Posted tagged ‘Derek Jeter’

Blocking Writer’s Block With Derek Jeter

July 10, 2011

Yes, I know. It doesn't really look like him.

Followers of this blog know that I am in the final stages of finishing a manuscript for a novel.  (I really am almost there now.)

It is difficult.  I am a pretty fast writer, but a terribly slow re-writer.  It takes me drafts and drafts and drafts, with additions, deletions, re-additions, re=deletions, corrections and missed corrections, and corrections of the corrections.  While revising and copy-editing can sometimes have an engaging aspect, they can also be soul-wrenching.

I don’t want to sound too whiney, but it can be hard not to be overwhelmed by the question:  “is it worth it?”  “It” being the manuscript, even the whole endeavor of writing.  And then there are all the related inquiries; most of which begin with “why,” many of which include “bother.”

The answer, I guess, is that you just have to do the things that make you you, even when they are difficult.  Translation: if you are a writer, or even if you just want to be a writer, you have to write.  And if you want any kind of an audience, and have any kind of pride, you have to re-write.  (And re-write again.)

Even so, as you get towards an end of a project, it is hard not to grow increasingly self-critical, a mind-state that can be paralyzing.

This weekend, I’ve looked for inspiration in one of my all-time heroes–Derek Jeter!

I call Derek a hero with some trepidation–maybe Jeter is not as nice as his public persona.  But no one can fault his determination, focus and drive.  His at-bat on his 3000th hit was a great example.  The count was 3-2.  Then he kept hitting fouls, one after another until he got a pitch he could slam.  As he said afterwards, he was not trying for a home run, he was just trying to hit the ball.  Hard.

Of course, one could argue that baseball is kind of a silly game; even if you like it,  a game.  All this effort–all this focus–all this attention–all this money–for what?

I, for one, right now, just choose to admire.  And to make myself get back to my own work with some of that determination, focus, élan.

Baseball and Life – Yankees-Angels Game 2 – The Blink Factor/The Not-Blinking Factor-Boom Boom Boom

October 18, 2009

My good luck tricks seemed to have worked once more for the Yankees—i.e. last night during the second Yankees-Angels game, I posted my elephant baseball picture AND, at a certain critical juncture, stopped watching.   (See earlier post re good luck “Talismans” and my personal effect on Yankees’ baseball.)

I won’t take all the credit for the victory—there was also Jeter, Cano, and Mariano, Jerry Hairston, Jr., A-Rod, and Damon (who made some really terrific catches), Melky Cabrera, Phil Coke, and Joba (who still seems a little pudgy boy to me especially when he celebrates), and Molina, who had a really hard job as catcher for A.J. Burnett, who also, as starter, deserves some credit, despite the way in which his wild pitches can drive a fan crazy.  (The frustration he causes is frankly not completely redeemed by the whipped cream pies.)

Then, there was just the Yankee grit, that somehow, so frequently, manages to just hang on and on and on.

Watching the videos of the end of the game this morning made me think (yes, it’s a cliché) of baseball as a paradigm of life.  Yes, again, yes, it’s a cliché.  Still, it seems somehow a more appropriate paradigm than a lot of other big sports.  (Which I have to confess don’t interest me enough to know much about them.  Still, I hate to think of any sports in which (i) people are repeatedly tackled and concussed, or (ii) forced to chase around constantly with little chance of achieving many goals, as better paradigms.)
What is unusual about baseball is simply how fast everything moves when it does, finally, move at all.   The replays of the last moments of last night’s October 17th game against the Angels are particularly striking.  On the Yankees’ site, they show footage taken from nearly every angle, even one that simply shows Cabrera running, relatively quickly for a big guy, to first.

In case, you didn’t follow the game, in the thirteenth inning, with a man on first and second, Yankee Melky Cabrera hit a ball that bounced between first and second.  The Angels’ second baseman, Maicer Izturis, stopped the ball, then, trying for a double play, threw it hard and fast to Angels’ short stop Erik Aybar, who stood at second, and who frankly seems like a really a surly, cocky sort of guy (if you are a Yankee’s fan), who missed it.  The Angel’s third baseman, Chone Figgins, stopped Izturis’s throw, but bobbled the ball.  In the meantime, Hairston Jr., who’d been holding on third before Izturis’s error, dashed towards home. Hairston was immediately overrun by the rest of the Yankees’ team and quickly assumed a fetal position on the ground as they all energetically patted him.

The long and short of that detailed explanation is simply that, although it takes a long time to write it all down, the play actually happened in an incredibly short period of time:  boom (Cabrera connected with the ball), boom (Iztura stopped and immediately threw it), boom (it slid below Aymer’s glove), boom (Figgins bobbled it), boom (Hairston slid into home).  When the footage that just focuses on Cabrera is shown, you see from the way that he turns, delighted, that the run has already been scored even as he makes it to first base.

The speed of it all is especially amazing because most of baseball is so slow.  The pitcher stands and postures, eyes narrowing and re-narrowing, with little shakes or nods of the head to the catcher, the batter (if Jeter especially), re-tightens his gloves (two or three or four times), re-squares his shoulders, gently sways the bat,  everyone constantly repositions their stances (usually spitting or blowing a bubble at the same time in a sort of homage to old-time multi-tasking).  Everyone, pitcher, batter, catcher, batter, in and out fielders, both wait and prepares.  Even the audience waits, though it doesn’t prepare so much as eats and drinks, crosses its fingers and yells. So much waiting, so much preparation, so much eating and drinking, finger-crossing  and yelling.  And then, boom, boom, boom, boom.  The moment arrives and players are suddenly expect to act, react, not just to make decisions, but to carry them out – boom boom boom.

Okay, you get it.  This is where the paradigm part comes in. There are obvious parallels to situations in the marketplace–buying and selling on the stock market, buying and selling anything, anywhere.  And also to moving around a potentially dangerous world–driving a car, for example,  especially in, or around, an accident.  The way action unfolds in baseball parallels many emergency situations actually; an emergency, a threat, that can also turn into an opportunity (i.e. the near double-play that becomes a winning score for the opposite side.)

So many parallels:  the need to be able to act even in the midst of a mouthful! The need to keep a mouthful going in order to be able to act!  The blink factor!  Or, maybe it’s the not-blinking factor!  The waiting, the planning, the practice, and then the OMG moment, which never takes exactly the shape anticipated, and frequently involves both a solo effort AND team work, and if not exactly team work, at least the avoidance of collision.  (A-Rod and Mariano were a great example of that in the tenth inning when they both ran towards a flying bunt, which was then caught by Mariano.)

Ah, Mariano….

Inspiring Evening – Obama, Jeter, Jobs

September 9, 2009


Inspiring day/inspiring evening:  Obama delivers great and moving speech about health care.  (I never wanted this blog to be political, but when I hear Obama speak I can’t help but be appreciative.  How did we get so lucky?)

Jeter ties Lou Gehrig’s seventy-year record for hits as a Yankee.   (I don’t know enough about sports to blog about them, but when I see Jeter at bat, I can’t help but be appreciative.  Hurray, New York!)

Even Apple had something to contribute, with Steve Jobs making an appearance at an Apple conference, gaunt after his recent liver transplant, but full of sober gratitude.

I’m not in any way comparing the impact or importance of these events.  But there was something tremendously satisfying, even thrilling, about watching the footage of each of them,  all on the same evening.  Three guys doing their jobs so very well, but also with a workmanlike humility (even Steve Jobs);  three guys waiting through standing ovations, clearly moved at moments, then simply pushing ahead.   (Obama was probably a bit less moved by the ovations than Jobs or Jeter, the standing of congressman a form of literal posturing. )

Jeter’s modesty was especially impressive as he arrived at first base and  immediately bent to take off his shin protector.  Then, he seemed to quietly thank Tampa’s first basemen (who must have congratulated him), and then he simply waited as the crowd roared, twice raising his helmet, gently licking his lips, for the game to go on.

Jobs actually spoke of games in his interview, describing one of the new iPods as a video game device.  (Agh.)

And Obama, thankfully, delivered an opposite message, that the games about health care must stop.  (Though I was happy to hear him say it, I won’t hold my breath.)


Final added note:  I really hope that the substance of Obama’s speech does not get drowned in endless media discussion concerning the rudeness of  Republican Joe Wilson.     Unfortunately, 0ne can already hear it becoming the diversionary topic of the hour (or many many of them).

What Sets Mo And Derek apart

July 26, 2009

Just back from Yankees Game.

Let’s get this straight, I am a Yankees fan but not really a Yankees’ game fan. Before today, I had only been to two professional baseball games in my life, one at age 10, and one about 10 years ago, a Yankees game, on an outing with my office.   The highlight of that game was the ceaseless fun the group made of me because of the carrot sticks, yogurt, and mineral water I had brought for my daughter and me to eat. Oh yes, and focaccia. The rest of my firm ate hot dogs, sipped (not guzzled) beer (they are a fairly straightlaced group) and took  great pleasure in mocking what they viewed as my health food.

Look, I kept insisting in my mock defense (because I suppose I take pride in not eating hot dogs), we have focaccia.  That’s not a health food.

But that only generated more laughter,  foccacia not considered to be in the peanuts and cracker jacks league.

I liked the Yankees okay back then, though really came because it was an office outing.  All that changed in the fall of 2001 when the Yankees saved New York.

It was right after 9/11,  a time when you wanted to stay out of crowds.  I remember having to go to Times Square for example and walking in the street to avoid the busy sidewalk, oncoming traffic seeming safer than to be stuck in any group anywhere.

And there the Yankees were, bringing in full stadiums, managing to make it to the World Series, even though they probably weren’t the best team that year, managing to make the games go to many many innings, giving New York something to be thrilled at, and making it all right again to be part of a large group, in public, here.

Tears slid down my cheeks as I watched them stand at attention, hand over hear, first through the Star Spangled Banner of each game, then God Bless America.    It was a time tears could run down your cheeks over something like that no matter what your feelings about the Vietnam War had been.   (That part of that time was wonderful.)

I fell in love with the Yankees then.  Maybe not enough to watch in-season games in full, but in love nonetheless.  And how could you not love those two?  Yes, there was Paul O’Neill, and Tino Martinez, and Bernie Williams,  and Mike Mussina, and even Roger Clemens (I guess) but you know the ones I mean.

Let’s start with the obvious.  Derek.  We all cheered for him today.    No. 2.   I was amazed to see on the screen that he is  6’3″ because he looks, from a distance, like a much more compact person.   Almost like a dancer, in the close fit of arms and legs and torso;  there is little lankiness from a distance.  And he actually looks really good in the Yankees’ uniform; there is no slouch around the legs and chest; he looks fit, springy, and somehow (though this may be my bias) sweet.  (My daughter asks me how I can know that, but I insist that it’s true.)

And then there’s Mariano.   The whole field sighed in devotion, awe,  as he ran out from the bull pen.  It was like the savior was here, papa’s home, the doctor’s arrived, it’s stopped raining; any phrase that means “everything will be okay.”    He reminds me of a jaguar, also Panamanian.   His face has that kind of taut beauty.  Then too, there ‘s the refinement of movement;  even when he walks, he kind of slinks.  Though always upright, perfect straight.   There is a kind of humility even in his walk.  (My daughter again is not sure of that, but I am.)

The other pitchers kept missing Jorge when they were warming up.  I don’t mean to diminish them, pitching looks impossible to me.  But Jorge Posada is someone who seems able to catch everything.

Mariano just threw right to him every time.  The pitch as focused as his delivery, his face, his aura, and, of course, the crowd around him.

His uniform looks great on him too.

Yes, I suppose they get paid a lot.

And I have to confess I find a lot of the game a little boring and hot.  There are so many stretches of waiting;  what breaks them often happens so fast I half miss it.

But when Derek  jumps to the catch, it’s hard not to be caught as well.

And when Mariano does anything at all, you just have to watch.

Speaking of watching, watch out for my picture book, 1 Mississippi, now available on Amazon.