Take Me Out To The Ballgame

May 20, 2016

guestcommentary

(While we’re off visiting New York City, our Los Angeles correspondent, Ned Teitelbaum, writes a post about Dodger baseball, linking it back to Brooklyn and public transit. [Did you know them Dodgers got their name from Manhattanites derisively referring to their borough counterparts as ‘trolley dodgers’ because the Brooklyn streets were once filled with trolley cars?] The serendipity of things, huh?)

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There are times during baseball season in Los Angeles when I feel closer to my father’s Brooklyn than I ever did living in New Jersey or Manhattan, or even Brooklyn itself, which we’d pass through on our way to see my grandmother when I was a kid. dodgerstadiumThose times are when the Mets are in town and I am lucky enough to catch one of their games at Dodger Stadium.

“Pick you up at six?” my friend, a New Jersey transplant with season tickets offers one recent evening. Great seats at the game, a meal that comes with the seats, and door-to-door service as well? He’s a great friend, but I decline the ride.

“I’ll just meet you there,” I tell him, thinking that’s how busy people do it in a big city, even if Los Angeles long ago abandoned its urban rubric for a more suburban slant. My friend knows I’m on a transit kick, and now since my car was recently totaled, I just walk and take transit practically everywhere.

Still, I feel a sense of guilt at not taking the ride, as if I’m being anti-social, biting the hand that feeds me.

“I just need to walk a little, climb some stairs,” I explain, and he pretends to understand. We’ll meet up at Will Call.ebbetsfield

I gather my things — my glove, my cap, my Lee Mazzilli shirt — and am about to leave when the phone rings.

“I can’t talk right now, Mom,” I say quickly into the phone.

“Where are you going?” she asks.

“I’m taking the subway to the Dodgers game…” But even before the words are out of my mouth, I am struck by a mysterious, ghostly and disjointed nostalgia, as if I had spoken those exact words in that exact order countless times before.

But of course, I hadn’t.

The Dodgers left Brooklyn for the West Coast the year before I was born. reeseandrobinsonStill, I would hear stories all my young life from the devout Brooklyn Dodger fan that would marry my mother and become my father. He would tell me stories about Pee-Wee Reese, Roy Campanella, the Duke of Flatbush and of course, Jackie Robinson.

But Pee-Wee was his favorite. I’d never seen my father do anything more athletic than mow the lawn or pull up his socks, but in clips of Pee-Wee Reese playing shortstop, I recognized my father’s own physicality – short, quick and tightly muscled – and imagined him as a kid in Bed Stuy playing stickball or handball against the wall.

I take the Red Line down to Union Station from my local stop in Koreatown. When I get to the game, my friend has just arrived. He smiles under his Mets cap, and sports the team shirt as well. I read the name on the back – Dykstra. Lenny Dykstra, nick-named ‘Nails’ for his toughness and unrelenting drive to win. I see my father in him too.

We enter and take our seats. roycampanellaThe sun is coming down behind the palms that top the ridge out beyond the parking lot, and while the visiting players are out on the field, stretching and cracking jokes before the game, I am distracted by the swallows flying above their heads and feasting on the gnats. A breeze, fragrant with sage and mountain pine, comes down from the mountains and fills the stadium. There is no question that the Dodgers’ current home is a powerful place.

After the Star-Spangled Banner, the game starts. The Mets lose a pitchers’ battle on the last at-bat of the game. My friend drives us home in his electric car with the disembodied female voice telling him how to go.

“We’ll get ‘em next time,” he says, and we both know it’s just part of the game, what you say when your team loses. I thank him as I get out of the car and close the door. I am grateful for such a friend.

The next day, I’m waiting for the 206 bus to take me back to my office after a Chinese lunch. A man sits at the stop. He has curly, prematurely white hair and looks up at me, at the top of my head.

“How long you been a Mets fan?”newyorkmetslogo

At first I think it’s odd that he knows. But then I remember I am wearing the team cap.

“All my life,” I tell him with a certain pride.

He reaches into his bag and pulls out his own crumpled Mets cap and puts it on.

The man starts talking. And he is a fast talker, mostly about the Mets and how he was there when Shea Stadium opened in 1964, and for some reason, he gets free seats to any game he wants.

I want to tell him that I was there in 1969 when the Mets won it all, in the fifth game of the World Series at Shea, when they beat the Baltimore Orioles. But I can’t get a word in edgewise.

He continues talking, mentions ‘clients’ of his and I wonder what kind of clients he means. losangelesdodgerslogoHe tells me he got a ball signed at the game at Dodger Stadium the other day and the Mets players who had signed it.

“I got Campbell and Syndegaard and Morales,” he says, then doubles back. “Actually, I already had Morales. But I got Wright and Cespedes and De Grom and…”

He goes on like this even as we get on the now crowded bus and sit next to each other, taking up seats you’re supposed to give up to the elderly and the handicapped.

I glean from his non-stop stream that he is a professional drummer, which probably explains the round canvas bag in his lap. He plays the clubs in Koreatown, he tells me, knows a whole bunch of people from the world of entertainment, including Stevie Wonder and Zsa-Zsa Gabor, and is traveling around the country come June with the Platters. brooklyndodgerslogoWherever he goes, he checks out a baseball game. Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia…

We get to my stop and he gives me his card.

“Call me anytime,” he tells me. “We’ll go to a game.”

I nod and thank him and climb over a few people to get out of the bus. And then I realize I never got a chance to ask him where he was from. Then again, why would I have? It was obvious. As obvious as Pee Wee and Syndegaard, the Duke of Flatbush and Wright.

echoingly submitted by Ned Teitelbaum


The Divine Right To Drive

November 2, 2015

We now return you to our regular scheduled programming…testpattern

With the conclusion of baseball’s post-season last night, it’s back to my normal television viewing pattern which consists of largely of DVRing, Netflixxing and disappointment shaded avoidance. I mean, really? Storage Wars?!

Sports, in general, baseball specifically, is the only time that I spend watching TV in the traditional manner any more. That is, with unfiltered commercial breaks. Sure, I will take to muting them, using them for a bathroom break or to simply stretch my legs. I mean, come on. That first week of October, there were 4 games a day!

Still, baseball broadcasts are when I am really subject to television advertisements, and I can only conclude one thing: televised professional sports exist merely to maintain our automobile industry. carad3How many car ads can they fit into one commercial break? A lot, let’s just say.

And like every other form of advertising, car commercials in no way reflect real life, do not in the least represent any sort of the reality of car ownership. In the ads, a lone automobile contends with the elements of nature. A shiny private vehicle transforms a dreary life into one of white teeth and daring do. A luxurious ride provides escape and calm from the horrors and blight of the modern world.

Your car is different than their car. Your car, in no way, contributes to the grind of your daily commute. Your car is a haven. Your car is not traffic. Their car is.

None of this is a revelation to any of you. Neither is it, I know, at all novel or a new thought. Mark it with a big ol’ shrug and a Well, d’uh.

I bring it up because this morning a group called the Ecofiscal Commission (“Practical solutions for growing prosperity”) released a report calling for a more sensible approach to road pricing in some of Canada’s largest cities. carad2Matt Galloway spoke to one of the report’s authors on Metro Morning today. Matt Elliot took a ride with another one of the authors. In the Globe and Mail, Oliver Moore wrote an article on the report. Tess Kalinowski did the same for the Toronto Star.

In short, we’re talking tolls. We can’t sort out our mobility woes until we start properly charging drivers more fairly for their use of the roads, especially our urban expressways. This is important for any number of reasons, none more so, perhaps, than providing ammunition in the perpetual debate over whether or not drivers already pay more than their share. Gas taxes, and all that. They don’t.

I also bring up the subject of car commercials, the glut of them and their lack of grounding in reality, because one day last week 16 pedestrians were struck down by cars in the GTA. Sixteen! In one day! Ten more than the average daily pedestrian-automobile number of collisions. Six! A day!

The Toronto Police Services responds by announcing a Pedestrian Safety blitz this week, complete with this video:

While we’re told that there’s a 50/50 split in responsibility between drivers and pedestrians for “accidents” that occur between them, this is all about pedestrians taking full responsibility. Be Prepared. Be Seen. Be Safe. “Cross the street as if your life depends on it,” the nice police officer tells us.

Nary a word about drivers driving as if their lives depend on it, as if somebody else’s life depends on it. carad1Why aren’t we instructed to operate our motorized vehicles as if there’s always the possibility that a 4 year-old child could pop out onto the road out of the blue? Why don’t we demand drivers drive to accommodate the most vulnerable of us who they share the road with? Why is it that in 2015 we still behave as if roads are the sole domain of automobiles and the rest of us have to ask nicely and behave properly in order to share the space with them? Even though pedestrians (and cyclists and skateboarders and rollerbladers) pay disproportionately for them?

The most obvious answer to those questions is that that’s just the way it is, the way it’s been for 70 years or so. In the hierarchy of transportation modes, the car is king. Change is slow, the status quo bias strong.

It is a mindset reinforced every time we turn on the TV. carad5With every car commercial we watch, with the freedom of the open road, blowing through our hair, with the high end, Bang & Olufsen sound system blasting out our favourite tuneage, with the rich Corinthian leather (not even a real thing) that cocoons us from the stop and go, years off our lives traffic we find ourselves in every time we get behind the wheel, no report on road pricing is going to convince us to pay more for our right to drive our cars, to persuade us to share the roads more equitably, to assuage our unrelenting and misplaced rage at being stuck behind a streetcar. Television promises drivers unfettered access anywhere and everywhere they want to go, no money down, don’t pay until next year.

Reason and rational thought have nothing to do with it. Driving is a singular experience. Normal rules don’t apply.

rationally submitted by Cityslikr


We’ll Always Have August. And September.

October 8, 2015

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I have this feeling I may be a little preoccupied for the next few days, leading up into and through the long weekend. That’s probably a good thing too, as I’m sure you must be as tired as I am of hearing about ranked ballots specifically and just plain ol’ uninspired local governance in general. A break will probably do us all a little good, right?

Let me take a minute here to venture into somewhat more alien territory for me to be writing about. Baseball. There far more people, far better qualified to do so than I am. If you can’t explain exactly how you arrive at WaR, maybe you should just stay silent and enjoy the game from the cheap seats. But as many of you long time readers will certainly attest to, a certain ignorance of a topic has never stopped me from writing about it before.

I’ll just say this.

Regardless of what happens going forward, while understanding that anything less than a World Series championship will be seen as a failure for many, we should all take a silent moment of contemplation to appreciate what we as baseball fans have already witnessed before this final push commences.

After what was shaping up to be yet another lackluster season, just like all the 20+ seasons prior, we then experienced a kind of run few fans get to experience. Not just in a season but ever. Beginning in late-July right up  until the game the division was clinched last week, we got to follow a team that flirted with an .800 winning percentage. That’s nearly two months of watching a team win almost 8 out of 10 games, 4 out of every 5. It’s a rare thing. It’s a joyous thing. It’s fucking magical, is what it was.

Fingers crossed such winning ways continue. The next 11 will be the most difficult to notch. But when all is said and done, I think it’s going to be August and September I will remember most from this past season. We got to shrug off our well-earned shroud of disbelief and bury the certainty we’d developed that somehow this wasn’t going to work out, that it would all inevitably come crashing down in a flaming heap of disappointment. Again. For another year.

touchemalljoe

Embrace, baseball fans, and enjoy. Before you know it, it’ll be November and spring training will be just 14 weeks away.

giddily submitted by Cityslikr


A Catalyst For Real Change

September 18, 2015

This will be the last thing I say about the 2024 Olympic bid, now non-bid.

Honest.crossmyheart

I’m as tired of it as you are.

Honest.

On Tuesday, prior to Mayor Tory officially confirming what everyone unofficially already knew, Matt Galloway hosted a segment on Metro Morning with two opposing views on the city-building merits of hosting the Olympic games. Supporting the idea was Rahul Bhardwaj, CEO and President of Toronto Foundation, an organization promoting “the Art of Wise Giving” and connecting “philanthropy to community needs and opportunities” (according to the group’s website). He was also the VP of Toronto’s last Olympic bid, back in 2008.

I’ve seen Mr. Bhardwaj talk at a couple of events over the past few years, heard him interviewed on the radio. He always struck me as somebody I’d like to see in public office. impressedThoughtful, enthusiastic, articulate, a welcome addition to any legislative body, in my humble opinion.

So I listened intently to his arguments about what hosting the Olympics could do for Toronto. Since it was pretty clear that wouldn’t be happening this time around, no looming deadline hanging over the discussion, it didn’t feel all so loaded and contentious. Now, with years of planning ahead at our disposal, was the time to have this conversation.

He sang a familiar refrain. Hosting the Olympics would act as a “catalyst for the things this city needs,” he told Galloway. The Olympics presented “an opportunity to focus scare resources” at all levels of government on building things like transit and other infrastructure, affordable housing, create jobs.

“World class cities, that’s what they do,” he said. Yeah. He went there.

“We all have to take risks. We all have to innovate.” Failure to do so spoke “to a lack of confidence”, ambition even. spielTo not bid on the Olympics represented a “missed opportunity,” according to Bhardwaj.

Aside from the ‘world class city’, lack of confidence nonsense, I found fault with little Mr. Bhardwaj said. Toronto certainly has a long list of need-to-haves in terms of both physical and social infrastructure. It doesn’t have the means to pay for them itself nor should it have to. The other levels of government, the senior levels of government have proven loath to contribute to any or all of these items fully or regularly. Offering up an opportunity to do so in a manner that allows them to be both self-aggrandizing while appearing to be province/nation building rather than specific city building might just be the ticket.

Risky, for sure, as all sorts of things have to fall into place for any sort of Olympic bid to succeed. Innovative though? I guess, if that means depending on a magic bullet solution that’s shown mixed results in other places that have hosted the Olympics. As Mr. Bhardwaj’s co-guest on the show, Dean Rivando, claimed, the 2012 games in London brought $7 billion in infrastructure with a $14 billion price tag in public money spent. vantageThat’s a pretty hefty middleman sum.

“Why do we need a circus like that [the Olympics] to build the things that we need in Toronto?” Galloway asked Bhardwaj.

Answering that question satisfactorily would be something truly innovative. City-builders like Rahul Bhardwaj should spend some of their city-building energy addressing the asymmetric governance structure which sees us funnelling most of our money the furthest away from where we need it and have it trickling back when it suits the federal and provincial governments’ interests. We’re like children who cut the neighbours’ lawns for extra cash in order to pay rent to our parents, and still have to beg them for an allowance, and when they give it to us, we’re told we have to use it to go buy them a pack of smokes. (Yeah, I’m of that vantage. Pun not typo.)

Bad analogies aside, we need innovative city leaders who don’t simply accept the status quo. I do not believe you can be an effective and useful city builder anymore unless at least some of your respective connections and social capital are utilised in the direction of confronting and combating the fundamental lack of fairness in how our governance model functions. puppetmasterWe have to figure out how, in the 21st-century, we shed our 19th-century skin.

By hosting the Olympics, Bhardwaj told Metro Morning listeners on Tuesday, “We can actually build a vision of this city.”

How about dedicating our efforts to building a city that isn’t dependent on other levels of government to do things it needs to do, a city that doesn’t have to beg and perform a song and dance in the hopes of propping up our crumbling infrastructure or housing its residents affordably or move them around from point A to point B quickly and efficiently? A vision of an independent city that makes the right decisions for the right reasons rather than because it has little alternative. That’s the vision of Toronto I’d like to see us pursuing.

for realzly submitted by Cityslikr


The Mayor Declares

September 15, 2015

It looks like now very few of us will ever learn why it was Mayor John Tory caught himself a case of Olympic fever and, for the last month or so, tried to spread the contagion city-wide. torontosignHolding a curious press conference on the roof of snack bar in Nathan Phillips Square (to afford a better camera angle on the PanAm/ParaPan Toronto sign, I guess) to announce his intention not to submit a commitment to bid letter for the 2024 summer games, the mayor cited most of the same reasons those opposing a possible bid had been trotting out since the idea popped up in the wake of the above mentioned PanAm/ParaPan games. Too short a time line to put together a proper bid. No committee in place to do so. A lack of support from the private sector, and by support, I mean money.

One reason he didn’t mention that I think should be pointed out here is the soft public support for a bid. Perhaps the veil of secrecy that surrounded the mayor’s consultative process during the last few weeks dampened any sort of chance at a last minute surge in pro-bid momentum. Who exactly was he talking to? puttingoutthefireWhile he claimed he’d been in conversation with, among other stakeholders, his council colleagues, Anthony Perruzza might beg to differ. In fact, he did just that yesterday on Metro Morning. The hush-hush, behind closed doors approach the mayor engaged in leading up to this decision generated more suspicion than enthusiasm.

Why Mayor Tory took to the podium to make this negative announcement remains something of a mystery to me. Wouldn’t a simple press release have sufficed, given he was saying no? I guess having beaten the bushes to scare up some semblance of interest in hosting the Olympics, words on page might’ve seemed like the coward’s way out. Nope. Step up. Claim the decision as your own.

Which, arguably, has been something of the intent and optics of all this from the outset. The mayor as the authoritative voice, the buck stops with him guy. City council as merely an afterthought, a rubber stamp on mayoral decisions.

None of this is true but you wouldn’t know that from how the entire will he-or-won’t he bid on the Olympics played out. bigcheese1Mayor Tory’s face was all over the push, his words treated as official statements. He brushed aside calls for a special meeting to ensure full council input into the decision, to make the ultimate decision which it inevitably had to do to go forward. This was his decision, the mayor wanted you to think, his alone to make.

Today’s press conference was also an opportunity for Mayor Tory to show everybody he was not rash. He was reasonable, prudent and whatever else he wants you to think he is that isn’t rash. And all that stuff he told you we needed the Olympics for in order to build? Transit and other major infrastructure needs. Affordable housing. Poverty reduction. Yeah well, not necessarily. The other levels of government need to get onboard, helping out with that. Toronto is the country’s biggest city, an important economic engine. When Toronto thrives, the country thrives.

Exactly where we were before all this talk of an Olympic bid to spur senior government action on such vital municipal issues. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, I guess. Hey. It was worth a shot. Except that it wasn’t, as it turns out, as Mayor Tory announced today.startfinish

During the press conference, Mayor Tory took a not so subtle swipe at the previous administration, stating an Olympic bid was no ferris wheel. He was no Doug Ford, impetuously redesigning a decade’s worth of planning on the waterfront, with elaborate renderings of amusement park rides and monorails. No, if you’re going to indulge in spectacle, go big. How about an 80,000 seat stadium on the waterfront! Now that would garner us some serious infrastructure. It would have to, right?

So Mayor Tory gets applauded today for his wise and pragmatic decision not to pursue a course of action he himself had encouraged and championed for the entire last part of the summer. Not only encouraged and championed but fluffed with his talk of the September 15th deadline being simply a letter of interest in possibly bidding when, in fact, as he admitted at the podium today, it was a commitment to bid. slowclapI guess it took him all this time to finally get around to reading the not so fine print in the IOC’s bid process documents.

Oh well. It could’ve been worse. The mayor could’ve made the wrong decision today. A decision city council would’ve had to clean up afterwards.

That, I think, earns him a slow clap for prudently and reasonably making a decision on a bid for the 2024 Olympics that was never his to make in the first place and shouldn’t even have been entertained at this late stage in the game.

Well done.

decisively submitted by Cityslikr