Friday, April 15, 2011

An Obstruction of Justice

It's my fault.

I could have prevented all this.

This has been bothering me, causing sleepless nights, since "the no-throw" happened at noon on August 12, 2007.

Here's the story.

I grew up in Atlanta.

I was there when Major League Baseball came to town. The Braves moved from Milwaukee in 1966, when I was 11.

In right field and batting third was #44 in your scorebook, #1 in your heart, Henry Aaron.

It was a great time. My folks would let me pack a tomato sandwich in a brown paper bag, give me $3, and put me and Bobby Spurlin on the bus to go to Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium to sit in the outfield and watch our hero.

Oh, those sweet supple wrists. My, how they could flick 33 ounces of ash wood and deliver enough kinetic energy to send a horsehide covered sphere over 400 feet in the air.

He was a natural.

He was a team guy.

He was, and is, an unsung American hero.

I love the man. How he lived. How he played. How he has carried himself on and off the field.

Nobody hated or hates Barry Bonds more than me. I admired his athletic ability, but always saw him as a selfish crybaby. Then he found "the juice".

He is the exact opposite of Hank Aaron.

And so in the summer of 2007, baseball found itself with a dilemma. Barry Bonds "broke" Hank Aaron's all-time homerun record on August 7. It had an asterisk then, and it always will.

It so happened that I was living in San Francisco that summer. After he had "broken" the record, tickets to Giants games became much easier to come by.

And so on Sunday, August 12, I packed up my daughter and the woman I had mistakenly gotten married to and off we went to AT&T Park to watch the Giants play the Pirates.

We got off the ferry, and I started talking to scalpers on the street. In ten minutes, I bought 3 seats at face value. Had no idea where the seats were. It didn't matter.

I was taking my little girl to a ballgame.

Section 137.

Guess where. Left field bleachers. Twelve rows up. Directly behind Barry Bonds. I could see the sweat running off his size 8 and half melon of a head.

Bonds had a pregame routine that I was unaware of.

He warmed up throwing to a coach standing just outside the left field line.

When warmup was over, Bonds turned around and threw the ball into the stands.

I still see it in slow motion.

A baseball just leaving the hand of the most hated, despicable player in baseball is headed in my direction.

The ball came down three seats to my right. The guy sitting there totally whiffed it.

I can still hear the ball whacking on the concrete, and bouncing into the air.

And then it lands. In my lap.

Never moved. Didn't reach for it. It landed in my friggin' lap.

This was a sign. This was a chance to right wrongs. This was a chance to do something for Hank.

The fans around were congratulating me on my luck. Little did they know my heart.

I stood up to throw the ball as hard as I could at the back of that swole up, steroid and garbage filled head. He was only 35 feet away.

As I was about to let it go, the woman that I had mistakenly married tackled me. She said it would be a travesty.

She was right. It was a travesty.

I could have gone to jail a hero. Bonds could still be in a coma.

I'm sorry, Hank. I'm sorry, Braves fans. I'm sorry, lovers of baseball.

It's my fault this dark cloud is still hanging around America's Game.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The rogue wave

I met Howard Davis in August of 1987.

Howard was the CEO of Tracy-Locke, the largest advertising agency South of Chicago.

He hired me.

Howard was Type A+.

He was a big boy. Six four. Big head. Big brain. Big ambition. Big appetite.

I was in his office when he got the phone call that his son had been killed in a car wreck.

I saw him crumble. Physically. Mentally.

I saw it all run out of him in that moment.

I got that phone call in November of 2007 when Pete was killed in Iraq. I was working in San Francisco.

I crumbled. Physically. Mentally.

Two days after we got the news about Pete, Howard called me from Montana.

"Alan, my friend, someone gave me an analogy that I hope will be helpful for you and your family.

You are walking on a beach and you are very near the water.

Right now, the water is washing over you. And it might take you under.

You have to keep walking on the beach.

Step after step. Day after day.

You will always be on that beach.

But step by step, you will get a little further away from the water.

In the next days and weeks, the water will still reach you and threaten to take you back in.

Eventually, if you keep walking, you will be a safe distance from the water.

But, my friend, the rogue wave will roll in and wash over you.

You have to choose.

Let the rogue wave take you, or keep walking."

Today, the rogue wave came and got me.

It was spurred by my silly mistake of going to a movie last night.

It is a really interesting movie. "Source Code".

But, part of the plot is a soldier KIA in Afghanistan.

I knew going in it had something to do with a soldier.

It wasn't until the images of him dying on screen that it hit me.

And today, the nightmares I had shortly after Pete's death came back.

It is spring time. Memories of Pete and friends and family in my back yard are overwhelming.

Memories of Pete fishing in the lake in the back of the house are fresh.

I walked in his steps.

I remember him out there in shorts and mud boots patiently waiting on the bass to take the bait.

I remember the Easter egg hunts.

I can hear his voice. I can hear that sneeze. I can hear that laugh.

Oh, buddy. I miss you today.

I know you are in a better place than me.

But I need to shed some tears today.

It is human. It is normal. It is your daddy missing his boy.

I'll see you one of these days.

I so long to kiss that stubbly cheek and hug that strong neck.

But tomorrow, I'll get up and keep walking, son.

Because that's what we do. That's what you tell me to do.

I'll keep walking.

Thanks, Howard.

Thanks, Pete.

Thank you Lord. Thank you for the trials that make us stronger and more aware of what we have to be thankful for.