Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Designate This

Baseball season is in full swing. They say nobody really pays attention until after Memorial Day, which is good because both Chicago teams should be in last place by then.

I'm a baseball junkie. Box scores in the morning, games at night, and every..single..highlight I can catch.

Each year they offer a preview of the MLB channel the first week of the season. I have warned my family if we ever subscribe they will awaken to find me asleep in front of the TV in a bed of peanut shells.

Baseball is perfectly imperfect. No clock. Nine inning games, unless there's extras. Three strikes, three outs, which could take three batters or thirty.

Baseball is a thinker's game and a stats paradise. Every matchup is an alphabet soup of WHIP, OBP, RISP and ERA.

Baseball fields are wonderfully different and distinct, other than the base paths. From the Green Monster at Fenway Park to McCovey's Cove in San Francisco, each outfield is unique. What other sport requires managers to come out, in a uniform, and hear about the ground rules before a game?

Not every imperfection is perfect, of course. I prefer ballplayers who don't resemble Rockem Sockem robots and get have their juice freshly squeezed, not from a lab. The Designated Hitter? Phooey!

And I hate interleague play.

Until the mid-90s, baseball was the only major sport where teams competed in separate leagues until the World Series. As a kid I remember watching the Game of the Week on NBC (which was THE Game of the Week). It felt like every game featured either the Dodgers or Yankees. But never against each other. If you were a Dodgers fan, you're only shot at the mighty Yankees is by winning the pennant. The Series was it, champions of the National League against champions of the American League.

Then they messed it up.

The suits decided that the game need teams to play across the leagues, but only a couple of times a year. Interleague contests would rotate every four years or so, except some local rivalries (Yankees-Mets, Cubs-Sox, A's Giants) which would be every year.

I get it. Yankees-Mets and Cubs-Sox can be fun. But for every one of those we get duds like Cubs-Orioles or Sox-Padres.

Interleague play screws up schedules, travel and rivalries. For example, the Cubs and Cardinals meet only a handful of times in order to accommodate their AL friends.

And yes, it does water down the World Series. But it's hard to put the toothpaste (or HGH) back in the bottle.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Four on the Floor

So as of early Saturday morning I am the father of four. Three girls and a boy.

All in. Zone defense. A bifocal Dad.


They say we never know the plan (or who makes the plan) but mine is workin' out alright. I remember at age 10 wanting to be either a cowboy or a linebacker for the Bears. Door number 3? Yes.

While my wife was pregnant the news brought a full range of reactions ranging from "Wow, what a blessing" to a look of "You must be nuts."

Some would say "Oh, so this is old hat for you." It's not of course.

Nothing I have done, nothing I will do, compares to the thrill of raising my children. And witnessing the birth is simply perfection.

Some reality has set in the past few days.

Tired? I am riding fumes.

The house? I am waiting for news cameras to show up and film the crime scene - dolls and stuffed animals sprawled like dead bodies across our floors.

And I have this recurring thought that there is not enough oxygen for all of us. Of course I might be hyperventilating at the thought of feeding six people and a sheepdog.

And I wouldn't bargain away any of it.

Raising kids is hard work, if that's your choice. I know men who don't, like the ones who enable their kids with this silly notion of being their "friend" instead of their Dad, or who put their kids in youth sports solely to fulfill their pipe dream.

As I have told my kids many times, anyone can be a father, but it's takes true commitment to be a Dad. If the essence of love is sacrifice, ours is often silent. Fathers get a card, Dad's get rewards.

Along the way I have mastered a few skills, like the ability to fall asleep in a room full of kids, or listening to a kid tell a long...long story fully enraprtured. Can anything beat the excitement on their face as they tell the story?

A few weeks ago we went to the mall and my (then)youngest daughter, age 2, insisted on wearing her "two-two," high heels, shades and a tiara. She walked slightly ahead of my wife and I, my daughter and son with runway swagger. We were her entourage. She drew stares and laughter from all as we made our way to the escalator up to the food court.

And now she has a sister.

Drive home from the hospital? No thanks, I'll fly.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Free to Me...and You

Score one for lunatics? Seems to be the consensus about Arizona and their immigration bill. Outrageous? Xenophobic? Unconstitutional?

I will leave the constitution matter to lawyers with more smarts than me, but it seems we have reached a turning point in the immigration debate. Or have we?

I doubt it and think little will change as a result, and I don't think the Arizona law will "spread" as many fear.

Both parties are scared to death of immigration reform, the cyanide of American politics. Leaders on both sides have always talked a good game while coming just short of real reform and the chance of offending one giant constituency.

Solution? First, let's first stop the flow of illegals by securing our borders. Then let's examine some type of "permanent worker" status for those who are law abiding and an easier path to citizenship.

I was thinking about this the other night in a larger context with my wife, who posed the question "What exactly are American values?"

Ours is the land of opportunity, right? Even when only 80% of us are employed? Yup.

Ronald Reagan got me many years ago. I see myself living on his "shining city on a hill, whose beacon light guides freedom loving people everywhere."

And our values can be summed up with that one word: Freedom.

Do you ever take it for granted? I remember being in Prague for the first Czech free elections, right after the fall of the Berlin wall . The plazas were full of candidates from over twenty parties, including the beer party and the music party. I will never forget the woman who explained to me how happy people were to vote...for anyone. "Now we are free!" she exclaimed.

I grew up in a military household, the son of a proud Naval Commander. My Dad never, to this day, let's me forget the sacrifices Americans have made for freedom.

I am sure there are people in his life he disagrees with on everything except the weather. But he would fight, and he would die, for their right to say it.

So would I. I would fight for all us immigrants, all with ancestors who faced discrimination of some sort.

It's our fight also.