Wednesday, October 20, 2010

MLB Playoffs: (Not Really) NLCS Game 3, via Chatlogs

As soon as I knew I was going to do a few more playoff blogs this year, I sent an email to my buddy JShap, who last showed up in "The Emmys Are for Idiots, Part II," and asked if he was interested in joining in. Last year, during the second game of the World Series, he and I wound up commenting on the game via AIM, and it was easily the best part of the piece and the most fun I had writing about the postseason. Because I still find myself quoting from it — and think it has two of the best lines ever printed on this site — I figured there was no way another chat couldn't make the Championship Series at least a little more fun.

I was right, but inadvertently, we wound up overshadowing the game, almost bailing on it completely. That probably happened for a few reasons:
1. JShap had to do some work, which meant that he had to choose what to de-prioritize. Work wasn't an option, and since he was ostensibly there to chat with me, the game wound up less scrutinized.
2. I was up until eight that morning doing work and managed to get about three and a half hours' sleep. Basically, my brain was too sluggish to really follow too much at once.
3. Joe Buck and Tim McCarver were normal and on-point. I've covered them when they've been off-the-rails nutty, staggeringly stupid, offensively disinterested and plain mediocre. This was not only one of their better games, it might be one of the best that I've heard them call.
4. I was a little burned out on baseball in general, from having written two pieces and 6,000+ words about it the day before.
5. The game was quick, efficient and pretty conventional. The innings flew by, and nothing untoward happened. Apart from a few unfortunate errors for the Phillies, this wasn't a game where you could point to anything particularly momentous or worthy of contention.
In short, NLCS Game 3 was one of those ballgames where you can understand everything that happened by just reading a box score. There wasn't something visually odd that needed interpretation, nor was the announcing or presentation mistaken enough that it would be important to note in a way that an ESPN article would not.

Because of that, the few notes I took were mostly useless. They're play-by-play stuff, the sort of thing ESPN does better and that you don't need to hear from me. At the end of the game, well over 90% of what I'd written came in the form of chat. I'll go ahead and try to ground some of that conversation in terms of action on the screen, but much if it is untethered to the game drama. If you hate chatlogs, my apologies, but it's best you punch out now.

We open with the national anthem performed by a member of Death Cab for Cutie, putting his band's unique spin on the material, which is to say acoustical, stylistically inert, vocally sub-competent, and deadly fucking dull, dull, dull. His presence here also guarantees that of his wife, Zooey Deschanel, a Manic Pixie Dream Girl best known for playing the same tissue paper-thin waifish characters, making tissue paper-thin music of forgettable quality and being so genuinely banal that a website once asked (and answered), "Is Zooey Deschanel the Most Boring Person Alive?"

Anyway, I'm thinking these things when JShap finally swans in:
ME: You're late. The national anthem was sung by a douchebag from Death Cab for Cutie. The one married to Zooey Deschanel. Which is why, supposedly, Zooey Deschanel is singing "God Bless America" later. Really. The Land of the Twee and the Home of the Reedy, Weak and Affected.
JSHAP: I'd rather ride in a Death Cab for Cutie than listen to that!
ME: You realize you just backhandedly called yourself cute? I like this decision, though. It's like the people in the Giants' front office were programming the singing for this game and thought, "Wait, what if people in America don't know they're playing this game in San Francisco?" "Good point. Do you think we could have someone perform the national anthem as a series of pops and clicks?" "Yes, and let's have it sung by a tree." "The Stanford Cardinal is busy that day. Just go down to the Mission and straw poll people about what indie piece of crap they most want to hear."
JSHAP: What I love about Zooey and America both is that they're just so down to earth and relatable.
ME: I remember one time being on this plane going somewhere. I didn't know. I think I was trying to find myself, you know? Anyway, I had this really long layover at Midway, maybe four hours. I just wanted to be left by myself to work things out, but I met this really amazing country that wouldn't leave me alone until I came out of my shell and helped it perform an acoustic guitar song by clapping my hands and letting it see me smile. That country was America.
JSHAP: America totally got me into the Shins and taught me not to sweat the bullshit.
ME: America smiled at me, and I pulled a thin sundress over America's head and saw its tiny breasts, and it self-consciously covered the faint chestnut down of its pubic hair with a small hand girlish hand that had chewed fingernails and chipped polish.
JSHAP: My laughter is stifled by my erection. It's usually the other way around.
ME: I got uncomfortable typing that.
JSHAP: Well it was tastefully done, and the story called for it.

Of all the announcing pairs I'm used to, this one probably has the best track record of unwittingly repeating the funniest names:
ME: Buck and McCarver can't stop saying, "Pitching coach Rich DOOBIE."
JSHAP: For at least three years I thought Shane Victorino's name was Victor Rino.

The starting pitcher for the Phillies is Cole Hamels, who both sounds like a men's dress shoe and who won the NLCS and World Series MVP awards in 2008, then sort of went off the rails last year. Buck and McCarver note that he's been throwing harder this year, which seems to be helping his change-up a lot more. I'm not used to this level of their being helpful.
ME: I don't care how good Cole Hamels is, I can't feel intimidated by someone who looks like he goes to sleep wearing special gloves full of moisturizer. The screen could flash white and be replaced with an image of Hamels just lying curled up on a daybed, under an afghan, listening to Dido's "Thank You," and I would be like, "Well, naturally."
JSHAP: What would you prefer, pitcher, belly-itcher, or American Eagle back-to-school model?
ME: Cole Hamels still resents that Structure went out of business. He had a credit card for it and everything.
JSHAP: Hamels is pure garbage because his name lends itself to only a fraction of Halladay's celebratory pun headlines.

There's this recurring ad campaign with Fox sports broadcasts this year, where they tell you that the event is available in widescreen. I'm not really sure what the point is, since it's cable companies that see the profits from people buying HD broadcasts and TV manufacturers who reap the rewards of people buying HDTVs. Plus, it's not like you can go into any appliance store or Costco or Sam's Club without seeing a crapload of widescreen TVs near the door. This seems like one of those promotional decisions aimed at Japanese soldiers still living in caves on Tarawa, waiting until they get some indication the war's been won in the name of the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere.
ME: Hey, this game is being presented in Widescreen. I remember when, like, Mr. Belvedere would come on, and from the bottom of the screen the graphics would roll up: "IN STEREO (Where Available)," and it would show a TV radiating these lines from its sides, and I would be like, "That has to be the bombest-ass TV ever."
JSHAP: Bob Uecker couldn't have afforded the very radiating TV graphic that his show utilized because when he got his paycheck back for playing baseball it said ZERO MONEY BECAUSE YOU ARE SO BAD AT BASEBALL.
ME: (Ueck, showing the check to a teammate) Hey! They spelled my name right!

Buck and McCarver start naming the number of hills in San Francisco, the highest angle of any street in the city and the street's name, the crookedest street, etc.
ME: Tim McCarver has the mortality stats for constructing the Golden Gate Bridge right at hand.
JSHAP: This liberal strike zone... something something... big government.

Joe Buck is getting bored.
ME: No surprise that Joe Buck finds the game compelling when there's a huge strike zone and it goes faster. "I find it a little tedious otherwise." This guy just can't wait to cash the check and leave.
JSHAP: My strike zone political spectrum lines up with that of the hilarious men over at South Park. Those guys get it.
ME: Some would say the strike lies in the middle.
JSHAP: It is hard to say who was paying attention less and surfing the internet more at their job today between me and Joe Buck.

Commercials for Clint Eastwood's new movie are in pretty heavy rotation, and the promotional text is hard to swallow. You know the movie I'm talking about: Hereafter, or, The Sixth Sense, but with Matt Damon and Indonesian Flooding. I think it's a pretty safe bet that any director who can shoot and release a new movie every year is probably making movies that you can skip — call it the Woody Allen Rule — and Clint Eastwood is no different. I can't remember the last time I really wanted to see anything he made instead of thinking, "Eh, maybe I'll Netflix that." With rare exception, they're all the same flatly presented flatness. Flat color and flat sound with flat plots about people who mostly have flat affect. It's like someone releasing a book called, The Wonderful Geography of Earth, and it's just 350 pages of the same picture of a Nebraskan cornfield. Only, on top of this, the person releases the same book every year, and slightly changes the angle of the same picture used 350 times.
ME: Do you think you're going to go see "Eastwood's Masterpiece"?
JSHAP: No, he probably just paralyzes Matt Damon at the end. Didn't see that one coming, did ya, Dr. Psychic?
ME: I just hope there's little music and lots of dead air and the colors are washed out.
JSHAP: I can't take Clint Eastwood seriously ever since my grandpa misremembered his catchphrase as, "You made my day!"
JSHAP: I like it so much better that way.
ME: lmao

We're doing brisk business. I think we're in the third or fourth inning already.
ME: You know, I actually share Buck's general impression that these games are more fun when you're blitzing through innings. If this could end in like 25 minutes, I'd be gold. Naptime.
JSHAP: Surgeons feel the same way.
JSHAP: When I was in high school I always thought Local Cranky Old Guy Columnist (who no longer exists in most places due to the death of newspapers) was a baby when he would write about these terrible late start times and how terribly late they start, and how all the children of the land must miss the World Series and the Crackerjacks because of corporate greed.
JSHAP: Now if one of these games goes past 10:30 or—God forbid—goes into dramatic extra innings, I'm like, "FUCK YOU, FORGET IT."
ME: Haha yeah, you mentioned this last year. Although you hadn't reached "FUCK YOU, FORGET IT" status. You were still mocking the guy who was nostalgic for yesteryear and disbelieving that American children were ever happy.
JSHAP: My local cranky old guy is actually still around. I was looking for a good example of his work but everything is buried under GUNS DON'T KILL PEOPLE, JAMES HARRISON IS AN ACTUAL MURDERER articles
ME: I think the oldest OLD MAN thing I do with baseball is, when a game threatens to go late, I sometimes TiVo the rest and do something else. Then I wake up the next day and, if my team lost embarrassingly, I cheat and don't watch.

The only woman who haunts my commercials more than this lady is the readhead Margaret Easley, who I've been seeing in different ads every year for the last seven. I feel this has created some kind of passive intimacy. I would like to have sex with Margaret Easley, mainly because she's hot, but partly because I feel like I've spent a decade watching her change and grow.
ME: I'm embarrassed that I know this blonde chick in the Olive Garden ads was in KIA ads in 2003, where she and her puppy yellow lab grew older and changed hairstyles and boyfriends, but kept the same KIA. It was set to Tom Tom Club's "Genius of Love."
JSHAP: The only Olive Garden troupe member I know is the girl from Modern Family, but I think we've covered that topic.
ME: Really?
JSHAP: The topic of Modern Family sucking.

I'm really ashamed of the fact that it took three games for me to arrive at this observation:
ME: Wow, I just realized that they finally got rid of the "commissioning a battleship" postseason music for FOX.
JSHAP: whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat
ME: Yeah, they're using the NFL on FOX music that sounds like the part in "Sleigh Ride" where it's all, "Giddyup, giddyup, giddyup let's go/let's look at the show."
JSHAP: I always heard the lyrics as "NFC NFC NFC football. NFC NFC NFC footballlllll. AND HO-WIE LONG ... *gUiTaR*"
JSHAP: Did they lose the rights to it or what? The military bought it to commission actual battleships with?
ME: Maybe they decommissioned the music. Jesus Christ, Joe Buck is just trolling the shit out of that kid.
Okay, here I have to explain something.

In the top of the 4th, Buck starts talking about these magnetic bracelets and necklaces that ballplayers wear. It's pseudo-scientific nonsense, but the idea is that body electricity or iron or something will keep flowing properly and not bunch up or some bullshit. I guess maybe you get electrical clotting and blood wads in your body. Whatever. The point is, none of this is new: practically every pitcher on the Boston Red Sox wears one of these, and many of them have for a couple years now. So Buck's just railing at this thing he dislikes, but out of nowhere he just starts whaling on this kid. Here's a transcript:
BUCK: You saw that twisted-up necklace, around the neck of... Placido Polanco, and you'll see 'em on players throughout the postseason. We have. It's the new craze with the magnetic... bracelets or necklaces, and guys wrap them together and becomes part of the uniform and—the BATBOY'S got one on back there, just in case he tightens up runnin' out to get the bat. But it helps with circulation supposedly—there he is; he's ready. Kid's never felt better, since he put that necklace on. Hops right out of bed, at the ripe old age of fourteen, or whatever he is.... You ever tried any of those things, Hopalong McCarver?
McCARVER: No. Never worn them.
BUCK: Well, you don't know. Why not?
McCARVER: I remember the late sixties, the Nehru suits, and the medallions. I wore those.
BUCK: You did?
McCARVER: Yes I did.
BUCK: That help with the circulation?
McCARVER: In fact, it cut off my circulation. Turtlenecks in the summer.
Now, I actually think this exchange is pretty funny, and I like McCarver poking fun at himself. But why this is a thing for Buck now is really weird, and the fact that he's picking on this teenager who's going through his awkward phase on national television seems like kind of a dick move — especially since Buck's a grown-ass man who makes plenty of questionable decisions, like using images of his dead dad to make money selling really shitty American beer.

JSHAP: Ahaha just rewound to the necklace kid. Buck hates it so bad.
ME: You can tell he wants to say, "These necklaces are fucking stupid unscientific crap. Stop wearing them," but he can't. So he's just beating up a kid.
JSHAP: By wearing a necklace and enjoying baseball, that kid is everything that's anathema to Buck.
ME: (Buck and the child stand at a grave.)
BUCK: And this is all you did with it?
KID: Yeah. Why?
BUCK: It's just a headstone with a name on it?
KID: Yeah.
BUCK: What about adspace?
JSHAP: ahaha

FOX is flogging its fall lineup pretty hard. One show for which they air multiple ads is Bones, one of the worst shows on television. Bones is mainly about how Zooey's sister Emily Deschanel isn't having sex with the guy who played Angel on Buffy. Here Angel plays an FBI man who hates "squints," a term the show invented for lab techs and that, after about six seasons, they're still desperately trying to "get over" as a "thing" or a catchphrase. Only, get this, he has to work with a whole lab full of them to solve crimes! All of them act like people with Asperger's. Apart from the wealthy conspiracy theorist guy and the Asian lady who can picture people's real faces for no reason, all of them regularly have these moments where, to seem eggheady, the writers have them conveniently claim not to understand really common idiom that they have used in previous episodes. The worst one of all is Emily Deschanel, who has like a billion fucking college degrees and yet somehow has never learned anything about 99% of the people in America. Mostly she says stupid crap and doesn't have sex with Angel.
ME: I'm so stoked about Bones coming back on the air. I feel so bad for all those kids with Asperger's whose parents can't afford to get them counseling. The Bones offseason has to be the loneliest part of the year for them.
JSHAP: Oh God. If I had Asperger's and my Asperger's superpower was something boring likes Bones or washing machines I'd be so pissed and not know it, due to my inability to interpret body language and facial expressions.
ME: I love how shitty that show is just describing it.
ME: "Ok, her best friend at work doesn't have any scientific background at all. But she can look at skulls and imagine what people they looked like in life." "Okay. Annnnnd?" "She can't stop fucking."
JSHAP: "Tonight on Bones: Bones finds some bones. The other guy is there, too. An all-new Bones!"

The Giants catcher is basically a kid.
ME: Buster Posey is so young that sometimes when he's catching, I expect him to throw a newspaper back to the mound.
JSHAP: I expect him to catch chicken pox.
ME: Buster Posey explains his placement on injured reserve by showing beat reporters a note from the doctor.

ME: The Giants scored once. This is like any other team scoring eight runs.
JSHAP: "On a day when even Pat Burrell, who's so old he should be called Past the Bat, came through" — my local cranky newspaper columnist. He's also prone to weird pseudo-pun flights of fancy.

The Giants probably have more players who dress "old school" than any other team.
ME: I really feel like ballplayers should have to pull up their pants and show the stockings, the old-fashioned way. This is why Matt Cain is cool.
JSHAP: NBA players should have to wear smaller pants and quit with the rapping, "homey."
ME: Mattingly, trim those sideburns!
ME: Speaking of being old, I feel really unmanly and un-American, but my baseball-watching snack food is a bowl of edamame.
JSHAP: I have the authentically Latin American dish of Tostitos.
ME: You ever crumble those up into your enchirito, make it crunchy?
JSHAP: Hahahaha. I am reminded of the argument I had with my younger brother when he claimed that his middle school cafeteria was serving P'zones and I tried to explain they were just calzones. Him: "They are authentic P'zone ingredients!"

The Phillies second baseman is having an uncharacteristically poor game and coming nowhere close to his amazing offensive production from last postseason.
ME: I can't believe Chase Utley would doink a ball like that.
JSHAP: That error had an actual ZOING sound effect.
ME: Chase Utley just looks so urbane and rich. I bet he turns to ladies he's accidentally upset and says, "I'm sorry. Would you like an Audi?"
JSHAP: Then his Audi guy tosses him the keys and they bounce off his shoulder and into centerfield.

Hang the DJ, hang the DJ, hang the DJ.
ME: Buck just said "double decker bus" and I wished to God he'd continued and said, "crashes into us. Tim, to die by your side—well, the pleasure, the privilege is mine. On FOX."

Bob Uecker's recently had a second serious surgical procedure performed on his heart.
JSHAP: "The 2-2..." Awww, I got excited to do more fake Uecker jokes until Buck started talking about Ueck's heart surgery.
ME: Yeah, it's really hard to believe a guy of sausage-eating German descent, like Uecker, who lives and works in America's sausage capital of Milwaukee, would need to have heart surgery of some kind.

New York Jets fans, already a sort of obnoxious bunch, have started really obnoxiously referring to their quarterback, Mark Sanchez, as "The Sanchize." Meanwhile, Ross Gload sucks.
ME: Ahahaha the Cubs got themselves a great manager. I think this is their year.
JSHAP: Can't believe Freddy Sanchez left Pittsburgh scant months before everyone could start ironically calling him The Sanchize.
JSHAP: Now we just have McClutcheon.
ME: He's The McClutcheon!
JSHAP: It's catchier than Pedro "like the guy with AIDS from The Real World" Alvarez.
ME: ROSS GLOAD is in! The LOAD!!! It's time to drop a GLOAD on this game!!!
JSHAP: Yikes, four balls worth of Gload.
ME: Ross Gload uses his name in conversation all the time, even if it's inappropriate.
SON: It's dusk, dad. I can't see the ball.
ROSS GLOAD: Indeed. It's unsafe and dark here... in the gloading.
(hammond organ smash)
JSHAP: hahaha
JSHAP: I envisioned The Gload as one of those fatter Harry Potter/Pan's Labyrinth-type obese monsters. The Gload lurks in the darkness, because walking is hard.
ME: lmfao

It's time for "God Bless America," and Zooey Deschanel meets every expectation. Her voice is weak and bad. Her expression looks like nobody's home. And, to top it off, she effects this contrived country twang that sounds about as appropriate as her trying to belt out the words with a gospel soul-sister tone.
JSHAP: Booey Dechanel: FAKE TWANG.
JSHAP: hahaha
ME: I wish the audience would sing louder so I couldn't hear her
JSHAP: So is she She or Him?
ME: Check the pants: she's both.
JSHAP: I was BAWRN FREE in God-blessed America.
ME: hahaha
JSHAP: (500) Days of Torture.
JSHAP: But when she smiles it's like so amazing. I just want to imagine her sleeping, and, you know, let her breathe on me.
JSHAP: "... Deschanel."
JSHAP: "Zooey Deschanel and I have so much in common, she seems like the kind of girl who would totally read my blog."
JSHAP: "... Deschanel."
JSHAP: Poor Emily Deschanel, left to the Aspergerians.
ME: Emily got a jaw like the animated Batman. I'm like, "Girl, you best beat the shit out of somebody to find out where the joker put that laughing-gas bomb."
JSHAP: Well, at least she has very mature content for a cartoon.
ME: I wonder if she knows the guy who plays Luke Skywalker in real life.

JShap missed my running commentary on the previous night's game, so he's giving a running commentary on the running commentary when he pastes a quote about how we should make baseball broadcasts even more jingoistic by having the Fan Man open them, but instead of the Fan Man, it's Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler, who sings the "Ballad of the Green Berets" while everyone in the stadium is obliged to hop up and down to symbolize the fighting soldiers from the sky, the fearless men who jump and die:
ME: I probably make a Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler joke at least once every two weeks
ME: I love that the Ballad of the Green Berets literally opens by describing the job of the Green Berets thus:
1. Jump.
2. Die.
ME: There's not a whole lot of intermediate action there.
ME: I mean, by the terms of their own job, you'd expect them to just remove their parachutes.
ME: Eliminate the middleman.
ME: Just push Green Berets out of planes.
ME: There you go.
ME: You jumped.
ME: Next part's coming up real quick.
JSHAP: They don't get the order for part 2 until after part 1.
ME: hahaha

I'm suddenly acutely aware that this game isn't weird at all. There's nothing clusterfucky. There's nothing really unusual happening at all. This is, of course, extremely unusual in and of itself, but it's not really anything you can comment on.
ME: I feel bad for roping you into this. This should have been way more interesting.
JSHAP: I take pride in fulfilling my promise to only use my left eye and left ear on the actual game.
ME: Buck and McCarver haven't even been reliably crazy.
JSHAP: Peaked with necklace kid, I think. Why didn't they revisit him in intervals?
ME: I don't know. My only guess is that maybe a producer reminded Buck that he was gonna drive that kid to suicide.
JSHAP: McCarver forced to record "Necklace Wearers: It Gets Better" testimonial.
ME: hahaha

Brian Wilson is the Giants closer, and he has this amazing and 100% real black beard that nonetheless looks totally fake. That means it's time for the game to end!
ME: I like this Brian Wilson guy, especially because he just made McCarver say, "Now THAT's an unusual comment. He goes by smell. The smell of the balls."
JSHAP: Yessss.
ME: hahaha
JSHAP: Haha, Buck punches out his timecard immediately.
ME: They're goin' crazy! They gotta beat traffic! The Muni's packed! CalTrans is doing rail repair!
JSHAP: Hahaha.
ME: Buck: OK, good: book me a flight, rent me an igloo, and tell those dorks at AT&T Park that boom—I am outta here. I'm a dot, I'm gone, OK?
JSHAP: "We'll turn it over to Chris and the gang — for Tim McCarver, necklaces are for gayboys, not bat boys. Buck out."
ME: Matt Cain's awesome. He's, like, 24, and he acts like he's 50
JSHAP: Along those lines, now we go to bed at 8 p.m.
ME: That actually doesn't sound bad. What the fuck is this shitty ska music?
JSHAP: Uhh...
ME: The sound is mixed so badly that sounds like someone is playing it INSIDE a rockin' cargo van, and you're standing OUTSIDE the van.
JSHAP: I think they literally "want to be an American Idiot."
ME: I'm skanking so hard. Uh, oh, it's a ground ball. I guess I better...
pick it up...
pick it up...
pick it up...
pick it up...
pick it up...
pick it up...
JSHAP: Hahaha
JSHAP: alright, I'm gonna go eat dinner. I consider this concept: enjoy'd. Now I don't have to watch baseball for another year. Buck out.
Buck out.