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The same clouds.

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Am eight days into a moratorium on Twitter posting and it feels good. I’m paying correspondingly less attention to other people’s Twitter posts and that feels good too. I miss the news-aggregation value of the bird-site so I’ll have to solve for that at some point.

(Does my attempt to stop sharing my thoughts and opinions there have some relevance to my lack of interest in sharing my thoughts and opinions here? Yeah, probably. The world needs less of me, or less of my hot air anyway.)

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Went to the season’s first pro baseball game a few nights ago, and my first since June 2021. Somebody called the Lehigh Valley IronPigs came to Worcester to play the Worcester Red Sox, so my wife and I packed off to Worcester’s Polar Park for the first time. (I think I mentioned a goal of seeing at least one game this season in a new-to-me ballpark. Ding!)

I had a good time and Polar Park is a nice enough place — it seems built into the side of a hill (Worcester has a bunch of hills) so there are a couple of different levels and angles and landings. Makes things interesting.

The parking spot was expensive; I need to put some time into doping out the best balance of distance from ballpark vs. cost. Once I figure that out, I imagine I’ll go back, at least once in a while.

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Haven’t run in probably a week-and-a-half — got overexuberant with a 10-mile run two weekends ago, and shortly afterward, I did something that felt like pulling a muscle behind my right kneecap. Been all walking since.

I might try a light jog tomorrow and see how it goes.

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Been reading a little, too.

Craig Calcaterra’s Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat The Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game appealed to my general sports burnout.

The first half, though, consisted of a recitation of the many jerky things professional sports owners have done in the past 15 or 20 years. I guess it’s part of the writer’s brief to lay out a case … but everything in that first half was familiar to me, and I couldn’t help thinking that anyone else burned-out enough to pick up a book called Rethinking Fandom probably knows all the stories too.

The second half offered some common-sense strategies for thumbing one’s nose at the structure of professional sports while retaining one’s fandom. The basic concept involves breaking the framework of loyalty to a team, and replacing it with a framework of support for something else instead.

The one that sticks most in my mind is a concept called “meta-fandom,” which — if I understand it correctly — basically means isolating the thing or things you really like about the sport, and becoming a fan of those.

An example (not from the book): If you’re a football fan, and you think interceptions returned for touchdowns are the most thrilling play imaginable, you can become a fan of interceptions returned for touchdowns. The Internet will bring you plenty of clips each week; you can wallow in pick-sixes by everyone from the Atlanta Falcons to Framingham State University. You need not buy tickets or replica jerseys, or devote your soul and spirit to any one team, to get what thrills you most.

I’m going to have to think about that.

Also read Paul Ferris’s Dylan Thomas: A Biography and Kay Redfield Jemison’s Robert Lowell: Setting the River on Fire. The latter has an interesting concept: The author, a professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins and co-author of the standard medical text on manic-depressive illness, examines Lowell’s life, poetry and achievements through the lens of his recurring manic-depressive or bipolar mental illness.

The only thing I didn’t like about the latter was the way that certain references and snatches of poetry seemed to recur, even three or four times, over the course of the book. I have the newspaperman’s mindset that you say something once. (I have had this same sense of annoyance in one or two other books in recent months: “You already told me this.”)

It’s also possible that various factors, including Twitter, have eroded my understanding of books and my ability to read at length.

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I have opened all my Japanese baseball cards. Got some interesting ones that have almost, but not quite, turned into a blog post. Probably won’t at this point.

In the meantime, I’ve turned my attention to a set that attracts and repels me in equal amounts: 2022 Topps Heritage. Heritage, you might remember, is an annual set in which Topps reuses a card design from a long-gone year to make cards of current players.

This year reuses the 1973 design — a look originally tied to one of Topps’ weirdest, sloppiest sets of its era. I happen to quite like the look, so I quite like the cards … enough to shell out for a nine-pack of them just a few days ago.

At the same time, I am deeply disappointed in them, thanks to a blog post written by a SABR colleague named Nick Vossbrink. Nick is one of the people whose Twitter posts I regret not seeing any more; he’s quite knowledgeable about cards, the printing aspects in particular, and I’ve learned a fair amount from reading him.

Nick’s blog post pointed out something I should have realized: At least in Heritage, and perhaps in other sets as well, Topps has been making extensive use of green-screening. That is, they’re not taking player photos live in ballparks: They’re using “photo day” poses that were taken in front of green screens, and layering baseball backgrounds in behind them.

Nick collected the 15 San Francisco Giants cards in 2022 Heritage and noticed that 12 of them feature the exact same background — to the extent of having the same clouds! He built a GIF file of the cards, and it’s worth reading the post just to watch the GIF go around and around.

(And wouldn’t you know it: I’ve opened one pack of Heritage so far and the first two cards at the top were two Giants, Logan Webb and Austin Slater. Knowing what to look for, I spotted the same cloud pattern immediately.)

Somehow this concept offends me; it seems cheap and dirty and lazy and disloyal to some unwritten rule of baseball cards. If Topps has to do this, they could at least go to the Giants’ spring training ballpark and take background photos from a bunch of vistas, so there’s a greater degree of both reality and variety.

Conversely, they could go the other way and put the players against a backdrop that’s clearly and totally unrealistic. Have these bearded guys in pajama-bottom pants with Braves Field or Ebbets Field in the background. Or, match the 1973 design by using backgrounds from a park that was around in 1973 and isn’t now — there are many to choose from.

I also got a few packs of 2022 Topps, which I haven’t gotten my fingers into yet. On a computer screen they look dreadful. They will probably look dreadful in real life too, by my old-man standards, but then again it does me no good not to challenge my old-man standards with something new once in a while. The cards didn’t cost that much; and if I come across another situation where a little kid has lost his/her collection to a wildfire and is looking for donations, maybe I’ll chip in some of those.

Or, who knows? Maybe I’ll like ’em.

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