Our Pretentious Care for Racing is Just a Filibuster!

05-25-2016

The United States has two seasons; ‘Football Season’ and ‘Waiting for Football to Comeback Season’. But with the latter there are stages within the off-season. the stages start the day after the Super Bowl with the Reaction Stage, where we take it all in and reflect that the football season is inevitably over. Followed by the hysterical Mock Stage where the whole world tries to guess the order of the upcoming draft, as endlessly hopeless as it is, culminating in a never dull three days of college-player picks. Then begins the Experimental Stage of the season where we all go our separate ways and try to figure out how we’re going to fill our time until football is relevant again.

Right now, the Experimental Stage is weighing heavily upon like a saddle on a horse. It’s the Experimental Stage because we experiment with sports on the side that don’t satisfy our hungers quite the same as the NFL season does. Eventually, our experiments either fail or expire bringing us back to Anxiety Stage of the season with the NFL Preseason in August until season’s end.

The month of May is prime Experimental Stage time! May is the equivalent to sports following experimentation’s as January first is to gym-membership start ups. Sports fans look all over for things to fill the calendars with black X’s before its time to break the pads and pigskin back out. The Filibusters come in all types of exotic forms; lacrosse, bowling, International soccer, hot-dog eating contest etc. One of the sports-levy systems that we treat ostentatiously is the the tracks for some good OLD-fashioned racin’! Mainly, the Kentucky Derby and the Indianapolis 500.

The Derby and the 500 are like grapefruit and pumpkin flavored beers, they’re cute for a little while but at the end of the day you know you aren’t stocking the fall-out shelters with the stuff. The events are expendable and are simply just a natural distraction from the fact that we don’t have a fantasy line-up to attend to this week, that our NFL teams have made their selections and are just as eager as us for the season to kick-off and the saddening reality that most of us don’t know what to do with our weekends when there’s no football games on! So instead, we dive-in to these experimental sports that keep us entertained as long as we don’t really have to invest anything in them like the Indy and Derby. Making them the sports-equivalent to side-romances while the NFL is fighting the off-season war.

Is that fair? Not at all! But, let’s face it, we don’t care about fair during America’s non-football season, unless of course the topic includes NFL rule changes made during that time. It’s not fair that we don’t recognize the struggles and patience one has to have to train a horse to be able to race the great race! It’s not fair that we don’t notice the extreme discipline one has to have to consistently drive 200 miles an hour for 500 miles! It’s not fair that we don’t acknowledge the severe cases of tennis elbow those jockey’s suffer from whipping those over-trained four legged creatures as they sprint around the dirt circle on a year-round cycle. What’s not fair about this the most is that we pander to them for the short amount of time that we do. Even mostest unfair is that the riders/drivers/trainers/crews/horses have to pretend to enjoy their dimly-lit 15 minutes of fame because it’s all they’re going to get. Still, one of the essentials of a sport that’s climax is in the height of the experimental stage of ‘Waiting’ season is thin skin to pretentious fans.

Most of us, admittedly myself included, fall into this bandwagon fandom that we hope can kill some days on the NFL countdown.

The pretentiousness starts after the NFL draft wraps up when we suddenly care about the most outrageous names we’ve ever heard (examples; American Pharaoh, Fusaichai Pegasus and Paul Jones), that enable our society to dive-in to our other favorite past-time other than football (no not baseball); gambling. The field-talk becomes a common discussion of people asking the same question – “Who’s the smart money on for the Kentucky Derby?” … Do we ever really know or are we just going off the experts advice blindly? Not like us to do that too often (hence Mock Stage season) … Leading us to the running for the roses! Luck fully, the race is an exciting and abrupt two minute dash of fury! Why luck fully? Because any longer and we would all be ousted as the horse-shi**ers we are in terms of knowledge of these events. Once the race is over, the rose-pedals land and the mud is cleaned from the horseshoes, we realize “Damn, we gotta do this again in a couple weeks for the Preakness and maybe again for the Belmont Stakes just in case this same horse claims a stake for the Triple Crown.”

The Triple Crown, another sports title we seem too impressed with considering we don’t care enough about horse racing as a society anymore in the first place. Unless you like flirting with currency that is. While some hope to see whichever bizarrely-named horse we’ve come to love this week take the Derby, Preakness and Belmont to claim the Crown, the rest of us realize this sport just isn’t our cup of julep and hope that we can end our fake interest charades and quit horsing around with animal-races.

Instead, us nay-sayers move on and realize that we still don’t have football to watch and even worse have to end the height of Experimental Stage season with a three-day Memorial Day weekend and nothing to kill the time. So we re-enter the inescapable circle of the track but lay down some pavement, add more metal, times the horses by three hundred and move to Indianapolis for the annual Indy-500 race.

How we celebrate the Indy-500 mirrors a lot of the same story lines for how we celebrate the Super Bowl, only with better weather! Which helps our pretension along with the diversion of an event that we have an easier time-relating to.

Some of us actually care about the results and what goes into winning the Indianapolis 500 but most of us don’t, doppleganging how we approach the Super Bowl. Nothing worse in the NFL season than when you realize your team won’t make the Big Bowl and you’ll have to root for one of two teams that you don’t necessarily like, but it’s still not like you’re going to skip it entirely. You’re going to watch, and even try and find some reason to pick a side whether it’s the colors, players or personal player stories you like. The same goes for the “Greatest Spectacle in NOT Football!” Do you actually know or care about who individually wins the race? No, instead we might choose a driver by personality/interest story, the brands they drive for, or if their car features out favorite/lucky numbers.

It’s a cultural event, at the end of the day the Indy and the Super Bowl are just excuses to have a get together drink some beer; eat some chili (Super Bowl) or some grilled meats (Indy 500) and enjoy each other’s company with the events being least common factors among mass groups of people. Essentially, the Indy is just a practice run of our Super Bowl parties with a grill and a MANDATORY day-off thrown in.

We care about the same basic things between the two events if we tweak them a bit. We watch the anthem and pre-race ceremonies as we would the pre-kickoff ceremonies. There is an added attention to who is singing the anthem and equal chills to the roaring engine sound following, “START YOUR ENGINES” as there is to the sight of the Kick-off’s generated stadium camera flashes. The Indy’s crashes are like the Super Bowl’s commercials and every unplanned bathroom break we force ourselves to take leaves us hoping we don’t miss any of either. Photo-finishes and game-winners are what we live for. We pray for crazy finishes so that we have something to talk about until the next football season arrives.

If you’re a big follower of Derby races or Indy-car races, where you watch every race every weekend, follow the tours and attend to the track on the regular this blog post is not meant to offend. It is simply a plea for us to at least realize our Experimental Stage sport lusts like the Indy and Derby are nothing more than experiments that ultimately comes out to the same result; it’s no NFL! This existential experiment doesn’t only fail with Horse Racing and the Indy-car Series an other off-the-beaten-track sports. The outcome is the same with NCAA/NBA basketball, MLS soccer, MLB baseball and even MMA fights, they just don’t compare and fall into the file of things we fall-back on when we put away the raw-hides.

This post is meant for us to reflect on what we’re really doing.

We’re patronizing horse-racing and stock-car racing. Is it wrong? Not necessarily. At the end of the day the racing templates presumably realize that to take offense of our actions would be pinching the nozzle that fuels the sport’s relevance. Is it fair? Not at all. But let’s be honest this whole post was just an attempt to fill an X on the calendar until the day comes when ‘Waiting for Football to Comeback Season’ ends and we can get back to the important things that don’t matter!

Still, let me offer my condolences for all of us in the sports spectating world to the die-hards of the tracks that follow Indy-Car/Stock-Car/Horse Racing fervently.

“I’m personally sorry that I intrude only but once month of the year for an experiment that I already know the outcome to race-fans. Please put up with my burden for the next few days until I can move onto something else I don’t really care about and realize that I know the ridiculousness of my actions and feel like a horse’s pa-toot in the process. Thank you for sharing your sports with us and we will all be out of your way soon. Please just try to understand our motives and reasoning for jumping on the bandwagon.”

 

 

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The NHL Needs to Make a Change!

02-24-2016

The three-point line was introduced to the National Basketball Association during the 1979-1980 season, and the rest is history. (1) Basketball became a more open and transitional game due to the line’s existence and despite the early criticism (and sustained criticism from basketball purists), the added paint on the court has made for a better and less predictable game.

The three-point line allows for teams to stay in games longer with the added opportunity to make up for late game deficits as seen in numerous variations, which probably is the greatest bright side to the three-point line. Other than the added notion of anything can happen, the three adds hope for players that have greater shot range even if they’re smaller sized in the big man ruled world of the NBA. The three opens up the court from suffocating defenses and allows those previously mentioned big men to breathe, allowing for more variations to score more efficient buckets closer to the hoop as well.

Still, the best bright side to the extra point shot is the allure of the added points both players and teams benefit from with an added three-pointer. One of the setbacks of the three is the difficulty in finding efficient sharpshooters from beyond the arc, but when they are discovered they are adored.

Quarter century later and its probably safe to assume that the three-point line has cemented its legacy in the NBA. It changes up the same old story of 2+2+2+2+2+2=12, to be cut nearly in half with 3+3+3+3, allowing the procrastination of a built up deficit a team has allowed to be easily made up.

The other night, the St. Louis Blues took on the San José Sharks in an NHL Western Conference showdown that the Sharks went onto win 6-3. (2) In that game, seven of the nine scored goals were within a sticks distance from the crease of the goal. Sharks forward, Tomas Hertl added two goals in the first period off of point blank ricochets rebounding  from the Blue’s goalie. The ways teams are looking to score is by causing chaos in front of the net and hoping for odd bounces, kind of like when down-low offense dominated the NBA. The game is more predictable and needs a change or maybe just an addition.

In Monday’s game, the Blues found themselves down 3-1 after the first period. Personally as an at home spectator I tuned out thinking the chance for a comeback was a long shot. However, maybe that’s the cure this spectator and this game needs… the temptation of a long shot!

The Blues exchanged goals for goals with the Sharks to make the score 5-3 halfway into the third period. Even though, the NHL allows for the craziest of outcomes late in games it was hard to feel that St. Louis would get back in the game. However, the Blue’s third goal was scored from a shot beyond the Shark’s defensive face-off circles. Now, let’s say that there was a line after the face-off circles that ran to the blue line that we called the two-point zone that had a rule that said if a is shot from this area and goes in untouched by a shooter’s teammate it is worth two points!

BOOM, THERE’S YOUR NBA THREE-POINT LINE CREATED!

Take our game of dissection for example. Suddenly, thanks to Jay Bouwmeester’s distance shot St. Louis only trails 5-4. Now, any second with the right shot from the right location of the ice and the Blues could have completely came back to take the lead!

The games would be more hectic, the ricochet goals would exist equally. The style of goals would flourish, and create a plethora of highlights with slap-shot style goals. Suddenly, Fulton Reed (The Mighty Ducks) power shooters have added value and the nose for the goal/trash men are less necessary. The game would be implementing a major style change, but that’s not an all around bad thing.

Of course with all change there will be a connection to controversy. Hockey purist will certainly have some hesitation to adding a two-point zone. The belief will be that the two-point shots will be ruining the game and the idea that a two point shot diminishes the glory of the goal. Just keep in mind purist out there, they said the same thing about the NBA three-point addition.

It’s been 26 years since Kevin Grevey knocked down the first trey of the NBA, and I don’t think the bonus shot has any lack of life in the future. (1) It’s time the NHL follows in basketball’s trail to the town of scoring changes, otherwise you can plan on even more at home spectators tuning out after quick first period leads.

Sources:

  1. http://americansportshistory.com/2014/02/13/the-history-of-the-three-point-line-in-the-nba/
  2. http://blues.nhl.com/gamecenter/en/icetracker?id=2015020892

References:

3) Hockey template (picture)

MLB Changes to Accommodate the Baseball Fan That… Isn’t… A… Baseball… Fan?

2-21-2015

Baseball isn’t a complicated game…

I’ll quote Bull Durham to make my point clear “You throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball.”

(INSERT HUMANS)… SWEET MOTHER OF GOD!

Suddenly there is trouble in River City, with a capital T and that rhymes with C and that stands for Changes. Changes that please the modern-day sports fans of the world. A.k.a. Jimmy; whom attends the ballpark with a tablet in his hand and has his Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Tumblr feed updating in between every pitch. Jimmy, who complains that baseball is too slow and that the sport is dying because it’s boring. And Jimmy, who is more concerned with why the ballpark’s Wi-Fi is too slow to let him upload a selfie of him and his chili dog rather than the fact that there’s two-men on and the clean-up hitter is walking to the plate. This is the common sports fan that baseball is trying to mend their rules to speed up the pace of the game for… but why?

The biggest competition baseball has in terms of fans is the distractions outside of it. In a modern world where technology reigns supreme and the world is obsessed with things going on around them rather than in front of them. This competition begs the question, will baseball exist in this land of short-attention spans and lack of focus?

The question I find myself wondering in this dilemma is why does baseball want to attract a fan like Jimmy? I’m willing to side-step the obvious answer to that question ($$$) for the sake of dissection, to ask a more ethical question of fellow baseball fans; does attracting Jimmy to the ballpark really seem like a plausible solution?

You ask me, there’s nothing better than wasting an ENTIRE afternoon at the ballpark. I’ll even buy the $8 beers as a way of rejoicing in the spectacle of sport that’s displayed on the diamond. There’s something spiritual about getting lost in the situations presented with every changing pitch and the more time and things I have to think about it the better it gets. Extra-innings?… Growing-up I knew that to mean free baseball and discounted hot dog prices! Added baseball was free entertainment, not extended punishment. Why someone would want to shorten that experience baffles me personally, but when you meet fans like Jimmy it starts to make sense.

Jimmy has other things going on when he’s at the game, or at least wants to make himself believe he does according to his smart-phone. He wants to share with the world that he’s at the diamond rather than realize it himself. It’s as if his goal by attaching everything he does to the internet would imply something else. Like ohhh I don’t know, the idea that maybe Jimmy isn’t really a baseball fan?

Jimmy doesn’t care about bullpen activity, or who’s on third. He is unaware that the home team’s manager has a number on his jersey or that the opposing team has a shift on. Most likely, Jimmy was dragged to the ballpark by a promotion or a ticket giveaway or a friend/relative needing company. No matter what got Jimmy there it was his choice and that’s what baseball needs to focus on. I’ll quote another baseball movie to emphasize a baseball truth, “If you build it, he will come” *Thank you Field of Dreams.*

The point is don’t worry about pleasing Jimmy if he complains about baseball taking too long. It’s not really his concern. Sure, he might tweet about being at the ballpark past the happy hour specials or the pitchers taking too long on the mound. But that’s irrelevant when you consider that his ticket stub has already been ripped and his seat has been taken. Whether Jimmy will be a reoccurring customer to the ballpark is up to him but if he doesn’t enjoy baseball enough to keep coming back then good riddance, let him go. Baseball is a timeless past time and it attracts time less fans. So embrace that and don’t punish them for Jimmy’s intolerance.

But in reality the beloved sport requires top-dollar amount to produce the top-talent. And that talent needs to get paid somehow. If that salary NEEDS to be compensated by the A.D.D. 50-50 fans like Jimmy then I guess changes have to be made. Baseball may be headed for a trial and error period for a while, I just hope it comes out recognizable when it’s all said and done. Until then, baseball purist will have to leave the simple game to be complicated by humans and pray to the baseball Gods it’s not ruined.