These damn Yankees are making me care about baseball again

My doctor says I should avoid unnecessary stress.

That’s why I cheer for the Chicago Bears. They are usually out of contention by late September.

I don’t have a favorite NBA team, though I enjoy the Golden State Warriors.

So, the days of me getting riled up during the NBA Finals have long passed.

But baseball, the sport I love the most and is managed by its owners the poorest, is where I must be very careful.

I root for the New York Yankees.

For most of my life, it was completely safe to root for the Yankees.

They won the World Series in 1977 and 1978, but I was too young to remember those teams.

Anything I know about them is from books and documentaries.

The Yankees I grew up with were those of Don Mattingly and Dave Winfield, a lot of great players who underperformed, and terrible trades that kept the Yankees mediocre most of my childhood.

But there was always “Donny Baseball,” cranking dingers, scooping low throws to first, and embodying the best player in baseball from about 1983 to 1989.

He injured his back in ’89 and was never quite the same.

This strange and frightening thing happened: The Yankees got better.

They made the playoffs in 1995, losing a heartbreaking series to the Seattle Mariners.

Then Mattingly retired.

And the Yankees got even better.

In 1996, rookie shortstop Derek Jeter, who shared the same birthday as me, led the Yankees to their first World Series since 1978.

This was horrifying.

I found myself emotionally involved with the daily box scores.

(Younger readers, if there is such a creature, will have to look up “box scores” on Google.)

Between 1996 and 2003, the Yankees won the American League pennant six times and won the World Series four times.

This was very stressful.

When your team has a chance of winning, suddenly reports about high ankle sprains and turf toe become harbingers of doom for a happy fall.

The Yankees cooled off after winning one more in 2009.

They went to the playoffs a lot, but you could tell they didn’t have the spunk needed to win it all.

For the last dozen years, baseball returned to a pleasant background noise to be checked in on occasionally between other activities of greater import, such as going on Facebook to wish happy birthday to someone I barely knew from high school.

I thought for sure I wouldn’t be bothered with baseball in 2022 given the late start to the season over another labor dispute between owners and players. Billionaire owners arguing with multi-millionaire players give a guy who couldn’t afford a ticket to a single Yankees game very little to root for.

But now, just two weeks away from the All-Star break, all that preseason animus has faded and I find myself nibbling on my fingernails again.

The Yankees are good. They have the best record in baseball. The win with big home runs, sacrifice flies, and everything in between.

Detractors mock the distance of Yankee Stadium’s rightfield wall.

Those same critics fall silent when it’s noted the Yankees have the best team ERA in baseball, too.

The team had won 58 games through Tuesday, the most in the majors.

This makes me nervous. Is the Paul Bunyan-esque figure of Aaron Judge going to stay healthy for the entire season?

What trades could be made to solidify a sometimes defensively mediocre outfield?

Can journeyman Matt Carpenter maintain his flawless mustache?

These damn Yankees are going to force me to care about baseball again.

Apathy is so much easier. There’s no emotional build-up when your team’s got no juice.

But these Yankees remind me of the 1998 Yankees, who had all the juice.

I’m going to be looking up box scores online before I go to bed and checking records and waiting for the magic number.

The Yankees are making me care about baseball again.

I guess I can live with that.

Middle school teacher Daniel P. Finney writes columns for the Marion County Express.

Daniel P. Finney wrote for newspapers for 27 years before being laid off in 2020. He teaches middle school English now. He writes columns and podcasts for, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating $10 a month to help him cover the expenses of this site.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.

Everyone is approaching the ‘Stranger Things’ song challenge incorrectly

Pick your favorite song.

No, not just your favorite song.

Pick a song that’s so good it can bring you out of a funk and restore your soul.

Pick a song that would drive out a demon and prevent you from being dragged to the Upside Down and devoured.

OK, the previous paragraph needs an explanation.

“Stranger Things” is a show on the streaming service Netflix about a bunch of teenage misfits who save the world by basically understanding Dungeons & Dragons and a little bit of high school science.

Many movies in the 1980s worked this way. Pre-adolescent children saved the world while clueless adults watched the news.

“Stranger Things” is in its fourth season. In one episode, the character Max is about to be dragged to the Upside Down — the show’s version of hell — but she’s saved at the last second by her ex-boyfriend remembering her favorite song is ”Running Up That Hill” by Kate Bush.

He plays the song on her Walkman cassette, and she avoids a trip to hell.

This is silly, but it tugs at the heartstrings of many people from my generation who were raised on movies, TV, and music.

This plot point inspired scores of columns and news stories about what song people would choose to prevent being dragged to hell by a vampire tree monster.

This is silly, too, but the larger the news outlet is, the sillier its stories are.

But I’ll play along.

Let’s say I buy into this premise that a pop song could save me from a demon.

My first instinct would be the Lord’s Prayer rather than a pop music song.

I was raised Methodist. I don’t practice, but with an actual demon dragging me to the Upside Down, I’ll start reciting the prayer with emphasis.

Alas, this is modern content on a streaming service.

The only way religion can be presented is to be totally ignored, as it is in “Stranger Things,” or alluded to with snide mockery, as it is far too many other places.

So, if religion is off the table, what song would I pick?

I used to have a CD collection that numbered in the high thousands.

Side note: Parents 2.0, the kindly couple who raised me after my parents died, gave me my first CD player and five CDs to fill up the 5-disc changer.

As my collection started to pile up around the house, Dad 2.0 offered a note on frugality that I wish I had considered earlier in my life.

“You can only listen to one at a time,” he said.

Anyway, back to the “Stranger Things” song challenge.

I thought about this for weeks and I don’t have a good answer.

Part of the problem is I’m a middle-aged man. Music doesn’t occupy the same space in my life that it did when I was an adolescent or college kid.

My friend Tracey Doyle always seemed to know about every band and their story before anyone else had heard them play a note.

She might take a while to answer this question because the breadth of her musical knowledge is so huge.

Me? I learned most of my favorite songs from movie soundtracks and commercial radio. The songs I’m fondest of are tied to specific memories.

“Lady in Red” by Chris De Burgh reminds me of my first girlfriend, my first kiss, and a lovely dance at the 12-B formal in 1992.

If the demon’s tendrils were around my ankle, I don’t think a love song that recalls a long-ago-ended relationship will be the thing to inspire me to kick free.

My favorite band is Creedence Clearwater Revival. I constantly play their greatest hits in my car.

Would “Fortunate Son” going to wrest me free from the demon?

I don’t know. I think of CCR as my chill music. I like to put on the headphones, close my eyes, and space out.

My favorite artist is Taylor Swift. I love “No Body, No Crime” from her “Evermore” album, but is a country noir murder ballad going to prevent my murder by demons?

I doubt it.

I think the only thing that would shake the demons out of me is a song I despise more than the idea of being eaten by a tree vampire.

Only one song fits that bill: “Ebony and Ivory,” by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder.

Two of the greatest songwriters and artists combined to make this simplistic, sentimental pap.

I hate this song. I know others love it. It might even be some poor, lost soul’s favorite song.

That’s fine.

We’re all free to choose which things we love and hate in this world, especially unimportant things like pop music.

And I hate “Ebony and Ivory.”

Just a few notes of it pouring into my ears would have me fist-fighting the devil himself.

By the time they reach the chorus, I would be free of the demon and running down the road.

The only stop I’d make is at church, to say the Lord’s Prayer.

Middle school teacher Daniel P. Finney writes a column for the Marion County Gazette.

Daniel P. Finney wrote for newspapers for 27 years before being laid off in 2020. He teaches middle school English now. He writes columns and podcasts for, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating $10 a month to help him cover the expenses of this site.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.

Coverage of man who threw cake at the Mona Lisa fails to answer basic question: What kind of cake?

Journalism really disappoints me.

Example: A man disguised as a woman in a wheelchair threw cake at Leonardo da Vinci’s famed Mona Lisa painting at the Louvre Museum in Paris.

The cake chucker apparently wanted to protest climate change.

Bulletproof — and apparently cake-proof — glass protected what is likely the world’s most famous painting.

French police took the assailant into custody for psychiatric evaluation.

Most of the news websites covered the details above well enough.

But correspondents worldwide failed us in the basic question that plagues most readers: What kind of cake was it?

The pictures showed a white splatter.

I’m ruling out pancake.

Layer cake or sheet cake?

If it was a sheet cake, did they put frosting a pudding between layers?

It could have been a sheet cake or made in a cake pan.

Vanilla or chocolate?

Or did the cake hurler throw a chocolate cake with vanilla frosting?

On the matter of frosting, are we looking at a cream cheese mixture or a sugar coating?

Coconut flakes?

I hope Amnesty International gets involved.

The suspect stands accused of both attacking a priceless art treasure and wasting cake.

The French take their pastries seriously.

I mean I think so.

I’m an American. I don’t know much about France.

I hear they’re famous for cheese, pastry, and being invaded by Germany.

Let’s hope it wasn’t a German chocolate cake.

That could raise international tensions and cause more supply chain interruptions.

I hope they find the suspect’s manifesto.

Everybody interested in social change has a manifesto.

I imagine his to be written in comic sans font (ironically, of course) and published to a Reddit subtheme.

If you don’t know what the previous paragraph meant, that’s OK. I don’t either.

I just throw language like that into my columns in hopes of catching the occasional reader under 45, if such a creature exists.

Somewhere in the manifesto, I hope, the climate change avenger links the crimes of the Mona Lisa to the problem of man-made global warming.

I am no expert in climate volatility, but it seems to me that the Mona Lisa is innocent. Da Vinci painted it in the early 1500s.

He certainly didn’t do it with the window air conditioner blowing while under tungsten lightbulbs.

Older readers remember tungsten lightbulbs. They cost about 50 cents for a box of four and burned bright enough you could see to read by them.

Today’s lightbulbs cost $10 for one and give off just enough light to convince you you’re going blind.

We’ve largely done away with tungsten lightbulbs because they used most of their energy creating heat than light.

Newer lightbulbs use most of their energy giving off light, even though it sure doesn’t seem very bright.

Then again, I’m middle-aged. It’s possible I am going blind.

Anyway, I would have understood if the cake guy had thrown a tungsten lightbulb — those vile, disgusting things — at the Mona Lisa in protest.

Cake crime is not new to the French.

History inaccurately attributes the sentence “Let them eat cake” to Queen Marie-Antionette.

The Queen lived a lavish lifestyle while France’s poor struggled.

Historians say the young, virile Marie-Antionette sympathized and cared for the poor, but some people didn’t like her and spread lies.

The “eat cake” lie went, for lack of better terminology, went viral, eventually leading to the Marie-Antoinette’s execution by guillotine.

Our modern-day cake-thrower won’t face such harsh penalties if he’s convicted of a crime.

Besides, I’m no expert in French law, but I believe he already has an excellent defense.

After all, everybody knows you can’t have your cake and eat it, too.

Former journalist and future teacher Daniel P. Finney writes columns for the Marion County Express.

Daniel P. Finney wrote for newspapers for 27 years before being laid off in 2020. He teaches middle school English now. He writes columns and podcasts for, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating $10 a month to help him cover the expenses of this site.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.