Friday, September 23, 2011

Being a Seattle Mariners ain't easy...
...They'll have a better record this what?

Last Year, the Seattle Mariners were little short of horrible. They lost something like 104 games in 2010. This year, they'll slide in with a loss figure below 100. Am I supposed to be impressed by that? I realize this is the age of lowering expectations, but all I wanted was for them to finish with a .500 season, or at least one in which their wins and losses would be more or less equal. .500 ball. That's all. That would've been a major improvement here in M's Land. There are just under 10 games left in this season, so even if they lose the rest of their games, they can't be as bad as last year. Last I looked, the M's had a record of 66-90. 162 games in a season; they've played 155 games, so the worst they can do is 97 losses this year. Seven less losses than last season. An under-100 games lost in this season? Hey, hey, it's party time! Break out the bubbly! Maybe next year, the M's might be in last place by even less of a margin!

Does losing less games this season constitute an improvement? Let's move off the base-paths for a moment: If you go outside, shirtless and shoeless on a winter's day, you're gonna freeze if the temperature's +20 degrees (F); you'll also freeze at zero or 40 below zero. It might take you technically longer to freeze at 20 above, but it's still a situation you don't wanna find yourself in. Applying this logic to this year's Mariners won/loss record, they're (theoretically) better this year, because they aren't gonna lose 100 games. But...they were in last place in their division last year, the same place they're gonna be at this season's end. Last. The last cow in the pen being led to slaughter. The last bar of soap in a 4-pack. The last cowbell-beat in Blue Oyster Cult's 1976 hit, "Don't Fear The Reaper". Being Last means everyone else is Ahead Of You. When I finished last in my age-group at the last half-marathon race I ever ran, it was punishing. I hurt all over. And the pain was so bad, I didn't care. All that counted was finishing the race. And so the Seattle Mariners are nearing the end of this agonizing baseball season, about as gracefully as I finished that half-marathon.

Ah, but this year, the Mariners got off to a positive start. From April through mid-June, the M's were hovering right around the .500 mark. Us Fans were Excited. The M's were playing tough, and win or lose, we saw True Progression, a Chemistry that was beginning to Click, as we smelled the oh-so-sweet fragrance of the rarefied air of Not Being Last, Not Rolling Over. The M's were effectively competing with the other teams in their division, and we all crossed our fingers behind our backs, and roared and cheered. Winning, or at least Being "in it" felt really, really good. Then the wheels came off the bus, in the form of a 14-game Losing Streak that began shortly before both leagues shut down for the All-Star break. And we were all hoping that with all the rest the M's would be getting during the break, they'd re-enter the season rip-snorting and ready to take on all comers. So what happened? The Losing Streak continued.

Our dearly-departed sportscaster, Dave Niehaus,
can't have been resting peacefully if he was able
to watch this season's Mariners from high above.
The Mariners' bats stayed quiet. And the pitchers all of a sudden became largely ineffective. Even King Felix (Hernandez) was losing games. He looked quite ragged this season and no one seems to know why. In one game, Felix got pulled in the 4th Inning. He looked awful out there. And he's our Kingpin-Pitcher, the one that's supposed to right the ship after blowing thru the turbulent seas of repetitive losing. Sure, Felix has won his share of games this season, but there were some games where he should've delivered the letters, because he was definitely "mailing it in". If a team's hitters can't hit, and the pitchers can't pitch...well, the won/loss records speak for themselves. The negativity is only enhanced and intensified by The M's baserunning errors and inability to hit with Runners In Scoring Position. Our beloved (or not) Ichiro, he of the fleet feet, is beginning to exhibit signs of slowing down, and this year will be the first in which he hasn't collected 200 hits. Shaun Figgins at 3rd base, was a total washout for the M's; he couldn't hit or effectively play his position despite the zillions of dollars in his contract. Jason Vargas, a lefty who'd been pitching great in the first half, took one heckuva nose dive in the second half when the team needed him the most. The other incidents of Baseball Carnage courtesy of the Seattle Mariners are reported more effectively elsewhere in sports pages and sites. is a game, right? Games should be fun, right? But really, folks, we're talking Mariners baseball. And it hasn't been fun for a while now. So, ya wanna talk about bad baseball teams? Take the Mariners! Please! (rim-shot)

Technically, the M's were somewhat better this year. But, again, So What? At least, a horrible record (like last year) commands attention because we're all sitting on the edge of our seats wondering how much lower things can sink. This year, the M's won some more games, but So What? A victory these days robs one of that "hard to look away from a train-wreck" feeling. What good does winning do the M's after a 14-game losing streak? None, actually. There are those who say the M's actually jeopardize themselves by winning, 'cos that means the team won't be eligible to get first pick in next year's baseball draft. This year, the M's rendered themselves incapable from being anywhere near .500 with that long losing streak. All of the games the Mariners won after that were cosmetic victories that really didn't count for much. Before the streak, the pitching and hitting were exciting, but over the last half of the season, we've watched the M's try to play baseball in front of a small hometown audience that doesn't seem to care about anything except where to get a latte' after the game?

There are those who can write more eloquently about all things baseball. I'm no stat-man; I just go by how my gut feels. And the games I've watched lately have feltl Awful. Even during a win, there's this feeling of abject despondency concerning the Mariners. How much of my time (and my life) have I wasted in front of the TV, adjusting my day so I could fit in the Mariners, whether they were playing a 7pm game at home, or a 1:10pm game start at home or elsewhere? This year, I've seen at least 90% of the Mariners' games, and being a fan at this level is a labor-intensive thing, for most times, I, together with a whole bunch of other people, have participated in enormous Mariners blog-threads at the Seattle Times website, all watching TV together and rooting or 'not rooting', depending on how the game's going.

Last year, I had more sense. I watched many of the M's games on tape-delay, in the evenings or late at night. But this year's team started out so great, that I wanted to be on top of it all with my many blog buddies. And for a while, it was great, great fun. Nowadays, if I try to watch the M's for any length of time, the energy gets sucked out of me. I get tired. There's no point. Why should I subject myself to this torture? Look, the M's do have some newer acquisitions that have done fairly well, pointing the way towards a better year next year. Hope always springs eternal with the start of a new season. But right now, I've had my fill of the Mariners topsy-turvy low-down ways. I may watch 2 or 3 more of their games this season...if that much. I'm currently saving my viewing energy for the upcoming Baseball Playoffs, played by Real Baseball Teams playing Real Baseball.

In a parallel universe, there was once a ship that sailed the chilly waters of the Northern Atlantic Ocean. In that parallel universe, the ship that struck the iceberg back in April of 1912 was the U.S.S. Mariner. I'm also having visions of the Hindenburg disaster right now, so this is probably time to end this post. Oh, the Humanity!!!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

...9/11 is something that really will never go away...

So many words have been written about 9/11, and on this Tenth Anniversary, that gloom is still out there. After all this time, the video images of 9/11 coverage are still horrific, terrible, sad and maybe just a bit scary, too. This past year, Bin Laden got his. Perhaps loved ones left behind in the 9/11 aftermath found a bit of closure in that, although I don't really believe there is such a thing as 'closure'. Things never really close. We never lose the memories of tragedy on such a great scale.

But it has been Ten Years. The memories are bitter. But life doesn't stop. It can't stop. And maybe there is solace in that, for in returning to everyday life, all the bad things get pushed back, and somehow, people manage to carry on. The only thing I can compare it to is, perhaps, the Kennedy Assassination, some 48 years ago. That horrible event slips further and further back into the past, and after a while, the 'edge' of that awful time recedes further and further back in our minds.

Given several decades, the painful memories tend to not hurt as badly or cut so deep. The memory of 9/11 is unforgettable and I hope that as time passes by, that those who lost loved ones in that disaster will someday not hurt as badly as they do now, ten years after the fact. Hopefully, a tragedy such as this will strengthen our nation, making us more vigilant, especially where border traffic is concerned.

However, if 9/11's tragedy leads us to be safer as a nation, then not all will be lost. If we can become more aware of those who commit terrorist actions and what they do to prepare for another attack, then that's a good thing. And if the events that happened on 9/11 make all of us more understanding of our fellow citizens, perhaps this nation will be on the way to healing itself.

The JFK assassination happened 48 years ago. Although I was only ten years old when it happened; there was an undeniable presence of gloom and doom in the atmosphere. I could feel it. It was a bad time for our country, but, like 9/11, our country became a bit more united as we collectively had to do in the face of such grim tragedy. Of course we'll never forget, but like the JFK Assassination, so too will 9/11's harsh memories will cut a bit less deeply than it does now. And God bless everyone who lost family and friends on 9/11.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

TO REST IN PEACE... the end, perhaps that's all we can hope for...

It all started about a week and a half ago. I received a cryptic message in my e-mailbox, saying ownership of my Mom's "Find-a-Grave" page had been transferred to me. Evidently some lady who keeps cemetery records found my e-mail address and the transfer was completed. I wrote her back, asking why she'd done this, and she said that she likes reading bio's of people who've gone before, but thot my Mom's page would be better off with the likes of me. So I went to look at Mom's page, and there was no picture, very little biography information, and I plunged right in, knowing it was going to take a whole lot of work to make it better. I found snapshots of her and put them in My Pictures with a digital camera, as I don't have a scanner. The pictures came out fairly well. And as I was writing the copy for Mom's page, I found myself remembering things I forgot I remembered. But I completed her page, and was told I did a good job by the lady who transferred Mom's page over to me.

It turned out my Dad had a Find-A-Grave page too; it was currently being maintained by the Lady in charge of the Cemetery where both Mom and Dad are located. I wrote her, asking if she would "transfer" ownership of Dad's page to me, and she did, and I attempted to do a good job for him, although I know precious little detail about his younger years. To say that our family was dysfunctional would be a stroke of understatement, but in completing my parents' grave pages, I wanted to bypass those issues. And so I did. Mom and Dad deserved that much from me. Ten Years after their passing, I feel like I've turned a corner. I just wanted to 'do right'.

I used to live in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and still check the websites of two funeral homes there, and last week, I was scrolling down the listings of the deceased, and all of a sudden I recoiled from the screen in horror; a guitarist I used to be in two bands with, had passed away. How can that be? I'm older than he was. He was one of the nicest people I've ever known; talented, with a gentle sense of humor. He passed away just before the Summer Solstice in June. Upon learning of his death, I was depressed, almost sick for a couple of days. For some reason, in June, I'd decided I wanted to hear some of the tapes our band made. Is there a connection there? I don't know. I do know that he was healthier than I. He was thin; I'm fat. He was a vegetarian; I'm not. He had tons-more guitar talent than I'll ever have. I think of his guitar ability as I fumble my way through my rudimentary chording.

In the late 1970's existed a really intelligent Rock Group whose name was "Crack The Sky". They had no hits, but their music was very complex. John Palumbo, who wrote the group's songs, was really, really crafty. And the music was so limber, so flexible, so endlessly fascinating. On their first album, "Crack The Sky" performed a long, melodramatic song titled "A Sea Epic". The lyrics tell the tale of of a Ship's Crew, trying their best to keep the boat afloat during a violent storm. The Lord decided that he was going to save one the young shipmates. The shipmate beseeched the Lord to Please Save The Captain instead, because the Captain had a wife and kids depending on him. Or, Lord, please save the Admiral, because he's got the mind to Lead, and that the country needs him to keep Leading the Fleet.

In the song, The Lord responded vehemently, saying "Don't try to tell me who to save or kill", saying that it was both the Captain's and Admiral's "Time", but not the young shipmate's. In the song, the Lord said, "I'll take the Captain if it's his time; I'll take the Admiral, too, and you're not cool, I'll take YOU!" The young shipmate said, "You know what's best, but could you also please spare the Cook? By the looks of this ship, I'm gonna starve." The song continues, "well, the ship went down to the bottom of the sea/ and the only ones left were the fat cook and me". Sometimes I think of life and death in that manner; those with more talent and intellect than I seem to be passing away, while I've still "got life". I don't know how God makes his decisions or why things happen the way they do. Mysterious ways, indeed. is a huge website that's great for historical research, or to honor family and friends that have passed on. It might sound like a morbid site to surf, but it's really interesting. And, Rick, my musical friend, Rest in Peace...