SportsProf

(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

10 Years of Blogging

I lost track of time.

Ten years ago, blogs were very new things.  Ten years later, there are all sorts of ways to communicate on social media.  So much so that at times it appears that people have moved from blogs to Facebook to Twitter to Instagram to Pinterest to all sorts of combinations of the above.  So far, I have stuck with Blogger and a bit with Twitter.  It's been fun to have a vehicle to share thoughts and ideas, although I confess that the posts that draw the most frequent hits are the ones that relate to practice plans for kids' basketball teams.  The ones I've liked the best are writing about shared experiences with my father and my kids, or my elegy of sorts to Barry Bonds to the tune of Harry Chapin's "Taxi" (precisely because something was rainin' hard in Frisco -- I'm not sure what, though).

A lot has happened in the world of sports since 2004, and I won't repeat the past ten years here -- you can go back and look through the blog if you like.  I wasn't sure how long I'd persist with this, and at times work and life intervened to create longer absences from posting than I would have liked.  It used to be that I tried to post daily; now I aim for weekly given various other responsibilities and interests that I have.  It's more of a journal than a vehicle for the most polished pieces.  Stuff that I do for work might go through several drafts and edits; here, I try to do the best I can in no more than fifteen minutes. 

We end up writing about what interests us and what's in front of us.  While the plight of the average Royals and Pirates fan troubled me for much of the time I've written this journal, I don't live in Kansas City or Pittsburgh and have no connection to either city, so it's hard for me to have the feel that residents or natives of those towns have.  But that doesn't mean that I cannot understand their frustrations, as being a native Philadelphia fan has ingrained in me a sense of hope, despair, frustration, tragedy and triumph, sometimes all wrapped up in one.  And while I realize that the Pirates broker their score-long losing streak last year, for most of the time that I've written this blog the Pirates struggled mightily.

I've tried to focus on broader sports themes than reporting, as I have a day job and a family and don't plumb the depths the way other blogs do.  I know enough about statistics and math to know that they're important, but I also know that data without context represents numbers without much meaning.  For example, a .279 hitter might be a good hitter, but if his on-base percentage is .285, he's killing your lineup.  If his on-base percentage is .385 and he hits with power, he's probably one of the top 30 hitters in the game.  That said, the many advances in statistics in all sports means that the average fan cannot possibly understand who is a good performer and who isn't just from watching, and I do wonder how that will affect the average fan's experience.  For example, I always thought that the Willie Stargell/Dave Parker Pirates teams were menacing teams that could club you to death with their hitting and always hit in the clutch.  But was that because they wore cool uniforms, had a swagger, had a transcendant leader in Stargell, natural-born hitters in Parker, Bill Madlock and Mike Easler, or did the numbers really back that up?  And, could it be that they didn't always, because if that team was that good shouldn't they have won more titles than they did?  Sadly, today there's probably someone who can tell you why your favorite player isn't nearly as good as the image he's burnished in your mind.  I don't know whether that's a good thing or not.

The one thing that is constant is evolution.  I recall a conversation with my father when I was a young boy that focused on the top-five most popular sports in the country.  Among them were baseball and football, and I think basketball, but also horse racing and boxing.  As for the latter two, you have to remember that this was before there was legalized gambling anywhere but Las Vegas, which meant that the track represented one of the few places you could legally bet on things.  As for boxing, well, this was the dramatic sport that film was kind to and lent itself to film, and one that some of the best writers loved writing about.  I recall watching many Olympics where the fate of the U.S. boxing team might have eclipsed anything save the fate of the men's basketball team; today, there's hardly any coverage of boxing.  As for horse racing, it's an "event" sport for the most part; tracks are fewer and farther between.  You can place a legal bet almost anywhere now. 

Indy car racing was once a big deal, but years ago the split between two factions tore it asunder and the ace marketers of NASCAR turned it into "Top Gun" on the ground, making the drivers rock stars.  While many golfers seem stamped from the same warm-weather state mold (either middle-class church-going Republicans or southern good-old boys with some swagger), the PGA has made the top touring pros personalities.  Decades ago, the top tennis players were like that, and we were captivated with the likes of McEnroe, Borg, Connors and many others.  Today, while players like Federer and Nadal are among the best ever, the evolution of the equipment seemingly has taken much of the guile, guts and strategy out of the game, although there have been a few individual matches in recent years (albeit among ranked but not top-ranked players) that are for the ages. 

Baseball is no longer the "national pastime," and despite very good attendance in some places the games take too long, the steroid scandal stained it almost indelibly, the pitchers dominate the hitters and it's becoming the game that grandfathers and fathers liked.  When games were 2 hours, people liked watching; now that they're over three, it could be that MLB is losing interest faster than it realizes.  The advent of the English Premier League on NBC Sports Channel and the coverage of the World Cup will brand international soccer stars better than domestic baseball stars.  Somehow, it's cooler to be Messi or Ronaldo than it could be to be Trout or Harper.  I don't know why that is, but the world is no longer American-centric; we've become much more global more quickly.  At my eighth-grader's lunch table, the focus is on the NBA now, soccer frequently, and the NFL in season.  No one talks about baseball, except the kids whose parents are Yankee fans, and then only on occasion.  And while football is very popular, few in our area play it.  Let's face it, the action can be compelling, but you can get really hurt playing it.  I do wonder whether football will have issues in the next 10-20 years that baseball has now -- how to stay relevant despite all the hitting and violence.

So, those are some of the thoughts as I approach the 10th anniversary of this blog.  I've enjoyed writing it, even for sometimes small audiences.  I'll continue to do so, and I thank all of those who have posted comments for their interactions with me.

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