The baseball religion (5×8 – 4/1/13)

First, this note: To my knowledge there are no phony “stories” here, except those so noted.

The Monday Morning Rouser…

1) BASEBALL’S SLIPPING GRIP ON CULTURE

If you had a couple of hours to waste today, I could help waste them by telling you tired story after tired story about the intersection of life and baseball, about opening days and hope and all of the disappointments and life’s lessons blah blah blah. It’s a romantic notion that baseball is what it was in popular culture, but I’m not at all convinced it is, especially with “opening day” being “opening night,” now.

Cities, at least the city near where I grew up, once pretty much stopped on opening day. People quit work, and even school kids raced home in time to watch. Baseball united us.

Some people, like Tom Oliphant, still see a religious aspect of baseballLovely. And archaic. For older people, perhaps,it’s still true that our live’s timelines might have used a baseball calendar, but no more.

“So what?”, Joe Posnanski of NBC sports writes. “It’s still opening day.”


Which leads to the end of the Joe Mantegna story. When he got older, he would take his kids to Wrigley Field. And when they got there, he found that he would start reminiscing. He would tell them that there used to be no lights in the ballpark. Every game was a day game. Time would just stand still in that wonderful old park, where Billy Williams unleashed his sweet swing and Don Kessinger ranged deep into the hole for a play and Moe Drabowsky fired fastballs.

Then, Mantegna would remember and look down at his children. And they would be looking up at him, and he recognized that look. They were thinking, “Who gives a s—, Dad? Let’s go get a hot dog.”

People spend the first half of their lives accumulating memories attached to baseball, and the second half trying to find them again.

I’m glad to see baseball back. But I miss when it was really here.

2) COMMENTARY FROM THE CONTROL TOWER


You didn’t expect the air traffic controllers losing their jobs when towers at some airports are shut down to go quietly did you?

One of their jobs is to tape broadcasts on a frequency to pilots informing them of current weather and winds. In Nashua, New Hampshire, the controller also provided some commentary on the budgetary process.

That was last week. The current broadcast does not contain the “advisory,” although it is the same voice — his name is Lenny — as on last week’s broadcast.

(h/t: Brad Benson)

3) THE WOMAN WHO HELPED MAKE TODAY POSSIBLE

The reason your GPS works today, the TV shows an image, and talking to someone halfway around the world is no big deal, is because of Yvonne Brill, a rocket scientist who invented a propulsion system to keep satellites from slipping out of their orbit.

When she died last week, the New York Times found itself in trouble for starting her obituary this way:


“She made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children. “The world’s best mom,” her son Matthew said.

But Yvonne Brill, who died Wednesday at 88 in Princeton, N.J., was also a brilliant rocket scientist, who in the early 1970s invented a propulsion system to help keep communications satellites from slipping out of their orbits.”

If you only read the first two paragraphs, it could be taken for an “oh, by the way, she was a rocket scientist on the side.” It was a brilliant piece of writing that Melinda Henneburger, who writes Washington Post’s She the People blog, suggests sailed over the heads of its readers:


The brilliant Brill apparently did not dwell on such actual slights as a complete lack of accommodations for women at a required engineering camp: “You just have to be cheerful about it and not get upset when you get insulted.”

This perceived slight is irony gone awry, not a literal exaltation of stroganoff over science. But as the great Mary McGrory once warned me, “Nuance is overrated; clarity is the thing.”

Indeed, the story of Yvonne Brill is that her life and remarkable achievements were so intertwined with the realities of being a woman in the ’50s and ’60s. Is it unfair that the cultural burden of work and family is placed on women? Absolutely. But it’s an obituary, and that was the world in which she lived.

“I decided that good jobs were easier to find than good husbands,” she said matter of factly when talking about why she left a job on the west coast for one in the east, where she would go on to make amazing discoveries. Her husband’s job was in the east.

The Times’ sin was that it attempted to tell the story of Brill’s life the way she did. Like the obituary itself, hers was a life in two worlds, lived on a planet where we tend to compartmentalize each.

Eventually, the Times changed its obituary:


She was a brilliant rocket scientist who followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children. “The world’s best mom,” her son Matthew said.

Yvonne Brill, who died on Wednesday at 88 in Princeton, N.J., in the early 1970s invented a propulsion system to help keep communications satellites from slipping out of their orbits.

Too bad. It was a great obituary before it was rewritten not to offend those who didn’t understand the original intent, nor read the entire body of work, which also — again cleverly — took a shot at its nemesis, the Washington Post, which on the day Ms. Brill was honored for her scientific achievements a few years ago, focused instead on the two other honorees — men — who invented Post It notes..

4) BEWARE OF THE PHONY NEWS STORY

I can’t recall any time when MPR engaged in the typical “fake April Fool’s Day” news story, which is something to be proud of. They’re rarely very funny and they undermine the credibility of a news organization. Besides, we’ve already got The Onion, which is a lot better at it.

Plus: There’s nothing funnier than actual and absurd news stories, as Dave Winer, posting at Scripting News, suggests


It’s bad enough that the people who indulge in this idiocy hurt their own reps, but it also makes it hard to do any communication on April 1. North Korea is threatening nuclear war. Haha. April Fools. Cyprus is having a run on the banks. No they’re not. But what if they are? What if there really is astounding news on April 1? Are you prepared to believe it?

For what it’s worth, NPR reports today that not apologizing can make you feel better. April Fool’s? No clue.

5) FLOOD FIGHTING ONLINE

Based on the amount of snow I saw in western Minnesota when I was visiting on Friday, it’s going to be a fairly bad flood season, indeed, if the weather warms too quickly (which the odds say it will) or there’s significant rain.

A lot has changed for people, though, since the 2009 flood. Online widgets, for one, that give homeowners and others in the area a tremendous amount of information they couldn’t easily get four years ago.

The Red River Basin Decision Network, which started last year, has an interactive map and calculators to determine whether a location is in the flood area, how bad it will be, and how to calculate how many sandbags you might need.

Find it here.

The flooding has already begun in some parts of the state. Down at Seeds Farm and Laughing Loon farm in Northfield, for example, it’s going to be awhile before planing season.

Bonus I: Newspapers will take different editorial positions on drones once they start delivering papers with them. (The Atlantic)

Bonus II: A blast from the past. Is it too late to mention “peeps?” Good, then. (h/t: Ben Garvin)

Bonus III: Franky Carrillo was just 16 when he was convicted of murder. He spent the next 20 years in prison in California for a crime he did not commit. He was released after eyewitnesses admitted they had lied. He is now in university trying to start a new life and to build a relationship with the grown son he only saw as an infant. (BBC)

Bonus IV: Why do people get worked up over pipeline projects from the Tar Sands of Alberta? This is why. This is Arkansas.

Bonus V: Help RadioLab track cicadas.

TODAY’S QUESTION

It is early and challengers have yet to announce their decisions, but Dayton has a record as governor that voters can judge him by. Today’s Question: Does Gov. Dayton deserve another term in office?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Issues facing the American worker.

Second hour: Are political parties passe? Plus: Why are bees dying?

Third hour: The Central Park Five.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Nobel Peace Prize winner and economist Muhammad Yunus, speaking in Minneapolis at the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize Forum.

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – TBA

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - Were people happier generations ago than we are today? Some researchers may have found an answer — embedded in literature. NPR will report.

When people are getting their daily news from comedians, and CNN reporters are writing for entertainment, how do we discern truth from fiction? The Minneapolis Institute of Arts’ presents “More Real: Art in the Age of Truthiness,” an exhibition that asks us to re-examine what we think we know about the world. MPR’s Marianne Combs will have a look.