Sports: Opening Day, The Best Day Of The Year

That’s all you have to say is opening day, and everybody knows that means the first day of the regular season in baseball. This opening day, is even more significant, as baseball tries to have the first normal regular season in sports, since the pandemic began. It all begins on Thursday, and for me, this is the best day of the year. I know that pro football has supplanted baseball, as the most popular sport, in America, but there is only one sport, that is called our National Past Time. There is still nothing like it. It should be declared a national holiday, and kids should be off school, to either see the games in person or watch them on TV. This year many kids are off, thanks to the Easter break. This year baseball is doing it right, with all 30 teams starting on the same day. Even though around here, it will be far from a spring day, you know the good weather is about to begin. The days will be getting longer, and the wonderful days of summer are just around the corner. There will be that nice secure feeling, that you are about to settle in, to that long, and beautiful 162 game season, that was so missed last year. Yes, the 60 game season was better than nothing, but just barely. Sixty games of regular season baseball, well, it’s just not right. It seemed it was over in an instant, and baseball was very fortunate, that the best two teams made it through the expanded playoffs. This year with the exception of the 7 inning doubleheader, we are totally back to the way things use to be in baseball. The playoffs are the same this year, as they were before Covid, with 5 teams getting in, from each league. As of now, there will be no DH in the National League. Hopefully baseball will be able to maneuver through this long regular season, with no major Covid problems.

I have been following baseball, and the Pittsburgh Pirates since 1958. I will write about the 2021 version of the Pirates on Wednesday. With all those statistics, baseball helped hone my math skills, which in turn, helped me to get into veterinary school. I played the game right through the 60’s until I became obsessed with golf. Baseball to me, is still the best sport to watch, and follow, and by far the most interesting. The most unique thing about the game, is that there is no clock. In order to win a baseball game, a team has to accomplish getting the last out of the game. There have been many times, where teams have never been able to do that. There is no running the clock out in baseball. Baseball is by far the most historic game we have, beginning organized play in 1876, with the birth of the National League. The game has had its ups and downs, through out history, just as America has. It was the No. 1 game in America for almost 100 years, until football took over in the late 1960’s. It is the sport that has it all. Even though there is the team concept, you have that mano a mano confrontation between the batter and the pitcher. Baseball has more strategy in one game than football does in an entire season. Baseball is the only sport whose head man is called a manager. The game and the team needs to be managed, not coached. This week, we will feel as close to normal as we have been in over a year, when opening day arrives. Let’s hope that America’s Pastime, is just the beginning of those normal feelings, as we push past this pandemic.

Meditation: Masks and Governors

At first, this blog was going to be a rant. Rants can be very cathartic and make you feel good, when you are doing them. Rants can also be very nasty and unkind. Since I have put this under meditation, and have just finished meditating, I decided to write this in a more conventional way. I am not going to use the words, moron, idiot, stupid, crazy, and brainless. The subject of masks and governors have come up a lot over the last few weeks. Masks have been in the news for a long time, and have caused confrontations on many levels, in many areas of the country. Governors have been in the news, more than usual over the last year, because it has been up to them to handle the pandemic, in their respective states, since we never have had a national policy. However, in the last two weeks there has been some new twists concerning both. I am taking big breaths, to remain calm, as I begin to discuss each one.

With more people getting vaccinated, there was a confrontation between Senator Rand Paul and Dr. Anthony Fauci, over wearing masks, with Senator Paul calling them theater. There has even been mask burning gatherings, with kids participating, in many parts of the country. Being against wearing a mask, is like being against wearing clothes. Walk into any establishment without wearing a shirt or shoes, and see what happens. You will see your “constitutional rights” trampled, as you are escorted out of the building. Unlike clothes, masks are not required 24/7. You only have to wear a mask, when you are inside. You don’t have to wear one in the parking lot. You don’t have to wear one as you walk toward the building. You only have to put the mask on when you enter the building. When you are doing grocery shopping, inside a mall, or a larger mega mart, you are probably going to be there between 30 to 60 minutes. That is all that is being ask of you. Such a small and insignificant thing to do, but you will be protecting many people, including yourself. Restaurants even require less time with a mask on. How such a simple thing to do, created such anger and rage is something that is very difficult to explain. The human race, apparently, has really failed in their ability to do things for the greater good. Even though mask wearing will never become law, it should be, to save people, from themselves.

Recently, there have been articles in many news sources giving positive reviews to governors that have essentially kept their states open during the entire pandemic. They say that these states are not any worse off with corona virus cases than states that went through lock downs. Their economies are better, because of the governors policies of allowing businesses to function, like there was no pandemic at all. These articles miss one very huge point. It really doesn’t make any difference what a governor does or doesn’t do, people are going to do what they want, therefore the states really aren’t much different from each other. In states that went through restrictions, people still found ways to meet in large groups, not wear masks, and find restaurants that defied restriction mandates, and opened anyway. In states where the governors kept things opened, most businesses still required masks, people sheltered in place on their own, and followed social distancing guidelines. The reality is, that no matter what a governor mandates, without some intense enforcement, many will simply defy the mandates. The idea that a governor should be praised for whatever he did, or did not do, during the pandemic, is ignoring this fact. The governors policies only had a minimal effect, on how the pandemic played out in their state. As in the case of masks, many people did what they wanted to do, not really caring about the common good. As far as I am concerned, this pandemic has brought out the worse in society. People fighting over, trying to keep from getting sick. A disease, that essentially many people do not want to stop from spreading. One can only hope, but I am not optimistic, that we may learn from the mistakes we have made.

Meditation: Stress

Stress is defined as a a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation. Stress is thought of as a natural response to a challenging or dangerous situation. Most stress responses are only designed to function for a short period of time, of about 1 to 2 hours. It is when these stress feelings, or emotions, last for days on end, that health issues can arise. These health issues can be many things, ranging from high blood pressure, heart disease, cognitive problems, mental disorders, mood swings, digestive and sleep problems. They intertwine with each other, which leads to a multitude of issues. However, one of the most concerning problems about stress, is how it can affect the brain. Stress can affect the memory, and other brain functions like mood, and anxiety. Stress also seems to promote inflammation, which can not only adversely affect the brain, but also the joints, and the cardiovascular system. The ways to deal with stress are well known, and have been around for a long time. They can range from meditation, listening to music, exercise, reading, social interaction, and deep breathing. It is a foregone conclusion, that stress is a natural part of life. One article goes so far as to say that a life without stress, is not only impossible, but also would likely be pretty uninteresting. Many feel that a certain degree of stress is helpful for growth. In fact, there is a term eustress which means beneficial stress. Is that really the way things have to be? Since stress seems to cause so many problems with our bodies and minds, when does beneficial stress become harmful stress. Instead of trying to deal with stress, maybe we should be trying to prevent it altogether, even though that seems to be impossible.

There are many things out there, that can be good for us, in small to moderate amounts, but if we overdo it, can be harmful. Sunlight, alcohol, food, and even exercise, if carried to extreme can do us harm. The difference is, these are all tangible items, that we can see and do. Stress is something that we create, 95% of the time. There is natural stress, which is mostly caused by danger, and our fears. Fear is a very real thing to the person who has the fear, even though many people may think the fear is ridiculous. I am not going to get into specifics, because this blog is about stress. These stressors are there to protect us in times of danger or can help us conquer our fears. These natural stressors do not make life any more, or less interesting, but I agree are impossible to avoid. The stress related to our relationships with friends, loved ones, spouses, life partners, coworkers and careers(yes, we have a relationship with our career/jobs), is the stress that we create, and need to prevent, not manage. We all know the things that create this stress. Things go wrong, not the way we want them to, job related pressures, and all the things in an interpersonal relationship. The list can go on and on. Preventing this stress is like most things in life, it is easier said than done. I believe there are ways of doing it. Start the day with meditation, and end it by counting your blessings. Acceptance of a situation is a big step in preventing stress. Make a move, that you have been thinking of doing for a long time. Do something. There is a solution to every problem, it just hasn’t been found yet. Do not think of the consequences, if someone else, is in control of those consequences. Do your best at all times, and move on. Deep breaths, when fear and anxiety seem to be taking over. Anticipation always seems to be worse than what will actually happens. The bottom line is this, just don’t feel stressed. It does not have to be created. The idea that in order for a life to be interesting and full, it has to have stress in it, is absurd. Natural stress is protective and necessary. Created stress just makes life miserable, not interesting. You may not be able to control outcomes, but you can control how you react to them. Think like you just received an anti stress vaccine. It is possible to live a life, free from created stress.

Meditation: N. O. M. V. Suicide

It stands for Not One More Vet, and is an organization to give help and support to veterinarians, who are feeling overwhelmed by some of the unique problems, and stress of the veterinary profession. The suicide rate in veterinarians is about 2 times the national average when compared with the general population. On social media, you are seeing pictures of people in the veterinary profession, with N. O. M. V. superimposed on their profile picture. When people find out what that means, they are surprised to learn, that this is such a problem in the profession. The N. O. M. V. organization was started in the year 2014, when one of the most well know veterinarians in dog behavior, Sophia Yin, took her own life. I listened and spoke to her at many veterinary conferences, and her training methods, and her lectures, were the best I have ever experienced, before or since. I am sure I was not alone in my feelings, and that is why her death was so shocking. This organization has been around for close to 7 years now, and people are still are not aware, of what a veterinarian has to go through on a daily basis. They are not aware of what it means to be a veterinarian. It starts with the reason why people want to become a veterinarian. It is what gets people off on the wrong foot, before they even get started.

The vast majority of people that think about having a veterinary career, do so, because they have a love of animals. This sounds all well and good. However, it is the second word of the profession, you better love, medicine. As a veterinarian, you are going to practice more medicine in your career, than than any 10 MD’s combined. Even though veterinary medicine is becoming more specialized, the general dog and cat veterinary practitioner, is most likely going to manage, and treat cases involving, the heart, the liver, the kidney, the skin, the intestinal tract, the spine, the brain, and hormonal conditions, involving the pancreas, thyroid, and adrenal glands. The veterinarian will handle those cases from beginning to end. Even in cases, where a specialist should be involved, many people can not afford the cost, and the veterinarian will have to do the best that he or she can, under the circumstances. The amount of medical knowledge one has to consume in veterinary school, and continue to consume throughout one’s career, concerning diseases and conditions in dogs and cats can be overwhelming. You must have a never ending thirst for knowledge. Plus, you are going to be doing surgery, which is a totally different aspect of the job. Even though you may have a great love of animals, you are still going to have to deal with people, on a daily basis. You will have to deal with them, most of the time, in very difficult situations, when they are dealing with a sick pet, and financial difficulties. If you are not a people person, you are going to have major problems, in a veterinary practice. This may be one of the reasons, that in many surveys, less than half of the veterinarians surveyed, recommend their profession has a career choice. Veterinary schools need to show what it really means, to be working as a veterinarian. This is not to discourage people to become veterinarians, but to become veterinarians for the right reasons.

The other factor in making a veterinarian’s career difficult, is the overall sadness that happens of a daily basis. Veterinarians and their staff, probably see more people cry, than in any other profession. There is hardly a day that goes by that a veterinarian is not euthanizing a beloved pet. Many people, not in the profession, think that euthanasia is such a good thing. Many times, when I had to put an animal to sleep, I would have a client say, I wish they would do this for people, so they would not have to suffer. Intuitively, this seems correct. But the process of deciding, when to euthanized an animal, can be extremely stressful, for the owner. Then you have the other side of the coin. As a practitioner of medicine, the enemy is death. When a life is saved in human medicine, whether it be, from an accident or a disease, the physician may see that person go on to live a wonderful and fruitful life. The person may be alive, whenever the doctor retires. He will see the fruits of his labor, for years and years. The veterinarian, when he saves a life, knows it is a temporary postponement. In 5 to 10 years, that animal will die or be euthanized. The victories can be savored, but you know that death will win out at the end. Euthanasia can also be used as a convenience. When a child is diagnosed with juvenile diabetes, one of the options not given to the child’s mother is, if you don’t want to go through the issues of managing a diabetic, we can just put Johnny to sleep. Yet, I have had many cases of diabetes in dogs and cats that were under the age of 10, where the owner elected euthanasia. Then you have the dichotomy of thousands of dollars being spent to treat dogs and cats illnesses, while every year over a million dogs and cats are being euthanized at shelters, across the United States. The strangeness of that, can really make one think, why am I doing all this? Dealing with, and watching this much death, can take it’s toll. It can lead one to believe how peaceful and serene death is, and a way to solve one’s problems.

Other issues today, are the high cost of the education in relationship to the return. The information highway, that makes people feel, that they know more about how to diagnose and treat their pet, than the veterinarian does. Even though things have improved on this front, there still is this lack of respect for the profession. You will hear that famous line, why didn’t you become a real doctor. There has always been this certain paranoia in the profession. Back in the 70’s and 80’s when the profession had it’s most popularity, we were inundated with, we were graduating too many veterinarians, and there would not be enough business for this huge influx of veterinarians. Veterinarians have always been paranoid about losing business. They were worried when emergency clinics started, that they would lose patients to them, because clients would go back to them for their regular visits. It may be this attitude of trying to keep clients at all costs, that leads to much of the abusive behaviors, that veterinarians and their staff have to endure. When I had my practice the first thing I said to an unhappy client ( and I had plenty of them), was that there were 4 other clinics within 5 miles, and I would be happy to send their records there, so they could try them. If we are going to put a stop to this crisis in veterinary medicine, we need to educate young people about what it takes to be a veterinarian, not this James Harriot bullshit. We need to find a way to make a veterinary education less expensive, cutting the years down to become a veterinarian, from around 8 to around 6. We need to find ways to help veterinarians deal with the concept of death and seeing it on a daily basis. Yes, veterinary MEDICINE can be a very challenging, rewarding, and satisfying career, if you realize just how tough it is, and know what you are getting into. I still recommend it, whole heartedly.

Golf: Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods, is the third member of the group, who should be considered the greatest golfer of all time, and thanks to the alphabet, I have saved the best for last. Despite the fact that I wrote, that Sam Snead should be in this group, the debate always boils down to Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods. Those that feel that Nicklaus is the best, will always point to his major championship record, which is second to none. There is no doubt that people look at the performances in major championships, as golf’s holy grail. We need a little historical background on major championships, to put them in a proper prospective. Although Tiger Wood’s major championship record is not as good as Nicklaus’s, it is not all that far behind, when you look at the entire history of golf.

When Nicklaus was trying to win the most major championships of all time, he was chasing Bobby Jones. Jones had won 13 major championships, which included the U. S. and British Amateur, where he won 5 and 1 respectively. He won 4 US Opens and 3 British Opens to round out his 13 majors. When Nicklaus was making his run at Jones, he had won 2 US Amateur titles, before turning pro in 1962. Walter Hagen had 11 professional major titles. He won 3 US Open, 3 British Opens, and 5 PGA Championships. He won 4 PGA’s in a row when the event was all match play. Speaking of greatness, he is the greatest match play player of all time. It was convenient when Nicklaus won his 14th major, which included his 2 amateur wins, he broke Jones’s major record, and Hagen’s professional major record, at the same time. As the years went by Nicklaus’s majors number always included his amateur wins. When he won that memorable Masters in 1986, it was stated that this was his 20th major championship, which in 1986, looked like a record that would never be approached, let alone broken. Then, along comes Tiger, and all of a sudden, the talk is only about the 18 professional majors that Nicklaus won, like the US amateur is not considered a major any more. No one had the guts, to write that the great Bob Jones, now only had 7 majors. If you count Tiger’s 3 US Amateur wins, then that brings his total to 18 and only 2 behind Nicklaus. They both have won the 4 professional majors, 3 times each. Jack has won one more Masters, one more US Open, and one more PGA, thus the 2 more career majors. You just can not change, what is considered a major as time goes by. If it was counted as a major in 1980, then it is a major today. Even though Jack’s record in the majors, is still the best, Tiger is a close second, for sure.

Tiger is the G.O.A.T, because he just has done too many things that no one has ever done, plain and simple. The only person to win 3 US Amateurs in a row. The youngest to win all 4 majors, doing it when he was 24, about 2 years younger than Nicklaus. His making the cut 142 straight times, should be enough to put him at the top. He broke Byron Nelson’s record of 111 and Jack made a good run, with 105. Hale Irwin follows with 86 and Dow Finsterwald is 5th at 72, just a little above half of Tiger’s mark. Tiger was the only player to win 4 professional majors in a row. See, I know how to sneak that professional word in too. He has the lowest career scoring average. He is tied with Sam Snead for 82 wins. He has led the money list 10 times, Nicklaus is second with 8, and Tom Watson and Ben Hogan did it 5 times, each. Biggest victory margin in the US Open 15, next Willie Anderson 11 in 1899. Biggest victory margin in the Masters 12, Jack second with 9. Biggest victory margin in British Open 8. Two other golfers matched this record, J. H. Taylor, 1900 and 1913, and James Braid in 1908. The major he does not have the biggest victory margin, is the PGA, where he did win by 5 once, but Rory has the record at 8. He has 41 European Tour wins which is 3rd all time. Tiger has won Bay Hill 8 times, and The World Invitational at Firestone 8 times, tying him with Snead for the most wins at one event. He is 14 and 1 when holding or sharing the third round lead in a major. He has won a record 22.8% of his starts on the PGA tour. Nicklaus won about 12% of his. There may one player on tour today, who is close to 10%, but that is about it. He won the Vardon Trophy a record 9 times. Last but not least his playoff record is 15-2. Ben Hogan’s playoff record is 2 and 9. Any questions. Tiger is it, baby.

Golf: Sam Snead

Sam Snead is the golfer, that is most overlooked, when talking about the greatest golfers of all time. Other than Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, there is not a lot of argument given, for anybody, to join them. in the discussion of the greatest golfer of all time. In fact, in some rankings, you might find Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Bobby Jones, Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, Walter Hagen, and even Harry Vardon ranked ahead of Snead. The biggest reason for this, is that Snead has this gaping hole in his record, of never being able to win the U. S. Open. He finished 2ond four times, and the one that stands out, is the 1939 Open, where he needed just a par to win the tournament, and made a triple bogey 8, to fall to 5th place. Snead said, that he thought he needed a birdie to just tie for the lead, and played the hole aggressively, which resulted in the 8. Such a thing would have never happened today, with all the scoreboards around. It is not to say that he would have parred the hole, but he certainly would have played it differently. But Snead’s career had many more highlights, than lowlights.

He won 7 major titles, 3 Masters, 3 PGA’s, when it was a match play tournament, and one British Open. He has 82 official PGA tour wins, and but also a total of 142 professional wins, including being the only man to win an LPGA event. It was in 1962, a par 3 event in Florida, and Snead defeated 14 LPGA players including Mickey Wright. It was held the previous year with 24 men and women playing, and Snead finished 3rd, losing by 2 shots to Louise Suggs. Snead joined the tour in 1937, and over the next 25 seasons won at least one tournament every year, except for 1943, due to military service, 1947, and 1959. He won the Greensboro Open for the 8th time, in 1965, at the age of 54, making him the oldest winner of a PGA tour event, to this day. He won on the senior tour in 1980, making him the only golfer to win senior and regular tour events over 6 decades. Snead made a lot of noise on the PGA tour, even when he was in his sixties. He made the cut at the U.S. Open at age 61, which is a record. He finished in the top ten in three consecutive PGA Championships at ages 60 to 62. In 1974 at 61-62 years of age, he played in 13 events, made the cut 11 times, and finished in the top five 3 times, a 2ond, a 3rd, and a 4th. In 1979 at age 67, still competing on the PGA tour, he was the youngest player to ever shoot his age. On longevity alone, this man could be considered the greatest of all time. His greatest year was 1950. Playing in 25 tournaments, he won 11, finished second in 5 and 3rd in 2. Yet, Ben Hogan was voted player of the year, because of his comeback, and winning the U.S. Open, his only win that year. Before Tiger, Golf Digest voted Snead the 3rd greatest golfer of all time, behind Nicklaus and Hogan. There has always been, some kind of prejudice against Snead, for some reason, in the golfing press.

Snead had this kind of down home folksy persona, but he was, also, pretty much of a skin flint, and was always looking for ways to make money, from everyday activities. There were many stories from the Greenbriar, where he was the pro, where he would ask to join a group, then ask for 100 dollars, from each member of the threesome, to do so. He was notorious for not tipping caddies, and for keeping all his money in cans, buried in the back yard. Nobody in the media, really wanted to ordain this guy, with the G.O.A.T. tag. The U.S.G.A. never seem to like Snead either. The method of croquet putting, where you straddle the line, was invented around 1961, and was being used in sanctioned professional events. It wasn’t until Snead started using it in 1967, to combat the yips, that the USGA got all up in arms about it, and banned the method in 1968. Snead was considered double jointed, meaning he had hypermotility in his joints. There is the famous picture of Snead kicking the top of a door frame when he was in his seventies. How much this helped his swing will never be known. Sam Snead was just a better and more natural player than Ben Hogan. When you think of the greatest golfer of all time you can not simply look at statistics. Think of a beautiful and powerful swing that created some of the finest shots in the history of golf. Think of somebody who played competitively, on the PGA tour, for over 40 years. Think of Sam Snead.