Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Andrew 17 Years Later...

I had never encountered anything like it before or since. His wrath was pure hell. It sounded like a war zone out there, while we were safely bunkered in our house, Andrew pounded South Florida with its giant dick like we were a fresh virgin pussy.

See, I knew I could somehow turn the second worst natural disaster in American History and worst I’ve ever lived through into a giant double entendre, but I honestly think that hurricanes are named to provide these. It’s more fun to say that New Orleans was fucked by Katrina than it is to say New Orleans was decimated by a hurricane, it also makes it easier to find the parallel’s in relationships too. But the experience itself was not fun.

Yes, there’s such a thing as fun hurricanes. In 2005 while everyone’s focus was on the devastation in New Orleans, Miami actually got hit by two storms (Wilma and the aforementioned Katrina), And grazed by one more (Dennis). Wilma and Dennis I’ll admit were fun, it’s easy to make hurricanes fun when they’re category 3 or lower. Get friends together, get some alcohol, maybe some weed (if you smoke weed that is, I don’t but just putting it out there) play some music and just party till the storm ends or the power goes out, whichever comes first. Katrina wasn’t as fun because of the location I was at (dad’s house, he’s a bit more conservative) and because of the fact that the storm was really worse than the Miami Media had us believe it to be. (They said it was a category 1 when it came ashore, yet it didn’t feel like a category 1, and the damage I saw outside didn’t say category 1, however, it still wasn’t bad enough to stop MTV, who held the VMA’s only three days later.)

Andrew though, which ravaged the South Dade area 17 years ago today, was when I lost my hurricane cherry. Part of the reason why I can look back at Dennis, Katrina, and Wilma so fondly was because I was old enough to know and respect what hurricanes can do, I could see the sense of humor in them, and because by the time these storms came to us, we knew what we had to do to prepare. Hell preparing for hurricanes has become old hat down here. We know that at any time between June 1st and November 30th; even more so between August 1st and October 1st, whenever we see a tropical wave coming of the western coast of Africa, it’s time to get ready. See I know the science of hurricanes now, they’re necessities, they cool off the earth by releasing excess heat, and they take seeds of plants from Africa and move them to Florida, creating Mangroves, which are used as habitats for many of Florida’s diverse wildlife. God has a reason for everything. (Once again, Science and Religion CAN MIX!!! Don’t let anybody tell you differently! Science proves God, and even the best scientist will tell you, even if he’s atheist, that there are some things that science alone cannot explain.)

However, no one sees the good of hurricanes, and it’s pretty easy to ignore it when levies are bursting open in New Orleans, or houses are being flattened in Homestead and Florida City. The flip side of the coin is that sometimes, people do lose everything. Granted, in the case of Katrina as well as Andrew, the disaster was compounded by man-made human errors. We all know about the case with New Orleans, the city government’s continual procrastination in fortifying the levies, but no one talks about why Andrew really messed up South Florida the way it did anymore, it’s become a lost story, so to speak.

Because South Florida was growing so much, new developments sprung up like weeds in the late 80’s-early 90’s, mainly in South Dade. These houses were built quickly and efficiently, however, the houses that were built were built poorly, and code enforcement wasn’t as strict as it should’ve been. This lead to scenes like this one: listen to what the guy is saying, that was pretty much the sentiment, that the homes were death traps. Yet no one talks about it anymore. (BTW: Most of the older houses survived Andrew with flying colors, to the point where my mom would rather ride out a hurricane in an older house built pre-Andrew. To her, if it could survive Andrew, it could survive anything, which is probably true.)

Let me describe for you Miami, Fl on August 23rd, 1992. We were still a growing community, on the cusp of becoming an economic and trade center, a gateway to the Americas so to speak. New developments seemed to spring up where there was once nothing but swamp and forests. We had gotten out of the Cocaine Cowboys/Miami Vice era, and while crime was still bad, it was nowhere near the early-80’s levels that caused Time Magazine to put the city on the front page with the title “Miami, Paradise Lost.” The day before, I was supposed to go to Disney World following my last basketball game, I was looking forward to school starting the following Monday (I was entering the 3rd grade) and the Dolphins kicking off their season against the Patriots (September 6th was the original date of their home opener.) As the family had gone to Wal-Mart to prepare for our Disney Trip on our last week off/last minute back to school shopping, we were greeted by a full store (I know, Wal-Mart’s on a Saturday Afternoon have been and always will be full, but that’s not the point) BUT unlike most Saturday afternoon’s, they were purchasing hurricane supplies, extra water, canned goods, power tools, generators. It was then that it hit my parents, still together at the time and only 6 months away from an acrimonious split that would turn out to be for the best in the end because of the blessings it gave us, holy fucking shit, this storm is coming right at us.

We enjoyed the rest of the day as a family, even ate at Tony Roma’s and took in the Dolphins/Bucs pre-season game there, which was played under a cloud of uncertainty, after all, Andrew was being looked at as “The Big One” and as such, it was a good possibility that maybe, just maybe, it could be the last game ever played at the then-Joe Robbie Stadium. (I didn’t realize the scope of it now, but seriously, had the hurricane’s center only hit about 20 miles to the north, very easy to do since hurricanes tend to wobble as they travel, for all we know the Dolphins could’ve been that year in the same situation as the Saints were after Katrina. And by the way, they still play at Joe Robbie Stadium, only now it’s called LandShark Stadium.)

The next day, it really was a big blur. Every TV station carried wall to wall news coverage of the impending storm, each with their own interpretation of the events. While everyone remembers Bryan Norcross and his calm demeanor through it all on WTVJ, I still remember Rick “Twitter God” Sanchez on channel 7. The sky was falling according to him; it was the anti-Norcross. Since I was only 8 and couldn’t help out anyone, all I could do was watch TV to see what would happen. It was repetitive. 2pm update from the National Hurricane Center, press conference from the Dade County emergency management office or whatever its called, press conference from Gov. Lawton Chiles, news report from gas station of people filling up their tank as well as filling up their spare tanks, news report from Home Depot, news report from Publix, 3pm update. It was the same thing, over and over again. Then it was time to go to sleep, but not for Andrew.

Andrew did its damage late at night; honestly, I slept through most of it. Because of my age and sleeping through most of it, I couldn’t tell you about Bryan Norcross that night, how he pretty much talked South Florida through the worst thing to ever happen to it. And yes, normally I’d make a Dave Wannstedt joke here, but this is a serious part of the blog. I didn’t know what was going on outside, in fact, our house got out of it unscathed, despite the fact that we were in Kendall, one of the areas that received the brunt of the damage. It was only when we woke up that we saw how bad it really was. One house only 5 blocks away from us had its entire wall ripped off. Just 5 blocks away! Sunset drive, the street our townhouse complex was (still is in the case of my dad, who lives there to this day) was completely flooded. I saw signs toppled, power lines knocked down like nothing, trees that were there, gone! This was a lot for my 8 year old brain to really comprehend. All I was thinking was “When does school start” and of course, “What does this mean for the Dolphins?” (Why wonder about the Dolphins? They had a great team that year, and no, Andrew had nothing to do with what ended up happening, I’ll explain later.)

It wasn’t until we were fortunate to get our power back only 3 days later that I found out what had really happened down south. The footage here doesn’t quite do it any justice. Even 17 years later, it’s still heartbreaking to watch. I ended up living in this area during 2005, and we came up relatively unscathed. The areas have picked up beautifully since then, but the psychological fear whenever a storm is approaching is still there. Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Publix and Winn Dixie are always filled, sadly the shelves of water and non-perishables (and in the case of Home Depot and Wal-Mart, power tools and generators) are not. Plywood is bought in bulk like it’s going out of style, because shutters are way too expensive. We’ve made it through other storms since Andrew, but they’ve been brushed off like mosquitoes. Andrew though, well we still haven’t quite shaken it off.

Homestead almost looks brand new. Before Andrew their main focus was the Air Force Base. Things were looking up for the city, the Cleveland Indians were to conduct Spring Training in a brand new stadium there, and Homestead AFB was one of the main Air Force Bases in the Southeastern United States. Andrew however would destroy the stadium, and did enough damage to the base for the Government to consider closing it down completely before instead deciding to make it an Air Reserve Base.

The stadium, while it was rebuilt, wasn’t ready in time for the Indians though, who decided to move up to Winter Park in 1993 before moving back to Arizona last year. The stadium is now used for, well, I don’t even know what it’s used for, it doesn’t have a Wikipedia page for God’s sakes, everything has a Wikipedia page, our podcast is getting one soon!

The one benefit that Homestead received was the construction of a new race track that is the home of NASCAR’s Season Finale. It has been called one of the prettiest tracks in all of NASCAR and also hosts Indy Car races from time to time. The area has also undergone a building boom since Andrew due to the lack of available land throughout Miami-Dade County. It’s still a mostly rural community like it’s been for most of its life, but not as much as it’s been in the past. Still, it took nearly 10 years for the area to fully recover from Andrew’s wrath, and those that where there before and are still there to this day have not recovered psychologically from it.

The rest of Southern Miami-Dade County recovered quicker. Cutler Ridge mall, which was virtually destroyed by Andrew, was reborn as Southland Mall. It’s still kind of ghetto, but I like it. The only signs of Andrew you’ll see around there are psychological signs, and that’s only during Hurricane Season. Metro Zoo, which was destroyed during Andrew, has rebuilt, and while it’s not as much fun to go as it was when I was a kid (and a hell of a lot more expensive) that was probably bound to happen anyways.

Meanwhile, Broward County, mainly Miramar, Weston, and Pembroke Pines, grew thanks in part to those living in South Miami-Dade who lost their homes. Eleven insurance companies closed up shop and left Florida for good, some of them even went out of business outright.

On the sports side of things, which of course I’m known for, The Miami Dolphins ended up having to move their opening day game against the Patriots, but it was complicated. The original plan was to switch the dates, with the Dolphins opening up in New England and the Patriots closing it up in Miami. But due to a scheduling difficulty, the two teams instead had to take Week 1 as their bye week and make up that game on October 16th, their original bye week. They didn’t use that as an excuse though, as the Dolphins started 6-0, finishing with an 11-5 record, good enough for home field advantage in the playoffs. But their season came to an end at home as the Buffalo Bills defeated them 29-10 to move on to the Super Bowl where they would get destroyed by the Dallas Cowboys. (The Dolphins would’ve at least shown up for the game, the second time that had happened in the Marino era: Dolphins host the AFC Title game, lose to inferior opponent in said title game, watch inferior opponent lose Super Bowl, ugh, fucking Tom Olivadotti!)

The Heat (I know, I haven’t mentioned them all blog!) ended up hosting a charity game against Michael Jordan and the Bulls, a game that I had the pleasure of attending for free. Other than that, they were the pro sports team the least affected by the storm. Their season didn’t start until November anyways, so other than the Hurricane relief game against the Bulls, really not much to write about with them.

The Hurricanes probably had it the worst. Many players lost their homes in the storm. Yet the team ended up going undefeated during the regular season, including Wide Right II, before losing to Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, thanks in part to their cocky trash talking, and the efforts of one Mr. George Teague.

The Marlins didn’t exist until March of 1993. Obviously had they been around, it probably would’ve been a tremendous problem for them. But they weren’t, so we can move on, not that I would’ve cared.

In 17 years, South Florida has changed since Andrew; the biggest change was the fact that it accelerated the White Flight that had been occurring in South Florida. Andrew for many was the last straw. But it also showed a community that came together in the aftermath, people were nicer to each other, and were always willing to help out. Sometimes, that’s the positive part of this otherwise terrible disaster. Plus, building codes were beefed up and are now the toughest in the country, and as a whole, we’re better prepared to handle any situation that comes our way. Andrew might have been a tragedy, but in the long run, can actually be looked at as a good thing, plus, a badge of honor for anyone living in Miami at the time.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Faith and Sports, when athletes REALLY need your prayers

"What Michael Jr. is going [through] is just a bump on the road we call life, Please pray for him, he needs it." –Michael Beasley Sr., Father of Miami Heat F Michael Beasley.

Reading or hearing something like this is usually a black flag. No one wants to hear “pray for him, he needs it”, but then again, doesn’t everybody need to be prayed for at one point or another?

I usually don’t start my blog posts like this. Here I just jumped in, instead of giving you a proper introduction. But this was all the introduction I need. I figured that now I can go over a topic that is somewhat controversial to many, not to me, but too many out there, Faith and Sports.

Why did I use the whole Michael Beasley saga as a jumping off point for this? Well today, I find out that the man who’s supposed to be the future of my favorite basketball team, the man who at the very least is expected to be the Scottie to Wade’s Jordan, at most the team’s main guy if Wade leaves next year, has checked into rehab. For what, it’s not quite certain. I know last year he was fined because he, along with other Heat draft pick Mario Chalmers and Grizzlies’ PF Darrell Arthur had a little party in their hotel room during the NBA’s Rookie Symposium that might’ve involved the use of marijuana. We also know that Beasley was a happy go-lucky good, probably a little too happy go-lucky, you know the type of mood you’d expect from Tommy Chong or Snoop Dogg.

However, it seems to me like this is a problem that’s not so much drug related (I hate calling it that btw, I don’t think weed should even be illegal, too much scientific evidence points to it helping people more than hurting people, and it hasn’t killed a single person in history, as Katt Williams says, Marijuana is a plant that just so happens that when you set it on fire it will get you high. I don’t do it but I’m not against it, if that makes any sense to you) as it is with something else, something far worse that can and does lead to drug use: depression.

I’ve been following Be Easy on twitter since I first got a twitter account in April. Like with most celebrity tweets, whatever he’s said on there I’ve kind of just glossed over, no big deal. After all, I don’t look to Michael Beasley for anything profound; I just look for him to put up 20 points 10 rebounds a game next year and work on his defense. But what I didn’t notice were obvious cries for help he had posted on his account.

"Feelin like it's not worth livin!!!!!!! I'm done"

"I feel like the whole world is against me I can't win for losin"

Usually, if you receive a text like this from one of your best friends, your first reaction is to call him or her and see what’s going on, see what you can do to help. While I may follow Be Easy on Twitter, I don’t know him personally, there’s only one thing I can possibly do, pray for him. I've been through this situation in the past, I didn't need rehab, but I did need a wake up call, something to tell me that life truly was worth living, and my relationship with God only got stronger because of it. So you can say that I know what Michael Beasley is going through, and that makes it easier for me to identify with him. (Weird note, I was around the same age too.)

I usually don’t mix sports and prayer. I’m not the type of sports fan that prays for my team to win, really that’s just stupid and self-indulgent, and God has more important things to worry about than a game. I don’t pray for athletes to perform well, again, God has more important things to worry about. In a world with two conflicts going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, genocide in Darfur, communist dictatorships in North Korea, China, and Cuba, people dying every day in drug wars on the US-Mexico border, crime going on in every major American city at any time, the results of a game, just a silly game, is inconsequential. I don’t even pray when an athlete gets injured because, I know that he’ll have the best medical team available and he’ll be back to normal quicker than you could ever imagine.

But this is something different, this is about a 20 year old kid, one who probably grew up too fast and too soon, and has lived in the spotlight since he was 16-17 tearing it up in the DC area where high school hoops makes you a local (and now a day’s national) celebrity. We’ve seen this story play out before of the high school hoops phenom, some of them turn out very well (LeBron, KG, Kobe) sometimes not so well (Sebastian Telfair, or even worse, Eddie Griffin who committed suicide by deliberately ignoring a railroad sign while driving and allowing a train to hit his SUV) but this isn’t a story condemning the state of young basketball players, we’ve had plenty of those. But the question of too much too soon still applies here. Fact is some people handle these things differently from others. For every LeBron and Kobe, there are at least 10 Telfairs, 10 Griffins, and a few like Be Easy.

So while he may be an athlete and might not get much sympathy for his plight, he has my sympathy; and he has my prayers. Anyone who’s going through depression and feels the need to use alcohol or drugs as an escape from it is someone who needs help and prayers. I’d say this whether Beasley played for the Heat, the Pistons, or the Knicks. Hell if Tom Brady or Albert Pujols were going through this, I’d say the same thing. Hopefully in rehab, Be Easy can get his life back together and can shine like the star everyone expects him to become. He doesn’t even have to do this in a Heat uniform or even on the basketball court, but in his life. Beasley really seems like he’s a good kid. Yes I called him a kid, because he is still just a kid, 20 years old. I hope he gets help for him, and for his daughter, who is only three months old. As much as I’d love to see him as the next great power forward, he also has to be the next great father, both of which he’s more than capable of.

So I will be praying for Michael Beasley when I go to bed tonight, praying that he can overcome his issues, and that he may emerge from all of this as a stronger man, and this helps him grow up.

And selfishly, if it also improves his defense on the court, it will be a major bonus.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Poker Trash

Playing poker could be the most fun way to make money, or the most agonizing way to lose money. I don’t know if anyone has coined that phrase yet, but if no one has, I’m taking it. Poker is about 60% luck and 40% skill, or the other way around. The truth is it’s a crapshoot that you and only you can control. Figuring out how to control that crapshoot is half the battle, the other half is figuring out how to play the people at your table.

Fact is the other people at your table matter a whole lot more than you may think. Play with someone who knows what they’re doing, and if you know what you’re doing then odds are, you’ll have a good day. The problem is the people who DON’T know what they’re doing. They watch the WSOP on ESPN, or the WPT, or Poker After Dark, whatever it may be, and think “hey, I can play that!” because TV makes anything seem easier than it really is. Once upon a time, my freshman year in high school, I was that player. Call me a piggy-backer to the Chris Moneymaker generation, but through years of practice, whether its playing against roommates, friends, or complete strangers at the many places its available in Miami (Miccosukee, Miami Jai-alai, Dania Jai-alai, Seminole Hard Rock, any of the horse tracks or dog tracks), I think I’ve figured out what I have to do in order to win, what people to avoid playing against unless I have a very strong hand, and how to always come out on top.

The biggest problem I have, in all honesty, is the people that don’t know how to play. These guys have money to burn, how this money was gained is usually questionable (remember, I do live in Miami) but they have it. Because of this, they can just play with whatever hands they have, as compared to the more conservative play that I try to use that I base off knowing the rules of poker and what can beat what and how. Because of this, I’ve come up with a list of the people you want to avoid when playing poker, or as I call them, poker trash. Here’s how to spot them in the Miami area.

The rich preppy kid who you just KNOW plays with his trust fund money.

He’s rich, not self-made, hell, his high school GPA was a 1.4 and he only graduated because his dad made a gift out to the school (they’re ALWAYS private school kids, and before you start criticizing me, I’m a private school kid, Columbus High ’02) he didn’t even bother going to Miami-Dade because, well, he doesn’t have to, mommy and daddy are taking care of him. He drives a better car than you and is most likely the guy who will hit on your girlfriend when you leave her alone at a club.

This guy is most likely to call your raise or make a huge raise of his own with an Ace and anything. Meaning if he’s at your table and you have two kings and he calls you, you better pray that there’s no Ace coming. But it always comes, and you want to punch this guy in the face. Life sometimes just isn’t fair.

Note: When playing poker, I take on this persona based off of the private school experience, the fact that I knew guys like this in high school (didn’t everybody?) and the fact that it’s easy for me to pull off based off of my looks. Sometimes you HAVE to take on a persona while playing poker and I like this one because it bugs the crap out of everyone playing!

The wanna-be professional poker player

This guy always wears merchandise from one of the online poker websites as if he’s sponsored by them along with his sunglasses, even though he never got the memo that poker players wearing sunglasses peaked with the Chris Moneymaker era and since then we’ve all agreed that only douchebags do that. He always wants to give a running commentary on your game like he’s the second coming of Norman Chad, thinks he knows EVERYTHING, really knows nothing.

These are the guys that usually give you crap after you lose with your pair of Jacks because someone catches 2 pair with 2 crummy cards, like say, 5-8 off-suit. They swear that they’re so good, yet you’re absolutely sure that they’ve never won a WSOP bracelet, or even a Full Tilt Freeroll, hell, he’s probably never even won a MySpace poker tourney, and anyone who knows anything about poker can win one of those! It’s a pretty safe bet to say that they still live with their parents, and, surprise surprise; they don’t have a girlfriend in sight!

The whipped guy who’s wife comes to bug him every five minutes.

You’re at the tables, things are going well, but then someone can’t make a decision on whether to check, raise, or fold, not because of indecisiveness, but because his wife/girlfriend feels the need to come by to ask for money or whatever. He’s not really someone I hate, I actually feel sorry for the dude. Until I remember this cardinal rule: The girlfriends never ever ever (ever ever!) go to poker night. Just don’t bring her guys, tell her you want some alone time and that through poker, you might win something and she can go out and by something nice, and everything will be gravy!

The guy who gets too technical about the rules in poker and asks silly questions about a raise.

Usually this is the same guy we mentioned in number 2; with the only difference being that he’s using it to disrupt the rhythm of the table. I’m a firm believer that poker is as much about rhythm as it is about skill and luck. If you’re in a good rhythm, you want to continue, if you’re not, it might be wise to leave the table. Good rhythms come and go, but when you’re good and someone decides to disrupt your rhythm by questioning a move that you know very well is legal, then it’s just plain frustrating. Nothing is worse than waiting to play, and this dude knows it, and he’s usually not in the hand, by this time, so he’ll ask a question about it, making the game stop for upwards of 10 minutes at times to get things sorted out. Then, while you may win that game, odds are, you’re not winning another one the rest of the night, them are the breaks!

The guy who blames the dealer for his bad luck.

He went all in despite having 7-2 off suit with the flop showing two A’s and a 7. Of course the guy who put him all in had A-7 suited. The turn and the river came out and did nothing for either of them, but it wouldn’t have made a difference because the other guy had a full house on the flop. But yes, despite your stupidity, it’s the dealer’s fault you lost. Besides fucktard, 7-2 off is the Detroit Lions of hands, you’re never going to win betting on it unless you’re having one of those really lucky days.

6. The chick that’s still new to poker and tries to get the other guys at the table to help her out.

This rarely happens, after Nadia from American Pie became a poker pro, they put in the constitution a law that says that female poker players must look at least 20 years older than they actually are and must smoke 2 packs a day. But when it does happen, every guy on the table seems to go ga-ga. Why you may ask? Well, have you ever seen an old poker player? These are the guys that smoke Camels and continue to wear Member’s Only Jackets. Odds are they probably have a huge collection of porn. They haven’t seen a decent looking woman up close and in person since 1978, so when they see one, they start salivating, and it messes up their game. Younger guys though will try to help this chick out, even though she knows exactly what she’s doing, and it messes them up. These girls don’t bother me because, well, beautiful women don’t intimidate me (its kind of hard to do that when you’re best friend is as beautiful as she is, when that happens you feel like you can talk to any girl on the planet and have a chance, and it turns out, it’s true, all you need is swag, so thanks Diana for letting me borrow some swag) and because, I don’t go to play poker to meet chicks, I go to win money. Besides, usually these girls would rather be with the guy that won all the money then they guy that helped her out.

The middle-aged woman who can’t play to save her life.

It’s a good bet that this lady is a recent divorce’ so she doesn’t quite know what to do with her time. Meanwhile, her husband was an avid poker player, hell; it might be the reason why they got divorced to begin with. But she’s bored, so she figures she’ll try it out. Of course she’s hoping that its like that episode of The Simpsons where Homer buys Marge a Bowling Ball and Marge decides to use it and actually goes bowling and meets Jacques, whom she came really close to cheating on Homer with, but in reality, she’ll just go back home either broke, or with every guy at the table she was playing at hating her more than The Taliban, Nazi’s, and PeTA put together. She’s the type of woman who will hold on to crap and always catch it, even when you’re betting hard.

The guy who’s betting on the ponies while playing.

This is definitely on the list of “Top 10 Signs You Have a Gambling Problem” along side with “Do you have problems sleeping” and “are you stealing money from your family to pay off gambling debts. Look dude, you’re already gambling, do you REALLY need to put down money on the 5:00pm race at Gulfstream at the same time? What really irks me more is this is usually done when it’s his turn to decide, he’ll then look at his cards, for 2 seconds, call whatever raise it is, and goes back to work figuring out which horse to bet on. I really want to kill this guy.

The Guy Dressed Like a Drug Dealer.

He looks like he was an extra on the set of Scarface; he comes around with his flashy clothes, and his jailbird manners. He’ll bet on anything, he’ll call anything, he’s just a dumb player playing his cards because he can, he has the money to do it. He knocks you off when you have good cards because he ALWAYS does this pre-flop, just because he has an Ace or a King. In fact, he’ll go all in, but he has his re-buy in money out already because he knows he’s fucked, but he doesn’t care because he has more money to you. I love beating this guy just so that I can crack jokes like “you know what a hassa is? It’s a pig, that don’t fly straight!” Because, that’s what these guys remind me of.

The Drunken Belligerent guy who doesn’t know how to play.

Drunken gambling is just like Drunken Driving. You might not get hurt, but somebody will, so don’t do it! Usually these guys don’t know how to play poker, but always catch something. (I know, it’s a recurring theme here) If they don’t, it’s the dealer’s fault, and they get belligerent and might even throw their drink at the dealer. Yet somehow, they never get kicked out, and you see them there again the next week. I hate these guys but at the same time I love them, because when you’re on your A game, they’re the best, they’ll call anything you raise with anything, and then when they get all pissed off at you, you can just sit back, smile, and remember that, you’re the one with their chips, meaning they won’t have beer money for that night.

The sore loser poker player that writes 2100 word blogs about poker players they hate.

These guys are little wanna be’s that write out their feelings after a tough day at the tables, these guys…Hey, wait a minute, WHY I OUGHTTA…….

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Cubs vs. Marlins..

I’m writing about this just an hour after seeing Kevin Gregg give up back to back jacks to give the Marlins the victory. I wasn’t even surprised by it honestly, I expected it. The power of Kevin Gregg. I can’t wait for the BJ Ryan era to begin, even though he was so terrible with Toronto that they waived him. (Then again the same thing was said about Reed Johnson and that turned out well for us.) But this is about Saturday Night’s roller coaster ride of a game, pardon me for being late, but, I just felt the game had to be written about. So now the story begins.

At the beginning of the year, I stated that I didn’t want to go to see the Cubs when they came to town this year. I go every year they come to town, and it gets worse every year. When I first started making these trips years ago, you could expect attendance in the 30,000’s, with about 25,000 cheering for the Cubs. Dolphin/LandShark/Joe Robbie/Pro Player whatever the stadium’s name was that year was like Tropical Wrigley Field. This made the game enjoyable because even if the Cubs lost, it was mainly Cubs fans there, and the Marlins fans that were there were pretty lo key, happy about their team, just happy that they got a victory.

Then came 2003, Bartman, well not him, more Gonzalez, Alou losing his cool, Dusty not taking Prior out before the inning began but getting let off the hook by Bartman, then throwing the poor guy under the bus by not admitting to his mistake. What’s worse was, it was against the team that was my hometown team. At the beginning of the 2003 NLCS, I took the diplomatic approach, if the Marlins won, I’d cheer for them in the World Series, and I did because they were playing the Yankees and I hate the Yankees because of my feelings towards New York fans plus the whole Miami-New York sports rivalry that no one ever talks about even though it’s given us God knows how many memorable Dolphins-Jets tilts (Monday Night Miracle, Marino averaging something like 6 touchdowns and 450 yards against the Jets in the 80’s but since the Dolphins didn’t have a halfway decent defense the score always averaged something like 52-48 Jets) the Heat/Knicks rivalry which will be reinvigorated if Wade stays with the Heat and the Knicks find a way to stay competitive and sign LeBron next year, and of course the fact that the Mets always seem to fall apart down the stretch every season and the Marlins are involved in one way or another.

But that way of thinking went out the window in the years after. Suddenly, Marlins fans that didn’t go to games showed up for Cubs games. By appearances, it wasn’t so much to cheer the Marlins, but to rag on the Cubs. Hey, I’m all for that, as fans you can do this, just, they showed up in their Jeff Conine and Livan Hernandez jerseys, couldn’t name 10 players on the Marlins’ roster, still thinks Sammy Sosa is with the Cubs and Mark Prior is that night’s starting pitcher. (Fans, I can’t emphasize this enough, go to games, cheer your team, boo the opposition, but if you’re going to do this, know who you’re cheering, know who you’re booing.)

Of course, all some of these moron’s know is “1908”, “Billy Goat”, “Bartman”, and “Curse” (I’ve already discussed the whole “curse” thing, how the only curse is inept management, as well as the whole Bartman thing, not getting into it again, just go here and you’ll get a full explanation.) And, I’m sorry if I offend the Marlins fans I know, and many of them know what they’re talking about with baseball, its that, I get the feeling that they don’t go to every game and do this. Truth is, yeah, the Cubs haven’t won a championship in 100 years, but, the Astros, Padres, Rockies, Brewers and Nationals have never won World Series Championships, hell the Nationals have never been to the world series, and let’s face it, they’re the Nationals (Washington, First in War, First in Peace, but always last in the National League East). The Pirates have been the model for baseball ineptitude in the last 15 years, the Marlins have the Mets number (the same fans do know this and let the Mets know this, again, not against this, the Miami/New York thing), realistically, the Marlins fans can go after just about any team in the National League except for the Phillies and that’s only because the Phillies are defending Champions. But, they go after the Cubs. (I know it’s because a lot of my fellow Cubs fans like to get loud and obnoxious while drunk, sorry about that.)

Again, if these were knowledgeable baseball fans that did it in a respectful way, I’d be fine with it, but last season I pretty much said screw it. After the Cubs lost to the fish last year, as my dad and I were walking down the ramps at then Dolphin Stadium, some lady decked in full Marlins regalia kept walking in front of us holding up a 1908 sign with pictures of Bartman and a Billy Goat on it. No big deal if she’s holding it up during the game between innings and not blocking anyone’s view of the game, but a huge deal when you’re walking right in front of people on an incline and you’re screaming your guts out. White Sox fans wouldn’t even stoop that low. She wasn’t only being an obnoxious little bitch, but she was posing a safety hazard, we almost walked into her about three or four times.

During the game wasn’t much better, it wasn’t only the fans doing it, but the team itself on the Jumbotron. Every Cubs at bat was greeted with the sound of a Billy Goat. Even the team’s marketing campaign in the last few years has been very antagonistic towards fans of other teams. It’s clever yes, but also not too smart in the sense that usually, its fans of the other teams that are your bread and butter. Let’s be honest here Marlins fans, from 1998 until recently when the new ballpark started construction, you weren’t drawing fans unless the Mets, Yankees, Red Sox, or Cubs were coming to town. That’s undisputed; check out the attendance figures for those games in comparison to games against other teams, even other marquis teams like the Dodgers, Giants and Phillies. The last thing you want to do is antagonize other fan bases to the point where they say screw it; I’m not giving that team my money. I really felt that way, after all, they got their stadium, baseball is in Miami to stay, I don’t have to worry about this being the last time I get to see the Cubs in person until I make that move to Chicago that I’ve been contemplating since I was six, I don’t have to give this team my money anymore to see my team.

But my dad got tickets, and I just said screw it, I’m easy, I decided to go, hopefully things will have changed, hopefully the Marlins fans would be a bit less obnoxious, and, hopefully, the Cubs would win.

Well, the Marlins fans were a bit subdued from previous years, but I think the fact that the Cubs jumped out to a 6-0 lead early had something to do with that. At the time I texted my friend (and fellow Cubs fan from Illinois) Liz and told her “I haven’t had so much fun at a Cubs game in years” which was true. (Also true, it was the two year anniversary of my first Wrigley Field game, and yes, I keep track of crap like that. All baseball fans, regardless of the team they root for, must visit Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, and Dodger Stadium at least once in their life. Old Yankee Stadium was on that list but New Yankee Stadium isn’t because it was the history of Old Yankee Stadium that puts it at that level.) Well, that text was, in hindsight, a mistake. The game was NOT fun after that. The Marlins kept inching their way back, seriously, if this team had a halfway decent manager, they’d be on their way to October, especially with the shrewd Nick Johnson deal. One run an inning, it felt like one of those slow deaths. Then Marmol came into the game with the score at 6-5, one night after he had a huge meltdown, loaded the bases, yet got out of it. Top of the 9th, finally they get some runs. Theriot (the cubs MVP this year, I’m not arguing this) who didn’t even start the game, doubles home two runs to make the score 8-5. I’m feeling good as a Cubs fan, but, you can’t, not when your closer is Kevin Gregg, former Marlins closer, the guy that my cousin laughed when he heard the Cubs traded for him, a man whose nickname form this point on will be the walking blown save.

Gregg gets two quick outs, and then comes Ronny Paulino. Home run. 8-6. Then Coghlan came up, single. Nick Johnson comes up, double. Then up comes Emilio Bonafacio, now known as the much maligned Emilio Bonafacio. He was only batting 3rd because he replaced Hanley, who was injured by a Zambrano pitch earlier in the game. Triple! Incredible, tie game. Thankfully Jorge Cantu, who had been the Marlins’ most clutch hitter all season, grounded out. (He had a terrible game, 2 errors.) Tie game going into extras, I left to smoke a cigarette.

That was the best move, because then, Derrek Lee launched a homerun to start off the 10th. Had I not left, there’d be no home run, other Cubs fans around me believed the same thing about them. When you’re that swept up into fandom, you believe these things, no matter how stupid they may seem. I come back, see Ramirez is hit in the elbow and he’s dizzy. Great, just what we need, first we lost Zambrano after only 3 innings (the main reason why we blew a 6 run lead) due to back stiffness, now Aramis is out.

The bottom of the 10th I was bracing for the worst, but, the worst didn’t come to pass. Cubs got the win. Walking out, there were no obnoxious Marlins fans trying to trip us, no one talking crap. I would’ve loved to have seen the reaction of a bunch of Marlins fans leaving with a dejected look on their faces, trying to think of what to say. Didn’t come to pass. All I heard was a cacophony of “Go Cubs Go” from fellow Cubs fans, and a smattering of compliments of my Harry Carrey T-shirt that says “Cub Fan, Bud Man.” (Another note about that shirt, for every 3 compliments from fellow Cubs fans I’ve heard about the shirt, I get some people thinking that by Bud it means the other type of Bud that can alter you. It’s my favorite double entendre t-shirt, and it’s not even meant to be one!)

Of course, one day later, I saw Kevin Gregg blow another save, only this time it leads to a Cubs loss. They won the season series against the Marlins 4-3 thanks to a 3-1 series win at Wrigley in May, but lost this series 2-1. We’re a half game behind St. Louis, and still have had yet to be fully healthy. Yes, Kevin Gregg is probably going to be the man to lead us to choke down the stretch, and no, I don’t think they have it this year, they won’t win it all. But still an enjoyable game.

Other notes from this weekend’s series.

-Cubs/Marlins is a full rivalry. No one really knows how much these two teams are linked. It’s not just 03, but also the fact that many past/current Cubs and many past/current Marlins were at one time playing for the opposite team. In fact, just take a look at the link between the two teams and what players played for both.

Andre Dawson

Moises Alou

Antonio Alfonseca

Ryan Dempster

Derrek Lee

Juan Pierre

Matt Clement

Julian Tavarez

Kevin Gregg

Luis Gonzalez

Hee Sop Choi

Sergio Mitre

Lenny Harris

And I know I’m leaving off a few players from that list. Even more interesting is that some of the players that were in the Cubs system but became Marlins…

Dontrelle Willis (traded alongside Julian Tavarez for Matt Clement and Antonio Alfonseca)

Ricky Nolasco (traded alongside Sergio Mitre for Juan Pierre)

Again, I know I’m leaving some players off the list. Fact is the Marlins and Cubs front offices have a great relationship. Since 2002, there have been four trades between the two teams, and the Marlins have gotten the better of the deal in two of them, and the other two being a wash. (Marlins got the better of the deal in Nolasco and Mitre for Pierre because Pierre was terrible in his one year with the Cubs and went on to sign with the Dodgers where he found his ability to run and hit again while Nolasco is a key part to their rotation, and in the Kevin Gregg deal only because of addition by subtraction, the DLee-Choi deal was a wash because the Marlins spun Choi off to acquire Encarnacion, Lo Duca, and Guillermo Mota and the D-Train and Alfonseca for Tavarez and Clement deal was a wash because the Marlins wouldn’t have gotten as far in 03 without D-Train, and the Cubs wouldn’t have gotten that far that year had it not been for Clement). And that’s without going into the many proposed deals the two almost made (like Mike Lowell for Bobby Hill and prospects in 2003, or this year’s rumored Jeremy Hermida deal.) Point being, if I’m the Cubs, I’m only making a trade with the Marlins if I have a chance at acquiring Hanley Ramirez, Josh Johnson, or Ricky Nolasco, ironically the only three players the Marlins have who they would consider untouchable. (Last year I would’ve traded DLee and made a play for Mike Jacobs and Scott Olsen by the way. That doesn’t count though because none of them are Marlins anymore anyways.)

-Speaking of Derrek Lee, I’ve given him a lot of shit this year, but, had it not been for him, the Cubs would’ve lost that game. It’s like he knew what I said about him in the podcast and what I’ve been writing about him, and somehow knew I was going to be in attendance at the game, so he wanted to really stick it to me. So yesterday he goes 4 for 6 and was just a triple away from the cycle, had 3 ribbies and the game winning home run, then today he goes 1 for 4 and drives in another run. Overall for the series he goes 6 for 14 (that’s a .429 average) with a double, home run, and 4 ribbies. I’ll leave him alone until the next time he grounds into a double play with one out and the Cubs either trailing or tied, which should be sometime this week.

-Both teams seem to bring the most out of each other. These teams are different from the 03 versions of both squads. No Marlin from 03 is on this year’s team, and the only Cubs from 03 on this year’s team are Ramirez and Zambrano. Despite that, the matchups between the two teams are hot tickets in both Miami and at Wrigley every year, and both teams play each other to close, exciting games, and you can tell there is some bad blood between Marlins and Cubs fans. Doesn’t that make it a rivalry? Why isn’t it sold as such? I just have a feeling that these two teams will compete against each other in October again, maybe even this year, who knows. Fact is though, if the Marlins organization can stop their marketing plan of antagonizing fans of other teams and let actual Marlins fans do it, then it will be more fun than it is now. It’s not fun, and that’s the Marlins’ organizations fault. The do this to every team, and while it’s clever and funny, it’s also stupid. Let the fans be the ones to antagonize the other fans. (Plus, what if a massive fight occurs between a Marlins fan and a fan of the Mets or Cubs, whites to say the Cubs or Mets fan won’t name the Marlins in a potential suit saying that the Marlins themselves have some responsibility because they helped to rile up the fans into that type of frenzy. Do the Marlins need that negative publicity at this point? We’ll find out the next time the Mets come to town.)

-Finally, the new Marlins Ballpark is official, and it does look like it’s going to be nice. However for it to work, Miami needs to improve its infrastructure. I have some ideas of my own, and I’ll be pointing them out later. Until then, see you guys later, thanks for reading.