Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Mind the Gap

Today is Hallowe'en, the very last day of October, and here I am writing only my fourth blog post of the month. It's not that I have been starved for material: there have been Presidential Debates, horrific stories about bullying, the usual crap from Rob Ford and his ilk. It is National Bullying Prevention Month; I was accepted as a Zoo Volunteer; my beautiful partner had a big birthday; it's the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis. But no matter how many times I have started to put together a few thoughts for a new piece, I have found myself unable to carry through on it. I could make up excuses, like I have done all my life. I could tell you I've been under the weather (true for part of the month); I could tell you I have been too busy planning Sarah's surprise party (also not a fabrication, entirely); I could say I was having computer troubles, or physical pains, or needed a new prescription for my glasses, or myriad other things and you would probably take it on good faith. But while none of these statements is completely false, they have had very little to do with my absence for weeks at a time from this blog.

The plain and honest truth of the matter is this: I am depressed.

I have been fighting depression for most of my adult life—likely much of my childhood, too—and I think it's reasonable to assume I will be doing so for the rest of my days on Earth. At times I have received counseling for it; medication has also helped in the past and, some times, caused more problems than it has solved. But the simple truth—although there is truly nothing "simple" about it—is that I am at constant risk of a wave of depression coming upon me with very little warning and virtually paralyzing me emotionally.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The 2012 American League MVP Debate

Miguel Cabrera, leaving the game with the Triple Crown
As I mentioned yesterday, I watched the Tigers-Royals game last night to see the crowning of the first Triple Crown winner in the big leagues in forty-five years. It was pretty anticlimactic, though: after Miguel Cabrera went hitless in his first two appearances—and Mike Trout had narrowed the gap by three points in the batting race and it became obvious that, no matter how truly atrocious the Red Sox' pitching is, Curtis Granderson would not be able to pass Cabrera in the home run race—manager Jim Leyland lifted the Tigers' star third-baseman from the game, timing it so that the fans in Kansas City could give him a standing ovation for his season's efforts. Still, it's a damned impressive feat; the last player to lead his league in home runs, average and runs batted in was Carl Yastrzemski of Boston back in 1967. To give you an idea of how long ago that was, when Yaz won that title the Toronto Maple Leafs were the defending Stanley Cup Champions. Yeah, it was a long, long time ago. The Triple Crown has become a lot harder to win in the past few decades, too, because of all of the "specialty" hitters in baseball: the slap hitters that hit for a high average but no power; the sluggers who pound out fifty homers but struggle to stay above the "Mendoza Line" in batting average. This is not to say it was ever easy; I'm only pointing out that there were some observers (aren't there always?) who thought we might never see another Triple Crown winner at the Major League level.

But now another, quite heated debate has begun: should Miguel Cabrera be the American League's Most Valuable Player for 2012?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Boys of Bummer

The moment the Blue Jays threw in the towel
Another lost season for the Toronto Blue Jays is coming to an end tonight. It would be very easy to blame the myriad injuries for the current state of affairs—and, really, they became almost comical as even the pitching coach was injured in a freak play during a game—but that would be missing the bigger picture, in my opinion. Sure, Jose Bautista—the two-time reigning major league home run champ who was leading the majors again when he was injured—missed all but two of the Jays' final seventy-two games, ripping the lineup apart despite the heroics of Edwin Encarnacion, currently two homers off the American League lead himself. And the pitching staff was destroyed by injuries, putting all the weight on Ricky Romero, who probably wishes now he had been injured himself as he had a brutal season. But it's not as if the Jays were tearing up the league before all the injuries, despite all the expectations of the spring. There was even one extra playoff spot up for grabs this year, giving the club its best chance in nearly twenty years of returning to the playoffs; however, the veterans on this team, such as Adam Lind and Kelly Johnson (who will likely set a new team single-season strikeout record tonight if he plays) were not up to the challenge and the next level of players, notably Yunel Escobar and Brett Lawrie, almost unanimously took a huge step backward. The two left fielders that fought for the job in Spring Training were both traded away for long relief help, which doesn't say much for their perceived value. There were, of course, bright spots such as the emergence of Encarnacion as a top-flight power threat and Casey Janssen as a premier closer. But the inner workings of the team was an absolute mess, resulting in embarrassing situations like Lawrie throwing a helmet at an umpire and Escobar wearing the offensive eye-paint, which went somehow unnoticed by every other person on the team that day and yet Escobar alone was left hanging out to dry at the press conference in New York. It is obvious to me that John Farrell has absolutely no clue how to handle a major-league ball club; the clubhouse has completely gotten away from him (at times, it seems the hot-headed Bautista has full control of the players) and his coaching staff seems woefully inadequate in their own jobs. The staggering number of injuries to the Jays' pitchers this year would seem to be an indictment of the training and coaching staff and, to make matters worse, Farrell used to be a pitching coach. Clearly, to my mind, he is not up to the challenge and ought to be replaced, the sooner the better.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

On Quiet Souls with Deep Feelings

I had a very "Stand By Me" moment last week. If you are not familiar with the movie, it came out in 1986, directed by Rob Reiner and based on a Stephen King novella. The film's narrator is a writer around the age of forty, taken back jarringly to a summer when he was twelve by reading a newspaper account of the death of an old friend from that time. In my case, I'm at least ten years older than the protagonist of Stand By Me and the age I was yanked back to was sixteen.

I received in the mail last week the Fall 2012 copy of The Root, the alumni magazine of my high school, University of Toronto Schools (UTS). I was absentmindedly leafing through it when I came to the "In Memoriam" section near the back of the periodical. It was there that I learned of the passing (by way of cancer) of a woman who had been in the level behind mine, someone I hadn't seen nor spoken to in well over thirty years but who holds a very special place in my heart nonetheless. She was my date to the UTS Formal in my graduating year and, in point of fact, my first date period. If you saw any pictures of me back then, you'd know why.

I knew I was going to have to create a post about her passing and I wrestled with whether to list her whole name in this piece. Because this won't really be about her life (a life I did not share so it would be presumptuous of me to think I had any right to speak to it here) but the brief part of it that we spent together, I decided to just use her first name, which was Leslie. If you know me (or her) well enough, you'll be able to fill in the rest; if not, I wish to respect the privacy of those who have survived her.

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