Saturday, November 5, 2016

Game Emplane

Major League Baseball's 2016 World Series ended a 108 year drought for latest champions Chicago Cubs. Winning coach Joe Maddon, named in 2015 a record-tying 3 times as Manager of the Year (and chance to stand alone after next week’s announcement), rides a bicycle to clear his head, explore many cities he visits, and get creative about how to win. He also mountain bikes off season and whenever possible; Bike&Chain last mentioned him in 2008 (p. 477 of Companion Reader). Losing coach Terry "Tito" Francona prefers his Harley motorcycle; did warn him to get a bicycle. Although Francona won 2 championships with Red Sox, only once in 2013 was he named Manager of the Year, an honor usually awarded to skippers with season records better than 100/62. He was nominated 8 times, and would probably accept another, since they award it to the best in both Leagues, American and National. Ironically, Tito presided over the end of the Red Sox's 86 year drought in 2004, but fell 1 run short in 10th inning hosting in Cleveland, after earlier sweeping Red Sox to get his Indians into this World Series. Doesn’t mean that Boston’s team wasn’t represented with Crisp, Epstein, Napoli, Francona, Lester, nearly Maddon himself, and Ross all playing pivotal roles as previous Red Sox champions.

Every Olympic game since 1896 included bicycle races. In 1908, the last time Cubs emerged on top, over 1 million bikes were sold in United States representing $13.6 million in sales. It was the year Ford Model T, among the all time top 10 selling motor vehicles, was introduced. Yet by the end of 1909, there were still only 200,000 passenger cars across America, less than 10% of bicycles then in service. After a century, cars now outnumber bikes by about 3:1, less than you'd think given the $1 trillion feds spend on interstate highways every decade and only $1 billion on bikeways this century following a spending drought in preceding 4 decades. Bicyclists surely need less than motorists, but not nothing, just painted stripes to share pavement they also pay for in income and property taxes.

Vote yes on referenda for a few millions in bonds toward adapting shoulders and finishing bikeways. Any infrastructure will get used and help ease tension between bicyclists and motorists. Consider candidates who support bicycling, too. Humpty Trumpty, having sponsored a national race in 1989, absolutely reviles them, wouldn’t be caught dead on one, though with the pace of bankruptcies surrounding his empire he might someday have to. Like Kerry, her Secretary of State predecessor, Hillary, shown on cycling family holiday in Martha’s Vineyard, promises not to forget bicycling improvements. Privileged conservatives can afford and usually need heart transplants; they don’t get how mobility eventually raises deprived people into trading partners.

Between elections and sports, how can readers wonder why there were no posts in last 2 months? Winning is why players persist, for example Series MVP Ben Zobrist, who produced the go-ahead RBI for Cubs in 10th inning, because rewards are heaped on heroes. Pitchers who strike out more batters than they allow bases will earn more in a year than corporate CEOs, yet seldom win more than 2 dozen games a season out of 3 dozen appearances. That's a deliriously high pay rate, possibly $300,000/hour, more than a skilled surgeon who performs transplants and saves lives. Leads some to question what capitalists value, seemingly entertainment above society’s survival. Bicycles seldom suit such a lifestyle, since continuous travel by bus and jet with sports equipment leave little patience for any perilous, slow crawl. Yet Maddon's role is more cerebral than physical and requires only changes of clothes and uniforms, so in his case emplaning with a bike provides a game changing advantage, as it does for 49 million other contingent workers, 40% of nation's 122 million workforce, who bravely face brutal financial pressures, holes in safety nets, and other uncertainties on a daily basis. Sport spectacles barely make working for a living tolerable. Venues do provide subsistence jobs for those not participating on field, and untold wealth for those who own teams, perform at major league pinnacles, or produce broadcast content.

Sources of sustenance are no longer readily available or taken for granted despite a slew of unaddressed issues. Society hugely relies on advanced technologies for which basic education in the 3R's has become inadequate. Students may gravitate toward what they’re good at or wired for, but shouldn’t expect gainful employment, since will likely arrive ill equipped to handle 21st Century challenges. Maybe this explains baseball’s wide appeal, an avocation for any teen and twentysomething capable and willing to train hard and truly leave every ounce of effort on diamond of dreams, no computer savvy or trigonometric solutions required. Hit ball, run fast, score safely, stay healthy, and win games. Sounds simple, no? Were it so, Maddon wouldn't need his bicycling meditations to fathom baseball's humbling intricacies or subtle machinations.

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