South for the weekend

So we headed south to Ozark country this weekend to spend time with Joel, Stephanie and the kids. We needed a weekend away from The 'Ville, and it was so worth it. ... For the first time in awhile, I'm feeling completely refreshed and ready to take on the week.

When we arrived Joel had some juicy, thick teriyaki burgers and Game 7 of the World Series waiting for us. And in an instant the kids were off and running together.

* * *
Saturday morning Kates and Stephanie headed out for some shopping. ... At noon, we picked up Kates, while Stephanie went to work, and then hit a farmer's market, a Chipotle and the original Bass Pro shop, with its elaborate displays and virtual zoo. Joel suggested I take pictures of all the scenes and trick people into thinking we went to Colorado for the weekend ... So here's Phoebe petting a bear.

I would have liked to go to Joplin Saturday afternoon since our beloved 'Cats football team was playing one of their conference rivals there. I also was interested in seeing the tornado devastation for myself. But I was out-voted, and I ended up listening to the 'Cats game on the internet while lounging in a chair under the sun in the backyard. ... I stumbled on this story about the latest in Joplin tonight.

Saturday night we headed to the zoo. For some trick-or-treating among the animals. Phoebe again donned her dance-costume-that-she-thinks-is-a-princess-outfit, Sophia was Snow White, Freddie was a cowboy and the rest of us portrayed moms and dads. ... At the zoo, we arrived to the sight of a line that rivaled a line of people waiting to get Justin Bieber concert tickets. Luckily, Joel had thought ahead and had purchased a "friends" pass that not only got us in free but also bypassed the humongous line stretched from the front gates to the opposite end of the parking lot. ... We strolled through the zoo and past the light displays. The kids filled their baskets and we had a dandy time. ... We topped it off with a train ride through the zoo grounds -- and seriously, I'm positive some of those people standing in line when we entered the zoo were still standing there when we exited nearly two hours later.

* * *
We said goodbye this morning and headed back to The 'Ville. ... Although, our good-bye was marred a major Phoebe breakdown that rivaled the now infamous Homecoming crisis of last weekend.

At first, Phoebe didn't want to leave because she wanted to continue playing and she had grown attached to a couple of Sophia's dolls. That was understandable; it's nothing we haven't seen before and Phoebe always comes around. ... But this time it got worse before it got better. She was messing with a red hair band on one of the dolls, and Kates and I considered it to be Phoebe stalling. So eventually we pulled her away from the doll and tried to guide her to the door. Instead her cries grew worse to the point that she was inconsolable -- and Kates and I didn't understand why. Finally, the only thing I could do was pick her up and carry her out of the house, literally kicking and screaming. Fun times.

It wasn't until we had her buckled in her car seat and were pulling out of the driveway that, through her sobbing and near hyperventilating, Phoebe told us the red head band was a favorite one she got at her dance class. She had been trying to take it off the doll ... Kates sank in her seat. It was no wonder Phoebe was so upset. One thing's certain: The girl knows when she's right, and she knew she was right in that case.

After about five minutes of silence and watching her classic frown in the rear view mirror, I slipped on "Deer in the Headlights." As hard as she tried to squash it, a smile leaked out of her mouth and she was singing soon after.

Later, it was "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye" that caught her ears. She asked me to play it again, and I obliged. ... Tonight, she sang the chorus all through her bath time, and then again as we tucked her in to bed. She's changed the words to "Hey Hey Hey ... Good night!" That's my girl.


That's a winner

It was a strange calm that fell across Busch Stadium late Friday night, in the waning moments of one of the greatest World Series in recent memory, a sense of peace and prosperity that felt somehow out of place. After weeks of digging out of massive holes and clinging to life in the face of overwhelming odds, the St. Louis Cardinals were leading the Texas Rangers in the ninth inning of Game 7 ... ~ The Washington Post
So the Cardinals won the World Series last night.

I sat in disbelief as I watched the celebration. How the Cardinals were declared dead in August, came back from 10 1/2 games down, won the wild card spot on the last day of the season, and needed every postseason game possible -- five with the Phillies, seven with the Brewers and seven with the Rangers -- to win the title ... baffled me.

But, in the end, they succeeded. They were the best team when they needed to be. So I suppose they deserve the praise.

But if Albert Pujols signs a free agent contract for more than $300 million after this, I think I will be sick. (psst ... I think he's a great player. But I also think he's declining and therefore undeserving of that kind of money.)

Good reads ...
a St. Louis Cardinals’ World Series title is best long-shot comeback in baseball history
a On short rest, Chris Carpenter paves way for Cardinals in World Series finale
a2 strikes away from likely MVP, Texas’ Napoli resigned to personal highlights of World Series 
a Hail to the champs! Comeback Cards gave us a Series to treasure
a Cardinals veterans get long-elusive ring ... If I am happy for any Cardinals player, it's Lance Berkman.
a It's like the Wild Card was named for them


Holy Game 6!

I was beat last night. I can't remember the last time I was in bed before midnight. It's been weeks. Work. Grad papers. Insomnia.

And by the way, thank you Major League Baseball for postponing Game 6 Wednesday night so I could focus fully on my latest grad paper and enjoy tonight's epic game without a paper deadline hanging over me.

So I started dozing on the couch during last night's World Series Game 6. I missed all of the sixth and seventh innings and awoke at some point in the eighth. The Rangers were still leading, and -- as I'd said when they were the first team to get on the board in the first -- it appeared destined to be their night. The Rangers would finally get the championship.

I kept struggling to keep my eyes open.

The Rangers went quickly in the top of the ninth. Then, it was the Cardinals' turn.

Albert Pujols hit a one-out double. Lance Berkman walked. Now my eyes were wide open. ... The Rangers had the Cardinals on the ropes -- down two runs in the bottom of the ninth with two outs, down to the last strike. Then, David Freese hit a two-out, two-run triple to tie the game at seven, and I could only smile and shake my head in disbelief.

One of my Facebook friends posted a status update that read, "Damn. I was ready to go to bed." ... I was, too.

On to the 10th inning. Elvis Andrus singled and Josh Hamilton hit a home run to move the Rangers ahead again, 9-7, seemingly as fast as they gave their last lead away. Now the Cardinals were done, right?

Wrong. Daniel Descalso and Jon Jay singled. Kyle Lohse bunted over the runners and a Ryan Theriot groundout brought in one run. Then, the Rangers walked Pujols intentionally. ... The Cardinals were down to their last strike again. But Lance Berkman singled home the tying run. Tied again! Are you kidding me?!

Bring on the 11th inning. The Rangers failed to score in the top half. Then, Freese knocked a home run to right-center to start the bottom of 11th inning, ending the game and forcing a Game 7.

Unbelievable. Again, I could only smile and shake my head in disbelief.

These guys put it more eloquently ...

Matthew Leach, MLB.com ...

From start to finish, this was simply one of the strangest World Series games in memory. Berkman's two-run homer gave St. Louis an early 2-1 lead, but the Rangers tied it in the next half-inning. A Matt Holliday error on an eminently catchable ball in short left field opened the fourth and led to a go-ahead run, but an error by Rangers first baseman Michael Young put St. Louis in position to tie in the bottom of the fourth.
And so it went. Freese dropped a seemingly easy popup at third to open the fifth, and Young doubled in the run that made it 4-3, Texas. The Cards tied it thanks to an infield hit, an error and three straight walks, but could get no more. Holliday was picked off third base for the second out, throwing a major wrench in a potential big inning.

By the late going, though, the earlier follies were all but forgotten. An occasionally comic game had turned into a classic. And an occasionally maddening team had put itself in position to win the World Series.
Bernie Miklasz, St. Louis Post-Dispatch ...
At 11:39 p.m. on Thursday, leading off the bottom of the 11th inning, Freese squared up on a 3-2 pitch thrown by Rangers reliever Mark Lowe. It was a change up, an opportunity that could not be turned down. Freese got all of it, jolting the World Series in a way that was so shocking, so incredible, that we'll be talking about this classic forever.

Parents and grandparents will grow old, talking about the night they danced in the aisles, jumping into each other's arms and into the embrace of strangers, as they celebrated one of the greatest moments in franchise history. The kids who watched this will grow up, savoring the wonder of it all, and passing the story down through the years. Through these stories, this unbelievable night will live forever.

As I watched the celebration at home plate and the Cardinals players shred Freese's jersey, I thought, That jersey is totally going to the Hall of Fame.

Joe Buck's call of "We will see you tomorrow night!" was perfect. And across Facebook this morning the status updates of Cardinals fans read: "That's a winner!" Another ode to Jack Buck... A couple of my friends were at the game and even posted their videos of the winning moment.

It's already being lauded among the classic Game 6 contests (1975, 1986, 1991, 1993, 2002 ... ), not to mention one of the greatest World Series games ever. And, as much as I hate to say this because I was hardly interested in this matchup when the series started, this World Series is shaping up to be among the most memorable in my lifetime.

Some good reads from the series ...
a Bryan Burwell: What an unbelievable ride
a For DeWitt and Selig, the Game of a Lifetime
a The record Pujols set, and Freese emphatically matched
a Now that's a storybook finish
a Spellbinding Game 6 leaves pundits stunned
a Cruz's unforgiveable defensive gaffe proves costly to Rangers
a One Day After Disaster, Manager Explains Himself
a Baseball’s Game of Telephone
a Dugout Phones: Last Bastion of the Landline
a Fox hits Game 7 jackpot
a From Foe to Friend for Cards’ Berkman
a Texas looking like long-term power
a 25 years later, Buckner is handling things flawlessly and with a firm grip
a An Incubator of Baseball Talent


Feeling older every day

Not many things make me feel old. Not even my rapidly graying hair.

I remember going to the movie theater to see Jerry Maguire on a January night when I was 16 years old with a group of high school buddies like it was last month. I love that movie.

But this ... makes me feel old: Jonathan Lipnicki turns 21 in Las Vegas.

In honor of Jonathan ... a classic scene from the film that, nowadays, often makes me think of Phoebe. The similarity between their behaviors and mannerisms is striking.


The Meltdown

Today capped Homecoming week at the university, and it was indeed a good week.

The banners, creatively painted by the students, that hang from the campus buildings and football stadium gates. The office decorating contests. The announcements of the Homecoming royalty and the grand marshal. The hilarity and musical talent that fills the Variety Show. The old-fashioned parade through town. And, of course, the football game -- which, this year, featured our mighty ’Cats, after a tough loss to another highly ranked conference rival three weeks ago, knocking off the No. 3 team in the country -- by an easy 52-28, I might add -- and, thus, keeping their playoff hopes alive.

There is an energy and spirit around The ‘Ville during Homecoming week that is like no other. Check out the marching band's performance of the "Party Rock Anthem" during halftime of the football game. ...

Except, this year’s Homecoming will best be remembered by what we’ll call “The Meltdown.”

As I’ve stated in previous posts, we enrolled Phoebe in dance classes this fall. She’s enjoying it, and it’s created some good mother-daughter bonding moments as her and Kates attend the classes each Thursday evening. … Recently, with the Homecoming approaching, the kiddos had been practicing two or three times a week to prepare their routine for the Homecoming parade. Kates also had to buy Phoebe a specific outfit and a special purple bow. An investment of time and money had been made.

So today was the big day. The parents were given explicit instructions to have the kids to the starting point at 8:30 a.m., and the parade was to begin at 9 a.m.

We were out of bed in plenty of time. Kates and I got ourselves dressed and ready. Phoebe, on the other hand, was stalling and refusing to get dressed.

At 8:25, “The Meltdown” began. Phoebe. would. not. get. dressed.

There was kicking, crying and horrific screaming. She rolled herself into the corner of her bedroom and wouldn’t let us touch her. After all of the preparation and excitement, it had come to this? Kates and I didn’t understand, and nothing we said consoled Phoebe.

As far as we could tell, this tantrum came down to her not wanting to wear the bow in her hair. Seriously.

Finally, at around 8:50, something clicked, and Phoebe allowed us to get her dressed. At about 8:55, we’re charging to our car and getting Phoebe buckled in her seat. At about 8:57, I’m speeding down the street toward the meeting place. And at about 8:59, I’m dropping Kates and Phoebe off on the side of the road so they can look for the rest of the girls. … I won’t soon forget the image, as I pulled away in the car, of Kates walking briskly toward a parking lot and holding Phoebe’s hand, while Phoebe stumbled a step or two behind Kates without really knowing what just happened.

Ah, but the best was yet to come.

I ended up returning home and parked the car in our garage; our house is close enough to the parade route and the campus that I could park the car and walk to the parade in less time than it would have taken me to find a parking place in the surrounding neighborhood.

About 10 minutes later, shortly after I settled on a place to watch the parade, I received a text from Kates. She and Phoebe couldn’t find the group, and decided to walk back to our house.

I stayed where I was and continued watching the parade.

About an hour or so later, as the parade was nearing its end, the girls from Phoebe’s dance studio passed in front of me. … It was the cruelest ending to the morning’s storm. I chuckled and sent a text to Kates, who was less than pleased. Considering the time we parted, Phoebe easily could have made the parade had they found the group.

After the parade, I returned home, where Phoebe had returned to her happy-go-lucky-self.

Some day we’ll look back at this and laugh, right?


Hello, Winter

So winter showed up today.

The temps were in the 40s as we headed to school this morning. The wind whipped. My face felt like it was going to crack.

I hate that feeling. I hate winter.

Meanwhile, back in our old stomping grounds … I would have paid to see these humongous waves crashing on the Lake Michigan shore.


Daddy’s day of care

So it’s my day to watch the kiddo. It’s parent-teacher conference week for Kates.

Pheebs and I were up, ready and at it by 7 this morning -- an all-time record! We were out the door and on our way to school before the sun came up. The reason: Today was “Dads And Donuts” -- aka DADs -- day at Phoebe’s school. It’s a time for dads to spend a little extra time with their kids before the school day begins. We hung out in the school library, ate donuts, chatted with other kids and their dads. And it was good.

Tonight, I got the pleasure of picking up Phoebe from her school. She was thrilled to see me and ran into my arms … She wasn’t so thrilled when we began walking out of the school, and she realized she wasn’t going to Kates’ classroom today for a snack and some extra playtime.

* * *

I needed to pick up a couple things at the grocery store for an office lunch party tomorrow, so we headed there next. Phoebe got lucky; one of those carts outfitted with a race car or something of the like for children to ride in was parked at the front of the store. I didn’t plan on grabbing a cart, but without hesitation, Phoebe hopped in, and I went along for the ride. … She was spinning the driver’s wheel throughout the entire store, having loads of fun and begging me to go faster.

* * *

As we were leaving the store parking lot, I found “Deer in the Headlights” on the iPod. Her face lit up the moment she heard the opening riff, and the singing began all over again.

* * *

As we drove on Main Street, Phoebe spotted the Dairy Queen. “I wanna corn dog!” she shouted, pointing at the Dairy Queen. I tried to brush it off and tell her we were eating at home. We had plenty of leftovers waiting. ... But the sad face and tears proved too adorable. So I turned on the next street, drove around the block and headed toward the Dairy Queen drive-thru for a corn dog for Phoebe.

Except. Dairy Queen doesn’t have corn dogs. That became apparent when Phoebe informed me Dairy Queen wasn’t the right place because it didn’t have a picture of me with a corn dog. I’m not sure what that meant, but apparently there’s a picture of someone’s daddy, who resembles me, holding a corn dog -- and wherever that is, that’s where Phoebe wanted her corn dog.

“It’s the place with the yellow and red sign!” she said from the back seat.

“Are you talking about Sonic?” I asked, pointing at the Sonic restaurant across the street.

“Yeah! There’s Sonic, just like where Mommy takes me!”

So we headed to Sonic. Phoebe got her corn dog and tots. I ordered the double cheeseburger meal.

I don’t like Sonic. In fact, I think it’s terribly overrated. The food isn’t that good, and when I opened up the packaging to pull out my cheeseburger it was a heaping mess. As long as Phoebe’s happy.

* * *

At home, Phoebe played “school” and pretended to decorate her “classroom.” I let her watch the first half of “Tangled” … She also went potty, and invited me to see her “very big poop,” which, she was quick to point out, had corn in it.

Now she’s in bed. And I have a paper to write.

Just another day.


All's well that ends well. Except when it ends very badly.

I really thought the Brewers were going to do it. ... That Game 1 win had me convinced. Sure, they were down three games to two. But -- even after that awful Game 5 -- they were playing at home, at Miller Park. They found ways to come from behind all season long. Surely, fate was on their side.

Um, yeah. No.

In the first inning, after the Cardinals had taken a 4-0 lead and completely took the Milwaukee crowd out of the game, John Smoltz said the postseason can be so cruel.

Then, after the Brewers got back into the game in the second inning and had the nervous crowd chewing on their rally towels, Tony LaRussa said during his dugout interview: This is not fun.

And yet, Brian Anderson may have had the best line of the night, after it became apparent there would be no comeback for the Brewers this time: Again, it is the Cardinals. ... I was disliking the Cardinals more with each passing inning.

Tweeted Wisconsin sports reporter Jen Lada ...
And when the 2012 season begins, Milw can rewelcome the NLCS champs to Miller Park. Opening Day opponent. April 6th. #goodgrief #you again
Those dang, stinkin’ Cardinals.

The stress of last night's game was causing me to scratch and claw at my head so regularly, it hurt.

At 9-4 in the third inning, I already was exhausted and feeling like I’d been through the ringer. By the fourth inning, I was slumped in my chair, and my stomach was in such a knot I was doubting whether I could stand to watch any longer.

One fan tweeted ...

I'm going to change the channel to something a little more comfortable. Is there a live human birth on anywhere? #brewers
I checked out in the fifth when Jerry Hairston booted a ball not once, but twice, and then Hairston’s boot went under Rickie Weeks’ glove at second base. Score: 10-5, Cardinals in favor.

Joe Posnanski, who pointed to Brewers’ poor defense throughout the postseason, tweeted ...

Now the Brewers are just showing off. Holy cow.
Adam McCalvy, the Brewers beat writer for MLB.com, followed up with ...

Uh-oh. TBS has gone to "sad fan" shots. That's never good.
Thinking about my love affairs with the Brewers and Cubs, at this point I’m not sure which is harder for me to swallow -- The fact that the Cubs haven’t won a World Championship since 1908 and last went to the World Series in 1945. Or the Brewers having never won a championship and making their only trip to the series in 1982. I've watched both come so close to breaking through in recent years. Heart-breaking.

Going back to the Greinke trade, there were such high hopes for this team. 

Now it's wait 'til next year all over again.

Good Interesting reads from the series ...
a Brewers' beastly run ends with NLCS defeat
a Brewers fans savor the season ... It was a crushing finish, the end of a treasured season, the end of a baseball summer.
a Rave reviews for Pujols
a Braun and Pujols Star in Batting Practice Series
a Cards-Brewers rivalry can grow on you
a Ex-National Nyjer Morgan finding stardom, acceptance in Milwaukee
a Morgan and his alter ego captivating fans, turning off opponents
a From young age, Braun lived for big moments
a Behind a Baseball Rivalry, a Battle of Beer Companies
a Handyman Hairston lives up to his label ... I've never been a Hairston fan, but he's been fun to watch for the Brewers.
a Brewers miss great chance to reward fans
a During '57 season, she drove a Chevy with a bevy of fans


Saturday and so on

I'm catching up on my newspaper reading this morning. The iPod is cranked.

No church for us this morning. Kates hasn't been feeling well this weekend. ... Which means I'm doing the laundry. I've done some of the house cleaning. I've taken care of all the meals. I've done the dishes and cleaned the kitchen twice.

Phoebe was upstairs "teaching her class." That's her new thing. Yesterday, she told me she wanted to have class in her bedroom, so I lined up all of her stuffed animals in front of her. She proceeded to pull books from her book shelf and read to them. This morning her class had "sharing time," her preschool class's version of show-and-tell. ... Now in the last few moments, she's come down by me, and she's whirling around to the music on the ipod.

* * *

A contrast from some of the last several weekends, this one has been a good, relaxing, productive, refreshing and quiet one.

* * *

Yesteday, we slept until almost 9 a.m. Oh, so good.

* * *

Phoebe was supposed to be at a dance rehearsal at 10:30 a.m. yesterday. But she erupted in a mega tantrum at about 10:05, and didn't calm down until about 10:45. There was no dance class for Phoebe yesterday.

* * *

We decided earlier in the week to skip out on the 'Cats football game. It marked the first time since my first game in 1997 that I missed a 'Cats home football game -- regular season or post season -- for a reason other than living two states away. ... The game was a fairly meaningless one in the grand scheme of our season. I listened to it on the radio as I worked around the house, and the 'Cats won 65-20.

* * *

Last night was the first night of The 'Ville's annual Halloween overload -- the annual trick-or-treat night at the lake and campground on the outskirts of town. Seriously, kids in this town could find a trick-or-treating event every other night past Halloween if they looked hard enough.

This is the first year we can say Phoebe is truly grasping the concept; she asked repeatedly from the time she awoke yesterday if it was time to go trick-or-treating. This year, Phoebe wanted to be a dancer. She put on her leotard and tutu -- at noon. Then Kates dolled up Phoebe with a little makeup, and Pheebs and I joined a co-worker's family to head to the lake.

It was the only trick-or-treating event in which we participated last year, and it is a unique one. For campers, they say it's one of the campground's most popular weekend. Some of the campers go all out with elaborate decorations and mini haunted houses set up in dining flies.

Phoebe took it all in stride and was hardly daunted by any of it. She cruised from camp site to camp site, intent on filling her bucket ... I'd say she did pretty good -- except for the fact that she kept bypassing the 3 Musketeers, M&Ms, Reese's and Whoppers for the more acidic stuff like the suckers, taffy and Starburst. Mommy and Daddy want the chocolate, Pheebs! 

* * *

So the Texas Rangers won the American League Championship last night.

And that makes the World Series half as interesting as it would have been had I been granted my ultimate matchup. Now it's Brewers all the way or bust.

It was fun while it lasted, Tigers.

Some good reads from the last few days of the postseason ... 
a Stoic Tigers Can Only Watch the Scene
a Late, Sudden, Unsurprising, the Emergence of Nelson Cruz ... To think what might have been had the Brewers kept him.
a Verlander cements elite status with postseason game for the ages
a Brewers’ Hairston Haunts La Russa, His Father’s Favorite Manager
a Fielder and Weeks: Friends for Ages, Brewers for Now


Song spotting

So my song of the week -- the last two weeks, actually -- is Owl City's "Deer in the Headlights."

Truth be told, I was disappointed the first time I heard the song last spring. It was Owl City's newest single since the smash "Fireflies" two years ago. I wanted "Deer in the Headlights" to be the same kind of Owl City dreamy escape song that "Fireflies" was.

But in recent weeks, it's grown on me in a super way. With its powerful, pumping, head-banging synth hooks. Turns out it evokes some escapism after all.

I'm so into it that it's got me thinking of other songs with similar synth-heavy, thumping beats. It's inspired me to create a new iPod playlist; the working title is "Passion." Thinking off the top of my head, this playlist also should include Passion Pit's "Little Secrets" and MGMT's "Time to Pretend."

Although, I don't think the "Deer" video elicits the same emotions, much less matches the vibe of the song, the way the "Fireflies" video did so successfully ... Then again, as I watch both videos now, neither of them really make any sense.

"Fireflies," you may remember got a lot of play time in our house during the fall of 2009 and the subsequent winter. So much that while I was away that winter and Phoebe heard it on the radio, she began calling it "Daddy's song." ... So this newest obsession has rekindled a lot of those memories and emotions, and put me on an Owl City kick ...

Tonight, I stumbled on this charmer -- a live performance of "Fireflies" from last June -- that made me smile. And it totally had me wishing I could have caught them when they passed through Summerfest just days later.

(UPDATE: 11:34 a.m., 10.15.2011)

My Owl City kick provoked one of our epic dance  parties this morning ...

And Phoebe surprised me by singing along  to the chorus of "Deer in the Headlights." When I pulled out the video camera, however, she began concentrating more on her dance moves than the singing ...


Storm damage

We had a good storm come through The ‘Ville this afternoon. The kind of good storm that produces some gentle thunder, a steady rain and leaves you feeling refreshed.

Phoebe didn’t see it the same way.

The girl used to be totally unfazed by storms. She’d sleep right through the worst of them.

But ever since the mini-hurricane that hit us in August, not so much.

The town is still recovering from it. Emergency assistance trailers sprouted up in the parking lots the next day and still remain, along with billboards advertising hail damage repair. Conversations about dealings with insurance adjusters and contractors are an every day occurrence. And you can’t take a walk through the neighborhoods without hearing the pounding of workers repairing damaged roofs and siding.

As for Phoebe, at bedtime, every night since that storm, she asks Kates or I, “Can you check the weather?” “Is it going to storm tonight?”

As the clouds came in this morning and especially when the storm rolled in this afternoon, my thoughts were on Phoebe and how she was dealing with the weather.

Under normal circumstances, Phoebe wants nothing than to be free to play. But this afternoon, Kates picked up Phoebe from school and found her sitting on the security of her teacher’s lap.


Believing in the Brewers

Still riding high after Friday night’s thriller, we eagerly tuned in to this afternoon’s game. Game one of the National League Championship Series. At Miller Park.

The cameras panned the stadium. The fans were roaring and waving those white rally towels. All of it gave me chills.

I almost couldn’t believe what I was watching.

Kates and I were discussing our feelings about the excitement the other night, and the fact that our adventure has caused us to miss a chance at truly experiencing it. We couldn’t decide whether it's harder to watch, knowing that we could be there. Or if it's easier to watch because we have been there -- and we were there this summer. At the least, we’ve managed to keep up with the team this season in ways that wouldn’t have been possible 10 or 15 years ago. ... That said, it has been tough seeing the pictures on Facebook and hearing about so many of our family and friends going to the playoff games this last week, knowing we could have been there, too. (For the record, I've studied the NLCS schedule, thinking that perhaps I could make a run across the state for a game in St. Louis. But with my work schedule and the games in the middle of the week, there's no way.)

To make this series even more interesting, it didn’t dawn on me until last night that we’re watching a rematch of the 1982 World Series. (We attended the 25th anniversary celebration of that series at Miller Park during our epic baseball summer of 2007: Good times)

(Updated 10.10.2011) More good reads ...
a Brewers, Cardinals to renew their rivalry, and perhaps their bad blood, in NLCS
a Central stage: '82 Series foes clash in NLCS
a In NLDS win, Braun shows MVP-level talent
a Spending big not part of Brewers' winning formula

It didn’t look good for the Brewers early today.

Ryan Braun hit a two-run bomb in the first inning and then the Cardinals plunked Prince Fielder on the next pitch, all of which made for an exciting start. But the Brewers eventually fell behind 5-2.

Then, the bottom of the fifth inning happened.
Back-to-back big hits by Braun and Fielder powered a rapid-fire fifth-inning rally, helping the Brewers come back to beat the Cardinals 9-6 for a 1-0 lead in the series. ... The typically light-hitting Yuniesky Betancourt added another two-run home run to cap it. The midgame turnaround came so fast that the crowd wasn't done cheering Braun's big hit when Fielder went deep.
Prince's shot was a laser. Per @ESPNStatsInfo: "Fielder's HR traveled at a speed of 119.2 MPH off his bat. That is the highest speed for any HR hit in 2011."


Then, there was Yuni Betancourt. It took me one night -- an epic doubleheader -- to appreciate Yuni Betancourt. And I was quite pleased when he came to the Brewers with Zack Greinke.

Tweeted Joe Posnanski after his home run today: "As I've often said: You can't get Yuni out when it matters."

The Brewers scored six runs and saw 25 pitches before the Cards recorded their first out in the fifth inning. It took just two pitches for Braun and Fielder to turn a 3-run deficit into a one-run advantage.

It was a darn fun game to watch. Here's another good wrap-up from The New York Times.

Speaking of fun. How about those Packers!?

We watched them tonight, too. Despite a rough start to the game for them also, they turned it into a convincing 25-16 win over the Falcons.

The Brewers are up one game in the NLCS. The Packers are 5-0 out of the gate and looking good. And the Badgers are 5-0 and pushing toward a national title after blasting Nebraska last weekend.

I'd say everything's pretty rosy for Wisconsin sports fans tonight.

Good night.


Brewers win!

So I had graduate classes this weekend.

One of them went until 9 p.m. last night.

Which meant I had to miss the Brewers-Diamondbacks NLDS Game 5.

I set the DVR. And then avoided the internet and refused to check my phone the rest of the night. When I arrived at my grad class, I walked into a couple of my cohorts talking about the night's games, and promptly told them about my plan. ... There are a few Cardinals fans in my class, and one of the girls came dressed in her Cardinals jersey. There's also a recent transplant from Wisconsin, who understands the Brewers love, too. 

Later, one of my cohorts told me he had checked online and knew the outcome. "Don't tell me!" I said, throwing my hands in the air.

By 9:30, I was finally home. I greeted Kates, who had waited patiently for me, and we fired up the game. I noticed my phone had several text messages, which I decided could be either a good thing or bad thing. But I still refused to check them out of fear of spoiling the outcome.

Kates eventually headed to bed, while I held on into the wee hours of the morning.

It was a shame John Axford -- who has been lights out all season -- couldn't secure the win in the ninth. ... But as I replayed the ending for Kates this afternoon and as I explained the final innings to her, I couldn't keep from thinking the Brewers had to pull out that game! There was no way they could lose. They were playing at home! They had the players to do it! It was their game!

When Nyjer Morgan slapped that ball back up the middle in the bottom of the 10th inning, I flew off the couch and started jumping in front of the TV, shouting Go! Go! Go! as loud as I could without waking up Phoebe and Kates, practically waving Carlos Gomez home as if I'd stepped into Ed Sedar's body.
By the time Gomez crossed home plate, I'd sunk to my knees on the floor in front of the TV ... And it nearly caused a repeat of the tears I shed the night KU won it all in 2008. I wanted a Brewers series win that bad.

Then the replays and post-game. When a sideline reporter tried to interview Prince Fielder he was literally speechless and backed away from the mic mumbling, "I can't. ... Wow. ... I can't." ... And then Nyjer Morgan stepped up to the mic and dropped a couple F-bombs on live TV. Nice.

Arguably my favorite shot of the finale was the aerial from the third base side showing the Brewers players jumping on to the field and already waitng at home plate by the time Gomez was halfway down the third base line.

Next up, it's those darn Cardinals. I was up until almost 2 a.m. this morning watching my DVR recording of them knocking off the Phillies -- although I must confess I think I slept through at least the seventh and eighth innings -- and can hardly believe how St. Louis managed to win it by scoring one run in the first inning and holding the Phillies scoreless.

I was sad to see the Rays bow out to the Rangers. I'm thrilled the Tigers are in. ... But the Cardinals are hot, and that has me really nervous for the Brewers.

Good reads ...
a Owner Goes All In on the Brewers
a NLCS rivalry: Greinke calls Carpenter 'a phony'
a NLDS Game 1: Brewers have everything going their way!
a View from Philly: Cards series tougher than expected
a What the Washington Nationals can learn from the Philadelphia Phillies’ mistakes


Another week

This will be known as the week Amanda Knox was freed. Steve Jobs died. And postseason baseball kept getting in the way of other responsibilities that I didn’t find nearly as exciting.

There are dozens of tweets from this week I wish I could re-post. But time’s not on my side.

Like a lot of people, I sat breathless at my desk awaiting the Knox verdict, although I can't be sure why. The case was a compelling one for sure, but it never gripped me as much as it did today. I'm glad for her's and her family's sake their nightmare is over.

Then, I was working in my office Tuesday night, hunkering down for another night of graduate paper writing when I saw the first tweet from a Chicago television station reporting Jobs' death. "Whoah," I said aloud. In another moment it became one of those stories that exploded on the Twitterverse, and tweets were flashing as fast as lightning. ... It was amazing to me how hard some were taking the death of a guy who built computers. And then it wasn't so hard to understand the outpouring when you think of the direct and indirect influence his gadgets have had on our lifestyles.

"Given Jobs’s storied record, the quasi-religious hosannas were predictable. As Walt Mossberg, the Wall Street Journal’s technology columnist, wrote, Jobs rivaled Henry Ford as an industrialist and Thomas Edison as an innovator. In just over a dozen years, he transformed a foundering computer company into a giant of commerce and culture, with a broad influence on movies, music, advertising and retailing." ~ Paul Farhi, The Washington Post
More good reads ...
a Steve Jobs: Thank Him For...
a Steven P. Jobs: His Life, His Companies, His Products ... Cool interactive feature. And it's pretty fascinating to read some of the original reviews of these Apple products, too.
a A Tough Balancing Act Remains Ahead for Apple
a Apple Innovations Include Start of Big-Budget Super Bowl Ads
a Up From Ugliness
a Steve Jobs’ millennial fan club is devoted to Apple, but why?
a Where Have You Gone, Joe DiMaggio?
a Political cartooons
* * *

Meanwhile, the baseball playoffs were screaming for my attention.

My friend Matt predicted all sweeps. But for as talented and streaky as all of this year’s playoff teams were coming in, I expected all the Division Series’ to be close. For as hot as they were coming out of the regular season, I had the Rays -- especially the way they clobbered the Rangers in game 1 of the ALDS -- and Cardinals pinned as the teams every other team should be weary of.

And for the record, I'm rooting for a Brewers-Tigers World Series. I don't deny my love for either team, buut there's added interest this year because my boss is a Detroit native and die-hard Tigers fan, and our respect is mutual for each other's teams.

Dare I say, I'm quite impressed and pleased with TBS's postseason coverage this year -- something I never thought I'd be saying after the way they stumbled out of the gate in 2007. I'm lovin' the banter before and after games of Dennis Eckersley, David Wells and Cal Ripken.

Then, there's the commercials. Joe Posnanski had a great read yesterday about the most-played ads. ... I for one can’t get David Bowie‘s “Changes” (Thanks to commercial of product I can't remember) or the New Pornograhers’ “Moves” (Thanks to T-Mobile) out of my head. I also enjoy the Chevy Cruze commercial featuring a pregnant couple who is looking for a new apartment, passes on the first one and eventually comes back to it after a frustrating run of lesser apartments.

My favorite commercial, though, has to be the postseason commercial for the Brewers run. Oh, to see those images of the '82 Brewers mixed with this year's characters ... so ... cool.

Then, there's the matter of that Rally Squirrel. ... Thanks to late nights in my office and my attention devoted to the Brewers-Diamondbacks series, almost everything I know about the state of the Phillies-Cardinals series has come via the internet, which almost makes this whole thing even more entertaining for me.

This squirrel made an appearance at Tuesday night's Cardinals game, and my friend Erica wrote about it yesterday afternoon, noting the bold squirrel had its very own Twitter account: @BuschSquirrel. Of course, I started following Mr. Squirrel that afternoon -- when he only had a few hundred followers.

Fast forward to last night when I was working late again and I saw a tweet from Erica referencing another squirrel appearance. Then, I clicked on Mr. Squirrel's account to see, simply "SURPRISE!!" I burst out laughing and could only imagine what I'd just missed.

There's the head-shaking photos. And this video made me laugh more. ... Today, the Post-Dispatch conducted a revealing interview with the squirrel. ... Could it be the Phillies' black cat?

Some good baseball reads ...
a Long-shot Cardinals earning respect
a Where there's smoke, there's the Tigers on fire
a Strong Second Half Lands Tigers at Yankees’ Door
a Bob Gibson endorses Verlander for MVP as well as Cy Young awards
a In Baseball’s Bronze Age, Statues Are Becoming Bigger Part of Landscape
a Milestones to Lose Signature Touch
a A Career Sustained by Unwavering Faith
a A Lou Gehrig Treasure Trove