Post-Season

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This started off as a Facebook status, but started to get way too long. Religion also somehow, like a typical YouTube thread, got tangled up into this. Then I remembered: I HAVE A BLOG!

If you know me, or have read an older post or two, you may know that I’m a huge baseball fan. It’s October, which means it’s playoff time. Specifically, the League Championship Series have both started. If you’re not a baseball fan, this one’s not for you…

For those out there complaining about seeing St. Louis and San Francisco in the NLCS, AGAIN…

Suck it up.

These are two exceptionally run franchises. They aren’t the typical big market teams that everyone is so apt to cry about. Even if they were, remember: every owner has the equal opportunity to spend money. Some choose NOT to. So ask yourself, why are you cheering for a team, if the ownership group is not committed to winning? For that matter, why are you even cheering for a team at all? I find I typically come across two rationals, behind longstanding fandom.

Regional Ties
People always want to have some sense of civic pride; or at least they do in the sense of: “I can bash my city, but you can’t, ’cause you’re not from here”. The same seems to carry over to sports teams. People will lament their woeful squad, until a non-fan express the same opinion.

“Whoa back off man! They’ve been drafting really well, and we’re right on the cusp. You just like because you’re a bandwagoner man!”

Well, newsflash: you didn’t really have any say in where you were born. So supporting the team of the city you were arbitrarily born in, it’s kind of a weak platform. You can argue that was responsible for shaping your young mind, and contributed to the person you are today, therefore giving a strong reason for supporting civic pride. Except that, that pride is relative to the fact that you were born in that city. If you were born in a different city, you would be tied to a whole different team. Ergo, you’re a slave to the forces that conspired to place you in that city. Now you can make a case for people who have, of their own free will, moved to a city. Those folks are usually just caving to peer pressure; trying to fit in amidst the common-folk in their new town.

Family tradition
This is usually is born of civic pride (descended from your folks). Even if it’s not, it’s still something that was not a result of your own critical thinking. You’re cheering out of blind faith, for the team your family supports the most vocally, because it’s the only team you get exposed to. Or more aptly, it’s the only team you’re exposed to a reason to cheer for. Kind of like religion…except your mortal soul isn’t invested (well, that’s a matter up for debate to some). Conversely, some people cheer out of spite for their family ties. To be the black sheep, the antagonist (hello atheists); usually a major rival. It’s all very petty.

These are the two major arguments that I seem to come across most, when people are trying to explain why they’ve supported a team for so long. They also seem to be generally accepted logic to argue a “true allegiance”. People who use these rationales, typically like to harp on those with what they consider, “less legitimate” reasons. These include:

-Team colour
-Team Name
-Traditionally good team
-Recent Champion

The last two are typically labelled as “bandwagon fans”. Before I touch on those, let’s tackle the first three.

Sure, team colour/name seem frivolous, but at least they have some sense of personal attachment. I mean, you’re cheering for your dad’s team because why? Why not pick your team based on your favourite colours, favourite animal, or coolest sounding name? Especially for folks like me in the Great White North; outside of the NHL, there really aren’t many options for local ties. Plus, inevitably if you really enjoy the sport, you’ll get to know the players, the history, and all that fun stuff; it comes with time regardless of how your allegiance formed. Of course, if you’re a casual fan, it’s a built in defence mechanism to shut-up over-zealous fans, hellbent on proving their team loyalty.

Back to the bandwagon. I really don’t mind the casual bandwagon fan. I mean, let’s face it; don’t you want to share in the excitement cheering for a champion gives, rather than the dejection of a perennial loser? Especially when you’re young, it’s easier and more likely, that you’re going to gravitate to the most successful team of the day. Eventually that might lead to a longer standing appreciation for the team. My own favourite baseball team for example, the Minnesota Twins, gained my loyalty in the 90’s because they were really good. They were the best and most exciting team to watch, when I first started watching the sport. There’s a deep sense of nostalgia associated with the team; I may not have liked baseball as much if say, the New York Mets were the team du jour.

Now I’m not trying to say people should stop cheering for their teams. What I’m getting at with all this is, it’s a sports team. Your allegiance is probably trivial at best. Relax, appreciate when a great franchise has sustained success. After all, entertaining games are really what should be at the heart of the fan experience. With the fluidity of the market; players being traded and signing elsewhere, why should your fandom be restricted to a team? I mean, sure, I have my favourites, but I find myself gravitating all over the place due to the vast amount of talent across the leagues.

In any case, if you somehow made it through all this, I hope you at least can ease off the gas-pedal when it comes to extolling what a “super fan” you are. Just relax, grab some snacks, and enjoy the games. After all, this is prime sports time. Hockey has started, college and NFL football are in full swing, there’s NBA pre-season, FIFA football, and of course, the best of all: the MLB playoffs.

May the team that sports the best, get all the sports glory!

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Summer’s End

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I know summer doesn’t technically end until late September.

Going back to school, and the changing weather makes it feel that way, though. I’m excited, because autumn is my favourite time of year. The air is crisper, the colours more vibrant, it suits my wardrobe better, and of course: cozy foods. I do very much love summer, so it’s bittersweet when it ends. This year stings just a little bit more.

This summer was absolutely packed.

I haven’t written a lot as a result. I seemingly haven’t found any time to sit down and get anything done. I don’t know if the school year will make it any easier. All said, it’s not a bad thing. It’s been awhile since I’ve had a “go go go” summer, and it’s been nice to experience the sights, sounds, and of course people that this year has brought. I’d love to sit down and detail it, I really would. The reality is, it would take up at least 3-4 normal posts, and I don’t want to get caught in a loop of not updating. So here’s a summarized list of highlights/observations from this summer:

Walking > All other modes of transpo.
Vancouver is a stunning city. (Despite questionable inhabitants)
#butts
Feeding the propaganda machine that is, and will continue to be: Operation Dogface to Vancouver.
Beach days. Lots of lazy beach days.
Brunch for days…so many bennies.
Days at the ballpark, and subsequent hotdogs will never get old.
Major reconnection with the outdoors
Cabin. No mobile service = best.

There’s a lot more, too. I’m still coming down from being away from “civilization” this long weekend, so it’s hard to reminisce about the entirety of the last 3 months. However, I’d be remiss if I left out on major point:

People

It’s been the thing I’ve struggled the most with since moving to Vancouver. I’ve come to find that most people I’ve met, follow a pretty specific set of patterns and personalities.. It’s made it difficult to make too many lasting connections. One benefit to this, is that it makes the connections I have made, stronger. This summer has been full of people. I’ve met a bunch of new ones, continued to form bonds with old ones, and let some others go their own way.

We’ve watched movies together, bummed on the beach, gone on picnics in the park, watched the city get sleepy on top of mountains, and squeezed every last drop out of summer we could. If it weren’t for the people I’ve met and known over the course of this summer, there’s no way it could have been such a rousing success. You people are the best.

Now let’s fall in love with autumn.

-DFP-

 

 

In Between Dreams

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Sleep.

Yesterday I slept for 14 hours. My monthly “crash” if you will. I used to track my sleep using an app on my phone. I realized pretty quick that it was less a helpful tool, than it was a symbol of how bad my insomnia has grown over the years.

In high school, I wager I got about 6-8 hours of sleep every night

In my binge drinking days, closer to 5-7.

If you believe the last app readings, which were back in November: 4.5 hours/night.

Of course, the app isn’t wholly accurate. It only starts calculating from when you start the timer. It doesn’t factor in how long it takes you to doze off after activating it. It also doesn’t account for waking up frequently throughout the night. Let’s not forget, this is also an average measurement. As previously stated, I usually have a crash once or twice a month, where I binge sleep. My body just can’t handle the fatigue anymore. You could probably safely assume I indeed only sleep on average 3-3.5 hours every night.

My mind doesn’t have an off switch. It’s not that I lead an overly exciting life; the thoughts buzzing are certainly not screenplay worthy. Frets and worries of a near 30 year old are pretty bland, truthfully. I have school registration in roughly 12 hours to contend with, currently. I also have a ticket to a concert tonight that I’m pretty jazzed about. It’ll be the first concert I’ve gone to alone in, pretty well ever. Earlier in the evening, I was challenged to list 5 “Nice Things”. My brain doesn’t typically  lean towards positive things, particularly lately. Since I can’t seem to find sleep though, let’s give it a whirl. Who knows? It may just clear some clutter…

  1. West coast rain on my face. Especially in the morning when it’s still cold and I’m barely awake.
  2. The fact that as the years go by, my handwriting is slowly looking more and more like my Gramma’s everyday.
  3. The hum of a tattoo gun; the bite it delivers into the skin.
  4. Beers that wash over your entire palette.
  5. The unmistakeable sound of a home run.
  6. The perfect snap a baseball mitt makes on a beautifully thrown 2-seam fastball.
  7. A book so good, you have to re-read it immediately since you can’t leave the characters behind…because they are not characters, they’re friends.
  8. Sour-cherry cheesecake.
  9. A seamlessly conceived playlist.
  10. Rhubarb rock candy.
  11. The first cookie from a freshly baked batch.
  12. The first autumn wind.
  13. Cherry cola.
  14. The fizz that tickles your nose, from a freshly poured soda-fountain drink.
  15. The cold-side of the pillow.
  16. Coming home from camp and not being able to wash the campfire smell off your skin.
  17. Not being able to sleep the day before a big trip, while still being able to get up early to get your butt to where you need to go.
  18. Plaid
  19. Being the first to toe the rubber on a freshly groomed baseball diamond
  20. Ocean spray, on a summer day at the beach.

(…so I got a little carried away)

-DFP-

The Cities of My Youth: Bytown

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I’ve been ignoring the blogosphere.

My thoughts are often in large knots. I imagine if you could extrapolate the traffic in my brain, into a concrete image, it would look something like a horrible tangle of Mobius Strips. This isn’t conducive to blogging. I typically end up going from one topic to another at such a rapid pace, that I end up with pages of blabber. On top of that, I haven’t seemed to be able to sit still and relax the last little while. I’m really glad I don’t have a large audience, I don’t think I could handle the expectations of regular posting.

Awhile back on my other blog, I did a series of mini-playlists relating to the various places I’ve called home. It was a fun exercise in nostalgia. It made me remember not just moments that I cherish, but the small things I miss about those places. Recently, I’ve been listening a lot to an old, middle-school friend’s album. In one of the songs, there’s a line that goes:

I’d return to the cities of my youth if I knew the youth’d come back

I’m a sucker for nostalgia, so for the next few posts, I’m going to reminisce about the things I miss about those cities. Starting with my hometown…

Bytown 

I couldn’t wait to get out of Ottawa growing up. I don’t think that’s an unusual feeling for anyone who has spent a lot of time in a city. Particularly if they haven’t travelled a lot. In my youth, we spent more time exploring what we had in our own backyard, than seeing other cities. It’s not like I missed out, I just felt that by the time I’d reached high school, I needed to do some exploring. It’s been a touch over 10 years since I left, but it will always be my hometown.

I would say Ottawa is an underrated city.

It doesn’t have the glitz and glamour of a Montreal. It’s not a big, sprawling metropolis like Toronto. It certainly isn’t the diverse, internationally driven, city that Vancouver is. It’s definitely not a city, when mentioning your hometown, that really packs a flavourful punch. After all, Ottawa is just a quaint, little town, full of blowhard politicians.

I mean, it’s really only the Capital because it sits so perfectly in the centre of the Anglophone and Francophone worlds satisfying both sides’ need for representation…right?

Well that’s one way to look at it.

It’s a very balanced city. By that, I mean you get a little bit of everything, especially as a kid. There is no shortage of museums, galleries, and historical areas. It’s one of the perks of being in the capital, the national galleries and museums are all situated there. Nature, science/tech, civilization/history, art, everything is well represented. It’s probably the part I miss the most. Being able to just wile a day away, absorbing all the information. I’ve visited all the museums more times than I can count, and even though they have changed in some areas, I could still go back a hundred times and not be bored.

Sports are pretty well represented too. While the population isn’t large enough to support a bevy of teams, there’s still lots to go see. I was lucky enough to see the early stages of the Senators’ rebirth. I was also fortunate to be able to enjoy the Lynx, when Ottawa still had Triple-A baseball. CFL football has had ups and downs (more downs sadly), but it’s coming back with a strong ownership group, which is exciting to see. Outside of that, there are so many youth leagues, it’s impossible not to find sports.

Between all those galleries, and the athletics I was surrounded with, I’m surprised I ever had a chance to stop. I didn’t even mention the libraries, plus the great programs that were run out of them. I realize that a lot of this stuff was 20 or so years ago, and it may not be the same. I’d like to think a lot of it is better now, though. Of course, I’m looking at this all through rose-coloured glasses, I’m terribly biased!

Now, I have to talk about the seasons.

Yea, Ottawa actually has them! Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter. Many of the other cities I’ve lived in/visited don’t have such distinctive seasons. It adds to the charm, because with each passing one you can look forward to new things.

Spring brings the Tulip Festival. While it’s not on the same scale as the one in Amsterdam, it’s still a bright, colourful, wonderful harbinger of Summer. I miss seeing the rows of flowers livening up downtown when May rolls around. I get lots of Dutch customers roll through my store during high-season, and I’m always eager to reminisce. Once that snow melts, it’s heavenly. I think Ottawa Springs are my favourite.

Summer can be muggy and humid, that’s for sure. That’s about the only downside. Festivals! Festivals! Festivals! Ottawa is home to some pretty awesome ones. Bluesfest is probably at the top of the list. It may have strayed far away from being a true Blues festival, but it brings in some pretty big heavyweight acts. For those who don’t have the time/money to see the huge American festivals, this is a satisfactory substitute. Plus, there’s still plenty of great blues/folk acts to appease the purists like myself. Folk Fest is also a big one later in the season. Much like it’s cousin, it has become a bit more diverse than the name suggests. That doesn’t mean the quality is lacking though. Of course this isn’t mentioning walks by the river, questionable beaches, and best of all: PATIO SEASON. Ottawa has fully embraced the microbrew fad, and there is no shortage of suds in the Nation’s Capital come Summer.

Fall in Ottawa is one of the most beautiful seasons I’ve experienced. With all the oak, birch, and maple indigenous to the area, the whole cities is a mosaic of red, yellow, and orange. It’s particular lovely in Gatineau Hills Park. While that’s technically on the other side of the river, it’s easily accessible, so it counts as part of the Ottawa experience. The trails are perfect. They’re low impact enough to enjoy the amazing scenery, while still making you feel you’ve gotten a good workout in. The air is so fresh and crisp, it is my absolute favourite season in Ottawa.

Winter. Oh winter. Anyone who’s lived in, or visited the Ottawa Valley, knows how nasty it can get. The moisture, coupled with high winds, and bone chilling temperatures, who could love Ottawa in the winter?! Well…winter means Winterlude for one. It also means skating on the Ottawa Canal. The world’s largest skating surface, it’s a crime if you’ve ever visited while it was open, and you didn’t experience it. Not only is it a ton of fun to feel the wintery air bite your face as you zip your way from Dow’s Lake to Downtown, but there are plenty of BeaverTails and Hot Chocolate stands to make it an even more worthwhile experience. Besides, the snow is lovely when you’re not shovelling it!

(DISCLAIMER: I do NOT miss winters in Ontario. While I do wish I could get a skate in on the Canal every year, I am quite content with my Pacific Northwest winters. Thankyouverymuch.)

See? Well rounded!

It’s not a perfect city, but it has the right mix of everything for young and old. While I may never call it my permanent home again, I will always think wistfully of my youth in Canada’s Capital.

-DFP-

 

Diamonds Are A Man’s Best Friend

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Baseball regular season kicks off in 8 days.

The only constant love in my life, to which I am not related to by blood, is baseball.

I played for several years growing up. Pretty much anyone who has played organized sports fancies they were “pretty good” in their youth. I’d probably say the same. Not “If I hadn’t gotten injured, I would have been in the pros” good, but for my age, and limited physical attributes, I was pretty good.

I’m a lefty.

In most other sports, it’s just a quirk. In baseball, in can be a blessing, but also a curse. You’re relegated to three basic positions: first-base, outfield, and pitcher. I played all three extensively growing up. First-base has a built in advantage for lefties. The position on the diamond, along with the way it’s played, lends better to southpaws. As far as pitching goes, batters who hit left-handed, tend to be power hitters. A lefty throwing pitcher is awkward to face. The angle and trajectory the ball takes to the plate, is a lot harder to track for them. Therefore, it’s always valuable to stock a couple of lefty pitchers. As for the outfield, there’s no real advantage to a lefty. A lot of us get stuck out there though, because the other positions are extremely difficult/not practical to play.

If you’re not familiar with America’s Game, most positions have gloves that are unique. Catchers have extra padding to cushion blazing fastballs. First-Basemen have one shaped like a scoop, to dig out errant throws better. Shortstops and second-basemen usually use smaller glove, with tighter webbing. This allows for quick mitt-to-hand transfers, as they tend to make a lot of acrobatic plays, and for turning double-plays. Outfielders will have larger gloves, with wider webbing that they can use to track balls, while using the glove as a shield from the sun. I’ve had all kinds of gloves growing up. I had one absolute favourite…

My Dennis Eckersley glove.

It was a Rawlings glove: golden brown, had a index-finger hole, and was small. It was built exactly like a good Shortstop’s mitt. This was a bit bizarre because Eckersley, was one of the most dominant relief pitchers of his time. I loved that glove. I oiled it nice and good until it was perfectly supple, just like butter. It was one of my most treasured possessions; the glove I used the most when I played. My coaches hated it.

As it was more well suited for a Shortstop, they begged me to get rid of it. They were worried I wouldn’t play very well at first, especially at a young age when errant throws are expected, more than they are feared. As an outfielder, it wasn’t the most practical for shagging flies. I wasn’t going to give up on it though. After all, this was the first nice glove my dad ever bought me. It soon turned into a great asset.

I became extremely adept at picking balls out of the dirt. The smaller glove made it more difficult at first, but it didn’t take long before I was even able to snag the rare one barehanded. In the outfield, due to the size, I was able to transfer the ball to my throwing hand more quickly. Being a pitcher, I had a very strong arm. Combined with the speedy transferring, I could double-up runners, or throw them out trying to advance. With pitching, since it had the tight basket-weave webbing, I was able to conceal my pitches more easily. It’s safe to say that my defensive prowess was my best asset. I was quick, but not much of a power hitter. I hit a lot at the top and bottom of the lineup, my job being to get on base.

Eventually my excellent defence  paid off. I got called up several times to play with the age-groups ahead of me. Of course, at that point, players are more entrenched in their positions. When you start off in Little League, you get shifted around a lot. “Fair chances for everyone”. Once you get older, you gravitate to your stronger position, and primarily play there. Since I was the new kid on the block, I got relegated to a utility-man role. Essentially, I had to play wherever they had a need.

This ended up being far more often, at third-base. Third is extremely difficult to play left-handed. It doesn’t allow for a natural throwing motion to the other bases. You essentially end up throwing more with your arm, than with your whole body. This causes weak throws, and a lot of strain on the arm. Teams immediately tried to take advantage. They would bunt to my side frequently. As I said though, years of pitching had built a strong arm. The strategy didn’t work well, and didn’t last long.

I have so many memories of being on the diamond. Most of them start with that glove.

Fresh cut grass, crushed brick, and white chalk, things were simpler…

All you were worried about was smashing a little white ball, or zinging it passed a batter.

-DFP-