I’m sitting here in a hotel room in Piscataway, NJ, with Phils/Braves on in the background on ESPN, where Chipper Jones just broke up Roy Halladay’s no-hitter. Admittedly, it was early—bottom 4th. But even at that stage, the announcers, Dave O’Brien and Rick Sutcliffe, were showing the required amount of respect for Halladay’s performance up to that point by not uttering the word “no-hitter.” In fact, Halladay had a perfect game going, and they even respected that and used locutions such as “no hitter has even made it to first as of yet” rather than saying “perfect game” or even “Halladay’s been perfect through….”

This has been my second taste of almost this week, as Doug Fister took a no-no into the 7th against my former hometown team, the woeful Orioles (I moved in October). And all I could think of through both games was how incredibly rude Suzyn Waldman and John Sterling were in a similar situation on Yankees radio about two years ago. As I recall, the Yankees were facing the Rays, I was listening to the game in my car through the miracle of satellite radio, and Waldman managed to say at the beginning of every inning, “{Rays pitcher} has a no-hitter through x innings.” I don’t remember who was pitching; maybe you do. All I remember is Waldman blatantly violating no-hitter announcer etiquette every chance she got. Sterling, I don’t remember what he said, if anything. Waldman was not lying; the guy really did have a no-hitter going. She was just being evil. You don’t say “no-hitter” on the air. She knows that. Perhaps she forgot that, as Thoreau once said, that just because you have the right to say something does not mean that saying it is right.

I also distinctly remember both of them insulting, on the air, the park they were in (“a truly ugly ball park, no question”) and the then Devil Rays’ prior attempts to find a closer—”Why do you need a closer when you lose every game”? Waldman asked rhetorically. Besides the fact that no one loses every game, and every team needs a closer, the sarcasm was in my opinion uncalled for and unprofessional. Apparently the Rays, who won the pennant that year, lost a few less than every game, and more importantly, more—way more—than her beloved Yankees.

In my opinion, Waldman was being mean-spirited, evil, and above all, highly unprofessional by deliberately violating announcer etiquette. She’s a bitch, and she deserves to be called out. She has ruined every potential no-hitter I’ll ever hear or see, because I’ll always hear her annoying voice in my head. Suzyn, if you’re reading this, fuck you. 

Like many of you, I had not seen even a preview of the much-discussed Pam Tebow/Focus on the Family spot. And honestly, by the time it rolled around I didn’t much care. In fact, I cared so little I missed the thing and didn’t even care that I missed it. I missed it because I was over at the neighbors’ house, and to my perplexment discovered they don’t own a television. Just my luck. I went back to my house and tuned in to the Super Bowl with eight minutes and change left in the first quarter, and Indy up 3-0.

I did manage to see the Tebow spot later, as there were myriad links on various web sites pointing thereto. However, even though I disagree with just about everything Focus on the Family stands for, I have to admit that when Dr. Dobson said it was a big nothing, and people were making a big deal about it, he was right. Here’s the commercial you should be concerned about: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wq58zS4_jvM

For those who don’t feel like clicking the link, this is the “Green Police” spot created for the Audi A3 TDI, putatively an environment-preserving vehicle. The part that set me off, if you’ve been following my posts, is the scene where the homeowner is carted off in handcuffs for the unforgiveable sin against humanity, the horror, of installing incandescent light bulbs in his home’s light fixtures.

California, as you know from hanging out at Shut Your Everloving Piehole Central, has already tried the stunt of banning incandescent lightbulbs, albeit with a five-year phase-in (https://shutyoureverlovingpiehole.wordpress.com/2009/09/29/just-because-its-good-for-you/). In 2012—not that far away—you could be looking at an extended stay in the Graybar Hotel, or at least being fined hundreds if not thousands, for simply lighting a room in your home with a good old Tom Edison light bulb. But that’s not the only place you can find incandescents. Christmas tree lights? Car headlamps and taillamps? Warming bulbs on a cafeteria steam table, for crap’s sake? All illegal.

The worst part, besides the possibility of such an Orwellian scenario being frightfully close to fruition, is that us changing lightbulbs isn’t going to make a shit bit of difference as long as other countries keep belching smoke into the air from their industrial output.

As well, the poetic justice of a German car company running an ad for such a pure expression of fascism is not lost on me. How about you?

For the love of the game

September 29, 2009

I’m sitting here listening to the Orioles post-game radio show, as has been my habit this season  (they lost to the Red Sox, 11-5). Gary Thorne is interviewing Dave Trembley, who, interestingly, has never played professional baseball. (He’s really an educator. He has a master’s degree in education. I think his value to a team comes from his experience in coaching adult athletes and knowing how to  motivate them, not so much from actual techniques. That’s what his coaching staff is for.) Trembley mentioned that earlier this week, Brooks Robinson popped his head into the clubhouse, and the younger players gathered around for autographs, advice, and stories. Trembley himself had never met Brooks until this week. He talks about a “presence,” which I find amusing,  but that’s his opinion. Trembley retold a story Brooks told about a season in which, after a very good season (did he ever have any other kind?), he held out for more money during spring training. Brooks didn’t mention the year, but he did say that  Harry Dalton was the O’s GM at the time, which would put it in the 1965-1971 timeframe, a very successful period for the Orioles indeed. Eventually, Brooks got what he was asking for. The disputed sum? An extra $500/week.

I hear a lot of baseball clichés thrown around and misconceptions passed on, in both the national and local media. One of the ones that bugs me the most is the following: Today’s baseball players are in it for the money. Not like the old days, when they were in it for the love of the game.

This is—how can I put this politely?—total bullshit. Let’s deconstruct this, shall we?

1) Many of today’s fans forget what baseball life was like before free agency. From listening to some of them, I gather that they think that guys like Brooks Robinson were routinely offered salaries similar to today’s salaries, and turned then down. “Naw, I don’t need millions,” they must have said in this alternative universe. “Just give me $23,000. I’ll play for the love of the game.” The reality is that baseball’s reserve clause, along with decades of owner collusion, depressed salaries. In a nutshell, the reserve clause stated that when a player’s contract with a team expired, the team nevertheless retained rights to that player. If you’re thinking, gee, that doesn’t sound like any contract I know, you’re right. The player had two choices: demand a trade or release, or sigh and trudge back to the same team to sign another contract. In addition, the team losing the player in question had the right to demand “equal value” from the team eventually signing the player. So, for example, let’s go back to Brooks Robinson. He won the American League MVP award in 1964. Let’s suppose he decided to ditch the Orioles in 1965 in search of more money and sign with, say, the Tigers. (And Lord knows the Tigers could have used him at third base instead of Don Wert…but I digress.) The Tigers would have been obligated to, not so much reimburse, as compensate the Orioles for Robinson’s departure, in players, cash, or a combination. So there was no real advantage to a player to go elsewhere, as a team would be reluctant to try for such a player knowing they’d have to compensate his old team.

Brooks Robinson’s salary in 1965, according to http://www.brooksrobinsontribute.com/, was $50,000. Think about that. Fifty thousand dollars. That’s it. I make more than that now, for crap’s sake. That’s what he was able to squeeze out of the Orioles’ front office after winning the MVP award.  

The fact is that players didn’t play for millions back then because millions simply weren’t there. Even Mickey Mantle, a near-god on a very rich team in the biggest market in baseball, never made a base salary of more than $100,000 in a season. 

Consider also the June 11, 1969 entry in Ball Four by Jim Bouton:

In the bullpen it was can you top this on general managers. Bob Locker told this one about a contract argument with Ed Short, general manager of the White Sox. This was after Locker had had his best season in 1967—77 games, 125 innings and a 2.09 ERA. It was a year after Phil Regan of the Dodgers had had his super year—14-1 and a 1.62 ERA—in relief. [Blogger’s note: The save statistic was not introduced to MLB until 1969.] Short had offered Locker $16,000 and he was asking for $18,000. Short said he was asking a lot and that what the hell, Regan had just signed a contract for $23,000. “If Regan is making only $23,000  then I’m asking too much,” Locker said. “You check that. If he signed for $23,000 I’ll sign for $16,000.”
The next day Short called him and said, “I called Buzzie Bavasi (the Dodger GM) and he told me Regan was making $23,000 this year.”
“All right,” Locker said. “I’ll take the $16,000.”
After he signed he got to thinking about it and just for the hell of it he wrote Regan a letter. He asked in Regan would mind telling him about what he had signed for. And Regan wrote back saying he’d signed for $36,000.
“You know, you don’t mind a guy deceiving you a little during contract negotiations,” Locker said. “You get used to it. The all do it. But when a guy just outright lies to your face, that’s too much.”

Ball Four is full of anecdotes like this. Ever since receiving the book in original hardcover edition as a birthday present, I’ve been influenced by the looks Bouton provides us behind the scenes, and no influence is greater than that of my opinion on player salaries, as well as my opinion of people who think baseball players (but, oddly, not football or basketball  players) are paid way too much.

2) For many ballplayers of the 20th century, baseball was their ticket out of a dismal life prospect otherwise. Mickey Mantle is the canonical example here. (Babe Ruth, of course, was another.) Growing up in rural Oklahoma in a family in which cancer ran, Mantle expected to work in the mines like his father, and apparently also expected to die young. Except he could run like the wind. And his father, determined to insure a better life for his son, taught him to hit a baseball from both sides of the plate. Mutt Mantle died at age 39 of Hodgkin’s disease. Would we rather his son have had the same life?

3) Today’s players don’t need baseball to make a good living. Many of them have college degrees. In the local media, Mike Mussina is held up to us as the canonical example here. He has a degree in economics from Stanford and could easily have had a career in finance, banking, or even as an economics professor. His Orioles teammate, Jeff Ballard, also graduated from Stanford, his degree being in geophysics. Ballard had his day in the sun, and last I heard is a seismologist in Montana, which I guess can be a pretty cool job if you’re interested in earthquakes. And Jim Poole, another Oriole from that era, has a degree in engineering from Georgia Tech. And those are just a few of the guys I know about. You no doubt can think of players on your favorite team who would have had a great career without baseball.

Okay. So, if the players of forty and fifty years ago didn’t play just for the love of the game, and the players of today aren’t in it for the money, what motivates players today?

In a word: WINNING. Dan Patrick held focus groups with MLB players some years ago, and their raison d’êtrewas nearly unanimous: winning. It’s all about the ring. These are highly competitive people. And, as Roger Clemens or Brett Favre can affirm, winning is addictive. You win one, you want to win another. To these guys, the thrill is like no other in the world.

Anyone who knows me knows the following about me, among other things: I have eclectic taste in men (see Friday’s posts). I’m a sports nut. I’m competitive. I love to shop. I love cosmetics. (I’m one of a few women who’s not out of place doing my nails while watching NFL games on TV.) But here are a couple of seemingly random facts about me which actually intersect these days: I admit to a certain amount of conflict about G-d, and I believe the Bill of Rights is the most important document in human history.

So you can imagine my annoyance when, shortly after September 11, 2001, “G-d Bless America” began replacing or preceding “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” between halves of the seventh inning at some MLB games. I was an employee at Oriole Park @ Camden Yards at the time. Eventually, the song became mandatory listening during the seventh inning stretch at all MLB games on Sundays.

This is so wrong on so many levels. Most of the standard reasons are already out there in the blogosphere, but I’ll put my two cents in anyway:

  • Stadiums are not churches. If I want a sermon, I know where (and when) to go to hear one.
  • Oriole Park @ Camden Yards is one of a handful of stadiums that are actually not private property, but public. In the case of OP @ CY, the owner is the Maryland Stadium Authority, a division of Maryland state government. The Orioles pay rent to the MSA each year, as do the other tenants of the property such as the Sports Legends Museum. Several people have raised the issue of separation of church and state created by playing a religious song in a public building.
  • I worked a few hundred games after 9/11/2001, plus attended several dozen as a fan, and have observed a disappointing but predictable behavior: When the PA announcer tells the audience the song is about to be played, and would everyone please rise “and the gentlemen remove their caps,” everyone does so. Like sheep. It gets dead quiet in Camden Yards. Quieter than it gets for the real national anthem. Folks, I have news for you: “G-d Bless America” is not the national anthem. There is about as much obligation to remove one’s headwear for it as for “Happy Birthday to You.” And of course, removing one’s headwear in a religious gesture is uniquely Christian. Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus all cover the head in the presence of the Almighty rather than reveal it. If these people want to show respect, this churchlike behavior should be exhibited during “The Star-Spangled Banner,” not during the seventh-inning stretch.
  • Has it ever occurred to these sheeple that this ostentatious display of piety is exactly why the rest of the world hates us? G-d is too big to fit into one religion. Even Jesus himself said to pray like no one’s watching (Mt 6:1-18). Wearing one’s religion on one’s sleeve can be dangerous. As long as we’re talking about ostentatious displays, by the way, here’s my favorite quote of late: “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carry a cross.” (Look it up, people.)
  • Bud Selig is Jewish, yes. That doesn’t make it right, or persuade me to agree with it. The whole world is so much more than Judeo-Christian. Actually, regarding MLB, the real issue here is that Selig decided and decreed all by himself that all MLB parks  will do this.  (Maybe I should say vill do ziss.) Selig is also the commissioner who unilaterally decreed that all MLB teams will retire uniform number 42, supposedly to honor Jackie Robinson. Insert eyeroll here. I don’t want to get off the topic too much here, but my point here is that Selig is a fascist dictator bureaucrat. No original opinion there.

So this Sunday, when I attended the Orioles-Indians game, I knew exactly what to expect during the seventh-inning stretch, and what I would do. Actually, I had several options: sit quietly, get up and visit the ladies’ room, or leave. I ended up sitting quietly. One fan behind me, apparently an Indians fan visiting for the weekend, also remained seated. Most of the people around me actually didn’t rise at first, but did so by the time the song got to “Stand beside her.” I get the feeling some people stood because they were feeling peer pressure, not necessarily because they were being blindly patriotic. If so, that’s encouraging.

During the song, I made eye contact with a Baltimore City police officer who was standing at the back of the section. He did nothing. Too bad. In a way, I wished he would have done to me what the cops at Yankee Stadium did to Bradford Campeau-Laurion a year ago (http://atheism.about.com/b/2005/04/19/religious-fascism-at-yankee-stadium.htm). I can use the money.

Here are a few other pages that express my feelings on this subject very well.  

http://blog.filmjabber.com/2008/07/08/ban-god-bless-america-at-mlb-baseball-games/comment-page-1/

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/436602/get_your_god_out_of_my_face_pg2.html

http://deadspin.com/5042588/so-yankee-stadium-takes-this-no-moving-during-god-bless-america+thing-rather-se (interview with Brad Campion)

http://blog.beliefnet.com/windowsanddoors/2009/07/god-bless-america-lawsuit-is-s.html

I’m sitting here listening to the Orioles game on the radio (they beat the Red Sox, 6-2,if you’re interested), and also listening to the post-game and its advertisements and PSAs. A frequent PSA I hear comes from smartsteps.gov and the Ad Council, exhorting our children to eat more bananas.

Bananas are a great food, no doubt about it. Everybody loves ’em! They’re tasty, versatile, relatively inexpensive, available year-round, chock-full of a variety of nutrients, and portable. I consider them the perfect bicycle food. On a segment in the Discovery Channel show Home Matters, they claimed that bananas are the top-selling produce in America.

But we don’t need the government to tell us what to eat.

I’ll be updating this post as needed to relate other government-sponsored PSAs, both radio and TV, that dictate personal behavior and conduct. In fact, if I sit here long enough, I’ll be hearing another one on the Orioles post-game show, exhorting fathers to be more participatory parents. (Yup! As I’m typing this, it came up. Fatherhood.gov. I don’t put these in hyperlinks because I don’t want any of you thinking I support them dictating personal behavior.)(And as I was typing that, another one came up. Losetheexcuse.gov, exhorting us to conserve energy. by doing common-sense things like turning out unwanted lights in the house. How much of your tax dollars were wasted on the creation of a PSA telling you to do something you probably do already?)

McNair Update

July 7, 2009

I find myself going over the newly revealed circumstances of the McNair shooting the way some people obsessed over the angles of the JFK assassination. As of right now, the insinuation is that the paramour bought the gun and used it to kill him and herself.

Ballistic tests will prove one way or the other (like DNA, ballistic tests do not lie), but for her to grease him doesn’t make sense. McNair was Sahel Kazemi’s sugar daddy and meal ticket. Supposedly he was going to divorce his wife and marry her. She got lavish gifts from a very rich, still young man. Why would she want to fuck that up?

On another site I posted that the two most powerful forces in society are money and pussy. This whole event, of course, has aspects of both. I am going to go out on a limb here and predict that an autopsy on Miss Kazemi will reveal an early pregnancy.

Steve McNair

July 5, 2009

A friend and I have a casual game going in which we win $1 off the other person when someone dies on our list of about 85 celebrities each. So I tend to keep track of the deaths of well-known people on an international, a national, and even a local level. The past two weeks have not been good for well-known people. They say these things go in threes. Well, the past ten days have seen it go in sixes—Ed McMahon (okay, old and sick, but he led a good life), Farrah Fawcett (cancer sucks, no two ways about it), Michael Jackson (no comment), Karl Malden (damn! he almost made it to 100. What a big life!), Billy Mays (both Jackson and Mays were within a month of my age), and now Steve McNair. (No, I didn’t forget Fred Travalena, Alexis Arguello, and Jan Rubes; I’m just putting them on Tier B for this discussion.) Of this group, McNair’s death is the one that made me blurt out “Holy shit!” the loudest. Good thing I was at home at the time.

Born on a holiday (2/14/73), died on a holiday, McNair was well-liked and admired by Ravens fans and our community at large. After a string of flubbed quarterback experiments (Stoney Case, anyone?), it was great to see a real QB success in a Ravens uniform. McNair took this team far. It didn’t hurt that a few of his coworkers (Mason, Rolle) came over at the same time he did. The Ravens floundered in the years between their Super Bowl win and McNair’s arrival. I never met him in person, but he seemed like a genuinely nice guy and a great role model for his teammates.

What I as a libertarian would hate to see happen, yet I know it will, is for his death to be politicized as a referendum on handgun ownership and gun control.  Tougher gun laws wouldn’t have stopped the shooter from getting hold of a gun.  They never have.