FAST Fiction: Fall Classic Dream State #6

09/18/2014

When you’re dreaming with a broken heart
The waking up is the hardest part
— John Mayer

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• Fall Classic Dream State: Part 12345

Once upon a couch, I was home watching the pregame show before Game 5 of the 2000 World Series — the Mets-Yankees Subway Series — but I fell asleep moments before the first pitch, and soon I started to dream…

… This mystifying parade along Broadway in New York City has only just begun, yet it seems it’s been going on forever. Actually, the parade halted when the very first float — the one that bears the handmade sign with the scrawled numbers 9/11 — stopped in front of me. But the stoppage appears to be by design, and I’ve been watching video footage, on the float’s huge screen, of events that are ominous and incomprehensible.

Planes crashing into the Twin Towers. Perverse smoke piercing a beautiful blue sky. Stunned witnesses recounting unimaginable sights.

I’m the sole spectator at this strange dead-of-night spectacle — though for a moment I had been joined by Miracle Max (of “Princess Bride” fame) and then Timon (from “The Lion King”).

Miracle Max left earlier, before the 9/11 float appeared. I thought Timon was still with me, but he has inexplicably disappeared.

I turn from the immense video screen and glance south toward lower Manhattan — and in the night air I see the Twin Towers burning. What is going on…? This scene was on a video on a parade float, but now it’s happening right before me, a nightmare on Church Street and West Street and Vesey Street and Liberty Street.

Suddenly, one tower collapses in a heap of deadly debris and unyielding rubble. Moments later the other tower does the same.

I glance toward the first parade float again, and on the huge video screen is a different scene. Gone are the images of the Twin Towers bleeding flames and dark smoke. Instead, there’s a scene I recognize: the Giants celebrating a Super Bowl victory. Such a jarring juxtaposition of images — I wonder who’s in charge of the video content. My mind harks back to the two Super Bowls the Giants won in 1987 and ’91, and I look for coach Bill Parcells amid the celebration. But wait — that looks like Tom Coughlin in the Giants’ locker room … the same Tom Coughlin who’s the coach of the Jaguars.

Suddenly I recall again: I’m dreaming (or at least I think I am) — so perhaps this scene is also from the future, as I presume is the case with the previous video of the airliners crashing into the World Trade Center.

And if that’s true, Coughlin will coach the Giants to a Super Bowl victory.

Then the huge video screen abruptly vanishes … but Tom Coughlin is still there. He appears to be actually there, in the flesh, standing alone on that parade float, peering into the darkness toward the World Trade Center site. He is holding a phone (cell or landline, I can’t tell) and somehow I know he’s talking to his son — who is in one of the Twin Towers.

“Do you know what’s going on?” Coughlin says. “Do whatever you have to do to get out of there right now.”

Now I can hear his son’s side of the conversation: “Dad, can you believe what you’re seeing?”

Coughlin tells his son to get out of the skyscraper as fast as he can — and keeps telling him that.

Now another man has appeared next to Tom Coughlin. They embrace, and Coughlin speaks one word: “Tim.” Again, somehow I know this is Coughlin’s son. Tim turns toward me — I’m still the only visible spectator at this odd parade — and says, “”Looking back on that conversation, I think that was largely responsible for me kind of picking up my step and realizing that the important thing was to get out of there and get as far away from that place as possible.”

I surmise that Tim survived the collapse of the Towers. Wow…

As if reading my mind, he says, “It’s not something I really like to bring up. We like to stay quiet and in the background, because we know how lucky we were and that there are so many people who weren’t as fortunate as we were.”

Tom Coughlin looks at me and says, “The Holy Spirit went into that inferno, took Tim by the hand and walked him out of there. … I’m very, very grateful for that, and I’ll be thankful for that for the rest of my life. But I don’t tend to want to dwell on that story. What I want to dwell on is the incredible number of American heroes that died on that day, and I don’t ever want the people of this great country to forget that. No matter how forgiving and moving-forward we are, let’s not forget the tremendous price that was paid on that day for our freedom. And that this world is a whole different place to live in as a result of that.”

To be continued …

© Bruce William Deckert 2014

FAST Blast: Fantasy football and the art of trust

08/31/2014

Fantasy.

What does the word call to mind for you?

Perhaps a genre of literature, à la J.R.R. Tolkein. Or a classic R&B song by Earth, Wind & Fire. Or a dark world of disreputable city districts and Internet denizens — but let’s not go there.

What does Google say? Here are the top five results when I searched for “fantasy”:

1. Fantasy Sports — Yahoo Sports
2. Fantasy Football — Free Fantasy Football (NFL.com)
3. Fantasy Football — ESPN.com
4. ESPN: Fantasy Games
5. Yahoo Fantasy Hockey …

Yes, for many sports fans at this time of year, as summer wanes and the NFL season beckons, fantasy means one thing: fantasy football.

More than 41 million people have played fantasy sports this year in the U.S. and Canada, according to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association. And 33 million are reportedly playing fantasy football.

(For the uninitiated, a brief explanation of fantasy sports is below.)

As I’ve read fantasy sports stories in recent years — I don’t play, but it’s part of my job as an editor — I’ve been fascinated by the relationship between fantasy football and a common human denominator … namely, trust.

By the way, while I don’t play fantasy sports now, I played fantasy football once or twice (I don’t recall which). But I do recall that I made exactly zero transactions during the entire season(s) I played and didn’t change my lineup once — either setting or tying a fantasy record that will never be broken!

If you’re a fantasy sports fanatic, perhaps you’re raising your eyebrows or rolling your eyes or otherwise eyeing me with incredulity. But hear me out.

This was a league with colleagues at ESPN.com, and they were short one owner. I let them know up front that I would likely have little time to devote to fantasy football, and if they were OK with that, I’d join the league. That’s the main reason I don’t play fantasy sports — real life, I find, takes up an inordinate amount of time, leaving fantasy sports in the dust.

But I digress — back to the topic of trust. Check out some statements from ESPN.com about fantasy sports:

Fantasy: Cardinals
Eric Karabell discusses whether you can trust QB Carson Palmer and WR Larry Fitzgerald in the upcoming weeks.

From Matthew Berry — RB Stevan Ridley, Patriots: If coach Bill Belichick doesn’t trust him, how can you?

Should you trust your fantasy playoff fate to QB Kirk Cousins?

Fantasy: Bengals-Eagles Preview
Christopher Harris discusses who to trust in Bengals vs. Eagles.

Fantasy Football Now Friday: Week 13
Michele Steele, Christopher Harris and Stephania Bell discuss which injured running back to trust in Week 13.

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Why so much discussion of trust in the context of fantasy sports?

I suppose the answer is simple: Every time fantasy owners set a starting lineup, they’re trusting those starters to produce fantasy points and contribute to a victory.

Naturally, the same is true of real-life coaches and owners in professional sports. When an owner signs a quarterback to a big contract, the owner is trusting the QB to play in a way that’s worthy of the contract. When coaches decide who will play in a given game, they’re trusting those players to help the team succeed. Players trust each other to be at the right place at the right time.

To say that trust is a fact of life is like saying 10 + 10 = 20. Trust is a must in the sphere of human existence. It runs through every community like blood through a body.

Some people believe trust is limited to the religious realm: “I deal with facts, not faith.” But the irony is that in order to accept a fact as a fact, you must decide which facts are actually trustworthy.

Is it a fact that George Washington was the first U.S. president? No historian I know of disputes this, but likewise, no one I know was there in the 18th century to verify it. So to accept this basic component of U.S. history as a fact, we need to take someone’s word for it — we need to trust. In other words, we need to have faith.

This elemental reality is tied inextricably, of course, to the realm of worldviews. The evidence indicates that trust is an inescapable factor in every human life — whether you’re a theist, atheist, pantheist, polytheist or other-theist.

If the fantasy sports examples above don’t convince you, here are some examples from marketing slogans across the years:

Cooks who know trust Crisco — Crisco (baking)

You can trust your car to the man who wears the star — Texaco (gasoline station)

Trust Northern — Northern Trust Corp. (bank)

Technology you can trust — Gateway Computers

Trust the Midas touch — Midas (auto shops)

And to return to the world of fantasy sports:
Dominate Your [Fantasy Football] Draft … #1 Site Trusted By Fans Since 1999! — DraftSharks.com

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Apparently, we value trust — in society, in our business dealings, in politics, in families … and in sports (actual and fantasy).

But how exactly does this apply to the worldview conversation?

To be continued

© Bruce William Deckert 2014

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For the Uninitiated: Fantasy Sports in a Nutshell
Fantasy sports give fans the opportunity to be the owner and general manager of a team.

Fantasy team owners draft actual professional players to form their teams in fantasy leagues, and the actual stats of those players from each game count toward the fantasy team’s score in head-to-head matchups with other fantasy owners. During the season, owners can make trades with each other, release players who underperform or become injured, and pick up players who are available.

The main goal of fantasy sports writers is to give fantasy owners advice about which players to release or keep on the bench, and which ones to acquire or start for a given game.

Non Sequiturs + Other Quasi-Funny Stuff #7

07/31/2014

Here are actual writing samples from official Internet sites — unintentional humor, apparently, but it still makes one wonder…

Since losing to Washington (Mo.) on Oct. 6, the Eagles have won six consecutive games in a row, outscoring opponents 18-1.

Just wondering … Have the Eagles also won six straight games?

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The Bob Allen Women’s Player of the Year award is given annually by USA Hockey to the top American women’s player.

Just wondering … Let’s see, is the USA Hockey Men’s Player of the Year award given annually to the top men’s player? But wait — does he have to be American, too? This is so confusing…

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The wide receiver was never particularly fast, so he doesn’t have a lot of speed to lose. The team needs to do a better job of playing to his strengths, the main one being his ability to run after the catch.

Just wondering … If the receiver isn’t particularly fast, how can his main strength be running after the catch? (OK, maybe he’s elusive, but still, isn’t that worth explaining so you don’t sound, shall we say, knuckleheaded?)

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2. The entire secondary must be replaced
The return of Smith is a boon to this secondary, but he is the only starter returning in the Huskies secondary.

Just wondering … Since Smith is returning as a starter, are you sure the entire secondary must be replaced?

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Against Chile, they committed 21 fouls, four times more than the number they registered against Croatia.

Just wondering … So against Croatia, this team committed — hold on, let me get my calculator — 5.25 fouls? Is this a case of unusual officiating, or perhaps unusual rules … or does the word “about” need to be added somewhere in the above sentence? You make the call!

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P.S. If — actually, when — I write something unintentionally humorous and/or knuckleheaded … well, enjoy the laugh, and kindly let me know so I can correct it. And now, back to your regularly scheduled program…

All-Name Teams #12

06/29/2014

Featuring names from across the world of sports

All-Animal Team 2
Collin Cowgill — baseball
Zebrie Sanders — football
Eddie Vanderdoes — football
Elkino Watson — football
Tiger Woods — golf

All-Body Team 1
Wally Backman — baseball
Kelsey Bone — basketball
Joy Cheek — basketball
David Legwand — hockey
Jeremy Trueblood — football

All-Clothes Team 1
Craig Button — hockey
Armanti Edwards — football
David Wear and Travis Wear (twins) — basketball
Jered Weaver — baseball
Cashmere Wright — basketball

FAST Sonnets in Cyberspace #4

04/30/2014

Hear: “All I’ve wanted is to feel wanted.”
Thus spoke NBA player, L.A. left.
So speaks every human heart — undaunted?
Why does life lie and leave us death-bereft,
Abandoned, desolate and forsaken,
Like child at dad-discarded first day’s light?
Like spouse, guilty innocent — awakened
To find acid spilled, mind blinded, heart blight
Of clay — lay pleasure poisoned, emission
Searing soul sans nocturnal permission?
Like corrupt(ed) construction: hope and homes,
Then site unseen, Love Canal — who atones?
Oh, You who cried on Dad-deserted day
Called good rescue us please from toxic play.

© Bruce William Deckert 2014

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NOTES — POETRY 411

Yes, the sentiment of this sonnet focuses on the desolation of Good Friday — as in the gospel accounts, Easter must wait — and thus on the desolation humans feel in certain painful circumstances.

The closing couplet observes that Jesus of Nazareth shares our desolation — and makes a desperate request for Him to bring Easter to our broken hearts and lives.

Except for the final stanza, the rhyme scheme follows the structure of a Shakespearean (or English) sonnet, a 14-line poem with 10 syllables per line, comprised of three stanzas (of four lines each) plus a closing couplet.

Given its brevity and power-packed structure, the sonnet is perhaps the best poem for the fast-moving 21st century.

Non Sequiturs + Other Quasi-Funny Stuff #3: The Coach’s Unintentional Riddle

12/09/2012

This is part non-sequitur, part quasi-funny anecdote and part riddle — and it’s a true story, too:

A high school soccer coach was doubling as the van driver — common enough at a small private school — and driving her team to an away game, when she cried out: “Be quiet, I can’t see!”

What could be the reason for such a strange statement?

“Sit down, I can’t see” — that makes sense. Or: “Move your head, I can’t see.”

But … “Be quiet, I can’t see” — huh?

Spoiler alert — if you want to ponder the riddle, hold off on reading the rest of this post…

The backstory:

At one point, the coach was backing up the van while listening to a player in the rear seat who was communicating how much maneuvering room the van had available. Since some players were talking noisily, the coach called out, “Be quiet, I can’t see!”

Without missing a beat, one player replied: “Coach, turn the light on, I can’t hear!”

P.S. How does this story shed light on a key factor to consider when we don’t understand verbal or written communication? Especially before we dismiss something we don’t comprehend — something that doesn’t make sense to us — as nonsense.

Could the communication glimpse this story gives help us in our relationships? Including the one that is said to be of utmost importance — the relationship with our Creator and His means of communicating with us?

FAST Fiction: Fall Classic Dream State #5

03/31/2014

What happens to a dream deferred?
… Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
— Langston Hughes

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• Fall Classic Dream State: Part 1234

Once upon a couch, I was at home watching the pregame show before Game 5 of the 2000 World Series — the Mets-Yankees Subway Series — but I fell asleep moments before the first pitch, and soon I started to dream…

… The parade that’s underway in New York City’s Canyon of Heroes is, shall we say, bizarre — because it’s at night, and because I’m the sole spectator (as far as I can see), and because most parades are upbeat celebrations while this one so far is a direct hit to the heart.

I don’t love this parade.

I’ve just watched a CNN video, apparently from some affiliate station called YouTube, on a huge movie-like screen that dominates the lead parade float. The video has shown the Twin Towers being rocked by fiery explosions. The devastating impact came from — you’ll never guess it — two jet airliners. Not bombs, not missiles, but ordinary airplanes.

Instinctively glancing south toward lower Manhattan, I half-expect to see the torn Twin Towers smoldering and bleeding dark blood up into the bright blue September sky, as the CNN video showed moments ago. Instead, the Twin Towers are still standing — resolute, brooding in the night air, reigning over New York City.

So this video on the parade float is either fabricated, or it’s accurate but will occur in the future. (I see no other possible options.)

As I consider further, I recall what I had momentarily forgotten — the handmade “9/11” sign on the float and the headline on the video that read: “Terrorist attacks rock NYC ; Twin Towers reduced to rubble — 2001.”

So if my dream-like calculations are correct, this horrific event will occur less than a year from the 2000 World Series: on September 11, 2001.

In the CNN/YouTube report, the news anchor said, “We have unconfirmed reports this morning that a plane has crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center.”

The phrase “unconfirmed reports” jumps out at me like a blinking neon sign, or like a hyena, or like the image of a leaping hyena on a blinking neon sign — and sets my mind wondering and my heart pondering life-and-faith issues, philosophy, theology, belief systems, worldview wrangles, journalism, history, 2+2=4 … and, in particular, the birth, death and resurrection accounts of Jesus of Nazareth.

How does one confirm a report? How does one confirm truth?

I remember that two eyewitness accounts of the planes hitting the Twin Towers were featured in the CNN video report. Eyewitnesses are good, last I checked. Any court of law can tell you that. Yet how can a court be sure if an eyewitness is lying or mistaken?

And after a report is confirmed … how does one know it has actually been confirmed?

There on Broadway, in the City That Never Sleeps, I muse: Perhaps we humans cannot know. Perhaps we humans must instead believe. Perhaps we humans must trust, based on the evidence, as best we can tell.

I say aloud, to no one in particular — which is fitting, since no one is there:

“When we boil life down, perhaps we all have no choice but to rely on another’s word, coupled with our own observations — whether you’re an atheist, theist, agnostic, polytheist or pantheist.”

And the best eyewitness account to trust, naturally, is the one that is accurate — the one that is true to life (and death).

It appears that we cannot know. Wait, no — that’s too nihilistic.

It appears that in order to know anything, we must have faith in someone.

“Hey, what’s goin’ on here?”

The voice sounds familiar, though it seems far away, echoing as if in a cavernous place.

“Hey, what’s goin’ on here?”

The voice gets closer … and louder. You know, it sounds as if this might be Miracle Max from “The Princess Bride” — I’d met him earlier at this strange parade. But he disappeared sometime before the 9/11 float appeared.

“HEY, WHAT’S GOIN’ ON HERE?”

Then, emerging from under the sidewalk about 30 feet down the street, I see the owner of the voice — I sort of see him … he’s small.

He saunters toward me and asks again, “Hey, what’s goin’ on here?”

It’s not Miracle Max — it’s Timon the meerkat from “The Lion King”! He emerged from the same subway stop Max had used.

“Timon, welcome to New York City,” I say. “Wow, you’ve had a long journey from Africa.”

“Tell me about it,” he replies. “A crazy-long flight, and sure, all the ginger ale I wanted, but not a single grub. Those airline cutbacks are for the birds — in this case, the vultures.” He laughs at his own joke.

“Where’s your buddy Pumbaa?” I ask.

Somebody had to stay home with Simba,” he shoots back, his tone dripping “duh,” and then he queries me. “What’s all this about having no choice but to rely on someone’s word? Hey, nobody has to rely on anyone’s word. We don’t have to take anyone’s word for it — look at me, I rely on myself. Here, just watch this scene from that movie I starred in, ‘How Timon Saved The Lion King.’”

Puzzled, I say, “You mean ‘The Lion King,’ right?”

Timon snorted, “Everybody gets the name of that movie wrong. I told you the right title.”

“Why don’t any of the movie references I’ve seen call it ‘How Timon Saved The Lion King’? It’s always listed as ‘The Lion King.’”

Timon pauses, scrunches his face, and says, “That’s because ‘How Timon Saved’ is in really fine print before ‘The Lion King’ — I agreed to that so the Simba kid thinks the movie is about him. You know what, maybe it’s invisible ink instead of fine print, but it’s one or the other.”

“So if it’s invisible ink, how can people know the movie is really called ‘How Timon Saved The Lion King’?”

Exasperated, Timon replies, “Because I said so — and I’m a really truthful guy!”

“So,” I intone, “we have to take your word for it.”

To be continued …

© Bruce William Deckert 2014

FAST Fiction: Fall Classic Dream State #4

02/28/2014

What happens to a dream deferred?
— Langston Hughes

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• Fall Classic Dream State: Part 123

Once upon a couch, I was at home watching the pregame show before Game 5 of the 2000 World Series — but I fell asleep moments before the first pitch, and soon I started to dream…

… The nighttime parade in New York City’s Canyon of Heroes — with me as the only spectator, as far as I can see — has begun. On the first main parade float is a handmade sign, with jagged edges on one side, bearing numbers that appear to have been hastily scrawled: 9/11.

I wonder what the numbers signify — maybe it’s a variation of calling 911 for an emergency?

The float stops abruptly in front of me, and a device similar to a TV remote floats toward me in midair from the heart of the float. Then I notice a large rectangular object on the float — I’d missed it at first partly because the object is dark and blends into the night, and partly because it is so large (at least the size of a movie screen) that it engulfs the float and is thus tough to see. Too large to see? Counterintuitive, yes, but it does make sense — like the elephant to the ant, I suppose.

Plucking the remote-like device out of the air, I see that its design is simple enough for a kindergartner, or even a toddler: It has only one button. I press it, and a single email fills the expansive movie-like screen.

The email’s subject line reads: Plane crashes into World Trade Center.

The body of the email, where the message normally goes, is as blank as a beggar’s bank account. Speculating that perhaps there is an invisible-ink element to the empty email, I click on it with the remote — but nothing.

While I can’t quite be sure, it appears this email has been sent from the news desk of a major media company to some of its editorial employees. But in this sometimes foggy dream state, I can’t tell which company.

I read the subject line again: Plane crashes into World Trade Center.

I reckon that a small single-engine plane, the kind that makes its home at a humble municipal airport, must have malfunctioned and hit one of the Twin Towers.

Then I remember the headlines that had appeared on the mini-float preceding this parade float — especially the first headline, something about the Twin Towers being destroyed. Baffled — and sensing, for some reason, a growing dread — I wonder how a single-engine plane could destroy the Twin Towers.

Clicking the remote again, I see a videotape replace the email on the massive screen, and above the videotape is the headline I’d seen before:

Terrorist attacks rock NYC; Twin Towers reduced to rubble — 2001

In the upper left corner, the videotape bears the name YouTube, with a red background behind Tube. I have no idea what YouTube is — maybe a new cable TV station in the future? As I ponder, the video rolls and I watch a sizable plane — it looks like a jetliner — crash right into one of the Twin Towers. The CNN logo is at the bottom right of the videotape, where it would normally be on a TV screen. I don’t know the connection between CNN and YouTube.

My mind reels — I fell asleep during the World Series telecast in October 2000, and this CNN videotape is apparently from 2001, according to the headline. Will this actually happen?

Wait … 9/11 — apparently, if this dream is accurate, these events will happen less than a year from now … on 9/11 — or September 11, 2001.

On the videotape, the news anchor says: “This just in — you’re looking at, obviously, a very disturbing live shot there. That is the World Trade Center, and we have unconfirmed reports this morning that a plane has crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center.”

The CNN video keeps playing, and out of the bright blue sky another airliner careens toward the other Twin Tower — another direct hit, another inferno of an explosion.

The voice of an eyewitness speaks on the videotape as the camera fixes on the burning towers, with smoke billowing as if someone was sending a perpetual SOS from a desolate island.

The eyewitness says: “The plane was coming in — I noticed it a second before it hit the building. It looked like it was moving slowly, and it lined itself up to hit the building directly.”

Another eyewitness says: “The doorman goes to me, ‘Wow, I never seen a plane flying so low.’ And — and we looked out at it, and all of a sudden, boom — it seemed like it wasn’t even real.”

I understand what he’s saying — as I watch the Twin Towers smolder, it seems unreal, inconceivable, surreal, a dream turned to nightmare. Still, I can’t imagine they’ll be reduced to rubble.

I look up and down Broadway, this Canyon of Heroes, to locate Miracle Max of “The Princess Bride” — or Billy Crystal as Miracle Max — who I had encountered earlier in my dream journey. He’s nowhere to be seen.

That’s a shame, because if it’s possible, the people in those Twin Towers could use a miracle.

But then I hear Princess Buttercup, the title character from “Princess Bride” — and see her too, on a small screen that appears, like a star in the night sky, above the massive movie-like screen that’s still playing the CNN video.

She’s arguing with Westley, as the Towers burn on the screen below her, but he’s wearing a mask and she doesn’t recognize him yet after a lengthy separation. I hear the Princess cry out:

“You mocked me once, never do it again — I died that day!”

To be continued …

© Bruce William Deckert 2014

Non Sequiturs + Other Quasi-Funny Stuff #6

01/31/2014

Unintentional humor observed on the Internet — my comments in bold, followed by the actual examples from the Web…

Math 101, Part 1: From the illogical equation department
The Dodgers now have 39 players on their 40-man roster.

No offense … but has any offense ever, you know, played D?
Mike D’Antoni won in Phoenix with an up-tempo offense that played little defense, but he wasn’t necessarily going to use that same style in L.A., right?

Two TV analysts unknowingly join the Ravens’ roster
Joe Budden Has Faith In Ravens
Rapper Joe Budden discusses the Ravens’ chances of beating the Patriots with Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless.

The Yankees: apparently the first team in history to suffer a collective broken bone
TAMPA, Fla. — The New York Yankees finally have a date for Derek Jeter’s return to game action after suffering a broken ankle in the American League Championship Series last October.

Math 101, Part 2: Glad to know that key 2 and 3 info
But that probably understates LeBron James’ efficiency improvement because a big chunk of James’ shots come from 3-point range, where the value of an improved jump shot is leveraged even more (three points is worth more than two).

All-Name Teams #11

12/30/2013

Featuring names from across the world of sports

Being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow…
— the apostle Paul
(Philippians 2:8-9, NIV)

All-Angel Team 2
John Gabriel — basketball exec
Miguel Angel Garcia — boxing
Gabriel Gonzaga — mixed martial arts
Angel McCoughtry — basketball
Roman Gabriel — football

All-Christmas Team 3
Rakeem Christmas — basketball
Josh Cribbs — football
Johnny Jolly — football
Kyle Rudolph — football
David Snow — football

All-Star Team 1
Star Lotulelei — football
Darren Morningstar — basketball
Ivan Nova — baseball
Orion Outerbridge — basketball
Bart Starr — football

FAST Blast: Reflections on Kirk Gibson’s homer and the peerless Pinch-Hitter (PART 3)

11/08/2013

The Boston Red Sox won the 2013 World Series, with no need for ninth-inning homer heroics. But 25 years ago, Game 1 of the A’s-Dodgers World Series ended with a home run that many consider the most dramatic in baseball history…

Part 1 | Part 2

Since Kirk Gibson’s home run is the signature pinch-hit in baseball lore, it is a classic case study for examining the significance of the cross of Christ, the peerless Pinch-Hitter.

Following continues (and concludes) a blow-by-blow account of Gibson’s Game 1 experience:

As the injured Gibson limped to the batter’s box to pinch-hit in the ninth inning, he says, “My knees were still cold [from the ice pack] … I had programmed myself to say, ‘50,000 people are gonna go nuts and you won’t hurt.’ And it doesn’t matter if you hurt because the game’s on. [A’s reliever Dennis] Eckersley wasn’t gonna send me any get-well card.”

In the NBC broadcast booth, Vin Scully said, “And with two out, you talk about a roll of the dice, this is it — so the Dodgers trying to catch lightning right now.”

Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda made a figurative gamble by sending an aching, injury-plagued Gibson to the plate. When Jesus was crucified, soldiers literally gambled for His clothing: “When they had crucified Him, they divided up His clothes by casting lots.” (Matthew 27:35/NIV)

And while there is no record of lightning upon Jesus’ death, there is the record of an earthquake: “At that moment, the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. … When the centurion and those who were with him saw the earthquake…” (Matthew 27:51,54/NIV

The Baseball Almanac website says this about Lasorda’s pinch-hitting choice: “Lasorda sent in a crippled Kirk Gibson to bat. … At first, the decision appeared completely irrational.”

In a song called “Winter Babies” that reflects on Jesus’ birth, songwriter Michael Kelly Blanchard says this: “You’d have to be a savior or just crazy to have His kind of kingdom come.”

As for God’s logic regarding His brutal yet ultimately beautiful redemptive choice: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the LORD. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9/NIV)

Plus: “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” (1 Corinthians 1:21-25/NIV)

So with a runner at first and the Dodgers down 4-3 — and down to their last out in this first game of the 1988 World Series — the lefty-hitting Gibson steps in against Eckersley, the right-hander with the nasty sidearm delivery.

Gibson fouls off the first two pitches on weak swings. On the next pitch he takes another ugly cut and bounces a slow roller up the first-base side — just foul. After Eckersley misses outside with a slider, Gibson fouls back the next delivery. A fastball sails wide and runs the count to 2-and-2. On the next pitch, Eckersley misses outside again with his slider as the baserunner, Mike Davis, steals second.

Lasorda says he knew L.A. could steal against Eckersley because of his big leg kick. So why didn’t the skipper send Davis right away? Because, Lasorda explains, he thought the A’s would walk Gibson intentionally with first base open: “So I waited till he had two strikes. [I figured] I’m gonna give him two strikes to let him hit the ball out of the ballpark, and if he doesn’t I’m gonna steal the base.”

“Mike’s stolen base was huge,” Gibson would say later, “because all I had to think about was shortening my swing and trying to get a hit to score him.”

In the other dugout, A’s manager Tony La Russa was thinking along the same lines. He notes that when Gibson began his career, his approach to hitting was less refined, but “by 1988 he was a really tough two-strike hitter.” With Davis at second and the count at 3-and-2, La Russa says, “I’m thinking ground ball in the hole, line-drive blooper — I had no thought of a home run.”

The scouting report on Eckersley, prepared by Dodgers scout Mel Didier before the Series, read like this: On a 3-and-2 count, look for the backdoor slider.

We’ll let Gibson take it from here: “Before the 3-2 pitch, I stepped out of the box. Well, I looked at Dennis and [thought], ‘Partner, sure as I’m standing here breathing, you’re gonna throw me that 3-and-2 backdoor slider, aren’t you?’ And I stepped in, took an ugly swing and it went out.”

On CBS Radio, legendary broadcaster Jack Buck made this famous call: “Gibson swings, and a fly ball to deep right field — this is gonna be a home run! Unbelievable! A home run for Gibson, and the Dodgers have won the game, 5 to 4. I don’t believe what I just saw — I don’t BELIEVE what I just saw!”

As Gibson limped around the bases, Vin Scully told the TV audience, “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.”

“I don’t believe what I just saw” … “the impossible has happened.” Sound familiar? To address Mr. Buck’s call: When Jesus appeared to His disciples post-resurrection, He said, “Why do doubts rise in your minds. Look at My hands and My feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see …” And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement… (Luke 24:38-39,41/NIV) And to address Mr. Scully’s statement: “For nothing is impossible with God.” Luke 1:37/NIV)

Gibson’s triumphant trot around the bases was part-Hollywood, part-storybook and all-encompassing in its snatch-victory-from-the-jaws-of-defeat finality. He hobbled all the way home, raising his arms near first base and pumping his fist twice as he approached second base with a right-handed jab that knocked the A’s out cold.

“To this day,” Gibson says, “I can remember seeing the brake lights in the Dodger parking lot come on as the ball went out, as they all said, ‘Oh my God, I should have never left.’”

Lasorda called it the most dramatic home run he had ever seen. Dodgers second baseman Steve Sax echoed his manager: “The most dramatic ever — the guy was hobbling around all day … and he hits it out with basically one hand.”

ESPN.com reader Sam Partridge e-mailed this comment that was published on ESPN.com’s Page 2:

“In terms of a moment, it has to be Kirk Gibson’s home run, simply because it couldn’t happen.
The Dodgers couldn’t beat the A’s.
No one could hit Eckersley.
Gibson couldn’t swing.
Heck, Gibson could barely walk.
… The ninth inning of Game 1 was the classic moment when the impossible became possible and baseball took on a storybook feel that none of us who saw it will ever forget.”

Gibson’s heroics represented the first time in World Series history that a team which trailed in the ninth inning won with a walk-off home run.

Naturally, Jesus’ heroics also represented a first in human history: the first time God became man and triumphed over death after trailing in the tomb for two days.

+++

Perhaps the most ironic aspect of Jesus’ pinch-hitting heroics is that He didn’t do the actual hitting — Roman soldiers did that for Him, in effect, as they hit nail-spikes with some type of mallet or hammer, driving them through His hands and feet and into a wooden cross.

Roman soldiers. A Roman cross in Rome-occupied Palestine. A soothsayer warning a Roman emperor (see Part 1). Given the Roman themes, it’s fitting to close the book (for now) on Kirk Gibson’s ides-of-October homer with some Roman numeral serendipity, in the form of a trivia question: What year in the 20th century contains the most Roman numerals?

The answer: MCMLXXXVIII. Yes, you guessed it — 1988, the very year Gibson recorded his historic World Series at-bat.

The apostle Paul penned the following words in the same Roman Empire: “You were dead … but God let Christ make you alive, when he forgave all our sins. God wiped out the charges that were against us … He took them away and nailed them to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14/CEV)

Information and quotes from various media outlets were used in this three-part article.

© Bruce Deckert 2013


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