Until this weekend, I’ve never seen a minor league baseball game. It was one of those things I felt bad about as a fan of the sport, but not bad enough to remedy the situation. I compared it to a movie buff that just never got around to watching the Manchurian Candidate or the third Godfather film. Unfortunate, but assuredly not inexcusable. Still, with spring slowly taking on the shape of summer, it was time to get sent down to AAA.
McCoy Stadium, home of the Pawtucket Red Sox, was built in a quirky little town in New England. Pawtucket sits in the northeast corner of Rhode Island, but might as well be in the middle of the country. It’s a town with one big factory, a diner, and an old mill, all easily accessible off I-95, which splits it down the middle. In other words, the Perfect Place for a minor league stadium. I drove down, parked for $2 in a lot a block away, and followed the crowd into the park.
There was one main concourse at McCoy, which stretched from first base line to third base line. While the legends of $1 hot dogs and nearly free sodas at minor league ballparks were grossly exaggerated, the prices at the concession stands were still reasonable. Six bucks for a personal pepperoni pizza, four for fried dough and another four for ice cream in PawSox batting helmet dish. Not a bad investment at all.
Aside from the abundance of decently priced food, the thing that struck me immediately was the sheer volume of children there. Bringing an entire little league team to Fenway or Yankee Stadium would break the bank. But at $6 a ticket, the place was teeming with kids. The impact of a much higher percentage of pre-teens in the stands to the fan experience is dramatic. There’s less average sports knowledge in the stands, so questions bounce around with regularity. Nearly everyone has a glove. Though there isn’t as much emotional investment in the game, there’s just as much cheering per capita, since children like the yell loudly in a consequence-free environment. Read More
It’s that time of year again. The leaves are changing. The wind has that crisp, cool feel in the morning. Football is reestablishing itself as the premiere American sport. And baseball playoffs have begun. Per the usual, there are grumblings about the scheduling of the opening round of the Major League Baseball playoffs.
Imagine that you are baseball. Not the commissioner, just a human embodiment of the sport itself. You dominate the airwaves and sports talk shows with non-stop games since the Warriors upset the Mavs in Round 1 of the NBA Playoffs. There are games every single day and five out of seven days a week, every single team is playing. Regular season scheduling can take place whenver you want. Day Game? Sure. Night Game? Sure. Doubleheader? Sure. Games in April with the potential for snow in Boston, New York, and Cleveland? Sure. West Coast game the day after playing on the East Coast in Sunday Night Baseball against your biggest rival? Sure. You have no limits, no rules, no regulations when it comes to scheduling.
That’s why it is no surprise that when baseball sells its opening round of the playoffs, it gives the broadcaster full reign to schedule the games whenever they want. Well, the broadcaster has very different goals than baseball or its fans. Thus, conflict. The broadcaster (this year it is TBS, but ESPN has been just as guilty if not more so of this kind of chicanery) wants to maximize revenue, particularly catering its big games to the big markets. But beyond that, it wants to make sure that televisions are turned to TBS for the maximum amount of time. The result is our incredibly stretched schedule, where everyone is scrambling home for the early games, while no one is watching the prime-time games. Read More
I’m going to ask you all to close your eyes right now. Go ahead, close them.
Well, OK, you can’t do that and read my post, but imagine an NFL team with the following characteristics:
– A Coach with a losing record every where he has been in the NFL takes over a team and suddenly he is a genius.
– A reputation for taking average to sub-par players and making them superstars.
– A reputation for taking “bad apples” on other teams and suddenly getting them to “toe the company line” but does so in a secret fashion.
– Revels in deception and trickery.
At this point, the team sounds like one that would strike fear in the hearts of its opponents and ultimately have success on the field. The team would carry with it an aura of intimidation based on fear and on-the-fields results. Now for the moment where Matthew McConaughey tells you to imagine that the girl is white. Here are two more aspects of the team: Read More
On the day before this year’s MLB All-Star Game, Former Major League Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent published an intriguing op-ed article in The New York Times entitled “The Umpire Strikes Back.” (NY Times will probably make you pay to read the article. Here’s a link to the NPR Report with Vincent and MLB umpire Bruce Froemming, who was discussed in the article) The premise of his op-ed piece was rather simple: Umpires in all professional sports are not recognized nearly as much as they deserve. “To some sportscasters and fans, the umps seem like the bases: necessary but not worthy of mention.” Vincent proposes that Major League Baseball should institute a “Most Valuable Official award” to recognize the most outstanding umpire at the end of every season and that the other professional sports should follow suit. This would provide recognition to a largely unrecognized but essential part of the games we all enjoy so much. Read More
We are approximately ten months into the Roger Goodell era and arguably the most significant development has been the controversial and often-discussed personal conduct policy for NFL players. (I don’t consider the international expansion of the sport, including the recently aborted China Project and next year’s London Game to be a Goodell decision, but a remnant of Tagliabue’s brilliant reign as commissioner.) My question is whether the policy, in its admitted infancy, has had its intended effect. Read More
A week or so back, the NCAA amended college football’s (and as well as the other sports’) recruiting policy to forbid coaches and recruiters from text messaging high school players. This may not seem like a particularly big deal. But for someone like me, an avid fan of college football, this development is meaningful, significant, and a reflection of how terrifying the machinery of collegiate athletics.
Those that know me well know that I have a near psychotic obsession with Boston College sports. I’m a football season ticket holder, belong to two B.C. sports message boards and donate to my alma mater’s athletic fund with regularity. I’ve got a lot of pride in the school that educated me, and I cheer like a madman for my Eagles.
I am, of course, no different than the millions of other red-blooded college sports fans that live and die by their teams. I know Notre Dame alums that travel to South Bend every year to give a nod to Touchdown Jesus and watch a game. I know folks from Harvard and Yale that describe their times in school as simply “we were 3-1 during my tenure.” I know families in Florida that fiercely argue over where you could get a better show: in The Swamp or at The U. Heck, I know that 92,000 people went to Alabama’s spring scrimmage. Their spring scrimmage. This kind of pride (and the rivalries that it spawns) create brotherhoods rooted in cultish devotion. And while I love being part of a community that exhibits such passion, I realize that this passion manifests itself in peculiar and often disturbing ways. Folks want success so bad that their love becomes a destructive force, driving coaches out of a job and tearing up the lives of the kids that play. Read More
Red flags are here to stay. No, not warning flags, the challenge flags thrown by NFL coaches. The NFL owners voted to make instant replay a permanent rule. But they still haven’t come up with a solution to the crappy “overtime decided by a coin flip” problem.
Now this isn’t the interesting part of the news because the NFL has been instantly replaying under these rules for 2 years and nothing is changing. The fun fact here is that the owners said that if we ratify the instant replay rules than we promise to have high definition cameras installed in all stadiums. That’s right, they weren’t going to do it if there was no replay. Hey, owners, some people like to watch the game with 720 delicious lines of bright colors refreshing 60 times per second.
And since I really don’t have much to say myself, I will force you to visit this random San Antonio Spurs blog and read about the NBA rookie debut of James White.