Friday, August 30, 2013

The Difficulty of Being a Sports Fan

As the old saying goes, being a sports fan essentially means rooting for laundry. Or as I saw someone put it the other day, cheering for paid professionals employed by the corporate conglomerate located in the closest physical proximity to your childhood home. It's essentially a silly activity to get wrapped up in.

Being a small market fan comes with a whole separate host of silly issues. I wrote about this way back when KG left the T'Wolves for greener pastures in Boston -- when you're a small-market fan, you feel much closer to the players, because they're celebrities only in your area. You feel like they're an awesome secret most of the sports world doesn't know about. But you also generally get stuck with an ownership group that's cheap as all get out, meaning when you luck into a superstar like that, they're usually surrounded with shitty players and have to carry the team themselves. That's why there were such mixed feelings when KG ditched Minny; on the one hand, you're losing your best player. On the other hand, he had given us everything and the best support he ever got was Latrell Sprewell (note to non sports fan: this means he had no support). So you had grown to love him and it was hard to begrudge him the chance to actually win a championship, which was clearly never going to happen in Minnesota.

But sometimes players don't leave because they're going somewhere better, sometimes you have to jettison players you love because they're old, expensive, and not performing as well (it's a business, after all and other such cliches). This is generally just as sad, but for very different reasons.

Take the case of Justin Morneau, the Twins' formerly-amazing first baseman. As this excellent write up in Grantland points out (as have many other people, but this one is succinct and on-point), Justin is too expensive for the Twins for his level of production, and besides, they're going to be terrible for a few years waiting for all the amazing players in their farm system to get to the majors (and they have some fucking incredibly guys down on the farm right now). So from a business standpoint, it makes total sense to get Justin out the door as soon as we can.

But from a fan perspective, it's hard to see him go. He's been with the Twins since he was drafted, coming up in 2003 and helping us win 6 division titles. He won an MVP and the season he got the concussion right before All Star break, he was having one of the best seasons ever. In the first half of that season, he had hit .345 and had an OPS over 1.050 (again, for non sports fans, those are amazing numbers. Like shoe-in for your second MVP-type numbers). And then a dude on the Blue Jays accidentally kneed him in the head, and he forgot how to play baseball.

That's what makes it even sadder and raises so many more conflicted feelings -- it's not that he's suffered the decline every ball player goes through as they age. It's that he had the prime of what was shaping up to be a Hall of Fame career ruined by a concussion he really never recovered from. It would be one thing if we were shopping him now because he's an over-the-hill slugger who gave us a good long career but now we need to move on. No, any Morneau trade would be because he got injured and was no longer able to perform at a high level, due basically only to that one injury. Basically, we're jettisoning one of the greatest players in the history of the team because he got a concussion.

Final analysis, the Twins really need to get rid of him to get any value in return, even if it's just dumping the $14 million or so they owe him for next year. But even though I can understand why that needs to happen, it's still going to be a pretty sad day when it does.

Update: Looks like Morneau will come out and join me in Pittsburgh, meeting up with former Twin Francisco Liriano and taking over first base for former Twins prospect Garett Jones.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Speaking Ill of the Not Quite Yet Dead

I posted awhile back on how I think it's incredibly stupid to hold to "don't speak ill of the dead" as some sort of ethos. Beside the fact that people don't magically become less evil because they're dead, not speaking ill of the dead is often used as a way to white-wash the horrible things people have done, especially when it comes to public figures.

For example, when Billy Graham died, he was touted as some great religious and moral leader, and not, say, the guy who told Nixon about synagogues of Satan and how many problems he had with Jews and Black people (hint: he didn't use the terms "Jewish" and "Black"). And that's important, because Billy Graham was not an upstanding moral man, but instead an asshole and a bigot.

And speaking of bigoted assholes, Pat Robertson has made some news again as he made up a story on his show about how apparently gay men have magical rings they use to spread AIDS. To spare you the time of checking, no your eyes did not explode, forcing your brain to improvise the words you thought you were reading, and yes, it is indeed the year two-thousand-fucking-thirteen.

And that last part is really important (of course, that's ignoring the magical physics that would have to be involved for these secret gay AIDS-spreading rings to work), because one of the ways people white-washed Graham's bullshit was pointing out that it happened a long time ago. Ignoring the fact that he was almost definitely still talking about and thinking those things but just wasn't being recorded, apparently his bullshit was ok because everyone was a racist, anti-semetic bigot back then I guess?

Now this is just one in a long, long line of especially stupid things Pat Robertson has said. Hell, it's only a blip in the long line of stupid things he's said about gay people (incidentally, doesn't Pat Robertson strike you as the kind of guy who watches tons of gay porn? But not because he likes it, because it's research, you see). But you can already see the explanations that will be trotted out on his death when he gets sainted -- "oh sure, he said some things that were distasteful, but the 80s were a long time ago and no one understood AIDS back then." Or something along those lines.

But this is no longer the 80s, AIDS is no longer a mysterious disease no one understands, and I'm pretty sure we've conclusively demonstrated gay people are human beings. Mostly because it's the year 2013. Yet Robertson is still spouting stupid bullshit that would have looked backwards 30 years ago.

Anyway, this is all to make a simple point -- the man is a pice of shit. He's a piece of shit now, and when he finally fucking dies (what kind of pact with Satan is sustaining his withered body at this point?), he will still be a colossal piece of shit. And if you're one of those people who thinks we should never speak ill of the dead, well, he's alive right now, so I'll just point you back to this post when he dies...

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Hey Look! Someone Else Hates Something I Hate!

A few years back, I wrote about how stupid the Beloit College Mindset List is. For those of you not familiar, the mindset list is put together annually by a few professors at Beloit College, and lists a bunch of stuff that supposedly describes the zeitgeist of this fall's newly-entering college first years. It's mostly just a glorified buzzfeed list for old people, and is built on the bizarre assumption that no one understands anything that ever happened before they were born.

I was reminded of my hate-rage for this stupid list when I came across this Salon article detailing pretty much the same complaints I have. As the author of that pointed out, the very first list (of students who would go on to graduate in 2002), claimed they had never heard of the Iran hostage crisis. You know, because it happened a year before they were born. And we all know no one has ever heard of any major world events that happened that far in the past.

But what's even more annoying than that, I've decided, is just how fucking hacky and yet self-satisfied the damn list is. Here's some choice moronic bits from this year's list:

13. PayPal has replaced a pen pal as a best friend on line.

Hah! Get it? Kids today never communicate with anyone, they only buy things using third-party payment apps!

14. Rites of passage have more to do with having their own cell phone and Skype accounts than with getting a driver’s license and car.

Here's where I admit I know nothing about kids these days, but I have to assume getting a car is still a pretty big deal.

18. Growing up with the family dog, one of them has worn an electronic collar, while the other has toted an electronic lifeline.

I literally do not understand what this means. They only make reference to one dog, while the next sentence references two distinct things. I clearly am out of touch.

29. Java has never been just a cup of coffee

Yup, if there's one thing I hear college kids talking about all the time it's which programming language they prefer.

40. They have never attended a concert in a smoke-filled arena.

I think this one is just empirically not true. Many states still do not have indoor smoking bans, and I can't believe every arena self-imposed those before any of these kids were old enough to go to a concert.

44. Their favorite feature films have always been largely, if not totally, computer generated

Again, that's just...not true at all. The majority of films released every year are neither largely nor totally computer generated.

51. The Canadian Football League Stallions have always sung Alouette in Montreal after bidding adieu to Baltimore.

This is a great example of how fucking lazy the list is, like they just googled things that happened in a particular year. Name me one incoming first-year college student who knows or cares about the existence of the Montreal CFL team. This is not how any American college student identifies themselves or makes sense of the world.

57. Their parents’ car CD player is soooooo ancient and embarrassing.

Ok, admittedly I haven't been car shopping recently, but don't all cars come with CD players? Had they went with tape deck, I could at least see it. But can you even purchase a new car in this magical year of 2013 that doesn't have a CD player? How can it be "ancient and embarrassing" if it's still a standard feature in basically every car made?

So in short, fuck this list, and fuck Beloit College for allowing it to continue to exist.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Hilarity, The "Postmodern," and Fucking Up To Make Things Better

First seen here, the two comics below are from when The Dayton Daily News (on two separate occasions!) accidentally swapped the Far Side and Dennis the Menace captions, due to some sort of lay out error.

You may be noting this as the first time you ever laughed at Dennis the Menace, because it is one of what the incomparable Comics Curmudgeon refers to as a "legacy" comic. Legacy comics are the ones that are still inexplicably in the newspaper because the only demographic that still purchases newspapers is extremely comforted by familiarity and forms of bland entertainment in which they;re guaranteed to never be challenged or see a black person. But the people writing these legacy comics long ago gave up (often literally, as they don't actually do any of the production work anymore) and just started recycling the same 3 punchlines over and over.

This screw up, though, reminded me of two other legacy comics reclamation projects. Namely, the Nietzsche Family Circus and Garfield Minus Garfield. Both of these comics are pretty much exactly what the name implies (a Family Circus panel with the caption replaced by a Nietzsche quote and a Garfield comic with Garfield's visage and dialogue erased, respectively), but they vastly improve on their source material.

Someone much smarter and/or pretentious than me could explain how this is some sort of postmodern reclamation of stale cultural artifacts, being co-opted by a jaded generation...something, something. A much simpler way to put it is that stupid shit is a lot funnier when it's no longer stupid. And since Dennis the Menace, the Family Circus, and (present day) Garfield* are all pretty much the epitome of stupid, there's not much anywhere to go but up...

*While present day Garfield is clearly just Jim Davis collecting a large paycheck while I assume a team of flunkies is actually responsible for churning out the content, I will defend old-school Garfield to death. It was actually once an interesting, funny, and occasionally darkly brilliant strip. For proof, I point you to this series from late October 1989 in which it's hinted the entire run of the comic is actually just the fevered dreams of an abandoned Garfield starving to death in an empty house. Let's see Get Fuzzy pull off that shit.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Summer Colds Suck

Spent all of last weekend at an academic conference, and while I was actually a good li'l boy and spent most of my time actually attending presentations, having discussions with colleagues, etc., no conference is complete without nightly partying. It's what happens when you get a bunch of nerds with no social lives together once a year.

Anyway, my body is enacting revenge for my hard living, so I'm now stuck with the dreaded summer cold. It's not really terrible per se, but my head it stuffy and I'm having a hard time concentrating, which makes putting together my syllabi for the class beginning next week (!) more difficult than I had anticipated.

So I'm going to de-camp from the officer and go home where I can sit in my pajamas and mainline chicken soup until I'm better. I may even potentially get some work done, but let's not get crazy.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Oh, How I Wish To Live In That Conservative Shangri-La

I've often joked that I really want to live in the world conservatives think we live in now -- a socialist utopia with free healthcare and abortions on demand, where crossing the border is as easy as ordering lunch, and where women and people of color have long ago achieved equality and there are no pressing social problems of any kind. It really does sound like a great place to be.

I was reminded of that when I saw this graffiti scrawled near a handicapped parking space in the lot outside of my building. Although it's obviously only the grammatically incorrect, misspelled rant of one person, it very much encapsulates so much of the conservative world view. If you can't tell from the picture, this person believes that those using the handicapped spot are not only not suffering from a physical handicap that necessitates a special parking space, but are in fact overweight and driving an SUV paid for by the presumably honest, hard-working graffiti-er's taxes.

This kind of worldview makes me feel something between knee-slapping laughter and infuriating rage. Although it's insane, it seems to be one of the cornerstones of contemporary American conservatives -- that somehow, there's an army of lazy people who have figured out that instead of working, they can get large checks from the federal government by faking some sort of malady, thus allowing them to live in luxury by doing nothing but collecting the tax revenues of their hard-working countrymen.

Of course this is laughable. Anyone who knows even the basics of government programs knows that any benefits you may receive are going to be so small as to barely allow you to have the necessities of life. Literally no single private individual is driving an SUV paid for by someone else's tax money. It simply has never happened and will never happen at any point in the future. Making it even more emblematic of how absurdly fantastical the conservative worldview is would be the fact that simply having a handicapped parking permit in no way even implies that person is getting any sort of government benefit. And again, even if they are getting some sort of disability benefit, they would have to save every single cent of it for years on end to have enough to buy even a moderately-priced vehicle.

But I think what makes this the most infuriating is that there are entities out there receiving absurd amounts of federal tax dollars they neither need nor deserve. They're multi-billion dollar multinational corporations, usually defense and energy companies. And yet, I've yet to see any conservatives getting upset about those government handouts, despite the fact that they dwarf payments to the indigent by several orders of magnitude.

Or maybe I'm simply wrong, and am too much of a sheeple to realize there are secret government programs designed to hand out millions to handicapped people for the purpose of...well, ok, I can't even imagine where the argument goes from there, but I'm sure it's damn entertaining/horribly offensive.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Is Being Funny Enough Good Enough?

I've written before about rape jokes and how, similar to racial jokes, they walk a very fine line; even if they're funny, they need to be constructed carefully to make sure they're punching up and not victim shaming/blaming, or they become really shitty really quickly. If they're unfunny, they come across terribly even if they're not really that offensive per se.

Being a comedy nerd, I've had a lot of conversations about this sort of thing. One of my friends I've discussed this at length with maintains that you can really get away with joking about anything, as long as it's funny. I don't know that I completely subscribe to that viewpoint, but I do feel that if you laugh at something you can't simultaneously claim it has offended you, because you don't laugh at things that offend you (well, maybe in some really specific situations, but you know what I'm getting at).

But the longer I think about it, the more I come around to the "if it's funny enough, you can say anything" position (though this is probably my white male privilege showing through). Case in point: I've been sitting on this awhile, but last month when murder charges were announced against former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, mock sports fan/terrible human being Pro Football Talk Commenter was on a damn roll.

(To the unfamiliar, Pro Football Talk is terrible sports news website. Its comment section, like on so many sports sites/websites in general, is full of typo-ridden racist, sexist, uninformed garbage. PFTCommenter is a sort of meta parody of these, and often contributes to Kissing Suzy Kolber, a pretty good football-centric blog. Check out his awesome White History Month series to get a taste of his general ouvre.)

Anyway, at this point, all anyone knew was that someone had been murdered and Hernandez was the center of the investigation. And of course, no one is more idiotic nor prone to grandstanding than sports reporters, so PFTCommenter had a bit of a field day taking them on. First, he took down Peter King's always shitty logic:

Not only funny in and of itself, but really pokes a great hole in King's grandstanding logic; either teams somehow magically knew Hernandez would become a murderer (in which case, they probably shouldn't have drafted him), or this is something no one could have predicted and the fact that he fell in the draft because he smoked weed in college is probably irrelevant (especially when you consider somewhere between 30-40% of college students smoke marijuana).

So that one is less offensive funny that just plain funny. But the post that made me laugh heartily and then feel kinda icky about laughing so hard was this one:

(For those unfamiliar with the acronym, MFK stands for "Marry, Fuck, Kill," an game in which three people are named and one has to say which they would prefer to respectively marry, fuck, and kill.)

So this is definitely a tasteless joke somewhat made at the expense of a man who had just been murdered, which if not totally offensive, certainly comes across as somewhat wrong. Yet, at the same time, I almost spit out my coffee when I read it I was laughing so hard.

So I guess I don't really have any greater conclusion on the subject, but I am probably going to hell for laughing at this stuff. But hey, at least I'll be laughing on my way there...