Monday, April 28, 2008

A Rocket in his pocket

Roger "The Rocket" Clemens is the gift that just keeps on giving; figuratively and literally.

Figuratively: as the source of many "juicy" news stories over the last six months since he became indelibly linked to doping via the Mitchell Report.

Lierally: as the guy "rogering" country music singer Mindy McCready in a 10 year long affair.

As Mel Allen would say, "How about that?!"

The New York Daily News broke the story early this morning.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Rev. Wright's PR Campaign

Ever since he became a household name for his inflammatory sermons, Rev. Wright has been hard at work restoring his reputation. Apparently thumbing his nose at the free PR and the chance to have one of his own parishioners, and fellow African American, elected President of the United States, Rev. Wright feels it's more important to clear his good name.

In the vast scheme of things not that many people knew who Rev. Wright was before his sermons surfaced on YouTube and tagged Presidential hopeful Barack Obama with a campaign-changing blow. And, over the course of a few months, his name would have quietly faded into the background. Most Americans no-doubt were able to accurately parse his message, put it in proper context, and move on with their lives. The fringe 20% never would have got it anyway.

So, why is Wright working so hard to restore his image, at the potential expense of Senator Obama's? I'm sure the answer to this lies in the inherent narcissism and greatly exaggerated sense of self importance most ministers suffer from. Wright has been called everything from crazy to anti-American. And I say: so what? The man has a lifetime of Christian service on one side of the scales and a few minutes of YouTube on the other. Is it fair? No. And it's not unprecedented either.

Interestingly enough, Jesus went misunderstood to the point of crucifixion, as did most of his early followers to execution. Central to the Christian message is that you may never be rewarded for your good work here on earth but you will be rewarded in heaven. Thus, work that much harder, and don't concern yourself with the temporary recognition. It was that type of motive that allowed Jesus to say "by their fruits you will recognize them." And Paul to say, "Work as if you were not serving people but the Lord." Wright's ministry speaks for itself, and the people he has helped stand for themselves. Nothing can take that away, and the rest shouldn't matter.

But such "turn the other cheek" advice flies in the face of ministers who helm mega-churches, and have private lines to presidents (Rev. Wright counseled Bill and Hilary Clinton). In those cases the image is what matters; it is everything. The brand is the very bread these ministers live on. Why else do they work feverishly to keep the outside of tomb clean?

Wright was always Obama's biggest liability. And when things exploded, Obama deftly handled the issue by giving an uplifting and empowering speech on the subject of race. It was perhaps his greatest moment so far, and one of the finest of any politician in the last 50 years. In doing so Obama did not repudiate his longtime pastor, or disown him for the trouble he had caused. Instead he referred to him as family, walking a fine line between understanding and agreement. Obama had done himself an obvious political favor, but not at the cost of the very person who had become his one liability. Wright, on the other hand, in a recent interview with Bill Moyers, stated flatly that Obama was speaking as a politician--saying what needed to be said to a specific audience.

Wright put together a solid career as a pastor, and prior military service as a Marine, and, most importantly, a life of integrity as a Christian. His legacy will stand in Chicago, and in the black community, regardless of anything he says on PBS or in other national interviews. Rev. Wright may have been handed an injustice, after all his service, but it pales in comparison to what other Christians have had to suffer for Christ. And the greater injustice would be to undermine Obama's image for the sake of his own. Obama's stage is national. Wright is in the hands of God. Obama, unfortunately, must be judged by men.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

RBI Baseball: 1986 World Series, Game 6

I found this gem on YouTube. For baseball fans it has it all: game 6 of the 86 World Series, Vin Scully doing the play-by-play, and the Nintendo classic RBI Baseball.

The call that would haunt Red Sox fans for the next 18 years:

"Little roller up along first.... behind the bag!"

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Pennsylvania returns to dustbin of history

"Well, that was fun while it lasted," said Herb McCullum, a laid off factory worker from Allentown.
Somewhere, a big dog barked.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Cubs World Series watch: first place

The Cubs World Series watch, which has been active for the last 100 years, has been officially switched on for 2008. The Cubs are now on top of the NL Central (and it's April) thanks to their best start since 1975 with a record of 14-6. They have 13 wins in 16 games.

Lest anyone thinks I am jinxing my beloved team, Cubby Ronny Cedeno has already initiated that by actually saying, outloud, yesterday, that the Cubs are thinking about the World Series. Young and impudent. That's what we need. Stare into the abyss and laugh. Ignorance of Cubs tragedies past is bliss.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Springsteen endorses Obama

Today Barack Obama received the endorsement that matters the most: from The Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen. Springsteen threw his hat into the ring with an endorsement of Senator Obama from his webpage.

Like most of you, I've been following the campaign and I have now seen and heard enough to know where I stand. Senator Obama, in my view, is head and shoulders above the rest.

He has the depth, the reflectiveness, and the resilience to be our next President. He speaks to the America I've envisioned in my music for the past 35 years, a generous nation with a citizenry willing to tackle nuanced and complex problems, a country that's interested in its collective destiny and in the potential of its gathered spirit. A place where "...nobody crowds you, and nobody goes it alone."

Many are speculating that Springsteen’s endorsement was prompted by Obama’s recent comments on “bitter” small town America, and his consequentially being tagged as “elitist” by the Clinton campaign.

At the moment, critics have tried to diminish Senator Obama through the exaggeration of certain of his comments and relationships. While these matters are worthy of some discussion, they have been ripped out of the context and fabric of the man's life and vision, so well described in his excellent book, Dreams of My Father, often in order to distract us from discussing the real issues: war and peace, the fight for economic and racial justice, reaffirming our Constitution, and the protection and enhancement of our environment.

The small town voter has come to the forefront in the Democratic nomination in the shadow of the upcoming Pennsylvania primary. Pennsylvania is a state that once relied heavily on manufacturing and has been hard hit over the past twenty years due to economic changes. Across the country, as in Pennsylvania, many are expressing uncertainty over the course of the country, specifically economic woes, and the war in Iraq.

To this Springsteen lends his voice as one who has made his name writing about the struggles of struggles of average Americans perhaps most memorably in his hit “Born in the U.S.A.” a stinging tale of the hardships suffered by returning Vietnam veterans. The song is about a boy from a “dead man’s town” who breaks the law, is sent to the Army, winds up in Vietnam, and can’t find a job when he returns. Sound familiar?

I got in a little hometown jam
And so they put a rifle in my hands
Sent me off to Vietnam
To go and kill the yellow man

Come back home to the refinery
Hiring man says "Son if it was up to me…"
I go down to see the V.A. man
He said "Son don't you understand?”

Those are the kind of great lyrics and sentiment that has endeared Springsteen to millions of working class Americans. He represents them and Hillary has Elton John.

As Springsteen himself said, "Over here on E Street, we're proud to support Obama for President."
And his message to Hillary?

"Give that big final good luck and goodbye to your all time top-five and just move on down the road."


Monday, April 14, 2008

Penn voters on Obama's comments: No big thing

The media is making a big deal out of Obama's comments that small town America "clings" to the values it finds familiar. Aparantly the people in small towns across Pennsylvania don't see what all the fuss is about.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Tiger to Win Masters

The Masters, the immutable, official, indisputable beginning of Spring, beings tomorrow. Forecasts here are for 39 degrees with a mix of rain and snow. That is why they play The Masters in Augusta, Georgia, and why I have to use a high level of symbolism to begin my Spring.

The question in this year's Masters is not so much who will win, but will Tiger Woods win? And I'm here to answer that for you: yes, yes he will. You see, Tiger is not like you or me. He wins Masters and he is a master. I bow to him and his golf game. I remember three years ago sitting on the couch and watching the Masters, Woods came back to win on Sunday, capping the tournament off by willing his putted ball with a determined stare into the cup after it had stopped rolling. That's the type of metaphysical power possessed by masters, and by a person who can win a Master when he wants to.

Alright, so there's that. You heard it here first, right? Tiger to win Masters.

A lot of people are protesting the Olympic torch running because the Olympics are going to be in Beijing, China this year and China is evil. People protest this evil by throwing rocks at wheelchair bound torch carriers. I don't understand the higher wisdom at play in this, but maybe Tiger can explain it. He would, but he's too busy channeling energy into his golf clubs.
I certainly can't explain it, because, unlike Tiger, my wisdom and power is finite.

But as far as I can gather, people are upset about China hosting the Olympics because China has a long and uncontested track record of crushing human rights, much the way the Soviet hockey team used to crush all comers. This crushing is exemplified by China's stance on Tibet, which it seized and assimilated in 1951, and recently has re-invaded and harassed. To that we all wish a speedy return to an autonomous Tibet on the world stage. Then, and only then, will the Dalai Lama
stop being the giggly plaything of super-rich movie stars. This is why we protest. Big hitter, that Lama.

But when did the Olympics, a tradition created by a warring society that held slaves, become a human rights symbol? The ancient Olympics were a series of contests where men competed naked, and, if they lost, were often assaulted. Games were basically metaphorical extensions of battlefield contests between city-states. Winning was held in such high regard that the contestants often cheated. There was an elaborate protocol for pederasty. If you won the javelin toss you received a laurel wreath and a supple young boy. This, to me, seems an unlikely source for humanism and national unity. But that brings us to the one force more powerful than Tiger Woods, and The Lama himself: capitalism.

When big business and corporate sponsorship seized and assimilated the Olympics what was fashioned was the pristine image of the games as a symbol of unity and idealism. This is the modern Olympics. The "games" as we know it: where doped up athletes strive ever faster and higher, where kids held captive by oppressive parents and coaches are unleashed to compete for the world's love, and where people scale tall bridges to hang banners of protest, and haze the torch carriers.

Now, let us find inner peace and reconcile the three formerly irreconcilable elements--golf, Tibet and the Olympics--with the help of the movie "Caddyshack."

I jump a ship in Hong Kong and make my way over to Tibet, and I get on as a looper at the course over in the Himalayas. A looper, you know, a caddy, a looper, a jock. So, I tell them I'm a pro jock, and who do you think they give me? The Dalai Lama, himself Twelfth some of the Lame. The flowing robes, the grace, bald...striking. So, I'm on the first tee with him. I give him the driver. He hauls off and whacks one -- big hitter, the Lama -- long into a ten-thousand foot crevasse, right at the base of this glacier.

Do you know what the Lama says? "Gunga galunga... gunga, gunga-galunga."

So, we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know."

And he says, "Oh, uh, there wont be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness."

So, I got that goin' for me, which is nice.