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The void

Chris Young of the Yankees after walk-off home run vs. the Rays.

Chris Young of the Yankees after walk-off home run vs. the Rays.

Uncle Rafe’s first sports analysis 2014–15, or, what to do during the “void”.

The “Void” is that time between the end of the World Series and the beginning of spring training. For me, a shut-in, the question arises as to what I shall do during that period.

The options, of course, are many. Most would likely suggest watching hockey and there will be support for basketball. Football of course runs right through this, if you like the NFL and most people do.

Golf is still there although not in great abundance until the spring and there is always soccer somewhere and from time to time some rugby. And, of course, basketball.

First, before I outline my options, let me tell you about my undying love
for baseball.

This goes back a very long way in my life to 1941 when Dodgers catcher Mickey Owen dropped a third strike and allowed the Yankees to win a key World Series game. I was merely a child but I was hooked. During my childhood and youth I was a dedicated unto hysterical Brooklyn Dodgers fan. I was able to transfer that allegiance to Los Angeles for a while but it is a minimal emotion now. I no longer have a team and in many ways that’s better.

It was not until more recent times that I analyzed my love for baseball. Let me give you a few reasons then we can move on to my options.

I remember being in Philadelphia all alone in 1984 and wondering what to do on a sunny afternoon. I took the train to the ballpark for the game between the Phillies and the Dodgers. I remember sitting in the third-base bleachers with a beer and a hotdog and thinking “it just doesn’t get any better than this.” The  Dodgers won which meant the crowd was not happy but it was a resigned, cheerful crowd. There was no ugliness – no one was ready to take a swing at anybody. There would be another ball game tomorrow.

I contrast that with a BC Lions game I took my then young grandson to when he was about eight. The Lions lost and as we walked out the concourse, we were blocked by a bunch of young, drunk hooligans who wouldn’t let us by. They were angry that the Lions have lost and they terrified my grandson. That was the last football game I ever attended.

Many people do not understand baseball. It is not a game of action so much as one of anticipation. In order to understand the game, read “Casey At The Bat.” If you read it, and think about it later, you will realize that the poem is without action until the very last line which reads “but there is no joy in Mudville, mighty Casey has struck out”. The rest of the poem is the buildup. It’s rather like sex – the orgasm without the preliminaries would really not be all that exciting in the longer run. With baseball it’s the preliminaries the keep one glued to the edge of his/her seat. If one can understand that, one understands the game.

As a baseball fan, I now watch a game every evening. Unfortunately, due to TSN, we are confined to American League teams, mostly the Blue Jays, all games beset by rotten, mouthy announcers. Having said that, it is a pleasure to watch and it occupies most evenings for Wendy and me.

Last night was a perfect example. Tampa Bay had a no-hitter going until the eighth leading 4-0. The Yankees got two runs in the bottom of the eighth and then in the bottom of the ninth with two aboard, the next batter hit a home run and the Yankees won 5 to 4. I certainly have no love for the Yankees but the game was one that every fan hopes to see.

I grew up a devoted Hab fan. I hated the Maple Leafs with a similar passion. It was so bad that if a Leaf wound up playing for Montreal, I doubted his loyalty and never trusted him. This carried through until the Canucks and, of course, I shifted my allegiance.

Where did I go wrong?

It was the violence. The violence I love to watch as a kid, subtly and slowly started to piss me off. I simply could not understand why fighting was allowed in a sport.

Then when the issue of concussions came along, I was struck by the hypocrisy involved. Here we were, as fans, plucking our tongues about concussion to our young hockey players while licensing “extreme fighting” where concussion is the object of the game.

That along with the fact that there were so many teams, and so many of them made the playoffs, and so many players that I simply lost interest trying to follow everything.

Canadian football has, to me, become ludicrous. When it is quite possible, as of this writing, that a team from the Western Conference can represent the east in the Grey Cup obviously you got a Mickey Mouse league involved.

As to the NFL, it is just too big and too money ridden to hold much interest for me. The game is violence it’s self which I have come to dislike as I get older. I have no particular allegiance for anyone so the game has very little interest for me.

I am trying my damnedest to understand soccer. I played as a kid and enjoyed it very much. It is probably the least complicated of all games. Unfortunately, it loses its excitement because there is so little scoring. It always seems to me that every time I go to open a beer the only goal of the game is scored.

During the World Cup I particularly tried to understand and enjoy the game but just could not do so. As to the North American soccer league, it is the same as the English league – I cannot understand who is playing whom and for what. There seem to be four or five different “cups” in play at the same time and I get lost.

I can’t be fair to basketball because I never played the game. I just have trouble with a game that requires somebody to be over 6’5″ to have a chance to be a player. Obviously there are first class athletes involved and the game is a tough one. I’m simply unable to get any interest.

Let me return for a moment to baseball. Wendy and I had one strange reason for watching a baseball in the afternoon slot – watching the news was so depressing that we were in foul moods after if it ended. We would watch the BBC then, the CBC and wind up in a blue funk.

I had started to sneak baseball games in the middle of the newscasts and this became a very pleasant habit. I got my news by my computer and spend the evenings watching a ballgame.

Not all games are exciting, of course, to watch – you never know. Earlier in the year Wendy and I had to go out to a party at 7 PM and therefore leave a ballgame mid game.

When I turned it on the score was 4-1 for Cincinnati over Toronto. By the time I left in the seventh inning the score was 7 to 1 for Cincinnati. The next morning I checked the line score, The game had ended 14–9 Toronto!

One of the handicaps of watching baseball is that TSN makes us watch the Toronto Blue Jays so often. I have grown up despising teams from Toronto but find that it’s as much fun to pull against the Blue Jays as it is for anyone else.

In any event I am now down to the crunch. What do I do for the “Void”.

I fear that the answer is Netflix. I have long been a fan of the English comedy and this will replace baseball for the time.

In many ways this saddens me. I have always loved sports. Somehow we have parted never, I suspect, to reconcile. I have tried to adjust to the new hockey – I have tried to get excited about what team the Canucks will put on the ice this year. I simply find that I no longer give a damn.

Uncle Rafe’s advice, then, is to be patient. Spring training is just around the corner. Read all you can get of George F. Will. Though so right wing he would make Stephen Harper blush, he is the most knowledgeable of modern baseball writers and very amusing. Read some baseball classics … Be patient and all will be well for another eight months or so.

The greatest team sport in the world where skill counts and the clock doesn’t is worth the wait.

One Response to “The void”

  1. admin says:

    Lots of food for thought here. This is what I came up with:

    NFL: I came to the realization 10-15 years ago that, whatever the NFL’s target market is, I’m not part of it. The last straw was when they started running commercials between kickoffs and the subsequent first down. Ask yourself this: why would “why can’t we watch the Super Bowl with those original high-priced commercials in Canada” be an annual topic on the Bill Good show?

    NBA: Like the NFL, a made-for-TV product. Remember all the hype in the Vancovuer Sun prior to the the Grizzlies’ first game, about Big Country Reeves and how the Grizzlies had to sell X number of season tickets or the NBA would move its show elsewhere? And how it turned out that they were papering the gate?

    NHL: I love the sport of ice hockey, and the NHL under Bettman is the sport’s worst enemy. It gives us the never-ending discussion of whether the NHL will “allow” its players to play in the Olympics. Why is it so important the the NHL to have a team in Phoenix, when Hamilton doesn’t have a team yet? Now Bettman is talking about expansion, when there aren’t enough talented players available to fill the teams that they already have. Oh, and the season is much too long.

    CFL: I went to a couple of Lions games a year before I left town, but did so with the idea that I was helping to keep a corpse alive. The CFL jumped the shark when they increased the regular season to 18 games; that’s 18 games to eliminate two teams. The CFL should cut the regular season back to 16 games, and the playoffs back to one round; the Grey Cup itself. And eliminate exhibition games entirely. That way, they wouldn’t have to start the regular season until the NFL had made most of their cuts, and CFL teams wouldn’t have revolving-door rosters. And these changes I’m suggesting wouldn’t cost the CFL much money. The TV package would be worth more because regular-season games mean something, and they would be able to sell a lot more season tickets.

    Now for the alternatives:

    NCAA football: far more interesting than the NFL, and get this: NCAA teams can’t pack up and move to another town. I went to university at what is sometimes referred to as a “football factory”; it’s part of my culture, and I’m aware that most Canadians don’t “get” US college athletics. Not being able to participate in the “tailgate party” ritual (unless you make an occasional trip to Seattle to see the Huskies) is a handicap. Here’s a clue: The Oregon Ducks have an excellent team, and their quarterback, Marcus Mariota, is one of the best in the game. He passed up the chance to turn pro and make the big bucks so that he could play another season at Oregon.

    NCAA basketball: the men’s Division I tournament, commonly known as March Madness, rivals the soccer World Cup for popularity. The two events have something important in common: the finals are often anti-climatic, and the interesting part is getting to The Show. Every year, there will be teams like College of Charleston, Valparaiso, and Bradley that make the field. They get to play at least one game on the national stage, and the millions of people who participate in the pools have to learn something about these schools.

    Pro baseball: There’s plenty of baseball being played after the World Series is over. Mexico’s Pacific League and Cuba, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic’s professional leagues play in the Fall and Winter. These games are already televised; we just need a “baseball channel” to create the same sort of global market that soccer has. Sounds far-fetched? Well, pro tennis has gone global, and there are a lot more baseball fans than tennis fans.

    British comedies: “Black Adder” is great.

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