Let it flow …

September 26, 2015

Normally in the hovel of Wrigleyville which serves as the mystic and perpetual capital of Cubnation, the only thing that flows is kilogallons of amber into the gullets of the people who need to be reminded that the game started 20 minutes ago, and the slightly yellower liquid that flows onto the lawns and through the alleys of the neighborhood later.

But lo!  Yes … after the better part of a decade of shame from the events of 14 October 2003 …

… and the humiliation of 26 October 2005 …

… it appears that the free-flow spigots of cherry and blueberry kool-aid are open again as Cubnation crawls out from the woodwork to revel in Cubs success.  Once again, Cubs fans are learning the names of the players, and a few even know the positions that they play.

To be fair … there is something notably different about this Cub team.  This is not like the 1984 team which should have won and didn’t, or the 1989, 1998, 2003, 2007 or 2008 post-season teams which everyone in baseball knew would result in nothing (everyone in baseball except the Cub fans).  No … this is different.  There is a feeling of freshness, an odor of something different (there’s still that stale urine odor from the urinal troughs … but there is something more to it this time).  This time, there is a genuine feeling that the Cubs might really be for real … that this team of no-names led by some mystic senior citizen wizard from some coal mining town in Pennsylvania best known for their “Keep Hazleton White” laws is perhaps perched on the edge of finally moving on to the World Series and perhaps, maybe, winning it for the first time since the Roosevelt administration (Theodore, not Franklin).

If I am right, and the Cubs have performed some kind of penance (or finally sacrificed enough children to their dark master), this means that they are really truly going to win, or the dear Lord is going to have to work overtime to prevent this from happening.  So far, for those keeping score, he has used goats, Ryne Sandberg miscues, and even the intervention of a fan.  What could be in store for the Cubs this time??  I have been going around and gathering thoughts:

  1.  The Cubs actually win the World Series.
  2. Down three with two outs in the ninth inning of Game 7, a Cubs player hits a long one to the outfield, but is blocked from clearing the fence by a 747 which crashes into the outfield killing thousands.  When the game is picked up, two weeks later, the same batter bounces into a 6-4 fielder’s choice to lose the World Series.
  3. As part of Joe Maddon’s love of animals program with the team, Maddon brings a tiger to the clubhouse.  When Jake Arrieta, the projected pitcher for that afternoon’s Game 7 of the World Series steps up to pet the tiger, the tiger gets loose and mauls Arrieta, and the Cubs lose Game 7 by a score of 1-2.
  4. As a part of Maddon’s love of animals program that he introduced a week ago, several Cubs begin reporting flea bites, and two weeks later develop symptoms of the plague.  The Cubs are forced to bring in a whole new roster for the World Series, and with Carlos Zambrano on the mound for Game 1, the game ends in a nuclear explosion from Zambrano’s rage.  This forces the Cubs to forfeit the rest of the series (this is a bit Old Testament, but with the Cubs who can tell?)
  5. Game 7 of the World Series begins with a shocker:  Steve Bartman himself comes out to throw out the first pitch, and is so excited that he uncorks a pitch that nails Kyle Schwarber in the nose.  As Bartman is leaving the field, he goes to shake Jake Arrieta’s hand, and slips on the slick dewy grass, dislocating Arrieta’s pitching arm.  As before, Cubs security is forced to quickly spirit Bartman away as the Friendly Confines again erupts with chants of “Kill Him!!”.  With Arrieta unable to pitch and Schwarber out from behind the plate, the Cubs lose Game 7, 1-0.
  6. In the ninth inning of Game 7, Kyle Schwarber, who is due up next inning, is shifted to left field.  A home run to take the lead slams into the new electronic video board, causing it to collapse killing dozens of fraternity boys and Kyle Schwarber.  Schwarber’s replacement then flies out harmlessly as part of a 1-2-3 Cubs ninth to end the World Series.
  7. Coming around third to complete a Game 7-winning inside-the-park home run, Anthony Rizzo stops in bewilderment at what he sees as the ghost of Ernie Banks giving him the hold sign standing behind third base coach Gary Jones who is waving him home.  Rizzo slips, and the relay throw catches him before he can scramble back to third.  As he walks back to the dugout, Rizzo notes that it was the ghost of Minnie Minoso, not Ernie Banks.

It will be an interesting post-season.  Will the Cubs finally break free of this endless orbit of frustration … or will the supernatural powers of the universe come through with another timely miracle?

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As I’m sure we will see … he attended a lot of funerals

September 23, 2015

What is a philosopher?  I’ve always taken it that a philosopher is someone who, in writing or verbally, comments on the meaning of existence or the hows and whys of the coming and goings of the day.  In short, everyone, is a philosopher.

If you ask me anything I don’t know, I’m not going to answer.

It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much.

The truly great philosophers … the Aristotles, Descartes, Kierkegards, etc … these are the people who see the universe for more than others see it, and widen the perception of our species by sharing what they perceive.

The future ain’t what it used to be.

If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.

It’s deja vu all over again.

Philosophers certainly can comment on the existential crisis of human existence or the creation of the multiverse, or the meaning of love.  Some philosophers enlighten us by commenting on the day-to-day … the routine and mundane, but do so in ways that we mere mortals would never usually think of …

Nobody goes there anymore … it’s too crowded.

We lost because we made too many wrong mistakes.

A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.

You wouldn’t have won if we had beaten you.

(on ordering pizza) cut it in four slices, I can’t eat six.

Sometimes philosophers give very simple, pragmatic advice on living …

Make a game plan and stick to it, unless its not working.

Never answer an anonymous letter.

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

It ain’t over ’til it’s over.

Perhaps the most timely quote …

Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t go to yours.

Lorenzo Pietro Berra grew up in the Dago Hill section of St. Louis, which at the time was essentially an Italian slum.  He was dirt poor.  He wasn’t bright.  When a teacher once asked him if he knew anything, he supposedly responded “Mamm, I don’t even suspect anything.”  As a boy, he was clumsy, and couldn’t walk normally.  One story says that his friends said that he just walked like a Yogi … a buffoonish clown.  Another story noted that he would often sit Indian style on the sidelines, and someone noted that he looked like an Eastern mystic.  Whatever the story, the name stuck.  Yogi was the kind of guy who, if he was lucky, would have become a union tradesman and made a decent if not anonymous living.  As a young boy, he was a bus boy and waiter at Rigazzi’s Restaurant with a friend named Joe Garagiola (who would catch for the hometown Cardinals before becoming one of the greatest broadcasters in MLB history).  He also sold newspapers where one of his regular customers was Cardinals star Joe “Ducky” Medwick.  He always let Berra keep the nickel for the 3 cent paper.  It made an impression on Yogi.

Berra’s future was one where he grew into an athlete both graceful and powerful.  As a young catcher, he was one of two decent catchers on the team.  The Yankees decided to keep Berra and sent Sherm Lollar to the White Sox where he became the second best catcher in the American League over that era.  At the time of his retirement, he had been named to 18 All-Star Games, won three MVP Awards (no American League catcher has yet to match that total).  His record for World Series games played, at-bats, and hits are still intact.  He was a member of 10 World Series champions … more than any player in the history of the game.  His record for home runs by a catcher stood for 20 years until Johnny Bench broke it … it remained the American League record for nearly a decade longer until Carlton Fisk broke that one.  He managed the Yankees to the 1964 World Series, and the Mets to the World Series in 1973 … the only man to lead both current New York franchises to the Fall classic.  He was a coach for the Mets in 1969 when the “Miracle Mets” won the Series, and was a coach in the Bronx Zoo for the 1977 and 1978 Yankee World Series championships.  13 World Series rings in all … no one is even close to that total.

In World War II, Yogi was in the Navy.  Like some stars, he didn’t spend his time behind the lines raising money for war bonds (certainly an important job in and of itself).  On D-Day, Yogi was part of a six man crew who fired on Nazi positions on Normandy Beach.  Like everyone that day, he came under fire, but did his part.  He was an active participant and witness to one of the most important moments in military history.

Lately, he has spent a lot of time working with his museum and learning center.  He has conducted lectures to kids on character and baseball and life.  He can talk personally about coming from poverty.  He can  talk about being a friend.  As Phil Rizzuto lay dying, the story goes that Yogi drove the 45 minutes everyday to see his old friend.  They would talk, and as Phil would drift to sleep, Yogi would hold his hand, reassuring him that he wasn’t alone.

And yet … it is his distinctive way with words that turned him from a baseball legend to someone who is known far beyond the bounds of baseball and sport.  Some people who didn’t know the man swore that these statements had to be planned in advance and given for comic effect.  Those who knew him, including his own son, were quite certain that this was in fact how he spoke all of the time, and that these thoughts were not invented in advance.  One question he was asked by those who would ask it was “Did you really say all those things”.  Once in an interview, the sage of the Bronx gave about as good an answer as he could ever give:

I didn’t really say everything I said.

A truly sad day in baseball … rest in peace to our emeritus philosopher in residence and one of the all time greatest catchers to put on the pads and mask.

Edit (9/26/2015):  I just remembered one of those little gem moments from film. There is a scene in the 1962 romcom That Touch of Mink with Cary Grant and Doris Day where the pair date at a baseball game at Yankee Stadium, getting the best seats in the house (in the Yankee dugout).  What ensues:


Of course it is legal for charters to steal money

September 16, 2015

This article in the Washington Post discusses a recent court case settled by the Ohio Supreme Court that outlines one of the major dangers of charter schools that doesn’t get talked about much.  Actually, it addresses two things that don’t get talked about much.

While some charter schools are run by professional companies that do nothing but run charter schools, a great many are set up by groups that have no practical experience in running charter schools.  Do you remember noted football/baseball player “Neon” Deion Sanders?  He started a charter school.  Lots of rich people and community activists have started charter schools.  These owners choose the curriculum and the format of the school … but as you have guessed, these folks really have no experience running a school.  No problem!  They hire a school management company to come in and do the day-to-day running of the school.  It is like starting a company, and then handing over all of the operating authority to another company.  It happens in business.

Of course these management companies also control the purse strings … millions of taxpayer dollars that are handed over to a company that specifically has very little or no oversight from the government, or their ignorant founder.  If this sounds like a recipe for a scam, then you are also correct.  All over the country, there have been many cases where the management company has purchased the land or building that the school is in/on, and happily rents that facility/property to the charter school for obscene amounts of money.  Imagine getting a paycheck for working, and then charging your ignorant boss rent.  It quickly drains money from other public schools, other charter schools, and assures that less and less money gets to students in the form of material, equipment, or qualified teachers who will stay around so that future kids will benefit from their experience.

This takes us back to Ohio.  If a public school were to close for whatever reason, the school and all of its facilities and equipment are tax payer funded, and revert to the school district … hopefully to be either given to another school in the district, or sold off with the profits returned to the tax payers.

In Ohio, this is no longer true.  If a charter school closes, all of the equipment (and presumably the money) now legally belong to the charter management company, and can be moved to wherever the company wants or sold off, with the profits going to the company, and the taxpayers and school district are not entitled to anything in return.  The case that went before the court focuses on one particular company, but a report from the Akron Beacon Journal notes that, based on what could be found, the Ohio charter schools have been more wasteful than any other public entity by a factor of four, and that because of the nearly complete lack of accountability in the field, the waste is almost certainly much higher.  It is perhaps the ultimate irony:  people were convinced that public schools had no accountability (they really have considerable transparency and accountability), and instead, in many states, handed over power in education to groups that no have nearly no accountability to anyone …. and by the time the state does come in and close them down, they have fleeced millions from the tax payers that they don’t have to give back.

In some cases, charters may be the better alternative … but the idea of giving charters a free hand to do whatever they want without oversight from taxpayers or their elected officials is no different from dumping huge amounts of money into over the gate of some rich dude’s house and asking if he wants any more.