Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A world without Ernie Harwell is a worse world... we should probably start steeling ourselves for it. In the meantime, here's yet more evidence, if in puff piece form, of how awesome Ernie really is.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Colts suck

Apologies for another football post, but...

I'm sick and tired of the idea that somehow winning the Super Bowl is so important that a team would risk an undefeated season for the smallest hint of an improvement in their chances of winning one. Have these people gone totally crazy?

Why play sports? Why compete? If you're any kind of athlete it's for one reason: because you love the competition itself. It's the striving to be the best, the greatest, the undisputed champions that makes the competition great. No one plays a sport with the opportunity to become an alright player. No one plays a sport to go 9-7 or 84-78. What Olympic sprinter dreams of setting the second fastest time in the history of the world?

No athlete does this. Not one. Not even the scrub wide receiver on a Class D high school football team who only got to play because the team was too small to cut anyone (trust me).

So why, why, why do professional football teams insist that winning a single season championship is worth more than being able to say that you accomplished THE GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT IN THE HISTORY OF YOUR SPORT?!?!?!??! It's absolute madness.

I just cannot get over this. A Super Bowl title is given out, well, every single year. Yeah, it's great. Yes, you strive to win one. Yes, it's every team's ultimate goal, but only because going undefeated and winning it all is so damn hard that teams don't even consider it realistic enough to make it a goal in the first place! It's like saying, "Man, my goal was to save up my money and buy a Cadillac, so I guess I'll turn down this chance to own the freaking Batmobile." Why blow it when you have the chance?

And to blow it for almost nothing! The advantage you get by resting your best players, if it even exists, is nearly infinitesimal. Yes, they might have gotten hurt, but the odds of that happening are stunningly long. And if they did, where's the shame in getting up to the podium and saying, "You know what? We had a shot at immortality, at accomplishing the ultimate feat in our sport, at being the best there ever was, and we took it. It didn't work out. But we played our best every minute of every game this year and we can walk away from this knowing that we didn't leave anything on the table."

If there is such a thing as football justice, the Colts will lose in the first round. We have simply got to start the meme that resting your players and punting on undefeated seasons hurts your football karma, because if we ever needed a good bout of irrationality, getting professional teams to actually try to reach the true pinnacle of their sport would be a good place to start.

This is a shitty, shitty day for sports fans. The Colts ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Baseball apathy

So I found myself in a very weird place a month and a half ago: I suddenly found myself not that interested in baseball. I haven't been to this place in over a decade. In fact, I haven't been there since I started caring about sports in general, sometime in middle school.

But more strange and more troubling than just my general nonchalance vis-à-vis baseball was the fact that the event that triggered this creeping malaise was my favorite team winning the World Series.

This is not how it's supposed to be. Apathy is not the reaction sought for by one who invests so much emotionally in something as unimportant as baseball. Indeed, the realization that I was not super excited about his development disconcerted me greatly. What the hell is wrong with me? I've been asking myself that question for weeks now.

It's not as though I don't care greatly about the success of the New York Yankees. If you've read this blog, or watched a Yankee game with me, or needled me about the Red Sox, you know this isn't true. Indeed, I even had an email conversation with a friend in the last year in which I admitted that the first three things that came to mind as things for which I would trade time off my life were all Yankee-related events (specifically: winning the 2001 World Series, winning the 2004 ALCS, and getting Mike Mussina his 27th out).

Furthermore, there were times during this postseason when I was literally sick to my stomach because of the tension. I enjoyed the whole postseason thoroughly. Why didn't I get the emotional payoff I expected?

The first thing that occurred to me was that my predominant immediate reaction to the Yankee win was relief. Relief that we didn't blow the Series; relief that we had vindicated our position as the best team in baseball; relief that A-Rod and CC had put those inane monkeys on their backs to rest. I think that this relief was in part due to the nature of the final game (it wasn't close) and in part due to the nature of the Yankees' season as a whole (again, it wasn't close). By the time it was over, it was so blatantly obvious that the Yankees were the best team in baseball that winning the World Series was almost the thing that they had to do so that they wouldn't embarrass themselves. Actually winning was practically anticlimactic, especially given the nature of the final game.

Then there was the timing of the Yankee World Series "drought:" it lasted exactly as long as Mike Mussina's tenure as a New York Yankee. No more. No less. This was and is absolutely maddening to me, because even though I know it's just random, it still seems so cosmically unfair. This ground on me for days after the World Series win.

The Yankee victory also meant the end of baseball for 2009. That's a depressing thought, even if the Yankees went out the best way possible. It also meant that I would now have to hear about how my team "bought" a World Series and (worse) that I would have to admit to myself that the accusation was essentially true.

I've spent so much time preaching about how there's no moral component to baseball, no higher power at work directing the fates of the players, no overarching story waiting to be told, no reason why our guys "deserved" to win or had more "heart" or "wanted it more" that when my guys actually win I can't self-assuredly pat myself on the back about how awesome I am for rooting for "the good guys."

None of which is to say that I wasn't happy when they won. I was. Nor is it to say that I haven't experienced the delirium of winning a World Championship recently: I was ecstatic for weeks when the Giants beat the Patriots.

So why? Why did I react the way I did to the 2009 New York Yankees' World Championship? Why did I sit on the edge of my seat all throughout October if not for this? Why did I follow the Yankees day in and day out all year if not for this? What the hell was I expecting to happen?

I don't know. I don't think I'm ever gonna know. And that's the trouble. I've spent weeks dwelling on this and I don't have an answer.

And so that's how I found myself in this place of not caring about baseball. Indeed, I've almost dreaded baseball news because it reminds me of the weird place I'm in.

I have thoughts on the Yankees offseason, but I'm gonna save them for another time, a time, hopefully, when I will actually care.