Saturday, January 24, 2009

Of Gold, Gooses and Eggs

Late to the party as always, but I'm blogging today about the Yankees huge off-season coup in which they acquired the 3 best players that are going to be available in what might be the next half-decade. Matt Holliday is going to free agency next year and he can expect a true Boston-New York bidding war for his services while Albert Pujols would only leave St. Louis through the management's gross incompetency.

But I find that anyone who has whined about the Yankees using their financial might has also unquestionably demonstrated an immature understanding of the nature of the world. By this, I don't mean to say (in a thick Brooklyn brogue whilst chomping on a cigar and wearing a fedora and overcoat) "That's just the way the world is kid. Deal with it." No, I'm referring to the very nature of the world in which we live; a world that operates on the principle of "equivalent exchange."

I don't believe in accidents. I believe in intelligent design. Poorly designed teams do not win World Series. Teams aren't formed by random collisions of human beings, maple bats and buffalo hide. There's a grand architect who's paid up to $2m per annum to take an abyss of possibilities and speak into existence a team to play 162 games between April and September.

Winning teams don't appear by accident. They have to be designed.

Don't misunderstand the point though. Winning can happen on a budget. Florida in 2003, the Rays this past year or Oakland in every other year are excellent examples of winning poor. Then there are the teams who have won with enormous payrolls. The scrappy Boston Red Sox, the blue-collar champions of every downtrodden Sully, Smitty and Patty have the distinction of fielding the most expensive (2007) and second most expensive (2004) teams to ever win the World Series. Boston fans, however rarely remember this fact when they complain about the Yankees' spending habits.

At any rate, the principle of equivalent exchange applies. Florida built their teams through devastating fire sales that alienated the city they played in. They traded away popular players for talented prospects that would lead them to their next championship. Meanwhile, the Rays paid for their trip to the World Series by fielding fifth place teams for a decade. Being a terrible team for so long has allowed them to amass players with the dazzling upside of B.J. Upton, Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli and Evan Longoria. They also selected Delmon Young who was sent over to Minnesota in a trade for Matt Garza, a critical piece of the 2008 puzzle. The world operates on equivalent exchange, value for value.

Let's take a moment to understand how baseball operates. Most teams receive a welfare check from the Yankees as a result of MLB's luxury tax. This was instituted to make teams more competitive. Let me say it another way: the Yankees are paying other teams to be better. But the majority of these teams do not put the money back into their baseball product. That $40m the Yankees pay typically lines the owners pockets and fans see not a penny of it. Who is to blame there?

The Yankees do not operate on the same business model that other teams operate on. For perhaps most baseball teams, there's not a big difference between winning 70 games a year or winning 90 games a year if the miss the playoffs. The Yankees however only turn a profit once they make the post-season. Their business model requires winning.

This is why I love the Yankees. Their team is their integrity and value. I don't mean some idiotic amorphous idea like "steroids" or "the love of the game," but the hard fact and truth that the Yankees dedication to fielding the best team that they can is directly related to their survival as a business enterprise. The same holds true for the Boston Red Sox and a few other teams.

If you want to see a disingenuous team, look at Minnesota's Carl Pohlad whose net worth is estimated to be triple that of the Steinbrenner family. He doesn't invest in making a better product, and it doesn't stem from a lack of ability, but a deficiency in desire. Owners like that don't care about Joe SportsFan who watches every year hoping that Kansas City (owned by Walmart) or Seattle (Nintendo) can contend.

Baseball, like all of life, operates on the principle of equivalent exchange. Brian Cashman is the highest paid General Manager for a reason. He's expected to create the best team in the major leagues. He doesn't have the option of holding a fire sale (the contracts are largely immovable), or being the worst team in baseball for a decade, but he does have his owner's incredible wealth. More than that, he has the city of New York which subsidized their new Stadium which is an incredible headwater of revenue streams. He prepared his team and business for a recession. The Steinbrenners offered him opportunity and wealth in exchange for his skills. Isn't that a fair trade and the basis of all good?

I love the fact that the Steinbrenner family owns the Yankees. It's the same love I have for a favorite food vendor or clothing manufacturer. When you find someone who cares about their product and is consistently dedicated to putting the best that they have on the market, doesn't that merit, hasn't that earned the customer's appreciation and loyalty? Why should the fact that the Yankees consistently win be a mark of shame? Each team has their own path to fielding a winning team. There are costs involved with fielding a low-salaried team, whether it's being at the bottom for a decade or destroying your team every 5 years. Why shouldn't Yankee dollars be looked at as the best option? There is no fruit that grows apart from the root. Teams must be built and costs must be paid. The Yankees pay in dollars and other teams pay in loyalty. Choose your currency.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Joy And Misery

"The higher we soar the smaller we seem to those that cannot fly."
-- Nietzsche

I wrote in a previous post that escaping boredom permanently required tremendous amounts of pain and sacrifice. Why, someone might ask, would I pay that cost to escape boredom?

It's because it's not painful and we don't see it as a sacrifice. Just a price.

It doesn't truly hurt when I squat 400 lbs. or when I spend my 5th hour writing. I have the strange sensation of burning in my thighs and soreness in my lower back and surely, I'll get light-headed when I write that much, but it doesn't hurt. It's not painful. It's just a bothersome sensation that happens to a weak body. All I need to do is become stronger so I can go further without being bothered by it. It's not a sacrifice anymore than it's a sacrifice when I purchase clothing or food. It's simply an exchange. My effort for my joy. Value for value.

I believe that my effort could procure many things. If it is procuring for me joy, then why should I begrudge it's payment? Hard work is the toll collected at the entrance to Atlantis, home of heroes.

My life finally has value because I have claimed its value. If all I did was see my life as a way to collect entertainment, sense perceptions, or endorphins, then I could not see the value in living. But when I acknowledged its value, then I began to live as if it held its own value. And that has made all the difference. Someone else's misery is my deepest joy.

On the other hand, could someone honestly describe 2 hours in front of a glowing box as "joy?" I cannot imagine that happening. More than that, I will do all that I can to keep such a thought far from my worldview.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Training Video

Always a sucker for a good training video.

I've decided to focus on training for the triathlon. No more screwing around trying to become the best home run hitter Flushing churches have ever seen. A straight line, a narrow way, that's all I ask for.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


This is >>why you suck<< according to TC.

The most surprising thing was that they really couldn't find any "naturals." Nor could they find any grinders, people who just worked harder than everybody else but just didn't have the talent to become elite.

The thing that distinguished one from another was simply hard work, nothing else.

But the weird thing is that 10,000 hours — roughly the amount of practice a truly committed devotee could accrue over 10 year — keeps popping up in different fields. Whether you're a writer, a concert pianist, a basketball player, computer programmer, or chess master, true greatness seems to pivot on that magic number.

And later on,

There it was again, hours of practice accrued equates to success. Nothing magical. The more psychologists in Gladwell's book looked at the careers of the gifted, the smaller the role innate talent seems to play and the bigger the role preparation seems to play.

And finally,

One can't help but wonder how many Gretzkys, A-Rods, or Ronaldos got left behind because of the calendar. One wonders how many Einsteins, Steve Jobses, or Bill Gateses got lumped in with the "less mature" students because they had the bad luck to be Sagittarius instead of Aquarius.

Gladwell encapsulates the problem thusly:

"Because we so profoundly, personalize success, we miss opportunities to lift others onto the top rung. We make rules that frustrate achievement. We prematurely write off people as failures. We are too much in awe of those that succeed and far too dismissive of those who fail."

The answer might be that often, your perceived failures might not be so much genetic as they are sociological, might not be so physiological as the are psychological, and armed with that knowledge, maybe you're not necessarily destined to be the loser society thought you were.

How long would it take me to make my 10,000?

1 year = 27 hours a day of practice, a mathematical impossibility

3 years = 9 hours a day of practice, possible under unlikely circumstances

6 years = 4.5 hours a day of practice, now entering the outer limits of possibility

9 years = 3 hours a day of practice, frankly this is do-able

Mind you, this is every day. This is after 8 hours of work, I would come home and push relentlessly at bettering myself in a skill for 3 hours. It wouldn't be wise to say something absurd like "sleep less" because sleep is where all that training solidifies and grows. Never demean rest.

There should be micro-rest, like sleep, and then macro-rest, where for a week or so, the volume and intensity is severely cut back so that the body and mind can recuperate and adjust. That doesn't count towards the 10,000, which means I would have to work a lot more than 3 hours a day or that it will take me more than 10 years. Keep in mind also that there exists a limit to how much a person can practice. How many piano players suffer from tendinitis? There's a reason a certain elbow condition is called a "tennis elbow." Overtraining is no myth. How will you make up for lost time? How will I make up for lost time.

At 25, I feel like life has left me behind like a broken down car on the side of the highway. It was the same feeling I got when during the Brooklyn Half-Marathon, my legs broke down and refused to carry me. Slow runners, fat runners, children runners were passing me.

"I was thinking, damn, these niggas that much better than me?" -- Kanye, Touch the Sky

But at the Brooklyn, I refused to allow my legs to refuse me. If I had to crawl on my hands and knees, if my immaterial spirit had to burst from its earthly coil and drag what amounts to the manifested equivalent of 3 buckets of water and minerals across the finish line, it would have.

3 hours a day is a tremendous price-tag. You know what you can't do if you're spending 3 hours a day practicing. You can't go to parties, play video games, fantasy sports or go out for drinks with some buddies from work. It means going home to a cold bed, waking up to a cold morning to eat cold cereal and training in the cold.

But think about what you're buying with 3 hours a day. It means never being bored. Think about that for a moment. A bored person. Who talks in such terms? A person who believes their life is a pain and a bother. Entertainment for that person exists to distract from the painfulness of living. If you pay the cost, your life will be fundamentally different from a person who is capable of being bored. They will not understand you and soon you will not understand them. Think about your average high school or college student and how much of a waste their life is. They are less than dogs and rodents. They are worms, the sponges that live on the bottom of the sea. They go through life absent-mindedly running into barely enough processed, machine waste to fuel their rotting, barely erect corpses while accumulating a vast horde of useless cultural trivia. I ask you, if you knew that there was a way to escape that kind of life, would you pay the cost?

Your thirst for entertainment and distraction is only a band-aid. Your life is miserable and worthless. I offer you a cure. Hard work, pain, sacrifice in the beneficent, magnificent sense and you will escape that life.

Hear me, Christians. Do not reduce my words to allegory. Accepting Christ is not the way to spin it. Look around at the vast stretch of Christendom and acknowledge the truth. There are just as many Christians who live worthless lives as there are non-Christians. Do not have it mistaken. I REJECT the claims that so many preachers have made in my youth: "Accept Christ and you will live a passionate life." And if they fail to live a passionate life, then they must not have accepted Christ. This is the dirty deceit of a fortune-teller.

The hand has written on the wall and it has written

1 0 , 0 0 0

Sunday, December 7, 2008

On Occasion Of A Celebration

Francisco's speech in AS is my favorite passage ever written on love. On occasion of Anna and James' wedding, I couldn't help but remember that love is a response to our highest values. And can be nothing else.

“Do you remember what I said about money and about the men who seek to reverse the law of cause and effect? The men who try to replace the mind by seizing the products of the mind? Well, the man who despises himself tries to gain self- esteem from sexual adventures–which can’t be done, because sex is not the cause, but an effect and an expression of a man’s sense of his own value.”

“You’d better explain that.”

“Did it ever occur to you that it’s the same issue? The men who think that wealth comes from the material resources and has no intellectual root or meaning, are the men who think–for the same reason–that sex is a physical capacity which functions independently of ones mind, choice or code of values. They think that your body creates a desire and makes a choice for you just about in some such way as if iron ore transformed itself into railroad rails of its own volition. Love is blind, they say; sex is impervious to reason and mocks the power of all philosophers. But, in fact, a man’s sexual choice is the result and the sum of his fundamental convictions. Tell me what a man finds sexually attractive and I will tell you his entire philosophy on life. Show me the woman he sleeps with and I will tell you his valuation of himself. No matter what corruption he’s taught about the virtue of selflessness, sex is the most profoundly selfish of all acts, an act which he cannot perform for any motive but his own enjoyment–just try to think of performing it in a spirit of selfless charity!–an act which is not possible in self-abasement, only in self-exaltation, only in confidence of being desired and being worthy of desire. It is an act that forces him to stand naked in spirit, as well as in body, and to accept his real ego as his standard of value. He will always be attracted to the woman who reflects his deepest vision of himself, the woman whose surrender permits him to experience–or to fake–a sense of self-esteem. The man who is proudly certain of his own value, will want the highest type of woman he can find, the woman he admires, the strongest, the hardest to conquer — because only the possession of a heroine will give him the sense of an achievement, not the possession of a brainless slut. He does not seek to . . . what’s the matter?” he asked, seeing the look on Rearden’s face, a look of intensity much beyond mere interest in an abstract discussion.

“Go on,” said Rearden tensely.

“He does not seek to gain his value, he seeks to express it. There is no conflict between the standards of his mind and the desires of his body. But the man who is convinced of his own worthlessness will be drawn to a woman he despises–because she will reflect his own secret self, she will release him from that objective reality in which he is a fraud, she will give him a momentary illusion of his own value and a momentary escape from the morel code that damns him. Observe the ugly mess which most men make of their sex lives–and observe the mess of contradictions which they hold as their moral philosophy. One proceeds from the other. Love is our response to our highest values–and can be nothing else. Let a man corrupt his values and his view of existence, let him profess that love is not self-enjoyment but self-denial, that virtue consists, not of pride, but of pity or pain or weakness or sacrifice, that the noblest love is born, not of admiration, but of charity, not in response to values, but in response to flaws–and he will have cut himself in two. His body will not obey him, it will not respond, it will make him impotent toward the woman he professes to love and draw him to the lowest type of whore he can find. His body will always follow the ultimate logic of his deepest convictions; if he believes that flaws are values, he has damned existence as evil and only the evil will attract him. He has damned himself and he will feel that depravity is all he is worthy of enjoying. He has equated virtue with pain and he will feel that vice is the only realm of pleasure. Then he will scream that his body has vicious desires of its own which his mind cannot conquer, that sex is sin, that true love is a pure emotion of the spirit. And then he will wonder why love brings him nothing but boredom, and sex–nothing but shame.”

Rearden said slowly, looking off, not realizing that he was thinking aloud, “At least . . . I’ve never accepted that other tenet . . . I’ve never felt guilty about making money.”

Francisco missed the significance of the first two words; he smiled and said eagerly, “You do see that it’s the same issue? No, you’d never accept any part of their vicious creed. You wouldn’t be able to force it upon yourself. If you tried to damn sex as evil, you’d still find yourself, against your will, acting on the proper moral premise. You’d be attracted to the highest woman you met. You’d always want a heroine. You’d be incapable of self-contempt. You’d be unable to believe that existence is evil and that you’re a helpless creature caught in an impossible universe. You’re the man who’s spent his life shaping matter to the purpose of his mind. You’re the man who would know that just as an idea unexpressed in physical action is contemptible hypocrisy, so is platonic love–and just as physical action unguided by an idea is a fool’s self-fraud, so is sex when cut off from one’s code of values. Its’ the same issue, and you would know it. Your inviolate sense of self-esteem would know it. You would be incapable of desire for a woman you despised. Only the man who extols the purity of a love devoid of desire, is capable of the depravity of a desire devoid of love. But observe that most people are creatures cut in half who keep swinging desperately to one side or to the other. One kind of half is the man who despises money, factories, skyscrapers and his own body. He holds undefined emotions about non-conceivable subjects as the meaning of life and his claim of virtue. And he cries with despair, because he can feel nothing for the woman he respects, but finds himself in bondage to an irresistible passion for a slut from the gutter. He is the man whom people call an idealist. The other kind of half is the man whom people call practical, the man who despises principles, abstractions, art, philosophy and his own mind. He regards the acquisition of material objects as the only goal of existence– and he laughs at the need to consider their purpose or their source. He expects them to give him pleasure– and he wonders why the more he gets, the less he feels. He is the man who spends his time chasing women. Observe the triple fraud which he perpetrates upon himself. He will not acknowledge his need of self-esteem, since he scoffs at such a concept as moral values; yet he feels the profound self-contempt which comes from believing that he is a piece of meat. He will not acknowledge, but he knows that sex is the physical expression of a tribute to personal values. So he tries, by going through the motions of the effect, to acquire that which should have been the cause. He tries to gain a sense of his own value from the women who surrender to him– and he forgets that the women he picks have neither character nor judgment nor standard of value. he tells himself that all he’s after is physical pleasure– but observe that he tires of his woman in a week or a night, that he despises professional whores and that he loves to imagine he is seducing virtuous girls who make a great exception for his sake. It is the feeling of achievement that he seeks and never finds. What glory can there be in the conquest of a mindless body? Now that is your woman chaser. Does the description fit me?

“God, no!”

“Then you can judge, without asking my word for it, how much chasing of women I’ve done in my life.”

Monday, December 1, 2008


My favorite character always:

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I know I posted it before but I just can't stop thinking about it:

The year after Roger Bannister broke the 4 minute mile, TWELVE people did the same thing. TWELVE.

A feat that scientists had thought beyond the realm of human achievement, a feat whose attempt jeopardizes human life. The heart, these experts thought, would explode if anyone tried to break that record.

TWELVE people, the next year.

To date, the record has been lowered by 17 seconds, an enormous gulf in the world of professional athletes. That mark, once revered as the pinnacle of human achievement is now the standard for any Tom, Dick and Mikey who wants to run middle-distance. To go on further, that mark has been bested by a man in his 40's. It's been doubled-up by Daniel Komen of Kenya who ran 2 miles in under 8 minutes. No woman has done it yet. Someone will. And I'd like to buy her a drink in gratitude.


Bonhoeffer wrote about the hypocrisy that's possible with Catholic Sainthood in "The Cost of Discipleship." Sainthood, you see, allows rank and file Christians to believe that these people were a special breed; it creates a double-standard.

"Oh, I couldn't be like THAT."
"God just chooses SOME people to do great things."
"That's for a saint to do. I'm just a normal human being."

Screw. That.

I choose not to see the Augustines, Calvins, Luthers, Theresa's and who-have-you's as anything special. Roger Bannister was a man. Usain Bolt is a man. Michael Phelps is a man. Lance Armstrong, Neil Armstrong, Louie Armstrong, all just men. Stanley Lee is a man.

This is not to bring them down. By stating the facts of reality, I find that I've elevated myself up. I too, am a man. I breathe. I live. I can destroy my muscles like they did, and they will rebuild themselves just as theirs did. I can destroy my limiting beliefs like they did. And I will live within the framework of possibility, conquest and joy. Will I ever accomplish anything remotely comparable? Who knows? I don't even have a goal on that level yet. But that doesn't matter. I'll never stop pushing the envelope of my capacity. And I'll never stop being surprised at how much further this envelope goes.

To some, there may be such a heinous stench when a person raises himself up. I believe that we should never have considered ourselves so low. I hope that as I climb up, others might have a small spark of sentiment, a warming or thawing of spirit and realize that no... it's not impossible.

Impossible is nothing.