Because I’m such a committed blogger, I’ve moved the site to a new and fancier home. Go check it out at http://www.corsairsaffairs.com. While you’re there, update your RSS readers and so forth. It’s gonna be awesome!
So “The Big Game” (no, I’m not allowed to call it the “S—- B—“, thanks to the NFL’s intellectual property policies) is about to get started. To the surprise of nobody who knows me, I won’t be watching… that’s right, even though my hometown team is represented in the game. At some point over the last few years, I had hoped to publish my five or six part treatise on my feelings about spectator sports, both in the general and specific regards. A bit of part five – a bit about my favorite sport to watch – was published last year on the eve of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Part four, which I had hoped to publish at an opportune moment was going to lay out why I can’t stand to watch football anymore. However this was going to be informed a little bit by the parts of the series that came before, so I don’t feel like I can adequately do it justice here and now.
With spring training right around the corner, however, I’d like to take a moment to address three complaints that people often have about baseball and discuss how those same gripes are at least as applicable – if not moreso – to the NFL than to Major League Baseball. Before I get started, however, I’d like to emphasize that baseball vs. football arguments are stupid. I don’t really care if you prefer one multi-billion dollar entertainment business or another. Plenty of people like both and that’s fine. The amazing difference in the mainstream commentary on the two sports – and the hypocrisy that lies therein – is what grinds my gears. Anyway, let’s take a look at these three bits of conventional wisdom, shall we?
1. Baseball has no salary cap and no competitive balance. Football has competitive balance because it has a salary cap.
There are a lot of ways one could measure competitive balance: championships, reaching the finals, reaching the playoffs, overall winning percentages… and admittedly, I haven’t looked at all of them. Nevertheless, the goal for each team every season (at least in theory) is to reach the championship game/series, so let’s compare the number of different teams that have reached the Super Bowl vs. the number that have reached the World Series. I’ve chosen to use the 1995 season as the start point for this exercise because it represents a substantial portion of the time that economic inequity has been said to affect baseball. Also because there was no World Series in 1994.
Starting with the 1995 season, the following 19 NFL franchises have reached the Super Bowl (# of appearances in parentheses where >1): Broncos (2), Colts (2), Patriots (5), Raiders, Ravens, Steelers (4), Titans, Bears, Buccaneers, Cardinals, Cowboys, Eagles, Falcons, Giants (2), Packers (3), Panthers, Rams (2), Saints, Seahawks.
Over the same timeframe, 18 MLB franchises have reached the World Series: Angels, Indians (2), Rangers, Rays, Red Sox (2), Tigers, White Sox, Yankees (7), Astros, Braves (3), Cardinals (2), Diamondbacks, Giants (2), Marlins (2), Mets, Padres, Phillies (2), Rockies.
19 teams in the Super Bowl, 18 in the World Series. That’s pretty even, no? Perhaps if baseball admitted another four teams to its postseason (don’t do it, Bud!) or ended the season after just 16 games (which, thanks to greater variance in results puts even the lowly Pirates in the playoffs a few times during this timeframe), MLB would have even more representatives. Regardless, the results – as we’ve seen them – don’t seem to suggest that football is any more competitively balanced than baseball. All my Pittsburgh readers who are so used to the results that might suggest otherwise might want to speak to their friends in Cleveland, Detroit or Miami about a world of baseball success and football misery.
2. Baseball games are too long and too boring. Football games are not long and exciting!
Let’s address the length question first since it’s a simple matter of numbers. For 2009, the average MLB game was finished in 2:52. On the other hand, the average NFL game wraps up in 3:06. So if baseball takes too much time, then football presumably would as well. The only difference I can see is that people are less concerned about their time on a Sunday afternoon than they are on a weeknight, when a substantial portion of the MLB schedule takes place. This fails to explain the popularity of Monday Night Football, but I digress.
Boring is ultimately in the eye of the beholder, and people will certainly vary in their evaluations of how exciting anything is. That said, David Biderman at the Wall Street Journal recently attempted to quantify the amount of action in baseball vs. football. Ultimately, he found that while a baseball game only contained 14 minutes of “action”, a football game featured even less “action”: just 11 minutes.
Like I say, the qualitative differences will skew one way or the other for different people. Some people prefer a fastball that misses outside to a two yard run into a pile of defenders and vice versa. Either way, they both count as action… but there’s not a whole lot of either one. Baseball takes lots of flack for this, football doesn’t (and don’t talk to the basketball, hockey or soccer players about “standing around” time)…
3. Steroids and other performance enhancing drugs are a big problem in baseball but not in football.
For years now, sportswriters have been playing the role of the morals police, damning baseball players who used performance enhancing drugs, players who were rumored to have used performance enhancing drugs and players who hit lots of home runs and were never linked to using performance enhancing drugs but probably used performance enhancing drugs anyway because they hit lots of home runs. In a few prominent cases, the bulk of the “evidence” of PED usage was simply, “look at how big he was then and look at how big he is now!”
OK then, let’s go to the tape. Here’s a clip of the Super Bowl champion 1986 Chicago Bears (featuring at least one name familiar to Steelers fans of recent vintage)… look at those linemen! They’re freaking TINY! Walter Payton looks like a stick! Funny thing though, steroid use in football has apparently been widespread since at least to the 80’s and probably earlier. But for whatever reason, it’s something that we don’t mind keeping on the down-low, even when the players get bigger and bigger… even when star players test positive.
Now none of this should be taken as an anti-steroids stance… my views on that are much more complicated. I just don’t understand why they’re such a big deal in one sport and less so in another… a game where you’re ACTUALLY PHYSICALLY HITTING THE OTHER PLAYERS… seems like it would be a bigger deal, y’know?
Anyway, that’s that. Although it’s true that I don’t like football and take a greater interest in baseball, this isn’t an argument against one or for the other. Lots of people like both and good on them. It’s just to point out the discrepancy they get in treatment, which strikes me as unfair.
Back in the day, I had a profile over on Friendster. Then for some reason, a bunch of my friends all abandoned the site for favor of Myspace and I followed along over there. For a brief period, it seemed like Google’s Orkut service might take off… I signed up there too, but nothing really ever came of that. Then along came Facebook and so many people flocked to that. Having done the social networking square dance with a few sites already, I didn’t really feel like getting into another trendy, fashionable service that did more or less what the previous sites I’d been on did.
As we all know now, Facebook managed to outlast its rivals in the social networking world and for now, it seems like it will remain atop the heap, at least for the next few years. Facebook is cool, chic and happening… and I’m still not a member. Ultimately, I just don’t think that Facebook has anything to offer me but problems.
First off, there are already plenty of websites I check daily… there’s two email accounts, a twitter feed, a few more twitter lists, a couple message boards and other websites, plus the bottomless pit of my RSS reader, which takes in ~250 items per day, of which I read maybe 30, tops. So to pile Facebook on top of this? No thanks. I already have too many sites to visit!
Now maybe I wouldn’t have to visit daily… heck, maybe just once a week! but what do I do when I’m there? Most – if not all – of the features of Facebook seem to be implemented better elsewhere. Maybe they’re not all under one umbrella, but that’s fine by me. I’ll send email from Gmail, share pictures on Flickr, post status updates on Twitter, post longer updates on my blog (ha!)… and I can follow other folks who do likewise!
Now maybe I can’t be found as easily by people I’ve lost touch with, and admittedly, that is a slight drawback. But how many people do I really *want* to be found by? And what about all the people who I haven’t lost touch with, but maybe I don’t want to share with quite so much? What of the real-life implications of pocket vetoing friend requests? I’m really happier sidestepping the question of explaining why I don’t want to “friend” an annoying co-worker or a not-so-annoying acquaintance (family member?) who I don’t want peering into my life.
While putting lots of personal information on the Internets is chic these days, I’m also wary of it for a slightly personal reason: while the world is filled with countless folks named Dan, Sean and Josh, there are very few folks with my name. I’m pretty easily googled and finding information about me isn’t too difficult. As a result, I try to avoid posting personal information out there that’s associated with my name (also why I blog pseudonymously). That’s not to say you can’t find a good bit out if you know me, but if you’re a putative employer, I’d rather make all this information harder to find. In a world where Facebook is closing doors for job seekers and destroying marriages, it just doesn’t seem like a wise tradeoff to share a bunch of personal information publicly… especially on a site like Facebook that has a notoriously bad history with user privacy.
A friend of mine once told me that the only reason he was on Facebook was because everyone else was. There’s no intrinsic draw to him besides the network. Network effects are assuredly important for any social networking site, but I’m not going to sign up just because everyone else does. There has to be value in it for me. Although keeping up with friends is certainly valuable, I can do that in lots of ways that don’t involve Facebook, and ultimately that’s my preference.
Oh boy, how time flies. I’ll bet that all of you folks out there keeping tabs on Corsairs Affairs have been wondering about what’s going on here… did I forget about the blog? Has it been abandoned (again)? Will there be any more moments of brilliance around these parts? (Actually, you weren’t wondering that at all… in fact, I’m not even sure there are any of “you”out there in the first place… does anyone even notice these posts anymore?)
In any case, Corsairs Affairs has very much been on my mind for a couple months now… because I’ve been wondering whether to put up notice that the blog is permanently shuttered. I mean, let’s face it: I’m not a good blogger. I disappear for months at a time, only to return, post something like this… maybe a couple music recommendations and another assorted thought or two… and then disappear again for a season or two. Not so good.
That said, I did start this blog for a reason. I make a lot of choices that puzzle and confound the people around me. No matter what the topic, it rarely comes as a surprise when I stake out a disfavored position or have unpopular tastes. Experience has demonstrated to me time and again that I’m not coming from the same place as a large number of my friends and associates. Some people have explained away my penchant for difference by describing me as a “contrarian.” Although my first instinct is to take offense to the way that the label is used to casually dismiss my perspective without engaging any of the actual substance therein, this notion has always amused me because it suggests that I don’t adopt an idea until I find out that it is disfavored by the folks around me, as if I somehow thrive on being different just for different’s sake. In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth. More often than not, I neither know nor care about what the de facto “normal” thing to do is. If anything, I probably presume too often that other people will see the world the same way that I do and I’m baffled when they disagree. Furthermore, I don’t particularly relish always being the outsider. I really would like to be part of “the in crowd” and have an easier time relating to people, but I want to do it on my terms. I would rather change the world to be more like me than change myself to resonate with the world.
To this end, a big reason why I wanted to start this blog was to write a handful of specific posts to explain some of the “unusual” choices I’ve made… posts that to this point simply have not been written. Those posts are still relevant today, however, so before the curtain finally falls on Corsairs Affairs, I at least wanted to get some of those things done. So for the time being, the blog is “operational” again.
Last week, the Internet was captivated by the story of “Jenny”, a girl who quit her job via a series of pictures of herself with whiteboard messages. Coming closely on the heels of a JetBlue flight attendant who quit his job in similarly shocking fashion only added to the interest. In my office, the story was passed around, discussed and it caused a bit of buzz.
In the meantime, my office was also setting into motion a plot that some of us had discussed for a week or so: fascinated by the increasing frequency of celebrity death hoaxes, we decided to try and start one of our own. So that afternoon, a few people posted to Facebook and/or Twitter the “news” that Ian Ziering may have been killed in a boating accident. (I take credit for the boating accident part, but I was the only one in my office to think that Ian Ziering was a poor choice of celebrity, but I digress…)
Ultimately, the rumor didn’t get very far. A few people posted the news to Facebook… some looked for another source… one person said that she was getting in touch with a contact at TMZ, and that really got the room fired up. But while we were so brazenly full of shit, it never occurred to anyone in the room that the reports of TMZ’s involvement might be equally bogus. I even pointed this out, but they were just so sure that it had to be true… just like nobody doubted “Jenny’s” story of how she quit her job.
Well, the next day we all learned that Jenny’s story was a hoax. By this time, it was also clear that the Ian Ziering death hoax that we had concocted went nowhere. And the Internet was free of falsehoods (well, maybe!)… at least for a day or two.
Early Thursday morning, a big thunderstorm rolled through DC. Heavy downpours, gusting winds, lightning everywhere... some of it very, very close. As I rolled out of bed, I heard emergency vehicles stopping in the neighborhood, looked out the window and saw the “o” from the facade of a local restaurant lying on the roof and on fire. The DCFD was on the scene and ready to put out the fire. I grabbed my camera, ran out and snapped a few photos of the aftermath.
One of those photos just happened to be chosen as the lead picture for this story on DCist. The DCist folks were nice enough to use the description that I wrote up on my Flickr page as the text accompanying the picture on their website. In my writeup, I speculated that the restaurant may have been struck by lightning.
Now, I actually doubted that lightning was responsible for the damage for one simple reason: Thaiphoon is surrounded by taller buildings on all sides… for the entire block, if not more. The building next door is 8 stories tall with antennae on top. Thaiphoon is maybe two stories tall. And lightning is going to take the easiest path to the ground that it can find. That path would not go through Thaiphoon.
I fully expected my speculation to be doubted and debunked quickly after the photo gained widespread attention. But instead, after the DCist post, the story that Thaiphoon was struck by lightning got picked up and took off. People tweeted the news, people retweeted the news… at one point, it ended up on The Guardian’s website (courtesy of Richard Adams’ blog)!
Tonight, I went over to Thaiphoon to chat with the people there about what really happened to the “o.” Turns out, the most likely explanation was that water got into the light (which had been on for ten years straight) and caused an electrical short, which in turn caused the fire. There was no Act of God striking them down for serving delicious panang curry, just a simple physics lesson that water and electricity don’t mix.
But where the contrived hoax of Ian Ziering’s death had failed and the Jenny whiteboard story came clean after a day, my unintentional bit of chicanery pulled the wool over the unquestioning eyes of the Internet for about a week with little to no suggestion that my story might not be fully straight. I’m thoroughly amused.
With Memorial Day in the rearview mirror, we’ve officially moved into the summer. Well, at least by sociological standards… meteorological summer started June 1 and astronomical summer doesn’t arrive ’til the solstice on June 20, but two out of three ain’t bad, right?. Summer is a great season because it’s an easygoing time of year when folks are looking to have a good time. Whether they’re doing some light summer reading, checking out a summer blockbuster movie or listening to some summer music, the seasonal entertainment options come from every direction.
Although Mumford & Sons’ [m] [w] debut album was released in the US back in February, it definitely has the sound of summer 2010 to me. With a clatter of banjos, mandolins, drums and guitars, the folk and bluegrass sound would fit in nicely cruising down the highway en route to a vacation destination. But while Mumford & Sons provide a refreshing new sound, their songs are also a bit formulaic and susceptible to growing stale. With few exceptions, they start out slowly, gradually build up the sound and the tempo before hitting a crescendo with the aforementioned clatter of instruments and earnestness. That’s not to say that Mumford & Sons don’t have some fine tunes on their debut album, because they do. This week’s pick, “Little Lion Man” is no exception. It’s a great song that fits the Mumford & Sons formula while having broad crossover appeal. Nevertheless, because their songs are stylistically so similar, I can see this being an album that I appreciate for about a year before putting it away for long periods at a time. Summer Music.
As you have probably heard, Dennis Hopper passed away over the weekend at age 74. Hopper had a long and distinguished career in film – I’ll always remember him as the sometimes drunk, sometimes assistant coach Shooter in Hoosiers. But today, we’re going to look at a contribution that he made to the world of music.
Gorillaz [m] [w] is a project contrived by Damon Albarn (of Blur fame) and cartoonist Jamie Hewlett (Tank Girl). The face of Gorillaz is a band of four animated, “virtual” members: 2D (lead vocalist, keyboard), Murdoc Niccals (bass guitar), Noodle (guitar and occasional vocals) and Russel Hobbs (drums and percussion). This at times conceals the long list of collaborators and guest appearances that the band has. Among those who have performed with Gorillaz are Snoop Dogg, Lou Reed, Mick Jones and Paul Simonon (of The Clash), De La Soul, Miho Hatori, Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Neneh Cherry and… Dennis Hopper.
Hopper’s contribution came on a track from Gorillaz’ excellent 2005 album, Demon Days (certified double platinum in the US and quintuple platinum in the UK). “Fire Coming Out Of The Monkey’s Head” features Hopper narrating the story of a town full of natives. some strange people from faraway lands and the nearby mountain. Standing on its own, the track is nice enough, although it really works better in conjunction with the album tracks surrounding it, particularly the two tracks that follow to end the album. Hopper’s contribution, however, is pitch perfect… I would be hard-pressed to think of someone more appropriate to voice his part.
Go check out “Fire Coming Out Of The Monkey’s Head” and appreciate Dennis Hopper’s contribution to a fantastic album from Gorillaz. Enjoy!
The hidden downside to releasing a classic album is that the followup has an extremely high standard to live up to. Now it may be too early to declare LCD Soundsystem‘s [m] [w] 2007 album, “Sound of Silver” a “classic,” but given the extremely high accolades the album earned, it’s not farfetched to suggest that it may be revered for years to come.
In any case, LCD Soundsystem – a musical project led by James Murphy – took its shot at being a musical Johnny Vander Meer his past week with the release of “This Is Happening”, the followup album to “Sound of Silver.” Early reviews are about everything you could hope for: a good, strong album… that can’t quite match its predecessor.
But that’s fine, really. Just like the first two albums, “This Is Happening” features some fun and occasionally introspective electro-dance music that you’ll assuredly hear at several parties this summer. One of those party tracks is likely to be the first single released from the album, the radio-friendly “Drunk Girls.” Unfortunately, this also may be the swan song for LCD Soundsystem, as Murphy has declared that it will likely be the band’s last album.
LCD Soundsystem will be hitting the road to tour in support of the album, but who knows what comes after that. So don’t waste any time, go check out “Drunk Girls” over at Pampelmoose. Then, go get “This Is Happening” (and “Sound of Silver”, for that matter) so you can totally rock out when you go to see them when they come to town… you are going to see LCD Soundsystem’s show, right? After all, you may not get another chance. Enjoy!
Over at Gizmodo today, they posted this story about a guy who… well… let’s let Jesus Diaz summarize the facts:
This is Thomas Salme, a maintenance engineer who became a Boeing 737 pilot by flying a few nights in a flight simulator and printing a fake airliner pilot license. Amazingly enough, he flew passengers for thirteen years without any incidents.
Thirteen years of back and forth from Sweden to everywhere else in Europe. Nobody noticed until a couple of months ago, when Salme was caught by the police as he was getting ready for take off. He was in the cockpit of a Boeing 737, with 101 passengers at Amsterdam’s Schipol airport.
Evidently, Salme did have a lapsed pilot’s license, but it was for smaller prop planes… not a larger jet. For his troubles, Salme was fined a few thousand dollars and banned from flying for a year. But this incredible story of boldness and ineptitude leaves me with a few questions:
Regardless, it’s a crazy little story…
You remember Pavement [m] [w], right? Back in the 90’s, Pavement was one of the biggest names in indie rock. Although I didn’t get particularly interested in them until after listening to some of frontman Stephen Malkmus’ later work, I was at least conscious that these guys were out there doing there thing and meeting with some success.
Well, the good news is that Pavement is back… in fact, they played their first show in about ten years back in early March, when this post *was* going to go up had I been on the ball and whatnot. At the moment, they continue to tour abroad, but their first US date – the Sasquatch festival on May 30 in Quincy, WA – is coming up rather soon. After that, they’ll be playing a few more festivals before starting a US tour in September. (details at Pollstar)
For those of us who missed out on the fun the first time around, this is a great chance to catch up on what you missed. Pavement fans in the audience are no doubt familiar with “Cut Your Hair.” But if you haven’t given them a listen before… if you’re a Pavement n00b, you might want to check this out. In fact, the song’s opening riff might even sound familiar if you’ve watched a bit of ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption.” It’s not exactly the same, but it’s damned close…
If you managed to miss out on ’em back when they were making their mark on the music scene, now would be a great time to get to know Pavement and “Cut Your Hair” is a great place to start. Go check out “Cut Your Hair” over at Rawkblog and enjoy!