Sam

Archive for November, 2010|Monthly archive page

Bowls, bowls, bowls and more bowls

In Uncategorized on November 27, 2010 at 11:46 am

I sat down to watch the Michigan – Ohio State game this morning. This used to be a great rivalry and was always one of the highlights of the college football season, often deciding, as it did ,the Big Ten representative in the Rose Bowl. Sadly The Michigan Ohio State game views like just another football game nowadays. There are several reasons for this, one obvious reason being the disarray of the Michigan program these last five years. Upon further reflection, however, I realize that there are just so many bowl games today that the traditional rivalry game is no longer judged on its own merits but rather on the implications the game has for the bowl picture. And that is why much of today’s broadcast was spent untangling all the bowl possibilities for Ohio State instead of focusing on the great rivalry Michigan and Ohio State have had over the years. But there are so many bowl games now that announcers can discuss the possibilities for hours. As they did today.

Where there used to be just five Bowl games, all played on New Year’s Day, there are now 35 Bowl games played over the course of a month – from mid December until mid January. On the broadcast today, the announcers mentioned two bowls, the “Fight Hunger Bowl” and the “Humanitarian Bowl” that I was so incredulous about, I had to look them up on the internet. Sure enough there they were – on the 2010 bowl schedule.

With so many bowl games, all but a few of dubious merit, college football has lost much of its spirit. Back in the day a team could have a good ,or even a great season ,and not get to a bowl but that was life and people lived with it. The regular college football season ended on time, shortly after Thanksgiving, and most people gave the game no more thought until New Year’s Day. On that day the Cotton Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl, The Rose Bowl, the Sugar Bowl and the Orange Bowl were played and that was it. The college football season was over. The next morning people got up, read about the games in the paper as they drank their Folgers, grabbed their brown paper bag lunches and headed out the door to work wistfully beginning to contemplate Spring Training.

Sadly, those days are no more.

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Thanksgiving Day 2010

In Uncategorized on November 25, 2010 at 1:28 pm

What has happened to Thanksgiving Day I ask myself.

I got up this morning and out of sheer habit turned on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. As a kid I used to enjoy watching this. There was just something so unpretentious about the parade, the home-made floats, the marching bands from Everytown USA, the casts from obscure Broadway musicals unknown outside of Times Square- all this against the backdrop of glamorous Fifth Avenue. Television back then was just a spectator, as were we all.

When I turned on the parade this morning, however, I heard Matt Lauer and Meredith Viera detail the list of performers that would be featured in this years parade, including, Kanye West, Gladys Knight and some other mega entertainers that I am fortunate not to be acquainted with. The parade has quite simply become a made-for TV entertainment extravaganza. No one cares anymore about the marching band from Des Moines, Iowa or the cast from a sparsely attended Broadway play, the spirit of the parade for as long as I can remember.

The parade also used to serve as warm-up act for the traditional football games played on Thanksgiving Day, featuring the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys. It is nice that these teams still play on Thanksgiving Day, although there is talk of dropping the Lions from the Turkey Day lineup because they are so awful. I hope the NFL does not do this. As bad as they are the Detroit Lions are synonymous with Thanksgiving Day.

For the last few years, the NFL has added a third game to its line up. This is a dangerous trend, but I must admit it is usually the most intriguing match-up of the day. However, only those who subscribe to the NFL network get to see it. On a National Holiday where we give thanks the NFL has decided to charge its fans to watch a game.

Nothing is sacred anymore. Not even Thanksgiving Day.

Ties are not so bad in retrospect

In Uncategorized on November 8, 2010 at 5:29 am

I am living in Japan now and I must admit that the one thing I miss most about America is College Football. The first thing I do when I get up on Sunday mornings here is to check the football scores back home ( Sunday morning here being Saturday evening in the US).I was surprised to see the Michigan-Illinois score from this past week 67-65 in three overtimes. The reason for this ridiculous score (which looks more like a college basketball score than a football score) is that teams pile up points in the overtime periods. Which brings me to the subject of overtime in college football.

First of all I should say that I never really liked ties in college football, especially in a big game. Remember the 1973 Michigan-Ohio State game when both teams came into the contest undefeated. Michigan was ranked 4th in the country and OSU # 1. The game ended in a 10-10 tie and to this day is considered one of the classic games in the annals of college sports. But no one was satisfied with the outcome back in 1973.  The controversy went on all winter as I remember. And I am sure in some bars in Ann Arbor and Columbus they still talk about it. 

Ties were unsatisfying, certainly, but we accepted the lesson of a tie: sportsmanship. Both teams could walk off the field feeling that they had battled hard and earned the respect of their opponent. The tie, then, seemed uniquely suited to college athletics. It reminds us of a time when athletes went to class, wore varsity sweaters and carried textbooks and when the only substance they abused was beer.

Contrast the spirit of the tie to the win-at-all costs mentality in college football nowadays. This has resulted in a hopelessly gimmicky overtime format where teams start on their opponent’s 25 yard line and at the very least can kick a field goal.  More often than not the final result is a score inflated beyond one’s imagination,  what we got on Saturday with Michigan and Illinois. 

Anyway, I must say I prefer the old days and the ties, unsatisfying as they were.

Meaningless statistics

In Uncategorized on November 2, 2010 at 4:11 pm

It being November, I told myself I was not going to write any more about baseball. In November people should turn their thoughts to football and Thanksgiving, and nothing else. I am The Sports Purist after all. But seeing as the Giants World Series celebration is not until tomorrow I will chime in on one more very irritating custom nowadays, namely the overuse of statistics during broadcasts.

Statistics, most of them quite meaningless, have come to dominate baseball broadcasts nowadays. Computers can do amazing things such as tell you what a player’s average is against a certain pitcher or in a particular ballpark. Unfortunately they can also tell you what a player’s average was on days when he ate a tuna sandwhich as opposed to roast beef. One statistic that we hear all the time now, for example, is that so and so  led the league in RBIs with runners in scoring position with two outs and two strikes . Do we really care about this kind of statistic ?  I think not, especially when we learn that so and so is a lifetime .248 hitter who promptly strikes out with the bases loaded – as if on cue.

Another case in point: yesterday following the Giants triumph. Chris Rose of FOX informed Edgar Renteria that he was one of only four players to have game winning hits in two separate World Series. As he named the three other players Rose hesitated before each name with all the studied drama of Bob Barker revealing what is behind Door # 1, Door # 2 and Door # 3.  Renteria appeared dumb with astonishment to learn that he was in the class of three legendary Hall of Famers.  Or maybe he simply didn’t understand what Rose was saying since his English is not that good. Who knows, but the mere fact, that Edgar Renteria is mentioned in the same breath as Lou Gehrig, Joe Dimaggio and Yogi Berra tells you what a meaningless statistic it was.

OK, that is enough baseball for the year.

World Series Celebrations, circa 2010

In Uncategorized on November 2, 2010 at 5:38 am

Well, the Giants won the World Series yesterday and so another baseball season comes to an end…in November.  Alas.

A San Francisco native who now lives in Tokyo, I was curious to read about the reaction of the city to this Championship. After all, this is the Giants first since moving to San Francisco since 1958. Judging from the accounts in the papers the celebrations were pretty tame; there were no riots, no vehicles were overturned or set on fire, there were no stabbings. This is San Francisco, after all and not Los Angeles.

Yet baseball celebrations are not what they used to be. Take 1962 for example, when the Giants defeated the Dodgers in game 3 of their playoff series to head to their first World Series since moving West. There were over 50,000 fans to greet the team at San Francisco International Airport as they arrived home from LA that night. The crowds spilled over onto the runway and not only the Giants charter but many other the flights had to be diverted. In fact, that used to be how fans would show their dedication – by going out to the airport sometimes in the middle of the night, in thousands, to greet the team as it returned home.  The broadcasters would even announce the flight details – numbers and times – so fans could plan their trip accordingly. It was incredibly exciting.  How different nowadays when fans opt instead to riot, loot and burn vehicles. 

But thankfully not in San Francisco this year.