Friday, September 18, 2015

Failure To Learn Or Failure To Teach?

As published in The County Times (

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

The end is near. Let the eulogies begin.

It is shocking, this present state. He was so good, so fast that such a precipitous fall would have seemed impossible just three years ago. Three years ago. A lifetime ago.

On September 9, 2012, Robert Griffin III rolled into the visitor-unfriendly New Orleans Superdome and led Washington to a 40-28 victory over the Saints. He threw for 320 yards, rushed for 42, tossed two touchdown passes and definitively outplayed New Orleans QB Drew Brees, a future Hall of Famer.

A few bumps would follow: a concussion, a 3-6 record after nine games and a late-season knee injury against the Ravens. But Griffin was at the helm for six of seven consecutive wins to conclude the season, a stretch that delivered Washington’s first division title since 1999 and only its second home playoff game since 1992.

A hero was born.

By the end of the 2012 regular season, Griffin’s star transcended football. Bright, fun, confident, brave, charismatic, interactive with fans, African American and from a military family, nearly everyone could find something in Griffin they could relate to and/or respect. He was still a quarterback, but not just a quarterback. He was an entity. A fountain of hope. A source of pride. A reason to believe, not just in a football team, but that achievement – any achievement – resided at the confluence of opportunity, a positive attitude and strong work ethic.

Griffin, circa 2012, could do no wrong. Griffin, circa 2015, can do no right – on or off the field. Demoted and mired in controversy (much of his creation), his tenure in the town that once chanted his name seems near its conclusion and his future in the NFL, a league temporarily captivated by his talent, is murky at best.

I don’t have the space and it’s doubtful you have the desire to rehash the various reasons for Griffin’s fall. Like everything with the quarterback, it’s unnecessarily complicated. The factors include a serious and wholly avoidable knee injury (shame on you Mike Shanahan), distrust between organization and player, Griffin’s passive-aggressive manipulation, controversial tweets, personal logos and endless self-promotion. But mostly, Griffin’s failure can be condensed into this simply fact: post knee injury, he’s been terrible on the field.

The question is why? Why can’t he read defenses efficiently? Why is his footwork terrible? Why is his pocket presence so obviously deficient? Why, despite his physical gifts and after three full seasons in the NFL, does he still look so rudimentary behind center?

Did Griffin fail to learn or did his organization and coaches fail to nurture his growth and teach the position adequately?

These questions aren’t unique to Griffin and Washington. The NFL habitually chews up and spits out blue chip quarterbacks. Is it a player or team issue? In Cool Hand Luke, Captain’s famous “Failure to Communicate” speech includes this line: “Some men you just can’t reach.” In the risky business of quarterback prospecting, there will always be kids who are destined to fail, regardless of circumstance. But the burnout rate is still alarming. Literally half the quarterbacks drafted in the first round flame out. It’s damning proof that the formula for developing talent at the game’s most important position confounds the league and football’s brightest minds. 

As for Griffin and Washington, specifically, was the quarterback just another college spread-offense dynamo that failed to translate or the latest victim of a dysfunctional franchise? Who knows? Perhaps the pending documentary will provide answers. There’s certainly shared blamed between player and organization. And maybe that’s the usefulness of The Griffin Chronicles: a failed mentor-mentee relationship. Trust and respect were lost. Impatience and stubbornness were pervasive. One party failed to adapt its teaching techniques to a unique talent; the other failed to submit himself to a new situation’s demands. The result - a lost career and a franchise in an inescapable death spiral – indicts all involved. 

So…if you’re in a position to influence lives or a person in need of guidance, heed the mutual failings in Griffin’s cautionary tale. I suppose that puts us all on notice.

Skins vs. Ravens

As published in The County Times (

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

My first memories of watching the Baltimore Colts date back to the early 1980’s – dark times in franchise history. Lenny Moore, Art Donovan and Johnny Unitas were long gone.  Losses were frequent – Baltimore hadn’t had a winning season since 1977 - and games at old Memorial Stadium were lightly attended. 

If memory serves, WMAR (channel 2) beamed the Colts into Maryland homes.  Truth is, I didn’t watch much.  The Colts were an NFL afterthought and the ‘Skins were elite. How different were the franchises?  In ’82, the Colts didn’t win a game…and Washington won its first Super Bowl.  A year later Washington repeated as NFC Champions and the Colts infamously left for Indianapolis under the cover of darkness.  Curse those Mayflower trucks…

In the 30 or so years since, the professional football teams in Baltimore and the nation’s capital have swapped roles.  Since 1999, three years after Baltimore poached Cleveland’s Browns, the Ravens have won two Super Bowls, made 10 playoff appearance and had just three losing seasons.  In that same time frame, Washington has had just four winning season and four playoff berths. Baltimore is now the model franchise; Washington is a perennial circus, a breeding ground for drama and dysfunction.

A strong indicator of team success is spotting gear - jerseys, flags, bumper stickers, hats, etc. – in public. In the early 80s, Colts paraphernalia was scarce; Southern Maryland was awash in burgundy and gold.  Now?  Ravens purple dominates.  Is this the result of reborn Colts fans or one-time, sick-of-losing ‘Skins fans adopting Maryland’s team? 

It would be easy to criticize those in the latter category for disloyalty, but I understand the Ravens’ appeal.  The 2000-2015 Ravens and the 1981-1993 ‘Skins are philosophically similar: value substance over style; flashy free agents have their place, but homegrown talent must be the franchise’s foundation; develop a blue-collar identity that announces itself to opponents before the opening kickoff; acknowledge the inevitability of roster turnover (the sport’s brutal) and ensure cultural and front office stability; and, most importantly, make Monday morning after playing the Ravens/Skins hurt a little more than usual. 

The results?  Washington won three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks.  It had one coach during its fabled ’81-’93 run (Joe Gibbs), expertly navigated the loss of great players (John Riggins, Joe Theismann, Dexter Manley, etc.) and was best known for smash-mouth football and its offensive line.  And the Ravens? They’ve won two Super Bowls with different quarterbacks, employed just two head coaches in 16 seasons (Brian Billick and John Harbaugh), absorbed the departures of Jonathan Ogden, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed and maintained a reputation for elite defensive football.

How did that happen in both Washington and Baltimore?  Why did Baltimore fail in the early ‘80s?  Why does Washington continue to fail now?

Leadership (or lack thereof). 

In owner Steve Bisciotti (majority owner since 2004), GM Ozzie Newsome (in place since 2002) and Harbaugh, the Ravens have a leadership trio that is aligned philosophically and empowered to execute their roles independently.  Washington had a similar structure with Gibbs, long-time GM Bobby Beathard and former owner Jack Kent Cooke.  Now Dan Snyder, a guy who has had eight head coaches since 1999, resides at the top of Washington’s org chart.  Baltimore fans can no doubt sympathize.  Charm City still associates the name Robert Irsay – Colts owner in the early 80’s and the villain behind the move to Indianapolis – with pure evil.

I suppose what this snippet of NFL history emphasizes is that just a few people, with the right approach and conviction, can flip the fortunes of many.  Opportunities to be one of these influential few are often obvious – parenthood, career, friends, community.  But formality is unnecessary.  Can’t we all greet someone with an earnest smile?  Sense a person’s struggles and tell them that we believe in them?  That we’ll be there for them?  That they matter?  That we care? 

Few people are qualified to alter the course of an NFL franchise, but none of us should lose sight of our potential influence on others.  Simply helping someone through their day is worth cheering, no matter what NFL colors you fly.   

Check Your Messages

As published in The County Times (

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

The names herein have been changed to protect the innocent; however, the story is completely true.

Duke Radbourn, a Southern Maryland native, hadn’t seen it in years, but with the anniversary approaching, a reunion was in order.  Of course it would take some doing.  It was buried in a storage room filled with Christmas ornaments, random crap and miscellaneous sports memorabilia acquired during a well-spent youth.

Tucked in a corner of the room he found a promising lead: a box of vintage baseball cards.  Rifling through rows of cardboard classics, he found it: a perfectly preserved ticket from the Orioles game on September 5, 1995…better known as Cal Ripken Jr.’s 2,130th consecutive game played, a milestone that tied the immortal Lou Gehrig’s record.  

Duke owed his possession of the ticket and its associated memories to a person he had picked on endlessly growing up: his little sister.  Here’s how the acquisition went down…    
September 5, 1995: Duke arrive home after a long day at the office and checked his answering machine.  As he milled around the apartment within earshot, a frantic message from his sister played.  She and her college roommate were going to the O’s game. They had an extra ticket…for him.  She left specific instructions: meet at the Eutaw Street entrance just before game time and she would hand him the unused ticket through the fence.  After that, radio silence.

Dear God.  She has what?   

Duke’s mind was on tilt.  This was his shot to witness live baseball history and he literally had no time to spare.    

Duke ran out to his truck and drove down I-83 from his Cockeysville apartment to the Inner Harbor like a bat out of hell.  The scene near the ballpark was chaos. He dumped his wheels in the first available lot figuring if it got impounded, it wouldn’t matter…as long as he got in.  Sprinting to the stadium he started doubting if he heard his sister correctly.  Was this real?  What gate did she say?  What time?  He was so close…

Camden was a circus, a sea of orange.  Huge 2-1-2-9 numbers adorned the warehouse beyond the right field fence; they would change to 2-1-3-0 shortly.  Duke snaked through the frenzy and got to the gate.  He had made it - somehow.  Where was she?  Scanning the crowd for his 5’2” sister, he heard his name and locked eyes with his suddenly wonderful sibling.  Meeting at the fence she handed him the ticket…the ultimate golden ticket (sorry Willie Wonka).  Duke ran back in line and within minutes, he was in the stands.  He was in the freaking stands for #2,130!!!

Twenty years later, as he clutched the ticket and pondered the very different world of 2015, Duke realized the ticket isn’t the only timepiece; the story associated with it is too.  If the same scenario was reenacted today, there would be no answering machine.  Sis’s message would have been sent to bro via text, giving Duke ample time to divert course and drive directly to the stadium, thereby avoiding the white-knuckled drive down I-83.  The ticket exchange would have been casually and precisely coordinated via cell phone – no excitement, no uncertainty.  And the ticket itself?  It would likely be no more than a stale computer printout from Stubhub or a scan-able barcode on a smartphone, neither of which would have produced the keepsake that Duke fished out two decades later. 

Of course such considerations are purely hypothetical.  Just as the technology has changed, so too have our athletes.  Suffice to say, Ripken’s ultimate record of 2,632 consecutive games played will never be broken.  Few athletes possess the skill and the health to execute such a feat, and even if they did, it would never occur to them to try. 

With the ticket tucked safely away, Duke exited the cluttered room smiling.  He was happy to be in amazing world of today and happy to have experienced Ripken’s career and the pre-internet age that produced his unforgettable 2,130 adventure.  Mostly, though, he was grateful his sister called and that he thought to check his answering machine.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Silenced Roar

As published in The County Times (

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

This column is a guilt-ridden obligation. I’ve never written about outdoor sports, despite frequently hunting and fishing in Southern Maryland as a kid.  My best childhood memories include catching crabs, hooking yellow perch in the McIntosh Run and hunting squirrels and deer in the fall.  But awful circumstances have forced the subject upon me.  As a human being and former hunter, I’m upset and outraged.   

I owe my outdoor experiences to two uncles who were, and still are, avid sportsmen.  They do things the right way and ensured their apprentice would too.  I took hunter safety courses and adhered to strict gun storage and handling protocol.  My licenses were always current.  All hunting was done in season.  Bag limits were gospel.  Game was clearly identified before taking a shot.  No mammal, fish or crustacean was harvested against the rules – ever – and every kill was used.  Nature and its species were to be respected.  Taking animals from the wild wasn’t a right; it was a privilege.  That was the Native American way.  That’s how I was taught.  That’s how it should always be.

Most sportsmen share those values.  That’s why most are disgusted by the recent death of a 13-year-old lion in Zimbabwe.  His name was Cecil.  He will roar no more.

In life, Cecil was a national treasure: a majestic, black-maned beast who was a resident of Hwange National Park and a collared participant in an Oxford University study.  In death, he has become a symbol of disturbing human arrogance and excess.

Walter Palmer, an American dentist, killed Cecil.  Palmer, an avid big game hunter, paid $50,000 for the “right” (money…the root of evil).  He and his local guides allegedly strapped a carcass to their vehicle, lured Cecil beyond the park’s boundaries and Palmer shot him with a crossbow.  The injured lion was tracked for the next 40 hours (ugh) until Palmer finally delivered the kill shot.  Cecil’s head was decapitated, his collar removed and his body skinned and left to rot.  

Regardless of whether this was a technically legal hunt, does it sound like sport or the behavior of a human with any regard for hunting ethics or basic morality?  To me it sounds like an act by a disturbed individual determined to seek and destroy beauty…just for fun.  And it wasn’t Palmer’s first offense.  In 2008, he pled guilty to lying to federal officials investigating a black bear kill.  An elephant hunt was next on his agenda.  Nice guy, eh? 

Palmer’s life is now unraveling.  He’s in hiding, his dental practice is shuttered and Zimbabwe has requested his extradition.  I suppose his existence resembles Cecil’s during those 40 hours when the wounded animal had an arrow – Palmer’s arrow - protruding from his body.  That’s how I like to think of it.

Palmer’s burden is excessive, yet I lack sympathy.  This problem – senseless trophy hunting and the harvesting of endangered game – needed a victim to mourn and a perpetrator to vilify.  Cecil and Palmer have assumed the roles.  The truth is there are a lot of Cecils and Palmers.  In fact, while I wrote this piece, The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force reported another lion – I’ll call him Simba - was killed. 

If I’m blessed with grandchildren, it’s a virtual certainty that their world will be devoid of wild rhinos, a species brutalized for its prized horn.  Only four white rhinos remain on earth; the lone male is surrounded 24/7 by armed guards.  Elephants face a similarly bleak outlook; the amazing creatures could be extinct in Africa by the 2020s.  The future for big cats and many fish stocks isn’t marketably better.  And what of our precious blue crab?

What are we doing?  Aren’t we better than this? 

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”  Perhaps Cecil’s martyrdom will invigorate conservationalists, spur political action and change the world’s Walter Palmers.  Until then, whatever greatness resides in our capabilities will remain elusive.  What else am I supposed to say?  Feign optimism is all I can muster.  RIP Cecil.  RIP Simba.  RIP et al.     

My Dear Watson

As published in The County Times (

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

The story is usually about the winner: the person, depending on the sport, holding the trophy, being swarmed by post-game reporters, spraying champagne, doing burnouts or reveling in a downpour of confetti. That’s who gets the accolades, the attention, the endless SportsCenter loops and maybe – if the obstacles and drama were significant – a 30 for 30 documentary. Fits of strength, new levels of human athleticism, steely nerves under pressure, a killer instinct and absolute victory: that’s what fabulous sporting moments are made of.  Runners up or those buried deep in the field are soon-to-be-forgotten props on someone else’s glory train. 

Every now and then, though, there’s a story that cuts through the darn near exclusive celebration of victory.  With all due respect to the ultimate winner at this year’s Open Championship, a coronation that was delayed until Monday due to weather and perhaps not coincidently beyond my due date for this piece, THE story – for me anyway - happened at the end of Saturday’s rain-soaked and wind-swept second round. 

As Tom Watson, 65, approached the Swilcan Bridge to cross the burn (love the terminology used across the pond) bisecting the 18th fairway at famed St. Andrews, it was far from picturesque.  Weather delays had pushed the moment to the brink of sunset and left but a few brave and beer-infused souls in the grandstand.  Nevertheless, a series of photos was in order.  The first was with playing partners Ernie Els, Brandt Snedeker and the caddies for all three players.  A photo of Watson with his son/caddie followed.  Finally, Watson, a gentleman among gentlemen and the definition of grace, stood alone on the stone bridge as cameras popped. 

Watson was 11-over par at the time of the photo op and ended up 12-over, a career-worst for the five-time Open champion.  He not only missed the cut, Watson finished next to last.  So why the fuss over this forgettable performance?  This was Watson’s last Open tournament.

Of 1972 vintage, I don’t remember many sporting events prior to 1981. Jack Nicklaus, golf’s leader with 18 major championships, won 17 of them prior to ’81.  Watson, an eight-time major champ, won The Open and U.S. Open Championships in ’82 and repeated as The Open champ in ’83.  My impressionable young mind didn’t understand all the Nicklaus worship; Watson was the best golfer in the world. 

Those ’82 and ’83 titles created my “thing” for Watson.  Childhood memories will do that to you, I suppose.  Huge moments and competitors get chiseled onto your blank, impressionable canvas and that’s it…they’re forged like stone tablets.  Characters become larger than life.  Players and teams become better than they actually were.  And no one better try to convince you otherwise. 

Oh to recreate that young, unencumbered mind: there was no distracting static, no historical context, no disputable data and no cynicism.  There was only the now, and the now was fabulous.  Moments were never overanalyzed and, as a result of pure thinking, the present was better than it had ever been before and likely as good as it would ever be.

During summer break in the early 80’s, only Wimbledon and The Open Championship broke my morning routine of cartoons, Atari and professional wrestling.  Watching The Open engraved Watson’s legend in my mind.  Thirty-plus years later, his illustrious Open career is over and his farewell will quickly fade.  The storylines marinating at St. Andrews are just too good for nostalgia to hold its grip.  Will Dustin Johnson recover from a U.S. Open meltdown?  Could Sergio Garcia win his first major championship?  Or amateur Paul Dunne?  Will Jordan Spieth claim the third leg of golf’s grand slam and take the next step toward becoming the best golfer of his generation (and to a current 10-year-old what Watson was to me)?  The winner will dictate the ultimate headline for the 144th Open Championship.  But before getting there, before showering the latest man who hoists the Claret Jug with praise (forgetting all others), I had to pause to appreciate Watson’s excellence and an uncluttered child’s mind, the confluence of which made Watson the first “greatest golfer” I ever saw.  

Max: The Intoxicating Workhorse

As published in The County Times (

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

In January, the Washington Nationals, already stocked with superb starting pitching, signed former Detroit Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer, the crown jewel of free agents, to a seven-year $210M contract that is paid out over a mortgage-like 14 years. 

My initial reaction: I hope the Nats locked in a low interest rate and avoided private mortgage insurance…and what a ludicrous waste of financial resources. With a starting rotation of Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark, was the addition of Scherzer necessary, especially considering teams typically use only four starting pitchers during the playoffs? Dollars aside, was the impact on team chemistry considered? With several key players – shortstop Ian Desmond, center fielder Denard Span and the aforementioned Zimmermann and Fister – facing free agency in 2016, signing Scherzer signaled many Nats would be playing elsewhere next year. And wouldn’t Scherzer’s presence at the top of the rotation cause the would-be/wanna-be/just-hasn’t-been pitching alpha dog Strasburg to pout?

That’s what I thinking in January.  Today, I’m an idiot. 

What does a $210M pitcher look like? I don’t know, but it must resemble Max Scherzer – he’s crushing it. The ace hurler became “one of the guys” immediately (scratch that chemistry concern off the list) and has been everything – fun, fiery, reliable and consistent – that the mentally and physically fragile Strasburg isn’t (he’s back on the disabled list…shocker). 

Through last weekend, Scherzer has posted a 1.82 ERA (second to Zack Greinke), recorded 139 strikeouts (fifth in MLB), walked 14 (second to Phil Hughes among pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched) and has thrown three complete games, two shutouts and a no-hitter.  “Going geek”, Scherzer’s advanced statistics layer on the superlatives: a WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) of 0.78, a strikeout/walk rate of 9.93 and batting average against of .181…all tops in MLB. And then there’s Scherzer’s sick 1.25 Component ERA, a Sabremetrics formula that predicts a player’s ERA by analyzing surrendered walks and hits (thereby removing luck as a factor). Houston’s Dallas Keuchel is a distant second at 1.82.

But – and there’s always a but with D.C. sports – Scherzer’s usage is concerning.  In his 16 Washington starts, he’s pitched at least six innings and has gone seven or more 13 times. He has 118 innings on his golden right arm so far and is pacing to approach 240, 20 more than his career high. 

Remember, Scherzer is 30 and signed to a seven-year contract with a 14-year payment plan.  If you were going to make peace with burning him up, wouldn’t you do that in October? Why mid-season? And we all know pitchers are like sports cars: fabulous when running but often under repair.

Scherzer’s workload is odd too considering the kid gloves with which Washington has handled Strasburg. Who can forget the Nats putting Strasburg on ice just before the 2012 playoffs because he had reached a team-imposed innings limit in his first year back from Tommy John surgery?

But current manager Matt Williams wasn’t around in 2012 and he’s infatuated with Scherzer. Can you blame him? The man gets paid to win games and Scherzer’s as dependable as humidity during a Maryland summer. What do you do as a manager tasked with producing results – wins, earnings, etc? You rely on your best, those you can trust. They get “new opportunities”, code-speak for more work and responsibility. Burnout? Ahh…nonsense. I had a Scherzer in high school: a buddy who happened to be a straight-A student. I called the poor dude nearly every night for homework guidance. He never seemed to mind – like Scherzer - but it probably drove his parents nuts.

While Williams has managed other players carefully, he has identified his go-to man, his horse…and he’s riding him. Thus far, the Nats have reaped the rewards of Scherzer’s workload, but in late September, after 240-ish innings and roughly 33 regular season starts, will he have anything left for an October stretch run? And isn’t $210M justified only by October dominance and a World Series championship? Has Scherzer’s brilliance compromised his manager’s prudence? Is it possible Scherzer, like my homework lifeline, is too good?  

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Birds

As published in The County Times (

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

Good evening.

Birds in nature: beautiful, melodic and peaceful creatures.

Birds, under interpretive genius: grotesque, swarming, vicious, psychopathic killers.

That was the bizarre premise behind Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1963 horror movie “The Birds.” But why take my word for it? Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 96% on the Tomatometer and offers this critique: “Proving once again that the build-up is the key to suspense, Alfred Hitchcock successfully turned birds into some of the most terrifying villains in horror history.”

Hitchcock’s birds: nothing like we knew or could have imagined. He turned a gift of nature into a star of horror. If only this avian alter ego had remained confined to the big screen. If only…

A friend of mine is a Pittsburgh Pirates fan. Me? The Nats…despite warts, wounds and October performance-anxiety. We are proud loyalists. Aside from that shared and arguably foolish trait, our sports discussions rarely find common ground – with one exception. We both hate – in an “I can’t stand their goodness” way - the St. Louis Cardinals.

Here are a few excerpts from our “The Birds” horror flick.

In 2012, the Nationals led the fifth and final game of the NLDS 6-0 after three innings. Print the NLCS hats and shirts. Ice the champagne. It’s over. Party time, D.C. It was 6-3 after the fifth inning. By the eighth it was 7-5. Gulp. After nine it was 9-7…Cardinals.

My buddy has better justification. After suffering through two decades of hideous post-Barry Bonds baseball, the Pirates snagged playoff berths in 2013 and 2014. The Bucs were a wildcard team – a position with a more arduous path to the World Series – because they finished second in the NL Central…to the Cardinals…both years. And in 2013, the Pirates lost the NLDS 4-2 to…do I even need to say it? Chirp, bleeping chirp. Tweet, bleeping tweet.

In hate there is often an element of admiration. After a few beers, my buddy and I would admit as much about the Cardinals. They are…an amazing franchise. Over the years, we watched long-time manager Tony LaRussa retire, future hall-of-famer Albert Pujols sign with the L.A. Angels and ace pitchers Adam Wainright and Chris Carpenter suffer serious injuries. Yet the Cardinals keep winning. Since 2000, St. Louis has won two World Series’ and missed the playoffs but four times. They currently have the best record in baseball.

St. Louis’ fifteen-year win/loss excellence compares to that of Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots’. After a recent ethical breech, the Cards are now the Patriots’ baseball synonym.

The Cardinals saw the Patriots’ “Spygate” and “Deflategate” controversies and raised them one “Hackgate.” It seems Cardinals front office personnel have been breaking into the information systems and stealing player evaluation data from the Houston Astros – a team whose General Manager, Jeff Luhnow, worked for St. Louis from 2003 through 2011 - since roughly 2012. The story is evolving. The FBI is investigating. It’s a hot mess.

This is life in 2015. Baseball’s rascals used to poach an occasional sign, use too much pine tar, cork bats or scuff the baseball. So cute. Then the mischievousness went rogue during the steroid era. Now, in the information and analytics age, it’s disintegrated into blatantly stealing organizational trade secrets.

When Cardinals hack/attack: Hitchcock’s once horrifying and extreme portrayal of birds now seems…appropriate. Holy cyber warfare, Batman.

It is routine shtick for graybeards to embellish childhood tribulations and playfully criticize the current generation’s softness. We worked harder in years past, trudged through snow in newspaper-wrapped shoes to get to school and always cleaned our plates – vegetables and all. Right.

The truth is, the world and life in it gets more complicated as time passes. I was 14 when Minnesota Twins pitcher Joe Niekro tried to inconspicuously toss an emery board from his pocket, only to be busted by an umpire. It was more hilarious than offensive. If you’re 14 now you’re dealing with the best organization in baseball intentionally launching a cyber attack to steal proprietary information.

Sorry about that, kids. As it was in 1963, so it is in 2015: when birds attack, it can be quite disturbing.