Monday, May 27, 2013

Two Reasons I Don't Mind O.Co

Everyone hates the Coliseum. I don't like the Coliseum, but I like it better than a new stadium. And I'll give you two reasons, in two words. You can read the long version, or you can stop here.

Word 1: Marlins.

Word 2: Astros.

1. The Marlins' new stadium/tragedy/apocalyptic nightmare has been well documented and I'm not going there. Their attendance for the last 3 home games? 15,52013,996 and 13,231. These are games against the Phillies, too, and I'm guessing at least half of these *announced* attendance figures were Phillies fans who frequently attend games at "Citizen's Bank South."

It's not like this new stadium (just built in 2012) brought a good team, either. The team is currently the worst team in baseball at 13-37. That's right: after 50 games, they've only won 13 times. Can you imagine being a fan? Why would you go and bolster their attendance? I tried to make a seat purchase to figure out a comparable ticket price but for the life of me I couldn't understand which seats were comparable to mine at the Coliseum. I think they're slightly more, though. I will note that you can purchase a ticket for $410, which is more than I have spent on anything I can remember this calendar year. So you pay more to watch a crappier team. A much crappier team. I bitch about the A's but at no point in my 25+ years of fandom can I remember a start that bad. (Where's the stat-a-matician when you need him?) Even the Astro's are better.

2. Which brings me to the Astros. It's not an exaggeration to say they're better, it's a fact. It's not like they're much better: they're 14-36, which makes their winning percentage looks like a pretty good batting average at .280. Their slogan, "It's a Whole New Ballgame" is correct: it is a whole new ballgame in the American League West: They're totally appreciated, especially by the A's who are undefeated against them this year.

I was able to figure out comparable tickets on the Astro's site. If you want to pay $25-45 (and I never pay over 30 unless it's a Big Game and still get great seats), you get to sit in the 3rd deck or way out in bleacher land or on the lower outfield land. See picture.

Announced attendance at the last 3 games? 19,366, 18591 and 15907. Higher than the A's, sure, and totally unbelievable. Just peek in one time on TV. This park was built in 2000.

Dave Zirin's Bad Sports tells you all you need to know about why new stadiums are bad deals for cities, and it's pretty clear that Oakland is the king of Bad Deals. These two arguments are just fuel for the fire. I also wrote this nifty little piece (it may be changed by the time you read it, since that's the nature of a wiki) on Mount Davis: more evidence that Oakland has no idea what they're doing when it comes to new stuff and sports. I am not an apologist: I hate the Coliseum. It sucks. Getting in and out is awful, the concession stands seem to have been built to create traffic, Mount Davis is an abomination, sharing with a football team is egregious, and really, what's to like about the stadium itself? But here's what's to like about staying: tickets are probably the cheapest in the Majors (someone else has to do the legwork) which means that fans like me CAN go and cheer on a team that is actually contending. Oakland isn't eating money for a new stadium shilled to us by people like Lew Woolf- if he's shady now, why do we think he'll be any in the deal for a new stadium? The Coliseum is right by BART and lots of non-parking lot parking, so we don't even have to pay the exorbitant fee for the parking lot. Just remember: Astros and Marlins. 13 wins. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Dave Zirin: Game Over

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Today, someone mentioned on twitter that Jewish heritage day at the A's came up. I replied that this day was second only in my pantheon of grossness to Pink day at the ballpark. I don't like my baseball on the same plate as my religion. I don't like my patriotism on the same plate as my baseball, either. It gets messy and the two don't taste good together. Some might say this means I don't like politics and sports together, and I guess this is true. I felt squeamish the celebrations during the baseball games after the bombers of the Boston Marathon were caught. It just felt like, well, clapping at Temple. But according to Dave Zirin, you can't separate politics and sports, and reading "Game Over," you know he's right. So maybe I just don't like their politics on my baseball field (though that's not true about religion- I don't want my religion on my field, either).

Here's Zirin's point: athletes are basically not supposed to be political beings. When they sign their contracts, they sign away their rights to speak out about anything. (Think Ozzie Guillen and his "misstep" as Marlin's manager: he expressed admiration for Castro's longevity as a dictator and faced major fallout from his management, MLB and the press.) On the other hand, "at every sporting event we are encouraged to colletively celebrate the displays of nationalism, patriotism, and miliatry might that festoon every corner." Think beyond the national anthem: think fly overs, the new (hideous) camo jerseys, corporate culture of sponsorship, etc. When we attend mainstream sporting events, we witness giant spectacles of homoeroticism while passively supporting (or more, paying for) homophobic corporations that further homophobia in boys growing up with these mens as role models. And don't even get me started on the Olympics (I wouldn't want to throw a wrench in THB's next venue!) Sports are political. Somehow, this doesn't bother me nearly as much as the religious and nationalist part.

Zirin's book is uneven. It clearly reads as a bunch of previously-published essays glommed together into a book, which is unfortunate. Some of the parts are really great, and I learned a lot about the NCAA and the awful exploitation of the kids playing ball for our enjoyment. The NCAA makes so much money, it's ridiculous, and the kids don't get a dollar, not even for the sponsored gear that's plastered all over their bodies. If they get cut from the team, no matter for what reason, they lose their scholarships. Tough shit dude, you're here for an education, I mean to play sports, I mean for an education. Can't play? See ya. I even felt sorry for the bajillionaire NBA and NFL players who got locked out by owners pleading poor even though they were double-bajillionaires, ten times over. Did you know that after football, NFL players don't get health care? Sure, they're rich, but they get beaten up for a living, for our (well, not mine) entertainment and then don't have any right to healthcare, which most of us would agree is a basic human right. Let's just say that post NFL they have more than a few pre-existing conditions that might disqualify them for health insurance. But I didn't like how Zirin conflates gender and sexuality- I'm sure he knows the difference but his essay mushes the question of the treatment of female athletes, gender distinctions and homophobia into one, and they're not. And although I'm convinced: the Green Bay Packers are the best, we need more good examples. If you're going to read a Zirin book, I'd go with "Bad Sports." Otherwise, follow him on twitter (he posts a lot of his articles there) or check out his podcast, Edge of Sports.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Joe Queenan: One for the Books

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Queenan may have written this book as an anti-eBook treatise (I don't know if he did but suspect he might have) but it's really a piece about his love affair with books and reading. I can't blame him- I kind of love physical books, too- a friend is here looking at my shelves and asking why they're labeled by BISAC codes. (Answer? How else is someone supposed to find something?) Queenan doesn't organize his books by BISAC codes: he organizes them by texture and height. Can you blame him? What an aesthetically pleasing way to go! He goes further: books are toys. I totally relate to this:
I like to play with my books, to mark them up, to give them a lived-in look. I like to stack them up on the shelf and move them about and rearrange them according to new parameters-height, color, thickness, provenance, publisher, author's nationality, subject matter, likelihood that I will ever read them. Then I put them back the way they were.
My parents know that I do this, too. From the time I was a child I've been pulling all of my books (ALL of my books) off of the shelf and arranging them on the floor only to put them back again in some other permutation. I do this now, too. Maybe they shouldn't be by BISAC code, come to think of it. Maybe they should be by color or by alphabet, regardless of subject. And those graffiti books should be on the other side of the house.

Queenan does some things that I find inspiring: one year he read only short books. One year, a book a day. And he knows he will never read Middlemarch. He doesn't talk to his friends about books because he knows he wont' agree. Also, he hates the Yankees. Queenan will not read books about the Yankees, Yankees fans, or supporters of the Yankees. Including Salman Rushdie. I wish I could be this strict, but it would take more work than it's worth, I think. I'd have to research who likes the Yankees, and then I would have to think about the Yankees. I'm just going to quote how he feels about the Yankees, because it's SO GOOD:
This vindictive attitude is rooted partly in principle and partly in pathology; I, like most Americans, resent the Yankees' success, wishing that my own cheapskate teams would also go out and purchase championships by the fistful. But I further reject the notion that Yankees fans experience the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat the way the rest of us. They are fans who have not paid their dues. Yankees fans, not to put too fine a point on it, suck, and the rest of us do not. Rooting for the yankees, as a friend of mine who roots for the Cubs says, is like rooting for the air. 
And he loves libraries, especially for the things that don't belong there.

One of my favorite passages should ring true to lots of readers:
I one tried to devise a term to describe the euphoria a person feels when he approaches the end of a book he has not enjoyed reading. I think the term is in fact "euphoria," as the closest I ever got was Buchendungfreudejoie. Others share my inability to chuck away a book once they have slogged a good way into it. One of the best friends I have ever had says that when reading a book she dislikes but cannot quite bring herself to abandon, she is thrilled when she suddenly, unexpectedly stumbles upon a passage so awful or disgusting or immoral that it would make it a crime to continue holding the book in her hands.
Isn't that what books are for? To give us that out that life doesn't ever seem to come up with?