Smile Politely

Oh Facebook, You Good Old Sport

Lots to write about this week. I could touch upon the rise of Texas Rangers All-Star outfielder Josh Hamilton, who has kicked his coke habit to the curb and nowadays smacks home runs over the wall at an alarming rate. In Monday’s Home Run Derby, he hit 28 dingers in the first round alone, easily besting the top first-round performance in my mind, Mark McGwire’s memorable round at Fenway in 1999.

Then there was Tuesday’s All-Star game itself, a 15-inning tilt that luckily didn’t end with Bud Selig proposing a tie. The pre-game ceremonies were long but still entertaining, as a Who’s-Who of living Hall of Famers were introduced position by position prior to the introductions of their 2008 All-Star counterparts. I kept in control of my gag reflex watching players like Geovany Soto and Kevin Youkilis be greeted by HOFers they had no business standing next to, including Yogi Berra and Eddie Murray. (By the way, where in the world were Carlton Fisk and Johnny Bench?) Third base probably put forth the best past-present correlation, as current players and sure-thing Hall of Famers (pending steroids probes) Chipper Jones and Alex Rodriguez lined up next to Brooks Robinson, Mike Schmidt, George Brett and Wade Boggs.

As for the game, it looked for a while like the N.L. might actually break its 11-year losing streak. In the sixth inning, the senior circuit roughed up A.L. ERA leader Justin Duchscherer to boost its lead to 2–0. Then in the seventh, the N.L. turned the ball over to its ERA leader, Edinson Volquez, owner of the coolest name among the All Stars. In a game that saw too many All-Star virgins to count, rookie Volquez surrendered a game-tying two-run homer to J.D. Drew, eventual game MVP. Typically non-vulnerable relievers Billy Wagner and Francisco Rodriguez each surrendered an eighth-inning run for each side, and that was enough to send the game into marathon mode.

I don’t much recall what happened after that, because it was past my bedtime and as such I fell asleep on the couch. I woke up periodically, usually when runners were on base for one team or the other (which was often), and did manage to catch Brad Lidge give up the game-winning sacrifice fly to Michael Young, which scored Justin Morneau from third on a close play at the plate. Replays show that the call could have gone either way, but I’m sure that home plate ump Derryl Cousins just wanted the damn game to end after nearly five hours. If he hadn’t made the safe call, then I’m fairly certain Bud Selig, as always dressed in the finest designer car salesman suit that 1988 had to offer, would have overruled him from the stands.

This is all just a longwinded way of getting around to the point of this column. As exciting as the All-Star game was, it was the lone sporting event I watched (sort of) from start to finish over the entire prior week. Now, usually over a typical summer week I take in a few Cardinals games, maybe an NBA playoff game or two, a tennis match and even I Survived a Japanese Game Show (which, admittedly, sucks). Then, to battle couch potato-itis, I go for a jog, get my butt kicked in tennis, ride the bike a few miles, partake in some bocce and, if the mood strikes, maybe even go to the gym. But over the last week, I did none of that.

Instead, I spent hour after hour on Facebook. Having just come to terms with Facebook as a part of my online life a month ago, I quickly stumbled upon the Pacman 2.0 application. Harmless enough, it seemed. Hardly. The first night I played for two hours, then an hour the next day. One Saturday I spent close to three hours eating dots. I set a high score, my friend Tim beat it, then I beat his and before we knew it we were in the 99th percentile, which means that among a few hundred thousand players, we were devoting more time to perfecting Pacman than was safely advisable. Tim soon bested my score by a healthy margin, which sent me back to the arrow keys in search of the illustrious higher score. I narrowly topped his score by 200-some points, with our scores now in low 70,000 range. This was worthy of a text message displaying the new high score delivered to Tim while he was away on vacation, out of range of a computer.

Tim bettered me upon his return by a couple thousand, and once again it was on. A few days ago, I beat his top score by twelve thousand; surely, I thought, this would cause him to waive the white flag. Not so. His new high score is 119,000, or about 35,000 higher than my previous best. Oh well.

Now I have a new Facebook gaming mission, when not occasionally trying in vain to digest enough ghosts to top that Everest of a score: Scramble. It’s like Boggle, and unlike Scrabulous you can actually finish a challenge game in less than a 24-hour period. And like Scrabulous and Pacman, Scramble is incredibly addictive. And now I play it constantly, as does my new fiancé. Recently, we have taken to sitting in bed together, laptops open, to play 10-round matches before bedtime. (How’s that for romance?)

I’m curious as to what Facebook games other Facebookers have taken a liking to, ’cause I surely need another game to waste away my evenings playing. How will my beloved Redbirds will ever compete for my attention with Facebook’s online video games? I just don’t know. Oh wait, yes I do. They’ll regain my attention about mid-August, when the Cubs begin their monumental collapse and the Cardinals and Brewers cruise by them for good.

In the meantime, even Northsiders can look me up online if you’re in the mood for a good game of Scramble.

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