When we took our Easter trip down to DC last month, we booked our room using Hotwire.com. For some reason, Hotwire gives you three free one-year magazine subscriptions with your order. I got to choose from about ten magazines, but most were Maxim-like rags which, even if the missus would allow them into the house, I really don't have any interest in looking at them. [Honest!]
So I picked Sporting News, which is a weekly that I remember being a pretty good tabloid when I last read it a few years ago. I also picked Outside which has some very good writing but the subjects are way too intense for me (mountain-climbing, shark-fishing, mountain-climbing with sharks - tough stuff). The last magazine was either Men's Health or Men's Fitness, but I haven't received an issue yet so I can't tell you which one it was just yet.
The Sporting News has been a real disappointment. They've gone from newsprint to a chintzy glossy-junk-mail-rag low-quality paper. And the layout seems to be designed for those with extremely short attention spans. Very short articles, side-boxes everywhere, plenty of quotes in large font. Just way too many gimmicks - reminds me a lot of my son's Nickelodeon magazine.
The writing's not much better - some interesting stats and sports gossip, some analysis, and some opinion, but nothing goes long enough to get really in-depth. It's like reading the back of a cereal box.
So, anyway, two items that were in this week's issue were about two baseball ideas that I totally disagree with. The first concerns umpires:
MLB officials took note of a recent NBA playoff game in which referee Dan Crawford explained a controversial call to a national television audience. MLB wants to bring fans closer to the players by miking them during games, and it wants to do the same with umpires. It could be an uphill battle: Reporters sometimes must scramble to get umps to explain disputed calls, even after postseason games. [emphasis mine]
No, no, no, no. No. Do not make baseball umpires into bigger sports personalities than they already think they are. After umping a few little league games I have a lot more respect for these umps, but I have always felt that the fans shouldn't even know their names and I still feel that way. They should be faceless, ego-less, and practically invisible - like they are in the other major sports - not bumping into managers and each having their own unique strike zone.
If they feel the need to defend or apologize for a call, let the league issue a statement the next morning like they do in football. I will never understand why baseball treats their officials differently than the other sports do - they get away with way too much and they already believe that they are equal partners with the players on the field. They shouldn't be, and miking them will only make things worse.
Item two is about the architecture for the new ballpark in DC:
The much-debated and often-delayed stadium still is scheduled to open for the 2008 season near the west bank of the Anacostia River. It will be located in a rundown part of Washington about a mile south of the Capitol. A ceremonial groundbreaking for the $600 million-plus project was held last week. The yet-to-be-named park is expected to seat 41,000 and, based on design plans by HOK Sport, will be a modern-looking complex featuring massive glass panels, steel and concrete. The new ownership group already has said it plans to tweak the design. [emphasis mine]
Good for them for making the ballpark close to downtown while still giving a rundown neighborhood a chance to benefit from it's business. What I'm worried about is that their "tweaking" of the architect's modern-looking plans will turn it into just another old-timey-looking brick ballpark.
It makes no sense to continue building Camden Yards look-alikes since pretty much everyone has visited one of these throwbacks by now (most of which, like Camden Yards, were designed by HOK Sport). They don't hold the "destination" draw that they once did because they have become so commonplace.
I was probably the only local who felt that the Phillies should have gone with a modernistic ballpark back when they were designing Citizens Bank Park a few years ago. But it takes guts to go against the grain, and even though even HOK Sports seems to have noticed that there is a need for change, something tells me the owners down in Washington are going to go with the safer bet. Just don't expect me to go down there to check it out when I've already got the same thing in my own backyard (well, not in my actual backyard, but you know what I mean).