Saturday, May 08, 2010

Saturday (Very) Quickie

PHILLY -- Had a blast at the rehearsal dinner last night, and had to
laugh at the irony that a mile away at the same time, Jamie Moyer was
setting a record for oldest pitcher to throw a complete-game shut-out.

I'm a little obsessed with Moyer, entirely because he is 47 (and a
half!) and still pitching in the majors (and not as a knuckleballer).
I feel like I need to see him in person, because I am skeptical we
will ever see a pitcher his age again. What a marvel.

On the opposite end, there is Starlin Castro, the 19-year-old Cubs SS
who made a mythic debut yesterday: HR and a triple, accounting for a
record-setting 6 RBI. So much for tempered expectations.

And then there's Goran Dragic, the backup Suns PG who scored 23... in
the 4th quarter. Greatest playoffquarter by a backup player in NBA
history? (Why not!)

As I tweeter yesterday, hoping to get to the Schuylkill this morning
to watch some of Dad Vails, one of the great crew events of the year.
I haven't been to (or rowed in) Philly in 18 years. And 25 pounds.

(Wow: Just saw my college coach quoted in the Inquirer; he's now the
women's coach at St. Joe's. He let me earn a seat in the Northwestern
heavyweight varsity 8 as a freshman, my finest athletic accomplishment
ever. For that, I will always be grateful to him, even though
personality conflicts the next season, when I was team captain,
contributed to me leaving the team and the sport. Wow, haven't thought
about any of this in a long time....)

- D.S.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Friday Quickie: On the Road

On the road to Philly this morning for a wedding weekend. First time
back since a high school rowing regatta. Coincidentally, the biggest
college crew race of the year - Dad Vail - is this weekend. Will be
fun to watch and vicariously re-live my erstwhile prep and college
athletic career. Meanwhile, the groom is a huge Dolphins fan. Will
have to thank him for freeing up No. 15 in Denver.

Meanwhile, I'm filing this from my phone and don't have a link to my
SN column to provide. If you hit up the front page of the site or use
yesterdays link below, you should be able to navigate to it. If you
use yesterdays column, just click on my byline.

Meanwhile, more posts from the road all weekend, and - likely - a
steady stream of tweets.

For those not checking back, happy mother's day to all the moms. And
call your mother.

- D.S.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Should Adults Wear Sports Jerseys?

Interesting debate right now -- sparked by some Twitter discussion from Spencer Hall and Chris Mottram of SB Nation -- about whether adults should wear sports jerseys.

Hall says: Never.

Mottram says: Only when watching or attending games.

I'm going to fall somewhere in between.

I wear a Tebow jersey while watching or attending Florida football games. I'm sure you are shocked.

However, I recognize that -- as an adult -- I look foolish. That's the key for me: It's fine to wear the jersey if you acknowledge that, in fact, you do look a little lame.

I do think that there is a continuum of how dumb you look in a jersey. Basketball tank-tops are just not a good look. Football jerseys always make the wearer look like he put on his dad's shirt. Baseball jerseys are a little more subtle; maybe it's the button-down thing. Hockey sweaters are kind of awesome but are best kept in an arena. Soccer jerseys are actually acceptable. They look like interesting T-shirts. Which is a good segue...

I would like to offer a third way: I am a huge fan of the "jersey t-shirt" -- the replica jersey that is printed onto a T-shirt.

I have a jersey T-shirt for Tebow -- three, actually. Two blue ones and a white one that I wore exactly once -- the Kentucky concussion game, after which I buried it.

I think that is an appropriate way for adults to rock the jersey look, without actually wearing a jersey out in public in a non-gameday context.

I completely respect the opinion that wearing jerseys as an adult is lame and shouldn't be done. And yet I completely respect the group that wants to wear them on game day.

It's hard to pass judgment. We all wear stupid things from time to time.

OK: Your thoughts on adults wearing sports jerseys?

-- D.S.

UPDATE: Here's a SBNation poll on the issue. Heated!

05/06 Quickie: Los Suns, Zito, Hayward

Was the "Los Suns" effort an unprecedented moment of politics in the history of team sports?

I think it was -- particularly impressive given that fans hate to see politics and sports mix.

In today's SN column lead, I analyze the factors that made "Los Suns" successful -- but it is the same factors that make it unlikely to be replicated.

It would be great if "Los Suns" turned out to be the catalyst for change, but this is not the signal of an increasing prominence of politics within sports.

Oh, we will still have individual athletes or coaches speaking out on issues -- I expect we'll see even more of that, given the proliferation of channels for them to express themselves.

But at an institutional level -- a team-wide (and, as unique, corporate-sanctioned) effort -- it feels entirely unique.

That's what made it such an amazing moment. It's also why we won't see it again in other contexts.

More you'll find in today's column:

*In praise of Barry Zito!
*Philly Tazer Watch
*Good for Gordon Hayward.
*Biggest. Contract. Ever. (for an interior lineman)
*Did you need SI to confirm Ben is a douchebag?

Complete column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

05/05 Quickie: Harwell, Magic, Los Suns

Sorry for another short post today. If you saw yesterday's long-ish post about dads and baseball, you understand why I'm still underwater, so to speak.

But today's SN column has an interesting twist at the top: My favorite lines from Ernie Harwell's classic 1955 Sporting News essay about Baseball and America. Felt like an appropriate homage.

There's a lot more:

*The Magic ripped out Atlanta's soul. Then dunked on it.

*Lakers up 2-0: The Jazz might take one or two games in SLC, but they're not beating the Lakers in this series.

*Is PHX wearing the "Los Suns" jersey a political statement? You bet it is.

*John Calipari to the Bulls? Bull-something. Why would he leave? He has the best job in college basketball history.

*If the Jaguars wanted a "name" yet unproven Denver QB, why didn't they just draft Tebow?

*Let's all stop and appreciate the Livan Hernandez Resurgence.

More in the column. And more later.

-- D.S.


Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Are We Winning By Will Leitch: Review

Let's just get this out of the way: Everyone knows already that I'm an unabashed fan of Will Leitch's work -- he's a friend and someone I admire, both personally and particularly professionally.

So if I recommend his new book -- Are We Winning? -- to you, it's your choice whether my fanboy attitude earns your discount or your trust. I hope it's the latter.

I'm not even going to talk that much about his book. It's better than "God Save the Fan," which -- while excellent -- felt more like Will's unifying theory (or perhaps closure) from Deadspin and the state of all sports. "Are We Winning" reads more like his opus: The book he was born to write -- about baseball, naturally.

But inspired by the book's release and the events of the last 24 hours in my life, I'm going to veer into self-examination:

Yesterday morning, my apartment started leaking from the ceiling.

"Leak" is probably too much of an understatement: I was shuttling between a half-dozen buckets of various sizes, dumping them into the tub when they filled to the brim, trying to catch everything. I felt like Super Mario. I went through probably two dozen towels, trying to sop up excess water spreading on the floor. When every single one of those was saturated, I burned through at least a half-dozen full rolls of Bounty.

At one point, I opened the front-hall closet -- part of the damage zone -- and I saw my baseball glove, soaked in the nasty brown-black liquid currently dripping (pouring, really) into the buckets in my front hallway.

The glove shouldn't have even been there.

A few weeks ago, the weather got nicer and I got an unshakable urge to have a catch. I rang up my neighbor Jason, I dug out my old glove from deep in a closet in the back of my apartment, and we wandered out to the local park to throw a baseball for a half-hour or so.

We did it again the next week and by the third week, I had come to really look forward to it, not just because I enjoyed our conversation, but because I just enjoyed the catch itself. I probably haven't done that -- just played catch -- since I was a year out of college, living with my closest friends in Wrigleyville, within a few blocks of Wrigley Field itself. That was 15 years ago.

And so that's how my glove came to be in that front-hall (soaked) closet, rather than in the back (dry) half of our apartment where the glove had been sitting in a box for at least a few years.


A brief digression on my history as a baseball fan:

*I have a predictably tortured relationship with baseball as a fan and participant. I didn't play as a kid. One week at baseball camp when I was 12 was enough to prove that "no-field, no-hit" wasn't a template for even a no-cuts youth-league player.

*I was a HUGE Cubs fan -- I remember calling the local cable company on a regular basis, begging them to carry WGN. My dad was from Chicago and a Cubs fan, and I inherited the fandom from him. In that magical 1984 season, I was 11 -- just hitting the age of fan consciousness.

*I played Strat-O-Matic somewhat obsessively from 1985-1988; me and my friends kept using the 1984 season cards, and as a Cubs fan, that was fine with me. Rick Sutcliffe was unbeatable.

*It felt unique to be a Cubs fan in DC. But my dad got a Sunday season ticket package to the Orioles after they moved to Camden Yards, just because a Sunday at a baseball game was fun. It didn't hurt that the O's were competitive -- and Camden Yards was new and amazing.

*Quality Shanoff Trivia: In my college freshman facebook (way before Facebook), under my "Interests," I listed "Chicago Cubs." I had this Cubs hat I had worn since I was maybe 12 or 13, perfectly broken in. By the end of college, I had lost it.

*Living in Chicago for college, my Cubs fandom actually atrophied over the four years -- although I went to plenty of games at Wrigley, which was priceless. (Standard Friday: Afternoon Cubs game, then this wince-inducing hour of cheap open bar at a place called Kronie's.)

*After college, living in Wrigleyville was -- up until I moved in with my wife -- the greatest living situation ever. It felt like the center of the baseball universe.

*After I left Chicago, my interest in following baseball day-to-day -- not just the Cubs -- waned. Maybe that means I was never "enough" of a fan. I just developed other sports passions.

*When I started writing the Quickie, my interest in baseball was entirely focused on the big "national" storylines on any given day. I lost almost all of the sense of a "personal" baseball fandom.

*Since then, I would say that my favorite baseball team is "my fantasy team," a league I have played in for six years (Leitch is the commissioner, coincidentally enough). Fantasy rekindled my interest in following baseball.

*I am pretty terrible at fantasy baseball. A year ago, I committed to getting better -- to playing more avidly and making the mid-season moves that generally keep a team competitive. I finished in the middle of the pack; it felt like a success.

*This season, after 4 weeks, I am in 1st place. It will likely not last -- whatever the fantasy equivalent of an unusually high "BABIP" is, I have enjoyed it so far. Nevertheless, first place feels like an achievement. I spent Sunday snatching Wade LeBlanc from the FA wire and feeling like a genius.

End of digression.


Even as the glove sits drying next to a fan, I can already tell it's going to smell too gross to use. I lament the glove's loss, because I have had it since I was a kid.

My first baseball glove as a little kid was a Scott McGregor model. I don't remember the manufacturer, just the signature. Come to think of it, I don't think the glove had an imprinted signature on it; I believe I actually got McGregor's autograph on the glove at an event he was at.

My next glove was my first "real" glove -- it was (machine-) autographed by Bruce Sutter. Unbeknownst to me, it was a pitcher's glove; at that point, I fancied myself a 1st baseman. I was mostly afraid of the ball, and figured having it thrown at me by a fielder was preferable to having it hit at me by batters. And the outfield was a non-starter, because I sort of panicked at the thought of catching towering fly balls.

My dad played in a softball game on the weekends -- god, this must have been 20 or 25 years ago, so he was older than I am now, but not by much. I remember he was pretty good, too, a compact but powerful hitter and solid defensively in the outfield. He didn't play baseball in high school or anything; he was just your average fun-on-the-weekend softball player.

He had this Lou Piniella model glove that I coveted. I'm not even sure that it had anything to do with Sweet Lou himself; I only got interested in him as a player because of the glove. I liked the glove's shape, its particular webbing and that it was so much more broken in than mine. I remember my dad kept it in his closet and I would sneak it out to play with. It was better than my glove in its construction, but it was also better than my glove because it was his glove.

One day, I finally wore him down -- as a parent now myself, I understand how this transaction works -- and he "traded" me his glove for mine. I was probably 14 or 15, because it still has the faint marking on it of "8/8/88" when I noted the date of the first Wrigley night game.

I have had the glove ever since -- more than 20 years -- packing it away as I have moved from home to college to my own apartment to my grandparent's house to co-habitation with then-girlfriends (whose father, ironically, was buddies with Lou Piniella) to business school to part of the boxes that I brought with me into my relationship with my wife.

Despite the fact that the glove has barely been used since college -- where I finally found my calling as a decent career as a crafty IM softball pitcher (until an unfortunate, Mitch Williams-style meltdown in the league championship game my senior year, in which my team was defending campus champs) -- I lug it around from place to place on the mere possibility that it might get used for a game of catch.

That is how I know that baseball remains core to me as a fan.

Even if I didn't come to the realization of that until the glove was gone.


Will's book is a lot about the relationship between fathers and sons and baseball. (The subtitle is, in fact, "Fathers and Sons in the New Golden Age of Baseball.") If that Piniella glove -- and, of course, the Cubs fandom plus the Orioles games -- was the connection point between me and my dad and baseball, then it begs the question of how I will connect with my own two young kids about the game.

I took Gabe to his first baseball game two years ago, when he was two -- the Brooklyn Cyclones. We sat in the front row directly behind home plate, because I neurotically wanted the netting there between the ball and my kid. Gabe was more interested in the PA announcer and the team's seagull mascot.

Last summer, we took him back to Coney Island, this time bringing along his 9-month-old brother Jonah. Gabe was mostly interested in the helmet sundae; Jonah squirmed.

Gabe has a small toy bat, and in his room, I pitch him oversized stuffed balls -- he has more eye-hand coordination than I ever did. The next step is to go to the toy store and get him a plastic tee. I'm sure his younger brother will want to join in.

It is not important to me -- in the least -- that my kids be good baseball players. I'd like for them to be decent enough in gym class not to be an outcast. I'd like them to enjoy intramural softball. I'd like them to appreciate a game of catch. I'd like them to be good baseball fans.

(On Saturday, Gabe marched into my room and, for the first time, declared a baseball allegiance: "I like the Yankees." As my heart broke a little bit, I replied allergically: "Ehh, you don't know what you like yet." I don't want to dump on his individuality as a sports fan, but come on: The Yankees? If I do nothing else as a parent, it's to insulate my kids from becoming Yankees fans. In New York, that is no easy feat. All that said: If he really wants to be a Yankees fan, I'm hardly going to push him away from that. Nudge him, maybe....)

In July, I'm taking my wife and kids to Chicago, where we are meeting up with my siblings and siblings-in-law and my dad, to celebrate the centennial of my dad's dad, who would have been 100 years old that month. He took my dad to Cubs games.

To continue the tradition, that weekend -- hopefully with my dad and siblings coming along -- I am taking Gabe to his first-ever MLB game: Wrigley Field on a Friday afternoon. I can't think of a more perfect way to introduce him to Major League Baseball.

Fathers, Sons and Baseball. That's what Leitch has written about, compellingly. If you want to enjoy what has instantly become one of my favorite baseball books of all time, read it.

(If nothing else, I will guarantee you that reading it will -- as it did for me -- make you consider your own relationship with baseball, your relationship with your parents (as it relates to baseball) and your relationship with your kids (or future kids) as it relates to baseball.

And I can't think of a more enjoyable thing to think about.

-- D.S.

05/04 Quickie: LeBron, UVA, Ubaldo

Longtime reader Scott D. just pointed out that Game 3 of Cavs-Celtics is Friday. Friday! Imagine for a moment if MLB put four days between playoff games. They would be crucified. Ridiculous.

Anyway, today's SN column leads with the reality that LeBron can't wear an MVP award on his finger like a championship ring. The MVP is meaningless -- no matter how much geographic or competitive meaning he wants to assign to it -- without a championship. And, right now, the Cavs are as close to the brink as they have been all season.

I'm sure they will come back, win at least one game in Boston, reclaim HCA and win that series. I still think they fall short of an NBA title.

More in today's column:

*The UVA murder is precisely the kind of subject I don't write about particularly well.

*Maybe that's because I'm busy arguing superficial things like whether the Rockies ace has earned "first-name-only status": Ubaldo!

(It is a prerequisite of FNO status that your name be fairly unique. It's going to be hard for me -- or anyone else -- to earn FNO status with "Dan.")

*Will Leitch's new book about baseball is worth adding to your library. It comes out today. Buy it here. Hopefully, a stand-alone post about it later.

*RIP "FedEx Orange Bowl." I can remember sitting in Bethesda Library researching a paper early in high school about college bowl sponsorships. FedEx was one of the earliest ones.

Complete column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Monday, May 03, 2010

05/03 Quickie: Kobe, LeBron, Borel, More

Apologies for the very very very short post this morning. Lots to cover today in the SN column: Kobe's game-winning moves, LeBron's MVP, the Phillies' back-to-reality moment, Favre-hating and -- of course -- a bit of triumphalism from calling Super Saver in the column on Friday. More later.

-- D.S.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Sunday (Very) Quickie

So much for the Quickie jinx for Super Saver.

So much for LeBron's elbow "problems."

So much for Shane Mosley.

So much for any doubt about Roy Halladay.

So much for Dice-K solving Boston's problems.

So much for Andrew Bynum against the Jazz.

So much for Sean Payton's Super Bowl aura.

-- D.S.