Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Baseball's changed a little.

There's a guy on YouTube who puts whole vintage baseball games up. I'm not sure how he gets past the 10-minute limit, but he does. Also, I don't want to link directly to it, lest someone do a blind web search, find the link, alert Major League Baseball and have it shut down.

I'm currently finishing up a 1984 Cardinals-Cubs game, also known as "The Sandberg Game" for what the future Hall of Famer would do in the late and extra innings. (If you want to see it yourself, search 1984 cardinals cubs on the aforementioned video sharing site. You'll find it. You're welcome.) Things have changed a bit since then. Here's what jumped out at me.
  • Players back then were mostly regular-sized dudes. Hell, Ozzie Smith and Willie McGee look like little shrimps.
  • There was less time between pitches, for sure.
  • Closers were used much differently. The Cardinals' Bruce Sutter started the top of the 8th, batted for himself in the bottom of the 8th, and pitched the 9th. And the 10th.
  • Tommy Herr had glorious hair.
  • Darrell Porter didn't wear a helmet under his old-style catcher's mask. Just a cap turned backwards.
  • Not having constant on-screen graphics telling you the count, inning, pitch speed, your horoscope, the phase of the moon... y'know, whatever. Leave it off. Follow the damn game, jerks. Don't rely on the stupid graphics.
  • Holy shit the Cardinals ran all the time. Any of the reasonably fast Cardinals get on first, they're going. No questions asked. McGee, Andy Van Slyke, Ozzie, Lonnie Smith — bingo. Gone.
  • Holy shit Ozzie made fantastic plays. Range like crazy, accurate arm, threw on the fly.
  • Bob Costas, who was doing play-by-play, opined that on-base percentage was the most underrated statistic in the game. Maybe Billy Beane taped this game, watched it later, and developed Moneyball based on it.
  • Lots of guys used one or zero batting gloves. The way it should be.
  • There were a lot of Hall of Famers in this game: by my count there was Sandberg, Sutter and Ozzie Smith; Lee Smith, perpetually on the fringe, made it in there too (and picked up the win).
  • Sandberg really did have a hell of a game: 5-for-6, 2 HR, 7 RBI. Apparently in this game he became the only person ever to hit two home runs off Sutter in the same game.
  • Nobody uses Game-Winning RBI anymore, but I remember baseball cards pushing it in the '80s; they did on this broadcast too.
  • The Cardinals' powder-blue away uniforms were truly god-awful.
  • High stirrups should definitely come back.
  • Managers and players from the dugouts really screamed at the home-plate ump to disagree with ball-and-strike calls. These days, anyone says more than a peep, they get the ol' thumb.
  • It was great to hear Costas and colour-man Tony Kubek talk glowingly of Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker, both as 1-2 hitters and as a double-play combination. They should both be in the damn Hall already.
This was actually a really, really entertaining game to watch. If you've got three hours to spare, give it a whirl.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Major League.

It's becoming a yearly ritual.

Right around this time of the winter — if you can call this season winter, that is, with all the rain and above-freezing-ness going around — I get a little antsy. The Christmas season and its assorted festivities are over, spring is still a ways away, and Spring Training hasn't started yet.

What better time to throw Major League into the good old-fashioned Blu-Ray player and give it a whirl, then?

Some of the minor details are a bit off:
  • the stadium supposed to be in Cleveland was actually in Milwaukee
  • there's no way Spring Training starts on March 1
  • Lou Brown wouldn't be managing a single minor-league team for 30 years
  • I'm pretty sure Miss Fuel Injection would have a better body than Rene Russo... but it'd be close
  • if you tail a woman home from work and awkwardly walk into a dinner party hosted by her fiancé who hates you, you're probably just going to get the cops called on you*
  • major league baseball teams don't force their players to sleep in bunk-bed dorms
...and so on. But if you suspend a little bit of disbelief, it's a hell of a movie with a shit-ton of quotable moments.

The only quibble I have with it is the inclusion of the romantic subplot. Alright, Jake, we get it — you had the hots for a woman once, but you were a dick and she left and you "couldn't cut it in the Mexican League." But, yet again, a looooooooove story threatens to douse an otherwise hilarious movie with a bucket of piss-warm water. WHO CARES?! SHOW ME MORE OF PEDRO CERRANO WHIFFING ON CURVEBALLS! No wonder Kurt Vonnegut rarely put romance into his works of fiction.

At any rate, it's a great movie and you should watch it. Go Tigers!
* You're really going to want to take my word on this.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A lesson in South Scarberian, and a baseball signing.

1. A Lesson in South Scarberian

Today we continue our series studying the dialect of the English language spoken in southern Scarborough.

beef ting (bēf tiŋ) cf. "beef thing"
an ongoing issue arising from a past injustice, or "beef"
e.g. "Alice doesn't speak to Bob anymore. It's a beef ting."
e.g. (vernacular) "Alice don wan talk to Bob no more, 's a beef ting, yo."

Since my time with a lot of native South Scarberian-speakers is coming to an end — first semester ended today — these lessons may become somewhat more infrequent in the forseeable future.

2. A Baseball Signing

In case you've been under a rock for the past 24 hours, the Tigers signed this guy:

That's Prince Fielder. He's a very good hitter. He's pictured here sometime in the past few years, playing for the Milwaukee Brewers. Below is his dad in the 1990s:

And, why yes, astute reader, that's a Detroit Tigers uniform on Cecil.

The wrinkle, of course, is that Prince doesn't really talk to Cecil anymore. See, Cecil went and blew a lot of money on gambling and bad investments when his career was over, divorced Prince's mom, and... well, Prince hasn't spoken to his dad much in the past decade-ish. Apparently relations are thawing somewhat, but there's still a long way to go.

It's a huge deal, too: 9 years, $214 million.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Participatory satire.

I'm not sure if you've been following Stephen Colbert's political career lately, but it sure is interesting — and an amazing example of satire being put into action. Let me explain through a series of bullet-points.

The background:
  • election laws in the US got all fucked-up by a Supreme Court decision a couple of years ago
  • they essentially said that groups could raise unlimited funds to support a candidate
  • these groups are called "Super PACs" (Political Action Committees)
  • they can't "coordinate" with candidates in any way, but they can support candidates by doing things like running ads
Colbert steps in:
  • to lampoon the ludicrousness of this new law, Colbert forms a Super PAC of his own
  • informally it's called "Stephen Colbert Super PAC," but officially it's called "Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow"
  • he went in front of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and basically said, "Let me raise a lot of money, and later figure out what I'm going to do with it"
  • they rubber-stamped his Super PAC's approval
  • a series of crazy campaign anti-ads aired in Iowa before their caucuses a few weeks ago, putting down various GOP candidates
Now things get interesting:
  • Colbert decides he wants to run in the South Carolina primary, which is this weekend
  • he has to hand over his Super PAC to someone, so he picks Jon Stewart
  • they rename the group to The Definitely Not Coordinating With Stephen Colbert Super PAC
  • the Super PAC's lawyer used to be the chair of the FEC, so he knows the rules inside and out
  • Colbert and Stewart continually pull off crazy moves that seem like they should be illegal under campaign rules, but are actually perfectly legal
    e.g. Stewart hires all of Colbert's former Super PAC employees, Stewart tells Colbert what's going to be in the ads, the "new" Super PAC's lawyer is the same as the old one
The fun fine-print:
  • did I mention this lawyer, who is the DNCWSC Super PAC lawyer, is also Stephen Colbert's personal lawyer and longtime friend?
  • did I mention that Stewart and Colbert work for the same company and share business interests together?
  • did I mention that Stewart is one of the Colbert Report's executive producers?
  • did I mention that this is all legal under FEC rules?
Last night on the Daily Show, Colbert dropped by and chatted with — but did not coordinate with — Stewart, and they had their common lawyer on speakerphone the entire time they were goofing around. They told him to speak up if he heard anything illegal going on; they continually had to ask if he was still there or if he'd hung up, because even with Stewart telling Colbert what the Super PAC was going to do, right to his face, it wasn't illegal. At all.

This is absolutely brilliant satire. Actually, it goes beyond pure stand-on-the-sidelines-and-make-jokes satire: they're jumping right into the system and splashing around in it, precisely to show how ludicrous it is.

I'm reminded of the former Canadian political party, the Rhino Party, which actually fielded candidates in elections but had a formal set of policies that included ludicrous ideas. I'd wager to say that Colbert's dalliance is much more high-stakes, simply because of the huge amounts of money involved. (And, let's face it, Canada doesn't really matter that much in the grand scheme of things, but the US sure does.)

So, kudos to you, Dr. Colbert, and your Super PAC which you have absolutely nothing to do with.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Profanity on TV.

There was a really interesting interview on the PBS Newshour tonight with a person — a lawyer by trade, I believe — who is following a case making its way up the court system in the US: essentially, a couple of broadcast TV networks are suing the FCC because they got slapped with fines after people said profanity on a couple of live shows a few years ago. Their angle is a curious one: they say that the FCC's rule about indecency on the air is so vague it harms their First Amendment rights to express themselves.

I couldn't help but think about a show I saw last night on the CBC, in prime time, which happened to include the words "shit" or "bullshit" about a dozen times in a half-hour show. The show had a disclaimer at the start and when coming back from commercial, and they did bleep out f-words and their various permutations, but... wow.

Loosen up, America, and let a little profanity slide. It's perfectly alright to put movie scenes of incredible violence on TV, but "shit" has to go? C'mon.

Friday, January 06, 2012

My latest crush.

Look, I know you must think I have a thing for women-of-colour, based on my past (admitted) quasi-celebrity crushes I've listed on here. If memory serves, here's what we've got so far, in chronological order of crushery:

1. Oga Nwobosi, Weather Network reporter

The original and, dare I say, best. How can you top your first Basic Cable Crush? She set the bar pretty high: as high as that high-pressure ridge building over Manitoba, or something like that. Anyway, on we go to...

2. Sarika Sehgal, CBC Newsworld anchor

One day I was flipping idly through the channels, and... there she was. I assume her background is something Indian, or at least in that neighbourhood. But really, does that matter? Besides, if it's 25-below and the wind is howling, we all look the same in snowpants.

3. Sook-Yin Lee, musician/MuchMusic VJ/actor/CBC Radio host

I never had MuchMusic until I went to uni, but boy-howdy did I discover S-Y fast. Nowadays she hosts Definitely Not The Opera, and I am Definitely Smitten. (Have been for years.) She's a Facebook-friend of mine, so I expect her to propose marriage to me any day now. I'll keep you posted.

Fast-forward to tonight. Naturally, because I'm on holidays, I'm reverting to my natural night-owl hours, and I'm able to watch Conan O'Brien's show at its normal time. (Because I'm cheap and don't get The Comedy Network anymore, I wait until 1:05am when it's on CTV for free.) The monologue was funny, Conan promised to eventually air the Nog Hog sketch he cut (details here), Johnny Galecki told stories about his brother not remembering how old he was... and then...

4. Mindy Kaling, actor/writer/producer on The Office

I admit, I don't watch The Office much. Hell, I like the UK version better, and I don't think I've caught more than a couple of minutes of the US version in the past five years. I must've seen her on there maybe once or twice, and thought she was alright, but her character's annoying (by design). But, in person, she's whip-smart, funny (including being openly self-deprecating; pretty rare for a chick), urbane, and just all kinds of sexy. Hell, that picture above doesn't even do her justice. I don't even care that Mindy Kaling isn't even her real name. Hell, I don't even care that she's uh-MURR-i-cunn. She is just eighteen thousand different kinds of alright, man.

There we go, then. I live in the world's most multicultural city, so it'd stand to reason that my quasi-celebrity crushes would sample different cultures. (And don't even get me started on the MP for Scarborough―Rouge River.)

Sunday, January 01, 2012

A few resolutions.

In 2012 I resolve to...
  • Drink more.
  • Chase women more often.
  • Cook awesome food.
  • Bake more bread.
  • Spend less time at work.
  • See more baseball games.
...'cause ya gotta have goals.

But, being slightly more serious for a moment, I think the main thing I'm shooting for this year is to live more vibrantly. That can take on a bunch of different guises, some of which I've listed above.

A friend of mine asked me a couple of days ago how I'd rate 2011, and I gave it a B-plus. But then I started thinking back to 2007, my first full year back in Toronto after being in grad school, and... the years pretty much all run together. Don't get me wrong, there have definitely been important milestones along the way — but in the end I don't think I've changed a great deal since then (other than your standard growing older/wiser sort of deal).

Is this how life is? Do years blur together, indistinguishable from one another? I hope not. Then again, when we were all in uni, we couldn't picture making like Loverboy and "working for the weekend," but we all do, don't we?