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.