I have, at times, made jokes about how I’m the worst technical podcaster in the entire world. The thing is: I’m not joking. I have, in a short podcasting career, failed to record some of the best guests in the world. I had to do the podcast twice with Jim Nantz and with Kevin Harlan because of technical glitches. I once did a podcast with Keith Law where, sadly, you could not actually hear him because I decided in my infinite wisdom to place him three football fields away from the microphone.
This, looking back, seems funny. And the guests — bless them all — have shown infinite patience with my technical stupidity. But it’s not funny to me. It makes me want to throw up. These people offer their much valued time, and I keep screwing up the technical stuff. I mean, everyone knows I’m not a technician, but recording a conversation doesn’t seem like it should be this complicated. I’m sure it’s not. But it is for me. And it makes me sick.
I bring this up today because, yes, I did it again. I had this great podcast with my good friend, “Parks and Recreation” executive producer Michael Schur this week. And, because one wire was not plugged all the way in, his voice did not record. And I am currently banging my head against a wall.
The thing that hurts most about this one is that this podcast was so personal and fun — it was my favorite-ever podcast.
So, I’m going to write about it:
The first part: Michael and I talked about the MVP balloting. You can probably guess what we talked about there. In fact, a lot of it is in my last MVP post. Michael, of course, was Ken Tremendous of the legendary “Fire Joe Morgan” website, and so you know he simply has no tolerance whatsoever for people who will not at least try to embrace and understand new kinds of knowledge.*
*I tried to get him wound up a bit, because there are few things in the world funnier than Michael Schur getting fired up about stick-in-the-mud baseball thinkers. It might have helped if I had this article to read to him. But all in all he stayed pretty measured. He mostly said he was depressed by the voting because he really thought that the BBWAA was making progress.
I’ll show you some numbers again:
Baseball Reference WAR
Baseball Prospects WARP
Bill James Total Runs
Win Probability Added
And so on. Michael and I have seen no statistical way to take the contribution of both players — taking their entire season into consideration — and conclude that Cabrera had the better year. This doesn’t detract from Cabrera’s great season. It just shows you how amazing Trout’s season really was.
Michael went into great detail about how stupid awards like this are in the first place. They’re fun, but they’re dumb. Pretty much every single Detroit Tigers fan ranting and raving about Cabrera over Trout would take precisely the opposite side if Trout played for Detroit and Cabrera played for the Angels. And vice versa. And they know it. They HAVE to know it. That absurd column written by Mitch Albom mentioned above would be exactly 180 degrees different if Trout were a Tiger (though the ranting about those evil statistics would somehow still play a role in it). The argument about what “valuable” means — as if it’s some magical word that isn’t a synonym of “useful,” “helpful,” “effective” and “productive” — drives Michael insane.
“To say that Miguel Cabrera should be the MVP because he won the Triple Crown is really dumb,” he said. And he pointed out that if Mike Trout had three more singles this year — he reached base on errors seven times this year (to Cabrera’s four), so just make three of those hits — he would have won the batting title. And the Triple Crown would have not happened. And it would not have changed a single thing.
But, all in all, Michael tried to stay positive. He said that things have come a long way from when, say, Bartolo Colon won the Cy Young Award even though numerous pitchers were better, or when Justin Morneau won the MVP despite being about the 15th-best player in the American League. He brought up the fact that Felix Hernandez won the Cy Young with 13 wins in 2010 as a hopeful sign that the voters are looking beyond the outdated statistics. And when I told him that I thought Hernandez was just kind of a blip — there just wasn’t a good high-win option that year — he offered this: “Dude, why are you harshing my mellow?”
There is a lot of great other stuff lost forever, including my trivia question: Name the five pitchers since Dennis Eckersley who have finished Top 5 in the MVP balloting?*
*Michael got Verlander (1st in 2011, of course) and Pedro (2nd in 1999, 5th in 2000) right away. With a little prompting he got Greg Maddux (5th in 1994, 3rd in 1995). I didn’t even wait for him to try to guess the other two. They are: Randy Myers (4th in 1997) and Jose Mesa (4th in 1995). Baseball writers do like to think of relief pitchers as “valuable.”
* * *
The draft was my favorite one ever, and it’s utterly heartbreaking that it’s gone. We decided that this draft would be different from the others, and by different I mean: “Even more inane and useless.” We decided to draft “Things everybody loves that we just don’t love.” I went first.
My first pick: “Lord of the Rings”
One thing we were both careful to admit is this: We don’t see our failure to love these things as badges of honor. In some cases, we readily admit that it’s a grand failing on our part. I want to like LOTR. I really do. I love Harry Potter. I love Star Wars, the originals. I have a daughter who is totally into fantasy fiction. I try. But I don’t get it. I just don’t get it. I went to see the first LOTR with my wife Margo and — this is absolutely true — five minutes into it I turned to her and said: “I’m already completely lost.” I don’t know what the ring is. I don’t know what it does. I don’t get why they want it or don’t want it or can’t have it or who they are … I just don’t understand any of it.”
There was a “Twilight Zone” or “Outer Limits” or something that I saw in an English class once — I don’t remember all the details — but in memory there was this guy who woke up one day and found that his wife would occasionally use a gibberish word. He was confused by this, but then he ran into a friend who also used the same gibberish word. And then he used another. And then another. And soon half the sentences were gibberish words. And then three quarters of them were gibberish. And finally every word was gibberish and the guy had no idea what anybody was saying.
That’s what watching or reading “Lord of the Rings” is like for me. I wish it weren’t so.
Michael, as you might imagine, is a huge “Lord of the Rings” fan, and this revelation was a big fissure in our friendship. But a bigger one was about to come.
Michael’s first pick: Bruce Springsteen
Michael says he wants to love Bruce. He loves Bruce the performer. He love Bruce the icon. He told this great story about working at Saturday Night Live and just walking in on Bruce Springsteen in the dressing room, lying on the couch and reading Rolling Stone and how much it meant to him. But he says that while he’s tried all the albums, while he has seen Springsteen perform live, while he has tried mightily, he just cannot love Bruce Springsteen. He says he expects to lose 4,000 Twitter followers for this admission.
I, as a gigantic Springsteen fan, absolved him by saying that you might have some control over who you LIKE musically, but I don’t believe you can choose who you LOVE musically. It’s something more visceral than that. To be honest: I was saying this to prepare him for my second pick. I also said I would unfollow him on Twitter.
My second pick: Wilco
One of my best friends in the world, Pop Warner — who is in the music business — has been on a one-man crusade to get me to like Wilco. And I am trying. I like some of their songs. I went to see them in concert. I have all of their albums (most of them because of Pop Warner) and listen to them. On Spotify right now I have a playlist called: “Wilco Attempt” which is a collection of songs that were chosen specifically for my tastes and are meant to engender a new kind of love for Wilco.
So far: No dice. I admire Wilco. I respect the music. I know that liking Wilco is a minimum requirement for anything resembling cool for my age bracket. But I just can’t get there. I fail the cool test dramatically. I suppose I’ll keep trying.
Michael’s second pick: Convertibles
If there is any one part of this lost podcast that kills me most, it is this — Michael went on an epic three-minute diatribe about how much he hates convertibles … it literally left me gasping for breath. He thinks they are stupid and pointless and why would he allow the elements in his car and how could anything possibly suck more than driving in a car with the roof down and on and on and it was absolutely hysterical. The best part, though, was when he was finished I asked him: “So you never drive a car with the sunroof open?” Which caused him to pause for the perfect half second of comic disbelief before screaming “NO!” and then going through the entire thing all over again. It was sheer brilliance, and I will never forgive myself for losing it.
I had no particularly strong feelings about convertibles before Michael spoke. Now, I do.
My third pick: Dunks
I don’t like the dunk. I just don’t. I mean, I admire the athletic ability it takes to dunk, and there are certain dunks where a guy will stuff the ball over another guy, and that’s amazing and all that. But all in all, I don’t like the dunk. I don’t like the way people awkwardly high-five after dunks. I don’t like the way SportsCenter will show you one dunk after another dunk after another dunk. I don’t like breakaway dunks, and I don’t like when people try to fancy up breakaway dunks. I don’t like dunk contest — and haven’t after Michael Jordan won his first one.
I like layups. I wish there was a layup contest at the All-Star Game. The under-the-basket reverse layup that Dr. J pulled … better than any dunk ever. The Michael Jordan switch the ball from one hand to another layup … better than any dunk ever. The George Gervin finger roll … better than any dunk ever. I’m not saying that I want to outlaw the dunk. I don’t. I just don’t like them.
Michael, in this case, was more or less in agreement. He had considered putting the dunk contest on his list.
Michael’s third pick: Thanksgiving
Michael was quick to say he doesn’t hate Thanksgiving. He just doesn’t love it. He doesn’t love the food choices. He doesn’t love the overall atmosphere. He’s cool with families getting together for holidays — wishes it would happen more — but is just not a fan of the Thanksgiving thing. And now that he’s a father, he finds he can’t even watch as much of the football as he likes, which for him was really the saving grace of Thanksgiving in the first place. He just sees how much everyone out there loves Thanksgiving … and he doesn’t feel the vibe.
I, on the other hand, love Thanksgiving. Part of that is because it has always been one of the two big holidays in my family (the other being Oscar Night). But more, I like holidays where they tell me what to do. I’m much more baffled by holidays like Labor Day and Memorial Day and Presidents Day when it’s not clear really what is expected of me. Am I supposed to barbecue? Am I supposed to wear a flag pin? I like doing my holiday duties. Thanksgiving, I’ve got it down — eat turkey, watch football, tell my mother she’s making too much food, wash dishes, get kids to say what they’re thankful for, and I’ve done my duty for another year.
My fourth pick: Cheesecake
Man, people look so happy when they’re eating cheesecake, don’t they? They’re just on some new plane of happiness when they’re eating cheesecake. And I cannot stand cheesecake. It’s baffling. I like pretty much all kinds of cake. I like pretty much all kinds of food that’s bad for you. I go into The Cheesecake Factory, and I see all those cakes behind the glass — what Jerry Seinfeld might call the jewelry case of cake — and it just could not look more awesome. And you look around, and there are people eating cheesecake and reliving the Meg Ryan scene from “When Harry Met Sally.”
And I’m missing all of it because I don’t like cheesecake, don’t like the taste, don’t like the texture, don’t like the name, don’t like any of it. I realize that I am missing out on one of the great things of life, and it makes me very sad.
It was at this point — me ranting about cheesecake — that Michael said the Poscast had reached its very lowest point in relevance.
Michael’s fourth pick: Champagne
Man, Michael hates champagne. He hates the taste of it, the smell of it, the pretentiousness of it, the fact that a $5 bottle and $1,000 bottle of champagne taste pretty much the same. He hates that people pour champagne on each other after championships, and hates that people bring over bottles of champagne to celebrate events. (“There are seven bottles of champagne in the whole world, and we just keep reusing them by bringing them over to new people’s houses for New Year’s,” he said). He really, really does not like champagne.
I’m not a champagne guy, but I’m not anti — so I asked Michael what he would prefer people use to celebrate. He said anything (including motor oil), but his top choice was orange juice. And we both agreed that the scene of a championship locker room would be improved by at least 500% if you had players pouring orange juice over each other.
My fifth pick: Sunny days
I really didn’t want to admit this one. My other choices here included cigars and zombies … I don’t get the zombie craze. I don’t. I think zombies are an incredibly stupid concept. Vampires, OK. But zombies? Can’t stand them. I have a good friend who is literally the world’s No. 1 “Night of the Living Dead” fan — no, seriously, No. 1 — and she might be horrified to hear me say this. But I don’t like zombies, don’t care about zombies, am not scared of zombies, would rather not think about zombies, don’t want to see movies with zombies, don’t find it the least bit amusing to put zombies in Jane Austen novels, and I was ticked off when zombies took over our “Simpson’s Tapped Out” game on the iPad.
Still, if I’m going to be true to the concept, I have to be honest: I just don’t love sunny days. I mean, I don’t dislike them … but I prefer cloudy days. I always have. Maybe this comes from growing up in Cleveland. But a gray day, a nice chill in the air, sweatshirt weather, that’s absolutely my favorite kind of day. I know I would love living in Seattle or Portland. I have people who live out there tell me that I would miss the sun, and I can’t dismiss that, since they know a lot more about it than I do, but I don’t think so. When the sun is out, I always find myself happier when it slips behind a cloud. Right now, in my office, beautiful blue sky, sunlight streaming through my window, adding glare to my computer screen, I’m thinking: It would be nicer is if it were cloudy.
I fully expected Michael to come in with the hammer on this one. Instead …
Michael’s fifth pick: The beach
Sometimes — every now and again — you find that you and a good friend have more in common than you ever expected. Once, my friend Chuck Culpepper and I were talking music and out of nowhere we found that we shared the guilty pleasure: George Michael’s “Listen Without Prejudice.” That’s a whole other story.
At the end of the draft, Michael and I found that we share our general ambivalence for the bright sunniness that seems to make everyone around the world so happy.
Michael made his choice more specific — it isn’t just the sunshine that doesn’t excite him, it’s also the sand, the heat, the whole bit. He finds the beach beautiful, and is not opposed to walking along the beach with his wife. But he just doesn’t love it. And, in the end, we found ourselves together, a couple of miserable people looking for gray days without cheesecake or convertibles, Wilco or Springsteen, Thanksgiving or dunks or Lord of the Rings. We would have toasted each other. But Michael doesn’t like champagne.
* * *
We are (as usual) offering cool prizes for two lucky winners (and, as usual, we might forget to award it) — if you would like to enter, all you have to do is decide who won the draft. In this case, as Michael says, the winner of the draft is the person whose five choices makes them the more miserable person. If you think Michael’s choices were more horrifying, you can mark your comment with #harshmymellow. If you think mine are more horrifying, make your comment with #cheesecakerules.