Weekend Ramblings of a Working Class Greasy Italian Father/Husband

Checking here around 3pm on Saturday as the kid sleeps and the hands are let free for a little while.  Limitations abound with any parent looking to do some self medicating so stay tuned and be wise while I unload some steam from the cerebellum.

Cardinals Nerve Center Update

The team signed Randy Choate to a 3 year, 7.5 million dollar deal.  If you have no idea who he is, join the other million people and allow me to enlighten you.  Remember last season when the Cards had constant trouble with getting lefthanded batters out.   Say hello to Mr. Choate, who doesn’t choke.  He is 37 years old, will team with Marc Rzepcynzski and complete the lefty arsenal for the Birds.  Choate isn’t flashy and won’t steal headlines but he is a key acquisition for a team needing cleansing from the left side of the bullpen.  You can stock two bullpens with our right arms but the left needed a lift.  Choate held lefthanded hitters to a .173 batting average over the past 3 years and has a devastating slider that qualifies as Houdini’s vanishing ball to hitters stepping on the left side.   He is a specialist and one of the best on the market.  He will only face one or two hitters and worked in 80 games in 2012, a league high.   A good signing and another smart pickup from Mo.

A year ago today, Albert Pujols decided to head out West and leave the Cardinals and an icon status behind.  His choice and still in my opinion, a wrong one.   Albert was wooed and cuddled by Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto and given a 10 year 240 million dollar deal.  Albert and Dee Dee all of sudden drew heavy fire on a baseball town that treated them like King and Queen for a decade as they departed last winter.   Dee Dee(stupid fucking name) set fires on the radio and Albert whined about not being personally handled by the Cardinals at his LA press conference.   Fast forward a year later and this is what happened.  The Cards grew up with new players and overcame new obstacles while coming within one win of a return to the World Series while Albert’s stats trended downward and his Angels couldn’t fill seats and the team finished third in the division.   For the guy that pledged for years like it was stamped on his forehead that WINNING was most important, his new team didn’t win shit and actually drew jeers instead.    You reap what you sow Mr. Pujols.  I still stand here and appreciate all that he did in Cardinal Red.  2 World Series, electrifying consistency and 3 MVP’s.  Tons of local charity work that continues today.    It’s those same reasons that strangle my logic when I try to determine why he indeed left.  It wasn’t just money.  California taxes will make that 240 million contract shed a decent amount to where the deal mirrors the Cardinals final offer of 10 years at 210 million.   If he stays, he is the best Cardinal of all time when he retires.  He overtakes Stan, gets a statue, breaks every record known to St. Louis historians and retires a king.  Instead, he is just another pretty good player on a different team and no longer ensured a legacy made of steel.    Albert’s legacy is now confined by bricks, which are slowly cracking.   Feel like having a laugh?  The Angels will pay Pujols near 30 million for the last three years of his contract.   When he is 38, 39 and 40 years old.    Say hello to the A-Rod-Yankees deal, part two.  The dread of MLB contracts being guaranteed.  Albert Pujols made a mistake and he knows it.   Money doesn’t buy happiness within the mind and winning doesn’t come with it either.  He will slowly fry under the harsh LA sun if that team keeps losing.  Amazing what expectations can do to a man’s career.  If he started to decline in St. Louis, we would frown yet stay loyal because of what he had accomplished before.   Those Angels fans will not show a sliver of their heavenly graces if Jose Alberto Pujols continues to decline.    The Cardinals refusal to go crazy with Albert a year ago provides them with ample revenue to fix leaking spots on the roster for years to come.  It allowed us to snag Carlos Beltran, who returned with a bang.   It allowed the Cardinals to give the position to Allen Craig, and decent portions of playing time to super sub Matt Carpenter and future slugger Matt Adams.  The production of the Cardinals three headed monster and Pujols was closer than some in Hollywood would like to admit or clarify.  That’s baseball folks.  One man doesn’t make a team and a team can survive without their biggest star if the right decisions are made.   Years from now, John Mozelaik may get a statue for himself with a smile on his face, one that carries the weight of a 240 million plank walk not taken.  Scarf and blackberry included.

Once again, sign Jason Motte to a modest 3 year deal.  He wants security over yearly dollar.  Put the kid at ease.

While I would like to see him stay in the bullpen, I can’t deny the thrill of thinking of Trevor Rosenthal in the rotation firing heaters and changeups in the 5th spot.  Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn, you’ve been warned.   Shelby Miller makes the team as a long reliever with starter capability.   The prospects are crowded right now and Shelby can use a full year to grow into the majors.

Marco Scutaro getting 3 years and 21 million is a career utility infielder cashing in on being a clutch hero in a playoff run.  The moment The Rockies traded him to San Francisco, Scutaro was a hitting machine and after getting taken out by Matt Holliday in Game 2, the legend continued to grow.  I don’t think he is worth that kind of money, but good for him.  He worked the system and won the deal of a lifetime.  Guaranteed.  Who wants to take bets on Matt Holliday finishing the job on opening day in 2013 and crushing Scutaro’s hip for good this time??  I’ll buy that for a dollar.

Chris Duncan’s story is incredible.   Since his departure from baseball, Duncan grew in statue around the St. Louis area as a quality color analyst on 101.1 the Fast lane’s sports radio show.   Duncan’s takes on the Cards and other topics were solid and came from days of research and knowledge of the game.  His presence countered the lunacy of D’ Marco Farr’s retardation and Randy Karraker’s talky tendencies.  Duncan spoke on point.  In October, his life took a sudden turn for the worse.   After a sudden seizure and weeks of a metallic taste in his mouth, Duncan was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer.    This was especially haunting since Duncan’s mother, Janice was stricken with a similar disease a year before.   His father Dave must have carried the grief of a wounded soul throughout the process.    However, Duncan underwent a 6 hour surgery and the tumor was removed.  After a week of therapy and rest, Chris’ personality was intact and he was speaking again.  He does work at home and calls in his daily Cardinals take on the radio show with a return to follow early next year.   A great story and a great guy.   I always appreciated Chris’ ability to make jokes about himself and his troubling days in the outfield.  He was a slugger for a couple years and saw his career end early because of a degenerative hip and nerve problems in his neck.   He found his real niche on the radio and I hope he returns soon.

Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez, Part IV

The two boxers meet in the ring tonight with one goal.  Abolish the past and silence the critics.  Pacquiao wants to prove to boxing fans that he’s still got it.   A series of fights that haven’t featured the vintage Pac Man we had come to respect and be entertained by gave roots to the fact that his better days were behind him.   Pacquiao is coming off a controversial win over Marquez last November(I thought he lost upon watching the fight again) and another controversial fight this past May where he lost to Timothy Bradley(my son Vinny even knew Pac Man won).   Manny needs to destroy Marquez tonight once and for all.   The only way to silence critics thinking the judges may have made your career is to take the scoring out of their hands and knock Juan out.  One of the unspoken great things about Pacquiao is the difficulty opponents have in knocking him down.  Manny hasn’t been knocked down since Erik Morales put him there in 2008.  Pacquiao needs a knockout tonight or a clear decision victory.   Unanimous.   Marquez is a 39 year old boxing vet who wants to put the signature stamp on his career by proving to fans that Manny hasn’t gotten the better of him in their three fights.   After years of being other fighter’s stepping stones, Marquez wants to step into the spotlight and take a bow by beating one of boxing’s golden boys.   Pacquiao is the thorn in the side of his career, one that features few failures outside of 2 losses to Manny and one to Floyd Mayweather Jr..   While I will say all three fights were hair thin close, people forget that the first fight should have been given to Manny on clear scoring rules.   Pacquiao nearly knocked Marquez out in the first round of their first fight when he dropped him three times.    In the rule book, that’s a 10-6 round.   One of the judges scored it 10-7 and that one point was the difference between a draw(the result) and a win.  The second fight in my opinion was a clear draw.   Lots of action, equal round owners and bloody great carnage.  The third fight was close but Marquez got my vote after a second viewing because he dominated the majority of the fight.  In my eyes, its even.  A win apiece and a draw.  Tonight’s fourth meeting brings the answers home, the losers to the floor and the reality front and center.   That’s boxing for you.  As ringside analyst and long time spokesperson Jim Lampley put so brilliantly in last weekend’s Trout-Cotto fight, “you don’t play boxing.  You do it.  It is your life.”  Touche!  Let the games begin tonight around 10 pm.  I will be finding the fight online because no way in hell am I paying 70 dollars for it unless I am in attendance in Las Vegas.

Movies to Recommend(A Quick Dose)

Killing Them Softly-Brad Pitt’s new film about the harsher side of 2008’s criminal underworld amidst the economic crisis is well written, acted and features electrifying moments of great cinema.   Pitt is a mob enforcer brought in to clean up a mess after two low life wannabe’s knock over a mob connected poker game.  Ray Liotta, James Gandolfini and Richard Jenkins fill out a versatile cast but Pitt anchors the film with a juicy performance covered in brutal violence and signature monologues.  See it.

Fitzgerald’s Family Christmas-Edward Burns’ latest Irish family drama hits all the right notes that you want a holiday comedy themed drama to in this heartfelt ode to family loyalty and salvation.  Burns writes, directs, produces and stars in the film as the elder brother of 7 siblings who must convince their mom to allow their father, who ran out on them 20 years ago, to come back for Christmas dinner to make amends.   Small powerful moments, funny bits and statements abound in a film shot so realistically that you expect to go visit these people down the street.  Burns writes and directs effortlessly and you appreciate it because he makes his films guerrilla style without Hollywood assistance.  It’s not easy to sneak in references about terminal diseases, family dysfunction and 9/11 into a sweet little story like this, but Burns achieves it and delivers a feel good movie that doesn’t try too hard.

Those are my recommendations.  Do with them as you shall, and go to my website, film-addict.com for more.   We are an official business now, having acquired our L.L.C. which makes us a legit company.   Get the best from the film-addicts.

The Quick Bits

*The Boardwalk Empire and Sons of Anarchy season finales proved that brutal violence works if the story and dialogue matches the carnage.   Lives were destroyed, alliances made, and heavy morals of redemption, revenge and inner demons brought forth the character growth a fan hopes for in their favorite television series.  It’s hard to deny the brilliance of these shows.

*Speaking of shows, Showtime is debuting a new drama featuring Liev Schreiber, the talented versatile character actor and voice of HBO’s 24/7, and I am game for it.  I will watch that man in anything.  Been a fan for years.  An actor like Burns in a way, who does what he wants and when he wants it.  He chooses his roles instead of roles choosing him.

*The Rams knocked off the 49ers on Sunday and I didn’t get to blog about it afterwards so why waste a whole section on an old event?    Here is what I will say.  This team is 5-6-1 and could be better with sharper play in the final moments of games but can you believe we have 5 wins already?   The effect of Jeff Fisher and his coaching staff on a young group of players is astonishing.   On Sunday at home, the Rams finished the job they started in San Francisco.   The game was brutal, physical, featured bad officiating, close moments, and came down to a pair of legs deciding the fate.   49ers’ kicker David Akers missing a 50 plus yard shot in overtime and The Rams’ rookie wonder Greg “Legatron” Zuerline booting a 53 yard bomb to bring home the win.   That’s football.   The work of 53 men coming down to one man’s right leg.  This week, The Rams play in the cold, scary confines of Buffalo, who is 5-7 and face INT machine and former Ram Ryan Fitzpatrick.  The keys to this game are establishing the running game against a 30th ranked run defense, taking the ball away from Buffalo and Sam Bradford making timely smart passes.   This week, the Rams could reach .500, win their third in a row and gain legit status.  Can they handle the pressure?  Last year, a win was a Christmas present.  This Sunday, a win could mean a new found consistency.

*The NHL nearly came to an agreement this past week before talks broke down.    The players were in the room for 12 hour days and seem to be pushing for a resolution but the NHL is now digging its feet in.   A 50/50 split was agreed on by both sides, but now the agreement term and little details are linchpin ideals holding back an alliance and keeping a sport from hitting the ice.  When the Rams stop playing in December, St. Louis sports may fall dead for a full 45 days before spring training starts.  That’s a shame.  I am beginning to think the NHL owners and GM’s are holding back a deal.  In 2005, the player conceded and gave more of their share to owners in an effort to bring closure to a lockout.  This time, the owners want it to happen again, but why should the player’s give in a second time?   Here is David Backes’ honest first hand account.


*Good music to listen to right now.  “Will There Be Enough Water” by The Dead Weather.  “Holland Road” by Mumford and Sons.  “Your Touch” by the Black Keys.  “Money That’s What I Want” by Barrett Strong.  “The Toll” by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.  “Reckoner” by Radiohead.   That’s good for now.

*I like and respect Bob Costas and even admire his willingness to fire off about gun control on the Sunday Night Football telecast this past week.   However, I disagree with his thoughts on it.  There is no such thing as gun control.  It is as comical as the gay marriage debate.   It is a simple ideal.   The threat of guns depends on whose hands the firearm fall into.   It can be in a good man’s hands or a bad person’s control.   Taking them away helps nothing.  Prohibition didn’t cause anything but chaos.  Gun control doesn’t make any sense because every hater of guns is a hypocrite.  If someone points one at your head in your home, you will sure wish a gun was near to extinguish the situation.   Guns don’t kill people.  Fingers pull the trigger.  Every gun has a safety and every human makes a decision to fire that weapon.   Sorry Bob but you are wrong.

*The daily grind of a working class man has its good and bad areas.   It’s good to be back in the workforce making a few dollars but it is a tiring process when coupled with the website, fitness work, and the little man.   Throw in being a good thoughtful husband and the slot is full for this Greasy Italian.   I get up at 5am, work until 230pm, work out for an hour, pick up the kid, feed him, bath him and then put him to bed.   Laundry, dishes and a Guinness Black Lager to follow.  Ronnoco is a job and one that includes getting up close and personal with one of the most exotic and provocative items on the planet and that is coffee.   It is 2nd only to oil in the most traded and popular commodity in the world.  When you see the production this close, the appreciation for the sensation that is coffee only grows.  Sleeping with the mistress isn’t the proper term.  It’s just a job with a few perks.

*One of the great things about Pacquiao and Marquez fighting for a fourth time is that the two men always deliver a closely contested and entertaining bout.   If these guys’ bodies could withstand a couple more fights, I’d take it.   Few pairs create such a spark in the ring.   It’s like they were made to fight each other.

*Listening to Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds tear into a DMB rarity in “When The World Ends”, a 2001 song that had a video made which featured planes crashing into buildings.  After 9/11 occurred, DMB and company decided to rightly put the video on the shelf.  Hearing it live and stripped down to the bone with two men and two guitars digging at its soul, the song is better than ever and will stand tall in another 30 years.  Here it is.

*How many directors direct three brilliant pulse pounding and complete dramas in a row?   Ben Affleck.   He’s only been doing this 5 years.  He may own an Oscar in January and there won’t be a single thing wrong with it.  That’s special for a man once left for dead in Hollywood.   Few actors stitch their wounds right and heal in a way Boston Ben has.  Good for him.  His next film will be about notorious Boston gangster Whitey Bulger, with Affleck directing Matt Damon as Whitey.   Greatness underway.

*Bradley Cooper is a good guy.  Sincerely and honestly a pretty humbled gentleman.  Reading his Esquire magazine article, you get the sense the man isn’t one bit pretentious and is just enjoying fame.   I remember when he played a bully in Wedding Crashers and have watched every one of his movies since that little breakthrough.    His deep talent is being recognized in one of my favorite films of the year, Silver Linings Playbook.   Off the screen, he loves answering questions, working with the media and still loves his mom and dad.   It’s refreshing to see a good hard working actor become a movie star and stay the same throughout success.   Asked what he does with the 15 million paid to him for Hangover 2, Cooper says it allowed him to make 5 smaller films in between and also do good deeds for people.   “It’s great to tell someone, I am going to buy your house for you.  You don’t have to worry about paying the mortgage anymore.”   Good guys don’t always finish last.  Cooper will be nominated for a best actor Oscar next month.  He won’t beat Day Lewis or Denzel, but he will be a member of that prestigious group of nominees.   Good for him.  He’s earned the recognition.

*The harshest part of being back in the St. Louis working class is missing out on the daytime press screenings.   Twice the past two weeks, I have missed out on the 11am screenings at the Tivoli.  The quiet, free food and drink included and old fashioned press only movies.  Those are the perks of being a critic.  Going to a silent screening with only critical minds in the room.  I don’t mind the thrill of an audience but when you watch it with other judges, there are no distractions, extra talking or sudden launches of stupidity such as “Kick his ass Denzel, my brotha!”   I miss those.   One day, when I do this film addict gig for a living, I will go to every single press screening.  One day.

*My kid is a maverick at 15 months.  He knows when to obtain leverage with a good cry and how to face plant a hardwood floor without needing to cry.  He walks, stumbles, and eats like a football fan.  He will cry for food and has the most famous sad face of all time.  Having kids doesn’t add years to your life.  They shave them off because they keep you on your toes and sharpen your attention to detail.  If you care to lose a few pounds, have a kid.  Their effect is long lasting and worth every minute.  They also allow you to yell at them at a young age without much effect since they can’t understand a word from your mouth until 16-18 months.   Unload your grief on them.  Share a drink.  They are worth more than you can imagine.   And…they are complete pricks 70 percent of the time.

Meme, A Year Later

In three days, the anniversary of my late grandmother’s fall will hit.   On December 11th of 2011, Meme took a fall down a flight of steps.   She hit her head and went into a coma and never made it out, passing away on December 24th, the anniversary of her wedding date decades earlier.  Her absence is felt today as much as it was last Christmas.  A void where sweetness and loving care used to exist.   Without her, I don’t get the random calls asking me what I am doing with my life or why haven’t I called Bill DeWitt III for a job.   I no longer get the tug on my arm for attention from a short old lady just wanting to know how I was doing.   I miss those calls.  A lot.  They were my reminder that something isn’t as sweet and bitter as the devotion of a grandmother.  She cared about people more than herself and if you had the pleasure of receiving a dose of Meme, your life was a whole lot better.   On December 11th of last year, Meme left us.  Her body stuck around for 13 extra days in order for family and friends to come pay their respects but to me she was gone.  Her spirit flew out of those eyes the minute her head hit the hardwood floor at a party where she was more than likely transporting herself from one party to the next.   She was never satisfied until she spoke to everybody in the building.   I used to imagine her walking around Busch Stadium talking to devoted Cardinals fans about French and red wine while they desperately tried to watch baseball.  It’s a cute fun memory that never fades.   The last time Meme called me was on the late afternoon of December 11th, and I missed the call while Rachel and I were trying to find a friend’s house for a birthday party.   You never think catastrophe could strike at any given moment so I assumed I would get one more call from her.   I listened to the voicemail in the car and Meme told me that she loved me, missed me and that the Cardinals would be okay without Albert Pujols.   That’s my grandmother in one statement.   She knew nothing about baseball, didn’t know how it was played or ever watched it for passion, but she knew I loved that team more than life itself so she wanted to soothe me.  She was right.  The Cardinals nearly went back to the World Series and more importantly, my son Vinny didn’t go back to the hospital after she passed.   I don’t believe in GOD having an effect on earth but I have a hint of belief or hope in the afterlife.  I can imagine her up there, being the little voice in people’s heads as she walks around with a glass of merlot and asking someone if 60 minutes is on yet.   She will find a place that shows French independent movies as well.  If there is an afterlife or a thing called heaven, Meme is there.  Trust me.  When my grandfather died of a heart attack in 1990, I couldn’t imagine Meme without him.   Now, in some way, they could be together again.   Maybe.  I don’t believe in GOD but I would like to believe in that.  RIP Henrietta Bulus.

If you care to know a little more about my Meme, here is the obituary for her posted in the Post Dispatch.   My mom wrote it and it’s quite beautiful.

I’ll end it there.   Know this.   Please live life to the fullest.  Before you know it, it will be over.  Gone just like a random thought.  Keep in touch with your family and stay attached to the friends that deserve it.   The key in this life, through my 30 years, is knowing how to be a little wild but safe at the same time.  My grandmother was the healthiest 80 year old you will ever see, but she made a mistake and paid for it.   She died having too much fun.  Whenever I think life is beating me down, I think about her perspective.   Live life slowly, suck it all in and enjoy it.  Living is a privilege.   Always will be.  Our time here is numbered.   Please don’t waste a minute.

I didn’t mean for things to get heavy but this time of year in 2011 a lot of tragedy struck my life.   A year later, the wounds aren’t fully sealed.  Thanks for listening if you made it this far.

Goodnight and good luck,

Dan L. Buffa

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