If you’ve followed the National League West this season, complete this sentence:
Things are getting very ________ (fill in the blank, depending upon your allegiance).
a) interesting (if you’re a Dodgers’ fan confident in ultimate success for the Bums);
b) nerve-wracking (for Dodgers’ fans who are worried about a choke)
d) favorable (a Rockies’ fan who think the pressure will crack the Dodgers)
e) close (for Giants’ fans who are feeling a renewed sense of hope)
f) exhilarating (that’s a baseball purist who just wants a tight divisional race)
I’m mostly “a,” but “f” is a prominent second sentiment. And I’ve got to admit that “b” creeps into my mind from time to time...but not often.
I’m going to admit something else, though: I’m not losing one bit of sleep during this year’s race to the finish in the NL West. Either the Dodgers will win it, or they won’t. There’s no reason to get unnecessarily stressed out about it one way or another.
This all takes me back to my days in elementary school (bet you didn’t see that one coming), and brings up a story that I think is (oddly) appropriate to share.
And even if it’s somehow inappropriate, I’m sharing it anyway, because I needed an article and this is all I’ve got!
Back in my school days, I often found myself bored during class, and would get involved in non-sanctioned activities that sometimes ran me afoul of my teachers.
Actually, that’s a bit of obfuscation. If I were to come right to the point, I would say that I ran my mouth and got into mischief; the previous paragraph just sounded better.
As a result of said “non-sanctioned activities,” on report card day, my mother (a disciplinarian of the highest order) fell into the habit of bypassing my classroom grades, turning my card over, and heading straight for the heart of the matter: my conduct marks.
This led to a plethora of one-way conversations between my mother’s belt/switch/other chosen method of discipline of the day and my soon-to-be raw backside.
It almost became hilarious, these once-every-six-weeks liaisons.
There was no point in pretending that I didn’t have my report card (my sister always attended the same schools) and there was no need of “forgetting” it in my locker, as Mom was a bus driver and need only stop by the teacher’s classroom for a chat (I definitely didn’t want to start that trend) the following morning.
This led me to adopt a pattern similar to that of boxers (I followed the sport avidly at the time) during a championship fight: during the last few days before report cards were released, analogous to the last minute of a round, I would be as quiet as a church mouse during classes.
That left me four or five weeks during the semester to relax.
The problem was that this left me with considerable anxiety as to whether or not my gambit had succeeded in all my classes. I thus fell into the further habit of “polling” my teachers to see if I could get them to intimate what sort of conduct grades to expect.
This worked far more often than you might think.
Well, one semester when I was 11, I knew for an absolute fact what all of my conduct marks were, and I was sick about it. Three teachers deemed me an “N” (needs improvement), whereas one had put the ultimate whammy on me, a “U” for “unsatisfactory.”
I had never gotten a “U” before.
I had gotten into a loud argument with another kid one day during that particular class, and my best recollection is that the other fellow had goaded me into the dust-up. No blows were thrown, but we had disrupted class tremendously; I had earned that “U.”
And I was literally sick the day before report cards were sent home. I just knew my Mom was going to kill me. I went over every possible plan for avoiding my impending doom that I could conceive; I rejected them all as impractical.
Finally, on “D-day” (which is what I actually called that particular day in my mind), I quietly handed my mother my report card and exited to my bedroom. I kept listening for her to bellow out my name and demand an explanation.
She never did.
We later had a quiet, brief discussion about me knowing I could do better. I was simply stunned that I didn’t have to talk to the belt.
To this day, I’ve never had the guts to ask my Mom (who is as perceptive as she is disciplined) if she went easy on me because she knew I had already punished myself.
For the last 29 years of my life, never again have I worried myself about things that I cannot control.
So that’s my admonition to Dodger fans today: don’t worry about the stretch run of the 2009 season.
Yes, Hiroki Kuroda leads off the series against the hated Giants Friday night because both Clayton Kershaw (bruised shoulder) and Randy Wolf (elbow stiffness) are hurting and unavailable.
And yes, Kuroda, who opposes young hotshot Matt Cain, walked three and gave up four runs in five innings of his first start since his frightening line drive off the skull almost a month ago.
Admittedly, Brad Penny will be in the mood to stick the Dodger bats up their behinds when he faces the team on Sunday.
Okay, a bases-loaded walk to force in the winning run in a 4-3 loss to the Diamondbacks still smarts, no matter how you try to spin it.
But Joe Torre still has more than enough good options in the starting rotation, and the bullpen is healthy and at full capacity, too.
The bats are coming to life.
And top-to-bottom, the Dodgers remain the class of the NL West. I know the lead is only two games; that’s still better than trailing.
So don’t worry about this team, Dodger fans. They’re going to be okay. Or perhaps not.
But worrying about it sure isn’t going to help the matter any. Joe Torre is well-compensated to be the problem-solver/tinkerer/worrier.
So as fans and observers, let’s all enjoy the ride.
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