Worth reading this week:current reading 2

Most of this article is actually pretty funny, but the conclusion is one of those Mockingbird-esque kickers, which I will give away (even as I suggest you read the whole thing.)

If the Super Bowl is the last great community event holding America together and we put it on a shrink’s couch for psychological analysis, here’s what we have. While it’s true that we all likely had some sort of representation through the carousel of celebrities shilling us premium brands, it turns out we’re all afraid of getting older and dying. We’re grasping at straws to find some sort of common bond that holds us all together. We’d all love some way to atone for the wrongs we have done, and if we can’t fix the things in our world that are broken, we’ll probably just distance ourselves from them and wash our hands of responsibility. And maybe, just maybe, there’s the hope of agape, the hope of a love that will act on us when we cannot achieve it ourselves.

Bryan J., “Super Bowl Psychology: What This Year’s Commercials Tell Us About Ourselves” Mockingbird (Feb. 3, 2020) [link].


Alan Jacobs is no longer doing much at Snakes and Ladders (subscribe to his newsletter, instead), but this was a nice piece of anachronism (in two senses):

The Devil chooses to deceive some people in the following way. He will marvelously inflame their brains with the desire to uphold God’s law and destroy sin in everyone else. He will never tempt them with anything that is manifestly evil. He makes them like anxious prelates watching over the lives of Christian people of all ranks, as an abbot does over his monks. They will rebuke everyone for their faults, just as if they had their souls in their care; and it seems to them that they dare not do otherwise for God’s sake. They tell them of the faults they see, claiming to be impelled to do so by the fire of charity and the love of God in their hearts; but in truth they are lying, for it is by the fire of hell surging in their brains and their imaginations.

Alan Jacobs, “understanding Christians (and others) on social media” Snakes and Ladders (Feb. 2, 2020) [link] (quoting from the 14th-century Cloud of Unknowing) [link].

Not that we know anyone like that.


And, just in time to fend off the sportsfans who want baseball to be more like football (I’m looking at you, Hank), Kirk Goldsberry and Katherine Rowe point out that football has even less “action” than baseball: “How Much Football Is Even In A Football Broadcast?” FiveThirtyEight (Jan. 31, 2020) [link]:

Our findings reveal that while different sports produce wildly different broadcast experiences, NFL broadcasts are among the most interrupted and least action-packed broadcasts of any sport. Simply put, there’s not a lot of actual football in a football game.

The numbers are startling. An average NFL broadcast lasts well over three hours, yet it delivers a total of only 18 minutes of football action.

That’s no problem. Until Sunday it was football, but baseball’s coming.

 

This is not baseball . . .

baseball judgmentThis is more like my day job as an attorney, but there is some good writing being done, especially by Tom Verducci.

Start with Verducci’s “‘Clean It Up. It Must Stop’: MLB Is in an Ethical Crisis” Sports Illustrated (Jan. 16-17, 2020) [link]. You can follow the links until you get tired of it.

But maybe this will burn out in a few weeks. Nah, probably not, but we can hope.

As Verducci says:

In one month we hope to be restored by the pictures from Arizona and Florida of youthful ballplayers under the winter sun lazily tossing baseballs to one another and giving us once again the beautiful sound of bat meeting baseball, which for us is what the chirp of a bird is to an ornithologist. This is why we watch. It’s the simplicity of the game that soothes us. Every game has a binary outcome. Every event is definable. Runs, hits and errors. Wins and losses. Its beauty is in its simplicity.

We don’t want championships that make us do mental gymnastics to decide whether they are inauthentic. We don’t want player analysis to be derivative valuation. We don’t want ethical dilemmas to test our fandom.

We want a clean game decided by fair competition. Clean it up.

 

MLB Investigation

baseball judgmentI’m sure that anyone who is interested is already aware of the punishments handed down to the Houston Astros by the Commissioner of Major League Baseball. I would encourage the reading of the actual decision [20200113 STMT MLB Commissioner Manfred] (a very manageable 9 pages) for an understanding of what was found and some sense of why neither the owner nor the players involved were punished directly.*

*The cynic in me would point out (with many others) that the Commissioner “answers” to both the owners and the MLBPA and would be loathe to offend either group in the last days of labor peace, but the report suggests (correctly) that it would be tough to come up with carefully calibrated punishments for either group. The deterrent effect of these punishments should be significant, and indeed reports are that both Hinch and Luhnow have been fired by the Astros.

Databall

Digital BaseballWith baseball season comes baseball writing — two interesting pieces on pitching:

Tyler Kepner focuses on the coefficient of friction, and things (substances?) which affect it (“The Secrets of Pitching’s Outlaws,” The New York Times (Mar. 29, 2019) [link]):

small quotes blueNext time you go to a game, notice all the surfaces a pitcher touches with his hand. Pitchers are fidgety creatures, constantly tugging and swiping and scratching their caps, their sleeves, their skin, something. Corey Kluber, the two-time Cy Young Award winner for Cleveland, grabs his tongue on the mound before every pitch — which became legal again years ago — then wipes his hand on the side of his pants.

(Kepner does not suggest that Kluber is doing anything illegal.)


Tom Verducci turns to spin rates and pitch shape (“From Trackman to Edgertronic to Rapsodo, the Tech Boom Is Fundamentally Altering Baseball,” Sports Illustrated (Mar. 28, 2019) [link]):

small quotes bluePitch shapes, break charts, leveraging the ball, hoppy fastballs, sloppy wrists . . . this is part of the language of the game now, a language that didn’t exist a few years ago. [Houston Astros’ minor leaguer Forrest] Whitley speaks it fluently, not because he picked it up as a high school requirement, but because he grew up with it, organically. He and his fellow disrupters are only getting started.

The Delightful Scalia

In 2018 I read an old book of miscellaneous addresses and essays by my favorite Canadian curmudgeon Robertson Davies called The Merry Heart (1998 [amazon]), and in previous years enjoyed similar compilations of material from Neil Gaiman (The View from the Cheap Seats, 2016 [amazon]); and Neal Stephenson (Some Remarks, 2012 [amazon]).

Scalia SpeaksThis year’s delight is certainly going to be Scalia Speaks (2017 [amazon]), a compilation of speeches by the late justice known for his staggering erudition, his biting wit, and his personal warmth. One of his sons (Christopher J. Scalia) and one of his former law clerks (Edward Whelen) have chosen and introduced a number of addresses given on many occasions. They are marvelous! Scalia’s good friend and fellow justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Notorious RBG herself) wrote the forward.

Here are a few tidbits:

Continue reading The Delightful Scalia

1 down, 11 to go

20181003 Wild card scorecard YankeesSevy was amped last night, but kept himself under control for the most part. Good to get a dangerous Oakland team out of the way at home. A .pdf of the scorecard:
20181003 Wild card scorecard Yankees
20181003 Wild card scorecard Athletics

The reward is to now play the best team in baseball. Should be fun.

Here’s a blank scorecard for the ALDS: Scorecard 2018 ALDS

All bad, not all bad

Baseball 2I read this about 10 days ago.  I continue to think about it. Eric Dorman, “Of Cubs and Humans and Good Thieves,” Mockingbird (July 30, 2018) [link].

It reminds me of  “If you’re automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won’t consider possibilities that aren’t annoying and miserable.” David Foster Wallace, “This is Water,” available many places on the Web, including [link] and [audio link].