Archive for April, 2009

Too Much To Do — And Too Little Time To Do It

Posted in Personal on April 27, 2009 by thelasthonestman

messy-office-03

All right — I freely admit it — I’m completely exhausted.

First, there was planning for the start of the fantasy baseball season.  And there was the continuous work being done on my house taking up a ton of my time.   Just this weekend, I attended a comic book show where I was set up as a dealer — so I’ve had that taking up a ton of my time.  I’m just one guy — but it’s felt like I’ve been doing the work of ten people lately.

So it’s not a surprise that the blog has suffered over the last week with too few updates while I’ve been furiously trying to catch up.  I’ve also decided that I need a vacation for at least a couple of days — that will give me the best chance to recover from the comic show, to get things around the house in some better sense of order (you should see how out of control my yard has gotten, for example), and to actually spend a couple of days relaxing and recharging my batteries.

So, the new schedule for the blog is this:  Since I already missed yesterday’s update on fantasy baseball, I’ll save my observations for this upcoming Sunday instead.  I’ll also be telling my Ro-Sham-Bo story promised for this week next Monday.  On Tuesday and Wednesday, I’ll be taking a detailed two-part look back at Batman: The Animated Series — one of my favorite cartoon ever and a classic of the genre in every sense of the word. From there — we’ll see where events take us.

This brief break should give me enough to time to get things settled here.  In the meantime, everyone stay safe — and I’ll see you again on the weekend.

Mystery Solved — But You’ll Have To Wait A Little Longer For The Story

Posted in Personal, Ro-Sham-Bo Award on April 23, 2009 by thelasthonestman

So the issue I talked about on Tuesday has been apparently taken care of.  I use the word “apparently” since I haven’t had a chance to test out the resolution, and probably won’t do so until tomorrow.  To my great surprise, common sense looks to have actually come out ahead in this situation — it certainly was the result I would have enacted if I had been in charge of the situation, but I was pessimistic because, as well all know, that’s not the way the world works.

So what about that Ro-Sham-Bo Award for this week?  I still want to go into detail on the entire issue, since there were definitely some good people involved who deserve credit for their efforts on my part as well as people who definitely deserve ridicule for theirs.  So I’ve decided to wait until Monday to write up this adventure, so as to not shortchange any of the participants involved.

Besides, I’m prepping for a comic book show in my area this weekend, where I’ll be set up with three dealers tables.  I’m trying desperately to get all of my extra stuff sorted and priced, which is taking forever.  When you combine that with complete exhaustion already today from having to unload my new living room floor from the truck that delivered it — we’re talking carrying 30 huge, heavy boxes of flooring, the sealant, and the glue almost 200 feet — I’m lucky I’m even typing this up.

This is what it feels like I just moved

This is what it feels like I just moved

So I’ll be scarce tomorrow and Saturday, but never fear!   I’ll be back on Sunday with my weekly fantasy baseball column and then — finally — the story behind a Ro-Sham-Bo Award Winner you won’t want to miss on Monday.

Zoinks! It’s A Ro-Sham-Bo Mystery!

Posted in Personal, Ro-Sham-Bo Award on April 21, 2009 by thelasthonestman

No Ro-Sham-Bo Award column yesterday — but for a couple of good reasons I hope you’ll all be able to understand.  As I had mentioned on Friday, my wife’s grandmother had passed away just before the weekend, and with the wake and funeral services taking place yesterday, time for updating the site was scarce.  A heartfelt thanks from both my wife and I for those of you who passed on your condolences.

20070820-scoobydoogangThe other reason, however, for the delay is that I have an outstanding Ro-Sham-Bo candidate for this week — maybe — but it depends on what takes place in the next 24-48 hours.  Without spoiling too much of this mystery I’ve tempted you with, let’s just say that the Ro-Sham-Bo honors will very possibly be going to a company that’s exhibited some pretty outrageous and incredibly asinine behavior to me personally — but I’m giving them the next day or so to offer some form of an acceptable solution before I take them to task publicly.  Again, I don’t want to go into too much detail here, but I will say that the conversation I had with multiple representatives of this company yesterday morning was one of the more infuriating in my memory — and the stupidity exhibited by those who I spoke with is a prime example of why we’re having some of the financial issues in this country today that we are.

My guess is that I probably could have just written the column anyway, as despite the efforts of one person I talked to yesterday who’s trying to do the right thing, an acceptable resolution to this situation isn’t going to be forthcoming.  There’s only so much one person like this one can do when their common sense is being overruled by ignorance that unfortunately happens to be higher on the position ladder than they are — a pretty accurate description of what I think is going to end up describing this particular situation.  So that said, I’m already resolved to the likely ending of this tale, but the good news for all of you is twofold.  One, the matter to me is strictly a dispute on principle one at this point — my favorite kind of dispute — and, other than some inconvenience and irritation it’s caused me, the matter won’t have any real impact on my life when it’s all said and done.  Two, without this incident, you wouldn’t be able to look forward to me reaming a company that deserves it!  See — we all win anyway!  Well, unless you count the company that will lose not only my business, but the business of as many people as my voice (and yours) can hopefully reach — in that sense, they’ll actually be the big losers.

Now, in the more unlikely event that the situation is actually resolved correctly, then I’ll still have a column to write about it, one that will revolve among other things around the Dumb and Dumber customer service team of Kyle and Darrin (see guys — I told you I was getting your names for a reason!), without whom, this tale of utter stupidity would not have been possible.

All right, that’s it for spoilers — you’ll just have to keep checking back this week for the resolution of this Ro-Sham-Bo mystery and what I’m sure will be a rant that will have me in rare form.  Until then, the Scooby Snacks are all on me.

What I Learned This Week, Fantasy Edition (4/19)

Posted in Fantasy Baseball, Sports on April 19, 2009 by thelasthonestman

The second week of the the major league baseball season is now just about completely in the books, and there are already some surprising early returns from around the big leagues.  The young Marlins squad (isn’t that what we’re always calling them?) is off to the best start in the majors at 10-1, but their performance isn’t as much of a surprise as you might think.  Florida has, as usual, what seems to be an endless supply of young talented pitching to rely on, and while they won’t continue their blazing hot start forever, they should be an intriguing sleeper team to watch in the NL East in 2009.

The performance of the San Diego Padres so far, however, has been a complete surprise to almost everyone other than the team’s most ardent supporters.  The Pads sit atop the NL West this morning (alongside the favored Dodgers) with a 9-3 mark.  San Diego has a roster filled with a number of players who would be completely anonymous even to a handful of major league GM’s;  while their performance has been a testament to playing hard — the comeback win off of Phillies’ closer Brad Lidge represented the first blown save for the reliever since 2007 — it’s hard to see them continuing at anything close to this level of performance.

But this feature is supposed to be about the world of fantasy baseball, so let’s get down to the business at hand, shall we?

Royals Rangers BaseballIt was slightly before 5:00 Central on April 16 when I officially turned on Alex Gordon.  The Kansas City third baseman is no stranger to fantasy baseball owners, who have patiently waited for the arrival of the next superstar corner (who was gaining favorable comparisons to Royals Hall of Famer George Brett when he arrived with the team).   Gordon entered the Kansas City system with a bright future ahead of him;  he was Baseball America’s number-two ranked prospect (and the number-one ranked collegiate prospect) as well as winning the Minor League Player of the Year Award on 2006.

As rival owners in my fantasy leagues know already, I was as high on Gordon as anyone, selecting him seemingly in every league I could and making him a future cornerstone of the team in my main league.  As Gordon struggled through his rookie season in 2007, middling along through a mediocre sophomore season in 2008, I remained patient, pointing out to his detractors his youth and his improvement across the board last season.   I entered this season confident that 2009 would see a breakout season for Gordon, and I was thrilled to see him homer in his first at-bat of the new season — and off of a left-handed pitcher no less.  My pre-season declaration that Gordon would be a breakout star looked to be off to a fabulous start.

So much for that.

Following that home run, Gordon fell back into his usual pattern of sucking air, as he went 1 for his next 20 with 8 strikeouts.  On the bright side, I guess, he was showing some level of consistency — he looked as lost against the right-handed pitching he faced as he did against the left-handed arms.  His season came to a crashing halt last week after he suffered torn cartilage in his right hip, requiring surgery that will shut him down for at least the next 10-12 weeks.

What I'd like to do to Gordon

What I'd like to do to Gordon right about now

My emotions regarding Gordon can best be described like this:  if you’ve ever watched professional wrestling, imagine me standing next to Gordon, the third baseman turning his back to me — and then me grabbing a steel chair and planting it in the back of his skull.  Anger like this can only be felt by someone who invests themselves in another’s performance, believes in them, stakes their reputation as someone who knows what they’re actually doing, and then defends that person when they continually disappoint.  Everyone else in my leagues had pretty much acknowledged already what I was seemingly the last to know — Gordon is a bust, a guy with all the tools who, for some reason, looks like he’ll never put it together on the field.  This injury is finally the sign even the blinded optimist like me can’t ignore.

Never again with this guy for me.  Never again.

— Speaking of guys I’ll never own again, there’s the case of Cubs’ outfielder Milton Bradley.  I did own him once, back in 2007.  I had picked him up off of the waiver wire of my main league, after another team had jettisoned him after a maddening display of minor injuries on the outfielder’s part always seemed to conspire to keep Bradley out of the lineup.  I would be thrilled, however, to watch Bradley immediately catch fire for my team, delivering one of my squad’s best offensive performances.

Just wait and see, my friend who had cut Bradley, said to me.  Just wait.

bradley_miltonAnd, of course, he was right.  Bradley would find himself hampered by day-to-day injuries that seemed to keep him perpetually out of the lineup down the stretch of my league’s pennant race, when I needed him the most.  He had been so good for me, I couldn’t sit him for fear he’d return to the lineup with a vengeance the minute I’d bench him, but at the same time, instead of much-needed production, I found myself with only a dead spot in my lineup for the trouble.  I began to think more and more ill of the temperamental Bradley, while my friend could only laugh and say, I told you so.

By the time that Bradley was suffering a mental meltdown in a game against Colorado near the end of the season, injuring himself and costing himself the remainder of the year while being restrained from physically going after an umpire, I had already vowed — much as my friend had before me — Never again.

If you paid to see this, like owning Bradley, you only have yourself to blame

If you paid to see this, like owning Bradley, you only have yourself to blame

Owning Milton Bradley once you’ve gotten one taste of owning him is like paying $9.50 to go see Meet The Spartans in the theater — after you’ve previously paid to see any of the multitude of similar crappy movies from the same genre (like Date Movie, Disaster Movie, etc.).  You know the experience is going to suck, you know how the story’s going to go already almost as if the script was laid out right before you, you even know how it’s all going to end before it even begins.  Changing the title of the movie — or in this case, the uniform of the team Bradley is currently playing not playing for — isn’t going to change anything.

At this point, you can’t blame Bradley for getting hurt already barely two weeks into his tenure with the Cubs, leaving him — as always — day-to-day (which is Bradley speak for, “I’m hardly going to play, and I’m not going to go on the DL so you have some finality to my situation, and the temptation of me actually getting on the field will make you start me over and over again with no results to show for it”).   You can’t blame him for the altercation with the umpire that’s already cost him a two-game suspension.  If you’re one of the fantasy owners out there who’s cursing Bradley and wondering why you bothered, I have just one thing to say to you:  Welcome to the club.

Chien-Ming Wang is off to the worst start for a pitcher that I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been watching baseball religiously for over 30 years now.  The Yankees starter was absolutely pummelled by the Indians on national television yesterday, in what is his third terrible start in a row.  Wang was never an overpowering pitcher, instead relying on location and opposing hitters pounding the ball into the dirt to gain success.  Yesterday, everything Wang threw seemed to be up in the zone, and the Cleveland hitters were teeing off on him like it was batting practice.

wangJust how bad was Wang?  According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Wang is only the 2nd pitcher since 1900 to allow seven runs in each of his first three starts while failing to go four innings in any of them.  Wang’s ERA of 34.50 sounds like the price of two beers and a hot dog at the “Everything’s horrendously overpriced New Yankee Stadium” — which you probably could have ordered and consumed during the record-setting, 14-run, 2nd inning yesterday that Wang was kayoed out of the game during.  The Indians set major league records for runs scored in a 2nd inning, and for extra base hits — 8 of them total — accumulated during any inning.

The damage Wang did to his fantasy owners won’t be erased anytime soon.  Needless to say, he shouldn’t be active anywhere for any reason right now if you can help it.  My guess is that he ends up on the DL shortly with some mysterious ailment while the Yankees try to figure out exactly where this train went off of the tracks.

yankee-stadium— And what about the new Yankee Stadium so far?  It’s playing like an extreme hitting park so far, and though some of that can be directly attributed to some terrible pitching, there definitely seems to be a dramatic difference in the way the park plays compared to the old stadium.  Traditionally, the short porch in right field has always been a tempting target for left-handed hitters, but this year, the ball seems to be carrying out to right in a way I’ve never seen it do so there.  Just in yesterday’s game, I definitely saw two home runs — the first inning HR by Mark Teixiera and the second inning grand slam by Indians middle infielder Asdrubal Cabrera — that didn’t look to be hit all that hard (Tex’s shot was off of the end of his bat) and didn’t look like anything more than a routine fly ball out in the making.  In both cases, the ball seemed to just keep carrying — all the way out of the park for home runs.

While I wouldn’t be expecting this to be the AL’s version of old-school Coors Field, it may well be a more hitter-friendly park than it’s been in years past.  I definitely think you’ll see some increase in the number of home runs hit to right field.  The player I think it was most benefit won’t be the aforementioned Teixiera, but rather lefty-swinging Robinson Cano.  I had projected Cano for a breakout last season, and while he was a disappointment to both New York and his fantasy owners in 2008, this season the normally slow starter has looked locked in ever since spring training.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see Cano emerge as the AL’s number-two fantasy second baseman (behind Texas’ Ian Kinsler) and possibly hit 20-25 HR, a valuable contribution at a position any fantasy owner would love to have.

Madden Retires — While Isiah Is Hired — And Other Weekend Notes

Posted in College Basketball, News/Current Events, Sports, The Wrapups with tags , on April 17, 2009 by thelasthonestman

Just jumping in quick today;  another passing in the immediate family (this time, my wife’s grandmother) has meant that this has been a pretty busy — and sad — day.  It’s not too busy or sad, however, to comment briefly on the following:

John Madden has retired after 30 years in the broadcasting booth.  For almost my entire life, Madden has been one of the primary voices of the NFL for me, and I’m sorry to see him leave.  While he definitely had lost something over time — it’s got to be hard to remain fresh and cutting-edge after so many years doing the same thing — his impact on the world of announcing professional football was undeniable, and I’m going to miss him.  It’s hard for people today to remember how great of a coach he was as well, but I can’t imagine that Madden won’t still remain a larger-than-life figure in the football world for many years to come.

Besides, what would football be without the Madden curse to talk about?

Yep.  That explains it.

Yep. That explains it.

How Isiah Thomas managed to get hired again is downright amazing.   I mean, the man has left behind a trail of carnage reminiscent of one of Godzilla’s strolls through Tokyo.   He destroyed the CBA.  He ruined the Knicks.  What did Florida International do to deserve this?  Oh, yeah — they hired Thomas anyway.

I have no idea if Thomas can possibly be successful at the collegiate level, but his experience dealing with all of the things that makes the college game different from the pros is just about nil, so I won’t be holding my breath waiting for him to succeed.  He brings plenty of attention to the FIU program — but I’m thinking that it won’t really be the type of attention that the university is really going to want to have.  It’s been a circus that has seemed to follow Isiah for quite a while now, and the ringmaster is back in the spotlight he’s always craved.  I put the over/under on the number of seasons it takes for the program to find itself in some form of trouble at 2 1/2.

— Again, apologies for the brevity — but I’ll be back in full force for my second week of What I Learned, Fantasy Edition on Sunday.  Hope you’ll be back for then.

A Look Back At The Thrilla In Manila — And The Ali-Frazier War That Still Rages Today

Posted in Boxing, Sports, Television, The Wayback Machine with tags , , , , on April 16, 2009 by thelasthonestman

ali-frazier1Once their names were almost inseparable — Ali and Frazier.

Now, they are two men who couldn’t be any further apart, by any means you might measure.  One is a hero to millions, remembered as a legend and one of the greatest his sport had to offer, wealthy and famous wherever he goes — even if he’s now only a shadow of the man he once was.  The other has faded into relative obscurity, now living in near poverty in an inner-city neighborhood far removed from the glamour of the spotlight, a figure still angry and bitter over his treatment by his rival many years after the fact.

And well he should be.

cosell-aliWhen I was a kid and was first introduced to boxing, the one fighter I got to know immediately was Muhammad Ali.  And why not?  At the time — 1976 to be exact — he was the Heavyweight Champion of the World back when that title still meant something, and he was arguably the most famous athlete of his time.  It was impossible not to know who Ali was, even if you didn’t follow boxing.  No athlete of modern times — exact possibly Michael Jordan — was more well known in the United States, and it’s not a stretch to say that no athlete in history has been more recognized around the entire world than Ali was.  He wasn’t just a sports figure — he was a celebrity with greater recognition than many a world leader or famous actor.

So why wouldn’t he become my favorite boxer as I took my tentative first steps into becoming a fan of the sport?  Everyone seemed to love Ali, and I would be no different, quickly becoming a fan.  Being too young to know better, I was almost hostile to my father’s suggestions that Ali was “washed up” when we sat down to watch his fight on network television (remember those days?) against a complete unknown — well, at least to me — Leon Spinks.

ali-holmesAs you would expect, I was devastated at the time when a old, slow, and out-of-shape Ali was out-hustled by the raw, inexperienced Spinks, who captured the champion’s crown in a 15-round unanimous decision.  I was giddy with excitement when I heard the news that Ali had recaptured his title in New Orleans seven months later against Spinks, still too young to realize that this would be his last hurrah.  I was devastated again when Ali retired, then when he lost to Larry Holmes in an ill-advised comeback, then yet again when he lost to Trevor Berbick before he finally hung it up once and for all.

At the time, I would have told you without fail that Ali was “The Greatest”, as he had always proclaimed.  But I grew older and wiser, and as I became a huge fan of the sport of boxing — and in turn, studied its history — I realized that my view had been a myopic one.  While I would always acknowledge Ali as one of the greatest heavyweights of all time and one of the greatest boxers as well, I would eventually replace him at the top of both my all-time list of heavyweight champions (with the immortal Joe Louis) and the list of all-time pound-for-pound greats (with the incomparable Sugar Ray Robinson).

But that re-ranking aside, I still knew everything I could about Ali, didn’t I?  I knew about his dramatic emergence onto the boxing scene in the early 1960’s, about his conversion to Islam, about the unjust suspension of his boxing license and the inspirational comeback he’d made to the ring. I knew all there was to know about his underdog victory against George Foreman to regain his title, and all you could know about his battles with his epic adversary, Joe Frazier.  Right?

It turns out I didn’t — and I’d harbor a guess that I’m not alone.

ghosts-of-manilaNow showing on HBO this month is an outstanding sports documentary Thrilla In Manila.  If you haven’t gotten a chance to see it, and you know or care anything about either boxing or Muhammad Ali, you owe it to yourself to check it out.  In addition, I highly recommend also checking out the outstanding book Ghosts of Manila by author Mark Kram — I’m not sure if the the documentary was based off of or inspired by the book, but much of the material found in the former is in the latter and in even greater detail.  Both documentary and book take a look back at the bitter Ali-Frazier rivalry — one that hasn’t let up, even now, some thirty years plus later — that would culminate in a ring on a brutally hot morning in the Philippines.  Both tell not only the story of the fight itself, but the mostly untold story of the callous and cruel verbal attacks made by Ali against a man in Frazier who never deserved it, the bitter personal war that it would cause between two men that had started as friends, and the damage that it would lead to for both men — with its effects still felt today.

ali-frazier-poster3Everyone by now knows the background behind Ali unjustly losing his boxing license due to his refusal to be inducted into military service during the Vietnam War — but far fewer people know of Joe Frazier’s lobbying on Ali’s behalf behind the scenes to have that same restriction lifted.  And while it would be easy to claim that Frazier’s actions were more self-serving than noble — after all, without Ali there could never have been the money Joe would make in their megafights together — it’s hard to feel that Frazier’s actions were anything but noble when it’s revealed that the then-champion helped Ali financially when the latter was in need during his exile, a selfless act that was done entirely in private and away from the prying eyes of the media and world-at-large.

826620boxer-muhammad-ali-taunting-rival-joe-frazier-at-frazier-s-training-headquarters-postersAnd how were Frazier’s actions repaid by Ali when his suspension was finally lifted, and the dream fight between the two warriors — and tentative friends at the time — made?  Whether it was an attempt at psychological warfare or simply just an act to help sell the fight to the world, Ali turned on Frazier with vicious intent, savaging Frazier to the media and anyone who would listen, labeling the champion as a “Uncle Tom” and an ignorant buffoon who was only a tool for the white man and a traitor to his race.  It was an inaccurate and unfair depiction of a proud man in Frazier who had been born in the poorest part of South Carolina, who had worked hard while growing up in the toughest part of inner-city Philadelphia (a far cry from Ali, who had come up in more prosperous surroundings in Louisville), and who had seen as much racism first-hand as had Ali — even if he wasn’t the type to publicly decry it.

The enmity between the two men, which had simmered through the loss of the title by Frazier to George Foreman in Jamaica, the letdown of their second fight (a 12-round decision win for Ali),  and Ali’s shocking triumph over Foreman in Zaire, grew to a crescendo by the time their rubber match in Manila arrived.  Ali took his insults of Frazier to a new level, referring to his challenger as a “gorilla”, mocking his physical features (Ali would take to pushing his own nose flat in an attempt to mimic Joe’s), and even taking to punching a toy monkey meant to depict Frazier while at his press conferences or meeting with the media.  It was an ugly side to Ali that those in his camp have excused as simply another act of showmanship — just a way to sell tickets;  however, those in that corner ignore the reality of how deep an insult the term was to Frazier, and how troubling the usage was in referring to an African-American.  Coming from another black man, it was doubly so.

The book and the documentary touch on all of this and much more.  If you’ve looked at Ali through rose-colored glasses over the years, both of these looks back will be a stark wake-up call and a disappointing reminder that our heroes are as flawed, even more so in some cases, then those who idolize them.

manila-2The culmination of the blood feud between Ali and Frazier would be their epic struggle in Manila, and both the documentary and the book give great insights into one of the greatest heavyweight struggles ever.  Everything that is good — and bad — about boxing was in display on that morning in the Philippines.  While Ali had taken the fight largely due to believing that Frazier was washed up following the beating he took at the hands of Foreman, Frazier trained for the contest as if he was going to war for his life — and in many ways, he was.  The fight would be more of a contest of survival than a sporting event — Ali himself would say afterward that this had been “the closest to dying he had ever been” — and it can be said that while two men went into the ring that day, neither came out whole.  Both Ali and Frazier left part of themselves behind, and neither man would be the same again physically — or mentally.

manila-3The fight itself was a war;  Ali dominated the early rounds, nearly knocking Frazier out while showing an aggressive tact he rarely had exhibited since his return to the ring in 1970.  But in the middle rounds, the former champion would rally, muscling Ali at every opportunity while pounding the now-stationary fighter in the ribs, kidneys, liver, and hips at every opportunity with his brutal left hooks, each thrown with the intent of knocking Ali out.  Frazier surged ahead on the scorecards, but as the fight entered the last rounds, Ali had begun to rally again.  Constant punching to Frazier’s face had swollen his right eye almost shut.  Unbeknown to anyone other than Frazier and his trainer, the great Eddie Futch, cataracts had rendered the fighter unable to see with his left eye, and with his vision impaired in his right eye from the pounding he’d received, Frazier was now fighting essentially blind.  Ali would rain punishment on a tiring Frazier, who despite the beating, refused to give up.

After a beating in the 14th, Futch — against the protests of Frazier — would signal to stop the fight.  Ironically, in the corner opposite of theirs, Ali was begging his trainer Angelo Dundee to cut his own gloves off, seemingly unwilling to answer the bell himself.  The shocking juxtaposition of the two — the eventual loser wanting to continue while his corner fought to protect him from risking his own life in his quest for victory, while the eventual winner was looking at the abyss and hesitating, while his corner urged him onward — poses the question:  How would the lives of these two men — and our remembrances of them both — have been forever changed if Frazier had answered the bell for the 15th round — and Ali had not?

ali-oldThe aftermath for both is well documented.  Ali would go on to fight again, but never be the same.  Frazier also would fight on, but his career was essentially finished that day in Manila.  Over time, the wars each fought in the ring would take their physical toll on both men.  Ali today is a shadow of his former, glib self — the effects of his years in the ring and his battle with Parkinson’s Disease well evident.  Frazier also wears the effects of the punishment he took.  But while so much has faded over time with both of these men, one thing is as strong today as it was then — and that’s an utter disdain of Ali by Frazier, the latter still embittered by his treatment so many years ago.

The documentary and the book tell us a lot about both of these men, whose stories are forever intertwined with one another.  What I took out of it was that Ali wasn’t quite the hero I once thought he was, and Frazier was never the villain he was often portrayed to be.  Both were proud men and proud fighters.  There is a great deal about both to admire — and a great deal about both that neither should be proud of.  Which, I guess, makes them both human — like the rest of us.  No more — no less.

joe-frazierThe lasting image I take from the HBO Special, though, is that of Frazier watching the tape of his fight with Ali.  There’s a haunted, troubling look on his face as he watches his younger self attacking and stalking Ali in the ring, an almost wry smile coming up from the corners of his mouth as you can see him reliving every blow being struck.  You can sense that, for Frazier, a part of him is still in Manila, still chasing after the elusive Ali.  In some ways, he’s a ghost of a man chasing down another spectre — even after all these years — a spectre he’ll never be able to catch, no matter how badly he wants to.

Counting Down The Clock

Posted in Personal on April 15, 2009 by thelasthonestman

death-clock

The recent high-profile deaths of Los Angeles Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart and baseball legends Harry Kalas and Mark Fidyrch have left me thinking — more than usual — about my own mortality.

For my own part, dying, while something I think about more frequently than I imagine I should, is still something I only find comfortable dealing with if I’m doing so in a more abstract fashion.  When death hits close to home, however, and I have to deal with it in an immediate sense — as I recently did following the sudden passing of a beloved aunt — then I find myself incredibly uncomfortable, and the effect death has on me is extremely noticeable to the people I interact with the most.

You see, I’m the person who has trouble staying composed during a wake or a funeral, and I’m the one who’s pretty obviously moody or depressed during the immediate aftermath.  As I’ve told my wife, I don’t handle death very well — and I shudder to think how I’ll react when the day comes that it’s my parents, or my closest aunt, or heaven forbid, maybe even my spouse who’s making that journey to the next life while I stay behind to mourn.  This effect is likely due to these moments being not only a time for me to grieve about the loss of someone close, but also periods that I find I’m the most introspective about my own place in the world and the impact I have on those around me.  Usually, seeing someone near to me pass away leads me to a period of self-reevaluation, for better or for worse.

Tick-tock.

Yet even when it’s not someone who’s close to me personally, I often find myself still affected — like in the case of our trio of high-profile sports figures.  As I may have mentioned before, I didn’t know any more about Adenhart or Kallas or Fidyrch other than what I’d read online or seen on television.  What kind of person were they really? I’ll never know — but I’ve still had the feeling of loss hovering over me for the last several days.  Maybe its because of their passings are a reminder of memories of my past that will never be recaptured, a really sobering train of thought if you choose to take it.  Or, as I said the other day in my piece on Adnehart, their deaths were also a wake-up call to me to be mindful of just how fortunate I am in my life — and a grim reminder that it can all be taken away in an instant.  There’s a lesson about life’s fragile nature there that I want to keep with me every day — but will I actually do that?  Or do I even want to?  Is living one’s life telling yourself continuously that each and any day could be your last an approach that will lead to true appreciation for life — or to utter madness over time?

I will grant that it’s moments like these that I really start looking at my own ledger in life — and after a strict evaluation, I usually find myself coming up wanting.  I’m steadily nearing my 40th birthday — and I’m reaching a point in my life where the number of days I have remaining are very possibly fewer than the days that I’ve already spent on this earth, and that’s when I start wondering if I’ve truly done enough with the life I’ve been given.  What will be left behind of me when I’m gone?  Did I make a difference?  Did anything I do really ever matter?  Those are questions I don’t usually like asking of myself since the answers I seem to give don’t tend to be all that positive.  Again, is it a road to enlightenment I’m following by thinking this way — or to something worse?

Tick- Tock.  Tick-tock.

I’ve already spoken somewhat on this blog about my desire to write, and the need for me to be working on this blog as an attempt to further that ambition.  But every day has been a tough one, trying to juggle working on the novel and this blog while trying to still make money and running a household.  My wife and I want to have children, but we both feel the clock ticking down on our time to do so, and we’re getting worried that if we don’t make that decision soon, we won’t have the family we both wanted when we got married.  I’m the last of my immediate family line, and I wanted to have a child to carry on my name, and to be someone I could impart whatever level of wisdom I had to them.  What do I do if that never happens?

Tick-tock.  Tick-tock.  Tick-tock.

There are so many things to do — for all of us — but every day we live seems to go by faster and faster than the ones before it.   I don’t want to think too much about the past, and I don’t want to think too much about the future.  But I can’t ignore the clock ticking away in the background behind me.   So I’ll write this now, and I’ll call my parents tonight for no particular reason, and maybe my wife and I will talk tonight when she gets home again about that family.  A line from one of my favorite movies, The Shawshank Redemption, is, “Get busy living, or get busy dying.”  True that.