A Frightening Moment

This past Monday evening I was watching Monday Night Football involving the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals. I saw something I had never seen on a football field in the 65 years since I’ve been watching the pro game.

I had watched Monday Night Football since its inception and at times it was even quite comedic with Alex Karras, the ex-professional lineman rendering some wonderful one-liners. What I saw was 180° from listening to the occasionally comedic Karras broadcast.

A 24 year-old excellent safety playing for the Buffalo Bills, Damar Hamlin, tackled the Bengals’ receiver and stood up. At that point he fell like a floppy doll and hit the turf. His heart stopped and required CPR.There is no question that was the saddest moment I have ever seen on a football field.

On Thursday, he was in critical condition and communicated in writing as his breathing tube precluded speaking. Hopefully he will completely recover between his hospitalization and rehab.

It seems that something has to be done that can be more effective at minimizing severe injuries on a football field. To me great teams aren’t necessarily violent. I am hopeful creative  thinkers and quality research can provide the answers to the serious injuries experienced in American, professional football.

Homebody You Say?

“‘There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.” Jane Austen, the 19th-century English novelist. Oh yes. 

The home was a mixed blessing when I was a kid. My mom was nurturing and my father was difficult. It thrilled me to leave for school at eighteen. 

Our house is where we have lived, thank God, for almost thirty years. It has my loving, artistic spouse’s touch. Those touches have given me peace, as have her paintings. Our dwellingplace is where I can awaken, have breakfast, read, write, and experience Kris’ company in the quiet tranquility of the indoors.

It’s no accident that small, romantic, non-epic films are now very hard to sell at the box office. We have high definition, large, crystal clear screens with soundboards with which to enjoy the personal. They have added to the comfort of our era. That change is part of what the Pandemic has done to our culture.

I was thrilled when the San Diego Chargers’ moved to L.A. I could avoid traffic, boisterous crowds, and local television blackouts for non-sellouts. I could gain well-informed, former quarterbacks to explain what was really going on.

It’s even better now at home than in Austen’s 19th century. Good thought, Jane.

The Batty Bat Borer

“White ash trees provided the lumber for Major League Baseball’s bats for more than 100 years. The emerald ash borer is destroying the trees at places like the Round Valley Recreation Area in Clinton Township, N.J.” Michelle Gustafson for The New York Times. And remarkably, 193 readers commented on the article electronically.

I have followed baseball for 67 years. In the last few years I have been bombarded by highly sophisticated stats, questions posed to general managers that we all knew they would not answer and now the ultimate boring (via the borer, pun intended) detail, maple in the new bats instead of the ash of the last 100 years.

The American league home run record in a season was broken in 1961 with ash and again in 2022 with maple. Who cares? At least the public commenters above.

How can a sport this fascinating go over the top in the short course of my non-maple lifetime. I thought maple was for floors and furniture. The sportswriters and naturalists are batting me away from my favorite sport.

That Second Heart

“Time doesn’t heal, I had learned, it just keeps moving. And it takes us with it.” Ann Hood, an American novelist.  “The past beats inside me like a second heart.” John Banville, an Irish novelist. 

Oh, my does time move. At 77, I can remember attending an Ohio State football game at seven years of age as though it were yesterday. Sunday, I followed our San Diego Chargers play without a doubt their finest game of the season. In some ways, I was with my dad again watching that game in Columbus in 1952 while my wife of 45 years was a newly birthed infant in Washington, D.C. 

A large high-resolution screen and a soundbar enhanced the experience of watching the Chargers. My senses got a much clearer experience of the game than when I was a small fry in the far reaches of Ohio Stadium. It had opened on 10/7/22 with my dad as a Boy Scout, ushering. 

That time ebbs and flows. And my dad, who was difficult, was my buddy who brought me to see his alma mater on the gridiron, the color of the grand fall event, and the high-stepping Buckeye band playing its heart out. The memory is not healing as I write this, but it is refreshing. 

It’s fall. Time is moving. That second heart is beating.

The Throw

Yes. It’s true. With both my son and my daughter before they could walk, I taught them the throwing motion. They were both holding themselves up by the other hand in a playpen at the time.

Our daughter, Courtney, played, and still could play, a solid third base with a fine throw to first in softball. Our son, Chad, had/has an excellent service motion in tennis. That serve is equivalent to the overhanded throwing motion.

Did I have anything to do with that. Probably not.

My spouse’s DNA was the driving force. So much for an overly zealous dad who grew up as a frustrated athlete.

Character Counts

“I’ve just learned over a period of time that, hey, you just live your life, try to do the right things, seize the moment, and enjoy as much as you can,” he said. “Enjoy this ride…” Dusty Baker, a lifer in Major League Baseball, now manager of the Houston Astros, playing today for the World Series Championship. 

Dusty also said, and I thought I’d find a comment like this: “People always see the successes, but they don’t see the failures in your life. They don’t see the times when you’re going broke, losing money, getting divorced, and thought you hit rock bottom. The Lord gives you the sense of purpose that you have to have. There are many people out there who are faithless and feel a sense of hopelessness and despair. I’m here to tell them that if you persevere, the Lord will always come through and deliver you.” 

When I lived in Atlanta, Dusty played for the Braves. When I lived in LA, he played for the Dodgers. I am 77 and he is 73. I have always been a fan. 

They say he is the consummate players’ manager. It seems his players love to play for him. “We love going out there every day and competing for him.” Alex Bregman, the Houston Astros’ third baseman.

If Dusty wins his first World Series as a manager of the Astros, perhaps even some of the Phillies will be happy for him. Stranger things have happened.

Wait Till Next Year

I think we rarely talk about luck and locale in sports. 

You need  a little more luck than the Padres gathered to have won the Philly playoff series completed yesterday. That is particularly true with the barreled up-hi velocity outs from the bat of Juan Soto in the Philly series. 

The Philly superstar, Bryce Harper, was completely at the top of his game. We were unlucky to play the Phillies at that point for Bryce in the season. I don’t think he simply willed his way to superior hitting. Recall Atlanta’s Rosario’s fortunate hot bat last October’s World Series or Bobby Richardson years and years ago in the World Series. Or, even Dusty Rhodes in ’54.

That San Diego played three games in the hitters’ park that the Phillies played in half the year certainly gave the Philly hitters a slight edge over even our best pitchers. That was out of our control, as, half the year our pitchers pitched in the pitcher-friendly, marine-layered Petco Park (Marine layers are thick and slow down the ball). Citizens Bank Park is certainly a place where the Phillies’ hitters’ confidence soared.

So much for 2022.

Those Elusive Hits

“Sometimes winning a game and losing a game, there’s some luck involved in that, so that kind of comes into play. The best we can do is just prepare ourselves for the big game and go into it and try to perform.” Yu Darkish, San Diego, starting pitchers today against the Phillies.

I have seen baseball reporting change dramatically in the 67 years I have been first listening and then watching. The phone you likely hold in your hands at the moment puts encyclopedic knowledge at your fingertips. In baseball that means stats are readily available to the fans and team. Two we may have never dreamed of are the average exit velocity off the bat and percentage of barrelled balls.

It is awfully hard to hit a major league pitch. The object is to fully barrel the ball with a high exit velocity. But it is much too frequently with luck with the best technique that the ball drops safely.

If you compare the Phillies’ Bryce Harper’s stats in the pennant series against San Diego with barrels and exit velocities they are comparable to Juan Soto’s for his Padre compadres. But the Harper strokes have found a lot more holes in the field, those elusive hits.

Good fortune is a gift from our Maker and those fortunes vary. As a diehard Padre fan in the “win or go home” game today, I sure hope the Padres are blessed with good fortune. It won’t change my life but it sure would sweeten the day.

Choices

Tyler Anderson, the LA starter, was pitching a gem through five innings Saturday night with LA ahead of San Diego 2-0. His manager, Dave Roberts, still decided to pull him from the Padre-Dodger playoff game when a Padres win would end the season for arguably the best LA Dodger team in history.

Statistically, most pitchers lose a little something this late in their start with the hitters catching up with their pitch choices more readily and more accustomed to their pace. Roberts had a superb bullpen to rely upon. His starter also had little playoff experience. Logically it seemed like a good move.

The only thing he lacked was a knowledge of what these Padres were really made of and how thrilled they were to have Anderson off the pitcher’s mound. They feasted on several relievers in the seventh inning for five runs, enough for the win and to enter the National League Championship Series beginning tomorrow.

Go Padres.