Saturday, April 10, 2004

Out to Lunch

This is a Smithsonian Exhibit I absolutely must see:

On April 13, the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History will put 120 lively examples from a collection of 250 on display. The exhibit, called "Taking America to Lunch," … The most graphic examples come from the golden lunchbox age of the 1950s and 1960s. That's when art and commerce combined forces to appeal to children with what we now call branding. Small armies of postwar consumers were marched off to school with favorite heroes, such as Hopalong Cassidy and the Lone Ranger, plastered on their lunchboxes. Product licensing was in its infancy, but television and the movie industry were happy to bolster relationships with young fans (Hales, WaPo).

3 metal lunchboxesSome readers are perhaps too young to skip deep down the path of nostalgia at the mere sight of one these metal lunchboxes. Not I. The lunchbox is the quintessence of grades one thru four for me in the early 70s.

As kids toward the end of August when the new school year approached, we'd scour the rows and rows of new designs at the local department store — The Jetsons, Scooby Doo, Star Trek, Josie and the Pussycats, F Troop, Cat Stevens, Tony Orlando and Dawn, you name it and there was probably a lunch box to accompany it — And no matter how deliberate our choosing the final selection, it never failed that the first day of school you'd realize you wanted the lunchbox some other kid had chosen.

I remember in second grade my friend Bobby Griffin had a Hogan's Heroes lunchbox, and when he'd sit across from me in the cafeteria I'd be totally obsessed with the Hogan's Heroes game on the back of the box. Only some of the lunchboxes featured games on the back. Such boxes would come with several magnetic playing pieces inside that you'd use to play. My lunchbox in second grade had no such game.

The Hogan's Heroes game, which we never played since Bobby, like probably most every kid, lost the magnetic game pieces within the first several hours after the initial lunch box purchase, was especially appealing to my second grade eyes because it recreated the prisoner's tunnel structure at Stalag 13. Fascinating. Why didn't I get this lunchbox rather than the (now) stupid U.S. Mail (in the shape of a mailbox) lunchbox I'd chosen? (It was the flag, of course, that you could lower and raise like on an actual mailbox that had attracted me.)

So I'm thinking the Red Sox ought to do a retro move and create a throwback metal lunchbox complete with logo, player visages in bright, garish colors, and on the back they could have a game called "Help Timlin Find Homeplate." with instructions reading:

Mike Timlin is in trouble! His ERA is now 16.20 as he picks up another loss. Navigate through the maze and bring Mike Timlin home!

I'd buy it. You?

Friday, April 09, 2004

Baseball, Always a Reflection of the Culture as a Whole

I was reading Instapundit this morning and two quotes caught my eye:

From Virginia Postrel: I have the same problem blogging on this topic [Iraq] that I do blogging on every little twitch in the economic statistics: It's too hard to separate the transient noise from the long-run trend, and the long run is what matters. Things are bad in Iraq right now, but is this a last-gasp effort by our enemies, the beginning of a quagmire, or, most likely, something in between whose conclusion depends largely on our response? Rushing to judgment, especially from afar, is a prescription for foolish conclusions and bad policies.

Per the above, substitute Iraq and economic with Red Sox baseball and reread it.

And here's another one:

[From Ed Morrissey]: I agree with Virginia Postrel about her hesitancy to blog during this latest insurgency -- but I think the mainstream media has become so unbalanced that we have to get over that reluctance. The AP reports that the Marines are "struggling" in Fallujah when clearly they're not, and the media immediately created parallels between al-Sadr and the Tet Offensive, a parallel that says a lot more about the media than it does about the fighting in Iraq.

Now, along the same lines, in the above substitute AP for Boston Media and Tet Offensive for 1978 or any other infamous Red Sox collapse that the Boston media will invoke whenever things appear to be going bad, and you should see the parallels.

We can't judge Iraq or the struggle against Islamofascists by looking at any single day and extrapolating what will happen tomorrow or next month or next year, just like we can't look at any single Red Sox game as a harbinger for all 162 games in a season.

Related to this, Allan Wood points out what he likes so much about the work of Bill James:

[Bill James] shows us that fluctuations in performance should be expected. ... Jason Giambi hit only .250 last year, but was still in the top 5 in OBP; his low batting average was nothing more than a random fluke. ... Knowing stuff like this, you can then laugh at (or ignore) broadcasters and writers who go on about 6-game hitting streaks or what some batter did in 10 at-bats against a pitcher over 5 seasons. It's completely meaningless (Joy of Sox).

Just some things to keep in mind as you read the news, baseball or otherwise.

The Extra Inning Succubus

You're familiar with the medieval notion of a succubus (or incubus for you ladies out there)? It's a demon that comes while your asleep and basically rapes the hell out of you but you don't remember it when you wake up, or only vaguely, pieces of a bad dream or nightmare— You wake up feeling spent, exhausted, and not quite right. According to legend, after a visit from the lewd demon you pretty much feel like you're headed for eternal damnation.

Well, if they had baseball in the Dark Ages, they wouldn't have needed to mythologize demons that do this to you. Oh, no, the extra inning loss (walking the winning run in add insult to injury) will leave you feeling worse the next day than any succubus or incubus ever could.

I awoke this morning feeling the way Dan Shaughnessy probably feels every morning: nasty, mercurial, full of bile, and with a supreme desire to make everyone else feel just as bad as I do.

Believe it or not, with only two days remaining of my lenten abstention from the Boston media, today is the first day it's hurting me. See, I need the bounce back effect I'd get from reading a Shaughnessy or a Buckley. I need to read some of their animus against all things Red Sox and be able to say, "Oh, c'mon, it's not that bad!"

Instead, I'm wallowing in my own enmity, thinking you don't win 100 games by splitting series with the Baltimores of this world. You just don't.

Meanwhile, according to a transcript posted at BDD, WEEI's The Big Show with Glenn Ordway, Peter Gammons personally mentions Boston Dirt Dogs and SoSH as sites he scrolls through every day "just to see what's out there on people's minds," but there's no mention of this site. That sucks, really. Am I jealous? Yes, I'm effin' jealous. I'm a very jealous and competitive person. It's why I tend not to get down on Pedro for his antics because if I were in his spikes I'd be even worse of a so-called prima donna.

No kidding. That's it. I'm putting on my metaphorical street clothes and leaving the metaphorical park early unless someone shows me some major love and attention or until the Red Sox decimate Toronto today, whichever comes first.

I'm tipping over the water cooler as I depart …

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Now Doesn't That Make You Feel A Whole Lot Better?

Johnny Damon head shot with haloLet it be said that not once, not even for a split second did I ever lose hope in The Passion of the Damon. Indeed, when I met Kyle, one of the regular readers of this blog, at Camden on Tuesday, he can attest that I said, "After Schilling, I'm most excited to see 'The Passion of the Damon.'" And it was me who tried my best to counter the anti-Damon catcalls emanating from the Orioles fans around me (e.g., "Hey, Homeless Man, do you brush your teeth? Hey, Damon, the Jerry Garcia's dead, shave it off you stinking hippie!" etc.)

So this comes as no surprise whatsoever:

Red Sox leadoff man Johnny Damon went 5 for 5 and made a spectacular play to rob David Segui of a three-run home run in the seventh, starter Derek Lowe pitched six strong innings and designated hitter David Ortiz hit a mammoth three-run homer off Orioles reliever Rick Bauer in the top of the seventh (Sheinin, Wapo).

I feel fantastic, how about you? I know we are only three games into the season, but just as we shouldn't get overly down when the team suffers a bad loss, we also shouldn't enjoy ourselves after two strong pitching performances and two solid wins. The offense is still one of the most formidable in the league, and having Schilling as the #2 and Lowe as the #3, well, that's when the Red Sox can start to capitalize on the weaker starters in most opponents lineups.

Theo Epstein in crowd, 4th rowBelated observations from Camden Yards in no particular order:

  • The special green St. Pat's Day Red Sox jerseys were popular among Sox fans there. That surprised me.
  • Most players don't ever step on the foul line when going to and fro from dugout, but Schilling doesn't ever step on the basepath at all; he does a little leap across the entirety each time.
  • Curt Schilling is incredible to watch; he just dominated Baltimore; the pop into V-Tek's glove gave me chills.
  • I was in the same row as Theo Epstein (refer to image)
  • Theo was surrounded not by geeks; being somewhat of a geek myself I found this very cool. I'd expected at least one burly bodyguard. He seemed approachable (more on that in a bit).
  • The line to get a sausage sandwich was beyond slow; I waited 25 minutes. Good thing I got to the game way early.
  • As this was my first MLB sitting so close to the players, I was surprised at how much banter goes on between the guys in the on deck circle and the crowd behind homeplate; Sample interchange:
    Fan: Hey, Rafie, why you wearing rubber cleats?
    RP: [Shrugs] My feat hurt.
    Fan: You oughtta rub some Viagra on them toes.
    RP: [Laughs and shakes his head as if to say 'Good one, asshole']
  • I could see into the Red Sox dugout the entire game; they seemed loose, having fun, enjoying each other's company.
  • Pedro is a non-stop clown/joker in the dugout most the game. He appeared to be incredibly happy, as if he'd rather be no place else, except probably on the mound.
  • Gabe Kapler is smaller than I had expected; Ellis Burks is much larger than I'd expected.
  • Orioles fans, at least the one's sitting in front of me are very sore losers; I came fairly close to getting punched at the end of the game. This was a classic interchange, 9th inning, two outs, two strikes, Foulke on the mound:
    Edw: [Stands in order to start moving toward Theo's section as soon as game is over; other Red Sox fans standing as well.]
    O's fan: Sit the fuck down!
    Edw: [Smirks in his general direction.]
    O's fan: I said sit your fucking ass down! You don't stand up in our house.
    Edw: Don't take yourself so fucking serious.
    O's fan: [Stands, clenches fist]
    Edw: [Prepares for blow to head … But game ends so everyone is now standing and the point is now moot.]
    O's fan: [Finger in my face] Don't you ever come back to this house again!
    Edw: Well, I'll be back here in October …Oh, wait, I forgot, you guys don't play baseball in October, do you?
    O's fan: [Face turns beet red; looked like he was going to explode.]

    Meanwhile, during all this, Theo exits and I miss my chance to say hi or thanks or whatever.

That's it for now. Let's go Wakefield.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

If I Could Save Time in a Bottle

OK. Bear with me. Due to time pressures related to paying the bills and/or insuring domestic tranquility, I need to postpone my observations and thoughts (of which there are many) to the game I attended yesterday at Camden. (Curt Schilling is beyond words, though.)

Hope to have something later today … meanwhile, keep your Sox on and visualize Derek Lowe having a great outing.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Great is Truth, and Strongest of All.

How cool is it that Curt Schilling chose to wear a Boston Dirt Dogs t-shirt to his press conference in Baltimore?

Also at BDD, more media fantasy and falsehood is exposed for what it is:

Simply amazing that these morons are able to get paying jobs writing this crap. I haven't heard Aaron Boone's name mentioned once "in Boston" since last October. No one cares about Aaron Boone enough to give him a middle initial "F." That game was lost before he stepped to the plate, and for reasons that had nothing to do with him, or Tim Wakefield for that matter.

Yet the meme persists and, by now, is close to being cemented as fact. I got an email from a guy, a Yankees fan (but also a native and live long New Hampshirite which, i.e., rooting for the Yankees in the heart of Red Sox country, I always figured was kind of like a pre-op transsexual, you know a woman born into a man's body, but I digress), and in the the email he writes:

… the absolutely spiritual, cosmic/orgasmic elation I (once again!) experienced when Aaron "F-----g" Boone lifted that stop-time Wakefield knuckleball into the veiled night of baseball history, and forever into the minds and psyches of the Boston faithful, adjoining his name to the likes of Bucky "F-----g" Dent …

I replied the same vein as BDD: No one cares about Aaron Boone enough to anoint him with the ignominy of the "F."

And speaking of meme creation, in an interview at RedSoxNation, author Glen Stout, argues,

I really think fans of most teams, in most sports, can probably recite their own unique litany of failure and pain -- Red Sox fans aren’t that special. What is unique is that since 1986 that precise emotional vibe has been exploited and marketed to make money. And too many Sox fans (and way, way too many casual fans here and elsewhere, and an absolutely obscene number of no-nothing broadcasters) have gobbled it up because it goes down quick and easy and seems to explain everything. It’s instant Red Sox history, antiseptic, without having to deal with the real nasty stuff, like racism and incompetence.

But at this point it’s too late, almost -- a kind of historic expectation of loss has permeated both the fans and the organization, a willing desire to believe in the worst just so you can feel part of something larger. Even new ownership is affected. When they bought the club they were essentially ignorant of club history, apart from the "curse" nonsense. And any psychologist will tell you that negative thoughts can lead to negative consequences, so in a sense it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy -- it flows back and forth between fans and media and by osmosis even reaches the players, who are usually so narcissistic they aren’t affected by anything.

There you have it. And as we've learned not just in baseball but with all things, especially politics, once the media puts forth an idea or meme, be it true or not, if that meme sticks then that's that. We the people have almost zero power to right the wrong.

So we are stuck with the Curse. We are stuck with all the labels pinned on us. We are most likely stuck with the addition of an "F" when any media story mentions Aaron Boone.

I'm reminded here of the aphorism along the lines of "You can't change the world, but you can change the world within you." That is, we can't reverse, single-handedly, the media onslaught of the "absolutely obscene number of know-nothing broadcasters" who feed the self-fulfilling prophecy, but we can reject it for ourselves, on an individual level.

I know I'm preaching to the proverbial choir here at Bambino's in that you already understand this. It's what we've been talking about the past few weeks especially regarding the notions of positive visualization.

Again, I'm in no way suggesting we can't ever be critical or negative concerning what goes on in the field or elsewhere concerning the Boston Red Sox, but we need to dig deep to find the real issues of concern and not what we are simple told by way of the media to focus on or otherwise distract us.

Like Stout puts forth, the media remained silent when year in and year out the Red Sox were straight up racist:

As a result Red Sox fans got screwed -- totally screwed -- by this [racist] policy. No one should ever yammer about 1918 without thinking that if not for racism that season probably wouldn't even matter.

So stay positive and seek the truth. It's the only path to salvation.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Par for the Course

OK. Good to get that out of that out of the way, the first loss that is. Sucks, of course, to lose, always does, but I'll take the way last night went down over last year's opening game any day.

And let's not forget the line from 2002's Opening Day start for Pedro Martinez:


And Opening Day 2001 was another loss.

So all in all, last night was nothing to be distraught about. And I'm not buying into the conventional wisdom of which this is an example:

More than ever, Martinez has only his intimidation tactics to rely upon.

His fastball hovered around 88 mph all night -- some 5 mph slower than usual -- and his lowered arm angle implied a pitcher whose shoulder is unsound (Sheinin, WaPo).

Can we wait for a couple of more starts before we write Pedro Martinez off? C'mon, no doubt he's not the same pitcher he was in '99, but I'm not ready to say he's not pretty damn effective still.

Dave Pinto sums it up best:

Pedro pitched well enough to win tonight. Six innings, five K, one walk. He had a real tough 2nd inning, and his throwing error led to a run. In many ways he outpitched Ponson …(Baseball Musings)

Elsewhere, yours truly along with Silva from DirtDogs and Eric from SoSH are quoted in today's USA Today newspaper. My quote reads more cynically than I intended it, but Silva's is perfect:

Following the Red Sox isn't a yearly thing. It's almost hour to hour. There's no offseason, no downtime.

And now all the games count.

Schilling tomorrow. Can't wait.