Getting over a World Series collapse

I woke this morning at peace. I had accepted the fact that the Texas Rangers would lose this World Series as soon as that home run ball left David Freese’s bat. I spent most of Friday in a state of mourning, but had come to terms with it as I listened to Game 7 on my phone while covering a high school football game.

Following the Rangers has always been about disappointment. But, in the past, the let down was spread across an entire season, like a slow, usually comical death. By the time it was over, you had already done your suffering. Game 6 was the opposite. I felt that the Cardinals had stabbed me in the heart, yet somehow kept me alive long enough to appreciate the pain. So, yeah, that sucked,

But I can thank Titus Andronicus for my sense of peace today. On my drive home from the stadium, I popped in their CD “The Monitor,” an angsty pseudo-concept album about the Civil War battle between the Monitor and the Merrimack. Or, an album tailor-made for me.

The back-to-back gut-punch of “No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future” and “Richard II” summed up my feelings about the Rangers. No future would be the team’s theme song with the final refrain “You will always be a loser” repeated a dozen or so times. It just took a bearded dude from Jersey to write it. But for as much as that song tore me down, “Richard II” built me up. The lyrics have nothing to do with baseball, and are pretty depressing, too, but the music uplifted me somehow. Rousing is what I’d call it.

Somehow, like a beer in the morning following a hard night of drinking, those two songs cured my World Series hangover. I’m OK with it. I wouldn’t trade this season for any other, terrible collapse or not. I’m already ready to debate Rob and Austin and Jim and Jose Bowe about whether or not C.J. Wilson is worth resigning (I think he is) or if we should pursue Albert Pujols (fuck you, Cardinals!) or if Jurickson Profar will save us all (he will).

So do yourself a favor, suffering Ranger fan, and listen to these two songs back-t0-back. You can thank me later.


 

 

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The NFL’s Best Players (1996 Edition)

My handwriting has gotten much worse.

After years of build-up and weeks of Facebook-fueled anticipation, the time is here. Now, I finally publish my 1996 edition of “NFL’s Best Players.” The original edition was painstakingly hand-written over a series of weeks during free time in Ms. Foster’s third-grade class.

I have included the spelling and grammatical errors that my 8-year-old self made for effect. There are also some factual errors (such as calling “Dan Wilkerson” a “linebaker”), but, hey, I was 8. Get prepared for 1,000+ words of cutting-edge analysis, presented verbatim.

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Happy Father’s Day, Steve Hurtik

Father’s Day always reminds me of how terrible I am about picking out gifts for my dad. All the typical dad gifts don’t work. Ties? Never seen him wear one. Tools? The man sold them for five years and has worked with them for 30. Golf clubs? Nope. He is an avid fisherman, but you can only buy a man so many bags of plastic worms and rattle traps before it starts feeling inauthentic.

So this year I decided to use my only real skill by writing about him.

My relationship with my dad has always been based on respect. He never laid a hand on me, but I was still scared to death of him every time I screwed up. When I accidentally broke my parent’s bedroom window with a baseball while trying to emulate Bobby Witt (hey, I was a Ranger fan in the mid-90s), I immediately ran bawling to my grandmother and begged her not to tell my dad. Of course, when he found out, he said it wasn’t that big of a deal. Boys will be boys. Things happen. It was such a big deal to him that the temporary cardboard he put over the hole in the window stayed on for 10 years.

I had a huge fear of letting him down. When I quit football at the end of my sophomore year of high school (mainly to focus on becoming a rock ‘n’ roller), I didn’t tell him for a week because I was convinced he would flip out and ground me. This was ridiculous, because that’s the exact opposite of how my dad has always worked. When I finally told him, I could tell he was a little bummed, but he just told me to keep my grades up.

I now realize that those moments helped shape my outlook and personality today. I like to think I’m pretty even-keel. It takes a lot more than a broken window to get me riled up.

My dad leads by example. He still shows me what true hard work is by heading to his shop every day in the summer heat to crawl under 18-wheelers. Even at 52, he’s still doing back-breaking work to provide for his family. During his stint selling tools, he spent his weekend working on trucks on the side so he could pay my college apartment rent. He’s not the most emotional guy, but he doesn’t need to be with me. His actions say it all. That and when he ends almost every conversation we have with “Check your oil.” It’s his way of saying, “I love you, son.”

He’s a true man’s man, more than I’ll ever be. He restored his father’s 1932 Ford Model A, turning it from potential scrap metal into a beautiful, running tribute to his dad. He also turned my first car–an $800 1987 Silverado–into a legitimately bad-ass truck, while letting me feel like I had a large hand in the overhaul. When that truck broke down during my junior year of college, he drove down to Austin, towed it home and fixed the transmission. He sold it to his friend and surprised me with a new truck.

He also set a really high precedent for being a cool dad. I always had the coolest dad among my friends. He would throw the football around with us. He would take us fishing and tubing. As we got older, he would not kick us out of his garage when The Riffters invaded and even claimed to enjoy our music (not sure if I really believe him). To this day, Joel will still give dad a call when he’s having car trouble. My dad’s answer every time, “Bring it over and let’s take a look at it.”

So today I just want to say, thanks dad for all of the above. You really are the best dad and I can only hope to set as good of an example for my kids.

And don’t worry. I’ll check my oil.

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Tornado journalism

It’s been an especially vicious and tragic tornado season for the Great Plains and beyond. You’ve surely seen and read about the destruction in Tuscaloosa, Joplin and, now, as it comes out of greater Oklahoma City. Few disasters captivate us the way tornadoes do. We simultaneously marvel and cower at them. And with good reason. Some of the best, heart-wrenching stories come out of them, too.

The Jarrell tornado. Also, remember when gas was $1.12?

As I’ve been reading about these tornadoes, I couldn’t help but think back to my final story I wrote in my college (academic) career. For Bill Minutaglio‘s advanced feature writing class, we had to recreate an event in history. I chose to re-tell the story of Jarrell, Texas, on May 27, 1997. Then, an F5 tornado wiped out most of the small town right of I-35 just 45 minutes north of Austin. Twenty-seven people were killed.

So I decided to share my story, not out of look-at-me motivations, but as a reminder of the impact these twisters have on people and communities, and that we shouldn’t forget about Joplin or Tuscaloosa going forward.

Disclaimer: It’s long and part of it is slightly graphic. Oh, and it’s also unedited (it was for class!), so forgive the rough-around-the-edges quality of it. It begins after the jump.

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A New Year, a New Hurt-ik Locker

Taking a simpler approach to the Hurt-ik Locker. Don’t want to sit and watch it rot. I had one heck of a Holiday break. It was great to see Amanda and John for extended periods of time and to catch up with Joel and Stephen, the oldest buds I have.

We did some Riffter reminiscing, and it was fun to go back and listen to our old tracks, talk about how much cooler we’d be now as 16-year-old musicians and admit that we’re getting old. It’s not often that I feel compelled to share memories of our scrappy-yet-crappy garage band.

So I’ll leave you with the dramatic evolution of your favorite Richland High School rock ‘n’ roll band.

2005:

Victorious at our Battle of the Bands debut at the Door Fort Worth.

2006:

Album cover the never released masterpiece: "Mongolian Oligarchy"

2007: The College Years/Permanent Hiatus

2010: Grown men/wondering what could have been

I must say, quite the dapper group of gentlemen.

And I know you’re dying to actually hear what our crappy band sounded like. So go here to our ancient purevolume and enjoy a bunch of 16-year-olds living their dreams and trying to be Led Zeppelin.

We're already planning on playing Richland's 10-year reunion.

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What a ride

Do you realize that a few weeks from now, boxes upon boxes of shirts that say “Texas Rangers, World Series Champions” will be unloaded in some poor country, giving the needy much-needed clothing and, let’s face it, the coolest shirts they have ever owned.

In all seriousness, that’s pretty fucking cool.

Tonight, just like most of you, I watched my Texas Rangers lose the World Series. I watched Brian Wilson strike out Nellie and get mobbed on our mound. I watched Mitch Kramer tie up the AL MVP. I also heard a “Let’s Go Rangers” chant break out as the Giants celebrated.

And yet, I’m OK. Sure, it’s a bummer. But after getting past the Yankees, the World Series has felt way less stressful. Maybe the players felt that way too, and maybe that’s why their bats went silent. Hell, the Rangers got the monkey of their back (winning a playoff game and series) and exorcised their demons (beating the goddamn Yankees) all in one whirlwind month.

Being a Ranger fan for the past, oh, 18 years has taught me to enjoy the ride. For years, all I really had to look forward to was hoping guys like Kason Gabbard or John Koronka would put together a promising September with the Rangers 10 games out of first place, providing hope for spring.

Yeah, the Rangers looked bad in this series. Couldn’t hit worth a crap. Mitch Moreland was the only guy to consistently show up and the dude’s a rookie. Sure the bullpen had a meltdown and Cliff Lee lost twice (aside: to anyone calling Lee a “goat” for his performance in the Series is stupid. The guy just showed that he was human in Game 1 and made one bad pitch in Game 5. The offense is your goat, folks). But what the hell. We went so far above expectations against the Rays and Yanks that it seemed inevitable. And quite simply, the Giants out-Rangered us. If I’m going to lose a World Series, I’ll lose it to a team like San Francisco every time. I love the way their team plays and for all the jokes about Lincecum or Brian Wilson out there, I’d take either in a heartbeat.

But I’d also keep any of ours. This team was the most fun to watch in Ranger history. And all of the best parts are going to be back, even if Cliff is wearing pinstripes. We’ve got an owner with money, a young corps of suddenly playoff-tested players and a rejuvenated fan base. Next year should be fun.

Thanks for 2010, Rangers. Can’t wait for spring training.

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Rangers: A.L. Champs

Hamilton with an epic jumping Claw.

I’ve been thinking about this blog post for a long time, about how I’d cleverly celebrate the Rangers winning the pennant, what obscure former player references I’d drop to add credibility to my fandom (Mike Pagliarulo anyone?) and how I’d predict they’d fare in their first ever World Series.

But all that’s out the window now. I can’t do it justice and I don’t even want to. I’m just completely content with this baseball team, a feeling I’ve never really had about the Rangers. These guys are a bunch of fun-loving bad asses and it’s a joy to watch them. And even though I didn’t watch the game (I was holed up in a pressbox in Converse, Texas) following it on Twitter and then watching on the highlights have been just as pleasing. I just wish I could have been at the Ballpark.

And besides, Jim Reeves wrote the column that I wanted to write. And the longtime Star-Telegram-er and my sports writing idol hit it out of the park:

Enjoy and go Rangers.

 

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