Category Archives: Sports

THIS is what a Sports section front should look like

From my iPad this morning…

Just thought I’d share this, since some of you younger people may not have ever seen the like.

THIS is what the front of Sports section should look like, in the middle of baseball season.

This is from today’s Boston Globe. I subscribed to the Globe when we were in Boston, mainly so I could read about the Red Sox. And on that score, the Globe definitely delivers. They don’t bore me with stuff about the Celtics or the Bruins or that football team way down in Foxborough — not in the middle of July.

This is a sports department that actually understands that in America, this is the time of year when you write about baseball. Period.

Oh, you can throw in some tidbits about other sports for those who are interested. For instance, you’ll see mentions of golf and car racing down at the bottom of this page (see screenshot below). That’s fine, as long as you don’t mention football — which, as you see, they did not (not even in the refers at the bottom, bless them). Football has its own season, and it’s too long already.

The sports editors at this paper know what they’re doing. I half expected to find a column from Ring Lardner. (See how I included an explanatory link for you youngsters out there?) But hey, Shaughnessy’s not too bad, from what I’ve seen.

Of course, I’d like it better if they had some GOOD news to report about the Sox. But hey, you report what you’ve got…

It’s OK to mention other sports, down at the bottom of the page, as long as you first do justice to BASEBALL.

Anything you want me to tell Jackie Bradley Jr.?

Well, this is exciting.

In the next couple of weeks, my wife and and I are taking a trip to Boston — the first time either of us have been there. The last time I even had a chance to go there was 2004. I managed to work into the budget travel for one editorial board member to attend each of the presidential nominating conventions. I decided it would be really selfish of me to go to both of them, so I sent Mike Fitts to the Democratic convention in Boston. I went to New York. I didn’t regret it, because it was the first time I’d been to NYC since a day spent there when I was 9 years old. But I’ve always regretted missing Boston.

This time, we’re going up to see my twin granddaughters who are doing a summer program training with the Boston Ballet. But since they’ll be busy all day in classes, we’ve got a lot of sightseeing planned, including:

  • Historical walking tours downtown. One if by land and two if by sea, and all that. A big deal to a guy who concentrated on the Revolutionary era in college.
  • The Adams National Historical Part in Quincy. Walking the home ground of my fave Founding Father John, and other members of his distinguished clan.
  • “Old Ironsides.” Walking the deck of the U.S.S. Constitution will be a big deal. One of the U.S. Navy’s six original frigates and now the oldest ship in the world still afloat, this is a treat for a guy who loves naval stories from that period so much. I expect to walk about exclaiming, “What a fascinating modern age we live in!”
  • A game at Fenway Park. And not just any game. The Sox will be playing — wait for it — the New York Yankees!

I’m particularly excited about that last one after something I just learned yesterday.

As I’ve probably written in the past, I’m a weird sort of baseball fan. I’m more in love with the idea of baseball than I am the game of the moment. For instance, I enjoyed Halberstam‘s Summer of ’49, which is why think it’s great to be able to see these two teams play each other. No, the DiMaggio brothers won’t be there, but still…

I would follow the sport on a more current basis, but I can’t. I don’t have cable, and in case you haven’t noticed, the freely available TV stations very rarely show baseball games any more. Back in the days when everyone had only two or three channels, you could see baseball any weekend. Now, you can find all the football you want (and far more than I want), and staggering amounts of golf — but rarely is an inning of the National Pastime available.

Which, of course, is what is wrong with America today. In case you were wondering.

During playoff and World Series season, I go to great lengths, sometimes signing up for absurdly overpriced subscriptions, to see the games. And often, that’s the first time in the whole season I become familiar with even my favorite teams’ current players. (My favorite teams are the Braves and the Red Sox. At various times, many years back, I was also a fan of the Cardinals, the Phillies and the Reds.)

So it was that I was surprised yesterday to learn a wonderful thing. I was doggedly viewing highlights of some recent games online, and… there was Jackie Bradley Jr. in right field! Last year he was with the Brewers, and now the MVP of the Gamecocks’ 2010 College World Series was back with the Red Sox. Just in time!

And guess where our tickets — which I bought a couple of days before learning this — are?

Yep, right field. So, assuming he’s not injured or not playing that night for some other reason, he’ll be the player we can see the best.

No, Babe Ruth won’t be playing for either team. We won’t get to see Ted Williams, or Carl Yastremski, or Big Papi. And Mookie Betts is still playing for somebody else.

But we will (most likely) get to see Jackie, and that’s good enough.

Yeah, some of you avid fans will think I’m a big idiot for not having already known he was back in Boston. And maybe I am. But in this case, I’m a happy idiot…

Centrifugal bumble-puppy, and other games

My grandfather’s team, circa 1910. That’s him squatting at the far right of the seated row. Notice that in those days, they didn’t even bother to go out and buy matching uniforms. They just came and played ball.

Over the weekend, I was out running errands after a long day of working in the yard, and I decided it would be a good day for us to have a takeout dinner. So once that plan was approved by headquarters, I called La Fogata and placed the order. I was told it would take 20 minutes.

I was easily within five minutes of the restaurant, so I drove in the other direction, looking for a way to kill time. I decided to visit the park behind North Side Middle School, and see what was going on there — I figured that this time of year, there’d be some action on one or more of the ballfields.

I was right. I drove through the parking lot, and had to pick my way slowly and carefully because of all the boys, who were generally within a couple of years of 12 I’d guess, and parents who were apparently returning to their cars after a game that had just ended.

And then I noticed something: Their progress back to their cars, and my progress through them, were both impeded by the gear they were hauling. And by the elaborate gear for hauling that gear.

The most cumbersome were the wheeled contraptions that held bags, coolers, bats and such. They looked like people preparing to sell things from a barrow. Those were the most noticeable, but everyone had an unusual amount of gear. The lightest were elaborate, specialized backpacks many of the players were wearing. The packs seemed full, and each had two bats sticking up from the pack, one on each side.

Back in the day, when I played ball, you brought yourself and your mitt to the game, and that was it. (Unless, of course, you were the catcher.) The coach would have a duffel bag full of bats and balls, and sometimes conscientious players (who were perhaps eager for more playing time) would help the coach by carrying that bag from coach’s car to the dugout.

But now, every player or player’s parent I saw was hauling at least as much as the coach would once have, and often more. I don’t even know what some of that stuff they were carrying and pulling was. But there was a very great deal of it.

Of course, all this brought to mind one of the books I’ve been rereading lately instead of the books I was supposed to read this year: Huxley’s Brave New World. If you’ll recall, in this super hyped-up extrapolation of Western consumer culture, all the games — like centrifugal bumple-puppy, and electromagnetic golf — require elaborate, expensive, easily-broken equipment to play. Everyone is conditioned from birth to want to play these games at every opportunity. Not to keep themselves in shape or exercise sportsmanship, but to keep them buying the stuff.

And I got to thinking about the various social influences that must have been at work over recent decades to convince these kids, and parents, that they had to have all this stuff to play baseball. Huxley had sleep-conditioning to bring about this effect. I don’t know what happened with these folks.

We used to have this wonderful, simple, pastoral game called baseball. Originally, there weren’t even gloves. Just a ball and a stick for everyone to share. And even after the gloves came along, for a long time players would leave them out in the field while batting rather than carry them back and forth to the dugout.

No more. Now there’s all this junk, and all this hauling back and forth. And don’t even get me started on the designated hitter…

Two generations later — about 1969. That’s me in the back, standing next to the coach on the far left. By this time the uniforms matched, but we mostly only brought those and our gloves.

An NCAA bracket based (as usual) on magical thinking

Just thought I’d toss out something for all you sports fans to scoff at.

Here’s the story that explains my system for predicting the men’s NCAA tournament. It’s thoroughly tried and tested:

I used to never do this, until back in the late 80s or early 90s, when one of my reporters — I’ll call him “Charlie” — had a pool going, and nagged me to enter it. I told him I didn’t follow college basketball, and didn’t know anything about it. He said to enter anyway. He really, really wanted my dollar.

So, I filled one out. Here was my method — if it was a team that was big back when I was in college (such as UCLA), I chose it to win. If it was a school I had some vague connection to (such as having lived in Kansas briefly), I chose it to win. If it was a Catholic school, such as Georgetown, I chose it to win. When two of those factors came into conflict, I had a decision to make, but I didn’t spend more than a second making it.

And you know those little numbers next to the teams in the brackets, the ones that tell you how the teams are seeded? I didn’t know what those meant, so I ignored them.

I won the pool, in large part because — contrary to the conventional wisdom of the sports fans — I picked Duke to win all the way (in keeping with Rule 1). The sports fans in the pool found this very irritating. Every day during the tourney, I’d come in and ask Charlie how I was doing. “You’re still leading,” he’d growl between clenched teeth.

I won $26.

This year’s bracket presented a dilemma, and I’m still really torn about what I decided. Of course, I had Gonzaga and Memphis winning their first rounds. But then, I picked Gonzaga over Memphis — my own alma mater.

Not because Gonzaga was seeded first and and Memphis was 9th. That’s the way normal people make decisions. It’s more that Gonzaga is not only Catholic, but Jesuit — like Pope Francis. Also, I graduated from Memphis State, and they don’t call it that anymore, which bothers me.

Still, I feel bad about it. Partly because every time I fill out one of these, I see it as a chance for the Tigers to undo what happened in 1973, when I was a student. Memphis State made it to the final — and lost to UCLA.

Anyway, what’s done is done.

Oh, and if you’re wondering where the women’s NCAA bracket is… Well, I don’t have a system for that. You don’t want me to give you a bracket that’s based on guesswork, do you?

But if you want to know who’s going to win, it will be the Lady Gamecocks. Duh…

Where were YOU people last night? The Braves WON!

I was feeling a bit disoriented by the news I was being fed this morning, so I posted this:

I mean, what’s wrong with people? Where were they last night?

Say what? Where WERE you people last night?

Anyone watching the Olympics? Why?

2880px-Olympic_rings_without_rims.svg

I don’t pose that question as a challenge or anything. I’m not criticizing you for watching the games, if you are. I just think that right now, with the “asterisk games” going on, in defiance of the will of so many people in Japan, it would be interesting to have a discussion of why we think these games should or should not be happening, and why or why not we are interested.

Put me in the camp of those who believe that 1) the Olympics are a fine thing in the abstract, and I applaud those folks who revived them in 1896, but that 2) when the 2020 games were called off for COVID, everyone should have settled down to wait for 2024 to satisfy whatever craving they have for viewing Olympic competition.

Near as I can tell, there is only one reason to have gone ahead and had the games in 2021, rather than waiting, and that would be for the sakes of individual athletes for whom it’s either now or never. This was their moment, and they wouldn’t be at the same peak in 2024, so for them, not going ahead would have represented a personal loss.

I am not at all unsympathetic to that argument. It makes me think of my old friend Rayford Collins. Rayford worked in the composing room at my first newspaper after college, The Jackson Sun. As a compositor, he had a job that was essential to publishing a newspaper at the time — he would take the strips of copy that came out of the gigantic cold-type printer, cut them into columns with scissors, run them through a roller that applied molten wax to the back of them, and stick them onto the page under the highly irritating supervision of smart-ass college kids in their early 20s who came to the back shop to approve release of the pages that we had laid out and edited up front in the newsroom.

Rayford Collins in the early 60s during his own boxing career, long before I knew him.

Rayford Collins in the early 60s during his own boxing career, long before I knew him.

You should have seen the artistry of these guys as they cut the type and applied it, and often corrected typos we found by trimming out individual letters and sticking them over the errors, saving us from sending new copy back through.

But it was a job that would disappear long before my own did, as we moved to pagination, which meant we put the pages together on computers in the newsroom, and output them whole.

That wasn’t all Rayford was known for, though. An ex-boxer himself (he would end the process of applying type to the page with a BAM from his fist, which would be startling if you weren’t used to it), he had for years trained local young people in the art through Golden Gloves. He was such a good coach that a huge opportunity came his way: to coach the U.S.A Olympic boxing team in the 1980 games. His protege Jackie Beard had made the team, and they wanted Rayford on board, too.

We were all pretty excited for him. But then, the Russians invaded Afghanistan, and Jimmy Carter pulled us out of the Moscow Games. Raybord’s shot at the big time was crushed. I felt bad for him at the time, and I still do. But I don’t fault my man Jimmy for making the call he did. There are issues that are bigger than even the hopes and dreams of our friends. At least, that’s what I think, as a child of the Cold War. Maybe I’m wrong.

Anyway, Rayford still made his mark as a coach. When he died, he was celebrated for that, not for being a retired compositor after 45 years at the paper. We know he made it to the Olympics, even though the games were called off.

Anyway, these kids today are getting their shots.

Should they be? Should the Games have gone on? Are you following what’s happening over there, and rising and falling on this or that athlete’s accomplishments or lack thereof?

If so, I’m curious to hear about it…

It’s not boring. It’s baseball. And it’s perfect…

still baseball

Bryan started off his excellent “summer beach movie songs” post with a dismissive aside about “debating a replacement song for the national anthem.” I thought:

If America is decadent and unlikely to recover, which of these two phenomena would be more likely either the cause, or perhaps I should say the most stark effect?

  1. We are now a country in which people can mention “debating a replacement song for the national anthem,” and not be entirely joking.
  2. We are now a country, and have for some time been a country, in which football is more popular than baseball.

Both thoughts are depressing, evidence of a great nation losing its way. Those two are enough to cause concern, without even mentioning the disaster of Trumpism. And the distressing nature of Phenomenon 2 was driven home by a couple of tweets Saturday morning…

First, this one at 9:47 a.m.:

Arghh. Here I am still looking desperately, and usually unsuccessfully, for some affordable ways of seeing some live MLB on my TV without having cable, and this guy has to remind me — gleefully, I infer — that very soon I won’t be able to turn on the blasted contraption without seeing football everywhere.

And just a few moments later, this one from my friend and former campaign comrade Ashleigh Lancaster.

Let’s concentrate on Ashleigh’s since, although it has sad elements, it is at least about baseball.

Since for some reason I was unable to embed Ashleigh’s (maybe because it was her retweet of somebody else’s), I’ll at least share my response to it:

I’m a fan of Ring Lardner, especially of his work on “You Know Me, Al,” but let’s face it: The lively ball didn’t kill baseball. Nevertheless, I respect his points about it — and it certainly helped lead to the unhealthy obsession with home runs on the part of many less-discriminating fans — and respect the debate itself as one of the things I enjoy about the game. It’s right up there with debates we can have about other abominations that have tried to destroy the game within my lifetime, such as the playoff system (we all know that in an orderly universe, the team with the most wins during the season wins the pennant, right?) and the designated hitter.

No, baseball has never been boring, and excellent pitching isn’t making it more boring. It’s not intended to be an unending stream of hits (most of them home runs, if the aforementioned less-thoughtful “fans” have their way). If it were, I wouldn’t be trying to watch it.

It’s a contest, a contest that batters are meant to lose most of the time — which makes it that much more exciting when they don’t. Of course, the best part of the excitement is watching the fantastic defensive feats of the players on the field reacting to the ball being put into play. (Something that you miss out on entirely when the ball is hit out of the park, by the way. Everybody just stands there. Now that’s boring…)

The pitchers are constantly trying to keep the guys from hitting, and the batters are all constantly trying to overcome the pitchers’ and catchers’ craftsmanship. And from time to time, everything explodes into action involving everyone else. But not too often. Just enough.

And it’s not boring. It’s perfect…

You_know_me_al_comic_strip

Kent Babb, Coach Fink and the Karr Cougars

We were the Karr Cougars!

We were the Karr Cougars!

Any of y’all remember Kent Babb, who used to cover sports at The State? He was very good at it. Y’all know I don’t really follow sports, but I used to read his stuff whenever I noticed the byline, because it was that good.

Anyway, he’s at The Washington Post now, and you may be interested in reading a piece he wrote recently about youth football culture up the road in Rock Hill. The news peg was the horrific Phillip Adams story, but Kent went deep into the culture Adams grew up in, one in which football is everything, and when it’s over, young guys tend to get lost.

That’s the part of the post that might interest some of y’all. The rest just interests me, most likely.

Apparently, Kent made a similar, even deeper dive into prep football in a whole other place, and has written a book about it, as I discovered recently on Facebook:

Throughout the 2019 season, I embedded with the Edna Karr High School football team in the West Bank of New Orleans. It’s a story about a championship program and how its head coach, Brice Brown, is a football savant who just sees the moving parts of a complex game in his mind.
But more than that, it’s about how Brown teaches life and survival skills to a group of at-risk kids in a city besieged by gun violence. This is a city where, in 2016, an 18- or 19-year-old Black male was 56 times more likely to die by gunshot than the national average. It’s a place that has big dreams but not much hope. The main player character, a soft-spoken linebacker named Joe, desperately wants to get to college. But “college” is something he can barely imagine; he has only seen references to it in movies. Joe’s mother is in prison, and Joe used to be her lookout, begging her to come inside at 3 a.m. If not for football, it’s very possible Joe wouldn’t have reached his 18th birthday….

Well, that dug up some memories for me. I commented:

Wow, Kent! I attended Edna Karr when it was a junior high, 1965-67. I didn’t even know it was a high school. Did anyone in the book happen to mention the legendary Olaf Fink? He was my PE coach in 8th grade, and he was also a state senator…

I guess it was the fact that this was about sports that made me think of Coach Fink, rather than other educators who made an impression on me back then. Kent replied:

Man, I didn’t know that. I don’t remember Olaf Fink’s name coming up, but Karr and the West Bank have undergone many dramatic changes since Katrina. It’s not a magnet school anymore; it’s a citywide charter that became a huge melting pot in 2006 because it was among the only schools in New Orleans that sustained minor or zero damage.

I saw that this morning, and wrote back:

“Since Katrina” doesn’t mean that much to me, since I went there from 1965-67. 🙂 According to Wikipedia, it was still a junior high until 1990. And when you look it up now, it’s apparently in a completely different location, near the river. Confusing. Wikipedia shows it in the old location. Better yet, Coach Fink is the one individual person mentioned in connection with the school. Famous in his day, but I’m not surprised people don’t remember him now. I learned from my brief research that he died in 1973.

Wow, Coach Fink. My old buddy. I was the scrawniest kid in his P.E. class. I didn’t get my growth until a year or two later (and was still super-skinny after getting my height). Coach Fink took notice of this one day when we were doing gymnastics and learning to tumble. He had this safety device that consisted of an adjustable leather belt with ropes attached to both sides. When we tried to do walkovers or whatever, we’d wear the belt while two other guys held the ropes to hold us up and keep us from breaking our necks.

Problem was, the tightest, skinniest holes on the belt left it still too loose to hold me. I reported this, and Coach scoffed, saying that was impossible. So I showed him it was possible, and he was impressed. From then on, I had a new name. Coach Fink called me “Sego,” which I suppose means nothing to younger people, but everyone got it back then. Sometimes he said “Metrecal,” but eventually settled on “Sego,” and that stuck.

From then on, I was sort of Coach Fink’s pet. He decided to make me a leader in the class. He deputized me to be in charge of various things. At the start of class, when we had just gotten dressed out and before he and the other coaches went back into the coaches’ office to smoke and watch game films and whatever else coaches did, he’d say, “Sego, run ’em through calisthenics!” And I’d tell the guys to line up — and they would, perhaps amused at the little guy being in charge but totally accepting that Coach had delegated his authority to me — and I’d stand in front of them and lead them through jumping jacks and such before we went out and played ball or whatever. Like the other boys, I just accepted this as my role; I don’t remember questioning it. After all, Coach had named me “Sego,” and that’s who I was.

Looking back, I suppose that experience helped boost my self-confidence. So you can blame him! But seriously, my ego was already pretty big in the academic classes, and now I had this added thing. Which was nice, for a kid who got picked last for games on account of being the little guy and having unremarkable (at best) athletic skills for overcoming that. (No one ever said admiringly of me, “Yeah, Sego’s little, but he’s an amazing playmaker at point guard!”)

Coach Fink. The first time any of us heard the name, we’d laugh, because this was at the height of the Rat Fink craze. (Let’s hear it for Ed “Big Daddy” Roth!) That his first name was “Olaf” only added to the effect. But that was when we’d heard of him but not yet met him. He was an imposing figure, and his natural authority loomed over that of the other coaches. Also, we heard that he was a “state senator.” I didn’t know what that meant at the time, but it sounded important, which seemed fitting.

Anyway, Kent and I wrote back and forth a bit more about Karr Junior High (unfortunately, I was unable to help him on the origin of the name), but that part of the conversation kicked my memory into gear, and I thought I’d share.

Sorry I haven’t posted lately. Things have been crazy. I’ll try to get back to it soon…

Happy Easter! And wow, did you see that ballgame?

You see what following sports does to you? Makes you into a heathen, talking about last night’s game in the same breath as greeting people on the holiest day of the year.

Jimmy

“I’ll make it,” said Jimmy. And he meant it…

But that was quite a game. It had to be, for me, of all people, to be excited enough to want to keep talking about it. On Easter.

And I do.

If you missed it, let me set up the video above. As it starts, they’re in overtime, with a few seconds left. You see UCLA make a great play to tie it up. There are three seconds left. And then…

Watch it several times if you like. I have.

It reminded Coach Norman Dale of something. It reminded me of the same thing.

It will go down in history as Suggs’ Last Shot…

I am a basketball PROGNOSTICATOR! Sort of…

final

I just looked at my NCAA bracket for the first time since I filled it out, to see how I was doing.

It had been an afterthought, and I had no money riding on it, so who cared, right? I did it too late to get into any pool. The first games were underway (although I had no idea what the scores were yet), so I just sort of did it for my own minor entertainment. My daughter had done one and urged me to, so I thought, Why not?

Then I forgot where I had put it. It took a few minutes to find it just now. And I saw that WOW, I was doing pretty great! I had Gonzaga and Baylor in the final — which seems a pretty likely event at this point — and Gonzaga winning. Which also seems, right now, to be the likeliest outcome, although anything can happen.

I felt smart, in a “proper man,” sort of way, as Roy and Moss were trying to feel when they went about saying, “Did you see that ludicrous display last night?

Almost as smart as that time back in the 80s — no, wait; it must have been ’91 — when Charlie Pope persuaded me to fill out a bracket, because he wanted my dollar. I’m not saying Charlie was in charge of this unsavory gambling enterprise; I forget which of the Five Families was running it. But he was the guy bugging me. I kept refusing, saying (truthfully) that I knew zip about college basketball. I had sort of followed it back in college (when my alma mater came in second in the NCAA, behind UCLA), but not since.

But finally, to make him stop bothering me, I filled out a bracket and kicked in a buck. I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t even know those little numbers next to the teams were telling me where they were seeded. But I had to have some kind of basis for a decision, so, in the minute or so I took to fill it out, I gave the advantage to whichever team possessed one or more of the following characteristics:

  • The school had been a big deal in basketball 20 years earlier, when I had sort of followed it.
  • It was a Catholic school. Like Georgetown, for instance. Or Gonzaga.
  • The school was in some way connected to me during my life experiences. Like my alma mater, Memphis State (or whatever they were calling it these days). Or the two big teams in Kansas, about which my colleagues were always raving when I worked in Wichita.

That was my system. I picked Duke to win. Some sports fans smiled indulgently at me for that.

And I won. This was a very frustrating outcome for poor Charlie. I knew he reviewed the brackets every day to see how each person was doing, and I made a point of asking him how I was doing every day, and enjoyed his grouchy “You’re still in the lead.” This was a completely unjust outcome in his book, since he knew that I was an idiot in these matters.

I guess I won between 20 and 30 bucks. But that wasn’t the point — I was just so glad to be right. My system had worked!

And now I’ve got a good chance of being sort of right again.

Just don’t, you know, ask me who else I had in the Final Four. I think one of them was knocked out in the first round, which is one reason I hadn’t looked back at the bracket since then…

Pay no attention to my FULL bracket, or to the man behind the curtain!

Pay no attention to my FULL bracket, or to the man behind the curtain!

Good to see my friends connecting on Twitter

Doug and Mandy

Wonder what Doug Ross is up to during his year without blogging (due to a New Year’s resolution that he has impressed us all by keeping)?

Well, he’s doing pretty much the same stuff, only on Twitter.

I had to smile today at the exchange pictured above in a screenshot.

It’s nice to see two of my friends getting together to work on issues on Twitter.

Of course, as I reported earlier, Doug is also a contributor to Mandy’s re-election campaign. So, good for him there, as well.

As for the issue itself, of course… I’m kinda “meh” on it. Either way, whatever. I sort of get the impression Mandy feels the same way. I can’t remember whether I’ve ever discussed it with her.

I know I’ve discussed it with James, though. In fact, I went and dug up a statement I put together for him about it during the campaign. It’s not something we ran on. But a reporter in Charleston was doing a story about it, and asking various pols for statements. I wasn’t crazy about commenting on things we weren’t running on — I had ambitions of imposing message discipline — but we didn’t turn our noses up at it the way we did stupid “have you stopped beating your wife” questions like “Do you want to abolish ICE?”

Anyway… here’s what I put together on it. I have no way of knowing whether we actually put it out like this. It’s just in a random Word file, not a release or anything. So James might have had me change it before giving it to the reporter:

I’m for regulating it and getting the revenue that the state is missing out on now.

I’m not pro-gambling per se. But this is a matter of common sense, and an example of what I mean when I say it’s not about big government or small government – I’m for smart government.

As everyone knows, people are already betting on sports in South Carolina, big-time. But it’s happening in the shadows, and its an invitation to crime.

We need to regulate it, and keep criminals from controlling and profiting from it.

And the state of South Carolina can certainly use the revenue. I’ve seen figures that estimate Rhode Island could net $25 million from sports betting. If that’s correct, South Carolina would easily see quite a lot more, since we have five times the population. That’s money we could really use, for schools, for infrastructure, for healthcare, for public safety.

So, you know, we were for regulating it if you really wanted an answer. Assuming that was the official statement. I don’t think anyone but that one reporter ever used any of it.

McMaster’s position, by the way, was that he was dead set against it, as his mouthpiece said: “It flies in the face of everything South Carolina stands for.” Highly debatable, of course, but you knew where he stood.

We were much more definitely for medical cannabis, which if if I remember correctly was one of the reasons Doug not only gave to our campaign, but voted for us. Not an issue I would have chosen to back our ticket over, but then I’m not a libertarian like our friend Doug….

Baseball, the thread that runs through our lives and ties them together

win

I had a little “Field of Dreams” moment during the wonderful conclusion to the World Series last night. In the sentimental “Dad, you wanna have a catch?” sense.

While Joe Buck or someone was talking about how it had been 95 years since a team from Washington had won, a picture of Senators legend Walter Johnson came on the screen. The BIg Train.

And I was reminded of a story my Dad likes to tell of when he was just a little guy. He grew up in Kensington, Md., in a house his grandfather had built for his Dad. My great-grandfather had a construction business, and he did that for each of his kids when they got married. Consequently, several of them lived quite close together. My Dad’s Aunt Ethel lived behind my Dad, on the next street over.

Walter Johnson

Walter Johnson

Aunt Ethel’s daughter Jean married a guy named Walter Perry Johnson Jr. — the son of the Big Train. Occasionally, the great man was a guest in their home. When that happened, Aunt Ethel’s husband Carroll would call over and tell my Dad to come over, and bring his glove. Dad would go running, and then he would play catch with the great Walter Johnson.

Speaking of the Senators, there’s a story that my grandfather was invited to play for the Senators’ organization, but decided to go into the construction business with his father instead. It seems to me a surprising decision, since his life had revolved around baseball up to that point. Ancestry offers me scores of “hints” about his life, and most of them are clippings from The Washington Post telling about some ball club or other that he was forming, or pitching for, or the captain of.

He worked for the Post Office for awhile, for just one reason: So he could play on its baseball team.

Here’s how he and my grandmother met (which I think I’ve told before): She would see him walking past her house, in his suit and wearing a straw boater, with a satchel dangling from one hand, on his way to the Kensington train station. She decided he must be a traveling salesman, and the bag contained his wares. But when she finally spoke to him, she learned that the bag was filled with his uniform, glove and cleats. He wouldn’t have thought of going to work without them.

What's he doing in an Expos uniform?

What’s he doing in an Expos uniform?

I could go in all sorts of directions about baseball and how its threads run in and out of American life. I could reminisce about when we lived in Tampa, and in the spring we’d go over to St. Pete to watch the Cardinals play. I was an autograph fiend at the time, and in those days the players were easily accessible. (Once in Tampa, I went into the Reds’ locker room to get Pete Rose to sign my glove as he sat shirtless on a table during an interview with a sportswriter. Things were that informal then.) So I would chase Joe Torre, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Curt Flood. But I failed to get Tim McCarver’s. He was on the other side of a chain-link fence signing for some other kids, but I couldn’t get him to turn around, despite repeatedly calling, “Mr. McCarver! Mr. McCarver!”

Years later, when I was first dating my wife, I was over at her house and she was working on organizing her family’s photos. I asked why there was a publicity photo of McCarver in the box (in an Expos uniform, which is not the way I think of him). “He’s my first cousin,” she said. So, several years after that, we happened to be at the Red Sox training camp in Florida the one year Tim played for them. Carlton Fisk injured his wrist in the first inning and Tim went in for him. After the game, we went over to the house Tim was renting during spring training. As he drank a beer, guess what I chose to talk him about? That’s right: I complained that he wouldn’t turn around and give me an autograph when I was 14.

His answer? “Aw, I wasn’t playing when you were 14.”

Not long after that, his playing days ended. After that, he started his broadcast career. He would eventually be teamed up with Joe Buck, who I think was the one talking about the Senators in 1924 last night.

Which is where we came in.

(Oh, wait, something I forgot to mention: There’s meaning in the fact that Tim was, against all expectations, in an Expos uniform in that photo. The Expos are now the Nationals.)

Anyway, that’s a small taste of what baseball means to American life. My American life, anyway.

It runs through the years and the lives, tying everything together…

I’m very pleased for the Nationals today. And for Washington…

One of my grandfather's baseball teams. That's him squatting on the right.

One of my grandfather’s baseball teams. That’s him squatting on the right.

So, where do you stand on carrying the bat to first base?

bregman

Here’s a little thought experiment…

Earlier, some of you expressed disapproval of the crowd booing Trump at the World Series Sunday night, while others defended it.

Contemplating another Series controversy from last night’s game (and not the disagreement that led to the Nationals’ manager being ejected — it was quite a game), it occurs to me that it might be a sort of related issue.

I’d like to see y’all’s positions on the booing thing alongside your positions on whether it was OK for Alex Bregman and Juan Soto to carry their bats to first base after hitting home runs.

I have this theory that people who were disturbed by the booing would also disapprove of the bat-carrying, both being violations of certain standards of behavior. Likewise, anyone likely to approve of the “Lock him up” chant would be more inclined to let those young ballplayers strut a bit.

Me, I disapprove of both. I see both within a context of society fraying, becoming less civilized.

You?

soto

I’m losing my photographic memory for trivia!

Huskers

Is that a sign of aging?

Whatever it is, I’m shocked at something I couldn’t remember today.

Someone had said to me that Steph Curry had played basketball at Davidson, which I knew was supposed to impress me, but all it did was cause me to go look up “Steph Curry.” (And it turns out he IS quite impressive).

Because, you know, I don’t do real-life sports. I do frequently enjoy fictional sports (I like the idea of sports more than the reality), so I can tell you all about Roy Hobbs and Bartholomew “Bump” Bailey and Willie “Mays” Hayes and (now that Bryan has me watching “Friday Night Lights”) “Smash” Williams, Tim Riggins and Matt Saracen.

So anyway, defending myself, I boasted that while I don’t know this Curry guy, I can name all the Hickory Huskers from “Hoosiers.”

But then, privately, I tried to do so, and without looking them up, all I came up with was this:

  • Rade
  • Buddy
  • Shooter’s son
  • Ollie
  • Strap
  • Jimmy Chitwood
  • Buddy’s friend who said, “I ain’t no gizzard.”

Best I could do. Which is lame.

Can you flesh out the roster with full names?

You can check yourself against this

team

And look — there’s Merle! I forgot him altogether!…

Is Harpootlian the famous ‘person from Porlock?’

It's a stately dome. I don't know about the "pleasure" part, though...

It’s a stately dome. I don’t know about the “pleasure” part, though…

When I saw this this morning…

Panthers’ plans for SC headquarters include massive complex, hotel

The Carolina Panthers say that a complex that includes a medical facility, a hotel, entertainment venues and more are planned for the team’s York County site.

I got to thinking about Coleridge:

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round;
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery….

I guess that makes Dick Harpootlian the “person from Porlock,” since he’s the one trying to wake everyone from the dream…

It’s great to watch someone doing something really well — and digging it

From the UCLA Gymnastics Twitter feed.

From the UCLA Gymnastics Twitter feed.

As y’all know, I’m not much of a sports fan. And as I’ve confessed, I don’t think this speaks well of my character.

As I said in a recent comment, I’m just not generous enough — or something — to identify with or thrill to someone else’s accomplishments. Except on rare occasions. (For instance, I was pleased for the Cubbies when they won the Series in 2016.) I like sports OK as something to do — or at least, I used to when I was younger — but I don’t enjoy them vicariously.

Actually, though, that’s not entirely true. While I may seldom identify with a team (you won’t hear me refer to a team as “we,” for instance, unless I’m one of the athletes involved, which as time goes by is increasingly unlikely), and I won’t thrill to other people’s victories or mourn their defeats, in the normal course of things… there is one level on which I get the whole fan thing:

I do appreciate a virtuoso performance. So I’m a sucker for a highlights reel, or those video clips that my MLB At Bat app calls to my attention. It doesn’t matter who the athlete is or what team he’s on, or what the sport is. I mean stuff that makes you go, “How can anybody DO that?” Stuff that reminds me of what the character Elmo in “Vision Quest” said about why he broke down in tears from having seen Pelé do something amazing with a soccer ball on TV:

That’s right, I start crying. Because another human being, a species that I happen to belong to, could kick a ball, and lift himself, and the rest of us sad-assed human beings, up to a better place to be, if only for a minute… let me tell ya, kid – it was pretty goddamned glorious….

And while I can be said to follow gymnastics even less than other sports, I really enjoyed seeing the above clip when The Washington Post brought it to my attention this morning:

“A 10 isn’t enough for this floor routine by @katelyn_ohashi,” the UCLA Gymnastics official Twitter account tweeted Sunday, sharing a video of Ohashi’s stellar showing at the Collegiate Challenge, where the UCLA Bruins earned first place. As of early Monday morning, the video of the routine had been viewed more than 13 million times.

So I now share it with y’all. Perhaps it will make you smile. Although your smile may not be quite as brilliant as hers…

‘I’m glad we found it out detective fashion…’

A little something for y’all who complain that there’s not enough sports on this blog…

An evening’s entertainment, for JUST $175,000…

You get a ride! On an airplane!

You get a ride! On an airplane!

I don’t know how I get on an email list such as this one. I suspect my friends, knowing what I think of football, are having me on. Or something:

Hi Brad​,

The College National Football Championship is one of the most sought after events of the season for NCAA Football Fans. This year the top teams will battle it out for the 2018 title at Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco. Teams are determined on December 29th, leaving just a few days for fans to make their travel plans before the January 7th game.

Unfortunately for those last minute planners, hotels are already nearly filled with top conferences competing for the most premium rooms in the city. Thanks to SuiteHop’s VIP National Championship Package, a hotel room isn’t necessary!

The premiere marketplace for luxury suites at sporting events, SuiteHop has teamed up with Bg Game Air, Tailgate Guys, and Buster to create an all-inclusive, jet set package for National Championship Attendees.

For just $175,000 a group of 20 guests can fly private from anywhere in the US and arrive at the game just in time for a luxury catered tailgate. Before kick off, VIP guests will head through the gates to their private and all-inclusive owners club suite. This is the ultimate way to attend a game! Win or lose, you’ll enjoy VIP transportation back to the airport and be back home the very same day.

Full details about the package are available online at: https://www.suitehop.com/national-championship-vip-package

I’d love to chat with you more about the package and learn if this is the type of thing you might be interested in covering for BradWarthen.com​….

For just $175,000. “Just.” Really?

What’s in that VIP suite? 72 willing virgins? The Fountain of Youth? A map to El Dorado? After that list of what I get for my $172,000, I expect it to continue, “But wait! That’s not all! You also get this set of Ginsu knives! And a Lamborghini!”

I mean, how does a fan even know whether he wants to go? We don’t know who’s playing yet, do we? (Or do we? I don’t know how these things work.)

I’m just trying to imagine who out there would read this and think, “What a DEAL! I gotta get in on this!”…

Yet, limited as my imagination is, somehow I know they’re out there…

You get to tailgate! With a tent!

You get to tailgate! With a tent!

Something off-putting about those ‘patriotic’ uniforms

unis 1

I thought about posting this on Memorial Day itself, but decided to wait.

For me — a guy who’s all about some patriotism and support for the military (and if there’s a spectator sport I love, it’s baseball) — there’s something off-putting about those special uniforms MLB players donned over the holiday weekend.

It’s not just that it’s so contrived, such a cheesy, sterile form of tribute to men who died in the blood and noise and fury and filth and noise of battle. They did not wear clean, white uniforms with camouflage numbers. They did not wear caps that look as much like what a deer hunter would wear as anything you’d see on a soldier.

But there’s also something… decadent, something last-days-of-Rome about it.

Of course, I’m guilty of romanticizing baseball. I think of it in very anachronistic terms as a humble, pastoral game played by plain men who did it for the love of the sport, guys who maybe had one uniform to their names, and that uniform made of wool that caused them to roast in the summer sun. (And they liked it, as Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man would say.)

I just can’t help thinking of all the money spent on these uniforms that these players will probably wear only once. Which makes me think about how much — way too much — money there is in professional sports today, so much that vast sums can be thrown away on PR gestures that, as I said above, seem inadequate to the kind of tribute our war dead deserve.

I’m not blaming MLB here. This occurs in a context in which the fans, the entire society, seem to have lost all sense of materialistic restraint.

You, too, can have a genuine copy of the jersey your hero wore for one game for only $119.99. Or, if you’ve really lost your marbles and have more money than anyone needs, you can have the actual jersey that a player wore, for $2,125! Unless someone with priorities even further out of whack outbids you!

It just all seems kind of nuts to me. And vaguely offensive. Does this make any sense to anyone?

distasteful