Shameful and blatantly unethical conduct in golf

There have been many times as we’ve had issues with gambling in professional sports. Perhaps the most famous was Pete Rose‘s lifetime ban from baseball, for betting on games while a player-manager. Also well known is Tim Donaghy who was convicted of federal crimes (in addition to losing his job as an NBA official) for wagering on games he officiated and thusly manipulating the outcome.

But I never thought I’d hear of a TV announcer placing wagers with a PGA tour golfer. Unfortunately, a recent article on awfulannouncing.com contained exactly this bombshell for serious fans of the game of golf. It centers around this quote from CBS golf announcer Gary McCord:

When I was in the TV tower, every time Phil got to my hole, Bones [Phil Mickleson’s caddie] would look up at me and I would flash the odds. If Phil had a 15-footer, I’d flash three fingers, which meant the odds were 3-1. If he was 60 feet, I’d give him 2-1 on a two-putt. Bones would go down and whisper in his ear and Phil would look up at me and shake his head, yes or no.

I can’t tell you how many wadded-up twenties I threw out of the tower, until the Tour found out about it and I got word through CBS I was no longer allowed to gamble with Phil while up in the tower.

Honestly, I’m surprised all that became of this was a “cut that [bleep] out” from CBS to Mr. McCord, and probably the same to Mr. Mickleson from the PGA. The amount of the wager doesn’t matter here; Mr. McCord makes reference to “wadded-up twenties” which would indicate perhaps the base value of the bet was $20, admittedly a rather small sum for a professional golfer.

Whether or not this is allowed under PGA and USGA rules, it’s still ethically and morally putrid at an event prominent enough to be shown on television. It’s things like this that blacken the image of the game of golf. As it is, golf is already widely known to be one of the more expensive sports. In addition, among other things, golf is known to have many players with a penchant for swearing (not that it’s the only such sport or game, mind you). I observed a framed cartoon on one clubhouse wall featuring a diplomat: “On recent trip to the U.S. observed honorable Americans on place called golf course playing game called ‘ah shit!'” As humorous as some may find it, this anecdote highlights the fact that profane outbursts do not help advance the sport of golf­—or for that matter, just about any sport or game.

Entire Twitterverse permeated with odious Musk-y odor, film at 11

As reported by NBC News among many others, the infamous Elon Musk has finally reached a deal to acquire pioneering social media site Twitter. Ordinarily, when things like this happen, I would more or less comment from the sidelines on the ramifications of the deal.

This one’s different. This event has direct impact on the entire reason this blog even exists. As hard as it may be to believe now, this blog actually grew out of my presence on Twitter. By that, I mean that one of the reasons I started this blog was to have a place to post things that both needed more permanence, were less likely to be censored, and which could not be done justice on Twitter as it stood then. At the time (2008) Twitter had a 140 character limit per tweet. (This blog was originally under shawnkquinn.com, before I decided to separate it from my personal brand and evolve it into a different direction.)

Twitter folded the functionality of Twitpic and other image hosting services into its core functionality, as well as bumped the limit of 140 characters to 280 characters. The primary purpose of the original limit was to facilitate fitting tweets inside SMS messages. That’s no longer a concern and has not been for some time.

The issue of permanence and censorship, on the other hand, is another matter. The ownership of Twitter has been reasonable up until now. Note that for many years “social media” (as it is commonly called) was more or less “anything goes.” Of course that didn’t last. Today most social media sites have enacted a list of community standards (some more vigorously enforced than others).

The amount of outright crap on the Twitter platform (in fact, on “social media” in general) has gone up. The COVID-19 pandemic brought new opportunities for misinformation. I despise the deceptive terms “alternative news” and “alternative facts”; these are just really fancy euphemisms for what the rest of us call lies. (At least, in the sense these terms have been used by right-wingers since 2017.)

I get that, for example, there are people who were against the COVID-19 vaccine for whatever reasons. That doesn’t change the fact that widespread vaccination was our best shot (pun intended) of controlling the pandemic, and in the end that’s really what brought us to where we are now, where the pandemic is basically winding down and should be history by the end of this summer, just over two years later. (Finally!)

There is and always will be conflicting views in politics. I get that, and I’m not expecting that to change any time soon. What really does irk me, though,

As I understand it, the reason Mr Musk took over Twitter (including taking the company private) is because he does not like the way Twitter handled moderation. Now, in the recent past I’ve dealt with people who insist upon referring to censorship when any type of moderation (i.e. anything but 100% “hands off”) comes into play. The unfortunate reality is, complete lack of moderation is going to mean “raining crap” sooner or later.

At least as it stands now, Fediverse instances handle this rather well. Many instances filter out garbage such as racism, antisemitism, neo-Nazism, and other discriminatory filth. There’s also, for better or worse, a strong distaste for corporate involvement on the fediverse. It’s run by individuals, for individuals (though I am seeing the occasional commercial presence pop up now and then). The feel is completely different from what the fediverse people themselves refer to as “birdsite” (referencing Twitter’s logo/mascot) and similar names. Sponsored tweets interrupting the normal feed is now an integral part of the Twitter experience, so much so that it’s difficult to imagine the site didn’t have them at one time. Worse, secret algorithms influence whether or not one even gets to see a tweet. Paid promotion also factors in heavily as to whether or not one gets to see something.

It’s this latter thing (the pay-to-play that social media has become) that has perhaps bothered me the most. The whole draw of social media, in the beginning, was to be able to post and attract viewers/customers without having to spend money. That was circa 2008-2009. Now, sure, you can post for free, but rarely if ever is anyone going to see it unless they seek it out (and even then, often the algorithms do their best to hide items from non-paying posters).

Now, I didn’t realistically expect the free ride to last forever. Looking at it more holistically, there had to be less obnoxious ways of keeping the servers running and making a reasonable profit than what the current crop of “social media” sites has chosen. And I do use that term loosely. Given some of the way things have played out, it’s easy to make the case a more fitting term is “antisocial media.” (But that’s a whole ‘nother rabbit hole…)

I do look at the good side of it and realize the fediverse triggers a significant amount of my nostalgia for 2007 and earlier, even going back to my first forays onto the internet in the late 1990s. This was the point right before commercialization almost completely overran the original “spirit of the ‘net” as it was. (A shining example of this was when the original authors of the Internet Chess Server reacted to the new commercialization of the original as the Internet Chess Club by putting up a free-to-play alternative called the Free Internet Chess Server (FICS), which is still online today. Granted, even FICS has been slowly supplanted by Lichess, though there is still a sizeable crowd playing on the former.)

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. I have made the decision to at least temporarily not post new content to Twitter, including automatic announcement of blog posts. I announced this on Twitter itself right after the offer from Mr. Musk was approved, along with my Fediverse/Mastodon account information. The bad news is, the instance I am on, octodon.social, is currently invite-only. The good news is, you can join other instances. There is a list at joinmastodon.org as well as a wizard-like instance locator at instances.social.

I may or may not revisit what becomes of Twitter. It depends on whether we wind up with a dumpster fire, and if so, how many alarms.

ADMIN: miscellaneous odds and ends

For those of you still reading:

Yes, I do have posts in the pipeline. A lot of things have been going on, and honestly there has been more to talk about over on my other blog about (primarily) my pinball and video game adventures. That’s not to say I’m ignoring this blog. However I must acknowledge it is rather difficult to really get in the mood to do justice to some of the current subjects sitting in the draft queue. I’m looking back at some old posts, and I would like to return to that kind of form as I’m proud of a lot of them.

Also, I have ditched Disqus (the commenting system) on this blog, as of a few minutes ago. It probably won’t matter much, as nobody commented here past the first few years. It’s questionable that I had a really good reason to bother with an external commenting system to begin with. (The truth is I saw it on another blog, and decided I needed to “keep up with the Joneses”.) I don’t have anything against Disqus or IntenseDebate. I just don’t think they are a good fit for this blog anymore, especially given the lack of use.

Should it be necessary at some point in the future, this will ease the transition off of WordPress. Now, this is not to say I’m in a big huge hurry to dump WordPress (I am most definitely not). However, I have noticed a clear trend in WordPress. There was WordPress in late 2008, the easy-to-setup, easy-to-use blogging platform that I installed for this blog, and this thing they call WordPress now  (early 2022). They are really two completely different software releases. If one installs WordPress today they get the Gutenberg editor (block editor) and have to go install a plugin for the Classic Editor.

On this blog (actually, on that one, too), I’ve been using the Classic Editor. The WordPress development team may or may not keep supporting and maintaining the Classic Editor after this year. It will be relatively easy to convert this blog to use another platform if needed. Elsewhere, it’s a whole ‘nother ball game…

Anyway, going forward it’s my goal to try to make at least two posts per month here. Ideally I’d like to find time for at least one post per week but that may be a stretch.

The Neil Young Gambit Accepted: Spotify Variation

For those of you who have either missed the news or are catching up on this long after the controversy has cooled off, Neil Young pulled his music from Spotify after the latter refused to remove the show of  famous podcaster Joe Rogan. He was not the only artist to do so, but was perhaps the most visible. Quoting Wikipedia:

In January 2022, 270 scientists, physicians, professors, doctors, healthcare workers, veterinarians, a dentist, psychologists, physicians’ assistants, medical students, an engineer and a podcast host wrote an open letter to Spotify expressing concern over “false and societally harmful assertions” on The Joe Rogan Experience and asked Spotify to “establish a clear and public policy to moderate misinformation on its platform”. The 270 signatories objected to Rogan broadcasting COVID-19 misinformation, citing “a highly controversial” episode featuring guest Dr. Robert Malone (#1757). The episode has been criticized for “promoting baseless conspiracy theories”, including “an unfounded theory that societal leaders have ‘hypnotized’ the public.” The signatories further assert that “Dr. Malone is one of two recent JRE guests who has compared pandemic policies to the Holocaust. […]

On 26 January 2022, Neil Young removed his music from Spotify after they refused to remove the podcast.[291] Joni Mitchell subsequently removed her music in support of Young.[292][293] Other artists and podcasters, such as Nils Lofgren and Brené Brown, also announced a boycott of Spotify.[294][295]

There’s a delicate balance between the right to free speech and the responsibility for one’s words. This is particularly true when one is in a position to speak to a wide audience. Mr. Rogan would do well to recognize having a wide audience is a privilege. Spotify, too, has a responsibility to do the right thing. In the past, Google’s one-time mantra of “don’t be evil” has met its share of criticism when apparently ignoring that mantra, or at times, sticking to it in only a watered-down or half-a-loaf manner. In this case, I believe Spotify would do well to adopt this motto itself.

Until now, I’ve never been either for or against Joe Rogan. However, it troubles me that anyone who has the kind of a following that he does would knowingly invite people like Alex  Jones or Dr. Malone. I think it speaks volumes that Mr. Jones has been banned in some form (whether personally, his show, or his companies) from many different platforms: Some the platforms which have banned him are: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, PayPal, the Apple App Store, the Google Play Store, and Roku. You don’t piss off this many different companies without getting something way wrong.

And Mr. Rogan has no problem allowing Mr. Jones as a guest on his show. This is even after the latter has demonstrated a clear track record of supporting what are widely believed to be fringe conspiracy theories, going back at least as far as the 2001-09-11 terrorist attacks. (Yes, that’s now 20 years ago.) Similarly for Dr. Malone. He is unfortunately is using his status as a medical doctor to spread questionable, if not outright false, information about COVID-19 vaccines.

This is the kind of misinformation that literally kills people. The vast majority of the people who have died from COVID-19 have been unvaccinated for whatever reason. In most cases, these were entirely preventable deaths, making them all the more tragic.

I was a very sproadic Spotify user some time ago but have not used the service at all recently. I definitely will not miss Spotify should it disappear completely. In fact, if Spotify is going to take the side of the anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists, I would go as far as to say good riddance to bad rubbish.

Two days after the company pulled Neil Young’s music, Spotify’s stock price hit a 52-week low. It’s quite possible Spotify has checkmated itself, but only time will tell.

The 2022 Baseball Hall of Fame vote: Did the BBWAA get it right?

National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Cooperstown, NY. Via Wikimedia Commons, picture taken by Kenneth C. Zirkel, CC-SA 4.0

So the votes are in for the 2022 Baseball Hall of Fame, as reported by CBS Sports among many others. David Ortiz is in. Most of us Astros fans will know David Ortiz as the player turned sportscaster who famously opened a suitcase full of symbolic cash money this past World Series saying “pay the man”, referring to Carlos Correa’s upcoming contract expiration.

Roger Clemens, a very familiar name and face to Astros fans as he played for our team for three years (2004-2006), didn’t make the vote on his last year of eligibility, presumably because his name is in the Mitchell Report. Barry Bonds, who broke many MLB records during his time as a player, including most career home runs, most home runs in a single season, and most career walks, also didn’t get in during his final eligible year. Curt Schilling, remembered as much for the bloody sock as much as his great pitching, also failed to get the vote, and this was his final year of eligibility also.

The Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA), in snubbing Roger, Barry, and Curt, seems to be making a statement here. None of these players were ever disciplined by MLB for performance-enhancing drug (PED) use. But the mere suspicions and implications that these three players may used PEDs or otherwise furthered the use of PEDs by others is apparently enough to keep them out of the Hall of Fame, at least via the BBWAA vote. (Players who the BBWAA does not vote in while they are eligible, are still eligible for induction by a vote of the Today’s Game Committee.)

It’s a tricky subject. I despise cheating, in whatever form it may materialize. Yet it’s really hard to call a lot of the PED use cheating per se, when a lot of players used PEDs (including steroids) just to keep up and stay competitive. In 2022, yes, PED use is cheating. The current leadership of MLB has no tolerance for it. Players who get caught face a lengthy suspension even for a first offense (50 games). The suspensions only get longer for repeat offenders, as they should. Steroids in particular are dangerous, and it sends entirely the wrong messages to players as young as high-school age when the players in the big leagues use PEDs. I don’t want the kids feeling like they have to use drugs to win at baseball. One Ken Caminiti is one too many.

Is it still fair to judge players of the 1990s and early 2000s, prior to the Mitchell Report, by the same standards? Enforcement of any PED bans in place was very lax. Yes, there were a lot of “household names” in the Mitchell Report. The reality is, the records set by Barry Bonds haven’t been vacated.

Would Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Curt Schilling been great players even without PEDs? I think it’s more likely than not. Would they have been Hall of Fame caliber? Would they have made the Hall of Fame, all other things being equal, if there was no Mitchell Report and no PED scandal? I’m certain of it, at least at some point during their 10 year eligibility period for the BBWAA vote if not the first three years.

I’m not happy about the PED scandal that led to the Mitchell Report. I tuned out of baseball for a while because of it. We can’t forget about it, but we shouldn’t further penalize the players who were just doing what was normal at the time. By this logic, Burleigh Grimes and the other spitballers shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame, either. And I know that would outrage a lot of old-time baseball fans if that came to pass.