Wednesday, November 27, 2013

What Price Some Other Guy's Glory?

It wasn't me. If you take nothing else from the soon to be huge brouhaha over the claim by the sports/asshole's guide to life Website Deadspin that a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America sold his Hall of Fame vote to the site, promising to abide by the results of a reader poll, remember that. I didn't do it.

I didn't because doing so would've been a hideous violation of the ethics of any and all professions. Also, I wasn't asked.

But of course, like any normal baseball fan, and like all BBWAA members, I'm curious about two things. Who is the member who did this dirty deed? And how much was it worth?

Maybe the deed was only lightly soiled. Deadspin's somewhat laissez-faire attitude towards the 5Ws of journalism makes me wonder if perhaps the miscreant only gave away his vote, or had the site make a charitable donation. The former would be OK. I thought about doing it myself at the Herald by announcing a reader poll. Then I decided it was too much work. The latter would not be OK. You want to benefit some deserving charity? Reach into your own wallet or put in some sweat equity. Don't pretend selling out is for the benefit of mankind.

For now, let's assume the worst. The BBWAA member in question gave away his vote for the sport's ultimate honor in a straight cash homey transaction. That would be sad and disgusting. It would mean said person thinks a serious responsibility is just another fringe benefit of the trade Red Smith so accurately described as underpaid but overprivileged. It would mean said person basically holds what they cover or covered in deep contempt, unworthy of their own committed participation in its rituals. It would mean said person was a conniving grifter.

Last but not least, it would mean the vote seller was King of All Chumps. They sold out way too cheap, and the only justification for selling out is obtaining the absolute top dollar in the deal.

I don't know what Deadspin paid or donated to obtain this vote. But I guarantee there are demented fans of means out there who would've beaten the site's price by amounts that can only be expressed through algebra. Baseball cards go for ten of thousands. Sweaty, disgusting old uniform jerseys cost more than many Picassos. A Hall of Fame vote? Seven figures and a seat on a corporate board seems like a bid only slightly above median. There are many folks rich enough to buy entire baseball teams. Until now, none of 'em could purchase a Hall vote. Supply and demand works without regard for morality.

Sooner or later, probably sooner, the seller's identity will be revealed. I sincerely hope it is not a BBWAA member I know personally. That would be depressing. I do hope it was one of the voters who cast blank ballots last year to protest the "cheating" of performance-enhancing drug use by baseball players. That would be hilarious.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Few Stories Put Their Moral in the Middle

Football is a game of momentum and/or funny bounces, this blog has learned.

Aside from the validation of two of the three oldest and truest cliches of the sport (couldn't work "game of inches" into the lede despite my best efforts), there was no Big Picture I could see as I drifted off to sleep after last night's engrossing if quite odd 34-31 Patriots' victory over the Broncos. No new Big Picture anyway.

Pats a good team hard to beat? Knew that already. Ditto for the Broncos. Good teams winning almost all of their home games against other good teams in the 2013 NFL season? That's been a trend visible since before Columbus Day. Tom Brady, still good player? Now, THERE'S breaking news for you.

Instead, I submit that a game in which almost all the biggest plays were funny bounces, especially the biggest play of all, there are no trends, no new information to be processed. If you, dear reader, can correctly divine whether from here on in the Patriots will resemble the invincible outfit of the third quarter or the invisible one of the first half, well, you've got me beat. Also Don Shula.

OK, maybe Brady will have an edge over Peyton Manning the next time the two teams play with the hurricane flags out, but really, what are the odds there? There's a much lower chance of that than of Manning correctly deducing that by giving Knowsheon Moreno the night of his career, Manning was maybe the best defender against himself New England had on the field.

Rousing wins/horrible losses are to be enjoyed or suffered. Otherwise, what's the point of watching games at all? Pats fans should be delighted this afternoon, and Broncos fans dispirited to homicidal. May I recommend, however, that by happy hour they emulate their two squads of heroes and forget the game as completely as they can.

Cris Collinsworth made me laugh last night. Sometime early in overtime, he opined that the game would benefit both teams, as it would provide priceless psychic conditioning for the playoffs. As a former player, Cris should know better. By January, this game won't be a memory for Denver and New England. It'll be just another video overwatched by the assistant coaches. Short-term memory loss has more causes than just concussions.  Hell, by Wednesday both clubs will be more or less (and it better be more) absorbed by their next opponent. In the NFL, the events of two months ago are as remote to the consciousness as the Napoleonic Wars.

Amnesia is one the most primal survival tools of professional sports. Nothing will be better for Denver's damaged souls than the next game. Nothing will be better suited for keeping the Pats from reliving their triumph, too. Doesn't mean Denver will beat the Chiefs next Sunday, nor even that the Pats will beat Houston. It just means that these men are too busy for memories right now. They will derive no lasting conclusions from last night's game, except maybe "turnovers are bad." Nor should they.

The Broncos will not see themselves as one-down to New England. Do you think the Pats regard the outcome of the Panthers game as the last word on their respective merits as teams?

Wins are better than losses, so the Pats are better off today than they were and the Broncos worse. How much better? How much worse? Nobody knows.

A whole lot of commentators, however, will spend their week not thinking of the next game, but proving just how extensive that lack of knowledge is.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Get Me the Patent Office on Line One, Stat!

A group of irritatingly demented Red Sox fans are circulating a petition to have baseball declare the 1904 Red Sox World Champions for that year, being awarded the World Series because the New York Giants refused to play them due to various personal vendettas of Giants owner Albert Brush and manager John McGraw.

Besides being stupid, this petition is morally deplorable. Where's the sportsmanship in winning a title in the hearing room? Don't you think MLB's lawyers have enough to do getting ready for battle with Alex Rodriguez? No, this dispute should be settled as gentlemen do it, on the field. The virtual field, that is.

If ever I saw a concept that needed a video game, it's the 1904 World Series. Just the computer graphics of the uniforms would be a delight. As for the competition, well, Game One starters Christy Mathewson and Cy Young might be a decent matchup for coach-bound managers. I certainly hope virtual McGraw would get ejected from at least one game.

Historical accuracy would be a must. Part of the fun this game would provide would be gamers having to adjust to a sports game where the players weren't superhuman, where the ball was dead and swinging away produced pop-ups, not homers. Sabermetricians wouldn't like it, but learning how to bunt would be no lower than lesson three in how to win.

Our country has hundreds of thousands of sick baseball fans who're also avid gamers, an almost infinite number of unemployed video game developers and more than enough professional and amateur baseball historians to do the required spadework and provide stats for the programmers. All that's lacking is the will.

How about MLB? How about it EA Sports? Put your shoulder to the wheel and you can have this baby in the stores by Opening Day 2014.

Don't forget to make Vin Scully and Roger Angell the announcers. Or, seeing as there was no radio or TV back then, hire some unemployed sportswriters to compose stories for little newspaper front pages that'll pop up on the game screen as the action progresses.

I know one who's available.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

"Uncatchable" Was a Way Better Song When Nat King Cole Did It

Cheer up, Patriots fans! Losing a game on a weird, inexplicable walk-off call by an official isn't the end of the world. Why, the last team it happened to in our fair city/region never lost another game!

Oh, sorry, wasn't really listening there for a second. You say this is the SECOND time it's happened to New England this season? Forget what I said. Obviously they're completely screwed.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Guesswork Is a Kind of Work

Dilemma the first for journalism as is follows: Reality is very complex, but people desperately want to believe it isn't.

Dilemma the second: Even if there was a market for complex reality, the human attention span means there's no medium in which one can transmit without putting everyone to sleep, the transmitter included.

Dilemma the first for journalism consumers: Journalists, being people of a sort, also to believe reality is simple.

Dilemma the second: Nobody keeps a job commentating by frequent use of phrase "We don't know, so why don't we wait and find out."

Want to see all four of these dilemmas brought to room temperature, folded into the blender, and melded into the ingredients of a bullshit souffle? Sunday's your day. If you're up early, you can watch the Washington political talk shows, where what happened this week is what will happen for all time to come. If you are a sensible soul who'd rather sleep late, then the NFL pregame shows are for you. Hours and hours of reasonable knowledgeable (well, some of 'em), well-paid, expensively clothed folk denying the central fact of the sport -- nobody knows a damn thing about how it's playing out, and so far in 2013, they know less than that.

As far as I'm concerned, the most telling fact about pro football this autumn (in terms of the game as a game , the true significant fact is that the fooball's violence and the mindset needed to cope with it are starting ever so slowly to turn people off) is that there's one undefeated team in the league, and not only is it not considered a favorite to reach the Super Bowl, no one, not even its own fans, is all that sure it's really a good team at all. I'm sure some clod on the Kansas City Chiefs has played the hackneyed no respect sonata in the locker room this week, but what's actually bugging him is the awesome power of conventional wisdom. Back in August, we didn't think this would happen. In November, therefore, it can't be happening and those standings are the product of a wicked illusionist.

It's easy to mock the football commentariat, whose love of straight-line projection equals that of their D.C. brethren. But pity them, too. It's not easy to be confidently assertive week in and week out when the prime reality of each week's games has been staggering levels of inconsistency.

Want a team for an example? Try those Colts. Indianapolis has victories against Denver and Seattle, those teams' only losses. They also got waxed by 30 at home by the Rams. Care to offer a prediction on the Colts' December? Don't bring money if you do.

Want a game for an example? Couldn't do better than the Pats-Dolphins tilt. New England was utterly incompetent for the first 30 minutes and equally invincible for the second. Which was reality, which the illusion? Who knows?

In a sane world, the commentariat would rejoice at the complexity of a season where nobody would bet a farthing on what's coming next. Suspense is kind of the point of spectator sports, isn't it? Instead, in sorrow more than anger, they murmur about how "there are no great teams this year" and then joyously resume straight-line projections based on the weekend's games that completely refuted their straight-line projections of the previous week.

Because they had a bye last week, the Patriots have been the beneficiaries of TWO weeks of straight-line projection, heaping mounds of happy assertions that since they humiliated the Steelers' defense, Tom Brady and his offensive mates are back in gear, and New England is ticketed for the AFC Championship game at least.

Maybe so. It's not a ridiculous guess. But it's a guess all the same, and a guess all the riskier for being made in the teeth of so much evidence that it's best to keep one's guesses to oneself in the NFL these days.

But what is a blog, any blog, it not commentary. I'm as stuck as the ones who get paid for it. But I'll try an observation rather than a prediction. The Patriots, while inconsistent, have been less inconsistent than most. This strikes me as about the most valuable NFL asset of 2013. Maybe it's the only one that matters.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Am I the Only Boston-Area Resident Who...

Could really use a little break from the Dropkick Murphys right about now? My first reaction to seeing them on stage at Marty Walsh's victory celebration last night was "Oh, no, them again?!"

They're a good band. Their act is worth catching. It is not an act worth catching on a daily basis, and lately, the Dropkicks have been inescapable. The World Series! Marty Walsh! The Red Sox Parade!! OK, OK, I get it. You're loyal Bostonians through and through. So are a lot of other people, and they're not going around acting like the city's Garage Band Laureate, a post that last time I looked did not exist, although I wouldn't put it past Walsh to appoint them.

Don't go away forever, gang. We can still be friends. It's just I think we start seeing other people, in your case, people somewhere else. Aren't bands supposed to love life on the road? They always sing about it. A three month concert tour would be just the thing to get the creative flow going again in time for next baseball season.

If they like you in Boston, they'll love you in Auckland, Melbourne, Singapore and Bangkok!