Tuesday, June 15, 2010

How did I wind up here? -or- At least I Didn't Get Dumped on National TV

We all have our guilty pleasures, those things we like to indulge in but are not proud of. For some, it may be a type of ice cream, or a series of comic books, or an oft-ridiculed music group like Air Supply. (I'm just using them as an example of course, though thanks to my parents Air Supply is the first concert I ever went to. Don't judge me.) One girl I dated considered "Sex and the City" her guilty pleasure, but I was willing to watch it with her largely because of Kristin Davis. Well, I have many guilty pleasures, most of which I will keep to myself, but just a few weeks ago I stumbled upon another one which I feel I must admit to the blogosphere: ABC's "The Bachelorette."

One reason why I've been watching is because the Bachelorette of the title, Ali, is ridiculously cute. She appeared on the show's alternate incarnation, "The Bachelor," in a previous season and, in a major surprise, was eventually turned down for another girl. The network decided to bring her back, this time with the opportunity for her to choose rather than be chosen. She has been provided with a stable of different men who each try through various one-on-one and group activities to prove that they are the right guy for her. Every week, she must choose who gets to hang around for the next week and who must go home having been rejected in front of a nationwide television audience.

I find it fascinating for several reasons. Throughout human history, there have been numerous ways that people choose a spouse, and frankly, most of them are very weird. There have been marriages arranged by the parents, and sometimes these involve the bride and groom not even meeting until the actual wedding. There have been weddings that were strictly political. There's the famous Li'l Abner story of Sadie Hawkins, who wasn't much of a looker but was very fast on her feet and got to marry the first guy who couldn't outrun her. But only recently have people had the opportunity to go on national television and have their dates planned by a producer, followed by a video crew, and edited for mass consumption. Then again, this affords those involved to benefit from a major television network budget, and they take helicopter trips, participate in "The Lion King" on Broadway, travel to Europe, and help the (all-male) rock band Barenaked Ladies make a music video. We should all be so lucky to experience courtship like that.

I am also fascinated to watch how these guys behave. Just as Ali is one of those girls that you look at and wonder why she's still single, most of the men are better-than-average looking, well-chiseled, and have jobs like lawyer, pro wrestler, weatherman, etc. Most of them dress well, and it seems like standard procedure now for at least two per week to try to pick up a guitar and serenade the beautiful blonde. And yet, the majority of these dudes are really insecure. There are quite a few that, whenever they have their cut-away "interview" to talk directly to the audience, mention how jealous they are becoming, how hard it is to see Ali spending time with the other guys, how much they are certain that if she only knew how much I CARE about Ali she'd definitely pick me. I find myself thinking about how lame it is that these guys with so much potential are just losing all their dignity in front of millions of people, and then I remember that they are hanging out with her in a swanky New York hotel while I'm curled up in the fetal position on my couch watching TV like I do almost every night in this little town 70 miles from the nearest big city.

It does make me wonder how I'd do on a show like that. I'm not sure if I'd rather be the chooser or a potential choosee. (Is that a word? For the purposes of this blog, I will assume yes.)

Would I be one of the cool, laid back, confident guys that manage to have successful interactions? Or would I be one of the increasingly paranoid headcases who constantly resorts to cliched and trite "romantic talk" and gets a tattoo to "prove" how serious he is. (Congratulations, now you get to hope there's a girl somewhere on this continent who doesn't think you're going to become a stalker!!!) I wonder if Ali gets to watch the behind-the-scenes video that we do, and does that affect her decisions?

And part of the reason I watch is for the vicarious thrill--I have no luck with women these days. Even in Atlanta, which has a much larger dating pool than Watertown, I had a knack for developing a good rapport with women who wanted to be "just friends" or were already seeing someone else. The type of women that tend to interest me (some college education, physically fit and active, intelligent, of good character, variety of interests, basic good hygiene) simply don't stay in Watertown. I'm beginning to doubt if they even stay in Syracuse. There's a huge singles crowd in New York City, but that's still several hours away by car or train. It simply isn't easy to meet people anymore. It's far more convenient to watch other people date on television than to try to do it myself. But if you're reading this, and you're a single girl with many nice qualities, let me know what you think of Air Supply.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Chuck Norris would have called the baserunner out. --from my Facebook page

If you're a baseball fan, as I am, then you already know the situation from last night's game between the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians: Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga was one out away from throwing the unprecedented third perfect game of the season when first base umpire Jim Joyce called the 27th batter safe even though replays showed he was clearly out. Galarraga retired the final batter to complete a one-hit shutout rather than MLB's 21st perfect game. Several fans and commentators have offered various opinions on the matter:

*Change the call to an error, thus preserving the no-hitter without actually altering anything else that happened.

*Retroactively correct the call and remove the final at-bat from the record books, thus officially preserving the perfect game.

*Do nothing. Mistakes happen and that's what happened here. The outcome will be more memorable because of the controversy, and will be remembered with Harvey Haddix's monumental non-perfect game in 1959.

MLB Commissioner Bud Selig seems to have chosen the final option, though he now claims to be exploring instituting a replay option beyond correcting disputed home runs.

Some of the arguments I've heard for preserving the original call, and some of them are truly ludicrous, have something to do with baseball being a "metaphor for life" and "learning to deal with disappointment," and that such things "build character." Baloney. Baseball, like just about any sport, is about the rules. It is not a metaphor, it is not a character-building exercise, it is a game in which certain actions dictate certain outcomes. We may impose loftier ideals onto the game, but the game itself is about recording 27 outs before the other team scores more runs than you do. If you record 27 of those outs consecutively, you have a perfect game, as long as your offense can circle the bases. (Haddix's Pirates didn't, resulting in the most incredible single-game offensive failure of all time.)

Perfect games are among the rarest of feats in sports. They are an alignment of great pitching, great defense, and usually luck mixed with poor hitting. It is disappointing when they are lost on a bad pitch, a dropped ball, a hesitation. It is even worse when they are lost because of an officiating mistake. What MLB is telling us, essentially, is that the actions of the players on the field do not matter as much as a split-second decision from the umpire. A team can do everything right and still be denied their place in the statistical history book because of a non-player's human error.

We all know of those notorious game-changing errors that have been caused by an officiating goof in the past: the very similar mistake that probably cost the St. Louis Cardinals the 1985 World Series, the fifth down play that allowed Colorado to win a football game, Nebraska's "kicked" ball in the end zone that allowed them to keep an undefeated season alive, Testaverde's yard-short touchdown. Mistakes happen, and they will continue. Such is the nature of being human. But is this not an opportunity for us to learn a different lesson? That sometimes those with the power to correct a mistake should correct that mistake? That allowing an injustice to stand because we can't fix every mistake is to admit that no rule is worth upholding? "We can't catch every speeding car, so why bother about enforcing the speed limit at all?"

To their credit, both Galarrage and Joyce have handled the matter with the highest degree of dignity and class. Joyce has apologized profusely, and Galarraga has been gracious and forgiving. They have truly been a credit to the image of MLB. So good in fact, that I think they each deserve a mulligan. Let the umpire's mistake get corrected so he won't spend the rest of his career as "that guy." Let the pitcher take his place in the Hall of Fame's register of perfect games. Let the fans in the park have their attendance at a historic moment recognized by the League that only survives because of their support.

I propose (not that the League cares about my opinions) a simple rule change, retroactive to June 2, 2010. "Any play that has the potential to end the game that is disputed by a manager or a member of the umpiring crew may be reviewed by the home plate umpire or another umpire of his choosing if he himself made the disputed call. Upon review, if the initial call is judged to be incorrect it shall be changed appropriately and no action taken after such change shall be entered into the record of the game, and no such statistics will be applied to any players in the game. This rule will not apply to a dispute of the strike zone."

Well, that's what I would do.