Saturday, May 6, 2017

Dear Congressman Loudermilk



The following, a letter to the person who represents the district in which I live (Georgia's 11th):

Mr. Loudermilk:

I see that you have, once again, gone along with the wishes of your party, by voting for the American Health Care Act.  I am aware that by doing so, you are fulfilling the promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.  I wrote to you, several times, in advance of this vote, imploring  you to stand against your party and vote for the good of your constituents.  I made these pleas for the following reasons:
  • The AHCA is a tax cut for people who don't need one, disguised as health care reform.
  • The AHCA will make it more difficult - and expensive - for many of our citizens to obtain insurance.
  • The AHCA will allow states to determine what are "essential health benefits" (such as doctor visits, emergency room treatment, transport by ambulance), in addition to restricting the preexisting conditions that insurers will be obligated to cover.  
  • The AHCA will allow employers to "cap" the amount of coverage for their employees who purchase insurance through their job.  The logical effect of this is that should someone incur a catastrophic illness, the amount insured will not go over a certain limit. 
  • In a particularly cruel twist of fate, Congress is exempt from the provisions of this act, as all members and their staff remain under the coverage of the Affordable Care Act.
  • Finally, the Congressional Budget Office, a non-partisan group that calculates the cost of every piece of legislation, has not yet scored this particular bill. As a result, you and your party voted to approve a bill for which no one had calculated the costs, the consequences or the number of those who will be left unable to obtain insurance.  

How is that for a summary?  Did I get the salient points?  

As we were raising our children, we dined together as a family each night.  Like most families, we discussed our day, its events and highs and lows.  I have spent the bulk of my adult life working for the same company in the hospitality business.  I can honestly say that there was not a single day in all the years I have worked for this company that I was ashamed or embarrassed to tell my children what I did at work that day.  The company I work for prides itself on its integrity, even to the extent of training all our new associates in the mantra that "how we do business is just as important as the business we do."

What did you tell your children at the dinner table Thursday night?  Did you tell them how you cast a vote for a bill about which you knew neither its costs nor consequences?  Did you give them an estimate of how many people (best guesses: upwards of 20 million) would no longer have insurance? Did you tell them the extent of the tax cut you approved for 1% of the population?  I cannot even imagine how you reconcile your continuing silence about the behavior of a President who seems to exist only to enhance his own self-image and his family's wealth with your public stance as a man of honor.  How do you explain that to your children?

You may think your constituents have short memories.  I disagree.  At some point, you will have to answer for your shameless actions. 

Saturday, October 8, 2016

A Choice, Not an Echo


Politics should be the most illustrious example of the art of compromise.  In fact, the establishment of our system of government arose out of one proposed in 1787.  I can accept that I will not agree with every policy position of any candidate for office.  For, as Mr. Churchill noted, if two people agree on everything, one of them is unnecessary. 

I am at a loss to explain how a major party nominated Donald Trump to be their candidate for President.  While the Republicans of my youth completed their abandonment of me when Ronaldus Maximus gave that infamous speech in Neshoba County, Mississippi (Google that location and the source of its notoriety), they have mostly nominated men of competence.  

Instead, this time they have chosen a man who, in the words of National Review columnist David Brooks, is running for President with less preparation than you or I would undertake to buy a sofa.  He has no interest in policy, people or our government.  Yet, that’s not his most fatal flaw.

We all know a Donald Trump, hopefully, only one.  We first met him early in middle school.  You remember; the rich kid who was the class bully during our most awkward years.  We tittered nervously when he made fun of the nerdy kids or he popped the bra strap of the first girl to wear one.  We may have even stood by when he directed his cruel vitriol against one of our friends.  We tolerated any behavior, so long as he did not come after us, since our self-esteem was already shaky.  We longed to be one of those who followed him, sharing in the glory that he projected upon himself.  He never admitted fault; if he flunked a test, it was because the teacher didn’t like him.  If he wasn’t the star of the game, the coach or referee was unfair. I even have his picture:

Remember Biff?  I’ll bet the first time you saw Back to the Future, you identified someone in your past who was just like him.  I’ll also bet you experienced a sensation of schadenfreude when, at the end of that first film, he had become an obsequious toady to Mr. McFly.  Sic semper bullies.

Now, it’s been revealed that Biff Trump has said something especially heinous about women.  I must confess my surprise, not at the news, but that people find this so incredulous.  His statement is consistent with what he has said since he announced his candidacy.  You know the litany of his verbose transgressions, everything from calling Mexicans rapists to fat-shaming women, all the while denying he said this or that, despite ample proof to the contrary.  Failing that, he blamed his inadequacies on a malfunctioning microphone, a rigged system or his crooked adversaries.  And, I’ve only referenced but two of the hundreds of insults and inappropriate bilious comments that have spewed from his over-inflated potty mouth over the past year.

Even more astonishing is the number of supporters who are only now running for cover.  I’m talking about the leaders of the Grand Old Party in Congress, various governors, even his own running mate, who act shocked that he has said such a thing.  Of course, his lapdog, Sean Hannity, remains firmly in his pocket, although I have not seen anything from the other toadies.  You know, the Biff chorus brings to mind another crew:
Well, so-called Republican leaders, you have abased yourselves for far too long at the altar of Biff.  You made him, now stick with him.  It’s a little late for you to profess surprise that this tax-cheating, narcissistic, misogynistic, bigoted bully is anything but what he has so often purported to be over the past 18 months.  He has been this his entire life, for all to see.  For all of them that have pretended he’s not all that bad, I can only hope that you go down in flames with him next month.  You deserve nothing better.




Sunday, November 1, 2015

More Than Alphabetical

Growing up in Oklahoma, it was never a question of whether I would become a fan of college football; instead, it was more a matter of for whom or to what degree.  I have followed the (largely) successful runs of the Sooners for more years than I care to count.  It was not until my daughters decided to attend the University of Florida that my allegiance shifted, if just a tad.  Their rivalries became mine; I shared their superstitions.  And, I have followed the roller-coaster wins and disappointments over the last decade, albeit not as rabidly as the two of them and their friends.

Now, as a resident of Georgia, I have been puzzled by the reference to this annual game played in Jacksonville in an order decidedly non-alphabetical in nature.  Even in my home hundreds of miles west, we knew it as Florida/Georgia weekend, but we still considered it something of a piker in the realm of state university rivalries.  I guess one would, with the Red River Shootout (no longer a PC term) as the gold standard of such games.

I have listened to the boastings of all those UGa fans throughout these many Augusts and early Septembers, only to hear the deafening silences that have ensued as their highly-regarded team has suffered several defeats, effectively relegating their postseason appearance to a few rungs below BCS-land.  Enough, I say.  Let us set the record straight on the correct order of this game played yesterday.  Yes, by calling it Florida/Georgia, it is proper for more than the logical alphabetical order. Heck, even the logo for the game gets it right:



The first and most obvious comparison: national football championships is led by Florida, 3 to 2.
National championships in team sports: Florida, 45 to 41.

You want non-sports comparisons?

Average SAT score of incoming freshmen: Florida 1918, Georgia 1800
US News & World Report ranking of top universities: Florida 43, Georgia 61.
Washington Monthly ranking of top universities (which sorts by contributions of its graduates to the quality of life): Florida 22, Georgia 52.  FYI: Georgia Tech ranks #9.
Research & Development ranking (amount of $$ spent for this purpose): Florida 12, Georgia 55.
Nobel Prizes awarded: Florida 3, Georgia 0.

I have neglected to mention the one category in which Georgia clearly leads Florida: number of universities that call themselves Bulldogs: 38; number calling themselves Gators: there's only one.

I rest my case.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Brooklyn, Brooklyn, Take Me In.

Ah, Brooklyn: a place I had visited but three times in my life, most recently for a wedding in 1985.  My father, who grew up in Queens, once said that it was easier in the 1930s to go to a foreign country than to travel the 10 miles or so to Ebbets Field.  He did admit to going to see the Dodgers play there once, after at least two failed attempts to find the borough.

In the intervening years since my father wandered the tunnels of the subway in search of those pearly gates, the allure of Brooklyn has dimmed somewhat.  Entire neighborhoods have acquired infamy as places visitors should not venture: Bedford-Stuyvesant has long been a symbol of urban blight and neglect, while other areas have become home to a new (if undesirable) class of immigrants, such as the Russian Mob in Brighton Beach.  To be fair, I cannot determine if that appellation is a Hollywood storyline or actual fact, since I've never been there.  Finally, there's Coney Island, another place I've not seen but feel omission from my bucket list will cause no tears.

Lately, Brooklyn has developed a new patina, as home to hipsters, urban pioneers and others, who have been accused of "gentryfying" the neighborhoods.  Allegedly, it is home also for what passes as affordable housing in New York.  These tribes are rumored to regard Pabst Blue Ribbon, a beer we settled on in college when we couldn't afford anything better, as some sort of nectar.

Brooklyn is now home to younger daughter Amanda, who has worked there the past three years, actually residing there since the middle of last year.  I recently traveled north to visit her and to see what all the fuss is about.

In a word, I was impressed!  While a good number of the old buildings are in a state of disrepair, there are some gems that have been restored.


This, for example, is the old Williamsburg Savings Bank, one of the tallest clock towers in the world. Apparently, it is now home to some higher-end condos.  

I was struck by the number of warehouses, many of which have been artfully tagged by local artists.  Some have been restored into shops or restaurants.  We went to an especially wonderful place, called Ample Hills Creamery, where I enjoyed perhaps the finest ice cream I had ever tasted.  One of the buildings that caught my eye was this one:


I know someone has to make caskets; I always assumed they came from some outfit called Lighter Than Air or Eternal Respite.  I had no idea that someone would actually call such a company by the items it manufactures.  

Amanda explained that part of the Brooklyn experience is complaining about going to that other island, which we did, a couple of times (went, not complained).  We met up with friends at the Marriott Marquis, where our tour guide led us to a wonderful cafe near the theatre district called Don Antonio, where we laughed and ate to excess for too short a time.  Afterwards, we visited the guardians of the New York Public Library, Patience and Fortitude, who are old friends to us. 



Our next visit to that island was to tour the Lower East Side Tenement Museum.  Over 7,000 people lived there in the 70 years before New York began to regulate such buildings.  There are several different tours, each relating the tale of one of the families that lived there.  After our tour, we all wondered that anyone survived that era in such a place and felt grateful that our ancestors, who certainly had their challenges when arriving here, did not have to live in a place quite like that. 

We explored Brooklyn Bridge Park, the school where Amanda teaches and saw a variety of neighborhoods, ranging from the elegant to the still marginal.  I think it would be a hard life, to exist there.  While I was fascinated by the diversity of life, people, buildings, businesses and neighborhoods, I fear I would find it overwhelming to live there.  

But then, I'm a bit older than my hosts/tour guides.  They are both at a great age and in a great spot.  They seem to relish the wonders of living in such a stimulating environment.  For them, getting on a train to the City or walking a mile or two are just part of everyday life.  I'm thankful for the time I had with them and the many memories they created.  


Thanks, tour guides!  I can't wait to go back!



Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Here's the (real) Deal

Ah, the midterm elections loom less than a week away.  I know not what has transpired in other states; what I am acutely aware of is that, where I live, one should not watch any local channels.  Whenever I make the mistake of doing so, I am bombarded with ads, attacking first one, then another, candidate for statewide office.  I have learned that one supports terrorism, while her opponent is a serial outsourcer.  Another candidate will defund education, while the other has already done so.

I have seen these ads run back-to-back for the opposing forces; sometimes I've witnessed four in a row.  And, this has been going on for weeks.  While I appreciate the fact that the organizations behind these four candidates are creating jobs for those who write and produce these ads, which are, to be charitable, thinly-veiled lies about their opponents, there are perhaps far better ways to invest such gargantuan resources.  One news organization (with no axes to grind nor candidates to support or bash) reports that over $4 Billion (yes, with a B) will be spent on this year's Congressional elections.  Even more astonishing, Congress, which has an approval rating below the DMV, zombies and the IRS, will see over 95% of its incumbents returned to office.  

In other words, we have only ourselves to blame.

Back to Georgia: once one sorts through all the bluster, half-truths, false accusations and outright slanderous lies, there are some clear choices.  In the race for Governor, permit me to post a single photo:


Do you remember that day, fellow residents of the Peach State?  A two-inch snowfall completely paralyzed all of metropolitan Atlanta, causing massive traffic jams that resulted in motorists being stranded for many hours, often in multiple digits.  

Worst of all, there were hundreds of school children who were unable to make it home on their scheduled buses, due to the massed congestion all around them.  Drivers returned their charges to their schools.  Fortunately, dozens of teachers took it upon themselves to stay overnight in these schools, to ensure the safety of the children.  

Stephen Covey has a quote that is appropriate here: Act with integrity in the moment of choice.  

In the time leading up to Snowpocalypse Atlanta 2014, the Governor did nothing.  He chose not to act.  At the one time during his administration when he had the timing, position and authority to do the right thing, he failed miserably.  Because of his unbelievably botched decision, he depended upon the kindness of school teachers to prevent the potential disaster of stranded children or fates even worse.  

I don't know what factors led to Mr. Deal's inaction.  Perhaps he feared the reaction of the small government crowd or of the local business elites.  Perhaps he was ill-informed (although, the Weather Channel did accurately predict the precise conditions the day before).  I realize he has made massive cuts to the Hope Scholarship program.  I know he signed into law the carry-anywhere bill.  I'm sure he has made other decisions with which I disagree, but, that's politics and also the ante to get into the game of a free, democratic society.  However, that single moment in time, when Mr. Deal chose inaction, putting the lives of thousands of people at risk, is enough to prove to me his lack of mettle.  In short, the man prominently displayed his incompetence for the job.  And, for this, we should reward him with four more years?  

In the event that you find my arguments unpersuasive, here's a link to what Jon Stewart had to say about the whole fiasco.  That he branded it South Parked should give you an indication.

http://on.cc.com/1rJE9uC




Sunday, September 21, 2014

As in: Shame (on) Us

In the late 80's, the premiere basketball team was the Detroit Pistons, aka the Bad Boys.  This team was characterized by aggressive play, exemplified by the unfortunate combination of a shooting forward's touch with a tight end's body and a fiercely competitive nature: Bill Laimbeer.  Due to his lack of agility on the defensive end of the court, Mr. Laimbeer's primary role was to mug the opposing team's star, whenever one had the gall to drive the lane.  When whistled for the inevitable and obvious foul, Mr. Laimbeer usually displayed shock, disbelief and outright denial.  I considered him the poster child for poor sportsmanship.  Years later, when I led training sessions on accountability, I related the story of Bill Laimbeer, among the most famous practitioners of refusal to take responsibility for one's actions.


Most of the football news over the past few weeks has been full of instances of men behaving badly.  There are many examples.  If I merely mention the names Ray Rice and Jameis Winston, does it create a picture in your mind?

As soon as I saw the video of Rice brutally dragging his then-fiance out of that elevator, I had a pretty good idea of how she became unconscious.  I was appalled that she was asked to testify with her abuser present in the room during the NFL investigation.  I later learned that the current commissioner has had 24 similar cases of domestic violence cross his desk during his tenure.  It was only last week that he revealed that he had just learned that such a practice was not proper.  Apparently, the victims might be intimidated in such an environment.  Considering the legion of attorneys that are employed by the league to keep themselves out of jail, this denial is nothing short of astonishing.  Even worse, there were whispers that, perhaps, the woman had provoked the attack.  There were statements by Ravens officials (this, the team whose most famous player in their checkered history has as many felony indictments as Super Bowl rings) that, perhaps, something good could come out of this, that things might change.

I should not be surprised.  After all, this is an organization that has consistently denied and challenged allegations that its players suffer serious long-term brain injury as a result of what happens on the field.  This league allows wildly unsportsmanlike celebrations to occur when a defensive player does his job, which is to stop the offensive player in his tracks.  Sack dance?  Why don't we call it showing up one's opponent?

The other bad news of the week was brought about, again, by the incumbent Heisman Trophy winner.     Several months ago, he was nabbed for shoplifting crab legs out of a grocery store.  He was suspended for a few baseball games, with his team's officials rubbing their hands in obvious dismay, saying that young Jameis needed to show more maturity, to learn a lesson.  This week, in what is at least the fifth example of questionable behavior on his part, he allegedly uttered a vulgar obscenity in a very public place on his college campus.  He was immediately suspended for half a game, so that he would learn his lesson. Later, he was suspended for the entire game.

On Saturday night, Jameis showed up on the sidelines, in full pads, prior to the game for which he was suspended.  I drew a couple of immediate conclusions: First, I was amazed that no one on the FSU staff had discussed the terms of suspension with him.  Second, obviously, he has not learned any lesson.  Was he expecting that he would be allowed to play?  After a clear lecture from his coach, he went back to the locker room, emerging a few minutes later in his jersey, spending the entire game on the sidelines, frequently shown on camera.   I thought he was suspended?

I posted something the other day, in which I said that Jameis has proven, again, that he is absolutely ready to play in the NFL and that his university has, again, found the moral high ground elusive.  Actions by all parties over the past few days reinforce my confidence that my observation was spot-on.

Enough whining.  Here are some concrete suggestions:

  • The NFL should immediately donate a sizable chunk of funding to organizations that study and treat the causes and victims of domestic abuse.  Similarly, they should also provide counseling for their employees who practice it.  Perhaps they could partner with one of their major beer advertisers, whose products, as Jon Stewart so artfully pointed out, are intimately involved with nearly every instance of domestic abuse.
  • The NFL should also ban all episodes of unsportsmanlike conduct, whether it takes the form of trash talking, arguing with officials or any gestures that demean the opponents on the field.  Successive infractions should result in additional penalties. 
  • As for Florida State, suspend him for the season.  It's plain that, despite repeated admonitions from his coaches, he does not get that his behavior is not acceptable in society.  Provide him with counseling and a life-coach who can help him become a mature adult.
  • While there is no proof - yet - that Jameis has abused any women, it's only a matter of time before it turns up.  This man is on a dark road that cannot end well.  Since the university has made millions of dollars off his tarnished name, they should put it to good use: Proceeds from the sale of Jameis Winston jerseys (on sale on their website, prices ranging from $55 to $135, including styles for women) should be routed to agencies that treat the victims of domestic abuse and provide counseling and corrective action for the abusers.  
It's not a cure-all.  There should be consequences for boorish behavior.  I am weary of watching the NFL, its highly-compensated officials, an immensely gifted college athlete and his university all acting like Bill Laimbeer.  Who, me?  What foul?









Sunday, March 30, 2014

Time to Celebrate


In case you were unaware, this weekend marks the 30th anniversary of what is perhaps the greatest defensive performance in the history of the Final Four.  Of course, I am referring to Georgetown's annihilation of the vaunted twin towers of Kentucky in the 1984 Semifinals.  In that game, the Hoyas trailed at the half, 29-22.  Kentucky did not score again until 10:04 remained.  Georgetown also held Mel Turpin and Sam Bowie (the person selected just ahead of some kid named Jordan in that year's NBA draft) to zero points in the second half.  Kentucky's coach, Joe B. Hall, attributed his team's woeful performance to aliens obstructing the rim.  Actually, it was more a matter of being out-coached and out-played.  The final score - 53-40 - was far closer than the game itself.



Oh yes.  It's also Opening Day.  Purists may pooh-pooh that notion by arguing that this can only occur in Cincinnati on Monday afternoon.  Yet, I heard the Season officially started a week ago in Australia (we'll save Australia/don't wanna hurt no kangaroos), of all places.  While Baseball can bring out the most rigid aspects of my biases (shall we discuss over 40 years of evidence that the DH rule is a failure?); arguing against a Sunday evening Opener is not one of them.

I have enjoyed the snapshots, predictions and stories that have blanketed the airwaves over the past months.  Based upon all this chatter, I have reached the following conclusions:

  • Robinson Cano will likely lead the Bigs in on-base percentage, since there is no one in that lineup who will strike sufficient dread in opposing pitchers NOT to pitch around him.
  • Miguel Cabrera will be paid approximately $45,000 each time he comes to the plate.  Yes, in less than 3 minutes, he will be paid more money than two-thirds of all the teachers in the US earn in an entire year.
  • It will be Derek Jeter's final season.  While he has played his entire career with my least-favorite team, he has been a joy to watch.  I think he is, along with Cal Ripken, among the savviest players ever to play the game.  That backhand-flip play - in the postseason, no less - ranks as one of the greatest plays in any sport.  I will miss seeing him in the lineup, but not his contributions to his team's success. 
  • The Marlins will not win the pennant.  Their owners - among the least competent in the history of baseball (and that's a pretty low threshold) - will continue to rake in the cash in their publicly-funded billion-dollar playhouse.  They are actually selling Groupons for their opening day, as they do not anticipate approaching a sellout.  Wow.   
  • Games will last over 2:45, or, nearly 30 minutes longer than they did 30 years ago.  Why is that?  I have heard it has something to do with TV timeouts, the superstitious adjustment of batters' armor between every pitch and the emergence of specialty pitchers in this era.
  • Umpires will not call a strike above the waist.  I've ranted about this before, so need not repeat it.
  • Barry Bonds will not forfeit all the batting records he accomplished, nor will he admit any wrongdoing.  He has been asked to throw out the first pitch on Opening Day in Pittsburgh, along with Dick Groat.  It would be more appropriate if Mr. Groat threw out Mr. Bonds.    
Perhaps the biggest piece of news over the off-season was the announced intent of the Atlanta Braves to move to a stadium outside the city, in nearby Cobb County (disclosure: where I live and work).  Their rationale is primarily that they wish to move to a location closer to their base of fans.  I have no argument against that.  I also have no issue with their unannounced desire to locate their team in an area far less threatening than their current home.  I do have other issues with the move.

First, I have no idea how fans will get to the game, at least on weeknights.  The stadium site is less than a mile from one of the busiest highway interchanges in this already badly congested metropolitan area.  There is no room to build another road, let alone an off ramp.  As someone who traversed this trafficked area twice a day over the past three years, I can only breathe a sigh of relief that I moved away from it.

The team and the county have pledged to create all these jobs, too, something typical when billionaires ask a government to pay for their toys.  Yes, there will be construction jobs.  But, the jobs required to staff the park (81 days a year, somewhat less than the 250 or so considered to be full-time employment) will consist of parking attendants (assuming that autos can actually get there), concessionaires, ticket takers, ushers, clubhouse folks and groundskeepers.  Most of those are minimum wage jobs, or, likely insufficient to allow its holders to purchase a ticket to one of the games to be played there.

The final point is the cost, which is currently estimated at $672 million.  Cobb County has announced that it will cover around $400 million of this expense, while the Braves have grandly promised to pick up any cost overruns, which are typical in these projects.  Honestly, I don't know where the county is going to get the funds.  It's already on the hook for an overpriced concert venue that will never pay for itself.  I suppose they will hike the hotel tax, already sitting at 14%.  This, in a county whose voters overwhelmingly rejected a 1% hike in sales tax (with a mandated expiration date) that would ease some of the congestion on its roads.

The owner of the Braves is Liberty Media, a publicly-traded company that owns lots of other enterprises, including Sirius radio and chunks of different cable systems.   In their annual report,  they estimate 2014 revenues to be in the neighborhood of $4 billion, with profit in the range of $1.5 billion.  Their CEO, Gregory Maffei, received compensation in excess of $57 million in 2012 (the last year for which I could find the figure).  In other words, they have lots of cash in very deep pockets.

I am old enough to recall a rule of thumb followed by all mortgage lenders in the days before they concocted the Ponzi scheme of the most recent decade that bankrupted our economy (while curiously enriching the very people who led us down that path).  The magic number was 28%.  Translated: the amount of your monthly payment must be no more than 28% of your monthly income.  It was simple; if you could not make that target, you didn't get the loan.  By my math, using this same formula, Liberty Media could build two stadiums out of their profits from a single year.

Finally, the big question: if Liberty Media wants a stadium so darn bad, why don't they build it themselves?  Goodness knows, they have the resources to do so.  But, I don't think that's going to happen.  I have a suspicion that somewhere, in the next few years, there will be some pronouncement of a bond issue with some fancy name, like Cobb Entertainment District Revitalization, worth several hundred millions, placed on the credit card of its citizens.  I would hazard a guess that the profits of Liberty Media will soar into even more billions.

Recently, the Georgia Legislature was considering a bill that would require all recipients of food stamps to be subject to screening for illegal drug use.  The intent is that anyone receiving government assistance should not be using that assistance to consume something illicit.  My final question: since the folks at Liberty Media will benefit from so much government largesse, will they be required to undergo drug screening as well?

Still, I love the game.  There is no feeling quite like strolling through the labyrinth of ramps (or, in newer stadia, escalators) only to emerge, seeing for the first time that day, that expanse of green known as a ball field.  The sound of the ball hitting glove, the thwack of the bat striking the ball, the swell of the crowd as the ball streaks into a gap in the outfield... ah, there is nothing like it in any other sport.  It also means summer is not far behind.  It's almost all good.