Sunday, May 29, 2011

Pat Caputo Still Reminds Me Of Lewis Grizzard

Pat Caputo

Lewis Grizzard

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.

It’s posted all over this blog and my other sites for people to see – so I have no problem reaffirming this publicly yet again.

Pat Caputo is the best sports writer – best sports radio talk show host – best commentator on sports news in the greater Detroit Metropolitan area.

Including Windsor, which Caputo himself proclaimed to be “South Detroit” by way of expressing his displeasure for a specific Journey rock song played at the Joe Louis arena during Red Wing games.

Pat’s a personality to be sure.

He’s “The Book On Sports” – or simply “The Book” for short.

A character indeed.

He is a character of high character, in my personal and as always humble opinion.

I started following Caputo after hearing him on the radio, now broadcast on FM 97.1 The Ticket – Pat has been a mainstay on the radio waves keeping listeners involved in Detroit sports teams.

I’m a baseball fan myself.

Nobody in this town talks baseball like Pat Caputo.

Or hockey.

Or football.

Pat reminds me a lot – an awful lot – of my favorite sports columnist from The Atlanta Constitution and Journal – Lewis Grizzard. Grizzard was a masterful story teller who told you the story of the game as though you were sitting and talking to him. And he was deeply proud of growing up and being a Southerner – telling wonderful stories of growing up in his hometown Moreland, Georgia.

He loved and defended the area he grew up in – defending southerners against the often belittling Northerners who stereotyped all Southerners as … well … dumb.

That just plain ain’t true.

And Grizzard was also cited on several cases for being a racist – once being sued by a reporter who worked for Grizzard when he was the editor of a Chicago newspaper – a case Lewis won – although it didn’t matter much because once a stigma like being a racists is put in the minds of the masses – it sticks.

But Grizzard wrote exactly as he spoke. Charming, witty, and poignant.

And that is where most of all I draw the comparison between Pat Caputo and Lewis Grizzard. Both writers have been nationally celebrated and honored. Both writing with the same ease and manner in which they speak. Both personalities transcending the newspapers they wrote for to become easily recognized celebrities in their regions.

One a northerner who will stand up for the aching sorrows that Detroit has been through the last four decades; as the city tries so desperately to pull itself back up by its bootstraps to recover to the truly beautiful place it once was and in many ways still is at the corner of Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie – sitting in the middle of the mighty Detroit River.

The other a southern gentleman who stands up against the wrongfully projected stereotypes of what Georgia was by telling stories of his parents who divorced, and the local neighborhood population of Moreland.

Both do so with humor, with honesty, with some humility and with a little extra … panache.

But the days that Caputo writes and talks about are much different today than those of Lewis Grizzard some twenty years ago.

There’s more media today. And that media is interactive. There’s this whole Internet thing, you know.

The Book writes a blog online for the Oakland Press called “Open Book: A Sports Blog”. Caputo’s blog is the first I ever really followed – and is honestly the very reason I started headstuffing. Pat even helped me out here and there along the way.

Similarly it was Lewis Grizzard who inspired me to pick Journalism as a freshman in Georgia.

You couldn't really comment on a newspaper column in the old days - except by writing a letter to the editor. And lot's of such letters were written regarding one column or another of Lewis Grizzards. Sometimes Grizzard even wrote columns about the letters to the editor of readers despising him for one reason or the others.

I comment on Caputo's Open Book blog quite frequently. The collection of usual suspects that loyally comment are an eclectic bunch who really know their stuff and often expand the commentary from a single line of thought to a conversation that is held over weeks.

I’m the dumbest one in that eclectic crowd.

Conversations about who should hit second in the Tiger’s line up, and what’s really wrong with the bull pen and who could the Tiger’s get to play second base and who could the Tiger’s give up, and … well, you know … the usual sports blog / call in radio show kind of stuff.

But on the Open Book, we all kind of know each other – and we all kind of know the Book. And he kind of knows us too.

I liken it best to stopping into my favorite pub on my way home from work to sit and talk about the topics of the day with all the other guys like me who stop in the same pub – for a quick pop, but more so for the great conversation that is omnipresent.

But – as on any other blog – even including my own – are the anonymous commentators who insult and belittle the author – in stealth mode most often – not leaving a name behind their insults and put-downs.

Caputo publishes all these comments – wanting sincerely I believe to be transparent and allow his naysayers to have their say.

A lot of them are very rude. And Pat answers them with dignity – and usually with the response that everyone is entitled to an opinion. And the Book On Sports allows all opinions to be expressed.

I admire Pat for that.

I wonder – would Lewis Grizzard – should he still be alive today – would he have had a blog? I bet he would have – albeit he hated newfangled gadgetry like word processors – preferring the clicks of a typewriter and the ring of the carriage at the end of sentence flying back to begin the first word of the next paragraph.

And I wonder how Lewis Grizzard would have responded to such insulting comments posted about him on his own blog. I’m certain that he would have published them. But unlike Caputo – Grizzard would have cherished the opportunity to rip into each one just to hone his ability to craft the best retort.

Grizzard’s retorts would have been simple, sharp, and plainly stated in the tone of a true Southern gentleman:

“... And you sir are libelous scoundrel”.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Not Today

It’s such a beautiful day today.

The most beautiful day of the year here in Windsor. A day such as this makes you appreciate everything living and breathing.

Breathtaking. I don’t say this lightly.

It’s certainly not a day for the world to end on.

But if you gotta go …

Look, I think of myself as a spiritual person.

However I am known to my friends as a common sense rational and objective thinker. Some may even say cynical, but I dispute that.

I think I am both spiritual and rational in my beliefs. This causes great conflict within me. Because to so many it seems so black and white – it’s either heads or tails – you either believe or you don’t.

And that just doesn’t square with me at all.

The rational me is convinced scientific facts are not wrong – the earth is billions of years old, and what we have resulted to so far in this one big global ant farm experiment is what we see about us today. Of the kajillion possible theories out there about when the universe started – the big bang theory – from all we scientifically know now – does make the best argument – but I cannot tell you it is truth – but I bet parts of it are correct – and there have likely been billions and billions of big bangs since the last on a kajillion years ago.

But then theories of black holes and parallel universes pop up. And statements that in the end man is only worm food emerge. This makes me step back and reconsider for a second.

Science fiction is a new theology you know.

Stop me if I get too technical.

However that other rational side of me acknowledges that we are human beings – and that a hundred years ago we just figured out how to put four wheels and an engine on a box and pour cement all over the place to get places further – and the new global economic game is whoever has the most fuel to propel these mechanized boxes across the cement is the most powerful.

Stop me if I get to political.

In short, we are not perfect creatures – although we believe we are the masters of all we survey – and that we really just don’t know – but we think we make pretty good educated guesses.

In fact we are convinced these educated guesses are correct.

We can’t have any uncertainty, can we?

The spiritual side of me therefore acknowledges the wonders around us that seemingly appeared with no intervention or design by mankind – like those tiny helicopter seeds that fall out of trees to repopulate the earth – so perfect are their design to meet their purpose – like a hidden clue from somewhere smacking us down to say “you’re not so smart – check this out”. Back this up by watching a large Canadian goose take off and fly so effortlessly – forming a perfect V pattern with others – with no need for radios or radar or ground control – to get exactly where they want to go.

Look at butterflies that simply head to Capistrano.

How arrogant are we to think that there is not some kind of overseer to all this amazing design that fits together seamlessly – perfectly – spinning on a big blue orb in space keeping all life support systems in perfect alignment – even though mankind seems so intent on playing with the thermostat and messing with the air intake valves.

“We need answer’s damnit!”, proclaims the global masses. “We don’t like this level of uncertainty!”

“That sounds pretty good…”, proclaims each spiritual or scientific pundant as they answer the cries of the masses. The sincerity and certainty behind each proclamation is astoundingly genuine.

Stop me if I am getting too theological.

How incredible.

But then spoiled by a radio preacher’s proclamation that they have read an ancient text from thousands of years before – translated and interpreted and even amended by some to shift its meaning – that such a preacher can read the words of God and use poorly defined mathematical skills to calculate that the world is ending today.

He was wrong years before … but this time is different … he carried the two this time.

Today of all days.

There is arrogance in spirituality too – as much if not more so - than science – as each party who believes in a more powerful being – the same being in my eyes – to say they are right and you are wrong and since we don’t agree you must die. And we will be the chosen ones – riding off at the end of the game of life like a school bus full of high school football players riding home from after winning the big away game singing “We are the champions my friend” as they slap hands and proclaim how superior they are to the others.

“They should have thought like us”, they say as they congratulate themselves.

On a day like today of all days – when the sun is so perfect in the sky so blue and the breeze so feint and fresh with birds chirping beautiful songs and plants reaching out to show their brilliance from the ground.

On a day like today? I sure hope not. I like it here.

As I sit on the back deck this beautiful May morning – for the first time of summer – watching my faithful black lab Suzy chase squirrels too smart for her brilliant canine brain. Do the squirrels know today is the end of time? I think they do not. Today is for playing.

All from the arrogance of man, be him scientist or theologian – each has an agenda that suits his desires – and his desires plan his intentions and his intentions are realized by actions that influence others to follow their lead – and proclaim that they are right and everybody else is stupid and doomed.

Be it global warming or Armageddon that cause the annihilation

Pardon me if I get too emotional.

It just drives me nuts.

You – Scientist Guy – you are right! – a little anyways.

And you Preacher man – you too are right – a little bit anyways.

But to proclaim you have it all figured out and that you know the truth – truths that man will likely never know? Give you head a big shake.

Hear that rattle?

Wars have been fought and many good souls have died because two groups thought they were both right.

That applies to atheists, agnostics, and the self proclaimed apostles.

It’s some place in the middle. And the middle of this spectrum of truth is more vast than the universe. But it’s some where there. Not all the way to the left or to the right. Not at the top or the bottom – but hidden out there somewhere in the middle.

And the great designer of all that is is laughing at the arrogance of man as he quickly proclaims “here it is” and holds up as the final clue to all that is unknown to be know.

That’s how I feel anyway.

Someday I hope the that the truth is revealed to us. That somehow we understand what is really real – in either our final breaths as people on earth – or some how in an afterlife that I hope exists.

That someday somehow that we will know this great secret.

I mean this in no offense to you at all – I encourage you to believe what you do – either way – or even if you are like me and are somewhere in the middle. Think what your heart tells you, and what your rational mind derives for you. And follow it to the best of your ability.

But please don’t belittle those who come to different conclusions than you.

Because if the world does end for man one day – it will likely be from the evolution of spiritual and scientific arrogance's beating each other to a pulp.

Not today. Not today of all days.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Closing School Libraries Spells Illiteracy

They are closing the library in my daughters’ elementary school.

They are closing all the libraries in all the schools under the Windsor Essex Catholic District School Board. All Elementary and Secondary schools will no longer have a library.

Schools without libraries?

I can’t fathom that.

I can’t tolerate that!

I can’t tolerate the thought of my daughter’s in grade 3 and 4 not being able to go into the school library this year and checking out books like Charlotte’s Web, or The Mouse and The Motorcycle. Books like Where the Red Fern Grows, and Old Yeller.

These are just a couple of titles that come to my memory from when I was their age – reading amazing and exciting stories that made me want to read more and more and more.

But that will be gone.

I remember at a very young age walking through the bookshelves of my schools library looking for great books – and the excitement I felt when I found a really good one.

One that really stands out in my mind is a book I don’t even remember the title of. It was about a boy who would have been my age who tried out for the neighborhood baseball team – and how hard he practiced fielding ground balls with his Dad and hitting with his best friend – and how excited he was when he got his uniform after he made the team.

That book inspired me to love baseball even more.

Because that’s what books do, they inspire young minds – opening their brains up to ideas and opportunities – and experiences.

But that won’t be readily available to little kids in our local Catholic schools.

They plan to put some books in class rooms – pretty much deciding what the kids will read.

Who wants to read what you’re told to read?

I remember in high school, getting my hands on a copy of Catcher In The Rye. I read that book in the back seat of our family car as we travelled on a family vacation.

They will also be pulling out all those great books that teenagers use for research for various projects. In place of the libraries will be a common area for digital media devices – like computers.

Okay, we are in the 21st century now. And computers are definitely a powerful source for research. But we are nowhere near the point yet where computers and DVD players can even remotely adequately replace a card catalog to help kids find information based on the Dewy Decimal System.

Wikipedia is not yet a source of truly undeniably reliable record. And for as much as I love what Google has added to the Internet – I am not so blind as to know that Google searches also return information you probably don’t want your child to see.

How is this possible?

Why are they cutting out the libraries from these schools? Why do you think? This is not an exercise in advancing learning facilities to a new academic level of excellence – all though those that are pushing this change through will describe it as so.

It’s money. Or the lack of it.

Enrollment in Catholic schools in our county is down.

So instead of cutting other things – like sports teams – or better yet – take a very hard look at your administrative costs - instead, they chose what appears to be a big expense – on paper – a quick and easy choice looking at the list of options sorted by cost – libraries sit at the top of the heap.

I love sports, but I would never suggest them be more important than school libraries. And I am not proposing firing people of value.

Certainly not people as valuable as school librarians.

This is stupid.

It doesn’t take a genius to know the Catholic Church has been hurt in recent decades. Some of their decisions have just been … well … either arrogantly or blindly derived. As a result the number of parishioners continues to fall. But this time is not the time to go into all that. That’s also been in the headlines enough.

It just makes logical sense that a decline in members of the Catholic Church also results in a decline in the Catholic school student enrolments. And to me it does not make sense to reduce the quality of education that children will get in your schools by taking the libraries out.

If you were new to a community – and you had the option of two schools – which of those two would you likely choose for your kids best interest? A school with a library?

“Duh” – as my little girls so commonly say to me.

It would certainly be a pretty strong factor. It might even deter you from moving to the community.

If you happen to live in Windsor or in Essex County – and this issue is important to you – I strongly encourage you to visit the Save our Libraries Holy Cross Catholic Elementary LaSalle Ontario Canada on facebook to learn more about what you can do.

As well, I encourage you to sign the online petition.

I encourage you strongly to do something.

If you live in Windsor Essex and your kids don’t attend a Catholic school – I urge you still to do something, because these kids are the next generation of your community too. And I can’t imagine that a decision to remove libraries from schools is going to help make your community stronger.

Windsor and Essex County has had enough economic struggles that we are just now starting to recover from.

This kind of academic stupidity isn’t going to help.

We have some new decisions to make in our house.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Procrastinating With Mother Nature

It’s raining outside again.

It’s probably raining where you are too. Or it was. Or it will.

This has been a very wet spring in North America.

So I spend this Saturday morning out in the garage with my lovely wife Darlene, a cup of coffee and a pack of smokes, and our faithful black lab Suzy curled up on her pillow in the corner.

Pat Caputo is on the radio – talking about the Detroit Tigers now as their season is at the 40 game mark. I listen closely, because I just posted my thoughts last night on the Tigers Baseball Outsider – and I checked the stats and Pat hasn’t read it.

Sometimes he does. He’s a good guy.

Suzy just lays on the pillow and lets out the occasional groan to mean “I’m so bored”.

The girls are at a friend’s house after a sleep over last night. The parents called this morning to ask if they could stay longer – which we didn’t hesitate to say “Sure!”. Better they have fun over there than come to me every two minutes stating “I’m bored”.

Normally by now we would be sitting out on the back patio deck. It’s just sitting there in the rain though. The deck is set up, but we might have spent a total of fifteen minutes so far this year sitting out there.

The deck needs a little work this year. A board on the hand rail rotted – I don’t know why. And Suzy dug under the stairs of the deck so the right foundation pole has no foundation to sit in. I have prop it up and fill that with cement.

Why she dug down there, I don’t know. I doubt Jimmy Hoffa would have been buried down there.

There is so much work to be done outside. We have only scratched the surface.

The gardens have had a light once over to show off the blooming tulips which haven’t been eaten by rabbits this season.

The water on top of the pool cover has been drained once – but is almost full again. There is still a huge pile of leaves in the middle to be removed

The grass has been cut twice – and all the dandelions have been pulled twice. I’m waiting now for the next wave, as I don’t have any of the good stuff – the weed killer now outlawed in Ontario – that keeps my lawn green and full and weedless.

But now it’s raining again. The Tigers game this afternoon has already been cancelled.

My golf clubs are still resting up in the rafters. There’s just no time to play – between the rain, the girls softball season, and the committees Darlene and I sit on.

There’s just no time to have fun.

I guess truly fun is what you make it. But I don’t see anything fun at all about the mounds of laundry waiting to be washed in the piles in the laundry room and waiting to be folded from the piles on my pool table.

Little girls wear a lot of clothes.

I love spring – almost as much as I love summer. But this year we just seem to be in waiting mode. As a master procrastinator, I should appreciate this rainy season procrastination of Mother Nature to get the season going. But frankly I am growing impatient.

Let’s go!

Next week is the May Two-Four long weekend – made longer by a couple of vacation days Darlene suggested I pad on the front and back of it. Her hope is that the weather will clear and I will be able to make up for lost time on the yard and the pool.

So I will patiently wait for next weekend to get here I guess.

I hope it doesn’t rain.

Darlene suggests we go do the shopping together this morning and pick up the girls on the way home. I’m so bored that even grocery shopping sounds like an exciting activity – pushing the cart for Darlene as she asks me “… do we need this?” or “… is this a good deal do you think?”

“Sure”, I will reply – with no real idea if we do or if it is.

Suzy just groaned again. She put her head on my lap to say “I’m so friggin’ bored …”

Me too Suzy. Me too.

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