Friday, October 31, 2003

Whatever Happened to the Star Trek Movies? By AH.

It's been a rough ride for us Star Trek movie fans. After the glory that was First Contact, we've had to suffer through the lame Insurrection and the promising but ultimately unfulfilling Nemesis. And the prospect of no more ST:TNG movies ever is, well, grim.

So, where has the magic gone? What happened to this once glorious franchise, which has now gone the way of baseball in the 24th century? Where have you gone, Joe Dimaggio? I think there are two things at play here. First, when you deal with movies, the emphasis tends to be on the star characters (Picard and Data); but ST:TNG has always been an ensemble effort. It stings to see the noble and powerful Worf from "A matter of honor" and "Lower Decks" reduced to a bit cameo. Troi, Crusher, Geordi, and even, to a degree, Riker have been marginalized, and the dimension and scope of the movies suffer.

Cinema has two principle pleasures; voyeuristic and narcissistic. The voyeuristic pleasure is still there; cool space battles and the strange aliens. But what is missing is the narcissistic pleasure; or, the feeling that these movies are talking about us.

Star Trek was always at its best when we felt that we, as individuals or as a society, are being mirrored. McCarthyism, Homosexuality, family issues-these things and many others were successfully tackled within this show. What worked with Star Trek is that though the settings and characters were fantastic, paradoxically this allowed a greater amount of depth and, dare I say, realism in talking about issues we cannot, in polite society, deal with directly.

So is the Star Trek franchise irrelevant? No. There has never been a greater need for our Star Trek heroes than now. We live in extremely trying times. We need to simultaneously escape with and deal with our times.

Here are some ideas. What we are dealing with now, in the Middle East, is a culture, which confuses us; an ever shifting political structure where our friends today are our mortal enemies tomorrow; a morality, which has a logic strange to our own; and a culture, which presents, as of now, a grave threat to our way of life. Does this sound like the Klingon empire to anyone?

(Sir Rantalot’s note: Klingons have always embodied America’s fears of whatever race we currently see as a problem. The Klingons were in fact created in response to the Yellow Peril fears of the late fifties and early sixties. That’s why they looked so Asian in the original Star Trek. Then, in the late eighties and early nineties, after the fall of the Soviet Union, Klingons became the black people who live among us (Worf) and with whom we have an uneasy peace. So why not make them Middle-Eastern? For more on depictions of ethnicity in Sci-Fi see the Essays Page.)

How about this: after a devastating terrorist attack on the Federation capital, San Francisco, by some rogue Klingons, a fragile political climate is placed in severe danger by Federation renegades to gain retribution and plunge the galaxy into chaos by destroying the planet Klingons find most holy, Boreth (Mecca); also, the assassination of Kahless might make a fine subplot. Though the Federation is stronger than the Klingon empire, a war would be devastating to both sides. It is up to Picard and company from stopping this from happening.
Worf would play a key role in this story, and rather than the ineffectual Worf from the past few movies, I see this Worf with a Bat'leth and a flowing cape. Worf is a badass; give the guy his due.

Also, there needs to be a fight, weather in space or with fist, between Riker and Worf over Deanna. Some long simmering feelings could erupt due to some friendly Klingon prodding for Worf. This issue was not dealt with in a satisfying manner. This, as well, would make some good fodder for Deanna, who always seems to get the short end of the plot stick.

Now, a note on the "B4" character. I know Brent Spiner had his hand in this character development. Brent is a fine actor, and is one of the most memorable characters on the show; but he needs to be reigned in. I know they are setting up a "Search for Spock" scenario, where the original Data is resurrected somehow. But that B4 character is just painful.

In a subplot, the Federation military scientists should be developing a species of Datas bred for fighting, with Nanites being the mechanisms (like cells) of which this Species is created (out of what raw materials, I'm not sure). Data fights the other Datas in that they, like Lore, want their own species of superior beings, and can see themselves rising from the choas.

Side note: Geek goddess Tina Fey from SNL must come in for some geek sex appeal and be strong, funny, dare I say ballsy character. Perhaps an academic who wrote a book „The Klingon Problem,‰ or something like it. She has the spark and intelligence for some great dialogue.

OK. That's my rant. It is hard to see ST:TNG struggle so hard and stray so far from the things which made us great. ST:TNG reminds us that we as a species can achieve greater things; and though we came from the earth, we belong in the stars.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Kicking the Habit: SF Undervalues Kickers

Owen Pochman is out (thank goodness) and the Niners will now turn to Todd Peterson to solve a kicking game that has been in flux since, well, since Ray Wersching left in 1987. Since then they have had adequate guys like Mike Cofer, Doug Brien, and Wade Richey. Some very good kickers like Jeff Wilkins and Gary Anderson. But mostly they have had spectacular flops, Jose “Clown Shoes” Cortez, Tony “El Blouquero” Zendejas, Jeff “Really? A 4th Round Draft Pick?” Chandler, and now, Owen “Cut by the Giants” Pochman.

Pochman missed 3 field goals last week in a game won by the 49er defense. This week he missed two more as the 49ers lost in OT to the hapless Arizona Cardinals. Now Pochman is out and SF will bring in Peterson hoping that last years 57.1 FG% was an aberration. While Peterson may help in the short term the 49ers kicking problems run much deeper and will not be solved without a change in organizational philosophy. Basically the 49ers have never cared about kickers. Since the glory years began having a good kicker was considered a luxury not worth the expense.

This was fine when SF had Montana, Craig, Rice, Solomon, Clark, Young, Watters, Taylor, Jones, Frank, a great O-line and an all pro defense. Back when John Madden was calling out “Sooooo many weapons” and the Niners were in the NFC championship game year after year. But this is a different team in a different era. Dennis Erickson has not lived up to his promise to “open up the offense.” The O-line is shaky and SF is having trouble scoring points. This team is not going to blow people away like they did during the stretch between ’81 and ’97. This is a team that needs to scratch out wins the way Carolina is with John Kasay (career FG% 80.1, 17/17 this year).

SF has made some terrible decisions with its kickers, here is brief over view:

Name /                Year /   Career% / %When Cut / Post SF Career
Ray Wersching ‘77-‘87    67.5             76.5              Retired in 1987
Jeff Backhaus   1987        50.0             50.0       Sub for Wersching, never played again
Mike Cofer      ’88-‘93     66.2             61.5               44.4% for Indy in 1995
Doug Brien      ’94-95       80.5             88.2               Current 88.9% with NYJ
Tony Zendejas   1995       73.5             42.9                Never played again.
Jeff Wilkins     ’95-96      80.2              88.2               Went Rams, won a Super Bowl
Gary Anderson 1997       80.1              80.6               92.9% for Tennessee in ’03
Wade Richey    ‘98-’99   72.4              68.2               Currently 1/1 with Baltimore
Jose Cortez      ‘00-’02    71.9             75.0               With Minn. no FG attempts this year.
Jeff Chandler   ’02-’03    73.7             85.7               Out of football
Owen Pochman 2003      47.1             53.3               Out of football
Todd Peterson   2003      77.8

(During this time they also cut Ryan Longwell and his career 81.1%)

Some analysis on the above list shows that the Niners had a decent run of kickers from the middle of 1995 through the end of 1997 which was also the end of the Niners great run (lost NFC Championship to Green Bay). Since then the Niners have suffered through salary cap hell and the premature retirement of Steve Young. But their inability and unwillingness to re-sign good kickers has cost them games over the years. They didn’t want to spend the money to re-sign Wilkins or Anderson. They ran out of patience with Chandler who was kicking well when he was cut. Brien was made the scapegoat for a slow start in 1995 when the real problem was that SF tried to replace Ricky Watters with Derek Loville. In both cases the quick hooks cost them games. They brought in Zendejas in ’95 who lasted three games and went 3-7 with 3 blocks (he was also 1-3 on PATs). This year they cut Chandler in favor of a guy who brought in a career FG% of 47.1.
If SF ever again finds a reliable kicker they need to keep him. Consistency is good, from 1981 through 1994 SF had three regular kickers. Since then they have had eight. If SF had a consistent kicker at this point they would be a least 4-4 (if not better) and still be in the hunt in the NFC. As it is they face a huge up hill fight to make the playoffs. You can overlook special teams when you’re rolling over fools to the tune of 42 point per game. When you fall back to the pack however, you need good special teams, coverage, returns, and kicks. After all, as good as the Pats were in ’01 it was Adam Vinatieri (career 81.7%) who won the game for them.

12:14 pm est

Monday, October 27, 2003

Baseball: End of Season Rant

Well Baseball is over and the A’s are chipping away again. Never mind that there is little chance, if any, of resigning Tejada, there is a potentially more damaging move being considered. The A’s may allow pitching coach Rick Peterson to move to the Mets without compensation. That’s right, the A’s may lose one of the best coaches in the game in return for absolutely nothing. If you have any doubts about Peterson’s value to the team just look at the staff. Sure, the big three are very good pitchers with a ton of ability, but look at what Peterson did with some more marginal talent.

Example 1: Jason Isringhausen. Izzy was considered washed up when he was traded to the A’s in 1999. He was a failed starter with a bad elbow and a 7.58 ERA. Peterson turned him into one of the best closers in the game with 75 saves a 2.85 ERA and 0 trips to the DL in 2 plus seasons. Once he left Oakland Izzy stayed productive, when he was healthy.

Example 2: Billy Koch. Koch had 36 saves and a 4.80 ERA for Toronto in 2001. In Oakland for ’02 he had 44 saves, a 3.27 ERA and the Rolaids Relief Pitcher of the Year Award. Once he left (traded for example 3, Keith Foulke) he lost his closer’s job and ended up with a 5-5 record, 4 blown saves and a 5.77 ERA.

Example 3: Keith Foulke. Oakland traded Koch for deposed White Sox Closer Keith Foulke. Foulke was coming off a year in which he had just 11 saves, a 2.90 ERA and had lost the closing job. With Peterson’s guidance Foulke made an astonishing 72 appearances, picking up 43 saves and registering a 2.08 ERA.

See also:
-Ricardo Rincon, with Cleveland in 2002: 4.18 ERA. With Oakland in ’02-’03 3.18.
-Chad Bradford, an unwanted throw-in from Chicago (career ERA 8.28 in 41 appearances). With Oakland, 2.95 ERA in 182 games pitched.

Peterson was even able to get rock headed Ted Lilly (pre Oak. ERA: 5.50, in Oak. ERA: 2.99) to develop into a good pitcher down the stretch. Lilly pitched very well in the playoffs, as did waiver wire pick up Steve Sparks. Letting Peterson go would be a huge mistake. Peterson’s value to the team is second only to Billy Beane’s. Peterson makes the A’s staff go. He is a mechanics guru and is a big part of the reason that the big three have stayed as healthy as they have. He can find the positives in almost anyone and turn shaky pitchers into solid contributors. If he does go to the Mets expect two things, a rise in Oakland’s team ERA along with a sharp decline in wins, and at least 15 wins from Steve Trachsel.

Losing Peterson would be as huge a loss for Oakland as losing Tejada, and to make things worse, the A’s a rumored to be considering including Terrence Long in a deal for Peterson. If that happens the A’s had better resign Jose Guillen or they could go from having too many good out fielders (Long, Dye, Byrnes, Guillen, Singleton, Piatt, McCarty) to not enough. Piatt, Singleton and McCarty were cut, Guillen is a free agent and Long may be traded. Another off season, and another chance for the A’s to chip away at the foundation that has seen them contend for the past four years. How long can Beane keep spinning straw into gold? How long before he leaves too? One thing is for sure, Bobby Crosby will be the starting short stop at some point next season and the A’s will eventually miss the playoffs. Chip chip chip...

Random World Series Musings:

-I predicted Josh Beckett as the MVP in a seven game Marlins win. I was close. Beckett is the MVP, the series went six, and the Marlins won.

-I love watching the Yankees lose.

-Remember when Giambi left Oakland, the two reasons were better endorsements and a chance to win the World Series every year. Well, he’s the deodorant guy, and he still has no ring. I love watching Giambi lose.

-Oh yeah, he also said he liked New York because he didn’t have to be a leader. Good call, he really hasn’t led anyone anywhere.

-I’m glad for Pudge. It’s always nice to see Puerto Ricans do well. Especially a guy who took a one-year deal, and a pay cut, to go to a team that took a chance on him.

-Just as we asked the past two years, is this good for the game because the Yanks lost? Or bad because now The Boss will go out and spend even more money?

-The Marlins have never lost a post-season series.

-Why is everything being presented in the locker room? Why don’t the Marlins get the big on field celebration? Did The Boss have a hand in this?

-Jeffery Loria does not deserve a ring after he tanked the Expos.

Even though the Yawn-ks haven’t won in three years, they have still been in 6 of the last 9 World Series, it’s still boring, baseball is still broken. I can’t wait to see The Boss go ballistic. Hide your free agents. Next year’s line up (?):


Saturday, October 18, 2003

There is Crying in Baseball

I have a confession make, I haven’t watched more than an hour of sports since game four of the ALDS between Oakland and Boston. Part of it was the disappointment of watching the A’s blow yet another first round series. Part of it was frustration with the umpires. But mostly it was the fact that I scared my self during game four. I cared too much. Game four was one of the most exciting games of one of the most exciting playoff series ever. Every game came down to the last at bat. Every ninth inning was a save situation. Two games went to extra frames. This is what baseball fans dream of. So why was I so upset? The anxiety, the angst, the depression, the ecstasy, the euphoria, all coming and going with such force for three hours was too much. Part of it was the hope. The A’s had a chance in game three and threw it away. They had a chance in game four, a one run lead, then a one run deficit, then a tie game, then a two run lead, then a loss. The ups and downs were too much, I didn’t even watch the ninth inning, I was too depressed. I vowed not to watch game five, I didn’t think I could take the strain.

There is a problem with sports. Not a problem in sports, or a problem that is sport related. There is a problem with sports as an entity. Why do people who are not players, coaches, or owners get so emotionally involved in sports? What is it that makes us vilify a man trying to catch a foul ball to the point where he needs to placed in protective custody? Why does it matter? The truth is, it doesn’t, and that’s the problem; especially for men.

Sports should be about all idyllic things we say it is. I’ve always said that baseball is about tradition, fathers and sons and brothers and friends going to the ballpark. Some of my greatest childhood memories are of me and my Dad at ballgames. The excitement of watching warm-ups and BP. The rainbow Astros unies back before they were “retro.” Wearing my hat loose so it fly off like Dwayne Murphy’s even though I sported a much less prodigious fro. I tried to give my little brother the same experience, until last year we made it to six straight opening days. But somewhere along the way something changed. Following sports stopped being fun.

I have a friend, (no really, I do) whose boyfriend is a long-suffering Red Sox fan. The last few weeks have been hard for her. Not being a sports fan herself she has been asking me about guys involvement with, and reactions to sporting events. Her last question got me thinking. She asked “Why is it that my boyfriend doesn’t cry when we have a bad fight, but he’s inconsolable when the Red Sox lose?” The implication for me is this, what’s more important, your wife or girlfriend, or “your” team? Sure, chances are you’ve got almost as much emotion invested in both, and you’ve been with the team far longer, but what does the team give you? If you didn’t show up to the next game would they notice? If you left your significant other for three days without calling would they notice?

So why do we do it? For one I think it’s the same instinct that makes us hold on to anything we loved when we were kids. When I was five years old I was convinced that I was going to take over for Freddie Solomon and catch touchdowns from Joe Montana. I wanted to smother grounders like Walt Weiss and fire bullets across the diamond to Big Mac. Jerry Rice was larger than life when I was eight years old. My love for the 49ers was irreversible when I was four years old and I got to go to some awards banquet and meet the team. They played with my stuffed bunny and signed a bunch of stuff that my Mom threw out. Athletes capture our imaginations as children, and for some of us they never let go. As kids we see our father figures being passionate about sports, and we figure that that’s how adults act. At that age we don’t know about beer, or point spreads, or the over. At that age its less about the game, and more about time with the family, and playing catch in the street.
Later, as young adults, sports are a bonding experience. We’re still kids in a lot of ways, but now we can hang out and drink and watch games and talk shit. We have parties, Sundays at my first giant communal house were an event, it was fun. Steve Young and Jerry Rice had “Sooooo many weapons.” Still at this point it’s less about the game, and more about hanging out with your friends, and making friends out of strangers. So we become emotionally invested in our teams, their success feels like our success, their failure makes us feel sorry that we couldn’t somehow affect the outcome. Eventually our sadness, feeling sorry for “our boys” becomes hatred for the umps, or the refs, or the system, or the coach. We get consumed by an impotent rage caused by watching something we care about go wrong, and not being able to do anything about it.

The second reason we can cry about sports is because it’s OK. As men we are socialized to hide our fear, and our sadness. Caring and sensitivity are construed as weakness and are beaten out of us by some a-hole by the time we reach fourth grade. We can’t cry when we fight with our lovers, or when we’ve had a bad day at work, or at school because society tells us it’s not manly. We’re supposed to swallow it all, all the stress, all the pain, all the worry. We’re supposed to present grit our teeth and do something about it. The tough get going, and if you’re not tough you’re useless. We are supposed to be able to handle anything, we are not supposed to break down under emotional strain. If we fight with our spouses we’re supposed to be able to remain stoic. But we’re allowed to care about sports. Sports allow for an emotional release. Look at Bill Romonowski, and tell me he’s not dealing with some childhood trauma. Sports the only place where most men are not only allowed to invest and express all of their emotion, they are encouraged to do it. We have to have “heart”, play with “fire and emotion”, and most importantly, we are supposed to “leave it all on the field.” When we get too old or to busy to play. We invest ourselves and our emotions as spectators. We can’t show weakness, we have to be strong, but we can care about sports, so we do. That’s why he cries when the Sox lose, and only gets mad and yells when you hurt his feelings. That’s why he’ll yell at the TV on Sunday, but won’t share his frustrations about work on Friday. And that’s why I haven’t watched sports for two weeks. It’s crazy that something that I’m only very remotely involved in can stir that kind of emotion. It’s crazy that I have begged out of hanging out with my wife to listen to an A’s game on the radio. It’s damn insane that I’ve done it more than once.

Often, when a coach or payers retires they’ll offer some version of the following statement, “I’m walking away because it’s not fun anymore. The lows of losing far out way the joys of winning. I just can’t do it anymore.” That’s how I felt two Sundays ago. I’m not done with sports, and I don’t think anyone should stop watching sports. I’ll be back, watching games, cheering. I’ll bring my kids to the Oakland Coliseum and tell them about Dwayne, and Ricky, and Mac, and Miggy. But I had to take a step back. I had to gain some perspective. I hope you will too.

Thursday, October 9, 2003

Schwarzenegger Uber Alles

In 1987 the Dead Kennedys released a song called “California Uber Alles.” The song portrayed former Governor Jerry Brown as a Nazi, and predicted his rise to the presidency. In fact Brown was a fairly liberal democrat who increased arts funding among other liberal endeavors. 16 years later we are faced with an actual Reich-t wing Republican, a man who once made admiring comments about Hitler, a man who is a known misogynist and serial groper. Yes folks California is in the hands of naturalized Austrian Ahnold Schwarzenegger. May the spirits forgive us for what we have done.

Let’s review. Ahnold is a republican whose sole political experience to date was as Bush Sr.’s Physical Fitness Minister. I remember 8th grade gym class, looking at Ahnold’s marble jaw, maniac grin, and pointed finger, telling me to “Get in Shape for America!” This is a man whose only qualification to be Governor is that he wants to be Governor. Douglas Adams wrote that the people who most desire to lead are the exact people who should never be allowed to do it.

Ahnold has offered no actual policy plans other than to eliminate the car tax which will immediately raise the deficit form $8 billion to $12 billion. At the same time he wants to increase money for education, he says he won’t raise taxes, so where is the money going to come from? Perhaps the sale of state licensed T3 merchandise? Basically he needs to cut more than $12 billion from prisons and health care. Hey maybe all the people in on three strikes for pot violations will get a reprieve. We will be a state full of smart, well-read, non-immunized children. Hooray for us!
We have put Hans in charge of the world’s seventh largest economy and he doesn’t even have Franz to bounce ideas off of. Schwarzenegger Uber Alles!!

Sunday, October 5, 2003

I Can Blame Others

Well, the A's have no one to blame but themselves. If Tejada hadn't booted that grounder, Varitek never reaches third and never gets that obstruction call and the Sux never score. If Byrnes remembers to tag home it never goes to extra innings. If Tejada keeps running and forces a close play at the plate he may get that obstruction call. You never stop until the play is over, never. Yes, the A's can blame no one but themselves.

But I am not an A. One, the interference call against Chavez was bogus, Varitek was on the bag when it was called, so how can it be interference? Two, how can he NOT call interference on Mueller, he moved INTO Tejada on that play. Three, that homeplate Ump had the most inconsistent strike zones I've seen in the past four years! Fine, you don't wanna call it by the book? At least pick one strike zone and stick with it! Since when is below the letters a ball? I don't wanna say it’s a c-o-n-spiracy, but I think MLB wants the Sux in the Series. Long live Questec, I want Macha to have a red flag. By the way, mad props to Macha for not getting tossed. Same goes for Hernandez and Tejada.

Here’s the thing, we’ve seen this before, A’s lead series or have a shot to win and then trhow it away, or lose it in the sun, or forget to slide on it. Let’s review, 2000, Terrence Long loses a fly ball in the sun thanks to MLB starting the game at 5:00pm PST. 2001Mini G forgets to slide, and then Big $ G makes three errors in game 5. 2002, Tejada boots a ball at the dome, Koch gives two up insurance runs in the top of the ninth in game five, A’s lose by two. The A’s have a history of beating themselves, "it’s like Singapore ’59 all over again!"

In my last post I said that part of me wanted the A’s to lose so that baseball could start to fix itself. After reflecting on today’s loss...Fuck that! Those idiots won’t make the necessary changes no matter what. Go get 'em today boys, there may not be a next year.
12:29 am edt

Saturday, October 4, 2003

A's Be Damned, Baseball is Still Broken

There is a part of me that wants to see the home nine lose in the first round yet again. I say this because if they win this year, it could mean that they win again. The problem is that there is a very vocal segment of the media that believe that if the A’s win it all this year it will prove that there is nothing wrong with baseball’s economic system. It’s just not true. Ready, Set, Rant!

I’m sick of hearing people say that the Oakland A’s prove that there is nothing wrong with baseball’s economics. Yes, the A’s have a low payroll. Yes they have made the playoff for four straight years. Yes, teams like LA and Baltimore have spent gobs of money with little results. So what? One team does not make a trend. One example does not constitute proof. The A’s are what statisticians call an outlier, a result so different form the rest of the data that it becomes insignificant to the discussion.

The A’s success is attributable to equal parts genius, and luck. Sandy Alderson and Billy Beane were able to take their baseball philosophy and find players who could succeed but were not valued by other clubs. They took guys who were under sized (Tim Hudson), had poor velocity (Barry Zito), were too slow (Jason Giambi), or were defensively challenged (Scott Hatteberg), and made them into a winning team. Their success is due to an organizational philosophy, paraphrased from Michel Lewis’ “Moneyball,” “We can’t afford players with all five tools, so which one tool should we screen for?” The answer is on base percentage. The A’s have taken castoffs like Hatteberg, a catcher who can’t throw, runs slow and has little power and produced a team that has won 3 of the last 4 AL West titles. They also took pitchers no one wanted (Tim Hudson, too short; Barry Zito/ Chad Bradford/ Keith Foulke, no fastball; Jim Mecir, no knees) and put together the best staff in the AL.

Finally Beane has been a master trader over the past five seasons, trading away players the A’s couldn’t resign, or didn’t need for future stars. For example he traded Kenny Rogers in a year the A’s would not make the playoffs and got Terrence Long, a future starter and runner up for rookie of the year. He traded a 38 year old closer and got Jason Isringhausen. He traded a minor leaguer for Billy Koch (11-4 44saves 3.27), then traded Koch for Foulke (9-1, 43 saves, 2.08). In successive years he stole Kevin Appier, Jeremy Giambi, Johnny Damon, and Jermaine Dye from KC, while unloading busts like Ben Grieve, Jose Ortiz, and AJ Hinch. Beane has also always been able to make the trade that got the A’s over the hump in the second half, (Dye, Jose Guillen, etc.). Genius.

The A’s have also been lucky. They hit big in drafting the big three, and have been able to bring players along through their farm system including current stars Miguel Tejada, Eric Chavez, Mark Ellis and Ramon Hernandez. In another stretch of luck, aside from Dye and now Mark Mulder, the A’s have not had any key players miss time due to injury.

But it can’t last forever. Tejada is likely gone after this year, and the A’s will look towards rookie Bobby Crosby to replace him. Guys like Chavez, Hudson, Zito, Mulder, Hatteberg, Foulke and others will command more money when they become free agents than the A’s can afford. The team can only go back to the well for so long, eventually the farm system won’t be able to replace the guys who leave for big money on other teams. When that happens the A’s will fall back to the basement like they did between 1992-1999. Beane will eventually leave also, and who knows if his replacement will be able to keep the ship afloat? The fact is that if the A’s had the same resources as the Yankees they would have kept Giambi, and would be able to keep the nucleus of the team intact. But they can’t and they won’t, and so while teams with money like they Yanks and Braves continue to make the playoffs year after year, teams like the A’s, Twins, and Marlins will have short runs, and then fade away. At the same time teams like the Expos will be eliminated from playoff contention in early April.

Even if the A’s win the World Series this year it doesn’t prove anything. Baseball still needs better revenue sharing and a salary cap. Otherwise the haves will win year after year, while the have-nots make short runs and then fade away. It sucks that some part of me is hoping that my team loses in the short term, so that the game can be fixed for the long hall, but that’s how it goes. Fuck it! Go A’s!

Thursday, October 2, 2003

Rush Makes Waste By DMJ

Well, at least ESPN got their money's worth.

We're barely four weeks into the NFL season, and already the Disney-owned cable sports channel's investment in porcine windbag Rush Limbaugh is paying dividends in the form of free publicity--and lots of it.
Limbaugh's claim during the Sept. 28 broadcast of "Sunday NFL Countdown" that Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was overrated because of a shadowy conspiracy among the media to promote an African-American quarterback has already become fodder for sports-talk radio and unknown dozens of sports columnists nationwide.
Never mind that the same sports media he speaks of has savaged other black QBs like Kordell Stewart and Charlie Batch. (Breaking news--as I'm writing this and watching game 1 of the division series between Your Oakland Athletics and the Boston Red Sox, ESPN has just announced that Limbaugh has resigned from the show. But let's not let facts get in the way of a good rant, shall we?)

Never mind that Limbaugh was silent about similarly "overrated" quarterbacks like Brad Johnson (perhaps the greatest recipient ever in the Super Bowl Sweepstakes, thanks to a truly awe-inspiring Tampa Bay defense). Quite frankly, nothing Limbaugh said has surprised me at all. I've known for years that this obnoxious, braying jackass was also a racist, sexist, and pretty much the poster boy for closet xenophobes everywhere.
This is the man who said in 1994, "If you want to know what America used to be--and a lot of people wish it still were--then you listen to Strom Thurmond," referring to the thankfully-dead hatemonger who once ran for president on a platform of "segregation forever."

This is a man who said in 1990, "Have you ever noticed how all newspaper composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson?"

This is a man who told a radio caller, who said black people need to be heard, that "they are 12 percent of the population. Who the hell cares?"

So nobody, least of all the suits at Disney, should have been the least bit surprised when, left to his own devices, Limbaugh spewed ignorant invective all over the set Sunday. Let's go to (a transcript of) the videotape:

"I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. There is a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn't deserve. The defense carried this team."

I'll leave discussions of McNabb's relative worth to the aforementioned call-in hacks and "jake reporters," to borrow a phrase from Rich Gannon. The real outrage here is not that Rush said something so stupid and racist--hell, he's made a career out of saying, stupid, racist things, and judging by the radio ratings, there are a whole lot of people in this country who agree with him. No, my anger here is directed squarely at ESPN--a "sports" network so desperate for ratings growth that they recently aired a one-hour special about Anna Kournikova's swimsuit calendar shoot (I didn't watch--more than
once, anyway). If you tune in right now, you may catch shows like "Playmakers," "Around the Horn," or "Pardon the Interruption," which offer nothing except solid proof that no one at ESPN learned anything from the way MTV so destroyed its network with endless episodes of "Cribs" and "The Real World" (sorry, Malik) that they had to start a new network and advertise that it just played music videos--what a radical idea!

So ESPN hired a congenital liar like Limbaugh, a man whose experience with football pretty much starts and ends with the "knee injury" he claims to have sustained during a high school game and that kept him as far away from Vietnam as humanly possible. Proving that he can't even tell the truth about himself, Limbaugh later claimed that his 4-F status in the draft was because of a pilonidal cyst, which is basically a disgusting, hairy boil on his ass. (Sorry for sneaking in that horrifying mental image there.) They can't possibly make the argument that there weren't enough experienced football commentators available--outside of the usual cast of former players and coaches always clamoring for some of that TV money, the network had just fired former Green Bay Packer Sterling Sharpe, a thoughtful, insightful

They can't make the argument that they were "experimenting" with the idea of bringing in an outsider, an Everyman, to provide a fresh perspective on the game--their sister company ABC's experiment with Dennis Miller will go down as one of the most embarrassing moments in the storied history of Monday Night Football. To paraphrase a much better writer than myself, King Kaufman of, if I wanted to hear an uninformed idiot's perspective on the game, I can turn to either side of the couch and ask one of my friends.

So we are left with this--ESPN hired this one-man Klan precisely because they knew what a polarizing figure he is. They knew that his "dittoheads," so named because they parrot everything Limbaugh says without bothering to mentally process it, will tune in to see their man. They knew that football fans will continue to tune in, because, what, we're gonna go to church instead? Hell, they were probably banking that even people like me, who froth at the mouth at the mention of Limbaugh's name, would tune in, looking for more reasons to hate him (like I needed more).

Limbaugh's hiring was a crude, craven act by a company that (surprise, surprise) puts the scrambling, scrounging, desperate search for ratings and money above everything else. They gave a platform to a man they knew was a liar and a racist, and now they'll expect us to believe that they are shocked, that they feel terrible about what was said, and that they meant no offense to McNabb or the millions of African-Americans whose achievements are routinely dismissed by racist conservatives like Limbaugh as either the gifts of affirmative action or failures masked by a crusading liberal media.
They'll appear contrite in front of the cameras, telling us with glum faces what a disappointing affair this has been, and how Limbaugh's statements don't speak for ESPN, or Disney, and how much they value diversity. And then they'll go back behind closed doors and high-five each other when the ratings reports come in.