Entries from September 2003 ↓

Baseball’s post season begins

The football Giants had a bye in week 4, so even though I was watching the games, I really didn’t care all that much. I saw their NFC East rivals smack the AFC East around pretty easily, so when we get our chance next week against the Dolphins, I hope the trend continues. But until then, it’s time to talk baseball.

Dontrelle Willis.jpg

Now I must confess I haven’t followed the game as closely as I have in past years. As a Mets fan, my season ended around May. But I did pay attention to the phenom known as rookie pitcher Dontrelle Willis down in Florida, the batting exploits of Albert Pujols in St. Louis, the surprising streaks of such perennial bottom feeders as the Kansas City Royals, Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago White Sox. The fight for playoff spots went right down to the final week.

So now there are eight, who will play the divisional series starting this week, before the league championship series, and ultimately the World Series sometime around late October. In the American League, the Minnesota Twins face the New York Yankees, while the Boston Red Sox will play the Oakland Athletics. Over in the National League, the surprising Florida Marlins play the San Francisco Giants, while the equally surprising Chicago Cubs will face the Atlanta Braves.

Because I haven’t followed the game that closely this year , my “predictions” will be based more on who I like than any statistical evidence. But because anything can happen in a short series, they’re as good as anybody else’s.

Let me get this out of the way. If the Cubs face the Red Sox for the World Series, nobody will win. Two totally hapless franchises, the latter hasn’t won a W.S. since World War I, the former since 1908. Cubs fans have been stoic throughout this long drought, while Bostonians are annoying whiners. I hope they never win the championship so those mutton heads can keep crying in their beer.

But the Cubs are good this year, and have good pitching which counts in post season. The Braves had the best regular season of any team in the playoffs, but that hardly means anything now. And considering their annual post season collapse over the last dozen years, don’t be surprised if they falter again. Cubs in 6 games.

I could be very happy if the San Francisco Giants won the whole thing this year. I’ve been a closet Giants fan since I was a kid rooting for Willie Mays. They got close last year, and with a managerial change and some new faces, they managed to get back again to post season. Florida is young and hungry, but I don’t think they’re ready for this…yet. Giants in 5.

The Yankees have the Twins’ number this year, winning all of their head to head matchups. New York is older though and their bullpen has been suspect at times. But they also have a level of veteran experience unmatched by any of the other teams. And there is that expectation the world’s most successful sports franchise has every year. Yankees in four.

The Red Sox and A’s are playing good ball. Both have good pitching and hitting. The Sox are a scrappy bunch that can manufacture runs. But they’re still the Boston Red Sox, and as sure as the sun rises in the east, they will find a way to self destruct, leaving their pathetic fans to whine even louder. Athletics in 5.

I’ll get back to my first love, football, in a few days, but for now, play ball!

In Memoriam…

To know where you’re going, you must know where you’ve been. All of us have had someone come before us. Despite what may be perceived as tough times we are living now, in truth the world was a far more difficult place, especially for Black women with dreams and ambition.

A tennis pioneer, and by default, national hero to many by virtue of her accomplishments, Althea Gibson, passed away. She was 76.

More than a half century ago, she was the first Black woman to compete at national and international tennis championships, eventually winning Wimbledon, U.S. and French Open titles in the late 1950′s. The female Jackie Robinson, if you will.

The New York Times has a far better review of her life than I could ever write. Let me simply add that while she has long been out of the limelight, generations of Black adults will hold a special place for her in our memories.

In Love and War

Events out of the Middle East have dominated the news for most of the past few years. Bush’s phony and costly war for oil in Iraq, the unproductive search for Osama Bin Laden, and the never ending fight for a Palestinian homeland, with Israeli occupation and suicide bombers getting daily coverage.

Similarly the fight for gay rights has caught national and international attention, with the Supreme Court decision striking down anti-sodomy laws, Canada legalizing same sex marriage, and that issue becoming a lightening rod for right-wing extremists in this country heading into next year’s presidential elections.

Interweaving Middle East war tensions with gay rights issues is a touching little film now making its U.S. theatrical premiere. Yossi & Jagger (2002) tells the story of two Israeli army soldiers, one a no-nonsense officer, the other his free spirited platoon leader, who carry on a secret love affair while patroling the Israeli-Lebanese border. While their clandestine relationship is the focus of the movie, it also highlights the universal need for escape from the everyday stress and boredom of military life.

In Israel, service is mandatory for every citizen, and young Jagger (Yehuda Levi), so nicknamed by his platoon members because of his rock star personality, can’t wait to get through his tour of duty and return to civilian life. He’d like nothing more than to have the career-minded Yossi (Ohad Knoller) leave the service to join him, and that becomes a point of contention between the two. This is the army, and machismo is not only expected but praised. Despite that difference, they are able to sneak moments together that reveal a tender side of each.

There is a casual fraternization that runs throughout the entire company, from the Colonel who is carrying on an affair of his own with a female subordinate, to another young woman, Yaeli, who secretly longs for Jagger unaware of his disinterest, to another young soldier with his own desires for Yaeli. The atmosphere seems more like a college dorm than a military base, indicative of the way mandatory service has interrupted these young lives. These people don’t really want to be here and demonstrate an intense fatigue from the on-going conflict. A scene of how they deal with stress just moments before going out on yet another raid further plays up the futility of their predicament.

Yossi & Jagger has received good reviews overseas, including from the Israeli military. The film, actually shot on digital video, clocks in at a little over an hour, so the story telling is concise. To some it may raise more issues than it resolves, but at its bittersweet ending, the question asked and answered is what price is paid when two people must hide their feelings.

POP QUIZ

Books under your desks. Writing utensils out. No peeking at your neighbor’s answers. Show all work.

1. What is your astrological sign? How are you most like its characteristics? How are you least like them?

2. Where did you grow up and how has that shaped and influenced who you are today?

3. What was your first job?

4. What was your best or most favorite job?

5. What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

6. The five items you can’t live without?

7. In my bedroom you’ll find:

8. Most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you on a date?

9. Fill in the blanks: ____ is sexy; ____ is sexier.

10. Where do you want to be in five years?

Pens down. Time to share your answers.

Answers

1. I’m a Capricorn. We are organized, methodical, level-headed, trustworthy and loyal. Where I differ, I am also an irreverent smart ass who is not nearly as serious as people think. I have a creative side that vies for equal time with any need for financial security. I am more socialist than capitalist.

2. I grew up in a small city in upstate New York, where please and thank you, sir and madam, were part of people’s vocabulary, where you treated total strangers with respect as you would want them to treat you, and where you knew if you screwed up it reflected poorly not just on you, but on your whole family. I’ve not forgotten any of that.

3. I worked at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum, the national historical site in Hyde Park, NY, as an archives aide, the summers after my senior year of high school and freshman year of college. I was an 18 year old with government security clearance, and I thought that was cool.

4. Actor. I spent a dozen years pursuing a career (and will still act if anyone asks). Income was always an adventure and struggle was my middle name, but I never had a dull or unpleasant day at the office.

5. “Show initiative.” Summer of 1980, I had a job with a struggling Black-owned magazine where we rarely got paid. The art director was this cool older brotha who reminded me of a jazz musician in his laid-backness. He told me never to wait for someone to tell me what to do next, but to show some initiative, figure out what needs doing, and do it.

6. My computer, my palm pilot, my eyeglasses, a kitchen, a tv set with cable.

7. In my bedroom you’ll find lots of mess, but also reading material. Books I start and keep meaning to finish, a pile of CDs, and some old porn I barely look at any more.

8. I got stood up, twice. First time, I waited an hour which is highly unusual. We spoke later, I gave him a second chance, and he stood me up again. Embarrassing or just stupid?

9. Intelligence is sexy; intelligence and a great personality is sexier.

10. In my own house, gainfully self-employed, someplace other than New York City. Possibly raising an adopted child or two.

Sex and Violence

Its officially fall, the days are getting shorter and soon the weather will start getting cooler. A long period of dreary cold and darkness lies ahead, from which well have little escape until next spring sometime.

Ironically, I hear friends talking about how its time to find a man, as if they were a seasonal purchase like snow tires or a fur coat. The purpose is the same however, to keep you warm and get you through the rough winter. If only it were that easy.

New York is a big city, with an increasing number of us living alone or identifying as single. That the population of singles seems to be growing is indicative of the fact that despite our best efforts, many of us are not coupling up, at least not for the long-term anyway. Nobodys keeping statistics on the dating practices of same-gender-loving men and women of color, but Im sure weve all got our own anecdotal evidence to share. In short, things are rough all over.

To be surrounded by people all dayat work, on the street, on the trainand yet have no one single person to call your own, can create feelings of isolation the depths of which our straight friends and family members may not fully grasp. Oh sure, there are clubs and bars to go to, but they often seem the first place people complain about when they talk of whats lacking in our social circles. Familiarity breeds contempt, and prolonged isolation can breed despair and frustration and a nagging sense of hopelessness. Who among us hasnt said or heard someone say recently, There arent any good men/women out there.

And yet the need to connect, on whatever level, remains. We are social creatures, meant to experience life in one anothers company. I was not meant to live alone, is more than a line from a Luther song, its a universal truth. But longer work schedules, relocation, and the absence of viable social support networks only add to our sense of detachment from one another. Yet the need to connect remains.

The Internet has leapt into the void by providing avenues for those seeking to fill social niches, but they too seem limited and have their pitfalls. The explosion in escort services and DL sex parties has been assisted greatly by their ability to advertise on the net. Websites matching clients for dating or booty calls are prolific. But has there been any noticeable increase in the quality of our relationships as a result? Or are we now cruising our parks and bath houses in cyberspace?

Im not one who believes an Internet chat room is an inherently better or worse place to meet a potential partner, it is simply a different way. Common sense would tell anyone to take precautions regardless of where they meet people, and not rush into anything without knowing whom they are with. Safe sex is not just about STDs. The Anti-Violence Project here in New York reports that 10 percent of all bias crimes are pick-up crimes. They see some 50-75 calls a year from people who met an attacker online.

Fall and winter do lie ahead, and it would be lovely to snuggle up next to someone warm and cozy every night. But the same challenges that face us during spring and summer still exist. Where can we meet someone with whom we can build a meaningful, long-lasting relationship, so that this near desperate search doesnt become an annual event.