Ozzie’s Right: We Are Stupid

Seriously. Ozzie is on to something.

When the White Sox first made Ozzie Guillen their manager, my instant response was one word: Genius. I didn’t think he was a genius, I just thought the move was genius. If any person in my lifetime has embodied what it means to be a part of the White Sox . . . thing, it was Ozzie. Perfect guy for the job. Perfect face of the organization. Perfect person for Sox fans to love and Cub fans to hate.

But something happened in the years that followed: Ozzie grew on me.
To be perfectly honest, I have come to acknowledge that Ozzie Guillen really is a managerial genius. I’m not talking about his X’s and O’s (whatever that term really means in baseball). I mean, Ozzie is the quintessential baseball evil genius.
Ozzie works the Chicago media (and, at times, the national media) like marionettes in his diabolical hands. He takes pressure off his players when they need that. He puts pressure on his players when they need a kick in the butt. He enters into the psyche of opposing teams and fans. And when he’s really backed into a corner, he can just ramble on unintelligibly for five minutes—and like an R.E.M. song or a Tarantino film, people just kind of get it, even though they don’t know why.
After the Cubs/Sox series, Ozzie responded to a Lou Piniella comment about the Sox and their inability to draw fans for anyone but the Cubs. His words: “Our fans aren’t stupid like Cubs fans. Our fans know we’re [expletive]. Cub fans will watch any game, because “Wrigley Field is just a bar.”
A lot of outrage exploded throughout Cubdom, but I’ve got news for you, Cub fans, and it really shouldn’t be news: Ozzie is right. We are stupid, and this team is [expletive] right now. Heck, not even right now. Have you glanced at the sports section in the last century? Cub baseball is not where it’s at. We’re idiots. We’re dumb. We’re mindless. We’re dreamers.
And proud of it.
Look, only an idiot would have anticipated that Rudy would see on-field action for the fighting Irish. Only a moron would have placed his money on Milan to win the 1954 Indiana high school state basketball championship. The dummies picked David over Goliath. Cheering for the Cubs is not smart.
But we do it because we long for that feeling of overcoming the odds (which were actually pretty good heading into the season). We cheer for the underdog (even though the Cubs have paid enough, but haven’t won enough, to shed that tag). We show up to watch an expletive team and put ourselves through expletive for the chance at seeing history, affixing ourselves to it, and proclaiming to the world, “Holy expletive! The Cubs won the Series!”
It is stupid. It is far-fetched. It is a terrible commentary on our intellect. But it is our hope, and it’s all we got. Well, that and a mighty fine bar in which to drown our sorrows.

Verse of the Moment: 1 Chr. 16:9

Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of his wonderful acts. 1 Chronicles 16:9

Sometimes I’m afraid to give God credit publicly for anything, because it’s not the smart or fashionable thing to do, bringing God into the conversation. I’m hesitant to tell anyone that He has granted me some small grace by providing a paycheck or bringing me home safely from a trip. Was it really God who made that happen? Would my friends take me seriously if I said that?
But I’m perhaps even more wary of telling people what I know He’s done for me without a shadow of a doubt. He sent His Son to die for me and save me from my sins. Can’t I at least tell people about that? Can’t you?

I Am Lou Piniella

The Cubs lineup for tonight’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates and their lefty Zach Duke has been released (thanks to cst_cubs for the Tweet update). Here’s what Lou decided upon:

Soriano LF
Theriot SS
Lee 1b
Fox 3b
Soto C
Bradley RF
Freel CF
Blanco 2b
Harden P
Most notable among the changes (well, okay, let’s face it, there’s only one change) is that Uncle Milty is hitting 6th. Thank goodness he’s dropped out of the third spot, where *gasp* he’s actually hitting .299 this year, with a .378 OBP and slugging .414. So . . . should we really be thanking goodness?
There are still a lot of changes that could/should be made to this lineup, and if I were Lou, it would go a little something like this:
vs. lefties
1. Theriot, SS. Normally, I don’t mind Fonzy in the leadoff spot, but at this point, he needs to be moved. Could his insecurities really make him play any worse than what we’ve seen for the last month?
2. Bradley, RF. Yeah, he’s hitting .315 vs. the lefties, but his slugging pct. is still not what it should be. He belongs in the 2 spot facing south paws, and he hasn’t hit there a single time all year.
3. Lee, 1b. Against lefties, Derrek has a good average (.310) a great OBP (.455) and just okay SLG (.429). He has spent most of the year in the cleanup spot, but I far prefer him in the 3-hole.
4. Fox, 3b. This order so far is really destroying the R-L-R-L pattern. This is me caring. Fox is a natural cleanup hitter. Let’s face reality, shall we?
5. Soriano, LF. Welcome to where you belong right now, Sori.
6. Soto, C. I don’t like putting any more pressure on Soto than is necessary, and I really like him in the 6-slot, especially in a spot where he can protect Soriano.
7. Fukudome, CF. When Ryan Freel is platooning with your mega-million import, you have problems. That argument aside, I think Fukudome needs to play every day, resting him only when a slump starts to appear. He’s a better center fielder, a better hitter vs. lefties (.200 vs. .133 . . . ouch!), and gives the team a better chance to win.
8. Blanco, 2b. Sorry, Fontenot, but Blanco’s glove is indispensable at this point.
9. Pitcher. Didn’t have to think terribly hard on this one.
vs. righties
1. Fukudome, CF. What can I say? I like Fuk in the leadoff spot with an approach specifically geared toward getting on base, which we know he can do.
2. Theriot, SS. I’m tempted to move him down, but I like the energy he brings.
3. Lee, 1b. I’d also like Lee in the 2-spot, and would test that if this arrangement didn’t work out.
4. Fox, 3b. Yeah.
5. Hoffpauir, RF. We wanted a power-hitting left-handed bat. Hoff slugs .500 against RHP’s. I’ll take it.
6. Soriano, LF. Against righties, Sori has to prove that he belongs higher than this.
7. Soto, C.
8. Fontenot, 2b. Hate to bench Blanco, and wouldn’t every time, but Font has to get some ABs to stay fresh . . . and he brings more power than Blanco ever will.
9. Pitcher
So . . . what do you think? What would you do if you were Lou?

June 29, 2009 question – Trivia Saves Lives

What’s with the Dying?
Trivia was never meant to be an obit
Ed McMahon. Farrah Fawcett. Michael Jackson. Billy Mays. I guess the lesson here is, when I don’t send Trivia, celebrities die. I’m on it.

Today’s Question
Sir Frederick Treves, the physician famed for treating “Elephant Man” Joseph Merrick, was also the first to perform what surgical procedure?

Previous Answer
And the people who knew it
Dorothy Gale was the central character in The Wizard of Oz, although the Ozzians knew her by one name only, a la Madonna and Cher. Congrats to Jocelyn, John H (the H stands for Happy Birthday), Karen H (the H stands for Howling Winds Of Genius), Stephen K (the K stands for Knocked Out During House Relocation), and Karen M (the M stands for Emily), all of whom knew Dorothy long before she hit it big on the Yellow Brick Road. Your intellect blows me away.

Verse of the Moment: 1 Cor. 1:17

“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” 1 Corinthians 1:17

How interesting that Paul was glad to have not done something inherently good because it allowed him to escape the glorification of his personality? He earnestly feared becoming the face of his ministry and becoming the object of worship.
The cliché goes, “don’t blame the messenger,” but Paul was afraid people would praise the messenger. He was happy to detach his name from the baptism of the saints so they would know they were baptized into the family of Christ and not the family of Paul.
Yet how quick am I to take credit for the small things I do? How much do I long to hear my name associated with anything recognized as significant for the cause of Christ? Maybe not so I can receive glory, but at least my share of the pie. I need to trust in God to provide all I need, not the cult of personality within the Christian culture. I hope I can remember that.

Which Chicago Cub Are You? (It’s Scarily Accurate)

I hate those Facebook quizzes that make you answer five questions about something as arbitrary as your affinity for or aversion to cured meats and then proceed to tell you which Saved by the Bell character you are. First of all, the questions are always multiple choices, and all of the choices usually stink. Second of all, I am so not Kelly Kapowski.

But I think there’s potential in a “Which Chicago Cub Are You?” quiz, because this team is loaded with personalities I recognize from high school, former workplaces, and maybe a family reunion or two. I’ve probably seen flashes of Milton Bradley in my own mirror . . . partly because I can be moody, too, or perhaps because he’s stalking me for making fun of him. Either way, here are some of the possible results. See if any of these people sound familiar outside of Cubdom:
You are Carlos Zambrano. You have loads of potential and unlimited passion for everything you do. You’re the life of the party and you love to have fun. But sometimes your passion and intensity get the best of you, causing you to lose focus, lose control, and even lose a few friends. Your friends love you, your enemies fear you, but you have everyone’s attention.
You are Milton Bradley. You want nothing more to succeed, and some day that might happen. But you are easily hurt both emotionally and physically. Some people perform better when they’re angry; you are not some people. Those close to you regard you as the ultimate team player who is willing to do whatever it takes to win. Those not close to you have good reason. Still, you have plenty of skill just waiting to emerge, and if you’re surrounded by people who believe in you, you will be a shining star.
You are Ted Lilly. You generally let your actions speak louder than your words, which is good—saying, “I’m better than you, and you like it,” out loud can be rather unbecoming. What you lack in talent you more than make up for with fierce determination and skin as thick as rhino armor. Outside of a Cub uniform or a bar fight, most people wouldn’t recognize you in public. You also have a bit of a temper, but you can usually focus that productively. In those moments when you can’t, people know better than to get in your way.
You are Derrek Lee. You’re a gentle giant, smart, debonair, quick as a fox, and strong as an ox. Not easily ruffled, you measure your words, your responses, and your emotions. You lead not with speeches but by example. You keep things at an even keel, except when you’re exploding on a fastball over the plate or pouncing on a screaming line drive headed for the right field corner. Some people wish you’d be more outspoken and demonstrative, but you’re big and strong enough not to have to care what some people wish for.
You are Alfonso Soriano. When it comes to performance, you’re a human roller coaster, although you never wear your emotions on your sleeve. When you find you’re groove, there are none better, but when you get stuck in a rut . . . well, there are few worse. Your preferences and quirks have earned you a reputation as a prima donna, mostly undeserved. It’s not your fault if you get preferential treatment, you earned it? Your flair for the dramatic can, unfortunately, fizzle out on occasion. And your easy going style sometimes comes off as lackadaisical. But if you just keep walking softly and carrying a big stick, eventually, people will appreciate your even bigger upside.
You are Ryan Theriot. People don’t expect much from you at first, but you thrive on sneaking up on them with your scrappy, fiery approach. You work hard, play hard, laugh hard, and die hard. You try to be blue collar, you really do, but you just can’t seem to shed the image of the consensus clubhouse leader. Your biggest weakness just may be a propensity to forget how hard you have to work. Success will never come naturally for you; but when you chase it, it will never outrun you, either.
You are Ryan Dempster. You’re a complete goofball, and a scream at parties. But when you’re at work, you’re all business. Maybe people underestimate you because of your antics, but your professionalism will make short work of any doubters. You thrive on positive vibes and encouragement in a friendly environment, and conversely sometimes falter under intense pressure or adverse conditions. Focus is your best friend; lose it and you will wilt, but maintain it and you will dominate.
You are Lou Piniella. You know perfectly well who you are, and if I try to tell you, you’ll shoot a glare at me that says in no uncertain (yet silent) terms, “Shut up or I’ll bludgeon you with Santo’s prosthetic.” Next.
You are Ron Santo. You are 100% emotion. You rise and fall with the performance of those you hold most dear. People thrive on your emotion and sometimes laugh at the pure theater of your reactions. You deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, but this world sucks sometimes.
You are Carlos Marmol. You are equal parts wild, untouchable, breathtaking, and heartstopping. No one can control you . . . even you can’t control you. But can you grasp the wind and put it in your pocket? Can you put sunshine in a bottle? Can you tie a rainbow into a knot and tell it, “Stop being colorful”? No. Such is Marmol.
Okay, you get it. I’m not going to go through the entire 40-man roster, front office, and broadcasting booth. Maybe you could help me fill in the blanks. Go ahead, channel your inner Carrie Muskat.

Things to Like about Twitter: #3 We, Not They

When the 10:00 news leads with a story about Drew Peterson and Rod Blagojevich’s secret gay marriage on the set of The Hills, our typical reaction is, “Why do they put junk like this on television?” And usually, the answer comes back, “Because they know that’s what people will watch.”

That’s just the way the media business works. News. Entertainment. Newsertainment. PBS. They are all in the business of publishing/airing what they think we will want to consume. Of course, when we don’t approve of what they are broadcasting, we separate ourselves from the intended audience with the term those people. Because we aren’t those people, we have higher standards. It is they who are in control of the content who truly decide what we can read, view, and hear.
With Twitter, though, we have no one to blame but ourselves. Twitter is media without the control of business. It is still open for business, and corporate entities definitely can influence which way the twind blows. But they can’t control it.
A look at Twitter’s trending topics at the moment reveals a widespread interest in Michael Jackson and Iran and a quiz about what McFLY song you might be.
One could argue that those trends represent three distinct groups of people, but one would be wrong. There is plenty of overlap in those trends. If you follow enough people on Twitter, you’ll see plenty of people who tweet both the frivolous and the serious. You’ll also see people filling their tweets with nothing but trending topic references and a spam link.
Those people. 🙂
It’s not perfect. But I love that there is this global sampling of people and their interests that is governed almost exclusively by the interest of the audience itself and not just some big-wig’s greedy interpretation of it.

I Can’t Stop Making Geo Jokes

Not that there’s a good time to be caught smoking pot, Geovany Soto picked the best news day in the history of mass media to break the news about his positive drug test. The only downside of the timing in the news cycle is that it’s really too soon to be making Michael Jackson jokes; so people (i.e. me) are bludgeoning Geo with their funny bones.

So, to continue that trend, here are some Cub-related lyrics to a drug-related song (by the end of it, you might be wondering if this whole season is up in smoke):

I went and hit a three run jack, because I got high.
Lou and Milton Bradley talked a little smack, because they got high.
We almost let the Sox come back, and I know why, yeah,
Because we got high, because we got high, because we got high.
We made Kevin Gregg our closer because we got high.
Then they leaked the news about Sammy Sosa because he got high.
Jim Hendry traded Mark DeRosa, and I know why, yeah,
Because he got high, because he got high, because he got high.
For the most part Lou’s been mellow because he gets high.
Milton is a ten-million-dollar fellow ‘cuz Hendry got high.
And Moises’ hands looked yellow*, and I know why, yeah,
Because he got high, because he got high, because he got high.
Carlos Marmol just walked someone else, because he got high.
We’ll be lucky if this team ever sells, (the economy ain’t high).
We just blew another W for Wells, and I know why, yeah,
The bullpen got high, the bullpen got high, the bullpen got high.
Soriano dropped a routine fly, because he got high.
He offered at a ball that was a foot outside, yep, he’s still high.
He’ll be hitting leadoff ’til the day I die, and I know why, yeah,
Because Lou got high, because Lou got high, because Lou got high.
We got runners at first and third, but then we got high.
If we don’t score, that would be absurd, unless we get high.
Hey, I could really go for dessert, and I know why, yeah,
Because we got high, because we got high, because we got high.
This team used to always choke, but then they got high.
In the playoffs they were a joke, but then they got high.
They’re tryin’ to be the champions of smoke, and I know why, yeah-hey,
So they can get high, so they can get high, so they can get high.
Okay, I think I just killed hordes of brain cells just composing that song. I apologize to any of yours I’ve done in.
*Yeah, I know, Moises Alou hasn’t been on the team for 5 years. Sue me.

A Victim of a Selfish Kind of Love

I’ll get this out of the way: I was terribly saddened to learn that Michael Jackson died today. My first thought: No way. My second thought: On the list of People Most Likely to Fake Their Own Deaths, Michael Jackson is at the very top. My third through thousandth thoughts: Damn.

It’s hard enough on a normal day to know how to feel and what to think about Michael Jackson. His music is stamped on our souls. His personal life . . . we can’t wash away the stink of what we’ve heard about that man. It’s impossible to know how much of it is true, but it’s tough to prove a shred of it false. Besides, the maelstrom of shocking doubt and bizarre intrigue seems to be the image MJ wanted anyway. But I don’t think he wanted exactly what he got.
The thing about death is, it’s the personification of everything bad in the world. When someone dies, you remember the good stuff and the bad—no matter what the optimists say to the contrary—you remember it all, and it comes in a flood.
You remember the disagreements that never got settled. The regrets. The questions that never got asked, or were asked without a satisfactory answer. You remember unkind thoughts. Faults that won’t get mentioned. And the good things, they just turn sour when you remember that the person who brought you happiness is gone.
And when someone dies, the full weight of all that is wrong with the world converges at one point that pierces your heart, the chronic pain of life uniting in an acute moment of agony.
So Michael Jackson presents a little problem for us, don’t he? The loss of the musical master, the entertainment icon, the moonwalker (I didn’t exist when JFK died or Armstrong leapt for mankind, but I remember where I was when I first saw MJ moonwalk); the nonexistent childhood and the troubled family; the mountains of abuse that categorized his life . . . MJ died, and I felt like I had to process it all while watching The Tale of Desperaux with my two sons.
I’ll remember where I was when I heard about Michael. It was an awful moment. But I will carry with me the music, the moves (they live on in me, Michael, rest easy), and the memory of every “don’t do this” child-rearing lesson he ever taught me. I still don’t know how to feel. I don’t know where MJ is now. I just know that whatever people say about him, whatever he might have done, we all need a lot of grace. We’re all lucky ever to shine. And we all . . . well, we all die. There isn’t anything good about that.
Still, when it ends, mourning the loss of what’s good is less painful than crying over trouble that never got resolved. So I’ll just say that waiting to make peace is the worst kind of procrastination. To MJ, I hope you finally found the peace that so long eluded you.

Not That It Helps, But . . . We Got 1

I kept hearing Pat Hughes last night saying the Cubs had failed to get a hit with RISP on this road trip. I rarely have cause to dispute Mr. Hughes’s baseball knowledge, but he blew that stat. Blasphemy, I tell you, blasphemy!

Kosuke got a hit with runners on 1st and 2nd after failing to get the bunt down in the 6th.
So the Cubs are actually 1 for 250,000 with RISP this road trip. Much less depressing, no?