Friday, October 7, 2011

The Victors

Monrovia, California

Friday, October 7, 2011

There’s nothing like sports to get the comments flowing again. And lacking much other serious grist for the blog mill, I’ll take what I can get.

First I must acknowledge the Yankees’ loss of the American League Division Series to Detroit last night. I hope the Tigers go on to win the World Series, for old times’ sake and the sake of the readers who support them. My team lost and theirs won. Congratulations to the victors.

When most teams take on the New York Yankees it is tempting to cast the conflict as a "David versus Goliath" fight. Goliath of course being the Yanks, and all the other teams (including the high payroll Boston Red Sox) thinking of themselves as the young future king of Israel, winning by cleverness and pluck and divine right. In the case of the Tigers, however, David is not the most precise analogue. True, Detroit’s payroll is only a little more than half of New York’s, but it is tenth overall, and greater than that of two-thirds of all the clubs in Major League baseball. Perhaps it would be more accurate to cast Detroit as Goliath’s little brother Darryl, only eight feet tall rather than nine-and-a-half. Tampa Bay, with the second-lowest payroll of the thirty teams in baseball, is much more of a David in that respect. And I guarantee that every one of those “small market” teams, if it could ask Santa Claus for anything at all for Christmas, would not ask if it could have Bill James (or Jonah Hill) on its payroll, or be filled with scrappy players with bullshit working-class tenacity, but instead would hop up on the lap of Jolly Old St. Nick and simply request lots more money.

Another word or two about the ALDS between Detroit and New York. I said I wish the Tigers well, and I do. But I don’t really believe they’ll win through. They’re good, but not good enough. You always like to think the team that just beat you is better, or else why would they have won? But the Yankees lost that series as much as the Tigers won it. Tuesday night New York made the same relievers who were last night’s heroes look pretty bad. Both Yankees victories were lopsided, whereas the Yanks pretty well stayed in contention in the three they lost, failing to get the clutch hits they needed. Everybody talks about how Curtis Granderson “saved” the Yankees on Tuesday with those two great catches of his, but really? They won 10 to 1, for God’s sake. If he’d missed both balls, would that have cinched it for the Tigers?

What happened last night that cost the Yankees the game (aside from big whiffs from our biggest player) was timidity on the base paths. The failure of runners on first to make it to third on base hits to right field cost them at least one run and probably two. One time I think it was Jeter and the next time it was ARod, and both times it was with less than two outs that they were held at second and the inning ended with the bases "loaded with Yankees" as Ernie Harwell would have said. The manager and coaches have to share some of the blame there, I think. I must say here that for such a great player, nobody looks as awkward and unsure of himself on the base paths as Alex Rodriguez does. Guess he's only comfortable when he's going into his home run trot. Well, as diehard fans everywhere say, there’s always next year. But before I leave baseball, a tip of the hat to Jorge Posada, probably on his way out for good. He was a sturdy journeyman during the past 15 years, and acquitted himself well during the series.

Let's switch gears. The blog creation site I use divides the comments into regular input and what it calls “spam.” Until this week I’d received nothing the site considered to be in the latter category. I think I mentioned that occasionally I’ll get a comment on an old posting, perhaps something someone found at random or by using a key word or phrase on Google or another search tool, such as the name of a town through which I passed on my walk. I was notified on Wednesday, for the first time, that I’d received two spam comments. One was rather general; something to the effect of how great the Internet is, in that it can help a person promote ideas or products. The other appeared to be in Russian, or at least a language written in the Cyrillic alphabet. It was under blog posting number 163, entitled “Chiriaco,” which I wrote on January 20 of this year. At first I was going to say that if there’s anyone out there who reads Russian I’d be grateful for a translation of the comment. Then I realized I could highlight it and ask the computer for a translation (as another person astounded by the modern technology of his day once said, “What hath God wrought?”). So here’s the translation, as rendered by the computer:

“Was surprised and decided to share with you, I found an incredible offer to Ukraine! It was as follows – prowling in NETE housing and shew obraruzhil 2 bedroom flat in Kiev [/ url] with pictures. I was very surprised by the cost of the ads + became generally interested in your opinion about this accommodation.”

So it was spam after all (and remains isolated—quarantined—in that category, and therefore not part of the comments following posting number 163). Still, it’s neat to know that someone in Eastern Europe is reading the blog, however randomly and with whatever weird agenda. Wonder if I’m now infected with some Ukrainian computer virus that will steal my identity? It might be fun to have a new identity. Maybe a Ukrainian one, covered with tattoos acquired in the gulag archipelago. I could call myself Victor. Victor Obraruzhil.

And speaking of victors, there’s still Michigan football. Tomorrow it’s Northwestern, so that should be a win. Then they’ll have to prove they can play the decent teams. Boy does that Rich Rod seem like a quickly fading bad dream.

Lastly, how about those Lions? Off to a fairly impressive start, too, though it’s early. I’ve never been much of an NFL watcher, but I could be persuaded to pay more attention if, for the first time in my adult life, Detroit is actually good. So those of you who worry about such things can see that I still have some sentiments in favor of something out of southeastern Michigan, despite having abandoned the Tigers, never to return. I do have a cousin named Calvin Johnson, so maybe that's a subtle influence....

Which leads to the question, how do we really come by our sports allegiances? Is it primarily geography and parental influence? If so, does making a decision to change a sports team in adulthood show maturity and independence, or Freudian contrariness? Are we all supposed to live in the same house forever, like the Waltons, or wander the world in search of better things? And speaking of influences, what about the many seemingly more trivial things that inform our choices? The color of a uniform, the personality of a manager, the look of a letter on a jersey, the look of the jersey on a player. I know I'd have trouble backing a team that wore red uniforms (or socks) even if they only did it on their home field. And I couldn't ever take seriously a college football team whose capital "M" looks like an upside down "W." Or who wear gold helmets. And I don't do well with orange or purple as prominent team colors, either. I also struggle with green, but under certain circumstances I can stomach it. But hey, that's just me.


EB said...

When, in the 1950's, I was challenged to pick an NL team (I recall a general expectation at the time that you had to have a team in each league) I picked the Pirates because Pittsburgh was the Mecca of the old UP church--the place where dad went to meetings and was on the seminary board, and mom wrote for the denominational magazine.

Later, when I lived in Mississippi, the Jackson AA team was affiliated with the Mets, and I saw almost all of the players on those great Met teams (except Gooden, who skipped AA) play in the minors. Two of those guys (I forgot which ones) even married local girls. So is seemed natural to root for Mookie Wilson, Dykstra, Strawberry, etc. when they went to NY. (The Jackson team--a different one--is now affiliated with the Braves).

Charleston, WV is border territory disputed over by the Reds and the Pirates. My wife was a Reds fan in the days of the Big Red Machine, and as a Tiger fan I have some residual loyalty to the other team that Sparky Anderson took to the World Series. But the Charleston team has recently affiliated with the Pirates, and that tugs north rather than west.

So now I tend to root for whichever of the two is doing better--which means that later in the season I have no NL distractions from the Tigers at all and can concentrate on NASCAR.


Billie Bob said...

If you really want to get the comments flowing, make a wise crack or two about the U of M vs MSU football game this weekend.

PS Go Blue

Peter Teeuwissen said...

It's too damn serious for even me to wise crack about it. Go Blue, of course. Will you and Jason be making a friendly wager?

Billie Bob said...

I don't want to take his money...