Archive for August, 2016

Howard Bryant for President (of MLB)

Posted in Rant/ Rave, Uncategorized with tags , , on August 29, 2016 by sethdellinger

I have posted a few entries in the past about the unappreciated world of sports journalism; unfortunately most people writing about sports are not thought of as real journalists or, god forbid, artful writers tackling important topics–and granted, much sports journalism is pure reporting of events.  But longform or opinion sports journalists are some of the most eloquent, incisive writers out there, and some of their work can elicit incredible emotion or hammer home incredible points.  It doesn’t always connect sports to the wider world (although it often does), but sometimes a terrific piece of writing that is just about sports is still worth the time (and money) investment.

One of my favorite sports writers is Howard Bryant, who writes a bi-weekly column for ESPN the Magazine.  I have never, ever once read his column (or one of his longform features) without coming away thinking about something differently than I had before; his ability to turn the angle on a topic and shed a new viewpoint on it is nothing short of mystical.

In the most recent issue, Howard wrote a short column about Major League Baseball in general that I feel is worth reproducing here.  If you have any interest in baseball, sports in general, or terrific opinion journalism, please take a few minutes to read this.  I have pasted the text here for you but a quick search for Howard Bryant and MLB will find the original article on MLB’s site.

 

“After A-Rod’s Fall, He and MLB Are a Perfect Fit” by Howard Bryant, from ESPN the Magazine, September 5th, 2016

IT SOUNDS SO inconceivable, naive, delusional, but it was only a decade ago that Alex Rodriguez was the antidote to a ruinous generation of drugs and greed. He was the choice of the really smart baseball men, such as Theo Epstein and Brian Cashman, both of whom traded for him, and a paralyzed commissioner such as Bud Selig, who tolerated Barry Bonds holding the home run record because soon enough Rodriguez would shatter it and make the game whole again. He would make them clean.

Alex Rodriguez only made it worse. The Golden Boy wasn’t so golden after all. Following a bizarre week in which the Yankees held a retirement ceremony for him even though he’d never announced he was quitting, Rodriguez was discarded without much care. Even the pregame celebration before his final game as a Yankee was curtailed by thunder, lightning and rain, fitting for those who found him less of a True Yankee than the rest. “That wasn’t thunder,” former Yankees player and coach Lee Mazzilli said of the biblical thunderclaps that preceded the downpour. “That was George.” The Yankees’ 1996 championship team was being honored the next day, but for Rodriguez’s night, only Mariano Rivera joined him on the field. Former teammates Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams and Derek Jeter were not present. Neither was his old manager, Joe Torre. That’s called a message pitch.

Point the blame at Rodriguez, who admitted using PEDs, but no amount of reveling in his inglorious end can undo the enormous collaborative effort that has created baseball’s current dystopia. Rodriguez, along with Bonds, Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire, is part of the Mount Rushmore of discredited legends that represents the true legacy of the steroid era: It isn’t that they aren’t in Cooperstown. It’s that nobody cares.

The all-time home run list was once led by the most recognizable foursome in sports — Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Frank Robinson. That leaderboard stood for nearly 30 years, until Bonds, who hit his 500th and 600th home runs just one season apart, passed Robinson in 2002. Sammy Sosa hit 60 home runs three times and won the home run title in exactly none of those years. While baseball took the money and laughed at warnings that it was undermining itself, the consequences would be felt later, with Rodriguez amassing 3,000 hits, 2,000 runs and 2,000 RBIs — something only Aaron had done — but leaving the game utterly uncelebrated, inside baseball and especially out.

The Rodriguez epitaph will be a one-sided story about the phenom who was part of the top millionth percentile of talent and blew it all. Yet Alex Rodriguez will in the end be no different from the industry in which he performed for the past two decades, a game that has lost its way, seemingly intent on undermining all that made it special.

The game, like A-Rod, took the money (it is now close to a $10 billion industry), ignored the spread of steroids and lost out on the good stuff. Its records are now as worthless as those in the league it is so envious of, the NFL. It decides which team will host the most important games of the World Series based on an exhibition game. It plays its championship in the worst weather because its leaders refuse to compromise on money and adjust the schedule. It plays at least one game every day between teams that play under two sets of rules. And because baseball cannot decide whether it wants to be truly modern, the game’s leadership allows it to stand weakly in the middle, playing a full season of baseball, simultaneously rewarding and penalizing teams for not coming in first place by staging a one-game playoff, as if the baseball season were the NCAA tournament.

Baseball wants the world to be proud of its drug-testing program. Meanwhile, it deals with an All-Star team of steroid-tainted players who thus far need a ticket to enter the Hall of Fame — Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi, Manny Ramirez and most certainly Rodriguez — by disciplining virtually none of them and hiring nearly all — laying the weight of accountability on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. If not knowing himself was the self-destructive fatal flaw of Alex Rodriguez, it makes perfect sense that he felt so much at home playing major league baseball.

The Force That Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower

Posted in Photography, Uncategorized with tags , , , on August 26, 2016 by sethdellinger

IMG_20160826_094221305-01I used to be very passionate about the outdoors–getting out into the woods, lakes, parks, and so on.  Those of you who have followed my blog for years will remember many posts showcasing trips I made to various wilderness spots, posts full of photos and appreciation for the solitude (or camaraderie with fellow enthusiasts) that the outdoors brought me.  Not that I have ever been a serious outdoorsman–I’ve never really camped, per se, or hiked more than 6 or 7 miles at a time, and I don’t own one of those serious hiking backpacks or anything, but I did used to have a novice hiking backpack, with essentials like ponchos, matches, compass, a whistle to let bears know people were entering the woods, etc.  Anyway, sometime on my journey from 2010-2015 (when I moved from central PA to Erie to New Jersey to Philadelphia) I kind of forgot this particular passion of mine.  It was healthy and alive for much of Erie–there are plenty of pictures on this very blog to prove it–but by the time I landed back here in Harrisburg I’d fashioned myself into a “city man” and, although I was once again in close proximity to the trails and parks I fell in love with, hadn’t actually visited any of them in the year-plus since returning.

Today I went back, for reasons I don’t know.  I went to King’s Gap, to an old standby, the Rattlesnake Trail (which has been renamed the Scenic Vista trail!).  I was not prepared for how much I had truly missed the experience of being in the woods, especially alone, in the middle of the day.

It’s a shame I have come back to this passion in late summer, but I have no plans of forgetting again.  The refreshing it does for me, the reflection it enables–it is literally like refilling my tank with fuel.  Not to mention, all the spots around here that I frequent come with their own memories of the many times I’d been there before–the people I’d been there with, the eras of my life, my autobiography spelled out in the leaves.

Just like the old days, I have included some pictures here (blog exclusives! will not appear on Facebook!).  Like with any entry on Notes From the Fire, this is best viewed on a desktop or laptop computer–enlarging photos to their optimum size dramatically increases their power.  :)  Thanks for reading!

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The One About the Cup, and the Runnething Over

Posted in real life with tags , , , on August 16, 2016 by sethdellinger

As an adult, I spent much more time single than most people.  It can be easy to forget that, now that I have met my darling and been with her so long, but I was single (with just a few brief  flings) for well over a decade in my 20s and 30s.  Over that long stretch of time, obviously I developed a method of living by myself that I found quite comfortable and rewarding.  I had a lot of fun and tons of experiences.  I did things people in committed relationships simply can’t do—like relocate and/or start new careers with very little forethought.  It was an incredibly interesting and fascinating way to live.  Some blocks of time, I spent living not just single but far away from all my family and friends.  It allowed me time to breathe, “find myself”, and do some major work on fixing my deep flaws I had developed over years of alcoholism.  It was a great setup, but it did pose one great drawback: it was super lonely.

 

I never would have admitted at the time that I was lonely—mostly because I don’t think I even knew I was lonely.  But of course I was.  There was a lot of upside but being lonely was inevitable.  Luckily, I refused to settle or even actively date when I knew that I wasn’t ready.  This allowed me to be available when my Karla came into my life and also to get as much inner work done as I could before she got there.  So when she found me, I was the best version of me I could have been at that point (although you can ALWAYS keep being a better version of yourself, always always always).

 

Going from single for a decade to in a deeply committed relationship naturally had some shock value for me, and required a period of adjustment.  Fortunately my partner is full of kindness and innate understanding and guided me through the change.  Certainly there were elements of living with another person (or in our case, two other people and a dog!) that were challenging for me at first, but also of course, there were a great many positives and bonuses that come with having an all-the-time partner.  Most of these positives I at least anticipated or could have anticipated.  One thing I never saw coming:  her parents and grandparents.

 

I knew, of course, that when you gain a life partner, their parents become a part of your life.  That was not a surprise.  What I was not prepared for was the level of connection I would have with these people, and the amount of affection and caring they would have for me, and me for them.  From almost my first meeting with Karla’s mother, father, step-mother (although that term doesn’t do adequate justice to the maternal force that is Amy) and grandparents (I’ve only met her maternal grandparents as her other set lives a good distance away) I have felt a true and abiding acceptance.  Karla and I are not married but all these people truly are my family and I love seeing them any chance we get.  They are all different, unique, loving people who I am genuinely excited to get to know more as the years pass.  What a boon!

 

What staggers me the most, when I stop to think about it, is that I spent so much time completely alone, and then finally found a partner—and then a kid and a dog!  They all fill my heart up so much.  On top of that, both of my parents have been terrific parents throughout my life and continue to nurture me emotionally, in addition to being stellar grandparents.  And now to come to the realization that I’ve gained even more family, have even more love and help and caring…well, as I have said before, my cup certainly overflows.  It’s like the world felt it had to make up for all that time I spent by myself.  And sometimes you just have to write a blog about how great things are.

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