Friday, July 31, 2009

'Roid Raging

Apparently there was more to steroids than we thought.

We know they increase you muscle mass, and shrink your testicles. I didn't know they also inflated egos and shrunk brains.

Well, now that I look at the last three -- I'm not surprised Congress is in the middle of this mess.

Really, there is a simple end to all this Major League Baseball steroid talk.

Inject truth.

Yesterday we found out that two members of the 2003 Boston Red Sox -- David Ortiz and the previously-suspended Manny Ramirez -- tested positive during what was supposed to be anonymous drug testing during that season. Today, pitcher Bronson Arroyo, also a member of that Boston team, admitted he used Adrostinedione -- the same supplement taken by former Oakland and St. Louis slugger Mark McGwire.

There is so much wrong about this situation, that you almost use up all your rage on the situation before you even get a chance to be pissed about perceived cheating... if in fact you feel that is what it is.

Now, Ramirez failed a drug test this year and was suspended -- so there is zero shock factor that he is one of the 104 players who tested positive. Meanwhile, Arroyo's name has not been connected with that test, but he is coming clean. You have to respect Arroyo for that -- the same respect you should give marginal MLB pitcher Jim Parque (yeah, I know... most of you are asking 'who?'), who admitted his use recently.

Arroyo and Parque are doing it right. They are admitting their mistakes, talking about the effects, but not promoting it.

Ortiz is taking a very similar approach. At this point in time, we have to take the man at his word -- that until yesterday he did not know he had tested positive.

Yes, Ortiz was a marginal player with the Minnesota Twins before signing with Boston. And, yes, he seems to be fading into the twilight of his career. But, does that mean he was using steroids in between?


As I mentioned before, there is so much wrong with the circumstances under which we are learning more about this 2003 drug test.

Let's start with the fact that the results were not properly disposed of following the test itself. The test was supposed to be a baseline for MLB to gauge what the level of use was. The fact that someone still has the list is a MAJOR problem.

Even Stevie Wonder could have seen where this was going to end up. Someone was going to blackmail someone else. Congress has the list, and is pressuring MLB executives. The MLB Players Association has the list, and they might be the only people who rightfully should still have access to the list. But somehow the New York media has the list -- at least parts of it -- and are doing the most dispicable of things... releasing the names on the list, one or two names as a time at steady intervals.

It is no shock to me that of the names that have come off the list, one is a high-profile Yankees player (Alex Rodriguez), one is dead (Ken Caminiti), one was in a chase to break Yankee right-fielder Roger Maris' single-season home run record (Sammy Sosa), and now two played for the Boston Red Sox. Four have threatened to take the spotlight off of New York, and the other (A-Roid) could be seen as protecting New York and its image.

This is no different than the Democrats jumping all over Rush Limbaugh -- who I recently referred to as the 'Oxycodone Blimp' (just for you, Tom) -- for his pain killer addiction and shooting his mouth off like the racist moron he is. And no different than the Republicans becoming the vehicle by which the 'Birther' movement is being permitted to persist.

I have two solutions.

One solution is for Congress to release the names on the list. Right now, that is being blocked by the MLBPA, in the courts, on the basis that there isn't supposed to be a list. However, Congress holds the trump card -- three magic words: "Anti-Trust Exemption."

The other solution is far easier, and much more founded on ethical ground. The MLBPA needs to release the names on the list. There will certainly be fallout from this action, but by releasing the names you can end the speculation.

It's called a clean break. Gets the names out there, and what they tested positive for. No questions.

What many people don't know about the 2003 drug test is that MLB tested for drugs and supplements that were not banned at the time, in addition to steroids and human-growth hormones.

So, is it possible that Ortiz, like Arroyo and McGwire was taking something that was not banned at the time, but was tested for? Or, is this something where we didn't know the ingredients of a supplement, or simply didn't think to look for.

A positive test from 2003 is not nearly as bad as a positive test today. We know so much more about steroids (and we will simple classify all of these items as such for now) now than we did back then. McGwire took 'Andro' as a supplement to prevent injuries -- he stopped taking it under intense media scrutiny, and his career ended shortly after. We still don't know if 'Andro' is actually dangerous to the body, but someone was offended by its use.

On a personal note, I would like to see all these supplements and steroids out of sports. As a former athlete, myself, I will stand up and say there is no place for their use. I have also gone on record as saying the use of free weights, and weight training is vastly abused. I never took weight lifting seriously, and have spoken out about the inherent danger of 'maxing out'.

Perhaps it is why I washed out as a college athlete. But I am proud of what I accomplished, and doing so cleanly, ethically, and humbly. So what if, as former Bears quarterback Jim Miller once said: "nobody is waiving dollar bills in my direction when I take my shirt off." That's not what being an athlete is about.

Being an athlete is about having the God-given ability to do something, and the fortune to be able to make a living doing so.

We need to put the focus back on that ability -- it is the positive side of sports.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

'Birthers': Giving Birth to Idiocy

Dear Birthers,
What kind of radical white-supremacist bull**** are you attempting to promote here?
The questions over the legitimacy of President Barack Obama's birth certificate are simply ludicrous and gross.

Just nine months ago, we as a nation made history. We were able to see beyond the color of a man's skin. We, for the first time, elected a man of color to lead this great nation.

Apparently, my optimism that racism was slowly becoming less and less is false. I have come to understand that most of this issue concerning the citizenship of the President of the United States is nothing more than blind rage driven by two of the greatest of all evils to exist -- partisanship and racism.

I would like to say, that not all Republicans are guilty in this. But, when town hall meetings for Republican legislators are the sounding board for this -- the issue may not rest with the representatives themselves, but run much deeper within the party.

Congressman Mike Castle of Delaware handled the issue very well. He needs to be commended for it. However, the people who booed him for making his statement, really need to feel great shame for their actions.

Now, I would like to think that all people are of solid intellect, and that this is just something the blew up out of someone's confusion -- and that nobody caught the error in the first ill-conceived judgement.

Perhaps someone was thinking that because the President was born in Hawai'i, that he was not born in the United States. This would be a simple error, and possibly very easy to make. Many baby-boomers were born before Hawai'i was granted statehood.

The President in not a baby-boomer. He was born in 1961 -- two years after Hawai'i gained status as a United State. Even had he been born before 1959, in Hawai'i -- he still would have been born an American citizen.

Hawai'i has been part of the United States since 1898.

It is also possible that someone was mistaken when they found out that one of the candidates in our last Presidential Election was not born in the United States.

Many would probably assume that was Obama. In fact, it was John McCain. McCain was born in Panama, during the construction of the Panama Canal, to American parents.

Some may question whether McCain was legitimately born in the United States. But, I believe (and please correct me if I'm wrong) that having been born at a Naval Air Station, McCain in fact was considered to have been born within the United States -- similar to be being born in an American Embassy.

Regardless, both McCain and Obama have at least one American citizen as a parent, which would render the location of the birth moot. The United States grants citizenship to people who are born within its boundaries, and also those born outside of its boundaries -- provided they are born to a parents who is a citizen.

That of course would bring up the issue of dual-citizenship, which is not within the realm of this entry.

The above is simply the most polite way to view the issue. Unfortunately, it has occurred to me that this has carried well beyond being just an honest mistake.

So, I must ask why.

As much as I want to say this could be a product of die-hard Republicans, who are just sour over losing the White House. I don't think this can be blamed solely on the political system in the country.

I think the root is much deeper. I think, simply put, the issue is racism.

Why is McCain's birth not being questioned? Is it because he is white?

To be blunt, there are still millions of people who have forgotten that the Civil War ended 140-some years ago... and that the Confederates lost. We still have major issues with racism, and that is a shame.

We currently reside in a nation where we still look down on people based on appearance. They are different, and we don't like them. Sad.

Really, I think 'Birthers' are nothing more than white supremacists. People so upset that blacks, hispanics, and other ethnic groups are not being repressed. How sad it is for these ill-minded racists.

I'm betting they are the same people who are pissed to no end about immigration -- both legal and illegal.

You have to wonder how shallow-minded these people are. I would hate to stereotype these people, but they seem to come from a certain culture -- as all racism does. It was once said that racism is taught... which brings us to lineage.

Every person who lives in the great nation has ancestry from some other nation. Look in the mirror, then talk to your family. Where are you from? Someone in your family, somewhere, was not an American citizen.

Then stop to think about religion. Of the major religions, look at the diversity that exists.

Christians have Jesus Christ -- a Jew born of African decent -- and for all intents and purposes your ancestry can be traced back to Noah... who lived where? We call it the Middle East, now.

Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims... all from roughly the same area. In Asia. And you're telling me are going to judge people based on where their relatives are from?

People need to think before they start spouting off about others. Think about who you are. How you got here.

It may sound hypocritical for me to say something like this, but racists -- specifically white supremacists -- are dead wrong. There is absolutely nothing to justify such actions.

As far as I am concerned, the racists and white supremacists... with their misconceptions and wishes to violate the rights of others... need to think of the alternative. They have no right infringe on the rights of any other person in this world.

This nation was founded by immigrants, and has (for the most part) kept its doors open to all who wish pursue freedom -- and do so legally.

Thus, if you do not like something about the United States of America, specifically regarding how people look. Get the hell out.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Red Lights...

...and they certainly aren't for goals in hockey.

There is no secret here. I live for hockey. For the past 28 years there has been very little of my life that has not involved hockey -- as a player, a coach, an official, or just as a fan.

It pains me to see this, but the NHL needs a change.

OK, you're going -- didn't they have a lockout over big change? Yes they did. But they only fixed one aspect of the game. The lockout was all about money.

There in lies the problem. Yes, it is a business, but NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman (who actually ranks below Tony George on my list of sports executives, if you can imagine that) only seems to grasp the concept of money, and has totally taken his eyes off the game.

Now, since he got his Salary Cap... er, excuse me... COST CERTAINTY, he has continued his ill-fated efforts to make the NHL the NBA. Let's remember, he was David Stern's #2 man, before starting his personal jihad against the game of hockey.

Monetary control -- he has that now. So now he is still on his quest to bring more scoring to the NHL. Good concept, poor execution. Really, Bettman is under the impression that scoring brings excitement, and that brings more money.


Scoring is a good thing, but there is plenty of excitement in a 2-1 hockey game. I'll put it this way. In any given basketball game, there are nearly 100 scoring plays. So... what constitutes a highlight? I don't care to see a ten-foot jump shot, which puts a team up 2-0 in a game that will end 94-82. Likewise, maybe a team goes on a 14-6 run in the third quarter to open up a lead... but what makes any of those points more important than points one and two? Points 93 and 94 in that game certainly are anti-climactic as well.

Less is more in this case.

Yes, there is a small problem with scoring in the NHL. But, it is not something that is a quick fix. You can not tweak one thing to fix this problem. This is what we call a systematic problem. The whole system is screwed.

1. Goaltending Pads. I'm going to hate myself in the morning for saying this. But, since the days of Garth Snow putting what appeared to be a 36" x 36" plywood board down the front of his sweater, and Robert Luongo's 42"-tall goal pads (for those of you keeping track, and hockey goal is just 48" high), the over-grown goaltender has become a major issue.

Take a look at former Los Angeles Kings goaltender Kelly Hrudey, circa 1995. Compare him to current Anaheim Ducks goaltender Jean-Sebastien Gigure, and you will see what I mean.

Better yet, look at former NHL goaltender Patrick Roy in his rookie season with Montreal, and then at him in his final season in Colorado. No, he didn't grow... maybe a bit more tone in the muscles, but not THAT much.

The size of the pads does need to come down a bit. And maybe they should be less "boxy", and more form-fitting like they used to be. Goaltenders back then didn't get hurt as often -- but that might leads us back to my rant against weight training.

2. Penalty Shots. What was once considered "the most exciting play in hockey" has been bastardized. Bettman decreed that more people wanted to see penalty shots, because they are exciting.


They're exciting because they are so rare. Now, not a day goes by in the NHL without a penalty shot -- either in-game, or in a tie-breaker.

What Bettman has done is the equivalent of MLB Commissioner Bud Selig telling a team they can not use bats in a game because no-hitters are exciting. You can't make these things happen -- they just happen on their own accord. It's the right set of circumstances coming together.

2-1/2. Ties. Not every game needs a winner. Some days neither team deserves to win. Some days neither team deserves to lose. Some days the teams are just that evenly matched.

What is with the concept of instant gratification? Forget it! Ties are a part of the game... in hockey (not baseball, Mr. Selig).

Mr. Bettman, get rid of the tie-breaker shootout. You want games with no ties... you already have it -- it's called playoff hockey.

2-3/4. Playoff Hockey Overtime. You want proof that you don't need scoring to have an exciting game? 1987, New York Islanders vs. Washington Capitals. 1996, Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins. 2000, Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers. 2007, Dallas Stars vs. Vancouver Canucks. 2008, San Jose Sharks vs. Dallas Stars

What all of these games have in common, is that went to at least four overtime periods. That means for at least 60 minutes (the length of an entire game... after the 60 minutes of regulation playing time) there was no scoring. But, these games only needed on goal to end them. Talk about excitement. I remember being up until my parents went to work watching some of these games.

At the same time, even in regulation a one-goal game is exciting. The struggle for that tying goal is epic, at times.

3. Diluted Talent. For many years, the NHL was 6-team league. Then it doubled to 12 teams. Eventually the league was up to 20 teams for the longest time, before 1992 and San Jose made 21 teams. By the end of the decade, the league would be up to 30 teams.

The addition of those 10 teams, meant 200 more spots on NHL rosters. 200 players, who traditionalist say would never have made it to the league. OK... some would have eventually cracked rosters, but many would still be toiling away in the minors, maybe even improving their skills against a more equal talent level.

There are others who would argue that among those 200 spots are 20 goaltender spots -- and it the skaters talent pool is diluted, so too is the goaltending talent. Yes and no. There are certainly some goaltenders who do not belong in the NHL. But you are still looking at a 10 to 1 ratio of skaters to goaltenders. Statistical logic says your talent curve is bound to fall off more from 1 to 200 than it is from 1 to 20.

4. Poor Market Location. This is the big one. This is where Bettman really faltered. He expanded the league too quickly. Not only does that hurt the talent pool, but it hurts the growth of the game.

In terms of the talent pool, 200 more players in 10 years in addition to replacing retired players stunts the development programs of the NHL teams. A top young talent is now forced up sooner, as well as a player who maybe doesn't have the all around skill set to complete. However, eventually the talent pool should restock itself, even though lesser talents are getting the call.

With the markets, it's the opposite. Expansion was driven not by need, but by novelty. Non-traditional markets in the south (Atlanta, Miami, Tampa Bay, Nashville, and Anaheim) were all given a chance... in addition to relocation projects (Dallas from Minnesota, Raleigh from Hartford, Phoenix from Winnipeg).

Fans flocked to the gates for the first few seasons. It was a novelty. People just wanted to see what it was all about. Unfortunately, they did not understand the game, just wanted to be seen at the games, and inferior talent on the ice made games less entertaining. Now most of these markets are in trouble.

The game just hasn't grown in these markets. Fewer fans are going to games, and that means less money for the teams. The problem was, the expansion was driven by greed. Potential for money, and state-of-the art buildings lured teams and the league. Suffice it to say, it was all too good to be true.

Add it all up, and you have one hurting league. There is not just one fix... though, if you want to make look like one fix, I'll tell you where to start: Gary Bettman. Get rid of the problem at the top, and replace him with someone who understands the game.

From there you can proceed wisely into the future, with a system that works.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Welcoming You To the Digital Age... is Gordon Jump

(Anybody get the reference?)

The following post is my response to Vent Casey's DTV Transition Report: They’re Out of Coupons?

A lot of this whole conversion is propaganda. So much information is not being released, it’s not even funny. Even the people who work in television don’t have a clue.

Here’s what I do know, that can help clear things up.

1. If you have bought a TV in the past couple of years — there is a very good chance you have nothing to fear. By mandate any TV manufactured since 2005 is supposed to be able to support HD-TV. You need only an antenna — and, yes, your old rabbit ears WILL work (if you have them on an HD-ready TV). On HD-ready sets, the conversion happens inside the tele. You’re good to go. You only need to covert once (at the antenna or monitor)… one HD setup per monitor is all that is needed.

If you have a cable box, you have nothing to fear. Yes, the government is throwing around a 10-cent word to hype it up (coverter). Every cable box distributed by the cable companies is supposed to, and probably already is accepting HD signals, then converting them back to analog if that is what your TV takes. If you get your cable directly from wall to monitor, you might have some issues, unless you have an HD-ready set. Again… just once coversion — this time, box or screen.

2. There is almost zero benefit in going to HD. Unfortunately, the decision of whether to switch over was taken out of our hands. You will experience EXACTLY the same problems you had with an analog signal. Bad weather, antenna placement, and signal quality will still be a factor.

Right now, I have an HD-ready TV behind me. When I first got it, I put the old analog antenna on it — I got both analog and HD channels. But I didn’t get all of them. So, being thoroughly uneducated by the government, I went out and bought an HD antenna. It makes no difference. I still get the same channels… and it’s not all of the channels available in the area. Come February, the HD antenna will go to a non-HD unit… I will simply switch out the antennae between units.

3. No offense to you Vent, but I am calling bullshit on this clearer picture with HD. Colors are bolder, but no clearer… and, as a professional in the field, I can tell you that the field of focus when shooting in HD is much shallower. Backgrounds are not in as much focus as they were in standard format. That’s because the piece of glass at the front of the camera has a different shape.

The conversion from analog to digital will take us from an aspect ratio (viewing window) of 4:3 to 16:9. It sounds impressive… it isn’t. It’s letterboxing. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that you’ve squared two numbers to make bigger numbers. The pixels are smaller, and you have a few more pixels on the sides. It’s just more things to go wrong.

Really, does anything happen to those sides? Maybe you can see the back of someones head in a movie… and maybe you’ll see the cornerback jump a route a fraction of a second sooner. But all the main attraction is still in the center of the monitor. When you get to the boundaries of sports — it just means you can see the jackass in row 10, instead of only seeing rows 1 thru 5.

Any difference you are seeing, is probably the result of a new unit. I’m guessing you are peering into an HD-Flat Panel (not the same as a flat screen). A flat screen (the same size as a standard tube television from 10 years ago) and a flat panel (looks like a picture frame) produce images differently. In 3-5 years, those flat panels will look no different than the flat screen, and possibly look more like a projection. This is because flat panel Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) monitors need to be reconfigured — basically the light needs to be refocused.

Ever sat at Buffalo Wild Wings and noticed a magenta shadow around everything on the big projection screens? The magenta (red) light is out of alignment. Same effect on LCDs.

Say hello to maintenance costs and the Sears repairman.

I hope I haven’t ruined the experience for you, but the information and facts need to get out there. It’s scare tactics. Someone in the television industry as a Senator or Congressman in their pocket.

Really, we should be concentrating on broader issues. It was only because the iPod and internet have taken a sizeable chunk out of the electronics market from the television. It was just the first “bailout”. A little more appropriate than aimlessly throwing money around, but not by much.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

One Word Tells the Story

With one magic word John McCain ensure himself of not getting my vote. Even if he was running against Hilary Clinton... or even David Duke. I would not vote for him.

This goes far beyond me being grossly bored with his quadrennial runs for the White House. It goes beyond the fact that he is what President Bush would call a 'flip-flopper'. But with just one persistently used word, I know he does not have what it takes to be the president.


Cue former Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Mora: "Pre-condition??? Pre-condition??? I'm not... Pre-condition???" (...and that should cover my sports reference in this entry... ...or not -- I think I've got one more.)

How about Allen Iverson: "We're talking about pre-conditions. We're not talking about conversations, we're talking about pre-conditions. The fate of the entire world could be at stake and we're talking about pre-conditions. This is about nuclear war, and we're talking about pre-conditions. Not diplomacy, pre-conditions..."

Really, Senator McCain. What the hell are you thinking?

For those of you who missed the Presidential Debate last night, the gentleman from Arizona attacked the gentleman from Illinois over Obama's willingness to meet with Mahmoud Amaddini... Ammahdin... er, um... the president of Iran (that would be, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) about his possible nuclear arsenal, without pre-condition.

Um... I'm not a legislator, not a representative of this government. But even I know you can't invite someone to dinner, then tell them there are rules about coming to dinner. The point is to open the lines of conversation.

Comedian Eddie Izzard jokes that Britain's foreign policy used to consist of closing its eyes and not wanting to hear what was really going on. Thanks to President Bush -- we're pretty close to that. We're more tunnel vision on terror -- and I still maintain you can't declare war on an inanimate object -- than ignoring. But it is still dangerous.

It leads me to believe that McCain, like Bush, would prefer to not talk to Iran (or North Korea, for that matter) because we don't agree with their views. I say tough shit. Nobody can tell anybody else what to believe, or what to do.

Besides, there is a common believe that in North Korea's case, they are developing nuclear arms in an attempt to get out attention. You know that movie/TV line "I've got you attention now" while holding a gun to someone's head? Yeah, this would be it.

As the most powerful nation in the world, we need to be diplomats first. That means, not trying to force anyone into something they don't want to do. It also means we need to lead by example. To do that, we need to open up to EVERYONE... not just our allies.

Think about it. The policy of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" as really gotten us into this mess. We armed Hussein in Iraq to piss off Iran. We armed bin Laden, and we installed Castro because we hated Bautista. Maybe we should stop messing with other governments internally, and just deal with what exists.

Talk to Iran. Talk to North Korea. Maybe all they want is to be seen with the cool kids. Diplomacy goes a long way when it is pure. The answer is not war, it's not arming up for nuclear holocaust. The answer is in talking through your problems.

Obama seems willing to explore that PEACEFUL possibility, while not excluding the option that if such diplomacy does not work, that then (and ONLY THEN) do you need to escalate to sanctions or possible military action.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Political Party: Let's Play 'Presidents and Ass******'.

Happy day off work, today, America (and Canada). While the rest of you are out on a long weekend -- travelling, barbecuing, or celebrating in your own way -- I'm here, with nothing better to do.

OK, I have better things to do.

But, last week the two sides in the Presidential Election made their selections of running mates to help head the tickets. As always, I have an opinion.

Ironically, the title of this blog might be a bit deceiving.

Republicans: I can't tell you how much they make me hate politics, right now. It's never been a secret that I oppose the political party system. Last week, and this week, just remind me why.

Now, the Democrats seem to be getting on my good side, nothing really controversial there. The Republicans are really starting to piss me off. (Actually, they've had me pissed off for a while... but it's getting worse.) I don't mind the normal politics that go on -- those can be ignored... or at least I can claim I've become accustomed to them.

But, two things are really bothering me. First of all, the selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as John McCain's running mate. I have no problems with her. I'm sure she is very qualified for the position. In fact, I think mayors and governors are more qualified to handle the Executive Branch offices, than Senators and Representatives cough*laywers*cough, because they have to deal with ALL the facets of the world in their decisions.

What is grinding my gears, is that it is dirty politics by the Republican party as a whole. I would love to think that Palin was the first choice for the job. Let's face it, she wasn't. Nobody had even mentioned her. It is clear that McCain and the Elephants are using Palin because of her gender. It is a clear attack on Barack Obama for not choosing Hillary Clinton as his running mate. That should not be the point being made.

We will revisit Hillary in just a few moments.

The major issue I have with the selection of Palin, is that she is out of play for attacks. Really, I love the idea that you can't make a personal attack on someone in a campaign. It should be law. But it's not, and Palin will be the only one of the four ticket-headers who will be off limits. That makes it an unfair advantage for the Republicans, and thus cheating.

Nothing against Palin and her family. But really, what the Republicans have done is make an issue of a non-issue, while unintentionally making an issue of what should be a non-issue turned issue by the limelight, yet decreeing it a non-issue. (Everybody got that?)

OK, in slow-mo...

The Republicans are going to play up Palin's son's deployment to Iraq, wrongly proclaiming: "He's a soldier, serving his country, and which makes him and his parents patriots!"

His decision to serve, has nothing to do with Palin. Her son made the decision on his own, and did so AFTER Palin started her political career.

The Reds (LOL... I think that's what I should call them from now on.) Will also push the son's service as the end result of good parenting.

But there is a major problem... two, actually. What about the un-wed pregnant teenage daughter? Somebody was too busy with work to pay attention to the kids -- and that works as a strike against both men and women. Beyond that, the Reds will declare her parenting skills out of bounds, because her youngest child -- an infant -- has Down's Syndrome.

You can't be selective here. This is not poker. It's all in, or all out. Either there can be mention of the children at all, or everything is fair game -- like the fact that she hid her most recent pregnancy for eight months.

In summary, while we are currently living out the final 8 years of Michael Moore's "Canadian Bacon" (where America declares war because war boosts the President's approval ratings), we are not potentially looking at 4 more years of life based on a movie. Should McCain win, we will be living in Aaron Sorkin's "The American Preisdent" (where Richard Dreyfus claims to have lost an election because he could run a personal attack campaign because Michael Douglas was a widower).

Democrats: I love the choice of Joe Biden as Obama's running mate. I am sorry that Hillary was denied a shot at history, but in the end it SHOULD not come down to who will bring you more votes... it SHOULD come down to who will bring you more votes, because they are the right person for the job.

Now, this blog could turn very biased, very quick. Let's just say that about a year ago, before the primaries, I visited a website where I put in my personal opinions on the issues and how much they matter to me. The website matched me with my ideal Presidential Candidate.

It was Joe Biden.

Ironically, about a week before I took that online survey, I had the opportunity to meet Senator Biden here in Omaha, when he made a speech on campus. I also met his neice -- who was a very lovely young woman. I really enjoyed the extended conversation I had with her, and wish I could continue to talk to her -- but, let's face it... not going to happen. That is, unless she stumbles across this blog and remembers who I am.

Back on topic, Joe Biden's stance on many issues are in line with mine. Therefore, to keep this blog from becoming overwhelmingly one-sided, I will end the conversation over Biden, here.

Bet we can look at why I didn't think Clinton was a good choice as a Vice President. I'm sure Senator Obama would agree that Clinton was worthy of the nomination, both for President and Vice President. I am also certain that, should he win, he will have a place for her.

I'm thinking Secretary of State.

Despite the fact that a family friend of mine frequently refers to Clinton's husband as "that sleazeball Razorback", and despite Bill's lapses in moral judgement, the Clintons were able to do something I still have not seen President Bush (II) do. When it came to foreign dignitaries, the Clintons were true diplomats -- and did nothing to embarrass themselves.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Clintons' diplomacy, not to mention their experience in the White House would best serve the country on the international stage.

So there you have it. My opinions on the choices for Vice President in this year's election.

Now, I'm off to figure out how Major League Baseball allowed half the league to have Labor Day off. It used to be that everybody played on Labor Day, and ESPN used to show three or four games.


Sunday, August 31, 2008

Upon Further Review, We Should All Be Robots

Really. Have we forgotten that we are all human? Nobody is perfect -- stop expecting everyone to be so.

I have spent several years of my life as an on-field official in a couple of sports. I've been baseball umpire. I've been a soccer linesman. And we all know that I currently exist in a legally-blind capacity as a hockey referee.

Do you want to know where I stand on instant replay?

Really. Ask me. Pretty please... ...with a cherry on top....

Instant replay is for the birds. It is possibly the worst idea in sports since Fox brought us the glowing puck on television. OK, I'll back down a bit. It is not a horrendous idea... but in most cases it is not used appropriately. In short, we need to not rely on it.

In every game, across every sport, there are objective people on the field to arbitrate and render decisions on those close calls. They are, outside of Tim Donaghy and his friends, for the most part impartial. Really, we people need to stop thinking that umpires or referees have it in for teams or players. It's not the case.

They are, however, human. And they are flawed -- everyone is. So how can I defend flawed people? Because the alternatives are no better. They too are flawed... ...because they are created by humans who are flawed.

This week, Major League Baseball (MLB) instituted their version of instant replay for use on what are being referred to as 'boundary calls'. They should really just say home runs, because that's the focus. MLB has installed cameras at all of their stadiums to help the umpires determine whether a batted ball left the field of play, if it was fair or foul, or if a fan interfered with a player making a play on the ball.

Why am I saying home runs? Because those are the only calls that an umpire might admit he needs help with -- if he admits it at all. An interference play on a foul ball, is not likely to go for review, because umpires generally do not have a problem getting into position to make calls on balls that end up closer to the infield. Those fan interference calls on foul balls are usually pop flies, and if an infielder or outfielder can cover the distance to the side boundary (I'm talking stands, not foul lines), so too can an umpire.

Home runs are slightly different, because the outfielders are much closer to the outfield wall than the umpires. This leads me to question why a simpler solution was not tried, first. That solution would be to used six-man crews (like those used in the playoffs) during regular season games.

Yes, I know, there was a six-man crew for the Jeffrey Maier incident. But most of those calls will have an umpire in position to make. You have two umpires down the lines in the outfield to make those calls.

Now, I don't know all the details of how this works -- especially because none of the outfield dimensions at any MLB ballpark consist of a straight wall from foul line to foul line. Which means that you would need multiple cameras for this to work to begin with.

Seriously, the only way for instant replay to work is for a camera to be at the top of each foul pole, shooting straight up -- to determine fair or foul -- and two cameras at every angle of the outfield wall -- one shooting to the right, and one to the left. That could get expensive for the Texas Rangers, in their park. And would have cost the Brooklyn Dodgers a metric ton of money at Ebbets Field, where the right field wall had no less than 289 angles.

Besides, as I mentioned before, the technology is not perfect. What if those cameras at the top of the foul pole twist to change the reference points? And really, what are your reference points when shooting at a clear blue sky? Besides, camera lenses get dirty, or simply don't give you a clear picture of what you're looking at.

I work on the CCTV crew at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha -- home of the College World Series. I can tell you that often plays are given a second look -- by us and umpires -- after games. The problem is, many times it's still inconclusive. No help there.

All MLB would need to do, is reposition the outfield umpires, to stand on the foul lines, near the wall. On a play towards the gap, they run out to make the call. On a blast down the line -- they hold their position and rule it fair or foul. If they back themselves to the wall, and look straight up -- they have the reference point of the foul pole and can tell you which side of the pole the ball left the park on.

But it does raise one question about a rule. Everybody knows that a ball inside the bases can roll foul or back into fair territory before getting to the bases. A ball that passes the bases on the fly must land between the foul lines to remain fair. But why is a ball which leaves the field of play over the outfield wall allowed to land outside the where the foul lines would be?

For example: You hit a ball that at travels 360 feet down the right field line. The ball never goes higher than 20 feet off the ground (a line drive). At 315 feet from home plate, the ball is inside the foul line. At 325 feet, the ball crosses the line. (This would mean that at 360 feet, the ball is also outside the line -- in simple physics.) At Yankee Stadium, you've just hit a home run. But if you're playing at Safeco Field it's strike one. However, if you're at Camden Yards, you're running as fast as you can because that ball is still in play, and the rightfielder is about to pick it up and throw it back in because it hit the scoreboard/wall.

(FYI: The above rule was changed in 1931. Prior that that, home runs were determined fair/foul at the point of which the umpire lost sight of them.)

But it does make you wonder -- that 360 foot home run... what if you hit it at Wrigley Field, and at 355 feet, the wind blew it back across the line. At 353 feet, the ball left the field of play... but if the wall was 365 feet away, it's in play.

It's a game of inches.

I'm sure someone is thinking that we should put cameras behind home plate, and shoot down the lines. That won't work. My seventh grade science teacher would like to teach you about parallax -- you know, it's how a speedometer reads 55 MPH to the dirver, but only 53 to the passenger. It's the same reason instant replay won't work on close calls at first base. You can't tell when the first baseman catches the ball.

There is a similar problem in football. There is no definite point of reference to determine when someone has possession of the ball. Timing and position do not translate well to video technology.

Now, it does have good uses in football. Like, when a player steps out of bounds. It also has a good use in hockey -- but only ONE. It is that view I like to call rafter cam -- the view straight down on the goal from the ceiling. But that view is often poorly executed. The shot needs to be 90 degrees from the horizontal, on a vertical plane directly above the goal line, at the middle of the goal. Often, that shot is at an angle -- and I can't tell you why, but it takes away any reference to the plane of the goal line, which means the system fails.

But, of the sports that I participate in, that rafter cam view is the only acceptable use of replay I see. Why? Because hockey moves fast, players move fast, referees move fast, and pucks move fast. On occaision, the referee will have a player between him and the puck -- and he simply can not see the puck entering the goal. Other times, the puck might hit a part of the frame in the back of the net. If you blinked, you missed it. That camera can see it, and tell you which part of the frame it hit. But that is it. None of this, was someone interfering? And don't use it to determine if the puck was played into the goal legally. Those are judgement calls, and should not be open for discussion. To one, it may be legal... to another, it's not.

See the play. Assess the play. Make the call.

In summary, cameras are not the answer -- because in the end, it still comes down to the human eye. Nothing takes the fun out of a game more than stopping to take a closer look at something nobody else has a better view of.

Let the officials make the call, move on, and remember... it's just a game.