Archive for January, 2014

An apology to Cal Ripken, Jr.

Cal Ripken Jr. is one of the nicest, and best, people in baseball history. His major accomplishment, setting legendary Lou Gehrig’s record for most consecutive games played, proves his work ethic and dedication to the game.

Although he’d never want to admit it I get a lot of my negativity from my Dad. When Ripken set the record in 1996 my Dad wrote it off. “Eh, his record doesn’t count,” he’d say. “Did he play during the strike?” Instead of acknowledging Ripken’s amazing feat he didn’t see it as an accomplishment because of the previous year’s baseball strike. But the strike had nothing to do with Ripken and doesn’t at all diminish the dedication it takes to play so many games in a row.

My oldest nephew’s name is Cal. Although his parents deny it I know it was inspired by Cal Ripken Jr., one of my former brother-in-laws heroes. I’d always try to get him going by making fun of Ripken: “You know, his streak doesn’t count because of the strike, right?” It never worked. He’d just shake his head.

Today I watched most of MLB Network’s “My Most Memorable Game” series with Ripken talking about the game he broke Gehrig’s record. Watching it I was finally able to understand why he is so highly regarded in baseball. He has a great attitude and an obvious love for the game. He’s also very humble. He nearly cried several times when he talked about how much his Dad, Orioles’ legend Ripken Sr., meant to him.

Ripken is a good example of some of the most important lessons in life: persistence, perseverance, and love and respect for what you do. As a guy who usually can’t even make it to work on time his dedication is inspiring. It’s finally time that I give Cal Ripken Jr. his due.

And Ron, you done good naming your son after such a great man.

Erik Ritland is a journalist and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. He is a contributor for Minnesota culture blog Curious North and writes frequent Daily Rambles. Ramblin’ On catalogs his writings on culture, music (including his own projects), sports, religion, and many other topics. You can reach him via email here.

Hockey Day in Minnesota

I have the reputation for being too negative. This isn’t something I enjoy because in reality I am actually exceedingly joyful. There’s nothing I like more than being alive.

Something that comes close, though, is celebrating. Some people get off on ruining people’s celebrations. It’s like they think their negativity will somehow make it less special to the people who celebrate. Fortunately this is not the case.

I used to make fun of Hockey Day in Minnesota. It doesn’t really make sense because I actually do like hockey. It’s weird how this sort of negativity it works. There’s a weird feeling inside that wants to be against something just because you see people celebrating and enjoying themselves. It’s so shallow.

It’s nice to finally be over it. My favorite part of Hockey Day, even in the years I’d make fun of it, was always the outdoor high school games. There are two televised live. This morning saw Cloquet-Esko-Carlton beat Rochester Lourdes 4-1. The game, between two perennial Class A teams, was a lot closer than the score indicates. It was scoreless going into the third period and Lourdes even took the first lead before Cloquet took over.

As I write this Elk River, who is hosting Hockey Day this year, is about to take on Stillwater, another matchup of talented, classic tournament teams. Afterward the Gophers will take on Ohio State and then I’ll have the pleasure of working at Xcel as the Wild take on the Dallas Not-So-North Stars.

The coolest thing about Hockey Day is how damn happy it makes people. Fox Sports North is covering it locally and everyone they talk to and interview is contagiously happy. And that’s what it’s all about. Hockey is important to a lot of people in Minnesota and setting aside a day to honor it means a lot to them. Celebrating something you love lifts up your heart. And that’s never a bad thing.

Erik Ritland is a journalist and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. He is a contributor for Minnesota culture blog Curious North and writes frequent Daily Rambles. Ramblin’ On catalogs his writings on culture, music (including his own projects), sports, religion, and many other topics. You can reach him via email here.