Criticism. Essay. Fiction. Science. Weather.
It's February sweeps. Time for inflated ratings. Time for the Olympics. Time for lots of new shows. Unless you're watching the WB. The WB, in its never-ending quest to become early 1990s FOX, has dropped the hopeless word "new" from its promotional spots. The focus now is on "fresh
." One Tree Hill
is fresh all this month, as an example. The theory behind this switch is that it's easier to change the promos for the shows than to make better shows.
What's pathetic is how desperate the network now sounds whenever it plugs itself. Repeatedly claiming one's shows are "fresh" gives one the air of a sycophantic Hollywood wastrel. I imagine this is not the WB's intent. Wouldn't it be much easier to attract hip young-people by just hiring hip young-people? Why hire people who claim they know what hip young-people like?
Well, fittingly, the WB's good decision this month came in the boring old-person arena. The network is merging with the other doesn't-quite-matter darling, UPN. Together they can beat up on PAX. Both networks covet the same audience -- I was never able to keep the WB and UPN straight anyway -- and in some markets they already share an affiliate. Alone, they both seem like cable channels born just a little bit too early. Together
, they can make a fresh start
at becoming a legitimate fifth network.
The most ironic thing about this obsession with newness is that, positioned as it is at the bottom of the network pile, the WB/UPN could do very well for itself by forgetting about newness altogether. Imagine the ratings if one of the network's had snapped up Family Guy
when it got cancelled just as UPN did with Buffy the Vampire Slayer
. Feeding off the scraps of bigger networks might not offer anything fresh but it would bring new viewers. Should have jumped on Arrested Development
when they had the chance...
I bet you don't even know who Jimmy Rollins is, do you? Don't be afraid to admit it. A poll I took indicates that only 2% (including myself) of the populace in my office does.
Jimmy Rollins is a ballplayer. He's the switch-hitting shortstop for the Philadelphia Phillies, and he's one of the most exciting things happening in sports right now. He's a pretty damn good all around player -- he's fast, he's strong defensively, and he mixes extra base hits with singles with skillful regularity. In his five year career he's put together a batting average of .273 and collected 171 stolen bases. He is a three time All Star in a league where Rafael Furcal, Cesar Izturis, Kazuo Matsui, and David Eckstein play his position. If you're not a baseball fan, I won't tell you to care about him for those reasons. But do care about him.
Joe Dimaggio (surely you know who he is -- Marylin's one-time husband?) holds a record that many have said will never be broken; he got at least one hit in every regular season game he played in for 56 consecutive games in the season of 1941. In this, the era where records are falling like prices in a Walmart commercial, this fact is a treasure among nostalgia practitioners and those who consider themselves "Old School Italian-Americans." They cling to it with hope and optimism for a future that protects the past.
At the end of the 2005 season, Rollins had hit in 36 straight games. This April, he has an opportunity to pick up
where he left off. There've been some strange suggestions that Rollins might
get an asterisk next to his name in the record books for having taken two seasons to break the streak -- as though it's easier to keep the momentum with half a year off -- but he most likely will not. Sadly for him, he's been cut from the Team USA roster for the World Baseball Classic -- Derek Jeter and Michael Young did him in -- so Spring Training will have to do the job of getting him back into the groove.
If Rollins is able to break the streak, and if he doesn't take any games off and there are no rainouts, he'll surpass Dimaggio's record in Philadelphia on April 26th against the Colorado Rockies. On that date, he may finally get proper media coverage. But probably not. Like Ichiro Suzuki, who is also the most exciting thing happening in sports, Jimmy Rollins is doomed to not get the attention he deserves. Some would argue that sports are not as big a deal as they once were, or that America doesn't care about baseball anymore. But in 1998 we did, and it was record breaking that did it.
The Great Ichiro
and Jimmy Rollins are up against a different kind of struggle than even their most recent predecessors, though. In the age of the "clip" (which I say without a drop of nostalgia or regret -- I love SportsCenter and its imitators), it's hard to get excited about basehits. The clips are... boring. Not even die-hard baseball fans would be interested in watching a montage of all of Ichiro's 2004 hits, nor would I want to watch each of Rollins' successful at bats in the 2005-2006 span. Not out of context, anyway. But McGwire? Sosa? I distinctly remember my entire extended family, young and old, baseball fans and theater kids alike, gathering on a couch one summer afternoon and tuning in to a recap of the previous at bats from the race
. Not only do home runs look prettier than singles and occasional doubles, but the basehitters are without contestants.
These factors don't make Jimmy Rollins run at the "unbreakable record" any less exciting. They just make it harder for Rollins to get your attention. Now that you've heard of him, though, hopefully you'll be able to enjoy an incredible and exciting athletic feat. Phillies single game tickets go on sale on February 22, so you can make your hotel reservations now.