That’s More Like It

Yesterday, as AthleticsNation so eloquently put it, the Oakland A’s “just lost.” “Once again, the inventory of the A’s offensive efforts showed a whole lot of K’s, a smattering of BBs, not many H’s, and precious few R’s” in their 5-2 loss to the Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park, the A’s 6th straight loss and 9th in their last 10 games (as I write, they are losing to the Toronto Blue Jays 5-0). The team that was once a second-half powerhouse (remember that 20-game win streak? that was nice, wasn’t it?), have gone 2-13 since the All-Star game and dropped from four games behind the LA Angels in the AL West on July 11th to 15.5 back today. In a year when most fans went into the season thinking the team would be awful, the A’s finally seem to be living up to our expectations.

In April, hopes weren’t exactly high: 2008 was going to be a rebuilding year, and (for me at least) anything more than a .500 record would make the season a success. But then something strange happened: the A’s started winning. The team hung around with the Angels, lurking a few games behind – close enough to pounce late in the year and take the division, we thought. While the A’s were ravaged by injuries last year, they were ravaged slightly less by injuries this year. Justin Duchscherer made it to the All-Star Game (where Jack Buck butchered his name) with the lowest ERA in the league. And then – right when A’s fans started saying “hey, we might have a shot here” – it all fell apart.

Theses last few weeks for the A’s remind me of a quote from “The Dark Night.” The Joker tells Harvey Dent, “You see, nobody panics when things go according to plan. Even if the plan is horrifying.” When the team was winning, I was confused – this wasn’t how we were supposed to play! I was supposed to feel ashamed every time I put on an A’s hat, not proud that the team I was supporting was playing strong baseball behind the Angels. But now, we’re back on schedule: it seems everyone on the team has some ailment, our hitters can’t even make productive outs (congrats to Jack Cust, who will almost surely lead the AL in strikeouts for the second consecutive year), and even our pitching has started showing cracks. Things are as they should be, and A’s fans are back to suffering. Bring on 2009, I guess.

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Return of the SWoS Friday Roundup!

Or, put another way, me posting links to stories from Deadspin and combined with mediocre one-liners…
– This article in Time Magazine about underage drinking has one of the best anecdote leads I’ve ever read. Honestly, if you were to pick one athlete to do this, wouldn’t it be John Daly?

– What’s the worst name you could see in front of “Sex Tape”? Well, yes, Larry King. But #2 has to be Patriots coach Bill Belichick… America just let out a collective shudder

– Somebody stole about $200-worth of Duke and UNC merchandise from a Cracker Barrel restaurant in North Carolina. I didn’t know there was $200-worth of stuff in a Cracker Barrel.

– Baron Davis in suspenders, riding a tandem bike with Steve Nash. My job here is done.

No Way? Way!

I did something I haven’t done since 7th Grade last night: I sat down and watched the X-Games. And you know what? It wasn’t all that bad.

You could say I was drawn to the “Big Air” skateboarding by the massive Jake Brown fall at last years’ X-Games (Deadspin’s preview of the event this year was titled “The Potential For More Men Falling Four Stories And Almost Dying Begins Tonight“), but once I’d seen a few runs off the massive ramps, I was hooked. And then, this happened:

Danny Way’s crash would have probably broken the legs of most mere mortals, but this guy walked away and WENT BACK OUT to finished the competition. Not only that, Way got into a three-way fight for the gold medal with Bob Burnquist and Jake Long, eventually taking silver and inspiring the Waynes World reference/bad pun title for this blog entry.

Watching that performance, I couldn’t help being reminded of Colin McRae at the X Games rally two years ago, where he rolled his car one turn from the finish but continued once he was on four wheels (his co-driver said McRae was back in first gear, ready to go, before they were right-side-up). I expected that from Colin – he’s the greatest rally driver ever and is famous for alway driving flat out (early in his career, he was nicknamed Colin McCrash) – he was showing the wannabe rally punks how it’s done. But having seen Danny Way’s fall and recovery last night, I have some newfound respect for the X-Games. If there are more events like the Big Air competition last night, I just might get in touch with my eXtreme side and watch.

New Heights of Mediocrity

I was at the Oakland A’s game Monday night. Not very many people can say that – there were just 12,464 of us, or about a third of McAfee Coliseum. The crowd was so abysmal that stadium operators didn’t even bother putting “Guess the Attendance” on the scoreboard. It would be one thing if the deserted Coliseum hosted a well-played game between two top teams that Arctic night (thank you, bay area fog bank), but the contest Monday was between the A’s and Royals. Oy.

Oakland hitters combined for 12 strikeouts and two runs, while starter Dallas Braden gave up two homers from Kansas City’s Jose Guillen and Alex Gordon. Times are, indeed, tough for A’s baseball. To give you an idea of how throughly uninspiring the game was, I took my seat before the start of the game, and only stood up three times: once for the national anthem, once for “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and once to leave.

This, Lew Wolf says, is why he has to move the team to Fremont – because people don’t show up to the games. But the A’s trade away all the fan favorites and talent (such as Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson, Rich Harden, Jason Kendall, Eric Byrnes… I can go on) for prospects nobody has heard of. How many Oakland A’s on the team yesterday were there in 2003? Two: the injured (perhaps permanently) Eric Chavez and Mark Ellis, who never sold tickets as it was. Fans won’t flock to a stadium to see players who will be good in three years – if they wanted that, they’d go see the Sacramento Rivercats – and they especially won’t go to watch a team where hitting over .250 makes you a superstar. Monday’s game showcased everything wrong with the organization: nobody came to the game, nobody knew who the players were, and (oh by the way) the team sucked. I suppose a good sports analyst would give advice to fix that, but this is the view from the stands: do something, at least make A’s baseball interesting again.

SWoS Friday Roundup

Well just like I did on the politics blog, today I’m relinquishing my “blogger who actually gives analysis” role in favor my much easier “blogger who just links to strange/funny stuff they found online today” persona. Enjoy

Eggycam.com, a website with a streaming webcam showing a group of unhatched eggs, where visitors are invited to place bets on which will hatch first. Many questions come to mind when you think of this kind of gambling: how do you keep John Daly away from it? what gives egg #4 7-1 odds, while #5 is 10-1? and, the eggs won’t hatch for another two weeks, but can’t I take my eyes off the streaming video?

– ESPN Columnist Jerry Crasnick on former Oakland Athletics manager Dick Williams’ induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame this weekend

– According to EA Sports’ NCAA Football 2009, the University of Wisconsin’s (go badgers) Camp Randall Stadium is the #8 toughest place to play in the nation – and I’m going to be there next year. Score.

– Deadspin’s “Awful Announcing” rundown of Thursday’s top moments in sports includes USC coach Pete Carroll revealing his Indiana Jones tendencies, some deranged Packers fans (is there any other kind?), the MLS’s “Bitchy the Hawk,” and an (all joking aside) awful brawl from the minor leagues

Bartman’s Back… Kinda

Steve Bartman, the infamous Walkman-sporting Chicago Cubs fan whose inference in a play was blamed for the Cubs’ collapse against the Florida Marlins during the 2003 NLCS, has been offered $25,000 to sign one autograph at a memorabilia show in Rosemont, Illinois. Bartman has been incredibly reclusive since the incident: he has declined every interview and book deal offered to him after receiving death threats from fellow Chicago “fans.” SportsBuy.com and the National Sports Collectors’ Convention are offering Bartman $25,000 to show up to their convention, prove his identity, and sign one autograph of a picture of the play.

Considering I’ve never been a loyal supporter of a “cursed” team (although the Cubs are my second-favorite team, which is high praise), I might not have the correct experience to speak on this, but I think it’s time we forget about Steve Bartman. The infamous “Bartman Ball” was blown up a few years ago, and Cubs fans have had plenty of time to move on (they haven’t of course, but they should have). Nevermind the fact that everyone else around Bartman was going for the ball, and that it would have been a hell of a play for Moises Alou to make if he wanted that out, Bartman has paid his due. He’s faced death threats, he’s been forced out of the life he once knew, and he’s spent the last five years living down a five-second mistake Come on, Cubs fans, let’s get over Steve Bartman and look to the future: your team is leading the Central, and has the best record in the National League. There are better things to focus on than what some fan did five years ago.

A Blueprint for Formula 1 in the US

I’m a massive Formula 1 fan. Like, ridiculously obsessed: stay-up-till-2-AM-watching-practice-sessions-from-Malaysia obsessed. I watch the races, follow storylines religiously on my favorite F1 blogs, and always scan the YouTubes looking for historic clips of the “good old days.” But as an American, my kind are few and far between, so I’ve often wondered how to make the sport more popular here in the US.

Obviously, there are a few basic things that I, as a Formula 1 fan, would like to see changed – the cost of tickets at F1 races, the sport’s policy of ripping down videos from YouTube, and the general lack of respect the sport shows to its fans to name a few. Then there’s what I want from the sport as an American fan: a return of the United States Grand Prix being the bare minimum. But the best strategy to increase F1’s popularity here may be to copy baseball.

Think about it – no sport treasures its history like baseball does. The game is built on records and players from decades long since past, its numbers and superstars revered to an extent not seen anywhere else. Baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown is sacred ground because the legends who are enshrined there – you can’t say the same about the NFL’s Hall in Canton, or Basketball’s in Springfield. That’s because baseball is full of history, and the same can be said of motor racing and Formula 1.

F1, like baseball, has a history built on records and drivers from a  very long time ago – and stressing that history might bring the kind of fans that baseball has over to F1. Show Americans Juan Manuel Fangio’s legendary 1957 race at the Nurburgring, the frantic finish at the ’69 Italian Grand Prix, the Gilles Villneuve-Rene Arnoux battle from 1979’s French GP, Ayrton Senna’s heroics in 1993 at Donnington, or any of the other legendary F1 performances. Make it so fans revere the names of Nuvolari, Clark, and Hunt the way they do Ruth, Mays, and Aaron, and F1 will surge past NASCRAP in the hearts of Americans.

Sure, Formula 1 isn’t what it used to be – there’s a lack of good quality racing, a domination by sponsors, and a media that forces drivers to become drones (you won’t see this or this nowadays). But if the sport can build a fanbase here on its history the same way baseball has, it will enjoy popularity in the US that it’s had around the world for decades.