Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Unlike the Mets, I finished strong

I’m not a swift runner. In fact, the best compliment I’ve heard is “You’re not as slow as you look,” and that was after an inside-the-park home run in co-ed softball.

But as you know, I hit the treadmill each night and participate in the occasional 5K race.
My goal time of 30 minutes has been out of reach for years. I realize that this is not a fast time, coming in at around 10 miles an hour. But it’s a target.

I’ve found some Web sites that post results, and I’ve found a high of 38.43 minutes in 2005, and I hit a best time of 31.21 minutes this past May.

So I was looking forward to this year’s Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, a 5K fund-raiser for breast cancer research. I’ve been keeping up with my running and I’ve lost weight.

The downside is that this is an emotional race with many, many people who are not serious runners, or even quasi-semi-serious runners, like me. Let’s just say there are a lot of strollers and dogs.

Which is not a bad thing. Many of these people are running in memory of a person they’ve lost, or supporting someone battling the disease, which is the point of the event.

Lining up Saturday morning, I saw that organizers separated the community walkers from the 5K racers, which is a good thing, since it means fewer people clogging the streets.

Then I learned that the race results would be based on “gun time” instead of “chip time,” which is a bad thing. Gun time is the period between when the race starts and when the runner crosses the line.

But all racers had a little computer chip attached to their sneakers, and chip time is the period between when the individual runner crosses the start line and then crosses the finish line. This give you a better time if there is a big crowd at the start.

But I was pumped. When the gun fired, I hit the start button on the iPod and took off. Serious runners scoff, but the music is important to me. It helps me keep a pace and provides some distraction and inspiration. Here’s the new race playlist I made for the Komen:

1) “Pressing On,” Relient K
2) “Never Going Back to OK,” The Afters
3) “Time Has Come,” MercyMe
4) “God Will Life Up Your Head,” Jars of Clay
5) “Hold You High,” By the Tree
6) “Life is Good,” Stellar Kart
7) “Awakening,” Switchfoot
8) “Something Beautiful,” Newsboys
9) “Must Have Done Something Right” Relient K

Good stuff. So I hit the button and heard only crackling – an unexpected headphone malfunction. The cat is the main suspect right now. As I ran I tinkered with the wires, and was able to get some sound in some of the speakers some of the time. So I was already out of my comfort zone as I headed up the big hill at the start of the race.

This event places volunteers at each mile marker reading out times as you pass.
I was surprised to hear the person yell out “8:40” as I ran past. That’s way faster than my usual pace.

I hit the second mile, and heard “18:10” and thought that was my typical pace between miles and showed I was slowing down. And I was feeling it, too. My calves were barking, and other runners seemed to be passing me. And the music was crackling instead of providing inspiration.
Heading through Grandville High in the final mile, I decided 30 minutes was probably lost, but I’d give it my all.

With the finish line in the distance, “Something Beautiful” came crackling and I thought about its message. It was a beautiful day, and people all around were wearing the pink shirts signifying they are breast cancer survivors. The race goal was nice, but the true meaning of the day was to raise money in hopes of creating more people in pink shirts in the future.

Then I was close enough to the clock to make out the digits – and the first two were “28.” The goal was in sight! In the May race, I was able to sprint out the final several hundred feet, weaving through traffic like a running back.

I tried to do the same here, but there was very little in the tank. I was able to pick it up a little, but not much. I crossed the line at 29:10. That’s gun time, so I figure chip time would have shaved at least 10 seconds off – I was able to beat the elusive goal, and beat my previous best by more than 2 minutes.

That sure made the Panera Bread pink ribbon bagels at the end of the race all the more tasty.
I wore my low-profile Mets cap during the race, trying to bring some good karma to the team. Johan Santana threw his gem later in the day. Everything all was good in the world for at least one more day.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Shea Stadium, 1964-2008

Saturday I kicked butt in a race, saw what's left of Tiger Stadium, met Scott Kazmir and enjoyed a night at Comerica Park -- learning about Johan's big day along the way.

They'll be time share all those things.

But today, thanks to TBS, I'm focused on this game and this building and all that it means to me.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Ryan Church can ballroom dance

I won a dance contest once.

No, it’s true. I was doing "The Twist" at a Lansing Lugnuts game. They gave bottles of Sprite to people dancing the best. I was pretty proud of that.

So when my wife wanted me to take an adult education dance class with her, I figured it would be pretty easy.

After all, I can do "The Chicken Dance" and "YMCA," even did the special Florida Marlins version of "The Macarena" during Game Six of the 1997 World Series.

However, I learned at the first class that there is a big difference between ballpark dancing and ballroom dancing.

It’s pretty tricky stuff. There’s a lot of backward walking, and the girl has to do what the guy wants, and my wife is not familiar with this role. We keep stepping on each other’s feet.

They started to introduce some trickier steps in the second class, which was bad because I had not yet mastered the first step. I wasn’t the only guy having problems. When they turned us loose, the room looked like the plastic players scattering around one of those old electric vibrating football games.

The basic steps where hard enough, but the instructors then introduced sort of a twist-around move. I could see right away that someone was going to get hurt, and we called the instructor over when we just couldn’t get it.

Finally, he said I should try it without my wife. I nailed it on the first try. The move was instantly familiar — then I figured out why. It was just like being a baserunner, trying to run past a fielder and avoid being tagged. It clicked instantly.

So excitedly said this to my wife, expecting her to understand immediately. Instead she shot me a "How the hell am I supposed to know that?" look.

So I tried to explain, and demonstrated several times, even pretending to be the fielder waving the glove and asked her to walk by and avoid the tag.

Let’s just say we’ll need to practice some more.

Then I was following the Mets-Cubs game on Thursday on the Crane Pool Forum, and read the guys going nuts about Ryan Church amazingly avoiding the tag to score the big run. I later saw the video and recognized the move instantly — he was doing the waltz pivot. And very well, too. Ryan Church would pass my dance class.

We all know this is the final weekend at Shea, and there will be much weeping, even more if the Mets don’t make the playoffs. I’m confident they will. But let’s use this week’s Deezo Friday Five to look at some of the cool souvenirs of the Shea’s final season.

1) I snagged a sweet Johan Santana jersey with the Shea patch on eBay, and was even able to wear it to see Johan pitch against the vile Yankees. It didn’t bring him much luck, but I looked great!

2) My friend Greg went to see Billy Joel’s Last Play at Shea. And because he is kind and knows I’m a Billy fan, he snagged me this sweet pin.
3) I saw this cap on the Mets Web site earlier in the season, and figured I’d grab one at the Big Game. But then I saw the awesome "Final Subway Series at Shea" caps and grabbed one of those. A month later, MLB.com had a sale, and I was able to get the original desired cap shipped home for less than what it cost at the game. I’ve been wearing it all week.

4) One of my proudest moments in home design was creating a wooden rack to hold my official baseball collection. I made two of them, actually. One holds balls from each of the All-Star Games, and the other has some of the balls commemorating special events. Naturally, I pounced on this ball that the Mets are using all season. Well, "pounced" meaning I bought it with the above cap in the sale. Items in the Shea gift store seemed to be marked up a bit high.

5) Christmas is not too far away, and we’ll need to honor Shea with this special ornament. The Baseball Room has a special tree after my wife banned all baseball decorations from the main tree in the living room.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Savor every meal, every Mets win

Savor every morsel. That’s what I learned this weekend.

This started with a visit to the doctor on Friday morning because my company requires annual health screenings. I bounced in there proclaiming that I was fit, but just needed them to fill out the company’s form, which requires blood work to check cholesterol glucose and some other basic things.

But it’s never going to be as easy as that, and I knew it. After getting poked in both arms to draw four vials of blood, the nurse had me lay down while they used a new machine that taped electrodes to my right foot and right hand. Somehow that would allow them to take all kinds of readings about my insides.

Doc soon came in with the results. And despite being somewhat on the pudgy side he pronounced me to be fit and in good health. Except for one thing.

I’m going to spare you the details. But he said, “Lucky for you, it’s the weekend.”
He informed me that I would not be eating anything for three days, but instead be drinking these concoctions.

“Don’t worry,” he assured me. “They’re filling.”

He also made it clear I’d need to stick close to home, especially on the second day, when the Desired Effect would be at its strongest.

I went home and downed the dose, which was powdered wheatgrass, which tasted like liquid seaweed. I later followed with the main course, which is a blend of powdered carrot, powdered okra, cooked soybean powder and powdered passion fruit. The box said this was coca flavored. No, did not.
My goal was to head to work without anyone noticing this, so I slipped my box of packets into my lunch bag. Before long my head was pounding from a lack of Diet Coke. Doc said I shouldn’t eat anything, but didn’t say anything about not drinking anything.

I drink too much Diet Coke. I’m aware of this. I don’t smoke, drink or gamble. My vices are limited to drinking Diet Coke, obsessing about the Mets, hating all things Yankee, and grumbling that Twisted Sister is not given the respect it deserves. I am OK with this.

I allowed myself a Diet Coke.

Work was tempting. One co-worker brought in a batch of brownies, another had a big bin of donut holes. I avoided by getting another Diet Coke late around 7 p.m.

Around 8 p.m., Jimmy John’s called. “Where’s Dave? Did something happen to him?”
Following the Mets winning and Phillies losing to jump back into first place proved to be a worthy distraction.

As we know, it takes strength to be a Mets fan. I sought to prove this Saturday morning by volunteering to get bagels and Starbucks for the rest of the family. The Big Apple Bagel folks were stunned and possibly a little hurt that I didn’t also ask for two poppy seed bagels, as is our routine. I didn’t explain.
consuming the lunch “cocoa” mix, I noticed the pizza pan from the kids’ frozen pizzas the night before. There were tiny bits of melted cheese. I scraped some off with my fingernail.
They were delicious.

I sought distraction by scanning slides into the computer, rearranging the Mets bobbleheads in the baseball room, and making some additions to the Glorious Wall of Cool Stuff. The wall will be entirely devoted to the Mets at some point. But it’s huge, so some neat artifacts from other teams are there. Some Tigers and Padres bumper stickers and pins were removed for the Mets Uno game I picked up from the Ford Museum and the mini Jose Reyes McFarlane figure I grabbed at Shea in June, both still in their packages, which only happens to items destined for the GWCS.

The Desired Effect has yet to occur, at least not as promised by Doc.

My daughter decided to watch a Food Channel program that picked out the 10 best McDonald’s in the world. I thought this was safe, since I don’t like McDonald’s I bet haven’t had anything other than a Diet Coke or ice cream from a McDonald’s in years.

I was craving a Big Mac by the time they got to the Mickey D on Broadway.

Showing more strength, I picked up shakes and a snack for my wife and kids at Arbys. I was so hungry that the new “Mac and Cheese Snackers” that on any other day would appear dreadful actually looked good.

I picked off the rest of the pizza pan, then washed it to remove all future temptation. It was delicious.

Following the Mets on the net proved equally frustrating. When Pedro drives in the only run of the game, it’s not a good night. I showed great strength by not running in circles on the lawn and screaming. Mets’ loss and the Phillies’ win push us back into second place.

Sunday was destined to be tough. My caring wife sensed this, got up early and made breakfast for the kids, knowing that I would be struggling.

Panera Bread called. The staff is worried because I haven’t been there in two days. They fear they’ll be next in line for the government bailout if this keeps up.

I spent the afternoon staying out of trouble, following the Mets, again without the Desired Effect. Because nothing goes better with a wheatgrass drink than watching Scott Schoenweis blow another game.

Maybe, I thought, watching ESPN’s wretched coverage of the demise of Yankee Stadium II would be enough to push me over the edge. I hopped on the treadmill, but with the lack of fuel could barely muster the energy for 3 miles, about half what I usually run.

Monday morning I crabbed to the doctor’s staff that their wheatgrass and powdered okra were worthless and proceeded to Panera for what was possibly the best-ever chocolate chip muffie and sesame seed bagel, followed at lunchtime by the best-ever peanut butter and jelly sandwich and later by the best-ever half-portion of chicken and broccoli.

I enjoyed every bite, and thought back to Friday’s Mets game that put us back into first place. I didn’t quite enjoy it as much as I should have, especially after the following two games. We need to enjoy and celebrate each victory as it comes, especially as this season winds down and we face fall and beyond. Even if they make the playoffs, there won’t be many days like that again.

With this new-found state of mind I intended to enjoy Monday night’s game against the Cubbies. And I did so, until our pitcher allowed the rival pitcher to hit a grand slam.

On the bright side, it seemed to induce the Desired Effect.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Bidding farewell to the place where Tom Seaver won No. 300 and the rest of the Friday Five

There won’t be tears shed in these parts on Sunday when the Yankees close out their ballpark, but it’s not an entirely bad place. You can't blame the building for the people who play there.

In fact, I’ve had four special moments at Yankee Stadium II. I tried to come up with five to kick start this week’s Deezo Friday Five, but we are talking about the Yankees here. I could only come up with four.

I’ve posted on each of these moments before. Some of my favorites, in fact. So I direct you to them, and look forward to the finale of a much better ballpark, which hopefully won’t arrive until sometime very late next month.

2) I might be joining my daugher as a squished penny collector.

The people who design these things published books to commemorate the demise of Bronx dump and the passing of glorious Shea. Plus, they are creating two player squished pennies — actually nickels — for the event.

I expected Derek F. Jeter, because it’s always Derek F. Jeter, and maybe someone cool like David Wright.

But you can imagine how excited to see the Mets representative was Tom Seaver! Yes! A new Seaver collectible! And the other player is Don Mattingly, who I think is trying to clense the Yankee taint by serving as the Dodgers’ hitting coach.

3) My son started his first job as a lifeguard. I have mixed emotions about this.

When I was a summer seasonal at Marjorie Post Park in Massapequa in the early 1980s, the lifeguards were our sworn enemies.

While we were busting our butts maintaining the grounds and cleaning the bathhouses and pool deck, the lifeguards were sitting on theirs, twirling their whistles and shouting "Walk!" and "Stay off the rope!" to terrified 6-year-olds.

Plus, they had a lounge area with overstuffed sofas while we ate lunch on old picnic tables in the smelly garage.

One day, the lifeguards complained about mice in their lounge. The big boss — a former seasonal with no love for the lifeguards — suggested we use the firehose to clean the lounge from the walls to the floor.

Many surfer dude posters were lost that day. Never did find the mice, though.

4) I grumbled loudly about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame enshrining all those 1960s people I’d never heard of. But I’m learning some wonderful things.

When I saw the Hall of Fame’s video of Etta James, I saw the platinum hair and extreme make-up and didn’t give a thought to the music.

But I’ve been making an iPod playlist with a song from each honoree, and picked up an Etta greatest hits CD from my library.

Now I’m entranced! I’ve learned her life story is, well, on the messy side. But that voice! And now that I recognize her hit, "At Last," I’m noticing it turning up in ER episodes and movie trailers. "Tell Mama," "Something’s Got a Hold of Me" and "I’d Rather Go Blind" are amazing, too.

I’ve since made extensive use of my library card to find Etta’s blues and live discs, and even came across a jazzy Christmas album.

None of this excuses the lack of Rush and Twisted Sister in Cleveland, but it’s nice to expand my musical horizon.

5) I was pretty happy with this Favre kid in Week 1 and not as happy in Week 2. Let’s see what he can do on a Monday night, a spot where the J-E-T-S usually shine.
Topps has its computer artists busy revamping Brett’s card to show him riding his mower through Times Square. I like that all the people walking nearby hardly notice. They’ve seen stranger things.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Getting close -- but not too close -- to Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin

John McCain and Sarah Palin each arrived safely in Grand Rapids before their appearance here on Wednesday.

I know this because I was there – just in case.
An appearance by the president or vice president, or the people running for those jobs, requires reporters to be present for a variety of tasks.

Some assignments, like covering the actual town hall meeting, are kind of glamorous. My role on Wednesday was not so glamorous, but still fun, especially for a presidential junkie like me.

We call it “death watch,” because, in theory, nothing newsworthy happens unless it’s the unspeakable. And if it’s the unspeakable, we need to be there.

But some things that are not necessarily newsworthy are still fun to watch.

Typically, we head to a remote area of the airport where the cargo jets park, which is much easier to secure than your basic terminal -- though it makes it harder for the candidates to stock up on postcards, $3.50 bottles of Diet Coke and $3 bagels.

The Secret Service is at the gate, and the level of security depends on the person arriving. For McCain, we needed to show identification and submit to a metal detector. For a sitting president, ramp that up about 10 times with all kinds of prior approval.

Waiting at the arrival spot is the entire motorcade, and police escort and a flat bed truck on which the media stands – close, but not too close.

There also are a group of official greeters, who usually are campaign volunteers, donors or party honchos.

Sen. McCain's blue and white jet arrived and taxied to a spot on the apron, and two of the movable staircases were pulled into place. The one in the rear of the plane opened first, with staffers and members of the traveling media, some of whom scrambled to the other staircase near the greeters to get photos of McCain stepping out of the front door and waving.

McCain then met with the greeters and posed for snapshots for a couple minutes as the motorcade moved into place when rushed away.

About 15 minutes later, the jet carrying Gov. Palin arrived. Her plane was smaller and not as colorful, though it did say “McCain Palin” instead of just “McCain.”

The same greeters and two mobile staircases pulled into place, and Palin walked out with her husband, Todd.

One of the greeters was a GOP volunteer with Down syndrome, and I noticed that Palin spent a great deal of time with her, giving hugs and posing for many photos. It was a nice moment, the kind of stuff that makes hanging around on a flatbed truck worth the time.

Talking to the woman later, I pointed out that she had more one-on-one time with the candidate than the entire press corps during Palin's visit.

Palin and staff then moved into an SUV that was part of a smaller motorcade before it, too, rushed away.

After talking to the greeters about meeting both candidates, I phoned in the details so we could post the information on the paper’s Web site.

Later in the afternoon I walked down to Grand Rapids Community College, the site of the event.

I found about 10 vendors selling campaign pins – more than I’ve ever seen at a political event – and even several tents selling T-shirts, bumper stickers and stuffed bears with the campaign logo.

After picking up some sweet pins for my collection, I found one vendor who brought his Obama pins along, too. Score! One-stop shopping is a good thing.

Remember, these vendors are businessmen, not partisans. The same people will be back when the Dems are in town, too.

The protesters also were already in place. I’ve never quite understood the whole protest thing.
They are absolutely entitled to stand there, yelling and carrying signs. But they’re not going to change the minds of anybody standing more than an hour in line to see the candidates.

I think some of them like to argue and some like the attention. When I interview them, I look for the ones who appear to put a little effort into their signs. They tend to be a bit more passionate, and can give an answer better than “Bush sucks.”

I love covering these events, even a small part like deathwatch. Barack Obama came to town during the summer, and I’m hoping he or Sen. Biden will make another swing through the area at least once before Election Day.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Yankee fans are not your peers

I know why there are issues with the American justice system. Lawyers ask all the wrong questions.

I did not get seated in a jury duty during my stint this week. We were only called for one trial — a nasty criminal case — but I did get to sit in the gallery with the other prospects while attorneys asked lots of questions in a process called "voir dire."

I think that’s French for "Are you related to a police officer?"

That seemed to be the question most asked, but there were a couple others, too, including whether the potential juror had been a crime victim.

But I sat there stunned and amazed that the most obvious query, the one that allows us to look deeply into a person’s soul, wasn’t asked once. Clearly, that question is: What is your team affiliation?

Upstanding citizens.

If a person answered, "Duh, of course I root for the Mets." you know he or she is intelligent and fair. He knows good times and bad. He knows that good people, like, say, Carlos Delgado, can start out bad and then turn good, usually after two months of constructive criticism coming in the form of deafening boos.

But if a potential juror answered, "New York Yankees! Twenty-six world championships! Jeter! Jeter! Jeter! Twenty-six world championships!" you would know immediately that he embraces evil in all its forms and should probably be seated alongside the defendant, but just hasn’t been caught yet.

Would you place your fate in this guy's hands?

Next time I’m called, I’ll make sure to wear my Mets tie so we can telegraph such important information.

In all seriousness, anybody related to a police officer seemed to be quickly thanked and excused. The guy who turned out to be a Secret Service agent was even more quickly thanked and excused.

We started with 50 potential jurors, and there were only a dozen of us left by the time they found 14 people — a dozen jurors and two alternates — who were acceptable to both sides.

I never got into the box to be questioned. But a newspaper reporter who counts police officers and a prosecutor among his closest relatives was not going to last long anyway.

Other people who where thanked and excused were crime victims at one point, worked for a law firm that was consulted by someone connected with the case or made it very, very clear that they didn’t want to be there.

But there were a couple of people excused for reasons we couldn’t determine. Maybe they were Yankee fans.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Stick a fork in their black hearts. The Yankees are done, and Will proves it

Whereas I make important decisions about baseball players based largely on the blue, orange and sometimes black uniforms they wear — or don’t wear — Will actually crunches numbers.

With me enjoying jury duty today, Will has stepped up to fill the void and enlighten us:

Greetings, Mets fans, one and all.

Dave allowed me a little space in this forum, and I thank him for that, and so, it is in this valuable space, that I get to say something Mets fans love to hear: Stick a fork in the Yankees; They’re done.

What, you ask, incredulously? How dare you bury the hated Skanks before they’re actually dead? Haven’ t you seen DFJ bloop enough 310-1/4-foot homers to know the Yanks are NEVER DEAD until they actually are? Didn’t the beloved Metsies tank a 7 game lead with only 17 games to go?

True enough, but trust me, dear reader. The Yanks are deader than Roger Clemens’ reputation. For the first time since 1993, a baseball postseason will take place without any games in Yankee Stadium. In the final year of the hallowed ground, no less.

See, the Yanks HAVE been mathematically eliminated.

Baseball guru Bill James came up with a formula for what he calls "virtual elimination." This is the point when a given lead is considered safe, that there is no real chance of a team coming from nowhere to win. With Boston’s win last night (and the Yankees’ loss), the Yanks have reached the point of no return. (They were "eliminated" from the division race before Labor Day.)

The formula is figured thusly: games behind squared / ( games remaining * 4 )

When the result is greater than 1, or 100 percent, the team is said to have been virtually eliminated. The Yanks are 9.5 games behind the Red Sox: 9.5 * 9.5 = 90.25. They have 18 games to go: 18 * 4 = 72; 90.25 / 72 = 1.253

And don’t fear the unseen hand of the Ghost of the Bambino lifting the Yanks to a miracle either. In 132 years, exactly ZERO teams that have been virtually eliminated have come back to win. The closest was the 1951 New York Giants, who were 96 percent eliminated at their nadir. Another half-game back, and they would’ve been KO’d, which considering they won the pennant on the last day of the season is exactly right.

The 2007 Phillies? They were "only" 72 percent eliminated when they were at their ebb.

So, the Yanks are finis, kaput, done like dinner. But remember, when you see a Yankee fan sulking about his or her team’s state, you can help out by providing him or her solace, Chicago style: Just wait till next year.

Monday, September 08, 2008

The life and soon-to-be fast times of Costco IV

A movie crew used my paper’s newsroom as a set this weekend, spending the night with an amazing amount of equipment both in and outside the building.

I wasn’t among the lucky few tapped to be extras, but a co-worker sat at my desk during the filming.

I had a hunch this might happen, since my desk has a perfect sight line to the Big Guy’s windowed walls. I suspect this is so they can always keep an eye on me because I am trouble, or at least amusing.

Nevertheless, I cleaned off the desk — strategically. Some items were left in plain view: A Tom Seaver Starting Lineup figure, a mini Statue of Liberty and the photo of me, Dad and Cousin Tim at Shea Stadium.

And, of course, Costco IV, my silent companion. His two-gallon domain sits on my desk, serving a calming influence and bookend for my reference materials.

And as you can tell by his numerical name, the life expectancy of the tank’s previous occupants has not been especially long. But this guy has been here since spring break, which means he was born not too much before then.

In his little world, the Mets’ late-season collapse of 2007 in ancient history. Johan Santana has always been a Met and the Yankees have always been also-rans. It’s a happy little world.

But I arrived this morning to find a note on my keyboard. "Dave, I’m at your desk as an extra in the movie with Val Kilmer. I’ll hold up the goldfish so it will be famous!"

Not good. Not good at all.

I think we all see where this is going.

It starts with a small scene, strutting and splashing in the bright lights of stardom. The right people will notice.

Soon it will be "Val said this," and "Val said that," and "That Charlie Sheen is really fun.

Then he gets an agent and I have to hear, "Costy, baby, you’re too big for that bowl! Let me get you outta there!"

The sycophants start hanging around my desk, getting in the way while I’m trying to take calls from school board members. Then, it’s "Have your people sprinkle a pinch of goldfish flakes with my people."

Soon he’s sitting in the lap of some Fox sitcom starlet in the row behind the dugout at the World Series in one of those shameless promos.

Then Costco IV starts living fast. Maybe too fast. Appearing at Obama rallies with the other A-listers, the parties with Paris and Brittany, replacing the water in the tank with Dom Perignon.

Then the inevitable arrest and the confessional appearance on "Leno," followed by the rehab, the cameo in the very special episode of "Desperate Housewives," the comeback, the relapse then — BAM! My fish is lying there bloated and dead on the sidewalk in front of the Viper Room, with some has-been from "21 Jump Street" quickly flushing something down the toilet as the cops and cameras show up.

Next thing you know, I’m back at Petco crying in the aquarium aisle while some unsympathetic clerk drops the newly-christened Costco V in a plastic bag full of water to head back to a freshly scrubbed tank.

I just don’t know if I’m ready for all that right now, at least until after the Braves series.

Damn you, Val Kilmer.

Friday, September 05, 2008

I, the jury

The defendant was found not guilty, which seemed to be a shock even to his attorney, who had a "guilty" statement all prepared and didn’t bother to write one for the verdict that actually arrived.

Then I was part of a jury pool. One by one, a court worker pulled numbers from a bin and potential jurors reluctantly made their way to the witness box to answer questions. It seemed like everyone had an excuse for why they couldn’t serve, or blatantly answered questions in a way they knew would get them dismissed.

I came to this realization: Defendants do not get a jury of their peers, they get a jury of people who can’t get out of jury duty.
If I were ever a defendant with my life hanging in the balance, I’d want a jury of educated, professional Mets fans and not sleepers or paranoids.

I vowed that if called, I would proudly serve.

And this week I might get my chance. The summons to appear for jury duty recently appeared in the mailbox. I have a secret juror number, and call the court each night this week to see if I am needed.
It’s unlikely I’d get picked for a criminal trial. Reporters who are related to police officers and prosecutors are often sent back to the waiting room.

But I should be ready for action. And practice makes perfect.

Let’s try some sample cases.
Defendant: Carlos Delgado
Crime: Being a washed-up power hitter.
Prosecution: The first half of the season
Defense: Since Willie was dismissed, Carlos has been among the league leaders in home runs, RBI and late-game dramatics.
Verdict: Not guilty! Yea! Now go beat up the Phillies.

Defendant: Derek F. Jeter
Charge: Being grossly over-hyped.
Prosecution: Capt. Intangibles is hitting under .300 with just 9 homers, 10 steals and 66 RBI, has the range of a stone garden gnome and his team is going to miss the playoffs.
Defense: There is no defending Derek F. Jeter.
Verdict: Guilty as sin!

Defendant: Rachael Ray
Charge: Unnatural enhancements



Defense: Um, Photoshop maybe?

Verdict: Appears to be guilty. No tampering with the ingredients, please!

Defendant: Alex Rodriguez
Charge: Exceedingly bad taste
Prosecution: Caught slinking out of Madonna’s Manhattan pad.
Defense: "Open Your Heart" and "Like a Prayer" are decent songs.

Verdict: Guilty! Date people your own age and with hits in the last decade.

There you go! This shouldn’t be that hard. All I request is to have cupholders in the jury box for my Diet Coke and WiFi should the Mets play an afternoon game.