Friday, June 27, 2008

Friday Night's Alright for a Potpourri Post

Thoughts while taking in Rays-Pirates from the Polish Prodigy futon at 4012 Venable Ave…

• The rule book says as much, and every player/coach/media member refers to it as that traditional shape, but the strike zone at the major league level is definitely not a rectangle. Pitches on the outside edges of the plate that are called strikes if at knee level are shrugged off by umpires if belt high. Therefore I argue that the strike zone is in fact a triangle that comes to its apex in the center of the plate at the “letters.”

• I shouldn’t be ashamed to bring my new workout book, Making the Cut by “The Biggest Loser” badass trainer Jillian Michaels, to the gym. After all, she could probably outperform me and most guys in most any athletic endeavor I could choose. Then why do I try my best to make sure no one sees the cover?

• I don’t mind the Rays eliminating (exorcising?) the “Devil” from their team name, but did they have to change what was one of the better looking uniform combos in the majors? The deep green-based kits had a clean, classy look and were definitely a drastic improvement over the franchise’s original ridiculous tie-dye color scheme. The Devil Rays looked distinctive from the first glance over the last couple of years, but the new-look Rays resemble the Mariners, Blue Jays or even the Dodgers upon first look. If the point of tinkering with the uniform is to develop a brand, then why make the team’s appearance less unique?

• Last night I played pick-up ice hockey for the first time since I got back from North Carolina. It was even more of a rigorous workout that usual because only eight skaters showed up, which meant four-on-four action for two full hours with no one on the bench to spell you. Let’s just say even the muscles in my feet are sore today. I’ve played a wide range of aerobically-taxing sports at a competitive level, from tennis to basketball to soccer. None of those, however, can compare with ice hockey for sheer cardiovascular workload, not to mention the anaerobic (strength) aspects of stickhandling and shooting.
If you want to get in shape, pick up a hockey stick!

• Summer is a great time for individual sports, especially tennis and golf. Aside from the obvious advantages of the warmer, more pleasant weather for participation purposes, each of the “country club” sports has three of its four major pro tournaments occur in the summer months. As far as major distribution goes, though, golf has the decided edge over tennis. To wit: after the Masters in the first week of April, golf’s men’s majors occur in the middle portions of June (U.S. Open), July (British Open) and August (PGA Championship). Contrast that semi-regular temporal separation with the helter-skelter tennis schedule: Australian Open in January, French Open in June, Wimbledon two weeks later in late June/early July, then the U.S. Open on the cusp of August and September. The top players only get 14 days between the notoriously exhausting clay court season, capped by the French at Roland Garros, and the slick grass courts of Queens Club and Wimbledon. In a sport in which the idea is to have your game peak for the big ones, a fortnight is hardly enough to recover from the beating administered by the red clay and then prepare for the most idiosyncratic surface in tennis.

• Prior to this evening’s game, a half-hour special on the Pirates’ great teams of the 1970s was broadcast on FSN Pittsburgh. The program, entitled “The Lumber Company,” focused primarily on the outstanding hitting prowess of those Bucco squads; it was particularly enlightening for a Pirates fan like myself that missed out on experiencing the most successful decade in the history of the Pittsburgh Baseball Club. Like previous recent Pirates specials on the 1960 Bucs and the ballclubs of the early ‘90s, this show was narrated by the rock-solid Rob King. I certainly hope FSN has been sending his stellar documentary work to whoever nominates TV programs for Emmy consideration. King is a true pro as an anchor/reporter, but his biggest strength is the storytelling displayed in his pieces on Our Buccos.

• While I was pursuing my undergraduate degree in Marshall University’s journalism school, a phrase that I often heard around the campus radio station was that a given person “would do anything” to get into the sports broadcasting business. I was even one of those neophytes who uttered those swell-sounding, but lacking-in-substance words. I’ve only been out of school for six months, and I already can say that no matter how much one wishes to succeed in a given field, only someone with no morals, standards or personal pride would truly “do anything” for a certain kind of employment. Respect yourself, always seek personal improvement and then let the chips fall where they may. (At least that’s what I’m trying to do right now!)

Until next time, dzien dobry from Charleston. Next week I’ll be back in the Northern Panhandle…expect at least one podcast.

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