Fire Jim Tracy

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Why Can't This Newspaper Get It Together?

Who's your favorite sports star?

Bill Plaschke, of course!

The question was asked of a couple of thousand Americans by the Harris Poll folks this winter, and the top 10 was a jaw-drop 10.

So, they asked all the Times subscribers, eh?

Five guys who work beneath a helmet and pads.

Rollerball?

Two guys in a sport where fans recently attacked the players.

And the Catholic Church is nothing but the Crusades and the Inquisition.

Two guys in sports that require big money or hot wheels.

Poker?

And, oh yeah, one baseball player.

This is what happens when you keep trying to foist Alex Cora on us.

Their faces, down to the last drops of brown juice rolling from the corner of their bottom lips, are on television for six months.

America hates tobacco chewers. Go to hell, Babe Ruth!

Their habits, from hemlines to hairstyles, inspire as much childhood imitation as a Hummer full of rappers.

What size dress does Shawn Green wear? I always thought Paul LoDuca looked good in a sundress, but the back hair was a problem.

More than any other athletes in any sport, they are constantly in America's face.

While America scrunches up its nose.

While paying $100 a pop for a view of the guy's head in front of them.

We really don't like baseball players anymore, do we?

Remember, as I've pointed out 100 times before, when the plural pronoun is used in a Plaschke column, the result should be re-written to insert the word "Plaschke" in place of the pronoun. Hence, "Plaschke really don't like baseball players anymore, do Plaschke." Which, grammatically, is no huge improvement over Plaschke's style, but I do try my best.

"Baseball players have become aloof to consumers," said Paul Swangard, managing director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon. "They are arguably the most prolific athletes in terms of exposure, but they're just not great ambassadors for friendly athletics."

"College professors have become aloof to common sense," said Steve Haskins, proprietor of firejimtracy.blogspot.com. "They are arguably the most prolific academics in the world in terms of gasbaggery, but they're just not able to put together sentences without using words like aloof."

We really don't like baseball players, or we wouldn't have ranked only Derek Jeter in the top 10 of a list that includes NFL stars Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, Tom Brady, Donovan McNabb and Ben Roethlisberger.

Just think of how Andy Roddick, Venus Williams, and Wayne Gretzky feel. Leave America while you still can. But don't panic!

We wouldn't have put only Jeter in a list that includes two NBA players, retired Michael Jordan, who ranks first, and Shaquille O'Neal.

This explains the above line. Michael Jordan retired three years before Ron Artest (not usually confused with Michael Jordan) went crazy. And Bill, that was Jermaine O'Neal. The skinny O'Neal.

We would have more of them in a list that included Tiger Woods and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Those last two guys may be worth as much as the Dodger clubhouse combined, yet it is baseball players who are considered overpaid louts.

Where are all those experienced Times editors who are supposed to catch lazy writing constructions like passive voice? Let me help.

Those last two guys may be worth as much as the Dodger clubhouse combined, but I consider baseball players overpaid louts.

See? Now there is a noun to go with the verb! Hooray! Usually, the presence of noun and verb are required to win the Pulitzer. I'm just trying to help.

(UPDATE: Ah ha! Patterico figured it out. All those experienced Times editors are busy editing key facts out of news stories to make them conform to the official party dogma!)

Football players never sign autographs anywhere near their playing field, yet it is baseball players who are considered fan unfriendly.

See above.

Basketball players are no strangers to police blotters, yet it is baseball players who are perceived as immoral cheaters.

See above.

Attendance is rising, October ratings have been huge, the sport has made such a resurgence that folks will even pay $85 to sit in Dodger Stadium seats from which you can see only two bald heads and a hairy neck.

What am I even doing this for? Plaschke decided to Fisk himself!

But it is the game we love. It is not the players.

"But it is the game Plaschke love. It is not the players."

Not anymore.

We just go for the ads on the outfield scoreboard, the limp Panda Express, and the steamed Dodger Dogs. If you generally listened to Bill Plaschke, et. al, (not that I would recommend it) you would necessarily come to the conclusion that all we could go for was the players.

Saturday was just another reason.

Commissioner Bud Selig finally proposed a steroid policy that would work, one with a short leash and long penalties, a three-strikes-and-you're-out-forever fastball.

Plaschke's sole argument for this steroid policy? That it would "work." Not only does he fail to argue that perhaps the penalties don't fit the crime (something that the players should decide anyway, since they are the ones at risk for steroid use), but he fails to argue why this wouldn't work better than a one-strike-and-you're-out policy. Or public stoning. In fact, there's no argument here at all.

So what does he do? Well, Jose Lima is gone, so he asked Jason Phillips for one instead.

And what did one of the Dodgers say?

"That's ridiculous," Jason Phillips said.

Continue. But let me give you some advice, Jason, given that I think you're younger than me, and therefore I can give it. When you talk to Plaschke, talk in paragraphs. If you do that, he can't use it.

Phillips, who makes $339,000 a year, complained that Selig's proposal of unpaid suspensions ranging from 50 days to lifetime would hurt guys in his tax bracket.

This is rudimentary math, but a 50 day suspension would cost Jason Phillips one-third of his salary, or about $100,000. Since I am opposed to class warfare, I'll just say that a penalty that cost me a third of my salary, regardless of how much I made, would pinch my pocketbook.

"Do I think the penalties are a little harsh? Yes," he said. "Not for, say, the guys who have already been in the big leagues a lot of years and are making millions. [But] put yourself in my position. I play paycheck to paycheck to support my family."

For instance, what if the Times docked you one-third of your salary for every time you used passive voice?

Phillips even implied that some players would have to get a part-time job if they were suspended for questionably illegal substances.

"What are you supposed to do?" he said. "Go work at Burger King for 50 days because you're not getting paid because you ate five poppy-seed muffins? Until they can come to an agreement on what is positive and what is not positive. …"

Everyone on the 40 man roster, including minor leaguers not on the major league club, is subject to Major League steroid testing (hence the guys you've never heard of getting suspended under the MLB policy). Unless something significant has changed, those guys might have to work at "Burger King" to eat. Last I checked, some of them were still sending money home to the Dominican Republic, but I'm against class warfare by nature.

But whatever the case, I would like to know if Phillips is acutally right that there is no "agreement on what is positive and what is not positive." Maybe that's something Tim Brown can take up when he stops harassing Jose Guillen.

Positively, we hate this sort of talk.

Absolutely, baseball players remain singularly famous for sounding like entitled brats.

Was it a baseball player that said "We make a lot of money, but we spend a lot of money?"

Phillips is known as a solid guy, but … Burger King?

Would you prefer Wal-Mart? A writer should be familiar with poetic license, but since the most poetic sentence in this piece involved drool, I'm not terribly surprised by this.

Some of that is inspired by working in sports' most combative and fan-ignorant union.

Well, when you're right you're right.

And some of that is because nobody has been coddled from childhood to stardom like a major league baseball player.

Not even LeBron James.

Did you know that after games at Dodger Stadium, no matter how many fans are waiting, one of two full-service elevator operators is ordered to override all buttons if a player needs a ride up to the parking lot?

Yes, Bill. You whined about this no more than three weeks ago. Nobody cared then. Nobody cares now.

I've ridden before with players who didn't even bother to thank the poor guy pushing the buttons.

Poor guy. Is that the guy who invented "Game Over?"

"It's different today than it used to be," said Tom Lasorda, who remains the most popular living Dodger even though he hasn't been in uniform for nearly 10 years.

Dodger Stadium plays Welcome to the Jungle every time Lasorda shows up.

"Taking time with the fans, some players do it, some players don't do it."

Thanks for the quote, Tommy. I only had 780 words. No, I didn't forget to ask you which players do it. I just don't care.

When players take time with the fans today, television shows them throwing chairs at them or punching them.

The nature of news being to show rare events, that being why it's called the "new"s instead of the "mundane"s or the "normal"s or the "oldhat"s.

Of course, Gary Sheffield, who threw a forearm at a Boston patron recently, was commended by the commissioner's office for showing "restraint."

Has it become so bad that a player is officially a good guy if he hits a fan only once?

I suppose the answer could possibly be "yes" or "no", so this makes an ineffective rhetorical question.

Even everyone's darling Angels canceled their in-season autograph sessions for season-ticket holders.

You know how this works now...

"Even Plaschke's darling Angels canceled their in-season autograph sessions for season-ticket holders"

(The Dodgers, incidentally, hold their first of three in-season autograph sessions for children in Lot 32 today.)

(This is very incidental, and parenthetical, and ironical, and coincidental, for reasons that should be clear to Plaschke's readers over the last eight months.)

(Paragraph).

"Young people today like an aggressive, violent, bad-boy image in their athletes," said Dodger Jeff Kent. "Major league baseball players are only seen as selfish prima donnas."

This is kind of an interesting quote. Lots of subtext there. Too bad NOTHING EVER COMES FROM IT. Why is this quote even here?

Just ask Paul Roberts, longtime owner of Landry's Sporting Goods in Montrose, who supplies his community with 4,000 youth-league baseball uniforms and only 200 football uniforms each year.

Jerry's from Montrose! Shout out to Jerry! Jerry owns a Dodger hat! I think he owns a jersey!

Yet he sells far more NFL jerseys than baseball jerseys in this town without an NFL team.

Does Montrose have television? Those of us who grew up in West Los Angeles kind of doubt it, but it's possible.

Steroids have eroded our trust of the men.

Which men?

Idiotic beanball incidents like the one between Boston and Tampa Bay have dwindled our respect.

Don Drysdale. Not a Hall-of-Famer. Hated by millions.

Free agency, used in baseball like in no other sport, has cost them our love.

Bill Plaschke, of course, works under a system where he gets a contract unilaterally composed by his employer, and if he disagrees with the pay, the employer is simply allowed to renew his old contract at the same rate, or Bill Plaschke has to retire. What a great system! I'm for it in this case.

As for baseball, I am with good old Charlie Finley. One year contracts, and universal free agency.

In a sport whose most famous player is Barry Bonds, well …

Or possibly Derek Jeter.

Brian Cochran of Palos Verdes, one of the adult participants in a youth league day at Angel Stadium recently, doesn't need a poll to tell him about baseball's problems.

At Angel Stadium! I don't believe it.

Marching around the field with hundreds of young baseball players before a game between the Angels and Oakland A's, Cochran noticed something odd.

All but one of the major league players acted as if the kids didn't even exist.

So they treated the kids like T.J. Simers in the locker room, then.

Only the Angels' Steve Finley took the time to slap hands and offer encouragement.

Finley needs all the fans he can get right now.

"None of the other players made any effort to acknowledge us…. They didn't even look at us," said Cochran.

And they wonder why we don't look back?

Now that you've read this, don't look back. Don't ever...look...back.

Now in seriousness, it is not hard to detect a certain separation between players and fans, though the absurd lines that Plaschke draws between baseball and the other sports (particularly basketball) are ludicrous. Meanwhile, the NFL is so powerful (for reasons not fully known to me) that it can get ESPN to pull a FICTIONAL show portraying football players acting in less than favorable ways. What power does the NFL have over real, actual, damaging news? That's a question for another day, but it's certainly a question. Meanwhile, Plaschke goes on lecturing, hectoring, providing no answer better than your typical media bromide. The difference between football and baseball? Football = 16 games. Baseball = 162 games. There's a whole book right there. But this isn't even a foreword.

UPDATE: Someone at Primer makes the incontrovertible point that if you ask people in the middle of winter who their favorite sports stars are, you are more than likely to get football players for answers. That would particularly explain Roethlisberger's presence on the list.

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