"Didn't you just write about mortality?" you might ask. And, well, yeah, kinda. But I think you'll find this to be a bit of a different direction. The last post was more speculative, this one is unfortunately much more concrete. Just in trying to get my thoughts together, this post likely promises to be quite a mess, too. But what else could it be? It reminds me a bit from the beginning of Slaughterhouse-Five: "It is so short and jumbled and jangled, Sam, because there is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre. Everybody is supposed to be dead, never to say anything or want anything ever again. Everything is supposed to be very quiet after a massacre, and it always is, except for the birds. And what do the birds say? All there is to say about a massacre, things like 'Poo-tee-weet?'"
I've actually thought a lot about that book over the last couple days. Kristine's grandpa is not doing well, and it seems things are taking turns for the worse. The conversations have definitely drifted toward "when," not "if." I suppose it's "when" for everybody, but his "when" seems more at hand. Anyway. Kristine went to visit him on Friday, then we went together on Saturday. When we first arrived, we really didn't know what to expect. How responsive he would be or how coherent. He seemed to be a bit better than the last time I saw him. He was talking more and seemed to at least somewhat recognize us. He called me by name, which he did the last time I saw him as well. I don't know if it's just luck or what, but he has consistently recognized me through this whole ordeal.
He asked me how school was going, but I was unsure if he was referring to my current master's program or confusing me for being about ten years younger. He also asked Kristine's brother if he had a heart attack, seeming to confuse him with his dad. It brought back some immediate flashbacks of my own grandmother and the way she would have a hard time placing her visitors and frequently getting them mixed up.
My Grandma Parrish died when I was in fourth grade, the same month my Great-Grandma Summers died. I don't remember which one died first. Anyway. By the time she died, Grandma Parrish had been really bad for a long time. It had been years since she knew who I was, and it became a pretty regular occurrence for my dad to be confused for my Uncle Jessie.
I don't have a lot of memories about my grandma, and I don't know that I can say I have any of her in her right mind. I gather that is a real shame. I haven't heard anybody who knew her say the first cross word against her. Maybe it's just people not wanting to speak ill of the dead, or maybe there's a measure of pity of how life worked out for her. But, I don't think so. The stories I hear speak of a genuinely warm and caring woman. I'm sorry I never really got to find out for myself.
There are a few stories I do remember first hand. The first was when I first found out she was moving to a nursing home. I think I had just started school, or maybe just slightly before. I remember asking when she would get back from the hospital, because that's how it worked to my knowledge. You went to the doctor, maybe you stayed a little while to rest up, and then you came back up, ready to go. It took some explaining to me that she would be there for a long time, but it took even longer for me to really realize that she was never leaving that home. I don't think that was ever really told to me. I had to eventually figure that one out on my own. I don't know when I puzzled that one out, but I do know I spent a long time wondering when she would go back to living with my Aunt Connie.
The other memory I have is a bit shameful. I can only plead ignorance, and I would certainly never do anything like this today. As you might expect for somebody who raised eleven kids, mothering was a huge part of my grandma's existence. During her time in the nursing home, she took to caring to dolls as her real, living babies. To my elementary school mind, it was just weird and I couldn't really comprehend what was going on. She was going on about one of the doll babies waking up and crying, and she was trying to rock it back to sleep. I said something snarky about it, I don't remember exactly what. But I remember the glare I got from my mom. It was a look to kill, and it hit me somewhere deep. I never did anything like that again. Now that I'm older, I see that whole incident in a different light. Instead of it being bizarre and pitiable to me, now I can see it in a more touching, sweet light. Grandma was too far gone for it to phase her, but it's still a moment where I'm deeply disappointed in myself.
I've heard other stories that remind me more of Kristine's grandpa, how he gets people and times confused, sometimes within the same breath. Like I said, it was not uncommon for my dad to be confused for his eldest brother.* I also heard stories where my Uncle Jessie went to visit, and Grandma tried to attack his wife, believing her to be some other woman her husband had brought home. Or trying to convince another uncle (thankfully by marriage) to go to bed with her.
*Again, with eleven kids and Jessie being the oldest and my dad being the youngest, there was quite a gap there.
I don't think it was at all the point or subject Kurt Vonnegut had in mind when he wrote Slaughterhouse-Five, but it did occur to me over the weekend that the idea of being unstuck in time is a pretty good one when dealing with dementia. There is healthy literary debate about whether the things Billy Pilgrim experienced actually happened or not. It isn't hard to find arguments for either side. But that's missing the point here. Whether or not anybody else could ever confirm it, it was all still real for Billy. It all certainly happened as far as he was concerned. The same was true for my grandma. Maybe I couldn't see or hear her doll babies crying or wanted fed, but she certainly could, and she was going to care for them to the best of her ability. And if Kristine's grandpa could see her being three again in Beth while talking to me at the same time, that was reality for him. The rest of us may not be able to reconcile it, but it is the world as the clouds in their head can put together.
I didn't understand it as a child. I hadn't developed that sort of empathy yet. I still don't know that I can say I understand it as an adult, but I certainly have a different capacity to roll with it and extend my sympathies. All we can do now is just try to make things as easy and comfortable for him in the meantime and worry about the rest as it comes. The rest is just too big and crushing to try to take on at once.
It might be "when" for all of us, but God damn does it suck when that "when" is staring you in the face.
Today, I am Larry Bird years old.* I'm slowly making my peace with getting older and accepting that my body is probably not going to do some things that it used to do, but that doesn't mean it's the easiest thing.
*There are a few other options here (Scottie Pippen races to mind), but being from Indiana, I think I'm legally required to pick Larry Bird.
Somebody recently told me I am "honestly [one] of the only people I know who have their shit together in regards to being an adult. I mean, I look up to you." And that honestly scared me to death. Let me be absolutely clear here: I have no idea what I'm doing, and I'm pretty sure nobody else really does, either. To paraphrase maybe the most quotable movie ever, anyone that tells you different is selling something. I don't know what it looks like from the outside, but I'm just making all this up as I go along, and I'm not entirely sure I'm doing the best job.
I'm not trying to get all "woe is me" about it. I have a pretty good life. For the most part, I like what I'm doing professionally and who I do it with. I love my family, and I think we generally run a pretty solid household. There's nothing awful in my life. But, I did make some choices that have now left me working pretty hard to undo and to break into some more fulfilling roles in my life. And I'm starting to come into some healthier terms understanding that my time is limited. It used to be a thought that would just stop me in tracks, often for several days at a time. And, just to be clear, it's still a thought I don't necessarily deal well with. But I'm able to at least push it away and keep functioning.
I've also not been taking great physical care of myself over the past few years. Maybe really since I got back into working an office job. It's left me heavier than I've ever been, and it's starting to spawn new trouble. I constantly complain about having to wear insoles so I can continue to walk without pain. I think I've also developed some sleep apnea. Kristine tells me how awful my snoring as become and how I just stop breathing. I've also started having a lot of nightmares* and morning migraines. So, you know, that's great. I'm hoping getting some weight off will go a long way to fixing that.
*Many of these nightmares seem to center around mortality as well. I wish I could have a real conversation with my brain and say "Look, I get it. I am dust and to dust I will return. I. Know. You're my brain, remember? You know what I know. Can't we just go back to having dreams about teeth falling out or completely forgetting about a college class?"
There are a few things I think I've picked up along the way, though. First is to have courage. Unfortunately, I've mostly learned this one by not having it. I'm pretty good about speaking my mind and standing up for what I believe. I'm not shy about that. But to have the confidence and courage to do something for myself? That is . . . not as much of a strength.
When I went to Wabash, I thought I was going to become a teacher. Then a combination of things pushed me away from it early on before thinking I should have gone through with it far too late. I had several people (one former Bachelor editor in particular) push me hard that I should do Teach for America. And they were right. I should have. That would have been a relatively quick-and-easy way to make up for my own indecision. But, I didn't. I didn't like not having complete control over where I would live and couldn't break out of that comfort zone. So I didn't, and instead kept struggling at jobs that barely kept me afloat and led to an awfully long bout of unemployment. All of that just to come to a point where I'm taking graduate classes to start plotting a path back into the classroom.
I never had a real passion for IT. It's fun, it's a nice enough hobby. To make it my life's work, though? That was always foolish, and some part of me always knew that. There are several Disney movies that should have taught me this a long time ago, but, to steal a bit from Moana, when that voice inside you keeps telling you what you want to do, maybe it's worth listening.
The next thing I learned about courage is to have confidence in what you've created. If you think you have a talent, share it. I'm still learning this, by the way. Rejection is hard, but it is just part of the game. I've written some stories and some books, but I've been too paralyzed by fear of rejection and finding out that maybe I'm not as good as I thought I was to try to sell it. I'm finally reaching a point to where I feel a responsibility to try to get my stuff professionally published, and I've gone through a few drafts of a book that I'm going to try to get there. It's not ready yet, and I haven't really had the time to polish it during this master's program. But that ends in December, so I'll be able to get back to it.
It's taken me ten years of writing just to get to the point of feeling like I could possibly put myself out there to be rejected, though. I think about it now and think how much wasted time that was and wonder if I might gotten a break that could have meaningfully changed my life and career already. Don't spend that time wondering or being afraid. It isn't worth it. Find out, and if you find out bad news, just take it as an opportunity to grow and get better.
Again, I'm still learning this.
And the last thing is something I think we all know at some level, but nobody appreciates until it's too late. I'll say it anyway, but I know it won't do anybody any good, because this happens to generation to generation. Nobody ever appreciates it until it is over.
Value your youth. That doesn't necessarily mean to appreciate all the things your body can do and all the free time youth affords you. That is important, but I think I even understood that to some level as a child. What I didn't quite understand is to value the opportunities youth gives us.
Maybe this is a problem of modern technology, but I don't think that's the whole thing. In any case. I did not realize how lonely adult life would be, and (for lack of a better word) I am not alone in this. Back during childhood, all the way through college, there were always easy-to-join sports teams and clubs, and having similarly aged peers all geographically close to you always made it effortless to find somebody to connect with. It was never hard to go hang out at somebody's house or have them hang out at yours. If anything, as a kid, it could be difficult to find some moments alone.
Then everybody dispersed into their own lives and their own timelines. Everybody has their own story to live, and so many of those connections are lost. I've written it several places, but I don't know if it's ever been in a public place before. There is absolutely no better way to put a pep in my step and change my whole outlook on a day than to spend a little bit of time talking to somebody who knew me when I was young. And, not only knew me, but knew our circumstances. Crossing paths from a classmate (or near-classmate, anyway) from Covington or Wabash just hits in a totally different way. There's a level of understanding there that other adult friends, as great as they are, just won't understand. But, you just can't live there forever.
Childhood is like that. Innocence is like that. You cannot ever go back, and you cannot ever unknow or unexperience anything you pick up along the way. I lament that for myself sometimes, and I get to see it now from another level as a dad now. I get to see Beth's wild abandon because of her absolute trust in the world and the absolute lack of care of judgement. I want her to always keep that, but I know I'm powerless to stop it. It's something we all learn, for better and worse.
I'm 33 now. I can't really tell you what that feels like, and I don't really know what that's supposed to feel like. I don't know that I ever really thought that hard about what my future would look like. I just figured I'd do my best and see where life takes me. If I don't fight against the current too much, I would just end up where I needed to go. I'm not sure if I believe that as much any more. Even if the times I've fought against the current didn't end up getting me much but a story and some bitterness, I think I've just learned better ways to struggle. And, well, that's not such a bad thing. I spent a lot of time dreading getting older and finding new ways to tell myself I'm not a full adult somehow. But, I think I'm done with that now. I'm still scared as hell of the end of the road, don't get me wrong. But this part of life? It's taken me a while, but maybe it's not quite as scary as I imagined it would be.
I watched this video a little while back, and this game turns out to be a great metaphor for childhood. I'm not sure if that was the intention or not, but damn does it work. I would encourage you to give it a watch.
With the Blues making their first legitimate trip to the Finals, let's break down how Boston and St. Louis have fared in the championship picture.
1970 - Bruins win 4-0
Blues - 4 Finals Appearances (1968, 1969, 1970, 2019), No Championships, 0-12 in Finals games
Bruins - 20 Finals Appearances (1927, 1929, 1930, 1939, 1941, 1943, 1946, 1953, 1957, 1958, 1970, 1972, 1974, 1977, 1988, 1990, 2011, 2013, 2019), 6 Championships (1929, 1939, 1941, 1970, 1972, 2011), 33-44-2 in Finals games
1957 - Celtics win 4-3, 1958 - Hawks win 4-2, 1960 - Celtics win 4-3, 1961 - Celtics win 4-1
Hawks (in St. Louis) - 4 Finals Appearances (1957, 1958, 1960, 1961), 1 Championship (1958), 11-14 in Finals Games
Celtics - 21 Finals Appearances (1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1974, 1976, 1981, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 2008, 2010), 17 Championships (1957, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1974, 1976, 1981, 1984, 1986, 2008), 73-52 in Finals Games
2001 - Super Bowl XXXVI - Patriots 20-17 Rams
Rams (in St. Louis) - 2 Super Bowl Appearances (1999, 2001), 1 Championship (1999), 1-1 in Super Bowls.
Patriots - 12 Championship Appearances (1963*, 1985, 1996, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2011, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018), 6 Championships (2001, 2003, 2004, 2014, 2016, 2018), 6-6 Championship Record
*AFL Championship Game
1946 - Cardinals win 4-3, 1967 - Cardinals win 4-3, 2004 - Red Sox win 4-0, 2013 - Red Sox win 4-2
Cardinals - 19 World Series appearances (1926, 1928, 1930, 1931, 1934, 1942, 1943, 1944, 1946, 1964, 1967, 1968, 1982, 1985, 1987, 2004, 2006, 2011, 2013), 11 World Championships (1926, 1931, 1934, 1942, 1944, 1946, 1964, 1967, 1982, 2006, 2011), 58-60 in World Series games
Browns (in St. Louis) - 1 World Series appearance (1944), No Championships, 2-4 in World Series Games
St. Louis Total: 20 World Series Appearances, 11 World Championships, 60-64 in World Series games
Red Sox - 13 World Series appearances (1903, 1912, 1915, 1916, 1918, 1946, 1967, 1975, 1986, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2018), 9 World Championships (1903, 1912, 1915, 1916, 1918, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2018), 49-29 in World Series games
Braves (in Boston) - 2 World Series Appearances (1914, 1948), 1 World Championship (1914), 6-4 in World Series games
Boston Total: 15 World Series Appearances, 10 World Championships, 55-33 in World Series games
*Counting championships from formation of modern World Series in 1903
Generally speaking, Boston has had the better record, but they've also had teams much longer. St. Louis only had the Hawks for 13 years. The Blues didn't become a thing until 1967, giving the Bruins time to play for the Cup ten times before they were even born. St. Louis actually has the longer history in the NFL, having nearly 50 seasons between the Cardinals and the Rams, but very little to show for it. Especially the Cardinal years. The best and most direct competition between the two cities is right where you would expect it to be, in baseball. And, you can see, that comparison is eerily similar. After the last two Red Sox wins over the Cardinals, though, I'm sure St. Louis is very eager to strike back against the Bruins.
This past Sunday, the Indianapolis Indians hosted Peppa Pig, which I was pretty sure meant we were legally required to bring Beth to the game. Not wanting to be accused to child abuse, I dutifully bought tickets for ourselves, along with my brother's crew and my dad.
The day before, the weather reports looked pretty ominous. Warnings of heavy rain and thunderstorms right as the game was supposed to be happening. Still, even as of a few hours before the game was about to go and things were looking pretty wet, the Indians posted everything was still on track. And, as noted on the Indians' website, it isn't unusual for it to be raining in other areas of Indianapolis but be perfectly sunny downtown. Indy is a pretty big place. So, we dutifully drove from Lafayette to downtown Indy to meet up with everyone else.
It rained off and on the whole drive down, but it was a downpour when we got to Indy. As luck would have it, we all unknowingly arrived at the parking garage at the same time and all pulled into spots right by each other. Somewhere on the drive down, I realized I had lost my new paper plate, so that was great.* The garage we parked in is catty-corner to the ballpark. From inside the garage, we thought, sure, we'll just run over, pick up tickets from Will Call, then wait things out from the covered concourse. It took maybe a minute of being out in the driving rain for us to decide, "Nevermind, we're crossing the street once to get to the JW and we'll go from there."
*I don't know how it works in other states. In Indiana, it used to be that you got a paper plate at the dealer, and then the license branch handed you a new license plate once all the paperwork got through their system. That was probably almost twenty years ago now, though. Now, the dealer still prints off a paper plate, but once you're told to go to the BMV, the BMV prints off yet another paper plate and says you'll get a real plate in the mail sometime in the next two weeks. I'm sure there is a reason for this, but that's asking paper to stay stuck to a vehicle for a long time.
It only took that long for us to be absolutely soaked and Beth to start shivering. It took a while for us to come up with a plan, but Indianapolis has done a great job with being an all-weather downtown. So we decided we'd take the skywalks back across to the garage, then over to the convention center (where the Junior Olympic National Gymnastics Champioinships were going on, apparently), and then over to Circle Center Mall to grab something from the food court while we waited out the rain.
We did that, and by the time we were done eating, the Indians answered me on Twitter they expected the rain to move out in a half hour or so, and they'd have an updated start time soon after that. Which was just about the right amount of time for us to walk (with two toddlers in tow) back over to the stadium. So we did that, picked up the tickets, and walked around the concourse to find the relocated Peppa booth, which you can see above.
Now, let me explain a bit here. This was a big gamble on our part. Beth has not reacted well with any sort of costume mascot or anything like that in her entire life. She gets really excited to see them from afar, but to start to interact with them? That's always been a really hard NO, complete with hard clinging to us and screaming. So, as Beth was the only kid there to meet Peppa at the start, that was fully the reaction I was expecting as we walked up, especially when she wouldn't get close to Peppa without me holding her. After just a few seconds of wariness, though, Beth thankfully warmed up and got super excited for Peppa and was completely into it. By the time my brother caught up with Quinn, we had reached the point where it was going to be hard to drag Beth away from Peppa. The talked for a while, Beth showed off her Peppa shirt, talked about how she would be watching Peppa later, gave lots of hugs and high-fives. It really ended up being a huge win, and hopefully a turning point for all costumed characters.
For the record, Quinn was considerably less excited about Peppa. Apparently she'll have to try again in a couple years.
The rest of the game was just a blast. The crowd was awfully sparse, clearly the weather had scared off most of the fans. Even so, the atmosphere was great, and the sparse crowd actually made it easier with Beth, as she could explore the stadium much easier and got to go watch a good chunk of the game right at the wall next to the Norfolk bullpen. The weather actually turned out to be perfect. Just the slightest bit of that post-storm chill on the breezy air and nothing but clear skies while we were actually in the stadium. The game itself went along pretty quick and offered some drama. Norfolk pulled ahead with a three run homer, which Indy countered to tie with their own three-run blast, before Norfolk finally put things away with a big inning late.
All of this is a very long-winded way to say that baseball, current warts and all, is still just the perfect summer sport. If baseball is too slow for you to watch on TV, that's a fair enough argument to make. Not one I would defend, but everybody has their tastes. To not enjoy the game in the stadium, though? That is absolutely nuts.
Even if you aren't a baseball fan, I don't see how you can't enjoy the stadium. Baseball gives enough breathing room there is time to catch up with those around you while you take in the sun and the scenery. I don't believe it is an accident that baseball stadiums tend to not only have the most scenic views as the outfield opens into whatever city they happen to be located in, but also some of the most interesting architecture as well. I also feel like baseball as a whole puts much more thought and effort into the stadium food and drink than all the other sports. When Chopped had their sports episode, I don't think it was an accident they picked the head chefs at four different baseball stadiums.*
*For the record, in order of placing, the chefs came from the Reds (James Major), Rangers (Chris Vazquez), Orioles (Josh Distenfeld), and Cardinals (Jessica Helms). In a bit of added drama, the Cardinals' chef used to work for the Reds' chef, if memory serves. She didn't come particularly close to knocking off her mentor, though.
So, I know I've made this plea, but let me make it again. You don't have to break the bank buying tickets to a big league game, although MLB does a good job at keeping tickets relatively affordable. But, for even less, there is very likely to be a minor league park near you for even less money and an even more family-friendly atmosphere. You really can't go wrong, and your soul will thank you, too.
I'd been meaning to write this post for a while,* but I feel like I got a bit of a sign this morning that it was time for me to get serious about it. Kristine is already gone for work by the time my alarm goes off, which means I'm the one to get Beth up and ready to go in the morning. This morning, just as soon as she woke up, she asked me if I wanted to know what she dreamed about. When I said yes, she told me "How much I love Mommy."
*You can take a wild guess since when.
It wasn't any big secret, of course. It's obvious Beth loves her mom. About as obvious as it is to see where she gets her looks from. I don't really know how Kristine would rate herself as a mother, but as somebody with a front row ticket to watch it, she does a very good job of it. Beth is very lucky to have Kristine as her mother. Beth is only three right now, of course. We haven't gotten to those years when children and parents just naturally butt heads and say regrettable things yet. Something to look forward to, I guess. But, at least so far, Beth has gotten a pretty good draw in the motherhood department.
I've come to realize, as I've gotten older and become more familiar with different families, that not everybody gets so lucky when it comes to moms. I did pretty well, though. I think she raised a pair of pretty good boys, and I think most of the kids she took a maternal role for would have nice things to say about her, too.
If I were going to have anything negative to say here, it would be at myself. I've never been very good at understanding how to value myself and seeing myself through another pair of eyes. By the time we were in high school, my brother and I were pretty well left to our own devices. We were given quite a bit of freedom, and we were responsible enough not to screw it up. That meant a lot of time out of the house, which I'm sure was rough on my mom, especially given our changing family dynamics at the time. Her time was already prematurely limited with us during a time when she was just starting to have to grapple with the idea of letting us go anyway. I didn't really understand that at the time. I was just me, nothing all that special to get excited about, you know? Since Beth was born, though, I've come to a better understanding. I assume I'll come to an even deeper understanding once she gets a little older.
There's something else I've come to understand about moms as I've gotten older and gotten to peek behind the curtain a bit. There is an awful lot of doubt and regret there. I can't speak for every situation of course, but I feel pretty confident in saying, for the vast majority of it, there is no reason for it. Are there things that could have been said, or left unsaid? Things that could have been marginally better or differently? Oh, probably. Nobody's perfect. But, would it really change that much? I doubt it.
I've heard a lot of these sorts of laments over the last several years, and at the end of day, all I can say is it's okay. As a kid, we aren't analyzing things that deeply. Kids are pretty good at taking things as they come. Most of what I can tell you from being a kid is that I had the things I needed and a big chunk of the things I wanted. I had support to attempt the things I wanted to do and the space to see those things succeed or fail on my own, so I would learn the lessons I needed to learn. And when it did come time for me to go out and start really living on my own, I was prepared* for what was ahead and had the tools to deal with what life threw at me. At the end of the day, what more could I have asked for?
*As much as anybody really could be, anyway.
One of these days there will come a time when all I'll left of my mom are memories and maybe some glass paperweights. I am sure I will not be prepared for that day, and I'll be the one left with regrets. Too much time being preoccupied with other things in life, too much time trying to establish my own independence, whether it was ever questioned or not. The same sort of regrets I'm sure most people have upon losing a parent, I'd imagine. I've been lucky enough not to know it first-hand. And those regrets will have various amounts of grounding to them, just as the motherly regrets I've heard. I'm going to try not to dwell on those now, and I'll try not to dwell on them then, either. Instead, I'll try my best to remember what was and appreciate what I had. There is more than enough there to be happy about.
So, belated, perhaps, but a happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there. I'm sure most all of you would say that you love your children more than they know. What you might not realize, though, is most of your children would say the same thing about you.
This past Friday, my sister-in-law, Katelyn, finished her Purdue career. She's officially an alumna of the Polytechnic Institute with a degree in Organizational Leadership. And she's available for hire, so if you've got an opening, give her a shout!
I say she's my sister-in-law, and legally speaking, that's true. But, that hardly feels like the right term. If I'm doing my math right, she was five years old when I met her, just getting ready to start school. So it isn't a stretch to say I've watched her grow up, and I've literally watched her entire academic career. I didn't have any sisters growing up, so Katelyn is probably the closest thing I have to that. It's a bit of an odd mix, at least from my side. She's almost exactly ten years younger than me, so while I definitely consider her more of a friend and peer now, it wasn't always the case. Not that it was ever bad, but of course our relationship has grown and matured as she has. She has grown into a very fine woman who I have no doubt will find success in whatever she is called to do.
I assume it's a natural reaction, but it got me thinking about my own graduation and those first years out of school. I graduated from Wabash on Mother's Day in 2008. It was a wet, dreary day, and it matched my mood a bit. I loved Wabash, I loved my time there, and I wasn't really ready to say goodbye to all the guys I had spent the last four years with. Still, it was an accomplishment.
Normally, Wabash has their commencement outdoors on the mall, but the weather wasn't going to permit that for me, so I had to finish my career as a Wabash student and become an alumnus in Chadwick Court.* Which was fine, if a bit warm. But not quite the same dignified setting, you know? I mostly held it together that day right up until they had us turn around and find our moms in the crowd to honor them for Mother's Day and thank them for their support and love through our journeys. That one got me.
Crawfordsville lost power later that evening, and we ended up eating at Arni's because they were one of the few places with gas ovens and still cooking. Power turned back on right after somebody made a joke and (if memory serves) Andrew clapped as he laughed it, which led to a new round of laughter as we said if we'd known Crawfordsville was just a big Clapper, we'd done that a lot sooner.
*As it happened, Andrew also graduated in Chadwick. Everything was set up for an outdoor ceremony until about fifteen minutes before it was supposed to start when they told everyone to head to Chadwick, preferably quickly if they could. It was a bit of a madhouse of people. My dad and grandma ended up getting separated from the rest of us, but we all made it.
Katelyn didn't have to worry about that, as Purdue has all their graduation ceremonies in Elliott Hall regardless. For what it's worth, the day started off a bit chilly and grey, but it bloomed into a beautiful spring day by the time we were all eating before the proceedings. Their ceremony is also ticketed. I attended illegally on Friday evening. We had six tickets and seven people. I was told there were theoretically extra tickets available at Will Call if I got there early enough, so I stood in the line and when I got to the door and had no ticket to scan, I just told the ladies that I was headed to the Will Call window, and they motioned me along and kept scanning tickets. At that point, I decided I was in and they were going to have to throw me out if they didn't want me there, so I hooked up with the rest of group and didn't hear a peep about it.
Sorry if I disappointed you, Purdue.
Another thing Katelyn won't have to worry about is entering the workforce in 2008. You might remember that was right at the start of the worst American economy in recent memory. You don't have to look very far to find lots of stories about wages that will never be recovered by 2007-2009 graduates, and I can personally attest those early years out were a struggle. Go back and look at the early years of this blog. I was still in the heart of that struggle when I launched this space. I don't know that I really got out of it until I started working at Purdue.
While we can definitely have some pretty lengthy discussion over just how good and healthy the economy is today, I think everyone would agree that it is significantly better than it was back in 2008. So I'm hopeful that Katelyn will have a much smoother transition out of student life than I had. There are very few people I would wish that on, and Katelyn is most definitely not one of those people. I can honestly say she is one of my favorite people in the whole world. Whatever job she's looking to do, I hope she lands it and nails it.
Or, you know, there's always marrying rich and popping out babies. I hear she's open to that, too.
So, congrats again, Katelyn. I am glad your dream came true, even after having to take an initial redirect through Ivy Tech. I'm so happy to see the person you have grown into and the aunt you have been to Beth. Here in about twenty years, I'll be just as happy to see you standing with Beth when she is in her own robes about to walk across the stage to get her degree.
This isn't exactly news to me, but it has certainly come to my attention lately that I am not a very good Chicago fan. Maybe some of that is to be expected, as I don't actually live in Chicago. It's always been my personal policy to support Indiana teams first, and then branch out to Chicago when Indianapolis can't provide it. I don't know that Indianapolis, in my lifetime, has ever been a serious contender for an NHL team,* and that certainly won't change any time soon now that the NHL has expanded to 32 teams. There is more of a chance with MLB, but I would imagine there are other, more westward markets baseball would explore before giving Victory Field an upgrade to the bigs.
*That was not always the case.
It's something I've thought about, though. If Indianapolis did get the other Big 4 sports, would I change my allegiance? I think it would be relatively easy for me in hockey. Like a huge chunk of Chicago and the surrounding area, I discovered/rediscovered the Blackhawks during the flurry of Cups at the start of the decade. I've kept up on the Blackhawks and I watch all the games. But if Indianapolis had an NHL team? I don't think it would be all that hard for me to switch it up. In baseball, the Cubs would be a more difficult habit for me to drop, but even then, I think I could do it. My Indiana roots just run too deep not to. I'd hope it was a National League team, but I think I would make due with an American League team if I had to.
I think part of the reason my Chicago-fanness is not quite so deeply ingrained in me is my family ties to Missouri. I think most of my dad's side considers Dexter, MO, to still be Home Base, so to speak. If you aren't familiar with Dexter (which I wouldn't expect most of America to be), it is way down, almost in the bootheel of Missouri. Which means it is a whole lot closer to St. Louis than it is to Chicago.
That means my dad, as I'm sure I've mentioned before, is a Cardinals fan, and my brother followed in his footsteps. When hockey came to our generation's attention, my brother gravitated towards Pittsburgh as his team, which remains the case to this day. I assume it was just the players they had at the time and all those Cups in the '90's. He's stuck with them, though, through thick and thin. For his second team, though, it has steadfastly been the St. Louis Blues, I am pretty sure because of the family connection there.
I'll be honest. When I became a free agent hockey fan, I tried to become a Blues fan. I really did. I wanted to like a St. Louis team because of the family connection there. But the Blackhawks won out. Their playoff games felt bigger, the crowd more raucous, and the roster was just unbelievably likable. Some of that core is still there, like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Duncan Keith. It just couldn't fight it, and I just accepted that I was going to be a Blackhawks fan, which also made it easy with my Cubs fandom.
Because of my history, though, I'm not so tough on St. Louis teams as a lot of Chicago fans. Generally speaking, the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry is pretty easy going. I've been in both Wrigley and Busch for those games, and the crowd was jovial enough. It's definitely still a rivalry, and those are games you absolutely want to win. But it isn't nearly as nasty as most rivalries. I'm sure a lot of that has to do with the historic achievements of the Cubs against the Cardinals. When each team won their first World Series of my lifetime, the Cardinals broke a 24-year drought. The Cubs broke a 108-year drought. That, I think, speaks for itself.
The Blues and Blackhawks rivalry is more nasty. Check out the team's respective Reddit groups and even just listen to the crowds in these games. It might not be as well known as Cubs-Cards, but just Chicago vs. St. Louis in generates quite a bit of heat. And I just can't get behind it.
The Blue Jackets bandwagon took me as far as it could go this year, and that was a fun ride. St. Louis, thanks to local kid Patrick Maroon, is four wins away from its first serious berth in the Finals.* There's a lot of bitterness with Blackhawks fans, but not me. I'm all for it. I would love to see the Blues go get a Cup.
*The Blues were in the finals the first three years of their existence, but that was just a fluke of scheduling. The East was all the Original Six teams, and the West was all the expansion teams. The Blues were treated like you would expect a new expansion franchise to be treated in the Finals each year. (Las Vegas excepted, because they did not really get treated like an expansion team to begin with.)
I also can't stress to you just how mind-blowing that would be. When Andrew and I were in St. Louis in January, that Blues team might have been the worst NHL team I had ever watched. The Penguins treated them like a high school team. It was a bit cringey to see, and the Blues were, I think, in last place in the entire NHL. Now, not only are they in the Conference Finals, there is a pretty good chance they'll have home ice.* Worst-to-first is a really good storyline going from one season to the next, but to do it all in half a season? That's got to be a historic achievement, especially in the age of 30-some teams.
*Not that the Blues have been very good at home in these playoffs, but still. Vegas has San Jose as the favorite, but it is not at all overwhelming. As of this writing, it looks like San Jose is just -140.
So, yes. I definitely still claim the Blackhawks has my team, but consider me pro-Blues all way. If that makes me a fan, so be it. I was always happy to see the Cardinals win the World Series, too, and the Cubs still seem happy enough to have me around.
For the record, this is the first post written in the new format. I thought it would be tough for me to get used to this look after so long with the old green template, but I guess I've taken a long enough hiatus. I'm pretty happy with how this turned out. This is a much more breathable format, much cleaner looking. I think we can all be pretty happy with it. On a related note, I also learned the custom search had broken sometime during the hiatus. That has been fixed now as well.
Now, onto today's business. You have likely heard about what happened at the Kentucky Derby this year. During the actual race, Maximum Security led the race wire-to-wire, and NBC did their customary immediate ride-up interview with the jockey, everybody connected to the horse was ecstatic, and everything just seemed to be pretty routine. Luis Saez, Maximum Security's jockey, did drop a hint right away without any prompting that his horse did not exactly stay on line, mentioning the crowd spooked his "baby" of a horse at one point. And it was right about this time NBC informed us of the objection.
Now, I'm not a horse racing expert by any means. I haven't actually been to the horsetrack in several years at this point. But I have spent a decent number of nights at the track. I can confirm that objections happen all the time. After giving it some thought, it really is pretty shocking this doesn't happen pretty routinely in the Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown races in general. Typically, the loudspeaker just tells everyone to hold their tickets, and after a few minutes, maybe ten at most, the results go official, almost always unchanged and everybody can cash their tickets or groan, whichever is more appropriate.* Every now and then, though, a horse does get DQ'd. It's certainly not often, but rules and rules and everybody understands that.
*I'm definitely normally on the "groan" side of this. As much as I like betting on the horses, I'm not much good at it.
Now, in this particular instance, we have all seen the replays a hundred times by now, I'm sure. During the race and even on the first few replays, I saw maybe a little bit of bumping, but that's just going to happen when you've got almost 20 horses fighting for the same spot. On such a sloppy track, it was going to be unlikely one horse was going to really pull hard away from the pack until the very end. Maximum Security came closest to it. You can see the picture above which horse is noticeably cleaner than the rest.
But then the replays didn't stop. We kept seeing it over and over, and we got a better sense of what we were seeing. The more it went on, and the more we kept seeing that "over the shoulder" angle, we could start to see just how close everyone was to, and I think this the scientific term, a total fucking disaster. When Maximum Security came out of his line, you can really start to see War of Will's chest pressing right up agains Maximum Security's rear. This causes War of Will to throw on the breaks, causing other horses around him to break like a wave over a particularly stubborn rock. Did it bother Country House all that much? No, but nobody was claiming that. He was just in the right position at the right time. It absolutely affected the rest of the field, and if War of Will and Maximum Security had gotten their legs tangled,* we might have been looking at a bloodbath on national network TV.
*And, again, I can't impress this enough. It only seems to be through an act of God that didn't happen.
If either horse falls there, on that position on the track in crowded a turn, who knows what other horses and jockeys end up going down with them or trampled or God knows what else. It was horrifying enough to see what happened to Barbaro. This could have been just so much worse.
I don't even the race steward there. She had such impossible pressure on her shoulders, pressure I'm sure she never thought would be on her, because when was the last time you remember an objection at the Derby? But here we were. Not only would millions and millions of dollars shift hands based on her decision, which seems like pressure enough. But remember, too, Maximum Security was the favorite. Preserving his win likely preserves a chance at a Triple Crown this year. Handing the win to Country House, quite the longshot at 65-1 at post, most likely dooms that effort and turns the whole conversation about the Triple Crown this year into the sort of controversy no sport really wants to deal with.
But God bless Barbara Borden and her people. They went with the what rule says, not with what would be easy or popular. Gary West, Maximum Security's owner, might be understandably upset and looking for an appeal,* but they got this one right. It's nice to see some good, tough, even-handed leadership nowadays. It's just a shame we have to look to the horsetrack to get it.
*Which does not look likely.
Speaking of, nobody asked Donald Trump to weigh in, but of course he did. And he didn't like it. Somehow, this is PC culture run amok and robbed the best horse of the win. Maybe somebody should explain to him that, when you break the rules to win, even unintentionally, it means you don't get to call yourself the best horse. I wonder why he might have taken that DQ personally?
Anyway, Gary West says he's taking his ball and going home. Maximum Security won't run again in the Preakness, and that's a shame. The best way for him to prove he really is the class of these horses is to get back out there and win clean. But I guess you don't get to be a billionaire and get into high profile horse racing without and ego. Egos of that size, though, tend to bruise easily, and West took quite the hit. Maybe he'll get over this in a week and do the right thing and let the horse run for redemption, but I'm not counting on it.
I don't know if any major league commissioner is exactly popular, but Gary Bettman might be the most hated. And that's definitely saying something. He was recently back in the news again, as the Canadian government has apparently taken it upon itself to start looking at head injuries in hockey.
I haven't listened to the hearing myself,* but I feel like I have read enough summaries to get a good feel for how things went down. First of all, let me say there is at least one thing Bettman got absolutely right: it's going to be absolutely impossible to take all hits ot head out of the game. There is too much incidental contact to make such a rule enforceable, and it would change hockey into a completely different game. That part is absolutely correct, and it is just as true that there is no completely safe way to tackle in football. Essentially, in the real world, sometimes shit's just gonna happen. Sorry.
*Admittedly, I haven't really even looked. It might be easily found, I legitimately don't know.
And here's where things start to go sideways. Instead of stating that these are just the risks of the game, the same way you accept the risk of a car accident if you choose to drive or something similar, Bettman instead launches into how nobody has proven a link to hockey and CTE and how much safer hockey is than football. This was just an absolutely terrible path to take.
Let's the take the second argument first. For one, I don't even know that I buy that argument on the surface. Football probably has more routine contact, and certainly more head-to-head type contact than hockey. That much is plain to see just from watching the games. But hockey players still get hit and jostled with some authority very routinely, and these guys are playing an 82 game season at minimum. There could be up to an additional 28 games if all four playoff rounds went the distance. That's unlikely, of course, but it is most definitely a reasonable outcome. By my history-major math, that's potentially asking hockey players to play 110 games of a pretty rough and tumble sport. By contrast, the NFL plays 16 games, with maybe four playoff games, bringing the maximum total to 20. We know that CTE and other similar head injuries build with repetitive trauma. Which schedule do you think might build trauma faster? 110 games or 20 games?
Frankly, I think the whole point is pretty moot anyway. That whole argument isn't really a meaningful distinction. Whether hockey or football is more "dangerous" is not ultimately very important. Each sport needs to stand on its own terms. And, yes, to very bluntly answer the first argument, of course there is evidence to suggest hockey players struggle with CTE. Just as the NFL's case, the evidence is there and the logic is just obvious.
Instead of instinctively denying those allegations and trying to set up a fight, it would be so much better for the league to just come right out and say it. If you are going to play hockey, especially at a high level, there is just going to be a chance for all sorts of injuries, including head injuries. The league can get better about diagnosing them, I'm sure, and better about treating and resting players who might experience it. I don't have those policies off the top of my head. My guess is they're probably decent, but there is still work to be done. Like I recently said (or at least seriously inferred), the vast majority of people (and certainly of fans) can accept that there are risks to these games. When you're doing things as physically demanding as playing professional sports at the highest levels and asking human bodies to repeatedly perform tasks the body wasn't necessarily built to do over and over, things are going to break. You see it even in non-contact sports. Baseball pitchers are going to tear the tendons in their arms. Hitters are going to tear obliques as they twist. Ankles and knees of basketball players are going to break in all sorts of ways. It happens. Head injuries are just going to happen. I'm really only speaking for myself here, but I think if you asked around, you would find this is a pretty widespread opinion. Nobody is really asking for football or hockey to change the games themselves all that much. All anybody is really asking is for the leagues to acknowledge the issue and just do better about taking care of the aftermath. Anything that can be done to prevent it is good, of course, but just simply giving ex-players more resources to manage and current players more time to recover would go a lot longer in most minds than tinkering with the nuts and bolts of the rules.
All of this to say, given what we know of Gary Bettman and powerful people in general, there is no way in hell any of this is going to be that easy.
If you are not a Cubs fan, or maybe even if you are, you might be forgiven if you have forgotten about Addison Russell. He has not played for the Cubs since September 20, 2018, and has (quite intentionally, I'm sure) not exactly been a focal point for the Cubs leading up to that point.
If you have forgotten, Addison Russell was accused of abusing his then-wife and having an affair by a third party by "a friend." At first, his wife would not cooperate or legitimize any of these accusations to anybody official, which left Russell, the Cubs, and MLB in a really awkward spot. It looked bad to have Russell playing, but on the other hand, they couldn't just suspend him on some third-party accusation, especially when the alleged abused spouse was not even backing up the claims. Eventually, though, she did start cooperating with MLB and their investigation and backed up those claims, leading to the separation and divorce between her and Russell.
Addy has just gotten back to being able to play baseball, getting back to Major League shape in Iowa (AAA). Apparently, even after his suspension is officially over, he is going to stay in Iowa for the time being. His Wikipedia page is pretty constantly vandalized to reference these abuse allegations. It really makes me think about how we deal with these sorts of actions and letting these people ply their (very lucrative, admittedly) trade.
The Cubs might be a bit lucky here. There are baseball reasons not to worry about rushing Russell back to the bigs. Javy Baez has become a mainstay in the "best defensive player in the league" conversation while also learning to hit more consistently (and do it with power). I don't think you can move him off shortstop again. The Cubs already went out and paid Daniel Descalso to fill the hole at second base, and he's been fine. Not spectacular by any means, but fine. David Bote's bat has been hot enough that I wouldn't be shocked to see him show up at second base, or if Kris Bryant logged some time there to get Bote in the lineup. And, of course, Ben Zobrist can fill any hole you can find on the diamond. So, just in baseball terms, Russell might be superfluous anyway.
But, this isn't really a baseball story, is it? Should we allow somebody with this sort of record to even be in the position to be a professional athlete? I was not shy about saying Ray Rice shouldn't in the NFL after what he did, and what Kareem Hunt did seems to be on par with that. I wonder, though, if we would judge them as harshly if there were no video. Like, say, in this case. As far as I'm aware, there's no visceral documentation of what Addison Russell did. If we saw him knocking a woman out, we might all feel differently. Should that make a difference? I think we can all say no, it shouldn't make a difference. I think I'm forced to admit, practically speaking, for most of us, it does.
But then there's the other side of this. What sort of space do we give people to grow and change? Some of the videos we've seen are really awful. No argument here. But, on the other hand, how many of us would look irredeemable if our worst, darkest moments happened to be caught on film? How many of us would suddenly be monsters based on one bad moment, or something taken too far without context? Think about your worst moment. Really put it in context in your life. You can probably start explaining some of it away, can't you? It doesn't excuse it, and I'm sure you're not asking anybody to excuse you. But maybe you were a product of how you were raised, so you didn't know a better way to act or didn't have the emotional tools to deal with the situation in front of you until later in life. Maybe there was some circumstance that made your action or decision feel necessary in the moment but turned out not to be true later. Nobody else can answer the exact details for your specific moment other than you, but I think that's a very common thing. We all have things we are not proud of, but I think nearly all of us can attach a "but. . ." to it.
We have a lot of access to athletes and celebrities these days, but even now, we still don't know these people as, well, people. We might have heard stories of their upbringings and seen their antics on the field or PR stunts. But we weren't there. We haven't really been in their shoes, to see what they have really been exposed to and how they have been shaped and molded over the years. And really, at the end of the day, most of these people aren't in a position to affect our day-to-day lives. I'm talking about ballplayers here.*
*The standard feels a bit different for politicians. When you get to be the one writing or enforcing the laws we live by, it's much more important to be beyond reproach.
So, as I've given this some more thought, I guess I lean towards forgiveness. Some of these actions are, again, heinous. The ones we have seen on video are just breathtakingly evil. I'm not at all trying to excuse it. But, I was always taught that God's grace is infinite, and everyone is redeemable if they still draw breath. Now, it isn't automatic. This kind of forgiveness needs to be sought after and backed up by changed action. But if God is able to forgive anyone, then it isn't our place to decide who might be irredeemable.
That's a position I try to take on the death penalty as well, for whatever that's worth. And I will tell you that is not always an easy place to maintain. I don't generally mix religion and law, because the United States is explicitly not a Christian nation, but when it comes to deciding life and death, it's the only real guiding principle I can come up with. We're forced to use the tools we have, I guess.
Anyway. We may never see Addison Russell in a Cubs jersey again. He may not see an MLB stadium again. I don't know. Even if he does make it back, it's going to be uncomfortable rooting for him. And I get it. I'll be uncomfortable, too. But I'll give him a shot to show us that he's grown and that he's learned. The same with Kareem Hunt, when (and it does look like a "when") he comes back. I'm not going to excuse what happened, I'm not going to forget what happened. But we all deserve at least one shot at redemption.