Life’s Not All Beer and Skittles

Last week Bobby Valentine, the new manager of the Boston Red Sox, banned beer from the team’s clubhouse.  Much was made of this.

His predecessor Terry Francona suggests it was a P.R. move, meant to placate disgruntled fans after last season’s tales of six packs and buckets o’ fried chicken allegedly consumed in the clubhouse – during games – on pitchers’ off days.

While I don’t often drink beer, I definitely like it.  My favorites are Sam Adams (especially Octoberfest) and Great Lakes Christmas Ale.  This means a disproportionate amount of my beer consumption happens at year end.  (If you own stock in a brewing company, you might have noticed an uptick in its value in 4Q each year.  This is not investment advice*, I’m just saying…)

I have also been known to enjoy a brew or two at the ballpark.  There is nothing – NOTHING – like sitting in the sunshine, watching a game while nibbling on a Bratwurst and fries (no garlic, please), and sipping a $10 brew from a plastic cup.  In other words, nobody appreciates a baseball beer more than I do.  But I still don’t understand all the fuss about Valentine’s decision.

Some argue that ballplayers need to blow off steam.  They work hard, it’s a stressful job where they sweat a lot and get thirsty, and so on.  So they deserve a beer after “work”.

And then there’s…me.  I work in an office — in a cubicle to be precise.  It’s roomy, and I have a window that looks out into an airshaft, which sadly means I can count myself among the most fortunate of cube dwellers.  I even have one of those fancy ergonomic desk chairs that cost more than the monthly rent on my first New York City apartment.

I work in a company with approximately 250,000 employees, and about twice that many rules and internal processes to follow.  My industry is highly regulated, which is a lot of fun too.

Oh, and I get to ride San Francisco Muni to work.  Occasionally I’ll think I see a ballplayer drive by on his way to AT&T Park in his Mercedes or Porsche or Audi.  I’ll bang on the dirty window and mouth “HELP ME”… but they never stop, or even slow down to save me from my quiet desperation.

Until recently my division provided subsidized soda in our vending machines — $0.25 per can – but that has been eliminated for reasons of austerity.

Given all this, I’d say my colleagues and I are pretty deserving of free beer at work.   Yet if I want to drink, I have to wait until after 5 p.m. and travel to a bar, restaurant or grocery store (on nights when I want to drink at home alone, and weep) then buy the beer myself.

On KNBR today, someone suggested that it would be better for players to drink in the clubhouse (i.e. “at home”) than at a club or bar, because they might drive home drunk from a bar.  What are they, 16 year olds?   Does the clubhouse manager bake cookies in the clubhouse, then discretely deliver them to the guys while assuring them he’s “not trying to spy on anybody”?

But what about the players who struggle with their weight or fitness, or even their sobriety?  Isn’t it a bit self-sabotaging to provide beer in the clubhouse, as a temptation?

Kidding aside, I generally don’t care if teams serve beer in their clubhouses — especially if they are winning.   Despite occasional evidence to the contrary, baseball players are adults and as such we should expect them to make responsible choices, such as not drinking and driving.  It shouldn’t matter if they are driving home from a nightclub, or from the ballpark.

But, enough with the hand wringing about “tradition”, and all the fun players will miss out on if they can’t drink beer in the clubhouse.   These guys are young, wealthy professional athletes, and most of them are pretty easy on the eyes.  I am quite sure they’ll still have more fun this season than my team of cube dwellers.

* Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Calling Ameriza!

Last spring I did something I’d always vowed I wouldn’t; I got a DVR, and signed up for the overpriced Major League Baseball sports package on cable.  A bit extravagant, but it was worth it to watch my childhood team the Cleveland Indians play five times per week, in addition to my adopted home team the San Francisco Giants.

It’s a hard-knock life when your toughest decision of the day is which baseball game you will watch live, and which you will record.

Unfortunately, my first foray into sports packages was not all sunshine and home runs.  Comcast, er…um… I mean Xfinity, messed up my order — so for the first few weeks I was merely enjoying a free trial without knowing it.  Ah, those were heady, innocent days.  Then, one desperate night in April, I came home to discover… BAM!  NO MLB PACKAGE!

Don’t panic, Xfinity assured me.  We’ll fix it, although it’s too late to give you the early bird discount.  “The System” won’t allow it.

Um, I don’t think so.  I did my best imitation of a wheel in need of serious greasing, and eventually was awarded a credit on my next bill.  Play Ball!

I am puzzled by the billing options with sports packages.  Xfinity, theoretically, allows subscribers to either pay for a sports package in one lump sum, or break it up into monthly payments.   Why on earth would someone choose to pay for the whole thing up front?  Aren’t most folks familiar with the concept of the time value of money?

Of course I say “theoretically”, because when I have requested to pay in installments… things have gone terribly wrong.  In December, when the NBA lockout was resolved, it was time to support my Cleveland Cavaliers by signing up for the NBA sports package.  I asked to pay in monthly installments, but was charged the large lump sum on my first bill.

So it seems that someone at Xfinity, at least, is familiar with the time value of money after all.

It took a frustrating combination of phone calls, online chats and threats through clenched teeth to rectify the situation.  (They threatened to shut off my cable completely.  I vowed to call the The Better Business Bureau, which seemed to tip the scales of customer service in my favor.)

Both my after-hours phone calls, and my online chats, were handled by offshore reps with names like Ameriza or Amerigo.  Hmmm.

I can guess the subliminal message these noms de phone are meant to send. (If you love America, you won’t yell at me?)  And I suspect I will soon have a chance to test out my theory; it’s nearly time to commit to the 2012 MLB sports package.  I will again request to pay in installments,  Xfinity will probably get it wrong… and my complaint call will be taken by someone with a name that makes me want to stand up and salute.

Baseball is, after all, America’s pastime.