Life is ready to begin anew

Submitted by 1M1Ucla on February 11th, 2009 at 8:44 AM

Alright, finally, the winter of our discontent has a bright spring in sight!

The time of year coming up is one of the best -- Spring Training opens in a week or so, conference basketball tourneys are around the corner, CCHA and NCAA hockey playoffs coming up, the Masters, NCAA and NIT bball tourneys, opening day in MLB, spring football, Wimbledon, Premiership gets into the final stretch and the College World Series which, for me, punctuates the end of Spring.

Whoa -- for a sports fan, this upcoming time of year is really fine, exceeded only (perhaps) by fall,with college football, NFL, MLB playoffs and World Series, the PGA tournament (which sort of kicks off fall for me), hockey training camps and start of the season, NBA (meh), and the opening of the Premiership season.

The real low of the year is right now, after the NFL conference championship games and before the start of the spring seasons I already noted -- the Superbowl punctuates mid-season NHL, NBA, college bball, Premiership, all in sort of a lull at that point. This time of year is sort of buzzard's luck for sports fans -- can't kill nuthin' and nuthin's dead. No wonder the Auto Shows and Boat Shows and Fishing Shows at the conference centers get any attendees at all -- even walking around looking at things you can't afford beats watching January and February sports on TV!

Oh, yeah, life begins anew very soon.

The groundhog can just bugger off.



February 11th, 2009 at 8:56 AM ^

Pitchers and catchers report in 3 days.

Hang in there, pal. The best game ever devised by man will be back shortly.

[Don't let my blogging on this site fool you; in my heart, the idea of the first curveball of the year gets me all squiggly]


February 11th, 2009 at 11:18 AM ^

If you took even a mediocre ball player in the Majors and gave him the roids that Bonds took, or A-Rod took, he wouldn't become Bonds or A-Rod. Rodriguez roided up for three years in Texas. During that time, he was the best player in baseball. For years before that, and for years after that with the Yankees, when he was clean, A-Rod was...the best player in baseball.

Bonds started juicing only after he saw Sosa and Mac getting all the love. In his warped, self-indulgent mind, Barry decided they shouldn't be getting so much credit when he was leagues more talented than either of them. Bonds stuck a needle in his rump and made a conscious decision to swing away. The result: 73 homers in a season, and Hank Aaron gets left in the dust.

What's important to remember about that tale is that nobody could one day decide to do that except Barry Bonds. Roids extended his career and gave him some extra oomph, but we're still talking about a guy with talent on par with his godfather.

Roger Clemens, too, kept his Hall of Fame career going through chemistry. But roids or no roids, the guy was unhittable for over a decade.

I don't condone steroids, but for Fuck Sakes, everybody needs to take a chill pill and realize that there's no magic juice that can turn a cake like Jimmy Blake, nor a lulu like Flynn -- let alone some mild-mannered guy off the street -- into Mighty Casey.

What you have is baseball writers with nothing to write about from October through February but the occasional signing, and roids, roids, roids. Then comes Drew Sharp to tell you baseball is Pro Wrestling.

I'm sure this is going to excite comment. I'm sure every asinine commentator from sea to shining sea is going to read this and say I'm condoning steroids.

The effect that steroids has had on America's Game has been blown WAAAAAYYYY out of proportion.

Go ahead and blame the men who did it. Go ahead and get angry, especially if you, like me, sat through every moment of the '98 home run chase in blissful ignorance only to have it shattered years later. Go ahead and point at the juicers, call them cheats. Go ahead and point at home records once so cherished that obtaining them was considered the greatest achievement an American male could reach, now tarnished by a decade of willful negligence. And most of all, PLEASE point at Commissioner Bud Selig, and Union Chief Don Fehr, for knowing what was going on for 10 years, for ignoring complaints from clean athletes losing jobs to chemically enhanced competition, so they could gleefully collect the dividends of fan ignorance.

But don't tell me baseball itself is a sham. Don't tell me some of the greatest talents the game has ever seen were just Bruce Banners until synthesized testosterone turned them into Hulks. Yes, juicers, at most, raised their batting average 20 points, and knocked in 10 more dingers, and took a devil's pact to defy time's toll and spend five more years in the sunshine. B-minus talents beat out B talents, who in turn juiced into B-plus talents.

But they all still had to hit or hurl or catch or throw or curve a baseball. Nine guys still trotted out onto hallowed grass in cathedrals under the summer sun.

We may not have seen the last Mighty Casey to leave us in disappointment. It takes a lot worse than that, though, to ruin the world's most perfect pastime. Whether A-Rod was illegally supplementing his swing in 2002 or the greatest home run hitter of all time got some help along the way with a needle, I'm still singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." Outfielders will still write messages in dirt. Quails will die, groundballs will find eyes, and fly balls will show us how things are done in Texas. Home runs will be taken away or will take us away. 3rd basemen will leave the field covered in dirt, and shortstops in cleat-marks.

This is a great fucking game. If the legacy of juicing means you can't eat peanuts and crackerjacks and hot dogs and yell "Hey battah battah" across the outfield grass of Wrigley Field, or Fenway, or Comerica Park on a beautiful July day, that's your loss.

Minutes after I learned the news about A-Rod, I got a text message from my best friend. He and his wife were walking out from their first ultrasound. It was confirmed: I'm gonna have a godson. Minutes later I stopped at Dunhams and bought a tiny baseball mitt. He won't be able to use it for six years. But I'll be damned if my godson is going to have the good fortune to be born in the United States of America and miss out on something so wonderful, so extraordinarily beautiful, as the game of baseball.


February 11th, 2009 at 1:22 PM ^

Agreed, great post, though I will say I think it's a mistake to believe that A-Rod was clean during his years with the Yankees. He NOW SAYS he was clean in NY, but he also said last year that he was ALWAYS clean.

Note: I'm a Giants die-hard. I cheered for Bonds throughout it all. I will go to my grave thinking that Bonds is the best offensive player I've ever seen, steroids be damned. I think there should be testing but beyond that I don't much care about the issue. Regardless, I understand very well that even when players "tell the truth" they might not be telling the truth. Dig?

Regardless, pitchers and catchers report on Valentine's Day, and I can't think of a sweeter gift than that.


February 11th, 2009 at 5:10 PM ^

Baseball itself is a sham. I'd like to know how some abstract idea of a "game" can rise above: worst commissioner ever, bad management, a blundering union with a misguided u$-first focus, and nearly EVERY ONE of the top players going back decades (remember Pete Rose?) tarnished by legal or ethical scandals. If they disband MLB in its entirety and start from scratch, then we'll talk about the beautiful "game of baseball" as something that actually gets played in big league ballparks.


February 11th, 2009 at 9:41 PM ^

Tram to Lou to Bergman

Anything tarnished there?

How about when Craig Monroe hit a game-winning grand slam in Yankee Stadium, and his mom was there?

Cheap, right?

Oh, and remember in '07 when this 23-year-old kid named Verlander threw a no-hitter?

Nah. He was only doing it for the money. He was smiling 'cause he was gonna make the big bucks.

But wait, there was this game in Philly I was at and this guy -- you can't make this up -- this big guy named Ryan Howard -- big kid, right -- he nailed three homers in his first three at-bats of a double-header, and then two more in his first two trips in the night game, the last two traveling further than the first!

Total sham?

There was this game at Yankee Stadium, Yankees-Mets, and it was pouring rain, but fans stuck around huddled together in the close cement entrances and tunnels, and some guy stood on a chair and did Casey at the Bat, and then the rain stopped and they pulled the tarp and there was a magnificent rainbow that stretched from home plate and over the outfield where Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle roamed.

Must have been imagining it.

I also imagined this big, beautiful new ballpark in Pittsburgh with a yellow bridge on the skyline, on the most beautiful day of the year, and this guy Pedro Martinez, with fingers that look like E.T, went out and struck out 18 batters, the only run supporting him coming from this monstrous shot by a half-cocked rookie named Wright, which knocked off a statue of Roberto Clemente.

Total fabrication.

Here's one more whopper, one more phony show I mistakenly took for a sporting event: it was early April in Cincy, and as many people like to trash Cincy as misspell it, but it was April in Cincy and the whole city was out in the streets -- every business called off work. There was a parade, but anyone could join it, and there was so much good feeling you'd think they had Ferris Bueller singing "Twist and Shout" on every float, and two guys, half-drunk, find a lady just before game time to sell two tickets face value, and then the whole city files into this shining, brand-new ballpark and that Pedro guy pitches near perfection until leaving for a closer in the 9th, and this big kid Adam Dunn blasts a walk-off homer off the closer, and I swear the Ohio River is shaking in its banks.

Nope. Ever since Charlie Hustle had a gambling problem, baseball hasn't been worth watching. Not one stinkin bit.


February 12th, 2009 at 12:11 PM ^

Yes, the fact that some have managed to rise above it means that there has been no mismanagement whatsoever of MLB. As you pointed out, we are free to "go ahead and blame the men who did it" -- except that, through the genius of MLB's handling of the steriods problem, WE DON'T KNOW WHO THEY ARE! Maybe some players HAVE remained pure and avoided the temptation to cheat -- wouldn't it be nice to be able to identify them?

Look, of course the media is overblowing this -- that's what they do. On the other hand, seldom have the Drew Sharps of the world been given more ammunition than MLB has provided them (over and over for many years now). Better than pro wrestling? Frankly, I don't know enough about the management of pro wrestling to say one way or the other. For all I know, its management has been a paradigm of integrity in delivering to fans exactly what it promises. It seems safe to say pro wrestling has done as well or better than MLB in this regard.


February 11th, 2009 at 10:54 AM ^

I find it ironic that Dubya, who used to own the team that is turning out to have been the dirtiest, started the steroids witch hunt.

I am tired of the media drawing "cheap heat" with steroid stories. I pretty much had to take a vacation from ESPN yesterday until the UM/MSU game because they might have well called it A-RodPN.

The popularity of blogs like this one prove that there are plenty of other things that are interesting and compelling for sports fans besides the witch hunt.

As for baseball, it is still a great game. I still wonder how, after all of the evolution of training methods since the game began, the dimensions of the field are still perfect. There are still plenty of close plays at first base, and you still have to work hard to turn a DP, unless the batter is the catcher or 1B.

I would like to see the pacing more like it was in the 60's, when games routinely finished in under two hours, but other than that, baseball is still the same great game it has always been. With or without "sports nutrition."


February 11th, 2009 at 11:52 AM ^

No one team was the dirtiest. They were probably all on par. The Oakland teams couldn't have been much worse and A-Rod probably only said that the atmosphere there was 'worse' to make it seem like he wasn't the only one else who was doing it.


February 11th, 2009 at 1:14 PM ^

it seems that each place that Jose Conseco went to someone got implicated for Steroid use. i.e. Meguire-A's, A-Rod-Rnagers, Clemons-Blue Jays.

Btw, I'm not a big fan of baseball. My opinion is that there are too many games for them to be significant at times. I can't watch it on tv because it is boring, but I love going to games. Much different atmosphere.


February 11th, 2009 at 1:56 PM ^

pro sports, at least in this country. I watch MLB if the Tigers are on (I still hear Ernie and Paul and George and Al in my mind's ear), NFL if there is a Michigan guy I want to watch for a bit, NBA never, NHL when the Wings get deep into the Stanley Cup, golf for the majors or if they are playing a course I've played, and tennis -- um, God no, never even under threat of terrorist attack or Jack Bauer torturing me.

I go to major pro sports games now only under two conditions: I get the sky box tix from work, or the family pesters to go -- my older boys dig the Sox (1), Cubs (1) and Brewers (1) and my wife just digs baseball.

My feeling anymore is that this amounts to an enormous transfer of wealth from average folks to millionaires whose attitudes toward fans ranges from indifference to contempt. A day at the ballpark with decent seats for our family of 5 turns out to be a $250-$350 affair with tix, parking, a coupla dogs, beer, sodas and maybe a foam finger. For this, I get to see a guy swing and hit into a double play on a first pitch curveball, then not run out the back end of the play. Or I get to see a guy stand at the plate and admire his 327 foot blast of a home run in one of today's dinky homer domes.

For sure, the strength, speed and honed skills of these players is just unimaginable, and way beyond my beloved Norm, Al, Willie, Denny, Mickey and the bunch. However, I remember Al Kaline making 100 large for the first time and that, while a big number, wasn't factors of 100 more than my dad or most of my friends' dads. These guys, along with guys from the Wings, Lions and Pistons could be found in local Detroit bars and hang-outs, like the Lindell AC, and often picked up a job in the off-season. They were playing a game for a living, and knew it. For some reason, more than players of any other sport, hockey players seem to get that they are playing a game.

I hate that sports writers seem to all have only one mode of operation and that is to attack. I don't know where and when the meeting was held to decide that was interesting for readers, but I wish I'd been there because the demise of the newspaper as an institution is undoubtedly tied to that event. People don't buy a paper to see someone get belted -- there is enough real murder and mayhem that we don't need to read someone raping and pillaging one of our local heroes. That so many people are going to alternate sources is a good indication that newspaper content misses the point as well as delivery.

So, yes, I am jaded. PEDS (now they even have a readily recognized abbreviation) have only added one more little bit of jaundice to my yellowing view of pro sports.

On the other hand, I love minor league baseball, soccer (because it's really hard to dog and the players get the fans, seemingly), any college sport at almost any level and I really dig Chicago-style hotdogs. Sorry for the non sequiter, but I got to thinking about things I like and that just popped into my head. Yes, I also love my wife and boys, and I like our dog, Mac. All these things seem to fit together for me, maybe in naive innocence or a pining for it.

And so, I pine for Spring Training. I know it will bring what I dread, but it's also like the first robin of spring -- I may not notice another robin the rest of the summer, but that first one is a really good sign!


February 11th, 2009 at 2:06 PM ^

I understand that these players were good before and after roids. But the fact is it made good players great and there are records by players that should not exist. If Mickey Mantle was on roids, he would have hit 800 homeruns.


February 12th, 2009 at 9:56 AM ^

Chelsea taking a dive -- woo. Sir Alex and the Red Devil lads 2 points clear of Liverpudlians and, what's this? Only 5 points clear of Aston Villa? That's an oddity. Villa haven't been much in recent years and aren't really big spenders. Odd to see the Gunners just clear of Everton, also. And an MLS team in a transfer battle with AC Milan? The world has gone topsy.


February 11th, 2009 at 5:37 PM ^

I think this whole deal with steroids and HGH is getting blown way out of proportion. Do I think the use of any of these things is right in any way shape or form? NO, HELL NO, but, why in the world do I have to pay my tax dollars to congress to decide what should happen to ARod Clemens Mcguire or any body else. Should that not be a matter left up to the MLB. Don't these guys and gals in congress have more important things to worry about than this Mickey Mouse Crap. Why don't we have a congressional meeting on whether or not my kids took their vitamins this morning. I mean come frickin' on, give me a break.