Sunday, May 30, 2010

Let's Hear It For These Whippersnappers.

Often I catch myself looking around my gym at the people in their teens, twenties or early thirties and being proud of strangers. As I turn 40 this September I have the advantage of experience to be able to be happy when I see people younger than me taking care of their bodies. I want to walk up to each of them and hug them and say "way to go, you'll appreciate this years from now". Since it's tough to support a wife and three daughters while imprisoned, I stop my good-hearted but weird social urges.

I think I'm a bit of a freak for someone my age. I do not wax poetic about my high school athletic career (or lack there of, depending on who you ask) nor do I think anything done when I was younger was better, with the excception of rock music, which I swear was much better in my youth.

While I am an experience snob when I listen to music or raise my kids, I am just the opposite when I watch sports. Earlier today, while tweeting and watching sports I found myself cheering for rookie baseball players Jason Heyward of the Atlanta Braves, Buster Posey  of the San Francisco Giants  and Stephen Strasburg; currently in the minor leagues for the Washington Nationals. While Heyward has started the season in the Braves lineup and producing at a historic level, Posey and Strasburg have been tearing up their respective minor league teams waiting for their major league chances. Posey was called up today and went 3-4 with an RBI. Strasburg has blazed through severals starts and is rumored to be called up next week. The Tampa Bay Rays are baseball best team. Their best player is a third year superstar named Evan Longoria. Their pitching staff is 5 deep with hurlers who have been in baseball less than 4 years each, highlighted by second year phenom David Price and rookie Wade Davis. All of this begs a question; Why do baseball general managers risk their high paying, high profiled, high pressued jobs on older free agents, aging players sitting on guarenteed contracts that enable them to never work for a living once they retire; while holding back younger, cheaper, and perhaps, hungrier players?

Last season, the Braves' pitching star, Tommy Hanson, had a terrific spring training. He was expected to break camp with the major league team and be their fifth starter. Instead, he was sent to the minors, where he excelled for two months. Finally, after two months into the season, he was called up; going 12-4 and finishing second in the rookie of the year voting to Philadelphia's JA Happ. The controversial move of sending Hanson down was enhanced with the revelation that keeping Hanson a minor leaguer til June 1st, he would have his arbitration date (meaning he would wait an extra year for free agency, thus delaying his millionaire status if he were successful) moved back. The Braves cheap move hurt them in the standing. Hanson could have won enough games to help them make the playoffs. The Braves denied this, saying Hanson wasn't ready til June. Few people outside Braves' General Manager Frank Wren's family and friends believe this.

Professional sports is for the young. Even the most special athlete's body wilts under the stress of competition in his thirties. My 40 year old body can not do what the 25 year old body can do inside the walls of the Bodyplex in Buford, Georgia. With performance enhancing drugs supposedly making their way out of major league baseball, I believe the game's stars will be under the age of thirty. This is a good thing. Now, does anyone know where I can score some ibuprofen? Deadlifts kicked my tail yesterday at the gym.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

It Sounded Better Than Christmas

My hands hurt. So does my throat. That what happens when I go to rock show. I had almost forgotten what that felt like. Last night in East Atlanta at the high school auditorium-like Variety Playhouse, singer-songwriter-producer-Cartersville, Georgia native- and rock and roll good guy Butch Walker put about 15 hundred people in the palm of his hand and took then on a joyride of guitar licks, sing-alongs, and hand clapping; while making seem like a family cookout.

The night started with Madison, Wisconsin born, New York City bred power pop punk group Locksley playing a terrific one hour set. They call themselves doo wop punk but after shaking my head along to their energetic set I would say power pop punk a la Rooney, Sugarcult, and The Strokes is a more appropriate description. Butch Walker usually gets along with his tour mates. The camraderie between Locksley and Butch and his band was evident as later in Butch's show, Locksley made a wild appearance swilling and tossing champagne and dance moves. The energy from Locksley set the stage for Butch and his Black Widow Band to make for a night to remember. You can find out more about Locksley here: @LocksleyMusic  (twitter) and here : and here: (band)

This was the last show of the United States tour for Butch Walker and The Black Widows. In three days they will start a European leg opening for Pink in Germany. rarely does an act end a tour in their hometown so the vibe was excellent. Variety was packed. Butch started on the piano for the first few songs and teh crowd sang heartily, especially when ATL was presented.

Walk and the Widows picked up the pace and a whirling dervish of rock and roll happened as they blazed through songs from his last six solo albums, focusing a lot on Sycamore Meadows and his most recent release I Liked It Better When you Had No Heart. Butch was home. He saw no need to promote the new record, or sell people on his talent, or take requests from those who knew him from his Marvelous 3 days or the dude who knows Pink, Taylor Swift and Lindsay Lohan really well. The songs were drenched in blood, sweat and tears. While he played Trash Day and She Likes Hair Bands; popular songs from the new record; he really shined when he played more of his Sycamore Meadows songs. That album was named after the street his house in Los Angeles was on when a fire burned all of his possessions including the masters of all of the recordings he had ever done. Sycamore is his most emotional album and his heart bled during Going Back/Going Home, Ponce De Leon (the best song of the night), Here Comes The...., and Passed your Place, Saw Your Car, Thought Of You.

The Black Widows sounded great. The chemistry they have with Butch is priceless. Butch kept things simple. No pyro, no effects, only one "let's go out in the crowd and get cliche rock crazy" moment. There were silly, but fun singa longs to Starland Vocal Band's Afternoon Delight and Hall and Oates Rich Girl. Those moments are Butch Walker concert stables. Mostly Butch brought the rock, the punch, the fun, the wild, and the heart. It was a terrific show. At one point Butch said he liked playing his twelve string acoustic guitar because everything sounded like Christmas. Actually Butch, you make it sound better. I think I'm clapping and singing as I type this.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tonight, we boogie

Butch Walker plays tonight at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta, Georgia. I, your favorite blogger, will be there. My friend Aaron and I got tickets two months ago and have since been scratching away the days on our cells, waiting for Butch to come home.

Expect a full review with burned lighter finger, melted face, and massive hyperbole. This is the first concert I will have attended in two years, since Lucinda Williams played the Botanical in 2008.

Monday, May 24, 2010

I'll see you in another life, brother.

Whatever happened, happened. A LOST review.

Last week my wife lost her grandmother to Lou Gehrig's disease. It was a slow, agonizing process that actually showed the best in my wife, her family members, our kids, and what life is more than likely, really about. As her grandmother slowly left us for what lies up there or out there, she was able to say goodbye to her loved ones, and set them up for what their purposes were, to love and cherish their families.

Last night's LOST finale was a lot like that, except with a smoke monster, an island, a shiny energy source and a Scot who has a great verbal crutch.

For six seasons, LOST has thrilled, mystified, frustrated, told, not told, revealed, hid, and told stories about people on an island, in a sideways reality, and other people who are just there for a reason, Here's my take on what happened, you know, that happened.

Everything, the island, the sideways reality, the church was a judgement wormhole for the LOST souls of those involved. For those who found true love - James and Juliet, Sun and Jin, Desmond and Penny etc or for those who foudn true purpose - Locke, Jack etc. the island was their Gladiator stadium and they had to fight their way to the afterlife.

Ok, enough of the dumb blogger interpretation. LOST may be the best written, most mytholigized show since The Twilight Show. What I took from last night's two and a half hours is LOST was great because like a well written song, it's wide open to the listener, or in this case, viewer as to what it's all about. Recently I got into a mini-argument as to what the Bob Dylan song Like A Rolling Stone is all about. I think the Him in "go to Him, he calls you, you can't refuse" is Truth. The other person didn't know what it was, but thought I was a moron for trying to interpret Dylan. For me, LOST was about souls getting to where they were supposed to go by finding the right people and purpose for each of them. I don't think they all died in the plane crash, but they all died eventually and that church was their usher into Heaven or whatever you believe in.

The finale was perfect. No dreams, no Bobby in the shower, no Journey songs and a black screen. It was a happy ending for the characters and my love of the show. It is, after all, just a tv show, but at least this tv show touched  nerve, made me kinda, sorta feel something, and look at questions about my own life.

The people in your life are their for reasons that you can not always know. The most important thing is know your purpose with them and move on; with the life you have now, and the one coming later.

My five year old just woke up. She's not my smoke monster, but she's not a morning person. I need to make her cereal and get her hair bow right. I'll see you all in this life and the next one, brother.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Tommy John Elbow just rocked your town!

When I was a little kid I either wanted to a ballplayer or a rock star. By the time I reached high school, I realized my 5'8" and 165 lbs were not going to be making money from athletics. I had not realized that my lack of singing talent prohibited me from being a rock god so I would write down band names on my notebook; wondering which name people would flock to stadiums to see me rock. Tommy John Elbow always made the top five list of cool sounding band names. I still google the name to make sure no one has snagged it yet. As I create a sports blog today I realized that if someone other than a family member reads this, pandora's box has been opened and some teenage punk with a guitar and a dream can track the name down. So if you hit a Best Buy five years from now and Tommy John Elbow has a CD on the rack, you can say you knew the origin.

Today is not only the birth of this blog but also the birthday of Tommy John. John, who shares his special day with Olympic skater Apollo Anton Ohno, model Naomi Campbell, and iconic Smiths' singer Morissey; was born May 22, 1943 in Terra Haute Indiana. He became a major league baseball pitcher for six teams, starting with the Cleveland Indians in 1963 and ending with the New York Yankees in 1989. In 1974, he was in the midst of one of his finest seasons, crusing to a 13-3 record with the pennant contending Los Angels Dodgers when he permanently damaged his left (pitching) elbow. Had it not been for a revolutionary surigical procedure removing the damaged ulnar collateral ligament and replacing it with a tendon from his forearm, John's promising pitching career would have been over. The enterprising middle-aged surgeon who performed the operation was named Frank Jobe. This was the first successful procedure done on a professional athlete and Jobe named the surgery after his prize patient, Tommy John. John would go on to win 164 more games in 14 more season to finish an impressive resume, 288-231. He missed all of the 1975 season, but his return year, 1976, he went 10-10, shocking the sports world and changing the game of baseball and the games of the other major sports forever.

Dr. Jobe is in his 80s now and retired. He has performed the surgery on thousands of athletes, professional and amateur. Minnesota Twins closer, Joe Nathan, is the latest big name professional athlete to undergo the operation. He is expected back by the 2011 season. The careers of many accomplished athletes including Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz have been saved and expaned as a result.

The dark undercurrent of this amazing medical procedure is little league and high school athletes are having the surgery. Boys as young as 8 years old have been reported having it done. Little League, travel league, and high school coaches are notroiusly overusing their star pitchers, knowing that this "miracle surgery" is an insurance card away. The cost of this operation ranges between $10,000 and $13,000 depending on the severity of the injury. Math was my least favorite subject in school, but if you multiply 10 thousand by 100 thousand, well, you get a bug number. There are no statistics available to determine how many amateur athletes get the procedure and go on to successful professional or even college careers. There is a prevailing myth that those who get the operation, pro and non-pro, are "stronger" or "better" after surgery, and thus that drives the "let's get cut on" mentality.

Sandy Koufax was a star pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1960s. He had a run of success for the first six years of that decade that is mind boggling. He retired at the peak of his career, only 31 years old, with damage to his elbow, shoulder, and joints. Many have speculated that Koufax could have added five to ten years to his career had he undergone the procedures now available to today's players. Koufax played in an era where multi-million contracts did not exist. Tommy John, with his extraa 14 season after surgery, made millions of dollars because he was able to last into the revolutionary free agenct period post 1976. Koufax still made the Hall of Fame, and his greatness is rarely denied, despite his brief career. It is obvious that many players have the operation knowing that more money awaits them upon their return. As do the young amatuer athletes see dollar signs past their surgeries.

All of this poses a cynical but necessary question. How much does Tommy John surgery have to do with medicine and how much does it have to do with medicine?

P.S. I plan on celebrating Tommy John's birthday by going in the backyard, throwing about 327 curveballs until my elbow explodes. I don't have 10 grand, but maybe I can get my wife to cut me open with her sewing needles and replace my hurt ligament with a tendon from my rear end. Having a surgery named after me would be really cool.


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