Ready or Not, Football is Here

Last night was the official kickoff of the College Football season, and the final night of the NFL preseason.

No longer content to have all of their games air on Saturdays, the expanding television landscape for college football now gives fans games Thursday through Saturday.

The NFL gives viewers live game action on Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays.

So for roughly the next five months there are only two days out of the week where live football games are not being broadcast somewhere.

And I am sure on those dark Tuesdays and Wednesdays there will be a replay of a game somewhere on the dial meaning that a fan could watch a football game every night of the week.

Steve Spurrier's South Carolina Gamecocks kicked off the College football season last night with a game against North Carolina proving that Thursday night college football is here to stay. Photo R. Anderson

Steve Spurrier’s South Carolina Gamecocks kicked off the College football season last night with a game against North Carolina proving that Thursday night College Football is here to stay.
Photo R. Anderson

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy football but do I think that there needs to be five days a week of live games? Not really.

I think keeping the games Saturday through Monday would be a good mix but I know that I am most likely in the minority with that opinion.

While I know that there have been many weeks where I have watched a baseball game or two every night of the week that is different from wall to wall football.

For starters, while starting pitchers take four days off between starts the rest of the players on a baseball team can usually play night after night without the grind getting to them.

While football players would not play in a game on consecutive nights the staggering of game nights leads to scenarios where the time between games is not equal.

Whereas in the past players would have a full week to rest and take care of injuries between games, the new scheduling in college and professional football creates scenarios where a team could play games with 2-3 less days to recover.

While it is too soon to tell if this will lead to more injuries with players, it certainly stands to reason that players need as much time as possible between games to stay healthy due to the increased risk of injury in football compared to baseball.

And with college games now being played on “school nights” the NCAA is encouraging their athletes to stay out late which could impact their studies.

I almost typed that with a straight face. The NCAA has shown in recent years that the almighty dollar seems to take a front seat while student interests and ensuring academic accountability for football players seems to be lacking at times.

And one need only look at the situation with that sophomore quarterback in College Station, TX ole Johnny what’s his name to know that the NCAA is limited in its enforcement of rule violations.

Of course this conflict between class and football can be easily solved as one player for LSU accomplished by enrolling in a single online class for the fall semester thus ensuring that school work will in no way impede his football work.

In addition to competing with baseball on the airwaves for the next eight weeks or so, this is also the time of year when baseball will take a back seat on many of the sports pages and talk shows as the almighty pigskin season has arrived.

Right when baseball teams are ramping up their efforts for a run to the playoffs the gladiators of the gridiron have arrived to help ease the suffering fans have felt for the seven months without football.

I guess baseball fans are lucky in that we have seven months of season and only five months of off season to get through. I just wish that baseball coverage did not take a backseat each year as the season ramps up to the World Series.

Each year there will be those who say the baseball season is too long and they should hold the World Series in August to finish before football season starts. I have never agreed with that assessment.

Given the choice I would have baseball go year round since I enjoy watching the games and would certainly love a few extra months to head out to the Ballpark.

The potential for snow covered Ballparks is one of many things preventing year-round baseball. Thankfully football fills the five baseball free months of the year. Photo R. Anderson

The potential for snow covered Ballparks is one of many things preventing year-round baseball. Thankfully football fills the five baseball free months of the year.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course it is not realistic to have baseball go year round since even games in April and May have the chance to get snowed out.  I can only imagine the risk of snowed out games in open air stadiums in the north during December and January.

Plus, all of those Ballparks with pools and other water features in them would turn to ice.

Although having the umpire call time so a snow plow can clear the field might be fun to watch.

So, since the logistics just do not support year round baseball, I guess it is good that we have football to keep us occupied during those dark months between the end of the World Series and the time that players report to Florida and Arizona for Spring Training.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to see how far back the box scores from last night got buried on the sports page to make room for the wall to wall football coverage.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

MacGyvering a Solution to Life’s Problems

One of my favorite television shows growing up was MacGyver.

Sure, it could be easy to say that I liked MacGyver because the actor playing the title character and I shared the same haircut, last name and love of Swiss Army Knives, but a better explanation for the show’s appeal was the way that difficult problems were solved using simple household items, elbow grease and brain power.

The show was instrumental in showing that science and brainpower could often overcome firepower so there was a positive message being presented as the Cold War was drawing to a close.

One of my favorite shows growing up was "MacGyver." Recently I got to harness the power of my inner MacGyver to fix so faulty lenses. Photo R. Anderson

One of my favorite shows growing up was “MacGyver.” Recently I got to harness the power of my inner MacGyver to fix some faulty lenses.
Photo R. Anderson

Plus, MacGyver drove a Jeep which was cool except for the later seasons when he had the square headlight version of the Jeep. I digress, but seriously the square headlight years of Jeep were certainly a dark period in the Jeep timeline.

Putting the Ugly Duckling Jeep aside, MacGyver taught me that a Swiss Army Knife can certainly come in handy as I recently discovered once again.

The other day one of the screws on my sunglasses came loose and was threatening to disengage from the rest of the frame holding my oh so expensive, need them to see, polarized lenses.

Now, normally this situation would call for one of those eyeglass repair kits to be utilized. Ironically I recently purchased a new eyeglass repair kit to bring the total number of said kits that I own up to three.

Ideally I would of had an eyeglass repair kit with me when my sunglasses got a lose screw. Instead, I tried a similar tool. Photo R. Anderson

Ideally I would of had an eyeglass repair kit with me when my sunglasses got a loose screw. Instead, I tried a similar tool.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course, despite being the proud owner of three eyeglass repair kits, none of them were with me when the screw came loose.

So I asked some female colleagues if they happened to have an eyeglass repair kit on them since a) many of them wear glasses and b) they all carry large purses which can hold many contingency supplies.

Sadly, none of the colleagues had any eyeglass repair kits on them so I was faced with the potential of having to wait to repair the sunglasses after I got home.

Then, I remembered my trusty Swiss Army Knife that has been a staple in my pocket for around a quarter of a century if not longer.

So why have I had a Swiss Army Knife in my pocket for over 25 years, you ask? After watching MacGyver, and seeing all of the cool things that he did with his Swiss Army Knife, I asked for one for Christmas one year.

After convincing my mom that I was responsible and could handle ownership of a sharp knife without “shooting my eye out” I was presented with a shiny new Swiss Army Knife “Tinker” model to call my own.

Of course a few minutes after trying to open all of the blades at once like the display knives in the stores,  I found out just how sharp the knife was and cut my finger as my mom and grandmother looked on.  I at first tried to deny that my new Christmas present had drawn blood but it was soon hard to hide the red stuff trickling down my finger.

Old Red has been in my pocket for over 25 years even though we got off to a rough start. Photo R. Anderson

Old Red has been in my pocket for over 25 years even though we got off to a rough start.
Photo R. Anderson

I still have a scar to this day from that incident but the ensuing years have proved to be less blood drawing and more functional whenever I use the knife.

So, as I looked at my wounded sunglasses I thought that surely there was something on my knife that could be used to fix the glasses MacGyver style.

I first thought of using one of the blades as a screwdriver since the actual screwdriver attachment on the knife would be too wide. This option was quickly dismissed since I did not really want to be sitting at my desk with a blade drawn and have coworkers panic or think something was going on that required them to duck and run.

So with the blades ruled out my thought turned to the tweezers attachment. While the tweezers are there to help remove splinters when I am out doing manly things in the woods with only my knife and a palm frond for shade, I figured they might do the trick.

Okay, so as much as I enjoy watching survival shows on the Discovery Channel, truth be told, I am never out in the woods with only my knife and a palm frond. But I have certainly had to use the tweezers through the years while moving various jumpers on computer hard drives and other air conditioned tasks.

In a pinch, tweezers from a Swiss Army Knife can be used to fix lose screws on a pair of sunglasses. Photo R. Anderson

In a pinch, tweezers from a Swiss Army Knife can be used to fix loose screws on a pair of sunglasses.
Photo R. Anderson

So with the tweezers in hand I was able to successfully repair the glasses and place the wayward screw back where it belonged so as to avoid an incident where the lens would fall out.

Granted, MacGyver probably would have found a way to incorporate duct tape into the repair but needless to say I was feeling pretty accomplished with my ingenuity and started thinking of other things that I could solve MacGyver style.

The first thought that came to mind was trying to figure out a solution to the Astros and their lost season. But I soon realized that it would take a whole lot of duct tape to fix that situation and even MacGyver himself with all of the resources of the Phoenix Foundation behind him would have trouble with that one.

So the Astros will just need to continue on the present course until a better solution can be found. I guess the team could try a promotion where they gave away duct tape to help draw a crowd but there really is no sense in making a sticky situation even worse.

So I came up short in my attempt to fix other problems MacGyver style but I am sure there will come a time when my Swiss Army Knife and I are once again called upon to fix some injustice or at least some loose screws.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have the urge to watch some old episodes of MacGyver. Where did I put that MacGyver wig anyway?

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Summer’s Out for the School Year

For many students across the country today marks the end of summer vacation and the return to school.

For those of us no longer in school, today means a return to having to pay attention to school zones along our daily commute.

Across the country today the roads will be filled with school buses as most kids go back to school. Photo R. Anderson

Across the country today the roads will be filled with school buses as most kids go back to school.
Photo R. Anderson

Aside from the impacts of school zones and roads clogged with big yellow buses, for many people the start of school means a return to high school football on Friday nights, or in some cases Thursday nights or Saturday mornings.

Back when I covered high school football varsity games were only held on Friday nights.  But with more teams sharing stadiums it is now necessary to play games on multiple nights during the week.

And as the packed parking lots at the stadium by my house have shown year after year, despite being known for their “Friday night lights” the people of Texas do not seem to mind which night a game is one as long as there is a game to watch.

And make no mistake the people in Texas take their high school football very seriously.

Many football teams receive police escorts from their school to the stadium they are playing at. Of course these are usually districts that have their own police departments but still picture a couple of school buses with a police car in front of them speeding down the road and you get the idea of how seriously they take things.

It should be noted that the band travels in its own police escort free caravan in most cases. After all, say what you want but no one goes to a football game just to hear the band so in the event that the band caravan did not arrive for some reason the game would still go on as long as both teams were there.

Another example of how big high school football is in Texas is the fact that people still attend games multiple decades after graduating.  This level of support from the community can certainly be a good thing, but it can also be creepy in a way when people are still trying to relive their glory days through current players.

Although Uncle Rico was a fictional character it was certainly based on fact as many people seem to feel like he did that they just need a time machine to have that one more shot at state.

Although Uncle Rico was a fictional character it was certainly based on fact as many people seem to feel like he did that they just need a time machine to have that one more shot at state.

I am not saying that all non-students that attend high school sporting events are still trying to hang on to those carefree years of their youth but I have certainly seen my share of folks who are during my years as a reporter on the gridiron.

Yes there are still a few people out there like Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite that just can’t give up those high school glory days despite how many seasons past they are.

While I know it will never happen I really wish that people would just let the kids be kids and enjoy the sport while they can without the added pressure of trying to live someone else’s life or make up for opportunities that their uncles or fathers didn’t have during their high school playing days.

While the arrival of football cannot be delayed, and while I am certainly a fan of NCAA and NFL  games, I will once again refrain from attending any high school football games and will instead focus my Friday nights on the last month of the baseball season and the tight races for the playoffs.

Football very well may be the “national sport of Texas” but for me I still prefer the National Pastime of baseball.  Although with the Houston Astros losing two catchers in as many days to concussions it appears that baseball is slowly becoming as injury prone as football so maybe it will gain a greater foothold in the minds of Texas fans.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go plan an alternate route to avoid getting stuck behind slow moving buses.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Silent Tropics are Good for Residents, Bad for Storm Chasers

This past week several of the local and national news sources that I follow have been filled with story after story bemoaning the fact that this year’s hurricane season has been a dud so far.

Personally, I would think that the fact that there have not been any storms that have turned into hurricanes by the midpoint of the season is a good thing.

But for news stations that make their livings providing continuing continuous coverage of breaking weather events like hurricanes, the lull can certainly hit their bottom line I suppose.

And each of the stories I read this week about the slow start to the season cautioned that with three months left in the season there is still time for a storm to hit so residents along the coast should still keep an eye to the clouds and of course stay tuned into those stations for the breaking news when the storm approaches.

The television news vans have been all gassed up but so far have not had any storms to chase during the 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season. This has led to some news stations to complain about the lack of storms. Photo R. Anderson

The television news vans have been all gassed up but so far have not had any storms to chase during the 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season. This has led to some news stations to complain about the lack of storms.
Photo R. Anderson

While I am certainly all for staying prepared in the event of a storm, and know that historically September is one of the more active months for storms, the sad for not having a storm to cover yet mentality really irritates me.

Ask people along the coast who are still recovering from past storms if they feel “cheated” by the lack of storms this year and I am sure they will tell you that they are enjoying the break from storms that have a name and winds of at least 74 miles per hour.

Also, despite the lack of named storms certain areas are still receiving record amounts of rain so the argument of needing a tropical storm or hurricane to blow through to bring rain quite frankly does not hold water either.

In Texas there are still drought conditions and more rain is certainly needed but I do not see anyone on the street corners shouting for the arrival of a hurricane to bring it to them.

The media meltdown over the lack of storms to cover is just one example this week of my growing displeasure with the state of media affairs.

I really don’t know who to blame for the lapses in media judgment.  I am in no way placing myself on a pedestal and saying that I am the poster child for what a journalist should be but the lack of fundamentals being shown by the mainstream press really has me concerned for the future of a field that many feel is already facing credibility challenges.

I understand that there are way more media sources now than in the golden age of media where a town would have one newspaper and three television stations to bring them their daily dose of news.

With the expansion of cable systems and the internet there are hundreds if not thousands of daily sources that a person with an internet connection can search to get their news fix.

Some of these sources are offshoots of traditional brick and mortar media outlets and others are part of the new media and citizen journalist movement.

Just as not all brick and mortar journalism sources are good, not all new media is bad. So I am definitely not saying that there is not a place for both in the information age, there just needs to be standards.

And when I see traditional media making lapses in judgment it really makes me wonder whether the fundamentals are still being taught to aspiring journalists before they leave those brick and mortar universities with their degrees in hand.

Aside from the biased weather coverage there was another headline that got my blood boiling this week.

Pete Rose spent just one year north of the border playing in Montreal but it was a memorable year as he hit his 4,000th hit in the Major Leagues. His reaction to another member of that club had some media outlets bending his words.

Pete Rose spent just one year north of the border playing in Montreal but it was a memorable year as he hit his 4,000th hit in the Major Leagues. His reaction to another member of that club had some media outlets bending his words.

Pete Rose, aka “Charlie Hustle”, has been in the news a lot the past few weeks. When the suspensions for the steroid abusers broke, Rose was contacted for his take on the length of suspensions since Rose himself has been a victim of the Major League Baseball disciplinary arm having received a lifetime ban for betting on games he was managing.

Then yesterday as the all-time leader in hits in Major League Baseball, Rose was once again sought out after Ichiro Suzuki hit his 4,000 hit Wednesday night. Now the 4,000 hits combine Ichiro’s time in both Japanese and American professional baseball (2,722 hits in Major League Baseball and 1,278 while playing in Japan’s top league). By contrast, all of Rose’s 4,256 hits were all done in Major League Baseball games.

So, Rose was asked if he felt that Ichiro should be considered the hits leader if he manages to get 257 more hits to surpass Rose’s mark. And Rose stated what many others have stated that only hits made in the Major Leagues should count for MLB stats. But instead of a headline stating that the headline writer for this particular article I read said, “Rose disses Ichiro.”

The article did include around five quotes of Rose saying how much he admired Ichiro by calling him a pure hitter and someone who plays the game the right way.  Those do not sound like “disses” to me.

So once again a misleading headline is put over a story to gain readers. This seems to be happening more and more and makes me wonder if the headline writers even read a story anymore before deciding on a headline.

I guess my rant about the state of media could fall under a headline of “columnist disses media” but it is really more of a call for a more responsible press. Time will tell whether the trends reverse or get worse.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to see if the local meteorologists have gotten over their lack of storm depression yet.

 Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Astros and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Game

My affinity for the movie Bull Durham is well known.

In fact, I have been known to quote the movie quite frequently as there seem to be quotes that fit almost any occasion in life.

So while I was watching Monday night’s debacle of a game between the Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers there were many Bull Durham lines that came to mind as the Double-A talent level Astros players with the big hearts and limited talent fell victim to the much more talented and much more Major League Baseball level Texas Rangers.

Bull Durham is one of my favorite movies. The Houston Astros are spending the season reenacting many of the scenes from the movie, and not in the good way. Photo R. Anderson

Bull Durham is one of my favorite movies. The Houston Astros are spending the season reenacting many of the scenes from the movie, and not in the good way.
Photo R. Anderson

One line from Bull Durham that kept coming to mind as I watched the wheels fall off for the Astros once again was, “You guys. You lollygag the ball around the infield. You lollygag your way down to first. You lollygag in and out of the dugout. You know what that makes you?”

And of course anyone who has seen the movie knows that the answer is lollygaggers.

The Astros have found ways to make a very simple game of throw and catch anything but simple the past few seasons as they lollygag through their games.  Of course this year they look like doctoral students in the study of ways to lollygag during ballgames.

Quite frankly, each game tends to lead itself to even more absurd ways to lose. Balls falling between three outfielders? Check. An overworked staff of pitchers giving up more leads than a reporter on deadline? Check.

The list goes on and on with the creative ways that the Astros have found to lose this year. But Monday night seemed to find new levels on the losing scale.

In addition to the game reminding me of some scenes from Bull Durham, it also harkened back to some bedtime stories that my mom used to read to me.

One of those books in particular came to mind Monday night as I was watching the Astros go through yet another epic fail. That book was Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, which was written by Judith Viorst and illustrated by Ray Cruz.

In the book, as the title suggests, Alexander has a bad day.

The way the Astros' season has gone I wouldn't be surprised if the song Bad Day is on a constant loop in the clubhouse. Photo R. Anderson

The way the Astros’ season has gone I wouldn’t be surprised if the song Bad Day is on a constant loop in the clubhouse.
Photo R. Anderson

The book came out in 1972 which was long before the days immortalized in Daniel Powter’s one hit wonder song Bad Day.

So, for the more musically minded readers one can replace the imagery of the printed page with the melodies of song if they wish.

Whichever way works the fact remains the Astros had a very bad day, err night Monday.

As part of the bad night the Astros gave up 11 runs in the third inning with all nine Rangers players in the batting order scoring at least one run during the third inning scoring marathon.

Then in the fourth inning the Astros lost their catcher to concussion like symptoms. Normally when that occurs the backup catcher is rushed into the game since most squads carry two catchers on the active roster for situations like this.

Of course when you are using your other catcher as the designated hitter, as the Astros were doing, a little rule goes into effect where they cannot go behind the plate without a team being forced to use a pitcher at DH to replace them.

So with the options limited at catcher, the Astros turned to their emergency catcher, Jake Elmore. It is not like Elmore had never caught before. The announcers on the broadcast were very quick to point out that Elmore once caught an inning in a Double-A game in Mobile, Alabama a few years back.

To his credit, Elmore did a good job behind the plate. Of course he was helped by the fact that the Rangers were not trying to steal any bases with such a sizable lead.

At least the hats are sharp for the Astros to make up for some of the less than sharp play on the field. Photo R. Anderson

At least the hats are sharp for the Astros to make up for some of the less than sharp play on the field.
Photo R. Anderson

The night for Elmore got even weirder in the eighth inning when he was called upon to pitch since it was determined that with the game so out of reach the Astros would just give the rest of the bullpen the night off.

Elmore needed only 11 pitches to get three outs and proved to be the most productive pitcher of the night for the Astros. Not bad for a guy making his Major League debut as both a pitcher and a catcher.

While there have certainly been games where infielders have been called on to pitch these are usually extra-inning games when the bullpens have been completely depleted. Elmore became only the 14th person to be both a catcher and pitcher in the same game.

The Astros keep preaching rebuilding and patience but when they decide to completely rest an ineffective bullpen in favor of an infielder who has never pitched in a Major League Game and he makes it look easier to get batters out than the bulk of the full time pitchers, there is definitely something horribly wrong and will certainly test the patience of Job.

So, it is likely that there will be many more terrible, horrible, no good, very bad games for the Astros this year. And the trend will likely continue for several years to come. There is no quick fix for a team that does not want to spend money on talented players.

Of course, there are players like Jake Elmore that have the talent and the heart to be Major League ballplayers for the Astros they just aren’t being given the supporting cast to be successful and are left feeling like they woke up with gum in their hair day after day after day.

Now if you’ll excuse me, there is a certain book from my childhood that I think I will pull off of the shelf and read.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

A Topps Quest 30 Years in the Making

It has been said that my collections have collections.

Through the years I have collected everything from Matchbox Cars to books from the late 19th to early 20th centuries.

Among all of the collections and interests through the years one of the earliest collections was baseball cards.

Back when packs of baseball cards could still be purchased for pocket change and included a stick of card staining bubble gum, I collected cards with the best of them. I even had a small business selling cards to my friends and neighbors and would buy boxes of cards at the Sam’s Club. I would also ride my Diamondback bike to the neighborhood 7-11 and get a few packs of cards, some comic books and some powdered doughnuts.

Of course I would not look at the cards and comic books while eating the powdered doughnuts since no one wants to get powdered sugar on their cards and comic books.

From 1983 to the mid nineties I collected cards with a vengeance. My collection was not limited to baseball cards.  Football, hockey and NASCAR cards were also collected. I even have some cards from various televisions shows and movies.

This album was started 30 years ago. This is the year it is finally completed. Photo R. Anderson

This album was started 30 years ago. This is the year it is finally completed.
Photo R. Anderson

Put quite frankly my collection of cards had a collection of cards.

Many of the sets were put together pack by pack which meant many doubles, triples, and even fourths of cards was inevitable.

In some cases the extra cards could be traded for missing cards needed to complete the collection. In most cases though the extras went into boxes in a closet to be forgotten about.

Other sets joined the collection as part of factory sealed sets which allowed me to finish the set with a single purchase. Factory sets also ensured that the dreaded gum stained cards would not be an issue.

The other day it was announced that Ryne Sandberg had been named manager of the Philadelphia Phillies and that had me thinking about baseball cards again. So what does Ryne Sandberg’s promotion have to do with baseball cards you are probably asking yourself?

It has to do with baseball cards in that the promotion of Ryne Sandberg got me thinking about my 1983 Topps baseball set which included Ryne Sandberg’s rookie card. It also included the rookie cards of Hall of Famers Wade Boggs and Tony Gwynn.

Recently named Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg was a rookie with the Cubs in 1983. Photo R. Anderson

Recently named Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg was a rookie with the Cubs in 1983.
Photo R. Anderson

As I was thumbing through my 1983 set I was reminded that while it was the first year that I started collecting baseball cards it also represented my only unfinished set in my collection.

So, 30 years after I first started the set I decided while sitting on my living room floor that I would finished the set before Christmas this year.

Of course it would have been much easier to have had this grand vision back in January to have eight more months in which to work on the goal but I have always worked better under the pressure of deadlines. So, over the next four months I will complete the set.

Of course, finding assorted 30-year old baseball cards will not be easy. While there are a few shops that may still have a dusty binder full of cards it is more likely that I will end up using the internet to find the missing pieces.

Back when I was collecting my sets before, I carried around checklists in my wallet for each set I was working on. The checklist was numbered from 1 to 792 or how ever many cards that particular set had and has I found a card I would cross it off of the list.

The checklists came in quite handy whenever I was trading cards with friends or looking through boxes of cards at a baseball card shop.  With a single glance I could tell which cards I had and which ones I needed.

After creating a new list it was determined I am around 100 cards short of completing the 1983 Topps set. Photo R. Anderson

After creating a new list it was determined that I am 125 cards short of completing the 1983 Topps set.
Photo R. Anderson

Sadly, I could not locate my 1983 checklist so the first step in resuming the quest to finish the set was to determine how many cards I still needed by creating a new checklist.

One by one I went through my binder with the 1983 set in it and crossed of the corresponding number on the checklist. I was encouraged as each number was crossed off since it meant that it was one less card that I needed to find.

After a very detailed review it was determined that I still need 125 of the 792 cards in the set to complete my 30-year quest. While the number is larger than I had hoped, it is certainly doable to complete.

Of course a quick search online showed that I could order the complete 1983 set for around $50 if push comes to shove. I think I will try the old fashioned one card at a time route just like 30-years ago me would have done.

Of course this time I will have Ebay at my disposal so I will only have to worry about getting the powdered doughnut stains on the keyboard instead of the cards.

Now if you’ll excuse me I need to try to figure out where to find some 30 year-old baseball cards.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Upon Further Review, Replay Coming to Baseball

Baseball is often a game that is slow to embrace change.

This can at times be both charming, as it harkens to a simpler time, as well as being frustrating to some when the old ways can shift the outcomes of games through blown calls that seem obvious to everyone other than the umpires making the calls.

This is not to say that umpires are to be blamed for all blown calls. They are often times having to make a split second decision between safe and out without the benefit of the high definition slow motion angles that the viewers at home have.

Managers and umpires have had a love/hate relationship for years. Some of the strain in the relationship comes from blown calls by the umpires. Starting next year managers can challenge three of those calls a game as part of an expanded instant replay. Photo R. Anderson

Managers and umpires have had a love/hate relationship for years. Some of the strain in the relationship comes from blown calls by the umpires. Starting next year managers can challenge three of those calls a game as part of an expanded instant replay.
Photo R. Anderson

That is also why a close call is never replayed in the ballpark. This is done to avoid further inciting fans who feel that a call was not made the way it should be.

Many sports already use replay to help with questionable calls. The NFL has replay on all scoring plays in addition to coach’s challenges on non-scoring plays.

A few years back Major League Baseball dipped their toes into the replay pool by allowing replay on whether certain balls that bounced back into the playing field were home runs.

When it was announced that home runs were now able to be reviewed there were those that were happy and felt that baseball was finally catching up with the times and others who thought that an already long game would get even longer through the inclusion of replay where the umpiring crew left the field to view a television monitor.

Both of those sides of the argument were given something else to cheer and/or jeer Thursday when it was announced that Major League Baseball will implement instant replay on virtually every play but the strike zone starting next season. And much like the NFL manager’s will be allowed up to three challenges per game.

While announcing the change Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig called the announcement “a historic day” for baseball.

Whether a pitch is thrown for a ball or a strike will still be the umpire's call despite expanded replay rules coming to Major League Baseball. Photo R. Anderson

Whether a pitch is thrown for a ball or a strike will still be the umpire’s call despite expanded replay rules coming to Major League Baseball.
Photo R. Anderson

While still giving the home plate umpire the final word on balls and strikes, mangers will be able to challenge up to three calls during a game.

The challenges will be broken down with one available during the first six innings, and two beginning in the seventh inning.  There will be no additional challenges given for extra-inning games.

After a manager has used his allotment of challenges, an umpire crew can make a review of its own only to determine home-run calls.

The ruling on a challenge will be determined by umpires stationed in a central command center in New York and will not be determined by the on-field umpiring crew.

Time will tell whether the roll out of the type of instant replay that certain fans have wanted will improve the quality of the game or will just add another delay tactic for managers to use.

Time will tell whether the new power to challenge calls improves or strains the umpire/manager dynamic. Photo R. Anderson

Time will tell whether the new power to challenge calls improves or strains the umpire/manager dynamic.
Photo R. Anderson

There have certainly been some high profile examples of umpires making calls that have altered the outcome of a game. There was a blown call on a perfect game attempt a few years back as well as some other examples where human error led to a different outcome.

Personally I have always felt that an equal number of bad calls go against each team so that in the end they all sort of even out. But, I can certainly see where replay could be beneficial to help ensure the quality of the game and to avoid post-game press conference by umpires who after further review admit they should have made a different call.

While the reply roll out should help clear up game altering calls, I would much rather see a system that implemented a universal strike zone across all 30 Ballparks than a system that looked at whether a runner beat a tag at second base or not.

Pitch tracking software for years has shown subtle differences in how umpires call balls and strikes despite a defined strike zone in the rule book.

Much like the batters each manager will be given three challenges, or strikes a game. Once the challenges are gone a manager has no more recourse to dispute a blown call. Photo R. Anderson

Much like the batters each manager will be given three challenges, or strikes a game. Once the challenges are gone a manager has no more recourse to dispute a blown call.
Photo R. Anderson

It seems that maintaining control at the plate was one victory that the umpires were able to hang on to as it has been a point of debate for many years now.  It just seems like Major League Baseball would want to enforce the same strike zone since getting called out on a ball that was called a strike seems to happen far more than a questionable tag out.

I remain hopeful that the next major change in replay rules includes the universal strike zone. Until then I guess we will just have to see how the managers manage their challenges and whether they will be given a red challenge flag to throw on the field like their NFL counterparts or will just run out of the dugout when they want a challenge.

Either way starting next year the game of baseball will be forever changed. Time will tell if it will be remembered as a good change or a bad change.

Now if you’ll excuse me, upon further review, I have a snack to go make before finding a game to watch.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Jurors are Considered Peers, These are Their Stories

As anyone who has ever watched Law & Order, Law & Order: SVU, Law &Order: Criminal Intent, Law & Order UK, or the lesser known Law And Order: Mall Security Division knows there are two sides to the criminal justice system for the investigating and prosecuting of offenders.

While the shows in the L&O canon go into great detail to tell us their stories, there is a third side to the justice triangle that is often overlooked.

I am of course talking about the juries who listen to the prosecuting and the defending and render a verdict. I recently was called to jury duty, this is my story.

While Americans have many rights and responsibilities as part of being voting citizens, one area of responsibility that is often compared to that of having a root canal is the requirement to serve on a jury when summoned.

The Police investigate the crimes. Photo R. Anderson

The Police investigate the crimes.
Photo R. Anderson

My day in court as it were occurred yesterday and started with a one hour drive in rush hour traffic to arrive at the Juror Processing Center. Throughout the entire commute I was reminded of why I never want to make a long rush hour commute a part of my daily life.

More power to those brave folk who make the bumper to bumper drive twice a day. As for me I will keep my short interstate free commute for as long as I can.

Of course in the spirit of full disclosure it should be noted that one can take a bus ride from the suburbs to jury duty so it is not necessarily required to use a car.

After parking in a shaded parking garage I arrived at the Juror Processing Center right on time. After a quick trip through the metal detector I was directed to one of five separate but equally important waiting rooms filled with a couple hundred of my peers.

It should be pointed out that the juror waiting rooms are below ground to allow easy access to the tunnel system that connects it to each of the various courthouses. While this works great for the convenience of travel. It does not really bode well for electrical devices such as cell phones.

While there was wireless internet access available my cell phone could not get a signal in the depths of the juror cellar.

The District Attorneys prosecute the offenders. Photo R. Anderson

The District Attorneys prosecute the offenders.
Photo R. Anderson

So as I sat there looking at all of the happy people on their Kindles and laptops enjoying the wireless connectivity I wished that I had brought a low tech book to have something to do to pass the time.

Thankfully though I did have my MP3 player so all was not lost in terms of passing the time.

After about three hours of waiting my number was called and it was off to the criminal court building for juror selection.  As I was walking with 64 other potential jurors the bailiff told us that we would likely not see the light of day until 5 p.m. As it was approaching lunch time the idea of going another six hours without food did not go over well with me.

We were loaded into an elevator 15 people at a time and were off to the 15th floor. While the waiting room we had just left had included plush theater style chairs, we were left out in the hallway outside the court room with no chairs.

After an hour out in the hall we were finally summoned into the court room. And much like the elevator we were sent in 15 people at a time. They must really like the number 15 in the criminal justice system.

Once we were all seated the judge came out in his robe and thanked us for our willingness to serve on the jury.

Of course I am not sure it can really be called willingness since failure to appear leads to fines and/or jail time. Still, if the judge wants to think that we were all willing participants who am I to argue? After all, he is the one wearing the silk bath robe to work every day.

The judge then informed us that our time standing in the hall was not in vain since the two aggravated burglary cases that we were slated to hear were settled behind closed doors meaning we were free to get on with our lives.

Once again it was 15 people in the elevator at a time and once on the ground floor I did in fact see daylight again.

Once I had completed my civic duty it was off to enjoy another American tradition at a local diner.  While I could have gone with a nice juicy bacon cheeseburger I opted for some French toast.

After all, our constitution was based on the one the French follow so it seemed fitting to enjoy a French inspired meal to celebrate the democratic process. That and I was really hungry.

So, my record of not being selected to hear a case remains intact and I have served my civic duty until I am called upon again in about two years. Of course when I am called to serve again I will be sure to bring plenty of snacks and plenty of reading material.

If only Law & Order had taught me better about the jury system I would have been more prepared for the waiting around time. As the forum of this column I vote them guilty of not providing enough facts.

After all, if the people really are represented by those two separate yet equally important groups, shouldn’t one of those groups have done the jury a solid and told them what to bring?

Now if you’ll excuse me, there has got to be a Law and Order marathon somewhere on the television dial for me to catch.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Of Seaweed and Seawalls

Recently it was announced that parking along the Seawall in Galveston would no longer be free.

City leaders had been trying for years to turn the parking spots along the beach into revenue so the fact that they succeeded in finding a way to do that should really surprise no one.

Of course whether they are providing a product that is worth paying to see is another issue entirely.

Starting last month parking along the seawall in Galveston was no longer free. While it now costs more to see it there is little evidence that the view has improved. Photo R. Anderson

Starting last month parking along the seawall in Galveston was no longer free. While it now costs more to see it, there is little evidence that the view has improved.
Photo R. Anderson

It is no secret that while I am a fan of the town of Galveston and its various historic places, my affinity for the island ends pretty much where the seawall begins. To put it bluntly Galveston has an ugly beach that one could not pay me to swim in.

So when it was announced that visitors would now have to pay for the privilege of parking along the seaweed covered shores it made me laugh.

The parking meter system that was chosen made me laugh even more since it seems to discriminate against people who do not have cell phones.

That’s right boys and girls one now needs a cell phone or another means of wireless access to the web to pay for a parking spot on the seawall since the meters do not accept cash or credit cards.

I know that it is assumed in this day and age that everyone has at least one cell phone.  So, I am sure that making owning a phone the only way to pay to park seemed like a good idea. Unfortunately the new meters leave out the part of the population that does not carry a cell phone with them. So how is that keeping the beach open to all?

So setting aside the whole Texas Open Beaches law which states access to the beaches should be free to all and there are several other areas where the new meters seemed destined to meet legal challenges.

In fact, several lawsuits challenging the new meters have already been filed so it will be interesting to see whether the meters stay or go.

Now, I have nothing against paying to park when I go to downtown Houston to watch an  Astros game since those meters are the good old fashioned type that take cash and even a credit card.

Since being built over 100 years ago there have been many changes outside the Hotel Galvez. The latest change is the addition of parking meters which ironically do not accept change. Photo R. Anderson

Since being built over 100 years ago there have been many changes outside the Hotel Galvez. The latest change is the addition of parking meters which ironically do not accept change.
Photo R. Anderson

And while I own a cell phone if I had to stand on the street and make a telephone call to park I would find that a huge inconvenience and it would probably make me go downtown less often.

And I certainly am not against the idea of paying for certain premium parking when one goes to a beach.  When I go to Pensacola I usually pay to go to the beaches inside the boundaries of Fort Pickens National Park.

For about $10 I get unlimited access to the beaches for about a week. But that is a National Park where admission prices go towards keeping everything nice and clean so I gladly pay.

But, aside from the boundaries of the National Park all of the other beaches near Pensacola are free to park at.

The same is true for most every other beach I have ever been to. And the beaches that do have parking meters are the coin or credit card type which means that anyone with some change in their pocket can enjoy the beach.

Galveston definitely has a seaweed problem. While it was once free to see this view, with the installation of parking meters this view will now cost you. Photo R. Anderson

Galveston definitely has a seaweed problem. While it was once free to see this view, with the installation of parking meters this view will now cost you.
Photo R. Anderson

But assuming that the new meters along the Seawall are somehow deemed constitutional and are allowed to stay I certainly hope that the revenue is used to improve the actual beach experience there and not just charging people to pay for the same thing that was free for hundreds of years.

Of course while adding parking meters is certainly a negative change to Galveston in terms of being tourist friendly there was some other news that made me think that perhaps they are finally understanding the need to present more of a nice beach for those visiting tourists and their monies.

This glimmer of hope came in the form of an announcement that at long last the tons of seaweed that wash up onto the shore would finally be collected and not allowed to just sit on the shore and rot.

It seems a no brainer to have a beach rake that combs the sand each morning and removes any debris that washed ashore. I have never understood why Galveston did not have such a system in place.

Of course one can always travel a few hours east of Galveston to see seaweed free beaches. Photo R. Anderson

Of course one can always travel a few hours east of Galveston to see seaweed free beaches.
Photo R. Anderson

But now it seems the seaweed will be harvested and used to restore the dunes which is certainly a better use for it than shoreline sand blanket.

So I guess one has to take the bad news of paying to park with the glimmer of hope that the seaweed will be removed from the shore. Personally as someone who does not really go to the seawall that often I will not be affected by the pay to park plan.

I will still go for the Mardi Gras parades each year but as far as spending a day in the sand and the surf, that is what the beaches of Florida are for.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk about seaweed on Galveston has me in the mood for some spinach.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Cleansing the Web One Viral Video at a Time

Since Al Gore gave us the internet so many years back it has brought us many things.

Granted, I know that Al Gore did not invent the internet but who am I to burst the man’s bubble since he so famously said that he did?

While for the most part the internet is a positive thing there are certainly many negative aspects to avoid while navigating along the information super highway. And while the internet is certainly not going anywhere it is up to each of us to do our part to ensure that is kept pristine for future generations.

According to an often repeated quote, former vice president turned winner of the 2000 popular vote in  presidential election, Al Gore invented the internet. If that were true he could be blamed for all that is bad and praised for all that is good on the internet.

According to an often repeated quote, former vice president turned winner of the 2000 popular vote in presidential election, Al Gore invented the internet. If that were true he could be blamed for all that is bad and praised for all that is good on the internet.

Think of the internet as a more visited National Park with each of us acting as Park Rangers to safe guard it if you will.

So, fellow internet Park Rangers the time has come to pull the weeds known as viral videos.

Just the very name makes it sound like something in need of a serious dose of antibiotic. Of course like most virus strains viral videos have morphed through the years from videos of cats playing the piano into something far more deadly.

While a viral video was once some that just organically happened from friends sharing a video over and over again it has now become a marketing tool with companies trying to “create” the next viral sensation in their marketing lab.

To me this is where the viral video went wrong and needs to be eradicated. By “creating” a viral video with the express purpose of becoming viral one takes out the entire accidental discovery of previous viral videos.

And now with all of the created video viruses out there I am now even more skeptical than usual when it comes to watching videos on the web. Of course that added skepticism is not entirely a bad thing.

The other day I was sent a link from a coworker regarding a wedding proposal gone wrong at a Minor League Baseball game in Connecticut.   In the video a man asks a woman to marry him, as ballpark proposals often start, and then instead of her saying yes which occurs 99 percent of the time, she says no to the utter dismay of the assembled crowd in the stands.

Okay, so one could just leave it at that and think that the guy probably should have made sure that she was into the idea of marriage before popping the question in front of 5,500 strangers at a Double-A ballpark.

The rise in faked viral videos has left my computer and me feeling a bit ill lately. Photo R. Anderson

The rise in faked viral videos has left my computer and me feeling a bit ill lately.
Photo R. Anderson

The video did not end there as the woman who had seemingly broken the man’s heart runs away into the stands.

Again, one could argue that she was embarrassed from the experience and wanted to get off of the field as quickly as possible. But then the man runs off of the field as well but instead of chasing after her he runs into the home dugout and then down the tunnel into the clubhouse.

This of course threw up huge red flags for me and I told my coworker that the video was definitely staged since no professional sports franchise would let an average fan just run down the tunnel into their clubhouse and/or locker room.

Sure enough the next day it was revealed that the video was as fake as a $4 bill and that the man and woman were members of the team’s marketing staff.

While the video certainly drew attention to the fact that the Minnesota Twins have a Double-A affiliate in Connecticut it certainly can’t make the parent club happy that the marketing staff is going around faking marriage proposals for the sake of publicity.

Then again there is that old saying about all publicity being good publicity.

As a side note, having grown up watching the Orlando Twins when they were the Double-A Affiliate of the Minnesota Twins, I had often wondered where they went after leaving Tinker Field and thanks to the viral video I now know.

There are of course other examples of fake videos making the rounds from NASCAR drivers in disguise as people on test drives, etc.

Usually there are elements in the videos that are so obviously staged that it is easy for me to tell that the videos are fake.

In the instance of the Jeff Gordon in disguise video there are tons of red flags to show that the video is fake so they are not really deceiving the consumer since anyone with have a mind should see right through it.

The danger becomes when consumers miss the warning signs and consider the videos real. While advertisers have been deceiving customers for some degree to sell their products for years it seems like we are entering a whole new level of deception where the lines between reality and fantasy get blurrier by the day.

The internet will never be free of the viral video outbreak but hopefully with more discerning eyes consumers will not fall into their trap and will instead focus their attention on other things like those cats playing piano.

And to the next Minor League Baseball team wanting to make a name for itself through a video sensation history is full of so many other promotion ideas that don’t begin with deceiving the paying customers in the stands in the name of viral video infamy.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk of viral videos has me feeling like I should check my temperature to make sure that I didn’t catch anything.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson