NFL Wildcard Weekend Predictions

Saturday’s Games

Carolina Panthers (7-8-1) at Arizona Cardinals (11-5)

Arizona had a great thing going, that is until they were forced to start going through office rolodex files to find someone who could play quarterback. They have a mediocre passing game as a team (14th), but much of that was based on the previous starters. Mix that with the next to last rushing attack in the league and it means trouble.

Carolina has been surging as the season wound down, despite a losing record and Cam Newton’s auto accident. They are solid running the ball (7th) and New can explode for big yardage and scores at any moment.

While I like the Cardinals personally, this one goes to the Panthers 35-17.

 

Baltimore Ravens (10-6) at Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)

These two almost always put on a good show if you’re up for hard-fought yards and a lot of action. But the last two matchups of these teams in 2014 have been lopsided, one going each way.

The Steelers really should be the favorite in this game, except that star running back Le’Veon Bell is not healthy. In fact, he may not be able to play. He had 1,361 yards and 8 TDs this season. Josh Harris has shown some potential, but he’ll have to shine if he is to give the Ravens something to distract them from focusing on Ben Rothlisberger. If Big Ben can stay standing, the Ravens will have issues.

The Ravens have a similar tandem in Joe Flacco and Justin Forsett. Flacco is really the question mark here. He had a great season when they played San Francisco in the Super Bowl, but otherwise is an above-average QB. Forsett has clearly come out from under the shadow of Ray Rice and his spousal abuse issues, amassing 1,266 yards and 8 TDs.

There’s a lot of give and take in this game, but in the end I think the Steelers will rise to the occasion and win the day. Pittsburgh 31, Baltimore 24.

 

Sunday’s Games

Cincinnati Bengals (10-5-1_ at Indianapolis (11-5)

In their only matchup this season the Colts blanked the Bengals 27-0 October 19th. Seems that whenever an opposing QB gets over 290 yards passing in a game, Cincinnati loses. And if anyone can rack up yards quick, it’s the Colts Andrew Luck.

Luck had 4,761 yards and 40 TDs this season passing. He lit up the Bengals for 344 yds/2 TD in the win earlier this season. But what Luck provides in a passing game the Colts severely lack in a rushing attack. Trent Richardson and Boom Herron have given some great efforts, but they will need to step up big of Indianapolis is going to make it far in the postseason.

Cincinnati has an impressive arsenal of offensive weapons, managed by QB Andy Dalton. But for all of that, the Bengals are just not great defensively.

This figures to get into a shootout at best and I’m not sure that the Bengals have the firepower to keep pace. Indianapolis 35, Cincinnati 17.

 

Detroit Lions (11-5) at Dallas Cowboys (12-4)

Have you heard about them ‘Boys? If you haven’t, you clearly don’t know any fans of the Big Blue Star.

Dallas QB Tony Romo finally had the kind of year his supporters have been telling us he’d have. Regardless of the reason, he has been on fire most of the year, save the stint he had with injuries. And while he and Dez Bryant have been putting on an aerial show all season, the real jugger naught has been RB Demarco Murray. He crushed the league with 1,845 yards and 13 TDs this season and was over 100 yards in all but four games.

But that was again patsy defenses.

While Detroit has some good offensive weapons, make no mistake that they are where they are because of their defense. They allowed just 88 yds/gm this year on the ground and 251 yds/gm in the air, making them the No. 2 defense in the league. And while the Dallas offensive line now has a full year under its belt together, they will have to dig deep to give Romo time and Murray holes when they have the ball.

In perhaps the biggest irony of the Wild Card Weekend, Dallas won all eight of its road games this year only to earn the right to play at home where they went 4-4.

This game will be a test of wills, but if the Cowboys can must the same type of game they played against Seattle (Oct. 12, 2014), they have a shot. Dallas 24, Detroit 21.

A Few Questions for “The Interview”

OK, I’m tossing this theory out there. Believe me, I know it’s a long shot and pretty unlikely. But when I think of the myriad of other things that have happened over the years that were scams or just unbelievable things that individuals/companies have done, this one looks like one of the more mild ones. So here goes …

What if the whole thing with “The Interview” was a planned publicity stunt?interview_tout_large

Grab some cookies and milk. This is gonna take a while.

You have a movie that, by normal standards, was getting OK reviews in advance of its Christmas Day opening and the whole debacle with the North Koreans. And even after it’s showing online and at some 300 theaters across the U.S., it’s still pretty mixed.

“The Interview” cost $44 million to make, which is roughly equivalent to what it’s competition – “Unbroken” ($15.59 million), “Into The Woods” ($15.08 million) and the two-week old “The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies” (#13.14 million) – made in a DAY. Toss in “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb” ($7.35 million) and “The Gambler” ($5 million) and there wasn’t going to be much of a box office left for Seth Rogen and James Franco to get a piece of. And with at least the top four movies in that list with significant staying power, “The Interview” was just never going to make a ton of money any time soon.

So, we have a so-so movie scheduled to open on a very powerful weekend. Not a good mix from the get go.

Then we have Franco and Rogen. Neither are Hollywood elites and generally make second-tier movies that make some money, but not a bunch. And neither is anything like the traditional stars we all know and love. Rogen is generally considered a bit of a loose cannon, and there always seems to be an inference that he is “on something.” Franco is a multi-talented guy who is always trying something new, and who loves a good joke.

And so here we are: Sony pushing a marginal flick with a pair of stars who just might go along with a gag like this if would help the film make money.

Yeah, I know. It seems too farfetched, too insane and just flat out crazy.

But let’s assume for a moment that a meeting was held in some shadowy back office at Sony one night with just a handful of players involved. What might the reasoning have been to try and pull the wool over the world’s eyes?

I can’t have that? Gimme 12 of ‘em!

Let’s start with the outrage. I mean, aside from Denis Rodman, who really has a whole lot good to say about North Korea to begin with? We already know that Kim Jong-un is certifiable, recently proclaiming that no children born in his country may share his name and that those who already do must change it. He has made it clear he has no love for America, but has little armament to do much about it, and so he becomes the perfect patsy.

But think about Jong-un’s ego for just a second. If he and North Korea really had been able to hack Sony’s system, doesn’t he seem like the kind of guy who would brag about it endlessly? Much like the Klingon empire, he rules by showing his superiority over another nation to his people. It seems to me that he would have much to gain by claiming this accomplishment as his own and playing the heck out of it in front of his population, not to mention the world.

So with a hated rival apparently stopping the release of this movie, American’s felt outrage. “How dare you tell us what we can and cannot watch! Why, we’ll go see this now even if we weren’t going to before!” A Dec. 22 story on Wired.com stated that the ratings people are giving the film (mostly people who haven’t seen it) are summed up in this way, “By giving The Interview glowing reviews, the thinking goes, those making the threat will hear loud and clear that the people support this movie and will not buckle to terrorists.”

Yeah, there we go. Invoke a little 911 terrorist backlash sentiment and we get a few more people to show up for a film that they might never have seen, much less rented.

Read All About It!

Interview Bad-Press-PublicityThere is no such thing as bad publicity (Succès de scandale), or so they saying goes. As stated previously, the reviews for “The Interview” were mixed. And like any good American company, Sony can’t afford to have one of its products sit around forever attempting to recoup its original $44 million cost. They are about making money, not breaking even.

So the reasoning might have been that if “The Interview” was going to be a financial stinker anyways, why not take a shot and see if it can do something that no other movie has – debut successfully online.

Assuming the hack was faked, Sony’s stunt did cause a bunch of regular theaters to jump ship at the first sign of terrorist threats. Threats, mind you, that the Department of Homeland Security could never verify. According to Slashfilm.com, “… the Department of Homeland Security says there’s no credible info to indicate an actual threat. (to theaters)”

So with most theaters out of the loop, Sony stands to make more money from the film by not having to split it them.

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul.

Movies are costing more and more for the public to see, and that’s an issue for … well … the public. Sony may have come up with an idea years ago and “The Interview” may have provided the perfect testing ground for it.

Sony is big into electronics. Duh! And while they do great at movies, they do immensely better in what they’ve been doing for years – electronics. So why not try and corner the market by providing the buying public with both?

“The Interview”, which did draw over $1 million in just 300+ theaters and that could be streamed online through limited outlets, could be Sony’s test case for releasing movies straight to services like Netflix, YouTube Movies and GooglePlay in the future. Why go through all the hassle of theaters and them taking a cut when you can go straight to the consumer? And who’s to say that Sony couldn’t just make its own home entertainment network more accessible and just release them there?

But if Sony can convince movie lovers that there’s nothing better than seeing a movie in the comfort of their own home – which they do a pretty good job of already – then they already have a foot jammed further in the door to sell them more high-end equipment to create their own home theater experience.

Yeah, it sounds crazy. Crazy like a fox.

Does the jury have a verdict?

So one argument I hear over and over are the lawsuits that are being filed against Sony for not protecting the personal information of its workers in the hack by the Guardians of Peace (GOP). OK, maybe so. Can someone provide me a list of Sony Workers so we can we verify that they are, in fact, actually employed at Sony? Or even exist at all.

Look, I know it’s a reach. But if this is playing out like some bizarre Hollywood script – about as crazy as a talk show host being asked to assassinate the leader of North Korea – then disseminating the names of a bunch of fake people and all of their fake personal data is well within the realm of possibility.

So, two hackers walk into a bar…

Want to hear something funny, try the generous message from the GOP to Sony employees about the potential release of their personal data:

“Message to SPE Staffers,” it read. “We have a plan to release emails and privacy of the Sony Pictures employees. If you don’t want your privacy to be released, tell us your name and business title to take off your data.” (NYPost.com)

Employees working in a call centerI have to be honest here, I get a little perturbed when I have to reset the password for one of the people on our church staff of 11, because it escapes me how they forget their email password and don’t just have the browser remember it. But the GOP, the guys who slithered their way through Sony’s digital security, seem more than happy to sort through almost 141,000 names to make sure that one person’s data won’t be released if they just “drop them a line.”

Try getting that kind of service from your typical bill collector or telemarketer.

What’s good for the goose…

Since the government got involved in the hack, Sony could face some pretty stern discussions with members of the House and Senate if this is all a fake. Heck, they may even get called befor a subcommittee or Homeland Security and get asked “What the hell were you thinking?”

So what’s the government going to do? Close Sony down? Fine them into oblivion?

Doubtful.

Ford Automotive, one of the car manufacturers that got part of the $80 billion bailout in 2009, employees roughly 180,000 people. If they are too big to lose, then why would a company that essentially pulled an oversized prank get a worse punishment? The government is stupid, but not that stupid … especially with an election year looming on the horizon.

How well would it go with the younger crowd if you’re the senator who killed “Paul Blart 2″?

Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close up.

As a result of the ‘hack’, Sony had approximately 50 scripts released for various movies. (BGR.com) Thirty of these were for films that were already released.

Interview TalladegaSo, exactly when was the last time you saw a great movie and suddenly ravaged your Google search engine looking for its script? If you have, then you seriously need to move out of your parent’s basement.

Oh, and none of the already released movies were anything of note. Unless of course your local theater group is hoping to do a stage production of “Talladega Nights” or one of the first two “Smurfs” movies.

Of the 20 that have not been released, there’s nothing earth-shattering about the titles either. “Annie” and “When the Game Stands Tall” have already opened, so now it’s an 18-32 split. Of the remaining flicks, we all know pretty much how every “Paul Blart” movie is going to go, with a few pratfalls that we may not have seen coming. But getting the scripts for stuff like “Little House on the Prairie” or “Smurfs 3″ (yeah, it’s a trilogy now just like “The Matrix” and “Ironman”) is not going to break anyone’s bank.

And again, who is going to be checking these scripts word for word when these movies are released? If this is you, it’s just another reason to get out of your parent’s basement.

You’ve got mail.

So the basic crime here is that some executives had some emails published that were less than favorable reviews of some of their stars. Let’s face it, as far as this goes it’s pretty slim pickins. We all know that stars think they are end-all-be-all of the world, while execs believe the world could spin on its axis without them at the helm. Neither party likes the other and I’m fairly sure that if they started publishing the emails of various stars, none of them would be too flattering about the execs either.

Toss in what films cost, discussions on luncheons and tennis matches and the budget for the Motion Picture Association of America and you have the equivalent of most folk’s spam folders.

This one’s a wash at best.

Push *#62##7*3 For Customer Support

Interview FBI The Feds were able to trace the cyber attack, with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers stating that he was “fairly confident” that North Korea was involved. (Deadline.com) But today (Dec. 27) FoxNews.com released a story where critics have a number of more likely theories on who hacked Sony, on e of which was a Sony employee.

And North Korea’s infrastructure is looking less and less likely to be the source of the hack. It has just over 1,000 IP addresses, one ISP (Star Joint Venture Co. and is used almost solely by the government. Sounds like Kim Jong-un and his crew barely have enough power to run a Roomba, much less try and hack Sony.

That’s a wrap everybody!

In the end, I’m finding a lot more reasons to believe that this whole thing is a giant publicity stunt than one would think. Yes, it would take incredible daring and gall to pull off, but if it is and if they did do it, the rewards could be almost unimaginable.

Almost as much as two bungling TV personalities actually killing the dictator of a third-world country.

Sources: Forbes.com, USMagazine.com, Wired.com, Wikipedia.com, NYPost.com, BGR.com, Nola.com and others listed in story.

The Injustice of Michael Brown

As Joe Friday would say, “Just give me the facts mam.”

It’s time that we do away with the misplaced anger, frustration and sorrow in the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Those things, mixed in with a lot of lies and rhetoric, are making for a bad mix of emotions that only serve to cloud the truth and widen a racial gap that it has taken so many years to narrow.

It’s time to focus on what’s real, period.

In lieu of laying out the points piece by piece here, I would ask you to link to a great visual reenactment of the entire episode by the Washington Post. It is extremely clear and very well done.

Micahel Brown WP Recreation

Washington Post

In summary, the facts are these:

  • Michael Brown was a criminal.
  • Michael Brown refused direction by an officer of the law.
  • Michael Brown initiated a confrontation with an officer of the law inside the officer’s patrol car, attempting to get his weapon.
  • After turning to run, Brown turned back around and made a second attack on the officer.
  • The officer shot Brown when he refused to get down on the ground, again refusing to obey an officer’s orders, this time in a heated situation with the officer’s gun drawn.

This incident had nothing to do with race or racism, and those using that as an excuse are only doing so to fuel their own racism and hatred of others.

This incident is was all about an officer recognizing that two suspects fit a description from a previous robbery and him attempting to apprehend those criminals as he saw them on the street.

This incident is all about a young man making a decision to defy authority by committing robbery, disregarding an officer’s instructions and then trying to relieve and officer of his weapon. And there is no doubt is most people’s minds that had Brown been able to obtain that weapon that officer Wilson would be dead today, with Brown still roaming the streets.

But what lies at the true heart of the death of Michael Brown is that his parents are truly the ones at fault here. They claim to be victims and that their son was wrongly taken form them. The truth of the matter is that they didn’t do their job in raising their son. They didn’t teach him respect for them, for other adults and certainly not for authority figures like Officer Wilson.

It’s been apparent over the last few decades that there is a laissez-faire attitude about parenting taken by a larger number of folks. It’s almost like a bunch of people decided to have kids and then suddenly realized they were too much work to care for. It’s almost as if they just decided, “Oh, they’ll figure out how to be good people.”

In shirking their responsibility to raise their kids and teach them right from wrong, they have created a class of people who think they are entitled to do whatever they like, wherever they like whenever they like. They feel the world somehow owes them something for just being here. It’s the way a child thinks.

News Flash Kids – The world owes you nothing.

If these kids want to be angry at someone for the situation they’re in, direct them back to their parents. Parents are responsible for their kids know and how they react in various situations. Yes, as they get older people will eventually make their own decisions. But as they grow they will form the base for how they make decisions and that is a parent’s responsibility.

The riots and feelings of race inequality are the fault of a few leaders who persist on pushing this incident as one of color and race. Idiots like Chris Rock keep claiming it was a white cop killing a black kid. Yeah, statistically that is correct. But color had NOTHING to do with WHY Michael Brown is dead.

Michael Brown is dead because he chose a life of crime and was met with the most unfortunate of consequences that that lifestyle affords – Death. And it is unfortunate because we know that in some cases, people who have chosen that lifestyle have been able to overcome the pathetic efforts of those that parented them and rise above it to become more. Michael Brown was not afforded that chance not because of Officer Wilson’s bullets, but because of the lack of parenting his mother and father gave him.

Dr. Martin Luther King

Dr. Martin Luther King

Dr. Martin Luther King hoped for a day when his children would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. Michael Brown’s character was severely lacking because of his parents.

Until leaders in the communities of color stand up and stop pleading for their followers to stop rioting and start stating plainly that this was not a crime of race and admit that Michael Brown was a criminal and was justly killed because of his own actions, nothing will get better. The gap between the races will get bigger again and the gap between the less fortunate and authority figures will get bigger again.

Until the absolute truth is told and repeated without hesitation, the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King can never be realized in full.

“I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama … will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.” ~ MLK, “I Have A Dream”, August 23, 1963.

 

Who are the Best Four ever?

This morning while watching “Mike & Mike” on ESPN, a debate arose as to which city has spawned the best athletes in the big four sports with Boston being touted as #1. The listener who did this listed the following three athletes: Larry Bird, Bobby Orr and Ted Williams.

"Mike & Mike" hosts Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic

“Mike & Mike” hosts Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic

That got me thinking.

Greeny and Golic decided that Bird wouldn’t even be the best basketball player on the list, subbing in Bill Russell. And when they tossed in Tom Brady as the best football player from Boston, they had a tough Top 4 to beat.

But it seemed that the ESPN duo did much of their estimating between Boston, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles based on emotion and remembrance. So being the stat freak that I am, I decided to try and see exactly how history might answer this question.

I quickly Googled the Top 100 players in each of the four major sports – Major League Baseball (MLB), National Basketball Association (NBA), National Football League (NFL) and National Hockey League (NHL). After a substantial amount of format editing in compiling lists from four different sites, I finally had something of an answer.

Before I reveal my findings I just want to say that these results are the best available, as I could not find all four lists from one source. I took them from the most reliable sources I could find, but these are not based on stats but on nationwide polls conducted at various points. One list came from ESPN (MLB) and I’m sure they likely have Top 100s for the other three as well. I just couldn’t find them.

That said, here we go!

The assertion that Boston has the best four athletes in the four major sports proves accurate. The following list, as will the others that follow, will include the top players, in order, from MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL with their sport rank in parenthesis and that city’s rank average on the final line.

  • Ted Williams (4)
  • Tom Brady (9)
  • Bill Russell (3)
  • Bobby Orr (2)
  • Boston = 4.50

Oddly enough, the next closest city wasn’t even in Mike & Mike’s initial discussion, although they did bring them into the discussion later. That city: Detroit.

  • Ty Cobb (6)
  • Barry Sanders (4)
  • Isaiah Thomas (25)
  • Gordie Howe (3)
  • Detroit = 9.50

Number three on the list is Chicago.

  • Eddie Collins (42)
  • Walter Payton (3)
  • Michael Jordan (1)
  • Bobby Hull (8)
  • Chicago = 13.50

New York was just a fraction behind the “Windy City” in fourth place.

  • Babe Ruth (1)
  • Lawrence Taylor (5)
  • Willis Reed (30)
  • Denis Potvan (19)
  • New York = 13.75

Los Angeles fell into fifth place, but proved to be an interesting rank due to Wayne Gretzky. If you look at “The Great One” statistically, he really did most of his damage in Montreal. But his popularity really grew when he hit the media center of Los Angeles. If you leave Gretzky in Montreal, that makes the top NHL player in Los Angeles as Marcel Dionne at #38 and with a city average of 26.75. But for the sake of the argument, we’ll include Gretzky in the City of Angels.

  • Sandy Koufax (44)
  • Eric Dickerson (23)
  • Kareem Abduhl-Jabbar (2)
  • Wayne Gretzky (1)
  • Los Angeles = 17.50

So there you have it. I’m not really sure what this all means, but it interesting to look at where guys played and what impact they have had on the sporting world we live in.

 

Sources:

  • MLB Top 100 – ESPN.com
  • NFL Top 100 – Ranker.com
  • NBA Top 100 – Inside Hoops.com
  • NHL Top 100 – The Hockey News

A New Preseason Is In Order

Don’t be fooled, this is nothing new.

And don’t think for one second that the NFL is the only league with player issues away from the field. It’s just their turn in the spotlight after keeping so much of it in the dark for so long.

It’s high time that the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB and every other pro sports got schooled.

Classroom doorI was once given a glimpse of what it took to become a professional golfer when a friend took on that pursuit. While the expected endless hours of practice were discussed, what really surprised me were the variety of educational courses that were required.Things like managing your finances and handling groupies were part of the mix.

I’m guessing Tiger Woods’ grade in the latter was not so great.

Now, this was back in the late 80s and 90s, so I can only presume that it still exists at that level if not having become more extensive.

But just what is required to become a big league player in football, baseball and basketball?

We hear tales of former player/coaches like Herm Edwards going in and talking to rookie NFL players about how to handle themselves on and off the field and what a privilege it is to play the game. We can only assume that some kind of similar “rah-rah” speeches are given baseball, basketball and hockey.

But are these one-time gab sessions really getting it done? Evidently not.

So what to do?

I say we send them back to class.

With offenses like spousal abuse, child abuse and a variety of drug and PED abuse running rampant in pro sports today, it’s time these men and women were brought up to speed on just what they’re up against.

It is this writer’s opinion that professional sports be required to have all of its players, coaches and team personnel in a series of classes each and every off-season. They need to be attending classes on every kind of abuse – in how to avoid it, how to identify it and how to report it. They need classes in how to handle fans and reporters, and most of all how to handle their money.

These courses cannot be administered by the teams or leagues themselves. Rather, they need to be given by independent organizations and carry very real, very serious curriculum. Curriculum that must be studied, learned and regurgitated on very real tests. And they need to be given very real, very serious grades.

No, not like the “grades” they had in college. We’re talking grades that carry a significant penalty if they don’t get at least an 80%. They don’t pass, they don’t play, train or practice with the team until they do.

Courses like these would make help these athletes more aware of these cultural maladies and help them to avoid falling into them as well as identifying teammates who may be nearing the edge of making a mistake.

And yes, they need to be held accountable for not reporting it. Like teachers and various community service personnel, they need to be held accountable for not reporting information to their independent team officials if they see someone slipping into a pattern of abusing their wife or kids, or experimenting with various drugs or PEDs.

If they don’t report, they don’t play.

You may argue that this is demeaning to these players, treating them like children.

Well maybe when they stop acting like children, we can stop treating them that way.

The Last Straw

Chances have been given. Repeatedly.

Opportunities afforded. Repeatedly.

Enough is enough.

The recent revelation that the NFL has had in its possession, since sometime in April, the full and uncut version of the Ray Rice beating of his then fiancee Janay Palmer from February 15, 2014, only serves to prove that they cannot handle anything properly. Even when a grievous offense such as this is laid out clearly before them, they can only think of their bottom line.

tmz-ray-riceThey can only think of defending their business, their image and their incomes.

The absolute last thing on their mind was doing what was right.

Commissioner Roger Goodell claims that he and the league never saw the full footage. But an AP writer claims that a law enforcement official sent a copy of the tape – with both the elevator beat down and Rice pulling Palmer from the car unconscious – in April to an NFL official. Goodell is now left to either admit that he lied or that his staff is so incompetent that they never showed it to him.

You can bet he’ll choose the latter. And if it’s not true, you can bet that whomever he throws under the buss will come back at him like some “Walking Dead” super zombie. But instead of shuffling slowly along in search of brains, he or she will hot-foot it straight to the closest news channel spewing dates, times and full accounts.

NFL-LOGO-psd12391If you enjoy watching NFL executives feeding on each other, I’d suggest you stock up on popcorn because the main event is just warming up.

While it is now clear that between drugs/steroids, cheating and a complete disregard for human decency the NFL is completely incapable of managing its own affairs, they are just a hope, skip and a jump behind the likes of Major League Baseball, all of college sports and the rest.

Someone has to step in and fix this, and they have to do it now.

In my youth I thought that the government could handle a job like this. But several decades of growing up and experience tell me that they the only thing they would have done is screw up decades earlier.

There really isn’t a well qualified person or group who took run any of this with any integrity. So maybe we are just left to watch as the NFL, followed later by MLB, NBA and the rest slowly implode on themselves.

No, there is only one message these people understand. Only one language they speak. Only one thing that they hold precious and that we ultimately control.

The dollar.

The only way to effectively stop this nonsense is to hit them where it hurts the most, right in the wallet.

We can start with the NFL by not patronizing them until a certain level of acceptable behavior has been reached. And no, this is not one of those lame boycotts has is annually tried by not buying gas for one day. The gas doesn’t go anywhere and you are either going to buy it the day before or the day after. They lose nothing.

No, this means not watching games in person or on television. It means not buying their jerseys. It means not buying anything – and I mean ANYTHING – from a company that supports the NFL in any way, shape or form. it means cutting them off 100% so that their overblown, out-of-control egos and salaries are so deflated and depleted that they seriously have to consider going to work in their major from college.

Sadly, that just won’t happen.

A poll in The Baltimore Sun showed that 41% of the respondents thought the Ravens cutting Rice was the wrong decision.

FoxandFriendsLogo“Fox & Friends” – the supposed defenders of the conservative right – were about as uneducated and unsympathetic Floyd Mayweather. “I think the message is, take the stairs,” said Brian Kilmeade concluded. With Steve Doocy adding, “The message is, when you’re in an elevator, there’s a camera.”

No blame for thew abuser. No, certainly not … especially when your employed is in bed every Sunday afternoon with the perpetrator’s head honcho.

Unfortunately a vast portion of our society still thinks that Palmer, as well as other abused victims, must bear some of the fault. And as long as that mentality exists, this kind of ignorance, stupidity and all-out rampant greed will continue.

I’m starting to think that show last Fall, “The Revolution”, wouldn’t be such a bad scenario after all if for no other reason than the people who defend such abusers as Rice would be at their mercy.

And only then would their attitude even begin to change.

50 shades of gray Allen, days 16-17

So as I’ve moved into my high school years, it seems I’ve fallen off the actual year cycle and into the academic calendar. So be it for the entry.

1978-79

Cey Scores ToppsAs this year began, I got the biggest surprise of my young athletic life. I won tickets to see the Phillies play the Dodgers in the 1978 National League Championship Series, game 4 at Dodger Stadium.

It had been a mail-in contest, with one entry per person. So I sent in 30 with the same address and different name. There were my parents, Ed & Cathy, and my brothers and sisters. And there was Bill, Frank and Steve that I made up just to name a few. But when the award letter came back it was in MY name.

We had won then right to buy two $3 tickets for $16.50 each. They were at the top of the right-field bleachers, looking right into the sun as the day game made its way into the late afternoon. But hey, we were there and that’s all that mattered.

And when the game came down to the final at bat, we watched as Bill Russell slapped a single to center that the Phillies’ Gary Maadux couldn’t field and allowed Ron Cey to score from second. It was epic and my dad and I were there!

My freshman year, however, was just odd.

I was still terrified of girls, but that was about the furthest thing from my mind.

Well, I’m a guy. So while it wasn’t the furthest thing from my mind, I wasn’t really concentrating on them at this point.

No, it was all about survival. It was about avoiding the likes of John Condos, the older guy who lived down the block from me. He seemed intent on having me push pennies around the rim of a toilet seat or something, and that just wasn’t gonna happen.

Because aside from John, everyone else seemed to think I was a junior or senior. I was a big kid at that age, big enough that more than a few friends hung out with me just to avoid the typical hazing the underclassmen got. Little did they know I’d avoided all manner of confrontation to that point in life, only having two fights through age 15. And both had ended badly for the other guy.

This year’s first memory was my friend James King and some of his other friends getting a little trouble with the law. I won’t go into detail, but let’s just say that as smart as that group was they acted pretty dumb. The only major problem for me that arose from it was that since I was close friends with James, the campus cops decided I must know something about what was going on. And so for a few weeks they religiously followed me into the gym at lunch time to watch me play basketball, I can only assume they thought some ill-gotten booty would be exchanged from James’ foray to the dark side of the law.

After about a month I had had enough of feeling like a criminal when I was likely socially sanitary than Mr. Clean. My mom drug me into the principal’s office to meet with Mr. McGrath, where she explained that I had better be left alone or there would be hell to pay. Mom was not a master negotiator, she believed in good ol’ blunt force diplomacy.

This was the year that former Beatle John Lennon was killed outside his apartment in New York. I was OK with their music from the 70s and all that, but it wasn’t like they were the end-all-be-all of the world. They were guys, in a band and the sang well. That was it. But when he was shot, you’d have thought the world was coming to an end.

Being much more of a football fan than a Beatles fan, I was a little put off when they interrupted Monday Night Football to announce Lennon’s death. It lasted only a few seconds, with the Patriots and Dolphins not missing a beat on the field. But when asked about it by some staff member of the Burros Blockbuster school newspaper, I gave what I thought was a pithy response with, “I’m sorry he’s dead, but I just don’t think they needed to interrupt Monday Night Football to report it.”

Looking back now, not a great response. But the ire it drew from the school paper’s adviser was a little over the top. She wrote a commentary and cited me as being “… apathetic vermin …”, and that’s where she crossed the line.

The next day Mom and I were back in McGrath’s office. She had been a little perturbed after the campus cop thing, but she was in full-on attack mode now. Had his desk not been so big, I’m sure she would have gnawed his leg off.

McGrath pulled in the teacher, who’s name escapes me now and instructed her to apologize for the commentary and that she had to write a full retraction in the next issue of the school paper. At first she refused. But when McGrath indicated that he already had her termination papers in hand if she failed to comply, she relented and fell in line.

All this time I’m in freshman Geography, being taught by the offbeat teacher named Frank Mazer. Mazer was unlike any other teacher I ever had. He had this strange sense of humor (still does, by the way) and unlike other teachers, he seemed to

Frank Mazer

Frank Mazer

really care deeply if you got the material. He didn’t just want you to learn it, he wanted you to genuinely get it.

As basketball season rolled around, I found out that he was the freshman coach. I went through tryouts and ended up as one of the 15 young men to make the squad. I wasn’t a front line player, but I hustled my way into significant playing time. I dove for so many balls that Mazer would later nickname me the Human Bruise.

That moniker didn’t stick, but another one did – Magic Gut.

There has always been a lot discussion and interest into how this name came to be, and why I even let it exist as it seems derogatory in nature. But trust me, when considered against the other names I was getting called, it was clearly the best of the bunch.

One day while playing basketball at lunch (long after the campus cops had stopped being my lunch-time “fan club”) we were in there playing hard and having a great time. On this particular day, we were all acting as our own play-by-play announcers, ‘broadcasting’ our maneuvers and trick shots as we executed them. It was kind of dumb. But hey, we were freshmen!

It was in the Spring and the NCAA Tournament had just ended, with Michigan State having defeated Indiana State for the title. One player emerged from that game on a media rocket ride, and his name was Ervin “Magic” Johnson.

So as I took the ball at the top of the key, I decided to drive to the hoop and began by ‘broadcast’…

“Magic fakes left, dribbles right, spins to the hoop and scores! Magic Johnson rolls it in!”

It was at that moment that Greg Markarian, chimed in with, “More like Magic Gut!”

Everyone laughed, but it wasn’t at me. And that made all the difference.

A few years later I did the same thing to Rob White. But we’ll save that story for a few chapters down the road.

That summer, while playing in my final year of Senior League, I had my first and only multiple home run year. I hit one of Jimmy Lawler and one off Paul Bergens. Those feats of strength jump-started a great season in which I struck out 30 times in 18 games.

Yeah, the pros were sure to be impressed.

1979-1980

My sophomore year was a little less strained. I knew my place with women and it was either as the “coveted” big brother or as the undatebale material guy. Either way, i was OK with it, so let’s move on!

When basketball season rolled around we had tryouts and there were a ton of guys going out. We all hustled our butts off for two weeks to impress coach Al Sedios and then gathered in the locker room after the final session to find out who had made it and who was going home. Sedios started slowly reading a list of the 15 names of the guys who made the team, and when he stopped reading mine had not been called.

This was really the first of a series of moments in my life where I really thought I knew what was going to happen, but this time it didn’t. As we left the training room and headed to our lockers, some of the guys tried to console me. It did little good. There were guys on that team I knew I was better than and all my mind could was race in a feeble attempt to ascertain why they got picked and I did not.

I went home, flopped into bed and cried.

Thundarr-the-Barbarian-image-1The next morning I sat in front of a TV watching Saturday morning cartoons. I had found a six-pack of 7-Up in the garage and was drinking them as I watched the likes of “Thundarr the Barbarian” on the screen. I’d polish off a can, crush it and rifle it into the fireplace. My mom would walk through the room occasionally, looking me over and just letting me sit. She new I was ticked and I think even she was a bit miffed.

Then the phone rang.

“Tim, its for you,” she called from the living room. “Its Steve Fry.”

“What does he want?” I scowled.

“I don’t know, just come and take it.”

I did and said hello.

“Hey Tim, its Steve. I was just wondering why you weren’t at practice today?”

I had been in a bad mood that morning, that put me in overdrive in a heart beat. “Real funny Steve. How about we meet somewhere and I kick your ass?”

I’m guessing that Sedios must have heard that through the earpiece on the other end, listening to Steve’s call as he made it from the Burroughs coaches office. I heard the rustle of a phone being given to someone else and then he came on the line.

“Tim, this is coach Sedios and I think there’s been a misunderstanding,” said Sedios.

He went on to explain that when he was reading the names the night before he must have skipped over mine, telling me he was as nervous to read the names as we were to hear them. Of course, none of us were counting names, we were just listening for our own.

BHS GymHe related how when the team’s practice had come to an end that morning that the guys were all on the line and he only counted 14. “Where’s Allen?” he asked, to which Fry had responded, “You cut him last night.”

Oh to have been a fly on the wall of the gym that day.

When I coached years later, that one experience proved more valuable than just about any other athletically. It gave me the perspective of being cut when I had never been cut before. And it allowed me to show compassion to those I was having to let go from the team.

At the end of that year we played a game in Palmdale that I will never for get. It was a very intense game and right before the final buzzer a huge fight broke out. The benches cleared and when the melee was cleared, the refs were ready to call the game a double forfeit because neither team had any players left.

It was then that Mazer, having been sitting with Sedios on the bench, pointed over to where our team had been sitting. And still seated was myself, the pacifist. I thought the reason they were fighting was stupid, so I just sat there and watched the whole thing. And when the refs confirmed that I hadn’t moved, we got the win.

I got my first job sometime this year as well, working for Mr. Dye at Compard Computer Center. We sold these things called Apples and they were just cool. Mr. Dye’s task for me was to learn how to play all of the games that were available for them. Yeah, play games. All afternoon. And get PAID for it. Life was good!

As time passed I got into repairing them as well. One day a guy brought in a machine that was in a wood case, not too much unlike the one see at the right. When I went to fix it it had a serial number of a bunch of zeroes and something like 48 at the end. We logged it, repaired it and sent it on its way. Knowing what we know now, I’d have kept it and gave him a new one. That thing had probably come right our of Steve Wosniak’s garage and today would be worth a ton.

Burroughs baseball came and went, with nothing substantial in the mix. And summer was now void of much of the action I had seen previously because I was too old for Little League. So it was work and summer school so I could finish up Driver’s Ed and get my license.

Next time, I become and upper classman!

50 shades of gray Allen, Days 14-15

Ahhh…

Junior High. That time in life when the acne you’ve managed to ignore for the previous several years becomes the defining aspect of your entire being.

I’ve now reached age 13 in my quest to recount the past 50 years of my life as I head toward my birthday later this month. And these next six years were clearly the most formative of my life.

1977

After completing sixth grade and leaving the likes of Mrs. Oretga, Mrs. Urseth and Mr. Oshel behind, I entered into a realm where classes changed every hour and the struggle to figure who we were was cloaked in everything we did.

Welcome to James Monroe Junior High School.

I was a little overwhelmed that seventh grade year. As someone who was very into sports, I didn’t play anything for the school that first year. In all honesty, I just didn’t think I had anything to offer. I played baseball when the spring rolled around, and at the time, that was all that mattered.

Four FoursIt was during that first year that I met James King. James lived in the outer reaches of Inyokern and spent something like 20-30 minutes one way on the bus to school each day. And while his athletic career never existed because of that commute, he was an extremely talented brainiac. When we got to eighth grade, Mr. Maxwell had a contest to see who could figure out how to get all of the numbers 1-100 using only four fours in a variety of equations. James won that contest and then took it to the extreme, figuring out how to make every number up to like 100,000 or something. No contest. No prize. Just did it because he could.

Yeah, made my head hurt too.

Becoming James’ friend was really the first time I realized that I possessed the strange ability to converse with both geeks and jocks. Kind of like an interpreter, but for two groups that rarely take to each other or have need to do so. Its proven to be a semi-useful skill as the years have gone by. Too bad Syrians and Jews aren’t jocks and geeks.

When baseball season rolled around it was a grand season, capped by my making the 3-year-old All-Star team. We only had on e tournament to play in Tehachapi, but oh what a weekend that turned out to be.

Tehachapi BaseballWhen we got to the field for our first game, my dad noticed that the umpired were climbing out of this unusual van. As my parents explained later, the umpires were convicts from Tehachapi Prison, a facility for mostly drug dealers and users and one my brother had the unfortunate experience of spending extended amounts of time in . But they were on work release and the tourney directors assured us they would be fine, and they were far better than promised.

The plate umpire was a long, lanky site of a man named Slim Johnson. For him to have to squat down so that he could accurately call balls and strikes seemed like more punishment than anyone in that facility deserved, especially for multiple games. But Slim was so enthusiastic about his job that he made every call seem like a cheer. And when someone was called out on strikes to end a frame, he exploded from behind the plate in his own mini one-man show. He was awesome!

When we got to the final game, the opposition was especially rowdy. With Slim and his partner unfortunately on their way back to the prison, the games officials were less than stellar. The calls seemed pretty one-sided and when the other team got rude, they did nothing.

And that’s when things went a little south.

One of our top pitchers that year was Doug Sullivan. Doug was a strapping left-hander that threw hard, and I mean hard. But he also a bit of a chip on his shoulder, and somehow the other team sensed that. At one point while on the mound, the opposition were really riding Doug and it finally got to him. When the other team’s coach made some derogatory comment with a man on first, Doug made a perfect pick-off throw – right at the coach’s face! Fortunately said coach was behind the dugout storm fencing.

When the game ended, Doug had reached his boiling point. I saw him moving toward the exit to our dugout at full steam and I got in his way to try and stop him. He pushed hard enough to get us both onto the field when I noticed Doug’s mom at the fence, grasping it frantically.

“Don’t let him go, Tim!” she implored. “Do not let him go!”

At that point I had lowered my head into Doug’s chest, trying to hold him back like some linemen hit a tackling dummy. I wrapped my arms around him and kept him from moving long enough for a coach and some other guys to help me out. It wasn’t until later that my mom informed me that while I was holding Doug in place, he had a baseball in each hand and was evidently heading to the first-base dugout to exact a little ‘Walking Tall’ justice on the opposition.

Good times.

1978

So my first foray into school athletics began. It all started with soccer and my having to convince Fred Parker and Jack Clark that I should be our team’s goalie. They really thought I should be a full back and had chosen Jeff Nelson to be in the net. He didn’t want to be there and so one day I convinced him to not show up for a game. He bailed, I got into goal and never left.

And with the whiz kid Frank Ortiz acting as a one-man offensive machine, we managed to work our way to the top of the standings before losing to Murray in the finals.

When basketball season rolled around I made Clark’s Heavyweight Basketball Team. When you look at the team picture for that year, I’m the tallest guy in the program. And that included Scott Fulton. I was a starter and given the honor of performing the tip-off for each half of every game. I won e very single tip except against Antonio Dobbins of, guess who … Murray.

Shot PutIn the spring we had track and field, and due to my birthday falling in a weird place I was placed in the 12-13 age bracket instead of the 14-15 one. That meant that my 6-1, 150-pound frame was going up against kids half my size. I ran the 4×100 relay a few times to help out the team, but specialty was the shot put and discus. I set school records in both of those events that may still stand to this day. I mean, throwing a 10-pound shot was like tossing a softball.

I attended my first dance and never left the bingo table. How could I have known then I’d be a Southern Baptist five years later?

And now I must come clean on something, and I will be sending Keith Haywood a message regarding this after I post this. I won a wrestling tournament at Monroe for the heaviest weigh division when Keith was unable to find shoes to wear on the mat. He asked another student if he could borrow his shoes for the match, but I begged the guy not to give them to him because I was afraid Keith would crush me.

It was small. It was petty. And Keith deserved better, a lot better. Sorry Keith.

Parker, Clark and Don Crouse. All three of these men had a major influence on me, but maybe none more so than Clark. He taught me that math could be fun and that organization and creativity were keys to being successful. When he and Parker gave me the Coach’s Award at the end of the school year, it laid a foundation for the work ethic I’ve had the rest of my life. The words of the plaque stated that it was “Given for outstanding Desire, Attitude and Hustle.”

Next time I head into high school. Now it starts to get really groovy.

 

50 shades of gray Allen, Days 10-13

And the beat goes on …

So here we are in my ninth year of life in 1973. I know this is Day 10, but that’s what ya get when you’re born early a in a year.

1973

Third grade was pretty uneventful, as a whole. Mrs. Lovett was my teacher and all I really remember about her was a lot of grumpiness.

But this was the year that my dad began coaching my baseball teams. We were the twins and we had quite the rogues gallery. I could be mistaken, but I think this was the year that I met Greg Bond. Even if I’m wrong, we’re going with it because now I’m thinking of him.

elephant-donkey-boxingGreg and I have had a unique friendship over the years, running into each other now and again. Of late we have re-connected via Facebook and he is one of the few people that I can have a legitimately in-depth political discussion with where I know that he will (A) make coherent arguments and support them, (B) won’t drop to name calling if things aren’t necessarily going his way, and (C) isn’t so died in his party’s dogma that he can’t see the other side.

Rare qualities in today’s faceless Facebook climate.

I also met Jay Young this year. Jay gave me my first instance of being knocked unconscious, which has happened twice in my life. I can clearly remember me playing second base and Jay being at third during a practice session. Our assistant coach, Mr. Brown, was hitting ground balls and sent one up the middle. Jay and I went for it and collided, with Jay’s knee going right into my stomach. I lost my wind, evidently blanked out and awoke to the team circled around me while Coach Brown pumped my right leg like and old-fashioned water spigot.

I guess that was ‘high tech’ emergency medicine back in the early 70s. Good thing John Gage and Roy Desoto came along soon thereafter to set us straight.

1974

This was the year that I can honestly say that I really, really started following baseball. Thanks to my friendship with Jeff Johnson, I was quickly becoming a Dodger fan. And it was that year that I can really remember watching not just who the Dodgers played and how they did, but really paying attention to what they did. I watched how Steve Garvey hit, how Don Sutton pitched and how Davey Lopes turned a double play at second.

And I watched that World Series against Oakland where the Dodgers just didn’t have the guns to take down the A’s.

But no matter what else happened, that great catch and throw out by substitute outfielder Joe Ferguson. He was in right when Reggie Jackson hit a fly ball to right-center with Sal Bando on third. Jimmy Wynn was in center, but had a sore arm. Ferguson ran in front of Wynn, caught the ball and rifled it home to catcher Steve Yeager who applied the tag.

The Dodgers lost that series, but stole my heart.

4th Grade Cortichiato1974 was also the year when I met the first of some awesome teachers in my life. In fourth grade it was Mrs. Cortichiato. Mrs. Cortichiato was just incredible in how she taught us stuff. But her greatest gift to me was reading. I like to read today, but she read to us in such an imaginary, enthusiastic and creative way that you could almost see what she was saying. We spent about an hour or so each day as she read from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, crouching down while singing the Oompa Loomps chants and using a variety of vocal inflections to impart every mood of each character.

Years later as Sports Editor at The Daily Independent, I was covering a Burroughs volleyball game when I noticed a Cortichiato on the roster. It was her daughter and I felt oh so old.

It was also this year that my mom took me to Mrs. Merrick to learn to play guitar. We showed for the first lesson and she started instructing me on how to finger the chords on the neck. When I told her it hurt, she informed me that it wouldn’t after awhile as I would form calluses later. Dismayed, when we left I told my mom I wouldn’t be going back as I couldn’t lose the touch on my fingertips for baseball.

Even on my non-throwing hand.

Yeah, I was a dork.

1975

This was my first year in what Ridgecrest Little League called ‘AAA’. It was backward of what the big leagues did, but we didn’t care.

My dad and Mr. Cope took over the Senators. We were an OK team, but were very young. I had to big moments that year, the first coming at the hands of the league’s most feared pitcher – Roman Revels.

Roman was lanky, a year older and much taller than every other kid in the league. In the short 45-foot pitching distance, his stride seemed to put him within a few feet of the plate when he’d pitch. It was downright scary.

But one night as his Indians faced my Senators, I came to the plate determined to get a hit off him.

As I stood in, he gave me his typically scarey stare. I’m pretty sure he had pitches beyond a fastball, but I doubt he was about to ever waste them on me. I believe it was the second or third pitch when I connected with one, check-swinging the bat and never completing the cut. But the ball took off like a rocket and found its way over the 7-Up sign in left-center. I rounded the bases bases at full speed, not really sure what was happening. By the time I got to the plate, my team was all there like we had won the title.

BaseballLater that year I had another memorable encounter, this time in the field. We were playing the Indians again and I was at third base. Guess my dad figured I was a power hitter now, and back then those guys didn’t play second base.

There was a man on third when a screaming grounder headed my way. The runner broke for home and I rocketed it to Mark Cope at home plate. The runner turned to retreat to third and Mark whipped the ball back, arriving at the same time as the runner. I remember him being bigger than me and lowering his shoulder as he tried to get to the bag. We collided a few feet in front of third and I went down like a sack of potatoes. It stunned me and when I looked up I saw two things – my mom hovering over me, having somehow gotten onto the field faster than the Flash, and the ball still cradled in my glove.

Later that summer I remember the epic World Series between the Cincinnati Reds and the Boston Red Sox. It was a classic, what with George Foster’s laser to the plate after catching a foul ball and Carlton Fisk’s Game 6 homer.

Even though I was Dodger fan, I grew a greater appreciation for the Reds and their manager Sparky Anderson that year.

1976

As far as baseball went, this was one of those incredible years. And not all of it was on the field.

When Spring came my dad and Mr. Cope were back at the helm, this time with my dad as the assistant. When they had tryouts, they called me in to help evaluate the talent and they really listened to what I had to say.

During that session my mom decided to try out this new-fangled thing we had just bought called a microwave. She decided to make brownies in it, putting them on the table in the dining room that had been turned into the Senators’ Draft Central. Being a kid I quickly downed several of them as we looked over players, barely chewing enough to taste them. Brownies in 10 minutes? Are you freaking kidding?!?!

My dad and Mr. Cope got around to trying them about an hour later. When they tried to pick one up they were as hard as rocks. I silently wondered what might be happening tome internally.

We went 17-1 that year, running through our league schedule like water through a sieve. The only loss came at the hands of team where the opposing coach’s older son was umpiring the bases. Needless to say that there were several calls that were highly “questionable”.

In the City Championship Game that pitted Ridgecrest’s best team, us, versus China Lake’s best team, it was a classic. David Wooten was their ace pitcher and we sent Jay Perry to the mound. The game was scoreless until the sixth, when I think they scored four runs. We answered with four in the bottom of the frame to extend the game. I believe they scored once in the eighth (which we answered) and they won it in the ninth with another tally. It was a classic game and still the best baseball tilt I’ve ever been part of.

I made my first All-Star team that year and we played in Bishop. We didn’t do as well as we thought we should have, but it was still like taking that next step.

Later that summer the Jersey Maid Milk Company ran a baseball trivia contest on its cartons, with the winner getting tickets, airfare and everything else to the World Series. I enlisted my mom to help me research the answers, and so off to the library we went. We came home with about a dozen books and dug in.

As we turned page after page, I noticed that my mom was looking at one book rather intently. She had stopped skimming and was reading some story she found. And when she turned the page, she broke into a small stream of tears that steadily grew.

“What wrong mom?” I asked.

“I … I know him,” she replied.

I walked over to look at the book, a large picture of some old guy on the right-hand page. He had a nice smile, but I didn’t know him.

“His name is Jack, Jack Rothrock,” she siad as she sniffed. “I lived with him and his wife when I ran away from home as a kid.”

“Wait! You know someone who won a World Series? I sarcastically queried. “Come on!”

“I did. I really did.” she said.

I left it at that and went back to my own research. But as that summer drug on, she was relentless in researching this guy and where he might be. And one day, she found him living just a few hours away in San Bernardino.

We drove down and found his home, a small trailer in some park. She knocked on the door and it slid open. Tears were shed as they hugged on each other. Finally my mom introduced me to Jack and his wife, Ardith. We shook hands and Ardith offered to let me sit in their living room to watch Saturday morning cartoons as they reminisced.

Jack Rothrock

Jack Rothrock

About an hour or so later Jack limped out of the kitchen, his replaced hip giving him some trouble.

“Your mom says you like baseball,” he said in a gravelly voice. “That true?”

I said yes and he asked me to follow him. He stopped at the first bedroom in the small trailer, opening the door and clicking on the light.

The smell of infield dirt poured out of the room as I walked in, seeing boxes of various things covering the floor. There was a mit in one and many had newspapers and clippings. As I looked around the room I saw a team picture unlike anything we had ever taken in Little League. Each player had his own image and at the top is said “St. Louis Cardinals, 1934 World Series Champions.”

I looked at Jack and he smiled, then pointed toward one side of the image. “That’s me right there. You know any of these guys?”

“Yeah,” I said in wonderment. “That’s Dizzy Dean, and that’s Rip Collins and that’s Frankie Frisch!”

“That’s pretty good,” he said with a laugh. “I’m not even sure I know them all anymore.”

We must have been in that room for an hour looking at papers, gloves and anything else he wanted to show me. In a subsequent visit he confided in me that his kids didn’t really care about his career and that it was nice to get to share it with someone who cared. He had made a decision that he wanted me to have his World Series ring in his will, but he died before he could get it changed. His kids then suddenly cared, as they came in and sold it all off. It was truly sad.

Jack always seems to keep coming back up in my life. He was the one who gave me the ability to see history, and especially sports history, in a new light. It was more than just the wins and losses. It was the love of a game that he gave me and that I’ll never forget.

50 shades of gray Allen – Days 7-9

Year six, or as you probably recall it – 1970.

1970

I turned six and moved into the first grade.

I broke my arm this year while playing superman – dressed in a cape (aka dishtowel) and my underwear. When my mom took me to the hospital the doctor asked me about my arm and the other bruises I had. I told him, “Oh, my mom beats me up all the time.”

Now in today’s vernacular, that would result in a platoon of operatives from Child Protective Services descending upon my house and my parents being led away in shackles. But in 1970 it means the doctor looking at her, looking back and me and my adding, “We wrestle all the time.”

He looked at me, at my mom and back at me. And without a word went back to work.

1971

At age seven I finished up first and moved into second grade, meeting two of the singularly most influential people of my life.

Kurt Seaman

Kurt Seaman

The first was Kurt Seaman. We met in Mrs. Urseth’s second grade class, sitting across from each other. My mom had yet to really find her ‘brown bag lunch mojo’ at this time in my life, and so my midday snacks were marginal at best. But Kurt’s mom made these magical mustard and ham sandwiches. I’m not sure how Kurt gained any weight that year, or if even did, as I was regularly haggling with him to get those sandwiches.

As it turned out, we only lived a few blocks apart and so we’d get together and play from time to time. And then one day he introduced me to this new kid, Jeff Johnson.

Jeff and Kurt fed the two sides of the person I’d later become. Kurt was the adventuresome, devil-may-care stuntman that we all wished we could be as a kid. There wasn’t anything on this planet that Kurt wouldn’t try to launch him and his bicycle over.

Jeff Johnson

Jeff Johnson

On the other side, Jeff was the ultimate planner. He created so many things that the rest of us could hardly keep up. He created an arcade-style baseball game in his backyard using baseball cards, a large marble and a ruler. He created a NASCAR racing game using 1/24 scale models, a pair of dice and an action/hazard card deck that he created. And possibly best of all, he created a new brand of croquet that had all us perfecting the shot where we plopped our opponent’s ball into a compost pile.

Sheer brilliance.

1972

This is where the ‘sickness’ began.

In the spring of this year I was at Kurt’s house one day when his mom informed us it was time for him to go to practice.

1972 Red Sox

1972 Red Sox

“What do you have practice for?” I queried.

His reply was one word. One beautiful, action-filled word.

“Baseball”

After several more occurrences of Kurt having to leave for practices, I somehow got invited to go. I don’t recall it if was from Kurt or his parents inviting me or if my parents asked how I could get involved. But somehow I got there.

And from that day to this, baseball has always been the game I truly love.

Football is great and basketball is exciting. But they just aren’t baseball.

I played with Kurt that year on the Red Sox, coached by Richard Dominguez. He was a great guy and taught me all the basics of the game and who became a good friend as I grew into a man.

With a new-found love of the game, my dad made it a point to take me to my first game at Dodger Stadium that summer. My parents had friend named Rudy and Lenore Garza who lived in the Los Angeles area, and they happened to have four season tickets on the first base side of the most beautiful stadium of the day.

Dodger Stadium First Base Side

Dodger Stadium First Base Side

I can remember walking into the stands on the field level and finding our seats, some 15 rows behind first base and right in line with second. It was like we were right on top of the field, so close you could smell the grass and see the actual faces of the players. My temporary addiction for baseball cards would come later, so this was the first time I’d ever seen these guys except for the few times I watched games on TV with my dad. It was surreal.

At the time the big player for the Dodgers was outfielder Willie Davis. Davis was the man then, with the likes of Garvey, Cey, Lopes and Russell not even assembled yet for their historic run of consistency. But all I wanted that night was a foul ball.

Sometime in the second inning that opportunity came. Davis was at the

Willie Davis (1972)

Willie Davis (1972)

plate and flared a foul ball out way, looping toward our seats behind the right field dugout. As the ball neared it became clear that it wasn’t going to make it deep enough to our seats. Rather, it was angling toward this guy and his girlfriend. He sat there with his arm around her and very calmly raised his hand to make the catch … BAREHANDED!

He looked at the ball for a moment and tucked it away in his pocket.

At the time, Dodger Stadium was not sold out every night and the stands were lean for that game as well. Many of the patrons had transistor radios on them to listen to the dulcet tones of Vin Scully as he filled in all of the nooks and cranny’s of the game. But even Scully, a broadcast veteran of some 20 years at that point, took a minute to acknowledge the catch made by this guy.

A few innings later Davis was at bat again. It seemed too much to hope that he’d flare another one our way, but a few pitches in he did just that.

It looked like an instant replay of the one he’d hit earlier, arching high into the night and spiraling down toward Rudy, my dad and I. And just like the previous time, it just didn’t look like it was going to make it quite far enough.

And sadly, it did not.

For the second time in as many tries, the guy with his girlfriend reached up and snagged the ball barehanded … AGAIN! This time I had run up much closer, hoping that he might take pity on me and give me the ball. He looked it over for a moment before slowly reaching over and, with a smile on his face, handing it to his girlfriend.

It was a lot of years later before I recognized the value of a girl, and I certainly didn’t see it in that moment what possible use they could be. I’d learn that a few years later.

This time Scully exploded, immediately recognizing that the same guy had caught the ball a second time. The fans even gave him a small round of applause.

I walked back up to my seat without a ball, but that, as Billy Crystal once said, “Was my best day ever.”

Well, at least to that point in my short eight years of life.

Next time, age 9!

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