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August 2001 Archives

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August 29

Today we started for Worldcon, the Millenium Philcon in Philadelphia. On the trip up we played my portable CD player on the cassette player in the car. We found the Philadelphia Marriott easily enough, but discovering the entrance proved more difficult. We could only turn around several blocks away. Getting our luggage out of our car required the help of both a bell hop and a valet driver. When we got to our room, they had given us a single king sized bed rather than the two double beds we requested. Our bell hop quickly sprang into action, calling the front desk. He immediately got us another room down the hall, which he had a master key for. He came back later with our new keys.

Our room on the 16th floor is not as high as the 20th floor view we had for Balticon. However, Miranda seems happy with it anyway.

I’m getting used to the concept of actually having cable TV for a few days.

August 28

Jerome Weast, the public school superintendent in Montgomery County, Maryland, has banned Native American nicknames. The only schools in questions are the Poolesville High School Indians, Montgomery Village Middle School Warriors and the Sherwood High School Warriors. Sherwood doesn’t pose much of a problem since their representation is a Robin Hood-type figure. Montgomery Village has dropped their nickname, but I think they could keep it without any Native American references, such as a Bill Maudlin-type GI to honor their World War II-era grandfathers and great-grandfathers. Poolesville poses more of an issue and the community is resistant to the change. The town water tower has an Indian on it. I suggest they go with Patriots. It’s alliterative and relatively non-controversial.

August 27

Since I did the National League on Saturday, here's the American League. Here are five candidates again with stats based on the March archive.

Team Player        AB  H   BB  TB Tm RPG  RC/25.5     OWP   OW
Oak  Ja Giambi    436 143 102 277   4.81    10.98    .846  9.7	
Cle  Thome        424 125  87 277   4.39     9.80    .772  9.1	
Bos  Ramirez      452 140  74 286   4.50     9.51    .803  9.8	
Tex  A Rodriguez  509 163  66 312   5.67     9.16    .718  9.7	
Cle  J Gonzalez   436 150  37 270   4.39     9.52    .761  8.5

If you were thinking purely statistically, you'd have to give the edge to A-Rod for playing so much at a defensively crucial position. However, since he earned so much money with his new contract this year and the Rangers were never in the race, his chances of winning the MVP are slim. So I'd say it goes to either Giambi or Ramirez, depending on whose team wins the wild card. One could make a case for Clemens, but since his run-support is the second best in the league, I credit that 17-1 record to helpful teammates.

August 26

Visited Gallery E at Camden Yards before the game started. It’s a gallery of over-priced sports-related art.

Among the sculptures are plaster casts of Oriole hands - Charles Johnson giving a sign, Scott Erickson gripping what I imagine is a sinker ball, and Ernie Tyler rubbing up a baseball. One of the hands is Albert Belle gripping a bat. I’m surprised the hand doesn’t extend its middle finger.

The paintings and prints depict great moments in sports history - game-winning home runs and touchdowns. But I found one print of the light plane that crashed into the upper deck of Memorial Stadium in 1976 just after a Colts game. This is like recording for posterity the fan in Los Angeles that mooned John Rocker in 2000 or the pigeon Randy Johnson killed with a pitched ball.

There was one fantasy shot of Peter Boulware chasing down Lenny Moore. This reminds of an anecdote Lou Brock tells of hearing a mysterious voice just before he stole the base that broke Ty Cobb’s career record. I have always thought that voice was Cobb himself probably muttering a racist epithet.

As far as the game, the Orioles got their first hit as gift off the bat of Tony Batista. The shot slid under Felipe Lopez’s glove for what should have been error. Melvin Mora hit a solo shot in the sixth inning to end the Orioles’ 23 inning scoreless streak. Although this team is had, this was the longest runless stretch since a 25 inning streak in 1997 by the team that led the American League East wire-to-wire.

August 25

Who deserves the MVP in the National League? Here are five candidates with stats based on the March archive.

Team Player        AB  H   BB  TB Tm RPG  RC/25.5     OWP   OW
SF   Bonds        384 119 132 315   4.81    14.74    .904  9.4	
ChC  Sosa         458 148  93 341   4.39    12.27    .886 10.8	
Arz  L Gonzalez   485 107  73 349   4.50     7.59    .740 11.0	
Col  Helton       463 156  79 319   5.67    11.49    .804  9.7	
Col  L Walker     408 142  62 276   5.67    11.48    .804  8.4	

If you asked me, I'd give it to Bonds, but you wouldn't be far off by giving it to Sosa. The drawback of this method, is that the player who creates the most outs creates the most games and therefore can spread his offensive winning percentage across a greater value, thus generating more offensive wins. Sosa has 35 more plate appearances than Bonds.

August 24

This week's cover story of Sports Illustrated features the overrated and underrated in sports. Here are a few of mine.

Overrated left-handed pitcher-Sandy Koufax. He pitched in a terrible era for hitters in one of the best pitchers' parks ever. Other pitchers in his era were similarly dominating such as Denny McLain, Bob Gibson and Juan Marichal.
Underrated left-handed pitcher-Lefty Grove. Only statheads have ever heard of him, but some have argued he was the greatest pitcher in history.

Overrated cather-Ivan Rodriguez. His defense doesn't make him the greatest catcher in history.
Underrated catcher-Mike Piazza. Everyone discounts his defense, but his bat makes up for it.

Overrated first baseman-Mark McGwire. Sports Illustrated mentions him as such, but I think his 1998 performance was underrated next to Sammy Sosa. McGwire should have won the MVP that year. However, as I mentioned back in April, McGwire was not a great player over the entire course of his career like Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, or Eddie Murray.
Underrated first baseman-Eddie Murray. See the April discussion.

Overrated shortstop-Rey Ordonez. His defense is not good enough to make up for his non-existent bat and his defense isn't even that good.
Underrated shortstop-Ozzie Smith. He had a pretty good bat that didn't turn up in batting average or home runs, but rather in doubles, walks, and stolen bases.

Overrated left fielder-Joe Jackson. Although he had a great lifetime batting average, his career was cut short by his own corruption. If had stayed clean, he would played longer and his naturally deteorating skills would have lowered that average.
Underrated left fielder-Stan Musial. Sports Illustrated mentions him as well. He spent his entire career in the Midwest, out of the glare of the media spotlight. One could argue he was better than Ted Williams and Joe Dimaggio as well.

Overrated center fielder-Joe Dimaggio. He wasn't even the best player of his era, how could he possibly be the best living ballplayer? I'm convinced his aura has something to do with marrying Marilyn Monroe.
Underrated center fielder-Tris Speaker. Only statheads have heard of him. In the shadow of Ty Cobb during his career, Speaker was much better than Joe Jackson.

Overrated right fielder-Roberto Clemente. His performance has been magnified by the tragic dimensions of his death. He ended his career with 1416 runs scored and 1305 RBIs. Compared that to the guy below.
Underrated right fielder-Frank Robinson. He ended his career short of 3000 hits but scored 1829 runs and drove in 1812.

Overrated soccer-the FIFA country rankings. I'm not convinced the United States is really #16.
Underrated soccer-The whole promotion and relegation system, along with the cup tournament. With promotion and relegation, there is no need for franchise relocation or trying to make the city "major league". All a city really needs is an owner willing to spend the money to attract the players. Overnight, a team becomes major league on sheer merit. In addition, promotion and relegation playoffs carry some of the highest emotions in sports. The United States already has a system similar to the cup in the NCAA basketball tournament. We should just expand it to other sports.

August 23

How about this cross-over idea: Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn from The West Wing, as portrayed by Rob Lowe, graduated from Georgetown University, Class of 1984. His past includes a failed marriage and a child-born out of wedlock, just like the character Billy Rob Lowe played in St. Elmo's Fire. Among Sam's friends at Georgetown was Kirby Bartlet, the son of the President. Of course, a character named Kirby was portrayed by Emilio Estevez in St. Elmo's Fire and Estevez is the son of Martin Sheen, who plays President Jed Bartlet on The West Wing.

August 22

Writer-director Les Bernstien describes his film Night Train as a cross between Heart of Darkness and The Wizard of Oz. Funny, I always thought they were same picture. Think about it. In both stories, someone must make a physical journey that is a metaphor for an internal journey to find someone from the traveler's home world who has set himself as a demi-god among less sophisticated natives. The only difference is that the wizard is nothing more than a red herring. He's not really important or vital to the plot, but just an excuse to move it forward. Mike Walsh has written a satire called Man in the Basement that he describes as "a Kafka-esque, Wizard of Oz, Marx Brothers, Heart of Darkness, Dante's Inferno-type satire of corporate accounting practices." James Shokoff, at the State University College of New York at Fredonia, teaches a course entitled Romanticism in World Literature that studies the 1939 film version of The Wizard of Oz as well as the printed version of Heart of Darkness. I always thought of Fredonia as that fictional Ruritanian home to the Marx Brothers in Duck Soup. There is also FASA, the gaming company whose initials originally stood for the Fredonian Aeronautics and Space Administration. Anyway, I'm just surprised no one has a written a scholarly book on the Heart of Darkness-The Wizard of Oz connection.

August 21

Does the sports media denigrate 2nd place even more than those who never made it to the play-offs? Do the Buffalo Bills become the target of scorn while the much more pathetic Arizona Cardinals just ignored? As a fan of the Washington Native Americans who did manage to win a Super Bowl a few times, I would have rather had the single championship rather then Bills fan's four concurrent Super Bowl losses. But I would much rather have been a Bills fan than a Cardinals fan.

Blame for this phenomenon has been placed at the feet of trash-talking members of the Celtics and Lakers during the 1980s. As a previous winner of a championship, I did not make fun of second place. They just scored less points and didn't play as well that day. Okay, they really stunk up the first half and were shut out, a difficult quizbowl feat. But Davidson scored as many points as us the second half because they finally woke up and we eased up. Second ain't bad.

August 20

Joss Whedon said that Buffy's death will not call forth another slayer. The current lineage passes through Faith. Too bad. I would have like to have seen a new red-haired slayer. All three of them would come walking down the street and Spike would say,"If it isn't Blossom, Buttercup, and Bubbles."

August 19

Cut the grass this morning. It was probably a little wetter than it should have been.

It's been about 10 years since the coup of hard-line Communists that tried overthrow Mikhail Gorbachev. While the coup took place, Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold was being serialized in Analog. Barrayar involves a coup in a monarchy, but many of the names sound Russian. I wonder if the Hugo Award-winning success of the novel was aided by the coup.

August 18

Today I got a lawnmower and edger so that I can finally cut our grass which has gotten altogether too long. I also re-arranged the study.

August 17

Went to the Knossos meeting tonight at the home of Mimi Stevens, Elaine Peterman, and Phyllis Gonigam. The book was An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears. It is a historical mystery set in Restoration England with four different and inconsistent narrators. Of course, we didn't read the book, but the people who did all liked it.

World-famous media fan Martin Morse Wooster continued to pontificate and ramble. I characterized him as meandering as the Mississippi until I stopped myself and realized that the Mississippi reaches a conclusion.

August 16

The Boston Red Sox fired Jimy Williams today. Rarely have coaches/managers in such hot pursuit of playoff position been let go. Pitching coach Joe Kerrigan takes over as skipper, although pitching coaches of late haven't been as successful in the manager role. Around here in Baltimore, Ray Miller and Phil Regan were notable disappointments, but Larry Dierker has done pretty well in Houston.

Before he got fired, Jonathan Cohn characterized Jimy Williams as some sort of savant. Williams focuses the wrath of fans, players, and the general manager on himself, rather than on the obvious inadequacies of the team. He could have easily directed criticism at the players who actually lose the games on the field or GM Dan Duquette who acquired those players. I think Williams performed with mirrors this year. That Boston is doing as well as it is despite injuries to Nomar Garciaparra and Pedro Martinez is testament to Williams' managing. Wouldn't it be something if Williams grabbed Manager of the Year despite getting fired in midseason? It probably won't happen. I see Lou Pinella of the Mariners as the front-runner with Tom Kelly of the Twins and Art Howe of the Athletics as contenders.

August 15

Ain't It Cool News has some new spoilers about the next season of Buffy. What do we care? We haven't gotten our cable yet and reception out here is terrible.

August 14

ESPN reports that Stephanie Ready, an assistant coach for the mens basketball program at Coppin State in Baltimore, will be an assistant coach for the Greenville Grooves of the National Basketball Development League, the NBA's minor league. I said back in April, that the NBA would have woman head coach within ten years. It may be sooner than I thought.

August 13

The International Chess Federation is adding drug testing in an effort to be added as an Olympic sport. In last month’s blog, I would venture chess is not a sport because no physical skill is required. Computers play chess. Computers have no bodies. Chess is not a sport.

As a corollary, I would submit that Quizbowl is a sport because effective buzzing requires physical skill. A computer cannot be programmed to anticipate yet. On the other hand, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire is not a sport because a computer could play it.

August 12

I was supposed to see the Orioles-Red Sox game with world-famous media fan Martin Morse Wooster. However, the bus never showed up and we decided not to try to catch the light rail from Glen Burnie. Instead, we hung out at our new house and listened to Martin pontificate about things not written.

He showed a list of the greatest movies about sports fans. These include The Fan, The Natural, Field of Dreams and Eight Men Out.

Martin eagerly anticipates the addition of the cat-suited figure of Jeri Ryan to the cast of Boston Public this fall. He considers himself an afficionado of school-related television series.

He mentioned a comedic NPR radio rendering of The Wizard of Oz. Michelle Trachtenberg played Dorothy and Rene Auberjonois played the Scarecrow.

Martin commented on William Shatner’s standard turn as the corrupt mayor of Bill Murray’s body in Osmosis Jones. Mr. Wooster thinks Shatner does better as the beauty pageant host in Miss Congeniality.

August 11

Canceled today’s taping of Silver Screen Test. Spent most of the day just trying to get my energy back. It looks like Larry Sheingorn may be able to combe back for my October taping and I can go back to my buzzer format.

August 10

I got a migraine today. I don’t know how I got through work. Combined with the stomach upset, I don’t think I’ll be able to make tomorrow’s taping of Silver Screen Test.

August 9

Today is the anniversary of the resignation of Richard Nixon and the bombing of Nagasaki. I always thought that Bill Clinton was tempting fate by appointing a foreign-born Secretary of State. Madeline Albright was born in Prague and Henry Kissinger was born in Fürth, Germany. Nixon resigned and Clinton was impeached.

August 8

Most people consider other female singer-songwriters such as Kate Bush to be the antecedent and influence on Tori Amos. However, I think Bruce Springsteen is a significant influence, at least on her first album, Little Earthquakes. “Me and a Gun” has almost the same tune as “Downtown Train.” “Crucify” contains the line “savior from these dirty streets,” similar to “savior to rise from these streets” in “Thunder Road.”

August 7

So Congress banned cloning. I’m not sure what this is supposed to mean. I find cloning to be largely a technological stunt with little practical use. You might want to create a Bill Gates clone, but you can’t duplicate the business voraciousness without the proper environmental stimuli. You might more successfully create athletic clones, but athletic success frequently derives from drive, as much as talent. Not that successful athletes don’t have talent, just more drive than equally talented athletes. This leaves models, but who would be easier to deal with: a model born to the job, or one desperate for the job?

Some people fear armies of clones in such positions as the military, prostitution or slavery. At least in the United States, laws readily would readily grant human rights to clones, regardless of naturalness of origin. The most disturbing use of clones would be as organ farms for rich individuals. Again, human rights would demand their freedom.

I’ve heard future organ harvesting may come from growing an organ in a pig. Would the law ban partial cloning of a human organ to grow it in a pig? Although cloning an entire human would be illegal, the person themselves would have full human rights. What process on the way to full cloning would be illegal. What if these processes had other useful purposes?

The state probably has an interest in preventing cloning, in the same way the state has an interest in preventing incestuous marriages. The state has an interest in diversifying the gene pool, and cloning damages the gene more severely than incestuous reproduction

August 6

The selection body for the Baseball Hall of Fame has been expanded. Current members of the Hall of Fame and winners of the Ford Frick Award and the Spink Award will be eligible to vote for the 2003 inductions to replace the current Veterans Committee. It's good to add broadcasters and players to the selection process, as well as expanding the Veterans Committee to 90 members from 15. They missed adding broadcasters of less than Ford Frick Award status and other persons who know a lot about baseball. The larger Veterans Committee body will less likely make freak selections. A committee of 60 writers will draw up a list of 25 players and 15 non-players for the Veterans Committee ballot. A separate committee of 6 Hall of Fame players will add 5 additional players to the Veterans Committee ballot as well. I don't know if it was Bill James in The Politics of Glory, AKA Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame? who was responsible for this, but the Hall of Fame finally did something right.

August 5

Yellow and black butterflies like to frequent our house. No flowers currently grow on our property so I'm not exactly sure what attracts them. This evening, we saw two frogs around the front of the house as I opened the garage door.

August 4

Progress on getting the house in order was rudely interrupted when I either broke or sprained my toe. We ended up going to dinner tonight at Macaroni Grill where one of the hostesses looked like Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

August 3

Well, we finally moved. I don't have much to say. I'm still in that state of shock, aware of the enormity of the task of putting the house together.

August 2

If you go a WNBA game at the MCI Center and buy a slice of pepperoni, is it called Mystic Pizza?

Now you hear people complaining about Mike Hargrove benching Cal Ripken in his last season. These folks feel entitled to see Ripken one last time and deserve a refund if he doesn't play. WAKE UP! Where have you been the last 20 years? He didn't miss a game for 13 years, and Ripken didn't miss an inning for five years. You had all this opportunity to see him and now you complain. You probably specialized in creative excuses for not having your homework in school.

August 1

Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman Korey Stringer died this morning from heat stroke after yesterday's training camp workouts. Maybe we'll find he succumbed to a combination of creatine and dehydration like the recorded case of the high school wrestler trying to make weight. Maybe we'll find sports' macho culture of "no pain, no gain" kept him out on the practice field, despite vomiting three times. Maybe we'll find it was just an unfortunate, unavoidable combination of circumstances. But this sport is not supposed to kill you at 27.

This is my sister's birthday. I won't embarass her by telling her age.

The Undertow... another pointless surfing metaphor ...

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Last revised August 29, 2001
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