Dodger Thoughts

Jon Weisman's outlet for dealing psychologically with the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball and life

Category: Life (Page 2 of 7)

Tyra’s college application essay on ‘Friday Night Lights’

“Two years ago, I was afraid of wanting anything. I figured wanting would lead to trying and trying would lead to failure. But now I find I can’t stop wanting. I want to fly somewhere on first class. I want to travel to Europe on a business trip. I want to get invited to the White House. I want to learn about the world. I want to surprise myself. I want to be important. I want to be the best person I can be. I want to define myself instead of having others define me. I want to win and have people be happy for me. I want to lose and get over it. I want to not be afraid of the unknown. I want to grow up and be generous and big hearted, the way people have been with me. I want an interesting and surprising life. It’s not that I think I’m going to get all these things, I just want the possibility of getting them. College represents possibility. The possibility that things are going to change. I can’t wait.”

Pitchers and catchers and writers report

These are melancholy times for an old blogger …

I don’t feel capable of doing Dodger Thoughts right now, and honestly, I’m not sure how much I’d want to get back in the grind of it right now. But with pitchers and catchers reporting, I sure do miss the idea of it.

The site meant something to me, and as much as I’ve used the vacated time to focus on my paying job, spend some extra time with my family or occasionally relax (but unfortunately, not to exercise or reduce stress), I haven’t been able to really replace what it meant. Not for lack of trying.

Baseball is a mystery, and I’m definitely curious about The Hardy Boys and the Case of the Expensively Brittle Baseball Team. But most of the day-to-day stuff is amply covered elsewhere, even the stuff I have specific viewpoints on. If there’s anyone that needs to be told at this point that Lovable Luis Cruz’s lack of walks are a warning sign, or that money doesn’t necessarily buy baseball happiness (though it’s better than not having money), or that both Matt Kemp and Chad Billingsley are medical red flags, well, just know that I appreciate your loyalty, because the other Dodger blogs have touched on these points. There were times, not all that long ago, when I might have been the only one. Not any more.

I still think I have something to contribute to the conversation on the Dodgers, but have wondered if it was worth the effort. For example, by now, I’d be working on the annual Dodger Thoughts Spring Training Primer, which I was always proud of, but the time commitment just seems disproportionately large.

Meanwhile, my position as Awards Editor at Variety has been interesting and fulfilling, but I’m the Jonny-come-lately on that beat, and it’s taken all my professional energy just to carve out my own insights. And I’m still missing things. I’ve done good work, but that doesn’t make me special.

With Dodger Thoughts, I felt special, once upon a time, though those days were fewer and farther between in 2012.

I’ve been poking around some new writing ideas that I think would be exciting to pursue, though I’ve had real issues of confidence over whether I could deliver them. And all the misgivings linger over whether I can afford to write something that would likely have no financial return. Still, I am getting closer to the point of throwing aside caution and just writing one for the sake of writing. That seems healthy, if perhaps wasteful. They are good ideas, if nothing else.

Mostly, I’m still not the person I want to be. Not even close. My main goal is to get there, and in September, I came to think Dodger Thoughts was becoming a hindrance to that. I’m less sure of that now, but I’m not sure of several things. I’m not sure what part of the equation writing is. If it ever seems like Dodger Thoughts is the answer, I’ll be back. It sure was fun while it lasted.

Pele and Cheetos

My youngest child, who will be 5 in two months, is the first of my three children to show any kind of broad interest in sports. Playing sports, that is – I still live in a house completely unadorned with anyone who would voluntarily watch a sporting event on television except in the least dire of circumstances, or watch one in person without the promise of a constant stream of stadium food to distract and delight.

In fact, there are very few sports my 8- and 10-year old like to play.  Other than goofing around in the swimming pool, the only one they really seem taken with is skiing – the most expensive one they could have picked. They’re rather remarkable at it, considering they only get to do it one week a year, thanks to the largesse of my parents.  Young Master Weisman is a true burner, while Young Miss Weisman is technically skilled and in fact won the slalom race in her ski-school class because she was more prepared to make quick, smooth turns.  Both tackled their first black-diamond runs two weeks ago with hardly a hitch.

But Youngest Master Weisman has a roll call of sports that he’s into. In addition to doing his first full green run on the slopes this month, he is interested in basketball, baseball, golf (well, putting), taekwondo, swimming and soccer. He’s been playing soccer on Sundays for roughly a year now, failing, like his dad, to be bored by it within the first five minutes. (A constant supply of Goldfish crackers doesn’t seem to hurt.)

In his current soccer class or whatever you would call it, he’s in a group of 4-year-olds that includes several of his ability – and one who’s young Pele. Now, my son is rather astonishingly coordinated given his genetics, but he is not on the same planet as this ball-magnet, shoot-from-any-angle dynamo. And so when they play games in the second half-hour, some other non-Pele parents and I get a little edgy, because none of our kids are as quick to the ball as Pele. Though I did introduce my son to the word “assist,” it’s not like age 4 is the moment where kids are prepared to learn the glory of passing.

During today’s activity, I toyed with the idea of asking the coaches whether they were going to consider moving Pele up to the next level of soccer players – promote him to Double-A ball, so to speak. After all, in addition to being sort of an innocent ballhog (the kid doesn’t seem anything but nice) who was depriving everyone else their fair share of touches, it seems clear that it can only be good for his development to play against better competition.

Then I second-guessed myself. A huge chunk of my parenting hours are spent repeating “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset” in one form or another. Why should I go out of my way to remove this layer of character-building adversity? I think I’m so prepared for my kids to fall out of love with a given sport that I’ve become afraid of anything that might discourage them. But now I’m dealing from strength, with a kid who really seems to have a taste for sports in general. (Plus, if there’s one sport I’m willing to have my son surrender, it’s soccer.)

And there is an upside to this. The presence of Pele could inspire or essentially force my son to play better, or teach him how to handle situations where everything doesn’t go his way. It’s not easy to watch, but at the same time, it’s everything I’m looking for.

When the session ended, my son came off the field and said in a happy voice, “I didn’t score any goals, but my team won!” I mean, what more could you ask for than that?

Five minutes later, he burst into tears because I wouldn’t buy him Cheetos as a follow-up to all the Goldfish.

1, 2, 3, 4

I’m experiencing a combination of drive and paralysis with my non-Variety writing. Paralysis is winning because it’s less stressful – it’s easier right now for me to live with the unfulfilled urge to create than fit the struggle of creation into my schedule.

Ever since I began this hiatus two months ago, I feel like I’ve been catching up on 10 years of lost sleep, dating back to when my daughter was born in September 2002. I’m sleeping more hours per night than I have in all that time, and it still feels like it’s barely enough.

I’ve also been a little less of a slave to the desktop computer than I’ve been in that time. Year after year of juggling projects has mostly, for the time being, been transformed. Other than working on next spring’s revision of 100 Things Dodgers, I’ve been a one-job man since baseball season ended.

That job, of covering the awards scene at Variety, is challenging in that I’m the newcomer now, trying to establish my place among the folks that have been on the beat for years. I’ve done some good work, but there’s always, always more that I could be doing. That alone is enough to cower my ambition in other areas.

Whatever I contemplate doing – and I contemplate a lot – there’s always the feeling that the following is more important: 1) family, 2) Variety, 3) exercise, 4) sleep. Not necessarily in that order. I have a very comfortable bed and I enjoy every moment in it.

As for my waking hours, I’ve been home from the office this week on a staycation, and my chief activity has been preparing for a garage sale. I see offseason Dodger news and mostly feel relieved I don’t have to pause to address it. I miss the idea of doing Dodger Thoughts and how special it made me feel, but I don’t miss the reality of it.

I’m not sure when the yearning I have to create again will translate into actual activity, or whether I can find fulfillment completely in my day job, which would be somewhat ideal. Even this post, which was meant to be a five-minute stream of consciousness, has become something that I’ve spent more time than I intended on – and yet not turned into something entirely satisfying. Doing something of substance requires a level of commitment that I am wary of.

I’m still never sure if I’m working the appropriate amount. Recall my post two years ago about myself, Matt Kemp and John Wooden.

… I approach life a certain way. I want to be better, and I’ll grind at it, but there’s a limit to what I’ll do. I work very hard, I feel, but I can’t emphasize that limit enough. And that limit can change on a weekly, daily, hourly basis. There always has and always will be a part of me that wants to do nothing more than smell the roses, whether those roses are Saturday morning cartoons as a kid or a nice long walk in the twilight as a grown-up. I like the work I do, but I don’t like to work. I accept the process and can even enjoy the journey, but the result is a big part of my reward. I always want my life to be easier; I always want things to go right the first time.

And so that limit of how hard I’m willing to work is a moving target. …

Should I be working harder to provide more for my family, or should I be working harder at being with my family, or should I be content to get a good night’s sleep? Thanksgiving doesn’t answer the conflict between ambition and satisfaction.

Soul in That

Twenty years ago, on December 2, 1992, I finished the last poem of my Georgetown grad school poetry workshop – the last poem I have ever written or intend to write. It’s nothing the least bit remarkable, but I found it during some housecleaning this week and thought I’d share it.

I have some good memories of that workshop, though none better than of our instructor, Roland Flint, a Burl Ivesian man of letters and a baseball fan who expressed warm envy for my sportswriting career, such as it was. We even made a trip to a still-new Camden Yards together. Flint passed away in 2001.

Anyway, here’s the poem. For my farewell effort, I had decided to take my best stab at telling a Springsteen-like tale in poetry.

* * *

Soul in That

Understand me now:
he wasn’t much
just some overgrown bolo-wearin’ Bob.
I could run him in circles any day o’ the week.
But yessir, to answer your question,
you could call it a push.

I tried explainin’ to Shelly,
but she wasn’t in no mood for understandin’.
See, that was our spot
up on Hays Peak.
Then last month
this guy come to steal Shelly.
And then
I heard
that they
was up at
our
spot.
That was too much of mine to take.
And so I took somethin’ of his.

You ever think about them words?
I       took         a         life.
I did.
You’ll do whatever with me ‘n mine now.
Don’t matter none, ’cause it’s already been spit on shit on put down ‘n run round,
and ’cause I got his,
got it for keeps –
and you’re payin’ ‘tention now, ain’t ya.

Understand me now:
I done it, but I ain’t guilty.
I’m a decent man.
My shirt ain’t tore.
I ain’t no long-hair metal-head.
I like a nice, soft tune.
I can tell you that Patsy’s “Crazy” is A24
on the Midnight Bar & Grill jukebox.
Say, you should write a song about this, sir,
do a little something for y’self, like
me.
Hold on – I’ll even ante up a couple bits for ya:
Lessee,
Sun was out hot, those weird twistin’ rays.
nice little backdrop for his hey hey heeeeeeeys.
Ha –
tell me there ain’t no soul in that.

* * *

Below, here’s the real deal:

Best wishes to those in path of Hurricane Sandy

Though it might seem I’ve forgotten about this site, I haven’t forgotten about its readers.  Just wanted to send my most hopeful thoughts to those who are in jeopardy from Hurricane Sandy. If and when you can, let us know in the comments how things look and how you’re doing.

For those of us here in California, this is as good a time as any to check on your earthquake supplies. Because, you know, the Mayans.

On waivers

My oldest son witnesses my outfield heroics at Dodger Stadium – winter 2008-09

It’s a complete coincidence that this post comes on the 10th anniversary of the last post before my one and only Dodger Thoughts sabbatical. That began four days before my daughter was born, and wasn’t by design as much as it was just a byproduct of feeling overwhelmed by a dramatic life change and wanting to make sure I had my priorities straight. I had only put three months into the site at that point, drawing but a handful of readers, and it wasn’t clear that I was actually giving up anything meaningful.

Tonight, I’m more clear on what I’m putting aside – including a dream of doing Dodger Thoughts for 50 years or more. To this day, I still have enough arrogance about myself to be surprised that no one has ever wanted to pay me a living wage to do this full-time. But the marketplace spoke, and unless it changes its mind someday, I don’t have the luxury of ignoring it. And I’m tired of doing mediocre work on something that meant so much to me.

Anyone reading this site knows how hard it has been for me to maintain a pretense that the site is still useful in 2012. There have been some decent moments, but mostly, it’s been painful. And it’s not getting any easier. My family and my day job demand bigger and bigger shares of my energy and my sanity. So let’s cut to the chase: I’m designating myself for assignment.

That doesn’t mean I’m never going to post here again – in fact, I can almost promise that I will at some point – but it does mean I’m releasing myself from the daily task of writing about the Dodgers, as well as creating chat threads for every game. Dodger Thoughts has become a burden – the opposite of what it was intended to be – and there are too many other sites that now do what I set out to do more productively. The fact that I’m cutting and running with only two weeks left in the regular season (and a Dodger playoff appearance still very much a possibility) indicates just how much of a burden it has been. For all their problems, I believe in the Dodgers much more right now than I believe in my capacity to write about them.  That about says it all.

For those who remain interested in my writing independent of the Dodgers, I encourage you to visit my Variety blog, The Vote.  I know the subject matter differs like apples and asparagus, but by focusing my blogging energy there, I hope to invest it with more of the life that Dodger Thoughts once had – and maybe draw in some non-hardcore fans in the process. (The comment section there is begging for a community.) Also, please follow me on Twitter, which will be the best way to keep up on what I’m keeping up on and the quickest way to find out if and when I post on Dodger Thoughts again.

Anyone who ever was a reader or a part of the Dodger Thoughts community, and especially those who provided critical support along the way, I can’t thank you enough. I really can’t. This has been the most memorable writing experience of my life.

But this message has already gone on too long.  Here’s hoping the Dodgers come back and make me feel stupid for folding at this moment. (And here’s wishing, as Bob Timmermann suggested in an e-mail, that I had just thought to explain all this as a figment of Tommy Westphall’s autistic imagination.)

* * *

Oh – one thing I already forgot to mention. A revised version of 100 Things Dodger Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die is scheduled for publication next spring. Orlando Hudson’s cycle and other treats from the past three years will be included in the second edition.

The wallet blues

It happened again this morning. I spent nearly 15 minutes looking for my wallet, and when my wife joined the challenge, she found it in 15 seconds. It’s one of the less original tropes in my household: I can take forever to look for something that my wife will then find in an instant.

My question is, why can’t I laugh at this? Instead of stewing at my inadequacies, why can’t I find the cheap humor in it, you know, like it’s Drabble or something? As my wife handed me the wallet, explained where it was and moved on with her day, I stood there, shaking my head, wanting to laugh but not being able to.

Somehow, this explains a lot about me, I think.

Tenth Anniversary Freeze-Out

Sunday, July 21, 2002

This is where I will vent, and, if I can ever feel so comfortable, exult about the Dodgers and baseball in general.

* * *

Ten years, three kids, one puppy, 855 wins and 782 losses later (including 9-14 in the playoffs), I realize I might better have described my mission just as inhaling and exhaling – catching my breath – about the Dodgers and baseball in general, and life.

The landscape has certainly changed. This website began to fill a void in my writing life – “bad scooter searching for his groove” – now I don’t have enough time to write all I want. Life in general has only become more challenging. At the same time, when this site began there was virtually nothing like it covering the Dodgers; now there are more than I can keep track of, doing excellent work, providing a level of insight unprecedented in the history of Dodger reporting.

But overwhelmingly, I want to express that I’m grateful. I’m grateful for the invention of blogs, for the invention of the Internet, that enabled this platform for all my thoughts, baseball and otherwise. It has really helped sustain me. And I’m grateful to anyone who stopped by over the past 10 years and gave something I wrote a glance of consideration. I’m grateful for the support I’ve received, even through posts as self-serving as this one, and for the friends I’ve made through this site.

Sometimes, I wish I had channeled the past 10 years into something more majestic – a book or script that would stand the test of time. Sometimes, I wish I had just gotten away from the computer more altogether. The rest of the time, I can’t think of anything better than writing right in this spot and hanging out online with you.

Dodgers at Mets, 10:10 a.m.
Bobby Abreu, LF
Adam Kennedy, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
James Loney, 1B
Juan Uribe, 3B
Luis Cruz, SS
Matt Treanor, C
Chris Capuano, P

This morning

The last thing I did this morning before walking out the door for work was hug and kiss goodbye my 4-year-old, who was singing and playing with our electric keyboard. I walked out to the car, my iPhone in hand, preparing to try out a new podcast for the 15-minute drive to work.

Got in the car, hooked in my iPhone, belted, turned on the car ignition and looked over my shoulder.

I looked. I did look.

But it was a quick look, a glance, a blurry glance.  It was a look without any intention of seeing, and in fact, I had already shifted the car into reverse and begun to lift my foot off the brake pedal when the image registered in my consciousness of my 4-year-old running over to finish saying goodbye to me.

I looked.  I did look.

And he wasn’t behind the car. He was to the side of the rear of the vehicle. I wouldn’t have hit him. But it was just way, way too close. And a different image rests in my brain.

Put the car in park, unbelted, got out, picked him up and hugged him tight in that way where you’re scolding him, yourself, and everyone and everything in the world for allowing tragedy to lurk around every corner, at any moment.

Now I’m at work.

Nightmare

My thoughts are with the victims in Colorado and their family and friends.

Age is just a number (even if it’s the wrong number)

Mets at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Dee Gordon, SS
Elian Herrera, 3B
Jerry Hairston Jr., 2B
Bobby Abreu, LF
A.J. Ellis, C
James Loney, 1B
Scott Van Slyke, RF
Tony Gwynn Jr., CF
Aaron Harang, P

I’ve spent most of the year thinking I’m the wrong age. What does this have to do with the Dodgers and R.A. Dickey? Maybe nothing at all, but find out the scoop at Los Angeles Magazine’s CityThink blog.

Wait, wait, don’t serve me

Good on the boys in blue this weekend. They’re amazing, I tell you what. A.J. Ellis, Jerry Hairston, Chris Capuano … I see Butch and Sundance of the Houston Astros looking down the canyon and asking, “Who are those guys?”

* * *

There’s this relatively new pizzeria in Westwood, 800 Degrees, that I just find fascinating. Its calling card, essentially, is that it replicates the experience of waiting in the worst Dodger Stadium food line you’ve ever encountered, topped off by the lack of urgency or even regret over the time it takes to service a given customer.

The product, implicitly, is worth a pilgrimage of infinite time … which in reality, isn’t the case. The pizza is plenty good, but hardly lifechanging. Yet typically – if you’ve had a different experience, tell me – the line out the door is somewhere between 50 and 100 people.

Once you order your food, it’s prepared right in front of you, cooked in what I gather is the oven to beat all ovens, and ready to serve fresh and hot within five minutes. There’s a rule against saving seats in the restaurant until your food arrives – a rule that gets broken by some patrons, to our judgmental annoyance – but really, it’s not an issue. There always seems to be an empty table by the time you’re ready to sit down.

But the line. It’s insane. Just insane. We’ve been there two times. (Yeah, fool us twice …) Today, I timed the wait – nearly 50 minutes from our arrival to the cash register. You’re just standing there, moving a footstep once in a blue moon. I mean, who would actually volunteer to enter this kind of trap outside of a baseball stadium or other venue where you had no other options?

The answer, apparently, is hundreds or thousands of people every day, all generally in good spirits. It’s remarkable. It must be one of those things where people see the line and just assume they must want to be a part of it.  I have to imagine that someday, more and more people will decide, with a nod to Yogi Berra, that it’s so crowded that nobody should go there anymore. But that doesn’t seem imminent.

I’m bowing out, however. Vito’s Pizza on La Cienega will remain our go-to place. It’s farther away from our house, but we can complete the round trip in the time it takes to traverse the quarter-block line on Lindbrook Avenue in the shadow of the old Mann Festival theater. My New York-born-and-bred wife, who by birthright is the authority on such matters, deems Vito’s the best pizza in Los Angeles, and I’ve never seen any reason to disagree.

Can’t explain

I can’t explain … anything that is going on.

For the past week, I have been sitting on the sidelines. Watching. Not writing.

There’s more going on right now with my compulsion to write about the Dodgers than I can articulate right now. None of it is bad. It’s just complicated. Like trying to jump on to a spinout ride, not knowing how to jump … and realizing you don’t have to jump. That maybe you’re not supposed to jump.

It has never seemed less necessary to offer my two cents. I’ve never felt less qualified. There’s nothing I’m seeing that you’re not seeing. The only thing I can tell you about the Dodgers is what I’m feeling … and you’re already feeling it.

Maybe someday, there will be a baseball team that I’ll write about again. But this is a thrill ride. Right now, I’m a passenger, just like you.

Home run

So, a couple times this week, Youngest Master Weisman, age 4, has asked me to play baseball in the backyard with him after dinner. Nearly 10 years of parenting, and it’s finally happening. 

Aside from the pleasure you can imagine I take from this, I realized just how much I still like to go play ball in the yard. Four decades has made no appreciable difference.

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