Wednesday, October 23, 2013

7 comments Baseball Writers Love Their Lazy Narratives: NLCS Edition

The St. Louis Cardinals stand for tradition and the Los Angeles Dodgers stand for the immediate gratification, self-obsessed society that we have become. That's the narrative and much like the beard-enhanced storylines that follow the Red Sox, this is a story that followed the St. Louis Cardinals throughout their series against the Dodgers. Fortunately, the right team won and the world is safe for team respect and bravado has been held off from taking over baseball for another week. The narrative that the Dodgers are evil and the Cardinals are all that is good about baseball was written about by many, many sports columnists during the NLCS. It doesn't matter whether it is a local St. Louis writer who blindly followed the narrative or a national columnist who blindly followed (I KNEW Bob Nightengale would eventually write a column where the Dodgers are the evil, ghetto-ized version of baseball and the Cardinals are the saviors of the sport. If there's a mindless, lazy narrative Bob Nightengale is sure bet to write a column that follows this narrative) this narrative. 

I'll start first with the local St. Louis writer who says the NLCS pitted bravado against team respect. It's nothing against the Cardinals either, I just wish sportswriters wouldn't follow lazy narratives and just realize the Cardinals are like every other MLB team...just slightly more perfect of course.

The longer this Dodgers-Cardinals thing lasts, the clearer it becomes that there’s more going on here than a best-of-seven race to reach the World Series.

It's a race to see which sports columnist can write the worst column about the NLCS. It's okay, there are no winners, only losers who follow the lazy narrative.

By the way, Joe Strauss wrote this column. Not that the author really matters since the message is really just talking points sent out from the super-secret czar of creating narratives. 

The Dodgers are winning the subtler battle, the one to get under their opponent’s skin. Three days of Hollywood and five games of right fielder Yasiel Puig have rubbed the Cardinals raw.

Get them Cardinals players out of Hollywood and back to the normal life in the small city of St. Louis these Cardinals players prefer!

The Dodgers have scored 13 runs in a taut series. The Cardinals have scored 12. The Dodgers hold statistical edges but the Cardinals have won a 13-inning and a 1-0 game. This is a series where every hit, every pitch and every reaction has meaning.

A series where every hit, every pitch and every reaction has meaning...otherwise known as "every NLCS or ALCS in the history of the MLB playoffs."

The Dodgers see rookie Michael Wacha flex and shout after a huge out in Game 2.

This is not bravado, this is celebrating great pitching. Meanwhile Yasiel Puig pointing and celebrating after a triple is putting himself above the needs of the team. The difference lies in that Puig is Latino and plays for the Dodgers while Wacha plays for the Cardinals is from Iowa.

The Cardinals hear Gonzalez chirp at starting pitcher Adam Wainwright from third base on Monday and see him don imaginary Mickey Mouse ears after the first of his two home runs Wednesday.

Of course, in between Wainwright off-handedly referred to Gonzalez’ behavior as “Mickey Mouse.”

You can clearly see the "clash of cultures" that is going on. The teams are engaged in a pissing contest, which is a clash of two cultures that really aren't that different except sportswriters feel the need to differentiate them in order to better write a column.

The Dodgers invited comedian Will Ferrell on field to proclaim Greinke Wednesday’s “winning pitcher.” One problem: Ferrell’s act took place before the game with the Cardinals standing at the dugout rail.

Ferrell is a comedian. The joke is funny because the game had not been played yet. Learn to sip a crisp, cool Budweiser after eating barbeque spare ribs and take a joke. Yes, that is a picture of Will Ferrell endorsing Bud Light, which is a beer made by Budweiser, which is a company founded by a member of the Busch family, and Busch Stadium (III) is the name of the ballpark the Cardinals play in. Mind. Blown.

But anyway, back to talking about how the Cardinals culture isn't like the Dodgers Hollywood culture.

Hey, baseball is the primary religion in Our Town. Out here it’s a place to be seen, maybe flash some gang signs on the matrix and bat a beach ball. 

"Out here" is Los Angeles and the irony of Joe Strauss talking about gang signs in Los Angeles while writing for a St. Louis newspaper is delicious. Apparently Joe Strauss has never been to East St. Louis (which I have) and it's a place where you can see quite a few gang signs thrown or perhaps the occasional murder if that's your thing.

The Cardinals boast about the “best fans in baseball.” The Dodgers prefer to boast of the coolest ones. Something’s got to give.

“There are two completely different styles of baseball. That’s probably the best way I can put it,” said Cardinals second baseman Matt Carpenter. “We’re two very different teams. That’s really all there is to it.”

Oh, so the players for the Cardinals and Dodgers don't think their two teams are very much alike? Well, that changes everything because baseball players are so smart and all.

Gonzalez pimped the blast by flipping his bat. Then, as he approached the dugout, A-Gon held his thumbs to each ear and wiggled his fingers, the unmistakable sign of Mouse Ears.

“I mean, to me, if you can’t have fun out there in these situations, then you shouldn’t be out there,” he said afterward.

It's also hilarious to me that Joe Strauss is painting Adrian Gonzalez as this emotional, bravado-driven baseball player while Dan Shaughnessy took great pains to paint Gonzalez as unemotional and seemingly lacking any type of ability to care about his performance. I guess a sportswriter paints Gonzalez however he sees fit at that moment in order to prove the point he wants to prove.

Asked if the move might incite the Cardinals, Gonzalez continued, “I don’t see it that way. I think you (media) guys are building it up more than anything. 

Well, I've said sarcastically baseball players aren't smart. Still, I think Gonzalez is actually right.

The Dodgers have nothing to lose except one more game. If they sense that their style agitates their opponent, why not go with it?

Catcher A.J. Ellis, a Missouri native, voiced his respect for the Cardinals and their tradition. But that’s hardly an apology for the Dodgers’ up-front style.

Ellis is from Missouri, so obviously he respects the Cardinals, but he has betrayed the One True Way to play baseball by choosing to play for the Dodgers. May he burn in Hell with Will Ferrell.

The Cardinals would rather keep their irritation among themselves and close out the series.

But when sacred unwritten rules are being broken with such bravado, the Cardinals just have to say something about it.

On Monday Puig loafed out of the box on what he thought was a home run. When it bounced off the wall, Puig made third base standing despite clapping and pointing on the way.

Puig’s Tuesday offense was dramatizing a high, inside fourth-inning pitch from Lance Lynn. Some Cardinals lit into him so loudly after Tuesday’s ninth-inning double play that others in uniform called them off the rail.

These fucking Latinos. Taking our jobs, illegally immigrating to this country, and now having the audacity to publicly celebrate their achievements. I'm glad the Cardinals are around to stop this madness from continuing and standing up for what is right and good in baseball. There's no room in baseball for excessive celebrating and ridiculous dancing around. 

It found him again in Wednesday’s ninth inning when Puig apparently lost Matt Holliday’s fly ball in the sun, overran it then acted as if he’d been asked to pick up someone else’s garbage. 

Which is what these Latino players should be doing instead of not playing the game of baseball the right way, amirightorwhat Joe? Go be a garbage man Yasiel Puig and don't forget to send some money back home to your family. You shouldn't play baseball if you can't play the game the right way. 

Even several teammates were incensed enough to scold Puig in private.

“That’s the learning. He has to learn. It’s tough to learn,” said ex-Cardinal Skip Schumaker, now a Dodgers reserve outfielder. Schumaker obviously has been exposed to both clubhouse cultures. “But very rarely do you see him make the same mistake twice. You say, ‘Go in hard on someone and don’t veer off,’ the next time he goes in hard on someone. It’s not frustrating because he does soak it in.”

It does sound from these comments that Puig was scolded pretty harshly and Schumaker is very incensed.

“He wants to be the guy, and that’s great,” Schumaker said. “How could you not want him to be the man? It’s a great thing. I wouldn’t want to take that away from him.”

The anger at Puig in Schumaker's voice is palpable.

Notice how this column has slowly turned into another anti-Puig column? The Dodgers bravado is basically just Yasiel Puig with a little bit of help from Adrian Gonzalez. Other than that, the narrative fails, but that won't ever stop guys like Joe Strauss from desperately clinging to it.

It’s the difference between where Skip sat last October and where he sits this October. It’s the same game viewed through different prisms.

Every baseball clubhouse is different and has a different culture, but the Dodgers and the Cardinals aren't as different as Joe Strauss wants them to be.

Never one to ignore a contrived and lazy narrative, Bob Nightengale jumps on the "difference in cultures" train. Again, it's not a shock. Nightengale is probably one of the laziest columnists when it comes to piggybacking narratives and I'm not sure I've ever read one of his columns and found his viewpoint to be in any way original.

The St. Louis Cardinals spent the past week watching all the antics. The Mickey Mouse gestures. The home-run pimping. The umpire staredowns. Even the screaming actors.

Thank God they get to go back to St. Louis where the Cardinals players can home-run pimp and celebrate on their own field. The Cardinals are wealth of purity in the world that contains filth from Los Angeles like Mickey Mouse. Mickey Mouse is nothing but a drug abusing, chain-smoking corporate whore.

The Cardinals actually felt ambivalent toward the Los Angeles Dodgers at the start of this National League Championship Series, but five games later, can't stand the sight of them.

And of course this isn't immature at all, because the Cardinals are good and the Dodgers are evil. So while it may seem immature to whine another team celebrates too much, it's fine in this situation because the Dodgers are all about themselves while the Cardinals play a team game of baseball. You know, it's really too bad the Cardinals have an All-Star catcher already because Brian McCann would fit in really well with them.

This isn't just about flying another pennant in their stadium - their fourth in 10 years - or having the opportunity to win their 12th World Series championship.

Oh no, now it is personal. Before the Cardinals were all like,

"Yeah, we'd like to make it to another World Series, but whatever. It would be good, but we're just happy the tradition of baseball being played the right way continues. That's what is really important."

But now it's personal and the Cardinals are all like,

"If you are going to celebrate beating us and dare to show outward emotion, then we are going to also enjoy beating you. Winning the World Series was important, but not all that important before, but now everything has changed. We are angry the Dodgers are disrespecting baseball by being happy and showing it. This isn't a children's song, it's baseball, if you are happy and you know it, then don't clap your hands."

It's about the responsibility of upholding tradition.

Yeah, the Dodgers have a pretty good tradition too. Winning six World Series titles, integrating the majors, and Vin Scully.

But of course (puts on a serious voice) the tradition must be upheld. What tradition is this again Bob?

It's for old-time baseball.

Ah...old-time baseball. I've seen the Dodgers play quite a bit this past year and the type of baseball they appear to be play is old-time baseball. They have pitchers who pitch the baseball, fielders who field the baseball, and hitters who hit the baseball.

They want to show this generation, that yes, it's still hip to be square.

This is the worst. I want to gouge my eyes out.

"This is St. Louis, we have values here,'' said Brian Schwarze, 32. "My grandfather used to always tell me, 'This is a gentleman's game. You play the game right.'

My grandfather used to tell me games and sports are stupid and I need to focus on things that matter like world events and making a difference in my community. Welp, he's dead and I'm watching baseball still, littering everywhere I can in order to destroy the environment, and I miss him. Wait, what are we talking about again?

"If he were alive watching what LA did, he'd be shaking his head.''

Which would be fine as long as he doesn't shake his head in a demonstrative manner. THAT'S AN OUTRAGEOUS OUTBURST AND UNNECESSARY!

Schwarze just so happens to be the grandson of Stan Musial.

Stan "The Man'' Musial, baseball's perfect warrior, whose statue stands prominently outside the gates of Busch Stadium.

No one has been revered here like Musial, who died in January.

Let's tone down the hyperbole just a little bit when calling Stan Musial "baseball's perfect warrior." He was a great player, a great guy and deserves to be revered. Calling him's a bit much.

Imagine Musial's reaction watching Dodgers rookie Yasiel Puig hit a ball to right field, throw his arms into the air, admiring what he believed was a homer, only to run the bases for a triple, and celebrate again?

Or first baseman Adrian Gonzalez hitting the first of his two home runs Wednesday, flipping his bat, returning to the dugout, and wiggling his fingers by his ears, impersonating Mickey Mouse?

I don't know what Stan Musial would have against Mickey Mouse, but the reason Gonzalez wiggled his fingers by his ears is because a Cardinals player said the Dodgers engage in "Mickey Mouse" crap. So the Cardinals really got that impersonation started by making this comment.

"My grandfather wasn't controversial, but what if Bob Gibson was on the mound,'' Schwarze said. "(Puig) never would have made third base, because Gibson would have run around the bases and tackled him.

"That stuff takes away from the game. That's not baseball.'' celebrating a good hit or arguing with an umpire is not baseball, but tackling a player prior to the player reaching third base IS baseball? If anything takes away from the game, it is a pitcher tackling a hitter before that hitter reaches third base. That's definitely not baseball.

They'd like to know if everything, even the crowd noise, have to be fake in Southern California. Do fans really have to be instructed when to scream as if they're a game-show audience? Can't anything on the scoreboard be shown besides fans acting crazy, dance contests, and kiss cams?

I don't know, ask the Cardinals.

See, that's the best part about this lazy narrative. It's just so absolutely lazy and indefensible a writer has to absolutely ignore obvious evidence that doesn't further his claim in order to follow the narrative. Before writing whether anything can be shown on the board other than fans acting crazy or kiss cams Nightengale doesn't even have the energy to do an Internet search and think, "Maybe I should make sure the Cardinals don't do a kiss cam before I write there is more to baseball than just that." Because, dammit, Bob Nightengale doesn't care. This is his narrative and he is going to continue to follow it regardless of whether it is factually true or not. Sports journalism today everyone! The truth will always take a backseat to a narrative.

The Cardinals would never engage in ridiculousness, because they are all about the game of baseball and won't do anything that takes away from the game.

Schwarze, who went to Los Angeles with three of his buddies to watch Games 3 and 4, couldn't even enjoy being a regular fan.

Schwarze wore his jersey with Musial stitched across the back, at Dodger Stadium. He wouldn't have minded good-natured ribbing from Dodgers fans, but the reaction he received, he said, bordered on horrific.

"I walked through the parking lot, and people were yelling at me,'' Schwarze said, "saying they were going to kill me.

We've already sort of been through this before with Dodgers fans. They have a reputation for being crazy. I would never excuse the behavior of fans who threaten to kill someone for wearing the opposing team's jersey, that's not excusable. I will say, after the Bryan Stow incident I would be very careful to not wear an opposing team's jersey to a Dodgers game. In general, I probably wouldn't wear an opposing team's jersey to any sporting event, because it's an easy way to draw the wrong kind of attention.

"People kept telling me, 'You better take that (expletive) thing off.' People were throwing popcorn,

Oh no, not popcorn. Were there any severe injuries?

"Can you imagine that happening in St. Louis? There were even two police officers on horses in the parking lot looking for trouble. One of the officers said, 'You OK? I said, "Yeah, except for everyone hassling me.

"And they just laughed.''

I don't really care if Brian Schwarze is Stan Musial's grandson. It doesn't make him more important in my mind, so to the police officers he was just a guy wearing a Dodgers jersey getting harassed. More importantly, it's not illegal to hassle someone for wearing the opposing team's jersey. Did Schwarze want the police to ride off on their horses and arrest someone for hassling another person? It's not like Schwarze said these people were threatening to kill him or were trying to harm him in some way. He just said Dodgers fans were hassling him, which isn't illegal and isn't grounds to be arrested.

Considering St. Louis is one of the most dangerous cities in the country, then yes, I imagine this could happen in St. Louis. Also, it's pretty clear St. Louis cops aren't arresting people for simply harassing someone wearing an opposing team's jersey in Busch Stadium (III).

Just like everyone laughed at the Dodgers' antics, believing it's now cool to flip your bat and showboat around the bases.

"Nobody would laugh in St. Louis if someone acted like that," insists Schwarze.

My God, Brian Schwarze feels like he would be an intolerable person to know. He's the typical high-and-mighty Cardinals fan that has caused the fan base to get so much backlash.

Times are changing. Fans want to be entertained - or at least teams perceive as much. Ballparks have become entertainment venues on grass.

Yet here, where Clydesdales still trot the field, the Cardinals are trying to preserve tradition.

I hope the Clydesdales don't accidentally step on the Rally Squirrel.

The Dodgers are a personal affront to the Cardinals' value system, and they're going to do everything in their power to assure that style isn't celebrated in the World Series.

At least the Cardinals weren't being uptight dipshits about the Dodgers celebrating. Because we all know the Cardinals would never celebrate or take part in silly dances. This narrative is so tiring.

Beat the Dodgers, and send them back to Disneyland, where their escapades can be appreciated.

The Cardinals will take the stage at the World Series, representing the National League, and reminding the baseball world that old-school tradition remains alive and well.

Follow that narrative! I just feel bad Bob Nightengale will have to pursue other narratives during the World Series when the Cardinals face the Red Sox. I'm sure he will find what other sportswriters are writing about and then write his own "beards v. tradition" column. Nightengale is lazy like that.

"This is a big responsibility,'' Matheny says, "we've got a lot to take care of.''

At least you aren't being over-dramatic about it. It's sad to hear the Cardinals players are buying into this "bravado v. tradition" narrative, but I guess it's easy to do this when the media is making them look so good when reality shows there isn't such a huge distinction between them and the Dodgers. 


Snarf said...

It's also hilarious to me that Joe Strauss is painting Adrian Gonzalez as this emotional, bravado-driven baseball player while Dan Shaughnessy took great pains to paint Gonzalez as unemotional and seemingly lacking any type of ability to care about his performance. I guess a sportswriter paints Gonzalez however he sees fit at that moment in order to prove the point he wants to prove.

"I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different [media outlets] project their own [shitty narratives]."

-The Audacity of Hope
By Adrian Gonzalez

Bengoodfella said...

Snarf, haha. Gonzalez is whatever the person writing about him wants to be. Shaughnessy like him and compared him to Ted Williams, when he didn't like him he was unemotional and non-caring, and then when Gonzalez plays for the Dodgers he's outlandish and doesn't play the game the right way.

Anonymous said...

Watching the game last night, I got very confused. Some of the Cardinal players had beards! I thought they were the nice boys and the Red Sox were the ruffians.

Ericb said...

These writers are close to achieving what I thought was impossible, making the Red Sox the more sympathetic team in the World Series.

Bengoodfella said...

Anon, it is very confusing. The Cardinals players are the traditional team, though they may also have beards. The Red Sox are the team of scruffy players who also play the game of baseball in a traditional fashion.

Eric, I thought that may happen too. So I watched the game and then decided I guess I want the Cardinals to win, but I overwhelmingly don't seem to care as much either way. I'm 51% Cardinals, but I almost leaned towards the Red Sox.

Anonymous said...

Bob Nightengale?? Come on. This website should be called, "Shooting Fish in a Barrel."

Bengoodfella said...

Anon, I could easily rename it that if you would like. Sometimes it's easy to mock the writers. I take no pride in the ease with which I can mock Bob Nightengale. Sometimes the best sportswriters to cover are the most obvious ones.

The thing about Nightengale I think that makes it so easy to mock him is he really doesn't seem to have an original thought. Everything he writes can be found somewhere else on the Internet. It's like he finds the dumbest topic that will get the most pageviews and half-asses write a column about it.