The declining behavior at town ball (5×8 – 7/10/12)

Foul territory in rural Minnesota, misleading presidential polls, prisoners of our own culture, battle of the naked Wisconsinites, and skipping stones in Sun Valley.


The East Ottertail Focus gives voice today (update: the column was removed because of the reaction in the community. It’s being rewritten and will be reposted later today) to a crisis in Minnesota communities, my friends. Fan behavior at town ball and amateur ballgames is declining this year, it says. It’s not, he says, just the recent beanbrawl between the The Perham Pirates and Detroit Lakes Angels — teams that have a rematch tomorrow night — it was also the game in Midway between the Snurdbirds and Nimrod Gnats. And it was also recent games in New York Mills and Park Center.

The behavior is bad. The language is bad, it suggests.

Now imagine being the umpire dealing with the whole scene.

Some guy on the back of a tailgate is questioning calls. He cannot even see the plate. The backside of a left-handed batter blocks his view.

The absurdities of some fan behavior, when logically examined, are borderline endless. But a Sunday on a tailgate with a cooler full of brews is not a place for pure logic.

As an impartial third-party, it was humorous to witness, but such antics are certainly going to have an effect on the stress already on the field.

Playing or watching baseball is supposed to be fun and fans have a right to bellow if they want, whether they were charged admission or not.

The game needs more public support even if it is from bellowing bench warmers on the other side of the fence.

What the game needs less are the tantrums on the field.

“I have seen better behavior at a beer league softball game where players and fans are all schnockered,” the writer, who is now one of NewsCut’s favorites, says. (Update 11:17 a.m. – Here’s the reworked article)

Let’s step back to an earlier, more sedate time. 2011…

Minnesota Townball from Brian Peterson on Vimeo.

Related ball: Major League Baseball needs to update its severe weather policy. (Updraft)

Even more ball talk: What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90% the speed of light? (h/t: Derek Schille)


There’s a new poll out today showing the presidential contest between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is a dead heat, but is it?

Each has 47% of the vote, the Washington Post poll says…

The new numbers reflect a stubborn constancy: Only twice in 13 surveys over more than a year has either candidate held a lead exceeding the poll’s margin of sampling error. Now, the campaign appears destined to remain extremely close in the final four months before Election Day.

The fundamentals seem firmly planted: About two-thirds of Americans consider the country seriously off course, a majority have not approved of Obama’s overall job performance in more than a year, and the president remains in negative territory on dealing with the economy, health care and immigration. Also unmoved since fall are Americans’ attitudes toward spending, with as many saying they would prefer an increase in federal spending to try to spur economic growth as wanting to prioritize deficit reduction.

The poll reporting shows a nagging negligence by the news media, however, to acknowledge an important fact: This isn’t how we elect presidents.

If the election were a popular vote, then the poll might be more accurate, but the election is not a popular vote, it’s an electoral vote and few polls are constructed and weighted to reflect that what the people in some states think is more important than what the people in other states think.

That’s why sites like ElectoralVote, which have been around for several elections, are a better indicator of the status of a contest than mass-callout polls such as the Washington Post. It takes polls within states and recalculates the electoral vote.

Here’s what it shows this morning (click on the image)…


It also shows why the combatants will spend plenty of time in three states — Michigan, Florida, and Virginia. The polls show they matter more.


So, it’s not just you.

UCLA researchers have released a study of the effects of a consumer-driven society on the American family. “Something like 50 of the 64 parents in our study never stepped outside in the course of about a week,” a researcher tells the Boston Globe. “When they gave us tours of their house they’d say, ‘Here’s the backyard, I don’t have time to go there.’ They were working a lot at home. Leisure time was spent in front of the TV or at the computer.”

The U.S. has 3.1 percent of the world’s kids, and 40 percent of the world’s toys, but this finding is particularly troubling:

A refrigerator door cluttered with magnets, calendars, family photos, phone numbers, and sports schedules generally indicates the rest of the home will be in a similarly chaotic state.

Ruh roh.


For decades, nudists have considered Mazo Beach theirs. The spot in Mazomanie, northwest of Madison, is considered the largest nudist beach that is not on a coastline, the New York Times says. Officials — it’s a state-owned park — have looked the other way. But with some recent X-rated arrests, the naturists worry they’ll lose the beach. As usual, the Internet is partly to blame.


There’s nothing more relaxing than the mindless exercise of skipping stones across a pond in the wide open spaces. But would you wait in line for 46 others to skip their stones first?

Skippy is a robot set up somewhere around Sun Valley, Idaho, to skip stones on behalf of people who have lined up online…

It’s a promotion for Sun Valley tourism. You sign up online and wait for your chance to skip stones. And wait. Forty-six people were lined up ahead of me…


Bonus: In two weeks, five million people have watched this video…

Today, the Associated Press meets the young gentlemen behind it.


Amy Senser’s sentence to almost three and a half years was the lightest she could have received under state guidelines. Today’s Question: Should the goal of a prison sentence be to punish, rehabilitate or something else?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: America’s dependence on foreign oil.

Second hour: The influence of the private sector on public education.

Third hour: A look at “test tube babies” at 34.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): From the Aspen Ideas Festival, Admiral Mike Mullen and NPR’s Steve Inskeep on the role of military superpowers.

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – The new economic reality: The downwardly mobile.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Can development and preservation co-exist? Gentrification in cities usually means getting rid of old buildings to make way for new ones. But there’s a city block where the old will live inside the new. NPR will have the story of a massive new office building in Washington.

  • jon


    Seems like it’s still a close race… if you remove the states in white (i.e. less then 4% either way) neither candidate has enough votes to win. luckily they are mostly eastern timezone states, means we can get some sleep on election night and not miss finding out who is the likely winner.

  • Greg W

    Bob, the link to article in the EOT Focus isn’t working. I can’t find it on the site, either.

    Even with my amateur experience playing in beer league softball games, I agree there is an escalation of animosity between teams and bad behavior in fans.

    A lot of the players on these town ball teams have played against one another since Little League. There is a lot of deep-seated harsh feelings based on old town versus town rivalries.

  • Bob Collins

    They deleted the column. I’ve got emails in to find out why, but that’s an interesting situation. Calling out people in a smalltown can get a local paper in trouble.

  • Robert Moffitt

    1) “I heard that all through the Midwest, they have towns with teams…”

    –Archie “Moonlight” Graham, “Field of Dreams”

    2) Yep. The popular vote polls ARE misleading. That’s why so many people get surprised by presidental election results.

    3) I blame Scott Walker. (g)

  • JackU

    #2 and @jon

    Jon: it depends on your definition of close. Looking at only the Strongly and Likely does get you to a situation where neither candidate has 270 electoral votes. Still the President in that count is up 254 – 191. In that case he only needs to win Michigan of the “barely Dem” states and he wins the election. Considering that Michigan has gone to the Democrat in the last 5 elections and went for Obama with 57% of the vote last time, its not a stretch to think it would do so this time.

    As far as “the media” not discussing electoral politics, that’s nothing new. The electoral college is a somewhat arcane and complicated institution. Like many things in the US Constitution it seems to me that it was designed to slow the process down and avoid the dangers of mob rule and the rush to judgement.

  • Bob Collins

    // As far as “the media” not discussing electoral politics, that’s nothing new.

    It’s not that they’re not discussing it, it’s that in ignoring the way we elect presidents, they’re committing journalistic fraud by characterizing a race as something it clearly is not — at least not at the moment.

  • Chris

    The media has a vested interest in having us believe it’s a very close race. If people knew what the current electoral race was how might that change the coverage? Over the weekend there was a story in the NYT emphasizing the closeness of the race and how the weak economy was shaping the contest. What if the story was more like “Romney very weak in electoral race despite slow economic recovery”.

  • Greg W

    Thanks for the follow-up on the article, Bob.

    There’s no doubt it’s a dangerous game to have your opinions put in print like that.

    Good for him for taking a stand.

  • Bob Collins

    // Romney very weak in electoral race despite slow economic recovery

    I wouldn’t characterize him as very weak. Michigan, Florida, and Virginia (along with Ohio and Pennsylvania) are the states that make presidents these days. Three of those are very close and two are definitely in play.

    What the electoral map always tells me is how few states there are that make presidents. and also how little the map has changed since ’08… cept for that little Indiana-Iowa wedge and some mid-Atlantic states.

    The big red hunk in the middle is always eye-opening, but a lot of those states are flyover country with 3 electoral votes, which is the election equivalent of the pennies you throw in the “take a penny, give a penny” pile at the convenience store.

  • chris

    Michigan, Florida, and Virginia

    Unless I’m doing the math wrong, according to the map up there Romney needs all three of those currently in the Obama column to win. Obama can lose any two of them and still win. To me, that means Romney shows as weak on the map, but I can see how you might disagree.

    The big red hunk in the middle is always eye-opening…those more pro-america areas* where relatively few people live?

    *sorry for the palinism.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Re misleading presidential polls:

    Won’t it be fun if it’s really tight, there’s a predictable debacle in Florida, and John Roberts gets to pick the President AGAIN, thus redeeming himself with his conservative brethren?


  • Jennifer Tutt

    As a Park Center Pirate parent, I am appalled that MPR did not attempt to contact the PC Dugout Club, Head Coach or Assistant Coach, or anyone else with connection to the Pirate Baseball team before posting what is a blatantly false article regarding our Pirates Baseball team.

    If you would please re-read the article, NOTE that the behaviors listed in the first 2/3 of the article regarding the Perham team have nothing to do with the game played against the Park Center Pirates last weekend. In the game they DID play against each other, both benches were warned once for using bad language. The rest of the game was without incident. In fact, the rest of the weekend was without incident (no ejections and no warnings to our team, coaches, or fans.). The beer-guzzling, tailgating, etc. had NOTHING to do with our team. Our fans did NOT drink alcohol at any game, did not use foul language toward a team or umpire, and were nothing but supportive of our boys, who played great baseball and showed great focus throughout the weekend.

    You have done a great disservice to a group of boys and fans who are working hard to make a good name for Park Center, our communities, and our families.

    Shame on you.

  • Bob Collins

    Your complaint is better placed with Mr. Williams at the East Otter Tail Focus, who was the author. He’s written a follow-up. NewsCut isn’t an article. It’s a blog, the purpose of which is to alert people to interesting articles and stories appearing elsewhere.

  • Jennifer Tutt

    @Bob Collins: no worries, the “complaint” was sent to the sports and news editors of the paper. Knowing how many people read this blog/listen to MPR, I felt it necessary to make sure the readers hear from the Park Center Pirates as well. I wish you were there and saw the great hits and plays, like the Triple Play with bases loaded! Not all teams are unsportsmanlike, and our Pirates are a great team, in the dugout and out.

  • Bob Collins

    I’m hoping to come up in a couple of weeks. I need to get out and watch some real baseball. And it looks like you’ve got a nice little airport there with a short walk to town. Perfect!