The Rundown: Cactus League SZN Arrives, Spring Battles Begin, Loving Thanks to CI Readers
“I’m not afraid to die. Even more, I am no longer afraid to live.” – Michael Canter
Every now and then I start my daily composition here at CI with a quote from someone much more famous than I, but today I thought I’d give you one of my own. I’m sure someone well known has previously said something similar, but I’ll take credit for this. By the way, this post will ooze with metaphors about life and death, birth and rebirth. It will also be a thank you and tribute to those who read all of the columns here at Cubs Insider. Maybe keep a tissue handy for the end.
There is nothing quite like death in life than winter, and for me, the start of Cactus League baseball means the hibernation of Jack Frost until the day after one team celebrates its World Series championship. And today, or rather tonight, Cubs baseball is on the air! Let the circle be unbroken.
Baseball is very close. pic.twitter.com/0S7io06JSF
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) February 22, 2020
Don’t look outside at the snow that remains on the ground, and do your best to shy away from the winter fog that starts each day. That is a mirage, a sleight of hand performed by Old Man Winter to keep you trapped in a seasonal depression disorder that’s caused by gray skies and freezing temperatures. Get out of that funk and turn your eyes to Arizona or Florida to watch baseball’s reawakening.
That feeling of warmth and hope is genuine. Embrace it, and don’t let go. Today, 30 teams have at least the tiniest chances of being declared champions in eight months, including the Cubs, and not even Rob Manfred can take that away, try as he might. I suppose we could say the same about Comcast.
All 30 teams are playing baseball today. The Cubs and A’s play at 7:10 pm tonight. See you there.
Cubs News & Notes
- If you were hoping to watch the Cubs kick off their Cactus League schedule on Hulu, you’ll be a little unhappy. The streaming provider may not debut Marquee until the regular season starts.
- The Cubs are fully prepared to adapt to this year’s new rule changes.
- Roster competition begins once the spring games start. That includes nearly 20 relievers competing for four or five bullpen spots.
- Jason Kipnis and Craig Kimbrel hope to be the veteran leaders the Cubs seem to have lacked the past few seasons (subscription to The Athletic required).
- David Ross is wasting no time in trying to determine who his fifth starter will be, kicking off Cactus League play by throwing Alec Mills, Tyler Chatwood, and Adbert Alzolay immediately into battle.
- Ross is champing at the bit a little to get the games started.
- Though the new manager is hoping for more day-to-day consistency in his batting order, it’s not a foregone conclusion that starting pitchers will always bat ninth in the order.
- Due to expected poor weather, the Cubs changed the start time for today’s game.
- Rizzo used Houston’s sign-stealing scandal to poke a little fun at Astros’ players.
Odds & Sods
- Though you may not know it, I started my journalism career writing about music and I have just as much passion for indie musicians as I do for baseball. The state of music worries me, particularly for struggling local bands. I’d like to ask you to help me prevent the imminent euthanasia of your local music scene by acquiescing to a few requests. First, always pay the cover charge, even if you are friends with the lead guitarist or a relative of the bass player. You wouldn’t want to be asked by your boss to work for free, so don’t ask the entertainment to. Secondly, and I can’t stress this enough, BUY MERCH. It’s difficult for bands to sell music these days, but the profits on their merchandise provide gas money to get from gig-to-gig at the very least. It’s up to all of us to save music before it’s completely dead.
- I got an email yesterday from Greg Dulli of the Afghan Whigs, asking if I could review some of their live performance videos. If you like The Replacements, you’ll like the Whigs.
- I first met Danny Rockett, aka Son Ranto, at Nisei Lounge for a charity event last summer. After we exchanged the obligatory pleasantries, I asked him where I could buy one of his band’s t-shirts (which now belongs to my stepdaughter Marylou). That’s called doing a solid where I come from, and next time I see him I can buy another. It’s all about the gas money, baby. Danny’s band is called the The Bleacher Bum Band, and they’ve just released a new video called The Cubs Boat. Make sure you check it out.
- Speaking of Danny, he is helping me plan an event at Nisei Lounge where I will take my last drink of alcohol. I will have some cool stuff to raffle off that day, including mint, unopened sets of 2015 and 2016 Cubs baseball cards (Topps), possibly my #50 alternate Cubs jersey (autographed by me, of course), some framed pictures from the ’16 Series, a couple copies of the Pearl Jam at Wrigley DVD, and maybe we will do a split-the-pot raffle. The event will be April 18 starting at 2pm, and Danny may do a live podcast as well. I imagine he or I will set up a Facebook event to get the word out. I’d like you all to be there with us if you can.
- Speaking of merch, have you checked out the Cubs Insider store?
- I get angry when people call Kerry Wood “Kerry Woods.” It’s a real trigger for me.
- Who remembers this song by Satchel? It was featured in a crap ton of early-2000’s movies. After the Cubs lost the NLCS to the Marlins in 2003, I listened to this song non-stop for about three weeks.
- I have deeply admired baseball players like Wood, Mickey Mantle, Henry Aaron, Billy Williams, Ryne Sandberg, Sammy Sosa, Kris Bryant, Javier Báez, and Anthony Rizzo. But my real heroes have always been people who have done heroic things, like Joshua Chamberlain, John Basilone, and Alfred Rascon. If you don’t mind, I’d like to add each of you to my list. Why? Because…
- I can’t say thank you enough to those who have contributed to my fundraiser and/or have sent me gifts, including books, a Cubs jersey, all kinds of friendship bracelets, and even more, the kind words you’ve shared with me and about me to your social media followers. You are saving my life, and I truly love you all for that.
As I said earlier this week I’m not surprised but still a thoughtful and wonderful gift from a friend /reader who wishes to remain anonymous. I’m so blessed. And I got me a swoosh. pic.twitter.com/P78NFRT1rY
— Michael Canter #DonateLife #SaveALife (@MEdwardCanter) February 22, 2020
It’s time we learned tolerance and acceptance, and stopped with all the racist/sexist social media rhetoric. Someday I am going to return to this earth, and while I am gone, I’d like all y’all to work on fixing a few things. And be charitable, please and thank you. Nobody communicates that better than musicians, and we need more of that. Here are two videos I’d like you to watch. Please do it for me.
- Everyday People by Playing for Change (various artists, including Ke’b Mo’, Jack Johnson, Jason Mraz, former Yankees outfielder Bernie Williams, and a whole lot of cool, underprivileged kids).
- Beautiful Girl by Pete Droge & The Sinners. Extremely powerful message here, so pay attention.
Apropos of Nothing
If you could have a drink with any fictional character, who would it be? I’d choose Harry Stamper from the movie Armageddon. Dude made the ultimate sacrifice.
The Day I Spent Hanging Out With Ryan Gosling in Austin
Have you ever seen the movies Crazy, Stupid Love or The Nice Guys? In real life, Ryan Gosling has that same deviant sense of humor and wicked timing.
This Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe #Oscars moment is proof that we need a sequel to 'The Nice Guys'. pic.twitter.com/XbQDn2fGRO
— Lights, Camera, Pod (@LightsCameraPod) February 9, 2020
Back in 2011 I was on a photography assignment for a festival in Texas called the Fun Fun Fun Fest, where I was tasked with getting performance images of Slayer, Public Enemy, and comedian Brian Posehn. I had a media pass for the three-day event, and a lot of downtime, so I used it to check out a number of the indie performances on the smaller stages. One buzzworthy performance that weekend was by a hardcore rap act named Kid Dynamite.
The band was setting up when I arrived, so I climbed on stage to get some performance-view shots of the crowd, probably in the neighborhood of 5,000 fans. While shooting, Gosling started talking to me about photography and indie music. We formally introduced ourselves and carried on a conversation for about 30 minutes, but I was constantly distracted because it seemed like a lot of the audience was taking pictures of the two of us. I couldn’t figure out why, so I asked him.
My new friend responded that he had no idea, but thought maybe some of the crowd might have recognized me. He asked, “Are you famous or something?” I laughed, and told him that I owned an indie music website called Jivewired that was starting to get a little notoriety.
“Oh…you’re the Jivewired guy? You’re that Michael Canter? The entire festival has been buzzing about you and Jivewired all weekend. That probably explains all the pictures.”
So I started waving to the crowd and they started cheering. After the performance, Ryan asked me if I wanted to go grab a beer at Threadgill’s. Obviously I had no idea who he was. So we jumped in a taxi and when we arrived at the restaurant, people started fawning all over him. They were asking to take pictures with him. So I asked why he was so famous. His response?
“I come here a lot. I’m locally famous and I’m well known here.”
And I bought it. So we had a few drinks and shared a plate of nachos. When I got home, I had my pictures developed and showed them to Sue and the girls. Sue was in shock.
“You know Ryan Gosling?”
“I met him at Fun Fun Fun Fest, but how do you know who he is?”
“He’s a famous actor! Have you ever seen The Notebook?”
“Remember the Titans? He was Alan, the slow white safety!”
At that moment, I knew that Gosling had duped me and probably enjoyed that I had no clue who he was. I’m sure he delighted in the fact that he had convinced me that festival-goers actually wanted my picture. I waved to those fans for Pete’s sake, and to this day I feel as if they were all in on his joke.
They Said It
- “There’s that veteran side to me that’s been around that’s seen things and knows how to handle things. I’m not shying away from any competition. I’m not shying away from whoever’s across that line against us. I’m ready to strap it on and go against them. I think there’s a lot of guys in here who feel the same way. Sometimes you just need a little fire set under you. I’m hoping I can be that guy. There’s not too many tweaks that need to be made to this team. It’s still a really damn good team.” – Jason Kipnis
- “When you start running out of options, it’s time to have a little bit of pressure on you when you got to perform. I look forward to seeing that, how they handle that, how they go about their business. That’s the fun part about spring and competition.” – David Ross
Saturday Walk Up Song
Windows Are Rolled Down by Amos Lee (with the Colorado Symphony) – Taken in a literal context, this song seems to be about resigning oneself to imminent death. But that’s too obvious, and completely incorrect. Rather, it is about the preciousness of life, embracing that, and learning to boundlessly live knowing that someday we will not.
This is not just the perfect song for me, but for all of us, and today I dedicate this song to our readers. Let’s break it down for a second, and forget the traditional verse-chorus-bridge-coda format of most songs and grasp what is really going on here: a repetitive diminuendo and crescendo sequencing that represents the cycle of life, from moment of birth to spiritual release. At 4:50 into this video there is a woman dancing. She is the perfect metaphor of my life. The smile on your face and the warmth you feel when you see her is my spirit defined. That will be my spirit enveloping your heart one day.
My bond with our readers (and social media followers) is one of love and humanity, and it is unbreakable. We are Cubs fans for crying out loud. And though one day I may not be here to greet you each morning, I promise I’ll never fully disappear. Upon death, a soul ascends to heaven, but one’s spirit attaches itself forever to the hearts of those it loves.