Sunday, January 25, 2009

Tinkering

Spring cannot come soon enough for Bobi, who is losing it badly these days on comp.lang.lisp:

Slobodan Blazeski wrote:
Dear board members

I'm baseball player for a several time periods (days,
moths ,years,decades) I've noticed that interest in baseball is
dwindling, and baseball is becoming less and less relevant and will
soon become extinct with only baby boomers supporting it, and even
those are either going to die or switch to golf. In order to save our
favorite sport I propose we make drastic changes and adapt more modern
things like:
a. Playing on the beach sand wearing swimwear like in beach
volleyball, very modern sport. Check Thiobe for growth rate
b. Replacing bats  with  hockey sticks. Note that hockey is popular in
many world countries and we should think international
c. Including  24-Second Shot Clock like in NBA that will make our
sport more lively and fast paced
d. Square playing fields should be replaced with the more common
rectangular one like found in many popular sports : soccer, football,
tennis etc

Including this will make baseball prosper.
 
very truly yours
 
Concerned Semi-Ex Baseball Player
Avenue of delusional weirdos Number 23

Bobi may not be as crazy as he thinks he is. Baseball suffered extreme popularity anxiety in the late Sixties and did indeed tinker with the game. Thinking more offense would attract more fans the pitching mound was lowered so pitchers did not get extra energy into the ball from falling into a pitch. The American League adopted the designated hitter to eliminate the 11% nil pitcher from batting lineups (eliminating as well an awful lot of interesting strategy). They avoided the salary caps of the NBA and instituted free agency (well, no, they lost a lawsuit) which allowed bigger markets like NYC, Boston, and LA to buy better teams, and bigger markets are always good for ratings. Minnesota fans will follow the Dodgers, Los Angeles fans will not follow the Twins. 

The changes went beyond the playing field. Ballparks added mascots and a disgusting cacophony of party music between innings so loud you can barely talk, and limited alcohol sales late in games to make the experience more family-friendly cuz you know how the losing fans get in their third hour of drinking.

Now baseball is hugely popular again so tinkering with grand institutions can work. Right?

Wrong. In the end, baseball is just a great game: multi-dimensional and deep. Quality tells, and which quality one emphasizes matters. Hockey and basketball have non-stop action and are fading in popularity, while baseball and football like great music have a variety, a rhythm, a balancing of quiet against intense. Baseball has the pitch, football has the snap. All scales from small to large from inning or drive to the game or season always and invariably end up condensed into one point of explosive tension when the pitcher releases or the center snaps the ball.

Intense without quiet merely exhausts. A boxing match with two brawlers spurning defense landing bombs back and forth brings the crowd to its feet but those who love the sport do so for its nickname, The Sweet Science. They still talk about one genius of defense who won a round without throwing a punch. Between evenly matched fighters one solid punch (forget the knockout, the cartoon haymakers of Rocky n) brings the crowd screaming to its feet, the culmination of rounds of careful, tentative, mutual exploration. A single knockdown becomes a cause for pandemonium and one punch knockouts almost do not happen between the best and when they do they are talked about for a long time. I digress.

Tinkering. Basketball has all the action in the world and now faces its own popularity crisis. Racism is one factor, another is probably the salary cap that has San Antonio in the championship series instead of New York. Another problem: poor defense, and a twenty-point lead does not mean anything. 

But worst of all is the lack of dimensionality. There just is not that much to these games to argue about over the water cooler. Baseball? Boston still talks about the time Grady Little [thx, Xach. ed.] left Pedro Martinez in one inning too long against the Yankees in game seven of the ALCS. Come on, he had thrown a hundred pitches! Everyone knows Pedro is useless after a hundred pitches! You just never hear anything like that about hockey or basketball, which both boil down to great athletes pretty much just playing run and gun.

Baseball never needed tinkering, though tinker they did. The fundamental quality of the game first ensured its survival throught the hard times when fans strayed for the quick fix of non-stop hockey and basketball action. Now the richness, subtlety, and sophistication of the game has some stadiums selling out most games of the year of a very long season.

Moral for Lisp left as an exercise.

2 comments:

Xach said...

Close, but Grady Little fucked up with Pedro and was shown the door. Terry Francona followed and is still around.

sharpquote said...

Dear Board Members:

I have been curling for at least a few days, and while I think the idea of a sport that involves Canadians wielding wooden implements on a court of ice has merits, I think that it could be improved upon.

I'll freely admit that these ideas are not entirely of my own devising. I have taken inspiration from other sports like basketball, three varieties of football (take that American swine- Canada has its own variety of football, and it is much better than your so-called "NFL" [note the arrogance of the word "national", without qualification- it is as if the US speaks for all nations], but I digress). (note that I put my period _outside_ my parentheses, swine). Something all of you "Americans" (and who gave you the right to the exclusive use of the name of an entire hemisphere, anyway)? ought to note- the American century is over and you'd better get used to the word national taking on meanings you are not yet accustomed to. But I digress again.

At any rate, I would like to suggest that curling might be a bit better if it had "goals" at either end of the court. We could have a natinal search for folks named Jason with a pre-existing toothal-deficiency to man this position. And let's do away with the brooms in favor of simple sticks so as not to imitate the running-dog American bourgeois obsession with cleanliness, and also to demonstrate our new-found Canadian love of frugality.

Of course this is horse-puckey, which suggests a name for the whole sordid business. I'm convinced that this "hockey" could be both a commercial success and a demonstration of the vast superiority of Canadian aesthetics over the aesthetics of the States.

Yours,
A loyal Canadian

captcha: senes, as in senescent. How apropos.