Unforced Errors
Why You Can’t DVR Sports

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I’m a student director of an after-school a cappella singing group. We perform at various community events, and our first of this year takes place this Saturday night. Yesterday in rehearsal, the call time was set for the gig, 7:00 for an early sound check.

I cringed, knowing that I would now most likely miss the end of Saturday’s SEC championship game, where the University of Missouri, at the moment my top choice for college, will, with a victory, claim the most prestigious conference title in college football and have an outside shot at the national championship game. I proceeded to whine a little, to which my friend responded, “Why can’t you just DVR it?”

“No,” I said. “There’s no way. You can’t DVR sports.”

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The Five People You Always Wind Up Sitting Next To At The Ballgame

One of the best things about going to a baseball game is that you have no idea what will happen. Your team could win in a walk-off or lose nine to one. Unfortunately, the unpredictability also applies to whom you’ll be sitting next to for three hours. And it always seems to be one of these people.

The Tourists: These are the people you see walking around the concourse with semi-bewildered looks on their faces wearing sparkling matching caps and T-shirts purchased just seconds earlier for far too much money at the team store. For them, a trip to the ballpark is as confusing as it is memorable. Which team should we cheer for? How much time should we allot for our mid-game trip to the concession stands and restrooms? (It usually takes an inning and a half, though they can sometimes disappear altogether.) What’s a “designated hitter”? Do games always take this long? Tourists make you feel very smart, but answering questions can get annoying. They’re usually out of sight by the end of the seventh. 

The Drunk: He usually provides four innings of amusing heckling, two innings of ignorable jeers, and three innings of unspeakable trash. He’s often found with a group of others fond of liquor, beer, wine, mixed drinks, or whatever else is available. He’ll probably wind up having a stern encounter with a stadium employee eventually. You pray he’ll be taking the subway home.

The Little Kid(s): Sitting next to a small child during a baseball game is an extremely uncomfortable experience. Are the taunts and jabs coming from the section too tough for his little ears? Will he ever get the foul ball he desperately craves? And please, please, don’t start crying. This anxiety is multiplied in the presence of a family, especially when parents are tirelessly making sure their kids’ melting helmet sundaes fulfill their expectations. One of the reasons why I tend to stick to night games. 

The Yapper: Nothing ruins a ballgame quite like a person siting next to you who won’t stop talking. To be clear, I’m not referring to the guy who goes on about the game, I’m talking about the person who’s too busy yelling at everyone in the ballpark about how dumb A-Rod is that he forgets what inning the game is in, prompting him to stand up and ask everyone in the section as loudly as he can. People like the Yapper are wonderful exercises in patience. 

The Fan of the Other Team: The Fan of the Other Team has a remarkably dynamic personality. When his team scores, he’s quite outgoing, ready to jump around and scream, relishing people’s dirty looks. And yet, when the home team scores, he’s quiet and reserved, sipping his overpriced beer and trying his best to be invisible. It’s quite strange, really. Talking to him can go one of two ways. Either he’s a nice guy and you exchange lighthearted jabs throughout the game, or he’s a total jerk and you get into an unfortunate screaming match. 

The average major league game has quite an interesting and often annoying cast of characters. Of course, you could always just go with someone else, and find an isle seat. Great access to the restrooms that way. 

Carter Woodiel on whether the NFL is truly committed to the safety of its players. Produced in association with Young Broadcasters of America.

Carter Woodiel on the lack of American stars in the World Baseball Classic — and what this says about America’s baseball culture. Produced in association with Young Broadcasters of America.

Carter Woodiel on the hideous new uniforms six teams will wear during the NCAA tournament. Produced in association with Young Broadcasters of America.

Finally Done With A-Rod

(Photo by Corey Sipkin/New York Daily News)

In 2007, when 11-year-old me opened up an issue of Sports Illustrated for Kids magazine, eagerly turning to the middle to see who was on that week’s pullout poster, and was greeted by Alex Rodriguez, holding his bat, gazing at the path of a home run. I put the poster on my wall, below Derek Jeter, above Mike Mussina. It stayed there for five years. 

Yesterday I tore it down and threw it in the trash. After years of admiring, then merely observing, then barely tolerating A-Rod, I was finally done. 

Of course, many people would have taken down the poster a long time ago. But when A-Rod’s postseason troubles became a citywide punching bag, I kept my cool. It was a small sample size. Just bad luck. What’re you gonna do? When A-Rod began struggling the past few years, I didn’t overreact. You can’t be the best in the game forever. Have to take the bad with the good. Even when A-rod admitted to taking performance-enhancing drugs during his years with the Texas Rangers, I didn’t go nuts. We had seen steroids before, and he hadn’t taken anything in a Yankee uniform. To me, A-Rod was like the dorky kid at school who everyone bullied. It seemed like he was just a scapegoat for the issues of a while team. And regardless, he’s one of the best ballplayers in history.  Sure, he was annoying, but he couldn’t be that bad, right?

Wrong. 

According to a report by the Miami New Times that followed a three-month investigation, Alex Rodriguez had purchased PED’s since 2009 from a sketchy Miami clinic called Biogenesis, meaning a Rangers uniform was not the only one he cheated in. His name is listed alongside the already-busted former Yankee Melky Cabrera, Nelson Cruz of the Rangers, and Gio Gonzalez of the Nationals in the personal files of Anthony Bosch, the man in charge of the operation. The evidence makes his 2009 admission of steroid use shocking. From his apologetic press conference:

I’m finally beginning to grow up. I’m pretty tired of being stupid and selfish, you know, about myself. The truth needed to come out a long time ago. I’m glad it’s coming out today.”

The Miami New Times didn’t just report that A-Rod cheated on the ball field. They reported that he lied to me and every baseball fan. He said he had cleaned himself up. He said he was done. He wasn’t. And after years of avoiding it, I’m finally jumping on the “I hate A-Rod” bandwagon.

I hate his smug, arrogant personality. I hate how he smacks his bat into the ground when he pops out. And most of all (I’m cringing just thinking about it), I vehemently despise the face he puts on when he strikes out, pursing his lips together, yanking his chin up, putting his bat under his shoulder as he coolly unstraps his batting gloves on his way back to the dugout. It’s like he’s saying, “I don’t even care. I know I’ll be breaking the bank whether I strike out or not.” Watching A-Rod strike out is the most gut-wrenching thing a Yankee fan can suffer through. 

And the worst part is, it’s true. Though the Yankees got the undisputed best player in baseball when they traded for and subsequently signed A-Rod, there’s no doubt that he is worth far, far less than the money he is currently earning. The Yankees are trying to void his contract, but their chances are slim. With Scott Boras as your agent, the language is usually pretty tight. 

Tearing down my A-Rod poster in my room means the end of an era. It means that I finally have given up on my favorite team’s biggest investment ever. But, at least from what I’ve heard, hating A-Rod can be pretty fun. 

Louisville has just been ranked #1. Duke is now #3. Duke beat Louisville.

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Mourning The End Of Big East Ball

When I watch Seton Hall basketball games on my TV (now becoming quite a torturous experience) I’m often greeted by a commercial heralding the Big East Conference. This is typical when watching basketball in conference play, as nearly every league tries to tell fans that their conference does it right, does it better, than anyone else. The Big East spot has the same ambitions, but does things a little differently than, say, the Big Ten would. It depicts a group of young boys, who are “unified by the game, and a dream, to one day play at the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden.”

As the camera tilts down to reveal the sold-out Garden in its Big East glory, I start to reminisce about tournaments of old. I think back to five games in five days, to monumental upsets, to a game that never ended. The Big East tournament was, besides the big tourney a week later, the biggest and best basketball event of the year. 

We still see the Big East today, of course, as the commercial proudly proclaims. A player can be hit hard under the rim and thrown to the ground, but no whistle will sound, and the announcer will point out, as he does innumerably, that it’s simply “Big East basketball.” The giant of the game still lives. 

But not for long.

Syracuse and Pittsburgh are headed for the ACC next season. Notre Dame and Louisville are headed there as well. Rutgers is bouncing for the Big Ten in 2014. And seven Catholic schools, Georgetown, DePaul, Villanova, St. John’s, Marquette, Providence, and my lackluster, infuriating Pirates, none of whom boast big-time football programs, are leaving the league in 2015 and reportedly plan to start their own conference. Don’t get me wrong, the new league will be great. Incredible, in fact. These seven Catholic schools decided that they were tired of being pushed around by big football programs, so they decided to start their own league, for [basketball]! I’m already counting the days until it becomes a reality. 

But the new league struck a dagger into the heart of the Big East. Only Connecticut, Cincinnati, and South Florida will remain in the league by the time the Catholic schools leave, and that’s provided they don’t get a call from a conference looking to pad its resumé. The Garden will be honoring programs like Central Florida and Tulane, who have as much basketball pedigree as Lance Armstrong has credibility. The Big East as we know it will cease to exist. And that makes me sad. 

It also makes me wonder what more basketball traditions could fall by the wayside. We’ve already seen conference reshuffling claim such storied rivalries as Missouri-Kansas and Syracuse-Georgetown, could the best of them all, Duke-UNC, be threatened sometime in the far, or not so far, future? Probably not, though we can’t be sure. 

When I attend Seton Hall games, I now savor every moment, even when they look worse than my high school’s JV squad. Because I know Big East ball won’t last forever. In fact, it’ll be gone in the blink of an eye. Because that, for better or worse, is college basketball. We’d better get used to the idea. 

Cause we’re old as s*** … I don’t know how else to put it to you. We’re just slow.

Kobe Bryant, explaining to the Orange County Register why the Knicks are 15-16 this season. 

Bryant, who is facing a particularly trying year that already has claimed a head coach, was fed up with his team’s age following the Lakers’ loss to the 76ers last night, saying, "You just saw an old damn team." 

I’m sure Kobe just said this because he was frustrated. Losing to the Sixers to go below .500 is never fun, and he didn’t use his best judgement. Because if he really meant it, it would have been a really dumb excuse. 

The Lakers are certainly an aging team. Pau Gasol, once Kobe’s reliable number 2, has seen his production fall off a cliff, and Steve Nash, considered a major acquisition by LA this offseason, is clearly not the player he once was. But the Lakers aren’t losing because they are old and slow. They’re losing because they aren’t playing well. They rank 25th in the league in defense, and only 19th in assists per game. If your team has some old players on the court, it should be able to feed them the ball. 

But to really rebuff Kobe’s point, one just needs to look at the New York Knicks. They aren’t just the oldest team in the league, they’re the oldest team in NBA history, and yet they stand 11 games above .500, in second place in the Eastern Conference. Why? Because they make the extra pass and smart decisions on both sides of the ball. Kobe’s comments will do nothing to help the Lakers in this cause. Really, he should just stop talking and get to work.