Today’s post should probably be titled with “raspberries” rather than “strawberries” because of the alternative meaning of strawberries being a red abrasion or scrape instead of the double meaning I actually need. But I had strawberries from Walmart to serve for breakfast, not raspberries, so that totally ruined the potential metaphor.
I tend to like to watch the news while I cook breakfast for the kids. Hence the need for raspberries. I mean, the angry orangutan in charge of my news-related happiness or horror is on a real tear about now because he can feel the law and the news media zeroing in on every crime and criminal thought he has been playing with for decades, intending to prosecute both him and those who support him. Like several of the speakers at Senator John McCain’s funeral, I have no need to directly blow raspberries at him. The oblique and carefully worded ones will do fine. But I do have nothing but raspberries for him. The things he is doing to health care, education, the environment, and international relationships have either undone the good the government has previously done or made the made the matter much worse.
Of course, the Pumpkinhead in Chief is not the only evil, bloodsucking monster in the news that makes me blow raspberries at the TV screen during breakfast. I will specifically try to sort out my voter registration problems so that I can register a vote against Grandpa Munster… err… I mean, the Zodiac Killer… err… well, you know, that guy whose name I do not wish to invoke at the moment to protect my children and virgins everywhere. It is a problem because I let my voter registration lapse as a Jehovah’s Witness, and now the State of Texas won’t let me renew it by mail. I have to find the proper registration office to sit in for hours being glared at by Republican officials who see on the paperwork that I was a registered Democrat more than two decades ago.
I also blow raspberries at Republican hard-heartedness that still hasn’t reunited children with their immigrant asylum-seeking parents out of fear of letting too many brown people into their “white” country. Raspberries also for conservatives that talk about Democrats being violent and chaotic people as they post threats of shooting deaths for liberals on social media.
I’m sure you have probably already concluded that having the TV on during breakfast makes for rather rootie-tootie-fruity breakfasts around our house. And you wouldn’t be wrong.
I also have raspberries to give the Chicago Cubs this time of year as they try to beat my Cardinals out of the playoffs once again. They deserve lots of fruit. Particularly pineapples thrown at their prissy blue helmets during late innings of games they are winning.
But, fear not. My dietary health is safe for now. I am getting fresh fruits. I am fortified with vitamin C. It happens that we are eating STRAWBERRIES, not raspberries for breakfast. And strawberries are good for you, even if the morning news is not.
You have probably gathered by this point that I like Albert Pujols. Of course, that would be the wrong conclusion for you to draw. I LOVE Albert Pujols. And I am not alone. Not only did the man take my favorite team from the doldrums of the 90’s to World Series titles in 2006 and 2011, but he did it with a work-ethic, a grace, and a power that restored my faith in a sport that had been rocked by scandal and steroid use. He restored my faith in humanity. He is not only a sports hero. He is a really great human being… a super hero. Did you watch the 60-Minutes’ piece? There isn’t anything more to say about that. Humility is part of the equation.
I got my love of baseball from listening to games on the radio with my Great Grandpa Raymond. We listened to the Minnesota Twins take on the baseball world on KGLO Radio in Mason City, Iowa. I heard Harmon Killebrew smack homers and Tony Oliva get key hits in crucial situations. I followed the exploits of Rod Carew. And then, the St. Louis Cardinals took over the 60’s. They were in the World Series three times and won it twice. Bob Gibson was pitching. Lou Brock played Left Field and stole bases. It was miraculous. I would go on to live and die with the Cardinals every baseball season, even though I could only follow them through the newspaper and occasionally when they played the Cubs on TV. Tim McCarver, Ted Simmons, Willie McGee, Tommy Herr, Ozzie Smith, Jack Clark, Mark Macgwire, Scott Carpenter, Scott Rolen… If those names don’t mean anything to you then you are not really a baseball fan, and you probably didn’t read this far anyway.
Anyway… he did it. 600 home runs. He is now part of an elite group in the record books. And there is no doubt he is one of the best baseball players that ever lived.
Yes, we are out of the playoffs. Even though we won the last game of the year against the evil Pirates, we fell one game short. The evil San Francisco Giants beat the hapless Dodgers. No, that’s not quite right. The EVIL San Francisco Bullies With a Glandular Problem beat the worthless Dodgers whom you can never depend on when you need them to win! And so, believe it or not, I must now root for the Cubs to win it all in the National League. Yes, the Cubs, even though they took the Cardinals out of the playoffs last year during the Cards’ 100-win dominant season, are the least detestable team still in the playoff hunt for the World Series. Donald Trump may be the next president of the U.S. The Fukushima nuclear plant has irradiated the entire Pacific Ocean. Global warming is out of control. And the Cubs might win the World Series. Humanity is doomed.
But it gets worse. I am also a loyal Arizona Cardinals fan (a condition I have suffered since they were the St. Louis Cardinals, before evil billionaire Birdy Bidwill moved them to Arizona in a petulant fit about stadiums and sky-boxes).
Last year the Cardinals were poised to be Super Bowl contenders. Even though they lost last year to the Panthers, they were favored to be one of the teams in the big game this year. But then they lost a squeaker to New England in the first game of the season. They lost last week to a suddenly potent Buffalo defense. And yesterday, the EVIL Rams not only snatched victory away in the 4th quarter, they wounded Carson Palmer again, this time with a possible concussion. At one win and three losses, this will have to be a come-back season… if it is not lost already. Maybe the world needs to end to put me out of my misery.
Since the 1970 St. Louis Blues’ Stanley Cup Final where they lost to the Boston Bruins in 4 straight games, I have waited for the chance to return and have one more shot at rooting for my team to win their first hockey championship, their first Stanley Cup. We were in the finals and we had beaten the two best teams in hockey to get there. But hockey playoffs are more grueling than any other sports playoffs. We lost in 6 games. I am a dedicated fan. And I will be one for life. And I will root for them again next year. And they will very likely lose again this time of year next year. But that’s not the point. They will always be my team.
It went to seven games just like the Chicago Blackhawk series. I was fully prepared to see the Blues lose and be out of the playoffs… again. But it didn’t go quite that way this time. Hope has returned to roost in the heart of this Blues fan.
The Blues are going to the Conference Championship series for the first time since 2001. It will be a chance to return to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1970. The Blues have never won the Cup. Now that the string of first round playoff exits is ended, I have reason to hope that some of the endless frustrations are coming to an end. The next round will either be against the Nashville Predators or the San Jose Sharks. The Blues have already defeated much tougher foes in the first two rounds, the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks and the division champion Dallas Stars. But I am, of course, aware that either team is capable of upsetting the Blues. I am mentally prepared for a loss. However, there is reason to hope.
St. Louis Blues goaltender Brian Elliott stretches just before the start of the game against the Carolina Hurricanes at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on January 14, 2016. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI
The reason to hope is goalie Brian Elliot. He stood up to more than 30 shots on goal in last night’s game. Only one got past him. The other side was not nearly so lucky… or so skilled. Combined with the scoring abilities of Vladimir Tarasenko and Paul Stastny they should be unstoppable. I know I am rattling on with my own self-absorbed fascinations and ephemeral joy at last night’s victory. And I know it may not be any more than a moment’s flicker of light and hope and happiness… but that’s what being a sports fan is all about.
My all-time favorite hockey team beat the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Chicago Blackhawks, in the seventh and final game of their first round playoff series. They will now take on the hometown Dallas Stars in round two. I can’t afford to see them play here in town, or even on TV, which we don’t have at the moment. But I can root on the Blues to defeat the hometown Stars, and maybe… just maybe… it is finally our year!
Tarasenko is the scoring star of this year’s Blues team.
I have been a Blues hockey fan since the team was founded in the 60’s. Their first three years saw them in the Stanley Cup finals against the Montreal Canadiens in ’68 and ’69 and the Boston Bruins in ’70. They represented the six expansion teams from the six-team expansion division, and they didn’t stand a chance. They lost all four games in all three series. But I was hooked. I was a hockey fan and Blues fan for life after that. And they haven’t been back to the Stanley Cup Finals since. They have had great teams capable of it. They have had stars like Brett Hull, Al MacInnis, Curtis Joseph, and Brenden Shanahan. Hall of Famers like Glen Hall and Jaques Plante gave them their previous chances at the championship. This year, it will be up to team captain David Backes, goalie Brian Elliot, and Vladimir Tarasenko to lead the team to the wins they have never managed before.
It is premature for me to celebrate already. The Blues play the Dallas Stars in the next round, a resurgent team led by Jamie Benn, an emerging superstar. But the Blues have lost in the first round of the playoffs for three years in row, even when they were the favorite to win the Cup. And it was the Blackhawks who did it to them last year. This year is big even if they don’t win another game. But I think it is significant that they have taken out the biggest roadblock to victory already. There is hope.
I am a graduate of both Iowa State University, where I earned my Bachelor’s Degree in English, and the University of Iowa where I got my remedial master’s degree so I could teach English. It sometimes makes rooting for college sports difficult due to divided loyalties. But not yesterday. Yesterday we rocked the NCAA basketball tournament. The Iowa Hawkeyes beat tenth-seeded Temple 72 to 70. The Iowa State Cyclones beat Iona 94 to 81. And my little sister’s team, the UNI Panthers, even stunned the tournament by beating Texas with a last second shot 75 to 72. All three Iowa teams in the tournament advanced to the second round. It was the first time ever. And Iowa State is looking especially good as an advancing number 4 seed. I rarely get such a chance to gloat over Elmer Mater’s success. (I do realize it is supposed to be Alma Mater, but we are Iowa country folk… Elmer sounds more likely.)
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – MARCH 18: Paul Jesperson #4 of the Northern Iowa Panthers celebrates with his teammates after hitting a half court three pointer at the buzzer to defeat the Texas Longhorns with a score of 75 to 72 during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Chesapeake Energy Arena on March 18, 2016 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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