Posted on: October 22, 2010 5:51 pm

I'm about to be demoted

Someday soon my Superstar status is going to fall to Allstar level -- and it's not my fault. CBS Sportsline just isn't the user-friendly place it used to be. To get to this blog entry page I had to collapse the big ad on the home page, try to catch a floating ad for a survey and click on the "X" and not the body of it, and close two additional floating survey ads. They begin with "Your opinion counts..." If my opinion counted, they wouldn't exist.
The redesign looks nice on the surface but is a pain in my backside in practice. Gone is the neat box of my favorite teams where I could actually click and see what they'd be doing the next day, or what they did yesterday. Instead of cleaning up the clutter of the expanding ad that no one wants to see, it's even more pervasive. (For example, CBS dudes, I don't want a Coke delivery man drinking Pepsi to hang from a rope and dangle over what I'm trying to read.)
The slap-you-in-the-face ads coupled with the it's-harder-to-use-but-doesn't-it-look-cooler redesign are creating a trend. I used to visit CBS Sportsline several times a day because it offered quick access to things I would idly wonder. Sure, I still come here, but nowhere near as frequently. Which means that I'm getting less ad exposure.
This should alarm you. This should make you consider toning down some things and restoring some others.
But it doesn't. Why? Because our opinion doesn't really count when push comes to shove. What you say you want, you don't. What you say you're offering, you aren't.
A news and game site I use redesigned itself but still offers its users the option of a "classic" view. I'm pretty sure you could do that too. So as my fewer visits translate into lower rankings, remember something. That's your fault, not mine.
Posted on: August 5, 2010 3:54 pm

Stop messing with my sports

The baseball season is heating up, the football rumors have begun. However, more and more, when I make one of my daily visits to CBS Sportsline, I find myself cursing  -- and that's before I even get to the scores or stories. I'm not sure why it's taken so long, but that flipping expanding ad at the top of the page (in ad-speak, the banner ad) unfolding just irks me to the nth degree. Who thought this would be a good idea? I want their names.
What went into this decision? I can just picture someone deciding that if the ad unfolded to dominate the page it would make more people click on it. Speaking for myself, what a hoot.
When I head for the website it's because I want sports, not a commercial that dominates the page. Beside my computer I am now keeping a running list of the ads that partake in this annoying contrivance just to make sure I never accidentally give those businesses my business.
So, do I ever click on ads? Yes, if the business offers something I need or want and it appears reputable. (In other words, not if it declares I'm the 1 millionth visitor and am now eligible to win my weight in gold.)
You enter the site, the ad unfolds and the "close" button is always in a different spot. So I ignore it and scroll down to see the news. Then, magically, the ad folds back up again and you're looking at -- more ads. Wow, just what I was hoping to find. NOT! I was hoping to find sports. Along the way I am receptive to advertising messages, but not if they interfere with my original mission.
Imagine how people would squawk if suddenly the little streaming banner on the bottom of their televisions grew to occupy the whole screen in the middle of the action. Imagine the effect on subscribers it would carry if, in order to read the articles in a magazine you had to peel off a bunch of advertisements.
Please, Sportsline, give your members a little credit. We're not easily hornswoggled as we look for our sports news. We're just irked. Please change the policy that really only says one thing to me: Our subscribers are a bunch of dummies and here's how we can rip them off. 
Category: General
Posted on: April 30, 2010 4:41 am

Kids get it right

I have three sons -- all adults now -- who played baseball with varying degrees of passion. The easy-going one would automatically step to the outfield, the zone for Little League coaches to assign the meeker or less talented players. He'd make one absolutely breathtaking catch per season, and then rest. He wasn't impressed with the concept of all stars. To him, baseball was recreation. It was a time to be with his friends and play a game against other friends. He once complained that the worst thing about Little League and Babe Ruth was that adults were involved.

The second son primarliy played infield, occasionally pitched and was really a good athlete. He was also shy, avoiding standing out in the crowd at all costs. He liked playing baseball, but he didn't like people watching. He loved the strategies but didn't love the spotlight. He just didn't complain -- even when he suffered at the hands of a coach who was less than kind to his players.

The first-born son played through one season of Babe Ruth ball and then played soccer in the spring. The second son hung up his cleats in exchange for distance running in track.

Then there was the third son. He never met a game he didn't want to win. Every moment of life to him was one huge competition. When he was too young to play baseball he was on the swim team. When it wasn't baseball season he found another sport. An illustration as to how competitive he was came when, at age 5, he played whiffle ball. We arrived at the game where everybody bats until they get a hit and everyone scores. He stopped cold on the way to his team, staring at the day's opponents intently. Then his shoulders sagged.

"We lose," he said. "They have one more player than we do."

As I look back over their lives as boys, I remember moments frozen in my mind. They made some heart-stopping plays. The oldest actually hung himself on a fence diving for and catching a ball. The shy second son took the mound to pitch and totally baffled most of the hitters. The number three son, who played baseball until he graduated from high school, pitched a perfect game his senior year.

Those aren't the moments that come to mind first though. I remember the oldest son, in his first game of youth ball, connecting with the ball and smacking it past the shortstop. It was time to run to first. He'd seen it on TV. He'd watched his half brother. The problem was he decided to duplicate the television, not the brother. So, he ran to first -- in extreme slow motion. His coach turned purple urging him to first, forgetting any fleeting thought he might have had of sending him on to second base. Fortunately, the outfielder who came up with the ball wasn't any faster than the base runner, so he made it there and almost got picked off dancing around in a state of absolute ecstasy.

I remember the second son, when his coach had forgotten to play him. I watched his face each innning, watching him for signs of sadness. Thee were none. He sat with a boy who was new in town (and also forgotten) and cheered on the team. Before the final ending, his team ended the game by going up by 10 runs. I asked him how he felt about not playing.

"It wasn't fun," he said. "I guess winning isn't really everything. But it's fine. He said he'd start us next game."

And then there is the first memory that comes to mind with my super competitive son. He had moved up from whiffle ball to the lowest age group of Little League and, on the team he was opposing, was a special needs child he knew. Number three son was the catcher when Bobby came up to bat. Bobby always smiled. He smiled even bigger when he managed to get his first hit of the season. His grin seemed to shine as he ran to first. He ignored his coach and went on to second and then third. My son's team finally managed to throw the ball to him. There he stood at home plate, stocky and sure of himself, and Bobby was grinning his way home.

The boy-who-must-not-lose squared himself. Bobby was bearing down on him. He looked at Bobby and looked at the ball. Then he stepped aside and let the ball slip from his fingers. Bobby scored his first and only run of his baseball career.

Every parent has stories like these about their children. What these stories point to is that young people might not walk on the field able to pitch, make diving catchers, or slide under tags. However, they do carry with them something that all of us wise adults sometimes forget -- and that's the unmitigated joy of getting to play the game. We teach them the skills. They plug us back into the joy. I'd say that's a pretty fair trade.
Posted on: August 4, 2009 12:00 am
Edited on: August 28, 2009 2:08 pm

The boy with the glove

Once there was this boy who loved nothing more than he loved baseball. He was a round little guy, always smiling, as he'd pick up a bat or chug out to take his position in the field. Dan was about as wide around as he was tall. That meant if he didn't hit the ball really far, he'd be out long before he approached first base.

He lived in a small town where the baseball pecking order was bestowed at birth on the children of former athletes. He wasn't a native, so he didn't get noticed. But he kept loving baseball. No one practiced harder than he did. No one cheered louder for his teammates -- the stars and the not-so-starry.

He learned, by hook or by crook, to get on base. He learned to field a screaming line drive. He volunteered to catch because the coach needed catchers. And, by volunteering to catch, he also got to pitch. He got better every season. Eventually, his persistence and dedication combined with his infinite cheerfulness earned him a spot on an all star team.

Then, middle school ended and high school began. And guess what? Dan grew. He shed his baby fat but never lost his joyful, little boy grin. He moved to another place where no one knew him or judged him by who he was in Little League. While a handful of his former teammates signed to play with a community college, Dan received a full ride at a four-year college. This spring, at the close of his junior year, he was drafted by an MLB team and he's spending the summer moving another step closer to the big dance. How's he doing? He's doing great at learning yet another system from yet another coach, moving a step closer to the dream he's held close for a decade. His former home is a distant memory.

Now, the same people who objected when his coach nominated him to the all star team travel to watch Dan take the mound and reminisce about him as if they recognized his potential all along.

The legend of Daniel should be a lesson to every person who agrees to coach a youth sports team. Fight to avoid stereotypes and listen to the kids. Let them tell you what's important to them. Some are there because they're supposed to be. Some want to play because their friends do. Some love the game. And, every once in a while, one of those kids who loves the game will take to heart the "practice, practice, practice" mantra, sleep with his glove and never stop working to extend the game of baseball into adulthood.

That kid could be rolly-polly, string-bean skinny, nearsighted, farsighted, or on the clumsy side. It could be the kid who has to go to the bathroom every time he gets on base. It could be the one who cried in T-ball because he didn't want to run to first base without his mom. It could be the one who, when he gets his first hit, runs in slow motion toward first base because that's how he saw it on TV. They are, after all, kids. And their love (or hatred) of baseball is a direct result of how their childhood coaches treat them.

Posted on: June 16, 2009 2:19 pm

The clock and baseball -- can they coexist?

As the MLB attempts to speed up the game of baseball, I find myself digging in my heels. The thing I love most about that sport is the possibility that I just bought a ticket to a game that will never end. I hate the idea of putting the pitcher on a clock. I love the stall tactics if he's on my team, and love to boo them if he isn't. They say it's a move to create more fans. I wonder if the game needs fans that want an instant answer to a really long question. Then I wonder what's next. Will they apply the 10 run mercy rule that exists in Little League? Will they limit a team to a certain number of runs per inning, or decide that once a team has batted around, they have to take the field? Will innings be measured in minutes instead of outs? Will three foul tips be made to equal a strike? Will a tie game be decided by which team had the most hits instead of going on to extra innings?

Summer is a time of hope -- an endless season. The thought of blustery winter winds is more distant than at any other time in the year. While we go through our daily grind our bodies still long for the months-long summer vacation of our childhoods. Then, we buy a ticket or turn on the television and settle in. While everything else in our lves is run by the almighty clock, we have baseball -- the game that can go on forever. It takes me back to my youth, when each game I played absorbed me totally, with no thought of going home or performing my chores until a voice yelled from the front porch.

It seems to me that efforts to speed up baseball would be efforts to change the very essence of the game. You might as well force NFL teams to stop taking time-outs in the final minutes of a game; or deem every foul by the losing team in a close basketball game an intentional foul (because, after all, they are); or end stoppage time play in soccer. To apply a clock to baseball strikes me as a feeble attempt to force the game to fit a set broadcast time, like taking a hammer to a square peg you're trying to fit into a round hole. Funny, in other sports there are attempts as the clock ticks down, to lengthen games. In baseball there's no clock. There are just 18 players who have nowhere else they'd rather be than on the green field playing with a ball and a stick until the final inning comes and the final out is made -- and their mothers step out on the porch and call them home.

If they've got the time to play, I've got the time to watch.

Category: MLB
Posted on: June 4, 2009 1:10 pm

Time marches on -- Glavine marches elsewhere

The first major league baseball game I ever saw was in the bleachers at Fenway Park. Then, I moved south and decided it was time to root for a National League team in addition to my beloved BoSox. The Braves, with Dale Murphy and Bob Horner, appealed to my twisted side. I became a fan. Our first son was born in time for us to hurry back to the hospital room television and watch the Braves make a rare post season appearance in 1982. In other words, I've been a fan for a long time, through the rough years as well as through the years that went down like silk. My first reaction to the news Altanta released Tom Glavine was one of deep shock. Then I calmed down. While I still think it was a classless move, I realize the business of sports is full of classless acts. A few things, however, are constant: Players get older, ownerships change, and people make their best guess as to what the future holds (often they're very wrong). In my vision of a perfect world, Ted Turner would still own the Braves, Joe Torre would still be the manager and all the players would be forever young. I know, Bobby Cox has done a fine job, young players have stepped up and shone, and Ted Turner is gone. (Sigh.) So why am I, now living across the country in Oregon, still a Braves fan -- especially since I can only rarely watch them on television any more and Skip Caray has gone to that great sports announcers' heaven in the sky? I think it's a tribute to all the good times the team has given my family. My sons' first major league experience was a Braves-Giants game back in the leaner years in which Dale Murphy hit three home runs. They learned about balks, run-downs and strategy by watching with us. In short: the Braves have been a part of our family for almost 30 years. No matter who owns them and no matter what their season record shows, you don't kick people out of your family. Of course, that means Tom Glavine is one of our closest relatives. So, I wish him well. I hope the Braves are wrong when they assess his ability to contribute and I hope he proves them wrong. I'm not hanging up my Braves jersey, though. It's right next to my Red Sox one. (However, unlike the Boston jersey, it's in a plastic bag to protect it from fading before I can bring it out again.)
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or