May 2

Accuse me of being a traditionalist, but there are certain unwritten rules I follow when attending a baseball game.  Well, I say unwritten, but several of the guidelines would more than likely be supported by any stadium security personal inclined to have a quiet afternoon.  While these rules may be slightly inclined toward the average Yankees fan, they’re vague enough that anyone can apply them and have a better experience for it.

First of all, start your day off on the right foot.  How hard is it to get to the stadium and in your seat before the first pitch?  Getting up to let someone out of the row for the bathroom is one thing, but I can’t be bothered to let you walk to your seat when you’re just getting to the game in the fifth inning.  Unless you tell me that you were involved in a ten-car pileup on the way, you don’t have a valid excuse.

How about during the game?  Do yourself a favour and leave your glove at home.  If you happen to be eligible for little league baseball, knock yourself out, but you can’t respect a middle aged, balding man wearing a glove while he’s well out of foul ball territory, especially those wearing one while their small child is not.  Your only defense here is if you’re in range to take a line drive to the face or crotch, and even then, you should be watching the game.  Please, leave the gloves for the kids.

No Excuse for This

No Excuse for This

You should also be leaving your umbrella at home.  There is no scenario where you should have an umbrella.  Either it’s a light drizzle and you’re blocking the view of those behind you with your oversized, complimentary golf umbrella, or it’s a rain delay and you should be toughing it out.  Flooding to the concession stands and making everybody even more miserable than they already are is not a viable option.  Sit in your seat, get wet, and deal with it.  Besides, it’s a great time to talk about the day’s matchup and compete with your friends on whose hands get the most wrinkled.

And if you want to take the term “fair-weather fan” literally, this is one example of a time when you do not leave the game early.  There are very few scenarios in which you should be leaving the game before it has been cancelled or ended.  Inclement weather is not one of them.  Your team blowing out the opponent isn’t one of them.  The opposite is certainly not one of them.  Beating the traffic isn’t one of them.  The concept of leaving the game early to “beat the traffic” is one of the biggest myths in sports.  Not only do you expose yourself to the rest of the crowd as being a fair-weather fan, but you rarely end up being in any better of a position than anyone else.

Oh, and if it’s not raining and you know you’re someone who should be wearing sun block, help everyone around you by wearing it.  It’s unfortunate that you’re balding, but I’m at the stadium to watch a baseball game, not to watch the various blister phases of your head as the game progresses.  I’d have to question whether I’d choose feeling the breeze on my head and skin cancer over wearing a hat.  Also, try to remember the deodorant.

Now, these were all things that you can control as an individual.  How about our responsibility as a collective crowd?  If you’re not familiar with the concept, a curtain call is when a baseball player does something worthy of recognition and the crowd cheers until they come out of the bullpen and give a tip of the cap.  In 1979, Yankees favourite Bobby Murcer gave a eulogy at team captain and close friend Thurman Munson’s funeral and then later that night drove in five runs winning the game for the Yankees and dedicating hid performance to Munson.  Murcer received a much-deserved curtain call.  Today?  Fans request a curtain call when someone hits two home runs.  I exaggerate, but it’s gotten out of hand and occasionally a player will do the right thing and ignore the cheers, of course resulting in jeers.  Let’s save the curtain calls for something special.

Also, let’s keep in mind what game we’re watching.  Nothing is worse than attending Oakland Athletics vs. New York Yankees game and having to not once, but repeatedly hear “Red Sox suck” chants.  We can’t save that for when the Red Sox are actually in town?  What’s worse, don’t chant that the Red Sox suck when they’re ahead in the standings.  And if someone is brave enough to wear a Red Sox hat to the game when they’re not even in town, applaud their bravery and rather than throwing your beer at them, save it for drinking.

That brings us to beer.  Surely one of the best parts about going to a hot, July baseball game is the beer, but you’ve got to know your limits.  While we’re all very impressed that you can both drink and afford a dozen beers, it’s the rest of us that have to deal with you.  The wife beater and superman tattoo are a great combination, but I can do without the close-up as you’re falling on me walking by.  Oh, and take it from me, watching someone face plant down a flight of concrete stairs is hilarious until the paramedics show up.  Then, it’s just funny.

So there it is.  I hate to be a snobby baseball fan, but I pay a lot of money to see those games.  A little tradition, consideration, and common sense can make it an enjoyable experience for all of us.  By the way, special recognition goes to the five-year old who was witnessed throwing his Father’s glove off the upper deck.  Here’s to the future leaders of America.

May 2

In the world of sports, fame is attributed most often to those who have the physical ability to excel at their given sport (with some glaring exceptions).  Few would argue that LeBron James is the mega celebrity he is today because of his superhuman ability to play the game of basketball.  Roger Federer’s mastery of the tennis court keeps him in the public eye year-round.  Albert Pujols can walk down the street of practically any small town and be called by name.  While these are superstars of their respective sports to be sure, you might be hard-pressed to call them the face of their sport.  LeBron shares the limelight with stars like Kobe Bryant and Dwayne Wade; Federer, with Rafael Nadal and Andy Roddick; Pujols, with Derek Jeter and Chipper Jones.

Golf, however, is a different matter.  Much like Michael Jordan reigned over the NBA in his prime, Tiger Woods is the face of the PGA and of golf in general.  Yes there are stars on the PGA tour other than Tiger: Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, and Geoff Ogilvy, to name a few.  But no one commands attention like Tiger can.  No one increases TV ratings like Tiger.  Most important, no one can outplay Tiger.

That is an important distinction to make.  Tiger Woods is a celebrity because he excels at golf.  Sports figures have achieved fame in the past without necessarily being exceptional at their sport for both positive and negative reasons.  Jim Abbott, for instance, will always be remembered as the pitcher with one hand.  Yes, he was good enough to throw a no-hitter while a member of the Yankees, but over his 10-year career statistically, he was an average pitcher at best.  Adam “Pacman” Jones’ fame came from his numerous run-ins with the law and constant exposure on shows like Sportscenter.  There is no gimmick or side-story to Tiger’s fame.  He gets credit even from his peers for being the best golfer in the world.

This is why it’s so disconcerting to see Tiger’s personal life be the subject of such immense scrutiny.  The events of Thanksgiving night, 2009 have been covered and analyzed and rehashed ad nauseam, so they don’t bear repeating here, but I’d have to wonder how many people of the millions who have been swept up in this Tiger Woods media circus appreciate his ability.  Little to none of what happened that night had anything to do with the reason he became famous.  I could understand if he inherited his fame by marrying Elin.  Then extramarital affairs might be newsworthy.  But as it stands, Tiger Woods is the same person on the course that he ever was (one would hope.   Time will tell).

He Doesn't Owe Us, We Owe Him

He Doesn't Owe Us, We Owe Him

The big news now is the news conference Tiger recently held.  Much has been made of how forced and scripted it felt and of his unwillingness to answer questions from the press.  The public’s sense of self-entitlement amazes me.  Say what you want about the responsibilities Tiger agreed to when he became famous, but I think we owe him.  He captivated golf-lovers for years and even brought people into the sport who otherwise would have written it off.  I started golfing three years ago, but may never have bothered without Tiger’s influence on the game.

Through his success, Tiger became connected to a great many people over the course of his career.  In his apology, he addressed friends and family, the children he helped with his education foundation, the corporations that sponsored him, and his millions of fans.  The only people that deserved an apology were his family.  And only after the media released the information to the general public did he owe his friends an apology.  Why is it that millions of children have looked up to Tiger for years and perhaps even began playing golf?  It’s because he is an amazing athlete.  It’s because he is a mixed-race athlete who has ascended to the top.  It’s because he is a fierce competitor.  It’s not because of his family life.

While he could have carried out the obligatory press conference with a little more tact (having made a number of the “most awkward press conference” lists, both in the sporting world and in general), I don’t think we could or should have expected any more out of him.  Athletes should be able to separate their on-field and off-field performance.  While I believe that athletes like Tiger and Pujols and LeBron have a responsibility to act as role models to the children who idolize them, I don’t think that’s what this is about.  We use children as the scapegoat.  In this instance, the TMZ-loving public was hungry for more gossip and Tiger Woods just happened to be the soup du jour.  I’d question many children even grasp the concept of marital infidelity, so if left on its own, perhaps this whole episode could have passed without tarnishing their view of the great Tiger Woods.

It didn’t pass though.  It is still very much in the news.  Tiger’s return to the sport that he embodies is left indefinite.  Will he be the great golfer he was when he finally returns?  Will fans remain by his side?  Will he continue to further the game of golf more than anyone has before him?  These questions will be answered eventually, but one thing is for sure, the majority of those currently interested in Tiger won’t be around for the answers.  These questions will not be answered in the tabloids, but rather, on the course.  It is those who truly have an appreciation for the greatness that is Tiger Woods who will suffer if he fails to return.  I hope he does.

May 2

Other than the occasional bathroom or kitchen run, there’s really no reason to ever leave your couch. I’m not suggesting that we embrace some sort of utopian bachelor paradise, but rather that, at least when it comes to sports, the TV is the only venue worthy of a visit.

There was a point in the not-too-distant past when watching sports on TV was really a hit-or-miss experience. A number of different circumstances made the prospect of going to the game more appealing than watching it on TV. A tiny fraction of the games were regularly covered. The picture quality and ability to follow the action (specifically in fast-action sports like basketball or hockey) was lacking. The existence of local broadcast blackouts made it necessary for some fans to go to the game or go without.

The arguments against watching the game at home, however, were technologically based more than anything else. As we’ve seen technology develop over the decades, watching sports on TV first became a comparable experience, and now arguably has surpassed that of going to the arena or stadium or pitch.

Anything I’ve ever heard about attending NFL games is that it’s worth experiencing, but beyond that, the hassle is barely worth it. The tickets are overpriced, the parking is unmanageable, and unless attending a game early in the schedule, it’s miserably cold and raining or snowing. Then, unless you’re fortunate enough to have low seats on the 50-yard line, the action is partially obscured for the majority of the game. It’s a wonder that a team like the Cleveland Browns sells any tickets at all. You would be faced with similar difficulties attending an NBA game. Just make sure you see LeBron live once, and then call it a day.

King James: Worth the Hassle

King James: Worth the Hassle

Major League Baseball is not immune from the pitfalls of live sports. To remain an avid Red Sox or Yankees fan, you’re forced to take out a second mortgage on your house. Modern stadiums are riddled with blind spots and obstructed views. The environmental extremes are overbearing; frigid in early spring, sweltering throughout the summer, and then back to frigid come the playoffs. The MLB season is so long that it comfortably covers three different seasons. And let’s not forget to mention the exorbitant concession prices that are rife throughout all sports. $11.50 for a beer when it’s 98 degrees should be considered cruel and unusual punishment.

So sure, there are a bunch of reasons not to go to the game, but is the TV really that compelling? Yes, it is. If you devote enough of your paycheck to the cable bill, you can have access to all the major professional sports day in and day out. With sometimes a dozen games occurring simultaneously, it is more sports than any one person can watch. And how about the broadcasts themselves? I can remember a time when NFL broadcasts didn’t include the line of scrimmage and first down line, but I’d rather not think about it. And instant replays? They were such an intriguing development that professional sports have incorporated them into the games in one way or another. And then there’s the most profound development in sports for centuries: HDTV.

There are intangibles to be gained from going to the game, but why? The couch offers such a superior experience that the pro teams simply can’t compete. No parking? Free admission? Cheap beer? There’s no contest.