Can’t the season last a bit longer?

Tens of thousands of words will be written, hours of video produced, tweets will be tweeted, Facebook posts will be posted and Instagrams will be instragrammed, all about the Red Sox this morning.  One of the unique benefits of being a sports fan in New England is the fact that our little corner of the world is filled with the finest writers and artists in the world.  Updike’s “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu” is perhaps the best example of a superlative author taking time to write about something so pedestrian….

…as sports.

Yet sports, as we’ve seen this year in Boston, has the power to unite, to inspire and to heal.  A New Englander who took up running years ago, I’ve always loved the Marathon.  I’ve watched it from the streets of the city, hoped –and still hope- to somehow have the discipline and motivation and means to complete it, and was thrilled to run alongside Bill Rogers years ago in a 10k through the streets of Mobile, Alabama.  I was in Atlanta on April 15th when the bombs tore through the crowd – and the sanctity of the Marathon – this year.  I saw how the Red Sox, just hours after the bombing, helped unite a city stunned at the intrusion of such violence.

But this is not an article about the bombing.

I’m a sports fan, and have followed the Sox for as long as I remember.  I recall Fisk’s homer in ’75, Bucky’s fly ball in ’78 and the cathartic Series of 2004.

But this is not an article about baseball per se.

Instead, it’s an article about the redemptive nature and uniting force that is sports…

…in a family.

Ask a New Englander about the most surprising and enduring memory they have of 2004.  They’ll tell you of the parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle who never saw the Sox win a World Series.  They’ll then describe a phenomena that was a complete surprise to nearly everyone: cemeteries in November of 2004 were soon covered with countless Red Sox pennants, baseballs and other Sox related items placed on headstones all in remembrance of those who suffered for years with the Olde Towne Team.

Countless stories have been written about fathers and sons, struggling with the challenges of teenage rebellion, who have found common ground in sports, and sports only.

–          Deep breath –

I’ve found that, once in a while, I’ll write a bit about my personal life.  They are, for the most part, lighthearted descriptions of the time we spend together.  I try not to burden you with the heartache and sadness that –let’s face it- we all feel from time to time.

Jack, me and Devin at Fenway.

Jack, me and Devin at Fenway.

Heartache, however, is a perfect description of the situation.

I’m a divorced father of two sons.

The less said about the divorce, the better.

My sons, wonderful young men, have been placed in the middle of two parents who, unfortunately, allow their hatred of each other to get in the way of the well-being of the children.  It is, sadly, not uncommon.

What makes it all the more painful for me is the physical distance between us.

Devin, a high schooler, and Jack, in middle school, live in South Carolina.  The thousand miles that separate us can easily be breached via flights to the Palmetto State, or texts or calls or Facetime or Skype.  The visits, however, are far too infrequent.  The good-byes, too painful.  The daily calls, too brief and too shallow.

It is, in a word, awful.

The Red Sox have helped assuage that pain.

All summer long (heck, even back to last spring) Devin, Jack and I were able to cross those miles with discussions about the Sox.  Arguments about the everyday important issues a parent and a child engage in were eased, considerably, with a talk about David Ortiz or Dustin Pedroia.  Facing a challenge in school? Look at the way Stephen Drew kept plugging along and worked through his challenges.  Too tired to do your homework? You think Shane Victorino let a little fatigue get in the way of his conditioning? A project with other students not working out? Gather ‘em together, a la Big Papi, and work together to accomplish your goal.

I began to notice that it wasn’t necessarily the content of the conversation that helped bridge that geographic gap….it was, simply, the connection that helped.  During lulls in the conversation, I’d listen as the boys clicked on their PC, following the game online as they listened to Don and Eck on NESN in my living room here in New England.  National games we’d watch “together”, the two of them in South Carolina, while I tuned in here in Providence.  Nothing would be said, but none of us wanted to hang up.  I could hear their breathing, laughter, even their arguments.  Not being able to reach out and hug them (or physically separate them during their, ummm, “disagreements”) hurt, but sharing the games –even over the phone- was better than not hearing from them at all.

Last night’s game was quite the same for us: through Facetime I watched them watching the game.  We shared observations about the team, the crowd, the celebration; nothing of real substance was said until the party wound down and the conversation was about to end.

“I love you, Dad,” Devin told me, as Jack, yawning, added “I miss you.  I’m going to miss watching the Sox with you.”

“I love you too, gentlemen.  I love you, too.”

…and I quickly ended the conversation before they asked about the tears running down my cheek.

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Forget politics, it’s the World Series

As the hue and cry over the Affordable Care Act continues to rage, as the races for Mayor of Boston and New York heat up, as candidates announce their plans for the top spot in Rhode Island, it’s time to be serious for a moment….

…and discuss the Red Sox. 

Game six. 

Tonight.

Fenway. 

For the first time in decades, the Red Sox have an opportunity to win the World Series at home.  In 1975, after tying the Series on Carlton Fisk’s dramatic 12th inning home run in Game Six (considered by many to be the best World Series game ever played), the Sox lost to Cincinnati the next night at Fenway.  In 1918, behind the pitching of a burly left hander named George Herman Ruth – you might know him as Babe – the Sox beat the Chicago Cubs in seven; the final game was decided at Fenway. 

The 1918 Series may be best known as the last Sox championship in 86 years, but, for baseball enthusiasts there were two distinct other “firsts” that took place.  As World War I was winding down, the band at Wrigley Field played “The Star-Spangled Banner” during the seventh inning stretch.  It was the first time the song had been played at such a prominent sporting event.  More than a decade later, the song was officially christened the national anthem, and in World War II the tradition of playing the anthem at the start of the baseball games –and other sporting events- began. 

Less well-known by baseball fans was the decision to move all four umpires to the infield for the duration of the series.  In previous games, two umpires were positioned in the infield, the other two took spots in the outfield.  The 1918 Series moved all four in, leading to the current positioning favored in a four-umpire crew.  The six-umpire crew now used in the playoffs began in 1947. 

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Four? Heck, we could do it with just two.

Trying to get ducats for tonight’s game? Be prepared to shell out some pretty serious cash.  ESPN reports the average price for a resale ticket is $1,860.  Bleacher seats? Oh, those are only going for $1,100.  One customer, according to the ESPN report, shelled out $24,000 for a pair of front row seats.  The attendance at tonight’s game is expected to reach 38,000 people….

…that’s a far cry from the deciding game in 1918: only 15,000 showed up to watch the Sox beat the Cubs. 

I certainly didn’t dig deep to pay the thousand dollars required to watch the game. 

I’ll be watching, laptop up and running, from my living room.  Although I live alone, I won’t be watching alone.  This morning’s Globe has a great article on the popularity of social networking and sporting events. 

http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2013/10/29/sox-roll-fans-follow-every-twist-and-turn-twitter/U1W9Tq24gi6Nf88hra4nmM/story.html

Facebook and –especially- Twitter have brought together fans located thousands of miles apart to share in the joy and frustration in sporting events.   

….let’s hope there’s more of the former and none of the latter tonight.  

So you want to make money in journalism?

“Who here wants to be a billionaire?”

As a television anchor, radio talk show host, Washington DC correspondent (heck, even as a weathercaster) I was expected to speak before various groups, classes or organizations.  It’s called outreach, and it was designed to publicize the stations where I worked.  What better way, after all, to help bring attention to a newscast –or newscaster- than meeting the viewing public in person?  Over the past decade or so, I would begin each speech with the same question.

“Who here wants to be a billionaire? 

After some hesitation, the vast majority of those in the Rotary Club or college graduate level journalism seminar or middle school social studies class I was speaking to would raise their hands.  Some would thrust their arms up as high as possible, others in a casual sure-I’ll-go-along manner, a few would even spend a moment seriously contemplating the question….as if I were about to write a check for each person who did, in fact, want to become a billionaire. 

Inevitably, however, nearly everyone would say yes. 

“Fine,” I’d tell them.  “You want to become a billionaire? Here’s how: develop a system that can combine the best of old-school journalism with the internet…and the riches will be yours.”

Pretty simple, really.  Right?

Not necessarily. 

No one has yet been able to come up with a proper system that truly monetizes journalism.  Sure there are pay sites, there are advertisements that pop up whenever you click on a video link; there are subscriptions, fees and donation based sites. 

I bring all of this up because of a recent change in media ownership.  Red Sox owner John Henry, whose purchase of the Boston Globe was made official last week, described the Globe, its relationship to New Englanders, and the responsibility that comes with owning the paper.  Any owner of the Globe should be, he wrote, a steward.  

I can think of no better description for a news outlet owner.  Check out the story here….

http://www.boston.com/editorials/2013/10/27/why-bought-the-globe/sYfPrPjYKUG30Qc2bW3uCP/story.html 

His comments were quite interesting, but there are two things I picked up on: first, he worked on the McCarthy campaign in 1968.  For some reason that absolutely floored me.  Second, he gave such short shrift to the manner in which he made his money.  You, like me, I am sure, worry daily about the mortgage, the car payment, the cable bill, retirement, college funds for the kids.  I couldn’t imagine what life would be like without those pressures hanging overhead.  Mr. Henry has no such worries.  He worked hard.  He made hundreds of millions of dollars and then, after making his fortune, parlayed that fortune into sports ownership.  His group was responsible for ending an 86 year championship drought for the Red Sox, he invested millions into the improvement of Fenway, he purchased one of the most well-known English soccer teams….

…and now he owns the Globe. 

Not bad, Mr. Henry.  Not bad at all.

Perhaps it will take a billionaire (Forbes pegs Henry’s net worth at $1.7 billion) to come up with the matrix required to truly monetize journalism.  Truth be told….I’m still of the belief that journalism –as it was considered long ago- will always be a loss leader.  Perhaps finding that perfect combination of journalism, the web, and financial success is impossible. 

 

Sweet Caroline. Sweet, sweet music.

It isn’t John Adams defending the British after the Boston Massacre.*

It’s not Edmund Ross defying his party and voting to acquit President Andrew Johnson.

Hell, it’s not earth shattering or courageous.

It is, however, contrary to public opinion.

I like Sweet Caroline at Fenway.

There.  I said it. Consider me now on the opposite side of public opinion.

It’s become cool to make fun of the song’s use at Fenway; sportstalk radio hosts decry it, columnists demonize it, true baseball fans derogate it.  It begs the question, how did all of this get started? How did this silly song, written in the 1960’s about Caroline Kennedy, become the anthem for the Sox? More than a decade ago, Sox music directors would play it –periodically- during the season.  Once the new owners took over they recognized the tune’s catchy lyrics and upbeat manner would be ideal for a mid-game singalong.

After reading that previous sentence, I can understand why it’s become so criticized.  A singalong? At a baseball game? Really? Apparently the song’s make-up is ideal for crowds.  How? I have no clue.  A man who can provide a more adroit description of its use does so in this video produced by the Globe.  In it, Sox Vice President Dr. Charles Steinberg explains (and plays!) the method to the musical madness…

http://www.boston.com/sports/video/?bctid=2762435865001&pconnect_name=870095

Now, don’t accuse me of being a fair-weather, uninformed baseball fan.  I played for years; my family hosted Cape Leaguers from Cotuit during my childhood; I’ve followed the Red Sox my entire life and can tell you just where I was when Pudge hit the fair pole in ’75, Mike Torrez started the playoff game in ’78, and the ball got by Buckner in ’86.  I’m a certified umpire and can recite –word for word- the infield fly rule…and then explain it to you.  I was taught to keep score at Sox games.  I’ll tell you your arguments against Sweet Caroline are horseshit and not bullshit, because every baseball fan knows horseshit is used as an adjective in baseball and –as a curse- bullshit is simply….horseshit.

I ain’t no pink hat.

So, when the music starts playing in the middle of the eighth inning, I’m not one to groan or criticize.  I enjoy it.  It is yet another example of a shared experience with the 30-thousand plus fans sitting at Fenway.  Perhaps a sociologist could better explain the crowd/mob mentality and a psychologist could explain the physiological changes that take place in an individual when one joins up in song with the crowd.  I just know that I like it.

Critics of the song say there’s a time and a place for it.  When the Sox are down by double digits in the eighth, there is no reason why the crowd should be singing along.

Really?

Last year my sons and I were at Fenway for a game against Toronto.  The pitching staff was shelled and the Sox had no chance whatsoever to come back.  If a photo is worth a thousand words, this shot of Jack resting on my shoulder watching the debacle on the field explains it all.

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Fenway. During some not-so-fun times.

A few innings later, Neil Diamond’s cheesy tune (and yes, it IS cheesy) began to play; the frustration at the product on the field was soon forgotten as my sons and I laughed and sang along.  Does that make us bad fans?  Hell no.  We had already sent Josh Beckett to the showers in a shower of boos, and applauded in fake sincerity when the Sox finally extricated themselves from a rough inning.  They knew we weren’t happy.  But Devin, Jack and I weren’t there for the game itself.  If that were the case we could have stayed home and turned on NESN.  No, we went to walk with the crowd onto Yawkey Way; to enjoy an onion and pepper covered sausage before the game; to take in the sights, smells and, yes, sounds of Fenway.

One of those sounds can be heard when 30-thousand people are screaming, “So good! So good! So good!”

…even when the product on the field isn’t.

Thankfully, that’s not the case this year.

*Fun history fact: the Boston Massacre case began on this date in 1770.  The Massacre of the Cardinals is expected to conclude sometime next week.

I didn’t win…again?

To paraphrase Jimmy Buffet, if the phone ain’t ringing it must be you.  I woke up early this morning and checked my phone. 

Nothing.

I went to the gym and kept the phone right next to me.

Nothing.

I checked to see if I had any missed calls.

Nothing. 

The Nobel Prize in medicine was awarded today and those yahoos in Sweden ignored me…again. 

I’ll keep my phone handy tomorrow – the Prize for physics will be announced and I think I have a pretty good chance. 

http://www.nobelprize.org/

The Supremes

The first Monday in October marks the opening of the United States Supreme Court’s 2013 term. The Court will rule on cases that -according to the New York Times- feature, “…consequential constitutional issues, including campaign contributions, abortion rights, affirmative action, public prayer and presidential power.”   Interested in monitoring the day-to-day workings of the Court? Follow the SCOTUS blog.  It’s a fascinating discussion of each day’s docket that is accessible and understandable for everyone, including those of us who have no legal training whatsoever.  

http://www.scotusblog.com/

Speaking of the Supreme Court, this conversation with Justice Antonin Scalia is a must read.  It is well-worth the few moments it will take for you to peruse.  The Justice touches on the serious (last year’s term) and the not so serious (Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi.  Swear to God).

http://nymag.com/news/features/antonin-scalia-2013-10/

An Atheist And The Pontiff

So, you’re sitting at work today and one of your co-workers, in a shaky voice, tells you Pope Francis is on the phone.  What do you do?  Take the call, obviously. 

Even if you’re an atheist.

Especially if you’re an atheist….

…who just happens to be a journalist.  Pope Francis may turn out to be a revolutionary, a man who changes the focus of one of the most powerful institutions in the history of our civilization.  Read the interview, and pay close attention to the humility he manifests.  It’s also quite interesting to hear his comments on proselytizing.  From streetside preachers to bible thumping ministers in the pulpit, I’ve grown quite accustomed to the idea that foisting the word of God on others is a major tenant of Christianity.  I’ve never agreed with such drivel.  Apparently, neither does the head of the Catholic Church.  “Proselytism is solemn nonsense,” he says. 

http://www.repubblica.it/cultura/2013/10/01/news/pope_s_conversation_with_scalfari_english-67643118/ 

Let’s Talk

How’s that government shutdown working for you? I’m not quite sure what is being accomplished with this Sturm and Drang, especially since the House voted recently to pay those workers currently being furloughed. In a unanimous vote Saturday, the House passed a measure to retroactively pay 800,000 workers currently staying at home during the shut-down.  Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said those Department of Defense workers furloughed won’t be staying home any longer: he announced plans for civilian DOD employees to return to work this week.  Stuck in the middle of all this is House Speaker John Boehner who, in an interview Sunday, mentioned (22 times!) that he’d like to have a conversation with President Obama to discuss a reconciliation of the issue.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2013/10/07/john-boehner-wants-to-talk-badly/?wprss=rss_the-fix&clsrd 

Two Down, Nine To Go 

Sox.

Sweep.

St. Petersburg. 

Six o’clock tonight….

…hopefully.      

 

False Equivalence, the ACA in Rhode Island, biker madness

It’s a common –and easy to understand- effort by journalists to maintain objectivity: covering both sides of an issue and assigning equal weight to the actions of each side.  Opponents of wind farms decry the costs of offshore windmills; supporters say those costs are offset by the benefits derived from a new, sustainable energy source.  Rail subsidies are needed to clear up highways and offer an alternative to air travel; opponents ask why subsidize an industry that doesn’t necessarily succeed in the marketplace?  There are plenty of nuances in the examples listed above, but, in a sixty to ninety second television package, or a 45 second radio wrap, or a few-paragraphs long newspaper article those nuances are hardly mentioned. 

Journalists, limited by resources, tend to resort to the most “fair” aspect of coverage: here’s one side of the story….

…and here’s the other. 

It works, most of the time.

This time, it isn’t working.

False Equivalence – it’s a logical fallacy that assigns equal weight between two arguments.

False Equivalence has been all over the coverage of the current government shutdown. 

Jon Stewart pointed this out in his coverage of the shutdown Monday night.  It’s worth a view. 

http://www.salon.com/2013/10/01/must_see_morning_clip_jon_stewart_skewers_republicans_over_government_shutdown/ 

On a whim, I decided to pull up Rhode Island’s Affordable Care Act website yesterday morning.  It was, after all, the first day in which Rhode Islanders could sign up for Obamacare.  I clicked on the link ( www.healthsourceri.com ) and waited….

…and waited….

…and waited. 

Nothing. 

“Interesting,” I thought.  “Either the managers of this program are inept, or it is exceedingly popular and unable to handle the demand.”  My guess is that it’s the latter. Oh, and after a quick trip over to the site this morning brought it up immediately. 

You’ve seen the video, right? WBZ’s story shows the crying mother and angry wife, emotional over the injuries sustained by their son/husband in a motorcycle accident over the weekend in New York.  A young professional driving his expensive Ranger Rover, plowed over the motorcyclist, leaving him paralyzed and in a coma.

http://boston.cbslocal.com/2013/10/01/wife-says-lawrence-man-paralyzed-in-nyc-road-rage-incident-caught-on-video/

Deplorable.

Disgusting. 

Downright…justified?

Helmet cam video has since been uncovered of these bikers making their way through New York City, taking over the highways and streets and –at best- creating a general nuisance while –at worst- posing a serious threat to themselves and other commuters. 

 

http://jalopnik.com/watch-nyc-bikers-attack-range-rover-after-driver-runs-o-1427168165

The video shows one biker “brake checking” the Range Rover (brake checking is a long-time Masshole act: a driver passes another driver and then slows down right in front of him); the biker is struck and the entire group stops.  Apparently the Ranger Rover driver, in the car with is his wife and infant, felt threatened when the group surrounded his vehicle began banging on the door, and slashed his tires.  His fight or flight instinct kicked in, and he drove off (and over our victim) to escape.  He was a caught a few moments later, pulled out of his car and beaten.  The NYPD continues to investigate the incident and has charged one man in connection with the assault.

Our Ranger Rover driver? He faces no charges.  

 

 

She’s running…but it’s not who you think; tears of sadness and loss.

It looks as if it’s going to happen.  A well-known Democratic woman is, in fact, going to run for the state’s top office. 

Gina Raimondo?

No, she hasn’t made it official….yet.  I’m talking about another pol, this one deep in the heart of Texas. 

Various media outlets reported yesterday that Texas State Senator Wendy Davis, she of the Quixotic filibuster, rags-to-riches, Harvard-educated, pink-running-shoes story will run for Governor of Texas in 2014.  A not so subtle tweet (“A week from today I’m announcing something big”) seemed to confirm what most expected.  The tweet went on to ask supports for a donation “…to show the strength of our grassroots network.”  She’ll need those donations.  Democrats haven’t won a state-wide election in Texas in more than two decades and her likely opponent, Attorney General Greg Abbot, has more than $20 million in his campaign chest.  Conventional wisdom says Davis will need to raise double that to run a successful campaign. 

http://news.yahoo.com/sources-wendy-davis-running-texas-governor-194437317–election.html

Rhode Island Treasurer Gina Raimondo’s more than $2 million campaign war chest makes her look like a piker compared to Davis; as we all know, however, $2 million here in The Biggest Little (thanks, P&J) can go a long way.  Raimondo’s challenge won’t come from fundraising: her New York investment connections and the well-funded EMILY’s List are expected to fill those coffers, instead, she’ll face battle  from state employees upset over her efforts to fix Rhode Island’s moribund pension system.    That battle escalated a bit yesterday as hundreds of protesters voiced their displeasure with the –as yet unannounced- candidate at a fundraiser in Providence last night. 

http://www.providencejournal.com/breaking-news/content/20130926-raimondo-raises-support-while-protesters-raise-their-voices.ece 

Break out the tissues….

 

If -after reading the following stories- you’re not in tears, you have no heart.  While checking out the Globe this morning, I noticed the smiling faces of a happy couple on the front page of the Metro section.  The picture appeared to be a wedding photo and, curiosity piqued, I clicked on the link.  It was a wedding photo, and the story within contained a true love story between two people who were lucky to find each other.  The couple does not live happily ever after, and there is no fairy tale ending here.  Tragedy strikes this pair.  Despite the sad ending, however, there was –at least in my mind- a sense of hope, contentment, joy that these two found each other before real life intruded.  Read the story, I urge you, but have some Kleenex close by.

http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2013/09/26/neil-carruthers-and-tina-carruthers-stoneham-couple-paths-converged-before-they-died-hours-apart/CgRlMo2kB5GmcssvOiOyxK/story.html 

If you’re a sports fan, you’ve very likely already seen this clip.  If you’re not, it’s worth a view.  A professional athlete, who has achieved the highest level of success in his field, yet who has found time to give back to those around him, stepped out of the spotlight last night.  Mariano Rivera, a relief pitcher whose job it is to protect his team, did just that for years.  Last night this classy individual was removed from his final game at Yankee Stadium in as classy a manner as possible.  His manager told Rivera’s longtime teammates Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte to make the switch.  Rivera chuckled when he first saw the pair walking out to the mound, but moments later he broke down –in front of thousands at Yankee Stadium and countless more via video- in a catharsis of emotion.   I can’t do the moment justice, simply click on the link and watch, and make sure you still have some tissues to help you through.

http://wapc.mlb.com/play/?topic_id=11493214&content_id=30974179