Pitchin with Sean O’Donnell

This week the guys chat with their old friend Sean O’Donnell. They talk about the Chargers vs Colts, the NL Playoffs, and the sad recent passings of Jose Fernandez and Arnold Palmer. Then they talk about Fox’s new baseball drama Pitch!

Check out Sean’s album Spirit Junkie here!

Also listen to Sean and Dallas’ Twin Peaks podcast Dishin The Percolator here!

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The Pitch Pilot

By Nicholas McCann

SPOILER ALERT: There is a big plot point that is discussed in this piece. Please watch the episode before reading if you care about that kind of thing. Thanks.

The Pitch Padres also have the All Star Game. The Pitch Padres also need to sell tickets. This is made abundantly clear when the owner, played by Bob Balaban, stumbles into the GM’s office admittedly sloshed on expensive Scotch and explains that he is in the possession of a moment. Fox’s new sports drama, Pitch, is about a young female pitcher named Ginny Baker who has just made it to the Major Leagues as a Padre. She has a fastball that tops out at 86 mph, a devastating screwball, a million dollar smile, and all the baggage that comes with being a driven outsider in a world that is afraid to accept her. When we meet Baker, she wakes up in the Omni hotel to flowers from Ellen DeGeneres and a fruit ensemble from Hillary Clinton. She is hailed as the next Jackie Robinson and a symbol to all young girls. Like most TV pilots, the flaws are rooted in the accelerated distribution of information, but it doesn’t stop the story from being compelling. Sure, there is the sentimental narrative of the first female pitcher making it to The Show that the owner wants to capitalize on, but it doesn’t dwell on it. It doesn’t spend a lot of time trying to convince the viewer that this scenario that has never occurred, could happen. Ginny Baker is a real person who feels the pressure of entering the next phase of her career and that lets us confront other themes that prove to be exponentially more important.

In Saved By the Bell, Zack Morris could always stop time to break the fourth wall and talk to the audience about his schemes to get over on his classmates or his usually gullible principal. He would call a time out, look at the camera, and explain his position in the world. Eventually the actor who played Zack, Mark Paul Gosselaar, had to grow up and do other things, but it has always been hard for his fans to separate his breakout role from any of his other work. This is the same case in Pitch and it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Gosselaar is playing the same archetype, but over 20 years older. As Mike Lawson, the Padres veteran catcher and best player who is given the task of being a mentor in the middle of a media circus, he quickly establishes a pecking order for Baker to assimilate to. Imagine if Nick Hundley put up Adrian Gonzalez type numbers, had a beard, and crushed ass at a Steve Garvey level. Like with Zack Morris, the episode starts with him being a cocky narcissist. Then slowly we find out that he has something that resembles a heart of gold, a trope that is pervasive in most of the memorable Saved By The Bell storylines. It really works, and in the pivotal scene during Baker’s second start, Lawson calls time out and gives the struggling rookie a pep talk. Using the now aged Zack Morris charm he tells her that she needs to stop pitching for other people. She needs to let go and pitch for herself. When the game resumes, she displays the talent that got her to the big leagues.

Letting go is a common theme for lots of memorable fictional on-screen pitchers. In Major League, Rick “The Wild Thing” Vaughn has to get over his vanity and wear glasses. In For The Love of The Game, Kevin Costner sheds the demons of his past and decides to just pitch. And in A League of Their Own, Lori Petty’s character truly excels when she gets over the self imprisonment of being in her sister’s shadow. Ginny Baker feels the pressure of the moment she is giving to the world, but as the episode develops we discover that all that noise is just a supplement to the weight she feels from one person sitting in the stands. Her father was a pitcher himself and when Ginny was very young, he devised a plan to make her the first female pitcher to make it the major leagues. This is a crazy thing to do to a child and the show walks a fine line of treating it that way. Through a series of flashbacks this becomes clear and the entire focus of the show changes. When Ginny makes her first little league team, it’s not enough for him. When she wins the North Carolina State Championship, her father says, “We haven’t done anything yet.” Finally, when a scout from the Padres comes sniffing around, he is ice cold to her and doesn’t give her the satisfaction of recognizing the accomplishment. On the ride home from the state championship game, their car is struck by an oncoming car and her father is thrown through the wind shield. The audience is then forced to realize that this entire time Ginny has been pitching for a ghost. Baker can handle the flocks of young girls looking to her for inspiration. She can handle the media and her several troglodyte teammates. However, what she really needs is the approval of someone who can never give it to her. She is locked in a constant state of searching for the release she’s been wanting ever since she picked up a baseball.

I hope this show sticks to examining the way parents treat their young children who are starting their journey into the world of sports. Before the big reveal of her father’s death, she screams at him for not letting her have a life. This is a troubling reality that is hard to come to grips with when we look at our favorite athletes. What are they sacrificing to give us the moments that matter so much to us? What about the athletes who aren’t as successful as Ginny, that have their development obstructed by parents who have built an unrealistic blueprint in their minds? Baker is a strong character who can handle the doubts of Colin Cowherd or her teammates who don’t want their world to be shaken up, but for this show to work; her journey needs to be about finding peace within her self. It’s fun to see Petco Park sold out with an electricity that we’ve rarely experienced, but she hasn’t done anything yet and neither have we.

 

Follow on Twitter: @Nicholas_McCann

Bob Moore – TKF Pod #65

This week the guys talk about the Chargers vs Jags, the AJ Preller fiasco, and the recent excitement surrounding the SDSU Football Program. Then they have a fun chat with El Paso Times editor Bob Moore about the Padres AAA affiliate in El Paso, the 2016 PCL Champion Chihuahuas. At the end, Travis and Nick discuss 30 for 30’s Small Potatoes: Who Killed The USFL? (It was Donald Trump). #GrrrTime #TKFFFS

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Hasta la Vista Preller

By Nicholas Burmeister (AKA @PadresHaiku)

Preller has to go. I like what he did. He’s massaging the rules in a game that rewards cheating. It was gamesmanship, crafty, and inexcusable and I’m fine with it, but he has to go. This is different from PEDs, and not exactly like sign stealing. It’s a sort of a combination of the two; misdirecting the other team while clouding actual physical ability. Other front offices are up in arms that another GM would do this, and that they hadn’t thought of it first.

While I like the scoundrel-ness of the tactic, he has to go. He’s going to be a baseball pariah, and while I like the idea of a villain GM, I also like having one that can make deals with the other teams. The problem is AJ is untouchable even if he’s the best choice for the job. He’s like Eddie Furlong and the Padres are Terminator III. Eddie Furlong played John Connor in Terminator II, but when it came time to film Terminator III no one would insure Eddie to do the film because he had a drug problem. He was John Conner, he was the best choice, but because of his bad decisions we ended up with Nick Stahl protecting us from Skynet. Nick. Stahl.

There is going to be fallout no matter what. If the team keeps him on he can continue to develop the minor league system and the team can continue with AJ’s vision of the rebuild. However that means carrying a persona non grata in the most important position on the team. If the Padres fire him, they lose one of the shrewdest (if not crooked) minds in the game. This probably sets the team back another couple years. But there is upside to letting him go. First, owners will look proactive. Dismissing their darling GM will assuage most of the criticism getting tossed their way. It might also mean the team won’t lose any draft picks, international signings, or have any other trades undone by the MLB. Keeping the players AJ has acquired is ultimately the best thing for the team even if AJ leaves/is forced out.

That being said, AJ’s real value was with the international draft- this past year. The Padres blew their wad this year, and they can’t spend big like this for a little bit. So if AJ’s value was with the draft that already happened-a draft that the team cannot spend very much money on next year-they should move. He has little value to the team. It’s like having a fancy key to a car you don’t own. He served his purpose and now it’s time to set him free.

In baseball the future is always filled with danger. A top pitching prospect can blow out an elbow. A superstar shortstop can end up in prison. The team needs a strong leader to guide it through the next few perilous years. The team needs their John Conner. If the Padres can’t have Furlong to help them fight the Dodgers, Giants, or Skynet, I just hope they do better than Nick effing Stahl.
 

Follow Nick Burmeister on Twitter: @PadresHaiku

Chargers and Feelings – TKF Pod #64

After a two week break, the Kept Faith is back! Dallas and Nick discuss the disaster of a week one for the Chargers and what it means for the overall picture of what they’re trying to get done downtown. Then they talk about the Padres winding down their season and what to look forward to in the last month. Then in the second to last installment of The Kept Faith Football Film Series #TKFFFS they discuss Varsity Blues (1999).

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Football’s Growing Problem is Football

Somewhere in the deep bravado of jock culture sits this need to be all that is “man”. The finest example of strength, dedication, and courage. If these terms and examples sound familiar, it’s because they were first used hundreds of years ago to highlight the efforts and success of our armed forces. The soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice were the ones bestowed with monikers and adjectives befitting the trials they would one day experience. As patriotic conflict became more foreign, and sport monetized and worshipped slowly but surely the terms “battle” and “war” found their way into the mouths of coaches hoping to inspire their players. Followed by “courage” and “sacrifice” and eventually even “soldier” were thrown about to motivate a win in whatever game it is they might be playing. It’s an irresponsible oversight, one that now seems so present it has all but replaced its original designation. Football is the prime example of this. The ultimate blunt force clash of oversized men designed to make themselves millionaires, and make millionaires billionaires. The new ultimate sacrifice.

Football is a game of self-proclaimed gladiators, and deals in a business of overhyped, overproduced, and overanalyzed drama that only exists in the mind of the delusional and the chicken wing-filled stomachs of fanatical club supporters. It’s the crème de la crème of accepted violence and exceptional athleticism, and if you don’t agree you are weak.

Football has a real problem, and that problem is it once again being exposed as a place for men (and only men) to be violent, and we must accept and celebrate this so sayeth those who reap the benefits. As a nation we choose every single season the game is played, whether we’d like to support this. Whether the unabashed violence, the highlight reel tackles, or the possible career-ending penalties are okay with us. We make the decision that the “controlled” chaos, the modern day coliseum games are acceptable. For decades, we’ve made it clearer than a Coors Light Silver Bullet Train that all of this is in fact acceptable if we don’t have to think about it too much, and that we are just fine with it…until we aren’t. It’s that five minutes of progressive humanity that makes me ponder – will there be professional football in twenty years? What happens when someone dies on the field? Why are football notables like Bruce Arians telling mother’s they’re ignorant for not wanting their children to play a game in which large men run into other large men with alarming force?

All three questions hinge on each other’s answer. And, all three questions prove that the NFL is working as hard as they can to set aside the glaring issues with a sport that was never intended to be anything other than a beer-drinker’s legal version of fight club with uniforms. Football has always been violent, it needed to be violent. It was played by either college kids who exuded so much testosterone they could kill an adult deer with their bare hands, or it was played by adult men who had nothing better to do and wanted to see if they could legally kill a person who was holding a ball. It’s no secret that Teddy Roosevelt, a human male bred from lions and reared on the open plains of the Wild West, wanted to ban football solely due to the amount of death and injuries the game had caused. Football imposed strict regulations, and the sport lived on, however many continue to ask if it should have and if the ghosts of the past failed to shed their ghoulish light on the future that might be.

The uncontrolled violence became somewhat controlled, better helmets and pads were introduced to soften impact, and players became more athletic to better prepare they’re bodies for the rigorous stress they’d be experiencing at an almost nonstop pace. Men become more men. They lock themselves in rooms, and grunt and sweat, and push their bodies to the limits so they can be the best at what they do. We expect them to be in shape, to be better than in shape, to be the best, the strongest, no matter what it takes, no matter the mental and physical toll, they must be prepared for “war” for “battle”. These men shrouded in pads that no longer serve a purpose, must be prepared to be “soldiers” in the ongoing fight for a ball and (sometimes fake) grass. There is no tomorrow. There is no second chance. If the good Lord decides your knee bone will be crushed today, or that all your ligaments burst apart, then so be it. It’s because the other man, who rammed helmet first into your knee, was more prepared, stronger, quicker, he was more man. Now, so must you be.

As spectators we cheer. We push for this. We want this. Take the ball into (sometimes fake) grass and dance. Do it. Dance, while I high-five people I like, and spill beer, and laugh, and sometimes cry. We have made the decision that this should continue as planned. Sure, that hit was illegal. Sure, that player did something horribly inappropriate, but they scored. I will pretend to care about that heinous act for the next few minutes with a tweet or a facebook post, but as soon as that player scores again my care will turn once again into high-fives; I’ll bury all semblance or reason down deep as to not look less of a man. Men watch this sport. Men play this sport. Women are allowed to follow it. And, follow it you must. Closely, and with every single ounce of pertinent information the National Football League tells you is pertinent. This is all the information you will need to let your children play. Dad will understand. Pain is a currency. Mom is ignorant. Pain is being alive, and if you don’t agree – you are stupid and weak. So sayeth the men who know. The men who stand on sidelines with clipboards and headphones, and large stomachs, who screech at players like dying animals that winning is all that matters. Clinging to an era long gone when they themselves were measured, when they themselves were victims of spit in face, grass in mouth, ice on swollen body parts. Now, years later knees ache, bellies jiggle, scowls perfected, and others are ignorant. “These parents didn’t go through anything”, the husky men think. They haven’t survived the “battle” the “war”. They never played a game.

The players are machines of athletics and strength. They’ve been trained from a young age to work hard. They’re minds molded that their coach is their leader, and that his words are those of Gods. When Gods not around though, we tend to play. As the animalistic nature takes over, the machine is let loose, and the few hours you get to be alive take over, no longer is God in your face. The Bible has been left in the locker room, and now the tree of good and evil will shake. We as the spectators clasp our hands and pray for good decisions, but know few will be made. Girlfriends will be punched, wives knocked cold, alcohol consumed behind the wheel of some of the finest machines ever made. Machines impaired, controlling machines needing guidance. Dads will understand. Steam must let off. Moms are ignorant. The game must be won, and if you don’t agree – you are weak and pathetic. You are not American. Football is American. It’s misconstrued violence reminds of us of our primal instincts. They make the off the field mistakes of the player more understandable and relatable when we don’t stop to think about it, because our primal instinct is our first, and our evolved intellect must have time to discern. When we utilize that time things become dark. They become upsetting, and we start to ask questions. We start to have open conversations with friends and family. We start seeing things we didn’t see before. Are we becoming weak? Are we becoming stupid? Are we not men? These questions are too much for our small brains to handle. Even if we wanted to, we could do nothing about it. It will take a death, we say, and that’ll never happen, right? It can’t. These men are trained “soldiers”. They’re prepared for “battle” for “war”. Bruce Arians and the NFL braintrust have readied their men for all situations on the field. I believe this. I must. Only consume what is on the field. Ignore the broken laws, the broken jaws, the DUI, CTE, and other acronyms we could never possibly grasp. The braintrust knows what’s best for their men, for us. We must follow them. If not, we’ll be ignorant. We’ll be women. We’ll be un-American.

For more expert sports stuff, and things you probably won’t care about, follow me on Twitter @dallas_mc 

Andrew Burer – TKF #63

This week the guys sit down with Andrew Burer from The Mighty 1090 and talk about his job covering all things San Diego Sports. They discuss the Padres youth movement and the Chargers’ inability to forward a cohesive positive message to the fans as the all important stadium vote approaches. Then Nick and Travis discuss the 1994 film Little Giants for the second installment of The Kept Faith Football Film Series #TKFFFS.

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Andy Keatts Returns! – TKF #62

This week Nick and Travis sit down with Voice of San Diego reporter Andy Keatts. They talk about Matt Kemp’s Player’s Tribune post, the Joey Bosa situation with the Chargers and kickoff The Kept Faith Football Film Series with Oliver Stone’s Any Given Sunday (1999).

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Scott Lewis & Loxie Shooks – TKF #61

This week Dallas and Travis chat with Coach Lew from the Voice of San Diego podcast about his recent interview with Ron Fowler and the impending Chargers/Padres feud. We also talk to Loxie Shooks of the Gulls about the upcoming season and what it’s like being the in-game announcer during the playoffs! We also talk Ichiro’s 3,000 hit and if A-Rod will make it into the Hall of Fame!

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Fowler’s Gambit

By Nicholas Burmeister AKA @PadresHaiku

Padres Chairman Ron Fowler’s rants recently have gotten some attention, but I don’t think they’re just the ramblings of an old man. I think they are premeditated messages to a large group of Padre fans. What Fowler is doing is giving fans permission to accept the exit of their stars and to embrace the oncoming rebuild. He’s making it okay to root against the stars fans rooted for a week ago. He is doing this by stroking the basest  level of fandom. Fowler is playing San Diego’s id.

Ron is basically saying,  “You’re either with us or you’re against us.” Which, in the broadest measure, is rooting for a team. Until recently sports have been a purely jingoistic endeavor. Fantasy sports is eschewing this  behavior to some extent, but you’re likely to root, root-root for the home team where you grew up.  Uncle Ron is saying to San Diego, “You’re not a Kemp fan or a Shields fan; you’re a padre fan,  act like one.”

He’s doing this, in part, to save his own skin. He knows the re-build was under way starting last year, but he doesn’t want fans to look at him the same way they looked at ownership (Tom Werner) during the last fire sale. He is very sensitive to how San Diegans see him as a sports entity. He doesn’t want to be Alex Spanos (no one does). Fowler is saying “we got rid of those guys because they’re clubhouse cancers not because we’re shedding salary or rebuilding. Even if we are rebuilding, those guys needed to leave. Don’t point your finger at me, point it at them. I’m doing right by you.”

There is a portion of the fan base that understands the business of baseball and how cashing in a blue chip player for two or three prospects is an effective strategy, especially in small markets. This group is growing, thankfully. If you’re reading this you are most likely in this group of people. I don’t think he’s worried about what that group of people thinks. He doesn’t have to, the team is awful now, yet we live in the golden age of Padres Podcasting, the silver age of Padres Twitter, and the bronze age of Padres Blogging.  He’s sort of counting on those fans to read the tea leaves and back the team during the rebuild.

By flying off the handle, he gives the appearance of passion, which Werner, Moores and Moorad never did.  That might inspire enough San Diegans to stick with the team through a season or three of losing even if he sorta knows it’s bullshit. He is stroking the fan’s lizard brain and it makes them feel good.

For example, let’s say the Shields trade happens, and nobody from ownership says anything, there are a bunch of fans that would turn their back on the club faster than a housewife turns on Ellen. Fans grumble things like:

“Why you tradin’ Big Game James for? I just bought that guy’s jersey.”

Or “Same ‘ol Padres ” 

Or “Me want stars!” 

But, if ownership gives fans another reason to trade him, as opposed to just dumping his salary in a normal baseball-business way, fans might go along with it and say:

 “Yeah! Screw that guy. He gave up a home run to Bartolo Colon for crying out loud.” 

Or “Shields stinks”

Or “Throwing guy with beard bad”

This is because down deep inside every sports fan is a blind desire to love their team and to hate all other teams. A tiny voice that will support their squad regardless of the circumstances. Sports fandom is as irrational as it gets. That’s what the id is. It’s irrational and animalistic and it’s what Fowler wants to inspire. He might be saying the right things.

As an aside I have zero doubt in my mind that Ron Fowler’s passion is genuine. Zero. I believe that he wants to win more than any owner since Joan Kroc and probably more than her. He wants to win more than Werner and Moores combined. He wants to win more than Russian athletes want to use steroids. He wants to win more than Dellavedova wants to dunk on Draymond Green during the Olympics. Which, sadly will not happen.

 

Follow Nicholas Burmeister on Twitter as @PadresHaiku

 

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