Friday, April 17, 2015

Standing Obsession

The seed for my obsession with standings may have been planted in the spring of 1969, the year baseball went to two divisions in each league and the standings printed in the daily newspaper took on a larger appearance.

Whenever it was, I've been hooked on the agate pages in the sports sections of newspapers for decades.

And that may be one of the driving forces for me in doing replays with the APBA baseball sets I have. There is a sense of accomplishment when updating the standings after games. It's also a storytelling technique of the season — there's the drama of a pennant race, the tension of watching teams go on losing slides and the euphoria of winning streaks. It's a way to gauge the season's progress with mere numbers.

I was eight when baseball went to the newer format and I gleaned the daily proceedings in the Minneapolis Tribune. (The Tribune merged with the Star in 1982, some 13 years after my first standings epiphany). My Twins, from then on, were less difficult to find in the list of teams. Rather than 10 teams, I had to pick them out of only six teams. And in that first year of the West and East Divisions in each league, Minnesota was easy to spot. After losing their first four games and landing in last place that season, the Twins worked their way to the top of the American League West and eventually won it.

It was a good motivation to follow those standings that year. Remember, kids, back then we didn't have ESPN for constant update. We didn't have cable in northern Minnesota where I lived, for that matter, until the mid 1970s.

I would clip standings out of the newspaper and use them for bookmarks. When my parents would unwrap Christmas decorations each year, I saw they used newspapers to protect the fragile glass they stored in the attic the rest of the year. Some of those papers were sports pages and, after searching through the wrappings, I would spot some standings from a time when they first wrapped those decorations.

Standings were everywhere. And when baseball ended, there was football and the Minnesota Vikings to follow and basketball and hockey. Standings in some sport were an every day occurrence.

Each season, sports fans look at the newspaper, or now the Internet, on Opening Day of baseball. It's that old Hope Springs Eternal feeling. It's a time when your team can lead the standings, or at least be tied for first with an 0-0 record.. As a Twins' fan this year, my Eternal Feeling became an infernal reeling after a day. As I write this, Minny is already in last place, five games behind Detroit. The standings are not a fun place for me. Meanwhile, my APBA buddy Shawn Baier in Traverse City, Mich., (which is at the inside knuckle of the pinky if you view Michigan as a left-handed mitten) sees those same standings and has glee. Same numbers for each of us, totally different emotions.

When I begin setting up an APBA replay, I handwrite each team's schedule on a page of paper,  make stat pages for the basics — home runs and pitching records — and set up pitching rotations. The last thing, and perhaps the most joyous, is writing the standings page.

It's what I do for all sports replays. To me, and this may be the obsession part, there's something magical about seeing the standings, ready for the games to be played, the wins and losses to be noted.

It's probably weird to go on about that, but you have to be a bit weird to devote all the time we do in completing a replay. The standings are part of it, a visual of how our process in the replay is going.

So each day I still look at the newspaper — the one I work for, obviously — and for the most part, the first thing I check, despite me working in news, is the standings. It fuels the obsession and keeps the replays going.

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