I'm going to write a longer piece about the Pirates tomorrow and maybe even get it posted. Consider it an apology of sorts for not being nearly as regular about posting as I used to be. Related to that, here is the scorecard I kept for tonight's game. Another quick thought: I really thought I'd miss the Cardinals wearing blue hats on the road, but I really don't. See, I'm not resistant to all change! Well, actually, I was resistant to it, but I changed my stance pretty quickly. That counts for something, right?
I also don't know if I'm going to really write anything about that Purdue game today. There was some reason for hope in the first half, but it turned into an unmitigated disaster during the third quarter and just got worse in the fourth.
Today is not about sports again. Funny how that works out. You get what you pay for, I guess. This post today is pretty personal and probably more than a little self-indulgent, so if you want to keep venturing forth, be prepared to strap in. I know this sort of thing isn’t for everybody, but to be honest, they are the kind I find absolutely fascinating. Kind of like this Posnanski article from the other day.* Just a bit of fair warning.
*Speaking of, I reached out to Joe’s assistant a little while back to do an online interview or Q&A, however you want to classify it. I got as far as having her ask me for some questions to pass on, which I did. Apparently they weren’t that good, though, as I never heard back. I’m sure Mr. Posnanski is a very busy man and I know he’s much more important than I am. I’m also sure most of the initial questions were a little bland and not terribly focused. That’s my fault, though. I should have had a better idea of what I actually wanted to focus on instead of offering up some initial questions and see what developed. I don’t have anything resembling that kind of pull to conduct business that way. Still, it stung a little bit not to get anything back. He’s a sportswriting hero of mine (maybe the only one, really), and I was really hopeful to get some real interaction with him outside of a question or two in a livechat he’s doing with hundreds of other people. C’est la vie, right?
My brother Ian did a fairly in-depth interview that was just posted today (as far as I can tell) that you might find interesting.* Some of it touches on how his musical foundation came to be, and I’m mentioned in it both in passing and by name. It all seems pretty well how I remember it, although I think he’s got his greatest hits mixed up. There was some Guess Who on some of those 70’s mixes, but I don’t think we ever had their greatest hits. We did have The Steve Miller Band and The Eagles, though. I probably listened to Steve Miller more, but I’m not sure which one he was thinking about.
*Related to that, you can hear his band’s first EP here. You can buy the first full-length album (all new material, by the way), over here. Also, I’m not upset about Ian getting the record collection, for the, um, record. No pun intended. It would have been nice to have, but I’m definitely more of a “just happy to be here” utility musician. Ian is and has always been the one actually focused and dedicated to making music his life in one way or another, so it’s definitely appropriate that he got those.
That’s somewhat beside the point, though. What is more interesting to me is our divergent paths (and the similarities, actually) when it came to music, even though we had fairly similar upbringing and exposure in our youth. Andrew also took a wildly different path, but I think that had more to do with wanting to be popular and fitting in, and then following that path once it has its hooks in you. Not really applicable to Ian and myself.
As you can read from the interview, we were both more or less brought up on a steady diet of classic rock. I know from conversations with Ian that many of the drives he and Dad would have coming to and from our house focused on music and there was a lot of introducing Ian to artist of the time period, furthering that sort of musical bedrock. I met up with Ian at LBC one night, and referenced a conversation they had about Jeff Beck in particular. I also cut my teeth on classic rock, particularly The Beatles and Billy Joel and Led Zeppelin in addition to the CD’s mentioned earlier.* I really didn’t listen to much of anything released after 1979 until probably seventh or eighth grade. Ian may have had a little more varied background than I did, but I think we both come at music from a very 60’s and 70’s foundation.
*Two notes here: I’m trying to be consistent about capitalizing “The,” but I can tell you it’s coming off a bit unnatural, so forgive me if a few slip by. Secondly, not mentioned in the article or earlier here is my dad’s sizeable selection of Jackson Browne. I never cared for him when I was younger, and I don’t get the impression (though I could be wrong) that Ian did either, nor that he has any real appreciation for him now. I know my mom doesn’t like him at all. I’m not a superfan by any means, but I did come to him later on, after I had branched out a bit. That was one area I circled back a bit.
From there, things went somewhat different. As I’m sure most who know me will tell you, I have a pretty strong affinity for what Kristine has termed “pussy rock.” While it might not be the most family friendly term, I can’t really disagree with her. What tracks would be worn out if my iTunes library was vinyl? Ben Folds (both solo and Five), (early) Death Cab for Cutie and the Postal Service,* Peter Mulvey, Beatles. Things that probably rate a five at most on the Mohs Scale, but average at more of a three. The Heavy Company probably linger around, what, a six or seven? Ian is probably more qualified to tell you that than I am, but that’s probably around where I would put them. Being stoner rock, they don’t typically hit the fast part of a seven, but it is heavy. I do quite like it, actually, but it probably doesn’t fit in with a lot of my library. That also seems to be where most of Ian’s reviews are when he does his music writing thing.** Or maybe a little higher, when it comes to more of the screamy stuff.
*I have Give Up on vinyl, and I do fully intend on getting the just-announced 10-year vinyl edition of Transatlanticism.
**I told you he’s the one dedicated to music.
So, let’s just say most classic rock is about a five, right dead center on the scale. Why did I tend down while Ian tended up when we had such a similar background? And, maybe related to that, how did we both come to have this artistic streak? Maybe some more insight on our youth would help.
As talked about in the article, Ian and I are actually half-brothers, though I don’t think either of us really cotton to that term. We share a dad, different moms. Ian didn’t live with us, though he was around quite a bit when we were younger and an awful lot when we hit middle school/early high school age. We clicked pretty well at that point,* I think thanks to that creative streak. To be honest, I don’t know where that streak comes from. I think there’s some musical talent that runs through Ian’s mom’s side, but none that I really know of on either side of my family outside of my grandma playing piano pretty well. And accordion, for that matter, but that’s about it. There may be more than I realize, it’s not like I took a poll, but that’s most of what I know about. There didn’t seem to be a lot of artistic goings on in my household, unless you count Mom liking to color.
*This after a good period of friction when we were a lot younger, mostly because I was used to be the oldest and the boss. Things got better once that alpha dog shit ceased to matter.
I do think one big thing that helped in my case was a lot of freedom, at least in our house. We weren’t really held back from much. If there was anything off-limits, I guess Andrew and I never really found it. As long as we kept our grades up, which we did with no real problem, we could pretty well explore what we wanted. How that came to be mostly writing for me, though, I don’t really know. Ian had some more restraints growing up, as hinted at in the article, but obviously they weren’t too effective. The path may have been a little different, but the curiosity is still there.
But the question still remains of why the different paths. Things might get a little uncomfortable here, and I’m going to do my damnedest to present things as I know them without passing any judgement. Just be warned. I think the answer comes down to angst, just filtered out in different ways. In my case, I had (and probably have, if we’re really being honest) a somewhat crippling lack of self-confidence. Believe it or not, but I’m a pretty risk-averse person in general, and that’s usually because I normally don’t think I have the skills to pull it off. I usually only get into things with a pretty good push, where I normally find I was just fine or even over-prepared. There is, I suppose, that same kind of fear that Ian talks about in his interview. To me, when there is mystery and uncertainty, my default reaction is to build it up to the point where I’m sure I can’t cope with it. Like I said, it takes a certain amount of ego-massaging and forcefulness to get me over that hump. I think, thanks to that mindset, the ideas and feelings put forth by a Postal Service or a Ben Folds are awfully relatable and certainly in my wheelhouse. It puts forth feelings of uncertainty and smallness, for lack of a better term, which I’m comfortable and familiar with. I think a lot of my writing (where far more of my artistic output lies) reflects that, too. I notice I tend to write fairly passive protagonists. Things happen to them and they react as best they can with the information they have at the time rather than forcing the action. It’s not a style for everybody, I’m sure, but the similar options available tells me there’s certainly a market for it.
To continue with my armchair philosophy, I think at least some of Ian’s angst comes out more angry, which lends itself towards heavier sounds. As hinted at in the article, I don’t think Ian was entirely happy with his upbringing in his house* and clearly has not been all that happy with our dad. There is a feeling of being excluded there, and I think, at least at points, a feeling of having to prove himself. That understandably is not a real fun feeling to have, especially to your dad who likely comes off as uninterested. I would say I’d be angry, too, but my history and wiring would seem to suggest I would just be more depressed and paralyzed by it. But I would certainly understand anger.
*I wasn’t there, so this is some speculating and filling in blanks from conversation.
I would also certainly understand anger now. As mentioned before, one of the things that Ian and Dad did have in common was musical taste, at the least. Whether either one would want to admit it, Dad had a lot of influence on Ian’s musical bedrock. Normally maybe that would be a pretty minor detail, but when you’ve made it your life’s mission to create and immerse yourself in music as Ian has, well, it matters. That Dad hasn’t really taken an active interest in music he had a somewhat big hand in creating, if indirectly, is certainly frustrating to me. I can only imagine how Ian takes it. That said, I don’t know if I would really describe Ian’s music as angry, and maybe I’m attributing things there because what I’ve seen myself. But I do think there’s something there that makes heavier, louder sounds more appealing to Ian.
I’m sure there’s more here to mine, but I’ve played Freud too long today. Lighter stuff tomorrow, I promise.
It's been a hectic week to this point, but at least yesterday was for a very good reason. Happy second wedding anniversary to us! Anyway, here's what I've been meaning to get up. A preview of my last book (and first of a planned three), Rise of the Vindicated.
James couldn’t help but stare dumbfounded at the screen. What on Tero had just happened? Barrett murdered the president? In cold blood, more or less? And nobody was going to do anything about it? This . . . this was nothing like what he had been wanting or fighting for. James couldn’t help but to kick himself. He was reluctant to take this job in the first place. And why? Because he was distrustful of the government and the reach they already had. And now what had happened? A freaking military junta. If you even wanted to call it a junta. It was more of a military dictatorship. And Barrett totally implicated that James was instrumental in making this happen. The thought crossed James’ mind almost as if whispered by somebody else. The shock of what had been put in front of him during the speech was starting to wear off. It was quickly being replaced by anger.
“How dare he!” James yelled. He slammed his thumb down on the off button and threw the remote against the couch as hard as he could. “Seriously! How dare he! I didn’t ask for this, I don’t want this. What are we doing? What the hell is going on?”
Zelma said nothing. She sat, completely motionless, staring through the screen. She did not have the first clue how to take this news. Still, she didn’t take it as hard as James. Some of this, maybe all of this, had to do with their outlook on government before. She had been instrumental in a lot of government action before, and Barrett had always leaned on her pretty hard. This, mostly likely, was not going to change. But her job might have just become quite a bit harder. It had been a pretty breezy time keeping James into the mission so far. She didn’t see this coming, though, and clearly it wasn’t sitting right with James. Not that she blamed him, but orders were orders. How was she going to keep James fighting so hard for this government when he pretty clearly wanted nothing to do with it? She didn’t know if they were going to be able to get him on board in the first place. Things just got a lot trickier.
James had been stomping around the room, yelling at the top of his lungs. Zelma had not really been paying attention to him, instead focusing more inward. He had come to stop now, staring at her and still yelling. “What am I supposed to do?” he yelled, not three feet away from her. “Am I supposed to just carry on like nothing happened? Am I supposed to help stamp out whatever opposition pops up? Am I going to be killed off because Barrett has what he wants now, and now I’m just an inconvenience? What the hell!” James kept carrying on and started noisily pacing around all over again. Zelma struggled to come up with an answer. Bossok came in from another room, though, and came up with something for her.
“Look, this isn’t going to change much for you,” he said. “I mean, he wants to destroy the osanda as much or more than anybody else. He’s going to have you spearhead this mission. Once you kill them, then you can decide how to deal with this coup d’état.” Always the pragmatist, Zelma thought.
James just let loose a few deep huffs. “How am I supposed to trust this guy? You can’t just kill the president without telling anybody.”
“Actually,” Bossok countered, “that seems like the best plan if you’re going to kill anybody. Especially the president.”
James shot him a look that transcended biology.
“Look, this just isn’t right,” James continued his tirade. “You give us all this equipment and all these people, send us out on these semi-secret missions, and then you take down the freaking government that was supposed to be supporting all this? You would think that’s something you would run by the guy who’s supposed to be spearheading your military effort. Especially if you’re about to make the military your government.” James turned to Zelma. “Did you know anything about this? I’m not accusing you or anything. I just want an honest answer. Did you know anything about this?”
“No,” Zelma said quietly. “I didn’t.” She quietly cleared her throat. “I know there were things I kept from you, that I had to keep from you for a long time. But, I have been honest with you ever since the first attack. As soon as I wasn’t required to keep anything from you, I let it all out. One way or another, I’ve told you everything I know. I swear, even if I was supposed to keep something like this from you, I never could. This changes the game too much.”
Bossok thought about repeating what he had said earlier, but decided against it. Reason, he reasoned, was not a particularly strong trait in humans. He decided to stay out of this one and make another drink. Humans did have a pretty strong sense of taste. Or at least of brewing. He didn’t suppose it was necessarily the taste that made it so good, though it didn’t hurt. He stumbled his way out of the argument.
James’ gaze never left Zelma’s eyes. Finally, his piercing eyes softened and fell to the floor. James sighed. “I believe you. I just don’t understand.”
“We just heard his argument,” Zelma said, somewhat defeated as she offered her hand towards the screen. “He was making sure that we get to continue our war. I just . . . there had to be another way. Why would he so quickly jump to assassination?”
“I intend to find out,” James said. “The Vindicator is still my ship, right?”
“I haven’t heard any different,” Zelma said.
“Let’s fire it up,” James said. “We’re going hunting for some answers.” James started to amble off to make the announcement to the base. He had started jokingly referring to the base as Jamestown, a nod to ancient Earth history he had learned. Others around him had picked it up, though it was unclear if any of them got the reference. So Jamestown it was, unironically. James punched the door to the kitchen, not out of malice or anger, but to get Bossok’s attention. “Come on, Drinky Crow, we’re going to space.”
"Can I bring this into space?” Bossok asked, already starting to slur his words.
“Are you driving?” James asked.
“They didn’t even let me drive my own damned thorki ship,” Bossok said just before taking another swig. “Don’t know why I’d start driving a human one.”
“Ain’t no law about drinking and passenging,” James answered. “Come on.”
Nothing particularly moved me today, but instead I'm going to do something I should have done years ago. Here's a free snippet from my novelization of Earthbound. I've mentioned it a decent amount lately, so why not give a free taste to see if you'd like to take the plunge?
This is a section from the opening chapter:
Ness started to walk back to town. He knew Frank. Not personally, but he knew who he was. He was the leader of the Sharks, and Ness had been shaken down a few times by those punks. He knew they pretty well ran the arcade, which is where Ness and many other kids ran into them. They were probably also the reason that the pizza place by the arcade had never opened after they built it. Maybe Ness would check with the mayor first before dealing with Frank. He was in no hurry to deal with the Sharks.
City Hall was right in the middle of town. A few people were walking around. It was a really nice day out. Ness would’ve liked to be walking around without a care, but those days were apparently behind him. Ness went into City Hall, and he could hear a lot of the conversations going on around him. Apparently nobody much cared for the mayor, and nobody seemed to think the mayor liked them very much. Additionally, nobody liked the Sharks very much, but that wasn’t really news. Ness started to head up the steps to the mayor’s office, but was stopped by the secretary. “Excuse me, boy, but nobody is allowed to see the mayor without an appointment, and I don’t have anybody down for right now.”
“I just wanted to see if maybe he would unlock the shack outside of town. The entertainers just want to go home,” Ness pleaded.
“Go up if you want, but I’m not promising anything,” she answered.
Ness did go up the stairs, but was greeted by a policeman. “Hey, nobody is allowed to see the mayor. Turn around now if you don’t want any trouble.”
Ness opened his mouth, but nothing came out. He just turned around and went back down the stairs. “I tried to tell you,” the secretary helpfully added. Ness shot her a glare and went back outside. Plan B, Ness thought. He was going to have to talk to Frank. Ness frowned. He really didn’t want to deal with the Sharks, but if he can’t deal with some local punks, how was he going to deal with Giygas?
Ness headed towards the arcade and, sure enough, had a Shark approach him on a skateboard. “What are you doing, kid?”
“I just need to talk to Frank,” Ness nervously replied.
“I don’t think so,” the Shark replied. He lunged forward at Ness.
Ness surprised himself. He’d been carrying around his bat, and his reflexes were quick. He swung and connected right the side of the skater’s head. There was a thunderous crack, and the punk dropped to the ground like a sack of rocks. He didn’t get back up. Ness then saw the head of his bat lying next to the skater. That explains the crack, Ness told himself, mostly to reassure himself that he didn’t kill the guy. Ness picked up the broken part of his bat when the Shark stirred. He seemed groggy, not real sure of where he was. He held his head and stumbled to his feet. Without a word, he shakily made his way back towards the arcade. Ness wasn’t really sure what to do. He heard some footsteps behind him.
“We saw what you did,” a voice coldly stated.
Ness turned. There were about five Sharks now, a couple on skateboards, a few with hula hoops, and at least one with a pogo stick. And there was Ness, now without a bat.
“Do you want to join the Sharks?” one of the gang asked.
“No, of course not,” Ness responded in a small voice.
“Well, we gave you your chance. And now you don’t have your bat,” another responded. The group jumped Ness, knocking him to the ground. Ness was getting pummeled by the pogo sticks and skateboards and fists and things were starting to go fuzzy.
Ness suddenly felt as if his head had ripped open. A sharp, sharp pain that went from the crown of his skull all the way down his nose and then tore open wide, his eyes could see nothing but a flashing array of colors, like fireworks. Ness closed his eyes to try to soothe the pain, but nothing could dull it. This is it, he thought. They’ve split my skull and I’ve died. Some hero I’ve turned out to be. See, the blows have stopped, everything’s gone silent. My body has had enough.
Ness opened his eyes and, surprisingly, was on his feet outside the arcade. The Sharks were lying all around him, out cold. Breathing, but not moving the slightest bit. Ness looked around, there was nobody or nothing else around. Did he do that? Were the fireworks, well, him? He was badly bruised, but had won the fight with some pretty uneven odds, which put as much spring in his step as his confusion and wounds would allow. He was going to need a new bat. Ness had a plan now. He was going to head home, rest up, and talk to Frank tomorrow. He’d stop by the drugstore on his way back home to pick up a new bat. Hopefully Dad had put enough money in his account for a new one. Ness limped back towards his bed.
He lurched into the drugstore and went to the ATM. He slid his card through the reader and punched in his PIN. The ATM graciously greeted him and asked what he wished to do. First things first, Ness thought. He pushed the “Account Balance” option. The ATM took a moment before spitting out a receipt. $1354, it read. Ness nearly fainted. Thanks, Dad! I’ll put it to good use. He took out $300 for now and was able to buy the nicest bat Onett had to offer.
He exited the shop, the news of his bank account making him even happier and feeling even better. He turned the corner by the burger joint and realized he was very hungry. He hadn’t eaten a thing all day, and between the fighting and walking, was pretty drained. He also noticed there was a mostly untouched and still wrapped burger right on top of the trash. Ness took a quick look around. Nobody was there. Should he?
Ness walked back into his home, and Mom was happy to see him. “Oh, Ness, honey, what happened? Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. I just need to rest up a little.” Ness started to make his way up to bed.
“Are you hungry, honey? I can whip up some pasta for you,” Mom almost pleaded with him to eat.
“No, I, uh, grabbed a burger on the way home.”
“Oh, well, okay. I see you got a new bat, too, your dad must have remembered to put some money into your account. Well, go rest up, you’ve got a lot to do I hear.”
Ness started to ask what she’d heard, but then decided better of it. The burger incident need never come up again, and it seemed like he would just tempting fate.
Ness awoke the next morning refreshed. Sore, sure, but he wasn’t too bruised, his head wasn’t throbbing, and he was feeling very confident. He sprung out of bed, grabbed his new bat and trusty backpack, pulled on the good old red hat, and headed back out. One mission today, he thought. See Frank.
As you may be aware, I’m a pretty big fan of games of any sort. I love pen and paper games. I love board games. I love physical games. I love video games. I’ve found as I’ve gotten older, though, that I’ve become a little more picky about the video games I play. It used to be I would play pretty much anything that was put in front of me and I was going to do my best to master it. That’s still true to an extent, but my enthusiasm for doing it in some genres is just not the same.
Shooters in particular have fallen out of favor with me. I used to be a huge fan of first-person shooters. Doom, Quake, Wolfenstein, even something a bit newer like Serious Sam. I played them all and I loved them. At one point, I was pretty darned good at them. In high school, though I sure wasn’t a pro at it, we regularly LANed up XBoxes to have huge Halo parties, and I loved it. Since then, though, I just can’t play those games the same way.
Or, honestly, multiplayer in general. And, well, I think it’s telling that a whole ton of players have never even touched the campaign in games like Gears of War. It’s geared toward the multiplayer experience. The campaign is an afterthought. There was a time I would have been fascinated by that, but I think I still would have played the campaign through. Maybe not, though. It’s hard to say.
Maybe it’s a generational thing. When I was growing up, if you wanted to play a game with somebody, they pretty well had to be sitting right there and hopefully you had more than one controller. And if you had a whole party over, well, you better hope you had a multi-tap.* Then there were computer games, which were a little better. They were still generally plagued with horrible lag and more of a niche thing, though. Ever try to pay Quake II with a 56K dial-up connection? Or a 28.8K connection? It’s a bit of a challenge. Maybe if I had cut my teeth in an age were consoles were just assumed to be online and you were forced to play with split screens, I would have been into multiplayer in a bigger way. That wasn’t my experience, though, so I really learned how to game alone.
*I did and do, though who knows the last time it got used.
Or, you know, relatively alone. I still love Vanilla WoW. Clearly that’s a multiplayer game. But it’s a different experience than a shooter, and that makes all the difference. First off, I have come to absolutely adore games with a good story. It seems I almost exclusively play RPGs now, or at least games with RPG type elements. I might be the only person in the world who likes StarCraft for the story and campaign. I like to get lost in games, and I just can’t do that with endless brown and gun sights any more. I want to feel like I’m a part of the world, immersed in it, without necessarily being the only person in it. True, in something like Mass Effect, Shepard is probably the most famous person in the galaxy, and maybe the most important, but life goes on without him. People still talk and have their own little daily dramas on the Citadel and whatnot. Same idea with Fallout. Sure, your character has a big role to play, but not everything the wasteland* necessarily revolves around what you do. Morrowind has the same ideas, but I never really played those. I’m sure I’d love them, just haven’t gotten around to them.
*Whether that wasteland is in the west or east doesn’t really matter here.
I think that’s why World of Warcraft works for me. At least the first two iterations. You could immerse yourself in the world, you did seemingly important things, but the world never really changed. At least, not directly from anything you did. It felt more real in that sense. Later things just got too silly for me. When I saw gnomes riding motorcycles around Stormwind, I knew I had reached my limit. The original, though, is still awesome.
So what is it about shooters that I can’t immerse myself in those? I mean, many of them do have stories now. Part of the issue is how that story is handled, I think. Most of the story action takes place outside of gameplay, in cut scenes and orders coming from outside your character. It’s the proverbial railroad. While many (especially older) RPGs are on rails, it doesn’t do it quite so obviously. I think that’s another problem I have with latter-day WoW, too. I don’t want my hand held directly to where I’m supposed to go. Let me explore and figure it out on my own.
Maybe related to that, I’m going back and filling in some big gaps in my gaming history. As you may be aware, I did pick up Earthbound a few years ago and liked it so well I wrote a book about it.* First, I decided to play through A Link to the Past. I started that one some time ago and just never finished it. No idea why not, I enjoyed it quite a bit. Just never picked it back up at some point. I’m fixing that now. I also have Chrono Trigger to play, which typically ranks highly in all-time rankings, let alone SNES or RPG rankings.
*Available at Lulu! I’m closing in on actually getting a check sent to me for something I’ve written, so I would encourage you to buy it. Also available electronically, if you’re into that sort of thing. I’d also encourage you to pick up my latest book, as part two of that series will likely be written this November. That one is also available on Amazon.
Maybe that’s why I like RPG’s so much. It’s more like playing a book, and Lord knows I love me some literature. I dunno. All I know is I probably won’t be getting the next Call of Duty for myself. My wife, though, is a different story.
Mondays seem to be pretty tough around here to get things done, so Monday postings might be suspended for the time being. I don’t know for sure, but it’s looking that way.
After writing about Wabash’s stadium and reading a bit of preview about the upcoming NFL season, it has been reinforced that there are some cracks in the shield. Not everything is quite so hunky dory over in football land as the league office would have you believe. And it’s most evident in the stadium.
Reading today’s TMQ, there is a mention that the Oakland Raiders are only making 53,000 seats available for football. It was 63,000 last year, and there are about 65,000 seats in the stadium.* This follows the Raiders’ last proposal for a new stadium with just 50,000 seats, by far the smallest in the league. I don’t know if Oakland ever had a prayer of hosting a Super Bowl, but that stadium would surely take it out of the running. This all follows Jacksonville also reducing their seating by about 10,000 and their infamous tarps.
*If you’re curious, the A’s make just a hair over 35,000 seats available. And, well, you probably heard about the sewage issues they’ve dealt with. My default position is “opposed” to new stadiums, but there are times when it’s definitely called for.
Also per this week’s TMQ, Jacksonville is contemplating showing the Red Zone channel on their jumbotron. I’ve never really watched the Red Zone channel, but I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews. I’m sure it’s a rollicking good time, nothing but scoring and big stands. But, if you’re going to watch that, why spend $60 per ticket to do it?* Especially when, if my memory serves, most have to subscribe to Sunday Ticket to get it at home? Seems to me the much better deal is to spend $300 in one shot and get access to every game out there for a year (plus Red Zone) and enjoy it from the comfort of my couch and high-def TV. And the much shorter lines of my own custom-stocked concession stand.
*Not to mention the Jags have/had the lowest ticket prices in the league.
That’s just looking at enjoyment at home versus enjoyment at the stadium, though. What’s even more interesting to me is the changing attitudes around the league. This is most likely true of all sports, but it’s most evident with the NFL. In times past, a blackout was a powerful tool for sports owners. It’s the reason why the Blackhawks didn’t televise any home games for decades. If you really wanted to see the game and, more importantly, line the owner’s pockets, you would buy a ticket. In this age of TV deals in the billions and the untold advertising dollars that come along with that, though, the blackout is about the worst thing that can happen to a modern day NFL owner. Teams bend over backwards to say they are close enough to capacity to show the game on TV. That is the main reason why teams that have trouble drawing (ie Jacksonville and Oakland) are quickly downgrading their stadium capacities. They want to declare more sellouts to ensure their games are on TV more, thus guaranteeing they see all the TV money possible. Because make no mistake, while NFL owners certainly don’t mind your ticket and concession money, it’s chump change compared to TV dollars. The fear of a blackout is the owners’ real concern over declining attendance, not ticket money.
There is a bit of synergy here, though. As mentioned before, the majority of fans don’t have a problem staying home to watch the game, either. Sure, you want plenty of butts in the seats to make for a good atmosphere for everybody involved on both sides of the screen. But as has been mentioned on this very blog, high definition is quickly becoming the standard. Even if it’s not in your home, chances are you know somebody who has it. There’s also a good chance you know somebody who has Sunday Ticket if you don’t have it yourself. Or you live close enough to your chosen team that it doesn’t matter.* Or, barring that, there’s always the nearest Buffalo Wild Wings or sports bar. Neither are too hard to find. Food and drink are significantly cheaper both at home or at a restaurant/bar than they are at the stadium, and you are getting a better viewing experience on TV these days than you do in the stadium. It all adds up to a better idea to stay home.
*I fall into the latter category. My wife does not. Thankfully, the Packers are the national game pretty often. Doubly thankfully, her family (who live close by) subscribe to Sunday Ticket, so the Packers are never really out of reach for her.
I don’t know when the current media deal for the NFL ends, but I do think the blackout will become a thing of the past in the near future. It just doesn’t make any sense any more. It ends up punishing everybody rather than being a true encouragement to go to the stadium.
Although, you know, whether you’re watching at home or at the stadium, you might still be stuck watching the Jaguars. Have fun with that one, London!
I don’t remember if Austria has ever been welcomed into the international fold here before, but I’m pretty darned sure Zimbabwe has never made an appearance. I’m not sure what I’m writing about that would appeal to Zimbabwean* interests, but whatever it is, I’ll try to keep providing it.
*That is the proper demonym, I checked.
I’ve got a bit of a problem today. I’m not finding a lot of inspiration. I do keep a short list of blog ideas I keep supposedly just for this sort of occasion, but none of them are jumping out at me today. I’m not super interested in breaking down this Pirates-Cardinals series that just happened. I’m so uninterested in covering NFL preseason it’s probably illegal. I already covered Bull Durham this week. College football isn’t going yet, so there’s nothing really to write about there. Paul George just made a visit to Riley Hospital, which is awfully nice, but hard to write a blog about.
The only real topic that seems interesting to me also doesn’t really seem to be enough to write about. How I would renovate Hollett Stadium. Or, pardon me, Sewell Field and Huntsman Track at Hollett Little Giant Stadium. It’s quite the mouthful for five thousand seats.
What brought this to mind was reading about UMHB’s* new football stadium, which is apparently quite the palace for D3. 7,500 seats, double decked, attached student union, apparently cost $50 million, mostly put up by the former owners of the Astros.** It does sound like an awfully nice place to watch a football game. Wabash has also been going through a pretty extensive facilities upgrade which probably cost even more than UMHB’s field, though it’s been more spread out.
*That’s the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, for the uninitiated.
**Unrelated note, but I feel like I have to share it somewhere. Why not here? Anyway. The Atlanta Braves apparently just did some massive upgrades to their training facilities. Who bought their old stuff? None other than Kip White of Fountain Trust, headquartered in good old Covington, Indiana. My mom works there and has spearheaded a lot of the fitness stuff, so she’s pretty involved with this new gym their building with the Braves’ old stuff. Not the decision to buy it, mind you, just what to do with it once it’s in Covington. Now all I get to hear about is how excited Mom is about having workout stuff that Chipper Jones would have used.
To date, the football field got a new scoreboard and went to turf.* Baseball got a brand new (natural grass!) stadium, which is a real gem. You might remember it as the header original header for this site. The soccer field moved to where the baseball field used to be. It also got a stadium upgrade along with turf. I don’t know about playing soccer on artificial turf, but they seem to do okay. Starting next year it will also be the lacrosse stadium, which introduces a whole new debate.** I don’t think anything in the fieldhouse got a big upgrade, but really, nothing really needed it in there. It’s still by far the nicest fieldhouse I’ve been in for a school its size.
*I firmly believe all outdoor sports should be played on grass unless you’re playing them inside, so I’m morally opposed to FieldTurf. But, I have to admit, it looks nice. The scoreboard I couldn’t be more in favor of. It was impossible to read because the sun would outshine the lights in the afternoons, which you might recognize as the time that college football gets played. They upgraded to a digital scoreboard and wisely moved it to the other end of the stadium.
**Gotta get that east coast money!
Those were wonderful and, for soccer and baseball, badly needed upgrades. I feel like more could have been done, though. For one, the still one-line digital sign is okay, but a true videoboard would have been awfully nice. Expensive, sure, but nothing that a few well-off alums couldn’t handle. I could be of use in picking out what would best suit the College,* seeing as a I spent a few years doing technical support for Watchfire Signs. I may not be a fan of how that department was run, but I have to admit, their signs did look nice. That’s a relatively minor upgrade, though.
*Another quick note for those unfamiliar with Wabash. When referring to Wabash as “the College,” it is customary to capitalize the C. That was most certainly the case when writing for the newspaper, though it seems pretty consistent all throughout Wabash culture and writings. It was a conscious choice in this case, but I’m pretty sure it’s habit enough by now that I would do it that way anyhow.
A bigger upgrade, and I think more badly needed upgrade, is to the stadium itself. That is the one area that was kind of ignored in this last round of updates. My idea, which probably wouldn’t go over real well with most, but I still like it, is to totally transform the stadium. Right now, it’s a pretty standard two-sided set up. Big home stands (usually pretty full with quite a bit of standing on the track), shorter visiting stands. It’s not a bad set up at all. But I have the idea to make it into a small bowl. Not necessarily to add seats, because honestly, 5,000 is a pretty good number for Wabash. I would propose shortening the home side and then wrap the seats all the way around the field to make up the difference. Would that work? On most weeks, sure. On Bell Week? Well, it would be a challenge. See, usually the stadium looks like this. A slightly dated picture, but not a bad representation. For the Bell Game, it looks like this. Notice the difference? Yeah, seating triples for that game. Not sure how you would pull that off with my idea. Probably unworkable.
What would certainly not be unworkable? And maybe even downright affordable? Stadium seats. You could even do the homeside first and wait a season or two before you do the visitor side. The College already put stadium seats* in the new baseball and soccer stadiums, so it would give a more uniform look to all the facilities. That may not sound like much, but given how the new gates to both new stadiums look, it’s apparently something worth considering. I do expect the football stadium to have that gate style soon. I digress. Beyond looking better is the comfort factor. How often have you heard somebody say, “These chairs are okay, but I sure wish I could have a metal bleacher right now?” I’m guessing that number is right around never. Now, sure, you’re not going to have stadium seats in all the temporary bleachers for the Bell Game, and I don’t think anybody would ever expect that. But there’s really no reason not to have them in the main grandstands. I can’t seem to find any place that listed their pricing on their website, but it doesn’t seem like 5,000 such seats would be that big of an investment. Surely no bigger than the installation and maintenance of FieldTurf, right?
*Granted, in much smaller quantities.
There’s another lesson to be learned here. There’s not too many topics I can’t find myself bloating from about a five hundred word blurb to something more in the neighborhood of 1,500 words in a hurry. That’s not always the best trait, but just like in carpentry, it’s always better to guess too long than too short.
It seems pretty official that Johnny Manziel is an overprivileged idiot. I have yet to hear somebody say otherwise. I have heard some people say that the rule he broke is not a good rule, but nobody is shedding any tears for a guy so blessed at throwing a football and whose family is richer than God. Long story short, in this instance, he full well knew the rules and decided to skirt them because he thought he could get away with it. From everything I hear of the video evidence, that is the only way to interpret it.
But what about the issue in general? Should college athletes be getting a slice of the pie? Should they be able to benefit from who they are and what they do?
It’s a sticky situation, but it seems the simple answer is “not any more than they already do.” Seriously. How much more do you want? Especially for the guys we’re hearing about right now, the stars of college who are pulling a full ride. You’re getting a degree for free. If you don’t take advantage of that as an athlete, that’s on the athlete, not the school. That alone really should be enough. I was lucky enough that my dad was able to get me and my brother through private college without us having to pay back any loans.* Most students are not so lucky.
*My family is most certainly not richer than God, though. If my family had Manziel money, well, let’s just say I wouldn’t be doing low-end IT.
So, yeah, doesn’t that seem like advantage enough? To not have to pay a dime for school, and even moreso, not having to pay, say, a thousand dollars a month afterwards to pay back those loans? No? Well, it’s a good thing that college athletes also have access to the best tutors and educational programs around, so they have the best shot at entering grad school, often in very good programs, if they decide to go that route. If an athlete doesn’t really feel like he’s the academic type after four (or more) years in undergrad? Well, you’d be hard pressed to find more well-known college graduates (or students in general) than high-level athletes. They’ll have their pick of a lot of jobs just because of who they are.
I have an example here. My mother-in-law worked as a recruiter for businesses around Lafayette.* One company she worked with had some sort of sales position open. The owner of the company said they would pay double the commission if she could deliver Bobby Riddell to them. And this was Bobby Buckets! Not exactly Robbie Hummel or Glenn Robinson. How many college graduates would give their right arm for that kind of exposure and publicity? How nice would it be to just stroll into companies, simply give them your name, and watch them fawn over you?
*It was a little more than that, but that’s a good enough explanation for this story.
My goodness. Just how are athletes disadvantaged here? Because they can’t work outside their sport? I don’t even think that’s accurate. They may not be able to work for the school, or doing ESH as they called it at Wabash. But, as far as I know, as long as they didn’t land a job due to their athletic abilities and are paid a comparable wage to other people doing the same job.
No, it seems to me that most of this really comes down to good old greed. Athletes already have enough inherent advantages, most especially ones at big universities, which would be the ones actually able to pay their athletes. Yes, BCS-type schools pull in ridiculous money for athletics. Yes, they should probably be putting more of that money back into the school instead of in the pockets of coaches* or shiny new palaces for their athletes to use. But, that is what it is, and doesn’t affect what athletes see over the average student.
*Especially coaches bought out from bad contracts.
If you can’t be bothered to actually graduate from the school that’s paying your way, and you squander the chance to give the public a good impression of you before you hit the workforce, that’s your own doing. You can’t blame the NCAA for your failings. You can blame the NCAA for making money selling player’s jerseys, that was totally hypocritical and could well cost the NCAA their lawsuit against Ed O’Bannon. To say athletes are exploited takes a lot of mental gymnastics that I’m just not prepared to do.
Since the calendar hit August, it seems all Indianapolis sports radio can talk about is the Colts. And, well, I suppose that’s understandable. There are only two major teams in town, and the Colts are the one going now. I mean, if it were up to me, there would be some more baseball talk and maybe some good time spent talking about the Indy Indians. Especially this year, as the Indians are just about to wrap up their division for the second straight year. I understand they are a AAA team, but they are still the highest baseball in the state and doing pretty damn well for themselves. It really is a shame they don’t get more attention than they do.
Anyway, I digress. The Colts have been the dominant topic since preseason games have started. There has been an awful lot of dissecting about this practice game against Buffalo where the Colts were pretty well blown out of the water. Now, the story is Jim Irsay has been apologizing to everybody who will listen and blasting the top brass at Lucas Oil Stadium. I still have to wonder, does anybody care? I think we all understand that preseason games are, well, practice. And very expensive practice at that. What other sport would demand that season ticket holders pay for games that don’t count and rarely feature any players you will know? And paying full price, mind you. These games are important for the “marginal” players and the coaches and general managers, sure. But to fans? I can’t imagine possibly caring less. And I think for good reason. The Colts have been generally atrocious in the preseason since Peyton Manning got to town, and there doesn’t seem to be any change on the horizon. This hasn’t generally been a hurdle for the regular season, though. And it shouldn’t. The teams you see during the preseason are just simply not the same teams you will see during the regular season. I think fans understand that. So, on that note, it’s just very hard for me to think that anybody needs an apology from the owner for losing by twenty in a game that literally makes no difference outside who makes the end of the roster.
So why would Irsay make this kind of statement? The only thing I can figure is marketing. He wants the fans to know he has high expectations for this team when the national media seems pretty roundly in agreement that last year’s team was pretty lucky and this year’s team will come back to Earth a bit.* While there are reasons to think the Colts will fare better than most teams that outperform their preseason expectations, I think you would be a little nuts to think it’s 11 wins or bust this year.** Not to say this core can’t get there, but one step at a time.
*I’ve made the same argument, so I get it.
**Or, you know, to start saying you’re World Champion material just yet. That’s the shirt that has been making it’s way around Colt’s training camp.
I don’t know, maybe Irsay thinks most of the fanbase has bought into the mentality that this team is already among the elite teams and doesn’t want fans to lose faith over a twenty-some point loss to Buffalo (of all teams!). The problem with that theory is, well, I can’t imagine that Irsay doesn’t have a better handle on the fanbase than that. Nobody is going to be upset over a preseason game. Expectations might be generally higher than I think they should be around these parts, but I don’t think anybody outside of the locker room thinks this team is going to the Super Bowl.
Maybe I’m talking out of my ass here. I refuse to watch preseason NFL games, and this one was no different. Maybe the Colts looked like they belonged on a high school field. I doubt it, though. From what I hear, the starters looked pretty good for the most part, and Buffalo kept their rookie quarterback out there much longer than usual to carve up the back up defense. I can’t blame Buffalo for that. The Bills are looking to break that playoff drought, and I’m sure they want to see what they’ve got on a quarterback that had some mixed reviews coming out of college.
Long story short, the Pirates are in St. Louis this week for a pretty pivotal series. That is a million times more compelling and interesting to me than any glorified scrimmage. If you can even call the NFL preseason glorified.
It was a little longer absence than I had expected. I am sorry for that. I was out of state for a week, and last week was a bit hectic with the catching back up from being gone and Kristine’s birthday. But, we’re back.
There are a lot of things bouncing around in my head to get back to writing, but first and foremost in my mind is Bull Durham. I was pretty well by myself yesterday while Kristine made a quick trip over to Ohio for a baby shower.* Besides catching up on some housework, like mowing the yard and doing dishes, I found some time to rewatch two of my favorite movies of all time. One was, of course, Bull Durham. The other was The Big Lewbowski. I’ll keep my Dude talk for another day, but this seems as good a time as any to talk about the fictional Bulls.
*Which should be another cut in the complaint that Kristine’s bridal shower in Lafayette was too far for a lot of my family. I’m not at all pleased with the Bushue turnout for that one, but there’s nothing to be done about it now.
I usually watch Bull Durham at least once a year, normally around the start of baseball season. It was a little later this year, but I did get it in. As I was watching it this time, I really had to wonder why Crash Davis never really had a big league career. He talks on the bus about being in the show for 21 days once. I would assume that was his longest stretch. Now, granted, all we get to see is bits and pieces of the bulk of one season in A ball. I’m sure Class A pitching looks like a freaking beach ball compared to the AAA pitching Crash had apparently been seeing before he became the player to be named later. But from what we see, Crash is an excellent mentor for a young pitcher with an explosive bat.
I think part of the problem here is we don’t get to see too much of Crash Davis the catcher. I don’t remember a single scene of anybody running on him, so we don’t have a sense of what kind of arm he really has. We also don’t know what kind of a backstop he is. When Nuke misses, there is no catcher anywhere that is blocking that stuff. The one real defensive play we get to see is Crash appearing to tag a runner out at the plate* and not getting the call. This leads to the whole argument and Crash being tossed from the game, which might have been a blessing given how that game was going.**
*And he really does look out. I’ve watched that play a few times, and he sure looks like he gets a solid tag on the guy.
**Also, unless I’m getting the games confused here, the Bulls lose that one 3-2. With the game looking as sloppy as that one, I have a hard time believing the other team could only push across three runs. Not impossible, but improbable.
Still, even if Crash is just a competent catcher, with the power he displays in the movie (and throughout his minor league career, breaking the home run record just after leaving the Bulls) and his knowledge and willingness to mentor, it sure seems he would be valuable to a big league team. The best I can figure is Crash showed a complete inability to hit a breaking ball, which could be demonstrated with his speech about how badly Nuke needs a curveball and about how pitchers throw ungodly breaking stuff in the majors, and maybe an unwillingness to be a mentor until he was told point-blank that his entire reason for being with the team was to develop a pitcher. I don’t really have any evidence for the latter in the movie, though. The only thing I can point to at all is when Crash first gets to Durham and the manager (whose name I don’t believe we ever learn) explains why he’s back in the Carolina League.* I can point to plenty of evidence that would suggest that Crash couldn’t help but share his wisdom with anybody in the vicinity, whether they wanted to hear it or not. You can’t have Annie Savoy earnestly saying “Oh, Crash, you do make speeches” if Crash wasn’t the type to keep volunteering his thoughts and advice.
*For what it’s worth, the Carolina League is still a High A league. A friend of mine, Taylor Dennis, is currently pitching for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans in that league, actually. And, something else I just learned, the Pelicans are the team that used to be the Durham Bulls until Durham stepped up to AAA. Crazy, right?
I’m sure there are stories all over the place that are similar to Crash Davis. Players who had the abilities and the mindset, but just never got their break. Never landed with the right team or the right situation. Still, it seems like Crash should have gotten more than just a cup of coffee on the big league level considering what he brings. Hell, with how the Braves* played all through the 80’s, maybe they should have let some other catcher who couldn’t hit develop Nuke along.
*Atlanta was the parent club of the Durham/Myrtle Beach teams until 2010, when they became affiliated with the Rangers.
On the other hand, Nuke Laloosh as a Major League pitcher is pretty laughable. He gets off to a terrible start in the minors, has major control issues, and apparently no breaking ball. His best bet at the next level from what we see in the movie is a flame-throwing closer. Certainly not as a starter, and certainly not as somebody who ought to be making the leap from High A straight to the 40-man roster. I read that Nuke was based on Steve Dalkowski, though, which I suppose eliminates some of the guesswork. And, well, honestly, Nuke fared better than his source. Dalkowski never got above Class B (back when there was such a thing) and apparently is more known for his raging alcoholism than for his thunderbolt of an arm.
Annie Savoy, though? I think we’ve all met her before. She might be the most realistic character in the whole damn movie.