Back in the spring, WifeWahoo and I were discussing the upcoming Philly Science Fair. I asked her if the topics will be as interesting as the descriptions, or if they are only interesting to people with science backgrounds. She said the interest should match the descriptions even if you don’t have a science degree. For contrast, I mentioned how an educational conference might be interesting, but that there would be a ceiling to her interest if she attended since she won’t be able to directly relate to classroom management challenges or other aspects of the job.

Then, I started thinking about the kinds of exhibits and activities an educational conference would have, especially if the conference were aimed at non-educators. My favorite idea was  the Classroom Management Simulator. Participants can step in so that kids yell and throw things at them. You would have to process paperwork in the Bureaucratic Reenactment. Try to teach and deal with biohazards while being ignored by maintenance/facilities. Experience the joys of arriving on a Monday to find that the trash has still not emptied. Fight in the Parking Lot Wars, where you try to obtain the optimal parking space that lets you arrive late and leave early. Fighting with colleagues. Not knowing itinerant schedules. Etc.

Why is ripping paper so funny to babies? My baby is sophisticated, though; this is the only time it amused him — and, boy, did it amuse him! Every attempt since has resulted in a look that says, “Don’t play this out. Get new material, clown.”

Sean, I hope this deep thought blows your mind more than yesterday’s post of movies I’ve watched:

Mommy just left for work so the baby is crying. Separation anxiety would be much easier to deal with if the baby directed it towards me, since I never leave his side.

I was in a neighborhood store the other day so I could purchase rock salt. This was necessary due to the relentless onslaught of snow this area has received, combined with my urge to be a considerate neighbor and sidewalk provider. While putting my change away, a grizzly, older man asked the cashier for a pack of Newports. He wanted to confirm the price as advertised outside.

“The Newports cost what it says outside, right?”

The cashier looked at the sign in the window and said, “Yes. Plus tax. So it will be $5.89.”

The grizzly, older man sucked his teeth and said, “Damn taxes.” Then he looked at me. We made eye contact and he said, “These taxes are killing me!”

He was calling out The Man and he was looking for me to provide some kind of agreement or nod of approval. I’m pretty sure he wanted my support in creating a Roxborough Tea Party, where we dress up like people from Manayunk and dump all of the newly purchased rock salt and cigarettes into a giant pile of snow in front of the store. We would conclude our victory over the oppressive forces above us by high fiving and writing a Declaration of Independence or Constitution, and then having a parade while HBO makes a mini-series about us.

Standing in the store with my change put away, I didn’t smile or nod, or reply in any way. I was busy daydreaming about tea parties and contemplating my options. I wanted to say, “No, I’m pretty sure it’s the cigarettes that are responsible for the killing. We can’t pin this one on the taxes.” I was mostly trying to figure out if there was a way to convey that message without sounding like a complete smart ass.

There isn’t.

My dad, RubyVader, recently sent me a link to an article where the head of the Major League Baseball players’ union discussed the MLB postseason. The union head expressed that players would be open to expanding the postseason party from the current format, which includes 8 teams, to a new one including 10. To be fair, the article does not imply an opinion from owners one way or the other regarding postseason expansion, although Commissioner Bud Selig seems interested in the idea. You could argue that his support alone is evidence that the idea would be terrible for the sport.

Anyway, RubyVader asked me for my opinion and I wrote him an email containing my arguments for and against expanding the postseason. He suggested I share the email and, since I haven’t updated since the Flyers defeated the Bruins in the playoffs, I decided to take his advice since I am not a teenager and understand that it is ok to do that. What do you think about the postseason expansion idea?

Season Length/Playoff Representation Ratio

Forget the 8 out of 30 teams in MLB vs 12 out of 32 in NFL stat. For me, the more important stat is the length of the season.

  • NFL teams play a paltry 16 games, and then nearly 50% qualify for postseason play.
  • NBA and NHL teams play 82 games, and then over 50% qualify for postseason play.
  • MLB teams play a marathon 162 games, and then barely over 25% qualify for postseason play.

Sympathy for the outsiders
On one hand, I feel that it must be very disappointing to play 162 games and find yourself on the outside because you finished with one less win than another team (see: San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants, 2010) or because you lost a one game play-in despite winning 103 of those games (see: San Francisco Giants and Atlanta Braves, 1993). Baseball players must be so pissed when they win 90+ games and miss the postseason, and then watch an 8-8 NFL team qualify for the postseason. When looked at this way, it seems like it would only be fair to ‘reward’ more teams after the marathon season by granting them an opportunity to win a championship.

No love for the Boo-Hoo Jays (and other losers!)
On the other hand, the NFL’s 16 game season leaves a wide margin for error — one mistake, like a missed FG at the end of the game — has much more significance for playoff implications. The 8-8 playoff team may have been one or two plays away from being 10-6, and a 10-6 team may have been only one or two plays away from being 8-8. Because 16 games is such a small sample size to determine a team’s true worth, it almost becomes necessary to let more teams join the playoffs. By the same token, after 162 games, you know whether a baseball team is good or not.

The Phillies did not win 97 games this season because of a few lucky plays, just as the Pirates did not lose 105 games because of a few flukes. After 162 games, you can safely say the Phillies are a good team that deserved the #1 playoff seed, and the Pirates are a terrible team that deserves the #1 or 2 draft pick in 2011. It would be heartbreaking for the #1 seeded Phillies to lose to the St. Louis Cardinals, who would have entered the playoffs as the #5 seed and did not prove over 162 games to be a top contender in their league. This is in stark contrast to teams like the 2006 Steelers or 2007 NY Giants who won the Super Bowl as #6 seeds but, given the argument above, could have won one or two more games based on luck and ended up as a higher seed anyway.

It’s a Beautiful Day (or not) in your Divisional Neighborhood

Wrong Place at the Wrong Time
On the third hand, what about a team that plays in the “wrong” division? How many times has a baseball team missed the playoffs because they finished in 3rd place in their division, despite having more wins than a playoff team who qualified because they play in a weak division. This did not happen in 2010 because the eight playoff teams had the top four records in their respective divisions — all eight teams had 90+ wins (has that ever happened before?)! A team missing the playoffs because they play in the “wrong” division last happened in 2008, when the NY Mets (89 wins), Houston Astros (86 wins), St Louis Cardinals (86 wins), and Florida Marlins (84 wins) all had more or equal wins as the Los Angeles Dodgers (84 wins), but missed the playoffs because they did not play in a division as weak as the NL West.

Then again, Mr. Rogers is for toddlers and not adults
On the fourth hand, adding two more teams would take away much of the magic and stories of the past few years. Remember how awesome it was when the Phillies stole the division and playoff opportunity away from the Mets in 2007 and 2008, thanks to their epic and historical chokes? Well, in 2008 the Mets would have qualified as the #5 seed, eliminating that fun story. The Mets still would have missed out in 2007 (they had 88 wins against the Padres 89), but having a 5th seed also would have eliminated the craziness and fun that would have occurred if the Phillies, Mets, Diamondbacks, Rockies, and Padres had all tied with 89 wins. Remember when they were talking about their being a three-tiered post-regular season ‘tournament’ to determine the National League’s playoff teams? Using NFL-style tiebreakers, as the article discusses, would eliminate that fun as well.

My final word on the final herd

Overall, I’m against expanding the MLB postseason format to include 10 teams. I know that the thrilling pennant race still exists despite adding two more teams via wild card in the mid-90s, but I think adding even more teams would cheapen the system a little by making the races between even lower-quality teams. I also think 162 games is adequate time to prove you are a top team that deserves a playoff berth. If you can’t win enough games during that grind, you don’t deserve a chance at the World Series.

Just for fun…

By the way, if you added one more team from each league in 2010, the Padres (90 wins, NL West) and Boston Red Sox (89 wins, AL East) would have joined the postseason party.

I have a list of things I want to blog about, which will happen regularly throughout these next few weeks (I hope Sean’s RSS feeder heard that!). What makes it difficult to blog is when Philly sports teams do well in the playoffs.

With that in mind, here is an excellent screenshot of ESPN’s website after the latest playoff success:

Screenshot of main page

Screenshot of main page

The Provost of Drexel University recently sent out a lengthy email that detailed his difficult situation as a native New Yorker living in Philly and cheering for the Phillies during the 2009 World Series. He used his situation as an impressive segue for introducing a new philosophy for Drexel’s different departments, which are now offering programs and courses aimed at general audiences. Or something like that. I was actually kinda mad to receive an email during the World Series that was boasting about the glory of growing up as a fan of the Yankees and skipped over those parts.

I’ll spare you his thoughts on the Phillies, Yankees, and Drexel in the interest of sharing an eloquent, interesting excerpt. It’s OK to think deeply on a Sunday…

“The great American poet Robert Frost writes, ‘Nothing in life runs unmixed.’ The challenge of living comes from its complexity, its multiple perspectives and possibilities for interpretation, its uncertainties. Solving an equation correctly is satisfying; it provides closure. A really good movie or novel or poem — or a complex scientific or engineering problem — prompts more questions than it answers, poses challenges that are not resolved easily or perhaps at all. Friendships and relationships do not run unmixed. Major life decisions do not run unmixed. The great art of living well involves learning to live with uncertainty, becoming comfortable with conflict, even becoming able to balance two competing theories or perspectives at once — or affiliations to two sports teams locked in fierce competition. That’s why it’s an art and not an exact science.”

Mark Greenberg, Drexel University

This series documents the creative process of bringing a Superhero to life. My Superhero is “Hydrator.” See my Birth of a Superhero – Preamble entry for more details.


Shoot, I pulled the door off again!
We are all familiar with super heroes, aren’t we? We all have our favorites, from Superman to Batman to Wonder Woman to the X-Men. We all have a superhero we think is the best. But how do we define best? Which super hero possesses the greatest super power? Which super hero possesses the super power YOU would most like to have? That is your task, define which super power you would most like to have and what you would do with it.

There are so many good superhero powers to choose from, but there is one that I have ‘adopted’ as an ongoing joke with friends over the past few years. The power is the ability to absorb or spread the water in the environment and objects around me, through hydration or dehydration. With this power, I would be able to draw water from one person and spread to another in thirst. I would also be able to absorb rain from the sky and redistribute the liquid in a more enjoyable-but-equally-beneficial-to-the-environment manner.

Not all uses of the power have to be positive, though. In a moment of villainous weakness — or in the name of vengeance — I could use this power to dehydrate someone and cause them pain, rendering them helpless.

A superhero power would not be fun without a restriction, as it would have no limitations and be completely unstoppable. Therefore, the one weakness or flaw to this power is that the manipulated water would retain its original temperature. Therefore, absorbing moisture from snow or ice would result in a terrible case of brainfreeze. Similarly, absorbing moisture from steam or a boiling pot would be rather unpleasant as well…

The genesis of this superhero power for me occurred when I participated in a research study at Penn State. I volunteered for the study with the hope that something would go awry and result in the development of a power, as this seems to be the setting that leads to many superheroes (The Incredible Hulk, Dr. Manhattan, Dr. Octopus, and I am sure many more than I could possibly name). The study required me to run on a treadmill while wearing a body suit lined with tubes of water on the interior. As I ran, the researcher manipulated the temperature of the water while recording different measurements in the breath I exhaled (I think it had something to do with the efficiency of the oxygen in my system..VO2, maybe?). Afterwards, I realized that the ability to manipulate and absorb hydration levels in objects around me would be the ‘most likely’ possible superhero power developed in case of an explosion or accident in the lab. I shared this with friends who, after making fun of me excessively, dubbed me “Hydration Man” and often make tongue-in-cheek pleas for help when the weather is unpleasant or they are thirsty. I prefer the new name, “Hydrator.”

COMING NEXT: Part 2 will include Thumbnail sketches of Hydrator’s logo (for his chest)