October 2008

Suspension of Belief

102908.01.jpgI’m used to strange happenings and scenarios in opera.  One is advised to adopt a “suspension of belief” in order to fully enjoy some of opera’s more ludicrous plots and dialogues.

I’ve heard of love at first sight, but are we really supposed to believe, for example, that Rudolfo and Mimi fall in love within thirty minutes of La Boheme having started?  Anyone trying to make sense of Il Trovatore or La Gioconda should probably have their head examined.  And as many beautiful voices as I’ve heard sing Cio-Cio San in Madama Butterfly in my lifetime, I don’t think one of them looked fifteen years old.

The 2008 World Series has certainly had its share of unbelievable events thus far.  To cite but a few:

1.  Is this the first time a five-man infield has been employed in a World Series game?  O.K., it didn’t work this time, but it made for a very suspense-filled ending of Game 3.  According to ESPN’s Jim Caple, Maddon wouldn’t discount a six-man infield as a strategy in the future, although he hasn’t done so yet.  He did, however, use the five-man infield two previous times this season as well as a four-man outfield against Ryan Howard in an interleague game in 2006.

ALeqM5g1XPgMexUmclod7liWA0wMycWg9g.jpg2.  Some of the umpiring calls have been farcical.  (My reaction exactly, Evan.)  Even the umpires are admitting they’ve really blow it with numerous calls in the series.  The missed calls would’ve been frustrating regardless, but the fact that these were made in the season in which replay review finally made its debut puts these blunders more directly in the spotlight.

3.  Prior to this World Series, there had never been a rain-shortened World Series game nor a suspended World Series game.  Monday’s rainfall in Philadelphia prompted a multi-day suspension of Game 5 that is scheduled to restart tonight–in inning 6–in Philadelphia.  I don’t know whether or not rain is forecast, but I did read that the expected windchill is to be in the twenties. 

The suspension is unique in and of itself, but the incompletion of the game and the players and officials taking things up tonight where they left off on Monday night has created some here-to-fore unseen events as a result.

 

A.  As of last night, one could go to StubHub to purchase previously unavailable World Series Game 5 tickets from anywhere between $599 to $3.500.  The inability of fans to use tickets for the remainder of the game has meant that (1) more than 46,000 fans will be able to say they were at Game 5 of the World Series and (2) if the Phillies win tonight, those fans that saw only the conclusion have bragging rights as truly being there when the Phillies won over those who saw the first five innings.  It also means that two people could rightly say that they had occupied the identical seat for the World Series Game 5.  And each could’ve paid full price–but more likely well over that–to to do so.

B.  Because of their unexpected overnight stay (which turned into TWO nights) , officials for the Rays desperately began calling hotels in the Philadelphia area on Monday evening.  After finding out that there were no rooms–not even cots–they finally found lodging for the team and staff in Wilmington, Delaware..

C.  I don’t know what Citizens’ Bank Park has planned, but it is possible that a Seventh Inning Stretch could take place after only one and one-half innings of play tonight.

D.  Similarly, will beer sales be cut off after two innings of play?

 

TokodyBNagyOtello3.jpgUnfortunately, I won’t be able to watch tonight:  I’m performing Madama Butterfly at the MET.  I have been getting in the spirit today, though, wearing my Cliff Floyd Rays shirt that–perfect timing–arrived in the mail yesterday.

Only time will tell how this drama will play out and how long it might take.  (The opera character who is mortally wounded but continues to sing for another whole page comes to mind.)  I can’t wait to finish my performance tonight and find out what other mad scenes or grand scenas–besides those made by the Phillies fans in the stands, of course–might’ve taken place.  So far at least, it’s been quite a show! 

 

 

 

USA: Worst to First?

 
20obama_533.jpgI have to admit that I am more closely watching and infinitely more interested in the Presidential campaign than the World Series.  However, I must say that I am smitten with the Tampa Bay Rays and am rooting for them in the Series.

There are numerous reasons why I’ve been showing the Rays some love in this Post-Season.

1.  The “worst to first” success story of the Rays and manager Joe Maddon–on a very modest budget, I might add–has been a compelling story.

2.  Besides the joy of watching the young, eager players–many of whom are “home grown” talent–I’ve ADORED seeing Cliff Floyd (shown at far right in the above picture) playing the father-figure to these “kids”.  As a former Met outfielder, he was always a favorite of mine.  While he’s ostensibly been a bench player for the team (and is now out of the series because of a shoulder problem), everything that I have read indicates that his contribution as a veteran and leader on and off the field has been a very big part of the team’s success.

3. I do not think the Phillies are a better team than the Mets, quite frankly.  Furthermore, I REALLY don’t want them to win the World Series and would probably root against them no matter who the opposing team was.  Heck, I would root for the YANKEES if they had been playing against the Phillies.

4.  Undoubtedly, one of the reasons I’ve hopped on the Tampa Bay Bandwagon is the simple fact that I miss baseball.  Even being only half-heartedly involved in the Post-Season games feels better than the absence of the sport entirely…and helps pass the time until “pitchers and catchers report.”

Well after my Post-Season allegiance had been informally pledged to Tampa Bay, I had the pleasure of finding out that the “Captain” of my Democratic “team” had been introduced at his rally at Legends Field in Tampa Bay one week ago by Rays rookie pitcher David Price.  Barack Obama was also joined onstage by Rays players Fernando Perez, Carl Crawford, Cliff Floyd, Jonny Gomes, B.J. Upton, Edwin Jackson, and Jason Bartlett. 

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22425001/vp/27287737#27287737

 

 

000000000010obama.jpgAs seen in the first part of the above video clip, Obama quipped that perhaps he too would stay au courant and get a “Mohawk”.  Here, the Photoshoppery of Angus Shafer and Carl Lisciandrello of Tampa Bay Online imagines that look. 

Campaigning in Philadelphia, Obama had previously–when pressed for an answer to whom he was backing in the World Series–responded that–with his campaign manager being from Philadelphia–he had better say, “The Phillies.”.  Following the Tampa Bay appearance, it was no surprise then to see accusations by McCain of Obama “flip-flopping:. 

As has been noted, though, Obama actually made clear that his team is the Chicago White Sox: 

 

Any pandering Obama might have shown in these two appearances, paled in comparison to the way Sarah Palin sucked up to crowds in Florida and then New Hampshire.  Mark Leibovich, author of the New York Times political blog “The Caucus” citied Palin’s “duplicity” in a recent post:

Gov. Sarah Palin has added a twist on the old baseball maxim of “root root root for the home team” – as in, “root, root, root for the home team, depending on where you are.”

As The Caucus noted, Ms. Palin visited Salem, N.H. Wednesday night and said she looked forward to watching Senator John McCain debate Senator Barack Obama “right here, in the heart of Red Sox Nation.” Ms. Palin said that “Red Sox fans know how to turn an underdog into a victor,” a timely applause line given that the Sox trail the Tampa Bay Rays three-games-to-one in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series.

It seems, however, that Ms. Palin voiced a similar sentiment – actually, identical sentiment – last week at a rally in Florida.

“How about those Tampa Bay Rays?” Ms. Palin said after the Rays defeated the Chicago White Sox.

“You know what that tells me? It tells me that the people in this area know a little something about turning an underdog into a victor.” 

 

Bringing baseball into the campaign even resulted in an small gaffe for Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Joe Biden: 

No matter how innocuous the preface to his comments may have seemed, he may be receiving a letter from the Tampa Bay Rays organization as did David Pinto, author of a popular sports blog, Baseball Musings.  Both Mr. Pinto and Mr. Biden have recently made the slipup of using the franchise’s OLD name–a crime for which the organization is issuing citations.  The Rays have requested that Mr. Pinto pay a $10 fine for doing so, depositing it at the nearest “Drop the Devil” donation box near him.

Obviously, politicians can get slam dunked when they bring sports onto the stump.  Which recent politician was it that confused hockey for some other sport when trying to make a connection with the locals?   Trying too hard to be seen as similar to one’s constituents can hurt a candidate’s campaign.  The Republican’s’ recent efforts to reach out to “Joe SixPack” and “Joe the Plumber” did not come off nearly as sincere when Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin was caught with her RNC-purchased high-end fashion designer’s pants down.

That said, I was charmed to see the Rays players coming out in support of Obama.  After all, they were showing support at an event advertised as a political rally; when Governor Palin–a political figure in the midst of a contentious campaign–dropped the puck at two recent hockey games, those were supposedly non-partisan sports events held in tax-payer-financed arenas.

With his “9 = 8″ season mantra and cerebral quotes not unlike Mets manager Jerry Manuel’s interesting analogies and sayings from diverse sources, it appears to me that Joe Maddon started the 2008 season with a lot of hope for his club.  It seems that very early on, he  generated a team-wide “Audacity of Hope” campaign of his own.  Even if the Rays do not win the World Series, going from the team with the worst record in baseball last season to first place in the American League this season represents a manager’s, a team’s, and fans’ hopes fulfilled.

I, too, have great hope right now:  for our country.  I have the audacity to hope that it might be possible to make changes we need and begin the process of our country going from the worst it’s been in recent times–economically, environmentally, diplomatically, managerially–to first.

Or at least a record over .500.

 

Please cast your vote on November 4th!
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ADDENDUM:  I had assistance in recalling the incident involving confusing hockey and another sport:

The person in question was not, as I wrote earlier, a politician, but a person in the opera world, trying to make connections to popular culture.  The incident took place in 2007 during a live HD Metropolitan Opera telecast of Tan Dun’s “The Last Emperor”, featuring Placido Domingo. 

As an intermission feature, Beverly Sills–host of that telecast–interviewed Domingo live.  When the conversation turned to David Beckham coming to the U.S., Sills–knowing that Domingo is a big fan of Beckham’s sport–excitedly blurted out something about Beckham playing hockey. 

Umm.  No.

Emptying the Locker

30mets_600.jpgThe day after Game No. 162, Mets players arrived at Shea to empty their lockers.

Today the Mets higher-ups have signed Omar Minaya to a contract extension to the year 2012.  They are also currently in negotiations with Jerry Manuel regarding his future with the Mets,

Since Mets players and management are obviously moving onward and upward, it’s high time I did the same.

In an effort to put closure on the season for myself, I first want to figuratively empty the contents of my “locker” by unloading some personal thoughts about the 2008 season.

*****

I looked up again the “five stages of grief”, as defined by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross in her book “On Death and Dying”. 

Having spent the better part of yesterday feeling inexplicably angry at the world in general, I was beginning to wonder if this was a manisfestation of the Mets not making the playoffs.  Perhaps my anger was a predictable step in my emotional catharsis. 

Then again, the cause could be attributed to a recent change in medication.

Here is the Wikipedia entry on the subject:

Stages

The stages are:

  1. Denial:
    • Example – “I feel fine.”; “This can’t be happening.”‘Not to me!”
  2. Anger:
    • Example – “Why me? It’s not fair!” “NO! NO! How can you accept this!”
  3. Bargaining:
    • Example – “Just let me live to see my children graduate.”; “I’ll do anything, can’t you stretch it out? A few more years.”
  4. Depression:
    • Example – “I’m so sad, why bother with anything?”; “I’m going to die . . . What’s the point?”
  5. Acceptance:
    • Example – “It’s going to be OK.”; “I can’t fight it, I may as well prepare for it.”

Kübler-Ross originally applied these stages to any form of catastrophic personal loss (job, income, freedom). This also includes the death of a loved one, divorce, drug addiction, or infertility. Kübler-Ross also claimed these steps do not necessarily come in the order noted above, nor are all steps experienced by all patients, though she stated a person will always experience at least two.

I was assuming that there was a normal order or sequence to these stages.  I gleaned from the above, however, that not only can the steps come in a different order, but one might not even experience every one of the stages.

 

grief.gifI hypothesize that–because of the dissapointing, embarassing way the 2007 season had ended and the fact that the media kept reminding everyone about that and asking if the Mets were beyond that–the beginning of the 2008 season we were not at “Normal Functionining”,

I think even at the beginning of the season there was “fearfulness” and “blame” and a pervasive feeling that the Mets were going to “do it again”. 

For example, with memories of the previous season fresh in their minds, it was only a matter of weeks, as I recall, before Mets fans were–as a defensive mechanism, I guess–booing relief pitchers when they got to 3-0 counts.

Another example:  after only a relatively short stretch of lackluster, sluggish playing, the cries for firing Willie Randolph were starting to be heard loud and clear.

With Randolph’s dismissal and Manuel’s different approach and the positive response he seemed to elicit in his players came a new optimism, I think.  (Or maybe this was the “Denial”:  “Everything’s FINE now!”)

Unfortunately for us all, the looser clubhouse vibe and incredible series of wins couldn’t possibly make up for all of the injuries the club would suffer.

In spite of those injuries (and there were so MANY!), somehow Jerry Manuel cobbled together a patchwork quilt of a team and–most amazingly–a held-together-with-airplane-glue-and-bailing-wire bullpen that hobbled along astoundingly for the last month of the season.

Perhaps that’s when the “bargaining” step began…at least for me.  Thoughts like, “They can’t POSSIBLY make the playoffs without Billy Wagner…can they?” would quickly be shoved aside.  One look at the standings seemed to indicate that–somehow, some way–they were going to get it done.  No, they did not have the relative comfort of a 7 1/2 game lead, but day by day, the Mets continued to tread water and somehow stay afloat.

I knew it was too good to be true, really.  And, as many have already said, it was somehow appropriate that the bullpen was what eventually lost that final game for us.

*****

Although his statement angered many Mets fans, I think Jeff Wilpon actually had it right when he stated that, considering all of the injuries that had befallen the team, the team had, in his estimation,”overachieved”.

Yes, it’s hard to accept the painful fact that, had the Mets won just ONE MORE GAME, they would’ve made the playoffs.  But, considering they were missing key personnel most of the season in left and right field, as well as at Second Base, and that an already deficient bullpen lost any kind of leadership or stability it had going for it once Billy Wagner was gone, it’s actually a miracle this team was able to keep pace through September with both their Division leaders, as well as what turned out to be their competition for the Wild Card:  the resurgent Brewers.

If one takes the attitude, “Hey, we did better than we could’ve hoped, all things considered,” the step toward Acceptance is not all that difficult.  That’s not to say that one is necessarily completely beyond the Depression stage.  Watching the first day of postseason baseball on TBS yesterday made me a little sad and wistful, especially when I heard SNY announcer Ron Darling as an on-air presence in the Dodgers-Cubs game.

*****

A very unlikely scenario has resulted from this Mets loss:  new and much more positive “Dialogue” between myself and the countless Yankees fans at work.

As much as I’m sure the prideful Yankee fan inside each of them wanted to make fun of “The Mutts”, they knew that their team had not even had a prayer during the last part of the season. 

Knowing that, I guess, their tone in general has been one of empathy and commiseration.  Surprisingly, we are now comforting each other by reminding one another that, for each of our teams, next season represents a brand new year and a new beginning in a brand new stadium.

*****

I notice that “Acceptance” is defined as having a “new plan in place”.  While I am ready to move beyond anger and depression, I do want to see the Mets get a serious plan in place for our 2009 bullpen.  I don’t think Jerry Manuel, the fans, or even the players can take another season of late-inning nail biting.

So, moving toward “Return to Meaningful Life”–definitions of which include “security”,”self-esteem”, and “empowerment”–yes, give Minaya a contract extension.  Please DO hire Jerry Manuel.  And, finally, let’s be aggressive in trying to improve upon our late-inning defense.

Those three actions alone will go a long way toward restoring the players’, the managers’, AND the fans’ security, self-esteem, confidence and empower us all to “return to meaningful life” in this off-season.  Not only that, but all of us can joyfully and confidently, rather than fearfully, anticipate the 2009 season at the new ballpark.

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