October 13, 2008 question

Maridee and Konrad knew that “One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish,” is not the opening line to One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. Most of it, in fact, is not about fish, but instead focuses on the funny things you’ll find everywhere.

And after a long Columbus Day weekend, that rushing noise we all hear is the sound of no one caring. So I’ll move directly into today’s question:

In most of the US, the second Monday in October is observed as Columbus Day; Berkely, California, calls it Indigenous People’s Day; Hawaii celebrates Discoverer’s Day; the Virgin Islands call it Puerto Rico-Virgin Islands Friendship Day; and a good chunk of Latin America dub it Dia de la Raza; what does Canada celebrate on the second Monday in October?

October 10, 2008 question

Opus, a large-snouted penguin, has a poster of Chilly Willy, the small-beaked pengo, on his bedroom wall. No one knew that one, so I give full trivia credit to . . . the Cubs. And whether you’re happy that the Cubs finally won something or you’re upset that you just lost to them, bear in mind that it’s trivia, where not mattering is the name of the game.

The game in Wall Street is a bit more weighty. Again, I know nothing about economics, but it seems to me like a forest fire. For the health of the environment, excess simply has to burn off in order for the woodland plant and wildlife to sustain itself. And so must the economy. High-priced stocks must burn away like so much arid brush until the system is rejuvenated. Of course, sometimes those wildfires get a bit out of control and burn up the entire West Coast until the government sprays a trillion dollars on it to smother the flames. I guess we’ll have to see how long the blazes rage on.

But I still wonder . . . if this Grinch of an economy gobbles itself up by Christmas, and we can’t afford the gobs of presents and decorations and whozzits and whatsits or even the roast beast, and all we’re left with is a big circle of Who’s in Whoville . . . will we still join hands and sing in loving harmony, or is that just a bunch of Seussian crap we buy into because it rhymes? Here’s today’s question:

What Dr. Seuss book begins with the line, “From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere”?

October 9, 2008 question

I’m back on my feet again. Gonna walk down this street again. And you’ll all look at me again, and you’ll see that I’m strong.

And, yeah, when you’re using Michael Bolton quotes as motivation, you know you’ve broken through rock bottom to enter the smoldering inferno that is the earth’s mantel.

Yes, the Cubs devastating collapse took its toll on me, and it just happened to coincide with a bout of unpleasant migraine action. No trivia for a week? It’s unheard of. It’s wrong. It’s worse than 100 years without a World Series Championship (please forgive the hyperbole . . . Michael Bolton is boosting my spirits, and I still love the Cubs; what do you want from me, reality?).

Let’s just move on to trivia, shall we? Here’s the question:

In Berkely Breathed’s now retiring comic strip, Opus, the featured penguin has a poster of what cartoon character on his bedroom wall?

MNY

My response to Aaron’s comment is just a little too long to keep buried in the comments section. Here it is in its entirety:

No question, it was painful. But that’s just the way the playoffs go. The horror of the last two years is comparable to playing Ninja Gaiden with no save feature. You put in an entire year of despair, longing, excitement, hoping, and World Series lust only to see it devolve right back to despair. There’s no do-over. No memory card slot. You just have to go back to the beginning and start over.

But you have to think about it historically for some perspective. The 100 years of futility has been particularly barren of positivity because of the lack of any postseason appearances altogether. After 1945, they went almost 40 years before selling a single playoff ticket. Then things got relatively better, with waits of five years, nine years, five years, and four years in between October series. And in those modern iterations (1984, 1989, 1998, 2003, and 2007–the Cubs only previous entries into the Divisional playoff era) the Cubs won only one series (2003). But think of this: the Atlanta Braves made the postseason 14 consecutive times and won exactly one World Series. They were the best team of my generation, and they won 1 trophy.

So this year, the Cubs went for two in a row for the first time in a century. That, my friend, is where you need to be–every year, not just every century–to have a reasonable expectation of winning it all.

Because in the playoffs, the best team doesn’t always win, and the best players are rarely the ones who come through when it matters most. Look at the White Sox when they won it all. Their biggest October home runs came from Geoff Blum and Scott Podsednik. I don’t want those guys on my team.

The thing is, you don’t get to choose when you do well and when you fail. Pitchers never decide to lose command. Hitters don’t pick their slumps. Fielders make their errors in the subconscious and the pre-programmed firings of muscular impulse. One glitch, one tiny glitch, and any player on a baseball team can run a city’s hopes into the ground. On the other, heretofore unseen shiny side of that coin, some pitchers manage to find their rhythm in big games. Some batters suddenly see the ball better in a big moment. Some fielders are fortunate enough to avoid the yips that turn their finely tuned machines into error-making machines. When that happens for your team in the playoffs, you win. You win big. You win it all.

Over the course of a long season, the averages even out. In the microcosm of a playoff series, they don’t. Anything can happen. Anyone can win. Anyone can lose, be it in a 3-game sweep or a 7-game nail biter.

Certainly, though, there must be some formula, right? It can’t be entirely unknowable, this magic potion called winning? Some factor or factors must surely add up to a recipe for winning in October, yes?

Yes. Generally, if you’re relaxed, you play better. Generally, if you’re nerves translate into tightness and apprehension, you fail. And generally, when you play in a place where panic sets in the moment anything momentous occurs, good or bad . . . well, when you play in a place like that, it’s hard not to be too nervous.

Now, it used to be that Wrigley Field was that kind of place in August and September. Once you got close to the playoffs, panic would set in. Maybe that will become commonplace now. We’re a long way from becoming the kind of place where winning in the playoffs is commonplace, but it’s amazing what one win will do. I firmly believe that if the Cubs could have won just one game this year or the last, they would have kept winning. The nerves would have loosened. The burden would have lessened. Alfonso Soriano would have made decent contact.

But I guarantee, if they keep this team together, they are going to win a lot, and eventually . . . someday, we’ll go all the way.

Now, I believe a change of opening song is in order.

MNY

Maybe next year. It took a while for me to get those words out, but I finally did.


No question, it was painful. But that’s just the way the playoffs go. The horror of the last two years is comparable to playing Ninja Gaiden with no save feature. You put in an entire year of despair, longing, excitement, hoping, and World Series lust only to see it devolve right back to despair. There’s no do-over. No memory card slot. You just have to go back to the beginning and start over.

But you have to think about it historically for some perspective. The 100 years of futility has been particularly barren of positivity because of the lack of any postseason appearances altogether. After 1945, they went almost 40 years before selling a single playoff ticket. Then things got relatively better, with waits of five years, nine years, five years, and four years in between October series. And in those modern iterations (1984, 1989, 1998, 2003, and 2007–the Cubs only previous entries into the Divisional playoff era) the Cubs won only one series (2003). But think of this: the Atlanta Braves made the postseason 14 consecutive times and won exactly one World Series. They were the best team of my generation, and they won 1 trophy.

So this year, the Cubs went for two in a row for the first time in a century. That, my friend, is where you need to be–every year, not just every century–to have a reasonable expectation of winning it all.

Because in the playoffs, the best team doesn’t always win, and the best players are rarely the ones who come through when it matters most. Look at the White Sox when they won it all. Their biggest October home runs came from Geoff Blum and Scott Podsednik. I don’t want those guys on my team.

The thing is, you don’t get to choose when you do well and when you fail. Pitchers never decide to lose command. Hitters don’t pick their slumps. Fielders make their errors in the subconscious and the pre-programmed firings of muscular impulse. One glitch, one tiny glitch, and any player on a baseball team can run a city’s hopes into the ground. On the other, heretofore unseen shiny side of that coin, some pitchers manage to find their rhythm in big games. Some batters suddenly see the ball better in a big moment. Some fielders are fortunate enough to avoid the yips that turn their finely tuned machines into error-making machines. When that happens for your team in the playoffs, you win. You win big. You win it all.

Over the course of a long season, the averages even out. In the microcosm of a playoff series, they don’t. Anything can happen. Anyone can win. Anyone can lose, be it in a 3-game sweep or a 7-game nail biter.

Certainly, though, there must be some formula, right? It can’t be entirely unknowable, this magic potion called winning? Some factor or factors must surely add up to a recipe for winning in October, yes?

Yes. Generally, if you’re relaxed, you play better. Generally, if your nerves translate into tightness and apprehension, you fail. And generally, when you play in a place where panic sets in the moment anything momentous occurs, good or bad . . . well, when you play in a place like that, it’s hard not to be too nervous.

Now, it used to be that Wrigley Field was that kind of place in August and September. Once you got close to the playoffs, panic would set in. Maybe that will become commonplace now. We’re a long way from becoming the kind of place where winning in the playoffs is commonplace, but it’s amazing what one win will do. I firmly believe that if the Cubs could have won just one game this year or the last, they would have kept winning. The nerves would have loosened. The burden would have lessened. Alfonso Soriano would have made decent contact.

But I guarantee, if they keep this team together, they are going to win a lot, and eventually . . . someday, we’ll go all the way.

10:53 p.m.

It’s 3-0 now. This is painful to watch. It’s not by any means over. I just wish they’d get to playing like something resembling the team I had so much watching all spring and summer long.

I flipped over to SNL to see Queen Latifah making a surprise appearance as the moderator of the Biden/Palin debate. Yeah, it’s great, Tina Fey looks like Sarah Palin. There were a couple funny moments, but the big downfall of SNL political sketches of the past 8 years or so has been that they just recreate entire debates or speeches and insert jokes. Seriously, I think that cold open was just as long as the actual VP debate. Way too long and not nearly funny enough.

Ugh.