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Sunday, Sept. 28, 2008

Heimlich Maneuver

Jim Cryns on Sports

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Choking can be fatal. Only this time it was the Mets.

I think a man should admit when he's wrong. If you make a mistake, man-up and take the heat, endure the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

A while back I slammed the Brewers for their meltdown against the Cubs and Mets. I referred to them as 'pretenders' and was certain the only playoff games they'd be involved in would require a television. Contrary to what you might think, I'm extremely happy they made the playoffs. Like a guy who discovers he likes opera, I think I've found I'm a bit of a fair-weather fan. Let me try to explain. When the team performs poorly I get angry. I mean blind-angry. I swore off getting emotionally involved in sports about 20 years ago when I realized the players were driving home in their Bentley's to their multi-million dollar home. However, I think I broke my vow and became emotionally involved with this team, and that was at the beginning of the year. I was enamored with Braun's confidence, Corey Hart's swagger, J.J. Hardy's awesome hitting spree. To paraphrase a song, They Made Me Love Them.

Dale Sveum pulled off a minor miracle when he guided this team from sheer impotence to the Wildcard victory. I was extremely happy to see Ned Yost leave, but largely for personal reasons. Watching Corey Hart and the rest of the Brewers bats go mute down the stretch left me feeling frustrated and tired.

The atmosphere at Miller Park was like that of a prize fight, Ali vs Frazier. The fans were into the game early. To say this team has endured a dry spell is a gross understatement. The last time this team was in contention for a playoff spot, The Grand Avenue Mall was still inhabited. .

Ironically, the mood was remarkably calm among the players and coaches before Sunday's do-or-die game against the Cubs. Not what I would have expected. From the dugout Dale Sveum described his players as being full of adrenaline, but to see the guys warm up on the field and in batting practice it seemed like another day at the office. (Yes, I've been around them enough to call them 'the guys.') However, if this day ended badly, the office would be closed for the next six months.

So, I said it. I was wrong about this team. I'm glad I was. The one thing I'm not is a hypocrite. The team pulled a rabbit out of a hat, a rabbit they earned. I'm loyal to my emotions and thoughts, but the Brewers proved me wrong. Thank goodness for Milwaukee's sake.

Say what you want about Hart's inability to hit a baseball in the past six weeks or Jeff Suppan's inability to find the strike zone, or Ben Sheets latest physical breakdown, the team did a yeoman's job to get here.

Lou-Lou

Rumor is Lou Pinella has coached his last regular season in the Majors, win or lose. To paraphrase a legendary columnist, Lou seems like he doesn't give a flying-fock one way or the other. He quite possibly will be ushering the Chicago into its first World Series since the FDR administration, but you wouldn't know it to look at him. Cucumbers aren't this cool.

Old Time Baseball

Apropos of nothing….Alfonso Soriano hunches over home plate like a tiger over her fresh kill. If I were a Major League pitcher, I would 'put the ball in his ear,' as they used to say. Leo Durocher, the infamous manager and player, would have ordered his pitcher to put Soriano down to the dirt until he soiled himself, in a literal and figurative sense.

(That was a double-entendre there.)

On a clear day, you can see forever…..

If you were at Saturday's game you noticed the team management decided to close the roof on a perfect sunny day. Speculation ranged from shadows from the sun to an oncoming storm. Another theory was the Brewers had planned a celebration from above in case of a clinch. I was privy to a conversation among Brewers brass via video tape and learned the precise reason why---but I'm not talking.

They broke the mold.

How does the late Paul Newman figure into a column ostensibly devoted to sports? Two words, one movie title-Slap Shot.

In 1998, Maxim magazine named Slap Shot the "Best Guy Movie Of All Time, above Newman's own Cool Hand Luke. An interesting side note, Slap Shot was written by a woman, Nancy Dowd. In 2007 GQ named the Slap Shot one of the '30 films that changed men's lives'. Paul Newman was quoted as saying it was his favorite of all the films in which he appeared, both in front of the camera and behind.

Slap Shot gave us the Hanson Brothers. The most recognized cinematic trio since the Three Stooges. Slap Shot is responsible for some of the best lines in sport-movie history. Lines from the film have had a life of their own.

Reggie Dunlop: Oh you cheap son of a bitch. Are you crazy? Those guys are retards!
McGrath: I got a good deal on those boys. The scouts said they showed a lot of promise.
Reggie Dunlop: They brought their fockin' TOYS with 'em!
McGrath: Well, I'd rather have em playin with their toys than playin with themselves
Reggie Dunlop: They're too dumb to play with themselves. Boy, every piece of garbage that comes into the market and you gotta buy it!

Not to bee too maudlin, but Paul Newman will be missed, at least by me.

"Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand."