Archive for October, 2011

Yeah, another Saturday, another SEC football day. At least I’ve had the chance to slow down enough to watch some today. Spent the week in California, going up and down Interstate 5 from San Diego to Oceanside. Which, under leisurely circumstances, would be great, but I was working so I spent a lot of time in the car, in a meeting, or in my hotel room.

Today is Ole Miss-Alabama, which is never a good Saturday for me. For one, I’m an Ole Miss grad, and rarely do the Rebels beat Alabama. This year, of course, it’s practically impossible — Ole Miss is having (another ) bad year and Alabama is ranked #2. It’s going to be a long evening. It doesn’t help that half my relatives live in Alabama — some in Tuscaloosa. In fact, my uncle (who now lives in Mobile) called just as the game started to “see how the game was going.” Yeah. We got to talking and wouldn’t you know it, he brought up the Ole Miss-LSU history and recounted the very game I blogged about a week ago (see the 8 Oct entry). Nearly 40 years later and that game still burns.

Only have a brief break from the road before heading back on North Carolina Monday. My second trip to the Tarheel State in three weeks — I’m spending way too much time in the Charlotte airport. But I have noticed the proliferation of tablets, Nooks and Kindles in the hands of travelers. Me, I did some reading on my Mac with my Kindle app. Sure, there were “real books” being read, but I was surprised at the number of electronic readers. But the travel has meant I haven’t had a lot of time for new writing, but I’ve done had some good stretches of time in airports and on planes to do some rewriting and editing, mostly on the second Wade Stuart novel (tentatively titled, “A Simple Murder”). So, if you haven’t grabbed the first one, Enemy Within, click here to get it.

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I posted this last night on Facebook, but I’m still blown away enough to do the same here. I’m not prone to sentimentality or “Awwwww” moments, so that was not my reaction to this must-see clip of a young boy throwing out the first pitch at Game 4 of the National League Division Series between Arizona and Milwaukee. As a baseball fan, I’ve seen a lot of first pitches, some good, most not — some just downright embarrassing (Mariah Carey’s comes to mind). And, as a baseball fan, the first thing I look for is simple: did the ball at least make it to the plate? I don’t care about form — few people in the world are blessed with the ability to throw a baseball 60 feet — at 90+ mph. But at least get the ball to the catcher.

Until I saw this latest clip, I thought the best first pitch ever came during the 2001 World Series — Game 3. The first World Series after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. In New York. Then-President George W. Bush walked from the dugout to the mound wearing a jacket adorned with FDNY and NYPD insignia. Then he climbed the mound — he didn’t stand on the grass in front of it, like most first-pitchers do. Nope, he walked to the top, toed the rubber like the Yale pitcher he once was, went through his windup and threw a damn-near perfect strike. And, as they say, the crowd went nuts. (No, I’m not a Republican; I’m not a Democrat, either, just a smartass redneck.) I thought, at the time, nobody will ever do it better than that. And if you’ve forgotten what it was like, or were hiding in a cave in Tora Bora, here it is again.

But this kid was awesome. Notice that once the catcher goes into his squat, he does not move. Not his feet. Not his glove. Not his head. Only his lips — orienting the boy with sound. That ball dropped in there like a perfect curve ball. I don’t know who the boy is, but I’d be pretty damn proud of him if he was mine.

P.S. If you haven’t checked out the Kindle edition of Enemy Within, now is a good time. Wade Stuart is rumored to return soon.

Anybody who knows anything about me (and now that includes you) knows I love football — especially SEC football. Is it the rivalries? The skill with which the game is played? The traditions? The athletes? The gorgeous women in the stands? The legends?

Yes.

Watching LSU play on TV always evokes a long list of memories and stories (full disclosure: I’m not a fan), some good, mostly bad. One of my most vivid memories is of a game years ago that still rankles the Ole Miss faithful. I listened to the game on the radio, lying across the massive bench seat of my father’s Ford, 10-year-old fingers hovering over the AM dial as Stan Torgeson called the action. Like many Ole Miss-LSU games, this one was close for four quarters. The quintessential “seesaw battle for the lead” in a Saturday night game in Baton Rouge. Ole Miss led 16-10 with :04 to go. LSU’s quarterback, Bert Jones (whom I would later admire in the NFL, but not this night) flung a pass downfield, incomplete. Over the scratchy radio, I could hear an anguished Cajun groan. Ole Miss had won!

But wait.

No, there was, impossibly, one second left on the clock. What the? Even my 10-year-old brain, with only Ole Miss Radio audio to guide me, knew that the play took at least four seconds. Now, I’m not accusing anybody of anything, but one freakin’ second? Are you kidding me? Pandemonium broke out. Stan Torgeson was beside himself, and I sat up straight in the Ford in disbelief — and hoping my dad didn’t notice that I’d been listening to the car radio for hours, sucking down the battery.

LSU lined up, and Jones flung another pass as time expired — a touchdown with no time left on the clock. Game tied, 16-16. But because a touchdown had been scored, even with no time left, LSU was allowed — had the right — to kick the extra point and win the game, 17-16. I sat in the dark in that car for a long time, too shocked to move.

They don’t call it Death Valley for nothing. Talk about bitter.

Tiger Stadium is also one of the scariest places I’ve ever been (combat included). You haven’t heard loud until you’ve been there — these fans were so loud at a game that the noise actually registered as a earthquake (look it up). You don’t know the emotion “hostile” until you show up repping the other side. I’ve only been there once, when I was in college. A night game on Halloween weekend. I was an Ole Miss student sitting on the LSU side (hell, all sides are the LSU side at Tiger Stadium) — the girl I was with was a Baton Rouge native. I didn’t say a word all night (Ole Miss lost). There were moments when I, literally, feared for my physical safety. I even once heard a story of LSU fans throwing an opposing team’s fan off the top of the stadium. Again, not accusing, just sayin.’ With those fans, who knows?

I love the title of this NPR piece: “Zen and ‘The Art of Fielding:’ Baseball as Life.” Appropriately released today (unless you live under a rock and don’t know that this week is the opening round of postseason baseball), this review almost guarantees that I’ll at least give the book a try. I’m guilty of using (overusing) baseball analogies to describe just about any life situation, because, well, baseball is life. And life is like baseball — you win some, you lose, sometimes you get rained out. You have to play ’em one game at a time.

In one of my former newsrooms, my boss and I never had a conversation without talking about baseball in some way, and he and I invariably used a baseball analogy to describe whatever situation we were trying to explain. For example, I just didn’t head off an argument with an irate source. I took the bat out of his hands. When I wanted a certain page designer on my editorial team, he told me I was trying to take his best utility infielder; I countered with the observation that this designer was the Derek Jeter of infielders (I got the page designer, who proved me right time and time again).

You can see this even in the movies. No, not the baseball movies (which usually are terrible depictions of the sport — Bull Durham being the lone exception). Just watch The Untouchables. When Capone decides to, um, discipline one of his underlings, how does he do it?

Ok, he beats him to death with a baseball bat (wooden), but my point is he uses a baseball analogy before he whacks the guy:

CAPONE

What draws my admiration? What is that which gives me joy?

Baseball!

           A man stands alone at the plate. This is the time for what?

For individual achievement.

There he stands alone. But in the field, what?

Part of a team. Looks, throws, catches, hustles.

Part of one big team. Bats himself the live-long day,

Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and so on.

But if his team don’t field…what is he?  You follow me?

No one.

         Sunny day, the stands are full of fans. What does he have to say?

              “I’m goin’ out there for myself. But…I get nowhere unless the team wins.”

You just can’t beat that — that’s life (or in this guy’s case, the end of his) in a nutshell.

1 Oct 2011: Slow Saturday

Posted: October 1, 2011 in Uncategorized

I love fall — the weekends seem to slow down with the cooler weather, the yard work is almost done for the year. And best of all, it’s postseason baseball and college football all weekend.

And when I say cooler, I mean a 25-degree difference from yesterday. Overnight, the weather shifted from a gorgeous, comfortable day to a cloudy, windy, “Yep, this is definitely fall” kind of morning — a real eye-opener after sleeping 10 1/2 hours (which I never do) and realizing I overslept and was late for breakfast with a friend.

Commented to said friend that after sleeping like that, then dashing out of the house to meet someone for breakfast — three scrambled, sausage, grits, toast and a gallon of coffee, I felt like a private dick in a Mickey Spillane story. Or Wade Stuart. All I was missing was my trusty .45 and a brassy dame with legs up to here waiting for me in the jalopy.