Ode to Wrigley Field

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Last week I was able to take a quick trip to Chicago to visit some relatives.  In doing so, we went to a Cubs game vs. the Cardinals.  It was the first time I had actually been inside Wrigley Field since 2003.  I spent one summer in Chicago with family in 2002, and managed to go to 25-30 games.  There is nothing like spending a summer day at Wrigley.  Even though I grew up in the North East, having WGN to watch the Cubs was great as they play most of their home games during the day.  Life moves so quickly, that you sometimes forget about the meaningful times of your youth, so the experience last week was special to me.

Times change, and the park may not look exactly like it did in the 1990s, but the premise is still something unique in sports that is next to impossible to recreate.  We walked to the game roughly five miles from a downtown hotel taking in the city and enjoying some stops along way for some beverages.  Eventually, you see this stadium that is basically built right in the middle of a neighborhood.  I actually still have the ticket stub from my first game (which I don’t remember), but the price of a bleacher seat was a whopping $3.  Things are much different now, but the vibe of the park is still the same.

Our seats were in the second row of the upper deck close to the plate looking out at the old manually operated scoreboard, and people watching games from the rooftops of buildings across the street.  There are two giant video boards now, but quaintness of place still exists.  There is something about watching baseball that seems timeless and brings a person back to their youth and I felt that way last week.

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The Cubs haven’t won the World Series since 1908, and all indications are that this could be the year to finally break through.  I can’t profess to be a giant Cubs fan any longer as root for the Yankees, but I feel happy to for the city of Chicago that they have been able to keep their landmark mostly in place for almost 100 years, and speaking of 100 years, 2016 would be a great time to break that World Series drought.

-Victor Mandalawi

Seven Seas Lagoon and a Child Lost

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News of a terrible story broke last night, when we heard that a two year old child was snatched by an alligator behind the Grand Floridian Resort at Walt Disney World.  The young child was splashing in water roughly a foot deep with his father when a seven to eight foot alligator took the boy.  The father immediately went for the alligator, but was unable to get the child.  It is truly a terrible story, and it has been an unfathomable week of tragedy in the Orlando area with the killing of Christina Grimmie from the Voice while she was signing autographs for fans.  It goes without saying that we also had the worst mass shooting in our country’s history when a man opened fire and killed over 50 people in a night club Saturday night.

I have been to Disney World plenty of times, as mentioned on this site, my first memory of Disney is when I was roughly five years old and my parents took me to River Country, which was a water park of sorts.  It was the first time I had laid eyes on anything like a water park and it was the coolest thing I had ever seen in my young life.  While it was great, the whole experience kind of slipped my mind until I was walking on the beach at the Polynesian Village Resort six years ago.

Both the Polynesian and the Grand have beaches with chairs, however there are signs posted everywhere that you are not allowed in the water.  This seemed a bit strange to me.  Why would you have this beach with sand, but not allow people into the water.  Disney is the happiest place on earth, so couldn’t they make sure that the water is clean?  When I got home from that trip I did some research, and found out that the water in the Seven Seas Lagoon wasn’t clean at all, and an 11 year old boy had died from a brain disease linked to swimming in that water.  It wasn’t just swimming in Seven Seas Lagoon, but also the fresh water at the River Country water park.  Disney decided to shut down the first of its kind water park permanently in 2002, after the attacks of 9/11.  Shockingly, they haven’t torn it down completely, and a ghost town of sorts still exists today.

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Thus it makes sense that Disney would not want people swimming in the Seven Seas Lagoon, when there is the potential for someone to get sick and even die from the bacteria in the lake.  They also save the expense of life guards, as well as liability from the fear of someone drowning.  Therefore, it gave me a much better idea as to why Disney did not allow people into the Seven Seas Lagoon.

When I heard the terrible news last night, it never even dawned on me that something like an alligator attack would even be possible at Disney World.  I’ve golfed time and time again in Florida and have seen many an alligator, but the thought of one attacking a child at a lake in Disney World didn’t seem to be fathomable.  It is Florida after all, so you would have to think that alligators could be in these waters, and maybe that added to the reasoning behind why Disney does not allow swimming in the lagoon?  Experts believe that the alligator confused the child for a raccoon or small dog as alligators aren’t known to attack humans.  Sure, the family shouldn’t have been in the water because of the posted signs, but it isn’t intuitive to think you can swim in water when your hotel has a beach.  At the end, it is a tragic situation, and central Florida is going through a horrible time, and our hearts are with them.

Disappointing Olympics Coming Up

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The 2016 Summer Olympics are less than two months away, and it seems that the only news we are receiving is of the bad variety.  The Zika virus is scaring plenty of people from traveling to Rio De Janerio, and it isn’t just the athletes.  Yesterday, Savannah Guthrie of NBC’s Today Show announced that she will not be going down for the games.  Guthrie recently announced that she is pregnant and doesn’t want to put her or her baby’s health at risk.  Also this week, a British long jumper, Greg Rutherford, who won a gold in the 2012 games, has announced that he will be freezing his sperm before traveling to Brazil due to the Zika virus as well.  The Zika virus doesn’t even take into consideration the disgusting and dangerous sewage pollution in much of the water that will be used for events during the games.  It should also be mentioned that Brazil’s President was impeached last month as well.

So where does that leave us going into the games?  I’ve made it no secret that I am a huge golf fan, and when it was announced that golf was making it’s return to the games after being gone for over 100 years, I reached out to some friends as I thought it may be the trip of a lifetime to go to the olympics and watch some golf.  Frankly, I now can’t see any reason someone would risk their health to visit a country that appears to be crumbling.  These athletes are at the prime of their lives and have trained for this special moment and now they must fear being inflicted with this terrible disease that could cause reproductive issues as well as severe birth defects.

It is a real shame that the International Olympic Committee is asking athletes to compete in a situation like this.  You train your whole life to then visit an area which is in the middle of massive political upheaval, terrible sanitation situations, and now you are susceptible to a serious communicable disease?  It is shocking actually that there hasn’t been discussion of either moving the games or postponing them until all situations can be under control.  Of course that would be a logistical nightmare, as well a huge financial crush for NBC who is paying $1.23B for the rights to the broadcast the games.

The olympics were created to act as a  celebration of athletic greatness, civic pride, and a bonding between nations.  While financial gain has been added over the past couple of decades, there has never been anything like this lack of empathy for safety of the athletes or the spectators.  Here’s hoping by some sort of miracle, Rio is cleaned up by August or that someone finally comes to their senses and finds an alternative.

-Victor Mandalawi

The Death of a Gorilla and the Prosecution of Parenting

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I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Cincinnati, and have been to the Cincinnati Zoo many times.  I have a relative from the city and I remember reading an advertisement that stated the zoo was the ‘Sexiest Zoo in America‘.  When I dug in to see what that meant, I learned that the Cincinnati Zoo has the highest reproductive rate for their animals in the United States.  All of these facts makes what took place last week both sad and maddening.

Last Saturday, a four year old boy fell into a moat separating where zoo visitors view the gorillas and the gorillas themselves.  It should be noted, that in order to make it to that moat, the child had to climb over a fenced railing, then through four feet of bushes to then fall 15 feet into a moat with less than two feet of water.  As imagined, when visitors noticed that the boy had fallen, a bit of pandemonium broke out.  Zoo officials were quick to call the gorillas back into their indoor enclosure.  The two female gorillas obeyed the commands, but the 17 year old male, Harambe, did not and instead climbed down a ladder to meet the boy in the moat.  Some of the interaction between Harambe and the boy were captured on this video.

Zoo officials were put into an extremely unenviable position.  Here is a gorilla they have been nurturing for years, the dominant male that should be able to sire many children, but of course we have to value human life over that of an animal.  Within ten minutes the zoo decided that they needed to take action and shot  Harambe with one fatal bullet.  The boy was taken to a hospital, but was relatively unharmed.  The story spread not only across the country, but spanned the entire world, with opinions coming in from all sides.  Whatever your stance is, it should be noted that if a tranquilizer gun was used, it would have required another 5-10 minutes to take effect, and Harambe could have acted much more irrationally and put the child at even more risk.

It is such an interesting situation, as without question, we see the gorilla as the closest relative to the human being.  When watching the video, Harambe looks as if he is frightened, but also attempting to look after the boy.  The problem is that a gorilla is said to be more than 10 times as strong as a full grown man, and as famed Zoologist, Jack Hanna said, ‘could smash a coconut in their bare hands, no questions asked’.

The general consensus is that the Zoo had to take action, but where was the parent of this child?  People are calling for the parent to be charged with murder.  The Cincinnati Enquirer went as far as deciding to not report the name of the parent for fear of threats toward her.  Even with those measures, the death threats have been plentiful.

Unfortunately, everyone makes mistakes.  You can turn your head for what you think it a second, and a child could have run away.  While the actions appear to be negligent, it is impossible to know what was going on at that exact moment.  Harambe shouldn’t have had to die.  he was set to be the patriarch of the gorilla program at Cincinnati Zoo for a long time to come(zoo officials are actually freezing his sperm to hopefully breed down the line), and it is a shame that his life had to end the way it did.  We will never know if he was attempting to take care of the boy, or would have thought he was a threat to himself and the two females he lives with.  We don’t know if he could have been attempting to nurture, but in too rough of a manner for a young boy and injured or killed him by accident.  What we do know is that he didn’t deserve to die, but we have to value the life of a boy above an animal.  We can be angry about what happened, but the zoo did what they had to.  We can be upset with the mother of the child, but we need to understand that mistakes happen.  At the end of the day, it is a tough and terrible situation for all involved, and one that we all wish had never happened.

-Victor Mandalawi