Crash Bag, Vol. 60: Put that on Your Eye Black, Tebow

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:

 

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. If your conference name has a number in it, you must have that number of teams in your conference.
  4. Every major conference must have at least 12 teams and a championship game, because conference championship games are awesome.
  5. 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.

 

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24 comments

  1. Dristone

    June 28, 2013 08:26 AM

    Nice article, I agree with your realignment thoughts.

    As for McNabb, I agree it wasn’t all his fault and he was most definitely used as a scapegoat, however I do think it was time for the Eagles to move on from him when they did. Maybe overdue by a couple years. I do however think it was a mistake to also keep Reid after cutting ties with McNabb. In my opinion, they should have ripped that band-aid off together.

  2. John B.

    June 28, 2013 08:47 AM

    “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.”

    That’s a pretty unnecessarily bleak outlook and a false dichotomy.

    What you could do instead is start your own business, spend a ton of time getting it off the ground, and then watching it run itself indefinitely with the proper amount of oversight. If you can pull it off, you’ll never have to answer to corporate or government overlords again.

    I’ve made enough money in my 20s through internet ventures to never have to work for someone ever again. It’s a great feeling, and there are enough opportunities out there for smart people like yourself to shatter the depressing dichotomy you just proposed in the aforementioned paragraph.

  3. JayZeeBee

    June 28, 2013 08:51 AM

    For the record, openly gay players who hit under .300 and who strike out fewer than one batter per inning are also okay.

    I don’t know that it is fair to say that Hunter was being a dick. “Difficult and uncomfortable” are, very simply, real feelings; they aren’t, in themselves, judgments on others behavior. The ability to accept those feelings in others, without calling the person a bigot or a dick, is the real essence of living with difference, as much as is accepting the behavior and identity of others without judgment.

  4. Phillie697

    June 28, 2013 10:59 AM

    John B.

    So what you’re saying is that instead of being exploited, you now exploit. That’s suppose to be cosmically better?

    Totally missed MB’s satire :)

  5. LTG

    June 28, 2013 11:01 AM

    There’s so much to say about the handbook existentialism that pervades intelligent baseball blogs. I’ll start with just this. The conclusion that life is meaningless or pointless usually depends on a curious inference. From the fact that ultimate values or for-the-sakes-of-whiches (FTSWs) are immaterial and, moreover, insubstantial, one infers that FTSWs are supernatural, i.e., not be found in the natural world. Religion, expansively, then has to be the source of FTSWs. But many intelligent people are skeptical of religion (and the supernatural generally) and, so, believe it cannot be the source of FTSWs either. From these premises the conclusion about meaninglessness follows. But that first inference is strange. Why should we reduce the natural to the material or substantial? Why should we expect the natural to be exhausted by what we can observe from a neutral perspective?

    Also, John B. is right that the dichotomy is false, although I’m not sure how being an entrepreneur gets one out from under the overseer’s icy glare. The problem with the dichotomy is that it is not exhaustive. Of course, the conclusion about meaninglessness might still be true despite the mistake in the motivating dichotomy, especially if the dichotomy were deepened and the structure of exploitation shown to be universal. So, here’s a reason to think it isn’t. We do stuff. If we are going to have meaningful lives, we must do stuff. Doing stuff has an in-order-to structure. Do this in order to do that, and so on, until it reaches a FTSW (should there be any). To be part of that structure we have to make ourselves instruments for our own ends. That is to say, instrumentalization, a pre-requisite for exploitation, is inevitable. But instrumentalization is not the same as exploitation. It is possible to exploit oneself but not every self-instrumentalization is self-exploitation. In particular, if there are FTSWs and I choose one and instrumentalize myself in pursuit of that FTSW, then the instrumentalization is not exploitation. Even Marx recognizes this. It is the background for his normative critique of capitalist society. We can argue about what conditions are necessary for non-exploitative self-instrumentalization, but it is obvious that it is a live possibility.

    And, finally, here’s the point. The dichotomy can’t motivate the conclusion because to do so it relies on a universalization of exploitation. But that premise presupposes that all self-instrumentalization is exploitative, which in turn presupposes that FTSWs don’t exist, which is supposed to be the conclusion. It begs the question.

    I’ve focused on the dichotomy. Neverthless, the point about exploitation and instrumentalization covers the whole mini-tract.

  6. Phillie697

    June 28, 2013 11:02 AM

    @JayZeeBee,

    I agree with what you’re saying, but are you going to tell me that you don’t pass judgment on someone if he or she said to you, “you know what, I am totally 100% uncomfortable around black people. They make my skin crawl. I wish I never have to be around them. But alas, such is life. I’ll live with it.”?

  7. LTG

    June 28, 2013 11:03 AM

    Either that or I have a tin ear for sarcasm.

  8. LTG

    June 28, 2013 11:09 AM

    “They make my skin crawl. I wish I never have to be around them.” This gins up the case a bit, since one could admit to being uncomfortable and, nevertheless, not have one’s skin craw and not wish to avoid these others. This, of course, was not the effect of Hunter’s utterance and he knew it. Instead, the effect was to keep the de facto don’t ask, don’t tell policy in force.

  9. Phillie697

    June 28, 2013 11:14 AM

    @LTG,

    I was exaggerating for effect. The point is, tolerance should only go so far.

  10. VoteForDelmon

    June 28, 2013 11:27 AM

    This is way too serious. Has everyone been voting for Delmon?

  11. BradInDC

    June 28, 2013 11:41 AM

    You know what’s meaningful in life? Sandwiches. FTSW. Finely-sliced Turkey SandWiches.

  12. JayZeeBee

    June 28, 2013 11:55 AM

    @Phillie697 – You raise very good points, which get at the heart of what makes getting along hard. I wish Hunter hadn’t said what he had said. I don’t know if it was a personal admission, or a public stance, or somewhere in between, but whatever the case – it became a public stance. Because Hunter is a noteworthy MLB player. He is probably not aware of the power he wields, as part of the heterosexual majority. And maybe he really is a dick, is aware of the power he has, and is trying to make the most of it.

    I agree that tolerance is far from the panacea that our culture thinks it is. And I totally think that people should be called out, when necessary, on appropriate grounds. Not sure what the grounds are in this case – was he just ignorant (of the dynamics of power, what it requires to create safe space, etc.), or was he maliciously attacking any possible gay players who might be lurking in clubhouse corners? Dunno.

    Without knowing the context, I really couldn’t say how I would respond to this hypothetical statement. I do believe that only by confronting our shadow side can we defeat it, so I welcome opportunities for that side to be shown to ourselves.

  13. Greg

    June 28, 2013 01:19 PM

    I think as long as players can play, we’re at the point as a society where sexual orientation won’t matter. I think an ARod-type personality would be worse for a locker room than a gay player.

  14. Larry

    June 28, 2013 03:03 PM

    Dennis Rodman was gay. How does everyone forget that? He dressed in drag while in the NBA and I think everyone knew he was at least Bi. He had a great career. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cole Hamels was gay just my opinion. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. (Seinfeld reference)

    Mcnabb has a good shot at HOF, all the success getting to so many postseasons. Also his TD to interception ratio was great. He was a very good rusher as a QB. However, he definitely was in the right place at the right time. In the JJ years as defensive coordinator, the Eagles had one of the best defenses almost every season which really helped Mc Nabb’s cause. He wasn’t a clutch guy who would win the game in the final minutes of the 4th quarter.

    Westbrook was so under-rated, he was a great runner and the screen pass inflated Mc Nabb’s numbers.

    The Eagles had a good year with Vick after DM left and then it went to shit the following season. McNabb was horrible on the other 2 teams after Philly. He actually got benched for Rex Grossman, wow.

    A super bowl win would have been nice, came real close in 2004, but the Donovan era should be fondly remembered by Philly fans.

  15. Rei De Bastoni

    June 28, 2013 03:57 PM

    Ecclesiastes is the Fight Club of the Bible. If you don’t want God, that’s what you’re going to end up with.

  16. pedro3131

    June 29, 2013 03:22 AM

    Wasn’t Denis Rodman married to Carmen Electra at the time he wore the wedding dress?

  17. KH

    June 29, 2013 05:43 PM

    I’m sure I’ll get my wrist slapped but I can’t believe people read these (Baumann’s posts) and respond in depth.

  18. John B.

    June 30, 2013 10:30 PM

    Phillie697: You don’t necessarily have to exploit people to be a successful entrepreneur.

    I made all of my money speculating on domain names and selling software that I wrote myself. Who was I exploiting through my ventures other than myself and maybe corporations that overpaid for my services, if you deem it overpayment?

  19. Phillie697

    July 01, 2013 03:38 AM

    @John B.,

    MB’s post was suppose to be a satire, but you missed it. But even if you did take it seriously and did truly understand the underlying point, thinking that you didn’t “exploit” people because speculated on domain names and sold software, then you’re about as innocent as stock brokers on Wall Street who would claim that, “hey, I made my money just speculating on stocks.” I guess those Occupy Wall Street people got the wrong dudes.

    This from the guy who called what MB wrote a false dichotomy.

  20. John B.

    July 02, 2013 02:18 PM

    Phillie697:

    Maybe I am misunderstanding you here. Can you explain to me how exactly I exploited people when I, myself, wrote code for a living and I, myself, made domain name transactions with corporations and other individuals?

    How exactly was I directly exploiting anyone in these endeavors other than myself (my labor)?

    If you are hinting at mere participation in economic activity contributing to exploitation of workers in other areas of that economy, then that is simply unavoidable. Even as workers, the very act of consenting to employment by a company of any kind you are contributing to the giant machine. The only way to not be involved in exploitation at the tangential level is to completely reject society.

  21. Marc Schneider

    July 02, 2013 03:41 PM

    Inevitably, some players will be uncomfortable with a gay teammate, at least initially. Some won’t like getting undressed around that playeer. But that’s different than rejecting him. At this point, it’s hard for me to see many, if any, players, being stupid enough to actually express hostility to a teammate. Even players that are religious (lots of those in MLB) would more likely take the position of “hate the sin, love the sinner.” And, in fact, it’s hard for me to see how any player, once they see that a gay player is just another guy, doesn’t have horns and is not going to try to seduce his teammates in the locker room, is going to really have a problem with that player. I think it will be much easier than people anticipate. Maybe I’m naive, but I think a lot of the problem is just the provincialism of players; not being around gay people-or at least not realizing they are around them. And, the fact is, if the player can help the team win-presumably a prerequisite for being on a major league team-they are going to accept that, just as the Dodgers eventually did with Jackie Robinson. If this was 10 or 15 years ago, it would be different, of course, but times have changed, I suspect, even among athletes.

    As for the pointlessness of life, why does there have to be a point? You enjoy it until it’s over.

  22. Phillie697

    July 03, 2013 11:53 AM

    @John B.

    Your last paragraph was kinda MB’s overarching point, although again, made in jest. I was merely trying to be “funny” about how you took it so seriously.

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