The Crossing Of Another Barrier

Jason Collins, a journeyman basketball player out of Stanford who played this year for Washington and Boston, has become the first athlete in North American professional sports to come out as being openly gay.

If you have been following sports in recent months, it seemed extremely likely that this barrier was going to be crossed this year at some point.  A few NFL players were rumored to come out in the coming weeks or months, so this was just a matter of time.

To me, this was only a matter of time.  I’m a heterosexual man, but just like there are lesbian athletes in woman’s sports, the idea that all male athletes choose women as their sex partners seemed an increasingly impossible concept to believe in.

Just like you can’t tell me that athletes in all sorts of sports in this continent or worldwide aren’t gay or lesbian just because they don’t say so.  My motto is: life is too short, be who you want.  I’m sure what Jason said will cause all kinds of manly homophobia, but grow up.  It is what it is.

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The Tribal Rituals Of High School

So after getting up this morning and feeding Harry the cat (on loan to me from our landlords who are off to North Dakota for the summer), I turned on the news as I ate my breakfast bagel.  The high school closest to my location was on the news, holding a pledge drive to get students to promise not to text and drive.

Hmmm.  I wondered if they are coerced to participate in that pledge.  I also wonder if anyone refuses to participate in that pledge.  Do it because it’s cool to do, I can see the school poobahs telling the kids.  A non-binding agreement used as a peer pressure tool.

Back when I was in middle and high school, and the teachers needed to make a little dough, they’d whip out candy bars.  In middle school, the science department would do this, while in high school, the math classes turned you into candy vendors.  You’d pay $24 for a box of twenty-four crunchy, almond, or caramel candy bars.  Yes, for some reason, I still remember the flavors of candy you could buy.  If one of my classmates wanted a candy bar, you’d fork over $1.  If you sold the whole box, you got a few bucks back as a reward.

The school must have bought the candy bars at a discount, say at $12 to $15 a box to have made a profit on the deal.  And it didn’t help that some of the other teachers HATED to see you sell candy bars within their field of vision.  Once I was severely chastised by a teacher at Largo High School for selling a candy bar to another student.  You’d think I was selling kids crack cocaine or something.  I nearly got into trouble for defending myself, too, and I was a well behaved kid who rarely got into trouble.

Let’s just say I peaked as a renegade at kindergarten.

The MLB Bourgeoisie

So while fans of the Boston Red Sox celebrated the capture of the terrorist that had held the city hostage the past week on Saturday afternoon, noted baseball columnist Peter Gammons took a cheap shot at the Tampa Bay Rays franchise.  In an interview on NESN on Saturday, he implied that the Rays draw 8,000 fans a game to their MLB games.

Oh, really?

Yes, I will admit that the Rays have problems drawing when they face teams other than Boston or the Yankees.  But there are two things worth pointing out about the franchise.  One, every night, the Rays have to compete with minor league teams well within the surrounding communities of the Tampa Bay area.  The Tampa Yankees.  The Clearwater Threshers.  The Dunedin Blue Jays.  The Lakeland Tigers.  The Bradenton Marauders.  Ask the average baseball fan if they would spend $25-$50 to go to a minor league park and pay much less for hot dogs, beer, coke, parking, and tickets as opposed to paying $50-$100 to go to Tropicana field and having to do likewise.

A good sized beer at the Trop costs $9.  You could probably get a quality beer at a minor league park for half that, if not less.

We’re one of the smallest markets in MLB with the problem of having to compete with nearby minor league teams, so by not moving all of these teams out of the area, Major League Baseball created our problem, and not a problem of our choosing.

Secondly, the Devil Rays/Rays have only been in existence for 15 years.  Boston has had major league teams going back well over a century.  They have a shrine to the game in Fenway Park that’s popular with their fans.  Fathers can take their sons to Fenway and tell their kids that when they were little, their parents took them to the very same park.

We don’t have that kind of tradition here yet.  And by the time that tradition develops, the Rays will have moved to a newer ballpark in the area, or in some other city.  Comparing Boston to Tampa is like comparing apples to oranges.  But yet some think these comparisons are fair.

And by the way Mr. Gammons, the Rays drew over 15,000 for the Friday game against the Oakland A’s, but drew 25,611 for the Saturday night game, and 25,954 for the Sunday afternoon game.  Just looking at some attendance figures at random, the Pirates only drew just over 20,000 for a game at home against Atlanta on Sunday, while the Reds-Mets game at Citi Field just drew over 26,000 that same day.  While the Pirates and Mets franchises are having problems with their on-field products presently, it goes to show you that sagging attendance can hit anywhere in MLB, and is not just a Tampa Bay area problem.

A Soundtrack Of Sports

Pat Summerall and Jack Buck get ready to call Super Bowl IV for CBS, January of 1970.
Pat Summerall and Jack Buck get ready to call Super Bowl IV for CBS, January of 1970.

Wish I had some better news to blog about, as it’s been a pretty morbid week so far.  But the passing of George Allen “Pat” Summerall is worth mentioning.

Last July, I had called Summerall “the voice of God” because I always envisioned if God wanted to call a football game, he’d probably use Pat’s voice.  His record as a broadcaster is well documented, especially his work calling pro and occasionally college football games which stretched over six decades and began in JFK’s administration and ended in President Obama’s.  He called events in at least six different sports (football, basketball, golf, tennis, boxing, and filled in for Harry Caray on a Cubs game back in the 80’s), and I’m probably unaware of one or two others that he’s done.

Of course, many of you younger than me probably have fond memories of Pat working on the Madden video games from the turn of the century.  But to me, he’s the soundtrack of many of my Sundays, where he was doing the Masters in April, the US Open tennis tournament in early September, or many of those great NFL games in the fall and the winter.

My favorite Pat Summerall call?  Too many of them to pick out just one.  But the last Super Bowl he worked with John Madden (between the Patriots and Rams) wasn’t too darn bad.  For a non-football game, his call of the Jimmy Connors match at the US Open against Aaron Krickstein on Labor Day in 1991 would be my choice.  The crowd was squarely behind Connors and his legendary comeback run, and Summerall and partners Tony Trabert and Mary Carillo just laid back and let Jimmy’s rabid fans and the pictures do the talking in a final set tiebreak to determine the winner of the match.

May he rest in peace.

And Everything Changes Again

boston

A few months ago when the Newtown shootings took place, I said at the time that the blog I did afterwards was the hardest blog I had ever done.  That has now been trumped by this one, my first blog after the bombings that took place today after the Boston Marathon.

I pray that what I saw today never happens again, just as I prayed after 9/11 that an incident such as that never happens again.  But I know in my heart that it will.

I didn’t find out about the Boston bombings until about 5pm.  I was watching Colombo on Netflix and eating an early dinner.  I checked the E-mail on my Blackberry, which was flooded with mail from CNN Breaking News.  Chills went up and down my spine, as I knew something huge had happened…but what?  Did North Korea start the crap they were promising?  Did someone notable pass away?  Then I read the dispatch…and went “OH, SH*T!”

My body began to tremble in a way I hadn’t felt since that fateful Tuesday morning nearly twelve years ago.  The streak of non-terrorism in the United States was now over at eleven years, seven months, four days, and about six hours.

I saw the clips of the explosions at the start/finish line, then the clips showing the explosions 100 yards or so back.  The blood on the sidewalk.  I shook my head.  Here we go again.

And so, everything we knew when we woke up this morning to be the American way of life will now change again.  And it sucks.  It is my sincerest hope that the loss of life is as minimal is it can possibly be, but we now go back to being a scared country as we were in 2001.  It shouldn’t be this way.

We need to stand together.  We need to tell whoever these terrorists are that you CANNOT KILL ALL OF US.  I am not afraid of terrorists or terrorism, even if one day they were able to kill me.

And the people who did this need to be held accountable to the highest extent of the law.  And if found guilty, a publicly televised execution probably wouldn’t hurt.

 

Jonathan Winters And The A&P Store

As many of you know by now, comedian Jonathan Winters passed away Friday at the age of 87.

When I was a child, my father used to tell me that the A&P grocery store he worked at in New York was often visited by this brilliant comedian, and he’d do the improv comedy routines he would become famous for right there in the store.  But I was also told about how Winters spent time in a psychiatric hospital as well.  But I always figured that to be a good comic, you have to be a little crazy.

To me, Winters was at his best in two roles: as the easily irritated furniture mover Lennie Pike in It’a A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and as the pool champ in an episode of  The Twilight Zone.

Last Thursday would have been my dad’s 85th birthday.  I can’t help but wonder if Mr. Winters visit to the pearly gates may have been a present of sorts.

Crossing Something Off Of The Bucket List

I’m only 41, but when you get to this age, I feel it is only natural to realize you’re not going to be around in the world forever.  Certainly I don’t want that they to come today or tomorrow, for I feel I have plenty left to do in my life.

But it’s always good to cross something off of your bucket list.  The things you want to do before you leave this mortal coil.  And I had the chance to X off one of those things Monday.

I exchanged tweets with British singer Bonnie Tyler.

She’s been doing a lot of publicity events as of late to drum up support for her newest album called Rocks And Honey and for her participation in the Eurovision Song Contest later in the year.  Over the weekend, I saw that a chat of sorts had been set up on Twitter where she would field questions and she’d answer selected tweets for a period of time.

I thought up what I thought would be a good question Sunday night, US East Coast time.  It got answered.

Exchanging tweets with Bonnie Tyler, April 7-8, 2013.
Exchanging tweets with Bonnie Tyler, April 7-8, 2013.

Just goes to show you anything is possible if you believe it.