March 2013

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Athletes on fields, courts, pitches, tracks, rings and rinks, are not equal. Some are faster. Others are stronger. A few are simply better than everyone else. This is how sports work. Without inequality, there is no competition.

But the second the whistle blows or the final buzzer sounds, the sport ends and the unequally gifted are no longer athletes. They’re people. Just like everyone else in the world, born with certain unalienable rights including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as well as certain fundamental rights including the right to privacy, the right to procreate and the right to marriage.

It’s this last right, the one to marry, that’s found its way to the top of our minds again with battle over California’s Proposition 8 finally making it to our nation’s Supreme Court.

In 2008, I honestly didn’t give Proposition 8 the attention it deserved. I immediately dismissed Prop 8, assuming it had the same chance of winning as one of those poor souls Don King paraded in front of Mike Tyson in the 80s that would be obliterated before you had a chance to grab some popcorn. It had everything stacked against it:

  • Common sense
  • The Constitution
  • The separation of church and state
  • The state, California, stereotyped as too liberal and accepting of others

Unfortunately, I forgot that I lived in the bubble within a bubble known as San Francisco and a vast majority of California (at least geographically) didn’t care about any of those things. Prop 8 did the unthinkable and unreasonable and won. It wasn’t a Don King lackey at all. It was Buster Douglas in Tokyo.

And yet, even in victory, Proposition 8 didn’t make sense.

Shortly after Prop 8’s passing, the Cornell educated Keith Olbermann, who became famous on ESPN’s SportsCenter and Fox Sports, delivered a special comment on MSNBC’s Countdown that summed it up perfectly.

 

What is it to you?

It’s an important question for all of us to consider.

The ability to grant the right for any human being to marry another human being of their choice is in the Supreme Court’s hands now. And while the highest and fairest court in the world overturning an unethical constitutional amendment that takes a fundamental right away from a certain group of people seems like a forgone conclusion, the unthinkable has happened before. We need to get this one right. Even if it’s on a personal level.

So the next time you’re at a stadium or sports bar, take a good look at the players and the people around you. Not at the city on their jerseys, the logos on their hats or the color of their skin. Look at their faces. Look into their eyes. See them for what they are at their core. Human beings.

The people around you come from all walks of life. The odds are, a good amount of them are even homosexual. But despite petty differences, you all found yourselves in the same place, at the same moment, to share a common love of sport. Shouldn’t all these human beings also have the right to express and share love through legal marriage? Even after the right to marry is granted to every one of us, these two questions will remain important when we consider how we treat and respect others:

What is equality to you?

What is love to you?

Click here to read this article on UpperReserved.com

Watching March Madness at work is like eating at McDonald’s or masturbating. Everyone does it, but you still don’t want to get caught in the act. That’s why NCAA.com’s boss button is worth talking about more than their ability to show us every game live on the Internet.

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The boss button sits just to the right of the March Madness logo in the website header. It’s visible but not in the way of your live game, box scores or advanced stats.

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And with just a simple click, the boss button turns your computer screen from a Vegas sportsbook-worthy tournament viewing machine into a generic business environment. But what makes this year’s boss button experience special is it’s not just static productivity charts or Excel spreadsheets. This Outlook-inspired email application is actually interactive.

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You can open and close emails, click through various inbox folders and explore the entertaining content provided by the NCAA. There’s funny notes from HR about the personal use of office supplies. There’s cartoons from the CMO about buying smart phones. There’s even expense report denials from the finance department. So as the games resume Thursday, take some time during blowouts and halftimes to explore this fake work world and appreciate that the boss button has probably saved more than a few jobs over the years.

For all that you’ve done for sports fans, we at Upper Reserved salute and thank you boss button!

*As a bonus for those of you that enjoy not working at work after March, here’s a link to a browser add-on that puts a boss button on Firefox.

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The origins of baseball aren’t easily identifiable. Don’t believe me? Check the Internet. But, regardless of where the sport got its beginnings, it’s our sport. We’ve been calling it our “national pastime” since 1856 (another gem from the Internet). And while the best baseball is still played here, the best players aren’t coming from here. Apparently, neither are the best fans.

Sunday was the first semi-final game in the 3rd World Baseball Classic and the United States has yet to make a finals. Japan had won the first two world titles beating Cuba in 2006 and South Korea in 2009. So Japan was the favorite coming in, despite not having a single Major Leaguer on the roster. They faced the heavily stacked Puerto Rican team that just eliminated the United States team.

Overall, the game was great. Well pitched for the most part except for a few key walks drawn by Puerto Rico. Neither team tried to do too much at the plate. Great contact hitting and small ball (except for Japan’s crucial base running error). But, the best part about the WBC was the atmosphere. The Japanese fans turned out in massive numbers and made American baseball fans look like Opera supporters. The Puerto Rican fans showed an equal amount of pride and even more pure joy after winning. From the way to game is played to how it’s watched, it’s clear that we can learn a lot about baseball from the rest of the world.

 

BRING YOUR GLOVE AND YOUR INSTRUMENT
There was a least one vuvuzela for every 5 sections and it felt right. Wasn’t nearly as annoying as it was during the last World Cup. The Japanese crowd also brought the trumpet into play. They used it to lead cheers and songs. They used it to fill TV breaks and pitching changes. It was brilliant. Here’s a video I recorded at the game. It sucks. So, close your eyes and listen to the cheers and trumpets.

 

LETS PUT ADS ON BACKSIDE OF PLAYERS’ HEADS
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Maybe I wasn’t paying close attention on TV. But, I never noticed that WBC players have ads on them. They’re on the backside of the helmets away from the TV. That may be a good argument for getting additional revenue from sponsors and a bad argument for advertisers to spend a lot of money on something people may not notice. But if it drops the cost of a hot dog and beer below $20 I’m all about it. Speaking of prices…

 

ONLY AMERICANS ARE DUMB ENOUGH TO PAY FOR UNNECESSARY LUXURIES

I’ve never seen AT&T Park like this before. Bleachers, packed. Upper deck, packed. Lower deck, pack. Club level, empty.

emptyclublevelWhich, makes total sense. When you’re waving flags, showing the camera your painted face, banging your thunder sticks, singing songs, banging cow bells, jumping up and down, playing bongo drums, and screaming your lungs out no matter how good your team’s doing, who cares about a full mahogany bar behind your section? Forget the wide selection of exotic food. Peanuts and Cracker Jacks are just fine.

 

GET THE FORCE WITH THE SHORTEST THROW

Fundamentals are what Japan’s known for. But on more than one occasion a ground ball was hit to Japan’s 3rd baseman, Matsuda with a runner on first with two outs and every time, he made the force at 2nd. It looked weird and wrong. Kinda like a left-handed shortstop. It went against everything we’re taught. But is it wrong? Is it more efficient? Is it smarter?

 

RESPECT YOUR FANS

The Japanese team could’ve played better. They gave up a lot of walks. They struck out with men in scoring position. But, when they lost, they didn’t sulk into the dugout and hide in shame. They recognized that they had a lot of fans in the park, most of whom paid good money to travel across the world to see them play. So they thanked them. While the Puerto Rican players were celebrating like they won the World Series, the Japanese team lined up along 3rd base line and bowed to their supporters. Classy.

japanteamtakesbow

 

PUT MORE FUN FACTS IN PROGRAMS

I used to love programs when I was a kid. Now, they’re just overpriced books with little to no information in them. The WBC had some interesting tidbits. For example, did you know:

  • Barry Larkin is the manager of the Brasil team and Yan Gomes (who the hell is Yan Gomes?) became the first Brazilian to play Major League Baseball in 2012
  • No Chinese born player has ever made it to the bigs
  • The Chinese logo was stolen from Jose Cuervo
  • Esteban Bellan was the first Cuban to play Major League Baseball, in 1871!
  • Bert Blyleven is from the Nederlands (Holy shit, right?)
  • The “Top Major Leaguer” from Canada is Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins, which must be a fake name.
  • Bobby Mathews is credited with being the first American major leaguer

 

PEOPLE ARE TIRED FROM ACTUALLY CHEERING, LET THEM GO HOME

In the World Baseball Classic, if the score is tied after the 13th inning, each team begins the inning with a runner on 1st and 2nd. Someone actually figured out how to create a sudden death setup in baseball. Pretty interesting. And I’m all for it. What I am curious about is, who are the runners on 1st & 2nd? The next two players scheduled to hit? The last two to get out? Players of the manager’s choice?

Some other random observations from the World Baseball Classic:

  • Konami is a title sponsor. Guess Metal Gear Solid is huge around the world or they still got Castlevania money
  • No foreign food was offered at the concession stands. Even the Warriors brought out chicken curry for Bollywood Night
  • Baseball fans are the only tourists who come to San Francisco prepared for cold weather
  • No matter when your country got knocked out of the WBC, it’s OK to wear their hat
  • It’s actually OK to wear USA gear. I usually think it’s overly patriotic. Especially at Olympics. This felt right though

All in all, the main takeaway is that the rest of the world is having more fun with baseball than we are. It’s time we rediscovered the sport our nation fell in love with and start singing, dancing, playing instruments, painting our faces, waving flags and enjoying ourselves.