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Jason Oliva

"What has your college education taught you?" To appreciate a greater dependence on caffeine than my own body will allow. That's the truest thing I've learned in my life as an undergrad writing major. If I were ever given an award and had to express thanks under a blinding heat lamp in front of millions, I wouldn't think of God. At least not at first. No, my saving grace would have to be caffeine (Mom, you come in at a close second). I've noticed that in my own meandering existence I've come to enjoy the things that probably won't get me paid. I like to read everything from Faulkner to Graphic Novels. I've been playing guitar for the last eight years (the last five of which good). One of these days you might see me on the red line, or in the rafters at a Potbelly's. My guilty pleasures are B-rate horror movies, kung fu (preferably dubbed), baseball and all things music. If I were to be any animal in a future life, I would be an owl. (A: because I already have a similar sleep schedule, and B: because owls aren't easily domesticated.) My favorite color is red.

Shark Week returns to Discovery Channel for 25th Anniversary

America’s fascination with the t-rex of the sea has exploded into a cultural phenomenom.

Shark Week is upon us. In some circles, this one week in American television is more sacred than the Super Bowl, the World Series and the season finale of American Idol combined. That is because, since “Jaws” scared the bejeezus out of every beach goer in the last 37 years, Americans have been enthralled with the predators of the deep. People want to see these creatures hunt, feed and (let’s be honest) attack. That is all part of the allure Shark Week provides.

With the implement of Shark Week in July 1988, the Discovery Channel has satiated people’s thirst for the predatory fish once a year in a week-long block of programming. What began as a idea birthed over drinks by three Discovery Channel executives, has now become a television and cultural phenomenom with non-stop coverage spanning from feeding habits, to daredevil shark encounters, to just plain old documentary observation. And to the Discovery Channel execs pleasure, Shark Week has caused a frenzy among audiences of all ages.

Even celebrities have fallen prey to Shark Week’s alluring charm. From Tracy Morgan to Stephen Colbert, who has referred to Shark Week as being one of the holiest weeks of the year, American fascination with all things shark has been as consistent (and even as much look forwarded to) as Christmas. We often forget that celebrities are people too, but even with their fame status they are helpless to Shark Week’s snare. Some shows on the Discovery Channel’s annual block of programming even feature celebrities scuba-diving in shark-infested waters, and if it were possible for celebrities to dance with sharks, then Discovery Channel might explode with through-the-roof ratings.

The top reason for many non-swimmers out there, sharks have become larger than life itself with the glamorization of Shark Week. For some reason, fear has caused people to marvel with dedicated viewership at these animals that could easily mistake them for sea lions and rip them to shreds in an instant.

But is that not what the Discovery Channel aims for in its Shark Week programming, to facilitate education through awe-inspiring footage of great whites breaching in slow motion at a 1,000 frames per second? If this appeals to you in any way, then you need not second guess yourself as to where you will be this evening.

Shark Week is all week on the Discovery Channel. Perhaps you will think twice about that scuba trip this summer.

Roberto Clemente bat turns up in family attic

Clemente autographed bat sells at auction for $41,825

Roberto Clemente’s bat from game seven of the 1960 World Series was auctioned last Thursday at the National Sports Collectors Convention held at Baltimore Oriole’s Camden Yards ballpark. The bat used by the legendary right fielder slugger sold for $41,825, but that is the least interesting thing about it.

Clemente’s bat was not pulled from any hall of fame archive or museum, no. It turned up in the attic of a Pittsburgh family, the late father of which Clemente personally bestowed his autographed lumber during the aftermath and fan-filled chaos following the Pirates’ World Series win over the New York Yankees.

Clifford Baxter, a Pittsburgh policeman assigned to crowd control duty at the Pirates’ then home turf, Forbes Field, came into the Baxter-family kitchen saying, “Hey, guys look what I have. I got this bat at the game and the Pirates won. I got the bat from Clemente,” recalls Andrew Baxter, son, who was 11 at the time.

A once prized, spur of the moment possesion, Clemente’s bat eventually wound up in the Baxter family’s attic among years of neglected family treasures. Not having grown up as baseball fans, the brothers never thought twice about the bat’s potential worth.

Clifford Baxter died in 1972 — eerily enough, the same year as Clemente — and only after their mother’s passing in 2012 did Andrew and his two younger brothers, Denny and Clifford Jr., come across the bat while cleaning out the attic of their parents’ home.

What was unusual about the bat was the name stamped on it. It read “Momen Clemente,” which the brothers later learned was a childhood nickname of the right field slugger. Always pensive and deep within his own thoughts, Clemente would respond to others’ questions or remarks with “Momentito,” which translates to “Hold on a second.”

It was this unique stamp that allowed Jonathan Sheier, lead cataloger for Heritage Sports Collectibles in Dallas, to identify the Baxter’s Clemente bat as a genuine piece of sports memorabilia. Hillerich & Bradsby Co., the makers of the Louisville Slugger who keep detailed records of players’ bats each season, reinforced the bat’s authenticity. Length, weight, handle taper, wood type, knob type and barrel stamp confirmed the bat actually did belong to Clemente during the 1960 season, though it is unknown whether or not the Baxter bat was used by Clemente to hit an RBI single in the eighth inning of the World Series’ game seven.

Despite the bat’s newly acquired value, the Baxters feel no attachment to their father’s gift and put Clemente’s bat up for auction with an internet bid starting at $22,000.

When asked about their father’s reaction to the bat’s value if he were alive today, Andrew Baxter said, “My father would have been tickled to find out that this thing is worth what it’s worth. I could see him jumping up and down.”