Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Why We Watch


The blown call during last night's game got a lot of deserved attention. Something that seems so obviously to fix yet baseball drags its collective feet. On Twitter, I took a bunch of heat for coming out (going out of my way?) to say blown calls don't really bother me. When Encarnacion was called out at the plate, I was disappointed that the rally fizzled and we all missed a chance to see Papelbon suffer.

When the gifs and images showing EE in fact did "tag" the plate with his right leg1, my reaction didn't really change. I simply cannot muster too much ire for blown calls and human error.

I freely admit I don't watch baseball the same way now as I did years ago. It doesn't have as much to do with my job as it does the way baseball re-introduced itself to my life.

Life in its very early twenties took me away from baseball in terms of following closely and obsessively. Work life brought me back. The day-to-day, the constant presence from April to September. Then I found the blogosphere and it was over. An opportunity to learn and think and debate and laugh and do all kinds of things adult working life goes out of its way to discourage. And here we are today.

The destination matters but so does the journey. The outcome of any given game of the 162 games a year I watch (give or take many) means a little less. It's all about the moments, the things I remember and take away that separate a random game against the Red Sox in July from the other 60 games against the Red Sox in the last five years.

Do you think you'll remember the score of Roy Halladay's return to Toronto? Do you think you'll remember — without straining — who started for the Jays or the inconsistent strike zone in five years?

I'm pretty damn sure you'll remember Jose Bautista hitting that home run.

It's a moment like that which makes two decades of 80-win seasons easy to take. Christ, being a sports fan isn't hard, nor is it tortuous. It's amazing. That Jays fans have this incredible pool of talented and funny people to bounce ideas off and debate with is something I wouldn't trade for anything.

Again: forgive me for not griping about the blown call or Fenway's bandbox dimensions or rush hour traffic or the weather. Some of these things will be taken care of in time, until then I leave my panties unbunched.

If that makes me dispassionate or affected, so be it. I certainly don't feel dispassionate when things within control of the Jays like personnel decisions, lineup construction and mancrush acquisitions drive me up the wall or keep me awake at night. The (error-based) outcome of one game of one hundred and sixty-two in a rebuilding season? It won't have the same impact. Sorry.

1 - EE touching home plate with his right leg seems a wholly coincidental action to me, caused by spinning off Tek's blocking leg. The ump clearly anticipated the play and focused more on EE's left leg, where the tag eventually came. Not saying it's right, just trying to understand how or why this ump blew this call.

15 comments:

  1. Thanks Drew. I must admit, I've watched that replay many times since it happened and have not sought out the replay of the call at the plate.

    Was listening in my car on Sirius who were playing the Sox radio feed. Was high comedy when Bautista hit the 9th inning dinger....

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm with you on this one, Drew. Had Patterson not took off for third in the sixth and got gunnned down, maybe we wouldn't even be having this discussion.

    If the Blue Jays end up losing the Wild Card by a game over the Red Sox, maybe we'll look back and say "this could have gotten them into the playoffs", but otherwise it's a moot point. On to the next one ...

    ReplyDelete
  3. Must agree. I hate to bring up a hockey analogy, but remember Brett Hull's controversial goal with the Dallas Stars in the final game of the 1999 Stanley Cup final vs. Buffalo? The goal won Dallas the Cup, but should not have counted because Hull's skate was in the crease . . . which at the time was against the rules. In my opinion, at the time, this turned out as it should have - can you imagine how anticlimactic it would have been at that moment to wait for the instant replay results to come in? You blow the high emotion of the instant, which is what spectator sport is all about.

    One never likes to see the Jays lose on a blown call, but I prefer the emotion of the moment . . . right or wrong.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Greg W @coolhead2010July 6, 2011 at 12:16 PM

    I'm with you Drew, mostly because I think people on twitter, who have no other outlet, need to simmer the fuck down. I follow one guy, who shall remain nameless, who thinks that everything that happens in triple A or the majors is either the Jays ticket to the playoffs, or a sign of the apocolypse. I follow that one person to remind me that I don't need to fret about a concussion, or a hamstring, or, god forbid, a missed call.

    If they wanted to be happy, they would buy MLB the Show and turn off umpire tendencies. But they want to be right, not happy, so they whine about mistakes made and opportunities missed.

    You're much closer to happy than the 'haters' will ever be. Stuff happens. Randomly. You can only control what you do after stuff happens, and unlike other sports, baseball lets you do it without waiting 3 or 4 days.

    And 28 homers before the break!!! Boom! goes the dynamite!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I don't think this makes you "dispassionate or affected," it makes you Wise.

    The blown call may be just as important as Bautista's home run, if it brought the fans together. To me, that's what baseball is: camaraderie, fellowship with strangers, finding a common ground.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Fenway giveth & Fenway taketh away. I recall during our first series in Boston Bautista hit an absolute rocket (even for him) high off the Green Monster. A home run in any other park, a long single in Fenway. Adam Lind still deserves a Fenway special, though.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Considering this post was seemingly written as a rebuttal to me, allow me to respond.

    What I take issue with is when people pretend they're above caring about the results of a single game or a single call in an effort to mask their own disappointment or frustration. Especially when they do it unnecessarily with a certain air of superiority, almost in an attempt to bait others.

    That likely wasn't your intention, of course, but that's how your comments came off to me and a few others.

    Yes, the outcome of every game this season is ultimately meaningless. The Jays aren't a playoff team, nor are they even a particularly good one as they have been in years past. Nobody needs you to point this out, it's not a mystery to anybody. But somehow, that hasn't stopped you, or me, or any other die-hard Jays fan from watching a majority of their games and hoping for victories each day. Yes, maybe that isn't the main reason we watch in a season like this (or even a particularly important one), but winning the game at hand is always in the back of everyone's mind. That's simply called being a fan. And being a fan is not always an entirely rational activity (after all, we've been tuning in for nearly two decades of "meaningless" games now).

    Yes, if we looked at it your way, I suppose it doesn't make sense to care about the outcomes of such baseball games, but then again, neither does it make much sense to care about the lineup construction of said games (like, say, complaining about Farrell's inane plan to move Yunel to 5th in the order as you did yesterday). Lineup construction, as you know, has a very insignificant impact on an entire season of baseball games, let alone a single game, so using your logic, so why bother even mentioning it at all? Why even bother to critique inconsistent managing decisions like the way John Farrell inexplicably intentionally walked Chase Utley earlier in a game and then didn't when the situation may have called for it with a lefty on the mound?

    Fact is (whether you want to admit or not), these games and their outcomes do matter to us. Perhaps not as much as they would if the Jays were in a playoff race or if there was a shorter season, but the desire for our own team's victory in these games is always there. Some of us rather insanely even look forward to when the lineups are released each day, so we can evaluate the configuration and gauge our chance of success each night. If this devotion and desire wasn't there, you wouldn't have people cheering for an interleague win over the Pittsburgh Pirates or calling into Mike Wilner's show going over the latest gaffe made by one of the players.

    As cold and rational and statistically inclined as we may be, no fan is above those kind of emotions. Don't pretend that you are.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I agree with your sentiment brother, but when all an umpire has to do is look down and decide what happened first it's inexcusable. Bang, bang play, yes, but it's not at first where the eye must "focus" on a much wider swath, it was a tagplay at home with him no more than 30 inches from the action. His experience probably told him the moment Varitek literally ran from the plate, that he had missed one.

    ReplyDelete
  9. There were a lot of people on both sides of the coin- I tend to side with Drew, here. I couldn't muster much ire, and it was mostly because I could understand why the ump called it the way he did. He wasn't right, but I could get it. He saw the first leg get blocked, and a tag that seemed to make contact.

    What makes me lose my mind is when I see an egregiously bad call, or a decision I can't understand. When Snider got sent down, I ranted in 140 characters for a long-ass time, and I don't think I ever got over it.

    We're fans because we enjoy the sport, and want our team to do well. Sometimes we live or die on the result, or get really up and down on it. That's the great part. And sometimes we don't. Last night, there were a bunch of things that could have gone either way (Corey Patterson was in the middle of a bunch of 'em), so it was hard for me to get upset when that one was somewhat justifiable.

    Go Jays!

    ReplyDelete
  10. It's only Wednesday and all I remember from the Halladay game already is the standing O, the Bautista dinger and Rauch wigging out.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thanks for posting this.

    I hope it makes everyone stop and realize that being a Toronto sports fan is awesome, despite the losing records.

    ReplyDelete
  12. "Jays fans have this incredible pool of talented and funny people to bounce ideas off and debate with"

    Who are you referring to? You and your little brood of Jays bloggers (amateur writers/analysts)? What a haughty statement.

    This is a case in point as to why many Jays fans disagreed with, and laughed at, your ridiculous, pretentious comment. Your vanity is unsurpassed, "Professor Drew". Get over yourself.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Actually, Jeff, I'm referring to the wide range of people i've met and interacted with, from smart guys like Fullmer Fan on Twitter to bloggers and readers. Not to mention engaging writers like John Lott, Bastian, and even Wilner.

    There is so much more to being a fan now and so many people of all kinds adding to the experience. I'm thankful for them all. But thanks for reading, commenting, and dutifully watching the live streams. It's much appreciated.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I really like your work, minus the high-brow bullshit. But, by all means, don't fall off that high-horse.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Great post. not so sure about the discussion.

    "why aren't you fired up?"
    "this stuff doesn't get me fired up."
    "You saying you're above me?"
    "No"
    "Like hell you aren't."
    "Fine"
    "No it ain't"

    ReplyDelete

Send forth the witticisms from on high