28 July 2008

this is why we play

Eleven year old son -- the sporto in the bunch -- had his final summer baseball tournament of the year this past weekend, and it was memorable for a variety of reasons, all of them good.

Our team finally played up to their long-rumored potential and ran roughshod on the first day of play, winding up the #1 seed after Saturday's "pool" games. Come Sunday, it's single-elimination, with the road to the trophy requiring three wins in one afternoon.

Over the course of those three games, we saw our shortstop lay out airborne and grab a linedrive fast on its way to the gap for a would-be double. We saw a pair of perfect double plays -- one of the classic 4-6-3 variety, and the other a far trickier play where a onehopper to third was fired to first for the force, and then the first baseman fired back across the infield to cut down the runner trying to advance from second behind the throw. We saw three or four diving stabs in the outfield.

We saw an opposing right fielder streak deep into the corner and lay out for a full layout grab on what would have been a game-tying double, and then in a later game we saw an opposing centerfielder make an unbelievable play running full-out AWAY from the infield to dive and catch a ball just inches short of the fence.

We saw one of our pitchers gut out a complete game win in 105 degree heat when we told him "we need you to eat up as many innings as you can so we can save pitching for the finals." We came back from a 4 run deficit to win the semis going away, the capper being a cannon shot HR 30 feet over the centerfield sign.

In the finals we went into the final inning trailing 8-1, and with two outs mounted a rally that brought us to within a single run. Our best player was stepping in to the batter's box with the bases loaded when the opposing manager called time to go calm his pitcher. I trotted down to talk to our batter.

"Hands clammy?"

he said. His nervous eyes told me all I really needed to know about his emotional state.

"Yeah," I said. "Right now I can feel sweat all over my neck, my heart's running 200 beats a minute, and it feels like I have a rabbit doing backflips in my stomach. Kinda feel sick, in fact."

"Yeah, me too."

I patted the top of his helmet, and he looked up at me.

"Feels kinda neat, doesn't it?"

"I dunno. I'm pretty nervous."

"Dude-- come on! This is the good stuff! THIS is why we play! A trophy on the line, bases loaded, two outs, bottom of the last inning. This is storybook stuff. You're the best hitter we have, and there's nobody else I'd rather have with a bat in his hands right now. All we can ever ask for is a chance to win, and lookie lookie-- here we are."

He looked up at me, still clearly nervous. "This is why we play," I repeated. "To get this feeling. The guys who stay scared of this feeling quit playing. The ones who learn to like it are the ones on baseball cards. This is why we play -- to see which kind we are."

Now, I'd love to say the kid went on to rip a tournament-winning double, but that would be just the afterschool special version of the tale. In reality he hit a hard shot towards the second base hole, and the fielder made a nice pickup and a good enough throw to beat my batter by one step.

The batter crumpled to the dirt after a headfirst dive towards the bag, the umpire called the final out, and with that a summer of baseball ended.

All he seemed able to do was pound the dirt and cry at coming up one step short of enduring glory. I sat in the dirt with him for a second and put a hand on his back.

"You know, this isn't going to mean much to you right now, but I'm going to say it anyway. When we suit up and compete in any contest, all we can ever really hope for is to be in the middle of the action when it matters most. To be the guy with the bat in his hand when the last pitch is thrown. One team is going to win, and one team is not, and after it's all over, it's pretty damned sweet to know that you left everything you have out there in the dirt on the field of play."

"But I wanted to win,"
he sobbed.

"Me, too. But here's a cool secret, dude: any jerk can win. Winning is easy. It takes a man to fight to the end of a loss and then walk away with his head up high. So, come on -- get up and trot over to line up at third. We need to shake hands with these guys."

After the game, we were cleaning up the dugouts and getting ready to head home, the season well and truly over.



"There at the end, when we were trying to come back, I saw you coaching first base and you laughing and smiling. What was that about?"

"That was the most fun I've had coaching in years. Game on the line, nerves jangling and rattling, stomach in knots. All I could was think how lucky we were to be right here, right now."

He nodded understanding. "It was weird -- I was terrified and happy at the same time."

I offered my fist and we knocked knuckles. "Exactly. This is why we play, baybee. This is why we play."

25 July 2008

Godspeed, Randy Pausch

From Associated Press:
Prof whose 'last lecture' became sensation dies
44 minutes ago

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon University computer scientist whose "last lecture" about facing terminal cancer became an Internet sensation and a best-selling book, has died. He was 47.

University spokeswoman Anne Watzman says Pausch died early Friday at his home in Virginia.

Pausch was diagnosed with incurable pancreatic cancer in September 2006. His popular last lecture at Carnegie Mellon in September 2007 garnered international attention and was viewed by millions on the Internet.

In it, Pausch celebrated living the life he had always dreamed of instead of concentrating on impending death.

The book "The Last Lecture, " written with Jeffrey Zaslow, topped best-seller lists after its publication in April.

I'll probably re-watch The Last Lecture again today, and probably hug my kids a few extra times.

24 July 2008

a confession: i think you're all idiots

All of you. Without exception.

And before you pull the tab on a tall frosty can of Righteous Indignation, understand that I think I am an idiot, too.

As I clitter-clatter crablike around the internet, I am amused, astounded and often a tad concerned at the just plain stoopid shit I hear us all saying with a straitface. I won;t go into any specifics, but pick a topic (any topic) and I can guarantee you that someone I know and ostensibly respect and trust is on record as saying womething in regard to that topic, something which would and should cause any intelligent person to stop what they are doing, cock their head, and ask "excuse me, but what the FUCK did you just say?"

And that's cool.

What's less cool is when some people wrap themselves in the mantle of Olympian Infallibility and act genuinely sincerely offended when you have the audacity to question their Great Truth (and if I drop many more capitalized Noun Phrases on you I might as well just start flinging the umlauts and use German...).

Part of what makes humans interesting (pretty much the only thing, oft-times...) is the hilarious unnoticed unintentional hypocrisy of their most heartfelt utterances. The grand irony which the speaker is alone in not noticing or appreciating. That moment when someone unabashedly reveals -- accidentally -- that they are as full of crap as a very large crap filled thing.

And like I said, I absolutely lost myself among that gaggle of prattling morons.

But you're all right there with me. Every single damned one of you.

23 July 2008

i got nuthin

PICTURE, IF YOU WILL, a near-empty tube of toothpaste.

It's flat, but not yet infinitely flat.

You know within that tube is one more usable demi-wad of paste, and if you can just steamroller that sucker a little tighter -- maybe use the toothbrush as a press to wrestle forth that pea-sized half serving you need and BY GOD will have even if it costs you a pulled hamstring and the last vestige of what once was pride but now now is just world-weary resignation -- you can stand tall and proud in the knowledge that you have well and truly finished that tube.

You hop up and down and hammer away and roll the damned tube -- it's mocking you, it's actually mocking you -- back and forth on the edge of the bathroom countertop, determined and hell-bent to claim that minty-fresh prize, no matter what.

And then you glance up and see your bleary eyed reflection in the mirror: your pale tummy bulging a tad more than you want to admit, and your hair looking like someone slapped you with a wet frying pan, and you become painfully shamefully aware of the stupefying futility of your efforts, and you realize you've spent 14 minutes in hand to hand combat with a tube of Colgate even while a fresh fat undented tube of same sits right there, laughing.

This is how the writing is going for me these days.

02 July 2008

fresh hell: the "seven songs" meme

Ryan over at Holy Embers of Dreams tagged me with a meme:

List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now.

So, without any fanfare or heartfelt effort, here we go:

1. "You Know My Name," by Chris Cornell, from the soundtrack to Casino Royale
I've long been a sucker for cool Bong BOND theme songs, and this one has been hitting me in my happy place really hard really often of late. I've had it stuck in endless rotation for many nights as I toil away on... well, "something." (And no, it's nothing remotely related to the Bond series in subject or character or even genre, so don't bother).

2. "Dayvan Cowboy," by Boards of Canada, from the The Campfire Head
A weirdly cool piece of electronica that works a really groovy nerve up my spine and into my brain stem. I found it as the soundtrack to a weird mashup video of the world tallest parachute chute them morphing into always cool slo-motion surfer highlights, kinda like "Endless Summer" is dropped into the 21st century.

3. "Rice Birds," by Adam Carroll, from Far Away Blues
Carroll is maybe my favorite texas singer-songwriter these days, as he has an uncanny ability to spin simple and absolutely true and honest little moments of specific Texana in a way that makes me ache with jealousy even as I am smiling and nodding approval though misty eyes. The Man just KNOWS, ok? Much like "Mr. Erroll's Song," another note-perfect slice of East Texas life from a previous album, I listen to "Rice Birds" and laugh that somehow someone else stepped in and heard my memories and set them to music.

4. "Gift of Fury," by Basil Poledouris, from the soundtrack to Conan the Barbarian
CONAN has long been one of my fave soundtracks, as it just smells like steel clashing and blood surging through bulging veins and hooves thundering through frozen wastes. This one is stuck in my player as mood music for... well, something far more tonally and stylistically similar than in the previous ref to current projects.

5. "It's A Long Way To the Top (If You Wanna Rock and Roll," by AC-DC, from TNT
Some people claim "Back in Black" or "Shook Me All Night Long" as their favorite AC/DC song, but for me, the unquestionable ne plus ultra of the Young brothers band has to be this little head-bobbing ditty. Never before or since has a bagpipe seemed so hard rocking (and to hell with BIG COUNTRY), and Bon Scott's alcohol-soaked sneer never again sounded so smug and irresistible. This is the absolute perfect sound for a certain '80s-themed beast I have been wrestling with for years, and when this song gets stuck in the player, the words start to come fast and silly.

6. "Yeager's Triumph," by Bill Conti, from 'The Right Stuff"
Hero's need soundtracks, I reckon this one works just fine.

7. "Love Plus One," by Haircut 100, from (some album from the 80s)
I'm not even going to try expaining this one,. I just know that this song has always made me giggle like a loon, and that's held true for something like 22 years straight now.


I'm supposed to tag five people, but considering the fact that I am pretty well convinced that nobody reads this damned fool blog anymore, I'll just declare it "Tag Your Own Self Day" at ye olde blogge. If'n ya feel like picking up this flag and carrying it further down the field, then do so-- tag yourself and link back here so we can follow.

If'n ya don't feel such love, well, then to hell with you anyway.