The High Countries

because it’s all paperweight…

Jerry Manuel: Mets Make the Switch

Randolph (left) with Manuel (right) discussing life, liberty and the pursuit of some wins in New York.

Five years ago, I walked into my new dorm room at Biola University more scared than savvy. I didn’t know what to expect. And frankly, I was a little embarrassed that my parents waited there with me. Soon, a body walked into the room––Travis. He was on the baseball team, something that I had hoped to achieve in the next coming months, but would opt out for the game of Lacrosse, instead. To say that Travis was quiet would be like calling an air horn loud. He was one of the most unassuming, easy-going guys on the face of the planet and remains that way today. As I looked around the room, I saw various family pictures of the two current tenants and wondered if there were any space for me––a freshman––among the artifacts of these 20-something Juniors. As I surveyed the desk of the other unidentified roommate, I noticed a familiar face. A face that I had partially grown to hate, but in some ways…appreciated. It was the face of a rival. A famous rival, but a rival nonetheless. There on the desk lay a picture of Jerry Manuel, the coach of the Chicago White Sox (at the time) and a rival of my gloriously over-preforming (at the time!) Seattle Mariners. As I heard a voice behind me, I turned around to see Anthony, my second roommate.  He had about as much fat on him as a Pez dispenser and after introducing ourselves, it became apparent that he was simply Jerry, minus 25 years.

In the year that followed, I got to know the in’s and out’s of growing up in Major League Baseball and the more we talked, the more I felt as though I needed to go out and buy a White Sox hat. We had some great discussions––Anthony was anything but normal, with an upbringing that rivaled the Kardashians, but in many ways, he seemed to see his childhood as memories in the same way I did. My quality time in the backyard, his at Dolphin Stadium. I remember watching Griffey round third in 95’, he rushed the field in 97’.

I got a chance to speak with Jerry a number of times, mostly colloquial baseball chatter, but always with a sense of wonder on my end. When I visited their home a couple years back, I got the chance to speak to Jerry on a little different platform. We talked baseball, of course; steroids, Bonds, expansion, etc, and I tried to convince him to take the Manager position in Seattle, but he maintained that he was, “…done coaching for a while.” At the time, he was really considering taking the Bench Coach position for the Mets and I pleaded with him, “Why the Mets?!” He said that he loved the Mets and that New York was a great city to play in and since his playing days were past tense, it was the atmosphere and the guys that kept it fun. He told us all that if Willie Randolph didn’t last, he wouldn’t be opposed to the Manager’s role, but that Willie would do a terrific job. He signed off by saying, “If ever you’re in New York, and you just need a day off, come on down to the ball park.”

Well, Willie-days have come and gone in New York and June 15, 2008 marked the beginning of Jerry’s interim coaching tenure in New York.

I couldn’t be happier.

Oh, the pains of being a dedicated fan.  Looks like I need to go out and buy a sicky Mets hat.

June 19, 2008 Posted by | Entertainment, Sports | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

2008 US Open

Tiger Woods, during his playoff round Sunday at the 2008 US Open championship.

2008 US Open: Tiger Would

We’ve reached a new level of insanity here in the High Countries. What once was an unabashed impartiality towards the game of golf has now––upon conclusion of this year’s US Open––become something so much more lethal: full-fledged fun.

As I opened my office door this morning, the only thought I had was the balancing act between productivity and full out, final-round-watching insubordination. I know, I know, its hard for me to admit to myself that I sat there updating a live web blog (courtesy of Jason Sobel over at ESPN), only to write him and express the same thing I am to you now; that as much as I hate to say it, I’m having a great time. I can’t say that the play-by-play was minute-by-minute, but it was…five-minute-by-five-minute, so what’s the big deal? It was like baby-back rib relay race: slow, but genuinely exciting at its finale. As Tiger thought back on his rounds, I thought back on my short-lived journey to this moment…

I’ve only recently began playing consistent golf. A friend and I found an appealing super-twilight rate at a nearby course that allows us to get in about 15 holes 2-3 times a week for a staggering $8 a round. While I boast a ’90 something’ as my best (recent) score (cough…on 17), its suffice to say I can use all the cheap golf I can get. My golf game wasn’t something I really enjoyed until about three months ago and golf on TV wasn’t appealing until about 3 years ago––when I first saw Tiger induce Phil Knight’s screams of delight as his brand rose and fell with the resounding ‘clinkle-clunk’ only a billion dollars could make. Its true, the genius of the 2005 Masters brought me closer to the actual game than anything else. Tiger Woods swung life into a dusty pastime and I found his charisma to be just the medicine I needed.

I can’t say that I saw any of this coming. I can’t say that I had any predictions today other than what Dan Patrick said: “There is a 1-5 chance at the beginning of any given tournament that Tiger will win.” I can’t say that I even watched every round of this years Open. Granted, I am a fair weathered golf fan (I listened to Lakers-Celtics game 5 last night on radio though, gasp!) Lefty’s Pooh Bear-esque moobs are the only reason I recognized him for the first half decade of my fanship. My tenancy in the PGA has been nothing short of short-lived, but one thing is true: I can no longer say I don’t care. No longer am I simply… impartial. I am anything but impartial, in fact, I am…partial. I want only Tiger to win. Even when he’s wearing purple or only half-tanned, its always Tiger. Call me crazy, call me anything but unique. I was alive when Tiger Woods was playing.

June 16, 2008 Posted by | Entertainment, Sports, Television | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Lost: Season 4 Finale

LOST Finale

As it all goes down, fans wait, watch and wilt till next season.

There’s No Place Like Home: Part 2 & 3

By Bryce VanKooten

Well, its all over. At least for now. How do we all feel? Can we describe it all in one word? Legit. Two words: deceptively inspiring? I suppose we need a time machine to get out exactly how we feel.

This year we saw lots and lots of things happen. Wait, no we didn’t. The season started with the ever-fateful ‘the folks on The Freighter are coming to get us’ and ended with the incredible twist: ‘the folks on The Freighter, although tricksy little hobbits’s––did not get us’. Granted, we got to meet Faraday (awesome, eccentric, all good things) and Charlotte (hmmm) and I’ll be the first to admit that I like them, but frankly––when all was said and done, plot wise… It was a simple season.

Remember first season when we saw a Hatch and were entertained just by the thought of it for about 15 episodes? Or when we saw only the feet of The Others walking by––just a glimpse––and we had more Goosebumps than a 6th grade library? Those were the days when nitwit fans were mixed in with the rest of the nuts and left to fight amongst themselves as to who would get the last handful of theory crumbs. Nowadays though, where do we live?  What is it going to take to get us back to that state of wonderment without that nostalgic sense of hate we so often feel? Can it be that we are too smart for our own good?  Always thinking outside the magic box, we can only be duped if hand-fed lies? I say nah, but that’s closer than not.

If ever there was a breaking point for me, it was the end of Season 3. It was the first season where I had to moan along with the rest of the world week by week (or should I say, week off to week on) because I had used up my luxury of DVD seasons (see previous post Lost: The Logic-Free Fee). It was then when I sat back and said, “Lost, I hereby swear I will disown you like a right-wing father to his hippie son if you don’t impress me beyond belief.” And like a true nonconforming child, it did. There I was, watching Jack drink his life away–– popping pills like a MLB All-star thinking to myself, “Well, it looks like this is it. I have to quit. I gotta shut er’ off.” And then it happened. They took me to the future. And like Never, Never, Land, I was hooked again.

When this year’s finale rolled around, I can’t say I was in as angry of a place, but I can say that I wanted some movement. When Desmond did his Marty McFly bit in The Constant, I went wild. When Keamy went from ‘not that tough’ to ‘okay, he could be tough’ by going hard as The Wire and shooting Ben’s daughter, I coincidentally wanted to jump up and scream, “That’s what I’m talking about!” You can’t have anyone to really love if you don’t have anyone to really hate. Throw in a loathsome person like Benjamin Linus (who we all love, lets be honest) and you have a terrific show. Leverage that dynamic with the island’s properties and now we’re talking. The Season 4 finale did just that. It didn’t do everything I had hoped (i.e. reveal to us the/a time machine, show where the island went after it ducked below the surface, give us more insight into where Ben goes after banished, etc, etc), but it did enough. I liked how the island disappeared. I liked how Sun sold out for her final scene with Jin (fyi; that was heart wrenchingly painful to watch and I likely won’t watch it again; I liked Jin, I did…. I did). I liked how Sawyer was the man, again––if only for a little while. He kind of went to that hey-don’t-forget-I’m-still-Sawyer place where he does things, almost subconsciously, just to show how much cooler than Jack he is. I thought his jump was well placed and perfect. And if you didn’t hear what he said to Kate in the whisper, you can hear it here.

Bottom line, this finale was like a punch in the belly button. A good punch, though. It hurts a bit; torments you for a while, but its good to know that you can still feel. You can still hurt–– and they still care enough to take the time and effort to punch you.

June 3, 2008 Posted by | Entertainment, Lost, Television | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments