Moneyball – the movie edition which featured Brad Pitt, who looks nothing like Billy Beane – came out on a fall Friday during my senior year of college.
I had already read the book a couple times, getting lost in the poetic phrases Michael Lewis provided, such as “Nine Scott Hattebergs are, by some measure, the best offense in baseball.”
Safe to say, I was thrilled to see the movie, which I went to see in Savoy with my friend, Pat.
The film was in the very least entertaining. I know the script had been drafted, torn apart, drafted again, put through a shredder and then re-written. For all the struggles the movie had in just being made, it turned out quite well. After all, how can you not be romantic about baseball?
Towards the end of the movie, after the declined job offer from the Red Sox Beane watches the clip of (The Blue Plate Special) Jeremy Brown hitting a home run in the video room. He then is seen driving his car. Beane slips in a CD into his stereo and its of his daughter singing. It’s the attempt to pull at the heartstrings a little bit.
Time to make fun of myself a little bit: it’s also at that point, that my eyes tend to get extremely stressed from staring at a screen for an extended period of time (we’re pushing more than two and a half hours when you factor in opening credits). My eyes dry out, and if I begin to rub them, I start to produce tears.
For some reason, my eyes were extremely dry at the end of the movie, and I was rubbing them a lot.
Instead of thinking of something clever to say to Pat about why I was tearing up – like that I was just so upset Jonah Hill was cast to play ‘Peter Brandt’ – I explained to Pat that “it’s just my eyes! I swear!”
I like that the film tried to get your emotions going. But it tried to do too much. It wanted to establish a relationship between Beane and his daughter that made you care. It wanted to introduce math into the game. It wanted to remind you how beautiful a game that baseball can be.
Nothing compares to how special a moment is to actually living in it. Every re-creation will ultimately fail.
Just look at this past World Series between the Royals and Giants. You couldn’t have asked for much more as a fan.
How can you not be romantic about baseball?
After watching Moneyball again today, I already miss watching games. Thank goodness these next couple months are intriguing.
We’ve already had an interesting offseason with Joe Maddon departing the Rays for the pastures as green as the Wrigley Field ivy on a July afternoon. [An aside: if Maddon was going to leave the Rays for any team, I’m glad it was for the team I grew up watching.] We have a ton of free agent pitchers that are salivating to get paid. We have excitement in markets that haven’t had any in so long (except you, Mets fans – sorry to admit it, but it’s true).
Best of all, we just a few more months until pitchers and catchers report to see it all come to fruition.
And even if we do get disappointed, there’s always next year, and I can’t wait.
I have a big week this week. I don’t want to dish out all the details, but baseball is involved once again. How do you say thank you to something that has given you so much already? Stay tuned….
I breathe in deep and the cold, 65-degree air begins to fill my lungs. On a good day, my nose and cheeks turn a rosy red. On a bad day, they would have either remained peachy or started to look like beets.
Then I exhale and the can hear the wind rushing out of my mouth.
There’s a constant rustle in the background. It is not an inconvenience at all, but rather a welcome sight.
This. This is what I live for.
I am not there, but for a brief moment, I am. Read More…
A little over a year ago, I was told a story about domestic violence. I only heard this secondhand from the person that was in the room when the information was revealed.
It involved an athlete – I believe it was a football player but cannot remember for certain; based on the time of year, it would have made more sense had it been basketball instead.
The player was going through a mock interview of what sort of questions would be asked during a draft combine / at some point before a pro draft.
“Would you ever hit a woman,” I was told the interviewer asked.
“Yeah,” the athlete responded. “Bitch deserved it.”
The story, which was told to me by a female, was meant to be humorous – nobody would be that stupid to actually tell a potential employer that you hit women, right? Yes, the answer was ridiculous. But I remember at the time feeling uneasy about what I had heard.
If I knew the identity of the athlete, trust me, I further action would have been taken immediately.
Instead that player was corrected that an answer such as that would not be looked too favorably by a team. To the best of my knowledge, he was not instructed that what he had done was morally wrong and criminal.
When I saw the video of the Ray Rice incident this morning, the uneasy feelings I had felt a year ago now felt a general sickness to my stomach. To actually see a man strike a woman really put things in perspective. It’s something I had never seen besides in a movie, but to know that actual pain was suffered by a human being – to see it – it got my blood boiling a little bit.
As I cooled off to begin a very exhaustive day, I began to think: why, because you wear a jersey, are some violent actions against women not only brushed aside, but the clearance celebrated?
Look just weeks ago at the Ray Rice situation. A two-game suspension was arbitrarily tossed in by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. It was only because of backlash that Goodell instead later on announced violators of domestic violence would be subject to a six-game ban instead. When Rice showed up to training camp, he was cheered by Baltimore fans.
Why? Because he can run with a catch a football.
While I’m understandably upset at these athletes, countless others that we have heard about, and the many more we haven’t, I’m just as upset as us as a society.
We have let women down.
It’s time we all take a step back and reflect about what this Rice situation has brought us. We can, and I believe we are, making great strides to see how egregious this really is. Now let’s do something about it.
The next time this happens – and it will happen – we need to show our character and tell the perpetrator that violence against a woman is not OK. Maybe after extensive rehabilitation we can begin to accept once again, but anything else besides championing the victim is, quite simply, a failure.
I remember waking up a year ago somewhat late in the morning (I’m talking around 9ish), and checking my phone. It was the usual — Facebook, Twitter, whatever. Then I remembered, I had to send my stepmom a text.
“Good luck today!” is all I believe it said.
She was running in the Boston Marathon. My dad was there for moral support. Things had been going well, I recall from the racetracker. She was racing strong, and as it turned out, she earned a really good time.
Then about 15 minutes later, things quickly changed.
As I was playing MLB The Show, I remember receiving a text from my dad.
“There’s something big going on right here,” he said.
My dad had always been a jokester. He was more sarcastic than serious, most of the time. I believe I said something to the effect of, “Yeah, a marathon.”
A couple minutes later: “No, a couple explosions. I think they may have come from the subway. Trying to find Brenda now.”
I immediately turned on CNN (ESPN had not started covering the explosions yet) and began texting my dad with any updates I could get. More of a coincidence, he found my stepmom. Everything around Boston had already been shut down and it was time for them to get back to the hotel — better run the five miles there.
In the mean time, everybody was trying to call them, including myself to make sure they were OK. The media reports and Twitter made things worse because of the uncertainty surrounding the events.
Then my boss called. “Greg, you need to come into the office, there were some bombs at the Boston Marathon.”
You don’t think I know that? I’m freaking out over here. I thought about telling him “Forget it.”
“OK,” I think were my only words.
I headed into work and began researching any local runners who were competing and came up with a list of about 15. I couldn’t focus at all, to be honest.
Finally after about an hour after my dad’s second text I got a phone call. They were OK and back at the hotel. The phone signals had reportedly been poor, and they were using the navigation on their phones (data worked for some reason?) and wanted to get to safety first.
* * *
The next couple weeks were more retributive. The heinous people had been killed and captured. There was a sense of accomplishment from that.
Time continued to pass. The way my dad coped with it was under the theory that “tragedy breeds comedy.” He and I routinely made awful jokes about it. I knew it make him feel better.
My stepmom took it much harder. I think it was because she always felt safe running. To be fair, runners are the absolute nicest people in the world. How could somebody do that to the running community? There was a quiet intensity that was burning inside of her, I could see it.
She was going to run that race April 21, 2014, and nobody could stop her. Not even a set of broken ankles would have slowed her down.
The months went by and it only got stronger. Though she was a transplant from Wisconsin living in Illinois, she was the embodiment of “Boston Strong.”
Finally, today, it was race day. I wished her good luck again, today. She flew by the first half of the race but started having some stomach issues in the latter half. Regardless, she still put up a great time.
She needed a day like that.
Boston needed a day like that.
You and I needed a day like that.
I can only speak for my close family, but you see, it seems that each of us had an incredible amount of adversity to deal with this past year. I think we can draw inspiration from April 21, 2014.
There’s something to be said about the perseverance of people like my stepmom who were not going to let last year’s events dictate today. In fact, it only made her stronger. Same with the other thousands of runners who participated.
It’s almost as if to say, “You destroyed us last year. You destroyed me. But I’m going to do all I know how to do — put one foot in front of the other and keep going. You can’t beat me.”
“I’m better than you.“
And Boston proved that it was better than the terrorist acts of two individuals and they did it simply by running — one of the most pacifist acts you can do. How incredible is that? That’s something we can embrace and admire.
Like the rhythmic steps, continuous in their motion, we need to remember that: “You can’t beat me. I’m better than you.”
When I saw on Twitter on Wednesday that the Milwaukee Bucks had been sold, my heart sunk a little bit.
I had been a fan of the team my entire life, but a sale by Senator Herb Kohl was inevitable as he continued to age. The rumors had been floating around for months, even years; when, not will, the team get moved to Seattle?
And although I knew Herb Kohl said many times that he would only sell to somebody who would keep the team in the state he represented for 24 years, those who purchased the team had the say when they took over.
So forgive me for recalling dozens of fond memories at the Bradley Center.
* * *
I grew up in Gurnee, Ill., a suburb of Chicago right off of I-94. Our interstate access allowed us to easily take a one-hour trip down to Chicago if we ever wanted to. But it was also just an hour north to get to Milwaukee. It’s because of the proximity to these major cities that in the 1970’s, Six Flags opened a theme park there.
But I grew up in the 90s – when the greatest player of the era played for the team to the south – how on earth did I grow up a fan of a team that has seemingly been stuck in basketball purgatory all my life?
Well I wish I could say otherwise, but I don’t recall going to my fist Bucks game. It’s my understanding that I was still a baby. But what I can remember is that at a very young age, I fell in love with the game of basketball. Get the ball through a hoop: it was a simple yet complex game.
I soaked the game up like a sponge. I wanted to learn about it as much as I could, and my parents obliged. But at that time, money was very tight, and Bulls tickets were an arm and a leg for nosebleed seats. Luckily, Milwaukee afforded a much cheaper opportunity.
Roughly once a year – sometimes twice if it was a good year – we’d make our trips up there. I remember my first jersey was a purple Todd Day jersey that I wore each time with such pride. There was the time that we went with my dad’s co-worker, who had seats right behind the basket. There was another time we sat on the upper level, and two random people we chatted up had a pair of extra tickets and offered us to move to the lower level. It seemed like every trip we made up there as a youngin’ got better and better.
The height of the excitement game right at the turn of the century with a Big Three of Ray Allen, Glenn Robinson and Sam Casell. The team would eventually go on to lose in the Eastern Conference Finals (with controversy) to the Philadelphia 76ers. But you had better believe not a day went by that year that I wasn’t consumed with the team. May I remind you that this was in the era of dial-up internet so there was no streaming or Gametracker. It got to the point that I would turn on ESPN and just stare at the bottom line waiting for the score to flash by. Most days, the rather poor radio in my room would pick up 620 WTMJ and I could listen to Ted Davis announce the games. I loved it.
Milwaukee started to become progressively worse. First, Ray Allen was traded away midway through the 2003 season. Then that following offseason, Cassell and Robinson were also dealt. Gary Payton left as a free agent and the team only had budding star Michael Redd to rely on.
He was enough for me and my dad to keep going to games. A couple years later, my dad requested the game that we go to. He wanted to see Phoenix and Steve Nash play live. OK, I can’t say no to that.
Nash didn’t disappoint, either. He had 23 points and seven assists that night. But I won’t be forgetting what else happened that night. My Bucks absolutely rolled past one of the NBA’s best teams using a barrage of 3’s. Redd was 6-for-11 from distance, Charlie Bell was 5-of-8. But in the 46-point third quarter, the show belonged to Toni Kukoc. The Croation Sensation was absolute money and was hitting shots he had absolutely no business hitting. It was a stellar night neither I nor my dad have since forgotten.
Unfortunately through high school and college, the number of games quickly dropped. And since moving down to Florida, I haven’t been to the Bradley Center. I watch as many games as I can but it’s just not the same as being there with my dad.
* * *
Not too long after I saw the Tweet of the Bucks sale, somebody else mentioned that a condition of the sale was that the team would stay in Milwaukee. Yeah right, I thought.
Then shortly into the press conference that introduced Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry, I saw the news that absolutely thrilled me. Not only would these two investment bankers invest $100 million into a new arena, Kohl was going to do the same. Yep, $200 million towards a new arena – nearly half the expected price for a new home. My Bucks would not leave Milwaukee anytime soon.
I can’t wait until the new arena is built – I only hope it has the beautiful Robert Indiana-inspired court at the BMOHBC now. Whatever it takes, I’ll find a way to go to a game there that first year. And of course, I’m going to take my dad and buy him a beer, hopefully with another memory to make.
I only hope that one day, and I’m positive I will, to take my own kids there and have them experience the same magic I was able to.
Today, I present to you this video without comment. Happy Opening Day.
My bare feet are cold on the tiled ground as I start to lean in.
As a tall man, some things are not made for you – especially if they were probably built in the 1940s or ’50s.
My bathroom is one such area, which makes one of my most important reflective periods – both literally and figuratively – a little more difficult. Read More…