Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

I got some season seats for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (more on that abomination of a name later) game last night. I called up a few friends and we were off to the Big A to watch...well, I went to watch the Twins...the Angels play. What I got was a reminder in just how predictable we as Americans can be. The following stadium cliche activities were in full effect in Anaheim last night:

1) Jumbotron aping. What is it about the camera that causes men, women, and children to think they can dance, experience facial convulsions, and put two fingers behind everyone's head? Oh, and point to their jersey and raise the index finger?

2) "Kissing Cam" Have you seen this one? The clever AV dropouts that run the Jumbotron put a little template over the screen in the shape of a heart attempting to entice the two people within it's tractor-beam like shape to kiss one another. Of course, the best of this activity is when they either erroneously pair two people together, or the woman shuns her man. "Her man" got shunned twice last night. She said "no" once, and the clever cameraman decided that after a minute, she'd acquiesce. No dice. Derisive chuckling from 40,007 fans.

3) And how do I know there were 40,007 fans there? I took a quiz! Yes! The great attendance quiz. This test is usually administered sometime in the 6th inning, after the game is considered "official" and no notes are allowed. The great thing about this quiz is that of the four choices [these were the options last night: a) 40,005; b) 40,006; c) 40,007; and d) 40,008] EVERYONE in the stadium got it right! Not only did they get it right, but they all felt the need to jump up, cheer, and high-five each other, congratulating themselves for their incredible ability to correctly estimate the size of a crowd of over 40,000 to within one person. I was impressed.

4) The video baserunning race. The three contestants last night were Captain Baseball, The King, and some other also-ran. Once again, clever AV dudes, with the aid of graphic art school dropouts, summon all their creative energies and create a fictitious cartoon race around the basepaths as 40,007 fans cheer on (give or take about 5000 who are busy in the urinal or at the biergarten). Once again, all those who were cheering were able to correctly ascertain that Captain Baseball was going to be the winner as evidenced by the aformentioned jumping up, cheering and high-fiving. People in Orange County are so smart.

5) T-SHIRTS!!! OVER HERE!!! The latest craze is an air-rifle version of the t-shirt thrown into the audience. This gives hope to the thousands of fans that weren't seated 12 rows behind third like we were...those in the upper deck...because now eye-candy promotions girl can actually "throw" a canned t-shirt as high as the second deck. We were hoping to see someone dive for it and end up on the lower deck, but not everyone's that hopped up over a giveaway shirt. Thank goodness.

6) I will kill you for this foul ball! I love foul balls. I don't love them in my section...I just love to watch the melee that ensues when one ends up in the stands. I watched as two guys gouged each others' eyes over a 2-1 pitch fouled off by Justin Morneau of the Twins. That's a souvenir you'll be talking about for decades. Eat your heart out "Guy Who Caught Hank Aaron's 755th!"

7) Bratwurst. Okay. This one is actually a good reason to be at the game. This is, to me, the menu at Angels stadium: Bratwurst and "crap that isn't bratwurst." Thankfully, the good folks in Anacrime figured out that there are enough of us midwesterners out here to merit a good link at the ballpark.

It wasn't such a bad night after all. Oh, and by the way, the home team cheated and won 4-3 in extra innings.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Lord Stanley's Beautiful Cup

It's the time of the season for cupping. At the beginning of this past NHL season, I contacted my satellite TV provider and upgraded to the package that would give me OLN, who had replaced ESPN as the network of the NHL in the US. About two weeks into the season, OLN (owned, apparently, by Comcast) upped their fee demands of auxiliary providers. My satellite provider dumped them.

I was more than a little upset.

Gratefully I live in a major market and the local FSN affiliate shows both Kings and Ducks games...sometimes on the same evenings on FSN1 and FSN2. I was in hockey heaven...well...not "heaven" but at least some transcendent reality location. When one of those teams played in the Eastern Conference, I would get a game at 5 and another at 8. Nice. But still not OLN. And definitely not ESPN.

I miss listening to Gary Thorne and Bill Clement call a game together. They are the best US broadcast hockey duo in my opinion.

Well, I got a reprieve. OLN, by some fluke of luck, was reinstated just prior to the beginning of the Stanley Cup Playoffs (not called "the postseason" folks...that's for other lame sports). After last night's 3-OT game three in Edmonton, I realized just how lucky I am.

Is there anything better in pro sports than a hockey overtime playoff game? No time outs. No commercial breaks (sorry soccer...the sport has to be exciting to qualify). Guys slugging it out. Retro official calls (as in, we'll let 'the players play'). Sudden death. Oh, and Ottawa-Buffalo games that only offer us 18 seconds of overtime don't qualify either.

Thank you NHL. Thank you Lord Stanley for the greatest trophy in professional sports.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Happy Juror Appreciation Week to me! I was summoned for jury duty for a "special case" this week. "Special" is legalese for "you can't get out of it or get a postponement." I made the trek to San Bernardino County Courthouse in lovely San Bernardino, CA today. Normally I'm summoned to the courthouse more close to home...as in only three miles away...but not for the "special" case.

I've served on a jury in the past, as an alternate. Alternate is legalese for "you get to sit in and take notes like everyone else, but you most likely won't be involved in the deliberation unless another juror gets violently ill or blabs about the case so thanks for coming." Some things have changed. Now, in the juror waiting room, you get to watch a snazzy video that highlights all of the wonderful things the State of California (self-proclaimed in the video as "The Best State in the Union"...to which I wanted to stand and say, "I object, Your Honor" until I realized there was no judge present). After some nature shots, we get to see criminals in handcuffs, cops on the beat and the narration says "but we sometimes have disputes." Disputes? Hilarious. Sometimes? Ummm...

The video ended and we were entertained by Judge Garza, who thanked us for coming in during "Juror Appreciation Week" a.k.a. JAW (I got a pen). I was originally planning on coming in last week. When I heard that this was JAW, I knew I had to come in this week...either that, or my summons told me to come in this week. Interestingly enough, my wife mentioned that a woman we know was summoned for the same trial, reported yesterday, and had to stay until 4:00 p.m. (SPOILER ALERT!) I went in today and was released by 2:00 p.m. Apparently my skills were not needed this time, so I got my pink slip (a good thing here, a bad thing at the employment office), and returned home happy in knowing that, for all intents and purposes, this could very well have been my last trip to a courthouse in California (in this capacity).

I'm not sure about the name of the court video, but in true California style, there were about five minutes of credits at the end. I've never seen something like that have the credits. I think they wanted us to know that no incarcerated individuals, although available, were harmed in the production of the movie. Best quote from the show (referring to jury service): "It wasn't bad at all. I'd do it again." (Meanwhile, the woman in front of me rubs her Rosary beads and mumbles something about God not picking her.)

Happy JAW to all, and to all a good case!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Political Debate in the USA

I spend a little time each day moving from opinion site to opinion site on the Internet these days. It's not that I have a fantastic opinion on anything...I'm a social and fiscal conservative and am a fan of small government...but I like to see what's happening in the minds of others. I can honestly say that, after the past few months, it's not much.

The idea of "debate" in the USA meaning two sides coming together to rationally discuss a point on its merits, is dead. What passes for debate these days was known in the famous Monty Python sketch as "verbal abuse." A typical "debate" usually goes about one round before one side resorts to name-calling, profanity, vulgarity, or the trifecta of all three. Lincoln and Douglas were recently seen rolling in their respective graves.

I'm sorry to report that rational thought has been replaced by hatred. Honest opinion has been co-opted by partisan politics. Lively conversation...the Spaniards call it "la tertulia" where folks get together to talk about what's hot in the public eye...has been replaced by vitriol and ridiculous rhetoric.

I still need to get my news, but I'm seriously grateful for sports talk radio and ESPN these days.

Update: In order to properly illustrate my point from last year, I offer the loudmouthed-shout-down-conspiracy-nut Rosie O'Myword.