Ready or Not, Football is Here

Last night was the official kickoff of the College Football season, and the final night of the NFL preseason.

No longer content to have all of their games air on Saturdays, the expanding television landscape for college football now gives fans games Thursday through Saturday.

The NFL gives viewers live game action on Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays.

So for roughly the next five months there are only two days out of the week where live football games are not being broadcast somewhere.

And I am sure on those dark Tuesdays and Wednesdays there will be a replay of a game somewhere on the dial meaning that a fan could watch a football game every night of the week.

Steve Spurrier's South Carolina Gamecocks kicked off the College football season last night with a game against North Carolina proving that Thursday night college football is here to stay. Photo R. Anderson
Steve Spurrier’s South Carolina Gamecocks kicked off the College football season last night with a game against North Carolina proving that Thursday night College Football is here to stay.
Photo R. Anderson

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy football but do I think that there needs to be five days a week of live games? Not really.

I think keeping the games Saturday through Monday would be a good mix but I know that I am most likely in the minority with that opinion.

While I know that there have been many weeks where I have watched a baseball game or two every night of the week that is different from wall to wall football.

For starters, while starting pitchers take four days off between starts the rest of the players on a baseball team can usually play night after night without the grind getting to them.

While football players would not play in a game on consecutive nights the staggering of game nights leads to scenarios where the time between games is not equal.

Whereas in the past players would have a full week to rest and take care of injuries between games, the new scheduling in college and professional football creates scenarios where a team could play games with 2-3 less days to recover.

While it is too soon to tell if this will lead to more injuries with players, it certainly stands to reason that players need as much time as possible between games to stay healthy due to the increased risk of injury in football compared to baseball.

And with college games now being played on “school nights” the NCAA is encouraging their athletes to stay out late which could impact their studies.

I almost typed that with a straight face. The NCAA has shown in recent years that the almighty dollar seems to take a front seat while student interests and ensuring academic accountability for football players seems to be lacking at times.

And one need only look at the situation with that sophomore quarterback in College Station, TX ole Johnny what’s his name to know that the NCAA is limited in its enforcement of rule violations.

Of course this conflict between class and football can be easily solved as one player for LSU accomplished by enrolling in a single online class for the fall semester thus ensuring that school work will in no way impede his football work.

In addition to competing with baseball on the airwaves for the next eight weeks or so, this is also the time of year when baseball will take a back seat on many of the sports pages and talk shows as the almighty pigskin season has arrived.

Right when baseball teams are ramping up their efforts for a run to the playoffs the gladiators of the gridiron have arrived to help ease the suffering fans have felt for the seven months without football.

I guess baseball fans are lucky in that we have seven months of season and only five months of off season to get through. I just wish that baseball coverage did not take a backseat each year as the season ramps up to the World Series.

Each year there will be those who say the baseball season is too long and they should hold the World Series in August to finish before football season starts. I have never agreed with that assessment.

Given the choice I would have baseball go year round since I enjoy watching the games and would certainly love a few extra months to head out to the Ballpark.

The potential for snow covered Ballparks is one of many things preventing year-round baseball. Thankfully football fills the five baseball free months of the year. Photo R. Anderson
The potential for snow covered Ballparks is one of many things preventing year-round baseball. Thankfully football fills the five baseball free months of the year.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course it is not realistic to have baseball go year round since even games in April and May have the chance to get snowed out. I can only imagine the risk of snowed out games in open air stadiums in the north during December and January.

Plus, all of those Ballparks with pools and other water features in them would turn to ice.

Although having the umpire call time so a snow plow can clear the field might be fun to watch.

So, since the logistics just do not support year round baseball, I guess it is good that we have football to keep us occupied during those dark months between the end of the World Series and the time that players report to Florida and Arizona for Spring Training.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to see how far back the box scores from last night got buried on the sports page to make room for the wall to wall football coverage.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

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Silent Tropics are Good for Residents, Bad for Storm Chasers

This past week several of the local and national news sources that I follow have been filled with story after story bemoaning the fact that this year’s hurricane season has been a dud so far.

Personally, I would think that the fact that there have not been any storms that have turned into hurricanes by the midpoint of the season is a good thing.

But for news stations that make their livings providing continuing continuous coverage of breaking weather events like hurricanes, the lull can certainly hit their bottom line I suppose.

And each of the stories I read this week about the slow start to the season cautioned that with three months left in the season there is still time for a storm to hit so residents along the coast should still keep an eye to the clouds and of course stay tuned into those stations for the breaking news when the storm approaches.

The television news vans have been all gassed up but so far have not had any storms to chase during the 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season. This has led to some news stations to complain about the lack of storms. Photo R. Anderson
The television news vans have been all gassed up but so far have not had any storms to chase during the 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season. This has led to some news stations to complain about the lack of storms.
Photo R. Anderson

While I am certainly all for staying prepared in the event of a storm, and know that historically September is one of the more active months for storms, the sad for not having a storm to cover yet mentality really irritates me.

Ask people along the coast who are still recovering from past storms if they feel “cheated” by the lack of storms this year and I am sure they will tell you that they are enjoying the break from storms that have a name and winds of at least 74 miles per hour.

Also, despite the lack of named storms certain areas are still receiving record amounts of rain so the argument of needing a tropical storm or hurricane to blow through to bring rain quite frankly does not hold water either.

In Texas there are still drought conditions and more rain is certainly needed but I do not see anyone on the street corners shouting for the arrival of a hurricane to bring it to them.

The media meltdown over the lack of storms to cover is just one example this week of my growing displeasure with the state of media affairs.

I really don’t know who to blame for the lapses in media judgment. I am in no way placing myself on a pedestal and saying that I am the poster child for what a journalist should be but the lack of fundamentals being shown by the mainstream press really has me concerned for the future of a field that many feel is already facing credibility challenges.

I understand that there are way more media sources now than in the golden age of media where a town would have one newspaper and three television stations to bring them their daily dose of news.

With the expansion of cable systems and the internet there are hundreds if not thousands of daily sources that a person with an internet connection can search to get their news fix.

Some of these sources are offshoots of traditional brick and mortar media outlets and others are part of the new media and citizen journalist movement.

Just as not all brick and mortar journalism sources are good, not all new media is bad. So I am definitely not saying that there is not a place for both in the information age, there just needs to be standards.

And when I see traditional media making lapses in judgment it really makes me wonder whether the fundamentals are still being taught to aspiring journalists before they leave those brick and mortar universities with their degrees in hand.

Aside from the biased weather coverage there was another headline that got my blood boiling this week.

Pete Rose spent just one year north of the border playing in Montreal but it was a memorable year as he hit his 4,000th hit in the Major Leagues. His reaction to another member of that club had some media outlets bending his words.
Pete Rose spent just one year north of the border playing in Montreal but it was a memorable year as he hit his 4,000th hit in the Major Leagues. His reaction to another member of that club had some media outlets bending his words.

Pete Rose, aka “Charlie Hustle”, has been in the news a lot the past few weeks. When the suspensions for the steroid abusers broke, Rose was contacted for his take on the length of suspensions since Rose himself has been a victim of the Major League Baseball disciplinary arm having received a lifetime ban for betting on games he was managing.

Then yesterday as the all-time leader in hits in Major League Baseball, Rose was once again sought out after Ichiro Suzuki hit his 4,000 hit Wednesday night. Now the 4,000 hits combine Ichiro’s time in both Japanese and American professional baseball (2,722 hits in Major League Baseball and 1,278 while playing in Japan’s top league). By contrast, all of Rose’s 4,256 hits were all done in Major League Baseball games.

So, Rose was asked if he felt that Ichiro should be considered the hits leader if he manages to get 257 more hits to surpass Rose’s mark. And Rose stated what many others have stated that only hits made in the Major Leagues should count for MLB stats. But instead of a headline stating that the headline writer for this particular article I read said, “Rose disses Ichiro.”

The article did include around five quotes of Rose saying how much he admired Ichiro by calling him a pure hitter and someone who plays the game the right way. Those do not sound like “disses” to me.

So once again a misleading headline is put over a story to gain readers. This seems to be happening more and more and makes me wonder if the headline writers even read a story anymore before deciding on a headline.

I guess my rant about the state of media could fall under a headline of “columnist disses media” but it is really more of a call for a more responsible press. Time will tell whether the trends reverse or get worse.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to see if the local meteorologists have gotten over their lack of storm depression yet.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Astros and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Game

My affinity for the movie Bull Durham is well known.

In fact, I have been known to quote the movie quite frequently as there seem to be quotes that fit almost any occasion in life.

So while I was watching Monday night’s debacle of a game between the Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers there were many Bull Durham lines that came to mind as the Double-A talent level Astros players with the big hearts and limited talent fell victim to the much more talented and much more Major League Baseball level Texas Rangers.

Bull Durham is one of my favorite movies. The Houston Astros are spending the season reenacting many of the scenes from the movie, and not in the good way. Photo R. Anderson
Bull Durham is one of my favorite movies. The Houston Astros are spending the season reenacting many of the scenes from the movie, and not in the good way.
Photo R. Anderson

One line from Bull Durham that kept coming to mind as I watched the wheels fall off for the Astros once again was, “You guys. You lollygag the ball around the infield. You lollygag your way down to first. You lollygag in and out of the dugout. You know what that makes you?”

And of course anyone who has seen the movie knows that the answer is lollygaggers.

The Astros have found ways to make a very simple game of throw and catch anything but simple the past few seasons as they lollygag through their games. Of course this year they look like doctoral students in the study of ways to lollygag during ballgames.

Quite frankly, each game tends to lead itself to even more absurd ways to lose. Balls falling between three outfielders? Check. An overworked staff of pitchers giving up more leads than a reporter on deadline? Check.

The list goes on and on with the creative ways that the Astros have found to lose this year. But Monday night seemed to find new levels on the losing scale.

In addition to the game reminding me of some scenes from Bull Durham, it also harkened back to some bedtime stories that my mom used to read to me.

One of those books in particular came to mind Monday night as I was watching the Astros go through yet another epic fail. That book was Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, which was written by Judith Viorst and illustrated by Ray Cruz.

In the book, as the title suggests, Alexander has a bad day.

The way the Astros' season has gone I wouldn't be surprised if the song Bad Day is on a constant loop in the clubhouse. Photo R. Anderson
The way the Astros’ season has gone I wouldn’t be surprised if the song Bad Day is on a constant loop in the clubhouse.
Photo R. Anderson

The book came out in 1972 which was long before the days immortalized in Daniel Powter’s one hit wonder song Bad Day.

So, for the more musically minded readers one can replace the imagery of the printed page with the melodies of song if they wish.

Whichever way works the fact remains the Astros had a very bad day, err night Monday.

As part of the bad night the Astros gave up 11 runs in the third inning with all nine Rangers players in the batting order scoring at least one run during the third inning scoring marathon.

Then in the fourth inning the Astros lost their catcher to concussion like symptoms. Normally when that occurs the backup catcher is rushed into the game since most squads carry two catchers on the active roster for situations like this.

Of course when you are using your other catcher as the designated hitter, as the Astros were doing, a little rule goes into effect where they cannot go behind the plate without a team being forced to use a pitcher at DH to replace them.

So with the options limited at catcher, the Astros turned to their emergency catcher, Jake Elmore. It is not like Elmore had never caught before. The announcers on the broadcast were very quick to point out that Elmore once caught an inning in a Double-A game in Mobile, Alabama a few years back.

To his credit, Elmore did a good job behind the plate. Of course he was helped by the fact that the Rangers were not trying to steal any bases with such a sizable lead.

At least the hats are sharp for the Astros to make up for some of the less than sharp play on the field. Photo R. Anderson
At least the hats are sharp for the Astros to make up for some of the less than sharp play on the field.
Photo R. Anderson

The night for Elmore got even weirder in the eighth inning when he was called upon to pitch since it was determined that with the game so out of reach the Astros would just give the rest of the bullpen the night off.

Elmore needed only 11 pitches to get three outs and proved to be the most productive pitcher of the night for the Astros. Not bad for a guy making his Major League debut as both a pitcher and a catcher.

While there have certainly been games where infielders have been called on to pitch these are usually extra-inning games when the bullpens have been completely depleted. Elmore became only the 14th person to be both a catcher and pitcher in the same game.

The Astros keep preaching rebuilding and patience but when they decide to completely rest an ineffective bullpen in favor of an infielder who has never pitched in a Major League Game and he makes it look easier to get batters out than the bulk of the full time pitchers, there is definitely something horribly wrong and will certainly test the patience of Job.

So, it is likely that there will be many more terrible, horrible, no good, very bad games for the Astros this year. And the trend will likely continue for several years to come. There is no quick fix for a team that does not want to spend money on talented players.

Of course, there are players like Jake Elmore that have the talent and the heart to be Major League ballplayers for the Astros they just aren’t being given the supporting cast to be successful and are left feeling like they woke up with gum in their hair day after day after day.

Now if you’ll excuse me, there is a certain book from my childhood that I think I will pull off of the shelf and read.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

A Topps Quest 30 Years in the Making

It has been said that my collections have collections.

Through the years I have collected everything from Matchbox Cars to books from the late 19th to early 20th centuries.

Among all of the collections and interests through the years one of the earliest collections was baseball cards.

Back when packs of baseball cards could still be purchased for pocket change and included a stick of card staining bubble gum, I collected cards with the best of them. I even had a small business selling cards to my friends and neighbors and would buy boxes of cards at the Sam’s Club. I would also ride my Diamondback bike to the neighborhood 7-11 and get a few packs of cards, some comic books and some powdered doughnuts.

Of course I would not look at the cards and comic books while eating the powdered doughnuts since no one wants to get powdered sugar on their cards and comic books.

From 1983 to the mid nineties I collected cards with a vengeance. My collection was not limited to baseball cards. Football, hockey and NASCAR cards were also collected. I even have some cards from various televisions shows and movies.

This album was started 30 years ago. This is the year it is finally completed. Photo R. Anderson
This album was started 30 years ago. This is the year it is finally completed.
Photo R. Anderson

Put quite frankly my collection of cards had a collection of cards.

Many of the sets were put together pack by pack which meant many doubles, triples, and even fourths of cards was inevitable.

In some cases the extra cards could be traded for missing cards needed to complete the collection. In most cases though the extras went into boxes in a closet to be forgotten about.

Other sets joined the collection as part of factory sealed sets which allowed me to finish the set with a single purchase. Factory sets also ensured that the dreaded gum stained cards would not be an issue.

The other day it was announced that Ryne Sandberg had been named manager of the Philadelphia Phillies and that had me thinking about baseball cards again. So what does Ryne Sandberg’s promotion have to do with baseball cards you are probably asking yourself?

It has to do with baseball cards in that the promotion of Ryne Sandberg got me thinking about my 1983 Topps baseball set which included Ryne Sandberg’s rookie card. It also included the rookie cards of Hall of Famers Wade Boggs and Tony Gwynn.

Recently named Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg was a rookie with the Cubs in 1983. Photo R. Anderson
Recently named Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg was a rookie with the Cubs in 1983.
Photo R. Anderson

As I was thumbing through my 1983 set I was reminded that while it was the first year that I started collecting baseball cards it also represented my only unfinished set in my collection.

So, 30 years after I first started the set I decided while sitting on my living room floor that I would finished the set before Christmas this year.

Of course it would have been much easier to have had this grand vision back in January to have eight more months in which to work on the goal but I have always worked better under the pressure of deadlines. So, over the next four months I will complete the set.

Of course, finding assorted 30-year old baseball cards will not be easy. While there are a few shops that may still have a dusty binder full of cards it is more likely that I will end up using the internet to find the missing pieces.

Back when I was collecting my sets before, I carried around checklists in my wallet for each set I was working on. The checklist was numbered from 1 to 792 or how ever many cards that particular set had and has I found a card I would cross it off of the list.

The checklists came in quite handy whenever I was trading cards with friends or looking through boxes of cards at a baseball card shop. With a single glance I could tell which cards I had and which ones I needed.

After creating a new list it was determined I am around 100 cards short of completing the 1983 Topps set. Photo R. Anderson
After creating a new list it was determined that I am 125 cards short of completing the 1983 Topps set.
Photo R. Anderson

Sadly, I could not locate my 1983 checklist so the first step in resuming the quest to finish the set was to determine how many cards I still needed by creating a new checklist.

One by one I went through my binder with the 1983 set in it and crossed of the corresponding number on the checklist. I was encouraged as each number was crossed off since it meant that it was one less card that I needed to find.

After a very detailed review it was determined that I still need 125 of the 792 cards in the set to complete my 30-year quest. While the number is larger than I had hoped, it is certainly doable to complete.

Of course a quick search online showed that I could order the complete 1983 set for around $50 if push comes to shove. I think I will try the old fashioned one card at a time route just like 30-years ago me would have done.

Of course this time I will have Ebay at my disposal so I will only have to worry about getting the powdered doughnut stains on the keyboard instead of the cards.

Now if you’ll excuse me I need to try to figure out where to find some 30 year-old baseball cards.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Upon Further Review, Replay Coming to Baseball

Baseball is often a game that is slow to embrace change.

This can at times be both charming, as it harkens to a simpler time, as well as being frustrating to some when the old ways can shift the outcomes of games through blown calls that seem obvious to everyone other than the umpires making the calls.

This is not to say that umpires are to be blamed for all blown calls. They are often times having to make a split second decision between safe and out without the benefit of the high definition slow motion angles that the viewers at home have.

Managers and umpires have had a love/hate relationship for years. Some of the strain in the relationship comes from blown calls by the umpires. Starting next year managers can challenge three of those calls a game as part of an expanded instant replay. Photo R. Anderson
Managers and umpires have had a love/hate relationship for years. Some of the strain in the relationship comes from blown calls by the umpires. Starting next year managers can challenge three of those calls a game as part of an expanded instant replay.
Photo R. Anderson

That is also why a close call is never replayed in the ballpark. This is done to avoid further inciting fans who feel that a call was not made the way it should be.

Many sports already use replay to help with questionable calls. The NFL has replay on all scoring plays in addition to coach’s challenges on non-scoring plays.

A few years back Major League Baseball dipped their toes into the replay pool by allowing replay on whether certain balls that bounced back into the playing field were home runs.

When it was announced that home runs were now able to be reviewed there were those that were happy and felt that baseball was finally catching up with the times and others who thought that an already long game would get even longer through the inclusion of replay where the umpiring crew left the field to view a television monitor.

Both of those sides of the argument were given something else to cheer and/or jeer Thursday when it was announced that Major League Baseball will implement instant replay on virtually every play but the strike zone starting next season. And much like the NFL manager’s will be allowed up to three challenges per game.

While announcing the change Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig called the announcement “a historic day” for baseball.

Whether a pitch is thrown for a ball or a strike will still be the umpire's call despite expanded replay rules coming to Major League Baseball. Photo R. Anderson
Whether a pitch is thrown for a ball or a strike will still be the umpire’s call despite expanded replay rules coming to Major League Baseball.
Photo R. Anderson

While still giving the home plate umpire the final word on balls and strikes, mangers will be able to challenge up to three calls during a game.

The challenges will be broken down with one available during the first six innings, and two beginning in the seventh inning. There will be no additional challenges given for extra-inning games.

After a manager has used his allotment of challenges, an umpire crew can make a review of its own only to determine home-run calls.

The ruling on a challenge will be determined by umpires stationed in a central command center in New York and will not be determined by the on-field umpiring crew.

Time will tell whether the roll out of the type of instant replay that certain fans have wanted will improve the quality of the game or will just add another delay tactic for managers to use.

Time will tell whether the new power to challenge calls improves or strains the umpire/manager dynamic. Photo R. Anderson
Time will tell whether the new power to challenge calls improves or strains the umpire/manager dynamic.
Photo R. Anderson

There have certainly been some high profile examples of umpires making calls that have altered the outcome of a game. There was a blown call on a perfect game attempt a few years back as well as some other examples where human error led to a different outcome.

Personally I have always felt that an equal number of bad calls go against each team so that in the end they all sort of even out. But, I can certainly see where replay could be beneficial to help ensure the quality of the game and to avoid post-game press conference by umpires who after further review admit they should have made a different call.

While the reply roll out should help clear up game altering calls, I would much rather see a system that implemented a universal strike zone across all 30 Ballparks than a system that looked at whether a runner beat a tag at second base or not.

Pitch tracking software for years has shown subtle differences in how umpires call balls and strikes despite a defined strike zone in the rule book.

Much like the batters each manager will be given three challenges, or strikes a game. Once the challenges are gone a manager has no more recourse to dispute a blown call. Photo R. Anderson
Much like the batters each manager will be given three challenges, or strikes a game. Once the challenges are gone a manager has no more recourse to dispute a blown call.
Photo R. Anderson

It seems that maintaining control at the plate was one victory that the umpires were able to hang on to as it has been a point of debate for many years now. It just seems like Major League Baseball would want to enforce the same strike zone since getting called out on a ball that was called a strike seems to happen far more than a questionable tag out.

I remain hopeful that the next major change in replay rules includes the universal strike zone. Until then I guess we will just have to see how the managers manage their challenges and whether they will be given a red challenge flag to throw on the field like their NFL counterparts or will just run out of the dugout when they want a challenge.

Either way starting next year the game of baseball will be forever changed. Time will tell if it will be remembered as a good change or a bad change.

Now if you’ll excuse me, upon further review, I have a snack to go make before finding a game to watch.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson