When The Sky Wasn’t Falling

Sports

Between June 29th and July 22nd the Rangers went 4-15, and from having a 10-game lead in the AL West all the way down to just 2.5 games. In classic Rangers-fan fashion, the naysayers and sadists came out in full force to declare that was the end. Finally, we have seen Texas’s true colors.

Only, that isn’t how this sport works. Teams — in this case the Rangers — don’t simply go 51-27 (good for a .654 winning percentage) to suddenly forgetting how to play baseball. It certainly didn’t help that, at the time, the Houston Astros were in the midst of a ridiculous stretch of winning, going from losing 28 of their first 45 games (.378) to winning 37 of their next 51 (.725).

But after all of that, here were how the AL West standings looked on July 24th:

1 Texas, 57-42 (+2.5)
2 Houston, 54-44 (-2.5)

One of the benefits of a 10-game cushion is that, I don’t know for sure I can only suspect, it’s easy to stop giving as much of a fuck. Many sports fans choose to believe that professional athletes aren’t human like the rest of us, that it’s pointless to stop at a 10-game lead when there is still half a season to play.

But it’s natural… Or at least it seems natural, that baseball players take their foots off the pedal when they are in such a comfortable position.

I spend far too much of my time writing about the negatives of the Rangers when they are playing well. I’m the person who cautions that, while everything might be nice right now, there is reason to think that reality is going to set in. Most fans don’t like that line of thought.

In the same vein, I’m also the guy who writes when things are going wrong, when the Rangers are slumping, that they aren’t going to slump forever. That they aren’t going to play .250 baseball for the rest of the year, the same as the Astros aren’t going to play .700 baseball the rest of the year. This, too, is not a popular line of thought.

Mostly everyone’s mind is already set. If you are an optimist you are going to cling to the best possible outcome. If you are a pessimist you are going to be all doom and gloom and, once the Rangers finally start sucking, these are the people who finally pop up from the ground in droves.

From my end, I’m probably just a contrarian. I refuse the camp that’s all roses and butterflies all the time, because nothing is ever as good as it seems. I also refuse the camp of the sadists who have convinced themselves that the Rangers are incapable of success. The answer, as most things are, is somewhere in the middle.

Current AL West standings:

1 Texas, 62-44 (+6.0)
2 Houston, 55-49 (-6.0)

Politics

There are a lot of unfair labels that are put on Bernie Sanders supporters. That they’re lazy and just want a bunch of free stuff. That they’re sexist against Hillary Clinton. That they’re all just a bunch of idealists who need to grow up and accept the way things work.

If I was voting within my best interests, I would be a Republican. Because then taxes would be lower and I’d be able to retain more of my money.

I care too much about the future, though, to go down that route. There is too much that’s more important to me, like science, like higher education, and seeing some of the country’s wealth going back to the middle class. While I’m as selfish as anyone, and want personal success as much as anyone, I can’t deny that other aspects are more important.

Whether it’s expanding social security to make sure my dad has enough money to survive, or my future children having the opportunity to go to major universities without having it hamstring their finances for years down the road like it will me.

I’m not a fan of Hillary Clinton and in good conscience I will not be voting for her in November. But she is the candidate we’ve got. In California, where I live, my vote doesn’t count. It’s going to be blue regardless of what I do.

But for people in Florida, and Pennsylvania, and Ohio, and Virginia, the votes will matter. And depending on which candidate — between Hillary and Donald Trump — performs better in those states will determine the election.

Bernie Sanders was just the beginning of a movement that’s probably going to last my entire lifetime. If Hillary is elected it will at least pave the way for a future with another Progressive candidate (which she isn’t). If Trump is selected, assuming there’s a world left in four or eight years, progress will be stunted.

There is only one choice during this election season.

Gambling

My friend was fired from where we work(ed) at the casino last Tuesday. He’s 51, a tall, well-built Puerto Rican whose fatal flaw was he had no filter. Not with management and not with women. To varying degrees I looked up to him in both instances.

At work I don’t judge personality as much as I do ability, and my Puerto Rican brother wasn’t in short supply of either. Let’s face it: If you are good at what you do there’s a solid chance we are going to get along, because I understand what that’s like.

In many ways the casino is a boy’s club, and of the tipped positions the dealers are at the top of the food chain since we make more money than every other department. As a man I’ve won genetically. As a dealer I’ve won by chance more than anything, but that’s to say I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing if money wasn’t the main factor. Were the slot attendants or the cocktail waitresses making more than the dealers, then I’d be in a different line of work.

Often times, your greatest strength is your greatest weakness. This is a cliché that is true, like most other clichés. My friend from Puerto Rico could talk like no one I’ve ever met. He was polarizing: Half the people liked him and half couldn’t stand him. For gamblers, I estimate that half tipped him because they liked him and the other half tipped him just so he would shut the fuck up.

Naturally, we spent a lot of time together at work because he — like me — is a craps dealer. On weekdays when it was slower we’d bullshit about sex and drugs and whatever else, and on weekends we’d try to lure attractive women to come to the craps table. It’s a simple reality and it passed the time.

There won’t be another like him, and I’ll miss working with him. Although nobody knows what the straw was that broke the camel’s back, or how you say, it’s this craps dealer’s opinion that he had one too many women complain to human resources about sexual harassment. This was something that was destined to happen, one way or another, or else he wouldn’t exist. This is just the way he is.

From my perspective this is just one person in a long line of people who I have come to admire, even in spite of their very evident flaws. Through experience my moral code has simplified so much that, so long as you don’t beat women or do anything nefarious to any of my family members or friends, I’m probably going to be okay with you as long as you are a good person.

And by “good person,” I mean that totally subjectively.

Minor Overlap


Not totally unlike my brother from Puerto Rico, my strengths are my weaknesses as well. I’m aided by them as much as I am plagued by them. My overconfidence, my sureness of myself, has won me battles I never deserved to win, and endeared me to people I never deserved to be endeared by.

My dad’s blood runs through my veins, which would be counter-intuitive if you knew either of us. Aside logic and natural ability, two things my dad very much used to possess, we could not be any more different.

Yet I feel for him now perhaps more than ever, as he sits alone at his apartment waiting around to die. When my mom left him, he was bewildered at what could have caused it. Through sheer obliviousness, he couldn’t wrap his brain around the idea that he was anything less than a good husband and father. He also doesn’t understand how neither of my brothers wish to speak to him.

I am all that he’s got. I’m the only one who writes, calls, or visits. That’s me.

Even still, he rejects the reality that’s in front of him. He thinks, somewhere out there, that my mom will come to her senses and take him back at some point. I, of course, am entrusted as the middleman with information from both sides, so I know what bleak future there really is. She isn’t coming back, and she has her reasons. I fail to see the reasoning from either of my brothers, but that’s for a different blog.

I’m the only immediate person who understands where he’s coming from, and I’m the only one who could understand.

Despite every fragment of evidence working against him, from the separation itself to the lack of communication and everything else, he still holds out for the hope that this is just a phase. That only he knows how this ultimately ends, and it will be in his favor.

That one percent chance is all it takes to keep a person going. Until that chance is extinguished completely, he has no reason to think any differently. It’s amazing how much the human mind works against you sometimes. It will do just about anything to convince you that better days are ahead, that only you could possibly know this.

It’s this type of magical thinking that kept me going for so long. Me, the borderline nihilist who rarely accepts any type of worldview that doesn’t involve basic mathematics. Playing the odds. Obeying the probabilities of statistical reasoning.

And it’s I who plays the long-shots in life, in contradiction to all the precious evidence I preach for in every other avenue. It makes next to no sense, other than inevitably hitting on one of them, just so I can tell all of you that I was right all along and that I knew I was right all along.

Some may call this the definition of arrogance, and I assure you it’s just as silly to me as it is the rest of you. If anything that’s the difference between who I am now to what I was then: I at least understand my own ridiculous nature.

To some degree I think it’s a bit romantic, the idea that I don’t want anything to come easy. Whether it’s love, or occupation, or a future with a house with black appliances, I expect it to hurt. I welcome the challenges, because if it weren’t for challenges then I wouldn’t have any reason to play the great game of life.

So, yeah. I will continue to deny anything that doesn’t involve logic and reason and, in the meantime, I will actively shoot for the stars.

Somewhere in middle you’ll find me.

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