RIP Oscar Taveras 1992-2014

As with many members of Cardinal Nation (ugh, how I hate that term), I was shocked last night to hear of the tragic passing of the Cardinals’ very promising young prospect, Oscar Taveras, and his girlfriend, Edilia Arvelo. They were tragically killed in a car crash in Taveras’ home country of the Dominican Republic. My brother Jeff texted me the news last night during the Royals-Giants game.

I don’t typically get all that shaken up when celebrities, athletes, etc., pass away- save for a very select few. A lot of it could be due to the detachment. I don’t know any celebrities and, for the most part, their deaths, while tragic, really don’t affect me or my life that much. However, hearing of Taveras’ death really kind of affected me. I didn’t break down or anything like that, but I actually felt a strange sense of loss over two kids I’d never met, nor would I realistically have ever met. I can’t explain it. My heart legitimately hurt last night.

I think what got me more than anything else is not just that a young athlete was taken before he could realize his potential in his sport, but more the realization that this young man was 22 when he died, only 10 days older than my oldest niece, Erin. Miss Arvelo was only 18. Kids, those two. Babies. Whatever the cause of death, there are simply far too many young people dying these days. Maybe I’m just getting old and soft, but I’m so, SOOOO friggin’ over children and young people dying or being killed.

What also bothered me was that I saw a tweet from some dickhead Brewers fan on Twitter last night that said something along the lines of, “HAHAHAHA, Oscar Taveras is DEAD! SUCK IT, Cardinals fans!” Yes, all teams in all sports have their share of douchenozzle fans- even the BFiBs- but I was really extraordinaly angered by the absolute cold, callous, heartless nature of this man that tweeted such a thing. Also, I was listening to the game in the car on the way home from dropping Jeff off at home, and when they announced it (or put it on the Jumbotron™, whichever happened) at AT&T Park last night, I could have sworn I heard a handful of fans actually cheering. I do really hope it was just an unfortunate coincidence, bad timing, or whatever, but I was disgusted at what I heard, and then I read that tweet from the Brewers fan, and I just was pissed the entire rest of the night.

The Cardinals lost in the NLCS to the Giants, who are playing the Royals in the World Series. Much of my extended family live in NoCal, and are, naturally, huge Giants fans. So even though there is still that bitter sting of losing to the Giants- THE FRIGGIN’ GIANTS! (long story, long history)- I wouldn’t mind the Giants winning the Series, if only for the enjoyment of my family. That said, I’m also rooting for the Royals to win. The National League has been represented by either the Cardinals or the Giants every year since 2010, while the Royals haven’t been to the World Series since 1985. As fate holds, the Royals beat the Cardinals in the 1985 World Series, so I think I actually hope both teams win and I hope both teams lose.

At any rate, it could just be little more than sour grapes from the Cardinals not being in it, but the outcome of this year’s World Series suddenly doesn’t seem very “important” any more. I put that word in quotations because the winner of ANY game or sporting event is not important in the least, in the grand scheme of life. It really is JUST A GAME.

It’s a game I love so dearly.

Rest in peace, Oscar and Edilia.

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Friday 5: Wisdom

So I thought I’d blow the dust off of this blog (again) with a little ditty called Friday 5. There is a blog that asks five questions every Friday (hence, the name), and the questions are related by a common theme. Sometimes the link is barely there. This week’s questions are about wisdom.

Wisdom is defined by Dictionary.com as the knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action; sagacity, discernment, or insight. I think it’s simpler to define wisdom as life’s lessons taught by living. Regardless, here are my answers to questions about wisdom.

  1. Some people say you should never mix business with friendship. What experience have you had that would either refute or confirm this wisdom? For the most part, I would agree with this statement. I’ve seen too many times friends go into a business venture together. Then, by the time the smoke clears and the dust settles, either the business fails, or one friend feels left out or slighted, while the other feels like they’ve done all the work and taken all the risks. Whatever the case, they are no longer friends. That said, one of my neighbors and good friends is my boss, and after a year, we have had a good working relationship. *knocks on wood* Every situation is different, of course, but largely, I would say that it’s not a good idea to mix business with friendship.
  2. Some people say you should never let ‘em see you sweat. What experience have you had that would either refute or confirm this wisdom? It makes a good tagline for a deodorant commercial. Again, I think it depends on the situation. To some degree (get it? Cuz Degree is a deodorant!!… um… sorry), “letting ‘em see you sweat” is a no-no, because it tends to project you as vulnerable and/or unsure of yourself. However, depending on one’s level of resolve (or moxie, if you will), letting ‘em see you sweat can make you look that much stronger when you prevail. Do I think you “should” let people “see you sweat”? Probably not. But is it the horrible thing this adage claims it to be? Not necessarily. 
  3. It is often said that you should never put off ’til tomorrow what you can do today. What experience have you had that would either refute or confirm this wisdom? I dunno… ask me about tomorrow. (Like you didn’t see that answer coming.) Yet again, it depends on the situation. There are situations in which time is most decidedly of the essence, so quick action is necessary. Then, there are times in which discretion is more prudent. People tend to consider procrastination to be a bad thing, but I don’t necessarily 100% believe that.
  4. It is often said that you should never get romantically involved with someone at work (there’s a cruder way of putting it, but I’m declining to use that selection of words). What experience have you had that would either refute or confirm this wisdom? I am totally the wrong one to ask about this. I will use the cruder way of putting it, because people pretty much expect that from me nowadays… when I worked for Hills back in the mid-to-late 80s, I dipped my pen in the company ink (in the boss’s inkwell, no less), and wound up marrying her. Draw your own conclusion from that, as we divorced about two and a half years later. (We are friends now, FWIW.) Then when I worked at St. John’s Hospital, I met the woman who would become my second wife and mother of my boys, and we’ve been together for 18 and a half years, married for almost 16 and a half. So there you go. 
  5. What piece of wisdom from your own life should be a catchy proverb for others to live by? There are so many little nuggets of wisdom I have collected over my almost 47 years- many of them within the last 5 years or so, and many from one person (my good friend Kelly). It would be so hard to narrow them down to one single “proverb by which others should live their lives”, but one I saw just this morning on Twitter comes from @kimkwells, who posted the following:

“Giving up on a goal because of a setback is like slashing your other 3 tires because you got a flat.”

That sounds extremely wise to me.

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It’s the Pu-pocalypse!

No, not the POO-pocalypse- that is what happens after a night of White Castle and Milwaukee’s Best. I said the PU-pocalypse, of which “Cardinal Nation” is in the midst due to Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals not coming to terms on a contract extension by today’s noon deadline.

Now I am the first to admit I really know nothing of the inner workings on pro ballplayers’ contracts, guaranteed salaries, bonuses, various incentive clauses, etc. And I also find it disgusting that ballplayers, Pujols included, are able to command such exorbitantly ridiculous and/or ridiculously exorbitant salaries, especially when the nation’s teachers don’t make squat, but that’s an argument for another time. So allow me to give my mostly ignorant perspective on this whole Albert Pujols contract thing, and forgive the talking out of my backside that likely will occur.

I’m saying up front I don’t understand how MLB contracts work. Deal with it. (Perhaps my brother, whom I consider extraordinarily knowledgeable in most everything baseball, especially for someone not in “the business”, could correct and/or clarify anything I get confused or just plain wrong.)

First of all, Pu’s heart is at least seemingly in the right place [for Cardinal fans] in that he says he wants to stay in St. Louis his entire career. The 10-year deal he seeks would make him 41 when it ends. A lot can happen in that time; you can’t really blame the front office for not agreeing to a 10-year deal- they theoretically could be stuck paying him a lot of money for four years after he’s out of baseball if, by chance and heaven forbid, his elbow finally detaches from his body, or he blows an MCL or something. That’s a big risk- for ANY team. And I know it’s the same monetarily, but there is still a big difference between 7 years/$210MM and 10 years/$300MM. (To be fair, I kinda stole that line from my brother. It just somehow sounds far more intelligent and meaningful coming from him.)

And honestly, you really can’t fault Pujols for wanting [or expecting] to be paid his worth. He is, after all, the best player in the game. Even as completely subjective as that moniker is, it’s difficult to argue against it. Seeing the deals that guys like A-Rod, Ryan Howard, and numerous pitchers have gotten in recent years, why shouldn’t Pujols get his due? And again, this is coming from someone who is absolutely nauseated by the amount of money grown men make for playing a child’s game. I just saw a tweet that said that the team’s offer would have only made him about the 10th highest paid player in the league. Even at MLB’s insulting [to us little people] salaries, that is a friggin’ joke. If the Cardinals can’t or won’t pay him what he’s worth, why shouldn’t he play for someone who will? And someone- SOMEONE- will. My guess is that, unless the Cardinals find a way to dump Holliday, Carp, Wainwright, and all their high-priced players so they can pay Pujols, he will wind up wearing the much-despised pinstripes in the Bronx. Yes, I know they have Texeira at first, but the Yankees being the Yankees, they’d likely find somewhere for Pujols to fit. Perhaps platooning him and Tex between 1B-DH or something. Like I said, it’s the Yankees, the “Stack ‘em and Rack ‘em” team of Major League Baseball. Boston MAY be a possibility, given their nearly bottomless checkbook, but I honestly see the Yankees as the only team that can realistically afford to pay him what he wants. Wants, deserves, whatever. Same diff. In terms of “real people” money, he doesn’t deserve a fraction of that, but in terms of MLB players [and teams] money, he deserves every bit of that and more.

Truth be told, even as a Cardinal fan, if the Cardinals can’t keep him, I’d actually MUCH rather see him play future home games at Wrigley than at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees represent everything I hate about baseball (and sports in general) and I can’t in good conscience root for anyone that wears their uniform, whether or not he’s the best player in the league, and whether or not he spent his first 10 seasons on the team I support. It’s the friggin’ Yankees. The Evil Empire. The “Yes, we have 27 championships- bought and paid for” team. (I know, I know; but I simply loathe the Yankees.) If he makes $300MM playing for any other team in MLB, it’s at least comparatively okay. If he makes $300MM playing for the Yankees, he will have sold out and I will have no choice but to hate him with every fiber of my being. It’s my rationalization; let me go with it.

Anyway, if the Cardinals do somehow find a way to keep Pujols and give him the money he wants and deserves, there’s no realistic way they can field any sort of quality team around him in order to be a legitimate contender. They won’t be able to afford anyone else [of any real worth]. Carpenter would be gone, Wainwright would be gone, Holliday would be gone, even that little princess Jim Edmonds would be gone. Great CF in his prime, Jimmy E was, but I just don’t get the excitement Cardinals fans felt in the team signing him. Again. Anyway, it’ll be pretty difficult for Pujols to win a championship essentially by himself. He is the best player in the league right now, but even HE isn’t that good.

The biggest thing that gets me with this whole Albert Pujols St. Louis Cardinals Deathclock Watch thing is watching posts and tweets from Cardinals “fans”. Cheese is rice, folks… what’s with all the doom and gloom? Rare nowadays is the superstar, HoF-caliber player that stays on the same team their entire career. Last one I can think of without really thinking about it would be Cal Ripken. The Cardinals have him for 2011, let’s just let him play while he’s here, and when the season is over and the real crunch time to re-sign him comes, THEN we can pucker our sphincters.

But even if he does leave… life. Goes. On. Baseball in St. Louis will not end just because #5 leaves. You all call yourselves the “Greatest Fans In Baseball™” (a term I once used frequently but now despise hearing); if that’s true, you will be sad that he is gone, as will I, hope he continues his amazing career, as will I, but continue to faithfully support the Cardinals. As will I. If you no longer root for the Cardinals because Pujols leaves, you’re not a Cardinals fan. If your loyalties can change that easily, I can’t even call you a baseball fan.

I am a fan of the game, first and foremost, and a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals second. What benefits the game as a whole typically means more to me than what benefits just my team. That said, I have been a lifelong Cardinals fan, since the first game my dad took me to in the Concrete Doughnut more than 35 years ago. I lived and died by Jack Buck’s voice on the radio for every game for which I wasn’t in attendance. Hearing “That’s a winner!” was a big highlight of my youth, adolescence, and adulthood. And let us not forget JFB’s “Go crazy, folks!” when Ozzie hit that homerun in the ’85 NLCS.

I was there (here and henceforth meaning “as a fan”) when the ’82 team won the Series. I was there for Gibson. Brock. Templeton grabbing his crotch. Ozzie. Willie. Whitey. Vince getting eaten by the tarp. Bruce. Forsch’s first no-hitter (the first one at the Doughnut, for the record). Seaver no-hitting the Cardinals later that season. Forsch’s second no-hitter. Valenzuela no-hitting the Cardinals. Jiménez’ no-hitter, in which he beat Randy Johnson 1-0, and, if memory serves, the only hit Johnson gave up that day was the winning home run. Bud Smith’s no-hitter. (Who?!) McGwire. The rise, downfall, re-rise, and re-downfall of Rick Ankiel. Hollywood Jimmy E. And of course, El Hombre. I was there when the ’04 team got embarrassingly swept by the Red Sox. I was there when the ’06 team redeemed that Series by beating the Tigers.

I was also there supporting those atrociously abysmal Cardinals teams of some of those seasons from the mid-to-late 80s to the early-to-mid 90s. I felt the sting when the ’85 team lost to the Royals. (Don’t get me started on you people that STILL blame Denkinger for the Cardinals losing the Series that year. Let it go.) I saw the Cardinals and Cubs swap numerous players over the years- and, in recent years, occasionally do takebacksies. I was there when Jocketty made that abomination of a trade for Mark Mulder. I was thrilled when LaRussa first came to manage the Cardinals, and I will be even more thrilled when his completely off the deep end, wiggity-whack ass finally leaves.

The point is, regardless of the good or the bad, I have been a Cardinals fan forever, and forever will be. Life- and baseball- will go on in Busch Stadium whether Albert Pujols is there or not. It may not be nearly as electrifying, and perhaps not for a long while, but it will go on. Get a grip, people. Perhaps we all got so used to seeing #5 blast 30+ homeruns each year and rack up 100 RBI every year but one that we never dreamed the day Pujols is no longer a Cardinal could possibly arrive. Well, it’s quite possible that, at least by this time next year, that day actually will arrive. Y’all better check ya self before ya wreck ya self.

Anyway, thanks for indulging me, and I apologize again for not being knowledgeable enough to accurately delve into the facts and figures of the negotiations, but I just felt I needed to try to make the “Greatest Fans In Baseball™” [wink wink] understand that, while painful, losing Pujols will not destroy your life. Actually, if it does, you’ve got much bigger problems.

Just saying.

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Open letter to Mother Nature

Fuck off.

–Johann

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R.I.P. Mayor Tim Davlin

Mayor Tim Davlin

Springfield’s mayor, Tim Davlin, was found dead in his home yesterday morning from “an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound”.  I’m not here to speak on how he died, why he died, any sort of speculation into that or any sort of conspiracy, actual or perceived.

I want to speak about the man.

I never met Mayor Davlin, which is rather surprising in a town this size, and considering how he always seemed to pop up just about everywhere, sometimes in a political capacity, but most often in a personal capacity.  He and I stood on opposite sides of that arbitrary political designation line, but while I didn’t agree with some of his stances, I feel he did a good job not just for the city of Springfield but also for the state of Illinois.

I am currently listening to WMAY, the local talk radio station, and while I hate listening to talk radio because of the whack jobs that routinely call in, it’s actually surprisingly nice hearing some of the callers’ stories about how Mayor Davlin touched their lives.  Whether you agreed with and/or supported him or not, his impact on his constituents, the citizens of Springfield, cannot be denied. I am sure there are people who are saying he did not do anything without the ulterior motive of political gain, and I imagine that at least to SOME degree there may be a *little* bit of truth to that, but even having not known him, I believe that a grand majority of his actions were simply out of the notion that that is simply the type of person he was.

As the radio host just said, even if you could not stand his politics, you couldn’t NOT like the guy. He was a handsome man, extremely charismatic and charming. Again, due to his being a politician, I’m sure there are people who will argue it was all an act. I disagree, especially after hearing some of the calls coming in. And while I am the first to admit I don’t have much faith in most people, I just don’t think people can be THAT good an actor THAT often.  As I mentioned before, it seemed Mayor Davlin turned up darned near everywhere. Yes, some events would fall under the “mayoral photo op” category, but more often than not, it was because he simply wanted to be there, not as “Mayor Davlin” but as “Tim”.

Mayor Davlin was a strong, tireless supporter of veterans and would often appear at various functions honoring and/or raising money for veterans’ associations. He marched in the St. Patrick’s Day parade handing out candy, flowers, green clown noses, whatever, and again, he was just “Tim”, not “Mayor Davlin”.  I’m hearing on the radio that, to the majority of the people calling in, he introduced himself as “Tim”.  He was our mayor, but he was also one of us, first and foremost.  Just a resident of a town he loved; he just happened to run the town he loved, and I believe that’s how he viewed his terms as mayor.

As I type this, an autopsy is being performed on his body, and results are expected to be announced any time.  I am not looking forward to the inevitable wave of speculation as to why the mayor shot himself- IF that is ultimately what happened.  WMAY has already had people calling in wanting to “end the pity party”, with one guy talking about how we need to take this time to “clean up the corruption, with one governor in prison, another heading to prison, and the capital’s mayor killing himself…”

Now do you get why I think most people suck?

He was not without his blemishes, personally and professionally, as none of us are, but to once again quote the radio host, this is truly a sad day for the city of Springfield.  My thoughts and prayers are with his family, especially his children.  I cannot even begin to imagine what they are going through, especially with this being the Christmas season.

I never met Mayor Davlin- or Tim, for that matter- but in an odd way I feel like I have lost a friend.

 

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Random Saturday morning thoughts

- I hate Monopoly. It takes forever and the only way to win is to be the banker. Plus, the banker usually cheats.

- Being an extreme liberal is equally as detrimental to any form of political progress (AND equally as hateful) as is being an extreme conservative. SIDE NOTE: It’s time for some more moderate political parties to be allowed into the forefront. I heard a great quote a while back:

“If we keep pulling left and pulling right, we cannot move forward.”- Newark, N.J. Mayor Cory Booker

- I am WAY too defensive.

- Seafood crepes are heavenly.

- Daylight Savings Time and the whole “setting your clocks forward/backward” thing need to be abolished. They’ve long outlived their practicality. Don’t forget to set your clocks back an hour tonight before bed.

- I wish I had a larger vocabulary. Mine is so… hell, I can’t think of the word.

- My city desperately needs a late-night sushi delivery service.

- Expanding the MLB playoffs and decreasing the regular season won’t change the fact that the baseball season is entirely too long. I dearly love baseball, but early April to early November is just too long to sustain passion for it.

- Trivia nights are fundraisers. I get that. But if the organizers ultimately want the winners’ prize money back, they shouldn’t offer it as a prize. Just say from the get-go that the prize is nothing more than bragging rights; I’m confident they’d still get roughly the same turnout.  Don’t attempt to guilt your players into giving the money back; that will wind up decreasing attendance.  Also, mulligans should be forever banned from trivia nights. I understand that they are mainly sold for extra money for the fundraisers, but if it’s extra money they want, I’d much rather pay $15-$20 for the entry fee- even if there were no prize money- than to reward people for not knowing the answers.  If you can’t win on your knowledge alone, you’re not meant to win.  Mulligans at trivia nights are the equivalent of allowing a batter another at bat right after he strikes out.

- School librarians should not lament about not having any help and then turn around and criticize the parents that volunteer in the library.

- If a major storm were to ever hit at 10AM on the first Tuesday of the month, we’ll likely all perish.

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The kindness of strangers

I’m in Westport Plaza this weekend for the wife’s company’s annual “management appreciation” weekend (basically, it’s a weekend-long drunk disguised as “work” because they go to meetings on Saturday).

I drove up to the McDonald’s at the edge of the Westport compound for a couple Egg McMuffins and coffee.  As I’m eating, the TV is showing the Today Show’s coverage of the 9/11 tragedy broadcast at the same time it happened nine years ago. Per my last post, I’m trying not to pay attention to it, but it’s kind of hard not to when I’m facing a 60-inch plasma screen.

So I’m eating and watching, and this guy sits down at the table next to me and strikes up a 9/11 conversation with me.  Ordinarily, I’m not a big fan of small talk, especially with people I don’t know.  In fact, I’m not a big fan of people in general, simply because too often their level of assholeness clashes with my level of assholeness.  But this guy was different.

We sat and chatted and talked about where we were when we heard the news and what not, talked about how the country and the world have changed since 9/11, talked about President Obama, talked about the Kennedy and Martin Luther King assassinations, and about things in general.  I talked to this guy whom I’ve never met for probably a half hour and had a very pleasant conversation.  There was no political slant to the conversation, there was no racial slant to the conversation, no sort of cultural bias of any kind.

I can’t have a conversation like that with most people I’ve know for years (some all my life) because it always seems to break down into the aforementioned “I’m right, you’re wrong” bullshit.  It was SO refreshing to have a simple conversation with a total stranger.

I still don’t really want to relive or to dwell on the events of nine years ago, but to the construction worker I met today at McDonald’s whose name I never got, your conversation and your handshake when we parted company will be something I will carry with me for a long time.  Thank you for at least temporarily suspending my disdain of people in general and especially of strangers.

(UNRELATED NOTE THAT MUST BE ADDED:  The PCs they have in the lobby of the Sheraton Chalet here at Westport SUCK.  Be one of the cool people, Sheraton–switch to Macs.)

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