SPORTS: NOT NECESSARILY THE HEALTHIEST ACTIVITY – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Sunday–Gridiron

Unlike baseball, which I enjoy regardless of who is playing, though I admit I prefer seeing our team play when they let us, we aren’t going to discuss how MLB has made it nearly impossible to see one’s home-team without buying a mega cable package or owning season tickets to the sport. That’s another issue which gets a separate cover.

Today is Super Bowl day when the winners of the National and American leagues in football play each other for unbelievably expensive rings and the option of being the talking heads for who knows how many products on television. At least we can still see football on the regular network and not have to pay hundreds of dollars extra to watch our own teams play.

Although most non-football-addicted American think that football is like it used to be 20 years ago, it isn’t. Excessive roughness is a call made constantly on the field. The giant pile-ups of huge guys to destroy the quarter or running back are illegal now. It isn’t like it used to be which I think is very much for the good of the game.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

If you have been not watching football because the last time you saw it was the Disney cartoon starring Goofy, you have missed a lot of the changes that have come to the game. It’s still a rough game because sports are rough. All sports are rough, even the ones that don’t look particularly rough.

Take, for example, baseball. Do you know what pitching hundreds of balls over the course of 160 season game does to an arm? Or even the sliding and running … or that crouching the catcher does … do to a human body?

How about horseback riding? Do you know how many jockeys end their lives in wheelchairs? And how many are killed from falls that no helmet will fix?

Sports are hard on humans. All sports are hard on humans. Even sitting at a computer all day long is rough on parts of your body.

So if your reason for not watching football is that it’s too rough for a mortal humanoid, consider warfare and many of the “easy” sports we all are required to learn in school. Volleyball (tore my ankle up on that one), running (how many knees needed rebuilding after that?), shot-putting, pole vaulting, tennis (does your elbow still work?) … all of which take a serious toll on the person playing it.

English style riding and jumping

I know that we all think it’s healthy that our kids get up and go out in the world enjoy physical activity because that’s healthy, right?  Healthy activity comes at a price. Knees and backs are destroyed and many are never repaired.

Some folks are stronger than others and can withstand the battering better than others. Some can simply take more abuse, but others can take a lot less and don’t know it until it’s too late.

Like me, for example. I fell off a few horses. I didn’t even fall very hard, but I fell right on my butt. Or more to the point, I feel on the base of my spine. After a while — not a long while, either — I couldn’t walk properly anymore. I didn’t stop riding, even after the surgery which should have stopped me.

How about downhill skiers? And hockey and figure skaters?

There IS no sport that does not take a serious and potentially life-threatening toll on the body performing it.

Players have multiple surgeries on shoulders and elbows and spines and knees and get clobbered badly enough to end their life with sports-induced Alzheimer’s disease.

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – JANUARY 13: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots throws during the first quarter in the AFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Los Angeles -Chargers at Gillette -Stadium on January 13, 2019, in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Don’t be fooled by thinking if something “looks easy” that it is easy. Ballerinas destroy their feet while male dancers crush their spines. The life of a professional dancer is shorter than that of an NFL player. And that’s not even sports. That’s ART.

BOSTON, MA – October 24: Boston Red Sox’s Andrew Benintendi catches a fly ball hit by Los Angeles Dodger’s Brian Dozier during the fifth inning of Game Two of Major League Baseball’s World Series at Fenway Park on October 24, 2018, in Boston, Massachusetts. (Staff photo by Christopher Evans)

Does any of this mean we should all stop doing anything risky? Of course not. But we should also be aware that when our kids complain that something is hurting them, to make sure that there’s no serious damage and to get that possible hurting checked by a doctor who actually knows the difference between bruising and serious damage.

I do not even know how many people are twisted into wrecks by middle age from sports they played when they were teenagers.

MY BEST YEAR – 1969

1969 was the year I learned to fly. The world spun faster on its axis. Everything changed. We had the best music and the most fun we’d ever have again. It was before AIDS, too. Sex was fun — and the worst disease you could get was something a doctor could fix with a shot of antibiotics.

Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in July 1969. I watched it unfold. I was a new mother with a 2-month old baby boy. I wasn’t working yet and was finished with college. I was at home with the baby, not working, no studying. I had time to see the world unroll.

We were going to make the world a better place, end war. End bigotry, race prejudice, inequality. Turns out, it didn’t quite work out the way we planned, but our hearts were pure, even if we were also stoned.

Marilyn and the kid

It was a great time to get work, too because the world was opening up. You could still get an interview with a live person who might actually hire you. We had hope and we believed.

I saw Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. We saw it on CBS. It was obvious Walter Cronkite wanted to be up there too. Up there, with Neil and the rest of Apollo 11. He could barely control his excitement, almost in tears, his voice breaking with emotion.

The great Arthur C. Clarke was his guest for that historic broadcast. Neil Armstrong died last year. He had a good life. Unlike so many others who fell from grace, he remained an honorable man: a real American hero.

Apollo 11 – 1969

How I envied him his trip to the moon. Maybe the Mother Ship will come for us. If they could fix the old folks on Cocoon, maybe there’s room for Garry and me. Off to the stars? Sounds like a good deal. Earth, these days, is a total bummer.

On the moon, 1969

Woodstock was that summer. There were rumors flying about this amazing rock concert that was going to happen upstate. I had friends who had tickets and were going. I was busy with the baby and wished them well.

There were hippies giving out flowers in Haight-Ashbury, but I didn’t envy them. Because I was happy that year, probably happier than I’d ever been and in some ways, happier than at anytime since.

I was young, still healthy. I believed we would change the world, end war, make the world a better place. I still thought the world could be changed. All we had to do was love one another and join together to make it happen. Vietnam was in high gear, but we were sure it would end any day … and though we found out how terribly wrong we were, for a while we saw the future bright and full of hope.

I had a baby boy and I sang “Everything’s Fine Right Now” which I first heard sung by the Holy Modal Rounders at a local folk music club. They were the most stoned group of musicians I’d ever met, but the song was also a great lullaby. It made my baby boy laugh. 

It was the year of the Miracle Mets. I watched as they took New York all the way to the top. A World Series win. 1969. What a year. I rocked my son to sleep and discovered Oktoberfest beer. New York went crazy for the Mets. It should have been the Dodgers, but they’d abandoned us for the west coast.

I wore patchwork bell-bottom jeans and rose-tinted spectacles. I had long fringes on my sleeves and a baby on my hip.

Music was wonderful. How young we were! We could do anything, or so we thought.

We were going to end THE war and right every wrong. As we found the peak, we would almost immediately drop back into a dark valley. For a year, though, one great year, the stars aligned and everything was as it should be.

Decades passed. Being young was a long time ago. We use lots of drugs, but they control our blood pressure, not our state of consciousness. They are no fun at all.

I worry about Social Security and Medicare and I know I’m not going to fix what’s wrong with the world. I’ve lived a lifetime. My granddaughter is the age I was then.

I’ve remarried, lived in another country, owned houses, moved from the city to the country, and partied with a President … but 1969 remains my year.

THE FENWAY WALL – SQUARELY PINK – Marilyn Armstrong

The Wall at Fenway Park

So today was lovely. Friends and food and too many desserts. Laughter and the joy of good friends. And now, it’s another day, a perfect day for a lovely square pink photograph.

What a crazy week it has been. Flooding and typhoons and tornadoes and insane politicians saying the most godawful idiotic things.

Here, at home, other than a few dozen homes in Andover, South Andover, and Lawrence blowing up because the gas company was inept, it has been peaceful.

Best we think of baseball. One, two, three strikes you’re out and there’s no arguing with the umpire!

Painted on the old brick walls at Fenway Park

 

A SPIRAL OF CHANGE – Marilyn Armstrong

Ragtime Daily Prompt #67 – SPIRAL


Last night, I found myself staying up very late — much too late — to watch the end of the final game in the Yankees-Red Sox 4-game matchup. Garry had gone to bed.

When he went to bed, the Yankees were winning 4 – 1 and it looked like they were going to win at least that final game in the series. I wasn’t so sure. I figured I would get to the bedroom and Garry would be watching it.

Wrong. He was sound asleep.

What happened to us? He’s asleep … and I’m up way later than I should have been watching baseball? When did we switch roles?

The Sox and the Yankees are one of those classic sports rivalries that always brings out the crowds. This year, our Red Sox are playing brilliantly which no one expected, least of all, us. They just keep winning.

Andrew Benintendi after hitting the winning single for the Red Sox at Fenway Park early Monday. Credit Adam Glanzman-Getty Images

When Garry went to bed after the end of the 7th inning. For you non-baseball types, a standard game is nine innings and typically lasts three to four hours. Since games can’t end in a tie, occasionally, they go on a lot longer by which time the stadium is empty and the announcers are asleep.

A 1908 recording of “Take me out to the ball game” just to get your spirits up!

In the bottom of the ninth — final inning — the Sox knocked in three runs and the score was tied. The game went to the 10th inning, overtime.

We won. I actually had to wake Garry up and tell him “We won.”

“We won?” he mumbled.

“Bottom of the ninth, the Sox knocked in three runs and then one more in the tenth.”

“Damn,” he said and went back to sleep.

Is this a spiral of change? Or a full reverse?

WHO’S GOT THE BIGGEST EGO? – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Ego

“MAGA, MAGA, MAGA” screamed the audience.

“Whatever happened to ‘God bless America’ and ‘Land of the Free?’ ” I commented.

Garry changed the channel. The whole thing was making him feel ill. It’s why we watch baseball. Game after game.

Lucky for us, the Red Sox are doing unbelievably well. Hard to believe our ragtag team is now 8-1/2 games ahead of the almighty Yankees, especially since they’ve assembled a team that would have seemed impossible to beat.

But sometimes, luck turns your way. Our pitchers are out-pitching themselves. Our hitters are whacking the ball out of the park. Moreover, they are doing it day-after-day.

Red Sox final score yesterday against Yankees

They did an interview with J.D. Martinez, a new guy this year. He is doing better than he has ever done before. In fact, everyone is doing better than they ever did before. We weren’t expecting this.

Alex Rodriguez commented that the Red Sox sluggers — Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez — are better than Yankees’ Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. I’m not sure that’s really true. I think that the Yankees haven’t quite gotten it together as a team, yet. About half the Red Sox are new to the team, but pretty much all the Yankees are new and a whole bunch of them are rookies. They are good. Very good. But they are also young and inexperienced an I suspect it will take them time to pull their act together.

That’s why a careful lack of bloated ego in the Sox’ bullpen is a wise choice. The season is half over with more than 50 games remaining to be played. We’ve all watched our Red Sox flounder through August and collapse in September. We don’t want to jinx them so we are cautious, careful, and judicious when we talk about them, though Garry watched not only the entire game on Fox, and then re-watched it (reruns have their place, even in sports) on MLB.com just to hear the Yankee crew eat crow.

It’s nice to win, but that big ole’ fat lady has yet to sing. Until those note come forth, we need to be careful. Bloated egos are bad for team spirit.

Somebody should tell El Presidente that huge egos can more easily pull a team down than help it move up. He should find some humility. Put his head down and shut his fat trap. I’m not sure he has fifty more games to play.

SUNSHINE, SPRING TRAINING AND SURVIVAL

The missing Harold mystery, Rich Paschall

George and his ever talkative wife Martha had just about enough of the Midwest winter. They were tired of snow,  tired of cold. At close-to-retirement age, they were just plain tired. When another cold night forced them to stay at home rather than visit a favorite neighborhood stop, they realized there was only one thing that could pull them through to warmer weather. Baseball! Right then and there, they began to talk about a trip to sunny Florida for a round of spring training games.

A year before, they had traveled to Florida on a rare road trip to see the Chicago Cubs play. The Cubs lost but they deemed the trip a success. They had visited a ball park other than Wrigley Field, spent a day at the beach, and wandered through town to do some typical tourist shopping. They had some very hot days, but did not suffer the kind of stifling humidity Lake Michigan can serve up in July. Now, in March, they were ready to go south again.

Always sunny Florida?
Always sunny Florida?

George sat down with spring schedules to see what teams would be playing. He wanted to find the best matches for the days they could go to Florida. Martha researched the ball parks themselves and the surrounding night spots on the internet. When they had chosen a few games they might like to see, they looked at hotels, air fares and rental cars. After a full night of debate and delay, they made their choices.

They would return to the familiar spots of St. Petersburg. From there they could go to Tampa to see the Yankees, then down to Bradenton to catch the Pirates and from there to Sarasota to see the Orioles.

Unlike the famous George and Martha of Broadway play and movie fame, this couple rarely had arguments. In fact, they were in agreement on just about anything that meant parties and good times. When almost all of their arrangements were in place, and they were congratulating themselves on another “road trip extraordinaire”, Martha had one more good idea. Of course, the good idea may have been fueled by the German beer she had been drinking all night, but it was an interesting idea, nonetheless.

“Why don’t we call old Harold for the game in Bradenton or Sarasota?” Martha blurted out as if her head had been hit by a rock and she was stunned silly.

“Harold!” George shouted with glee. “That’s a wonderful idea. The old boy probably needs a road trip anyway. Let’s give lucky old Harold a call.”

While Martha dutifully looked for Harold’s phone number, George wondered why the little tapper of Dortmunder beer had run dry. “I am headed to the basement, ” George called out. “I have to find another one of these big cans of beer. You killed the last one.”

“I did no such thing, George,” Martha lied.

When the twosome finally met back at the kitchen table, each was carrying the object of their search. “Well dial the phone and hand it over, old woman,” George said with a laugh.

“I am not as old as you, wise guy,” Martha said as she handed over the phone. Both began to giggle and laugh like school kids up to no good. The phone rang away as the couple talked on until George finally realized there must have been at least 20 rings. He hung up.

“I can not imagine that Harold is not home at this hour. He was never out late.” It was true, of course. In all his life Harold was rarely out at night, and since he retired and moved to Florida, he was always home by dark.

“He’s probably sleeping, you nit wit,” Martha declared. “Let’s give him another try tomorrow.” And so they did. In fact, they called for several days in a row and at different times of day, but Harold never answered. When the day of the trip arrived, Harold was not part of the plan.

Undeterred by their lack of success at lining up Harold for a game, they resolved to try him again once they landed at the Florida airport. They departed from Chicago’s Midway airport. Unbelievably, it was once the busiest airport in the country, but that was before the jet age. Now the crowded airport just seemed like the busiest airport. St. Petersburg airport, on the other hand, was in stark contrast, even for spring training. The crowd was small and the rental car line was short. The couple got their car, got to their hotel, and got on the phone. Still, there was no Harold.

“I hope the old guy is OK,” Martha said, finally voicing more than a bit of concern.

“Sure, Harold is just fine,” George insisted. “He is probably at some nice restaurant right now being fussed over by some cute waitresses. Don’t worry.”

At that very moment Harold was being fussed over by some weary nurses at the Intensive Care Unit of the county hospital. This trip, the retired planner from the Midwest was going to miss the endlessly talkative George and Martha.

Note:  The next Harold story appears next week.
What happened to Harold? The previous story: “Missing Monday

TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME – Rich Paschall

To The Ball Park We Go, by Rich Paschall

If you live in the continental United States and do not have Major League Baseball in your city, you are probably just a short road trip away from a stadium.  For some you may need one over night stay, for a few locations it may mean longer travel plans.

The thirty MLB ball parks are spread across the country.  If you count the 248 minor league teams, then I guess you can find professional baseball just about everywhere.

Center Field scoreboard from Sheffield Avenue
Fenway Park, Boston – Photo: Garry Armstrong

For our purposes, we will stick with the Major Leagues.  Three cities are lucky enough to have two teams, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.  Only one has a third team close at hand.  People in and around Chicago can also make the quick trip to Milwaukee to catch a game without needing an over night stay.

You might tell me that people in New York or Philadelphia can visit the other city with a quick trip since it is only a little farther than Chicago to Milwaukee.

Okay, start in New York City. Head down the New Jersey Turnpike, and get to Philadelphia. Then come back and tell us how long it took.  What time did you have to leave NYC to get to a 7 PM game in Philly.  Sorry, I digressed.

Game time 7:10 pm

Closest to home for those of us on the north side of Chicago is Wrigley Field, Major League Baseball’s second oldest ballpark.  Built in 1914, the park tries to maintain its old-fashioned charm despite some major upgrades. Only Boston’s Fenway park is older.

The neighborhood ballpark still lacks parking, however.   But who drives to the park?  The busy “Wrigleyville” is well served by the Clark and Addison bus lines.  The Chicago Transit Authority “Red Line” is just a few doors east of the ballpark, so you can take the “L” train.

After the game, buses are lined up all along Addison and leave in a “load and go” fashion.  When the bus is full, it takes off and the next one pulls up to the bus stop.  Years of anguish taught us how to get 40 thousand people in and out of a neighborhood with little parking.  In fact, Wrigley Field gave up its tiny lot along side the park on Clark Street for one of its renovation projects.  More seats, less parking!

By the way, people here bristle at any suggestion that naming rights should be sold for the park.  The park was originally Weeghman Park.  From 1920 to 1926 it was Cubs Park.  After that the Cubs owner, chewing gum king William Wrigley Jr.,  named it Wrigley Field.  Legend has it he wanted to popularize the name to help give gum sales a boost.  And we are against naming rights?

On the south side of Chicago fans can visit Guaranteed Rate Field.  Built in 1991, it originally carried the name of the stadium it replaced, Comiskey Park, which was located just across the street.  In 2003 it was named US Cellular Field.  This year it got another new name.

US Cellular Field

When it was first built, before the wave of “retro-style” ball barks, it was massively criticized by just about everyone in town.  There were lots of things to dislike.  Starting in 2001 the park has undergone renovation every year since, except 2015.

The South Side structure had the highest upper deck of any stadium in baseball, and loomed large above the old park before that was torn down. Few wanted to sit in the top rows of the steep upper deck.  There was no roof and only a wind break at the top.  In 2004 the top 8 rows and 6600 seats of the park were removed and a roof added, covering what became the top 13 rows.  It now has a smaller capacity than its north side rival.

Baseball on the South Side

Unlike Wrigley Field, Guaranteed Rate Field has copious parking.  Located right off the Dan Ryan Expressway (Interstate 90/94), it is easy to find.  It is well served by Public Transportation by train and by bus.  The Red Line train runs close to the ballpark, the same line that runs past Wrigley Field.  If the Cubs have a day game, followed by a White Sox night game, you can grab the Red Line and easily go from one ballpark to the other.  If you have to go to Soldier Field for a football game, just get off at Roosevelt and take the bus.

From the north side of Chicago, we made it to Miller Park in Milwaukee in 90 minutes.  We got on the Interstate close to home and did not get off until we spotted Miller Park.

Home of the Brewers

Fortunately for us, the park has a retractable dome which can open and close in 10 minutes time.   There were intermittent showers the day we went. A roof that opens in good weather and glass panels allow for a natural grass field.  It is the best a domed stadium can offer.

The park was scheduled to open in 2000, but was delayed a year due to a construction accident.  A large crane collapsed while lifting one of the massive roof sections.  The park was built behind the old County Stadium, one time home of the now Atlanta Braves.

Domed stadium, natural grass

If you like bratwurst, pretzels and cheese curds, this is your stadium.  There is no shortage of concession stands featuring the typical Wisconsin fare.  Of course, Miller beer is easily located as well.

With all of the renovations since the new Comiskey park opened, it may be the best of the group.  It can be the least expensive.  Wrigley Field continues its historic attraction, despite the many changes in recent years.  Miller Park is the newest and will have baseball rain or shine.