Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Unpublished excerpt from "When Baseball Met Hollywood"

Last year I worked on a proposed book on the marriage of West Coast baseball and Hollywood. Whether this work will ever see the light of day via the regular publishing process is a mystery. But why let it sit forlornly on my computer. I will run pieces sporadically. Enjoy!
Herman the Rookie. Though by no means one of the first baseball and Hollywood get-togethers, it aired on April 8, 1965, it is one of the greatest. Let’s say an Abraham Lincoln, rather than a Founding Father. It’s another one of Leo Durocher’s appearances in a sweeping show biz career.

On a non-descript Los Angeles field, Herman begins by teaching Eddie the fine points of a curveball, fine to the point of causing the ball to explode in a chalky mist. Turning to a more non-destructive task, Herman gently lofts the ball in the air to hit a fungo. With a mortar shell whistle, the ball goes stratospheric, giving Herman an extensive period to explain proper hitting technique to Eddie, getting all the facts in before the ball clonks him on the noggin. Calmly Herman picks up the ball amid the debris of the first ball, and launches it into space, a Gemini rocket with red stitches.

Turn to Leo Durocher, looking like a wrinkled ‘30’s gangster. Outside Claudio’s CafĂ©-Bar, Leo bemoans the Dodgers' lack of a power slugger, seconds before he is nailed on his bald dome by Herman’s swat from eight blocks away. Leo is very believable as he slumps to the ground and baseball man to the end, ignores his dented skull to pursue the man behind the hit.
After the opening credits, we see Leo in the phone booth, tossing the ball in the air and talking to “Walt,” one of two Dodger Walts, Manager Alston or Owner O'Malley. Leo’s a natural, counting on his “sincere, lovable, charming personality” to get Herman’s name on a Dodger contract. Walt reacts with shock, because we all know, including the laugh track, that Leo is an irascible old cuss.

Over a dinner of double-headed pig (a sly little baseball reference - double header, not pig), Eddie recounts how Herman destroyed all their baseballs. Leo pulls up in his luxury convertible, stopping in front of 1313 Mockingbird Lane. Welcomed by the beautiful Marilyn, Leo little suspects what lurks inside. Like most who leave the East Coast for sunny California, Leo takes a shot at his former Dodger home, citing that he’s never seen anything so run down and creepy, even in Brooklyn. Now in L.A., there’s no time for fond reminiscences of the Dodgers' former home. Leo’s reacts queasily to Lily's greenness (in glorious black and white) and hides behind the dusty old couch when Grandpa appears in a giant flame. Nothing compares to his first sight of Herman emerging from the dungeon via the trapdoor in the living room floor. Grandpa, oblivious to the obvious, assumes that Herman’s black suit reminds Leo of past umpire foes and is the cause of “The Lip’s” swoon.

Settling him in to the electric chair, Leo revives in mid- argument with an ump. Though wary of Herman’s gullibility, the family leaves him alone with Durocher. Leo wins him over and Herman has visions of endorsements and appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show. Pontificating about career, Herman wonders about the relative merits of safety and security at his funeral home job, as opposed to the glory of a baseball career. Serious matters, one that all job-holders ruminate over, and Herman is no different, weighing these lofty issues as he throws an apple against the wall. The apple ricochets back into his face with a mighty squish.

Lily does her husband's dirty work and calls his boss, Mr. Gateman, to inform him that Herman is trying out for the Dodgers and we cut to a ball field. It’s more of a Little League field than a field a major league team would find itself on, but so be it. None of the uniforms have Dodger insignias or logos, signifying a possible lack of Dodger approval for this episode. Leo boots Bill from the batters box so Herman can hit. Sporting number 26, Bill looks like Darrell Griffith, Dodger outfielder of the time. Herman sports rookie pitcher Mike Kekich’s number 37. Breaking his first bat while tapping the dirt off his giant Frankenstein boot, Herman gets down to business. One ball is shot over the centerfield trees, a grounder digs a trench in the infield, and still another knocks part of the scoreboard over. And then players begin to fall. The third baseman has a grounder burn a hole through his glove, though not through his hand. The first baseman is sent flying as Hermie rounds the bag.

Herman’s brute strength causes Leo to ponder signing Herman to the Dodgers or sending him to Vietnam. In April of 1965, the war was still something one could joke about; the anti-war movement still a year or two from gaining momentum. We cut back briefly to Grandpa at home, showing off his new invention, a ball that always curves. It has nothing on Koufax though. As the players huddle around Herman for autographs, including one for Don Drysdale (although not by Drysdale), Herman heads to the field. Herman plows through the chain link fence to catch a towering fly ball. Trying his hand at second base, Herman levels the base runner merely by standing there, then forces the first baseman into a somersault with his throw to first. When Leo tells Herman to throw home, the catcher begs off. This backstop is former Los Angeles Angel outfielder Ken Hunt, who is credited with an appearance on the show. Everyone leaves the field and Herman whines “Nobody wants to play with me.” Another ball is destroyed in the tantrum.
Owner Walt O’Malley puts the kibosh on the Munster project, citing costs of $75,000 to fix Dodger Stadium after Herman’s trail of wreckage. Let’s be fair - with the 1964 Dodgers eighth in a ten-team league in batting average and known for their offensive futility, there’s no price O’Malley wouldn’t have paid for Herman’s power. Even without the towering green giant, the Dodgers managed to win the National League pennant that year followed by a World Series victory over the Minnesota Twins, who had their own slugging monster, Harmon Killebrew.

Back at the park, Herman punts a football that hits Rams great and General Manager Elroy “Crazylegs” Hirsch outside Claudio’s. But that’s for a different book.

Monday, December 22, 2008

You Are What You Read

I've always said you are what you read and watch and listen to. At least my oldest friend Jimmy points out that I've always said that. I can't recall, but itmakes for a great segue to what has been on my mind.

I don't fancy myself a reading snob. At 46 I still read my smattering of baseball books in the course of the year. What does bug me is when adults read kid's books. I know that the Harry Potter phenomenon was a tidal wave that seemingly few could resist, but resist they must. It doesn't even have to do with whether Potter is good or not. When my peers would say with great pride that they are reading Potter, my gag reflex would kick in. Aren't there any adult books for you to read? How about Crime and Punishment or Huckleberry Finn? Reading anything to say you read scores no points with me.

Which leads to the second point. I can't tell you how many times I've heard a parent say they are glad their kid is reading, regardless of what it is. So, if your kid reads the worse dross available, that's great because "at least they're reading." I have never heard such low standards applied to any other category. Sure, my 12 year old may be eating nothing but Zagnut candy bars, "but at least he's eating." Or, my 10 year old daughter chugs Jack Daniels, "but at least she's not dehydrated." I'm not saying the average 14 year old should read John Toland's 1000+ page bio of Adolf Hitler like I did at that age, which is troubling on a completely different level. It merely seems that a higher standard should be placed on the content, not simply the act.

With those curmudgeonly thoughts, I bid you all Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year. See you in '09.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


I was going to tack this on to the last post, but it would have involved time travel, as my point for today only happened today, not earlier in the week.
Obama picks Rick Warren, Christian darling for the invocation. Fine, piss off the gay-lesbian community by signifying a pro-Prop 8 guy for a solemn and significant inauguration position. Sure, don't worry that your supporters are overwhelmingly pro-choice and Warren is ardently anti-choice, pro-life, or any other term that means the same thing. Every day, what passes as post-partisanship is just flat out stupefying behavior. I cannot recall anyone who has gone out of his way to this extent to suck up to his opponents and downright enemies, while screwing over his supporters and friends.
I hear Rush Limbaugh may be hired as chief speechwriter. It would be a nice nod to the "new politics." In an outreach to his foes, it wouldn't be out of line for Obama himself to admit that he pals around with terrorists.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Meet the New Boss?

Just a few points on Obama and the Blago scandal.
This delay to get together who in the President-elect's camp spoke to the greedy gov casts suspicion where perhaps none should be. But, realistically, how many people could it have been - Rahm, Axelrod, Obama. It shouldn't take long to find out.
Remember when everyone in the Bush administration refused to talk about the Fitzgerald-led investigation into the Plame leak? Anyone not in the tank for Bush pointed out that cowering behind a refusal to comment on an "ongoing investigation" was a patently empty position. No prosecutor can legally keep a lid on testimony like that. Today, Obama said he was asked by Fitzgerald to not comment. Really? I don't recall the U.S. Attorney giving that cover to the Bush-men. Maybe he is shielding Obama, Maybe Obama is using the current establishment's handiest excuse to clam up. It doesn't add up.
Either all this is a stall with a real purpose behind it, like a cover up, but I really doubt that. Or, it's a baffling posture that only creates skepticism, rather than diffusing it. Neither option are good examples of the "new politics" we heard so much about.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Semi-Comfortable Old Rocker

Neil Young has always had a place in my listening life, a place that I have never quite figured out. I kinda like him, kinda don't. Somehow I have accumulated 19 albums of his over the years, because you never know when you'll be in the mood to hear Welfare Mothers. I think my issue with Mr. Young is that he is, with few exceptions, pretty humorless. In other words, for those who think Neil Young is equal to (or better than) Bob Dylan, you're cracked.

So, why did I find myself driving 3 1/2 hours to Worcester, MA, to see Neil Young in concert? Partly it was a birthday present for my son. A bigger attraction was seeing Wilco as the opener. The drive was inspired, woods encrusted within a sheath of ice, some trees peeled like bananas from the weight on their limbs. White birches in particular couldn't handle the strain, bent over into arches forming wickets on a huge croquet course.

Everest led off the festivities with a reasonably enjoyable and predictably short set, followed by Wilco. I went to the show preferring an hour of Neil Young and 2 1/2 hours of Wilco. Not likely, I know, but I wish for it still. There are few better bands than the Chicago troupe, and few better songwriters than Jeff Tweedy.

The main event mirrored my feelings for the performer. There were some real highlights and some real losers. As a friend said, it seemed like the set list was created with the idea that he had to "put some shit songs in." I'm sure they are all gems to Young, but, like any good parent, judgment is clouded with the act of creation. I'll stick to the important points.

Cortez the Killer has always been one of my favorite Neil Young songs. I tend not to enjoy long-winded jam sessions, but this one is different. A dreamy vision of a genocidal madman. Nice touch. Young played beautiful laconic solos for the first 2/3 of the tunes, but when he spit out the first mention of the protagonist - "Cortez, what a killer"- his subsequent solo screamed with rage. A bit later in the show, Young did a trio of blatant, hit you on the head with a hammer, protest songs. Singing about coughing up the bucks, filling up the gas tank and saving mother earth was unaffecting. But the searing indictment of our foreign policy misadventures through the connection to Cortez' Spanish colonialism was hard to miss. And it hurt.

An acoustic version of another fave, Needle and the Damage Done, was also gripping, but brought to mind the problems of stupid audience participation. The song, a gut-wrenching account of losing friends and band members to drug abuse, is greeted with cheers and yells with every reference to junkies and narcotics. Not exactly the proper response. It's like in The Who's Baba O'Riley. It never fails that the audience will sing with pride "teenage wasteland." It's not a compliment, dude.

Now that I've mentioned The Who, another point needs to be made. When I saw Roger Daltrey in 1982 sing "Hope I die before I get old" as Pete Townshend thrashed away behind him, they seemed, at around 40, ancient and embarrassing to my 20 year old eyes. It seemed incongruous, to say the least. Still does. When Young sings in Hey Hey, My My that it's better to burn out than to fade away, all I can say is that if he thinks he is in the former class, the group he seems to admire, then he is using one long fuse.

Around this point in the show, the drugs kicked in for the guy sitting next to me. He stood up and screamed, loudly, "I came for the sugar cookies." Either this was some hipster code that a square like me just doesn't get or it was possibly the single dumbest thing I've ever heard uttered in or out of a concert. Long after this show has been forgotten, that moment will last. There will never be a sugar cookie in the presence of my friends, my son and myself, that will not be greeted with "I came for the sugar cookies." And so, a catchphrase is born.

Bathrooms at Worcester's DCU Center are poorly spaced and not nearly large enough. After a futile early attempt, I figured I'd try again during a slow part of the Young set. Word to the wise. When you go to a show whose audience demographics swing heavily to men over 55, prepare for long lines to the bathroom all night long. Prostate issues clearly abound.

Back to the show. The second half was malignantly boring. The encore was something else. My son and I had read, and seen on YouTube, that Young was performing The Beatles' A Day in the Life. I think we had both forgotten this, but not entirely, because when the first note rang out, we both looked at each other and smiled, mouthing the title. It was a fabulous finale and, like all great endings, redeemed the tedium of the bits that came before it. Kudos to Neil Young on his choice. While most artists save the best songs for the end, it is a truly confident one who picks the best song of the night as his encore, and it's not one of his own. Well-played, sir.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Laughs from the Past

For kids of the era, the Monster-mania of the late 1950's and 1960's was a high water mark for creep culture. Famous Monsters of Filmland, the monthly bible of the movement, was a gloriously ghoulish glimpse of the famous and not so famous things of the past. In any given issue, you might find an interview with Boris Karloff, or full-page photos of werewolves. For those who weren't there, you get the picture. The mag was influential, so much so that director Peter Jackson recalled seeing stills from a long since vanished scene from the original King Kong, which inspired him to create the segment for his 2005 remake. It is the highlight of the film.

Forrest Ackerman, who died one week ago, was the brain behind FMoF. (Visions of the flying brain and attached spinal cords from Fiend without a Face invariably spring to mind). To him I owe a longtime fascination with a picture of Conrad Veidt in The Man Who Laughs. Veidt had already made his mark on film history as the sleepwalker in the seminal Cabinet of Dr. Caligari when THWL came out in 1927. He would late create another timeless role as Major Strasser, who eats some Bogie-fired lead in Casablanca. Veidt plays Gwynplaine, the son of an anti-monarch rebel in 17th century England. He had been kidnapped as a lad and sold by the king into the hands of depraved gypsies, often the focal of intrigue in movies of the period. A surgeon, and who knew gypsies had medical staff, carve a huge clownish grin into the young boy's face. The image of Veidt with his frozen smile and sad eyes kept me awake when I was 6. I assumed the movie was a classic horror show.

It's not. It is a romantic melodrama and very affecting. However, like many over the top romances of the day, there are occasional inadvertent laughs. While the movie is silent, it has a soundtrack with occasional crowd noise and music. Without a hint of irony, a song called "When Love Comes Smiling" swells up as Gwynplaine realizes he is worthy of love. Words change meaning over time and are usually a source of unexpected yuks. In this case, it is hysterical. While ridiculous character names abound (Gwynplaine, Dr. Harquannone, Barkliphedro, et al), one actor suffers under the dreaded moniker of Homo. It may help that this role is that of a faithful and later murderous dog, and it also is of some solace that the furry thespian's real name is Zimbo. But when dialogue cards come up that scream "Be quiet Homo," "Where are you leading me Homo" and just plain "Homo," it is then the audience itself is left with a surgically affixed smile.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Gathering No Moss

After a couple of years of stalling, and countless issues of Consumer Reports later, I have finally dipped my toe in the waters of hi def television. With a 32" screen and a Blu Ray DVD player, the wonders of current TV technology have entered our house. The digital stations, particularly those that feature nature programs are staggering. I had no idea how hairy elephants were. Box sets like Blue Planet go one step further towards true reality television. But for the best and most true to life visions of the Grand Canyon and deep ravines, no disc could be better than Shine a Light, Martin Scorsese's concert film of The Rolling Stones. No natural formation can rival the deep crevasses and trenches that mark the faces of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. And no rock can rock like these old veterans.

One of my sons said, mockingly, that Keith has an "angel's voice." There's some truth in that. His rare vocals are always a treat, and they have an otherworldly quality. In fact, Keith himself only seems partly there. He is both participant and spectator, enjoying both roles equally. Richards is insanely appealing. Literally, his insanity is appealing and can't help but connect with the audience. He is a pal to everyone, resting his arm on Jack White, Ron Wood and the mike stand. When he puts his arm on Mick and rests his head on Jagger's shoulder, there is a depth of emotion that Jags, all show, can never reach. Richards has a natural feel that he could not come close to producing when he tried to act in the Pirates of the Caribbean 3.

Jagger is polished and performs his usual shtick. He has always been a caricature of himself, so self-parody is impossible. He is as ridiculous mincing around in his 60's as he was in the 1960's. It has always been hard to fathom how the Stones could be seen as sex symbols. There are few bands who are as remorseless ugly. When Jagger struts around Christina Aguilera, outdoing Martin Short's best Ed Grimley, there is a discomfort that is hard to shake. You just don't want to see this old dude touch her.

A note on Marty. Why do the Stones torture him by not allowing him a glimpse of the set list so he could set up the opening shot? I guess because they can. Buddy Guy steals the show in the same way that Muddy Waters did in The Last Waltz. Perhaps this is simply the presence of a genuine blues giant amidst pretenders, although very good pretenders. Maybe it's the way Guy and Waters seem possessed by their music, rather than merely presenting it. Whatever it is, Scorsese's work on these two legends, separated by three decades, seems directly connected. When Richards spits out his cigarette which sparks its way vividly across the screen, the fireworks are complete.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Conversation Overheard At the Eye Clinic Waiting Room

Elderly man, late 70's or early 80's, wearing a blue workingman's coat and sporting a hearing aid talking to a woman of his age in a beige jacket with pink roses, also with hearing aid.

"Did you ever dream you would have a phone in your own house?" she says with surprise.

"Whenever I needed a phone I would go over to Charlie's."

"Or a candy store where they had a pay phone." She stops, turns the page on an old magazine.

"Charlie Sheen looks pretty good for his age," the man says. Surely Charlie would be pleased to know that an old man, hard of hearing and waiting for an eye doctor, thinks he's hanging in there.

"The father?" she responds.

"What father? Oh, Martin Sheen. No, the son."

"Which son? He has two."


"Charlie Sheen and...," she stalls. No way, I think, she knows the other. " And Emilio Estevez."

"The son, Charlie."

Long pause. She continues through her magazine.

"Banana stuffed cinnamon french toast."

The man perks up. "Sounds good, All those good things together."

"What do they stuff in the bananas?" She is clearly puzzled by this. She goes on. "Diet foods that make you thin."


It says diet foods that make you thin. There's also diet foods that make you fat."

"Mr. Katz," the nurse calls. I get up from the coach to see the opthamologist, never to discover which diet foods work and which don't.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Today's Spins

One constant over the years has been my obsession with music, especially vinyl. At SUNY-Binghamton I was General Manager of Slipped Disc, the school's record store. It was a hotbed of musical activity and, for the most part, the place for high level discussions in the order of the relative merits of The Style Council v. Big Country (this was the early '80's). There were those who were buying the latest Asia or Lover Boy album, but usually they went to the Oakdale Mall to fill those needs. We stocked dreck like that, but only because we were all about the customer service.

Here are a few recent listens.

1) Here are The Chesterfield Kings. This 1982 offering from the Rochester garage rock troupe has always been a marvel. It took me until college to have my horizons opened by forgotten legends like The Standells and The Sonics. Certainly the early 1980's was time of revival for these sounds, The Pebbles LP series was a great vehicle for old band resuscitation. The Kings LP could have been cut 15 years before, it is that perfectly styled, as are their Byrds-like haircuts and clothes. On the back cover is a quote from John Lee Hooker. He says these boys sound just like the Rolling Stones, and old bluesmen never lie, do they?

2) Relaxin' with Chet Atkins - One of the true pleasures of eBay, and there are many, is that there are always used records sold in bulk lots. Not only does the per disc price drop, but postage is much more reasonable for a stack of discs than for one or two. The trick is finding the lot makes the most sense. Duplication is to be avoided and condition is a key, for the record more than the cover. One of the reasons that I don't mind cover wear or damage is that you find the most enjoyable items on people's record covers. Sure, there is the most commonly found "Property of Susie," or something like that, giving a glimpse into some sibling issues of the past. One person's stash of old jazz records, which is now part of my stash, has inner thoughts and poetry written all over the back covers. One man very scrupulously wrote where and on what date he bought his Porter Wagoner albums, useful information for some future archaeologist. Intact shrink wraps can provide the names of discount stores of the past, and as I have been buying lots of country and western platters, strange names from the South have entered my lexicon.
Which brings us to Relaxin' with Chet. It's a typically tasteful and fun Atkins affair, pop tunes like Sophisticated Lady paired with countrified takes on classical works like Czardas. I don't know if that is classical music, I just assume it is. Most Atkins LPs come with the aforementioned Dixie-centric store sticker, but not this one. This has a small rectangular label on the back cover, more like a return address sticker, from a place that sounds too good to be true - Music Man Murray's of Santa Monica, California. What Hollywood hipster was listening to Chet Atkins? Such is the mystery of each used album - they all have a back story that will remain unknown.

3) By Special Request. I haven't listened to this Chet Atkins-Hank Snow pairing just yet. I got a lot of Atkins records on eBay and they are vying with a ton of Buck Owens for my time. Having just cleaned this record, I can attest that it is the thickest record of the modern LP era. Regardless of whether this album is any good, having a record with the bulk of a tectonic plate was worth the price and the postage.

4) Classic Recordings: 1956-1959. This CD (yes, I realize I am diverting from the theme) is a 31 tune collection of Warren Smith rockabilly tunes recorded for Sun Records. I tend to set arbitrary limits on purchase prices, and this disc, on Germany's Bear Family label, was always too pricey at $18-20. I balk at spending that for any single compact disc. So, it was dutifully placed on my Amazon wish list about two years. I don't even know what sprouted interest in Mr. Smith, where I heard him. It's so long ago. When I saw one for $12 last week it was time for me to pounce at the opportunity. It's a very enjoyable set, with some studio talk interspersed that give it some historic weight. Glad to have finally gotten it, but I wonder if the the two year wait for $6 off was worth the tradeoff of lost discovery.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Katz Reacts to Cataracts

Ever since the corner of a cardboard box did an impressive imitation of the JFK magic bullet, finding it's way down under my glasses and then up and into my right eye, I have had a trauma-induced cataract. This, for a person who has worn glasses since the first grade, was one more sight-related issue I did not need.

I began regularly visiting my opthamologist (yes, now I have an opthamologist), it became certain that once this cataract infringed on my daily life to the point of discomfort, surgery would be needed. I learned from many that cataract surgery was the most commonly performed procedure in the country and that is was painless. This is a fact easy to digest when you are talking about other people's eyes.

Yesterday was the day. The most painful episode came during two aborted attempts at inserting the IV. A series of jabs to the right hand were unsuccessful, as was a mid-arm vein attempt. I have no needle fears, at least had none, until I felt a spike rooting around my insides. The nurse had an easier time on my left arm. Most cataract patients are in their 70's, not just mentally old like me. I heard one such patient behind the sliding curtain next to me. When mention was made of a "numbing jelly" I was more than a little nervous. While I hoped that I would only get drops, I did receive two spurtts of eye jelly. Now, one of my favorite lines in any work of art is when Oedipus, pre-eye plucking, wails, "Out, vile jelly." I always found that strangely amusing. Not so much now.

I've never had the pleasure of being wheeled into an operating room, but I was impressed how familiar it felt. Who says watching movies every day was a waste of time! The film reference turned macabre once it was almost time to begin. There is a creepy 1966 Rock Hudson flick, "Seconds." Directed by John Frankenheimer. It is the story of a man who gives up his old body in return for, well, Rock Hudson's. I won't give away the ending. It is memorable. When the nurse strapped my arms down, and the doctor taped my forehead the table, all I could think of was Rock Hudson, a possible first in the annals of eye operations. Unless Rock Hudson had some work done.

The oddest thing of cataract surgery is that you are awake. Calmed by an intravenous relaxation cocktail, and slathered with pain-deadening jelly, there really is no physical trouble whatsoever. What they don't prepare you for is the emotional trauma of seeing things, weird things. I would probably be curious to watch my foot being operated on while feeling no pain. My eye? Well, that is very much a part of my head and I'm pretty emotionally attached to everything in my skull in a way my foot will never know. Plus, you are seeing things with, well, with what exactly? I guess your eye, but there are all kinds of instruments in there. I'm still confused, but on to the strange sightings.

In the upper left corner of my field of vision, if that's what it was, was a vertical ellipsis of white light. Imagine being the person on the other end of the eye at the opening of a James Bond movie. Through that opening I may have seen an instrument or two. There are two incisions made, one from the right side, one from the bottom, and, while I wasn't seeing things from those directions, those devices are the most likely explanations. What I did see was a shape oddly reminiscent of a man's head wearing a fencing mask, popping in and out of the oval. Creepy. Plus, it would change colors. In addition to my epee-wielding new friend, various flashes of color would appear, as would a dark gray tendril, most likely a tool of the trade.

After 30 minutes of recovery time, and a quick trip to Taco Bell for comfort, I was home. Not much discomfort, but to be safe, I was given a clear plastic half-goggle to literally tape to my face while sleeping. The idea is to prevent a semi-conscious scratch to the eye. I felt like I was donning half of James Worthy's eyeware, for those who watched a lot of 1980's basketball.

I see now why the focus is on the physical aspects of the surgery in preparing a patient. There's no way to get ready for the psychological damage of being awake while someone is digging around your eyeball. After a visit to the surgeon today, there's even more best left untold, like the option of injecting a needle full of Novocaine into the small space between the eye and socket. Thank the lord for numbing jelly!

Monday, December 1, 2008

We Believe They Can Fly

I was going to write about watching one of my kids cratering at school and jeopardizing his future, but that's too miserable a topic to delve into. So, on to the New York Jets, equally traumatic, but less personal.

I've been thinking about how certain organizations have, or don't have, that certain something. I had ringside tickets at Wrigley Field for a decade, and there was something about the Cubs' futility that was constant, even while ownership changed, new front office people were brought in, hot managers picked up and players rotated. While it's empirically true that Alfonso Soriano has no connection to, say, the '69 Cubs, it is also a fact that the Cubs, in some metaphysical sense, are all of a piece. Whether it's the 2008 team certain to vanquish past demons, or the 1989 team certain to vanquish past demons, or the 1984 team certain to vanquish past demons, it all ends up following the same pattern from Aramis Ramirez to Keith Moreland.

On to the Jets. I was just a boy when Namath led the New Yorkers to their Super Bowl III victory over the Colts, but that moment had a lasting effect, so much so that our third son is named Joe Willie. It's easy to forget that after that January 1969 triumph the Jets were the odds on favorite to continue as champs for the next 2-3 years. I have pre-season books from that era that pick the Jets, albeit with the caveat that Namath had to be healthy. He almost always wasn't. From this point on, the Jets followed an eerily similar pattern of horrible play, but with just enough big victories or successful seasons to give the average fan hope.

Watching the Chiefs game a few weeks back at the home of a friend, it was all unfolding as predicted. Here they were, with a Hall of Fame QB who was clearly not enthused about playing for the white and green, struggling to beat a terrible K.C. squad. As they eked this one out, I turned to my host and said, "You'll see. They'll play great against the tough teams and, once they have you believing in them, they'll crush you." And so it proceeded, starting with a solid win over Buffalo, a crushing of the Rams, and impressive wins vs. New England and Tennessee. They're cruising now, Favre looks great, who can beat them, and on and on. Time to start booking the flight to Tampa Bay for the Super Bowl.

Of course, playing at home to a mediocre Broncos' club should have been a cakewalk, but, remember, these are the New York Jets. They are not to be trusted and for good reason. They proceeded to get whomped. There are only four weeks to go, a pretty easy schedule, but you just know they will limp into the playoffs. They will win the first game they play. They will convince the doubting public. Then they will get destroyed by a clearly inferior team in the next game.

I'll watch, but with a lot of detachment. I stopped investing emotionally in this franchise in late 1980 when they lost to the Browns by a field goal. That was my last Jet-induced stomach ache. To you die-hards, I wish you well.