Let’s talk about sports

Let’s talk about sports, baby
Let’s talk about you and me
Let’s talk about all the good things
And the bad things that may be
Let’s talk about sports
Let’s talk about sports

OK, so that’s the PG-13/Jock Jams version of the classic Salt-N-Pepa song.

But the excitement that the female hip-hop trio had for fornication in their early ’90s hit is the same excitement I feel right now for sports.

This is one of my favorite times of the year. March Madness is reaching its climactic end. The NBA and NHL are gearing up for the playoff season. And most importantly, baseball season is just days away.

There’s something about the great American pastime that invigorates me. The fresh-cut grass, the dirt spraying into the air when a batter slides feet-first into second base for a double, the mental chess match between a pitcher and hitter before a 3-2 pitch, and the arduous grind of a six-month, 162-game season where your team hopefully ends up on top.

When baseball is happening, it feels like natural order is being restored. It’s the only major American sport without a clock, which, in turn, has been a source of controversy as of late due to the increasing length of game times (an issue Major League Baseball targeted this year when they eliminated the need for pitchers to actually throw the baseball during an intentional walk).

Mets

I can’t help but think of the quote uttered by James Earl Jones in the movie Field of Dreams, as the character Terence Mann, whenever I want to describe what it is that makes me love baseball so much:

The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh… people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.

When James Earl Jones talks about baseball, you listen.

Last year, I predicted my beloved New York Mets to win the World Series. Unfortunately, injuries derailed their season and they fell short, despite their best effort.

This year, they have nearly their full complement of young pitchers ready to go, and things look much more promising.

And even if things didn’t look bright, I’d pick them to win the World Series anyway. I will do it every year until they do. Hopefully, one year I will be right.

Baseball starts on Sunday. For many, Sunday is already a day of worship and reflection. For sports fans, it takes on extra meaning.

In other semi-sports related news, the North Carolina Legislature voted to repeal the controversial House Bill 2 today, also known as the “Bathroom Bill,” which required men and women to use public bathrooms that align with their gender at birth. Human rights advocates (and any one with any human decency) considered it egregiously discriminatory towards transgenders, which number more than 37,000 in North Carolina.

Tar Heels

The bill basically cost Republican Governor Pat McCrory his job, and cost the state from hosting the 2016-2017 NBA All-Star game, several NCAA March Madness games, and many other high-profile events.

The newly passed bill is not a straight-forward repeal, however, and as a compromise to right-wing hawks in the Legislature, it maintains a stipulation from the original bill that places a moratorium on local nondiscrimination ordinances through 2020, and thus leaves the regulation of bathrooms to state lawmakers.

LGBT activists say it still does not provide the protection needed to safeguard an already vulnerable population of people.

They’re probably right, but with Republican and Democrat ideologies being as divergent as they’ve ever been in the modern political era, sometimes a compromise is a victory. Even if it’s just in the short term.

The timing of the repeal is even more significant given that the North Carolina Tar Heels are one of four teams left in the NCAA Tournament, where they will face the Oregon Ducks on Saturday. The other game is between the Gonzaga Bulldogs and the South Carolina Gamecocks.

They promise to be some pretty damn good games, and as an added bonus, if South Carolina beats North Carolina in the finals, I win $650.

Go Cocks!

…I stand by it.

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This baseball player took “Take Your Kids to Work Day” a little too literally

As I write this, we are nine hours into the opening day of March Madness, and amazingly, my bracket is not entirely screwed!

As a matter of fact, of the eight finished results from today, I have somehow gotten them all right. And that includes four upsets, two of them being a 12 seed over a 5 seed.

I literally filled my bracket out at work within a matter of two minutes, and putting zero thought into my picks. I just went with my gut. I even named my bracket “I won’t win.”

Maybe that’s the lesson: don’t try, and you will succeed.March Madness

That one is free, kids. Next life lesson, I’m charging.

One more thing before I move on to today’s topic — I wrote a halfhearted, mostly satirical post yesterday about Obama’s Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland.

But then I watched the speech that Garland delivered on the White House lawn yesterday. He broke into tears. His wife cried watching him because she was so proud. This is the highest point of his career after serving almost 20 years as a federal judge, and by all accounts he is a highly respected and upstanding man.

And because of petty politicking, he won’t even get a fair shake. It’s disgraceful.

It’s just so disenchanting to me, as a citizen of this country, that the officials we elected are depriving a good, honest man of a position he deserves, that he’s worked his whole life to achieve, simply because he’s become an unwitting pawn in a political chess match.

To me, this is as disappointing as anything I’ve seen in American politics over the past year, and that’s saying a lot.

Alright, let’s go to today’s top story. Baseball. America’s pastime. The game that every child grows up watching, and craving nothing but to one day be able to put on that glove, step onto a baseball field and toss around a ball with his or her father.

Unless, of course, your father plays for the Chicago White Sox.

Now this is quite the interesting story. On Tuesday, 36-year-old Adam LaRoche, a first baseman for the White Sox, announced he was retiring. Now this in itself is not strange. He’s up there in age, and he’s coming off a poor year in which he barely hit above .200.

Adam LaRoche.jpgWhat is weird, though, is that he was signed under contract this season for $13 million. By walking away, he foregoes that money.

Hours later, the story came out. LaRoche apparently always brought his 14-year-old son, Drake, into the clubhouse. Like every day. He was well-liked among his teammates and became something of an honorary team member.

Earlier this week, a team executive, Ken Williams, citing a desire for his team to be fully focused on the coming season, asked LaRoche to scale back his son’s presence in the clubhouse.

LaRoche chose family over career. He retired.

The story has started a debate about the merits of having your kids in the workplace. And when you think about it, what job exists in which it is acceptable to bring your kid to every day? On top of that, baseball clubhouses, as a nearly all-male environment, are notorious for lewd conversations and other off-color shenanigans.

Imagine a co-worker at your job bringing their child into your office every single day. Not once a month, or once a week — every day. 

Heck, I always thought parents appreciated a few hours of work each day as a means of escape from their kids. But what do I know?

Regardless of how you feel about this, there’s no doubt the White Sox come off looking like the bad guys — their team considered boycotting a subsequent Spring Training game in response to the incident — and you also have to appreciate Adam LaRoche’s values.

That being said, if I’m his kid, I’m saying, “Dad, go to work. I’ll miss you a little, but I’ll get over it when we’re $13 million richer.”

Well, at least they’ll have plenty of time to play catch this year. In fact, Adam better soak in that family time for the time being.

Because sometime tells me when Drake is priced out of the college of his choice four years from now, he will not want to look his dad in the eye anymore.