Sunday, March 22, 2015

Brats these days

So, baseball.

I've not been able to follow Reds Spring Training as much as I usually do for a number of reasons, one being the start time of most of the games. I guess I'll never getting over the Reds' stupid decision to move Spring Training to Arizona. It still makes no sense from a fan point of view, and while I understand the economic sense, it just doesn't seem like they made enough effort to stay in Florida, which benefits the fans. I doubt I will ever go to Spring Training in Arizona. (And frankly, that batshit crazy evil state deserves none of my money.) It's hard enough to even listen to the games.

I have been listening to the games from the 4pm start times to the moment I hit the tunnel on my way home from work and lose reception, usually about 5:45.  That's a decent chunk of time, but I'm realizing that my attention span when listening to radio games isn't what it used to be, and I've rarely been able to watch for the first hour before I begin my commute because, one, I'm at work and actually have to do work, and two, either the internet in my office is slow and there is a lot of buffering or MLB.TV is up to its usual failures. You'd think after being a subscriber for ten years I'd come to terms with it. I wonder why others don't have the same kind of issues that have plagued me over the years through eight computers, two smartphones, and one tablet.

Some of my attention span deficit has to do with my excitement for going to Spain the week of Opening Day (no, I'm not missing Opening Day - I'm leaving the Friday after it.) I haven't traveled anywhere since I went to Italy two years ago, so I am very excited about the trip, which, I admit, is diminishing my enthusiasm for Opening Day a bit. I think social media trolls have also contributed to that, too. Baseball just isn't fun when you have sportswriters calling fans idiots and thinking they are God's gift. It's not fun when you continue to see baseball people in the middle of the country post political idiocy because they don't have a clue how the world works. It's not fun when people incapable of logical thinking demand a trade of one of the best players in baseball because he walks too much and they can't do math. Before the twenty-somethings became twenty-somethings, the internet was a good place, but then the little snowflakes grew up and we see how awful parents in their forties really were at parenting. There was no such thing as a troll back when blogs first began.

I've seen the power of social media in other countries, how they've been able to overthrow dictators and protect themselves from tyrannical regimes. Here, social media just seems to be a place where people with average to below average IQs and a sense of entitlement gather to erroneously proclaim their superiority to their equally inane neighbors and people smarter than them. I've tried to purge my Twitter feed of these folks, but they keep popping up anyway. These tools have destroyed our attention spans anyway. The blogosphere was great in the mid-aughts but people stopped being able to read beyond 140 characters and blogs became echo chambers and it was no longer worth the time to write something no one would read. I'm seeing this sentiment in many places these days. A lot of people are giving up on social media, some even returning to their blogs and focusing on what is sadly termed "longform reading" now. It's a sad state of literacy when we have to call writing of substance "longform" and just reiterates the idea that social media is a thoughtless void. (It isn't always, but it does take a lot of time and effort to make it not be.)

The movement to shorten baseball games is another symptom of the same problem but so is the reason for the extended length of games. Used to be, back when honor and respect were things in our society, that you got the ball back from the catcher and you threw it again, and you either swung at a pitch or let it go by and set up for the next pitch. Now players who probably don't pick up books complain that they need time to "think" about what pitch to throw or what the pitcher will throw. Get yourself a Lumosity account and speed up your slow brain if you need to take twenty-three seconds between pitches. And get yourself some batting gloves that fit correctly if you think you need to step out of the box between every pitch to readjust them. I don't like the idea of a clock or the other new rules but I guess something had to be done.

Another reason I haven't been able to follow the Reds as much this Spring Training is that I can't get the video feed on my phone because MLB.TV decides what devices you can and can't use it on. That's a problem in our society, too, the dominance of two giant corporations - Google and Apple - and their ability to dictate what we can and cannot do. Also a symptom of ADD nation - letting giant corporations step all over consumers because it takes too much effort to fight it. It's the same thing with the telecoms. In my neighborhood, we either have Comcast or Verizon internet. There's no other option. And Comcast is so awful that I'm thinking of filing an FCC complaint.  I can't watch MLB.TV on Xfinity because my speeds are so damn slow and Comcast claims there's nothing wrong with it. What the hell am I paying for? I signed up for an upgrade two weeks ago but the guy I talked to didn't actually sign me up and my speeds have been so slow that pages don't load.

There are people who are against net neutrality in this country. That's beyond comprehension. These people clearly have no idea what net neutrality is. I wonder if they even use the internet except that they are constantly tweeting about how they are now "oppressed" by the government because the FCC actually made rules that say the telecoms corporations can't restrict what you can see on the internet. You know what oppression is? Oppression is telecoms corporations (who write the bills passed by Congress) controlling what you are allowed to see on the internet and blocking people who don't pay the most from being able to be seen on the internet. Can you imagine doing that with telephones? So you want to call the local hardware store to see if they have a type of potting soil, but because the local hardware store didn't pay the telephone company as much as the giant corporation Home Depot did, you just keep getting a busy signal. But you have no problem getting through to Home Depot.

It just floors me how people scream and cry oppression in this country when they don't have a clue what they are talking about.

Anyway, the issue of net neutrality is something that would have 99% support if people weren't so hellbent on succumbing to political propaganda . But you know, Obama supports it, so there's a certain segment of the population that is automatically against it even though they'd be screwed by it. Ask one of these people to explain what net neutrality is and they can't. They say it's government controlling the internet. It's actually the exact opposite - it keeps the internet open when corporations wanted to control what you see on the internet. I don't know how it is so misunderstood, but then again, people don't think anymore, they just repeat what they hear on cable news.

And on social media. What percentage of people who spout of sabr kind of stats actually understand it? I've seen so many blogs talk about WAR, BABIP, etc, that clearly don't get the math. Same as those who talk about RBI and pitcher wins as if those are gospel. And the sabrbullies who call those who appreciate the traditional aspects of the game some version of moron.

I read the Times article today about the empathy gap and the psychology of "The Other" and am thinking about how those people who need to read it the most won't because it's too long. Basically it's about a guy who is studying neuroscience to figure out why people don't have empathy for those whom they perceive to be their enemies. He starts off by talking about the Roma in Hungary (who are every bit as discriminated against as African Americans) and how Hungarians agree the Roma should be integrated except when it comes down to actually integrating them.

We have to be aware of the empathy gap if we're going to stop the conflict in our lives, whether it be something as awful as war or something as inane as sabrmetrics.

But I have no empathy for opponents of net neutrality. To them I say "Get a brain, morans!"

Sunday, March 01, 2015

There's a reason it's called the National Pastime

I recently bought a book called Baseball: The Presidents' Game by William B. Mean and Paul Dickson. The book is about what the title says - a history of the baseball activities of each POTUS - and is full of photos of presidents attending games, posing with players, and having teams over at the White House. (Incidentally, did you know that the first president to have a baseball team over to the White House was Andrew Johnson? Or that he was the first one to dub baseball "Our Nation's Game?")

I purchased the book to aid me in my DC Baseball Tours project and because I'm simply interested in the way baseball is intertwined in our nation's history and development. No other sport can say that because no other sport was around when our nation was founded. Baseball and America grew up together. They are childhood friends who have managed to stay in touch, even though America hangs out more with football now. But those two met in college. They don't have the same bond as the duo that was there for each other when soldiers were freezing to death at Valley Forge or the North and South were trying to go through a messy divorce. Heck, baseball is so much a part of our soul as a country that it exists outside the logic of our legal system. In 1922 the Supreme Court ruled in Federal Baseball Club v National League that baseball was a game and not a business, so teams were not participating in interstate commerce and not subject to antitrust laws, a ruling that was upheld half a century later in Flood v Kuhn. While the game that Washington played with his troops at Valley Forge was an early form of baseball and hence is different than the game we love, in our hearts we know that it was still baseball.

We've had 43 presidents (FYI - Cleveland served two separate terms, which is why we say Obama is #44.) The National League was formed in 1876 and the American League in 1901. The Federal League existed from 1914 to 1915 and the American Association existed as a major league from 1882-1891. The National Association, which isn't recognized as a major league by Major League Baseball even though it was the first professional league, existed from 1871-1875. I could go through all the teams and pick a favorite for each president as they existed in his time, but since 17 presidents existed before professional baseball was played, I'm going to use current MLB teams to represent what teams each president would root for based on his hometown.

While putting this list together, I was thinking about how weird it must be to live in a place without a team within 150 miles of you, or to be at the edge of several teams' markets. Like Syracuse. Are they Yankees fans? Pirates? Even Detroit isn't that far.

George Washington, 1789-1797 Washington Nationals (Virginia native)

John Adams, 1797-1801 Boston Red Sox (Boston native)

Thomas Jefferson, 1801-1809 Washington Nationals (Virginia native, though he didn't think highly of games played with balls, believing them to be too violent for the body.)

James Madison, 1809-1817 Washington Nationals (Virginia native)

James Monroe, 1817-1825 Washington Nationals (Virginia native)

John Quincy Adams, 1825-1829 Boston Red Sox (Boston native)

Andrew Jackson, 1829-1837 Atlanta Braves (A Tennessee founder from the Carolinas)

Martin Van Buren, 1837-1841 New York Yankees (From a NY village called Kinderhook)

William Henry Harrison, 1841 Cincinnati Reds (Though he grew up in Virginia, he was assigned to Ohio as an 18 year old in the Army)

John Tyler, 1841-1845 Washington Nationals (Although being from Richmond he could have grown up a Barves fan, being attracted to politics gives the edge to the Nationals.)

James Knox Polk, 1845-1849 Atlanta Braves (He grew up in North Carolina but represented Tennessee.)

Zachary Taylor, 1849-1850 Washington Nationals (Virginia native)

Millard Fillmore, 1850-1853 New York Yankees (Could be Pirates, Red Sox, or Mets, even, as he's from a town near Syracuse. Admittedly I picked the Yankees because he was such a bad president.)

Franklin Pierce, 1853-1857 Boston Red Sox (From New Hampshire)

James Buchanan, 1857-1861 Philadelphia Phillies (From Lancaster area)

Abraham Lincoln, 1861-1865 Chicago White Sox (I think Abe would have sided more with the working class side of town.)

Andrew Johnson, 1865-1869 Atlanta Braves (From Carolinas, moved to Tennessee on foot, spent his professional years there.)

Ulysses S. Grant, 1869-1877 Cincinnati Reds (From Cincy area. In 1869, Grant welcomed the first professional baseball team to the White House, the Cincinnati Red Stockings.)

Rutherford Birchard Hayes, 1877-1881 Cincinnati Reds (Known Red Stockings fan Hayes and his son kept a journal following the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings.)

James Abram Garfield, 1881 Cleveland Indians (Cleveland area native)

Chester Alan Arthur, 1881-1885 New York Yankees (From Upstate New York)

Grover Cleveland, 1885-1889, 1893-1897 New York Yankees (From all over NY, father was from Connecticut.)

Benjamin Harrison, 1889-1893 Cincinnati Reds (A known Reds fan who was the first to attend an MLB game, an NL contest in DC in which the Reds defeated the Washington Senators 7-4.)

William McKinley, 1897-1901 Cleveland Indians (From NE Ohio)

Theodore Roosevelt, 1901-1909 New York Yankees (He was from a Manhattan family of means and married a NYC socialite, hence the choice for Yankees. In reality, he wasn't a big baseball fan.)

William Howard Taft, 1909-1913 Cincinnati Reds (A known Cincinnati baseball fan who was the first to thrown out a first pitch.)

Woodrow Wilson, 1913-1921 Atlanta Braves (He grew up in the South. Wilson may be considered the first fantasy baseball player, he was so obsessed with stats.)

Warren Gamaliel Harding, 1921-1923 Cleveland Indians (From just above Columbus, he's in territory that is not without its share of Reds fans.)

Calvin Coolidge, 1923-1929 New York Yankees One of the worst presidents in history, he grew up in New England, but saw a bunch of Yankees games in DC. Probably was a bandwagon Senators fan, too.)

Herbert Clark Hoover, 1929-1933 Tough to call. (Hoover was a terrible president but a huge baseball fan. He grew up all over the country but judging from his attendance records as president, he could have been a Philadelphia A's fan, although they booed him mercilessly at one game. Maybe he would have been a Nats fan.)

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1933-1945 New York Giants (FDR loved baseball and the Giants. I guess he'd be a Mets fan today.)

Harry S. Truman, 1945-1953 St. Louis Cardinals (Truman attended more games as POTUS (16) than any other, all in Washington. He could have been a Nationals fan, but he grew up in Independence.)

Dwight David Eisenhower, 1953-1961 Kansas City Royals (I know that Kansas City is in Missouri, but it's the closest team to the place in Kansas where Ike was from. Ike may have played semi-pro ball in a Kansas league before attending West Point.)

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 1961-1963 Boston Red Sox (The quintessential New Englander. Although he liked football more than baseball.)

Lyndon Baines Johnson, 1963-1969 Houston Astros (Doesn't seem to be much of a baseball fan.)

Richard Milhous Nixon, 1969-1974 Los Angeles Angels (Tricky dick was a big baseball fan who grew up in the Anaheim area. He attended a few Angels games as POTUS.)

Gerald Rudolph Ford, 1974-1977 Detroit Tigers (He was raised in Grand Rapids.)

James Earl Carter, Jr., 1977-1981 Atlanta Braves (He's frequently seen at Barves games.)

Ronald Wilson Reagan, 1981-1989 Chicago Cubs (He was born in Illinois and called Cubs games on the radio in the thirties.)

George Herbert Walker Bush, 1989-1993 Houston Astros (A staple behind home plate when he was healthy.)

William Jefferson Clinton, 1993-2001 St. Louis Cardinals (That's a shame.)

George Walker Bush, 2001-2009 Houston Astros (Rangers ownership aside.)

Barack Hussein Obama, 2009-2017 Chicago White Sox

If you know of any president who was actually a fan of a team and I got it wrong, let me know. A lot of this is just imagination.