Look what they’ve done to my game

With apologies to Melanie (kids, ask your grandparents).

Several years ago, when I was sports editor at the New Jersey Jewish News, I came across an article, “Why I’m No Longer a Sports Fan.” The sport in question was soccer, but the sentiment has been gnawing at me for a long time. It read, in part:

In the greater scheme of things, in a game played by people I’ve never met, owned by people I don’t know, I have no vested interest in the outcome.  I’m not a gambler, so there was never even any money on the line!  The deepest it really ever got was my ability to brag to people the following day that my team won and their team lost.  What did that matter, when their win had nothing to do with me?  I wasn’t the coach, the trainer, or anyone else that contributed to the success of the team, so what was I really bragging about anyway?  Was it my ability to pick a winner?  Not that impressive considering the 50/50 odds!

I don’t have a favorite team in basketball, football, or hockey. I just like watching a good game. Or even a bad one. Usually, I find myself rooting for whoever is losing at the time. What does that mean, doctor?

But baseball has always been my sport, since the time I was in fourth grade. I used to swipe change from my mother’s purse to buy trading cards. One day, in fifth grade, having never actually played (I was a late bloomer because my father was from the “old country” and thought Americans’ obsession with baseball was a waste of time), my P.E. teacher stationed me at third base with a borrowed glove. In the very first play, the batter smashed a line drive right at me. Caught! And a love affair began. I couldn’t wait to get to the park and find a pick-up game. I was Charlie Brown, but with mad skills.

Roasted Peanuts: Sunday, April 11, 1954: I'm getting worried about Charlie  Brown

Up until about three years ago, I was playing in a 50-and-over league. My first year as an eligible for that institution, I was the number one pick in the league’s “draft” and had a fantastic season, in all humility, helping my team into the playoffs for the first time. Unfortunately, as I advanced through that decade, a combination of diminishing skills and younger additions led me to seek new opportunities with other teams in need of my services. I became a journeyman, playing for two more clubs in three seasons before calling it quits. It was an epiphany, like when I stopped eating meat: One day I was out in the field having a good time, the next day I was looking at the glove on my hand and asking, “What am I doing out here?”)

Getting back…

I don’t know when it happened. I don’t think the strike of ’94 — when a lot of fans threw in the towel, disgusted at how the players and owners were handling things — had anything to do with it. Somewhere along the way, I just lost the ardor. Could it be that some of these players were now young enough to be my grandchildren (theoretically, at least)? Could it be the way the game has changed, with players being shuttled in and out of the roster so frequently even a scorecard couldn’t help? Could it be the upper echelons of the sport doing whatever they could to ensure losing future generations? Don’t tell me your bottom line will suffer irreparable damage by scheduling a daytime World Series game.

That just can't be real.' National media reacts to Rays' Montreal idea

I wonder if the recent passing of Tom Seaver — coupled with the already damaged season thanks to the pandemic — has exacerbated these feelings?

Seaver transformed the Mets — my team — into winners. I can still recite their 25-man rosters, along with those of most teams from that era, but don’t ask me who the All-Star starting third baseman is for the Colorado Rockies (I just made that up). Or who won the Fall Classic three years ago. I was talking with a younger coworker about Seaver and we agreed that baseball is losing its place in American culture. When a Yogi Berra or Mickey Mantle or Joe DiMaggio died, it was front-page news across the country. All good wishes to Derek Jeter or Mike Trout, but I doubt when their time comes — not for many, many years, I hope — that it will receive the same coverage.

The updated rules necessitated by Covid-19 are supposed to make the game safer (seven-inning doubleheaders, NL using the DH), but even before that, the slew of new metrics were encroaching on my enjoyment. The defensive shifts and the recalcitrance of players to try to hit against it (“They pay me to hit home runs, not go the other way.”). The inability of pitchers to get through five innings. I might be the old man on the lawn, but this isn’t the baseball I grew up with and while some changes might have been for the better, I can’t think of any recent innovations that have done so.

Baseball in Empty Stadiums Is Weird. How Will It Affect Outcomes? - The New  York Times

I will still watch the games whenever I can, although my current job necessitates going to bed before 8 p.m. And I still get annoyed when the Mets do stupid stuff (some of these relief pitchers drive me nuts, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory). But increasingly, I find myself asking, “Why?”

A father’s pride, a father’s fear

Note: I began writing this when the protests were at their most heated. The sentiment remains the same.

My daughter (I’m withholding her name for privacy reasons) was a photography major in college. She interned with a major media company for her entire academic career and has been with them ever since.

She stills shoots, mostly concerts (remember those?), but she’s also done work in fashion and, of course my favorite, sports, including the NBA, NHL, college hoops, and the U.S. Open.

Although I enjoy all her work, the area that makes me most proud is her photojournalism. As a staffer on her school’s newspaper, she covered the Occupy Wall Street movement. Sadly, some shots from then could just as easily appear today.

I don’t brag on her much. Maybe my expectations have been high that she would always do well and do the right thing, as she has. And for that I am happy and, again, proud, although she would probably roll her eyes at me for saying that.

She lives in Manhattan now, fortunately working from home, not just socially distant, but pretty much totally isolated from family and friends. She does venture out — carefully — for some fresh air and has developed a strong social conscience that I had not seen before.

While this greatly pleases me, it also causes me concern. What parent wants their child to put herself in harm’s way, when even journalists who are plainly identifiable are attacked by the police or arrested without provocation?

But it is just people like these reporters to take great risks to bring us the news. Not “fake news,” as some would cry. These are no fabricated or photoshopped or edited videos. These are the real deals.

And I don’t mean to be (too) snarky, but what have conservative news organizations done with this? Have any of them been confronted? Are they reporting how their journalistic colleagues have been treated or are they in some way blaming the victims? They are either too busy placating their audience (audience of one?) or just don’t consider it part of their editorial mission. We have a president who says testing should be reduced because it’s making America — and by “America” he means him — look bad. And most of them just go along with the “just kidding” philosophy. That’s where you can say anything you want as long as you follow up with those words. Kind of like “with all due respect,” followed or preceded by an insult.

Be safe/stay safe, everyone. I would say I hope to chat with you again soon, but that would mean the worries continue. But since I don’t see the situations — any of them — improving in the near future, I guess I will chat with you again soon.

Musical Chairs Musings

Talk about rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Adding another chapter to this latest Captain Queeg movie, apparently Trump doesn’t want to be bothered by the proximity of CNN in the daily pressers.

According to an April 25 story in the Washington Post:

A White House official ordered a CNN reporter to give up her front-row seat and move to the back of the press room before President Trump’s briefing on Friday, in what appears to be another attempt by Trump to punish a network he calls “fake news.”

No doubt this came about because he didn’t like the nasty and disrespectful treatment he had received from CNN.

We all get that Trump is petty and vindictive, but “The reporter, CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins, refused to move, as did a second reporter whose seat in the rear of the room she was ordered to take. The official then suggested the matter would be resolved by the Secret Service, though no action was taken, according to several people involved in the episode.”

The Secret Service? What were they going to do, wrestle Collins to the ground? Forcibly remove her? I know they are supposed to protect the president, but from members of the media simply doing their job?

Kudos to Chris Johnson from the Washington Blade, which covers the LGBT beat in D.C., for not taking advantage of the situation by accepting the switch.

And, of course, “[t]he White House declined to comment on why it sought the change.”

Again from the Post story:

The run-in occurred after Trump dismissed a question from another reporter about North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s health, saying it was based on an “incorrect” report from CNN earlier in the week. As Collins tried to ask a follow-up question, Trump interrupted her.

“No, that’s enough,” he said, adding, “The problem is, you don’t write the truth.” Collins continued to press, but Trump replied, “No, not CNN. I told you, CNN is fake news. Don’t talk to me.”

It’s interesting to see how the Right covered this, claiming that the reporter was “rude” for “interrupting.” Have they never seen one of these things? Reporters are always shouting over each other to get called on.

It’s also worth noting that this wasn’t the first time Collins had been in hot water with Trump. Back in 2018, she was banned for asking “inappropriate” questions.

Like the elephant that is the symbol of the Republican Party, Trump never forgets a slight.

Analyze this?

I read The New York Times and Washington Post pretty much on a daily basis. Maybe a little less so since I’ve been confined to the house because I’m tired of 24/7 coverage of this bloody pandemic.

But it’s impossible to avoid the latest ridiculousness.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock — which almost seems like a reasonable option these days — you know what Trump said about a new method of combating the virus:

Those are the actual words that came out of his mouth! There’s audio and video proof! It was witnessed by the media! Millions of people heard or saw it!

Yet his people still deny it happened. Or if not outright deny it, downplay it, as per this analysis piece in yesterday’s Post:

“President Trump has repeatedly said that Americans should consult with medical doctors regarding coronavirus treatment, a point that he emphasized again during yesterday’s briefing,” said White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.

“Leave it to the media to irresponsibly take President Trump out of context and run with negative headlines,” Ms. McEnany said.

“Out of context?”

I wonder what context she’s talking about? If the president of the United States of America suggests shooting up with disinfectant, is there another way to interpret that?

It reminds me of a scene in The Patriot in which the leader of the continental militia meets with the general of the British forces to discuss a prisoner exchange and the discussion turns to “acceptable hostilities” (skip to the 2:40 mark).

So what is an acceptable amount of bizarro “suggestions” from the leader of the free world before you fall back on the “out of context” trope?

Which leads to the topic of today’s rant: analyzing what Trump says and the rush to do damage control that inevitably follows.

Both the Times and Post — as well as many other print and online publications — frequently run such pieces which more often than not follows the forumla:

  • Trump Lies
  • Trump’s spokespeople defend the lies and/or
  • say they were taken out of context and/or
  • accuse the media of making a big deal out of nothing and/or
  • categorize the media as stupid because they obviously have no sense of humor and can’t tell when the president is obviously making a joke or being sarcastic.

I find the last bullet point particularly interesting, for lack of a better word. This seems to be a common fall-back position when faced with some idiotic statement or claim. Remember “alternative facts?”

Back to yesterday’s Post:

Except now, Trump has weighed in, too. And his explanation doesn’t at all match McEnany’s.

Rather than argue he didn’t say it or that it was taken out of context, Trump granted that he had said it but said he was just being sarcastic. He claimed he was trying to goad the media.

“I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters like you just to see what would happen,” Trump said.

Sarcasm. Right. Got it.

“To see what would happen?” What did he think would happen? That the media woiuld say, “Now that sounds like a great idea? What a genius!”

(Actually, I’m guessing that there are some outlets leaning in that direction. From an Associated Press story: “President Donald Trump’s suggestion that doctors look into injecting disinfectant as a potential coronavirus treatment went unchallenged on Fox News Channel until the morning after he made it.” And this coming from a “news” network that mocked CNN anchors who are suffering from Covid-19.)

Leave it to Trump to perpetuate attacks over petty grievances at a time when the world is going to hell in a handbasket.

Ultimately, what I’m (finally) trying to get at is: do we really need to analyze this crazy BS? Far be it from this ex-journalist to keep writers from writing, but parsing Trump — who seems to lose touch with reality more and more with each passing day — strikes me as a waste of time. At this point into his presidency, I think the lies are a given and need no further explanation. None of this is going to change the mind of anyone on either side of the political divide. I don’t think any Trump supporter is suddenly going to wake up and have an epiphany that, “Hey, this is a bad dude!”

There have been suggestions that the media refrain from airing the daily campaign speeches press briefings. In less dire times, they might provide a good chuckle. But with thousands dead, unemployment increasing on a daily basis, and perhaps thousands more thinking about ingesting disinfectant because their president mentioned it, there’s not much to laugh about.

Well, maybe this…

Time enough at last

Fans of the original Twilight Zone will recall the episode in which a timid banker, played by the great Burgess Meredith, wants nothing more than to spend his time reading great literature.

He happens to be having lunch in the vault when an apparent nuclear holocaust wipes out humanity, at least those in his immediate vicinity. Rather than despair, the clerk gathers piles of books from a nearby library and gleefully prepares to enjoy himself. But this being the Twilight Zone… (You can watch a condensed version of the episode here.)

Time Enought At Last

Today was my “liberation day,” having been quarantined for the past two weeks. I became ill in late March, apparently not enough to warrant a test, but sufficiently so to be excused from my position as an “essential worker” for the duration. Now I begin another two weeks of unpaid leave. I have taken this measure because my wife is an organ recipient and is thereby considered a member of an “at-risk” group. In addition, her 95-year-old mother, who lives own her own nearby, recently fell and broke her shoulder, necessitating expensive health care at home. Unfortunately, given my situation, my wife has been unable to see or tend to her mom, who is relatively healthy although she does feel isolated, understandably.

I am writing now because even though I have not posted for several months, I see via Facebook that I have been getting an inordinate amount of attention, which strikes me as both odd and gratifying. Goodness knows there has been enough to comment about, mostly on the ridiculous press conferences held daily by the president, during which time he rambles and raves; complains about the lack of gratitude from multiple sources; continues to lie and mislead; continues to claim powers he does not have; continues to “threaten” to implement his foolish plans, eventually retracting such plans in the face of overwhelming common sense (why can’t he just shut up and spare us the agita?); and continue to receive support from his know-nothing puppets on FOX and other right-wing wingnuts.

Of late, we have these images of some of Trump’s base protesting the stay-at-home orders. God dammit, they’ve been kept out of the bars and off the beaches long enough! What’s frightening to me is that these people seem loaded for bear.

Operation Gridlock': Convoy in Michigan's capital protests stay-at ...

What on earth do they need to bring guns along? To show they can? Are they worried for their safety? Or are they trying to provoke. Of course, you don’t wish anyone harm, but a part of me would love to see one of them get off a shot by accident, just to see what would happen. And would Trump and his minions claim these poor people, who were simply exercising their constitutional rights of assembly, were the victims of any reprisals?

As a former journalist, however, my main concern lies with the way the president responds to any questions that put him on defense, “nasty” being the mot du jour of late, and often aimed at the female reporters in the group. How often have we seen late night talk show hosts like Seth Myers, Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, Bill Mahr, et al, discussing Trump’s attacks on the “fake news” media?

Meanwhile, FOX and other right-leaning outlets is giving air time to geniuses like Kellyanne Conway, who thinks there have been 18 iterations of the virus before Covid-19, so the World Health Organization should have had ample time to figure things out and thereby justifying cutting off their funding. Evidently, she is ignorant (no kidding) of the fact (Facts? Don’t bother me with facts!) that the “19” refers to the year it was named, not the number of previous versions. But then, this is someone who criticized Obama for the Bowling Green Massacre.

Do the kids still say “OMG?”

As long as he continues to surround himself with yes-men and -women like this, who continually praise him at every sentence at the presser, there’s a lot to be worried about.

While I was in exile — quite comfortable in my basement office, I must say and much better off than a lot of people, I imagine — I rarely watched the news or read a paper, figuring it would be detrimental to my mental healing. Looks like that was the smart move. But now that I’ve been freed, (semi), I’m determined not to fall back into bad habits. The time will be spent, like Mr. Bemus, reading and writing. Thank you for your continued support and keep on fighting the good fight.

Third Way Magazine - Icon of the month: KCCO

Sports Un-Illustrated

What’s left for my generation of sports magazine readers?

I’ll tell you what’s not left.

No more ESPN the Magazine.

I was a charter subscriber back when it first came out in 1998. It was promoted as a hipster alternative to the venerable Sports Illustrated (born 1954, so even older than me). There were more in-depth features. Of course, it kind of had to be that way given it was published bi-weekly (that is, once every two weeks as opposed to twice a week; funny that it has the same meaning).

To be objective, they did develop a lot of fun ideas over the years. Entire issues were devoted to a single topic allowed a real deep-dive into the topic de deux-semaines: music, movies, “one day, one game,” and, of course, “The Body Issue,” which, coincidentally or not, was the final published version.

ESPN MAGAZINE OCTOBER 2019 - THE BODY ISSUE 2019 - KELLEY O'HARA - BRAND NEW

Of course, ESPN wants you to believe this is a good thing, obviously catering to younger readers/visitors/subscribers, whatever the terminology is these days. Now they can concentrate wholly on their online content. What this means to the people who actually worked on the magazine is unclear at the moment. According to an April 30 article in The New York Times, there were no “immediate” plans for layoffs. Uh-huh. To be honest, I didn’t even notice that much when they changed their format to a monthly. Meh.

So how long can we rely on Sports Illustrated to carry the ball? Four years ago, they fired their entire photography staff, choosing to go the freelance route. They also seem to be in trouble. Perhaps the only thing that has kept them in the conversation for the past few years has been the swimsuit issues which regularly drew condemnation from religious and conservative outlets, as well as feminists who objected to the objectivism of women.

From a recent Deadspin article:

Now that Sports Illustrated’s three owners, Meredith Corp., Authentic Brands Group, and TheMaven, have completed the callous layoff of half of Sports Illustrated’s newsroom and finalized a deal that gives control of the publication to TheMaven, a wannabe tech company helmed by notorious scumbags Ross Levinsohn and James Heckman, the future of Sports Illustrated is coming into focus. It’s not pretty.

Image result for sports illustrated premiere issue

It’s not pretty for any weekly news magazine these days. Why wait that long to get your news Jones on when you can look at your phone (assuming younger folks are even interested in the news)?

I’m not going to wax nostalgic about SI. Suffice it to say I enjoyed it for the most part, primarily during baseball season. I have most of the season preview issues but not going back any where near enough; will have to work on that.

I just hope ESPN doesn’t keep charging me the automatic annual subscription fee.

Damn you, CNN!

Every day, I tell myself I am not going to watch CNN. I am not going to read the paper. I am not going to listen to the news. Just gonna listen to my pop culture podcasts and read my baseball books.

Well, that didn’t last long.

God forbid I should miss the latest scandal involving the president or one of his minions.

Image result for chart of crimes by trump

I wonder if there are grounds for a class action suit against Trump for inflicting grievous harm on a majority of this country for all the agita he and the GOP have foisted upon us for the last few years? Rather than enjoying life, we have to worry about how he and his retinue have been trying to profit at the expense of so many issues a great number of us have long thought of as given: clean air and water; finding common ground with our international allies on climate change; peaceful relations with those foreign allies; freedom from worry about white supremacists; and the respect we have lost around the world; among other things, including a general sense of “malice toward none and charity for all.”

Now you’ll excuse me, I need a nap. Maybe when I wake up this long national nightmare will be over.

Trust

One of my Jewish New Year’s resolutions is to cut back on social media. My job allows me waaaay too many daytime hours to hang out on Facebook — and watch CNN — to follow our favorite “Orange Train Wreck” and his goofy gang.

Image result for scooby doo, trump colleagues

The Facebook posts about Trump come from a number of sources and one thing everyone — supporters and opponents — has to pay attention to: the dateline of the item they’re sharing. Oh, here’s another headline about Hillary’s e-mails. And another how how Trump’s family is guilt of ethics violations. All well and good, but sometimes the stories are months, if not years, old. It doesn’t help your cause if a) you don’t pay attention to what you’re posting or b) you do it in bad faith on purpose; the only people who will believe you are those who are already in the bag for your POV. I’ve come across some really loony things, but then, Trumpers would say the same thing.

Which leads me to the topic of this post: trust.

You have to have a lot of trust in your source. Liberals feel that CNN and MSNBC and The New York Times are 100 percent correct, while Trump supporters/conservatives believe in FOX and similar print and TV outlets are right (oops, no hidden meaning intended). I can tune in to a CNN show an immediately identify the Trump supporter. Am I generalizing, when I pick out any glassy-eyed, overly-loud humorless, white male (almost always a white male with a couple of notable exceptions) as a supporter? Perhaps.

I don’t watch FOX enough to know if they do the same thing: find someone on the left who looks and sounds a bit off kilter to bolster their own views.

Image result for trump apologists on CNN
Image result for trump apologists on CNN
Image result for trump apologists on CNN
Image result for trump apologists on CNN, paris dennard
Image result for trump apologists on CNN, jason miller

In watching the latest cock-up about the whistleblower, you have a lot of “liberal media” asking Republicans if/how they can really get behind their leader, pointing to “the evidence” in the transcript. It’s all in the interpretation. Republicans say there was no quid pro quo while Democrats argue the threat doesn’t have be explicit to get the point across. The transcript has Trump saying he wanted Zelensky to do him a “favor,” meaning, according to people who can, you know, read the rest, that he wanted Ukraine to investigate Biden’s son in “return” for financial aid, even though previous attempts refuted claims of corruption.

That’s if the Republicans are even answering the questions put to them at all. How many times have the shows’ hosts asked a simply yes/no question without getting a yes/no answer? Of course, you actually have to have read the transcript to make a half-informed decision (::cough:: Kevin McCarthy).

This whole Late Night segment is great, but if you’re in a hurry, you can skip to about the 3:50 mark.

Just a couple of asides:

  • God bless Chris Wallace, who brings at least a tiny bit of journalist integrity to the rest of FOX’s “fair and balanced” crew.
  • Does Rep. Jordan think he’s a “man of the people” because he eschews a jacket?

I trust my sources, just as Trumpets trust theirs. I just hope I’m right (as they do).

You say ‘poe-tay-toe’ and I say ‘poe-tah-toe’

I really have to stop this for the sake of my sanity.

When I get home from work, usually before 1 p.m., I invariably turn on CNN. And the news is almost never good.

I was off today, so I had a lot more time to torture myself.

Trump came on today after for one of his rambling, incoherent (to this “snowflake”) rants, starting off with how great and beautiful things were at the UN (even though he ditched the climate change meeting after a token appearance). He even rattled off an attendance list of the countries with which the U.S. enjoys great, thanks to him.

After a round of self-congratulations, he finally got around to denying the latest problems, echoing the “witch hunt” and the “no collusion” of the past.

CNN panelists pointed out his low energy, and how quick he would be to point this out in someone else. The rambling, the non-sequitors, all troubling. At the end he said he would take one final question…about the economy. And what the hell was Steven Mnuchin’s purpose in being there? More praise for the goodness of Trump?

For shits and giggles, I turned to FOX to see how they were covering the event and what they were focusing on. Sure enough, their people were 100 percent behind their peerless leader, accusing Democrats of what they were accusing the president. I know you are but what am I? During this particular program — and I can’t say if this is indicative of all FOX programs — their panelists were talking directly to the audience, expressing sentiments like “We’re looking out for you,” usually in loud voices. That’s another difference I find: CNN and MSNBC talk in measured tones while FOX people frequently seem to be angry and almost yelling. Not that that doesn’t happen on CNN, but that’s usually reserved for when GOP apologists are trying to play defense.

Of course, all of this is my perception. Glass half empty. Trump’s faithful might think the same of CNN shows.

It would be great to find an independent mediator to judge once and for all who’s right.

Extraterrestrials, if you’re reading this, please step in.