Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Cutting to the (Literal) Chase

I understand that this is only my third post since the sixth anniversary of The Sports Nut Blogs, but much like any child or old friend, I must acknowledge the special day. Happy Seventh Birthday, dearest blog.

Last week, I heard a bit of stirring from the realm of baseball. After all, pitchers and catchers reported last week, with full squads working out as early as this weekend. Yeah, that's all well and good. We're used to that kind of stuff.

But that isn't what I'm writing about right now.

As most of us should know, this is the second full season with Rob Manfred as commissioner of Major League Baseball. Much like any leader before him, we tend to wonder what kind of ideas and suggestions he'll bring to the table. Considering how Bud Selig twisted the game a lot in 25-some-odd years, such as adding the Wild Card and helping birth the implementation of instant replay, he has had a lot expected of him. It's like we're asking the question: "What will the President of the United States do within his first 100 days?" Now that his feet are completely immersed--not just simply wet--in commish matters, we're starting to see a couple of "pitches," so to speak. [This pun was unplanned.]

This little number is causing a ton of commotion all over the sport and in baseball talks around town. If you've been living under a rock, it's a proposed regulation that will alter the rules of a game in extra innings. In my 26 years of life, I have experienced a ton of extra innings games. The longest one I can remember was 20 innings, and at least three position players had to pitch during the game. It was one of those games where I thanked baseball Twitter for helping me out and letting me know what was going on when my MLB feed cut out. While it's considered "free baseball" for all of the fans, it's oftentimes seen as the worst case scenario for any baseball team. It's where strategy really comes into play, especially when your bullpen is on the verge of total burnout. No team wants that, especially if they're smack-dab in the middle of a ten-game road trip, and their next day off isn't for another three days or so. But you have to get that W, right? You have to get it in any way possible.

In the chess-like structure of baseball, there are very few ways that you can curb the course of the game. However, this is what the rule would be:

In an extra inning game, both teams will begin their half of the inning with a runner on second base. This practice continues until there is a definitive winner at the bottom half of the inning.

(wrinkled face)

This honestly sounds like a rule you'd implement in a men's over-50 recreational softball league.

Could you imagine if they had this type of rule during Game 7 of the [Hell Has Frozen Over Because The Cubs Or Indians Could Win The] World Series? It wouldn't have been as fun. Sure, there would be a bit more tension, but it almost feels like you're cheating and rushing everybody out the door (you know what I mean). You may as well say: "Forget it! The game ends in a tie! You had your nine-inning fix!" I'm getting vibes similar to how NHL games would just end in a tie after a short overtime period before the shootout came after the 2004-2005 lockout. It feels exactly like that--forcing a winner.

During the game, it's as if you're putting on training wheels or a completely one-sided handicap on a team if they're not pushing hard enough to win decisively. Plus, this would also leave teams to decide if they want to place their fastest player in scoring position, thus affecting the lineup and fielding in either the bottom half of the inning or the possible next. It's like the flex player rule in softball, but used on a Major League scale in the event that "everybody has to have a role, but they're not going to bat or field."

The main reason for the proposal is that, according to a USA Today article, there is a need to attract the game to a younger audience, as the supposed average age to watch a TV broadcast is over 50. [SOURCE] Where that statistic came from, I'd really like to know. Does that make me 50 in spirit? 


There have been moves over the past few years to pick up the pace of each game, going so far as to giving the pitcher a time limit to set up, communicate with the catcher, and make his stretch. Of course, it's one step forward and two steps back, considering the almighty instant replay rule happens--sometimes more than once in a game--and the communication from New York and the final ruling itself can take anywhere from three to five minutes. You know who else encounters that same problem? The NFL, and with the clock-running tactics and everything else, there is only really 15 minutes of real gameplay within a three-hour broadcast of the game. Okay, there are only three days out of the week when there are games in the NFL as opposed to just about every day for baseball, but still, who's really losing out here?

You can't place the entire blame of pacing on extra innings, either. Sure, there were "record setting numbers" of the amount of extra innings games played during the regular season in 2013, but according to a Chicago Tribune article originally from the Washington Post, out of the 2,428 combined games played during the 2016 season, only 185 of those games went to extras, and 122 of those 185 games went to either ten or eleven innings. [SOURCE] In 2013, that number was 239.

From a CBS Sports article:

"There have been 239 extra-inning games in Major League Baseball so far this season. In 2011, there were 237, which was the previous record-holder. Prior to that, the most games to head to extras in history in a season was 220, which was done in 1986, 1991, 2007 and 2010.So four of the top six extra-inning seasons in history have come in the last seven seasons" (Snyder, 2013).

Okay. I get that. However, there are also thirty teams in the league. Each team plays 180 games. That number is going to climb. However, the numbers have gone down considerably since then, and there shouldn't be any room for worry. To be honest, it sounds like we're chopping off our big toe to save our ailing eyesight.

I got to thinking about this small point, but there probably won't be any significance about this particular matter. While the MLBPA isn't a fan of this proposal, there's a possible chance that the stadium staffs are going to be perfectly fine with this. Granted, I'm not 100% certain if they are granted overtime hours during extra inning games, but I know for a fact that working at the stadium isn't their only gig, and they may have to get up early the next day for their actual job. I don't know--they may not even be granted a say on this matter, because it looks like it will be full steam ahead on this rule.

There really isn't a way to test this outside of the regular season, either. Spring Training games will end in a tie after the ninth inning for obvious reasons, being that it's too early for that crap, and you don't want to tire out the promising new guys. As far as I've researched, I haven't been able to find an exhibition game (the games right before Opening Day at the main ballparks) that has gone beyond nine innings. If this proposal goes through and the extra innings rule is enforced come April, there is going to be some very loud and very obvious backlash from the crowds and maybe even the broadcast crews based on the discretion of their front offices.

As for me, I am heavily against this proposal. This isn't even me speaking from a purist perspective; I'm the type of person that enjoys the designated hitter rule in the American League only and not in both. Putting a runner on second base starting in the tenth inning is an obvious sign that the league wants to rush the game to its end. I can understand why with the pacing, but you can't change your ways and immediately expect your target demographic to come rushing to you. This isn't Grease, where both Danny and Sandy have to completely change who they are to try and be liked by one another and their groups. Stop. Just be who you are and market your younger players and long-standing iron men that are bound to be legends. Geez, how did my generation get sucked into the game? Not the steroid scandal--I mean, of course, the whole Mark McGwire/Sammy Sosa thing was awesome, but I'm talking about Ken Griffey, Jr., Tony Gwynn, and Cal Ripken, Jr. Today, you've got guys like Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Noah Syndergaard that are bound to be in the Hall Of Fame someday if they stay healthy. Focus on the franchise guys. That will get the younger boys going.

At least...at least I think so.

-- Stephanie

Sunday, February 5, 2017

That Large Game on Sunday: Go Big or Go Home

A rustic-colored Toyota comes into view. It pulls off the road slowly to a shoulder and turns off. The Hamsa Hand still swings in the rear-view mirror after a couple of seconds. The figure seated to the left does not move.
Suddenly, the driver-side door opens. Out steps a hooded FIGURE in a bright red winter coat with fur outlining the hood. The Figure pushes the door shut and looks around at the desolate land. Leaning against the vehicle, the Figure reaches into the coat pocket and pulls out a small piece of paper, which reads: "FEBRUARY 21, 2010 -- I CREATED A BLOG SO I COULD GET A JOB AS A SPORTS WRITER SOMEDAY."
The Figure lowers the coat hood, revealing a 26-year-old woman, who is staring deeply at a vacant lot with papers flying all around it. She narrows her eyes.

"I must rebuild."

I'm going to say the dreaded words and pray that I don't get slammed with a royalty fee for using it. I literally can't afford that.

(ahem) The Super Bowl.

It's the one day where everyone tries out their best attempts at indoor grilling, making elaborate dips, drinking as much cheap beer as possible, and most importantly, critiquing the types of advertisements that show up during this Game of Games. Channeling our inner Joel, Crow, and Tom Servo of Mystery Science Theater 3000 has become the norm, and to be honest, it's not a bad thing. It's become a way to bond.

Year in and year out, bathroom breaks are hard to come by, as the masses have been fed with either the catchphrases of the era...

...the most terrifying of...things...

...or super exciting previews for a show (suddenly getting canceled--lol The Good Wife) or a highly-anticipated movie coming out soon.

Over the years, it has become public knowledge about how disgustingly expensive it is to purchase thirty seconds of space for advertisement. Last year, it was reported that it will cost you $5 MILLION for a thirty second advertisement. Yes. Five million. In comes the joke where: "I will probably never see five million dollars in my lifetime, let alone thirty seconds." The only way that Super Bowl coordinators and producers have gotten away with doing this is for two main reasons: One, this is the one championship out of the Big Four that non-sports fans are more likely to watch--aka, "checking out the season finale of 'Sports'"--and two, this is the only sport of the Big Four that has a one-and-done championship final. C'mon, the latter is pure logic, but the one thing that fires up overall ratings are the advertisements that catch the attention of the viewers who don't even follow football. It's a marriage of agendas. Some will walk in, saying, "I want to see the new trailer for (insert movie here--probably Star Wars), so I have to sit and wait," or, "I need a reason to laugh and tweet," or, "OMG LUKE BRYAN'S BUTT IN JEANS. YAAAAS GAGA." Forgive me for typing that last one, but that's pure truth right there. Facebook and Twitter have become existent proof that everyone gets involved to some capacity in Super Bowl shenanigans.

That said... this is a Super Bowl itself for advertisement agencies and companies. Every year, they have to pull out all the stops and literally "go big or go home." We've seen some of the silliest advertisements coming from companies like Doritos, and we've also seen some extreme tearjerkers from companies like Budweiser. Depending on where you live, you'll also get some regional advertisements. In various regions last year, The Church Of Scientology shelled out some pennies to advertise for thirty seconds. Personally, I didn't see it, but according to Twitter at the time, it happened, and of course, I searched it out and found it. You'll also run into instances where companies bought out a bunch of ad space, but they only have one or two commercials to compensate for that. Oh, you know what I mean about the repeat commercials, and how they might not have even been any good to begin with, and how you'll have to either sit through them again or run to the bathroom and do your business in record time in order to not miss anything decent. Good times.

You'll also get the naysayers who claim: "You have all of this money to sponsor and advertise and product-place, and you can't place the money where it matters most?" To be fair, you're going to get those people everywhere, where they say the money should go toward more efficient means such as the education system. Okay, that's true. That's very, very true. The job market is not that great, and people aren't getting paid enough in full-time jobs to survive properly and be loan-free. I get that. But just like a game show, companies are firing their shots to win the biggest impact on the masses. It literally is an escape for viewers, and it's their job to be the more memorable brand. We're watching them do their job. Does that make us lazy? No. That's like saying we're horrible for celebrating Thanksgiving because of tortured turkeys and advertisements mentioning the holiday. Everybody acknowledges Super Bowl Sunday to some capacity, even though they may not particularly partake in it. That's just how today's culture and society is. You know it's there--it's all dependent on how much you ultimately consume. You could be on the outer circle, for all we know, but if you're a Lady Gaga fan, or you just happen to have plans with someone who's throwing a party, into the bullseye of the circle you go!

Advertising during any sporting event is a sport in itself. Sponsors are tacked onto just about any televised event or radio broadcast. It's the necessary evil that we must acknowledge. Oh, Pepsi is the sponsor? Bottles of 3/4 filled Pepsi have to be on the broadcast tables, because they have to be prominent, and it has to look like they've been consumed! The most obvious one for NFL broadcasts are Microsoft Surface Pro tablets being placed on the desks during the halftime and post-game reports and on the field by players to go over previous and future plays. You may be annoyed by it, or you may just blow it off and ignore the fact that the brand is everywhere. You're not a bad person for possibly having either thought toward it, but it isn't hard to ignore the fact that advertising has a pure death grip on the game itself--not just the athletes off of the field.

Seeing it from both ends, it's rather annoying. I'm still a sports fan, and I enjoy watching the game. But it is also irritating to see practices from the field I studied in college. It's white-collar warfare, while you get these pictures on your news feed:

I seriously had to make this myself because every search engine and social media outlet failed me.
Oh well.
It's the world that we live in, but morality, business, and pleasure are becoming way too heavily integrated into our society. We can't enjoy a game without getting flooded with ads. They say that children are exposed to at least 25,000 advertisements per year. Per. Year. [source for statistic] It's a business that has to squeeze in their products, all while shaping it to be pleasurable for adults and create a buzz for them to talk about it with others. I hate to sound like a social justice warrior here, but while advertising for a brand is all well and good, I'm pretty sure that the financial values are a bit ridiculous and that they're definitely not going into the right things. I digress on the matter.

This Sunday, it's going to be big. Not just for the athletes and fans, but for the big businesses and conglomerates. Which side will you be on? Where will you go big?

-- Stephanie