A living document.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

never mind

You know that "John from Cincinnati" post below? After last week's episode, I have concluded that -- How can I put this delicately? -- I was wrong. Last week's episode was the kind of train wreck that doesn't happen to shows that are on the verge of becoming magical.

Yes, I will watch again tonight. But based on last week's episode, the show has moved from fascinating mess with a chance for greatness to potentially irredeemable disaster.

(As always, I reserve the right to pull a Gale Sayers and cut back against the grain again.)

(James Wolcott is on-point with some of his criticism of the show here and here. Though I still maintain that the opening credits are pure genius.)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

An Oath to the President

via Andrew Sullivan

You got to pick the notes you really mean

From the New York Times Book Review essay by Haruki Murakami, "Jazz Messenger":

One of my all-time favorite jazz pianists is Thelonious Monk. Once, when someone asked him how he managed to get a certain special sound out of the piano, Monk pointed to the keyboard and said: “It can’t be any new note. When you look at the keyboard, all the notes are there already. But if you mean a note enough, it will sound different. You got to pick the notes you really mean!”

Monday, July 09, 2007

Hey Butchie. The less you have to say now, the less you have to take back.

"John from Cincinnati" is an odd piece of art. It would be an odd play in an experimental space in Southeast DC. It would be an odd book from Coover or Barth. It would be one of those exhibits at the Guggenheim or the Hirshhorn that couples sit in front of for a few minutes, shrug their shoulders, and then wander down to the gift shop to by a Calder mobile.

The fact that it is on HBO, and is the putative replacement for "The Sopranos," is breathtaking. This was a network that cancelled David Milch's "Deadwood" -- the brilliant, profane, heart-stopping Western with a small but rabid fan base -- and decided to let him run with a show about, well, let's see:
  • surfing
  • levitating
  • God
  • Ed O'Neill, the "Married with Children" Dad, taking instructions from a pet bird
  • half the characters actors from "Deadwood" in supporting roles in a Southern California noir
  • Rebecca De Mornay as a grandmother (I agree with James Wolcott that De Mornay is about the same age as her "Risky Business" paramour Tom Cruise, and if Cruise were in this show, he would never agree to be cast as the grandfather (I am not on-board with the rest of Wolcott's thoughts about "John from Cincinnati," but, as always, he is fun to read on the arts and politics even when I do not come to the same conclusions)
  • coming back from the dead
  • Luke Perry ("90210" in the house)
  • the great LUIS GUZMAN, for about three minutes an episode. From PA Anderson and Steven Soderbergh to David Milch -- well played, Mr. Guzman.
  • Willie Garson, Stanford from "Sex & the City," for a few minutes an episode
  • Mexican wrestling
  • illegal immigration
  • drug addiction
  • Vietnam vets with post-traumatic stress disorders
  • oh, and a guy who might be an alien, or an apparition, or Jesus, or a charlatan
I can't even tell if the show is any good right now, though I suspect that it is turning into something magical. I haven't looked, but I can't imagine that many are watching. But it has David Milch's crazy genius at work, and for me, that's enough. He is working out his obsessions on a weekly series. It's part Tom Stoppard, part Thomas Pynchon, part James Joyce, and part the crazy guy who wanders up 19th Street NW on weekdays yelling angrily at the people lined up in 95-degree heat at the passport office who are waiting in vain for government documents allowing them to travel.

I'm not telling you to watch it. I don't want to have to defend how much I am enjoying it. But I'm going to hint that it is one hell of a fascinating mashup.

It's not tv. It's "John from Cincinnati."

(Oh, I will tell you to watch the opening credits. The Clash's great Joe Strummer sings "Johnny Appleseed" with his band The Mescaleros over the washed-out California images.)

Sunday, July 08, 2007

There's Always Money in the Banana Stand

I like this parody clip more than many parts of "Knocked Up." Anything with George Michael (Michael Cera, of "Arrested Development" fame) slays me. For future discussion: When did directors start filming parody scenes during the filming of the movie? My guess is that this started happening when directors realized that they could throw bonus materials on DVDs.

(For those that haven't seen the movie, Cera is in another Judd Apatow movie and just filmed this scene as if he had been hired for the lead role in "Knocked Up." There is a similar scene with Seth Rogan as the lead in the actual movie.)

Michael Cera gets fired from Knocked Up

For people who enjoy this kind of thing, see also James Franco of "Superman" and "Freaks and Geeks" doing a similar "fake take":

James Franco gets fired as lead role in Knocked Up

(I love that I write these posts as if thousands of people are reading.)

I don't know how to put this but I'm kind of a big deal.

"The fundamental cause of trouble in the world today is that the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt." -- Bertrand Russell, via Julian Sanchez

See also Fred Kaplan ("
The fact is, Giuliani has no idea what he's talking about."), Kevin Drum ("Hmmm. That reminds me of somebody. But who? Push? Tush? Schmush? Something like that....."), and the Dunning-Kruger Effect ("The Dunning-Kruger effect is the phenomenon whereby people who have little knowledge systematically think that they know more than others who have much more knowledge.").

Monday, January 16, 2006

Letter from Birmingham

Matt Welch at Hit & Run has a great post today that reminded me that my suspicion about the NSA's easedropping/wiretapping is grounded in recent American history. (It is grounded also, for some of us, in general distrust of the unchecked power of one branch of government to set its own limits on how it will gather and use information about Americans and specific doubts about this administration's veracity.) He notes an LA Times piece by LBJ Attorney General Nicholas deB. Katzenbach about J. Edgar Hoover's wiretapping of Martin Luther King Jr. The rationale for the wiretapping? National security, of course. It is a good read, both because of the King holiday and because of the NSA controversy.

Welch also points to the text of King's Letter from Birmingham. I don't remember the last time that I read it, and I had forgotten the power of its words and ideas. My favorite part deals with just and unjust laws, which I have reprinted in part below. But the whole thing is worth reading as an eloquent, important piece of American political and philosophical writing:
"You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may won ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there fire two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the Brat to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all"

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distort the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an "I- it" relationship for an "I-thou" relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and awful. Paul Tillich said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression 'of man's tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.

Let us consider a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal.

Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up that state's segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered. Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically structured?

Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.

I hope you are able to ace the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience.

We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was "illegal." It was "illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country's anti religious laws."

Hi. I'm back.

In honor of new Hall of Fame inductee Bruce Sutter. And his tremendous beards. (Thanks, Tony.)

Friday, November 11, 2005

I wish you luck with a capital 'F'

According to my dictionary, "patriotism" means the following: "Love of and devotion to one's country."

According to George Bush's administration and his angry band of bloggers, "patriotism" means not criticizing the administration for its conduct during the selling of this war (Al Qaeda connection to Iraq, WMDs, and Saddam buying nuclear materials in Niger). It also means not saying anything that could lead the rest of the world to think that people in the U.S. have a lack of trust in this administration.

When the war was popular, Bush and his minions made it known that this was his war, and that the Democrats were weak. Elect John Kerry, Bush said, and you will be hurting America's war efforts. Now that Bush's popularity hovers around 36% and the war in Iraq is deeply unpopular, now that a majority of Americans wish that we had not waged war on Iraq, Bush is claiming that critics of the way in which we were lead into war give aid and comfort to the enemy and put our troops in further harm's way. We should all just pull together, the unpopular President says:
"The stakes in the global war on terror are too high, and the national interest is too important, for politicians to throw out false charges. These baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will. As our troops fight a ruthless enemy determined to destroy our way of life, they deserve to know that their elected leaders who voted to send to them to war continue to stand behind them."
This is utter horse hockey. And as someone who supported Bush and Blair based on my belief that they would never cook the books for the State of the Union or Colin Powell's UN speech, and who feels foolish now as I watch them drag the reputation of the United States through the mud because of its torture policies and its decision to thumb its nose at the rest of the world, it infuriates me.

Other people in the blogosphere had a different reaction. The wildly popular Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds wrote the following:
"The White House needs to go on the offensive here in a big way -- and Bush needs to be very plain that this is all about Democratic politicians pandering to the antiwar base, that it's deeply dishonest, and that it hurts our troops abroad.

And yes, he should question their patriotism. Because they're acting unpatriotically."
Reynolds is claiming, therefore, that Americans who criticize the Bush administration's pre-war advertising campaign about WMDs are acting out of hate and treason toward the United States. Reynolds does not believe the people who say that they supported the war previously but now think that the administration appears to have been so hell-bent on going to Baghdad that it cooked the books and engaged in an unprecedented and successful PR campaign to win over the hearts and minds of the American people still reeling from the September 11 attacks. He think that they are lying. He thinks that they hate America.

Because I am one of those people, and because Reynolds thinks that he can look into my heart, I guess he knows that I am about to quote Elvis Costello:
"Are you a man now you wear a man's hat?
Are you a man now or are you a rat?
You go to church quiet as a mouse
You're a big cheese now in the workhouse
With these vulgar fractions of the treble clef
I wish you luck with a capital 'F'"

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

McCain Laughs

The Daily Show, November 8, 2005
Jon Stewart: "Let me ask you a question: Is Dick Cheney insane?"
John McCain: (laughs)

. . . .

Stewart: "Where does he have the balls to sit in front of you and say [torture] could work."
McCain: "You know, I knew that this was a bad night to come on the program. (laughs)"

. . . .

Stewart: "Let me ask you something else . . . This is just a last question real quick: Is Dick Cheney a coward?"
McCain: (laughs)

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Potential Autobiography Titles

* It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

* Mistakes Were Made

* I Blame Myself

* I Swear, I Did Not Finish the Meatloaf

* Whoops!

* As God Is My Witness, I Thought Turkeys Could Fly

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Literature Quote of the Day

"He talks relentlessly, and more or less everything he says is gibberish. He talks a lot about music, but also a lot about books (Terry Pratchett and anything else which features monsters, planets, and so on), and films, and women. Pop, girls, etc., as the Liquorice Comfits said. But his conversation is simply enumeration: if he has seen a good film, he will not describe the plot, or how it made him feel, but where it ranks in his best-of-year list, his best-of-all-time list, his best-of-decade list-he thinks and talks in tens and fives, and as a consequence, Dick and I do too. And he makes us write lists as well, all the time: "OK, guys. Top five Dustin Hoffman films." Or guitar solos, or records made by blind musicians, or Gerry and Sylvia Anderson shows ("I don't believe you've got Captain Scarlet at number one, Dick. The guy was immortal! What's fun about that?"), or sweets that come in jars ("If either of you have got Rhubarb and Custard in the top five, I'm resigning now."). Barry puts his hand into his leather jacket pocket, produces a tape, puts it in the machine, and jacks up the volume. Within seconds the shop is shaking to the bass line of "Walking on Sunshine," by Katrina and the Waves. It's February. It's cold. It's wet. Laura has gone. I don't want to hear "Walking on Sunshine." Somehow it doesn't fit my mood."

(38 seconds of cheering.)

The title of this post comes from the transcript that I printed below of Vin Scully's call of the end of the Sandy Koufax perfect game. After Koufax nails it down, Scully went silent and let the crowd noise take over for 38 seconds. How many announcers have the sense of the moment and the confidence in their listeners to be able to let 38 seconds of ecstatic cheering take over the radio broadcast? On television, it would have been impressive, but on radio, it was downright courageous.

(For a contrast to this, listen to Milo Hamilton's 1974 call of Henry Aaron's 714th home run, which pushed Aaron past Babe Ruth and made him the all-time champion. The networks will show the clip this summer when Barry Bonds passes Ruth and heads towards Aaron's 755. Hamilton starts yelling about "a new home run champion" as Aaron circles the bases instead of letting the moment speak for itself. His voice is like sandpaper -- he makes his words the story instead of letting Hammerin' Hank have the spotlight.)

(Amazingly, Hamilton is still on the airwaves -- he is still harming the eardrums of Astros' fans in Houston. I’m sure that he is a great guy deep down, a fine American, but he sounds like a born corporate shill who enjoys reading advertisements ("This is Milo for Hi-Lo!") more than anything else. He sounds aggrieved regularly without bring any of the descriptive skills and pure passion of Houston's great, biased Rockets' announcer Gene Peterson ("Dream is backing him in, backing him in, HE’S HACKED! NO CALL! He shoots and scores!"). Hamilton neither expresses joy about what has happened on the field (like Gene Peterson) nor paints a picture and then leans away from the microphone to let the lack of announcer enhance the experience (like Vin Scully).)

What does this have to do with anything? Well, nothing. Except that whenever there is a gap in my posts, just think, "He's letting the audience cheer. It's just his version of 38 seconds of cheering.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

You've Got Questions . . . I've Got Answers

In response to the questions that have been pouring into Swung On and Missed World Headquarters:

1. yes
2. duh . . . of course
3. candlesticks are nice
4. but sunrises are better
5. comeback concert elvis (in between thin and fat elvis)
6. "raw deal"

Keep those questions coming!

Vast Wasteland Line of the Night

For the first time ever . . . it's a tie!

"How come you never told me you won a beauty contest?"

"Every day I walk out of my front door I win a beauty contest."

"I come from a long line of fighters. My maternal grandfather was the toughest guy I ever knew. World War II veteran. Killed 20 men, then spent the rest of the war in an allied prison camp. My father battled blood pressure and obesity all his life. Different kind of fight."

Peter Gammons

"Throughout my career I have tried to be guided by one principle, that because I am human I have the right to like people."
It occurred to me that one of the things I want to chronicle on this blog are words that move me. Many times those words are about sports. Peter Gammons was inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame last summer. I was one of millions who was turned on to baseball in part by Gammons' Sunday notes columns that were syndicated from the Boston Globe and appeared in papers across the country in the 1970s and 1980s, including the Des Moines Register. When he moved to Sports Illustrated, his audience expanded, and when he joined ESPN, it exploded further. Fans, players, executives, and struggling sportswriters all adore Gammons. And his Hall of Fame induction speech shows why.

His words are not especially poetic, but the emotion that underlies them moves me. Cynicism sometimes feels like it pervades sports these days. Some fans, owners, players, and journalists appear to enjoy puncturing the enthusiasm that so many of us try to carry for the games that bring us joy. But not Peter Gammons:
"Steve Jobs' advice at that time to a graduating class of Stanford this year was 'find what you love.' I am here today because I found what I love. Understand, I grew up in a household where when I got home from school my mother greeted me with, 'Can you believe they traded Jim Piersall for Vic Wertz and Gary Geiger?'

Ned weaned me on respect and reverence for the history and texture of the game. My sister Anne hit me fungoes in a small New England town where the Red Sox home opener was an acceptable legal excuse to leave school at 10 a.m. My father found what he loved in music and teaching and the goodness of man. He and Paul Wright, my godfather, teacher and mentor, remain the two greatest men I have ever known … teachers like Juney O'Brien and Jake Congleton. By the time I was 18, I knew my role models and my life's mission statement were defined.

When this award was announced, Mike Barnicle left me a simple message. 'Tom Winship would be very proud.' Winship was the editor of the Boston Globe, a Branch Rickey of a man who changed the newspaper business in Boston and opened a world for kids who were dying for a chance. Mine came as a summer intern in 1968. It started the day Robert F. Kennedy was shot. In those days you had a morning Globe and afternoon Globe, and when I walked in, I was introduced to my fellow intern Bob Ryan, basketball Hall of Famer. We were told to call every team in business, ask them what they would do for Robert F. Kennedy and write a story. We did. The 3:30 late stocks edition came up, and there on the front page of the entire paper Mr. Ryan and Mr. Gammons had their first bylines. We went to the Erie Pub, raised a couple of 10-cent drafts and decided, you know, what we found what we loved.

My career essentially has been very simple, Boston Globe, Sports Illustrated, ESPN. I have been fortunate enough to work for extraordinary people. There are hundreds, maybe thousands who I should thank, but it was Tom Winship and Fran Rosa who stuck their neck out to hire a kid who hadn't even graduated from college … Mark Mulvoy, who hired me twice at Sports Illustrated … Vince Doria, who brought me back to the Globe and anyone who I ever worked for believes is the best sports editor, if not the best boss who ever lived … John Walsh who had the crack-brained idea to bring a sportswriter into television because, as one of the businesses most creative visionaries, he understood that information is king. I am very proud to say today much of what ESPN is today is because of John Walsh and there are hundreds of people that have gone and followed me out of the print profession to ESPN because of Walsh.

I am not here as a television personality, but as an ink-stained wretch. Publishers and new editors have no clue. They have no understanding that the baseball beat is the toughest beat in the newspaper business. It means severe personal sacrifices. A few years ago Jayson Stark and I decided that over a 25-year period we probably talked to one another more than we talked to our wives and no one has sacrificed more than my wife Gloria, who saved me in an unpredictable storm of a business that knows no holidays.

The baseball beat today is much tougher now than when I was traveling with the Red Sox for the Globe. There is far less access, 10 times the bodies in the clubhouse. The Internet, radio, television have broadened the baseball information universe. And yet our business, I am proud to say, keeps producing generation after generation of young reporters who are tireless, good and fair. Throughout my career I have tried to be guided by one principle, that because I am human I have the right to like people. But because I am professional, I have no right to dislike any one. People ask me, as a New Englander, what was it like walking out there in the field when Aaron Boone hit a home run. To be honest, my first reaction was, I was ecstatic. I have known Aaron Boone since he was 13 years old, and that's my privilege. My second reaction, I saw Tim Wakefield, head down, and I felt despondent. He's one man who did not deserve that. As I walked out on the field to try to get introduced, I turned to my producer, Charlie Moynihan, and said, 'Look around here, you know what? I just got paid to cover the greatest game ever played in the greatest sporting venue in the world. I think I'm the luckiest man on earth.'

Jerry Coleman, I am honored to be in Cooperstown with you -- war hero, World Series MVP, announcer, gentleman. Ryne Sandberg, I think of a 40-home run season, a 200-hit season, a 50-steal season and the ego of a clubhouse kid.

But, to be here the day Wade Boggs is inducted is a special thing for me. This is a guy who played seven minor-league seasons, hit three something a ridiculous six straight years, went through three Rule 5 drafts and kept saying, 'my success will be measured in terms of dealing with adversity.' In the last half-century, Wade Boggs is the oldest position player to debut in the major leagues and make the Hall of Fame. He is the model for overcoming adversity of all kinds. I remember that afternoon in the spring of '86 when you and I were driving with Ted Williams over to have that night of discussing hits with Don Mattingly. Ted leaned forward in the car and said, 'Hey Wade, did you ever smell the burn of a bat?' Well, there are very few people who have. I have never forgot that. When the All-Century Team gathered around Ted at Fenway before the '99 All-Star Game, Ted asked Mark McGwire the same question. He retold the story. He said, 'Did you ever smell the burn of the bat?' There were six National League players in the room at the time around McGwire. What is he talking about? Well, let's face it, the burning of a bat is the lexicon of the gods.

And to stand here in front of the Hall of Fame players is like standing in front of the baseball dieties, and yet I feel so fortunate to have known so many of them as humans. I think of Carlton Fisk and I think of eight to 10 hours a day of rehab in the winter of '73-'74, mostly in the Manchester YMCA, to come back from a knee injury that very few humans could have recovered from. Eddie Murray, I think of the hours he took, watching him take BP, which allowed him to know all of those thousands of clutch hits which were only by design, not chance. I think of Robin Yount and the fastest he ever got timed to first was 3.9 seconds, the slowest 4.0. And I remember that George Brett always used to say he wanted his career to end on a ground ball to second base on which he busted his hump down the line. I think of Mike Schmidt mowing and lining the field in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, so he can coach his son's high school team. Then there's Sandy Koufax telling me that I lived in L.A. the way he lived in Stonington, Maine. I think of Bob Gibson's handshake, of Tony Perez, Petuka Perez, I think he lived a quarter of mile from where I lived in Brookline, Massachusetts, and to this day not two weeks go by when someone doesn't say, you know, how are Tony and Petuka Perez? They are the greatest people who lived in this neighborhood.

I think of the hours and I thank Jim Palmer and Tom Seaver for discussing pitching with me. I will never forget the day that Orlando Cepeda hit four doubles in one game in Fenway Park and could barely walk. I think of Reggie Jackson and the two of us wandering around Kenmore Square in Boston after the Angels had lost the 1986 ALCS, outraged because Reggie Jackson's team had lost. I think of Dennis Eckersley and I think of his start in the 1978 Boston Massacre, when nearly 100 writers surrounded Frank Duffy because he made an error. He started pulling them off. He shouted, 'He didn't load the bases. He didn't hang a 0-2 slider. Get to the locker and talk to the guy who has an L next to his name.' Dennis Eckersley defines teammate.

I think of Kirby Puckett, my favorite days in baseball while the lights were still off in the Metrodome at 2 o'clock in the afternoon. Game Six, the night he won the World Series, probably the only guy in the world that called me Petey, says, 'Petey, get up in your SportsCenter and tell everyone that Puck is going to jack the Twins up on his back today.' Well, four hits, a game-saving catch, and a 11th-inning home run later, Puck took us to the greatest seventh game, World Series game I will ever experience: 10 innings, 1-0, Jack Morris. These players are great players whose success is measured in overcoming adversity, but no one had to be a great person, no one had to be a great player to be a great person stored in my memory bank. So I think from John Curtis to Bill Campbell to Jerry Remy, Buckethead Schmidt to Bruce Hurst, Ellis Hurst to George Lombard, I've been lucky to know thousands of people who loved the game as much as I do.

In 1985, the Globe sent me to Meridian, Mississippi, to do a story on Dennis 'Oil Can' Boyd's background. I had dinner with his father, Willie James, who was once a Negro League pitcher and maintained the field and team in Meridian. He was telling me how he financed his life in baseball by being a landscaper.

He told me a story of a day in 1964 when he was landscaping the yard of the grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan. He remembered seeing the cars coming up. They all rolled up the street, up the road from Philadelphia [Miss.] to [Meridian] Mississippi to take care of some civil rights workers. Mr. Boyd looked me in the eye. He said, 'You know what? This is what makes this country great. Today that man is destitute and crippled with arthritis and my boy, Dennis Boyd, is pitching in the major leagues for the Boston Red Sox.' In my mind the Boyd family represents baseball's place in American society. Jackie Robinson was in the big leagues seven years before Brown versus the Board of Education and we should never forget it, just as we should never forget the important athletes of the 20th century, arguably one of the 10 most important Americans of the 20th century. I remember waking up to read the story of Roberto Clemente's death, a great baseball idol [who] died taking medical, food and clothing supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. I was with Dave Stewart the morning after he won the third game of the 1989 earthquake series as he crawled through the rubble of the collapsed Cypress structure to hand out coffee and donuts to volunteers searching for bodies.

I walked the streets of Manoguyabo, Dominican Republic, with Pedro Martinez and viewed the churches, school, athletic complex, day-care center and houses that he built for poor people in his hometown. I was not far from Fidel Castro when he stood for the American National Anthem at attention, his hat across his heart because baseball came to Havana in 1989. I remember George Bush strode out toward the mound at Yankee Stadium before the third game of the 2001 World Series, weeks removed from the World Trade Center attacks, and turned and said to Karl Ravech and Harold Reynolds, 'We are among the 55,000 people who just experienced one of the great chills of anyone's lifetime.' When Bud Selig asked us to embrace the World Cup, it's not T-shirts in Taiwan. It's about celebrating that baseball, more than any sport, is who we are. It is reflected in our immigration patterns, our history because we're all immigrants. We should want the world to see us not for our politics, not for our business, but for baseball as our metamorphic soul, inclusive, not exclusive, diverse, not divisive, fraternal, not fractionalized.

If any of you are familiar with the Cape Cod League you probably might have heard of Arnie Allen, a special needs gentleman who for 40 years was a batboy for the Falmouth Commodores. He was diagnosed with brain cancer in the summer of 2002. Seventy-two hours later a duffel bag of Angels paraphernalia arrived in Falmouth, courtesy of two Falmouth players, Darin Erstad and Adam Kennedy. Of course, the Angels went on to the World Series in 2002 and after winning one incredible sixth game coming from a five-nothing deficit in the eighth inning. Before Game Seven, Erstad and Kennedy pulled me aside before they went out to stretch and told me, 'We know you are going to be speaking at the Hall of Fame inductions in two weeks on the Cape.' They said in unison, 'As you speak, could you do us a favor, Arnie will be there probably for the last time. Could you just tell him that Darin and Adam Kennedy said we are thinking of him before they went out and won the World Series?'

Every day at the ball park, for me, there's been something that's great. Ozzie Smith fielding ground balls, just seeing Willie Mays, watching Tom Seaver throw a 3-1 changeup to Don Baylor in his 300th win, George, Gossage in 1980. More important, what I have taken from all of these years is the knowledge that the people who play this game inherently care so much about that game, fellow players and those who love it. I am very fortunate to have baseball as a part of my life for 35 years. I thank you, Gloria, and all my family for standing aside me and all baseball writers for their friendship, support and maintenance of a great and proud profession. The game is also about players. I thank the thousands of players that I have known for making this ride better than I ever could have imagined. Ted Williams used to tell me, 'Hey, Bush, someday you want to walk down the street and have people say you have the greatest job in America.' Ted, it happens almost every day. For that I thank all of you, every one who read or listened to me, allowed me to try to be your eyes and ears, that allowed me to find what I love and hold on to it long enough to experience this, the greatest day of my professional career.

Thank you."

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Theo Walks Away

Theo Epstein was one of the "boy wonders" who was hired by the Boston Red Sox as General Manager three years ago at the tender age of 28. He hired Bill James (a hero to all of us who grew up reading his revolutionary statistical analysis and trenchant writing – he was the ultimate outsider who will someday be in the Hall of Fame), went on recruiting trips for players like a college football coach (famously convincing Curt Schilling to sign with the Sox after breaking bread with him over Thanksgiving), and in 2004 brought the rabid fan base of the Red Sox their first World Series crown in 86 years. He had his dream job and made the dreams of a legion of baseball fans who lived and died with the Sox come true for the first time. Theo Epstein was a God in Boston.

Yesterday, Epstein quit his job. Immediately, the gloating of the angry old guys on the sports pages and the sports talk radio airwaves (with the welcome exception in D.C. of Dan Patrick's national ESPN Radio show) could hardly be contained. Epstein (and people willing to question conventional wisdom in general) threatens the old guard of baseball, and so they relished his departure just as they cheer when Billy Beane's Moneyball Oakland Athletics don't make the Series and when Beane protégé Paul DePodesta is canned in Los Angeles. They gloat because people with a new approach threaten the world that they know. (Peter Gammons, the Hall of Fame baseball writer, is a notable exception.)

So I waited for the column of Bill Simmons, “The Sports Guy,” all day. Slate has called Simmons “the Bard of the Red Sox,” and he deserves the title. He has made fun of some of Epstein's moves and sometimes mocks statheads. Nevertheless, he also knows that Epstein and the movement that he represents have an important place in baseball. He just published a bestselling book looking back at his lifetime passion for the Red Sox that culminates with the title of which Epstein was a principal architect. And when his column appeared today, it did not disappoint. Simmons drives me crazy sometimes -- his attitudes can be juvenile, and he plays dumb sometimes even when he knows better. Today, however, he manages to compare himself to Theo Epstein and make it work:
"When you dream about doing something for a long time, and then it happens, it's never actually as good as you think it would be. There's almost a surreal letdown of sorts after the fact. And it's impossible to explain unless it's happened to you. For instance, ever since I was in college, I dreamed of having my own sports column and covering a Boston team when they won a championship. That's all I wanted. In the spring of 2001, ESPN found me. Nine months later, my beloved Patriots went to the Super Bowl and shocked the Rams in New Orleans. I wrote about it every day, and on the morning after they won, my column ran on the front page of this Web site. Greatest professional moment of my life, right?

Well, something weird happened. After that game, I couldn't stop thinking, "All right, what happens now? What do I do? How can I top my dream moment?"

And the thing is, you can't. The moment happens, it ends, you celebrate and feel good about yourself … and then it's on to the next day, and you have to figure out what the next challenge is, and deep down, you're wondering why you didn't enjoy that watershed moment more than you thought you would. I don't know Theo, I have never met him, and the experience of being the general manager of the first Red Sox championship in 86 years was roughly 100,000,000 times more profound and important than my experience in New Orleans. But the fact remains, after that Super Bowl column, I struggled writing this column for the next seven to eight months; eventually, I ended up moving to California to write for a fledgling late-night television show. That Super Bowl trip changed everything for me."

Sunday, October 30, 2005

As Nasty As They Want To Be

"The right's embrace in the Miers nomination of tactics previously exclusive to the left — exaggeration, invective, anonymous sources, an unbroken stream of new charges, television advertisements paid for by secret sources — will make it immeasurably harder to denounce and deflect such assaults when the Democrats make them the next time around." -- Hugh Hewitt on the New York Times Op-Ed Page, via Kevin Drum (emphasis added)
Wow. I am glad that the Republicans avoided using "exaggeration, invective, anonymous sources, an unbroken stream of new charges, television advertisements paid for by secret sources" when attacking John Kerry with those fun kids from the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, or that George Bush's henchmen played above board in South Carolina in 2000 when engaging in a push poll against John McCain about whether he fathered an illegitimate "black baby" (he and his wife had adopted their daughter out of Mother Teresa's orphanage in Bangladesh). And I hope sincerely that the Republicans don't stoop to the Democrats' level when attacking someone like Hillary Clinton. After all, if they did, then they would be engaging in something like Hillary hate-porn, to steal James Wolcott's phrase. Oh, wait . . . .
"BYE FOR NOW [John Podhoretz]
In news that will doubtless gladden many hearts, I must report that I am taking a leave from The Corner through the end of this year because, like everybody else on this website, I am in the process of finishing a book . . . . I wish you Godspeed. And buy my book on Hillary when it comes out in the spring!"
Here is a random and far from exclusive list of Hillary hate-porn, available from Amazon.com right now for your pleasure (note the Jonah Goldberg title for special fun)!

"Condi vs. Hillary: The Next Great Presidential Race
by Dick Morris, Eileen McGann

The Truth About Hillary: What She Knew, When She Knew It, and How Far She'll Go to Become President
by Edward Klein

Hell to Pay: The Unfolding Story of Hillary Rodham Clinton
by Barbara Olson

The Case Against Hillary Clinton
by Peggy Noonan

Ron Brown's Body: How One Man's Death Saved the Clinton Presidency and Hillary's Future
by Jack Cashill

Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House
by R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., Mark W. Davis

American Evita: Hillary Clinton's Path to Power
by Christopher Andersen

Hillary's Secret War: The Clinton Conspiracy to Muzzle Internet Journalists
by Richard Poe

Hillary's Scheme: Inside the Next Clinton's Ruthless Agenda to Take the White House
by Carl Limbacher

Liberal Fascism: The Totalitarian Temptation from Mussolini to Hillary Clinton
by Jonah Goldberg

The Hillary Trap: Looking for Power in All the Wrong Places
by Laura Ingraham

The Seduction of Hillary Rodham
by David Brock

Big Sister Is Watching You: Hillary Clinton and the White House Feminists Who Now Control America--And Tell the President What to Do
by Texe W. Marrs

Can She Be Stopped? Hillary Clinton Will Be the Next President of the United States Unless . . .
by John Podhoretz"