Monday, March 28, 2011

He said, she said

I was syndicated on BlogHer.comI was born in 1977, 57 years after women were given the right to vote in the United States. Aside from receiving unequal pay and promotions, cringing at Sarah Palin's distortion of historical facts while she pretends to be a feminist, and fighting conservative efforts to keep their hands and superstitions off my body, I generally don't think about gender issues as they affect me. I don't consider myself a feminist.

Middle East women's issues are a different story, however, since I've worked in the Mideast field for more than a decade now and have encountered women who truly face oppression. The other day, a fully burka'd figure who got into my elevator caught me by surprise. This is Beirut, after all, not Kandahar. The shadowy figure not only wore the burka with gloves, but you could not even see its eyes. What had once been a human being had ceased being human; it was an object, a nothing. It creeped the hell out of me. I wanted to shake it into the twenty-first century. I wanted to rip that ugly black piece of cloth to shreds. I held my breath all the way up the elevator hoping it would crawl back into whatever fifteenth century hole it had come from. The figure hadn't even bothered to press a floor button - my liberation, manifested in my shorts and Cincinnati Reds baseball cap - was that much of a threat to its nothingness, and it waited until I got off on the fifth floor to push the third floor button.

I started this post before the news of Geraldine Ferraro's passing, but I'll just add a bit about her here. I was seven years old when Mondale/Ferraro signs were posted across America. As a little girl, I couldn't understand the significance of Ferraro's candidacy, and thanks to women like Ferraro, I didn't have to. Rarely have I ever felt the weight of oppression of my gender (though working in the Middle East field, it is detectable). I'm so lucky - the coincidence of my birth as an American has given me freedoms totally unknown to much of the world's female population. I count my blessings all the time, and I never take it for granted.

But there is one thing that really irks me even though I understand why it happens: the assumption that I am a guy in baseball cyberspace. Look, I get that most sports bloggers are guys and that my screenname is that of a male Greek architect and the male protagonist in books by James Joyce. In light of the Egyptian women who are being raped in the name of democracy, the it with breasts I encountered in the elevator, the women who are forced into sex slavery here in Lebanon and everywhere else, and all of the horrific things that happen to women across the globe, my irritation is petty and makes me feel guilty for even thinking about it at all. But it is demeaning nonetheless, so I just ask one small favor from baseball cyberspace: please, stop assuming an anonymous online identity has a protruding appendage in the nether regions of the body.

Today, a post of mine has been syndicated on the network. I hope you will take the time to read "Clutch and Nerves" if you haven't already. And please head on over to for some great women bloggers.

I thought I'd take the opportunity to highlight some of the women writing about baseball on the network.

Mia Mercado takes a look at two of the stars of the US Women's National Baseball Team.

Sarah ponders the retirement of Gil Meche.

JuliaJulesM reviews The Last Boy; Mickey Mantle Stories Come Alive by Jane Leavy.

I also encourage you to check out the "Convent" section in my sidebar, which is full of great women baseball bloggers.

Also, I'd like to ask that you make sure you check out the sponsors on the right sidebar from time to time. BlogHer is a great ad network with topnotch people on their staff. I am proud to be a part of it.

Friday, March 25, 2011

She can't be a real Cubs fan - she has a brain

Being a [Chicago] Cubs fan prepares you for life—and Washington.
Hillary Rodham Clinton (b. 1947), U.S. attorney; First Lady of the United States. As quoted in Newsweek, p. 17 (April 18, 1994).

On how being a fan of the beleaguered baseball club "hardened her to adversity."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

This sounds like fun!

The Reds have a kickass baseball club, from the team itself to the management to baseball operations and marketing. They just seem to do everything well. Maybe we should put them in charge of the government?
Reds announce “Hide and Tweet” to win Opening Day tickets

CINCINNATI (March 24, 2011) — The Cincinnati Reds have created a “Hide and Tweet” scavenger hunt where clues to locations of Opening Day tickets will be released on the popular social networking web site Twitter on Saturday, March 26 and Sunday, March 27.

The Reds will be giving away four pairs of Opening Day tickets through four different scavenger hunts in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

Fans can follow the Reds on Twitter at: (@cincinnatireds) to find the street addresses of the clue locations.

The clues will be distributed by a Reds representative at three different retail stores each round and will lead to a final location in the Greater Cincinnati area where a pair of Opening Day tickets have been hidden.

HIDE AND TWEET #1, NORTH - Saturday, March 26

- First location announced via Twitter at 9am

- Second location announced at 11am

- Third location announced at 1pm

HIDE AND TWEET #2, WEST - Saturday, March 26

- First location announced via Twitter at 2pm

- Second location announced at 4pm

- Third location announced at 6pm

HIDE AND TWEET #3, SOUTH (Northern Kentucky) - Sunday, March 27

- First location announced via Twitter at 10am

- Second location announced at 12pm

- Third location announced at 2pm hour.

HIDE AND TWEET #4, EAST - Sunday, March 27

- First location announced via Twitter at 3pm

- Second location announced at 5pm

- Third location announced at 7pm

The winners will be announced immediately on Twitter.

Fans who do not have a Twitter account can sign up for free at

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Clutch and Nerves

Note: "Clutch" is a term that has come to be viewed with derision in some modern baseball circles. It denotes a players performance in high pressure situations, i.e. a player's ability to get a "big hit" in situations "when it counts." The concept is controversial in modern baseball, as the term is often used based on one's perception rather than rooted in a reality that can be measured quantitatively. Factors such as the number of times a player is put into a high leverage situation and how his numbers compare to non-high leverage situations must be considered, as well as his actual performance.

In this article in Slate entitled "Nerve": Why is America so anxious?, a bit relevant to baseball pops up.
In a chapter called "The Clutch Paradox," you do a wonderful job of dispelling a popular sports myth -- that some athletes are inherently more clutch than others. My question is: Why do so many seem to choke so consistently? Why are certain major leaguers like Chuck Knoblauch and Rick Ankiel never able to regain their form after falling down a psychological rabbit hole?

These kinds of breakdowns are a lot more pernicious than people realize. [Former MLB player] Steve Sax, whom I interviewed for this book, told me that his trouble throwing the ball to first base was the hardest thing he ever went through aside from losing his parents. We have this image of athletes as egomaniacs who don't take the sport as seriously as the fans do, but this is something that rips them apart inside. When Chuck Knoblauch throws a ball into the stands, it gets replayed on SportsCenter over and over and over again. It takes a lot of mental jujitsu to come back from something like that. Another reason why many athletes have so much trouble regrouping is that there's still a real shrink barrier in sports. This is a culture that says you must be mentally tough to succeed, and I think a lot of players see therapy as an admission of defeat.
I haven't read the book, so I don't know if Taylor Clark uses sabermetrics or psychology to "dispel the clutch myth," but I want to say a bit about this.  One of the things that has bothered me about the "clutch" argument is the refusal to entertain the notion that it can exist. As stathead pros and novices alike know, there are people out there who will say so and so is clutch and players will earn reputations for being clutch but when you look at their numbers in high leverage situations, you find they just aren't "clutch" at all. The people who use the term "clutch" without examining the numbers aren't just casual fans who may have seen a guy hit a gamewinner twice to label that guy as "clutch," but include guys like Jeff Brantley and Marty Brennaman, who, like so many others, vehemently refuse to acknowledge that human knowledge progresses. The baseball boxscore was developed by sportswriter Henry Chadwick back before cars, airplanes, electricity, and the establishment of the Cincinnati Reds Baseball Club, the first professional baseball team. Statheads are right to criticize the use of the term "clutch" when it is based on nothing but tradition.

But like me, statheads aren't psychologists, neurologists, or biologists. (I haven't seen one, anyway.) And while they're crunching away at their numbers, rarely is a player's physiology given a thought. Some, when confronted by numbers that show that indeed, a player DOES perform better in high leverage situations, even go so far as to blame the player for not "focusing" or "working hard" or "caring enough" during non-high leverage situations. But the human brain is a fascinating and mysterious organ that even people who study it for a living don't know much about. Some players' brains are most likely shooting fear chemicals around when there are two on and two out in the bottom of the ninth, while others are probably swimming in adrenaline. We simply don't know enough about the brain yet to explain why some players do better in high leverage situations than others. Maybe in the future the term "clutch" will have some scientific backing.

[Remember the Nintendo game "Bases Loaded II?" When choosing your lineup, you can see a player's "biorhythm," which included psychological state. I'm sure the game wasn't based on anything scientific, but hey, maybe it was ahead of its time!]

So I wonder how Taylor Clark "dispels the myth of clutch."  I'm looking forward to reading "Nerve: Poise Under Pressure, Serenity Under Stress, and the Brave New Science of Fear and Cool," and not just for the "Clutch Paradox" chapter.  I am especially interested in the part about American social isolationism.  Other places, like here in Lebanon, have such a sense of community while Americans run around afraid of everything.  Human beings are social creatures and indeed would not have survived as a species without the evolutionary social traits that kept us alive. As the book suggests, social isolationism, among other things, is driving America crazy, as crazy as clutch makes devoted statheads.

This post is syndicated on

Monday, March 07, 2011

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Bet on it

So another Major League Baseball season is a few weeks away. If you're a betting person, you can check MLB odds at BetUS. But I can already tell you who will win this year. The Reds, of course!

I have, as you know, been enjoying warmer weather than most of you for the whole winter, but this past week was really the first week when I felt spring, you know, that deep-in-your-soul kind of rebirth that makes you crave to hear the words "Play Ball!" The season of baseball's beginning is precisely what makes it so different from other sports. We've been frozen all winter, suffering through a colorless void, artificial heat, and static electricity while scraping windshields and suffocating from cabin fever.

But we know all of that is about to end when our bat-wielding heroes go south to scrap off the rust in preparation for another grueling season. It doesn't matter if you're a Yankees fan with perennial hope for a winner or a Pirates fan for whom a winning season has about as much of a chance as peace in the Middle East (it could happen) - just the sight of those shiny new uniforms in Spring Training photos is physically stimulating and mentally warming.

Even with the decade of the aughts being a disaster for the Cincinnati Reds, I can't say it was the same as being a Pirates fan. At least we had good offenses over the decade. At least there was always an outside shot that we could play baseball in October. At least we had a 2004 Sports Illustrated cover. At least we had 2006 when hope survived into September.


This year.


We are expected by many to repeat a division championship!

It has been 7442 days, 15 hours, 3 minutes and 10 seconds at the time of this posting since the Cincinnati Reds last won a World Series. Here's to hoping I can take that countdown off the page come November. Do we have a real shot? You can bet on it.

Friday, March 04, 2011

The R...ed...s...are...o...n...the...ra...di...o...

Wow, was it great to hear Marty's voice on that first day of radio broadcast for 2011. But I only got to hear it after an adventure in what poor internet service can be. I made another MS Paint video to illustrate this adventure. I've enjoyed doing this, and I'm working on another solely baseball-related one. Perhaps I will make this a regular feature throughout the season. (Maybe I'll even get some real software instead of using MS Paint? Software donations?) Even though because I used MS Paint the pictures are pixelated,it is still better viewed with a full screen.

Music is:

ATB First Love
Smetna (from The Bartered Bride)
Beatles Revolution 9
Breeders Cannonball
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah Underwater (You and Me)
John Fogerty Centerfield
Beatles Norwegian Wood

Cross posted on my travel blog, Travellingrox.

[NOTE: Make no mistake, without net neutrality laws, American telecomms companies will be free to turn the American internet into one that resembles the mess Lebanon's is. Support net neutrality.]