Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Falling Into Place


Apologies, my dear readers, are in order. These NBA playoffs have been all-consuming in my household, and the lack of updates from me has been inexcusable. Now that the finals are sorted, I'm back on the horse. Expect more. Stay thirsty. Etc.

Watching the NBA Playoffs has driven home how happy I am with Baseball. The NBA seems to exist as a counter to its own sport; I'm suspicious whether or not Stern even fundamentally likes the game. The talk around every water cooler has been how poor the referees have been in calling the playoffs, but the more interesting aspect to me has been how badly the NBA misunderstands its own fans - watching the games you're absolutely bludgeoned with propaganda, over and over and over, reminding you that the NBA Cares and these courts are where Amazing Happens and it's patently ridiculous. I'll speak for most fans when I say I don't give a shit how much time Lamar Odom spends at a free basketball camp for kids or how often Rip Hamilton spoons food to the destitute in Detroit (a redundancy, I know). What I would like is for a game that is timed at exactly 48 minutes to end in less time than a Lord of the Rings movie. Is it really fundamentally important that the players put on nice clothes? Stern seems intent on polishing the brass; his concern is really deeply racial. He has to "sell" big athletic (mostly) black men to the whole of White America, and he's missing the point. Those swayed by the propaganda are too stupid and too small a minority to matter, and those who need proof of Wallace's mandated kindheartedness won't go to games regardless. America deserves its share of time in the corner, but by and large, we can deal with the complexities of individuals who play basketball. (And if you can't, then go pick up a People Magazine or watch something on E!) What Stern has done is like a vegan who makes a decent tasting vegan version of a dish - maybe a chocolate cake - and brags over and over, "It tastes just like a regular cake! And there's no animal products in it!"

Yeah, but: Who the hell wants vegan cake?

Referees are calling games like prison wardens afraid that is they take a finger off the trigger the inmates will burn the building to the ground. Look at this play - Howard is whistled for a technical foul for exulting after a pretty amazing finish. This is illegal, according to Stern. Notice too on the same play Varejao, for whom I have complete and utter contempt, tackles Howard from behind. The NBA is arguably at its apex in terms of talented players, and the Stern-mandated focus has resulted in a game that acts as weights on the ankles of these players. Shit, if I were Howard, I would have stood over Varejao and yelled for a few minutes. It's a damn game, and it's getting harder to wade through the pile of bureaucratic nonsense to enjoy it.


With that as preamble, how can we not appreciate baseball all the more? Rick Riley, apparently missing the irony in a golfer bored by the slow speed of baseball, has excreted a column I refuse to link to about how he'd change baseball if he were commissioner. One such idea is to install a clock to make sure pitchers take less time between pitches, to which I humbly say: stick it up your ass, Riley. He also thinks similarly to Stern in that he believes throwing at a player is a capital offense; fans of the game know better. Baseball doesn't need rule changes (Other than the start time for playoff games being moved up - is it wrong for an important game to be played in daylight? And that's not even a rule thing. See?). Attendance is down incrementally from last year, but it's mostly due to the economy, and on the whole most teams are doing well. Playing 162 games means that the total figures for people watching games in person absolutely annihilates the other three major team sports, and if you're making a joke about Hockey not being a major sport, then let's go ahead and be friends.

There's an obvious timelessness about baseball that has an appeal for a huge swatch of people. This gives the powers that be - whatever my/your objections with Selig are - reign to actually promote the sport, and they're doing a pretty damn good job at it. I'm specifically referring a few of Major League Baseball's official venues to fandom - MLB.TV, the DirecTV Extra Innings, and, most relevant of all, the MLB iPhone App. For those of you with an iPhone and even a passing interest in baseball, go buy it. Right now. Find the ten dollars, or skip any takeout meal you'll buy today, and you'll thank me for it, I promise. Because this thing is amazing. Up to the second scores, complete game coverage, video highlights, end-of-game summary videos, stats, pitch-by-pitch diagrams... it's all a little much, in a completely positive way. My favorite feature is definitely the radio. Each in-progress game has a link to audio, which will play a radio announcer's call of the game. Which announcer? Well, you get to choose that, because the App lets you pick which team's radio man to listen to. It's incredible. Given that you can buy an iPhone for like 100 bucks, it's probably worth a new phone by itself

APTOPIX Brewers Cardinals Baseball

If this seems like the entire post has existed for the sole reason of praising MLB's employees, then I'm sorry; it's only a third that.

Baseball has its problems, of course. PEDs are becoming a monomaniacal obsession of those that cover the game, for one, and this in turns upsets all the old hats. We have the Joe Morgan versus Common Sense fight-to-the-death. There's no shortage of issues to talk about; salary caps, owners, seat licenses, beer costs or whatever else it may be. But as the NFL scratches for the bottom floor, the NBA fights its own players and the NHL slowly becomes a niche sport, I'm appreciating more and more the simple archaic perfection of baseball as it finds its way through our modern filtration systems.

Meanwhile, this season has started to get interesting. My unseen post on the Blue Jays and their hideous efficiency has become a moot point, and the players the Yankees bought to perform in the summer months are doing just that. It helps they play in a wind tunnel blowing out of right field, but still. We have a few interesting divisional struggles, a sudden deluge in players with mental handicaps, the return of Justin Verlander, the utter disaster in Washington, Grienke's ascension, the pitching staff of the Giants against their batters, the implosion in Tampa, the rise of the Marlins, the coronation of Pujols, the 300th win of the second most unlikeable man in baseball, and hundreds of others.

Amazing is happening right here, damn it.



Rebecca Davis said...

getting some really great photographs up here! NICE!

Jack said...

Do you guys plan to talk about the MLB Draft at any point? I'd love to read your thoughts on it. Hurry, before all these kids get drafted and disappear for a number of years into minor league obscurity (except for Strasberg of course, who should pitch in the minors but still star in a few highlights).

The Backwards K said...

@Becks - Thanks!

@Jack - We're not really planning to. The problem is that it's really hard to actually watch the guys play enough to have anything to say about them. Also of course in college they use metal bats, which completely throws off any sort of reality from their stats/bat speed/etc.

Upcoming lineup (should be up this week, in this order) humor piece, deadspin lament, Zambrano

Obscenity Bat said...

@Jack, addendum - Writing about the Draft? No; Writing about the crop of young talent in the Show & farm leagues? Absolutely. Look out for that this summer. Thanks for reading!