Monday, May 29, 2006

Random Thoughts While Watching It Rain

As I write this, I am sitting out on my porch swing watching it rain. I had planned to be playing golf about now. But Rick, my personal attorney and former golf partner who has represented me in the past on various delicate matters of potential difficulty, and whom I have been forced to retain again in order to refute the numerous baseless claims of libel currently lodged me and this blog, brought the rain with him when he and his wife returned from their vacation in Utah. It hasn't rained here in 3 solid weeks. And just as soon as the sonuvabitch sets foot back in Little Rock, the bottom drops out.

I also refer to him in the past tense golf-wise as while he was over in Mormon country, I played three of the best rounds of golf I have ever played in my sorry career. Likewise, I attribute this burst of relative competence on my part on the fact that he has been nowhere to be found the last 10 days.

Before anybody brings it up, let me acknowledge that to blame Rick for the rain and to assign my recent golf scores to the salubrious effect of his absence from the state would seem to be a textbook example of the Doctrine of False Cause, first articulated by Plato. My response to that is something my mother always fell back on whenever it was pointed out to her-generally by me-that whatever sermonette she happened to be delivering at the time had no basis in fact or was otherwise devoid of internal logical consistency. She would always say, " You don't know it isn't true." Which, of course, is an Argument from Ignorance, another one of the logical fallacies articulated first by "you know who." What the hell. If it was good enough for Mom it is good enough for me.

His Yoke is Easy and His Burden is Light : If you ever had any doubts that Pat Robertson is completely nuts one only need go to his website at . Evidently, he has grown weary dispensing the usual hokum, bad religion and politics of paranoia. Now he is claiming that he has developed a "protein shake" that is sufficiently energizing that after ingesting the shit he is able to leg press 2000 lbs. with ease.

As I have said on many occasions, I struggle from time to time with what I believe. But what I don't believe gets to the top fairly quickly. I don't believe for 5 minutes that God revealed unto Rev. Robertson that a tsunami was going to strike the East Coast in general and New York in particular as he claimed last month. Look. Everybody knows God hates New York seeing as how it is home to gay folks, Jews, the New York Times, George Steinbrenner and the Clintons. If God, in His mercy, intended to strap a big ole honkin' tsunami on New York's sinful ass why would he warn it ahead of time? And if He intended to warn it of the wrath to come, why would he choose someone as his messenger who was 100% guaranteed to be ignored by virtually anyone with an IQ above 50? You would think God might be more sportin' than that. If He were so inclined that is.

No. I don't believe any of that shit. But I would believe that God speaks to Pat Robertson about meteorological matters before I would believe that an elderly man not named Jack LaLanne can press 2000 pounds. With or without a performance enhancing "protein shake."

But Pat Robertson Will Lift 2000 lbs. Before THIS Happens : An otherwise sensible friend of mine has made bold to predict that New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin will eventually be elected Governor of Louisiana. The State of Louisiana will elect a black person Governor about the time that Keith Richards becomes a Mormon. But even if you leave race out of it, New Orleans is Louisiana's problem child. The rest of the state feels about New Orleans the way Michigan feels about Detroit: that it is a money-sucking repository of every conceivable social ill known to man.

Granted, you could say the same thing about Lake Providence which is over by the Arkansas line. But LP is about 10 times smaller than New Orleans and it has no good restaurants. And Louisiana ain't gonna elect another redneck from up there after what the Longs did to the damn place.

But neither will the "Gret Stet" put a pol from NOLA in the Governor's Mansion. And besides, Ray Nagin is black, not to put too fine a point on it. He will be elected Governor about the time that Britney Spears does a recital at the Met. During a tsunami. Whether of not Pat calls it or not.

Ain't no way in hell.

Barry from San Francisco is our next caller, Bro. Robertson : Barry Bonds finally did it. He hit number 715 yesterday, thereby officially making him baseball's second all time home run hitter. This leaves him 40 shy of Henry Aaron's record of 755. It is highly doubtful that Bonds will pass Aaron this year. He has pretty much struggled at the plate so far this season. It is equally doubtful that he will catch Aaron, if indeed he does, in the uniform of the San Francisco Giants. He is virtually immobile at this stage of his career due to a balky knee that is exacerbated by the bulk that he put on through the probable use of illegal steroids.

I think we can say "probable use." I mean c'mon. He came into the league semi-built like me. This is not a compliment. I mean to suggest that at one time he resembled a normal human. Like his father.

It would not surprise me if he finished his career in the American League where they have the Designated Hitter rule and where he could semi-thrive as the second coming of Gates Brown or something. Of course, this would incite the stats geeks. You know, the kind of people who know who Gates Brown is.

But, unlike Gates Brown, who built up his arms in the joint, Barry clearly is in need of special help. My suggestion to him is to call Rev. Pat. Get on some of that "protein shake" now that you are cut off of "the clear." I think we can attribute your anemic numbers this year to the fact that you are now street legal. You need an edge.

Get on Pat's protein shake. Surely a man of the cloth wouldn't cut corners to give himself an advantage over similarly situated weight pumping con artist evangelists. Besides, if that shit can help a semi-deranged old peckerwood leg press a Honda, surely it will help you turn around on the rare inside fastball that isn't aimed at your enlarged head.

Hey Rick, I'm sorry that our golf partnership is splitsville over what you undoubtedly perceive to be irrational reasons. When I was in college, I acquainted my mother with the Logical Fallicies of Plato so that she might better ground her arguments in fact and logic. She told me that Plato wasn't paying for Hendrix College or for any of the other bills in the house and that she would appreciate it if I would keep my education pretty much to myself.

You aren't paying for my golf lessons. You are out of here.

But if the lawyers for Pat Robertson, Barry Bonds, Ray Nagin, or the Mayor of Lake Providence call me I will send them your way.

It is good to know that some things in a relationship never change.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

My Sunday Feeling

I got a dispatch last night from my friend Sula. She lives in Destin. She allows as how things are pretty crazy down there during the long weekend. She wrote:

"The vacation condos are full to the brim. The bartenders are packing speed and the businesses are all merrily decked out for the overtime chimings of "cha-ching-cha-ching." She also noticed that there seemed to be an inordinate number of escort service type girls in this one bar she was in last night, an occurrence she pronounced as "soooo Destin." Indeed, she says the escort ads out-number the employment ads in the local newspaper. Cha-ching indeed.

I don't know much about the working girls. I only know a couple of guys that have owned up to having taken a walk on the wild side. One was drunk and in Vegas. The other one foolishly succumbed to the entreaties of a streetwalker and consummated the transaction in an empty parking deck.

And they say that romance is dead. Seriously, the goddamned fool is lucky he didn't get rolled. Or worse.

Sula's e-mail reminded me of something that happened in New Orleans years ago. Maximum Girlfriend Emeritus LS and I were in a restaurant in the French Quarter some 15 years ago when I noticed a guy who used to play for the Saints. I pointed him out to her.

"Notice the girl he's with?" she asked.

Sure I noticed. Blonde. Sparkly dress. They were seated together across from a local TV sports guy.

" What about her?" I asked.

"She's a hooker." she replied.

Now, oddly enough, LS knew a thing or two about this sort of thing. It would seem that a couple of girls in her dorm partially financed their pursuit of knowledge at Baylor by renting it out from time-to-time. I always found this story nothing short of amazing. One doesn't associate this sort of low commerce with Baylor. Especially the way Baylor was back then. LS was at Baylor back before the Baptist General Convention of Texas stole the school fair and square out from under the Southern Baptist Convention, an event considered sufficiently infamous that to this day the high-haired deacon types still mutter in their Dr. Pepper about it. This was back when Baylor's football team didn't suck out loud. That's how long ago that was. God only knows to what depths Baylor has descended now that they allow dancing and have aspirations of becoming another Wake Forest and everything.

Anyway, LS used to tell me about her dorm mates going out and shaking down these rich old guys about every other Saturday night. She also suspected that there was some of that sort of thing going in the apartments she managed for the local theatre here in town. So she knew a bit about the subject. Still, I had my doubts. To me, the lady across the way just looked like an attractive woman in festive, yet tasteful attire. I saw Nicole Kidman. LS saw Heidi Fleiss. I was curious.

"What makes you so sure she's a hooker?" I asked. "For all you know, you could be slandering an elementary school principal or something."

" Look at her closely." she said. "What's she doing?"

The old Saint was talking in an animated way to the TV guy.

" Nothing." I said.

"Yes she is. She is paying rapt attention to the football player. She's not eating. She's not drinking. She's not looking at the other people in the restaurant. She's 100% locked into him."

" That's it?!?!?!"

" Pretty much."

"C'mon that's ridiculous. Maybe she's just interested in what he's saying."

LS about passed her wine through her nose.

"Yeah, right." she said. "I'm sure he's telling everybody at the table about how he won the big game all by himself or something. I'm sure it's fascinating. Besides, look around you. Do you see any other women acting like that? Of course not. I hate to tell you this, but we don't listen to 2/3 of the shit you men say. What's going on over there goes waaay beyond being polite. You got to pay for that level of attention."

I looked around. I had to admit she was right. There were women all around me and they were talking, eating, putting on lipstick and in general doing anything other than listening to their men. Only one woman in the joint was doing her best Nancy Reagan impersonation and she was the one that was with the old Saint.

Still, I was troubled.

" You don't hang on my every word?" I asked.

She rolled her eyes by way of response.

"Would you if I gave you 200 bucks?"

She took a sip of her wine.

" Sorry, honey. I don't go for less than 5. One of the things that one of the girls at the dorm used to say is that you can't just give it away. Otherwise, they will come to expect it out of you.

"Besides," she said, dabbing at the corner of her mouth with her napkin. " I have my reputation to consider and my Mother is still alive."

Who says a liberal arts education doesn't impart valuable lessons? Even the one that Miss Priss acquired at Baylor in the seventies. Back when real Baptists were running the place, the football team didn't suck out loud, and hookers worked out of the dorms.


It should be mentioned that we just got through with primary elections around here. One of the more hotly contested races is for Lieutenant Governor. Both parties-especially the Democrats- have dumped a ton of money into a race for a completely useless office that could probably be done away with without undue concern for any potential consequences.

And yet, these guys are going up and down the state talking about their positions on education reform, economic stimulation, abortion and stuff like they are candidates for an office that anything other than largely ceremonial in nature.

Hello? The Lieutenant Governor breaks ties in the Senate. He gets to be the Acting Governor whenever the real Governor is out of state, a quirk in the Arkansas Constitution that really could stand to be amended out given the bozos who have occupied that high office in the past. But that's it. Period. He gets to sit there like a bump on a log in exchange for @ 40 grand.

And yet, one of the candidates still standing has invested around 800,000 dollars of his own money to run for this stupid office. The political blogs are burning up the Internet with charges, countercharges and name calling. The ads are bombarding the airwaves. The sheer intensity of the race and the resulting animosity among the candidates' supporters is a puzzlement to me.

When Woodrow Wilson left the White House he returned to academe and became President of Princeton University. He once said that the reason academic politics were so fierce was "because the stakes are so small." Maybe that explains the race for Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas as well.

So we are stuck with these guys and their damned ads for another 3 weeks until the runoff election for this two-bit office. Invariably each campaign will show scenes of their guy shaking hands and listening intently to the man on the street. Don't be too impressed by that.

Hookers do that too. They pretend to pay attention.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The New Comeback Kid

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin pulled it off. He saved his job, although why anybody in his right mind would want it is beyond me. New Orleans is a basket case. But then again, New Orleans has always been a basket case. It has exulted in its "basket casedness." But now things are fucked up, they are fucked up worse than Louisiana's pols could fuck things up even and they got fucked up on his watch. Bad luck for him. No, Nagin is not responsible for Katrina. And yes, it would appear that the poorest of the people could have been evacuated more effectively. But the truth of the matter is that the loss of life could have been staggering as opposed to just simply tragic and it was not. Who is to say that anyone else would have done appreciably better?

Nagin didn't build the levees, he wasn't in charge of FEMA and he didn't write the Louisiana Constitution. But he became the face of incompetent government even though no other elected official associated with this disaster has exactly covered themselves in glory. And he didn't help himself either with his intemperate remarks, and with his shameless pandering to the black voters. I say shameless because he pandered to the white vote the first time around. And indeed, he was thought of as a "Tom" by a fairly large segment of the black community. Nagin got filthy stinking rich in the cable business. He owns a minor league sports franchise. The mostly white business community put him office. Malcolm X he is not.

But the business community deserted him this election. The polls put him at a distant 3rd in the primary election. The money they gave him that put him in office the first go around went this time to Mitch Landreau whose daddy Moon was a former Mayor and whose sister is a United States Senator. The pundits said Nagin was toast. Ray came in first in the primary. He then, against all odds, kicked Landreau's ass in the general election.

This will be interesting indeed. Earl Long once said that "One of these days the people of Louisiana are gonna get good government. And they ain't gonna like it." What Uncle Earl meant-I guess- was that good government means making hard decisions. And Louisiana has never been about making hard decisions.

Our friends to the South no longer have that luxury. Imagine Louisiana as a grandfather clock. New Orleans is the pendulum. The clock will not work without its weighty appendage. Not only does Ray Nagin have to rebuild New Orleans, he has to do so with a constituency that is a soupcon of displaced black voters and a minority of white folks. He is no longer the mayor of a major city. He is the mayor of the French Quarter, the Central Business District, and Uptown. The rest is Hiroshima West.

The US Government has to deal with it. Louisiana has to deal with it.

And for better or worse, Ray Nagin is the face of that recovery effort.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


"I don't like elections. You never know what's going to happen."
Huey Long

More on this later. I'm searching for my smelling salts.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

My Sunday Feeling

"God would never let this happen without a reason. It is up to me to find out what that is and use it to glorify (sic) him."-Matt Courson

I guess there just wasn't much going on in the world of sports last week. You couldn't tell it by my newspaper. The NBA and NHL playoffs were in full swing. Barry Bonds was still stalking #714. The State High School Track Meets were going off at different venues all over the state. I guess all that was not sufficiently stimulating enough to warrant Wally Hall actually writing a sports column last Wednesday. Rather, he wrote a piece about a former AAU and UA- Monticello pitcher named Matt Courson who is paralyzed from the waist down after an accident last April. Wally cranks out 2 or 3 of these types of pieces a year wherein he writes about the grit and determination of the subject in his/her attempt to overcome the long odds illness or an injury has put upon them.

To be fair, and we are nothing if not fair around here, Wally is by no means the worst offender in this regard. All sportswriters engage in these sort of puff pieces from time to time, I suspect generally when they can't think of anything else to write about. It's just that not everybody is as sappy and maudlin as Wally can be when his bathos enzymes are flaring up on him.

But this is not about Wally. Neither is it about the poor young man who has sustained this awful tragedy. This is about the perverse application, or logical extension of if you will, popular sports theology. How many times have we seen guys pointing to the heavens after scoring touchdowns or hitting home runs? Practically every other post-game interview with some triumphant jock is full of such hokum as "God was with us today" or "We'll just have to give God the Glory for this win."

Well, I no more believe that God intervenes in human history to fix the outcome of sporting events than I believe that there is a teleological explanation for why this boy is in a wheelchair. As an aside, I also don't believe that God talks to Pat Robertson either. The God of my Bible suffers little children. He doesn't suffer fools. But I digress.

And at this point, let me make something abundantly clear. I am not making fun of this kid. I am not even particularly finding fault as such with his attitude. It is simply human nature to try to assign an explanation for why bad things happen to people. I cannot possibly imagine what young Mr. Courson is going through. If this interpretation of events keeps him fighting another day, who am I to criticize?

I just don't think Wally should use this kid to pander to the bible-bangers, which he cannot resist doing from time-to-time.

I remember years ago a man named Jim died unexpectedly. He was rewiring his house and accidentally electrocuted himself. As it happened, his son was struck by a car and killed exactly 5 years earlier to the day. The priest who was giving the homily, an otherwise sensible type, actually said the following words, " And imagine the joy in heaven when Jim saw his son exactly 5 years after his own accident." If he meant this to comfort the congregation, it had the opposite effect. One loud gasp rang throughout the church. Women began weeping openly. This was a disaster in the making.

The priest sat down. Bishop Andrew MacDonald stood up. He removed his miter and went to the pulpit. Quite frankly, I winced when I saw this. Bishop MacDonald is a very fine man but he is not going to make anybody forget John Wesley anytime soon. I was not looking forward to this.

He leaned against the pulpit and propped himself up with his folded his arms. He is a very formal man. I had never seen him do this. After things had gotten very quiet, he spoke.

" When I was a young priest, I was the assistant at a small church in Savannah. There was a very devout young couple there. They were very regular in their attendance at Mass, they tithed, they volunteered. A wonderful Catholic family. Unfortunately, their only child got away from them and drowned in a nearby lake.

I went out to the house and we sat at the kitchen table. I can see their faces today. 'Father', they said. ' We are devout. We follow the church's teachings How could this happen to us?'

All my studies, all my training, nothing prepared me for this question. And so I said ' As God is my witness I do not know why these things happen.'

And I stand here today as your Bishop and I am here to tell you, just as I told that young couple 30 years ago, as God is my witness, I still don't know why these things happen."

I wish young Mr. Courson all the luck in the world. He is a better man than I am, and is dealing with this situation with much more intestinal fortitude than I could summon forth. I guarantee you that. And that larger point got obscured by the bad theology regurgitated by a bad writer in last Wednesday's column.

I don't know what I believe about half the time. I don't know why these things happen. But like I said, I don't believe that God fixes ball games. And I don't think an earnest young man like Matt Courson is in a wheelchair for a "reason."

Saturday, May 13, 2006

My Sunday Feeling

Today is Mother's Day. Sometime today I will go see Mother. She lives in an assisted living facility about 25 miles from here. Things are not good.

She is 83 and suffers from Parkinson's Disease. She was doing ok-ok being a relative term- up until about 9 months ago when she started exhibiting signs of dementia which can be part and parcel of this awful disease. She is pretty much refusing to walk these days, not even to go down to the dining area. She walks from her bed to the bathroom or from the bed to her chair. That's about it. Accordingly, she is completely deconditioned. She can barely get up out of the chair. That's how weak she has become.

She has very little interest in the lives of her sons or her grandchildren nowadays. It is for this reason that my brothers don't much take the little boys over to see her much anymore. They make her too nervous. This is a turn of events I did not foresee. Mother used to be obsessive-often morbidly so-about "family" and being with her family. In retrospect, and through the assistance of the therapists that have followed her through these latter years, we have come to see how this is how she rationalized her inability to go out and engage the world. Once her last kid became an adult, once everybody started getting on with their lives, the world she had constructed for herself ended. She had no "self" to fall back on. So, between the Parkinson's and the depression/anxiety, it has been pretty much downhill for the last 10 years.

We all have this hope of aging gracefully and well. We all hope to remain vigorous and sharp. We want to hike, play golf, and work in the yard. We want young people gathered at our feet, receiving the wisdom that we will be able to impart. We want to be independent. We don't want to be a burden to our loved ones. And when it comes time for us to go, we want to just slip away in our sleep safe in our own little beds.

Good luck to us all. It doesn't always work that way. For some people, old age is an absolute bitch.

Mother has reduced her world to the confines of her efficiency apartment. She doesn't have much of an interest in her friends. One lady told me that Mother keeps telling her that she is too sick to receive company. I tell them just to show up anyway. Unless she is prodded to do otherwise by the caregivers we have employed, she will take all of her meals in her room. She refuses to bathe more than 2 or 3 times a week. The most recent turn of events is that she has become combative to the staff there at the facility. She orders people out of her room when they come to check on her. The last time I was up there I saw her bite her caregiver's head off for no reason. My mother has a muley streak in her a mile long. But she's not abusive nor does she have an explosive personality. This is new. This is not good.

One of my brothers is a psychiatric nurse. He says that this is the dementia doing the driving. It even has a name: "sundowner's syndrome." He says what happens when folks get like this, eventually the brain starts telling things to start shutting down. He says that in his experience this deterioration will only get worse. That's the problem with specialized technical knowledge. It sometimes tells you those things you don't want to know.

Everyone agrees that keeping her out of skilled nursing care is the best thing for her. With the level of additional care we are using, we can keep her where she is. As expensive as it all is, it's still cheaper than a nursing home, but not by much.

One of the things you find yourself doing when you have a fiduciary responsibility for someone (or more accurately a Trust in this case) is that you find yourself crunching numbers based on potentialities you would just as soon not think about. She will be 84 next month. She is profoundly ill. Right now me and the financial wizard ( I am not being sarcastic. Ray has performed magic.) I have advising me on these matters figure she has got about another 24 months of liquid assets sufficient to pay for this extra care or a nursing home. After that we start looking at liquidating trust assets. We could start that now. But we are making plans for 2 years out and good old Ray is scheming away over in West Little Rock trying to get as much growth in the asset picture as he can during this time. Because, quite frankly, I can't imagine her living that long, given the events of the last year or so.

In other words, I am making investment decisions based on a wager about my mother's life expectancy. I tell Ray that I am uncomfortable thinking like this. He says, "Don't be. We're all gonna go. If we didn't have to think like this they wouldn't have invented actuarial tables."

Of course Ray is right. I can't get all sentimental or hinky about business matters just because there it involves things I would rather not think about. People with Parkinson's just don't usually live much longer than this. It's just the way it is.

But still. I am not just a fiduciary. I am her first born. And so, today I will buy some flowers and go to visit my mother on Mother's Day. I will sit on the couch and try to keep the conversation light and pleasant. She will not let me go there. She is a dark star and she will try to pull me in. She will tell me how bad she feels, about how she needs to go to the doctor, about how much she doesn't like it where she lives and how she is going to buy her "a little house" where she can be by herself. And so on and so forth. I will nod and mutter repeatedly"I'm sorry."

After awhile she will want to take a nap. I will give her a kiss and wish her a Happy Mother's Day. And I will head for home. Sometimes as I leave, she asks me not to go. Sometimes she tells me she is scared. And at those moments, as I am turning away from Mother, if the world would just go ahead and swallow me whole, that would pretty much be ok with me.

A shrink friend of mine once suggested a tactic to use whenever Mother is going off on one of her tangents. He said not to try to reason with her (ummm, don't worry Graham)but to just remind her that "you are doing the best you can. Because that's all we as parents expect out of our own kids, just to do the best they can. Even as unwired as your Mom is, that might resonate with her."

That pretty much could be a template for me, my brothers and many of our friends at this stage of the game. Me, I've got it easy. Some of us are caring for parents and raising kids at the same time. But all of us try to stay connected up. We compare notes, we call each other and send e-mails. We take each other's temperature. We remind each other that we are all in the same boat. We go to a lot more funerals than we used to. And boy, do we make our share of mistakes.

But we are doing the best we can. Honest to God, we are doing the best that we can.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

It Is To Laugh

As of this writing, Barry Bonds will get another chance at tying Babe Ruth's home run record this afternoon at the friendly confines of Wrigley Field in the 3rd game of the Giants' series with the Cubs. So far, the Cubs' pitching has gotten the better of him although for second Tuesday night it looked like a hung curve ball offered up by Rich Hill had number 714 written all over it as it got launched toward centerfield. Unfortunately for Barry, Cubs centerfielder Juan Pierre made a leaping circus catch to keep it in the ballpark.

Maybe he'll get the big one today. I wouldn't bet against it unless Greg Maddox is throwing. These are the Cubs after all.

Baseball people, more so than any other sports fans, love to argue. And so, as Bonds has approached Ruth's record, the discussion about whether to put an asterisk in the record books next to the records put up by the players in the "steroid era" and whether Bonds is a worthy candidate for induction into the Hall of Fame at some time in the future has reached a near crescendo. Herewith, is my two cents worth.

It is amusing to hear the outrage expressed by fans and pundits alike about the home run explosion of the last decade being fueled by anabolic steroids. Like anybody with eyes in their head couldn't see that something was up. Did that keep the fans from packing ballparks in Oakland, Chicago, St. Louis and San Francisco? No. Did the media ask critical questions as outfield bleachers all over the league reenacted the siege of Vicksburg every night for about 5 seasons? For the most part, no. Did Major League Baseball and the Players' Union turn blind eyes to what was otherwise plain as day? Absolutely. The so-called steroid scandal represents an era of ostrich-like behavior on the part of the entire baseball community. Like many wronged lovers, we suspected there was cheating in the relationship. But we really didn't want to know. Not really.

Secondly, the suggestion that this malfeasance on the part of our erstwhile musclebound heroes merits the placing of asterisks by their records implies that the records of the game are somehow sancrosanct. It is to laugh. Baseball has been cooking the books practically since Doubleday.

Are you going to put asterisks by the pitchers who threw in the "dead ball" or in the "high mound" eras? Are you going to put asterisks by the hitters who hit in the "rabbit ball" era? Are you gonna put an asterisk by the names of the old timers, like Ruth, who were only likely to face one pitcher per game?

Is it the fact that Bonds did performance enhancing drugs that torques you so? Well, you might as well wipe out Pete Rose's hit streak because he was on amphetamines (along with everybody else in baseball) the whole damn time. The recently departed Steve Howe won a Cy Young. He did that once. However he was a virtual "Murderer's Row" when it came to flunking drug tests which he did repeatedly. I don't know if booze and acid can be said to be performance enhancing substances exactly. But Mickey Mantle played hung over on occasion and Dock Ellis once threw a no-hitter while tripping for Chrissakes.

You could look it up.

So if you are going to put an asterisk by the name of Barry Bonds, you better put one next to a whole bunch of other guys. Because baseball's records are fishier than hell.

Does Bonds belong in the Hall of Fame? I don't see why not. People who argue that Bonds does not belong in Cooperstown need to remember two things. First, he put up the bulk of his numbers long before he hooked up with Victor Conte. As my brother put it, "[T]he fact of the matter is that in the last fifteen years if you leave the ball in the middle of the plate, Bonds will lose it for you." That much is indisputable. Secondly, the use of steroids in baseball was not illegal until last Spring. How can you penalize a guy for using something that was not illegal by the rules of baseball at the time? Sure, it was a felony and maybe that should count for something. But let us remind ourselves that nobody in MLB was motivated in the slightest to do the first damn thing about it so long as the cash registers were jingling.

If Bonds doesn't get in the HOF it will because the baseball writers, who do the voting, almost to a man despise him. And certainly Bonds has done himself no favors in this regard by disporting himself like a churlish jerk virtually his whole career. As if that weren't a sufficient feather in his cap, rumor has it that he is the target of a Grand Jury investigation in San Francisco. It will win him no votes from the writers if he has a few felonies "writ large against his name."

Talk about your asterisks.

Baseball has been played by a bunch of drunks, sociopaths, and dumbasses since the mind of man runneth not to the contrary. It has been run by greedheads who in the immortal words of Bill Conlin "would go outside with forks if it were raining soup."

Baseball and Barry Bonds deserve each other. With no asterisks.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

My Sunday Feeling

I just got a graduation invitation from the daughter of a woman with whom I used to carry on some 10-11 years ago. She was a sweet little kid back in those days and I remember our time together with a great deal of fondness. But I can't say that I have had much in the way of contact with either her or her mother in about that length of time. I used to run into her at her high school's football games and she was homecoming royalty this year. I took her picture and sent it to her mom. But really, that's about it. She has turned into a beautiful young woman. God, where have the years gone?

I got to thinking about all the graduations I have attended during lo, these many years. And it occurred to me that I cannot remember a single word of any speech given at any of these august events. Not one word. I'm sure that there are some good speeches given from time-to-time. You hear snippets on the news where a Bill Cosby here or a Gerry Trudeau there gets off a good line. But nothing like that has ever happened in my presence.

I remember at my law school graduation the invocation-or what passed for it-was rendered by a local rabbi. Instead of a prayer as such, the good rebbe went into some long disjointed parable about two friends taking a journey through the woods. One got lost but was subsequently found and the other had similar detours and tribulations before getting out of the woods. He then paused and said, " How true. How true. Good luck and blessings on the class of 1981."

I turned to Andy Braun who was sitting next to me for an explanation. "Andy," I whispered. " Did I just miss kind of obscure Jewish thing?"

"Nah." he said. " He was merely incomprehensible." He shrugged his shoulders as if to say, "No clue."

Twas ever thus.

And so I got to thinking what I might say if I were given the opportunity to address my young friend's graduation ceremony. Here goes nothing.

"Class of 2006, I have no idea why they asked me to address you this evening. My accomplishments are meager. My standing in the community is tenuous as are my finances. My insights into the human condition are minimal and tedious. But I am here, I have already cashed the honorarium to pay my bookie and I stand before you reasonably sober. So let us proceed.

Class of 2006, you are about to embark on a great journey. And isn't it true that the only time you hear anybody break out the word "embark" is at graduation ceremonies and funerals? Be that as it may, I have been around for 50 years which to you represents a long time. Therefore, indulge me as I share some thoughts and or observations that might help you get through the rich pageant we call "life."

(I would make quote marks in the air with my fingers as I said the word "life.")

Here is the laundry list)

1) Alcohol: If you must drink, don't drink junk. This means that you don't drink anything that has PGA or chocolate in it or is a color not found in nature. You never, ever take advantage of a drunk person. Never. Wait until they are sober. It's more sportin'. You drink too much if you best friend says you drink too much. You drink too much if you wreck a car or lose a job. You drink too much if you find yourself naked with somebody that you normally wouldn't cross a street to shake hands with. At that point you may have to join a 12 Step program. Fine. Just please don't go on an on and on about it. Just because we love doesn't mean we want to listen to that shit 24/7. And do not confuse sobriety with the acquisition of social skills.

2)Trouble: Anytime the phone rings after 11:30 trouble is on the other end and generally it is wearing a short skirt and heels. Some people like trouble. I was one of those people once. I am older now and have pretty much with some rare but memorable relapses and have pretty much lost the taste. Caller ID is wonderful. You should use it. You do not have to talk to the police if you don't want to. But if you talk to them, you had better not lie. That will result in trouble of the worst sort. Worse than taking the call from the skirt even.

When you are in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes there is probably a reason for it and you would do well to try to figure it out. Having said that, trouble, like fortune, is a transitory kind of thing. You should look up what Kipling said about it.

3) overrated: Molly Ivins once quoted an old retired Texas Ranger said the 3 most overrated things on earth were, sex with a young woman (I have cleaned the quote up considerably) Cuban cigars and the FBI.

4) underrated: conversation, Jim Beam, and the basic honesty and integrity of your average law enforcement officer.

Love: The Bible says that we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling. The same holds true with relationships. Now I am not exactly the best person to be lecturing on this subject, my young friends. I stand before completely inept in this area. Having said that, I am unique for a single man of my age and station in that I don't have at least one ex still on the payroll somewhere. I view this as at least a partial victory.

This much I know. Romance, like sex, is over-rated. There is much misery in life. If someone out there loves you, that's great. If someone out there loves you and you know in your heart of hearts that you can count on him or her to be there for you on those occasions where there is trouble in the wind, well, grab on to that person and hold on for all you are worth. And that's about all I will say on this subject.

Overrated: Vivaldi, John Gresham, Harry Connick, Jr., and Bruce Springsteen

Underrated: Mendelssohn, Professor Longhair, Bill Evans, Elmore Leonard and Dan Jenkins

Religion: Most of you will eventually stumble across the nearest available deity that you can tolerate. And vice-versa. Here's a suggestion. Go for humility. Try to find a church that isn't judgmental, is not smug in it's theology and is not, in the words of historian Garry Wills, in the constant process of "building monuments to itself." Do not give money to teleevangelists. They are, for the most part, criminals.

Also, if you find yourself all fervid about it someday, like just before your sentencing hearing maybe, please be so good as to keep it to yourself. Don't hand out tracts and don't invite people to church. Remember the part of this address about 12 step programs? Goes double for religion. If drunks have no reason to invite everybody they know to come to meetings with them neither do you.

Finally, I don't know much about heaven and hell. About all I know about hell is that you should rot there if you ever, ever, strike a woman.

I see that my time is running short. Let me close by saying about the best advice I can give you was that given by Jesus when he said, " That which you do unto the least of these you do unto me." That and "Be Ye Kind to One Another."

Be ye kind to one another. Oh and don't ever take up golf.

Good night and good luck.


Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Quick Sports Hit

Hola, my peeps! Here's a quick visit to the sports page. Those of you-mostly women(at least the ones I hear from)-that don't like it when I do sports are forewarned and can go elsewhere for more suitable entertainment.

Name your poison: In his latest autobiography, John Daly says that he has lost between 50 and 60 million dollars on gambling. Whoa! Even with endorsements and exhibitions and the the extra income derived from a drug dealing wife this would have to represent a serious hit. Further, I'm sure that that his numerous ex-wives will find this amusing if they didn't know about this already. You can buy a lot of children's clothes with 50 million bucks. The good news is that at the rate he is pissing it away he will never have a prostate problem.

In the book Daly says, " I don't drink JD (Jack Daniels) anymore.......Only gambling remains a problem"

I would suggest that he go back to drinkin'. It's cheaper. Ain't no way you can piss away 50 million on booze.

And he couldn't play much worse than he is now.

Just a suggestion.

How to write good: There's a lot going on in the world of sports nowadays. The NBA playoffs, MLB baseball cranking up, the NFL draft, high school sports winding down, lots of stuff. You might think that Wally Hall would turn his attention to any of these topical subjects.

But no.

Wally wrote yesterday about Golden State Warrior and UALR alum Derek Fisher-a great guy by all accounts- who addressed the men's and women's basketball teams at Fisher's Alma Mater the other day. Let's just cut to the chase...

Wally describes him as "wearing an expensive tailor-made suit and his diamond-encrusted ring..would have made a down payment on a large home, but in many ways he is still the quiet, shy person he was the night he was drafted."

And here is the next paragraph: " Although he is much more eloquent and polished as a speaker now."

And here is the graf after that: " Yet, his message was simple, sincere and from the heart."

Forget for a moment that yesterday's piece was poorly written and that it was mainly calculated to kiss up to the subjects. Hey, it's Wally. The second coming of Rick Reilly he is not.

Maybe it's me but isn't this semi-racist? Re-read the above. After depicting Fisher as being dressed expensively and adorned with a certain amount of bling, Wally goes on to reassure us that Derek is "eloquent"..."polished"...and bearing a message that is "simple" and "sincere."

In other words, Derek Fisher is one of the "good ones."

Well, from what I can tell, Derek Fisher is indeed one of the good ones. He's one of the good humans. And Wally does a fine man and positive role model a disservice by taking pains to reassure his readers that he is also "safe."

What the hell. Maybe it's me.

What do you think?