Saturday, September 25, 2010

What Dreams May Come

10 years ago, my Dad made an announcement.

"Josh, we're going to a lot of Ranger games this year."

What? Ranger games? I had only been to a Ranger game once before. I was actually sort of a downer about it. After all, my 11 year-old self was more concerned with Nintendo 64 and Dragonball Z, not baseball. Sure, my older brother was becoming baseball Jesus, but that's about all I had involved with the sport. I had no desire or interest to spend my youthful and crazy 11 year-old summer nights in Arlington watching baseball. My only experience had come the year before, where my Mom told me to where some shirt that had a Ranger red helmet on one side and a Yankee dark blue helmet on the other to school one day. That's about it.

When I first settled into my seat in section 32, row 29, seat two, I was awestruck. Our seats were breathtaking, considering I thought you watched baseball games through a rusty backstop (my brother's high school games) or way up high into the sky, looking at the ballplayers like tiny ants below you (my one Ranger baseball experience before then). I quickly fell in love. Going to something 70 times a year will do that to you.

Over the course of 2000-2007, that's about what I averaged: 70 Ranger home games a year. I met some wonderful people around our seats, and saw some truly amazing players. But Alex Rodriguez is the one who drew me in. Like him or not, I was dumbfounded at his tape measure shots, no matter how artificial they may have been. I loved his incredible defense, his impeccable baseball IQ. Everything was great. I had to go to every game because I didn't want to be at home when Alex Rodriguez did that, whether it be a moonshot to the upper deck or throwing out a runner from deep in the hole at short. I had to witness it.

I was able to watch a lot of other great players. Pudge. Juan. Palmeiro. Soriano. Teixera. Cordero. Rogers. And of course, Michael Young and Josh Hamilton.

But I also saw a lot of bad players. Richard Hidalgo. Brian Jordan. Carl Evertt (I don't care what you say, but I hated everything about him). John Rheinecker. John Rocker. Luis Mendoza. And those are just the ones I can really remember booing. There were countless other "pieces" that were said to get the Rangers over the hump. And we all know how that worked out.

For a long time, I just figured the Rangers were the American League Pittsburgh Pirates - destined to make fan bases miserable and unhappy. I watched every October with envy of the Yankees and the Red Sox, how it was so effortless for them to make the playoffs. Still, every April, there I was, in section 32, row 29, seat two. Wearing my free Ranger t-shirt from promotion day 125, but I was there. And I loved it.

So when Neftali Feliz record the final out (in the stadium he made his ML debut AND setting the rookie saves record), I didn't know what to do. I literally had no idea what to do with my hands. I have never felt this feeling before. The Rangers are in the playoffs. The Texas Rangers are in the bleepin' playoffs.

There have been only three moments in my life where sports have caused me to shed tears. First was during Pudge's "last" game as a Ranger back in 2002. He hit a home run during his second or third at-bat, I can't remember. The entire stadium stood for what seemed like three hours, just cheering and clapping. The second was when the Maverick's beat the Spurs in game seven of the 2006 playoffs. And the third? Three words: NBA Finals 2006. (Well, that's actually one word, a number and an acronym. Screw you.)

We can definitely add number four to the list tonight, although it was the single tear. I might have only been a "true" fan since 2000. I didn't watch the Rangers in the 70s, 80s or 90s so I don't have as many "skins on the wall" so to speak. But dammit, I watched this team during it's worst times and I loved every minute of it. I wish, prayed and dreamed for this day to come. Now, in about two weeks, I'll be going to my very first playoff game. I'm rambling now, an incoherent mess of memories and wishes. I'll stop here.

I love the Rangers.

I love this team.

I love baseball.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Having a Head Coach Sort of Helps

Wade Phillips is the Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator. Jason Garrett is the Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator. Wade Phillips creates the defensive play books and calls the defensive plays. Jason Garrett does the same for the offense. 

Since both of these coaches are employed by the Dallas Cowboys, they practice their units in the same area. For practice these two coaches huddle up their units, coach them up, drill them and prepare them. On Sundays, they are contractually obligated to bring both of their units to wherever the NFL schedule tells them too on that day. The two units meet and combine to become one football team.

This is probably a great thing for Wade. I'm sure every week he keeps wondering if he's going to have to play DeMarcus Ware at tight end and Mike Jenkins at wide receiver. No worries! Jason Garrett has a group of guys that already play those positions, so why not kill two birds with one stone and combine both teams!

With that monkey of Wade's back he can finally sit back and call the defense and then hit the snooze button when Jason Garret throws his group of guys out there. 

So when the Cowboys come out for the season opener and play as bad as a poop sundae, don't be surprised when they top it off with the turd cherry in week two. The Dallas Cowboys are unorganized, undisciplined, confused, lost, clueless. They have no offensive or defensive identity. There is no structure in the plays that are called, there is no consistency. 

Sometimes the talent takes over (2007, 2009). But when you do not have a head coach, this is going to happen. When you try to replace the second most penalized lineman in football (Flozell Adams) with the first-most (Alex *bleepin* Barron) from last season, what do you expect? When you have a head coach that has no control over what the final play is going to be, how can you be surprised by the end of the first half in Washington?

Here is a list of the Super Bowl winning head coaches dating back to 2000:

Sean Payton
Mike Tomlin
Tom Coughlin
Tony Dungy
Bill Cowher
Bill Belichick (three times)
Jon Gruden
Brian Billick
Dick Vermeil

And those are only the last 11 winners. Now, can you ever in your football-loving life, ever see Wade Phillips' name scribed next to these great coaches?

Of all the talk of the Cowboys' depth this year, the team forgot they're missing an important starter: a head coach.

Monday, September 6, 2010

What's on Ron's Mind?

I really don't want to write this. Bagging on Ron Washington is one of the more over-used Ranger blog topics of the last three years. Between his inane in-game decisions to his coke admission right before the season, there's been plenty of cannon fodder for writers as obscure as me and as prominent as Randy Galloway. But it's become old, tiring to read. We get it already. But the latest Ron Washington decision made my head hurt so much I had to go get a CAT scan to make sure I didn't develop a brain tumor. So forgive me for a mindless rant.