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By Eric

The Major League Baseball playoffs started yesterday. I’m not unrealistic; I know this is completely meaningless to the majority of people in the world. I, however, am not one of those people.

As a rabid, irrational and, some may say, overly obsessive Twins fan, I revel in this time of year. Between intensely meaningful Twins games, cooler but not cold weather, and Vikings games to fill the time between intensely meaningful Twins games, October is one of the best months of the year.

(Did I mention the intensely meaningful Twins games?)

Anyone who doesn’t really follow sports is probably rolling their eyes right now. (Admit it, you are.) How can a silly game be “intensely meaningful?” You’re watching grown men in silly little matching outfits, try and hit a little ball with a bat. Where’s the meaning in that?

In every imaginable technical sense, this is correct. It’s just a game. Nothing else.

The reality, however, is that to so many people baseball is so much more than a game. Maybe not to the majority of people, but to a certain group it is. Just like how to some people football is more than a game. Or a certain band is more than a band. Or pieces of literature aren’t just words on a page.

This is the part where I unleash a diatribe about the cosmic significance of baseball. And the importance of each little strike, ball, out, hit, error, run, etc. Or this is the part where this post takes a decisive turn for the worst, because I wrote the first 200 words before the Twins lost last night, and the next 600 after they lost. And, as you can tell from looking back on my, um, “colorful” tweets from last night; the game was an emotional roller coaster.

While I sit here finishing this post, I am pissed. Plain and simple. My team just lost. In no uncertain terms, this makes me angry, frustrated, sad, etc. The fact is, however, now I will regroup for the next game, because there are at least two more. (Round one of the playoffs is a best of five series.)

And, really, that is the point I am trying to make. The first thing I ever wrote on this site was, “I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to find the metaphorical significance in mundane things lately.” And the fact is, because baseball has played such a large role in my life, I have always tried to figure out the metaphorical significance in the game.

And that’s because it’s not just a game.

What baseball provides for me can take on so many different forms. Sometimes it’s an escape. Sometimes it’s so much a part of my life that it feels like it represents everything around me. And sometimes (like tonight) it spends about four hours kicking me in the groin and I sit here wondering “why?”

So I spend some time cursing the wrong-doers, nitpicking what went wrong and why, and placing blame upon anyone I can think of.

The fact is, however, tomorrow I will be back rooting on the Twins again. They’re my team, and I would never walk away from that. In fact, every year once the Twins season ends, someone will ask me, “who are you rooting for now?” And my answer is always the same, “nobody.”

Most people find this strange, which is a fact that I find strange. Why, after 162 regular season, and however many postseason, games would I suddenly switch my allegiance? For a phony high? To pretend I am connected to something? Why?

I am a baseball fan, but the Twins are my team. Once they are done, I no longer cheer for a team. I cheer for a moment or a story. To proactively root for someone else would be dishonest. Disloyal. Untrustworthy.

Maybe that’s overblown. Maybe I care too much. Maybe I get a little too worked up during games.

Sometimes, however, a game isn’t just a game. Sometimes it means more. To me at least. And while I can’t make you understand that, and some of you may still be rolling your eyes, it’s true. It’s part of my life. Just like there is some seemingly insignificant something in your life that means a little bit more to you. Whatever that something may be.

On the same night that my team lost, Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies pitched a no-hitter. To many of you, that means nothing. And, in terms of the Phillies winning, it means about the same to me. But the no-hitter itself, something that has only happened twice in postseason baseball history, meant something. It was special. It was a moment.

You might not understand why this is important, and I probably can’t explain it, but to me it makes perfect sense.

And that’s exactly why it’s not just a game.

Compiled by Ryan

The links:

self-titled scored an interview with The Dead Weather, and it includes bits about upcoming Jack White projects, one of which is some sort of White Stripes film.

Any excuse to post a picture of this man.

Any excuse to post a picture of this man.

-Will Oldham (of Bonnie “Prince” Billy fame) doesn’t do many interviews, so it was nice to read one in A.V. Club this week.  Spoiler: he doesn’t like the way Wes Anderson uses music in his movies.

Mark Wahlberg and James Franco have been added to the upcoming Tina Fey and Steve Carrell comedy Date Night.  Unfortunately, so has Leighton Meester.

-CNN headline: Woody Harrelson claims he mistook photographer for zombie.

-Watching the NFL on television just won’t be the same without John Madden, for better or for worse.  The legendary announcer is retiring.

The YouTube highlights:

I’m a sucker for cool animal videos (save your emails: I’ve already seen all the good ones).  This fox rox:

A couple of New Pornographers stopped by Letterman this week, albeit on different nights.  Here’s A.C. Newman with “Like A Hitman, Like A Dancer” and Neko Case with “This Tornado Loves You”:

New music spotlight:

There was really nothing that came out this week that I found noteworthy, so instead I’ll give you a new song from the upcoming Sunset Rubdown record:

Sunset Rubdown – “Idiot Heart” from Dragonslayer, out June 23 on Jagjaguwar

By Ryan

When it comes to Major League Baseball, I’m a little bit like this guy:

I care about the game, the history of the game, and the players who make it what it is.  That said, I could give a shit less about steroids.

Skinny Cox

Skinny Cox

Let’s be clear: steroids are stupid, and should not be used by anyone under any circumstance.  But if someone is going to take them, I vote for A-Rod rather than the guy you went to high school with whose neck is bigger than Bradford Cox’s waist.  I’ll put it another way: if someone is gonna use heroin, it should be The Flaming Lips, not the broke jerks who live in my alley.  In the right hands, drugs make things better, or at least more interesting.  Steroids are no different.

Athletes who take steroids are mainly guilty of caring too much.  They are hyper-competitive and desire to be loved.  They’re like a crazy mix of Kanye and Lindsay Lohan.  What’s not to like?  Can you imagine if some of the all-time greats cared as much about their stats as they did about their social lives?  Joe DiMaggio’s hit streak might be 75 games long instead of 56.  Babe Ruth might have hit 80 homeruns instead of 60.  And Sandy Koufax might have been able to pitch past the age of 32.

Athletes today have all sorts of advantages that their counterparts fifty years ago did not, so let’s stop pretending that comparing athletes over decades isn’t unfair, irrelevant, and boring.  Hell, everyone in the United States has tools and information that their grandparents did not, which is precisely why we don’t compare today’s accountants with ones from the 1940s.  That, and we all know that accounting peaked in the 1990s (Enron, ho!).

I guess the half-assed point I’m making is this: things progress, people get better at what they do, and anything that improves performance without hurting others is okay by me.  And don’t give me that “but the kids look up to them” bullshit.  Your kids look up to dudes like Weezy and Ashton Kutcher; athletes who take steroids are the least of your problems.

By Ryan

Remember when Condi Rice was asked by the 9/11 commission the title of a PDB from August 6, 2001, and she had to respond, “I believe the title was “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States.””?  Of course you do.  Can you imagine what she had to be feeling at that moment?  I mean, she had known that the administration was going to come under public scrutiny once this information came out, but to be forced to say it in such a public setting in such a sure-fire-sound-bite manner had to make her a bit squeamish.  I think this is how Michael Phelps must feel when he sees Ashton Kutcher defending him on Access Hollywood.

He even dresses like a moron

He even dresses like a moron

You see, Phelps is a rare breed of modern celebrity; he has only one remarkable skill set, and it’s only particularly useful every four years or whenever he’s being chased by a shark.  Because of the phenomena of the Olympics, where average citizens inexplicably care about sports you couldn’t bribe them to watch otherwise, Phelps can avoid the spotlight for the 206 Olympic-less weeks every four years, emerging only when he wants and where he wants.  That is to say, he is not Kobe Bryant, with the LA lights always on his every move; he is not Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds, still paying repercussions for wrongs they might have (probably) done years ago; hell, he’s not even Kutcher.  He’s a guy who lives in Baltimore and gets to chose which endorsements to take for millions and which parties to attend with whatever star-of-the-moment he’s currently hanging out with.

So it’s understandable that no one mentions his 2004 drunken driving incident, which occurred when Phelps was just 19 years old.  After all, it doesn’t make for good hype when you’re NBC and you’re trying to make Phelps the most famous American athlete of his generation.  He was young, he made a mistake, blah blah blah, I get it.  But now people are going to give him a break on this marijuana incident?  Please.

The average defense goes something like this: he’s 23 and all 23 year olds smoke weed.  Bullshit.  First of all, I know plenty of 23 year olds who have never done an illegal drug.  And, secondly, star athletes (and celebs in general) are held to a different standard than the average 23 year old kid.  As well they should be.  Most of the income Phelps earns is from endorsements given him because of his all-American good-boy image.  If people start to see him for who he really is-a dumbass frat boy with pretty limited talent-those endorsements could go away rather quickly.

Look, I’m all about second chances.  But second chances don’t have to mean getting to keep your $100 million in endorsement deals.  Second chances means you don’t get stripped of your medals, and you don’t get fined and get another black mark on your legal file.  Do I think smoking weed is a big deal?  Not really, but it is illegal, and if we’re going to rake other athletes and celebrities over the coals for their transgressions, then Phelps should get no free pass.  He’s proven himself irresponsible and, in interviews and an SNL appearance, uninteresting, and it’s about time he got called out on it.  Phelps, you’re a douchebag.