Category Archives: Sports

Doubled off second on an infield fly

In my thirties and early forties, I played adult baseball. Most of the people I played with were younger than me, which made it challenging, but for the most part I had a great time. Well, except for the torn cartilage, and the ruptured achilles, and a few other bummers. There were two comebacks, sort of similar to Jim Bouton’s career. I even learned to throw a knuckleball, as did Bouton, and in my last go-round wore his #56 as well.

You can’t play very much baseball for very long without seeing some humorous situations on and off the field. There was the time Frenchy, desperate for a toilet at Bellevue CC (which didn’t even have sani-cans), climbed atop a stack of old tires and had a particularly disappointing bowel movement in them. The league almost got kicked off using BCC’s field. There was Riggs, an old fellow and a great baseball mind who looked a little bit like Burleigh Grimes, especially when his face got all red and he complained to umpires. We would all be in the dugout making the Riggs complaint face and laughing. There was the time I got my very first print credit in a book, and told my team at practice. A couple of them spat sunflower seeds or chew, and I think one muttered, “Will it help you hit a good curveball?” They didn’t care. This was a baseball dugout.

One funny story had a tragic coda, and I wouldn’t have laughed about it in the same way for years had I known. When I was on the Rattlers in my early forties, we had a kid named Andy Hyde. Andy was one of those unpredictable loose cannons, and was not especially popular. He had a way of saying things that stung, making petty complaints, ignoring direction. He once tailgated me most of the way home on his motorcycle, so close that I had to resist the temptation to tap the brakes. One time I was watching July 4 fireworks with our catcher, Josh Langlois, and some of his friends. As we were walking back, we saw someone on a motorcycle being arrested. It was Andy; for what offense, I never learned.

Andy resisted base coaching. I don’t mean that he listened, then did something else. I mean that he yelled at you to shut up, complaining that he couldn’t run the bases and listen to a base coach at the same time. Well, in baseball, you kind of have to accept some coaching. Now, in case you aren’t familiar with the rule, in baseball there’s an infield fly rule. If there are less than two out with a force play at third base, and the batter pops up a fair ball in the infield, an umpire bellows: “Infield fly! Batter’s out!” It doesn’t matter whether anyone catches the ball; the batter is out. No runners are forced. If someone does catch the ball, however, the runners may tag up and advance at their peril, just as with any caught fly ball. (If they let it drop, the runners don’t have to tag up.)

One day I was coaching third base, with someone on first and Andy on second. Thus, if our batter popped up in the infield, this rule would apply. In such a case, the runners should hold if a fielder even looks like he might catch the ball. Sure enough, our hitter popped one up to second. The umpire called the infield fly rule–but Andy had taken off for third base on contact. He got 3/4 of the way to third base before finally paying attention to my very colorful exhortations to return to second. While a speedy base runner, not even most major leaguers could have come that far and then gotten back to second in time. Their second baseman made the catch, flipped it to the shortstop covering second base. Andy was out by at least five feet. Double play! It was one of the dumbest plays I’d ever seen. Perhaps the very dumbest.

Andy didn’t stay with the Rattlers that long, and we didn’t hear much about him after that. A few years later, our self-adopted daughter called with some very sad news. Not too far from her home in Burbank, late at night, Andy had driven his car up to a fenced transformer. He’d scaled the fence, climbed over the inclined barbed wire at the top, walked over and grabbed the transformer. As I recall, she wasn’t the one who had found him, and gods be thanked for that. There was no other plausible explanation except suicide.

I hadn’t really considered Andy a friend, but I felt someone from the league should be at his funeral. I wore my jersey. I learned that he had been a star athlete in school, but had battled mental problems in young adulthood. He heard voices, did erratic things, perceived dangers that didn’t actually exist. He had gone into the Navy, and it had worsened his condition to the point where they discharged him. For years he had struggled to see the world with basic clarity, hold some form of employment, and avoid letting his demons lead him into trouble. As for whether he climbed into the transformer intent on suicide, or simply perceived it as something other than thousands of volts of live current, that we can’t ever know. We didn’t know the world his mind knew. His family grieved him, though years of trying to help him had worn on them. He had been just functional enough to get himself into serious predicaments, without the clarity to extricate himself. Nice family, compassionate people; one could not watch and hear them without feeling some of their pain.

In a way, it’s still funny, simply because of the preternatural dumbness of getting doubled up on a play where all one has to do is stay put. But it’s more unfunny than funny, because now I know why he couldn’t listen to base coaches. They were just more voices adding to his clamor. He lived in a world of pain and fear and confusion, one none of us could see.

I guess sometimes we only later come to grasp the rest of the story. What it has meant to me, I guess, is that I should generally try to hold a part of my judgment back. There may be another 2/3 of the story I never knew.

Surfacing from a sea of Tracewskis, Podgajnys and Gedeons

It has been a bit since I posted, and that’s because I have taken on a project which should soon appear elsewhere in the blog. Some years, back, a very capable writer and researcher named Tony Salin authored a book about forgotten baseball personalities. Almost as a throw-in, he included an appendix listing pronunciations (many coming from associates of the persons in question) for oft-mispronounced baseball figures’ names. It was great work, original research, and I’d long wanted to expand on it.

One may not, of course, misappropriate others’ work. One must address intellectual property rights, and this may not be done after the fact. Thus, once I made the decision to proceed, I contacted The Baseball Reliquary to ask if they knew who owned rights to Salin’s work (the man himself being now very sadly deceased). The response was swift and encouraging: TBR owned those rights, and would gladly grant me permission to use Salin’s compilation as my starting point. Thus, in my blog time for the past several days, I have been trying to figure out how players like Chris Cannizzaro and Kiki Cuyler pronounced their names.

It isn’t that easy. Of course, if the player himself is alive, and I can find a Youtube where he says his own name, that’s authoritative. Sometimes I can find a relative or descendant, which is the next best thing. Other information may come from ballplayers who were contemporaries. Last would be media and fans, who often think they know but do not–but I’d rather have that input than nothing.

It should soon be ready to go live (it’ll be linked under ‘About Me, and My Work’), a proud moment for me as the main holdup is twofold. I must conquer some HTML foibles, and I would rather root for the Yankees than mess directly with HTML code. Also, I do not feel right releasing it until I have added enough of my own discoveries and knowledge that the page goes significantly beyond what Tony Salin pioneered.

I harbor the hope that once the baseball nostalgia community learns of it, they’ll help me fill in some gaps. I would have fewer gaps, but until I was about 34, I did not have the ability to watch baseball games on TV, so I actually never heard many names articulated except by those with whom I traded baseball cards. I believe it will be a fun long-term project, and I thank the regular readership for its patience with my non-blogginess of late. No, I’m not losing interest; just got a lot on my plate here and in real life.

Diamond lightning: James Thomas “Cool Papa” Bell

Today in 1991, Cool Papa Bell passed away. What remained was a legacy as one of the most storied players in the game’s history.

Cool Papa Bell with the KC Monarchs. Credit to the Mississippi Historical Society.

James Thomas Bell was born May 17, 1903 in Starkville, Mississippi. You may imagine that environment and time for a part-Indian, mostly black child. He went to live in St. Louis in his teens, mostly so he could go to school. Wasn’t long before his athletic ability began to shine, starting in sandlot ball and working up to semi-pro play–always in all-black teams, of course, the legacy of that old Iowan bigot Cap Anson’s setting of the color bar in ‘major league’ baseball. (It was not always present. It was established. Given more decent human beings in the game, it might not have been.)

Cool Papa began as a pitcher and got his nickname that way, calmly fanning the famous Oscar Charleston in the clutch. Most pitchers who hurt their throwing arms, as Bell did, are done with baseball. Not Cool Papa Bell; the injury might have been the best thing that could happen to him. He taught himself to switch-hit, which is not easy to do well past the early teens, and began taking advantage of the one thing he did better than hit a baseball.

Cool Papa Bell could flat-out run. Like nobody’s business. In a game where speed meant a lot, and where many good players could pour it on, his brand of velocity, audacity and baserunning savvy stood above others.

Even if half the stories about his speed are fiction–which is debatable–the other half would certify him one of the speediest baserunners of all time. He played for the St. Louis Stars, Pittsburgh Crawfords and Homestead Grays (the most famous among many other Negro League* teams) from 1922-1946. No, I didn’t botch that dating. He retired from playing baseball at 43, an age where the only major leaguers still playing are junkball or knuckleball pitchers (or today, aging DHs). Negro League statistics are at times incomplete, but according to the records we have, his career average was .341. Against white teams in exhibition games, he hit .391. If you are familiar with baseball, that tells you plenty. If you aren’t, those numbers by themselves are automatic Hall of Fame stuff, no screwing around, first ballot solid lock. Those are Cobblike numbers, except that Ty Cobb would have eaten Cool Papa’s dust in a race. Cobb, flaming racist and overall jerk that he was, would have hated and deserved that snack.

Baseball enthusiasts will spot the obvious relationship between Cool Papa’s baserunning speed and his batting average. But that’s how it is: many great hitters would have had less success but for their speed: Carew, Garr, Henderson, Collins, both Griffeys. The problem defending against Cool Papa Bell was that he would reach first base safely on infield grounders, even when cleanly fielded. This is abnormal. On any sharply-hit, well-fielded infield grounder (they used to retire me even if the fielder bobbled the thing; in fact, he could stop to take a chew and still throw me out), the defense is supposed to put the batter out. Didn’t work that way with Cool Papa. He was like a fuse burning toward explosive charges, causing everyone to hurry just because. This must surely have created many runs simply because of the need for haste and the possibility he might do something impossible. Had he played his full career in the white major leagues, he might well have put up the sorts of numbers that can’t be surpassed, on the level of Cy Young’s 511 pitching wins.

Let’s get to the stories and quotes, already, since those are the best part. I can’t say whether they are all true, though some might not be. Hardly matters. Their collective existence tells us what his contemporaries thought of Cool Papa Bell’s speed.

  • He once stole 175 bases in under 200 games–a pace exceeding that of the greatest base thieves of all time: Brock, Wills, Henderson, Cobb.
  • One teammate said, “If he bunts and it bounces twice, put it in your pocket.”
  • When he would hit the ball back to the pitcher, the infield would urge the hurler to hurry. Normally, the pitcher has all week to throw out the batter.
  • In an exhibition game against white major leaguers, he once scored from first base on a bunt. The bunter? None other than Satchel Paige, the only Negro Leaguer of whom more great stories are told than Cool Papa Bell.
  • He was once clocked rounding the bases in twelve seconds. That’s 120 yards–but track sprinters get to run straight. Cool Papa did it making the necessary three 90º turns. A bit of basic math and physics here will tell you how frighteningly fast this man was: very few even today can run 120 yards in 12 seconds going straight ahead.
  • It is said he once scored from second–on a sacrifice fly. Could be done, especially if the outfielder’s arm wasn’t anything to celebrate. Against a Clemente or a Furillo? Probably not, but against an average left fielder, possible.
  • It is also said he once stole two bases on one pitch. Possible due to sheer shock and daring, coupled with a real good jump and a right-handed pitcher with a motion that didn’t much discourage base stealing.
  • Satchel Paige loved to tell the story of Bell hitting the ball through the mound up the middle, then being called out because the batted ball hit Bell in the butt. That one might be a stretch, but it deserves credit for entertainment.
  • Evidently the story about Cool Papa turning out the lights and getting into bed before it got dark is based on an amusing fluke. The motel room light didn’t go off immediately due to a short, so he just reconciled himself to sleeping with the light on. It winked off after he got into bed.
  • Paige said in his book, Maybe I’ll Pitch Forever: “If Cool Papa had known about colleges or if colleges had known about Cool Papa, Jesse Owens would have looked like he was walking.”
  • Bell, speaking for himself: “I remember one game I got five hits and stole five bases, but none of it was written down because they forgot to bring the scorebook to the game that day.”
  • And: “They used to say, ‘If we find a good black player, we’ll sign him.’ They was lying.”
  • And: “They say I was born too soon. I say the doors were opened too late.”

The white major leagues’ integration came too late for Cool Papa Bell, though he did decline an offer from the Browns. A warm and unselfish gentleman with a charming, ready smile, Cool Papa Bell remained a well-liked figure around baseball for years after his playing days ended. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974. This day he is twenty-two years gone, but his legend will live as long as baseball is played. Anyone steeped in the game’s history knows the name and its fame.

Here’s to Cool Papa Bell, who enriched the game just by participating.

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* For non-students of the game, ‘Negro League’ is the correct proper noun, and not considered demeaning. It conjures names of great ballplayers, of whom Bell, Charleston and Paige were among the most famed.

Special thanks to Donald M. Holman, a renaissance man with a fantastic photographic eye, for some cultural guidance. This post is better for his thoughts. You can enjoy samples of his work, and inquire about purchases, at Images by Holman.

Coaches Hot Seat froth on the Pac-12 Networks

Yeah, I know that college football discussion is not in the wheelhouse of a good percentage of the readership here at the ‘Lancer, but maybe some of it will work out. Here’s a rather frothy rant from the guy at Coaches Hot Seat, who Uses A Lot Of Caps and Exclamation Points! (It’s also a way for me to test a Firefox WP add-in. But I’m going to let you watch Larry Scott get blistered, and that should be worth it. I hope.)

Coaches Hot Seat froth on the Pac-12 Networks

The CHS fellow and I disagree about the meaninglessness of bowl games. I would, however, agree that the proliferation of stuff like the Kraft Fight Hunger With Manufactured Junk Food Bowl, the Beef O’Brady Bunch Bowl, and the Idaho Potato Bowl (they repeat themselves, ahem) has made college football bowl season ridiculous. Most times, all it takes is a .500 record to be assured of a bowl in a major conference, or a winning record in a non-major. It feels like ‘every kid gets a trophy,’ even though it isn’t, quite. Though at the rate we are going, we might end up with enough bowls that everyone makes it. It would only take about 60, and we’re halfway there. Bowl games I think would be fun:

  • The Rotten.com Bowl (play it in East St. Louis)
  • The Experian Credit Wrecker Bowl
  • The Bank of America Nickel-and-Dime Bowl
  • The Onion Bowl (in reality, it would turn out to be a hoax)
  • The Bismarck Bowl (let’s see how well your team really travels: North Dakota in December!)
  • The Twilight Bowl (during Fairbanks, AK’s few hours of dusk that pass for daylight)
  • The Lentil Bowl (played at Pullman)
  • The Begging Bowl (hold it in whichever EU country, that refuses to tax its rich people or rein in spending, is in the worst shape and needs a boost…Greece would be the current frontrunner, though Spain is mounting a credible bid)
  • The Crock O’ Crap Bowl (where else but our nation’s capital?)
  • The Smoke-A-Bowl (alternating between Colorado and Washington; I think that’s fair)
  • The Tidy Bowl (Geneva, Switzerland, since you can basically eat off the streets in Switzerland)
  • The Sanction Bowl (best two teams on bowl probation; held in the yard at a maximum security prison)
  • The Facebook Bowl Sponsored by Everyone

What isn’t funny this year, as the CHS article mentions, is the colossal failure of the highly touted brand spankin’ new Pac-12 Networks. Here was the idea: imitate the Big 10 (which used to have twelve members, now the number keeps shifting, but only ten of them are even remotely big anyway) by starting the conference’s own network, getting nearly every Pac-12 football game on TV and also televising a lot of other sports that don’t get as much exposure. It was a good idea.

What we did not expect was that the Pac-12 would get so greedy. It had a year to reach agreements with the major premium TV providers. In the main, the conference failed at the basics of business: you need to get the sale. My understanding is that the Pac-12 had promised the member schools Big Moola, forgetting two things: that one still has to reach agreement with providers, and that if one fails in this, one’s network is a not-work because your viewers can’t watch the games. In our area, the Pac’s failure to reach agreement with DefectiveTV and Cheater (two of our three primary providers) denied a majority of the local viewership any chance to watch the games. In my case, four Husky games plus one non-Husky rivalry game mattered to me. During that one, I sat down to write a letter, since it wasn’t on my TV. I’d like to share it with you.

November 24, 2012

Mr. Larry Scott

Pac-12 Conference

1350 Treat Blvd., Suite 500

Walnut Creek, CA 94597-8853

Dear Mr. Scott:

Normally right now I would be rooting for one disliked Pac-12 rival to beat a more disliked Pac-12 rival on TV. Unfortunately, the UO/OSU game is on your Pac-12 Networks, which DirecTV doesn’t offer, so I have free time to write you a letter I have spent most of the season formulating.

In 2011, I was able to watch all twelve Washington games on TV. In 2012, I was able to watch eight. Sadly, the other four were on your vaunted Pac-12 Networks, thus unavailable to me. I trust you understand what this means: your network has been a detriment to Pac-12 sports coverage. If that weren’t bad enough, you have sicked our almae matres on us. Pliant minions that they can so often be, they’ve tried to convince us to blame the satellite and cable providers, and to switch to a provider that carries the Pac-12 Networks. I am not an unreasonable man, nor am I new to DirecTV. I know that DirecTV, a perennial corporate spoiled child and bully, manages to fight with some content provider most months, causing loss of coverage. I am not taking DirecTV’s side when I fault you for the situation. I’m pointing to results: we were better off without your networks. Your networks made sports worse.

It didn’t have to be this way. There were other options. You had a year to work out some sort of deal with the likes of DirecTV. If you had to settle for less money than you have evidently promised the schools, you could have negotiated a one-year deal and returned to the table later. You could have offered online viewing through the Pac-12 Networks website for a reasonable subscription fee (or even free). I would have paid. Instead, you co-opted the schools into repeating your talking points, pressuring fans to pressure their TV providers. One problem with that, Mr. Scott: bright minds graduate from Pac-12 schools. Most aren’t fools. We learn critical thinking. We aren’t all so easily manipulated, and the attempt insults our intelligence and education. Who’s going to dump an otherwise functional vendor relationship over such a small percentage of their TV service? That would be dumb business.

I can tell what this stance cost the conference, because I happened to see some Pac-12 Networks coverage while visiting a friend. While I found the overall coverage substandard, the commercials stood out most. Nearly all were yours, which tells me you didn’t sell much airtime. While the ADs may parrot the line, the advertisers aren’t buffaloed. They know that your stance has lessened the audience, making your price higher than your viewing base is worth to them. It was more sad than comical, but it was a bit of both.

Sir, you have failed. You have taken yet another step in the transformation of a great sport into purest moneyball, where fans are just annoyances who had best hush, accept what is thrown to them, and keep their noses out of corporate management. You have made it pointedly clear that the fans’ good does not matter.

Proud of that?

Sincerely,

J. K. Kelley (UW ’86)

I don’t expect a reply.

The Pac-12 Networks, a.k.a. the Not-works

In July 2011, with many college sports programs playing musical conferences and engaging in games of chicken with each other, the recently expanded Pacific-12 Conference (UW, WSU, the Zeroes, OSU, Utah, Colorado, Cal-Berkeley, Stepford, ASU, UA, USC and UCLA) announced plans for a TV network like what the Big 10 (which has more than ten schools) has deployed. Great, we said, we want to see more football and have our conference doing what big-time conferences do. Revenue sharing would help the smaller market schools, etc., etc. Let’s see the show!

The assumption, which we could not know was flawed, was that we would be able to see the show. In the words of the immortal, unbearable Lee Corso:  “Not so fast, my friend.”

Fourteen months later, the 2012 college football season kicks off. The Pac-12 has failed to reach agreement with just about everyone, which is a pretty good sign the conference got very greedy. A number of games are televised on the Pac-12 Not-works, but very few people can watch them on TV. A few clever souls find other ways, naturally, but only the hardest core of fans would do that. Those who do, find out that the Pac-12 Not-works have sold zero advertising, so the not-work fills the space with commercials for itself. Yes. I must have seen the Stanford swimmer’s segment a dozen times. Every few minutes, its ten viewers are treated to advertising telling us how fantastic the not-work is.

That isn’t marketing. It’s masturbation, and comical masturbation at that. Seriously: while having failed in your most basic mission, which is to get on TV so you can sell advertising, rather than spare me a bunch of commercial breaks, you are going to go on and on about your virtues? Do you not understand that when the only advertising content you have to offer is to rhapsodize yourself, you have failed? You are a conference comprised of twelve research universities, all with educational claims to fame and pride, which attract some of the best and brightest people in the world, and you leave the house without your pants? Mr. Larry Scott, you are a Harvard graduate. For the gods’ sake, put some trousers on. No one needs to see you this way.

Not that the satellite and cable providers are any prizes in the area of doing what’s best for viewers. DefectiveTV, which is what I have, engages in a ‘playground recess hair-pulling skirmish of the month’ with some content provider just about every month, taking its message to the blacked-out channels to explain how those nasty stupids at (insert network name) have been unreasonable, pulled their content, and tried to force us all to pay through the nose, but only DefectiveTV stands Promethean in defense of our fair prices and sweet reason. Yeah. When every recess, the same kid is always in a fight with someone, always comes whining, and never takes any responsibility for even being half the problem, guess what. It’s obvious where most of the problem lies.

The much-vaunted Pac-12 Networks are Not-works. They are a failure. At this point, we would be better off without them, since the games they show would otherwise be picked up on other channels, all of which seem not to consider themselves too ultra-special to get a deal worked out and be on the air.

Every year, it is a little more about pure greed and big money, and a little less about athletics and education. I will always wish UW well, but I can see a day where, if this trend continues, I simply won’t care about watching the sport. At which time I will cease to be an advertising consumer, be it for idiotic pickup truck commercials appealing to my machismo, idiotic insurance commercials appealing to my gullibility, or idiotic beer commercials appealing to my pedestrian tastes.

Mr. Scott, you and your networks are a failure.

The best ass-covering you could come up with was to blame it all on the other side, and sick your athletic directors on the public, encouraging them to switch providers. (For some of us, with no provider in our areas that carries the Not-works, a non-starter.) “Waaaaaaah! They started it! Waaaah! Punish them!

It’s looking positively Congressional.

Just another area of America in which the stupidity of the public is taken on faith by the wealthy and powerful, and where, if said public notices something wrong and complains that ‘this is bullshit,’ the public is fed a line of crap and told to stop being difficult.

I’ll give you difficult. Mr. Scott, so far you have boloed this exercise. You are a no go at this station. You snubbed BYU/Utah, the perfect regional, rivalry and research fit for the conference, simply because a Mormon school icks out Left Coast schools, with all that honor code and right-wing political stuff–as if that were relevant at all to research or athleticism. Instead, you brought in Colorado, which is about as Pacific as Wyoming and has a minimal existing rivalry relationship with Utah. Mr. Scott, if this is how you roll, I wouldn’t hire you to manage a Division 5 conference, much less a I-A BCS conference. You have failed. The results speak for themselves. You are the John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi of collegiate athletics. Enjoy that prestigious distinction.

In the meantime, Commissioner Scott, go to hell.

The ‘Water Follies’

This weekend is what we in Kennewick call ‘Boat Race Weekend.’  It’s official name is ‘Water Follies.’  What it is, okay, is an air show and hydroplane races on the Columbia.  It’s the big annual event here, and happens in Columbia Park, which is one of the few things that was done right from the city’s earliest development. Our entire river shore, all 5-6 miles of it, is a park.  Some is nearly undeveloped, despite the best efforts of corporations to turn it into a profit center, and the best efforts of certain Distinguished Statespersons to permit this.  However, Boat Races isn’t really much happening anywhere else in the Tri-Cities, except on the opposite (Pasco) river shore. It’s fairly easy for most of us to avoid, long as we don’t have to go over the blue bridge at the wrong time.

“So what, J.K.? In what universe do we care?”

Credit to thefreedictionary.com:

fol·ly  (fl)

n. pl. fol·lies

1. A lack of good sense, understanding, or foresight.

2.

a. An act or instance of foolishness: regretted the follies of his youth.
b. A costly undertaking having an absurd or ruinous outcome.
3. follies (used with a sing. or pl. verb) An elaborate theatrical revue consisting of music, dance, and skits.

4. Obsolete

a. Perilously or criminally foolish action.
b. Evil; wickedness.
c. Lewdness; lasciviousness.

Well, we may certainly assume there will be a lack of good sense exercised. Why this should be a civic virtue eludes me. Then I look at the way the city runs, and maybe it’s just a frank moment of civic intellectual honesty. All right, but why celebrate foolishness? Why call these ‘follies?’ Aren’t we supposed to put our foolishness in the closet with Uncle Fred, not out on the lawn with the Travelocity gnomes for all creatures great and small to see?

I suppose it is a very costly undertaking, and does have ruinous outcomes. It somewhat ruins my weekend, for example, if I had hopes of going to the park.  Boats blow over, people get drunk and sunburned, and all this for the sake of a sport that has to rig itself; that sounds ruinous. As I understand it, if you win too often, the sport’s organizers nerf your boat so it doesn’t get boring. (Even though this is limiting, it’s technically called ‘unlimited’ hydroplane racing. Oh, okay.) Imagine requiring Michael Phelps to swim with ankle weights on. Essentially, though, hydro racing is Nascar on the water, in nearly every sense but the duration of action. Nascar takes a lot longer.

Okay, very well, there’s another meaning: a vaudeville show or its modern incarnation. Saturday Night Live is mostly ‘follies.’ Tony Orlando and Dawn also was. (And you had blocked them from your memory until this moment, hadn’t you?) That one doesn’t apply at all.

There will be perilous and criminally foolish action, such as young people drinking too much, and boats blowing over. Someone could break his neck, drown, etc. Evil and wickedness? Seems pushing it to me. There’ll be a few boat race pregnancies, and probably someone will end up in the ER for being drunk, but neither of those are evil or wicked, just folly. Lewdness and lascivious used to be the order of the day, where (I am told) “What happened at Boat Races, stayed at Boat Races.” Yeah.  This from most of the same people who call east Kennewick and east Pasco ‘bad areas.’ I do not really believe them. I think they remember it through a lens that imagines the event more bacchanalian than it really was. Populations are very capable of a collective dementia in which they distort the past perception.

In the end, though, the title ‘Follies’ is unintentionally candid. A bunch of people will get together and some of them will show great folly. They will watch a sport that meets a couple definitions of folly, though not the ones the event planners intended. About the only thing not a folly is the air show, which is cool.

Best of all, I can watch that from my deck, go nowhere near Columbia Park, and stay out of the way of folly. But if you like that stuff, hey, party on.

Why people love college football

Granted, not everyone does.  But college football brings with it aspects that simply are not found in professional football, and they are the reasons I like it.  And non-Americans often wonder why in the world we get so wrapped up in this.  Well…

  • 98% of players will never sign seven-figure contracts.  Many are playing to get college educations, and some play and pay their own way.  When I think of what they go through, that’s incredible.
  • A lot of otherwise smart people from lousy backgrounds get chances to get their heads on straight, become educated, experience a different world, have better lives.
  • College football teams do not hold their cities for ransom.  The Seahawks might threaten to move away one day if Seattle doesn’t build them an even fancier stadium.  The Washington Huskies are not leaving Seattle, period.
  • Every region of this nation save Alaska has nearby college football, a rallying point for local interest and pride.
  • Each school has its own set of unifying traditions that make participation more fun, from Texas A&M’s all-male yell leaders to the Stanford Band to the Gator chomp.  Archaic fight songs, unofficial spirit songs, chants, clothing choices, and so much more.
  • One can have a whole bunch of teams one likes, and a whole bunch one just loathes.
  • It’s a better way to channel some old ghosts:  rivalry.  Most people outside Kansas and Missouri, for example, do not know that our states once fought a terrible war, one that had gone on seven years before the Civil War began, with numerous atrocities and reprisals on both sides.  The ghosts still stir a bit, but the annual rivalry matchup gives a way to channel and express that–and a way to remind ourselves that this is a much better way to express it than what we did in the 1850s, which was arson, rustling, robbery, rape, torture and murder.
  • It pays the way for most of the other sports.  Football revenue makes it possible to have men’s golf, women’s tennis, women’s soccer, etc.  Yes, college football is business–but it’s a business that provides lots of ways to be a college athlete, most of them money-losers for the school.
  • College football is diverse and unpredictable.  So many different styles of play, and with amateur players, so many comical and unexpected results.  Weird stuff happens in college ball.
  • Specialty schools with appeal for unique reasons:  military academies, religious schools, prestigious academic schools, and so on.  Every LDS person who wishes can take pride in BYU football; same for Roman Catholics and Notre Dame.  The whole Navy cares about Navy football.  And those who admire outstanding academics must surely respect Stanford and Yale.

In all these areas, college football just pushes the professional version into a wastewater lagoon.

Go Huskies!

Off to Walla Walla

Nephew’s first away game is at WWCC, so we’re going to go take in some of it after a swing past the antique show.  Hopefully my navigation isn’t as inept as last time I went there.  For those of you not familiar with Washington, our main state penitentiary (the one with the gallows and the gurney; in Washington, criminals can still hang) is at Wally, and it’s fairly out of the way.  Undeterred, I got sufficiently lost and confused by atrocious road construction that I pulled up right outside the slammer.  Fortunately, I didn’t get invited in.

With luck, JD will get to play.  He hasn’t seen the field yet this year, and it’s a new experience for him, pining it.  (For me in baseball, it was the commonplace norm, with my many athletic deficiencies.)  It’s that way for all of us in college, or at least most of us:  “Wow.  All my life I was the best player/(or smartest kid).  Good lord…so were all these people.  I’m going to have to pack my lunch.”

Wally’s a pretty nice town, though, so I don’t mind going over there.  Its primary industries, besides growing sweet onions, are educating the young (one university, one college and one CC) and incarcerating those who declined to be educated.  It has a religious background, based somewhat on the Whitman College heritage of Methodist education (their mascot is still the Missionaries).  The university, WWU, is an Adventist school.  The Whitties get a real good education, though one pays handsomely for it–it is a very highly regarded liberal arts college. Some of my tougher editing services competition probably comes from Whitman.

Less known is that Wally was at one point the primary city in Washington Territory, a contender for the state capital.  Not happening now.

March Sadness

That’s what it is for me.  Except for hoping KU wins it all, I just go to a happy place.  It’s something that screws up my favorite TV shows.  Give me a holler when it’s over, or if KU gets to the final four.

Why not UW? Well, it’s okay with me if UW does well, but I’ve got a long memory.  When I was at UW, no football player ever tried to get me to write his paper for him.  Basketball players did.  Also, when I was at UW, I was never hassled by a football player.  I got some from basketball players.  So in addition to not liking the sport at all to begin with (everything I was ever good at in sports is a foul in basketball), I didn’t find any passion to care if we won or not.   I wouldn’t root against UW, just didn’t much care.

The women are another story.  They never asked me to write their papers and they certainly never tried to bully me (and some of them could have…those are some big gals).  Go Dawgs!

Embarrassment

So this afternoon, I went to my nephew’s opening collegiate ballgame.  (Double drag for him:  he didn’t get to play, and his team lost.)  It was good baseball, but I was embarrassed on behalf of Columbia Basin College, the Tri-Cities, and on behalf of my country.

Now, I’m not a flag waver, but I do stand up for the national anthem (of any country).  And when a team visits from another country, as did the Prairie Baseball Academy of Lethbridge, AB, Canada, I believe strongly that we should show them the courtesy of playing the visiting anthem as well–thus demonstrating friendship and respect.  It’s done at hockey games all the time.  What is wrong with Americans, that they so often don’t know how to be good hosts and make a gesture of courtesy to international visitors?

Shame, CBC.  You embarrassed our entire area.  PBA Prairie Dawgs, well played, and my apologies for the boorish thoughtlessness.