Archive for the ‘Baseball’ Category

Home is where the baseball is

September 18, 2007

(From The Spin)

It was just about a year ago that I started to feel homesick.

I was studying abroad in London, a whopping 3,500 miles from New York. But it wasn’t the distance that made me long for home. It wasn’t England’s funny currency, or the funny way English people talked. It wasn’t even their funny way of driving on the wrong side of the street.

It was baseball.

See, the UK follows baseball like we follow Buzkashi. People just didn’t care.

Sure, there were some options. I could Skype a friend and have him give me a play-by-play, but my friend was no John Sterling. I could go to the one sports bar that claimed to show baseball games, but thanks to the time difference it closed before most games even started.

So I settled for my only other option: I bought MLB.tv, baseball’s expensive and buggy online service.

In theory, MLB.tv gave my laptop live access to all games. But in practice, it only gave me access to a frozen image of A-Rod striking out and a never-changing caption that read “Buffering… 5%.” Trying to get MLB.tv to work was the nadir of my study-abroad experience, and probably my life. I still have nightmares.

So it’s kind of a downer that now, only about 100 miles from Yankees Stadium, I’m having the same frustrating experience. Baseball fans know that these two weeks are the most important in the entire season – whether your team makes it to the playoffs or not gets decided in the next dozen or so games. And baseball fans who aren’t “phans” know that practically none of these games will get televised. For Yankees faithful, a game against the Devil Rays is just as crucial as one against the Red Sox. Unfortunately, Philadelphia cable providers don’t feel the same way.

But there’s some hope. The Fox & Hound, located at 1501 Spruce Street, is a sports bar chain that prides itself in showing “national, regional and local sporting and other televised events.” Does that include Yankees games? “Oh yeah,” said a perky F&H employee. “I feel like whenever I’m here the Yankees are on. We definitely have a package or something.”

And if you want to stay on campus, College Sophomore Adam Mandelsberg insists that MLB.tv is reliable: “It freezes up sometimes, but AirPennNet has pretty good reception.” All I know is you want to stay away from it if you’re a Mac user.

As a last resort, Yankees fans can fashion a tinfoil antenna/helmet, go to the rooftop lounge of High Rise South, tune into 880 AM, and face whichever direction the Yanks are playing.

Through all that hissing static, you might just hear a little piece of home.

Animal Cruelty vs. Gambling: Which Do I Give Less of a Shit About?

August 15, 2007

Professional sports are going through a rough patch. Tim Donaghy, an NBA referee, just pleaded guilty to felony charges of conspiracy and gambling. He gave inside information to bettors and went so far as to bet on games he was reffing. Donaghy faces up to 25 years in prison. Meanwhile, Michael Vick, the immensely talented but underperforming quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, has been charged with sponsoring dog fights. He’s currently working on a plea bargain that will land him no more than a year in jail, but if it falls through he could face up to 6 years. We’ll see what kind of punishment Barry Bonds gets for using HGH and then lying to a jury about it.

Pumping steroids, dogfighting, illegal gambling — these sound like the national pastimes of most countries in the EU. So I don’t get why the US is so infatuated with dishing out immensely harsh penalties for them.

Let’s be honest: our government is hypocritical when it comes to gambling. It’s illegal, unless you’re an American Indian. Or you’re on a boat. Or you live in any of 15 states that allow it. Or, as is the case with the Lotto, the government is taking advantage of you directly. Then it’s fine.

As for dogfighting, it’s like the poor black urban version of Dungeons & Dragons. You give your dog all sorts of potions (read: cocaine) to enhance its performance. If you win, your dog gets (along with crazy XP) to rape the other dog’s bitches. If you lose, you have to drown your dog or something. I dunno, maybe it’s nothing like D&D. But I bet it’s pretty sweet. Besides, there’s no scientific literature showing that dogs are happier sitting around getting obese than they are tearing the shit out of each other.

But in the end, it’s not about condoning gambling or dogfighting. It’s not about showing how ridiculous the national attitude toward gambling is (really ridiculous) or about how lame groups like PETA are (really lame). It’s about looking at those crimes and realizing they’re way too petty to get the jail sentences — and the media coverage — that they do.

Sure, these guys have damaged the reputation of the NBA and the NFL, so if you want them out of those sports, fine. But sports should exist outside and beneath the “real world.” The fact that even now the Senate is conducting an investigation on steroids in baseball is the perfect symbol for our distorted national priorites are.

As a side note, when is this guy going to die?:

Death of Phil Rizzuto

August 14, 2007

I was about 9 years old when my grandfather gave me a baseball signed by Phil Rizzuto, some old guy who I hadn’t really heard of. Gramps had met “Scooter” at a charity golf tournament and, jokingly, asked him to sign a baseball for his grandfather. I guess he was looking for a laugh, but apparently Rizzuto didn’t get it, and just asked, “Sure thing! What’s your grandfather’s name?” Joke having sailed way over Scooter’s head, my 65 year-old Gramps dutifully responded, “Nick,” and so I got my ball.

rizzuto.jpg

I’d come to learn that this wasn’t Rizzuto’s only oblivious moment. During his Hall of Fame induction speech, he mentioned that he thought New Guinea was full of Italians. When keeping score during games, he coined the notation “WW” for plays where he wasn’t watching. Scooter’s scorecards must have been brimming with WWs, because some guys were able to make a poetry collection out of all his in-game musings. A few examples:

Two balls and a strike. You know what they had on TV today, White? “Bridge on the River Kwai.” Everybody should have gotten an Academy Award for that movie. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen it. About forty times. Alec Guinness! William Holden! Three and one the count. I just heard somebody whistle. You know that song? That’s what they whistle. Nobody out. And he pops it up.

Or,

The legs are so important.
In golf, they’re very,
People don’t realize
How important legs are in golf,
Or in baseball,
And football, definitely.
Track.
O, in track.
All-important.
Jumping.
Soccer.
Is there anything, what?
Is there anything where the legs
Are not the most important?

This guy was like Yogi Berra, minus the hidden insight. And like Berra, he’ll probably be remembered not for his on-field brilliance but for his off-the-field quirkiness. Not that I have a problem with that — it probably makes my ball more valuable. I’m accepting offers now at alphazeromail@gmail.com.