Crooked Scoreboard

The Mundanity of Insanity, or: How to be a College Football Fan Where It Matters Most

One of my proudest moments as an Auburn football fan came at a particularly low point. It was the 2008 Iron Bowl, and Alabama had just finished pummeling Auburn 36-0. Auburn’s glorious 2002-2007 run of victories against its archrival seemed like a distant memory. I watched what became known as “The Beat-Down in T-Town” hundreds of miles from Tuscaloosa, in a sports bar in Florida, where there were no other Auburn fans besides my sister and I, but seemingly hundreds of Alabama fans, each one practically frothing at the mouth over the long-awaited victory against their in-state foe.

As I made my way out of the bar, a hush descended upon the crowd. Knowing that all eyes were on me and my unwelcome orange-and-blue AU baseball cap, I decided to tip my hat on my way out the door. When I did, I left to a cheer. The Bama fans may have been delighted to see a defeated Aubie put in his place, yet what they also saw was someone who left the massacre of his team with his head held high.

It’s a bit of a cliché for those writing about the Iron Bowl to exaggerate the intensity of the rivalry. It’s just as much of a problem for in-state writers who know what they’re talking about as it is for outsiders who want to inspire fascination over the crazy rednecks in the South. While there is no denying the extremes that the rivalry brings out in people—and no, I’m not about to go on about Harvey Updyke—the disappointing reality of living in the eye of the football hurricane is that the state of Alabama is somewhat calmer and saner than football fans are led to believe. Somewhat.

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One of the more trustworthy witnesses to the Auburn-Alabama rivalry is Paul Finebaum, the controversial former Birmingham radio host and current ESPN pundit. He does a pretty good job explaining to outsiders what the rivalry is like in his new book, My Conference Can Beat Your Conference. Finebaum correctly compares Alabama fans to New York Yankees fans (with the caveat, of course, that no one from Alabama would ever want to be associated with the word “yankee”). He sees “a program soaked in success, its hands weighed down by championship rings.” Bama fans demand constant excellence and become downright neurotic when their team fails to win games by at least three touchdowns. Lord help them when their team loses.

Like Yankees fans, Bama fans don’t necessarily have direct ties to the university, or to the city of Tuscaloosa. And while I would never accuse them of being anything other than the most loyal fans in all of sports, I’m quite sure more Alabama bumper stickers popped up once Nick Saban got to town, the same way I imagine it worked in 1990s New York, once Joe Torre began bringing championships back to the city.

Auburn fans, meanwhile, almost always have some form of personal or familial connection to that school in “The Loveliest Village on the Plains,” myself included. I did not attend Auburn, but my parents met as students there, which means I more or less owe my existence to that particular public university.

Finebaum contends that Auburn fans are more like Chicago Cubs fans. “The clichéd way to refer to members of that Auburn family is to say they have a chip on their shoulder, that they want Auburn to be Bama when the program grows up. That’s wrong. Auburn folks are actually proud of that chip, proud that they’re not Bama. They embrace their uniqueness. I think they even embrace their inferiority.”

Ouch. While there is an uncomfortable amount of truth in that “chip on our shoulder, we like rooting for the underdog” analysis, he’s a bit off base with the Cubs analogy. For one thing, Auburn fans are much less fatalistic about the inevitability of losing than Cubs fans seem to be (see the rise and fall of Mr. Gene Chizik).

A better analogy can be made with the Boston Red Sox, and not just because that makes a nice comparison with the only rivalry in sports that truly measures up to the Iron Bowl. Like the Red Sox, Auburn is a team with a proud, tradition-rich history, and its fans have seen some of the most talented athletes in the world pass through (Bo, Barkley, and Frank Thomas among them). But like the Sox, there have been moments of brilliant success contrasted with instances of devastating failure (though, fortunately, no curses). Auburn fans have also had to endure the insufferable effects of their rival’s unparalleled success.

But unlike the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry, there is very little that separates the fanbases in the real world, geographic, socio-economic, or otherwise. In a place where we must constantly tolerate neighbors, co-workers, friends and family members rooting for that “other” team, it behooves us to avoid some of the ugliness you see in other SEC rivalries—spitting, bottle throwing, verbal/physical assaults and the like (stately 100+ year old trees, however, are far less safe, but again, I’m not going there). We are all ultimately united by being Alabamians. Everyone, even Bama fans, carries a chip on their shoulder from having deep roots in a heavily stereotyped state with a troubled history, yet great football is the one thing we have going for us that no one with half a brain can deny.

What’s important to understand here is that the rivalry’s not only about obsession with the Tide and the Tigers. Simply put, we’re just really in to our football down here. Texas has a reputation for being the most football-obsessed state in the Union, but Auburn and Alabama fans unite in giving this notion a benign, condescending smile.

College football has an irresistible pull here, and its appeal is no mystery. In the world of sports, there is little to distract Alabamians from the ebbs and flows of the college football season. Alabama has never had a major sports franchise, but big-time college football emerged organically long before anyone started giving us credit for it. People do like baseball; Alabama joins most of the South in embracing the Atlanta Braves (myself included, which made for some strange emotions when Auburn played Florida State last year, whose fans enthusiastically performed the Braves’ Tomahawk Chop after first downs and scores). NASCAR is big, of course, and people watch NFL games, but more as a way of getting a football fix than out of allegiance to a particular team.

You’ll hear the (true) stories of how you have to pick one team or the other, and how, even in the heart of the Bible Belt, the answer to that question is more important than what church you go to (or don’t go to). You may also hear about the remarkable phenomenon that I witness every year: an entire state virtually shutting down on a Saturday in late November, a day when the small percentage of people who don’t care about football can get all their shopping done, so long as it’s not halftime.

Stories of families and friendships breaking apart over the rivalry are probably exaggerated, yet not uncommon. Even in my very civil family’s post-Thanksgiving gathering last year, the Alabama fans and Auburn fans were kept separate (the Bama fans upstairs with the HD television, while us Aubies were downstairs with the crummy old TV. Fortunately, justice was served in that now-legendary game).

What’s perhaps not discussed enough is the way you will hear a group of hipsters, or especially an office lunchroom populated only by middle-aged women, discussing college football as articulately as any fraternity house on the campuses of Tuscaloosa or Auburn. People may know how to keep a lid on politics and religion here, but don’t expect them to hold back on football matters. Always be ready for some ribbing, good-natured or not, from the rival fan base.

With the Nicktator and the Gus Bus rolling on this year, it looks like we will remain in a golden age of football in the state of Alabama for some time. For better or worse, when it comes to the sanity of our populace.

Sliders: A Short Story

One Tuesday in June, Coach Grubb decided he would teach the kids to throw sliders, so he looked up the grip while he drove his son to practice. Hold the ball with two fingers and your thumb, Wikipedia said.

When Coach Grubb and his son got to the diamond, the turnout rose to six players. School was out for the year, so the rest of the roster was working summer jobs or joining family members on vacations. That’s what they said, anyway. He heard the grumbling, and the truth was that their parents had probably decided to pull them from the league until Chipper Chip’s Quality Trophies and Screenprinting – AKA The Blue Team – found a volunteer who “knew what the hell he was doing,” someone who could help them get that baseball scholarship in a few years. Junior high was too early to be worrying about that stuff, but even Coach Woodbury had fourth-graders’ parents breathing down his neck about it.

The six kids at practice weren’t all pitchers, but they would be today. Barring a miracle, The Blue Team would have to forfeit on Saturday due to lack of players, but at least they would give up a lot fewer runs than they had in the rest of their games. The kids gathered in a circle, and Coach Grubb walked his phone around to all of them, showing them how they should handle the ball.

“Josh, Tyler, Tim: grab a ball. The rest of you are catchers. I want you to throw ten times each and then switch it up, okay?”

Coach Grubb took his spot in the third-base coach’s box as the players dispersed into their assignments. The first pitch hit the chain-link fence and sent a metallic rattle ringing through the air; the next rolled through the grass. Baseballs bounced off catchers’ knees and sailed over their heads, nearly burning the tips of their hair right off. Coach Grubb occasionally shouted a “good try” or a “you’re getting there” to no one in particular. After Tyler, a seventh-grader who got along well with Coach Grubb’s son, threw several wild pitches, one of which managed to land behind him, he threw up his hands and ran toward third.

“Coach, I think I’m getting the grip, but what about the release point?”

“Just throw it, kid.”

“But-“

“Just throw it, kid. You got this.”

Tyler nodded and ran back to his catcher. He threw the next pitch so far outside that it was closer to Tim’s catcher than his own. Tyler looked at Tim, and then at Coach Grubb, and they all smiled. Even the catchers seemed to be enjoying the challenge, running around like dogs trying to fetch treats from their owners. When the pitchers and catchers swapped roles, the scene was no different. Baseballs darted over and under each other in all directions, catchers constantly got in and out of the crouch, and six kids’ faces were red with laughter.”Eat your heart out, Tom Emanski,” Coach Grubb thought.

“You were really coming along there with the sliders.” Coach Grubb asked Tyler when the hour-long practice ended. Coach Grubb knew Tyler was far from a master pitcher at this point, but he was a tall lefty, and with some practice and encouragement he’d be able to use his long arm to put some real sweep and velocity on the ball. “Was it fun?”

“Yeah, for sure. But my elbow hurts a little.”

“Have an extra piece of pizza, then. Cheese is good for the tendons.”

“Thanks, coach.” Tyler took another piece from the box on the dugout bench. “My dad’s here. I’ll see you Saturday.”

There was no game on Saturday. The next year, Coach Grubb’s son aged out of the program, so The Blue Team entered the Coach Harris era. Coach Harris made the team run laps around the warning track at the start of practice, and got spit in his mustache whenever he yelled. Tyler quit baseball after the first week and started tennis lessons, where he learned to slide his big, slicing lefty serve into the corner of the ad court.

Baseball is Boring, Part II: Solutions

Fans of the blog surely read Part I of this captivating series about baseball being the most boring American-born sport (NASCAR at least had that Tony Stewart scandal recently). After the release of Part I, I received 867 e-mails in a week. This is the part where I give my humble suggestions to the bigwigs at the MLB office. Some may seem outlandish, but so was the designated hitter rule, right, MLB? Let your hair down, Bud. Bud Selig’s astrological sign is Leo, which means, according to online horoscopes of 100 percent veracity, that he loves being the center of attention. This plays right into what I’m about to say: in the world of sports, there are certain organizations and entities that do a better job managing the watchability and entertainment value of their game. Football cracked down on defensive penalties to encourage scoring, and basketball added a three-point line and had crooked refs assuring the success of the most popular teams at one point. One can easily argue, however, that the kings of managing product to assure amusing outcomes are a bit far off the beaten path, culturally speaking: professional wrestling promoters.

Of course, you may be saying to yourself: “But Jaime, pro wrestling is completely scripted, of course it’s designed to be more entertaining than conventional sports, baseball has nothing to learn from those glorified carnies, with their rampant steroid abuse, and questionable grooming decisions, and disconcerting propensity for wearing underwear in front of huge audiences.” To that, I would say: that’s a run-on sentence and our schools betrayed you. Have an open mind, it couldn’t make things more unbearable. Here’s a couple of cool things that could be instituted in baseball, on loan from the world of pro wrestling:

Manufactured Drama – Earlier this week, Clayton Kershaw beat out Giancarlo Stanton and multiple others as the National League’s MVP for the 2014 season. Good for him. He had a great year. Press conference tomorrow, probably, brief ESPN blurb, we forget what happened by next Tuesday. This wouldn’t be the case if Clayton Kershaw and Giancarlo Stanton had a BLOOD VENDETTA. Baseball has been on the right track on this matter before: in 2000 Roger Clemens of the Yankees and Mike Piazza of the Mets famously had a series of very public disagreements, culminating in Clemens throwing a splintered shard of a broken bat at Piazza as Mike went up the first base line. The press ATE IT UP. Giancarlo Stanton missed several games at the end of the season because he got hit in the face with a pitch. Now, imagine for a second that Kershaw had been the one who threw it, and then Stanton made a dramatic speech from his hospital bed vowing revenge on the man who robbed him of his chance to win MVP. I’d watch. Who wouldn’t?

Lowest Common Denominator Pandering - Professional wrestling has its roots in carny culture. There’s a whole dictionary of vocabulary unique to both carnies and professional-wrestling-industry people, and there’s significant overlap between the two. So, as you might expect, when wrestling grew to its height in popularity in the mid-to-late 90s, it did so on the back of a decidedly lowbrow and prepubescent audience, and satisfied this crowd by bringing increasingly crazy antics to national television. The following things all happened on national wrestling telecasts: THE UNDERTAKER performed a mock satanic crucifixion on “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, a woman in her 70s was “impregnated” by a wrestler and “gave birth” to an adult-sized human hand on live television, and a man with one leg was thrown down a flight of stairs, but it was okay because he was also somehow a wrestler.

Baseball has none of this fun built in, and that’s not how you hook an audience. People react excellently to Duck Dynasty and Fox News. If you can hook those people, you’re in the money. Baseball has no players who win the hearts of the fans by shirking all the rules and only playing with their caps backwards, or scantily clad female “managers” to accompany them to the plate. Nobody’s even ever been hit by a chair. As the erosion of baseball’s popularity marches on into the future, they may very well wish they’d thought to add more pyrotechnics and masked relief pitchers and crazy stipulations, like the commissioner showing up onto the field at Game 1 of the World Series to the strains of his own foreboding theme music and declaring that only fielders will be allowed to pitch, and only pitchers will be allowed to hit.

Unlocking the Potential of Jazz in Sports

Anyone who knows me well knows of my love for statistical analysis and social experimentation. I have been significantly less vocal in my support of jazz music, a great genre that, much like the Utah Jazz, doesn’t have the popular appeal it deserves, boasts a tradition of racial diversity, and has not produced much of note since 1998. But, dear readers, I shall not be silent about jazz any longer, because a great man has compelled me to act. Clarkson University Professor Ali Boolani has made a discovery that combines sports, jazz, and controlled experiments in ways I never dreamed possible. I will allow Mr. Boolani, an esteemed scholar, pedagogue, and 2016 presidential candidate (fingers crossed), to tell you the rest:

That’s right, listening to jazz while golfing can improve your putting! Sure, the sample size was “small” and the trials were “limited,” but I don’t have to care about that. I was an English major! In all seriousness, though, the results of this limited study were intriguing enough to warrant further, more extensive studies on the relationship between jazz and golfing performance. If you’re more into anecdotal evidence, you can certainly give it a try the next time you hit the links.

But my question to Mr. Boolani is this: why stop with golf? Surely jazz has the potential to enhance athlete performance in other sports. It seems to me that tennis players, with their laser focus and expectation of complete silence during play, could benefit from the smooth, calming tones of Sun Ra:

I have plenty of thoughts on the interplay between jazz and basketball, but a man far wiser and more famous than I has already expressed them more eloquently than I ever could:

Side note: I applied to Clarkson even though I had no interest in going there. The application was free, and I wanted to “practice filling out an application” (17-year-old brains are not very smart). So, I missed out on being part of the greatest experiment in sports history. I guess I’ll just have to come up with something better. Who wants to shoot some free throws while wearing a fedora?

In The Nick of Time

One of my biggest regrets in life, ranked just below “attempting to rig the eighth-grade Class President election” and “only seeing Talladega Nights in theaters twice,”  is that I’ve never had a totally random encounter with a famous person. I’ve run into tennis players at tournaments, and baseball players in ballparks, but that’s nothing to write home about. It’s like seeing a lion at the zoo, only with less potential for maulings.

Well, I’m happy to report that I’ve checked one of those items off my list, and doing so did not involve the impeccable comedic chemistry of Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly. In the early morning of Wednesday, November 6, on the not-so-mean streets of southeastern Washington DC, I saw Nick Swisher in a Courtyard Marriott.

I instantly recognized his always-happy face and his angular black sideburns. He was in the lobby, standing in a circle with a family of three or four of his fans, who seemed as surprised to see him there as I was. Questions raced through my mind: what is he doing in DC? He’s under contract for at least two more years, so he’s not negotiating with the Nationals. Did he have the Morning Scramble or the Egg White Frittata for breakfast? How do you spell “frittata”? Can’t someone who made $15 million this year stay in a nicer hotel, where the elevators are made of gold and the housekeepers leave Rolexes on your pillow?

Before I had the chance to ask Nick Swisher any of these questions, I turned around and saw that he was gone, presumably on his way to the Comfort Inn in Des Moines, Iowa. So, instead of asking Nick Swisher, I asked Nick Swisher’s Twitter. It told me he was doing this:

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Swisher received the Bob Feller Act of Valor award for demonstrating his support of US military troops, in part through a tour of over a dozen military bases in Afghanistan. Good for him! Though I would’ve toured EVEN MORE Afghani bases, had anyone bothered to ask me.

So, I guess you could say my story is kind of lame, since it doesn’t end with any autographs or photo-ops or bits of wisdom on how to hit a curveball. But it was still nice to see a pro athlete in town for  reasons other than a court date or a grand-jury trial. If the Nationals find themselves in need of a first baseman in a few years, it would be cool to see him come to town again. I’m sure he misses the Courtyard already.

Baseball is Boring, Part I

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Another season of Major League Baseball concluded last week, with a closely fought seven-game World Series that came down to the final out. It sounds nice enough on the surface; one of the teams was a scrappy underdog that won the heart of the nation, and the playoffs were marked with exceptional and memorable performances. Then baseball went ahead and blew it by rounding out the season with the most boring team prevailing, like it has each of the last several years. Here’s a rundown if you don’t remember (I wouldn’t blame you):

2010, Giants win: Okay, they hadn’t won in a while, and they had some cool players you could rally behind, and okay, whatever. It’s still boring because the alternative was the Rangers winning, and their coach tested positive for cocaine once, which is at least exciting. Who knew they test coaches for drugs? Not me. If you ask this humble observer, it’s probably because the bigwigs at MLB don’t want you to know that managers don’t really matter. An opium addict could pop up in a major-league clubhouse, learn some hand signals, jog out to argue occasionally, and show up to all the games, and that guy could win the World Series if he had a bunch of guys who could play. The MLB wanted to nip this issue in the bud, before anyone gets the idea. Managers don’t really do anything.

Pete Rose is STILL banned from baseball because he gambled FOR the Reds in games while he was their manager, when, in reality, he probably had as much effect on who won as I do when I’m at home at home, doing something more productive and exciting than watching baseball (watching Netflix documentaries, like Ken Burns’ Baseball). How could he have thrown a game? Red flags would have come up if like, somehow, his talentless son was on the team and allowed to play, but a thing like that would never fly. Oh, wait. Free Pete.

2011, Cardinals win: This time the Cardinals, the blandest team in all of professional sports, again defeated the Rangers, who we’ve already established to be interesting, by baseball standards. They even had Josh Hamilton; that guy’s story is so uplifting. When’s the last time the Cardinals did anything uplifting? Mark McGwire? He was on ROIDS. His bad influence could very well have led me into a swift downward spiral of steroid abuse and grimacing at myself in mirrors while flexing. I was at an impressionable age in 1998. I can’t think of anything else exciting that they ever did, they just win World Series all the time. They’re the equivalent of the boring-looking greyhound thing winning the dog show that goes on after the Macy’s parade every Thanksgiving. People want to see the weird looking Basenji or Boykin Terrier or Borzoi win, but then the Cardinals win again and you’re only watching because football hasn’t really started yet, like on Thanksgiving.

2012, Giants win (again): Remember when “Family Guy” got cancelled, and the reruns were really popular on Adult Swim, and the public outcry for more Family Guy was so loud and widespread that Fox’s hand was forced and they brought back new episodes of Family Guy that continue to this day? Except the new episodes were kind of increasingly crappy and made you wonder whether the earlier ones were actually good or if it was just that you were in middle school back then and would have found any joke about genitalia or farts funny. That’s what the 2012 Giants winning again was like. You’d already seen it all before, except this time you saw it coming, and you couldn’t really rouse yourself to any level of excitement. They beat Detroit, which, come on Giants, let Detroit have one thing.

2013, Red Sox win: The World Series that, hopefully, made the Illuminati assemble to rig the next 100 World Series so that the Red Sox would have another nice long drought. The unleashing of Boston sports fans over their last 15 years of near-universal success is like a “nice guy” getting the girl of his dreams to date him after he woos her in public with an acoustic guitar or something. You think it’s endearing, because when’s the last time something good happened to that guy? But then it becomes annoying as he makes daily Instagram posts about apple-picking excursions or hot-air balloon rides in the country. We get it: all your teams win stuff. Jesus, Boston. I will be very dead in 2114, so I won’t care when they break the second curse. Thx, Illuminati.

Stay tuned for Part II, in which some SOLUTIONS will be proposed.

Remembering and Forgetting Oscar Taveras

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If you were tuned into sports media on Monday, you may have briefly heard that St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras was killed in a Sunday-night car accident, along with his girlfriend, in his native Dominican Republic. The news probably came to you via an onscreen ticker, beneath a highlight reel of Madison Bumgarner’s dominant complete-game shutout, or in a tweet sandwiched between reactions to JJ Watt’s “selfie celebration” and Tom Brady’s resurgent performance against the Bears. With the baseball season reaching its crescendo at the same time that everyone was caught up in a midseason edition of Monday Morning Quarterback, the 22-year-old’s passing was treated like an early-round French Open match, or that Winter X Games event no one cares about (the Winter X Games).

If nothing else, the lack of attention to Taveras’ death saved us from having to read a bunch of rehashed “life is short” human-interest columns. But it’s crazy to consider the fact that, if just a couple of NLCS games had turned out differently two weeks ago, Taveras would’ve been thousands of miles away from the scene at which his life was taken, probably playing in a different Game 5 at St. Louis’ Busch Stadium. Instead, we’re hearing the same well-intentioned but trite lines that have been used to describe others who, like Taveras, have left us too soon. “A wonderful young man… who lived every day to the fullest.” That may be true, but it doesn’t give us much of a sense of who Taveras really was.

If his life and career had gone according to plan, it seemed we were going to have plenty of time to get to know him. Prior to this season, he was rated as the #3 prospect in Major League Baseball. Scouting reports predicted a star-quality future at the plate, and Taveras backed that up with a career batting average of nearly .320 at the AA and AAA levels. He made his MLB debut on May 31 of this year, and while his results this season were mediocre, a rocky  start is pretty much a given for a player of his age and inexperience, especially one who was called up prematurely due to injuries.

Before Taveras, the last active MLB player to die was Greg Halman, a Seattle outfielder who lived most of his life in The Netherlands (seriously) and passed away on November 21, 2011. When it comes to MLB players current and former, it’s pretty hard to get anything past me, but my first thought upon reading his name in reports on Taveras’ death was, “who the hell was Greg Halman?” He was stabbed to death in his native country by his brother, who was acquitted on grounds of temporary insanity due to marijuana use (again, seriously). If that story couldn’t divert our attention from football and basketball and baseball long enough to grab some headlines, it’s hard to foresee a day when guys like Oscar Taveras will get their due.

The Definitive World Series Drinking Game

The World Series is here! We don’t recommend mixing it with alcohol, because it’s going to be a classic, and you’ll want to talk about it with your kids, and your kids’ kids, and random kids you meet on the street who have no blood relation to you. If, however, you insist on making adult beverages part of your viewing experience, here is the preeminent guide to how those beverages shall be consumed:

Single:

  • The year 1985 is mentioned
  • George Brett’s picture with Lorde is shown
  • Someone makes a pun on Brandon Belt’s name
  • Kansas City successfully executes a sacrifice bunt
  • Travis Ishikawa’s NLCS-clinching home run is replayed
  • Raul Ibanez gives an in-game interview
  • Ned Yost is referred to as a “mad scientist” (see also: evil genius, chessmaster, Bill Belichick of Baseball)
  • “Hunter Pence Signs” are referenced or shown
  • Someone says “wild card”
  • Pablo Sandoval is called “Panda” or some variation thereof

Double:

  • Bowling For Soup’s “1985” is used as lead-in music to a commercial break
  • Lorenzo Cain misjudges a ball in center field
  • The Yoenis Cespedes trade is mentioned (they still won’t let that go)
  • “This ninth inning is brought to you by ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine'”
  • Madison Bumgarner pitches a non-quality start
  • Raul Ibanez gets a plate appearance
  • Barry Bonds shows up and pretends to care about something other than himself
  • Someone Makes a Sergio/Tony Romo joke
  • Someone says “wild pitch”
  • Nori Aoki is called “Panda” or some variation thereof (because that’s racist, and you should drink to forget that)

Triple:

  • Either team wears its 1985 throwback uniforms
  • Someone pinch runs for Jarrod Dyson or Terrance Gore
  • Jeremy Guthrie wears a shirt that says “Actually, Now That I Think About It, These O’s Are Mildly Royal”
  • Someone pronounces “Yusmeiro” correctly
  • A fan catches a ball in his or her beer cup
  • Raul Ibanez gets a hit
  • Joe Buck refers to Harold Reynolds or Tom Verducci as Tim McCarver
  • Someone makes a Sergio Romo/Sergio Garcia joke
  • Someone says “take a walk on the wild side”
  • Barry Zito performs the National Anthem

Home Run:

  • A player attains an OPS of exactly 1.985
  • Jarrod Dyson delivers a postgame critique of the CDC’s response to Ebola
  • A Royals fan wears a shirt that says “Meh, I Like The Chiefs Better”
  • An injury results from the collapse of a foul pole
  • Someone says, “If only this were as exciting as the College World Series”
  • Raul Ibanez is named World Series MVP and Commissioner of Baseball
  • Ned Yost is referred to as “romantically linked to Jennifer Lawrence” (see also: Nicki Minaj, Steve Buscemi)
  • Either team hires Jack McKeon to manage Game 7
  • Someone says “wild boars have stormed the field”
  • The World Series is cancelled because we all decide we’d rather watch “New Girl”

MLB Playoffs Results Represent Scientific Breakthrough

The sabermetrics community, and the analytics community at large, rejoiced yesterday evening when the San Francisco Giants clinched the National League pennant and booked a date with the Kansas City Royals in the World Series. “We suspected it with Kansas City, and now the Giants have confirmed it: Wild Card teams are statistically more likely to make the World Series than division winners. Looking at multiple observations in a year’s worth of data, there’s really no other conclusion to draw.” Those were the words of University of Phoenix Professor of Economics Bob Dolby, and they sent shockwaves through those who spent less than five seconds thinking about them.

“What we’re seeing is a fundamentally unfair system being exposed,” added Hoyt Peabody, a professor of English who specializes in Marxist theory. “The Wild Card games give their winners incredible momentum throughout the playoffs. The impressive institution that is the MLB denied teams like the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Angels the chance to even play in these contests.” Peabody proceeded to advocate for a new thirty-team playoff format with participation medals for every team. “Until Major League Baseball addresses the inequality that arises from its practices, it will have the blood of many innocent shortstops on its batting gloves.”

Protesters in Baltimore took to the streets following the revelation. “If it was our team, if we won the Wild Card game, we would feel the same way, no question,” said Orioles fan Matt McDermott. He added that he would like to see a grace period of several years before the rules are changed, because “the O’s probably won’t win the division next year.”

Many MLB players weighed in on the uproar. When questioned by reporters, Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier had plenty to say. “Playoffs? What are those? October is my fishing month.”

Music of the Diamonds: MLB Walkup Songs

Growing up, there were two things I really enjoyed about going to Cincinnati Reds games. One was the way John Walton would introduce Barry Larkin, and the other was listening to players’ walk-up songs to decide who my favorite player would be that year. (This season’s favorite is Todd Frazier, who went with “Come Fly With Me” and “Fly Me To The Moon” by Frank Sinatra). Of course, sometimes players choose great songs and sometimes they choose… questionable songs. Here’s a list of players from around the league and what their music choices say about them:

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Joey Votto – Cincinnati Reds

“Lucifer” by Jay-Z, “Paint It Black” by The Rolling Stones: Votto has some dark secrets.

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Alex Rios – Texas Rangers

“Beggin’” by Madcon: He wishes it was still 2008, when he had a new contract and was on a team that wasn’t last in its division.

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JJ Hardy – Baltimore Orioles

“Flower” by Moby: JJ Hardy is basically the coolest person in baseball. Especially since he didn’t end up with the Yankees.

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Michael Wacha – St. Louis Cardinals

“Drop That #NaeNae” by We Are Toonz: I’d like to think he chose this because he was a big fan of the TV show “Martin.” I don’t know if there’s any other explanation.

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David Robertson – New York Yankees

“Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd: He’s from Alabama.

i-5

Ryan Flaherty – Baltimore Orioles

“The Wild Rover” by Dropkick Murphys: Like the Dropkick Murphys, he wishes he was as Irish as his name.

i-6

Jake McGee – Tampa Bay Rays

“My Way” by Limp Bizkit: He has a very aggressive personality and he’s filled with angst. Just look at that face.

Alex Schiefer is the founder of AltShiftMusic.com. Like them on Facebook for updates on artists and events from around the world.

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