Tuesday, November 30, 2010
It was a terrific panel discussion, I thought, probably the best I've ever been on. There were so many things to think about. But, as is obvious to anyone who has been on a few panels, there are limitations to the genre. I think the biggest is that you sometimes get bogged down on one question that nobody is especially interested in -- for instance, we spent a good 15 minutes discussing whether boxing will die for an audience that pretty decisively believes boxing is dead already. And the answer could have been summed up like so:
No, it absolutely won't die entirely.
We eventually got there, and there absolutely were some gems along the way*, but panel discussions, even the best of them, sometimes feel like giant boats and it takes a long while to make a turn.
*Listening to Gerald Early talk about boxing is like listening to Charlie Parker play saxophone.
In any case, I was going to write about the panel discussion but because it seems well covered and because you will be able to see it for yourself if you so choose, I have taken a turn. Instead, I'll be posting a series of essays about my car ride with Bill James. You may know that Bill lives in Lawrence, Kan., and I live in Kansas City, and so we figured the smartest thing we could do was drive to St. Louis together. It's about a four hour drive each way. That means I got to spend eight hours just in the car with the man I consider the best and most influential baseball writer ever.*
*Well, Roger Angell and Red Smith among many others were pretty good too, and Henry Chadwick and Jerome Holtzman among many others were pretty influential too -- Bill is just my personal choice and I felt that way before we became friends.
I'd say in the eight-plus hours (terrible traffic in St. Louis) we had about 90 seconds of silence combined. This is largely because I'm a blabbermouth, and because when I have someone like Bill stuck in the car with me I want to constantly pick his brain. I love the way Bill's mind works. So since we were the only ones in the car, and there was nobody filming or recording, I thought I would riff off a few of the things we talked about. I hope to have three or four essays up before the end of the day.
I should say as a disclaimer that these essays are not necessarily Bill's opinion at all or what we talked about -- in fact, all of these essays would probably go with the "This movie was inspired by real and actual true and factual facts" tag. I was driving there in the rain and Bill drove home as if flurried snow and we were just talking about stuff and none of the conversation was meant for the record. So these essays were sometimes inspired by a single word or thought.
But ... hey ... we're all just friends on a drive ...
Monday, November 29, 2010
But as always, I like to lists off a few blog posts that might be coming up:
Thursday, November 25, 2010
*I have a friend who is convinced -- CONVINCED -- that he invented the "throw the ball off the stoop" game. I have told him a hundred times that the game was invented many years before he was born, but he refuses to believe it, he is convinced that one day when he was very young (long before he could have heard of such a game) he was looking at the stairs and thinking, "You know, if one player throw a ball off the stairs, and another player was the fielder..." In a way he DID invent it thought it had been invented a half million times before. That's FTOD.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Two, there's a CMQ -- Comfortable Movie Quality -- to this Yankees-Jeter negotiation. I have spent too much of my time thinking about this: How many movies would you say you KNEW the ending before it happened? I'm not talking about you figuring out the ending of Sixth Sense or Usual Suspects or Memento or whatever (good for you, Nostradamus). No, I'm talking about movies that are essentially made with the premise that you will know the ending. You know the killer will die. You know the guy and girl will get together. You know the planet will be saved. You know the home team will win. You know George Clooney will end up in a tuxedo. You know the castaways will not get off the island.
Monday, November 22, 2010
But in the meantime, an announcement: f you happen to live in or near the St. Louis area* I am going to be part (a small part, I would hope) of a remarkable panel at Washington University next Monday. The panel will feature Bob Costas, Gerald Early, Bill James and, yeah, me as we talk about a rather broad topic called "The Future of Sports." My friend Michael MacCambridge -- author of "America's Game," the best book on the history of the NFL -- put the panel together and will be the moderator.
*Or have access to air travel, I guess ... it's a small world, after all.
I don't think I need to tell anyone here about the coolness factor of Costas, Early and James. We are talking about three of the great sports thinkers of the last 50 years. Three of the great thinkers, period. I'm still holding out hope that at the last minute they will realize that I have nothing to add and let me sit in the crowd and watch.
It should be great. The discussion will be Monday, Nov. 29 at 7 p.m. on the Washington University campus -- the Lab Sciences Building if you want to be specific. And as if just putting together a panel with Costas, Early and James isn't cool enough, admission is free (Free! Ridiculous!) and open to the public. All you have to do is RSVP here.
-- While I'm making announcements about ridiculously cool things I should not be allowed to do, it now looks like I will be in New York and a guest on E-Street Radio on Friday, Dec. 3. More details as they become available.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
But in the end, you know what? The win did not die on Thursday. In fact, Thursday was not even an especially bad day for the win. The real win revolution began a long time ago -- more than 30 years ago. I'll get to that in minute.
And yet, still, he considers the question. He doesn't exactly love these weekly media sessions, but hey, he's here, and the question is asked, and this is how Joe Paterno's mind works. He breaks down questions. That's his life's work. He breaks thing down and breaks that down and breaks that down more. That's coaching. That's life. It is about obliterating the vague, it is about cutting through the shadows and fog, it is about figuring out what you stand for. Missed tackles, you say? Well, let's think about that for a moment. What do you mean when you say missed tackles? What exactly causes missed tackles?
"When you miss tackles, obviously, it's one of two things," he begins. "Either you did a lousy job in your technique tackling. Or the other guy is that good, he's that quick, he sets you up well, he gets you a little bit off-balance, he sets you up well enough that he can beat you."
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Nerdy stat guy 2: Yes I completely agree with the following colossal exception: Before the fourth inning, after a road loss, in a domed stadium. Then it’s great to be Greinke!
-- Moneybart episode, The Simpsons
If you saw this Simpsons episode, you probably remember the scene -- Lisa went to the back of Moe's Tavern to find a little SABR convention going on. They were having this talk, where one was saying that Lee was better, and the other said it was true except, well, you see it above -- before the fourth, after a road loss, in a dome.
Well, you knew that at some point I was going to look it up, right? I mean ... it had to be done. Cliff Lee? Zack Greinke? A nerdy stat like that? OF COURSE I'm going to look it up. The only surprise is that it took this long.
I went back to 2008. I did not have to go back any more. It turns out that Zack Greinke pitched six games in domes after road losses (I counted retractable roof stadiums like Toronto and Seattle). And, by pure coincidence, Cliff Lee ALSO pitched six games after road losses.
I was praying for The Simpsons' statistic to be right. I figured they had 50-50 shot at it, and I figured that maybe, just maybe, some geek on the staff looked it up just to be sure.
Zack Greinke in domes before the fourth inning after road losses: 18 innings, 12 earned runs, 6.00 ERA.
Cliff Lee in domes before the fourth inning after road losses: 18 innings 0 earned runs, 0.00 ERA.
Friday, November 12, 2010
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Terry works in a rock and roll band looking for that million dollar sound.
Got a job down in Darlington. Some nights I don't go.
Some nights I go to the drive in. Some night I stay home.
-- Bruce Springsteen. The Promise.
* * *
I remember the first time I heard The Promise. It was about a decade ago. The song had been around for a long time before I first heard it -- Bruce Springsteen would say it was the first song he wrote after Born To Run made him a rock and roll star in 1975. It figures that this was the first. Born to Run, the whole album, was about longing, open highway, the amusement park rising bold and stark, the poets who write nothing at all, the ghosts in the eyes of all the boys Mary sent away. Born to Run is about that brilliant age when you know dreams don't come true, but you still believe they might come true FOR YOU.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
I made a Twitter point the other day that this Miami Heat team has to be the most hated team in America since ... well, who? The Pistons Bad Boys of the late 1980s? The Soviet hockey team in 1980? Vic Morrow's team in The Bad News Bears? The team that gave us the movie "Gigli?"
You could argue for Eddie Collins from around 1911 to 1915, when when he hit for a high average (.347), stole a bunch of bases, played superior defense and so on.
You could argue for Jackie Robinson when he got the call to the big leagues ... you could argue for Craig Biggio in the mid-1990s ... you could argue for Chase Utley the last five or six years ... You could argue that Robinson Cano is coming into his own ...
Here's what Joe Morgan did, though: Everything.
Monday, November 8, 2010
But I feel quite certain that Bud loves baseball and will happily spend his retirement days (if he ever retires) watching baseball games, eating hot dogs, talking baseball to whoever wants to listen. I've had enough conversations with him to pick up that he's a fan. Yes, he's also a fan of his own legacy, of pushing through his own agendas and all that stuff. But every commissioner is like that. Bud likes baseball and I generally like people who like baseball.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
But my point here is not to explain why I think Seattle Slew is a great name (you either get that or you don't) but to point out right at the start that I'm the kind of person who will waste numerous hours pointlessly arguing about it. I romanticize thoroughbred names. I can't help it. OF COURSE, Secretariat ran away from Sham -- how could it be any different? He was Secretariat. And he was Sham.
But in football -- well think about how many times you have thought something like this:
"OK, if they score here, get the onside kick, score again, stop them on three plays, score again ..."
Friday, November 5, 2010
Thursday, November 4, 2010
But who is a Hall of Famer? Right now? If the career ended tomorrow in some startlingly undramatic way -- turf toe, like Jack Lambert, or simply walking away like Mike Mussina -- who has already done enough to get into the Hall of Fame?
-- Robert Frost, A Visit With Robert Frost
* * *
He was, like many men, two men. The big difference is that in addition to being two men he also had two names. He was George Anderson, Georgie to friends who liked gardening, watching the news on television and sleeping in the sun. George was the son of a hard-edged housepainter in inner city Los Angeles. George dreamed about baseball, but he sold cars and not especially well. He was a soft touch. He never could sell cars to people who he knew could not afford it. His boss. Milt Blish used to funnel a few dollars his way, just to keep him afloat.
Yes, he was George Anderson, the kind of man who could not send back a steak because he did not want to be a bother, the kind of man who would read the Bible sometimes as he tried to make sense of the world around him, the kind of man who would not write notes, not ever, because he felt embarrassed by his spelling and a little bit empty because he didn't learn much in school. "I only had a high school education," George used to say, "And believe me, I had to cheat to get that."
No. Wait. It wasn't George Anderson who said that. No ... that's Sparky.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
So, I saw "Social Network" tonight, and I liked it quite a lot, and it made me think of about this concept: VOOB.
That would be: Value Over Originating Book.
I think "Social Network" has a very high VOOB. I'm a fan of Ben Mezrich, who wrote the excellent Bringing Down The House (which was turned into the inferior 21 -- a minus-7 VOOB). But I was not a fan of Mezrich's "The Accidental Billionaires" the book which "Social Network" was based on. I just thought it got swallowed up by the many gaps that were impossible for a reporter to fill.
But the movie -- and movies can do this because they don't have to be quite so faithful to the facts -- used those gaps to create something deeper (and filled other gaps with stuff that probably isn't exactly true -- I guess Mark Zuckerberg has basically said the movie is fiction). In any case, I thought the movie was a 29 VOOB -- the highest in recent memory. In other words, the movie was WAY better than the book.
I actually tweeted that it was the highest VOOB ever, but of course that was a rash tweet and people immediately started listing off dozens of movies that had higher VOOBs. Social Network does not have the highest VOOB ever. That was a pretty clear fanbole.
But what does have the highest VOOB? Well, that's why we have a comment section here. Pick the highest VOOB of your life -- that is the movie that most thoroughly thrashed the quality of the book it was based on. But choose wisely, for I only want one good movie per commenter.
And while your at it, you can also choose one movie that scored the lowest VOOB -- which, I think, is infinitely easier to choose. I personally gave the Twitter Title to Bonfire of the Vanities, which I scored at a minus-498483747. But then someone mentioned "The Great Gatsby" and I realized that it wouldn't be so easy.
Monday, November 1, 2010
In any case, one of the complaints we often hear in journalism is that we don't report enough mensch news ("All you guys ever write is bad stuff"). Then again, another one of the complaints we often hear in journalist is that we TOO OFTEN report mensch news ("I don't care that this guy gives to charity, he's a terrible quarterback!")
Well, I've been getting quite a bit of mensch news over the last few weeks, and I haven't really had a place to put it all. So I'm starting something here called "The Mensch Dispatch." I realize, of course, that this could lead to me getting MORE press releases, which is not really something I want. But I also believe -- believe more firmly -- that when people are trying to do good things, they should get our support.
So, our first bit of mensch news involves Kansas City readers. Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman Branden Albert is having a bowling event in Kansas City Tuesday night -- that would be tomorrow, Nov. 2. The event goes on from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. There's a $20 cash cover, which includes bowling shoes, three hours of bowling and the proceeds going to the awesome Make-A-Wish Foundation.
You can go here for details and if you want to buy tickets in advance.