Sunday, June 16, 2013

No. 354 – Parabol / Parabola

Performer: Tool
Songwriters: Maynard James Keenan, Adam Jones, Danny Carey, Justin Chancellor
Original Release: Lateralus
Year: 2001
Definitive Version: None

I talked about The Sopranos earlier. The first season was stunning. Of course, that meant every season after was measured against the first—and was found wanting in my estimable opinion. I dropped out after the fourth season, partly because I no longer had access to HBO but more because of boredom with the story lines.

The second season had its moments, however, and the best episode of the season revolved around a high-stakes poker game that the Soprano crew ran. It was called the Executive Game.

In 2001, Scott came up with easily his best idea for the website (aside from the actual design of course). It was to get everyone who contributed to together for a baseball game to celebrate my birthday and the first anniversary of the website. He called it, the Executive Game. (Yes, he ripped off the idea from The Sopranos.)

I liked it, and it came at a perfect time. I had just broken up with Debbie and was pretty devestated. I needed something good in which to look forward, and this seemed like just the thing to lift me out of my doldrums, at least temporarily.

When I posited the idea to everyone, Dave was instantly game. What about Jim? Jim could do it as long as we came to him, in Chicago. See a White Sox game? You’ll have to twist my arm. Ow ow ow, OK, I’ll do it.

The original plan was for me and Scott to drive up to Chicago and back to Ohio on a single day—the Sunday—but cooler heads prevailed when Dave suggested using Grand Rapids as a stopping off point. Granted, it was out of the way to Chicago, but it wouldn’t make for quite a long Sunday. Besides the West Michigan Whitecaps were in town Saturday. So that’s how the Executive Game turned into Executive Weekend—by accident.

So, one week after I moved out of my house for good, Scott and I drove up together on a dreary, unseasonably cold June day. The Grand Rapids game went off without a hitch though. We had a good time, although Scott was distraught that he didn’t get a Whitecaps scrunchy ball and Dave and I did. The game was interesting in that the starting Whitecaps pitcher went 4-1/3 innings without allowing a hit, which up to that time was the longest I’d ever watched a no-hitter go in person.

The next day in Chicago was a bit warmer and a lot sunnier. We met Jim at the home plate of the old Comiskey Park in the adjacent parking lot—that was the first time Dave and Scott had met Jim. Scott then produced a little surprise for everyone—T-shirts he had printed that commemorated the game complete with the BBT logo on the front.

The idea of the Executive Game, aside from just getting together and hanging out, was to go over business of the website, so we did that before the game, as well as indulge in some pregame festivities.

It was autograph day at Comiskey Park. Fans in each section lined up in the walkways and headed down to the fence at the field, where two players from the team were situated to sign anything you wanted for free. You had to take the players you were assigned, however. I had my shirt autographed by Herb Perry and Lorenzo Barcelo. They aren’t stars to be sure, but it still was cool.

The Sox played the Tigers, and it turned out to be one of the best games I’ve ever seen in person. Steve Sparks of the Tigers started by pitching five no-hit innings. After the fifth, I was excited. Could it be … ? I almost said something about it being a record for me, but I held my tongue.

No sooner than I did so, Jim uttered innocently, “Hey, guys, I don’t know if you know this, but Sparks has a no-hitter going.”

Instantly, Scott, Dave and I all threw our hands in the air and emitted soul-searing “Aughs” worthy of Charlie Brown himself. Apparently we all were thinking the same thing. Dude! You NEVER discuss a no-hitter while it’s in progress! That’s one of the traditions of baseball!

Sure enough, one out into the sixth, the no-hitter went away on a bouncing ball up the middle, and Jim’s line became immortal. (In fact, Dave and I used it via text earlier this year when Yu Darvish was going for his perfect game.) Now all we have to say is, “Hey, guys …” to elicit a response. Anyway, until further notice, 5-1/3 innings is the longest I’ve seen a no-hitter go in the majors in person. (I’ve seen three start to finish on TV.)

Then, with Sparks seemingly in control (the hit up the middle was the only one the Sox got through seven innings) and the Tigers up 6-0, the game turned on a dime. The Sox got two in the 8th, tied it in the 9th and won it in the 10th on a three-run home by Paul Konerko.

It had been a great time—everyone got along together real well—and it couldn’t have happened at a better time for me, personally.

The Executive Game became an annual event that lasted for seven more years, even outlasting the website itself by a few months. We had as many as six people at an Executive Game and met a few new people along the way as we attended games in Cincinnati, Detroit (as mentioned), St. Louis, Philadelphia and Milwaukee, as well as return expeditions to Cincy and Chicago.

Best of all, we never got a cease-and-desist order from David Chase.

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