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(This post is in reference to a post over at the Big Hollywood blog. I won’t link, as I don’t want to direct any traffic over there.)

I don’t understand why anyone would bemoan the lack of movies for “real” Americans, particularly given the box-office receipts for 2009’s The Blindside, among others.

Moreover, I don’t understand the “real” American vs. “fake” American dichotomy. Is rural America any more real than urban America?

I’m annoyed that anyone would want to fall into such a rigid archetype; an archetype based on such an insipid notion – that where I live somehow predicates what I believe, or what kind of media I’d want to consume.

Our collective ignorance of American history is deeply perplexing to me. Even more perplexing is the thought process that inspires people to click “forward” when equally ignorant e-mail messages end up in their inboxes.

It appears Rosemary LaBonte was irritated about those immigrants, and chose to write about it. The “politically correct” editors of the Orange County Register (ironic, given the OC demographic) saw fit not to print her rant. Mr. LaBonte, crusader that he is, went ahead and set it free into the internet wild.

Maybe we should turn to our history books and point out to
people like Mr. Lujan why today’s American is not willing
to accept this new kind of immigrant any longer. Back in
1900 when there was a rush from all areas of Europe to come
to the United States, people had to get off a ship and stand in
a long line in New York and be documented. Some would even
get down on their hands and knees and kiss the ground. They
made a pledge to uphold the laws and support their new country
in good and bad times. They made learning English a primary
rule in their new American households and some even changed
their names to blend in with their new home.

I don’t doubt that more than a few early 20th-century immigrants eagerly learned how to speak English. Given that previous generations of immigrants (primarily from western Europe, e.g., Germany, Britain) treated so poorly this new wave of southern and eastern European immigration, assimilating quickly was to their benefit. No longer would they be discriminated against — poor and dirty and of “ill repute” — if only they could be more “American” sooner rather than later.

Understandably, assimilation isn’t an instant process. It makes sense that it would take more than a generation, perhaps two, if not more, for a family to be fully assimilated into “American” culture (whatever that is).  But the impetus for that process wasn’t a feverish devotion to Americana. It was a realization that the people already here wanted nothing to do with these new immigrants and wanted to ostracize them. They didn’t Anglicize their names to be more like the Joneses — they did so to keep the nativists/racists/classists at bay.

They had waved good bye to their birth place to give their
children a new life and did everything in their power to
help their children assimilate into one culture. Nothing was
handed to them. No free lunches, no welfare, no labor laws
to protect them. All they had were the skills and craftsmanship
they had brought with them to trade for a future of prosperity.

The irony and humor of bemoaning labor laws in the context of this discussion isn’t lost. Without labor laws to protect their children who were also searching for prosperity, these children ended up working in mines and sweatshops All manner of dangerous lines of work had children on the clock. And when these children were injured on the job, their impoverished families had no recourse — no way to treat their injured children, no way to recover lost wages, nothing. And this was admirable?

Most of their children came of age when World War II broke out.
My father fought along side men whose parents had come straight
over from  Germany, Italy, France and Japan. None of these
1st generation Americans ever gave any thought about what
country their parents had come from. They were Americans fighting Hitler,
Mussolini and the Emperor of Japan.
They were defending the United States of America as one people.

Japanese-American soldiers, like their black American counterparts, fought in segregated units, and separate from their white American counterparts, so it’s highly unlikely the Mrs. LaBonte’s father fought alongside Japanese immigrants to the U.S.

It bothers me greatly that people embrace the ideas put forth in this e-mail because so many of the ideas are wrong and flat-out ignorant of history and reality. It bothers me greatly that people have this conception of immigrants today being so dramatically different than the immigrants yesterday.

It bothers me greatly that people assume that assimilation into American culture is a simple thing — as though one can “flip the switch” and magically become more American, particularly when it’s not likely their ancestors did anything of the sort. It bothers me greatly that the same nativist prejudices that marred American history are still strong today.

2009 UD Goodwin Champions

Base set completion: 74 of 150 (49%)
Short print set completion: 16 of 40 (40%)
Super short print set completion: 4 of 20 (20%)

Goodwin Champions was the only other 2009 UD release  — aside from the flagship — that I had been looking forward to. It’s hard to not to be enamored with the modern reincarnations of the early 20th-century tobacco inserts.

Having seen the previews, it looked as though for once, UD had chosen to actually exercise some creativity sorely lacking in their baseball releases. Interestingly enough, it’s been pointed out that there doesn’t appear to be any lack of creativity in UD’s basketball or hockey releases.

I should’ve known better. In a year in which UD has shown just miserable effort in baseball, UD once again failed to deliver the goods. A rhalladay150-card base set is nice, but a 40-card short print set and a 20-card “super” short-print set should’ve been warning enough that this would be yet another epic fail from UD.

Sure, 150 base cards is a good number, but when packs come with only five cards, it makes it that much more difficult to complete a set. It gets even more difficult when those five-card packs would often come with more than one mini-card. It gets frustrating when every other one of those five-card packs came with those absolutely pointless 20th anniversary cards.

And that hasn’t even touched on the awful collation. Two hobby boxes produced a pathetic 74 cards out of the base set. Not even half.

It’s amusing how this was being touted, pre-release, as being UD’s answer to Allen & Ginter. What a pathetic failure it instead turned out to be. If this was the answer to A & G, I’d hate to think of what the question was.

All of these issues hinder what really could’ve been a fantastic release from UD. There’s no doubt about it — these are some wonderfully beautiful cards. After striking Masterpieces from their lineup, and with Goudey being yet another epic fail, Goodwin Champions really had the potential to make a statement for UD. It did, but sadly, I doubt it’s the one UD wanted to make.

As I’ve mentioned before — I’m looking forward to the day UD ceases to produce baseball cards. Their 2009 releases may very well serve to be their epitaph. It’s sad to think that a company that was once on the edge of innovation has become so stale and lifeless.

2009 Topps Ticket to Stardom

Base set completion: 198 of 200 (99%)

Imagine this idea: buy a single hobby box, complete (or come pretty close to) the base set. Mind you, I’m not accusing Topps of somehow jreyesunderstanding the type of consumer I am — the sort that wants a little more bang for my buck. Nonetheless, Topps delivers in this regard, with an $84 hobby box packed with 12-card packs (who does that anymore?) yielding just about the entire base set.

The base cards themselves are nothing out of the ordinary. They obviously bring to mind the old Fleer Authentix sets. I also think they look a little derivative of this year’s Finest base cards as well. That said, TTS’s design, while it borrows elements from those two sets, doesn’t appear to be a carbon copy either.

cjonesBut what really sets TTS apart are its relic cards. Typically, I don’t care much for relic cards. But after pulling the ones I did, I actually contemplated keeping them rather than sending them straight to the trading block as I normally do. How often do you see boring, generic relic card designs these days? More often than not — which as an aside, makes it all the more confusing to me why anyone even bothers packsearching most non-premium product — relic cards are really just throwaway cards. But TTS shows a lot more effort on the part of Topps’ designers, I feel, than I’ve seen in recent releases. It’s no Donruss Prime Patches, but for a mid-range product? I’ll take it.

Topps has really done well this year with its products. It’ll be interesting to see whether or not they can carry that momentum into next year’s dramatically different landscape. While UD will still have its brand recognition, let’s face it — non-MLB-licensed cards is Donruss territory. And other than 08’s Threads, all of Donruss’ non-MLB-licensed card releases were mediocre, to put it gently.

espnIsn’t ESPN Boston redundant? Like, the same thing as an ATM machine or a PIN number? Isn’t saying ESPN Boston the same thing as saying ESPN ESPN?

Is the world of New England sports underrepresented somehow by the worldwide leader in sports? Are we lacking in Tom Brady status updates? Are there not enough of Peter Gammons’ prognostications on the airwaves?

What’s next? ESPN New York? ESPN Philadelphia? ESPN Brett Favre?

Big series this past weekend for the Dodgers. Fortunes turned up well for the Dodgers, who took two out of three from the reeling Giants.

The not-so-great part? Trying to watch the games on the blasted television. The Friday and Saturday games were carried nationally in HD on the MLB Network, and were carried locally (in the Giants’ market) in HD and over-the-air on NBC 14 (KNTV).

Sacramento also appears to have access to Giants’ broadcasts on KNTV via their CW affiliate, KMAX. Oddly, KMAX/CW is a duopoly belonging to CBS affiliate KOVR. KMAX, and thus CBS, carries the Giants’ broadcast unedited. This means that KNTV (NBC) logos are all over the graphics, and KNTV’s sports director (who works a sideline reporter during Giants’ broadcasts) Raj Mathai appears on their network.

No idea if KMAX comes in HD, but I’d have to assume yes since the locals broadcast in HD in Sacramento. WTF?!?

So let’s summarize:

Live in the San Francisco viewing market: watch on KNTV (NBC)
Live in the Sacramento viewing market: watch on KMAX (CW/CBS)
Live anywhere outside of Los Angeles/San Francisco/Sacramento: watch on MLB Network.

Live elsewhere, but still in Giants’ viewing territory (e.g. southern Oregon, northern Nevada): watch on a regional sports network that your cable/satellite provider presumably carries. If the game is OTA, or your provider doesn’t/can’t carry the correct RSN? You’re SOL.

Confusing enough for you? It gets better. I have access to MLB.TV, but not MLB Extra Innings. Not that either would matter — since I live in Giants territory, I’m blacked out in both instances.

I have DirecTV, which doesn’t carry our locals in HD. It also doesn’t carry our local My Network affiliate, which carries certain Giants games — using the OTA KNTV feed (which originates in San Jose). Instead, DirecTV provides our market with CW/My Network programming via Sacramento’s KMAX. KMAX, again, carries Giants games in Sacramento using the KNTV feed.

And of course, although DirecTV has access to not only an HD feed via KNTV, but also presumably carries KMAX in HD as well. Yet, locally, here, they provide viewers with an SD feed of the game. I suppose this is understandable, given that officially, DirecTV doesn’t broadcast our locals in HD — the locals do broadcast in HD, DirecTV just hasn’t added them.

But what’s infuriating is that KMAX ISN’T a local here. Although it isn’t a local, it plays the part of one. And even though they (presumably) broadcast in HD, DirecTV doesn’t carry our locals in HD. Does any of this begin to make any sense?

Fortunately, since Comcast SN-Bay Area (which is available here) carried Sunday’s game in HD, so we were at least able to watch that. I assume we would’ve also been blacked out of the national TBS HD broadcast of the same game.

Even better? Since we’re also blacked out of A’s games, you’d assume DirecTV would provide Comcast SN-California, right? No such luck. So even living in A’s territory, and thus blacked out via MLB.TV/EI, there is no local broadcast of A’s games here.

Of course, this hasn’t even touched on the lunacy of Comcast SN-Northwest also not being carried by DirecTV locally, thus locking out most of the state from viewing UO and Blazer games.

As has been touched on in so many other places, MLB’s blackout rules are beyond archaic. They’re just flat-out stupid. Since your typical MLB owner is obviously focused on increasing revenue, you’d think they’d follow a simple maxim of making sure as many viewers as possible are watching your team.

I live in Giants territory, yet I don’t have access to all of the best feeds available for this team. Often, I’m forced to relinquish better national feeds in favor of worse local feeds. How does this make any sense, for either DirecTV or MLB?

Sort of live-blogging (watching the Dodgers-Giants on DVR delay):

- What a ridiculous, unnecessarily aggressive slide by Eugenio Velez. Matt Kemp’s throw was high, and Velez clearly saw Russell Martin had his back to him. There was no chance of a play at the plate, so to knock down Martin — while he was airborne, no less — was stupidly aggresive.

- Pablo Sandoval needs to SHUT UP. A little irritated that y0u get pitched inside mere moments after your teammate pulls a bonehead move? Get over it, and get off the cheeseburger diet.

- Edgar Renteria … seriously? You, of all people, getting in anyone’s face? Get back on the bench where you belong.

- Kudos to Long Beach’s finest James McDonald for protecting his catcher, and to Brad Ausmus for saving Renteria from a dose of “O, Canada!”

You know, I believe in the economic idea that competition between companies means a better product for the consumer. However, given the recent slate of releases from Upper Deck, combined with the swings and misses from Donruss, it’s safe to say that there is no real competition for Topps.

When you have beyond-mediocre releases such as A Piece of History, Goudey, First Edition, Icons, X, SPx, Elite Extra Edition,  not to mention the barely-even-worth-mentioning TriStar releases, is it even fair to say anyone competes with Topps? Did any of these releases even close to registering even a footstep, a faint zephyr of a breath against Heritage and Allen & Ginter?

Even Topps’ problematic recent products, such as Stadium Club, were far better than the best of what Upper Deck released in 2008-09. That said, I find it difficult to even raise an eyebrow at Major League Baseball’s decision to award Topps an exclusive license. Upper Deck has not only failed to compete against Topps, they’re flooding the market with one mediocre release after another — which is precisely what moved MLB to rescind Donruss’ license for 2006 and beyond. griffey

Competition is a great thing when there’s actual competition. Sadly, it’s clear that Upper Deck rested on its laurels, and has been in cruise control for some time now. Their designs seem so boring, if not outright recycled. And when a company doesn’t have the same sort of archival history that Topps does, recycling designs is a doomed idea from the start. Heritage makes sense from a historical standpoint, but there’s nothing particularly historic about 1995 SP Authentic.

Out of duty, it seems, I’m compiling this year’s (and apparently final) Upper Deck base set. I’m also still looking forward to Goodwin Champions. But given the mistakes and miscues rampant in everything Upper Deck lately, I have strong doubts that it’ll be the sort of knock-it-out-of-the-park success that Upper Deck so badly needs. It’s sad really, that the same company that produced one of the hobby’s most iconic cards would go on to produce such garbage in the future — drawing parallels with other dying breeds, i.e. Detroit’s Big Three.

I think the comparison to Chrysler and GM is appropriate — one-time king of the hill. Now, just a second-rate, barely-even-there competitor. Many of the same mistakes were made — hubris that came about from early successes clouded their innovative streak — which in turn left us with a sad shadow of what once was.

While it’ll certainly be odd to see just Topps wax on the pegboards next year, I know that I won’t be missing Upper Deck’s presence. When it comes to economics, I’ve never been a big fan of consolidation. It limits consumer choice, and inevitably causes the consolidated company to get lazy. We’ll see if Topps can avoid that — then again, Upper Deck appears to be doing fine with its hockey exclusive, and by all appearances Donruss is doing fine with its football exclusive. But in the world of baseball cards, Upper Deck has so badly mismanaged its franchise, it amounts to a virtual consolidation. There is no real choice — UD’s product is so feeble, the consumer has no real choice but Topps.

photo credit: Yahoo! Sports

photo credit: Yahoo! Sports

Andre Ethier has five walk-off hits this season, including three home runs. He has eight since the beginning of 2008, the most in the majors during that span.

We need a major-league second baseman now!

delino

We need a proven major-league closer now!

baez

We need a major-league top-of-the-rotation ace pitcher now!

schmidt

We need a major-league centerfielder now!

pierre

No really, we need a major-league centerfielder now!

jones

From the top:

- RHP Pedro Martinez traded for 2B Delino DeShields. Pedro went on to win three Cy Young awards.

- RHP Edwin Jackson and LHP Chuck Tiffany traded for RHP Danys Baez and RHP Lance Carter. Edwin Jackson won 14 games for Tampa, and was a 2008 All-Star for Detroit.

- RHP Jason Schmidt, signed 3 years/$47 million in 2006. Has pitched a total of eight games and 33.2 innings since arriving in L.A.

- OF Juan Pierre, signed 5 years/$44 million in 2006. Mediocre in 2007, and relegated to the bench since 2008.

- OF Andruw Jones, signed 2 years/$36 million in 2008. Had a historically bad year in 2008, was replaced by Manny Ramirez, and bought out of his contract in 2009.

There’s something to be said about staying with the one you brought to the dance. Chad Billingsley may not be the sexiest top-of-the-rotation starter out there, but that’s more an indictment of the ridiculous east-coast bias of the media. Cole Hamels can start the year off miserably, but not have his ability questioned. Billingsley can start with guns blazing, go through a slump, and he’s basically garbage after that.

It was a given that the Dodgers would finally stumble into a three-game losing streak. And as disappointing as it is, you have to give credit where credit’s due. It’s no small task to play 100 games and lose three in a row just once.

But I absolutely hate, hate, HATE that it had to be to the Cardinals.

These are the so-called “best fans in baseball?” The same fans who see fit to boo Manny Ramirez every time he’s involved in the game? Considering that the Cardinals have no real modern rivalry with the Dodgers — I mean, Jack freakin’ Clark of all people was a Dodger “coach” in recent times — their fans haven’t really felt the need to boo any Dodgers of recent note. I mean, the Dodgers have trotted out plenty of despicable players such as Andruw Jones, Luis Gonzalez, Julio Lugo, Brett Tomko, and so on, and none of them enticed the St. Louis boo-birds.

But yet, Manny Ramirez does? I wonder why? Is it because Ken Rosenthal and Rick Sutcliffe say he “ruined the IN-TEG-RA-TEE of the game?” Oh man, well it’s a great thing the Cardinals would never have had any of their players do such a thing.

mcgwire

Listen, Cardinals fans. Ballplayers use performance-enhancing drugs. It sucks, but for better or worse, it’s part of the game. If it isn’t andro; it’s HGH; it’s flaxseed oil; it’s female fertility drugs. Whatever. If doing drugs is what ballplayers feel the need to do, then so be it.

But the fact of the matter is, these guys aren’t boy scouts and altar boys. They’re not running for POTUS. If they feel the need to use whatever the latest whatever is to get themselves juiced in the gym, so be it. They’re entertainers. No one cares one whit that Warren Beatty or Harrison Ford are getting chemically enhanced to maintain their appearances. So why exactly are we so insistent on moralizing when it comes to baseball?

But enough of that. It’s called a hot streak Cardinals fans. Enjoy it. But for the love of all things holy, cut it out with the Manny booing. It’s ridiculous.

Losing two games, scoring just one run, but racking up hit after hit is incredibly frustrating. But that’s how the breaks go. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t.

Not the greatest day in the world to be a Dodger fan. The good news — the Roy Halladay/Cliff Lee exploratory committees seem to be fizzling out. No need to squander prospects when the difference an “ace” pitcher makes over the remainder of the season is negligible to begin with. But the good news is tempered with the rumor that Orioles “closer” George Sherrill is now the target of the Dodgers’ affections. Really? George Sherill? I mean, this after Hong-Chih Kuo’s successful outing on Monday night?

Granted, Brent Leach has been struggling, and Scott Elbert is back in Albuquerque, but really, George Sherill? This sure sounds so much like “make a trade for the sake of making a trade.” What exactly would a Sherill acquisition mean for the Dodgers?

It gets better. Not only does a Sherill acquisition not make a whole lot of sense, Oriole fans sure seem to think that the Dodgers ought to send all manner of talent in exchange. How much of a mistake is it to give up anything negligible for a reliever, the most volatile of volatile assets? Considering only Jonathan Broxton is the only member of the Dodger bullpen serving the same role he did last year, is it worth dealing anything of worth for Sherill? I mean, how hard is it to find another bullpen arm? Not much difficulty in rounding up Ronald Belisario and Ramon Troncoso, was there?

The icing on the cake: 2010 will be Vin Scully’s final season as the voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The transition from Chick Hearn to … whomever it is that calls Laker games now was jarring, to put it nicely. I can’t even begin to imagine how Scully’s transition would be, especially considering the motley crew (Eric Collins, Steve Lyons, Charley Steiner) currently serving as his understudies. From childhood to the present day,  game day has always started with: “Hi everybody, and a a good evening to you, wherever you may be. It’s time for DODGER BASEBALL!”

Just like I want the Bruins to win one more title for Coach Wooden, I want the Dodgers to win one more title for Scully.

Good news? This arrived in the mail Monday:

07271438

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