Earlier this week, I posted a column on this site about how we deal with mental illness in sports and society. The reception was overwhelmingly positive, which I appreciated. Later on Tuesday, I was told that someone (I assume Bill) posted it to Reddit’s baseball section, where it was trending (or whatever the hell things do on Reddit. I’m rapidly becoming, particularly by the standards of the hipsterish Virtual World-dwelling internet community in which I find myself, an old fart) and the discussion, I was happy to see, was measured, friendly and, by and large, intelligent. I love it when that happens. Anyway, I was reading through the Reddit conversation/AIM/Gchat/whatever nonsense, because I am a vain person and enjoy it when people agree with things I write on The Internet. I came across a comment that ran something along the lines of: “Great post, but it needs an Oxford comma in the title.”
I want to get a couple things straight: 1) It most certainly does not need an Oxford comma in the title. The decision to use the serial comma, or not to use the serial comma, is up to the management of the particular publication. Bill doesn’t give us a style guide, so I choose to go along with the AP stylebook, the Leviticus of serious journalism, and eschew the serial comma. And generally to do whatever the hell I damn well please.
But most importantly: 2) If You Are The Kind Of Person Who Gets In People’s Faces About Using The Oxford Comma, Then I Think You Are A Pretentious, Effete Waste Of Human Life Who Deserves To Be Suspended In Concentrated Sodium Hydroxide Solution Until Your Flesh Turns Into Soap.
I don’t know when it became in vogue to be strongly pro-serial comma, but I think it happened sometime in 2010, around the time when the internet stopped having, you know, interesting or consequential things to take sides on arbitrarily and yell at each other about. And also about the same time this song came out.
You want to know what it says about you if you’re militantly pro-Oxford comma? Well, first and foremost, that you take the time to develop strong opinions about arbitrary style guidelines, which…I don’t even. But second, that you base those strong opinions on songs by twee Ivy League faux-indie bands whose membership consists of guys who look, sound and write (NOTICE THE LACK OF THE UNNECESSARY SERIAL COMMA) like the kids that everyone pretended to be friends with in middle school because their parents bought them cool stuff in lieu of actually loving them. And failing that, the word “Oxford.”
Yes, I realize that taking up an entire line on your CV to say “I am a thoughtless pedant who, like a simpleton who lives life with finger planted firmly two knuckles deep in his own nostril, is still seduced by the veneer of Old World pretentiousness brought on by the word ‘Oxford.’ And that by suckling at the teat of the dying embers of British imperialism, I am forever condemned to festoon my written prose with unnecessary punctuation marks. And furthermore, rather than being ashamed of my childish fixation on the traditions of days past and working to better myself, I take pride in my ignorance and pedantry.”
I realize that’s a mouthful, and calling people out for not using the serial comma is probably an easier way of communicating clearly that you’re a boring, stuffy tight-ass with a surfeit of free time.
But seriously, why do people conflate Oxbridge with sophistication and intelligence? It’s like you looked at the Ivy League and decided it wasn’t insular, haughty and conservative enough for you. No, I prefer my out-of-touch stodgy old money elitism with a sprig of fatuous post-Imperial delusion. How droll. And to demonstrate that, I’m going to spend my free time, time that could be spent doing something more constructive for society, like selling nuclear secrets to Iran, demanding that complete strangers insert superfluous punctuation into their writing. On the Internet.
I’m starting a new job in a couple weeks, and while it makes me a little queasy that the in-house style guide where I’m going mandates the use of the serial comma, I kept that to myself, because if it’s your publication, you can put commas (or choose not to put commas) wherever suits you. So in short, the serial comma Gestapo can go screw itself.
Message from Starfleet, Captain.
@MichaelJBlock: “So it’s possible that Chooch was simply too ADHD to effectively hit before, right?”
I dunno, he was hitting just fine since 2010 or so. Unless you’re talking about before then, when he was a tank trap in the way of the Phillies offense’s D-Day invasion. I don’t know. I really am so beyond giving a crap about drugs. In sports, at least. That whole cocaine and heroin thing is very much a menace to society. I mean, yeah, Steve Bechler and yeah, What About The Children? But are we really not over this? I have no idea if adderall makes you a better baseball player or not, and neither do you. And really, I’m not sure MLB does either. And even if it did, it’s a prescription drug that I could take, if my doctor said so, to improve my performance in another field.
This isn’t just about someone whose jersey I own getting dinged for pills. I had the same apathy when Melky Cabrera got suspended this summer, and I’ll have the same apathy the next time Guillermo Mota gets busted for carrying around pocketfuls of Interleukin-2 in the clubhouse. We’ve made a show about protecting public health, and we’ve gotten it so that baseball isn’t wholly populated by guys who look like the cast of The Expendables. So let’s stop giving the yapping masses of mainstream baseball columnists something else to salivate over.
Do I care that a player I like had his teddy bear reputation sullied? Yes. Or that my favorite team will be without one of its top position players for 25 games? Yes. Both of those things make me sad. Do I think that, outside violating the letter of the law, Carlos Ruiz did something morally reprehensible? No. But most of all, I’m just sick of talking about it.
@JFSportsFan: “Between Alabama, Georgia, and Notre Dame, who are you rooting for to win the BCS National Championship?”
Alabama. If Georgia or Notre Dame wins, I’m carpet-bombing football. But more on that later.
@MikeFerrinSXM: “Why do they call it football when the Eagles only pass? I’ll hang up & listen.”
You know what? It’s been a while since we’ve had a guest expert on the Crash Bag, apart from Longenhagen on prospects. So let’s do that. It’s time for a…
FOOTBALL LIGHTNING ROUND
And our guest expert is Ty Hildenbrandt, a proud Pennsylvanian and co-host (with Dan Rubenstein) of the excellent Solid Verbal college football podcast. That show, for you Eagles fans, is the genesis of Nick Foles’ nickname: “In a Losing Effort,” a moniker that’s proven eerily prescient in the early days of Foles’ NFL career. Ty’s words are in italics. In case there was any confusion.
@JakePavorsky: “who will be a worse pro: Geno Smith or Matt Barkley?”
“Great question. Am I allowed to answer “Landry Jones,” or is that against the rules?
Gun to my head, I probably say Smith, if only because I’m not completely sold on Barkley being as average as he looked this season. Barkley’s numbers weren’t great — he threw more interceptions this season than in any of his previous three years as a starter — but it’s worth mentioning that his offensive line was wildly inconsistent with depth issues, injury concerns, and, most of all, without left tackle Matt Kalil who was picked fourth overall by the Vikings. Barkley’s a lot better than what we saw this season; you don’t go from Heisman frontrunner to irrelevance unless there are contributing factors. On that note, Lane Kiffin sucks.As a whole, the 2013 draft is looking like it might have the worst quarterback class in recent memory unless a few underclassmen decide to declare.”
@gberry523: “why do the eagles love making me so miserable?”
“In all honesty, it’s probably because you’re a terrible person. I don’t know how to phrase it any other way. We all know you hate churches and children. If you’d stop trying to hide it, maybe the pain would stop.
Kidding aside, I have no idea what to tell you. The Eagles are a complete tire fire right now with zero leadership and a ton of injuries. But here’s the good news: The 2013 draft will feature some of the deepest offensive line and linebacker classes we’ve seen in years. If the Birds could somehow land Manti Te’o from Notre Dame, it’d be an absolute coup for the Philadelphia defense.
Also, after watching a lot of Nick Foles at Arizona, I am confident that he’ll be a successful NFL quarterback at some point. So, there’s that.”
It is with great humility that I acknowledge that I don’t have all the answers. For the first time in the history of the Crash Bag, I myself seek counsel, as a great tragedy has befallen me and I’m in need of advice.
@MJ_Baumann: “I’m watching the national ch–excuse me, the SEC Championship game this weekend with my in-laws, who are all rabid Georgia fans. I hate UGA with the fury of Hell itself. Convince me that there’s no realistic way Alabama blows it or, failing that, how do I extricate myself from what will surely be an insufferable celebration of an undeserved title only contested by geographic and scheduling vagaries? Suicide is an option.”
“We’ll start with the bad news: Georgia is going to keep this game close. Last week’s 42-10 victory over Georgia Tech was a statement win in a series that has historically been very close. Georgia’s played some of the country’s best football since losing to South Carolina earlier this season, and I don’t think Alabama is nearly as indestructible as we once thought. Keep in mind that this Tide team has only played two teams that are still ranked, and struggled mightily both times. In reality, this team could easily have two losses, and Georgia COULD win this game. Sorry.
Georgia hasn’t won an SEC championship since 2005 and lost by 32 in this game last year, so if it wins here, your best bet for extrication is an actual divorce. The problem with SEC celebrations is that they never stop; they’re still celebrating Florida’s crown from 2007. The upside, though, is that southern folks know how to cook, and a win would likely mean a wonderful feast for all. There’s nothing wrong with rooting for this, and at the end of the day, you’re probably a worse person for rooting for Alabama anyway.Now, the good news: Alabama’s going to win a close one. If you’re looking for a game that inflicts maximum emotional pain, this is the best possible scenario. Coupled with the fact that Georgia has long been on the precipice of being a national contender, a close loss here would be a huge letdown and a big reason why the Dawgs wouldn’t cover the point spread in their eventual bowl game. Alabama is just too well-rounded and will take advantage of Georgia’s sketchy run defense. I’ll predict a 28-24 Alabama win.”
Well that doesn’t make me feel any better. But thanks for taking the time to make a guest appearance. You can follow Ty on Twitter here, and if you’re into college football, you should give The Solid Verbal a listen. And if you’re not into college football, just be aware that the University of Georgia football team is a force of evil whose road to success is contingent on their not actually playing any of the good SEC West teams. And they’ve inbred their mascot so badly they can’t keep him alive. Roll Tide.
God, I can’t believe I said that. I feel so dirty.
@Living4Laughs: “What are your 5 favorite songs about war and/or veterans?”
I’m racking my brain on this one, because I usually don’t pay a ton of attention to song lyrics unless they’re conspicuously clever or conspicuously bad. So I’m probably going to spend this entire answer trying like crazy not to go to “The General” by Dispatch, then go straight to “The General” by Dispatch because it’s literally the only song about war that I can think of right now. I’ll be kind of liberal with the definition of “war” here, just to get a bigger pool of potential songs and avoid that aforementioned Dispatch tune. And before I get crucified in the comments for not including any Springsteen or CCR, remember that I’m only 25 and have absolutely no visceral reaction whatsoever to the Vietnam War. And I would have included a couple anti-Iraq War Bright Eyes songs, but I really don’t want to give the impression that I think Connor Oberst has anything useful to say about politics or society. No matter how much I might have enjoyed I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning.
- ”Alive With the Glory of Love” by Say Anything. On first glance, it’s a peppy, foot-tapping power pop ditty. Then if you listen to the lyrics, you quickly realize it’s a ballad about two young lovers trying and failing to elude the Nazis during the Holocaust. It’s a really clever and totally heartbreaking song that has made me skank around my empty apartment when I was happy and made me weep openly when I was feeling lonely.
- “Brothers in Arms” by Dire Straits. This is a proxy for all those wistful, “Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier”-type ballads. I just always considered Mark Knopfler and his merry men to have a particular gift for the elegiac, and this song is no exception.
- “Battle Hymn of the Republic” by William Steffe and Julia Ward Howe. Most songs about war nowadays are anti-war, which you’d expect, because writers and musicians tend to be artsy types who aren’t particularly eager to pick up a weapon and stand a post, myself included. But when there was actually a war worth fighting, we had music to match. Plus I imagine this song was sung at some point during Sherman’s March to the Sea, which warms the cockles of my heart a little.
- “Sleep Now in the Fire” by Rage Against the Machine. I personally find RATM’s brand of anti-everything anarchism to be…well, childish, if I’m honest, and “Sleep Now in the Fire” is anti-war only because war is a facet of Western liberal democratic culture. In other words, the machine. Against which they want to rage. But for as much indiscriminate and random anger as gets thrown around in this song…it’s not like they’re wrong, even if their four-minute Michael Moore-directed screed against greed and capitalism is prefaced on YouTube by a one-minute commercial. And damn, this is a fun song.
- “Violet Hill” by Coldplay. Yes, a Coldplay song. Screw you. I really like it. And while it’s ostensibly a belated Gulf War protest song, I really don’t care too much about the lyrics.
Okay, I had to use Say Anything and Coldplay, but at least I avoided Dispatch.
@Billy_Yeager: “Please pen a rule on buds challenging for items being thrown/shot into stands. I feel bad for Larry Fitzing you.”
So here’s the backstory on this question. Bill (the Bill who asked the question, not Bill Baer, who is a computer and can’t go to basketball games) and I went to the Sixers game on Tuesday, where we witnessed in person the impressive arsenal of t-shirt artillery currently employed by the Philadelphia Professional Basketball Club. Twice we found ourselves in the line of fire, and this is what happened.
The first time, Bill stood at the start of the t-shirt cannon barrage, while I remained seated, because I’m not a loser. But it became clear that one shirt in particular was headed in a perfect parabolic arc for my seat. So I went to stand and make a play on the shirt, but Bill had already made his move, resting his forearm on my shoulder and vaulting himself skyward to make a very nice grab, all the while preventing me from even standing, much less jumping.
The next time, I stood before the cannon came around, intending to box him out. I figured I’ve got about three inches and probably close to 40 pounds on the guy, so I can get in good position before the shot comes and get to the shirt, if it comes, while fending Bill off with my butt. Just like Kevin Love does. It doesn’t work. Another shirt comes in our direction, this one about to land over my shoulder in the row behind us, and while I half-jokingly box out, Bill comes climbing over my back, nearly knocking me over onto the five-year-old child sitting next to me.
Now, I’m not suggesting that t-shirt frenzy should be a totally non-contact sport, but there’s a happy medium between everyone sitting down and using your friends to crush children. I suggest maybe something like a pass interference rule between buddies, like when the ball is in the air, only incidental contact, no shoving, tripping, biting, kneecapping, etc. If that’s too strict, then maybe a basketball rebounding rule. You can jostle for position, but no out-and-out shoving, and the rebounder, if he has his feet set, is entitled to his own position. I think I like that one better.
That’s among friends. Strangers you can stab in the back, for all I care.
@Phisportsfan11: “Where do the Phillies go with Upton gone? Is Hamilton back in?”
I hope not. Denard Span and B.J. Upton have both gone to division rivals on a trade and a free agent deal, respectively, that weren’t steals, but neither were they unreasonable. I think five years at $15 million per is a perfectly fair price for Upton, and while some are higher on Alex Meyer, the big prospect of the Span-to-Washington trade, than I am, I wouldn’t bet on his health and his mechanics holding together long enough to be a big-league starter. And even if they did, it’s not like the Nationals, with Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann already in the big-league rotation and Lucas Giolito and Matt Purke convalescing in the minor leagues, aren’t exactly hurting for high-upside starting pitching prospects.
But the problem is that with those two, and Melky Cabrera as well, off the market, we’re running out of options. As a fan, I love Dexter Fowler. He’s one of my favorite players to watch, but the Rockies, in a trade, seem to value him like he’s the player Coors Field makes him appear to be, which he’s not. Peter Bourjos is a spectacular defensive center fielder, like Mike Trout or Michael Bourn good, but I remain unconvinced that he’s ever going to contribute anything of substance with the bat. Plus it doesn’t look like Los Angeles of Anaheim is particularly eager to jettison him anyway.
That leaves Michael Bourn and Josh Hamilton, both of whom are going to make more money then they’re worth for longer than they’ll be useful, plus Angel Pagan and a partridge in a pear tree. I’m not all that high on Pagan, and after the postseason he had, he might not be the bargain we had once thought him to be.
So my first instinct is to say “screw it, just cobble together a cheap platoon or something and hope that Tyson Gillies turns into Tris Speaker in the offseason.” But that’s kind of what I’d do with third base as well, and while you can punt one position and still contend, you can’t really punt two. So there’s probably a creative and subtle center field solution that I’m not thinking of because there’s no easier way to make yourself look like moron than to make up fake trades. Which is comforting, given Ruben Amaro‘s longstanding reputation for being subtle and creative as a GM.
@pinvert: “chances RAJ makes a big splash at the winter meetings this week? seems to be his ‘deal’.”
The genius of Ruben Amaro is that you never know when he’s going to make a big splash. I don’t know that it’s a solid lock that he’ll make a splash at the winter meetings, because at this point, “splash” probably means “Hamilton,” and that ends with me swallowing a couple dozen doses of ketamine and welcoming the warm, sweet embrace of death. I dunno, I’m going to be out of town next week, and I’m half expecting to come home to find out that Domonic Brown and Adam Morgan have been traded to the Jordanian navy for a decommissioned Soviet submarine or something.
@kalinkadink: “If you can only have three jerseys/shirseys to wear for the rest of your life, whose would they be?”
I’ve never owned an actual baseball jersey, only shirseys, and I’ve got no real urge to buck that trend. Shirseys are more versatile, cheaper and generally more colorful. As for which three I’d wear for the rest of my life, well, I’d have to get at least one of Michael Roth and Jackie Bradley, but both have issues–Bradley will almost certainly make it to the majors, but I don’t know what number he’d wear, and in any event, I wouldn’t be caught dead in a Red Sox jersey. And Roth, whose Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are far less objectionable, may never make it to the majors at all. Hang on, there’s more.
“And no minor-league players.”
Right now, I’ve got three shirseys: Jimmy Rollins, Carlos Ruiz and Steve Carlton. I’d probably keep the Rollins one, and I’d like to have a throwback Phillies shirsey as well. Though if I had it to do over again, I’d take a Richie Ashburn over a Carlton, but Carlton shirseys are easier to find–literally the only place I’ve seen a Richie Ashburn shirsey is in the Hall of Fame gift shop. The one I saw there was white with red print, and while I’m a bigger fan historically of Ashburn than Carlton, the baby blue with maroon print looks cooler, now that I think of it. Either one of those would be fine. So that’s two.
And as much as I’m a Phillies fan, I’m very much a fan of baseball in general. So for my third shirsey, I’d have one from a different team. Now, as much as I might respect players like Derek Jeter and Hank Aaron, there is no way I’m wearing Yankees or Braves gear. So I’d have to eliminate any teams that make my stomach turn. So no Braves, Pirates, Mets, Marlins, Yankees, Red Sox, Giants or Cardinals. And while we’re at it, let’s get rid of those teams that don’t really inspire strong feelings one way or another. So no Padres, A’s, Diamondbacks, Tigers, Rockies, Cubs, White Sox, Astros, Brewers, Twins and Indians.
So that leaves 10 teams that I either legitimately like or have kind of up-and-down feelings: the Blue Jays, Orioles, Nationals, Royals, Reds, Dodgers, Rangers, Angels, Rays and Mariners. And of those, who has a cool color scheme, or at least one that’s different enough from the Phillies’ to make it worth buying the shirt? Too bad for the red, white and blue of the Nationals, Dodgers and Rangers, and the primary bright red of the Angels and Reds. So of those five teams, who has a player, past or present, whose name and number I’d like to wear. The Orioles are full of possibilities: a Brooks or Frank Robinson throwback could be cool, and Brian Roberts allows the possibility to represent the South Carolina Gamecocks. Or an Earl Weaver shirsey. Which would just be devastatingly cool.
How about the Dodgers? Does Carlton make Sandy Koufax redundant? Is Jackie Robinson a cliche, and does wearing “Brooklyn” on your shirt automatically make you an asshole? Yeah, the Dodgers are out. Blue Jays? I love their colors, but I don’t really feel anything for any of their current or former players, except maybe John Olerud, and that just reminds me of 1993, which reminds me of Joe Carter, which makes me want to cry. The Royals are on the same page. Maybe a Zack Greinke or George Brett.
On to the Rays. Evan Longoria would be cool. Maybe not rest-of-your-life cool, but cool nonetheless. Which leads us to the Mariners, who have cool colors and a really good history of cool players. Edgar Martinez, Felix Hernandez, Ichiro and…
Oh yeah, Griffey. Ken Griffey, Jr., Mariners. That’d be my third.
@SoMuchForPathos: “If a U.S. soldier impregnates another soldier and is forced to marry her by her father, is it a shotgun wedding or an M16 wedding?”
I think that’s a sign that we’ve had enough for this week.
One public service announcement note before the end–there is political unrest over at The Good Phight! Friend of the blog Peter Lyons is stepping down as blogmaster and will be replaced by friend of the blog Liz Roscher. Congratulations to Peter for a long run of great blogging, and congratulations to Liz for embarking on what we can only presume will be more of the same.