Thursday, April 25, 2019

Never Understood Why People Liked "Friends," Either

The NFL draft is a very important event for pro football, so it's perfectly understandable that fans pay it a lot of attention.

The draft, being an event with hundreds of as-yet unknowable conclusions, is a perfect means of creating arguments. Fans of all sports love arguments, so I get that element of the draft's appeal as well.

The draft's popularity as a television show, however, I will never understand. It combines the worst features of two genres, the game show and the reality program, that are basically ignored by anyone too young to be the target of those safe bathtub ads with Pat Boone. Why the Internet hasn't killed it as dead as your daily local newspaper is beyond me.

Boil it all down, the draft is a list of names. There's nothing the Internet does better than lists. Moreover, those lists can be easily correlated with the five kazillion pre-draft lists detailing the bona fides of all possible selections along with four kazillion conflicting opinions on same. These are precooked sports arguments -- just add the clicks and serve.

Anyone with even modest digital literacy can do all this on their phone or laptop while putting their TV to better use, indeed, about the only use it has left, the live broadcasting of sports events. There is no need for the tawdry and utterly predictable "show" of the televised draft. All of us have heard Roger Goodell booed, thank you. It's an old routine that palled sometime before the end of Deflategate.

The Bruins play the Islanders at 7 pm EDT. The Spurs and Nuggets tip off at 8. The Stars and Blues drop the puck at around 10. I mean, you could even watch baseball. All are superior entertainment to the draft broadcasts.

And yet, those broadcasts will be, as they always are, the highest rated sports programming of this night and indeed week. Why this is I do not know, but I have a guess. It isn't just that pro football is popular. I think it has more to do with why I watch reruns of "Perry Mason" so old and predictable I can name the murderer before the second commercial break, or why "The Simpsons" is still on the air.

TV satisfies the human need for the familiar.

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Probably Wants to Sit By Himself on the Team Bus Today

Jorge Polanco of the Minnesota Twins hit for the cycle last night. It was only the 280th time in history a batter had a single, double, triple and home run in a single game. Polanco had another single for good measure for a perfect five for five night at the plate.

We can assume the Twins' celebration of this feat was somewhat muted by the game's final score, which was Phillies 10 - Twins 4.

How could this happen? Cursory research, the only kind that gets done here, does not reveal how many of those 280 games were won by the teams whose players hit for the cycle, but logic says it has to be a very high percentage, and those lost must have been slugfests of the 13-11 variety. A cycle is 10 total bases (Polanco had 11). His OBP for the game was 1.000, his slugging percentage 2.200. How could such prowess fail to push one whole bunch of other Twins to home plate?

Polanco's own box score line tells the story. He scored but one run and drove in but one. That is, except for his solo homer, Polanco's slugging produced exactly nothing for the Twins.

This was of course not his fault. The other Twins went a sizzling 6 for 33 against Philadelphia pitching which for at least one guy was no mystery. They didn't get on base before Polanco came up, and they didn't do anything to advance him around the bases, either. Seldom has the old dugout adage "pick him up" been so thoroughly stood on its head. There was a 2004 Red Sox-Mariners game where Ichiro had four singles, stole second four times, and had no runs scored nor RBI, but that's the closest case I can remember.

What does Polanco's night of personal grandeur and massive frustration tell us? It's a simple lesson which is forgotten millions of times a day by otherwise well-informed fans and commentators. Baseball is primarily a game of Individual performance. "Primarily" and "wholly" are not synonyms.

The cruelest thing of all about Polanco's performance is that baseball being baseball, he's very likely to end an inning with a strikeout with the bases loaded in his next game.