It’s The People, Dummy

by Rich on May 3, 2018

For the last few weeks, I’ve made an effort to keep things lighthearted, because, truth be told, I’ve been a bit, well, introspective. I suppose that’s the correct word. Not melancholy or sad, per se (although those emotions have stopped in from time to time, like uninvited in-laws), just…pensive. And there have been reasons for that, but I didn’t think it was the right time or place to talk about them. But sometimes the columns write themselves.

I have a son who is graduating from high school. That alone is enough to stop a grown man in his tracks. I’m super proud of him. The guy is wicked smart, in good health, kind, generous and has an amazing sense of humor. I love him unconditionally. So this transition from childhood to adulthood is a challenge for both of us and it’s made me do a lot of looking back. I also lost a good friend from high school recently. He was my age and in decent health. He had a severe stroke and didn’t recover. His loss hit me hard. So, those two things, along with a lot of smaller ones have made me think a lot about the past and how I have spent my time and the decisions I have made in my life. Those thoughts lead, of course, to thoughts about how I want to spend my time now, and what decisions I make for the future. And I discovered an interesting fact that probably shouldn’t surprise me, but it kind of did.

The things that I value, the things that I take the most importance from in life all fall into three or four basic categories. For the most part they involve my faith, the people around me, food, and sports. And a lot of the time, all of those things converge in single experiences.

I love to watch games, but take very little pleasure out of watching them alone. I love to cook (and eat) but a meal alone is, well, lonely. Even my faith, which is the ultimate in personal identity, is meant to be communal. So what is the common thread? People.

I’m not breaking ground, here, folks. You know this as well as I do. But sometimes in life you have circumstances that refocus you onto what is truly important. If there’s one thing that make all the other things in our lives real and enjoyable, it’s the relationships.

All this came to mind in minute clarity recently when I visited Chicago for the first time. It’s been a bucket list item for years, but had I traveled alone, or not met and shared meals with so many great people, it would have been unremarkable. That game at Wrigley would have been downright miserable without someone close to bundle up next to. And what good is a beer at the legendary Harry Caray’s if there is no one to share it with? Is a Chicago Dog even real if consumed alone?

On my way back from Chicago, I had one overriding thought: I need to take more trips, go to more games, and eat more amazing food. And I need to do it with the people I love. I can’t wait to take my son to a day game at Wrigley (in June this time!) and the Army/Navy game this fall with him is going to be epic.

So watch the games, whichever you choose, and eat great food. But find someone to do it with. Share those experiences. It’s what makes life worth living.

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Bit By The Bug Again

by Rich on April 30, 2018

While I don’t recommend it, I must admit that I learned something this past week while suffering with the flu. I don’t recommend the flu, that is. I do recommend learning things, although that whole “ignorance is bliss” thing can be pretty attractive at times, but I digress.

For the better part of three days, I lay almost comatose on the couch, with virtually no energy to do anything other than ache and cough. I didn’t even have the energy to focus on one of the eleventybillion Netflix shows that I’m supposed to be keeping up with. But I also needed something going in the background to drown out the sounds of the mowers and cars and dogs that were determined to keep my head pounding. So I scrolled around searching for something that was long, familiar and peaceful enough that I could tune in and out of without getting lost, and something that wouldn’t demand my attention or consciousness. I settled on “Baseball”, the magnum opus masterpiece by Ken Burns.

I remember when this groundbreaking docu-series first aired back in the ’90s. It was fascinating. It still is. And incredibly well done. Now available online, it has been updated, post 9/11, to include the modern era, PEDs and all. And as I lay in my feverish state, half asleep and half living dead, I was reminded how spectacular this effort in film making really is. And the more I watched it, the less it became background noise. Each era reintroduced me to the magic of the game. And that may be it’s greatest accomplishment…it’s ability to draw the viewer in emotionally. And that’s when I learned something.

The number of columns I have written detailing my relationship with baseball could fill a nice sized filing cabinet. The game is one that I enjoy, but also one that I have not given myself over to as I’ve gotten older. The faster games of football and basketball, the immediacy of streaming video, and all other forms of on-demand entertainment, have shuffled baseball to the back end of the line, where it sits, patiently plugging along. But re-watching Ken Burns’ film, I began to realize that I missed it. Not playing it, or even going to the games, but just the game in general.

Baseball requires certain attributes that many of us have lost these days. Patience. Consistency. Sacrifice. These are qualities that get lost in our modern age, and I know I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. I knew it too. But I didn’t know until this past week why I missed it and why I am determined to pay more attention to it. Because committing myself to a discipline like baseball has value in and of itself. Like making the decision to shop for natural ingredients and cooking homemade meals is healthy for my body, or like setting aside Facebook and Twitter for the slower, methodical aspect of a good book is healthy for my mind, eschewing the instant gratification of Netflix or Amazon for the more natural, organic pace of play found in baseball is healthy for my soul.

No, deciding to watch more baseball isn’t going to add to heavenly enlightenment, make me smarter, or help me live longer. But I am certain that it will add to my inner peace and quality of life, just like good food and good books do. Baseball is one of those goods in life, worth making the effort for. And I am determined to make that effort.

And hopefully I won’t need the flu to remind me.

 

 

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Six Simple Rules

April 23, 2018

The NCAA recently released some new rules for college football, and while some of them appear to be beneficial and some head scratchers, none of them address some of the key areas and problems that I keep hoping will be fixed. Sure, it’s probably a good idea to not allow schools to have former stars […]

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Late From Chi-Town

April 16, 2018

I’m late filing this column, but it’s not my fault. I blame the people of Chicago. That’s where I am right now, Chicago. I came for a couple of reasons, but mainly for the weather (that’s a joke). Actually, I came to Chicago because I needed a breather and it’s been on my bucket list […]

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Par For Most Courses

April 9, 2018

In honor of Masters Week, I decided to end my three year abstinence from the game and grabbed my clubs to hit the links. Since I need to write off the incurred expenses from my round, I am obligated to write about it. My apologies. Having shunned the sticks for such a long period of […]

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Batter Up! Action!

April 2, 2018

Baseball season is here, and of course that makes me think of movies. To be fair, ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you that there is little in this life that doesn’t remind me of movies. What can I say? I fawn over flicks. I feast on film. I’m mesmerized by movies. […]

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To Brian, A Confession

March 29, 2018

The quiet noises of mundane life For that which by other days would be unheard, Are now obscene obtrussions upon my grief So well deserved.   The playful laugh of child and youth Of barking dogs, of radios and motorcycles Of those that any other day be the norm Are this day the screech of […]

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Who Are You?

March 26, 2018

The text said, “You are not defined by what you do, but by who you are.” It was from a friend and former coworker. I stared at it for a minute, processing. The text surprised me because I had been thinking along those very lines lately, and call it coincidence, kismet, chance, or divine happenstance, […]

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Perfect Imperfection

March 19, 2018

Two and a half weeks. That’s how long March Madness lasts. That’s 13 work days (if you include Friday as a work day, which personally I do not). Two and a half weeks. Sixty-four teams, four regions. One Champion. It’s insane. It’s clinical. It’s controversial. It’s traditional. It’s beautiful. It’s ugly. It’s perfect. The NCAA […]

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For Benjamin, On Your 13th Birthday

March 14, 2018

(The following is a letter I wrote for my nephew Benjamin. My sister, Benjamin’s mother, said I should post it here. This was not intended for my blog, but with her blessing, I am posting it. Along with this letter, I gave Benjamin the knife and picture of my grandfather pictured below.) Benjamin, This is […]

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