Monday, October 26, 2015

Ten Rules of Game Day Mojo

As a duly accredited Doctor of Mojo Arts, from the esteemed Jobu School of Mystic Juju, I put forth the following position paper on the practice of sports mojo.

I define “mojo” as the force that binds a team and its fans together.  It is the collective will of thousands of people, practicing their own rites and rituals, which provide an atmosphere of support and good will.  Good mojo can mean the difference between a successful play and disaster, and even the difference between winning and losing.  Or a field goal attempt hitting the goalpost, and either bouncing in or out from between the uprights.

Even professional athletes can falter when subjected to the best mojo practices.  What is commonly labeled as “the yips” may actually be a reaction to a stadium (or country) full of people engaged in the mojo arts.

The following are some general principles, honed under the most rigorous tracking, trial and error.  (Yes, we use Science and stuff, here at the Jobu School of Mystic Juju.)

1.  When wearing a game jersey, your first choice should be to as closely as possible, match whichever jersey your team is wearing.  If they lose, check for other variables.  Maybe you need a different hat or other accessory.

2.  Wearing the jersey of a current player is stronger mojo than that of a former player.  Jerseys of legendary players can also be powerful under the right circumstances. (Like if that player ever had a particularly good game against that opponent.)

3.  If you only have one jersey option, you’ll have to go by trial and error throughout the season.  Team t-shirts are an alternative strategy.

4.  You may want to consider what you wear earlier in the day, or on the last business day before the game, as a secondary mojo opportunity.  But you should take care not to wear the same gear as you intend to wear during the game.  Game gear should stand alone.

5.  Tchotchkes can be another secondary means of exercising good mojo.  These include team gnomes, ornaments, accessories, jewelry, etc.

6.  If your team has one predominant tchotchke, like a “Terrible Towel,” for example, that can be a powerful item.  For maximum effect, try varying the placement.  Start with it on your right knee, logo facing the action.  If this proves unsatisfactory, try the other knee during the next game.  Or display it nearby, hang it from your belt, wear it on your head...  Whatever works.

Note: Changing mojo strategies during the game almost never works, so don’t bother changing jerseys, sitting arrangements, or towel draping while the game is still on.  Wait until the next game to enact any changes.

7.  Never wear team championship apparel as outerwear, especially during the game.  In fact, never wear any championship gear at all, on game day.  To do so is to directly dare the mojo gods to smite your team.  The mojo gods hate presumption and expectation of a win.  One should remain humble before the mojo gods at all times. 

Don’t mess with Jobu’s rum, either.  Is very bad.

8.  Also, never speak of the anticipation or assumption of a win.  And during the playoffs, never, ever express a desire for one opponent over another.  The mojo gods will often grant your wish of a desired opponent, who will then smite your team’s ass all over the field (or rink, diamond or court).  Similarly, gloating after a win tempts the same fate.

9.  Mojo resets at the end of every season, so if something was bad luck one year, you can try it again the next.  However, if something proves to be bad mojo over multiple years, it’s a good idea to retire it.  Like this item:

My team never won a game, ever, while I was wearing these pants.  Although that might have been more due to the gods of fashion, rather than the gods of mojo.

10.  This is the most important rule of all: good Mojo is whatever you believe it is.  For example, if you believe not washing your game socks is good mojo, then it is.  Personally, believe I shouldn’t be stinky, so I wash all my game gear as needed.  This also means that you may go against every rule listed above and still come out mojologically sound.  Consider these rules as starting points for your own personal mojourney.

Monday, October 19, 2015


While it’s usually pretty cool to have a new-ish car, there’s also a down side… now you have something to lose if it gets damaged.

Last Monday, I got off the subway train, got in my car and headed for home.  About halfway there, I needed to change lanes so I checked my passenger mirror, and noticed that it wasn’t there.

I was like, WTF??  I’m lucky I didn’t rear-end anyone, because of how long I kept looking over there.  Maybe I was hoping it would reappear.  That way I wouldn’t have to worry about replacing it, I’d just have to worry that I’d had a stroke or something.

The weird thing was that only the mirror piece was gone; all the bracketing that holds the mirror was still there.  When I got home, I checked around the frame and there was no sign that someone had ran into it with their car.  It was more like someone stuck a knife in the crack and popped it out.

When I went back to the lot, there was no sign of the mirror on the ground, broken or otherwise.  That made coming up with a motive a lot harder.

That day, I had worn a Steelers shirt and hat to work, so my first thought was that someone saw me get out of the car and decided to screw with the Steelers fan.  But then I would figure they’d smash the mirror, not take it.  Then I wondered if it was more backlash from the Darwin fish plaque I have on the back of the car.  It wouldn’t be the first time.  But again, I’d expect the mirror to be broken or left behind.

The only reason I could think of for taking the mirror was that if someone needed the part himself.  I mean, if you’re a criminal, what is a subway parking lot other than an unlimited cross section of auto parts?

And what happens if I get it fixed and then they just come back and take it again?  At least if someone needed the part for himself, well now he has it and, therefore, should not need another one.  Of course, if he’s selling the parts, I’m back to being screwed.

But, because I’m a conscientious driver, I went to get it replaced.  Unlike so many of my Baltimore neighbors, I still check my mirrors and signal before changing lanes.  (I bet you could steal every turn signal in the state and nobody would notice for months.)

I had the dealership take a look at it on Tuesday, and hoped they’d just be able to replace the mirror part.  They were about to do just that until I discovered that the inner bracketing wouldn’t move when I worked the controls.  Bad news.  That meant I needed to replace the whole thing.  They had to order the part, which cost about $200.  Gah!

The dealership parts guy explained that I still got off light.  Because my car is a 2013 model, the mirror assembly comes pre-painted.  If I had a 2014 or 2015, it would need to be painted too, which would have run another $100.

(To save the $100, I probably would have done it myself… in crayon.  Sure, I’d have to buy some crayons, but I’d still be $196 ahead.)

So I set up an appointment for Saturday afternoon and went back out to get it fixed.  It was an easy fix… labor only ran another $50.  Best of all, there was a Wendy’s nearby, so I got to have a nice lunch.

It’s funny how complicated our cars have become now.  I mean, I was never anything close to a gear-head, but I could perform some basic functions… putting air in the tires, filling the wiper fluid, replacing wiper blades, changing a tire, taking the car to Jiffy Lube… I even replaced a brake light bulb once!  (CFO, stop rolling your eyes…)

But even jump-starting a car has changed up.

On Friday, I was heading out of the subway parking lot, trying to get to my local bar before happy hour was over, when I saw a crazy lady jumping up and down in the road and flapping her arms at me.  Upon closer examination, it was one of my co-workers, the one who sits beside me.

Quickly, I had to do some inner calculations; specifically, the odds of being able to help her out without missing the end of happy hour, versus how much blow-back there would be if I just pretended like I didn’t see her and headed straight to the bar.

OK, I kid… she is a 60-something African-American woman, of whom I am quite fond.  So of course I pulled over to help.  She told me her car wouldn’t start and she needed a jump.

While I haven’t had to jump-start a car in probably 10 years, it was still within my realm of capability.  Or so I thought.

I got my car pulled around, to go nose-to-nose with hers, got my jumper cables out, popped my hood, and… wait a minute.

Where the eff is the battery?

Go ahead, tell me.  Where’s the freakin’ battery?  Did they steal that too?

Now, this was the first time I’d opened the hood with this car, so I expected there to be a learning curve.  But nothing seemed familiar anymore.  Up is down, down is up… it’s chaos under the hood!

I looked at that plastic box on the right, which had a battery charge diagram on it, but when I opened it up, it was the fuse box.  As I recall, the fuse box used to be in the driver’s side foot well.  I mean, is the cigarette lighter in there now too?

After poking around some more, I finally went to consult the owner’s manual.  I may be male, but I’m not too proud to check the instructions.  And it paid off because it showed a diagram of where to hook up the positive and negative cables.  The positive node was under a plastic cap.  The negative node was just a bolt on a piece of metal covering.  Nowhere did I see anything battery-like.

Yes, CFO, I’m aware that the negative connection is probably a grounding site and not a battery terminal.

Anyway, once I figured out where to put the cables, the rest was a breeze.  We got my friend's car going again and we all went off on our way.  And I still made it in time to get a happy hour-priced beer.

But I tell you, as far as driving goes, this area is crazy.  I see things every day that has me yelling in my car.  It’s a shame when the first spoken word out of my mouth every morning is an obscenity directed at some numb-nut driver who doesn’t know what a turn signal is for.  Or that somehow his having a stop sign means “pull out immediately.”

A couple of weeks ago, I was driving home and I spotted this:

The sign taped in the middle of the back window says, “Student Driver.”

Are. You. Freakin. Kidding. Me?

You’re so worried about your student driver that you put up a sign smack dab in the middle of the back window?  So all your new driver can see from his rear-view mirror is a GD sign with backward writing?

Believe me, I had a sign for him, but he obviously couldn’t see it.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Debunkery-The Less Safe Edition

Rolling through Facebook this morning, I saw another meme in dire need of a good debunking. So here we are.

That this nation is tied in a knot over what to do about guns goes without saying.  It’s hard enough getting people to listen to each other without muddying the water with asinine graphics chocked full of logical fallacies.

Consider the following meme:

Har har.  Look how hypocritical that commie president is. He’s saying one thing and doing anotherWhen it’s HIS ass on the line, he wants to be surrounded by guns.”  That’s what you’re supposed to think.

First off, I don’t know that he ever actually said those words, so the premise is iffy right there.  And the meme, by using a word balloon, is purporting it to be a quote.  BUT, that would be an accurate, if emotionally loaded, generalization of the many studies that show a person is way more likely to be killed by a gun if there is a gun in the house.  So we'll go from there.

The high-level conclusion would be that the average person is less safe with a gun in the house. (I’m not going to get into statistical analysis here.  But there’s a reason the Republicans have rammed through prohibitions against federal agencies conducting any more gun violence studies.  They don’t like the conclusions.)

Granted, there is no such thing as an average person… only millions of individual sets of circumstances.  A gun might make one trained marksman or service member considerably safer, but much less so for your basic putz who’s never pointed anything at anybody but his dick.

The real flaw in this meme is the faulty analogy needed to come to the desired conclusion.  To get there, you have to believe that the American President, walking down a public street during what looks like his inauguration, is identical in circumstance to a regular guy*, going about his life.

* For our purposes, “regular guy” means non-criminal/gang member/drug lord.

Obviously, the two scenarios couldn’t be farther apart.

At any given moment, the president has thousands, maybe tens of thousands of people who would like to see him dead.  Especially THIS president.  Our country has a stake in protecting the president, lest allies revolt and the markets crash.  Every precaution is taken to protect the life of our president.

Regular guy?  Maybe a handful of people want to kill him, under worst case scenario.  But for the most part, not so much.  And other than for his family, he’s expendable.  We all are.

The president is being protected by Secret Service agents who are highly trained in the use of firearms, as well as threat detection and keeping calm under pressure.  Their very job, by definition, is to protect the president.  And that’s every president, not just this one.

The regular guy?  Hit and miss, and by that, I mean mostly miss. I’m sure there are people who are highly proficient in the use of their weapon and put in time at the firing range.  But that’s a matter of individual responsibility, and hardly of the caliber of Secret Service training.  I mean, any schmo can walk into a gun shop and buy a weapon, if he can pass a background check. (Unless he’s at a gun show, in which case, he just needs cash and a pulse.) 

There are no proficiency standards required to own a gun.  That’s pretty scary, considering all the hoops we have to jump through just to get a driver’s license.  And the primary function of a car is not to kill people.

And even if the regular guy is good at the firing range, that’s a long way from using a gun in an adrenaline-fueled life-or-death situation.  Not many people out on the street have that kind of training… maybe ex-military or ex-police, but not civilians... not in relation to the number of privately-owned guns.

So comparing a regular guy to the president’s protection detail is the essence of willful ignorance.  The two sides aren’t remotely similar, but why not put’em together anyway, because har har har.

But to take this one step further and play devil’s advocate, who says it’s the guns that are really ensuring the president’s safety?  Have you ever heard of a physical assault on the president being thwarted by an agent’s gun?  I haven’t.

I’ve lived through three such presidential attacks and none of the assailants were shot.  OK, Lee Harvey Oswald was shot, but that was by a vigilante club owner, while in police custody. But the other two, John Hinkley and Squeaky Fromme were both swarmed over and apprehended by the agents. 

What I see ensuring the president stays safe is a lot of agents in close proximity, constantly scanning the crowd for signs of a threat, and knowing what to do if they find one.

And not just when the president is around. There’s an enormous amount of legwork that goes on in preparation for a presidential visit, so that all sightlines, near and far, are removed or accounted for.

In neither of those precautions was the agent’s gun the primary defense or did it even come into play.

Anyway, think what you will about the gun issue, but when you do, please try to make valid comparisons.  Or better yet, just make a case with verifiable facts. 

Apples to apples, and Bushmasters to Bushmasters.

Monday, October 5, 2015

...And Here's the Pitch!

My last post told you about how I won the chance to throw out the first pitch at the Orioles-Blue Jays game, the next night.

Let me tell you, that Tuesday was a real bear to get through... not because of the anticipation as much as the weather forecast.  I had the hour by hour weather report up on my computer screen all day long.  Every time I refreshed it, the forecast changed.  Sometimes it looked like there would be a brief hole in which the game might be played, other times, it looked like rain all evening long.

Late in the afternoon, we got a message that our company event was going to be moved from the bullpen picnic area to the ballroom inside the Warehouse. (aka that big building in right field.)

Everyone sees the outside of the Warehouse; not so many have seen the inside, so that was pretty cool.

I got a ride over to the ballpark with my boss, which was nice because it was still raining.  What wasn't so nice was that I forgot to bring my ticket with me.  It was still in my desk drawer, clipped to a Sharpie, so I wouldn't forget either of them.

I'm lucky I have a cool boss, because I inadvertently used some language that one probably shouldn't use around one's boss.  And I was doubly lucky because she ended up with an extra ticket, due to a last minute cancellation, so we didn't have to go back for mine.  Plus, she had a Sharpie... it was sea green, but it would have to do if I had the chance to score any autographs.

So we carried on at the Warehouse, hoping the forecast would change for the better, but as the minutes went by, it just seemed to grow bleaker.

The saddest sight in baseball is a tarp on the field.  Shot from the 6th floor of the Warehouse.

Just after 6:00, Caitlin, my contact with the Orioles, let me know that they were postponing the game.  By that point, I figured it was inevitable.  I just hoped they didn't reschedule the doubleheader for Thursday, by which time I would be in Florida.  But they came through... the first game would be Wednesday at 4:00.  My First Pitch would still be in play.

Thursday was a little more nerve-wracking, because I knew for sure that this would be the day.  Robin wouldn't be able to be my "second" on the field this time, so I twisted Sitcom Kelly's arm into coming along.  It didn't take much... go down on the field, be close to the players?  Yeah, she was in.  This would open up a whole new set of stalking targets for her.

At least I wouldn't have to worry about making a fool of myself in front of everyone from the office... Everyone who had a ticket for the rainout game had the opportunity to use it for any other game this year, or for the first Blue Jays series next year.  I didn't expect many to come back out to the Yard the very next day.  So if my pitch went badly, I could always deep-six the video and claim it got accidentally deleted.

We met Caitlin at 3:15, as directed, and she took us down to the "Alternate Clubhouse," where people usually wait for their big moments.  This was also the same room where the Orioles' manager, Buck Showalter, does his pre and post game press conferences.

I asked if there would be a problem if I went up to the desk for a couple of pictures.  They obliged, and the camera technician even flipped on the lights for the set.  So that's how I got my "Press Conference" picture.
Bluz Dude explains the intricacies of his sinkerball.

It was funny that our handlers didn't really have anything to say to us.  Remember, I was expecting a liability waiver and a scroll-like list of forbidden actions.  Well, there was a list of waivers on the back of our "backstage pass," so that passed for the liability stuff.

When I mentioned the "Scroll of Forbidden Behavior" to Caitlin, she just laughed.  But then she said, "We're just supposed to tell people not to get on the mound, and not to throw hard, because your catcher won't have any gear on."

I was like, "No problem!  I'll be happy to spare your guy my 45 mph fast ball."

She gave my the baseball I'd be using for my pitch, and a pen with which I might be able to get it signed.  (This rendered moot all my worrying about the Sharpie the previous day.)  She said Sharpies don't work very well on baseballs, because they smear.

Because this was a doubleheader, there were to be two separate First Pitches: mine, and one from the guy who was already scheduled for that day.  Because of the limited time between games, they were going to do both pitches before the first game.  The other guy was to go on at 3:48.  I was up at 3:51.

They took us out to the field around 3:35.  Just like when I was on the tour this summer, it was a thrill just to walk out onto the field from behind the plate.  I gave Sitcom Kelly a rundown on how to shoot video on my iPhone, as well as capture photos while doing it.  I just had to hope she would keep me in frame and avoid zooming in on the players' butts.

Just standing around back there would have been really nerve-wracking if it would have been a full house, but the house was most definitely not full.  I'd be throwing out my pitch before literally dozens of spectators.
I've seen more people in line for the bathrooms.

Sitcom Kelly used the time to carve her phone number into the sand in front of the dugout.  Stupid grounds crew had to come and smooth it over.

Eventually a "Ball Girl" came over to give me the logistics.  Long and short of it... follow her and don't step on the white line.
My Ball Girl was #15 on the left.

They introduced the first guy to pitch, with his title of "Exulted Grand Wizard" of something or another... some benevolent organization.  I was like, "Hey I want a title like that!  I want to be an Exulted Grand Wizard too.  Maybe they can just say I'm Admiral of the Fleet."  But they'd already gotten my particulars and I felt it was too late to renegotiate.

At this point, I still didn't know who was going to come out and catch me.  The first guy had a relief pitcher, Jason Garcia.  He was new to the Orioles, a Rule Five Draft guy.  (That means they signed him from another team and he has to stay in the majors all year, or be offered back to his original team.)

So when the Bat Girl brought me over to stand in front of the bench, I looked inside and saw Manny Machado walking around the bubblegum jar.  I was like, "Holy shit!  I might get Manny!"  I was even wearing a Machado jersey for the occasion.  I would definitely have him sign my jersey.

But then Garcia came bounding up onto the field and I realized Manny was only milling around down there for the bubblegum.

Then, the PA announcer started his thing and it was time for my moment.

Couple of thoughts:
*  You like that little spin-around with the hat?  I was hoping I didn't fall on my face.

*  Obviously, I touched the grass, right there at the beginning.  But it was very wet, so I had to wipe off on my pants.

*  I still did a modified version of my Luis Tiant (backward pivot) windup, but I added a Bugs Bunny element by rotating my wrist a couple of times before I spun forward and delivered.  Unfortunately, given the angle from which Sitcom Kelly was shooting, my body blocked the view of my hand. You'll just have to take my word for it.

*  After the pitch, I heard a big roar ("Big" considering how few people there were in the park), and saw handful of O's fans behind 3rd base.  You can see me turn to acknowledge them.  I assumed they came from my office... I'll have to ask around when I get back.
*  Jason Garcia was a very nice guy.  As he was signing my ball, I asked if he drew the short straw today.  He said this was "(his) thing, because it was a good luck charm.  Whenever (he) caught the first pitch, the Orioles won."  I thanked him and wished him luck as we crossed back over the foul line. (Not touching it, of course.)

*  I'm sorry to have broken his lucky streak, because the Orioles lost 15-2, and he came into the game and gave up 4 runs himself.

So that was it.  They led us back up to the main concourse, then Sitcom Kelly and I went up to our seats.  I had to miss the first couple of innings while I was posting the video to Facebook and notifying friends and family.  Of course I had to edit the video first, because as soon as my part was done, Sitcom Kelly started shooting all the guys warming up in the outfield.  Those guys don't know how close they were to clawing at the dirt walls of her basement pit.

I was so eager to see how the video came out.  Right up until I watched it, of course.  I mean, I got it there, but it was Soooo.  Slooooooow.  I wish they hadn't told me not to throw it hard.  My middle-aged version of "hard" might have been just right.

It was funny watching the responses roll in.  By and large, my female friends congratulated me and said nice things.  My guy friends gave me shit over the velocity.  My brother said I hit "15-mph on the jugs gun."  The CFO said it looked like the ball was filled with helium.
What can I say?  Maybe the Orioles were in the market for an aging pitcher with a weird windup and variety of off-speed stuff.

Still, even with the stops and starts, this was the coolest thing I'll ever do.  I mean, what boy doesn't what to throw a pitch on a major league field?

Once I get back from Florida, I'm supposed to go back to work on Thursday.  I don't know... I don't know if all this has gone to my head, but I think I may hold out for a new contract.

Somebody get my agent on the phone.

Director's DVD Commentary: In all seriousness, I'd like to thank Caitlin and the whole Baltimore Orioles organization.  They put on a great event and were the model of professionalism and courtesy.  And even better, they'll provide me with the video and pictures that THEY shot with their non-iPhone cameras.