Apparently, Opening Day for the 2008 baseball season is today or tomorrow or soon. The reason why I can't pin it down in my head is because the Red Sox and the A's will play the opener in Japan. The Red Sox, in case folks have forgotten, play their home games in Boston. Though the so-called New England "hub" is home to all sorts of people from all over the world, it hasn't picked up and moved to Japan. It's still up there north of Cape Cod and south of New Hampshire last time anyone checked.
Oakland, the home of the A's, remains in the United States of America, too. Out in California's Bay Area, Oakland has the reputation as being the ugly cousin of next-door neighbor, San Francisco. But the truth is Oakland was named by Rand McNally as having the best weather in the U.S. And according to the 2000 U.S. census, Oakland is the most ethnically diverse city in the country.
Boston is also home to the most ravenous baseball fans in the country where the big-moneyed Sox have supplanted the deep-pocketed Yankees as baseball's best team to hate. Perhaps winning the World Series twice in the past four years gives a team that kind of reputation.
The A's, meanwhile, are the opposite of the Red Sox when it comes to buying the best players needed, but helped establish the blueprint for how modern baseball front offices are run. In essence, the Red Sox have cribbed the A's and general manager Billy Beane's notes only they have the cash to back it up.
However, in the early 1970s, the A's were the most dominant and disliked team in baseball. With stars like Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter, Rollie Fingers, and Vida Blue, the A's won the World Series three years in a row with flamboyant and controversial owner Charlie Finley pulling the strings.
Plus, the A's went to the World Series three years in a row from 1988 to 1990 and have been to the playoffs five times since 2000.
Needless to say the Red Sox and A's have some impressive recent history and are clearly a pair of the better franchises in all of baseball. As a result, the fans in both cities are some of the savviest in the Major Leagues, which means a ballgame in Oakland or Boston - especially an Opening Day game - is as good a venue as any place in the world.
So why would the Red Sox and A's want to play the first batch of baseball games of the season in Japan?
Well, actually they don't, but the players got paid an extra $40,000 to make the trip to help Major League Baseball internationalize a game in a country where it already is king. The Japanese are as baseball crazy as any country in the world and the Japanese big leagues are more than just a proving ground for potential Major Leaguers.
It would be one thing if the Major League teams never staged exhibitions in Japan, but that's not the case. In fact, U.S. ballclubs have been touring Japan since the 1930s when Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig barnstormed through the Far East. Recently, big league All-Stars play Japanese All-Stars in a series up and down the island where they are just as well known as they would be in most big U.S. cities. After all, the American game is followed fairly closely in Japan. In fact, Japanese media outlets send teams of reporters to cover the dozens of Japanese players toiling away in the big leagues.
So why "internationalize" something that is just as ubiquitous there as it is here? Is MLB out-smarting itself again? Don't you hate when that happens?
More importantly, the A's are losing a pair of home games, which to the fans in Oakland is kind of like a kick in the crotch. Though there are 162 games in the baseball season, each one of them is precious and has equal importance. Think about how much wear-and-tear a team goes through by crossing the International Dateline in all-day flights just to play a game that feels like an exhibition but really counts toward the bottom line. And that's not just the bottom line in the standings, either. It also counts in the stats ledger where ballplayers' fortunes and futures are decided. Let's just say a pitcher goes out and gets shelled because his body clock is all messed up from such a long trip. Or maybe he can't shake the lethargy because he's used to eating grits and home fries at the Waffle House on the way to the ballpark every morning and because he's out of his tried-and-true routine, the pitches have no snap, his ERA balloons and he gets released at the end of the season.
Is that fair? And is it fair to assume that a Major League Baseball player knows there are no Waffle Houses in Japan. Come on... what was the first thing Kyle Kendrick asked the press when they played that little prank on him about getting traded to Japan? You remember -- it was about the food.
"Do they have good food over there?"
Yeah, but don't expect the International House of Pancakes to be truly international.
So the A's and Red Sox opened the season in Japan and here in the U.S. fans are getting the shaft... again. Worse, the A's are losing two games in their home ballpark, which can't be replaced for any amount of cash.
Coming up: The Beijing Olympics followed by Jimmy Rollins. Later, we go to the ballpark.
If you're like me you are a shade under 6-foot-1; about 160 pounds; live in Lancaster with a wife and two kids; like to drink coffee and run a lot; and spend about 13 hours a day on your laptop. I suppose the last one of that long list is an occupational hazard of working in the Internets business. Until they move the Internets to another medium, I'm going to remain handcuffed to this machine I have (literally) on my lap.
Still, even if I didn't work on web sites and the like, I'm not sure if it would limit my participation in things World Wide Web-related. Frankly, everything is on the web nowadays and it doesn't look like that fact is going to change any time soon. Look, I take crap all the time about being a web writer as if that's any different than other types of writers. Either no one wants to hear it or no one is listening, but the fact is everyone writes for the web now. Book it... or code it with the proper HTML codes, please.
Anyway, I believe that advancements in technology should make things like newspapers and television better. I also believe that advancements in technology should heighten our level of discourse in these here United States, but I don't think I'm smart enough to know if any of this stuff is true. I do know that newspapers should just stop printing paper versions already. Seriously, just stop... it's cluttering up the Starbucks and waiting rooms across the country. Someone has to pick that stuff up, stack it in a pile and put it in the proper recycling receptacle.
So stop with the paper already.
Another fact to be is that television seems to be headed to the same neighborhood where newspapers live right now. One hand washes the other or something like that. Besides, people like portability, they like to talk about things like WiFi and they like being able to be connected anywhere at any time. That means if I want to watch, oh let's say something like The Wire, a Major League Baseball game or the NCAA Tournament, I don't have to sit on the couch in front of the teevee like Jaba the Hut. Instead I can reach into my backpack, whip out the ol' HP and dial it up even if I'm negotiating myself through cross-town traffic.
Yes, it's a brave new world we're living in, folks.
How brave? So brave that newspapers, radio and TV stations are dabbling in exclusive content just for its web viewers. Actually, it's gotten to the point where media outlets have to put its programming on the web, too, thus broadening the reach beyond it small locality. World Wide Web... get it? Actually, Major League Baseball has (read the next few words as if you were Scotty from Star Trek) embraced the technology to the point where its entire Extra Innings package is available on the web via video and audio.
Yeah, that's old news. MLB seemed to be waaay out in front when it came to the so-called "new media." Actually, they are so out in front on the web and whatnot that the development of its own cable TV network seems kind of quaint these days.
"Oh, how cute. Baseball is going to start its own channel. That's nice... can I get it on my iPhone?"
But check this out: the NCAA and CBS are putting every game of the NCAA Basketball Tournament online. Yep, that's right... all of ‘em. That means if you're like me and stuck with your nose in a laptop all day, you don't have to sit in front of a television to watch another one of those ubiquitous last-second "look-ins" that personify the coverage of the Tournament. You know, if there isn't an upset or a buzzer-beater it didn't really happen...
So just to be different I might search out a first-round game where a No. 4 seed beats a No. 13 seed by 15 points. Let's hope the walk-on sitting at the end of the bench gets in for the last minute.
Famous actor/comedian Billy Crystal signed one of those celebrity deals to be a player for the Yankees for a couple of days during spring training. You know, kind of like fantasy camp for the guys with the real cache.
Meanwhile, the Phillies countered with human car wreck/professional golfer, John Daly. Looks like the Yankees win again, though from the correct angle Daly almost looks like Brett Myers from the chin down.
Billy Crystal just looks like Billy Crystal in a Yankees shirt.
 Scotty was a Scotsman... go figure.