Thursday, April 2, 2020

The Shock of a World Without Sports

It's amazing to realize that we didn't know what we had until it was gone:
The basic stuff of the sports section is in lockdown. The leagues and schools have stopped the play of game until it’s safe to come out again.
So what are those prodigiously talented and productive journalists who cover sports to do?
I began to ask myself that question after reading a fascinating email that someone forwarded from a listserv. The author, a Seattle architect named George Ostrow, gave me permission to reprint it:
A quarter or more of US newspaper pages and news broadcast minutes is devoted to sports coverage every day. The abrupt cancellation of professional and college sports over coronavirus concerns leaves a journalism vacuum. Player and fan reactions to the cancellations can fill a few days. But then what do you do when your subject matter disappears?
My earnest suggestion is to cover the many other competitions that Americans struggle with in obscurity. The homeless camp that survives the winter. The poor family who manages to put food on the table. The pastor who counsels addicts. The nonprofit that is turning life around for victims of domestic violence.
These stories and more are real contests that our fellow citizens engage in daily. They matter more than millionaires chasing balls. News readers and viewers could follow their successes and near misses just as they would those of their favorite quarterback. Cities could root for their local governments to build more housing than their rival city.
I have the great fortune of being able to do this on a barely even part-time basis. I'm lucky if I can come up with five posts in a month, which shows you what a well-tuned engine of a blog looks like. I cannot imagine how difficult it is for the people who have dedicated their lives to writing about and thinking about sports so that they talk about it effectively in front of other people.

This is a time of upheaval, and I don't think we know what the new normal will look like when we get to the other side. The frivolous things in life aren't so silly anymore. The loss of a season of basketball, baseball and hockey is bad enough. The fact that all of those leagues and more--the minor leagues, the development leagues, the colleges and high schools that see vast engagement in sports for men and women--are shut down and have to be asterisked or put on hold should tell you how serious things are.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Professional Bowling

The Professional Bowling Association is on hiatus like all of the other major sports, but why not check them out and see what you've been missing?
The Professional Bowlers Association has placed all tournament activities at all levels on hiatus indefinitely due to coronavirus concerns, PBA CEO Colie Edison announced today. Included in the postponements is the start of the 2020 PBA Playoffs which were scheduled to start on April 6.
The announcement, made out of an abundance of preventative caution, means all PBA Tour, PBA50 Tour and PBA Regional tournaments currently scheduled will be put on hiatus as the PBA complies with decisions made nationally and locally in a concerted effort to help avoid “community spread” of the COVID-19 virus. All scheduled events will be re-evaluated in early April.
The PBA postponed the final match play elimination rounds and television finals of the Storm PBA World Series of Bowling XI animal pattern championships (Go Bowling Cheetah, Chameleon and Scorpion Championships) that were scheduled to take place at South Point Bowling Plaza in Las Vegas Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, allowing all competitors including several international bowlers to return home before federal airline restrictions took effect.
The PBA World Championship finals were conducted Sunday instead of Wednesday, as originally planned, because the five finalists were on hand in Las Vegas and wanted to complete the 2020 Go Bowling PBA Tour’s fourth major championship. Australia’s Jason Belmonte won the event before an audience consisting only of a handful of PBA players, tournament officials, and his own family including wife Kimberly, daughters Aria and Sylvie, and son Hugo who had flown in from Australia to watch. The finals aired live on FS1 and was the network’s most-watched telecast last week.

Professional bowling used to enjoy a much higher status in American society. This was when bowling was more of a thing, I suppose, but really, what other sport is more egalitarian? I don't care who you are or what you look like, you can probably bowl just as well as the person next to you. The PBA establishes some standards of professionalism and brings a hint of organization to things. What's not to love about that?

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Kyle Brandt

This is the sort of person who knows what they are talking about:

The great Charles Pierce identifies another corona tough guy.

You don't need any corona tough guys in your life right now. We have a broken government, a confused and chaotic response, and far too much misinformation out there.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Equal and Fair Treatment For All

A year ago, Tayla Harris was inundated with sexist and derogatory comments because someone took this picture of her.

When she decided not to be a victim, her life changed:
Harris went to bed with around 20,000 Twitter followers but by the next morning had an additional 60,000. There was an apology from Channel 7 for sending "the wrong message" by removing the photo from its social media accounts, while Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called the trolls "cowardly grubs." 
With a weekend match looming, Harris restricted herself to one radio interview in the immediate aftermath, during which she described the comments as sexual abuse, and held a press conference to sate the appetite of media organizations around the world. Carlton provided her with a security guard for the next game, against Fremantle. 
"Surreal," and a "roller-coaster" is how she sums up the week. "For the most part it was all positive," she adds, "but I had to check in with myself and make sure this was something I was OK with because it was a really full on and busy, confronting few weeks. 
"The really important thing for me was not to dilute the messaging or say something that could be misinterpreted, so I made sure I was really clear and articulate."
Read the whole thing. It's a devastating indictment of where society is with regards to how it treats women and what we can do to move past the juvenile bullshit that infects so much of how we talk to one another and relate to each other.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Garth Brooks Loves Barry Sanders

So, this happened.

Garth Brooks wore a football jersey with the number 20 on it, and with the name Sanders on the back. This was his way of paying homage to NFL Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders.

Some of his "less informed" fans thought that Brooks was signaling his support for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

And this happened because we have, what? An informed, reasonable electorate?


Thursday, February 27, 2020

17 Games

To me, this is a crazy number of games for the NFL to play in one season:
As we stand on the verge of another decade of labor peace, I can’t get that out of my head, and my reasoning is simple. Over the last couple weeks, we’ve discussed everything from the revenue split to pensions to how individual contracts will work under a reformatted NFL schedule, and the main thing is still the main thing.
My belief is the reason why opposition against the current CBA proposal has persisted lies therein. It’s the 17th game. Period. End of story.
It’s been clear from the start that players are leery about the idea of extending their season—creating another set of car crashes in a system that already called for 16 of them. And a lot of them knew that the owners’ strong desire to do that, in addition to their concern over further delaying the broadcast negotiation, created leverage.
So some players wanted the union to push for more, in just about every category.

You want 17 games? Fine. Then it’s on our terms.
And they did get more in some areas. The money in this deal is good, and if the goal is, “Let’s keep getting rich!” then the deal the union’s done is totally fine. But if you were looking for a game-changer, then this really isn’t that.
The franchise tag system is the same, as is the vesting schedule. There were tweaks to rookie contracts and the funding rule, but problems with those (team control over players for six or seven years, a crutch to use in not guaranteeing contracts) aren’t going away. And specific to the issue of 17 games, there are problems. The max number of padded practices in training camp was cut from 28 to 16, but offseason and in-season rules didn’t change.
The impact of an NFL game in an American city is easy to measure. On game day, revenue pours in. People spend their cash like it's water. Adding just one more home game per year, every other year, means more of the same. More people through the gates, more butts in seats, more of everything.

However, it means shorter careers and more injuries for the players. I hope they get a larger piece of that pie. I think they're getting too little as it is in relation to what the owners are walking away with every home game.

It's just my mathematical bias speaking, but an uneven number of games throws me off a bit. If anything, I would cut the number of pre-season games to two and I would add two more bye weeks into the current 16 game season. I wouldn't even keep the 16 game season. If I could, I'd knock it back to 12.

You would get less football. But you'd get fewer injuries, and guys would play longer. No one would like my idea, but there it is.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Fire Rob Manfred

If there's one lesson to be learned from this debacle, it is that Major League Baseball has the wrong person in charge:
The Houston Astros have been punished, but has justice truly been served? That’s the big question hovering around Major League Baseball as commissioner Rob Manfred makes a futile attempt to move on from one of the biggest scandals in league history. Soon, Astros hitters, many of whom were part of that now-dubious 2017 World Series win, will face live pitching for the first time since the league handed down its judgment against the team’s sign-stealing scheme.
 I don't know if firing Manfred would fix baseball's inability to properly punish franchises that have cheated because I don't think anyone is really being honest here. Stealing signs and using your stadium's structural advantages has been a part of baseball forever. Yes, using buzzers is crossing one of those phantom red lines that probably exists between the ears of purists but so what?

Banging trash cans is very 19th Century if you want to get right down to it, so how do we find a way out of this horror show? A lot of players who feel like they were cheated out of hits and strikes and playoff wins are screaming for blood in the most polite ways possible.

Honestly, in the first month of this season, I would not be surprised if each and every Astros batter ends up getting plunked in the ass more than once. And maybe they should. But if you throw at everyone who cheats, you're going to have to throw at everyone every day.