The ESPN test

I have a relative who used to work for ESPN in a pretty high profile position. Let’s just say there were times I’d be away from home and I’d glance up at a television screen and, “Wow. My relative is on ‘Sportscenter.'”

In all our conversations about getting a job and working at ESPN, the subject of an entry test never came up.

But today, I see on Deadspin that ESPN tests its new employees. If you’re thinking about working there some day, here’s what you have to answer in 45 minutes. Think fast!

Fenway at 100

I’ve written enough times that I’m a fan of the New York Yankees. So, cause and effect, I automatically hate the Boston Red Sox. It’s just what Yankee fans do.

Here’s how bad it is. I was standing in line today waiting to take a tour of the Rose Garden at the White House (That’s a separate post to come later), and a girl walked by in a T-shirt that said: “I only kiss Red Sox fans.”

Now, it never crosses my mind to kiss women on the street, but I REALLY wanted to get her attention to say, “Hey, I’m a Red Sox fan.”

Not to get a kiss. Just to get the kiss and then say: “I was lying. I’m really a Yankees fan. Red Sox suck!”

But I didn’t. Which is sort of a mark against me, because a true Yankee fan would have gone out of his way to be a jerk and done that.

Anyway, now I’m going to further erode my Yankee credentials by saying this.

Happy birthday, Fenway Park!

The home of the Boston Red Sox turned 100 years old yesterday. In this age of new high-tech ballparks specially designed to include as many luxury suites as possible, there’s something admirable about a baseball field that has lasted 100 years and served a loyal (though obnoxious) fan base.

The best seats I’ve ever had at any Major League Baseball game were at Fenway Park. I was in Boston about 17 or 18 years ago to visit a friend who worked at the Boston Globe. She had to work one night, and since I was with my 3-year-old son, I decided to take him to a baseball game.

We arrived at Fenway somewhere around the beginning of the second inning. I hadn’t ordered tickets in advance, so I went to the ticket booth and asked for two. There was no line and no one was behind me, so the woman in the booth asked where I wanted to sit, and I didn’t have any idea, because I’d never been there before. Then she says:

“If you’re willing to pay a little more money, I can give you two really good seats.”

“How much?”

“$25 a piece.”

(Remember when $25 was a lot of money to see a baseball game.)

So I bought the tickets, took my son by the hand and headed in. We got to the designated section on the first level. Behind home plate. Awesome! Then the usher escorted us to our seats, and I realized we were getting closer and closer to the field. Second row directly behind the catcher. It was one of those experiences when you realize your seat is better than anything you could have seen on television. Watching a fast ball come in from that angle is nothing like looking at a big screen television and watching a fast ball arrive.

I don’t remember who the Sox were playing that night. I think it was the Texas Rangers because I remember Jose Canseco was in right field. When the game was over, we went back to my friend’s house and watched SportsCenter. And when the Sox highlights came up, there we were, my son and I, right behind home plate. I’m sure that during the game, someone saw my son bust my lip, when, in a bit of 3-year-old craziness, he lurched back and drove his head into my mouth.

I don’t think he remembers that night. But that was one of my favorite MLB memories. And it took place with the hated Red Sox.

Here’s a little history of Fenway from the Chicago Sun Times and MLB:

The Red Sox won the opener on April 20, 1912, 7-6 in 11 innings over the New York Highlanders (who would soon change their name to the Yankees). Boston went on to win the ‘12 World Series and three more in that decade, but then embarked on an 86-year title drought in which the ballpark became the franchise’s biggest star.

“This ballpark has created as many memories for people in this area and around the world as any venue in the world,” Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said before the ceremony. “The park here has at least a life of its own. A magic to it. It’s the baseball land of Oz. People dream about this place.”

Doomed for the wrecking ball before the current owners bought the team in 2002, Fenway now has seats above the Green Monster and an HD video screen — not to mention lights above the upper decks and black and Latin players in the field — all unimaginable when it opened the same week the Titanic sank.

But you want to know the best part of the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park?

The Sox and the Yanks wore replica uniforms to match the ones the teams wore 100 years ago. And when the game was over the score was 6-2.


Little League World Series: 42,000 for a kid’s game

A team from LaGrange, Ky., and a team from Clinton County, Pa., met in the first round of the Little League World Series last night in Williamsport, Pa. It was an amazingly close game with two exciting plays at the plate by the Kentucky catcher, stopping what should have been two easy runs. And the Kentucky pitcher struck out 12 and hit a home run.

Kentucky won 1-0.

Pennsylvania vs. Kentucky: attendance 41,848

But here’s the exciting part. The crowd totaled just under 42,000 (41,848), breaking an attendance record for an LLWS game. And those records were set twice for championship games in 1989 and 1990.

Now the fact that the Pennsylvania team came from less than 30 miles away from Williamsport probably accounted for a big local contingent, but let’s face it: 42,000 for a first-round Little League game is astounding.

I took my son to the Little League World Series twice when he was just about the age of the players. We were living in New Jersey and the drive was about three hours. The most impressive thing about the event is that the games are free. You can just walk into the complex and watch any game being played. And there are tons of concession stands, so it’s got all the atmosphere of a big league game, and none of the expense.

Even so, there are major league teams that can’t draw 42,000 to a game. As a baseball fan stuck with watching the Washington Nationals, I don’t think I’ve been to a game this season where the attendance topped 32,000. But then, the Nationals suck. As I write this, just before midnight, their record is 59-63, but they’re kicking the butts of the Philadelphia Phillies in the ninth inning of a rain delayed game, so they’ll be 60-64 by the time I finish this post. (Attendance: 37,841, mostly Philly fans from what I saw on the metro heading home around game time. I live four blocks from the ballpark.)

Major League Baseball has done everything it can to screw up its product. No, not scandals over steroid abuse. Its crime is greed: charging astronomical prices for a decent seat to see a bad team; food stands that require a second mortgage if you want to eat at the stadium; beer sales to obnoxious drunks who scare families from the ballpark; keeping playoffs to night games for network money so kids aren’t able to see their favorite teams win a championship. Do these idiots realize we’re in a recession, and a family can’t spend a hundred bucks to see a team that’s going nowhere?

And even though I’m a Yankee fan, there is something wrong when it’s a given that my team is ALWAYS going to be in the playoffs, while other teams owned by people who are just as rich as the Steinbrenners can only manage to give the fans a sub-.500 team year in and year out. (Case in point, the Nationals.)

Yeah, I hear the “But the Yankees have all that TV revenue and buy all the great players.” No, they have smart baseball people, and smart people do exist at other  teams. Read Michael Lewis’s “Moneyball.” Or if you can’t read, go to the Brad Pitt movie when it comes out next month.

The fans are there if the teams really want to give them something they want to see: 42,000 at a Little League game is proof of that.

UPDATE: It turns out that the attendance of 41,848 at Friday night’s Pennsylvania vs. Kentucky game in the Little League World Series exceeded the attendance of all but three major league games that same night.

Yankee’s Jeter joins 3,000 club

It’s pretty hard to believe that with all its World Series wins and all the players it has in baseball’s Hall of Fame, the New York Yankees never had a player who got 3,000 hits. Until yesterday.

Derek Jeter’s 3,000 career hit was a home run, which was pretty impressive when you consider that he’s not a home run hitter.

The guy’s been with one club his whole career. That’s unusual, too. The Yankees won tge World Series in 1996, the year Jeter was named Rookie of the Year.

He’s been a lock for the Hall of Fame for a while. Cooperstown might as well get the bust ready and make space for another Yankee (as long as he doesn’t pull a Pete Rose, a Barry Bonds or more recently a Roger Clemens).

Bean ball

As a New York Yankees fan, I feel it’s my duty to post this very troubling video. It is so disturbing, I can’t use an image here. I just have to simply use words to describe it. The video shows a Boston Red Sox fan driving his child to tears. (Though my son points out that under similar circumstances, I would have done the same to him.)

A WARNING TO YANKEE FANS: This video contains disturbing images of torture and abuse.

TO RED SOX FANS: This is responsible parenting.

Hopefully, he at least got good seats

New York Gov. David Patterson was fined $62,500 for hitting up baseball’s New York Yankees for five free tickets to the first game of the 2009 World Series between the Yanks and the Philadelphia Phillies.

The New York Times story never gives the tickets’ face value, but the fine makes it $12,500 per.

The governor solicited the tickets from a registered lobbyist, and there was a big conflict of interest since the Yankees have a number of “issues before state government, including real estate, stadium development and tax matters,” the Times says.

But something doesn’t follow. He’s the governor and a team from his state was in the World Series. Don’t politicians routinely go to major sporting events when a local team is involved? If so, judging from this fine, they pay for their own tickets. Patterson makes $179,000 a year as governor, so all things considered, the tickets weren’t worth it.

Not to mention, the governor is pretty dim. Why ask for a $12,500 ticket when you can’t see the game? Patterson is legally blind. Just sit in front a big screen TV with a bunch of cronies. It would have been a lot more comfortable and more affordable.

Wait ’til next year

The Yankees are out of the playoffs. The Texas Rangers are going to the World Series after a 6-1 win last night, taking the series four games to two.

There are a lot of happy people out there. But like I said before. I’ve got no worries. The Yankees be back next year.

Reminds me of a story about the Brooklyn Dodgers. During one preseason, there was a lot of media coverage saying that was the Dodgers year and to expect them to take the World Series. On opening day at Ebbets Field, the visiting batter comes up. The first pitch to him is a ball.

Someone in the stands yells: “Wait ’til next year.”

The Dodgers won pennants in 1941, 1947, 1949, 1952 and 1953. Do I have to say who they lost the World Series to in those years?

They beat the Yankees in the 1955 series. But in 1956, order was restored and the Yankees were champions again.

All things considered, if I was around when the Dodgers were in Brooklyn, I would have been a Dodgers fan. Ebbets Field, which is now a housing development, isn’t that far from where members of my family currently live. And Brooklyn broke the color barrier with Jackie Robinson. How could you not support them?

But the Dodgers moved to L.A., betraying a million fans. I’m sure that was a gain for the Yankees.

Smells like team spirit

My team is in the second round of the American League Championship Series. My team pretty regularly ends up at this point in the playoffs, year after year.

My team is the New York Yankees: The team everyone loves to hate.

The Dallas Cowboys have always placed themselves on the mantle as America’s team, but whether you like it or not America’s team is the New York Yankees. That’s the global perspective. You can find yourself on the bullet train in Japan. You can stand on the Great Wall of China. You can take a tour of Parliament in London and one thing is for sure. Sooner or later, someone is going to walk by wearing a Yankee baseball cap.

The rest of the world knows what Yankee fans know, what the fans of every other team in the U.S. refuse to see. The Yankees are the symbol of American sports. The Yankees expect to get into the playoffs every year. Think about it. Think about what you saw on Sportscenter a couple of weeks ago as baseball teams clinched playoff spots: Players rushed the field … jumped on each other … hugs … jubilation.

Every team did that except for the Yankees. They clinched another playoff spot and the reaction was like it was just another game. Orderly high fives as the players walked off the field. No piling on. Just head to the locker room, celebrate a little and get ready for the next game.

The Yankees swept the Minnesota Twins in the first round.

They’re at one game apiece with the Texas Rangers, having won the first game 6-5 after trailing 5-0 in the fifth inning at Texas, and losing the second game by an ugly score of 7-2. The series now moves to The Bronx,

I don’t know if they’re going to win it all. I just know, if they do, it will be normal. If they don’t, they’re contenders next year. They’ve got 27 World Series titles. Why worry?

Anyway, I’ve already been through their worst days.

When I was a kid, I started out as a Mets fan. But going to see the Mets was too much of a hassle. The trip from Brooklyn to Shea Stadium, way out in Queens, involved transferring to too many subway trains. Mets tickets were too expensive, and the cheapest ticket put you in the top tier in right field.

Finance drove my early interest in the Yankees. I could take the No. 4 train to the stadium in The Bronx. A ticket for a bleachers seat was a buck. And a bleacher seat put you right in the outfield, close enough to yell at the centerfielder: Bobby Murcer, who was out there when I was old enough to go to games by myself.

The Yankees sucked when I started rooting for them. They were owned by CBS, a major corporation that knew broadcasting but didn’t know how to run a sports franchise. Our biggest players were Murcer and second baseman Horace Clarke. That period, 1967 to 1973, the time of Yankee futility was known as the Horace Clarke era. And I had a front row seat to it. Then, in 1974, a guy named Steinbrenner came along, turned the place into a soap opera and built a champion.

I have two vivid Yankee memories.

I attended my first Yankee game with my family before the Horace Clarke era. I don’t remember the year, but it was a daytime double header against the California Angels. The Yankees were behind, bottom of the ninth, two out, Mickey Mantle at bat. Mantle smashed a game winning home run, and the place went nuts. The cheering continued through the break between the games and didn’t stop until the second game started.

The second was during the Horace Clarke era. The Yankees against Cleveland, and the stadium was practically empty. The Indians were ahead late in the game. I was in the second row of the bleachers behind a couple of drunken Puerto Ricans, who were riding Bobby Murcer to no end. “Murcer you suck! Your team sucks!” … on and on, inning after inning. Finally, after an especially vulgar tirade by the fans, Murcer went up to bat, hit a home run to center field and put the Yankees ahead. The drunks shut up. Cleveland didn’t make a comeback. The Yankees got a W.

I left New York for school in 1969, and only got to Yankee games for summer break. I’ve lived in a number of states and countries over the years, so only get to a Yankee game maybe once every two years or so. I’ve been to one World Series game. The first game of the 2000 subway series between the Yankees and the Mets. Guess who won? Final score 4-3. Yankees take the series in five games.

Wherever I reside, I root for the local teams as they get in the playoffs, but when it comes to baseball, if it’s between the locals and the Yankees: The Yankees win! THUUUUUUUUUUUHHHHH YANKEES WIN!