Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Stan Willner

Live life for life's own sake.

That is the message I took from the life of Stan Willner.

On August 13th, 2014, Stan Willner, my grandfather, quietly passed from this world. He would have been 91 this year.

He'd been suffering, struggling with the same dementia and memory loss that took his mother.  He had been shifted around from one house or hospital to another as my uncle struggled to find the right care for him. He began falling down, but couldn't remember it happening. An exam revealed he'd been suffering a series of small strokes. He could no longer remember conversations or recognize faces. Finally, after coming out of the hospital to go back into another facility that said they didn't have the resources to take care of him, he laid down and he faded away.

But even when his mind was nearly gone, he never weakened. Time after time, he fell down. A single fall in her early 70s confined my grandmother to a walker for the rest of her days. Up to age 90, Grandpa Stan fell time after time and bruised his arms, his back, even his head, and came up the next day not remembering it happened and shrugging it off.  While other people ten years younger or more were confined to wheelchairs or in bed all day, my grandpa would go crazy if he couldn't get up and walk around. No matter what happened, he always walked away from it.

That's how I remember my Grandpa. Invincible.

The people we meet and know and love are made up of our memories of them. After they leave us, the way we remember them is what will keep them alive forever. We can choose to remember the good or the bad, and those choices color the story we tell ourselves about what someone was like. That story is what we draw from when determining the lesson a life can teach us.

My grandfather was never a man of great ambition. He almost never had a lot of money, and when he did he'd give it away or go out gambling. I remember once in Arizona, he hit 5 of the 6 numbers on the Lotto and won some not-insignificant amount. The first thing he did was give some to my mother, and then take me out to the store to buy any toy I wanted (I got a light-up laser a gun with like, SEVEN different sound effects). When my mom went into labor with my little brother in the middle of the night, Grandpa was at our house within minutes to watch me while they went to the hospital. Some days he would just swing around with his great big blue car with the rusted-over hood and take me to the golf course where he worked. I'd sit at the 19th Hole and play the arcade games, he'd introduce me around, chat with all the regulars and have a drink, and then he'd bring me home. No special reason, he just wanted to spend some time with his grandson. We'd hang out in his apartment, or go to the movies, or he'd take me out to rent a video game. If I was around, Grandpa would ask if I wanted to do anything. Even as I write this and remember, I honestly hope that I appreciated at the time how good he was to me. I really hope so.

Through all the years I knew him growing up, from age 60 to age 90, my Grandpa Stan never changed. He was quiet, he was mild, he was thoughtful, and he was kind. I know him as the man who was never far from something to read. Sometimes he would return books to the library because he'd get a few chapters in and realize he had already read them. Once I was telling him about the plot of a book I was reading, a semi-obscure fantasy novel, and halfway in he interrupted with "oh yeah, this sounds familiar." At the time I was annoyed - I thought he was bored of my explanation and trying to get out of it. Later, I realized no - if a book could be found at a local library, there was a better-than-average chance that yes, he had read it at least once.

He could live on bagels with cream cheese. Once, when I was two years old, my grandpa left the table while eating. When he returned, I had crawled up from underneath the table, donned his glasses and started eating his bagel while holding the newspaper out in front of me and happily declared 'I'm grandpa!"

Everyone who knew him and loved him should take heart in the fact that his life was quiet, peaceful, and yet somehow full of fun and adventure. He traveled across Asia and Europe, saw all of America, hobnobbed with stars and Presidents, had a set of whirlwind romances, and watched his two children grow into amazing people that gave him grandchildren he adored. Yet for all that, he was happiest going for a walk, playing a game of golf or bowling, or sitting in a chair and reading until he fell asleep. He lived life on his own terms, and that was all he ever wanted to do. There was never any grand scheme or plan in Grandpa Stan's life. He was just happy to be alive, and never thought much about the future. Every day was an opportunity to have a good day, and he had many more of those than not.

And from an early age, he had earned it.

Stan Willner was one of four children, growing up in a middle class Jewish family in New York City during the Great Depression. They were never poor, like others. My great-grandfather, Max, ran a scrap business that remained successful even during the most desperate times. This probably had something to do with the fact that Max also got arrested by the FBI once for suspected mafia ties, but hey, he had to put food on the table. Max was meticulous, wore monogrammed suits and had a chauffeur. However, neither Stan nor his brother Eddy cared much for the business. They wanted to go out and have fun, enjoy their youth, and not worry too much about the world or their future. Max and his sons battled constantly, the hard-working and demanding Max constantly frustrated that he could not drag the same work ethic out of his boys. They fought and grew resentful, causing no end of grief to Bessie, my great-grandmother. Stan simply had no ambition towards working like his father, or much of anything in life.

Then our country was attacked.

After Pearl Harbor, the call went out, and he answered. Stan lied about his age and joined the army at 17. This kid from the city who never cared about much more than cruising around the neighborhood and going out with his buddies knew that his country needed him, and he cast everything aside to join the war. He went away from New York and found himself in the Pacific Theater, fighting as a paratrooper for the 503rd Regiment. At the Battle of Noemfoor, he earned a purple heart, breaking his leg on a landing and continuing to fight. The same battle saw another member of the 503rd earn the Medal of Honor. Stan recuperated and shipped out again, He was there at the Battle of Corregidor, the fiercest fighting the regiment saw during the war. For taking the near-impenetrable island from the defending Japanese soldiers, the 503rd earned the Presidential Unit Citation and the nickname "the Rock Regiment." For all of this, Stan, barely 18 at the time, was there.

When he returned from the war, he went home. Max was there at the train station waiting. With tears in his eyes, his father embraced him, and welcomed him home.

He was an American hero, the likes of which are slowly fading from this world.

It is hard for me to picture my quiet, slow-moving grandfather as the hero I know he was. I know him by his smile, his laugh, the warmth he exuded, the kindness and thoughtfulness in his voice.  Though he kept his medals and memorabilia, he never spoke about the war.

I do know one story. He was demoted once, and there are two stories surrounding that. The first goes that he disobeyed orders and ran out with a friend in order to save a nun they'd left behind in a village that was about to be attacked. I told that story to my grandmother and she cackled as only she could, then informed me that "what are you, crazy? He went out drinking with his buddies on duty and their commanding officer found them." The best part of that? With Grandpa, either one of those tales could be true and they'd both be completely in keeping with his character.

After returning home, Stan fell into a series of jobs here and there. He never worked in one place for too long. He waited tables, he ran a bar, he managed a hotel. He played pool, and cards, and stayed out late with his buddies. He bet on horses and took up golf. In the middle of all that, he married my Grandma Fran, whom was ten years younger than him, and had two children, a son and a daughter. He and Grandma divorced, and Stan left their home until the day she called him and told him that she could no longer take care of their kids. Stan returned home that night without hesitation so his children would never be alone.

He moved them to Florida and opened another bar. When my mom contemplated dropping out of high school, he put his foot down and told her she was finishing no matter what. She ended up graduating at 16 and going on to receive a Master's in Psychology. My Uncle Mike went on to put himself through law school, and once a month Stan would send him a card with $50 in it, which was all the money he could spare.

Stan went from Florida to Arizona to Las Vegas to California. He stayed wherever he was most comfortable and could have the most fun. He never lost that simple desire from his youth to just be able to do what he wanted. He was never rich, frequently poor, and often completely responsible for both, but he was happy. The future never concerned him much. He knew what he cared about most and so that was what he lived for. As long as he could do that, every day was a good day.

Perhaps the best way to sum up my grandfather when his memory started going is with my mother's birthday from last year. Grandpa Stan called her that day and left her a message, where you can hear the happiness and pride in his voice as he talks to his daughter, wishing her a happy birthday and telling her to call him back so they can talk later. Then he called her back and left the same message. Then he called her cell phone and did it again. Then once more he called the house and said "Marci, I might have said this five or ten minutes ago, I don't remember, but even if I did, happy birthday again."

He might not have remembered what he said two minutes ago, but he never forgot what was most important to him.

People are made of our memories of them. These memories are what we draw from to learn the lesson each life was put here to teach us.

For Grandpa Stan, it's easy. All my memories of him add up to form one message. Live life - and love life - for life's own sake. When you do that, the best stuff happens.

I love you Grandpa. I'll miss you always.

Every day is a good day.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Ten Laps

My body tells me no
But I won't quit, cause I want more
Cause I want more.
     - My Body by Young the Giant

It's fifteen degrees outside as I step into the cold. My feet bounce lightly off the pavement as I jog momentarily in place. My breath mists around me. The gym is a six minute walk away. The sweatshirt I'm wearing does almost nothing to keep the wind out. I pull my hood up and start moving.

With the wind, the temperature is below zero.

The gym doors open and the heating inside mercifully washes over me. My face is red and my nose is running, and when the wind blew my hood down I did nothing to fix it, not wanting to take my hands out of my pockets and expose them to the cold. I close my eyes and wait for the chill that runs through my body to pass. I can see the weight room, sparsely populated, through the back of the staircase in front of me. Not yet. I march up the stairs.

It's time to warm up.

Televisions line the cardio room to keep the people endlessly moving in place from getting bored. The Big Bang Theory is on. It's always on. It doesn't matter what gym you are in, what day you go, or what time you get there, if they have a TV, it will be showing The Big Bang Theory. Sheldon's friends are doing him a great disservice by not helping him seek treatment for his obvious social disorders. Everybody has an mp3 player. Nobody is watching. My iPod broke years ago. I listen to the top 40 hits being run methodically through the sound system.

Ten laps, yesterday, I remind myself. Ten laps. Each time around the blue turf that encircles the cardio room and the basketball court is a tenth of a mile. Yesterday I ran one mile. I was running four before the summer break, I growl in my own head. My gym sneakers are old and worn out. This isn't going to help extend their life. The sole slaps the surface, and I'm off.

My legs pump rhythmically in time with my arms. My breath is steady, my eyes set firmly ahead. With each lap around the treadmills and elliptical machines and stretch mats I glimpse at the others doing the same thing I am. I see who is taking it easy and who is pushing themselves, who is following an ingrained routine and who is pursuing a New Year's Resolution. I'm closing in on one year of working out.

I push through another lap.

My knee is better after taking a week off to let it settle. With every step it had felt like it was about to torque itself out of place. I don't think about it as I keep on moving forward. Ten laps yesterday.

Ahead of me is the CrossFit workout of the day. The names of a dozen workouts I never knew existed before run through my mind. Double under. Single arm snatch. Front squat. Toes-to-bar. Burpee. I have a schedule, normally - shoulder day, arm day, chest day, leg day, back day, rest, repeat. My days are filled with sets and reps. Now I alternate, back and forth, one month of muscle groups, one month of CrossFit, and back again. New veins have formed to carry blood to newly-formed muscle. My hands have grown thick calluses from the days I forget to wear gloves. I picture in my mind what I've always imagined I would look like at 100%. I catch a glimpse of myself in the window as I run past. It looks like I'm at 50.

Nine months ago I was at 0. I keep running.

I remember the years I spent looking in the mirror being unsatisfied with what I saw. I remember the years, very recently, where my weight crossed the threshold of 200. I remember struggling to fit into pants I'd owned for years. I remember how that made me feel. I remember how I felt when my weight dropped almost to 160, when I had to buy all new clothes, when I came back to campus after months away and everyone I ran into remarked on how much weight I'd lost and muscle I'd put on. I remember watching the scale tick steadily upwards, and realizing that it wasn't because I was putting on fat. I'm breathing hard. I've lapped a couple using the walking lane three times already. Ten laps yesterday.

My legs are starting to feel the strain. I ignore them.

I know down in the weight room, there are a going to be half a dozen guys bigger than me, stronger than me, who've been doing this a lot longer and a lot more seriously. Athletes, bodybuilders, or just people like me with more years behind them. They look better, they train harder, people stop and stare at them as they do their sets of deadlifts. They show up in pairs, or teams, and I am alone. I remind myself that I'm not competing against them. I'm not trying to be stronger than them. I'm just trying to be stronger than me.

I'm halfway to ten. I push myself forward.

Day by day, rep by rep, lap by lap. Always get stronger. Never weaker. That was my mantra for months. I felt weaker than I ever had, and I told myself there was only one way I was coming out of it. Better than ever. Every day, go further. Lift more. Work harder. If there's weakness, burn through it. If there's pain, deal with it. If I felt hurt, rest, recover, come back stronger. Always stronger. I didn't see results after a week. I didn't see them after a month. I still don't really know if I see them now. So I work harder. I never give up.

The muscles in my legs are telling me to slow down. I choose not to.

Every day, I make a decision. A decision not to sit in my dorm room on my computer. A decision to change into my gym clothes and walk out the door. Just having the clothes on, making the first decision, spurs me forward. I'm already changed, might as well go, I think. It's cold. I just went yesterday. The workout today looks hard. It'll be crowded. It's late. I've got homework. I have to get up early. I'm tired. I can always go tomorrow. I'll get bored. But I've already changed. Too late to turn back now. So I go, and I go, and I go, until I don't even think about the excuses. Until it's such a regular part of my routine that the gym is now an excuse to take myself away from other things. I made that decision. I made the decision to not have an extra dessert, or to drink a soda, or to have another slice of pizza. I made a decision to not quit.

I'm at seven. I decide to keep going.

There's no goal in mind - there's no endgame. There's no result I'm after that I can get frustrated and quit over because I don't see it right away. There's only this body, and how it looks, and how I want it to look, and the knowledge that this is how it gets there. If I work out as hard as I can today and it doesn't work, then I guess I just need to come back and do it again tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that. If I mess up one day, if I can't go, if I'm away for some reason and my schedule gets thrown out of whack, the gym doesn't care. The gym will still be there when I get back. If I find I can't lift as much as I could, can't go as far as I used to, then it's time to work myself back to where I was. There is no overall goal. Every day is the goal. Every day is another block in the foundation, and before you know it, the house is halfway built.

Eight. My chest is heavy, my legs hurt. But I ran ten yesterday. Never weaker. I ran ten yesterday.

I think back to my first run. A friend of mine challenged me to run six miles. Forget how long it takes, don't worry if you have to stop and walk for part of it. Just get it done. Six miles. I could barely run one. So I sucked it up, and I did it. All of it. It wasn't fast, it wasn't pretty, but I didn't stop until I did it. Now that I knew I could do it, I knew I could do it again. With every pump of my legs, every ragged breath, every desperate gasp at the water fountain, I got stronger. I left my weaknesses behind.

Nine laps in and I'm still going strong.

You don't set a goal with some artificial deadline.

You don't compete with anybody else.

You just make the decision to do it.

And then you do it.

And you keep doing it, every day, until there's no such thing as not doing it.

You just get stronger.

I hit ten laps. I ran ten laps yesterday.

So today I do eleven.

I forgot my gloves again. I'm going to be burning calluses into my hands. My arms are going to feel like lead after the dumbbell lifts. I've never even done a toes-to-bar and have no idea if I can. There are sit-ups in today's workout. I hate sit-ups.

When the blood is roaring in your ears, when your body feels too heavy to move, when you're staring at the bar perched over you and have no idea how you intend to move that much weight, when you just can't squeeze out one more pull-up, one more sit-up, one more curl, one more push, one more press, one more lap,

That's exactly when you do it.

When you see the weight lift off the bench, when you get your chin over the bar, when you go back in the locker room, strip your shirt off, look in the mirror and think "yeah, this is good," that's what gets you back the next day. And if you can't do those things, then you work until you can.

I go downstairs and do my workout. My body is exhausted and exhilarated at once. It's still fifteen degrees. Walk back in the cold. Drink a protein shake. Get some sleep.

I'm in the best shape of my life.

Tomorrow I'll do twelve.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Best Version of Myself

I am a hopeless romantic. Not a very good one, I've decided lately, but hopeless nonetheless. And as such, I absolutely love chick flicks of all shapes and sizes. Even the movies that I know are going to be completely terrible will fill me with a deeply abiding satisfaction, because the boy has gotten the girl, the girl has gotten the boy, and True Love has reigned supreme. On any given trip to Netflix, you'd better believe I'm stopping by the Romance section first.

Now one of my favorite of all chick flicks is You've Got Mail, starring Tom Hanks as Joe Fox and Meg Ryan as Kathleen Kelly in a retelling of the Jimmy Stewart movie, The Shop Around the Corner, which is a retelling of the Miklos Laszlo play, Parfumerie. The story has nabbed hearts for over 70 years, and you would be hard-pressed to convince me that You've Got Mail is not one of the greatest movies to ever grace the face of this wonderful planet. I could probably watch it every time it pops up on TBS and never get tired of it. Upon finishing it, I am always convinced that it is my calling to move to New York City and become a quirky bookstore owner.

So anyways, unaware that they have been corresponding anonymously with each other via email, falling in love one message at a time, Joe and Kathleen are introduced to each other at a party about a third of the way through the movie. It is hate at first sight. (To be fair, Joe is pretty heinous.) Later, he writes to Kathleen about his behavior, asking her,

"Do you ever feel you've become the worst version of yourself? That a Pandora's box of all the secret, hateful parts - your arrogance, your spite, your condescension - has sprung open?"

Well, Joe, funny you should ask that. Because I know exactly what you mean.

The last year has not been the easiest for me. I'm doing that thing where I'm growing up and becoming an adult more than ever before, and it has proven a bit of a challenge. I've made some good choices and I've made some bad ones, and the earth has kept turning regardless, as she is wont to do. But through it all, I think I've lost sight of who and what I want to be in this world. 

I like to think, when I look at myself as a whole, that I'm a pretty positive person. I try to be upbeat and optimistic. I try to be friendly to everyone, to exude love and acceptance. I'm outgoing (you know, except for when I'm painfully shy) and goofy and fun-loving. Someone you can rely on for help and support. Someone who is a good friend. A lot of what I want for my life is to live as Christ would have me live. Be good, do good, and love others.

I mean, wasn't that the whole point of this blog in the first place? When we were really in our prime, we were a bunch of twenty-somethings searching for what it means to be a Gentleman in this world. 

But lately, I'm finding that I'm not really living up to that ideal anymore. I'm not completely sure when it happened. I think it was probably a gradual shift, or maybe a number of shifts, in my attitude and reactions that started to become habits in my behavior. I find myself being sullen and irritable more than ever before. I'm judgmental. I let things bother me when they shouldn't. I'll snap at people and pick fights when before I could just let things go. I let myself get awfully cranky sometimes, especially when I'm tired. I'm less appreciative of my great job and the wonderful opportunities God has given me than I should be. I've become listless and apathetic toward my goals and ambitions. And sometimes I'm just sad. Just so sad that the funk seems endless.

And I've hurt people whom I love dearly.

I look at the grand total of my interactions over the past year, and while I doubt anyone would be handing me the Wicked Witch of the West Award 2012, I do wonder if I'm on the road to being the worst version of myself. In the last month or so, I've really taken a hard look at me, and I've realized that behavior that I'm not proud of, behavior that doesn't make me happy, has become much more the norm than the exception to the rule.

And why? What reason do I have to be unhappy? To bring anything but good into the lives of others?

I'll tell you: I don't.

I'm blessed with a pretty great life, and if it isn't only getting better all the time, I have no one to blame but myself. And I think I've played enough of the blame game this year to last a lifetime. 

So it's time for me to make a change - an active one this time. To seek out in myself what I need in my life to make it a force for good.

Now we here at These Gentlemen have written about New Year's Resolutions before. Making them, keeping them, forgetting about them. The whole gamut. But I have purposefully decided not to think about this as a resolution. As something I'm going to strive for in the new year. Resolutions are breakable. Resolutions are often doomed to fail.*

*That website is just something I googled and cannot vouch for AT ALL, but it wouldn't surprise me if the numbers are at least close to being correct. Also, sorry it's such a DOWNER. Geez... 

So instead I'm just going to make it my goal to live as the best version of myself, one day at a time, throughout 2013. And then next year, I'll be better than that. And so on, until bettering myself is the norm and the habit. But it all starts today, and I'm pretty excited to see who today can turn out to be.

With love to all our readers, and best wishes for the New Year,
ali d.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It's time for a confession. One I've kept to myself for a long time, but I just can't find a reason to suppress any longer.

I completely love Christmas music. And uh-oh, what do you know -

"Well sure," someone said to me when I told this to them, "it's after Thanksgiving now, it's okay to listen to it."

But that's not what I mean. I love Christmas music. All the time. From New Years Day to New Years Eve. I love just about every kind of Christmas music. I love the old stuff, I love the new stuff, I love Christmas raps and Christmas song parodies. I love the songs about Jesus and the season, and the stuff about Santa and reindeer. About the only songs concerning Christmas or its indices I don't enjoy are "The Christmas Shoes," (maybe the most unnecessary song ever written) and anything wherein Santa is at the beach because that's soooo zany.

A sand snowman? Too wacky for me, Caillat.

No, I can listen to Christmas music with almost the same enthusiasm as I would Guns n' Roses, or Journey, or anything by the Muppets.

This is the greatest thing ever.

Maybe if there was good Hanukkah music out there I could include some of that, but whoever is in charge of our media conspiracy decided that our most popular songs about the holiday would just be lists of famous Jews..

This one keeps getting left out for some reason.

So all I wanted to do today was talk about some of my favorite Christmas songs, and share what you'll hopefully find to be some pretty good renditions of them.. Be warned that this post is going to be pretty video and link-intensive, but I'm sure we'll all have a good time at the end. So grab some hot cocoa, warm yourself by the fire, and, as I know we need it now more than most years, let's all share some holiday cheer.

Friday, December 14, 2012


I don't know how, and I don't know when, but whatever it takes, whatever I have to do, I will make this a country where no parent ever has to worry that their child might not come back when they send them off to school.

I hope you will, too.

Monday, October 15, 2012

5 Reasons Joe Biden Won the Vice Presidential Debate

On the eve of the second Presidential debate, or Debate 2: Bate Harder, the results of the Vice Presidential confrontation a few days ago are quickly being forgotten. Here at Hofstra, campus is an absolute maze of news cameras and Secret Service, all focused on the two Presidential candidates. In my opinion, now is the perfect time to refresh our memories as to what exactly happened in the last debate, which people seem to be having trouble deciding who won.

Some very reputable and trustworthy news organizations are touting Paul Ryan as the winner. A number of polls indicate that the public considered it to be a tie. I think a lot of people with those viewpoints don't really know what "debate" means. Here's why it's pretty indisputable that Joe Biden scaled Ryan's harrowing widow's peak to become the clear victor.

5) He Was a "Bully"

A number of people keep pointing out that Biden continually interrupted Ryan, acted condescending by laughing, rolling his eyes, and smirking as the VP candidate spoke. The most overwhelming assessment of these actions were that Biden was "a bully."

So what's a bully, exactly?

A bully is what we call someone we see beating up somebody who can't defend themselves.

I do remember Biden stuffing Ryan's shirt with crud.

Neither of the candidates were completely honest up there, though Ryan did perhaps a bit more stretching of the truth than Biden. Joe did what Obama was not willing to do during the first debate - get up and in Ryan's face when he started lying. The most widely held reason people think Obama lost the first debate despite the fact that Romney told 27 lies in 38 minutes is that the President looked like he was floundering out there. His poise, his demeanor, his tone all bespoke a man who didn't want to be where he was. Romney, on the other hand, went on the attack, and no matter what he said, he looked good saying it.

Now the tables are turned. Biden put up a clear message of "I'm not putting up with any of that bullshit," and hammered back at Ryan on every point the Congressman tried to make. If Biden was a bully, it's because he made Paul Ryan look weak and ineffective by comparison. Detractors latched on to his attitude and confrontational demeanor because it's not like they had a lot of ammunition to hit back with otherwise.

Come to think of it though, Ryan does work out a lot.

4) He Looked Like a Human Being

                                                                               Image Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images
Paul Ryan is given credit for maintaining his composure and appearing dignified while accepting the beating he received. People have been pointing to his steadfast refusal to blink as a sign that he was doing a better job connecting with the audience. Biden's relaxed posture, eye-rolling, and laughing weren't "Vice Presidential," and so Ryan took that battle.

This is why we can't have nice things.

But if you go back and watch the video, you see a lot of Ryan staring ahead, grim-faced, while Biden enacts more or less the same body language Mitt Romney had in the debate he "won." The only difference being that Biden actually threw in some human emotion and reaction.

The people who want to make this argument are trying to have it both ways. If Obama is stoic and professional, he loses against a more animated and aggressive Mitt Romney. When Ryan is exuding the physical responsiveness of a coma patient whenever he's not speaking and Biden presses the assault, he's a bully and Ryan is "Vice Presidential."

Biden looked like a person who couldn't believe what he was being made to argue against. Ryan looked like he was trying to keep every muscle flexed at once throughout the entire hour and a half.

Even - especially - his face muscles.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Out to the Ballgame

As I mentioned last time, I've wanted to talk about sports for awhile. As baseball season winds down, football season picks up, and hockey season is cancelled, it seemed like a good time to broach the topic. Now, this is normally the territory of fellow Gentleman Max Nova, but as I seem to carrying the banner solo for the time being, I'll step in where he would normally fill the gap.

Besides, he only talks about soccer, and that's lame.

Don't be bringing that noise in here, Max.

This summer I was given a challenge. Follow a sports team. I should clarify; I have "teams," I guess, and like pretty much anybody else they're the teams my family told me to like. My ancestry dates back to New York since the hipsters of the day were telling everybody how New Amsterdam was just so over, so the Giants, the Yankees, and the Rangers have been pretty much all I've ever been required to pay attention to for the sake of familial obligation. Actually, nix the Rangers from the list. No one in my family cares about hockey.

No, for the sake of this challenge, I was given two very specific rules. First, I had to follow a team. Watch their games, learn their players, and keep up with their standings heading into the playoffs. I thought that would be pretty easy; I'd just keep up with the Yankees. Then came the second rule. No Yankees. The Yankees, I was informed, don't count. It's not really being a sports fan if you follow the Bronx Bombers, for reasons I'll get to later (since I didn't understand at first myself).

So at first I thought, "okay, I'm living on Long Island, the heart of Mets territory, I'll root for the Mets." Then I quickly had the follow-up thought "why would I ever, ever do that to myself?" A better candidate immediately came to mind - the boys from my adopted state of Maryland, the Baltimore Orioles. Also, since the Yankees used to be the Orioles, I thought this was a clever work-around of the second stipulation.

Those pinstripes aren't an accident.

Now, the Os have had a fantastic season. At the time of this writing they're still in the playoff race, had just as good a year as the Yankees did, and gave me some really good moments and good stories.

They also made me realize why I will never, ever be a real sports fan.