Saturday, October 13, 2012

I can honestly say with a clear conscience, I knew it. I saw it coming. After the last home run to make it 6-0, knocking Cardinals co-ace Adam Wainwright out of the game, I just knew. These people are too excited. They don't know how this works. It was only the third inning. Teams that don't have "it" may fold in deciding games; the defending champs will not. On the one hand, a new year is different; commentators make too much of one team's history at times like this. On the other, this team is the same team that made the highly improbable run to the title last year, coming from behind five times in World Series Game 6. Two outs and two strikes in the final inning is old hat, as well.

I said in published writing that the 2012 Cardinals would be better than the team that had just won it all; in all measures, they were better. But this team has a frustrating tendency to lose tight, well-played, (read: one run) games. The addition of the second wild card spot in each league provided another opportunity to qualify for the postseason, since the enjoyable and talented Atlanta Braves took the first wild card, after falling just short of their division title to the upstart Washington Nationals, who had the National League's best record. So here were the Cardinals, having largely outplayed these kids from Washington, but still pushed to this fifth and deciding game by their as-yet-not-fatal flaw, trailing big on the road, facing a pitcher who won 21 games, and is consequently a finalist for the league's Cy Young Award.

And yet.

Fans call it "chipping away." You fall down big early in a game with lots of time. Players and fans will tell you that you must resist the urge to try to get it all back at once.

The Cardinals started chipping. They had runners all over the bases. In fact, they could have--and maybe should have--tied the game in the 5th inning. Two runs that inning. A missed opportunity in the sixth. One in the seventh. And here the game stood, 6-4 in the Cardinals' 8th when .250 hitter and backup infielder Daniel Descalso golfed a change-up into the seats to make it 6-5. But they didn't tie it that inning. In fact, the Nationals added a run in the eighth. The game stood 7-5 in the final inning when the Nationals closing pitcher retired 2 Cardinals to put them on the brink.

When the lore of this game and team are written, no matter the result, people must and will say that Yadier Molina and World Series hero David Freese took two of the greatest at-bats in baseball history, against the twelve toughest pitches I've ever seen. They didn't get hits, mind you. But they earned walks.

And naturally, the bases were loaded again for Descalso. What do you think happened? He hit a rocket to second base off the shortstop's glove that squirted into short center field to tie the score.

There are always moments that define championship-level teams and seasons. Like last year, the Cardinals got reinforced by players added to the mix. When it works, teams gel. They click. Three guys have done this for the Cardinals: Cardinals ace pitcher Chris Carpenter, who improbably returned from "season-ending" shoulder surgery in September. Of course he did. Edward Mujica, acquired in trade from the Miami Marlins, who had been sporting an earned-run average above 4.00 with Miami, has surrendered less than a run per 9 innings since coming to the Cardinals. Of course he has. And the third member of this triad was only here because hitting star Rafael Furcal was severely injured earlier. Just a minor-leaguer, getting a fortunate shot. And the rookie Pete Kozma drove in the winning runs. Of course he did.

How prescient do I look now, dear reader? The Cardinals and Giants will fight for the National League pennant. The Yankees are lurking. Every team left in this tournament in fact is better than the Cardinals, on paper. But that means about as much to them as a six-run deficit in a deciding game in the opponent's home park. Absolutely nothing.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Election Update: It's October 11, just a few weeks until we vote for president (and everything else). I know you're excited, because I am. Since we last chatted about this, a few things happened, in terms of "trail drama": the Embassy attack (may they rest in God's peace), Romney's huge debate win, and the hearings on the attack. All of these were bad for the president. But remember, events only reinforce narratives; I've already told you that Romney is going to win. Events will only decide the margin.
Romney's debate win did not change this race, and don't let anyone tell you differently. Romney won precisely because there is no compelling narrative for an Obama victory. Obama knows that as well as we do. If he doesn't know it, he can't tell the voters what it is. And so, you lose debates, and sound like a moron. All that happened is that most people who are not political junkies got clued into the lack of a narrative that the junkies already told you about.
Remember John McCain. Think back to that election. No compelling reason existed for that person to be president. Obama in 2008? Oh, about a million. If the storyline is against you, you've got to create a new one centered around the unsuitability of the other person, but carefully, mind you. If you're too obvious, you'll be branded a jerk. If you do it right, the other guy just looks out of place, and the public says, "Well, nothing personal, but you're not it." McCain's people were comically inept, and McCain listened to them. They reacted to every little occurrence on the trail each day, instead of the things that set narratives. Best 3 moments of the McCain campaign: his first speech after becoming the nominee (Kenner, LA, if memory serves), Picking Sarah Palin, (yes, I said it) and his concession speech. As you can see, only the first two were usable. A candidate has to be acutely aware of his weaknesses and limitations; if he's aware of them, he can de-fuse them before the other guy sets a narrative that sticks. Obama Weakness #1: Inexperience. What they should have said: "Wow, this Obama gives a great speech. But he's risen higher than his gifts. In Washington, nobody cares if you want to change the world. The presidency breaks down the most idealistic of men. There are Congressmen and Senators who've seen 5 presidents. They are neither easy to impress, nor dislodge. Not only have I seen Washington and know how it works, I've stood firm against men a whole lot meaner than old guys with their personal fiefdoms."
 Take The Strength and Flip It--Obama Strength: Biography. What they should have said/done: What a great American story, triumphing despite a broken home. He found mentors and friends along the way. But what's he gonna do when he's a struggling president, and he has no friends? Inexperience Double Bonus. Their mistake was in trying to out-biography Sen. Cosby from Hawaii. McCain has a great story, but being a war hero doesn't help when the president led us into a war everybody's sick of, either.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Rascal Flatts is one of those great groups in pop; great songs, great harmony, great lead singer. One of those songs is "Bless The Broken Road," and it's become a wedding standard in the last few years. What you may not know is that it was originally recorded by Christian artist Jaci Velazquez in the late '90s, and featured in the teen drama series, "Dawson's Creek."
I liked "Dawson's Creek." There was too much sex and stuff, but it was great. I wasn't a Christian back then, so that isn't what I mean. I mean to say that TV always has more sex than actually happens. I asked my friend Brian junior year if he had "done it." He was good-looking and popular, so I figured he had. He said, "No, man. Been close, but got too scared."
I think if I ever work for a youth group in the Church, more than sharing the teachings of Mother Church, I will tell them that in all sorts of ways, it's OK to be young and scared. We thought we had to drink and have sex because "everyone was doing it," but that isn't true. We were scared, and we lied to each other to save face. It's a scary phase, "teenager". You're kind of moody all the time; your face explodes; you know you want to be your own person, but exactly how is a mystery. And oh, yeah, WHERE DID ALL THESE SEXY PEOPLE COME FROM? Well, the girls probably beat us there, but it doesn't take long.
The first girl I ever really liked, I was so loyal/obsessive that she didn't really talk to me after that. It was senior year before she talked to me directly again. I wasn't a creeper, honest. But like I said, I'm loyal. Or something. In fact, I only liked 4 girls the whole time. The Beautiful Show Choir Girl, The Hawaiian, The Cheerleader, and The Nerd. [What about Sara?--ed.] Ah, yes, Drama Girl. I felt bad about that one. She was an avowed atheist the year I became a Christian. It was doomed. But I went to see her play the lead in the Tony Award-winning play, "Night, Mother" simply to see her. We were in AP European History together; I swear, I could have loved her forever.
Why am I going down Memory Lane? I don't know. Maybe I'm having regrets because I never actually dated anyone back then. The girl I took to prom, I'd do anything for, but I didn't have those kind of feelings for her. But I didn't know that at the time. When I got to college, I experienced what these things are supposed to feel like. It was mutual, for the first and only time in my life. It didn't last, and I don't know why.
But I'm definitely the sort of guy who does what he's supposed to do, even if he doesn't want to do it. So my prom date realized that I'm loyal and serious as a disease about these kinds of things, and being young, she pushed me away. Well, I had no feelings, (and had met my one girlfriend) so I didn't linger. I'm still loyal, but now I understand that it's OK to want things for yourself.
I haven't had much success since then, but that's OK. I really needed to get to know myself, to set the pattern for how I'll live my life. That's what many people fail to tell us in high school: who we think we are is not who we will be, at least not in this culture.
The one lesson I've learned since is honesty, with yourself and others. If you think you might love someone, TELL THEM. Life's too short to live with regret. I tell myself, "No regrets" as a kind of mantra, not only in romance, but in life.
The mystery of contentment is this: There is no tomorrow. I am me today. God loves me today. I have what I need today. There is no denying what I want. There is no point in lying. But if I don't recognize the difference between what I want and what I need, I have no chance at joy.
For my part, I wanted to encourage one of my myriad pretty friends with this truth. I know it always comes back to women with me.
But in her case, a loss of self-confidence is completely unwarranted. She's beautiful, and funny, and interesting. The only explanation for this mind-boggling turn of events is Satan. And would she knock on the door of Holy Mother Church! What is this glut of beautiful Protestant women? What's going on over there? Anyway, I did my best to offer that gift I'm best at: encouragement.
In a sense, I really hate being that guy. Women don't love encouragers, it seems. They like "bad boys" or hipster weirdos these days. Someone, please prove me wrong.
If your Taco Truck of Love took a wrong turn, it's possible to go back again. Were you too hasty? Did you fail to see the exit? [Why would anyone look for love in a taco truck?--ed.] I don't know. Just go with it. I mean, no one would look for it in a taxi-cab, either, but one late-night ride, and WHAM!, your driver is Cindy Crawford. [That'd never happen.--ed.] Perhaps not. But a hopeful heart is not a bitter heart.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

I do need a printer. Poor Uncle Larry, having to put me up in his house, and print off my work. Investments in the future!
5 Moral Or Political Thoughts

5. You are not morally superior because you support a government program that I do not.

4. Socialism in fact is an affront to the moral agency of individuals, and to their personhood.

3. I'm not, nor have I ever been, a Randian. Stop saying it. Nor do I support candidates for political office who are Objectivists.

2. I don't even remotely dislike President Obama, so my criticisms do not proceed from personal animus, racism, fear, or any other bad thing.

1. In the words of President Obama, "Let me be clear..." I don't want fewer abortions; I want none.

Monday, October 08, 2012

5 Thoughts For Today

5. We're all thinking it: The Nationals aren't that good, and the Cards handed them a game.

4. Dionne Warwick is better than you think.

3. I fell asleep before the end of my Rosary last night, I think. It was the jazz at the end. I hope it still counts.

2. Shameless popery. Unabashed Romanism. And I didn't even pay the Babylonian Woman Of Ill Repute.

1. Sometimes great friends come out of nowhere. You gotta be ready to receive them, and do everything you can to keep them.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

I woke up mad this morning. Sometimes, people make choices that may not directly affect you, but the results do. You want something, you hope something goes a certain way, and it doesn't. And the reason it doesn't is because the consequences of choices haven't even begun to unwind.
I've gotta let it go. There must be a plan or purpose that I don't see. There's almost nothing in this world to convince me that it makes sense, but that's nothing new. Into Your hands, O Lord.
But last night was a great night. I reconnected with an old friend from high school, had some pizza, beer, and chicken wings.
Sometimes, just listening can be as good as any "gospel presentation." I can't say that mine is any kind of perfect life, or anything close to an actual saintly life, but hopefully it will be said that I lived a human life of real passion and meaning in the light of Christ. There is a dignity in this life only made sharper by the subhuman dignity of our sins freely chosen. When we see the Church as this weak human institution, we forget how freely Christ entered into His Passion; he is not unaware of the measure of our treachery. St. Paul was not being melodramatic when he said we were "enemies" in the fifth chapter of Romans. But as far as the east is from the west, so far does God want to take our sins from us! Man, do you even know? The human race had gone full-blown Adolph on the God of Heaven and earth, and Jesus said, "I'll go and die to bring them back." More than that, the sacraments extend the humanity of Christ to the whole world. His priests are his healing hands to you and me wherever we are! Christ is still going as far as He can to bring us home. Brother, I don't worry if you say that you struggle and sometimes fall. I don't worry at having to come again and again to the fount of mercy. Just don't shut your eyes. Don't see an ordinary world when you look around. This world is on fire with the love of God in the reconciling work of Jesus Christ. It may be a creation groaning, but it is also a world screaming for joy because Christ has been raised!
This delicious beverage is what it is because of Christ. The beauty of that woman has its meaning because of Christ. My night of fun with my friends matters because of Christ. I really don't want to have fun or joy or any other thing without Him.
There are no rules in Christianity. The only rule is Love. Don't bother gritting your teeth and trying harder without being gripped by Love. God loves you and me more than we do. If we need to fear for our souls, let us do so. But we could not dare to fear as much as He loves. My priest and friend has said to me over and over that the answer to my sin is the love of God. [Oh, no, not again!--ed.] May the chains that bind him now be broken by that same Love.
There is a thing I want, and my brother in the Lord said to me, "You should pray a Novena." And it's heavy enough that we said I should do the whole 54 days. "Start tomorrow," he said yesterday. And wouldn't you know it, today is the Feast of the Most Holy Rosary. Very funny, Mother and Jesus, very funny. And I'll say that the readings today were...relevant. Ahem.