Archive for September, 2007

Not as Neat as a Pin

I am rumpled.  By “rumpled,” I mean that I am not a neat person, in a way that is more fundamental than just not picking up after myself (my mother swears that I was the biggest slob of any of my siblings).  There are people who, when they put on nice clothes, look like they were born to wear nice clothes; everything is just so, well, nice and neat. 

An example of this was a guy who I saw in the gym near my work the other day.  He was a thin guy who had been working very hard on the treadmill before coming into the locker room.  He showered, put on a freshly dry-cleaned suit, and was out the door in 15 minutes without a drop of sweat or a hair out of place; neat as a pin. 

I have never been that guy.  The first reason is that clothes seem to wrinkle as soon as I touch them; leading me to wonder if I might have been blessed some kind of weird super power.  I also have a dog who leads the league in shedding.  Clothes will come out of the wash perfectly clean, until Callie the Wonder Dog sneezes, or perhaps twitches her ear and covers everything in sight with a thin layer of fur. 

The general state of my clothing was summed up well by the late Major League Baseball umpire Ron Luciano in his book, “The Umpire Strikes Back.”  He wrote about the time that his fellow umpires broke into his suitcase and wreaked havoc with his clothing -messing up his shirts and tying his pants in knots – before closing the suitcase and sneaking out of the room.  The punch line, of course, is that Luciano never noticed.  I read the story to my wife and she shouted, “That’s you!” 

If I wear a new shirt, I will invariably ruin it on the first day.  Usually, this is done with food or drink of some kind, but sometimes I find new ways to ruin my clothing. 

Recently I noticed that one of my shirts was covered in small, white flecks where the color seemed to have been bleached out.  It was then that I remembered wearing that shirt while adding liquid shock to my pool.  Another time, I accidentally rubbed the end of a pool cue against a yellow shirt, leaving a nice blue stain that has been remarkably resistant to laundering.  Who knew that pool cue chalk was so insidious? 

I have at least 4 pairs of pants that have had the belt loops blown out.  No, they did not simply pop after a hearty meal, rather they reach out and manage to catch themselves on the bolts that secure car doors.  I will be exiting a vehicle and feel a slight tug, but by then it is too late:  another pair of pants has been sacrificed to the car gods.  This gets expensive after a while, and I end up with a closet full of pants that I can only wear when my shirt is un-tucked.

Besides my adventures with clothing, another reason I’m not neat is that if I do any form of physical activity, my sweat glands work overtime.  They do this without regard to any bathing activity; even after a shower I will continue to sweat for up to an hour. This is not an uncommon condition for a man of my size, but it happened when I was thin as well.  The slightest bit of exercise would start the water works for what seemed like hours.  In my life, there has never been such a thing as lightly shooting a basketball around or playing a game of catch without ruining my clothes.  The good part of this is that no one wants to guard me during pickup basketball games; the bad part was, well, every high school class after gym. 

During one college summer, I worked at a restaurant and would bike to work every day during the summer.  It wasn’t far, maybe a mile or two, but by the time I got to work I would be sweating profusely.  To combat this, I would stand in the walk-in freezer until my teeth literally began to chatter, but when I exited the freezer, beads of perspiration would still be popping from my brow. 

Over the years, I have received a wide range of advice about how to solve the perspiration problem.  Everyone seems to have a theory, and I have tried them all, including:  really cold showers, really hot showers, drinking less water, drinking more water, eating more salt, eating less salt, drinking sports drinks, standing in front of a fan for 20 minutes, and even drinking hot coffee.  None of them have worked, although I now find that I have an odd craving for coffee on hot days. 

I suppose that, given my self-defeating clothes and perspiration, I should probably give up on my dream of someday being as neat as a pin.  It is likely that it will never happen, and worrying about it isn’t going to help me any.  There are two lessons to take away from this:  1) My wife is a saint to put up with me, and 2) I should probably stop checking out guys in my gym locker room.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 28 Sep 2007 No Comments

An Open Letter to Terry Francona

Dear Mr. Francona: 

There was a time a while back when, in this space, I took to calling you “Puddin’ Head.”  I did this because I felt that you often seemed as if you didn’t know what you were doing.  Now, any third grader can tell you that, despite the satisfaction it might provide, calling people names is not nice.  I thought about that earlier this season, when your team was stomping the guts out of everyone else, and I made the conscious decision not to call you “Puddin’ Head” any more. 

After all, you were winning games left and right, and your track record here is very solid when looked at from a wins and losses perspective.  I considered your record of success here in Boston, and reconsidered my opinion that you sometimes left your brain in your locker next to your boat shoes instead of bringing it into the dugout with you.  I thought that perhaps I wasn’t being fair, and that maybe; just maybe, you wear Crocs and not boat shoes. 

However, during this past week, as the New York Yankees continue to whittle away the lead in the American League East, I have felt a strong urge to once again question the chemical makeup of your cranial contents.  I have been leaning toward butterscotch. 

The reason for this change of heart is that you don’t seem to take pitchers out until you are sure that they have well and truly blown the game.  It had been a recurring theme with you and Tim “Leave him in until he gives up 8 runs” Wakefield, but now you have expanded your scope.  In just the past week, Curt Schilling and Eric “Blown Save” Gagne have put runners on the base in what would be their last inning of work anyway.  Instead of bringing in someone fresh, you have decided to let these pitchers “tough it out.” 

Schilling, after a gutty performance where he had held the best lineup in baseball to 1 run while not missing many bats, gave up a one-out single to old friend Doug Mientkiewicz in the 8th inning.  He then gave up a shot off the green monster to Jason Giambi for another single (a hit that would have been a homer in many parks).  Take Schilling out?  Nah, the game isn’t gone yet. 

After almost giving up the lead on a dribbler to Johnny Damon, Schilling got two strikes on Jeter before giving up a BOMB; and that was the game.  Then, and only then, did you pop on out of the dugout to remove our man Schilling.  Nicely done. 

Then, only two days later – this past Tuesday night – with your team leading the Blue Jays, 2-1, you brought in Eric “Blown Save” Gagne to preserve the lead in the 8th.  Since joining the Red Sox, before Tuesday night, Gagne had been personally responsible for three awful losses, and had been fairly uneven at best. 

So, he gets two outs, then gives up a walk to Frank Thomas.  No big deal.  Then, he gives up a single to Aaron Hill and it might be time to think about pulling him out.  But, the game’s not blown yet, so he stays in to walk old friend Matt Stairs.  Now, bases loaded, two outs, Gagne is having control issues; take him out?  Nope.  You leave him in to walk Gregg Zaun and tie the game.  Take him out NOW?  I mean, you only have the best closer in baseball ready in the bullpen.  Nope…as before, the game isn’t blown yet, and you are apparently too busy trying to figure out the punch line of a  “Bazooka Joe” comic to worry about piddling matters like winning and losing. 

Gagne falls behind and ends up with a full count on Russ Adams and gives up the game-clinching double.  The inning ends with a runner being thrown out at the plate.  Then, and only then, do you bring in Mr. Papelbon to keep us close. 

Honestly, I am not a violent man, but I very much wanted to kick you in the shins at that moment.  Baseball should be enjoyable; not a matter of gritted teeth and shouted expletives.  I hold you directly responsible for my jump in blood pressure this week. 

Your quote about Gagne’s performance on ESPN.com was, “He had two quick outs, that’s his inning to get out of.” 

Really?  His ownership of the inning is the most important thing there; not winning the game?  If you truly believe that, then you are either totally incompetent or you take your strategy cues from Grady Little.  As a Red Sox fan, I have to ask that you please reconsider that attitude. 

Seriously, I’m on your side.  I want you to succeed in a Belichickian fashion.  I want you to experience so much glory managing the Red Sox that your name becomes legend in New England forever, but that won’t happen unless you stop leaving your pitchers in too long. 

I realize that Okajima is tired and gave up a couple of homers to the Yankees the other night and that Papelbon came in and threw gas on the fire, but that doesn’t mean that Mr. Blown Save should be pitching in key situations.  Ever.  Remember this for the playoffs. 

Your job isn’t easy.  You have to deal with a locker room full of attitude and an offense that can’t seem to score any runs any more.  You have JD Drew who isn’t hitting, whether because of his son or because he just stinks; Jason Varitek in a slump; Lugo hitting .240; and Manny well enough to jack batting practice homers but not to actually play. 

All of those factors just contribute to the fact that you need to wake up and start being smart about your pitching staff.  If a guy is faltering, don’t be afraid to pull him out.  Don’t listen to the pudding. 

We’re all rooting for you. 

Sincerely, 

A Devoted Fan.

Sports Tim 21 Sep 2007 No Comments

Lay Off the Pink Hats

In a recent column, Bill Simmons, the Holy Cross alum known as the Sports Guy on ESPN.com, writes about being unhappy about the new hordes of Red Sox fans that have jumped onto the team’s bandwagon. He describes them as “knuckleheads,” and asks, “Do these yahoos even know suffering?”

This is not a new direction for Mr. Simmons, who also wrote about the new fan phenomenon in the afterword of his book, Now I Can Die in Peace. He writes that fans should have to pass a test, involving knowledge ranging from knowing about former players like Scott Cooper and Kevin Morton to remembering the name of Mo Vaughn’s favorite strip joint, in order to earn the right to wear Red Sox gear. He describes the bulk of post-2003 fans of the team as “posers.”

The ESPN Sports Guy is not alone in his uneasiness with the sudden national popularity of the Red Sox. Boston radio personalities and columnists like Tony Massarotti of the Boston Herald have bemoaned the existence of newer fans, and have labeled them as the “Pink Hats.” There is even a website called “Pink Hat Hell,” where fans who “believe that Red Sox history began in 2003” are criticized. These fans are blamed for a wide variety of things, from the lack of ticket availability at Fenway Park to the existence of a Red Sox dating show – “Sox Appeal” – on NESN.

Mr. Simmons’ writing, though consistently entertaining, has always been shaded by his need to feel superior to other people. It is this need that drives Simmons, Massarotti, and others to draw a line between “real” Red Sox fans and “Pink Hats.” Before the Red Sox won the World Series, these people could wear their “suffering” as a badge of honor; now that suffering is not part of the Red Sox equation, they need another distinction to make them feel special.

The whole idea is just totally ridiculous. If it’s secret handshakes and initiation rituals you want, join a motorcycle gang. I have to believe there was a time in his life when even Bill Simmons didn’t know who Frank Malzone was.

Right now is a good time to be a Red Sox fan, and we should all be happy that there are other people willing to join the club. More Red Sox fans equal more money in the Red Sox budget, and the current ownership group has shown a willingness to spend that money in order to improve and compete with the hated Yankees.

This is a sharp contrast to the old ownership group. That bunch would trot out players like Andre Dawson and Jack Clark, guys who were clearly on the downside of their careers, as the big signings of the off-season and expect Red Sox fans to respond with enthusiasm. If any fans became disenchanted with the Red Sox during those years, they can hardly be blamed. There wasn’t much to be excited about at Fenway Park.

I suffered a similar disenchantment with my beloved Boston Celtics. After years of avid fandom, I became disgusted when they traded their entire future and salary cap flexibility for Vin Baker, a player with an alcohol problem who added just about zero to the talent level on the team. I felt that if the Celtics didn’t care, they didn’t deserve my support. With the change in ownership, my attitude has changed.

The ESPN Sports Guy has written about a similar disenchantment he experienced with the Boston Bruins ownership. He has given up on them entirely. But, if the team was to be sold and the new owners showed a commitment to winning, would he be able to resist hopping onto the Bruins bandwagon? I’m sure that he would be driving the wagon, with some form of handy justification for his return as a “true fan.” Would he then be a member of the wannabe “Yellow Hat” crowd, who would have to bow down to the superiority of those fans who never gave up?

My answer is no. There should be no rite of passage or rank involved in a person’s decision to root for a baseball team.

Sure, I don’t like making a mortgage payment just to go to a game at Fenway any more than anyone else does, and I’m not thrilled that corporations buy all of the season tickets and that their executives talk on their cell phones throughout the games. But, all of these “posers” do a pretty good job of rooting the team on. Even when viewed on TV, the games seem to crackle with electricity; most of the fans hang on every pitch and live and die with every win or loss. Even if some of the people with pink hats spend 3 innings looking for the pretzel guy, the crowd as a whole reacts appropriately and strongly to events on the field.

It’s a good time to be a Red Sox fan. The team is winning, and the games are fun, and for the first time there isn’t a shadow of the past looming over the season. Everyone believes that the Red Sox can win this year, JD Drew or no JD Drew. The whole scene, including bogus elections for the president of Red Sox Nation, might be an overblown spectacle, but it’s fun. There’s room for everyone, new fan or old, on the bandwagon.

H.L. Mencken once defined Puritanism as, “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, is having a good time.” Bill Simmons and the other Puritans of Red Sox Nation need to stop worrying about what other people are doing, relax, and enjoy the ride.

Sports Tim 31 Aug 2007 No Comments