Posted in Crabshurn Urly, Crash Bag, MLB, Potpourri, Talking about feelings | Print | 24 Comments »
Lots of football in this Crash Bag. Not sure how that happened.
@uublog: “Who is the Monkey’s Paw of sports you can write about intelligently?”
I needed this reference explained to me. I know people seem to think I’m really well-read and esoteric, but I’ve only got about a dozen cultural references that I just keep rotating. Anyway, apparently there’s this monkey’s paw that grants you three wishes, but gives them to you in really horrible ways. It’s a parable about being careful what you wish for, but for people who think King Midas is too mainstream.
But the Monkey’s Paw of sports is pretty definitely Donovan McNabb, at least from where I’m sitting.
Eagles fans wanted McNabb gone pretty much since the moment he showed up. They blamed him, and pretty much him alone, for three NFC Championship game losses and a Super Bowl loss. It’s difficult to overstate the idiocy of blaming a team’s faults on its best player, but if you’re going to assign a 1:1 relationship between McNabb’s performance individually and the Eagles’ performance as a team, you have to be careful what you wish for. Because if that’s so, what does it say about McNabb’s importance to the team that his departure was followed, within three years, by the Eagles going rapidly and completely to shit?
I wouldn’t blame the decline and fall of the Philadelphia Eagles wholly on McNabb’s departure, because I’m not the kind of person who believes, for instance, that the sun rises and sets because Helios pulls it across the sky with his chariot. Which is just as ridiculous a thing to believe in as McNabb having been the Eagles’ big problem.
@TheGreyKing: “Which team, based on the club’s culture, location, players etc, do you think’ll most likely produce the first openly gay player?”
I really don’t think it’ll matter. I’ve never spoken to any major league manager, GM or player, so I can’t tell which ones would be most supportive of an openly gay player. By reading things people say and watching what they do, I’ve developed sort of a mental picture of the personalities of certain players, but I don’t want to accuse anyone of being a homophobe without proper evidence.
At the moment, we’ve got two openly gay men playing major team sports in North America: Jason Collins and Robbie Rogers. Both of them came out while they were free agents, and both came out to a pretty positive public reaction. I don’t think it’ll be easy for the first gay player in MLB, but I think he’ll be fine, wherever he ends up playing. You can make lazy offhand cracks about Luke Scott and Yunel Escobar in Tampa or how people from the South are all bigots so this hypothetical gay man couldn’t play in Atlanta or Houston or whatever. Or you can fall into that equally lazy trope about San Francisco like you’re the only person who saw Milk.
Maybe I’m being optimistic about this–and if I am, it’s the only thing I’m optimistic about–but there’s a growing sentiment that nobody will care if you’re gay if you can hang at the major league level. I first remember Charles Barkley articulating this several years ago, and since then, and now we have the You Can Play Project, an organization that aims to stamp out homophobia in sports by spreading just that sentiment in so many words.
You know what else? If there are people in the game who currently take the Shavlik Randolph approach to a hypothetical teammate, I’d bet most of them would change their mind if that hypothetical gay teammate suddenly became real. Like, Torii Hunter said some dickish things in the past, but if Justin Verlander suddenly came out, he’d have to be a real prick to be friendly with Verlander and appreciate what he did for the team, then turn around and refuse to play with him the next day. It’s tough to change your thinking about something that you view as an essential matter of right and wrong, but it’s harder to view gay people as an evil Other when people you know, like and respect are out.
I’m not expecting universal acceptance, but I think any manager would recognize that it’s still his job to support all his players. And that his teammates would be supportive by and large, and of those that aren’t initially, many would come around, and those that aren’t would be able to figure out that having a .300 hitter in the lineup, or a pitcher who strikes out a batter an inning, is good for everyone, no matter what you think of his private life.
And I might be naive to think this, but that story probably winds up being told roughly the same way no matter where he plays.
Stop asking me serious questions. I don’t like being serious about things.
@bxe1234: “Talk about the infinite void that is death, and the pointless endeavor that is life.”
No joke–life is pointless as all getout. You go to school and get filled with dreams that you’ll never realize and skills that won’t be put to good use in the job you wind up at. And either you work for the government, where the people you serve will disdain you and call you a waste (often to your face) because they think the government services they consume, from roads to schools to making sure what you eat won’t kill you to protecting you from foreign invaders, just kind of happen and they don’t want to have to pay taxes to continue to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Or you go work in private industry, where your livelihood depends on pleasing someone whose livelihood, in turn, depends on paying you as low a wage as you’ll take and extracting as much of your vital essence as possible–you get in bed, in short, with someone whose telos, whose reason for existing, is to exploit you as much as you’ll let him.
And to what end? To consume entertainment, momentary emotional highs that make the crushing doldrums of the intervening time seem even more like they were shot by David Fincher? To care for a family, a unit whose reason for being is to cultivate another generation of what Marx would call wage-slaves, to raise children fit to be condemned to the same bleak, empty, interminable misery from which you spend every moment of your limited free time plotting an escape?
Or to enjoy human relationships? Love and friendship are necessary and enjoyable, but the more you look at it, friendship and love aren’t mystical, sacred bonds–they’re transactions. I do nice things for you because you do nice things for me. I try to make you feel good because you make me feel good, and so on. That’s not altruism–that’s an exchange of services.
Even if you’re not a devout observer of one of the Abrahamic faiths, I think a certain familiarity with the tenets and scriptures of those religions is a good thing to have, just from a standpoint of cultural literacy. So if you’re in the mood to read the Bible, I highly recommend the book of Ecclesiastes. I’ve quoted from it here before, but I love it, and I re-read it often, the second chapter in particular. I love every word of that chapter, but in particular verse 11: “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”
Put that on your eye black, Tebow.
@Living4Laughs: “Do you think there is a between a coach and a manger? If so explain.”
Mostly it’s in the name. Baseball and soccer have managers, while soccer, hockey and football have coaches. I mean, baseball and soccer have assistant coaches, or positional instructors, who go by the “coach” moniker, but I think you can make that distinction on your own.
What is slightly more interesting is that the responsibilities of each coach/manager changes from sport to sport. There used to be a time where someone could wear two hats, making both strategic and tactical decisions, but the personnel side of things has become so complex that you really need two people with two different skill sets in almost all cases. There are exceptions, like Bill Belichick and Patrick Roy, but they’re rare.
Except in soccer, where the modal setup, particularly in Europe, is that each team has a manager who not only sets the lineup and directs training, but constructs the roster as well. I imagine coaches in other sports get some say over what players the team picks up–particularly if the coach’s style demands a certain type of player–but the GM has the final say-so. I guess you could make a philosophical statement about the responsibility a coach or manager has from sport to sport, but I think it really has to do more to do with how much specialization each sport requires from its front office and coaching staffs than anything else.
@threwouttime: “whats point when writers say PHI are 2nd 1/2 team or hamels (or any P) has such and such rec vs OPP? Rosters change”
I don’t know. I mean, rosters don’t change overnight all the time–the Phillies’ infield-plus-catcher setup, for instance, has been 80 percent unchanged since the start of the 2007 season. I think there’s something to certain players being slow starters, but stats over a short time period or stats against a team aren’t particularly useful. That’s not to say they can’t be interesting or fun, or that if you’re a fan of a certain team, you’ll have an idea of what players kill your team. I’m pretty sure Andre Ethier and Carlos Gonzalez are hitting a combined .500/.700/1.100 against the Phillies for their careers, for instance. Or better yet, there was this absolute scrub for the Cardinals and Padres back in the ’90s named Scott Livingstone, who I remember getting a hit against the Phillies every time he came up (actual stats: 71 PA, .358/.394/.567 against a career line of .281/.317/.389, so I’m not as far off as I thought I was).
That brings up a larger point: stats don’t have to be generalizable or predictive to be interesting. It’s tough to bring up matchup stats without old-school folks going “Lou Collins is 0-for-5 against Randy Johnson for his career? The Unit owns Lou Collins!” and more numerically inclined folks going “Gargle poop matchup stats useless small sample crucify crucify!” I apologize for that–I’m writing this after a very long week while trying to make sense of the NBA Draft, or put another way, Sam Hinkie’s present-day adaptation of Logan’s Run.
You can look back on things that happened, and even tell the story with numbers, and find them to be instructive or notable without declaring them to be bulletproof empirical evidence of anything. Sometimes a good story or an interesting event (or series of events) happens without bringing with it any larger meaning. And that’s okay–we can sit back and enjoy the curious but meaningless. Are the Phillies a second-half team? I don’t know how to go about answering that question.
@gberry523: “why the heck is Correa in the voting for the “World” Team when he is a US citizen?”
Because Puerto Rico competes as a separate entity in international athletics. I don’t know why, but this is the case not only for Puerto Rico but for other American overseas territories, such as Canada, Iraq and the United Kingdom. Seems like if they’re U.S. citizens, they ought to play for us, but what do I know?
@SoMuchForPathos: “The sequel to the excellent MLB realignment question: realign FBS football in a way that makes sense.”
Okay, I’m not going to put nearly as much thought into this one as I did last week. Goals for college football realignment:
- Set it up in such a way that you can put together a 16-team playoff in the format of The Wetzel Plan. Really, if that happened, I wouldn’t much care how the rest of it shook out.
- Preserve traditional rivalries where possible, but also encourage some of those rivalries to continue to be settled out of conference. For instance, the SEC expanded to 14 teams, but in so doing broke up the Texas-Texas A&M rivalry and the Kansas-Missouri rivalry, which is messed up.
- If your conference name has a number in it, you must have that number of teams in your conference.
- Every major conference must have at least 12 teams and a championship game, because conference championship games are awesome.
- Keep South Carolina and Virginia Tech in separate conferences. This is a criterion that matters to probably literally nobody but me. But it’s my realignment plan so screw you.
Anyway, here’s what I’d do, at least for the top conferences, plus another couple teams promoted to make even numbers:
- SEC East: Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, Clemson, Vanderbilt West: Ole Miss, Mississippi State, LSU, Alabama, Auburn, Kentucky
- Big 16 North: Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska, Colorado, Arkansas, Iowa, Iowa State South: Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, TCU, Oklahoma, OK State, Houston, Baylor
- Rust Belt East: Rutgers, Boston College, Penn State, Temple, Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State West: Indiana, Purdue, Northwestern, Illinois, Minnesota, Notre Dame, Wisconsin
- ACC North: UVA, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Maryland, Louisville, Pitt, Syracuse South: NC State, Miami, Florida State, Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech
- Pac-14 North: Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, Boise State, Utah, BYU South: Southern Cal, UCLA, Stanford, California, Arizona, Arizona State, Fresno State
So some of the weirder realignment of recent years gets undone, the former Big East gets put down and BYU, Boise State, Fresno State, Temple and Houston get a bump up. The first three have essentially been playing BCS-conference-level football for years, Houston used to before the SWC got split up and Temple…well I think solidifying Temple as a major-conference school would do wonders for the growth of college football in the Northeast and give Penn State and Rutgers a rivalry game to look forward to every year. These conferences are also much more geographically compartmentalized than is currently the case. It consolidates Iowa, South Carolina and Texas into one conference each, though Georgia, Florida, Kentucky and Pennsylvania remain divided. Plus Syracuse is just kind of hangin’ out there and I’m not really sure what to do about that. It also keeps a lot (though not all) of the old Big East rivalries together and reunites former conference rivals Missouri-Kansas, Texas-Texas A&M, Virginia Tech-WVU and Utah-BYU. I can’t believe these are things that we think about.
Anyway, thank you for your continued patronage of Crashburn Alley. That’s all there is–there isn’t any more.