Thursday, September 29, 2011

End the Season Now

Cancel the post- season. Put away the balls, bats and gloves. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can come close to duplicating the events that unfolded last night.

The situation was almost mythical. Boston was in the throes of a massive September heart attack and a nine game lead over Tampa had turned to none. All that stood between the Sox and sudden death was last evening. And while the rain fell in Baltimore, and the tarp covered the field, extending the suspense, the Yankees, in Tampa Bay, were doing their best to increase the agony. 7 to nothing became 7 to 6 in the time it took for everyone in Boston to take a very deep breath.

And then, it appeared for just the briefest of moments, that the world was going to find its axis. 2 strikes, 2 outs and a hitter with 1 home run over a 162 game season was all that stood between Tampa and the very probable end of their resurrection. The unlikely, the improbable, the can't be, and one swing later it was tied. On into extra, unrelenting intense innings.

In Baltimore, the rain stopped and the Red Sox closer, the great and revived Papelbon, was one strike away from completing the win and assuring, at worst, one more day and one more game. As the clock struck midnight, it all unraveled. 2 hits, and the game was tied. Then a line drive to left, and the man who had disappointed most of the year, Carl Crawford, found himself inches too far away. As the ball fell from his glove to the ground, at 12:02 AM, all the Sox fans could do was believe in the Yankees.

But their hated rivals had found a way to snatch defeat from certain victory. With a man on third and no one out in the top of the 12th, a minor league team masquerading as the Bronx bombers, botched a play and failed to score. Then, 2 minutes after the Red Sox game ended, and probably 2 pitches after the score was posted in Tampa, the Red Sox died a September 29th death as Evan Longoria's very low line drive barely cleared an improbably small portion of fence just at the shortest part of left field.

What could possibly occur in the coming days to exceed the drama of what happened shortly after the clock struck for the last time on the Red Sox season? How could the baseball planets align to surpass the absolutely absurd ending to one of the most epic September collapses in the long history of this sport? The answer is a simple and unequivocal statement that they can't. Let the spectacle of this moment in time live forever as the lasting, and last memory of this season. Let the unforgettable stand alone, and not be relegated to a footnote by the events of tomorrow.

Let the season end now.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Just Compensation

I have decided that my demand will be non-negotiable. I will take a page from the Republican playbook. This will be my version of no new taxes. I want, no I require, a free subscription to the New York Times.

Earlier this week, another of my apparently pithy comments found its way into print in this most highly thought of publications. I clearly must be considered indispensable, a poor man's version of Krugman, or at least an everyman's foil to Brooksian rantings. I can only imagine that the letters editor waits each day for yet another of my invaluable suggestions on what is wrong with the world and how best we can fix it.

And how has the paper repaid (more accurately, paid) me for all my effort? How has the 5AM wake-up, the energy expended in combing the pages for just the right article, the writing and re-writing been rewarded? Where is the thank you? The only constant in our relationship is the invoice that I must satisfy for continued access to their thoughts. Where is the equity? Am I forever to be the unpaid intern? No more, I say.

I can only imagine the reaction when my mandate is received. Have we pushed Nussbaum too far? Can we afford to lose such an indispensable resource over such a small sum? Is he not worth so much more than he is requiring?

As I contemplate this scenario, I become increasingly infuriated with those who have ignored me, and taken me for granted. Do they really consider me something less than I imagine myself to be? Can it be that those in power don't even know what I have done to keep circulation on this paper alive? Can they even fathom a New York Times in which my voice is silent?

They don't want this to escalate. They don't want to see me become a free agent and auction myself off to the highest bidder. They don't want one day to open the Washington Post and be forced to revisit their mistake. They want me, I know it.

But what if they don't see the necessity to capitulate? Defeat would be humbling and humiliating for me. I am, after all, a Democrat and I do weigh the possibilities and the potential pitfalls.

On second thought, maybe I should just ask for a weekday subscription. I have learned valuable lessons from the President. Compromise is not a bad thing, and if you are compelled to lower your expectations and your requirements maybe you can get at least something out of the negotiations. So, maybe we didn't get the single payer health care reform (or even ask for it) but at least we got a watered down version of Romneycare. So maybe we had to agree to massive cutting of government spending during the worst recession in memory, but at least we didn't default on our debt obligations.

So maybe I shouldn't use the Democrats and their powers of bargaining as my role model. Or maybe I shouldn't be asking for something I am not sure of receiving. I think, after further reflection, I will retract my demand and instead, concentrate on something much more realistic and attainable.

Maybe I can ask for a paper route to earn enough to pay for my subscription. Please.

Saturday, September 24, 2011



The simple answer to Dr. Willenbring’s question is that President Obama’s wising up is too late. While it is comforting to hear the passion and focus in the words of the president, the unalterable reality is that the next 14 months will be filled with more of the Republican obstructionism and willful distortions we have already endured.

The Republican mantra of making Mr. Obama a one-term president precludes the possibility of any meaningful progress. The sad truth is that no compelling and reasoned speeches can move an opponent who sees political gain in our country’s continuing weakness.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Prize

In 1995, the Yankees three decade slide came to an end. As Jeter, Posada, Williams, Pettite and Rivera ascended, the post season returned as a right not a privilege. 16 years out of 17. And so, what was once an extraordinary event now has lost at least a little of its magical quality. But in the beginning...

I stood in the rain, outside a Ticketmaster outlet in Bergenfield, hoping to be awarded a wristband that would give me the right to return at a later time to get my reward. Some strategized and traveled long distances to find just the right outlet, where the fewest fans were likely to congregate. In other years, I waited for hours in a line that snaked seemingly forever around the old Stadium. People camped out for days. It was a love-in, a baseball fans version of Woodstock.

Earlier this week, I received an email from my son. He had gone on-line at exactly 3PM, and had garnered tickets for a game in each of the first 2 rounds of the playoffs. On- line had replaced in-line, and the gathering of the multitudes was now just one person and his computer.

Time and technology have combined to take most of the romance away. No longer are we chasing after a new love, hoping to be the chosen one. Now, we are in a long term relationship and do only the little we are required to keep it going.

Don't get me wrong. These past 17 years have been wondrous. I don't long for the days of Horace Clarke. I realize that while standing in the rain can give added gravitas to the effort in retrospect, it is not really all that much fun. I get that Bergenfield is not actually another Woodstock. But in my reverie, alone at my computer, I remember with great fondness the dawning of time and the almost mystical chase for the prized ticket. When it was in my grasp, I would hold it aloft, like I had just won the lottery.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sap, A Three Letter Word

("Obama Rejects Obamaism")

What is so troubling about the stance of Mr. Brooks is that he is treating the President's decision to enunciate his position with conviction and clarity as an abandonment of his responsibilities to our nation. When the President states that it is math, not class warfare, that propels his arguments where is the fault in his words?

The President should not be expected to spend the next 14 months in a useless quest to satisfy the inappropriate and highly destructive demands of the Republicans. Mr. Brooks may indeed be a sap, but it is not for the reasons he has asserted. Rather it is for his unending error in falling for the nonsensical, non-factual rhetoric of the right.

Friday, September 16, 2011

America, the Not So Beautiful

("Free to Die")

With enthusiastic embrace of a platform that rejects the notion of "do unto others...." the Republican party has become home to the concept of survival of the fittest. The group that so vigorously railed against the faux theory of "death panels" and the "rationing" of health care is in reality those who would let the old, the weak and the poor go untreated. For the right, who wrap themselves in the blanket of religious conservatism, it is an abandonment of the core principles that their teachings should demand.

There is a total loss of moral conscience in their actions. At a moment when we are collectively suffering, understanding and compassion should be terms that have meaning and purpose. But in the people who cheer death for the uninsured there is a deeply troubling disdain for and distance from those most in distress.

Talk as we might about economic theory and how best to face an uncertain future, the critical dividing line between us is in how we see our duties to our fellow man. And it is sad and troubling and disgusting and discouraging to listen to so many who preach American greatness but practice something that makes us far less.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Soaring Poverty, A National Disgrace

("Soaring Poverty Casts Spotlight on 'Lost Decade' ")

There is something deeply immoral in the numbers. It is more than a statement of a nation in economic peril. It is an abdication of our responsibility to protect those who are in jeopardy.

We have long since seemed to grow immune to figures on the page. How can we leave 50 million people without health coverage? How can so many children go to bed each night undernourished emotionally as well as physically? How do we ignore the impact on the black community when the incessant pounding of poverty marches unimpeded in their midst?

Have we no shame? How can we argue over whether to extend unemployment insurance? How can we speak of cutting benefits that supply food and shelter to those in such dire distress? How can we not create a jobs program to give as many among us as we can a little dignity and a reason to look to tomorrow with something other than terror and despair?

In the numbers we see more than poverty. We see our own failings.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Last Out

("Quietly, Rivera Nears an Underrated Record")

Let me start with my stated belief that Mariano Rivera is the best relief pitcher who has ever played the game. He has dominated for more than a decade and a half, has shown little signs of deterioration, and throws one pitch with more precision and accuracy than seems humanly possible.

He also exhibits an almost supernatural calm. In situations that demand a steadiness of mind as well as body, he is unflappable

All that being said, I well understand the public's lack of enthusiasm that he is about to become the standard bearer in his defined role. For as an over the top Yankee fan, and one who has witnessed almost all of the near 600 saves, the pending ascension by Mo brings not much more than a yawn.

The reasons are many. First, how great is the possibility that a reliever could spend his career with the Kansas City Royals and accumulate 600 saves? A reliever's superiority is defined both by his own abilities and by the team for which he toils. Mariano Rivera's teams have missed out on the playoffs one time in his entire career. He has been the beneficiary of a Yankee era in which the likes of Jeter, Williams, Posada, A-Rod, Cano, Teixiera and other every day players with Hall of Fame credentials, or nearly so, have put Rivera's teams in position, day and day, to make Mo relevant.

And pitchers from Clemens to Pettite to Mussina to Sabathia and countless others have produced "quality" starts so that the game was still in the balance in the late innings.

Unlike the home run or batting average, a save is thus a statistic that relates as much to the team as it does to the individual. You can be Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and accumulate home runs (tainted as they might have been) on squads with losing records. And as wonderful as Ichiro Suzuki may have been over the past decade, it didn't take a Seattle victory for him to accumulate his hits. We are drawn to individual accomplishment that occur in the vacuum of one's own universe, and don't rely on anything other than one's own skill (questionable as they became in certain instances) to attain.

Further, I dare anyone to recite for me the full and complete definition of a save. For those who can wander through the complications, read on below:

"In baseball statistics, the term save is used to indicate the successful maintenance of a lead by a relief pitcher, usually the closer, until the end of the game. A save is a statistic credited to a relief pitcher, as set forth in Rule 10.19 of the Official Rules of Major League Baseball. That rule states the official scorer shall credit a pitcher with a save when such pitcher meets all four of the following conditions:
He is the finishing pitcher in a game won by his team;
He is not the winning pitcher;
He is credited with at least ⅓ of an inning pitched; and
He satisfies one of the following conditions:
He enters the game with a lead of no more than three runs and pitches for at least one inning
He enters the game, regardless of the count, with the potential tying run either on base, at bat or on deck
He pitches for at least three innings
Save rules have changed over the years; the above rules are the current as defined in Section 10.19 of Major League Baseball's Official Rules. The statistic was formally introduced in 1969, although research has identified saves earned prior to that point." (Wikipedia)

Thus, there are a myriad of ways in which a relief pitcher can garner a save, including one in which he enters the game with a 3 run lead with 2 out in the ninth and a runner on base, throws one pitch, gets the last out and heads home ( number 4, subsection 2 above). Who among us, would consider that anything warranting official recognition?

I have seen 15 years of Yankee games in which the manager has been cognizant of the save rule before walking out to the mound, raising his right arm and calling upon the Great One. And so, for those like Rivera, one of the other essential components is being called upon at just the precise moment to fit within the definition established in 1969. Maybe other managers don't run their teams to fit within those guidelines. Joe Torre and Joe Girardi certainly have.

Further, the bullpen, until the last half century has been the province of the least, not the best, of the pitching staff. Before Luis Arroyo was called upon to "save" Whitey Ford and the Yankee wins of the early 1960's, there was not a long history of greatness finding its way to the bullpen. My early recollections were of a wild Ryne Duren, with a lively and very erratic arm, unsure if the pitch he was to throw would find its intended target or the backstop. The end of the game was much more the end of the line for a pitcher. It was not a reward but a recognition that something was wrong.

So too, in the era before pitch counts, before pitcher was deemed too fragile to throw more than a prescribed number of pitches, before there were 6th, 7th and 8th inning specialists as well as closers, there were the days from Cy Young to the early 1980's, where it was a badge of honor for a pitcher to finish what he started. According to Wikipedia, Young threw 749 complete games in his career. In 1952-53, Robin Roberts threw 28 consecutive complete games. Later, on an Oakland team that was to become the poster-child for pitch counts, a young Rick Langford threw 22 consecutive complete games in 1980. In contrast, by 2008, CC Sabathia became the first pitcher since Randy Johnson in 1999 to throw 10 complete games in an ENTIRE SEASON.

And thus, while do I come to praise Rivera, I know that it can sound like I have come to bury his accomplishments. It is true that we have not seen his likes before, and it may well be a generation or more until another one like him appears. In the annals of a game that spans over a century and a half, how many can say that they were the best there ever was at their assigned task? But the save, being part of something greater than one person, being subject to ludicrous and complex guidelines,and having different import in different generations of the sport, does not lend itself to the hysteria surrounding other records.

And so Mo will toil, as he has for his entire career, in relative anonymity. And the record will come and go with not a hint of the fanfare surrounding other achievements in baseball. For a man who has always spoken of team before individual and who does his job with a quiet, business-like demeanor, I believe that suits him fine.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Plan

Was this the President's "Network" moment? Is he finally, "mad as hell" and not going to take it anymore? In plain words and demanding tone, the President challenged the Republican party to enact what must be seen as a centrist call involving tax cutting (certainly a Republican mantra) mixed with spending on infrastructure needs and hiring of those like returning veterans, policemen and teachers. With long term offsetting debt reduction in exchange for the monies now desperately needed and an explicit recognition that social security and medicare are not untouchable, the agenda should appeal to the right even as the President's pointed remarks chastised them for being so wrong for so long.

But I fear, given what we have painfully witnessed over the course of this administration, that Mr. Cantor's and Mr. Boehner's immediate words of tepid praise for the framework will soon dissolve. I believe that unless we collectively stand at the window and shout the words of the President, over and over, the plan will disappear and what we will be left with is only our anger and frustration and an economy perpetually on the brink. And that, I think, is the only real Republican plan for the next 14 months.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Young Teacher

Each day now she waits for her Mom and Dad to arrive. She asks if I know where they are and why she can't seem to locate them. She is not frantic, only a little disappointed. They will soon be with her, just not yet.

There are places to go. She has overstayed her time here. She often asks if I am from this area and if I like it where I am. In her inquiry she provides her own response.

She is anxious because she has to be in school tomorrow. She is a teacher, and there is a sense that she feels she has not fully prepared for the days ahead.

And then there are her 2 older sisters. They have seemed to abandon her. She is so close with both of them, and counts on their companionship. But today they are not here, and they have not been here for a while. There is a small resentment, a slight disgust but nothing more. They are sisters after all.

2 young children seem to be missing. They are the wards of the young teacher. I don't know their names, their ages or even their sexes. I am not sure how they got into her life, but I do understand that she feels very responsible for their welfare.

I try to be vague in my response to all her questions, while still being helpful, even positive. Sometimes I stumble, and sometimes I am at a loss for words. But most often my answers are enough to move the conversation on. When they are not, I get a quizzical look, a shrug and every so often a slightly agitated retort. But that always passes quickly.

Often when the young teacher and I are together there are long silences. Apart from her parents, her older sisters, her school and her ward, there is little that holds her attention. Events in the rest of the universe are discussed but mean little.

This is the world that I enter daily. The stories vary little, the concerns and the questioning often eerily verbatim replications of the day before and the day before that.

My mom is in her early 20's going on 94. Her parents passed away a half a century ago. Her 2 older sisters are gone for a decade. She last taught a class in the early 1940's. And the young children who live in her imagination are not even a part of a recognizable past.

I will speak with that young teacher tomorrow and the day after, and for as many days as she can hold on to that reality. And I will try my best to be respectful of the world that she inhabits. She deserves nothing less.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Blue Skies

I remember the blueness of the sky that morning. The haze that often dulled its vibrancy was gone. No clouds cast a shadow. No hint of trouble. It was the type of day you felt you could see forever.

I arrived at my office and began my work. The first part of each day was devoted to gaining my bearings, mentally catching up and refocusing on the tasks that lay in front of me. I don't recall what I was doing or thinking when I got the call.

The first tower had been hit. It didn't mean very much to me at that moment. Tragic and frightening, but my mind couldn't register its enormity. Just a plane crash. From where I sat, maybe 10 to 15 miles away, I could see nothing. The sky was still a perfect blue when I looked out my window.

Time seems to have condensed after that, as though all events and information came together in an instant. The second crash, the towers crumbling, the news that our skies were under attack and there were planes down seemingly everywhere. The images of the cloud of dust that stretched on into infinity and darkened everything in its wake. The sky disappeared and the blue could no longer be seen through the death and destruction.

10 years later I remember that I woke up on September 11, 2001 to a world that would soon vanish before my eyes, to a world that no longer exists. 10 years later, I remember that blue sky.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Uncertain Answers

So often now I hear otherwise rational people speak of their uncertainty in how they would vote if the election were held today. What, I ask, is there in the Republican platform that would possibly draw you to cast your lot with that group? Who is it within their ranks with a vision in which you believe?

That being said, it is tough these days to be an Obama apologist. As we stagger under the weight of an endless recession, as we watch the shelving of proposed regulations to protect the environment, as we question how the Republicans can continue to frame the debate while simultaneously threatening our well being, I listen to words of constant and profound disappointment.

Thursday, not Wednesday as I guess this would conflict with Mr. Boehner's tea party, the President will announce his ideas to stimulate our economy and bring us hope for a better tomorrow. I desperately want this to be the beginning of a new day where the administration comes out strong, definitive and defiant. If I am to continue to be a vocal advocate for my President, I need to hear him say that we have been sidetracked long enough and that we have the strength and resources to do the big and bold things required. If he fails to speak the truth in plain and unambiguous terms, even his staunchest apologists may be rendered silent. And then who will be left to answer all those who question?

Sharpton and Strauss-Kahn

"Sharpton Explains His Silence on Big Case"

I can't believe that the New York Times report doesn't reference, in 2 words, what may be the most relevant reason for Mr. Sharpton's unwillingness to join the fray: Tawana Brawley.

Friday, September 2, 2011


("Eric and Irene")

"Never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it's an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before."
Rahm Emanuel- November, 2008

Eric Cantor has given new meaning to Mr. Emanuel's words. Political trade offs are the lifeblood of the system, and always have been. Those in the minority look for whatever edge they can get to make their voices heard and to push their agenda forward. But what was historically distasteful has now morphed into something far more sinister.

From the first big test of this administration, the reform of the health care system, to the auto bailout, and forward, the Republican mantra has been to anything necessary to derail legislation they oppose and move forward their agenda. If that meant not merely distorting facts, but inventing them, that was acceptable collateral damage.

But with their challenge to raising of the debt ceiling , the Republicans went from fact creation into the crisis manufacturing business. And emboldened by the success of these recent efforts, Cantor, and those of like mind, have now established a new pattern. Find a disaster, or make one up, it makes no difference.

Mr. Cantor has discovered what he believes is the perfect instrument to shape the country in his vision. And thus, the wreckage left in the wake of Irene becomes nothing but another political weapon. And Mr. Emanuel's words, living through the actions of Mr. Cantor, now speak to the worst, not the best, of what we can do with a serious crisis.

The Bagel

From my vantage point, I thought I saw the Goodyear blimp moving below me. This was not nosebleed territory, this was the oxygen deprived zone. Were those figures moving about on the surface of the earth men or women? And were they running back and forth for any particular purpose? Welcome to the upper deck at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

For a face price of $55 (thanks to the magician formerly known as Richie, my cost was less than half that amount) I got to witness, well almost, the first ranked woman, and then the man of similar station, mutilate and decimate the poor souls who served as sacrificial lambs for the evening. Mock cheers erupted on the winning of a single point by the overwhelmed and a "deuce" game brought a surge in energy to those starving for David to at least irritate Goliath.

Most of the evening was spent in idle chatter or endless review of the Yankee- Boston game on my phone (do I still call it a phone?). Like so many others, I entered into discussions about when it would be politically correct to vacate the premises: "If he (whoever that decidedly faceless person was) wins a game before it is 4-0 we will stay". At 4-0 in the second set, after a bagel (with everything on it) in the opening act of this play, we exchanged knowing glances and began our descent from the heavens.

Early round matches from these seats should come with a disclaimer: "This is not an exhibition, even though it may appear to be one. While results are not guaranteed, you should bet on the favorite if you want to make back the money on your overpriced ticket".

As we left, we headed towards the car, parked not near the tennis facility, but rather in the parking lot of Citi Field. Screams of approval could be heard. The voice on the loudspeaker announced that the Mets had bases loaded, one out, and the infield was playing in. I wondered if my ticket was exchangeable for a seat somewhere at the game. When a meaningless September encounter of a team I don't follow seems like an upgrade, I know the evening's entertainment was less than great viewing. If I actually could have seen it.