Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I Love This Game

Ken Burns has a new piece of his seminal baseball documentary called "The Tenth Inning" airing this week on your local PBS station (mine is WETA here in the DC area).  Covering the modern era of baseball - the 1990s and 2000s - it has brought back so many memories to me and reminded me how much I love this game.  There is an element of poetic drama, story, history, and passion that just doesn't exist in sports like football, hockey, or soccer that is encapsulated in the game of baseball.  My particular appreciation for the nuances of the game is born from countless summer nights over the past eight years, but my love for the game came from my dad.

I remember watching with him, Cal Ripken in 1996, trot around Camden Yards, high-fiving every fan around the warning track, playing in his 2,131 game, breaking Yankee great Lou Gehrig's record, and cementing not only his place in history, but also the return of baseball from the strike of 1994.

I remember the dominance of the Atlanta Braves in the late 1990s and how my cousin adored and idolized them and how my brother wrote to Chipper Jones (still waiting Chipper, all these years later).

I remember 1998 and the excitement of the home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, and how on the day after McGwire hit his 62nd home run, breaking Yankee Roger Maris's 30yr+ record, I wrote it down in my high school agenda with big exclamation marks - "McGwire HITS #62!!".

I remember the dominance of the Yankees and their 1998 season in which they broke the record for winning the most games AND won the World Series - Joe Torre, Tino Martinez, Andy Petite, Derek Jeter, Paul O'Neill, David Cone, David Wells, Chuck Knoblauch, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera.

I remember the 2001 World Series (2 Yankee comebacks and Derek "Mr. November" Jeter) and the blooper hit of Juan Gonzalez from the fake team of the Arizona Diamondbacks and how To. This. Day. my heart hurts at the loss and the loss of a Series by the Yankees that started their downward slide and how they were never the same team after that loss and how they should have won because of 9-11, and all the poetic justice of what should have been.  I couldn't talk to my roommates for a few days because I was so upset - hopefully they've forgiven me :).  I've only slightly gotten over it.

I remember 2002 and falling in love with the backdrop of the forgettable World Series between the Anaheim Angels (Rally Monkey) and the San Francisco Giants.

I remember 2003 and the utter joy of the Yankees beating the Red Sox, coming from behind, and winning the pennant.  Aaron Boone will live forever in Yankee lore for one hit.  That is all  you need to live forever in baseball - one hit.

And then I remember the Yanks losing to the Florida Marlins (who had beat the Chicago Cubs) and watching Josh Beckett pitch a complete game to win the Series and being ok with it because it was such an unbelievable pitching performance.  A performance that I could respect.  Not a blooper hit from a fake team. 

I also remember 2003 because it was the summer that marked my beginning with college summer ball and a newfound appreciation for the game.  Learning how to score a baseball game opened my eyes to the drama, the strategy, and the nuances of this game.  It also introduced me to the utter goofiness of baseball boys.

I remember 2004 and the heartache of the Yankees losing to the Red Sox in Game 7, after leading them 3 games to 0 (Stupid Curt Schilling and that damn bloody sock).  And then watching from the sidelines as the Sox beat the Cardinals to win their first World Series since 1918, ending the "Curse" of the Bambino.

Truly, my life in baseball is centered around my Yanks.  The Series of 2005-2008 are forgettable - I think the White Sox won one, the Red Sox won another, the Cardinals one, the Phillies one.  I do remember the Tampa Bay Rays beating the Red Sox and being sooooo happy.  The only thing worse than the Yankees losing is the Red Sox winning for this girl.

Then the world was made right when the Yanks won their 27th World Series title in 2009.

And then there is 2010, a year with its own highlights - No-hitters, perfect games, unbelievable pitching performances - a true baseball fan's delight.

The steroids that rocked the game during this era is even more apparent in watching the documentary.  Players were a different size in the beginning of the 90s than they were in the 2000s.  How these guys got away with it for so long is the real question and both the players union and the baseball owners were at fault.

Burns' documentary does a great job of highlighting the complications of Barry Bonds - who in 1998, without steroids, became the first player to hit 400 home runs and steal 400 bases.  Then, once on the juice, broke Mark McGwire's home run record set three years before and then broke Hank Aaron's home run record, and yet became the scapegoat of baseball.

And then there are many other great stories to discover, like the Hispanic and Asian players who have made a huge impact on today's game, that the documentary covers and provides even more trips down memory lane.

Countless sleepless nights, silently screaming at the TV so as to not wake the roommates; leaving the room or changing the channel not being able to watch games; watching playoff games with a pillow over my face, jumping up and down on the couch; watching history made and records broken; scoring decisions made on the fly, meticulous attention to detail, hot summer days and endlessly, tortuously long games; memories cemented forever for me.  I truly love this game.

Play Ball!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Irony Is...

Sending an article to your friend about what not to do when getting pulled over by a cop....

....and then you, yourself, getting pulled over by a cop that very day.  For a taillight that was out.  Fail.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Book Review: Love & War

Love and War: Finding the Marriage You've Dreamed OfLove and War: Finding the Marriage You've Dreamed Of by John Eldredge

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I decided to not review this book immediately after reading it, because I wasn't sure how to approach it. Now, about a week later, I'm still not sure I have any better idea of how to describe it, but the fact that it has stayed with me for over a week's time, is telling to me as I usually churn and burn through books and their content. There are few books that resonate deeply within my heart - and while I don't know if this book is to that kind of status, I did really, really appreciate it.

It's interesting reading a book on marriage as a single person. The couple of other books on marriage that I've read this year ("Flux" by Peggy Orenstein and "Committed" by Elizabeth Gilbert) have always left me deeply questioning whether or not I really wanted to enter into this commitment. The hardships and realities that come with marriage are all too apparent in a Western culture like ours today in which about 50% of all marriages end in divorce. And those books put up a big red warning flag on the "fairytale" romances and endings often portrayed by Hollywood and Jane Austen that I have always loved. And to be honest, what girl doesn't want the fairytale? Of course there is a desire for a knight in shining armor - even the most independent of us have to admit that once in a while (I mean, come on, Beyonce "Ms. Independent" Knowles even married Jay-Z!).

What John and Stasi do though, in addressing the realities of hardships in marriages, is also provide tools and context for how to get through the hard stuff, and also why there is hard stuff. The Eldredges have always been upfront about the spiritual warfare and battle that goes on in our lives (See "Waking the Dead", "Epic", "Sacred Romance", "Captivating", "Walking with God"). But what they remind us - and what I think is one of their biggest gifts in my opinion - is that we are fighting a spiritual battle and NOTHING is spared from this war of attrition. Satan wants to see the ruin of marriages and hurt hearts and vows and agreements to never love again - because then he completely takes us out of the battle. I think the complacency component and routine that marriages can fall into walk a dangerous line in forgetting this fact.

What I also think that they do very well is to also emphasize the unbelievable and beautiful love that occurs in marriage - and how that gives us a glimpse into God's love for us. The grace and love that can come out of a marriage in seeing two people learn how to love beyond faults and baggage and the sin that is inherent in each of us, is a taste of heaven.

One of the best pieces of advice that I think they also provide is the idea of a shared adventure between the partners - something that is bigger than both the husband and wife that helps them focus their attention on not just each other, but on the kingdom at large. For example, the shared adventure/passion that the Eldredges embarked on is the creation of Ransomed Heart Ministries - a ministry that seeks to help men and women discover the heart of God and heal hearts while doing so. For others it could be the feeding of the poor, or the fight against the slave trade, or bringing the message of Christ to high school kids. It's not so much what the adventure, the vision is, but that it is shared between the husband and wife.

John and Stasi are very open and honest in this book. You won't find very many book or movie references here, which might appeal to some or jar other longtime fans that have come to expect that from them. I, for one, found it a highly intriguing and heart-engaging book. It caused me to ask questions of my own heart and views on marriage and come to realize that I have a hard time believing that anyone could love me beyond all of my baggage and selfishness. And if that is true, what does that say about my belief in God? It is something that I will continue to ruminate over. But all in all, I do highly recommend it and would encourage those who are married or thinking of getting married, or people who have ever thought about marriage in general, should go and pick up this book. I don't think you'll regret doing so.

**Many thanks to the publisher for the free copy of this book**

View all my reviews

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Some Good Articles

Some thoughts on God and His goodness - do you have trouble believing in grace and the goodness of God? I know I do sometimes - some thought-provoking stuff from two blogs - Every Bitter Thing is Sweet and Stuff Christians Like.  Take a minute to read and let me know your thoughts!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Live Thoughts on the VMAs

So I am watching the VMAs tonight and instead of posting lots of random thoughts on Facebook, I'll save them for my blog....

1 - Chelsea Handler - Hilarious. I bet there are a lot of mad celebrities, but oh well.  Thanks for being funny.

2 - Eminem - Welcome back. And hello red-flaming-fake-hair Rihanna.

3 - Justin Bieber - Ohmygosh.  You can actually dance!  And sing at the same time!  Maybe you're not a fad...maybe I am now a Bieber fan?? 

4 - Usher.  Wow. Wowowowowowowowoowow.  Or, Oh My Gosh.

5 - Florence & The Machine - Love your album.  Appreciate your performance - even more so that it came right after Usher's techno-amazing-dance-extravaganza.

6 - Lady Gaga - Of course you are going to win lots of VMAs for "Bad Romance".  So why wear unwearable clothing?

7 - Why do we need stats on Twitter updates for the VMAs?  There is something wrong with that - I can't quite put my finger on why it feels wrong, but it just seems wrong.  Or more like, why should I care?

8 - Random N.E.R.D. & Ciara performance in the middle of commercials? Shameless bad marketing technique.

9 - Taylor-frickin'-Swift - Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Like Kayne West is looking for a pity song from you? Please - why don't you learn how to sing? I'm sorry all you Taylor fans out there - I. Am. Not. A. Fan.


11 - Drake, Swizz Beatz, and Mary J. Blige - Awesome.  What a hip-hop performance should be with three uber-talented people.

12 - Dumb Jared Leto.  I hate 30 Seconds to Mars and emo-Jared Leto and his eyeliner and his shout-out to the "fans" - excuse me Jared, were these the same fans that you stood up on your tour with MuteMath - a band that actually has talent and innovation?

13 - What must it be like to be a member of the Jersey Shore cast? To get lots of money for doing nothing but sitting in a hot tub together, joking about STDs that you have?

14 - I'm not upset that Justin Bieber just won Best New Artist...ohmygosh, he has won me over! My identity is in crisis!!

15 - Really Cher, really? I don't know whether my eyes are offended and appalled or if I admire your chutzpah to wear that at your age, which is....???

16 - Thank YOU Aziz Ansari, for putting the Kayne/Taylor thing in perspective - It WAS hilarious!!

17 - Welcome back Kayne.  I've missed you.

Apologies for taking so long to put up another post.  I didn't realize it had been almost a month since my last post - I will promise to try to not do that again!