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Posts Tagged ‘baseball’

If you’re a fan of baseball, which I am, the recent report from George Mitchell about steroid use is disappointing. It’s also unsurprising.  Maybe that’s because the other sport I loosely follow, professional cycling, has also been severely injured by recent drug use revelations. Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig made clear in a statement that although specific ballplayers whave been singled out in the report, there’s plenty of blame to go around – owners, managers, coaches and trainers. He didn’t mention fans, of course, and most of them professed shock that their heroes had allowed themselves to be seduced by the promise of performance-enhancing drugs. They worried about the accuracy of new records, the fairness of nominations to the Baseball Hall of Fame (Roger Clemens is up for a slot) and, oh yes, the kind of example it sets for their kids. Given the problems of steroid use among young high schoole athletes, I shouldn’t wonder they’d worry. Then again, given the recent spate of stories about overly-amped up parents with an eye on athletic scholarships pushing their children to succeed at all costs, maybe it’s the kids who should worry.

Frankly, the fans need to take some responsibility here. They’re the ones forking over the dough to see professional sports. Given the cost, they want more, which is understandable: harder faster, more speed on the ball, more balls out of the park. But come on. How do they think these high-priced guys pushing  past thirty-fives deliver the goods? What do they imagine sports franchises overlook in pursuit of the electric excitement they think their ticket-holders crave?

So what’s it gonna be, fans? More of the juiced up performances we’ve come to know or perhaps something a little less frenetic? There are plenty of talented players who don’t use drugs – or at least I will continue to hope so. Let’s send a message to the owners, managers, coaches, trainers and players that we, as consumers, are unwilling to accept a tainted product.

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It really does seem as if the definition of “newsworthy” has been blurred beyond recognition…or perhaps simply swallowed whole by the insatiable beast that is today’s insta-news. Really, how do you fill all that cyber-space and give all those talking heads something to say? You create stories out of nothing or do what my dad used to refer to as “making a mountain out of a molehill.” Take the story that circulated last week about Candidate Clinton’s Cough. Breaking news story, complete with portentious music lead-in. Puleeze, it wasn’t consequential enough to warrant the effort. Then there are the stories that feel recylced; indeed they are, with minor revisions.  My favorite? “Winter Heating Costs Could Rise As Much As 10.5 Percent.” Maybe the numbers have changed but I could swear we’ve seen that story every winter for decades.  Then there are the stories that trumpet the results of some study or other. After awhile, even media outlets get a little skeptical about whether a study that shows eating high-fat foods can lead to weight increase or children who exercise are healthier is news. I mean, duh. Sometimes you get stories that seem like retreads, even if they aren’t precisely. Headlines about Iraq and Pakistan begin to feel that way; someone even said to me about the latest natural disaster in Bangladesh – “again?” 

Yesterday’s news about Barry Bonds’ indictment  felt like an old, tired, unsurprising and even recylced story. Whether you think it’s consequential, i.e. newsworthy, probably depends on whether you see it as a cautionary tale of one man’s pursuit of a coveted record or our pursuit of an umblemished hero.

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On a humid gray Friday in mid-October when you have to wonder who forgot to order autumn or if Florida has decided to punish us for relocating our populations down there all these years by relocating its weather to the Northeast – on such an icky, sticky morning, it won’t do to dwell on the news. I mean, what do we have here: the House sustains the President’s veto on providing health care for uninsured children, because we wouldn’t want to start a trend of calling on government to aid its poorest citizens. Or how about the unrest, following the return of former Prime Minister Bhutto, in an already unstable Pakistan, whose alliance forms the cornerstone of our shaky Mid-East policy? Now that inspires confidence. Oh, the Coast Guard will be able to establish an operating base in the Arctic Ocean because the summers are warm enough now and because they want to be prepared to help clean up the environmental damage that will undoubtedly be caused by ships now seeking passage through the Bering Strait. Good to be prepared, right? For slightly lighter but not exactly happier news, we could read about the breakup of French President Sarkozy’s marriage or the bungled manner in which Yankees’ management handled their decision on Joe Torre. But I found something to brighten my day and it’s only a mouse-click away. No, it’s not pictures of cute puppies or heartwarming tales of reunited families. However, if you want to indulge your inner mean girl (or guy), break out the chocolates, pour yourself another cup (and don’t worry if you’re at the office – just be smart about noting who’s looking over your shoulder) and enjoy the reviews.

I’m talking about hitting up the movie section on MSN and going directly to “Celebrities Undressed,” a delightfully bitchy look at what some of our favorite famous ladies (and occasionally a few guys) wore to the latest red-carpet affair. Not being a celebrity blogger, I don’t follow the dish that regularly flows from sites like Perez Hilton or TMZ. But for a quick fix of low-cost, low-impact nastiness, the dressing-down of dressed-up stars can’t be beat. You can then return to your task, whether it’s crunching numbers, raising your kids, raising other people’s kids , waiting tables or waiting for the world to change, secure in the knowledge that no celebrities were seriously harmed during the making of your moment of fun during a dreary day.

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I’m more of a Mets fan than a Yankees follower (I retain a favored place for the hapless Cubs) but I’m a long-time fan of Joe Torre. The catcher (beginning with my hometown team, the Milwaukee Braves) turned manager (including several seasons for the Mets), has been a real class act over the last twelve years, a nice balance to the bombastic George Steinbrenner, who he has famously withstood. But twelve years is a long time, punctuated by several inglorious near-misses as well as those World Series wins, not to mention health scares for him and his family. So is it time for Torre to go? Even his admirers think that something’s gotta give. From the sports writers to the bean counters to the Ultimate Decider, everyone’s looking at job performance, return on investment and (hopefully) the team’s well-being. Someone is (or several someones are) then held accountable and action is taken. The Mets are going through the same painful process across town.

 

Accountability seems to be operational in sports, maybe because so much money is involved. Still, I can’t help but wonder why it doesn’t work better when it comes to our government. Technically, we’re all owners. It’s our money. Elections are coming up. Let’s take a page from the owners and hell, the fans and get more insistent about job performance, return on investment and the well-being of our nation. The buck’s gotta stop somewhere.

 

 

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The headlines are painful even if you’re a casual baseball fan and boy, are there headlines! For residents of the outer boroughs and certain parts of New Jersey who were addicted to the trials and tribulations of the team that almost was, today feels not just like deja vu all over again but like a new kind of torture especially designed for loyal fans. Does it hurt more when you fall from on high? You bet it does. Is it worse when you’ve come to the end of a roller coaster season? Oh yeah. How about if your team is beaten by the last-place Marlins or the team spot in the playoffs that was within its reach goes to a rival that earlier this year marked 10,000 losses, the most of any franchise? Don’t even go there. For the uninitiated, the Mets were seven games ahead – seven! – in mid-September and just a short three weeks later they were banished from post-season play by virtue of an unprecedented dive, one which will, in the words of one sports writer, “consign the 2007 Mets to baseball infamy.” Whether you blame the sluggish bullpen or the undependable Reyes or whether you’re ready to run the estimable Willie Randolph out of town on a rail, it’s all moot. We still remember the ball bouncing through Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner’s legs during the 1986 World Series (an error that resulted in a seventh game and a World Series title for the Mets, incidentally), so no one believes this meltdown will soon be forgotten – or even forgiven.

The hardest part is that I’ve watched the sports section in the New York Times for years to see if and when the Mets would top the Yankees for coverage and be featured consistently above the fold – the mark, in old-fashioned newspaper parlance, of a significant story. Well, they’ve made it, with the Yankees discretely consigned to page three while they rest up for their thirteenth consecutive payoff season. The Mets are all over page 1. But not like this, fellas, not like this!

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No Joy in Mudville

Philadelphia, stuck between snooty New York and power-hungry Washington, has always positioned itself as a Cinderella story waiting to happen. After all, Rocky ran the steps and proved that it’s possible to triumph over adversity. Yet Philadelphia sports fans, whose devotion borders on pathological, have been consistently punished for their loyalty. The old Veterans Stadium where the Eagles played until recently was considered one of the worst in the NFL, although it did have a holding pen for trouble-makers. Despite a slew of near-wins, the last championship team for the city was the 1983 Sixers. There are even “Tortured Philly Fan” T-shirts for sale that say “No cup. No Trophy. No Title. No Ring.” Now comes the news that the beloved but equally tortured Phillies have lost more games than any professional franchise in any sport. Not just baseball – any sport. During its 125 year history, the team has won exactly one championship but is closing in on 10,000 losses. Ouch, that’s gotta hurt.

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