“My father once told me, life is like sucking honey from a thorn. There’s good times and bad times.”-Robert DeNiro in The Killer Elite
The Anatomy of A Comeback
There I am, driving down the street prepping a day of shopping that will result in an exhausted glow of despair for the upcoming evening. My wife and I are attacking the beast on a Saturday afternoon to clear the Sunday bill for football and relaxation before my ass heads back to the warehouse on Monday. In addition to our shopping misery comes an extra passenger in our car, a man by the name of Vinny. The kid doesn’t have a fucking clue what’s going on, spending the heavy share of the day in a car seat with little wiggle room and only a bink to suck on. We leave the house and the Cardinals are down by a single run heading into the top of the ninth. The tip of the iceberg is approaching this 2011 Cards ship, ready to crack it in half. If the Cards lose today, we stay 3 games out of first place and with 4 games to play, that’s a stiff deck of cards to pull a quality hand from. As we pull out of our street, Lance Berkman ropes the first pitch from Cubs closer Carlos Marmol to center field straight into Marlon Byrd’s mitt. One out already. Before I can hit a fucking stop sign, this team is down to 2 outs. The Chicago Cubs are holding the knife this weekend, plunging the dull blade into our shoulder as the blood starts to pour all over our hometown grass, which was cut that morning. Marmol is a nasty pitcher with a power fastball and an unfair slider that dives off the plate. He throws a pitch and gets one out, but the fun is only starting for Cardinal nation. The 42,000 in attendance are getting loud, rumbling the seats, shaking their drinks, and screaming like its the Last Supper. They honestly can’t shut up and the Cubs have no idea what this means because they eternally suck. Before the first pitch, the crowd was going so crazy Cards radio play by play legend Mike Shannon commented that this was the loudest he had heard this crowd get before a rally. “LISTEN TO THIS CROWD!”. Shannon said all they wanted was a couple tallies. I’d take a sign of life. Since their brutal loss on Thursday, the Cards surrendered their bats to their psychic evil twin The lineup had registered only 1 run in the 19 innings, and it came in a suicide squeeze in Friday’s 5-1 loss. It’s like the Mets stole the game and hid the bats from our boys. Motherfuckers! Anyway, Marmol gets the ball and climbs the hill against Matt Holliday, the returning brute who has pounded the ball into the ground all fucking day. 2 groundouts to third and a useless bounce to short. On the second pitch, he rips a line drive to right center for a long single, cut off by the amazing Byrd, who has spent the entire day robbing the Cards of plays. Cards bench speed demon Tyler Greene runs for Holliday, basically telling the Cubs catcher Geovanny Soto to put his arm in lock and stock mode because a steal is coming. Greene steals second and the ball glances off his back and into center field. With one out, the tying run is at third. The crowd gets louder. By this time, we are pulling through the ATM, which is always a frenzy. There I am, paying attention to the game and depositing a check. It isn’t rocket science but sometimes a lab coat is needed to roll through a bank ATM and stay focused. Making sure I don’t withdraw 500 dollars instead of giving 50, I take my time and work slow. Like a jungle cat on steroids speed slowly coming down from the high point of the drug. Type in my bank code, listen to a pitch, tap deposit, listen, hand the check over, listen to a pitch. This takes a multi-tasking brain plan that puts you in an athletic frame of mind. Three cars sitting behind me. They are waiting for their own chance to see the misery of their bank statement while I juggle two tasks at once. What are they doing? Talking on the phone, listening to Yanni, jerking off. I’m doing important shit and need to concentrate. My heart starts to skip a few beats. It’s uncontrollable. I finish and pull away, but Rachel knows I am off my driving game. She is my co-pilot for life, and right now I am flying the plane at 60 percent participation with a portion of my heart, brain and mind on a baseball field 15 minutes away. David Freese strikes out. Chump. Greene is still at third and Marmol is gaining confidence. The Cubs are a classic fuckup artist franchise, blowing leads for life and becoming the symbol of embarrassment in the major leagues. It’s a shameful practice. Marmol carries the weight of 103 years of futile baseball on his shoulders every time he closes a game. He has 34 saves on the season, but he won’t reach 35 today. Yadi Molina comes up and works the count to 3-2. Molina is a perfect foil for Marmol’s power sinker-slider-fastball assortment, because he is a Harvard grad when it comes to taking pitches and making pitchers work. He confounds Marmol. He fouls off a couple pitches. Marmol throws the slider and Yadi lays off and walks. First and third, 2 outs. Skip Schumacher strolls to the plate. In my eyes, a 50/50 clutch hitter. He steps out between each pitch to tighten his batting gloves and preach quiet words of confidence to himself(look closely at him at the plate and he is speaking to himself). The man watches Caddyshack and Ted Knight too much. Marmol is starting to lose control completely. His counts with Freese and Molina carried a confidence and fear during the matchups but Skip is seeing zero hittable pitches. The count runs to 3-1 before Marmol misses by a foot off the outside portion of the plate. Bases loaded. Adron Chambers runs for Molina. Second and third base are full of speed, meaning a single will most likely score both and give the Cards a win. Corey Patterson, a regretful excuse for a major league roster spot, stands on deck during Skip’s at bat. A decoy towards Mike Quade’s Cubs bench to fool them into thinking they will get to face the Ex Cub Patterson and escape with a victory. La Russa closes the book on Patterson and sends in another Ex-Cub, Ryan Theriot. Simply put, Theriot will draw a walk before Corey Patterson lays off any breaking pitch. Theriot works the count to 2-0 and the umpire hands a gift basket to Marmol in the form of a strike call, which registers as Marmol’s 2nd strike in 10 pitches. Theriot works the count full. Tension rises. We have pulled into the Blockbuster parking lot to return a film(Bridesmaids=sucked) and Rachel wants to get a bite to eat. I am hungry but my capacity to focus right now on anything other than a 3-2 pitch isn’t possible. Theriot takes a close inside pitch and walks. The game is tied. Brand new life for the Cards. Rachel knows me well. She knows when I am frustrated, tense, disturbed and sitting in the palm of this team’s hand. She takes my Subway order and leaves the car. Now, it’s the radio, Vinny and myself. My own private Idaho. Bases loaded, Rafy Furcal up and the Cubs haven’t left the danger zone yet. I smell something in the air. That’s fresh bread from Subway, my mistake. It’s hard to explain the next few moments because I nearly went into shock and sat in disbelief. I would later find out that Marmol threw a nasty sinker on an 0-1 count, that passed Furcal, Soto and the umpire back to the backstop and bounced towards the Cubs dugout. Chambers streaked down the third base line, scored, jumped into Molina’s arms and the Cardinals won 2-1. A thrilling victory that almost didn’t seem real until Mike Shannon came back from a break and read the box score. Shannon is still a marvel behind the microphone in tight situations. With Theriot at the plate and a 3-2 count, Shannon dusted off an old gem, “Here we go, folks. The most exciting play in sports. Bases loaded. 3-2 count. All runners off with the pitch.” When Chambers scored, I pounded on the steering wheel in Troy Siade fashion. Aggressive celebration is the only way to do it. After 48 hours of misery, the Cards recaptured the spirit of the fans and their souls with a breathtaking comeback. Sure, Marmol handed them the win but taking pitches and working a walk is harder at times than making contact. I can tell you with money down that if Patterson hits instead of Theriot, the game is over and the Cardinals lose 1-0. Theriot hasn’t had a good year but he hasn’t had a bad one either. He is hitting .272 and has gladly taken a bench/sub role since Furcal showed up. Theriot is clutch and can draw a walk and has improved at second base. He was the true star of the game because that 3-2 pitch was close. Folks, this is living. Sitting in a car, emotionally tied to your team, with the rest of your day hanging on their actions. True freefall dedication. Being strapped to a bomb comes with a fair dose of sweet and bitter.
In the end, the Cards won 2-1 and stayed alive in the wild card race. With 4 games to play, they are 2 games out. I can’t tell you the odds right now. I’m too close and keeping this one close to the chest. I could tell you the boys have a shot and be proved wrong tomorrow when everyone is watching football. I will say this to the masses and the experts of the world….anything can happen.
Will Sunday be Albert Pujols’ last day in Cardinal home red and white?
My answer would be no. I can’t see this team without Albert at first base. After the 11 years he has put together, I can’t see a single route where the Cards don’t make every gesture, move and attempt to keep AP here. Give him what he wants. He has done something A-Rod has not, and stayed maddeningly consistent for 11 seasons at a reasonable price. Pujols deserves a raise and will get one. We all would love to see Albert play the blue collar cool card, walk into Cards headquarters tomorrow morning before the biggest game of the season and tell John Mozelaik that a deal needs to be locked up and I’ll play for 8-10 more years at 16 million. That would rock the baseball world and put Dan Lorzano in a mental home. It won’t happen, but its our own little dream. Easy measures aren’t located in lengthy contract talks. The local media is prepping the swan song ride for Pujols on Sunday and I refuse to play along. I have said all along that Albert Pujols is a man of his word. When it comes time to decide yes or no, he will make the call and stay here. He wants to retire here like Stan Musial. He has built a kingdom here. He makes a good salary. His entire life is here. Does he really want to change that at this point in his career? I really don’t think so and already have a standing bet of 20 dollars with a co-worker of mine. When the media noise lessens and the two camps meet in a quiet conference room to discuss the contract or convene over a phone call, the real ideas will come out. Mozelaik knows there is too much revenue in Albert to let him go. He means 200,000 in attendance to this team. The Cards won’t gross 3 million fans in 2012 without Albert. While they would contend in a poor division, the Cards money bank would take a hit without Albert. He is approaching milestones, carries the Cards name on his chest and is the face of the franchise. What happened to Edmonton when Gretzky left? What happened to Cleveland when Lebron left? Money was lost. In some way, shape or form, the organization will take a hit. It makes more sense to keep him here. Pay the man his money. Instead of having a bad year, Albert rebounded, hit .395 down the stretch and has pounded 37 home runs, 98 RBI and scored 102 runs to go with a .302 batting average. There’s no way Albert walks away from St. Louis and there’s no fucking way the Cards let him. Please don’t believe what you hear in the press, local or national. Every paid writer has a motive and an external plan to their words and point of view on Albert. I’d bet the mortgage that Pujols or his agent never asked for 10 years at 300 million dollars. That was media created. Albert doesn’t want to be the highest paid player in baseball. He just wants market value and a fair deal that represents his status as the best in baseball. Both sides aren’t stupid enough to break up this happy marriage. End of story.
Movie Reviews Of The Week
The Killer Elite is an engaging action thriller with dramatic weight and action chops to set it up as the latest great thinking man’s action ride. Jason Statham holds his own with Clive Owen and Robert DeNiro and the story is solid. Based off a true story and adapted from a book called “The Feather Men”, this movie works a British Spy tale into a delicious cocktail that’s part Ronin, Munich and The Mechanic. Statham plays Danny, an Ex-Special Ops agent pulled back into the operation to save his mentor, Hunter(DeNiro) from a Sheik who wants revenge for the murder of his three sons. The kills came at the hands of the British SAS, which means Statham must bring down 3 hardcore killers in order to get his friend back. Standing in his way is Ex-British SAS agent Spike(a cunning and clever as always Clive Owen), who wants to protect the isolated agents against the will of his former superiors. The movie sets the three men on a collision course. The rest is action drama gold. Director Gary McKendry knows how to fuse fine drama with full blooded action sequences. Statham and Owen clash in a series of fights that satisfy the action fan, while the quieter moments between Statham and DeNiro please the more complacent crowd. One has to think the producers had Statham attached and came up with an idea to up the ante with the additions of DeNiro and Owen. The result is a deeper than usual action film, with plenty of twists and turns towards the end and an ending that leaves the audience wanting more yet glad they paid money to attend it. Statham is at his usual bone crunching best, but his acting talent displayed in Snatch and Bank Job come through here. Unlike Arnold or Jean Claude Van Damme, Statham can act when he has to and add the wild action stunts as a dessert course. The Killer Elite is an entertaining british spy film that combines the rugged brutality of Statham, the clever talent of Clive Owen and the wise wine of DeNiro to create an intelligient action story about natural killers running the world like hungry lions in a den. This is more than just another Statham banger with the game acting and worthy story. See it to believe it before you cast it off into the wasteland of contending films for your attention.
Bridesmaids sucked. A disappointing film that failed to match the hype given to it upon its release and weeks later when it grossed over 100 million dollars. Look, I went into this so called Judd Apatow produced “Female Hangover” with a decent set of expectations and wanted to like it. The result was a comedy that loaded up on the raunchy material yet fell short in laugh out loud moments and a solid script. Kristen Wiig stars as Annie, a single woman in need of a bump up in her life. She recently lost her bakery and her boyfriend in one swift shot and now she is reeling. Right at the moment of despair, her best friend Lillian(Maya Rudolph) tells her she is getting married. Cue the fireworks. Lillian brings in Helen(Rose Byrne), who quickly becomes a thorn in Annie’s side and the two start to butt heads on the wedding and start ripping Lillian in half. The rest of the film is the buildup to the wedding and the slow maturation of Annie as she struggles to find any sense of safe ground in her life. Melissa McCarthy has some laughs as one of the bridesmaids, but she isn’t enough to carry the film. The biggest weight of the miss falls on Wiig, a SNL veteran and a fine supporting actress who can’t carry the proceedings here. Wiig is too bland to care for here and Rudolph and Byrne don’t help at all. I never cared too much about Annie’s fight because the entire film is played like a joke and when it tries to get serious late, the attempt is incomplete. Comedies that don’t reach the level of their hype carry a case of anticipation blue balls syndrome. The Hangover carried the same weight heading into theaters. The word of mouth was strong, the trailer was hilarious and the setup looked fresh and with a talented comedy director(Todd Phillips) navigating and the star in the making Bradley Cooper headlining the cast. That met and exceeded expectations because all the jokes weren’t located in the trailer. The comedy was fresh but the reason the film was loved was because we cared for and believed in the group of guys slowly losing their nerve yet regaining their souls in Vegas, the land of wild fun and absolute turmoil. The fact that the ladies go to Vegas in this film is an insult. The one highlight of the film comes in the form of Jon Hamm, who works 3 scenes here as the biggest douchebag/fuckbuddy of Wiig’s Annie. Every time Hamm comes into frame, the movie gets a push. This comes from a big Hamm fan, but the reason I liked him here was we saw another shade of his talent. While he plays a cutthroat bastard on Mad Men, Hamm’s role here carries an extra serving of asshole. How is this for a greeting? “What’s up, fuckbuddy?” Hamm owns the film and he only appears in 3 scenes. Bad news for a heavily favored contender like Bridesmaids. Pure disappointment.
Ten Final Bits of Info
- How did MU do against Oklahoma Saturday night on FX? To quote the great Ari Gold, how did the fucking bay of pigs go my friends? MU got their ass handed to them and I once again remind you this will be a down year for the school. Rebuilding a team doesn’t happen in one season. QB James Franklin will learn to throw better or simply run faster than a linebacker. T.J. Moe will provide plenty of highlights but Gary Pinkel’s team will suffer a losing season. This is what happens when there is no QB in the waiting when your star leaves for the NFL. Blaine Gabbert is starting for the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, so there’s one small perk. He didn’t leave for nothing. How many games has Chase Daniel started in the NFL? Zero. Hello to the life of Drew Brees’ backup.
- Can The Rams beat The Baltimore Ravens on Sunday? Sure they can. Matt Hasselback and the Titans kicked their ass last week. It comes down to red zone efficiency and the minimalization of mistakes for this Rams team. Will there be a fight in this team or will we beat ourselves again?
- How many interceptions will Eli Manning throw against The Eagles tomorrow? My cold hard cash is banking on at least 3 picks, with one being a pick 6. Michael Vick will rip apart the Giants secondary and the Eagles roll 38-21.
- Song of the Day-Florence and the Machine-“What the Water Gave Me”. Forgo the soft name and enjoy the well trained pipes of Florence Welch. The red haired shedevil can sing and her vocals power this fast moving alternative rocker.
- Enjoying a small treat in being a dad right now. As I write here, little Vinny is passed out in his basonet next to me listening to the rockabye baby soundtrack. Marley, Vinny and I are all getting a little tired but this is what I dreamed about when I found out Rachel was pregnant. Creating prose right next to my creation.
- Attention all old drivers. Stop fucking driving unless you can follow the simplest rules of the road. Signal, drive the speed limit, stay in your lane and look before you turn. Stay at home and die or get a bus route.
- Beer of the Week-Guinness Black Lager, a new combination of a lager(one of my favorite kinds of beer) and the Guinness stout. A stone cold tough guy/girl blend of malt. Try it if you dare. We aren’t talking bud light or michelob ultra here. Prepare yourselves for something called TASTE.
- The Blues lose to fall to 3-2 on the preseason. Why can’t the regular season carry 5 Blues game in a week? I love this tommy gun schedule of back to back to back games in a single 7 day stretch. The idea is that the training camp is so short, the leagues gets the teams on the ice as fast as possible to throw them into serious game shape. If you come back from the offseason in shitty shape, good luck in the preseason. While the scores don’t count, the shifts do and the floor scrappers looking for work need to be ready to push the first week. Once again, there’s no way the Blues shouldn’t contend for a playoff spot this season. After two shitty seasons of being unable to finish in the top 8 spots in their division(imagine is MLB carried 4 extra spots per league in its playoff picture), the Blues need to make the playoffs and go deep this season. The team isn’t young anymore and the veteran presence is ingrained into this team’s roster for the upcoming 2011-2012 campaign. There’s no more excuses. Get it done. The first week proves this team will score plenty of goals but how well the defense and goaltender Jaroslav Halak play will determine the fate of the St. Louis Blues. Stop the Journey commercials and win some fucking hockey games, dudes!
- After being off work for nearly 2 weeks, I return to Senoret Chemical on Monday. While I loved being at home for Vinny’s first week, the time to return to work is right and I will be a proud producing papa working the blue collar grind to keep a roof over our heads. Going to work carries an additional incentive now along with the sadness of being away from my kid for 10 hours for 5 days a week. Remember what I said earlier. The sweet isn’t as sweet without the bitter.
- There are times when being a father is lovely and full of ambitious excitement, and then there are times when your son fires shrapnel like shards of shit at your face while you change his diaper in a Walmart parking lot. Priceless moments my friends. For the record, he missed me for the most part. This matchup will carry a sequel.
The time has come to wrap this up. A mini Buffa Blast of thought and opinion. Remember, be nice to your friends and family but keep them close and don’t be afraid to tell them how you feel and speak your mind at all times. Blood bonds and likeness should never hide a brutal shot of truth serum.
Thanks for reading and goodnight,
Dan L. Buffa