Sports

Farewell, Vin. And Thanks for All the Memories

If you're connected at all with the baseball world, you're probably aware that Vin Scully will soon be retiring as the broadcaster for the Los Angeles Dodgers.  I grew up as both a Dodger fan (thanks in part to the free tickets I got from the Herald Examiner for getting good grades in school) and as a Vin Scully fan.  My team loyalties shifted over the years as I moved away and as the team that I knew (Russel-Lopes-Garvey-Cey) moved on in their careers.  But  I never stopped loving to hear Vin Scully's broadcasts.

I didn't know how good I had it as an Angeleno at the time.  In baseball we had Vin Scully.  Dick Enberg ("Oh my!") broadcast the Ram games (in their first LA incarnation). Chick Hearn (too many quotes to list, but "mustard off the hot dog" comes first to mind) held forth with LA Laker games (with, at one point, an assistant named Pat Riley).  But as Dick Enberg became a national figure, and as I moved away and experienced other announcers, I realized how special it was to listen to this group.

I had thought I would put together a tribute to Vin, but others have done such a good job I'm going to just reference them here, with a couple of thoughts.

This piece from Jayson Stark at ESPN is very good.  And there's this video from MLB.  So just a couple of thoughts.  My favorite quote from the MLB video: "For many Angelenos he's the soundtrack of our lives."

  • Vin understood never to get in the way of the game.  His best example of this, and one of my clearest memories, was his call of the Henry Aaron home run to break the record then held by Babe Ruth.  Al Downing was pitching, and Vin made the call as Aaron smashed a pitch over the fence.  And then (as Jon Miller, who I am now blessed to hear) recalled in the ESPN piece, Vin said... nothing. Silence.  For several minutes.  Silence in radio is death, but in this case Vin hit it perfectly.  There was nothing to add and he just let us experience the moment.
  • Vin's voice and tempo was so melodious, it wrapped around you like a warm blanket.  He could create a sense of drama in just announcing the next batter.  I remember thinking that I could get up and get a beer from the fridge before he was finished announcing that "Willllbuh Starrrrgelll" was coming to the plate.
  • Vin didn't just announce the game; for many of us he was the game (though to this day, he insists that it's not about him).  As noted in the MLB video, fans would go to the ball game and still be listening to Vinnie on their transistor radios.  It was as if the game didn't happen until Vin described it.
  • Vin emphasized LA's position in any game, but we was no "homer."  For Vin, he transmitted his love of baseball through his narration.  You could hate LA, but you couldn't hate Vin.  Even after moving to Stanford, I would still try to tune in late evenings to LA radio stations to see if I could find Vin on the radio.
  • Last, Vin always made you feel like a welcome guest, whether this was your first or hundredth time listening to the broadcast.  He was like a favorite uncle, that you couldn't wait to visit.

Typical of Vin, he has announced that he will not stay on to announce any Dodger games past the end of the regular season.  He has said that he feels like he's already had his "farewell tour" and doesn't want to reprise it in the playoffs.  In typical fashion, he's concerned that he doesn't overshadow the players on the field.

So thank you Vin, for all the great times.  There are other very good announcers out there, but there will never be another one like you.  So I'll wait with a smile for one last "Hi everybody!"  And if I'm lucky, I'll get to hear his, "back, back, a-waaay back" home run call, kind of like this one.


Groundhog Day

Department of Obscure References

5:40 AM.  We're two-thirds of the way through "bodypump" class, working on our back routine. "Squat! Jump!" yells the instructor.  We go into a squat, then jump up onto the platform they use in Jazzercise class. After a dozen or so of these, we add in the "power" move, thrusting our arms into the air as we jump up onto the platform.  Something about this move seems familiar...

Rushing the Punter

Senior year of high school.  We're at the tail end of the football season, playing St. Genevieve's, and we're losing big.  Both teams have sent in the second string, which is why I'm in playing defensive end/strong side linebacker.  The coaches on both sides would probably be happy if we just played out the clock and got in without any serious injuries.  Of course the second string offense for St. Genevieve's has other ideas.

Their offense has pulled off a couple of big running plays, and we're backed up on our own five yard line with a minute or so to go in the game.  On first down, St. Genevieve runs into the center of the line, for no gain.  On second down, they run a weak-side sweep, and lose a couple of yards.

Now it's third down.  I line up over the tight end.  The ball is snapped and the tight end stands up to pass block, which is my key to rush the quarterback.  The tight end drops to the ground and tries to cut-block me. I avoid the cut block and see the quarterback looking past me--it's a pass to the wide receiver in the corner of the end zone. I get my hands up as the pass flies over me and just out of the reach of the wide receiver.

Fourth down.  St. Genevieve doesn't line up for a field goal; they're going for the end zone.  The tight end again lines up on their right side, like he did on third down.  The ball is snapped, the tight end stands up to block, and I immediately know they're running the same play.  I don't step in to rush the quarterback at all.  Instead I squat as low as I can, throw up my arms, and jump as high in the air as I can go.  The quarterback has executed the run fake and turns to throw to the wide receiver in the corner of the end zone.  He doesn't realize I've already read the play, and throws the ball right toward me as I'm jumping into the air.

The ball goes right between my hands, as if I had made a target for the quarterback to throw the ball through.  Our cornerback tips the ball away, and the game is over.  After the game, my teammates tell me how close I was to catching that ball.  They say that if I had intercepted the pass, there was no one between me and the end zone at the other end of the field.  It's nice to imagine running into the end zone, scoring a touchdown.  Realistically, someone would have chased me down after twenty or thirty yards.

Back at the gym.  I'm finishing the last of my power squat-jumps when I make the connection.  With every jump, with every look at my hands over my head, I realize that I'm still trying to make that interception.  I'm not one to live in the past, but these power squat-jumps keep taking me back to what might have been.

Like Sysiphus rolling his boulder up the hill, it appears to be my fate to forever jump for that pass.  I may never catch that ball, but that won't stop me from trying.


Product Managers on the Road, Capitol Edition

One of our largest customers, a group of agricultural research centers, held the annual meeting of their IT Managers in early May, in Washington, DC.  I was invited to attend so that I could provide an update on a pilot Active Directory project we were conducting, and to give a talk on Microsoft's direction with respect to cloud computing.  Naturally, this meant an opportunity for another "Product Managers on the Road" edition!

Travel Day.  Flight leaves at 6 AM... yeesh. At least I have a car taking me to the airport.  Brian's with me, since he came out to make a surprise visit to Sean during Sean's chemotherapy treatment.

After saying goodbye to Brian (he's on a different flight back to DC) I head to the gate.  Okay... it's a 737 with only paid amenities.  Time to stock up on some nuts and dried fruit for the flight. I send a couple of text messages to Sean to see how he's feeling.

It's a full flight, and naturally everyone is attempting to carry their life's possessions onto the flight.  They were taking volunteers to gate-check bags; a great way to check your bags for free.

On the plane. The passenger ahead of me is falling asleep, and keeps snapping her neck as her head drops forward.  Reminds me of me at the opera.

Good news: there's a monitor in the seat back.  Bad news: I can't turn it off.  Welcome to six hours of the same Lincoln car commercial.  Or I could pay to watch network TV shows, with commercials. Wait, what?

Dante, who's traveling with me, finds the oldest Peruvian restaurant in DC.  I get to experience aji, a kind of all-purpose hot sauce.  I stupidly ask Dante if he's ever had Peruvian food, forgetting that Dante is from Peru

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Niner fans--you never know where they'll turn up. 

Meeting Day One.  At the IT Managers meeting.  I learn a new term when one of the IT Managers says he is going to “throw a spanner in the works.”

Many of the IT Managers here are European.  Maybe that's why they commented that today's hot meal is "a real lunch" compared with yesterday's cold sandwiches.  I also notice a reluctance to eat in the meeting room, even though there are more places to sit there.  This is certainly different than a startup!  There's also a bit of the "Microsoft as Evil Empire" feeling in the room.  How long until Google attains that status?

Good news: the Golden State Warriors' playoff game is on TNT! Bad news: there's no sound.  I get to watch the entire game, including two overtimes, on forced mute.  Steph Curry's face at the end of the game says, "can we just get this over?"

Meeting Day Two.  During one of the smoking breaks (!) I observe the commotion as a group of people are trying to feed/protect a duck they find nesting in the flowers.  The contrast in attention paid to the duck vs. the homeless guy panhandlng nearby is perfect.

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Yes, that's a duck nesting in the planter outside the building I was visiting.

Dante and I get to leave the meeting early.  So I take Dante to see the Capitol Building.  We're walking, and when I feel the first couple of raindrops we head for shelter.  Good thing--the skies open up for 10 minutes or more.  We end up taking a taxi the rest of the way to the Capitol building.  Of course, the rain stops as soon as we arrive.

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This is outside the World Bank, one of our customers.  But I took the photo because the logo reminded me of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Huh?

Looking for a cab after out Capitol visit.  Thanks to a kind taxi driver, I learn where to stand (and where not to stand) if you're looking for a cab, in the rain, at 5:00 PM.

Evening off.  Brian and I had planned to go see the Washington Nationals play, but I already have one experience getting rained on while watching them, so we change plans.  We end up getting some great seafood, including, oysters we've never heard of before, at Hank's Oyster Bar in Georgetown.  Then it's over to a 60s style bar for a drink.  I feel like I'm in some sort of James Bond movie.

Day Three.  Visiting another customer, have some time before my appointment.  The weather's cleared up a bit, so I take a stroll near the White House and then back to where I had been staying.  I decide I'd better eat now, since I may use up all my lunch time walking back to my hotel.  I grab a hot dog and find a bench to sit and eat.

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I can only imagine the advice McKinsey gave this vendor: "diversify!"

Now back to the hotel, to check out and go to my next appointment. 

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I found the food trucks.  Too bad I already ate lunch!

A great meeting with my customer, now on to the airport and back home... As Brian had told me, Thursday afternoon is the worst time to fly out of Dulles; all the Congress-people are headed back home for the weekend.  So everything takes longer, and my plan to change into casual clothes before the flight is for naught.  I have just enough time to get to the gate and hand them my ticket.  And who do I run into (almost literally) at the gate? Jackie Speier.  Brian interned for Jackie when he first went to Washington, so it was great to catch up with her and let her know what Brian is doing these days.

Late-night arrival in SFO.  Fortunately, I have a car taking me home so I can doze off.  Great trip, great fun with Brian and co, great customer interactions!

 

 

 

 

 

 


Bowl Mania

This just in from the We Couldn't Make This Up If We Tried department…

Remember when the Orange Bowl was called the Orange Bowl? And not the Tostito's Meineke Chick-fil-A GoDaddy.com Orange Bowl presented by Hardy's? Yeah, me neither. But just for fun, here's a listing of this season's bowl games, deconstructed. I've separated the bowl sponsor name from the bowl name (many no longer have a distinct name) and scrambled the order. So see if you can correctly match them up! Or just click the "I Don't Care" button and have another glass of champagne. Be careful, there are some ringers in each column!

Sponsor

Bowl Name

Auto Zone

Orange

Meineke Care Care

Sugar

Chic-fil-A

Bluebonnet

Hyundai

Sun

Allstate

Holiday

GoDaddy.com

Rose

Tostitos

Cotton

Capital One

Alamo

Progressive

Liberty

Outback

Fiesta

TicketCity

Gator

BBVA Compass

(blank)

Kraft Fight Hunger

Independence

Beef 'O' Brady

Humanitarian

New Mexico

Poinsettia

Champs Sports

Las Vegas

MAACO

Insight

Little Caesar's

Music City

AdvoCare V100

Armed Forces

Sheraton

Pinstripe

uDrove

Texas

Bell Helicopter

Military

New Era

New Orleans

Valero

Emerald

Franklin American Mortgage

St. Petersburg

Bridgepoint Education

Hawaii

R&L Carriers

BCS National Championship Game

Northrup Grumman

Student-Athlete


It Takes a Big Man...

Stuff I Was Wrong About

  • WMD's
  • Iraq's political stability after the fall of Sadam Hussein
  • The integrity of a couple of executives
  • Enron's role in the California energy crisis
  • The staying power of South Park
  • The safety of the Space Shuttle
  • Bush=Gore
  • What was "juiced" in baseball
  • Where the fish would be hiding

Stuff I Was Right About

  • Multimedia and the timing of "voice-data convergence"
  • Al Davis' motivations
  • The .com bubble
  • The safety of the Space Shuttle
  • The RIAA's inability to prevent illegal music downloads
  • Joe Montana's touchdown pass to John Taylor in Super Bowl XXVII


And Another Thing (Baseball Edition)

Yes, it's been a long time.  Hey, I've been busy OK?  Lots of stuff in development, but you'll just have to wait.  But this stuff, I just have to get it off my chest so I can move on to stuff that Really Matters.

  • Opening Day.  When was opening day in baseball this year? And do we add or subtract a day for crossing the international dateline to play in Japan?  Hey, I'm all for playing an exhibition in Japan (once the owners were made to cough up salary for the non-playing personnel--what, were they just supposed to commute?).  That's not my beef.  No, I want to know when I missed the memo.  You know, the one that says the Cincinnati Reds will no longer play the first game on Opening Day... like they have for a hundred years before Marge Schott got a hold of the team.  Whose bright idea was that?
  • The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  I've got no problem with artistic license when it comes to linking the team and the city.  After all, no one cares that the New York (Football) Giants and Jets play in New Jersey.  But come on!  First of all, this is an insult to the original Los Angeles Angels (of Los Angeles).  Yeah, they stank (think, the LA Clippers of baseball) but they gave you someone to root for if you didn't care for the Dodgers.  And I realize that for many people "Los Angeles" and "Southern California" (aka "the southland") are synonymous... Kind of like those New Yorker posters that showed a map of the US consisting of New York, a tiny tower about Chicago's distance, and then "LA".  But any Angeleno would scoff at the idea of confusing Anaheim with Los Angeles.  The "Big A" (brought to you by whoever bought the naming rights) is at least three freeway interchanges from anywhere in Los Angeles proper, so ipso facto it can't be in Los Angeles.  But I know why they came up with this name:  ESPN.  And specifically, ESPN's use of three-letter abbreviations when showing the box score on the "crawl" during their telecasts.  That's when the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim--LAAOA--become the Los Angeles Angels, LAA.  Suddenly, they've left their suburban past behind! A new stadium can't be far behind!  I say, call them the Angels of Anaheim:  AOA.  It conjures up images of KOA Kampgrounds (no, they're not German.  Someone thought camping in a dirt lot would seem more quaint if they spelled "campground" with a "k".) and AAA, who you'll need to call when you run out of gas idling on the Golden State Freeway in the post-game traffic jam.
  • Jose Canseco.  Andy Warhol said something about how we all get our fifteen minutes of fame, and I'm trying to find out whose fifteen minutes Jose is stealing--again.  If Jose's original kiss-and-tell book on steroid use in baseball helped lead to cleaning up the sport, then good for him.  But what's with the "oops, I forgot to mention so and so" follow up book?  Jose now thinks he's a national hero and we should all rush out and buy his new book... come on!  This is the guy that let a fly ball bounce off his head and into the stands for a ground rule double instead of an out.  Worse, this is the guy who asked to pitch as a reliever, got shelled (no surprise there) and injured his shoulder in the process!  What kind of judgment does that represent?  To paraphrase the saying, "how can we miss you if you won't go away?"

Jumping the Shark Bowl

On this day after the Iowa Caucuses, when the seers, media, and other talking heads (with apologies to the Talking Heads) try to divine the meaning of Obama and Huckabee victories... And I'm sorry, I just can't vote for Mike Huckabee as my President--I can't envision "President Huckabee".

Yes, on this day I choose to discuss another weighty matter--what's wrong with college football bowl games.  This isn't a post about the need for a playoff system (no matter how much order that would introduce into college football betting).  No, I have a more mundane issue--when did we give up any semblance of independence from corporate sponsorships?

I'll admit I'm a bit of a traditionalist on this.  I liked the Rose Bowl Pac 10-Big 10 (plus or minus) matchup just fine, thank you.  But I was willing to change with the times; it was kind of fun to talk about the Poulan Weedeater Citrus Bowl.

But this year, I saw few Oranges, Astro-Bluebonnets, Fiesta's, Sugar's or any other "independent" bowls.  Instead, it was the Outback Bowl, Insight Bowl, Emerald Bowl (apparently for the nut, not the color of SF Bay... of course, after that oil spill it wasn't emerald anyway).  There may have even been a dot-com bowl in there somewhere [wait! an infusion of capital! let's blow it on a bowl sponsorship!].

I say that this crass commercialism, together with the sheer number of games (there's probably a Web 2.0 company right now helping us organize them all for viewing), not to mention the lack of exciting play (for any but alumni) all points to a "jumping the shark" moment for college football.

Time to focus on lacrosse!