Breaking the Stereotypes of UT Majors: Theatre

I am a theater major, I’m a male and I’m straight. Yes, it is possible. In fact, I find that most stereotypes about theatre and performing arts majors seem to focus on a portion of us that doesn’t reflect who we are at our core. People seem to end up at these conclusions because these select human beings that seem to represent us are really, really loud. Like screechy. And glass-shattering. But that ain’t me.

I’ve been performing on stage since the fourth grade, and have attended arts magnet schools for my entire education. The last time I went to a school without an arts focus was kindergarten. This is crazy to some, but was normal to me and my group of friends. That doesn’t mean my life was “Glee.” In fact, I’m an awful singer, and instead prefer to play bass. I love folk rock and Kanye West. I went through a brief metal period. It was a darker time and I prefer not to discuss it.

I get it though, this image of a male theater major as a shimmying tenor in a v-neck screaming indignantly about the role some “stupid freshman” got, runs rampant in pop culture and occasionally rears it’s ugly head at schools like UT. But it can’t define us. It doesn’t fit me.

So what if I memorize a few monologues here and there. We might have huge egos, and we might prance a bit more than most, but we took science classes too. We’re human beings, not caricatures.

I read books. And I love baseball. And I only own one v-neck, thank you very much.

This article can be found here as it was originally published in The Minaret.

Advertisements

San Fran Consistent In Every Way

The 49ers use an explosive defense to supplement for their plodding offense.

Yes, I know the Giants stomped them. Yes, I know Christian Ponder beat them too. But the 49ers are for real, and we’re all going to see it very soon.

What I love most about San Francisco, is that they play a consistent brand of football. They have a strategy that’s been proven effective and they don’t care that they got smoked by Eli Manning, they’re going to run it out there next week, knowing Russell Wilson is going to be ineffective.

The Niners rank first in the NFL in total defense, but most importantly, they rank second in passing defense. The league has become so pass heavy, that unless a team finds effective ways to stop the throw, no lead is going to be safe. In their four wins combined, San Francisco’s allowed just 28 second half points to be scored against them, and more than half of those came in their week one shootout with Green Bay.

Having allowed just two rushing touchdowns all season long, as well as just one 100-yard rusher (the Giants’ Ahmad Bradshaw), it’s simply hard to put up points against this team.

The rest of this article can be found here where it was originally published in The Minaret.

NCAA Trumps NFL In Every Way

I awoke on Monday morning with the strangest vision. A world of vibrant colors and real history surrounded me. There were these things called “traditions” and “idiosyncrasies” that made each and every football team unique. A field of blue. It was a world of pigskin that didn’t know anything about replacement referees or bounty scandals or beer sponsors. It was a simpler place. And it was played on Saturdays.

The collegiate level is simply the most entertaining and pure platform for American football.

“No!” You might scream. “The NFL rocks my socks! I can’t draft Clemson QB Tajh Boyd to my fake team on the internet and bet money that he, compounded with many other unrelated players, will win me glory and cash!”

This is true. Fantasy football is the NFL’s monopoly, and it’s often the argument fans use when defending the league. Because of the nature of NFL contracts and naming rights, both fantasy football and NFL video games have created closer connection with fans. NCAA ‘13 would be a whole lot better with some last names.

I can admit that I love fantasy sports, and in particular, fantasy football. But lately, I’ve come to a couple of sobering realizations. 1. As a sports journalist, fantasy sports are bad. Sports betting is bad. Bias and vested interest are bad. 2. Teams and rivalries don’t really matter to me anymore. 3. College football, without this faux-personal relationship with players, makes me happier.

This past weekend, I took in three live football games. I covered a high school game on Friday night filled with mistakes and complete with an hour-long weather delay. On Saturday night, I headed to the USF vs. FSU game and on Sunday, I experienced RGIII’s first fourth quarter NFL comeback.

The rest of this article can be found here where it was originally published in The Minaret.

New Baseball Format Sparks Debate

Tampa Bay players Ben Zobrist and Matt Joyce celebrate as B.J. Upton and George Hendrick look on. The Rays made the postseason last year with a wild-card spot not a one-game playoff. | Photo courtesy Keith Allen/Flickr.com

For the first time in the history of Major League Baseball, there will be 10 playoff teams come this October. Only, not really.

We’ve been shammed! Can’t you see right through it? You can’t? You mean you’re actually excited by this two wild card business? Alright. I understand your initial reaction, but I’m going to talk you through this. Please don’t do anything rash, like buying an Angels’ playoff ticket. Not a good idea.

Tampa Bay players Ben Zobrist and Matt Joyce celebrate as B.J. Upton and George Hendrick look on. The Rays made the postseason last year with a wild-card spot not a one-game playoff. | Photo courtesy Keith Allen/Flickr.com

The first thing I want you to know and understand before we move on is that everyone involved in owning or running a major sports organization has money. Lots of it. Only they’re not satisfied with this amount of money and they want more of it. And no matter how much you or I want to believe that winning is the main goal of any franchise, realize that mostly, winning is the main goal because it brings people to the stadium and it sells shirts and it makes money. Winning makes money. Ok, now that we’ve established that, we can move on to this whole playoff thing.

Back in March, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig announced that the league had expanded its playoffs for the first time since 1994. Both the American and National League will send their two best non-division winning teams to a one game playoff to determine which team will make it into their respective Division Series.

“This change increases the rewards of a division championship,” Selig said, to MLB.com, “and allows two additional markets to experience playoff baseball each year, all while maintaining the most exclusive postseason in professional sports.”

I will admit, the first part of what he said is great. Winning your division should carry more weight than it did. It’s the whole next bit that doesn’t sit so well.

The rest of this article can be found here where it was originally published in The Minaret.

They’re Young and Talented

James Shields anchored the Rays’ pitching staff by leading the MLB in 2011 in complete games. | Photobucket.com/holymarble

Intimidating and charming. Fun-loving killers. The Rays 2012 rotation is nasty and people are starting to take notice. “If you thought they were good last year, then watch out,” writes ESPN writer Jayson Stark. “Now that you’re looking at it without bias,” said former Red Sox manager, Terry Francona, as quoted by the Tampa Bay Times, “my goodness, they’ve done some tremendous things.”

Things are looking up around the Rays clubhouse these days. Gone are the nights of Victor Zambrano and Steve Trachsel. Bye-bye Dewon Brazelton, hello David Price. It was nice knowing you Casey Fossum, but it’s Matt Moore time.

At this point, there’s really no question; this is the best starting pitching Tampa Bay has ever seen. Here’s a quick refresher course on the five Rays starters as the season is beginning to build some momentum.

James Shields: Mr. High-roller. On a team perennially strapped for cash, Shields is the highest paid player on the roster. Raking in $8 million (almost double the salary of Evan Longoria,) the Rays expect Shield to make a difference from Opening day through October. The talent isn’t really Shields’ main draw: it’s the consistency. This is a pitcher who hasn’t thrown less than 200 innings in a season since 2006. That means going five innings even on a bad day, it means staying off the disabled list, it means carrying the team from game one through game 162.

Shields’ key pitch is his change-up. As a pitcher who sits in the low-90s with his fastball, Shields relies on deceptiveness from the rest of his repertoire to put hitters away. That’s where his “half-circle” change-up comes in. Having developed the grip of the pitch in 2004, Shields has tweaked it to become one of one of the most unique and untouchable pitches in baseball. In 2011, according to ESPN Stats & Info, Shields threw off-speed pitches to hitters in two-strike counts 77 percent of the time: 35 percent of swings on those pitches were swings and misses. Opposing hitters know what’s coming on 0-2 or 1-2. That doesn’t mean they can hit it.

David Price: Two season ago, David Price finished second-place in the A.L. Cy Young race. One season later, as his team’s record improved, he finished the year 12-13 with an ERA almost an entire run higher. What went wrong?

First off, it’s important to establish that although his large stats took a nose-dive, quite a few of his peripheral stats actually improved. He pitched 16 more innings in 2011 compare to the season before while striking out 30 more batters and walking 16 less. His WHIP (walks + hits per innings pitched) slightly improved as well.

How does all this add up to a losing record? Simple: The long bomb and some bad luck. Price gave up seven more homers than he did the previous year which will tack on runs to your average quite quickly. He also allowed an opponent’s batting average almost 10 points higher than he did the year before (but which was consistent with the rest of his career norms.)

Put simply, David Price is an elite pitcher with an electric fastball. 2010 might’ve been a career year for him: he may repeat it, he may not. But either way, with some run support, he is at the very least a 15-win pitcher.

The rest of this article can be found here as originally published in The Minaret Magazine.

This Diamond’s Lost its Luster

Although MLB attendance was respectable during the early part of the 2000s, it's been on a slow decline since the 2007 season. Whether this is a result of the economy, the steroid era, or an overall lack of interest in the sport is debatable, though either way, it doesn't bode well for America. | Christopherkh/Flickr.com

You should love baseball. You really should. And the fact that you don’t? Well it sucks for you and it sucks for our country.

I’ve been reading a lot of stories over the past year about TV ratings, attendance and overall interest in “America’s pastime.” (That I have to put that phrase in quotations makes me sick.) The bottom line is this: unarguably, baseball has been slacking. It’s not dying, but it isn’t thriving like it has for the past 100 years, either.

After 2001’s emotional World Series between the Diamondbacks and the New York Yankees, which took place just over a month after Sept. 11, World Series viewership has been way down. The best TV results since came during Boston’s 2004 World Series victory when they averaged over 25 million viewers. Although this seems like a nice number, it pales in comparison to the monster popularity of the ‘70s and ‘80s when the Series was regularly averaging over 35 million TV viewers, according to the Baseball Almanac.

In terms of attendance, not only is baseball not as successful as other sports in pulling a live audience — this is based on stadium size alone, though the 162 game schedule versus other sports’ 16-game and 82-game schedule surely plays a factor in attendance density– but baseball’s attendance has been lacking even by its own standards. CBS Chicago released a report last fall, noting that the MLB was facing a fourth straight year of total attendance decline. In other words, since 2007, baseball attendance has been subtly dwindling every season since.

To me, this wouldn’t be such a problem if baseball’s beauty wasn’t being replaced by the odor-ridden, muscle-building concussion freak-show that is American football. Truly, I say this as a football fan. But mostly I say it as a fan of all sports: Give civility back. By making football the most popular sport in America, you took civility, stomped it and ran half the country’s virtues into the ground.

Again, to emphasize, I like football a lot. I like playing it and watching it and writing about it. But to stand by and watch while it murders baseball? Would you stand by and watch a good friend try to kill your mother?

According to a recent Harris Poll, also reported by CBS, in 2010 when 2,200 adults were asked what their favorite sport was, 31 percent chose football at first place and 17 percent chose baseball. In just a year, though, the divide gaped. In 2011, 36 percent chose football compared to 13 percent for baseball.

I see the appeal. Similar to the circus, our minds are stimulated by the possibility of injury: the big hits and the 350-pound mammoths. The strategy in football is in no way simple, blocking schemes, hitch-and-go routes and five step drops litter the sport. I would argue, though, that a reason it has overtaken baseball is a lower common denominator of fan interest and intelligence. To sit down and watch a baseball game and enjoy it, you have to have a basic understand of the rules: balls and strikes, stolen bases and fielding. If you sit just to watch them hit the ball far, it may be a long night.

In football, though, you can be base. This isn’t to say all football fans are base or even that most are, but an appeal over baseball is that you can be stupider. All you have to know is to run straight and stay on your feet. If you do that long enough, or you decide to kick the ball through some poles, you get points.

Whoever has more points wins in both sports, but the way you get those points is a bit more complex in baseball.

Baseball isn’t the only sport affected by our desire as a country to enjoy something while understanding as little about it as possible, though; lacrosse is surging in colleges and high schools (places of education) but it isn’t making much of a dent in the professional world. Cricket, a game enjoyed internationally, has never been embraced. Both games require some work to comprehend.

There is a scoring dilemma that has led people away from baseball that might be the most representational of our country’s biggest issue. For the record, bigger isn’t better. A common joke about low-scoring football games is that the scoreboard resembles a baseball final score, such as 7-0 or 10-6. Bobby might turn to his friend in the middle of his son’s football game which is tied 6-6 and remark, “Hey! I didn’t know I was coming to a baseball game today!”

This notion that football is more exciting because it’s a higher scoring game is a complete misconception. Every time someone scores in football, they’re rewarded with two, three, six or seven points. This system was created to differentiate which form of scoring should be most valuable to the final score, but it’s turned into a cheap complement of the sport. The bottom line is that in a 5-3 baseball game, eight people scored. In a 28-21 football game, there were seven scores (extra points notwithstanding.) We as a culture, though, have decided that bigger numbers mean better sports and more excitement, more glory. But really people, what’s wrong with 5-3? Why’s everything got to be so big?

The most disturbing topic about interest in baseball dwindling is that it’s the least racist sport. Though this is a huge, broad, charged statement, I honestly believe it.

The rest of this article can be found here as originally published in The Minaret Magazine.

Springsteen Gives the Tampa Forum a Boss Night

“This train,” Bruce Springsteen sang, “carries saints and sinners. This train carries losers and winners. This train carries whores and gamblers. This train carries lost souls.”

All were in attendance on Saturday night, when he and his E Street Band came into town. With over 240 songs in my repertoire and having seen seven shows already, I felt pretty prepared for my eighth. My mom dwarfs me. She’s been to over 50 shows, as a journalist and as a fan. This show though, we knew would be different for both of us. Clarence Clemons, the band’s saxophonist and fan favorite, died last June.

Fans everywhere were discussing via blog posts and Youtube comments whether Springsteen was going to muster up another full band tour without a best friend, epic soloist and charismatic personality at his side. A key difference between Springsteen fans and other fans is the longevity. When Clarence Clemons died, fans from the beginning (Springsteen’s first album,Greetings From Asbury Park, was released in 1973) may have seen him perform between 15-100 times or more. There are extended family members you don’t see 100 times for three hours at a time over the course of 40 years. That’s what this felt like to my mom and me. Like a distant family member had passed away. So that was the big question: How do you replace a sound and sight valued by so many while sticking true to your band’s persona and yet not trying to forget “The Big Man”?

Their solution worked to perfection. They recruited Clarence’s nephew, Jake Clemons, to play sax for the Wrecking Ball tour. They also added a four piece horn section to compliment him as well as three more backing vocalists, nicknamed “The E Street Choir.” All in all, there were 15 people on stage during Saturday night’s show which was moving and exciting at different points in the show. In terms of my experience, I wonder if I’ve ever had as much fun at a Springsteen show as Saturday night. It had been almost two years since my last one, and I wasn’t sure how he was going to feel. Now 62 years old, I expected some more frailty and a more somber “Boss.”

Instead, he played a two and a half hour show without a break, crowd-surfed and toyed with the crowd through all of it. The most touching moments were the times when he would ask the crowd to make noise for Clarence or remember an experience. Sometimes it felt like a concert and sometimes it felt like a soulful funeral.

I’ve always felt like a Springsteen show is like a fountain of youth. No matter how poor you feel that day or week or year, he can go up there and show you that if he can do it at his age, you can dance a little bit too. My mom recently had both of her hips replaced so this was like our coming out party. When Springsteen began Dancing in the Dark, both our eyes lit up. It’s a corny song but it’s a fun highlight on an otherwise mostly dated Born in the USA album. I hadn’t seen her twist like that in years. Modern medicine is an amazing thing.

Although I like the majority of Wrecking Ball, I wonder how much of the crowd was familiar with the new album. When he played the singles, they seemed interested and excited but when he went into deeper album cuts, they seemed to be anxious and a bit more timid. He was forced into sandwiching each of the new songs with a pair of crowd favorites which worked successfully, though I wonder how happy he is doing that. He’s always enjoyed playing his new material though it admittedly doesn’t carry the same punch as Born To Run or Thunder Road.

It’s so tough to put into words, exactly what a Springsteen show feels like. It’s truly more of an experience than anything else. I keep trying to explain to my girlfriend, who’s never been, exactly what’s so different about these shows compared with other artists. There are three main differences:

One – You learn something. Either about yourself, about Springsteen, or about other people. Most times, for me, it’s been a blend of all three.

Two – Pat Riley. At 25 percent of the Springsteen shows I’ve attended, I’ve spotted the Hall of Fame basketball coach in the crowd. It gets me very pumped up to see him singing along to “The Promised Land” with me.

Three – The man has a goal. He states it every show. “To tell a story,” he says as he introduces every member of his band. That story is usually worth hearing. To me, it’s been worth hearing quite a few times.

This article was originally published in The Minaret and can be found here.