March 4, 2013

My Worst Blunder

Famous Bonehead Plays on Major League Diamonds

Explained by Leading Baseball Players to

Hugh S. Fullerton


Ed Konetchy

First Baseman, St. Louis Cardinals,

who is considered by many experts as the Best First Baseman in the Game Today.


You may think it odd, but the fact is that I won a ball game with what I think was the worst mistake I ever made.    Maybe I wouldn’t admit that if it had lost the game, except to fellows I know well enough, but it was.   Lots of times I read how someone makes a boneheaded play when I know it was a good play, and lots of times I read about them making good plays that are good plays only because they got away with them.   Any play is a good play as long as it is a help toward winning a game, and any play is a rotten play if it loses a ball game.   The fans want to win, and if you win they don’t care for the science of it.   I’ll let them call me a bone head every day if we can win ball games by it.

We were playing the Chicago club early in 1911, and fighting them off their feet in the series.  It was a fierce fight all the way, as every game of the series was, and the score was close when we came down to the end.   We were tied, and neither had scored many runs, but late in the game Chicago got a runner to second base with one out, and we were battling to keep them from scoring the winning run.  Hofman was at bat and I was watching closely to see what our pitcher was handing up to him, and playing a little bit closer to the bag than usual because of Hofman’s speed in coming down to first.   He hit the ball a mile a minute, almost over the corner of the base, and as I saw it coming I knew it was up to me to stop that ball or the game was gone.   It didn’t look as if anyone had a chance to reach the ball, but I jumped over and made a slap at it with my mitt.   The ball jumped up just in time to hit the edge of the mitt hard, and I knew I had blocked its force and that it was only a base hit instead of the triple it would have been had it passed the mitt.  I really didn’t know where the ball was, but saw it rolling slowly back of me into right field.

That far I had made a nice play and a lucky stop.  I jumped after the ball, and in doing so I must have lost my head.  I knew the runner was certain to beat the ball to first.  He was ahead of Sallee, who was coming over to cover first, when I picked up the ball, and there wasn’t a chance to catch him.  My play, without doubt, was to get that ball back to the plate to prevent the runner from second trying to score, and if I could hold him at third, which ought to have been easy, we still would have a chance to cut off the runner at the plate or try for a double play.  I was so anxious and rattled that I leaped on the ball and cut loose at full speed to first.   Sallee was covering as fast as he could, but the way I threw he couldn’t have caught the ball any more than he could catch a cannon ball.   The ball went past him like a flash, struck the dirt, bounded straight into the catcher’s hands, and the runner who was trying to score from second was out by ten feet at the plate.

It took us a long time to win that game.   We tied in eleven innings that day, tied when we tried to play it off, and we finally won it in late September.

(Copyright, 1912, by W. G. Chapman.)


                I used to like to do "Tracers" in some of my old books, in which I would pick up an old story like this and try to backtrack and find the original facts.     Since I saw this story about a game in 1911 and Retrosheet has good accounts of the 1911 season available now, I thought I would try to see if I could find the exact game in which this "accidental" good play occurred.

                We have lots of facts to deal with here; the year is given, the time of the year (early in the season), details about the game, the hitter, the inning, the pitcher. . .there’s a lot to work with there.   To jump to the conclusion, because I don’t know how else I would do this, it does not appear that there is any series of events that is a close match for Konetchy’s account of them.   I don’t doubt that some play very much like this did occur somewhere, sometime, but Konetchy has pretty clearly made one story out of several memorable but unrelated incidents. 

                Saying "we tied in eleven innings that day," is pretty clearly a reference to the game of April 12, 1911, which was opening day of the season at the West Side Grounds.   The Cubs and Cardinals did play to an eleven-inning tie on that date, and Sallee did pitch.   It matches Konetchy’s description of "early in the season"; you can’t get any earlier in the season than opening day.  

                However, at least according to the Retrosheet account, there was no play in the game which bears substantial similarities to the play described by Konetchy.    Solly Hofman did play in the game, but went 0-for-5 and did not reach base.   Konetchy did throw out a runner at home plate in that game, but it was on a relay throw from the outfield, early in the game, and Sallee would not have been covering first on the play.  

                Konetchy says that when they tried to re-play the game it ended in another tie.   The Cubs and Cardinals did play another game later in the series (April 15) which, again, ended in a tie.  This could have been a make-up game for the earlier tie; I don’t know.    But again, there was no play in that game that accords with Konetchy’s account.     Sallee did not appear in that game, Hofman did not get a hit, and Konetchy did not have an assist, did not throw out a runner at the plate or at any other base.    There just isn’t anything in the play-by-play for either game that could be mistaken for Konetchy’s story. 

                As to Konetchy’s memory that the Cardinals won the game on the second makeup try. …well, if you say so.    The Cardinals didn’t play in Chicago again after that game until mid-August, played three games in Chicago in mid-August but lost them all.    They were back in Chicago from September 3 to September 6—not "late" September, but it was at least September—and played six games against Chicago in four days, of which we would assume that two were makeup games for the games in the first series which had ended in a tie.   However, the Cubs won four of the six games, and the Cubs won both second games of double headers, which would be the most likely makeup games under the re-scheduling rules that I am familiar with.   However, some re-scheduling practices at that time may have been radically different, so I wouldn’t place much faith in my assumptions about that. 

                Again, there does not appear to be any event in this six-game series which is a good match for Konetchy’s memory.   Sallee was injured, and did not appear in the series.    In the first game Retrosheet has no play by play, but Konetchy did not have an assist, and Hofman does not appear likely to have batted with anyone on base at any point in the game.  

                The second game—again no play by play—Konetchy did not have an assist, and the Cubs lost.

                In the third game we have play by play, and there is no event even broadly comparable to Konetchy’s story.

                In the fourth game we have no play by play, but

                a)  the Cubs won,

                b)  Hofman didn’t have a hit, and

                c)  Konetchy didn’t have an assist.

                If the fifth game we have play by play, and there is, again, no similar event.

                In the sixth game we have play by play.   The Cubs won the game 9 to 0, and there is nothing in the game that resembles Konetchy’s story. 

                Again, I don’t question that something like this happened, sometime, somewhere.   But it does not appear to have occurred where and when Konetchy remembers it as happening, which is 1911 against Chicago.   I also checked the St. Louis/Chicago games that were played in St. Louis.   Nothing. 

                Since I’m here, I’ll mention some other stuff about Konetchy that I found while trying to track this down.   First, there is a story told repeatedly about Konetchy’s entry into minor league baseball.   The essence of the story is that Konetchy attended a game as a fan, and was pressed into service by the home team because of an injury.   He played so well that the manager told him to report for practice the next day, but Konetchy responded that he couldn’t do it.   He was being paid $12 a week to work in a candy store, and he didn’t want to give up the job.    The manager contacted the candy store owner, and arranged to "borrow" Big Ed on a regular basis. 

                Second, there are constant references to Konetchy’s ability in the field, and one or two comparisons of Konetchy to Hal Chase, who was of course the standard of fielding excellence at first base in that era.  

                Third, I found an account of a double play that Konetchy was involved in against the New York Giants in 1910, that went 3-2-3-2.    With the bases loaded and Red Ames batting, Ames hit the ball to Konetchy, who fired home for the forceout.   The catcher threw back to first, trying to make a 3-2-3 double play, but the throw to first was too late.   The runner from second, however, rounded third and headed for home; Konetchy threw back to the plate, and was credited with both assists on a double play.   

                Fourth, Konetchy was a bit of a character, and there are quite a few human interest stories about him.   My favorite involves a vaudeville house that Konetchy owned in St. Louis, which he personally managed during the off season.    One time he hired a three-person act, but the act was terrible, and after a few days he called them into his office and told them he was going to have to put them on waivers.   It’s a joke, you see; you ask waivers on a baseball player when he is being given his release.  There weren’t any "waivers" in vaudeville.  

                The other thing that strikes me about this anecdote (told to Fullerton) is how clean and modern the language is.   A lot of the sports writing of 1911 is convoluted, and uses stilted, archaic jargon.    This is so natural-sounding that the only thing that jars you is the use of the term "mitts"; we still occasionally describe a first baseman’s glove as a "mitt", but in the context above, a player today would just say "glove", not "mitt".   Otherwise. sounds about the same.  


Submitted For Your Consideration

Perhaps the most remarkable catch made anywhere during the season of 1910 was made by Carlisle of the Vernon team of the Pacific coast league on the San Francisco grounds early in

October.  The catch was made possible because it started in a joking tribute by Carlisle to the hitting prowess of "Ping" Bodie, the slugging outfielder of the Frisco team, who came near breaking world's records for home run hits during the season.

The San Francisco grounds are situated low, and surrounded by great fences, some of them as tall as the three-story houses that adjoin the park. At points the fences are nearly fifty feet high, yet Bodie kept driving the ball over fences, signs and high screens until it got to be a regular thing and a source of joking among the fans and players alike. The Vernon team came down from the north with the Frisco team, and they stopped to play a series on the Mission street grounds.  It happened that while the team was away painters had been putting some new lettering on signs high above the fence, and one tall ladder remained propped against the fence in right center field. The ladder was left there, and after Vernon had batted and failed to score, Carlisle, jogging out to his position, saw the ladder, and thought of a joke. Two were out when "Ping," the hero of Frisco, came to bat. Carlisle jogged back to the fence and, climbing about twenty feet up the ladder, turned his face toward the field. The bleacher crowd appreciated his tribute to Bodie's hitting power and laughed and cheered, and the crowd in the stands took up the applause.  Bodie swung wickedly upon the first ball pitched. Carlisle, thinking he had carried the joke far enough, was descending the ladder, when he saw the ball coming toward the fence, far above his head.  He turned, scrambled ten feet up the ladder, clung to a round with one hand and, stretching out the other, caught the ball.  The catch caused a long argument, but it was allowed and then the umpire stopped the game until the ladder was removed.

(Copyright, 2011, by Joseph E. Bowles.)

                (It sounds like a true story to me.   Ping Bodie hit 30 home runs for the San Francisco Seals in 1910.  A typical league-leading figure in that era was more like 12 to 15.)


Further Proof that Bill is Losing His Marbles

                Am I the only one who ever notices this.  …if you want cheddar cheese that has a good, strong flavor, you have to buy the one marked "mild".   For some reason. .. .not just one brand. ..if you buy the cheddar cheese marked "sharp" or "extra sharp", it is almost tasteless, whereas if you buy the cheese that is marked "mild", it has a much stronger taste.   I’ve never been able to figure that out, and I keep buying the "sharp" cheddar, because I like a stronger taste and I keep expecting the world to make sense, but then it never does.   Doesn’t anybody else ever notice this?  


And, if you need FURTHER evidence. . ..

                As you get older, one of the things that happens to you is that all kinds of things that seem annoying or offensive become commonplace, apparently because younger people aren’t sufficiently offended by them, while all kinds of things that don’t seem to me to be at all offensive are suddenly labeled as offensive and written outside the rules, for reasons that frankly mystify us old folk.

                I’m not talking about vulgarity on TV or anything; heck, I’m used to that.   I’m talking about going to the grocery store, and being expected to scan your own groceries and check yourself out.   Am I the only one who doesn’t want to scan my own groceries?   Am I the only one who feels like I am certain to screw something up and be arrested on the way out of the store for not paying for my Lucky Charms and cheddar cheese?

                I guess it’s the modern world; nothing I can do about it. One of the differences between living in the Midwest and living on the east coast, by the way, is that we have vastly better supermarkets in the Midwest.   I would imagine that those of you who have lived your whole life on the east coast have no idea what I am talking about and don’t believe me.    We have better stores, but it’s just a trend; if you go grocery shopping late at night, some stores don’t staff the checkout counters.  

                On the "stuff that has inexplicably become intolerable" side, I read about some poor woman in Connecticut who had a job reviewing college-application essays, and was fired for mocking some of the essays on Facebook.   Somebody wrote in a college-application essay about going camping and having to overcome their fear of urinating in the outdoors, and she was making fun of him for choosing to write about this in a college admissions essay.

                Well…what’s wrong with that?   I mean, it’s not like she mentioned his name or made fun of him in person or anything.    Isn’t this more rationally regarded as a contribution toward educating kids about the process?   My point is that by firing her for discussing this in public, the university is inhibiting the free flow of information which is potentially valuable to kids who are trying to figure out how to write a college admissions essay.  If you’re writing a college admissions essay and you are considering whether you should write about learning to urinate outdoors, isn’t it better that you know that this is an asinine idea and that the woman who reviews the essay is going to throw your application in the trash barrel and make fun of you, rather than being allowed to imagine that whatever the hell comes into your head is an OK thing to write about?  I mean, society tolerates that kind of thing, the next thing you know you’ll have professional writers writing about buying cheddar cheese.  

                The one that really gets me, though, is this "scandal" about college basketball coaches pushing one of their players in the chest or slapping one of their players in the chest.   You’re kidding, right?    Do basketball players break that easily these days?   

                I’m not saying that in my day the coaches would kick you in the butt or anything, although, now that you mention it, in my day the coaches would kick you in the butt just to get your attention.   But how can a level of contact that is one-fortieth the force which is commonplace in the game be considered horribly offensive if it occurs on the sidelines of the game, between friends?    It doesn’t seem to make any sense.  

                Football coaches are fired for screaming at their players?   Really?    Why?    I mean. ..they get IN the game and beat hell out of each other.    Why is it offensive, all of a sudden, if a football coach grabs one of his charges by the front of the shirt and tells him to pull his head out of his ass?    I know I’m old and irrelevant, but. ..I don’t get it.


COMMENTS (75 Comments, most recent shown first)

I can add to the toughness debate from my own experience. About 40 years ago I went through US Marine Corps recruit training at Parris Island in South Carolina. We formed our platoon with 95 guys and eventually graduated three months later with about 42. As you can see, boot camp was difficult, but not for the reasons you might think. Sure, the physical conditioning was a challenge, as was the constant pressure from the Drill Instructors. But what made it tough was the daily physical punishment inflicted for various reasons. Simply put, we were often physically beaten. That's the most accurate away to put it. Here's the way it worked: I was a Squad Leader. If someone in my squad kept making mistakes....let's say a guy who could not run very well, or march in close order....I would be held one or more of the DI's. Then later at night it would be my responsibility to grab that guy, haul him into the shower and give him a beating. Was it against regulations? Sure! In fact, my Senior DI was relieved because he beat up a recruit who snitched. Also, those of us who had multiple bruises were hidden in the shower room for the daily "hygiene inspection" conducted by company officers. The notion that only a coward would not be okay with a recruit physically defending himself is absurd. All of my DI'S were combat veterans and certainly not cowards. But if you raised a hand in defense you'd really get your ass kicked and then do brig time.

This all changed in the late 70's and the overt physical brutality was eliminated from recruit training. At that time lots and lots of current and former Marines predicted dire consequences for the Corps. We were going to lose our edge, lose our toughness. And guess what....that never happened. The system still managed to produce tough, dedicated Marines, as demonstrated by the combat in the middle east. I have to think that the same would be true for the coaching profession.
2:10 PM May 10th
Important contextual information was left out of the pop-tart anecdote: Did the pop-tart in question contain Kellogg's infamous "cop-killer"-flavored filling?
7:08 AM Mar 25th
The coach's job is to get the best out of his athletes. To suggest this can be done with everyone with yelling and physical intimidation is absurd: to suggest no one responds well to it is just as absurd.​
8:28 PM Mar 16th
Regarding the Konetchy story - Bill did a great job of researching 1911 game accounts to try and verify the story, but perhaps Konetchy was incorrect about the year. Maybe it happened in 1910 or 1912 or something.
6:23 PM Mar 13th
The posts by Pale Hose @ 11:03 AM Mar 7th and Brock Hanke @ 7:16 AM Mar 10th pretty much sum up my thoughts.​
9:12 PM Mar 11th

Actually, the athletes of today, are better trained & prepared, than the players of 30 years ago. We have some great radio stations in Chicago.
The city I lived in (Aurora) has grown, so yes we have houses where fields used to be. I always tell people we are the 2nd city, to the 2nd city,
as Aurora is the 2nd largest town in Illinois. Im 55 years old & still playing fastpitch softball and working out. So am I old... maybe, maybe not, you may care if I'm old... All I know is that I'm alive and living the best life I know how! I hope the same for you.


1:05 PM Mar 11th
You forgot how the players today are all wimps compared to the ones when you were a boy.

And how all this around here used to be fields!

And everything on the radio is just noise!

Congratulations, you're old.

Welcome to the club!
5:33 PM Mar 10th
I have spent several hours the last few days, looking online for coaches who physically abuse student athletes. There are only a few clips that show anything out of the ordinary. I know I am are getting off topic here, but the disturbing thing for me, was the tremendous amount of police brutality videos that are online. The number of the most disturbing coaches, are extremely rare in comparison.

Football coaches and players often mention war analogies when talking to the press about the game they are about to play, or a game that just finished. It may not be right, but it is common. You would have to expect the fan base is going to follow that lead, because that is what is being promoted by players and the league.

Coaching at the grade school level, is different than coaching at the High School level. At the high school level practices are brutal. (especially football). There are injuries, fights between teammates which bring an extremely high stress rate for all involved. It would be naive, to think
that all contact between a coach and his players was never going to happen.

I've seen coaches at the high school level grab a players arm in anger when he is out of position and walk him to the correct spot on the field.
A poke to the chest from a coach may be wrong & embarrassing, but a quarterback being blindsided by a defensive end, because a player is out of position, can cause concussions and even paralysis.

Football is a brutal sport, and coaches have to prepare students not just to win, but to just get through the game uninjured. In all honesty, if the game of football was just invented today, no school district would or should allow it to be played.

11:35 AM Mar 10th
Brock Hanke
I have only 2 years of ROTC, which is about as little a military career as you can have, but one day they did bring in a drill sergeant to tell us budding second lieutenants what war was actually like. The sgt.'s first question to use was what was the hardest thing to get a soldier to do in the battlefield. We, of course, had never given the question any thought at all. The sgt. said that the hardest thing to do was to get them to actually fire their weapons. Between the explosions, the bullets zipping by, and the screams of the injured, soldiers had a strong tendency to just freeze and keep their heads down, becoming militarily worthless. Drill sgt.s verbally terrorize soldiers so that they will be more afraid of the sgt. than of enemy bullets, and will fire their weapon when told to do so. But sgt.s do not hit their charges. Ever, as far as I know.

Why no hitting? Well, this policy extended to such icons as generals, like George Patton. Patton was not commanding a unit on D-Day, as punishment for slapping the face of a soldier who was melting down in shell shock, back in Sicily. However, this was not really Eisenhower punishing Patton; this was Eisenhower SAVING Patton, because he needed Patton. The military policy was that an officer striking an enlisted man was cause for immediate dismissal. Why? Because a soldier striking an officer was grounds for dishonorable discharge, after some time in the brig. So, the enlisted man cannot fight back if struck by an officer. The upshot is that screaming is OK, but even the military will not put up with Bobby Knight, unless they've changed their policy.
7:16 AM Mar 10th
1. If you want the bullies out of coaching and teaching, it's simple. Establish clear standards of conduct that do not allow bullying. You do not poke, grab, push, or slap players or students. You do not scream in their faces, berate, or humiliate them. If that is seriously enforced, the bullies will be drummed out. The coaches and teachers who want to teach and not to intimidate or humiliate will have no problem.

2. I have two big problems with jemanji's way of debating. First, he engages in personal attacks (including when he knows nothing about the person he's debating). He knows nothing about whether I have ever been in a position that required instilling discipline in others, and yet assumes that I have not. I doubt that he knows others' history of participation in sports, but derides them as spectators who don't know what it is like to be in the arena. Second, he uses the sleight-of-hand technique over and over. If you argue against coaches' physically manhandling or screaming at players, for example, he replies by implying that you said it was unacceptable to ever "withhold sympathy." Neither of these ways of debating is honest or courteous.

3. The defenders of bullying coaches always say that the players do not have a problem with it. But I bet that lots of players do have a problem with it. They are not in a position of power. The coach can intimidate and humiliate them--flaunt his power over them by poking, pushing, slapping, etc.--and the player cannot do the same or even object verbally, for fear of being kicked off the team. I'm sure many players feel humiliated by this. They know, meanwhile, that the culture of boys'/mens' sports is such that they will be ridiculed as childish or effeminate (by the likes of jemanji) if they object. So they keep silent, blame themselves, and decide to stay on the coach's good side to avoid further humiliation. It's not the job of kids in a coach's power to determine whether the coach's conduct is acceptable. It is the job of the community as a whole.
6:31 AM Mar 10th
1. It matters a lot what your background is. We're talking about hair-fine judgments, personal sensibilities, and priorities. A "yin" college professor has different sensibilities than a "yang" staff sergeant.

Things that offend you would not offend a typical NCAA football player. But here you are, demanding that the NCAA player adopt your sensibilities.


2. Funny you should mention about the connections between war and sports. Were you not aware that Bobby Knight came up through a military sports background? Vince Lombardi? Mike Krzyzewski?

Not only do the people overlap between sports and military fields, but the methods overlap. At the golf course near Fort Lewis here, retired military Servicemembers teach Army core values to first-graders - through golf.

Much less is at stake in sports than war. But if you can't see the parallels and overlaps, I'd say you don't have much wisdom.


3. The problem came when you, from an extreme Yin paradigm, claimed a self-superior moral high ground over those having a Yang paradigm.

When Yin enslaves Yang, the force goes out of balance, young padawan. ;- )


4. America needs more yang -- its cravings for yang are currently SUBLIMATED into a blizzard of Russell Crowe and Jason Statham movies that the entire country attends on Friday night.

We spend way too much time wanly viewing Testosterone on movie screens and in sports arenas, and far too little time behaving as though we ourselves had a little testosterone of our own.


5. I'll give you the last word.

11:59 PM Mar 9th
Pale Hose

You are foolish. Not that it matters one whit for the strength of my arument, but you have no idea what my athletic background is, what I've been through, etc.

And please, please, please, spare us all the ginned-up comparison of sports to war. It's pathetic.
11:21 PM Mar 9th
Pale Hose - In Joe Namath's autobiography "I Can't Wait Until Tomorrow, Because I Get Better Looking Every Day" -- he speaks glowingly of Bear Bryant.

There's an incident where early in his first practice, Bryant was chewing him out, getting personal, and Namath was sort of sniggering. Bryant grabbed him by the face mask and yelled, "Boy, when I talk to you you look me in the eye and say YES SIR."

"Yessir! Yessir!," Namath said.

The football players are padded up; you'd have to get in the gear to appreciate it. They're not going to be injured by an old man who grabs them.

YOU get really unnerved at the sight of a little old coach putting his hands in a player's chest. But trust me. The men down there in the battle do not. They're not scared, man. Relax.

10:08 PM Mar 9th
=== BULLIES ===

Tango, in my opinion you have triangulated a key factor that is confusing this whole situation. Nobody -- yin or yang, or balanced in the middle like me ;- ) -- wants to see a BULLY get anywhere near an authority position.

One year, my son played high school basketball for a 5'4" man who loved to make the thoroughbreds run until they threw up. Picking on the helpless made him feel significant -- but would that coach, himself, face up to a physical challenge where he had the disadvantage? No way.

Bullies love conflict when they have the advantage, and run away when they don't. Keep that guy far, far away from authority.


Let's agree that bullying has to be kept out of authority.

Now the question is: take a COURAGEOUS, BENEVOLENT drill instructor / coach / sensei who is going to yell at, criticize, grab, etc. his students -- and who has gladly received such "Yang" instruction in the past. Are the spectators still going to overrule this, although student and sensei have decided it is the way to prepare for battle, because the spectators' sensibilities are offended?

Bullying is always pathetic. Bobby Knight became pathetic. But a good tough physical coach, wise and well-intentioned and manly, that is the football coach I want for my son.

9:58 PM Mar 9th
Pale Hose - And of course YOU, THE SPECTATOR DEFINE, "abuse." Not the men who are out there in the war.

It ain't the football players who feign shock over a coach who raises his voice. It's you the non-athlete.

9:52 PM Mar 9th
Pale Hose

Here's the deal.......Whenever Bill, or Bobby Knight, or you tries to toughen somebody up by abusing them I'll be there. areuss44 will be there. tangotiger, rgregory.....we'll all be there. You can't get away with it anymore. Your time is up, and deep down you know it. That's why you're so militant. You've lost to a bunch of over-feminized, sniffing, academics. Everyone of whom is tougher than you and your bully friends on your best day.
9:49 PM Mar 9th
"that these guys are NOT going out all half-cocked". Darn, I wish I would tpye better.
9:26 PM Mar 9th
The drill instructor still has to answer to someone. Not to mention there's a presumed amount of "discipline" among the armed forces, that these guys are going out all half-cocked when they "punish" their charges.

The college coach has little to no oversight. You should rethink the power relationship more. These coaches are cowards and bullies. They don't do it to better their players. They do it because they are exasperated, and they do it out of anger. It's not out of self-control and discipline that they "toughen" up their players. It's desperation.
9:25 PM Mar 9th
I'd re-think the nature of the authority relationship if I were you. The coach / sergeant / sensei / whatever is there for a reason.

But: yes, if the sergeant is himself doing to his recruits that which he himself would not want to receive, then he's a coward.

With the typical drill instructor that is not the case. Men in authority apply toughness and receive toughness as the overall org's mission demands.

9:16 PM Mar 9th
"repercussion" for those of you too sensitive with your words, but not sensitive with one-sided physical contact.
8:56 PM Mar 9th
How about this: the player is allowed to do to the coach, whatever the coach does to the player. Without repurcussion. Coach pokes? Player pokes back. Coach shoves? Player shoves back. There's a reason that pro coaches don't treat professional players like that. And it's part of the power differential that was noted earlier.
8:55 PM Mar 9th
The sleight of hand is when you slip in the word "assault."

If you'd ever been a marriage counselor, a coach, a drill instructor, or anybody responsible for instilling toughness and accountability, you would understand the need for withholding sympathy at certain points in the training process.

Oh my! He raised his voice to me! ::sniff::

5:34 PM Mar 9th
jemanji - You're doing a sleight of hand between being "tough" (demanding) on kids and berating or assaulting them. (And, yes, a coach "poking a finger in a player's chest" is an assault.) You make it out as if the only alternative to domineering behavior by coaches is to hand out juice boxes and tell everyone to just go out and have fun. Coaches can prepare players effectively--to make them understand the proper technique, to make sure they know and execute their assignments, etc.--without assaulting them or screaming at them. Everything the coach said in your scenario about proper positioning, knowing the opponent, etc. could be said without grabbing, pushing, poking, or slapping and without screaming. Teachers do it every day.
5:45 AM Mar 9th
Ron - agreed. There's a spot that's over the line, and Knight's (always questionable) judgment seemed to get worse and worse as he got older and more sour.

The problem in this thread: you can't make a wise JUDGMENT about how to BALANCE yin-yang (say, feminine and masculine) points of view if you rule one of those points of view out of bounds before you begin. Much less if you are oblivious to the fact that those distinct points of view even exist.

It doesn't have to be characterized as feminine/masculine; you can draw the yin-yang continuums* along many axes -- community's (team's) rights vs individual's (player's), aggressive reactions vs tolerant reactions, etc.

In academia generally, the "yang" point of view is ruled inadmissible, is regarded unspeakably naive, before the discussion begins. How are we to ever aspire to good judgment or wisdom if we are pinned to one side of the continuum?


Knight personified a hyper-yang approach, and he went too far that way -- and yet even in the face of so much yang, he managed to scrape out a certain amount of success for his student-athletes.

Good stuff Ron.

5:13 AM Mar 8th
I was a fan of Bobby Knight. I had no problem with his hard ass side. I would have no problem with him getting in my face, or throwing a basketball at me. He was a great teacher, and I believe he cared about his players a great deal.

Now he seems to be rude to just about everyone. At some point he became a cartoon character. There is no middle ground with him anymore. His press conferences were frequently embarrassing. His teams sure were fun to watch though.
11:01 PM Mar 7th
I refuse to believe that Bobby Knight's method is the only one that makes players better.
10:33 PM Mar 7th
By the way - for those in denial about whether there is a feminine behavior pattern and a masculine behavior pattern?

Here's the Wiki entry on testosterone and human behavior patterns. Testosterone does, in fact, cause aggressive tendencies in humans. You can read up on other associated behavioral patterns.

Aggression isn't always good. But neither is it always bad. We're talking about balance here. When I speak of "over-feminization" we're talking about whether the Testosterone element in American CAN, THEORETICALLY, ever go TOO low.

Please spare us the feigned shock over the idea that girls and boys are different. Any community could listen to its boys too much, or listen to its girls too much.

4:06 PM Mar 7th
Chitown Ron - as a coach yourself, you "get it" as to what the miscommunication is here.

For those of you guys who have never competed at anything :- ) here's the deal. YOUR COACH CAN BE TOUGH ON YOU, OR THE OPPONENT CAN BE TOUGH ON YOU. It will be one or the other.

I love my wife and daughter, and they are NOT weak people. At all. My wife was a track champion. But *our* Mom would coach a basketball team smilingly, making sure there was enough juice boxes around, and telling them "it's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game."

Then the team would go out, get torn to shreds by the opponent, be down 25-6 at the end of the first, the other team laughing and high-fiving, and the kids would come back to the bench in tears.

Dad would poke a finger in his player's chests -- Johnny, why are you not at the foul line in that 3-2 zone? Jimmy, I want to know who the shooters are! It's #16 and #23! All right, why aren't you denying their shots?"

And Dad being tough on the players in the huddle, they go out and do it right, and then all of a sudden the enemy isn't so overwhelming.


A friend of mine, 20 years younger, a very mild, nice young Christian kid, became a college basketball player. He wanted to play for Indiana. I asked him, "Why in the world would you be willing to play for Bobby Knight?!"

He looked at me like I was stupid. He didn't understand the question!

Finally he said, "He makes you better." And shook his head sadly at my disconnection with the world of sports.


Your coach, your drill instructor, your Dad is tough on you? Guess what. Now the enemy won't seem so.

3:53 PM Mar 7th
Pale Hose, you're not paying enough attention to my position to be able to respond intelligently. I analyzed your post carefully, and the whole thing is out of contact with my position.

Just for example, your rant includes the protest that Jackie Robinson was not a sissy because he endured (REAL) abuse without hitting anybody. ... our whole conversation BEGAN with the idea that a college football player shows toughness by accepting a poke in the chest and running back onto the field to do his job correctly.

I'm a Christian also. Jesus' toughness did include self-restraint, as well as taking a weapon to cleanse the temple violently. Jesus did not gasp and file a complaint with the ACLU when a temple guard hit Him in the face at a trial. He calmly stated His position about the illegal act WITHOUT an effete "isn't anybody going to stop this?!"

You take my mention of Mom/Dad behavior tendencies and call it "pejorative" (?!) to imply that -- my oh my! -- there could be any differences in tendency there, "pejorative" to recognize that Mom is more the nurturer and Dad more the instiller of resiliency.

We don't have enough understanding of one another to proceed.

3:46 PM Mar 7th
I coached little league and girls fastpitch softball for many years.
It is the parents who think there child is the next Micky Mantle. In my experience the kids want to have fun, and winning is fun.

The kids ( especially the girls ) had no issue with some tough love, and for the most part listened and were willing to go the extra mile.

The parents on the other hand were critiquing every little move the manager and coaches did. It was not an enjoyable experience.
I enjoy coaching, especially hitting, but only on a 1 on 1 basis now
with the parent there.

I would never coach or manage on a 15 yr. old & under team again.
The fear of a pissed off parent who thinks his child isn't getting enough playing time, just may decide to sue a coach or manager. Some parents will do anything to see little Johnny succeed. A trumped up charge against a coach or manager is always a possibility. It is not worth the risk.

1:49 PM Mar 7th
Pale Hose
jemanji......So much to work with here.

You make so much out of being tough while seeming not able to understand there are many kinds of toughness that manifest themselves in ways other than physical contact/confrontations.

In my opinion, first among those types of toughness is the toughness to stand up to oppression and bullies. And there are many ways to stand up to oppression and bullies. Do you really want to make the case that Dr. King, or Ganhdi were over-feminized and not tough?

Or, since this is a baseball-related website, how about the toughness of Jackie Robinson? He agreed to be tough enough not to strike back no matter the provocation. What a sissy.

Or, for the Christians among us, who's gonna say Christ was a girlie-man?

I feel fairly safe saying history will revere those people more than some coach who feels it necessary to toughen up kids the old fashioned way cuz, dammit, we're men.

You seem to hold the military up as an exemplar of teaching people, but men especially, how to be tough the old fashioned way so let's consider this example: During the invasion of Sicily in WW2, General Patton slapped two soldiers, to make them strong, tough, and quite possibly, point out out their major malfunctions. So what happened? He nearly ruined his career, and likley lost command of Operation Overlord (per his biographer D'Este). It was military rules he he broke, not sissy, "over-feminized" civilian rules. He was in trouble because striking an enisted man is not allowed, and it showed a lack of personal discipline.

What's a little slap from a general to an enlisted man who wasn't tough enough? But Patton's superiors, Ike and General Marshal, punished him for his actions. Who knew they were such over-feminized sissies?

This is the point in the proceedings where I would normally hand you off to my daughter who would slap you upside the head (metaphorically speaking because we're a sissy family and would never do that physically because you manly men frighten us so) with your pejorative use of the idea of what is feminine. But she's not here so I'll stake a stab at it. As she points out men have a habit of taking traits they think are assigned only to men, traits such as physical toughness, labelling those traits as masculine--and therefore good, preferable, etc. And labelliing other traits, traits such as caring, nurtiring, etc., and labelling them as feminine--and therefore bad and not preferable, at least by men. So, masculine becomes shorthand for good and feminine is shorthand for bad. You might want to avoid those kind of statements in your conversations with women.

And, if I'm not mistaken, haven't women just gained the right to be placed in combat positions? How over-feminized can this country get?

We're talking about STRENGTH here. The capacity to stand up to oppression and abuse where it's found in this world. Not some decadent, weak, powerless inability to improve the world and make it as good as it can be. because hysical might makes right, and hey, I know my place in that world.
11:03 AM Mar 7th
The only way you could recognize it is a) if you are the kid who wrote it or b) the kid told you he wrote it. In neither case would you be outing the kid as the writer. You would already know, and would already think he is an idiot not worthy of admission.

Without seeing the actual essay, you can't be sure of that. There may have been other details about the camping trip in the essay that the student revealed to other people and that the woman included in her online ridicule of the student.

I also don't really see how writing about this makes the student an idiot undeserving of a college education. Again, we don't have all the details, but suppose this was a city kid who had always used indoor plumbing all his life and that he was told before his first camping trip that the woods were full of snakes and wild animals. That could make the experience a little unnerving.

We don't know how he wrote about his experience; he could have be exaggerating for humorous effect. All we know is that the woman employed by the college to read and evaluate college essays took it upon herself to take part of the essay and use it to mock someone on a social media site.
10:08 PM Mar 6th
Considering the unusual subject matter of the essay, saying that it was okay because the kids' name weren't used is erroneous. Obviously, someone recognized the people involved, or the woman wouldn't have been identified and (justifiably) fired.

The only way you could recognize it is a) if you are the kid who wrote it or b) the kid told you he wrote it. In neither case would you be outing the kid as the writer. You would already know, and would already think he is an idiot not worthy of admission.

It would still be private among those who had personal knowledge from the writer. The only way it becomes public is if the kid or someone he told makes it public.

8:50 PM Mar 6th
Goldleaf -

1. A grown man, strong and gentle, has the right to CHOOSE his response to an obnoxious boss. Mr James supports this. Nobody wants to see an strong adult's CHOICE taken away from him/her when confronted with unfairness.

2. Nobody's "defending" unfair authority figures. I'm not "defending" the boss who just threatened to fire my 19-year-old son over an unfair incident. But my first worry is to equip my son for his tasks, not to pretend that I can scrub the world clean of all such situations for him.

The question is what we are going to do about the fact that life has difficult situations in it. Is our first concern going to be to demand that life stops being unfair? Or is our first concern going to be to develop some strength within ourselves?


We gasp, swoon away, and suffer the vapors at a NCAA coach (or Army drill instructor, or McDonald's boss) who says something we don't like or in a way we don't like. Then we grab our beer and root for a K.O. hit by the strong safety of our favorite football team.

Sorry. There IS hypocrisy involved in pretending that we are such genteel, kind people that in our modern Star Trek Next Gen society, we cannot tolerate yelling any longer. Then the same fan turns around and laughs when the enemy batter is hit by a pitch.

5:26 PM Mar 6th
Belewfripp -

1. Nobody made an assertion that a macho, swaggering model is the only way to do anything. It wasn't automatic, and your objection is definitely against a straw man. Straw man in the classic sense of the word.

2. Mothers and fathers do in fact TEND to complement one another when they instill a BALANCE of both tenderness and strength in a young man. But that's an illustration for clarity's sake - not a "framing of the debate." Come on. Dad isn't necessarily macho. He does tend to emphasize resiliency.

3. We're talking about whether a college football player (or U.S. Marine) should respond to a finger poke in the chest by running back onto the field and doing it right.

That's not swagger on the player's part. What does macho have to do with being able to endure unfairness without collapsing into tears, calling the ACLU, etc.?

4. We're talking about STRENGTH. The capacity to withstand pressure. As opposed to a decadent, weak, soft, pseudo-refined sensitivity that wishes to scrub the world clean of everything annoying, so that we are free to become even softer.

5:16 PM Mar 6th
There are lots of different ways of being strong, of dealing with intimidation, unfairness, etc, and lots of ways of being tough, and I object to the automatic assertion that the "macho, tough-guy, swagger" model is automatically the only way to be tough or manly (since jemanji has framed the discussion as the over-feminization of society) or to deal with things in a non-whimpering, whiny way.

Yes, you deal with it and get even, in sports, as Bill has stated, but you do that on the field against the opponent that you have to get even with, not against your teammates or your coaching staff. It is not that toughness is being bred out of sports and society so much as the fact that people are starting to realize that tough doesn't have to mean a John Wayne western film and that you can be tough and learn toughness without some Neanderthal pushing you around.

You can even be tough without ever playing sports. The idea that toughness is defined just as the most basic, superficial, manly aggression is nothing more than an artifact of an earlier era and as with all change, no one that had come to accept it as valid is interested in watching it be modified and changed.

As far as pop-tarts and school incidents, yes, there is a lot of over-sensitivity about that sort of thing, but I think this is a separate issue from what Bill and jemanji are talking about. There is a lot of fear of legal action and issues on the part of school boards and administrators and there is also the tendency, when one bad thing happens somewhere, to overstate the likelihood that this is a common occurrence that could happen any day now somewhere else.

Technically, yes, a school shooting could happen anywhere and we do seem to have had a spate of public shooting massacres in the recent past, but the reality is that the same issues of randomness and statistical probability that we all apply to baseball apply to other events as well. People see what happens in the news and make the incorrect judgment that this is likely to happen the next day at their local school or wherever the location may be, when in fact it is an extremely unlikely event no matter where you're talking about, an event that relies on a number of different, unlikely factors (mental illness, ready availability of weapons, messed-up childhoods, extreme self-centered delusion, etc) coming together in one place.

It doesn't mean we shouldn't be careful - we should - and we need to be careful about making sure kids don't bring weapons on school property, for example, but what is happening, in a nutshell, is that fear of legal action + overstating the likelihood of an event due to a recent event happening (something Bill wrote about recently, I think) is causing stuff like the Pop-Tarts suspension. I will agree that stuff like that is dumb, but I don't think it's really part of the same thing as the "over-feminization" of America that jemanji is talking about.
7:21 AM Mar 6th
Steven Goldleaf
This is an interesting argument between the Bill James who defends coaches screaming at and pushing athletes and the Bill James who defends athletes for no longer wanting to play for the Billy Martins and Casey Stengels who dealt with them brusquely and sometimes with sarcasm.
4:56 AM Mar 6th
It is absolutely fine ethically for an admissions counsellor to anonymously cite the types of essays that applicants should NOT submit. Who was hurt? No one. Someone may have been helped.

That's not what she was doing, according to Bill. She was mocking the essays on Facebook. At the very least, it was unprofessional. Considering the unusual subject matter of the essay, saying that it was okay because the kids' name weren't used is erroneous. Obviously, someone recognized the people involved, or the woman wouldn't have been identified and (justifiably) fired.
1:59 AM Mar 6th
And as a dad myself -- I'm glad that my son and daughter ran into youth sports coaches that were tough on them, and I'm glad that they ran into coaches that were unfair. I wanted them to experience coaches that were -- adjusted for age -- as difficult as the worst bosses that they would face in life.

In the contained little worlds of soccer, football, and baseball, they learned to deal with authority figures who weren't sympathetic, and then they could come home and get sympathy from Dad. Building strength under controlled circumstances, while I could repair and coach them through any emotional bruises that were a bit much for them at times.

When a plane loses one of its engines, the pilot doesn't get to call the ACLU. When a Marine fire squad runs out of ammo, it doesn't pick up a phone and call the local newspaper editor to complain.

Gasping and taking offense works in scholastic environments and in the media, but in very few real-life contexts. In real life, there are times you have to be STRONG. That can include dealing with unfairness, intimidation, etc.

In Tacoma here, near the military base JBLM, there's a golf school that teaches 6-year olds the seven core Army values. Loyalty, Honor, etc. The 6-year-olds shouldn't be pushed beyond 1st-grade challenges, of course, but they are building strength and RESILIENCY into kids from an early age.

Sports teach youth strength. For non-resilient PC police to force university-campus codes of sensitivity onto sports, I think, misses the most important function of sports in our society.

1:20 AM Mar 6th
In Maryland a 7 year old took a bite out of a Pop Tart, pointed it at another student, and said bang, bang. He was suspended from school.

Yes, we are in danger of losing our toughness.
10:57 PM Mar 5th
Jemanji is very near the question I was trying to get the audience to think about. I don't know the answer here, but he's got the question. Is there a place for toughness?

The conundrum as I see it: If a society has no place for toughness, does that society become soft, and therefore vulnerable?

Sports,I think, are one of the last place where being tough is still valued. When something bad happens to you in any other area of life, you can whine, you can whimper, you can tell your mommy, you can call your lawyer. When something bad happens to you in sports, you suck it up and get even. This is part of the universal ethic of the world of sports, and if you don't like it you don't like sports and you don't understand sports.
9:51 PM Mar 5th
In my opinion there is an issue with the "over-feminization" of American society. Mom has a way of looking at a scraped knee, and Dad has a way of looking at a scraped knee.

Mr James brings up the question, is there any place left for "toughness" in American society?

It is one thing to sympathize with the powerless and oppressed, to fight against bullying. It's a different thing to become so Hunger-Games EFFETE that we swoon away and suffer the vapors at the suggestion of "intimidation" in ANY context.

I'm guessing most of the readers here have never plowed crops and had a mule step on their foot. But the sensitivity of American society 2013 is not the human norm, and it also is not necessarily the "correctly evolved" sensitivity.

Being compassionate is good. Being effete is not.
5:18 PM Mar 5th
It is absolutely fine ethically for an admissions counsellor to anonymously cite the types of essays that applicants should NOT submit. Who was hurt? No one. Someone may have been helped.

If it were me, though, I wouldn't have done it. It seems to me that such horrid essays are a great screening tool. If a kid need to be TOLD that is not a good essay, well.....

8:29 AM Mar 5th
Pale Hose

If running laps is necessary for conditioning then it's a part of normal training. If it's meant as punishment and done to excess then it could be abusive.
8:28 AM Mar 5th
I always enjoy Bill's articles, and this one is no exception.

"But how can a level of contact that is one-fortieth the force which is commonplace in the game be considered horribly offensive if it occurs on the sidelines of the game, between friends?"

Depending on the circumstances, not necessarily "horribly offensive," scandalous, or something that automatically requires a firing. But I can't see that it should be OK as a normal practice, either.

1. Physical contact is necessary in the game, not necessary on the sidelines.
2. Coaches and players aren't always friends, and that's not the essence of their relationship in any case.
3. Even if I'm friends with someone, I won't feel too friendly if he touches me in anger. Maybe some people wouldn't, but I take it personally if someone touches my person in a hostile manner.

That doesn't mean I need to have "zero tolerance" if someone crosses this line, no matter what the circumstances are. People make mistakes. I think wiser people than I would say that when an important line gets crossed, it's best to communicate this as promptly as possible, without trying to escalate things, in such a way that everyone can feel understood and save face. Of course, it's unrealistic to expect that to happen all the time, either.

1:26 AM Mar 5th
Since I wouldn't stand for my employer to make me run laps, does that mean it is abusive for a coach to require a player to do so?
1:12 AM Mar 5th
Pale Hose

Let me try it this way.....I would be surprised indeed to learn that your employer would allow your manager to physically turn you around by your shoulders and poke you in the chest while explaining what your major malfunction was. I would be even more surprised to learn that you would stand for such behavior from your employer.

So why do you seem willing to let it happen to an even more defenseless kid?

9:32 PM Mar 4th
I hate the bar code - it never works and waiting for the cashier to check on it and then use her key to unscramble something drives me nuts. I'm sure it's my fault. When are they going to invent a cart where you drive thru something and it scans the stuff in your cart? Putting things in a cart and then taking them out and putting them back in and then taking them back out is redundancy - the guy that invents the "codebreaker" (that's what i'm calling it for now) will be a millionaire and worthy of great praise.

I (h)ate cheese.

Bill- i enjoy the scattershot kinds of articles. Keep doing them.
9:17 PM Mar 4th
Cheddar cheese: I don't know what brand you are buying, but industrial cheese (Kraft, Sargento and their ilk) usually is artificially sharpened - in other words, instead of aging the cheddar for a couple years they add ingredients that artificially create (what they must believe) approximates the taste of aged cheddar cheese. In reality, pretty much all of it tastes awful, to me anyway. I would guess that the milder varieties might be saltier or more "curd-like", or possess more of the real flavor of the younger cheese and so are coming across as more flavorful to you.

If you want good, sharp Cheddar cheese, get some Cabot clothbound or vintage cheddar, or Tillamook extra sharp, or something like that that actually underwent production in an actual dairy at some point instead of some massive factory somewhere.

Scanners: Totally love the self-checkout, I bag my groceries as fast as the employees do, I don't put each, individual item in its own little bag and have to walk out of the store clutching 15 plastic bags for $75 in groceries, and I don't have to spend 8 years behind Grandma Moses and Old Man Winter in the regular line. That said, people that don't like self-checkout should stay in the regular lanes so they don't clog up the self-checkout. I should note that, while younger than you, I'm in my mid-30s so not exactly a kid and certainly can remember more days before self-checkouts existed than after.

College Admissions: I think the issue here is that while it would be more than permissible for the admissions counselor to joke with staff, coworkers, the college president, whatever, about these things, it's another thing entirely to share it with the world on Facebook where family and friends that have nothing whatsoever to do with the university can read it and see it. Granted, the prospective student's name wasn't shared but really, how many people write about that? Hopefully not many. Regardless, I presume that is supposed to confidential between the university and the applicant and not to be shared on social media.

That said, it is completely inane to write about that in your admissions essay and are missing some vital portion of "self-checking" or bullshit detection if you go ahead with that.

8:21 PM Mar 4th
I'm pushing 50, but I generally embrace change and new technology.
Specifically, the self-checkouts are frequently wonderful time-savers. On occasion, however, there is a problem with the bar code (or the user) and I end up spending twice as much time waiting for someone to come and rescue me from error-code hell.

I'm with Bill on the coaching thing. I see nothing wrong with a coach physically turning a kid around by the shoulders and poking him in the chest while explaining exactly what his major malfunction was. A critical part of learning is the ability of the brain to recall. I would like to respectfully submit that the kid in this case will remember the lesson.

If we label this kid "abused", he then goes into the same category with the second mile kids.

Also, I think extra sharp cheddar cheese tends to be dry and crumbly, which I don't like at all.

7:49 PM Mar 4th
Does queing theory,like economics or high-school physics, occur in a vacuum? Or can it account for variables such as high school kids calling in sick and the pissed off remaining staff operating in full slowdown mode?
7:15 PM Mar 4th
I am Bill James old and think Bill is very thoughtful and is not at all crotchety but he is wrong as wrong can be about the self checkouts. I was behind a woman in the express lane today who took 2 full minutes to extract 73 cents from the bottom of her purse so she could provide the exact change. This destroys the entire concept of an express lane, and reinforces my commitment to shopping in places with the self checkout lanes, which do not around here announce your purchases, and which rarely have a line because a lot of people are reluctant to use them.
6:23 PM Mar 4th
Jwilt, I also had learned queuing theory in grad school. Then I and others I knew worked with businesses with queues. Queuing theory never came up. One of those wonders of academia. Operations folk find ways to manage wait times without resort to complex formulations.

It is like teaching pitchers the physics of pitching. It exists, but is of little practical use.
2:55 PM Mar 4th
The incident included a hood as well as a sheet and occured on the campus of Oberlin, which has a tradition of inclusion and tolerance dating back more than 150 years. Since it came after a series of incidents involving racist and antigay slogans appearing around campus, the administration ordered the cancelling of classes for "series of discussions". I cannot think of many symbols (intentionally) inspiring more fear than a KKK hood and I think the administration had to react.
2:34 PM Mar 4th
I saw a story today that fits right in with what Bill was talking about with the college application essay. I didn't even read the story, just saw the headline. It was something like "College cancels full day's slate of classes because a person walked through campus wearing a KKK sheet." Really? That doesn't seem extreme at all.......
2:11 PM Mar 4th
My Dad tells me he took some kind of graduate level course that involved "queueing theory." Apparently businesses invest no small amount of effort trying to determine the minimum number and type of checkout registers they need to just avoid getting people so annoyed that they leave without purchasing anything.
2:02 PM Mar 4th
I of course meant 18 year old..
1:54 PM Mar 4th
In principle I thought the self- checkout would be a good idea because I don't have to deal with the 18 year hold high school girl when my wife has asked me to pick up feminine products.

But then you realize that the automated voice at the checkout is announcing what your purchases are for the whole store to hear...

More seriously, though, they are great when you just have 1 or 2 things to pick up. Unfortunately, in the other occasions it is sometimes hard to find more than one "real-person" aisle open and that one has a huge line.

Regarding the coach discussion, I think if both sides took incidents on a case-by-case basis there might be a decent amount of disagreement as to what is appropriate or not. I would supect that coaches know that touching the players is against the rules, some do it once in a while anyway, and if a parent complains there will be at least a reprimand.But when you get into terms like "criminal" or "abuse", I bet even the polar opposites in this discussion would agree on more than 95% of the cases either way.
1:53 PM Mar 4th
"...the next thing you know you’ll have professional writers writing about buying cheddar cheese."

This made orange juice come out my nose.

Re: self-scanning at the grocery store, I'm a hater also. I make a bee-line for the checkout line being worked by the most sullen and bored-to-death-looking teenager, the goth-ier and more emo, the better. No chit-chat or false bonhomie, just the efficient scanning and bagging of my stuff. Hell for me would be eternity stuck in a checkout line with a jolly, chatty, middle-aged clerk who wants to talk about the weather and my choice of extra-sharp instead of mild cheddar cheese.
12:24 PM Mar 4th
I am old, but not BILL JAMES old, so I understand both sides of this argument. The question isn't "is there a line?" I am sure both of you would agree that there is. The question is where the line is.

Interesting, though, that the one arguing for a stricter definition of abuse is the more digitally abusive.
12:24 PM Mar 4th
Pale Hose
I can't wait to see what kind of response you give me the next time I ask something in Hey Bill.
11:37 AM Mar 4th
I am not a crotchety old man, I am a thoughtful person who sometimes questions the accepted conventions of society, and I would appreciate being treated as such. I recognize the possibility that all of the people who accept the new marching orders are more intelligent than I am, but I would hope that I might be allowed to say what I have to say anyway, without being abused for it.

11:27 AM Mar 4th
Pale Hose

Once again you are misrepresenting my position. Clearly I have not advocated the position that "anything and everything can be described as 'abuse.'" But thanks for proving my point about crotchety old men.

I have said that touching an athlete in anger is abusive. And, no matter how many times you try to say I am saying something else, you will be wrong--and I will stand by that statement.

Your two criteria for determining abuse don't really help either.

First, most grade school coaches can beat up their students, and so can many high school coaches. Perhaps most college athletes can beat up their coaches, but if one ever did you can be sure he would lose his scholarship in a heartbeat and would be considered the bad guy in that tableau.

Second, a coach touching a player in anger does cause harm, and causes the victim to be in fear, even if the victim can beat up the coach. It's rooted in their power differential. The coach has all the power so that if the athlete retaliates in any way the athlete will suffer the consequences.

It's analagous to the evolution of the concept of sexual harrassment, which is based on large part on the power differential between the abuser and abused.

Or are you one of those crotchety old men who doesn't understand why you can't chase the gals around the water cooler grabbin' some ass anymore. You were only havin' some fun.
11:13 AM Mar 4th
If a parent is standing right next to his kid, I would guess the angered coach would refrain from an action such as shoving, which really just makes the coach nothing more than a bully.
10:52 AM Mar 4th
Well, Pale Hose in essence advocates the position that anything and everything can be described as "abuse", and I suppose we thank him for the clarity with which he enunciates this position. But if we perhaps DON'T wish to regard anything and everything as abusive, then perhaps we could ask "What is abuse?"

"Abuse", I would suggest as a first cut. . .Abuse is that which
a) Causes harm or the risk of harm, or
b) Reasonably might cause the victim to be in fear.

A basketball coach poking his finger into the chest of a basketball player on the sidelines of a game does not cause a risk of harm, and cannot reasonably cause the player to be in fear of harm from the coach, who (in all probability) he could beat to a pulp if it came to a physical confrontation.

Regarding the broader issues introduced by JWilt; we have indeed, as a society, become less and less tolerant of violence, and I'm all in favor of that. (Incidentally, Babe Ruth ALSO went into the stands to beat up a fan, but for some reason nobody ever mentions that one. And Ted Williams in spring training batting practice intentionally hit line drives at a fan who was yelling at him, but this is regarded as a funny story.) Anyway, I'm all in favor of becoming less tolerant of violence or even disrespect. In the 1980s I saw Eddie Stanky, coaching a college team, scream at the top of his lungs at a player who made a dumb baserunning move. I thought it was shocking, but it helped me to understand that this was common when Stanky was playing, and he just hadn't given it up.

I do think, however, that there is a risk for society in attempting to maintain radically different standards of behavior in barely-separated arenas. When kids are playing basketball on a chunk of asphalt, a good amount of pushing, shoving, tripping and verbal abuse is the normative behavior. Much that appears on television now--from shows like "Survivor", all the wrestling and martial arts stuff, and most other "reality" television, is a way of pushing back at the softness of society, trying to create a place where people CAN be "tough". I think it is dangerous to pretend that we are something that in fact we are not.
10:49 AM Mar 4th
Pale Hose

Nice try with the straw-man argument, but I did not claim that a coach yelling at an athlete constituted abuse (although of course there is such a thing as verbal abuse, a concept which I presume also angers crotchety old men). I claimed that a coach touching an athlete in anger constituted abuse.

No coach who ever touched kids in anger would be allowed to have any interaction with my kids. Fortunately it looks like more and more of society is rejecting the crotchety old man perspective.

That does not mean a coach, teacher, parent, cannot demand excellence, it just means they can't beat it into a kid. And, are you really claiming the modern athlete is not as well prepared, and does not play as well as the athletes of yore who had to worry about physical abuse as well?

10:42 AM Mar 4th
Coaches are not allowed to berate, push, and shove their players because of the 100+ year old trends Bill often writes about: the regular decline of violence and tolerance for violence in society. In 1880 a guy like Cap Anson wasn't particularly noteworthy for screaming his bloody head off and physically intimidating players, fans, umps, etc, to get his way. By the 1920s it was a little more unusual for Ty Cobb to go into the stands and beat fans to a bulp, but still not entirely out of order. Over the past century it became less and less acceptable to use physical intimidation to get your way. By the 70s and 80s you could still yell like Billy Martin and Earl Weaver and John McEnroe, but actual hitting was mostly out of bounds. Now we've reached the point where things that were common in Bill's youth are now unacceptable. I'm sure in 1975 there were a lot of old guys who didn't understand why it was wrong to punch a guy in the face over a disagreement.

I'm not sure where it stops, but a lot of old guys probably think the standards of their younger days are as good as anywhere.
10:08 AM Mar 4th
Coach: The #1 rule that all teachers are told is "do NOT touch the student". You can't even touch the students to break up a fight, or pat him on the back for a job well-done. It would have to be exceptional circumstances in which a teacher can touch a student and be guaranteed that he won't be liable for anything. Otherwise, simply touching a student opens the door for some kid's parents to open up a legal action, if they want to go there. Perhaps the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction, but who is going to support the rights of teachers to touch the students MORE?

Scanners: The worst scanning experience is at Home Depot. It's so bad that they have one "moderator" there for every four scanners, since obviously, we all have a problem at some point.
10:02 AM Mar 4th
Pretending that clearly non-abusive actions constitute "abuse" is certain to cause problems at a future time. It is disrepectful to people who have TRULY been abused to pretend that a football coach yelling at you is in the same class of behavior as abuse.
9:59 AM Mar 4th
Pale Hose
I'm now that "Crabby Old Guy" as my kids say, and you know one of those things that drives me crazy? It's hearing crotchety old men whining about how coaches can't touch their players in anger anymore. The idea that "In the old days" kids got hit by their coaches and liked it dadgummit! The only allowable touching should be for purposes of teaching proper stance, placement, or whatever the sport calls for--and of course should not be done in anger either. Under no circumstances should a coach be allowed to strike, strangle, slap, grab, push, lock in a room, hot box, etc., a player. That doesn't build character, tough players, blah, blah, blah. It's abuse, plain and simple.
9:47 AM Mar 4th
On the checkouts - the same thing has happened at gas stations. Stores trying to compete with WalMart have to get efficient or die. When I was young, grocery store lines took longer (no scanner and fewer lines), food choices were not as wide or as fresh and prices (adjusted for inflation) were higher. Moreover, in the "good old days" I could not shop late at night. Stores have added a lot of convenience (I have a large store in my Midwestern suburb that is open 24/7); having to scan myself if I come at odd hours seems a small price (the fact that the practice has spread is a sign that others feel that way, as is the death of full-service pumps at the gas stations).
9:10 AM Mar 4th
I too much prefer strong cheese to mild, but the cheese I buy marked "mild" actually is mild and kind of tasteless and the strong cheese actually is labelled as such.

Then again, I live in Canada so I guess our packaging practices are different here.

9:07 AM Mar 4th
I love the tang of extra sharp cheddar and find mild cheddar bland. Perhaps your taste buds or nostrils are not sensitive to the critical chemical or have become desensitized with time.
8:58 AM Mar 4th
I'm a few years younger than you, Bill, but I'm becoming that crotchety old man. I have lots of these irritants. People wearing flip-flops to weddings and funerals; people who answer their cell phones in the middle of our conversation; young women who hold the door open for me in deference to my age. My first crotchety old man moment happened a few years ago when my daughter asked "Can me and Betty go to the mall?". To which I replied: "you mean, of course, MAY BETTY AND I go to the mall?" Her answer was "My generation says me and Betty. As only a crotchety old father can say: "then, no, your generation may not go to the mall".

By the way, how are your kids doing these days?
6:37 AM Mar 4th
About grocery stores by region: The Midwest has much less diversity of incomes, ethnicities and lifestyles than the other populated regions of the country do. In the suburbs of the large Northeastern city where I live, the supermarkets have definitely expanded their inventories of: inexpensive meats and bulk items for people whose food budgets are challenged; ethnic sections targeted at immigrant groups; near-ready prepared meals for households who don't cook. If your grocery preference is quality ingredients with which you'll prepare a traditional American diet yourself, there are many more shoppers like you in the Midwest and the stores market accordingly.
6:18 AM Mar 4th
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