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moral principles

The viability of any religion as a moral framework is simply independent of the truth of evolutionary biology. I have argued elsewhere that so-called revealed truths proffered by most religions are superfluous for morality. Specifically, the alleged supernatural or revealed source of the moral truth is irrelevant to the value of the moral principle.

If there are moral truths, they ought to be discoverable, or at least defensible by reason. Religious traditions may be rich repositories of accumulated moral insight, but at the end of the day, it's the arguments themselves and not the putative mystical authority that matters. Even if some religion turns out to teach the a [sic] valid moral code, that set of principles ought to be explicable and defensible to someone who isn't religious. If so-called moral principles must be accepted on faith, they cease to be moral principles at all.
-- Majikthise


25 years ago today, I attended a double-header at Candlestick Park that shows the way sports works its way into our lives not only in large ways but also in small ones.

1980 was a nondescript season for the Giants. They got off to a slow start, and by June 29, they were already 11 games out and well on their way to a fifth-place finish in a six-team division. On offense, they had Jack Clark, Darrell Evans and very little else ... the pitching was a bit better, with Vida Blue and Ed Whitson having decent years (and making the All-Star team) and the bullpen pitching well.

Anyway, a bunch of us decided to take in the double-header, which was against the hated Dodgers. My then-brother-in-law Randy came with us, and my then-sister-in-law Julie (lotta "thens" in this story) ... Julie was attending her first-ever baseball game (I guess she was also attending her second-ever baseball game). I don't remember who else went. The only thing going on for the Giants was the impending retirement of Willie McCovey, who was closing down a Hall of Fame career, and would be leaving the game at the All-Star break, which was a little more than a week away.

McCovey wasn't in the starting lineup for the first game. That spot belonged to Rich Murray, a 22-year-old pheenom who had just come up to the majors earlier in the month. (Murray's tenure as McCovey's replacement didn't last long ... he only played 57 games in the majors, and is mostly known now as Eddie Murray's brother.) The game was to-and-fro, Bob Knepper dueling with Don Sutton, and as the Giants came to bat in the bottom of the ninth, the score was tied 3-3. (It should be noted that the prospect of extra innings at a double-header wasn't quite so frightening in those days ... the game I am currently describing, for instance, only lasted 2 hours and 12 minutes.) The Dodgers brought in Bobby Castillo to relieve the tiring Sutton, and after a leadoff single by Rennie Stennett, Castillo retired the next two hitters, bringing up the pitcher's spot in the lineup.

And pinch-hitting for Bob Knepper was Willie McCovey.

There were 50,000 people at the park that day, and this was what we'd come to see: our old hero taking one last shot at our archrivals to the south. McCovey had managed only one homerun all season, the 521st of his career, but I think we can be forgiven for thinking hoping begging praying that he had #522 somewhere in that tired body.

And Castillo pitched to McCovey, and he got ahold of one. It went flying towards the right-centerfield fence, and 50,000 of us leapt into the air while Rennie Stennett circled the bases towards home. And then, since this is real life and not a made-up story, the ball fell just short of a homer, bouncing off the fence for a double that won the game for the Giants.

And I remember that game to this day.

Everything after that was anti-climactic. The Giants were shutout by Burt Hooton in the second game, and McCovey did not make an appearance. The most legendary occurrence in that second game was that Randy, who's gotta be like 6'5", fell asleep, which is hard enough with 50,000 people making noise, and even harder when you can barely fit into the seat in the first place. I've never let him forget that little nap.

The next Thursday, McCovey played his last game at Candlestick, and I played a little hooky to be there. In the third inning, with Jack Clark on third, Mac dribbled a ball past Dan Driessen at firstbase for a single and an RBI, his last at Candlestick. In the top of the 8th inning, McCovey went out to his position, and then, while everyone stood and cheered, Pheenom Murray came out to replace him. (There were 26,000 of us, not bad for a midweek day game.) Stretch McCovey was gone.

McCovey had one last shot in him, it turned out. On Sunday in Los Angeles, in his last game ever, he pinch-hit late in a tie game and lifted a sacrifice fly that gave the Giants the lead. It was his last major-league at-bat.

crash tv

Last month, I wrote about the film Crash, "it might have been better as a television series." Well, I may get my wish:

FX gets 'Crash' course

After a detour to the big screen, writer/director Paul Haggis' "Crash" is about to reach its original destination: television.

FX is developing a cable TV series based on the hit Lions Gate Films release, which has earned almost $50 million after eight weekends.

Don Cheadle, one of the stars of the gritty drama about race relations in post-Sept. 11 Los Angeles, is likely to appear in and direct several episodes of the project if it goes into series. Sources said talks are under way with all other members of the cast, including Sandra Bullock, Matt Dillon, Brendan Fraser and rapper Ludacris, to reprise their roles from the film.

ok i wasn't done yet

If someone can tell me when an MLS atmosphere for a regular season game looked better on television, I would love to hear it, because that was one of the most wonderful displays in the 10-year history of the league. There was some question about how Donovan's return would be received by the Quakes fans, and there was absolutely no doubt from the beginning.

From the booing every time Landon touched the ball, to the eye-catching amount of signs ripping their former golden boy to the folks organizing the piñata, I was frankly awed by the Spartan Stadium faithful. The atmosphere for that match was as fun as any regular-season game I have seen on TV in a long while, in any league. Congrats to everyone at the match. Whatever happens with the San Jose franchise down the road, for me that match was the legacy of the wonderful soccer fans in the area.

-- Tino Palace

last night

A few more words on the least-popular topic I write about on this blog (I've written seven or eight posts on the topic in 2005, and the total number of words in comments posted in reply to those posts is two), and I'll go back to grading papers.

Last night was one of many ironies. Spartan Stadium is a shithole, but nonetheless Spartan Stadium had a lot to do with the atmosphere at last night's match. It's so teensy that the fans are right on top of the action ... you know the players and referees can hear you. "Intimate" is the word.

Also, Spartan plays right into an ongoing theme for this franchise, which is treated like shit. Most of the players on the current squad were given up on by their previous clubs, for one thing. And, most obviously, the entire San Jose franchise is always one step from being moved to some other part of the country. The irony is that, as last night demonstrated once again, for all its obvious flaws, Spartan Stadium lends itself to terrific atmosphere, which showed up extremely well on the national teevee telecast. The packed stands on the opposite side from the cameras ... the incessant noise ... the ecstasy when a goal was scored ... I've read from fans all over the country this morning who are amazed at what we can stir up in that shithole. There may be good reasons to move the franchise, but if they do, something will be lost: a venue that just might provide the best atmosphere in American soccer.

Which is another irony, because one thing is certain: without a new soccer-specific stadium, the Earthquakes will move.

Meanwhile, if Landon Donovan didn't seem to "get it" in the lead-up to the match, he gets it now, and better late than never. As he said in a post-match interview, "As much as it sucked for me, it's pretty damn cool that people care this much. It felt like a foreign place, I give the fans credit for that. I give the Earthquakes credit for playing well. It's really a good thing. It's not good for us, but it's a good thing for the league.... I think [the fans were like that] because they care about their team. They don't want people leaving. Passion is a good thing."

Meanwhile, Ann Killion, often one of the better reporters on the Quakes, has an excellent piece in today's Mercury-News:

Donovan not the real villain

The passion pulsating through the stands at Saturday night's Earthquakes game should have done more than gotten Landon Donovan's attention. It should have gotten the attention of his employer.

But the game was played at Spartan Stadium. So the Anschutz Entertainment Group muckety-mucks probably ignored it.

Still, the much-maligned stadium was packed, full of loud, peeved-off fans who want better. Signs lined the railings: "Landon Judas Donovan,'' "Primadonovan Traitor,'' "Donovan is Traitor Scum.''

And this one: "AEG: Anti Earthquakes Group.'' ...

But we all know that Earthquakes fans don't really hate Donovan. He's an honest, likable, talented young man and the best thing that ever happened to the Earthquakes.

What they really hate is the ownership system that has marginalized their team and stripped it bare.

And it's much easier to boo a living, breathing player than a multi-million dollar company and a system that stinks.

If it makes you feel any better, even Donovan knows it stinks.

"I absolutely understand that,'' Donovan said earlier in the week. "The owners are paying our paychecks, but still it's frustrating." ...

But of course, no one has bought the Earthquakes. They're still owned by the Anti Earthquakes Group, which is running it like a chop shop in a back alley, dismantling the operation and redistributing its parts....

"What a great crowd,'' [Donovan] said. "This was a great night for them.''

It was a night that could have made a statement about the importance of keeping the Earthquakes alive and thriving. That is, if anyone was listening.

Click here for seven minutes of match highlights (this might be a Windows-only link), including the decapitation of the Landon pinata, the astonishing four-save melee in front of the Quakes goal early in the second half, and of course, lots and lots of booing.