Last night I had decided to write about the need for the Braves to right the ship before heading into the post season. For the record and to get that out of the way, if we play just 500 ball the rest of the way it will be very hard for the Cardinals overtake us. If we don’t play .500 ball should we really get into the post season? Getting in while playing badly gives a false sense of achievement to management and may stop them from making the hard decisions necessary to take us to the World Series next year. Okay, that’s done for now.
Today is of course 9/11/11. You may have read my partner Bob’s post ab0ut the 9/11 anniversary. I promised myself I wouldn’t get wrapped up emotionally in the national remembrance. I broke that promise and will break it at least once or twice more as I write this I am sure.
As a 28 year Air Force vet and firefighter the scenes from that morning and stories recounted by first responders always bring tears to my eyes. Today those feelings are multiplied. I began thinking about baseball and the Braves part in the recovery of our country and began channeling Bill Shankly.
For those who don’t know him, Shanks lead the revival of Liverpool and made them a power to be reckoned with across Europe. I lived in England 19 years off and on and supported Manchester United. I hated losing to Liverpool the way it pains me to lose to the Mets or the current Phillies team. But Shankly was one of a kind; a force within the game and a street-wise philosopher who grew up poor but in love with the game he later in life came to dominate. As coach (manager) of Liverpool he won two FA Cup winner’s medals, a Second Division championship, three First Division championships, one UEFA Cup, three F A Charity Shields and six Central League winner’s medals; 16 titles in 15 seasons. He also understood what it takes to win and what the team’s fortunes meant to their supporters in the Kop.
One of his most famous quotes – reiterated over time in various forms – concerned the place of the sport in the lives of fans.
“Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”
That quote reflected his childhood and the way football raised the spirits of a country during two wars and the depression. He saw the way the sport pushed all the bad news, individual troubles and the daily grind of a not too pleasant reality to the back of the mind and allowed joy and hope to enter. So it was with baseball after 9/11/01.
I remember the game, the first in New York since the attack. I remember Ken Caminiti driving in Chipper Jones, Brian Jordan driving in whoever ran (Cory Aldridge it turns out, sorry Cory) for Julio Franco, Wally Bell squeezing the strike zone like he was trying to make lemonade causing Steve Karsay to walk Edgardo Alfonso just before Mike Piazza’s home run and that Karsay was madder than hell and had to be held back by teammates when he went after Bell and was thrown out of the game. But what I remember most was that it felt normal; for the first time in 10 long surreal days we were back to normal. It was okay to call Bell an idiot, to want to beat a team from New York and to go on with life. It was even alright to share the joy of the Diamondbacks when they orchestrated The Last Night of The Yankee Dynasty.
So this morning as my heart ached and tears came far too easily when Paul Simon sang Sounds of Silence, I felt the need to tell the one or two folks who read this that they should not worry.
The Braves will get to the playoff’s and with a little timely hitting and some good fortune go past the the first round.
The future is full of Braves victories, losses that shouldn’t have happened, trades that were great, those that were awful and days when just showing up at the Ted and gazing out at the perfectly manicured field with its lush green grass make your heart smile and perhaps think you could still play second base given a chance – and in my case my 20 year old body back again.
For my part, I promise to try to understand that folks who ask the impossible from players already giving everything they have that all you really want is a Braves victory. I’ll probably still point out reality but that’s what I do like you asking for the impossible. Thank you for taking the time to read my little mental meandering. I hope you and yours are well today and that the sun shines warmly in your heart.
I will now steal a tradition from David O’Brien over at the AJC and insert a song of the day.
Written by Paul Simon after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Sound of Silence is oddly appropriate to today and its memories. If you wish to watch here’s a link to the original music video – just a recording of the song performed for a small studio audience in 1964. There are others but somehow black and white seems right since I don’t yet have Paul Simon from today.
Sound Of Silence
Simon & Garfunkel 1964
Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Within the sound of silence
In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
‘Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence
And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence
“Fools”, said I, “You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you”
But my words, like silent raindrops fell
In the wells of silence
And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said, “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls”
And whispered in the sounds of silence