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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

We Fans Need Work on Our Timing, Too

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The Milwaukee Brewers gave their fans reason to hope last week by going 4-2 at home, though they'll need to do a lot more to become playoff contenders. Frank was at Miller Park for the last four games, but what struck him most didn't happen on the field.

Frank: Winning two series at home was nice, but the fans were left with the taste of bitter Soup after the 10-4 drubbing Sunday by the Mets.

Artie: You bring Jeff Suppan in with the game tied and what do you expect, Ken Macha? The Brewers just dropped Claudio Vargas from the roster, and they ought to ask him if he'd like a roommate making $12.5 million to share the expenses in oblivion.

Frank: Anyway, the last four home games got me thinking about something I saw recently at Citi Field, the Mets' home.

Artie: Decent starting pitching?


Frank: That was true when I saw them play the Yankees, but I'm referring to a message to fans that the team puts on the scoreboard before the game. It's this: If you go to a concession stand or bathroom during the game, "As a courtesy to other fans, please wait until an at-bat is completed" before returning to your seat.


Artie: Wow, a piece of common-sense, common-courtesy advice in New York, the land of "Waddya gonna do about it?"


Frank: Every team should show that message—repeatedly—because I can tell you from my observations last week, lots of fans don't show consideration.


Artie: I see it, too. People seem completely unaware of what's going on in the game, so they head down the row with their beers and hot dogs while a play is going on. People in the row have to get up, people farther back lose sight of the field, and everyone misses all or part of a play.


Frank: On Saturday night Rickie Weeks hit a triple—the most exciting play in baseball—and just as he was rounding second a guy in the row ahead of me started going back to his seat. I leaned and got a glimpse of Weeks reaching third, but everyone was distracted. Why couldn't the guy have waited in the aisle for three more seconds?

Artie: I'll tell you why. Because lots of people have no social awareness at public events anymore. It's like they're watching the game the way they do at home, where they can get up and go to the kitchen whenever they please. Cripes, it's mind-boggling to me that people don't realize their actions affect others.

Frank: I'll give you two more examples. Last Thursday the Astros scored a run when Weeks ran down a grounder but threw wildly past first. Just as the ball was hit, a woman came traipsing down the row ahead of me and I lost sight of Weeks. But the worst was in late April against Pittsburgh. In the first inning, Ryan Braun was on first and Prince Fielder was up. Just as a pitch was coming in, several folks trooped into the row ahead of me. I heard the crowd reaction as Fielder hit the ball, then more reaction to something, and when I finally saw the field again Braun was standing on third and Fielder was in the dugout.

Artie: What had happened, or did you ever find out?

Frank: Fielder grounded out to the right side, and because the Pirates were overshifted in the infield Braun saw that third base wasn't covered and just kept on going. An unusual play—and one I would have liked to see, if the arriving people had bothered to pay attention and lingered in the aisle for a few more seconds.

Artie: This is my point. When I'm coming back from a beer run and I see a play in progress I stop. And often I crouch down to make sure people behind me can see, too.

Frank: Now, where did you learn that habit? You must have been doing it since you were a kid.

Artie: I think it was what people did at the ballpark in those days. But not anymore.

Frank: I'm not saying that people are being deliberately rude. I think they just aren't watching what's going on in the game—but they should. A little more awareness would produce a little more courtesy and a lot less frustration for those who suddenly lose their view of the field. Lord knows there's enough dead time between at-bats!

Going on the Clock

Artie: Hell, people might not have to wait for the next at-bat. Just wait until a pitch is over—half the time you've got a good 30 seconds before the next one is flung.

Frank: As we've noted before, there is a major-league rule—Number 8.04—saying that with the bases empty, a pitcher should deliver the ball within 12 seconds of receiving it back from the catcher. Of course it's never enforced, and when men are on base or a foul ball is hit, everyone goes into slow motion. But did you see what the Southeastern Conference did last week in its baseball tournament?

Artie: Nope, didn't catch it.

Frank: The conference instituted a "pitch clock," requiring pitchers to throw within 20 seconds. If they exceeded the clock a ball could be called, and batters couldn't back out of the box within 5 seconds of the limit.

Artie: Great idea! You think Commissioner Selig was watching?

Frank: SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said Sunday on ESPN that the league "saved about 15 minutes per game" in the tournament and that fan reaction was terrific.

Artie: Gee, another bit of common sense that should be commonplace in baseball, ain’a?

Frank: I remember that back in the ’60s Charlie Finley had a 20-second clock installed at the stadium in Kansas City—not that anyone in baseball took it seriously. And I remember that in the late ’90s, when there was a team called the Madison Black Wolf in the independent Northern League, there was a 20-second clock at their games.

Artie: Every year or two Selig and his aides shake their fingers and say, "This time we're really, really gonna do something to pick up the pace of games." And then nothing gets enforced.

Frank: A few months ago Selig appointed a special commission to make those kinds of recommendations. Let's hope they saw what the SEC did.

Turn a Cold Shoulder

Frank: So in 2014 the Super Bowl will be played "in New York," which means in New Jersey at the Giants/Jets stadium. Does that cold-weather commitment mean a Lambeau Field Super Bowl could be next?

Artie: That's a conversation not worth having. There's no way it could happen.

Frank: Cities don't get the Super Bowl because of their stadiums. They get it because they have zillions of fancy hotel rooms and plenty of plush places where the corporate fat cats can party.

Artie: Strike 1 and Strike 2 for Green Bay. What, are the big shots gonna spend two weeks at the Oneida Casino, or limo-ing back and forth from Appleton? Dream on.

More Green and Gold

Frank: It's Celtics-Lakers in the NBA Finals. Any rooting interest?

Artie: You betcha, for two reasons. One, I can't abide anything involving L.A., so I want Kobe to flop. And two, I really enjoy watching that Rajon Rondo play the point for Boston. He's a terrific talent. Oh yeah, and three, because I like Ray Allen, who should still be a Buck. But one more thing: If basketball is being played in June, they should do it outdoors on concrete.

Frank: Gee, I thought you'd just say, "A pox on both those arrogant franchises."

Artie: What's more, I'm kind of interested in the Stanley Cup Finals between the Blackhawks and Flyers, if I can remember what channel they're on. How about that? I've expressed an interest in soccer on skates.

Frank: The real test comes next week, when I try to get you interested in soccer on grass—namely, the fast-approaching World Cup.

Artie: Don't get your hopes up.