James Gandolfini’s Search for Serenity

James Gandolfini, AKA Tony Soprano, died after eating and drinking his way through a Roman dinner the night he died. It is reported he ate two orders of fried prawns, a large portion of foie gras and more while drinking four shots of rum, two pina coladas and two beers. This is a meal that is consumed by someone set on drowning demons in an effort to gain transient serenity. I know this because I have been there.
The 1970’s, as shown in “Mad Men,” was a time of constant and conspicuous consumption of liquor. I was in the sports business at that time, and it was like Madison Avenue in its alcoholic behavior. Conspicuous consumption was everywhere, and the hot spots were drinking establishments like Toots Shor’s. I was lucky.
At a 1976 dinner party in my neighborhood, I encountered a party full of sober people. This group was made up of people who had quit drinking, a new phenomena of the time. In fact, many had been to rehabilitation at St. Mary’s. This was a time when such information was a stigma, now people put that data on their resumes! I was acting normally, that is, drinking, I noticed however, that the sober people were speaking better, were funnier and were having more fun. Wasn’t Scotch supposed to bring that on? No, it was not drinking that brought it on.This revelation worked on me for several weeks and I declared to some friends in a Sixth Avenue bar in NYC, that I wasn’t drinking anymore.  That was it. I haven’t had any alcohol since that Fall of 1976.  As I said, I was lucky to have friends that were sober.
These friends and I spoke about sobriety, that I quickly discovered was vastly superior to drunkeness. They taught me the Serenity Prayer, which is part of my life. The prayer says, “God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.” With this in hand, or head, I moved forward and was taught the First Step of AA, “I am powerless over Alcohol and my life has become unmanageable.” Powerless? Unmanageable? This gets us back to James Gandolfini.
How do you convince Tony Soprano that he was powerless and life was unmanageable? He was king, all powerful even over decisions of life and death for those around him. James Gandolfini the actor was paid $1,000,000 to make a single Sopranos episode. As an actor in film, he was paid multiple millions to play even cameo roles. “Powerlessness and unmanageabilty” was not something he could relate to.
It seems that Gandofini had attended AA meetings in New York City. People said it did not appear that he was engaged, but he was there. He was so close to the serenity he sought, but will never achieve. As I said, I was lucky to have friends come along at just the right time. James Gandolfini may have been very close to embracing his powerlessness over alcohol, we will never know. This is a sad tale.

Fifth Game Theory

Major League Baseball focuses its rule making on creating a universe where there is competitive balance among the teams. This concept is the ‘agreed to’ holy grail in baseball administration and has been the goal of league executives for decades.  I was once asked to develop a metric for determining whether competitive balance existed.
I only had to look to the standings to develop such a metric. As this is baseball, nothing is perfect, but teams are ranked according to winning percentage. These percentages normally run from just under. 600 to just over. 400. This means that  of every five games played, teams will win two and lose two. This leaves the Fifth Game to determine where a team is ranked.

This game can be recognized by fans as the one where the outcome is in doubt until late in the game, which is determined by a clutch hit, an error, or some sort of event that determines the outcome. A properly designed roster has late inning specialists such as defensive players, pinch hitters, set up men and closers. Of course, a basestealer is today a luxury because of expanded pitching staffs.
The Twins/White Sox game June 18, 2013 was a Fifth Game. The White Sox tied the game at 5 in the top of the 8th but failed to get the hit that would put them ahead. The Twins, aided by a lead off walk, scored two in the bottom of the 8th on a clutch hit. The game could have gone either way.
Teams keep track of series won and lost and this is in recognition of Fifth Game Theory. Keep this is mind while you are watching your next game and figure out if you are lucky to be watching a Fifth Game or not. They’re the ones that keep my attention.

Kansas City Royals Emerge

This is a very interesting MLB season. The National League East Division has four teams within 1 1/2 games of each other with the highly paid, but poorly performing Dodgers buried in last place. This one may go down to the last week of the season. The American League East Division has four teams winning more than half their games. Separation will have to occur when they play each other more.
The race I am focused on is in the AL Central where my beloved Twins play.
In this division, the Kansas City Royals are emerging as a real contender. It has moved ahead of Cleveland for second place and is within the critical five game margin that means one good week for it and a bad week for Detroit and they will be neck and neck.  All teams have bad streaks and good streaks, the Royals had its bad streak and the Tigers will have one. 
The Royals success pleases me because I saw this team at the end of the 2011 season and predicted great things for 2012. It was not to be. Players such as Hosmer, Butler, Gordon, and Perez lead this team that is for real now, and James Shields will win going forward if the team scores more than 2 runs a game for him.
Gene Mauch, the great manager said, “teams have to learn to play, then to win, then to win when they have to.”  Kansas City has learned to play, and is learning to win. We will learn if it can win when it has to sometime after Labor Day. Detroit will be hard to beat with its superb starting pitching, but its relief pitching is suspect. This will be a great race and that is all I ask for in a Major League Season and this one has great races that will keep us engaged until the snow flies.

Supreme Court: No, you cannot patent naturally-occuring human genes

The Supreme Court has ruled on the issue of the patenting of naturally existing genes. Here, in an opinion authored by Justice Thomas, is the reasoning. This is a good decision.

SCOTUS: No, you cannot patent naturally-occuring human genes « Hot Air.

Major League Baseball, Attendance and Competitive Balance.

Major League Baseball is my first interest each morning. World news can wait as I peruse the sports section, especially MLB standings and box scores.There is a lot of information there and I find something of note every day.

Today, what captured my eye was MLB attendance levels at the ten games played Monday.  This is an era of intense media coverage and modern stadiums that has pushed average attendance at MLB games to rise to over 30,000 per game. Yesterday, however, the attendance figures were more typical of the 1970’s. In those days, for example, the only video available of live action, was a 10 second shot of something that happened in the first five innings of the local game that was shown in the 10 O’clock news on one  of the four channels available.. It was hard to generate excitement with this limited exposure. Today, fans see all the great plays that occur each day, on multiple cable channels, and that drives interest and attendance.

Last night, however, attendance was 17,653 in Kansas City, where the Royals extended its winning streak to 6, 15,514 in Baltimore, where the Orioles beat the Angels 4-3, 15,447 in Tampa, where the Red Sox won in 14 innings, 18,126 in Chicago, where the White Sox won , 12,811 in Seattle where the Mariners won 3-2, 13,259 in Miami, where the Brewers beat the Marlins, and 21, 192 in San Diego where the Padres beat the Braves 7-6. Texas and the Dodgers both drew over 30,000 for their games. 

I am always concerned by low attendance as that is the first measure of public appeal. The games were well played, five were decided on one run, one was extra innings. MLB is a very competitive business and teams rely on attendance for revenue to pay for players who are more expensive every year. Reduced attendance has an effect on competitive balance, and competitive balance is what it is all about.

The next topic that captured by attention this June morning, was the intense competition in divisions where three teams are within four games of the lead. In the AL East, Boston, New York and Baltimore are within 3.5 games, even the fourth team, Tampa Bay is over .500. In the NL West, Arizona, Colorado, and San Francisco are within two games and in the NL Central, St.Louis,the best team overall, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh are within four games. The most intense two team race is Texas and Oakland, where one game separates them.

This all means that the championship will be determined by the little things that happen, a ball that bounces erratically, a double play missed, an outfielder that loses the ball in the lights, and the hundred other little events that determine the outcome of a game or two of the 162 played each year. 

This is why we pay attention to the game and these races. There are 100 games to the playoffs, and I am making no predictions other than Detroit will win the AL Central. Then again, I picked Toronto to win, and it is last in its division. The infinite possibilities make this a wonderful game, I just hope attendance reflects that wonder.

UPDATE: Benghazi, AP, IRS, and NSA, how to deflect from the real issue.

When the Benghazi disaster broke and the administration claimed it was due to some internet video, few people bought the argument. This occurred prior to the 2012 election and, had it been pursued by the media, could have been damaging to the Obama campaign. It was not covered again until recently and as it drew in the administration, a scandal concerning the IRS erupted prompted by a question planted by the IRS. It was a perfect deflection. The story was that applications for 501(c)(3) and 501 (c)(4) tax exemption by Republican organizations, or at least those that supported their positions, were unreasonably delayed. This meant that these Republican organizations were severely hampered in fund raising during the campaign. This also had an effect on the campaign. Low Republican turnout is said to be the reason for Romney’s defeat.
The release of this story served to deflect the media from further activity concerning Benghazi. At the same time, stories emerged concerning the phone taps of a Fox News reporter, and the AP. The media storm now focused on these new scandals, but only Republicans would be offended by action against a Fox News reporter. As the IRS scandal, originally said to have been caused by several rogue agents in Cincinnati, started to move towards Washington, a story emerged about the massive collection of digital data by the National Security Agency (NSA).
The NSA story caught the attention of most people, but this was the story that could be defended by Obama as legally done as the law and certain judges approved of the actions. Obama covered it by saying “You can’t have 100% security and 100% privacy at the same time.”
All of this started as the Benghazi scandal was moving closer and closer to the White House. The emerging issues were where was Obama for eight hours during the crisis, who caused the “stand down” of forces that could have saved American lives, and what was the murdered Ambassador doing in Benghazi anyway?

The interesting features of these activities is that the IRS scandal was explained with a Benghazi like excuse-it was a “video” was followed by rogue agents, although both explanations were debunked.
The wire tap and NSA cell phone and email issue was explained under national security purposes. The first to find leaks and the second to find terrorists. A claim that the NSA had stopped a terrorist attack on the New York subway system was immediately discredited. However, Obama’s claims of legality had some truth to it.
The scandals concerning the collection of private information is very important when viewed in connection with the IRS’s political actions. This is private information and should be protected. When our privacy is surrendered, so is our liberty. Of course, we still need to discover what happened in Benghazi and why an American Ambassador and three others died, maybe unnecessarily.
UPDATE: The focus on the NSA interception of American’s private communications continues to be Obama’s focus today. He and his advisors are claiming that 50 terrorist events have been prevented by the snooping. Absent are details other than general descriptions. If this were true, there would be arrests and other evidence of the disruption of terrorist activities. What is critical here is that this is an effort to deflect from the IRS scandal that continues to gain traction. As they say, you have to keep your eye on the ball.