Take a moment on your day off to remember that while all gave some, some gave all.
The Story Behind the Object
I used to love baseball growing up. In elementary school (early to mid-90s), I was a huge Atlanta Braves fan. This was during the pitching exploits of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Steve Avery, and John Smoltz. An illustrious infield of Fred McGriff, Mark Lemke, Jeff Blauser, Terry Pendleton, and Javy Lopez. That’s right, pre-Chipper Jones. The outfield was a little less stable, but at various times featured Otis Nixon, Marquis Grissom, Deion Sanders, and David Justice.
These were the glory days of baseball. The Braves were contenders, no one knew steroids were a thing yet, and, most exciting, three quarters of my immediate family had a player with his or her name. There was my man, David Justice. My brother had Mark Lemke. And my mom had Terry Pendleton - even though technically Mom is a Terrie and not a Terry. Best I can tell, Ralph Garr is the only Ralph to ever play for the Atlanta Braves, and his last appearance occurred prior to my birth, so my dad was the lone family member that didn’t have a representative during this time period.
In 1997, David Justice was traded to the Cleveland Indians, and that’s when I learned that professional sports are a business. I was supposed to like Justice in 1996, but suddenly dislike him in 1997? That’s different than college. Ignoring transfers (which, admittedly is getting harder and harder to do), college players don’t just up and leave your favorite team for your arch rival. Sure, they graduate and you have to learn new players, but you don’t have to actively root against someone for whom you used to cheer. This was the beginning of the end of my professional sports fandom and also my baseball fandom.
It’s not just the trading of players that caused baseball to take a backseat to other sports in my life. I actually have a laundry list of reasons why I no longer follow it, with the top three being:
The games are too long. I mean, seriously. Generally speaking, best case scenario, a game lasts three hours. And that means the final score is 1-0, which isn’t exactly exciting to watch. Sorry, I’m just not one of those guys that gets his jollies from seeing a pitcher do great work on the mound for 100 pitches, impressive as it may be. Offense is exhilarating. Pitching, less so. Unless it’s a no-hitter. That would be fun to watch. But even then, much more so in person. In fact, baseball in general is just dramatically more fun to watch in person. This list of grievances is specific to MLB baseball, but this particular point is actually even more true in college baseball. Most of those games run about four hours.
The season is too long. If you can’t determine who is the best team in less than, let’s just say 150 games, you’re doing something wrong. I mean really 100 should be plenty. But 162? That’s just crazy. Because after those 162 games end, there are still like a million more in the playoffs.
The rule of thirds™. Fact: in baseball, over the course of a season, every team will win and lose one third of their games. That’s science*. The remaining third are up in the air and ultimately they are the games that determine the best and worst teams. Unfortunately, at any given time, you have no way of knowing whether the game you’re watching is one of the third of the games that matter or not. But isn’t it strange that no matter how bad a team is, they still finish with a winning percentage of .333 or better? There are no Cleveland Browns. And no matter how good a team is, they can never break the .667 barrier? There are no Golden State Warriors. Very odd.
So if I don’t particularly care for the sport, why am I spending all this time writing about baseball?
A couple of reasons, really. One, because thinking back to the old school Atlanta Braves reminds me of the fun of playing neighborhood wiffle ball in the front yard, with a white board on a lawn chair for a scoreboard. And two, because Memorial Day features the annual release of the NCAA Baseball Tournament bracket. It’s the day when casual or even non-baseball fans turn their attention to college baseball. The NBA and NHL playoffs are nearly over, and there is literally nothing else to watch, so here they come with their hot takes, pretending as though they’ve been paying attention all season.
Those casual fans aren’t like me. I watched six plus innings of at least four Diamond Heels games this season, and pieces of another three or four games. I’m an expert. Ask me anything. Just kidding, only ask me one of the three or four things I know as a casual fan who watches the Diamond Heels less for my love of baseball and more for my love of the University of North Carolina. Though I will make one attempt to set myself apart from casual fans by impressing you with this fact: former Tar Heel catcher Jacob Stallings now plays for the Triple A Indianapolis Indians. (I know this because I went to a Durham Bulls game last weekend and happened to see Stallings' name on the scoreboard during an at bat. But hey, when I read his name, I knew he played for Carolina, so I think I should get some credit for that.)
But in all seriousness, congratulations to Mike Fox and the 2018 Heels for their No. 6 national seed in the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Best of luck in the Chapel Hill Regional next weekend, and here’s to hoping for a Chapel Hill Super Regional the following weekend!
* I only researched back to 2013 to determine the truth of this postulate, and I did uncover that the 2013 Houston Astros finished .315 on the season, so this doesn’t hold true 100% of the time, but it’s close enough for me.
Carolina Collectibles Description
Just as Memorial Day marks the unofficial start to the casual fans’ interest in collegiate baseball, it also marks the unofficial start to grilling season. That’s right, grilling season. Not barbecuing season. You can go to a cook out. You can grill out. But you cannot “barbecue.” Unless you are from “Australia,” in which case, in the words of Lloyd Christmas, “G’day, mate! Let’s put another shrimp on the barbie!” But aside from that, you may not barbecue.
Today’s item is an interlocking NC grill cover. Not a barbecue cover, though I’m willing to accept that, as in that instance barbecue is a noun and I’m only adamantly opposed to the use of barbecue as a verb. That being said, I’m still moderately opposed to the use of barbecue as a noun, but I’ll allow it. I can be reasonable and tolerant toward some of our differences as a society.
This grill cover is around five feet long and made of, if I had to guess based on Amazon descriptions of similar items, “durable vinyl.” Admittedly, it has seen better days. All of the grill covers on Amazon claim to be “weather resistant” to cracking, and I’m sure this one made the same claim, but after numerous years providing excellent coverage to my grill, it is showing signs of wear and tear. It still mostly gets the job done, however.
Carolina Collectibles Description: Bonus Item!
I also own an interlocking NC spatula which can be used on my grill, and now seems like as good a time as any to mention that item. I can’t imagine writing another column about grilling.
I was super excited when I got this spatula, and my first order of business was to attempt to brand a burger with the interlocking NC logo. It did not go well. In fact, it failed miserably. I don’t think it can be done (if you’ve been successful at this, feel free to let me know how).
Carolina Collectibles Comparison: Dre Bly
During his career at North Carolina, Dre Bly draped himself all over the wide receivers of opposing teams, much like this grill cover is draped over my grill. He covered them tightly, refusing to let anything through and intercepted passes just like this grill cover intercepts rain.
Carolina Collectibles Rating: 4 Stars
As one of the few outdoor Tar Heel items I own, I had to rate this pretty highly. I have tons of Carolina Collectibles inside my home to show my fandom, but a much smaller number that are visible to folks that don’t cross my threshold. Though technically our grill is on our back deck, so if someone sees the grill cover, they likely came through my house to get there. Unless they are on our neighbors’ back deck. Anyway, it’s held up well over time even if it’s approaching the end of its useful life now, so all in all a four star item