Monday, July 28, 2014

Excuses, Excuses

My excuses for not rolling the APBA games much lately are endless:

•I helped a friend move to a new town over the past few weeks and didn't have as much time for rolling games. 

•My blood pressure shot up recently. I ended up at the doctor and am waiting for test results to see what's going on. 

•I changed my hours at work a bit and that minor shift has kept me from playing game in the mornings.

•I also bought the APBA hockey game three weeks ago and have spent more of my free time tossing contests for the 2013-14 season replay I began.

But none of the excuses is good enough (actually, they are APBAthetic) and I find I'm missing the baseball game. So, I resolved to get back on track, resume the 1950 replay I'm doing and enjoy the game as it's meant to be.

I haven't compiled the stats lately for the season; I'm about 100 games behind, and that will take a while to tally those numbers. I've not written any season updates here, either. And the season does deserve to be noted. The National League is pretty tight after each team has played between 35-40 games. Only seven games separate league leader Pittsburgh from cellar dweller Chicago. And the fourth place team, the New York Giants, is only 4.5 games out of first. Parity rules in the 1950 NL replay.

There's a bit more range in the 1950 American League replay I'm doing. However, the top four teams — Detroit, New York, Boston and Cleveland are within 6 games of each other. The Philadelphia As have solidified last place, some 17.5 games out already, and may go down as the worst replay team I've ever seen.

So, there are good story lines with this replay, as there are always in any replay. And I've missed them.

No more excuses. I'm hitting the games more frequently and I'll post updates as I go along. This is a good game and there shouldn't be any excuses not to play it.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Uniformly Speaking

I saw former Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer the other day under the table at a Southaven, Miss., Applebees. He was wearing his No. 9 black and orange uniform with the tiger-striped sleeves and his name emblazoned on the back. I would have asked for his autograph, but his parents were helping him in locating the crayon he dropped while coloring the children's menu.

A few weeks earlier in Memphis where I attended the Grizzles vs. Miami Heat NBA game, I saw LeBron James in his No. 6 jersey sitting near where I was in the upper deck. I had never seen James in person before and didn't realize he was only about four and a half feet tall and about 10 years old. Didn't know he was white, either. I guess television distorts those things.

Come to think of it, I saw a lot of James in the FedEx Forum that night. He was standing in line to use the restroom in the concourse and pushing through the crowd on the stairway leading to inside the arena and buying a large foam finger. I even saw him eating a huge tray of nachos, which I thought was odd just before game time.

Sports jerseys are everywhere and I'm sure it's a way to show support for your team. Forbes reports that sales of jerseys are booming. Johnny Manziel's Cleveland Browns uniform is the best-selling football uniform this year — and he's not thrown a pass yet. The Manziel shirt surpassed those worn by Payton Manning, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick. Of course, Derek Jeter's No. 2 Yankees shirt is the hottest commodity in baseball, according to Forbes.

But, since I'm a becoming a curmudgeon type person in my old age I feel the desire to complain about something. Uniforms are in my sights today. I support my doctor, but I don't wear scrubs when I go in for check ups and I don't throw on a green shirt and cashier apron on visits to my favorite grocery store. And, although I've been accused as such, I don't dress like a clown when I go to a circus.

I wonder what the real players think when they see some old, short, out of shape dumpy guy balancing a drink tray and four hot dogs on his massive belly, all the while wearing that player's shirt.

A year or so after Mark McGwire's steroid-assisted home run “record” barrage of 1998, I took my former father-in-law to see a Cardinals' game in St. Louis. We saw more people wearing McGwire jerseys in the stands than people who live in some of the towns we drove through en route to the game. Some of the McGwire-clad fans couldn't hit a towering home run, let alone climb the towering steps to their seat in the third deck.

Maybe people put on the jerseys and have the Walter Mitty dream of that player getting injured in a game and he or she can step in and fill the player's position. I mean, baseball managers wear uniforms; some have taken a few at bats during games — think Pete Rose, Rogers Hornsby and Frank Robinson. Although, I don't think seeing Tommy Lasorda, bedecked in a Dodgers uniform, fielding a hot grounder to third would encourage a continued love of the game.

Other coaches don't wear jerseys. Can you imagine Gregg Popovich roaming the sidelines of a San Antonio Spurs game while wearing the black and gray shorts with the star-jangled spur on the sides? I'm not ready to see St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock fire a five-hole slapshot during a 2-on-one breakaway, either.

I'm not immune to not wearing jerseys. Or at least I wasn't. I wore my Twins' tee-shirt to Game 5 of the World Series in St. Louis in 1987. Because St. Louis is one of the kinder cities in the Midwest, I wasn't murdered during the game. I once wore a Boston Celtics green nylon jacket while strolling the streets of Philadelphia. A friend told me to leave the jacket in the car unless I wanted to be assaulted. (Reminds me of that old joke: Guy leaves his Celtics jacket in the back seat of his car. He returns to the car later to find someone had broken into the car by smashing out the windows. Police ask him if anything was taken. The guy says, “No, but there's another Celtics jacket in the back seat.”)

When I was a kid in Minnesota in the late 1960s, I wore a Vikings' jersey. It was former linebacker Roy Winston's No. 60 shirt. Most kids wore the jerseys of No. 10 Fran Tarkenton, No. 44 Chuck Foreman or No. 84 Gene Washington. I, keeping in tradition with the northern Minnesota humbleness, had the more obscure guy.

My dad also bought me a Notre Dame Fighting Irish shirt when I was very young. I looked more like the team's leprechaun mascot than some behemoth player.

But because of my athletic inabilities, I realized me wearing some sports shirt was akin to me donning a surgeon's outfit or an auto mechanic's garb. The two just don't fit.

Maybe jerseys are a good clothing alternative and maybe I'm just being a grump. I'd probably wear a St. Louis Blues jersey to support them, but since I'm so fat, people would probably mistake me for the Blues' logo-bedecked Zamboni machine instead of T.J. Oshie.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Eight Years Later

An open letter to my wife who died July 14, 2006

Eight years ago today you passed away; you said you weren't feeling well and I promised we'd go to the doctor that morning to see what was troubling you. A few hours later, I found you gone.

It's been eight years now and I wanted to give you an update on how things have been. This won't be some maudlin “woe is me" thing. I'm passed that. I don't know if you've seen that; I don't know how that Heaven stuff works. Maybe you are watching, maybe not.

The point is, I've soldiered on and you'd be surprised at some of the things I've done. Survival happens when you have to. Since you've been gone I refinanced our house. I know, me? Shocking. I couldn't figure out how to roll coins in those wrappers when you were alive and then I bluff a finance company into helping me after our friends at Wells Fargo raised the mortgage three months after you died.

I bought a new car and it's paid for. Again with the shock, I know!

I also filed bankruptcy the spring of 2009. Those medical bills were too much and, you know, I work for a newspaper, and, because of its economic instability, it's the dumbest financial planning move I could have done. But I came out of that last month and things are picking up.

And, get this: A bad storm ripped up the roof on the house last month and I got an insurance adjuster to tell me I need a new roof. These things are simple for most people, but I didn't realize I relied so much on you back then. The roofer should be here soon.

I've lost over 100 pounds in the last year, too. The depression I felt after what happened tore me up and I ate and drank pretty heavily. I used to pour energy drinks down my gullet and I had a doctor tell me I wouldn't make it to 50 if I kept that up. On the eve of my 50th birthday, I guzzled energy drinks so I could stay up past midnight to prove him wrong.

But then I met someone at work who has helped me. We walk around a lake and park every Saturday, logging 3-6 miles. That helps. I don't look like the Shoney's Big Boy anymore, and for the first time in a while, I actually care that I'm alive.

So, I've done okay when I had to.

I've gone out with a few girls, but those have crashed. Once, I took a girl to dinner and I knew it was a disaster before the main course was served. I was waving for the check with one hand and a white flag of surrender with the other.

Some have since asked me if I knew your kidneys would begin failing six months after we got married would I still have gotten married? The last three years of your life were tough, but I am glad we went through that together. I learned more about myself in those three years than any other time of my life. I learned what love really was and no matter how much I cut myself down about everything else, I know I was one of the best husbands there was. I hold on to that.

I still read a lot. I still try writing. I still play the APBA games. A lot. I roll games almost every day. The game helps; it still provides a great escape.

So, now, eight years later, I wanted to give you an update. I've not done anything stupid lately. That winter after you were gone, I actually sat on my bed with a loaded .38 pointed at my head. It got that bad then. But I persevered. And now it's better. That won't happen again. I still miss you. I will always miss you more than anything.

But I'm doing okay.

Eight years. It seems like such a long time, but then it also seems like it was just the other day. I can't get my mind around that passage of time very well. The counsellors always indicate getting past certain landmark years is the measure of success. The first year, the fifth year, the seventh year.

I'm at eight now. And next year it will be nine and in 2017, it'll be 10. I take it each year at a time.

I just wanted you to know how things were going and tell you not to worry. I think I'll be okay.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Getting Older

Somewhere down the line I got old.

Oh, sure. We grow older each day. But I became painfully aware of it last week. I turned 54 Sunday. Fifty-four! It's a scary age because I realize that after more than half a century of living, I've yet to turn out like I had hoped. And it's way too late to begin trying now.

If I was a piece of furniture, I'd be appearing on Antique Roadshow and the host would evaluate me poorly. If I were a car, I'd be a classic, but I wouldn't run all that well. There are the aches and pains I notice now when rolling out of bed that weren't there years ago. When the weather changes and rain approaches, my knees are the first to notice the barometric change. They begin singing operatic arias about 12 hours before precipitation falls.

When you're a kid, time is not relevant. At that age, life seems to be an endless stream of days and nights; one bleeds into another and the procession is not really that noticed. But get older and the days start speeding up. They tend to look like those movie effects where pages of a calendar fly off and signify the speedy passage of time.

Yes. I'm old. Mentally, though, I maintain the maturity of a 13-year-old. I still laugh at fart and poop jokes. Really laugh at them. And therein lies the problem. I maintain the mentality of a child, yet wanted life to turn out a bit better. Maturity is apparently fleeting in my world.

All that to say this year's birthday hit a little bit harder. You can only spin your wheels so long. I'm actually wondering about retirement, and getting senior discounts at local restaurants. It used to be when I'd buy a beer at a store, I'd joke and ask if cashiers needed to see my identity for proof of age. They used to laugh. Now they look at me aghast. “The old guy isn't even funny,” they think.

And, the APBA game factors into aging. A week into my 54th year, I'm juggling playing the 1950 baseball replay and last year's hockey season. Suddenly, time becomes an issue. I have several seasons still to replay — in all four major sports — and I'm wondering if I will live long enough to complete them all. I guess all replayers contemplate that at some point. Can we outlive all of our projects? Mortality is now based upon our ability to finish our games. Life, really, had become a roll of the dice.

It's depressing thinking of the aging process and how things just didn't work out like I had hoped when I was younger. It's kind of a downer and I think I can only be brought out of the funk if someone tells me a poop joke.