Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Contrast

If there is an organization that prospers from fear and suspicion, it's the NRA, those self-appointed guardians of the 2nd Amendment. The NRA has grown to be the model of successful one-issue special interest groups, learning in the process that pounding the drum of dread can never be overdone - not when your business is ADVOCACY! In fact, to the NRA even good news is not to be entirely trusted. This is WAR!
Not satisfied that the US leads the world in private firearms ownership, NRA bigshot Wayne LaPierre recently had an explanation as to why the Obama administration has not so far turned into a vicious gun-confiscating tyranny. Oh, it's still coming, opined Mr. P. It just hasn't STARTED yet. All the more reason to help the NRA in its fight to evict all gun opponents by upping your membership dues, and throwing in a little more if you can.
LaPierre even has a place he feels is under-armed compared to the rest of the country - colleges and universities. A setting which already features not-quite-mature individuals, plenty of drugs, both legal and not, armed security forces and a large potential for real time misunderstandings between parties needs just one thing to achieve full peace - more guns. Maybe I should ask Mitt for the cost of a lifetime NRA membership. Maybe not.

I have no problem, however, bringing up the recent reaching of a milestone by Mariano Rivera. Who's Rivera? According to one statistical criterium, he's the greatest relief pitcher who ever lived. Rivera is a native of Panama, but his baseball home is still the New York Yankees, for whom he has practiced his craft for a full 17 years. He's now 41 years old.
Perhaps a word of explanation is needed here. You may know that relief pitchers are the ones who don't start the game, but may be called upon later to come out of the "bullpen". Relief pitchers can also become specialists. The best-known kind of reliever is the "closer", whose job it is to keep the other team from scoring when your team leads, and finish as the team's final pitcher. The closer then gets credit for a "save". It goes without saying that "closers" are important guys, whether it's the Yankees or anyone else.
Rivera just broke the record for saves in a career, topping 600 times he has ended the game smiling. Remarkably, he relies on just one pitch, a fastball variation that he controls with deadly accuracy. Everyone knows it's coming, but he still leaves opposing batters lunging, baffled and muttering to themselves while making the long walk back to the dugout. It's not true that no one ever hits one of his pitches, but the guy is famous for getting even better in the biggest games, notably the World Series.
Things get over-watched, over-analyzed and over-hyped in New York City, but Rivera's life off the field is wonderfully dull. He's never been in any trouble that I can recall, though the pressure on him to succeed must be enormous.
I'm probably the only one anywhere making this odd comparison between a pressure group and a relief pitcher. One must, owing to umpires and sportswriters, do his job honestly. The other - not so much. The truth of accomplishment is contrasted to the temporary spoils of hype. If Rivera were my neighbor, I'd have a reason to take up Spanish again. If LaPierre moved in, I wouldn't waste a Christmas card on him. What a contrast!


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