A Call for Incivility in the Yankees-Red Sox Rivalry

Remember when Jason Varitek mashed his catcher’s mitt into A-Rod’s too-cute-for-baseball face? Or when the weaselly Pedro Martinez slammed a then 72-year-old Don Zimmer into the Fenway turf? All this punctuated by the exclamation points of Aaron Boone’s home run in ’03 and the Red Sox 0-3 comeback in ’04.

Yankees-Red Sox hatred threatened to tear apart friendships and families in a post-9/11 world.

God I miss those days.

IMG_20180412_185100Since the mid-aughts, sport’s greatest rivalry has been in a limp state. The word flaccid comes to mind. Both teams haven’t been hot at the same time in years. The games have been placid and civil in the last decade, leaving Gandhi gleaming in his grave.

But this is baseball, not world politics. A Yankees-Sox game should make Gandhi reconsider civil disobedience from his resting place in the great beyond.

The Yanks/Sox rivalry has been so subdued as of late that I can safely wear my Yankees hat in Maine–a state formerly owned by Massachusetts, teeming with Sox fans–and not have a single insult hurled my way. At first I thought, Look, we’re all growing up. Then I realized that the lack of impudence is a bad sign.

A colleague saw me wearing my New York hat recently and commented, “I should be saying terrible things to you right now for wearing that hat, but it’s not like that anymore.”

Can we please get back to the discord?

My brother wore a Yankees jersey to a Yanks/Sox game at Fenway in ‘O3. In the stands, a ten year old looked at him and jeered, “Jeter sucks A-Rod! Jeter sucks A-Rod!” When my brother looked to the boy’s father to control the imp, his father shouted, “Yeah, that’s right!”

Last night’s game with it’s multiple bench-clearing skirmishes and monstrous home runs by both sides was so refreshing.

IMG_20180412_184435When Joe Kelly stared down a charging Tyler Austin and waved him on with two fingers, mouthing, “Come on,” I got goosebumps. And when the troglodytes in the stands erupted into a feverish “Yankees suck!” chant, I nearly wept with joy.

Let’s hope that Tyler Austin’s hard slide into second base last night heralded in the new age of Yankees-Sox hatred. Both teams are young, talented, and brash. Of course, the theater of benches clearing and grown men driven to fisticuffs means nothing if both teams aren’t in contention for the top spot in the American League East.

This could be the year when talent and tempers collide for some of that old, blissful animosity between Yankees and Red Sox fans. I’ll know it’s happening when I’m wearing my Yankees hat in public and I hear, “Nice hat, asshole.” Oh, how my heart will leap, as I lovingly reply, “Get fucked.”

Go Yankees!


Writing is Not Writing

When I decided to become a writer with a serious writing habit in my early 30’s, I had a naive sense of what writing was. Here’s what my list of a writer’s tasks might have looked like then: write sentences that make readers think you’re smart, create characters who will make readers think you’re smart, and craft internal monologues that will make readers think you’re smart.

I’ll try to be kind to my former self by just saying that he was inexperienced and unsophisticated in the understanding of the work of a fiction writer. Not that I’m so sophisticated now, but having sustained a day-in-day-out writing habit for the past six years, I can see the flaw in my perception of writing.

As I work on the edits for the novel I sold to Hanover Square Press last fall, I am now realizing that writing is as much imagining and inhabiting your characters as it is writing sentences.

In my novel something bad happens. It’s horrific. The editor at the publishing house noted that I don’t let the reader stay in the scene long enough. The horrific moment is the release of the tragedy that’s been lurking in the background on every page. He felt that I didn’t let that moment develop and grow long enough. He was right.

IMG_20180202_073301So I sat in the vintage Airstream I use as a writing studio in the winter, and I opened my manuscript to the tragic scene. Upon re-reading the pages I realized I didn’t inhabit the scene fully. Perhaps I didn’t intuit that the scene needed to be longer so I let myself off the hook. More likely, as I discovered upon entering the scene again in my mind  was that it was fucking painful space to enter. To really put myself in the middle of what was happening–to see the texture of people’s skin, the hard-angles of the eyes–was distressing. Emotionally and physically.

In my writing session, I kept trying to avoid fully realizing the scene by writing poetic sentences. The words were a crutch to not enter the chaotic emotional folds of the scene.

So I stopped writing. I shut the light off, put on the theme song from Twin Peaks, and placed myself inside these characters in this moment. It didn’t take long for me to start audibly gasping at what I was seeing in my mind. It also didn’t take long  to want to turn the light on and open my eyes. But I made myself sit in this disturbing space.

When I had it–all of it–I put my head in my hands and cried. I tried to take deep breathes. My head ached in the way it did after my grandmother’s funeral. It was the aching of torment and confusion. I wrote the sentences depicting what I saw. The language wasn’t necessarily poetic, but it was clear and precise.

What I know now that I didn’t know in my early thirties is that the precision is more beautiful than the poetry–or maybe that’s wrong. Perhaps precision and clarity is the highest form of poetry.

5 Reasons To Still Believe In Baseball

This summer SportsCenter has spent more time analyzing the fallout of A-Rod’s turbulent relationship with Biogenesis, than it has showing actual highlights of baseball games.  So much air-time is given to analysis of which players he outed, how long the appeal of his 211 game suspension will take, and his newest douchery, a malpractice suit against a Yankees’ team doctor.

BaseballsAnd if it’s not A-Rod’s drama taking away from the games happening on the field, it’s reports of Ryan Braun playing a bogus anti-Semite card to protect his 2011 MVP award.  Shame on you, sir.

I thought the Mitchell Report took care of this nonsense.  Didn’t Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire, and Roger Clemens show us the ugly fallout of taking PED’s?

Guess not.  Humans, being human, we are destined to repeat our fathers’ mistakes.

With all this off the field, I need to remind myself that baseball is thriving in 2013.  There’s a lot of good out there.

Here are five reasons to still believe in baseball.

1.  The Pittsburgh Pirates are in first place.  For a while, it seemed like the Pirates were the worst team in professional sports on the planet with one of the nicest facilities.  Now they’re a kick ass team in a kick ass facility.  The three-way race in the NL Central alone is reason enough to pay attention to baseball.

2. The young talent in the game is astonishing.  Bryce Harper is the most electrifying twenty-year-old home run hitter since Ken Griffey, Jr.  Also born in 1992, Jose Fernandez packs the usually empty Marlins stadium with his spellbinding stuff.  The Dodger’s phenom Yasiel Puig is hitting .342 and makes a top-ten play nightly.  And leading the voltaic group of MLB youngsters is last year’s AL Rookie of the Year, Mike Trout, who spoke out against the use of PED’s, calling for a lifetime ban if a player tests positive.

Thanks, Mike, for leading your generation with raw, God-given talent and a level head.

Baseball Glove

3. Miguel Cabrera.  Enough said.  He’s the type of player you’ll tell your kids about.  The same way my dad told me about watching Yastrzemski play.  I know he’s had a few off-the-field hiccups, but he’s seemed to have quieted that down.  I saw him tag Mariano Rivera two nights in a row earlier this season for ninth inning homers.  If he can catch Chris Davis in home runs, he might win another triple crown.  Do you know how monumental that is?

4. And speaking of Mariano Rivera, here’s one of the all-time greats going out with class.  His tour around big league ball parks is unprecedented.  While A-Rod pulls his ego-maniacal shenanigans at one end of the Yankee club house, at the other end is a humble future Hall of Famer doing it right.

5. And finally, Clayton Kershaw’s curveball.  It makes my knees buckle from my couch.  It’s pure poetry.

It’s important to remember that baseball is still baseball.  At its core, it’s sacred.  It’s still about hitting a round ball with a round bat.

If we can quiet the noise of the A-Rods and Ryan Brauns and watch the games being played on the field, we might just understand how good we have it right now.

Boston’s Prayer of Action in the Face of the Marathon Bombings

Flag at Half StaffIt’s been years since I’ve used language to directly address a higher power in prayer.  I was raised in the Catholic Church where it was common to hear, “Please pray for us,” or, “We’ll be sure to pray for you,” when a church member was in tragedy’s tight grip.  As any good Catholic kid, I dutifully prayed at night for the people around me in need.  That is, I used words to speak directly to a higher power.

In college I began to wane in my belief in using language to speak to God or whomever runs this show.  It’s not because I felt my prayers were unanswered — I’ve lived an easy life.  I also didn’t ditch praying with words because I, like many college students in the throes of Nietzsche and Derrida and other nihilistic texts, started to doubt the existence of a higher power.

I just wasn’t convinced that sitting alone or with others at church and saying words into the universe was the kind of prayer that set the world on fire.  The most beautiful and effective way to communicate my joy of existence, or my desire for the alleviation of pain in someone’s life, was action.

My heroes of prayer are the doers.  Martin Luther King Jr, Mahatma Ghandi, Henry David Thoreau, for example, all seemed to have lived their prayers through daily action.  Yes, they prayed through language, too.  They were brilliant writers.  But for me, their words were secondary to their bold actions.  Martin Luther King Jr and company prayed with nonviolent protest in Bull Connor’s Birmingham.  Ghandi made salt in direct defiance of the British Empire as his graceful prayer.  In his humble cabin, Thoreau tried to “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.”  That idea of living deep, what a prayerful action.

So years ago I quit praying to a higher power through words and attempted to pray with action.  A hike on a fall day in Northern Maine to communicate my thanks of existence on a habitable planet.  Listening to a student whose life is falling apart — listening fiercely while holding back judgment.  Pulling over during a snowstorm to help push a stuck car out of a parking space.  Snow-blowing my neighbor’s driveway while he’s in the hospital.  Waking early to let the dog out and feed her so my wife can sleep longer.  These are my daily prayers.

Following Monday’s tragic explosions at the Boston Marathon, the word ‘prayer’ has been invoked in speeches by the President and other politicians and in Facebook and Twitter statuses.

Watching the footage of the explosions and the immediate aftermath that ensued, I, like countless other Americans, witnessed the powerful form of prayer in the way of direct action.  Facebook statuses have been riddled with the urgency that instead of watching for the people fleeing from the scene, we need to pay attention to the men and women rushing to the bomb site.  Men and women pulling down barriers to get to the victims, lifting scaffolding, kneeling next to the wounded who were enduring pain beyond understanding.  Some of these ‘helpers,’ as they’ve been called, were police officers, some off-duty doctors, while others were simply citizens leaping into action.

I think of the doctors praying right now through their work to save the lives and limbs of victims still undergoing surgery.

I’m ever learning how to pray properly through action.  Thankfully, the citizens of Boston have been teaching me how it’s done since the tragic moment when the first explosion sounded.

Like that once-Catholic kid trying to understand how to best communicate with a higher power, I’ll continue to look to the people of Boston for guidance over the coming weeks.

Stay strong, Boston.  I know you will.