Inevitability, and Other Ramblings

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September 21st, 2022

Greetings boys and girls. It’s a fine September day in Minnesota, with refreshing temps in the low 60s and a sky so blue they should name a Crayon after it.

Yesterday, Barbara and I went for a walk. We do this often. It sounded like a grand idea. It wasn’t until we were possibly 200 yards from home when Barbara said, “Man, it’s hot and humid! Can we find a walk that has the most shade?”

She was right, and we did. We had both seen the forecast for the rest of the week and, therefore, also agreed that there was surely a thunderstorm or two in our near future. It was 87 and “sticky” when we walked and perspired yesterday. By this morning, it was around 59 or 60. Those changes usually only come at the expense of a cold front hitting hot air. Hence, thunderstorms. We dodged most of it here in our part of Woodbury, but when the hail did crash down it was of the marble to golfball variety. Fortunately, it only lasted a few minutes here. We’ve had a series of storms like this in 2022, and they have resulted in a nearly nonstop cacophony of roofing hammers installing new shingles. Truly, it’s been nonstop, and at least half the homes in our neighborhood have gotten new roofs this summer. We’ve dodged that so far, but it sure would be a shame for anyone who just got a new roof to have had it damaged by last night’s hail.

So, the inevitable nature of cooling temps in September led me to think about all the things in life that are inevitable. Hence, the first part of today’s headline.

For most of my life, one of the cliches I’ve heard the most was the one about sure things in life. Those two things have always been “death and taxes.” The first part of that statement remains undefeated and un-scored upon throughout history. The second part, not so much. We’ve heard for years about a lengthy list of extraordinarily rich people, corporations, and other institutions that pay basically no taxes. That’s a whole rant for another day…

But that all got me thinking about what is inevitable. Things that are beyond our control. As they say in sports, “You can’t stop them. You can only hope to contain them.” Like a great running back or point guard. Here are my thoughts…

Here in Minnesota, climate shifts and weather in general do create differences we have to get used to. Such as, we’ll probably have a lousy autumn in terms of colors on the trees this year. Why? Because it’s been hot and very dry (except for the times when all hell breaks loose and we get ready to hunker down in the utility room.) Ponds are just swamps right now. Rivers are way down. Lakes are often more like ponds. But, we’ll still have winter. That’s inevitable. At least for the foreseeable future. We’ll have lows in the 40s and 50s this week. We’re still weeks away from the first snowfall, but it’s out there. It’s inevitable. And since we originally moved here in 2002, I’ve learned not to hope for a mild winter. “Mild” here means winter temps in the teens or 20s. Why wouldn’t you want that? Because that relative warmth creates heavier and wetter snow. The kind that dumps 18-inches of near concrete in a day or overnight. More standard temps in the low teens or single digits (above or below) create light fluffy snowflakes. The kind you can push around and scrape off the drive, as opposed to the heavy wet stuff that leads to lower back injuries (or worse.) So, anyway, it’s inevitable. We’ll just have to see how bad.

The passage of time is also inevitable, as far as we know for sure. I mean, time travel is actually something real scientists research and hypothesize on these days, but for the rest of us time just keeps grinding on. It just occurred to me that I’ve been “out of college” twice as long as the age I was when I graduated. OK, that sentence was a little hard to follow. Here’s the math: I was 22 when Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville granted me a diploma. OK, I was 22 when my four core years were done. I did go back and pick up some more classes the next year, but we shan’t be picking nits here. I’m 66 now (a number I still can’t process) which means I’ve been a college grad for 44 years. That’s twice my age when I graduated. Time marches on, and it seems to speed up the older you get.

To a great degree, I still think like that kid in college. I think I’m young. At that age, you’re becoming real adults and you either push back on that or embrace it. I embraced it. I felt bulletproof and brilliant. I knew it all. It was a great time to be alive and we maximized the good times we could have. I’m not that kid, though. Not mentally or physically. Things hurt. There no longer seems to be a day when everything is physically perfect. Those days are gone. Knees, ankles, shoulders, spinal discs, and large muscles all announce to me, on a daily basis, “Hey, cool it dude. We’re not 22 anymore…” and then they prove the point to me.

It’s been a month since my epic “double reunion” week in St. Louis. When I spent three days with my former SIUE teammates and roomies, Lance and Oscar, I swear one of the most common themes for conversation focused on ailments. We may still feel like kids, especially around each other and when we’re not anywhere near a mirror, but we’re not. We’re 66. That’s four short years from 70. I’m literally shaking my head just writing that.

Time never slows down, it only speeds up. That’s deep, but it’s the way it feels. We go from being young people whose parents didn’t understand us or the music we listened to, and then in a split second we find we have become those older folks (most of my peers are grandparents now) and we can’t understand the kids these days. And the music? Mostly it’s not even music. It’s just noise. Does that sound familiar? Yeah, it does. We’re crabby old people.

Another thing that seems inevitable, but probably isn’t in the real world, is the continuing letdown we feel as Minnesota sports fans. We moved here in 2002 and the only major championships any local sports teams have won belong to our once-brilliant Minnesota Lynx, of the WNBA. Even they were just 14-22 this year, finishing fifth in a six-team division. The Vikings dominated the Packers in their first game, and all was good, optimistic, and positive. Rainbows and unicorns! They got dismantled by the Eagles this past Monday night and it was “Here we go again…” The Twins were in first place for most of the season, and then basically 90% of their starting lineup went on the Injured List. They are effectively fielding a Triple-A team these days, with ┬ájust a couple of core starters physically able to play. The post-season has slipped away. Here we go again. Minnesota United FC was marching up the standings in MLS, and capped that off with a 4-0 stunner of a victory over Everton from the British Premier League. All was good. Soccer was king. And then they lost a few they should’ve won, or got embarrassed completely. Here we go again. The Wild and the Timberwolves? They start soon. Will they bring us joy? There’s one mental ability we Minnesotans do have, and that’s the resolve to always have hope. Maybe this year on the ice. Maybe this year on the court. Maybe. We still show up and cheer.

I clearly remember one key piece of advice I received right before we moved here. We were living in Austin, Texas and loving it. Winter in Austin falls on a Sunday in January. When Barbara got the offer she couldn’t refuse from Lawson Software, we moved to Minnesota. We had no idea what it would be like. Back then, with Del Worsham and the CSK-sponsored Funny Car team, we had a fine relationship with Pepsi, as a significant associate sponsor. I, therefore, dealt with a Pepsi marketing person. I recall his name was Scott but I don’t recall his last name. He lived in the south Twin Cities suburbs, and when we were getting ready to move I talked to him about it. In addition to telling me about wearing layers and having good tires, he said, “It’s pretty simple. Basketball and hockey. They get you through the winter.” Wise words.

So, there you go. The inevitability of so many things can weigh on you, and just proofing this blog I can see it’s weighing on me a little. You can’t let it. You can’t control it, so just let it be. The thing I do the best, with all of this, is maintaining my young attitude. If I close my eyes and avoid trying to throw things, or run, or bend over, I’m still about 30. I just have to avoid mirrors.

On the book front, we continue to move forward with my new PR agency. So far, all is great. I know I’ve picked a winner and they can take me to levels I never imagined (no matter how young I was or how old I may now be.) They have a very talented staff, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of the collaboration. I wish we could launch the PR plan right now, and we could as far as Ascot Media Group is concerned, but it’s wise to wait another month before we hit the ground with it. The last big trip I have scheduled for ’22 is the Doyle family reunion in the middle of October.

When I’m in Pennsylvania for a little more than a week, I’ll be unable to be “on call” for the media who might want to interview me or talk about my books. That would be dumb, so we’ll just wait until I get home from that. I’m terrible at waiting for things I’m pumped up about, but I have to be patient on this one.

I just spent about a week working with Wendy at Ascot. She’s their lead press release writer, and I was truly and honestly blown away by not only how good she is, but how willing she was to collaborate in order to get it all just right. The final product was one of the best and most compelling press releases I’ve ever read, and as you likely know, I’ve written a few. Absolutely top notch.

When we made the decision that I’d take this big step to hire such a successful agency to represent me, both Barbara and I made comments like “This is the big leagues” and it is proving to be just that. Waiting another month will be about as bad as waiting for Christmas when I was a kid, but Christmas never came early and this plan has to be rolled out then. I’ll make the most of it.

So that’s all good. “Just be patient, Bob. It will happen when it needs to happen.” Easier said (or written) than done, but I’m up for it.

On a different subject, my double-reunion weekend last month in St. Louis also included that fantastic Sauget Wizards get-together and I’m still glowing about that. I’ve had time to digest it and reflect on it, and the key for me is a double-whammy of very positive feelings. For one, the Wizards were a very good team made up of truly fantastic guys. Secondly, for some reason I matured into the player I always wanted to be while playing for Bob Hughes on the Wizards. Bob was a remarkable leader and mentor. I learned more from him, about hitting and playing the game the right way, in those years than I did in my entire career before I played for Sauget.

You’d think that playing college baseball on a full scholarship, and then playing professional ball after that would be the ultimate achievement. It might have been if I’d been the hitter I ended up being as a Wizard. I was still trying to catch up and keep my head above water as a college player and a pro. Things changed after I spent parts of five years as a scout for the Blue Jays and couldn’t, therefore, play anymore. When I quit scouting and I joined the Wizards, I think I was about 28 and hadn’t swung a bat in five years. Maybe I just needed the time off from playing. Maybe I’d gotten stronger. Maybe Bob Hughes finally got through to me.

I hit five home runs in college, but three of those were during the summer league, so you’ll never find them on any official stats. Those games were great, but they weren’t part of our NCAA schedule.

As a Sauget Wizard, I don’t really know how many home runs I hit. Did I go deep 100 times? That’s absolutely possible. Maybe more. I also played one season for a team in Fairfax, Virginia and hit five dingers there, in about 30 games, including a dramatic bomb against the Korean National Team. I crushed that one enough that all I did was drop my bat and jog while the left-fielder just spun around to watch it go. And I wrapped up my playing career with a championship team in Kansas City, in 1995. I hit five or six there, and I was about to turn 40.

I could easily look back on that with sadness or regret. Like, “Why couldn’t I put it all together like that as a pro?” but that’s a waste of time and brain power. Instead, I just revel in those Wizards years, with that phenomenal group of guys. It was a different level. A different feeling. A different amount of confidence. A certain player/manager got me there.

Bob Hughes knows this. He doesn’t like to admit it, and he’ll brush you off if you try to tell him, but it’s true. I wouldn’t trade those years with the Wizards for anything. Bob Hughes was the mentor I always needed. I maximized my time with him, and the rest of those guys. It was priceless.

That’s probably enough for this blog installment. It’s all about coming to grips with the moment, as opposed to wishing my youth had never ended or avoiding the here and now.

I always thought I’d be a ballplayer. I never dreamed I’d become an actual author in my 60s. But here I am, on this day, in this place, and it’s magnificent. I’ve got a LOT more to do. And I can’t let the “Here we go again” curse spend a second in my brain. Instead, it’s just “Here we go!”

See you again soon. And, as always, if you liked any of these ramblings please click on the “Like” button at the bottom. And if you’ve read How Far? or my first book Bats, Balls, & Burnouts, and liked them, spread the word.

Now let’s get ready for hockey and basketball. And maybe the Vikings can do some good and learn from that game against the Eagles. And here comes another Minnesota winter.

Bring it on!