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Fans: The Final Frontier


Why.

I like to think that NotGraphs fills a niche for indirect, informal meditation on fandom. But what about that other niche, the niche for direct, formal meditation on fandom? Will no one plug its conspicuous emptiness?

Possibly anticipating my above lament, earlier this week Leon Neyfakh published a piece in the Boston Globe entitled “How Teams Take Over Your Mind.” This article discusses academic efforts to understand why people get attached to sports, efforts which so far have produced the theories that: a) it’s about the need for narrative, b) it’s tribalism, or c) it’s the opposite of tribalism.

Maybe not groundbreaking. But there are some interesting things in the article that I didn’t previously know:

ONE
RISD American Studies professor Daniel Cavicchi has an excellent blog called “The Ardent Audience” that you should visit upon completing today’s FanGraphs buffet.

TWO
There’s something called “CORFing,” which means “to cut off reflective failure.” There’s also something called “BIRGing,” which means “to bask in the reflective glow.” That’s what those acronyms mean. Don’t even waste your time thinking about what other things they could mean, because their meaning needs have already been filled. Really please just move along.

THREE
In 1999, two guys named George Milne and Mark McDonald developed a scale of fandom. Neyfakh describes Milne and McDonald as “fanologists.” “Fanology” does not have a Wikipedia page and is therefore at risk of not being an actual thing. However, a Google search for “fanology wiki” turns up the entry on “Flirting,” presumably on account of the following paragraph, which contains a lot of things that I didn’t previously know:

The fan was extensively used as a means of communication and therefore a way of flirting from the 16th century onwards in some European societies, especially England and Spain. A whole sign language was developed with the use of the fan, and even etiquette books and magazines were published. Charles Francis Badini created the Original Fanology or Ladies’ Conversation Fan which was published by William Cock in London in 1797. The use of the fan was not limited to women, as men also carried fans and learned how to convey messages with them. For instance, placing the fan near your heart meant “I love you”, while opening a fan wide meant “Wait for me”.


Cap Bigamy: Four Ways It’s OK


A cry for help.

Last week, FanGraphs’ Joe Pawlikowski posed the above question to the entire world. Since I’m technically NotGraphs’ advice columnist, I thought I owed him a response.

Read the rest of this entry »


Grade-A Ks


Strikeouts are more than just a number.

One day I especially enjoyed from the last week of baseball was Sunday, when Jered Weaver and Josh Beckett put aside their mutual differences, joined forces, and collectively struck out 25 Blue Jays/Yankees on my behalf. That made me feel awesome.

If you didn’t catch the highlights or want to re-watch them, here’s Weaver’s clip, and here’s Beckett’s.

It wasn’t just how many guys they struck out, it was HOW they struck them out. These guys weren’t burying split-fingers in the dirt or running sliders off the plate. Each had multiple pitches they were getting swings-and-misses on even when thrown in the zone. It was strikeout dominance of the very highest class.

While I love seeing Jeremy Hellickson embarrass people with goofy slow stuff or Roy Halladay masterfully pitching to contact, the style of game Weaver and Beckett pitched on Sunday is like baseball steak dinner for me. They had everything: velocity, speed changes, location, movement, unpredictable sequencing.

Weaver’s going tonight against the White Sox. Beckett pitches Saturday against the Jays. I’d love to see them both do it again.


But What Do You Do Between Innings?


Now that you mention it, I would like to buy a Volvo.

One thing I find interesting about the MLB.tv experience is the “commercial breaks.” To my knowledge they don’t show actual TV ads. Instead, they show either 1) the team logos or 2) MLB promos or 3) pictures of Volvos (and other static image ads).

Contrast this with other inter-inning experiences. In the olden days, watching games on cable TV, commercials gently enwrapped my attentions from the moment the game action paused until the moment it returned. Unless I desperately needed the fridge or some other domestic facility, I’d stay put between innings. At the ballpark, by comparison, there isn’t a lot of worthwhile inter-inning entertainment (apologies to Cotton Eye Joe). Normally I’ll chat with companions or buy beer.

MLB.tv is different. When I’m watching on my computer, I can flip to another game when whatever I’m watching goes into a break. This is fun, although it comes with an ADD factor; I find myself less immersed in the atmosphere and discrete drama of each game when I’m switching between two or more.

The real conundrum is what to do with myself during commercials when I’ve hooked MLB.tv up to my living room TV, because then it’s too much trouble to get up and switch to another game. And until I figure something out I’m stuck on my couch watching slideshows of Volvos.

The MLB.tv-from-the-couch experience is, if you will, the developing world/final frontier of baseball watching, and sitting here at the brink of the abyss I feel a vertiginous indecision over how to conduct myself. Read a book? Check email? Play a very short game of Call of Duty? Think about… junk? Frankly, I’m not quite sure why corporate America is leaving this decision up to me.


Pedro Immortalized at the Smithsonian


Artiste de l’art: Susan Miller-Havens. Artiste de la vie: Pedro Martinez.

Kind of piling it on at this point in our private life-achievements competition, Pedro Martinez will have his portrait unveiled today in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. Here’s a sneak peek of the painting, which is called “El Orgullo y la Determinacion (Pride and Determination).” The artist, Susan Miller-Havens, has several other baseball-related paintings on her site.

Since Pedro first achieved greatness in bilingual Montreal, and since our topic today is “fine art,” I thought I would reproduce the following brief news story on this matter from the French-Canadian website Canoe.ca. Read the rest of this entry »


Has Hollywood Finally Gone Too Far?


The 1970s, aka THE best decade for couples yachting.

Ben and Casey Affleck (henceforth “Ben Affleck”) and Matt Damon are working on a movie about the whole Fritz Peterson/Mike Kekich wife-swapping thing from the 70s (tentative title: “The Trade”). To me this sounds ok. The story’s old news, but it could make a good movie.

Unless… wait a second. Is it possible that well-known Red Sox propagandists Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, in making a film about a controversy involving Yankee players, are actually committing a deeply violative act? Is this in fact a veritable crime, being perpetrated upon honest Yankees of yore by partisans of a pathetically incompetent and unredeemably racist rival team? In a dark paroxysm of vindictive hypocrisy?

Yahoo! Sports Contributor Network contributing user Roy A. Barnes thinks so. Read the rest of this entry »


Apple TV Now Streams MLB.tv


Steve Jobs + baseball = magic.

Things have improved for fans looking to stream MLB.tv on their televisions: On Wednesday Apple TV added support for the service.

MLB.tv streaming is already available on lots of electronic things; a full list is here. But for those who aren’t satisfied watching on smart phones, computers, or tablet computers — for those who prefer to watch sports from a slight distance, sprawled on softly yielding couches — the options haven’t been great.

Yeah, I can hook my laptop up to my TV, but that’s fiddly and monopolizes my laptop during games. I could invest in a Blu-ray player or game console that supports MLB.tv streaming, but that’s expensive. The iPad 2 has an HDMI out, but sadly I don’t have an iPad 2. Until this week, the Roku video player was the only option for a $100 or cheaper device designed to put MLB.tv on my television. The $99 Apple TV is a welcome addition to this category.

In closing, since some percentage of this post constitutes free advertising for MLB.tv, here’s an obligatory: Fix the blackouts, you guys.


How to Eat a Hot Dog


NYC’s Crif Dogs. Photo: Serious Eats.

Inspired by the arrival of Spring Training, the Orlando Sentinel offers a small article regarding hot dogs. It’s a summer salad of hot dog-related tips and trivia featuring a small but worthwhile portion of informational grist.

First worth grinding is the title of the piece: “Hot dogs fit baseball like the perfect glove.” I know that initially sounds like it might make sense, but take a moment to think through the simile. Just roll it around in your mind’s eye. Ok, now go have a nightmare.

To the wiener wisdom:

“Don’t put hot-dog toppings between the hot dog and the bun. Always ‘dress the dog,’ not the bun.”

I have to admit, I sometimes dress the bun. But it makes sense why you shouldn’t do that. (Hint: absorbency delta.)

“Condiments should be applied in the following order: wet condiments (mustard and the like), followed by chunky condiments (relish, onions and sauerkraut), shredded cheese and spices.”

That also sounds like pretty good advice. Mind you, when I’m given options for my hot dog that include numerous “wet” condiments, “chunky condiments,” shredded cheese and “spices,” I normally just have the room service guy at the Mandarin Oriental dress the hot dog for me before he leaves.

“Dogs wrapped in buns are easy to manage with one hand, making the horizontal sandwiches practically custom-made for all kinds of sporting events.”

Are you explaining hot dogs to a Medieval time traveler or something? Actually that’s very unlikely, because they didn’t have time machines back then, or really any machines at all, unless you count trebuchets and iron maidens and stuff. A time traveler from the future is more plausible, but they’d probably know all about hot dogs. Unless — we forget about hot dogs, in the future???

“Don’t slather ketchup on your hot dog after the age of 18. Mustard, relish, onions, cheese and chili are acceptable.”

Ok lady, you’re cut off. No ketchup after 18! WHAT will the Orlando Sentinel say next.


MLB.com At Bat 11 (The App) Is Upon Us


It’s back.

Public service announcement: as of yesterday morning, the “MLB.com At Bat 11″ app can be had at an app store near you. It costs $14.99, but you “pay” electronically via your computer, so it’s kind of free.

SUPPORTED DEVICES: iPhone/-Pad/-Pod Touch, Android, Blackberry.

FUNCTIONALITY: Pitch-by-pitch game data, stats, standings, schedules, and news. Radio broadcasts of many spring training games. Video of certain spring training games, but only on Apple devices.

WHAT IT DOES IF YOU ALSO BUY A $99 MLB.TV PACKAGE: Lets you watch non-blacked out MLB games on your phone, that’s what. But notable asterisk, courtesy of the Androinica blog: MLB has not yet said which Android devices will support the video streaming, and some may not, so Android users may want to hold off on the whole $115 investment until that info is out. Or just buy an iPhone already. Jk!

MLB.com At Bat 11 is, after one day, the eighth best-selling paid app in the iTunes App Store, although it’s not clear what the timeframe for those rankings is. Recall that last year, MLB At Bat 10 ended up as the highest-grossing iOS app of the year.

I like to imagine each of these e-purchases as a single crocus, poking up through the just-thawed earth and bravely baring its velvety petals to the sun. Spring is nearly here.


Vladimir Nabokov’s Mysterious Baseball Game

Famous for writing standing up, but he could do it all. Photo: Cornell.

In 1962, Vladimir Nabokov — author of Lolita — published a book called Pale Fire, which presents a long poem written by a fictional author, with another fictional character chatting to you about the poem along the way, and it’s all riddled with complicated allusions and things. Since my descriptions so often fall short, I will just report that it is considered a masterpiece.

What’s more, there’s a baseball angle! The poem within Pale Fire references a newspaper headline about a Red Sox-Yankees game, presumably a game from before 1962, since that’s when Pale Fire was published. But significant questions remain, namely: Was that Red Sox-Yankees game ever played in real life? And did Tim McCarver ruin it for everyone?

If I’ve piqued your interest,* I can’t take credit for the payoff. Brian Cronin over at the L.A. Times’ “Fabulous Forum” blog did not-inconsiderable legwork and posted a very enjoyable writeup exploring whether the game referenced by Nabokov was a real game. If you just want the answer, one Michael Donohue also discussed this question back in 2004, albeit succinctly.

And just on the off chance that any of our NotGraphs readers are also the kind of people who like to waste their time reading about sports on the Internet, I should point out Brian Cronin’s “Legends Revealed” website, which has lots of sports-myth-debunkery content, and his book, which leaves no comic book legend un-revealed.

* If I haven’t piqued your interest: Come on! This is like literary/baseball-historical Indiana Jones! It’s like if Harrison Ford got cast in Field of Dreams, but Dan Brown did a rewrite on the screenplay, and Umberto Eco was his writing partner. And Christopher Nolan directed it. And Harrison Ford’s wife in the movie was Salma Hayek. Interested yet? Need I point out that in 1989, when Field of Dreams was released, Salma Hayek was 23? Changed your answer?