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baseball. [a month of happy.]

One week from today, the long MLB season will begin. This probably doesn’t make most people happy, but for me, it is intrinsically tied to my mental health. Emily has observed many times that she knows the depression is really bad for me when I’m not even watching baseball. It’s part of the landscape of my life.

Baseball is a game of rhythm and poetry. It’s about the pauses, about what doesn’t happen, just as much as it’s about the beats and what does happen.

It’s often referred to as a sport rooted in the relationship between a father and a son, which is an inaccurate oversimplification, while also managing to be sexist: double whammy!

The truth in what they are saying is that catching the passion for baseball is a learned behavior. It often happens early in life, being around someone who loves the game, then it burrows down into your bones, grabs hold and never lets go.

The feedback loop of baseball is one of increasing returns. The more you watch and learn, the more nuance you see, the better you get at seeing the game, which helps you watch more closely, which makes you fall deeper in love, and on it goes. I know this is true of most things people love, but it’s even truer of baseball. It’s a game of secret languages, of deep minutia and hidden layers of meaning in every facet of the game. There’s a reason why “inside baseball” is the turn of phrase to describe a detail-oriented description requiring specific knowledge to follow the argument.

During the regular season, baseball is ever present. If you have a favorite baseball team, they play nearly every day. 162 regular season games over the course of six months, followed by the playoffs, if you’re so lucky.

Baseball is for people who enjoy a slow burn, it is for people who need to have a constant stream of content to interpret, it is for people who enjoy watching closely, seeing incremental shifts that only mean something if you know what you’re looking for.

Baseball has been my favorite sport my entire adult life. I feel more at home watching a baseball game than I do in most contexts.

To the disgust of many, the Yankees have been my favorite professional sports team since before I have memories. I have a vague recollection of my first sporting event — the Yankees played the Royals at Yankee Stadium. Don Mattingly hit a home run in this memory, but that seems a little too perfect, so that may be the apocryphal inventions of a child’s imagination.

Anyway, every year, Emily and I find a bar or restaurant to watch the first MLB game of the season, which is always on a Sunday. This year, that first game will be played by my Yankees, a team that probably doesn’t have the pitching to compete this year, but who will still be fun to watch thanks to a bevy of youngsters — Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Aaron Judge to start the year, with more on the way soon –getting a chance to try and join the epic list of Yankee legends and fan favorites.

As I write this, there are 6 days, 14 hours, 26 minutes remaining until the first game begins. I’m ready.


scarves up. [a month of happy.]

Two parts happy, one big part sad.

Happy: The MLS Cup Champion Sounders take the field today to begin their title defense. It’s regular season MLS time!

Happy: Now that the Sounders won the MLS Cup I can argue that the Supporters’ Shield winner is the real champion of a given season without sounding like a bitter homer.

Sad: I’m away from Seattle as the Sounders season begins. From season tickets to nearly 3000 miles away is a sad trade.


frank, and also, recommendation avoidance.


I really liked Frank, the story of an Irish kid who meets an American indie band led by a man who never takes off a giant fake head. The film is also on a long list of movies that I really appreciated, but would normally be hesitant to recommend to anyone. I hate endorsing movies to friends when there is a solid chance people won’t like it, mostly because such a vast majority of people hate what they hate with much more passion and intensity than they love anything they love. I initially wrote much more about that fact as I was composing this, but then decided it was best left for a different post altogether. Suffice it to say that I have trouble separating my own feelings from the art I love, and most people are assholes when they don’t like something. Thus, even my best friends don’t normally get recommendations from me unless they read this blog, wherein I get to share stuff in a bit of a vacuum.

Anyway, the trailers for Frank make it seem like the film is about a lovable Irish kid who finds a genius songwriter who is a diamond in the rough, and a bit nuts, and nudges him toward a wider audience. In reality, the film is much better, and at times much much more uncomfortable than that. There were scenes later in the film where I literally had to pace my living room because I was so uncomfortable about what was taking place and how casually terrible people can be.

Frank is about genius, and mental illness, and being talentless (but too talentless to know it), and it is about that age-old conversation about the relationship between creative genius and mental illness. It’s about community, finding those people who see you and understand you and accept you for who and what you are, and make you better. The film is small and intelligent, and it is one of the few movies about brilliant and weird music that actually includes brilliant and weird music. Most of the time they just keep telling us it is weird and brilliant and we are supposed to go along with it. Everybody in it is great, which is what sells the uncomfortable moments so well, but also what makes the heart and beauty land perfectly.

I absolutely loved the closing moments of the film, for reasons that are best explained in a long conversation with someone who gives a shit about my two cents, instead of in a hastily written blog post. I’m sharing that scene so people who have seen the film can enjoy it again, but I would recommend skipping it if you haven’t watched Frank. Both because of spoilers, and because you won’t know what the fuck is going on. I just needed a scene about a man who can often only express himself indirectly and through an artistic medium included on RtM.


what does that feel like?

What does it feel like to fail profoundly when absolutely everyone can see you?

Last night, in one play, the Seahawks went from certain repeat champs to losers. The difference was literally the absolute worst play call I have ever seen in sports. Not a dropped pass or missed timing, not a fumble or even just a mere interception (although interception it was), but a conscious decision to do something that made no sense and is unambiguously bizarre.

What does it feel like to make the call that wipes away a season’s worth of effort, rendering moot so much blood and sweat spent, men playing injured and tired? And what does it feel like to fail like that during the most watched event on television?

I’m a Giants fan, with the exception of OBJ my favorite team was abysmal this year, so I don’t mean this question bitingly. I’m not asking as a dig at the two men who made that play call. I mean that sincerely. How the fuck do you bounce back from that sort of profound failure? Where everything you work for distills down to one moment and you make a strange decision that you will forever wish you could take back?

I’m not sure I could. I can’t be certain I’d have the resilience required to fail like that in front of everyone and get back up and try again.

Without hyperbole, the end of that game will be remembered for how bizarre and nonsensical that decision was, and I just can’t wrap my brain around what it must feel like in the wake of failure that will forever be connected to your name. It’s not often I’m happy I was never talented or gifted enough to be an athlete, but today is one of those times.



five and five. [five things i’ve been enjoying and five things i hope to enjoy very soon]

I’ve been in the mood to do this again. I’d like to do it as consistently as I used to, but needs must and whatnot. Maybe my schedule will allow it, maybe it won’t.

For my first post back in a while I decided to share five things I’ve been enjoying, along with five things I still really want to try soon.

Five Things I’ve Been Enjoying

1. Kurt Vonnegut. 

vonnegutLoving a writer like Vonnegut is pretty obvious, especially for someone with my particular sensibility. Still, before this year I had only read Slaughterhouse-Five, or, The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death. As some of you know, this year my goal was to read every Vonnegut novel. I’m through six, and he is everything I’d hoped he would be and more.

I expected the gallows humor, the irony, the cleverness, and the imagination that he is known for. What I didn’t expect was the beautiful tenderness in his writing. Sure, the writing is darkly hilarious and honestly realistic about the world, but for all Vonnegut’s ability to see humans for the absurd beings we really are, he also seemed to love us in spite of it all.

Vonnegut’s work is hopeful, but in an eyes-wide-open way that results in the only hope that’s worth a damn.


2. Justified

Justified Season 4 Gallery Timothy Olyphant

The contemporary western series based on characters created by Elmore Leonard is one of my favorite things of late. I’ve been careful not to start episodes most days because it too often results in binge watching multiple episodes in a row.

I only just finished the second season and it was outstanding. What could easily be a purely formulaic affair is elevated by great camerawork, satisfying and thrilling season-long story arcs, phenomenal acting by recurring players, and two of my very favorite characters on television in Raylan Givens [Timothy Olyphant] and Boyd Crowder [Walton Goggins]. Like Eastwood’s various protagonists, these characters give us those moments of delightful badassery, complete with smart-ass one-liners and love/hate banter.  


3. Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley

I started watching because it was created by Mike Judge and Kumail Nanjiani is in it. I kept watching it because of how great it is.

Relevant, original, hilarious, and smart. This and True Detective are the best examples of why HBO is still in the company of Netflix, et. al. as the future of serial storytelling.

Also, the eureka moment in the series finale is probably my favorite ever, but I won’t explain why and spoil anything.


4. Seattle Sounders

obaThe trick with sports is that your team is going to have a season that ends in defeat significantly more often than in victory. Being a sports fan, even a relatively realistic and rational sports fan like myself, is often a painful affair.

Thus, the Sounders could break my heart sooner rather than later.

Right now, though, it sure is fun to be a Sounders fan! In the 15 games before the break they are literally running away with the entire league. Hopefully after the World Cup break the boys in Rave Green will get right back to providing a non-stop highlight reel.


5. Last Week Tonight


The first two or three episodes were good. Certainly good enough to keep me coming back. Yet, as the show hit its stride it became downright brilliant. The writing is improving every week, and Oliver continues to get his legs doing a job he’s done before but never in this context.

At this rate, Last Week Tonight, a show that in its initial episode looked to be merely clever and funny, will become one of the more important weekly events on television. John Oliver’s rants smack of a special kind of truth-telling this world needs a shit-ton more of.


Five Things I Hope to Enjoy Soon

1. Child of Light


A video game that follows a young girl who finds herself unable to awaken in her real world, but is instead trapped in a dark world where the sun, moon and stars have been stolen by the Queen of the Night.

From what I’ve read, which isn’t much because I don’t want everything spoiled for me, the game uses the fairy tale structure to engage deeper themes of sadness, isolation, connection, and hope. So, basically, the description you’d give if you were trying to catch me hook, line, and sinker.


2. The Edge of Tomorrow

edge-of-tomorrow-movie-trailerSo far this weekend, people aren’t going to see this. However, I hope that before the week is out I can be one of the few who have bought a ticket. The premise looks exciting and fresh, Tom Cruise continues to make entertaining movies even if he is apparently a psycho IRL, and critical reaction has been overwhelmingly positive.

Oh yeah, and Emily Blunt.


3. Her

imgresI’ve already seen it, but it becomes available as a Netflix mailer on Tuesday and I can’t wait to enjoy it again. So far, Her is my favorite of the films I’ve seen this year.

I am still baffled that one of the storytellers I cherish the most for his insight, tenderness, and honesty helped create Jackass. Oh, Spike Jonze, you beautiful enigma.


4. Chef

images-1I’ll actually be seeing this later today, so, WIN!

It’s good to see Favs writing something smaller again. Did I mention some friends and I used to watch Swingers once a week in freshman and sophomore years of college? Occasionally we would take breaks and watch Made once a week instead.

Plus, the cast looks fantastic. I really wish there were more Bobby Cannavale performances in the world.


5. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

51tpIK8K+tLTechnically, I’ve already started enjoying this because I’m 50 pages in. I hope to have time to enjoy the other 650something pages later this week, because so far it seems to be exactly the kind of book I want to be reading right now.

Lynch’s first novel, and the first book in the ‘Gentleman Bastard’ series (which is up to three books thus far), is apparently a well-written crime caper in a beautifully realized fantasy setting. So far, I agree with the consensus assessment that the book is awesome. I can’t wait to get back to it!


being a knicks fan.

jr-smithjpg-83c337f06bb7c593It’s a hard knock life being a Knicks fan. After years of futility, it feels like every good thing that happens is just setting us up for more frustration at the hands of our favorite team. For example, just a few weeks ago, the Knicks looked pretty mediocre. After a hot start, they had settled back into the middle of the pack and weren’t doing to look like a serious threat for a title.

It was clear they were going to easily make the playoffs, and I was happy knowing that while they had no chance in the playoffs, at least they would make the first round competitive, maybe even advance to the second round, unlike last year’s route by the Heat.

Then the streak started.

12th straight winThe Knicks are playing better basketball right now than they have at any point in the last decade. JR Smith is out of control, and Melo is on a different level than everyone else right now. He is one week (albeit a grueling week in which the Knicks play five games, three against good teams) away from winning the NBA scoring title. The Knicks have won 13 in a row. They beat the Heat during the streak, but that didn’t count since the Heat were playing without Lebron, Wade, and Chalmers. However, after that they beat the Thunder, prompting NBA pundits from around the country to start saying that the Knicks just might be for real, and just might be able to make the East a two-team race for the Finals.

This should be great news. My favorite team is hot just in time for the playoffs. Yet, it feels like another carefully orchestrated scheme to crush me. It’s not that I believe the Knicks could steal the Finals, this is still Lebron and Durant’s NBA. It’s that part of me is starting to want to believe the Knicks could steal the Finals.

Granted, if a few of their big men don’t get healthy before the playoffs, no part of me will be optimistic, it might result in a playoffs as ugly as last year’s. We knew injury would be a problem this year, it’s part of the risk of running out a team that will be eligible for Social Security next month. However, a few of those big men should be healthy, and those old veterans have worked really well in this team. This Knicks team is one of those groups that gel, and when they play with discipline, are good enough to be legitimately dangerous in the post-season. Saying a two seed might be dangerous seems silly, but if you aren’t Miami, you’re the heavy underdog in the East. Also, this is the Knicks, a team that has made an art of turning the Mecca of professional basketball into a joke for so many years. Long gone are the days of Garden heroes like Patrick Ewing and Allan Houston.

Yet, perhaps this is the year when we get new heroes in Melo and Smith. Only heroics in the playoffs can make that a reality.

Honestly, I’d really be happy just to have Knicks playoff basketball that was competitive enough to be worth watching again. I just hope they aren’t getting me to believe just to deflate me later this month.





url-3This is a movie I danced around for a long time. All signs pointed to it being unexpectedly good, but I just couldn’t convince myself I’d actually enjoy a movie about MMA. Well, chalk another point up for iCheckMovies. I know I mention that a lot, it really does just add so much to my movie-watching habits.

What had happened was that a while back, I completed my first and only list on iCheckMovies, the Reddit Top 250. I even wrote about it. Well, a few months ago, Reddit changed their list, stripping me of the trophy I had so rightfully earned. Dicks. Thus, Warrior was now in the way of getting my platinum trophy back. It’s available to stream instantly on Netflix, so… what the hell, right?

hardy warrior

Warrior is really good! On Rotten Tomatoes, (where the film has an 83% score) the consensus is: “Warrior relies on many of the clichés that critics of the genre love to mock — and it transcends them with gripping action, powerful acting, and heart.” I agree entirely. This is a small, powerful story about family, abuse, pain, and forgiveness, carried on the backs of three really wonderful performances. The sports film clichés are transcended because Warrior doesn’t try to bypass them or ignore them, but journeys deep into the heart of those clichés, offering depth and grit where we would often only see shallow nonsense.

It actually had to be a movie about MMA. These characters make sense within this sports metaphor, one desperate enough to put his body on the line for his family, one so angry and hurting that rage is all he has left to navigate the world. The savage brutality of MMA isn’t ‘pretended’ away, it adds to the visceral grittiness as we see an outward manifestation of what these characters are carrying internally.

There are definitely some awkward sports movie realities, especially the moments when publicity for the fighting tournament is being used to move the story along (something that happens several times). Yet, Warrior exceeded my expectations in every way, and if you’ve got a free evening and a Netflix account, you should check it out.



eternal blue, forever green, sounders ’til i die.

I’m Sounders ’til I die
I’m Sounders ’til I die
I know I am, I’m sure I am
I’m Sounders ’til I die

rave greenMy relationship with sports over the last few years is a complicated one. I still love so much about sports, but there are just some things that irk me to the point that at times I want to throw in the towel altogether. It’s not the things that normally seem to bother people about sports, where people get mad about inflated contracts and lopsided spending. Yet, that doesn’t really bother me, something I’d be happy to explain in another post or conversation. What does bother me is the way so many sports fans act as sports fans (my past self included). The behaviors I’m referring to include:

  1. The asinine habit in which so many sports fans lump their own ego together with their favorite sports team’s performance. Sara roots for Team A, Tommy roots for Team B, and when Team B wins, somehow in Tommy’s mind that makes him superior to Sara. He isn’t on the team, he didn’t play a single minute of professional sports, and yet, somehow, he feels better about himself as a human being when his team wins, and vice versa.
  2. Fans often attach a moral element to their fandom. That sentence is so fucking ridiculous it seems unreal when I type it, but it is true. People don’t claim to root against the Yankees or the Lakers or the Cowboys because they just prefer other teams, but because those teams are ‘evil.’ Obviously, this is the real world, there are good guys and douche-bags on every single team. Yet, based purely on the uniform, fans think they can accurately determine the moral standing of a given player. Even if the same player switches teams, they experience a drastic metaphysical change when they switch jerseys. Usually people point to things like the Yankees payroll and use that as a reason to claim moral standing… but unless they would abandon their own team if it started spending tons of money, then it isn’t a moral issue at all. It’s just that they are pissed that their team is getting outspent. That’s fair, they should be frustrated, but it isn’t doesn’t make Red Sox or Dodgers or Angels bad human beings. I’ve never understood it. As a Yankees fan my entire life, I always liked guys like Big Papi and Pedro Martinez, and always disliked guys like Roger Clemens, even on the Yankees. No amount of jersey changing is going to convince me that Kevin Youkilis is a good guy. I have a dream, that one day people won’t be judged by the color of their jerseys, but by the content of their character.

Anyway, just a brief primer to explain why my sports fandom is conflicted over the last few years.

Yet, for all the negative bullshit, their is something potentially beautiful about sports. When it is celebrated without us attaching our self-worth to it, it can be a raucous cause for joy and a worthy reason to lament if we can find healthy ways to live and breathe with the teams we love. Sports can be art, but there isn’t space for me to write more about that in this post.

The teams I love the most all have moments attached to them, when I can remember being a part of a community of people celebrating, when I remember how special a moment was, and my heart was won over and I never took it back. I remember sitting on the arm of my mom’s couch hoping the Bills would miss a field goal, and celebrating with all my eight-year-old strength as they did, and the Giants won the first championship of any of my favorite teams within my lifetime. I remember what it meant to the people of New York when the 1994 Rangers won the Stanley Cup, and I also remember watching Mark Messier cry on the ice during a video montage of his time in NY when he returned as a visiting player. I remember when John Starks dunked on Michael Jordan and Horace Grant with the same dunk. I remember watching Derek Jeter hit his first homerun. I remember standing in the living room of the Camp Taconic cook to see the Yankees return from two games down to win the 1996 World Series.I remember my first playoff game at Yankee Stadium, and how electric the atmosphere was, especially when retired Don Mattingly threw out the first pitch. I remember how important the 2001 World Series was to New York City, even though the Yankees lost in the end, those thrilling endings in Yankee Stadium picked a city up off the mat and gave them a reason to cheer again.

Those are just a small sampling of moments that made me fall in love with teams. And now that Seattle is my home, another team has been winning my heart over the last few seasons with moments just like the ones I just mentioned. I’ve gotten to be a part of a passionate, loving group of fans who know their team well and celebrate it with vigor, which is something that most fan-bases can’t claim.

The first game I saw was with my friend Brian, and it was clear immediately that the experience of seeing a Sounders game in Seattle is a special sports experience (and those who know me at all know that I’ve seen a lot of sporting events in a lot of different cities). The fans are knowledgable, passionate, and make for a really great environment for taking in a game.

Here is a small sampling of what the experience is like, this is a portion of how fans celebrate the start of every game:


The feeling of being at Century Link Field for Sounders game adds weight to every moment (also, it doesn’t hurt that I get to go to the games with some of the people I love the most in this world). This extra gravity is good, because I have been able to be a part of some Sounders moments that brought up that special sort of feeling that sports can create, the ones that bring a tear to the eye and widen one’s smile. There have been many moments, but I picked my three favorites, the ones that felt the most special. These moments are the reason I’ve graduated over the last few years from casual but interested fan to ardent supporter, with super-fandom rapidly approaching. Here are my favorite Sounders moments so far:

1. Kasey Keller’s final games with the team

Kasey Keller’s last year with the Sounders just happened to coincide with the first year that I watched with any consistency (I know, I’m a new fan, don’t judge). A supremely likable player, he is a local boy who went on to make a name for himself as the most successful American-born goal-keeper in the history of the sport. Then, he came home to play for the Sounders upon their transition to the MLS. We were at the Clink (Century Link Field) for his final regular season game, and his final home game in the playoffs. It was loud, and emotional, and even though there was no way I could have the personal investment that those fans around me had, the atmosphere was infectious. It was easy to get caught up in the energy.

There was also this moment, in Keller’s final home game, that is the stuff that legends are made of. When people tell their kids about Kasey Keller, they will mention this moment.


2. Steve Zakuani’s Return

Steve Zakuani was a rising star, one of those ‘can’t miss’ talents that everyone was excited to watch. Then, a brutal slide tackle by Colorado Rapids’ Brian Mullan broke Zakuani’s tibia and fibula. The tackle was brutal enough that Mullan was banned for 10 games, which is nearly 1/3 of the regular season in the MLS.

It was an injury that had the potential to end his career, and he missed the next 15 months. But, he worked hard, beat the odds, and he made it back to the pitch for the Sounders. The significance of the moment wasn’t lost on the Sounders faithful. To be there at Century Link for that game will always be one of my all-time favorite sports memories.

Watch the first two minutes of this video to see that moment.


3. The introduction of Obafemi Martins

You would think that #3 would be the Sounders’ first ever playoff win, but it isn’t. That was a wonderful moment, but it wasn’t a time that solidified my sense of connection to the team. This last game was.

Obafemi Martins is a big signing, the sort that doesn’t normally happen for teams in the MLS. For more commentary on why the signing is huge, you should read this. It’s a big deal that the Sounders were able to land him, and it’s an even bigger deal that Oba wanted to come to the Sounders over the other possible destinations. Seattle is quickly becoming a legitimate destination in the international soccer landscape, and the ramifications of that could impact Sounders fans and the rest of the MLS quite a bit over the next few years.

In case there was any question as to how excited Martins was to join the Sounders, here is your proof: Martins finished the paperwork he needed for a work visa and whatnot on Friday, then flew from Spain to Seattle to be present for the game on Saturday with no real expectation of starting with a team he’d never practiced with, only to get back on a plane and fly all the way to Nigeria to join his native country’s World Cup team.

On the way to the match on Saturday, we buzzed about it in the car. He would be suited up, he would be eligible, and while we knew he wouldn’t start, a substitution later in the game would provide the fans the opportunity to properly welcome Martins to Seattle, to assure him he made a good choice in joining the Sounders. The anticipation was palpable, and his appearance electrified the fan base, with his potential on the field being quickly evident.

As they tend to do, NBC was pretty bad at capturing the feeling of the moment, so this video is the best we’ve got.