instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads

Music and Basketball As Antidotes to the No-Baseball Blues

The darkest days of the calendar year are upon us. Daylight Saving Time is over and until December 21, days grow shorter and shorter. There are less than 100 days until pitchers and catchers report to spring training in 2016. So we try to be strong.

Yet there is so much of the MLB network one can watch. It was nice to see streamlined versions of the best post-season games – cut into two-hour segments - but after a while that grows old, too. And I have never been big on watching award shows.

Hall of Fame eligibility is another topic that doesn’t thrill me to the marrow. It seems likely Ken Griffey Jr. gets elected when the results of the balloting is announced on January 7.

I think Padres closer Trevor Hoffman has a chance but I’d wait a while longer on him. He certainly didn’t excel in his World Series appearances in 1998 and that should be at least a temporary cautionary message.

Mike Piazza needs less than 10 per cent of what he garnered last year to break past the 75% representation on all ballots to enter Cooperstown. Though he never failed a drug test (neither did Barry Bonds or Mark McGwire), the stigma of the “steroid era” still hangs over Piazza.

Here are two antidotes to the No-Baseball Blues:
1. I do have my college basketball teams to root for. Columbia is actually picked to do well in the Ivy League with the return of potent forward Alex Rosenberg from injury and stellar guard Maado Lo, who is shortlisted for both the Bob Cousy and Lou Henson awards given for outstanding backcourt play.

Both Rosenberg and Lo are seniors so it is a do-or-die year for coach Kyle Smith's team that looks deep except at the important center position.

Out in Madison, the Wisconsin Badgers will always be interesting under coach Bo Ryan who is hedging on whether this will be his last year. I hope he stays as long as
he wants.

He turns 68 next month and is a true basketball lifer – son of Chester, Pennsylvania high school coaching legend Butch Ryan, Bo worked his way patient up from the small college Division III ranks, excelling at U. of Wisconsin-Platteville.

Since his arrival in Madison in 2001 his Badger teams have never finished below 4th in the Big Ten. They are coming off two back-to-back Final Four appearances.

They avenged a 2014 loss to Kentucky last season but lost a controversial final to Duke when the refs stopped calling fouls on Duke in the second half and blew the whistle constantly on the Badgers.

Adjusting to life won’t be easy without the versatile seven-foot Frank Kaminsky, now with the Charlotte Hornets, and forward Sam Dekker, who left a year early to join the Houston Rockets.

No one realistically expects the Badgers to return to the Final Four for the third year in a row. Yet why be a sports fan if you can’t dream a little (or a lot)?

Gotta love a coach like Ryan who picked up his nickname Bo on the Chester playgrounds because he used to play the game like middleweight boxing champion Bobo Olson – all knees and elbows.

Antidote #2
“Jazz should wipe away the dust of every day life,” Art Blakey of the Jazz Messengers fame famously said. I thought of that insight after hearing Chucho Valdes and Irakere, his 9-piece band of young Cuban musicians, thrill a Town Hall audience in midtown Manhattan on Veterans Day eve.

At 74 pianist Valdes shows no signs of slowing down. A child prodigy and son of Cuban pianist Bebo Valdes, who after the Castro revolution lived the rest of his 94 years in Europe, Chucho has stayed in Cuba but has built a deserved world-wide reputation.

In his one set of almost two hours on Tuesday night, Valdes and Irakere thrilled the audience. The young Cuban horn players were passionate and excellent and the sounds of Gnawan Moroccan percussion enthralling.

Valdes of course has technique to burn but tonight it was always in the cause of compelling music-making. His rendition of Victor Young's bebop chestnut "Stella By Starlight" was astonishing. He effortlessly quoted from Matt Dennis's "I Could Happen To You" and Michel LeGrand's "You Must Believe in Spring" while never losing his sense of form.

A concluding ballad dedicated to his father was beautiful and not completed without some strains of Rachmaninov.

Before Valdes and Irakere head to Europe, they play in Boston on Nov 12, suburban Washington - the Strathmore in Bethesda MD on Nov 15, and Durham NC on Nov 16. If you have a chance don't miss them.

That's all for now in my first installment of Coping With The No-Baseball Blues.
More on my upcoming adventure hearing live classical Rachmaninov in my next installment.

In every season always remember: Take it easy but take it!
Be the first to comment