Dan McQuade: November 2009 Archives

Air Bud, Defender of Freedom

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We all learned in late April that the greatest baseball movie of all time is Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch. I mean, a dog wins World Series MVP at the end of it! What more do you want? (Amazingly, in the third Air Bud movie, Air Bud: World Pup, Air Bud replaces Brianna Scurry in goal after she's injured during a penalty shootout. He makes the winning save and the U.S. wins the Women's World Cup, despite the clear rule violation of using a male dog.)

But I digress (obviously). Sometime over the summer, reader Brian sent me an email letting me know about a little bonus tidbit in my Seventh Inning Fetch review. Look closely at the date on the newspaper screencap, he wrote. I complied, and found this shocking piece of data.

cinema.airbud.tammy.911.jpg

Holy crap! There are a couple of possible explanations for this.

  • It's simply a really weird coincidence. Eh, this is no fun.
  • The paper's a weekly, and prints on a Monday with a Wednesday date. This one doesn't work, either; the paper clearly has a "daily" price in the corner.
  • The front page has all the news about the horrible terrorist attack, and this is just the sports section. This one sort of doesn't work: Every newspaper was pretty much all 9/11 coverage that day; even sports sections were full of stories like, "How will 9/11 effect the NFL?"

That brings us to two possibilities:

  • It's an incredibly awesome sick joke put in to a kids' movie by someone who worked on Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch. Considering the movie came out in June 2002, it was maybe still a little early for 9/11 themed-humor -- which makes this little hidden joke all the more amazing. If this were true, my opinion of Seventh Inning Fetch would go from "best movie of the decade" to "best film in history."
  • In the Air Buddyverse, the 9/11 terrorist attacks didn't happen. Since Air Bud inhabits a world just like ours, one can only assume that Air Bud stopped the terrorist attacks. I'm not quite sure how. Maybe he bit Osama bin Laden or barked really loudly at Mohammad Atta? The real Air Bud (the one who could actually shoot basketballs) died after the first movie. If only we could have saved him!

Incidentally, there's a new Air Bud movie (the ninth) just out, although it's part of the Air Buddies spinoff series. Santa Buddies: The Legend of Santa Paws, with George Wendt, Christopher Lloyd, Richard Kind, Tom Bosley and Tim Conway, came out yesterday. No word if there are any 9/11 jokes in it.

wow.annabensonclaus.jpg With retailers already stocking Christmas decorations and Christmas specials already airing on TV, it's time your friends at Walkoff Walk got into the act! Let's kick off the Christmas season by mercilessly mocking this article from MLB.com about the Virtual Catalog.

It's that time of year
When the world falls in love...

When the Virtual Catalog launches at the MLB.com Shop -- signaling the official start to another season of holiday shopping.

I swear this is the actual opening to an article about what overpriced products you should buy from Major League Baseball this Christmas.

When you put out the Forever Collectibles Holiday Decor. It's still early so let's get right to those ornaments, snow globes, stockings, candy canes and whatever else you might need to get your home into holiday mode -- baseball-style. It's what many of your fellow fans are doing right this second, and these essentials start at only $14.99.

Forget the recession, people. This year, you're going to give all your money to Major League Baseball and its related properties. I mean, really: What sport goes better with early winter holidays than baseball!

When you need the official site to be sure, when you know it's safe and easy, when you need help navigating the upcoming shipping deadlines. The MLB.com Shop will make it easy for you to manage these. Guaranteed To Get There reminders will keep you organized if you push things to the deadline, as so many of us do.

Holy crap, he's still going on the "Christmas Waltz" theme. Yes, that Carpenters' song really does have a lot to do with Guaranteed To Get There Reminders. I am also extremely excited that MLB.com will be there for me just in case I push things to the last minute, as many of us often do.

When a new World Champion drives the momentum, and that is happening right now with the much-anticipated "27 Collection" arriving at the MLB.com Shop. Order the Yankees 27-Time World Series Champions cap or maybe a 27-Time Dynasty T-shirt. The line that will feature fleece, tees, fitted caps, jackets and hoody items, adding to the largest selection of title products in sports history.

I have to tell you, I've been anticipating this 27 Collection for months now. I was all, "Man, I hope the Yankees win the World Series, because then there might be a collection of merchandise involving the number 27." I am impressed that it's the largest selection of title products in sports history, too; last year I bought a pair of Philadelphia Phillies World Series Champion pajama pants. What other products could they have added?

You'll be happy to know the Carpenters' parody is over, and it's time for some marketing-speak.

"The idea behind this is to own Black Friday as far as licensed sports apparel is concerned," Howard Smith, senior vice president of licensing at Major League Baseball Properties, told Sports Business Journal. "None of us really imagined 27 would be what consumers would be focusing on, but since it is, that's where our focus will be."

Hey! Howard Smith! Did you just see what I wrote above? I've been hoping for 27-themed championship apparel since at least July. I am a marketing genius! Hire me! You'd be able to own Black Friday every year, even if it doesn't fall on a day that's coincidentally the same number of World Series championships the Yankees have won. (Last year's Phillies "November 2" sale was a bit too early.)

It's that time of year...

Oh, I'm sorry. Did I say the "Christmas Waltz" parody was over? Ha. It actually continues for 15 more paragraphs, one of which is just, "When babies enter the baseball fold." (Yes, on MLB's site the word "babies" links to baby apparel, but c'mon.) Other exciting products include a Hideki Matsui 2009 World Series MVP Mini Dirt Collage. Is dirt (sorry, "game-used dirt") really all that exciting?

Let's just go to the last paragraph.

Right now, baseball season has given way to holiday shopping season. The Virtual Catalog is here. Soon enough it will be Black Friday, leading right into that wonderful Cyber Monday excitement on Nov. 30, and then one shipping deadline after another on into the magical holidays of December, when the presents are unwrapped.

That's about right. If you're wondering, it is, in order: baseball, holiday shopping, the Holiday of Black Friday, the Holiday of Cyber Monday, shipping deadline #1, shipping deadline #2, magical holidays of December. And pretty soon, it'll be time for Spring Training!

ad.council.baseball.replay.jpg

An umpire's job is difficult and thankless. Thanks to the miracle of instant replay, however, we also know an umpire's job is also incredibly easy to screw up, even at the highest level (Major League Baseball) at the most important time (the playoffs).

Earlier this year, I called for expanded instant replay (and maybe even an automated strike zone) after the umps blew the call on the play of the year. We've had home runs replayed for a year and a half now; it seems to have gone pretty well. Without replay, A-Rod's World Series homer remains a double, Cole Hamels doesn't implode, and the Phillies win in five. (Perhaps this is a bit of conjecture on my part.)

But the stupidest thing about baseball replay (and pro football, and the NBA) is that the referees themselves have to go over to a television and make the decisions themselves. In baseball, they have to go run down the dugout steps to go watch the replay on a little hut. In football, they have a ridiculous hood.

Instant replay systems in American sports seem to be designed with one goal in mind: Let's not hurt the official's feelings. This is stupid. If an ump or ref doesn't want his feelings hurt, he can either (a) realize officiating is hard and live with making mistakes or (b) not make any damn mistakes.

My instant replay system is simple. It adds a new video replay umpire, who will be responsible for all disputed calls. It's so simple I can illustrate where the new ump will be using a simple field graphic (field used: Veterans Stadium).

replay.dykstra.jpg

Yes, the new ump will be somewhere not on the field! "But who will managers yell at?!" you'll ask, and I'll say, "No one, because most of the bad calls will be fixed by replay and we can finally end this stupid 'tradition' of managers getting in an umpire's face and calling him a cocksucker."

The replay ump will be somewhere in the stadium. He'll be able to talk to the umps on the field and maybe even have a direct line to the league office to ask questions if he gets confused. He'll have a direct line to the nearest concession stand so someone can bring him a soda if he gets thirsty. The umps can buzz him if they want a play reviewed, or the replay umpire can institute it himself. If the ump on the field has a problem with his call being overturned, he can go to hell.

Coaches won't get any challenges, because the replay ump (and his assistant, me) will make sure the close plays get reviewed, up in the booth. If there's no change needed, there might not even be a slowdown or stoppage in play. A quick check upstairs to see if that double was a homer... and, look, it wasn't, let's just have play continue. Just because pro football reviews are slow and painful doesn't mean baseball reviews need to be. With an extra ump doing the work (and me, whipping him to go faster), this system should be pretty good. We'll install extra cameras pointing at all the bases, too, just to keep this system as thorough as possible.

How much would this slow the game down? Undoubtedly, some. How much? Tim McCarver thinks roughly two hours. Someone with a sense of time (me) will go with: Five, ten minutes a game at most. Maybe -- maybe! -- fifteen if there are a bunch of particularly close calls. Look, baseball is a slow game already. Isn't doing things right better than doing things fast?

If you really want to speed up baseball, simply ban Jorge Posada from playing the sport ever again.

So what'll be up for review in this new system? Everything (except balls, strikes and balk calls, another matter entirely). Everything! Calls at first base. Fair/foul calls. Possible dropped fly balls. Calls at second base. Possible dropped third strikes. Calls at third base. Calls at home plate!

Right: The truth is, there really isn't much to review during a baseball game. and instituting replay could be extremely painless. Of course, baseball is not interested in even discussing expanded replay, for fear it would make so much sense they would have to do it.

I admit, I do not understand the traditionalists' approach. "We want those calls wrong!" they argue. To me, we should keep the good traditions (hot dogs, mascots, getting stoned in the parking lot before the game) and get rid of the bad ones (incorrect calls, ridiculously dirty batting helmets, Jorge Posada) in order to make the game better and more enjoyable.

But I should toss in a caveat about instant replay: In my research for this article (read: Googling for 2 minutes), I did come across a comment on this blog entry that summed up the anti-replay argument succinctly:

Ted Williams didn't need a video/computer assist to hit the damn ball, so why should umpires be saddled with such dubious "assistance" to make calls?

The video cameras are in on it, people. First they get their claws (err, tripods) on baseball, then they take over the world. Perhaps my replay plan isn't as good as I thought.

1080px version of "Ad Council" baseball replay ad



Look, we're all too exhausted -- mentally and physically -- to post anything right now. Here's a story about a catlady and a cat who ran onto Wrigley Field during a game. Other cats on field: Kauffman Stadium, U.S. Cellular Field, Citi Field