Friday, November 30, 2012
Father: Wait a minute, are you telling me you think the Atlantic is a greater ocean than the Pacific?
Mother: No, have it your way. The Pacific is greater.
-- Woody Allen's "Radio Days"
* * *
Wow, do we love to argue in sports. I mean, sure, I like a good argument now and then too. Gets the blood pumping. I say Trout, you say Cabrera, you say the Gobi and I say Sahara, Cabrera, Sahara, Mascara, Rivera, let's call the whole thing off. But I have to admit, I just don't know where people get the energy to be angry about sports all the time, on every subject, at every given opportunity. I don't know where they find the strength to turn on the fury machine anytime something even remotely disputable comes along.
Thursday, November 29, 2012
But before getting into specifics, I'm thinking we should try to simplify the PED discussion just a little bit.
First: It seems to me that there are three major philosophical reasons why someone would not vote for a player who used (or probably used) performance-enhancing drugs. Maybe you can think of another, but I'm stuck at three:
1. Because using PEDs is cheating, and cheaters do not belong in the Hall of Fame.
2. Because using PEDs turned non-Hall of Famers into Hall of Famers.
3. Because those players who used PEDs irreparably soiled the game and, as such, have no business being in a museum that is meant to celebrate those who brought glory and honor to baseball.
Monday, November 26, 2012
"OK, fine, maybe that was a bad decision," they will say. "But it DOESN'T MATTER."
They're right, of course. It doesn't matter. But I can't help it. I can't stop thinking about it. I still remember a blown timeout by former Kansas City head coach Gunther Cunningham more than a decade ago. The Chiefs had one timeout left, and they used it with something like 2:42 left.
You realized right away why this was a spectacularly bad decision, right? The NFL clock is 40 seconds. So, if you do not call the timeout, the opposing team has to run one play before the two-minute warning.
However, if you do call a timeout -- four or five seconds will run off the clock, and the opposing team STILL has to run only one play before the two-minute warning. It was a complete waste of a timeout, it cost the Chiefs 40 or so seconds on the other side of the two-minute warning -- 40 seconds that I recall being very important in the game. Everyone conceded that it was a bad timeout (except Gunther, one of my favorite people in sports, who offered some convoluted reason why it was the right decision -- one that required him to mistake the 40-second clock for a 35-second clock). But most people wanted to move on to the next thing (which was the complain about other things the Chiefs did).
Sunday, November 25, 2012
You know how many fans will say that "Exile on Main St." is the Rolling Stones' best album? Rolling Stone, the magazine, ranked it seventh on their all-time rock and roll album list … other hip arbiters of rock and roll rate "Exile" very high as well. There are circles in the world where if you DO NOT call "Exile on Main St." your favorite Stones album, you are looked at as a bit of a poseur.
What makes this interesting is this: "Exile" does not have a single hit on it. Eighteen songs, and the only song that a marginal music fan MIGHT know is "Tumbling Dice." They also might not know it. The casual fan might have heard "Let It Loose" somewhere along the way, but probably could not place it. The song "Plundered My Soul" -- which was part of the 2010 re-release -- might have been a more successful single than any song on the album itself.
"Exile" is an album Stones fans love not just because it's great, but because in part -- I would argue -- it's an album Stones fans own in some deeper way. It hasn't been corrupted by popularity or annexed by car commercials or overplayed to its very roots. It hasn't become public domain like the album "Some Girls," with all its hits on it -- "Beast of Burden" and "Shattered" and "Miss You" and "Respectable" and the rest. "Exile" is, in some ways, still a real connection between the band and the people who love them most.
Friday, November 23, 2012
The Royals -- as every Kansas City baseball fan knows -- have been trying for a quarter century to find a way to break through and be a legitimate baseball contender. This has led them down many different paths, all of them foiled by incompetence or flawed thinking or bad luck or lack of money or some cruel combination of the lot.
This absolutely amazed me. Since 2000, the Royals have acquired: Luis Alicea, Willie Bloomquist, Bruce Chen, Elmer Dessens, Kyle Farnsworth, Ryan Freel, Juan Gonzalez, Ross Gload, Tony Graffanino, Mark Grudzielanek, Jose Guillen, Doug Henry, Denny Hocking, Jason Kendall, Chuck Knoblauch, Jason LaRue, Curt Leskanic, Al Levine, Jose Lima (twice!), Ron Mahay, Super Joe McEwing, Hideo Nomo (at 39), Sidney Ponson, Mark Redman, Kerry Robinson*, Reggie Sanders, Benito Santiago, Scott Sullivan, Brett tomko, Michael Tucker ...
… this is an effort to actually win games ...
… What would that list look like if the Royals were trying to LOSE games?
Thursday, November 22, 2012
*Here's are the presents I would give to the naughty and nice people in the world of sports! Or perhaps you would prefer a funny sports version of "The 12 Days of Christmas"?
**Now my predictions for what will happen in sports in the New Year!
***The current college football system is terrible! Expound!
****What does "valuable" really mean?
*****Rebirth! It is upon us again!
******Monthly, actually. In some places, it's weekly.
By Katie Posnanski
My report is about a woman named Sarah who saved Thanksgiving.
Her whole name was Sarah Josepha Hale. She wanted to make Thanksgiving a national holiday so that people would get together with their families. She wrote thousands of letters for 17 years. She even wrote letters to five Presidents -- “Will you make Thanksgiving a National holiday.” Four presidents said: “No.”
But then, Abraham Lincoln agreed and said yes.
Sarah had five children. Her husband died after being very sick, and this made Sarah so sad that she wore black for the rest of her life.
Back then, girls did not go to school, so Sarah stayed home and learned how to read and write and sew from her Mom. She grew up to become one of the first girl teachers. She was also a writer. Sarah was the author of the poem “Mary Had A Little Lamb.” Also, she was the editor of some of the most popular magazines for women.
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
In honor of their birthdays (and Dick Schofield! And Hank Blalock!), I'm reprinting the Stan Musial blog post I wrote a few years ago … with a couple of updates and an added interlude.
Which kind of award do you prefer?
That is to say: For you, as a fan, do you prefer an award that goes to the player who has the best narrative -- which is what the MVP award usually represents? Or would you rather have an award that goes to the best player statistically, period, regardless of position or style of play or team performance or your favorite intangible?
I went back to 1995 -- each year I picked the league MVP (Most Valuable Player, of course) and I picked the HOW (the league's Hero of WAR -- that is, the player with the highest Wins Over Replacement based on Baseball Reference WAR, Fangraphs WAR, Baseball Prospectus WARP and Win Shares).
The question for you then is: Which choice do you as a baseball fan like better?
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
I remember thinking this clearly a few years ago when Randy Moss came into the NFL. Do you remember what a miracle Moss was those first couple of years? Nobody could cover him. He was bigger than anybody you could cover him with. He was faster than anybody you could cover him with. He could jump higher than anyone you could cover him with. And if he had a step on you, there was no way anyone could catch him.
Do you remember? Moss caught 17 touchdown passes that year, a rookie record, one that I suspect will stand for a long time. That Vikings offense was one of the best in NFL history, with Moss and Cris Carter and Robert Smith and the rejuvenated Randall Cunningham. That team went 15-1 and, you will recall, lost perhaps the most heartbreaking game in the team history of heartbreak, that NFC title game against Atlanta. That was an amazing offense.
But here was the thing: It was still, more or less, a conventional offense. And Moss was so good, I thought they could have been more.
Sunday, November 18, 2012
But as for the structure of college football itself … well, I readily admit to being out of touch with mainstream America, because I generally don't like playoffs. I don't like the expanded playoffs in baseball. I don't like the endless playoffs in the NBA or the NHL. I do like the NFL playoffs, because it seems to me the best way to handle such a violent sport (expanding the regular season would be lunacy), and I like March Madness because it's unique, it's one-of-a-kind, a 68-team (and growing) Battle Royale, where everybody gets into the ring at the same time and tries to be the last one standing. But in general, I like a regular season that matters more.
We all know that the BCS college football system, with its computers and polls and bowl series that isn't a series, is incredibly stupid and illogical. We'll all be happy to see it go. But I would again ask the question: Can we at least acknowledge what we might be losing? Because Saturday was amazing. Saturday was heartbreaking. Saturday was awe-inspiring. Saturday was one of the great sports days of the year.
And you know what? The Saturday before that was all those things too.
And you know what? The Saturday before THAT was thoroughly awesome.
And you know what? I can't wait for next Saturday.
Friday, November 16, 2012
"I remember when I used to go to spring training," a television reporter was once saying to Buck, "you know back when baseball was still baseball and …"
That's when Buck interrupted her. "Excuse me," he said softly, "but baseball is still baseball."
This, looking back, seems funny. And the guests -- bless them all -- have shown infinite patience with my technical stupidity. But it's not funny to me. It makes me want to throw up. These people offer their much valued time, and I keep screwing up the technical stuff. I mean, everyone knows I'm not a technician, but recording a conversation doesn't seem like it should be this complicated. I'm sure it's not. But it is for me. And it makes me sick.
I bring this up today because, yes, I did it again. I had this great podcast with my good friend, "Parks and Recreation" executive producer Michael Schur this week. And, because one wire was not plugged all the way in, his voice did not record. And I am currently banging my head against a wall.
The thing that hurts most about this one is that this podcast was so personal and fun -- it was my favorite-ever podcast.
So, I'm going to write about it:
Friday, November 9, 2012
There are, in life, these big moments when the curtain is pulled back and you understand, with unsettling clarity, that you are getting old. Thursday, for instance, I got bifocals. Well, I didn't get them yet. My optometrist ordered them. He said, "It's time," and ordered them … you know, without throwing me a bachelor party or anything. The bifocals will arrive in two weeks. This means I basically have two weeks of youth left. Maybe I'll buy a convertible or play Sega hockey or go climb a tree or something because when those bifocals come, let's be honest, the dream of staying young forever ends pretty dramatically.
Of course, I'll actually spend my last two weeks of relative youth squinting at menus and holding the phone so close to my face when reading, people will assume I'm taking pictures of the wall.
Monday, November 5, 2012
And, really, what better time to do an election between right and left than right now?
At first blush, it seemed obvious to me that the lefties would win easily. A team with the best left-handed hitters would have Ruth, Gehrig, Williams and Bonds -- that team does not seem beatable.
But then, if you look a little more closely, you see that a right-handed team would not only have Mays, Aaron and Rickey in the outfield (not bad) it would have a pretty sizable advantage at shortstop, where probably the four or five best in baseball history -- in no particular order -- Honus Wagner, Cal Ripken Jr., Ernie Banks, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter -- all batted right-handed, as did Robin Yount, Barry Larkin, Luke Appling, Pee Wee Reese and so on.
So, let's put the two teams together and see what we come up with. I should note that for this one I left out pitchers entirely. I originally had pitchers hitting, but it got away from the point a little bit. So we're only voting on the every-day players -- the assumption for this election is that the pitchers for each team are identical. If it helps, say that both teams are using the 2012 San Francisco Giants pitching staff, which has lefty-killers and righty-killers, left-handed starters and right-handed starters.
You can vote in the poll in the right-hand column (though, this is not some kind of Palm Beach trick to get you to vote righty):
Sunday, November 4, 2012
A few blog and SOE posts that I'm working on should be coming up on the next while (assuming I finish them). As always the input of Brilliant Readers will be taken into consideration.
-- The Ballad of Frank White
-- The last game of one of the best people in sports.
-- A new breed of racin' hero.
-- MVP talk (live on the MLB Network)
-- The next installment of "The Art of Broadcasting" featuring, yes, one of the all-time greats.
-- Catching footballs
-- The new Snuggie.
-- The iPad mini review!
-- The game that changed football.
-- The usual long and drudgery-inducing series of Baseball Hall of Fame posts.
-- The return of Pixifoods
In the meantime, in case you missed them: