Saturday, October 29, 2022

Pickleball Equalizer: A Backpedalling Injury

 Playing pickleball Friday afternoon I attained a greater appreciation of what a football quarterback must endure when blindsided in the back by an opposing player. Same goes for receivers whose backs are turned away from defenders when they catch passes. 

Most injuries in pickleball are self inflicted. Sprained ankles. Stretched Achilles tendons. Pulled muscles. And, quite common, injuries to varied parts of the body when losing one’s balance while backpedalling.

Last spring a fellow outdoor pickleballer fell while backpedalling. He chipped three vertebrae. It took him months to recover.

Defending against an expected smash to my backhand I started retreating. I missed the smash but couldn’t stop backpedalling. I lost my balance. I should have voluntarily crumpled to the ground, but having never practiced that move I kept on backpedalling 25-30 feet in the hope of regaining my balance.

What stopped my awkward retreat was a solid stucco wall the left side of which my back hit with sudden and tremendous force, much like what I imagine a quarterback  or receiver must feel when blasted by an unseen defender.

Now, football players are in much better shape than I (my friends are politely requested to stop giggling—have some respect for the injured!). Quarterbacks and receivers often wear flak jacket protection across their backs, yet I am in awe of their ability to get right up and execute another play within 30 seconds.

For 10 minutes or so I sat up against the wall, the wind knocked out of me, trickles of blood oozing out of my left elbow where it scraped along the stucco.

Fortunately my head did not engage the wall. But I am sore and still find it painful to breathe in deeply.

And I’m cognizant not to play on that particular Pickleball court again, at least until padding (on backorder) is applied to the wall.

As I left the court I said to the other players, “See you Monday.” That might have been a little optimistic, but worth shooting for.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Eleven Represents the Times of My Life

I’m obsessed with knowing the right time. Well, maybe obsessed is too extreme a word. Let’s settle on preoccupied. Nah, that’s not right, either. Let’s just say I have a keen desire to know what time it is at all times.

Perhaps it’s a legacy of my days as a reporter and editor. All of my work was done to deadline. Knowing how many precious minutes I had to complete and submit my story ruled my productivity.

Many people, Gilda included, no longer wear watches, relying instead on their smart phones, or watch-wearers like me, to reveal the time of day or night. I check the accuracy of my watch against what my iPhone says.

A slight digression about my two main watches. Aside from telling time they detail the day of the week and month, realities I found useful during frequent business or pleasure trips. They also light up when a button is pressed, something I am prone to do during loooong movies or dull plays no matter how short. They’re inexpensive Timex watches, my tribute to Mike Wallace of “60 Minutes” fame who, when interviewing Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini decades ago, explained that his simple watch told time as accurately as any expensive watch.

Every room in my home, including the garage, has at least one clock. There’s an outdoor clock affixed to a fence off our patio. I even placed a waterproof clock in our shower. 

This seemingly all-encompassing need to know the time drives Gilda crazy as she does not share my peccadillo.

My dedication to clocks is particularly evident in our extended kitchen. Six clocks. I have positioned six clocks around the room so that anywhere I happen to be facing time will confront me.

Which poses a problem of its own. Each clock dispenses a different time. No matter how many times I reset them to the correct time according to the Optimum time on our cable box, within days there are six different readings.

I can understand why the two analog battery operated clocks might be off given the uncertain strength of their respective power source, but I am perplexed as to why digital clocks plugged into our electrical system would be inconsistent.

The pride and joy of my clock collection is a seven-foot tall Howard Miller grandfather clock presented to me in honor of my 25th year at Lebhar-Friedman, publisher of Chain Store Age. Westminster chimes sound every 15 minutes.

I try to remember to wind the clock every seven days. I’ve noticed over the years that for an unknown reason the clock may run several minutes slow or 15 or more minutes fast over the course of a week. Rarely does it keep perfect time. (Yes, I’ve had it attended to by a professional. Astute readers will have noticed I wrote “attended to,” not “fixed.” Like many grandfathers this clock has a mind of its own. It is set in its ways.)

Hanging prominently in our living room is an Ansonia long drop regulator clock Gilda and I purchased in a New Haven antique store in 1975. It was almost 100 years old back then based on a sliver of a dated note pasted inside the frame.

A few years ago I stopped winding it. I set the hands to 11:11, our good luck time. Our first married night in Seymour, Conn., just down the road from Ansonia, we set up one of our wedding gifts, a digital clock with numbers that flipped down the way airline schedule boards once did. The time read 11:11.

Eleven became our signature number. We were born 11 days apart. We wed in the eleventh month of the Jewish calendar, Shevat. We were married 11 years when we bought our current house, number 11 on our street.

Our son adopted 11 as his sports uniform number after watching Phil Simms, number 11, lead the New York Giants to a Super Bowl victory in 1987. Dan’s children similarly wear 11 on their sports uniforms.

Last week I was confident I had a chance to win some money in the Powerball lottery. Both tickets I bought had 11 as the Powerball bonus number. Alas, I am still searching for that elusive windfall.

In another 11 (there’s that number, again) days we will change the clocks once more to mark the end of Daylight Savings Time. For a few minutes my clocks and watches will be reset in sync, not to be so compliant until next spring when we return to Daylight Savings Time. 

Monday, October 24, 2022

Sorry to Say, the Better Team Won

As a disappointed, disheartened Yankees fan I’ve been there before. Though it pains me to say it, the better team won the right to go to the World Series.

Better because at this point in the six month baseball season, the Houston Astros, particularly with its pitching staff, fielded a healthier, more dominant, more opportunistic team.

When mostly everyone on the Yankees trying to hit a five-run home run it was virtually impossible to win a baseball game. For the benefit of the few who may not know, there is no such thing as a five-run home run in baseball. So it was no surprise the Yanks failed to win a single game in the American League Championship Series. Houston swept them 4-0.

Good teams cause their opponents to make mistakes. Better teams take advantage of those mistakes, as the Astros did in games three and four to score, after Yankee errors, the runs that gave them leads they did not relinquish.

Better teams deploy situational hitting to drive in runs, as Alex Bregman did with an opposite field single to drive in the winning run in game four Sunday night. In game one, the Yankees had second and third with only one out. But two strikeouts later by Justin Verlander of Josh Donaldson and Matt Carpenter stifled that threat. The Yanks struck out 17 times in that game; of their 108 outs in the series, 47 were strikeouts. By comparison, the Astros’ 102 outs included just 28 strikeouts.

There’s an old adage in baseball that good pitching beats good hitting. It doesn’t always work out that way, but in this just concluded competition good pitching was aided by a long-standing Yankee problem that reared its head several times during the season, the inability to string hits together or table set for the occasional home run shot. Solo home runs generally do not win ball games.

Oldster Yankees fans like me remember another disheartening sweep loss, in a World Series, no less. In 1963, when I was 14, New York faced the Los Angeles Dodgers for the first time since da Bums moved from Ebbets Field to Chavez Ravine in sunny Los Angeles. 

The Bronx Bombers hosted the first two games. Instead of hitting home run bombs, the home team bottomed out. In the first game Sandy Koufax whiffed the first five Yankee batters he faced—Tony Kubek, Bobby Richardson, Tom Tresh, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. Koufax fanned 15 over nine innings. The Dodgers won 5-2.

Los Angeles won the second game 4-1, the third game 1-0 behind Don Drysdale, and the clincher 2-1 behind Koufax’s eight strikeouts. The four runs the Yankees managed to score during the series was the lowest total of any World Series team at the time. 

The final game of the 1963 series provided a striking example of the value of capitalizing on mistakes. With the score tied 1-1 in the seventh inning, Yankee third baseman Clete Boyer fielded a ground ball. He threw to first base. But first basemen Joe Pepitone lost the white ball in the sea of white shirts worn by the crowd in the seats along the third base line. 

The throw hit him in the arm, rolled away down the right field line, allowing the batter, Junior Gilliam, to reach third base. He scored the final, winning run of the World Series on a sacrifice fly.  

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Which Mean More: Social or Financial Values?

Inflation is hurting everyone, some more than others, for sure.

The precipitous drop in stock prices has hurt, as well. Even moguls like Mark Zuckerberg have seen their fortunes diminish, though one should hardly mist a tear for his loss of tens of billions of dollars when he is still worth tens of billions of Meta dollars.

Gasoline prices have seesawed in the last year, rising again as Election Day approaches. And every day, it seems, more consumer goods are in short supply.

So it is not surprising voters are poised to punish Democrats for their economic woes.

Too bad voters don’t take these events in context, don’t realize that inflation will ease, stocks will rebound, energy prices will fluctuate, the supply chain will correct itself. It might take months, even years, but the pain of today will be ameliorated.

What won’t be so easily fixed is the damage a Republican victory in the House and Senate, along with state houses and gubernatorial races, will impose in individual states and the country at large.

A woman’s right to have control over her own body is at stake.

GOP efforts to declare personhood on an embryo from the moment of conception is being advanced. Even the right to obtain contraception is under attack.

Medical research using fetal tissues may be restricted.

Libel laws may be altered to deter dissent.

Civil rights laws will be watered down to be almost inconsequential.

America’s leadership as the bulwark of global liberal democracy will be challenged. Aid to Ukraine in its war with Russia might be lessened if not eliminated.

Environmental laws will be gutted.

Forget about any increases in minimum wage. Prepare for more assaults on the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) as well as new attacks on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

For at least the next two years our national government will be locked in a stalemate as Republicans will try to impeach and remove Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, while any legislation they pass would be vetoed by Biden, though probably not overturned.

A Republican Senate will refuse to confirm any Biden federal court nominations and choices for federal positions.

If Republicans take control it will mean voters endorse election deniers, insurrectionists and candidates whose only qualification for running was allegiance to a grifter, a welch, a bigot, a misogynist, a racist, an Islamophobe, an exhibitionist, a divisive instigator, a liar, a dissembler, a culprit, an egoist, and a Putin puppet.

Biden was correct in calling this election “an inflection point” for our republic. Danger lies ahead if Trumpism flourishes.

Sadly, though most Americans think Biden’s right, pocketbook issues are trumping their better selves. They are dazed by thoughts of their depleted current finances. Will they awake in time to the reality, the consequences, of voting in mini-me Trumps?

No one I know likes losing money. At the same time, no one I know likes losing rights they enjoyed that allowed them to live a more fulfilling life.

So there you have it. The 2022 election for House, Senate and state offices is a contest of which values means more—financial or social. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

At Onset of Judgement Day, Judge Delivered

Had Tuesday evening not been the start of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, my blog post that night would have begun thusly: “On the eve of the Day of Judgement, Aaron Judge inscribed his name in the American League record books, surpassing Roger Maris’ single season mark by clouting his 62nd home run, the culmination of a remarkable personal year of achievement.”

If you’ve watched him in what should be recognized as a Most Valuable Player season, he has become a compleat ballplayer. He hits for average. He hits for power. He drives in runs. He steals bases. He is a superb defensive outfielder, often using his 6’7” frame to rob opponents of home runs. He has an accurate cannon of an arm.

From his very first major league at bat—naturally, a home run—watching Judge has been worth the price of admission.

He plays the game the old fashioned way. Unlike other players who display swagger and exuberance that diminishes their home run prowess, Judge acts like he’s done that before, which he has 220 times in his 729 games.

Judge doesn’t flip his bat after launching a home run. Doesn’t stare at the mammoth distances they usually traverse on their way out of the ballpark. Doesn’t showboat. He smiles a lot. He is a mensch. 

He has made watching the New York Yankees fun again, as in the days when Derek Jeter ruled the Bronx. Like Jeter he is biracial, though Judge is adopted. Like Jeter his parents have been major influences on his life and career.

Many non Yankees fans and players derided Jeter’s accomplishments. They questioned his fielding, his lack of home run production, even, despite his 3,000-plus hit career, his ability to hit.

Judge, on the other hand, is well-liked. He is not just the face of the Yankees. He is the face of baseball. No team would not welcome him into their ranks. If they could afford him.

Which is a problem for the Yanks. After the World Series, like all free agents, Judge can sell his services to the highest bidder.

Would Judge take less to stay a Yankee forever? Perhaps. But it would have to be a contract within the ballpark of respect compared to other offers.

Judge has shown the ability to put fannies in the stands. If the Steinbrenner family lets him take his talent to another dugout the reaction from Yankees fans will be cataclysmic. One could envision boycotts of games and the YES network.  

Don’t despair for the Yankees. They’re one of the richest ball clubs of any sport. Worth billions. A player of Judge’s talent and temperament is a once in a generation asset. The Steinbrenners can afford to pay him, even if it means paying a luxury tax on the team payroll and signing him to a risky 8-10 year contract.

Can they afford not to?