Tag Archives: the new media

Baseball, Perspective and Life

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Well my friends Opening Day is upon us after a long and at times brutal winter, and for that I am glad. So tonight after a very long day moving furniture and books getting ready for the contractors to come and install the tile on my living room floor I am basically doing a re-run but not calling it that. I was working on another article but it is too late and I am too tied to finish it, so I am reprising this article from 2011. Have a great night and catch you tomorrow.

“I think about the cosmic snowball theory. A few million years from now the sun will burn out and lose its gravitational pull. The earth will turn into a giant snowball and be hurled through space. When that happens it won’t matter if I get this guy out.” Bill “Spaceman” Lee

Bill “Spaceman” Lee is a funny guy. A Major League pitcher who has long since retired Lee somehow in an often convoluted way was able to keep things in perspective. I love this quote because it is a reminder that a lot of the stuff that we take very seriously in the long run isn’t that important. In fact it reminds of just how little control we have and why it is such an exercise in futility to be anxious and worry about things that we cannot control. I’m pretty sure that Jesus had a word or two about this as well which his disciples thought was important enough to put in the Gospels.

Anyway, last night was another night where for the most part I took the night off from looking at the news about Japan and Libya. I watched for a while as I ate dinner and did laundry but when I began to put my platform bed together I decided I didn’t need to keep listening to newscasters, commentators, talking heads, politicians and pundits as they pondered, puzzled and piddled about the problems of the day. Let’s face it unless big news breaks in the middle of any news channels’ programming it is all the same information being repeated repeatedly by people who many times are paid huge amounts of money to sound ignorant. I guess that it beats real work. Oh well I have continued to take a mental break from this things because they will be there in the morning and will probably be worse than they are now. But to paraphrase what I said last night what is going on now needs to be kept in perspective because this nation and the world have been throw worse during the 20th Century then we are going through now.

Since I wrote about some of those things in my last essay night I won’t re-hash them. But I will say that our media machine both the old established media and the new media are the greatest producers of anxiety that the world has ever seen. These people have created an industry where news is packaged to create anxiety and keep views hooked wondering what terrible calamity will befall them, because if it happened somewhere else it will probably happen here too even if all the facts on the ground are different. David Brinkley said it well when talking about television news: “The one function that TV news performs very well is that when there is no news we give it to you with the same emphasis as if it were.” Thus even hypothetical issues become objects which are used to drive up anxiety, anger and fear and I think that pundits of all types and stripes are the worst offenders in this. It is simply shameful but I digress.

If we look at American History we see that while the media since day one has promoted anxiety and fear in one form or another that we have for the most part been able to keep things in perspective. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt said “we have nothing to fear but fear itself” he was absolutely on the money. Our problem today is that we live in a world where our ability to communicate information especially about bad things both real and imagined exceeds both our ability to absorb it and to cognitively and emotionally respond to any real threat vice the imagined threats. Branch Rickey once said “thinking about the Devil is worse than seeing the Devil.”

In such a tumultuous environment it is hard to keep to keep events in perspective. As I said in my previous article I was tired from hearing the constant barrage of bad news. Now I am pretty good about keeping perspective but even if I can cognitively deal with the news it can be hard to maintain a non-anxious presence if I am being constantly bombarded with disasters and tragedies of the magnitude that we have witnessed the past several weeks. Thus I turned off the news and put on baseball movies and decided to do the same last night.

Since I am tying baseball into the whole issue of keeping one’s perspective I want to mention the great baseball comedies Major League and Bull Durham. While they are comedies told through the lens of baseball they are great movies about life and keeping one’s perspective. I love both of these movies, they are not the emotional and spiritual tales like Field of Dreams and For the Love of the Game they are great in using the medium of a baseball comedy to give life lessons.

Major League deals with a Cleveland Indians team that has not won a world series in over 40 years and whose owner is trying to lose so many games that she can move the team to Miami. The team is made up of has been players, cast offs and rookies of uncertain ability and maturity. In the movie which was set before the Indians renaissance of the 1990s dealt with a losing team that the owner purposely built to lose, but finds its pride to spite their nefarious owner and win the American League East. The character that I can relate to is the old catcher called up from the Mexican League, Jake Taylor played by Tom Berenger who is the field leader of the team helping the young players to mature while holding the Indians together as they go through difficult times and then go on to win the East against the Yankees and in the process rediscover a love that was lost due to his own mistakes.

Bull Durham is another one of my favorites and once again my favorite character is the journeyman catcher, Crash Davis played by Kevin Costner who is sent back to “A” Ball to assist a young pitcher named Eby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh played by Tim Robbins. In the process Crash helps LaLoosh, assists his teammates as they go through hard times and discovers love even at the end of his playing career.

What I like about these films is how they show how to keep perspective in life. In the movies both Jake Taylor and Crash Davis are guys on the down side of their careers. They play on losing teams which they help lead back into contention and help the young players mature into winners. They simply concentrate in the things that they can influence.

Of course baseball is taken deep into the future in Star Trek Deep Space Nine.

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The way I figure is that in life we can worry about stuff that we can’t control and ignore the things and people around us that really matter that we can have some influence upon and that is not just a baseball thing. That is a life thing; it is a faith thing and a relational thing. Are these characters perfect examples? By no means, they are regular guys in situations that are not the greatest to be in and they make mistakes, sometimes on the field and a lot of time in relationships. That is why I think that they are good examples; they are real not some kind of untouchable perfect hero. I can relate to guys like that.

I know that I’m a Mendoza Line* kind of guy in a lot of ways. I’m a journeyman who has been able to be successful enough to hang around a long time in my chosen profession. I think that is how I keep my perspective, I’ve been around long enough to make lots of mistakes, experience a lot of bad times and having come through a really bad time after Iraq realize that no matter what happens things will work out. That was like being in a major slump but somehow despite everything I made it through those hard times.

So when I now talk about keeping perspective on life I talk about it from a vantage point of having failed in different ways but also having succeeded in others sometimes even in the same endeavor. So my perspective is now I know that I can’t control what is happening in all the world’s crisis points or for that matter almost anything, I need to take care of the people and things that I have a little bit up influence upon.

I think that is a lesson that baseball teaches us. It teaches us that so much of life is beyond our control and that just because everything isn’t okay doesn’t mean that we need to live in fear and in a constant state of anxiety. As Walt Whitman so eloquently put it “I see great things in baseball. It’s our game – the American game. It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism. Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set. Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.”

Peace

Padre Steve+
*The Mendoza Line is named after Mario Mendoza who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He hit for a career batting average of .215 and the Mendoza Line is considered to be a .200 average which is the line below which players can pretty much be assured that they will not remain in the Major Leagues.

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Matt Drudge and the New Media Cynicism: We Could Use a Little Good News

“Why don’t you knock it off with them negative waves? Why don’t you dig how beautiful it is out here? Why don’t you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?” Sgt Oddball (Donald Sutherland) Kelly’s Heroes

One of my favorite characters in a war movie is that of Sergeant Oddball played with such great aplomb by Donald Sutherland in the 1970 film Kelly’s Heroes.

Oddball is an unlikely hero. In the midst of war’s desolation he finds purpose, in a decidedly hippy sort of way. He is determined that no matter what happens in the war that he will try to be positive. His attitude is something that I wish most of Unholy Trinity of Politicians, Pundits and Preachers would somehow whether it be through diligent study or divine revelation discover.

I look at the Drudge Report every day. He is probably the most influential individual in media today. Millions of visitors flock to his website every day. His traffic is off the charts.  Now I don’t know Matt Drudge, I just know that he has a large amounts of links to various stories and websites and I use him to jump off to see what he is reporting. He basically is show prep for most of the conservative media and blogosphere, not that there is anything wrong with that.

Drudge makes no bones about his conservatism. I remember reading him when he helped blow open the Bill Clinton- Monica Lewinski “it depends of what your definition of is is” sex scandal back in 1997. So I have been reading him for 15 years and have seen how his influence has grown.

However as I noted in a previous article called The Drudge Distort he often will twist the meaning of an article that he links to with a headline that does not resemble the actual article. His website is laid out brilliantly to define a number of breaking news subjects and form them in such a way that a reader who does not actually read the articles that he links to, simply sees a salacious, cynical, conspiratorial and just plain negative picture. It is positively depressing to look at his site.  Simply look at the site layout daily. If there is a big story Drudge will have several headlines to links which mold the way a story looks and when you dig deeper you find that the actual articles don’t say what he is saying.

While the site is heavily tilted towards politics which is perhaps one of the most cynical enterprises that one can report about, the cynicism of Drudge appears to me to color everything that he reports about: sports, culture, entertainment and even religion. There almost nothing hopeful on it, unless one is into some dark schadenfruede that rejoices in the misfortunes of others. Thus it is no wonder to me that so much of the country which is influenced by the Drudge Report is so negative about everything.

Personally I don’t care how he breaks news before media behemoths. I think that a free and independent media is important and that Matt Drudge does a hell of a job at breaking news. Admittedly a lot of news is bad now days. Headlines are all that many people read when they go to Drudge and so the way he presents the news is as important or possibly even more important than the actual news

The dark and cynical message of Drudge is echoed by much of the media, both the New Media and the Mainstream media. Coupled with the 24 hour, or should I say the 1440 minute daily news cycle Drudge feeds the angst of the nation which now feeds on negativity and is amplified by cable news and the multitude of “news” services, political pundits and even preachers. Media outlets echo off of each other be they from the left or the right of the spectrum and Drudge helps drive them.

I really think that this dark culture that pervades almost all of the media is quite destructive to any productive political or cultural discussion. This is the kind of media that helped destroy the democracy of the Weimar Republic and pave the way for Hitler whose media gurus Josef Goebbels and Julius Streicher understood this better than almost all of their contemporaries.

I wonder about the mind of someone who can constantly not only dwell on the negative found in any situation but must then ensure that everyone else is infected with this. I worry about people who do that. This is not just a criticism of Drudge, but the whole media complex. One can look at history and see similar whatever media the Yellow journalism of the 1890s and

Yes there is a lot of bad news in the world. But there is also a lot of good news, except those that make the big money in media find that bad news brings in more money than good news. Admittedly some reporters will throw in the obligatory tear jerker or good news story the rends our hearts, but even then for every good news story there are scores of bad news stories.

Anne Murray had a hit song in the early 1980s called Little Good News”  the last part of which said:

http://vimeo.com/5943612

I’ll come home this evenin’

I’ll bet that the news will be the same

Somebody takes a hostage, somebody steals a plane

How I wanna hear the anchor man talk about a county fair

And how we cleaned up the air, how everybody learned to care

Whoa, tell me

 

Nobody was assassinated in the whole Third World today

And in the streets of Ireland, all the children had to do was play

And everybody loves everybody in the good old USA

We sure could use a little good news today

 

Nobody robbed a liquor store on the lower part of town

Nobody OD’ed, nobody burned a single buildin’ down

 

Nobody fired a shot in anger, nobody had to die in vain

We sure could use a little good news today… 

I just wish like Sergeant Oddball that Drudge would drop his sky is falling message and actually report something hopeful for a change. The Apostle Paul once said “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” 

I just wonder what would happen if someone in media, maybe even Matt Drudge actually took that advice. But then maybe I am just a dreamer.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Drudge Distort: A New Feature at Padre Steve’s World

I do most of my business on that dirty Internet that you were just talking about, where I find there is a lot of freedom to report exactly what I want.”  Matt Drudge

I have been noticing for quite some time that conservative media scion Matt Drudge, publisher of the Drudge Report has a penchant for producing sensational and sometimes misleading headlines to articles linked to his site. Sometimes the headlines twist the meaning of what was in the article so completely I have to believe that Drudge’s intent is to stir up and mislead an already paranoid readership who probably will not actually dig into the article to find out the truth.

Today’s entry was Town Considers Banning Smokers From Smoking — Outside Their Own Homes!

The article was from the local CBS News affiliate in Sacramento http://sacramento.cbslocal.com/2012/02/24/rocklin-considering-banning-smokers-from-smoking-outside-their-own-homes/

The headline on the CBS site read “Rocklin Considering Banning Residents From Smoking Outside Their Own Homes.” However the town is not considering that. The council was asked by a citizen to do it but the Rocklin City Manager Rick Horst said the city has “no intention of considering the matter.”  This was actually mentioned in the article, but if you just read the headline you would think that the local town council is coming after smokers in their homes. The headline is a deliberate distortion of the story both by the local reporter and Drudge.

 

I look at Drudge a couple of times a day and have been doing so ever since Drudge broke the Clinton Lewinsky scandal.  The site often has great links and the format allows me to quickly scan his headlines to see what some of the major stories are before I start looking through the large number of other sites that I read to see what is going on in the world.

That being said since I returned from Iraq in 2008 I have looked at all news sites much more critically and weigh each of their respective biases when formulating my interpretation of events. When I started doing this I noticed that Drudge was masterful putting sensational headlines to various links, headlines that anyone who studies group psychology and mass movements knows are designed to inflame the passions of his readers by appealing to fear, in this case fear of intrusive government.  It is what William Randolph Hearst did so well in the 1890s, back then it was called yellow journalism.

Drudge is a internet news pioneer and a powerhouse and a lot of times he breaks news that is important or provides links to articles that are sometimes ignored in larger traditional news outlets. I admire the fact that he can get stories out sometimes before other media. Drudge’s presence does make the media more accountable.

That being said Drudge has a political bias and will distort headlines when it suits his purpose. His page will often feature links to several unrelated articles which paint a narrative of what he wants to point out.  He is very good at doing this and it is a reason for his immense popularity. Thus readers need to take that into account before getting too spun up when they see one or several sensationalist headlines on his site.

In the 2012 campaign it goes without saying that Drudge does his best to zing President Obama at every opportunity but he appears to me to be playing kingmaker in the GOP primaries in helping take down Newt Gingrich in Florida as well as Ron Paul and more recently Rick Santorum.

The Drudge Report for all of its prowess is as susceptible to bias and creating bias as is any traditional media outlet or reporter. Unfortunately many of Drudge’s readers can’t see that and as such what is highlighted on the Drudge Report often ends up repeated all over the media, especially the conservative “new” media even if the headline is a sensationalized distortion or outright falsehood propagated by another news site.

So I will be adding a tab at the top of this page called The Drudge Distort and when I notice something terribly distorted I will post a short note about it with the link and any other supporting articles.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under News and current events, Political Commentary

Baseball and Life: The Importance of Perspective

It’s all about Perspective

“I think about the cosmic snowball theory. A few million years from now the sun will burn out and lose its gravitational pull. The earth will turn into a giant snowball and be hurled through space. When that happens it won’t matter if I get this guy out.” Bill “Spaceman” Lee

Bill “Spaceman” Lee is a funny guy. A Major League pitcher who has long since retired Lee somehow in an often convoluted way was able to keep things in perspective.  I love this quote because it is a reminder that a lot of the stuff that we take very seriously in the long run isn’t that important. In fact it reminds of just how little control we have and why it is such an exercise in futility to be anxious and worry about things that we cannot control. I’m pretty sure that Jesus had a word or two about this as well which his disciples thought was important enough to put in the Gospels.

Anyway, last night was another night where for the most part I took the night off from looking at the news about Japan and Libya. I watched for a while as I ate dinner and did laundry but when I began to put my platform bed together I decided I didn’t need to keep listening to newscasters, commentators, talking heads, politicians and pundits as they pondered, puzzled and piddled about the problems of the day. Let’s face it unless big news breaks in the middle of any news channels’ programming it is all the same information being repeated repeatedly by people who many times are paid huge amounts of money to sound ignorant. I guess that it beats real work.  Oh well I have continued to take a mental break from this things because they will be there in the morning and will probably be worse than they are now. But to paraphrase what I said last night what is going on now needs to be kept in perspective because this nation and the world have been throw worse during the 20th Century then we are going through now.

Since I wrote about some of those things in my last essay night I won’t re-hash them. But I will say that our media machine both the old established media and the new media are the greatest producers of anxiety that the world has ever seen. These people have created an industry where news is packaged to create anxiety and keep views hooked wondering what terrible calamity will befall them, because if it happened somewhere else it will probably happen here too even if all the facts on the ground are different. David Brinkley said it well when talking about television news: “The one function that TV news performs very well is that when there is no news we give it to you with the same emphasis as if it were.” Thus even hypothetical issues become objects which are used to drive up anxiety, anger and fear and I think that pundits of all types and stripes are the worst offenders in this. It is simply shameful but I digress.

If we look at American History we see that while the media since day one has promoted anxiety and fear in one form or another that we have for the most part been able to keep things in perspective. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt said “we have nothing to fear but fear itself” he was absolutely on the money. Our problem today is that we live in a world where our ability to communicate information especially about bad things both real and imagined exceeds both our ability to absorb it and to cognitively and emotionally respond to any real threat vice the imagined threats. Branch Rickey once said thinking about the Devil is worse than seeing the Devil.”

In such a tumultuous environment it is hard to keep to keep events in perspective.  As I said in my previous article I was tired from hearing the constant barrage of bad news. Now I am pretty good about keeping perspective but even if I can cognitively deal with the news it can be hard to maintain a non-anxious presence if I am being constantly bombarded with disasters and tragedies of the magnitude that we have witnessed the past several weeks. Thus I turned off the news and put on baseball movies and decided to do the same last night.

Since I am tying baseball into the whole issue of keeping one’s perspective I want to mention the great baseball comedies Major League and Bull Durham. While they are comedies told through the lens of baseball they are great movies about life and keeping one’s perspective. I love both of these movies, they are not the emotional and spiritual tales like Field of Dreams and For the Love of the Game they are great in using the medium of a baseball comedy to give life lessons.

Major League deals with a Cleveland Indians team that has not won a world series in over 40 years and whose owner is trying to lose so many games that she can move the team to Miami.  The team is made up of has been players, cast offs and rookies of uncertain ability and maturity. In the movie which was set before the Indians renaissance of the 1990s dealt with a losing team that the owner purposely built to lose, but finds its pride to spite their nefarious owner and win the American League East. The character that I can relate to is the old catcher called up from the Mexican League, Jake Taylor played by Tom Berenger who is the field leader of the team helping the young players to mature while holding the Indians together as they go through difficult times and then go on to win the East against the Yankees and in the process rediscover a love that was lost due to his own mistakes.

Bull Durham is another one of my favorites and once again my favorite character is the journeyman catcher, Crash Davis played by Kevin Costner who is sent back to “A” Ball to assist a young pitcher named Eby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh played by Tim Robbins. In the process Crash helps LaLoosh, assists his teammates as they go through hard times and discovers love even at the end of his playing career.

What I like about these films is how they show how to keep perspective in life.  In the movies both Jake Taylor and Crash Davis are guys on the down side of their careers. They play on losing teams which they help lead back into contention and help the young players mature into winners. They simply concentrate in the things that they can influence.

The way I figure is that in life we can worry about stuff that we can’t control and ignore the things and people around us that really matter that we can have some influence upon and that is not just a baseball thing. That is a life thing; it is a faith thing and a relational thing. Are these characters perfect examples? By no means, they are regular guys in situations that are not the greatest to be in and they make mistakes, sometimes on the field and a lot of time in relationships. That is why I think that they are good examples; they are real not some kind of untouchable perfect hero. I can relate to guys like that.

I know that I’m a Mendoza Line* kind of guy in a lot of ways. I’m a journeyman who has been able to be successful enough to hang around a long time in my chosen profession. I think that is how I keep my perspective, I’ve been around long enough to make lots of mistakes, experience a lot of bad times and having come through a really bad time after Iraq realize that no matter what happens things will work out. That was like being in a major slump but somehow despite everything I made it through those hard times.

So when I now talk about keeping perspective on life I talk about it from a vantage point of having failed in different ways but also having succeeded in others sometimes even in the same endeavor.  So my perspective is now I know that I can’t control what is happening in all the world’s crisis points or for that matter almost anything, I need to take care of the people and things that I have a little bit up influence upon.

I think that is a lesson that baseball teaches us. It teaches us that so much of life is beyond our control and that just because everything isn’t okay doesn’t mean that we need to live in fear and in a constant state of anxiety.  As Walt Whitman so eloquently put it “I see great things in baseball.  It’s our game – the American game.  It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism.  Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set.  Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.”

Tonight is another baseball and life movie night with Game 6. The film stars Michael Keaton who plays an actor struggling with cancer, divorce and his relationship with his teenage daughter. He is a diehard Red Sox fan during the 1986 World Series. If time permits I’ll see what else I have on the shelf.

Peace

Padre Steve+
*The Mendoza Line is named after Mario Mendoza who played for the Pittsburg Pirates. He hit for a career batting average of .215 and the Mendoza Line is considered to be a .200 average which is the line below which players can pretty much be assured that they will not remain in the Major Leagues.

 

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Filed under Baseball, faith, philosophy, sports and life