Archive for the ‘Blah blah’ Category
It seems like at least once a season, there will be a bevy of tedious articles where people flap their hands and faint like ladies in Victorian novels about the length of baseball games and how that means people will soon stop going to games and watching on the television. Baseball is long and boring, they say, something has to change! I say NO! It’s too short and not boring enough MLB is not doing enough to stop people watching! This is my 20-point plan for making baseball better.
1. 7.05 p.m. first pitch? Pfff, that’s rubbish. Let’s start the games at 7.05 a.m. and snag that coming-home-from-a-night-shift demographic that all sports currently ignore. Plus ballpark breakfast food, knowhamsayin’?
2. Who doesn’t love the excitement of extra innings? Let’s make that the norm. 18-inning games. Double the pleasure. Double the fun. And if we’re still tied after 18 innings: extra innings!
3. Why are we putting so much pressure on pitchers to pitch quickly? Don’t we want them to be relaxed and mentally prepared? Take all the time you need, Daisuke.
4. Similarly, we want the batters to do the best they can, and if that means Derek Jeter needs to adjust his batting gloves twenty or thirty times before each pitch: so be it.
5. Who doesn’t love walk-up music? Well, let’s hear the whole song, not just a snippet.
6. After each at-bat has ended, one of the players’ children can appear on the big screen, calculating the updated statistics of that batter. With a pencil and paper, not using a calculator. That child could also gain some sort of school credit for doing this.
7. Catchers should be banned from throwing the ball back to the pitcher. They should have to take it to the mound and hand it the pitcher. And then the pitcher would say thank you.
8. God Bless America should be played between every half inning to remind attendees that they are American (in case they had forgotten to be patriotic), and that God exists (in case they had forgotten to be Christian). In Toronto, this still applies. Canadians need reminding that they are inferior to Unitedstatesofamericans.
9. But, we should be accommodating to Johnny Foreigner, because it’s not only Americans who play or watch baseball. Let’s play the anthems from the countries of all the players on the rosters that day! American! Canadian! Dominican! Venezuelan! Cuban! Japanese! Mexican! Australian! Curaçaoan! Saudi Arabian!
10. I’m not a scientist, so I don’t know if this would actually work, but it feels like it might: put airtight roofs on all stadiums, fill them with helium, give every player and spectator oxygen masks, and let’s see how many massive home runs the batters can hit. Helium is less dense than air, so that should work, right? We’d have longer, higher-scoring games. Just like in the Mexican League!
11. After the seventh-inning stretch and the playing of the full length version of Take Me Out to the Ball Game, why not have a special guest reading out some delightful poems?
12. Players should be obligated to take their own batting gloves and elbow and shin protector things to the dugout after reaching base. Similarly, runners left on base at the end of an inning have to collect their mitts themselves rather than having a team employee doing it.
13. The designated non-hitter. While the American League is all modern and has a DH, and the National League is all old-fashioned and allows its fans to feel superior, both leagues are missing a designated non-hitter. An extra player in the line-up would be something the MLBPA would adore. Let’s extend the careers not just of players who can no longer play defense very well, let’s extend the careers who can no longer hit very well either! Or just give a spot in the line-up to a player we all love. Ken Griffey Jr. could still be a Mariner! That player would be the tenth in the batting order, and would come to the plate, tip his cap, and return to the dugout. Joe Maddon could even have him non-batting clean-up if he wanted.
14. The fourteenth inning of every game could be brought to you by Sony PlayStation 4. Two chairs will be brought the batter’s boxes, and placed facing the big screen. A PlayStation 4 will be put on home plate. Whoever is due to pitch and hit that inning will sit in the chairs and play as themselves for one inning. This will undoubted speed up the game, so Sony can organise for people to dress up like big furry PlayStation controllers and race, similar to Milwaukee’s sausages. They will compete in a 5,000 meter race around the warning track.
15. Screenings of Andy Warhol’s Empire in the middle of the fifteenth inning.
16. Water cooler breaks for the players. Baseball is a sport. Sports mean players sweat. The body needs to replace that water lost to sweat. Let’s get a load of water coolers (prime sponsorship opportunity, Commissioner) and put one at each position so the pitchers, second basemen, center fielders, etc. can get refreshed and have a nice chat.
17. Premier League breaks. Due to my proposed 7.05 a.m. start times, that will, because of time zone difference, allow some synergy with the World’s Greatest Sports League: the English Premier League. Whenever a scintillating 0-0 draw is about to happen, the umpire calls a 90-minute time out so everyone in the park can watch Sunderland vs. Stoke City.
18. John Cage’s 4’33″ will be played and observed in complete silence. Any noise made in the stadium will mean that we have to start again from the beginning.
19. During the seventeenth inning, the t-shirt gun people will keep launching t-shirts into the crowd until every single spectator has a t-shirt.
20. Ballpark security is replaced with the National Guard midway through the game. They create an exclusion zone and no longer permit people from leaving the ballpark until the season is over. Get back in your seat, NOW! At the end of the season, attendees will be permitted to leave, but only until Opening Day the following season, when they will be required BY LAW to return to their seats.
Feel free to use all of these suggestions as you please, Commissioner-elect Manfred.
Last week, there was an article about Zinedine Zidane on Deadspin.
The photo they used really should be an album cover. Regard:
I’ve been keeping a chart of my sleep for eight years for whatever absurd reason I feel justifies such behaviour:
Click here to see it full-size.
Forgot to mention these things I did for NotGraphs, coz I iz dumm:
It’s just wrong that eggplant comes before egg when you type “fried e” into Google.
(And this is not an eggplant vs. aubergine thing, but, y’know, aubergine is a way better word, America.)
At a wedding in Berlin in 2002, I drunk-karaoked Rhinestone Cowboy. Please enjoy.
Back in 2008, when I was travelling around the Americas—when this blog was good—I noticed that there was a new moon on a Monday. I made a note to write about the Duran Duran song New Moon on Monday the next time one came around. I had “26 January New Moon on Monday” written in the text file of ideas and stuff that’s always on my computer desktop. Up until a few months ago, it still said “26 January New Moon on Monday.” I never did write about New Moon on Monday on Monday 26 January, 2009. So, today, 27 May, 2014, I’m writing this post so that when Monday 25 August and its new moon comes around, the post is already there, stored in WordPress, and scheduled to go online. Planning!
I wonder, though: maybe I will die between now (27 May) and now (25 August)? I wonder if anyone would bother to check my WordPress blog for scheduled posts if I die. Maybe they won’t and after a time of inactivity, the blog will be alive again for one post. Maybe I will die and people in my private life will know, but nobody out there in Internetland, nobody who reads this or looks at Twitter or Facebook will have noticed. Maybe someone here and there may have noticed for a passing moment, “he’s been quiet recently,” but I don’t really see how the news of my death would get out there. Anyway…
Back in 1984, when New Moon on Monday was released as a single, I was a big fan of Duran Duran. I had, by that point bought a lot of Duran Duran records with my one-pound-a-week pocket money. In chronological order, I bought:
Careless Memories (7″, 1981)
Duran Duran (LP, 1981)
Save a Prayer (7″, 1982)
Rio (LP, 1982)
I can’t be sure of the order of buying the album and the previous single, but it’s incredibly unlikely that I’d have bought a single that I already had on an album at that point in my life.
Is There Something I Should Know? (7″, 1983)
Straight in at number one. I remember listening to the chart countdown. It felt like a personal victory that the copy I had bought had contributed to its position. This, of course, was back in the day that very few records went straight into the UK charts at number. I used to be able to remember all of them. Off the top of my head: Here in my Heart by Al Martino, by default, cos he was number one in the first chart in 1952; Elvis had at least one, the Beatles had one, too; Slade had a couple; the Jam had three, I think; Don’t Stand So Close to Me by the Police; Stand and Deliver by Adam and the Ants; this Duran Duran one; Two Tribes by Frankie; Band Aid, obvs…
Union of the Snake (12″, 1983)
The first twelve-inch single I ever bought. From Save Records on the market in Lincoln. I remember being so proud, and a distinct feeling that I was growing up by buying a twelve-inch.
Seven and the Ragged Tiger (LP, 1983)
The Reflex (12″ picture disc, 1984)
Twelve inch. Picture disc. Amazing. It’s a picture and music comes out of it.
The Wild Boys (12″, 1984)
A View to a Kill (7″ white vinyl with a gatefold sleeve, 1985)
Notorious (LP, 1986)
I wasn’t buying Sugar Hill imports or listening to John Peel back in the early eighties. I was into pop music. Proper music. Music in the charts. But, while Hollywood movies or shitty nightclub party nights will have you believe the eighties were corny and shitty, the Top 40 was way better than it has been in the decades since then. Pop stars were, on the whole, real people not TV-show-no-hard-work-no-personality-white-teeth-shitfucks. The fantastic magazine Smash Hits saw to that. It was like that magazine wasn’t there to say, “hey, this group has a new album out,” but “hey group, we have some teenagers you need to impress, so you better be at the very least, slightly interesting when we interview you.”
1984 had fourteen number one singles. And I would imagine that you can sing the choruses of nearly all of them. Obviously that doesn’t mean they were intrinsically good (Stevie Wonder’s I Just Called to Say I Love You, for example, although, I did buy that at the time, for some reason), but they were at least memorable.
New Moon on Monday didn’t get to number one. It got to number nine. It’s my sixth favourite Duran Duran song. Yes, I have a list. The top five:
5. Union of the Snake
4. Girls on Film
3. Planet Earth
2. The Chauffeur
1. Careless Memories
My main memory of New Moon on Monday is such a tiny moment. My family, we were all in the dining room on a Sunday night. We might’ve been doing something like playing Trivial Pursuit. We had BBC Radio Lincolnshire on. (When writing this, I typo-ed “Lincolnshite,” which, y’know…) On Sunday nights, Radio Lincolnshire used to have a programme for younger people. The start of New Moon on Monday kicked in, those three echo-ey notes right at the start, without the DJ introducing it. And I said “Duran Duran!” or something. My mum noted that I knew a lot about pop music cos I recognised the song so quickly. It felt good at the time. I did know a lot about pop music.
Now, though, when I listen to it, I feel happy to have been a teenager in the 1980s. With Duran Duran. And that nice chorus. With those fireworks-y sound effects and the Fairlight CMI sounds. That sound, that Fairlight, there aren’t many instruments that evoke so many nice feelings in my head. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, when I first thought about writing this post back in 2008, I found a couple of .wav clips of Fairlight sounds. I downloaded them, but can’t remember where I got them, so unfortunately, I can’t credit a source, but here they are: aahh.wav and orch5.wav. Now you know what I’m on about, right? Also: someone did a Spotify playlist called Fairlight Moments which is worth a go, should you wanna wallow in this sort of thing.)
Rambling post. Not really about new moons. Or New Moon on Monday, really. But it was and is a great song. With a terrible video:
Well, I stand up next to a mountain
And I chop it down with the edge of my hand
“Voodoo Chile” Jimi Hendrix
Lucky that my breasts are small and humble
So you don’t confuse them with mountains
“Whenever, Wherever” Shakira
I took images from images embedded in spam emails that I received last week and made baseball cards for them: http://www.fangraphs.com/not/spam-baseball-cards/
My new post for NotGraphs is mostly audio w/ some photos.
My new post for NotGraphs is about having a shy bladder and an imagined double play. http://www.fangraphs.com/not/6-4-3/
This thing for Sabritas (called Lay’s in most countries, and Walkers in the UK) has been on TV a lot in Mexico over the last month. Harmless enough advert. Sports star sells unhealthy food. Nothing unusual in that. But, y’know when you see something too often and you can’t help but get annoyed by things? Well…
1. The most important thing here is how this size bag of crisps is so much bigger than it needs to be. Hashtag Environment.
2. The idea of the commercial really only works with this size of bag, but have we all noticed that we are expected to buy bigger bags of crisps these days? The individual bags we had when we were kids seem to not be promoted any more.
3. Messi has a very un-crinkled crisp packet. Fine, it’s an advert, but it looks weird. Like that way you can just tell someone has had plastic surgery or a photograph has been Photoshopped. It just looks a bit off.
4. Messi’s just walking around Rio de Janeiro, eating some crisps. No big deal.
5. Why are they trying to tell us that all the people in this advert would consciously steal crisps from Lionel Messi? “Oh look, there’s the best football player in the world: I WANT HIS CRISPS!”
6. To his credit, Lionel Messi is very accommodating when people ask to take a photograph with him.
7. Messi does something nobody ever does when he gets to the end of the bag of crisps. Tips it, shakes it, and then notices there’s no crisps left. Who tips a crisp packet? Unless you are putting them in a bowl or empty the crumbs into your self-loathing face hole, NOBODY EVER TIPS A CRISP PACKET.
8. When he notices that those people abused his good nature and stole his crisps, around the 0:18 mark, there’s a real brief moment when he looks up and just above the camera. That’s my favourite bit.
9. We then see the resulting photographs in various locations. Messi realises at that point. How did it take so long, Lionel? Then he just smiles and shakes his head, all like “you guys…”
10. Considering how well he seemed to take it, it seems slightly out of character that he would then go ahead and try the same scam on an unsuspecting lady. Lionel: you can afford a new bag of Sabritas. Don’t sink to their level, man. She, though, does look suspicious. And rightly so. Why are you, Lionel Messi, wanting to take a photograph with me? Don’t do it, ma’am, he wants to get into your Sabritas, the thieving tinker.
The image above is every Beatles album (the UK albums) reduced in Photoshop to one pixel in size. (So they are easier to see, I then increased each pixel to a 20 pixel square.)
Below are three rows. The top row is my initial guess at what each sleeve would look like reduced to one pixel. The second row is of the sleeves reduced in Photoshop with the “Nearest Neighbor” setting. The bottom row (and the one at the top of this post) is with the sleeves resized using the “Bicubic” setting.
Turn the sound off on the top video, and the turn on both videos at the same time, watching the top one. It’s not a perfect fit or anything, but it does make the Rocky montage feel different with Bronski Beat playing. And there are also occasional moments when Stallone’s movements are in time with the music, and those moments make me happy.
When the World Cup began, my brain filtered things in favour of certain teams. I looked at the way the groups and knockout stages would work, and created a pick of the pops: I wanted England or Mexico to win. But realistically, I’d be pretty cool with seeing Messi play well and Argentina winning, partially for the frisson that would come from them winning it in Brazil.
When the groups ended, things got easier. My brain plopped down on one side or the other. I wanted Mexico to beat the Netherlands. I wanted Colombia to beat Uruguay. I would kinda like to see Algeria beat Germany. Without really giving it too much thought, my interest in the games chose a side. It just happened.
Why does my brain do that? On Saturday morning, I went to a bar downtown called El Jarrito to watch the Argentina-Belgium game. It started at 11am Mexico time. The bar didn’t really look particularly open. One of the metal shutters was still down. The other shutter, though, to the main entrance was open. And the TVs were on. An old man in a cardigan was sat near the bar at the far end. I asked him if they were open. He nodded and asked what I wanted to drink. He got up, went to the fridge and brought me an Indio. El Jarrito isn’t the prettiest place. The floor is kinda knackered. The tables are topped with old, broken Formica, and they have white, plastic, Sol-branded chairs. The gents kinda smells bad.
I thanked him for the beer, grabbed a chair from one of the stacks, and sat at a table facing the bigger of the two TVs. The Argentinian and Belgian anthems played. I really would’ve been happy if either team had won the game, but right there, as the players stood around waiting to kick off, my brain decided. Argentina.
It had done the same the day before. Brazil v Colombia: the latter. France v Germany: the latter again. The choice of Germany is an odd one for me. My view of the German national team has changed. My feeling towards the German team used to be firm. Based, probably, on our bullshit insistence on remembering that We beat Them in 1945. And We had another victory in 1966, but since then, the upper hand has not really been Ours. Sure, there was the 1-5 in Munich in 2001, but really, in my lifetime, Germany has always been better than England at football. The German team is what the English team could be if whatever it is that goes wrong with them didn’t go wrong every time. And when Germany beat England in 2010, it was kinda cathartic. I wish we didn’t have that not-given-goal to look back at and give us a “what if..?” England were well beaten, and it somehow cut free the weight of hating the German team. Instead, it made me realise, way too late, that they aren’t the ones at fault.
England’s football history is full of shitty performances and occasional “unjust” defeats. Games where we can blame something for nearly (but not) winning. We constantly talk about why this is. Is it the youth system? I don’t know for sure, but you look at the Costa Rica and US teams and you have to wonder. We could argue about it, but virtually every player at every position is better on the English team than either Costa Rica or the US team. But somehow, England did worse than both of those teams. We can’t blame the referee, we can’t blame penalties, we can’t blame the Germans. And it’s nice to accept that. To enjoy the German team now. And it also makes me feel bad about being a dick in the past to German friends about their team.
I wanted Germany to beat France. And, I kinda think I want them to beat Brazil, too. Nothing against Brazil at all, really. It’d just be nice to see Fifa’s perfect script torn up. It makes no sense in my own head, though. I look at the semi-finals and think I want Germany and Argentina to win their games. But I don’t actually want a Germany v Argentina final. I’d rather see a Brazil v Argentina final. That perfect Fifa script final. But, in reality, the only teams I’ve wanted to win along the way are both out. A Colombia v Mexico final would’ve been my preferred final. I enjoyed watching those teams. And none of the teams in the semis have been entirely convincing in the tournament. Apart from that first game against Spain, the Netherlands have been nothing particularly special. Maybe just getting through to the semis is enough; play well enough to get there and then see what happens. None of these teams are gonna be ones we remember as World Cup greats. The World Cup should be won by a series of moments, partial games. Colombia beating Uruguay, the Belgian onslaught against the US. Suárez’s goals against England. Tim Cahill’s goal.
Maybe it is just about winning. Which is kind of sad for me. Winning at all costs takes the joy out of things. It’s Harold Schumacher. It’s Jose Mourinho. It’s Arjen Robben throwing himself around to cheat his opponent instead of staying on his feet and actually doing what we all know he can do: play football brilliantly.
I am aware of the hypocrisy, obviously. Players on teams we don’t like, we have harsher opinions of them. I, like you, don’t like all the diving in football, but we kinda turn a blind eye when players on our favourite teams do it, and we jump all over it when players on other teams do it. Especially teams we don’t like. Arjen Robben has played for Chelsea, Real Madrid, and Bayern Munich. A trio of teams that are incredibly easy to hate. It’s the cynicism, though, isn’t it? Any advantage I can get here, I’m going to take it, no matter how fair it is. I can see the other side of the argument: we somehow hate Robben more for no real reason, that he’s only doing what other players do, except he does it “better.” I don’t buy that. Robben is a fantastic player. But he will always be primarily remembered as a diver. Same with Suárez, really. No matter what he does, he’s gonna be the biting guy. I think the distaste for Robben is about the professional athlete that never happened in all of us. Damn, if I had his talent, I would absolutely want to be remembered for that talent, not for being a melodramatic cheat.
After the Netherlands v Mexico game, Robben talked about and admitted diving in the first half, and ended by saying “I apologise for the action in the first-half but that’s football …” That’s football!? That’s like a drug dealer saying “that’s smackheads!” after selling someone some heroin. Absolving yourself of responsibility by blaming it on the culture you helped, if not create, then promote. The ugly cynicism in those words is what makes him so easy to hate.
My behaviour, though, also needs to change. I want to stop choosing a side “just because.” I want to be able to sit down and watch Brazil v Germany and have no rooting involved, just enjoy it. Not get annoyed if the “wrong” team wins. And to refer to my behaviour as the equivalent of “that’s football…” is to admit that I will never improve my behaviour. And I can’t admit that, I won’t. I will always have flaws, but to not see that and not actually make attempts to change makes me no better than Robben’s non-apology. An apology that says, “yeah, soz, but I’m gonna keep on doing this.”
Adidas, we need to talk about the thin stripe across the shoulder blades of every kit you have designed for teams in the World Cup. Why is it there? Not got enough stripes on all of your kits? But it’s not just you who does this. Other kit manufacturers get too fussy, too.
It seems to be in our nature as football fans, sports fans, human beings, to get annoyed when anything changes. Team crests, for example. Arsenal’s cannon is facing the wrong way these days. Manchester United lost the words “Football Club” off their crest. Everton fans got riled up when their team’s crest was re-designed last year. Liverpool’s crest grew and grew over the years, and in that growth included–rightly–two eternal flames for the 96 Hillsborough victims. And with a new kit manufacturer (Warrior) the crest was pared back to a beautiful and simple Liver bird and L.F.C. But that meant we lost the flames. As a design, I prefer the return to a simpler crest, but as a fan, I wish the flames were still in there. But they are now on the back of the neck, either side of the number 96.
As someone whose work is vaguely design-related, though, I can also see that things need to change. A wee bit of tinkering, modernising, refreshing, seems like something we should be doing now and again. Cardiff City fans, rightly in my opinion, are resistant to their owner’s decision to change from blue to red shirts. That’s not a wee bit of tinkering, though. Which brings me to the World Cup kits.
The teams at the World Cup are representing their countries. And the sports manufacturers are fucking with things. Spain have red shirts and blue shorts. That’s how it is. But not this time. This time they had red shorts. England have dark blue shorts. But not this time (or last time, actually); this time they had an all-white kit. Germany are supposed to have black shorts. This time, they too are all white. Brazil, the home nation with the most iconic of all international kits should have yellow shirts, blue shorts, and white socks. But they’ve played their last three games with white shorts. That’s not Brazil. In this era of brand management, you would think that Fifa would understand that one of the key things about the World Cup is our ability to instantly recognise a kit. Yellow-blue-white: Brazil! Yellow-white-white: err, who’s that? These things are fundamental in our collective memory of World Cups. What is a World Cup if these memories, the history, don’t exist? (Well, aside from a way for Fifa to rock up into a country and scrape every possible penny from under that nation’s collective sofa.)
The design of kits seems all about letting the manufacturers do whatever they want. Within reason. I don’t understand why goalkeepers, who obviously need a slightly different kit, wear a uniform that is so often totally unrelated, design-wise, to their outfield brothers? If you mixed up the goalie kits and blurred the team badge, it’d be kinda tough to guess which keeper belonged to which team. Not only does this make for unnecessary ugliness, it seems to me to be missing an opportunity. I have no data for this, but I’m gonna go ahead and assume that of all the replica jerseys, the goalkeepers’ jerseys are the ones that sell the least. If Adidas and Nike and Puma, etc. gave it a bit more thought, there is a potential revenue stream there that benefits everyone. Make the goalie kit look like an essential part of the team, just like the person wearing that kit is an essential part of the team.
Maybe, though, my feet are just stuck in the mud. Maybe I just don’t want to accept change. And change looks good sometimes in hindsight. I remember disliking the the 1990 Germany home and away jerseys at the time. I look at them now and really like them. I can’t ever say I will truly dig, though, the Nike jersey for Portugal this time around. It just seems so cynical that the two tone stripes somehow pause to allow for a lighter red band wide enough for the Nike logo to appear unsullied on a plain background. Something they neglected to do for the country badge on the other side. It just seems to me, as design elements go, to be so disrespectful and so blatantly about promoting themselves. Or, maybe I’m spending too much time staring at a screen with moving images of football players on it. Maybe, right?
I wrote a post about this photograph in May 2013. It’s a deceiving photograph.
Later this week, those two teams play each other again. So, self-promotion!, here’s a link to that post again:
We are down to the last eight teams. All the group winners got through. Fuck you, Holland.
So, the 2014 World Cup quarter-finals:
French Republic v Federal Republic of Germany
Federative Republic of Brazil v Republic of Colombia
Argentine Republic v Kingdom of Belgium
Netherlands v Republic of Costa Rica
In 1914, it would’ve been:
French Third Republic v German Empire
Republic of the United States of Brazil v Republic of Colombia
Argentine Republic v Kingdom of Belgium
Netherlands v Republic of Costa Rica
And in 1814:
First French Empire v Confederation of the Rhine
State of Brazil v Viceroyalty of New Granada
United Provinces of the Río de la Plata v First French Empire
Sovereign Principality of the United Netherlands v Viceroyalty of New Spain
Kingdom of France v Holy Roman Empire
State of Brazil v New Kingdom of Granada
Viceroyalty of Peru v Spanish Netherlands
Republic of the Seven United Netherlands v Viceroyalty of New Spain
Kingdom of France v Holy Roman Empire
Governorate General of Brazil v Viceroyalty of Peru
Viceroyalty of Peru v Spanish Netherlands
Republic of the Seven United Netherlands v Viceroyalty of New Spain
Kingdom of France v Holy Roman Empire
Indigenous peoples of what is now Brazil v Province of Tierra Firme
Indigenous peoples of what is now Argentina v Habsburg Netherlands
Habsburg Netherlands v Indigenous peoples of what is now Costa Rica
(All of this was “researched” by quickly looking at Wikipedia, so, y’know, sorry, actual historians. Feel free to correct me in the comments.)