Monday, April 16, 2018

Afraid to Talk

A (hopefully) innocuous picture of my setup at Brunswick for lacrosse.
I talk.

Sometimes for a living.

I'm responsible for my words, and occasionally I say things that get me in trouble for one reason or another. I get that it's the very nature of the beast, of course.

Yet sometimes we say things that aren't even remotely intended to be inflammatory, and yet...

Yet...

Take what happened to Brian Davis, play-by-play announcer for the Oklahoma City Thunder on Fox Sports Oklahoma. Davis, in his eighth year with the Thunder, used the phrase "cotton-picking mind" in relation to guard Russell Westbrook.

For that, he earned a one-game suspension and had to apologize.

No. That's not a joke. Here's the recap from Yahoo! Sports.

Given that we speak on the air extemporaneously for hours at a time, I would hope there would be a certain amount of understanding. However common sense must also be considered, and I'd like to believe most of us know there are a variety of words and phrases that shouldn't (and can't) be used.

I don't think I use "cotton-picking" in regard to anything, and I suppose I understand its "offensiveness" to a degree. I won't simply play the "That's Not/Is Racist!" card.

But a suspension? I'm not so sure about that. I think it would have been fair if Fox Sports Oklahoma said, "Look, Brian, we know you meant nothing by it, but it's an 'old school' term that can be construed as racist. Do us a solid and don't use it again, OK?"

There. All done.

Instead, this guy now has a stigma attached to him. It brought him attention that no broadcaster wants. Unfairly.

It can make many of us weary to talk or write.

To that very point, I was calling the New Canaan/Brunswick lacrosse game Saturday night. Now I recognize that the rights of Brunswick games are governed by Brunswick, since I'm there for them. So I do choose my words carefully to begin with, but I don't stand there and censor myself.

I use common sense.

Still, I brought up the topic of the Brian Davis suspension and didn't completely elaborate, except to say that viewers and listeners could find the story online.

Yes. I was nervous about saying the offending phrase.

Continuing with that, I felt a certain level of trepidation in bringing up Jackie Robinson, as it occurred to me that we were up against the 71st anniversary of his joining the Brooklyn Dodgers. Players all around baseball will wear the number 42 in honor of Robinson.

While it's a lovely and deserving gesture, I have never been in favor of it. Not because I'm "anti-Robinson." What Jackie did can't be measured. It's legendary, and the story needs to be told. Yet I feel that when the message is pushed with the "all-42 movement," things get lost.

So I feel I have a better idea. Each team should have one member -- anyone -- who exhibits the spirit of Jackie Robinson. That person should have the honor of wearing 42 that year on April 15. Then the team can hold a ceremony before the game to introduce the player and present the message of equality that Mr. Robinson wanted.

As it is, there is still a long way to go, and we all know that.

Yet why do I have to feel nervous about saying that? Why do we worry that everything we say could get us fired or suspended?

Don't actions speak louder than words anyway? Well which is it?

Heck, I'm even concerned about pressing "Publish" on this post, and that's become more frequent in the past four years or so.

It shouldn't be like that. Common sense should prevail and I'd like to think we can look at what's in a persons heart.

Brian Davis shouldn't have been suspended.

Common sense isn't all that common.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Truly a Joy

It didn't end that way.
I called a baseball game today, and it was magnificent.

I don't mean my call. My broadcast was full of stuttering and mistakes and other signs that I was hungry (and probably tired).

But I loved watching two pitchers: Gavin Noriega of Salesian High School (from New Rochelle, NY) and JD Sparks of Brunswick School (of Greenwich, CT). They spun five innings of pure magic. Zeroes rang out on the scoreboard and in my scorebook.

Noriega was twirling, as he had a perfect game through four-and-a-third innings, and a no-hitter after five. Sparks was equally good, scattering five hits over seven innings. Sparks became "Houdini" as he climbed out of several jams.

Noriega was gone after five, replaced by a young man named Steven Pisacano (and I misread his name on the hand-written roster as "Pisacaro." Sigh). Pisacano was also quite good, allowing two hits over 1.2 innings.

No score after six-and-a-half.

It was a game that took one hour and 47 minutes, and it ended with one out in the bottom of the seventh.

This is the full broadcast.
 Or if you just want to hear the bottom of the seventh, then listen to this:
Or...just cut to the chase. This is the call of Jake Hyde's "walkoff" single.
Brunswick 1, Salesian 0.

It was fun. Warm. Sunny. As always, it was a challenge to scribble lineups and talk to coaches before the first pitch. But it's a dance that I so love when everything is right.

I take calling these games seriously (yep. NEWSFLASH!), and I have brutal crisis of confidence. But so is the very nature of it.

It was near 70 degrees for the game and I was wearing shorts. It's heading down to 41 and cold for the second broadcast of my day: Brunswick and New Canaan in lacrosse.

Sigh.

** On some level, a few of you who read this blog might care what I have to say about the Huey Lewis news (that's NOT a joke) from yesterday. To be honest, I'm still debating a blog post on it, but suffice to say, I'm quite sad about it. I'll leave it at that.

I digress. So I'll call the lax game and leave that for another time.

Calling the game from right field. Making the best of it.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

So About Last Night

Wow, Christian, that's some uniform-grabbing! (CHARLES KRUPA/AP)
Yes, the baseball world was spun back on its axis last night.

There's a writer for NBC Sports named Bill Baer. Ol' Bill is a stats-loving sabermetric-type o'chap who thinks modern baseball should be all about touchdown dances and fun! Those who play hard are not fun! Heck, just look at this piece of prose, about how some Cubs are telling Javier Baez to tone his game down just a smidge.

Over in Boston, the Yankees and Red Sox reignited THE RIVALRY(c), as Brock Holt was upset by a hard Tyler Austin slide.

In Twitter-land and other parts of the interwebs, both sides are accusing the other of bias. Because, they're...you know...fans.

Yawn.

Here's the deal: I call BS when I see it. Know that I love the sport and am not enamored with the modern version of it. I couldn't care less whether Jackie Robinson smiled, but I knew he was one hard-nosed SOB on the field.

I would have loved him on the Yankees. That's how this goes.

Put a man on second base to start extra innings? Thanks, Rob Manfred (because we all know he wants it at the big league level).

If I had a problem with Austin's slide, I'd tell you. Given my propensity for old time baseball (Eddie Shore? Oh...wait...wrong movie), you will understand that I have minimal problem with Austin. My only beef -- slightly rare, if you will -- is that Austin could have gotten up, patted Holt on the back (not too hard now) and said, "Hey. You OK? Incidentally, where do you go to get your hair that blonde?" and trotted back to the dugout.

Let's not take note of -- thanks to the modern rules (aka "The Chase Utley Rule") -- middle infielders act like Tom Brady when a feather breezes by them.

"WAIT! That's a 15-yard penalty! Where's the flag!"

But from the top of Mount Washington through the "summer houses" of Newport, out through the Cape and sort of towards the Berkshires (which is more Yankees-land than New Englanders ever wish to admit), there was a howl of "You'll get yours, Austin!"

And he did, in the form of a Joe Kelly fastball on his second try. Shawn Estes, come on down!


Austin took offense -- his business, I guess. The benches emptied. We had a donnybrook!

(Part of me would love for Austin to do the old Don Baylor routine. That is, to treat the hit by pitch as if a mosquito just bit him, drop the bat, and run to first.)

In the Mahopac home office, I glanced, and continued about my business. Call me crazy, but I'm a bottom-line guy. This is all that matters to me...

Funny, 35-to-1 or whatever the Red Sox won by on Monday night suddenly was irrelevant. All of the handwringing about Giancarlo Stanton and his one-million strikeouts ended. Aaron Boone's awful bullpen decisions? Moot points.

Yankees 10. Red Sox 7. That's all that matters for now.

Here's the bigger takeaway: these teams play way too much now. There is too much divisional play, so some luster has disappeared. Plus with modern-day baseball, there's a lot of fraternizing. When it came to Yankees/Red Sox, whether it was 1904 and "Nuf Ced" McGreevy or 1949 or 1974-78 or 1999-2005 (give or take) there was genuine hatred, especially with everything pre-1994 (ish).

Sweet Lou and Pudge, 1976 (Ned Martin and Hawk Harrelson on TV-38).


Oh, Pedro.

So last night gave this "Greatest Rivalry" (which stands up with Ohio State/Michigan, Giants/Dodgers, Bruins/Canadiens, etc) a nifty little boost.

And it's not over.

Incidentally, before you go on and dump your chowder on each side, my understanding is that Jerry Remy was fair on NESN, and I know for a fact David Cone was excellent on YES. Each one saw the others side quite well.

I see the same here. I get why Holt is mad, and Austin should have patted him on the back. It all likely ends there.

Kelly wants to protect his teammate? Fine. Do it once. But he doubled-down, and then it was time to play the feud, with catcher Christian Varquez, who was rightly called out by John Flaherty on YES for not protecting Kelly fast enough, going to the Jason Varitek School of Tough Guy Mask-Wearing.

Varitek ("The Captain" -- as noted by the "C" on his jersey) and Mr. Rodriguez, 2004.
So it goes. The Republic did not burn down. Fans from each side will continue to spout utterly dumb things.

All this over a slide. But we need more hot-dogging?

They'll play another 17 times. Including tonight.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

A Different World


I saw the above picture show up in my Timehop this morning.

Timehop -- if you don't know -- is one of those services that presents social media memories from past posts.

I took that picture, pre-camera phone, with my digital camera. It's a -- GASP! -- selfie, before we knew what the hell a selfie was (and before they became known as being so narcissistic, but that's for another time).

It was taken on a chilly day in a park in Pennsylvania. We had gone to the park near my niece's apartment to let Sean and his cousin Kendall run around for an hour or so.

To be honest, I remember it was really cold, and it might have even been Easter Sunday. I think we went to the park to let the Easter Bunny visit. I took the picture to occupy myself, and I suppose to keep my sense of humor.

That weekend in PA still resonates for me. It was the first time I had ventured off with Sean as a (not quite) single father. There were still formalities to deal with, but the die had been cast.

I was trying to figure it all out. I remember that distinctly. I wasn't nervous about taking care of Sean. I just felt -- I can't quite explain it. I felt...different?

I also remember that, barely an hour into the trip, Sean got sick. Nothing major, but it seemed to embody how we were both going into new territory. He wasn't nervous. He was excited, and he was fine after that.

In fact, I took this not long after, but in the days where I would turn the camera on him and yell "RANDOM SEAN SHOT!"


Interestingly, I wrote about the trip before I left:

I'm off to Pennsylvania for the weekend with Sean and Stephanie and Laura and Steve's. Sean will have a blast with Kendall and Emma. If you don't know who these people are, then buy a scorecard! I'm conflicted about going, but I'll go, and we'll have fun. I doubt I'll be able to check in, so be safe and well, and if Easter is your thing, then enjoy.

Anyway, pictures say a lot. They bring up memories. I don't have too much more to add than that.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Career Choices


I was talking with a friend of my father not long after he died in 1989. I had made my way into the world of broadcasting, and he told me he talked with my dad about my vocation.

"He was nervous about it," he told me.

I remember, years earlier, telling Dad that I wanted to be a broadcaster. He told me it's a tough career, and of course, he was right.

I still went through it, and after over 27 years, I'm still here.

My dad never heard me on the air. That will always be a regret, but that's how it goes.

He's been gone 29 years. I don't have the eloquence to explain the passage of time, but it's safe to say he's missed and always in our thoughts.

He never wanted me to drive a truck, like him. He wanted an office life for me (and I spent plenty of time there).

Twenty-nine years. Today.

You might think about beer and Irish music. Maybe corned beef.

St. Patrick's Day will always have a different feeling for me.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a game to call.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

To Walkout Or Not To Walkout


You probably know that today is the National School Walkout, a hotly-debated topic, as students across the country step out of class for 17 minutes to honor those who were lost in Parkland, FL, while also standing up for their own safety and well-being.

In some school districts, it is only a high school event. Other districts have extended it through middle school and even elementary school.

That's the case in the Wappingers Central School District in New York. That's where our intrepid cub reporter, Sean Adams, attends school.

I texted Sean on Monday to see if he would be walking out of class. His answer was short and to the point.

However, I'm not going to tell you what he said, for I want Sean to do whatever he chooses. He had his say, and I'm proud of him.

I hope that we never have to have this conversation again.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Dear Jerry Blevins


Dear Jerry,

Hi, it's Rob here. You know, the lousy hack play-by-play announcer, who isn't worthy of broadcasting your little ol' baseball team in Queens.

So it seems you decided to take on ranking the best baseball movies "ever," and you sort of crapped on a film called Field of Dreams.

Funny thing, sports movies are. Some would consider Field of Dreams to not even be a baseball movie. For my money, baseball plays a big role, so yes it is indeed a baseball movie.

Then, resident CBS Sports troll Dayn Perry decided to back you up. Wow. All of the geniuses are out tonight. Just waiting for Ryan Ruocco to chime in (you know, since he's Vin reinvented and all).

I'm not here to advocate for Field of Dreams to be the best ever.

But you decided to say in your oh-so-brilliant way (do they have a class for this in Queens?) that the father/son element...

Well, I don’t think the movie does a good enough job to call it a father/son movie. I never really care all that much about their relationship.

Let me use a Facebook response from tonight to get my $.02 in:

Here's what I'll say in regards to the father/son angle. It's mentioned on the ride back from Minnesota. How Ray walks out and says, to paraphrase, "I can never support someone whose hero is a criminal." 
I saw the movie, I think, in May, 1989. This would be roughly 10 weeks after my own father passed away (on March 17, 1989). Consider the buildup. Consider the father in the Yankees (Highlanders) uniform. Consider the "Dad, do you want to have a catch" (my own father and I, due to his severe arthritis, basically didn't have a catch of any way, shape, or form after 1973) and you can understand why I was the last one to leave the damn theater. Most dads get that. THAT'S why it matters. At least to me.

Look, Jer. Field of Dreams is mega-flawed. It's sappy, and Ray Liotta hits right-handed as Joe Jackson and so on. But it works. I can watch literally every minute of it until Dwyer-freaking-Brown shows up. I COULD NOT have a catch with my old man. I'd kill for him to appear in some corn field to ask me to do so. I've cried for nearly 29 years over this stuff. While you're a big, tough baseball player, I'm a soft-hearted dude who misses his dad.

Sorry. Guess that makes me a failure.

For the record, there are myriad terrific movies that feature baseball, and you barely hit the surface. Sure, The Natural is fine, but it's an embarrassment in comparison to the book, which is beautifully dark and stark. Ever seen Bang the Drum Slowly? Do so. How about The Stratton Story?

Jimmy Stewart. Say no more.

And do. Not. Mess. With. Bull. Durham. Just don't. I'm warning you.

It's not secret Uncle Robbie doesn't dig religion (don't get me going). I like certain people of faith and all, but...well...let me stop before I get in more trouble. Anywho, Bull Durham gets it. It's dated, but it works.

Pride of the Yankees? OK, I get it. They have yet to get either Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig right on film. How about *61? I know there are historical inaccuracies (Maris didn't sign his "X" for a kid in '61. It was 1962.) but damn I tear up when Roger hits number 61.

Then again, *61 is the story of a team with a hero who breaks an important record, en route to winning a World Series. Oh, wait. You play for the Mets. Never mind.

For the record, Jerry, your list is crap. For what it's worth, not a single one of your movies came out before 1988, with Bull Durham being the oldest. See, I know I'm an old guy and all, but I don't do the simple "millennium" crap (and I'm sure you prefer the Billy Bob Thornton version of Bad News Bears).

I saw the Walter Matthau version of Bad News Bears in the theater in 1976...then promptly went home and recited the speech about where the Yankees could shove their trophy to my parents (my older siblings took me to see it). I was seven. Suffice to say, my dad wasn't entirely amused, but still, my education in baseball cinema deepened.

I saw Alibi Ike (1935). It Happens Every Spring (1949). Damn Yankees (1958).  Elmer, The Great (1933).

I've seen them. All of them. Some are absolutely putrid.

But I've seen them. Have you?

You actually list For Love of the Game as being better than Field of Dreams. Not for nothing, but do you know WHY it's better?

One guess. Come on.

You all know it! (Otherwise, it's not that good of a movie)

For the love of god (and the game) it isn't THAT HARD!



DUH. It's Vin-freaking-Scully. That's why.

I'm not going to give you a top five or 10. I love Bull Durham. I love Eight Men Out. I love *61 and Major League. But I also love The Stratton Story and sort of tolerate A League of Their Own (I love Tom Hanks, and I stood where they filmed those scenes in Cooperstown). I like The Sandlot. but I also love Bang the Drum Slowly and the ORIGINAL Bad News Bears.

And I detest The Babe. One of the most disappointing films I've ever seen. I walked out of the movie theater in a deep depression.

The points is: I know baseball movies. Field of Dreams is what it is. But try to understand it.

Maybe start by reading the book. Because I have.

Anyway, I'd love to chat about it. It's clear you don't really get it.

Good luck in that National League East.

Oh, and you're probably best off never playing for the Yankees.

Best,
Rob