Friday, February 18, 2011

What a Game!

If there has been one constant in my argument about why I don’t care that the football team I root for is from out of state, it’s that football is not my favorite sport; baseball is.  (Other arguments for me not caring include: Football is only played on weekends, and if I had to, I could go over to Green Bay for every home game, excluding those games in the Gold Package, ‘cause we can’t get tickets to those, stupid Milwaukeeans. And that I have maintained a vehement dislike for the rest of the state, not Green Bay.)  For those of you, then, who argue that I cannot be a Packers fan and a Twins fan, the biggest flaw in that argument is that I was a Twins fan even before I was a Packers fan.  Question that loyalty if you must, but the Twins were my first team.
But baseball just makes more sense to me as a game than most other sports.  Of all the major sports in this country, it’s the only one in which A) both teams are not entirely on the field at the same time, and B) game play isn’t primarily back and forth across one playing surface.  It’s also the only sport in which there is no game clock, because the game isn’t over until the last out has been recorded.  I have rarely ever been convinced to leave a baseball game early, which is to say, I’m not sure I have left a ball game early since before I even understood what was going on in the game.
What strikes me as the difference between baseball and a sport like football is how for me the latter makes you feel as if you can practically will your team to victory by screaming harder at them.  The guys who are bigger and stronger will usually win, because in large part it’s a game of brute force.  And the fans become part of that force.  But just as baseball is a thinking man’s game, I find that the teams with the smarter crowds are often those who win.  And no doubt, Minnesota fans are very smart.  (Not like those stupid Johnny-come-lately’s in Anaheim.)  Baseball fans want to be able to out-think their opponents fans, because there’s so much that’s a part of the game which wouldn’t seem inherent to just watching the given men in that position on that surface.  “So that guy standing over there wants to run in a circle before the other team can do what?  Tag him with the white thing?  And why does that guy in the middle keep throwing?”
And so if they can out-think their opponents fans, so can their team.  This feeds directly in to why it’s such a superstitious sport.  In 162 games, a lot can happen.  And there are so many individual acts that can go so differently with such minute differences.  Didn’t one of the Rangers relief pitchers throw eleven balls in a row at one point during the World Series?  And the same can be said for a batter in a slump.  It’s almost never a matter of just willing yourself to win.  More than just about any other sport, it’s about concentration.
My biggest pet peeve in athletics as a whole, is a lack of concentration, both in others and in myself.  When I’m playing disc and I make a poor decision on a throw, I dislike that way more than if I simply cannot jump high enough or run fast enough to keep up with the player I’m defending.  Since baseball, then, takes more concentration than any other sport, that’s why I see it as the hardest to win at.  You have to better your opponent in so many different things, over such a long stretch of time, without losing your edge.  A division championship is hard enough to get.  Playoffs are even more ridiculous.  But the Twins just signed Jim Thome to another contract, about 1 mil per year.  This guy is an old-fashioned ball player, and someone you want on your team.  He’s only paid to do one thing: hit the ball and hit it far.  But if he can do that as well as anyone, we’ve gained a big advantage.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Here We Are

In the aftermath of the Super Bowl, I have found myself gleaning from the leftovers: Minestrone Soup, my Aunt’s Guacamole, Banana Cake.  Bliss.
I had some conversations, though, which will stick out, simply because of what they say about how Americans view sports.  The first one came mostly from one of my friends, who seemed to be trying to convince me that I shouldn’t be a Packer fan. For as long as I’ve known him, I have never professed to be anything other than a Packer-backer.  But being from the same state as me, it can be tough to watch your friend’s team have much more success than your team.  Believe me, I went through it last year.  I will definitely go through it again, if the Vikings ever make a Super Bowl.
And I do feel bad for you guys.  The Twins have not won since ’91, which makes the Dome champion-less since that year, unless you count the Final Four in ’01.
The other conversation, however, I might have to agree with to some extent.  This friend, who is a large Association Football fan, was pointing out that playoffs are a bad format, because it doesn’t reveal who the best team over the course of an entire season is.  In the Premier League, he points out, every team plays every other team twice, and at the end the team in first is definitely better than all the other teams.  There is a certain amount of logic to that.  But in football that’s unrealistic.  They can’t play every other team twice, because that’s too many games.  The way I see it is this:  The teams that do the best in the first season get to play in the second season, then the team that does best in the second season wins.  The Packers were beyond a doubt the best team in the second season.  They went Four and Oh, while not playing any games at home.
Admittedly, there are a lot of ways they could have not even been to the second season, but all of these are based on rules that the football establishment have agreed upon, and most view it as a fair system.  I can only say that I will probably enjoy the next playoffs and Super Bowl that the Pack is not a part of a lot more while they’re happening.  Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.
But I have to make some admissions for my history of getting really involved in championships where I don’t have a clear stake.  The 1996 World Series: Sorry, Braves, that I rooted against you.  What made me think it was a good idea to root for a team from a big market that had already won the most championships in Sports and was primed to establish a new dynasty and you really weren’t?  I should have pulled for you guys as really the only team in the South as a conservative, battling against the liberal capital of the world.  Same to you, 2001 St. Louis Rams…  Were you really that dominant that you had to lose to the Patriots for everyone to feel good?  It’s not like I didn’t root for the Broncos in ’98, the year after they beat my Packers. (I have no comment on the rumor that I jumped ship to the Vikings that season.)