Thursday, June 26, 2008

Dear Hank Steinbrenner

I haven’t written much about baseball here in the Runes, but I do like to point out stupid comments no matter where they come from. Last week there was a good one from Hank Steinbrenner—George’s son, and the big cheese with the New York Yankees these days—after the Yankees’ number one pitcher, Chien-Ming Wang, injured his leg while running the bases in an interleague game against the Houston Astros..

Just as a reminder for less-than-casual baseball fans, the American League uses a designated hitter who bats in the pitcher’s spot, while in the National League, pitchers bat just like everyone else—shortstops, catchers, outfielders, etc. The Yankees play in the American League, where pitchers don’t have to bat—except when they play interleague games in National League parks, which is what they were doing in Houston.

Anyway. Wang is out for 6-10 weeks, so Steinbrenner took the opportunity to call for a rule change, to wit:

“The National League needs to join the 21st century. They need to grow up and join the 21st century. I’ve got my pitchers running the bases, and one of them gets hurt. He’s going to be out. I don’t like that, and it’s about time they address it. That was a rule from the 1800s.”

The National League has responded:

Dear Hank—

Sorry to hear about your pitcher getting injured while he was playing baseball in a baseball game. Those baseball injuries have been known to happen to baseball players, especially when playing against other baseball players in baseball games. We did hear that right, didn’t I? He was injured playing baseball, wasn’t he? We’d hate to find out that a baseball player suffered a baseball injury doing something other than playing baseball.

Thanks for the invitation to grow up and join the 21st century. We’ll take it under advisement and put a committee on it, but just to clarify—our league is the one that started in 1876, 25 years before yours, right? Not the other way around? And our league is the one that
didn't change its rules in 1973 in a cynical attempt to add more offense and draw more fans, correct? Just making sure. Just wanted to make sure who was telling whom to grow up.

Please pass our best wishes on to Mr Wang.

The National League

P.S. Hey, if you want to complain, you can always write to “Commissioner” Bud Selig and complain about how interleague play creates inequitable schedules.

P.P.S. We don’t know what your dad told you, but you don’t have to act like a dick if you don’t want to.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Report From the Front Line

Here’s where I stand on recreational drugs: Don’t use ‘em, never have, don’t think they should be illegal, wouldn’t use them if they were legal. I don’t wish to be around people while they’re using and in fact I’d prefer not to know about their using, but it’s not a condition of friendship.

I mention this because this past Friday I saw firsthand a minor skirmish in the seemingly interminable “war on drugs,” which I suspect was declared years ago by someone with a cocktail in his hand. I was driving east on I-80, going around the Quad Cities on my way home to Indiana, when I noticed two diamond-shaped orange signs announcing “Be prepared to stop.”

A half-mile or so later, two more signs: “Random drug search ahead.”

And a little ways after that: “All cars subject to search.”

That’s the third time I’ve seen these warning signs on I-80, and each time I’ve been struck by what the subsequent car stops and drug searches had in common: They didn’t exist.

After you get past the final pair of signs, there’s nothing. No police checkpoints, no DEA agents, no drug-sniffing dogs.

Because there’s no such thing as a random drug search on the interstate. George Bush’s America isn’t quite a police state yet.

So what’s the point of the signs?

I’m no Constitutional scholar, but I do know there’s a little thing called just cause. (This doesn’t mean the police can stop you “just cause” they feel like it.) If you give the police a reason to search you for drugs—if they can see it or smell it or if you’re watching “The Wizard of Oz” while listening to “Dark Side of the Moon”—they can and will.

And if you see those orange signs and freak out and do a U-turn on the interstate, there’s a man in a police helicopter who’s going to radio the words “Just cause” to a man in a police car.

Now, if you’re a drug dealer working the Iowa-Illinois territory (and really, what are the odds that one of the half-dozen Runes readers is?), I suggest getting a real job. And if you’re just some doofus going to Moline to share your stash with your old lady, take note: Don’t get spooked by the orange signs. There’s no search. They’re counting on the fact that you spent more time in high school getting baked than learning about your Constitutional rights.