Saturday, September 22, 2001

Welcome to Boston, Kid

Rookie Shea Hillenbrand says his first season as a rookie with the Red Sox has been, well ...

''Now that I'm up here and see what goes on, it's weird,'' he said. ''It's been a real eye-opener.''

Hillenbrand, 26, watched one pitcher after another complain about his role, and one position player after another criticize the way the team used him. He saw a player he admires, Carl Everett, show up late and unleash a stream of profanity-laced accusations at manager Joe Kerrigan. And Pedro Martinez clashed openly with Kerrigan (Hohler, The Boston Globe).

What a first season it has been for Mr. Hillenbrand.

A year ago, the Red Sox were Shea Hillenbrand's idols, the players he yearned to be as he toiled in obscurity at the club's Double A affiliate in Trenton, N.J. ''I looked up here and put everybody on a pedestal,'' he said (Hohler).

This is one of those rare occasions where I can identify with the experiences of a major league ballplayer. Most of my life as a student, and especially in college, I totally idolized the faculty. I thought they were the coolest, brightest, most sincere people in the world. I was so taken with the world of academe that I decided I wanted to make a career of it; I wanted to be a professor.

Well, what an eye-opener I had when I arrived at graduate school. I wasn't too deep into my program of studies before I had the shock of recognition: my hitherto esteemed faculty consisted of some of the worst, most ignoble incarnations of humanity I had ever encountered. A petty, lying, backstabbing, jealous, frightened, venomous gang haunted the hallowed halls I discovered much to my dismay. It was the rudest of awakenings. How could this be? I asked myself over and over.

Yet not wanting to generalize, I thought perhaps the ugliness was isolated to the particular institution I was attending. However, when I entered into my first faculty position, , incredibly I found the situation even worse at the 2 yr. college where I had been hired: Many in this group made the previous bunch seem downright jocular by comparison. It was a wicked experience. I don't exaggerate when I say that I came across people who are evil. Worse, they are cognizant of their malevolence and bask in it. Dr. Jeckle, meet Mr. Hdye.

Oh, but there are many, many exceptions of course. Just as Shea Hillenbrand had admirable role models like David Cone to look to on the Red Sox, I met some truly magnanimous human beings in the ranks of the professoriate. Indeed, several of my dearest friends are now actively teaching and mentoring from behind the ivy walls in ways that are truly spectacular, and many of my colleagues at my present job are refugees from academe, intelligent, honest, caring folks the lot them.

Still I commiserate with Shea Hillenbrand. It's nothing short of shocking to have people you looked up to disappoint you so thoroughly. If any of you out there are thinking of pursuing an academic career or have sons, daughters, spouses who are considering such an endeavor, be en garde else your dreams may be shattered.

I imagine this sort of story isn't unique to baseball or higher education. Have any of you had a similar experience in your life?

Friday, September 21, 2001

Sign = signifier + signified (or What is in a word?)

As you're well aware, everything has changed since the events of 09.11.01, not the least of which are the implicit meanings, the denotations and connotations, of the words we use in our daily lexicon, especially the words and analogies we use to describe sports.

In today's Boston Globe, Michael Holley proposes a convincing argument calling for the complete removal of all sports-war analogies from our vocabulary:

. . . Somehow we - sports fans, sportswriters, athletes, coaches - have allowed ourselves to become overly casual. We became so comfortable that we borrowed the language of war and have used it to describe our games . . .

Maybe our naïveté caused us to defend our sport-as-war obsession before Sept. 11, but now we should know it's time to junk our shrill analogies. And not just temporarily. It has to be permanent, because we've already seen and smelled traces of war in America. We've seen too much to go back to the way we were. After hearing stories of babies dying, planes flying into buildings, survivors who still haven't accepted their sudden losses, and hijacking suspects who prowl the US, a sports-war connection is more than trivial.

It's disrespectful (Michael Holley, The Boston Globe).

And we've probably all uttered these same sports-war analogies countless times while discussing sports, but what about those who've written it down for posterity?

Twenty years from now, when our pop culture is studied by our children, the children will be surprised by our actions in 2001. By then, hopefully, they won't understand why coaches ever talked, seriously, about an athlete's ''mental toughness.'' They won't understand why television commentators spent so much time yelping about ''field generals,'' ''battles in the trenches,'' and ''critical'' third-down conversions.

Let's hope the kids will find it foolish that I wrote Sept. 1 that Joe Kerrigan's reliance on inexperienced players was akin to bringing ''babies to the war.'' I wrote that after the Red Sox had lost to the Yankees. I'm sorry I ever wrote it (Holley).

I, too, have a Sept. 1 occurrence that I now wrestle with. It was on Sept. 1 that I moved the earlier rendition of "The Curse of the Bambino" blog over to its own URL here at and re-titled everything "Bambino's Curse." It made perfect sense at the time. It made me happy. You may remember that we (myself and those who commented) even engaged in a debate on the very nature of the Curse and it's various meanings.

Now, after what has happened, I am embarrassed over the very name of the site. Bambino's Curse? That is not a curse. A true curse, I now have the misfortune to know, is violent, bloody, irrational, deadly . . .

Furthermore, as others have noted, the Yankees -- Red Sox rivalry is finished. It's painful just to consider the rivalry now, in light of the Boston to New York connection of the terrorist act on September 11th.

So 100 times a day or more I have an internal debate with myself: It's wrong to continue the blog under the Bambino's Curse title. It's disrespectful. You should change it to something else. No, don't change it. That's what the terrorists want: psychological warfare. They want you to second guess yourself. Abandon your traditions and memories you cherish. Besides, writing here makes you feel better. It's one of the few things that make you feel better these days.

What a world we find ourselves in today. Even our words are suspect.

Thursday, September 20, 2001

Sale possible before CBA?

In an astute comment from yesterday's posting, Lawrence pointed out that it may be foolish for any of us Sox fans to get our hopes up regarding an imminent purchase of the Red Sox considering that the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) expires as the end of this season.

As promised, I went to a source with far more information and wisdom than I have, Gordon Edes of the Boston Globe. In today's @Bat Chat the question and response went like this:

Cossette (, 12:55PM)
It seems ever more likely that as fans we can't even utter the ubiquitous "wait until next year" mantra until there is a prospect of new ownership of the Red Sox and eventual (hopeful!) management moves that will accompany the team's purchase, e.g., firing Duquette et al. I wonder, though, would anyone be willing to buy the Red Sox before a new, long-term collective bargaining agreement is in place? Should we not even get our hopes up until a CBA signed?

Gordon Edes (, 12:57PM)
Cossette, I think the sox are such an attractive property that prospective owners would be willing to take a chance on a work stoppage in the short term for the long-term benefits of running the sox. But I could see where collective bargaining could cause some snags, assuming the owners and union decide to go to the table this winter.

I should point out, too, that earlier in the chat, Edes suggested that in light of the recent event the owners and players are quite likely to extend the current CBA one more year.

So there is a glimmer of hope after all that the Duke's Regime may come to an end soon. And while we are being hopeful, let's add John Hart to our wish list of potential new GMs for the Red Sox.

OK. Just the good, please.

Reports are quick to point out that the Red Sox weren't very good last night:

. . . the Sox returned to the sloppy, uninspired play that led to their hasty drop from playoff contention last night in a messy 12-2 defeat.

Boston was outplayed by Major League Baseball's statistically-worst team in every facet of the game, resulting in its 14th loss in the last 16 games. It is the worst stretch for the Sox since they dropped 15-of-16 from June 3-19, 1994 (Horrigan, The Boston Herald).

You know what? I don't care. This season was already a wash before 9.11.01, and had the tragic events never taken place I'd still question what good it does any of our psyches to continually harp on how bad things are. Now, however, considering all that has gone down, it seems absolutely moot to say that the Red Sox played ''uninspired'' ball. Duh! I'm doing uninspired work at my own job. Heck, even Cal Ripken says he is ''still searching for the motivation to play.''

Yeah, OK, I know we can't use the tragedy as an excuse for what has become of the Red Sox or as an apology for their poor play on the field last night. Still, though, I'm left with a big so what?

I sit here wondering if the typical Boston sportswriter knows how to write any other story except the same old Red Sox suck mantra? Maybe they get so used to doing it over the years that they are in a rut pattern they can't break out of under any circumstance?

There are exceptions, of course, Gordon Edes, among a few others, has had some great columns in the Globe, and expressed this sentiment in his @Bat Mailbag yesterday:

I understand the anger my colleague Bob Ryan expressed in his column . . . when he lashed out at the Sox, just as my colleague Dan Shaughnessy had done the day before.
But, with all due respect to Bob, I not only was ready for baseball yesterday, I was ready for the Sox. The Olde Towne Team is ours, for better and for worse, and I'll gladly take them, warts and all.

Yep, warts and all.

But there are some things to feel good about, like rookie James Lofton getting his first chance to wear a big league uniform:

The first person Lofton called after he got the news was his older sister, Danielle, who arranged a conference call with his mother, Bettie, in Los Angeles.

''It came true,'' Lofton told his mother.

''What came true?''

''I'm going to the big leagues.''

His mother wept. ''She's in the church,'' Lofton said, ''and she said everybody in the church was praying for me.''

Lofton's arrival in Boston was the sweetest twist in a baseball journey that has carried him from Los Angeles's Fremont High School to remote locales such as Mexico and Taiwan in pursuit of his dream (Hohler, The Boston Globe).

Can you imagine how good that must feel? Call me sappy, but that's the only kind of story I'm in the mood for reading right now. Give me the saccharin. I'll take every ounce of it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2001

Wish I had been there

Baseball returned to Fenway Park last night and boy oh boy do I wish I could have been there to experience the emotion in person. But just reading about it gets me more than a little choked up:

The seventh-inning rally brought every last member of the Red Sox bullpen to their feet, every player in the dugout to the steps, everyone in the tightly guarded stadium to a full-throated expression of pride.

And it had nothing to do with baseball.

In a moment that may rank among the most touching in Fenway Park's rich history, multimillionaire players, $55-a-seat patrons, legions of flag-waving bleacher creatures, even vendors, joined voices to belt out every verse of ''America the Beautiful'' during an extended seventh-inning stretch of a game that otherwise hardly mattered (Hohler, The Boston Globe).

Step by step we are taking back the things we love. Even Bob Ryan's doom and gloom piece (Ryan, obviously is doing his best to be his normal self) had me thinking positively: Yes, we will get new ownership for the Red Sox; We will get a new GM; We will wait 'til next year.

Smile. You're a Red Sox fan.

Tuesday, September 18, 2001

Reopening Day

Dodger's announcer Vin Scully says it better than I ever could:

" ... Baseball gets up out of the dirt, brushes itself off, and goes back to work'' (The Boston Globe).

And Carl Everett finally gets upbraided by Red Sox management, while fan favorite (for all the right reasons) Trot Nixon recounts the incredible experience of his first child's birth on the tragic day.

That's the good news. The bad news, for me at least, is that I still don't feel right. I'm doing all the things I did before -- going to work, posting to this blog, walking the dog, picking tomatoes -- but it really is a case of playing out the string. I'm doing all these things but I'm not happy and I'm not sad. I'm just here doing these things. Does that make sense? All the daily living moments that really gave me pleasure before a week ago today, I struggle with now. I'm flat.

I had all these ideas for things I was going to do here at Bambino's Curse during the off-season, during the hot stove league, but now all my plans seem stupid, petty . . .

I dunno.

I want to say, yeah, this will pass . . . I'll snap out of it. But what exactly is there to snap out of? I can't put my finger on any one thing I need to get over.

Maybe I'm scared and don't want to admit it? And I don't mean scared of tangibles like flying or of Osama Bin Laden's terrorists, but rather scared to admit that so much of what I value is really trivial, entirely forgettable, meaningless?

Monday, September 17, 2001

Now is not the time, Carl

Under normal circumstances I wouldn't even waste a pixel on the ignoble behavior of Carl Everett, but with the lack of other Red Sox news and a desire to resume regular postings here, I'm going to sink into the mud a bit:

The Red Sox outfielder, who had several conflicts and run-ins with former manager Jimy Williams, had his first confrontation with new manager Joe Kerrigan yesterday. Everett arrived late for a workout at Fenway Park and was sent home after getting in a shouting match with Kerrigan, who informed him that he would be fined for his tardiness.

The incident developed in the clubhouse but carried onto the field when Everett followed Kerrigan down the tunnel, berating the manager, according to several sources. The Sox have closed all workouts to the public and media, citing security concerns.

``Joe turned his back on him and walked away, but Carl kept following him, screaming at him,'' one player said. ``The whole team ended up hearing it. It was unbelievable'' (The Boston Herald).

Unbelievable is right. So much for unity. You'd think this would be one occasion where Everett could act like a decent member of the team, show up on time, play hard, keep his mouth shut . . . If it were any other player, I'd give the benefit of the doubt to the and assume his actions as a manifestation of sorts, a way of acting out the grief and frustration he's feeling inside, but Everett has always been like this. What a disgrace, really. And not that he cares, but this is really a bad time to being drawing attention to yourself by acting like an a-hole. The public is in a very vengeful mood right now and just looking for someone to hang in effigy.