This is why the Yankees play on Sunday nights

First off, thank you Wizards and Capitals for keeping my winter dreams alive for a Washington championship sweep.

Secondly, thank you to the New York Yankees and the Chicago Cubs for keeping me up until the wee hours of the morning, along with half the city of Chicago, very few of whom left Wrigley Field early despite freezing temperatures and 18 innings of baseball. You know Marlins Man stuck it out, there in his prime seat on national TV for the second night in a row.

The game ended at 2:15 Eastern (1:15 local) with strikeout number 49, the most ever in a major league game. Yup, you’re going to see something different every time you watch a game, no matter how long you’ve been doing it.

Thanks again, sports!

Would the real Washington Wizards please stand up?

Please tell me that was the real you last night, the you that can actually compete with the NBA’s better half (and for more than just the first quarter, please!). Don’t make this some beautiful but fleeting one-night stand, designed merely to get my hopes up. Look, I’ve basically given up on the Capitals, and both Fargo and Archer are getting so silly these days I barely have anything to watch on TV anymore. Stay in it for my sake, Washington, will you, please?

Sometimes you want winter to last just a little bit longer.

Wizards’ magic act fading fast

There’s a maxim I’ve asserted for many years and it is this: Ninety percent of sporting events are won by the better team. There’s always a better team, and they win 90 percent of games played, whether on sandlots, parking lots, or national television.

When I look at the 2016-17 Washington Wizards and their counterparts from Boston, I’m sorry to say that thems from Boston are simply the better team. And they’ve shown us as much in the first two games of their series. I’m still holding out hope, of course, as the Wiz now return home (where they have dominated in recent months), but I still remain realistic. This series, again, has me reading baseball scores with greater intent.

The Capitals, though? They’re the better team, and with a win tonight and a brand-new series, who knows how high they’ll inflate my expectations. Probably enough to have me say something stupidly optimistic on this very blog later this week!

Thoughts turn to baseball as they often do

A mere few days ago it seemed as though Washington’s Wizards and Capitals would complete an unprecedented NBA-NHL Championship sweep in their respective leagues. Now I’d be happy to have either team win a game some day this week.

Thank God for the Nationals, those mighty Nationals, who put up 23 runs—yes, 23—in their victory over the New York Mets yesterday afternoon. The Nats finished April five games clear of their closest NL East opponent, thanks in part to a sparkling 10-3 record away from D.C.

Start the drumbeat for the World Series. As usual I’m way too invested already.

Not freaking out yet

There’s a tendency for people ’round my neck of the woods to freak out at the smallest setback, say, for example, an opening game loss in a best-of-seven playoff hockey series.

Being of sound mind, etc., I would never stoop to such a level.

Unless of course they lose again on Saturday.

Then I’m probably moving to Pittsburgh.

Travel easy, old friend

If you look at the Facebook posts of anyone from Binghamton, New York, the past few days, you will see a heartfelt tribute to a man known to most simply as “Hack.” Those who didn’t know his last name or had any clue of his real name somehow still considered him one of their best friends, and have felt this week as though a close family member has died. I hadn’t seen the man in at least four or five years, yet I too feel as though I’ve lost someone I cared about more than most people I see every day. And so, as I’ve scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed the past few days, I’ve felt a certain sadness shared by a mournful group of admirers from my hometown.

I met Hack—real name: Mark Balin—in 2003. June 7, 2003, as a matter of fact… my 21st birthday. Hack was the owner of a local watering hole called the Pine Lounge, a colorful establishment which was, thanks to some generous grandfathering of zoning laws, right in the middle of a residential neighborhood. The Pine had a reputation for a lax attitude toward the whole “21” rule when it came to serving alcohol, though I never took advantage of that particular arrangement. Hack knew who I was even before I walked in (and that it was my birthday), and when I did that evening in 2003 his first words to me were, “Where’ve ya been?” No hello, no welcome, no Happy Birthday. It was kind of a nonchalant greeting, as if to say, ‘Bout time you joined us in the real world, kid. I would come to find out that world included just about every major player in Binghamton, from every field and ranging from sinner to saint, every race, every creed, and every level of social status. The Pine was the great equalizer. And they were all friends with Hack.

Most kids at the Pine were a little afraid of the old man. After all, he could kick you out at any moment. Worse, still, he might tell your parents you were there. Because he knew your parents, of course; he’d served them their first drinks 25 years ago. Kids never put it together, actually, that their parents wanted them drinking at the Pine, which was somewhat supervised, rather than the woods, the riverbank, or someone’s car. For all the problems that place had over the years, it paled in comparison to the nightmare scenarios elsewhere. Hack actually kept a pretty good lid on the shenanigans at 65 Rotary Ave., despite what those at other Rotary Ave. addresses may have claimed.

Once you’d earned your stripes at the Pine, so to speak, showing yourself as a worthy customer who could behave, etc., you might approach Hack and engage him in conversation. You expected the old man to be a foul-mouthed brute, of course, but would discover quickly that he was anything but. A pretty good conversationalist, actually, who could discuss any subject, and had a terrific memory for sports, movies, or local history. Hack could tell you stories about anyone in town, though he was enough of a gentleman to leave certain things out. “Gentleman,” actually, is a decent word I’d use to describe him, the polar opposite of what one might perceive in a first impression.

In my day Hack rarely ventured out from his little kingdom on Rotary Ave. Didn’t have to. The world came to him and his place like a lowbrow Playboy Mansion. (If Hugh Hefner drank Budweiser and wore basketball shorts.) College kids who’d gone away to school would come to the Pine on breaks to see Hack. Grownups who’d moved away would visit Binghamton and stop in to see Hack. Old timers who just wanted to shoot the breeze a bit would come in and see Hack. The guy was friends with all of them, and could carry on a conversation with a junkie or the mayor, regardless of how intoxicated either of them were. Or he himself was.

The stories of Hack’s generosity are legend. He paid tuition bills, he made car payments, he paid mortgages, bookies, and bail bondsmen. I don’t even know what was true and what was just legend, but I know that if someone needed money, Hack would somehow get it to him. If you weren’t comfortable taking cash he’d find work for you. The Pine had an eclectic roster of “employees” who served in temporary and often unnecessary roles, but they were all part of the same family. If you were a regular customer you were part of that family too. And the man keeping us all together was the man himself. Hack. Just Hack. No last name required.

Hack had a standard goodbye to those leaving the bar, one I’ll be able to hear him calling out till the day I too make my final exit, I suppose. “Travel easy,” he’d say, never goodbye or see ya or anything like that. He knew you’d be back some time, and somehow you did too.

Hack closed the Pine unceremoniously in 2008, ending my five-year bachelor party and real-world education one doesn’t get in school. I learned a lot about life, about me, and about the place I called home while hanging out at the place he really did call home for decades. Coincidentally or not I met my future wife just a few months before he closed his doors, so I wasn’t really as distraught as I might have been to see my favorite hangout go dark. In recent years I’ve stopped in at the new bar with new owners that’s replaced it, and it’s just not the same. I’m not the same either.

Hack? That guy was always the same.

He was there for everyone.

Travel easy, old friend.

Choices, choices

Tonight there are two television programs I look forward to viewing. Unfortunately they are on at the same time. Incredibly they are sort of on the same network too, at least the same family of networks. At 10:00 tonight on FX you have the season premiere of Fargo, and on FXX you have the next episode of Archer (or Archer: Dreamland or whatever the heck they’re calling it these days). Yeah, good job, Fox, putting on the only shows I care about at the same time. Thank God I live in the future and I’m sure to find one or both of these shows available on demand as well, but seriously…

Get it together, TV programmers. I’ve got sports to squeeze in there too, ya know, and a guy’s got only so much time between podcasts and magazines.

Why it’s great to be me right now

With yesterday’s win over Atlanta I feel pretty good about the way the Wizards are playing as they begin their playoff run, almost as good as I feel about their Verizon Center mates on the ice. Even with their current series now tied I feel the Caps are playing like a team destined to taste from Lord Stanley’s cup.

The Yankees and the Nationals have started their seasons well, both with wins yesterday in dramatic fashion. The Nats won on a walk-off three-run home run by a certain Mr. Harper, and the Yankees won not a close game but an interleague Sunday night game in front of Marlins Man himself. That’s a big win.

Add in 57-year-old Bartolo Colon pitching lights out for the Braves yesterday afternoon (well, not quite 57) and the new season of Fargo set to begin this week and you’ve got reasons, reasons, and reasons to live.