added 9/15/2008 by Scott Barzilla
Forgive me as I indulge in a personal tale for awhile. I figure this tale is shared by many of the more than a million people that evacuated for Hurricane Ike. Anyhow, the process began innocently enough. It looked as if the storm would hit Corpus Christi and that Galveston/Houston would get some rain and maybe a bit of a storm surge. As some of you know, I work in Galveston. We found out that we would be shortening the school day on Thursday and canceling school on Friday. By the end of Wednesday, all activities had been canceled for the rest of the week.
On Thursday morning we were told to evacuate by noon. My family and I quickly packed and made our way to the Austin area where my parents have a vacation home. I realize this doesn't necessarily jive with some people's stories, but I imagine many evacuees stayed with friends and family. As we waited for the storm to come in, our thoughts went from where the storm would hit to how much damage there would be. Then, we wanted to know where we could go if there was too much damage and when we could get back to work. What happens if school is canceled for weeks at a time? Would I get paid? Rationally, I know the answers to some of these questions, but in times of crisis your mind goes a million different directions.
Like I said, this story is not unique to anyone that evacuated. It is this kind of story that puts something like baseball in perspective. So, suddenly the statistics of baseball took a back seat. However, a situation like this also calls to mind what sports is supposed to be for: distracting us from the things which cause us real stress in our day. So, before I begin my rant I want to keep everything in this perspective. Anyone that blames this albatross for the Astros not making the playoffs (should that happen) is a tool. However, there is considerably more at stake. So, let me say what everyone is thinking in the words they are thinking it.
Bud Selig is either the village idiot or the biggest jackass on the planet. For him to sell this is as the best possible solution is either a sign of his supreme idiocy or a sign that he just doesn't care about public relations. Yeah, I suppose playing a home game 90 miles away from the enemy isn't the worst thing you could have done. Hell, why not play the games in Wrigley and really stick it to them eh? Of course, the other point that needs to be made is that Drayton McLane needs to officially remove his head from Bud Selig's rectum. Immediately! How could he let this happen to his team? Anything had to be better than this.
All this being said, this takes nothing from what Carlos Zambrano did. Yes, he may not have no-hit the Astros in a normal situation, but we can play the what if game all day. The Astros were going to have a hard team beating a good Cubs team even if the games had been played in a Little League stadium. The failure of McLane and Selig is not so much a competitive one, but a public relations one. Whether the series has effect in reality on the pennant race is immaterial to most. It is the APPEARANCE that matters. This is a public relations breakdown on so many levels that it couldn't help but have Bud Selig's fingerprints all over it.
Tragedy happens and while the players themselves (and their families) may not have been hit the hardest, they are still affected just the same. Their families are still as scared and storm winds and storm surges don't cease for famous people. Yes, they have the means to rebuild more than most, but this belies the fact that the team also represents the community. In no place was this more true than New Orleans and the Saints in 2005. The NFL didn't relocate them half way across the country for their efforts. They tried to create as close a situation as possible and the fact that San Antonio happened to be fairly close to those that evacuated was an added bonus.
Remember the original point, professional sports is a diversion to take people's minds off the real stress in their lives. During a tragic or stressful situation it is incumbent on the league to minimize the inconvenience for that team and their fans. The first responsibility is to recreate the schedule to minimize the disadvantage. Yes, playing the games in MMP would be preferable, but it would have been impossible unless it was done after the season. Of course, that might have been a good option, but I can understand why people would be opposed to that. So, if the original site can't be used then a site friendly to the home team or at the VERY WORST a neutral site. A site less than 100 miles from the visiting team should never be an option. Period.
So, looking at this current situation we begin with the obvious question. Can we play it in the state of Texas? Of course they could have. The Ballpark at Arlington was available all weekend and Round Rock is still available. Naturally, they could not have played the Sunday-Monday series in Arlington, but they could have begun it on Saturday and achieved the same goal. Would it have been ideal? Of course not, but it could have been a public relations bonanza. Rangers officials could have offered discounts to evacuees that could produce a driver's license with an address from one of the affected areas. Heck, they could have let them in for free.
According to the "commissioner's" office, Mr. Idiot J. Half-wit (Selig) wanted to make sure the game was played in a domed stadium. Therefore, weather wouldn't be a factor. I'm not sure that dill-weed over there realizes this, but there is a new invention called cable. The Weather Channel would tell you everything you need to know about whether the game could be played there. Okay though, let's play by his rules. The Tampa Bay Rays were playing in New York over the weekend, so their stadium was available. I've been there. It sucks, but it does have a roof. Also, the Astros play in Miami next, so it would actually make the traveling schedule easier on them. You remember that whole idea of making things on the affected team easier?
So, our beloved commissioner failed the public relations test, the competitive integrity test, but what about the personal integrity test? Well, it seems he's failed this one too. If you recall, Bud Selig used to own the Brewers and his daughter currently controls the club. Could he have steered the Astros and Cubs that direction to generate extra revenue for his family? Of course not, he would never dream of that. It's just like when he wouldn't dream of contracting the Twins because MLB would have paid the Twins more than they were worth at the time. You see, Carl Pohlad (the owner of the Twins) had given Selig a business loan amounting to roughly the same amount of money as the difference between their market value and the amount MLB would have given Pohlad.
If it sounds like I have it in for Bud Selig then you are right. I could write a whole column in addition to this one trashing what he has done as commissioner. However, shouldn't he be more careful to avoid the appearance of impropriety? It begs the question of whether he is really that stupid or whether he just doesn't care. Most of his ideas seem like they come from someone that has been sitting at the bar a little too long. Of course, that may be a distinct possibility.
Naturally, ranting is one of the things that relieves stress. I have nothing against the Cubs and most of their fans. I think that ones that booed the storm-riddled Astros on Sunday night are classless pigs, but I'm willing to accept the fact that most Cub fans aren't like that. I'm also on record as saying these two games are not and will not be the deciding factor in anything. You could go back to any series (say where the Bucs swept us) and ask the same questions. However, when communities go through what we have gone through here, we love someone to kick and all the better if it is someone outside the community.