Armchair Talking Head

Bigger and Newer: Is it Always Better?

I damn near cried the first time I went to St. Louis and saw the giant hole that used to be Busch Memorial Stadium. I went to my first Cards game with my Dad there. I learned that it was okay to love a baseball team like a woman there–you have your ups and downs, but you still lover her, dammit. My emotions were similar the first time my Dad and I set foot in New Busch Stadium where a whole slew of new memories have been made, none to top sitting on the first base line with Dad as the Budweiser Clydesdales galloped around the warning track with the 2006 World Series trohpy on opening day. As cool as new Busch Stadium is, something about me misses the old arches atop the old park. I liked the idea of watching Albert Pujols play at the same place my old man watched Bob Gibson hurl the ball. Progress is all good and well, and the topic of old baseball parks and the new-fangled “baseball parks” that focus on fan experience instead of baseball is an entirely different topic.

Credit: Crassic

I had a somewhat similar feeling as I drove down Bryant Drive today for the first time since it had opened post-South Endzone construction. It’s beautiful. It’s worth every penny spent on it. I oohed. I ahhed. I almost rear-ended a sorority girl back a week early for Rush in the BMW her daddy bought her because I was staring out the side window of my beaten down Chevy. A marvel of football, modern engineering, and a testament to the thousands of Alabama boys who have worn the Crimson and White on Saturdays in the fall sits between University Blvd. and Bryant Drive for sure, but I had a different reaction as I turned north on Wallace Wade Avenue.  Just as that street is named for a coach of old (Wade won 3 National Championships at Alabama from 1923-1930), the western side of Bryant-Denny tells a different story. Exposed beams, old but sturdy bricks dominate the view. You can see inside the stadium to an extent, and on game weeks you can often see the inner workings of getting the stadium ready for the 100K plus fans that will fill the seats that weekend. I kind of miss the ability to take a glimpse into the stadium, and the old feeling the stadium used to have. That oldness spoke to the tradition that so many Alabama fans love to talk about. I often wonder as I stand at the urinals tucked under the seats of the student section staring at the wood bolted to concrete and steel keeping us in our seats if the men who built the stadium in the 1920’s, or even people who have worked on it in the years in between, ever imagined the behemoth it has become.

In the changing, fast-paced, dog-eat-dog world of today’s college football, bigger and newer might mean more talented recruits, more fans, and more money. In fact, it might even play a part in the success of the team on the field, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. I do like it, and I welcome progress, but  a little part of me hopes they never cover up the older parts of the stadium.

My Take on the Tide: 48 Hours from Kickoff

In 48 hours, the Tide will begin their 2008 campaign under the Dome in Atlanta.  Before we can talk about where the Tide will go in the second year under the “Nicktator,” we must take a look back at where we’ve been.

In the first year under Nick Saban, the story was “close, but no cigar.”  Every game in the first half of the season seemed to be a nail-biter, minus the Vandy game which wasn’t exactly a blowout either.  The first leg ofthe 2007 season featured a 3 point win over Arkansas, an OT loss to UGA, a touchdown loss to FSU, a near tragic 6 point win over Houston, and a 3 point scare at Ole Miss.  The turning point came against Tennessee.  Everything clicked for the Tide, and everything bombed for the Vols in a 41-17 Alabama win.  When everything was setting up for a late season run off the momentum of the Tennessee win, the house of cards came tumbling down.

A potential monumental upset fell by the wayside against LSU with a 1 touchdown loss.  The wind was completely let out of the Tide’s sail after a demoralizing loss in Starkville, followed by the LA Monroe debacle.  In the Iron Bowl, redemption was almost had, but slipped away by 7.  Even the Weed Wacker Bowl was a close one, with the Tide overcoming Colorado 30-24.

It was a roller coaster that I only survived thanks to Captain Morgan, and Jim Beam.  The old ABC theme, “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” never met a more appropos team.  The close wins were uplifting, the blowout was exhilarating, and the near losses, especially to State and LA Monroe were down right demoralizing.

If the 2008 campaign is to be more successful, the close losses have to go away.  To get where the program needs to be, we can’t lose any more games to cupcakes like LA Monroe, and the annual match up with Starkville Feed/Seed/Lawn Mower Repair and Junior College must be a guaranteed win.  When that happens, then we can talk about having enough in the tank to hold on against the likes of LSU, UGA, and Auburn in the 4th Quarter.

The “process” is well documented, and that’s just what this Saban experiment is; a process.  I think the “easy” games will come with relative ease.  Perhaps contending for an SEC West title is a year down the road, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel sweet Bammers, there’s light at the end of the long, dark, vile tunnel that stretches from DuBose to Fran; from Price to Shula.  The end of the long Bammer Nation nightmare is nigh.  A loss in the game Saturday with Clemson will be an understandable casualty of the “process” to achieve that end. A win in the Georgia Dome, however,  has the very real potential to set that end into motion at a breakneck pace.

It’s football season baby.  Despite the copious amounts of academic BS I’m doing right now, not even my law profs can take my joy away.


MLB Instant Replay

Instituting an instant replay process in Major League Baseball is all the rage as of late.  Several botched home run calls, and the media are shitting their collective pants.  There are two schools of thought here.

One in opposition to replay arguing that baseball has been played since the 1800’s.  Why would we need replay now?  The other being in favor citing that when we have the ability to get almost every call correct, why wouldn’t we?

Well, if you expect to carry into the future, as with anything, you must adapt with new technologies in order to remain relevant.  Basketball, and football have done it while maintaining the integrity of the game. Frankly, in this day and age where we have video cameras spied on every square inch of a ball park, the thought of a home run call being botched is ridiculous.  However, we tread on dangerous ground if instant replay permeates every facet of the game.  I can see the use of instant replay being useful in home run calls, and perhaps game altering safe/out calls like Matt Holliday’s slide in the NLCS last year, but in reality why is a run in the 9th inning any more important than a run in the 3rd?  That argument just doesn’t fly.  It goes without saying that an implementation of replay in determining balls and strikes is out of the question, and to review every disputed base call would take an already excruciatingly long game to unwatchable.

The vast majority of home run calls are correctly made, especially after a conference between the entire crew.  The recent uproar of support for instant replay is a prime example of the rampant media sensationalism that I love to hate.  I’m willing to offer up the occasional botched call rather than heading down the slippery slope of instant replay that would make an already long game longer and turn America’s past time into Big Brother: MLB.

And as Rick Morrissey points out (via SbB), we’d all rather see an Ozzie Guillen or Lou Piniella explode in an Ump’s face rather than lightly tossing a red flag onto the field.

An Open Letter to Mike Slive

Dear Commissioner Slive,

Do you know what time I left Regions Park last night?  I and maybe 100 other brave souls stayed until 2am, and Hell I didn’t even see the end of Alabama’s 9-3 loss to Kentucky.  You Mr. Slive have a scheduling problem that needs to be fixed.  I understand delays due to extra innings, etc. but one 10 inning game is no excuse for an almost 3 hour delay for the final game of the day.  It isn’t fair to the players, nor to the fans to have them waiting in limbo as happened in Hoover last night/this morning.  First pitch was scheduled for 8pm, yet finally arrived at 10:45pm.

I’m not asking you to do away with extra inning games, nice long warm-up sessions, singing the national anthem, or anything like that.  But when you’re playing baseball at 2am on a Wednesday night, there’s an issue.

The solution may not be attractive, but to maintain the integrity of the game and the tournament, games are either going to have to start earlier, or the tournament must become single elimination and start a day earlier.

RTR Commish!,


PS:  If you could fix the BCS, that would be great too.

“You Most Likely Know it as Myanmar,…”

“…but it will always be Burma to me.”

Before last year, that quote from J. Peterman of Seinfeld fame was the only thing I knew about the southeast Asian nation.  In my American Foreign Policy course, while others got the attractive roles of Secretary of State, Israel, China, etc., I got to “play” the part of the military junta government of Myanmar which is officially recognized as Burma to the United States government as we do not officially recognize the junta as  the legitimate government.  The ruling junta is beyond backwards.  They moved the capital from Yangon to a hideout in the hills because of a feared invasion coupled with an odd astrological interpretation.  People in Myanmar live like the 1800’s, and disease and starvation is commonplace in normal times.

These are no normal times.  In the well-publicized aftermath of Cyclone Nargis, the people of Myanmar are suffering from the oppressive junta more than ever.  Nations are lined up at the ready to deliver the aid needed to the hundreds of thousands of survivor, yet the junta refuses most aid.  Thus far, only minimal aid has been let in from the US and others.  Even then, there are reports that the high quality food aid is being stolen and stockpiled by the junta and replaced with low quality foods.

Myanmar exists solely by the help of China who, if you haven’t heard, has their own horrible natural disaster to deal with at the moment.  The US should lean on China to persuade the junta to allow US and other foreign aid to flow freely into the battered nation.  If they refuse to accept aid, the Bush Administration should look to the successes of the Marshall Plan in Eastern Europe for inspiration here.  We fought Communism with aid, and on a smaller scale we can fight the backwards, oppressive ruling military junta by air dropping the shelter supplies, food, medicine, and potable water they so desperately need.

With the sting of Nargis still fresh, and the possibility of yet another Cyclone hitting the Irrawaddy Delta, the “Yangon Airlift” is needed now more than ever.