Saturday, April 09, 2011

04/09 (Masters & Manny) Quickie

Chicago -- When I graduated from college and stayed in Chicago to begin my career with a scrappy little online-sports start-up, my friends and I used to have this weekend ritual of going to The Original Pancake House on Bellevue Place.

No matter how tired/hungover we were, we would drag ourselves out at 7:45 or so and roll from Wrigleyville to Rush St. Our server, almost exclusively, was Cindy, a lovely woman who we had a nice relationship with.

This morning -- in town for a wedding for one of my wife's closest friends (and to see my 3-week-old nephew) -- I wandered over to the Pancake House for breakfast, sat at the first-available table and... was waited on by Cindy.

She didn't recognize me -- 15 years is still 15 years -- and I didn't want to make either of us uncomfortable by saying "Hey, remember me and my buddies?" I secretly hoped she would say "The Two-by-Four with eggs scrambled and patty sausage, right?" I was getting the legendary Apple Pancake, anyway.

My grandparents on my dad's side lived in an apartment on Bellevue -- it always felt glamorous, and I spent a lot of time there, on family trips and when I was up the road in college. The Pancake House was always a part of that. The street will always have a lot of emotional resonance for me, and walking down it this morning, I was struck by the memories that flood back as I looked around.

Manny Ramirez is just a bit older than I am. He debuted for the Indians at the start of my junior year of college; he left baseball in ignominy yesterday. His professional career has lasted a little longer than mine, but they have basically been the same length -- until now, when he ambles off into whatever quiet place he wants to be in and I continue what is hopefully a new trajectory upward.

It took a little while for me, but I inevitably ended up in the "Manny is the best right-handed hitter of this generation" camp, PEDs or not. He was eccentric. He didn't cultivate the media (to say the least, and they punished him for that). He took some PEDs (something that it's simply impossible to single him out for when an entire generation did it -- to say nothing of the legion of all-time great players who abused amphetamines). And he had genius-level ability, to echo something Joe Posnanski said about Manny this morning. I find myself focusing more on his hitting genius than his quizzical decision-making about what to put in his body.

Just as Manny retires, Tiger resurges. It was a strange juxtaposition to follow the "Manny!" coverage, only to have it flow into "Tiger!" talk, as Woods delivered birdie after birdie, playing himself into the same old fascination that he held for years (right before doing something far stupider than Manny ever did).

The Masters storyline now is whether Tiger can catch the kids, the generation that grew up watching Tiger and seem to be impervious to his aura -- that is, until he is a shot or two back on Masters Saturday or Sunday. On the one hand, they have never known golf NOT dominated by Tiger; on the other hand, they have NEVER known golf not dominated by Tiger.

Today on Quickish: Keep up with the Masters, get a bit of day-after to Manny and a nice selection of recommendations of stuff that's just good.

Now, to walk off this apple pancake....

-- D.S.

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