Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Inflation's a bitch

I was all set to go play some softball last Thursday and was driving up I-95 on the way to D.C. I hit a bump on the way, felt a jolt forward and suddenly, the gas pedal didn't work. I kept pushing it, but the car continued to slow down.

Long story short (hopefully): Car gets towed and goes into the shop. (Yeah, that was pretty short.)

I get a call yesterday from the dealer. I do the normal small talk in the first few seconds on the phone. Not really caring, I ask how he is.

"Well, I was good until a few minutes ago," he tells me. What could it be? Death in the family? Bad day? Something else?

Nope. Turns out my gas line is steel, not a flex cable as they'd hoped. As a result, they have to move the transmission around. And oh, by the way, that's going to be another $220.

You know what? Cut the bullshit. I'm fairly certain that the singular outcome of your day has nothing to do with how my gas line is constructed. In the end, it doesn't matter a damn to you because if I want my ride back, I'm gonna have to pay for it. I'm already getting bent over, there's no reason to patronize me on top of it.

One of the service guys called back today to tell me that the car was done and ready for pickup.




And, by the way, your total is going to be $721 and change.

So I finally get there and pick up the receipt. Out of my chunk of change, I spent a grand total of $66 on parts.

How could fixing a coupling on a gas line be worth more than $650 in labor? Damned if I know.

I intend to find out, however.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Welcome aboard, Beaver backer

This is one of those times that qualifies as a who-woulda-thunk moments: I am now a big Beaver baseball fan.

Growing up, the Pac 10 was far enough away that it often felt like it was closer to the Australian Collegiate League (if there is such a thing) - except that Pac 10 teams occasionally won national titles here in the U.S.

Now, my rear end is firmly planted on the bandwagon. The reason is an easy one: My wife's cousin, Rob Summers. Rob is a redshirt sophomore for Oregon State's baseball team, and actually leads the team in ERA. (OK, truth be told, he appeared in one game this year, pitching 1/3 of an inning, so that gives him an ERA of 0.00.) I did an interview with ex-OSU standout Jacoby Ellsbury in the spring - a former first-round pick, now a Boston farmhand - who assures me that Rob will get more PT next year.

(It's kind of hard trying to keep track of which schools I'm supposed to like. Depending on which family member I'm with, I must be knowledgeable about OSU, Oregon, Washington State or, primarily, Washington, since that's where the most of the most immediate in-laws went. So, sorry everyone else, but go Huskies. My brother-in-law went to Oregon, but I know he understands the necessity of a happy household. My family doesn't prevent that many problems, as it's Penn State or bust. Random people like Notre Dame or Alabama, but it's a clear-cut majority for the Lions. Anywho...)

At the moment, I'm listening to those Beavers pummel Stanford 12-0 in the Corvallis Super Regional. (Crap, I forgot about my cousin's husband, who went to Stanford. Sorry, Alan. Please see that line about happy households.) And I'm very happy for Rob and his teammates as they seem well on their way to making their second straight trip to the College World Series.

I'm proud of him for even getting as far as he has. To go play for Oregon State is nothing to sneeze at; while it doesn't have the tradition of a Texas or LSU or Miami, it's definitely a program on the rise. My job allows me to see how hard it is to even get to a major school like OSU; there are a lot of good high school baseball players and wrestlers that I come across that wind up at Division II or Division III schools.

(That's not to slam D-II or D-III schools. I played four years of D-III football, so I'd never slam those kids.)

So for him to then latch on to a team just at the beginning of its success is an even cooler deal. In my four years of football, we made the NCAA playoffs once, during my freshman year. We went out to western Pennsylvania and got beat by Washington & Jefferson, which was a superb team. Therefore I can't imagine the pride and joy he must feel at making two trips to Omaha.

There is something to be learned from that trip to W&J, however: Getting back is never a given. Ask Dan Marino or Roger Clemens or any of the other great athletes that made the championship game/series early in their career and waited years to get back (in Marino's case, he never made it back to the Super Bowl).

Enjoy it, Rob. You probably know it's one of the coolest things you'll ever do. Savor it and treasure it. But remember, there's no promise it'll be that way next year - all the more reason to savor it and treasure it.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Please, just hand me the remote

My wife and I walked into a nearby pub tonight and saw all four TVs tuned to ESPN. Not much of a surprise.

Also not much of a surprise: The "Worldwide Leader" was showing Red Sox at Yankees.


I realize that Bristol may be halfway between the two cities - or somewhere close to halfway - but enough already. For a supposed national network to concentrate so heavily on two cities is ludicrous, no matter how intense the rivalry. And it sucks for the other 98 percent of the country that - gasp! - could care freaking less about Boston or New York.

I tried looking up TV schedules for the week, but they've since gone the way of the internet afterlife. So I can't be certain just how many Yanks-Sawx games have been broadcast nationally. I'm positive it was at least two, and don't doubt for a second that all three were.

(Surely a fourth would have, but Wednesday's game was postponed by rain. Surprisingly, ESPN chose not to show us a static shot of the tarp-covered Yankee Stadium infield.)

This rivarly was once a cool deal, one that peaked in the 2004 ALCS, when Boston famously rallied in the final inning of Game 4 while the Sox were down 3-0. They won one, one another and another ... and suddenly they had vanquished the vaunted Yanks. A four-game sweep over St. Louis ended the suffering for Red Sox Nation and began the suffering for the rest of the nation.

Boston is now inescapable, living off of its 2004 World Series title. A disappointing finish to 2005 didn't ease the coverage; it's been a season and a half since the St. Louis sweep, and the Red Sox, deserving or not, are shoved down our throats. It's to the point that two Red Sox fans I know admit that their team is overexposed.

The Yankees are, of course, the Yankees and have been inescapable since the dawn of time. No team elicits more cheers when it fails as much as the Yankees.

ESPN forces many things upon us that we may not like - poorly-done feature films, incessant self-promotion and Stuart Scott among them. But that's how things work in a monopoly.

And I know ESPN could care less what I have to say. Fine. But that's what this thing is for - part exploration, part vent.

By trying to capitalize on the 26 million combined people in the New York and Boston metro areas (not all of which are Yanks or Sawx fans), ESPN and Fox's never-ending coverage has alienated another 75 million or so that populate the remainder of the country's top 15 metro areas (http://geography.about.com/library/weekly/aa010102a.htm).

Consider this graf from Fox's own Web site: "The Yankees and with new center fielder Johnny Damon, make nine MLB on FOX appearances while National League MVP Albert Pujols, Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter and the St. Louis Cardinals are featured eight times this season. The Fox Saturday Baseball Game of the Week schedule also includes eight games each for the Red Sox, Braves, Mets, Cubs, Dodgers, Angels and Giants. Both the World Champion White Sox and National League Champion Houston Astros are scheduled six times."

So let me get this straight: Sox/Yanks combine for 17 appearances, 2005 World Series participants combine for 12 appearances.

Dear God: Please make it stop.

Thankfully it will until mid-September, when Boston and New York hook up for a three-game weekend series. Then it starts all over again.

It's painful to even think about.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Inside the busy week

It's been better than a week since I posted on here, and there's a good reason: Work's insane at the moment.

That's not a terrible surprise. The Virginia High School League (VHSL) plans it this way, so that all of the spring sports have their state semifinals and finals on the same weekend in roughly the same place. They call them their spring sports jamborees.

To get that far, of course, a team must make it through regionals. And to get that far, they have to make it through districts. Since teams in our county comprise roughly one-half of the region, there's a fair chance that several teams make a fairly deep postseason run.

And as the games continue, they grow in importance, so it's important that we cover them. So that leads to things like last week, when I covered four games in five days, including a girls soccer game in Haymarket, Va., on Memorial Day. Meanwhile, we're prepping our All-Area teams and continuing the cover the two area pro sports of the moment - the Washington Nationals and their High-A affiliate, the Potomac Nationals.

So, as one might understand, I don't have as much interest to write even more when I get home. That's why updates have become rarer lately.

But the positives about it are this: Come Sunday morning, one way or another, our high school season will be finished. All of the state tournaments should be wrapped up by then, and I won't have to cover another high school game until the fall.

I don't consider my summer to have begun until I send that final All-Area page. That's going to take some doing, since I've only started to make the first-team picks. Laying out the page? That's a long way off.

But the end of another school year is nigh. And I can't wait.

At the very least, it means more random missives that you've come to expect on here.