8.21.2007

Descartes and His Mummy



I had two things happen to me this Sunday that made me feel like an island. One, I went to a Mariners game and felt nothing. At least not anything that had to do with the appreciation of sport. Also, I got reminded that Adrian Peterson is now in the NFL, so that makes three players I'll watch. I fucking hate straight lines and hard-earned inches, but a back who uses space creatively makes me as chipper as any NBA All-Star. Seeing all edges of the field at once is pretty tantamount to sublime court vision, which is why I think someone like Peterson—not Chad Johnson—practices the most basketball-friendly kind of football.

Anyway, after an inning or two at the ballpark, I got into an argument with a friend on, surprise surprise, the NBA vs. MLB. She's a baseball snob, which means she thinks her game is the king of kings; as illustrated above, I can scarcely be bothered to acknowledge that "sport" exists as a general category, which is at least representative of a few other NBA fans I know. The culprit in all of this was those intro songs they play at every at-bat, which are either symptomatic of or a direct cause of baseball's return to goodwill. She insisted that they also proved how massive 'twas the sport's cult of personality. I sneered that, on the contrary, they were to create one where there was none.



I know that some of you probably enjoy the national pastime, and I certainly have a soft spot for much of its pre-1988 history. As a youth, I regularly snuck Bill James into services, and was obsessed with Pete Reiser and Herb Score when FreeDarko was negative eighteen years old. I still get chills from seeing a triple, since no other athletic event so deftly combines human excellence and circumstance's chaotic indifference. But there's no way it exudes individuality like the NBA does. The easiest way I can prove this: having intro music for NBA players would be outright redundant. As lame as Pharrell's ad campaign of a few years back was, it made one thing clear: NBA stars don't need soundtracks to define them. They make people want to make music. They get name-checked in lyrics because their respective games stake out meaning on their own.

That's as close as I can come to defining style. And that's why pitchers—the most FD position of them all—rely on their theme music less than anyone else in the sport.

33 Comments:

At 8/21/2007 2:40 AM, Anonymous ronald james davis said...

so is it fd that jay-z name-checked juan pierre in a verse, or is it fd that juan pierre now comes to bat to said verse?

 
At 8/21/2007 3:28 AM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

Generally agree that pitchers are the most FD baseball players (with the possible exception of a true five-tool CF or RF), but how do you explain closers, who rely on music more than any other type of player?

 
At 8/21/2007 4:21 AM, Blogger T. said...

First prejudices at the door: Obviously I'm an NBA fan first and foremost, but I first became aware of the sporting world in the Summer of 1980 with Fernando-mania and the Dodgers. 1988 was the best year of my sporting life, with Gibson having the single greatest sports moment I've witnessed (and then Magic and Worth blowing through the lig). The Dodgers also provided my first sports related employment when they gave me an internship in the summer of 95 (spent mostly answering fan mail for Hideo Nomo).

With that on the table - I find the narrative in baseball to be so depedant on the past. Barry's story was compelling because he was beating Hammering Hank. Everything is comparison to what came before. Everything in baseball is begat begat begat. Unless there's a pitcher out there throwing 110, like some latter day Sid Finch - there's nothing that says - "that is completly new."

I like the basketball narrative, because we CAN see things we've never seen before. Sure, they're reminiscent of the past (Elgin - Hawkins - Thompson - Erving - Wilkins - Jordan - Carter) - but there's so much dynamism and on-the-spot creativity in basketball that it leads to "holy f*ck - what did he just do?" moments.

I think the freedarko paradigm of enforced, stylish substance is natural. Theme music in baseball seems artifical. Except for the organist at Dodger Stadium.

 
At 8/21/2007 4:45 AM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

I'm arguably a bigger fan of baseball than of basketball, but I like both for entirely different reasons. As T. says, there are more "holy shit" moments in basketball, and that's what makes it so exciting. Baseball, on the other hand, relies on practice and effort to the extent that I like a lot of players just because they're astoundingly good at what I consider to be the toughest skill in sports: hitting a darting ball coming in at 90 mph with a round bat. It also might work that way for me because I played baseball longer than I did any other sport.

I also think it's a mistake to undersell the ridiculous athletic talents in baseball, like A-Rod when he played short, Vlad, Jose Reyes, Andruw Jones before he got fat, etc. Agree that pitchers are usually the most exciting, though: as a Giants fan, Tim Lincecum makes me tingle all over.

The intro songs suck, by the way. I don't know any huge baseball fans that like hearing them. That shit isn't professional wrestling.

 
At 8/21/2007 6:36 AM, Anonymous ronald james davis said...

also, don't sleep on mid 90's Vizquel/Alomar or early 00's Izturis/Cora

 
At 8/21/2007 10:14 AM, Blogger Brian said...

I think there are two basic levels of baseball fanship. The more general are those who like it for being "America's pasttime" (the only other countries that play it are quasi American colonies like Latin America and Japan...whereas we are confronted with real otherness in the standoffish Europeans, former Soviets, and Chinese in the NBA)...and then those who are stat geeks. I enjoy reading about but not really watching baseball (except for the gem of a Yanks/Angels game last night). That's because baseball individual accomplishments are marked by statistics, while team accounts are a narrative that only make sense amongst an entire season's smattering of games. With basketball it is the other way around - no one really cares that much about basketball statistics in the same inherent fashion (81 is not an event separate from the game the same way 756 or win 300 or hit 3000 is...but merely an imperfect means of measuring the proof that an individual can dominate again in future settings. Another example: Only in baseball would a statistic eclipse the game...Bonds didn't give a flying fuck that the Giants lost that night. Any basketball achievement would be mentioned with a huge "but they lost the game" in every article). The only individual drama that occurs with baseball players are manufactured ones on the highest level, such as Ichiro vs. Dice-K and whatnot. While a basketball player can redefine himself in a single play, baseball players can only be statistical blips.

 
At 8/21/2007 10:28 AM, Blogger goathair said...

Andruw Jones is pretty FD. As was Bo Jackson.

 
At 8/21/2007 10:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

FREE MICHAEL YOUNG!

 
At 8/21/2007 2:30 PM, Blogger Stuart said...

I would submit that certain closers (and their concomitant entrance music) are FD. Admitting that I'm a biased San Diego homer...Trevor Hoffman, closer for the San Diego Padres and a future first-ballot Hall Of Famer, comes in to "Hell's Bells" by AC/DC. I've seen it in person numerous times and it is, quite simply, a tremendous rush. People at Padre games, when the Pads have a four-run-or-greater lead late in the game, have been heard to wish that the opposition score a run or two, to make it a "save situation" and thus increase the chances of "Trevor Time". This is FD - hoping that your team's chances of winning actually decrease so you can see a specific player perform in his element.

The other thing about Hoffman...his competitive style is unparalleled. He can't throw a fastball more than 87 mph because years ago he tore up his shoulder playing touch football on the beach. His out pitch is a changeup that makes the best professional hitters in the world look like overmatched Little Leaguers. He wins with guile and treachery while walking a fine line between dominance and disaster. That is FreeDarko. Fastballs are fascist, but killer changeups are sublime.

wv: aqbqk - what a duck sounds like while throwing up in its mouth.

 
At 8/21/2007 4:14 PM, Anonymous JCN said...

goathair: as a die hard braves fan, andruw pisses me off to no end. His chasing of low and away curve balls (thus the .214 clip) drives me nuts, but the rest of his numbers totally make him FD.

agree with brian on the whole baseball = statistics = success...which brings up Kobe. Isn't he the most baseball like player in the league? Doesn't it seem like he is in constant pursuit of numbers, damning his team in the process?

 
At 8/21/2007 4:22 PM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

RJD: The Alomar/Vizquel combo made watching Baseball Tonight a rule.

"With basketball it is the other way around - no one really cares that much about basketball statistics in the same inherent fashion (81 is not an event separate from the game the same way 756 or win 300 or hit 3000 is"

If someone broke the scoring record in a meaningless game in December between two teams destined not to make the playoffs (like the Giants/Nats game), you don't think that would eclipse the final score? I agree with your general point, but let's not act like basketball exists outside of stats.

"The only individual drama that occurs with baseball players are manufactured ones on the highest level, such as Ichiro vs. Dice-K and whatnot."

Rick Ankiel's story isn't legitimate individual drama? Or Josh Hamilton's? Or that of Milton Bradley? Or that between Jose Mesa and Omar Vizquel? Or every ridiculous thing that Manny Ramirez does? I could go on for a while.

"While a basketball player can redefine himself in a single play, baseball players can only be statistical blips."

Baseball players are only "statistical blips" to people who don't watch the games.

Stuart's Hoffman analysis is basically right on. In the 1997 playoffs, NBC used to stay with the game instead of going to commercial so they could broadcast his entrance.

"He wins with guile and treachery while walking a fine line between dominance and disaster. That is FreeDarko."

This is tricky. I wouldn't say Jamie Moyer is FD, so I think to be this kind of guy and still be FD you still have to challenge batters with your junk pitches.

"Fastballs are fascist, but killer changeups are sublime."

I'd amend this to say that a fastball thought impressive only because of its speed is fascist. Throwing 95 with movement is FD.

 
At 8/21/2007 4:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

if throwing 95 with movement is FD then what does that make the gyroball?

 
At 8/21/2007 5:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

tim hardaway's crossover

 
At 8/21/2007 5:03 PM, Anonymous MaxwellDemon said...

I'm trying to assimilate Moneyball--the concept and the book--with this thread in particular and this site in general. It's facile to call baseballers "statistical blips," but as Lewis pointed out in the ur-text, you have to watch a LOT of games to know the .350 hitter from the .250 guy. Whereas, you watch Kobe, Nash, etc for 5 minutes on any given night and you know he's the man.

I'd posit that Moneyball is a very un-FD philosophy (substance is god) that prizes FD players (e.g. Chad Bradford). Also, *writing* Moneyball was pretty FD. Maybe?

 
At 8/21/2007 5:26 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

@ brian: japan can only be described as a "quasi American colony" for roughly the decade following world war II. baseball's popularity predates the occupation by about 70 years. anyway, i fucking hate baseball.

 
At 8/21/2007 5:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does Jose Guillen = J.R. Smith?

 
At 8/21/2007 6:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michael Vick = Derrick Coleman
i.e. - The biggest wastes of talent I can remember.

 
At 8/21/2007 7:09 PM, Blogger PostmanE said...

Isn't he the most baseball like player in the league? Doesn't it seem like he is in constant pursuit of numbers, damning his team in the process?

Realize what JCN is saying here, but the key difference is that incredible numbers don't come at the cost of the team in baseball; they really only add to the team. Even Bonds' lack of concern for whether his team won the night of 756 doesn't change that fact, because the home run he hit at the time aided his team in coming closer to a victory. Same goes for A-Rod, even though most haters say his big numbers don't help the team unless they're "clutch" etc. Blech.

Obviously individual numbers don't necessarily come at the expense of the team in basketball, either. (Hello, Jordan.) But if Kobe were a baseball player, and he hit three home runs in four consecutive games (i.e. 50 points), no one would ask if he was hurting his team in the long run.

 
At 8/21/2007 8:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

EDDIE GRIFFIN HAS BEEN FREED

25 years old, what a shame.

 
At 8/21/2007 8:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my god. Message to J.R. Smith - it could have been you.

" Griffin was pronounced dead on the scene, but his body was burned beyond recognition and there were no signs of identification in the car."

Dude crashed into a TRAIN.

 
At 8/21/2007 8:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Man, look at his 18 y/o face, so full of promise...
http://www.nbadraft.net/profiles/eddiegriffin.htm

 
At 8/21/2007 8:54 PM, Anonymous faux_rillz said...

Tragic.

Rest easy troubled Griffin.

 
At 8/21/2007 8:54 PM, Anonymous ....endtroducing said...

Maybe this is out of line, but can we (meaning shoals, dlic, billups etc) think of another adjective for this site's definition of style? FD?? The concept is great, but the words "FD" and "un-FD" (or even the expanded FreeDarko) are ugly, and I would argue, not FD themselves. I, having only been reading this site for 3 or 4 months, of course am in no position to suggest an alternative. But if this mode of basketball analysis is to ever become more than an internet cult, the adjective itself needs a sleeker, more FD name.

Am I way out of line here? If so I apoligize.

 
At 8/21/2007 9:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know it's wrong, I know it's wrong, I know it's wrong:

But holy shit, how poetic.

 
At 8/21/2007 9:38 PM, Blogger personalmathgenius said...

FD as an adjective could at least be replaced with, are you ready for it?- Darkonian. I've long thought Tarkanian should have been a descriptor unrelated to the shark. Also in that vein- Treverance Faulk of the Patriots (though I know him more as an LSU Tiger), now that's not just an adjective, it's a superlative. Amare's undead ACL, Nash's broken nose, Bernard King playing on a door hinge, Kirk Gibson's homer, all great examples of treverance.

 
At 8/21/2007 9:38 PM, Blogger PeteJayhawk said...

Shoals,

You (deservedly) mock MLB for the ridiculous clips of entry music. What does that make the NBA's constant stream of top-40 noise (and ancillary entertainment gimmicks) during games?

 
At 8/22/2007 12:59 AM, Blogger Vinnie said...

Pitchers have every bit the style that NBA players do. Prominent examples include: Lincecum (as were mentioned), Zambrano, Maddux, K-Rod, Rivera, Wakefield, Buehrle... from my past: Mitch Williams, Foulke, David Cone, Doc, Nomo, Eckersley... I could literally go forever.

And maybe the most "Darkonian" player in the league is Jeff Weaver (think J.R. Smith), with Kerry Wood a close second.

As position players go, I'd offer Dunn, Ichiro, Vlad, both H and M Ramirez, Francouer, Soriano, and of course, Bonds. And yes, just from highlights I'd say Bo tops the alltime list for position guys.

 
At 8/22/2007 1:48 AM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

"I'd posit that Moneyball is a very un-FD philosophy (substance is god) that prizes FD players (e.g. Chad Bradford). Also, *writing* Moneyball was pretty FD. Maybe?"

Coming up with the philosophy seems FD, the philosophy itself isn't at all (based mostly on stats--weak), and only a few of the players are. ChadBrad works, but guys like Scott Hatteberg don't qualify.

"And maybe the most "Darkonian" player in the league is Jeff Weaver (think J.R. Smith), with Kerry Wood a close second."

Prior has to be up there, too, if only because he's gotten injured so often with perfect mechanics. Vlad is the most FD position player, in my view.

"And yes, just from highlights I'd say Bo tops the alltime list for position guys."

More than Willie Mays?

 
At 8/22/2007 1:33 PM, Blogger Aaron said...

Just want to say that I have had my own Pete Reiser/Herb Score obsession since childhood. And as a corollary I would assert that baseball history is far more FD than baseball itself. Also, Pete Reiser is far more FD than Herb Score or Tony C.

 
At 8/22/2007 4:37 PM, Blogger Leee said...

guys like Scott Hatteberg don't qualify.

Surely a catcher who couldn't even throw anymore getting recast as a horrible first baseman and then transforming into a serviceable first baseman (PICKIN' MACHINE!) has at least the slightest of Darkonian whiffs?

 
At 8/22/2007 5:10 PM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

Leee: You're right, that story does work somewhat. I admit that I dislike the A's offensive style (i.e. waiting around for things to happen) enough that it clouds some of my views of the individuals involved, too.

 
At 8/22/2007 6:34 PM, Blogger Vinnie said...

I mention Weaver because he's the best current example of incredible potential and raw talent curbed by incredible fickleness. I'd go with Wood over Prior, just because of their styles. Wood is the force of an old-time muzzleloader... pure power prone to unpredictable and often dangerous deviations. Prior was precise and archetypal.

And I still pick Bo because he was horribly flawed as a baseball player, but he displayed a human's ability to dominate gravity and fellow man as well as any player in history.

 
At 8/22/2007 7:22 PM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

I agree with Wood over Prior, I just think Prior deserves to be up there too. The breakdown of the archetype, you know. Weaver is a great example, definitely.

I can't argue with Bo, but Mays just seems like the perfect marriage of style and substance.

 

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