Archive for July 15, 2009

Alternative Universe

July 15, 2009 1 comment


We missed last night’s All-Star game. An old friend was staying with us, we prepared dinner, ate outside, and lingered over the course of a beautiful evening. I turned on the game during the 2nd inning just to see what was happening and found President Obama in the broadcast booth. We then caught a couple of batters as the NL took the lead. Next we knew, the game was over and the AL won.

In particular, we didn’t see President Obama throw out the first pitch. Joel sent email from Boston expressing his frustration at the late start of the game and at the bizarre camera angle used for the first pitch. The camera was focused tightly on Obama, so one couldn’t see the flight of the pitch or its recipient (Albert Pujols). I watched a replay today and could see what the fuss was about. I don’t know what FOX was thinking.

But get this. A post by guest blogger Conor Clarke at Andrew Sullivan’s site alerted me to the fuss over whether or not Obama was booed, as well as whether the pitch was any good. Following links, I was led to this post, written by The Anchoress at one of the blogs affiliated with the magazine First Things.

I don’t know much about First Things. At their site, they explain that it “is published by The Institute on Religion and Public Life, an interreligious, nonpartisan research and education institute whose purpose is to advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society.” I looked at it online a few months ago, after reading a post at their site related to the controversy of Notre Dame’s awarding Obama an honorary degree. (I planned a post about the controversy, but never followed through with it.) Their orientation would seem to be conservative. Some of the articles I looked at were intelligent and well written. I meant to return. And I know nothing about the blogger who uses the penname The Anchoress. But as I read her piece on Obama’s pitch, I realized I had stumbled into a universe I hadn’t entered before.

The post contrasts Obama’s pitch with the pitch George W. Bush threw at Yankee Stadium in October 2001, prior to the third game of the World Series. Here’s a taste:

I see I was not the only one watching last night’s All-Star Game who wondered if David Axelrod had negotiated the bizarre angle (there is no other word for it, if you’re a baseball-watching fan) used to showcase President Barack Obama’s ceremonial “first pitch.” I have never seen a president throw a pitch, before, where the angle left out the catcher at the plate.

Yes, I had to wonder if the shot was planned that way, if the White House was so insecure about this teleprompter-addicted president, and in such a habit of safeguarding his every image, his every press-conference question, that they had to make sure a bad throw wouldn’t end up on You Tube (and if in doing so they aren’t exposing that insecurity to the world.) …

Just weeks after a horrific and deadly attack on his nation, when all of us were still waiting for “the second shoe to drop” – for another attack – and fully aware that Yankee Stadium was at that moment the Mother of All Targets and that there uncertainty as to the president’s own safety, Bush strode out gave the thumbs up and threw unambiguously over the plate – a little high, but given some of the dubious calls we’re seeing this season, let’s call it a strike. Bush threw not to “the most popular man” in the stadium, but to a common catcher, Jorge Posada, who was behind the plate. Yes, it was a great moment. …

The difference between these two first pitches is not in the pitch, but in the pitchman – in the personality of the president …

Gosh. I’m supposed to admire Bush for throwing a strike? If any president had a staff working to manufacture and protect his image, it’s Bush, not Obama.

Well, putting politics aside, maybe the real question should be why the president had to throw the pitch at all, stealing what should have been a special moment for Stan Musial. Ted Williams had his moment a decade ago at the All-Star game in Fenway. Why couldn’t Stan the Man have his? See Joe Posnanski’s post tonight for more on this.

Categories: Politics, Sports, Television

The Open

July 15, 2009 Leave a comment

The Open Championship starts tomorrow at Turnberry, in Scotland. Golf that is. Just maybe my favorite golf tournament. We were there five years ago, at Troon. I was there for just a day in 1990, at St. Andrews. (Gail couldn’t make it. She stayed in Edinburgh with Joel, who had just turned 3, and our friends.) We’ll be watching. It’s hard to go back and forth between the golf and the Tour de France. The rhythms of the two events are so different. And as I already mentioned, Sunday will be particularly hard, because the Open will approach its climax just as the Tour climbs to Verbier in the Alps, the biggest stage in over a week. Well, I’ll get through it.

Meanwhile, I was disappointed to learn that the television coverage of the Open won’t be in high definition. The only video feed worldwide is the one provided by the BBC, and they don’t do it in HD. ABC and TNT can’t do anything about it. The BBC contract won’t expire for two more years. Maybe then we can get HD coverage of the golf. But maybe before then we’ll be back in person and won’t have to rely on TV. It’s at St. Andrews next year. We’ll put it on our calendars.

Categories: Sports, Television, Travel

Mark Cavendish Again

July 15, 2009 Leave a comment
Stage 11:  Cavendish, Hushovd, Farrar (l to r)

Stage 11: Cavendish, Hushovd, Farrar (l to r)

I love Mark Cavendish. I wrote about him last week after he won two stages of the Tour de France. They were both relatively flat stages with sprint finishes, before the Tour hit the Pyrenees. Cavendish beat the young American Tyler Farrar in one and the Norwegian veteran Thor Hushovd in the other. Then Hushovd himself won a stage, and then he took the green jersey of sprinting supremacy away from Cavendish. Now that the Tour is down from the Pyrenees and winding toward the Alps, the last two days have brought two more flat stages, two more sprint finishes, and two more victories by Cavendish, with Hushovd and Farrar finishing second and third yesterday, Farrar finishing second (and Hushovd fifth) today.

Both days, a breakaway was reeled in just in time for the teams to set up their leadouts to the finish. Team Columbia HTC and their peerless leadout man Mark Renshaw have been a wonder to watch. Farrar might just have caught Cavendish today if not for the perfect leadout Renshaw gave him. I can’t remember when I’ve been more excited by these “routine” flat stages. I can’t wait to see if Cavendish will be put in position, and if so, whether he can power his way to another stage victory. I just hope they all make it through the Alps, so we can all await a magnificent sprint finish on the Champs Elysees.

Categories: Sports