Life is Best Experienced Live and Not on Tivo

A few years back, or maybe even a decade or so back, there was an advertising slogan by the Memorex Company that asked consumers to decide whether it was live, or Memorex.

The implication being that the quality of recorded material using the company’s products was so good as to render the consumer unable to determine whether or not it was a recording or a live performance that was being listened to.

This slogan popped into my head last week when I had the opportunity to attend a live streaming of the recording of one of my favorite radio shows, “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!”  I had attended a taping of the show before but this one was part of a live streaming event to movie theaters across the world.  As I had enjoyed my previous chance to watch the show being made I jumped at the chance to take part again.

Ticket for a live radio show. Photo R Anderson

Ticket for a live radio show.
Photo R Anderson

Early on in the broadcast the host made a joke about the people tuned in to watch the live recording of the show being foolish for paying to see something that they could hear for free a few days later.

While this is technically true there is so much more that can be experienced during a live broadcast. You can see behind the curtain and see how the sausage is made so to speak.

And yes, I still tuned in Saturday morning to hear the differences in the recording compared to what I had seen a few nights earlier. There were subtle changes that had I not been there for the live portion I would have missed altogether.

The same is true for most anything in life. With very few exceptions it is better to experience things live.

I would much rather sit on a beach and hear the waves and feel the wind of my face than to experience the same beach on television.

Television cannot do this justice. Photo R Anderson

Television cannot do this justice.
Photo R Anderson

Even the best surround sound system cannot replicate the sounds of the shore. And of course there is no way to replicate the feel of the wind and the smells of the beach from the comfort of one’s own home regardless of how high one cranks up the fan or how much suntan lotion they apply. And those air fresheners that promise to smell like the sea, they all fall short in capturing the true smells of the shore.

Of course during seaweed season in Galveston it might be best to experience from afar as the shore line smells anything but intoxicating but like I said there are always exceptions.

The same goes for sporting events. Being live at the venue is simply better.

While television can provide certain angles that might not be available from every seat at a ballpark or stadium,  it cannot replicate the in person experience. Even though I wish there was a mute feature for some of the annoying fans that seem to gravitate towards me I would not trade the in person ballpark experience for a diet of televised games alone.

Very little tops a day at the Ballpark. Photo R. Anderson

Very little tops a day at the Ballpark.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course, televised games serve a good purpose so I don’t want to come across as being anti-televised sports. When I am unable to attend a game, or my team is playing in a stadium on the road, I enjoy having the game on as background noise as I go about my nightly routines.

But were money no object, you can rest assured I would attend every game in person as opposed to watching it on television.

A few years back Tivo and other digital recorders popped up to allow people to record live broadcasts and view them at a later time of their choosing that was more suitable. To this day I do not own a DVR, nor do I ever plan to have one. It is the same reason that I do not watch tape delayed Olympic coverage, if something is going on live I want to see it as it is happening and not wait.

Even near triple digit temperatures cannot dampen the Ballpark feel. Photo R. Anderson

Even near triple digit temperatures cannot dampen the Ballpark feel.
Photo R. Anderson

It also seems impractical in this day and age that I could avoid spoilers about the outcomes of games if I were to try to watch them at a later time.

Music is another area that is simply better live.  I have followed Green Day since college and have all of their albums, including some of their live albums from concerts in Japan and England.

Despite listening to these songs countless times, it was not until I saw them live and in person that I truly could appreciate their music. To this day that is one of the best concerts I have attended and provided a frame of reference and a week-long ringing in my ears that I would not have had without the in person look.

As a reporter my job is to attend the events and report back the experience so that readers can get the feeling of being there. Using words and images the best writers can put the reader right in the middle of the action. There are various techniques and writing styles employed by journalists but they all center on informing the reader and making them feel like they are there experiencing the event.

May all of your views be beachfront views. Photo R Anderson

May all of your views be beachfront views.
Photo R Anderson

I have been very fortunate in my career to be in the middle of a lot of action that were it not for being a journalist I would not have experienced. But for those non journalists out there I say, as Ferris Bueller would say Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

So get out there and experience as much as you can live and you will see that with all due respect to Memorex a recorded and taped delayed life just can’t compete with one that heightens all of the senses.

And if you ever get the chance to see Green Day in concert by all means do it, just don’t forget the ear plugs.

Now if you’ll excuse me it is time to get out from in front of the computer screen and see what live event I can find next.

Copyright 2013 R Anderson

Skeeter Experience as Sweet as Sugar

No mater the level of competition, from Little League to Major League, the passion for the game of baseball remains the same for those players who truly love the game.

The other night I saw that passion displayed in an Atlantic League game between the Lancaster Barnstormers and the Sugar Land Skeeters at Constellation Field in Sugar Land, TX.

The Skeeters are in their second season of play and ever since it was announced that they were coming to town I have wanted to catch a game. Sadly, something always seemed to come up last year whenever I planned to head that direction so my goal of seeing a game during the inaugural season did not come to pass.

Ballparks just look better under the lights. Photo R. Anderson

Ballparks just look better under the lights.
Photo R. Anderson

All of the elements finally aligned this past weekend to allow me to make my first trip to the Ballpark. And even some tricky Google map directions, and poor ballpark signage that sent me to the unlabeled parking lot A instead of the equally unlabeled parking lot B, couldn’t dampen the spirits of adding another Ballpark to my list of places that I have seen games.

The night featured many firsts for me as it was my first Atlantic League game which meant it was my first time seeing both the Barnstormers and Skeeters as well as my first trip to Constellation Field.

Constellation Field in Sugar Land, TX is the home ballpark of the Sugar Land Skeeters. Photo R. Anderson

Constellation Field in Sugar Land, TX is the home ballpark of the Sugar Land Skeeters.
Photo R. Anderson

But of course every trip to the Ballpark, especially a first trip to the Ballpark involves a bit of a learning curve.

While I had a seat two rows from the field on the third base side I zigged when I should have zagged when it came to the food choices.

I ended up with a loaded hot dog which included chilli, cheese, onions, sauerkraut, and probably some other things that I missed under the cheese blanket. While the hot dog was good, and the Dr. Pepper was cold, it was not until I took another lap around the concourse that I saw the real food choices that the ballpark had to offer. There was a pizza booth which as I have mentioned before is one of my favorite ballpark staples. There were also booths selling barbecue, gourmet popcorn, Tex Mex, and Philly cheese steaks.

Lest one forget what state they are watching the game in there is a Texas shaped scoreboard to guide them. Photo R. Anderson

Lest one forget what state they are watching the game in there is a Texas shaped scoreboard to guide them.
Photo R. Anderson

So, the lesson learned is no matter how hungry I am entering a Ballpark the trick is to walk the full concourse before selecting a food item.

The food remorse passed quickly and it was time to get immersed in the feel of the in game between inning entertainment which included dizzy bat, tricycle races and boxing.

The game itself was good as well as the home team remained undefeated at home for the season. Of course, the other professional baseball team in the Houston area cannot say the same thing but more on that later.

Despite the Ballpark I am in when I am watching a game, one constant always seems to find me. No matter where I sit it never fails that within earshot and visible range there will be at least one overly intoxicated fan who feels the need to make their presence known through, a) berating players or umpires or b) telling a story (or two, or three) that is way too loud to ignore and takes away from the ballpark experience. Another constant with these loud mouths is the presence of small children with them.

Former Boston Red Sox player Aaron Bates up to bat for the Sugar Land Skeeters. Photo R. Anderson

Former Boston Red Sox player Aaron Bates up to bat for the Sugar Land Skeeters.
Photo R. Anderson

All of those factors came into play one section over from me with the extra loud drunk fan there with friends as well as small children providing a totally unnecessary running commentary.

The only break from his commentary was the two innings he spent in the concession line which of course he had to retell in great detail upon his return.

Now, before I get comments saying that I am trying to take away people’s right to drink at the ballpark let me say that is not the case.

Personally for me the hardest drink I need at the ballpark is an ice cold Dr. Pepper. But, for those who want something with alcohol in it I can totally support that desire and their right to do that.

Both teams kept the base paths busy but it was a couple of long balls that proved to be the deciding factor. Photo R. Anderson

Both teams kept the base paths busy but it was a couple of long balls that proved to be the deciding factor.
Photo R. Anderson

What I refuse to support is the fan who downs a six pack or more during the pregame and then proceeds to get drunk and annoying during the course of the game. And this goes across all sports not just baseball. Every sporting event I have ever attended where I was not covering it from the press box has included at least one fan who is way too loud and way too drunk.

I am not sure how Ballparks and stadiums can address this but it is also one of the reasons that I rarely stay for an entire game. I like to have a two inning head start before the drunks hit the road.

So, drunk annoying fan aside there was a lot to enjoy at the Skeeters game. The food is reasonably priced. The sight lines from the seats are good.  And the quality of play is top notch and allows fans to catch glimpses of former and future Major Leaguers in action at a fraction of big league prices.

And speaking of that other professional baseball team in Houston. As I was driving past Minute Maid Park on the way home I happened to turn on the radio to see how the Astros were doing.

Sunsets look best on the beach and at the Ballpark. Photo R. Anderson

Sunsets look best on the beach and at the Ballpark.
Photo R. Anderson

I want to say I was surprised when I heard that they were losing by a score of 13-1 to the Detroit Tigers but in reality my only thought was how did they manage to score the one run.

The Astros ended up losing by a score of 17-2 when all was said and done. Conversely the Skeeters defeated the Barnstormers 5-4 in a game that saw the lead traded back and forth several times.

So, while it is a little further for me to drive to Sugar Land to see the Skeeters as opposed to driving to see the Astros, I believe that I will be spending more of my baseball viewing time with the Skeeters for the foreseeable future.

Of course when the Rays, Orioles and Rangers are in town I will probably make the trek to Minute Maid Park.

That is not to say that I won’t still catch the Astros on TV or that I am no longer a fan but if I am spending money on something I want to feel that the team is committed to winning. Quite frankly I do not get that impression these days from Houston management.

Now if you’ll excuse me I need to figure out what the next new Ballpark to visit will be. Perhaps I will see some of you there.

 Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Angels in the Outfield and Wookies in the Batter’s Box

For years Minor League Baseball teams have looked to wacky promotions and giveaways to help attract crowds and give the fans a little something extra besides a seat at a ballgame.

Of course there are the Ballpark standards of hat and seat cushion giveaways but what I am talking about are the really outside the box promotions that make you both say, “I can’t believe no one ever thought of that before while also saying I can’t believe someone thought of that.”

One of the more predictable baseball promotions is the timeless tradition of teams giving fans a foam finger. Photo R. Anderson

One of the more predictable baseball promotions is the timeless tradition of teams giving fans a foam finger.
Photo R. Anderson

So in terms of the memorable crazy promotions there have been promotions of every shape and size.

Teams have had Harry Potter themed nights. Teams have had speed dating nights. There was even a team that thought the biblical figure Noah, of the Ark building fame, needed his own bobble head figure. The list goes on and on regarding both good and bad promotions in the Ballpark.

So with all of that past pedigree of promotions, and with tomorrow marking a holiday of sorts for fans of a certain science fiction franchise, it marks a perfect opportunity for yet another creative ballpark promotion.

For those who may not be aware, May 4th is known as Star Wars Day due to a pun surrounding a popular phrase found in the films. That phrase of course is “May the force be with you,” which can easily translate to “May the fourth be with you.”

For years teams have celebrated May 4th in the ballpark but how many times can you really dust off that storm trooper costume to throw out the first pitch before it gets a feeling of been there done that?

With teams looking for creative and new ways to celebrate Star Wars Day it was only a matter of time then until May the fourth was celebrated on a Minor League Baseball diamond in the form of players wearing Wookie jerseys.

That’s right boys and girls I said Wookie Jerseys.

The Detroit Tigers’ Triple-A Affiliate the Toledo Mud Hens are going to celebrate both May the fourth and May the fifth wearing jerseys that look like a Wookie complete with utility belt.

Thankfully, the team opted away from the faux hair version of the jersey and will instead go with a more diamond appropriate version where the fur is implied.

Across this galaxy as well as in a galaxy far, far away May the fourth is Star Wars Day. Photo R. Anderson

Across this galaxy as well as in a galaxy far, far away May the fourth is Star Wars Day.
Photo R. Anderson

This is probably a very wise decision since no player wants to have an error assigned to them because they lost a ball in their Wookie hair.

I am also thinking it would be hard for the pitcher to read the signs from the catcher with all of that hair getting in the way.

So far there has been no word on whether the special Wookie jerseys will be available for sale to the general public. But as Darrell Hammond impersonating Sean Connery said to Will Ferrell who was impersonating Alex Trebek on Saturday Night Live’s parody of Celebrity Jeopardy, “You’re sitting on a gold mine, Trebek.”

So I expect in the coming days that Wookie jerseys will be available in the Mud Hens team store. After all, who wouldn’t want a Wookie jersey?

Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals becomes the evil emperor during Star Wars Night at Minute Maid Park. Photo R. Anderson

Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals becomes the evil emperor during Star Wars Night at Minute Maid Park.
Photo R. Anderson

While this is most likely the first time players have dressed up as a Wookie it is not the first time that a Wookie, or at least an actor who played a Wookie, has been at a Minor League Ballpark.

During a May 1, 2010 game between the Oklahoma City Red Hawks and the New Orleans Zephers Peter Mayhew, the actor who played Wookie extraordinaire Chewbacca, threw out the first pitch as part of the 30th Anniversary celebration of the original Star Wars film.

And as mentioned before there have been numerous other teams who have honored Star Wars in various ways on both the Major and Minor League levels by encouraging fans to wear their favorite Star Wars Cosplay outfits.

Lance Berkman gets the visiting villian treatment during a past Star Wars Night at Minute Maid Park. Photo R. Anderson

Lance Berkman gets the visiting villian treatment during a past Star Wars Night at Minute Maid Park.
Photo R. Anderson

While I have never dressed up as Boba Fett, I have attended games where ushers were dressed like Princess Leia. I have also been at games where the opposing players were made to look like Darth Vader and other villains on the Jumbo Tron.

It is all done in good fun and is kind of cool to see the worlds of film and baseball combine in such an entertaining way.

So how will I be spending Star Wars Day this year? At a ballpark of course.

And while there will not be any Wookie jerseys on the field rumor has it that there will be a Star Wars themed fireworks show to fill the night sky.

Baseball, hot dogs, and pyrotechnics, it doesn’t get much better than that.

And in the spirit of full disclosure I am a much bigger fan of Star Trek than Star Wars but “Beam me up” Day and “Make it So Number One” Day just don’t seem to roll off the tongue as easily when it comes to a ballpark promotion.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go see if I can still make the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs. And May the fourth be with you.

Copyright 2013 R Anderson

Where Getting it Wrong has no Consequences

There are few professions where one can be consistently wrong and still keep their jobs.

An accountant who messes up the numbers time and time again will soon find that their employer is none too pleased.

A chef that consistently under cooks food and makes his diners sick will soon find that no one wants to eat his food offerings.

The list goes on and on regarding professions where failure really is not an option for keeping their jobs.

Of course, as is the case with every rule, there are exceptions.

Two examples of professions where routine failures and miscalculations do not usually lead to job loss are weather forecasting professionals and sports prognosticators.

History is full of examples where both meteorologists and prognosticators have missed the mark on their “forecasts.” This failure is usually attributed to the fluid nature of what they are trying to predict.

It is true that weather and sports teams do not always follow the forecast models and predicted paths so as the 2013 Major League Baseball season ends its first month it is a good time to look at what preseason predictions were spot on and which ones clearly missed the mark altogether.

Big spending in the offseason as not worked out the way the Toronto Blue Jays hoped as they are dead last in the American League East standings. Photo R. Anderson

Big spending in the off-season has not worked out the way the Toronto Blue Jays hoped as they are dead last in the American League East standings.
Photo R. Anderson

Let’s start with the American League East standings. As mentioned before, it is the division that I have spent most of my life rooting for so it is both familiar and near and dear to my heart. It is also considered one of the toughest divisions in baseball year in and year out.

As of April 30, the Boston Red Sox were leading the division with the Toronto Blue Jays six games back in last place.  The Tampa Bay Rays were in second to last place 2.5 games out of first.

Many preseason predictions showed the Toronto Blue Jays, who spent heavily on free agents in the off-season, running the table and battling the Rays for the Division title. In reality R.A. Dickey, the National League CY Young Award winner last year with the Mets, has failed to capture that same form this year with the Blue Jays. And other off-season acquisitions have also failed to show the sparks of greatness they were brought in for.

With the other four teams in the division within 2.5 games of each other a six-game hole does seem like a tough mountain to climb for the Jays’ new manager and let’s make a deal roster.

History has shown time and time again that the approach of “buying titles” by making big splashy off-season acquisitions rarely works.  The Miami Marlins won two World Series titles using that formula when they were still called the Florida Marlins but the success was fleeting and each title was followed by a fire sale where all of the talent was sent packing in a payroll dumping measure.

The Marlins tried that approach again last year and sent most of their talent to the Blue Jays before the start of this season when their attempt to buy the series last year failed.

But despite this cautionary tale the Blue Jays will not be the last team to try the free agent quick fix route to a World Championship.

So with the American League East returning to a more familiar formula of the Red Sox and Yankees battling at the top with the Rays and Orioles trying to crash the party let us turn our sights to the newest kid on the American League block.

The Houston Astros face an uphill climb in their first season in the American League. I think everyone can agree on that fact. What people cannot seem to agree on is just how bad, or how good they will be this year.

Former Nationals turned Astros Bo Porter and Rick Ankiel hope to bring some of the winning ways from Washington with them to Houston. Photo R. Anderson

Former Nationals turned Astros Bo Porter and Rick Ankiel hope to bring some of the winning ways from Washington with them to Houston.
Photo R. Anderson

Before the season many sports prediction experts tapped the Astros as being the worst team in baseball for the third straight year with at best 50 wins over the course of the 161 game season.

Of course a funny thing happened during the first month of the season with the Astros winning 8 games or roughly 10 percent of the total number of wins most people thought they would have all year.

And yes, there have been some really one sided games and pitching issues in the first inning that have led to insurmountable leads for the opponents and really ugly losses for the Astros.

There have also been some quality wins over some tough opponents in the Rangers, Yankees and Angels.  As well as four wins over their American League West division foe Seattle Mariners. And one more thing, The Miami Marlins have a worse record than the Astros and several teams have only one more win than Houston.

Does this mean that the Astros will go on a tear and win 60 or 70 games this year? Not necessarily. But, it does show that at this point in the season the team everybody wrote off in Spring Training has shown they have a little more fight and spirit than they were given credit for.

While things in the American League seem to be bucking many of the preseason trends, things in the National League are going a little more to plan at the completion of the first month of the season.

Just kidding, the National League is equally as crazy as the American league at this point in the season.

Currently trailing the Atlanta Braves the Washington Nationals are hoping to take manager Davey Johnson to the World Series in his last season at the helm. Photo R. Anderson

Currently trailing the Atlanta Braves the Washington Nationals are hoping to take manager Davey Johnson to the World Series in his last season at the helm.
Photo R. Anderson

I mean did anyone really expect that the Colorado Rockies would be leading the National League West and be two games ahead of the World Champion San Francisco Giants?

And back east did anyone expect the Atlanta Braves to be 3.5 games ahead of the Washington Nationals who had the best record in the regular season last year?

While there is still time for the forecasts to turn more in favor of the preseason numbers after the first month of the season there are certainly trends to support that many people just missed the mark on their predictions.

Personally I like when the predictions don’t go as planned since that shows that the game is unpredictable and anyone can win on any given day.

If all of the outcomes were known in advance it would make for a very boring season. So I salute the men and women whose preseason predictions missed the mark and say “let’s play ball for the next five months or so.”

Now if you’ll excuse me it is time to watch the weather forecast to see if I do or do not need an umbrella. Of course, they have a 50/50 chance of being both right and wrong.

Copyright 2013 R Anderson