We can all use a feel-good story

A few years ago, I joined a Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) Facebook group, because I was really just looking for intel on how to get tickets to baseball games in Korea.  Mythical (then) gf was going to Seoul for a month and expressed interest in going to a baseball game while out there, and I figured English speaking Koreans on this particular KBO group would be a great resource to tap into.

I never left the group, and when the coronavirus pandemic started and all sports shut down across the globe, one of the very first professional leagues to get back on track was the KBO, and for a very brief part of summer, all sports-starved eyes of the world were all focused on KBO.  As far as the Facebook group went, the membership exploded, with the most prevalent sector of noobs showing up being degenerate gamblers, practically begging the group for any tips any info to use.  Still, I stayed in the group, because it was Korean and it was baseball, and I enjoyed seeing the perspectives of fans in a completely different realm outside of MLB and affiliated ball. 

A few weeks ago, I saw a post pop up, about a guy who had witnessed a bus hit a dog, and how he was trying to rescue said dog.  Frankly, given my general attention span when it comes to social media, I didn’t even realize at first that it was coming from the KBO group, and then I saw the name of the person who had made the post – a person named Anthony Lerew.

The reason why this name rang a bell for me, is that a long time ago, when I was still early in my quest to visit all 30 MLB ballparks, when my travels took me into Boston, naturally I planned it during a weekend when the Braves would be making a rare interleague appearance out there, long before I realized that I was a walking bad luck charm for the Braves* whenever I traveled.

As was often times the norm back in those days, teams loved to call up pitchers from Triple-A for interleague games, mostly on account of the fact that their opposite league opponents would have zero familiarity with them, and hope that such would give them an edge.  The Braves called Anthony Lerew up from Richmond to pitch against the Red Sox, and I remember sitting in Cheers in Boston, having a massive burger and a Sam Adams, while the game started, relishing in being that tourist with the away team’s hat, hoping for a good game for the Braves in hallowed Fenway Park.

Lerew gave up three earned runs, and the Braves lost 13-3.  As was occasionally the case with Bobby Cox, he had a short trigger with young pitchers like Lerew and pulled him after the second, and let a bunch of trash pitchers absorb the rest of the afternoon.

What I didn’t really realize was that was Lerew’s last appearance for the Atlanta Braves.  He was back in the minor leagues the following year, and I vaguely have some recollection of him getting shelved with injury before being released.  As was the case with many former Braves, Dayton Moore was quick to pick him up and bring him to the Royals, where he had a few more appearances in the bigs in 2009 and 2010, before his major league career ended.

Unbeknownst to me, his career continued on long after his time in affiliated ball, and he kept on pitching wherever his talents could be utilized.  Japan, Korea, Venezuela, the Independents.  He had one particularly good year in 2012, where he pitched 170 innings for the Kia Tigers, while maintaining a 3.83 ERA. 

I have no idea if that one particular year had anything to do with his present, but fast forward to present day, and Anthony Lerew is still in baseball now, where he is on the coaching staff for the Kia Tigers.  This made me happy to learn, as there’s always something so beautiful about the guys that are baseball lifers that always stay involved in the game, even after their playing careers are over.

Anyway, back to the story about the dog, one thing that I learned from my two trips to Korea, is that their bus drivers are among the most reckless drivers on the planet.  I spent maybe cumulatively 20 days in various parts of Korea over those trips, and I witnessed no less than three different incidents of buses hitting cars or guys on scooters, from Seoul to Jeju to Geongju.  The notion of a Korean bus driver hitting a dog and driving off is about as surprising as finding out about pollen in Georgia.

So Lerew came across a badly injured dog, and decided to take it upon himself to try and rescue him.  Unsurprising, costs would be an issue, as KBO salaries are nowhere near pro salaries in America, much less for a non-player coach, so Lerew did what many in the world do whenever they try to raise money for a cause: GoFundMe.

99 times out of 100, I tend to kind of pretend like I didn’t see a GoFundMe, because there’s at any given time so many of them out there that have some degree of personal connection to me, and it’s not that I don’t care about any of these causes so much as I got a second kid on the way, my finances are pretty buttoned up, and I don’t always have the capacity to get involved.

But once a Brave, always a Brave to me, and I always remembered Lerew from Boston, and when I saw him, he always had the most killer sideburns.

Plus it wasn’t like Lerew was trying to exploit GoFundMe and/or his friends, to raise money in order to pay bills or some sort of debt that was his own fault and was totally avoidable.  He was just trying to rescue an injured dog.  Who doesn’t love dogs?  So I donated a small amount, with genuine hopes that he would reach his target goal of the equivalent of $7,000 USD to pay for surgery, rehab, vaccines and other costs.

It didn’t take long at all for the goal to be met, because clearly there are many out there that love baseball, love dogs, recognized Lerew, or whatever reason.  I think it hit the goal in 2-3 days, and I was pleased to see Anthony Lerew notch a win in one of the many things in the world out there that are more important than just baseball.

The best part about this whole story has been Lerew and his family’s complete transparency during the whole aftermath of the fundraiser.  It’s not that I wouldn’t have trusted him, but in this jaded day and age of scumbags and thieves, I can understand the Lerews’ overcaution with transparency, and they posted updates on a near daily basis of the journey of Oreo (the dog’s new name), updates on surgeries, receipts, and adorable rehab videos; in English and in Korean.

As of today, it sounds as if the worst of the journey is over, and Oreo has been discharged from the vet and is on her way to a life of care and compassion with the Lerews in Korea.

Honestly, I didn’t really know where I was really going with this post so much as I just wanted to share a story of rare positivity and a happy ending in this time of the world that is desperately in need of stories like this.  I loved hearing that Anthony Lerew is still in baseball, and that he’s a person of great compassion, faith and resourceful enough to utilize technology, and that there are many also compassionate people out there who are willing to chip in for a good cause.

lol Barves

Not much to really say.  As a fan of both baseball and human rights in general, I for one stand in full solidarity with the decision to strip the All-Star Game from Atlanta because of Georgia’s turrible voting rights laws.  I hear it’s going to Denver instead, which will probably be good for baseball, because people like legalized weed, and home runs, both of which exist in abundance in Denver.

But in spite of being for lack of a better term “my team,” I’m taking sadistic amusement of seeing ScumTrust Truist Park being forced to embarrassingly remove all mention of the All-Star Game from the ballpark and probably all around the surrounding Battery.  Probably at the airport too.  Oh fucking well.

This is what leadership like Bubba Kemp looks like – big talk, no action, and getting owned.  Yea c’mon~

I’m okay with whenever Braves corporate gets owned

When the topic of Georgia’s recently passed voter suppression laws were fresh, I had plenty of thoughts about it, but no real desire to write about it, because when it comes to politics and racism, it’s a sad and unfortunate feeling of a pointless debate, because it doesn’t matter just how flagrant and blatant it can be, it still inexplicably breezes on through to law and no amount of protesting and action afterward ever can undo it.  That, and the whole I have no time ever thing, to where when I do have a little bit of free time to myself, none of it wants to be spent writing about the futile state of Georgia’s politics.

But the recent news of Major League Baseball plucking the 2021 All-Star Game right out the hands of Cobb County, the Atlanta Braves and ScumTrust Truist Park, as something of a national punishment for being in a state that allowed such flagrant discrimination?  Now that’s some shit right there, that piques my interest and gets some creative writing juices flowing.

In one hand, there’s a sensible portion of me that feels a little bit bad for ultimately, the Atlanta Braves organization, because they’re the ones getting embarrassingly punished for a decision that has next to nothing to do with baseball, and sits on a level way above a glorified kids game.  This is kind of along the lines of businesses threatening to boycott and leave the state because of Jim Crow 2.0, where that might send a message to people that what Georgia politicians did was a bad thing, but it will definitely hurt the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people who work for these businesses or rely on these businesses to make livings.

But in the other hand, there’s a sadistic part of me that sees the Atlanta Braves organization-real estate conglomerate is this entity that makes a gozillion dollars every year on a variety of revenue streams, and is ultimately headed up by some circle-jerk of old white people who I have no qualms with seeing take a humiliating slap on the wrist on a national level, and hopefully lose out on some large pies that will instead go to like Chicago or Philadelphia or Los Angeles instead.  Sure, the hundreds of people that would be allowed to actually attend in a pandemic ‘Murica won’t spend their money at local businesses, but MLB’s All-Star break is just a few days in which some projected money won’t be thrown about; it’s a vastly different scenario than say the Georgia film industry, uprooting and leaving, forever, killing thousands of jobs in the process.

When the day is over, I’m glad that Atlanta lost the All-Star game. Aside from being a newer ballpark, and MLB loves to award All-Star games to newer ballparks, the Braves or the city, or this fucking state hasn’t done shit to deserve getting a cash injection that an All-Star game tends to bring, and I’m not going to lose any sleep over the city getting owned, as a result of a crooked choice made by the state.  Because let’s be real here, in spite of their efforts to remain politically ambiguous, most records revealed just how much of the Braves brass leans right, and so they kind of indirectly did this to themselves.

No matter the fact that I support the baseball team and want to see them succeed, I love hearing about when the Braves business organization gets owned.

Oh Miami (Marlins)

For as hip of a city Miami thinks they are, when the day is over, the pursuit of money tends to run roughshod over everything else, like the naming rights to a fancy, high-tech baseball stadium.  And I’m not entirely sure why, perhaps I just sometimes feel that no other team is capable of making boring, square-like business decisions other than the Braves, but I guess it should be of no surprise that the long-awaited naming rights to Marlins Park have finally been sold, and moving forward, will be loanDepot park, the home of the Miami Marlins.

And because identity is everything, it will be in that precise format, with lowercase L and lowercase P, with an uppercase D in the middle, which is appropriate, because the stiffs that chase the dollars that ultimately go to them are typically dicks to begin with.

Maybe it’s because Derek Jeter is among the ownership group of the Marlins, that I thought that perhaps even they would break from the timeless tradition of chasing dollars, and actually name the park that isn’t something as soulless and boring as loanDepot park, but as stated above, when the day is over, money rules the world, apparently even for a guy like Derek Jeter, who often played every game like it was his last.

Because there’s little reason to believe that whatever hundreds of millions of dollars loanDepot pay the Marlins to be a giant billboard, will actually invested into the team itself, and the baseball organization will continue doing what the Marlins have historically always done, which is rely heavily on their scouting department and development to continuously find diamonds in the rough at an impressive clip to keep the team remotely passable while ownership swims in pools of money like Scrooge McDuck.

Honestly, this is no surprise, but it’s always a little bit sad to me whenever any ballpark or venue sells out to some regional no-name corporate entity that makes them sound lame as shit.  The Braves have a bank and two different regional HVAC companies that own the naming rights to various facilities of theirs, and all across the country, whether they’re sporting venues or event spaces, they’re all just named after boring companies as if the impact of their advertising is anything but residual name recognition.

Long gone will we see another Fenway Park or Veteran Stadium, or venues with names that roll off the tongue, or at least are capable of having interesting nicknames, that help mitigate the lameness of corporate greed.

And after four years, in spite of Yeah Jeets’ acquisition of the Marlins, the culture of the team hasn’t really changed as much as I thought it would, and as a closeted supporter of the team, it is sad to see them just kind of falling into the status quo of obscure lower-middle class teams.

A great way to start the MLB season

Impetus: umpire Angel Hernandez loses lawsuit against Major League Baseball, accusing them of racial discrimination

If you’ve watched a season, or at least a regular month of steady baseball, there’s a good chance you’ve heard the name Angel Hernandez.  He’s an MLB umpire, and there’s a very good chance that he’s blown multiple calls for the team you’re rooting for.  In all fairness, he holds no bias against any particular team, as he has been consistent in the sense that he fucks everyone over at some point, regardless for whom they play for.

Also consistent, is that he is widely regarded as the worst umpire in all of Major League Baseball, and it’s not just my opinion; he’s literally been voted as such and for other (dis)honors for years at this point.  A cursory Google search will return not just links to stories about how he’s the worst umpire in MLB, but there are all sorts of video montages, memes and various forms of mediums that frustrated baseball fans have created throughout the years to share their opinions justify the notion that Angel Hernandez is the worst umpire in all of Major League Baseball.

It’s not even that he’s one of those stereotypical blind umpire who misses calls all the time; to me, it’s mostly because most of his decisions seem like reflexes, but the instant he’s challenged, he buckles down and absolutely refuses to change his mind, and the act of challenging his decisions is a personal attack to which he will hold a grudge for the remainder of the game as well have a harshly reduced trigger when it comes to ejecting players and coaches from the game.

This is nothing really out of the ordinary for all umpires in general, it’s just the perception is that Angel Hernandez relishes in it, seems to instigate incidents that have actual impact on the outcomes of games, and as Chipper Jones once opined, he tends to occasionally try and make the game about himself, instead of baseball.

Basically, it’s not hard to find evidence that Angel Hernandez is a pretty detested human being, but as long as he’s physically capable of doing his job, it doesn’t seem likely that he’s going to be going away any time soon, much to the dismay of fans and baseball players and personnel alike.

Anyway, just because he wasn’t content with everyone hating him as an umpire, Angel Hernandez decided to wander a little out of his realm to try and stir up more shit, and decided to sue his employers, Major League Baseball, and accuse them of racial discrimination, specifically towards him, because he is Cuban by birth.  He cited the fact that he was repeatedly overlooked to work World Series assignments as well as be promoted to crew chief status as means for discrimination, not considering the fact that World Series assignments are typically reserved for umpires that don’t suck at their jobs so that umpiring doesn’t impact the most important series of the year, and that MLB umpires literally go until they die, and there are still multiple guys with more seniority ahead of him for crew chief status.

Well, it only took four years because America’s legal system is fucking efficient, but the U.S. District Courts wrapped things up and sided with Major League Baseball, giving baseball fans and probably all sorts of MLB personnel and players a shit-eating grin of a victory against an asshole everyone wanted to stick it to for years but couldn’t, because umpires are given such absolute power on the field.  But frankly Hernandez made a huge mistake taking this battle off of the playing field, where he would be vulnerable and by god did the legal system capitalize on it.

Hernandez’s handful of cherry-picked examples does not reliably establish any systematic effort on MLB’s part to artificially deflate Hernandez’s evaluations, much less an effort to do so in order to cover up discrimination

The use of the phrase “cherry-picked” leads me to believe there’s a hint of vitriol in the judge’s remark, and seeing as how the judge is a man originally from Lexington, might’ve been a Reds fan, whom at one point witnessed a game (or many games) where Angel Hernandez turned the screws to his team, so he had a very easy opportunity to return the favor.  Completely coincidentally, the photo I used just so happened to be Angel Hernandez in action doing just that, to a Reds player.

I think the best part to me is that this wrapped up the day before the regular season was to begin.  There’s something about it that feels like MLB saw an opportunity to get this shit rushed and concluded right before a season was to begin, and give Angel Hernandez a humiliating loss, but at the perfect time where he wouldn’t have time to lament about it, since he has to get right back to fucking work on Opening Day no less, and take the field after being slapped with a defeat where he wasn’t omnipotent.

I can’t commit that I’ll actually watch any real amount of baseball this season, as I am a terrible fan plus I will have two kids by the time the playoffs roll around, so most likely I’ll be one of those guys that’s invisible throughout the entire regular season, and only show up in October when the Braves go back to the usual status quo of getting bounced in the NLDS, if they even make the playoffs at all.

But as far as the start of the season goes, Angel Hernandez getting bitch-slapped and put in his place by Major League Baseball, that’s a great way to start it, no matter how you look at it.

The new IWGP blet makes me go IWTF

Despite my general admiration for New Japan Pro Wrestling, I don’t really follow them beyond the snippets of news that pass through my Apple News feed, or whenever a wrestling fan bigger than me brings it up on social media.  But if there is always one thing that is relevant to my interests, it’s whenever blets are brought up, regardless of what fed or promotion they might be for.

So one of the more prevalent storylines throughout NJPW over the last few months has been double champion Kota Ibushi striving to unify the IWGP World and IWGP Intercontinental championships.  I actually give NJPW some credit for taking this and making it into a storyline, instead of just merging them, as it created yet another solid matchup between Ibushi and Tetsuya Naito, with Naito trying to “rescue” the Intercontinental championship from unification, only to fall short in his efforts to strip it away from Ibushi.

With Naito vanquished, the path to unification was clear, and the above blet is the ensuing result.

I’ve definitely seen worse blet designs in my life, but my first impression when I saw the new, unified IWGP World Championship blet, was definitely, a WTF face.   The center plate basically looks like a Phoenix emblem from X-Men comics, and as a belt, it just looks really imbalanced.  I’d hate to feel what wearing that blet would be like, since the top part of the plate juts out at angles, and any sort of abdominal contracting would have them digging into your ribs.  But I guess if you’ve got the action figure-physique that someone like Kota Ibushi has, he can probably just no sell it all the same.

Aside from the design, I’ve heard that the decision to unify the blets has been mostly unpopular, due to the general history that the IWGP Intercontinental championship has carried throughout the years.  Even in the shorter time that I’ve followed NJPW, guys like Shinsuke Nakamura, El Sombra (Andrade), Tetsuya Naito and Chris Jericho were notable carriers of the belt, and much like the WWE’s IC blet, it’s one very much given to workhorse types.

But the reality is that at this current juncture in time, with coronavirus having rampaged the world much less rosters of all professional wrestling promotions, NJPW just has too many blets for as diminished of a roster that they have.  Aside from their unified title which encapsulates two blets now, they’ve still got the NEVER championship, the IWGP US championship, heavyweight and a jr. heavyweight sets of tag team championships, and a jr. heavyweight championship. 

Frankly, they practically have enough blets for most everyone on their entire roster to have one at this point, so shelving the intercontinental championship isn’t a bad idea, because most anyone with a brain should know that the blet will be back in the future when the pandemic is behind us, the rosters start expanding, and then they’ll have the perfect opportunity to do what NJPW does best, which is have some massive tournament, where a brand new IWGP Intercontinental champion will be crowned.

Back to the main point though, I’m not impressed with the new design of the IWGP championship.  Bootlegs as they may be, I’m glad that I have replicas of the former World and Intercontinental championships, and I most definitely wouldn’t plunk down $2,400 for a replica of this new blet.

Maybe in the future, when the IWGP Intercontinental championship comes back, it’ll have a design worth paying for a Pakistani bootleg, but until that day comes, RIP IWGP Intercontinental championship.

**EDIT: it figures Kota Ibushi loses the championship in his first substantial defense after getting the new blet.  Given the fact that it changed hands to gaijin Will Ospreay, I wouldn’t have put it past New Japan to have make it some microaggression, symbolically made sure the old, prestigious blet wouldn’t be held by someone not Japanese or some weeb lifer like Kenny Omega or Scott Norton.

This is where the ‘You Sold Out’ chants would start

The funny thing is most people weren’t aware how close Greg Valentine and JYD were in real life, in spite of this horrifically racist promo from 1985

That is, if the WWE actually had live crowds anymore.  The inspiration of this post comes from news that NBC’s Peacock streaming service, which acquired the entire WWE Network library and has formally liquidated it as of a few days ago, has begun going through their archives and scrubbing all sorts of perceived racist content.

I’ll be the first to admit that professional wrestling has a long history of having done some racist shit during its existence; but that can be said about absolutely everything that’s been around as long as the business has.  If Dr. Seuss, the freaking godfather of children’s literature was found out to have made some racist illustrations way back in the day, it should be no surprise when Triple H had a feud with Booker T with some severely racist undertones not so way back in the day.

Racist shit is all pretty bad stuff, but it happened, will always happen, and in spite of all the rah-rah rhetoric that’s thrown around left and right these days, I unfortunately wouldn’t wager a single penny that it’s ever going to go away any time soon.  It’s sad to admit that, but would you rather I lie about how I feel?

But one consistent opinion I have is that I am absolutely not a fan of any sort of revising of history, no matter what it is that’s trying to be canceled, censored, hidden or deleted from the past.  It doesn’t matter if it’s confederate statues or episodes of Community, I abhor the idea of anything that’s been created being deleted because they’re perceived as offensive.

Personally, it’s not so much it’s because I’m callous and fucked up and want racist shit to exist in plain sight of everyone, as much as I firmly believe that creators of these things need to own that this shit has happened, but most importantly, that they’ve (hopefully) learned something over the passage of time, and that such opinions and thoughts might not be their actual beliefs today.

The mistakes of the past are lessons for the present, of things that should be avoided, should be corrected, and should be worked towards improving upon, and not buried in the closet, stashed in a plastic Publix bag and hidden inside of an Amazon Prime cardboard box behind a larger box that was never unpacked from the last time you moved homes.

NBC going through the WWE video library and trying to scrub out racist content is no exception to these opinions of mine, and I wince and look at NBC with disgust at their cowardly attempt to hide the past instead of trying to learn from it.  When this stuff was all on the WWE Network, the WWE just slapped a disclaimer on all old content, succinctly explaining the content of these programs reflect their original air date’s time and ideals, and that not everything is applicable to modern times.  But NBC being so lily white homogenized, just would rather delete it from existence, to where, as Winston Churchill once said,

Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it

Imagine one or more of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon’s kids; if the WWE Network still existed when they’re old enough to watch some of the old content, they’d eventually come across the aforementioned HHH vs. Booker T feud.  Daddy could easily get in front of the topic, and explain to his kids the implications of the storyline, that they were wrong, that he was just acting, but to not replicate that sort of behavior or thinking.  It could be an actual teachable moment.

But in the Peacock world we’re living in now, his kids will never see that daddy portrayed an arrogant racist in a storyline, and one day, someone will find a clip on YouTube of daddy saying “you people” to a black man, and Hunter’s kids will come to their own conclusions and realize that daddy is racist.

He’s also into necrophilia when he was feuding with Kane, but for some reason, NBC seems to think that racist content is just a little bit more offensive, and his kids would be able to see that regardless of the platform but anyway.

The point is, I really dislike that NBC is doing what they’re doing, but frankly I’m disappointed that the WWE liquidated their fantastic network in the first place to sell to NBC.  I know coronavirus really put the hurt on the industry, due to the complete tanking of live events and all the revenue that comes with that, but this shit will pass, but what’s done is done, and WWE sold their shit out. 

I don’t know if they ever knew just how influential they were to the world we’re in now, where damn near every media company has an app now, and as much as none of them really would want to admit it, almost everyone’s eyes were on the WWE Network when they launched, and it was through them, most realized that they could survive and thrive on that model too.

But now they’re a tiny cog in a larger machine, that’s also going through their hallowed libraries and censoring all of their old shit that they think might hurt someone’s feelings.

You-Sold-Out!  You-Sold-Out!