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.