Friday, October 24, 2008

The Joy of Losing

Jim Baumbach at Newsday makes this point that the Islanders are "basically hockey's version of the Tampa Bay Rays, circa any year from 1998-2007." Brace yourselves, because a lot of losing teams across the sports spectrum are going to be the subject of similar columns this week.

Baumbach thinks the Isles, like the Rays, should lose and draft well. I agree, although it's probably easier to do so in baseball, provided you believe in things like numbers and stats, and find trading partners who insist so strongly on giving you Scott Kazmir even your idiot GM can't turn down the deal.

Back from the digression.

I agree with Baumbach, although he's taking a "no shit" kind of stance. He also advises against fans getting too frustrated with this year's installment, likely a reaction to scattered booing and empty seats last night on the Island for a 5-3 loss to the Stars.

I would advise the same, but it won't do any good as some people like to boo, and most people don't like to buy tickets to watch terrible teams. (and I don't blame them.) Bad hockey is not a pleasant thing to watch.

I am going to try to find some joy in the Islanders' haplessness this year, although I think it will be a struggle.

Can't Anybody ...

There is joy to be found in lousy baseball. It's difficult to say why. I would have thought a terrible baseball team would actually win more percentage-wise than a terrible hockey team, but the Nationals won about 37 percent of their games this season. Last year's worst hockey team, the Lightning, won about 38 percent of the time.

It's easier to brush off a loss in baseball, but it's also much harder to make the playoffs. Maybe it's the nature of the game -- I find sports that require constant strategic interaction between players -- football, hockey, basketball -- tough to watch when played "ugly." There's nothing aesthetically pleasing about 30 percent from the field, Roman Hamrlik moving the puck out of his end in the Islanders days, or the Oakland Raiders. They might make a few plays worthy of bumbling blooper reels, but mostly it is frustration and boredom to watch a poor team swamped by a better team. See: Dallas Stars v. New York Islanders, Oct. 23, 2008.

You can make the argument that baseball is not as "passionate" a game as hockey (or football and basketball), and I would grudgingly agree (except in the case of basketball), as I don't think baseball's drawing attraction is "passion," at least in the body contact and physical pain/striving sense. And that makes it easier, at least for me, to enjoy a losing team.

I know I'm failing on this point. I accept it. Stick with me.

I would like to derive the kind of pleasure watching this Islanders team I am often able to derive from watching bad baseball teams (coincidentally, I'm a Mets fan). Aside from ignoring obvious mistakes, bad penalties, and missed scoring opportunities, I think the key lies in thoughts such as "hey, I really like those throwback third jerseys," "Ice Girls are hot," and "think of the bright side, if this team is good in 10 years, DiPietro will still be here," etc. Also, looking for nice outlet passes, decent shifts from youngsters, and trying not to think of Deb Kaufman (you motherfuckers).

That's all I got. Advice will be accepted.

I think I need to lay down.


The Mediocre One said...

I am a casual baseball fan. Very casual. But from what I can gather, the Rays are not supposed to be in the World Series. That's a lot different than a team that struggles, drafts, and then is recognized as a contender. I guess what I'm saying is the Rays have to win consistently over the next few years before you can say "10 years of struggling was worth it." Otherwise this'll just go down as a fluke.

The Rev. Zamboni said...

You're in luck, the mediocre one, because I am not only a baseball fan, but I am a nerdy nerdy nerdy baseball fan who blew half the day Friday (because everyone in the office was gone and my car was in the shop) reading about something called "batted ball scouting reports."

So, here:

and one more fun story on A's GM Billy Beane, who gets a lot of hype, but I still think is underrated. Story deals with the trading of elite players to rebuild a farm system. Different in baseball, I think, but still interesting.

The Rev. Zamboni said...

For some reason those are all being cut off, so, drawing on some more geekiness I present you with:

Rays stories:

And, Billy Beane: