Video Killed the Baseball Star?

Mike Trout: Major League Baseball and the Infinite Starless

By David Hauser

Who is baseball’s biggest star (or even biggest stars)?  This would be a silly question to ask in basketball and football.  To an enthusiastic baseball fan though this probably sounds like a simple question: the names Kemp, Verlander, Pujols, Jeter, Votto, Hamilton, Fielder, Trout roll off the tongue with the ease and efficiency of an effortless Joe Mauer crack of the bat.  But I offer this follow up question, would your mom or your girlfriend or wife be able to pick even one of these guys out of a visual lineup upon hearing these names?

Consider it the “metric of mom,” an advanced scientific measure developed by an overtime working, coffee induced, crack team at Cal Tech…or maybe not very empirical at all.  Science notwithstanding, it is an excellent place to start when talking about transcendent figures in culture.  Is someone so big that they defy age and gender in their gravitas?[1]

Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Eli Manning: I think it is fair to say they are known by grandmothers, much less mothers.  LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard: yes, yes, and yes in passing the mom metric.  We could probably even safely toss Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Drew Brees, and maybe even Aaron Rodgers into this category after their triumphant past few years.  However, I cannot come up with a single baseball player that I could say with 100% confidence that my mom would be able to identify by name or face (the closest I can surmise would be Evan Longoria, but only because he was cruel to Bree about her new husband and his practicing of cutting edge new exercise methods such as pole dancing).

Here is a simple truth: Kris Humphries has better name recognition than Albert Pujols by moms and wives/girlfriends.  Maybe this is not even particularly surprising considering Humphries is more well-known for his 72-day stint as reality-TV husband of Kim Kardashian, than for his impressive efficiency for collecting rebounds on the hardwood.  However I would go one step further and say that Humphries is an overall larger superstar amongst all ages and across both genders than Albert Pujols (the most productive power hitter in Major League Baseball over the last decade, a man who is fair to mention in the same breath as Ruth, Aaron, and Mays as one of the greatest ever to play the game).  And I have proof. Continue reading

Mad Men: Season 5 Comes to a Close

By Adam Gavin

In arguably the best season in the show’s six year run, Mad Men Season 5 came to a close last night.  The finale felt like it feel a bit flat, almost digging for a cheap cliffhanger when it needn’t to.  However, with no major story lines left agape it feels like Matthew Weiner & Co. have the freedom to take the show in unexpected and fascinating new directions once again starting next season.  Here’s a meme paying homage to Roger Sterling in all of his Season 6 glory.

The Employed Ones: Free Agency Culture of the NFL vs. NBA

By David Hauser

Jobs.  Ask any politician a question this political season and he or she will inevitably find a way to bring the conversation back to jobs.  Politicians may be underhanded and smarmy, but they still remain a better metric than even twitter for assessing the most salient issue of the day (as of course, they must be on the cutting edge of what best to pander to).  Since the worldwide economic collapse in the Autumn of 2008, we have seen American state governors wage war against unions, politicians get tagged with the vaunted “socialist” label, endless political arguments about whether cutting taxes or increasing government spending is a sounder methodology for creating jobs, the rise of the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements, and I can only guess the term “job creation” will be plastered and super-glued to our nation’s collective forehead over the next eight months as Barack Obama and (seemingly) Mitt Romney vie for the White House this November.  The operative word in this endless political theater is: labor.

As writer and pop-philosopher king Chuck Klosterman pointed out last year, every major sports and cultural story of 2011 revolved around labor.  Two of the three most popular American sports leagues had labor disputes over the same three to fourth month period.  Charlie Sheen fought his highly publicized dispute with CBS all because of labor.  Hell, even the lowly Detroit Pistons tried to organize a strike against their own coach last year by not attending practice as their unfortunate season wound to a close.  In what must be perceived as some kind of socio-cultural clash of class and wealth, this country is in the midst of a major financial distribution transition and without coincidence the sports world mirrors the broader American culture in coming to grips with this issue.

For the third year in a row, the NBA’s on court brilliance has been hijacked by the labor narrative.  Dwight Howard’s “Indecision 2012” significantly overshadowed the opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament.  NFL fans, who were not afforded the fast-paced rush of a traditional free agent signing period last year due to the NFL’s aforementioned labor dispute, are treating this year’s free agency period as some kind of sacrosanct religious experience (with the likes of Mario Williams, Peyton Manning, and Tim Tebow on the move).

More than ever, sports fans are wholeheartedly consumed by free agency player movement.  Through some form of fragmented sublimation of our country’s unemployment crisis, it remains easier to analyze and critique the labor relations of our athletes and celebrities than internalize and personalize our own fears about the rapidly shifting wealth and labor landscape in America. Continue reading

Diaries of a Law Student Sports Fan

By David Berlin

There’s a scene in the HBO comedy The Life and Times of Tim where someone turns on the lights in a strip club, and all of a sudden the beautiful sexy girls are revealed to be overweight, with C-section scars, cigarette burns, and loads of bad makeup.

That’s kind of how I feel about this year’s NCAA Tournament. Last year, Penn State miraculously won the Big Ten Tournament, went on to the NCAA Tournament, and I was drunk with enthusiasm. This year, I’ve got nobody to root for and the tournament just seems nasty. All I’m seeing are scandals, one year rent-a-players, and porous 2 seeds.

But that’s the thing about attending a school like Penn State – it’s perennially good at football but only good at basketball once in a while. I was just talking to my friend who went to Syracuse for undergrad and he was saying how great it is to see his team in the Sweet 16 again. If ‘Cuse gets to the Final Four, he’s got an excuse to meet up with all his college buddies. I’m jealous.  There are only so many times a man can yell “WE ARE PENN STATE” in the mirror with no other fellow Nittany Lion fans around to join in. Continue reading

Super Mario Bros: Buffalo Bills Defensive Line Edition

By David Hauser

Big day for Headie Sports!  Mario Willaims (@bbwolf90) is now using a Headie Sports created twitter avatar!  It appears late yesterday afternoon a Bills fan tweeted the new Bills Defensive End the “Super Mario Bros: Buffalo Bills Free Agency Edition” artwork from this website.  Mario Williams is now sporting only the headiest of twitter avatars that I’ve seen throughout the twittersphere.

Per the request of Bills fans over at Buffalo Rumblings, here is a similar version of the Super Mario Bros. pic with Kyle Williams to represent the tremendous defensive line advantage the Bills will have moving forward (let’s also not forget #3 overall pick from the 2011 NFL Draft, Marcell Dareus either).  It would now appear the Bills are no longer pursuing Manningham, after locking up the real Super Mario for $100 million over 6 years.

According to Buddy Nix in an appearance on Pro Football now with Mike Florio this past Friday, it appears the Bills will be seeking a WR with a bigger frame and 4.4-4.5 speed in the NFL draft, perhaps as early as the 2nd round.

As the weekend following the signing carries on, the #SuperMarioParty continues on in Western New York!  Reports from Buffalonians suggest there was not much work productivity this past Thursday, as fans followed along with the huge signing at work.  Additionally, fans started up a spirited and random car horn honking campaign all the way home throughout 5 o’clock traffic on I-90 thru Buffalo to celebrate the monumental Super Mario signing.

Luke Russert continues to operate in his late father’s stead as defacto leader of the #BillsMafia.  Using his national communication platform, Russert tweeted back and forth with ESPN Chris Mortenson as Bills fans waited for the word as to whether or not Mario was indeed signing with the Bills.  In the moments following the successful Super Mario signing, Mortenson responded to Russert who tweeted “Yeah baby!!! Mario in #Buffalo!!” with “I can see your Dad smiling and pumping his fist right now.”

Dwight Howard’s True Alter Ego?

As Adrian Wojnarowski outlines here, Dwight Howard has been throwing a red herring at Magic management all along and has been working to make his “real team,” the New Jersey Nets stronger for next year.

“Why would Howard push for a trade now? So the Nets have to give up Brook Lopez and draft picks? For Howard, he can finish the season with the Magic, make the playoffs and leave on July 1 for a contract with the Nets, who can offer him a four-year, $81 million deal – about $28 million less than what the Magic can give him in a fifth year. Adidas wants him in a major market – New York or Los Angeles – and this scenario promises him the highest possible value on his upcoming renegotiation on his shoe deal.”

Young Point Guard Debate

Jeremy Lin may not be a rookie, but in his first substantial playing time in the league he has lit up the NBA.  He’s not the only young Point Guard shredding the league these days.  Ricky Rubio has emerged in Minnesota as a Messi-like magician, turning the parquee into his own personal midfield.  Kemba Walker is trying to rejuvenate the always floundering Charlotte Bobcats franchise with the brand of energy and enthusiasm that brought UConn a National Championship last year.  And Kyrie Irving made everyone else on this Mt. Rushmore of young PGs look foolish and overmatched in this past weekend’s Rising Stars game (not to mention dismissing all the naysayers who insisted Derrick Williams should have been the #1 pick in the NBA draft last year).

And we have not even mentioned John Wall, Jrue Holliday, Norris Cole, Kyle Lowry, or even Glen Falls, NY’s Jimmer Fredette (still emerging).  The NBA is overflowing with young Point Guard talent beyond the likes of established (but, still young!) vets like Derrick Rose, Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo, and Deron Williams.

If you’re a GM and can pick one Under-25 PG to build around, who you taking??

Braunold or Not?

Yet again, sports fans are relegated to throwing on their lab coats to try to figure out if one of baseball's stars is telling the truth or not

By David Berlin

As a life-long Phillies fan I thought about what I would do if I found out Ryan Howard or Chase Utley were taking steroids. My first thought was that my world would be shattered. But then after some reflection, I realized that realistically, I would probably refuse to accept it and pretend it never happened. That’s what I did with the ‘93 Phillies and it’s worked out pretty well for me for 20 years.

Try talking to any Phillies fan about that ‘93 team and they’ll say something like – “Sure, 10 players had ‘career’ years. And sure, Dykstra was hitting .400 through June. But let’s not play the blame game.”

I consider myself a fairly educated person and I still have no idea what I’m reading when it comes to steroid articles. 1. because I can’t understand the science, and 2., because the player always puts out an extremely loaded statement, with unquantifiable terms of art (probably written by his lawyer). Soon I just have a headache and want to get back to watching baseball. Continue reading

NBA All-Star Game vs. NASCAR Daytona 500

Shhhhhhhhocking...it would appear we have virtually two mutually exclusive viewing audiences

By David Hauser

In a breakthrough new study, social scientists have discovered virtually no crossover appeal in viewership of NASCAR and NBA basketball.  Ironically both NASCAR’s Daytona 500 and the NBA’s All-Star Weekend Festivities will be held over the same weekend, both in Central Florida.  Here’s to hoping these two different viewing audiences do not get into any turf war tussles this coming weekend.  Unfortunately, Lenny Kravitz’s PR team was not privy to these shocking new findings until too late…

Magicians at Work: the All-Star Weekend Sideshow

Magicians, Dwight Howard and David Stern, host the awkward All-Star Weekend Festivities

By David Hauser

I have a pretty poor memory, but this I still recall.  In 6th grade (1995ish), at a nearby table in my middle school cafeteria I noticed a young relatively non-descript female classmate wearing a homemade Orlando Magic white t-shirt to school on some random weekday during the NBA season.  Scrawled in bright colorful puffy paint across the front (and back) of her shirt was the following trivia question about NBA journeyman/Magic backup point guard, Brian Shaw: What is the most valuable import Orlando has EVER received from Miami? A. Tropical Storms? B. Cuban Food? C. Their overflow retirees? D. Brian Shaw?

I think I remember this over a lot of other random things from my past, in part because I would have been completely and utterly mortified to ever wear a homemade t-shirt to middle school (much less one with puffy paint text on it).  At the time I was more reticent to see this as some kind of not-so-cool-junior-high-fashion-choice than some socially courageous display of local team pride.  But with hindsight, I look back at this nameless girl in her puffy painted white v-neck with some degree of fondness.  Her shirt, and my passive glance and long-term memory stamp of it, represents the authentic and real power of sports; the impact a seemingly silly logo or jersey can have in bonding two strangers in even just the slightest way. Continue reading