foo to yoo

Friday, March 10, 2006

Boswell makes me feel better

It's often worth waiting for what Tom Boswell, the best baseball columnist in America today, has to say about a matter. He proves it is worthwhile to wait with his column today on Bonds. public scrutiny and cyber vituperation rain down on Bonds, we should remember that he is just the symptom, not the cause. When sports fundamentally warp themselves out of greed, we never know until later where the long-term damage will manifest itself. When baseball's owners "took a strike" -- ousting conciliatory commissioner Fay Vincent and installing Bud Selig, then a hardliner, to do the deed -- no one dreamed that the greatest damage to the sport would come years later and in an unexpected form.

The true price of the strike was not in canceled games or wasted revenue or a glaring gap in the list of World Series champions. Instead, the greatest toll was taken from the game's credibility, its integrity, its place in the national consciousness as an institution worthy of high and long-held regard.


But your sins don't "find you out" in the forms of your own choosing. Your misdeeds come back in warped and intractable ways. Then suddenly you are stuck with problems that have no solutions. For example, every baseball fan for decades to come will have to make mental adjustments for every accomplishment since the juice arrived. Who was clean? Who was dirty? And who cheated, yet did not technically break any of the written rules?

Bonds's own words will echo in the future, a perfect representation of the broken moral compass of his baseball period. "What players take doesn't matter. It's nobody's business," Bonds said four years ago. Last spring, he rebuked a questioner, saying: "You're talking about something that wasn't even illegal at the time. . . . Man, it's not like this is the Olympics."

No, sad to say, it's not the Olympics. It's only baseball, a business that misplaced its conscience for years, and only now is discovering that, in ways it never dreamed, the sport has truly become a game of shadows.

Don't know why I've done all the baseball posts-- must have something to do with the spring coming soon, the first signs of which being pitchers and catchers reporting in February. Or perhaps it was running in shorts this morning in the northeast.

In honor of Boswell's greatness, here are some of his recent greatest hits on the DC stadium struggles:
For the Nats, One Stadium Down, One Owner to Go
Time to Decipher D.C.'s Code
Nationals' Stadium Gets a New Lease on Life
Baseball, D.C. Are in a League Of Their Own

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Steven A. Smith is wrong about Barry Bonds

Wrong. I read his column today with my jaw dropping increasingly open, having the same feeling one has watching a horror movie as the virgin female character blissfully prepares to fall asleep (from which she will be awakened by the killer).

Barry Bonds is the topic:

None of us gets to sit here and chronicle Bonds' transgression as if he's committed some crime against humanity, as if he's someone who should be ostracized for all of sports eternity. We especially don't get to do that when, reportedly, all Bonds was trying to do was level a playing field McGwire allegedly desecrated with his own unethical practices.

Uh oh. It gets worse though: the time that McGwire was a media darling, Bonds, alluding to McGwire's pursuit of Maris' home-run record, said, "They're just letting him do it because he's a white boy!"

Bell also reportedly claimed that Bonds said, "They'll never let him win," speaking of Sammy Sosa, a Latin player battling with McGwire for Maris' record.


But what, pray tell, was Bonds actually wrong about?

The fact remains that while no one can prove what is inside someone's soul, a large segment of the black population feels exactly the way Bonds feels:

It believes that McGwire was cheating the whole time. That it was evident he was on something more than andro, likely even Deca-Durabolin and Winstrol - steroids Bonds has been accused of using.

It believes that many in the baseball community knew this much, and still covered their eyes and ears because they didn't want to taint baseball's once-pristine image, already sullied because of innumerable boneheaded decisions (such as the cancellation of the World Series in 1994) that the sport had yet to recover from in 1998.

Many black folks believe what Bonds believes: that if he wasn't on the brink of eclipsing the great Babe Ruth's No. 2 spot among all-time home-run leaders, there may not have been a Balco investigation, constant leaking of grand jury testimony, or something tantamount to a witch hunt against a guy who continues to play baseball with impunity everywhere but in the court of public opinion.

I'm black, and I'm no different.

Look, I'm typically very sympathetic to those asserting that blacks are treated differently and seen differently by society at large and portrayed in the media, but this is not going to go far with me.

First of all, I find this crying out that Bonds is being singled out because he is closing in on Babe Ruth offensive. Mr. Smith might want to refresh his memory of Hank Aaron's experience as he closed in on the same record that Mr. Bonds is nearing. In that case, Aaron was receiving death threats (not having his illegal steroid use exposed) solely becasue of the color of his skin (not because he had chosen to do something illegal by taking performance enhancing drugs). Hank Aaron played in the negro leagues (Mr. Bonds was never in a segregated league). Hank Aaron made a top salary of $250,000 in 1976. Mr. Bonds made $22,000,000 in 2005 and is in the last year of a five year, $90,000,000 contract with the San Francisco Giants (meaning that he will earn $22,000,000 this year as well).

Second, take a look at Mr. Sosa, who is portrayed as a victim of some massive baseball conspiracy to keep him from setting the single season home run record in 1998. We have direct knowledge that he is a cheater. The phenomenon of "mini Sammy Sosa" in Baltimore once steroid testing began in major league baseball is one of those things that makes you say "Hmmm, maybe there IS something to the rumors that Sosa was on the juice." Steroid testing leads to markedly smaller Sammy Sosa and a big drop off in production-- correlation is not causality, but there may be something here. Also, how exactly did MLB orchestrate this incredible conspiracy to keep McGuire in front of Sosa? It sure would take a lot of people in on the effort, with all the pitchers and managers involved. I like (and am even willing to believe) a good conpiracy theory any day. This is not a good one. Smith says that baseball is run by boneheads (true), but then wants us to believe that these same boneheads who couldn't keep their sport from imploding over labor issues pulled off a widespread conspiracy to keep McGuire on top and then successfully kept it quiet all these years-- I don't think so.

Third, Mr. Smith tries to link the BALCO investigation solely to Barry Bonds. Mr. Bonds got himself in to trouble with BALCO. He publicly endorsed one of the company's (legal) supplement products as early as 2000. He remained a customer and defended the company in statments and insisted on his innocence of any involvement in steroid use. However, the driving force in performance drug testing is not Major League Baseball (not by any stretch), but athletic events associated with the Olympics, especially track and field and swimming. BALCO clients started to test positive on a broad basis beginning in 2000 with C.J. Hunter (who BALCO's founders defended with a story about contaminated supplements bought from BALCO), and many more BALCO clients were found to be users of the company's designer steroids in 2003-4. The leaks from the grand jury investigation are a crime, and should be investigated and prosecuted where they exist-- however, much of the information on Mr. Bonds comes from individuals (including his mistress, Kimberly Bell) who were witnesses to the Grand Jury, but who are not constrained from talking about their testimony in any venue. (Smith is snide about Bell, at one point ridiculing her as someone "who somehow is capable of corroborating his mood swings to his use of everything from insulin to human growth hormone to testosterone decanoate" implying that she is reaching beyond her non-medical knowledge, but wouldn't she have known enough about his steroid use activity to correlate that with observed mood swings by Mr. Bonds?)

There is something that strikes me as false when Steven A. Smith, a celebrated sports media personality who makes hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, attempts to explain that "the Man" is Barry Bonds' problem. American sports fans have come a long way from 1974 (thank goodness), and sports fans of all races celebrate and worship the feats of Michael Jordan, Michael Vick, and (yes) Barry Bonds. Sports fans also understand that McGuire probably was using something with a little more juice than the non-banned "andro" that he acknowledged taking in 1998 (just look at his Congressional testimony to see the weaseling he does), and know that this devalues his accomplishments, just as they devalue Mr. Bonds'. Mr. Bonds is a premium talent who belongs in the Hall of Fame (provided he is not banned for something that we do not yet know-- an unlikely occurrance in my mind), just as Mr. McGuire does. I'm a believer that, disgraceful as his Congressional testimony becomes after he tested positive for steroids in 2005, Rafael Palmeiro belongs there as well.

Barry Bonds' problem is Barry Bonds, the man who probably took steroids, the man who had a mistress, the man who believes that "the Man" is his problem and who believes the syncophantic sports media players who help him to believe he is right.

Update: I think this is interesting too.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

I hated Kirby Puckett

October 26-27, 1991 in particular. I grew up an Atlanta Braves fan, so the 1991 season was like water to a man dying of thirst in the desert.

And then. Kirby F---ing Puckett and Jack F---ing Morris screw it all up for the men of destiny. When I think back on the Braves long run, that series probably mattered more than I imagine. First, you see the character of the Braves under Bobby Cox is not to will the other team into sumbission when they are down-- Cox's Braves let the other team return from the dead in Minneapolis. At the time it seemed like it could be the jitters of a playoff rookie team versus a team of veterans. Now I think it is just the Bobby Cox way-- one that I admire for it's success over time-- but one that lets a more desperate team up off the mat to come back and beat you.

Kirby Puckett came off the mat and beat us in game 6, and Morris did in game 7. Puckett was on the national stage one more time, winning the All Star MVP award in 1993. He continued to have a great career, then suddenly retired in spring training 1996 due to blindness in one eye caused by glaucoma. His post-baseball life stripped much of the Kirby Puckett sainthood from him, with allegations of sexual abuse, obvious infidelity, and obvious "issues" with self discipline becoming clearer via his weight problems, personal issues, and the like. Many people saw him as a tragic figure-- he had such joy in playing baseball that most could, even wanted, to forgive and forget.

Not me. I hated that bastard for his 1991 World Series work. I never got over it, and that may be the cruelest thing about baseball sometimes-- you are forced by circumstances to hate that which you would find admirable, even lovable, due to your feelings for your team and against their enemies. (As an example, I find Derek Jeter to be roughly equivalent to Josef Mengele, but then I have a bit of an ingrained yankee hatred).

Updated due to comments from Mrs. Ackfoo that "I hope that there are no children reading this.."

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Product review: Diet Pepsi Wild Cherry soda, 2 liter bottle

Packaging: Looks similar to other Pepsi packages, but does have and additional red border at the top and bottom of the label and a more "action-oriented" background in the blue of the label, almost giving a sense of vibration to the viewer. The label states that it is a "GREAT NEW TASTE." Otherwise, a relatively standard two-liter bottle, clear with blue top.

Initial presentation: Opening the bottle, the soda seemed less fizzy than regular Diet Pepsi (which is the fizziest of dark sodas). The pour, from a warm bottle onto ice, was smoother than a regular Diet Pepsi pour, with the bubbles receding quickly. Dark cola color was as expected.

Initial taste: Bringing the soda to the mouth with a faint bottle fizziness still on the glass, the smell of cherry soda was strong. The initial taste was of a very strong cherry flavor, overpowering the assumed cola taste (based on the cola coloring of the soda in the glass), and a definite chemical element to the flavor and bouquet, despite the promise of "Cherry Flavored Diet Pepsi with other natural flavors" on the label. In the glass the cherry flavor dissipated slightly, allowing some of the cola flavor to come through. However, the cherry flavor is very strong, overpowering the naturally light Pepsi cola taste.

Straight up this cola is really a cherry cola, not a "Pepsi." As cherry is a relatively poor mixer for spirits, this is not likely to be a great mixer for alcoholic beverages. It does contain caffeine, and appears to be an efficient delivery vehicle for this much needed substance in modern life. However, the overwhelming cherry flavoring, completely masking the cola undertones so critical to cola-based soda refreshment, makes this a poor substitute for other forms of diet soda, even at sale prices.

Rating: 71 (out of 100)

Monday, March 06, 2006

Yahoo! 360 sucks

Problem 1: Stupid URLs
you might want yours to look like (say) Dignified. Easy to remember and type. However, if you join Yahoo 360, you get a blog with a url like That's a serious "you gotta be kidding me" moment. I guess that idea is that you can invite people (your Yahoo! friends)

Problem 2: Must be a Yahoo! member to post comments. Trolls hate sunlight. And actually, sometimes I want to post anonymously even if I am a registered member of the site (imagine!). Believe it or not, there are a number of reasons you might want to do this. Well, you can't on Yahoo! 360. You also can't use html in your comments. Plain text baby, it was good enough for BBS users in 1984, it's good enough for Yahoo!

And yes, I always type the official Yahoo! name because it reminds me, every time, how annoying any company that has an exclamation point as part of their name truly is. And Yahoo! is truly annoying.

AT&T and BellSouth: Didn't see that coming

But I guess that I should have. AT&T is buying BellSouth.

The heart of this deal is the Cingular problem. AT&T owns 60% of the Cingular assets and BellSouth 40%, but they have 50/50 control of Cingular. When one thinks about how the wireless network assets will be used in the future, especially as new technologies that enable fixed-mobile convergence enter the market, the inability to do anything with the Cingular assets without BellSouth's approval was always going to hinder AT&T's agility (such as it is) in the market. Wireless assets will become more startegic over the next few years and will see slower revenue erosion as well. So AT&T had to get control of Cingular, and this is probably the best way to do it.

On the other hand, the non-wireless BellSouth assets create problems as well. BellSouth has long been a slower mover in the telecom marketplace (a follower in pretty much every product category), and they are probably seeing proportionally more of a decline in revenues than Verizon, AT&T, or Qwest for voice. On the other hand, they haven't begun to invest in fiber to the home nearly as heavily as Verizon of AT&T, so they have not yet committed themselves to the massive destruction of shareholder value that results from FTTH. If this deal goes through, though, they'll be committed to that path. This probably means that AT&T will be required to invest even larger amounts in FTTH, as it will cover an even larger portion of the country than before. On the other hand, the BellSouth territory is at least as densly populated as AT&T territory, and includes fast-growing Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee-- four of the top ten states in population growth for the year ending in July 2005. AT&T territory already includes Texas, California, and Nevada, meaning that the new company would benefit from having it's territory include 7 of the top 10 states by population growth. The problem with this is that it requires investment of capital in infrastructure today (to serve these growing populations) which very well may not be supported by the revenue streams of the future, especially if prices continue to decline in key voice and data segments.

This deal is bad news for Lucent and Nortel, since it will shrink their universe of customers by one very large customer. Telcordia (recently sold by SAIC and currently owned by Warburg Pincus and Providence Equity Partners) will probably lose some of their current business with BellSouth.

Bad news also for Atlanta, where AT&T will reduce headquarters staff for BellSouth. Operational staff will be more difficult to cut, but if you work in marketing or finance, time to start looking over that resume. Cingular wireless is headquartered in Atlanta, and you've got to think that most of those jobs will move or be eliminated.

Of course, all this assumes that the deal will be approved, and it will take a long time to close this deal-- currently expected to close "next year."

One thing that always makes me shake my head and wonder what is going on is the slavish love of the AT&T brand. AT&T (nee SBC) has announced that at the completion of the deal, not only will BellSouth come under the AT&T brand, but Cingular will be re-branded as AT&T. Of course, this is after AT&T Wireless was re-branded as Cingular when Cingular bought AT&T Wireless. I guess that shareholders won't want all those billions used to re-brand back. I just don't see that value in the AT&T brand-- I see AT&T as hated phone company with a reputation that might have been good once, but that has been tarnished by years of obvious mis-management and incompetence. My guess is that Whitacre and Ackerman, who both started their careers at AT&T before the breakup (although their official bios say that they started at Southwestern Bell and BellSouth, we must remember that they were part of AT&T before 1984). Seems like there is a bit of a "let's put this thing back together, no matter how little sense it makes" thing going on there. As a friend noted, the idea is: "Lemme prove I have a big dick by putting AT&T back together", whilst Google is hanging nearby with a machete, waiting to chop that member off.

Whitacre and Ackerman will retire and ride off intot the sunset feted by some for rebuilding AT&T. Their successors may not be as happy though.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Writing is hard (a resolution)

Just read this column in the WSJ. I was not surprised at this:

"The latest word from Dave Sifry, CEO of the blog search engine Technorati, is that there are some 28.4 million blogs and the blogosphere is doubling in size every 5.5 months. Eye-popping figures like that have been thrown around a lot recently, but folks making revolutionary claims about blogging won't like other Technorati numbers: Less than half of those blogs are still getting posts three months after their creation, and less than 10% -- just 2.7 million -- are updated at least weekly. That means of Technorati's blogs, more than 90% are either abandoned or updated too rarely to merit the name -- nothing kills reader interest or visits more quickly and thoroughly than a stale blog."
This makes sense. The column author goes on to write that:

When my friend Greg Prince and I started our baseball blog, Fear and Faith in Flushing, our moods used to soar and crash based on the "referrer summary" of sites that had linked to us. After a while, we noticed something odd: Our traffic kept increasing, even as our referrers held steady or decreased. Then we realized this was a good thing: Readers were coming directly to us instead of through intermediaries.
(you should click through the link above-- both of the writers on the site are professionals engaged in a labor of love-- it is something to see, especially Greg's prolific writing)

But the takeaway for me was to not quit-- as easy as it is. No comments, few readers to date is depressing. I'm against blogwhoring, but I should probably do it. But I started doing this for me-- to improve my writing and learn about writing on deadline. That has been useful, and I shouldn't give up on it.