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Uncle Andy's Blog Archives for 2014-04

Changing the Outcome


 

Sometimes we have to be careful what we ask for.  That’s how I feel about instant replay in Major League Baseball.  Nothing is ever perfect; that’s why we call it a “game.”  In this never-ending effort to always get things right, we lose the spontaneity of the game.  I used to celebrate instant jubilation when a touchdown was scored in an NFL game by my favorite team.  Now I have to wait for the review, to see if the call stands.  It takes something away from the game for me.  I do think the Major League players will adjust quickly to instant replay and the broadcasters will find a way to fill the time.  Umpires have not resisted instant replay jargon for several years.  “Managers now have something they never had before,” said Hall-of-Fame Manager, Joe Torre.  “They have a chance to change the outcome of a game.  Maybe they’ll have fewer sleepless nights.”  Okay, I’ll accept that for now, but the real question is, how will instant replay be received by the lifeblood of the sport, the fans? 

Please understand the reason instant replay is being used in Major League baseball isn’t because the umpires have been bad; it’s because umpires haven’t been perfect.  This just in:  they will never be perfect even with this system.  Baseball, as in life, is not meant to be perfect.  Social media allows and encourages instant outrage from fans that enjoy pointing out someone else’s mistakes.  In response to this outrage, Major League baseball went back and reviewed every game played in 2013, in an effort to single out any play that would be considered too close to call or a play that may have the qualifications to be reviewed under this new system.  There are 2,430 games played during a regular baseball season, and Major League baseball found 50,000 calls that fit the reviewable profile.  Guess what!  Only 377 of those plays would have been overturned by instant replay.  That’s 0.754% or one call overturned for every 6.4 games played, and those numbers would occur only if those 50,000 plays were challenged by the managers.  The percentage could easily be lower. 

These numbers highlight what most baseball fans already knew; professional baseball umpires are better than NBA officials or NFL officials, period.  The reasons are easy to decipher.  Major League umpires are highly trained in a Minor League system before they reach the Major League level and only have the one job.  Since balls and strikes are not part of the instant reply, there are fewer calls to make in a baseball game.

So here’s the scoop.  Each stadium will have twelve camera angles including an overhead cam.  Every play is fed into a 9,000-square-foot command center known as the Replay Operations Center.  This center is part of MLB Advanced Media offices, located in Manhattan, New York.  Inside the center reside eight professional umpires that rotate on a weekly basis along with many technical support people.  These folks have access to 30 huge high-definition television sets, and you thought the Pentagon budget was expensive.  In a sport where they pound their chest about 300-million-dollar contracts, they will not give us a clue on how much this experiment cost.

In an effort to not slow the game down, every play is being reviewed in real time, and these folks will have seen the play in question several times before a manager challenges a call and the on-site umpires ask for a ruling.  Fans are also being shown the replays on their own stadium video boards. 

So, you have to ask yourself was the system really broken.  Did it need to be fixed?  Does the outcome justify the cost?  For those who say that one missed call is too many, I would say that’s not realistic and this system will not guarantee perfection.  In fact, no system will; that’s the beauty of the game.  It is as flawed as the people who play the game.  I will agree that this is a work in progress.  And yes, there have been six overturned calls so far this season.  For Clint Hurdle of the Pittsburgh Pirates the system worked, but not for San Francisco Giants’ skipper, Bruce Bochy.  My fear is the next step.  Why not go ahead and streamline the process and take the manager out of the equation.  If the center determines the call is incorrect, they can speak to the umpiring crew within seconds and reverse the call.  Now you have completely limited the power of the manager to someone who just fills out the lineup.  Is that what you want, as a fan? 

Perhaps the instant replay system should only be used during the playoffs.  What do you think?

 

Email me at purvis.andy@mygrande.net

 

 

 

 

Andy Purvis is a local author.  His books "In the Company of Greatness" and "Remembered Greatness" are on the shelves at the local Barnes and Noble, at Beamer's Sports Grill 5922 S Staples, and online at many different sites including Amazon, bn.com, booksamillion, Google Books, etc.  They are also available in e-reader format.  Contact him at www.purvisbooks.com, or purvis.andy@mygrande.net.

That Our Flag was Still There


 

 

I’m an American, red, white and blue.  My father could be Ted Williams, my grandfather John Wayne and my great-grandfather George Washington.  I love this country, its history and all it stands for.  But take it from a guy who attends a lot of games in person, I really dislike what has happened to our National Anthem.  I’m not talking about the words, they are truly inspiring, but the singing of the Anthem itself.  I think the Anthem is sung far too often and mostly by unqualified people who have no business making a mockery of this song.  I can promise you that Francis Scott Key never intended for this to happen.  He was not watching the Yankees and Red Sox when he penned these lyrics. 

Our Anthem was written during a time of war, from the bow of a British ship, as Key, a British prisoner, watched the British bombard U. S. Fort McHenry located in Baltimore, Maryland.   The United States military raised a huge American flag on September 14, 1814, to signify their victory over the bombardment.  It was this vision of our flag, waving through the smoke and brimstone, in the aftermath, which inspired Key.  If you know the history, then the words make sense.  You see, our National Anthem represents us and all those people who came before us.  It’s sung so often now that it doesn’t seem to mean anything to the public.  Some people don’t stand, others fail to remove their hats, and virtually no one places their hand over their heart as we were all taught in school.  Even fewer sing along, and you get the feeling that people simply dread this part of the pre-game ceremonies.  Could this be why so many fans arrive late to the game?  Maybe they don’t want to stand through the Anthem again.  You would think that people would get used to singing the Anthem as they do “Take me out to the Ballgame” or their favorite college fight song, but they don’t.  Why, because it’s never sung the same way.  It’s quite a long song and very difficult to sing.  Most amateurs and some pros start off singing with too high a pitch and end up with nowhere to go at the end of the song.  They either run out breath, range or both.  I would rather not hear it sung at all than hear it sung badly. 

I think we need to hold a contest to qualify singers for the National Anthem and only sing it before championship games, July 4th and special military events.  Have you ever noticed that you never hear the Anthem played or sung before a game on television or radio unless it’s a championship game like the World Series or Super Bowl?  Sponsors would rather run another commercial.  Kate Smith’s “God Bless America” is a great song and much easier to sing.  Could it be used instead?   There was a time when no songs were sung before a sporting event.  Remember the old movies where the umpire points to the pitcher and hollers, “Play ball”?  That was it. 

The National Anthem started being sung at ballparks during the 1918 World Series between the Red Sox and Cubs at Comiskey Park.  As American troops readied themselves to attack the Saint-Mihiel salient at the Western front in Europe, Game One of the Series was about to begin.  When over 19,000 fans stood for the seventh-inning stretch, the band broke into the tune of “The Star Spangled Banner,” and fans began to sing.  As the song continued, more fans joined in singing and ended the song with a thunderous applause.  Through their singing, they felt they were supporting our troops overseas, fighting for democracy during World War I.  It’s interesting to point out that “The Star Spangled Banner” would not become our National Anthem until 1931, but as of that afternoon, it would continue to be an integral part of the game of baseball. 

Remember this is the National Anthem of the United States of America, and it commands the same respect that you demand as an American.  The Bill of Rights, The Declaration of Independence and this song are the ties that bind all Americans.  Don’t take them for granted.

P.S.  Shame on you if you don’t know the words.

 

 

Andy Purvis is a local author.  His books "In the Company of Greatness" and "Remembered Greatness" are on the shelves at the local Barnes and Noble, at Beamer's Sports Grill 5922 S Staples, and online at many different sites including Amazon, bn.com, booksamillion, Google Books, etc.  They are also available in e-reader format.  Contact him at www.purvisbooks.com, or purvis.andy@mygrande.net.

Fans


Research reveals that the original word used in print, by sportswriters to describe spectators attending a sporting event from 1882 to 1910, was the word crank or krank, in some cases.  Female spectators were called crankess.

In a book written in 1903 entitled Humorous Stories of the Baseball Field by Ted Sullivan, baseball owner Charles Comiskey claimed he once called an enthusiast, who broke into his clubhouse a “fanatic.”  Sullivan clipped the word fanatic to “fan” in his writings.

William Henry Nugent wrote a column in March of 1929 called The Sports Section for a newspaper entitled “The American Mercury” and showed how many common sports terms used in North America are not Americanisms, but rather much older transplants from the British Isles.  He claimed the word “fan” can be traced from several sources.  The word “fancy” was long used as a class name in England and America for followers of boxing, dog fighting and pigeon racing.  One story is that baseball borrowed it and shortened it to fan.  Hall-of-Fame Manager Connie Mack claimed the word “fan” was first created to describe spectators who fanned themselves to stay cool during the games.  Webster’s Dictionary defines the word “fan” as an enthusiastic follower of the game, a devotee.     

Throughout the years, despite all this evidence, either the word fancy or fanatic has been appropriately shortened to the word fan.  It was easier to pronounce, easier to remember and didn’t sound quite as harsh.  That seems to be the American Way.   

It’s safe to say that the fans are the lifeblood of sports; always have been.  Without fans, there are no paid athletes or sporting events.  Fans from all walks of life have always footed the bill.  From ticket prices, seat licenses, parking, stadium costs, ballpark food, and drinks, to merchandise and memorabilia, fans have played their part in making sports franchises great and their owners rich beyond words.  The team on the field determines the score, but the number of fans in the seats and their purchasing power creates the value of the franchise itself.  

Over the years, the fans’ knowledge and enthusiasm for their teams and their infatuation with greatness on the field of play has not changed as dramatically as the athletes themselves.  Fans still live and die with every touchdown, four-foot putt, turnover, or home-run hit.  One thing that has changed the most is the fans’ ability to receive instant information and their desire to add their two cents’ worth on the results.  With the invention of fantasy leagues and social media, fans are much more in touch and therefore more opinionated.  There is no lag time in real information.  Most fans my age received our sports scores from the radio and the surrounding stories from the daily newspaper.  Television was well into the late 1960’s before games were shown in real time, and even then we were rewarded with only one or two local games a week, depending on the sport. 

Another change has been the appetite for (more) sports have increased, especially among the female population with the invention of Title IX. 

Even as the price of attending in person continues to soar, they still come.  But will they continue?  Cable television, sports television packages, Twitter, NFL Red Zone, FaceBook, My Space, satellite radio, iPads, and smart phones now allow fans to visually connect instantly.  A fan with tickets in Section D, Row 21, Seats 4 and 5, may now find a much cheaper and more comfortable couch at the house.  Another cloud of concern for the fan lies in the integrity of the games themselves.  Many athletes continue to cheat by using performance-enhancing drugs.  Most fans seem not to care until it is revealed that a cheater from another team affected the outcome of a game which included that fan’s favorite team.     

For the most part, fans will continue to find hope in their favorite athletes or teams.  They attach themselves to something they consider greater than they are themselves.  Most people believe we all need to feel a part of something good every day.  If their team wins they feel excitement, and when they lose they feel betrayed.  The emotions are real.  Hats off to the fans and to the owners; we say, “Be careful what you ask for.”  We the fans are footing this bill.  

 

Andy Purvis is a local author.  His books "In the Company of Greatness" and "Remembered Greatness" are on the shelves at the local Barnes and Noble, at Beamer's Sports Grill 5922 S Staples, and online at many different sites including Amazon, bn.com, booksamillion, Google Books, etc.  They are also available in e-reader format.  Contact him at www.purvisbooks.com, or purvis.andy@mygrande.net.

Kintetic Triggers


Major League baseball players are the absolute worst.  Scientists called it a kinetic trigger, yet the players referred to their weird science as “routines.”  We all know the truth; they’re superstitious.  They confuse routine for superstition.  In the old days you would hear the words, hex, jinxed, quirks, rituals, and idiosyncrasies.  Some players even carried a rabbit’s foot in their pockets for good luck.  These triggers were designed to bring the individual luck or ward off the baseball demons.  You need not look any further than last year, as the playoff beards of the World Champion Boston Red Sox topped the “Curse of the Bambino.”  (The player’s refused to shave during the playoffs.)

There is no doubt that baseball is the hardest game of them all to excel in both mentally and physically.  The pressure to succeed allows us to doubt our own abilities.  Sometimes, the hardest thing in life to overcome is ourselves; our own superstitions.  In creating routines, we convince ourselves that we have given ourselves an edge that allows us to play better.  Is it true?  Some swear by it and others just laugh, but with success we form habits, some good, and some bad.  Superstitions come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and include everything from food to equipment and clothes.

Some examples are as follows.  Players sat in the same spot on the bench during every game.  They swung two bats in the on-deck circle before their turn at the plate.  Rally caps were in order when their team was behind.  Lots of players, especially pitchers, did not shave on purpose, before taking the mound.  It made them feel more aggressive.  Players wore the same underwear or sox when things went their way and their routine never included washing the articles of clothing if they continued to win.  Many players chewed tobacco to relax:  Johnny Bench, Rod Carew, Luis Tiant and “Sparky” Lyle to name a few.

Now that you’re warmed up, let’s see how close you have been watching our National Pastime.  Let’s recall some of the more popular superstitions.  Did you know that “Babe” Ruth used to knock the dirt out of his spikes with his bat after every called strike?  Yankee pitcher Vic Rashi refused to allow his picture to be taken before a game he was pitching.  Ted Williams would place his bat under his arm and pull down hard on his cap after the second strike had been called by the umpire.  Jackie Robinson always walked to home plate to hit, by passing in front of the opposing catcher.  Even if the catcher was out at the mound talking with his pitcher, Jackie would wait until the catcher had retuned to his position and then pass in front of him, to step into the batter’s box.  Let’s call that intimidation at its best.  Phil Rizzuto would place his chewing gum on top of his hat for safe keeping, while batting.  When he got two strikes on him, he would place the gum back in his mouth.  Willie Mays never went to centerfield without first touching second base.  Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, twirled his right thumb while holding his bat, before hitting.  Pittsburgh Pirate, Ralph Kiner, never stepped on a white line on the field of play.  “It didn’t help or hurt me,” said Ralph.  “I just didn’t want to take any chances.” 

Remember Mark “The Bird” Fidrych talking to himself and constantly cleaning the mound while pitching for the Detroit Tigers.  After every 0-4 game, Chicago White Sox’s “Minnie” Minoso would shower in his entire uniform including spikes to wash away the bad karma.  Cincinnati Reds second baseman Joe Morgan would cock and re-cock his right elbow continuously, while waiting in the batter’s box for the next pitch.  Everyone knew about Wade Boggs’ superstition; he always ate chicken before every game.  Red Sox teammate Nomar Garciaparra’s toe tap between every pitch became the conversation piece when he played.  Larry Walker was crazy about the #3.  Not only did he wear #33 but he was married at 3:33 PM on November 3rd.  Walker always took three practice swings before an at-bat and purchased thirty-three tickets for underprivileged kids in section 333 for every home game.  Now I can’t explain why he hit 383 home runs for his career.  It seems to me he recorded fifty more than needed.  New York pitcher, Andy Pettitte, liked to listen to the entire sound track from the movie “Rocky” before the games he pitched; and Atlanta’s “Chipper” Jones played computer solitaire right up to game time in the club house. 

Time has not dampened the need for players to increase their chances of playing great.  Yankees’ Alfonso Soriano always makes a mark in the dirt next to home plate before stepping in the batter’s box.  New Texas Ranger, Prince Fielder, always breaks apart an Oreo cookie before the game.  Prince claims he can tell how the game will go by how much cream is stuck to one side of the cookie.  Oriole’s first baseman, Chris Davis, always brushes his teeth before every game.  Cincinnati Reds’ Todd Frazier chants before a game, as others in the clubhouse wonder if he’s okay.  White Sox first baseman Adam Dunn always spits a huge wad of gum onto the field of play before game time.  “I don’t know why I do it, I just always have,” said Dunn.  Jason Giambi claimed he had a magical beard.  After he grew the facial hair, his batting average went up 80 points.  I’m thinking the steroids helped.  Texas Ranger’s pitcher, Derek Holland, has to play Nintendo Hockey the night before he pitches. 

But the guy who takes the cake is Roger Clemens.  While with the Yankees, for good luck, Roger would rub Babe Ruth’s plaque that hangs in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium, before every game in which he pitched.  You could even see him whispering underneath his breath, but I don’t think he has ever shared with us what he was saying.  It is also well-known that the strikeout in baseball is referenced as a “K” on your scorecard.  Roger Clemens recorded 4.672 “K’s” during his 24-year career.  You would think that was enough.  But Clemens took this a step farther by starting all four of his sons’ names with a K.  They are in order Koby, Kory, Kacy and Kody. 

Kinetic trigger, I doubt it.  Can anyone say Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder? (OCD)

 

Andy Purvis is a local author.  His books "In the Company of Greatness" and "Remembered Greatness" are on the shelves at the local Barnes and Noble, at Beamer's Sports Grill 5922 S Staples, and online at many different sites including Amazon, bn.com, booksamillion, Google Books, etc.  They are also available in e-reader format.  Contact him at www.purvisbooks.com, or purvis.andy@mygrande.net.

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