Pound Puppy

I’m amazed by people who know how old they were for major life events. As a journalist, I end up asking a lot of people to tell me stories about their childhood. Somewhat regularly, they’ll say something like, “I remember when I was 7, my brother and I were wrestling when…”

My brain doesn’t work like that. I couldn’t name a single thing that happened when I was 7. Or 8. Or 9. I can tell you stories from when I was a kid—like the time I wandered away from a house party in Philadelphia and almost cost my parents their only child—but I have no idea how old I was at the time.

Which is all to say that I can’t tell you how old I was when we adopted my childhood pet, a beagle puppy from the pound that however-many-year-old me inventively named Pound Puppy. I’d guess that I was 3. Or 4 or 5 or 6.

Pound Puppy was a great dog. My dad took him hunting, and all these years later, he still talks about what a great rabbit dog Pound Puppy was. He’d scamper off through the woods, spot a bunny, howl, then chase Bugs back to dad’s waiting gun. Anyone who knows me knows that I can’t cook, but one of my few culinary experiments as a youth was coming up with sauces for rabbit—the combination of yellow mustard and chili powder is less terrible than you might expect. I also have a scarred finger from a time I got too curious about a pot of boiling rabbit on the stove. All thanks to Pound Puppy.

There are aspects of life growing up on the farm that, as a city-dwelling adult, seem almost preposterous in hindsight. Occasionally, I would take Pound Puppy for a walk, which meant unhooking his chain from his dog house and letting him drag me down the dirt lane. In memory, the chain was about 10 feet long, and the dog followed his nose, not his child companion. Luckily, Valley Road didn’t see much traffic.

More often, Pound Puppy was simply allowed to roam the farm, wandering freely over the family’s hundred-odd acres. Now and then, he’d go “missing,” not coming back to his dog house by dark, but he always returned eventually, looking for a meal or missing his feline and bovine companions in the barn. He was part pet, part farm animal. He loved to get scratched behind the ears, and he’d flip onto his back so I could rub his belly, but my hand would always come away black, proof of the dog’s never-ending outdoor adventures.

My father believes that there is one thing separating people from animals: People live in the home, and animals don’t. He believes that letting a dog in the house means that it’s no house it all—people with indoor pets are living in a barn, they just don’t know it. Dogs shed all over your clothes, piss on your carpet, and ruin your furniture. Conservatives like to complain about welfare recipients who have cellphones, drive nice cars, or worst of all, smoke pot. My dad, a Democrat, finds it objectionable only when people of little means waste their money on pets. And don’t even get him started on cancer treatments for animals, an incomprehensible waste of money and brain power. Luckily, Pound Puppy passed peacefully one New Year’s Eve, after only a short period of failing health.

I inherited more than a little of Dad’s world view. In college, when I met my future wife, Rachael, and we began to discuss our future lives together, I explained that I had only one nonnegotiable policy—no dogs in the house. If she wanted a pet, it would need to live under the stars, as God intended. In addition to my dad’s feelings about fur and furniture, I also tend to tense up around dogs. I’m not sure why, but they just make me feel uncomfortable. Being licked by a dog would rank up there with getting poked in the eye and being kneed in the groin on my list of least favorite touches.

I held firm in my anti-dog position for 8 years. But Rachael tends to get what she wants eventually. (When she read that sentence over my shoulder, she suggested I change it to, “Rachael is a loving person, and I like to make her happy.” My point exactly.) This summer, she started pushing hard on me to reconsider my stance on potential pets.

In the end, I caved (more on that in future posts). Despite weeks of seemingly endless discussions, I’m still far from sure it was the right decision.

My plan is to use this blog, which I haven’t posted on in years, to chronicle my experience as a reluctant dog owner. Bring on the barking. (Not really; our dog will keep quiet.)

The Great Rivera Remembered

I can’t say how many times I’ve seen Mariano Rivera pitch.

That might seem obvious. Why would anyone keep track of something so trivial? But in a way, it’s surprising, too. For one thing, I have a minor obsession with lists. More or less everything on this website is a list of one sort or another: a list of stadiums, a list of books, various lists of accomplishments. For another thing, I have a major obsession with Mariano Rivera. To put it simply, he was (and is) my favorite player. Of course, choosing a favorite player is an important moment in the life of any young sports fan. I’m sure I wasn’t alone in feeling a special connection with the man I chose, even though we have never met. And I didn’t just pick any old favorite player. This was the great Rivera, the greatest closer who ever lived, who will ever live. This was a noble man who spoke softly, smiled, and then sawed your bat in half with devastating cut fastball after devastating cut fastball. The phrase “role model” is used far too often in sports, but Mariano is a superb one, in every sense.

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RE: Charles P. Pierce’s Defense of Ryan Braun

As a reader, I have a strange relationship with the sportswriting of Charles P. Pierce. When reading his essays, I often find myself agreeing with his thesis, but disagreeing with the statements he uses to support it. I nod along with the headline, but then become increasingly annoyed—and occasionally incensed—as I move through the piece. In a way, that’s a testament to Pierce’s intelligence and originality. He’s a free thinker in a sportswriting world too often dominated by cliches and groupthink. But Pierce also seems to gravitate toward contrarian arguments, even if they play a little loose with reality.

I ran into this problem with Pierce’s recent essay in support of Ryan Braun, who had his 50-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs overturned on appeal. Pierce’s defense of Braun is not based on the urine-handling details of the NL MVP’s specific case. Instead, Pierce argues that the entire effort to rid baseball of performance-enhancing drugs “has been legally questionable, morally incoherent, and recklessly dependent on collateral damage to make its point.”

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Robbie Cano saves exhibition baseball

There’s been a good bit of talk (read: whining) lately about what has become of baseball’s All-Star festivities. On his podcast last week, Sports Illustrated senior writer (and my sports writing idol) Joe Posnanski and special guest Michael Schur (the artist formerly known as Ken Tremendous) bemoaned what they see as a laundry list of problems with the game.

As you may know, it all goes back to 2002, when the All-Star game ended in a 7-7 tie because both teams ran out of players after 11 innings. That caused commissioner Bud Selig a great deal of embarrassment, especially because the game was played in his hometown of Milwaukee.

As a result, Major League Baseball has spent the past decade or so continuously tinkering with the All-Star format and selection process. The biggest change is that, in an effort to add meaning to the game, the winning league now receives home field advantage in the World Series. This has resulted in a number of bizarre contradictions: Continue reading

Feelings: Fifth Amendment, birthdays, Tiger

I have always been confused by the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The language of the amendment is clear enough. It simply states that no person “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” This is, obviously, the basis for the phrase “plead the Fifth,” which is pervasive on television courtroom dramas.

But here’s my problem: When a person invokes his right not to incriminate himself, it seems to me that he is admitting his guilt.

The amendment says you don’t have to testify against yourself. But it doesn’t, at least not explicitly, allow you to withhold testimony in any other situation. You can’t refuse to testify for yourself; you have no right against self-exoneration. Thus, it seemed to me, a person can only invoke the Fifth Amendment if they did something wrong, something, um,  incriminating.

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Resolving to cut the fat

My father once told me the following joke. A man is at the doctor’s office and asks his physician, “Doc, if I never drink, never smoke, and never chase women, will I live forever?”

“No,” the doctor replies, “but it will sure feel that way.”

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Other than my two most obvious skills — breaking promises about this website and annoying my wife — the thing in life I think I’m best at is setting goals.

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Why I should be on every MLB team’s payroll

As you may have heard through email, text message or Facebook status, I’ve managed to procure a full-time job, which I start Monday. Obviously, this is wonderful news, but I’m not sure what it means for this blog. Unfortunately, there is a reasonable chance I will have less time to spend working on the site than I already do.

But I’ve been making empty promises about the blog for quite a while and I have a whole list of half-finished posts, so my goal is to end my unemployment with a bang. If all goes according to plan, which it rarely does, this post will be followed by several others in the next few days. Good luck to me.

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As you may have learned in the previous two posts in this series, I am one of the most powerful good luck charms in sports history. In 2009, I went to five Yankees games, and they won them all. This past season, I went to 10 Knicks games, and they managed to go 5-5 in those contests, despite going 24-48 in games I didn’t attend, a .333 winning percentage.

This year, I wanted to use the baseball season as a sort of luck experiment. I wanted to determine just how lucky I really am.

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