Friday, March 31, 2006

Poetic lessons

Locked Up at the Start

I wait to act or
put pen to paper until
all mistakes are purged from the field and
I can walk without obstacles that
could have blocked my mission or
cause my failure, which I assume from the start.


It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there.
William Carlos Williams
from “Asphodel, That Greeny Flower”

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Barry Bonds

Every athlete looks for an edge. Something that shaves two-hundredths of a second off a miler’s personal best. Something that gives a speedskater a faster stride around the oval. Something that takes off one more ounce of fat and adds another ounce of muscle for the defensive lineman.

There are many ways to gain that edge. One more hour of training in a day. Better nutrition. Additional weight on the benchpress. Daily workouts during the off-season. Visioning, spiritual study, hypnosis.

There is a fine line between very good and excellent. The former may get a baseball player sent back to TripleA. The latter gets him a starting job at third base.

Major league baseball players have bent the rules to gain that edge for decades. Corking the bat. Vaseline or saliva on the breaking ball. Razor blades in the pitcher’s glove thumb. Sharpening cleats to a knife-edge for sliding into second base.

Barry Bonds, in his drive to be the best hitter of this and any other age, took his quest to extremes. He saw others get the attention and simply did not like it. Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire were being called the saviors of baseball. Their home run derby was the biggest chart on the front page of every sports section for a whole summer. McGuire's batting practice was a spectator sport, even in Barry’s home park. Couldn’t be. Sosa and McGuire weren’t in the same class as Barry Bonds, didn’t have the family heritage, the right to claim such heights -- according to Barry.

We all run into people in our lives who rub us the wrong way. They announce themselves with their egos, they have to be the center of all attention. They put others down simply to demonstrate their own superiority. Their narcissm cannot be contained or changed.

I have learned to avoid these people. They rarely do any good for those around them, they poison any environment with their selfishness and boorishness. They add no value to life.

Barry Bonds has demonstrated that he fits in that class. He would have been considered a great ballplayer, between the white lines at least, without slavishly and deliberately using strength- and performance-enhancing substances. But his ego, his need to be the unquestioned best, had to be fed – regardless of the consequences to him, his family, his friends, his team, or baseball.