des moines, humor, Iowa, Movies, News, People, politics, Pop Culture

HOT SHEET: Joyful Saturdays for Hawkeyes, Cyclones; ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ is a great movie; The taking of Baby Yoda

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, paragraph stacker, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM FIRST: Saturday proved to be about as pleasant a day as one can expect to coerce from early December. Both Iowa and Iowa State won their respective football games. The temperature reached 47 degrees, allowing for walks, pick-up basketball or naps based on personal preference. It should come as no surprise to regular readers that the ol’ Paragraph Stacker chose naps.

ITEM TWO: I usually remain neutral in the rivalry between the Hawkeyes and Cyclones with a slight shade to black and gold because of my late father’s loyalty. But this season’s Cyclones can count me as a fair-weather fan. I’ve often joked that Iowa City is the statewide distributor of arrogance and Ames is the statewide distributor of insecurity. This year’s Cyclones, however, earned their swagger. They’re on the way to the Big 12 Championship for the first time and ranked No. 9 in the nation. They no longer feel like a team that barely wins six games. They’re a legitimate contender for one of the top teams in the land. I tip my Drake Bulldogs cap to you, Cyclones. Long may your run be.

ITEM THREE: “Hillbilly Elegy” is the best movie I’ve seen this year. Professional critics don’t like it. The movie has a low 24% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Professional critics like to smell their own farts. Amy Adams is outstanding as Bev, a drug-addled, mentally ill mother in a story set in the hills of Kentucky and Ohio. Bev’s addictions threaten to derail the career of her son, J.D., who’s at a critical point at Yale Law School. Glenn Close plays a domestic battle-hardened maternal grandmother to J.D., who steps in to keep the boy away from drugs and crime. I cried several times watching this movie. Adams rendered Bev so well it evoked the best and worst of my own late mother, who struggled with opioid addiction and undiagnosed mental illness. Both Adams and Close deserve serious consideration for Academy Awards, as does the film. I don’t know why critics didn’t like it. I feel like if it was a story about someone in New York City or Los Angeles, the praise would be lavish. But since the story is set in the hills of Kentucky and Ohio, this is the place the media tends to ignore or broadly stereotype. I’m not from those places, but I saw a lot of people I know reflected in that film. Entertainment is split between the East and West coasts. This is a story from a place where the rest of us live. I am glad it was told. I hope people watch it.

ITEM FOUR: An October Hot Sheet noted a YouTube video by a group of scientists who created a cannon that fired a baseball more than 1,000 mph. The people behind the video call themselves SmarterEveryDay and they are back at the park shooting baseballs. The latest episode seeks to discover what it takes to catch a baseball fired faster than the speed of sound. The results: No one should ever squat behind the plate with a mitt with a ball going that fast.

ITEM FIVE: The latest episode of “The Mandalorian” did for “Star Wars” fan favorite character Boba Fett what the last 2 minutes of “Rogue One” did for Darth Vader. Children of my generation knew Boba Fett from two brief appearances on screen, first as the guy who tracked down Han Solo and crew in “The Empire Strikes Back.” He didn’t do anything spectacular, but he looked cool and we played with his action figure like he was one of the premium bad guys of all time. Boba Fett died sudden and silly in “Return of the Jedi,” which was fine because we were 8 years old and “Star Wars” was always for children. Still, that action figure was cool; purple in color with a jetpack, wrist rockets, a gladiator’s helmet and red missile we imagined he fired at his enemies. Writers added to Fett’s story over the years in prequel movies, comics, books and cartoons. But it wasn’t until “The Tragedy,” the sixth episode of the second season of “The Mandalorian,” that we finally saw a Boba Fett realized — and even exceeded — in the way the character played in our imaginations in countless battles against the forces of evil on the living room carpet. The only comparable moment in “Star Wars” lore came in 2016’s “Rogue One,” when a 2-minute cameo of Darth Vader bifurcating Rebel soldiers in an ultimately failed attempt to recover the Death Star plans brought the best on-screen moments for one of movies’ greatest villains. The good news is Boba Fett is honor-bound to the help Mandalorian recover the kidnapped Grogu, formerly known as Baby Yoda or the Child. That means more Boba Fett, which feels like Christmas.

ITEM SIX: The FX anthology series “Fargo” wrapped last Sunday. The cast put in a lot of admirable turns, especially by E’myri Crutchfield as a sharp-minded schoolgirl intimidated by no one, Chris Rock as head of the Black mob in Kansas City, and Jessie Buckley, a creepy nurse with a penchant for poisoning people. I never felt fully invested in this series and I’m not sure I can explain why. Perhaps because a piece of the “Fargo” story felt more like a traditional mob story, albeit with a rare look at Black organized crime. With the exception of Crutchfield’s character, the story lacked any strongly moral characters and I couldn’t root for Rock’s mob patriarch. Maybe the series just hit at the time of maximum pandemic-inspired anhedonia and the grim story just wasn’t the entertainment I needed.

ITEM SEVEN: “Bob’s Burgers” is always the entertainment I need.

ITEM NINE: The Chicago Bears led by double digits against the Detroit Lions. I was not to be fooled. The Lions had just four victories and had fired their head coach this week. I drew not a scintilla of hope. The Bears are losers. They lose in all the traditional ways. They lose in unusual ways. Sunday was the usual way, choking up a lead at the end of the game and then failing to mount anything resembling an offense, especially with less than 2 minutes remaining. I am not angry. The Bears have been losers most of my life. They won the Super Bowl when I was in fifth grade. I only follow them because of nostalgia for those lazy Sundays watching games with my dad. Dad died in 1988, which is about the last time I had any confidence in the Bears.

ITEM LAST: The new job starts Monday. It’s been a long time since I’ve done journalism and I’ve never done TV journalism. I know I have to shave and probably wear a belt. Oh, and I’ll put on deodorant. After that, I’m making things up as I go.

Daniel P. Finney is kind and rewinds.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

des moines, Des moines police, Iowa, sports

HOT SHEET: Mystery of Milton Bradley’s Operation patient solved; more bad Beggars’ Night riddles and a test of the Emergency Hot Sheet Broadcasting System

Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, sergeant of the watch, Drake Neighborhood Station, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM ONE: Remember the game Operation? Players used tweezers to remove plastic organs from the body with tweezers. If the tweezers touched the metal sides of the opening, the patient’s red nose lit up.

It turns out that patient had an official name. According to a new Funko Pop doll released, the patient’s name was Cavity Sam.

Cavity.

Sam.

The typist bets you wish you didn’t know this.

ITEM TWO: Does anyone else find themselves sucking in their gut during Zoom calls?

Destroying baseballs for science is more fun that watching baseball.

ITEM THREE: Almost no one is watching the World Series through the first two games, per Deadline and Yahoo! Sports. So it goes. Baseball’s decline as America’s pastime is documented past the point of anyone caring.

Here at Hot Sheet, we have found the solution: A mad scientist who created a supersonic baseball cannon.

This 23-minute video takes less than a half-inning of a regular baseball game and you just might learn something, which is to be expected from an outfit called Smarter Every Day.

Whether you watch the whole video and take in the science lesson or just skip to the end to watch a baseball travel more than 1,000 mph and shatter like an egg chucked on Halloween, it’s probably more fun than the actual World Series.

Bonus: No Joe Buck.

ITEM FOUR: Four more jokes for Beggars’ Night trick-or-treaters to learn and say for candy:

Q: What is thin, white, and scary?

A: Homework.

Q: What do you call a happy cowboy?

A: A jolly rancher.

Q: What do you call a fancy sea creature?

A: Sofishticated.

Q: Why did the student eat his homework?

A: The teacher said it was a piece of cake.

ITEM FIVE: The Hamburglar remains at-large.

ITEM LAST: This is a test of the Hot Sheet Emergency Management System. In the event of an actual emergency, an official message would have been followed by an earth-shattering ka-boom. This is only a test.

Due to illness, the part of Daniel P. Finney will be played by Daniel P. Finney.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

des moines, humor, Iowa, Media, Movies, News, politics, Pop Culture, sports

HOT SHEET: Only fools watch the debate when the baseball playoffs are on

Item Last!

Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, sergeant of the watch, Drake Neighborhood Station, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM ONE: President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden met in what was loosely described as a “debate” Tuesday somewhere in America. The typist didn’t watch a frame of it. He watched the New York Yankees defeat Cleveland in the first round of the baseball playoffs. The typist doesn’t understand why any thinking person would watch the presidential debates this election year. Here is the test: If you support Trump, is there anything he could say or do in the debate that would change your mind? Based on his cumulative behavior to this point, it’s hard to imagine anything Trump could do that would alienate his legions of followers. Conversely, Biden could have fallen asleep on his lectern and farted loudly for 15 minutes straight and it would not have cost him any votes. What’s the point? You can watch this low-rent political theater if you want, but in the end there is only one thing any of us can do: vote. Or not. Either way the Yankees are up one game on Cleveland.

ITEM TWO: If you want to duck sports and the campaigns, the typist recommends the Iowa Concert of Hope, a benefit for those in Cedar Rapids, Marion and Hiawatha who were battered by the derecho Aug. 10. Mediacom has pledged to air the concert statewide. In Des Moines, the concert is set to air 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday on Mediacom channel 22.

ITEM THREE: Back to baseball: Major League Baseball runs ads throughout the playoffs talking about how the current generation of players are hip, young and flashy. The spots are replete with colorful graphics in the hip-hop style. Yet, when an extra-inning game between the Cincinnati Reds and Atlanta Braves was on, ESPN lead blabbermouth Alex Rodriguez groaned because there were no sacrifice bunts. Bunts. What is synonymous with hip and new excitement but a bunt? A-Rod, who made no sac bunt attempts in the last 15 years of his career, would have been better served to say what the teams really needed to do was to have a clubhouse boy shoot them in the butt with steroids before the game to crack more homers in the playoffs.

ITEM FOUR: Unavailable due to COVID-19 quarantine.

ITEM FIVE: A belated happy anniversary to Iowa women’s basketball coach Lisa Bluder and her husband, Dave, two of the finest humans the typist has ever had the pleasure of knowing.

ITEM LAST: A rare fine arts recommendation: The typist’s East High School classmate, Megan Gogerty, has made a movie for Theatre Cedar Rapids called “Feel Better.” It’s available via the web at 7:30 p.m. both Friday and Saturday. Check out TCR’s website for details. Tickets are $25. The ol’ Paragraph Stacker notes that Gogerty is the funniest, most talented person he’s ever met and easily the best writer he’s ever known.

OK, let’s close the book on this one. Donate if you can. It’s getting tight up in here at the middle of the semester. New podcast coming this weekend. Behave and be kind.

Daniel P. Finney crosses his arms in a non-verbal attempt to keep people from talking to him. The smile is a lie.

Cut loose and cashiered by corporate media, lone paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney makes his way telling stories about his city, state and nation. No more metrics or Google trends, he writes stories about people and life ignored by the oligarchy.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I launch this new venture continuing the journalism you’ve demanded. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

humor, People, sports

Moments: What we can all learn about 2020 from the last day of the 1951 baseball season

Today is the last day of the Major League Baseball season.

Well, maybe.

It depends on how the St. Louis Cardinals do. They might have to play as many as two more games after today because of byzantine complications brought about by a COVID-19-shortened season that proved acute in the Cardinals’ clubhouse.

The Cardinals play for a playoff berth, a customary position for the team that trails only the New York Yankees in World Series titles won.

Another St. Louis team played for another kind of glory some 69 years ago — one that I think provides a lesson for this rugged year.

The current Baltimore Orioles once played in St. Louis as the St. Louis Browns.

They shared Sportsman’s Park with the Cardinals, but they seldom matched the success of their roommates.

Writers described St. Louis, once an industrial titan in footwear and, of course, Budweiser beer: “First in booze, first in shoes, last in the American League.”

That certainly held true in 1951. The Browns won 52 games against 102 losses and finished the year 46 games behind the New York Yankees.

But on Sunday, Sept. 30, Pitcher Ned Garver took the mound in pursuit of his 20th win.

Garver held the curious distinction of being the best player on the worst team in the league. He pitched 24 complete games in 30 starts and won 19 games with 12 losses.

Garver had won nearly 40 percent of the team’s games that year.

He possessed athleticism so great that when pitched, manager Zach Taylor batted Garver sixth. Garver hit .305 that season, an average the beat all the Browns’ regular position players.

The season had been a joke in which Browns owner Bill Veeck made the team its own punchline. Veeck signed 3-foot-7 Eddie Gaedel to a one-game contract. Gaedel came to bat as a first-inning pinch-hitter in the second game of a doubleheader against Detroit.

Detroit pitcher Bob Cain tried to squeeze a ball into Gaedel’s strike zone, estimated at being less than 2 inches tall. Gaedel walked on four pitches and was replaced by a pinch-runner.

Garver, though, was a serious star for the Browns. Boston Red Sox hitting savant Ted Williams once said of Garver: “He could throw anything up there and get me out.”

(The Splendid Splitter was being generous. He batted .419 against Garver.)

The Chicago White Sox were in St. Louis for the final series of the year. The White Sox played to a more respectable fourth in the American League that season but were well out of the hunt that Sunday at Sportsman’s Park.

Garver retired the side in order in the first. He allowed a single to Ray Coleman in the second and walked Bud Stewart, before getting out of trouble with a strikeout and a groundout.

The Browns scored twice in the bottom of the first, including an RBI single by Garver to centerfield.

Staked to a 2-0 lead, however, Garver faltered in third and surrendered a two-run single to Ray Coleman with two outs in the frame.

St. Louis’ Earl Rapp singled in two more runs for the Browns in the third to put them up 4-2.

Again, Garver struggled with a lead. Chicago’s Joe DeMaestri hit a two-run home run to tie the game.

Garver made up for his own struggles by hitting a home run in the bottom of the fourth off Chicago’s Randy Gumpert. The Browns again led 5-4.

Garver settled and allowed just one more run on a fielder’s choice in the top of the eighth inning.

The Browns scored four more times, including a two-run home run by Fred Marsh in the fifth.

The Browns won 9-5 and Garver, the kid from the village of Ney, Ohio, pop. 350, won his 20th game.

Garver became just the second pitcher in Major League Baseball history to win 20 games for a team with 100 or more losses — and the only one to do so with a winning record.

(Irv Young went 20-21 for the Boston Braves in 1905.)

The lesson of Garver’s 20-win season should be obvious for our age. The year 2020 has been one of loss and derision from the pandemic to politics.

At times, we’ve made ourselves the punchline to the world.

But in 1951, once every four or five days, Ned Garver took the mound for the Browns and they were as good or better than any team in the American League.

We should all seek our inner Ned Garver. We should seek to be our very best even when those around us and circumstances produce the very worst.

Garver did not win those 20 games alone. He was one of nine in the lineup each game he pitched.

Those men who otherwise struggled to produce wins raised their level of play because the man on the mound knew how to win in way that they otherwise did not.

Garver could have easily thrown away the 1951 season. He could have been a joke, like Eddie Gaedel.

He chose, instead, to be outstanding.

Though the baseball season (maybe) ends today, the year 2020 is far from finished.

Remember Ned Garver and go out each day with intent to succeed.

We can still rise to be our very best amidst this parade of horrible.

Daniel P. Finney is too legit, too legit to quit.

Cut loose and cashiered by corporate media, lone paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney makes his way telling stories about his city, state and nation. No more metrics or Google trends, he writes stories about people and life ignored by the oligarchy.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I launch this new venture continuing the journalism you’ve demanded. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

des moines, sports

Dear MLB players and owners: 2020 stinks and you’re making it worse

Photo: Ben Hershey via Unsplash

Dear Major League Baseball,
This year is awful enough and you’re making it worse.
Play ball already.

I get it. The coronavirus pandemic is a brutal bummer that’s fouled up just about everything in this country.

Whatever you do, someone is going to complain about it. That’s the nature of American discourse at this point.

That’s also the nature of baseball. We are fans who worry about the kind of chalk used to mark the first- and third-base lines. We don’t take well to new things.

But the thing we take to even less well is no baseball.

Remember 1994? 

Surely it takes more than 26 years for you to forget the strike that cancelled the World Series and bred a year’s worth of some of the most visceral anger ever seen outside of an MMA cage.

You screwed over the Montreal Expos’ one great chance to make the World Series. 

You may have ripped Don Mattingly’s best chance of winning the pennant out of the hands of the longtime New York Yankees first baseman. 

Both teams had the best records in their leagues when the strike wrecked the summer.

That was pain you brought on yourselves. No true fan really cares how much the owners and players make. They care about the game. 

They want to root, root, root for the home team, eat popcorn and ice cream, maybe throw 41 mph on the pitching machine under the stands.

They want to teach their kids how to keep score and why the outfielders and infielders move around when the big sluggers come up to bat.

They want to smell fresh-cut grass and stale domestic beer.

So in the pandemic, the fans can’t go to the parks. That stinks, but you better believe we would watch on TV.

Hell, we’ve been watching Korean baseball at 4 a.m.

Yesterday, we caught ourselves watching a video game competition on the internet.

Please, please, please play some games.

Nobody really cares how many games: 82, 114, 76 or 89.

Just play.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Derrick Gould, who covers the Cardinals, tweeted this: “There are more reasons for there to be baseball than reasons for there not to be. I see more ways for MLB to return and play than ways it does not happen.”

That sounds positive. Derrick is a smart guy, even-handed, not the kind of guy who goes around throwing his opinions about like a lunatic. That’s what I do.

I started to feel a little swell in my chest that things were going to finally be OK.

But the old journalistic maxim is: “If your mother tells you she loves you, check it out.” (This kind of talk is probably why most of America hates us.)

Against my better judgement, I texted Michael Gartner, owner of the Iowa Cubs. I asked if he thought they would get any games in at Principal Park this season.

“I don’t know,” he wrote back. “I don’t think anyone knows.”

Damnit.

Look, baseball is entertainment. Of the problems this country faces right now from the pandemic to confronting racism, baseball should be low on the list.

That said, everybody — even the most ardent protester, even the most socially distanced first responder, even the most unemployed independent newsman — needs a break.

And baseball is the break we need.

No, I don’t want owners to go broke for short-term good tidings. 

And, yes, I want players to be compensated for the risks they take playing in the middle of a pandemic.

I don’t know what the right number is for either of those problems.

What both players and owners should aim for is a July 4 start. It’s a Saturday. It’s the middle of summer. Fireworks at every stadium. 

Everybody understands 2020 is screwed. It won’t be like other summers, especially if there’s only a few or no fans at the park.

Noted and accepted.

Now, play ball.

Cut loose and cashiered by corporate media, lone paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney makes his way telling stories about his city, state and nation. No more metrics or Google trends, he writes stories about people and life ignored by the oligarchy.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I launch this new venture continuing the journalism you’ve demanded. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.