Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A new scourge

There is a new infestation. A race of mutants that must be stopped. At first glance, they appear to have tremendous power. In reality, they are weak and easily defeated. Their weakness is exposed as they roam our streets.

They are not born, they are made. Because they have been created, they can be destroyed. It will take many years and perhaps we will have to endure loss of lives, but the loss will be worth the gain to society.

I'm talking about the Walk and Text crowd. Hoards of people roaming around with their heads down, texting on their so-called Smartphones. Their self-indulgence leads them into awkward situations with the humans walking toward them. Those who are walking with their heads up can see the approaching WAT (Walk and Texter) and dutifully avoid them as the WAT's gaze continues downward. Sometimes they do not know that they have come within inches of a collision, as they never alter their downward gaze.

Our duty as upright walkers is not to avoid them, but to continue on our path and run into them. There may be dislocated thumbs, bumped shoulders or other minor injuries, but the resulting lesson learned by the WAT will be worth our effort. One by one, stories of WATs being walked into will spread amongst their legions and either they will learn to stop walking while they are using their phone or they will evolve into a race of mutants with a bat-like ability to sense motion through antennae in their forehead.

Either way, we win.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Somebody should write this stuff down.

This is two days in a row I've written about baseball. Not on purpose, just because it's the game I know the most about and it's the game that has some of the most ridiculous behavior in sports.

It's also a game
where unwritten rules are just as important as the ones that are in the rule book. Players all know them and when one of their brethren break them, there is Hell to pay - or at least a hefty fine.

One of the unwritten rules is that you're not supposed to steal a base when your team is leading by a substantial margin. What the margin is and when it is determined to be insurmountable, only the people who write the unwritten rule book know. It's a sliding scale. By following that logic, when your team has a big lead, batters should go up and just strike out, since they don't need any more runs. OK.

When the Phillies' Jimmy Rollins stole second base on the San Francisco Giants while the Phils were leading by 6 is a flagrant violation of the unwritten rule book. Alter Placido Polanco drove Rollins in to score another run, the next batter, Shane Victorino was intentionally hit by a pitch.

That is the retaliation for breaking the unwritten rules. By placing blame on an innocent bystander, baseball inflicts its punishments in a strange fashion. Nevertheless, the tax on doing something that makes the other team look bad is having one of your teammates hit by a thrown baseball.

The ensuing fights are strikingly similar. The batter drops his only weapon, stares out at the pitcher, exchanges obscenities and the two lunge at each other. By this time, either the umpire or the catcher or both grabs one of the two idiots and try to wrestle them to the ground. On the rare occasions where the two actually confront each other, one of them lunges at the other and they wrestle around like a couple of girls. Meanwhile, the benches empty and melee ensues.

But the really ridiculous thing that happens is when the bullpens empty. Twenty guys run out of opposite (and sometimes adjoining) areas, run 400 feet and get there just in time to have had the fight broken up and order restored. They could have fought each other in the outfield and spared themselves the effort of running the length of the field for nothing. One day, a bullpen fight is going to break out and I want partial credit for bringing it on.

The next thing that happens is that Major League Baseball hands out some lame punishment, like suspending a pitcher for 5 days when he only works once every 5 days. He's really not missing the other 4 games because he hardly shows up anyway. Then they fine other participants the equivalent of fining you or I five dollars.

But on they go. Baseball is the only game that allows players on the benches to get involved in a fight. Hockey has a "third man in" rule, and as ridiculous as hockey fights are, at least the two guys who are angry with one another get the chance to settle it. Until one of them slips and the other one loses his grip on his jersey. Baseball fights hardly even get started.

It's laughable most of the time. Two guys who had weapons abandon them and run toward each other without the slightest idea of what they're going to do once they arrive at midpoint. They're obviously too busy thinking about the fine they're going to pay and the game they're going to miss. It's all very distracting and apparently effective at curbing violence as well.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Be a Sport.

You can't use sports as a metaphor for life. I'm not sure if anyone has tried, but it seems to me like someone has. Sports is so far separated from life, that to compare anything you do to something a professional athlete does is just plain silly.

Take, for example, the recent allegations that Yankees' third baseman Alex Rodriguez was caught in a high-stakes poker game with some rather distasteful people. Major League Baseball said something about it, to the point that a real investigation was performed. What MLB fails to realize is that these guys have two vital ingredients that work toward odd behavior: Money and time.
You pay these guys ridiculous sums of money - even the Major League minimum salary is close to a half million a year - and expect them to, what ... save it? They can't be on one side by paying the salaries that they pay and be on the other side by protesting what the guy does with the money. If you want people to behave, starve them financially and you won't have to worry about them being involved in anything that involves high stakes.

Fans aren't always any better an example. Recently, some fans in Boston went through a trash can to retrieve a foul ball. Baseball is the only sport where you get to take home a physical part of the game, and fans are relentless with the balls. I think the reason you can keep a stray baseball is that they're relatively cheap, at least when you compare the cost to a football or basketball. That's what makes the souvenir baseball so intriguing. They're cheap and not all that rare, and fans have done some odd things to take one home.
I wonder what the geological limit would be for fans to reach into something to get a souvenir ball? If the ball bounced into the Men's room and landed in a soiled toilet, would they reach in and grab it? I bet somebody would.

That sort of behavior contributes to the idea that sports doesn't align itself with real life. If I'm walking behind Al Pacino and he drops his pen, I'll give it back to him. I'm not anxious to leave the scene with an artifact. The polite thing for fans to to would be to give the ball back. But the reason they go to games is to escape reality, not be a part of it. So odd behavior at sporting events can also be justified.

Everything about sports is goofy. Food prices at the ballparks are outrageous,. It costs money to park your car at an event where you're paying to get in. People go to games wearing a shirt with somebody elses name on the back. And, if you go with a shirt that has your name on the back, you are ridiculed by the fan base.

They'll justify it by proclaiming, "I paid fifty bucks for this ticket, I'll do what I want!" When you add up the whole experience, it's more like you're into them for a hundred bucks. Suppose the school said that it would cost parents a hundred bucks to come to their child's high school graduation. Most of them would pay it, but they'd bitch like Hell. Meanwhile, they'll pay to watch a team play a sport, to the extent that they'll pay well in excess of the face value of the ticket for a chance to go to a game. Of course, some of those same people are paying seven bucks for cigarettes that will eventually kill them, so it seems to be a flexible spending plan.

Our priorities are out of whack.