Golf: Unusual Injury and a Feel Good Story.

I have haven’t written about my own game lately, which usually means that I am basically stinking out the joint, and this is no exception this time. I am having my usual putting problems, and short game blues. My ball striking as been ok, particularly my driving, and my iron game has been up and down. There have been two interesting things happen this year, that I think warrants some blogging. First, I had this very unusual injury related to playing golf. I have been playing this game for a long time, since 1958, and I thought I would never do this to myself, by swinging a golf club. On March 17, I was playing, on a fairly pleasant day, in other words no extreme conditions. I took a swing with an iron, and felt this pain on the inside of my forearm. It wasn’t excruciating, but I noticed it all the same. It was only on that shot. It never recurred the rest of the round, and I really never gave it another thought. Then due to the weather, I did not play for 3 days. The next time I played, I started out fine, but I felt the same pain in my forearm around the 3rd hole, like a small knot in the forearm. This time, it did not go away entirely. Then on the 7th hole, I hit a Gap wedge fat, and the forearm became very painful. I could feel a distinct knot on the inside of the forearm. Naturally, I played out the round, but I protected the arm, and although it was painful, I massaged it, which seemed to make it feel better. I left the course right away, went home, put some ice on it and massage it some more. When I woke up the next morning it felt a little better, but when I looked in the mirror, this is what I saw.

Holy shit!!! The only good news, is that it didn’t feel all that bad. I guess you would call that a severe contusion. As you can see, it goes from the top of the wrist to just below the elbow. I did have some elbow pain. When I hurt it with the fat wedge shot, the pain was only isolated in the inner part of my right forearm. I never expected to see anything like that, the next day. Believe it or not I played golf that day, but did protect the arm. When I showed this picture to my daughter, she thought I fell out of the golf cart. I played 3 of the next four days, with a little different swing, because the weather was just too damn gorgeous, not to play. I only had pain when I did not move my wrist for awhile, and it would wake me up at night, because of way I was positioned at times. I never really did anything for it, and it just slowly went away. I have not had any problems since, and it has been 5 weeks, since I did it. I admit, I have made some permanent changes in my swing, which I hope will avoid doing the same thing. I don’t know if this is necessary, but I do not want to go through this again.

Now for a feel good story. On March 30, we had an 11:16 tee time at Scenic Valley, but because of a frost delay we were pushed back to 11:45. The place was packed, because it was developing into a beautiful day. I was there with my buddy Pete, and we were joined with another twosome, which was fine with us. We went down to the putting green, to kill some time, and when we came back, we found out, that the twosome we were supposed to play with, got joined with another twosome, who were ahead of us. We were joined by a single, by the name of Alli, who is 85 years old and had only been playing golf for about 10 years. Both Pete and he played from the senior tees and Alli moved the ball pretty well with a homemade swing. Number 6 is the first par 3 at Scenic, and from the senior tees it is about 140 yards. Yep, you guessed it. Alli took a mighty swing with his driver, and hit a very nice looking shot, that landed about 20 yards short of the green, took some nice hops toward the pin, and went right in the hole for an ace. Naturally, it was his first ace, in his brief 10 year golf career. Alli bought the beers and the course bought the hot dogs, and it was just a grand day. I looked at Pete and said ” Look what we would have missed, if we had gone out with who we were originally paired with”. Golf is one great game.

Meditation: Fortune and Fame

As with most blogs of this type, let’s begin with some definitions. Fortune is defined as a large amount of money or assets. We are not talking about the luck definition. Fame is defined as the condition of being known or talked about by many people, especially on account of notable achievements. I don’t know if everybody that becomes famous, has what is known as achievements, but I will accept the definition, just to move along. Some people become famous for breaking the law, and others become famous, simply by making an extreme amount of money. That can certainly be considered an achievement, but it is not the same as an athletic, or scientific achievement. Fortune and fame do not always go hand in hand. There are lots of wealthy people, who are not famous. By the same token there are famous people, who are not wealthy. Fame can have it’s obvious drawbacks. The worst thing about being famous, is that everything you do, is seen under a microscope and everybody seems to know about it. I think what it all boils down to is, there is a price to pay for being well known. When the famous develop problems of addiction, depression, run ins with the law, and general bad behavior, although not excusable, it can be understood, why these things can happen. The solution can be simple. Just stop doing what made you, and is making you famous. It is a sacrifice, and it may seem unfair, but it is a solution to the problem. It seems even the wealthy and not so famous are not all that happy, and some can be pretty miserable. When we hear about this, we often wonder, how somebody with all that money, can have so many problems, and be that unhappy. All the wealthy are not like this, but there are enough, that there are many articles in many journals written about this subject. Here is a short review on the general consensus, of why the wealthy are unhappy.

First, here are some quick stats. There are close to 800 billionaires in the United States. Here are the top 4. Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg, all have a net worth between 105 and 188 billion dollars. Sweden’s richest man, Stefan Persson, is worth 18 billion which would just slip him in to the top 25 in the United States. Millionaires are a totally different story. There are well over 18 million of them and just over 75% of them are white. Apparently being a millionaire is not really all that great. Even the titles of some of the articles are ominous. The dark reasons so many rich people are miserable human beings. Then the article goes on to discuss people that are making a little over 100,000 dollars a year. That’s not rich, when compared to the millionaires and billionaires. There is an article, simply titled, why aren’t millionaires happier. That article talks about people knowing, that material things can not buy them happiness. It’s also hard to stop buying, once you start, but people with lesser incomes, seem to have that problem, also. Millionaires do not seem to be immune to having fairly high suicide rates, compared to other sectors of society. When compared with the other wealthy countries, it seems one of the wealthiest, the United States is also the leader in suicide rates. Reading these articles, even though they create a certain amount of sadness, do not give a good reason, why there is so much despair among the wealthy. I have my own theory.

It really boils down to not knowing, what to do with all that money. A lot of billionaires and multi millionaires do a lot of philanthropic work, and help a lot of people. They are all set up through some foundation, so even though a wealthy or famous person’s name is attached to it, it is the foundation doing the work, with a lot of people volunteering, and donating money. I think what the very rich need to do, to end all their misery, is to help people on a 1 to 1 basis. The 800 or so billionaires could give away 1 billion dollars each, in increments of 100,000 thousand dollars, to the poor and needy, directly. They could go down to the border right now, and give that amount to everyone crossing the border. They could walk into homeless shelters, and give each person there, 100,000 thousand dollars. There is approximately 5000 Americans with a net worth of over 100 million dollars. All of those Americans could give 1 million dollars each, in increments of 100,000 directly to the needy and poor. Just get the money, make a bank check made out to cash, and start passing them out directly. Don’t worry about tax breaks, and write offs, just go out and start giving that money away. You have plenty of it. If you have a foundation, it will be fine and will continue the good work that it is doing. For those of you under the 100 million mark, give what you can, but give it directly to the person. In order to be a happy billionaire, or multi-millionaire, you have to have that feeling of the one on one gift. It makes everyone feel good, and you get to do it many times. So just do it, all you millionaires and billionaires, and you are not going to feel miserable any more. It will give you a whole new feeling.

Food: Recommendations

I am never one to make many recommendations, when it comes to food, or food products, because tastes can be so variable. What is delicious to one person may make another person throw up. However, I have come across some products that are so good, that I do feel obligated to share them. None of these foods are going to come under the heading of healthy eating, but they can be under the heading of good eats. There are 3 things that I have found to be very tasty, and a fourth that I have changed the way I make it.

Frozen pizza has come a long way, and many brands are at least, palatable. The DiGiorno Hand-tossed version is outstanding. The grocery store we go to, only seems to carry the peperoni version, but I am sure there is just a cheese version. That is the one I would recommend, and then just put on your own toppings. The interesting thing I find about the cooking instructions, is that the oven is only pre-heated to 375 degrees. Most frozen pizzas, want you to have a much hotter oven. The directions tell you to put the pizza directly on the rack, but I never do, in case there is a cheese over flow. I have a pizza tray with holes in it, that I put in the oven when it is heating. I use the convection oven, when cooking the pizza, and cook it according to the directions for 18 minutes. It is so tasty, that I will be ordering take out, only in a pinch. Have had it numerous times, just to make sure the first time was not a fluke. The first time, I was shocked on how good this frozen pizza tasted. The crust was delicious.

If you like scalloped potatoes, but don’t like to go though all the hassle of making them, try the Idahoan Homestyle Scallop Potatoes. They make other versions with cheese, bacon, and sour cream, but the homestyle seems to be the best. The directions are simple, just combine their ingredients,( which look disgusting by the way) with milk, butter, and water, and put it in the oven at 450 for 25 minutes. This transforms these disgusting looking ingredients, into a very tasty dish of scalloped potatoes. The only thing I add to the concoction is pepper, before I put it in the oven, because we like pepper. The other casserole potatoes, for whatever reason, are not quite as tasty. They make a lot of other products, that I can not vouch for, but the homestyle scalloped potatoes are very good. It has become a regular side dish at our table. The only negative, is the regular size only makes enough for 2 people. They do make a family size version, which I have never tried.

Then, there is the greatest invention since sliced bread, the Haagen-Daz Vanilla Soft Dipped Ice Cream Bars. There are a lot of great ice cream bars around, and lets face it, it is hard to screw up chocolate and ice cream. The Haagen-Daz ice cream bars are tasty, but not any better than other high end ice cream bar. What makes these bars so great is, as you are eating them, the chocolate does not flick off the bar. Praise the lord, a miracle has happened. Every ice cream bar I have ever eaten, the chocolate coating is falling off with practically every bite, and making a big mess. The chocolate on these soft dipped bars, adheres right through every bite. Every once in awhile a side chunk may come off, but it is nothing compared to the other bars. The chocolate is dark and delicious, and you get it with every bite of vanilla ice cream. I am eating one, right after I am done with this blog.

Finally, there is popcorn. I have been a microwave popcorn junkie for 25 years or longer, but after reading about how bad it is for you, I am back to popping my own again. I guess, it is all that stuff that is congealed in bag that, is going to kill you. After all these years I hope it’s not too late, to reverse the damage. When I decided to go back to popping popcorn the old fashioned way, I got on the internet, to see what methods were deemed the best. After reviewing many of them, here is the method I use, that so far has worked out well. I use my 8 quart pasta pot. I put in about 3 tablespoons of Olive Oil and 1/3 cup of popcorn. I do not preheat the oil. I cover the pot and turn the gas burner to high. I then wait to hear the popcorn, start to pop. As the popcorn starts to pop more, I tilt the lid a little to let the steam out. I will give the pot a little shake, only one time. As the popping slows down to a near halt, I will turn the burner off, and wait until at least 5 seconds when there is no popping. Remove the lid and dump the popcorn in a large bowl. No butter, just salt, and I am eating popcorn. This method seems to pop all the kernels, with no burning. I have only tried two brands Jolly Time and Orville, with Jolly Time winning hands down, for taste and kernel texture. I will try some other brands in the future.

There you have it, four things I have found to be quite tasty and and easy to do. Hopefully the pandemic will go in the right direction, and food will become a more festive part of our lives again, with more to experience, and write about. Enjoy.

Sports: Pirates 5-8, Pretty Amazing

The Pittsburgh Pirates have played 13 games so far this year, and have won 5. Considering all the things that have gone wrong, winning 5 games at this point, goes way beyond expectations. They have not been doing it with mirrors either, but I will get to the stats, later. The biggest thing that went wrong, is that they lost their best player, Ke’Bryan Hayes to injury, after the first game. It was a major blow, almost before the season started. Despite that, they won 4 more games. There does seem to be some hope for this team, since they split a 4 game series with the San Diego Padres, one of the better teams in the National League. One of the Padre games set baseball back about a hundred years, where the Pirate pitchers walked 13 batters, hit 3 more, and yet won the game rather easily, 8 to 4. There are some things to like about this team, and their manager.

Despite losing Hayes, and having no production, and I mean one big fat zero, from the centerfield position, the Pirates did not hit bad as a team. Their OBP is 8th in the Majors and their OPS+ is 11th. Unfortunately, that did not compute into as many runs as it could have, due to the fact, they only had 7 batters, each game, capable of putting the ball in play. In total runs, they are currently 17th. Even when they put Wilmer Difo in centerfield, who at the time was swinging a hot bat, he struck out 4 times and hung an 0 for 5 collar. The pitching and defense have not faired as well. In Defensive Efficiency, they are currently 22nd, which is still a little better, than they have done in the past. In all the significant pitching stats, walks, Whip, ERA+, and FIP, the Pirates rank between 24th and 27th. The only place where they are above average, is striking out batters, ranking 11th. So far, I love the way Shelton has managed. I do not know whose philosophy this is, but the way the bullpen is being managed is brilliant. Everybody is getting their chance to pitch in some high leverage situations, and there does not seem to be the proverbial 7th and 8th inning man. Yes, Rodriguez does seem be the possible closer, but with the Pirates leading 2-1 in the eighth against the Padres, it was Chris Stratton, warming up in the bullpen. The Pirates did score 3 runs in the eighth, but Stratton was warming up before they scored the runs. I hope this bullpen philosophy continues. He seems to be trying to have a very stable starting line-up, with none of what I call the strange Sunday line-up, that Clint Hurdle was famous for. The Pirates are going to play 15 of their next 20 games on the road. In order for this team to remain viable, they need to at least tread water, and stay somewhere between 3 and 5 games below .500. What needs to happen?

Hopefully, Hayes will come back sooner than later, and can stay healthy. There has got to be better production from the centerfield position. Forget the DH, right now the Pirates have 2 pitchers batting in the line-up as it stands now. That has to end soon, no matter how that is accomplished. Polanco is beginning to show some life. If he can continue, and stay healthy, and not hurt anybody else, like throwing a bat in the dugout, or running over Phillip Evans, then that will be a big plus. Hopefully, the base running and fielding will improve. It should, when Hayes comes back. Then, there is the K twins. I wish K stood for strike out artists, but instead stands for killing any chance of winning a game, when they start. Mitch Keller and Chad Kuhl have got to start pitching better. This is the coaching staffs biggest challenge at the moment, getting these two back on track, and staying on track. The whole rotation needs to improve. Nobody has gone 6 complete innings. That hopefully will start to happen. No matter how well Shelton can handle the bullpen, it needs a rest, once in awhile. With all the problems, and some bad luck, running into a red hot hitting Cincinnati team didn’t help, the Pirates won 5 out of 13 games. That doesn’t sound that great and the next 20 games could be difficult, but with any good luck, we will still see the Pirates right around .500 when we visit them again on May 10th.

Meditation: Results

When you read or hear anything about life, or life coaching, it is always about the journey not the destination. It is about the process, not the outcome. This subject, results, could have been written under any of the titles, that I discuss. Food, how does it taste? Golf, what did you shoot? Sports, what was the final score? Meditation, what are the benefits? All the answers to those questions, have nothing to do with the process, but the results. On your job, you need to have results. What is the bottom line? Every boss has said, at one time or another, I do not want to hear about any excuses, I want results. We all want to get to our destination, whatever that may be. People set a goal, and some will have a plan to achieve that goal. The best laid plans can go awry, due to many unforeseeable circumstances. This philosophy, that what’s important is the journey, or the process, is just a way to help handle failure. I am not too sure, if that’s the reason, that coaches try to get their clients to think this way, but to have this results only attitude, is not something that is going to improve your health.

There is no question, the sports fan is at the top of the list, of the results only philosophy. You will see many fans tweet, that if my team does not reach the championship game or series the season is a failure. Now in professional sports you are really fighting the odds. There are 30 to 32 teams in each of the four major sports leagues. That means, that with everything being equal, there is only about 3% chance, that your team is going to win the championship. Now, we all know that everything is not equal, so there are going to be some teams that have a better chance than others, to win the title. The teams that do win the title, seem to have some process, or plan, and when it succeeds, then everybody tries to copy them to some degree, with various results, that are usually not as successful as the original team. One thing about the process it is not ignored, especially in golf. In fact the process is given too much credit, by some professional golfers, who have had success in the past. They have a had a great stretch of golf covering years, and run into a bump in the road, and will change coaches, and swings, to see if they can recapture their previous success. Sometimes they don’t even need a bump in the road, to completely revamp their swing, supposedly, trying to get better. The best example I know of this, is Tiger Woods. After winning the Masters by 12 shots, he changed his swing. Now because he went on to have great success, that decision is not questioned, as much as it should be. There are many other examples of this in golf, the most recent is Rory Mcilroy, who is going through this process right now. He is only ranked 11th in the world, I would be changing my swing, too. Is it really the journey, and process, and what are we to do if the results are not what we want?

To get the first part of question out of the way quickly, the answer is a resounding no. If this kind of thinking helps you, then go ahead and continue, but do not delude yourself into thinking, that results do not matter. The one factor that is forgotten about, when there is any successful outcomes, whether it be on a small or short term scale, or a large or long term scale, is luck. Yes, that’s right good old luck. We never give luck enough credit, whether it be good or bad luck. The reason for this, is if we think luck played a major role in our success or failure, it takes the results, out of our hands. It can also, make it seem like all the hard work we put in, may have been wasted, if we were not lucky. Instead of being grateful for our good fortune, we brush it under the rug, and try to forget about it, because we do not want to lessen our accomplishment. This doesn’t really lessen the accomplishment, it is just our perception. When our luck is bad, we don’t talk much about it then, because it looks like complaining. If it is not the journey or the process that is important, how are we to handle the less than desirable outcomes or failures. You have to handle failure with acceptance. In other words you almost have to be happy to fail. This will not stem your desire to succeed, but it will allow you to move on, and possibly try again, or move into a totally new direction, with a new plan. It is the process that allows you to try and find your path. There is that fine line between having faith in yourself, and continuing on the journey, or finding a new path toward a different life goal. It is the hardest part of the whole process, of finding your way through this life. Results are important, but the most important part of any result, is what you do with it once you get it.

Sport: Pittsburgh Pirates 2021

In a few hours from now, the Pittsburgh Pirates will embark on the 2021 season. This will be the first full season of the Ben Cherington-Derek Shelton regime. The predictions for this season are dire. One headline read, the Pirates embark on their 2021 season, and they are going to be terrible. One person on MLB Network predicted they would lose 115 games, which would be one of the worst seasons in Pirate history. This is all because the Pirates are on the rebuild, or are they? When pressed about this, Ben Cherington has refused to say the word rebuild, and nobody seems to notice. If the Pirates are rebuilding and/or tanking, why didn’t they get rid of everybody. They only made 3 trades, and yes, they added a lot of prospects, to the point, that they have moved into the top 10 of minor league systems. But they still have Adam Frazier, Colin Moran, Kevin Newman, Gregory Polanco, Jacob Stallings, Erik Gonzalez, Richard Rodriguez, and Steven Brault. With the exception of Polanco, all of these players have value, and would have brought even more prospects to the team. The one excuse that is made, is that these players will have more value at the trade deadline, and will bring even more prospects, as the Pirates languish in last place in July and August. The other reason given for such a poor season this year, is how bad the Pirates were last year. They had a record of 19 and 41, which would compute out to 51 and 111 for a 162 game season. In my view, the Pirate management looked at last season as a lost season, anyway. Instead of trying to win games, management decided to evaluate talent for 60 real games, and I think they succeeded. During the 60 game season, they played players all over the place, and used a different batting order, almost everyday. This led to some surprising cuts at the end of spring training. The most surprising in my view was Geoff Hartlieb. He has looked very good at times, and last year had an ERA+ of 127. Obviously, at least for right now, the Pirates feel they have better options in the bullpen, than Hartlieb. The same thing can be said for Edgar Santana, another pitcher with decent major league experience and an ERA+ of over 120,the last 2 years that he pitched. Not putting Cole Tucker and Todd Frazier on the opening day roster, is significant. What kind of season do I think the Pirates are going to have?

I think this team will play right around .500 baseball, and with any luck will finish with 85 wins. Now things won’t have to be perfect, for them to do this, but a few things will have to break their way. The rotation is very thin, and they will have to avoid any more serious injuries, like what’s happened to Steven Brault. He looks like he may be able to return in June, but who knows. The infield is solid and hopefully will have some improved hitting from Frazier and Newman. Moran at first base may be a disaster, but I think Phillip Evans may wind up as the regular first baseman, and Todd Frazier may come up and fill some of that void. Hayes at third, will be solid, no matter what he hits, and hopefully he reaches full potential this year. The outfield does not have a lot of depth but again Evans and Adam Frazier can fill in there, but I hate to see Frazier move off 2nd base, where he really seems to have found a home. Hopefully, Brian Reynolds can get his hitting stroke back, and I am confident he will. Then there is Gregory Polanco, the 11 million dollar man. Hopefully he does not run into anybody and end their season like he did last year. Since 2014 he has had 3 decent seasons for the Pirates and 4 horrific seasons either due to poor play or injury. He practically destroyed his body, sliding into second base in 2018, and has not been the same since. He has become the project of the Pirates hitting coach, Rick Eckstein. If Polanco can stay healthy and have a 2 to 3 WAR season it will go a long way in helping the Pirates, be a competitive team. The bullpen should be solid, and it will be interesting to see how Shelton handles the various arms, and how the Pirates are able to finish close games. I think one of the biggest keys, will be if Richard Rodriguez can develop into the main high leverage guy, and if he doesn’t who will. We will all see what happens with this young Pirate team. Every 10 games I will do a blog on how the season is going. I watch every game they play when televised. I also watch the game with no sound. I am not going to listen to Joe Block, ask questions, that my grandson would ask, who is just learning the game. Could this season be one where they might lose a record number of games? Maybe, but I do not think so. See you at the 10 game mark. HAPPY OPENING DAY! Let’s go Bucs!