Just a programming note: this is the last post this week, as I'll be headed to Canada tomorrow to take in a Blue Jays game on Saturday afternoon. It turns out we are going to be just in time to see the start of the Vlad Jr. show up close and personal. He's making his debut tomorrow, probably just before we roll into town. And we'll see game two on Saturday.
I started to write a post talking about the economics of baseball and about delaying bringing up top prospects until June so the team controls another year on the rookie deal and all that, and then we could also spin out a bit about how older players just are not being signed period. Even players like Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel, who were top of the game pitchers just a few seasons ago. Even five years ago, these guys would have been snatched up in a heartbeat. Now, though, I think the reasons have more to do with a call I've resisted for years and years. Maybe it makes me an old fogey, but I can't fight it any more.
Analytics are ruining baseball.
Look at my history, look at what I've written here. I'm somebody who was basically born in the game, played it religiously, watched it religiously. I'm making a 16-hour round-trip road trip just to catch a game. I'm not somebody who MLB should be happy is saying this, but I am saying it, and I am not the only ardent baseball fan saying it. You can hear Nate Silver go on a bit of a longer rant* about this same topic over on FiveThirtyEight, but he's right, and he's not the only person saying this, prominently or otherwise.
*"Longer by podcast standards," that is. At this point, I have no idea how long this is going to go on.
This isn't a new story by any means. The "three true outcomes"* of baseball have been absolutely dominant over the past several years, and the rates just go up and up. And, frankly, that is just boring baseball. Silver argues that maybe there aren't too many home runs, but there are definitely too many walks and strikeouts. He's not necessarily wrong. I would just argue that there are, in fact, too many of all three. There is no room any more for a slick-fielding but light-hitting middle infielder, or a particularly rangy centerfielder. There may be more room for a strong defensive catcher, either throwing runners out or framing pitches well, but even then, it's hard to see any major leaguer staying in the daily line-up who can't reliably hit over .200 and threaten to leave the park every now and then.
*Home runs, walks, and strikeouts. Plays that fielders have no say in.
I don't know if this is just another cycle in baseball or if this is a stasis point. We have seen an era of very strong pitching in the 60's and 70's. We saw an era obsessed with speed in the 80's. Then came the power era in the 90's, and the backlash from that pharmaceutical time in the new aughts. But, those felt different. Even in those times, you had the guys who were your stereoptypical sluggers, and then the guys who you could depend on to steal a base or lock down a defensive position in the late innings. You still had teams that relied more on power and others who relied more on pitching. And, of course, you had teams who played in ballparks that felt they had to build a team that was particularly well-suited for that field. I don't want to say all that is totally gone, but it certainly feels much diminished.
Every team, it seems, is either built to be or is aspiring to be the same. Get a whole bunch of guys who can hit for a decent average and about twenty homers, and then a bunch of pitchers who reliably throw 97 or 98 and hit some ungodly spin rate. There only seems to be one mold of player that can make it to the show now, and frankly, it kind of sucks.
If I wanted to watch wiffle ball, I'm sure I could scrounge up enough neighborhood kids and head to a park. There is a reason the World Wiffle Ball Championship is not regularly televised. I want baseball, damn it. If there's no fielding decisions, or throws to make or tough catches, or baserunning decisions, what's the point? And that's the game we're headed towards. We're playing glorified home run derby.* That's not baseball. The commissioner's office keeps freaking out the time games take or the pace of play and all this. The rule changes that are supposed to take effect next season are misguided at best, I think.** They might address some of the measurable effects, like total time of game and number of commercial breaks, but they don't address the product on the field. And that is where the real problem lies.
*And MLB can't even get the rules right when they play ACTUAL home run derby. You're damn right I'm not going to let that go.
**Not all of them. Fixing the roster rules at the end of the year was actually a really great step that I was surprised to see. The rest range from "Who Cares?" to "Quit Messing With It."
Even when there is action, it barely qualifies as action. Either a guy is walking to first, walking to the dugout, or lightly jogging around the bases. That's not fun. That's not dramatic. I'm not in the position to tell anybody to stay away from big league parks. I'm going to a game on Saturday, and I'll probably go to a few more this year. But, let me plead a bit. Remember your local ballparks and teams this summer, too. Between seven levels of "official" minor league baseball, independent leagues, and wooden bat college leagues, there is sure to be some baseball happening close to you somewhere. Baseball where they actually play baseball. Not every player is going to be able to reach beyond the fence, and the pitchers might have to get crafty instead of just overpowering everybody. Defense will matter, baserunning will matter, baseball IQ will matter. I'm not going to tell you you'll necessarily see better baseball players here. You won't. How close it is will vary wildly. The Indianapolis Indians are going to look much more like a major league team than the Danville Dans. But, you know, I don't feel uncomfortable saying there is a good chance you will actually see a better baseball product in those games than you will see in the bigs. You'll definitely see more variety, anyway. And those smaller teams will be so much more thankful for your business.
I fell asleep early last night, so I didn't see a second of Sharks-Golden Knights last night. I was asleep at least a good hour before the puck ever dropped, maybe closer to two. So, regrettably, I didn't see this sequence live, but I've watched quite a few replays of it. Here is today's discussion:
And, yeah. It looks really bad and it was clearly a very scary moment. It is always a bit shocking to see the bright, vibrant red of fresh blood against the pristine white ice of a hockey arena. But, when we get down to it, it really seems more unfortunate than anything.
Cody Eakin does give Joe Pavelski a cross check there. That part is really clear, but the contact really doesn't appear to be that egregious. I feel like the sort of contact happens quite a bit throughout a hockey game and very often goes totally uncalled and uncommented on. I also feel like, nine times out of ten, Pavelski either regains his balance there or at least falls pretty harmlessly on his side. Instead, he unfortunately turns into another player (Paul Stastny, I believe), which leads to another tangle up and causes Pavelski to meet the ice head first.
And, well, yeah. You're going to have to call a penalty after that. I don't think anybody is saying absolutely nothing should have been called. But the explanation for calling Eakin's hit a major was "The referees called a crosschecking penalty for an infraction that caused a significant injury. In their judgement, the infraction and its result merited a major penalty." And, well, that just doesn't look like the truth to me. Yes, Pavelski looked to be significantly injured, but it was really just the bad luck of getting tied up with Stastny that caused that. There was nothing dirty about that hit, and I'm not even sure how intentional that hit was. I don't think Stastny really expected Pavelski to even be there when he skated that direction. You have to call a penalty, yes, but I think you could have called a minor there and nobody outside San Jose would have complained. I don't even know how many inside San Jose would have complained. I guess we'll never know.
So, that's part one of the complaint, and I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm with Vegas on this one.* I don't think that should have been deemed a major. When I first read the story, though, I still scoffed at this one call "stealing the series." And, I guess, on some level, I still scoff at it. You had seven games to win four. That's like blaming Cody Parkey for ruining the Bears' season. Yeah, he absolutely should have made that kick, but there was nothing else that could have been done to make sure the game didn't come down to one kick? Similarly, the Knights had three other games the Sharks won, including one in double-overtime in game six. So, in that sense, yeah, there were other chances to win this series.
*I'm putting a note here for myself to write about why I'm opposed to the Vegas Golden Knights on principle. And probably Seattle, too, but more to Vegas.
But, when it comes to this one game? That just happened to be game seven? Well, actually, I buy that argument for Vegas, too. It was three-zip just under halfway through the third period. A team can blow a three goal lead, ask Tampa Bay about it. But it seems pretty unlikely they would blow that lead in ten minutes, especially with eight of those minutes being 5-on-5. Instead, because it was a major, it doesn't go back to even strength after a goal. So San Jose was able to cash in four times in those five minutes, coming out of it ahead 4-3. Vegas would score again to force overtime, where San Jose won it just before the buzzer. So Vegas still had a chance to win it even after everything, but they didn't. I won't take that argument away from Sharks fans. But I will say the Sharks would have never been in that position without that call.
Is that "stealing the series?" Probably not. Probably. But it is pretty iffy.
Something I've thought about quite a bit is if it's morally defensible to watch high-impact sports* with high percentages of head injuries. This has been on my mind at least since League of Denial came out, which Amazon tells me is 2013.** It lays out a pretty damning case against the league, a reputation the NFL is still trying to shake.
*We're going to count professional wrestling as a sport for today. The outcomes and big spots might be scripted, but there is no way you can argue, especially in today's wrestling, these people are not athletes.
**Which is also an absolutely excellent book. I cannot recommend it enough.
And, well, yeah. Shame on the leagues as a whole. It is just another chapter of the billionaire-for-life owners taking advantage of players who have relatively brief careers, leaving many to hope the money holds out. Many are very well compensated, of course, and we can have a discussion another day about professional athletes' salaries, but the owners are the ones raking in the cash. And being a team owner is usually just a side gig for these guys. Most of them have made or are making their money somewhere else. Owning these teams is just a really expensive (and lucrative!) hobby. So, yes, in this case, let's recognize who has the power here and who typically abuses that power. Based on that alone, it can feel rather uncomfortable to support these organizations.
But, unfortunately, when it comes to the highest levels of athletic competition, it is one of the few areas where a monopoly not only makes sense, but is really the only arrangement that will work. Even professional wrestling could not avoid it. At the end of the day, somebody has to be the top dog, somebody has to organize one place for the top athletes in the field to compete against one another. The only place this hasn't really happened is boxing, which we discussed last week. But even then, cross-promotion fights happen regularly, which is much easier to pull off in an individual sport. The only real setup for multiple top tier leagues is for champions to meet at the end of every season to see who the true champion is. Like, I don't know, you might call it a World Series. Have you contacted the American or National League offices lately? Nobody has since 2000.
So, yes, there might be business reasons not to support a certain league or ownership group. That's not our question today. Our question is whether it is morally defensible to watch the sports themselves. It is barbaric to support any combat sport, football, hockey, et cetera? I would say it might be a bit barbaric, but that's a long way from saying it is morally wrong.
There have always been some pretty dangerous games throughout history, but that isn't really a defense. Saying "it's always been this way" is always a very weak argument for something, especially when one tries to put ancient morals onto the present.* But I do think it speaks there is something deep within us that gets some excitement from seeing people do these breathtaking things and conquering over danger. The problem is, of course, when you flirt with danger, sometimes dangerous stuff happens.
*Some do hold up, though. The words Jesus actually said have aged pretty well. Some of the other stuff . . . not as much.
I think what saves it for me, though, is nobody ever pretended otherwise. Maybe we didn't know the extent of the damage the way we do now, but we knew plenty to say these kind of sports were not the sort of profession to go into if you were interested in longevity. There is a reason saying somebody is "punchy" or "punch-drunk" is a well-established part of the lexicon. We, the audience, know the risks. The athletes, especially now, should know the risks. We all know the deal coming in. You can get pretty seriously hurt in just about every athletic undertaking. If you were afraid of injury, athletics isn't really the place for you. If you are deeply afraid of being knocked out, maybe don't go into boxing. These are the terms of the deal, nobody hid the broad strokes from you.
So, yes, maybe watching this stuff answers a bit of bloodlust within us. But we all knew the deal coming in. We can do better about managing the risks and taking care of these athletes afterwards, of course. And I believe most leagues are trying. We can argue if they are doing enough, and that's a good conversation to have. Again, leagues are not going to do these things out of the goodness of their hearts. It's going to take public pressure or outright legal measures to enforce it. But, in the meantime, I don't feel anybody has to worry they are being immoral for enjoying watching a fight or violent football or hockey hit. Our biology draws us to it, and it's okay to admit that.
Many times before I go sleep, one of the ways I'll wind down is mindlessly scrolling through different meme accounts on Instagram. It keeps my attention without being taxing, there's usually something to laugh at. It's generally just a light and fluffy way to wind down the day. But, every now and then, those meme feeds drift more into social and political thought. I'm not necessarily opposed to that, although it's usually heavier thinking than I'm looking for at the moment. It was one of those twists when I stumbled on a post from a girl talking about her younger brother. He apparently got a compliment from a girl at school on his new shoes, and he was just over the moon about it. Not anything about that particular girl, but just the fact that he got a compliment, and it absolutely made his day. He apparently was still thrilled with it like a month later. She didn't understand it, saying that girls get compliments pretty much constantly. And, you know, I completely understood that.
I've been a bit of a funk. I'd say recently, but it's really been for a long while up to the present. I just don't feel very good about myself, and I can't seem to get myself to do the things to correct it. I am taking some steps professionally, like getting this Master's, but otherwise, things have been rough with me personally. I haven't been creating things,* I haven't been eating great, and (relatedly) I'm not real happy with my fitness or appearance. Some of it just can't be helped. Just genetically, I wasn't ever going to have model-type looks, and clearly I was never going to be tall, which I've been led to believe will cover up a great many other flaws.** I'm not looking for anything or anybody, but it would still be nice to feel reasonably attractive, you know? And I just absolutely do not.
*Though the hope is this blog will help that.
**Yes, those are all separate links on each word. No, it was not hard to find and I could have easily done more.
So, yes, compliments have most definitely felt rare. In fact, I think they're downright non-existent from people outside the family tree. At least for a long while. But I the ones I have gotten definitely stick out. I can still remember a random compliment my sophomore year of high school very well. A girl* was staring at me a bit, but a little bit zoned out. I couldn't really tell if she was trying to get my attention or if she was really even registering me at all, lost in thought. So I said something to her. I don't remember that part, because I didn't know what was coming next. But I do remember her response. Her cheeks flushed with embarrassment, and she smiled and looked away for a second. "I'm sorry," she said. "I was just thinking about how you have, like, perfect eyebrows."
*Yes, I most definitely remember who, but I'm not telling. I won't even tell you what class, but it did happen during school hours.
And I can't actually swear to it, but I am still absolutely sure that I blushed back in response and took the compliment as gracefully as I could. Which was probably not very. Probably a stammered out "Thank you" and no follow up whatsoever. I don't believe she had any sort of romantic interest in me, it was just a simple compliment. And it stuck with me, because it really does not happen for boys.
Look it up. A very quick look at Google brought up so many results. Here are three quick ones:
Why Men Never Get Compliments
39 Things Women Will Just NEVER Understand About Being a Man (Point 33 in particular)
Men Desperately Want to Be Complimented
It's a real thing. I promise you, that is not even the tip of the iceberg. Some of this I feel pretty comfortable blaming on men. This is definitely not solely a male trait, but I do think that, generally speaking, men are worse at receiving compliments. At least American men. It goes against everything we've been taught about masculinity in our culture. Showing much feeling at all beyond anger and excitement* is frowned upon at an early age, and our media backs that up. Showing any sort of "soft" emotion is a good way to make yourself a target for a lot of teasing. I, uh, have some experience with that. So compliments put men in this weird position of trying not to look soft, while also not trying to come off as an asshole or egotistical or something. So, when a compliment does get put out there, it often gets a weird reaction, that person is probably not going to keep offering compliments. So, yes, as a whole, men need to get better about receiving compliments.**
*And even excitement has to be carefully curated and directed at "acceptable" things.
**I'm not even going to get into men who believe every compliment is a come-on and turn them creepy. That is another real problem and worthy of its own entirely separate discussion. I'm not really going to address it here, but believe me, I am aware of it.
Unfortunately, doing that is going to take practice, which puts things in a real vicious cycle. There is going to also have to be some culture change, which is going to take a long while. I am hopeful that it is starting to happen, but it's likely going to take several generations before we really see it take root. But I think there are cultural conversations that are having some beginnings, at least, around toxic masculinity and about how we raise boys that are promising. I have a daughter, so that is it's own thing about how we raise girls and fight those expectations, but I feel like those narratives have gotten a head start. It is relatively easy to find articles and examples about raising girls against some of those "traditional" expectations, and I've tried to do a good job of keeping mindful of that with Beth and being careful with gender roles. She's only three, though, so I expect that will get a lot harder as she gets older.
Raising boys, though, I feel has been a newer conversation, but one I've tried to keep tapped into. Something I might need to be mindful of in the future, you know? And I know how I was raised. I've come to learn that I had it pretty good in the parenting department, but there are still things I can think of that I would definitely want to do differently and ways I was shaped, both inside the home and by culture at large, that I would want to try to avoid or fight against if I had my own son. And just the simple act of giving and receiving honest compliments is one of them. It's a small thing, but a well-placed compliment can really have a huge effect on a person. Who knows what kinds of butterfly effects we can cause with a few nice words?
I might have written a similar version of this post before, but there are some twists on it now, so bear with me. I think it will be worth your time.
After a bit of digging, I'm pretty confident Andrew and I's first big league game was on July 26, 1995. It was in St. Louis, at the Middle Busch Stadium. I would have just turned nine the previous month, which would make Andrew seven. I don't remember a ton about the game itself, but I do remember Ozzie Smith was hurt (which was a huge bummer), Bernard Gilkey hit a home run,* and there was an argument about the ground rules and that yellow line in center field. I feel like our seats were about like the picture I found on the internet over there, but a bit lower. I'm also pretty sure the field was astroturf at the time.
*That home run is how I was able to track down what game we were at. It turns out, as a Cardinal, Gilkey hit two home runs against the Mets. One game in 1993 had Ozzie in the line up. The one in 1995 doesn't, so that sealed that. Also, Andrew got so excited for the homer that he kinda jumped out of his seat. The seat flipped up out from under him, so he fell butt-first on the concrete floor and hit his elbow on the armrest on the way down. He cried for a bit about it, but he got over it pretty quick.
What I actually remember more about the game was the pure excitement around it. I was definitely old enough to have already become a huge baseball fan and latched onto the Cubs. Growing up in a predominantly Cardinals family, though, I was fine with the Cardinals. It felt like a big enough wonder to me that I would actually be going to a major league park, I was wired through with excitement no matter who we might have gone to see. I remember walking around the stadium early and taking in all the sights and going through some souvenir stands. In one of those weird memories that sticks out, I do remember we got walk-up tickets that day, and we got nice seats. My memory tells me they were $12 each, though I couldn't swear that to you. If that's right, though, that comes out to about $20 in 2018 (last year available on the calculator). I was in awe of the building and the experience. It wasn't enough to turn me into a Cardinal fan, but I was definitely hooked on going to the stadium.
Last summer, Beth also got to go to her first big league game. It was also in St. Louis, as fate would have it. It was a bit of a fluke. We have a family reunion in Dexter, Missouri, at the end of every July. Unfortunately, that many times conflicts with Kristine's family vacation, so we have to decide which one we will do. That year, we had originally planned to make the trip to Wisconsin with Kristine's family, as we feared it would be the last one. It turned out not to happen. That part was not particularly happy, and the other circumstances around it were very sad, but it did mean we could make it to the reunion on short notice. And, as it happened, the Cubs were going to be in St. Louis that Friday.
I did wonder for a bit if we should go. Beth probably won't remember much of it, we had no idea if we would get nine innings out of her, let alone the fireworks afterwards. There was also the question if there would even be tickets on that short notice. Luckily, there were. The only available seats were pretty high up, but that just meant they weren't terribly expensive. I want to say we spent around $80 total for the three of us, after taxes and fees and everything. A bit higher than 1995, but there's not much to be done about about. We decided we would give it a try, and if Beth got too fussy or whatnot, we would leave early. I typically hate doing that, but I've learned from a few basketball outings that sometimes you just have to play by toddler rules.
Beth was excited, but I don't know that she was quite as excited as I was at my first game. Then again, she was just a few weeks short of three. She didn't have any idea why this would be quite as big a deal as I did at nine, and she never had the chance to watch or play as much baseball as I did before my first game. We went to get her reactions and all, but let's be honest here. We still did this for us.
And that was perfectly okay. She had a very good time. And the seating actually worked out perfectly. Our seats had nobody in front of us. It was just the stairwell to go out into the upper concourse, which meant unobstructed views and really easy to get to the concessions or restrooms and back. The stairs up to the other rows passed around us and came together right behind us. That meant Kristine and I both had plenty of elbow room, and Beth was free to climb and stand more or less as she pleased without bothering anybody around us. It was a warm day, but the temperature was very nice as the sun went down. Beth had a great time drinking fruit punch and eating on a bag of popcorn that was just about as big as she was.* I don't know how much of the game she really took in, between all the concessions and looking around the stadium and babbling on, but it was so heartwarming all the same. When she gets asked about her first big league game, I don't know how much if any she'll remember of it, but I know I'll remember it forever.
*I know (now) it's not really recommended to give young kids popcorn. I honestly didn't know that at the time, and now she absolutely loves popcorn. Sometimes you just got to let the kids live, you know?
As far as the game itself was concerned, the Cubs actually jumped out on top on a Rizzo homer. We had a lot of Cubs fans around us, so much of our section exploded. Beth exploded, too, and we yelled and cheered as I held her up and bounced her around. We high-fived and loved it. The rest of the game was not so great for the Cubs, though. The immediately gave the lead back in the bottom of that inning and the Cards never looked back on the way to a 5-2 win. That part didn't matter, though. Beth did great for nine innings, we had a blast in the perfect seats for us, and at least Kristine and I made some memories.
During the time between the end of the game and the crew getting the firework show set up, Beth managed to fall asleep in my arms. No matter, I thought. The fireworks will wake her up. That was a great big "NO." She managed to sleep through the entire firework show, the entire walk back down to the ground level and all the way through finding a cab to take us back to our hotel clear out by the airport. She woke up on the cab ride home, which she also thought was exciting that somebody else was driving us around. I was less excited about the $50 fare, but all things considered, that was probably a better bet than trying to take the Metra that late at night with a toddler.
Later this summer, we've talked about going to Milwaukee for a game with my brother and his wife, similar to what we did to this last hockey game, but I think I might try to talk them into making this one a family trip. It would be totally for us again, I'm sure, but I think I'd really like to see the little girls making some memories for us together this summer.
There was a time, not so long ago, I really thought boxing had come to a very good place. Heavyweight boxing, anyway. After such long domination by Klitschko(s), who were not interested in fighting outside of Europe, the division was opening up, and the belts were nicely spread out, geographically speaking. Deontay Wilder from the US, Anthony Joshua in the UK, and Joseph Parker in New Zealand. Beyond that, the various champions were very much interested in uniting the belts, which is always a very exciting time for everybody involved in the sport.
After everyone got a few initial, easy defenses out of the way and got a chance to be comfortable as a world champ, Joshua vs. Parker happened with really minimal fuss. I won't say the fight itself was necessarily a dud, but it was fought at a much slower pace than I expected with neither fighter ever in serious trouble of being knocked down, let alone knocked out. Still, it was a very much an unquestioned win for Joshua, which left us with the two men pictured here. Joushua (left) holding all the belts except Wilder's (right) WBA title. And Joshua was definitely looking much less formidable after that fight. Everything, it seemed, was set for a final unification bout in the near future.
And then the negotiation part of boxing happened, and it is still happening. The two men can't seem to agree on much of anything about what should happen with these fights. A deal looked to be done for a huge fight somewhere in the UK before falling apart at seemingly the last minute. Instead, both men took lesser fights. Not laughers, but definitely not the fights anybody was looking for. Joshua would knock out Alexander Povetkin in 7 after coming out a bit shaky. Wilder, in this case, had the more interesting challenge in Tyson Fury. Fury spent most of the fight touching Wilder at will, though not particularly hurting him. Wilder, though, couldn't seem to land anything at all on Fury. Finally, though, towards the end of the fight, Wilder connected, and sent Fury to the canvas twice. The knockdown in the 12th round was particularly vicious. I really don't think anybody expected Fury to get up from that one. Wilder most certainly didn't.
I personally thought the knockdowns were enough to give Wilder the outright victory, but many others felt like Fury had done enough in the fight as a whole to win. In the end, it was declared a draw, which in this one particular instance, was probably the right decision. Not the most satisfying one, maybe, but the right one.
So here we are again. Joshua-Wilder is the heavyweight fight we all want to see, but they still can't get it work. Instead, Wilder is going to beat on Dominic Breazeale in May. I don't know Mr. Breazeale as a person, but he seems to be about the most shit one-loss boxer you'll ever see. I've seen him fight several times on PBC shows, and he has looked utterly unconvincing in every single one. He's either gotten a questionable decision, or gotten bailed out on one punch. Joshua made quick work of him, I suspect Wilder will as well. And we'll just be stuck waiting again.
Not all is lost, though. There is another division that is once again stepping up to be a surprising bright spot for boxing. After being the Mayweather show for years, the welterweight division is absolutely loaded, and it's got four different formidable champions, and all champions that seem more keen to actually fight each other. In fact, as pictured, two of the champions have actually fought before, during what was almost a little tournament to claim one of Mayweather's vacated belts. Keith Thurman was given a decision over Shawn Porter, which led to Thurman eventually winning that belt. I thought Porter was robbed, but so be it. It was a hugely entertaining fight, and I think it would be a huge win for the two of them to get together again now that each has a belt. Erroll Spence Jr. just fought in a well-recieved pay-per-view and might have positioned himself as the top-dog of the division, supplanting fellow undefeated champion Terrence Crawford. Guess what? With the belts all spread out, there's a very good chance we'll get the definitive answer to that question. Manny Pacquiao is still hanging around as a possible opponent for all four of these guys, and that's fine. There's probably going to have to be some filler as negotiations take place, because boxing is still boxing. But he's clearly the last generation. Seeing these four guys work out unifying these titles in the ring is going to be just super entertaining. I can't imagine any of these pairings producing a dud.
As far as I'm aware (and some quick Googling), Crawford is the only one with a solid next fight lined up. He'll be taking on Amir Khan on Saturday night. Khan is the connsumate professional and I expect him to put on a good fight, but I can't really imagine him threatening Crawford too much. It's $70 if you've got not much else going on Saturday night.
My fear in this whole mess is that Crawford is a Top Rank guy, whereas the other three are all PBC guys.* My fear is the IBF, WBA, and WBC belts all get unified in a pretty tidy fashion, but nobody can get the cross promotion right to bring the WBO belt to a fight at all. I don't think these two promotions have worked much together and are fighting over much the same viewership. My guess is whoever comes out as the unified PBC champ will then have to face Crawford, while he get to sit pretty and take on jobbers in the meantime, waiting for a a real champ to finally turn towards him. It's a bit of a shame, but that seems to be the most obvious business path to this unification.
*In case anybody was curious, Deontay Wilder is also a PBC guy. Amir Khan and Anthony Joshua are both Matchroom boxers, which makes some sense seeing as they're both British. That said, there's an extra layer of frustration, as Khan has been on at least one PBC card before, so clearly these are promoters who have worked together in the past. We hear bits and pieces of what is supposedly holding up the fight, but of course, no one else is in the room where it happens.
All of this is to say boxing has some really exciting stuff on the horizon if it can just get out of its own way. This has long been a problem in boxing with all these sorts of warring promotions, just as it was in the earlier days of professional wrestling, before the monopolization of the WWE.* I suspect that's always been a thing, but it doesn't seem like it was such a big hurdle even in the days of Mike Tyson, let alone the heyday of Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, and George Foreman.
*I like to think that boxing matches are less scripted than wrestling matches, but there are always rumors, you know?
Believe it or not, though, I'm hopeful. I am hopeful that some of these cross-promotions will happen sooner rather than later, and they will do some eye-popping numbers. It would be nice if we can get some of these fights while everyone is in their prime, instead of waiting at least five years too late for Mayweather-Pacquiao or even GGG-Canelo. (Mayweather-McGregor was its own thing, which definitely penetrated pop culture. I went to a theater to watch it. But it was never a "legit" fight like all the other examples in this post.) With the right exposure, I really feel like boxing has the talent and the personalities right now to make a big splash again, and it would be a damn shame to let squabbles over money make everybody miss the chance to cash in.
I started this blog way back in April of 2011. I was just under three years out of Wabash. I was in a job I was pretty miserable at and just looking for a way to fill my time there without going absolutely crazy. Then that job went away, and I threw myself into this blog for almost a year as my primary responsibility. The job listings don't change all that much from day to day, you know? So it didn't take me too long to spread my resume to stuff I'd be qualified for every day. Then I was in another job that allowed me enough time and gave me enough boredom to keep this blog up. Then came 2014. I was starting to tire from the daily schedule, and I found myself wanting to do more "iterary things." So I abruptly wrapped up this blog and said "See you later!" Without ever actually saying that.
Since the end of 2014, a lot of life has happened. My daughter was born in August of 2015, so she'll turn four later this year. That obviously has taken a huge chunk of my time. I had started a new job at Purdue a few months before the original "end" of this blog. That job has come and gone, and I've moved into a different Purdue IT job. And I'm generally happy here. I like the people I'm around and I like what I'm doing well enough. I started a Master's Degree in September of 2018. I should finish it this coming March, so just under a year. I did pop up here for a handful of posts in January of 2016, but they are clearly of a different vein than the rest of the blog. I just had some thoughts in my head and knew I had a forum where I could get them out easily. I'm sure we all felt like we had a lot to think about around that time.
So, life has been good enough to me in the . . . um . . . five year hiatus. But, between all the life updates and career advancement and new academic endeavors, there has still be a creative itch that I just can't seem to scratch. As far as my focusing on fiction, well, I wrote one book that didn't turn out as well as I thought it would. I've started editing it in fits, but I don't know if I'll ever really get it in a shape that I consider publishable. Maybe some time after I've finished this degree.
So, here we are. AP Baseball 2.0, I guess. The weather is getting warmer, change is in the air, so it feels like it's time to get my voice back out there, too. I think it's healthy for me, and now the people around me maybe won't have to hear me ranting about this and that because I'll be able to get it off my chest here. We're going to aim for a Monday through Friday schedule again, but we'll see about it. I launched this blog without a schedule in mind, and it became a pretty solid five times a week thing for almost four years. So let's see where it goes this time. I've also got some other ideas about some other media ventures I might undertake under this branding and host here in this space. I don't know if they will ever come to fruition, but, especially once I don't have classes to worry about at night, I feel like I'm at a place in life where I can be a little ambitious with things without either putting myself in some sort of financial oblivion or derailing my career.
So, if you'll have me back, I plan on sticking around for a while this time.
In sporty things, in almost exactly three hours at the time of writing this sentence, the Columbus Blue Jackets will go for a sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning. And that is just incredible. Tampa Bay won 62 games, tied for most ever. If there was ever a team in cruise control, this was it.
Cruise control can be a dangerous thing in the world of sports, though.
I made it to two NHL games this year. I went to St. Louis with my brother to watch the Blues just get destroyed by the Penguins. At the time, the Blues I think were last in the NHL, or at least last in the Western Conference. They looked listless and just totally overmatched for 60 full minutes. Since that game, the Blues took off like a rocket and damn near won the division.
The other game we made it to was a bigger outing to Columbus. My sister-in-law had never been to an NHL game and said she wanted to go, and nobody has to twist my arm very hard to go to a hockey game. So I asked my brother if he and his wife wanted to come along and have some adult time, and they were in. So off the five of us went to Ohio.* I had been totally sleeping on the Eastern Conference up to that point. For one, I'm typically asleep on the East in the best of years. For two, it sure as hell didn't look like the Blackhawks were going to make me have to care about who came out of the East. So about all I really knew about this year's squad was they had Artemi Panarin and I really, really wished he was still a Blackhawk.
*The other time we went to a Blue Jackets game was also a big group outing with a bunch of my brother's friends. Leann was at that one, too, but we found out she had very little memory of that trip for some reason.
When I went to get tickets, I was a bit shocked to find out the Blue Jackets were not only in solid playoff shape, but threatening to maybe even win the division. We went to a game against the Sharks, because I knew they were also good. And Columbus just made them look silly. And, Google being what it is, I suddenly started to get bombarded by stories about the Blue Jackets, so I knew they were hot going into that game. In a total reversal from the Blues, though, our presence started a hard cold streak for Columbus, and they found themselves fighting for the last spot down to the final day.
I'll admit I became invested in the Blue Jackets after that Saturday afternoon, so I've been excitingly waiting for this playoff series. Going into it, I knew Columbus could make it interesting. Based on their performance most of the season, I knew they were better than the typical last team in, and I realized how many really solid to very good players they have on the roster after watching them in person. I still wouldn't have bet on them beating Tampa Bay, but I thought they could have beaten anybody else in the East.
Turns out, I really should have bet on them, because Columbus is beating Tampa Bay and doing it pretty handily. Game one was an incredible comeback on the Blue Jackets' part. When they got down three-zip to start the game, I switched over to the Blues. But Columbus has been dominant since those three goals. Columbus scored four in a row to win that game. Games two and three were not even close. And now it's game four in Ohio, with a crowd that is going to be as raucous as any you've heard in hockey, a cannon they love to fire off, and a Tampa Bay team that has to be wondering just where the hell everything has gone wrong.
Even to this point, it has been easy to dismiss Columbus as cannon fodder (pun only slightly intended). I think many fans still see them as a bit of an expansion team, even twenty years later. They've only made a couple other trips to the playoffs, and they've never really threatened in any of those series. This year's Blue Jackets have as many playoffs wins as the franchise as a whole up to this point. And what a statement.
It's not over yet, of course. We're down to closer to two hours to puck drop now, and you can bet I'll be watching. The Blue Jackets have become my adopted team this year. I won't say I expect them to win tonight. Tampa Bay didn't win 62 games (again, in an 82 game season) out of nowhere. I imagine they are going to start fighting at some point. But don't color me shocked if Columbus can hang on tonight. There is a lot of talent here, and teams can catch fire in the playoffs. Remember the Rockies in 2007? I still think they would have won a World Series if they hadn't had to sit around for a week waiting on the Red Sox to finish up their side of the playoffs. The Blue Jackets may very well have that sort of magic in them, and I'm so excited to see it play out.