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THREE FOR BART: Class, Winning, Yelling

  1. What it was like to cover Derek Jeter – Maybe you’re sick of me pumping this guy’s story – Jeter that is. And maybe you can’t wholly empathize with me that his retirement – as well as Paul Konerko‘s who is from my home state and played for the most storied HS program in the State that my HS team may or may not have beaten 14-2 in the 2002 state Semi-Finals – is the end of an era. I really don’t see a changing of the guard. This was baseball’s last link to what it once was. When it swept me up. And maybe you, too. I’m about to enjoy the hell out of the baseball playoffs. October is great. But this Jeter stuff struck a chord and recounting the “class act” we all lauded him to be (gift baskets aside), well, it just adds to the legend. I wrote it somewhere once that sometimes greatness can be just showing up. Jeter always showed up.
  2. How to always win at rock, paper, scissors – Beyond being an interesting story, this highlighted for me different ways to approach competition or even a problem. You don’t just win one way. This reminded me of a previously #34b link about the More Than One Way to Skin the Efficiency Cat. So I beg you: Think critically. And at the same time I suggest you just go for it. Sometimes greatness is just showing up.
  3. When is it OK for a coach to yell? – Honestly, the article doesn’t really answer the question. Read to get your own takeaways but yelling I can tell you this: Yelling is something you can’t fake. The scariest ‘conversations’ I ever had with coaches were when they were quiet and deliberate. We usually had to run a lot after those ones. We had to run a lot after the loud ones but those sometimes felt more like, “This again? What’d we do now?”

Three For BART is a daily (or really close to that) drop of three thought provoking articles for your commute or day. Submissions for inclusion taken at: pachoops25@gmail.com

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This is how I fell out of love with baseball

You learn baseball from your dad and you smell leather and other romanticized odors like mowed grass and hot dogs. There’s the click-clack of cleats, the seventh inning stretch, and the Anthem. If you’ve never struck a guy out – looking — with an inside fastball, I recommend trying. Addictive. America’s pastime consumed me.

To pass time when we couldn’t play the pastime, my friends and I developed a basic name game. If a field, bats, and gloves weren’t available, we’d play the Name Game. I was dominant and here’s how that game worked: one person would begin by naming a ball player. The next person would have to cite a player whose first name began with the first letter of the previously named player’s surname. Example: Steve Finley (he of the seven-man 300/300 Club which I bet you wouldn’t guess) would beget Fernando Tatis (he of two grannies in one inning), would lead to Tom Gordon (you might be able to get away with Flash in certain company), prompting George Brett (that home run tho), and so on. If you couldn’t name a player you were eliminated. And if you could work in an Ugueth Urbina reference, you generally won. We would play this game on road trips or during batting practice. Boys celebrating the game we loved and I’m telling you, I was dominant. I was Pujols facing Lidge, Koufax’s final five seasons, the 2001 Mariners (regular season) and Bonds. I was Reggie Jackson in the fall. I was as good as The Kid was fun. I owned the Name Game title. I knew all of baseball.

I used this skill for general good. Primarily I’d say it was to inflate my ego in the face of adolescent awkwardness. If I stood no chance to impress girls, flaunting sports knowledge to teenage boys would have to do. Bus trips to games were my time to shine. This Name Game would commence and by the time we’d arrive at a rival institution, we were deep, dropping names of Pirates’ middle relievers (I see you, Scott Sauerbeck).

And how did I become dominant? By scouring the daily paper for who had thrown well or who got shelled. For who doubled, homered, or took the golden sombrero. Every morning the Sports Section was mine to absorb. I’d sit in adolescent silence, eating whatever food was put in front of me by my thoughtful and doting parents, and pillage the quantification of America’s game, data’s most perfect product, the box score. I’d lose myself – and track of when to leave for the bus – memorizing leader boards and second basemen flirting with the Mendoza Line. I consumed as much of the sport as I could.

Growing up we didn’t have cable television. This was a familial decision my father still pats himself on the back for and only ensured that my brother and I would become television fiends. On vacation we’d watch SportsCenter from 7am until the strong man competitions came on. At home we’d watch whatever network broadcast game there was on our 13-inch TV-VHS combo with rabbit ears that more accurately resembled a coat hanger. I’m convinced mom and dad never knew we got reception. Mom definitely had no idea. And no matter how bad that reception was, I could still hear Tim McCarver. We’ll call it formative. I bought the entire 2001 World Series on recorded VHS tapes off of eBay. I also went to games two and seven of that World Series, the latter of which remains the greatest sporting event I’ve ever live-witnessed.

And I played baseball, too. I loved it and then I got scared of the high school coach but everyone gets a little spooked at 14. I told a friend I didn’t think baseball should be a religion and joined the tennis team. I kept reading those box scores, though. And then the game brought me back. I exchanged forehands for fastballs and I was back on the diamond, my own name and numbers making it into box scores in the Sports section. I’d become a devout believer in the Church of Baseball and everything Crash Davis evangelized. Eventually I’d be offered scholarships and even once filled out something for the Mets. One time, in college, a scout recognized me in front of my teammates. I was awesome.

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All of which is to say that I loved baseball more than anything. And now I don’t.

We live in a world of immediacy and baseball is anything but immediate. I’ve grown past box scores and the daily scouring of the paper with the advent and convenience of smartphones, Twitter, and everything else. Hell, the newspaper died. All of this indubitably plays a part in an overarching loss of interest in baseball.

But if I loved the game, I’d make time for it.

Baseball lost me as it cannibalized. It looked deep into its dark corners, sifting through discarded syringes and played dumb to its dirty little secret. Baseball exposed itself as systemically flawed while maintaining an arrogance of historic infallibility. The game raised up in arms against itself and still asked us to love baseball. They served up our favorite representatives and asked us to hate them. All those players I’d won countless Name Games with were vilified.

Senator Mitchell got involved. He crafted up a list of People Who Cheat, mic dropped, and left us all to figure the next steps out. For me it was the beginning of the end as I watched my heroes turn into cowering or lying (both?) subpoenaed witnesses. It was like all those hours sneaking TV had been erased. Like 1998 was a bad dream and it didn’t matter that I was on my way to Hebrew school with mom listening to the radio when 62 snuck over the Busch stadium wall.

And maybe they were villains? Breaking the rules shouldn’t be celebrated. It should be punished. But at the expense of the sport itself? There’s an air of cynicism that now surrounds every success, every star making moment. Mike Trout is…Subway?

It made sense that offenders be found and punished, but what of root cause analysis? A beautiful game was still being played, my favorite game, and we got away from that. Celebrating the intermittent validations of presumed guilt across a game that cast a shadow over itself. And that’s my problem. Not needles or pills.

I don’t love baseball anymore because it hasn’t given me a reason to love it.

Terrence Mann once told us that “[baseball] reminds us of all that once was good and it could be again.” But what happens when baseball itself has rolled by like an army of steamrollers? When baseball has been erased like a blackboard and the very keepers of the game are the ones standing in a cloud of chalk?

photo posted on www.post-gazette.com

What happens is that I fall out of love. I don’t read the box scores and I don’t know Anthony Rendon from Anthony Buordain. And when I say ‘baseball’ I mean the collective. From commissioner Selig and his office; to the purveyors of prose refusing to put even perceived users into what now amounts to their Hall of Fame; to the players for their disturbing combination of arrogance and ignorance to the point of creating fake websites as cover up.

Baseball players, coaches, owners, writers, commissioners don’t owe me anything. I didn’t need anyone to fall on the sword. But they might’ve owed it to themselves to try. Alex Rodriguez may be a complete weirdo, A-Fraud, but he was suspended 211 games and never once failed a drug test. Nary a positive. Yet there was an all hands man hunt to bring down the face of the sport, a retroactive finger pointing and smear campaign that – if you read between the lines – perhaps only highlight’s the sports own arrogance and naivety. No one fell on the sword because they were too busy wielding it around, beheading everyone they could. Along the way they forgot about baseball. There’s nothing to celebrate in wrecking all that once was good.

It should, however, be noted that baseball has done a good job of implementing improved-if-not-quality drug detecting measures. For a change adverse sport, they’ve been on the cutting edge. Sure comprehensive nature of this program has been lauded by Selig — no stranger to self-congratulations — but it has no doubt improved. For example, there were 3,747 tests administered in 2010. In 2013, that number increased 44% with 5,391 blood and urine tests. Furthermore, and this is the real juice of the juice tests, there were ten fewer positive test results (18 vs. 8) between 2012 and 2013. I applaud what appears to be progress and root cause analysis. A view through the windshield, not the rearview mirror.

I don’t mean this as a long-winded referendum on steroids and baseball. It’s a known issue, a flawed game. But just as we’re a time crunched lot, we also love our heroes to have a few blemishes. A Phoenix has to rise from the ashes. Baseball can be messed up from the mound to Moneyball and we can be OK with it. All we need is a reason to cheer.

So give me a star.

Let Yasiel be Yasiel and Bryce be Bryce the way we let Manny be himself. Let Alex Rodriguez demonize his own legacy. Celebrate Mike Trout putting a bad two-strike changeup off the wall. Marvel at Clayton Kershaw. We’re getting emo? Fine. RE2PECT, he’s the remaining bastion of an adored era. Baseball’s stars have dimmed because it no longer allows itself to have them.

Do you realize how much more than synthetic testosterone it takes to save 84 consecutive games? You walk 232 times in a single season and the circumference of your bicep means little to me in comparison to your plate approach. It’s the single most difficult thing in sport – to hit a round ball with a round bat – you’re either good at it or you’re not. I’m not condoning steroid use but I also can’t condone ignoring amazing.

Because I can’t name their names anymore.

If we played the Name Game today, I wouldn’t stand a Kruk-versus-Randy’s chance. You’d kick my ass and I’d un-lamentingly hand the title over. Wouldn’t flinch. And maybe that’s supposed to make me sad, it is just a silly road trip game after all. If baseball is to have marked the time (still quoting you, Terrence Mann) then relenting this title, in some regards, is just recognizing change.

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Yet I find myself tuning in. It was important that I turn on Tuesday night’s Giants-Dodgers game and to know whether or not the Pirates won. I’ve found myself wanting to know how Kershaw’s season stacks up. I’m flabbergasted that today will be Derek Jeter’s first and only home game in which he is not in playoff contention. I find myself moved by the Jeter ads and articles and praise. Deserving or otherwise, he’s leaving. And I’m tuning in.

Because I’m finding that while I maybe don’t love baseball anymore, I do love what it represents for me. The TV in the back bedroom, any teammate I ever had, that time Sam threw the kid out at home, my dad throwing tennis balls at me so I could learn to catch like Charles Johnson.

Jeter isn’t baseball. He just represents the baseball I once loved, that worked hard to capture my attention. Baseball doesn’t do that anymore.

But it once did and I appreciate that.

So I still tune in.

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THREE FOR BART: DJ, Pedro, Stroke

Three For BART is a daily (or really close to that) drop of three thought provoking articles for your commute or day. Submissions for inclusion taken at: pachoops25@gmail.com

  1. I Still Want to Hate Derek Jeter but I Never Will – I wrote this three years ago and it still holds true. The DJ love doesn’t mean anything about Jeter or where he lives in the history of baseball. It’s where he lives in our histories. Baseball has changed. It’s different. The next article cites the dramatic changes the game has gone through in the last 15 years. And Derek Jeter was in the middle of all that change. Jeter isn’t just retiring from baseball. He’s forcing us to recognize that we’re going to have to recognize change. Sometimes change sucks.
  2. Dear Clayton; Love, Pedro – And this is why Grantland is fantastic. For the record, I think Kershaw is great. But as we’re recognizing bastions of the past – the retirement of Derek Jeter – then let’s recall Pedro’s relief appearance against that vaunted Cleveland lineup in 1999. He was relieving because he’d previously been injured and his team was on the ropes and then they weren’t because Pedro threw six hitless innings. Pure pitching guts. My favorite.
  3. I Had a Stroke at 33 - Completely unrelated to the aforementioned articles but this is both a haunting and uplifting first hand account of being unable to account things first hand.
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THREE FOR BART: Life, Lowry, Littles

Three For BART is a daily (or really close to that) drop of three thought provoking articles for your commute or day. Submissions for inclusion taken at: pachoops25@gmail.com

    1. 7 Strange Questions That Help You Find Your Life Purpose – This is a great exercise. What is your purpose? Mason basically encourages you to take shit less seriously. Just read the first question he asks. Which reminds me of what I’ll sometimes remind a friend – or myself – of when faced with a decision, “It’s just your life.” Because tomorrow is just an opportunity to tell yesterday’s story. Purpose? Sure, but I’m betting on you getting something right.
    2. You Can Count on Me – So the part I didn’t get to in the above blip was trust. How important is trust? To feel it – both given and received – is empowering. Read Kyle Lowry’s story and how the time’s he’s been trusted and the times he hasn’t trusted have affected his career. Good story.
    3. We all need a reason to smile – at least a little bit – about football. Sports are for fun. And while shit is getting real – very real – on the professional front, well, sometimes we’ve got to chuckle at a couple mom’s incapable of letting go of a sign:

 

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THREE FOR BART: Pressure, Greatness, Mary

Three For BART is a daily (or really close to that) drop of three thought provoking articles for your commute or day. Submissions for inclusion taken at: pachoops25@gmail.com

  1. The Paradox of Why Top Performers Fail Under Pressure – And this is exactly why I think, amongst all of the last second or end-of-game scenarios, the toughest one to accomplish is a putt. You’re hovered over the ball with a silent audience and nothing but your own thoughts. I can react to a fastball. I can run a route. I can cross a dribble over and take a shot I’ve taken thousands of times at game speed. I can handle a defense. But to deal with myself? As you might surmise, I’m not a very good golfer.
  2. This is Katie F—ing Ledecky: A Thesis About Kicking Ass – And this is exactly why I want LeBron to win everything and Tiger to be great a few more times and Roger to get at least another slam. Because I love greatness. Maybe it’s because we all want what we can’t have but when I’m on a patio with a grandchild on my lap I want to tell him or her about when I watched Michael Phelps, the greatest olympian that ever lived. I want to see all of the all time greats. Here’s to you, Katie.
  3. Wildcat unbeaten thanks to unlikely victory – And this is exactly why we love sports. Maybe you’re a Cal Bear. I’m a Wildcat. But we keep watching because it happens. Sometimes. Not always but those moments of inexplicable magic in the face of certain doom allows us to keep coming back. Pure and beautiful sports.
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THREE FOR BART: K, Efficiency, Captain

Three For BART is a daily (or really close to that) drop of three thought provoking articles for your commute or day. Submissions for inclusion taken at: pachoops25@gmail.com

    1. Krzyzewski responds to Team USA criticism – K SHOTS! I didn’t fully understand the K attacks in the initial article because 1) things didn’t really seem to be directed at him so much as at his empire, 2) USA basketball isn’t really all that interesting unless there’s Gold involved. FIBA doesn’t hold a candle to those NBC broadcasts. Anyhow, the takeaway here is success begets success. I want to play and work with winners. So do you. After all, that’s why you read PacHoops.
    2. More than one way to skin the efficiency catMy favorite take away was that we remain open to the conversation. I was long averse to advanced stats because the dialogue surrounding them was absolute, limiting to the conversation. Understanding the game beyond the box score has been a great asset to my fandom but it doesn’t make me or better, worse, or otherwise fan. It just helps me understand the game on a different level. It allows me to recognize the process of how my team wins or your team loses.
    3. It’s my hope that you’re as cool as The Captain this weekend –

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THREE FOR BART: Shoes, Sheed, Upshaw

Three For BART is a daily (or really close to that) drop of three thought provoking articles for your commute or day. Submissions for inclusion taken at: pachoops25@gmail.com

  1. Don’t hold your breath waiting for other shoe to drop - Earlier this week we saw the semi-overt-and-completely-legal-but-Woj-scolded recruiting practices of Coach K exposed. Well, not really exposed. He’s just doing him. This is a great perspective on shoe business, how it works, and how we want to but shouldn’t frown upon it. Business.
  2. Your annual reminder that Rasheed Wallace is a national treasure – I guaransheed you’ll enjoy this.
  3. 6-11 center Robert Upshaw looks on track to play UW basketball this season – Which is to say that it was in question. Now usually I’d want to expand upon this, probably give it it’s own post. But I’m smack in the middle of a big week with concerts and corporate events so it’s just not going to happen. Please recognize that UW has been size depleted the past few seasons so this improved track for Upshaw is big (pun) for the Huskies. He and the returning Jernard Jarreau will be crucial to improving the Huskies’ defense.
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THREE FOR BART: 538, Rookies, Peterson

Three For BART is a daily (or really close to that) drop of three thought provoking articles for your commute or day. Submissions for inclusion taken at: pachoops25@gmail.com

  1. 538 is six months old…where does it stand? – Silver’s website set out to do all of the things that we’re continually loving about sports and our understanding of them. Data journalism is growing and fascinating but it’s time consuming. In this article, some of my own fears of content production are addressed. That stuff is hard and it’s stuff you want to get right. And just because we have data doesn’t mean we explicitly understand the data. It takes time to interpret and businesses don’t always allow for time. PacHoops, fortunately ain’t much of a business.
  2. The Big Leagues – Misleading title. This one touches on how the NBA works to acclimate – both directly and indirectly – their annual crop of rookies. Good read just for insights into a good program. But it’s most overarching theme – unwritten but highlighted by the NFL’s turmoils – is the League’s efforts to empower and improve their players.
  3. Adrian Peterson, The NFL, And Whippings – I don’t have kids. I hope to someday and I don’t know how I’ll discipline them. I do know that I want them to call me Dadam. And I want them to become great people. I have no idea how that will happen. Hopefully I can help facilitate their greatness. This article is perspective on parenting and its byproducts.
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THREE FOR BART: Schedule, UCLA, Ski

Three For BART is a daily (or really close to that) drop of three thought provoking articles for your commute or day. Submissions for inclusion taken at: pachoops25@gmail.com

  1. UCLA Basketball Loses Two Players In The Last Week As Jon Octeu Denied Admission - This article neatly notes that the Bruins lost two players expected to contribute quite a bit this season. Depth is overrated but when you’ve only got nine scholarship players and none particularly proven at this level, depth has got to be a question that becomes asked. There really are only three guards on this roster right now in Powell, Hamilton, and Alford.
  2. Determined Askia Booker eager to Lead Buffs – You know I love Askia. I write about it regularly. And also love senior guards so this is Askia’s time to shine in my eyes. Seems he’s got the head on his shoulders to do so as he notes the things he does well and that will let him be successful. Did you know his best offensive season was his freshman year? Did you also know that in that season he took his highest percentage of shots at the rim? Coincidence? I think not.
  3. NBA needs to pull stars from USA Basketball, which is showcasing only Duke’s coach – I’m only going to quote a piece of this article because I think it’s teaser gold:

As much as ever, USA Basketball has been co-opted into a Krzyzewski leverage play for the Duke Blue Devils. If that doesn’t rile Kentucky’s John Calipari, wait until the Duke coach is credited for DeMarcus Cousins’ maturity with the Sacramento Kings this season.

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THREE FOR BART: Beer, 9/11, Schadenfreude

Three For BART is a daily (or really close to that) drop of three thought provoking articles for your commute or day. Submissions for inclusion taken at: pachoops25@gmail.com

  1. Colorado Now Selling Beer at Folsom Field – And it’s not because t he football team sucks (they kinda do). Rick George (AD) wrote a letter to everyone and announced this change which is unique within NCAA rules. At first glance/thought, it seems like a joke. They’re selling booze at the biggest party school’s bad football games. But read this about West Virginia’s experience with in-stadium booze. To summarize, crime dropped and revenue rose. Those are good things. Bravo Buffs.
  2. F-16 pilot was ready to give her life on September 11 – This one just speaks for itself.
  3. Maize Malaise: Michigan Mulls Another Year of Mediocrity Under Brady Hoke – If you hadn’t guessed, I’m a RichRod guy and so – I dunno – maybe a part of me shares in his schadenfreude. You might also know that my mom’s entire side of the family is from Columbus. I have a lot going on in this one.