Posts Tagged ‘sports’

Is Lying OK in Sports?

August 24, 2011

Everything about Buff Stadium felt totally honest to us Post WWII kids.

Yesterday morning I had a chance in the car to hear Mark Vandermeer and John Lopez on SportsRadio 610  discussing a little program time-filler subject: “The Biggest Lie in Sports.” Today I cannot even recall their two favorite candidates, but that’s the way it goes with popcorn thoughts passed along by radio waves into the mind-numbing heat of another Houston August day.

No lie.

The subject still intrigues, raising question about the nature of lying itself. When politicians tell us what they think we need to hear, simply to get our votes, we seem to accept that behavior as normal to the process of electing public officials. Then, unless we are left detectably unaffected by the same public officials on the basis of their actual later performances in office, or better yet, unless we perceive some direct benefit to us from the politician’s actions, we turn on these “liars” as traitors that need to be tarred, feathered, and run out-of-town.

Where was the lie in that? Was it in the specific words of the politician? Was it in a system in which power, money, and votes go to candidates who do the best job of kissing the public derriere with their promises? Or is it simply embedded in a culture which thrives on these paraphrased  words of advice that Joseph P. Kennedy once passed on to his Massachusetts sons:  “It’s not who you are that matters. It’s who people think you are that counts.”

To my way of thinking, it is that kind of Kennedy political philosophy that eventually makes liars out of 99% of us in a culture that has thrived from the start on the notion of “putting your best foot forward.” At what point does that homemade little bromide transform from “here’s something good about me that I’d like you to know” into “here’s something good that I want you to think is true about me.”

Examples of the difference: The promises of fidelity are easy during the wedding ceremony. The delivery of fidelity has to take place in the daily trenches of marriage, day in, day out; year in, year out.

So it is in sports.

Every new club owner in professional baseball, football, or basketball says something at the start like: “Our team will work hard to deliver a superior product and a great experience for the fans. I believe in running a first class franchise, and everything we do will be built around building a championship team.”

When an owner says something like that to us fans, (1) is it true? (2) Is it a lie? (3) Or is it just one of those completely predictable “best foot forward” statements that will have to play itself out over time in proof of its worth? Only the most gullible and most paranoid among us could go with either of the first two picks suggested here. The rest of us will have to play out the string of demonstrated behavior over time to find the truest answer.

As for the shortest biggest lie in sports, we need look no further than the NCAA. My vote goes to the phrase “student athlete.”



The Stupor Bowl – And Other Bad Ideas

January 11, 2011

If you "Win Ten" - where do wear #11?

After going into the Seattle Seahawks yesterday as sort of a built-in bad idea in pro sports (a losing-record team advancing to the playoffs as a first week home team), my mind immediately wandered into new and old, and mostly borrowed ideas we might introduce into our national bag of athletic cornucopia.

(1) Shorter, Better NBA Basketball Games. My cousin Jim Hunt spoke for a lot of fans a few years ago when he expressed his boredom with the NBA. “I can’t take it anymore,” Jim said. “Just watching each club shoot the lights out on their separate ways to 100 points and a game that would come down to whatever happened on the last play takes too much watching to hold my attention that long. My suggestion to the NBA is this simple: Shorten all games to two minutes of time and give each team 100 points from the start. Then play the only part of the game that most of us care to watch in the first place anyway as the whole enchilada and then move the crowd on by playing a number of double, triple, and quadruple headers on the same night under the new rules. That works for me – unless I get bored again.”

Maybe Cousin Jim has a bad idea. Maybe not.

(2) Winter MLB Season Mimics NFL Here’s another one that I like. Kill the baseball off-season by playing a 16-game, once-a-week contests schedule that mimics the NFL self-important emphasis on each game. Restrict the rosters to 14 players (8 starters, 1 extra catcher, 1 extra infielder, and 1 extra outfielder), plus 1 starting pitcher and 2 “back-up” pitchers.) Now the pitcher and each game take on all the same importance as an NFL QB and each regular contest in the NFL year.

By special arrangement between the NFL and MLB, allow each NFL team to sponsor and sign their own 14-player rosters and play the same weekly schedule as the Houston Baseball Texans, the Dallas Baseball Cowboys, etc, – following the same path and formula of NFL Football to a one-game MLB-NFL Baseball Super Bowl to be played on the Saturday preceding the Super Bowl.

Lame as it may be, I’ll take the blame for this one. It simply spilled over in my mind from years of watching the NFL and wishing that each game was baseball, instead. Then, one day, it dawned on me. With a little playful insanity put into motion, maybe we could make that happen, but would two organizational groups management groups and two different sport player unions support it? Maybe. There ought to be enough television, gate, and marketing money in the pot to make it appealing to somebody.

(3) The Stupor Bowl. By comparison to the two established sports culture rippers presented in our first two ideas, this one is simply a mild attempt to enlarge upon the NFL’s “on any given Sunday” tout that any club in the league is capable of beating any other – at least, once in a blue moon.

How about a game designed to check the truth of that expression? Every year, on the Sunday following the Super Bowl, let’s say we put the Super Bowl winner up against the one team in the league with the absolute worst record by some gradient formula in case of W-L record ties. Could the NFL’s established “best club” put their more celebrated victory, injury, and weariness behind them long enough to take on and defeat the rested “worst club” in the league? I don’t know, but it certainly beats the Pro Bowl as a game with appeal.

Call it the “Stupor Bowl” and let’s find out.

Houston’s Biggest Sports Stories, 2010

December 31, 2010

Once again, its New Years Eve. I can’t really improve on the piece I wrote last year about this annual date we all have with hope for better days to come. Having said that, here’s a link to “Happy New Year, Friends” from 12/31/2009:

2010 was a little bit a year on the downside for Houston sports. I couldn’t begin to pick the biggest poison for all of us because they all ache worst for those whose hearts are buried deepest with a particular sport or team, but these disappointments come to mind:

Rice: The Owls basketball team did what they always seem to do most often – and that’s suck big time and often on the “L” column side of the C-USA standings. Coach Wayne’s Graham’s baseball team again beat up on the C-USA competition, but ultimately failed to qualify for a trip to the College Word Series in Omaha. The football team had a losing record, but they beat UH in the Bayou Bucket and also ran up a couple of stratospheric scores against the competition late in the season. Sadly, Rice still only draws about 15,000 fans a game for football and could really benefit from greater community support at the Rice Stadium gate.

UH: The Houston Cougars finally qualified for the March Madness tourney for the first time in this millennium under former coach Tom Penders, but their one-and-out showing was not enough to save the man’s job. James Dickey was now taken over the basketball program as head coach as has Todd Whitting taken over the helm in baseball as head coach from Raynor Noble. Football at UH, of course, was rocked when Heisman hopeful OB Case Keenum was lost for the season in the Cougars’ third game against UCLA. It was mostly downhill from there, with an encouraging substitute performance by freshman QB David Piland.

TSU: One of the bright spots this year came compliments of the TSU Tiger victory in the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship game. The Tigers are back and hoping for a resurgence in their baseball and basketball programs as well.

St. Thomas University: STU has resumed competitive basketball as the Celts. At least, they are playing again.

Houston Baptist University: The Huskies are off to a disappointing 1-10 start in basketball.

Pearland: What a year for this big little Houston area city! The Pearland little league baseball team made it all the way to the finals of the American Division Championship game in Williamsport, PA. Then the Pearland (HS) Oilers won the 5-A, Division 1, state football championship. Not much room for any downsides in this little neck of the Houston woods.

Houston Dynamo: The soccer team didn’t win anything this year – nor have they been able to work our a “done deal” on public support for a downtown stadium to house professional soccer in Houston, 2011 should be a pivotal year for the future of this struggling sport in our town.

Houston Aeros: I have no idea beyond my dim awareness that they seem to have found a level of mediocrity that spares them the spotlight from all of us barely casual fans. I can’t even call myself a fan. I’m just a guy who reads the sports page – and one who will check out anything there that looks like the standings in some area of competition.

Houston Rockets: The “Waiting on Yao Ming” show seems to have found a curtain with the recent news that the Chinese giant  has once more gone down for the season with another foot injury. Where it goes from here may lead to the same medicine that came suddenly to the baseball Astros in late season via the “addition by subtraction” route. Sometimes we cannot find our new way until we give up all hope in the old way. The Rockets have to let go of Yao to find their new way.

Houston Astros: 2010 was a disappointing year from a win-loss standpoint, but things did get better once the club let go of Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman and started working overtime on a commitment to youth. Of course, Drayton McLane’s decision to sell the club is the big factor effecting the future of the Astros. I, for one, will be disappointed to see Mr. McLane go. We were fortunate in Houston to have him with us as long as we did.

Houston Texans: Very disappointing. To go from a 9-7 finish in 2009 to a double digit loss total in 2010 is pretty awful, no matter how close the boys came to winning. It doesn’t matter. The ancient Greeks had a name for this sort of thing in their theaters too. Any play that ended with a dagger to the heart was called a “tragedy.”

Houston Babies: Under the management of Bob Dorrill, the Houston Babies enjoyed the completion of their third straight season of vintage league, 1860s era base ball, playing a barnstorming schedule of games against other clubs, like the Richmond Giants, the Montgomery County Saw Dogs, Katy, and the Boerne White Sox. One hope for 2011 is that these groups will agree upon the establishment of a regular season schedule of league games for the spring and fall playing periods. There is no disappointment among vintage ballers. It is a game that springs directly from everything that made base ball beautiful in the first place. All we do is get together and carry forth what makes the game of ball in pastoral meadows the curative tonic that heals the ailing human spirit.

That’s if for me in 2010. If you have a favorite moment from Houston sports over the past year, please write about it here. The Pecan Park Eagle welcomes your comment.

Til tomorrow, if there is one,  take care. Stay safe. And don’t be stupid.

Happy New Year, Everybody!

A Trivial Pursuit

October 17, 2010


Some trivia questions have no easy "stumper" answers.


1. Question: When it’s 4th down and an inch to go, late in the game, and the only thing that can stop your team from keeping the winning drive alive deep in their opponent’s territory is a fumbled snap from center on the QB Sneak that everybody knows is coming – WHY IS IT that then, right then, that the QB fumble of the snap behind the line is exactly what happens next? Ball goes over to the other team on downs. Drive and game over.

Answer: Don’t ask me. I’m a UH alumnus. The Cougars did it again yesterday against Rice when UH freshman QB David Piland and his center bungled the 4th down snap with an inch to go when UH was driving deep in Rice territory with only about two minutes to go. Rice took over and rode out the clock for a 34-31 win over UH. – I’ll spare you what I had to say to the television version of young Piland when that little “whoops” error happened. I’m supposed to be more understanding and balanced in these matters at my age. After all, it’s important to keep winning and losing in perspective with all the issues that are really of importance in life, even when the @#$#@*% game-losing error happens to your own beloved alma mater.

2. Question: This one is less mysterious and probably has an answer. Years ago, when Major League Baseball retired uniform #42 in honor of Jackie Robinson, they allowed all active players who were then using #42 to continue using it through their retirements. Great Yankees closer Mariano Rivera was one of those players. Now he’s a guy who is almost a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame after he soon retires, but how do the Yankees commemorate his number since he wears #42, the number already assigned to the global memory of jackie Robinson by all of baseball?

Answer: Maybe someone knows the answer here. I don’t, but it seems they have only two real choices in Rivera’s case: (1) Simply ignore the number retirement issue; or (2) Seek permission from MLB to make Robinson and Rivera the dual reason the number is retired in Yankee Stadium. The Yankees already have used the dual number commemoration with #8. They retired #8 in honor of both the great catchers who wore it, Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra. What do you think is the best answer in Rivera’s case?

3. Question: Why does football even bother having that two-point rushing or passing option to the one-point kick attempt after a touchdown? Nobody ever uses the 2-point play unless it’s late in the game and they need the two points to either tie a score or put the other club out of field goal reach?

Answer: I don’t think the common little use of the two-point play is what football had in mind when they installed it back in the 1960s. How about taking the option part of the question out of the game and make it a rule that every other PAT try must be a two-point attempt. Maybe we’d have fewer ties and fewer OT games that way.

4. Question: Why is baseball the only major team sport in which the manager/coach dresses out in the uniform of the players?

Answer: The most popular answer is that baseball is the only sport which began with playing managers in the dominant role as team leaders. The great Connie Mack of the Athletics and Brooklyn’s Burt Shotton are the only two men who come to mind that wore “street clothes” in the dugout as managers of major league clubs from the 20th century forward. When you think about it, the idea of Gary Kubiak suiting up for a Texans NFL game in uniform seems almost as silly as the image of little Jeff Van Gundy suited up in droopy shorts to coach the Houston Rockets of a few seasons back.

5. One Final Question: Does advertising on televised sporting events really determine your buying habits?

Answer: If most of you answer it doesn’t and can offer proof of same, you will possess the power to take down a standard of living among professional athletes that grows more ridiculously separate from and above the rest of us by the day. Of course, you would have to argue strong against all the evidence that regular exposure to brand names on television is the single largest retailing factor in the world, even that important to such well known product names as “Coke” and “Bud.” We buy what we know. And we tend to buy what we hear about lately on a redundant basis. – Right, Mattress Mac?

It’s all linked back to one of the most ancient dynamics in retailing psychology, a brain-conditioning process called “subliminal registration.” In subliminal registration, simple ideas like “drink Coke” and “eat pop corn” are implanted into a commercial message and they register in the brain just beneath the level of our conscious attention. Then, when we grow thirsty, we order a Coke; when we get hungry, we buy pop corn – or whatever.

How’s this one for a current example from television advertising: “Buy a new mattress. Your old one is full of dust mites, millions of them!”

Talking advertisers out of continuing to pay big bucks for what they see as a sure-fire investment in future profits will not be easy, if even possible. Oh well, the least we can do is try to stay aware of what the ad men are aiming to do and stay in touch with the fact that, in most cases, we still have the power to not buy at all, if we so choose, and that includes the choice of not being gouged for ticket prices to events that do not really produce all that much happiness in our daily lives.

Have a nice, quiet, simple Sunday, everybody, unless you’re still too young to settle for peace. If you’re not ready for peace, then go stir up a learning experience or two. They’re all out there, just waiting for you, whether you remember the ad men telling you about them or not.