans who wanted to say goodbye.

In the end the Rays won the game 4-0 completing the sweep of the Yankees and keeping a one-game lead for the top spot in the Wildcard.

While the night did not end with Mariano Rivera earning a save, he showed the world that watched it live and those that caught the highlight later online that even grown men can cry now and then on the baseball diamond and that is totally acceptable.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I have something in my eye.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Journey to 30 Ends Tonight

Tonight at Minute Maid Park the New York Yankees will face the Houston Astros for the first of three games to end the regular season.

Minute Maid Park Photo R. Anderson

Minute Maid Park
Photo R. Anderson

Having been eliminated from the postseason Wednesday night with a loss to the Tampa Bay Rays the Yankees will end their season Sunday afternoon and prepare for next year.

With losses at an all-time record setting pace the Houston Astros will end their season Sunday and will most likely prepare for more of the same next season.

So with two teams facing off with really nothing to play for tonight it makes for an interesting combination of seasons that did not go as planned.

On a personal note when I take my seat for the game tonight it will complete a 12-year journey to see all 30 Major League teams in a single ballpark.

While many in Houston have complained about the Astros moving to the American League the change in scenery allowed me to cross off the Mariners, Athletics, Orioles, Twins, Angels, and Yankees this season.

Although I had already seen all of the National League teams and some American League teams during Inter-league play over the years it would have taken many more seasons to be able to see all 30 teams had the Astros stayed in the National League and I waited for the teams to come through on the regular Interleague schedule.

Tonight the New York Yankees come to Minute Maid Park for only the second time to take on the Houston Astros. When the first pitch is thrown it will complete my quest to see all 30 Major League Baseball teams at Minute Maid Park. Photo R. Anderson

Tonight the New York Yankees come to Minute Maid Park for only the second time to take on the Houston Astros. When the first pitch is thrown it will complete my quest to see all 30 Major League Baseball teams at Minute Maid Park.
Photo R. Anderson

So from a purely selfish perspective the Astros moving to the American League served me well in my quest to see all 30 teams at least once at Minute Maid Park.

It seems fitting in a way that the final team to cross off my list is the New York Yankees since they are both respected and despised among the baseball world.

The Yankees are making only their second trip to Minute Maid Park. I cannot recall why it was that I missed their last visit to town but I definitely knew I would not be missing this one despite the price gouging committed by the Astros.

My ticket that would normally cost $5 was “dynamically priced” to around $26 since the Yankees were coming to town and the front office knew people would likely pay more for the privilege of seeing them.

Of course with that ticket I will get to see the last game pitched by Andy Pettitte as well as one of the last three games pitched by Mariano Rivera assuming that the Yankees are not too far ahead of the Astros by the time the ninth inning rolls around for it to still be a save situation.

I missed the Yankees first trip to Minute Maid Park but I did not miss out on the souvenir cup. Photo R. Anderson

I missed the Yankees first trip to Minute Maid Park but I did not miss out on the souvenir cup.
Photo R. Anderson

Ironically near as I can tell this will be the first time that I have seen Pettitte pitch in person despite his two and a half seasons playing for the Astros.

I saw many Astros games during that time frame but never seemed to time those visits with nights he was pitching.

So making my first game to see Pettitte pitch correspond with his last scheduled career start seems that much more special. Of course since he has already come out of retirement once it will be interesting to see if the Deer Park, TX native stays retired this time or is urged to give it one more try Brett Farve style.

It is estimated that over 30,000 fans will attend each of the three games against the Yankees which would be more fans than have attended any games this season.

That tells me that there are way more Yankees fans in Houston than Astros fans. Of course it could also just mean that there are Astros fans that waited until the last week of the season to attend a game since all of the previous weeks were too painful to watch.

While the start of the end of the regular season begins today for the Yankees and the Astros it also marks the start of the Tampa Bay Rays last series in Toronto as they push to maintain their hold on the top Wildcard spot.

If all goes to plan I will be rooting for the Rays all the way to the World Series which would certainly make myself and DJ Kitty very happy.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a game to get ready for.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Sometimes Routine is Anything But

If one stops to think about it life is full of routines.

From the hours we work, to the route we take to get to work, there are routines that tend to be the same day after day.

There is even an order in the way we get ready each morning. Any deviation in the routine such as putting on the deodorant too soon can lead to stains on one’s shirt and the need to try again.

Other routines can include eating at a certain restaurant on a certain day each week because one likes the pot roast special that is only offered that day.

These routines can breed both comfort and contempt for their daily sameness.

The world of baseball is also full of routines before, during and after the game.

Before the game players follow the same pregame warm-up rituals which can be both performance based as well as superstition based.

During the game there are things called routine pop flies and double plays with the assumption being they are so easy to turn that they become routine and almost second nature.

After the game many players follow the same post game rituals night after night before returning to the Ballpark the next day to start the routines all over again.

I was thinking about routines and how they can sometimes go wrong the other night when I saw a video of Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado’s knee injury when he was running to first base.

Two routine plays sent two Baltimore Orioles players out of a recent game proving that routine is not always so routine after all. Photo R. Anderson

Two routine plays sent two Baltimore Orioles players out of a recent game proving that routine is not always so routine after all.
Photo R. Anderson

Now, Manny Machado, like every other Major League Player, has run to first base hundreds if not thousands of times since first playing the game of baseball as a child. One might go so far as to say that running to first base is one of those routine plays.

While players can be called either safe or out upon their arrival at first base, few would argue the fact that the act of arriving at first is pretty much routine.

Every so often though something goes amiss with the routine and a player gets injured by doing something just slightly different from the way that it had always been done.

In Machado’s case the deviation from the routine occurred when he caught the edge of the first base bag at a slightly wider than usual angle.

The resulting angle caused Machado’s knee to buckle as he fell to the ground behind first base. Machado remained on the ground for several minutes as the training staff tended to him and he ultimately left the field on a stretcher with his season over.

The good news came a few days later in that the injury was not as bad as first thought and the recovery time should be short and allow Machado to join the team in Sarasota, FL in March for Spring Training.

Of course in the same inning that Machado was injured another Oriole player was hurt during a seemingly routine play.

In the bottom of the seventh inning Orioles infielder Alexi Casilla went after one of those routine fly balls and was running into right field to get it.

Unfortunately as Casilla was diving for the bases loaded ball hit by Rays’ right fielder Wil Myers Castilla’s head was introduced to the knee of Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis’ leg.

Although Casilla initially had the ball in his glove to record the out it rolled out of his glove as he hit the ground, and Markakis’ knee leading to what would become the tying runs for the Rays.

Casilla finished out the seventh inning but was soon sent to a hospital for observation. During a press conference after leaving the hospital Casilla stated that he has no memory of the play due to what is likely a concussion. Time will tell if he is able to return this season.

In the same inning two players from the same team showed that routine plays are anything but and can lead to injuries when just the tiniest of things change.

Machado’s and Casilla’s injuries made me think that if highly trained athletes at the top of their game can get injured doing routine things what hope is there for the rest of us?

A few years back I sprained my back after tripping over my cat in the middle of the night. Now the path I was taking at the time was one that I had taken many times before.

In fact, I had even managed to avoid colliding with the cat in his favorite sleeping spot along the way time after time.

Still the routine was interrupted on this particular night leading to a doctor’s visit to explain why my back was sore and some medication to help it get better.

That was the last time that I hurt myself tripping over the cat and the walks once again became routine but history shows us that we are just one false step away from altering the routine at any given time.

That seemingly boring daily commute to work can be interrupted by construction, accidents, or even a rain shower that lowers visibility.

The restaurant with the great pot roast special can run out of mashed potatoes one week making the pot roast seem not so tasty.

Even the most routine of routines can change with little or no notice. The key is to not be the one leaving on a stretcher when it does.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk about pot roast has me a little hungry.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Fall’s Arrival More Obvious for Some

Yesterday was the first day of fall, or autumn if you prefer.

Fall is the time when temperatures and leaves both start to drop.

Fall is also the time when pumpkins and nutmeg make their yearly appearance in everything from pies to beverages at various restaurants.

Fall is also a time when the summer clothes get put away and the sweaters and jackets come out.

Of course despite the calendar saying that fall is here and temperatures should be falling it tends to arrive in different parts of the country at different times.

I was recently reminded of this fact over the weekend while watching some college football games.

While the fans in the stadiums of many of the games were wearing their fall best as temperatures were likely in the 60’s I was sitting in shorts and a t-shirt and experiencing 80 degrees outside.

Despite fall’s arrival throughout much of the country for Gulf Coast residents fall does not arrive until late October or early November most years.

As much as I would love to be enjoying the flavors of fall such as soups and pumpkin flavored coffees it is still way to hot to even think about any of that here. With temperatures still forecast to hit the 90’s this week the calendar telling me it is the first day of fall does not really mean anything to me.

So while I still need to wait a bit for the fall temperatures to arrive there is no lack of excitement on the baseball schedule to keep me entertained while I wait for the autumn chill.

Time will tell if DJ Kitty and the Tampa Bay Rays make it back to the postseason for the for the fourth time in five years. Photo R. Anderson

Time will tell if DJ Kitty and the Tampa Bay Rays make it back to the postseason for the fourth time in five years.
Photo R. Anderson

Starting today there are only seven days left in the regular season of Major League Baseball as teams jockey for position to be included in the Fall Classic known as the World Series.

Some teams have already clinched a spot in the postseason while others are still battling for their ticket to the postseason.

Perhaps no where is that neck and neck race more intense than in the American League Wildcard race.

The Tampa Bay Rays hold a half game lead over the Cleveland Indians for the top spot in the Wildcard race. So, if the season ended today the Rays would host the Indians in a one-game winner takes all wildcard showdown at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.

Of course, the season does not end today and the Rays have seven games left to play in the regular season. After finishing the series with the Baltimore Orioles today the Rays have three games against the Yankees in New York and three games north of the border against the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Indians have six games left in the season with a home set against the Chicago White Sox and a road series against the Minnesota Twins.

The Tampa Bay Rays are seven games away from getting to add to their banner collection. Photo R. Anderson

The Tampa Bay Rays are seven games away from getting to add to their banner collection.
Photo R. Anderson

On paper the Rays have a more difficult schedule remaining over the Indians who were able to pad their push to the Wildcard with a sweep over the Houston “yes, we really are still a Major League team” Astros.

World Series Banners

Photo R. Anderson

The Texas Rangers who were the second Wildcard team until a few days ago will hope that a series against the Astros helps restore their postseason hopes as they have been in a tailspin in Kansas City falling to the Royals on consecutive days.

While the Wildcard round certainly allows more teams to make the postseason it certainly makes for some long fall nights watching the games and pulling for teams to win and others to lose.

So while the rest of the country takes out those fall sweaters and windbreakers I will be rolling out the Tampa Bay Rays rally t-shirts and polo shirts and watching a lot of games on television.

Once the dust is settled and the playoff teams have been identified there will be time to think about all of those fall scents and flavors. Until then it is still time for the Boys of Summer to play a little longer.

Now if you’ll excuse me all of this talk about the flavors of fall has me craving a pumpkin flavored beverage.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Rays’ Rivalry with Rangers is Young but Intense

For Sherlock Holmes, it was Professor James Moriarty.

For the Hatfields, it was the McCoys.

For Inigo Montoya, it was the Six-fingered Man

For Superman, it was kryptonite.

For Batman, it was the Joker

For the New York Yankees, it was and forever will be the Boston Red Sox.

History and literature are full of examples of epic rivals facing off.

Usually the best of these rivalries occur when both parties are equally matched and either one could secure victory on any given day.

Over the past four seasons the Tampa Bay Rays and the Texas Rangers have been familiar rivals in the quest for the postseason. Both teams are currently tied atop the American League Wild Card standings. Photo R. Anderson

Over the past four seasons the Tampa Bay Rays and the Texas Rangers have been familiar rivals in the quest for the postseason. Both teams are currently tied atop the American League Wild Card standings.
Photo R. Anderson

For the past three years another rivalry has been quietly building between the Texas Rangers and the Tampa Bay Rays.

For those who question the Rangers and Rays as rivals consider this, the path to the postseason for each team for three of the past four seasons has come down to a battle between them.

In 2010 the Rays faced the Rangers in the American League Division Series and lost two games to three.

In 2011 the Rays once again found themselves facing the Rangers in the Division Series and this time only managed a single victory in the series.

Although the Rays were defeated by the Rangers in two consecutive years they can take some solace in the fact that the Rangers went onto the World Series both years. After all, somehow losing to the eventual pennant winner provides some small comfort.

Both teams were shut out of the postseason in 2012 which brings us to this season. Currently the Rays and the Rangers are battling each other for the top seed in the wildcard race.

After splitting a four game series in Tropicana Field this week the Rays and the Rangers remain tied for the top Wild Card spot.

It is highly probable that the Rays and Rangers will meet in the winner takes all Wild Card game this year marking the third time in four years that the road to the World Series runs through them.

So while the Rangers and Rays have not been rivals for as long as some of the historic rivalries in sports, it should certainly not be discounted in terms of intensity.

And while one could argue that the Rangers’ true rival should be their American League West Division opponent, and neighbor to the south Houston Astros, they would be wrong.

The Rays and Rangers offer a battle between two teams that were near the bottom of the standings for much of their existence before finding a winning formula for success late in the last decade.

The fact that each team went through so many losing seasons makes them even hungrier to continue their current success which just so happens to intensify the rivalry more than any games against an in state rival such as the Astros or Marlins would provide.

There are also some connections between the two teams beyond their recent success that may not be so obvious at first glance.

Hall of Famer Ted Williams was the first manager in Rangers' history after they moved from Washington D.C. where they were known as the Senators. Photo R. Anderson

Hall of Famer Ted Williams was the first manager in Rangers’ history after they moved from Washington D.C. where they were known as the Senators.
Photo R. Anderson

Baseball Hall of Famer Ted Williams served as manager of the Washington Senators and continued in that role for a single season after the team relocated to the suburbs of Dallas, Texas to become the Texas Rangers.

The Ted Williams Baseball Museum is located inside of Tropicana Field which just so happens to be the home of the Tampa Bay Rays.

In addition to the Ted Williams connection there are many players who have been associated with both the Rangers and the Rays leading to a familiarity of sorts.

During the 2010 and 2011 playoffs former Ray Josh Hamilton helped lead the Rangers to victory. I am sure there were quite a few times when the Rays had wished that they still had him on the team.

Although he once managed the Rangers the Ted Williams Museum is located inside Tropicana Filed the home Ballpark of the Tampa Bay Rays. Photo R. Anderson

Although he once managed the Rangers the Ted Williams Museum is located inside Tropicana Field, the home Ballpark of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Photo R. Anderson

This year it is Matt Garza former Rays pitcher turned Rangers pitcher that will look to eliminate his former team from the playoffs.

The Rays have four games against the Orioles at Tropicana Field before heading to New York for a three-game set with the Yankees. The Rays will end the regular season in Canada with a three-game set against the Toronto Blue Jays. There is little room for error for the Rays if they want to cling to that Wild Card spot as the Orioles are nipping at their heels and could take the Wild Card spot depending on how the head to head games go.

The Rangers have a slightly easier path in theory when it comes to them holding onto their Wild Card spot with three games on the road against the Kansas City Royals before returning to the Ballpark in Arlington for three games against the Houston Astros and four games against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

But of course anything can happen on any given day which is why the games are played. This year is shaping up once again to be one of those down to the wire seasons where all of the postseason spots won’t be filled until the last out is recorded.

While it is yet to be determined how this season will end in terms of the Rays and Rangers one can definitely not deny the young rivalry that seems destined to last for years to come as both teams battle each other year after year.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to pray for a miracle sweep of the Rangers by the Astros to help the Rays secure home field advantage.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson  

Astros Score the Hat Trick of Mediocrity

Last night the Houston Astros lost their 100th game of the year marking the third straight year that they have accomplished that dubious feat.

In 2011 the Astros went 56-106 in recording their first 100 loss season in team history. Their second straight 100 loss campaign followed in 2012 with a record of 55-107. As of last night the Astros are carrying a 51-100 record for the 2013 season.

In 2005 the Houston Astros were in the World Series. That was the last time they played in the postseason and this year marks their third consecutive season with at least 100 losses. Photo R. Anderson

In 2005 the Houston Astros were in the World Series. That was the last time they played in the postseason and this year marks their third consecutive season with at least 100 losses.
Photo R. Anderson

Time will tell how many of the remaining games the Astros end up losing. With a series against the Texas Rangers and the New York Yankees still to go this season it is highly probable that we have not seen the last Astros loss of the season.

While few people should be surprised at the fact that the Astros have lost 100 games and counting this season, it is surprising based on their play at certain points this year that is took them until September to reach that milestone.

On paper it seemed more reasonable for the Astros to hit the 100th loss mark in August based on the way the team has played.

And of course the 100th loss, much like the previous 99, had its share of errant throws and even a “butt slide” that made people wonder if perhaps the players on the field were Major League players or more like the baseball equivalent of the Harlem Globetrotters.

I actually had the fortune, or perhaps misfortune, to be at the game last night when the 100th loss occurred.

After spending much of the day dealing with some water damage at the Triple B Gigaplex, I arrived at Minute Maid Park a little later than usual so the game was already underway by the time I got inside.

As I entered the ballpark in the top of the first inning the Astros were already trailing the Cincinnati Reds 4-0.

Jonathan Villar tried to stretch a single into a double in the first inning of a 10-0 loss Tuesdays night and ended up getting tagged out in a most compromising position. Photo R. Anderson

Jonathan Villar tried to stretch a single into a double in the first inning of a 10-0 loss Tuesday night and ended up getting tagged out in a most compromising position.
Photo R. Anderson

It should be noted that the Astros went on to lose the game 10-0 which is 100 (as in 100th loss) if you remove the dash. A scary coincidence or stroke of marketing genius?

As for the face to cheek slide heard round the world, that occurred in the bottom of the first inning when Jonathan Villar tried to stretch a leadoff single into a double to start the inning.

Instead of a runner on second with no outs however, Villar was tagged out at second base while somehow managing to face plant the left butt cheek of Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips.

While the Astros have certainly been the butt of many jokes this year that particular play seemed to sum up the season rather literally.

Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips applied the tag heard round the web on Jonathan Villar Tuesday night. Photo R. Anderson

Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips applied the tag heard round the web on Jonathan Villar Tuesday night.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course not every Astros game this season has resulted in a loss and last Friday night I actually witnessed one of those hard to come by wins when I saw the Astros in action against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (also known as the we can see Disneyland from our Ballpark Angels). Okay, so the Angels are not called that but they can in fact see Disneyland from their ballpark in case you were wondering.

One a personal note the Angels became the 29th team that I have watched play at Minute Maid Park.  My journey to 30 teams is set to be completed on September 27th when the New York Yankees come to town for the last three games of the year.

In celebration of my achievement of seeing all 30 Major League Baseball teams at a single Ballpark there will be postgame fireworks. Okay, so the fireworks are not for me but as I watch those majestic explosives light up the downtown Houston sky I am going to pretend that they are.

Seeing Mike Trout and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim put me one team away from seeing all 30 teams at Minute Maid Park. Photo R. Anderson

Seeing Mike Trout and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim put me one team away from seeing all 30 teams at Minute Maid Park.
Photo R. Anderson

Against the Angels, the Astros looked both good and bad en route to the Friday the 13th 9-7 victory.   There was a grand slam hit which showed that the Astros were able to get consecutive hits to load the bases and then have that all important final hit to get them all home.

The game also featured the first career Major League hit for Cody Clark, a journeyman Minor League catcher who had been called up following a string of injuries behind the plate for the Astros.

It is likely that Clark will be back in the Minor Leagues next season but the record books will forever show that on September 13, 2013 Clark got his first hit in the Major Leagues.

Astros Catcher Cody Clark recorded his first Major League hit Friday night against the Los Angeles Angels. Photo R. Anderson

Astros Catcher Cody Clark recorded his first Major League hit Friday night against the Los Angeles Angels.
Photo R. Anderson

In a show of class for the milestone of the first career hit Clark was presented with the ball. Years from now Clark can show his grandkids and anyone else that is around the ball that fell in the outfield to allow him to join the fraternity of Major League hitters.

It is moments like Cody Clark getting his first career hit, even in a lost season, which show there are still reasons to put on the uniform and compete every day.

There is no doubt that 100 loss seasons will probably happen for at least one or two more years but the players are being forged in the fire of adversity and should come out stronger on the other side. And of course if they can work on their base running a little more, and avoid embarrassing slides into the backsides of their opponents, they just may end up smelling like roses.

Now if you’ll excuse me, it is time to slide into the kitchen for a snack.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Keeping it Simple

Over this past weekend I watched a lot of football.

I watched the South Carolina Gamecocks play the Vanderbilt Commodores.

I watched the Texas A&M Aggies play the Alabama Crimson Tide.

I watched the New Orleans Saints battle the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

I watched the Seattle Seahawks take on the San Francisco 49ers.

I watched a lot of football games this past weekend. One of those games involved the Saints and the Buccaneers. Photo R. Anderson

I watched a lot of football games this past weekend. One of those games involved the Saints and the Buccaneers.
Photo R. Anderson

But the best football game I watched over the weekend was not televised. The stands were not full of screaming fans waving rally towels. There weren’t bands belting out fight songs and show tunes. Instead, the best game of the weekend was football at its purest and simplest.

The game I am referring to happened right outside of my back porch in a public courtyard  and involved a boy and his cat.

I suppose I should set the stage a little involving this Norman Rockwellian moment.

After spending much of the afternoon watching the Saints and the Buccaneers it occurred to me that my cacti probably needed to be watered.

Don’t ask me why exactly a game delayed for over an hour by lightning, as the Saints and Buccaneers were,  jogged my memory about the cacti needing water but it just did.

So during a commercial break from the action, I went out to the back porch with my spray bottle and headed for the cacti that were in the corner panting for water.

As I approached the cacti I noticed a rather large black and white cat across the courtyard. The cat was intently watching something so I followed its feline gaze and saw a boy of about 7 or 8 throwing a foam football.

As anyone seeing a football in the air would do I turned towards the intended receiver to see if a catch was made or if the ball would be dropped.

But a funny thing happened, instead of the ball finding a receiver it hit the ground with a bounce and a roll.

The boy who had thrown the ball ran over to it and then threw it the other direction.

It was only then that I realized that the boy was by himself, well except for his cat, and was throwing the ball without a care in the world.

As I stood on my porch watching a few throws back and forth several thoughts filled my head.

The first thought was that it was encouraging to see someone outside actually throwing a real football as opposed to playing a football video game.

It took me back to my younger version of me days when I would spend hours outside after school and on weekends playing football with my friends from the neighborhood.

This quickly brought me to my next thought which was, why was this kid outside playing by himself?

Of course there could be myriad reasons why there weren’t any receivers out there for him to throw to. And for all I know he may have had a friend out there with him before I went outside.

But as I was watching there were no friends to catch the ball, only the boy’s cat watching as the ball went from one end of the courtyard to the other.

This is when my third thought occurred to me. For the briefest of moments I thought about going out there and offering to have a catch with him. Of course this thought created its own set of circumstances that prevented that from happening.

I want to say that we live in a world where a stranger could go up to a small child and offer to throw the football with them but this is not that type of world.

I know that there were bad people in the world when I was a child just as there are bad people in the world today. But it seems like there was more goodness in the world as well during my youth.

While the world I grew up in was far from the stone skipping, song whistling, carefree world of the Andy Griffith Show, it was also not a world where I felt danger around every corner.

It just seems the world of today is not as safe of a place for children to grow up in. Either that or it is the same amount of crime and danger but the internet and other sources allow it to be reported more than it was during my carefree youth.

So thinking all of these things the last thing I wanted to do was spook the boy and his cat by approaching them. I of course knew that all I wanted to do was to give him someone to play catch with but he would not have known that and very well could have seen me as a threat.

Of course, I could very well have been over thinking the whole thing and maybe going out to play catch would not have caused whoever was watching the boy from one of the other patios to run out and shout at me for daring to talk to their son and/or grandson.

I went back outside about a half hour later but the boy and the cat were gone having finished their game of courtyard catch.

Perhaps if I see the boy and his cat out there again next weekend I will offer to show him how to throw a better spiral or to run a post route. After all, everyone should know the finer points of a spiral pass and a post route.

Then again, maybe he is perfectly fine just throwing the ball to imaginary receivers while his cat cheers him on from the shade.

That is part of the wonder of being young and unencumbered with worry, all of your passes are touchdowns and the play clock never runs out.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have another game to watch.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Political Correctness Run Amok

For the past several years or so a group of Native Americans has been trying to get the name of a certain football franchise changed since they find it offensive.

Time after time their efforts have fallen short as the courts have sided with the franchise over the Native American plaintiffs.

Recently several high profile football writers have joined the campaign to have the Washington Redskins change the “offensive” name of their franchise after 80 years.

It should be noted that there is also a portion of tribes who do not find the team name offensive and see it as just a football team and not an example of trying to stick it to the Native Americans. In fact one recent poll showed that under 10 percent of Native Americans surveyed believed that the name was offensive.

I have owned this rally towel for around 30 of the nearly 80 years that the Redskins have played in Washington. Some people think the name should change while others feel it is a part of civic pride. Photo R. Anderson

I have owned this rally towel for around 30 of the nearly 80 years that the Redskins have played in Washington. Some people think the name should change while others feel it is a part of civic pride.
Photo R. Anderson

Now before we go any further, and in the spirit of full disclosure, it should be noted that I am an unapologetic Washington Redskins fan who has bled burgundy and gold for as long as I can remember. In fact, I once led an entire elementary school in the singing of “Hail to the Redskins” using a homemade megaphone during a pre Super Bowl rally in the school auditorium.

It should also be noted that to me, and others like me, the name Redskins symbolizes a rich tradition and heritage of football in the Nation’s capitol and in no way is related to anything else.

While I understand that the word is offensive to some Native Americans it could just as easily be said that to change the name would be deemed equally offensive to the loyal fans of the team.

This week the commissioner of the National Football League, Roger Goodell, stated that it would be up to the team owner of the Redskins to decide if the name would be changed.

And that owner, Daniel Synder, has repeatedly said that he would never ever change the name of the team since it has such a rich history.

And since the NFL Commissioner has said it is up to the owner to decide if the name of the franchise is changed I feel fairly confident that there is no name change in the Redskins future; a fact which should definitely put the fan base at ease.

While the recent movement of certain sportswriters to stop saying Redskins in their articles is certainly their right to do, it creates a sort of censorship of its own in terms of the job they were hired to do.

The fact remains that until a time comes when the name changes the Washington Redskins are the NFL team represents the District of Columbia and the surrounding area. As such, any article covering them should use the proper name and not some name that is deemed more appropriate in the opinion of the writer.

Whether the opinions of the few outweigh the opinion of the many is an area that will be looked at as some Native Americans and other groups try to pressure the Washington Redskins to change their name in the name of political correctness. Photo R. Anderson

Whether the opinions of the few outweigh the opinions of the many is an area that will be looked at as some Native Americans and other groups try to pressure the Washington Redskins to change their name in the name of political correctness.
Photo R. Anderson

Reporters are there to report the facts. They are not there to become part of the story by getting on their bandwagons and following whatever is popular at the time.

While official stories covering the Washington Redskins should use the full name and not some variation of “the NFL team that plays in that stadium named after that delivery company” I am willing to give reporters some leeway in their opinion articles.

So, if someone wants to refrain from using the word Redskins in their opinion articles that is perfectly fine but when it starts creeping into post-game news articles than it has gone too far and has become misplaced grandstanding.

And while I know that there were grave injustices done to the Native Americans many centuries ago the revisionist history and seeking to appease every group needs to stop.

A small minority finds the name offensive. Granted they are a vocal minority but poll after poll suggests that the bulk of Americans do not want the name to be changed.

So are we to change the name to appease a minority while then inciting a larger majority who grew up with the name?

There is no perfect solution that will make everybody happy in this example.

A few years back colleges that had Native American inspired names for their mascots were forced to either change their names or get permission from Native Americans to keep it.

This is how Florida State University was able to remain the Seminoles after the Seminole Indian Tribe agreed the name was not offensive and other schools were forced to change names.

Using the logic of the Washington Redskin detractors the Cleveland Indians should be forced to change their name to the Cleveland Native Americans since “Indians” is deemed an offensive term to some just as a small minority finds “Redskins” to be offensive.

We live in a democracy which guarantees people have the right to express their opinions but it does not guarantee that every opinion held by every group is accepted. This is a majority rules society and the fact remains that a majority of the population wants the Washington Redskins to remain the Washington Redskins.

Of course Washington D.C. is no stranger to having people call for names of their franchises to be changed in the name of political correctness.  When I lived in Maryland the NBA team I followed was the Washington Bullets. Shortly after moving to Florida people were up in arms about such a violent name for a franchise so the Washington Bullets became the Washington Wizards.

Having a team named the Bullets does not mean that an area is going to be any more violent than another. There are Bullet trains named because they go fast, not because they kill people.

Not every word is offensive to everyone and if you dig hard enough every word can be offensive to someone.

Rational people need to make rational decisions about these things and having a few reporters boycott the use of words that they find offensive is definitely not the answer to finding a rational solution.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I still have some Washington Redskins cookie cake to eat.  Hail to the Redskins!

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Triple B Hits the Century Mark

If you happen to be reading this right now, it means that you have arrived at the 100th column entry here at Triple B.

Now, 100 columns is certainly a milestone worth noting and as it got closer there were increased thoughts at the Triple B Gigaplex regarding the best way to celebrate it.

The first thought of how to celebrate the occasion was actually to not celebrate it at all.

Let’s call this the “act like you’ve been there before” approach.

In the act like you’ve been there approach one just continues doing what they have always done without drawing attention to reaching a particular milestone such as say the 100th entry made since January.

For example, instead of talking about it being the 100th column the space could be devoted to discussing the fact that the 2014 Major League Baseball schedule was released yesterday and includes the Houston Astros opening the season at home against the New York Yankees.

The 2014 Astros schedule also gives me the chance to see the Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles, and Washington Nationals from the air conditioned comfort of Minute Maid Park.

Or instead of pointing out that this is the 100th column we could talk about the cheating scandal that is rocking NASCAR and has led to a shake-up in which teams get to compete for the coveted championship.

Another topic we could cover is the total disappointing effort put out by the Washington Redskins in Monday Night Football despite us going to the trouble of getting a special cookie cake for the occasion to go along with a tray of imported cheese, rosemary crackers and pinwheels.

Instead of tasting sweet like victory, this Washington Redskins chocolate chip cookie cake tasted bitter after a lackluster effort by the Redskins in Monday Night Football. But that is not what we are here to talk about. Photo R. Anderson

Instead of tasting sweet like victory, this Washington Redskins chocolate chip cookie cake tasted bitter after a lackluster effort by the Redskins in Monday Night Football. But that is not what we are here to talk about.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course as many on field celebrations show, the act like you have been there approach is often thrown out the window in favor of the “party like it’s 1999 approach.”

One particular example of the excessive celebration in baseball is the walk off win.

As the name implies a walk-off win occurs when the teams simply walk off the field after the home team has scored a decisive run in the bottom of the ninth inning that leads to a victory.

I have never really understood baseball teams that choreograph routines for walk off celebrations. I get the emotion of the moment and the fact that the victory is secured but when some teams have set roles for people to play during a walk off celebration such as who get to catch the batting helmet as the runner touches home things have gone too far.

With the act like you’ve been there approach ruled out thoughts on how to celebrate turned to the television clip show approach.

I am sure everyone has watched a television show at one time or another that was comprised of clips from previous shows as the actors on the show “looked back” at pivotal moments of the past year.

This approach usually involves a contrived set-up that allows for the seamless inclusion of remember when moments that serve as flashbacks for the viewer.

One of my favorite shows growing up, MacGyver, was notorious for the clip show approach. It would never fail that each season would include a look back at shows and events which sometimes happened as far back as the episode that preceded the clip show.

A MacGyver clip show would usually involve the main characters in some sort of a jam and then they would realize they had gotten out of worse scenarios in the past by saying something like, “Remember when MacGyver disarmed that thermonuclear device with a bottle cap and a whisker from a Russian Dwarf Hamster?”

And then a clip would be shown of MacGyver disarming said device earlier that season armed with a Swiss Army Knife, a bottle cap and of course that all important non conductive whisker from a Russian Dwarf Hamster.

Okay, to my knowledge Macgyver never disarmed a thermonuclear device with a hamster whisker. But if he did, and there was footage of that, I would certainly deem that to be clip show worthy.

So if we were to take the clip show approach here I would say something like remember when we talked about how bad the Astros are this year?

And of course that phrase would have been hyperlinked so that you could navigate back there to read the previous article about when we talked about how bad the Astros were.

Although I think many of the past 99 columns referred to how bad the Astros were this year so that would be a lot of hyperlinks to have to go back and add.

So instead of talking about the Astros we could say remember when we talked about (fill in the blank)? And of course the link would magically transport you back to reread that particular article.

I was never really a big fan of the clip show approach when MacGyver did it and I am definitely not going to do it now since it always struck me as a cheap way for the writers to not really have to work hard at coming up with new material.

So we aren’t taking any shortcuts here, although remember when we talked about…

With the act like you’ve been there before approach and the clip show approach being ruled out we had to think of a third way to celebrate the milestone of reaching 100 columns.

What better way to celebrate 100 columns than with some cake. Photo R. Anderson

What better way to celebrate 100 columns than with some cake.
Photo R. Anderson

That led us to the third way to mark the occasion of reaching our 100th column, we bought a cake and put some candles on it.

I mean who doesn’t love baked goods? After all, remember a few paragraphs up when we were talking about a Washington Redskins cookie cake?

And when the cake is filled with Boston Cream one really can’t go wrong. (By the way remember when we talked about Boston?)

So, there you have it, the 100th post here at Triple B.

Here’s to many more to come as we offer observations from the cheap seats, the beach seats and everywhere in between.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some cake to eat. Of course, if you had been here yesterday I could have offered you a slice.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Cuba Home to Old Cars and Pet Pelicans Among Other Things

For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated with the idea of visiting Cuba.

Of course, with all of the travel restrictions and trade embargoes in place traveling to Cuba is not really an option for me at the moment.

The closest I ever came to visiting Cuba was on a cruise ship in the late 80’s when the ship was heading back towards Miami from the U.S. Virgin Islands. As we approached the island the captain made an announcement along the lines of if you look out to our starboard side you will see Cuba.

I recall that the island was covered in a sort of rainy haze which made it both intriguing and beckoning at the same time. I also remember briefly thinking that I hoped the captain did not drift into Cuban waters by mistake and lead to an international incident.

In the end we passed without incident and as Cuba got smaller and smaller on the horizon behind us I was even more convinced than ever that I wanted to one day step foot on that mysterious rock.

Stories of the pre Cuban Missile Crisis and Bay of Pigs Cuba have always fascinated me. I was not alive during the tense days when the U.S. Naval blockade was in place to keep Russian ships from supplying missiles to the island so it is likely that my opinion towards Cuba may be different if I had lived through those tense days that almost led to World War III.

Bell tolling books

Earnest Hemingway’s home in Cuba is where he wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea.
Photo R. Anderson

Instead, to me Cuba represents a land where Earnest Hemingway and other figures spent their days fishing and their nights in smokey rooms, or crowded ballparks enjoying the freshest of Cuban cuisine and culture while getting from point A to point B in various cars from Detroit.

I guess one could say I want to experience the vision of Cuba that I have in my head. I want to sit and watch a baseball game played in a ballpark where the air and the accents are both thick and rich with history.

I want to sit in a road side cafe and eat my weight in Cuban pork and plantains while watching the hustle and bustle along the street.

I want to visit Finca Vigia, Earnest Hemingway’s home in Cuba where he wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea.

I want to see those old cars that were on the road when Hemingway walked the streets and are still being driven today due to the ingenuity of the Cuban people to keep those cars roadworthy for all these years.

I want to tour a cigar factory and see people using the same hand rolling techniques that their great great great grandfathers used.

I want to do all of these things and more in Cuba but sadly under the current rules of travel that is not an option for me at the moment.

Our friends north of the border in Canada can come and go as they please to Havana but for those with America stamped on the cover page of their passports it is a different story.

Of course, I certainly hope to get to visit Cuba without having to become a Canadian citizen first and feel that I will get a chance in my lifetime to do so.

While I have many things on my list to see when I do get to Cuba, there was another item that I heard about that also seems worth checking out on the island 90 miles away from Florida.

I recently learned that there is a family in Cuba with a pet pelican named Pancho. When I saw the pelican above in St. Petersburg a few years back it never occurred to me that pelicans would make a good pet. Photo R. Anderson

I recently learned that there is a family in Cuba with a pet pelican named Pancho. When I saw the pelican above in St. Petersburg a few years back it never occurred to me that pelicans would make a good pet.
Photo R. Anderson

I am of course talking about Pancho the pet pelican.

There was a story in USA Today about Pancho, a pelican that wanders the streets of Havana with his owner who nursed him back to health.

Now, before I saw the story I had never even considered the idea of having a pelican as a pet.

I am a huge fan of pelicans and I love to watch them fly and do their pelican thing but never once in my wildest dreams would I have thought that a pelican would follow me around without me having to carry a fish to lure him.

So while conditions in Cuba and the surrounding political system may not be the best for individual freedoms I think that a country that allows its citizens to have pet pelicans cannot be all bad.

Okay, let me clarify before I get angry cards and letters that I am in no way endorsing communism as a preferred form of government over democracy. I am merely stating that I think it is pretty cool that there are people in Cuba with pet pelicans regardless of what form of government they live under.

When I lived in Florida I had many friends from Cuba who told me first hand of the atrocities that they had witnessed under Fidel Castro so I know that it is not all pet pelicans and sunshine.

These atrocities are one of the reasons why so many people continue to flee the island for a chance at a better life filled with more freedoms and other opportunities that they cannot have in Cuba.

But from a pure coolness factor of walking around with a pet pelican one has to give the nod to Havana.

And while we are giving people nods and shout outs one cannot forget Diana Nyad who at age 64 recently became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a protective cage, hitting dry land on a Key West beach nearly 53 hours after jumping into the ocean in Havana for her fifth try in 35 years.

While I am not a smoker I do collect cigar boxes and ones marked "Havana" always seem to be a bit more special. Photo R. Anderson

While I am not a smoker I do collect cigar boxes and ones marked “Havana” always seem to be a bit more special.
Photo R. Anderson

So I guess it was reading about that historic swim as well as Pancho that had me longing once more for a visit to Cuba. Of course, another reason for my renewed quest is the fact that I have been craving some really good Cuban food lately.

And it should not really shock anyone that Texas is not really a hotbed of Cuban Cuisine so the choices here are certainly limited.

So, I will continue to plan things to see and do in Cuba while I wait for the travel restrictions to be lifted and for the opportunity to present itself for me to be free to move about the country.

After all, why should the Canadians have all of the fun, eh?

Now if you’ll excuse me all of this talk about Cuban food has made me a bit hungry.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson