The SPORTS PHILOSOPHER says: Just throw back your head and howl….

May 8, 2011
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     Sometimes you just gotta laugh.

     It’s the only way we’re gonna survive.   I’m convinced.

Hey, this guy’s pretty tall, maybe HE could have gotten a couple

Hey, this guy’s pretty tall, maybe HE could have gotten a couple




     I mean the world’s crazier than ever, right?   And getting crazier?   My sister told me she filled up her gas tank the other day, and it was $90 dollars.   Ninety!   I saw an ad on TV for “Virgin Mobile” telephones (who I’d never heard of), a commercial featuring a cell phone camera capturing a quick crotch shot of some short-skirted girl getting out of a car, a la Britney Spears, by way of illustrating the efficiency of their product; I thought I’d accidentally switched channels to an R-rated HBO comedy special.   (Made me miss my mother and realize I was a prude at the same time.)

     And then there’s the execution of Osama bin Laden.   Some of the reactions to this long-overdue, delightfully double-0-7ish operation have been startling in their ridiculousness.   Like all this worrying about if showing the death photos would be in poor taste.   Personally, I think driving a couple of planes into the World Trade Center and killing 3,000 people was in poor taste.

     The world and its residents have misplaced their senses of both proportion and humor.   And I figure it’s high time for reason and right thinking to once again prevail, so we can get them both back.

     So I wrote a poem.



     “Yo’ mama”,

     offed by Obama,

     He was no Dalai Lama,

     and so our Seals who make no deals would pause for no last comma,

     –just the final….kerplunk.


     Okay, so it might not be the greatest poem ever written (though personally I think it just might be.).   But at least it’s funny.   Anyway, I say show us the photos.   After JFK, Vietnam, Iran-Contra, the 2000 election, and WMDs, if we’ve learned one thing these last fifty nutty years it’s that that the United States government simply cannot be trusted.   It lies for a living.   Therefore, we need to confirm and affirm we’re not being lied to again, and we also need to participate in the sweet closure our Seals have vouchsafed us.   Show us the damn pics.    

     Sports, of course, can always help us with the laughter we need to get through life.   I got a good laugh from the baseball world just last week.   It was Thursday, I woke up late, I turned on the tube, and was greeted immediately with a surprise televised baseball game between the Mets and your World Champion San Francisco Giants (I never get tired of saying that, so you’re just gonna hafta endure it a while longer.).   I put on a pot of coffee and settled in.

     However, as I started to go over the Giants’ starting lineup, a very cold, sort of helpless feeling began to ripple through me.

     Because the more I looked, the worse-looking my beloved Giants’ line-up looked.

     Tell me if you agree:

     Batting lead-off and playing center field, Aaron Rowand.   He’s hitting a mere .268, and isn’t even the Giants’ regular center-fielder.   He’s just filling in.   Didn’t start last year, either.   Batting 2nd, Emmanuel Burriss.   I’d never even heard of this guy.   Found out he’s a career minor-leaguer with only 450 big-league at-bats, with only one of those 450 at-bats producing a home run.   (He contributed to the day’s hysterics by getting thrown out stealing 2nd base with the Giants down by three runs.)   Batting 3rd—and this one’s my favorite—shortstop Mike Fontenot.   You heard me.   Another career minor-leaguer who I had barely heard of.   Shortstop isn’t even his regular position, he graciously moved over from 2nd base to make room for….for….oh yeah, for the scintillating Emmanuel Burriss.   So Fontenot played short and batted third.   Third.   Albert Pujols bats third for St. Louis.   Willie Mays used to bat third for San Francisco.   Hank Aaron batted third for the Braves, Frank Robinson for the Orioles, George Brett for Kansas City, you get the idea?, the three-spot in your batting order is supposed to be manned by a by-god superstar.   Even last year’s Giants had Aubrey Huff batting third, he’s no superstar but he did hit nearly .300 with 26 home runs.   But on this day, the champion Giants had Mike Fontenot anchoring the batting order.   I poured more coffee and washed my face.

     Batting clean-up on Thursday was the aforementioned Aubrey Huff.   Well there you go, I can hear you say, there’s a good player ol’ Brad can hang his hat on, right?   Except that Huff is no good anymore.   Last year’s star is suddenly an easy out, currently hitting a less-than-robust .204.   In 2011, he’s not cleaning up anything.   Batting fifth, Nate Schierholtz.   Ugh.   ‘Nuff said.   Batting sixth, Cody Ross.   Sure, you remember Cody from last-year’s playoff heroics.   But last-year’s Folk Hero is, in fact, not much more than a career minor-leaguer himself, and this year he is arguably 2011’s worst major-league player, at least so far, hitting an anemic .217, with O-N-E run batted in, in 46 at-bats.   To come to bat 46 times and manage only one RBI is so bad it’s next to impossible.   You’d almost have to try to not knock in at least two or three, right?   But Cody has managed to do it.   Even Mike Fontenot has managed to drive in six runs, and in the same number of at-bats!   No wonder Mike is batting third, he’s only marginally pathetic!!!   Batting seventh, Miguel Tejada, who was washed up three years ago, is currently hitting .194 but still has a job, and is widely believed to have once lied about his age in order to get into the majors.   Batting eighth, catcher Eli Whiteside.   Eli Whiteside.   I repeat, Eli Whiteside.   Sounds like a cross between an Old Testament prophet and an Iowa housepainter.   Eli is hitting .176, give or take.   He has a grand total of 282 big-league at-bats.   Eli Whiteside.  (Y’know, it’s harder typing all this out than I thought it would be….)   And pitching, Jonathan Sanchez, the crazy guy from last year’s NLCS who you may recall intentionally hit Philadelphia’s Chase Utley with a pitch and then started to move menacingly towards Utley as if it was Utley who had done something wrong. 

     Anyway, there you have it.   The batting order of the defending World Champions of baseball.

     In all seriousness, and though I have no way of proving it, I am suggesting that this may be the worst starting nine any defending World Series champion has ever put on the field the following year.   Sitting there on my couch, now acutely aware of this possibility, I really didn’t know what to do….

     So what did I do?   What else?   I threw back my head and laughed!   And laughed, and laughed, and laughed.

     Because it reminded me of a very salient truth; namely, that we stole the Series last year.   We had great pitching, sure, but didn’t hit the ball much better last year than Thursday’s line-up hit against the Mets.   For two years, this has been an absolutely horrible hitting team.   It got by on guts, pitching, luck, and a half-century of desperation.  No, my friends, my beloved Giants were not the best team in baseball last year, they most assuredly were not….but who cares!   It’s not how good you are, it’s who plays best in the clutch and holds up the trophy at the end.   We stole the Series, we’re the “Defending Champs” for at least a year (probably at most a year), and it feels good inside.   Like getting away with something, like stealing cookies before dinner, like texting in a crowded movie theater.   Laugh City, baby.

     And finally, we now come to the 2011 Kentucky Derby, run just last Saturday at Churchill Downs in Louisville.  

     I went to the track the previous day to make a bet on the big race, a sizeable bet to be sure, just to spice up the following day’s activities a little bit.

     The name of the horse I bet on is Midnight Interlude.   He didn’t do too well.   Of the 19 runners in the race, he beat only three of them to the wire.   He was just jogging at the end.   He gave up.   In other words, he didn’t exactly give me my money’s worth.   But that’s racing, and being the suave and seasoned racing veteran that I am I was perfectly willing to accept it….until I looked a little closer at the official program.   I chanced to glance at the horse’s family tree.   His grandfather on his mother’s side—the “dam sire”, in racetrack parlance—was a horse called Groom Dancer.   Groom Dancer.   Groom Dancer.

     Now I realize that that horse’s name doesn’t mean a darn thing to you.   Why should it?   You didn’t bet, and lose, several hundred dollars on Groom Dancer in a big race in Paris, France, 24 years ago.  

     Like I did.    

     That’s right.   It was the 1987 “Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe”, Europe’s biggest horse race.   A real-life American in Paris that day, I went to Longchamp Racecourse and wagered big, and lost, on Groom Dancer.   Groom Dancer didn’t just lose that day, he checked in dead last, more than 25 lengths behind the winner.   He was just jogging at the end.   He gave up.   (In other words, he didn’t exactly give me my money’s worth either.)  

     And now, from the grave, Groom Dancer has bedeviled me again….by sending his own grandson back across the Atlantic to Louisville for the 2011 Kentucky Derby, merely to seduce me into throwing away good money after bad by trusting in his own grandson to right the awful wrong he did me back when Reagan was president.   That whole horse family must hate me.   At least that’s what it feels like.   You just hafta laugh at that….

     But did I, you ask?   Did I laugh?

     Well yeah, I did laugh, I surely did….but only a little bit.   Only for a couple seconds.   After all, a big losing bet is still a big losing bet.



PS—Feel free to click the link & enjoy the 1987 ‘Arc’, below, but in deference to me please try not to laugh too hard when Groom Dancer gets blocked on the rail and then slows to a walk at the finish….



meet….The Sports Philosopher!image0031

Brad Eastland is an author, historian, film buff, undiscovered fictioneer, and a card-carrying member of our government’s loyal opposition.   Brad’s other recent columns for LaVerneOnline can be found in Sports under ‘The Sports Philosopher’ and also in Viewpoint under ‘Brad Eastland’s View’.    Brad has also written 4 novels* and over 20 short-stories.  

*To pick up a copy of his recently published novel of life at the racetrack, WHERE GODS GAMBLE, a tale of American mythology, simply search for it on,, or….its easy!









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