Thursday, December 8, 2016

THE YEAR OF THE CUBS - 2016

I should have written something about this historic event two months ago.  Work and family health issues have slowed my writing down however.  Now is as good of a time as any to write this tale.

I follow a few teams from my days as a child.  Teams that we would go see play the Athletics down at old Municipal Stadium.  I liked and followed the Boston Red Sox, the Chicago White Sox, the Baltimore Orioles and the Minnesota Twins.  It was a time before interleague play so I did not know much about the National League teams except for the St. Louis Cardinals who my uncle Jack would talk about everytime he came to town.  Along with his talk about the Cardinals, he would often mention another team with derision.  The Chicago Cubs were mortal enemies of the Cardinals and in that way I became acquainted with the Senior Circuit Chicago team.

As I grew up the Athletics moved to Oakland and I said goodbye to them.  It was difficult not to follow them since I knew so many of the players on that team but as time wore on I found it easier to dismiss the team in California and learned to put the Kansas City Royals at the top of my list.

I grew up and eventually got married.  When cable television came to town, we signed up.  In the early days of cable there were only about twenty five channels available one of which was WGN in Chicago.  WGN was owned buy the Chicago Tribune Corporation who also had a sizable stake in the Chicago Cubs.  I started noticing that WGN broadcast every game of the season that the Cubs played.  This is somewhat normal these days but back in the late seventies/early eighties it was not heard of.  I did not much of the cubs games.  Their stadium, Wrigley Field, did not have lights so all of their home games were played during the day.

I will never forget the day I became a Cubs fan.  I had arrived home from work to find an empty house because the wife was still at work.  I turned on the television and found my self looking at a ballgame from Wrigley.  The camera was from ground level at third base and a player with the number 23 was on third.  I would learn later that number 23 was a future hall of famer named Ryne Sandberg.  Then I heard that voice.  A voice that almost sound like the announcer was spitting out the words.  This voice would become one that was dear to me as it belonged to the immortal Harry Carey.  I heard Carey say that it was the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded, nobody out and the Cubs were down by only one run.  It became painfully clear that the Cubs winning a game during this season had become a rarity and Harry was totally immersed in the excitement that the game was there for the Cubs taking.  I decided to sit and take in the half inning to see if this group could pull out a win.  It unfolded quickly.  The batter at the plate hit an infield pop up, keeping all the runners pinned at the bases.  One out.  The first pitch to the next batter was a ground ball to second base that resulted in a double play.  Game over.  The Cubs had lost again.

It was Harry Carey's reaction to the Cubs having the bases loaded with no outs and not getting a run across the plate that caught my imagination.  I guess I fell more for the voice then I did for the team.  "Holy cow, this team can't buy a win this year.  The game was there, bases loaded, no outs and they blow it again..." and Harry went on for another five minutes ripping the Cubs to pieces.  He held nothing back.  I had never heard an announcer who was employed by a team tear a team down the way Carey was doing.  It was refreshing in a way.  As that summer went on I watched the Cubs more and more and began to learn some of the players names and their talents.  There were some very good players on that team but like Harry had said, it just seemed like they were meant to lose.

I picked up with the Cubs the next season, watching the last three or so innings of the Cubs in the afternoon and the Royals at night.  I came to learn that the Cubs had not been to the World Series since 1945 and had not won a series since 1908.  What a streak!  This was a team that you just HAD to love.  Day after day. season after season, always ending up out of the running for a spot that might get them back to the Series.  When Brett joined our family 1982, I raised him to watch the Cubs and I had set him up with a full set of Cubs t-shirts along with ball caps and a batting helmet.

In 1984, Brett's second season as a Cubs fan, the Cubs made it to the playoffs for the first time since they had lost the series in 1945 to the Tigers.  They made it to the League Championship Series only to lose to the San Diego Padres to keep them out of the series.  That same year the Royals had made it to the American League Championship Series only to have their hopes dashed at a series return.  The streak remained alive.  No series appearance since 1945 and no World Series Championship since 1908.  That season gave me hope however.  Both of my teams were just THAT far away from a series appearance.  And so as the season dawned upon 1985, I expected to see both the Royals and the Cubs in the Series.

That season was not kind to the Cubs though.  They did not make the playoffs but not all was lost as my Royals did go to the Series and beat the Cardinals, which was somewhat satisfying from my point of view as both a Cubs and a Royals fan.

Through the following seasons the Cubs made it to the playoffs six times as they headed into the 2015 season.  Once again as the seasoned opened I fully expected to see the Cubs and the Royals in the Series.  Once again it was not to be.  The Cubs had a season for the ages.  During the course of the season they had managed to win a total of 97 games.  This is what every team drives for each season.  It was a strange season in the National League Central though.  Pittsburgh won 98 games and St. Louis, those nasty Cardinals had won 100 games.  The Cubs had ended up in third place while winning 97  games.  They did played a one game wild card against Pittsburgh and won.  Then they played the divisional playoff against the Cardinals and won?  Once again they were in the League Championship series with a chance to go to the Series but had to get by the Mets to do so.  They failed.  The good part of that year was that the Royals went from the one game wild card all the way to the Series and won the World Series over the Mets.  However once again, both my teams were THAT close to playing each other in the Series.

Then came the magic.  The 2016 season opened and by July things were not looking good for my Royals.  Indeed they would end up out of the playoffs.  While the Royals were dealing with an off season though, the Cubs took the National league by storm.  They ruled it and most important, they ruled that nasty Central Division.  They ended up with 103 wins during the regular season.  When they clinched the division, the second place Cardinals were 17 games behind them.  At he end of the season, the Cardinals found themselves still 17 games back of the Cubs.  It was SO sweet.  As the playoffs began, it looked like no one would touch the Cubs and they didn't.  The Cubs beat the Giants in the Divisional Championship series 3 games to 1.  It was during the series with the giants that I received a package in the mail.  It was a flag pole and a big Cubs flag to fly on my our house sent to me from my sister Elaine.  I hung it in the front window during the Giants series, and after the Cubs beat the Giants the pole went up on the house and the Cubs flag was displayed in all its glory for the League Championship Series with the Dodgers.  The dream of the Cubs breaking that streak from 1945 came to an end as the Cubs beat the Dodgers 4 games to 2.  The Cubs were in THE SERIES!  It wouldn't be easy though.

Representing the American League in The Series were the Cleveland Indians.  The Indians had been to the series a couple of time in the 90's and 2000's but had not won a World Series since 1948.  These two teams were the record holders for the longest dry spell of a world championship in Baseball.  It had been 108 years since the Cubs had won a Series title and a mere 68 years since the Indians had.  The year of 2016 would break one of these two dry spells.

It was a tough Series.  It opened in Cleveland for the first two games in which the teams split winning one game each.  The next three games were in Chicago at Wrigley and it was then that things began to look pretty ominous for the Cubs.  Cleveland won the first two game in Chicago taking a three game to one lead over the Cubs.  The Cubs would have to win the last game at Wrigley plus two more game in Cleveland.  It did not look good.

The Cubs won that game at Wrigley and then the teams returned to Cleveland.  All the Indians needed was one win at home to break their dry spell.  The Cubs needed to win both games.  The Cubs came out and took game six from the Indians setting up the ultimate game seven.

Game seven was a classic for the ages.  The teams swapped the lead a couple of times and at the end of nine innings found themselves tied as rain started coming down.  The officials called a rain delay and so the last game of the season was temporarily put on hold.  During the delay the Cubs players had a meeting in their locker room.  They were NOT going to let this get away.  They  built each other up and came out after the delay intent on winning.  It was the top of the tenth inning when the Cubs scored taking the lead and putting all of the pressure on the Indians in the bottom of the tenth.  When all was said and done, when the Indians had received the third out in the tenth inning, the world was silent for just a second.  The Chicago Cubs, the lovable losers, the most cursed team in all of baseball were no longer cursed.  The Chicago Cubs were World Champions.  What a night in Chicago and around the league.  Even Cardinal fans were glad to see the Cubs break the spell.  The Chicago Cubs.... THE CUBS ... had won their first World Series since 1908.

It had taken the Cubs 103 wins through the regular season, a romp through the National League Playoffs and then seven games, a rain delay and ten innings to break a spell that had lasted 108 years.

With all of that in mind, I kept my Cubs flag flying proud for over a week after the magic of 2016.

Monday, December 5, 2016

2016 ELECTION THOUGHTS

“Elections have consequences, and at the end of the day, I won.” 
 – President Obama to House Republican Whip Eric Cantor, January 23, 2009.

Looking back over the last eight years it is clear that the President was very sincere in what he said upon taking office and his Democratic leadership in Congress followed him down that path that has weakened The United States foreign policy, weakened the economy and empowered many governments around the world in relation to the United States including most importantly Russia and China.   We have seen Senator Harry Reid turn Senate rules upside down in order to silence the Republicans in that chamber and Representative Pelosi push through legislation without appropriate hearings.  Pelosi famously said in pushing through the Affordable Care Act, "We have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it"  What we found was a health insurance act that is crumbling beneath it's own weight.  It is a dismal failure that, while not necessarily needing to be repealed certainly needs a lot of tweaking to make it even close to workable.   After eight years of executive orders, it is over.  A new election has been held and Americans across the board from the White House, to Congress and on down to the state legislatures voted for change.  Elections do indeed have consequences but not the kind of power that President Obama thought his election gave him.   The country is set to go in a new direction.  

This election, to me, very much mirrors the election of Ronald Reagan over President Carter.  We want to be strong again.  We want to be respected.  We want our country to be safe.  We want a figure in charge that President Putin will respect instead of push around.  Americans voted to return to a Reaganesque type of government.  The difference between this election and the 1980 election is that everyone knew, even President Carter, that the country was ready to head in a different direction.  In 2016 though, voters, especially young voters, absolutely knew that Clinton would become President.  They felt entitled to what they wanted.  They were not prepared for what could happen, it never crossed their minds.  We live in such an entitled society that it carried over to the election and when it didn't turn out the way they wanted, they took to the streets protesting the outcome.  There were destructive riots in the streets across the country.  It seems that they had never heard of "a peaceful transfer of power".  One month out from the election and those that supported Clinton still can not or will not accept the outcome.  Donald Trump won and it is time to put all of this behind us and move on to setting up a government for the next four years.

Here are some of my thoughts that have crossed my mind since the election.  I have been fairly quiet about things taking time to observe how social media and the press were reacting to the Trump victory.  

Before the election, the people who were sure that Clinton was a lock were sending out messages that hopefully after the election, we can all come together in peace and harmony and support the new administration for the good of the country.  I was certainly all for that no matter who won.  I am not a great fan of President-elect Trump but neither am I a fan at all of Clinton.  Since the Trump victory, those same people who called for peace, harmony and acceptance have deluged social media with some of the most hate filled messaging and ideas I have seen since the campaign started a year ago.  Disagree with their sentiments?  Well, that is simply not allowed.  They will argue, put you down, call you names, insult your intelligence and question your sanity.  It is hypocrisy at its finest.

Clinton won the popular vote yet lost the Electoral vote, therefor amend the constitution to disband the Electoral College because it means your vote doesn't count.  Actually, the Electoral College makes sure that your vote does count if you broaden your thinking out a little bit.  Wait, I forgot that I am the narrow minded one ... I'll get to that a little later though.  ANYWAY, the Electoral College is based upon how each state is  represented in congress.  Each state has two Senators and then are given a number of representatives that correlate with the population of each state in the country.  What this means is that in congress, each state is fairly represented and has a fair say in legislation and all the other duties of congress.  It has the same effect on the national vote.  No one state can control the outcome of an election.  Each state has its representative say in how each state effects the election.  Think about it.  If our elections were run on a pure popular vote method, then basically five states would elect the President.  California, New York, Florida, Illinois and Texas would elect the president.  These five states have a mass of population that leaves the voters in the rest of the country meaningless.  However, thanks to the Electoral College, a lot of eyes were set on New Hampshire.  New Hampshire?  Trust me, without the Electoral College, New Hampshire wouldn't have been given a second thought and the votes of the good people of New Hampshire would not have mattered.  Can the Electoral College be improved?  Yes, I think it can.  If it were changed so that electors in each district of each state cast their ballot based on their district outcome instead of a winner take all for the state, it would be more representative of how each state went and would make our individual votes mean that much more to the process.  I would be all for that.  Actually I have been all for that for many years now.  But I do not want my vote dismissed because I do not live in one of the big five.  With the Electoral College, my vote does mean something, which is better than nothing.

Demand a recount in three strategic states that could turn the Electoral college to Clinton's advantage.  First off, the three states, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan went to Trump by popular vote and wasn't even that close.  The recount is a futile excersize  in which it's only purpose is to drag out the process and give those who absolutely knew that Clinton was going to win false hope.  It keeps in the headlines that Clinton won the popular vote even though the recount will not change anything.  I predict that like the 2000 election, this will somehow end up at the Supreme Court which will have the same outcome as it did in 2000.  It is a waste of time and a waste of money.  I can look back in history and see how much things have changed.  How much the politicians and the electorate have changed.  It is well documented particularly in Theodore White's book "The Making of a President-1960" that in an extremely close election between Kennedy and Nixon that then Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago held back releasing the Chicago vote until the southern districts in Illinois released the vote tally from that part of the state.  In doing this, Daley inflated the numbers from Chicago (the infamous dead voters) so that Kennedy would get the Electoral votes from that state and put Kennedy over the top and become President.  Many of Nixon's advisors tried to encourage him to call for a recount, not to give up.  But Richard Nixon, being the evil crook that he was, insisted on not putting the country through the upheaval that a recount would bring.  Nixon as much said that the people had spoken and he accepted the outcome.  The stability of the country was more important to him.  I am not saying that Gore did not have good cause to ask for a recount in Florida in 2000, I think he did.  I also think that it brought to a standstill the organization of a new administration and precious time was lost in the endeavor.  The recount in 2016 though has absolutely no merit what so ever and should just be dropped so we can move along with the transfer of power.

Then there is the stereotyping of the Trump voter.  It goes something like this.  If you voted for Trump you are Racist, homophobe, anti-semetic ... well the list goes on and on.   Anything that would be a bad quality in any person is placed on the shoulders of a person who voted for Trump.  I will say right now, right up front that I did vote for Trump but anyone who knows me even a little bit knows how I feel about race relations, about what my feelings are concerning the LGBT community and that I am not a Nazi or a supporter of the Ku Klux Klan.  To hang those tags on me because I voted for Trump is an insult to me.  It isn't the way I was raised and it isn't the way I believe or act.  Being a white male who voted for Trump though, throws out the reality of who I am and replaces it with everything I am not.  I believe my actions over the last sixty years shows what I believe and how I think.

Let's see.... then there is the "if you voted for Trump, you are narrow minded".  Well, you know after thinking about this a bit, I probably am more narrow minded than the Clinton fanatics who think they are insulting me by say that.  The way I see it, to vote for a former first lady, Senator, and Secretary of State who was the cause of the largest breach of security in the nation's history and then covered it up by lying over and over and over and over again, it would take a pretty broad minded person to over look that and cast a vote for her.  And it isn't just the scandals that Clinton created as Secretary of State.  She has had two indictments written against her that were never issued.  That's right they were not issued, but on the other hand, to have those two indictments written means, to me, that there must have been enough evidence there to at least take that step.  Scandal had might as well be Clinton's middle name.  All the way from the governors mansion in Little Rock to the White House to her cabinet position, scandal has been tailing her every step of the way.  "READ THE BENGHAZI REPORTS" they say.  She was cleared twice by the House.  That is true.  But what they refuse to acknowledge is the third report.  The report that Representative Gowdy released after the third hearing, which was held after the private insecure email server was discovered.  That report is extremely damning to Clinton but the minority on the committee blocked it's release.  It is out there on the web.  You can read it if you care to.  It is on the House oversite gov site.  It does anything but clear Clinton.  Some of you should give it a read sometime although you will probably end up saying that the third one was partisan while the first two weren't.  <sigh>

Another thing I have noticed is that Clinton, in spite of all the evidence, is not a liar but Trump is.  I swear if the press asked Trump what he had for breakfast and he said "toast with strawberry jam" and the press found out he had toast with grape jelly the post all over social media and in the press would scream out that TRUMP IS A LIAR... WHAT ELSE WILL HE LIE ABOUT? .... My response is simply, really?  After decades of serious lies by Clinton, this is the best you can come up with? 

I want to take a moment to clarify what I mean by a "Clinton Fanatic".  I do not consider anyone who voted for Clinton or supports Clinton a fanatic.  Actually the term "Clinton Fanatic" isn't really accurate,  I should change that to be "Anyone But Trump Fanatic".  I know plenty of people and friends who do still support Clinton over Trump and wish it had gone the other way but are not fanatics.  A fanatic, in my mind, is one who can not accept the fact that the election is over.  They scream and yell about how the election was stolen.  Anyone who does not agree with them is stupid and narrow minded.  If you vote for Trump, you are not smart enough to know why you shouldn't have.  They deny that Clinton ever lied.  There is the idea that Trump is furthering his racist agenda by the people he is appointing to his cabinet.  Trump, to them, is the devil reincarnate, to many he is the actual anti-christ.  They deride those who hold a different opinion and hang labels on them.  A new thing I have noticed by the fanatics now is that if you don't agree with them, they simply delete your response to whatever crazy thought they had posted.

I want to make it clear that I do not consider Trump the best man for the job.  I do, however, consider him to be more fair, stronger, and trustworthy than I do Clinton.  There are several candidates that I would rather see in the White House then either one of these two.  The fact is that these were the choices Americans were given and all of us had to choose one or the other more or less and the American people chose Trump. 

You can wear all the safety pins you want, cry on each others shoulders, skip classes because you are too traumatized to handle the outcome.  You can, in my mind, over react and be scared and frightened because Trump is president (the only reason that you should really be a little afraid is if you are doing something wrong in the first place like being here illegally), but in the end things are going to be okay.  Look people, we have a constitution.  It has checks and balances that work.  It has held true time after time.  Afraid of the Supreme Court?  I'm not.  The Court is extremely stingy about overturning precedence.  No matter if it is a conservative court or a liberal one, that stinginess is there and it will stay there.  I can feel confident enough to say that Roe v Wade will not be over turned.  I feel confident to say that gay rights afforded to the states will not be over turned.  It takes a special case, with a special set of circumstances to cause the court to overturn precedence.  This country has survived so much over the years since we came into existence.  This country has survived because of that constitution.  I firmly believe in that document and I believe it will protect us and our country.  I always have and I always will believe that.

My suggestion, my desire, is that we put this last election behind us, accepting it for what it is.  That we have faith in the Constitution and the way it keeps the Executive, the Legislative and the Judicial branches of our government from taking over the country and turning it into something it has never been or something we do not want it to be. 

It is indeed time for this country to unite as much as it can, because the tighter we are united the stronger we are, and prepare for the next four years.

To some this may sound snarky, to others it will sound like utter non-sense .... to that I say .."meh" or "whatever".  It is my thoughts and mine alone.  I want this country to move on and forward and in another four years, we can change things if we desire.

Well, that is it.  I have kept silent, reading others thoughts and ideas and have mulled this over in my mind.  As far as I am concerned, the election is over and there is no point in arguing about anymore.

Have a Merry Christmas all.