Friday, October 10, 2014

Hey, look at the oddballs (or is that a mirror?)

          I keep thinking that it's an odd world out there, especially in sports.
          Second thought: Maybe it's not so odd these days. Maybe it's me that's odd, or behind the times, or whatever.
          I have been accused of "odd" or "unconventional" or just plain nuts. And that's what I'm thinking when I watch sports events -- or some of our favorite shows on television.
          And I'm not talking about the PBS Newshour or the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, which we prefer over everything else.
          I mean Hawaii 5-0 and Person of Interest, and some of the other things we try to watch. We accept the abundance of violence and noise and some of the strange conversations and twists in these shows (and movies we see) -- and we say, this is just today's world.
          When I see the behavior and the appearance of today's athletes, I have to remind myself constantly that it's not the world I came up in.
           Let's break this down: I am bugged (perturbed?) by (1) the lack of humility in sports and, well, politics; (2) the proliferation of hair and beards in sports and -- I might as well say it -- the guys on Duck Dynasty; and (3) the ever-growing presence of tattoos on our athletes.
           These things probably don't bother the generation or two younger than me. OK, so my 1950s/1960s conservative side is showing. More on that in a moment.
           I have written about this previously (and I probably will again), but I expect athletes to take success in stride.
           I really can't stand all the sack dances and touchdown celebrations, and the poses and 3-ball signs in basketball, the outrageous goal-scoring aftermaths in soccer (when there are goals scored) and mostly -- because I love the sport so much -- the outlandish (stupid) behavior in baseball.
           It's OK to show emotion or celebrate if it's a really big game, such as the home runs hit in playoff games this past week. But in the regular season? Dang, it's 162 games. Not many are worth acting like you just won the World Series.
           The handshake/fist-bump lines after games have become routine. That's not so bad. But when teams win games in walkoff fashion, it gets crazy ... the team-hopping routines, the pouring of the water/Gatorade bucket on the "hero," the shaving creme-in-the-face drill.
           The championship- or playoff-clinching celebrations are now bizarre, with everyone wearing goggles and spraying champagne and whatever all over the place and all over anyone who happens to be in the way. I don't even want to see clips or photos of it.
            It's all too much. And here's what really gets me: When teams celebrate -- and it really doesn't warrant it. Take my favorite baseball team, the New York Yankees, for example (please take them).
            There was a game in mid-July when the Yankees scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth as what should have been an easy popout to first base got wind-blown a bit and ended up falling between three Cincinnati players (any of them easily could've caught the ball). The Yankees treated the batter who hit the ball as it he'd done something great.       
             Same thing in September -- winning run scored in the bottom of the ninth when a ground ball went between the legs of the Toronto first baseman. Again, the batter who hit the ball got the pounding, Gatorade-pouring treatment. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
             As if it helped the Yankees make the playoffs. They didn't come close.
Auburn's team deserved to celebrate last Saturday, not LSU's (AP photo)
             I don't criticizing college kids, or seeing them criticized, but unwarranted celebrations came to mind last Saturday night as LSU was getting pounded at Auburn.
             I posted on Twitter: "I am an old fart, but it is irritating to see DBs on a football team losing by 24 points celebrate a pass breakup [in the end zone]."
             At least some people agreed with me. Didn't help LSU any. But it makes me wonder how LSU's coaches must've reacted to see how delighted that defensive back was with himself.
             Back to the pros a moment. I look and listen to LeBron James and Tiger Woods -- just using them as examples -- and they're not outrageous, but they're not all that humble, either. But I watch Dirk Nowitzki, and the San Antonio Spurs' "Big Three" -- Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili -- and I think, well, there are still some winning, class athletes out there.
             Now about hair and tattoos ...
             I've never had long hair, but I see the early and mid-1970s photos and see thick hair and long sideburns ... and I roll my eyes at that look. Never had facial hair; it bothers me.
             So, yeah, maybe I prefer a "clean" look or at least a moderate one. I'm conservative that way.
             Some people will know that I'm not all that conservative in my political/social views -- sorry, old friends -- but I admit I can never get used to see flowing hair and beards on a baseball diamond, or underneath and coming out of football helmets, and basketball players whose tattoos greatly outnumber their scoring and rebounding averages.
             It's just not my thing.
             I have plenty of friends, young and old, with tattoos and longer hair and neatly trimmed facial hair -- emphasis on neat. So why is it that I find so many athletes (and entertainers/musicians) so hard to look at? And I don't want to hear/see interviews with them, either.
              Does it matter in terms of how they perform? It does not; it should not. And I feel almost guilty because I'm not pulling for those guys to do well. I am making judgments on their looks, not their character, their values. No doubt some are fine people.
              I need to remember how outrageous we thought the Oakland Athletics were in 1972 when most of them grew mustaches -- including Rollie Fingers' famous handlebar -- and some had long hair and it was so wild for the time. All they did was win three World Series in a row and five division titles.
             (And, gosh, didn't the Beatles have such moptops when we first saw them in 1964?)
             Every team, every organization, has its standards or its rules -- and obviously with some, there are no limits on facial hair/tattoos. We know that in baseball, for instance, the Yankees do not allow beards or excessive mustaches and suggest to heavily tattooed players that they cover up as much as they can.
Joba Chamberlain: A "clean" Yankee; a year later, a bearded Detroit Tiger
(photos from 
               So? I haven't seen the Yankees in the playoffs the past two years. I'm wondering if I'd feel better if they all had long beards and long hair and tattoos ... and they won the World Series.
               I'll pick on one ex-Yankee: our old friend Joba Chamberlain. I hadn't seen him pitch for the Detroit Tigers this season or seen any pictures of him ... until late August. Imagine my surprise when I saw his long, thick beard; as one friend said, he looks like he just came in from the woods.
               Oh, Joba -- you're such an oddball. You were with the Yankees, just a clean-shaven one.
               (Of course, Joba lost me as a big fan last season when he smarted off to Mariano Rivera in the clubhouse while Mo was talking to the media. It was rude and uncalled for, and typical of one of several "stunts" Joba pulled while he was with the Yankees.)
               As I observed to a few friends after Chamberlain came in and helped the Tigers blow a 6-3 lead in the eighth inning of Game 2 in their playoff series against the Orioles, he looked like crap (not the word I used) and pitched like crap.
               I will pick on a couple of other relief pitchers, both with the Los Angeles Dodgers, because they exemplify what I don't like about baseball (and sports) now.
               One is Brian Wilson (same name as the Beach Boys founder/star who was pretty unconventional himself in the late 1960s/early 1970s). Wilson, the pitcher, a few years ago with the San Francisco Giants was the most unusual looking player in baseball -- long, thick black beard, shaved head (but not totally) and braided goatee. Braided goatee? Yes.
              He was even more weird-looking than his basketball counterpart, James "The Beard" Harden.
              Maybe Wilson (and we sheepishly acknowledge that he is an LSU guy) started the current baseball trend; he certainly set the standard. He also was one of the big heroes when the 2012 Giants won the World Series.
                Now consider J.P. Howell, a left-hander with a long, unruly red beard who on Monday night relieved Wilson in the eighth inning against the Cardinals. The bases were loaded and Howell  promptly made a great stop on a grounder to the mound to begin a home-to-first double play to end the inning.
                Howell headed to the dugout, screaming in celebration. Only problem: The Dodgers were behind 3-1 (and that's how the game ended). What exactly and why was he celebrating?
                That's our sports world today. That's our world. So much of it is about "me" -- look at me. Even if my team is losing, look how great I am. Even if I'm a losing politician, I'm still the best person for the job. (Please let me know when you find a modest politician.)
                 I don't have to pay attention to games or political races/debates, do I? But I choose to pay attention ... so that I can write this blog and tell you how odd the world is.       


  1. From Jesse Grubbs: Once again, my friend, you have stated what I think about the things you mention. All the sports have gone downhill, along with America, in this sad time we live in. I quit watching baseball when you almost have a different team each year. No loyality in any sports. Man of the pro baseball players make such errors that it makes me just shake my head. I believe these players would not even have made the team in American Legion ball back in our day. Thanks for the blog, brother.

  2. From Ross Montelbano: You know, Nico, I can't say that I don't occasionally think the same things. Then I remember that I was a product of the 1960s. I remember when two well-dressed female students at Woodlawn High were sent home for wearing (oh,my God) knee-length argyle socks and guys were sent home for hair being combed DOWN instead of back. Rock and roll music was the Devil's work and the Beatles were a "fad that will go away." No doubt that some things are out of hand. However, the misconception that violence and the trouble that athletes are getting into is something new is totally false. I can remember when almost the whole Fair Park football team got VD. I remember when it was well known that a certain LSU running back, initials AC, would get drunk and get in a fight most every weekend. Lance Rentzel of the Cowboys exposed himself twice to little girls and didn't serve a day in jail, but was sent to counseling. Don't forget that proper ladies once didn't show their ankles. I'm not diminishing the basis of your view. I agree 100 percent that there is clearly a lack of sportsmanship, class and dignity taking place. However, it is a slippery slope when we identify certain actions as wrong and others as part of the process. Like most things in life, it's very complicated and personally I think I am completely correct and the rest of you are all wrong. LOL

  3. From Gerry Robichaux: Right on, Nico. I will know that our civilization has totally crumbled when I see one of those bearded yardbirds on a Wheaties box.

  4. From John Dittrich: Good blog. I am right there with you 100 percent. Don't know if any of these guys will ever regret all the tattoos later in life, but I'll bet they will, when it becomes cool to have a clean-skin look. Which it will.
    Also, can't forget about Kendrys Morales missing an entire season in the prime of his career when he broke his ankle celebrating a regular-season game-winning homer. For crying out loud, whatever happened to professionalism in appearance and in actions.