Archive for the ‘Major League Baseball’ Category

USPW_753146 2Supporters of the St. Louis Cardinals are referred to as the best fans in baseball. The term is more often used ironically than genuinely, but even if it wasn’t, it’s not the type of moniker that should give rise to anger in anyone who possesses a healthy perspective on life.

There are far worse exaggerations over which one might be more justified in getting upset. For instance, Budweiser is not the King of Beers. Obviously, ales, lagers and stouts would never subject themselves to a sovereign monarch. Energizer batteries don’t keep going and going and going. Eventually, they’ll wear out, and that moment is most likely to occur when you’re a quarter of the way through shaving your face with an electric razor.

We all know this. That’s why “the best fans in baseball” is so often used in a derisive manner. It’s a joke.

Nonetheless, the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Pittsburgh Pirates to gain entry into the National League Championship Series – which is big news – and because sports writers are typically of the unimaginative breed, there are several articles about St. Louis Cardinals fans being earnestly written and published.

Cardinals fans suck.

Cardinals fans are the best.

It reminds me of the time I went to a White Snake and Scorpions concert. In line for a beer, a fight erupted between two drunks over which was the better band. White Snake fan won the fight by TKO when Scorpions super fan missed with a punch, fell to the ground and puked all over himself.

The arguments over how great/terrible of a fan base there is in St. Louis is actually worse. At least the two metal fans didn’t have a large platform from which they could spew vomit on all of us.

No fan base is better than another. “Oh, but we don’t chant racist slurs like those soccer supporters in Italy.” Congratulations, the best that you can say about a group that you belong to is that you’re not as racist as another group. You must really be so proud.

Any sample of sports fans is nothing more than a cross-section of humanity. Some good. Some bad. But mostly grotesque specimens searching for something to belong to that’s bigger than themselves.

uspw_918186 2There’s a certain pleasure to be gained through the discovery of metaphors. It’s a quirky bit of nature, but we seem to understand ourselves better from a perspective that excludes us entirely. Without this, parables, poetry and playwriting likely wouldn’t exist, or at least wouldn’t carry as much significance as they do.

The amount of amusement we derive from piecing together parallels between narratives and our own lives is enhanced when those analogies seem almost accidental instead of crafted. It’s one thing to read a novel that’s meant to be an allegory, and quite another to come across something that’s not intended to mirror anything, but does so in a fashion that causes reflection.

Matching the sports we watch to the culture we inhabit is hardly new. It’s been done many times before. Perhaps the best example is the book Brilliant Orange, which rationally ties so many aspects of Dutch culture to voetbal. In Canada, before gift buying holidays like Christmas or Father’s Day a new book is released tethering hockey to what it means to be Canadian. Meanwhile, the United States has long stood by baseball as its country’s pastime, a connection that was most exhaustively made by documentarian Ken Burns, who dedicated more than 18 hours on public television to explaining the relationship between the sport and the nation.

The Emmy Award-winning series was broadcast on PBS in 1994 – not an especially good year for baseball – but even as Burns was preparing his epic ode, the rankings of relevance had shifted. Not so long before Baseball first aired, the tenure of National Football League Commissioner Pete Rozelle concluded. Under Rozelle’s three decade long stewardship, the NFL blossomed: Attendance increased by almost 600%, and every subsequent Super Bowl set new records for television viewership. It all combined to create fertile ground for his successor, Paul Tagliabue, to reap an even larger harvest in increased television coverage and the accompanying lucrative contracts from broadcast partners.

Football is enormous, it’s become far bigger than baseball in terms of popularity. Nonetheless, baseball still clings to tradition, backed by its long standing connection to America’s history, and all of its struggles, conflicts and contradictions.

Read the rest of this entry »

unknown-artist-the-wild-wild-east

The German Democratic Republic may have had a relatively small population – 16-million people – and a short history, but it was extremely successful at the Olympic Games. From 1976 to 1988, the country came second in three summer Olympics, only behind the Soviet Union. They also finished second at four Winter Olympics, and won more medals than any other nation at the 1984 winter games in Sarajevo.

It was just before 7:00 AM on an autumn morning in 1978 when 18-year-old Renate Neufeld was awakened by the Secret Police. Her dormitory, which was off-limits even to her parents when they visited, was invaded by Stasi officers, who – in their mechanical compliance to indiscernible demands – took the young sprinter away for questioning.

As a relative newcomer to the TSC Berlin Sports Club, Neufeld was unique. Like her classmates, she grew up in East Germany, but unlike the rest of the sequestered school, her daily routine through adolescence hadn’t been meted out by the Socialist Unity Party. Most of the students there were hand-selected at the age of twelve to become future representatives of East Germany at the Olympic Games. Since being chosen, they trained constantly to reach this goal. From physical exercises to nutrition, regimen and unconditional obedience was a way of life.

Neufeld, a champion hurdler in her teens, didn’t join the school until after she turned 17-years-old. Immediately, her trainer set her up on a sophisticated program that would make up for lost time and reap increased ability from her surprising and untamed talent. Included in this plan was a supplemental diet of grey pills and green powder that he referred to as vitamins. Once she began consuming these “vitamins,” her legs suffered frequent cramps, her voice deepened, facial hair grew on the top of her lip and she ceased menstruating.

Read the rest of this entry »

2013 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game SixImagine how frustrating it would be for a knowledgeable general medical practitioner to pick up a copy of his or her favorite medical journal and read an article extolling the virtues of the humoral theory. Put yourself in a lab coat and pretend there’s a stethoscope resting around your neck as you peruse text proposing that when the four humors – blood, phlegm, black and yellow bile – are in balance, good health is guaranteed. It would be absolutely maddening to read claims that an imbalance in the humors is at the root of sickness.

The existence of more effective measures doesn’t always guarantee the use of more effective measures. While the specific example of a doctor practicing humoral medicine in the 21st Century would likely result in several malpractice lawsuits, our predilection for doing things not by the best means but rather the most familiar continues on a smaller scale that seldom ends up a matter for a court of law, or of life and death.

Consider the relatively unimportant endeavor of sports. When we talk about athletes, our conversations often lead toward opinions on their ranking. Player A is better than Player B because Player A does this. No, you’re an idiot for thinking Player A is better than Player B because Player B has this number of whatevers, and Player A only has that many. And so the world of sports “discussion” turns.

Read the rest of this entry »

ricochetSpending all day – every day – immersed in sports is a bit like working at Pizza Hut and eating nothing but pizza. If one is unburdened by such matters as personal health and waistline size, pizza is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, too much of a wonderful thing is likely to leave one no longer believing the wonderful thing to be all that wonderful.

Sports are really, really great. However, the more time you spend reading and writing about a topic, the greater the chance its ugly little cracks and cobwebs will begin to emerge. This is why, over time, the focus of writers and fans alike becomes embittered by the more negative aspects of sports. The cheating. The discrimination. The exploitation. The inequality. It becomes overwhelming. We forget why sports are so great, and why they fascinated us long before we grew caustic to what they could offer. And so, that’s where The Week In Sports Happiness enters.

Every week, I’ll present the ten things that are making me happy from the world of sports. It might be an inspiring story, it could be a winning streak, it may even be an animated GIF. No matter what, it’s from sports, it made me feel good inside, and I hope it does the same for you.

So, without further ado, sports the good:

Read the rest of this entry »

reunionSpending all day – every day – immersed in sports is a bit like working at Pizza Hut and eating nothing but pizza. If one is unburdened by such matters as personal health and waistline size, pizza is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, too much of a wonderful thing is likely to leave one no longer believing the wonderful thing to be all that wonderful.

Sports are really, really great. However, the more time you spend reading and writing about a topic, the greater the chance its ugly little cracks and cobwebs will begin to emerge. This is why, over time, the focus of writers and fans alike becomes embittered by the more negative aspects of sports. The cheating. The discrimination. The exploitation. The inequality. It all becomes overwhelming. We forget why sports are so great, and why they fascinated us long before we grew caustic to what they could offer. And so, that’s where The Week In Sports Happiness comes into play.

Every week, I’ll present the ten things that are making me happy from the world of sports. It might be a particular article, it could be a winning streak, it may even be an animated GIF. No matter what, it’s from sports, it made me feel good inside, and I hope it does the same for you.

Without further ado, sports the good:

Read the rest of this entry »

portlandtimberSpending all day – every day – immersed in sports is a bit like working at Pizza Hut and eating nothing but pizza. If one is unburdened by such matters as personal health and waistline size, pizza is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, too much of a wonderful thing is likely to leave one no longer believing the wonderful thing to be all that wonderful.

Sports are really, really great. However, the more time you spend reading and writing about a topic, the greater the chance its ugly little cracks and cobwebs will begin to emerge. This is why, over time, the focus of writers and fans alike becomes embittered by the more negative aspects of sports. The cheating. The discrimination. The exploitation. The inequality. It all becomes overwhelming. We forget why sports are so great, and why they fascinated us long before we grew caustic to what they could offer. And so, that’s where The Week In Sports Happiness comes into play.

Every week, I’ll present the ten things that are making me happy from the world of sports. It might be a particular article, it could be a winning streak, it may even be an animated GIF. No matter what, it’s from sports, it made me feel good inside, and I hope it does the same for you.

Without further ado, sports the good:

Read the rest of this entry »