Sunday, September 30, 2012

Today's High 5: Choker Edition

5. I'm trying to figure out which team delivered the bigger choke: the White Sox, the Panthers or the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Eenie ... meenie ... miney ... choke!

4. After beating the Tigers on Sept. 17, the White Sox were 3 games up in the AL Central. They won only 3 times since and now trail Detroit by 3 games with 3 games to play. That's a lot of 3's, and this particular 4-of-a-kind is a losing hand. After all these years, the White Sox are still an all-or-nothing, swing-for-the-fences group. And sometimes the home runs just don't come. Adam Dunn has gone deep plenty this season, but his 0-for-13 (with 7 Ks) over the weekend, as Chicago lost 3 of 4 at home to the Rays, is a nice reflection of who the Sox are. Paraphrasing the great Gary Gaetti: It's hard to hit the baseball when you have both hands wrapped around your throat.

3. The Panthers led 28-27 at Atlanta with 69 seconds to go, and the Falcons had the ball at their own 1-yard line with no timeouts left. It's hard to choke that kind of situation away, but choke the Panthers did. I'd like to give a big thumbs up to Matt Ryan for the miracle comeback, but his 59-yard lob wedge to set up the winning field goal never should have worked. I'm still wondering what the defensive backfield of my adopted team was thinking on that one. The Panthers actually could have put the game away without Atlanta even getting one last chance but Cam Newton, who otherwise had an outstanding game, fumbled on what would have been a clinching run. So now the Panthers are 1-3, a promising season ready to going down the drain. Heimlich maneuver, please!

2. Somehow, the U.S. Ryder Cup team managed to cough up a 10-6 lead going into the final day at Medinah. Although lots of credit has to go to the Europeans, who made incredible shot after incredible shot, the fact is that several top U.S. players simply fell apart. Jim Furyk followed his U.S. Open choke job with a hackathon of equal chokiness Sunday. And what can you say about Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker, who combined to lose 7 1/2 of 8 possible points over the weekend? Stricker looked especially hopeless, which helps explain why a player of such talent just about never even contends in the majors. You have to wonder why U.S. captain Davis Love III put Stricker in the critical 11th position on Sunday. Hey, maybe captains choke, too.

1. OK, the results have been tabulated. And the Choke of the Month -- make that Choke of the Year -- goes pretty handily to ...

The U.S. Ryder Cup Team.

Congratulations, boys! While the other contenders merely choked, you found a way to pull off a historic collapse of Cubbian proportions!!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Rolling Thunder strikes again!

Blue Thunder? We should be called the Rolling Thunder!

It's the Fall League for Charlotte old dude softball (45 and older), and our squad just won again. We're 5-0 with four weeks left in the regular season.

As usual, we pounded the ball and made enough good defensive plays to win, 17-13. What was unique about this latest victory was that we were missing five of our best players but we just kept rolling. (Ed, Wheels, Ronnie, Donnie, Jim ... we really do still need you!!)

There were a few unique things involving yours truly, too. First, I batted fifth. I'm pretty sure I hadn't hit in the middle of the order since I was occasionally smashing the longball for my Madison Newspaper Co. team in 1984. Second, I had my first three-RBI day of the season, with two hits and a sac fly as I continue to battle out of the slump that plagued me in August.

And third? I was intentionally walked.

Yes, that's right. The opponent intentionally walked a slug like me to load the bases and set up the force play. The really cool thing is that the guy who followed me in the order -- our 75-year-old living legend named O.K. -- delivered a line-drive into the gap!

Softball already had been fun because this is a great group of guys, but I must admit it's even more fun when everybody's hitting ... and the Thunder keeps rolling.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Flag NFL for ruining the product

The scab refs just handed a final-play victory to the Seahawks, who beat the Packers thanks to an absolutely awful call on what should have been a game-ending interception.

Were this an aberration, it would have been bad enough. But it keeps happening -- two, four, six, 10 times a game. And now it's happened at the end of a Monday Night Football game, with every intelligent observer (including millions watching at home) knowing what the call should have been.

Roger Goodell, the self-styled Mr. Integrity, and the NFL's skinflint owners should be ashamed of the product they are foisting upon the viewing public -- not to mention the hard-working players and coaches whose livelihoods are being adversely affected by a bunch of gazillionaires who are too cheap to pay relative peanuts to the regular refs.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Baseball's enduring steroid stain

Lots of people claim to be "old school," but they're not. I am.

Need proof? I get the newspaper every day. Need more proof? I read it, front to back. Need still more proof? I even read the agate pages in Sports!

For all you kids out there, the agate pages are those filled will bits of stats and facts and other minutiae and the print usually is really small. So small that us old-schoolers need good reading glasses.

Oh, and for all you kids out there, a newspaper is ... oh, forget it.

Anyway, something in the bottom right corner of the baseball agate page in today's Charlotte Observer caught my eye. It was a string of items in the This Date In Baseball feature that AP makes available daily. Here is the string:

1988 - Jose Canseco became the first major leaguer to hit 40 homers and steal 40 bases in one season.

2000 - Rafael Palmeiro became the 32nd player to hit 400 home runs.

2001 - Alex Rodriguez hit his 48th home run, breaking the major league record for shortstops.

2001 - Sammy Sosa became the first player to hit three home runs in a game three times in a season.

2006 - Barry Bonds hit his 734th career home run, an NL record.

Yep, in baseball's last quarter century, Sept. 23 was a big day for juicers.

Going forward, it's going to be interesting how the game deals with its history concerning this period.

It's difficult for the game to be proud of its heritage when so many of its major milestones were established by guys who got where they were by jabbing themselves in their keisters with syringes.

I mean, how many records and notable achievements involving home runs from 1985-2005 weren't influenced by steroids?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Romney: I ain't worried about "those people"

Oh no he didn't.

In an amazing video obtained by Mother Jones magazine and released today, Mitt Romney told a group of wealthy GOP supporters this last spring:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. ... These are people who pay no income tax. My job is is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

Wow. Just wow.

One of the two men vying to lead our nation actually accused nearly half of the nation's residents of  being slackers and mooches who aren't worthy of his attention or support.

Hmmm. Who knew that the CEOs of Berkshire Hathaway, Costco and Carmax were such irresponsible losers?

I could go on and on ... about the irony of a guy who shields hundreds of millions of dollars from income tax calling out others for being too poor to pay income tax ... about the utter lack of compassion for those less fortunate ... about his use of the kind of class warfare he blames on the other side.

I could talk about the facts: The 40-some percent of voters he so callously rips for paying no taxes includes millions of seniors on Social Security, students, lower-middle class families who receive earned-income and child credits, veterans who return from battle and need job programs, young people just trying to start their professional lives, folks who recently lost their jobs through no fault of their own, etc. (I know facts are annoying to politicians, but Romney might want to check this out:

But do I really have to talk about any of that stuff? Romney's comments stand as an apt representation of the man. They need no further embellishment.

For his part, when called on the comments, Romney doubled down. Of course he did. He thinks it's unmanly ever to admit mistakes.

He admitted only that his comments weren't "elegantly stated," but otherwise stood by what he said.

Given the number of Independent voters who fall into Romney's "leech class," it's a hell of a way to try to win an election.

I am a registered Independent. At the start of the whole process, I had hoped the Republicans would produce a great candidate, one who would elevate the discourse and give me and my fellow Independents a viable alternative to Barack Obama.

Instead, we got this social clod, this soulless corporate weasel who brazenly admits to only wanting to represent the nation's haves.

What a disappointment.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Lyin' Ryan runs circles around truth-challenged pols

Bees buzz, the moon orbits Earth, coaches yell, parents embarrass their kids ...

And politicians lie.

It's what they do. Oh, more genteel people call it "exaggerating" or "couching the truth" or "taking things out of context."

In other words, they lie.

The presidential campaign has been one lie after another. From what I have heard so far, Republicans have been quite a bit more truth-challenged, but the Dems are working hard at their convention this week to give the GOP a run for its money.

Bill Clinton's speech last night was masterful: a point-by-point, detail-filled refutation of the Republican case against Barack Obama. It was entertaining, too. He didn't need an empty chair to keep his audience enthralled for 45 minutes.

Clinton acted the part of the Myth Buster when it came to Republican lies about welfare, Obamacare, Medicare and the stimulus. It was a sensational performance.

Yet he lied, too. I couldn't believe it when he suggested that Obama embraced the Simpson-Bowles deficit plan ... because that simply isn't true. It was kind of like Paul "Lyin'" Ryan a week earlier blaming Obama for America getting its credit rating downgraded -- even though Congressional Republicans, egged on by tea-partiers, were the ones who refused to raise the debt ceiling, leading directly to the downgrade.

My former employer, AP, got criticized for including the Monica Lewinsky affair in its fact-checking story about Clinton's speech. It was in response to Clinton accusing Republicans of lying. And it was perfectly fair territory. Clinton has become something of a hero these days, even to some GOPers, but history knows he lied and lied and lied and lied as president.

Yep, they're all liars. And here's a new low ... or is it a new high? (I don't know how to score these things.)

Lyin' Ryan claimed his best marathon time was "two hours and fifty something." When I heard that, I thought, "Wow, that's really fast!"

Fast, yes. And loose with the facts, too.

According to Runner's World magazine, which keeps track of such things, Ryan only ran one marathon, in 1990. He completed the 26.2 miles in 4 hours, 1 minute, 25 seconds. Which is pretty close, a mere 1 hour-plus off his claim.

A few things:

1. I guess this means Runner's World now must be part of the mainstream liberal media.

2. How pathetic that he felt a need to lie about something as unimportant as his marathon time. I thought Mitt Romney was the big liar on that ticket, but it's obvious Ryan is pathological.

3. Ryan isn't even the fastest recent GOP vice presidential candidate. Sarah Palin once ran a 3:59:36 marathon. I'm sure she could see Russia during her entire run.

4. My wife ran the Chicago marathon in 2003. Roberta's time was 3:59:35 -- exactly 1 second faster than Palin and nearly 2 minutes faster than Lyin' Ryan.

Maybe Roberta should be a vice presidential candidate in 2016!

Nah ... she's far too honest for that.