Saturday, February 28, 2004

The Importance of Being Earnest

"Baseball doesn’t need me. I need baseball."
   — Manny Ramirez (The News-Press).

Friday, February 27, 2004

Arbor Una Noblis

So Curt Schilling has his first endorsement deal with a New England based company:

Randolph-based Dunkin' Donuts has signed Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling to introduce a new sandwich. …

Schilling will hawk the "New England Maple Cheddar Sandwich," in a 30-second television commercial and a 60-second radio spot scheduled to begin airing March 1 (Boston Business Journal).

Hmm … maple and cheddar? You know, despite growing up in maple wooded New Hampshire where 90,000 gallons of maple syrup are produced each year and counting as friends people who tap their own trees to produce their personal stashes of syrup, I've never developed much of an affinity for the maple flavor.

Yeah, I'll have the occasional pancake breakfast with maple syrup and butter and I'll enjoy it just fine, but it's never something I crave. But I'll give Curt's sandwich a try. Why not? I like Dunkin' Donuts (so many people do, you know?).

Elsewhere on the Internet (and I'm having to look in every metaphorical nook and cranny to find things in the midst of my Lenten abstention from Boston sports media), Dave Pell writes the following in his Next Draft email newsletter from yesterday:

There are certain stories we all sort of know are true long before anyone bothers to prove a case in the court One such story is about the use of steroids in baseball.…

During college - which in my case means the late 80s …I was lucky enough to have a job working as a sports reporter for the Bay Area Fox affiliate… For several seasons I got paid to attend sporting events (moving back and forth between the sidelines and press box buffet) and then to conduct post-game interviews which more often than not simply meant aiming my microphone in the general direction of a professional athlete who was surrounded by other such devices while being asked how he felt about a win (usually pretty good) or a loss (not as good) or some question that would be sure to illicit a promise to give a hundred percent and/or to take it one game at a time.

For the purposes of this particular missive, I want to focus on my observations of one player and how he changed dramatically in appearance, strength and disposition over the course of a single year. During his rookie year, this soon to be homerun hitting master was tall, lanky, pleasant to a fault and clear-skinned - basically a more athletic version of Daniel Stern's character Cyril in the movie Breaking Away.

Now it is only natural that some of these characteristics would change or fade away over time with the pressures of the game, the aging process and an understandable irritation with the lockerroom press corps. But in this case, the changes between season one and season two were anything but natural. The player returned to the lockerroom for his second season with gunboats for arms, a totally reshaped trunk, explosive power, a bloated face, severe acne and a newly aggressive and irritated disposition.

Folks, either this guy was on 'roids, or during the off-season he swallowed a male teenager.

Pell goes on to suggest that,

… everyone connected to baseball has known on some level that something is up with those "over-muscular-looking guys." But because the Bush team decided that the time was right to pitch steroid abuse as an election year issue, many of today's players will get slammed and many of those owners, managers and competitors who are lucky enough (or let's face it, in players' cases, bad enough) to remain above the fray will feign shock and horror that this problem got so out of hand.

Think Martha Stewart would be on trial right now had there been no Enron?

A very astute observation for sure. Unfortunately, I can't find a direct link to this column which is why I excerpted so heavily. Pell's a joy to read, though, especially on pop culture topics, so sign up for his daily dose if you don't mind another piece of email hitting your box.

Did anyone watch the Bartman ball get blown up? Dave Pinto confesses he thought "it was pretty cool."

Finally, so as not to end with a bad vibe toward the noble maple tree and his sap of life, I offer this haiku from Georges Bonneau:

And you, how old are you?
  I asked the maple tree:
While opening one hand,
   - he started blushing

The tree of life, indeed. Ecce lignum crucis.

Thursday, February 26, 2004


Johnny Damon head shot with haloI must admit I love this messianic look Johnny Damon is sporting. Very appropriate. One of the things I like best about living in these times is how there are so many different looks and styles. Whenever I look at pictures from the 50s or 60s, baseball or in general, I'm always struck by how similar everyone looks: same hair, same clothes, same expression, total homogenization. I like that today you can have long hair, a shaved head, a crew cut, braids, afro, you name it.

Speaking of the messianic, this is Maundy Thursday for those of the Christian faith, and this is the second day of the Lent. Did you know that Lent derives from the Anglo-Saxon word lenten meaning spring? While I won't subject you to further catechumens, let me remark that I revel in the parallels of rebirth/spring and the return of baseball each year.

As fans, the period we spend between the last out of the World Series and Opening Day is a fast of sorts. And the arrival of Opening Day, like the return of songbirds and flowers, is a time of great rejoicing.

With that said, I've decided to act on the idea I floated yesterday: For the period known as Lent, or Quadragesima, I'm going to totally abstain from reading anything in the Globe, Herald, or Pro-Jo. Now this is purely a sentimental rather than a spiritual sacrifice, but it seems appropriate to give it a try now. If nothing else, I may learn to better appreciate all the good things the Boston scribes have to offer after going without.

OK time to change my garments for sackcloth.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came?

The reader response to yesterday's "positive visualization" post has me absolutely buoyed. Not only did you not think I was nuts (well, at least on that issue), but also so many of you have your own experiences with making good things happen just by imagining it so.

This comment from Linda speaks to the heart of the matter:

I am so convinced and have such a clear visualization of the Sox winning the World Series this year, that I have actually made reservations for plane tickets to BOS, a room at the HoJo's next to Fenway,and a rental car all beginning on October 23rd (the first game of the WS). If I can only visualize actually getting tickets to a game, I'll be really happy.

It's going to happen this year, I just know it. I have never felt this strongly about the Sox.

Yes, hope as an act of defiance. Perseverance in the face of mortality.

So while we've formed our covenant of hope and positive visualization, we still must contend with its antithesis. Bruce Allen sums it up so well:

The positional players aren't even due to report until today, and already I'm sick of media members trying to stir up controversy and negativity just for the sake of stirring the pot. … It's insufferable (BSMW).

It is insufferable. I'm wondering if it can just be ignored? That is, I wonder if it's possible to continue this blog in the same way I have since 2001 while maintaining a complete indifference, a boycott if you will, of the Boston media? I mean never read a word of it. Get all my game info from the newspapers of the opposing club's cities as well as from other bloggers.

What would I miss? Certainly, I'd regret not being able to read the excellent writing of the non-negative for the sake of negative types like Gordon Edes, Michael Holley, and Howard Bryant. I could choose to just cherry pick and read only certain columnists and beat reporters, but I can't help but think that if I were to embark on this plan it should be an all or nothing enterprise.

And you know, it's not that I only want to read all pollyannaish, rose filtered prose. I don't expect the media to play the role of sycophant or be unwilling to "tell it like it is." But what I don't want is to read the biased, personal agenda laden crap that serves no purpose at all.

Maybe it's something to experiment with? Take it on a week by week basis?

On the other hand, maybe it's better to keep reading everything and continue exposing the rubbish for what it is?

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Imagine All the Pennants (It's Easy If You Try)

If you're a regular reader of Bambino's Curse, you'll know I'm fascinated by the power of the human mind. A week or so ago, for instance, I referenced the latest medical research concluding that hope can have a profound effect on human biology. And, of course, there are my own hypothesis concerning the so-called Curse.

So when I stumbled across this, it caught my attention:

… after the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, since they [the U.S.S.R.] were going to have the Olympics in 1980, they wanted to set up a showpiece for the world. They split their athletes into four groups:

  • Group A, one hundred percent physical practice, traditional;
  • Group B, seventy-five percent physical, twenty-five percent mental;
  • Group C, fifty-fifty; and
  • Group D was seventy-five percent mental practice and twenty-five percent physical.

Now these were all world-class athletes; they had all the skills. At the end of the Moscow Olympics and the Lake Placid Olympics, they counted the number of medals that each group had won. Group D, seventy-five percent mental, twenty-five percent physical, had won the most medals, and there was an inverse relationship. 

Now I can't be certain that the speaker, Lee Pulos, author of The Power of Visualization, isn't talking smack as there are no source references, but I do find it credible.

Not to get all new agey on you, but I've had my own experiences with positive visualization that seemed quite successful. I won't run down my list here but will give you one example. In 1984 I was about to buy my first car, and the one I had my sights on was a 1972 VW Super Beetle. The only problem was the car has a standard transmission and I'd only driven automatics. My dad, who did know how to drive stick and who would have been able to teach me, was out of town for work, but I knew I needed to make a decision on the car or risk losing it to another buyer so couldn't wait for my dad.

Well, I went ahead and told the seller on Wednesday that I'd buy the car and pick it up on the following Saturday. In the meantime, I spent a lot of time visualizing myself in the car, pressing the clutch, working the shift, over and over. I saw myself on hills, in parking lots, at railroad tracks. And, I shit you not, on the Friday before I picked up the car I dreamt I was in the car driving standard and doing it flawlessly.

To cut to the chase: On Saturday morning I walked over to the sellers house, handed over the cash, put the key in the ignition, depressed the clutch, put it in first, and drove away. Simple as that.

I'm sure many of you have similar tales.

So what's my point? What does this have to do with the Red Sox?

Well, for most of my life I've felt it would incur jinx to think beyond "one game at a time" and dare imagine the jubilee, personal and shared, associated with the final out in the deciding game of a Red Sox World Series victory.

Now, though, I feel it's time to do just that: Visualize it. And not just the World Series either but every game. Every time Manny comes to plate visualize the ball going upper deck. Every time the team is behind, imagine the rally.

You may say I'm a dreamer. But I'm not the only one …

Monday, February 23, 2004

Beep-Beep (Turn to the Left. Turn to the Right)

Should I, should we Red Sox fans, admire Grady Little for his que sera, sera attitude that borders on the obdurate?

"A guy in my position makes 1,000 decisions a week," Little said. "Sometimes the results are good, sometimes they're not. A lot of friends have said to me, `Would you have done it differently?' Well, sure, if I knew the results ahead of time" (MacMullen, Globe).

Probably so. Though I'd be kidding myself to suggest I still don't wince when I replay the scene in my head of Little walking back toward the dugout with ne'er a signal to the bullpen.

Elsewhere, Dave Pinto links to an article describing how the Orioles are using a psychological test to help them choose players and contends, "the Orioles have done with this test what Beane and DePodesta did with batted ball locations. … This is sabermetrics of a different form" (Baseball Musings).

Have you ever had to take such a test administered by a potential employer? I don't know how common it is across occupations, but in my little world it's standard practice. Indeed, my employer requires one. Having seen these sort of tests in various forms I remain skeptical of their worth. It's pretty easy, it seems, to guess how you're expected to answer whether that's what you feel deep down or not. "Do you like to read about crime?" "Do you find your bowel movements peculiar, abnormal?"

Meanwhile, popular blogger and erstwhile Yankees fan Michele with one L belittles the Sex and the City final episode hype and writes, "I just can't find it in me to sob over some horny chicks in ugly clothes" (A Small Victory).

Ugly clothes? Ah, Michele, you need to get off Long Island more often. Calling the weekly wardrobes on Sex ugly is like a fin de siecle critic saying Picasso's The Demoiselles d'Avignon is too angular or, later, rejecting Faulkner as a poor writer because he uses too many words and run on sentences. Next you'll be telling me Jackie Kennedy wore too many hats.

On the other hand, as much as I loved (no kidding) the ever changing and fantastic wardrobes from week to week, the show, for a Red Sox fan was often difficult to swallow. I mean there's all the "New York this and New York that and New York is the center of the universe" mantra … Hell, they only waited to the first episode of the second season to introduce the "Carrie is dating a New York Yankee" plot line.

At least that's the last of that nonsense, eh?

Update: I need to cut Michele some slack above. I didn't realize she was serious when she wrote in the same post that she and her husband had split up. I thought she was speaking theoretically. Yikes. My bad. Sorry, Michele.