Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Meet Me In St. Louis

A couple of quick photos from World Series Game 5:

This is John while the initial celebration is taking place on the field:

Here he is amidst the hubub closer to the field a little later in the evening:

And the scoreboard tells the story:

Monday, October 30, 2006


On Wednesday, John Jr. and I flew up to St. Louis where it was rainy and cold. Our tickets were for Game 4, and so we headed down to the new Busch Stadium late that afternoon with the Cardinals up 2-1 in the Series. At game time, the tarp was still on the field and they told us that no time had been set to get the game underway. Finally, at about 9:15pm Central (about 1:45 after the game was supposed to have started) they announced that the game would be cancelled for the night.

We assumed that we'd be coming back to try again the next night, but oddly that turned out not to be the case. For reasons I still don't entirely understand, it was announced that Game 5 tickets would be honored the next night (in what would chronologically be Game 4), and that our Game 4 tickets would be honored on Friday night (in what would chronologically be Game 5).

After about thirty seconds of math, my son and I realized something. IF the Cardinals would win Game 4 the next night, they would go up 3-1 and we would be in a position to see the possible clincher. It seemed like a long shot, since in reality they were only halfway to a championship at that point and they'd have to win two more consecutive games. But the possibility was there.

And then it happened. We watched Game 4 on television with friends and family, and I don't know if I've ever been more invested in a game. We wanted that win so that it would be 3-1 heading into our game. When they won, we were ecstatic. One more win to go.

After raining all day Friday, things cleared up a couple of hours before game time on Friday night. Busch was absolutely crackling with electricity. Certainly we couldn't take anything for granted--after all, the Cardinals have blown two 3-1 World Series leads in the past--but something seemed different this time.

I've been a Cardinals baseball fan since I was old enough to talk. My parents have pictures of me wearing an StL hat as a toddler. I got to go to playoff and World Series games (even got pulled out of school!) in 1982 and 1985. My dad and I were sitting in the stands on the third base side when Ozzie Smith hit his first-ever left-handed home run against Tom Niedenfuer to beat the Dodgers in Game 5 of the NLCS. But at 10:22pm CDT on Friday night, with my son and I sitting in the upper deck in right field, Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge swung through an Adam Wainwright curveball and the Cardinals provided me with the sports highlight of my lifetime. After 24 years--after Don Denkinger stole the 1985 Series from us, after the crazy air conditioner in the Metrodome blew our '87 title away, after the disastrous Joe Torre/Mark Whiten/Ray Lankford/Todd Zeile years, after Darryl Kile died, after losing the great Jack Buck, after a 100-win team was humiliated by the Red Sox in the '04 Series, after a 105-win team was bounced from the playoffs by the Houston Astros last year, after they tore down the stadium that held so many memories--the St. Louis Cardinals were the World Series champions.

A lot of people are whining about how bad this World Series was, about how the Cardinals didn't belong there. All I can say to that is: We were owed. This is a great franchise that does it the right way in the best baseball city on earth. We were on the other side of this deal in 2004 and 2005, falling short after winning in the triple digits. I don't recall anyone complaining in 2004 about the unfairness of it all when the Cardinals were swept out of the Series by the Red Sox, who were a wild card team. Nobody said the Cardinals "handed over the series" to the Sox despite the fact that the heart of the lineup had one hit that year. You gotta play the games, and the Cardinals did--better than any other team this postseason. They beat teams that were heavily favored in three straight series, all while never having the home field advantage. The Cardinals have the winningest record in baseball since 2000 while teams like the Diamondbacks and the Marlins and the White Sox have come and gone. Don't tell me they don't deserve a world championship.

At the end of the game with Inge batting, I started shooting some home video from our right field perch. The camera shakes as the stadium explodes and Yadier Molina runs out and jumps on Wainwright. I then pan to my son sitting next to me, and he has a look of unbridled joy on his face like I've never seen before. "It's incredible!" he keeps saying. He's a 14-year-old kid who, like his dad, was wearing a Redbirds cap before he could walk. He went to his first game when he was four months old. He devours sports pages his grandma sends him from St. Louis with Cardinals articles. He watches every out of games they play against Pittsburgh in May. And his team has just won its first World Series in his lifetime.

You don't ever top that. Anything the Cardinals ever do from here out is just icing on the cake for me.

Related Tags: , ,

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Wayne Grudem Interview Audio

Earlier this month, I interviewed Dr. Wayne Grudem about his new book Evangelical Feminism: A New Path to Liberalism? on the radio. The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood has posted the audio from the hourlong interview here.

Al Mohler has also written a comprehensive review of Dr. Grudem's book.

Related Tags: , , ,

Monday, October 23, 2006

It All Makes Sense Now

I have a theory (spurred by some comments on ESPN Radio) that I think now makes sense of all this Kenny Rogers weirdness. Here goes (and remember, everything I'm stating here is simply theory):

Most big league pitchers probably use a little sticky something in cold or wet weather in order to help them grip the ball. The probably see it as not really cheating, because they're not using it to alter the flight of the ball--just to help them hold it properly.

Last night, the cameras caught Kenny Rogers not being careful enough about it. Tony LaRussa is now in an awkward spot. He knows his pitchers use the same stuff, and it's just an unspoken agreement that nobody will make a big deal out of it as long as it's not causing the ball to flutter. But the FOX cameras have just shown it to the world. So he goes out between innings and says to the umpires, "Look, I don't want to make a big deal out of this, but Kenny's making me look like an idiot here. The clown's not even hiding his sticky stuff--he's got it right on his hand. The whole world sees it. If I don't squawk about it now, I'll be crucified. Tell him to go clean up his hand, and we'll leave it alone." Which the umpires do.

That would explain why TLR didn't do more at the time. It would explain why he still doesn't want to talk about it. It would explain why even the Cardinals players have been quiet on it. And it would explain why the umpires didn't nail him to the wall. I have to admit, I find this theory persuasive (though there are some holes--the pictures below clearly show Rogers using the stuff on a sunny day in July). If my theory is right, we'll continue to see the Tigers, the Cardinals, and Major League Baseball just try to make this story go away. I'm really starting to lean more and more in the direction of, "If it doesn't bother the Cardinals, it doesn't bother me."

Related Tags: , , , , , ,

Kenny's Persistent Mud Spot

July 5, 2006 vs. the Oakland A's:

July 20, 2006 vs. Chicago White Sox:

A comparison of Rogers' hand from Game 3 of the ALCS (left) and last night's Game 2 of the World Series (right):

[photo from WireImage.com/US PRESSWIRE

Another question that's been presenting itself as the photographic evidence begins to mount: does dirt usually shine?

Here's an interesting note for discussion from an article at Yahoo Sports:
La Russa's failure to officially ask for an inspection baffled even his own staff and players.

"They're not arbitrarily going to go out there and check him," Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan said. "They have to be asked to check him."

Why didn't the Cardinals ask?

"You have to ask Tony that," Duncan said.


The next 48 hours are going to be very interesting indeed, especially as the New York media jumps all over the fact that tapes show Kenny Rogers with a foreign substance on his hand in the series against the Yankees, too. Somebody needed to tell him he didn't need to cheat to beat the Cardinals--being lefthanded is more than enough.

Well, we're tied 1-1. It's now a best of five series!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Baseball Heaven

Okay, I lied. I lied about not getting excited about the Cardinals until they won a game in the World Series. Fact is, I'm so thrilled today I can hardly see straight.

I always worry about talking about this kind of stuff, because I can only imagine how trivial it sounds to the many non-sports fans. It couldn't possibly make sense to you. But I'm sitting here realizing that you only get a relative handful of days in life when you feel like I feel right now. I can't work. I can't concentrate. Coworkers have been lining up at my office door all day to congratulate me. I just keep sitting here thinking "The Cardinals won the pennant!" When you've grown up a baseball fan, there's a lot of memories (and future memories) tied up in something like this. Watching these games (and this sometimes-frustrating, always-exciting Cardinal team) over the last few years with my rabid Redbird-fan son only heightens that meaningfulness.

I grew up watching Cardinals baseball. I earned my stripes as a fan. I was born about 6 weeks after their 1968 World Series loss, and they didn't reach another post-season until I was almost 14. I watched a few brilliant players during that span, like Lou Brock, Keith Hernandez, and Ted Simmons (Bob Gibson was nearly finished when I started watching). I also watched a lot of guys like Kenny Reitz, Mike Tyson (the chubby second baseman, not the cannibalistic boxer), Bake McBride, Jerry Mumphrey, and Tony Scott. I went to games where there were only 5000 people in the park. I watched Whitey Herzog yank Garry Templeton into the dugout and take a punch at him after Templeton flipped off the crowd--on Ladies' Day, no less. There was a lot of ignominy at Busch Stadium in those days. But I didn't care. I loved walking into that monstrous stadium with all the arches around the top. I loved the look of clean, white, new bases and freshly raked infield dirt. I loved the treat of eating a ballpark hotdog. And I loved those birds on the bat.

In the first decade of the 21st century, those Cardinals are now a perennial contender. They've won two pennants in three seasons. They have the best player in baseball (whom I like to call A-Poo, though ESPN's Bill Simmons steals it from me today). They have a beautiful new stadium. I've told my son, "Enjoy this. You may go through decades later in life when your team doesn't even sniff a post-season. You're getting to be a Cardinal fan at one of the great times ever to be a Cardinal fan."

Do I get too wrapped up in it? No doubt. Is it silly to put such stock in mere entertainment? Most likely. Often I find myself wondering, "Why do I put myself through this?" During the late innings of last night's game, as my stomach felt like I had eaten nails and chased them with a shot of acid, I wished for a moment that I could be one of those millions of people who couldn't care less. The vast majority of the nation was going about it's business last night as if baseball didn't even exist. Is this worth it? Is there any point to this?

Today I know the answer. You just don't get many days to feel like this. The sure agony of the World Series hasn't started yet, and everything's even. Today, for this day, it's only joy and optimism. Whatever happens in the World Series, my team...my son's team--the St. Louis Cardinals--are winners of the National League pennant after one of the most thrilling and gut-wrenching games in postseason history. Yadier Molina has taken his place next to Ozzie Smith, Jack Clark, and Albert Pujols with a heroic, game-winning NLCS homer. Our voices are hoarse from screaming after it went over the wall. We're tired from staying up until 2am watching postgame interviews over and over again. It's not just entertainment. This is about my history. My grandparents and parents. My children. My city. My home.

Earlier this morning, I got the stunning word that two tickets to Game 4 of the World Series at the new downtown home of the Redbirds are available for my son and me. I booked the flight a couple of hours ago.

Does it get any better than this?

[P.S. I've just realized that today is the 24th anniversary of the the night Bruce Sutter blew one past Gorman Thomas to win last Cardinals World Championship. Which reminds me that it can get even a little better than this.]

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Game 7

Tonight's the big one, and we just may bounce it around a little bit in the comments section live during the game tonight if any of you baseball fans feel like stopping by.

The Cardinals played disappointingly last night. Tonight's pitching matchup favors the Cards. Home field and the fact that the pitching matchups have gone the opposite of what's expected favor the Mets. The middle of the Cardinals lineup favors the Mets. Indefinable post-season mojo favors the Cards. It's a coin-toss; we'll see what happens.

Tonight's lineup has already been posted (courtesy Bernie Miklasz of the Post-Dispatch):
It's not the one I'd go with. Rolen should be benched, and if he doesn't like it, trade him. He's killing this team, and he's a proven post-season liability. He hurt the team by lying to Tony LaRussa about how hurt he is, and last night even his defense stunk. Has there ever been a postseason Rolen showed up for? If I played him at all, I'd hit him eighth.

And Encarnacion cleanup again? Please. They guy on his best day is about a .230 hitter, and strikes out three times a game. Between Encarnacion, Edmonds, and Rolen in the middle of the lineup, plan to see a lot of 0-2 counts and runners left on.

Of course, any of them can shut me up by being the hero tonight.

See you in the comments!

UPDATE--Late Thursday night: The Cardinals win the pennant! The Cardinals win the pennant! It's gonna be a rematch of '68! New Busch Stadium will host a World Series!

St. Louis will be the underdogs again. Good. It's working well for them so far.

Chip Off The Ol' Block

I was watching the baseball game last night with my son when, during a news break, they mentioned the NFL bomb threat story.
JOHN JR.: What's that all about?

JOHN SR.: Apparently there's been some kind of terrorist threat on Dolphin Stadium.

JOHN JR.: Probably football purists.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

In The News, One Last Time

Sometimes something is so familiar that you don't even notice it. It just becomes part of the wallpaper.

Such was the case with a voice familiar to anyone who grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons in the 1970's--Christopher Glenn of "In the News." "In the News" was a little one or two minute news vignette CBS plugged in between the cartoons to teach children about current events. I don't actually remember a single thing they showed on there, but the voice of Christopher Glenn and the theme "song" (though you can't really call it a song--it was really more of an annoying sound) are indelible.

Glenn died yesterday of liver cancer at 68. CBS News' website has a nice look back at his career.

Related Tags: , ,

Games People Play

As I said, I'm not going to get excited.

But last night's game was a big step towards the World Series for the Cardinals. Tony LaRussa, except for when he insanely ordered his cleanup hitter to bunt in the fifth inning, largely resisted his overmanaging urge, and the Cardinals pulled off a nice victory against the Mets' best starter. Tony even showed a bit of the "genius," pinch-hitting Chris Duncan in a situation in which Duncan normally hits about .100. He homered.

Even though game six (and game seven, if necessary) is at Shea, I honestly find myself liking the spot the Cards are in. Tonight it's Cy Young candidate Chris Carpenter against...um...non-Cy Young candidate John Maine. Though Carpenter was not sharp in his last outing, you can't like this matchup if you're a Mets fan. And if it goes seven, you likely have Jeff Suppan, who was spectacular in game three, going up against either Oliver Perez or Darren Oliver. Or perhaps Oliver Stone. Or Oliver from "The Brady Bunch." One doubts the Mets would go to Trachsel again after the game three disaster. In any case, all the future pitching matchups heavily favor the Cardinals.

Okay, maybe I'm starting to get a little bit excited. Why do I do this to myself? This can only end badly. I should get out now while the gettin's good.

Oh, and at one point the Fox crew cut to a shot of a dude wearing a John Calvin t-shirt. You don't see that very often; even less so at major sporting events. Which reminds me: whatever happened to that guy with the rainbow hair and the "John 3:16" sign? I thought I remembered he went to prison or died or something horrible. I guess that's the tradeoff for great seats.

Related Tags: , , , ,

Monday, October 16, 2006

Have The Cards Run Out?

The Cardinals and Mets are now tied at two, and I can't help but feel that the Redbirds blew their best chance to win the pennant last night. In a position to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series, they were facing Oliver Perez, at 3-13 perhaps the worst starting pitcher ever for a LCS game--and a guy they owned this season. Furthermore, the game was at Busch, and Perez hadn't won a single game on the road this year. And the Cardinals lost to him.

The shame of it is, I think the game was blown by Tony LaRussa, who up until this point had somehow resisted his overmanaging instincts and done a very nice job of guiding his team through the playoffs. But he just couldn't resist showing his "genius" any longer. Though I know few will agree with me, here's my reasoning for pinning it on TLR: he yanked a starting pitcher, Antonio Reyes, who was doing a serviceable job in a tie game after four innings.

This isn't mere 20/20 hindsight on my part. When LaRussa told Joe Buck after the fourth that Reyes was done, I said to my son, "That doesn't make sense to me. I'd much rather go with the devil I know--a guy throwing an OK game--than the devil I don't know. There's no guarantee you're going to get five good innings out of any bullpen, and if the first guy you bring in stinks, you're in a real mess." You don't change horses midstream when your horse is keeping pace with the others. About a minute later, that kid who looks like he's twelve (I forget his name) started giving up bombs and it was all over. There was nowhere left to run, and all the rest of the bullpen could try to do was mop up.

Willie Randolph understands what I'm talking about, which is why he left Oliver Perez in the game despite the fact that...well, he's Oliver Perez. You don't make the decision based on who he is, you make the decision based on how he's doing. On any given night in baseball, a scrub can turn into Sandy Koufax. Nobody last night was Sandy Koufax, but LaRussa gave the hook to a pitcher who was keeping his team in the game before it was even half over. Randolph stayed with his guy a little longer and got him a win by simply outwaiting LaRussa.

Now the Cards are in a jam. Yes, the series is tied. But tonight's is a must-win game (since you can't expect two win two straight in New York), and they're going against Tom Glavine. Last night was their best chance, and unfortunately Tony couldn't keep his genius in the box for one more night. Tonight I fully expect him to overreact to the loss and go back into full overmanaging mode--bunting Pujols, using every pitcher in his bullpen for those five-hour-game-inducing right/lefty switches, and having the pitcher hit third or something.

Like I said--I'm not getting my hopes up.

Related Tags: , , , , ,

Friday, October 13, 2006

Kyoto's Expensive? Bill Moyers.

PBS's smarmy propagandist Bill Moyers investigated the recent evangelical interest in environmental issues on a program called "Is God Green?" the other night. It was typical Moyers, carefully crafted to make his side (leftist environmentalists) look virtuous and the opposition appear evil.

Nonetheless, the online transcript of the fascinating unedited interview he did with Dr. E Calvin Beisner of Knox Theological Seminary (who also appeared, much abridged, on the broadcast program), a drafter of the Cornwall Declaration and one of the chief spokesmen for the skeptical view of environmentalist alarmism, is informative and enlightening. Tellingly, it demonstrates how impervious Moyers can be to facts and logic when they contradict his ideology.

(And if you're new to the debate, I sketched it out a bit last February, which you can find here.)

Related Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Jimmy On The Spot

In light of the current mess in North Korea, my hope is that PBS will run its excellent Frontline documentary "Kim's Nuclear Gamble" from a couple of years ago. If you find yourself wondering how we ended up here, this program will tell you (and the transcript of the show, which I highly recommend, can be found here).

In short, how do we find ourselves in this fix today? You can sum it up in two words: Jimmy Carter.

In 1994 Carter cut an appeasement deal with North Korea's dictator to try to get them to abandon their nuclear program, and then forced the deal on the weak-kneed Clinton administration. Unfortunately for the world, the massive damage Carter always wreaks wasn't limited to the four years of his presidency. It continues and spreads to this day.

In 1994, the North Koreans ramped up their nuclear program leading to high tension with the U.S. From the transcript of the Frontline program (I've added titles for some of the speakers):
ROBERT GALLUCCI [Clinton Asst. Secretary of State]: And so that led us to that one now somewhat famous meeting of the National Security Council, which the president held in the Cabinet Room, attended by the secretary of state, secretary of defense, the vice president, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- a whole lot of people involved -- in which the secretary of defense presented three military options.

WILLIAM PERRY [Clinton Secretary of Defense]: I advised President Clinton that we ought to reinforce our military forces. We had gone over the war contingency plans very carefully and had concluded that we-- in the event of an invasion from the north, we would undoubtedly win. We would be successful in defeating the north. But how many casualties we'd suffer would depend very much on how well-prepared we were. We were literally in the process of giving the briefing to him, laying out the three alternative options, when the call came in from North Korea

ROBERT GALLUCCI: The phone call comes from Jimmy Carter, who is in Pyongyang at the time, talking to Kim Il Sung, in which Jimmy Carter tell me-- I step out of the meeting with the president to step into a small room to talk to the former president. And Jimmy Carter then describes a possible way out of this situation.

NARRATOR: Former president Jimmy Carter had gone on a private trip to Pyongyang to broker a peace deal, even though some senior members of the Clinton White House opposed his effort.

Pres. JIMMY CARTER: I was given a list of all the U.S. demands concerning nuclear program, primarily, but a few others. And when Kim Il Sung agreed with me directly and personally that he would comply with all those demands that I relayed as a messenger, then I was very relieved about that.

ROBERT GALLUCCI: There was in the room some unhappiness over the deal. But even--

MARTIN SMITH [Frontline Correspondent]: Carter had freelanced.

ROBERT GALLUCCI: Well, it wasn't only that Carter had freelanced. It's that President Carter also told me he was about to go on CNN and say what the terms of this would be. [Gallucci here adds in the full interview transcript, though it doesn't appear in the program, "That was not only freelancing, but it was also, to some degree, boxing in the sitting president, President Clinton."]
-Video clip-

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ANCHOR: It is now past midnight Friday morning in North Korea. And later today, former president Jimmy Carter plans a second day of--
MARTIN SMITH: You made a decision to go on CNN while you're sitting there--


MARTIN SMITH: --negotiating with Kim Il Sung.

Pres. JIMMY CARTER: I felt that it was important for the commitments that Kim Il Sung had made to be revealed to the public. It would have made it much more difficult for him to reverse himself or to violate his commitments.

MARTIN SMITH: But it wasn't a chess move on your part to try to get this thing aired--


MARTIN SMITH: --in order to box in both sides to bring them together?

Pres. JIMMY CARTER: Well, I can't deny that I hoped that it would consummate a resolution of what I considered to be a very serious crisis.

NARRATOR: Kim Il Sung told Carter he would freeze the reactor at Yongbyon and go back to the negotiating table. But a month later, he suddenly died of a heart attack.
Needless to say, North Korea didn't cease it's program. Jimmy Carter, in a breathtaking stroke of hubris and audacity, usurped the authority of the president of the United States and obligated the U.S. to a peace deal in which the North Koreans would supposedly halt their nuclear program while the U.S. would send them a half million tons of oil and build them two nuclear power reactors. Of course, North Korea continued right along with the development of their weapons program anyway, as everyone (except apparently Carter) knew they would, while the U.S.'s hands were tied by the agreement.

I guess that's the kind of thing that wins one a Nobel Peace Prize these days.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Cards Vs. Pond Scum

The National League Championship Series gets underway tonight, and I'm still not getting my hopes up. The Cardinals are huge underdogs, and for good reason. LaRussa has a brutal NLCS career record (11-19 by my count), Rolen's hurt, Weaver and Suppan are the one/two starters, and the Mets have a lefthanded Murderer's Row while the Cards have no lefthanded pitching to face them.

Still, being the heavy favorite has never helped them, so maybe being the underdog will finally take some of the pressure off. If Weaver and the bullpen keep holding to current form, and if the Mets pitch to Pujols....nah, I'm not going to get my hopes up. Yet.

A few notes on the game:
  • I asked this in the comments section of a previous post, but I want to throw it out there for general consumption. Has there ever been a fatter infielder (excluding first basemen) than Ronnie Belliard? Seriously, I'm taking nominations. He makes Terry Pendleton look like Ann Coulter.
  • Here's Belliard's publicity photo from the beginning of the season:

  • I think Chris Duncan should be required to wear his batting helmet out in right field. The kid's gonna get hurt out there.
  • It's too bad that ESPN isn't doing any of the ALCS, where the Oakland A's are competing for the pennant with one of the ten lowest payrolls in baseball. I'd love to hear another nine innings of Joe Morgan again explaining exactly why the A's "Moneyball" approach just doesn't work.
  • I just saw that both LCS games will be played tonight at the exact same time, meaning some of the country will see one, some of the country the other. I'm honestly starting to think that MLB executives don't want people to watch their games. I don't know that there's ever been a greater collection of dolts in any major business, and I'm including those guys at RJ Reynolds who came up with the smokeless cigarette.

Related Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, October 09, 2006

Monday Morning Roundup

  • Happy White European Imperialist Pig Day, everybody!
  • So Fatboy Wells wouldn't agree to be traded to the Cardinals last month (and so instead ended up with the Padres). I guess he had a golf outing this week he just couldn't cancel. Enjoy the offseason, tubby.
  • Buck O'Neil, the Negro Leaguer made famous to a new generation of fans by Ken Burns' "Baseball" documentary (and who was also on my surprised-they're-still-alive list) died this weekend at 94. I got to meet him around 1994 when I was working in St. Louis sports radio and he came into town for a promotional appearance. I drove from one end of the county to the other just to pop in our remote broadcast (which was at some restaurant) so I could shake hands with him and say hello. He was a very classy, dignified guy, and it was fascinating to sit and listen to him tell stories.
  • But in the meantime, it will be fun to follow Mizzou's progress. They convincingly beat Texas Tech over the weekend and climbed up to #19 in the AP poll. They're for real. And that's something I've never said about Missouri football in my life.
  • Newsweek has an interview with former president Jimmy Carter on his solutions to the problems in the Middle East. I haven't read the article yet, but I remember his presidency pretty well, so I'm guessing his solutions involve a combination of ineffectual passivity and crashing some helicopters in the desert. Keep up the good work, Jimmy. You were an inspiration to us all. (Oh yeah, and that's current Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the right of the hostage there. He speaks at the UN now. You really showed 'em, Mr. Carter.)

Related Tags: , , , , , ,

Friday, October 06, 2006

Show Me The Sports

A big sports weekend is on tap for we Show-Me State types.

First, one of my 17 college alma maters, the University of Missouri, is actually ranked, (number 23!) for what I think is the first time in my life. On the down side, while they're 5-0, they haven't actually beaten anyone yet, with their only conference game (and win) so far coming against putrid Colorado (who's a loooooong way from the Coach McCartney/fifth down glory days). But still, normally Mizzou loses all those nothing games too, so winning them is a big start. This weekend, they take on almost-ranked Texas Tech in their first real test.

[On an only tangentially-related note, I discovered by reading the above Wikipedia "fifth down" article that today marks the 16th anniversary of that game. Oh my, is my life flying past me.]

Second, the Cardinals play the Padres in Game 3 of their divisional series. The Cards have a 2-0 lead in the series, and the next two are at Busch. Like I said, I'm not going to get my hopes up. But for much of the season, I was predicting they'd get swept in the first round. Suddenly they're looking different. Izzy's out (which is a plus in my book), Eckstein's back, and Tony LaRussa has finally discovered middle relievers.

Now I'm not going to get carried away with rosy scenarios. BUT...IF this bullpen of unknown guys keeps going the way they've been going, and IF Jeff Weaver keeps doing whatever pitching coach Dave Duncan has taught him and doesn't suddenly turn back into Jeff Weaver, and IF somebody can bury Tony LaRussa out in a field with a straw for oxygen right around game one or two of the League Championship Series, who knows what could happen this fall? Suddenly neither the Mets nor the Dodgers look all that imposing.

I'm not getting my hopes up. I'm just saying.

(And just to be clear, I fully advocate digging poor Tony back up right after they win the championship, with no harm done and only a few pounds lighter. He'd still get a ring and everything.)

Related Tags: , , , , , , ,

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Strawman of Kansas

I see that the insane Fred Phelps is up to his usual tricks again, which means the media will have yet another opportunity to whip itself (and its consumers) into a lather.

In case you don't know, Phelps is the guy who has become known for picketing high-profile funerals. He and the members of his Kansas "church" stand outside these funerals and memorial services (whether they be for homosexuals, dead soldiers, astronauts who died in the Columbia explosion, or little Amish girls--the particulars don't really seem to matter to Phelps as long as it's high-profile) and prattles on about how they deserved their fate and that God killed them because he hated them. Obviously such behavior is idiotic. But what I find almost as idiotic is the relentless media attention he receives.

Here's something you need to understand: Fred Phelps is almost entirely a media creation. His "church" consists almost exclusively of his own family members. Indeed, when you see any of them interviewed, you'll see that they all bear the name "Phelps." This is nothing more than one fruitcake and his family. Yet these little demonstrations of his receive endless media coverage, with pundits on all sides of the political and religious world righteously and thunderously excoriating them. But to what end? Fred Phelps represents nobody but himself and his family. This is a tiny handful of kooks.

So considering their utter insignificance, why is the entire Phelps family dragged out for interviews on all the networks each time this happens? For two reasons:

1). They fulfill a necessary media stereotype. The reason this tiny inbred family is at the center of so much media controversy is because the media believes that they are (or more likely wants to present them as) representative of "fundamentalist" Christianity. Phelps' actual influence is nil (and indeed his "church" preaches nothing even approaching biblical, evangelical Christianity, instead advocating a salvation by lawkeeping), yet he's been featured on every broadcast and cable news network, written about in every prominent newspaper in the country, and even referenced in the entertainment media (on programs like "The West Wing").

2). It presents an opportunity to throw "red meat" at viewers and readers, thus allowing commentators to appear virtuous while ratcheting up ratings via viewer outrage. An example of this occurred on "Hannity and Colmes" last night, where H&C interviewed one of the deluded female members of the Phelps clan. For two minutes, Colmes told her what a despicable human being she was, followed by two minutes of Hannity telling her what a despicable human being she was. My question through the whole thing was: Why would they even be having her on? Answer: Her idiotic hate spewing, while representing no constituency, would outrage the audience and allow Alan and Sean to show us how morally upright they are. Which is a jackpot all around. Is it edifying? No. Is it shedding light on an important issue? No. Have they uncovered some massive, sick movement? No. But by gosh, the courage of it all is astounding. These guys are going to take the side of the murdered little Amish girls against the sicko claiming they deserved it no matter what the consequences! How inspiring.

But while Hannity and Colmes are allowed to feel superior because of their counterintuitive defense of dead schoolgirls, they don't address the moral ambiguity of the pink elephant standing in the room--namely their own blatant prostitution. What they (and those like them) are doing by having the Phelps people on (and this was a repeat performance for H&C--they've had the Phelpsies on numerous times) is virtually indistinguishable from pulling a nut who rants in Times Square about the Holocaust off the street and putting him on national TV for five minutes. He represents nobody, he's shedding no light on anything, and what he's saying is vomitous. So why have him on? For ratings and faux outrage, and nothing more.

The fact is, there have been very few people less consequential who have received more attention than Fred Phelps has. So the next time you see him on national television (and you will see him again), ask yourself: Why?

Related Tags: , , , ,

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Baby Don't Hurt Me, No More

Due to popular demand (well, okay, two of my friends and my son), I offer some thoughts on the Cardinals in the National League playoffs:

I've purposely kept my expectations low (read: non-existent), not only to blunt another inevitable October LaRussa disappointment, but because this team really isn't much good. I've been the proverbial wet blanket among those around me getting their hopes up for a Redbird post-season. Last year, the Cardinals were good enough to be a World Series team; this year, they don't even belong in the playoffs and are only there because of the blessing of playing in a crummy division.

That having been said, yesterday's win in San Diego is big, and I think puts St. Louis in a good position to again reach the League Championship Series (where they will undoubtedly fold like a cheap tent at the LaRussa family campout--which I imagine is usually scheduled in October right around what would be Game 5 of the World Series, which Tony never sees even when his team wins the pennant). The Cardinals' big problems are on the road, where they're pitiful. By winning Game One in San Diego, they take away the Pads home field advantage. They now have to win two games to advance--and they happen to have two games at Busch Stadium, where they are much more formidable.

With their starting lineup largely healthy again for the first time in months, it's just possible that they're not as bad as that late season skid made them look. And it's possible that the lower expectations will work in their favor. But they'll still need Jeff Weaver(!) to pitch like Sandy Koufax for a few weeks and Adam Wainwright to become the second coming of Mariano Rivera for this to be any more than a flash in the pan.

Personally, I'm not getting my hopes up. I've experienced too many years of TLR's postseason atmosphere-killing tension and hallucinogenic strategy moves (anybody remember Larry Walker's bunt in Game 4 of the disastrous '04 World Series when he was the only Cardinal hitting the ball?) to get geeked up over one win against a mediocre team in the least of the divisional series match-ups. Don't get me wrong--I want to see the Cardinals win a championship. But as The Who once said, I won't get fooled again. Call me when they've won one World Series game, and then I'll start getting excited.

(P.S. All of this whining goes straight out the window if Albert Pujols [A-Poo, as I now officially call him]--or any other Redbird, for that matter--hits a game-winning ninth inning homer in one of these contests. Then--who am I kidding?--I'll have bought my first-class sleeper car ticket on the Heartbreak Express as it hurtles off the rails and over the cliff again.)

(P.P.S. Since I mentioned my son, I should also mention my daughter. Namely, that she couldn't care less about any of this.)

Related Tags: , , , ,