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Tag Archive: Bob Uecker

Oct 19

A look back at my columns about the Kansas City Royals: Part 12 — Royals fans, time for movie therapy — first published May 3, 2012 in The Examiner, an Eastern Jackson County, Mo., daily newspaper.

Royals fans, time for movie therapy

“You love the Red Sox, but have they ever loved you back?”
–from the 2005 movie ‘Fever Pitch’

I read several sports stories the other day devoted entirely to how Royals fans are dealing with the fact that the Kansas City Royals are bottom dwellers in the Big Leagues early in the 2012 season.

The Royals’ arguably ill-timed slogan, ‘Our Time’, doesn’t help.

Is it a jinx? Do we fans need therapy?

I think I do and will have to rely on my tried and true method—movie therapy. Suffice to say, I use it when life throws me a right hook, i.e. Royals. I will explain more later about how watching movies helps me cope.

I love the Royals; don’t get me wrong.

If any of you dear readers recall, I waxed poetic back in March about the Royals after attending spring training in Surprise, Arizona. The Royals looked good, promising, exciting, and clicking on all cylinders, as the saying goes.

I believed that it absolutely would be our time, finally.

That bubble burst for diehard fans like me on opening day when the Royals dropped an embarrassing game, leaving fans like me with an undeniable, worried oppressive feeling of impending doom.

Sorry to say, we were right. The Royals went on to lose 12 out of their first 15 games, and not since 1994 has there been one winning season. They could be baseball’s answer to the NFL draft’s ‘Mr. Irrelevant’.

Sometimes I don’t want to watch the Royals games on television anymore; it is too painful. My powder blue Royals jersey hangs unworn in the closet on most game days.

I feel guilty because I love these guys—Hosmer, Butler, Gordon, Francoeur, Moustakas, Pena, Duffy, Chen and all.

And I cannot begin to fathom what JP (on Twitter @LilFrenchie21) must think about all these losses. Incidentally, if you do not tweet, you may not know that J. P., a 7-year-old Kansas City Royals true-blue fan, has become something of a sensation in Twitter world. Is JP sad? I guess not because he recently tweeted this: “I still wear my Royals shirts to school almost every day! I don’t care if people tell me they are losing. At least I GO TO GAME!”

Now, I feel even guiltier, especially if a 7-year-old is this loyal. I should be, too.

But back to my movie therapy I promised to explain.

I started by watching Major League, a comedy aired in 1989 starring Bob Uecker and Charlie Sheen. In this film, the Cleveland Indians are in last place in the Majors, and inexplicably turn their miserable season into a winning one. Sidesplitting humor. I felt better.

Over the course of the next week, I watched ‘Money Ball’ three times. Yes, three times, mostly, because it was based on a true story. It ranks right up there with ‘Miracle’ and ‘Secretariat’ for me, and gets me out of the doldrums fast.

Remember Billy Beane, general manger of the Oakland Athletics who took that team out of the cellar to victory and into the history books by changing the way the game is managed. Now, I was feeling hopeful.

Since Money Ball is based on the Athletics’ true story, it could be possible, in my way of thinking, for the Royals to find success, too.

Finally, I watched “Fever Pitch,” the 2005 comedy about a diehard Boston Red Sox fan Ben Wrightman who never gave up on his team. He never lost faith despite the fact that the Red Sox could not overcome the 86-year-old “Curse of the Bambino” that legend says blocked them from ever winning the World Series because they sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees.

Ben’s friend Ryan asked him in frustration one day, “Why do we inflict this on ourselves?”

Ben’s answer: “Because they haven’t won a World Series in a century or so? So what? They’re here. Every April, they’re here. At 1:05 or at 7:05, there is a game. And if it gets rained out, guess what? They make it up to you. Does anyone else in your life do that? The Red Sox don’t get divorced. This is a real family. This is the family that’s here for you.”

Ah yes, movie therapy. I’m all better now and wearing my blue again, but I might have to watch Money Ball one more time.

It’s still bad at the bottom folks.

May 02

Royals fans, time for movie therapy

“You love the Red Sox, but have they ever loved you back?”
–from the 2005 movie ‘Fever Pitch

I read several sports stories the other day devoted entirely to how Royals fans are dealing with the fact that the Kansas City Royals are bottom dwellers in the Big Leagues early in the 2012 season.

The Royals’ arguably ill-timed slogan, ‘Our Time’, doesn’t help.

Is it a jinx? Do we fans need therapy?

I think I do and will have to rely on my tried and true method—movie therapy. Suffice to say, I use it when life throws me a right hook, i.e. Royals. I will explain more later about how watching movies helps me cope.

I love the Royals; don’t get me wrong.

If any of you dear readers recall, I waxed poetic back in March about the Royals after attending spring training in Surprise, Arizona. The Royals looked good, promising, exciting, and clicking on all cylinders, as the saying goes.

I believed that it absolutely would be our time, finally.

That bubble burst for diehard fans like me on opening day when the Royals dropped an embarrassing game, leaving fans like me with an undeniable, worried oppressive feeling of impending doom.

Sorry to say, we were right. The Royals went on to lose 12 out of their first 15 games, and not since 1994 has there been one winning season. They could be baseball’s answer to the NFL draft’s ‘Mr. Irrelevant’.

Sometimes I don’t want to watch the Royals games on television anymore; it is too painful. My powder blue Royals jersey hangs unworn in the closet on most game days.

I feel guilty because I love these guys—Hosmer, Butler, Gordon, Francoeur, Moustakas, Pena, Duffy, Chen and all.

And I cannot begin to fathom what JP (on Twitter @LilFrenchie21) must think about all these losses. Incidentally, if you do not tweet, you may not know that J. P., a 7-year-old Kansas City Royals true-blue fan, has become something of a sensation in Twitter world. Is JP sad? I guess not because he recently tweeted this: “I still wear my Royals shirts to school almost every day! I don’t care if people tell me they are losing. At least I GO TO GAME!”

Now, I feel even guiltier, especially if a 7-year-old is this loyal. I should be, too.

But back to my movie therapy I promised to explain.

I started by watching Major League, a comedy aired in 1989 starring Bob Uecker and Charlie Sheen. In this film, the Cleveland Indians are in last place in the Majors, and inexplicably turn their miserable season into a winning one. Sidesplitting humor. I felt better.

Over the course of the next week, I watched ‘Money Ball’ three times. Yes, three times, mostly, because it was based on a true story. It ranks right up there with ‘Miracle’ and ‘Secretariat’ for me, and gets me out of the doldrums fast.

Remember Billy Beane, general manger of the Oakland Athletics who took that team out of the cellar to victory and into the history books by changing the way the game is managed. Now, I was feeling hopeful.

Since Money Ball is based on the Athletics’ true story, it could be possible, in my way of thinking, for the Royals to find success, too.

Finally, I watched “Fever Pitch,” the 2005 comedy about a diehard Boston Red Sox fan Ben Wrightman who never gave up on his team. He never lost faith despite the fact that the Red Sox could not overcome the 86-year-old “Curse of the Bambino” that legend says blocked them from ever winning the World Series because they sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees.

Ben’s friend Ryan asked him in frustration one day, “Why do we inflict this on ourselves?”

Ben’s answer: “Because they haven’t won a World Series in a century or so? So what? They’re here. Every April, they’re here. At 1:05 or at 7:05, there is a game. And if it gets rained out, guess what? They make it up to you. Does anyone else in your life do that? The Red Sox don’t get divorced. This is a real family. This is the family that’s here for you.”

Ah yes, movie therapy. I’m all better now and wearing my blue again, but I might have to watch Money Ball one more time.

It’s still bad at the bottom folks.

Feb 29

It’s the statistics–why I love baseball

A baseball fan has the digestive apparatus of a billy goat. He can, and does, devour any set of diamond statistics with insatiable appetite and then nuzzles hungrily for more.
–Arthur Daley (1904-1974) N.Y. Times sportswriter?

“You are going to Surprise for spring baseball training, again? Do you really love baseball that much,” asked my young friend who was clearly incredulous.

There was only one answer I could honestly give her, yes. But I added this disclaimer, I am blaming my lasting love of baseball on my Great-Aunt Ida who lived, incidentally, to the age of 98 and spent the last summer of her life watching baseball and spouting stats like she had every summer since the early 70s.

It rubbed off, I guess.

Aunt Ida was an unabashed lover of all things baseball from the first moment the Kansas City Royals became a team in 1969. She liked the Kansas City Athletics just fine, but when the Royals emerged on the scene, she was smitten.

My great-aunt lived in Denver where the Kansas City Royals were considered the home team and the favorite of most people who lived between Kansas City and California. This was long before anybody had conceptualized the Colorado Rockies.

My family visited her every summer, but if the Royals were playing when we arrived, we kids knew to sit quietly and watch the game with her. That was not the time to suggest going out to dinner or to make small talk. She recited baseball stats as well as Jack Buck, Harry Carey or Bob Uecker and her prowess left us speechless.

Not being a math aficionado myself, it is strange to me how I picked up Aunt Ida’s love of baseball statistics. However, I learned over the years that the brain handles statistics a little differently than it processes those pesky eighth-grade math word problems that never made any logical sense to me anyway.

Statistics, now that is another matter.

Curious about this weird trait I have of loving baseball stats and hating math, I wandered around the web and found a blog written in 2009 on this very subject titled “Why I Love Baseball: Statistics”. It is written by a blogger who calls himself Sixty Feet, Six Inches (in baseball ‘stat speak’ that is the exact distance between the pitcher and the batter).

Sixty Feet, Six Inches says it better than I can:

“I’m horrible with numbers. In fact, I can’t do basic math without at least having a few minutes to figure out the answer. Yet, there’s something different about baseball statistics that allows my brain to completely utilize its potential and come to a quick answer… Statistics describe baseball; they are the language of the game. Stats let us know who is a great hitter (.300) and who is below average (.200)…Statistics add to the dramatic story that is a baseball game. If each game were a movie, then the player’s stats would be the character development. When the bases are loaded in the bottom of the ninth people want the hero who is batting .315 with thirty home runs to step up and save the team, yet without stats, most of us would not know who that person is. While we all love seeing the improbable happen with a walk off blast from a career .168 hitter, we would not fully understand the rarity of that underdog moment without stats.”

So off I will go to Surprise, Arizona, one day this spring to take in the sunshine, watch the Kansas City Royals in spring training and pay attention to the stats, which you know by now that I love.

Fair warning. Last spring, I wrote three columns about spring ball, so I can’t make any promises how wordy I will get this spring.
After all, baseball is, as writer-cartoonist Saul Steinberg once noted, “an allegorical play about America, a poetic, complex and subtle play of courage, fear, good luck, mistakes, patience about fate, and sober self-esteem.”

And I might add, about statistics.
Play ball!