Baseball is famous for having “unwritten rules” that are mostly there so that old men (white and black) can complain about the younger generation (black, brown, and white). Eli Grober explores this phenomena in McSweeney’s The Completely Normal, Totally Reasonable Unwritten Rules of Baseball.
As always, this Weekly Reader features links to recent articles that grabbed my interest or tickled my fancy. I hope you find something that makes you laugh, think, or cry.
Grober begins with the set-up:
“’We were taught from day one to respect the game, respect the competition, respect the opponent… You don’t swing 3-0 when you’re up by that big a lead.’ — White Sox manager Tony La Russa, expressing disappointment in star rookie Yermin Mercedes for hitting a home run when his team was winning, 5/18/21“
And then he helps explain it all for you by writing out those unwritten rules, beginning with Rule #1:
“If a team is down by a lot of runs, they should stop trying to win. And the other team should stop trying to score. And the fans should fall into a deep, awful sleep….
We’ll be back in a minute to Rule #8:
“Don’t do anything new….If you figure out a novel way to score or win or whatever, you’re just making everyone who used to play and never thought to do that feel bad.“
And finally, Rule #10:
“If a player breaks any one of these rules, someone else should throw a hard baseball 90 miles per hour at their head. This is completely reasonable and totally normal.“
Javy Báez DEFINITELY violated Rule #8 last week.
With two outs, the first baseman simply had to touch the bag for the inning to end. Instead, he had a brain lock when the baserunner began running BACKWARDS! However, if he had tagged Báez BEFORE he reached first — even after the runner touched home — the inning would have been over and the run would not have counted.
But he didn’t. This became many fans’ instant candidate for wackiest baseball play ever. It shows the value of perseverance: don’t ever stop trying, because you never know when the other guy’s brain will lock up.
Every time I go to the ballpark I see something I’ve never seen before. This definitely qualifies.
“The world of sports media is basically where American men go to avoid therapy, where they can project their wounds and failings onto strangers and referees,” writes Sam Anderson in an insightful piece in the New York Times Magazine. Kevin Durant and (Possibly) the Greatest Basketball Team of All Time is full of gems about this most graceful of players and the changing nature of the NBA.
With superteams constructed largely by the best players the changes to the game haven’t been well received by some fans. LeBron James started this trend with his “decision” to “take my talents to South Beach” from Cleveland.
“This inspired exactly the kind of panic you might expect in certain quarters of America, given the racial dynamics involved: a redistribution of power from (mostly) old white executives to (mostly) young black players.“
After playing with his original team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, for longer than most superstars, Durant decided to test the free agent market in 2016.
“He conducted his free agency like the superstar that he was: He rented a mansion in the Hamptons, where he hosted waves of N.B.A. suitors…in the end, Durant made a choice that just about ripped the basketball world in half. He left OKC to join the Golden State Warriors, the best team in the league, one of the greatest teams in history and the team that just barely knocked the Thunder out of the playoffs five weeks earlier. It would have been like Jimi Hendrix, after narrowly losing a battle of the bands to the Rolling Stones, signing on as their new lead guitarist. To many sports fans, Durant, like LeBron James before him, became an absolute villain. He had taken player empowerment too far, critics said, violated a sacred code of competitive pride. Also, he hurt their feelings. ESPN’s most famous bloviator, Stephen A. Smith, called it ‘the weakest move I’ve ever seen from a superstar.’”
Calling out Stephen A. as a bloviator won me over. If you can get past the paywall, this long piece is worth the read.
Enjoy your summer fun and games!
More to come…
NOTE: This post originally began with the Durant piece in the lead, but after major injuries to Harden and Irving, the Nets lost in the Eastern Conference semifinal, making this much less relevant. So I moved the baseball stories to the top.