A commentary about sports, media, and interpersonal relationships encountered throughout everyday life.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Thoughts on Modern Communication

After the finish of my final paper and the conclusion of my final class discussion for the first summer session of 2007… something stuck. My first session summer class focused on MEDIA: Overseas Conversations (IV), a media literacy conference held in New York City. The conference was an informative one, but the most captivating component of the conference came at the very end.

Douglas Rushkoff, a published academic, delivered the concluding address for the convention. His speech talked about American culture always being a step behind, technologically speaking. Rushkoff referenced reading as the initial communication technology adopted by humanity. Soon thereafter, writing became the popular technology. However, by the time writing became the popular medium, reading was taught as a central societal cog. I know, it doesn’t make much sense to me either, but apparently people could read documents without a problem despite not knowing how to write themselves.

Think about it, if you didn’t know how to grip a pencil, or inked feather as it were, would writing be easy for you? Of course not! It would be about as easy as typing on a keyboard without knowing how consonants and vowels join together to create words. Without these words, how would one ever be able to form sentences? Nonetheless, this continues today, as programming is the novel and central medium, yet writing continues to be taught in our schools. This isn’t to say that writing is a useless medium… it is however mentioned to prove a point.

Programming has founded the modern day Internet. The Internet has founded social networks, messaging programs, and the entire consideration of a global village that we’ve all become accustomed to. This brings us back to Rushkoff, who has declared modern communication media undergoing a Renaissance. This renaissance is the result of interactivity on the Internet via editing programs. Consider the sophisticated editing software available to people today. If the final episode of The Sopranos bothered you that much… you could change it. Seriously, what’s stopping you? Why aren’t you doing it right now?

The extinction of absolutes that Rushkoff talks about has much to do with the death of television culture. The generation of humans who grew up watching television as an integral part of their society has past. Sure, TV provides a nice escape, but today’s generation doesn’t like being told what to do. The fundamentalism that Rushkoff discusses is the fixed-narratives inherent within television. Keeping with The Sopranos example, the fixed narrative of David Chase requires that viewers accept the final five minutes of the series. However, today’s narrative allows for bloggers to document not only what they think happened, but truly did happen!

This doesn’t stop with bloggers though, look to the YouTube culture that has grown uncontrollably over the past year and a half. Users can film their own version of what happened after the screen went black within the last seconds of the final shots of the series. Say, for instance, that I think Tony somehow got out of the restaurant alive and incorporated the use of “The Sopranos” video game on PS2 to act the scene out. That would definitely offer a conclusion for fans of “media content” despite the “grammar” of the content differentiating from the HBO series’ own.

This is the beauty of modern day communication. People actually care about what others have to say about issues holding weight in modern culture—even if it’s as non-sensical as the series finale of The Sopranos. Rushkoff’s ultimate point is that absolutes are dead. Nothing is absolute as long as the modern culture is accustomed to challenging the “norms” identified by mainstream culture. If I want to create my own final episode for a favorite series like The Sopranos or the like, I can! In fact, what I am writing right now is not even absolute. Someone can post a comment at the bottem of the screen right now arguing what I have written in such a way that it discredits everything I have just said. Sure, a part of me would be offended, but that’s completely in line with what I’ve been writing about for the last few minutes.

To conclude, challenge everything! Nothing you see is an absolute! Accepting any aspect of society as an absolute is settling for what you’re told is correct. This settling is the passivisity that has classified the modern generation as hopeless, and uncaring. Only challenging any and all will break the bonds that fundamentalists believe they have over colloquial culture.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Press Box Notes (Mets-Twins)

Tonight I attended my first-ever game at Shea Stadium as a member of the working media. Ironically, I sat alone. Yes, apparently XM Radio (despite having 'radio' in its name) has a private seat in the press area. I am sure that others agree that watching a baseball game can be awfully lonely. You go to these games for the sporadic big plays that take about 30 seconds, only to talk about them with those around you for the next 20 to 30 minutes.

As I sat alone watching John Maine masterfully shut down the Minnesota Twins, I glanced over the scoreboard and noticed that the Red Sox were losing to the Braves and the Phillies were losing to the Indians. To a normal human being this is just an out of town score noting that the Mets (by now leading the Twins four-nothing) would maintain their one-and-a-half game lead over the the Braves and gain a game on the Phils.

To me however, I think to my fantasy baseball team. The "Guns of Navarone" had sent out Curt Schilling and Cole Hamels on this night to pitch against the team that had topped us in the championship last September. In other words, this is a huge week. Seven game winning streak on the line against my team's most bitter rival, this game has all the makings of an ESPN Sunday Night Baseball Prime time match up.

By the 5th Inning, both scores read six to one in favor of both the Braves and Indians. I have never hated Native Americans more in my life. Both Schilling and Hamels were being destroyed by the red man and I need to talk about it. My girlfriend tolerates my fantasy griping for the most part, but this was going to take a while I couldn't bring myself to put her through it. Next in line: the big guy, Dad.

I noticed that he too would have things to talk about tonight. Josh Johnson, just getting over elbow problems, was losing to the White Sox two-nothing for his team this week. For the majority of the 2007 season, his pitching staff has struggled mightily. His first selections for starting pitching this year (Brett Myers and Jeremy Sowers) have been converted into the bullpen and demoted to the minor leagues respectively.

With my Dad's "New York Dynasty" experiencing similar problems this evening I knew that he would be my go-to-guy this evening. As I said earlier, I made this call during the 5th Inning and was on the phone until the 8th griping about how horrible my pitching was and how I was going to get owned this week in embarrassing fashion. I only cut the call short because this was my first game at Shea and I wasn't sure about the etiquette for post-game procedures and the like. Not off the phone for all of five minutes, WFAN's Mike Mancuso shouts from the broadcast reports press box asking "what girl I was talking to for so long?"

Isn't that hysterical? Ironically, I felt like a total tool because I was talking about fantasy baseball (not even the real thing) to my Dad instead of my beautiful girlfriend about anything except fantasy baseball. However, that feeling came and went almost immediately as I decided that fantasy baseball is that important to me. I would gripe about my starter's bad outings, my slumping bats, and my poor decisions as a GM for hours at a time if I could. Trades, line up adjustments, and add/drops are a part of my everyday life during baseball season. I've had teleconferences in the press box at Yankee Stadium discussing a necessary trade of Brad Hawpe for Bill Hall at the end of last season (the deal would help me but blow up in my face the last week of the season as Hall went about 1-30 during the early part of September).

So here's the point of this post: it is stupid to ever be embarrassed about something you care about. I love fantasy baseball. I don't know what my summer would be like if I couldn't complain about Carlos Beltran, Cole Hamels, and Curt Schilling. Being a Yankee fan can only get me so far; the hybrid of stats and scouting fills my days and nights.

When I got a chance to talk to Mike after venturing down to the Mets' locker room, we talked about fantasy baseball (which is code for talking about individual players) and how guys my age focus too much on the player than the team. He pointed out that so many people can recite what Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols, and David Ortiz did on a given night but could never tell you what the Yanks, Cards, and Sox did.

"I'll tell you one thing," I said, "the Sox and Philles definitely lost tonight, and it's because of Curt Schilling and Cole Hamels." I had another go-to-guy.

Yankees - Diamondbacks (Interleague Series Thoughts)

Tonight I attended the Yankees--Diamonbacks opening game of a three-game interleague series and a couple things came to mind:

First: Bobby Abreu is the ultimate baseball player. Think about it. For the first two months, if not two and a half, of the MLB season, Bobby has been torn apart by fans and the media alike. I remember doing it myself in April when many fan were still on the "hate A-Rod" ban-wagon. I distinctly remember hte situation too. It was during the opening series against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who were leading late in the ball game. Stepping to the plate in his normal three-spot was Bobby Abreu who was struck out looking before A-Rod struck out swinging. Abreu's failure was unrecognized, whereas A-Rod, now in the media spotlight, was "boo'd" relentlessly. Now, as we're all aware Alex Rodriguez has once again become the "apple" in the "eye" of most Yankees' fans, whereas Bobby Abreu has had a harder time.
While Abreu could've rolled over and died like the Alex Rodriguez on 2006, he persevered. After the game, Abreu talked about going into the batting cage day after day, talking to teammates, coaches, and even friends of his who could offer advice to him. Today, Abreu launched a three-run bomb off 2006 Cy Young Award Winner Brandon Webb in the bottem of the first, supplying the Yankees all the runs they would need to win tonights game.
Does this make Abreu a better player than A-Rod? No. However, his perseverance must be recognized. In 2006, A-Rod essentially crumbled in the spotlight of the New York media and fan criticism, whereas Bobby Abreu used it as a motivational factor, which propelled him to the state he is playing in today. The point I am trying to make here is that Bobby Abreu is one of the few modern additions to this Yankee team that embodies the old-school form of what it means to be a Yankee. Abreu takes pitches, drives the ball to all fields, and can handle the pressure of the media and fans. It would be comepletely assinine for the Bombers to opt out of his team option in 2007 in order to give Melky Cabrera additional playing time. While I love Melky and the energy he brings to the team, this is not the guy he should be replacing; which brings be to my next point:

Second, Johnny Damon love being a Yankee. After every game he is the first player out of the locker room and will always shoot the media straight. That is to say, give them the answers they want to hear. The answers that Derek Jeter would nevere give them. The DH role that Damon has come to fulfill these past few weeks seems ideal for him. It's ironic as the successor to Bernie Williams ends up succeeding him in his role as DH/utility outfielder. Many thought it would be at least three years before Damon came anywhere near entering that role. However, shin-splints being what they are, Damon has entered this role a year or two early.
This brings us to Jason Giambi, a player who has fought year in and yea rout for the respect and admiration of Yankees' fans. With Damon, Giambi's long-time buddy, in the DH slot, this leaves little room for the large-and-in-charge slugger. All signs point to the Yankees attempting to get out of the final years of Jason Giambi's contract with the team. While, obviously, no team would take on the the contract of Giambi via trade, offense-deficient ball clubs like the Angels, Dodgers, and Orioles would look to add the bat of the "Giambino."

Lastly, (as it's getting late) the Yankee starting pitching is carrying the team during this stretch. Joe Torre said it himself: "This streak is predicated upon by starting pitching." It happened tonight with Wang, the staff ace, and looks to continue tomorrow night when Mike Mussina takes the hill. This cannot make fans feel too confident as the Moose has had his struggles the past few starts. One can only hope that the offense can back Mussina enough that he can have a hiccup or two during Wednesday night's start. On Thursday afternoon the Yanks will send out old reliable Andy Pettitte, which mean that even if Mussina stumbles and the Yanks fall to the D-Backs on Wednesday the club could enter this weekend's Subway Series with a 7-1 record over their last eight, which is NOT bad at all!
To conclude, make sure you tune into 90.7 FM or WFUV.org this Saturday from 1-4 in order to not only hear the longest running sports call in show that in One on One, but to also hear live game updates from Yankee Stadium by yours truly.

Thanks for reading again and I'll see you next time.