December 2005 Archives for Agony & Ivy

Fleeting Bleacher Memories

By JCB on Saturday, December 31, 2005

There’s no doubt that the bleachers are one of the elements that helped Wrigley Field become larger than life. We love the lore: there was a time when bleacher seats were not sold ahead of game day, so that anyone who was willing to come early enough could get a seat. That history even made it possible for some fans to come to every single game without having to front for season tickets – Bleacher Bums.

I don’t feel as personally about the bleachers as other people, though, and here’s my confession as to why: I never actually attended a game in the bleachers until just a couple of years ago. My father prefers to sit between the bases, and was never overly concerned with the bleacher experience or all that. Since he was the one sponsoring almost all of my games in my formative years, that meant sitting where he liked. Not that I’m complaining, by any means. It’s just that as a result, I can’t lay as much claim to a general sense of mourning that the Bleacher Experience will be changed next year.

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Of All The Things To Talk About

By JCB on Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Well, on my second straight flight delay, I’ve decided to sit down and write. On my way to Chicago I was delayed almost 2 hours; so far tonight they’re only anticipating a half hour or so. So far, that is. To top it off the handle of my suitcase arm – the part that lets you roll it – broke off as I exited the Blue Line so I was hauling it all over O’Hare by hand, which normally wouldn’t have been a problem because I travel lightly but in this case I got about 7 books for Christmas and my sister returned 3 more, all stowed in the bottom of the suitcase with wheels rendered worthless.

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Surveying at the Solstice

By JCB on Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Today was the winter solstice, which means that for a sabian like me, the worst is behind us. I mean that I’m a sabian literarily, not literally. I don’t actually worship the sun, or other heavenly bodies. It’s just a good word to drop for people like me who think that circadian rhythms are in large part at the mercy of the cosmos.

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The Knothole, New Bleachers, and More

By JCB on Saturday, December 17, 2005

Many of us are proud of certain papers we wrote in college: the ones we poured our heart as well as our mind into, or the ones we feel like we had fun with, or the ones in which we feel like we got away with something. Sometimes they’re the same paper. In a humanities honors class (not to try to sound haughty or highbrow), on the subject of reality, I wrote a paper comparing and contrasting Playboy magazine, and its version of (airbrushed) reality with the way that reality is captured by cartoons like the Simpsons and South Park. It wasn’t a bad paper, and I spent more time on it than many other things I wrote, especially since it was only a 7-pager, probably only about 2,000 words. I remember that paper, and I liked to tell the story about getting away with writing it on an unlikely topic.

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Tangents From A Wrongly Hit Baseball

By JCB on Tuesday, December 13, 2005

There are writers I like reading, and among those, there is a smaller set of writers I want to write like. Ian Frazier is one of that smaller set. His essays nearly always make the reader feel smart and clever while they’re reading, in addition to rolling along enjoyably with flitting tone and cadence. There are two reasons I bring this up, regarding one of his latest essays, “Pensées D’Automne” in the New Yorker. The second reason is that he strikes a similar note to some of my sentiments here the last few weeks: getting all worked about aggravating matters can distract you from the enjoyments close at hand. The first reason is here:

Fall into a vexation-filled CIGNA reverie and you lose your concentration, go off your game, and start to mis-stomp acorns, so that instead of neatly flattening they squirt out from under your heel unstomped, or partly stomped, and bounce woundedly away. That is an awful feeling. Theologians have defined sin as “apartness from God,” but I think that sin, in practical terms, is a lot like the jarring, jangling wrongness of the wrongly hit baseball or mis-stomped acorn—a kind of teeth-grinding, bone-deep discord that makes the very keelson of the universe vibrate off key.
Thinking about this, two ideas come to mind. One is that he’s dead-on right. There are certain little things that are so unnatural as to resonate within us in some primary way, despite ourselves. The second idea is a question: why does even a writer like Ian Frazier use baseball metaphors?

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Odds & Ends Vol. 2

By JCB on Thursday, December 8, 2005

More partial-column topics.

1) I think my father captured it best in an e-mail:

juan pierre has been tapped to lead the cubs to the promised land.... vegas stopped taking wagers and now have the baby bruins as prohibitative favorites.. do they even need to play the season???

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So what? Bring on 2006!

By JCB on Monday, December 5, 2005

Sometimes I wonder if 2003 was not only the best season in recent years but also the worst. The mixture of raised of expectations coupled with acute heartbreak has left its bile, no doubt about it. Yellow and Blue(s) make Green. (That might have been a bad pun...) On top of that, 2003 was the year the internet -- and in particular this thing they call the blogosphere -- began to grow legs as a significant medium for sports fans, and let’s face it: it’s more conducive to criticism because I can’t say why, I just believe they’re going to win looks rather silly on paper.

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Memories Of Kerry Wood & Kyle Farnsworth

By JCB on Sunday, December 4, 2005

Just a pair of items here since I'm struggling to come up with items to talk about that aren't of the "Cubs have a lot of problems and it's depressing" variety.

1) I'll start with a link to "Drawing Pitchers," an article for The New Yorker by Michael Rosenwald.

Witte’s scientific theory, the specifics of which he refuses to divulge, has something to do with how successful pitchers keep their gloves elevated at the start of their windups, let their back shoulders drop, and lift their front legs high.
Basically, this guy Michael Witte thinks he sees a pattern among the deliveries of successful / hall-of-fame pitchers, such as Bob Gibson. Now he's something of a consultant for the Cardinals. Obviously, everyone's instinct is to figure the guy is full of crap, and that's fine. Although, he did identify some guys with problematic deliveries, and his observations were born out; whether that was exceptional or not is something different altogether.

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Sincerely, JCB

I founded Agony & Ivy about five years ago for two reasons. First...


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