It’s that time of year

2008: On The Occasion Of The Impending Centennial Of The Cubs’ Futility

Tinkers to Evers to what’s the chance
a hundred seasons could come and go
so fast you wouldn’t celebrate even one

Next year isn’t a mantra
it’s an elegy for wasted time,
wasted efforts, wasted hopes
and, for all those losses,
nothing is really lost
no one died from
heartbreak, no child went
hungry because Ernie Banks
never got his pennant

Instead we grew up
with hopes stunted
or getting ever larger
believing tomorrow will always
hold what today never can

Still going down to that damn
old park because we take defeat
as our due and know the team’s
reach never exceeds our grasp

Their wish – like our dreams – is
not of brazen prizes and spoiling
success but noon on a July day
when the breeze off the lake
might be just a little bit cooler

Three Fingers Brown, someone
asked you once if you could
have pitched better with all five fingers
I’ll never know, you said
So, what’s it like
to win it all?

(Originally published in Elysian Fields Quarterly in 2006)

3Fingers

Japanese baseball fans blame Col. Sanders for losing streak

1n 1985, fans of the Hanshin Tigers baseball team tossed a statue of the Colonel into the Dotonbori River in Osaka when the team won their first Central League pennant in 21 years. (Fans saw a resemblance between the Colonel and the team’s bearded American slugger, Randy Bass.)

The team went on to win the national championship, the Japan Series, that year but has never done so again, prompting some to suggest that the Colonel’s disappearance put a curse on them.

The truth about this curse will be resolved this season as a diver checking for unexploded bombs from WWII found the Colonel’s top half on Tuesday, minus his hands and glasses but still sporting his trademark string tie and grin. The bottom half was recovered today.

"It’s only a statue, but I felt as if I was rescuing someone," a worker told reporters after the lower half was found.

randy bass col_sanders

Silly Japanese baseball fans! Statues don’t cause curses. Goats do!

BadCentury01

10 things a satirist gives thanks for

  1. The Bush Administration
  2. GM’s “leadership” (What’s the difference between the cub scouts and GM? Adult supervision.)
  3. Sarah Palin and her handlers sarah-palin-turkey-slaughter-big
  4. The voters of Minnesota. Jesse Ventura! Al Franken! (someone’s spiked the 10,000 lakes).
  5. Jaguar Land Rover for applying for a bailout.
  6. Barney Frank: “These two entities — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — are not facing any kind of financial crisis. The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.
  7. The Chicago Cubscub curse
  8. Alan Greenspan
  9. The phrase “too big to fail.” Econ speak for: About to bite the dust.
  10. Joe Biden: “When the stock market crashed, Franklin Roosevelt got on the television and didn’t just talk about the princes of greed. He said, ‘look, here’s what happened.’”

Penguin seal

If Mark Cuban is guilty …

The multi-millionaire sports team owner and sometimes amusing loud mouth is under investigation for insider trading. If he’s guilty I say force him to buy The Cubs (something he’s already trying to do). I can think of no more fitting punishment than a task which would make even Sisyphus tremble in horror.

In a time of worry and woe, at least we still have The Mets.

It is reassuring to know that no matter what happens in the world, The New York Mets are working hard to cheer me up. For the second straight year they have committed one of the most impressive chokes EVER. This year they managed not only to lose the division but also blow the wildcard race — ALL IN ONE WEEKEND!

Please forgive my evil chortle over this but you have to understand that The Mets were on the winning end of two of the biggest heartbreaks of my sporting life: The collapse of the ’69 Cubs and the ’86 Red Sox.

Why is this man smiling?

Why is this man smiling?

Although I am the son of two Mets fans (former Dodger/Giants fans who refuse to let their allegiance head west when their teams did) this is in no way a knock at either parent. (Although in the winter of ’86 my mother did make a point of wearing her Mets jacket way more than might have been supported by the weather. My father at least had the grace to say, “If the Mets are so good how come God had to give them the Series?”) Nope I just hate the Mets. It would seem to me that the time is perfect for someone to write a sequel to Jimmy Breslin’s wonderful book on the ’62 Mets, Can’t Anybody Here Play This Game? That team at least had the charm of being really really bad. (And wouldn’t that be the perfect title for a book about the Fed?)

On an intellectual if not aesthetic level I am sorry to see the end of Shea Stadium. As Breslin put it:

And now it hits you. Now you realize, for the first time, what this is all about. All of it, all of the workers risking their lives, and all of the huge payrolls and all of the political wrangling. There is a reason for it all:

They are building a brand new stadium for Marvin Thronberry.

Thank you to the Mets for giving me cheer on a gray day when the news continues to be supremely unnerving.

As to the playoffs, here is my prediction: Angels vs. Cubs in the series. What happens then is anyone’s guess.

What do Democrats and Cubs fans have in common?

…they assume that something will go wrong until proven otherwise. Great line by Nate Silver over at fivethirtyeight.com.

Despite its unabashed (and clearly announced) pro-Democratic stance, this site is my source of information about political polling. They survey all the polls, weight them for a number of factors and come up with results that to my eyes are the best out there.

The riches of poetry

Got an email this morning asking me if I would be willing to let someone republish one of my poems:

Hi Constantine, This past baseball season, I’ve been running a Cubs literary series at a Mexican restaurant down the street from Wrigley Field. It’s called, “Lovable Losers Literary Revue.” (www.lovablelosersliteraryrevue.com). I’m now putting together an anthology that arises out of the reading series. We’ve had a lot of great guests–Sun-Times columnist Dave Hoekstra, American Skin author Don De Grazia, mystery authors D.C. Brod and Robert Goldsborough, iconic pop band The Cleaning Ladys, WGN Radio’s Rick Kogan, WXRT’s Lin Brehmer, best-selling biographer Jonathan Eig (Jackie Robinson and Lou Gehrig books), humorist James Finn Garner (Politically Correct Bedtime Stories, etc.), Stuart Shea (with Garner, a founder of Bardball.com), and many others. They’re all contributing to the anthology. We’re looking for one or two more excellent additions before deadline and Tom Goldstein alerted me to your Cubs poem that was published in Elysian Field. I was hoping you’d grant us permission to use it in the anthology. It’s a tiny press publishing the anthology (State Street Publishing), and there’s no budget to pay contributors; instead, the press will make a donation in all the authors names to a Cubs’ charity, something that involves giving tickets to underprivileged kids.

I have made no money on my poetry and nearly none on my fiction, yet the joy it gives me is so great that I don’t really care. I was amazed when it first got published, the idea that someone read it and liked it enough to remember it makes that payment exponentially greater.

BTW, Don — any kid who follows the Cubs qualifies as underprivileged.

I must admit that I am having mixed feeling about this year’s Cubs as a result of writing 2008 (On The Impending Centennial Of The Cubs’ Futility) in 2006. I wrote it full of the confidence learned from a life of following the Cubs that they would not win. Now this year they have the best team in baseball and a brilliant manager. It is still concievable that the Cubs will not win it all. The Brewers are incredibly dangerous in a short series and the Angels are nearly as good as the Cubs. But to think that it is the beginning of September and Cubbies are odds on favorites to go to the Series. Part of my entirely self-centered heart thinks that this is yet another way in which the Cubs will thwart my dreams. I know there is a ways to go yet. I remember the collapse of ’69 all too well.

But … but …

And while my other beloveds, the Red Sox, are also good this year, I do not see them getting to the 2nd round of the playoffs. Although a Sox-Cubs series would probably have the highest baseball ratings ever.

Anyone wishing to read more of my poetry can find it at the bottom of the page marked My Writing: Samples.

A final Cub memory:

I moved to New England when I was 9 and so suffered a dual allegiance to the Cubs and the Red Sox. The last time I was at Wrigley (which is a better park than Fenway) was 1988. The Cubs vs. The Mets. The Cub starter was former Sox closer Calvin Schiraldi. In the 9th inning with the Mets up 5-3, Al Nipper (another survivor of the ’86 Red Sox) was brought on to relieve Schiraldi. I got up and headed for the exit. Someone asked me how I could leave. I shook my head and said, “I know how this one turns out.”

As I got in the car I heard Nipper giving up a 3 run homer.

Press release of the day: “Film Sets New Christian Comedy Trend”

Back in the immoral age of comics, Christian comedians seemed out of place in any other venue besides a church.

Some would argue that the only thing that goes on in a church is comedy, but that would be going for the cheap laugh and I would never do that.

Or how about: “Three comedians walk into a church. Only one of them knows he’s a comedian.”

Aren’t all comedians Immoral? (“deliberately violating accepted principles of right and wrong“)  The basic job definition is holding up a fun-house mirror to society & letting people consider ideas that they would never think of otherwise.

It would be hard to come up with a bigger violation of currently accepted principles of right and wrong than humbly pursuing your faith, loving your God and your fellow man even over the pursuit of material gain. Thus Christianity can be pretty damn immoral. When the late Mr. Carlin went on about the seven dirty words that you can’t say on television he was making a point about the unpleasantness of swearing serving to distract us from the true obscenities of the world like poverty, war, bigotry. For me that’s a very Christian message.

I actually have a bunch of God related material in my act. “Two phrases I hate: ‘person of faith’ and ‘faith-based organization.’ Please do not insult my belief that way. Cubs fans are a people of faith and support a faith-based organization. Me, I believe in God.” (The way things are going I’m going to have another patsy organization. GM? The Knicks? The Fed?)

In case you were wondering what the hell: “Enter Ron Pearson, a Christian who is explicit about his faith yet is one of the top secular comics in the business. … Pearson’s latest project, Apostles of Comedy; The Movie, is a masterpiece that’s sure to set a new trend in both the Christian and secular comedy world. The film fuses 4 award – winning comedians that spotlights not only the quirks but explores their private lives as they share their journeys of love, faith, hope and forgiveness. You’ll see famed comedians Pearson, Anthony Griffith, Brad Stine and Jeff Allen as you’ve never seen them.”

“As you’ve never seen them?” Well, that’s setting the bar pretty low. How about as you’ve never heard of them?

And just FYI: Bob Newhart is GOD!

Punk god illustration by George Coghill.

No matter how many times it bounces, the cat isn’t getting any less dead

Dead CatStocks and commodities plummeted on Wednesday as the euphoria that carried equity markets to massive gains a day earlier gave way to nervousness that the broader U.S. economy hasn’t yet escaped the dangers of the credit crisis.

Has anyone else noted that we are no longer trying to avert a recession? Now the news stories all say that various actions are being taken in order to avert either a “deep” or “prolonged” recession. Expect to soon read about the steps being taken to end the recession without any formal announcement of its actually having begun. Of course, as M Horn likes to point out, the word recession has been redefined to a point of uselessness. Where it once meant “a decline in GDP for two or more consecutive quarters,” it now is a synonym for “the current mess.”

Whatever you choose to call it, the current mess is large and has quite a bit of room and reason to get worse. Mere economic facts are not enough to prevent the markets from spiking as it did yesterday. During these bounces facts are replaced by faith. Thus the believers know a cut in an interest rate, a not-so-terrible earnings report or the news that oil DECREASED to $104 is the leading indicator that all prayers will soon be answered. At times like these the thinking gets so magical that the Fed, or whomever, gets endowed with the power to make anything impossible come to pass. Thus for a few hours Mr. Bernanke was deemed capable of getting the Cubs to the World Series.

I have always been amused by the idea that the stock markets in some way reflect reality. The markets, like the monetary system itself, are a form of collective wishful thinking. Investors as a group convince themselves that a thing has a value and thus it does. Sometimes these values are connected to the actual needs and demands of the society: oil allows things to function, as does the Windows OS. However a high price is no guarantee of a thing’s pragmatic worth. Frequently a high price indicates only the desire to people to posses them. This explains why people have at different times in history paid exorbitantly for pieces of gold, tulip bulbs, the US dollar, and shares of Bear Stearns. These items’ only actual worth is if A) you want a metal that is both malleable and highly conductive; B) you are a horticulturalist; C) you have a fetish for wallet-sized rectangles of green paper; and D) … well, let me get back to you on that one.

It would be cynical to insist that a connection between a thing’s price and its usefulness is the exception and not the rule. But many people do act this way. Thus the “bigger fool” theory of investing, where the idea is to hope that you will be able to sell your investment to someone who is an even bigger fool than you yourself are. This point-of-view equates the markets with nothing more than a legalized Ponzi scheme. It is a POV that will sadly be gaining many adherents in the near term. There are some contrarians — I believe Mr. Buffet has made some slight amount by not following this course. I have no idea which is right. If I did I would have the funds to not be concerned about a current lack of employment.

Dead cat bounce: A temporary recovery from a prolonged decline or bear market, after which the market continues to fall. As in: “Even a dead cat will bounce if dropped from high enough.”

Taking a break…

I am fleeing the cold weather and the blogosphere for a week, so you’ll have to get your snarky commentary elsewhere for a while.

MauiA few thoughts for the road:

  1. Is Hillary copying the Giuliani playbook? Hil’s attitude of we’ll win one of these days seems very reminiscent of Rudy’s.
  2. Greenspan says we’re on the edge of a recession. Sorry Alan but we passed that a while ago. An attitude only a rich man could have.
  3. Condi & Zinni for Veeps? Collateral Damage Sr. says McCain will opt for the best piano player on either side while Obama picks the General to strengthen his flank. Both picks make sense which is why I doubt they will come to pass.
  4. Anybody can have a bad century: Pitchers and catchers reported to spring training meaning this is officially the centennial season of Cub ineptitude. (CD Sr. also said the Cubs have a chance this year. Whaddya expect from a Senators fan?)

Image via TheRevC.com

Caskets for someone who is a Trekkie to the death

“To boldly be buried as no one has been buried before…”

Eternal Image is a company that seems devoted to helping people get rid of excess cash when they die. When I last checked in, the maker of “brand-name funerary objects” had lines of urns and caskets with Major League Baseball logos and symbols from the Vatican Library. But, as the saying goes, that’s not all …

trek1For the millions of fans on our planet and beyond, our new line of Star Trek urns, caskets, monuments and vaults will be an important discovery indeed. After ten movies and five television series, phrases like “Live long and prosper,” “Resistance is futile” and “Space: the final frontier” have become part of our global vocabulary.

trekcasketThe urn, right, “will feature a bold design reminiscent of the 24th century styling of the United Federation of Planets and Starfleet.” The casket “as been inspired by the popular ‘Photon Torpedo’ design seen in STAR TREK II: The Wrath of Kahn.” (BTW, as someone who has wept through that particular movie more times than he would care to admit, I can tell you that it’s spelled Khan.)

If tacky Trekkie isn’t your way to go, then check out the equal-but-differently tacky line of Precious Moments™ funerary objects. Death, be not un-cute…

Best line from Eternal Image’s mission statement: “We combine the power of brand-names with 21st century materials and composites that won’t rot.” How much more can you ask from a company?

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The Red Sox or, when your brand changes underneath you

“You can’t be lovable if you’re not losers!” — Jon Stewart on the Red Sox, 10/29/07

That is exactly what is going on with Red Sox Nation. The brand identity until three years ago was The Cursed Ones. For a while after that we were The Redeemed Ones (until The White Sox took that mantle). Now, we are The Successful Ones. The first two had significant qualities that really differentiated the brand from everyone else. They also inspired huge amounts of loyalty among consumers.

As the (hated) Yankees can attest success also inspires huge amounts of loyalty, but it’s taking some getting used to here in the Nation. It’s not a bad thing to get used to — but it is different.

sox ballBefore this year, wearing the Red Sox logo generally got you a certain amount of sympathy and even respect in ballparks outside of New York. Other fans recognized you as someone devoted to the sport. Someone who stuck to your team no matter what and — let’s be honest — someone who rooted for a team that always made the other teams look better. It’s easy to sympathize with fans of a team like that — they’re not a threat. This explains why people outside of St. Louis are so fond of Cubs fans. (Outside of the Midwest, most people don’t realize the antipathy between the Cards and the Cubs. A friend once said that a game between those two teams would sell out even if it was held on Christmas Day during a blizzard. That sums it up.)

Now Sox fans — and their seem to be a lot of them everywhere — are going to have to get used to being reviled. So far the team hasn’t employed any True Villains in the sports marketing sense. Sure Schilling is a blowhard, but he blows just as hard against his own team as he does the opposition.

Stephen (Smarter Than Me) Baker, puts it well:

Hey Red Sox fans. Many of us used to love your team. And now that they’re fabulous, they’re a lot less fun. You may find that it’s lonely at the top. I never thought I’d say this, but I may end up pulling next year for those underdog Yankees.

The real problem will be not the team, but the fans. All this winning is stripping Sox fans of the shreds of humility that used to makes us so much easier to tolerate. We are in danger of collectively turning into what New Hampshire residents like to call Massholes.

Oh, how quickly we forget our four score decades of wandering in the wilderness. Well, if that’s the price of success all I can say is WAIT TILL THIS YEAR!

(BTW: Someone pointed out that the Red Sox didn’t become known as the Red Sox until 1908. Last time the Cubs won a World Series? 1908. Coincidence? I think not. So therefor the Cubs won’t win a Series again until the Sox change their name back to the Americans. While the logic is spurious, consider that I have 99 years of evidence to support it.)

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The TRUE dying Cub fan’s last request

cub urnNothing quite goes together like baseball and fiery incineration, I say. That would explain the licensing agreement just signed between Major League Baseball and Eternal Image Inc., a company which produces caskets and urns. Now that’s co-branding. The scary thing is I know they’ll sell. While I wouldn’t expect there to be a lot of requests for stuff with the Devil Rays’ logo on it (although that may turn out to be a hit with the Satanists), I know more than a few people likely to want those for a lot of other teams. Yankees, Red Sox, Cardinals … the list does go on. Cubs fans probably won’t be so interested though, they’ve already spent one eternity waiting to see their team rise again.*

However, there are far worse things than being buried in MLB copyrighted logos and colors. Eternal Image also a licensing agreements with Hallmark’s nauseating Precious Moments line. It would be like being buried in a Kewpie Doll. Still, that might be preferable to wearing Yankee pin stripes until the Second Coming or the heat death of the universe or whatever else you believe in. Eternal Image also has deals with the American Kennel Club and The Vatican Library Collection.

*FWIW, Mrs. Collateral Damage and I would like to invite you to a party we’ve been planning. It’s for sometime in the summer of 2008 and will be marking the centennial of the Cubs last winning the World Series. The exact date has yet to be determined because it will be on whatever day the Cubs are mathematically eliminated from play-off contention. While there are many who rightfully think we could hold the game on opening day, Mrs. CD is a stickler for accuracy and so we will wait until a little later in the season. This of course pre-supposes the Cubs will manage to not win (or even appear in) the Series in the next two years. A risk I’m willing to take.