The Chicago Tribune:
Grown men and women wept.
Fireworks lit up the sky in both the city and suburbs, while school-aged children gathered on sidewalks long after bedtime to cheer honking cars.
Thousands poured into Wrigleyville, forcing street closures around the ball park and prompting CTA trains to bypass several stops in the area because of crowding.
This is what it looks like when a 108-year-old dream is finally realized.
Chicago erupted late Wednesday night as the Cubs won their first World Series in four generations, ending professional baseball’s longest championship drought and giving its long-suffering fan base cause to celebrate. After a century of heartbreak, humiliation and good humor, the North Side faithful enjoyed a moment unlike anything they had experienced since the Theodore Roosevelt administration.
With raised beers and voices, the fans toasted a young, fearless team that never cowered to history. They applauded themselves for a steadfast loyalty that was finally rewarded. And they celebrated a city, which has found a small cause for happiness amid a soaring murder rate.
“First of all I’m going to cry. I’m going to be a babbling 47-year-old baby,” said Dan Yunker. “My sons, my daughters and my wife are texting me. This is a huge deal. This is history!”
At Simon’s Tavern in Andersonville, a wall-to-wall crowd spent the last innings vacillating between unrestrained joy and dread. Optimists in the crowd, weary from hours of baseball and alcohol, assured the others the Cubs would still win, even as the Cleveland Indiansgave cause tor doubt.
As the Cubs made the last out, the bar exploded into screaming, dancing and hugging.
“I feel so wonderful,” said Joan Kufrin, 79, of Chicago.
Sadly, Harry Caray missed last night’s win, but thanks to YouTube and editing skills …
Sunday morning I got a text:
Remember 3 years ago when the Cubs lost 96 games and you were questioning Theo Epstein and the Cubs’ plan when they were selling off all their “star” players for prospects and not wasting money on starting pitching and high-priced batters while the majority of their hitting prospects were still in the minors?? Remember when you again questioned the plan a year later when the Cubs lost 89 games in 2014 and I told you not to doubt Theo, the prospects were almost ready and they would go get the pitching they need – an ace (Lester) and a closer (Chapman), a decent 2/3 (Hendricks) – and they would dominate the Central for the next 4-5 years?? Well, Theo’s plan worked, regardless of the World Series outcome. And, hopefully I can send you a similar text in 3-4 years reminding you of this year when you ridiculed the brewers for selling of their players for prospects, not spending for quality veteran pitching or a first basemen and not really trying to be competitive this year cause they were certainly going to lose 100 games (they lost 89). Wouldn’t that be great?
Great? Yes. Likely? Where is the evidence?
The most cynical perspective says that the billionaire Cubs owners (of TD Ameritrade) screwed their fans to the tune of selling multiple seasons of bad baseball for premium prices for the chance of good baseball at some point. The most cynical perspective also says that the nouveau yuppie Cubs fans deserve to have wasted money on bad baseball. And to no one’s surprise, as the text writer noted, the billion-dollar owners went out and purchased the needed added parts to seal their win.
There is little resemblance between this Cubs team and the Cubs teams I watched, with day home baseball on free (cable) TV, and Harry Caray merrily mispronouncing names, (allegedly) drinking to excess during his broadcasts, and above all showing off Cubs baseball as something fun regardless of result. Irrespective of the benefits, or lack thereof, of Cubs ownership by the Wrigley family (a few World Series, the last in 1945, and the epic 1969 collapse) and Tribune Co. (1984, 1989, 1998, the 2003 Bartman and 2008), today’s Cubs have about 1 percent more charm than the White Sox, who have none. None of the people I know (including my father) who have been long-suffering Cubs fans will be enjoying the World Series anywhere besides their TV, or their favorite bar’s TV.
Up Interstate 94, the Brewers sucked again this season, though not to the level I thought they would. (To correct the text author: I believe I said they would lose 140 games this year.) It is impossible to say when the Brewers will not suck, and it is entirely possible their dump-players-of-any-value plan to build for the future will result in no better results than today. The ratings of minor league systems apparently don’t place any value on things like team results within their minor league or players finishing near the top of their leagues in offensive, defensive or pitching categories.
Does this look like progress to you?
- Brewers: 73-89, 30.5 games out of first, 14 games out of the wild card.
- Colorado Springs, Class AAA: 67-71, 12.5 games out of first place.
- Biloxi, Class AA: 72-67, 8.5 games out of first.
- Brevard County, Class A Florida State League: 40-97, 42.5 games out of first.
- Wisconsin, Class A Midwest League: 71-69, 15 games out of first (though the Timber Rattlers were briefly in the Midwest League playoffs).
- Arizona, rookie Arizona Fall League: 24-29, eight games out of first.
- Dominican Summer League: 26-44, 24.5 games out of first.
Even if you grant that the purpose of the minor leagues is development and not necessarily wins, and even if you grant that some players may have been moved around thus harming their former teams’ fortunes, if the Brewers minor leaguers were developing better than similar-level players, the Brewers farm teams should be better than this. The supposed best minor league prospects won’t be in Milwaukee for at least three years, and at that point between the Cubs’ possibly winning the World Series and this presidential election (a major-party choice between Lucifer and Satan) we may all be dead anyway.
(This gives me an idea: Until the Brewers become contenders, they should cut day-of-game ticket prices by the dollar figure equal to the number of games they’re out of first place, down to zero. That would be their way to apologize to their fans for their team’s continued poor play.)
The Brewers’ best player is outfielder Ryan Braun. He is likely to be traded this offseason, and reports claim he’s headed to the Dodgers in return for malcontent outfielder Yasiel Puig, who is reportedly hated by most of his teammates. If that trade does take place, Puig will be hated by his Brewers teammates by Memorial Day. (Claims of the benefits of a change of scenery are usually illusory. People do not change, though they sometimes become worse. Ask the ’90s Cubs about Sammy Sosa.)
This is not all the Brewers’ fault. The economics of Major League Baseball continue to be terrible, and continue to benefit big-market franchises and a few smaller-market franchises who know how to run their businesses (i.e. St. Louis) because teams do not share their local broadcast revenues. The season is too long, which will be proven by World Series games at Progressive Field in Cleveland and Wrigley Field with lows in the 30s and 40s. TV will be fine with this; the fans may need hypothermia treatment afterward.
It should not take several seasons to build a winning franchise. The National Football League is famous for teams coming out of the previous season’s nowhere into the Super Bowl, and then going back the next year. (Tampa Bay, which finished last in its division last year, is ahead of Carolina, which played in Super Bowl 50. Dallas finished last last year and is in first this year.) If you are charging major-league prices for a minor league product, the fans have not merely the right, but the obligation to not buy tickets.
What kind of business would stay in business very long if it put out an inferior product for years and years, telling customers they’re trying to get better, ,but failing to do so? As a part of the entertainment business, every professional sports team owes it to its customers (paying fans, sponsors and broadcast outlets) to try to win every single season. Every single season, no exceptions, no excuses. Is that happening at Miller Park?
Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch writes something you may have a hard time believing:
Fox Sports announcer Joe Buck feared for his broadcasting career five years ago when he suffered a paralyzed left vocal cord. The ailment struck him a few weeks before the start of the 2011 baseball season, and it wasn’t until October of that year that he truly felt his voice was back. At the time, Buck told people that he had developed a virus in the laryngeal nerve of his left vocal cord.
But that was a lie.
This is the story of what really happened, revealed for the first time here and explored in more detail in his upcoming memoir, Lucky Bastard: My Life, My Dad, And The Things I’m Not Allowed To Say On TV. The book will be released on Nov. 15 (you can pre-order using link above) and was written with Sports Illustrated senior writer Michael Rosenberg.
As a young man, one of Buck’s overwhelming fears was losing his hair, and the possibility soon consumed him. So at age 24, in Oct. 1993, he flew to New York City to get his first hair replacement treatment. He writes that, after the procedure, “I, Joseph Francis Buck, became a hair-plug addict.”
Buck said that whenever he had a break in his schedule—usually between the end of the NFL season and the start of baseball—he would fly to New York to have a plug procedure.
“Broadcasting is a brutal, often unfair business, where looks are valued more than skill,” writes Buck. “I was worried that if I lost my hair, I would lose my job. O.K., that’s bulls—-. It was vanity. Pure vanity. I just told myself I was doing it for TV.”
A few weeks before the start of the 2011 baseball season, Buck underwent his eighth hair replacement procedure. But something went wrong during the six-hour-plus procedure. When he woke up from the anesthetic, Buck could not speak. He believes his vocal cord was paralyzed because of a cuff the surgery center used to protect him during the procedure. A doctor not part of the operation theorized to Buck that the cuff probably got jostled during the procedure and sat on the nerve responsible for firing his left vocal cord. Buck was also going through personal stress at the time, as his marriage to his high school sweetheart was ending. That stress, Buck theorizes, could have made him more susceptible to nerve damage.
Panicked, Buck sought a voice specialist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St, Louis, Dr. Bruce H. Haughey, who told him he had a paralyzed vocal cord and there was no guarantee on when his voice would come back.
Given his embarrassment over what had happened, Buck lied to his bosses, to the media, to friends. He told people that he had a virus and that his voice would come back. “I was too scared and embarrassed to tell them the truth,” Buck writes. “But I’m doing it now.”
In an interview on Wednesday with SI.com, Buck further explained why it was important to him to reveal publicly this episode in his life.
“When I started thinking about writing a book, this was the main reason why,” Buck says. “It wasn’t about stories with my Dad. I wanted to detail the time in my life where I had a lot going on and I was stressed, a time when I started to take anti-depressants and was going through a divorce. Then I had this situation with my voice that rocked me to my knees and shook every part of my world. I’m 47 years old now and willing to be vulnerable sharing a story. Whether the book is read by one person or one million doesn’t concern me. Getting this out and being honest, really telling my story, that was was the impetus behind this.”
Stories about Buck from 2011 described him as having a virus that struck the laryngeal nerve in his left vocal cord. “This is a nerve issue,’ Buck told The New York Times in 2011. “It’s not like I have polyps or a strained vocal cord. I’m waiting for one of the longest nerves in the body to recover. Nobody has said this is something that won’t come back, but they told me it could take six, nine or 12 months.” Buck continued to discuss the impact of losing his voice as late as last year (see this profile in Cigar Aficionado) but never the reasons why. Few people knew the truth beyond Buck’s immediate family and some close friends, including his NFL broadcast partner, Troy Aikman. Most people at Fox Sports will learn of this upon reading this piece.
“I was lying,” Buck said of the stories about his vocal cord issues. “I think people bend the truth all the time, unfortunately. It was really for self-preservation and ego for me. As I look back, I gave partial truths. Where I lied was when I said the reason why. People would ask, ‘Why is your vocal cord paralyzed?’ I said it was a virus. I didn’t say it was an elective procedure to add hair to the front of my head. It was embarrassing. There’s an embarrassing element to that. Any surgery done to improve one’s looks is not really something someone wants to talk about. So it’s very cathartic to get this out. There are a lot of people across the country, for as silly as this sounds, who obsess about hair loss. I would tell myself I needed to look younger, I needed to have thicker hair, I don’t want to look older than I am. The truth of it is that it was an ego thing, whether I was on TV or not.”
In the book, Buck candidly discusses taking Lexapro to relieve his anxiety from the stresses of his personal and professional life. Eventually, Dr. Hughey referred him to a doctor in Boston named Steven Zeitels, a professor of laryngeal surgery at Harvard Medical School and the director of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Center for Laryngeal Surgery and Voice Rehabilitation. Zeitels had worked with well-known voices including Adele, Bono, Roger Daltrey and Dick Vitale, among many others.
As part of the treatment, Zeitels injected Buck with a long needle and filled his vocal cord with Restylane, a filler-like substance most often used for lip enhancement. Buck returned to Zeitels every three months for additional shots. The doctor told him the more he used his voice, the more the vocal cords would swell from usage and the better he would sound. Buck’s voice got a little better in August and September of 2011, though nowhere near where a network-level announcer should be. Buck said because of the equity he had built up Fox Sports and by having a strong relationship with his bosses, he was allowed back on the air when he should have been replaced by other announcers. By October, his voice was rapidly improving. Buck said by Game 6 of the 2011 World Series between the Cardinals and Rangers, he felt like his old self. He does, however, still think about the strength of his voice prior to working games today.
“I am an extremely lucky and blessed person, but I’m pretty self-aware,” Buck said. “I’m a flawed, hard-working, hard-trying person. I didn’t write this book to change anyone else’s life. I wrote this book to be as open and as honest as I can be. If there is any mission statement, I wrote it to give viewers and people who think they know me a better and clearer picture of who I really am. If you read it, great. If not, that’s great, too. But I am just glad that it’s out there.”
One might have thought that seeing his father …
… might have been a tipoff for the younger Buck about his follicle future.
The bigger point here, other than arguing over Buck’s hair (which requires bringing up non-hirsute baseball announcers Joe Garagiola, Jon Miller and John Smoltz, among others who have less hair now than they once did) is the cutthroat world at the top of broadcasting, particularly in our social media world, where those who don’t like an announcer can let the world know that:
Buck might have learned some of that from watching his father, who was first hired by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1954. (Jack Buck worked with Harry Caray, which, according to Buck and others … well, let’s say that Caray was a better announcer than coworker.) Jack Buck was then fired in 1959 because the Cardinals wanted to hire an announcer with more name than Buck had at the time. (That came four years after Caray’s and Buck’s partner, Milo Hamilton, was punted to bring on Garagiola.)
Two years later, the announcer for whom the elder Buck was fired, Bud Blattner, left, and so Buck, having not burned bridges on his way out, was rehired. Buck got the Cardinals’ lead announcer job when the Cardinals fired Caray, allegedly for an extramarital dalliance with (depending on whom you ask, and I’ve heard multiple versions from people who knew the parties involved) the daughter-in-law or girlfriend of the Cardinals’ owner, Gussie Busch.
Jack Buck then went part-time with the Cardinals when he was hired by NBC to host its “Grandstand” show, which turned out to be a poor career move for reasons mostly not Buck’s fault, at least according to his book. Fifteen years later, Buck was named CBS-TV’s number two baseball play-by-play announcer, getting the number one job after CBS fired Brent Musburger. (I saw the headline for that in the Chicago Tribune on April Fool’s Day. It wasn’t a joke. Musburger’s firing announcement was the day of the 1990 NCAA basketball championship game, which he announced.) CBS fired Buck after two seasons, allegedly for poor on-air chemistry with partner Tim McCarver (ironically a former Cardinals catcher).
So if you’re keeping track, that’s three firings for reasons that didn’t have very much to do with Jack Buck. Between that and the fact that Joe Buck’s on-air demeanor is off-putting to some (not myself, as a fellow member of the ironic ’80s), can you blame Joe Buck for being a hair (sorry, couldn’t resist) professionally paranoid?
The irony, perhaps, is that if for some reason Fox fired Joe Buck, another broadcaster, and certainly the Cardinals, would hire him in a second, even if that meant pushing out another announcer to make room.
KOMO radio in Seattle reports:
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin tweeted Thursday that the team “will honor the country and flag” in a “demonstration of unity” prior to Sunday’s season opener against Miami.
When approached in the locker room by reporters, Baldwin declined to elaborate further saying, “you’ll see on Sunday.”
Former Green Beret and one-time Seahawks long-snapper Nate Boyer later tweeted that he had spoken with the Seahawks players about their plans and wrote, “what the team will do is a powerful sign of unification + respect for the Anthem + those that fight for our Freedom!”
In an interview with Fox Sports Radio later Thursday, Boyer expanded on his tweet .
“I spoke with the players, and they realize that 9/11 is a very important day in our nation’s history. The Seahawks, and probably every team, will be honoring those who serve in camouflage, and also those in blue who served on such a difficult day,” Boyer said. “Shortly after 9/11 our country seemed more unified than I had ever experienced, and was the most unified it has been since I have been alive. Since that date, we have grown farther apart in our unity. Standing together this Sunday is key to making progress. What the team will do is a powerful sign of unification.”
That came after previous reports that the Seahawks were planning to emulate in some fashion San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who first sat during the National Anthem, then one week later knelt because, as he told NFL Media two weeks ago …
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Just in case it isn’t obvious: The “people” Kaepernick is referring to is the police.
The 49ers issued a statement about Kaepernick’s decision: “The national anthem is and always will be a special part of the pre-game ceremony. It is an opportunity to honor our country and reflect on the great liberties we are afforded as its citizens. In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.”
Niners coach Chip Kelly told reporters Saturday that Kaepernick’s decision not to stand during the national anthem is “his right as a citizen” and said “it’s not my right to tell him not to do something.”
The NFL also released a statement, obtained by NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport: “Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the national anthem.”
By taking a stand for civil rights, Kaepernick, 28, joins other athletes, like the NBA’s Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony and several WNBA players in using their platform and status to raise awareness to issues affecting minorities in the U.S.
However, refusal to support the American flag as a means to take a stand has brought incredible backlash before and likely will in this instance. The NBA’s Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf of the Denver Nuggets, formerly Chris Jackson before converting to Islam, refused to acknowledge the flag in protest, citing similar reasons as Kaepernick and saying that it conflicted with some of his Islamic beliefs.
Abdul-Rauf drew the ire of fans and was briefly suspended by the NBA before a compromise was worked out between the league and player, who eventually stood with his teammates and coaches at the playing of the national anthem.
Kaepernick said that he is aware of what he is doing and that he knows it will not sit well with a lot of people, including the 49ers. He said that he did not inform the club or anyone affiliated with the team of his intentions to protest the national anthem.
“This is not something that I am going to run by anybody,” he said. “I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed. … If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.”
Kaepernick said that he has thought about going public with his feelings for a while but that “I felt that I needed to understand the situation better.”
He said that he has discussed his feelings with his family and, after months of witnessing some of the civil unrest in the U.S., decided to be more active and involved in rights for black people. Kaepernick, who is biracial, was adopted and raised by white parents and siblings.
Kaepernick was supported by soccer player Megan Rapinoe, as Sam Laird reported:
Rapinoe, a star on the powerhouse U.S. women’s soccer team, took a knee during the national anthem before a Sunday National Women’s Soccer League match between her Seattle Reign and the Chicago Red Stars. Afterwards, she was direct in explaining what went into the decision.
“Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties,” she told American Soccer Now. “It was something small that I could do and something that I plan to keep doing in the future and hopefully spark some meaningful conversation around it.”
Whatever Rapinoe planned to do for her next protest wasn’t seen in public, because the Washington Spirit’s national anthem was played Spirit and Reign players were in the locker room the next week. This is the case in many high school, college and NFL games, and this may well become the norm soon if players decide to protest instead of stand in something approximating attention.
The most famous National Anthem protest took place in Mexico City during the 1968 Olympic Games:
Readers know I have an odd history (“Now he tells us,” readers say) around the National Anthem. Before two 1984 UW games an anti-nuclear dance group called Nu Parable ran out onto the Camp Randall Stadium turf (really green-painted asphalt, but only my joints below my hips find that important right now) when the UW Marching Band got to “And the rockets’ red glare.” (Which was, to say the least, not what I expected to be seeing standing on the field playing trumpet.) This was Nu Parable’s way of showing that Ronald Reagan, having unaccountably failed to destroy the world during his first term in office, would undoubtedly accomplish that in his second term. One of the Nu Parables was literally punted by a band member (and Marine reservist) who found the NuP in his way while marching, and the rest of them were stared at by our drum major, who always struck me as resembling the Grim Reaper (and if looks could kill all the NuPs would have decomposed upon drum major’s sight), while being arrested by UW police.
The next home game before the election, the Nu Parables stayed well clear of the band, while being loudly booed by the crowd, which previously acted confused at what they were seeing. (UW students both weeks chanted “Nuke ’em! Nuke ’em!”, which might indicate that UW students who go to Badger games may not be, or have been, as liberal as popularly portrayed.
There is no First Amendment cause to ban Kaepernick, Baldwin, Rapinoe or anyone else from doing something other than standing at attention. The First Amendment bans government from banning freedom of expression. (Although I’m pretty sure the Nu Parable dancer/protesters were arrested for disorderly conduct or something.) Perhaps surprisingly, the NFL hasn’t censured Kaepernick either. I’m not surprised the 49ers haven’t, although it should be obvious that such a protest would be supported more in some markets than in others, such as Green Bay.
The next time you’re at a sporting event and the National Anthem is played, observe what others do. (Hopefully it’s a live performance and not a recording.) Media types rarely stand at attention hand on heart, in large part because they’re carrying cameras or other equipment, or because they’re inside the press box, which they assume isn’t inside the stadium, or something like that. I’ve seen girls teams link hands and start swinging them toward the end, which must offend traditionalists, or so you’d think. Atlanta Braves fans have amended the last line of the first verse to “And the home of the Braves!” North Dakota hockey fans amended the last line of the first verse to “And the home of the SOOOOOOOOOOO!” before the Boys Named Sioux were divested of their supposedly racist nickname.
Were these not affronts to the National Anthem as well?
(The last video is of the National Hockey League All-Star Game in Chicago during Operation Desert Storm. Notice few people are at attention or singing.)
Some people thought these were too:
It could even be claimed that singers who change the 3/4 Anthem into a 4/4 song (including, among others, Super Bowl singers Whitney Houston and Lady Gaga) are similarly disrespecting the Anthem. There are even those who assert that the Star Spangled Banner should not be the National Anthem because of, among other reasons, the difficulty of singing it.
There is an obvious dividing line during my lifetime in attitudes about the Star Spangled Banner. The line was drawn first during Operation Desert Storm (when Whitney Houston sang arguably the most famous performance at Super Bowl XXV), and the line became a wall after 9/11. (It takes real nerve to protest your country on the anniversary of 9/11, which will be Sunday.)
The cynical note the hypocrisy of claims of oppression by someone getting paid more than $100 million to play professional sports, particularly someone being paid eight digits per year to sit on the bench. (Kaepernick is no longer the starting quarterback, and if anonymous quotes are to be believed he may never play for the 49ers or any other NFL team again, though he is officially the 49ers’ backup QB.)
Some Kaepernick supporters claim (based on two lines of a four-verse song) that the Star Spangled Banner is itself racist, which is a ridiculous assertion. (To wit: “No refuge could save the hireling and slave From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,” referring to slaves apparently impressed by the British during the beginning of the War of 1812.) That is as irrelevant, regardless of the level of veracity, as the Star Spangled Banner’s melody coming from a British drinking song.
More importantly, Kaepernick’s protest is based on a false premise, the supposed war on blacks by police. If anything, as scholar Heather Mac Donald points out, there is a war on police and, by the way, on inner-city minority residents by minority inner-city criminals:
Incarceration is not destroying the black family. Family breakdown is in fact the country’s most serious social problem, and it is most acute in black communities. But the black marriage rate was collapsing long before incarceration started rising at the end of the 1970s, as my colleague Kay Hymowitz has shown. Indeed, the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan issued his prescient call for attention to black out-of-wedlock child-rearing in 1965, just as that era’s deincarceration and decriminalization movement was gaining speed.
It is crime, not incarceration, that squelches freedom and enterprise in urban areas. And there have been no more successful government programs for liberating inner-city residents from fear and disorder than proactive policing and the incapacitation of criminals. …
Violent crime is currently shooting up again in cities across the country. Police officers are backing away from proactive enforcement in response to the yearlong campaign that holds that police are the greatest threat facing young black men today. Officers encounter increasing hostility and resistance when they make a lawful arrest. With pedestrian stops, criminal summons, and arrests falling precipitously in urban areas, criminals are becoming emboldened.
That is what Kaepernick should be protesting, but of course that isn’t what he’s protesting. Of course, the First Amendment gives you the right to be wrong. The First Amendment does not protect you from the consequences of your free expression.