Twelve reasons why I hate the Florida Marlins

  1. The Phillies freeze up against them and forget how to play baseball.
  2. Nobody in Miami goes to Marlins games. This team is good. Seriously, where are all the fair-weather Miami Hurricanes fans? Can’t they latch on to the Marlins for a few months until college football returns? Hell, the Marlins are giving away two-for-one tickets and still no one shows up. Embarrassing.
  3. Their announcers are journalism school rejects. How many more idiosyncratic, nonsensical pronunciations can they make? Pat Burrell is not hitting “four-hundred-twenty-four” on the season, he’s hitting .424. See the difference? Ugh. They all want to be disc jockeys, but don’t seem to have enough talent for even that.
  4. The Phillies freeze up against them and forget how to play baseball.
  5. Their broadcast network runs commercials for shows on other stations that DURING THE CURRENT TELECAST. I know Santa Claus told the little kids to go to Gimbles when Macy’s didn’t have the right toy, but that was a movie. This is real. Maybe McDonald’s will start sending customers to Burger King when there aren’t enough hot french fries. I’m stunned the Marlins aren’t broadcasting from the basement of the science building.
  6. Their players can do no wrong. Even an error is someone else’s fault because their superhero players could never do anything that didn’t result in perfection. Oh, and they always touch home, even when they don’t.
  7. They play in a stadium named for the local NFL franchise. At least fans don’t show up for that team, either. Seriously, folks, Miami has had a Major League franchise for a dozen years now. Why did it take so long to get baseball back in Washington? Give me a solid reason. Just one.
  8. Have I mentioned that the Phillies freeze up against them and forget how to play baseball?
  9. They’ve won two World Series championships in the last eight years and no one cares. Not even the owners.
  10. Juan Pierre.
  11. The current owner used to own the Expos. He didn’t like that deal, so he sold the Expos and bought the Marlins. How does this make sense?
  12. That whole “the Phillies can’t beat them” thing again. When did the Marlins become the Dallas Cowboys to my Washington Redskins? When, damnit?

Different gunman, same gun

Just in case anyone is thinking that I’ve gone soft with all the tender posts lately, know that I haven’t completely thawed my soul. Politics still matter to me and within politics, I have a few pet issues that seem to never attract common sense from our elected representatives. Today’s lunacy is brought to us by Rep. James Sensenbrenner, who stated this about indecency and obscenity on our public airwaves:

“People who are in flagrant disregard should face a criminal process rather than a regulatory process,” the Wisconsin Republican said at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association annual convention.

“That way you aim the cannon specifically at the people who are committing the offenses,” and not at everyone, he said. “The people who are trying to do the right thing end up being penalized the same way the people who are doing the wrong thing.”

Good plan, Congressman. To be fair, he doesn’t support expanding current regulation to cable and satellite broadcasts, though I suspect he’d vote for it if it came up in Congress. And he does have a brief glimmer of rational thought about the easiest, least intrusive solution, which I will point out before analyzing his new idea. Consider:

“The first thing we need is education has got to get better, he said. “You can’t expect the government to replace parental responsibility.”

He said it was “far better” for consumers to press a button on their remote control to lock out programs or channels than for the government to set the standard.

This sounds remarkably like some other comments from the convention:

Glenn Britt, chairman of Time Warner Cable, agreed that the industry needs to do more to educate customers about parental controls but added that the industry can only do so much.

“What we can’t do is … make parents take responsibility,” Britt said. “But if parents do take the responsibility to be concerned about what their children are seeing, this industry provides all the tools they need.”

Imagine that. Technology is so good that parents can actually solve the problem. Let’s see, what can they do? They can sell their television. They can pick up the phone, dial between seven and ten numbers, speak with a representative of their cable company, and cancel their subscription. They can use the little buttons on the television/cable box/remote that reads “Power”. They can use the v-chip embedded in their television, assuming it’s there, of course. They can even set the parental lock on their cable box to block certain channels. No need to be a luddite, folks. Technology kicks ass buttocks.

But what about Rep. Sensenbrenner’s plan? Could it work? After all, indecency and obscenity are already criminal offenses; the government merely enforces them with a regulatory agency. It’s certainly possible that our government has made a mistake in the past and could reverse course and prosecute indecency and obscenity with criminal penalties. I wrote about this on another blog (hat tip: Jeff Jarvis for the story), but realized, I shouldn’t leave some of my better writing elsewhere. It’s mine, all mine, so I’m going to use it here, expanding and editing where necessary. Here is my simple thought experiment that began with a simple question: “Diminishing the FCC’s power is the goal of my protests, for Constitutional reasons. Is the solution to transfer the FCC’s power to a district attorney, and by extension, a jury of citizens?”

I agree that having it decided by citizens instead of the FCC is a good idea, but probably only in theory. The United States is a republic to legislate and lead through calm, rational reasoning, not the mass hysteria that seems to pass for democracy. The FCC is made up of lawyers who refuse to follow the Constitution, seemingly unable to understand that “Congress shall make no law…” isn’t a suggestion. Should we have confidence in lay people who don’t have a legal education? And it still doesn’t resolve the issue of the definition of obscenity. I don’t see legislatures defining it any time soon. So we’d have 12 citizens deciding the traditional “community standards” for everyone. Are we confident that that’s the best place to legislate for everyone?

Of course, if indecency/obscenity enforcement becomes a criminal matter instead of a regulatory action, that puts it in the hands of prosecutors and defense attorneys. I bet the defense attorneys will be better funded than the prosecution and able to convince the juries of what the Constitution means, right?

I don’t think so. In criminal cases, the facts are the facts. If someone commits murder, there are facts. There was a living person, now there is a dead person. The suspect’s fingerprints were on the gun. Simple. (I simplify for the purpose of my point.)

Ok, now apply that logic to indecency/obscenity. Let’s consider a hypothetical situation. The producer of Fox’s latest reality show airs a segment that contains the phrase “He’s an ass.” A TV viewer in Peoria, IL decides that she doesn’t like that and complains to her local district attorney. The local DA files criminal charges. The jury of twelve peers decides for the city of Peoria that “He’s an ass,” violates their standards. The jury deliberation is closed, so we don’t know how they specifically came to this conclusion. Either way, “He’s an ass,” is no longer acceptable on television in Peoria.

At the same time, a viewer in Clearwater, FL also disapproves of the phrase “He’s an ass.” He complains to his local DA and the case goes to trial. Now the producer must stand trial in two districts. Of course, in this case, the producer is acquitted, so the phrase “He’s an ass,” is still acceptable on television in Clearwater, FL.

See any problems yet? I count at least two. So what do we do? To (hopefully) eliminate the need to defend himself in every jurisdiction and to have conflicting standards for national broadcasts in local markets, Congress passes legislation that makes indecency/obscenity a federal offense. Community standards (Federalism?) are no longer relevant. It’s national standards now, but so as not to offend anyone, we set that standard at the lowest level possible rather than the reasonable person standard supposedly in place today. Sound familiar yet?

Of course, with this idea, federal prosecutors are now the clearing house for criminal complaints. The PTC continues to catalog every possible offense occurring on television. They send lists on a daily/weekly basis to the federal prosecutor’s office. There are too many requests, so the federal prosecutor hires more attorneys to handle the case load, to review what should and shouldn’t warrant criminal charges. Eventually Congress decides that the case load is too much and creates the, oh, I don’t know, the Federal Department of Homeland Decency to handle these cases. Problem solved.

That scenario seems plausible to me. Likely? Probably not, but nothing else about the last fifteen months of indecency nonsense was probable. Congress certainly seems gung-ho to deal with everything through an expansion of federal powers and control. Is my scenario really so far-fetched?

Our criminal system deals with complexities every day, but in
those cases, the crime is determined prior to the crime. With obscenity, the crime only occurs if the wrong person is watching or listening and the material offends his individual standards. Do we really want a jury to decide if someone has harmed nothing more than a community’s sensibilities? Criminalizing indecency/obscenity doesn’t change the situation; it just moves disregard for the Constitution from one location to another. The true solution is to understand that the Constitution is the law of the land and no amount of moralizing is going to change that. Personal responsibility still matters and is the easiest, most immediate solution.

“Prepare for 181 games, not 162.”

Today is Opening Day. Why it’s not a national holiday is beyond any rational comprehension, but it’s not. Even without the holiday it deserves, there are few moments better during any year than Opening Day. Winter is over, Spring is here. Hope is renewed with the anticipation of much joy and excitement to come. America’s National Pastime is back and all that goes with it. It’s all very cliché, and yet, there is still comfort in those clichés. Opening Day is the quintessential day to dream. Every fan knows where his or her favorite team is supposed to finish, but on Opening Day, that’s still only an expectation. No matter how high or how low, expectations don’t determine outcome. The game decides who will reign supreme at the end. On Opening Day, every team has a chance. And every fan wants to believe; not only wants to believe, every fan has permission from the gods to believe the silliest, most far-fetched success imaginable. And believe they do.

Phillies phans are not every fan. Phillies phans see every glint of sunlight as the dying light of daytime, of dreams and hope. There is no possibility that the light may be the beginning of a sunrise. After being disappointed fifteen times too many, Phillies phans decided long ago that cynicism is more enjoyable than any other response. For Phillies phans, the phacts, although interesting, are irrelevant.

I don’t believe that. There is a time for pessimism in phandom, although that time is closer to September than Opening Day. Yet, Phillies phans have disavowed even mere pessimism as pollyanna-ish and embraced cynicism in it’s darkest form. Consider this example:

The Phillies have long had a promotional slogan – repeatedly requesting that we “Catch the Fever!”. The slogan was printed on cups, shirts, hats and bats. It was even a cheesy disco song in the seventies starring Schmidt, Bowa, Luzinski, Maddox and the rest (send me an e-mail and I’ll send it to you, very funny).

But with one championship in 122 seasons, I question if I really want to catch the kind of fever they’ve been promoting.

Yeah, it’s a negative way of looking at things – but that’s what being a Phillies fan is all about. The team puts something on the field worth supporting once a decade or so, and the fans spend the rest of those decades dispassionately following teams mired in mediocrity or stuck in dead last place.

Why is that what being a Phillies phan is all about? I don’t get it. The last decade has been frustrating with either losers or not-quite-good-enough teams, but the point of fandom isn’t to support the team once it wins. Being that kind of phan is no different than being a Braves fan. Perhaps Phandom requires this, but I don’t accept that. Personally, I’m going into this season with optimism until play on the field warrants otherwise.

It’s not just Phillies blogs Phlogs that do this. The cynicism is as bad in the Philly newspapers. Part of it is no doubt a simple pandering to the crowd, but why should that be so? It may only be the sports page, but it’s still journalism. Consider:

The Phillies are embarking on what is almost certainly the last go-round for the team built on Bobby Abreu, Pat Burrell, Mike Lieberthal, Vicente Padilla, Jimmy Rollins, Jim Thome, Billy Wagner and Randy Wolf.

Another flop or fade will reduce the club to its youthful cadre of Rollins, Ryan Madson, Chase Utley, Gavin Floyd and, maybe, Ryan Howard.

Right, because the Phillies don’t have a chance to win the wild card spot or, gasp, even the division. Nope, nothing to see here folks. We’re just amazed the team isn’t going to forfeit it’s season, because, really, what’s the point? Not for a moment does anyone consider a moment of possibility. The phandom is locked into a dysfunctional, collective comfort zone of low expectations. “I told you so” is easier than being let down if the team doesn’t win.

Here’s an example: Four or five years ago, I traveled to Philadelphia for an afternoon game in April. The Phillies played the Arizona Diamondbacks. In his first two at-bats, Ron Gant doubled and homered, driving in enough runs to win the game by himself. When he came to the plate for his third at-bat, there was a man in scoring position and the Phillies were winning. He popped out to the infield. How did the phaithful react? They booed him. Loudly. Because, you know, that out ruined the entire day.

Sometimes I think I’m more suited to be a Cubs fan than a Phillies phan. I believe. Even in the face of obvious failure, I still believe. Last year, even in the face of the mid-season collapse, I still believed. I was realistic enough to know that we weren’t going to make the playoffs, but I still love the game. I didn’t need a pennant race to keep me interested.

Last week Bill Simmons wrote something simple and profound. He directed it more at the Cubs, but I’m going to redirect it at Phillies phans. It’s sound advice.

Start thinking of yourselves differently. Stay away from the negative TV shows and apocalyptic newspaper columns. You can follow the team just fine without being infected by that stuff.

Positive thinking mumbo-jumbo, sure, but isn’t that the whole point of baseball, especially on Opening Day? Examples abound of false hope bearing fruit. Last year alone provided two examples. There’s the obvious case of the Red Sox. Admittedly Red Sox fans are a different breed completely, but even through the hard times of last season, their fans never quit. They were rewarded with an improbable championship. But also consider last season’s other example, this time as told the right way by a Philly newspaper:

The 2005 Phillies could be last year’s St. Louis Cardinals – or last year’s Phillies.

No one picked the Cardinals to get to the World Series last year, but they did, with a pitching staff that surprised and a lineup that was strong on paper and even stronger on the field, thanks to a few career years. That’s something the Phils could use – a career year or two.

Yes, the Phillies have questions, but almost every ball club has questions at this time of year. But I thought the Cardinals would be a bad team last year because their pitching was so bad. They won 105 games during the regular season. They made it to the World Series. Losing a World Series is the worst feeling imaginable as a fan, as I learned in 1993 when the Phillies lost a heartbreaker to the Blue Jays. But I wouldn’t have traded that pain for the numbness of not making it there. So, yeah, maybe the Phillies need to play above their heads and have a few career years, but every championship team in every sport must have that. The 1991 Redskins had it. The 2004 Detroit Pistons had it. The 2004 Red Sox had it. Maybe the 2005 Phillies don’t have it, but maybe they do. I know I’m going to pay attention and dream. In the words of General Manager Ed Wade:

“I know how much our fans want a championship to happen. I know how much I want to make it happen. And when it happens, it’s going to be tremendous.”

I believe that. When it happens, it is going to be tremendous. I’m going to scream and jump around and cry like a baby, and no matter how long that joy lasts, whether a dozen years or a dozen minutes, every moment of folly and foolishness of my phandom will fade. That one moment will be the reward for the faith. While I don’t know much else, I know that one moment will be sweeter because I believed in that moment along the way.