Friday week in review

A Friday Haiku

First day of Autumn

Someone needs to tell Summer

Ninety-five? Really?

Edited to Add: Milwaukee reached 95 degrees Fahrenheit today. Broke the 1937 record of 92 degrees Fahrenheit.

Here we go, Brewers, here we go!

Only 10 games left and the Milwaukee Brewers are still in the thick of the National League playoff race, despite losing two crucial games that would have tied them with Denver for the final Wild Card berth and brought them a game closer to the Cubs.

Win or lose, if they make the playoffs or don’t, this is already one of the Brewers’ most exciting seasons.

For one thing, no one expected this (except us true blue fans). Every so-called experts predicted the Brew Crew would be cellar dwellars, battling it out with Cincinnati for last place. After all, they had that fire sale, getting rid of all their star players, except for Ryan Braun, and filled their roster with farm club no-names. The Brewers were essentially fielding a Triple-A team, or so the experts claimed.

Did the Brewers even see the script for this season? It’s doubtul because they immediately surprised everyone by jumping into first place in their division from the very beginning and didn’t let up until the All-Star Break. Not only that, they led the league in home runs, RBI, and several other stats. For a time, they were the best team in baseball.

In other words, this lowly small-town team of Triple-A ballplayers dared to disrespect the World Series Champion Chicago Cubs as well as the perennial playoff contending St. Louis Cardinals by beating the pants off of them.

And here we are, on the final lap of the baseball season and the Brewers are still in the thick of it. Second place in the division and still within reach of a Wild Card.

True fans couldn’t be happier and even if they miss the post-season, we can’t complain. They did more than exceed expectations, they knocked them out of the park. They’re a very young team and as they’ve shown, very talented with a lot of heart. They have fun and are just plain fun to watch.

Brewers tear off Erik Thames’ shirt to celebrate his walk off home run against San Diego in June 16, 2017.

This season was all about team-building and gaining valuable experience, especially on how to deal with the intense pressure of a playoff race.

Whatever the outcome of the season is, this team is no longer is a bunch of no-names. In a short time, everyone now knows Domingo Santana, Zach Davies, Eric Thames, Travis Shaw, Josh Hader, Corey Knebbel, Manny Pina (Lucroy who?), Orlando Arcia, nerd boy Eric Sogard, Keon Broxton, Brett Phillips with his 80-grade arm and they’ve put the rest of the league on notice. These guys are going to be contenders for many seasons yet to come.

It’s a great time to be a Brewers fan.

Weigh-In Friday

I’m up again by a couple pounds. Sometimes a little cheating is fine, but losing track of how much you cheated isn’t. It’s like trying to keep a mental tally of your finances instead of writing it down in a ledger, then veing surprised when you get an overdraft notice from the bank. “I could have sworn we had more money!” Our minds like to play tricks on us.

I take some solace in the fact that despite gaining weight, my fat percentage still went down and my muscle percentage went up.

The never ending edits

You’ve heard of the Never Ending Story? Well, I’m trapped in the never ending edits.

I would have hoped I was past the creation stage and well into the pokishing stage of my manuscript, but that isn’t the case.

As my editor side goes through my story to correct flaws in tense, fix passive sentences, and so on, my writer side is also going, “Hey! I have a great idea to add here! How about if…”

And it isn’t just one or two scenes the writer side is considering. It’s every crucial scene. New ideas for dialog, for subplots, and setting as well. Some minor, some major. Not edits, but actual rewrites.

Shut up, writer side, you aren’t helping.

Worse, now I’m worried I might have fallen down the research rabbit hole, that never ending time suck where you go to verify one thing only to have that topic lead to another topic and another and another. None related to what you started out researching, but all addictingly interesting enough to draw you in and hold you there. A prisoner to your own desire for more knowledge.

Help me.

The GOP wants to kill us

There is a lot of buzz going on about how scary the recent release of the remake of Stephen King’s It is. But there’s something even scarier on Capital Hill. It’s a two-headed monster called Graham-Cassidy and it wants to kill us all.

Millions will lose their health insurance. Many due to pre-existing conditions (which they say are covered but they really aren’t), necause the bill has no guarantees they can get coverage.

States that accepted Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, would lose their funding, but more importantly and scarier, there will be complete changes to how Medicaid is funded to all states. This is the GOP saying “Fuck you” to the elderly and disabled.

This is the worst of the Trumpcare repeal and replace bills yet!

Call your Congressperson. Complain. Give them an earful that we’re tired of their conservative bullshit. Save the ACA.

Unless you want to die.

TheRump wants to kill us too

If there is one thing this week has shown, it’s how much of a divide exists between the deplorables and the rest of the world.

The great orange turd addressed the United Nations in his own inimitable style. In other words, he appalled all civilized people everywhere with his ignorant and bellicose rhetoric, threatening to destroy another nation.

But not everyone was shocked or appalled by TheRump’s insane patter. On the contrary, my Twitter feed exploded with praise for King Cheeto. “It’s about time we had a real President who stands up for Murica!” They want him to destroy a nation. Any nation. Do they look different from us? Speak some funny language other than English? Kill ’em! Kill ’em all! They think going to war should always be our first option in negotiations. Diplomacy is for wimps.

It should come as no surprise the trumpettes admired his angry posturing, his childish namecalling, his chest pounding and threat displays and saw them as something to be proud of. And that’s why Hillary appropriately named them deplorables.

Currently reading

Last night I was digging through my To-Be-Read pile of books and came across “Weird Tales: The Magazine That Never Dies,” an anthology of short fiction that had appeared in that magazine over the years, edited by Marvin Kaye. I picked it up and started reading and couldn’t put it down. I’ve always enjoyed pulp fiction and Weird Tales had some of the best by some of the great writers of the day, like Ray Bradbury, H. G. Wells, Fritz Lieber, August Derleth, L. Sprague de Camp, Robert Bloch, Tanith Lee, H. P. Lovecraft, and Richard Matheson to name a few.

I leave you with a song

For your listening pleasure, a song with which to start your weekend and also to ring in Autumn.

So fell Autumn rain, washed away all my pain, I feel brighter somehow, lighter somehow to breathe once again

So fell Autumn rain, washed my sorrows away, with the sunset behibd somehow I find the dreams are to stay

So fell autumn rain

From “So Fell Autumn Rain” by Lake of Tears

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Opening Day brings new foods, beers

Today is Opening Day. It should be a National Holiday.

If you just said, “Opening Day of what?” please exit now.

Today, Miller Park will be jammed with people, the majority of whom don’t care anything about baseball; they’re there for the shenanigans and heavy drinking that goes on. 

It’s sad because to real fans, Opening Day is a religious experience, a special day, like Christmas. A day to celebrate the annual return of the greatest sport in the history of forever. 

The boys of summer have returned like the swallows to Capastrano.

We went to the last preseason game on Saturday, April 1st at Miller Park. We were among the first to see the revamped food concession areas.

Before this remodel, there were just a few “name” vendors in the mix. I can’t recall the names because they were mostly for the snooty food snobs, in my opinion. Those of us with families went to the generic food concession counters where we could get slightly overpriced hamburgers, bratwurst, Italian sausage, hot dogs, popcorn, and selected Miller Brewing Company beer products, as well as sodas.

But those stands, and those prices, are gone now (unless they still have some generic concession stands hidden away).

Now the have food provided by AJ Bombers (hamburgers), Zaffiros pizza, the Smoke Shack Barbeque, J Agave’s Tacos, Holey Moley donuts, as well as a whole skew of Wisconsin craft brew offerings.

We tried J. Agave’s Tacos. My wife and I ordered two tacos and two drinks. The price was what you would expect if you were dining out, not at a ballpark!  To put in perspective, last year we could have ordered a cheeseburger, a bratwurst, a Polish sauage, a chirizo, fries and sodas for four for the same price!

And the service? Well, I hope they were still working out the kinks, because we had to wait 15 minutes after we ordered to get our food. One problem is, although it carries the restaurant’s name, they still use a volunteer food service staff. 

They were disorganized and confused to say the least. One issue was the window to the kitchen was also the counter where the servers had to access drawers to complete the orders and make nachos. In other words, they were all on top of each other, getting in each other’s way.

As I said, it was a preseason game, so I can’t imagine what kind of bedlam there will be for a full house, especially a standing-room-only Opening Day crowd. Seems like a disaster in the making. 

When we did finally get our order and made it back to our seats, the tacos were going cold. It was then I realized how messy a taco was to eat without a table, trying to balance everything in your lap.

And to be honest, I’m not a foodie, so all those contrasting flavors–spicy and sweet–probably work in a situation where I’m there to concentrate on the food and dining experience, not while I’m trying to satiate my hunger while yelling at the ump for a bad call.

So I was disappointed, to say the least.

Baseball was the last major league sporting experience that was still affordable to the average family. Now however, Miller Park, in revamping the food experience, has taken that away from us.

I don’t know why they felt it was necessary to do so. Most hometown fans were quite happy with the food selection and the prices. Milwaukee is a city known for searching for a bargain. We like tradition. The revamped food area is neither. 

Maybe they’re trying to lure a whole new crowd, one that isn’t there for baseball, a bunch of yuppies who want some sort of foodie “experience.”

That would also explain the game show host-like idiot they had on the Jumbotron during every lull asking trivia or playing some other sort of guessing game with a fan contestant for a chamce to win prizes.

I found it intrusive and annoying. 

If they want to do that silly shit at football or basketball games, have at it, but leave baseball alone.

Real baseball fans don’t need all that distracting shit to “enhance” our experience. Nor do we need any fancy foodie crap. Just give us some peanuts, popcorn, and cracker jacks and we won’t care if we ever get back.

Stop ruining baseball.

At least they haven’t replaced the Klement’s Racing Sausages

But baseball is back! And despite a long-winded rant, I’m happy.

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2014 MLB review

As the regular season of Major League Baseball wraps up, its time to evaluate changes that took affect this year and whether or not they worked.

1) Instant Replay — Fail. This experiment did not work. Having some joker in New York reviewing plays did not help the game any. He got it wrong as often as the Umpires on the field did, so what was the point? All instant replay eliminated was the part of the game the fans have come to love: The Argument. There is nothing more exciting then having your manager come out and argue a play call. It pumps up the fans and it pumps up the team. Who can ever forget Billy Martin kicking dirt onto the umpire as he argues with him? That’s baseball and that was sorely missing this season. Instead, we got a kinder, gentler, more boring game. Get rid of Instant Replay!

2) Inter-league Play — Fail. The point of having two leagues is so they face each other in the World Series and until then, it’s a mystery which league, or which teams are better. Having cross-league play all of the time takes the mystery out of it. Get rid of Inter-League Play.

3) No more blocking the plate — Fail. At one time, one of the most exciting plays was the play at the plate as the throw and the runner reach the catcher at the same time. The runner who slam into the catcher to dislodge the ball. The catcher would brace for the impact and try to hold onto the ball. I realize they did it to prevent injuries, but the rule started to get in the way of the game as they’d review any play at home in the off chance that the catcher might have sort of almost been blocking the plate. Besides, rules shouldn’t be made just because one team’s star player was taken out of the game for the rest of the season because he didn’t know how to stand without getting hurt. Bring back the catcher’s ability to block the plate.

Major league baseball is trying to improve it’s product as it competes against the NFL and NBA, but none of these rules help its standings and in fact, they ruin the fans’ experience.

About the only thing the MLB did get right is it’s stand against steroids. Bulking up players so they can hit a home run into the parking lot does not improve the game. Home runs might bring a moment’s excitement for the casual fan, but for fans who are knowledgeable of the game, they understand the best baseball is all about the fundamentals: getting base hits, advancing the runner, proper bunting, suicide squeezes, and pitcher duels.

Look, I admit I’m a purist about baseball. It’s been a great game for over 100 years and doesn’t need any tweaking to make it more accessible to the lowest common denominator. What it needs is more national exposure. Why is the NFL so popular these days? Because almost every team shows up on national television allowing people across the country to follow even the smallest market team, the Green Bay Packers. But television coverage in baseball is all regional. You want to see the smallest market team, the Milwaukee Brewers, you’re out of luck. There are few national games available. Baseball, to reach a wider audience, needs a significant national television contract to expose more teams to more people.

Baseball is still America’s pastime, but it’s a regional level. And until they make it available at the national level, it’ll never compete with the ratings for football.

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It was a Dicken’s of a season

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the 2014 season of the Milwaukee Brewers.

It truly was the best of times for most of the season as the Brewers had the best record in all of baseball for quite a long time and except for one day in July when they were tied with the St. Louis Cardinals, they led the National League for more than five months.

Then came the worst of times as September brought an astonishing 17 out of 19 losing skid wherein the Brewers failed in every single aspect of the game. They had no hitting, their pitching went south, and their offense looked pathetic as they committed errors and bone-headed mistakes that even Little Leaguers know better than to do.

Unfortunately, the ship never righted itself. Even when the pitching finally came around and they led the league in the lowest combined ERA, the bats were still silent and they managed a pathetic five wins in 10 games.

The final weeks of baseball season are usually it’s most exciting as any number of teams vie for the Pennant as well as the few Wild Card slots.

And usually, when your team has been leading the league all year long, making the play-offs should be a shoo-in.

Not the Brewers in 2014. Instead of an exciting knuckle-biting finish to the season, they’ve already been eliminated and their fans have been let down. Not that we haven’t been let down before, but not like this. Never like this.

It would have been one thing if the Brewers had dug themselves a big hole at the beginning of the season then slowly, game by game, week by week, scratched and clawed themselves into contention. Then, even if they missed the play-offs, such a season would show the team had grit, heart, a strong desire to win. Fans could have lived with that.

Instead, after a long season at the top, they crashed and burned at the end. The final few weeks it was as if the team had simply run out of steam, as if they didn’t give a damn any more. Basically, the team said, “Screw you,” to all the fans.

In the history of this franchise, 2014 will go down as one of the biggest disappointments ever. We were there. We had it. We had pitching, both starting and bullpen. We had hitting. We had offense. Every aspect of the game was clicking on all cylinders.

Except one. And that’s the reason we lost. How can a team be the best for so long and then suddenly collapse and not recover? Coaching. Specifically, the manager, Ron Roenicke. The man with no emotion. He sits in the dugout showing as much expression as if he were watching paint dry.

When other managers would be inspiring their troops, yelling, cajoling, ranting, raving, thinking of ways to get them back on track, Roenicke sits there like a lump doing what he’s done his entire tenure with the Brewers: absolutely fricking nothing.

The Brewers season is over because of Ron Do-Nothing Roenicke.

The thing is, had the Brewers made the play-offs, Roenicke would have been an easy choice for Manager of the Year. Luckily, however, he showed he not only doesn’t deserve that title, he doesn’t even deserve to coach any more.

Fire Roenicke.

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An American Guide to Understanding Soccer

The World Cup begins today. If you’re like most Americans, that phrase is meaningless, as it should be. But if you’re curious, I’m here to help.

The World Cup is like our SuperBowl, only nowhere near as exciting. That’s because the sport involved is something called soccer, a sport the rest of the world made up because they were jealous we had all the good sports, such as baseball, football, basketball, dodge ball, wrestling, roller derby, curling, and hockey, which we share with Canada. And because they were jealous, they even named it after our game of football to cause confusion, hoping some unwary Americans would tune in and inadvertently boost their television ratings, which they already claim are in the hundreds of millions.

But they measure viewership, like they measure everything else, in those weird metrics, so if you were to convert that into American television Nielsen Ratings it actually equates to 15 viewers.

If you’re curious about the game’s history, read on. Soccer was invented in the 1950s by a couple of bored Germans who only had a basketball and a hockey net to play with. They tried shooting hoops, but that proved rather unsatisfying as neither missed so their game of Horse would have gone on forever until one of them in frustration kicked the basketball. The other German yelled, “Hans, stop!” Fearing the basketball would destroy their hockey net he made a spectacular leap, catching the ball just before it went in.

Hans said, “Hey, Fritz, that was fun!” And then they each took turns kicking the ball while the other tried to block it from going in. And thus, soccer was born.

It quickly took off because everyone could play it and you didn’t need any equipment other than a ball, two nets, and your mom’s knee high socks. Heck, even today the game hasn’t advanced very much equipment-wise. They don’t even own cups, which is why they stand in front of the goal covering their dicks.

A side note here, no one has ever fully explained why they needed this new sport in the first place when they already had one of the most exciting, balls-to-the-wall, manly sports ever in rugby. But that’s neither here nor there.

Americans first heard of soccer in the 1960s because of the exploits of one Brazilian player known as Pelé and because of the table game many taverns had known as foosball, which is what many Americans call soccer even today. “Hey look, Billy Bob, there’s a foosball game on the television machine.”

Sadly, soccer has only produced two famous players in the last 50 years, compared to the hundreds upon hundreds of stars American sports have produced. These were the aforementioned Pelé and more recently David Beckam, who was really made famous because he married a Spice Girl and a movie was named after him then his actual playing ability, as proven by how poorly he performed when he came to America. Now you’d have thought someone of his supposed soccer prowess would have been like Wayne Gretzky or Michael Jordon playing against children, but no, he bombed worse than “Ishtar” with Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman.

This lack of talent is one of the reason the rest of the world hates America so much, because we just naturally ooze athleticism but we choose to ignore their sport. They know if just one American made it big in soccer, then their sport would finally be accepted here and Americans would watch it. Sure, when pigs fly and America goes metric. Don’t hold your breath, bucko.
The rules of soccer are simple. Everyone runs around like chickens with their heads cut off kicking a speckled ball until some announcer yells, “Gooooooooal!” There is a clock that keeps counting up, not down as in the majority of sports that make sense, so they never know when to end the game and usually stop when all the fans have fallen sleep and its too dark to see the ball. One other thing about soccer, if you recall, the game was created by Germans, who have lousy hand-eye coordination. You know this from watching any John Wayne World War II movie; the Germans couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. And that is the reason they aren’t allowed to use their hands and why most Americans, who have the greatest hand-eye coordination in the world, can’t play soccer.

So there you have it, my friends, a brief history on the game of soccer. Now as we head into this weekend of World Cup festivities, you are fully armed with the facts so when some nerdy guy requests they put soccer on the tele in your favorite tavern, you can shout down the little freak with “Soccer sucks” knowing your opinion is now an informed one.

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