Thursday, April 17, 2008

Bowling Trick 2

Top 10 Dumbest Sports Trends

Kobe Bryant

As we come to the end of the Greatest NBA Regular Season Ever™, I think we all have to admit that we're a little disappointed with the wind-down. All the playoff berths were decided before the season's final day, and, though the standings ended very close, there wasn't a seven-way tie for first place in the Western Conference, the winner determined by some obscure tiebreaker like second-half free-throw percentage. Those of you seeking some sort of transcendent season-end thrill need not worry, though. I've been informed repeatedly, by dozens of near-literate people, that this was all just the first act for the most thrilling race of all. No, not the NBA Playoffs. The MVP race.

All season long, this "race" for MVP has dominated the basketball conversation. LeBron James, whose ticket is punched for the next decade of MVP speculation, was, of course, part of it. Kobe Bryant, some argued, deserved consideration for finally recognizing that basketball is a team game. The Celtics would have been nothing without Kevin Garnett, and who could really dispute the contention that Chris Paul has overtaken Steve Nash as the game's best point guard?

Within the last week, this glorified bar argument has gone from an inevitable, annoying story line to the only story anyone deigns to write about. Mark Kriegel of Fox Sports thinks Paul is the MVP because a 50-plus win team in New Orleans is "not supposed to happen." Important outlets like the Canadian Press, which favors LeBron James because no one is more important to his team than LeBron James, have also made their opinions known. Even Henry Abbott,'s generally excellent basketball blogger, caught a virulent strain of the disease. Abbott called last weekend's Hornets-Lakers game "The World's Most Unlikely MVP Showdown." "Chris Paul is the insurgent," he wrote. "The new kid. The future that may or may not be here yet. And Kobe Bryant? He's the people's champ. …"

Never mind the fact that I am, technically, a person, and Kobe Bryant will never be my champ of anything. Please consider that last Saturday's Hornets-Lakers game was for the top seed in the West. This was an important game, played in real life, on a basketball court. Does anyone else think it's strange that so few cared to opine on how that game, won by the Lakers 107-104, might influence or help predict what happens in the playoffs? Meanwhile, 8,000 sportswriters, bloggers, and talking heads chimed in on the huge consequences MVP-wise. In the next day's Los Angeles Times: "Competition appears to lean toward Bryant, who hasn't been MVP yet, although Paul makes his case too in a game of wild swings."

Perhaps this is too obvious to say, but what the hell: The MVP race isn't real. Stephen A. Smith may think that if Kevin Garnett pulls a triple-double against the Sixers, it will suddenly become clear that he's more valuable than Chris Paul, but I can pretty much guarantee that K.G. isn't thinking the same thing. Bill Simmons, in his typically entertaining spastic-puppy hyper-referential novella-length style, recently ranked the four greatest MVP races ever. I wonder whether Bob Pettit, Bill Russell, Oscar Robertson, Elgin Baylor, and Wilt Chamberlain knew that they were in an MVP race in 1961. Somehow, I think that the three guys who covered the NBA back then may have been concentrating on reporting on the actual games, or race-baiting, or both.

Tim O'Sullivan of the Concord Monitor may have unwittingly summed up the situation's gross absurdity in his April 13 column. "Presenting the winner with his trophy isn't the pinnacle of the MVP matter," O'Sullivan wrote. "We're living the pinnacle right now. It's all about the race, just like it is for any MVP in any sport. And the current race is, well, MVP-worthy." I shouldn't really fault a guy for enjoying his job and all, but is deciding whether Kobe is more MVP-worthy than LeBron really "living the pinnacle"? Well, maybe if you can't get a press pass to the NBA Finals.

If stupid arguments were outlawed, then nobody would ever talk about sports, and we don't want that to happen because then we'd have to think about our actual problems. Still, this MVP race talk is far more annoying than the typical pointless sports discussion. For one thing, few fans actually care. Sure, people chant "MVP" whenever a worthy candidate plays an outstanding game, but that's only because "we think you're a great player who wears our favorite uniform" doesn't have the same lilt. We all remember the great playoff games, and most of us can recite the last 30 years of NBA champions from memory with reasonable accuracy. I know that Michael Jordan won six titles with the Bulls, but I'd have to look up how many MVP trophies he won. Three? Four? Five? Two, God forbid?

Sportswriters and pundits, on the other hand, are treating the MVP race with the gravitas of a presidential election. That's because they make up the Electoral College. When they're debating who's going to win the award, they're not really talking about who they think the best player is; they're talking about whom they should pick as the best player. It's the ultimate circle-jerk of sports-guy self-regard. Sportswriters can't affect the outcome of the games—only David Stern can do that—but the MVP race is theirs to decide, and it's the most thrilling part of their season. "In the 23 years I've been an MVP voter," writes Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News, "there never has been a more difficult choice than that faced by this year's selection panel." Fascinating, but I'd prefer to read about a basketball game.

All of this blather would probably be less irksome if it were confined to the end of the season. But, among many, many others, has been updating the "Race to the MVP" every week, all season long. (Your Week 1 "leader": Tracy McGrady.) spent all season ranking the NBA's Top 50 rookies, about 10 of whom have ever seen significant playing time. It's not just pro basketball that's become the Golden Globes with cheerleaders and T-shirt cannons. This is the year that our national obsession with pointless sports rankings reached its absurd zenith. On television, Fox ranks the "50 Best Damn Sports Blowups" and ESPN has sunk so far as to rank the "greatest highlight." The Web is loaded down with Heisman watch lists, draft rankings, and power polls. If you look around, you can find the "Ten Phoniest Baseball Injuries," America's "Top Sports Cities," "Most Desperate Sports Cities," and "Most Fan-Friendly Franchises." The day the 2008 NFL schedule came out, listed the "top 40 games," including the Sept. 21 Texans-Titans match-up. "Matt Schaub, Albert Haynesworth square off," was the reasoning.

The "power rankings" phenomenon isn't new, but the Web has put it into hyperdrive. The Internet demands frequently updated content, and lists and rankings are incredibly easy to put together and require no original thought. There's no need to come up with a new idea every week: Just shuffle a few teams or players around, write a one-sentence caption, and you're ready to publish. Maybe people really care about this stuff, and sports sites are simply fulfilling our desire to assign rankings to "Baseball's Top 20 Young Pitchers." I'd prefer to think we're getting our sports fix from these columns because nobody bothers to writes about anything else.

This is all but a symptom of our rank-happy world. We're determined to manufacture competitions between things even if they don't exist. 21 "beat" Leatherheads at the box office to become the "No. 1 movie," and then they both "lost" to a remake of Prom Night. Meanwhile, the richest of the rich NBA stars, who smoke cigars rolled with our hard-earned money in fraternal ignorance of our opinions, "compete" for the NBA trophy. It's a shameful waste in which we're all complicit. Besides, everyone knows that Amare Stoudemire has got next year's MVP trophy in the bag.

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How Hang Gliding Works

Imagine soaring like a hawk thousands of feet above the ground. Although the air is somewhat chilly, the view is tremendous and the solitude is relaxing. You search for updrafts of air to keep you aloft so that you can enjoy this feeling for hours. This is the experience of hang gliding.

Hang glider Ramy Yanetz over Rio de Janiero
Photo courtesy Ramy Yanetz
Hang glider Ramy Yanetz over Rio de Janiero.
See more hang gliding pictures.

The hang glider's wing, called a delta wing or Rogallo wing, is an outgrowth of NASA engineer Francis Rogallo's research on kites and parachutes in the 1960s. Rogallo had proposed the wing as a method of returning spacecraft to Earth. The delta-wing parachute was lightweight, durable and highly maneuverable. Later, John Dickenson, Bill Moyes, Bill Bennett and Richard Miller developed the Rogallo wing into the modern hang glider and launched an immensely popular sport shared by millions of people worldwide.

The hang glider is actually a triangle-shaped airfoil, a modified parachute (known as a flexible wing) made of nylon or Dacron fabric. The triangular shape is maintained by rigid aluminum tubes and cables and is designed to allow air to flow over the surface to make the wing rise. Newer, high-performance hang-glider designs use a rigid wing with stiff aluminum struts inside the fabric to give it shape, eliminating the need for supporting cables.
Hang gliding is often confused with paragliding, though the two sports are quite different from one another. Check out the paragliding article, video and images at Discovery’s Fearless Planet to learn more.

In this article, we will examine the sport of hang gliding. We'll show you the details of the aircraft, the equipment involved, how to fly it and how to become a certified hang glider.

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Surfer wins big wave contest

Shane Dorian has taken the top prize after riding a huge wave at the annual Global Big Wave awards in California.

McAllister's deal proves there's no loyalty in NFL

The next time you get sick of some player – Cowboys linebacker Greg Ellis comes to mind – grousing about his contract, think about New Orleans running back Deuce McAllister.

The Saints all-time leading rusher, who accepted Reggie Bush and splitting his role without complaint, blew out his knee for the second time in three years last season while trying to help the Saints win a game.

His reward: The Saints restructured his contract.

The $1 million bonus he was supposed to receive has been converted to incentives. If he fully recovers, he'll get the money that his contract originally said he was supposed to receive. If there are complications, then he won't.

That's why a player should do whatever they must do to get paid. Hold out? Fine. Force a trade? That's OK, too.

There is no loyalty in the NFL. A contract means nothing in the NFL. It's a year-to-year deal. That's how management treats it, and that's how players should, too.

By the way, have you heard the moral outrage over McAllister's contract? Of course not. People seem to always hold employees to a higher standard than companies.

Q: What are your thoughts on Dallas drafting Jamaal Charles. If the Cowboys are not that interested in him, then who do you think might pick him up and when?

Michael Burns, Texas

TAYLOR: Personally, I'm not a Charles fan. To me, he's a track guy who plays football, and I'm always afraid of having track guys on my team. Plus, he was a good back at Texas, but he wasn't a real difference-maker until the last four or five games of last season when he put together a terrific string of 200-yard performances. That said, I don't think Dallas would take him in the first round, but I could see them grabbing him in the second round if he was still there. I don't know where he's going, but I would figure someone will take him in the first two rounds because he has such good speed, despite his fumbling issues.


Q: Jerry's still talking about a mega trade. I thought a little about how far up they've have to go to get Rashard Mendenhall. What about trading the 22nd and 28th pick for WR Roy Williams and Detroit's 15th pick, then they could take Mendenhall AND get Roy Williams! I'd do that deal every time!

Don Weeks

TAYLOR: Don, I know you'd do that deal. So would every other Cowboys fan. Now, tell me why the Lions would do it. Frankly, they wouldn't. Don't feel bad, though. Mendenhall will be gone before No.15 anyway.


Q: I keep reading unflattering stories about the cornerback Aqib Talib. He sounds like another Pacman Jones waiting to happen. What do you think?

Shelby Mast

TAYLOR: I haven't read anything that makes me think Talib is going to be Pacman. Certainly, he has a high opinion of himself, and there have been reports that he tested positive for marijuana at Kansas. But none of that compares to the things Pacman has done. It's not like he has been arrested numerous times. Obviously, you have to do your homework on him and then make a decision. He's a high-risk player. He's going to be a star or a scrub.


Q: What will Anthony Henry's cap hit be if he were to be let go? He's still a good corner, but he's been injured a lot lately and is getting up there in age. Next year, both receivers and corners will be over 30 if we continue the way it is now. Just a thought.

TAYLOR: I believe it would be $2 million this year and $2 million next year, but that really doesn't matter. Why would you get rid of Henry? Who would play corner? A first- or second-round pick? Pacman Jones? What happens if one of both of those guys gets hurt? There's no reason to get rid of Henry. He's been a good, solid player for the Cowboys.


Q: When the Cowboys made the trade last year with Cleveland, I thought the pick we would get this year would be close to the top of the draft. Do you think there is a chance of taking one of the first-round picks and making a trade with a weaker team for a pick in a lower round this year plus a first next year and maybe getting lucky with a top pick. Plus, if the cap situation is tight, that would keep from paying two first-round picks now.

Steve Neece, Bartlesville, Okla.

TAYLOR: You make a trade, if it's best for your team – not based on what will happen next year. We've already seen with the Buffalo and Cleveland trades of the last few years that you can never predict from year-to-year how a team is going to fare, so you're always taking a chance. I wouldn't be surprised to see Dallas trade one of its first-round picks, if it can't get the player it wants.


Q: Add me to those clamoring for a change in the rookie salary structure. What do you think?

Ted Bush, Hanover, NH.

TAYLOR: I think it would be great. I like the way the NBA does it. The first-round picks are each handsomely compensated and if they become stars, then they are paid like kings. That way, the best players receive the most money, which is how it should be done.


Q: With regard to last year's early-season problems with Wade Wilson, did Jerry Jones ever lose confidence in his abilities as a quarterback coach? Has this issue been closed or is he under the scope this year by either the Cowboys or the NFL? Finally, do you think Tony Romo's confidence in him has been compromised at all?

John Keys, Corpus Christi

TAYLOR: I don't think Jerry ever lost faith in Wade because his issue was about quality of life – not his job performance. Based on Romo's performance, you'd have to say Wilson did a pretty good job last year. Jason Garrett gets a lot of credit, as he should, but Wilson should also get some credit.


Q: What the story with Larry Allen, is he done? If so, do you think he will sign one of those one-day deals and retire a Cowboy?

TAYLOR: I don't know that Allen's future has been determined yet. Larry is a very private person, so I don't know that he would want the pomp and circumstance that would accompany signing a one-day deal with the Cowboys. My suspicion is it won't happen, though he will get put in the Ring of Honor, as he should, one day before he gets into the Hall of Fame.


Q: Do you think that Terry Glenn is actually through playing or do you think he could actually come back and contribute to an already potent offense? Do you think the Cowboys need to draft a receiver?

Kelvin Payne

TAYLOR: I would love to see Terry Glenn come back and be a contributor to this team because he's a terrific player who's never really gotten his due over the years. But he's a speed player trying to overcome a serious knee injury. I don't know that he can do it, but I wish him luck.


Q: I also hope Tampa Bay releases Chris Simms. He would be a great backup to Romo. What do you think?

Ruben Rodriguez

TAYLOR: I wouldn't be opposed to that. I still think Brad Johnson would be better as a No. 3 quarterback instead of a No. 2. It makes me nervous to think he's one injury away from starting four or five games because he never looked good or comfortable in the preseason. Plus, he has a suspect arm. He's intelligent and doesn't make a lot of mistakes, but I'd rather have a young guy like Simms as my backup.


Q: How about Dallas drafting an interior defensive lineman? You can't forget what a dominant pass rush can do to help a team win a Super Bowl.

Richard K. Garner, Sacramento

TAYLOR: I don't think Dallas will be looking for a nose guard with Tank Johnson and Jay Ratliff currently at the position. In the 3-4, the pass-rushers come from the outside linebacker positions. When Dallas does use a four-man line, it can move Jason Hatcher and Greg Ellis inside, if it chooses, to boost the pass rush and use Anthony Spencer at outside linebacker.

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The Business Of Baseball

The key numbers show that the national pastime is more popular than ever. In 2007, baseball broke its attendance record for the fourth consecutive season when 79.5 million fans hit the turnstiles. A big plus: Interleague games, where teams in the American and National leagues square off against each other, averaged 34,900 fans per game, 15% more than intraleague contests.

The New York Yankees led the majors in attendance for a fifth straight year with a record 4.3 million. But the Chicago Cubs, Detroit Tigers, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals each drew at least 3 million fans. Turns out all the media hype about how fans were stressing over steroids ruining baseball was pure fiction.

Upshot: Team owners are getting rich like never before. During 2007, revenue for MLB's 30 teams went up 7.7%, to $5.5 billion. The average team is now worth $472 million, 9.5% higher than last year and 143% more than when Forbes first calculated team values in 1998. Again the Bronx Bombers sit atop baseball with a value of $1.3 billion. George Steinbrenner, who paid $10 million for the team in 1973, could probably teach Warren Buffett a thing or two about investing.

Consider this: The Yankee brand (the portion of the team's value attributable to its name) alone is worth $241 million, almost as much as the entire Florida Marlins franchise. When the Yankees move into their new stadium in 2009 the team will be worth at least $1.5 billion because of the rich bounty of sponsorship and premium seating revenue.

The Mets, currently ranked second with a value of $824 million, will also get a new stadium that should push their value close to $1 billion before long. Citigroup (nyse: C - news - people ), beleaguered by the housing market meltdown, is still planning to pay the Amazins $400 million over 20 years for the stadium's naming rights.

By The Numbers: How Much Is Your Favorite Baseball Team Worth?

By The Numbers: Best Pitchers For The Buck

In Pictures: MLB Stadium Guide

When it comes to players, owners are becoming more tight-fisted. During the past five seasons, player costs (salaries, bonuses and benefits) have fallen to 56% of revenue from 66%. As a result, operating income (in the sense of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) averaged over $16 million per team for the second straight year.

Five years ago, 16 teams lost money. In 2007 only three teams--Blue Jays ($1.8 million), Red Sox ($19.1 million), Yankees ($47.3 million)--posted an operating loss. But even those losses are misleading. For the owners of the Yankees and Red Sox, the huge dividends they get from their unconsolidated cable networks more than make up for the teams' losses. Meanwhile Rogers Communications (nyse: RCI - news - people ), which owns the Blue Jays, their stadium and the cable channel that televises its games, derives huge benefits from owning the Blue Jays not reflected on its team's P&L statement.

On the field, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies were the Cinderella stories last season. But the blueprint for how to operate a franchise in a small market is the Cleveland Indians, who have shown that a team can win on and off the field if they invest wisely in player development and have good chemistry on the diamond. In 2006, the Indians won only 78 games. Last season, not only did the Tribe eliminate the Yankees in the playoffs but they generated $29 million in operating income, third-most in the American League.

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Yankees Bury Bernie Williams Under New Stadium For Good Luck

NEW YORK—Citing a need for physical and spiritual cleansing after a Boston Red Sox fan entombed a David Ortiz jersey in the floor of the new facility, the New York Yankees buried former centerfielder Bernie Williams under 4,650 pounds of concrete Wednesday in the foundation of the new Yankee Stadium for good luck.

According to team sources, the instant the 39-year-old Williams was completely submerged in the rapidly setting structural material, stopping his voice as his lungs and mouth filled with concrete, the sun broke through the clouds and shone on the yet-incomplete field. Yankees part-owner Hank Steinbrenner called the occurrence a sign indicating that the "Curse Of A Red Sox Fan's David Ortiz Jersey" had been reversed, and that God was once again on the Yankees' side.

Enlarge Image Yankees

"Any attempt to put a hex on the New York Yankees has been successfully averted," Steinbrenner told reporters while standing over the still-wet concrete slab beneath which, judging by the sluggish ripples and lopsided bubbles in the hardening agglomerate, Williams still struggled. "Not that this organization believes in curses. We're the Yankees. We believe the success of our team is based purely on our players and their on-field performance. And we act accordingly."

"However," Steinbrenner continued, "Bernie was on our last World Series team in 2000, so we figured burying him under our new home certainly couldn't hurt. Also, he was available, and his appearance fee was quite reasonable."

The burial ceremony, which delayed the completion of the stadium approximately three weeks and cost roughly $1.5 million—$1,000 of which will go to Bernie Williams' family—involved placing Williams into a six-foot-deep concrete hole directly where the tattered Red Sox jersey was found.

Dressed in his full Yankees uniform and batting helmet, and clutching an autographed ball signed by all members of Yankees' 1996 World Series team, Williams was lowered into the ground and then covered with a combination of concrete, fly ash, slag cement, and coarse aggregate consisting mostly of gravel limestone.

Though Yankees officials did not allow Williams' family to attend the burial, citing the fact they were not "true Yankees," they permitted the former centerfielder to take with him a picture of his wife and three children after Williams provided video evidence proving that all of his family members were present and cheered during the Yankees' championship run between 1996 and 2000.

"Now, we're not necessarily hoping that having him in the foundation will mean our outfielders will start throwing like Bernie, our hitters will begin hitting like him, or our faster baserunners will start running like him," Yankees first-year coach Joe Girardi said. "Most of our guys are already better than he was. We just know—and this is what I told Bernie's family—that the good deed of letting a former Yankee permanently come home will be recognized by the baseball gods and will translate into Yankee victories, which will be good for the entire human race."

Williams, who was smiling from the moment he arrived at the new stadium until his face could no longer be seen, was grateful for the opportunity.

"I would do anything to help this ballclub win another World Series," Williams shouted up to reporters while standing in rapidly filling pit. "Just to be part of this organization again in some capacity is an honor and privilege. And even though I haven't received a thank you from the Steinbrenner family, I know they are appreciative."

"This is what it means to be a lifelong Yankgluh [sic]," Williams attempted to add.

According to Yankees president Randy Levine, the organization had been discussing various ways to exorcize the curse of the buried Red Sox jersey, under which the Yankees went an "unacceptable" 4-4. Levine said that it was Hal Steinbrenner who suggested submerging a former or current player in concrete as a good luck charm.

Interoffice e-mails confirm that players who made the short list were Yogi Berra, Paul O'Neill, and current Yankee outfielder Shelley Duncan.

"Truth be told, we didn't even think of Bernie," Levine said. "But then we got a call from his agent. It took a bit of convincing on their part, but in the end it seemed like this fulfilled both of our needs."

"By giving Bernie this chance, we have once again proven why we are the classiest organization in all of sports," Levine added. "Lesser teams would have overreacted to this whole curse thing and buried Derek Jeter."

When asked if burial in the new stadium guaranteed that Williams' No. 51 would be retired in the new Monument Park, both Steinbrenners had no comment, saying only that they appreciated Mr. Williams' commitment to the team.

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How To Snag a Souvenir Baseball

Photo by luca.nassini
Baseball season is once more upon us. Millions of Americans will be heading to stadiums across the country to root for their team. At the game you’ll find hundreds of souvenir options: pennants, programs, jerseys, and the like. These will all cost you an arm and a leg, and they’re not even that great.

The best souvenir to bring home is a baseball you caught. It doesn’t cost you anything extra and it was actually used for play. It comes with real memories attached. But a ball isn’t going to simply fall into your lap; catching one takes a bit of finesse. Here’s how you can walk away from a ballpark with a souvenir baseball:


Make sure to bring your glove to the game. Sure, you may look like a dork, but when a foul ball is coming at you at over 100 MPH, you’re going to wish you had it. Moreover, most foul balls have a wicked spin coming off the bat. Catching a ball with such a spin with your bare hand is pretty much impossible. So, bring your glove.

Don’t be an uber dork and bring a fish net. That’s just cheating.

How to snag a ball before the game

Go to batting practice. This is your best chance to snag a baseball. The ideal place to stand is in an aisle near the field, about three quarters of the way from third base to the foul pole. Most players are right handed and will be pulling the ball during batting practice. By placing yourself in this spot, you up your chances of catching a ball.

Just ask the players for a ball. While batting practice is going on, there are other players out fielding the balls. Oftentimes, if a ball goes near the stands, they will just toss the ball to the fans. If you get near a player who has a ball in his hand, politely ask him for it. He’ll probably just give it to you.

How to snag a ball during the game

Do you want a foul ball or a home run? Snagging a ball during the game is much more difficult and takes more planning and strategy than trying to snag one during batting practice. Yet pulling it off is far more satisfying. The first decision you need to make is: what kind of ball do you want? Are you happy just settling for a foul ball or do you want to catch a home run? The answer to this question will determine where you should purchase your seats. If you can walk away with any ball, it’s been a good day. But home run balls carry with them greater sentimental (and possibly economic) value.

If you’re happy with just a foul ball, you’ll want to sit somewhere near the alley between third base and the foul pole or first base and the foul pole. It’s easier to grab a foul there.

And if you want a homer? Well, that pretty self-explanatory. Sit in the outfield bleachers.

Do your research. You’ll want to do some research before the game about the opposing team’s pitcher. If it’s a lefty, the batting lineup will be loaded with righties. In that case, sit near the first base line. It’s harder for batters to pull during a game, and they are more likely to swing early, and thus foul in that direction. If the pitcher is a righty, sit near the third base line.

Also do some research on the stadium. Are the walls very high along the base lines? If they aren’t, try to get as near to the wall as you can. It’s easy to reach over and field ground foul balls. If the walls are high, your chances might better if you go a little further back to catch a pop up foul.

A great resource to research stadiums for optimum foul ball catching is Snagging Baseballs. Zack Hample has caught over 3,000 game balls at every major league stadium. In his blog, he discusses each trip to a stadium and chronicles how he snagged a foul ball there. Check it out before you make your ticket purchase.

If you’re interested in catching a home run, an excellent resource to check out is HitTracker. It tracks how far each home run went for each player and where it went in a stadium. Most players consistently hit homeruns in the same area. Looking at these statistics can give you an idea of where to sit in the outfield so you can walk away with a home run ball.

Catch it. Put your glove on and get ready to catch your ball. If you’re near the baseline wall, you can always try picking up a grounded foul ball. If you’re behind home plate, you’ll definitely want to use a glove. The spin on foul balls that go behind home plate can be quite wicked. Only a glove will do.

Fan Interference

Don’t get in the way of the players. If you’re going for a ball make sure it’s clearly out of play before you go for it. This can be difficult to tell, especially if you’re near a wall where it’s easy for you to take the ball out of play. Not sure? Spectator interference is defined as anytime a spectator “reaches out of the stands, or goes on the playing field, and touches a live ball.”

Here’s the official MLB rule for fan interference:

When there is spectator interference with any thrown or batted ball, the ball shall be dead at the moment of interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference.
APPROVED RULING: If spectator interference clearly prevents a fielder from catching a fly ball, the umpire shall declare the batter out.

So, if the ump decides that you clearly got in the way of a fielder catching the ball, the batter is out. However, any ball on the spectators’ side of the wall is fair game for you. The player reaches over the wall at his own risk.

With ground balls that roll near the wall, make sure it’s a foul before you reach over and grab it.

Avoid fan interference at all costs or you risk becoming the most hated person in a stadium full of thousands of people. The most notorious example of fan interference is that of 12 year old Jeffery Maier during the 1996 American League Conference Series between the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles.

During the 8th inning, Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter hit a fly to the right field wall. Oriole right fielder Tony Tarasco backtracked and positioned himself to catch the ball just short of the wall. 12-year-old Jeffery Maier, a spectator seated in the bleachers, reached out to catch the ball, and deflected it away from Tarasco and over the fence. Umpire Rich Garcia ruled the play a home run, which resulted in the Yankees tying the game. The Yanks went on to win the game and the series. Jeffery Maier went on to be the most hated 12 year old in Baltimore. Don’t do what he did.

Ethical and legal ramifications of ball catching

Give the kids a chance. Don’t be a douchebag and prevent a little kid from catching a ball. I’ve seen this happen at several ball games. It’s quite unseemly and everyone will hate you. Don’t be that guy.

Don’t resort to violence. When you go after a ball, it’s natural for you to get banged up. Especially if there is a scuffle for a prized home run ball. However, in your effort to snag a ball, don’t resort to violence to get it. Don’t punch, bite, scratch, or intentionally push somebody to get a ball. First, you’re tool if you do. Second, it’s just a damn ball. No need to bloody someone else up for it.

Who owns the ball? Surprisingly, your snagging of a ball could carry some legal ramifications. As many of you know, I’m a law student. One of the most interesting cases I’ve read during my law school career was Popov v. Hayashi: the Barry Bonds 73rd home run ball case.

Basically what happened was that two guys claimed they caught Bonds’ 73rd homer. They took it court and a judge decided they both had valid claims for legal ownership. So the judge ordered them to sell it and split the proceeds. Here’s a link to the court opinion. It’s a fun read and you’ll pick up some basic property law principles to boot.

Also, if you get a chance, watch the documentary about the case called Up For Grabs. It’s hilarious. You’ll be amazed by the greed of the two men fighting over a ball. Popov is a complete character: a total media whore. He ended up racking up over $473,000 in attorney fees. The ball only sold for $450,000, of which Popov got $225,000. That means this guy was in the hole a quarter of a million dollars.

Lesson learned: don’t go to court for a dumb ball.

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Man loses balance, falls to his death after game at Shea

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The daughter of a man who died after falling four stories at Shea Stadium said her father was not sliding down the escalator when the accident happened, as police reported.

A statement from the New York Police Department on Tuesday said witnesses saw 36-year-old Antonio Nararainsami of Brooklyn sitting on the banister of the escalator when he lost his balance and fell.

Nararainsami's daughter, Emily, told CNN affiliate WABC on Tuesday that her father was walking down the escalator, not sliding on its banister, as fans left the stadium after the New York Mets-Washington Nationals game. She said she and another relative saw what happened.

"He wasn't moving or nothing; he was just walking down. I guess he tried to say something to us or something, and I guess he just lost his balance and flipped over," she said.

Nararainsami died at Booth Memorial Hospital about 25 minutes after the 10 p.m. incident.

Police are investigating the death as an accident.

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MLB gets best grade for diversity in hiring; number of blacks on field drops

NEW YORK -- Major League Baseball received its best grade for racial diversity in hiring, even as the percentage of black players dropped again last year.

Lapchick: Jackie Would Shake His Head

The number of African-Americans in baseball is down on the field, and up off the field. Who'd have thunk it? Not Jackie Robinson, writes Richard Lapchick. Story

MLB received its first A-minus for race Tuesday from Richard Lapchick, director of the University of Central Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports. Its grade was B-plus in last year's study.

Among major leaguers, though, just 8.2 percent were black players, down from 8.4 percent in 2006 and the lowest level in at least two decades.

"I'm very disappointed by that fact," said Rachel Robinson, the widow of Jackie Robinson. "Competition from other sports is certainly a big factor, but they're many factors. We've got to work on it in terms of getting younger children playing, into the game, and getting communities behind the programs, like the RBI programs and the academies."

Lapchick released the study on Jackie Robinson Day, the 61st anniversary of when Robinson broke the major league color barrier.

The percentage of black pitchers remained at 3 percent last year.

"Baseball has probably lost a whole generation here," Lapchick said. "African-Americans just aren't playing it at this point. They're going to have to increase their efforts."

Although MLB has established its Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program and urban youth academies, Lapchick said it will take many years for those efforts to pay off.

MLB Firsts For Blacks

1884: Moses Fleetwood Walker is first black player in majors (Toledo Blue Stockings)

1947: Jackie Robinson (pictured) breaks baseball's color barrier (Brooklyn Dodgers)

1962: Buck O'Neil is first black coach in major league history (Chicago Cubs)

1966: Emmett Ashford is the first black umpire in the majors

1975: Frank Robinson makes debut as first black manager in major league history (Cleveland Indians)

1976: Bill Lucas is first black general manager in MLB history (Atlanta Braves)

1989: Bill White becomes first black league president (National League)

-- ESPN Research

MLB received a C-plus for gender hiring, up from a C last year. Its overall grade remained at B.

Lapchick said 28 percent of employees at baseball's central offices were nonwhite, including 20 percent among senior executives. Women were 42 percent of employees, but 26 percent of the senior executives.

He suggested baseball commissioner Bud Selig pressure clubs more to consider minority candidates. He also said MLB should institute a rule that a woman be considered for all senior job openings, similar to the rule that minority candidates must be interviewed.

Lapchick would make an exception for general manager -- there has never been a woman GM, and there are relatively few high-ranking women in baseball operations. Kim Ng of the Dodgers (vice president and assistant general manager) and Jean Afterman of the Yankees (assistant GM) have been the exceptions.

"They would have token interviews until we have that one case that a woman is successful," he said.

He gave baseball a B-plus for race and a C for gender for its senior administration hiring, the same as last year. For team vice presidents, the grade was B for race -- the same as last year -- and D-minus for gender, up from an F.

General managers were given a C for 2007, and Lapchick noted the Los Angeles Angels promoted Tony Reagins to GM, where he joins Kenny Williams of the Chicago White Sox and Omar Minaya of the New York Mets as the only minorities.

Managers received an A, with six minority managers last year. The total increased to eight at the start of this season.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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