Podcast: Forget MLB, MLW Wiffle Ball is the game to see

Podcast: Russia's McDonald's knock-off; Tennessee Williams' secret origin; Hidden 'Lebowski' references in 'The Old Man;' all that and SPAM recipes Talking Paragraphs

Paul opens the show with sizzle. Dan reviews "Bonzo on the Road to Asguard." Guests: Emma Thompson, Hunter S. Thompson, John "Tommy Gun" Thompson, and the hot physics major who invited Dan and Paul to a party freshman year at Drake. All that and live music from Cold Slither. — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/talkingparagraphs/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/talkingparagraphs/support
  1. Podcast: Russia's McDonald's knock-off; Tennessee Williams' secret origin; Hidden 'Lebowski' references in 'The Old Man;' all that and SPAM recipes
  2. 47.2 is the unhappiest age
  3. Detoxing from Johnny Depp-Amber Heard trials; Online shopping for retro gear; In praise of Oklahoma softball; Revenge of the Mullet
  4. New format: Paul opens the show from Memphis; Dan goes to 'Bob's Burgers;' Paul buys a smoothie; 'Maverick' makes a lot of money
  5. Vincent Van Gogh plays Graceland and other bizarre adventures from the life of Paul

Baseball’s labor disputes, bad decisions leave fans with no one to root for — not even the game they love

The Super Bowl is set: a matchup of two teams in which have no rooting interest.

These teams bore me so much that I can’t think of a reason to root against either of them.

Maybe I could root against the Los Angeles Rams, who poked St. Louis in the eye and split town, but I no longer a resident of St. Louis and shall always try to do right and be good so God does not make me one again.

Normally, what I do this time of year is focus on the beginning of spring training for Major League Baseball.

Pitchers and catchers were supposed to report Feb. 15 with position players arriving by the 26th.

But, as usual, baseball has found a way to transform from a peaceful pastime to an annoyance not worth the trouble.

The owners locked out the players in a labor dispute that threatens 2022 season.

Wake me when it’s over.

Or don’t.

I don’t care anymore.

Baseball missed its chance to be interesting with the Hall of Fame inductions.

Baseball writers denied Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens enshrinement in the Hall of Fame.

Yawn.

Baseball seems determined to mire itself in mediocrity.

The sport added new rules to speed up games.

The average length of a game went up each of the last three seasons.

A nine-inning ballgame in the 2021 season clocked 3 hours, 10 minutes, and 7 seconds — a record.

You could binge watch three episodes of the new season of “Ozark” in the time it takes to watch a single MLB game.

Batters crush fastballs into the upper decks.

But if the defense put seven fielders in right field and almost no hitters can choke up and poke a single the opposite way.

Where have you gone, Tony Gwynn? Baseball turns its bored eyes to you.

The MLB batting average was .244 in 2021, the lowest since 1972.

Hitters whiffed 42,145 times in 2021.

Every pitcher throws 100 mph, but most only last three innings.

The complete game is practically extinct and the concept of a starter is at hospice.

Two National League pitchers tied for the complete game lead in 2021 — with two.

Three players pitched three complete games in the American League.

Catfish Hunter threw 30 complete games for the New York Yankees in 1975, the year I was born.

Curt Schilling completed 15 games for Philadelphia in 1998, the last year Major League Baseball expanded.

The sports talkers debated steroids, PEDs, questions of character, and all the old, dull arguments about Bonds and Clemons.

They used PEDs.

Nobody cares anymore.

PEDs are a part of baseball history.

Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and scores of others admitted to using “greenies” — locker room slang for amphetamines during their careers.

We mere mortals use PEDs, too. We take pills for everything.

We live in the age of Viagra for crying out loud.

It’s past time we forgive the players of the “steroid era.”

The real reason Bonds and Clemens aren’t in the Hall of Fame is that they were jerks toward the baseball writers.

Everybody hates journalists these days. They were just ahead of their time.

Bonds has the most home runs. He should be in the Hall of Fame.

Clemens won seven Cy Young Awards, 354 games, and struck out 4,672.

He should be in the Hall of Fame.

They aren’t.

Pete Rose has the most hits. He’s banned from the Hall of Fame.

Gambling on the game is a no-no. That’s what got “Shoeless” Joe Jackson banned in the 1919 “Black Sox” scandal.

Rose is an addict. He did his most troubling gambling as a manager. His feats as a player earn him enshrinement, not as manager.

Evidence is thin that Jackson did anything to throw the 1919 World Series, though he did take the gamblers’ money.

Americans once looked upon gambling a sin.

Now, Americans love gambling.

You can’t watch a sporting event without a few dozen commercials offering you a chance to throw your money away by betting on sports.

Many baseball teams broadcast their games on the Bally Sports Network.

Bally’s Corp. is a casino operator.

Let Rose and Jackson in the Hall of Fame, too.

An interruption of play over labor problems could be disastrous for the fading sport.

The last time baseball endured a work stoppage, fans took a long time to come back both in the parks and on TV.

We lost the 1994 playoffs and World Series.

The 1995 World series was watched by an average of more than 28 million people, but a lot more people watched network TV then.

The 2021 World Series drew an average of nearly 12 million per game, up from less than 10 million average the previous season.

The average baseball fan is a 57-year-old man, per a 2017 report.

Baseball is a mess of hypocrisy and foolishness. 

In that way, I suppose, the game reflects the country that spawned it.


Daniel P. Finney writes columns for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.
Zelle: newsmanone@gmail.com.
Venmo@newsmanone.
PayPalpaypal.me/paragraphstacker.

It’s #OpeningDay for MLB … so why am I feeling so ho-hum?

The Major League Baseball season began Thursday. ESPN was already busy ruining the fun of the game as my beloved New York Yankees warmed up for their game against the Toronto Blue Jays.

New York’s starting pitcher is Gerrit Cole; the network commentator immediately calls Cole the “Yankees’ $300 million man.”

Cole makes a lot of money because he is an excellent pitcher. I don’t begrudge him his money.

But baseball commentary — as does so much of sports talk — quickly trends to economics.

NFL and NBA shows talk about salary cap room. Baseball shows talk about labor disputes.

This is not what I want to talk about on opening day. I can tolerate it in the dead of winter if only because I prefer baseball talk to bracketology.

Like the players, managers and umpires, fans take a while to get into midseason form. Thursday, for example, I was too slow to hit the mute button on my remote before the camera switched to Aaron Judge, the power-hitting Yankees outfielder. The first comment is potential drama over Judge’s contract.

Sweet relish on a hot dog! The man hasn’t taken a swing in a game yet this season and we’re already talking about his future financial situation. Am I watching ESPN or CNBC?

This is a long-term irritation. People say baseball doesn’t translate well to TV. I say TV is bad at broadcasting baseball games.

Fox Sports broadcasts rely on the extreme close-up on pitchers and managers as if they were shooting a soap opera rather than a sporting event. Fox national baseball broadcasts often include Joe Buck as the lead play-by-play man.

I like Buck. He has a sense of humor about himself. He takes the hate directed at him in stride. I don’t want to add to that, but the fact remains that I would rather chew a full roll of aluminum foil than listen him patter for a game.

ESPN focuses on where their commentators sit. Sometimes they’re next to the dugout. Sometimes they’re sitting out in the outfield like everyday fans. Gosh, aren’t those ESPN baseball commentators fun? It almost makes you forget the baseball game they’re supposed to be covering.

I have said this before, but it needs repeating: I would pay extra for a network that played the games with five or six camera angles and only the sounds of the game and the ambient noise inside the stadium.

ESPN redeems itself only through Tim Kurkjian, the nebbishy, squeaky-voiced talker who can discuss pitching mechanics as easily as he spins anecdotes of current players and connects the game to the stories of its rich history.

I have a soft spot for Kurkjian. He’s an old newspaper guy. He started his career at the defunct Washington Star, the same newspaper where my journalism mentor, Robert D. Woodward, worked. Woodward was the greatest teacher I ever had. He died last year, and I miss him

Kurkjian is still a reporter, which most commentators are not and never have been.

Maybe that’s the heart of my gripe about TV coverage and baseball. There aren’t many reporters left and there are even fewer writers.

I regularly watch “Pardon the Interruption,” which stars former Washington Post columnists Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon.

Their daily arguments remind me of the ones that regularly broke out in newsrooms at the beginning of my career, before greedy corporate hustlers turned newsrooms into “information centers” and drained the color and flavor from newsrooms to the point they could have been insurance companies.

On a recent episode, Wilbon quoted a line from one of Kornheiser’s old columns.

“I was a good writer,” Kornheiser said. “So were you. But that’s not what we do anymore.”

Writing hasn’t gone away from baseball. My friend Derrick Goold covers the St. Louis Cardinals with a team of brilliant writers at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The Post-Dispatch is a newspaper and people who work at newspapers are an endangered species that is still actively hunted.

Baseball is and has always been a numbers game. Those numbers lose meaning without words to give them perspective.

When I was a boy, I learned who won the previous day’s baseball games from that morning’s box scores. I excitedly studied. I read the long stories about the Midwestern teams and the shorts about teams farther away.

I subscribed to Sports Illustrated to get longer stories about all kinds of baseball people. I subscribed to Baseball Weekly, a USA Today product, for the same reason.

Sports Illustrated is terrible now and Baseball Weekly is dead.

The fan has more access to information and numbers, even the dreaded economics, on their smartphones than I ever did with the newspapers and magazines I read.

Yet something is missing. Baseball needs storytellers.

Baseball is more than numbers. Baseball collects the lore of yesteryear with the ongoing narrative of today. That’s what brings generations together.

But when we start talking contracts and salaries on Opening Day, it makes me feel distant and far away from the game I used to love so much.

Baseball gets good TV ratings in the markets where teams are popular. But the World Series ratings are seemingly worse every fall. Baseball officials worry about how to connect the game of old white men to a diverse new generation.

That’s a legitimate worry. They should also worry about middle-aged fans like me, who’ve lost their Opening Day enthusiasm. If baseball isn’t getting new fans and the old ones are losing interest, what do you have?

Baseball’s story is fading.

Daniel P. Finney writes columns for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311. Zelle: newsmanone@gmail.com. Venmo: @newsmanon. PayPalpaypal.me/paragraphstacker.