Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Rachel's Sets Skat Straight

Speaking Of Stadiums....

It's the middle of winter and the Superbowl is coming Sunday and basketball and hockey are in full swing, so naturally I want to talk about baseball, specifically the stadiums in which they play.

I am one of those guys who wants to see a baseball game in every baseball park during one season. I have been in several and plan on going to a few more this summer. So, when I look at the list of stadium names I come across names of stadiums I'm not familiar with. This is due to the decade long trend of naming ballparks after corporate sponsors. I'm going to rant about the names of all the ballparks and how it much it reflects the team, the owners and the look of the ballpark.

I first noticed corporate naming of parks was when I saw a "Game of The Week" with San Francisco Giants playing in a place called 3com park. Now, these were the days many teams were getting new ballparks but I had not heard of the Giants getting a ballpark at that time. I noticed that it was Candlestick Park but with a name change a corporate name change. Now, ballparks had name changes in the past but usually it was in tribute to a late owner like Kaufmann Field in Kansas City or a beloved sportswriter like Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego. This was different, the name change was purchased in a naming rights scheme that had limited use beforehand in new venues but was now coming to established structures whose previous name was ingrained in the minds of fans for decades. The new trend was disturbing by how awful the names were. 3com? Qualcomm? Network Associates Stadium? Ugh!

Here are the names of all the baseball parks in various categories to get an idea of where the name comes from.

THE WHO PLAYS HERE BALLPARKS

Dodger Stadium, Yankee Stadium, and Angels Stadium.

Do you need to figure out how what team plays here? I always figured if I was a rebellious sportscaster I would refer to every park's name that's named for a corporation that doesn't own the team by its team name. We're here at Mariners Field in Seattle. The roof is closed on blistering hot day at Diamondbacks Stadium etc, etc.

Angels Stadium doesn't really count, it's been around since 1966 and has been called Angels Stadium for only a few years. Before that they were called Edison Field ( A Public Utility company ) when it was owned by Disney curiously enough. Before that it was called Anaheim Stadium and when they played in Dodger Stadium, they referred to THAT as Chavez Ravine. Of course the team can't figure out what city they want to belong to, they've been the Los Angeles Angels, the California Angels, the Anaheim Angels and The Los Angeles Angels OF Anaheim. Hoo boy.

THE WHO ELSE PLAYS THERE.

Dolphin Stadium-Florida Marlins

Only one team fits this category. The Florida Marlins play in Dolphin Stadium named for the football team who's played there since the late 80's when it was known as Joe Robbie Stadium named for the owner of the Dolphins. It was named Pro Player when that company bought the naming rights, at least the name is sports related.

CORPORATE NAMES THAT MAKE SENSE

Wrigley Field-Chicago Cubs, Busch Stadium-St. Louis Cardinals, Coors Field-Colorado Rockies, Miller Park- Milwaukee Brewers.

I guess because all these parks are named after companies named after real people, I kinda like these names. Also, I find that since beer is a big part of sports, naming it after a beer company that's big in the region is fine. Besides the Wrigley and Busch families owned their teams and I think an owner can name his stadium whatever he wants. I just hope their are different beers available at these places. I wonder how much gum is sold at Wrigley?

GOOD NAMES/BAD BALLPARKS

Shea Stadium-New York Mets, RFK Stadium- Washington Nationals Hubert H Humphrey Metrodome-Minnesota Twins

I like ballparks that are named after people, especially ones that you have to research to figure out who it's named after. But there are parks that taint the name of the person. Both Shea and RFK were state of the art when they were built in the 60's. But each have fallen on bad times and are due to be replaced. Shea Stadium was named in honor of a lawyer named William Shea who was responsible for bringing back National League baseball to New York. RFK Stadium was renamed from D.C. Stadium after Robert F. Kennedy's assassination. Minnesota had an odd way of paying tribute to its favorite son Senator Hubert Humphrey by naming its awful dome with the hefty bag outfield fence after him.

GOOD NAMES/GREAT BALLPARKS

Camden Yards-Baltimore Orioles, Jacobs Field- Cleveland Indians, Kauffman Stadium-Kansas City Royals.

These ballparks are shining examples of how good a ballpark for baseball should be, Kauffman Stadium was built only for baseball in the 70's in the era of multi-purpose stadiums. It has a beautiful fountain in the bleacher area of the outfield and great sightlines. It was known as Royals Stadium until their owner Earl Kauffman died, then they renamed it in his honor while removing the only blight on the ballpark, the astroturf.

Jacobs Field and Camden Yards are the jewels that started the trend of retro look ballparks that continue to this day. Jacobs Field was named for a former owner of the Cleveland Indians, Richard Jacobs. It's a huge honor considering how beautiful Jacobs Field is compared to Cleveland Stadium a.k.a. The Mistake By The Lake. It also brought a winning tradition to the lowly Indians.

Camden Yards is actually called Oriole Park at Camden Yards. It was a compromise name between the governor of Maryland and the owner of the Orioles. Camden Yards name stuck though. It sounds cool.

I OWN THE TEAM DAMMIT!

Turner Field-Atlanta Braves, Rogers Centre-Toronto(Canada) Blue Jays

There are only two ballparks named after current team owners and both would qualify as corporate naming. Turner Field was named for Ted Turner, owner of the Atlanta Braves. It was built for the 1996 Olympics and converted to a baseball stadium after the Olympics ended. Rogers Centre in Canada was renamed from Skydome when Rogers Communications CEO, Ted Rogers bought the Blue Jays of Canada. Skydome was the last of the forward looking stadiums built for baseball use, every park built for baseball since then was built retro style.

USED TO HAVE A MEMORABLE NAME

Ameriquest Field-Texas Rangers , U.S. Cellular-Chicago White Sox.

These two parks were built in the early 90's to replace two inadequate ballparks. One was too small and the other too old. Ameriquest Field was named the Ballpark at Arlington when it was built in 1994, a dull name to be sure. It was one of the new ballparks that basically used a land grab, a tax hike and lawsuits to get the stadium built, of course what do you expect with a team owned by George W. Bush? The naming rights went to Ameriquest, a mortgage company. Yawn.

Greetings from Rangers Park!

U.S. Cellular is a curious renaming of New Comiskey Park. Comiskey Park was an aging park that needed to be replaced in 1990. Instead of renaming it after someone or something that wasn't a scumbag, they kept the name of cheapskate Comiskey on the new venue, which may be appropriate because with the cost-cutting involved in the building of New Comiskey it looked cheap compared to any ballpark built since then. U.S. Cellular company bought the naming rights in 2003 at around the time major renovations were being done to the park.


CORPORATE NAMES FROM DAY ONE OR BAD NAMES/GREAT PARKS

PNC Park- Pittsburgh Pirates, Safeco Field-Seattle Mariners, Citizen Bank Park-Philadelphia Phillies, Petco Park-San Diego Padres, Comerica Park- Detroit Tigers


All these parks are beautiful ballparks that have been built in the last 15 years. All get their names from corporate sponsorships. All have names that really don't reflect the personality of the team. My problem with many of the corporate names is that they are sponsored by dull financial institutions that obtain their wealth through the exploitation of their customers. How good does it feel to have your insurance company spend millions on a ballpark while cutting your benefits and raising your rates?

PNC and Comerica are financial services companies, Safeco is an insurance company, and Citizen Bank is a, well, bank company. Petco Park is a minor improvement name wise from the Padres previous home, Qualcomm Park. Still, it is a name that inspires chuckles, makes the team seem silly, however the cross promotion involving bringing dogs to the park is appealing.

PNC can stand for Pirates New C.........I dunno. Safeco is nicknamed the Safe as in safe at home, Citizen Bank features a liberty bell as its logo that rings when the Phillies hit a home run. Comerica has tigers but the name....sounds like America if the commies were in control.

YEP, IT'S CORPORATE

Great American Park-Cincinnati Reds, Tropicana Field-Tampa Bay Devil Rays

These two ballparks are as different from each other as night and day. One is brand new and beautiful the other is dull, gray and a relic of the 80's. Tropicana Field is not a field, it's a domed stadium built for a non existent team in the late 80's. Tampa Bay tried to woo the White Sox, the Giants, and the Mariners to the area with a new stadium that was superior to the ones the teams had back then. However in the years since, they settled for an expansion team in 1998. The stadium was already a eyesore compared to all the parks that had been built in that time period. It got it's name from Tropicana Orange Juice and it's a good fit in that the stadium looks like and orange squeezer. The sponsor's orange lighting on the roof of the dome looks almost attractive.

The Great American Ballpark is a good name because most people would not associate it with the insurance division of the American Financial Group, Inc. They would think patriotic thoughts about the oldest team in professional baseball. It's much better than Cinergy Field which was the renamed Riverfront Stadium, one of the cookie cutters from the 70's.

WHAT THE HELL IS THE NAME OF THIS PARK ANYWAY?

Chase Field-Arizona Diamondbacks, McAfee Associates Coliseum-Oakland A's , Minute Maid Field-Houston Astros, Angels Stadium-Los Angeles Angels of Aneheim, AT&T Park-San Francisco Giants.

These are ballparks that have changed their name several times in recent years. All are corporate named and none have names that inspire awe. Chase Field was once known as Bank One Ballpark, nicknamed the BOB. Not only the name changed but the type of venue changed from ballpark to field. The name changed due to a merger of Bank One with Chase, which is why I hate corporate names. Minute Maid Field was originally called Enron Field. Due to the scandal involving Enron the name was short-lived. It was called Astros Field until Minute Maid took over the naming rights. I'm sorry but Minute Maid Field is the wimpiest name for any sports venue not involving tennis. Enron was bad enough even before the scandal, what the hell is an Enron? But Minute Maid? I'm sorry, but that's the name for a All-American Girls Professional Baseball League ballpark.

And what's the deal with the bay area teams? Both the Giants and the A's have changed their venue names at least twice in the last 10 years. The Giants played at Candlestick Park until it got re-named to the loathsome 3com. When they built their new beautiful new ballpark, the fact that it would have a corporate name was forgivable, especially since no taxpayer's money was being used to build it. It was named for a local phone company Pacific Bell Park or PacBell, which is less obnoxious than 3com. The name only lasted for four seasons when SBC communications PacBell's parent company wanted to take over the name of the park. That only lasted for two years when SBC merged with AT&T much like Exxon merging with Mobil. AT&T renamed the venue AT&T Park. this is like when you keep the same bank account, when your banks keep changing names. How obnoxious! The unfortunate thing is that without a non corporate name in its past what would you call the place that would be immune to the name changes.

The A's on the other hand don't get any respect. They have been as good of any team in the majors since they moved to Oakland in 1968. Only the Yankees have won more championships since then. They have played in McCafee Coliseum since it was known as Oakland-Alamdea County Coliseum (yikes!) . They have had to share the stadium with the Oakland Raiders every year the Raiders were in Oakland. It was fine for baseball the first era with the Raiders with large foul areas for the pitchers to take advantage of, after the Raiders moved to Los Angeles, the A's had themselves a decent ballpark to themselves with teams that reached the World Series three times in the late 80's. The Raiders moved back to Oakland and ruined the look of the field by blocking the view of the surrounding hills that made for pleasant baseball viewing. This made attendances to A's games so spartan that the A's cover up half the seats with a tarp. Soon after the Raiders moved back, the name changed to Network Associates Coliseum after the computer security company bought out the naming rights and when Network Associates changed their own name to McAffe the neme of the stadium changed with it.


Okay, I believe that takes care of all the ballpark names in major league baseball. Like I said, I love it when they name it after people like Jack Murphy or William Shea. Corporate names are fine if it will last a long time, like Busch Stadium through three different venues no less. I think that the broadcasters from visiting teams should refer the ballpark to the teams name so there's less confusion. sorry to waste your time but I wanted to write about this.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Yankee Stadium's Last Hurrah!

It has been announced that Yankee Stadium will host the All Star game in 2008. This is the last year of Yankee Stadium before their new stadium opens in 2009.

The Yankees (heck New York) are hosting the All Star game for the first time since 1977. That is more years than there are teams in the major leagues. It's surprising that New York, the largest city in the United States with two teams in the majors hasn't hosted in that time. 7 teams have hosted twice since then, and Chicago has hosted three times in that time (White Sox, twice, Cubs, once.)

The fact that each team that has hosted in this decade has done it in a new venue doesn't make me happy. The Mets have not hosted an All Star game since 1964! This was the year that Shea Stadium opened. They too, will open a new stadium in 2009. Fourteen teams have hosted the All Star game twice since 1964 and two teams have hosted three times!

I hope they don't wait long to allow the Mets to host the All Star game in their new stadium. They better do it before the Yankees in their new stadium and especially I hope they do it before the Phillies host again. They twice hosted the All Star game in that dump, Veterans Stadium. They can wait to host in their nice new park which should have a venerable name like Veterans Park.

Anyway, Yankee Stadium is a classic ballpark, and in my opinion should be renovated, not replaced, like they did in the 70's. Except better. They can play in the new Mets Stadium for the years they renovate, like they did in the 70's only better.

Meet Rachel

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Sunday, January 14, 2007

I've Had Better Birthdays

Working on my birthday is nothing new. Still, I was hoping it would be better. I was bummed that the Simpsons weren't on, after all the first regular episode of the Simpsons premiered on my 23rd birthday.

I was bummed that the Seahawks lost in overtime, they looked like they were gonna pull an upset.

Then the shocker, About an hour after I got into work, a co-worker of mine had died at home. Actually Jessica had stopped working about a month after I started, She had a cast on her leg, and she was quite a go getter despite it, she was no "little miss helpless". Apparently, she had diabetes and at one point had slipped into a diabetic coma. I wasn't sure how bad it was, and I wasn't sure whether she was to return to her workplace.

Anyway, she popped in on Tuesday, I was in one of the worst moods in a tremendously long time. She still had the cast on her leg but also now had a sling on her arm. I felt really bad for her and yet she brightened my mood. I hoped that she was getting better.

I guess I was wrong.

The workplace was dreary after that. Most of the servers were good friends with her and their mood reflected it.

Like I said, I've had better birthdays.

Today Life Begins...

...because today I turn 40. God, I knew I would see this day but man am I disappointed in how things have gone in my life and in America, especially in New Jersey since I first speculated about the future. The idea that an idiot like George W would be president not one term but two! The fact that cars do not get 70 mpg, while having the power of a truck, speaking of which, what the hell happened to humanity that they would favor SUVs and trucks? Do we want to be tagged as ignorant. Probably, because that was the electorate's gripe about Al Gore, and John Kerry. Too smart, we would rather have a beer with an alcoholic who challenges his dad to fight mano y mano.

And, innovations? I thought housing would be more centrally planned. A town center with housing and commerce for all the people, near public transportation. The onle places that come close are wildly expensive high rises. McMansions continue to be built and still lack any kind of charm or appeal. Traffic getting worse, highways still ugly, charmless box stores replacing equally charmless malls. Even Manhattan is starting to look like a mall, having less reason to visit.

Sigh! Anyway here's a new cartoon!



Enjoy!

Monday, January 08, 2007

A Funeral For A Tree

Where's the Funny in the Funnies?

As a daily reader of the comic pages since I was five, I noticed many changes in the pages over the last 30 years. When I first read the comics, the adventure/serial strips were in its waning days. The Star Ledger back then had a half page devoted to these type of strips, now there are zero.

zero.

So, that means the two pages of comics are all of the "humorous" variety. They're either "gag-a-day", narratives, or bad puns. They each are occasionally amusing, but rarely get more than a chuckle out of me. But I'm not here to judge the merits of their attempts of humor, no, I'm disturbed at the intrusion of "issues" in what is suppose to be a funny strip.

Take Funky Winkerbean. This strip came out shortly after Doonesbury and was "youth" oriented. However unlike Doonesbury it didn't tackle issues for most of its first twenty years. These days they deal with breast cancer, characters in Iraq, one armed pregnant woman giving birth in comic stores (Actually that WAS funny in an unintentional way), and date rape. Funky Winkerbean goes into uncomfortable detail with the issues to shame you to pay attention. You'd think it was a serious strips but almost everyday a character gives in to a permanent smirks over bad puns and wry knowingness. This gets the strip attention in the press about how noble it is to take on serious issues that confront us in the real world. No, the strip should get praise on how funny it is, or at least how Funky it is, which of course it isn't.

One humorous strip that has taken on issues that for a longer period of time is For Better or For Worse. Lynn Johnston's strip was new when she went from gag-a-day to a more narrative approach. She wasn't heavy handed with drama in the early going, she dealt with divorce and Liz gets glasses. Lynn Johnston took the "Gasoline Alley" approach to her characters in that they aged as the strip progressed so the kids became teenagers, then adults and dealt with the trials and tribulations of growing up. (Thank God we never had a "Liz gets her first period" storyline) One of these story lines involved a neighbor, Lawrence (oh,oh, full name alert!) coming out of the closet. It was a brave storyline at the time especially when the character is a teenager. Lynn Johnston got praise in the press for this and I think it might have gone to her head.

Okay, all characters age in For Better and For Worse, that means dogs who have been in the strip for 15 years are very old dogs and should be dead. Johnston realized this, and made a storyline out of it. This is where the strip made a transition to drama overkill. 15 year old Farley could have just died in a bedroom or stopped eating and that would make for a touching storyline. But NO! Farley had to save little April Patterson from drowning in a flash flood and die from exhaustion! Super Farley!

The grandparents of the kids have died off one by one in rather appropriate efficient ways, until we get to Elly Patterson's father who had a stroke. He didn't die, no, we get to go through the trials and tribulations of a man going through therapy, including his inner thoughts, yippee! Another recent storyline has been a fire in Michael Patterson's apartment in which Michael risks life and limb to save his precious manuscript of his first book. This storyline reveals an annoying trend of having the main characters being super-saintly.

Liz, meanwhile somehow has three men lusting after her despite for all appearances they have never gotten any from her and will not until marriage. She somehow has time to go on helicopter rides with one, gets visits from a noble cop who went all out to accommodate her when she went fickle on where she wanted to live, and of course grizzled-before-his-time, Anthony, who effed up his marriage by pining for Liz during his wedding. He invited his ex-girlfriend to his wedding! So who will have Liz, me I'm hoping for a helicopter crash will forever link her to Warren, the errant pilot like Princess Di is linked to Dodi Fayed for eternity.

Anyway, I want my comics to be funny unless it's Mary Worth, which actually is funny.

By the way, I mentioned Gasoline Alley a few times, theirs was the first comic strip to have their characters age. Which was cool back in the day, but now the comic strip is nearly 90 years old. Skeezix, a character found as a baby on the door stoop of Walter Wallet is over 85 years old. Walter Wallet was a full grown adult long enough to be a committed bachelor in 1919. That would make him at least 108 years old! He's outlived at least two of his creators.

KILL HIM ALREADY!!!

And kill Elly's dad, and cancer woman from Funky too! Their presence and cancer woman's smirks are too much to take!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Monday, January 01, 2007

New Comic Strip

Death Was Predicted

Three major figures of culture died the last week of 2006. They died after most publications put out their "in memorium" issues. The funny thing to me was they had something in common with each other.

So, what could an innovative singer/performer, an accidental U.S president, and a Middle Eastern dictator possibly have in common? Well, Each one of these guys "death" were fodder for pop culture in the 90's, years before their death.

In !991, the group L.A. Style (who were Dutch) released the song "James Brown is Dead" an early techno hit. Like the Moody Blues song that said Timothy Leary was dead, James Brown was alive at the time the song came out. So, when James Brown died my mind immediately conjored up the song.

Gerald Ford was 93 when he died. He had been in poor health throughout 2006 but hung in to become the longest living ex president of all time. His age alone made his death imminent but ten years ago, and twenty years after Chevy Chase made his mark playing a clutzy Ford, a hilarious skit featuring Dana Carvey as Tom Brokaw doing spots about an 83 year Gerald Ford possibly dying when Brokaw was on vacation. It covered a number of contingencies including being eaten by wolves. I watched that the day of Gerald Ford's death, and felt it was in good taste because Gerald Ford was considered delicious by the wolves.

Saddam Hussein's death came shockingly quick after a trial that really did not go into much depth of the atrocities he committed over the years. Anyway, back in 1999, "South Park The Movie" featured the irrelevant has been dictator in Hell as Satan's lover. It was amusing in the South Park fashion and when I read right wing blogs celebrating Hussein's death, "burning in Hell" was uttered a lot and therefore I thought of the movie.

So that's it, I will always find pop culture references linked to people. Homer Simpson lost his neighbor Gerald Ford. James Brown don't feel good anymore and Saddam Hussein was well hung.