2011 SUCKED: Bring on the New Year!

This is a warning (because I forget that young ears might listen to my podcasts) that I rightfully use some bad language in today’s episode.

2011 sucked.  It sucked badly. I look forward to 2012 with hope and optimism.

Happy New Year to us all!


Bones for Christmas

This year my wife and I are giving each other a donation to the Beagles of New England States (B.O.N.E.S.) at http://www.bonesbeagles.org/

Unplugged Contest Winners!

Today I’m announcing the winners of the contest I introduced last week, where I asked you to give me your interpretation of the lyrics to the song “This Ship Goes Down Deep”.  THANK YOU for all the great responses, and CONGRATULATIONS to the winners, you’re copy of the CD should arrive shortly!
Go to http://blacklabworld.com/music/unplugged to purchase the new album for yourself (it’s also on iTunes).

Happy Holidays!

- Steve


Rapping About the App

I appreciate your support, but honestly you don’t have to buy my “Virtual Runners App” (well, you can…but you don’t really need it); because Phedippidations is FREE.

A Lesson from The Buddha

On the verge of celebrating my fiftieth year of experiencing metabolism; I am still an unfinished work in progress…with a long, LOONG way to go before I can claim any expertise in the art of human existing.

One area of interest that I’ve always been fascinated with is the culture and practice of religious spirituality: especially those practices unrelated and distant from the boundaries of Christianity: since that’s the way I happen to roll.

So, I’ve been reading, and listening to books, podcasts and online lectures on the topic of World Religions…and my first impression from the little that I’ve learned over the past year of our Lord is that they all have much in common.

But as I’m absorbing this stuff, there’s one philosophically significant form of spirituality that I think all classical religious groups could learn from, my own Roman Catholic Church included.  Now that I think of it, I suppose every living human being could benefit from these teachings, and way of thinking, as a means for improving our lives and making the world a better place.

I’m talking about the teachings founded by the Buddhist monk Bodhi-dharma in the 5th and 6th century AD…something called, very simply: Zen.

As with running, and learning about wine: Zen is something you have to practice: A LOT, if you want to make any progress towards any kind of enlightenment…but from what I’m learning…it has a lot of offer each and everyone of us…regardless of our religious, political, geographical or societal origin.

Before you power off your MP3 player or SMAH-GHT phone in anticipation of another rambling diatribe from the podcaster best known for such rantings, let me assure you that this isn’t a tirade on the topic of Zen Buddhism, nor even about spirituality in general. 

I just wanted to pass along one of the lessons of the Buddha, the enlightened one: which keeps coming back to me like a Black Lab song that I just can’t get out of my head.

This is a lesson about the truth of suffering, and the path that leads to the end of suffering.  It has to do with staying well within the boundaries of extremes, and taking the middle path.

See, I’ve always been an extremist.  Not satisfied with just running a few miles: I had to run a marathon, not happy just to lose a few pounds: in the summer of 1998 I dropped 70.  I could give you a painfully long list of other examples where I couldn’t just sample a subject or study by dipping my toe in the cool waters of knowledge: I had to launch an armada of battleships, directly into the froth and fray; over and above the call of duty and decency until every last possible experience or understanding could be voraciously consumed.

I have within me the dangerous propensity of becoming obsessive….you probably can tell by the way I talk about wine so often.  But I am getting better.  I am finding the middle path.

There was a time, you’ll note, where the production of this podcast was something that I simply HAD to get done on a weekly basis…there was also a time, not far in the past, when I simply HAD to run five days a week, no excuses, and there was a time when I did not, nay…COULD NOT miss a single Boston Red Sox baseball game…you want to talk obsessive: I own the rights to the Tee-shirts and bumper stickers. 

These are extremes, and of the many things I believe that the Buddha was absolutely correct about is that the path of extremes will always lead to suffering.

But then something happens that jolts you into the realization that you’ve been living your life in the wrong way.  Your obsessive behavior has poisoned your soul, your opinion and attitude about how others eat and run, as an example, might become very close-minded and you lose track of all of the good that healthy eating and exercise might have given you if you had only followed the middle path.

I recently heard about this distance runner who had changed his diet and dropped a lot of weight.  He had become completely obsessed with long distance and veganism.  In moderation, along the middle path, distance running and veganism is certainly a good and wonderful way to live your life….but this guy talks about these topics as if any other opinion is deserving of violence! The story goes that this not-much-of-a-fellow-runner decided to help a friend complete a world famous ultra race; and when that friend could no longer run and had to drop out…the obsessed possibly militant distance runner took it upon himself to chastise and push the friend way too hard; forcing his own obsession onto the runner who had chosen the middle path. 

I never want to be like that obsessed runner.  I never want to force you or any of my friends into the extremes of anything.  Living your life to the top does not mean: living your life above the atmosphere…to live your life to the top is to live it as best as you can, with quality and above all: happiness.

If I’ve ever come across to you (as I call myself “Steve Runner”) with an obsessive attitude of assumed authority, or given you the impression that you have to run a thousand miles a year, or finish a marathon in under four hours, in order to become enlightened and good…well, consider this my apology. 

If running doesn’t bring you happiness, please do not run; for your own sake. 

There are so many other ways to live a good and happy life.  I believe, with all my heart: that this lifestyle I talk about is a worthy one, but I can’t be so ignorant as to believe that it’s the ONLY way to live your life to the top. 

I’ve come to believe that running can help you to be happy, but only if you run the middle path.

I have a very long way to go, before I get anywhere near the nirvana of enlightenment, but this journey through space and time is a worthy endeavor.  As the Buddha taught: life involves suffering, but it also promises happiness…and we can get there by avoiding the extremes of indulging our desires and torturing our mind and bodies.

I’m Steve Runner, reminding you run long and taper.


A Message from THE RUNNER

A very special (not to mention Loooooong) episode of Phedippidations will hit your audio stockings on Christmas morning!  Here’s what it’s all about.


2K in Years is like a Fistful of Monopoly Money

The brilliant author, journalist and “new atheist” Christopher Hitchens just died, and it got me to thinking about my faith and the fact that the key historical events of my faith occurred only a few nanoseconds ago (in relation to the age of everything).


Not Merry STUFF-mas

I don't think we should be getting all "hung up" on the giving and receiving of gifts during the holidays.  I think WE are the gifts, and an emphasis should be placed on getting together with friends and family.


UnPlugged Contest

I’ve never done this before, but this new album by Black Lab ( http://blacklabworld.com ) is too good not to share.  I’m giving away an album to the best/most interesting/deepest/or even funniest response to the questions: What is this song all about?

Listen to the song “This Ship Goes Down Deep” from the new Black Lab album “Unplugged” and post your thoughts in Twitter, Facebook, your Blog or the social interface of your choice…THEN let me know where to read it.

Pretty simple, right?  We all interpret poetry and music differently, according to our perspectives in life.  I’m interested in your interpretation.
Go to http://blacklabworld.com/music/unplugged to purchase the new album for yourself (it’s also on iTunes).

Happy Holidays!

- Steve


Oops, I Dropped My iPad

This morning at exactly 8:02 AM, as I was trying to get my two puppies into the back seat of my car while simultaneously juggling a laptop backpack, a cup of coffee AND my iPad…

I dropped and destroyed my iPad.

It’s just a “thing” (a cool thing mind you) but I got over it.

Fortunately, the story has a happy ending (on two counts).


Funeral for a Friend

Last week, a 43 year old friend and co-worker of the past 15 years died.  It’s a sad time for all of us who appreciated him; but there is something to be learned when someone we care about passes away.  We are reminded that we have an obligation to live our own lives well, and should not hold back from showing appreciation to those who we live and work with every day.


Sound Seeing Tour of Oxford

Today I’ll take you for a run down Main Street, in the Massachusetts Town of Oxford.


Help Me Pick Some Moments from Past Episodes

I'm putting together a "Holiday Special" for my next episode of Phedippidations; and for this I need to travel back to the past to prevent a terrible "regeneration".  Let me know what moments from the past 6 and a half years you think have been important in the life of The Runner!


A New Fdip and Running with a Dalek!

Today I’m out on a run and talking about the upcoming Fdip281 which is all about racing in wine country!  THANK YOU to my friend Gordon Scott, who gave me the gift of Dr. Who!!


WARNING!! A New Episode of Fdip is Imminent

This weekend episode 281 of Phedippidations will hit you in the head, and this time we’re talking about running GRAPE RACES! (get it?  Grape instead of Great…no?  nothing?).  So strap in and pour yourself some liquid grape as we talk about some of the races run through wine country.


Let the Training Begin!


I’m starting up with Marathon training, so here we go again!  Bring on the miles!


Respect for Belief (to a point)

I’m listening to a course, online, all about “WORLD RELIGIONS” and I am finding it BRILLIANT and fascinating.  I love my faith, but I am not so ignorant to believe that I have “all the answers”, and this series of lectures that I’m listening to really reinforces this way of thinking that my parents taught me: appreciate everyone’s belief and opinion UNLESS they are being led astray in a “cult”.  I cannot be ignorant to the perspectives of other people.  YOUR idea of God is just as valid as mine (including those who do NOT believe).  Bottom line: I respect your opinion.


Nephew Johnny Eats the Lasagna

My nephew is a plight on my family, and like some marauding parasite of Italian food, he comes into my parents home and eats all the food that we Who’s would so feast…he ate the Who-pudding, and the Rare Who Roast Beast!!


Holiday Gift Ideas

1. Here are some OUTSTANDING books on the topic of running: http://www.runrunlive.com/my-books
2. Here is some INCREDIBLE music to listen to as you run: http://blacklabworld.com/new-album-presale-unplugged


Merry Christmas

Don't be offended, I mean that in several different ways.


Preparing to Train

In the next week or two I’ll begin training for a certain Spring Marathon, that takes place in Boston each Patriots Day.  It’s another first step in a 26.2 mile journey that I’m willing to put myself through: because that’s just the way I roll.



Despite the incredibly crappy year of our Lord two-thousand and eleven, which I've just suffered through...I want to make it clear to anyone who might still be listening: that I have alot to be thankful for.  

Those of us who have a spiritual side to our lives talk about "being blessed", which is the notion of being infused with spiritual redemption, divine will, holiness or Gods approval.

I honestly don't know if I can tell you that I've been blessed in such a way.  I could tell you that I'm lucky, but I don't have alot of faith in luck, per se.  Luck has to do with statistics, and statistics can be misleading. 

If you're running a race, such as a marathon: I might wish you "good luck", but you don't need such an expression of hope: you've trained for your event, I can only wish that you don't fall or get pushed by some angry spectator during your run: but you don't need luck, your a runner...you need only the determination and indomitable spirit of which you already possess.

But having said all that, I want to get back to this idea of being thankful...because I do have alot to be thankful for, and it's important to me that I acknowledge that gratitude from time to time.

Of course I'm thankful for having a wife who loves me, as I love her.  She's the person I will spend the rest of my life with, and I'm a better person because of her.  I love you Lynn.  Thank you for being my best friend in the world.

And yes, I have my family and friends to be thankful for....which I hope you'll consider yourself.  I know, that's easy for me to say...it's what you've come to expect from a media personality who ensures you that we are, you and I: good friends.  All I'm saying is that I'd enjoy going for a run and spending some time with you...together, in person, and if you think I'm some kind of media star who only talks about friendship to his audience of ga-zillions because there's a financial advantage to propagating that illusion, then: you've been listening to the wrong podcast...I consider it an honor to run with you.  I'm hoping this upcoming year will be less dramatic and allow me to have more of a life...and that means meeting as many of you as I can.

But today I'm talking about what I'm thankful for, and let's be honest: every year someone like me comes along and rattles off a list of things that they're thankful for: over the past 6 years I've certainly done my share of that....so let's get off the old list just for this once, and let me tell you some of the not always talked about things in my daily life that I am thankful for, every day...because I bet you and I share some of these personal items of which we're grateful.

I'm thankful for dark roast coffee, a simple omelet with just a little cheese and maybe some ham. 

I'm thankful for warm sunny days, and clear moonless nights where you can see all the stars of the Milky Way and ponder the size of creation. 

I'm thankful for good wine, which is pretty much all wine with the definite exception of wine coolers and white "how can you drink that" zinfandel.  That red stuff is quaffable, but I'm not thankful for that other concoction which should not be named.

I'm thankful for a good book. 

I'm thankful for my running.

I'm thankful for a crackling fire, in my living room fireplace or outside in my pit.

I'm thankful for baseball, cold beer and a bag of peanuts.

I'm thankful for Doctor Who: the single greatest television show in the history of the cathode ray tube.

I'm thankful for Sushi. 

I'm thankful for the Mojo Loco Movement.

I'm thankful for my puppies, Indiana Jones and her majesty Eva.

I'm thankful for music and for those who create it. 

I'm thankful for my work, though stress-full at times...the challenge can be sometimes an adventure.     

I'm thankful for inner peace; moments of serenity during the stormy gale when all around is growing dark and hope seems as lost as a steamer at a clam bake.

Now that I think of it, I'm thankful for steamers; and Maine lobster; Barnacle Billy Rum Punches and beaches....any beach in fact.

I'm thankful that I live in a small town without fear for my life (Oxford drivers aside).

I'm thankful that I have food for my family and a place we call home. 

I'm thankful that 2011 is almost over.

I'm thankful that I have this podcast, which I created out of pure thought and gave to you freely, without expectation.   

I'm grateful that you'd listen to this, and might consider your own list of things that you are thankful for every day.

Because you and I fellow runner, we have alot in common.  Our lives can be filled with joy and sorrow, happiness and pain...but no matter what happens from that daily moment that we first open our squeaky front doors: we all have something to be thankful for; and maybe it would make us better people if we took the time to at least acknowledge that, each and every day.

I’m Steve Runner, reminding you run long and taper.


South Shore Productions Presents: Summer of the Shark!

At midnight on Thanksgiving Day (Thursday, November 24th) a new episode of my podcast PHEDIPPIDATIONS will be available.  It's the show where I will most definitely JUMP THE SHARK!


The Magic PodCast

I think the title speaks for itself.  By the end you’ll be asking yourself What day is this?


Joie de Vie

This essay was originally published May 20th, 2007 on episode 97 “Monitoring of the Heart”

Every once in a while, I’ll be sitting in an office, or a waiting room, maybe even a restaurant, and I’ll see someone who clearly has lost their << joie de vivre>>,  Their joy for life.

You’ve seen them too, look for them sometime: they’re the elderly person who engages in some repetitive routine, like playing Bingo or just watching TV all day.  They are that smoker working on his or her second pack of the day, sitting outside a local convenient store staring at cars and people and clouds as they blow by.  They are that unhealthy person hand coated in a dusty sheen of cheesy poofs while they “chew, chew chew” with a blank expression at nothing and no one in particular.

When you talk with them, they rarely have anything good to say.  “Oh, it’s so cold today” or “It’s never been this hot before”, or “Can you believe the price of gas?”.  

If you try to raise some positive aspect of life to them, such as “Well, at least it’s not raining!”, they will look at you with contempt.

These are not bad people, they’re just people who feel that they’ve lost their purpose in life.  Some of them may be suffering from a form of depression.

Now, I’m not smart enough to come up with a list of ways for such people to regain their joy for life, I know for certain that financial organizations like the “Church of Scientology” would tell you that depression can only be cured by removing the sufferer’s covering of tiny disembodied souls of aliens dispersed by the Galactic Federation leader Xenu.

But I’m not here to put down anyone’s wacky beliefs, I’m sure there are plenty out there who think I’m wacky for eating a little wafer and drinking a sip of wine every Sunday morning…live and let live, and to each his own.

But I do know that depression is a very real thing, caused by a genetic predisposition, a neurological or medical condition, poor diet, alcohol, other drugs, lack of sleep, seasonal affective disorder and a postpartum condition.

I also know that there are many good and effective treatments for depression.

Since I’m a runner, I’m a believer in the positive mood altering benefits of exercise.  Those who are depressed don’t necessarily need to become runners, but even light exercise can produce higher levels of chemicals in the brain, including dopamine and serotonin.  A lower level of these chemicals in the brain have been found to lead to depression.

This is well known science; proven facts that Scientology conveniently ignores.

When we talk about having a noble purpose for our running, it might be helpful to think that for some, running can be a wonderful purpose for life.  You’ve heard the expression: “we need to feel alive”, well…that only applies to runners like you and I in contrast to our daily usual existence.  

To someone who is depressed, or has lost their << joie de vie>>, their need to feel alive is much more critical.  They need to feel useful, needed, accepted and loved.

There’s that word again: It all comes down to love, doesn’t it? 

When you strip away all the outer layers of crap that we wear, and hide ourselves under…the grim venire, the vacant uncaring expressions, the “I don’t care about anything” attitude…deep inside, like in one of those Jawbreaker candies with the multi-colored layers…there’s a human being who wants to be loved.

As someone who has found this special joy of running, you have an opportunity to spread that joy, to invite someone who might be depressed or have lost their joy for life to join us on the road.  More than this, you have a responsibility to spread that joy…when you meet someone whom you’ve sensed may be depressed, or feels unhappy, unwanted and maybe even unloved, you have a duty to at least introduce them to the idea of exercise, and offer them the idea of joining us on the road.

Life is short, but it should be long enough…and everyone who is alive should FEEL alive, living their life to the fullest…not necessarily pushing back the window curtains and proclaiming their << joie de vie>> to the world, but at least feeling like they belong, like they have purpose, like they are loved….because everyone (even the elderly Bingo playing TV watcher, double pack smoker, cheesy poof paw chewing sedentary Scientologist…and yes, even Yankees Fans) has an important place in this world, and a purpose that may not be clear to them today.

I mean, Yankees fans must have some purpose….right?

I’m Steve Runner, a die hard Boston Red Sox Fan….reminding you, to run long and taper.


2011 Beaujolais Nouveau – Not Too Shabby

Every third Thursday of November the New Beaujolais wine is released from the region of the same name in France.  This is a young wine made from the Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc grape, best served chilled at 55°F and produced through carbonic maceration and whole berry fermentation to present a very fresh, juicy, fresh from the vine wine.  I tasted this in real time, as I recorded this video: so you can see my first impressions of the 2011 release!  Here’s a hint: it’s not too shabby!

Love of Wine, Not so Inebriation


I love to sit back with a glass of wine and relax, but I really don’t enjoy the experience of being drunk. We’re talking about inebriation here: and it’s not something I enjoy. Today I’m talking about this love I have for the fermented grape, and the fact that getting “drunk” isn’t my favorite thing.


It’s OUT!!!! Viva la Beaujolais Nouveau

The 2011 Beaujolais Nouveau has been released, and today I’m going to tell you why you should try this fresh off the vine liquid Gamay grape before it experiences it’s elevage!


Defective Brains of Fear

There’s a blog out there, written by a scared, brain-damaged little fool who calls himself a runner.  After several years of searching and talking to people whom he knows, I have conclusively identified him: I know where he lives, I have his phone number, I know where he used to work and even where he works today.  I have his address, his photo and have communicated on several occasions with people he knows and who he works with.  This guy is a racist.  The reason why I won’t say, or do anything to (or about) this sad little man is because he is “broken”, defective in a way that needs repair by way of education…and my threatening to expose his identity will not help him.  Hatred is a sign of brain damage, as today I will discuss.  


Every Little Thing is Going to be Alright

I’ve been thinking about how a year changes things.  My wife and I have emerged from a very dark tunnel and we’re about to start our Life 2.0.  

Point of Prayer

Last week I was thinking a lot about prayer, and why we do it…especially when someone we know or somebody dear to someone we know is sick and suffering.  We ask for prayers, we offer prayers, we let each other know that we’re in each others prayers…but what I was thinking a lot about is: why. 

Why do we pray for the people we care about?

When I was eleven years old I just sorta went with the program and thought of prayer as a kind of an insurance policy: it was a way to get Almighty God to grant our every wish for health, happiness and comfort.  I figured that when my great grandfather suffered a stroke and was in the hospital for all those weeks, all I’d have to do is recite a few “Our Fathers” and “Hail Mary’s” and magically my Pa would be healed and come home.

But that didn’t happen: oh, the prayers happened: long hours at church and by my bed-side knees bent, hands clasped, head bowed and eyes closed deeply praying to God to save my Pa’s life.  What didn’t happen is the whole being healed and coming home thing. 

On March 2nd of 1973 my Great Grandfather Giovanni Antonio Fraioli died at the age of eight-six.  My prayers were most definitely not answered.  So was all that prayer a waste of time?

Actually no; as I’ll explain and especially since my Pa know that I, and the rest of his family were praying for him.

Today I’m almost 50 years old, and so many of my prayers in life have seemed to have gone unanswered; which leads to the question of why I pray at all?  Actually, I figured this out a long time ago, back in the mid 1980’s when I realized that prayer wasn’t like rubbing a magic lamp waiting for the genie to grant my wishes....prayer is all about asking God to make everything work out okay.

And if you think about it; going beyond all the sadness of loss and suffering: everything really does work out okay, with the passing of time and acceptance of change.

My Pa died 38 years ago, and it was devastating to me as he was the first person I really knew and loved who had died; and I couldn’t believe or understand that he had lived a good life, had passed away peacefully with his family surrounding him and that his death was actually a part of his life.

And look: I could talk to you about all the different forms of prayer, including the top five: Adoration, Contrition, Love, Thanksgiving and Prayers of Petition, but it’s that last one: the prayer for petition that we’re really talking about here. 

When someone we love is very sick, some of us pray to God, asking for their quick recovery…but these are always expressed with an acknowledgement that Gods own plans for us are far more important than what we desire: and in the end, it’s all going to work out.  Thy will be done.

But not everyone prays or believes in the Monotheistic Judeao/Christian God that I believe in; and yet most of us  still ask for good thoughts for our loved ones, we express empathy and concern; we hope for the best and wish deeply for healing, comfort and restoration of the norm…and I think maybe THAT’s the real purpose for prayer.

Hear me out.

Human beings are bound to suffer from circumstances and conditions well beyond our control.  Our lives are constantly changing; and those changes often seem bad or unfortunate.  With regards to our physical condition: one thing is for certain: we will all one day die, and many of us will have to undergo treatments and procedures to extend the duration of our lives: and all of that can be scary…because the unknown is often scary: regardless of the irrationality of fear.  We’re humans; fear is part of that condition thing I’m talking about.

So when I pray for someone, not only am I asking for an intercession from God, and not only am I acknowledging my helplessness as a human being: I’m also expressing compassion and caring.

See: I think that’s the thing that applies to all of us, no matter what you believe or don’t believe in.  Take the supernatural out of prayer for just a moment and for the purposes of this discussion, and I still think you have something really important and powerful. 

Think about it.  If you were in the hospital, undergoing major surgery: wouldn’t it be a comfort to know that somewhere, someone was thinking about you?  That someone wished they could take the fear and discomfort away for you, that they held hope that you’d get better, and that they cared about you?

Even if it wasn’t a prayer to God on your behalf, wouldn’t it be a comfort to know that someone thought so much about you that they wished you or your loved one would be spared whatever impending ailment you or they might be suffering?  Wouldn’t it mean so much to know that you or they were cared for by others?  Even people who might not even know you personally?

You’d have to be a block of granite to answer “no” to that rhetorical question.  You’re a human being: you have an innate need to be loved and cared for.  If you think otherwise you’re in denial.

Please understand, I’m not denigrating the importance or significance of Prayers of Petition or any other form of prayer: but at the same time I think it’s important that we consider the value of caring for others, even when we can’t be there in person.

Last week, someone I love very much was in need of care, good thoughts and sympathetic hope for everyone who knows her, or knows of her.  Everything worked out okay; which on one hand I could say was Gods will…but there was something else at work here which I won’t disparage by calling it mystical or paranormal: but the fact that both she and I knew there were many people who cared about her, that so many friends, family members and acquaintances wanted her to get better, survive her treatment and to go on to live a happier life…made an impact, and helped a great deal.

It’s not a miracle to care for others, but neither is it ever a waste of time.

I’m Steve Runner, reminding you run long and taper.


An Old Friend Comes to Life

Last night I got reacquainted with an old friend who may have inspired me to become a podcaster!



I’m on my way home from work, pondering my love for wine and giving you a little history of my relationship with the drink!


Fdip279 Preview

Yippee, there's a new episode of Phedippidations coming out this weekend.


Let’s Talk Terroir

WARNING: this is a LOOOONG rambling diatribe: I’ve been listening to a bunch of wine seminars lately, and reading Alice Fierings book “Naked Wine: Letting Grapes Do What Comes Naturally” and I’ve realized that too often wine geeks (like me) confuse style with terroir.


The Game

Look, I don’t mean to get all melancholy about this: but baseball is MUCH more than just a game for me: it’s a part of my life…and I know that some or many of you only want to listen to  a goofy little podcaster cheerfully rattling off all the good things about running, refraining from the deeply personal diatribes that I often compose here

But, this is my life I’m talking about and I’ve got something to say.

The 2011 baseball season has come to an end.  Gone are the warm summer nights spent sitting in the box seats along the first base line at Fenway, or section K of Hanover Insurance Park at Fitton Field, with an ice cold pint of Sam in one hand and a bag of peanuts in the other.

My beloved Boston Red Sox fell apart in the end this year, and my Worcester Tornadoes lost the last three games of their season to get knocked out of Can-Am Championship play.  It was a dismal way for both of my teams to finish the season, but that: after all, is the painful charm of Baseball.

I wish I could tell you it was only a game.  The rational side of me insists that this is so; but then I find myself drawn back to the ball park…and the sound of the crowd, the crack of the bat, and the beauty, precision and perfect timing of the play. 

I’ll talked to you before about baseball; but I don’t think I’ve ever explained just how important it is to a guy like me, who after all: is merely a fan; a spectator in the stands, in front of the wide screen, the radio…or these days even listening online.

It wasn’t always that way.  In my youth, I played the game: never very well mind you; almost always banished to right field…but I’d sometimes get on base, and I’d sometimes chase down a ball in time to throw it to the infield.  That was a long time ago, and I’m much older now.

This past season, I went to some ball games in Boston and Worcester.  I’d sometimes go with a friend, and often on my own…but every game was special, and every game was epic…because that’s what a baseball game really is. 

It takes skill, athleticism and sometimes a little luck to succeed at this game…and watching it unfold in 9 or extra innings is to behold an interconnected story from pitch to pitch and batter to batter.  It’s the story of love and loss, of victory and despair, of joy and pain.  It’s the story of life.

Over the years, baseball has been an important part of who I am.  It is no coincidence that the very first episode of this podcast featured the story of one of my life’s greatest failures.  In the essay and podcast titled “Dropping the Ball” I retold the story of how I single-handedly lost the Weymouth Farm League championship baseball game. 

It’s some forty years later, and I can still feel the scar of shame and pain from that day.  Of course, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything: I know now that I’m a better person for all of that…but for me to tell you that baseball is only a game is not quite right, it’s not exactly true, at least not for me.

Twenty-five years ago, In my early twenties professional baseball was something I could experience on my own: working at a commercial radio station who’s studios resided in the very shadow of Fenway Park, I would frequently take my seat in the centerfield bleachers for a mere twenty dollars a night: enough money at the time for a ticket, a hot dog and a few beers.  I’m dating myself here of course; but Fenway wasn’t as popular back then as it is today; and I was a life long Red Sox fan.

I screamed with joy in game six of the 1975 World Series when Carlton Fisk took to the plate in the bottom of the twelfth  after Bernie Carbo’s three run homer tied the game in the 8th and Dwight Evans caught the ball in the eleventh.  Fisk used the power of the force to push that fly ball just…to….the…left of the left field foul pole and won the game. 

I cursed in disgust on October 2nd of '78, when, during a one game playoff with the Yankees, Bucky eF-ing Dent, the name all Red Sox fans have forever labeled that great ball player, hit a home run over the Green Monster in the top of the 7th, which lead to my beloved Red Sox losing the game ending our season far too soon.

I cheered and wept on October 1st of 83 when my all time favorite ball player Carl Yastrzemski played his last game at Fenway.

And of course I cried tears of joy when my Sox came back from a 3 game to nothing deficit in the ALCS to crush the Yankees and went on to sweep the Cardinals for their first World Series Championship in 86 years.

This game…it’s entertainment yes, it’s fun of course: but for someone like me: an American kid who grew up playing baseball and following my team through the good and bad years: this game has always been a metaphor for life….and it’s always been a part of who I am.

We win some, we lose some.  We struggle, we fight, we persevere even at the bottom of the ninth with two outs and we’re ten runs behind.  It’s not over until it’s over, in baseball and life.

The thing about baseball though, from a fans perspective, is that it’s not really about the game: it’s about watching the game with others; friends, other fans, the crowd and especially someone who is important to you.  What makes this game so much fun to watch is the way it makes you feel, the way we cheer for the players, argue with the umpires and try to rattle the opposing team.

It’s all about rooting for the home team, and if they don’t win…well, it’s a shame…but the best thing about baseball is spending time with the people who have made the greatest impact in your life: your father, grandfather, uncle or son.

I didn’t watch as much baseball this year as a usually do.  This year, I just couldn’t get into the game.

I did go to the ball parks a few times; sometimes with friends; but mostly on my own…and once: only once, with someone

See what I mean about deeply personal diatribes?

This game…this baseball…it can break your heart.  As a metaphor for life it shows us how hard work and dedication can usually yield success; but not always.  Baseball has rules, and umpires to impose those rules.  Life too has regulations, but quite often lacks official enforcement.

The Russian-American poet and essayist Joseph Broadsky probably said it best when he wrote:

“Life is a game with many rules but no referee. One learns how to play it more by watching it than by consulting any book, including the holy book. Small wonder, then, that so many play dirty, that so few win, that so many lose.”
I’m Steve Runner, reminding you to run long…

…and play ball!