Saturday, August 25, 2012

2 years in N.C., y'all!

Sunday marks our second anniversary as North Carolinians (and ex-Chicagoans).

Love the weather in the winter, spring and fall; miss seeing all those sailboats on Lake Michigan in the summer.

Love the year-round golf; miss teeing it up with the Chicago buddies who used to take my money on the course.

Love getting away from Chicago and Illinois politics; hate North Carolina politics.

Love hearing folks say "y'all"; miss hearing folks say "da boata dem."

Love having an affordable house on a quiet cul de sac; miss living in an apartment in the heart of Lakeview with lake and city views.

Love having gotten in with some local Marquette alums; miss being close enough to Milwaukee to go to games.

Love that a 30-minute rush-hour commute is considered "long"; hate that we pretty much have to drive everywhere in a pedestrian-unfriendly city with lousy public transportation.

Love playing 12-inch softball again; miss covering big-league baseball.

Love the cheesy grits; miss the pizza -- and most other Chicago foods.

Love the friends we have made here; miss the friends we left behind there (and really miss Ben and Katie there).

Will we spend the rest of our lives in the Charlotte area? Who knows? Will we ever move back to Chicago? Who knows?

Life is an adventure, and our journey has taken us here. Why fight it, y'all?

Monday, August 20, 2012

500 HR = HoF? Hardly!

For years and years and years, it was accepted that any player with 500 or more career home runs deserved Hall of Fame enshrinement.

That unwritten rule was busted into a zillion little pieces by the Steroid Era. Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro have been shunned decisively by BBWAA voters. And there's a better than good chance that all-time longball leader Barry Bonds, as well as Sammy Sosa (whose bat-corking episode represents a second strike against him), will be blanked in this year's balloting.

But what about those who haven't been suspected of juicing? Well, 500 home runs isn't automatic for them, either.

Example: Adam Dunn.

The White Sox whiffer just became the 50th player in big-league history to hit career HR No. 400. He's only 32 years old, he goes for the fences with every swing and he's about the size of the Trump Tower (though not as big as the Trump Ego).

I'll be shocked if he doesn't finish his career with well over 500 home runs.

Unless he suddenly becomes more than a one-tool ballplayer, however, Adam Dunn will not get my Hall vote no matter how many HRs he ends up with. I'm guessing the vast majority of my fellow voters also will reject his candidacy.

He was an embarrassingly bad outfielder in the National League before becoming a DH in Chicago. He lumbers around the bases. He is a strikeout machine. In 2011, he had arguably the worst offensive season in baseball history. He is only a two-time All-Star, with one selection coming despite a batting average near .200. He hasn't been a big-time run-producer. He has never played on a playoff team, a fact he hopes to help change this season.

Only his wife and son believe this to be the resume of a Hall of Famer.

Yep, if unwritten rules actually meant something, they'd be written!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Olympic cheer: London's still in one piece!

The Games of the XXX Olympiad are over, having ended without terrorist attacks, without international incidents, without massive violence.


I was on vacation the past week and was busy pretty much all the time, so I barely noticed the Olympics even were taking place. Over their 17 days, I'd be surprised if I watched much more than an hour and 17 minutes of action. I didn't see one second of basketball, which used to be my favorite Olympic sport, and saw precious little swimming, diving, tennis, volleyball and others I enjoy watching, playing or both.

Even though I don't care for hype and national jingoism, I really have nothing against the Olympics. My daughter Katie loves 'em to death, my wife Roberta was a casual observer, and lots of friends spent hour after hour in front of their TV sets, riveted by the action. It's just that after covering five Olympics over 10 years during my AP writing career (1988 Calgary, 1992 Albertville, 1994 Lillehammer, 1996 Atlanta, 1998 Nagano), I kind of got Olympic-ed out.

The fact that I was able to pay so little attention to what was taking place across the pond was wonderful, because it meant there was no world-changing bad news.

The Olympics provide all kinds of zealots and wackos the perfect forum for their views, and there was legitimate concern that there could be some kind of major-scale violence in England. As spread out as the event is, it's pretty much impossible to have tight enough security. Mitt Romney was roasted for expressing his concern -- the one time it would have been OK for Mr. Truth-Stretcher to fib, he declined to do so -- but he was right.

So to have the games end Sunday, with a spectacular closing ceremony (or so I've been told) but without any bad news, well, that's a giant achievement.

A giant relief, too.