For Openers

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The 2018 Tampa Bay Rays likely won’t be remembered as a team of greatness. They will win at least 87 games this season, perhaps as many as 92 – but they won’t be one of the ten teams in MLB that make the playoffs each year.

What they will more possibly be remembered for years from now was the invention of a new baseball term – an opener. Instead of doing what baseball teams normally have done for years in using a starting pitcher that is used for the bulk of the game, they came up with the idea of starting games with a relief pitcher who goes an inning or two – then continuously using relievers as the game wears on. They still have a few starters like Blake Snell, who broke the Rays club record with his 21st win a few days ago. Nonetheless,  two or three times during their five-man rotation, they do not use “starting pitchers” in the strictest sense.

The strategy has paid dividends – they are second as of this writing in team earned-run average, only behind the Houston Astros. In the copycat world of sports, and particularly baseball, I can see other teams copying the Rays personnel maneuvering in seasons ahead. It also wouldn’t surprise me if a pitcher that wins 20 games or gets 300 strikeouts during the season also meets with eventual obsolescence.

 

 

The Cat Treat Caper

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The news seems a bit too serious these days – so would you all mind if I share a lighter story?

It involves my now 10-year-old cat, Harry. I take care of him during the course of a given day, but when I think I’m ready to go to bed for the night – he goes to the “porch” section of the house. He has air conditioning access, a meal, water, dry food, and some treats ready to go when I put him out there every night and has free reign of that room to go see whatever he wants to gaze at. I close the porch room door – he gets his rest, and I get mine unless a storm startles him which does happen here in Florida during the summer.

Last night, I go through the familiar process of getting him set up – but I forget to take the bag of Temptations treats in with me, leaving the bag somewhere in the porch room. The bag of treats sits on the floor when I greet Harry this morning, with a big hole in the center of the bag. Harry had not only figured out how to open the bag, but he also ate half the bag last night – an amount I usually feed him over about five days or so!

Dogs might love you to death, but you can’t deny cats aren’t very intelligent.

The “Aw, Shut Up” Moment

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I couldn’t help but notice, watching the menagerie of NFL football games on Sunday, the Brett Kavanaugh story heating up. Apparently, another woman has come forward from the Supreme Court nominee’s past – claiming that she too was the victim of sexual harassment behavior some three and a half decades ago. In the case of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the first accuser – no one has come forward to corroborate her story conclusively. With the second allegation three days shy for what will likely be a much-hyped Senate hearing – there will be a smaller window of opportunity to corroborate the allegations of this second accuser. Will there be three by the time of the hearing? Four? Twenty?

This being said, sexual misconduct by anyone should be taken seriously, and if anyone within the sight of this blog entry has been assaulted or otherwise mistreated, I urge you to get help from the authorities if such help is available to you.

There is a great scene from the movie about the 60 Minutes/Jeffrey Wigand revelations about the tobacco industry called The Insider. In this one scene, Wigand is testifying in a deposition in Mississippi, and the “big tobacco” lawyer is making objection after objection in an effort to obstruct the proceedings. The opposing lawyer played brilliantly by Bruce McGill – eventually gets frustrated with the obstruction.

When the “big tobacco” lawyer smirks at him, the lawyer played by McGill kicks his anger to a new gear, screaming at him to “…wipe the smile off your face!” The “big tobacco” lawyer shuts up finally, the deposition resumes, and the movie goes to its subsequent scenes.

I think we’re coming to such a dramatic moment in real-life in the here and now – probably before we get to the mid-term elections. The Kavanaugh circus might cause it, but other matters like the fate of Rob Rosenstein (and today’s series of bizarre reports – first claiming he resigned, was about to be fired, then having retracted both of those) could also be potential catalysts. It probably won’t go as smoothly or neatly as things often do in the movies, but what does in real-life?

Two political ideologies fight for what the truth is as if they have the sole monopoly on it. Here’s the thing: neither of them has such a monopoly. Be careful, you guys – I don’t want a civil war happening anytime soon – for I wouldn’t know who my enemies or my allies are.

Little Boxes All The Same

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I was surprised to see the FedEx guy in my neighborhood on a Saturday, even though I live pretty close to the nearest such facility. I was even more surprised that he delivered two boxes to my address – the new cable receivers I had ordered 48 hours prior.

The cable company seemed to imply it’d take three to five business days for the receivers to arrive, but it took way less than expected. For that, my thanks to Spectrum.

I studied how to put the receivers together and got them ready relatively quickly. It wasn’t rocket science – you put the batteries in the remote, you connect the receiver to the power, then you connect the receiver to an HDMI port. Then you call the cable company’s automated system to tell them the receivers are all set – BOOM! Off you go.

Being in the lurch of not having cable is now a distant memory. Now, about that new bill…

 

Flashback: “Magic” by Pilot

A song getting a lot of play in these parts due to the sudden resurgence (or so it’s hoped) of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Scottish band Pilot scored their biggest hit in the US with the song (they’re better known in the UK for another song called “January” which topped the UK charts but fared poorly here), with the song peaking at #5 on the Billboard charts in the summer of 1975.

The Unfair Fair Warning

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I had a pleasant surprise Tuesday night. Turning on my TV in time for the Rays game, I noticed that the channel wasn’t operating – then I noticed other channels were having the same problem. Then I thought the cable must have gone out, so I examined the other TV’s.

The house has three TV sets. The one connected to the digital receiver was working perfectly – the other two were not. Then I turned to channel 2 on one of the seemingly inoperable sets and got the message that commencing today (being Tuesday) – the analog cable was cut off and that more receivers would be needed if you wanted to watch cable hereafter.

Our cable provider gave notice about this by mail – the day after it happened. Nice work, guys.

Doing a quick search on Google, there was a small story in the Tampa Bay Times about our cable going “100% digital” a few months ago. You’d think I would have gotten a notice about such a vital change than the day AFTER it happened, right? Nope. Somehow, it managed to escape my attention.

The receiver boxes are on their way, but again, it would have been nicer of the cable provider wasn’t so tight-lipped and greedy about the matter.

Bert And Ernie Are What?

I was a bit puzzled to hear recently the “revelation” that the Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie were a gay couple.

I’ve always followed the “Jim Rome” logic on that. Rome, a sports talk show host out of Los Angeles famous for being on the wrong end of a fight with Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jim Everett a couple of decades ago, simply believed that since Bert and Ernie were puppets – how can they be gay? Personally, I’ve always thought that had a ring of logic to it.

Similarly, when I was a kid and read every Peanuts comic strip I could find, I never gave the somewhat quirky relationship between Peppermint Patty and Marcie much thought. I thought Marcie always called Patty “sir” because Marcie, always wearing glasses, had poor eyesight and that Patty was starved for attention because she never spoke about her mother.

I guess what bothers me is that we’re taking adult concepts and forcing those concepts on children who might not be emotionally equipped to handle those thoughts at that early of an age. Why can’t we tell kids that Bert and Ernie are friends, or that Marcie and Peppermint Patty are? It would seem a lot simpler.

 

High Stakes Democracy

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I’ve been watching the proceedings surrounding the question of whether or not Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is approved by the United States Senate with great interest these past few weeks. In the past few days, and a week since the Senate Judiciary hearings took place, an accuser came forward: Christine Blasey Ford. The accusation: that a 17-year-old Kavanaugh forced himself onto her at a party over three and a half decades ago.

It sounds a bit sketchy to me. I can’t recall ever there was a time in my 47-year-old life that something occurring in high school has received such scrutiny. Usually, you have to impregnate, kill, or go to jail to get someone to notice what you did in your high school years, provided that it’s something negative. But, in the era of President Trump, the Democrats have been known to make an out of context argument or twenty.

I would think Ford’s story will have to be air-tight and otherwise convincing enough to woo more moderate Republicans away from confirming Mr. Kavanaugh. On top of which, it’s a huge gamble for the Democrats that could go off the rails. What if Ford flops at the hearing on Monday? I’d think they could lose votes in the November elections.

There are some senators who want to keep Ford’s testimony private, proposing a closed session take place. I tend to think that would be a total disservice to the public as well. The accusations against Kavanaugh gave the nominee no quarter – so it would only be fitting that if Ford testified, that it would be open to the public view, circus atmosphere or no.

I’m sure there will be more on this in the days ahead. Six days out from the proposed hearing date, the media seems to be already in a feeding frenzy – shades of 1991 and Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas. That didn’t go too well for the Democrats, either.

Yet Another New Day In Tampa Bay?

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Perhaps it was an aberration of some kind. During the course of the NFL season, such aberrations happen – because it’s a very rare event for an NFL team to go undefeated. But alas, my hometown Tampa Bay Buccaneers surprised the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles 27-21 to go 2-0 in this young 2018-2019 NFL season.

If you asked even the most die-hard of Tampa Bay fans before the game yesterday if the Buccaneers had a chance at winning, and if they were honest in their assessments – I’d think very few of them would have picked against the Eagles, even though they were only three-point favorites in the views of the oddsmakers.

The difference so far this 2018 season seems to have been the play of Ryan Fitzpatrick, helming at quarterback while Jameis Winston is off serving a three-game suspension for some questionable conduct in a recent off-season involving an Uber driver in Arizona. With Winston gone, the passing game is flourishing for the journeyman quarterback from Harvard – as has the offense, scoring 75 points in the first two games, adding the record-tying 48 they tallied in New Orleans the week prior.

Will it last? Can it last? Who knows. But not a bad idea to drink this moment in if you’re a Bucs fan. They haven’t been to the playoffs since the 2007-2008 campaign, so maybe this could be the year that wait may finally end.

The Red Cross

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What is now Tropical Storm Florence continues to dominate the news this Saturday. Firing up the computer (which is the only place I keep Facebook these days), I’m immediately hit with a plea from “FB” from the American Red Cross to donate to Florence victims.

Let me tell you a little story from my father, who died in 1991 – and a fable that has been relayed by him through my mother and to me through the intervening years.

As a young man, my dad was in the Army in the years that followed World War II. After defeating the Germans and the Japanese in that war, the military thought it would be a good idea to be tactically superior in snowy terrain – so my father was part of that effort, training in Colorado’s mountainous areas. Around that time, he would encounter the American Red Cross frequently. They always had coffee and snacks at the ready – provided, as my father relayed, the soldiers could pay what he thought was a steep price for those times.

It doesn’t surprise me, and hasn’t in a long time, that whenever there’s a disaster in the United States, you frequently hear of criticism of the Red Cross. True, the need will always be there for donations – but the story that isn’t often told, often because of how the media sets these stories up, is how the money they receive from us is distributed to victims. Do they get what they need, or does the ARC play them off as suckers?

A question to ponder in the days ahead, as the Carolinas recover.