4/17/2005

Discuss The Diner Here!

We're retooling Blue In The Face to be a forum for discussion of the latest Diner pieces...check back soon for specifics...

2/15/2005

Instant Replay

Are you looking for a politics post? If so, I hate to disappoint you, but not this time. Go read Still Fighting or The DCeiver for political news.

Having said that, I really hate Instant Replay (IR) in sports. Players aren't flawless, so why should we expect the officiating to be? Not to sound like a stodgy old coot, but back in the day, officials were officials, or referees, or umpires, and if they got it wrong, well...they were only human. Bad calls were a part of the game. But it was the game that mattered. Now, it's all about winning. "We deserved that." "We were robbed." Hogwash. Let's look at the four major sports.

(I'm not even going to get into college sports. Suffice it to say that the Big Ten tried it last year, and now the ACC is incorporating this "test" this year. Big mistakes, all around. I'll explain below).

Baseball has no IR. Most would agree that baseball needs no IR, and they would be right. Balls and strikes are called by an umpire, and while no umpire gets every pitch correct, most are consistent in the way they call balls and strikes. It's another part of the game. Outside of calling pitches, it is very rare that a play happens on the field that at least one umpire doesn't get a good look at. Whether it's a tag at a base, or a home run off of a foul pole, almost all plays are witnessed by at least one umpire (and in many cases, more than one). If it is needed, the umpires will convene before announcing a decision, but that's OK too. Baseball is, above anything else, an exercise in human psychology, with no need for electronic instruments.

Basketball has no IR, per se. Officials are allowed to review last second shots, to see if they "got off" in time, but it could be argued that, in some cases, it might be useful more broadly; for example, to verify a foul, whether a three-point shot was made with a foot on the three-point line, etc. But it isn't. The acquiescence to the last second shot makes some sense, because it doesn't stop or hinder the game. But it's a rare thing, so it's a minimal issue, at best. Anything more than that, and you run into the problem we're going to see in the NFL.

Hockey had no IR, except to verify goals. Again, the argument could be made to have IR, to verify icing calls, for example, but it is hardly necessary. Of course, who knows when we'll see hockey on TV again, so this may be a moot point.

And then there was football. Football used to have full instant replay, then it was removed, and now we've got this ridiculous system where coaches can challenge calls twice a half, and if they are "successful" in both challenges, they get a third. If a team challenges a play, and it is not overturned, that team loses a timeout (of which they are given three per half, and they do not carry over). There are two kickers to this, though:

1) Coaches can only challenge "calls," not "non-calls." For example, if the New York Giants are playing the Washington Redskins, and Tiki Barber (the Giants's running back) fumbles the ball, and the referees call it a fumble, the Giants can challenge that call, and the referees will look at the game tape (recorded by the network's cameras) to see if it really was a fumble. However, if, in the same situation, the referees do not call it a fumble, but say that the player was "down," the Redskins cannot challenge the play, saying it was a fumble. I'm not sure why this is, and who it's designed to protect, but if the NFL is going to adopt this system, it's arbitrary and unfair to everyone.

2) When there are two minutes left in the second and fourth quarters, coaches cannot challenge plays. Any and all challenges are called by the NFL replay assistant in the television booth or press box can call for a video review. There is no limit to the number of replay reviews the replay assistant can request. A review called for by the replay assistant is not tied to timeouts for either team. This is done so that a team can't unfairly use the "challenge" rule to preserve time in the last two minutes. My question is this: if there is a replay official, why isn't that person making the decisions for the whole game? If the NFL is so concerned about "fair officiating," why doesn't the replay assistant oversee all sixty minutes of football? Head Coaches who may challenge a play have to rely on players (who will always say they were right, even if they were blatantly wrong) or offensive and defensive coordinators, who would be in a skybox, watching the feed.

In order to overturn a challenge, there must be proof "beyond a reasonable doubt" that the call was wrong. In the above #1 example, if Barber fumbles, and the Giants challenge, the referee must be able to see, on the live feed, that Barber was "down" before he let go of the ball (for example, his knee touching the turf). If there is not "reasonable doubt" that this happened, the call stands. Typically, only 10% of challenges are overturned.

Personally, I am not in favor of any IR. Columnists may argue that, as times change, we need to adapt as well. Some may even point to the forward pass as proof that changes should be embraced. I don't subscribe to that. The advent of the forward pass made the game more exciting, but it was still a human game. Utilizing IR feeds our pursuit of perfection, but who wants that? In the words of John Levesque, of the Seattle Post Intelligencer:

However, just because we have the technological ability to make the game perfect, to guarantee that every play, every call can be scrutinized in super-slow motion and stop action, doesn't mean we should do it.

Football is supposed to be fun. What's the point in creating a flawless game that no one wants to watch?


There isn't one, John. Not one.

2/06/2005

Let's Get This Party Started (Again)

Sure, it's been 39 days since BITF's last post. But don't despair, 'cause we're back!

As A Judeo-Christian who has an aversion to religion, and who is an American as good as or better than any mousse-haired, Bible-touting, apartheid-promoting evangelist on any UHF television station you can name, I must protest.

Where is it written that if you don't like religion you are somehow disqualified from being a legitimate American? What was Mark Twain, a Russian? When did it become un-American to have opinions about the origin and meaning of the universe that come from sources other than the body of dogma of organizations approved by the federal government as certifiably Judeo-Christian? If it is American to believe that God ordered Tribe X to abjure pork, or that he caused Leader Y to be born a virgin, why is it suddenly un-American to doubt that the prime mover of this unimaginably vast universe of quintillions of solar systems would be likely to be obsessed with questions involving dietary and biosexual behavior of a few thousand bipeds inhabiting a small part of a speck of dust orbiting a third-rate star in an obscure spiral arm of one of millions of more or less identical galaxies?


That was written by Hendrik Hertzberg, editor of The New Yorker. Poignant, eh? Here's the thing, though. He wrote that in 1985, as a response to Reagan's Secretary of Education William Bennett's decidedly un-American remarks about those who "really" ran the country (judges, etc.) displaying an "aversion to religion." Here we are 20 years later, and Hertzberg's comments are still applicable, though in a different context.

Religious blowhards like James Dobson and Jerry palely have made it clear to America that if you're not a part of their "family," you don't count. So, for the 35 million plus Americans that aren't Christian, our opinions don't count? We can just be lumped together like yesterday's leftovers?

And folks, settle down. We're not lumping all Christians together in this mindset. The blame falls squarely on the shoulders of people like Dobson, who see their divine interpretation of God's word as America's bible. Dobson has his crusade to "cure" homosexuality in this country. Jerry palely can't stop putting his foot in his mouth about everything, from blaming gays for the 9/11 attacks to convincing Christians that the rest of the world wants to get rid of Christmas. Who was the last Rabbi, Imam or Shinto Priest to speak out in such a way? For a religion of tolerance, Christian leaders sure are giving it a bad rap.

So, here's the deal, Dobson and Falwell, and all the rest. You are entitled to your interpretations of the Bible. You're entitled to put them on your website. You're entitled to share them with those that come to hear you speak. You are not entitled to speak for Christians as a whole. You are not entitled to speak for Americans. If you own a non-profit, such as Dobson's "Focus on the Family," you are not entitled, nor legally allowed, to use that non-profit as a bully pulpit to get your candidate elected. You are not entitled to speak for your religion to advocate, on a national scale, the restricting of my rights, my family's rights, or my neighbor's rights, because of your religious beliefs. You may do so as an American, with your own views, because that is guaranteed by our rights. Our rights, which people like you seem to praise and disregard as you see fit.

One must wonder why Christian zealots have such a hard-on for gay marriage. They want to preserve the "sanctity of marriage," but what are they really trying to accomplish? Will stopping homosexuals from marrying somehow convince them that they shouldn't be gay? Or is it less deep than that - is it simply the only thing they can do against homosexuals, since even Bush wouldn't authorize genetic testing on them? What would happen if a devout lesbian walked into Jerry Falwell's church and asked to join? Would she be cast out? A very un-Christian thing to do. She wouldn't be accepted - it would be tantamount to Dobson's message.

Finally, if you're not queasy yet, we suggest you try reading this, an excerpt from James Dobson's book, Marriage Under Fire. Again, we're not exactly sure how marriage is exactly under fire, even after reading Dobson's piece. One this is for certain, though; the man holds fast to his convictions. Even if they do cut the legs out from millions of Americans.

12/22/2004

It's a Holiday for Hanging! OR: "On the occasion of George W. Bush winning the Time Magazine Man of the Year Cover."

Our beloved Rilo Kiley says it best.

"Any chimp can play human for a day...use his opposable thumbs to iron his uniform and run for office on election day--fancy himself a real decision maker and deploy more troops than salt shakers. But it's a jungle when war is made, and you'll panic and throw your own shit at the enemy. The camera pulls back to reveal your true identity. Look! It's a sheep in wolf's clothing. A smoking gun-holding ape."

--Rilo Kiley, "It's a Hit"




12/15/2004

For Cropp's Sake

Read Me First.

I think I'm going to start using the name "Cropp" as a swear word.

Peep this.

Baseball took something like 14 1/2 years to decide to bring baseball back to DC. Finally, it happened. The Montreal Expos would be here next year. They would play in RFK for three years, and then move into their own stadium in 2008, which was expected to be built in Anacostia, (truly one of the lovelier areas of DC). The agreement was signed by the mayor, and we're off on the road to Morocco...

Not so fast, juggernuts.

The DC city council still had to vote to approve this whole thing, but that seemed a mere formality more than anything.

Enter Linda Cropp, stage right.

The council was deadlocked, 6-6, with Cropp (Chairwoman) considered the swing vote. Cropp didn't want the city to pay for the whole thing. She slips an amendment into the bill saying that they mayor would need to find $140 million of private financing to help defer the costs, completely negating DC's agreement with MLB.

So, Mayor Williams wins the quote of the day, with, "I believe the deal is broken. The dream is now close to dying. . .We're in great jeopardy here, and I think I'm being optimistic."

Heck, they even cancelled the unveiling of the new uniforms today.

So, what happens now? Several things COULD happen...

-Citizens could open their wallets for a fundraiser drive to raise the $140 mil

-Mayor Williams finds a private backer/investor.

-Linda Cropp could SHUT THE CROPP UP AND REMOVE THE PROVISION.

Oh, and they have until the end of the year. If this isn't resolved, the Nationals will play here for a year, and then move on to some other city.

So, councilwoman, is it worth it? All the jobs this team would create, the revitaization of Anacostia (a la the MCI Center), plus the revenues from the team, PLUS the fight to get them here in the first place by having MLB make concessions to the Orioles, and you throw a big ole' croppin' wrench in the works. Was it worth it?

Now, DC will be a part of the biggest debacle in sports history, unless you fix it. Don't be a cropper. Make it happen, and give this city what it needs/wants/deserves.

12/10/2004

And He Turned Water Into...A Cosmo?

First, read this:

Click Me!

I'll wait.

Done yet?

Good. So, what I want to know is, does this set a precedent? Can I sue the Pope for imposing his crazy radical views of "hell" on me, a nice Jew boy who was taught that there's no such thing as hell? Can I sue the Supreme Court for forcing me to say "one nation, under god" when I was growing up?

I mean, what more do Christians want? They got their President. They got smoking removed from all indoor establishments in New York, San Francisco, and Montgomery County, MD. Hell, they are the only religion to have a holiday that closes the Federal government.

In regards to Green's comment about "Jesus Christ is being portrayed here as a foul-mouthed, drunken, promiscuous homosexual;" I thought Dudley Moore died two years ago. So who's playing Jesus? Maybe Father Ted?

12/09/2004

The Blue In the Face Daily Briefing: Holy shit, now THAT'S gonna move a LOT of Entertainment Weeklies.

  1. "The concerns expressed are being addressed, and that is, we expect our troops to have the best possible equipment. And if I were a soldier overseas, wanting to defend my country, I'd want to ask the secretary of defense the same question," Bush said, as a part of his administration’s new effort to assuage the fears and satisfy the complaints of our fighting men stuck overseas in the ever-disintegrating disaster that is Iraq. “However,” Bush added, “I am not a soldier overseas. I’ve never been a soldier overseas. Hell, I took great pains to keep my soldiering, overseas and otherwise, to a minimum. I pussed out of my commitments then, and I’ll puss out on my commitments to you all soon enough. Ownership society, assholes. As in, it’s your problem.”
  2. Sorry, United States. You suck distended monkey balls compared to Canada. With gay marriage, good pot, health care, snow, and football that makes our version of football look like football for pussies, Canada’s so freaking cool right now that the RCMP should charge a cover at the border. Added bonus: terrorists aren’t mad at the Canucks.
  3. The NHL and the Players Union reportedly met for four hours on Thursday. Now, what exactly is the “NHL” again?
  4. Are you ready for this? John W. Snow is going to stay in the Cabinet! John W. Snow is going to stay in the Cabinet! President Bush, you sly tease, you! Way to keep us guessing right up to the very end! Sadly, it looks like Norm Mineta’s going to resign, which means Bush’s Cabinet will nonetheless look (and probably sound like) a post-crash Lynyrd Skynyrd.
  5. Minnesotan David Bernlohr has invented the “Northwoods Diet.” What makes it distinct from diets such as the South Beach diet or the Atkins diet? It’s not geared toward trendspotting jackasses.
  6. Despite civil unrest, threats of secession, and an uncertain future, we salute Ukrainians for resolutely continuing to get laid.
  7. Ummmm. Wow.

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