Archive for Big Idea

Semi-Dangerous Idea: Interpretive Scorekeeping

I keep score at baseball games. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I desperately need some concrete evidence of my own existence, some flimsy bond of participation between myself as unnecessary spectator and the game I love. Maybe it’s because people always ask me why I keep score, and I want to think of a simple and witty response, the same way that someday I’ll come up with a good way to answer the question “How are you?” and I’ll be set for life. Maybe it’s because keeping score is a minute, insular form of expression, a method of translating baseball into verse, always individual, always unique; like sheet music unplayed. Maybe. Regardless, I keep score at baseball games.

On August 30, 2014, I attended a game at Safeco Field between Seattle and Washington. The Nationals won 3-1; it wasn’t a very good game. Here, posted for your brief diversion, is my scorecard from that game (click to embiggen):

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Dejuve A Nation: Or, How to Youthenize the American Pastime

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Many American commenters – OK, one American commenter* has exercised his American commentary of late by claiming that a recent headline, like the ending of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Cupcake, should have been different, that instead of reading, “How to Youthify the Yada Yada,” it should have read, “How to Youthenize the Yada Yada,” a claim to which its author (me!) has now given due deliberation, with much furrowing of brow and drinking of cheap tequila.

Ultimately I’ve decided that though the commenter’s comment was clever and thus wholly indicative of my own mental vacuum of elite waggery, the proposed headline would have suggested a much different story, one centered not on drawing America’s youth to the Pastime and giving it new life, but, rather, on luring America’s youth to the Pastime and subsequently driving them away, thereby administering a slow mercy killing to this moribund sport.

What follows, then, is that very story, in handy sequential suggestions:

In the top of the first, show Frozen – and also hand out popsicles made of frozen cough medicine, Sriracha, hair from the shower drain at the Y, salt, shredded newspapers from Novosibirsk, paprika, Dr. Scholl’s Foot Powder and cumin.

In the bottom of the first, keep showing Frozen – and also dub the voices of Elsa and Anna with voices from a 1950s Yugoslavian physical fitness film that centers on the performance of deep knee bends whilst hoisting sacks of poultry byproducts.

In the top of the second, dress the infielders as an astronaut, a fireman, a policeman and a football player, respectively – and also compel those same infielders to perform a Baroque opera based on the 1546 scientific text De Natura Fossilium.

In the bottom of the second … cupcakes! – with icing made of quartz!
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Help Wanted: Reply Within

The hardest thing about being a NotGraphs writer, apart from the endless demands of the groupies, the financial requests from our families and the ribbon cuttings and blog signings that we are forced to turn down, is the act of generating what we in the story industry call “story ideas.” 

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A “story idea” – how can I simplify this for those who don’t understand? – is an “idea” for a “story.” It is the Prime Mover of the objet d’art that you will know, especially if you are French, as le masterpiece and that groupies will know as Spanish fly. In short, it gets the scribe to where he needs to be – first, to the beginning of the story and then to the end, whereupon he can conduct the more important business of honoring his Pleasure Schedule, which for me is Sindee (with an i) at noon, Syndee (with a y) at 2 and everybody else at the 4:30 matinee.

For each NotGraphs writer, “priming the movement” is a uniquely personal challenge. David G. Temple likes to stand outside in his underwear — or, if his underwear is unavailable, a neighbor’s underwear – and prostrate himself to a light bulb on a nearby lamppost. As for Jeremy Blachman, he just Googles “good ideas,” though he often spells it “good ides” and therefore writes about March 15. For his part, Carson Cistulli typically ingests a dram of absinthe and a gram of peyote and then calls me, usually around midnight, to ask, “Got any good ideas?”

At this point you are asking: “How does Mr. Paschal, he of such prolific output despite the demands on time and groin, come up with such super-golden ideas?”

To which Mr. Paschal responds, “I don’t! My personal assistant does it for me! His name is Jeeves, and he’s a peach, I tells ya, an absolute peach!”

Of course the hardest thing for Jeeves to do, apart from chilling the Asti Spumanti and cueing up the Barry White, is incorporating the sport of baseball, or the word baseball, into each story idea. Example: For this story, Jeeves suggested that I mention the difficulty of incorporating “baseball” into each story idea.

Jeeves then had another idea: “Why not allow your readers – both of them…”

Now that Jeeves is no longer working here, I have to come up with my own ideas and one idea is this: Why not allow readers, all of them, to pitch story ideas? And from the best of those ideas I will craft an intriguing and perhaps titillating story!

And here I am, dear reader(s), awaiting your finest pitch(es).


Rejuve A Nation: Or, How to Youthify the American Pastime

Five young friends jumping outdoors smiling

Many American pundits have exercised their American punditry of late by claiming that baseball, like the gourmet cupcake, is a dying thing. Wearing their NFL lapel pins and NBA commitment rings, these finger-on-the-pulse authorities have cited among other factors the troubling demographic of American baseball fandom, pointing out that a full 140 percent of Pastime enthusiasts drive Chrysler 300s; listen to Perry Como 8-track tapes while driving those Chrysler 300s; complain frequently about the thermostat setting; watch syndicated reruns of Mannix; prefer hard candy to soft; advise teenagers to get off their respective lawns and, while they’re at it, get a haircut; and spend an inordinate amount of time perusing the Wall Street Journal while completely naked in the locker room at the local gym.

To that accusation, Major League Baseball has issued a formal statement: “Hand me that ceramic dish of ribbon candy, please, and my blue sweater.”

And so, in efforts to rid the Pastime of that distinctive old-man smell and draw younger enthusiasts to a new enthusiasm, we hereby advise that Major League Baseball enact the following measures in each remaining ballgame this season:
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Inserting Derek Jeter into the 20 Basic Plots of All Fiction

New Needs

In 1970, American psychologist Abraham Maslow presented the amended version of his Hierarchy of Needs pictured here. For a number of reasons — like, for example, how slowly retiring Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter hadn’t even been born yet — the work was dismissed as the product of senility. Maslow would die of a heart attack in June of that year, the original iteration of Hierarchy the only one to outlive him.

A black-and-white Gatorade commercial released today, however, confirms what was obvious to the prescient Maslow four decades ago and has become ever more clear during the Captain’s 20-year career — namely, that there seems to exist a deep and pressing need to render into glowing narrative terms the works and days of Derek Jeter.

With a view, then, to helping the whole world perform this vital act more ably, the editors of NotGraphs have produced the following — that is, a summary of Ronald Tobias’s 20 basic plot structures featuring Derek Jeter’s name inserted into all of them, with a view to increasing both the quantity and quality of Jeter narratives of the future.

1. Quest
Derek Jeter searches for something, someone, or somewhere. In reality, he may be searching for himself, with the outer journey mirrored internally. He may be joined by a companion, who takes care of minor details and whose limitations contrast with Derek Jeter‘s greater qualities.

2. Adventure
Derek Jetergoes on an adventure, much like in a quest, but with less of a focus on the end goal or the personal development of Derek Jeter. In the adventure, there is more action for action’s sake.

3. Pursuit
In this plot, the focus is on the chase, with one person chasing Derek Jeter (and perhaps with multiple and alternating chases). Derek Jeter may be often cornered and somehow escape, so that the pursuit can continue. Depending on the story, Derek Jeter may be caught or may escape.

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Proposed: New Gestures For Those in Need of New Gestures

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To watch a baseball game these days is to watch a pageant of deliberate body language. Fernando Rodney is a post-save archer, Rafael Soriano a post-save slob, Joe Nathan a no-save Italian stereotype. Some say the trend began with the 2010 Rangers and their “claw and antlers” signs, while others contend that it started with Ty Cobb and his frequent use of the throat-slashing “I’m going to kill you” gesture.

Whatever the inspiration, each game now resembles the International Semaphore Symposium sharing assembly-hall space with the Annual Wanna-Be Gangbangers Colloquium. Problem is, at some point, players will run out of gestures, just as suburban teens must now resort to Fonzie’s thumbs-up to signal their affiliation.

To thwart a possible shortage, I hereby propose the following gestures:

Open palm to side of head, tilt head, close eyes: The traditional symbol of “naptime,” this gesture is used whenever Josh Beckett takes more than the allotted six minutes (or whatever it is) between pitches, and also whenever Justin Morneau, during a conversation with the runner at first base, discusses his favorite cheese.
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From NutGraphs to KnotGraphs: A Look at Potential Sponsors

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Loyal reader Kris, in efforts to spare this blog from the Lethal Guillotine Of Fatal Death, has argued on these very electrified pages that NotGraphs should say yes — heck yes! — to a corporate sponsor, sort of a “Hallmark Presents Valerie Bertinelli in I Just Made a Movie For Hallmark: A Movie For Hallmark, Starring Valerie Bertinelli” type of thing, but with less Bertinelli. Well, OK.

But here’s the question: If NotGraphs were to accept a sponsor, what would that sponsor be? Before you answer, “ExtenZe Natural Male Enhancement,” please note that we here at NotGraphs prefer unnatural male enhancement, e.g., slamming our genitals on frozen polyester until serious swelling occurs.

In any event, let us begin by suggesting new names for née NotGraphs and then working backward, logically if not profoundly, to possible backers.

NutGraphs: Given our tendency to slam the aforementioned privates on the aforementioned polymers, it makes sense that the American Urological Association might penetrate the lucrative realm of stick-and-ball humor by entering an intimate corporate coupling. Pro: a longer-lasting supply of double-entendre comedy. Con: the Association might not want to cuddle.
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On-field Ads: The Next Big Thing, For Real

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Advertising, as a form of either clever marketing or blatant mind control that robs individuals of their decision-making sovereignty while consigning them to a groupthink circle jerk to which radically independent hipsters apply the delightfully clever and not at all hivemind-y epithet “sheeple,” has been around for a very, very long time. Examples: The Lascaux Cave paintings were part of an ad campaign for Grak’s Real Pit BBQ. Leonardo’s Mona Lisa served as an ad poster for Luigi’s La Bomba Lip Gloss. And Wagner’s Ring Cycle was a lengthy jingle for Günter’s Chainrings Und Sprockets.

Indeed, the history of advertising is a long illustration of coercion disguised as art – or, at the very least, persuasion concealed in an interesting-to-look-at form. It has always been this way, including that time when Warhol marketed soup. Two weeks back, however, advertising took on an entirely new dimension – specifically, a dimension measuring 20 yards by 53.3 yards – when, in the midst of the Ravens-49ers preseason game, a Toyota Red Zone logo appeared onscreen in what is typically just “the Red Zone,” sans any sort of corporate sponsorship that makes viewers want to gouge out their eyeballs and serve them between a pair of poppyseed buns to Roger Goodell.

This got me thinking: I am kind of hungry! While eating I had a second, non-food thought: What if advertisers were to employ a similar strategy on big league baseball fields? One possible plan: Whenever a player makes an exceptional play, be it offensive or defensive, the advertiser’s message appears in the area of play where the player made that play, no exceptions.

What follows is a list of proposed player-advertiser relationships.
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How Gambling Could Improve Baseball

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Baseball is pretty great. It’s a particularly great, from the spectator’s standpoint, because its ridiculous amount of luck allows even the most putrid of teams to win around a third of the time. And, because of those fixed outs every team must accrue, a loss never becomes a mathematical certainty, as those obnoxious people who keep retweeting the Indians’ 2001 comeback against the Mariners like to keep reminding me.

Still, there are certainly times, particularly when you’re cursed with an affiliation with the Padres, when a particular two-run deficit may seem insurmountable. And there are those late inning game states where the losing team would love nothing more than to run out the clock, but are bound by individual fiscal incentive to keep hurling themselves off the proverbial cliff. It’s grisly, like an ant that’s been stepped on but keeps crawling around.

How do we kindle the competitive flame in these expanses of tundra? I was struck with an idea when Friend of the Site and champion dramaturge Michael Clair threw this cry out into the void:

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Deadline Deals In My House

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I trade one empty garbage bag to my wife for one full garbage bag I have to bring outside before 8:30 a.m.

My nine-month-old son trades one clean teething ring to put in his mouth for one toy that has been sitting on the floor for weeks, also to put in his mouth.

I trade the last piece of toilet paper for a new roll to be named later.

My wife trades me one baby to hold in exchange for two minutes to go to the bathroom.

In a three-way trade, my son trades his dirty diaper to my wife, she gives me his pooped-on shirt, and I give him a clean diaper and a sort-of-clean shirt.

My wife trades me her supermarket loyalty card in exchange for me going to buy groceries.

My son trades the meal he just ate for seventeen paper towels to clean up the floor he just vomited on, and a bath.

I trade sleep for having had a child.

My wife trades me for someone who can thrive on much less sleep.

My son trades all of his toys for a delicious piece of a used napkin, because they both have the same value to him.

I trade the mention of Justin Masterson and Jon Lester for a baby to lull to sleep, because clearly if I have time to read baseball headlines, I am not busy enough and should be the one getting the baby to nap.