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Sports and War.

This is something I have been mulling over for a couple weeks, and especially since the NHL playoffs began.  On the heels of my father-in-law's Honor Flight this week, I have deep respect for all veterans.  But I was seriously not going to rant on the subject until this quote appeared.

This is Jim Leyland speaking of Brandon Inge.

He's been a true soldier, a lot of great memories there.

No.

Inge is a baseball player.  He is a grown man playing a child's game for which he is paid in the millions.  He's no soldier.  In fact, he's less of a soldier than the roofer or the insurance salesman who's busting his butt to pay the mortgage.  But really not any of them are soldiers.

Sports is not a war.  Its players are not warriors.  There isn't a battle.  I know we are all prone to hyperbole when it comes to describing athletes and their abilities.  Most have skills each of us can only dream of, but in the end, they are playing a meaningless game.  There isn't any one of us whose lives are on the line; whose freedom is on the line.

Can we back off the war analogies?

 

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I Guess Those Racy Photos Were A Joke

I figured that the Tigers' upper management had been threatened with some nasty scandal if they were ever to release Brandon Inge.  I determined that was the only reason to keep his sorry butt around.  Turns out, he didn't have any dirt on any of the team's big wigs.

Brandon Inge was a divisive figure during his time in a Tigers uniform.  The people who liked him, loved his play.  The people who didn't like him, hated his play.  There aren't too many Tigers fans who don't have a strong opinion of Inge, one way or the other.

This is a tough pill for the Tigers to swallow.  They have to eat quite a bit of money on this deal, but when the choice is getting a player who can play or keeping Inge just because you owe him some money, it really was a no-brainer.  I am just surprised it took so long.

Inge told Fox Sports,

It's a business when you come down to the end of it.

Major League Baseball is a business, but this was a baseball decision.  Business had nothing to do with it.

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Time For Conference Semi-Finals

Today is the eve of the conference semi-finals which means time for more predictions.

First, how'd I do in the first round?  Pretty crappy.  I picked a total of three of the eight series winners and none in terms of the number of games.  Why did that happen?

I grossly underestimated the teams that had to bust humps just to make the playoffs; teams like the Caps, the Sens, the Kings, and the Coyotes.  While the Sens didn't win, they pushed the Rangers to the limit in a thrilling game seven last night.  The other three pulled off the upset.  I don't consider the Sharks among that group because they underachieved to simply make the playoffs.  They limped in and don't be surprised if big changes are on the way in San Jose.

So, never one to let failure keep me down, here's how I see round two going.

Rangers vs Capitals.

Capitals got amazing goal tending from youngster Holtby in the first round.  He will need to keep it up to match Lundquist.    Rangers in 7.

Flyers vs Devils.

The first round was a high scoring affair for the Flyers.  I don't see them putting up those kind of numbers against the Devils, but Marty is long in the tooth.  Flyers in 6.

Blues vs Kings.

Each team has had plenty of time to rest for this one.  What can you say about Jon Quick so far?  He has been remarkable.  The difference is the Blues only need a goal or two with their smothering defense.  Blues in 6.

Coyotes vs Predators.

Didn't see much of the Coyotes in round one.  Saw a lot of the Predators.  Don't see them losing any time soon.  Preds in 5.

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Ranking Stephen King.

Gilbert Cruz does yeoman's work by ranking each of Stephen King's 62 books and anthologies.  I read through this list carefully and I generally find little to disagree with.  But when you are talking 62 volumes, a little can be a lot.

The effect a particular volume has on the reader depends greatly on the reader's particular circumstances.  For instance, I read The Shining on a cold winter's afternoon during a heavy snow.  It really fit the setting of the novel and added to the enjoyment.  How the reader views a particular volume also depends greatly on the order the books are read.  While Cruz attempts to sterilize the process, he does acknowledge some important points and leaves room for disagreement.  By way of example, he states the for parents with young children, Pet Semetary may be especially haunting.

One facet of these stories that should never be a part of any discussion of which is better or which is worse based on what has happened since the book was published.  Specifically here I am speaking of movies.  There have been some really lousy movies made from some terrific stories.  There have been some really terrific movies made from some of these stories as well.  I may rank the movie versions in a later post, but for now, the movies have no bearing on the ranking of any particular book.

I haven't read a Stephen King novel since The Cell, which was quite some time ago.  I have a stack of books in my Kindle, but I have been a bit hesitant to read them thinking that perhaps King had slipped a bit.  After reviewing this ranking, I think I am sufficiently motivated to at least begin one or two in the short term.  That said, I don't think I can offer much of an opinion on any of the recent volumes published in terms of how they rank against each other or against books that I have read.

The only way I know how to do this is from the beginning of the list.  If you have not yet viewed the slideshow and read the descriptions linked above, please take some time to do so.  It is best if you take in the whole list before I can poison you.

Now I don't have the time or inclination to give you my own ranking.  I am only going to let you know where I come down on important works.  I don't think the non-fiction volumes Danse Macabre, Faithful and On Writing belong on this list, because, while King may offer brilliant insight into the writing process and the horror genre, it is creativity and story-telling in which I am most interested.

So here we go.  Can't argue with The Stand at number one.  Probably among the greatest works of fiction in the 20th century.  I know Stephen King is easily dismissed as a pulp fiction writer, but many of these volumes are brilliantly written and will stand the test of time; none more than The Stand.

Over-Rated.

It.  The story is fantastic for about 80% of the way.  Then it breaks down for me horribly.

Misery. Fantastic story, not all that creative.  There are plenty better that this should be #6.  Part of a series of what I would call self-indulgent, writer-based stories.

Gunslinger. Not a great story but overall effective as part of a larger series.  Really gets picked up by the next three volumes.  If I were ranking The Dark Tower series individually it would come in fourth.

Hearts In Atlantis.  An anthology that has some brilliant moments, but doesn't stack up with some of the stuff ranked below it.

Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.  I put this in the "persecuted female lead character" run of stories King put out in the 90's.  I was going to include Delores Claiborne as over-rated as well.  The thing is these are finely crafted tales with wonderful characterizations, but King is so much more effective when he gets back to monsters and the unknown.

Bag of Bones and The Dark Half.   The Dark Half was a bit better than Bag of Bones which is another "meh" story about a writer.  King had a run of these kinds of stories, including Misery, which I mentioned above. Got a bit old.

Under-Rated.

Simply put, I can only argue for the next four.

The Shining (2) & Salem's Lot (3). The Shining rightfully lies at the feet of The Stand at number two, with Salem's Lot right beside.

Wizards and Glass (4). I bet you didn't think this one could or should be ranked higher.  It should.  It is a fantastic tale.  Probably more personal than any other King tale.  I loved this story.

Pet Semetary(5).  For me, the most frightening novel I have read.

How about you?

 

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Honor Flight

Today my 86 year-old father-in-law is taking part in one of the finest traditions we as a nation have implemented and supported, The Honor Flight.  Each Honor Flight is a plane laden with WWII veterans headed to the District of Columbia to check out the memorials that were dedicated for their service to our country.  Many of these vets have never seen these memorials.  I know my father-in-law was looking forward to this day with great eagerness.

These are guys, like you and me, who had to stand and defend our nation and others against tyranny, and in my mind are heroes to a man (and woman).  We all know the story.

God Bless America and those who served her.