Category Archives: Sports

Super Bowl in a super community

Last night was Super Bowl XLV. In the basement screening of the McEwen School of Communications, a group of nearly two dozen gathered to eat pizza, talk and watch the game on the big screen. This room coincidentally shares a wall with the temporary office of The Pendulum.

Super Bowl parties are about sharing a good time. For many, their cherished teams were out of the running long ago, so the interest in who actually wins is minimal. People choose sides for the sake of choosing sides, not for any personal convictions, save maybe the fans of those teams eliminated in the play-offs by the Steelers or Packers.

The Super Bowl is also about the commercials. People are quieter when the game broadcast pauses than when it’s actually on. The Super Bowl is also about the half-time show. And this year’s was no dissapointment.

But what struck me most about this year’s Super Bowl was the fact that behind some steel support beams and drywall, sat a few of the Pendulum staff, dilligently working to prepare pages for our weekly Monday-night production. The celebration of community I was attending was directly adjacent to one of the voices of the community, and the indisputable link between the two was striking.

It’s easy to forget who we represent in the world of journalism. But when we remember, it’s a wonderful feeling. Because the people cheering on players charging up and down the field are the same people affected by what we publish. And we owe them. We owe them big.

Even bigger than that man owes the gopher/woodchuck/beaver creature owes the guy in the Bridgestone tire commercial.

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Filed under Elon, Pendulum, Sports

Back in my day, things were (better/worse)

It turns out that things have actually been worse than you thought they were, after they were apparently slightly better than you remember at an earlier time. The Bureau of Economic Analysis (but her friends call her Bea) released revised economic figures, revealing that the recession wasn’t slightly worse than previously thought, nor was it just flat-out worse. It was more than twice as worse. The 0.8 percent drop in GDP between the fourth quarter of 2007 and the last three months of 2008 is now a 1.9 percent drop.

A jump from 0.8 percent to perhaps 1 percent would make sense. After all, certain factors may have been left out, and hindsight allows for a greater gathering and calculation of data. But a 1.9 percent contraction? Why bother sending out economic data so quickly if the figures are going to be completely wrong? The report also reveals that the 2001 recession was a bit better than previously thought, with growth between Q4 of 2000 and Q3 of 2001 clocking in at 0.1 percent, as opposed to the previously standing 0.2 percent drop.

Statistics are always easy to nurse. Let’s take baseball (c’mon, you knew the comparisson was coming) for example. Taking only batting average into account, the five best batters in history are…

1. Ty Cobb
2. Rogers Hornsby
3. Shoeless Joe Jackson
4. Ed Delahanty (who?)
5. Ted Williams.

Now let’s drain some statistics through some colanders, shall we? Taking into account the rigors of old age on bringing down a player’s batting average, let’s limit the figures to only the first 8,000 at-bats. Then, let’s adjust the numbers based upon the relative skill level of the players in comparison to their respective leagues and divisions, along with the quality of their competition (aka, comparing the figures to the yearly total averages of the league and readjusting as such). Then, let’s take into account the changing nature of the game and the role of the hitter (this is done via a study of deviations and other such statistical flotsam that goes a bit over my head). Finally, let’s adjust the rankings based on the ballparks these players batted in, because I’m pretty sure that on a good day, I could hit a ball into the outfield at Coors Field.

With all of that taken into consideration, the top five hitters of all time are…
1. Tony Gwynn
2. Rod Carew
3. Stan Musial
4. Ted Williams
5. Rogers Hornsby

(Many thanks to Paul Zweifel for the mathematical know-how on this)

Ty Cobb isn't pleased. Of course, he was scientifically proven to never be happy over the course of his life. Unless he had a Coca-Cola, which "refreshes me to such an extent that I can start the second game feeling as if I had not been exercising at all, in spite of my exertions in the first."

Ty Cobb isn't pleased. Of course, he was scientifically proven to never be happy over the course of his life. Unless he had a Coca-Cola, which "refreshes me to such an extent that I can start the second game feeling as if I had not been exercising at all, in spite of my exertions in the first."

Oh, would you look at that? Everything changed completely with a bit of statistical massaging. The long-coming point is that…nothing anyone says from a statistical standpoint matters. Polls fluctuate wildly from week to week, economic figures jump from loss to growth and careful evaluations of a man’s standing among his peers can be turned upside down and shaken about for their lunch money. If you see it, believe it. The recession isn’t over because Newsweek says it is, Obama isn’t unpopular because of a new poll that has his support fleeing, it’s because folks can’t get a job and people don’t agree with his policies. Don’t believe a guy has the flu because he’s absent from work, believe he’s ill because he’s coughing, sneezing and tells you, with a puffy face and beleaguered eyes, “I’ve got the flu, boss.”

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Filed under Business, Government, Math Fun, Morgan, Sports

Liveblogging the All-Star Game

To further integrate ourselves with technology (and qualify for the “cyborg” tax deduction) we’ll be having our very first liveblog set up tonight, in celebration of this year’s All-Star game. Now, I can’t guarantee that it’ll go on for the entire game, seeing as to how last year’s matchup lasted for about three decades, but give it a look at 8 p.m. by clicking on the link below.

All-Star Game, All Star Liveblogging

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Filed under Morgan, Sports, Technology, Uncategorized

Ignored on the Fourth of July

Yes, it’s old news that Sarah Palin is unpredictable and, in a move that some would liken to hopping onto a crazy train to Looneyville, will be resigning as governor and starting her run for the presidency in 2012 (well, that last part isn’t official…yet). But I have to giver her credit for the brilliance of her timing, tossing a bomb into the crowd right when the crowd scatters to distant lands. Everyone knows that if you’re going to do something stupid, or try and drag a skeleton out of your closet, down the steps and toss it into your neighbor’s yard, you do it before a big holiday weekend filled with food and shimmery things.

It worked on me. I spent the entire weekend doing everything that seemed right, I slept in, I relaxed with friends, watched some baseball games (though a single-A game might not be considered that by some) and was amused by the fireworks (except for those tiny ones that just make stupidly loud noises. Who enjoys that?). I didn’t man the blog, I didn’t sit on the computer and feverishly maintain the Twitter account. Cable news didn’t monotonously echo through my apartment. It was a nice isolation from the typical media barrage.

Note: Images are scaled in accordance with the amount that folks cared about them over the holiday.

Note: Images are scaled in accordance with the amount that folks cared about them over the holiday.

I suspect that the Palin situation played out similarly for folks nationwide. Oh, everyone heard about her resigning, but no one really cared. Family was visiting, burgers had to be cooked and all of that political nonsense had to be swept aside. And now that the long weekend is gone, it’s old news. No one wants to hear anything more about it. Political stories have very short lifespans. They’re fireworks, sent screaming into the air and they burst, sending awe through the crowd and belligerent hot air in every direction. But four days later, no one remembers the particulars, people describe fireworks shows in generalities, they’re “nice,” or “too loud.” No one dissects the particulars of the third rocket, no one wants to say much more about them and certainly, their shelf life is limited to the holiday. Set off a firework today and you’ll have old women hiding beneath their beds and overanxious cops peeking over your fence. Bring up Palin, and you’ll get a “Oh, that,” response.

There are two sides to the Palin story. One has her being chosen as a heartfelt maverick to bring some more spark into the life of a sellout maverick after enjoying the quiet of Alaska, and once thrust on the national stage, the media, vulture-like, preyed upon her personal troubles to a terrible degree. The other looks at this woman, and can’t understand how she was almost a skip and a hop from the Presidency, given her apparent lack of understanding of anything that had anything to do with governing (whether it be administrative or, if certain allegations are true, ethical).

I’ll shock the world and admit that I fall closer to the second camp, but I will say that demonizing her further is entirely counterproductive. If anything, while from a traditional standpoint Palin’s decision to hide her resignation beneath hot dogs and American flags was brilliant, it also deprives her of a chance to gamble for the devotion of her fanbase. The reason Palin has succeeded to the degree she has is not because of what she is, but because of what she isn’t. She isn’t a brilliant maker of policy. She isn’t a shrew tactician, she contributes little to ideological or philosophical discussions. She didn’t really accomplish anything during her runs through the Alaskan government. Instead, she does exactly what the average Joe would do if they decided to get into government, with their only experience being the student council in high school. She’s a normal person, with nothing truly spectacular under her belt (unless you count the fact that she’s a woman, but that’s a just reverse sexism, isn’t it?) and when the media jumps on her, for reasons legitimate or not, most folks can’t help but feel a bit of sympathy.

Had she taken the opportunity to play off of this sympathy, instead of quickly rushing through her announcement and then lobbing some idiotic spitballs at the media via Twitter and Facebook, I think she would have been in a much better situation than she’s in today, if only because it would have riled up her base, and besides, is there really anyone who’s still on the fence about Palin at this point?

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Filed under Culture wars, Government, Media, Morgan, Sports

Pay it backward

When anyone, rich or poor, pays for something, they expect their money’s worth. Plop down $5 for a sandwich, and the presumption is that that sandwich will be better than a sandwich that costs $1. Except there seem to be exceptions to this rule, many of which fall under the domain of entertainment. Movies all cost the same upon their release into theatres, it doesn’t matter if they’re Oscar bait or souless eye candy. On iTunes, everything, provided there isn’t a particular promotion going on, typically costs the same. The vast majority of video games cost between $50 and $60 upon their debut.

Sports, a form of entertainment wrapped in the guise of Herculean competition, or I should say baseball in particular, have come under fire for their budgets and ticket prices. While many teams are trying to make things easier for their fans (over half of the MLB is either cutting or freezing their tickets prices this year) it seems as though the Yankees, ever the target of criticism, have found themselves riddled with arrows once again.

Meanwhile, the Marlins, and their 11-1 record, continue in silence.

Meanwhile, the Marlins, and their 11-1 record, continue in silence.

Whenever anyone opens a $1.5 billion stadium, questions are going to rise as to whether or not any sort of expendeture for athletics is sensical in such an economic environment. But it’s the Yankees, they have an incredibly storied history, a loyal fanbase and one could argue their story is interwoven with that of America’s 20th century. To celebrate the stadium’s grand opening, there was the typical fanfare, the commemerative activities and the media swarm, but the real celebration occured during the off-season, with the multi-hundred million dollar aquisitions of free agents C.C. Sabathia, A.J Burnett and Mark Texiera. With that, and a bit of restructuring, the Yankees presented themselves to their fans as a brand-new, revigorated team that wouldn’t stumble its way out of the postseason like it did last year, and would end the lengthy World Series drought.

So far, the Yankees are 7-6 … not a bad record for the begining of the season, but nothing compared to the expectations put upon them, both from a diehard fan’s standpoint and from a ticket-holder’s point of view. The top seats at the new Yankee Stadium are now going for $375 dollars, with the lower top-tiers fluctuating in the $200’s, depending on whether or not the tickets are purchsed ahead of time.

While there are still nosebleed seats that can be obtained for less than $50, the fact remains that the Yankees are viewing themselves as a premium product, one laden with customer loyalty and the talent to support their lengthy history. But so far, the Yankees have been a mix of close calls (as evidenced by Posada’s “maybe it is, maybe it isn’t” game-clinching home run tonight) and abolute blowouts (a certain 22-4 affair comes to mind, and the opening series against the Orioles was at times equally ugly.)

There is an inherent joy in watching a baseball team you’re loyal to, and it many cases it doesn’t matter if they win or lose, just seeming them in action pays for itself. But there’s defintely more joy in watching a team win (as any loyal fan of losers as regular as the Orioles knows), and when a team plays ugly, gangly baseball while advertising itself as a piece of American brilliance, the high price of admission comes into question.

The Yanks are, at the moment, a Porsche without nice wheels, padding on the seats, a few dents here and there and a trunk filled with unsightly materials, going for a greater price as some less-illustrious, higher-quality models. Sure, there are going to be people who will buy the Porsche, warts and all, for the name. And they’ll be perfectly happy. But there will be plenty of others who will stray from putting down a large investment, or maybe they’ll just rent it for a day or two, never to return.

If the season is halfway through, and the Yankees are still toiling in mediocrity, plagued by a underachieving pitching staff, an implosive bullpen and streaky offense, will they still be able to justify the ridiculous price of a great many of their seats? It’s not just a problem for the Yankees, the Mets have the same concerns, though on a smaller scale. When the nation is tightening its belt, will customers be willing to put down massive amounts of cash for a 50/50 chance of seeing the home team win, and the outside chance that they’ll be blown out and embarassed, or will they just go home and for the same price, sign up for MLBTV and gain access to every single game of the season?

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Filed under Business, Morgan, Sports

Baseball and symbols

Today, while carefully splitting my time between the Pendulum and ESPN, I was excitedly sitting through Baseball Tonight’s analysis of the American League East. Buster Olney examined the Yankees spending spree, the depth of the Red Sox’s pitching staff, the immense talent of the Rays and the sudden downward spiral of the Blue Jay’s rotation. Then the Orioles came on and garnered around thirty seconds of completely negative coverage.

Immediately, I was mildly offended for absolutely no good reason. The Orioles will be a horrendous team this year, no amount of offense will make up for their two starting pitchers and lack of any middle relief whatsoever. They won’t make a run at the playoffs, and the most exciting element of their team, catcher Matt Wieters, is starting the season in AAA.

Yet there I was, the stereotypical guy miffed about his team receiving a snub. But if people are going to do anything consistently, they’ll attach themselves to symbols. Continue reading

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Filed under Government, Morgan, Religion, Sports

When baseball matters

Thanks Ichiro. Not only do you show our 'roid monkeys how baseball should be played, but you helped North Korea.

Thanks Ichiro. Not only do you show our 'roid monkeys how baseball should be played, but you help North Korea as well.

Usually baseball is a sport that has little international significance. Soccer/football leads entire nations to spill into the streets and ignite things in joy or despair, all of the Olympic sports have great bouts of nationalism attached to them every four years, but baseball always seems to be a highly isolated affair.

Until Japan beat South Korea 5-3 in the World Baseball Classic, on Monday that is. In a nail-biting 10 inning battle, international relations can elaborately and completely falsely be thrown amiss.

Right now, North Korea is loading their Taepodong rocket onto a launch pad, preparing for the launch of their “communications satellite” early next month, a launch that could very well be the most poorly-conceived missile test ever.

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Filed under International, Morgan, Sports