May 15, 2003

Summertime

Have you ever done really poorly on a test? No, no, I mean really poorly?

Well, I have.

I took my last final exam of the 2002/2003 school year (for my foreign language class) on Wednesday afternoon. As some of you may remember, I actually moved out of my dorm room and back into my mom's house last Friday, because all of my other finals were last Thursday. Anyway, my plan was to study for this last final during the weekend and on Monday and Tuesday, so that I could finish off my Sophomore year by doing well on my last test. Saturday came and went. Sunday too. Monday and Tuesday were pretty much a blur. And, all of a sudden, it was Wednesday morning and my alarm was going off.

I looked at the clock. I had about two hours until I had to be back at the U of M to take the exam. I took my dog outside, checked my email and then sat down at the kitchen table. My plan was to study for about an hour. After about 20 minutes, I said screw it. For some reason, I had already mentally left school when I moved out last Friday. My Summer had already started and the fact that I still had an important test to take was not registering in whatever part of my brain usually does the studying. So, I put the books away, read the newspaper, sent out a few emails and, before I knew it, it was time to make the drive back to campus.

As soon as I stepped foot inside the classroom, I had a bad feeling. As I said, my mind had already checked itself out for the Summer and it wasn't anticipating coming back into this room, seeing these classmates and this teacher again - and it certainly wasn't prepared to recall information it had stored throughout the last several months.

The test was scheduled for 2 hours. About an hour into it, I was done. Now, I have had other tests in my life when I have finished in half the allotted time and, generally speaking, they have gone really well. The theory being, I suppose, that if you truly know the information, it shouldn't take you that long to express it on the test. In this case though, I didn't truly know any information and me being done early simply meant that I didn't have any idea how to answer some of the things on the test and I didn't have the skills nor the energy to even make an attempt.

All of this description doesn't do my test-taking experience from Wednesday proper justice. No, the thing that correctly summarizes the way I performned and the feeling I had while performing is that I felt so ashamed of the test that I had just completed that I tried to figure out a way to hand it in without having to make eye contact with the professor.

Then it got worse. I noticed that, as people were handing in their completed tests, she was chatting with them and wishing them well for the Summer, while she leafed through their answers. I even saw her make a few comments to people about how they had done. At this point, my goal was no longer not to make eye contact, it was to avoid standing there while she leafed through my hideously done test.

So, with an hour left and my test completed, I sat in my chair and waited. I waited until several people got up to hand their tests in at the same time, so that I could join the group, hand in the test with them and sneak away, without being noticed. It worked, in that I did not have to face the teacher's realization that one of her students was a complete and utter moron and that all of her hard work during the past semester was wasted on him.

I snuck away like a bank-robber who knew the alarm was going to go off any second. I walked up to the front of the room, blending in with the others, and handed in my paper. With my back quickly turned, I made my way back to my chair, grabbed my backpack and, without even putting it on, made my way out the door. I am sure that, seconds after I made my way down the stairs and outside the building, the professor leafed through my test. As I type this, I can see the look of surprise and disappointment on her face. I'm just glad I didn't actually have to stand there and see it in person.

And with that, as I left the building and started walking down University Avenue, finally flipping my backpack over my shoulders, I became a Junior in college. Pretty scary, huh? Of course, that's assuming I don't flunk the class that the extraordinarily bad final was taken in, which can't be considered a given at this point.

I have been thinking about my college experience thus far. The school-related stuff, not the keggers and puking in the dorm hallway stuff. I can't help but wonder if I am closer to being ready to be a grown-up, closer to being ready to be a person with a real job. I have taken a bunch of classes, some good and some bad. I have gotten a bunch of grades, some good and some bad. And I have taken a bunch of tests, some good and some (very) bad. But have I learned anything significant? Have I developed any skills that will help me throughout my life? Have I made any advancements towards possibly getting an actual job that may lead to something?

I honestly think that the answer to those questions is no. The classes I have enjoyed have not been in the field (journalism) that I plan to go in to. And the journalism classes I have taken have certainly not strengthened my belief that it is a field I want to make my life in. I have tried several times for an internship at the college newspaper, the "Minnesota Daily," handing in a resume with clips of my writing multiple times and even having a sit down interview with the sports editor. Each time, I was denied, and, each time, the taste left in my mouth regarding the entire experience soured just a little bit more.

On the other hand, I have this blog that I love writing on. I have a small, but expanding audience. I get encouragement from people who enjoy reading what I have to say. I get a chance to write about and work on things that I find interesting. I have made infinitely more "contacts" in the months I have been writing this blog than I have in two years at the University. I have been mentioned in major national publications and on major websites, by experienced, respected writers. I have gotten a chance to write for a great website in Baseball Primer. I have made dozens of new friends that share a common love of baseball with me.

Really, this blog and the emails and writing and friends and experiences that have come along with it, is the greatest experience of my young life. I sometimes wonder, as I have regarding school, if it will lead to anything more. Will someone notice me and hire me to write for them? Deep down, that is what I hope will happen as a result of all of this, but I don't think it needs to happen for me to continue to be incredibly happy with the entire experience.

I love baseball. I love reading about baseball and watching baseball and, recently, I love writing about baseball. It thrills me that there are hundreds and perhaps thousands of baseball fans in this world that know my name, that enjoy my writing. Each and every morning I wake up excited to check my email, excited to see what new messages I have from readers, excited to learn what websites have mentioned my work.

As is the case with most college students, people I know often ask me if I have a job. The answer is no, I don't. At this moment, my monetary needs are very limited. I buy some baseball books and video games, and occasionally a Diamond-Mind disk. Other than that, I live at the dorm or at my mom's house, mooching off of her food, her phone line, her AOL.

What I do have is a little website that I write about baseball on, and I have never enjoyed something in my life as much as I have enjoyed this. I don't know if it will lead to anything more and I don't think it has to, but I am gonna take my shot and see where this whole thing takes me. I hope you will all be along for the ride.

So now, I am officially on Summer vacation. As I said, I have no job. I have a room with a TV and a laptop computer, and a dog that likes to sleep next to it and snore while I bang away on the keyboard. I have MLB Extra Innings and a subscription to Baseball America, and I have an uncle that wakes me up in the mornings and gets me out of bed to play one-on-one baseball with him all Summer long.

There has never been anything in my life that has captured my attention and energy like sports. During the school year, I will procrastinate on literally every single reading or assignment that I am supposed to complete, but you give me a baseball book and I will read it in one sitting. They say that, for every hour in class that you have during a normal school week, you should spend 2 hours studying outside of class. There have been weeks during the past year that I did not spend 2 hours studying outside of class the entire week, for all my classes combined. Yet, I write a new blog entry, sometimes an incredibly long and detailed one, every single weekday and have done so for almost a year now.

What does that say about me? I am not sure. It can't be that I am not motivated, just that I am not motivated about certain things. It can't be that I am not a hard worker, just that I don't work hard at certain things. I really don't know. What I do know is that I am in love with the game of baseball and it is the one thing in my life that I am truly passionate about at the moment.

I took a non-fiction writing class this semester and there were several books assigned throughout the class. There was one book that I didn't read a single word of, and others that I read as many pages as I could on the 10-minute bus ride to class.

Yet, this weekend, perhaps as you are reading this very sentence, I will have begun reading "Moneyball" by Michael Lewis, which I got in the mail last night. I suspect that, just a few short hours after I open it, I will have finished it. From what I have heard about it, the book is incredible and fascinating.

In case you have been living under a rock of late, Moneyball has been a hot topic all over the internet. People at Baseball Primer are talking about it, Rob Neyer recently interviewed Michael Lewis on ESPN.com and excerpts have appeared in Sports Illustrated and the New York Times. My blogging buddy Alex Belth over at "Bronx Banter" has already read the book and wrote up a great "review" of it on his blog the other day.

This week's "Baseball Prospectus Radio" is even devoted entirely to the book. BP Radio's host, Will Carroll, will be talking with not only the book's author, Michael Lewis, but also with one the book's main characters, Oakland GM Billy Beane. I am definitely going to tune in. The live "net feed" of the broadcast can be heard at 9 am (eastern) on Saturday morning at www.espn950.com. For more info on BP Radio, go to http://radio.baseballprospectus.com/.

I collect baseball books. It's really one of my only vices. Right now there are baseball books in at least 10 different locations in my room, and the room is only about 150 square feet. I have a whole bunch on my bookshelf, some strewn on the floor, a couple on top of my dresser, one on top of my TV and Rob Neyer's latest is currently on the bookcase/headboard of my bed. Baseball books excite me and I love to collect them and read them over and over. Yet, I have never been quite as excited about reading a book as I am right now about Michael Lewis' Moneyball.

Who knows why. Maybe it is the massive amount of hype and buildup the book has received - lord knows it certainly couldn't have hurt. Maybe it is the subject of the book - Billy Beane and the Oakland A's - for whom I respect/admire/cheer for a great deal. Of course, it doesn't hurt that Lewis is an incredibly accomplished writer who receives almost universal praise for his other books. Whatever it is, it's got me hooked and reading this book has turned into a sort of event for me.

I "advertised" Rob Neyer's new book a little while back and, since none of you emailed me saying you were terribly offended to be hearing a sales pitch from me on a book that I didn't even write, I figured I would give it another try with Moneyball.

I am 100% confident that, if you buy Moneyball you will enjoy it. I bought my copy from Amazon.com earlier this week for $17 and it arrived in the mail last night. If you are interested in buying a copy for yourself (or someone you know) on Amazon.com, here is a link to do so:



cover


Amazon.com - "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game"

The nice thing (for me) about you clicking on the link I just provided and buying the book I just tried to get you to buy, is that, if you do buy it, I get a 5% commission from Amazon.com. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra. In fact, Amazon.com is selling the book for 30% off the cover price.

If you think you might buy Moneyball at some point and you wouldn't mind it if I got myself 87 cents of commission, I would really appreciate you clicking on the link I provided and buying the book. If 20 of you click on the link and buy the book, I would make enough money on the commission to pay for my own copy, which would be pretty cool.

Thanks, and I appologize if this offends anyone, because I can understand how it might.

So, if you'll excuse me now, I think I'll go crack it open...

Summer, summer, summertime

Time to sit back and unwind


--- DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, "Summertime"



Today's picks:

Philadelphia (Padilla) -105 over Houston (Robertson)

San Diego (Peavy) +140 over Atlanta (Hampton)

Detroit (Bonderman) +180 over Seattle (Meche)

Oakland (Mulder) -160 over Cleveland (Sabathia)

Chicago (Buehrle) +110 over Minnesota (Radke)

Total to date: + $1,815

W/L record: 86-79 (2-4 yesterday for -210, dropping me back below 2,000 total)

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

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