It’s still baseball season, fortunately.
Ahhh, fall .The time when the kids return to their academic prisons, the weather starts to turn rotten (though the 90+ temperatures of the last 2 days may fool us into thinking that winter is still far off), our consumption of fossil fuels goes up here in the Northeast, and selfish Bostonians start rooting in the basement for the old chair they think will entitle them to a spot of public property just because they were stupid enough to park their before a snow storm. (News alert: I am stealing your space savers this year.)
And football. I annually give thanks that my son did not want to participate in that sport where some much larger, overfed kid with violent tendencies (encouraged by coaches and parents) would slam into his head, causing him to both lose IQ points and possibly become more psychologically troubled than his mother and I are already going to make him.(It’s due to our remarkable inability to coparent, and it’s mostly her fault, mind you).
Football season in New England sucks. (This year, fortunately, the Red Sox have been so awful that natives have actually stopped talking about it, which is good, because they are ignoramuses when it comes to matters west of the 72nd meridian, where most of the cool stuff usually happens.) Now I have to see Bill Belichek’s sour expression on newspapers and TV for the next four months. And hear about Tom Brady on NPR. NPR! I listen to NPR so I don’t have to hear about him. Here’s a dork, who in a move worthy of Richard Nixon bugging Democratic National Headquarters, conspires to deflate footballs. Only the permafrost brains her in New England believe he’s innocent. Actually, they’re probably the only ones who care. (If Brady were such a nice guy, he and Ms. Bündchen would have just donated money to Pine Manor College instead of scooping up its real estate in a fire sale, just so they could build yet another monument to their success.) I wonder if the judge on that case went to bed lamenting that he went to law school so he could referee millionaires quibbling over cheating at a kids’ game.
As for last season’s NFC final, the Packers should have won. They were not terribly outplayed in the second half, but a series of bad decisions and missed opportunities combined to create a situation where the hopes of millions of Wisconsinites were flushed down the drain, like so much waste from a dairy barn at cleanup time. But Wisconsinites have been making some pretty bad decisions in general, lately. I personally think that forces in universe moved against the Packers because they were punishing Wisconsin for the abomination that is Scott Walker. But who knows.
maybe G-d is just lactose intolerant.
ONE COULD MAKE THE ARGUMENT THAT WRIGLEY CEASED TO BE WRIGLEY when the Tribune Corporation bought the Cubs, or when they in turn sold it to Sam Zell, or certainly when Zell sold it to the Ricketts family. Baseball ain’t what it used to be, and however quaint we try to make it in our minds, Wrigley is basically just an ivy-covered dump. True, it’s a really nice ivy-covered dump, but a dump is still a dump, and after one has made a trip to Camden Yards or AT&T field, it is apparent that charm only goes so far, and that good sight lines and comfortable seats might, in the course of 81 games, be even more important.
Wrigley Field was cool, but that ended with lights in 1988. Baseball played at night is just another reason that some think it’s declining. Time was when everyone watched the World Series and didn’t quit watching when the hometown bombed out (which was every year in Chicago). But a weekday game in the sunshine–that’s an excuse to turn on the TV at work or just light out and play hooky.
Wrigley Field was really cool when they had to share the field with the Bears. On a rainy Sunday the football players would get covered in mud as they made runs up the middle through the grassless baselines infield. It was cool to walk to Wrigley Field from my grandmother’s home on Cornelia and the lake (they lived previously lived at Pine Grove and Addison, but then they moved up in the world), past LeMoyne Elementary where my dad went, by that time covered with Latin Kings graffiti, showing that the old neighborhood wasn’t what it once was. My dad, though only in his early 30s, had season tickets–they weren’t so expensive then–and they were almost the worst seats in the house. We sat a row or two from the very top at the south end zone. The vortex of lake winds formed by the bowl of the stadium had us huddling under blankets, thermoses in hand.The season highlight, the Bear-Packer game, was in December every year. I froze my ass off and loved every minute of it.
Season tickets? Unless it’s a St. Louis game, where busloads of Missourians (and Southern Illinoisans) come to gloat (do they ever get tired of it?) at the misery that is Cubs baseball, tickets can generally be had out front at less than face value, especially at the beginning of the season, when the weather is more suited to Bear-Packer games or outdoor hockey, or at the end of the season, when even the faithful realize that rare Chicago days of warmth and sunshine can be enjoyed with beers that cost less than $8.50.
A sign of the times is that the Cubs organization was actively recruiting season ticket holders. I was called on the phone multiple times by a salesman attempting to get me to buy in by relying on my out-of-date feelings about the game. I got on the waiting list for season tickets, probably around 5 years ago. I was sort of interested until I realized that it would set me back at least several thousand dollars to get middling seats. I’d never be able to break even, unless of course the Messiah came and the Cubs made it above 85 wins (well, it has happened around 35 time–since 1874). Attendance at Wrigley has been falling for 6 years, even as the seating expands. I confess to having fantasies about selling the tickets a profit to benefit the nonprofit (PAZ), and then being first in line for NLCS tickets (the World Series is too much to hope for). I am not in a position in life to indulge fantasies at the cost of several thousand dollars. Leave that to the corporati in their luxury boxes, or those who believe that a trip to the ball park with the family should cost as much as a weekend vacation.
IN WHICH I COP TO NO LONGER GIVING A SHIT ABOUT THE CUBS
I can’t real excited about being the fan of one particular team anymore. I used to be a Cub fan, but last year I just called it quits. Why last year? Of all the crocodile pain we’ve experienced over the years about our lovable losers, why pick last year to finally toss in my official Cubs $34.99 New Era MLB Diamond Era 59FIFTY Cap (Made of 100% Woven Polyester)?
Was it their next-to-the-worst record in baseball? (Thank you, Astros. I wish you were still in the NL.)Was it that I feel divorced enough from Chicago after all these years?
None of the above. I just got tired of having to root for the same team year after year. The Cubs don’t know me, I don’t know them. (I am a facebook friend of Ernie Banks, though. I will be inviting him to my son’s Bar Mitzvah.) The players jump from team to team according to market forces, so I feel no more sentimental attachment to them than I do to Texas Instruments or Idexx Laboratories.
This year I am going to follow baseball not through the teams, but through the players. I love baseball (and I have a feeling that I’m not alone here) not only because it is a beautiful and fascinating sport, but just as much because of the stories. I love the statistics, of course–statistics are wonderful, I love them as much as any geek, but in the end without the face behind the numbers I could be reading about anything.
In looking at baseball over the last while, it seems that the fixed stars in the firmament (and I don’t mean that as a compliment) are the leagues and the owners. And the owner of the Cubs is the Ricketts family. They are not a particularly likeable bunch. (As a matter of fact, they are rather repulsive, but I say that with all due respect and admiration for their billions.) J. Joe Ricketts, you may remember, is the ____(insert appropriate noun) who spent oodles of money and wanted to spend $10 million dollars on producing and distributing a video about Obama that was so defamatory and racist that even the Romney campaign asked them not to go forward with it for fear of the backlash. This same _____(insert appropriate noun) must have loved it when Obama’s former chief-of-staff became mayor of Chicago, the man he would need to help him to get tax breaks and financial assistance for his desired “improvements” to Wrigley Field and the surrounding area. This former trustee of the American Enterprise Institute actually had the coglioni (cluelessness? gall? stupidity?) to ask the City for help.
How can I cheer for such a team? Because of the players? The players from 2008, our last break-your-heart team, are all gone except for Jeff Samardzija, Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Marmol, the latter two disappointing shadows of their former selves. (Samardzija, on the other hand, is someone you want to succeed, just based on his determination and grit. That, and you’d like him to earn the millions he made from the get-go.)
Nah, I’m done with thinking that just because I grew up in Chicagoland or that I live in MA that I should be for the Cubs or the Red Sox (who I never really liked anyway). The nice thing about sports is that no matter what happens to those grown men crying on their field, court or pitch–other than the injuries and the occasional death–nothing of lasting importance occurs out there. My kids’ school grades are a lot more important than A-Rod’s attempts to bury evidence or Congress’s stupid pursuit of steroid users.
But why is this part of the Meta-bug called “The Linceblog”?
FENWAY AND THE RED SOX END THEIR SELL-OUT STREAK
Oh, how the proud have been humbled and made to lick the dust that covers home plate! They shall sit in stadia not full, cover themselves with greasy ashes from the grilling of sausages, and drink their overpriced yet watered down intoxicants in the loneliness and solitude! The millionaires of summer will cry out in the wilderness, yet no one will be there to offer succor.
Let’s face it: There’s more than a little amount of schadenfreude going around today. The Red Sox and their overpriced, crumbling venue has finally reached a point where the fans have said “Enough!”. A king’s ransom to take to the family to the ball park, plus $8.50 for Bud Light (Bud Light, mind you) can’t go on forevah. The owners thought it could, but let’s hope that this year more people will decide to go watch local Little League games instead, no matter how good this season’s crop of mercenaries plays “for the fans.”
Then again, they may show up in droves tomorrow.
Baseball gives me great opportunities to teach my kids a myriad of valuable lessons. Sometimes, baseball even does all the teaching for me.
Check out the video in this article about the Phillies losing 2 out of 3 to the Giants. Charlie Manuel, the Phillies’ manager, not only taught my kids about bad sportsmanship, they also learned the meaning of “sour grapes.”
Why is it that our main displays of patriotism take place at sporting events? Conflating the two seems to degrade both sport and love of country.
From one of my favorite Mike Royko columns:
Both teams were on the field. The crowd stood for the singing of the National Anthem.
Everybody except one man. He just sat and studied his program. The band began playing.
The singing was led by a TV star who had been up all night drinking gin. Ten jets swooped
over the stadium. Fifty majorettes thrust out their chests. The one man stayed in his seat
and looked at his program. Somebody gave him a nudge. He ignored it.
“Stand up,” somebody else hissed.
“I’ll stand for the kickoff,” the man said.
Another man glared at him. “Why don’t you stand and sing?”
“I don’t believe in it,” he said.
The other man gasped. “You don’t believe in the National Anthem?”
“I don’t believe in singing it at commercial events. I wouldn’t sing it in a nightclub, or
in a gambling casino, and I won’t sing it at a football game.”
A man behind him said: “What are you, a damn radical?”
He shook his head. “I’m not a stadium patriot.”
“I’ll make you stand up,” a husky man said, seizing his fleece collar.
They scuffled and struck each other with their programs. Somebody dropped a hip flask.
“What’s wrong?” people shouted from a few rows away.
“A radical insulted the anthem,” someone yelled.
“I did not,” the man yelled. “I won’t be a stadium patriot.”
“He says he’s not a patriot,” somebody else roared, swinging a punch.
A policeman pushed through. “What’s going on here? Break it up.”
People yelled: “He insulted the flag . . . He refused to stand. . . . He’s a radical . . . Sit
down—I can’t see the girls . . .”
The policeman said: “Why wouldn’t you stand?”
“Not at a football game,” the man said.
“Hear that?” someone yelled, shaking a fist.
“Let’s go fella,” the policeman said, leading him away.
He was fined $25 for disorderly conduct, and the judge lectured him on his duties as a citizen.
The next week he had a seat at the Stupendous Bowl game. Both teams took the field and the
crowd rose for the National Anthem. They were led in song by a country music star, who had been
up all night playing dice. A dozen jet bombers flew over. Sixty majorettes thrust out their chests.
This time the man rose with everyone else, and he sang. He sang as loud as he could, in an ear-splitting
voice that could be heard twenty rows in any direction. A few people turned and looked at him as if
he were odd. When the song reached the “land of the free” his voice cracked, but he shrieked out the
high note. Then it was over, everyone applauded, yelled “Kill ’em,” and “Murder ’em,” and “Belt ’em,” and sat down to await the opening kickoff. Everyone but the one man. He remained on his feet and began slowly singing the second stanza in his loud voice. People stared at him. But then they jumped up and cheered as the ball was kicked off and run back. When they sat down, the man was still standing, singing. He paused for a moment, took a deep breath, and started the third stanza.
“Hey, that’s enough,” someone yelled.
“Yeah, sit down. I can’t see through you,” said somebody else.
He kept on singing. People called out:
“Knock it off.”
“What’s wrong with him?”
“I can’t see.”
The game was under way. Three plays were run while he sang the third verse. Everyone jumped
up for the punt return. When they sat down, the man was still singing. Everyone around him was becoming upset. People stood and shook their fists. Somebody threw a hot-dog wrapper. An usher asked him to take his seat. He shook his head and began the fourth stanza as a touchdown was scored. The people behind him were outraged. “I couldn’t see that because of you . . . Make him sit down . . . He must be crazy . . . He’s a radical . . .” He went on singing. Somebody grabbed his shoulders and tried to push him into his seat. They cuffled and swung their programs. Somebody dropped a hip flask. The man struggled to his feet, still howling the fourth stanza.
A policeman pushed through. “What’s going on? Break it up.”
“He won’t sit down,” someone yelled. “He won’t stop singing,” someone else said. “He’s trying to start a riot. He’s a radical.”
“Let’s go fella,” the policeman said, leading him away as he finished the final stanza, holding the note as long as he could.
The judge fined him $25 for disorderly conduct, and warned him about not shouting fire in a crowded theater.
The next week he went to the Amazing Bowl. The crowd was led in singing the National Anthem by
a rock star, who had been up all night with three groupies. A squadron of dive bombers flew between the goal posts. He stood with with everyone else. As the music was played, he moved his lips because he was chewing peanuts, and he stared at the chest of a majorette. Then he sat down with everyone else.
The man in the next seat offered him a sip from his hip flask.
Over half an hour later, end of the first, and no hits yet.
Why is the reality of drinking of beer so much different than what I see in the commercials? I guess it’s not so important anymore. From what I see on TV, I’m apparently too old to drink beer.
Three up, three down for Halladay to end the top of the 2nd.
People get paid for doing this shit (live blogging)?
Ford commercial. I’ll never buy another Ford. Owning a Ranger was one of the worst experiences in my life, just slightly better than getting bacillary dysentery in Morocco.
David Robertson pitching for the AL. Full count on Holliday.
3 innings, still no score
I think that giving the home-field advantage to the team whose league won the All-Star Game is a bunch of baloney. Or bologna. Why should a team benefit or suffer from the deeds of a composite team that plays only one game?
Oh, fuck, Lee gives Gonzalez the pitch he wants. Home run, 1-0, AL.(I told my son that the NL was going to win).
Prince Fielder’s dropped fly is ruled a hit, not an error.
Why am I doing this? I’m beginning to get bored.
Prince Fielder has redeemed himself, and then some. NL leads 3-1.
There’s a Jew on first base, as Kevin Youkilis hits a 2-out single. The Red Sox players are actually concerned about the outcome of this game, as they plan to make it to the World Series.
Kendrick grounds out, stranding the Jew at 2nd base. Still 3-1.
Oh, shit, they’re singing G-d Bless America. Do we really need to have this gross admixture of religion, nationalism, and big-dollar professional sports?
Castro of the Cubs just struck out. How did a guy who made 17 errors so far make the All-Star team?
The Panda is up to bat. Will we see any other Giants (Timmy? Wilson?)?
Sandoval gets an RBI. 4-1, NL leads.
2 outs from an NL win
Will Castro’s error loom large? What is this guy doing in the All-Star game anyway?
The Beard is on his way in. Will he save the NL?
One out to go.
Back to back wins for the NL!
What’s more disturbing: that the Cubs got schmattered on opening day, or that I actually care about it.
After having lived through 1969, 1984, 2004, I, (no sports expert) hereby make my predictions for 2010;
1) The Cubs will not win half of their games.
2) No Cubs pitcher will win more than 14 games.
3) No more than 2 players will hit over .300.