Saturday, October 26, 2002

While I'm carping about things on ESPN
Actual headline:
Former NFL lineman Tualo admits he's gay

Was I the only one a little taken aback by the word choice "admits"? You don't "admit" to good or value-neutral things. I might "admit" I passed gas, but I wouldn't "admit" I liked pecan pie. Not sure how to fix that but nearly any verb would have worked better there, no?
The annotated Jayson Stark
As I type this, Scott is lecturing Chris on something math-related. It's vaguely disconcerting relative to my current single-minded funk.

Shawon Dunston's home run was only the 10th in the DH era by a National League DH -- and certainly one of the most unlikely. Here's the whole list, courtesy of the Sultan of Swat Stats, SABR's David Vincent:

Dan Driessen, Cin., 10/19/1976, Gm. 3
Kurt Bevacqua, S.D., 10/10/1984, Gm. 2
Kurt Bevacqua, S.D., 10/14/1984, Gm. 5
Mike Davis, L.A., 10/20/1988, Gm. 5
Lonnie Smith, Atl., 10/22/1992, Gm. 5
Ryan Klesko, Atl., 10/24/1995, Gm. 3
Ryan Klesko, Atl., 10/25/1995, Gm. 4
Ryan Klesko, Atl., 10/26/1995, Gm. 5
Jim Eisenreich, Fla., 10/21/1997, Gm. 3
Shawon Dunston, S.F., 10/26/2002, Gm. 6

Note that name that comes up three times in a row. I think this is part of why he's my favorite player to this day. For awhile tonight, when both teams were scoreless through four, Game 6 of 2002 reminded me of Game 6 of 1995. I was at Pizzeria Uno for that one, with Harvard quiz players. Matty Couture's recent comment on his older brother's blog reminded me of this. Beaver Bonspiel typically falls on Game 6 Saturday.

(That was certainly true in 1996, when I hosted a "party" that night in my apartment. Various quiz-folk attended. Too many memories to fit in one entry so I won't even try.)

The Giants scored 16 runs in Game 5. They hadn't scored 16 in a regular-season game played anywhere except Colorado since Aug. 25, 2000, in a game in Philadelphia. Only once in the three-year history of Pac Bell Park had anybody scored 16 in a game -- when the Giants scored 18 against the Expos on May 24, 2000.

...highlighted by a Shawn Estes (the pitcher!) grand slam. My sister was in town that week. We'd gone to the game the night before (a 3-2 loss) and were eating dinner downtown, very close to Pac Bell, during this game.
Game 7: Where?
Suggestions/recommendations/invitations welcome. Even if you're not local you can brainstorm.

I don't feel comfortable returning to the downtown party, at least not if I'm going alone.
More useless trivia
Last non-dynasty* team to win a World Series despite lacking home field advantage: 1984 Detroit Tigers
Last underdog to win a World Series despite lacking home field advantage: 1981 Los Angeles Dodgers

*- this excludes the New York Yankees (four titles in five years) and Toronto Blue Jays (two in consecutive years)

Or from Neyer:
According to reader Jonathan Zimmerman, since 1985 the team with home-field advantage has won 14 of 16 World Series, with the exceptions being the Braves twice (1992 and 1999). Further, home teams are 14-2 -- after tonight, it's 15-2 -- in Games 6 and 7.
Random scapegoats
(I honestly didn't expect to mind the degree to which my clothes now smell like weed)

In no particular order...
1. The hippy-dippy protesters who were still walking around with anti-Bush, pro-Iraq signs late into the afternoon.

2. Macy's, for announcing that the "giant TV" would be at Union Square (Renel read the announcement several times at the Giants' home games), only to change locations at the last minute. I was among a handful of confused people who'd shown up at Union Square anyway.

3. Me, in light of my single biggest superstition, for not carrying any dimes, nickels, or quarters with me when I went to downtown San Francisco. My superstition isn't giving change to the homeless per se; rather, it's that not giving money when asked is bad luck. And so of course, I go to an area with more homeless people per square inch than just about anywhere else in the U.S., and each time I fish through my pockets and feel sheepish.

3a. Me, for (more recent superstitions) leaving both my Anna Karenina book and my discman (loaded with Human Clay) at home.

4. All the johnnies-come-lately who showed up around the sixth or seventh inning: Apparently being part of a big community isn't worth their while until we're already ahead and seemingly on our way to jubilation/riots.

4a. The people who never sat back down after run #5 scored in the top of the seventh. I'd swear we had much better luck on our asses than on our feet.

5. Well, yeah, the bullpen. Duh. But nobody reading this didn't already know that.
"Not today, sorry"
I was in Yerba Buena Garden, a large grassy area just east of the Metreon and south of Mission Street in downtown San Francisco. The Giants led by five, Russ Ortiz had a shutout going, and we were nine outs away from a title.

An hour later (ninety minutes later? these things screech to a halt in the late innings) I was blowing off a radio reporter who'd guessed (wrongly) that I might have something interesting to say about the rally/watch party.

I'd never blown off a real reporter before. You should try it sometime, it's surprisingly cathartic.
In defense of room temperature
It used to be that some of my least favorite managers had no pulse and some of my favorite were the reputed geniuses. So what changed?

1. Realized that not every move is a good move and that some people make moves for the sake of being noticed.

2. In a way, not much. Some of my all-time least favorite no-pulse managers overrelied on their veterans and alienated the good young players in the organization. Howe does just the opposite. He's great with a young bad team or a young good team. On the other hand maybe he'd be suboptimal with an old good team, and I have trouble understanding the fit with an old bad team.

3. Came to realize that even the best managerial in-game moves aren't as important as they look. This is how Dusty Baker can be so successful despite not seeming to be a master tactician. Rather, he (and Jim Tracy in Los Angeles, and Mike Scioscia further south) is extremely good at putting the right players in the right roles (along those lines, fascinating Kirk Rueter thread here) and also at getting the most out of his superstar.

(I used to chafe that the idea that Baker should get any credit for what Bonds does or that Phil Jackson should get any credit for what Jordan did, but when you think about it, a lesser coach might have easily bollixed the works without meaning to.)
Art Howe
Article here about one of my all-time favorite managers, who just became a Met.

Today of all days not the time to go into finger-pointing about the A's but it this post does illustrate why I think it's not at all bad to be a fair-weather fan, at least if you have an even plausible connection to the team whose wagon you're on.

Specifically: Appreciate what you have while you have it, because it can go away without warning. I fear that in Howe's absence, what he contributed will finally be understood ("don't know what you got until it's gone") and that the A's will decline a bit. (Then again as Joon pointed out when I shared similar thoughts in an e-mail, the A's will almost post a worse regular-season record in 2003 than 2002, given how insanely well they succeeded in one-run games.)
Want to know what I think? This captures surprisingly well what I think.

(Warning: Politics. But it goes a bit beyond that.)
Useless Baseball Trivia
This is the 11th World Series in my lifetime that went to a Game 6 with the home team needing to win twice.

Seven of the first ten times, the home team won Game 6 to force a Game 7. Exceptions: Atlanta (1992), New York Yankees (1981), Los Angeles (1978).

Six times out of the first ten, the home team did win twice: Arizona (2001), Minnesota (1987 and 1991), New York Mets (1986), Kansas City (1985), and St. Louis (1982).

Only once in my lifetime has the home team won game 6 but lost game 7: Your 1975 Boston Red Sox.

(This sounds too good to be true but my first extant memory involves my parents and a green chair and a TV and "baseball" and "Red"; this may or may not related to the 1975 World Series, which happened when I was seven months old.)
The Barker 128-Song Tournament
Details here. As Craig puts it: The way you pick is simple. If both songs came on the radio at the same time, which one would you rather listen to?

I figure most of my avid readers know about this but with a fair influx of new people (go Amish!), can't hurt to spread the word.

By the way, welcome to anyone seeing this blog for the first time, especially if you followed a link. So who's this guy that all he ever writes about are the World Series and some trivia competition? Long story, vague details can be inferred here or here.

Friday, October 25, 2002

Can you tell me
how to get
Name that techno
Curiously Blogger seems to have eaten a post of mine, or maybe I ate it myself.

The post right below this one was inspired by the question: What is the name of that one techno song? You've heard it a lot in the playoffs, specifically in San Francisco right before the Giants take the field at the start of the game.
Now also stuck in my head
The Tsuyoshi Shinjo batting theme music (it sounds vaguely like an anime soundtrack but I'm probably unnecessarily profiling), which beats the pants off of Missy Elliott.

From all the way back to my commute to Game 3: The CBS baseball music from 1990-93. (A hack way to get it if you don't remember: Take their college football theme, raise it a half-step, slow down the tempo a bit, have the downbeat of the first measure match the fourth note instead of the first note. Then you have it almost exactly.)

And, even more obscure despite being more recent, the NBC baseball music of the late 1990s when NBC shared the contract with Fox. I guess now both that theme and the last NBC NFL theme are defunct. All I can say about them is they're both in the key of D and really gay. I could whistle either of them to you but that doesn't translate at all to prose.

Last but not least, the Baseball Network (ABC/NBC, 1994-95) trumpet fanfare.

I wish somebody had these things on CD.
On quiz-bowl unity
Brick's August 15 entry; I didn't know what to say then but I think I do now.

I think it would be nice in the abstract to have a single championship cycle. In practice, (chess is actually a really useful comparison here) as long as whoever was around first does things in a way that enough other people think is suboptimal[1], you'll have competitors promoting an alternate vision.

Also, if the championship cycle happens to be profitable then obviously people will compete, either for the pie itself or for their share of it.

If some nonprofit movement gathered enough steam to get consensus acceptance as "the" championship then I think we'd have what people are looking for, but even in that case I don't think the competition would totally go away, nor (probably) ought it to.

[1] On the other hand chess, there's this governing body (FIDE) run by a man who happens to be both a world leader and reputedly not a very nice one. Nothing in quiz-bowl remotely approaches this. In a way these entries are awkward because it sounds as though I'm saying things just to avoid offending other people. Rather, even though I do have philosophical differences with how College Bowl Inc. does things at the college level and Questions Unlimited at the high school level, I think I have far less of a problem with their respective question styles than other friends and colleagues have. Obviously my opinions are mine alone and should not be construed as NAQT's or Boston University College Bowl's or Harvard's or maybe I could start going to Berkeley practices just to pad my disclaimer.
One obvious point about trivia games that people never seem to fully appreciate
(warning: contains two footnotes)

Two days ago Brick Barrientos suggested:
Perhaps we should look to the model of chess and go tournaments. Local tournament players don't regularly play masters in those games the first time out.

I have a slight problem with this:
The biggest difference between a quiz tournament and a chess tournament is what you need to run one. In the latter case, just rent a hall and tell people to bring boards and clocks. In the former case, the 800-pound gorilla is the questions themselves.

Yes, you could say "bring your own questions" the way chessplayers are told to bring their own boards and clocks, but then at a lot of events half the competitors would think that half the questions were mind-bogglingly bad. After all, questions aren't interchangeable the way chess equipment is. And even if chess equipment were as... unique... as the best (and worst!) questions can be, nobody gets screwed by my weird pieces[1] or dodgy clock other than me and my opponent, whereas your questions affect the whole field.

Question supply -- in particular, unique question supply -- is a nontrivial problem, the more trivia you play. I'm part of a group, NAQT, that's trying to do something about this. Serious pitch: Join us! Send sample questions to, or better yet write first and ask for a quick style guide. If you're not already one of us, it's not too late. Unless you have non-complete clauses or something, but still. Even so, it seems like we go to a lot of effort where I'm not yet convinced that the gain is there.

Where do most "casual" trivia buffs go for their question supply? Why, bars, of course. There's these guys, whose business plan seems to have succeeded wildly. Then there's your corner pub where the emcee writes his own questions, one-liners, and reads them out in his endearing brogue.

The key balance they've probably found (and this may have been my point a couple nights ago when I suddenly forgot where I was going) is to know how much time to spend per question and not exceed that limit.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not in favor of throwing quality control out the window. I deeply appreciate being part of a group with a reputation for craftsmanship. That said, I think it's entirely possible that the quest for the Perfect Question has made (circuit-level) question writing unfeasible for the school-bound trivia buff, if not unprofitable altogether.

I think it's possible to write good one-line bar trivia questions while spending no more than five minutes on a question. By contrast, when your questions are full paragraphs, the combination of research and prose will cost you at least a bare minimum of ten minutes a question[2] on writing alone, to say nothing of editing, play-tests, and so on. Even getting to the level of experience where you can write that quickly takes an obscene amount of time.

Sad to say, I think this is why, as a matter of business Darwinism, 25 years from now we'll all be playing multiple choice, unless we find a happier medium for question production first.

Now that I've made question-writing sound like total hell, I'll repeat my Serious pitch: Join us! Send sample questions to, or better yet write first and ask for a quick style guide. Trust me that it's not all that bad. Writing questions is fun in its own right. Just harder than it could be is all.

[1] My first chess set was the Renaissance chess set. The knights were men on horseback (horsies up on hind legs) and the bishops looked like Jesus. Not a standard chess set ("Staunton" being the term of art here) and so I was in for a rude shock at my first tournament when nobody would play on it.

[2] I have no good way to estimate here because I'm a freak of nature. For me, eight NAQT invitational series questions in an hour (of which maybe five or six can be used immediately with little to no editing and two are almost ready for prime time, though one might be beyond repair) is a doable best-case but not at all a pace you can rely on beyond the short term. Every other writer I've talked to about this takes much longer, on average, to write questions in that style, so much so that I continue to be shocked that people find it worth the time.
Food for the Hungry
Most underrated Nobel Prize winner ever.
Best Blog Ever
Oh my.

Most of that which I'd link to would be better linked from TMI but your mileage may vary.

(By the way, I think I linked to something this guy wrote a long time ago. When you people followed the link, he saw that they were coming to his site from me and sent me a nice e-mail. So in a way it's shocking I hadn't already been among his avid readers.)
Why sports reporting is a chore
While on the media bent, I was probably a little hard on sports reporters below.

Keown's leadin here rings true to me and gives me bad memories of "covering" a Bruins-Devil game a few years ago.
What's wrong with news reporting today
This, which I also heard on the radio this morning. (Specifically, CNN's request that actors who appear on CSI pretend to be real-life experts.)
Belated props to Kubi
For pointing out the writing similiarities between Scribbly Tate and (so often presented as Rob Neyer's alter ego) and Jim Baker.

Read the particular Scribbly Tate link, especially the last paragraph. Disturbing and yet so, so funny.
I guess this was bound to happen
No wonder it was down for repairs this morning.

This is very unsurprising. It's also by far the best reason to find a new host, which I may yet get around to doing.
Shocking news of the day
Wellstone died.

(Courtesy Kubi for alerting me.)
Dick of the Week
"He's so aloof, he hardly even argues with umpires who occasionally call borderline strikes against him."
--Bob Klapisch

The dick, of course, is not Bonds but rather Klapisch. After all, if he did argue with umpires he'd be a "whiner" or such.

Ballplayers can't win with sportswriters. Every time someone stops talking to the media, I'm surprised so many of them still do.

Gradually I've stopped listening to the media. More from Klapisch (and yes, he did write The Worst Team Money Could Buy, so that means he's been slagging guys whose jock he couldn't hold for more than a decade):

If so -- if Bonds actually smiles and possibly even weeps in triumph -- we'll finally see accept him as human.

Translation: "Cry for me, b*tch." Only Bonds is nobody's b*tch.
More [than you ever cared about] on booth chemistry
All Series, Joe Angell has done play-by-play in the third, fourth, and seventh innings. (The same innings that on A's radio were Ken Korach's rather than Bill King's.) So far this inning (Lofton just tripled, no mention yet of three-year-olds getting bowled over) Krukow has been silent and Kuiper is the one who just piped in some color.

It just occured to me why this sounds natural: Kuip and Kruk have plenty of experience together this year on television. (Yes, I'm ashamed to admit, the Giants also had You Know Who for some TV games, though actually not that many.) On radio by contrast the big dogs were Miller and Angell, with Kuiper sometimes chipping in and also the venerable Lon Simmons pinch-hitting, mostly on Sundays.

(Giants on TV + Miller on ESPN duty + McCarver on Fox duty = Kuip/Kruk TV and Angell/Simmons radio.)

More than you ever wanted to know about Giants TV/radio, I'm sure.

(Six semiregular broadcasters crowd the picture. Contrast to TV always being Papa and Fosse (Korach to fill in if either were gone, say Papa on Raider duties) and radio always being King and Korach (some guy who was terrible on radio, whose name I've already forgotten, to pinch-hit if any of the four were on vacation.)

But anyway, the point of this post: Miller and Angell are the kind of radio guys who are accustomed to solo playcalls; Kuip and Kruk do the two-man thing. Kuiper is Angell's color guy since he was the "swingman" (both TV and radio; if Miller was in one booth Kuip would be in the other), where in the regular season Kruk was strictly TV and Angell strictly radio.


The only other ballclubs whose TV/radio situations I know that well: Atlanta--four guys (Skip Caray, Pete van Wieren, Joe Simpson, Don Sutton) randomly paired for TV and radio, seemingly any of the six combinations equally likely. I wonder what they did for post-season radio, surely not a four-man booth. Boston--many readers would know the full complexity of TV better than me, where radio all you need to know is Jerry and Joe. If memory serves in the post-season the TV guys got a break but Jerry and Joe stayed the course.
Duane Kuiper's signature home run call is very much a homer's (cheerleader's) call. That's exactly what I like about it in situations like this.

On other people's radios (ESPN feed) Jon Miller probably gives the same superb, evenhanded call that he blessed Giants listeners with all year. That's fine too but Kuip and Kruk have broken out their emergency backup supply of team spirit.

(The best Kuip home run calls are the close ones, where the full phrase is At the WALL, [outfielder] LEAPS, OUTTAHERE!)

Sometimes I idly wonder about the clubhouse chemistry of a broadcast team with a larger-than-life announcer, especially one who misses plenty of games for his national TV gig. I wonder if Miller is vaguely similar to Bonds here. Not the aloof personality -- quite the opposite -- but just the psychic distance that seems to exist sometimes between him and (Joe Angell plus ex-jocks). It's weird to have Miller missing from the Giants booth and yet start to feel that it's natural that way.

One Sunday afternoon (Miller also gone, with ESPN TV duties -- actually it might have been a Saturday, sometime when the Giants were on the opposite coast of ESPN's Sunday game) I caught the ninth inning (radio) of a regular-season game that obviously had far less at stake than a World Series game. The Giants led by at least five runs and Krukow was talking about a phrase he'd heard a college coach use, the slob on the slab. To ask who that day's starting pitcher was, the coach would ask: Who's the slob on the slab? Kuip and Kruk got a whole inning's mileage out of this and were actually really funny..

I pity those of you who tried to listen to Buck/McCarver as the game got out of hand.
Boy, the radio call of Benji Gil's pinch-hit double makes Kenny Lofton sound just as bad as watching the play live made him look.

If he weren't a Famous Personality, I'd swear by his defense that he was actually Terrence Long moonlighting. (Note: T-Long is an excellent person who plays his ass off despite not being the most talented outfielder/hitter in the majors. Lofton has far more raw talent but perhaps less character. Perhaps. I probably shouldn't prejudge other Giants since I get so touchy about other people doing that to Bonds.)

Lofton also scores ridiculously high on paper on my list of traits I strongly dislike in particular players:
Name recognition value exceeds his current ability
Outfielder whose speed masks his seeming inability to get a good jump or take the right route on a ball
And of course the stuff other post-season viewers have complained about (whining about inside pitches and so on).

The Most Important Play of the Game just happened as I was typing. And just now a topical double-switch. Seeing Shinjo come into the game on a double-switch made my heart leap. Shinjo, that is, not the double-switch itself. I can imagine The Color Analyst Who Must Not Be Named carrying on about double-switches.

Neyer thought Shinjo should have started over Lofton. (Rumor has it Kenny is also very touchy about being benched.) I deeply agreed, though Lofton is an inning away from making both me and Neyer look sheepish.

I just "slept through" the first five innings, radio play-by-play wafting through my slumber, and became alert again in the fifth. Just in time for a two-run game to become a 12-run game. (As I type it's still two. 6-4 Giants, two out, nobody on, deluge about to begin...)
Things I didn't notice from the stands
1. I'll assume the "floating target" thing is all about TV, since I'm one of the few diehard baseball fans in America who didn't watch any of the TV coverage of Games 3-5. (Having been at all three games in person, you see.)

2. The whole Darren Baker almost getting run over play. I went from watching the ball rattle around to watching Lofton tear around second, figuring there'd be no play at the plate. Didn't find out about the incident until just now, reading recaps online.
Separated at Birth
Tonight's World Series game and this NFL playoff game.

Home team (of my deep rooting interest) jumps out to big lead, looks like it's about to blow the big lead, but then cracks it wide open all over again.
(deep contented sigh)
Aside: Why is Yahoo! the only non-MLB site with an official game log?

Anyhow, the line score says it all:
0 0 0 0 3 1 0 0 0 - 4 10 2
3 3 0 0 0 2 4 4 X - 16 16 1

Key play of the game: Had things gone differently, would have been the ball Lofton misplayed into a double in the top of the sixth. Angels trailed 6-3 but had runners at second and third with none out. Eckstein's RBI groundout made it 6-4 with a runner at third and one out. Had that runner scored, we'd have a one-run game. Instead Chad Zerbe got the grounder right back to him. Felix Rodriguez came in to get the last out and the Giants feasted on Anaheim's bullpen.

Speaking of feasts, I'm glad gluttony didn't turn out to be a jinx. The AAA Club level at Pacific Bell Park is, shall we say, upscale. Granting that the seats are outdoors, the indoor part that you go through to get to your seats puts Boston's 600 Club to shame. (To say nothing of Oakland's West Side Club and East Side Club.)

Sitting just to the foul side of the left field pole was convenient on a few occasions:
Both Santiago and Sanders hit balls just foul, where you could see the ball pass in front of the pole instead of behind it.

All three of the late home runs were close calls where you could study the arc, watch Garret Anderson go back, and hope.

All in all, just... yeah. Gluttony sums it up, score as much as anything. Wow.

Thursday, October 24, 2002

This is (in my opinion) extremely good performance art.
Impressions I've worked on in my spare time
(that may be too obscure to really impress people)

1. Mike Krukow. Not sure what it says that for me to get Kruk's intonation down I have to speak soft/subdued but I can get his timbre. Sample quote:
Good old fashioned country hardball--just grip it and rip it.

2. The Minnesota Twins PA announcer. Talk in the front of your mouth and press pairs of syllables together. Sample quote:
thirdbase... #47... CORey KOSkie

Good to see (this is two weeks old but I never wrote it down) Koskie replacing Chuck Knoblauch as this guy's signature namecall. It's sort of like Tom Pagnozzi replacing Ozzie Smith as the Jack Buck Memorial throat-clear.
Big Brother
is watching you, me lass.

(Note: that is an actual poster going up all around London)
somebody explain the McCovey Cove taco thing to me
It's odd how the media works. I suspect that the taco thing is one of those stories that everyone in the rest of the country hears but San Franciscans themselves miss just from focusing too much other Giants/Angels minutae.
one last random anecdote!
John Lackey's (Anaheim starting pitcher) extended family took the Muni from the game back to their hotel, in the same car I was in. They're really friendly folk, from Oklahoma/Texas. They were disappointed in the outcome of the game but really proud of their {grandson, nephew, cousin} and just thrilled to be at a World Series.
Lucky Charms
Creed, Human Clay, in my newly acquired discman. (Originally intended for the camping-out-for-tickets portion of last week.)

Anna Karenina, from those same set of purchases, although I didn't get very far because reading on Muni is a good way to get motion sickness.

Possibly my Boston University School of Law sweatshirt, though I fear it's insufficiently dark to qualify for the "Wear Black" promotion/edict of Game 5.

Whatever. You wouldn't know it from the posts right below this one (or from the headache I have, related to a combination of question-writing stress and knowing I'll have to go into work tomorrow -- breaking news related to contract work at Vectiv) but understand that I am--or at least was, during the whole tiebreaking-run-followed-by-Smoke-on-the-Water sequence--deliriously happy.

World Series Tickets: Utility (to me) far in excess of their market value.
Attendance versus Excellence
I'd share with you an extended metaphor about two guys named Calvin and Henry, one of whom best known for showing up to work every day, the other best known for the astonishing sales figures he put up over the years.

But the non baseball fans wouldn't care and the baseball fans (maybe not the Oriole fans) would probably be a preached-to choir.

I think the voters in that Memorable Moments thing got #1 wrong but they picked the one everybody knew they'd pick. And I remember watching that game, although The Streak proper is a series of years rather than a moment, I have to admit that the record-breaking game (victory lap and so on) was extremely memorable.

Still, even if April 1974 isn't even more memorable, it really ought to be.

Despite the "moment"ary nature of the award's title, voters seemed to diss actual momentary achievements in favor of the best careers. This led a few World Series home runs to get short shrift, most egregiously Carlton Fisk's. (Sorry Cooch, but Fisk trumps Kirk Gibson any day. Gibson of course was loudly booed by SF fans.)

And I have nothing to say about the appalling inconsistency that the Reds can't have Pete Rose close out their ballpark but MasterCard can pay MLB enough to get him. I was dismayed at the ovation Rose got but also... I really don't know. Go one way or another, though, don't try to finesse it.
Luke, I am your bingo card
It got washed away in the sheer joy but I'd begun my ballpark experience today accumulating things that were Just Wrong. In no particular order:

Cheer sticks with the MLB/Mastercard logo. (I don't like the sticks to begin with. I don't like the corporate tie-in. Most of all, the cheer sticks are really Anaheim's thing. Co-opting them seems lame, though in fairness it worked.)

Peter Gammons signing autographs. He's not even a player; he just reports on stuff.

People who stand and mill about in walkways, impeding traffic.

Food purists would claim that an in-ballpark Subway franchise is Just Wrong but I disagree. Even paying foot-long prices for a six inch isn't wrong relative to other ballpark markups.

Much of the pre-game show was Just Wrong, if utterly unsurprising; more on that in some other post.

But most of all, the guy who sat behind me and heckled was Just Wrong. His bingo card would contain some combination of the following:

Gratuitous use of a player's number instead of his name.

Gratuitous use of the phrase "American League" as a pejorative, where anything he didn't like he labeled as "American League."

Gratuitous use of a certain whiny tone of voice that made any word he chose, even a perfectly harmless one, sound like a snide one. One could even picture him deriding someone who has a weblog. That tone of voice. Italics actually approximate it surprisingly well.

Hurling of Bill Walton adjectives ("terrible", "pathetic", and so on) at the Giants themselves

Pitching advice (e.g. "jam him") that in no way shape or form catered to Kirk Rueter's actual strengths.

Postpending to any anti-Giant heckle the adjective, JEE-zus.

(After awhile, whenever he did it I'd tack on my own cheer for the Son of God. Him: "C'MON, Giants! JEE-zus!"
Me: "Woo, Jesus! Way to be on our team!" Not a religious thing, just an anti-annoying person thing.)

The guy next to me's favorite part of the fifth inning rally was "now that m*therf*cker will shut up."
The catcher who I dare not name
All season KNBR has run "midnight baseball," replays of Giants broadcasts. Never has this been more useful than now. I'm listening to the fifth inning now, knowing full well how it all came out but all the happier for it.

Had the title figure done anything other than come through in the fifth inning, there may have had to be a fatwa. In case you missed it, the Giants got their first two runners on (Lofton and Aurilia) in the first and third innings. Twice Jeff Kent came up with first and third nobody out, but struck out once in and lined out once. Twice Bonds was intentionally walked to load the bases and You Know Who (longtime readers who are diehard Giants fans know that, independent of tonight, this is by far my least favorite Giant hitter) grounded into a double play to end the inning. The second time I was even pleading silently for him to strike out instead of killing the whole rally.

When he came up in the fifth inning I actually disowned him, and started cheering for him under the name of Bobby Estalella. For awhile I slipped into nostalgia mode (which is, of course, quite disingenuous for a newbie to do). J.T. Snow was "Will," Reggie Sanders was (so help me I couldn't think of a better one) "Candy" or "Candido," David Bell of course was "Matty." The trend continued all the way to Rich UUUUUUUUUrilia.

This posts will probably amuse exactly one person, who of course is free to comment on it.
Jon Miller: Our Gift to You
One weird thing about this Series is that San Francisco is one of the few markets where we don't get to hear Jon Miller on the radio. He and Joe Morgan are doing ESPN Radio coverage but the local station with the ESPN package is owned by the same company that owns the Giants' flagship station. To avoid brand dilution, we radio listeners get Kuiper and Krukow. Mike Krukow is actually growing on me.

Tuesday night Pac Bell showed video screen cameos of various national broadcast teams, whom "the Giants welcome." McCarver and Buck were booed lustily. Gary Thorne and Rick Sutcliffe (ESPN International) got apathy. Jon and Joe (mostly Jon I assume) got a wild ovation.

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

The premise was funny but the content was sad
If this parody is even vaguely similar to real life then I'm appalled.
Props to our science editor
He's doing a marvelous job. (Not to mention a thankless one.) That is all.

(In other words, science writing is hard.)
How did I forget to mention the best entertainment of the night?
I am now the proud owner of a dismembered leg, as drawn and quartered from an erstwhile rally monkey doll. This lady a few seats to my left tore the thing limb from limb and tossed the limbs into the air. One leg landed in my lap.

I also have, sitting on my computer table since a couple Fridays ago (and random places among my personal possessions dating back to when everyone had beanie babies) a simian beanie baby named Bongo. I'm looking at Bongo right now, trying to decide how crass it would be if I found a noose for him and brought him along tomorrow.

"What happened to your monkey?" is always a great conversation starter on your local subway train. It gets problematic when I have to explain that, yes, I do root for the home team. See, it's not even my monkey. I just kept the leg as a souvenir.
Funnest research project ever
In another experiment, investigators in Florida found that the sight of the college football team making spectacular plays produced in local fans about the same increases in heart rate and perspiration as the sight of erotic pictures.

"Erotic pictures."

Fascinating article here (registration required, but the username/password combo bselig/bselig still seems to work) about being a diehard sports fan.

"People who identify strongly with a local team score better on every measure of psychological health than those who don't identify with a team," Wann said. "The fans feel a part of something larger. They're looking around and in this case they're seeing Angels fans everywhere, and the colors and hats. It provides a sense of community they might not find elsewhere."

I had a real-life incident in the bleachers tonight that may or may not lead to a gerbil article. So far all I have is the headline:
"A's fan rips Dodger fans for joining wrong bandwagon."

These guys a few rows behind me had brand-spanking new, bright red Angel logo wear. You know the kind. (Contrast to the guy a few seats over with the old-style logo on his Wally Joyner jersey.) Somehow this led to me screaming to them about how (as close to an exact quote as I can remember) Karros sucks, Grudzielanek sucks, and here you are rooting for a team you didn't know dick about until September.

I wasn't the first person there to accuse them of being Dodger fans. In hindsight maybe Dodger fans are just too convenient a straw-man in these parts.
Paulie Shore, call your office
Weasel awards!
Or I could just be a math geek again
My roommate Scott was (is?) one, having left a prestigious(? - Illinois) math grad school program to become Silicon Age's first employee years ago. (I became Silicon Age's eighth(?) employee a couple years later.)

Scott just reported to me the death of a famous mathematician. He was 36 years old when he published his most important result, in 1927. His last paper -- at least the last one to which Scott could find a reference -- was published in 1994. With no co-authors. Imagine being published, solo, at 103.

I was an extreme disappointment as a math geek. (It's unclear to which failed baseball prospect I'd best compare, although -- given that I barely tested well enough to take the freshman math-demigod class, let alone the freshman math-god class -- I couldn't have been that high a prospect in the first place.) Missing so much class does this to you, likewise spending so much time on extracurriculars.

What gnaws a little is the feeling that there was actual blown potential there. How many readers know of the Putnam Math Exam? I got a 29 on it the first time I took it, which apparently is pretty good. (There are 12 questions -- 120 points possible. You get six hours total, with three hours at a time for six questions at a time. The median score is literally zero.) The next time I got a still higher score but I've forgotten how much higher. (Let's say 45, plus or minus 5.) This is not to brag but rather to ask, shouldn't I be doing something with my life?

Step 1: No more navel-gazing blog entries for the night.
Getting back to Savage Love column (but without the trivia angle)
One area where Savage's advice is relevant to me is the business of baseball. One of my little dreams is one day to be the general manager of a ballclub. I'm sure every outspoken fan feels this way; it's unclear to what extent any person's desire to be GM goes beyond that person's joy of tinkering with a fantasy roster.

Sometimes I think I'm uniquely well qualified to catch a break in the baseball industry, at least as well-qualified as you can be without being an ex-jock:
Prestigious undergraduate degree
Lots of work experience at Howe Sportsdata (and likely very good recommendations from there)
Law degree
Law thesis related to sports (specifically, why publicly financed sports stadia are a boondoggle -- full admission: I did a lot of looking things up for this piece but zero fresh analysis; it's really just a compilation of work already out there, with heavy citations of Zimbalist et al)
On-the-side data processing experience with a major subscription-based tout site
Column writing experience with a by-fans, for-fans web site.

None of that amounts to a hill of beans without also:
Some connections in the field
Possibly an MBA
More perseverance than I've shown.

Being between jobs is the right time to think about such things though.

Every so often I have visions of becoming a Baseball Prospectus flunky. It seems almost exactly as far-fetched now as becoming an NAQT member seemed five or six years ago. And, like NAQT, BP is probably far less profitable (at this time) than a typical fan thinks. (I'd hazard a guess the reason why Joe Sheehan left the full-time gig was that they couldn't afford him any longer.)
A paradox
In the post below, I mention the ideal of exposing people to quiz-bowl who otherwise wouldn't have gotten a chance. It's nice to say that but is it something we achieve in practice?

There's a set of schools, coaches, and programs who have come to swear by NAQT. I deeply appreciate this; these are people with a very keen sense of what makes for a good question or a good tournament. To get consistently good feedback from them is a good sign. On the other hand, there's no obvious connection between giving those teams better monthly (weekly?) competition than they would have gotten, and giving other teams competition at all. I honestly don't know how we do there. This is mainly on me, since I put so much time into question writing but more-or-less ignore the business side of things unless asked to help out with something.

Relative to the very best players -- the people who have not only made NAQT what it is but also the independent collegiate quiz circuit itself what it is -- I'm strongly in favor of shorter questions and easier questions. Were you ever just writing one paragraph at a time, each sentence flowing into the next, and then inexplicably found yourself without a clear destination? Sorry this post ends so abruptly but I suddenly had no real point to make.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

I wonder if she had Java certification
Yesterday afternoon around where Geary splits off (just west of Van Ness), I saw a well-dressed Chinese woman (maybe 40s or 50s) pushing a shopping cart full of plastic bags.

I thought at the time that she came close to covering all of San Francisco's demographic bases (and even thought of this post's title then), though as I type this it suddenly occurs to me which demo (other than dot-commers) is glaringly absent. Or not; I have no idea what she does in her private life.

Three non-trivial car trips yesterday. Today I reaped the second of those three trips. Aside from the money, I drove to Fremont and back for this. Well, that and listening to a bunch of Metallica.

Maybe today was worthwhile. Positive things to mention:
Tony Bennett!
Rich Aurilia's home run resuscitating the crowd, then Bonds's blast electrifying us.
The idea that oh my goodness, this is the World Series.

Still, all in all, kind of a blah game.

On the subject of depressing thoughts, Dan Savage discourages the competition. Statistically he's really right, though there's also the element (he readily admits) of protecting his own position.

Ten years ago I remember hearing (likely from Chip Beall, grand poobah of Questions Unlimited) just how unlucrative the trivia question business was. Chip had to work long hours to barely eke out a living. He had a lot to (privately) complain about even when he had sponsorship; once Texaco pulled out I can't imagine things improved.

Chip is one of the few people to devote his professional life to quiz-bowl. Not the only, I guess. Some people get wage and benefits from College Bowl, Inc. Brick seems to have carved out a nice multi-faceted niche. (Can a niche literally have multiple faces?)

NAQT has no full-time employees, at least not if you go by wages-benefits rather than time spent per week. If quiz-bowl were a zero sum game (well, the industry rather than a given match) then I'd feel mildly sheepish competing with people who use it to put food on the table. Then again...

1. It's not a zero-sum game. A huge reason for us all to do what we do is to get people a chance to play this game who otherwise would not have; moreover, to show people what good quiz-bowl is like. (What is "good" or "bad" quiz-bowl? Hard to put into words other than "you know it when you see it." Just to be clear, nobody who I name in this entry is responsible for "bad" quiz-bowl. There's a whole world of atrocious questions and dubious formats about which the only nice thing you can say is that even the worst is probably better than nothing at all.)

2. In the long run, free market competition improves overall quality. I hear third-hand that College Bowl, Inc., questions are significantly better now than five years ago. (That's at the college level; I personally don't have good sources at the high school level.) They're still -- in my opinion -- vastly overpriced but this is where effective competition comes in.

Anyhow, the trivia turn there at the end reflects my procrastinating from question-writing.
"Nad Dog"
Tonight at the bowling alley the 'm' key was nonfunctional and the 'n' key was stuck.

Mike eventually did overcome this obstacle and play under his desired handle of "Mad Dog." All the same I think Nad Dog is among the best nicknames ever. QOTD
("QOTN"? see timestamp)

Actual reader review of Beyond Good and Evil:
3 of 46 people found the following review helpful:

The worst book on ethics I have ever read, 13 June, 2000
Reviewer: Mrs R.J. Hallindale ( from Edinburgh, Scotland
I bought this book for my daughter for her nineteeth birthday. She is busy at present studying the joys of philosophy, so I decided that this book - on the topics of good and evil - would be an excellent addition to her bookshelf. Was I mistaken. Luckily I had the chance to read the volume before giving it to her. Best left unread. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Was this review helpful to you?

I want to buy this lady a dictionary so that she can look up the word "beyond".
The bundle of energy that is me
(cough cough manic cough !depressive)

My actual introduction to a phone call just now:
"Hi Cindy, it's Matt. Mike just told me to call you and offer to take you bowling."

(Obviously Cindy is not a skinhead but the hyperlinked song popped into my head.)

Earlier tonight I did something that would occasion tremendous guilt if it weren't for all the writing I'd done last week: I skipped out precisely when R. was doing the final stages of editing on a question set that got shipped tonight. This is normally my absolute favorite time of question production, the very idea of having just a half-dozen needs is almost as good as the idea of having no needs at all. Better still the feeling of pride that I can, lickety-split, write candidates for those half-dozen spots, questions that are neither especially good nor especially bad but above all, require almost no editing.

The flip side of this is that there's a perception that questions I write at the extreme last minute are more likely to make it into a set than questions other people write at the last minute. The two obvious reasons for this are time zone difference and efficiency: The difference between my typical question as submitted and as optimized relatively small. (This means that what I send isn't so bad but it also means that the best-possible product from what I send is unspectacular. It's "get the job done" questions.) But still, might as well spread the finish-the-set-off wealth.

In any case about to go bowling (this very entry probably having made me late, although Cindy had to decline anyway). Then in theory I will write questions later(!) tonight.

Earlier this evening I drove to Fremont and back for a business transaction. The drive itself had astonishing lack of negative utility, made possible almost entirely by Metallica. Two hours after the fact, And Justice For All still courses through my veins.

Tomorrow midday, while at the pep rally, I'll suddenly deeply regret not sleeping.

Then again sometime mid-November when I'm eating Alpo, I'll deeply regret both of today's business transactions.

Monday, October 21, 2002

Game 3
don't look at me like that
Do the math on this one!

God bless bar-owner capitalism!
Hi Les
And greetings to anyone else from Vectiv.

(I got today's Doonesbury in an e-mail. An elegant way to say, "hey, you didn't know it but I'm in your audience.")
New York Yankees' parting gifts
Igor is lifelong Yankee fan. (Here define "lifelong" to omit the Moscow portion of one's life and begin with the NYC portion.) While I was at his place yesterday, waiting for other people to arrive, the 1985-95 Yankee wilderness years came up.

Bucky Dent, Stump Merrill, and Buck Showalter managed that team in succession. David Letterman joked once, back then, that their next manager should be named Stumpy.

Knowing the name Stump Merrill seems to be the quintessence of useless information.
Statistically, how often does the World Series come to the city where you live?
(New Yorkers stay out of this for now. The last six years or so would make an actuary's head explode.)

Let "you" represent a generic baseball fan living in the U.S.

Pre-requisite #1: Must live in a major league city. It's all well and good that the Tulsa Drillers won the 1988 Texas League championship (and at least one Texas League title since then) but the World Series won't come to Driller Stadium any time soon. (Not even corporate naming rights fees had come to Driller Stadium last I knew of it.)

Pre-requisite #2: Certain major league cities are, to put it politely, special cases. Here I speak of Chicago and Boston. If Bud Selig weren't a bald-faced liar then you'd think you should file cities like Milwaukee and Kansas City here too. And yet. Brewers... 1982. Royals... 1985. Even the Pirates... 1979 was 23 years ago. In 30-team organization with two spots in the championship, the naive expectation would be every 15 years. Twenty-three is underachieving but not by a huge amount. Add in 1971 and you have twice (both victorious!) in the last 32 years.

One way to improve your odds is to live in a two-team metropolitan area where the least sucky team has a better franchise history than (Cubs or White Sox). Three such metro areas exist; luckily I moved to one of them right when both of its teams hit their window of contention.

The point of this post: When will there ever again be a week, for me, like this one? As soon as next year would be plausible. (The A's keep Tejada for one more year, probably exactly one more year. The rotation is intact. Ray Durham might walk, perhaps even Scott Hatteberg. Guys like Hatteberg you have to accept as easy-come, easy-go. Nobody seriously expected him to have a season like 2002.) Then again, I might have to move. (Wanting to have a steady job makes this a distinct possiblity.) Or maybe the A's will never get the breaks to go their way in October--call it Larry Dierker syndrome, since Houston seems to have similar problems.

It wouldn't be shocking if I didn't get an opportunity like this for (on the order of) 30 more years, or worse yet if something terrible happened and I (or we) didn't live that long.

So eat, drink, be merry, spend your life savings on tickets if you're in the area.
Game 4
Craigs list. That is all.

Q: Can Matt afford this?

A: "Shut up," he explained.

The ticket appears to be real, as was the money spent on it. (Also, the sale price was far below $500. Note that officially I won't admit to having paid anything above the $145 face value.)

I'm not above trolling for Game 3 though I don't plan to knock myself out on the attempt.

Sunday, October 20, 2002

speaking of football
I almost forgot about today's gaming session and decided on a whim to go to today's Raider's game, just for the sake of having been to one sometime -- and for the sake of being at the Coliseum on Sunday, October 20, seeing as how I already had tickets for a game hypothetically taking place there today. (It was the day the Giants' World Series tickets went on sale and I was thinking about whether to buy rock concert tickets and so tickets were on the brain.) Fortunately remembered the D&D session before actually hitting the Coliseum. (Also, traffic that direction was annoyingly backed up.)

If I actually had gone to this game... bwahahahahahaha!!!!
Somewhere there is a spreadsheet
So I'm in this "cutthroat" football pick-em league, doing pretty well so far. (So well that it's the fantasy sports thing I'm currently most enthusiastic about. Two perfectly decent FFL teams languish, victims of apathy.)

When the league began I whipped out a spreadsheet and figured out which teams I wanted to pick when.

Had I stayed with those picks I'd have missed a game three weeks in a row:
Denver over Baltimore (strike one)
Cleveland over Baltimore (strike two)
Chicago over Detroit (strike three!)

Backed out of the first one because Niners-Rams seemed like a relative can't-miss (while St. Louis was reeling) and SF has so few patsies on its schedule. (Previous plan had been, if you can believe this, to take SF over Seattle on the road on a Monday night. Even though they did win that game, it seemed foolhardy on a second look. Really, the schedule-swap involved there was all about avoiding MNF picks, since on prime time all bets are off.)

Backed out of the second one on the theory that oh shoot, maybe the Ravens are a good team after all.

And then the third... I started getting a really itchy trigger finger to go with Detroit for the upset. Couldn't quite convince myself that this was wise, but did succeed at talking myself completely out of that game. The Greedy Algorithm is at play here: Take the Sure Things now, and after what the Packers did in Foxboro, having them at home against an overrated coach is about as sure as one gets.

Note: It is possible for me to be perfect in this league and the Bengals NOT be winless. They'd just have to win a division rivalry in the week that I DIDN'T pick that division rival over them.
My new favorite melodramatic self-pity song
Please come now, I think I'm falling, I'm holding on to all I think is safe (etc.)

Decision time for Wednesday night plans. Find some cool people to be with for Game 4. Or find some cool people to be with for this tour. (Mountain View?)
on the plus side
The anger alone got me from the car to the house on a dead sprint. At this rate I could get in a month's worth of regular jogging just on the adrenaline from the anger from that memory.
To: Rich Aurilia
From: My Little League coach
(Chris someone, journalism major, University of Tulsa, blanking on his last name)
Cc: Jeff Kent


McCarver called one: "Sometimes to the first batter, Troy Percival is wild high."
First pitch fastball, way high.
Then I called one, based on the look in Aurilia's eye from the first pitch:
"@#$# it, if he swings at this one and hits it to the warning track."

There followed a few b-bombs.

You have to trust me that I'm significantly calmer watching sports than you'd think I'd be. At least 99% of the time this is true. I'll be with friends who give up on our favorite team in a fit of anger. I sit there silently. The reason I don't open my mouth is to avoid saying something stupid. Or every now and then I'll flash dry humor.

Depending on how well you knew me either you'd think I was apathetic about what I was watching or you'd take a closer look and see how tight I was.

Great game tonight but all I can express about the top of the ninth is anger. Would it KILL you to take a pitch there? Granted I'd be tempted to swing away too, except that:
1. If you force yourself to take a strike, it's easy. You might even get walked.
2. YOU'RE TWO RUNS DOWN. A walk and a Bonds home run is exactly as good as a home run and a Bonds home run. An out and a Bonds homer is significantly worse, other than for moral victories and eff-youse.
testing sunday night