Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Collapse and a Clumsy Stumble

I stayed up last night watching my Braves as I have a hundred times before.  I was tense, but perhaps not as tense as I may have been in years past, or in different circumstances.  See, when a team like the Braves goes into a win-or-go-home game like last nights ended up being, but they have zero momentum, the game loses it's edge.  Given the way they have played in the last month, I had little confidence that even should the Braves advance past the best team in baseball with a fluke win, that they'd have anything left in the tank to battle St. Louis.  Once the game went extra innings, I began to think maybe it would just be better to end the suffering now rather than prolong the struggle of September. My wish was granted.  The game shaped up to be so emblematic of the last part of this year's Braves season: little offense with runners in scoring position, a key error here, too many walks there, a blown save, a squib hit by the other team and suddenly the season was over. 

I was sad for Atlanta, especially after such a close, competitive game.  My small glimmers of hope that they could get back into an upswing just in time just didn't materialize.  The old guys looked old (that's you, Chipper), the young guys looked tired and nervous (that's you Venters and Kimbrell).  They just had nothing left in the emotional or physical tank,  so they stumbled clumsily out of the playoffs.  Meanwhile the team with the hot hand did their job with an exclamation point - big run total, complete game shutout from Carpenter. 

At the close of the Braves game, I quickly turned to the other baseball, needing distraction.  And thank God I did.  I got to witness the other parts of what ESPN's Tim Kurkjian called one of the greatest nights of baseball he can remember.  The Rays stormed back, the BoSox looked sure to close it out.  So eerily similar though has their track with the Braves been this September, one had to wonder if their 3-2 Atlanta's...wasn't quite as secure as Papelbon's steely gaze.  And indeed, it was not.  And perhaps their 9th inning debacle was worse than the Braves' for they had 2 outs, and gave up both the tying, and winning run.  Not to mention that they gave them up to a team that, unlike the Phillies,  haven't seen the playoffs in years. 

I posted on Facebook when the O's tied the game. 
sorry Sox nation...but your misery is kinda making me feel better. kinda

At the time, I referred only to surrendering the tying run, and to their dismal September.  I had no idea that about 3 minutes later the O's would score the winner, then a few minutes after that, the Ray's would score their winner.  I had no idea the true misery that Boston would suffer within minutes.  But to be honest, as a sad Braves fan, it helped lift my spirits.   Like the same way that people with sad, hurt-filled lives watch sad, hurt-filled reality television because it makes their lot seem not quite so crazy.  Or how I feel when I watch Hoarders.  "Oh, well my house isn't THAT messy."

So, thank you Boston, for giving Braves fans the space to say, "Oh, well at least our team isn't THAT shameful."

Sure, my Bravos lost a big playoff lead, but with half the payroll of the Sox, with 2 starting pitchers injured for much of the season, other solid players nagged by injury, a young team and a new manager.  I will not write them off, just like I haven't all the previous years of enduring dissapointing post-season losses, or like I never did after the 80's Braves were laughable in their awfulness.  I still watched and cheered.  And I will still look forward to those four beautiful words that signal the advent of Spring Training.  "Pitchers and catchers report." It's not so very far away. 

In the meantime, Go Phils (that's for Jeff) and Go Tigers (that's for my Michigan family...and all of Detroit really). 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Worth a Look

Somehow between my daughter's first day of "school," a girls weekend to Miami, the U.S. Open Finals, restart of Premiership and the 10th anniversary of 9/11 I've managed to have nothing profound or exciting to write.  Or perhaps I've just been busy and satisfied at reading other people's thoughts. 

So on that note, I would encourage readers to visit Rachel Held Evans' blog and peruse the "Ask a _____ " series.  I haven't read all of them, but I have read enough to have great respect for both the readers kind, well-meaning questions, as well as the respondents honest answers.  It's not a perfect tour of a variety of viewpoints, but a nice entree into conversations.

Here's the link to the most recent iteration, "Ask a Gay Christian." You'll find links there to all the other participant Q&A's.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Still Believing? (A Sports Post)

 Hey, remember when I enthusiastically heralded the Klinsmann era, and revealed my not-so-secret crush on the U.S. Men's National Team coach?  It seems so very long ago.  Two losses later, I guess I'm still Krushing on Klinsmann, but with a firm dose of reality.  See, two losses and zero goals later, I'm realizing that no matter what kind of magic Jurgen can conjure he can't make up for the fact that our crop of players just isn't that good.

He was hired for this reason, and for that, I say give him time.  The naysayers will bark about formation, style, personnel, but let's face it, some of the Belgian subs looked more active and threatening than the U.S. starters.  Yes, we have our Donovan (whose impressive goal tally is largely PK's and who probably wouldn't start for a top-tier premiership team), Dempsey (won't dog him because he went to Furman and I like him), Boca and Cherundolo, and big supply of world class goalkeepers.  But the supporting cast just aren't good enough. 

Take the Belgian case.  While the Flemish and Walloons squabble about language and frites, immigrant kids are busy playing pick-up in Brussels parking lots and parks.  And they're the new national team.  Still a young group, and by no means a European powerhouse, but that Belgian team showed players with individual skill that far outmatched most of what I saw from the Americans.  And their team play wasn't too shabby either.  Was it a "dominant" performance, as one writer called it, by the winners?  No.  Was it only a friendly, meaning result is less important that experience? Yes.  

But it's a loss.  And in watching the last two losses, I'm seeing why and how past teams have featured the defend-big and boot it forward method. Because we're just not there yet with the possession, slick passing game.  Trying it with players that make poor first touches or innacurate passes can expose the team much more than the bunker-down, boot it forward method.

At the end of the day, I'm less annoyed with Jurgen, than with America.  Maybe there's a someday when our immigrant kids who grew up kicking the ball around tennis courts and dirt patches will become the next hope.   I think Klinsmann is looking to that day (hence his insistence on playing an outmatched Edgar Castillo), but it does not seem quite here.  With the possible exception of Texas-born Jose Torres.  I've always been a fan, and am excited that Klinsmann sees what he can add. The potential of a Da Silva like playmaker with good skill, hustle, and poofy hair.

But for now, we may have to be patient with the good German, hopeful for a future with better players, kids who are hungry for success.  Who eat, breathe and live the game.   Maybe the recent results are unimportant if Coach he has been just weeding out the no-go's to find the top tier.  And maybe, when that top group all comes together for games that actually mean something, they'll figure out how to score goals.  How to hold a lead.  How to look dominant.  Time will tell.  But in the meantime, perhaps that open International Friendly date in November should be with some small island nation that we can easily trounce.  Just a thought.