Downs and Ups

I wouldn’t have thought I’d have reason to be thankful to Chevrolet.

Sunday night, I happened to notice that not only was Chevy paying for parking at Tuesday’s Mariners/Athletics game, but they were also partially subsidizing tickets in one section of normally-cheap seats. So, in theory, one could attend the game and pay only the cost of an abnormally-cheap seat: $5.

I decided to go.

That five dollar ticket wound up costing $10.25 by the time all the various fees were added, but considering that parking alone is normally $20, I was still well ahead.

The expedition didn’t start well. On Monday I got an email from the As informing me that the parking lots would open at 2:00, and they expected the lots to be filled to capacity. So I left earlier than I normally would have for a 7:00 game, figuring to watch batting practice, and generally groove on the experience. When I arrived at 3:15–and, for the record, there were a half-dozen cars lined up when I got there–the gates were locked and the guard was adamant that they wouldn’t open “until sixteen hundred”. He liked that phrase, and repeated it several times during our brief conversation.

Once they finally let us all into the parking lot, we had another wait because the gates to the stadium didn’t open until 4:30. And yes, we had to go through metal detectors. Empty pockets, let them search our bags; at least we got to keep our shoes on. The new normal.

Finally inside, I made my way to the food truck plaza. Back in February I expressed some concern about traffic flow in and out of the plaza. I didn’t have any trouble, but the only entrance I found was through a narrow hallway where ushers and food service workers were gathered and clocking in. I can’t imagine that the hallway clogs with pedestrians closer to game time.

Once you make it out to the plaza, though, it’s quite nice.
10-1
I don’t know if I was too early or if plans have changed, but the promised “eight to 16” trucks were actually five. But they all looked good. I eventually settled on a catfish po’boy from Southern Comfort Kitchen.
10-2
Very tasty, though a bit more vegetation would have been nice. Catfish needs roughage.

In retrospect, I’m very glad I didn’t go to the regular food stands. Wednesday, Sports Illustrated released their health ratings of MLB stadium food sellers. They only got data for 28 of the 30 ballparks, but the Coliseum’s food stands ranked 27th. (Note to Jackie: Camden Yards ranked 26th. Bring your own dinner!)

I knew my seat wasn’t going to be the greatest, but it turned out to be worse than I feared.
10-3
Okay, not quite that bad. Here’s another look with enough zoom to more accurately represent how it was with the naked eye:
10-4
Not so bad as all that, you might think. The problem is that I’m somewhat acrophobic. Every time I leaned forward, I saw this:
10-5
I didn’t even make it all the way through batting practice. Fifteen minutes after I sat down, my arm was aching from the death-grip I had on my chair. Since there didn’t seem to be any chance of installing a seat belt, I admitted defeat and paid to upgrade to a seat on the lower level.
10-6
That red asterisk marks my original seat as seen from my upgraded spot.

On the bright side, they only charged me the difference in price and didn’t add any new service charges or handling fees.

I’m going to digress here. I know, what a surprise, right? The rise of electronic and print-at-home tickets is robbing us of emotionally-valuable souvenirs. Would you really want something like this as a keepsake?
10-7
Too big to keep pristine, flimsy printer paper, three different barcodes, and an advertisement. Not the stuff of which memories are made, not when compared to the real thing, printed on cardboard, crisp and shiny.
10-8
It screams “Baseball!” where the first example could be a ticket for anything.

Okay, digression over. Surrendering the cheap seat was the low point of the evening. I was the only person in the entire section in my original seat; downstairs I was sitting right behind a group of four Mariners fans taking a mini-vacation. In front of them was a family of five from the Netherlands taking a decidedly non-mini vacation. They were rooting for the As, but the kids, all under ten, were so happy to be at the ballpark that I forgave their sin. It was the last day of a tour around California, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada and the parents were obviously tired. But they stayed for the entire game–and, I can’t help but point out, the kids stayed awake and involved the whole time. Better than all too many adults in these benighted times.

Not that the game started well for the Mariners. The As scored three in the first, and by the end of the fifth inning they were leading 6-2. Adding insult to injury, the As’ final run came on a homerun, after which everyone in our section of the stadium was awarded a coupon for a free pizza. Or at least something resembling pizza.
10-9
(Pardon the added text. I wouldn’t want anyone to be tempted to try to scam a freebie from Round Table by printing a copy. Or at least not without doing some work to clean it up first.)

In fairness, my objections to Round Table have more to do with their advertising slogan than their food. The latter is unobjectionable at worst. The former–“The last honest pizza”–is offensive at best.

Then the evening improved. The kids from the Netherlands made it onto the big scoreboard screen, much to their delight. And the Mariners stopped giving up runs and started scoring them. It was 6-4 after six innings, 6-5 after seven, and tied at six after eight. No scoring in the ninth, so we even got extra baseball before the Mariners won it in the tenth thanks to a two-out homerun. Can’t write it any better than that.

Earlier in the evening, around the time the As were taking that 3-0 lead, Kansas City and Tampa Bay were losing their games. So Wednesday morning the Wild Card standings looked rather interesting, and not just from the perspective of a Mariners fan.
10-a

Mind you, with the Mariners winning again Wednesday and both the Rays and Royals* losing again, the standings are even more pleasant now, but that’s beside the point.

* In case you weren’t watching the Royals lose to the Cardinals last night, it took a cat to give the Cards the victory:

Heck of a roller coaster ride Tuesday.

Thanks, Chevy.

Breakup

Briefly continuing the thought from last week:

Of course, being a pantser has its advantages, too. If I come up with an idea, I can start exploring it immediately without worrying about whether it fits into my existing plan for the book.

As it turned out, Thursday and Friday amounted to about 1,600 words total. That didn’t quite finish the material I had planned, but it did finish a chapter, so that was good enough. And over the weekend, I came up with a couple of evil notions to inflict on my characters, so I’ve got a path forward.

Moving on.

The Oakland Raiders have officially stabbed their fans in the heart, having received permission from the National Football League to move to Las Vegas.

Back in the deep reaches of pre-history, when I actually watched football, the Seahawks were in the same division as the Raiders, so they played twice a year. And it was one of the great rivalries of the sport. The Seahawks were pretty good for a while there, and a playoff berth for one or both of the teams often hinged on those two games a season.

Being a Seahawks fan, I naturally considered the Raiders fans to be a bunch of obnoxious, uncultured barbarians. Certainly, the only time I went to a Seahawks/Raiders game–in Oakland, sitting in the cheap seats–I didn’t see anything that would give me cause to change my mind.

But even so, those barbarians have all my sympathy today. Because losing your team is the absolute worst thing that can happen to any sports fan.

I stopped following basketball years ago–around the same time I stopped following football, actually. But even so, the news that the Seattle SuperSonics were moving to Oklahoma was horrifying. The only bright spot in that mess was that Seattle was able to retain the rights to the name “SuperSonics” and its derivatives, so the fans have been spared the pain of watching the Oklahoma Sonics. And, should Seattle ever get a new basketball team, it can pick up that forty year tradition.

Here’s hoping that Oakland can keep the name “Raiders” and all of the look and feel that goes along with it. Let the team play in Las Vegas under some other name, in uniforms that are not silver and black. Perhaps history will repeat itself and the grand experiment will fail, as it did after the Raiders’ move to LA in the eighties and nineties. If it does, Oakland might have a choice: restore the silver and black, reviving a tradition or make a fresh start.

As I said, Oakland Raiders fans, you’ve got my sympathy. If you need a shoulder to cry on, give me a call.

And remember: even though the Raiders aren’t going anywhere for at least two more seasons, nobody will blame you if you cut the team out of your life now. They’re solely responsible for the breakup of your relationship. It’s not your fault. Don’t let them try to dump it on you. And remember: this is not a trial separation. This is a divorce.

If the Raiders want you back in their life, they need to meet you more than halfway.

Well, That Was Super

So another Super Bowl has passed into history. In this case, more impressively than most. Greatest comeback in the game’s history (or, if you’re a fan of the Falcons, the biggest collapse in the history of the “Big Game”).

But I’ll leave dissection of the actual game to the actual fans of the sport or the teams. I’d like to see someone who knows the NFL culture address the proverbial elephant: Since the Patriots have made such a big deal about drawing motivation from the “excessive” punishment Tom Brady received for his role in the Deflategate scandal, are we going to see the other teams demanding to be punished to restore competitive balance to the game?

While the experts are pondering that, here are a few other semi-random thoughts about the spectacle.

Points to Coke for their pre-game re-run of the multilingual “America the Beautiful” commercial from the 2014 Super Bowl. But I had the same sense of a false note this year as I did then at the decision to switch back to English for the “God shed his grace on thee” line. Fear of a backlash from the rabidly outspoken Christian fringe at the merest hint of the suggestion that non-English speakers might have valid religious beliefs?

Why am I not surprised that Fox hyped the heck out of their coverage of the Daytona 500? After the fifth or sixth commercial, their attempts to convince viewers outside of the nation’s heartland, where NASCAR reigns, that an automobile race is even more important to Life, Liberty, and the Purfuit of Happineff than the football game they were nominally watching got more than a trifle pitiful.

And then there were the commercials for APB. Apparently the world needed a weekly TV show glorifying the militarization of the police and celebrating the ability of the ultra-rich to literally purchase public servants. Fox certainly thinks so.

Was I the only person bothered by the fact that right after the tribute to football players from historically black schools, we got a commercial for Mexican avocados in which it’s the black conspirator who doesn’t understand the concept of secrecy?

And, speaking of being bothered, Kia, what the heck were you thinking with that Melissa McCarthy ad? If we’re to believe you, environmentalism is dangerous to life and limb. And if we shouldn’t risk ourselves to save whales, trees, and polar ice caps, why should we bother spending the money on your new hybrid? How about giving us some idea of what makes the Niro better than every other low-emission vehicle out there?

Mixed messages from Anheuser-Busch as well. Big props for not pulling their pro-immigration Budweiser ad, which they had to know was going to trigger calls for a boycott even before the events of last week. But then they literally brought back the ghost of Spuds MacKenzie. Couldn’t they have let the poor, alcoholic pooch rest in peace? There’s got to be a better way to sell light beer than with a “Christmas Carol” rip-off.

And then there’s Lady Gaga.

Kudos for carrying the entire halftime show herself. First time we’ve had a single act do the show without supporting acts since The Who in 2010.

For that matter, I believe she’s the only female performer to go it alone in the history of the Super Bowl. I only have data going back to 2000 handy, but the solo performers since then have been Paul McCartney, Prince, Tom Petty, and Bruce Springsteen. Add the bands that didn’t need supporting acts, and you get the all-male U2, Rolling Stones, and The Who.

It’s about time the Super Bowl Halftime Show got an anything you can do moment.

But more importantly, she gets big props for invoking “This Land Is Your Land” on Immigration Weekend and bigger ones for ramming “Born This Way” down Mike Pence’s throat–live on Fox!

So I’m willing to ignore the thousands of acres destroyed in mining all the rhinestones that went into her costumes–land that is, of course, the native habitat of the innocent nauga.

But maybe I’m being hasty. There’s something to be said for her final outfit (for those of you who missed it, she finished the show wearing much-Bedazzled shoulder pads and sparkly shorts). It could be a great thing for the NFL if it caught on. No, not with the cheerleaders. With the players.

Reduce the amount of armor they wear, and the players might be a little more cautious about hurling themselves headlong at each other and the ground. That ought to cut down on injuries just a bit.

And–be honest now–who wouldn’t want to see Tom Brady dropping back to pass in that uniform?

Squawk!

Well, thanks to the calendar’s decision to put September 19 on a Monday this year, you’ve been spared my efforts to talk like a pirate. I’ll allow you to decide whether that’s a good thing or not–but be judicious in your comments: Talk Like a Pirate Day does fall on a Tuesday next year, and you can be sure I’ll use the occasion to exact fearful revenge upon those who mocked me at the Academy! Muh-hah-hah-hah–huh? Oh, sorry.

Talk Like a Mad Scientist Day is July 27, and I missed it completely.

You knew there had to be one, right? There’s a day for everything. Talk Like Shakespeare Day (April 23, of course). Talk Like a Gangster Day (October 16, apparently). International Talk Like a Quaker Day (October 24–pardon me, Tenth Month 24). Talk Like a Physicist Day (March 14, better known as Pi Day–there’s supposedly a TLaPD blog, but, well, does anyone else find it as amusing as I do that the server is experiencing out of memory problems?)

Correction: there’s one group that doesn’t have their own day to speak up. Ninjas. I would have thought that any group that lets its weapons do their talking would have their own day, through sheer intimidation, if nothing else. But apparently not. A martial arts school in Kentucky declared April 2 “Talk Like a Ninja Day” this year. But, according to the Facebook event page, only one person attended.

Of course, these being ninjas, there were probably thousands more who weren’t spotted, but this is the Internet we’re talking about, where “GIF or it didn’t happen” is a way of life. No pictures of ninjas means no ninjas.

The comic Bug Martini took a look at the difficulties of holding a Talk Like a Ninja Day back in 2013. It hasn’t gotten any easier since.

Day of the Ninja” has their heart in the right place (behind the rib cage, natch). But they’ve been promoting their day–December 5–since at least 2002, but the day, appropriately enough, just keeps slipping past without anyone noticing.

And, in case you don’t have a calendar handy, December 5 is also a Monday this year, so I’ll be letting pass without comment.

But hang on. I’ve just realized something important. We’ve got a day to talk like a pirate, but we’ve completely neglected the pirate’s traditional faithful companion!

To remedy the situation, I hereby declare today International Talk Like a Parrot Day.

Walk up behind somebody (preferably somebody who observed Talk Like a Pirate Day yesterday), scream “Squawk! Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight!”, bite their ear, and run* away.

* Or fly, if you have the necessary physical attributes.

I’m going to make this an annual event on September 20, and I hope you’ll join me.

Sports Grief

Yes, Bay Area, I understand. You’re bummed. Completely reasonable.

But please remember that the ISO standard for public displays of grief over sporting events is 72 hours. So, no more front page headlines after 8:00 Pacific Wednesday. Got it? Thanks.

Doesn’t mean you can’t grieve as long as you need to. Just do it in the privacy of your own homes, bars, clubs, and arenas. It’s for your own safety, really. You don’t think those thugs down south aren’t gloating? You don’t want them to see how much you’re hurting–they’ll just take advantage of your pain.

Now that we’ve got the legalities out of the way, let me state for the record that I sympathize with you 100%. Losing sucks, no question about it.

Right now, it feels like you’re never going to get over it. And, honestly, you never will be completely free. Twenty, forty, or a hundred years from now, you’ll still wake up in the middle of the night, wondering “what if…?” But over time it will happen less often. I promise.

I know it’s antithetical to the Bay Area sports mentality, but just take a look to your frenemies to the north. Yeah, I’m talking about Seattle. They know where you are mentally right now.

Consider February 1, 2015. The Seahawks were one play away from winning their second consecutive NFL title and came up short.

Yeah, OK, so they weren’t riding a record-breaking regular season. How about October 22, 2001? The Mariners won 116 games in the regular season, and got blown out of the playoffs by the Yankees–they didn’t even make it to the finals.

“But those aren’t basketball,” I hear you say. “And what’s worse, the Warriors are moving out of Oakland.”

Cast your eyes back to 1978 and 1979. In ’78, the SuperSonics went to the NBA finals and lost to the Washington Bullets in seven games. The next year, the Sonics were back in the finals and that time they took the championship in five. It took them seventeen years to get to the finals again, where they lost to the Chicago Bulls in six games. They didn’t make the finals again; in 2008, they moved. Not down the road to Tacoma*, where Seattle fans could still root for them, but to Oklahoma City.

* Not an arbitrary choice of location: they spent the 1994-95 season in Tacoma.

Seattle’s got some street cred when it comes to losing big in sports finals. So when I say they know how you feel, I’m not just blowing smoke.

I’m not trying to one-downer you here. Just suggesting you take a little guidance from those guys up north. Grieve. Let it all out (quietly).

And then, stay on the bandwagon. The good times will come again. Stick with your guys, and wait’ll next year.

Good luck.

Nipper Would Be Ashamed

The Grammy Award Show was yesterday. Full disclosure: I didn’t watch any of it.

For the uninitiated, the Grammys are the music industry’s Super Bowl. Unlike the NFL, however, the powers behind the Grammys haven’t figured out how to squeeze in the maximum amount of annoyance to their customers. They’ve got the “no commoners” thing going. Even better than the NFL, even. At least Super Bowl tickets are available to the public, even if the average football fan can’t afford them; the Grammys, as is the case for most award shows, are invitation-only*. But in other respects, the music industry has a long way to go.

* You can, however, buy tickets to various after-show parties. A few years ago, for example, Diddy threw a benefit party with ticket prices ranging from $1,500 to $50,000. One “perk” at the high end: your own posse of booth babes–excuse me, “promotional models”. I’m not sure what you would do with fifteen decorative accessories, but I suppose if you could afford the ticket, you could afford to hire someone to come up with a plan.

The NFL not only screwed up traffic in San Francisco for more than a week and subjected random pedestrians who weren’t even going to Super Bowl-related events to pat-downs and metal detectors, but they convinced the city to pay for the security.

By contrast, the Grammys only interfered with traffic over a few blocks and a few hours, and the only security I’m aware of–paid for by the show–concentrated on the people at the venue.

Come on, guys. How will we know the music industry is successful if you don’t drive away thousands of potential customers?

Then there was the show itself.

The reviews are scathing. The best review I’ve seen suggested that the show occasionally reached adequacy.

Lady Gaga, fresh off wowing the Super Bowl audience with her rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” reportedly underwhelmed Grammy viewers with her extended David Bowie medley. Several acts were spoiled by audio problems–remember, this is a show devoted to the best in music*. Shouldn’t the producers pay attention to the miking, mixing, and other technical matters first?

* Well, “best” according to those who run the show. Them what gots the gold makes the rules.

I hear Bonnie Raitt’s part of the B.B. King tribute was one of the rare high points. I imagine that’ll show up on YouTube–heck, it’s probably there already. My plan is to take a listen to that and ignore the remaining four hours of the show.

And there’s another way the Grammys fall short of the Super Bowl’s annoyance factor: by tomorrow, it will be possible to ignore the Grammys until next year. A week after the Super Bowl, the media is still blathering about it (yes, including me–sorry about that).

Look for the Grammys to step up their game next year. Until then, enjoy the peace and quiet. And go buy some music from an artist who wasn’t at the Grammys, just to say “thank you”.

Gone Too Far

There are a lot of good reasons not to watch the Super Bowl–Jackie has fifty of ’em. The problem is that I’m not sure that would accomplish anything.

Wait, let me amend that. You’ll feel better. It’s worth doing on that basis alone.

But, let’s face it, the game will go on. I’m convinced that even if everybody in the world boycotted the game this year, it would still be played next year. The phrase “too big to fail” gets thrown around far too often, but this does seem to be a legitimate usage. Blame the commercials and the halftime show.

The halftime show has taken on a life of its own. I know–and you probably do too–people who tune in just for the halftime show. Blame Janet Jackson for making it “must see TV”–and M.I.A. and Katy Perry’s Left Shark for keeping interest up. Even people who don’t turn on the TV on Super Bowl Sunday hit the Internet to find out what new controversy each new show produces.

And the commercials. Talk about the tail wagging the dog! Jackie points to a 2014 survey that found “78 percent of Americans look forward to the commercials more than the game“. Seventy-eight percent. Let that sink in. If the survey bears anything like a correspondence to reality, it means 87 million people watched the 2014 Super Bowl for the ads, compared to only 24 million who tuned in for the game.

That’s great news for the advertisers, of course, and as long as people hit the Internet to check out the commercials, the advertisers really don’t care if they boycott the game itself. And people do. The tag “Super Bowl commercial” has acquired a cachet all out of proportion to any actual value the ads have.

I’m being serious here. According to USA Today, last year’s top advertisement was Budweiser’s “Lost Dog” spot. Ask yourself two questions: “Do you remember that ad, and, if so, did you remember it before you clicked the link?” and “Did the ad make you want to buy Budweiser beer, or even think about buying it at any point in the past year?”

Unless you and all of the other 114,399,999 Americans who watched the Super Bowl last year can answer yes to both of those questions, Budweiser wasted their advertising money. Even leaving aside the cost to make the ad (because I can’t find any numbers on that), the Super Bowl placement cost $9 million, or a bit under eight cents per US viewer. Did the ad make you buy enough Bud for Anheuser-Busch to make eight cents profit?

Decline of civilization, anyone?

Bowled Under

I talk about baseball’s holidays from time to time. Perhaps you’ve noticed? We’re in one of them now–the Winter Meetings are going on even as I type this. Trades are being made, free agents are being signed, and fans are alternately thrilled and horrified.

But while we’re observing a minor, albeit significant, holiday, let’s not forget that we’re approaching the high holy days of a different faith.

We’re less than two weeks away from the first of the college football bowl games*. The bowls are then followed (with some slight overlap) by the NFL’s playoffs. This two month stretch dwarfs the playoffs for any other sport.

* I gather that there are some doctrinal differences between college football fans and professional football fans. From my outsider’s perspective they appear to be similar to the distinctions between Orthodox and Reform Judaism: very important to members of the church, but largely opaque to outsiders. If I’ve misinterpreted any important elements of your faith, please feel free to set me straight in the comments.

The problem is, in this outsider’s view, that there are too many college bowl games. Yes, I know, it’s a religious matter, and my opinion as an outsider is largely irrelevant. But really.

By my count, there are 41 bowl games, not counting the game that determines the national champion. The Chron says there are 40. I’m not sure where the discrepancy lies–I was counting bowls on the list in the very same newspaper–but that extra game is pretty much beside the point.

According to NCAA rules, in order for a team to play in a bowl game, they need to have at least six victories during the season. (That’s a .500 record.) Seems like a pretty low bar, but since there are only around 125 teams competing for those 80 (or 82) bowl slots, that means two-thirds of the schools need to hit that mark.

As you might expect, that doesn’t always happen. This year, the bowl selection committees came up three teams short. Of course, since the bowls are corporately sponsored, and there’s no standardized ranking of the bowls, they can’t just drop the two least important ones. So three teams who finished at 5-7 were given waivers. How did they decide which three teams got the nod? Not by their performance on the field. What does athletic prowess have to do with college football? No, the choice was made based on the schools “Academic Progress Rates“. The APR is essentially a measure of how many members of the team have kept their grades high enough to be eligible to play–essentially, keep a GPA high enough to graduate under their individual school’s rules. That’s usually a 2.0 on a four point scale. This “50% as a cutoff” thing seems to be popular with the NCAA.

But I digress slightly. The point is that once a sponsor puts up the cash for a bowl game, that game is going to happen. And for the record, nearly all of the games are sponsored–and the few exceptions are among the oldest, most honored, bowls. They’re not going away.

Yes, even the games named after the city or state they take place in (fourteen of the forty) have corporate sponsors. For example, the “New Orleans Bowl” is officially known as the “R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl” and Nashville TN’s “Music City Bowl” is, in reality, the “Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl”. Those sponsors sure are getting a great value for their advertising dollars–nobody ever hears their names!

Which brings me to the real point here. If we’re going to cut down on the number of bowl games so that there are enough teams to go around and so getting a bowl invitation actually means something, we need to raise the bar on corporate sponsorships.

As it stands, any company can put up a few million dollars to put their name on a bowl game. If the return on the advertising investment isn’t high enough to suit them, they can just end the agreement and walk away. Someone else will step up to fund the game the next year. It may move to a different city and appear under a different name, but so what? It’s still a bowl game.

My suggestion: The NCAA should mandate that the minimum length of a corporate sponsorship must be ten years and that the sponsor must contribute an amount equal to their sponsorship commitment to a social service or quality of life service in the host city. The ten year term ensures that the bowl will remain in one place long enough to build a little bit of tradition, and the doubled price tag over a longer term than many business plans last should cut down on the number of companies willing to sponsor a bowl game.

With fewer potential sponsors, it should be possible to cut the number of games down to something more manageable. How about 31 games? That would mean 62 teams would have to be bowl-eligible: just about 50% of the NCAA Division I schools would have to win 50% of their games. What do you say, NCAA?

Footbawl

Remember Aaron Hernandez?

(No, it’s still not raining around here, but it is overcast and the temperature is only in the high sixties, so, close enough. Decline of civilization, here we come.)

A quick memory refresher for anyone who doesn’t want to read the post I linked up there: Aaron Hernandez was a football player. In June of 2013, he was charged with murder. Immediately after his arrest, before the charges were announced, his team, the New England Patriots, terminated his contract, removed as much evidence that he had ever been on the team as they could, and issued a statement that essentially says “He was arrested, so getting rid of him is the right thing to do.”

Last month, he was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Clearly, this shows that the Patriots’ actions were fully justified. Being accused of a crime is clear evidence of guilt, right? And no morally-upright person would want to be in any way associated with such a villain, right?

Apparently the Patriots’ views are more nuanced than that.

In January of 2015, the Patriots and their star quarterback, Tom Brady, were accused of using under-inflated footballs. Let’s be clear: using a football softer than the required standard might give you a competitive advantage. I doubt anyone but the most rabid football fan would consider it in any way equivalent to murder. In brief, it’s an ethical violation, but not a federal offense.

But in Hernandez’ case, the Patriots framed his immediate firing, well before his guilt was established, as an ethical decision. So when Brady was accused of cheating, shouldn’t they have immediately terminated his contract, removed all Brady-related merchandise from the team store, and considered themselves well-shut of another villain?

Apparently not. They chose to support Brady and backed his denial of any involvement in the scandal–or even that there was a scandal.

The NFL completed its investigation earlier this month. They found Brady guilty of (my paraphrase) requesting and using under-inflated footballs. He was suspended without pay for the first four games of the season. They also identified two non-playing employees of the Patriots organization, John Jastremski and James McNally, as the people who actually let air out of the balls. The Patriots voluntarily suspended both men without pay indefinitely, and will only reinstate them if the NFL tells them to.

So Brady has been officially found morally deficient. Have the Patriots cut him loose yet? Don’t be silly. They’ve denied the validity of the evidence that Brady was involved, denied that the balls were too soft, and are assisting Brady in his appeal. McNally and Jastremski apparently don’t qualify for an appeal.

So what’s the difference between a Brady–who committed his crimes on the job–and a Hernandez, whose illegal actions were carried out when he was off duty? It can’t just be the nature of the crime: remember that the Patriots severed ties with Hernandez before the reason for his arrest was announced. Nor can we attribute it all to the players’ value to the team: Hernandez didn’t have Brady’s long record as a star, but in his three seasons with the Patriots, he produced star-quality statistics–good enough for the Patriots to give him the second-largest contract extension in NFL history.

Is it completely unreasonable of me to suspect that the key difference is that Brady is white and Hernandez is not? (Hint: I haven’t used the word “thug”, but that bastion of journalistic integrity Rolling Stone did.)

Well, That Was Expected

Yes, I watched the Super Bowl. I could claim it was for the ads, but that would be stretching the truth. As I’ve said elsewhere, as a Seattleite-in-exile, I was contractually obligated to watch.

Living hundreds of miles away from one’s home city can increase your attachment to things that remind you of home, sometimes to irrational levels. All part of the mind’s way of maintaining a connection to the people and places you love.

So, yeah. I watched. And I was disappointed, although not as much as my nephew, who declared that Sunday was “the worst day of my life.” (Keep in mind that he’s five years old. When your baseline is that short, any day can easily be your worst day ever.)

Simon is the victim of his expectations, which were warped by last year’s Seahawks triumph. Those of us who have more experience with Seattle’s sports tradition weren’t surprised. To some extent, we expected something to go seriously awry. The closer the clock got to zero, the closer our anticipation of disaster approached infinity.

Don’t believe me? Consider Seattle’s record when it comes to championships in the four major sports.

  • The Seahawks, as we were reminded many times in the past couple of weeks, have one NFL championship–and two Super Bowl losses–to show for their fourteen playoff appearances.
  • The Seattle SuperSonics had a good run in the late ’70s and ’80s. Their clashes with the Washington Bullets produced the enduring piece of Americana, “It ain’t over until the fat lady sings,” but only one championship. Another run in the ’90s resulted in multiple playoff appearances, but no championships. In 2008, the Sonics moved to Oklahoma, leaving behind a pile of lawsuits.
  • The Metropolitans lasted nine seasons, from 1915 to 1924. In that short span, they won their league title five times, and made the playoffs seven times. They reached the the Stanley Cup final (hockey’s equivalent of the World Series or Super Bowl) three times, racking up what has to be the oddest championship record in all of professional sports: one win, one loss, and one “no decision”–the 1919 Stanley Cup was cut short by a flu epidemic with the series tied at 2-2-1. In 1924, the team drew an average of 1000 spectators per game, lost in the first round of the playoffs, failed to renew their lease, and folded, taking the league down with them.
  • The Pilots. How many non-Seattleites even remember that the Mariners are Seattle’s second major league team? They lasted one season, producing a 64-98 record, before leaving town under a cloud of lawsuits and bankruptcy filings. Their primary legacy is a civic grudge against MLB Commissioner-Emeritus, Bud Selig that makes Oakland’s vanish into triviality.
  • The Mariners. Ah, the Mariners. Their thirty-seven seasons so far have produced four trips to the playoffs, a MLB record for most wins in a season–and no World Series appearances, let alone a championship.

With a history like that, is it any wonder that Seattleites don’t expect to win championships? History suggests that Simon will have no shortage of “worst days ever” in his future–and that if the Seahawks ever put together another Super Bowl winning season, the Cosmic Balance will be upset, causing Mount Rainier to erupt. An intrepid band of offensive linemen will have to fight an epic battle against lava, ash, and melted glaciers so that Russell Wilson can make his way to the crater, throw his Super Bowl ring in, and save the Pacific Northwest from total destruction.