Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Bucs and Other Dog Day Items

Our son Jake and his family live in the Bay Area. His job involves plenty of travel, frequently to Europe. He was scheduled on a flight to London, and was on the plane when flights were delayed, then canceled. It turns out this was the day of the Asiana landing crash.
Being a savvy traveler, Jake booked a flight the following day. Sitting at the top of the runway, his airliner stopped - directly opposite the remains of the Asiana wreck. His fellow passengers, unable to not look, let out a collective "Ooohh". His flight, thankfully, was completed without incident.

Every week seems to involve at least one disaster somewhere. Few, however, give you a chance to see a "replay" as clearly as last week's Spanish train derailment. A standing camera recording the rail traffic of the day clearly showed the passenger train losing control as it careened around a curve toward the camera. Outside of all those "special effects" movies, it's something you just don't see.

Speaking of train wrecks, the Republicans seem to be slowly catching on to the possibility that they could be relegated to a whining voice in the wilderness unless some changes take place. The central word of that sentence is "slowly", which means that there are plenty of intra-party scuffles taking place. What a nice change to see the GOP doing what the Democrats have long been known for - fighting among themselves. More on this in a future entry.       

In western Pennsylvania, a reference to the "Bucs" doesn't mean deer or weekly wages. It's short for "Buccaneers", which is itself a reference to the Pittsburgh Pirates. It's been, frankly, a long time since the Pirates generated much excitement. When someone uses the phrase "small market team", the Bucs are the model. That's especially a problem in baseball, where teams like the Yankees, Dodgers and Angels take in (and keep) more money than their semirural rivals.
This means that even when good players come from the minor leagues, the Pirates may not be able to keep them. Sure, you could think up other reasons for the franchise's mediocrity, but money is the biggest part. It all adds up to the brutal truth, which is that the Pirates haven't finished the season above .500 for over TWENTY years, back when future superstar Barry Bonds was both much younger and much thinner.
But it looks like this will be the year that Pirate fortunes finally turn better. Their flashy outfielder has committed to staying, and their pitching has been top notch. They are now in a virtual tie atop their division with the St. Louis Cardinals, with whom they play a series this week. These next few games could give momentum to one team or the other. Even 2nd place in the division is a good place this year. The runner-up will likely qualify for the playoffs as a "wild card".
I used to say that being a Cub fan left all your rooting options open for the postseason. That's still true, but it's become boring. If I hitch up with any team for the short run, it should be the Pirates, a team I used to dislike when they were loaded with talent. That was in the '70s.     


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