Monday, February 22, 2010

30 Years Ago Today....I Believed In Miracles

It was a Friday night after work. I watched the tape delay of this game, as did all of the US on ABC.  I knew how it ended because Verne Lundquist said very simply at the end of his 6:00 p.m. sportscast that night - "They did it!"

There was a good article by Joe Posnanski on the Sports Illustrated website today.

This is the last paragraph from that article, Al Michaels talking about enduring effect of that game and his legendary call, the last line is absolutely perfect.

"It's interesting, Michaels says he never gets tired of people coming up to him to talk about that call or that game. He never tires of hearing people say where they were when they heard the call. I was in our TV room, my father was on the couch, my mother was out playing cards. I remember jumping up and down when Eruzione scored the game-winner... and I suspect that was the first hockey game I had watched, beginning to end, on television (I did go to a Cleveland Barons game once). Of course, it was the first hockey game that many Americans had seen.

" 'That was the beauty of that game,' Michaels says. 'You didn't have to understand to understand.' "
I understood - - Marla Hooch

P.S. Did you know that the current coach of the USA Women's Hockey, Mark Johnson is a member of the 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

White Noise

There’s a strict definition of “white noise”, if you are a sound engineer, stop reading now because I’m going to use the generally accepted colloquial (although inaccurate) definition of white noise for my own purposes today.

White noise is considered to be sound masking, it drowns out every other sound. Here’s a good analogy I found:

"Imagine a dark room where someone is turning a flashlight on and off. The light is very obvious and distracting. Now imagine that the room lights are turned on. The flashlight is still being turned on and off, but is no longer noticeable because it has been 'masked'. "

Here’s my baseball analogy for white noise: imagine the dark room is Ranger fans, the flashlight is real information researched and reported by the likes of, ESPN Dallas, The Star-Telegram and the Dallas Morning News. The room lights are sports talk radio, forums, fan run websites and yes, blogs like this. The real information, the flashlight, is no longer noticeable because it is being masked by the room lights of self-appointed pontificators on the air and on the web.

I bring this up because I read a comment from one of the real media today that mentioned a fan based forum as the reason he reported a specific piece of information. Since when did a website fan forum become more important than what the general public wants to know? I’ve long suspected that responding to white noise is becoming more important than reporting concrete information - today once again confirmed my suspicions.

What is a baseball fan supposed to believe?

Please understand that not all blogs and fan run websites are white noise. There are excellent sites that add to the “flashlight” of discussion – people like Grant Schiller, Jamey Newberg and the boys at Baseball Time In Arlington work hard to bring thoughtful analysis as well as other features (like Grant’s many interviews) to the ‘net. The one thing all these sites have in common is that they keep the incendiary commentary to a minimum, if at all. Unfortunately, they too are often drowned out by the other Ranger fan “white noise”.

When I first discovered Ranger cyber-fandom back in the late 1990’s I actively participated in several forums – it was great fun, the give and take was thought provoking – in some cases I was persuaded to change my mind. But much like the political tone of the last few years, nearly all of the online Ranger forums have devolved into standoff’s, shouting matches – a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. As for sports talk radio – that is the original white noise and the loudest. Do any of those stations do any real investigative reporting? Moreover, do any of their show hosts actually attend the sporting events they discuss so flippantly? It seems that the only contribution of sports talk radio has made is to turn their own non-fact- based-speculation into something resembling news, and of course, adding to the volume of the white noise by fanning the flame of “hot sports” opinions as gospel.

Which brings me to this blog. I’ve been worried for quite a while now that I am just helping turn up the meter on the white noise to 11. Maybe I am, no let me change that to: I am pretty sure I’m doing that. I don’t think fans should be silenced, for many of us the visceral experience of baseball is a welcome relief from the pressures of daily living. But It seems there are so many voices talking and so few listening that there are times – most notably last season – that I thought about giving up this blog.

I am not a reporter, I don’t have access to the “inside story” (I have never figured out why some people think because I know Jamey Newberg that I do – trust me I don’t – I’m just another fan in the stands reading his reports like everyone else). Lord knows I’ll never have the analytical skills that Jamey and Grant have.

So after all of this navel gazing, what conclusion have I reached? Well, as Jeff Goldblum said in the Big Chill - “I don't know anyone who could get through the day without two or three juicy rationalizations”. (If you don’t remember the rest of quote – rent the movie)

Here’s my juicy rationalization: One of the friends who encouraged me to start this blog told me to write what I see and what I think – I have tried to do that. I have a passion for the game of baseball, and especially for this Texas Rangers team. More importantly, I love writing. I was a communications major in college, I thought I was going have some kind of career writing – I was wrong. For a long time I put that part of me in a box under the bed and pretended that I didn’t care – until the combination of modern technology, long buried aptitude and my love of baseball intersected one afternoon on the Dallas Morning News forum 12 years ago. Selfishly, I don’t want to give this up, and I won’t (at least not this season).

What I will do is make this promise to the 5 or 6 people who do read my piece of “white noise”:

-- I will do my best not to write a knee-jerk opinion. I will try to put a little thought, and more importantly back my opinions up with something salient – like stats, or a plausible theory – never “just because I'm right and you're wrong”

-- One thing I’ve never done, and will continue to avoid is name calling. Nothing bothers me more than I when I talk to a fellow fan who christens an athlete with a derogatory nickname (99% of the time originated by some local sports talk show host). Some players aren’t as talented or as good as others– that doesn’t make them worthy of that kind of treatment, and I have resorted to reminding that the least talented player on the Rangers is probably 100 times more of an athlete than the one bestowing the condemnation.

-- I will try to refrain from bombast (unless there is October baseball in Arlington)

 I will continue to write what I see and what I think and I’ll try to keep the white noise to a low hum.

Back to baseball next week – Marla Hooch