Thursday, December 23, 2010

My Return to Baseball

As I look at the end of 2010 staring at me, I've already heard people mention resolutions for 2011. I've always tried to think of things that I would like to do differently in my life, but let's face it, change can be difficult at times. I know for many, the thought of another year provides impetus to modify behavior because it's a new beginning. When I was actually going to a gym regularly, I used to hate January with a passion. The gym became overrun with resolution workout people who decided to try and get fit, and they'd last about three weeks. By February, most of them had faded into the blissful pattern of routine and not think anything more about it.
I'm not talking superior here either, because change for me has been incredibly difficult. I've had things in my life fairly set for a long time, and then within 5 years, I meet my wife, move out to east Portland, adopt a pack of cats, change my name, and learn how to live closely with another person. There are days when I'm totally on top of things and my energy and resolve are top flight, while there's other days that I'm just distracted by whatever shiny object or situation is in my sight line. Real change is tough, because it involves being aware of what you are doing and seriously making effort to do something different. Experts say it takes up to 60 days to adopt new habits and not lose the routine, but I think it takes longer than that for some people. Patterns just get built in and sometimes we act without thinking about it.
But I'm doing what I can to break some of the cycles in that respect because it does matter. I don't want to sleepwalk through life and suddenly realize I'm in my later years and suddenly realize there's things I want to do but might not be able to. During this process, however, I've discovered that there are certain activities that I used to do that I miss and so I'm trying to rekindle them. One of those things I want to resurrect is my love for baseball.
The past few years, soccer has become a passion mostly from my activities of following the Timbers. I've maintained an interest in basketball, but when faced with a budget question, there was no contest in choosing Timbers season tickets over Trail Blazers tickets. Now that I have other responsibilities relating to the Timbers, the choice is even more direct. I have started to watch Denver Bronco games again after many years of skipping out on football, but I think that was more related to how frustrating the team has become recently. They've had bouts of success and I was happy about them winning two Super Bowls after years of futility, but it's become painful to watch their ineptitude lately. But I am a fan of theirs mostly because of my grandmother's influence and watching their games regularly during my youth. You always remember your first team that you adopted as yours, and the Broncos were that for me.
The TrailBlazers became a love of proximity of living here, but it was helped by them qualifying for the NBA Finals the first year I moved here. This town loves their NBA, and while I have some issues with the game atmosphere at the Rose Garden personally, it doesn't change how much love there is here. The NBA experience is all about a constant barrage of distractions to keep fans focused, and every element of the game is controlled within the arena. While it can be loud, it's also not very spontaneous or original. Granted, the NBA has a collection of great talent and the game itself can be fun to watch, but I've grown to prefer the TV angles recently. However, for what the experience is, the Trail Blazers do entertain fans well for what it is.
Baseball has been a love of mine for a long time, but I haven't exactly adopted a team to worship beyond others. I followed the Dodgers in my youth because they were on the one Saturday game most of the time, and there was a player from Idaho on the team (Mike Garman). As I got older, the Mariners got more attention from being local, and of any major league park, I've seen more games there that anywhere. The Kingdome was a massive sterile barn, but boy could it be loud, while Safeco has great seats all over the place even if the team currently is really awful. I've seen games at the Metrodome, AT&T Park and Coors Field, and each stadium has their assets - AT&T is as beautiful as you might expect from seeing it on TV, Coors Field has cheap beer and decent food, and the Metrodome has the odd quirk of the hefty bag. Ok, the Twins don't play there anymore, but watching the pinball game in the outfield there was often as entertaining as anything else.
But really my experience with baseball has been more minor league, as I followed the old Spokane Indians when I was there for college and then went to at least 10 games a year when the Portland Beavers were here. There was nothing like the experience of spending your afternoon watching good talent play without the pressure of a game clock. The atmosphere was decidedly slow and deliberate, and after spending time at Timbers matches with the frenetic pace and chants, it was a great chance of pace.  Unfortunately, the Beavers games became more about the cheap beer and the constant stream of changes made it rather difficult to follow the club. The old days of the Beavers in the early 90's was the standard of consistency, as you always knew Chip Hale would be somewhere in the infield.
As I became more integrated with soccer, baseball lost some luster for me. Whether it was more fascination of the soccer experience of two hour matches, the lack of player constants, or the fact that PGE Park really became less and less fun for baseball, I just drifted away. When you have a limited amount of time and money, there are choices to be made and I chose soccer. But now, I am missing baseball and now want to fill a void by adopting a club again. I've got the Trail Blazers, Timbers, Broncos, West Ham and Sunderland, but now I want to follow a club religiously. Which is why I'm asking for help and input in the decision.
I understand what it's like to be a fan, and honestly, I don't necessarily need a baseball team that resides close to here, but I want to pick one that I can adopt for the long haul and be a fan though the good and bad. I do have a few things that will weigh into my decision process, and while it would be nice to say the reasons are logical, the one thing I know about being a sports fan is that a love of a team often isn't logical. You believe in teams that often don't have the talent or ownership to compete year in and out, but none of that matters because the love knows no boundary. In your heart, you believe your team is better than anyone else even if the other side has bigger names, more money or healthier players.
It would be hard for me to adopt a polarizing club, so the Yankees would be a hard sell. I admire their confidence year in and out, but I believe they buy their wins and I take pleasure in seeing them lose, much like a certain purple and gold NBA club.  The bandwagon clubs would also be difficult to adopt, and while I have lots of friends that love the Red Sox, I don't think I could really adopt them with the history of their curse and then two World Series wins. They seem to have fans all over, yet many of them don't know the history or struggle to get to that point, and so joining the bandwagon now could be viewed as jumping on board late.
I have a huge dislike of two of the teams that play in the Emerald City, and so with the Mariners being close distance wise and me witness to many of their great moments, I don't think I could adopt them. Like I said, being a fan doesn't mean being rational. My wife loves the Giants, and while that might make it easy to have both of us follow them, I don't have an allegiance to them. It was great to see a cast of characters that didn't seem to be the best strike out and win a WS even though all the experts said it wouldn't happen. That's why they play the games, and there's something to respect there. But joining the fans now might also be bandwagon, and at least for her, she followed the Giants during the Candlestick days when Bonds wasn't a freak of nature.
I don't even care so much that the team have a chance to win every year, but it would be nice to have that opportunity. At least Cub and Brewer fans have some recent pennant runs to give their fans hope, but Royal fans need to look back to the 1980's to remember their last success. The Royals now seem to be happy being competitive most nights, but barely threaten the top clubs, and while that might be interesting to some, I'm more interested in the possibility of actually winning a pennant now or then. Television makes it easier to follow a team, but the team I pick I'd like to be able to go to a game every now and then.
My hope is that I can learn more about how people choose their clubs and why they follow who they do, and this might help me find the baseball club of my choice. Each of the clubs I follow now have a history or story that really makes loving them easy to understand (Broncos for my family, Timbers for friends and wife, TrailBlazers for players, West Ham for former players and Upton Park experience, and Sunderland for great fans), but I don't have that for baseball. This whole experience might end up not producing a result either, but at least it's got me thinking about my past and how big of history I have with baseball. And yes, there's a part of me that misses it, and I'd like to open the door again but I just need the team to follow. I know my friend Obi did something similar with his experience in EPL a few years ago, and fell in love with Hull City, so there's precedence here.
So I welcome any thoughts or ideas, and I'll announce the pick soon. I hope each of you has a very Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Joyous Crimbo, Excellent Kwanzaa, Special Hanukkah or just a special time of year no matter what you celebrate.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I Support Today Being Over

It's not that I'm essentially tired of talking about issues that are affecting our local, state and country governments, but I'm really glad that today is the end of the campaign season. While some news outlets are calling this year's campaign relatively low key and reasonably cordial, I guess I've just reached the overload point and just want it to be done.
I supported vote by mail because it allows someone like me to actually do research and learn more about the candidates and issues on my own time, and for that, I love the flexibility offered by this. While I'm old enough to remember having to go to the polling locations to vote a few years back, I've adjusted to now having this opportunity to exercise the democratic process in my own way. I've even taken to reading the voter's guide that is published each election to get an idea of where people stand on the issues, because it's one of the few places you can actually hear from the candidate that doesn't seem to be influenced or edited.
I understand that politics is serious business now, and as such, they are run as efficient propaganda machines trying to maximize exposure and information as quickly and seamlessly as possible. It's a tough business in the information age to try and get people's attention to talk about stimulating topics like budget reform and job creation, so many outfits use the tactics of pointing out the flaws of the other side. It's far easier to point out why the other guy or girl can't do the job than highlight the things that me, mr. candidate, could actually put out there. And when you have 30 second sound bites to draw attention, nothing works quicker than taking a comment out of context and warping it to fit the right need. I'm so tired of hearing "My name is so and so, and I approve this ad" because everything just sounds the same now.
Outside of a few candidates that mean well, I haven't really heard anyone talking about real issues or real solutions, but rather how inept or clueless the other side is about things. And everyone is talking about saving Social Security from the bad guys or creating jobs, but there isn't much more specific than we need more jobs and investment bankers are bad. I consider myself a rather intelligent person by nature, and I can usually tune out the catcalls, but this year has been especially horrible in my opinion.
Then again, with the political machine working overdrive, even the most innocent or forthright comments can be easily skewed by skilled tacticians who can cast doubt on just about anything. I can understand some folks being hesitant on speaking out on things in fear of their words coming back to bite them, but then again, saying nothing doesn't help voters make any choices. I mean, really, are we voting on a turd sandwich or giant douche here?
I get that most folks running genuinely mean well and are just trying to make a difference in their own way, whether it's helping others, sharing their talents, or the sense of satisfaction at accomplishing something. But that simple fact doesn't change the fact that our process right now rewards bland sound bites and massive amounts of money targeted at things more than actually talking about the facts. I wish it wasn't that simple, but that's the reality of things.
But me not voting just means that the influences win, and I'd rather take the time to actually muddle through the mess in my own way and try to make the best decision that sit idly by and not cast a vote. I may find the distaste of advertisements ingratiating, but sitting on the sidelines to me is more of a problem. I don't necessarily care which side of the issues you all are on, but it's important to cast a vote to make sure your voice is heard. And tomorrow, we can go back to the somewhat more normalcy of our lives.
And congrats to the Giants for winning the World Series last night. Incredibly epic series, and if the pundits had their way, they would have given the Rangers the trophy before things got started. That's why you play the games, and the Giants had everything go their way all series. Well, and their ball park is pretty impressive as well. Hey, at least the Yankees didn't win, and with that, I approve this message on the grounds that they suck.

Friday, October 15, 2010

My Random Friday Thoughts - 10/15/2010

I don't know when our roads became such a bustling bit of activity, but driving around now requires much more diligence that I think most people realize.  Granted, I lived in Portland for many years before owning a car, and I'm at best an average driver that is improving.  In the years of commuting to my office, I've seen drivers do everything else in addition to driving including putting on makeup, eating, talking on the phone, and other assorted social activities.  It's simply driving while distracted, which in itself is a bad enough thing, but add in that pedestrians and bicyclists that are more aggressive in dealing with traffic.  Last night while driving home from dinner, I could count at least 20 pedestrians jaywalking between the Hawthorne District and casa Row N.  I realize that we are all in a hurry at most points, but at the same point, I'm surprised there aren't more accidents with all this activity going on.  Let's just say that I'm prone now to give myself a bit more time to drive to wherever I need to in order to give myself time to get there in case of distraction…


My tirades against radio here in Portland continue, but let's just say I'm far happier now that I own a functioning MP3 player.  I've gained some appreciation for music that I haven't listen to in a while, plus there's a wonderful new station at 910 AM that plays only Northwest music.  Ok, the feed gets pre-empted when the sports radio station wants to cover a live event and not cancel their regular programming which is lame, but I'd rather have a station that is doing something unique rather than the bland and inoffensive list of offerings that Portland radio offers right now.  You know it's bad when even the ads for most station are pretty much the same…


I haven't talked much about my personal journey for myself lately, but let's just say that lately I've learned for a guy, I'm a really good communicator but for the female set, my skills border between inept and clueless.  I'm a verbose person by nature, which does add a huge degree of difficulty in conversation, but imagine talking with people where words matter quite a bit.  I have never realized how clunky my speech can be until I really thought about it, and thought about recent conference calls I've been on.  Well, that and a conversation I had with my wife a few nights ago about our bowling location.  I knew what I was trying to say, but I couldn't get my brain in gear to use the right words, but in my brain, I had the picture of exactly the right concept.  But if you had listened to my description, you'd probably think I write technical manuals for electronics equipment for a living.  And if you've ever actually sat down to read one of those, you can understand what I'm talking about…


Election Day is coming soon, and I'm already tired of it all and I haven't even seen my ballot yet.  Frankly, I long for days when candidates actually stood up and talked about their beliefs and what they really wanted to do, and now, politics is nothing but a war of sound bites and fractured statements.  I can't blame candidates for being careful about things, because we live in a fragmented society with involved citizens that often don't agree on the priorities that an entity should follow.  It doesn't help when you have collective interests that love to play on those divides and make them either more apparent or try and bring things together, but for those people that choose to run, you have my complete admiration even if I don't vote for you.  I can't imagine putting people that I care about through the rollercoaster ride that is a campaign for any reason, even if the cause is noble.  Personally, I live some of the things that England does for elections over there – limited campaign time, voting in person.  While I do like the vote by mail concept that gives me the time to actually research the issues, I could do without the almost non-stop ad barrage that American politics puts in place before an election.  I'm some candidate person, and I approve a change in the process…


It's tough to imagine the changes that the Timbers will be going through over the next few months as they move up from USL to MLS.  I've grown to appreciate this club quite a bit since my first game in 2001, and I can't believe that 10 years later, we will be joining the top level of American soccer.  To put all of the memories over that time would take far more time that could be committed here or in my other blog home, but in trying to boil things down to the key points, I think I can safely say the following: (1) I'm proud to be Timbers Army, even if I don't completely agree with the antics of some, (2) July 2, 2005 was the date my life changed during a Timbers match, and I will never forget that (I might misspeak the date, but the feelings are real), (3) Being Timbers Army, I never cease to be amazed at what a group can accomplish if they simply put their mind to things, (4) Loving a team also means watching them and supporting them when they break your heart, (5) If you've never experienced frustration, anger, resentment or some other severe emotional reaction in supporting your club, I'm not sure you can call yourself a real fan, (6) I love living in Portland even if there are things that I dislike immensely about it.  To love a place, you accept the good with the bad, and right now, the good things about the Rose City far outweigh the stupidity and pretentiousness that I see in certain aspects, and finally (7) Pets help make anything better, even helping deal with a tough Timbers loss.


Until next time….

Friday, October 8, 2010

What is wrong with the world of sports? Probably not as much as you think.

There's always been a debate about athletes and their obligation to be figures of admiration to their fans. Athletes sometimes crumble at the paralyzing expectations of being a hero or having their mistakes beamed to all parts of the world all the time, but at the same time, some of them also thrive at being the center of attention. I've always heard that marketing types say no publicity is bad regardless of how it's obtained, and there's plenty of people that put that theory to test every day. Get famous by eating a plate of bugs or some other disgusting task? Yup, there's a group in society that will do whatever to obtain attention and they have no shame. And with some athletes obsessed about endorsement deals, their future after sports, and their Q factor, it's no wonder that some of them go to any length to keep their names in the news cycle.
What becomes of this obsessive cycle of attention is trying to stay one step ahead of the impending doom with any tools necessary. Get caught in a compromising situation, turn it into a war of semantics about whatever it was the accusation is because it's probably their word versus the famous person. Some athletes have gotten more attention for their exploits outside their field of play from the famous affairs or landslide of allegations of trouble, and so they turn to the land of spin doctors to try and play the word game. Seriously, debating the meaning of what "is" means is one of the stupidest tactics I could think of to deflect attention, but at the same time, it only matters if it really works. I'm curious to see whether this tainted meat excuse in cycling actually works for disproving a positive drug test.
I used to admire plenty of professional athletes for their performances and think what it might be like to do the same thing on the field of play. I don't know of anyone that hasn't thought of the same thing at a point, because I can't imagine a more powerful feeling than completing a task well in front of millions and instantly becoming recognized for something. And with this comes the hero worship for being able to throw a ball better, kick it farther, run faster, tackle better, whatever the skill is. 
None of the really personal stuff matters to some that hero worship. The athlete could be a complete jerk to his family and friends, cheating on his or her marriage or going through significant substance problems, but if he or she leads their team to victory or they win some prestigious award, there's some that will love them no matter what. It must be nice to have such deep worship for something or someone else to be able to look past faults or the humanity of another person to simply put them as a hero above all else, but that's how some of this works.
Why do you think that some disgraced heroes still try and remain in the limelight? The golfer with numerous affairs who shall remain nameless still has thousand of fans who love him because he can hit a golf ball better than most of us. It doesn't matter to them that he's effectively destroyed his family, caused damage to the emotional psyche of those closest to him, and may not completely understand the complete scope of his actions, but there's still those that worship him.
That's the odd part of following sports, because in some cases, it's hard to explain why we gravitate towards certain players as the source of our attention. I followed Steve Garvey for many years as a kid, because he was a wonderful baseball player and I always wanted to play first base in baseball. It didn't matter that I wasn't all that talented on the ball field, I just gravitated towards him because I admired his ability to hit a baseball. As I grew up, I learned more about his character and some of the transgressions of his later career. If I had thought about it long and hard, I might have chosen a different player to follow, but I hit middle school and my attention focused on other sports.
Kids change their minds about what they want to be when they grow up all the time, and as such, the focus of their hero worship modifies itself over time as their interests change. It's a reality of life, and when it's time to talk to my kids about heroes, I'm prepared to be honest with them about public figures. It's OK to admire people for what they can do on a sports field or on a stage, and it's even great if that inspires you to want to try to emulate the same craft.
But at the same time, those people aren't any different than anybody else, even with their superior talents. While they can sometimes do amazing things on the field, they still have the same frailties as we all do. They cry, they bleed, they feel pain, they deal with the same emotions we all do, and real heroes not only rise above the challenges to accomplish what they do, but they admit when they can't handle something and ask for help from others. Nobody is an island, despite what we all might think, and it's the work of many that allows some to get some individual glory. It's great to have heroes in athletics, too, but at the same point, there are many that work in other professions that deserve attention for their efforts. It starts with a simple thank you and making sure to help others when they help you. That's what being a real hero is all about.

Friday, September 24, 2010

random thoughts - Friday September 24

You can tell when fall hits around Portland because the sports radio talks turns incessantly to football and Trail Blazers. Because my sports interests are a bit more expanded, nothing frustrates me more than having a big sports news day with lots of interesting topics about, and sports radio is obsessed with what the Trail Blazers might do because one of their key guys has a hang nail. I understand that this town loves the NBA, but the obsessiveness in which they love their team gets rather old...
I wouldn't need to listen to sports radio so much, but I can't trust the wasteland that is Portland radio. Every time I'm encouraged about some wonderful development in radio, it does nothing but frustrate me even more. 910 AM was finally switched to a feed of 94.7 two, a radio station that is strictly Northwest bands, and it's almost completely commercial free. It's a wonderful alternative to the crapfest that is most everything else, but because the two somewhat local guys need their afternoon show every day, the baseball team from up north has their broadcasts moved to 910 AM at points. I like baseball, but even I'm not enough of a fan to want to listen to the mess up north. I'd rather watch a team that can actually play baseball...
I'm tired of the so called baseball fans trying to throw the leadership in Portland under the bus because baseball is leaving Portland because the multi purpose stadium is being turned into a soccer/football facility. This town has a wonderful collection of baseball fans, but until you have a sustained group of Portland Beavers baseball fans, there's absolutely no way baseball will come back to town. Most baseball fans in this city think we should try to get MLB here, ignoring the fact that there's no available owner wanting to come here much less a city that has the money to help pay for a stadium. We couldn't find $30 million dollars and a site for triple AAA baseball, but by all means, MLB should come here. I get that many of the fans love the team they grew up following or will drive to MLB parks near Portland to see games when they want, but until the group of baseball fans cares about the product that is here in town or cares enough about the local team to show up regularly, baseball isn't coming back here anytime soon...
Oh, wait, it's that song by the Killers that they played into the ground a few years ago. Wait, it's not them? I seriously can't tell because most of the "modern bands" playing on the radio sound so much alike that it's hard to tell the difference. Hey, it's time for some sponsored bit that we'll end up talking about the sponsor for all this time as a commercial for some product or service we can't live without instead of playing music that people want to listen to. Yeah, I can see why people have abandoned terrestrial radio for Ipods, MP3s, and other music devices. If I had to truly depend on regular radio to know what was going on music, I'd think the Killers were the best band ever...
Oregon State plays in Boise this weekend, and it's unusual for me to see all this fuss simply because I grew up there and still have family that live there. When I lived there, Boise was this rather largish town in Idaho that really wanted to draw attention to what a wonderful place it was. And the university was trying to do anything to get attention to the fact that it's a rather big and nice college. Well, flash forward 20 plus years, and the Broncos are on the big stage. It's a great story to see a Cinderella finally get some attention, but in order to make the big jump, you have to play well with the target squarely focused on you. Sometimes, it's harder to play when you are expected to win, but it seems like the Broncos might just have gotten past that. And the biggest city in Idaho continues to grow past its rather sleepy roots from back into the 1980s into a place that is actually drawing people and businesses because there's something going on...
I'm currently finishing up fantasy baseball while fantasy football and soccer have just gotten rolling. I know, some people hate fantasy sports because some people talk incessantly about their teams and what players they have. But I'm not that guy, and really, I play fantasy sports for two big reasons: learning more about the game and players while having fun with friends. I'm not foolishly thinking that any expertise that I show in fantasy sports suddenly means I'm a candidate for running a real franchise because fantasy operates in a vacuum. Fantasy sport managers don't have to worry about media distractions, contract disputes, or the other dangers of running a team, it's all down to performance and player status. Well, and being able to rib your friends that picked the injured guy early in their drafts because they forgot to do research...

Friday, September 17, 2010

random thoughts - Friday September 17

I've been trying to write more at this blog, but it always seems like it's forgotten about when I have lots of things to do and not enough time to get everything done. As I've heard from many writers, the process of determining when writing happens is often outside the author's control. You write when the inspiration hits, but sometimes you have to help things by scheduling some time.

So my goal is to now write each Friday for as long or as short as possible, talking about whatever strikes me in sports. While this might put some of the creative juices on overdrive, I am finding that if I wait for the inspiration it's often lost before I get the time to put something down. Granted, I can still write whenever I want when the mood strikes, but putting it on the schedule might just help things out. So without further delay, here we go.

..Portland is most certainly a football town even though we don't have a major team in town. High school football rules the roost on Friday nights, as every news station in town devotes lots of time covering the game, while Saturdays the college game rules all throughout town. If we simply wanted to pick a city that should have NFL based upon fans, Portland would be right up there. I have to admit my love of the game has been rekindled a bit lately as I can now watch a game or two on Sundays after spending many years of my single life watching lots of football all the time. Sometimes you have to step back from something to gain appreciation for it...

...The biggest news in the NFL is the conduct of the New York Jets in relation to a female reporter that came to interview a player. Apparently, the old boys network struck when the reporter showed up in what looked like club ware, and men behaved like men in trying to protect their clubhouse from the icky girls. The discussion after the fact has been centered upon which person or group was more at fault, and really that part is straight forward. While NFL players need to treat the media respectfully no matter who they are, its important that the media act, dress and behave professionally as well. What bothers me most about this situation is that it reminds me of how celebrity is gained in our day. People used to be famous for something they did, but now celebrity is such an important accomplishment for some, many don't care what they have to do to gain it. It just reinforces the idea that attention in any form is worth the cost, and I don't like to admit that's where we are heading. But then again, just spend some time watching reality television, and that just tells you what people will do for their fifteen minutes of fame…

I finally watched Idiocracy a few weekends ago, the forgotten Mike Judge movie that much like Office Space went into theatres and didn't stay very long. However, the movie has gained some traction in viewing on basic cable, and the premise of the film is something that really stuck with me. The premise of the movie is an exceptionally average guy ends up being cryogenically frozen and wakes up 500 years in the future, and ends up being the smartest man on the planet as our society has fallen upon hard times. The world 500 years from now has become a cultural wasteland, as intelligence has been replaced by the opposite. I wished I could say that we aren't moving closer to this reality, but maybe this movie is prophetic…

I'm already tired of Trail Blazers talk as the season hasn't even started. I'm sure the expectations are huge as we have a wonderful collection of players, but until this team can learn to play together and stay healthy, I can't see them doing anything more than just being a competitive team. And if that was the only thing this group accomplished by just making sure that the core of that bunch stayed healthy and could play games, I think you could call the upcoming season a huge success regardless of the result…

Will West Ham score a point this season? I don't know, but it certainly seems like the soccer gods are upset with this bunch for some reason. But being a West Ham fan is like following the Trail Blazers or the old Denver Broncos team before they won Super Bowls. They could be the best team around, but there would always be something to cause them to crash to the earth, and whatever it was, it would be spectacularly awesome….

We'll see you all next Friday.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I Miss The Good Old Days

I was talking to some of my friends at work about sports in general, as we were talking about the weekend's events, things happening in MLS, the upcoming NBA season, and all things, when he suddenly said, "What will we do next year when both football and basketball go on strike and there's no sports to watch?"
I have to admit I hadn't necessarily thought about that, but then again, it's something that sports fans suddenly must think about because every major sport has suffered from some type of recent labor trouble. Back when I was younger, the biggest concerns about sports was trying to find information about your team in a pre-Internet world and when cable wasn't exactly a big player in things. You didn't have much in the way of labor issues or problems, it was simply more about playing games. Then suddenly, lots of money and influence came into play in sports over the past few decades, and now you have two groups of extremely rich people arguing over how to divide massive piles of income.
I can refer to owners and players as rich because they will both make far more money that I'll see in my lifetime. Part of my issues with the whole situation is my mindset when it comes to economics. I don't have a problem with people making what the market will pay for things, but then again, it seems like sports themselves cost more and more just simply to keep up. Ticket prices keep going up, salaries are moving up, and it seems like there's no ceiling to how much money can be thrown about when it comes to sports. I also realize that for most sports careers, you only have a limited shelf life to make money and have a career. I can work for the company I do for nearly 50 years if I'm lucky enough and make a comfortable living, but at the same point, I won't be shown the door at 38 years old because I've lost a step either.
Sports has become less about the game itself and more about the business side because of the massive costs and salaries, and that's probably why I get so frustrated of talk about labor issues. Instead of working together to find a way to work on things, players and owners end up arguing over millions of dollars simply because they can. If they end up striking or owners lock them out, the fans are the ones that miss out the most, yet there's really nothing that protects fans from that particular reality. Both sides operate under the assumption that fans will return despite any labor issues, and for the most part, they've been right about that.
The NFL played with replacement players and now have a situation where the owners by and large dominate the league setup. Owners can terminate a contract for most any reason, and now want to add two more regular season games, but claim they are losing money just trying to keep up. The players are trying to hold to some resolve in the issue, but at this point, it doesn't sound good for averting a strike. The NBA has the opposite problem as the players have guaranteed contracts and really get paid regardless if they play or not, and owners are looking for more cost certainty.
It's just hard to sit here and watch them fight over pools of money without regard to who might get hurt within the process. The haves seem to be looking out for themselves, which I can respect to a point, but pardon me if I'm not in a huge hurry to run back and regain my fandom if you all decide the league can shut down for a bit. Look at how well that worked out for the NHL, who really has never been the same since their massively long strike. Hockey used to have some relevancy within the sports landscape, and now they're simply fighting to get noticed outside of their hardcore audience. If you want to fight over the money, that's fine, but don't expect me to come crawling back if it happens. To both sides, I say, look out for yourself but remember that not playing games doesn't help anyone. And if the question I'm asked actually comes to fruition, I'll answer it by simply saying, "I've got better things to do."

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Listening to the Blame Game

I've already watched baseball leave the city twice, so pardon me if I'm not that saddened by what transpired yesterday at PGE Park. I believe that it's only a matter of time before it returns, simply because this city is too big and some ownership group will figure out a way to get a stadium built in the city. I'm not basing that on anything more that intuition, because at the rate things are going right now, I can't imagine anybody wanting to build a stadium here after the process that has brought us to this point. Instead of showing vision, courage and the ability to learn from mistakes, most of the parties involved are wanting to throw someone under the bus.
Granted, it's how things work now in politics. If something happens, it's not because the situation didn't just work out, it's that a group needs to be blamed for things. And if you can find a way to pin more blame towards one group than another, well, then that group is the problem. While there is certainly blame in baseball leaving town, I don't think you can just point to one subset and say it's all their fault because I think everyone has a hand in what happens here.
The city council and the mayor had a wonderful plan to keep baseball in town by putting the park at the Memorial Coliseum, but they lost their nerve when the Trail Blazers and some architects raised concerns about the old barn. Instead of holding to the plan and coming up with a way to make it work, they turned their attention to stadium plans in Lents and Beaverton, only to be rebuffed twice. They lost the resolve after the first of the year, and suddenly there wasn't any ideas about where to put a stadium. If there had been more resolve from the baseball fans contacting these people to say how important baseball is, I'm sure you might have heard more about possible sites, but instead, it seemed like most citizens were resolved to the fact that baseball was leaving.
Soccer fans aren't to blame for this mess, because they simply wanted the best possible situation for their team and that is in Major League Soccer. And the costs of revamping the current stadium for soccer is much less than it would be to build a new soccer stadium elsewhere to keep baseball there. Soccer fans are also talking with their wallets, purchasing over 8,000 season tickets for the MLS team next year and putting over 10,000 fans in the seats for each home game. Comparing that to less than 150 season tickets for baseball and an average attendance about 3,000, I can't blame any businessman who wouldn't put their money into soccer if they had a choice.
I can't blame the Beavers and Timbers ownership because they put together some good plans to get a stadium for both teams, only to see the soccer effort take off and the baseball plan flounder. It must say something to an organization when every time there was a public setting for stadium issues, there were plenty of Timbers Army folks there to lend their support in person or by letter. Soccer fans have put their money, time and efforts into supporting these plans, and so I can't blame the city or the teams for looking around and seeing soccer as more of a viable option.
Baseball fans seem to be the easiest to blame because they simply haven't shown their support regularly. Then again, sports fans here seem to love an event rather that following something regularly. The Trail Blazers regularly sell out, but the games are much more of an event than an actual sporting competition because every moment is scripted and controlled. Timbers games have the antics of the Army and a relatively fixed schedule, making it an exciting and compact event. Baseball is much more of a passive fan experience, and while I can see some benefit in that from time to time, the numbers don't seem to support that.
Of the three baseball sellouts since the team came back to town in 2001, I was in attendance for the first one - the opening game in 2001. I also attended the Triple AAA All Star game, which was near a sellout, but the other two games for sellouts was yesterday's finale of the franchise and a Fourth of July game in 2009. In just over 10 years, only 3 sellouts tells me that that the city doesn't seem to care about baseball as much as they thought. Then again, I also feel that baseball fans love the game and the experience, yet Trail Blazer fans and Timbers fans love the team and the players and make a point to attend the game for that. I have attended over 75 Beavers baseball games since 2001, and I can't say that I know a true Portland Beavers baseball fan, yet many say they love the sport. If you really cared about the team, it's important to support the club you have.
I get there are those fans that still think MLB is a viable option here, but honestly, it's not going to happen anytime soon. We don't have the corporate base, a stadium idea that will work, an ownership group willing to step up, and a city that can't seem to figure out what it wants to support. Besides, do you really think MLB will come here knowing all the chaos that has happened around supporting Triple AAA Baseball? If the fans really want baseball back, it's up to them to stand up and let the city know this is important, and not just by talking the talk. If the team comes, it's important to buy tickets and talk about the experience.
I think there is more than enough interest here to have professional baseball in Portland, but right now, it's time to give up the blame game and stand up to let those in charge that it matters to us and it's time to find a way to make it work. And blaming one sport over another or one group or another doesn't accomplish anything more that making the city that works seem as dysfunctional from the outside as baseball fans feel the city is at this point. We can make it happen, but it's time to put up the voices and let the people in charge know it matters.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Portland - The City That Works Except for Sports

I'm actually saddened by the prospect of baseball leaving the Rose City, even with the most recent efforts to try and save the Portland Beavers coming forth. The city commissioners, or specifically one of them, is still trying to put out one last ditch effort to save the team for the city while current ownership is resigned to the fact that if they can't make it work here, it's time to sell the club and move them to an area that can support them. The original idea for baseball was to tear down the Memorial Coliseum, a long standing landmark in the area and put a redesigned ballpark on the site with a redesigned veterans memorial.
Critics of the plan not only got the MC baseball idea stalled, but ended up getting the building a historic designation making any changes to the property now more difficult. And while Portland had gone through an evaluation period of other ideas for the MC, we still sit here over a year later from when the process started, and nothing has been officially decided. The Coliseum still stands, but nobody seems to know what for or in what state the building will be kept in, PGE Park moves towards its future as a soccer/football only facility, and baseball moves out of the area.
And now, the hockey team that is using the MC most often for their games has weighed in to say they want a decision made or they will leave the area. It's bad enough that this process has been completely run into the ground, but when one of the main tenants is frustrated enough to pull up stakes, you know something isn't right here.  But I can understand their frustration because the process itself has been clumsy, misguided and plain inept.
I get the MC has some great memories associated with it, and it's still being used for events right now, as Arcade Fire will visit the old barn this fall. But it's apparent the facility hasn't been kept up, and now it appears there will need to be a serious investment just to get the building to a level to host events without having everything fall apart. So the question really is what does the city gain by investing in the future of an arena that may have a future but also stands to lose their main tenant if they don't do anything?
What convolutes the whole process is the various groups providing input here. The Trail Blazers own the Rose Garden and run the MC, and would prefer to keep events going to the RG because they get more revenue. And if any renovation happens on the MC, they have first refusal rights to either buy into the plan or put their input into the process, so basically anything that changes at the MC must be approved by them. The architectural community view the MC as a landmark, so they would prefer to keep things as they are. The sports community wants a functioning building, which right now would require investment that the city doesn't have funds for and private parties have been unwilling to make into a city facility without some plans or concessions. The Beavers tried and failed, and it appears the hockey team is now being asked to put up or shut up.
For me, the issue is really simple. If we keep the MC as what it is now, a midrange sized arena, spend the money and fix it up so the hockey team has a home. If we want to repurpose it, make it useful for the most possible groups and not just a marketing ploy or some other cheesy area gone bad. If we tear it down, use the area for baseball. But decide on something, because the perpetual back and forth is just getting too old, and now the city stands to lose more than just a baseball team.
Portland has already been shown to be progressive in so many ways, but they lack fortitude and resolve to fund projects that benefit the greater whole of the city. Facilities that are built owned by the city but run for use of sports and events are a great way to create jobs, attract business and travel, and help the city as a whole, but our town hasn't invested money in any stadium renovation since the MC was first built. PGE Park will have been fixed over twice using bonds backed by city funds, but it's been private money that has funded those changes. Sports is good for the area as a whole, but I understand that in the business climate, it's tough to ask people to pay more for something that a small portion of people use and enjoy. But having facilities like this do so much more than just host sports, and I'm hoping the city can see the wonderful opportunity they have in making the MC viable again by either fixing it up or tearing it down to serve another purpose.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Severe case of writer's block - party of one

You've probably noticed if you read this column regularly that entries have become a bit sporadic. I wished I had a better answer that just things getting in the way, but honestly, it's hard to keep track of everything going on in life at points, and because of that writing time gets cut. Granted, my other blog has a pretty easy schedule, because I write when news of the Timbers happens and I can get something out pretty easily. The subjects and timeframe are pretty much taken care of, so it's just simply writing something interesting in 800 words or less.
This blog is a bit more freeform in that I try to write when I have interesting or frustrating things to talk about, and I want to vent or share. But at the same time, I don't want this to become a point of pure bitching and whining, because that simply accomplishes nothing. There are far more interesting places for whining to go than here, like Blazers message boards or Big Soccer if you really want to hear folks drone on about things.
At the same point, the summer is a difficult time to write about subjects. I could write about sports, but right now, all everyone in that world wants to talk about is LeBron or Tiger, and I couldn't care less to waste any more space talking about them than I just did. Most professional athletes have the entirely wrong idea about what it is to be famous, and simply flaunt the god given talents and massive amounts of money they get to play sports in a narcissistic desire to be better than everyone else. I find most NBA players completely out of touch with reality because they can't understand what the rest of us have to do just simply to afford tickets to a game.
There are notable exceptions to the rule, and many of them reside here in the Rose City. But the message of their exploits around here gets buried in a complete drivel of drama surrounding the management and ownership of the team. The current owner can't seem to get out of his own way at points of making personnel decisions, but at the same time, he's the guy writing the checks so he can pretty much do what he wants. He knows that the team absolutely owns the fans in this town and dominates the media outlets, so they can do just about anything and this town will adore them. Think I'm kidding about that, but the team was still remotely successfully during their dark ages of player stupidity and people were still going to games even though the "economic model was broken"  And now that things are better, the fans can spend hours and hours talking about the most inane details of free agency, trade deals until they've beaten the subject senseless.
Sounds like I'm being rather cynical here, and you are absolutely right. I can't stand media types that bash on certain sports incessantly because they can't be bothered to get it, yet can suck up to a certain sport and talk about it for hours and hours ad naseum. My biggest complaint about the Trail Blazers right now is simply that I have other sports that are more interesting to me right now, and I'm not being allowed to get away from them long enough to miss them and regain that spark of interest. Maybe others care so much about the roster and deals, and want to talk about it all the time, but frankly, I would rather deal with other things.
Yet the sport I love, soccer, is derided by the same outlets as boring, European, sissy, and a whole list of detractions all the time. Look, I absolutely despise NASCAR because I can't think of anything as boring as watching cars go around in circles for hours, and if I really wanted to watch it, I'd go play in traffic on the Banfield. But I respect that it's a popular activity that people love and there's a competitive and athletic element to it. But I don't go around and trash it because I know there are fans. Yet there seems to be little to no respect for soccer because it's cool to bash it.
Never mind that millions of people watch the sport regularly, including the most recent World Cup. Never mind that players often play non stop for years between national and club duty, risking injuries and fitness. Try and throw a ball to a point on a field and see if you can hit it with precision, and now take that same ball and kick it with the same results, and you'll see the game has a skill that isn't completely understood. Most soccer offenses follow the same principles of a triangle offense or pick and roll in basketball, but yet one sport is loved here yet another despised.
I get that the scoring is down and there's a bit too much overacting on certain calls. When you have a single official making all the calls on the pitch, sometimes players embellish on things that they shouldn't. Yet, one sport sees flopping as a viable option, while fans chastise in another. A 1 to 0 baseball game is considered a gem, or a no hitter is a masterpiece, but a 1 to 0 soccer game is pure boredom. I know that a lot of the haters have never played the game, so that leads to much misconceptions and ideas about how boring things are, but I think the reason why soccer isn't as well liked is pretty obvious.
We hate the fact that America is in the middle of the table when it comes to soccer, and if we can't dominate it, there's no point in being interested. We rule the world in baseball and basketball, yet soccer we're within the top 30 teams playing in the world. But if we dominated and won most every tournament, I can bet that many fans would pick up the game because we were good at it. Mind you, there is over 200 nations in FIFA playing for 32 berths in the World Cup, so qualifying for the tournament is a big deal simply by the numbers. The United States is extremely competitive in its region, and is taking big steps to keep its profile up. But with nations that live and breathe soccer and produce hundreds of talented athletes, the U.S. is going to have issues at points keeping their most talented soccer athletes playing the game with other choices going on.
We can help our cause by keeping MLS vibrant and strong, and continuing to support youth and developmental soccer in all avenues, but also trying to remain diligent in dealing with the haters. The game is simple, beautiful, and complex all in the same package, and if you give it a chance, you might find that it's not such a bad game at all.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

I'm just tired of all the talk

Today, I was walking with some friends as they got some coffee at a local coffee house, and I was asked what I thought about NBA free agency. My exact words were, "I could care less right now because right now, my focus is on other things. I'm tired of sports seasons dragging on so long that it's hard to concentrate on a particular sport."
When I was younger, the sports seasons had an exact offseason. The NFL got done after the Super Bowl in January, allowing spring training to get some attention while the NBA was building up its playoff run. The NBA playoffs got out of the way before the pennant races started heating up in baseball before football started getting going in the late part of the summer. While there was big news about sports at various points, there was enough of a down time where casual fans could move from sport to sport rather easily.
Now, baseball playoffs run into November which bleeds into free agency, while the NBA puts its draft and free agency smack in the middle of summer, drawing basketball fans into long drawn out discussions about salary caps and signings. The NFL draft has become a 4 day affair, drawing out the spectacle of players being picked by teams, while there is actual coverage of workouts and camps that football fans can watch. Mind you, if you are a passionate sports fan of one of the sports, you are in heaven because it's all attention all the time. But for someone like myself that used to be able to keep up with things relatively easily, I find it harder and harder to do.
Soccer has become a passion, more now that I write about it on a regular basis in my other world, but it's the ultimate fan experience. I can watch a match in 2 hours or less, and it's done for the weekend. Just one match, one meeting, it's simple. Granted, there is a lot of offseason movement, but at the same point, FIFA mandates that players can only belong to one club at a time, so player movement is restricted in that respect. You also have various transfer window times that player movement is done in, making it easier to keep track of things.
Maybe it's just informational overload, because right now, I can't spend days worrying about whether the Trail Blazers will sign who they want or where the big NBA free agents will end up. I frankly don't care right now, because it's pure speculation, and the only people that aren't talking about it are the players. If you want to drum up interest, that's a sure way to pull in the rabid basketball fans, but at the same point, it's not nearly as interesting or compelling. Even if Portland was a key player in free agency, I don't think that would make me any more interested, because it's all about money and power.
I need a break from time to time from my teams, and the way the schedules work themselves out makes it easier for me to keep my sanity. When the Timbers are completing their season, the Trail Blazers are in full swing and so I can turn my attention there easily, while filling in for the occassional Broncos game. With other interests competing for time, I just don't have the disposable time to just sit back and watch hours and hours of sports anymore, so I have to choose my time wisely. The fact that my wife also enjoys soccer means that I can watch games with her, and not only fulfill a sports fix but spend time with the one I love.
But maybe, just maybe it's about me growing up a bit and realizing that while sports is an amazing thing, it can't just be everything in a person's life. Passion is great, but even the most crazed fan needs some time off from time to time. I just wished that the talking heads at sports radio followed that line of thinking, instead of the blathering on of "What will the Blazers do now?"  Right now, I've got more important things to think about than that.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Dear God, the promotions people must be hard up for ideas....

I live with a pack of cats, well, I suppose the best thing I can say is that they tolerate my existance because of the food and attention that they get from me and my wife on a daily basis. and they do a great job of putting my mind at ease at certain points because of their unconditional love and support. Granted, I could do without some of the butt sniffing and other odd grooming things cats do, but that pales in comparison with what other benefits they provide.

And the Internet has put cats up on a pedestal of sorts with the invention of LOLcats. These cute pictures started appearing on the Internet 7 years ago in random places where cats are doing something cute or disturbing and it's captioned in mangled cat talk to say what they might be thinking. The most famous one is Happy Cat, who is smiling and making the eternal statement that all cats make: "I can haz cheezburger?" The fun article site,, has a dedicated day on Saturdays for LOLcat pictures, and I can even say that a few of our cats have ended up in the grandure of LOLcats because of their antics. I won't even speak to what our cat Pilot did to a stuffed Domo-Kun when we weren't looking.

So I'm reading the sports headlines this morning, and found out that last night in the land up north, they had LOLcat day at the ball park, complete with a Happy Cat bobblehead, a special singing of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" in lolcat, and other assorted celebrations of the Internet phenomenon. Apparently, they had more prizes than tickets sold, but it was a decent sized crowd for a weeknight. I have to admit that promotions is often a thankless business, because while you work hard to fill seats with fans, if the prize is too special or in demand, you end up with customers who could care less about the sporting event and are just there for the trinket. This phenomenon often upsets the most hardcore sports fans, who have to put up with the fair-weather prize grubbing fan. The Timbers had a skate deck night this year that turned out a huge crowd, but admittedly, there was a section of the crowd that probably couldn't have told you what event was really going on that night, they just got a cool skate deck for free.

I guesss I'm just a little frustrated that corporate sporting America has taken a relatively cool phenomenon like LOLcats and turned them into a marketing ploy to sell baseball tickets. While I admit that I shouldn't be surprised because everything in our current world has a price tag associated with it, I had hoped that some fads would be just left alone and allowed to attain super status rather than jump the shark in some spectacularly inane way. I guess at least this promotion is slightly better than Roni Deutch Does Your Taxes night!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Baseball's Really Rough Day

Baseball might still be considered America's pastime, but it sure took a beating yesterday in the press. There's something nostalgic about forgetting about the world passing by when you sit in a ballpark, and time is essentially rendered mute because baseball will in most cases have 9 innings and 27 outs for at least one side. There's obvious exceptions, but baseball has essentially remained unchanged in its rules of play for decades.
And when you have armies of sports writers that wax on about the glory days of the game during simpler times and when players weren't known as much for the sometimes idiotic things they did off the field, for some, it triggers a flood of memories. Baseball is historic, and while it has some wonderful aspects to the simplicity of the game, the fan experience for me is really not what it once was.
Going to watch baseball used to be a special treat, on the rare occasion that I could find time to watch a game and just take a few hours off from the world. Now, games are all over television, and it's almost become a better situation to watch the games at home. Fans adopt teams from cross country just because they want to, rather than actually following their local team or a player that they've admired for years that plays on a team. Players change teams to the point where sometimes they can't be identified as being part of a city, where in baseball's history, players became part of a team fabric and often times, never played elsewhere.
With the advent of all of this, it's hard for me to sit down and actually be patient enough to sit through all the interruptions. Teams now take time outs as much as they can, introductions take a while, and baseball has now become a game that takes over 3 hours to play simply because of so much idle time. And as much as some fans want the game to speed up, many others prefer to leave it as it is. And that's probably the biggest crux of baseball's problem right now - how to update the game without completely alienating the game's history.
Baseball fans cling to history probably more that any fan group I've ever been around, because statistics and history are paramount to understanding baseball on a more integral level. A love of numbers and strategy led to the advent of fantasy baseball, as fans thought they could build a team better than paid professionals. And baseball fans argue history more than anyone because the measuring stick of the Hall of Fame or great players is all based upon stats and their playing history. When you cling to history, though, there is the risk that you cling to what you know and changes aren't as accepted because it's all about preserving the game.
Baseball hasn't adopted any technology that could help speed up games or assist in making calls recently with one notable exception - allowing instant replay to determine if a ball is a home run or not. So they still rely upon the eyes and ears of umpires to make most calls. They flirted a bit with an computerized system that would help determine strike zone, but have phased that out in most cases to keep the human element. Yet, most television broadcasts have added computerized graphics and slow motion cameras to allow viewers to see whether pitches are strikes or balls and whether close plays are valid or not. While this is good for the viewer at home, it reinforces problems when umpires get the call wrong.
Nothing reinforces that better than last night in Detroit when the final out of the game there was slightly delayed when an umpire missed a relatively easy call at first base on an easy grounder. Normally, this wouldn't be news, but in this case, the pitcher from Detroit had thrown a perfect game not allowing a hit or walk up to that point. And if the call had gone correctly, we would have witnessed the 22nd perfect game in baseball history. Instead, the game ends officially as a one hitter, the umpire ends up endlessly apologizing for a blown call, and fans all over are grousing about how a call like that could have been missed. Even MLB is now reviewing the situation to see if they might step in and fix the result allowing the perfect game to stand.
The idea of that sets a rather bad precedent of going back to fix things that there should be a system to allow in the first place. Instead of shunning technology, MLB should have allowed instant replay to help make calls in cases like this, but instead, it found protecting history and the integrity of the game more important. And now if you make this change without really addressing the full issue at hand, what happens if a championship game is decided on a close call that ends up being blown? Instead of enacting solid change and embracing ways to update the game while keeping the essential spirit of the game going, baseball has put its head in the sand and now is paying the price. Which frustrates more and more fans every day, and instead of sticking with the game, they've chosen to move to other pursuits.
For me, I prefer soccer because of its compartmentalized time clock and relative simplicity of the game on the surface yet complexity abounds. Yes, the game isn't without its own brand of controversy, but at the same point, teams and leagues are starting to embrace change and making sure that calls go correctly. While I admire MLB for trying to tackle this issue, unless they completely look at enhancing instant replay, changing the call from last night does nothing more that open the door for more problems. It might correct an injustice from a horrible call and give a pitcher the nod in history that he deserves, but it undermines the very integrity of the game to just change it without addressing the underlying causes. Mind you, baseball already has issues in this area from years of steroid problems and other cheating incidents, and they've barely scratched the surface of the issues behind those situations, so what would I expect here?
Baseball will fix the immediate problem and move on to the next thing, and fall closer and closer to a game that is losing fans and interest simply because of their own desire to keep things status quo. It's not that I don't appreciate history, but at the same time, there are ways to update the game without disturbing the legacy, but it appears the ownership and management of MLB are more interested in counting money and television ratings that truly address the problems going on right now.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

So I challenged the Zen, and it found back...big time!

So my last entry talked about finding my way and being at peace and having one last crack at certain things that have been upsetting me lately. The hope was simply that it would allow me to live a simpler, more carefree existence while getting rid of some of the more frustrating things that have been building up lately. You know, take the last cleansing breath and then try to live the more peaceful part of life and let the cares fall where they may. That approach lasted all of about 3 hours until I got a phone call from my wife.
Our house was broken into last Thursday while we were all away. In all of the years that I've lived in Portland and places beyond, I've never had anything like this happen to me or to really anyone close to me that I was aware of. As I listened to my wife talk about things, my mind was trying to stay focused on the words, but my brain was racing with a million thoughts. Thankfully, our brood of cats was safe and in their room, but apparently there were things missing. With the help of a dear friend, I got a ride home to see the incident for myself.
As I walked into the house, I was trying to remain composed at the events that had transpired, but I could tell that it wasn't going to be easy to stay on top of things. I put my backpack down, and walked up to our room to survey the damage. And it was pretty extensive, as the thieves hit each room pretty well. I saw some of the things missing, and I tried to remain calm, but it wasn't happening.
Some of the things missing triggered some pretty strong feelings because they were extremely sentimental items. A pair of silver spurs that my mom had made when she owned a country bar, a baseball bat and ball key chain from the Beavers, a bottle of bubbles from a friend's wedding. The fact I lost my mom to cancer in 2005 puts an extra bit of charge in dealing with anything about her, so the fact the spurs were gone was about all I could handle. My wife came up to check upon me, and gave me a big hug and we went to visit the cats for some quality feline time.
I can admit, I probably let my emotions get to me at that point, I mean it's only stuff. And after completing some lists and a police report, I'm confident that the people looking into this know what they are doing, and will find the responsible parties. But I couldn't help but be angry because somebody had decided that they wanted my stuff, and wasn't going to take a locked door as much of a deterrent to get what they wanted. I've never felt unsafe in my home at all, but admittedly, I didn't sleep well Thursday night. It's just now that things are somewhat back to normal.
And we've become more diligent lockers of all doors and windows, as long as one of us named me isn't distracted while completing my duty. I didn't help things much one night by failing to lock one of the deadbolts by mistake, but it's going through the routine and remembering everything needs to be checked. It's probably something that everyone should be diligently doing each and every night, but it takes something like this to happen in order to reinforce that. That's probably the worst thing about this is realizing that even in a world where we want to be more trusting, open and carefree, you still have to be paranoid about certain things.
But I'm not deterred that I've angered the Zen gods over this whole thing, because challenges like this come up to test even the most strong of resolve. I know that we'll all come out of this situation much better, much stronger, and much more emotionally strong, but at the same point, I would like it if the powers that be would give me a break from the character building lessons for a wee bit. It's not that I don't enjoy having every fiber of my body put to the test, but at the same point, I think I've been taking on a lot lately.
Then again, I know that in Lost, they took the characters and put them through everything in the hopes that they would realize the true meaning of life and what really matters. Perhaps I'm a bit overdue for some extra learning in that realm, but perhaps I could simply ask to have a bit of a break before the next lesson unfolds. I'm thinking at least a commercial break or two would be nice.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

My Zen is being tested

I'm trying to be at peace with things right now, but it's becoming incredibly difficult. After watching the Lost finale on Sunday, I have to admit that I've been inspired by something that I didn't thing I would be, a television show. Without spoiling too much about what happened, I will say that for many of the characters, they achieved closure in ways that I don't think they even expected. Did the show answer every burning question, not by a long shot. But giving people inspiration to live their lives in the right way and be themselves, I can't think of a better piece of television that showed what happens when things come together.
I like to think of myself as a thinking person, but last night, my wife indicated to me that I could be wrong in that assertion. And I have to agree that she's probably right as I sit back and think about it. I spend my days in my cubicle farm thinking about a lot of technical stuff and documentation and things that would bore even the most geeky of the geeks, and there are times where I get home and want to not think about anything. It's human in that respect, but at the same point, it's led me to be rather complacent in some aspects of my life. And when I start thinking about my life outside of work at points, it's hard to separate the good parts from the bad, and so it's easier to just think about the minimum amount possible.
Before I met girl, I thought my life was pretty good and I had things sorted, and behold, the person that means the most to you comes in and provides enlightenment and inspiration by showing you that your life could be much more than that. I spent years not believing that line of thinking until it became apparent that like so many other things, I was completely wrong in my assertions. Now I am trying to find some constructive ways to create and stimulate thinking while dealing with some of the negative thoughts that come up.
When you are dealing with trauma or other crap from your past, it's hard to take whatever good parts were from it and separate it from the pain, suffering and complete idiocy of the moment. What I am learning as I get through this journey in making myself better is that it's Ok to stand up for yourself and say what you want out of life and nobody can take that away from you. But the next evolution of that is now taking that and melding it with those around you to find the path to true happiness with someone else.
In some aspects, I'm doing a lot better by being more verbal and communicative, but in other parts, I've still got a lot way to go. But the finale of Lost showed that even the most damaged person can get past the baggage, the frustration, the anguish and find a greater purpose in ways that they couldn't imagine. I've seen the finales of other shows, like MASH, Cosby Show, and Friends, and while they ended in a rather interesting way, I haven't had something sit with me like the end of Lost. I'm actually rather upset that I didn't give this show a chance when it first came out, because I thought it wasn't interesting enough.
But while I go through this process of bettering myself, I see the various hurdles and obstacles that are trying to divert me from the path, and I am trying to see them for the simple annoyances that they are. That's easier said than done, because at some points, human nature says we should try and enact revenge or get back at the person or persons that is causing us pain. But in some respects, that's entirely petty and pointless, and while I'm not going to just sit back and let things happen, there's just some things that will happen and you deal with them the best you can. That's the path to being enlightened, and it's not some crazy hippy way of thinking.
It's keeping yourself under control and realizing what is important to you, and making yourself and others about you happy. And in the complicated things of life it's easy to forget those simple rules because we are all too busy dealing with our own versions of reality and the obstacles presented. There will always be deadlines and stress, but it's important to remember what matters most and what gives us the happiness to be ourselves. And I'm going to try and follow that as best I can. But before I follow down that path, I'm going to give in slightly to the revenge urges and simply pour out some frustrations that I have right now in the hopes that getting them out there will allow them to finally go away.
To the drivers in Portland, FFS pay attention to your driving. I realize that your text conversation, meal, or talking with your friends are important, but I'm tired of nearly being struck on a daily basis simply walking from point A to point B simply because you can't be bothered to pay attention to what you are doing. I'm trying to do my part, but seriously, pay attention. I realize that when I drive, I need to do the same thing, so I'm putting myself in that category.
To the spambots that thought it would be fun to send spam email to my friends and family, I really hope that you are incredibly happy for your antics. Not only did you fail in getting anything sold, but you caused me to completely clean my PC and chat with people I hadn't talked to in a while because they got a strange email from me. Instead of selling your crappy knock offs, you just managed to get me closer to some people near me and have me complete a chore that I hate.
To corporate radio in Portland, you might think you are different and cool, but seriously, this city has some of the worst radio stations around. There is absolutely nothing differentiating most stations from each other unless you enjoy public radio, the bizarre rant channel, incessent talk about the NBA team in town, or R and B tunes. I thought that stations wanted to create an identity, but instead let's pick the 15 or 20 artists that are relatively non threatening and play them ad-naseum in between the same 10 commercials about mortage loans or cash services. It didn't used to be this bad, but apparently, radio listeners here aren't picky.
I love this city overall, but the desire at certain points to be weird and unique, or as they call it "weird" just makes us look like we are trying too hard to be something different. We're ultra cool or hip, and so we can't be bothered with liking what everybody else does. I like the quirk and charm and the fact that this city nurtures some unique ways of life, but at the same point, it's ok to follow the mainstream at points. It's not going to kill us.
I don't expect anything I've just written to change anything, and despite that, I love Portland very much and I'm happy to be here. But I'm learning that it's important to express your feelings, because if you don't let them go, they just sit around and bottle up, which means you might be so focused on them, it's hard to focus on other things. I don't want my blog to become a complete bitch fest either, because we aren't talk radio here either. I think I could take what I learned from LOST and the examples of some dear people to point out the good things in life and look on the bright side of things. It's a small step to enlightenment, but it's a start anyway.

Monday, May 24, 2010

It's Been Entirely Too Long

I could hear the cobwebs on this site for quite a bit of time, but it's not like I haven't thought of things to write about. There's plenty of things going on that frustrate me or I wanted to highlight, but life got in the way. When I say life, I mean, house projects, my other blog, soccer, work, time with friends, time with my wife, time with the cats, television shows, exercise, and whatever else could be thrown in there.
I love writing this blog simply because it gives me a chance to talk about things in an environment that is condusive to my approach in dealing with problems. I like to process things and figure things out before making big decisions, and well, even smallish things, and so writing helps me sort things out. Sometimes, the process helps me find out how completely absurd life it, while at other points, it underscores the importance of certain aspects. But the biggest thing my break has taught me is simply that we live in a world full of irony.
We crave technology to make us closer with the world at hand, having smart phones and hand held computers that allow us instant access to pretty much everything. Yet, for all this access, it's easy to build a life outside of any real human contact. My wife has a profile on a certain social site and all of her friends are simply people she knows, and she won't friend anyone she doesn't know or has a conversation with. I looked at the same site, and I can say that I've tried to follow the same thing, even though there are friends on my list that I haven't spoken with in quite some time. It's not that I don't care about these people, but it's more of a matter of having time to do everything you want in a day.
I don't care how organized a person can be, because if you can be on top of everything in your life at all points at all times, I challenge you to say this isn't a person that has so much attempted control over life, they're risking ulcers or a heart attack just trying to keep things on track. I've tried to live my life like that for a long time, and it's caused me a lot of headaches and frustration. I'm trying to live more in the moment of things, and not let life's stupidity drag me down. Because people will be selfish, petty and ignorant, and I'm finding the more I try and deal with that, the less time I have to deal with people and situations that I do care about. And the more I try to fight against certain aspects of things, the more I realize that some fights just aren't worth it. Some idiots want to be right all the time and do what they want, be it drive while texting or speeding in their car or eating their life away one fatburger at a time.
I'm not going to allow folks to take advantage, but at the same time, life deserves more to be lived and less about making sure the perfect plan is in place. And it's important to find your place and people in life. And so, you might find that this blog might have a lot of time between entries at points. It's got nothing more to do with anything than just simply I'm living life instead of hunkering in front of a PC to spill my guts about things. I'm sure there will be things that pop up from time to time, as I have something on the hopper about baseball in town and I want to talk more about Portland's future or lack thereof, but for now, I'm going to get to a bit of living, even with the rain crashing down on me.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Thursday, March 18, 2010

construction update, and one of the better days in sports...

I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it's still a ways off in the horizon. Our house remodel continues and while our newest rooms in back are relatively done and habitable, the basement is now in the process of remodel. When it's done, it's simply going to be amazing, and last night was the first night that I could really see the framework of the changes for real. I understand all of the things that are being added, but last night, the skeleton was more apparent and I could visually see the direction it was going. It makes the temporary inconveniences, like no water at points, exhaust smells, and random tools lying about seem like nothing now that I can see the light.
Granted, my wife has had to live it far more closely that I've had to because I can escape to the relative sanity of my office, but needless to say, we're all happy to see the final pieces go in place. It makes the getting up at 7 AM each morning worth it, as we need to be up in time to let the crew in for their tasks for the day. I'm impressed with the hard work and craftsmanship they've done so far, and for those of you interested, you'll be able to get a full tour when things are finished. And yes, the housewarming is going to be pretty epic.
And today was a good day to be out of the house because it's one of my favorite days of sports. I put opening day of baseball on the top of my list of favorite days of sports, because it represents spring time and the start of better weather. Ok, in many years, there is still plenty of winter weather about and plenty of early spring baseball ends up being played in snow or misty rain. But unlike other sports, baseball for many represents the end of winter, and so people immediately start thinking of summer vacations and the like. Football gets rolling in late summer when the weather is still nice, and weather doesn't affect pro basketball or hockey. I do get the same charge when the English Premiership and the Timbers gets rolling, but that's my soccer fan part coming out, and there isn't a true opening day like there is with baseball.
But baseball's opening day is fast being replaced with the opening weekend of the NCAA college basketball tournament, or as many people know it as the land of brackets. For 3 weeks, college basketball dominates the airwaves with back to back games that showcase amazing upsets, unknown teams from all over, great individual play, and the ultimate concept of win to stay in. During the first 4 days, the competition takes 64 teams and whittles it down to a sweet 16 in some of the best moments of sports, because it's still relatively pure. The tournament directors put together a relatively even bracket and let the dice roll. Sometimes, the higher seeds win while other times, the cinderella team lives to fight another day.
My alma mater, Gonzaga, has become a household name not because I attended there, but because of their antics in the tournament. They fast became the sweetheart school from the initial thoughts of "where the heck is Spokane?" and "how do you pronounce it" after breaking up a few brackets because of their success, but then again, Santa Clara made a name for itself by upsetting Arizona, George Mason made the Final Four unexpectedly, and Villanova and N.C. State won tournaments way back when nobody expected it. Even the non sports fans can watch and be drawn into the drama, even participating in one of the simplest competitions in sports, completing a bracket.
There's no real secret in completing a bracket and winning, because winning a competition for the most part is pure blind luck. I've seen college basketball experts get blown out in the first weekend for not picking the right upsets while complete novices win the prize by choosing the teams based on names or colors. That's the beauty of this, because the upsets are unscripted and unknown as well as plenty of close games and dramatic moments. And because there are 32 games in two days followed by 16 games the following two days, there's plenty of chances to either look good or stupid at any given point. I have yet to meet anyone that has been able to pick things consistently year by year. Most of it is because of turnover in college basketball in players and coaches, but there's also the unknown factor of who will be this year's cinderella story. I'm sure there will be many people who say they picked the big upsets for this season already, but the magic of the tournament is that the slipper can fall off at any point. The cinderella could fall on bad luck in the very next game, which makes it interesting and compelling to watch.
I'm a little upset that the NCAA is thinking about tinkering with the tournament, because I think it's very good the way it is. It's simplicity in the setup, and it's easy for even the casual fan to follow along. But the NCAA doesn't care about that, they simply follow the dollar signs and want to generate attention however they can. Adding more teams means more money, and the NCAA is obviously oblivious to what the real fans want. They've let the BCS mess in football carry on far too long because while the fans want a playoff, the fans are watching the games anyway and everybody involved is making money so there's no incentive for change. And now the simplicity of the tournament is at risk because there's additional money to be made.
If things needed to be changed, I'd throw out a couple of ideas:
  • I don't like the single play in game so the field is 65, so replace it with more play in games. Seed 18 teams in each region, and have the final four seeds play each other on Tuesday/Wednesday in the tournament sites for the right to advance. Seed 15 plays 18 and 16 plays 17, and the winners get seeds 1 and 2.
  • This still leaves the initial tournament at 64 teams starting on the first Thursday and keeps things on schedule. Right now, 3 weeks is a bit long for the tournament, and if you do anything else, you run the risk of playing through the middle part of April.
  • Keep the games in March. Work with the conferences to get their tournaments done in late February so that March is what it's for, tournament basketball. Even if you did need a fourth weekend for play in games, you could still do it through March and it's done by end of March.
  • Finally, if you win the conference berth to get into the tournament, you avoid having to play in the play in game. This is probably the most controversial thing I'm suggesting, but seriously, having a team win their way into the tournament with the automatic berth only to be told you have to play another game just to get into the tournament just penalizes the smaller conferences. The play in games should be the middle fringe teams in the bigger conferences for the right to get into the tournament. You might get a few more upsets, and more compelling opening round games.

But I don't expect this to be done, because the NCAA isn't going to do what is sensible here. They're going to listen to the TV and advertising money, and take what is already a wonderfully compelling competition and turn it into an unwieldy mess. The NFL plays one game to determine a champion, and until recently, the games haven't been compelling but now, they are spectacles of sports. Most other sports use long series to determine a winner, which while somewhat more fair that a one game title, it does lend itself to a champion being crowned because they handled the number of games better than their opponents. Seriously, the NBA takes 2 and a half months to determine a title, and I can't think of a compelling reason why.


If the NCAA cared, they'd watch what happened this weekend, they'd view the crowds at sports bars and the cubicle people hiding in their cubes to get scores and realize they have a good thing going already. The money might be compelling, but you have the perfect system now and there's no reason to tinker with it. And thinking that it needs to be changed means that the almighty dollar is far more important that the drama and the competition of sport.