The Best Fans in Baseball – or Not?

Best Fans in BaseballIt’s a good time to be a St. Louis Cardinal fan as we head back to the World Series for the fourth time in ten years. We have a bevy of strong young pitchers and a good mix of veteran players that would seem to bode well for our future.

The Cardinals just emerged from a tough series with the Los Angeles Dodgers and there’s a lot of talk about Mickey Mouse, disrespect, and the Best Fans in Baseball.

For those of you who are new to baseball, there is a theory that St. Louis is home to the “best fans in baseball”. Best seems to mean that we treat other teams with respect, we understand the game from a fundamental level, and turn out to support our Cardinals in astounding numbers despite the relatively small size of our metropolitan area.

This moniker is a source of pride to many Cardinal fans and a red flag of outrageous hubris to those who do not like the Cardinals or their fans.

I’ve been a Cardinal fan at least forty-four years and possibly longer than that although my memories before my fifth birthday are fairly non-existent. I can say without hesitation that the people of St. Louis love the Cardinals. That they turn out by the millions to cheer on their team, that many fans are knowledgeable about the game, and often applaud opponents who make astounding plays.

I can also say without reservation that there are plenty of idiot fans who yelled at Hanley Ramirez for being a cry-baby after Joe Kelly broke his ribs with a fastball. I know that San Francisco Giant fans filled their park to a higher capacity than did the Cardinals despite finishing in last place. I saw Chicago Cubs fans standing in respectful silence after the death Darryl Kile.

I’ve been to Philadelphia and seen their great fans firsthand. While attending Cardinal games over the years I’ve spoken with respectful and knowledgeable fans from probably every team in the National League .

As a Cardinal fan I pose a simple question: Would the Best Fans in Baseball feel compelled to call themselves the “Best Fans in Baseball” with nauseating regularity?

I say no. I find the whole thing bothersome, an ego stroking exercise in stupidity. Stop flashing it on the video screen, stop writing it in every comment, and stop believing it to be actually true.

St. Louis has had tremendous success in baseball thanks to ownership, management, the fans, and mostly the great players that take the field and win the games.

As a proud Cardinal fan I suggest that we stop telling people we are the best fans in baseball and instead show them.

Cheer the team in victory, support them in defeat, and respect our opponents. Should we lose the game or the series act dignified in defeat. If we are fortunate enough to win, be magnanimous in victory.

When we respect each other we make the world a better place.

There are great fans in Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and everywhere else teams play baseball.

Fans are a collective. I alone cannot make the fans of the Cardinals the best fans in baseball. No one can. I can only be the best fan I can be. So should we all.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 for a full length novel)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt (Out very soon!)

Foul Language Ejections

Justin UptonThere was an incident in the baseball game between the Atlanta Braves and my beloved St. Louis Cardinals last night that got me thinking. A player for the Braves, Justin Upton, was ejected, supposedly for arguing. Upton says he was merely mad at himself for grounding out and cursed.

This sort of incident happened earlier in the season to Yadier Molina when he was called out on a close play at first base and slammed his helmet into the ground. He was frustrated that he didn’t run harder out of the batter’s box, he is a catcher and nursing sore knees, but the umpire saw it differently and ejected Molina.

When I sat down to write this blog post I was going to call out overly sensitive officials for ejecting players and altering the course of the game unnecessarily. The more I thought about it, the more I thought about the rules I played under as a young boy. I began to realize there is a better solution. Stop throwing your equipment, cursing, and being disrespectful in general.

When I played sports as a kid, if you abused a piece of equipment the coach would put you on the bench. If you said anything argumentative to an official you’d be ejected from the game. Those days are sadly over.

I’m not saying that official don’t make mistakes and I’m certainly on record saying that I think some outright cheat. I’m not saying that those who make mistakes, those who cheat, those who lie, shouldn’t be called out. I’m just saying let’s try to do it with some decency.

I am saying it would be great if players acted like gentlemen and ladies. This screaming and yelling at every perceived slight, this flopping to gain an advantage, this boorish behavior is something that pervades sports, media, comment sections, essentially society itself.

This rudeness is everywhere, not just sports, and certainly characterizes  political debate. Everyone thinks its okay to call someone they don’t like an “idiot!” A “moron!” A “Repukelican!” A “Libtard!” This lack of decency, of simple manners, hurts cooperation, hurts society, hurts our (yes, our) nation.

We have become a rude, nasty lot. We will say horrible things about other people and words hurt. When our actions show a complete disregard for civility, for kindness, for tolerance, then we simply encourage the worst sort of people to take things even further. When the best of us, the role-models, cannot restrain ourselves the worst are emboldened.

Back to the topic at hand, a ballplayer thrown out for cursing at himself. It wouldn’t have happened if all baseball players were ejected at the first curse word, at the first disrespectful action towards an umpire. I’m not just haranguing ball players here. Fire the umpire that shows disrespect to a player.

I don’t think what I’m suggesting will happen because of money. If John McEnroe yells something at an umpire during the finals of Wimbledon and the match is declared over that will cost people a lot of money. If Tiger Woods curses after a bad shot and is escorted from the course that will cost sponsors a lot of money.

That being said, if there are strictly enforced rules, the athletes and  officials will eventually learn to follow them. It might be a little painful at the start but I think we’d all be better off.

And before you like this post and tell me how right I am, examine your own life, your own actions. You’re a role-model for someone out there. Act like it.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 for a very good read)
Upcoming Release: The Spear of the Hunt

St. Louis Cardinals – Relationship between Team and Fan

Today is about my baseball team, yes, I said it, “my team”. I don’t own them. I don’t make any personnel or management decisions. But, the Cardinals are my team and they will be until the day I die.

The question I ask today is what motivates me to call them “my team”. What motivates sports fans the world over to reference their team in the same way and why this is a good thing?

There are many great fans out there who root for their team. I’m even willing to concede that their might be some, semi-rational, people who feel that way about the Chicago Cubs. A sports team gives us something to passionately cheer. We hurt when they lose, darn you Don Denkinger, we go mad when they win, hurrah Pete Kozma. We have memories that last a lifetime.

I was born and raised in St. Louis and my mother is a huge Cardinal fan from her own childhood. My earliest memories are sitting around the living room listening to the games. I think many a fan has a history not dissimilar from that. They grow up rooting for a team and never change allegiances. There are others who come to sports later in life and find a team to cheer but it’s all relatively the same. In the end, whatever the team, whatever the town, it’s “my team”.

The reason I think it’s a good thing is because as much as I dislike the Chicago Cubs and their fans; I recognize that they are just like me, fans, not enemies. Sports is war without the death and maiming. That’s a good version of war as far as I’m concerned. I’m quite certain there are Washington National fans out there who are pretty angry with my Cardinals right about now but I don’t think any of them are going to do anything violent. They’ll cinch down their caps and think about next year. As a Cardinal fan I’ve been fortunate these last few years but I’ve tightened up my Rams cap and Blues cap many, many times. I know the pain. All fans do.

I’ll go to work next week and teach class to someone who roots for the Cubs or Nationals and I’ll do my best without reservation, without hesitation. I’ll help them accomplish whatever they need to do. Our team at work will build a website for a San Francisco company. Our network engineers will solve a major problem for a company owned by a Yankees fan.

We cheer for our team but recognize that life, unlike sports, is about trying to get that win/win scenario. If we all work together we can achieve amazing things. Sports gives us that black and white outlet and then we can return to the normal, shades of gray, daily routine.

I guess I’m just saying that if a Cubs fan and a Cardinal fan can get married, can’t Republicans and Democrats try to pass legislation that will help us all? Can’t we root for our team during the game but work together afterwards?

But, I don’t want to slip too deeply into politics because there is something much more important going on … Cardinals v. Giants!

Tom Liberman

Baseball All-Star Game Selection Flap

LaRussa BakerThe feud between Dusty Baker and whatever team he manages and Tony LaRussa and the St. Louis Cardinals reached new levels of animosity when Baker accused LaRussa of leaving several Cincinnati Reds players off the All-Star team because of previous incidents having nothing to do with baseball.

I’ve got a take on it I haven’t heard yet from the various factions but first lets cover the dispute.

The two managers have a long-standing feud from their many year association with one another. There was an ugly brawl between the two teams in which one of the principles involved kicked backup catcher Jason LaRue in the head and ended his career and also spiked ace starter Chris Carpenter in the back leaving long scratch marks.

Baker and Johnny Cueto blame the brawl for LaRussa leaving both Cueto and second baseman Brandon Phillips off the team. The brawl was precipitated by Phillips calling the Cardinals players “little bitches” and saying that he hated them. The next time the two teams met Phillips tapped catcher Yadier Molina’s shin guard with his bat in a friendly greeting. Molina took exception and the brawl began.

LaRussa argues that Phillips and Cueto were in the mix but both were left off for reason unrelated to the brawl. Cueto was scheduled to pitch the Sunday before the All-Star game and thus unlikely to be able to pitch more than an inning in the actual game. Phillips has good numbers but was not voted in as the top second baseman and the presence of another second baseman based on fan votes precluded a third second baseman being on the roster.

Baker, Cueto, Joey Votto and other Red’s players, Phillips has remained silent on the subject, believe the players should be chosen simply based on their play on the field.

Here’s my opinion.

The manager should pick players he thinks are best for the team and no one else has any say. Anyone who claims they have more say than the manager is dead wrong. If LaRussa hates Cueto for ending the career of his backup catcher then he should leave him off the roster. It’s LaRussa’s decision. He’s the manager. LaRussa doesn’t need to claim that Cueto was pitching on Sunday. He could just say, “Cueto’s a punk. I hate him. I don’t want him on my team. Screw him,” and I would say fine. Just as if Dusty Baker and the Reds win the World Series this year then next year Baker could choose to leave off any Cardinal he wanted. He’s the manager!

LaRussa could say to Phillips, “Who’s the little bitch now,” and I wouldn’t care. Baker could say, “Molina is a punk and I’ll never select him to my team.” It’s the managers decision.

In all fairness I’m from St. Louis and Cueto’s kicking of Carpenter and LaRue bothers me to this day. He’s a nasty piece of work but a good pitcher. Still, if this went the other way I’d be consistent. It’s the manager’s decision. Final. Done.

What do you think?

[polldaddy poll=6366903]

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
New Release: The Hammer of Fire

Home Team Blackouts

BlackoutIt was a happy day for me when my Uverse was finally installed after much bickering with AT&T. I gave up my television years ago and streaming sports on ESPN3 was choppy and Hulu television troublesome on my old DSL connection.

My beloved World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals are in Spring Training as I write this and I haven’t been able to watch most of their games for the last couple of years. I certainly got my high-speed connection for a number of reasons and watching the Birds on the Bat was one of those.

Major League Baseball offers an internet package where, for $124.99, you can watch every game of every team streaming on your computer, tablet, phone or other device. Imagine my joy. I get to watch my World Series Champion Cardinals play every game! Then I clicked on the little blackout link and read this:

All live games on MLB.TV and available through At Bat are subject to local blackouts. Such live games will be blacked out in each applicable Club’s home television territory, regardless of whether that Club is playing at home or away.

It goes on to mention the blackout applies even if the game isn’t televised. Home or away? Televised or not? Sold-out or not? I can’t watch the Cardinals!?

I’ve got $124.99 burning a hole in pocket to watch the 11 time World Series Champion Cardinals. Take my money, please?

Ok, wait, catching breath, bulging eyes recessing, fist pounding abating, let’s look at this rational, from a critical perspective. Perhaps MLB is justified in this policy. Think, Tom, don’t scream and rant like a radio talk-show host who would sell his mother into slavery to get a ratings point.

First stop, MLB Blackout policy page of Wikipedia. Have I mentioned my love of Wikipedia? Calmly reading. Keep blood pressure under wraps. Learn rational reasons behind policy. Keep calm … calm … soft music … calming waves … soothing … EXCLUSIVE TERRITORIAL RIGHTS! What? What? What?

Do we live in Communist Russia? Wait, stop , be rational, Russia isn’t communist any more … Do we live in Communist China? Socialism? Media control? Freedom Revoked?

Ok, breath slowly, long breaths, I mean, technically, television broadcast in St. Louis city could somehow be seen to be owned by the local team … the ENTIRE STATE OF IOWA blacked out for Cardinals, Cubs, Twins, Royals, White Sox and Brewers. HEAD EXPLODING!

Freedom being taken away, grab rifle, oh wait unarmed, maybe good thing, calm, calm, soothing sounds, ocean, babbling brook.

I know, let’s look at the easy to understand map of blackouts … ARGHHH … BUNNIES MUST DIE … DIE … DIE!!

Wipe frothing away from mouth, think happy thoughts, don’t kick cat, it’s going to be all right. There has to be a rational explanation, doesn’t there?

What is the idea? Ok, here we go, a broadcaster pays for the right to exclusively show the games on their channel. That’s capitalism, NBC shows, CBS shows, FOX shows. But, wait, don’t they stream on Hulu? I mean, the idea is get as much revenue as possible, isn’t it? Isn’t my $124.99 lost revenue? There are plenty of World Series Champion Cardinals fans all over from the great states of Iowa, Arkansas, Tennesse, Kentucky, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Southern Illinois, isn’t that a lot of $124.99s? Wouldn’t it be easy for MLB to distribute a percentage of that money to the broadcasters? I mean, that’s a lot of lost revenue.

If you think I’m a diehard Cardinals fan you haven’t been to Germantown, Illinois! You haven’t been to Busch Stadium after a Cardinals win to see a family of four, kids decked out in Cardinal gear, taking pictures for their once a year trip to St. Louis from Lawton, Oklahoma to see the Birds on the Bat.

This policy is denying all those fans the opportunity to watch the Cardinals. It is denying the children of die-hard Cardinals fans from all over the midwest the chance to learn, like their parents, to love the best team in baseball (Shut yer yaps, yuse Yankee bums). It is killing marketing, it is throwing money away! Do you not want more fans?

Why are the Cardinals so beloved all over the midwest and beyond? Because KMOX radio was a clear channel signal that broadcast the games to all those areas, that’s why. Now, we live in the television era and you want to LIMIT BROADCASTING of games only to areas nowhere near the actual team? Where does that make any sense? MLB, broadcasters, work out a deal, there is money on the table. There are millions of fans waiting to be made. This is capitalism! This is marketing. This is America! Isn’t it?

Why does Fox Sports Midwest care where anyone watches the game? My tv, my computer, my phone, my tablet? It doesn’t make any sense! You want more audience, do you hear me, MORE AUDIENCE! Not less. More. Do you see? Hands shaking … must calm down.

Shower, must have cold shower, brain exploding, stupid, morons, idiots, more audience, spasm-spasm, more audience, more revenue, spasm-spasm, can’t understand, does not compute, spasm-twitch-spasm-twitch-twitch-spasm … more audience … more revenue … twitch-spasm-spasm.

Tom Liberman

Teaser – Home Team Blackouts

BlackoutIt’s almost spring and that means my beloved St. Louis Cardinals … er … I mean … defending World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals are getting ready to start a new season. In addition I’ve upgraded my internet to Uverse and that means I can stream live sports. I don’t have a television so I looked into purchasing MLB Live to watch all the games. The price is not unreasonable but … all home teams games are BLACKED OUT!? What, what, what?

Tomorrow I take this nonsense to task. Nonsense, I tell you.

You haven’t seen ranting until you see me ranting tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Science Rocks

Science Week – Engineering

ScienceMy third day of Science Week pays tribute to the engineers of the world, both past and present. If it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t be able to get to work in the morning, or at least it would not be nearly as easy. So, stick around and learn all about engineering!

Engineers have been an integral part of improving society since people began to write down their achievements and likely long before that!

Engineering has fascinated the world since early times with the ancients making spectacular structures like the Pyramids of Egypt, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, the Parthenon, the Great Wall of China, and the list goes on. I could easily wax poetic about my favorite subject, history, until your eyes bleed but I’ll refrain, you can thank me later in the comments.

My goal today is talk about how engineering and engineers have changed your life for the better and how important it is that we continue to encourage people to take up this noble field. Math and science are the backbone of all technological achievements and we do well as a society to tell children exactly that and reward them when they show an interest in those fields.

Modern engineering began in the Renaissance with men like William Gilbert and Thomas Savery A look at the biographies of those men is well worth a perusal for anyone with a casual interest in engineering.

The modern era traces its roots to Allesandro Voltra, Michael Faraday, and George Ohm among others. Gosh, I really could write a blog about each of these amazing men but as I sit here at my computer I cannot help but think about how much my life depends on modern engineering.

At its most basic engineers apply the principals of Physics and Mathematics to improve the status quo.

My alarm clock wakes me up in the morning and without the ability to tell exact time modern life ceases to exist as we know it. Thank you, John Harrison.

Of course, the alarm clock wouldn’t work without electricity, so thank you again, Allesandro!

I’m about to drive thirty miles to work. That’s a distance that would have been impossible until automobiles were invented and then roads for them to traverse. We take roads for granted but without them life is very different. I’m tempted to talk about the Via Appia and Appius Cladius Caecus but must refrain, stay on topic!

Concrete. There’s a story. I don’t have time to tell it all but suffice it say that the Roman engineers so valued it they kept their formulations as tightly held secrets. When the Empire fell concrete was lost until likely the 16th Century. Old Roman ruins still stand today!

My work today is in Granite City, Illinois and my drive takes me past the home of the St. Louis Cardinals, Busch Stadium. Thank you, Jim Chibnall. I might be tempted to mention that this ballfield is where I get to see Adam Wainwright apply the principals of aerodynamics to the curveball.

Today I teach steelworkers how to use computers but as long as we’re talking about steel we need to think about all the products that use it. Did I mention that after I pass the stadium I get to see the most beautiful monument in the world? Thank you, Eero Saarinen and Hannskarl Bandel for the Gateway Arch. Made of steel.

Steel is in virtually every building, every car, and certainly in the Eades Bridge on which I drive over the Mississippi River. Thank you, James B. Eades.

Gosh, this post could go on forever and I haven’t even gotten out of the car! So, take a few seconds to appreciate all the work of engineers the world over and how it effects your life at almost every moment.

It seems like we want to emphasize business, and medicine, and law when it comes to educating our children these days and there is nothing wrong with those fields but without the engineers of the world … well … the world wouldn’t be what we know it.

So to all you future engineers out there, including my niece Tess, who are studying hard, keep up the good work! You will change the world.

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Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist