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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Why are we rewarding this?

SportsCenter just informed me that ESPN will be cutting into the College World Series to show each at-bat for Manny Ramirez as he rehabs with the Albuquerque Isotopes of the AAA minor leagues. You heard that right. They're cutting into the championship series of the highest level of baseball players who arguably may be playing solely for the love of the game and the pursuit of excellence to show individual at-bats of a professional playing minor league ball after returning from a 50-game suspension for cheating by using performance enhancing drugs.

Ain't America grand.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

When you're a 'det you're a 'det all the way...

I took advantage of Fan Network's free broadcast of DCI Salutes America from Annapolis this weekend. The cables just came in earlier that day to allow me to hook up the laptop and savor the show on the big screen. I got home from a friend of mine's birthday party just in time to catch about half of the Commandant's Own and all of the DCI corps. 

I'm hoping that, with the combination of Fan Network shows and just plain getting over it, I"ll get to the point where I can start enjoying shows on their merit and stop analyzing them based on their use of electronics. But this was the first show of the season, and with electronics being the new law of the land, clearly it was on my radar.

The Colts started out the show, and they certainly didn't start me out with a positive taste of the new advent. Their show, Fathoms, started out with electronically generated waves.  They also incorporated a synthesized harp sound and used the synth for an "SOS" tone. And perhaps the most egregious of all, they miked a brass solo!  While I'd paid it considerably less attention, I think that is just as egregious of a rule change as the addition of electronics.

I was prepared to say that I noticed very little in the way of synthesizer use by the Boston Crusaders. Mondsy's DCI Field Pass podcast reminded me of something I wasn't even entirely sure I heard. In their show, the Core of Temptation, I heard what I thought sounded like a soda can opening. I brushed it off thinking surely that couldn't have been it. Listening to Field Pass this morning cleared it up for me: It wasn't a soda can. It was a bite being taken from an apple. the Core of Temptation. Get it? Core-ny, if you ask me. They do, however, get some cool point for the Bacchanale from Samson & Delilah. 

The Glassmen left the subliminals at home. They played the synth like a synth, giving us piano-like chords, as well as an organ sound. There was also an audible "zoom" type sound in their show.

I was somewhat surprised to see The Holy Name Cadets up next, assuming they'd get top billing. Then I realized--they seed early shows based on last year's championships, and Crown bested them there. It's way too early, obviously, but clearly the Cadets have determined that in this 75th anniversary year, they want to compete for a championship. They've left the gimmicks, sets, and narration at home, and gone back to basics: West Side Story, flying across the field and pissing excellence. Even their synth use was tasteful, with them simulating the gang whistle from the beginning of West Side Story over a texture of car horns and street ambiance. Unfortunately, it was at this point that the audio started giving me issues, and I lost pieces of their broadcast and Crown's to the bad connection gods.

Finally, Crown finished the show out with The Corps--er--The Grass is Always Greener. There sure was a lot of green incorporated in the corps, from the drums to the uniform accents to the plumes. There wasn't any significant synth use from Crown that I noticed, but then, I was having audio issues here as well, so who knows. 

Holy Name took that night's contest, but more importantly, the 2009 season is underway. I look forward to checking out many more shows online and at least a couple live. It is officially summer!

Pardon the Inter-ruption

Major League Baseball is once again in interleague play. Invariably, each year when interleague rolls around, the question will be asked: Should interleague play continue? And invariably, I look at the person asking--usually a television sports personality--as though they've just asked the dumbest question in the world.

Of course interleague play shall continue! In fact, it's positively baffling that it took until just over a decade ago for it to begin in the first place. While differences in rules make the distinction between the American and National Leagues slightly more significant than the NFL's AFC and NFC, or the NBA or NHL's Eastern and Western conferences, they still all play Major League Baseball within the same association. From where I sit, there's absolutely no reason to keep the two segregated.

Those who argue in favor of returning to AL- and NL-only water fountains usually point out, often half-heartedly, that not all interleague matchups are interesting. Is this really the best you can come up with? Because I've got a secret for you: Not all intraleague matchups are interesting either. Let's be honest--when's the last time you got really fired up for Marlins-Brewers? Now let's look on the flip side: Yankees-Mets. O's-Nats. Giants-A's. Dodgers-Angels Cubs-White Sox. Marlins-Rays. Each of these interleague matchups feature crosstown or nearby foes who before interleague play began, did not play. What sense does this make? Each area likely featured, on both sides, unrequited hatred towards their local "rival". Now they actually get to duke it out. The turf war that had thus played out only by empirical comparisons can now be settled on the field. I'd gladly take Royals-Pirates three games a year for that.

What's more? Many sports fans out there are absolutists. They love one team and they hate the other. But there are fence-sitters out there. Chances are you know at least one. You may be one. You may love them, tolerate them, or roll your eyes every time one of them utters a phrase like, "Yankees or Mets, either way New York wins!" For about a century of professional baseball, their ambivalence went unchecked. Now, for at least six games out of the year, these folks will be compelled to knuck up and pick a side. 

Can interleague stand to change? Sure, but only a little. I'd love to see AL rules in NL parks and vice-versa, so that fans get to see their home team play in a manner they may otherwise not have seen live. And quite frankly, you can give me a bit more interleague. Regardless, play ball!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Opening Day

Tonight, in Chambersburg, PA and Rockford, IL, the curtain raises on the 2009 edition of the Drum Corps International Summer Music Games. My latest short-and-sweet entry, in addition to several other entries in the nearly two years I've been blogging marching and sports, expressed quite simply that I'm anti-electronic instruments pro-acoustic instrumentation. I figured I'd go on the record and say a little more about that.

I'll start by saying that despite my opposition, I'm willing to keep an open mind. Drum corps is an activity I love and fully expect to continue to love, even with such changes made. Personally, I see no reason that electronic instruments should be added, and quite frankly, think it's a bad idea. But I'm willing to have those beliefs challenged. If you know anything about my evolution as a fan of the marching arts, you'll know that it was not too long ago that I considered the pit to be an aberration. I marched traditional style, and pits represented something I did not want to see in a marching band--namely, not marching.

Similarly, electronic instruments represent something I don't want to see in drum and bugle corps: Instrumentation that is not brass or percussion. I think it can and likely will be used well and sound good. I've barely (there's been very little featured in Fan Network videos) heard a single note played by a synthesizer or other electronic instrument in drum corps, so I can't say that I won't like its effect. But I can say, even before hearing anything done with it, that I'd rather they do a show with whatever "coolness" they can creatively muster with the instrumentation as it stood prior to this season than with whatever enhancements will be made courtesy of the new found toolset.

Back to the pit, I'll draw an analogy that's oft irked me. Sometimes, a marching band or corps will have a drum set in the pit. To me, a talented battery should be able to do anything--and more--that a player on set can do. Why not use them in that capacity? While a synthesizer admittedly offers more options than a hornline, drumline, or even the human voice, the added elements are not something I'd miss.

I expect it will go well in most cases. I'll likely tolerate it, and perhaps even learn to like it. But I don't expect to see the day where I can't live without it. Maybe this is setting up for some corps, years down the line, to do an "Unplugged" show.

Finally, another rule change that I had forgotten completely about: This year, the miking of brass instruments is allowed. I've said it before and I'll say it again: In the wisdom of Mr. Parets, my high school band director: BLOW THE DAMN HORN!

Another season is upon us. And change isn't just for the White House. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Pros and Cons

Everyone wants to frame their argument/side in a positive light. No one is "anti" anything. No one's anti-abortion, only pro-life. No one is anti-gay marriage, just pro-"traditional" marriage or whatever other marker they choose to hide behind.

So on the eve to the step off of an entirely new era in Drum Corps International, i will go on record to state that I am pro-acoustic instrumentation.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Denver: Lacrosse's Western Mecca?

It's certainly starting to look as though Denver is the western answer to all things lacrosse. Both the MLL's Denver Outlaws and the NLL's Colorado Mammoth are top draws in their respective leagues. Denver and nearby Colorado Springs are home to the only two Division I lacrosse programs west of the Mississippi. And now, lacrosse Hall of Fame coach Bill Tierney is headed to the head coaching position at the University of Denver.

First, I'm gonna need some help here from folks far dedicated to their craft than I: I'm a sports fan but have never claimed to be a sports historian. But can you think of another time when a head coach, still in the prime of his career, has up and left a national power in a particular sport while still excelling, to immediately take a position at a decidedly lesser school? With all due respect to the University of Denver, they can't restring Princeton's lacrosse sticks, let alone compete on the national landscape with them. But perhaps it was the lure of being a Pioneer, in more ways than one, that excited Coach Tierney. 

Consider this: To be an elite program in lacrosse is to be a national power in a subnational sport. As I mentioned before, there are only two DI programs west of the Mississippi. Add to that the four or five schools that can reasonably be considered "southern" and the three in the midwest, and it becomes very clear that while lacrosse is becoming an increasingly national sport, big time college lacrosse still resides in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast. What does this mean for Tierney? The west is largely his for the fleecing. Not unlike the days when the Washington Redskins were the South's team for lack of a better option, Denver with Tierney at the helm has the chance at becoming an immediately competitive team and perhaps the answer to all things lacrosse. While there's arguably a higher level of talent back East, with the entire West at his disposal, there are bound to be some diamonds in the rough. If western lacrosse kids didn't grow up following lacrosse religiously--many are converts from other sports--they may not know that their "supposed" to aspire to Hopkins or Syracuse. And Denver as a city isn't a hard sell, particularly when alternatives are thousands of miles away. Plus, Tierney still has the street cred to walk into living rooms in Baltimore and New York. And perhaps as important as anything else, leaving the Ivy League means that Tierney can get at some early commits that weren't an option to him in the Ivies. He'll also have access to kids who "struggle" (read: aren't Princeton material) academically.

Not to overstate it, but this move could be the be monumental to the expansion of lacrosse. It could also prove to be a mistake on Tierney's part. We'll just have to see...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Please, sir, may I have some television coverage?

It's a shame how the NHL has to beg and scrape for major network coverage. One would think it's a no-brainer that of the identified four major sports in the US, each would clearly have a major network deal for their championship game/series, right? It ain't necessarily so. The NHL has to split its major network time on NBC with Versus, who televises the NHL throughout most of the year. The deal, which I think really screws Versus and the NHL, is that NBC doesn't want to sacrifice any of their precious mid-week programming for a championship series, so Versus got games 3 and 4. What's more, NBC made the NHL play games 1 and 2 on back-to-back nights so as to stay off of their weeknight programming. 

Lasat year, Versus got games 1 and 2, which means that NBC got to rest during two of the three games where it was mathematically impossible for a championship to be determined, then swoop in and take the glory once the series got interesting. It's a shame that the NHL has to stoop to this, considering the networks bid for the privilege of televising the other championships.
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