But I Thought You Cared

Like most genuinely good-hearted people, I’d like to consider myself generous and charitably minded.  If someone needs spare change, I’ll usually throw them a bone if I have it (extra bonus if they admit they’re buying a 40 oz.).  If my former high school requests a donation for their annual appeal, I’m usually writing a small check to help out (although if they’re reading this, they may cry foul as I may have skipped out on their most recent attempt).  Unfortunately these acts of goodwill have been compromised of late by the folks at my local CVS Pharmacy and their (what I’d like to deem) “donation spotlight”. 

On two recent visits, I’ve made my way to the checkout counter with just enough cash in hand to make my purchase(s) of shaving cream, mouthwash, face wash, etc.  Then a monkey wrench is thrown my way when the cashier asks if I’d like to donate a dollar to St. Jude’s Hospital for Children, as I feel the customers behind me curiously awaiting my reply.  This is normally a no-brainer.  How can I or anyone say “no” to such a request?  I’ll show you how.  When your bill prior to the request comes to $10.42 and you have $11.00 to hand to the cashier.  That’s how.  Then you’re faced with the unenviable task of telling him/her that you’ll have to get them “next time”, as the rest of the customers are ready to pounce, giving you that look like “Come on! It’s for the kids!”, leaving you to walk out with your tail between your legs.

Is the guilt-trip/strong-arm tactic really necessary?  Maybe a donation box where you get to choose on your own without the embarrassment of having to say “no” to the kids?  Or maybe the cashier can give you a nod and you can give him/her a nod back saying “yay” or “nay” where only the two of you know the deal?  Either way, something needs to be changed about this because a trip to CVS for a box of Q-Tips has lately been leaving me to feel awful about myself.

Can’t Buy Class

In the latest installment of “Athletes Behaving Badly”, (former) Minnesota Vikings Wide Receiver Randy Moss proves himself to be more than a guy who simply made a mistake.  He invites us into the inner-workings of a man who is nothing more than a straight-up creep.

During a team meal, following last Friday’s practice, Moss went on a tirade about the quality of the buffet, to the point of belittling the local caterer (who was present) and producing a bewildered/WTF look upon the faces of teammates.  Upon casting his eyes on the spread, Moss yelled out, “Who ordered this [crap]?! I wouldn’t feed this to my dog!”, and could later be heard at his locker saying something to the effect of, “I used to have to eat that stuff, but now I have money.”  In case you’re wondering, the teammate who witnessed and recounted Randy’s actions seemed thoroughly impressed with his meal.

I understand that athletes are indeed human, but the fact that he threw a hissy-fit and basically brushed off this catered dinner as “beneath him”, paints a picture of the type of person Moss really is – someone with no concept of how to treat others, especially those whom he deems inferior to himself.  This is not only an unfortunate side of some athletes and entertainers who feel they’ve earned the right to dismiss the common folk, it is also a painful reality of our society.  Too many travel through life with this nauseating sense of entitlement that reserves them the right to degrade, embarrass and disrespect, with little or no concept of how small they make themselves appear.

I am of the ilk that you “treat the janitor just as well as you would the CEO”, and hold firm the concept of the Golden Rule.  Whether a dignitary, a multi-million-dollar-athlete, or just some guy without two dimes to rub together, I’ll treat you with respect – until you give me reason not to. 

Now I’ve never met Randy Moss, but I’ve already heard enough to know that I would never really care to.  He may be big time, but he and those who conduct themselves in that manner are miniscule in my book.

Phly Phillies Phly

9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 SO.

On most days, Roy Oswalt’s line in yesterday’s complete game shutout victory for our FIRST PLACE Philadelphia Phillies would surely earn him/them the lead story on most of our local sports news outlets.  Surely right?  Disappointingly, this was not the case on this morning’s broadcast of Sports Rise on Comcast SportsNet. 

Instead, the victory coincided with Eagles opening week, and the first 15 minutes of the telecast were devoted to the Eagles loss to the Packers.  Every possible analysis.  Every what-went-wrong?  Every injury.  Every nook and cranny of this loss was broken down for fans of a team that – at best – will go 7 and 9.  Meanwhile, I have to sit and wait for any mention of Sunday’s pitching gem, which helped catapult the guys in red back into sole possession of first place until at least halfway through the program.  Did I mention the Phillies are in FIRST PLACE, in the midst of a playoff run, just a few short weeks away from possibly winning the division for a 4th straight year, and potentially going to the World Series for the third straight time?  This must have fallen short on the folks at CSN as well as most other local sports media.  All because the Birds are back in town.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not an Eagle hater by any means.  I honestly have no problem with the team (front office is another issue).  I like to see them win, as I do all of our local sports teams.  I think they have an exciting, young group of guys, who will be a force in the years ahead.  I’m a big proponent of Kevin Kolb, even though yesterday’s performance left a lot to be desired.  I like the way he carries himself.  I like his demeanor.  He possesses a mix of humility with that quarterback-confidence.  My main issue is the manner at which our local media deifies this franchise year-in and year-out, a “gold standard” franchise that yesterday celebrated 50 years of futility, above any other team in this city. 

I get that opening week in the NFL is huge.  I get that this has traditionally been a “football town”.  I get that the Eagles are going to garner a large portion of our local sports media’s attention.  But when it takes away from, and creates an after-thought of, a team such as the Phillies, that has actually won something within the last few years sans any evidence of letting up, I really have to question whether or not I’m missing something.

SPORTS RISE’S FINAL TALLY

  • The amount of time devoted to the Eagles opening week “highlights”/Donovan McNabb’s Redskins debut: 15 minutes
  • The amount of time devoted to the complete game shutout victory of our FIRST PLACE Phillies: 6 minutes

But hey, at least Roy Oswalt did get the PECO Powerplay of the day.

A Thing of Perfection (or Not)

Last I checked, there is not a single soul on this great planet of ours who is perfect.  Yet, in a baseball sense, we found ourselves on the brink of perfection for the third time in less than a month.  Still basking in the glow of Roy Halladay’s perfect game – MLB’s second in a three-week span and only the 20th in history – while trying to ignore the Phillies current struggles, one of the sport’s rarest of gems nearly shined upon us yet again.

Detroit’s Armando Galarraga was just one out away from celebrating the 21st perfecto in the history of baseball.  It always seems as though that final out is the toughest to record in a pressure cooker like this, and last night, was it ever.  To the four people in America who haven’t heard the story: With two outs, Cleveland’s Jason Donald hit a chopper in the hole, forcing first baseman Miguel Cabrera to make a quick play to his right.  With Galarraga covering first, Cabrera’s throw appeared (well it did) to have beaten Donald.  With the home crowd on its way to a mass celebration, first base umpire Jim Joyce called Donald safe.  A hush (and some groans) fell over the crowd.  Having seen it on live TV, I knew it was a close play, but figured the ump would err on the side of the pitcher in this situation.  While Joyce felt the wrath of the Tigers and the crowd, the replays confirmed their “dissatisfaction” for the call.  One person who refrained from the Jim Joyce lambasting was none other than Armando Galarraga.  Galarraga smiled and quietly walked back to the mound, quickly recording the final out for a perfect one-hitter.

Immediately following the game, having seen the heart-dropping replay, an extremely remorseful and self-loathing Jim Joyce apologized to reporters, walked over to the Tigers locker room, apologized to the team, and most importantly to Galarraga.  To both men’s credit, the awful situation could not have been handled better.  Joyce, a respected umpire for more than 20 years, immediately admitted his mistake, saying everything he possibly could to make things better – if at all possible.  For his part, Galarraga graciously accepted the apology, and took the whole debacle like a champ, ironically replying to reporters, “Hey, nobody’s perfect.” 

Today presented a rare opportunity for MLB Commissioner Bud Selig to reverse the call (as it would’ve had no negative impact on the outcome), and allow Gallaraga to savor what is rightfully his, while possibly letting Joyce off the hook.  Unfortunately, the call was not reversed, and we’re all left with the lasting image of the most memorable one-hitter in the history of baseball.  In his heart, Armando Galarraga knows he pitched a perfect game last night, but sadly he’ll never receive the true accolades that he deserves (although he did get a shiny Corvette from Chevy).  Perhaps the one silver lining (aside from the ‘Vette) is that the general public got a chance to see the types of individuals that Jim Joyce and Armando Galarraga truly are.  Both men faced an imperfect moment with the utmost of class.

It’s All in a Name

It’s been said that no sound is sweeter than the sound of one’s own name.  This makes perfect sense if you think about it.  Nothing is more personal, and puts someone more at ease, than addressing them by name – unless of course they’ve never met you before.  Then things could get awkward and downright creepy.  Anyway, one of the most incredibly underrated talents is the ability to remember an individual’s name upon the first introduction.  A few month’s back, I discovered that my closest neighbor could have quite possibly written the book on this.  No problem right?  Wrong!  Because, you see, I was absent on the day they handed out the name-recall talent.

I have a strange portion of my memory that if I’ve met you once, I’ll remember your face forever.  Unfortunately, it will most likely take me a few meetings to get your name down.  So on the evening that my wife and I met our new neighbors – a very friendly, likeable couple – their faces were forever ingrained in my noggin.  The names, on the other hand… Let’s just say I would know their faces well.  My wife was no better.  When we walked back into our house, she immediately asked, “what were their names again?”  I responded with a shoulder shrug before rattling off several names that they “might have said”.  Of course, the next time we saw them, the husband greeting us both by name, forcing me to go with my trusty cover-up, “hey what’s up buddy!!!”  “Buddy” and “My Man” usually seem to do the trick, but when we’re bound to see these folks several times per week, they’ll quickly be privy to my game.

Feeling a sense of guilt because our neighbors genuinely went out of their way to listen and remember our names, while my wife and I were somewhere in la la land, I tried to figure out the best possible way to learn their names, short of asking them.  My brother-in-law volunteered to wait outside on a pseudo stake out mission to introduce himself, but the timing never worked out.  A police officer cousin suggested that I get their tag number for him to run, but I thought that to be a bit sinister.  Finally, my sister came through with the idea of a White Pages reverse look-up.  Punch in the address, and if they’re listed, their names will pop up.  Bingo! 

Opportunity presented itself this morning as I was leaving for work.  While walking to my car, I heard, “Good morning Jim.”  I looked up, and for the first time, I confidently replaced months of “hey what’s up buddy?!” with “Hey Tom!  How you doin’?!”  and walked to my car giving myself a silent, yet affirmative “Yes!” like I had just won something.  Hopefully Tom didn’t catch that…. or the fact that I said his name slightly louder just to make sure that he heard it.  Oh well, it’s great to finally put a name to the face after all this time.

4+2+0 = No Clue

All it took today were three little numbers to remind me of how clueless and behind the curve I tend to be.  Not quite as celebrated as Cinco de Mayo (which actually is more than a drinking holiday if you travel south of the border), the cryptic 420 meant nothing more to me than 4/20 (aka April 20) up until today.   My Facebook homepage made it immediately clear that 420 was much, much more.

One friend joined the group “420”, while others wished all of their FB peeps a “Happy 420!”  I quickly became overcome with a sense of confusion mixed with a strong case of Out-of-the-loop-itis.  I began thinking to myself, “420?  What’s the significance of April 20?  It’s not tax day.”  Another friend’s status update could’ve clued me in – if I had a clue.  It cleverly read “Happy 420 – cough, cough.”  My first reaction was “Oh! Maybe it’s National Call Out of Work Day.”  Makes sense right?  “Cough Cough”.  Uuuhhh, “nah Jim.”  It wasn’t until I got to work (thank God I didn’t call out) that I was finally filled in that 4/20 is considered somewhat of a pot-smoking, counter-culture holiday, the phrase initially coined by a group of California teenage toquers way back in 1971, who would meet after school and fire up at 4:20 PM.  Who knew?  Apparently a lot more people than myself.

I won’t even chalk this one up to age, as 420 has been a phenomenon for nearly 40 years.  It’s been many moons since I’ve last lit up – pretty seldom may I add – so I really can’t use dead brain cells due to prior cannabis consumption as an excuse either.  I’ll just accept the fact that sometimes I’m the last to catch on to certain things.  Next you’re going to tell me that the Eagles are trading McNabb.  Wait… What?  When?  Never mind.  Oh well, Happy 420!  Roll ‘em up.  Pass ‘em around.  Puff. Puff. Give.  Enjoy your cheese curls afterward.

I Live For This!

That first pitch.  The opening kickoff.  Drop of the puck.  Opening tipoff.   Whatever your sport of choice, its respective season opener is cause for celebration.  For me, it happens to be baseball. 

There is nothing quite like the start of the Major League Baseball season.  The smell of the grass, the crack of the bat, the promise of warmer weather – and a season of unknown – are all reason enough for me to become giddy like a child.  Who can blame me?  Baseball is still America’s pastime in my eyes.  Having a winning team in our city helps, of course.  Regardless, fans of those perennially in the playoff  hunt, as well as the habitual cellar dwellers, come out in droves to support their squad – at least on Opening Day.  For if only for one day, there lies hope for everyone.

After Day 1, the Pittsburgh Pirates were in first place, and on pace to go 162 – 0.  Ironically, the New York Yankees were in last place, and on pace to go 0 – 162.  The Phightin Phils?  First place!  On pace for a perfect season!  Not only that, with his 6 RBIs, 3rd baseman Placido Polanco was on pace to drive in a whopping 972 runs for the season!  I told you this was a special day.  Unfortunately, 3 games into the season, none of the above is a remote possibility, but at least for one day, the impossible can be imagined.

How can you not love Opening Day?  It has National Holiday written all over it – and it’s a helluva lot more interesting than Earth Day.  Here’s to another magical season full of peanuts, cracker jacks, and Phillies victories!