Friday, March 29, 2013

Johan, We Hardly Knew Ye

Dominance is fleeting, especially when you throw lighting for a living. New York Mets pitcher Johan Santana looks like he is done for the year, and maybe for good, after re-tearing his anterior capsule. Santana's career in Queens had been a rocky one after being traded by the Twins five years ago. He has not pitched more than 200 innings in a season since the 2008 campaign. 

It's difficult to see ballplayers slowly lose their stuff, but it's especially tough in Santana's case. Minnesota fans thought he would carry the team back to their first World Series championship since 1991. The rotation has not even come within a whiff of the dominance it had since Santana left. 

The mid-2000 Twins team led by him, Francisco Liriano and his Mississippi Mud-dirty slider, and the pre-eminent workhorse, Brad Radke was one of the best pitching rotations the team had ever seen. Liriano won the pitching triple crown, leading the league in ERA, strikeouts, and wins (tied with Chien-Ming Wang.) Those guys, along with Mauer, Morneau, and the Piranhas gave Minnesota baseball it's pride back after Bud Selig and his gang threatened to contract the Twins in 2002. The Twinkies did not win in dominant fashion, but they could count on to be competitive in the AL Central. They only had one losing season (2007) during Johan's tenure. 

It was fun to see Santana at the helm of that tight knit group. It looked like he was doing the best with what he had, which back then, was a lot. A wicked changeup, a mid-ninety's fastball, and an crazy ability to dig out his best stuff in the dog days of the baseball season. He was 51-24 in August and September from 2002-08. He was probably the most productive Minnesota resident during the lake-and-cabin months. 

I was happy to see Johan pitch a no-hitter last season, the first in Mets franchise history. It was a much deserved feather in his cap. 

I hope things get better for you, Johan. If not, I'm sure there's a cabin on Lake Mill Lacs with your name on it. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

25 Books: Bird By Bird

I believe in thinking big on your birthday. On my birthday I set a goal to get 25 book recommendations from 25 people who I respect and admire. I didn't ask for their favorite book, but for a book that changed their life.I did this because I wanted to understand my friends, former teachers, co-workers, and family a bit better. If their was one book that changed their life, maybe it could help me out too.

I hate the dark places in my life. I don't share them to often, but they're there. I don't know if that's normal or weird or whatever. They are just there and they will always be there. I think most people in the world are in the same boat as me.

Now before you get all worried that Nick is depressed, stressed, freaking out, don't. I'm just fine.

This passage from the latest book, Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, made me think about those dark places.
"The great writers keep writing about the cold dark place within, the water under a frozen lake or the secluded, camoflaged hole. The light they shine on this hole, this pit, helps us cut away or step around the brush and brambles; then we can dance around the rim of the abyss, holler into it, measure it, throw rocks in it, and still not fall in. It can no longer swallow us up. And we can get on with things." 
And this passage as well:
"You can't get to any of these truths by sitting in a field smiling beatifically, avoiding your anger and damage and grief. Your anger and damage and grief are the way to the truth." 
How do I write about those dark places? Do I write self-indulgent pain on how horrible my childhood was? No, I hate that sort of stuff. Do I whine about how unfair things are? No, I hate whining. I don't like to feel sorry for myself. Overall, my life has been pretty good.

Humor has always been the best way for me to shine a light on my dark places, my frustrations, and my daily annoyances. Its kind of like this Calvin and Hobbes comic.

Laughter is a bizarre reaction to things. You know what, though? I'm really okay with it.

So, last week I decided to try and brighten my light and take a stand up comedy class. I start a week from Friday. I'm nervous. However, it feels right. It's a goal I set for myself earlier this year and I'm glad I'm taking it seriously.

Bird by Bird was chosen by the former Dean of Students at Conserve School, Beth Black. Any one of my Conserve compatriots will agree with me that Beth was one of the most insightful and wise people to ever grace that campus. I have tremendous amounts of respect for her. I'm very excited that she and her husband, Keith will be moving closer to Boston.

She also taught me an important lesson outside of the classroom. I remember my sophomore year convocation at Conserve. Everyone's parents were there to welcome in a new year. It was one of the bigger campus events. As I walked in, I got a program and I looked for my name. It was listed as "Hick Hansen." I was a bit confused, but everyone thought it was funny, so I laughed too.

I don't remember if Beth came up to me or I went to her after the ceremony. However, I'll always remember the words she said to me, "Out of anyone, I'm glad it happened to you."

At first, I thought she was teasing me. Looking back on it now, it was a pretty big compliment.