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. 

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