baseball, des moines, humor, life, News, Newspapers, People, Pop Culture, sports

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 ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating $10 a month to help him cover the expenses of this site.
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des moines, humor, Iowa, Media, News, Pop Culture, sports

HOT SHEET: Will the endless parade of ads for Joni Ernst and Theresa Greenfield end before we all lose our damn minds?

Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020

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

ITEM ONE: The Senate race between incumbent Republican Joni Ernst and Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield could decide the balance of power in the Senate, per CNBC. The campaign packed in the usual cartoonish bitterness. Ads for Greenfield showed alleged Republicans who believe Ernst is a liar. Ernst ads displayed Democrats who believe Greenfield wants to burn down small businesses and end law enforcement testimonies. Both candidates made use of grief porn. Ernst is a domestic abuse survivor, thus she cares about domestic abuse laws. Greenfield’s first husband died in an industrial accident, thus she cares about Social Security. One might argue that a candidate for office could have enough empathy for their fellow humans that they would care about Social Security and domestic abuse without personal experience. One can certainly argue that personal experience with said issues does not necessarily qualify either to be a good lawmaker. That said, in a race that has so much importance, it’s a shame that regardless of who wins, any Iowan with a TV is already sick of both of them.

ITEM TWO: Worth a click: The Omaha World-Herald points out that both Nebraska and Iowa have Republican governors soft on mask orders and restrictions during the pandemic, yet Iowa deaths are 72% higher per capita than Nebraska’s. Give Henry Cordes’ deliciously titled piece “What’s the matter with Iowa? Why COVID-19 deaths east of Missouri River are so much higher” a read.

ITEM THREE: Dark money — political spending by not-for-profit organizations such as special-interest activists — already dominates our state and national politics. The cash now swamps President Donald Trump’s selection for the U.S. Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett. Big money has been spent by groups that support Trump, groups who wish abortion to be abolished and groups who fear Barrett’s ascension to the high court will result in abortion’s abolishment. This is gross, but not unexpected. If anything proves true in American politics, it’s that anybody can be bought.

ITEM IV: The reign of Caesar Itemus Aggressivus IV ended after its assault on the cubicle of Item Six failed. Four teenagers and their anthropomorphic dog thwarted Caesar Itemus Aggressivus IV with a half-hour onslaught of frightened running, pratfalls, eating of special snacks and a complex exposition by a girl in an orange sweater. The kid named Fred pulled a rubber mask from the face of Caesar Itemus Aggressivus IV revealing him to be Item Four, who had faked his death by COVID-19 in a grand real estate heist meant to take over the entire Hot Sheet and replace it with a new social media site controlled by the same cabal of algorithms that outlawed bunts and stolen bases in baseball. Item Five, located after a police dragnet, testified as an unindicted co-conspirator to Item Four’s culpability in the scheme. Item Four and Item Five were returned to their regular spots in the Hot Sheet and reprimanded for excessive silliness.

ITEM FIVE: The typist loves free streaming service Pluto TV. It hosts a dedicated channel to classic James Bond movies. The current Bond flick, “No Time To Die,” is mired in pandemic hell with theaters unable to gather the crowds necessary to support true blockbuster franchises. Classic Bond on a loop gives fans a chance to appreciate all the unrealized potential of wristwatches (lasers, grappling hooks, etc.) and the aesthetic masterpieces of underground lairs with great brutalist architecture style combined with the best in mid-century furniture and fur rugs.

ITEM SIX: Congratulations to the Iowa State Cyclones on another victory in the college football season. The typist has no rooting interest in the endless patter about the Cyclones and Iowa Hawkeyes, however he recants his earlier prediction of misery in Ames.

ITEM SEVEN: They’re playing pro football this Sunday. It should be enjoyable because the Chicago Bears are not playing. The Bears, though 4-1, play the losingest winning football possible.

ITEM EIGHT: The NBA Finals continue today. This is not a misprint. The end of the pro basketball season is in October, but teams in the Big Ten have yet to play a college football game.

ITEM NINE: The Hot Sheet mourns the end of another baseball season, even one as disjointed and bizarre as the 2020 season. The eagle-eyed retired English teachers might point out that the Major League Baseball playoffs continue. This is irrelevant. The typist believes the words of the late, Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Frank Miller, who often said a World Series was only official if the Yankees played in it.

ITEM LAST: A former newsman himself, the typist respects the need for news websites to sell advertisements and have them viewed by visitors. However, even when he stacked paragraphs for a local corporate news outlet store, the typist used an adblocker on his browser because news sites were practically unnavigable with the advertisements interrupting text every few sentences. The typist would like to make a deal with news organizations: He will unblock their ads when they find a way to present the news in a way that doesn’t look like a 1996 GeoCities page assembled by a Doctor Who fan who figured out how to get their cartoon TARDIS to spin and play a MIDI file.

Daniel P. Finney fights for your rights in his satin tights.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help Daniel P. Finney cover expenses as he studies to earn his master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

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

HOT SHEET: This headline is not search engine optimized because the author just doesn’t give a damn

Friday, Oct. 9, 2020

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

ITEM ONE: The age of robocalls makes the typist nostalgic for old Bell hard plastic telephones that could be smashed into the cradle with a frightening level of aggression. Somehow even the most fervent tap of the red phone button fails to convey the ol’ Paragraph Stacker’s level of disdain for unwanted phone calls.

ITEM TWO: The Chicago Bears failed to lose a football game for the fourth time in five valiant tries Thursday. The latest accidental victory came against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady, likely the greatest quarterback of all time, appeared not to know how many downs remained on the Buccaneers’ final series late in the 1-point win for Chicago. The Bears appear to have some sort of virus that makes other teams play as poorly as they do.

ITEM THREE: The New York Yankees forced a deciding fifth game in the playoffs against the Tampa Bay Rays. The Yankees hit a lot of home runs and their bullpen stopped the Rays’ offense. The typist roots for the Yankees but believes their starting pitching is soft and the homer-or-nothing offense is vulnerable to good pitching, which the Rays have aplenty. However, since the Atlanta Braves defeated the Miami Marlins in the National League playoffs, the ol’ Paragraph Stacker’s dreams of an all-Florida, all-aquatic-mascot World Series have been dashed. So, what the hell. Go Yankees.

ITEM IV: Item IV now demands to be addressed as Caesar Itemus Aggressivus IV, the emperor of the New Rome. A memo sent to the entire company during lunchtime promised victories to rival the Gallic Wars and the battles of Arar and Bibracate.

ITEM IV: Item Five is unavailable and is considered missing. The staff returned from its usual three-Busch Light lunch to find Item Five’s cubicle walls slashed by what police described as gladius cuts and a spear through the lumbar support of Item Five’s chair and a considerable amount of black ink in the seat and on the office carpet. A crude Aquila scratched into the window glass with the words, “I claim this land in the name of Caesar Itemus Aggressivus IV.” Hot Sheet has no comment pending a full police investigation.

ITEM SIX: Item Six, who sits adjacent to the growing empire of Caesar Itemus Aggressivus IV, requisitioned materials to build a moat and fortify cubicle walls with concrete blocks and rebar. A further requisition was put in to hire three archers for long-range territorial support. All requests were denied due to budget constraints, but Item Six was told to use some of the broken office chairs on the third floor to create a makeshift defense. Archers would have to wait until second quarter 2021 at the earliest. Item Six requested to take the rest of the week citing undue workplace stress. Its FMLA paperwork is pending.

ITEM SEVEN: The typist received nine pieces of mail Thursday. One was from his insurance agent. Eight were from the campaigns of Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and her challenger, Theresa Greenfield, three identical fliers supporting the Ernst campaign with claims that a vote for Greenfield would destroy life on Earth as we know it. One piece of mail was from Greenfield, who said she was a nice person and that Ernst was a big meanie. The final piece of mail was the latest edition of Mad Magazine. It was the only thing that made sense.

ITEM EIGHT: The typist removes his Yankees cap and bows his head to honor the late Whitey Ford, who died Thursday. The Hall of Fame pitcher holds the World Series records for wins (10), scoreless innings (33) and strikeouts (94). He provided the center spoke to the second era of Yankees dominance. Ford pitched in 11 World Series, won six of them and was MVP of the 1961 series. Ford served two years in the Army during the Korean War.

ITEM LAST: Attention fellow comic book aficionados in the greater Des Moines metro area, Rodman Comics at 318 S. Ankeny Blvd. in Ankeny celebrates its 10th year in business. The store started shortly after the Great Recession and has survived the COVID-19 pandemic. Owner Rod Lamberti grew up buying comic books off the magazine racks in grocery stores. He eventually realized his dream of owning his own store. Due to rules required by the pandemic, Rodman Comics is holding a low-key celebration. There are online auctions instead of door prizes and they’ll carefully monitor the number of people in the store to assure proper social distancing. Deals include 20% off everything in the store that isn’t already discounted. But as with any proper anniversary, there will be cake.

Daniel P. Finney is believed to be dead and must let the world believe his death until he can cure the raging beast within.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help Daniel P. Finney cover personal expenses as he studies to earn his master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

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