I’ve seen some funny pictures online, but these pictures of 400+ pound competitive eater Eric “Badlands” Booker at the Second Annual Hebrew Institute of Riverdale Hamentashen Eating Contest were hysterical.
Making fun of the contestants from ESPN’s “Dream Job” is like shooting ducks in a barrel. Or are they sitting fish? Whatever your mixed metaphor, it’s easy to mock their stumbles and quirks. Dan Shanoff writes a weekly recap column about the show. He has spent the last few weeks apotheosizing Al Jaffe, a network vice president who oversees ESPN’s on-air hiring. On last night’s episode, Jaffe seemed particularly fixated on the contestants’ mispronunciation of several words, including Xavier on two occasions. He later said, “Mispronunciations are unacceptable. We would never hire someone who made the mispronunciations we heard tonight.” This was noteworthy (AND ironic) because the first couple of times he corrected a contestant, Jaffe actually mispronounced mispronunciation. (He said something that sounded like mis-pro-noun-see-ee-aye-shun.)
I also thought it amusing the Tony Kornheiser, a writer for The Washington Post and a real stickler for accuracy talked about people’s “get[ting] hung” for mistakes. The sportswriter cum television personality should have learned in class — he was an English major in college — that while clothing is hung, people are hanged.
Lastly, ESPN.com remains the best sports web site by leaps and bounds, but I am often surprised by a marked lack of editing. In the aforementioned Shanoff column, the word “necessarly” crept into a sentence. That’s no word at all, but rather a misspelling of necessarily. No, it’s not the end of the world, but an organization with ESPN’s resources should be able to pony up for a spellchecker.
Baseball has an effect on me that none of the other major sports do. I find football more entertaining, think hockey games are a treat to see in person, and follow the NBA closely. But baseball’s mix of nostalgia and numbers, combined with its status as a harbinger of spring moves me in a way that the NFL, NBA, and NHL don’t…and can’t. I’ve liked baseball long enough to have seen the players transform from long-and-lean (think Keith Hernandez) and (ahem) “stocky” (think Greg Luzinski) into the muscle-bound athletes they are today. I would never argue against baseball’s position as a sporting contest, but I am sometimes reminded that most ballplayers aren’t the physical specimens that their counterparts in other sports are.
In Peter Gammons’s article today, Jose Guillen spoke frankly about having to play some games in centerfield. “I can play there, but I never realized how much running you do. Sometimes if I have to run a long way for a ball for the final out and I lead off the next inning, I’m a little tired. But I can handle it.” ‘Nuff said.
Another interesting thing about the Gammons column was his comment on THG. (I think Peter Gammons is a fantastic baseball guy, but no one is above reproach.) He claims not to understand the outrage over the use of THG, citing the fact that it wasn’t deemed illegal until after the 2003 World Series. If you want to check out my thoughts on baseball’s drug policy, click here or here. For the sake of brevity, I’m not going to rehash what I’ve already said, but rather hone in on a point. Players were advised that they shouldn’t be taking steroids after the last collective bargaining agreement in 2002. Was THG on the list? No. Why not? It’s quite likely that THG didn’t exist when the drug policy was drafted. For that matter, any new designer steroids will not be on a list until after they are discovered. That was the point of THG — to elude detection while providing a boost in strength and recovery time. The spirit of the rule dictates that THG and its ilk are out-of-bounds. No agency can proactively ban all steroids by name because to my knowledge, there are no psychics who can predict which molecules will be manipulated. Therefore, all known anabolic steroids and unknown variations thereof must be banned.
Rob Neyer makes a bunch of assertions about Eric Chavez today that range from specious to bizarre. Chavez is a good hitter whom Neyer thinks is a consensus “great hitter.” The problem is that the same writer would argue that Garret Anderson is overrated — certainly from a sabermetric standpoint. As I see it, Chavez’s big advantages over Anderson relate to his age (Neyer appropriately does cite age) and his defensive position. Not only is it harder to find a run-producing third baseman than it is an outfielder, an elite defensive third baseman is much more valuable than a good defensive outfielder. Neyer seems to make a habit of discarding information that doesn’t jive with his preconceived notions. I strongly doubt that he would classify Garret Anderson as a great of “near great” hitter.
One other peeve regarding the article in question. (I have many more peeves, but my fingers are tiring.) Neyer writes, “Let’s run a short thought experiment … Suppose you had an outfielder who hit a home run every time he faced a right-handed pitcher (intentional walks notwithstanding), but batted just .100 against left-handers. Wouldn’t you still be thrilled to have that player, and pay him top dollar?”
Huh? How is this an experiment? I don’t necessarily need a control group for his example, but this is just ridiculous. Neyer asserts (by way of question) that Chavez’s struggles with left-handers don’t substantially diminish his value or his perceived value according to his overall numbers. I would agree with that. But the “experiment” is both strange and terribly unconvincing. The simple argument is this: Chavez murders right-handed pitching. Most pitchers are righties. Chavez will perform at a very high level against most pitchers. Q.E.D.
(If you’re interested, take a look at statistical comparison tool that my friend whipped up recently: http://www.intap.net/cgi-bin/drw/bball-test.pl.
THOSE GOSSIP PAGES
Lloyd Grove wrote about how students “brown-nosed” when dealing with fellow student John F. Kennedy Jr. at Brown University in the 1980s. These comments were related by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour during a “48 Hours Investigates” interview with Leslie Stahl. That may or may not be true, but Grove’s claim that Amanpour attended school with Kennedy is certainly not. Amanpour went to the University of Rhode Island, where she graduated summa cum laude. Take a look at her bio. George Rush, a gossip columnist and Brown graduate at the same paper, is likely readying is evil eye for his colleague. I suppose fact-checking belies the whole business of reporting gossip, eh?