Even the oldest baseball stadium in the country can adapt to change. As the Red Sox get ready for their home opener, there are new additions to the “Fenway Park Experience”. There is a new studio for NESN – the regional sports network that televises Red Sox home games; a new terrace in right field gives fans an overlook to the entire park; a new and larger video board is in place in right-center field; there are new menu items and … Fenway Park is going cashless. All purchases inside the park will now be credit card or debit card or “touch payments” e.g., Apple Pay. Photos of the new facilities at the park look very inviting; the required use of credit cards and other electronic payments at concession stands should be efficient but I wonder how efficient that will be for the guys who are walking the aisles hawking popcorn or hot dogs during the games. We shall see…
Some of Fenway’s new culinary offerings include:
- MingsBings – – vegan patties made from chopped cauliflower, vegan cheese, hot sauce and a “crispy crust”.
- Fluffer Nutter Fries – – you don’t want to know…
- Cheeto Hot Dogs – – did they pull ingredients out of a hat to create this concoction?
- Apple Fries – – fresh apple fritters are great; how fresh are these going to be?
I mention these changes because they take place at a facility that is 110 years old; even the guardians of that tradition find ways to modernize. That stands in contrast to the situation that exists with the local NBA team here in Washington DC – – the Washington Wizards. Their season is over; they finished 12th out of 15 teams in the Eastern Conference and missed the play-in game round by 8 games. The Wizards do not always miss the playoffs, but it has been next to forever since anyone thought they were a threat to make it to the Finals let alone win it all.
I get to see the Wizards more than any other NBA team because more of their games are on TV in this area than any other team. For the last several years the Wizards’ greatest deficiency has been their inability to stop opponents from scoring barrels of points. Finally, after years of nonchalant defense – and some highly paid players who just did not show even a minor interest in playing defense – the team set out on a “new course” this past season. The chronic non-defenders were sent elsewhere, and the team hired Wes Unseld Jr. to be the head coach. Unseld has royal bloodlines in this part of the world AND he brought with him a reputation as the “defense guy” that made the Denver Nuggets’ defense a significant part of that team’s identity.
So, what happened…? This year’s Wizards’ team had a worse record than the year before and it gave up more points. After the season was over, both Unseld and GM Tommy Sheppard declared that defensive improvement was going to be the focus of the team during the off-season.
- Plus ça change, plus ça même chose.
The Wizards did not play well on defense this year but there was improvement if you watched the players instead of focusing on the stats. Last year – and in several preceding years – when opponents moved the ball from side to side on offense, the Wizards defenders would stand around and observe the ball motion almost as if hypnotized by the motion. The players on the team making the most money did not do much on defense so there was nothing in the way of an example for the rest of the team to follow when the other team had the ball.
This year, the players were active on defense; this year’s problem was that the players on the Wizards’ roster taken as a whole are just not good defensive players. They would try to get into a position to impede an opponent; however, most of the time they were late in getting there and often when they did get into position on time, the opponent merely drove around them.
If “defensive improvement” is going to be the focus of this off season for the Wizards, I think that GM Tommy Sheppard is going to have to make some fundamental roster changes; I am not sure that the current roster is capable of playing top-shelf defense because it looked to me as if lots of them were trying to do just that in Coach Unseld’s system.
- [Aside: The current Wizards’ roster is a “Sesame Street” roster brought to you by the letter “K”. The Wizards employ Kristaps Porzingas, Corey Kispert, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and the alliterative Kyle Kuzma. All of them play here in the Nation’s Kapital. Maybe they should try to hire “Coach K” as a konsultant?]]
Moving on … I ran across another tidbit about the upcoming FIFA World Cup tournament in Qatar this Fall. Evidently, the authorities there have said that they will “confiscate” any gay pride flags that show up because “homosexuality is not welcome in Qatar.” The report I read said that male homosexuals could face up to 3 years in prison and/or punishment by lashes according to the penal code in Qatar. Your views on that sort of punishment may vary from mine, but I think those sorts of punishments make homosexuality far more than “unwelcome” in Qatar.
From reading that report, I wonder about two things:
- If Joe Flabeetz from somewhere other than Qatar is there to attend the matches and displays an easily recognizable gay pride flag, would he be subject to arrest and charges of homosexuality in addition to the loss of his flag? The report I read made no mention of the degree of acceptance given to free expression in Qatar.
- What might happen if a player on a team not from Qatar were to score a goal and in his emotive celebration, he lifted up his shirt and displayed a gay pride flag emblazoned on his undergarment?
Finally, since I mentioned some food items above that appear “questionable” to me, let me close today with an observation by famous chef, Charlie Trotter:
“Cuisine is only about making foods taste the way they are supposed to taste.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………