Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Worthwhile

‘Twould be hypocritical of me to crack on someone who seemed to be writing about topics about which they weren’t exactly experts.

Exhibit A: … this Blogge, hello!

Talk about not staying in my lane.

So with that in mind, I shall tread carefully.

 

Seems like almost every year at this time, someone leaps onto social media to say some intemperate thing about that curious activity about which I swoon, namely, The Marching Band. Makes sense: if you watch TV on New Year’s Day, you may be subjected to more sights and sounds of the marching arts than on any other TV day, what with the Rose Parade and various college football bowl games and all.

So it makes sense that people who are apt to be critical or prone to mockery, regarding this activity, are going to be that way right around the New Year.

And so it was, yesterday, with a fellow called Bill James.

Honestly, if I wanted to save time … I could just direct you to a piece I posted here three years ago; you could read it and every time you read the words “Jim Rome” you could replace them mentally with “Bill James” and be just as far ahead. You would be forgiven if you did this. Or if you didn’t.

Mr. James leapt onto Twitter and, as you do, Tweeted:

Does the world really need marching bands? I know I am [in] trouble for even asking this question, but what do you think?”

And offered Twitter followers a poll, the results of which happened to end up 88 to 12 in favor of “Yes, we need bands”.

A futile poll, as it happened, but 7 to 1 in any sport constitutes a convincing win, I should think.

Myself? Rather than losing my ever-lovin’ mind – as a couple of my colleagues have done – trying to change Bill James’ ever-lovin’ mind – which is futile because anyone who posts an opinion online and is then pushed back against … digs in that much harder and We Shall, We Shall Not Be Moved – I merely sighed, “ah, he’ll never understand, and it’s his loss.”

True enough, at least to me – a fellow who understands that the marching arts can be dreadful if done poorly, BUT if they’re designed and done with a certain amount of skill and caring can be positively transcendent, even if the purveyors do wear feathers on their heads. So there’s that bias built-in.

 

My curiosity got the better of me, though; and so I peeked at the replies to Mr. James’ Tweet. The replies were predictably – how dare you, sir – but it turns out that Mr. James felt the need to engage with many of the aggrieved respondents. And in the process, he revealed a couple of interesting things about himself.

First, I guess maybe I should have known who Bill James even was.

Not that jazz composer who wrote the theme from “Taxi”.

Not that fellow who co-starred with Will Smith in that romantic comedy movie of a few years back.

He’s a baseball writer. Who invented “Sabermetrics”.

Sabermetrics is the empirical analysis of baseball, especially baseball statistics that measure in-game activity. … Sabermetricians collect and summarize the relevant data from this in-game activity to answer specific questions. The term is derived from the acronym SABR, which stands for the Society for American Baseball Research, founded in 1971. The term sabermetrics was coined by Bill James, who is one of its pioneers and is often considered its most prominent advocate and public face.”

Mm’-kay.

See, I knew I should have recognized that name right away. But I guess I didn’t.

And, more importantly and with less needless snark … something else that Mr. James revealed about himself was this: it turns out that he wasn’t, after all, violating the rule of “only write about what you know”.

One Twitter respondent noted, “That’s a funny question coming from the ultimate sports nerd. Let the music folks have their fun.” Mr. James shot back:

I was in the Marching Band in high school. I was on the field at the halftime of many football games. In retrospect, I’d like to have those 500 hours back.”

In retrospect, it was a shame that there wasn’t one of the Drum Major Academy drum majors in charge of that band, as that student leader might have been able to get to Mr. James before his attitude went all toxic and he either quit the band or destroyed it. (I know; that drum major would have needed a time machine, since Mr. James’ age is closer to seventy than seventeen; you get my point, I trust.)

Sorry! I’m sorry. That was not how I meant this to go. I really wasn’t going to be all snarky about this. I was going to let all it roll off my back. I was going to stay positive.

 

I know a good way to stay positive. It’s this angle:

When another Twitter respondent wished Mr. James would respect the amount of work that goes into being in a marching band, Mr. James shot back:

I respect their work. I just think I would respect if more if they worked on something more worthwhile.”

Mm’-kay.

Is it worthwhile to commit all that time and effort to marching in a band?

Is it worthwhile to commit all that time and effort to being a Sabermetrician?

Is it worthwhile to make solar panels?

Is it worthwhile to paint sunsets?

Is it worthwhile to learn how to play chess? To play autoharp?

Is it worthwhile to create computer graphics software that will allow more realistic renderings of video-game backgrounds?

Is it worthwhile to write a blog?

Is it worthwhile to commit ridiculous amounts of time and effort to activities that other people don’t understand, and can’t understand, and sometimes even mock?

Sure it is.

Because the alternative is having a population full of people who aren’t curious, aren’t creative, don’t know how to commit time and effort to something … but instead are just drones who only know enough to be “prepared for the 21st century workforce”. Or who would rather mock the people who are curious, creative, and willing to sweat a little – because throwing Internet snark is just easier. Far less risky. Much easier to get attention any which way one can. Look at me and my disdain for people whose activity I think isn’t worthwhile. I made you respond. I win.

Unless, apparently, you get under the skin of the band people, some of whom Tweet things at you like..

It appears the father of Sabermetrics has not found a new audience amongst band members.”

…or…

We used to be awfully quiet about you, because we had no idea who you were. Must suck to be insignificant, until the bandos come after you.”

 

Then it doesn’t make you come out looking like that much of a winner.

At which point it doesn’t seem as worthwhile, I guess.

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January 2, 2018 Posted by | arts, band, baseball, DMA, Internet, marching band, music, social media, sports, Twitter | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why?

All right, I’ve got something I wanna get off my chest. It’s been sitting there for, what, 23 years now, I guess?

Namely, I need to rail against an injustice.

Why yes, I shall elaborate:

A meme cropped up after this weekend’s flap over NFL players kneeling (or not) during presentations of the National Anthem.

My beef is not with the meme, or the NFL players, or the National Anthem, or the guy who flapped.

Actually it IS with the meme, or rather what it represents.

The meme is a photo of two American figure skaters, clearly a publicity shot from the run-up to the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. To the left: the blonde, diminutive Tonya Harding. To the right: the tall, brunette Nancy Kerrigan.

(Oh, that’s what he’s going on about.)

The text: “Back when taking a knee meant taking a knee”.

Ouch, baby.

 

For 23 years, people have mocked Kerrigan for one single moment, a moment captured by video cameras and replayed how many hundreds of times since?

The U.S. National Figure Skating Championships were being held in Detroit a few weeks before the Lillehammer Olympics were set to begin. Following a practice session at Detroit’s Cobo Hall, a briefly-unknown assailant whacked Kerrigan in the thigh, very close to her (figure-skating-crucial) knee, with a club, as she exited the ice rink.

Who does that?

Well, we found out who it was, and who he was affiliated with; and the soap opera that had already begun just escalated from there.

Miserable. Potentially, an injustice. But, worthy as it is of being railed against, it’s not exactly the one I’m thinking of.

In the moments just after the assault, before Kerrigan knew that the injury was not immediately career-ending, while EMTs and other personnel tended to her injured leg, she sobbed inconsolably … at one point, wailing, “why??”

Yeah. Why’d this have to happen at that moment? And why would anybody do something like that, in that moment, in that context, to anybody else, at all? Particularly to an athlete who kinda needed healthy knees in order to go about her business?

Hell, it was only the U.S. National Figure Skating Championships. Only an event that an athlete would likely be working toward for her whole life. Nothing to get upset about.

Um, can we forgive Nancy Kerrigan for being just a little put out?

The injustice I’m thinking of is, frankly, the one committed by every person in the last 23 years who has mocked that particular cry, “—Why??”

She wasn’t whining.

Literally, her life’s work (to that point) was in jeopardy.

 

For 23 years, it’s been far too easy for the comics and the wags to set aside empathy for the sake of a joke … for the sake of mocking an easy target. And every time I hear somebody do that to Ms. Kerrigan, I get defensive, at least inside my own head. Cut that right out.

And then I think, well, okay; was it because I was rooting hard for her and not for Tonya and her attacker turned out to be some schnook hired by Tonya’s ex-husband for the specific purpose of eliminating the competition, like some second-rate 1940s gangster? Was it because Kerrigan was from a town not far from my hometown, so rah rah rah for the Massachusetts native?

Was it because in her shoes … skates … whatever … being attacked like that would cause me to lose a little faith in humanity?

Yes, yes, and yes.

So … while this may not be the most important issue to deal with at this moment in history (while, say, the population of Puerto Rico is in desperate straits and not getting any help … just as one example of something that really genuinely overshadows most other issues) … it does have at least one thing in common with a whole lot of issues facing us.

In this case, it wasn’t a Presidential tweet, or a controversial Congressional bill, or a proposed governmental policy which would actively make life more difficult for this or that group of people. It was a meme; a joke.

But a representative one. Lately, we’ve been inundated by instances of startling lack of empathy and compassion for people who are hurting, or injured, or vulnerable.

Why?

September 26, 2017 Posted by | Famous Persons, sports | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

We Will Receive, We Will Receive

Usually I take a dim view of sports talk radio folks who try to talk politics.  Usually, I think to myself, “you were hired to talk about your area of expertise on the radio; therefore you should try not to talk about subjects that are clearly NOT your area of expertise.

This week, it was the reverse.

Stephanie Miller, my favorite left-leaning political talker, turned her eyes to the Super Bowl, and decided to root for the Atlanta Falcons; because the architects of the New England Patriots’ football prowess, Messrs. Brady, Belichick and Kraft, have all been identified as admirers of Donald Trump, to varying degrees.

When I was in the fifth grade, and prone to hero worship … my view of those gentlemen might have become, if you’ll pardon the expression, a little deflated.

This week, I nonetheless came up with this line of thinking:

Political leanings don’t mean spit when you’re trying not to get sacked, or when you’re trying to analyze the other team’s offensive scheme on very short notice, or when you’re trying to draft the exact right lineman. And if they do, there’s something desperately wrong with your approach to football.

I also try not to validate my personal self-image solely by lining it up with the belief systems of multimillionaire professional sports figures.

On the other hand, I do know these things:

[1] Robert Kraft paid for the construction of Gillette Stadium with his own money and extorted zero dollars from the taxpayers of Massachusetts; which is such a rare thing for an NFL team owner to do that I had to look it up to make sure it’s true. It is.

[2] Bill Belichick has a remarkable (again, not perfect – see also “Aaron Hernandez” – but exemplary) record of taking “problem children” from other NFL teams, parking them in a New England uniform, and succeeding in convincing them to hold themselves up to high standards of behavior and preparation, on and off the field.

And [3] every time Tom Brady completes a ridiculous touchdown pass (into triple coverage, threading the needle in a way no one should be able to do), he always, without fail, visits his offensive line on the bench, letting them know how much he appreciates the fact that they kept him from getting killed en route. Slap on the helmet, whack on the backside, that’s what I’m talkin’ about, let’s do it again.

I also know that, as a Patriots fan since the mid-1970s, I have no business taking Patriot success for granted; as they used to have truly repulsive ownership, ineffectual coaching, and highly breakable quarterbacks with nobody to throw to and nobody to keep them alive. In short, they used to stink the joint out.

So for four hours Sunday, I shall reluctantly set aside my concern for the future medical well-being of large people who crash into each other’s heads for a living; and I shall not wonder, on third down, whether that wide receiver thinks it’s folly to have an oil company executive as Secretary of State.

Go Patriots.

February 1, 2017 Posted by | current events, Famous Persons, football, politics, sports | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment