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Bill Buckner: Undeserved scorn and redemption.

bucknerBill Buckner died today at the age of 69.  He had been battling dementia for a couple of years.  His career is a testament to how cruel baseball can be, but also to how much it exposes character. It also shows us how redemption IS possible…if we possess the patience of Job.

Buckner was a superb left-handed hitter who came up with the Dodgers, played with the Cubs, and spent his golden years with the Boston Red Sox.  The numbers are outstanding.  A .289 lifetime average…including a battle title with the Cubs in 1980 when he hit 324. He is one of a handful of players to have played in four decades.

For his time, only Rod Carew was a better contact hitter.  Buckner struck out only 459 times in nearly 7,000 at bats.  He NEVER struck out more than twice in a game!!

But despite playing more than 18-thousand innings in his major league career, Buckner will be remembered most for a single inning…and a single ground ball.  A ground ball he should never have seen.

In 1986, the Boston Red Sox were leading the New York Mets 3-2 in the World Series.  Boston was about to shed it’s image as cursed losers, claiming a title for the first time since 1918.  They went into the bottom of the tenth at Shea Stadium, leading 5-3.

During the season, Red Sox Manager John McNamara often substituted Dave Stapleton for Buckner with a lead late in the game.  Buckner was playing with a severely injured Achilles, an ankle injury that had plagued him since 1975.  But McNamara chose to leave the hobbled Buckner out on the field as the Sox tried to get the final three outs.

The Sox got the first two outs quickly.  Then came a single.  Then another.  Then a third.  Then a wild pitch. Suddenly it was 5-5 with a runner at second.  The speedy Mookie Wilson hit a slow grounder to first.  Buckner wobbled to his left and stabbed at it—but it rolled between his legs.  Two runs scored.  The Mets won and evened the series.  They won the next day to take the Series 4-3.  The Red Sox frustration continued, and Buckner became the scapegoat.

Never mind that cleanly fielding the ball would have simply sent the game into the 11th inning.  Never mind that Wilson may have been fast enough to beat it out for a hit anyway.  No.  The mob had found their goat.

Baseball has a nasty habit of freely administering the “goat” tag in a most undeserving manner.  Fred Merkle’s infamous “boner” in 1908 cost the Giants a pennant, even though his sin (not touching second base on a game-winning base hit) was standard practice at the time.  Mickey Owen is forever remembered for his “dropped third strike” in the 1941 Series.  Never mind that it simply tied the game between the Yankees and the Dodgers, and it was simply one game in an otherwise-unremarkable series.  And this is to say nothing of pitchers who have given up significant homers.  One pitch, one swing, one decisions DOES a career make.  It is cruel as hell.  Imagine your entire career being determined largely by a singular event.

The hell of it is, not even FANS are immune.  Steve Bartman’s private life was ended when he tried to catch a foul ball in a playoff game in 2003 at Wrigley Field.  It prevented Moises Alou from making the catch.  Bartman was escorted out of the stadium amid fans tossing beer at him.  History doesn’t remember that Cub’s Shortstop Alex Gonzalez’s error on a sure double play ball later that inning was FAR more costly in the Cubs loss to the Marlins.  No.  The Baseball Gods had chosen their Goat.  And that was that.

It apparently took Buckner years to reconcile his undeserving place in baseball history.  At one juncture he moved to Idaho and began working in real estate.  But time heals all wounds.  And eventually, Buckner made peace with the Red Sox fans and with baseball in general.  He even appeared on an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” where he made light of his infamous error.  Baseball is cruel, yes.  But all sins are eventually forgiven.  Even those that are not your fault.

On Bill Buckner’s passing, I will do all I can to NOT remember one simple ground ball hit in one inning of one game 33 years ago.  The only thing I choose to remember is one of the great contact hitters of his generation.  A throwback to a day when it was considered unmanly to strike out.

THAT was Bill Buckner.

(sigh) Another friggin’ post about abortion!

I *hate* talking about abortion.  Isn’t there a new gun control proposal I can bitch about?

abortion-debateUnfortunately, the issue I want to avoid like the radioactive hobgoblin that it is simply won’t go away.  And the latest incarnation of the debate is what happens when people reject compromise on a complicated and deeply-emotional issue.

Laws introduced and passed earlier this year that allow no-excuse abortion up to the millisecond before birth (and in some cases, AFTER birth) have been countered in the past few weeks by fetal heartbeat bills with codicils that could actually punish women who seek an abortion.  While I prefer that state legislatures be the places where such issues are dealt with, and not the federal level, I am not getting a good vibe from either extreme.

Yes, there are many things I will not budge on.  Most of them are based upon what I see as immutable characteristics of individual freedom that are outlined in the US Constitution.  The abortion debate doesn’t fall so neatly into that category.  What freedom-lover can claim they are opposed to “choice” under most any other circumstance?  How can someone claiming sanity be against “life?”

Both sides had lived for a generation under an uneasy truce that resulted, more or less, in third-trimester abortions being illegal except under mitigating circumstances.  But in today’s highly-polarized climate, uneasy truces are no longer allowed.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  My personal goal is to make abortions “safe, legal, and damned-near unheard of.”   How we achieve that will NOT be through legislation.  It will be through repairing our collective soul. And our individual souls.

Mueller Time leaves us with a giant hangover

Robert Mueller Named As Special Counsel On Russia ProbeThere is a reason I have written comparatively little on the Mueller Probe as opposed to, say, Brett Kavanaugh or the wonders of Democratic Socialism.  The entire episode has bored the hell out of me.

Yes I know it is MORE than significant that a sitting President was being investigated for possible collusion with a foreign entity in order to influence a US Presidential election.  But the genesis for all this felt wrong from the beginning.  The same people who called Donald Trump an insufferable buffoon would have us believe they were capable of coordinating a Spy-versus-Spy scheme that would confuse John Grisham.  The last two years of leaked information amounted to little more than a macabre Merry-Go-Round of innuendo/he said/they said/we think/they think/unconfirmed sources say horseshit.  It gave me a headache and made me drink beer.  Wait.  Scratch that last part.

I think there was enough smoke to justify the investigation.  Not a lot, but enough.  But I think it was clear to most folks early on that this was NOT going to produce the walk-off grand slam that Democrats wanted.  Of course, that didn’t stop political talking heads from yammering on like a coked-up auctioneer.  It also did not stop the more die-hard leftists from elevating Mueller to Demigod status.  For the last two years, whenever a proud member of the Resistance Army was confronted with uncomfortable facts, they were able to rock themselves to sleep with visions of indictment-bearing sugar plum fairies dancing in their heads.  I was thinking the whole time of what a letdown they were likely setting themselves up for.  No matter how many shitty tweets, impolitic statements or general inanity emerged from the White House, they were able to assuage themselves with this Ace in the Hole they were just SURE existed. Once again, I was right.

As expected, the report confirmed that Trump was a blundering fool in regards to understanding the way the Justice Department was supposed to work.  It showed that he was, at best, impolitic in the way he handled the whole affair.  Now.  Show of hands.  How many of you are surprised?  Now…more hands.  How many think that justifies impeachment?  Of course, that is entirely up to Congress now.  As it should be.  The Special Prosecutor investigates and submits his report to the DOJ, who then forwards it to Congress.  Now the choice is with House Democrats.  They can go shoulder-deep into the rabbit hole if they wish.  Or, they can convince Americans why we should vote FOR their candidate next year as opposed to AGAINST Trump.

I think a lot of the fuel behind this two year long effort was an attempt to justify the popular fanfiction that the 2016 Election was “hijacked.”  For a lot of people left-of-center, Trump being elected President was like Jethro Bodine being elected Pope.  To have the epitome of the brash, loudmouth American deny what you felt was Hillary Clinton’s birthright to break the two-century old Glass Ceiling was more than many could absorb.  A significant part of their coping was made possible by imagining dark agents at work in shadowy warehouses in Siberia, sharing Pepe the Frog memes in broken English.  How this translated into Hillary choosing not to campaign in Wisconsin still escapes me, but some of the more enterprising members of The Resistance seem to be comfortable with making the connection.

Occam’s Razor tells us that in most cases, the simplest answer is the correct one.  Face it, Democrats.  You lost fair and square.   You cast your net hoping for the Great White Whale. Instead, you’re sailing home with a handful of guppies.  It’s on days like this when I wish I actually *liked* Trump.  I can only imagine how happy I would feel.

Another 4/16

vt ribbon(This is an update of things I’ve written over the past few years ago on the anniversaries of the Virginia Tech shooting.  I was News Director at two radio stations in Danville, Va. at the time.  It is the one day a year that this Hokie gets a little maudlin.)

(April 16, 2007) — It was a little after 9AM in the newsroom when the AP Alert went off. Nothing unusual there. The damn thing goes off every time there’s a thunderstorm in Eastern North Carolina. I dutifully moved to my computer screen and looked. There was a slug.

AP-APNewsAlert- (Blacksburg)

I clicked on the header. It read:

(Blacksburg) — Shooting at Virginia Tech dormitory…developing…

Given the location and my close emotional ties to the school, I perked up. I was not particularly worried, though. Hey, it’s a big campus. These things unfortunately happen. I figured a couple of guys had gotten into it and someone fired a shot or two. The next update came minutes later.

(Blacksburg) — Shooting at Virginia Tech dormitory…West Ambler Johnston…two fatalities confirmed…developing…

Well this upped the ante. My News Director’s brain kicked in. “O-K. Maybe I’ll run a state story during my midday news. About thirty minutes later, the ante was upped again.

(Blacksburg) — Multiple shots fired inside Norris Hall Virginia Tech …developing…

“What the hell is this, I wondered.” Did AP screw up the earlier story? Did they have the location wrong? The stories I was working on concerning two large trees falling in the downtown area during heavy winds got pushed to the back burner. It was forgotten completely after the next AP Alert.

(Blacksburg) — Multiple fatalities confirmed inside Norris Hall, Virginia Tech campus locked down…shooter unknown…developing…

What followed seemed like a blur. I continued tracking AP and giving live updates on both stations. By noon, we knew this was catastrophic.

It didn’t hit me until early afternoon what had happened. Until then, I had kept my professional veneer and reported the facts as they came in—gruesome as they were. It wasn’t until I got a little down time and happened to glance at FOX News that it hit me. Seeing those familiar-looking buildings, juxtaposed against the backdrop of the kind of coverage reserved only for events like 9-11 hit me like a thunderbolt. This was MY school! I lived a couple hundred yards from Norris Hall! I had several classes there! Was I ever in the upper floor? I couldn’t remember.

After having done news for decades you learn to keep stories at arms length. Many of the stories we tackled had strong emotions attached to them, and you would quickly become overwhelmed if you got too involved. I thought I was tough. I thought I could handle anything in a news context. I was wrong.

After about 15-to-20 minutes of watching national TV coverage, I had to go out into the hallway and do something I hadn’t done in years. I cried. (only briefly, though—gotta maintain my man-cred).

The days that followed produced a full range of emotions. There was the obvious sadness. There was white-hot anger at the shooter, which quickly evolved into utter indifference.  It took several years but I was finally able to forgive the shooter. Evil takes many forms and envelops people. Such it was with Cho. I hope his tortured soul is finally at peace. His final resting place is not my call.

The most effective coping mechanism I’ve come up with has been learning as much as I could about the 32 people who were killed that day at Virginia Tech. These were winners! A Holocaust survivor who held the door while students escaped through a second-story window; begin riddled with bullets in the process. A French teacher who seemed to possess a special connection with her students. A former wrestler who was killed while tackling the gunman.

Even more impressive is the public service resumes that had already been compiled by folks in their late-teens to early twenties. These were people who were on their way to becoming outstanding adults. It’s trendy for middle-aged folks like myself to view the younger generation with benign disdain. To laugh at their ability to hold conversations while texting. The lives these young people led before their death should make all of us fifty-somethings rethink our views on the next generation.

bluhmOne in particular stands out. As a hopeless Detroit Tigers fan, I became familiar with the Motown Sports website years ago. Among the most frequent contributors was Brian Bluhm (pictured, right). He was also one of the best posters. I noticed that he had a VT logo as his avatar. I shot him an e-mail and he replied; talking about our shared love of the Hokies and the Tigers—and how trying both teams can be!

Brian was shot twice while sitting in an Engineering class in the second floor of Norris Hall. I wished I had e-mailed him more often.

But mostly, I’m bursting with pride today at MY school! It’s said that it takes our worst to bring out our best. We certainly saw the worst humanity has to offer on 4-16-07, but we also saw us at our best. God Bless all Virginia Tech Hokies everywhere today! Those with and without diplomas. Ut Prosim!!!

Shut up, kids! You never had it so good!

It’s very fashionable for middle-aged farts like me to point fingers and laugh at the Millennial generation.  As if the Baby Boomers didn’t do the same things to us thirty years ago…as the Greatest Generation did to them a few decades prior.

The reality is that most of the Millennials I know are just like anyone else who are young adults.  Yes, they have a maddening tendency to look at their cell phones while carrying on a conversation and their coffee orders include FAR too many syllables.  But all-in-all, they’re good folk.

But theaocre is a subset of Millennials (and the so-called “Generation Y,” which follows them) who are now beginning to come of age politically.  Their poster child, fair or not, is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—the Freshman Congresswoman who pulled an upset in a deep-blue New York City district last year.

She is an unapologetic Democratic Socialist.  I’ve discussed elsewhere my thoughts on this philosophy so I won’t revisit it here.   But the dissatisfaction that fuels those policies has little basis in realty.

AOC was featured on the cover of Time Magazine this week…along with an appropriately-fawning article written by fellow Urban Millennial Charlotte Alter.  In promoting her story via her Twitter account, Alter tried to explain the popularity of AOC by suggesting she taps into the heart of Urban Millennial angst.  To wit:

“In order to understand AOC, you have to look at what she experienced— and what she didn’t. Red Scare, Reaganomics & prosperous 90s were all before her time. Her adulthood was defined by financial crisis, debt & climate change.  People our age have never experienced American prosperity in our adult lives— which is why so many millennials are embracing Democratic socialism.”

In her own odd way, Alter *has* fairly assessed the underbelly of urban Millennials.  It is built on a profound lack of wisdom and experience.  It assumes that things are terrible and are going to get MUCH worse unless significant government action is taken.

I hate to sound like a grumpy old man, but people who think like this are ungrateful little brats.

Here are the facts.  Millennials grew up in the most prosperous and peaceful period in human history.  And it is only getting BETTER.  Even former President Obama said, “We are fortunate to be living in the most peaceful, most prosperous, most progressive era in human history.”

200 million Americans today will eat a meal that (a century) ago would have been available only to nobility.  Two centuries ago, the difference between middle class and lower class was that the middle class had shoes and the lower class did not. Today, the difference is usually the difference between a Cadillac and a Chevy.  The Chevy may not be quite as nice, but basically it provides the same services.

Overall, the typical American defined as poor by the government has a car, air conditioning, a refrigerator, a stove, a clothes washer and dryer, and a microwave. He has two color televisions, cable or satellite TV reception, a VCR or DVD player, and a stereo. He is able to obtain medical care. His home is in good repair and is not overcrowded. By his own report, his family is not hungry and he had sufficient funds in the past year to meet his family’s essential needs. While this individual’s life is not opulent, it is also far from the popular images of dire poverty conveyed by Democratic Socialists.

It’s also fair to note that many of you are reading these words on a device that grants you access to the sum of human knowledge.  I want you to read that sentence again.  Now I want you absorb just how truly extraordinary this is.

Do you want to talk about relative peace?  There is no comparison.  Just a perfunctory examination of war casualties from past and contemporary conflicts should convince you.  If not, check out this report.

Think things are going to hell overseas?  No.  The number of African AIDS cases is dropping like a brick. All this while more and more of the continent hooks up to running water and electricity.

More and more, where you live has little to do with the quality of life you can expect.  Human Progress cites in an article:

“In 15th century England, 80 per cent of private expenditure went on food. Of that amount, 20 per cent was spent on bread alone.  By comparison, by 2013 only 10 per cent of private expenditure in the United States was spent on food, a figure which is itself inflated by the amount Americans spend in restaurants.

In summation:  A century ago, poor people were toiling in fields with backbreaking work, eating the same gruel every day with no expectation of any improvement tomorrow.  Today, they are sitting on toilets with indoor plumbing in a climate-controlled environmental while scrolling through cat videos with full bellies.

No, things are not perfect.  They never will be this side of heaven.  There is always something to improve and we should always seek to do so.  But at some point you *must* appreciate what has been done and determine that the same strategies that were needed in previous circumstances would NOT produce the same results today.

The Urban Millennial’s view of a modern-day Dystopian Hell as an excuse to implement fundamental changes in the relationship between the Individual and the Collective simply doesn’t withstand even the slightest bit of scrutiny.

Of course, their version of “Socialism” is mostly-white, well-educated, upper-middle young people trying to make up for a lifetime of thinking primarily about themselves and their own well-being.  And they (predictably) would achieve it in the most cowardly way possible…by forcing other people to be altruistic under threat of government coercion.

My lawn.  Get off of it.

The (latest) asshole who cried wolf

jussieWhen the initial reports came in on “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett’s alleged attack in Chicago, I was immediately skeptical.  No.  I’ll take that back.  I was about 98.7% percent sure it was bullshit.  But I acted like a good little boy and kept my suspicions to myself and waited for the facts to come out.  Now they have.

Chicago Police now believe Jussie Smollett paid two men to orchestrate the assault.

Why the initial skepticism?  Oh, nothing. Except for the fact that the victim’s statement read like a serendipitous collision of stereotypical tropes. The only thing missing was allegations of a white hood floating around.

The openly-gay actor claimed he was beaten by two white males at two in the morning on one of the coldest nights ever in Chicago.  They placed a noose around his neck and poured bleach on him.  They called him homophobic slurs and assured him, “This is MAGA Country!”  If this screenplay had been submitted to a Hollywood producer it would have been rejected as too trite and formulaic.

It had all of the ingredients of previous attack hoaxes we have endured in recent years.  Cartoonishly-evil bad guys with the right skin color and chromosomal arrangement spewing loaded comments…all while attacking someone with the right skin color and sexual orientation.  One-dimensional characters with clearly defined white hats and black hats.

And this son of a bitch had the Chutzpah to fake cry this week in an interview on Good Morning America, saying people doubt him because “the attackers” were not black or latino.

“It feels like if I had said it was a Muslim or a Mexican or someone black I feel like the doubters would have supported me a lot much more,” Smollett said. “And that says a lot about the place where we are as a country right now.”

Jussie Smollett will now rightfully take his place alongside Tawana Brawley, Crystal Mangum, the Rolling Stone UVa accuser, Christine Blasey Ford and so many others.  It is my fervent hope that he is charged and punished—although that rarely seems to happen in these cases.  That is endlessly frustrating.  We are offering little in the way of disincentive to coerce people to NOT create fake hate crimes.  So they will undoubtedly continue.  Plus, we have made it possible to turn victimhood into moral and literal currency.  So we will see much more.

Smollett will now claim depression or some other such malady.  There will be a tearful Oprah-worthy interview, blaming everyone but himself.  Indeed, he may even take the route that passively blames hetero white males for creating a culture that made him live a life where hostility was constant.

The Media, Hollywood and all of the rest of the usual suspects will rally to his side. Once again we will be assured that his lie is less important that the fact that it “started a much-needed national conversation” on a problem that (in this instance) didn’t exist.  None of the high-profile celebrities or politicians who used this fiction to pigeonhole people based on their race and politics will ever be called on the carpet.  They will talk of Smollett’s “bravery” for admitting to his mistake.  Then they will jump like a starving wolf on a three-day old pork chop the next time allegations are made by someone that buttresses their worldview.

Hell, since it happened on a bitterly-cold night, don’t be surprised if some creative apologist works a Climate Change excuse in somehow.  Yes…we are now THAT stupid.

And for all of you who used this as a thin pretense to judge an entire swath of people based on immutable characteristics…I will not offer an olive branch.  I instead wish you discomfort.  It is clear that you have no desire to bring people together.

Everything is stupid

So let’s wrap up the week that was here in the Old Dominion.

Last Monday, Fairfax Delegate Kathy Tran argues for an abortion bill that is so vile even some pro-choicers were uncomfortable with it.  Ironically, the bill is effectively killed by a House Subcommittee.

Last Tuesday, Gov. Ralph Northam goes on a radio how and not only supports the bill, but takes it a disgusting step further by suggesting certain POST-BIRTH infants could also be eligible for abortion.

gov blackfaceFriday afternoon, we discover a yearbook photo that looks like it was taken in 1884…not 1984.  It is on Northam’s Medical School yearbook page. It shows someone wearing blackface and another person in a KKK robe and hood.

Friday evening, Northam apologizes for the photo while more-or-less admitting he was in it.  He didn’t tell us if he was the one with the tan or the white sheet. Enquiring minds are left to ponder.

Saturday morning, after an apparent change of heart, Northam decides he was NOT in the picture.  He then proceeds to hold one of the weirdest press conferences in modern American history.  It breaks cringe-o-meters from coast-to-coast.  He says he will NOT resign.  He admits to donning blackface in 1984…just not in that picture.  He says he participated in a “Michael Jackson Dance Contest” in San Antonio and “darkened his face.”  Seriously.

The highlight came near the end of the presser when a reporter asked about his ability to “Moonwalk,” and the Governor damned-near began an on-the-spot demonstration.  He should be forever grateful to his wife for putting the kibosh on THAT sh*tshow.

That got people to thinking about Virginia’s Lt-Governor.  That is usually the forgotten man in Virginia politics.  If you’ve ever seen the Lt-Governor’s office in Virginia it will underwhelm you to no end.  The Night Shift Manager at your local Kinko’s has more impressive digs.

The man occupying that seat is, befitting the office, a virtual unknown.  Justin Fairfax was elected in 2017 and has been largely invisible to the general public since then.  But people start paying attention to the Lt-Governor when the Governor is talking infanticide and threatening to Moonwalk off of a stage.  Over the past 72 hours we’re learning more about the 39-year old Fairfax…and we’re pining for Northam.

Yesterday we learned about sexual assault claims against Fairfax from his time as a staffer for John Edwards in 2004.  It amounts to little more than he said/she said. The most interesting thing is the revelation that the Washington Post (astonishingly) applied a fair level of journalistic discipline and decided NOT to run with the story when they first got it a year ago.  Would’ve been nice if those same standards had applied to similarly-uncorroborated claims made against a certain Supreme Court nominee last summer.  But I digress.

In an interview Sunday afternoon, Fairfax suggests Northam is to blame for the sexual assault claims coming out.  WOW!.  Evidently, that trial balloon was shot down by someone.  Because this morning, Fairfax hinted that Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney… who might run against him in 2021…is to blame.

I keep hoping Alan Funt will appear from behind a curtain and tell us we’ve been on Candid Camera and that none of this is real.  That our state leaders in Virginia are actually serious people who want what’s best for everyone.  Of course, for Millennials, I guess the equivalent would be Ashton Kutcher popping up and telling us “You’ve Been PUNKED!”

One good thing that has emerged from all of this is that we now know what constitutes a “bridge too far” for modern-day progressive.  Supporting genocide prompts them to circle the wagons.  Appearing in a racially-insensitive photo prompts them to sharpen their spears.

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