Michael Rand started RandBall with hopes that he could convince the world to love jumpsuits as much as he does. So far, he's only succeeded in using the word "redacted" a lot. He welcomes suggestions, news tips, links of pure genius, and pictures of pets in Halloween costumes here, though he already knows he will regret that last part.
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If you are an MLB draft junkie, you probably already know this. But many of you are NOT draft junkies, and so we share with you ESPN.com's ranking of the top 50 MLB draft prospects because, being provincial, we were interested that two of them are Minnesota high school prospects. Here they are (insider):
No. 13: Ryan Boldt, OF, Red Wing: He possesses no 70-grade tools -- but a lot of 60s -- reminding me in some ways of Rockies 2012 first-rounder David Dahl, at least on the field. Boldt's season has barely begun, thanks to a late scheduled start on April 4 and repeated cancellations due to bad weather, limiting scouts' looks at him and increasing the pressure to showcase his tools every time out.
No. 39: Logan Shore, P, Coon Rapids: Shore is a good-sized left-hander who runs the fastball to 93-94 mph with a good curveball -- but his school's season starts today, so he hasn't really been scouted this spring, even as other states' schedules are winding down.
Of note: Boldt was No. 18 in the last ranking and Shore wasn't ranked in the top 50, so they are making strides. Also: This absurdly poor spring has made it tough for guys to get on the field.
UPDATE: Shore is right-handed ... not left-handed, as ESPN.com says.
Jon Marthaler bakes up a delicious batch of links for you every weekend. Other times, you can find him here. Jon?
The boys' hockey state tournament championship games both got around a 5.0 TV rating here in the all-important men 25-to-54 age bracket. To put that in perspective, that's somewhere around four or five times the rating that your typical Wild or Wolves game draws.
This got me wondering, because so far high school sports in Minnesota have avoided any real sense of commodification. When you think about it, though - why not? High school sports aren't all that different from college sports - they're tied to educational institutions and communities, things that people have a natural affinity for. They're played by younger athletes and the level of competition is a lot lower, but that hasn't stopped the NCAA men's basketball tournament from becoming the biggest thing going in American sports (non-football division).
I'm sure that principals and coaches and MSHSL administrators would resist this. But there's nothing magical about the 25-game limit in boys hockey, that if exceeded, will turn all hockey players into dropouts and Communists, or whatever it is we're worried about. And after all, high school hockey in Minnesota already has cutthroat tryouts, and players that move to other towns to play, and guys that leave for other teams or other leagues like the USHL, and leagues that exist outside the high school league, like the Fall Elite League. The state high school league would resist any change to make high school hockey more like junior hockey or more like college hockey, but near as I can tell, closing the front door just makes everyone go through the back door and get extra hockey in other ways.
If nothing else, it's an interesting thing to think about. What would a big-time, commodified Minnesota prep hockey league really look like - and if you think about it, wouldn't you absolutely watch that on TV?
*On with the links:
*I really enjoyed TVFury's Q&A with Patrick Reusse, in which the Twin Cities' best columnist tells his story.
*From Deadspin, the confessions of an NCAA basketball band member, in which "spirit squad" members are basically paid to go on vacation along with their teams. Key quote: "These trips are like living a dream. Every year I nearly fail a class while readjusting to the real world."
*Joe Posnanski, now of NBC Sports, checks in with Cardinals manager Mike Matheny's semi-unwitting attempt to reform youth baseball.
*And finally, three somewhat-out-of-place links: How scrums are ruining rugby union.. How spring training, for a few minutes, turned into youth-league baseball. And a long story, sort of involving Real Madrid, that is a fairly compelling rumination on relationships and mental illness.
Every so often, I will read a quote from some sports team or league executive about promotion and marketing, a quote that's some variation on this misbegotten theme: "We want to promote our team / league / sport as an entertainment product - as an alternative to the movies and TV." In practice, what this "entertainment product" generally means is some combination of cheerleaders, rock music, and scoreboards -- effectively, distracting attendees from the action on the field.
It's worth considering this, because while sports may be entertaining, sports fans don't experience them in the same way as they do entertainment, unless they genuinely don't care about the outcome of the game. It is possible, for example, to enjoy going to a baseball game just for the experience of sitting outside on a warm night, eating hot dogs and drinking beer; indeed, this particular passion has been the genesis of a good amount of the St. Paul Saints' revenue over the years. But, save for a few die-hards, many of the people who go to a Saints game can't tell you a week later who pitched, who the Saints played, or even who won.
It's also particularly strange that while sports fans have a more personal connection with a team than, say, music fans have with a band, the sports fan's outward expression of that passion is - unlike the music fan's - entirely impersonal. For example, those that wear a T-shirt or hang a poster of a favorite band or movie or Internet comic strip are doing so to express something about themselves as a person, in terms of this thing they like and are passionate about - but you would never, ever, hear the same person refer to that group as "we." Sports fans' love of a team is entirely personal, but the outward expression is to show off that they're part of something bigger than themselves. The folks in Wild jerseys walking the streets of St. Paul tomorrow evening aren't donning red and green to tell the world something about themselves, personally - they're doing it because they are Wild fans, part of a plural, and wearing a jersey to the game is what Wild fans do.
The point I'm trying to make is that entertainment is transient, but fandom is permanent, and that those who'd try to sell sports as entertainment are always destined for worries about the box office. I enjoy going to Saints games, don't get me wrong, but I'm always going to weigh my options, because it never rains at the movies and my backyard is just as warm as the ballpark (and has cheaper food besides). But the Twins - I'll plan ahead for the Twins, I'll pay actual money for the Twins, and all because they're my team and I want to be there when they win so that I can be part of something that's bigger than I am. Even when they're terrible. They're not competing for my entertainment dollar. They're competing for something else entirely.
*On with the links:
*John Rosengren heads up to Warroad to catch the latest Warroad-Roseau game and write about it for SB Nation Longform. It's such a well-known rivalry that it borders on the cliche, and yet Rosengren's story is captivating, as it's told through the eyes of the fans and -- especially -- the parents that are drawn into the great historical circle of Warroad-Roseau for one night.
*Wright Thompson of ESPN profiles the soon-to-be-50-year-old Michael Jordan and discovers what we might have expected: without the competition of the game, Jordan seems completely and profoundly miserable.
*At Esquire, Tom Junod talks to NFL players about injuries -- not just head injuries, but the day-to-day painful existence of football. In all of the discussion about safety in the NFL, it is worth remembering - it's surprising, even frightening, but still worth remembering - that most of the guys who play in the NFL are willing to trade daily pain and lifetime health problems and shorter lives, just to keep their spots and help their team win.
*Sports Illustrated went to Antarctica for the Swimsuit Issue this year, and Steve Rushin went along for the ride. (WARNING: cheesecake photos of penguins.)
*And finally: Let's all watch Phil Mickelson fall over.
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