Archive for October, 2006

>By CEAN BURGESON
Associate Editor
The October classic is made of stories like this one. Forty-one year old Kenny Rogers has now thrown 23 consecutive scoreless innings in the post-season, now third on the record list for such a task.Watching the veteran pitch on Sunday night was entertaining, not only because he is so hot right now, but because it is great to see how much he is enjoying himself — talking to himself on the mound, spinning around when a strike call goes the other way, cheering on Pudge and his fielders when they make a good play or pitch call. This is baseball at its finest.In this age of prima donna players, star endorsement deals, free agent salary holdouts, and bad boy athletes, its fantastic to see a player like Rogers who is enjoying the game for what it is: a game.Craig Monroe said it best when he was interviewed after their win against the Cardinals Sunday. He remarked how he was just trying to have fun and enjoy every minute of this world series experience, and remembered how this is what he dreamed about and imagined himself doing when he played in the backyard growing up.That’s what it’s all about. Being 12 years old and hitting a tennis ball in the backyard with an aluminum bat. Making up your own rules; past the oak tree is a hit, above the hedge is a home-run, using ghost runners when you don’t have enough guys — and most important of all, calling which players you get to pretend to be. It was also fun to imagine your own game situations — bottom of the ninth, tying run on second, cleanup hitter up…This year’s Tiger squad represents all of the fun we remember from those childhood experiences, win or lose. Here is a bunch of guys who clearly enjoy baseball and play it for the love of the game. With their rally hats, “gum-time” and the joy they show when they get a clutch run or important win, it’s as fun to watch how they play baseball as it is to watch the actual game.How often do you see a professional sports team go into the locker-room, grab the champagne, and bring it out onto the field to celebrate with their fans? And how many times do you see an interview when the players praise each other more than themselves? Just watch an after game interview with a member of this year’s Tigers.Here is a team that is, as Kenny Rogers says, “doing it for the fans,” and glad to do it for them. There isn’t any talk of personal achievements, dissention in the locker room over changes in fielding assignments or batting roster changes, or the other kind of prima-donna behavior we are so used to seeing in professional sports today.The 2006 Detroit Tiger team is just that — a team. A group of guys who are raising the standard of what a team can do if they are given the chance. They play for the fans and for the fun of it all.Win or lose, they have a ton of class, good sportsmanship, and are a model to young and old athletes and fans everywhere, of any sport.And if anyone deserves to take the World Series crown it’s these guys — the team of destiny.
Cean Burgeson can be reached at cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

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By CEAN BURGESON
Associate Editor
James Earl Jones has a commanding body of professional work. His first successes were in the theater. He won a 1969 Tony award for playing boxer Jack Jefferson in The Great White Hope, and an Oscar nomination for playing the same role in a 1970 film version. I’ve enjoyed watching him (or hearing him) as the voice of Darth Vader in the Star Wars film series, and some of my favorite roles Jones has portrayed over the years are the reclusive Salinger-like author in Field of Dreams, and the CIA chief in the Tom Clancy spy flicks The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. Being a father of two, I must also mention his fine work as the voice of Mufasa in The Lion King. These performances are well known by everyone and always turn up on lists of favorite films by the esteemed actor. But I have to admit, one of my favorite roles is his portrayal of Thulsa Doom in Conan the Barbarian. I remember seeing the film for the first time when I was thirteen years old — a time in the early-eighties when science fiction and sword and sorcery films were just starting to pique the interest of the general public. Conan is arguably the film that started the fantasy genre explosion.At that age, I had plowed through all of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series, as well as J.R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings books; fantasy and swordplay were at the forefront of my imagination, and Conan was right up my alley. This film is often overlooked because it is considered to be minimalist in the dialogue department. What makes up for its lack of wordiness are the fantastic visual qualities of the film, rousing score, minimal reliance on special effects, and especially the performances of its main actors, first and foremost Jones. His lines are carefully crafted and delivered in a cold, dark, malevolent tone. I have often quoted Doom’s “Infidel Defilers. They shall all drown in lakes of blood,” or my favorite line of the film, “contemplate this on the tree of woe. Crucify him!”Even when he isn’t speaking, Jones’ portrayal of Doom is that of pure evil. He manages to make you hate him in the film’s opening scene, and throughout the film with his sinister and ominous presence alone and non-verbal posturing, and provides the audience the needed fuel to root on Schwarzenegger, (in his breakout role), to find and destroy the man who has killed his family.The film was directed by John Milius, who co-wrote and/or directed such popular and critically acclaimed films such as Apocalypse Now, The Hunt for Red October, and Red Dawn, and Conan was co-written by famed writer/director Oliver Stone. Stone and Milius hired an impressive cast around Jones, including Max Von Sydow as King Osric, and some bold casting of some brand new actors — Schwarzenegger included.Thulsa Doom is one of the top ten movie bad guys of all time. It is amazing that Jones, so often known for playing a good guy, could pull off such an evil character portrayal. It’s a true testament to his acting ability. And while there may not have been any Oscars awarded to the film, it stands as one of the most loved and re-watched fantasy films of all time.

>There was a time in America when the man of the house was expected to earn a living, and the woman’s role was that of a home-maker, raising the children and running the household. Women broke this mold when they began to enter the workforce — rightfully so — and changed the model of the American family forever.While this sexist idea of the nuclear family of the fifties was rife with gender bias and unfair stereotyping, there was one part of this social arrangement which was beneficial.That was the idea that one parent worked while the other had the extremely important role of watching, raising, and nurturing the children — a role I have performed in the past, so I know what I’m talking about.But right now, I’m in the same situation as most Americans. My wife and I both work full time, and our two children spend time in daycare. We are extremely lucky, though. Our caregivers are great with the kids, and they both enjoy the time that they spend there.But I have to admit that, there are times that I feel guilty because I no longer stay home with the kids. I worry that there are moments in my daughter’s and my son’s lives that I will miss, and I cannot ever get them back. They grow up so fast, and stay little for what seems like such a short time.What happened in this country that made it so necessary for us to all work such long hours? Why can’t we make ends meet with only one parent working?Some experts claim that anyone can make the sacrifice so that one parent can stay at home, but I know from experience that it’s difficult, if not impossible for young families to get by with only one income in today’s society. What spurred this situation? Inflation? A higher cost of living? An increased lifestyle expectation?Whatever the cause, it is a shame that we left this part of American culture behind (minus the sexist stereotyping, of course).Do we want too much? Expect too much?Is it our lust for expensive toys in our lives and big houses the cause of our need for more family income? Have Americans become too greedy? Or has inflation and the cost of living quickly exceeded our ability to meet our monthly financial obligations?What has really suffered because of this movement to the dual income society has been family. We have more disposable income, and less disposable time to enjoy our lives — and really no way to remedy the situation.The income of the middle class in America isn’t such that we can survive without dual wage earners in each family; the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and everyone else is doing the best they can to get by. According to a study commissioned recently by the U.S. House of Representatives, the middle class is being squeezed. The combination of declining real incomes and increasing expenses reduces the standard of living for the middle class. In real terms, health insurance costs have increased by nearly $900, gasoline and other energy costs have increased by over $2,300, and college education costs have increased by over $1,500 since 2000. The median U.S. family facing these three expenses would have seen its real income drop by almost $1,300 since 2000, while its real expenses would have increased by almost $5,000. So, normal Americans are making less, and putting out more of their income. The next question is, how can we make more, and spend less? From the study, it seems simple. The government needs to do its job. Lower inflation, lower taxes, give businesses the breaks that they need to pay their employees more. Decrease the costs of energy by making us less reliant on foreign oil, increase alternative energy solutions, and lower college and other education costs so they do not exceed the costs of inflation or cost of living.I know this is simplifying the issue, but it doesn’t seem all that hard when you break it down this way. I just hope it’s easy enough for the politicians who are running for office now and in 2008 to understand, because at this rate, the middle class will be eliminated completely before they figure out how keep us from becoming an endangered species.Cean Burgeson can be reached at cburgeson@pioneergroup.net