It’s Over: Yogi Berra Dies at 90

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Sad news on the sports legends front this morning.  Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra has passed away at age 90.  One of the greatest catchers of all time, Berra was a 15-time all-star in 19 seasons, a three-time American League MVP who was the heart and soul of some of the great Yankees teams of the 50s.  Lawrence Peter Berra was born on May 12th, 1925, in St Louis, MO.  He was a childhood friend and teammate of fellow catcher Joe Garagiola, who thought that the homely Berra looked strikingly like the Maharishi Yogi pictured in a newsreel story that played between movies during one Saturday Matinee.  And the most recognizable nickname in sport was born.

Short and stocky, five-foot seven and almost 190 pounds, his frame belied a grace and athleticism rare in a catcher.  His physical strength was legendary, as was his ability to avoid striking out.  In 1950, a year in which he hit 28 home runs and batted .322, Berra struck out only twelve times in 636 plate appearances, an astoundingly low figure.  (In comparison, one 2015 Red Sox hitter, Mike Napoli, struck out twelve times in a three game series on two separate occasions.)  Berra got his teams to the World Series a mind-boggling fourteen times in his 19 seasons, winning ten World Series rings.  After his playing career, Berra was a manager and coach for many years, finally retiring in the early 1990s.

Of course, Berra was known to many outside baseball as the author of an seemingly endless list of funny sayings, such as “it gets late early out there”, and “It ain’t over til it’s over”.  Once asked by Joe DiMaggio what time it was, Berra supposedly replied “Do ya mean right now?”  That persona belied a man of shrewd baseball knowledge, and on teams with DiMaggio, Mantle, Whitey Ford, Billy Martin, and Elston Howard, Berra was considered the most baseball savvy.  He was also a talented outfielder, playing left field when Howard began his catching career.

Like so many ballplayers of his generation, Yogi Berra served his country in World War II, a Gunner’s Mate in the US Navy who manned a rocket-firing landing craft off the Normandy beaches on D-Day.  Berra remained very proud of his Navy service, and spoke often of it in his later years.

Yogi was also, by all accounts, a genuine and kind gentleman.  He was known for treating everyone well, and for his humility and his humor.  His is a loss, he was one of the greats of our national pastime, and an American icon.

What Might Have Been: Former NBA Center Darryl Dawkins, Dead at 58

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Sad news out of Philadelphia.  Former Sixer Darryl Dawkins has passed away at the age of 58.

He had a lot of nicknames, Chocolate Thunder, Double D, and Baby Bull among them.  He was the first player to be drafted into the NBA out of High School in 1975, by the then-woeful Philadelphia 76ers.  He was known for his thunderous dunks and somewhat flaky personality.  He is, in fact, best known for smashing backboards and his legacy is the adoption of the collapsible rim.  He was a giant man-child, already six-foot-eleven and 252 pounds as an 18 year old, one who possessed breathtaking physical gifts.  He was, for his size, incredibly agile.  He could jump through the roof, was immensely strong and lightning-quick, and had an exceptionally soft shooting touch.

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For all that, Darryl Dawkins remained one of the great stories of unfulfilled potential in professional sports.  Like so many who followed him, he could have been so much better than he was.  Despite his ample gifts, he never worked terribly hard to get better.   With all the tools to be a superior defender and rebounder, he was decidedly mediocre at both.  Dawkins never grabbed 20 rebounds in a game, nor 700 in a season.  He was foul-prone on defense, and turned the ball over with alarming frequency on offense.  Also, Dawkins never developed an inside game, preferring (when not dunking) to shoot fall-away jump shots even against smaller opponents. (Even with that, he had an exceptional .572 career shooting percentage.)   Against less gifted but harder-working centers, he was routinely bettered, especially in big games.  So much so that Philadelphia dealt him in 1982 and acquired Moses Malone to play the center position.  Malone, smaller and lighter than Dawkins, lacked Dawk’s gifts, but was a legendary worker and tenacious rebounder.  With Malone in place of Dawkins, Philadelphia won a championship in 1983.

Dawkins’ lack of physical conditioning caught up with him, as well.  Injuries shortened his seasons, and dampened his talent.  After two decent campaigns with the New Jersey Nets, Dawkins was all but finished at 29.  He would play parts of three more seasons, finishing his career on the bench with the Pistons.  His career averages of 12.0 points and just 6.1 rebounds belied a superior, if untapped, talent.  After one series where Dawkins had played poorly against the Celtics, Boston Globe reporter Bob Ryan called Dawkins “the greatest waste of space since Greenland”.  And he had a point.  Had Dawkins gotten a couple of years with a tough college coach to teach him the fundamentals, and instill a work ethic to harness his talents, he might have been a truly great player.  But alas.

This much is true, though.  Darryl Dawkins understood that basketball was largely entertainment.  He had fun, engaged the fans, and was, by all accounts, one of the nicest guys in the league.  He was never in trouble with the law, or for doing something cruel and asinine, like so many of today’s athletes.  And he is gone too early.  Which is a real shame.   He will, in his odd way, be recalled fondly, and will be missed by those who remember him.

A Scathing Indictment of the Wounded Warrior Project

Over on the porch.  Well worth the read.

I haven’t liked that organization for quite some time, mostly because of the way they portray wounded Veterans as being objects of pity.  Salamander puts it better than I have been able to.

an organization that uses the same visuals, tone and background music for those who fight our wars, that are are also used for starving African children … and at the same time squash local organizations using a huge legal budget.

Touché.

Here is some perspective, without minimizing the sacrifice.  The total US combat wounded in 13 years in Iraq and Afghanistan numbers around 52,000, with the vast majority being minor wounds with RTD (return to duty), such as mine were.  (Of the approximately 1,400 wounded suffered by 1st Marine Division in Anbar from February-September 2004, about 1,200 were RTD.  If those percentages hold for the larger number of 52,000, the total number with wounds serious enough to prevent a return to duty numbers around 7,500.)  We know that the number of traumatic amputations is fewer than 1,600.  This means, with just the last three years of donations, WWP has received enough money for almost $100,000 for each of the 7,500 seriously wounded Vets, or $457,000 for each traumatic amputee.  This is on top of the medical care and equipment provided by the VA for these Veterans.

With a CEO salary of almost half a million a year, the selling of donor lists, and this sort of reprehensible behavior:

According to a number of smaller groups, the Wounded Warrior Project…  has been spending a good deal of time and money suing other veteran-serving nonprofits on the basis that their names or logos constitute infringement on their brand.

I agree with Salamander, not a dime to WWP from me.  I will give to a smaller charity in a heartbeat.  One that does not make helping our wounded Veterans a “common business practice”, and one that does not intentionally harm others trying to give back to those who gave so much.

UPDATE:  XBradTC here. C0ncur all and endorse original message. There are many fine organizations to donate to, and it’s your money. But I would like to mention one that does have a sterling reputation, Fisher House.

Doin' the Rain Dance in Vermont

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We were desperate for rain.  The ground was dry two feet down.  No substantial rain here for the last three weeks.  It was sposta rain last night and this morning, but I woke up to clear skies and sunshine.  Another day of hot sun would about finish my back lawn, already reeling from winter kill over half of it.

So I did what I knew I needed to do.  I washed my car, AND I watered the lawn. And painted the fence.

The result?  Coming down in buckets.

California Governor Jerry Brown can get ahold of me through our humble host.  With my Big Medicine, I would make Palm Springs into the Louisiana Bayou in a month.

Wells "Deflategate" Report Absolutely Shredded by Patriots Counsel

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I am a Patriots fan, I admit.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t care much about it.  I wouldn’t really now, except for the arbitrary and capricious nature of how NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Ted Wells handled the investigation of whether or not the Patriots deflated footballs to below the league standard before the AFC Championship Game with the Colts.

The New England Patriots today issued a rebuttal which positively destroys the amateurish and biased “report” which seems even more like an NFL sting operation incompetently sprung.  The rebuttal includes what the report conveniently ignores, like the context for the much-publicized text messages between Patriots employees, the fact that the Colts, not the Patriots, admitted to violating league rules by tampering with a game ball during play, the failure of the league and its officials to document evidence they knew well might be used in an investigation, and much more.  But the most damning piece of the rebuttal is the clubbing the Patriots deliver to the skulls of the NFL League Office with the league’s own data:

The average of the Prioleau (Logo gauge) measurements — and using an average makes sense given the non-repeatability of even a single gauge — is 11.49 psi, precisely what would have been predicted by the Ideal Gas Law. According to the League’s consultants, the Ideal Gas Law predicted the Patriots footballs which started at 12.5 would have measured between 11.32 and 11.52 psi at the end of the first half (pg. 113). The average of these 11 footballs is within or above that range, as are the actual psi of 8 of the 11 footballs. If air had been intentionally released from each football before the game, these numbers would be significantly lower.

Further, note that the differences between the two gauges vary from .3 to .45 — if the gauges were in fact repeatable, the difference between the two gauges would remain the same on every football gauged.

Mr. Blakeman and Mr. Prioleau apparently switched which gauges they were using when they switched which team’s footballs they were gauging. The investigators never consider that Mr. Anderson did the same thing in his pre-game measurements. If Mr. Anderson, pre-game, used the Logo gauge on the Patriots footballs and the non-Logo gauge on the Colts footballs, this helps explain the difference in psi drop between the Patriots footballs and the Colts footballs.

And here is the real and irrefutable dagger:

If scientific evidence explains the drop in psi of the Patriots footballs, it is definitive there was no tampering. Rather than engage in that analysis, this investigation made certain assumptions about gauge usage and then speculated about the meaning of texts taken out of context. The report rejects the simple and fully supported scientific explanation for the psi drop and instead builds adverse inference upon adverse inference from speculative and circumstantial evidence in order to develop even the soft conclusions it reaches.

Yup.  Roger Goodell should be ashamed of himself.  Someone’s half-baked scheme to finger the Patriots went south, and this imbecilic “Wells Report” that I would not accept from a Second Lieutenant to send someone to NJP turns up (after more than 100 days!!!), and the league suspends the best quarterback ever to play the game, fines the team a million bucks, and takes two draft picks away based on that pile of nonsense.

The penalties should be immediately revoked, and the owners should send Goodell his walking papers.  Less competent stewardship of a multi-billion dollar sports league would be hard to imagine.

Oh, AFTER the footballs were re-inflated at halftime?  The Patriots outscored the Colts 28-0.

Discounted Thanks.

So, Jonn at TAH had a bit that he found at the WaPo.*

This fellow Dave Duffy claims, in the Washington Post, that he’s a retired Army lieutenant colonel who is now an entrepreneur with a couple of smoothie shops. It sounds like he offers a discount to members of the military, but not their families. That decision earned one of his cashiers a rant from a family member;

Dave Duffy’s piece is here, and it’s a short read, and well worth it.

Every year, Applebee’s offers a free meal to veterans, and every year, I go and have my steak, and a Coke.** I tip the waitress generally about what the price of the meal would have been.

What I don’t do on Veterans Day is drive around to every establishment that offers a free meal or a discount and suck up a ton of food.

I always forget to ask for the veterans discount at Lowe’s.

I (eagerly) volunteered to serve. And twice a month, my nation expressed its thanks to me in the form of financial compensation.  That’s all the thanks I really needed. If someone wants to say thank you, and shake my hand, I’m generally left a tad discomfited, though I try to accept such thanks as gracefully as I can.

I’ll note that Mr. Duffy doesn’t even appear to offer a discount to veterans, only to first responders, and to those actually still in the service. Which is fine and dandy by me. It’s his shop, and his choice.

And his column appears to have been inspired by the spouse of a service member, more commonly referred to as a dependent. So let’s talk about that for a bit.

I’m the son of a dependent. Damn near all the moms of my friends in school were dependents. Even some of my teachers were dependents. If you serve in the military, a goodly portion of your social circle will consist of dependents.

And 90~95% of them are terrific people. They’re tough, resilient, independent (ironically, given they’re called dependents), supportive of their spouse and their spouses friends.

Then there are the others… Of course, in any large group of people, you’re bound to have some unpleasant people. People who wear their spouses rank, who game the system for every ounce of advantage rather than accepting that the life is an occasionally difficult one, who spread dissension and mistrust among the other spouses, and are just generally unpleasant.

They’re a large enough group that they’ve earned a moniker among servicemembers. “Dependapotamus-“ often shortened to merely Dependa.

Forgive me for stooping to low humor…

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For those businesses that do offer a discount to families of servicemembers and veterans, I feel for you whenever you must cross paths with the Dependa.

*Which, while still leaning far to the left, has seen great improvement since Bezos bought it.

**As much as I love beer, for some odd reason, when I east steak, Coke is my preferred beverage.

Thank You For Your Service

Last night’s post on servers and service was actually inspired by this post from Doctrine Man over at The Pendulum.

“Thank you for your service.”

I paused momentarily at the words, and looked up from my lunch to see who was speaking. An elderly woman was reaching out to put her hand on the arm of an Army captain, with a look of sincere gratitude in her eyes. It’s a scene that plays out in every airport across the country as a thankful public expresses their appreciation to members of our Armed Forces.

It happens to us all at one time or another. For me, it tends to be a humbling experience, maybe even a little uncomfortable. This is my chosen profession, and I’ve never felt a need to be thanked for my decision. But I also recognize that for many, they need to express their gratitude for the sacrifices we make, for what we give of ourselves for our Nation. So, when I’m approached, I stop what I’m doing and take a moment to acknowledge their thanks and remind them that I also appreciate what they do to support our forces and how much it means to all of us. Courtesy is a two-way street.

Do go read the whole thing, as it is a tale of appalling behavior by not just a serviceman, but a commissioned officer, a chaplain no less!

As JoshO commented on last night’s post:

wasn’t there one of these a couple years back where the waitress made a big stink online about getting stiffed on the tip and it all turned out to be bullshit? Here’s hoping that this is something similar…

Unfortunately, DM’s post shows it is all too plausible.

Generally, when someone thanks me for my service, I reply that it was my privilege. And it was. Military service may sometimes be an obligation in America, but it is not a right. That I was fortunate enough to enlist and serve is a blessing that many will never enjoy.

What thanks does my nation owe me? Well, they paid me on the 1st and 15th of every month, provided me with housing and food, health care and dental care. The nation has granted me certain benefits through the VA and the GI Bill.

What thanks does the citizenry owe me?

None.

Now, that’s not to say I don’t appreciate when citizens take the time to either thank me personally, or veterans in general.

And I’ll certainly admit that on Veteran’s Day, when Applebee’s offers me a free meal, I gladly take them up on their offer (and I most assuredly tip the waitstaff, generally about what the meal would have cost me normally).

And there’s nothing wrong with asking if an establishment offers a discount to veterans or servicemembers.

What is wrong is thinking an establishment should offer a discount or any other preference to veterans and servicemembers.

Our troops are asked to endure a wide range of hardships, from the obvious, like going into battle and risking injury or death, to the more mundane things in garrison life that are annoying and that no civilian employer could ever dream of enforcing.

That unfortunately leads some servicemembers to think that they are special. That they are “the true 1%’ers” gives them some special place in society.

But most of us recognize the key word is “service.”  Merriam-Webster provides quite a few meanings for the word, but the one most applicable to veterans is this:

contribution to the welfare of others

We would all do well to occasionally remind ourselves that we served to support the nation, not that the nation served to support us.

9/11

We should write some moving piece about what today, the 13th anniversary of that horrific day, means to us, and our loved ones.

But we always struggle writing about emotional events, and human interest stories.

Others have a far better talent for writing these pieces.

2974 people were killed that day. The resulting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with the sacrifice of 6,830 so far, have weighed heavily upon the citizenry. Many ask if the struggle is worth it. How long must we fight? Most Americans have an odd blend of bellicosity and a desire to simply be left alone.

If you spend any time on social media today, you’ll see plenty of people swearing to Never Forget. You’ll see that contrasted by younger Americans who can’t really grasp what 9/11 is all about. For virtually their entire lives, America just happens to have been at war somewhere, with someone. That’s just how things are to them. How can they be outraged by the norm?

We don’t have any plans to commemorate the day. We’re not doing anything special. Our house is being painted. We might go to the library, maybe the store. We’ll do household chores. We’ll just go on being a normal American, doing normal American things.

We wish we could forget. Go back to that time when the Cold War was over. The End of History had arrived. There might be conflict in the world, but war, especially an American war, was a thing of the past, to be remembered in books and movies.

But we can’t. We cannot forget being transfixed by the events unfolding live on television. The pain, the fear, the anguish of not knowing why? Why us?  That oh so brief moment in the days after where so many Americans came together to comfort one another. And the utterly predictable moment when a certain segment of society leapt to the microphone, or the computer, to explain to us common folk that it was our own fault, that the sins of our nation meant we deserved this attack. That rather than the attack being an affront to civilization, it was our civilization that was the very affront that invited this attack.

As Insty quotes today, from Lee Harris:

The Enemy is someone who is willing to die in order to kill you. And while it is true that the Enemy always hates us for a reason — it is his reason, and not ours.

We will not spend our day worrying his reasons. 

We will  instead spend our day remembering that America, for all its faults, is the shining city on a hill.