Craig Calcaterra

Carolina Panthers’ Cam Newton answers questions after the NFL Super Bowl 50 football game against the Denver Broncos Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016, in Santa Clara, Calif.  The Broncos won 24-10. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Associated Press

The Yankees use Cam Newton as an example of how not to talk to the media


Every team starts spring training with media training. As in: “hey, here’s how you deal with the media, you guys.” It’s understandable. When ballplayers say interesting or off-message things or if they react negatively to negative things, however understandably, it tends to create news stories and followup stories and, if things break just wrong, distractions. Far better it is, from the team’s perspective at least, to teach players to be kind and pleasant ciphers: always present and accommodating to the media, but ultimately offering very little outside of cliche.

The Yankees are no different. ESPN New York’s Andrew Marchand reports that this year the Yankees’ media training involved showing their players video of Cam Newton’s and Russell Wilson’s recent Super Bowl press conferences as the wrong way and the right way to deal with defeat. Newton, you’ll recall, was surly and visibly disappointed during his presser, much to the chagrin of everyone.

I know I’ve been slamming the Yankees a lot lately, but I’m not going to slam them here. I don’t have any problem with a team telling players to be empty, cliche-spewing automatons with the media. I wish they wouldn’t, but they’re trying to limit headaches and worry constantly about bad press, so I see what they’re trying to do. As with many things, Crash Davis was right about this.

That doesn’t mean that we should validate them simply for doing so, of course. When a player does stray off script, we should enjoy it. Even celebrate it. At least to a degree. I mean, if the player’s off-script message is to talk about how Stalin wasn’t really that bad and how Ayn Rand’s books are anything other than simplistic, sophomoric tripe the substance is worthy of criticism. I’m just saying that we should, at least on some level, appreciate that the player gave us a gift in this regard. Slam them for the substance for which they are responsible, but not simply because he didn’t stick to the talking points. You and I don’t work for the team, remember. The talking points are to obscure things from us, not to help us.

The football press was pretty bad about this with Newton and with others in the past. Some of them got bent out of shape in the same way a team or league PR person might, taking issue with the off-message comments simply for being off-message. As if the NFL were law enforcement instead of a party trying to sell something and of whom we should be critical. Baseball reporters tend to be way better about this and appreciate the gift they’re given when someone goes off-script. It probably has a lot to do with them enduring, like, 200 days worth of press availabilities a year and appreciating the change of pace.

To sum up: good for the Yankees for trying to keep their players from stepping in it, rhetorically speaking. Here’s hoping the training is an abject failure.

(h/t to CBS Eye on Baseball)

Donald Trump goes after the family that owns the Chicago Cubs


On the surface you would think that Donald Trump and the Ricketts family, which owns the Chicago Cubs, would go together well. Conservatives in the most modern sense of the term.  Trump, though talking tough about welfare and the need for self reliance, has always been in favor of government subsidies if they suited his own personal interests. Likewise the Ricketts, despite their patriarch leading a group called “Taxpayers against Earmarks,” asked for and received millions for a new spring training facility in Arizona and spent years asking for tax dollars to renovate Wrigley Field. They’re really, really against spending. At least spending that benefits people other than the Ricketts family.

There are some social similarities too. Trump’s presidential campaign was launched thanks to demonizing Mexicans and has sustained its momentum thanks to demonizing Muslims. The Ricketts family has never been like that, of course, but Joe Ricketts’ group once infamously suggested that it hire as a spokesman an “extremely literate conservative African-American” who could, among other things, slam President Obama for presenting himself as a “metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln.” Which, given they felt the need for such a specification, tells you what they think a default African American is like.

I do not know what lies in the hearts of Donald Trump or Joe Ricketts. They may have good explanations for accepting tax breaks they’d not allow others to have and they may not have a racist bone in their bodies, but it’s clear that they have no compunction about (a) at least looking like hypocrites on a superficial level; or (b) using race as a means of ginning up support for whatever it is they’re pursuing.

Given those political similarities, it’s almost sad to see Trump and the Ricketts family feuding:

Given that the Cubs won 97 games last year Trump couldn’t go with this usual “losers” insult, I guess. It does make me wonder what it is he thinks they’re hiding, though. I mean, we all know they kept Andre Dawson in the ivy for several years, but what beyond that?

Photo of the Day: David Price and David Ortiz are now beeeesssst frieeennnds

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Boston Red Sox

In Kurt Vonnegut’s novel “Cat’s Cradle,” we are introduced to the wonderful religion of Bokononism. The basis of the religion is people telling each other harmless little lies in such a way as to make the world a little brighter. The religion’s followers know they’re lies, of course, but realize that if they just go with it they’ll be happier so why not go with it? The lies of Bokoninism — foma —  are self-affirming. Foma may not be the truth, but they’re better than all of the other lies out there which would be told anyway, right?

One of the other beliefs of Bokoninism is that people are linked with others in a cosmically significant manner, even if it’s not obvious. A group is called a “karass,” and we all have one. Or several. It could be you, your husband, the clerk at the DMV and some pop singer you’ve never met, but the cosmos are demanding that you and your karass are somehow doing the universe’s will in some way. You’re all in it together, even if you don’t know what “it” is. Sometimes the members and purpose of your karass are revealed to you — why does that guy I met at that party that one time keep intersecting with my life anyway? — sometimes they are not. Life is just weird that way.

There are, however, false karasses. Groups of people who think they’re all connected somehow, but really aren’t. People who go to the same school, people of the same political party, people who root for the same sports teams and stuff like that. These false karasses are called “granfalloons,” and they’re comprised of people who share some sort of identity that really serves no purpose, even if they think it does. The funny thing about karasses and granfalloons are that people rarely think too hard about the former and they put WAY too much emphasis on the latter.

All of which brings us to David Price and David Ortiz. In 2013 Price got mad at Ortiz for, in his view, taking too much time to admire a home run during a playoff game. The next season the two were involved in a huge dustup when the Rays and Red Sox played again, with Price hitting Ortiz with a pitch, which eventually led to a benches-clearing incident and lots of ejections. After the game, Ortiz said this about Price:

“You can’t be acting like a little girl out there. You’re not going to win every time. When you give it up, that’s an experience for the next time. If you’re going act like a little [expletive] when you give it up, bounce back and put your teammates in jeopardy, that’s going to cost you . . . He knew he screwed up. He did that on his own. No manager sent him. No player was comfortable with the situation. He did that on his own. Which is [expletive]. He can get somebody else hurt. You can’t be doing that [stuff]. It’s on. Next time [Price] better bring the gloves. I have no respect for him no more.”

Strong words. Which are now forgotten, it seems. Ortiz reported to Red Sox camp this morning and met with his new teammate, David Price:



I think sports teams are granfalloons, both for players and fans. People think they have greater meaning and purpose than they do but, in reality, they are foma of the sort which does not really do the universe’s bidding. I know a lot of jerks who root for the team I root for and you do too. A lot of players on the same team really don’t like each other but they put that aside in order to do their job and fulfill what they believe to be their karass’ mission. Even if there is no real mission.

I feel like Ortiz and Price are part of a real karass, though. That their multi-year disdain for one another and subsequent, immediate friendship is really the universe’s way of revealing to people that either sports beefs are sports alliances are kind of silly when you think about them too much. Which, in turn, reveals that sports themselves are foma, designed to make our world a little brighter even if there are some dumb or negative aspects to them.

Sing a calypso and root for your baseball team. It’s way better than thinking too hard about all of those destructive lies out there.