Baseball Stories: A Bittersweet Goodbye

Just this past weekend, we went to San Francisco’s AT&T Park to see the hometown baseball team, the Giants, play the Chicago Cubs.¬†And we happened to sit in front of a fairly large group of people who all wore matching t-shirts. Not orange-and-black Giants’ shirts, or even Cubs’ shirts, but custom t-shirts bearing the name and photograph of the same man.

As any true baseball fan knows, there can be real camaraderie in the stands. People tend to talk to each other, find out where others are from, joke, discuss and even (mostly civilly) argue about the team and the game. But because I was with my family, and because I was keeping score, and because it was a gorgeous day and an action-packed close game, I didn’t give our neighbors, or their matching shirts, more than a second’s thought. On a cold night, or during a slow game I might well have.

After the game was over, many in our section took a few moments to savor the Giants’ victory and talk a bit. I took a closer look at those t-shirts and saw what appeared to be dates of birth and death. A young man wearing the shirt noticed me looking, perhaps a bit too intently; I was a little embarrassed.

“Someone close to you?”

“My dad. He passed a couple of weeks ago.”

“I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to be nosy.”

“He loved the Giants, so we decided to celebrate his life at a game. He and I sat together right up there (pointing to the upper deck) for the World Series in 2010, so I put some of his ashes there. We’re going to put the rest in McCovey Cove (the little lagoon just outside the ballpark) right now.”

“That’s beautiful, man.”

“Yeah, it really is.”

Just the thought of it made me choke up. This young man, bearing a portrait on his chest like a heraldic crest and carrying an urn, together with his family, went off to spread his father’s ashes in a place that meant something special to him in life. And as a lifelong Giants’ fan myself, I can’t think of a more fitting resting place or a more beautiful tribute.

Plain As The Nose On Their Faces

Not many people know it, but I have a super power. I can see through words to see the intent behind them, in political speeches, campaign advertisements, OP/EDs.

Well, to be honest, it isn’t all that super. It comes from about 25 years of writing speeches and coaching people. But still, it’s pretty cool.

Today, The New York Times published an “obtained” copy of a storyboard for an anti-Obama TV ad produced by Strategic Perception, a political public relations firm founded by Republican ad man Fred Davis, and funded by Chicago Cubs owner and long-time conservative cause bankroller Joe Ricketts. The link to it is here.

Looking it over gave me a clear “ah-ha” moment. I know how the Romney campaign is going to work, what buttons they’ll try to push and to whom.

You can flip through all the pages of the storyboard, but I’d like you to pay special attention to the photographs of the actors/models who stand in for “real” Americans. See the character types they represent. Notice their ages, ethnicities, apparent walks of life. Notice, too, who’s missing.

Get it? Isn’t it perfectly obvious? Do you see now how these political consultants conceive their candidate’s path to victory in the election?

I see you there, Fred, hanging out with your dark-suited, white-shirted pals. You’re not so clever. I know just what you’re thinking.