Baby, It’s All Right Now: In defense of the Stanford band

Stanford band plays in the stands during the Stanford vs. UCLA football game on October 1, 2011

Here’s your assignment: Make fun of Iowans.

That was Stanford band’s goal for the Rose Bowl. Just as Iowa’s football team’s was to win. Stanford’s band has had better performances and easier opponents, but they certainly accomplished their goal more than the Iowa football team did.

All of my Iowa friends are freaking out about their Rose Bowl halftime show, and I’m finding myself being the guy on social media explaining why I think something’s funny. That’s not fun.

Stanford band conductor as tusken raider; Stanford drumline
Tusken raider gaderffii > drum major mace; You might recognize this drummer from Jimmy Kimmel

A few disclosures
I graduated from and worked for the University of Iowa. I was rooting hard for the Hawkeyes yesterday. Yesterday someone asked me where I was from and I found myself saying “Iowa”. I explained I grew up in Cincinnati, but, for some time now, I’ve considered myself an Iowan. I did live in Palo Alto and was a photographer at Stanford. During that time, I told people I was from Iowa. They were probably pretty sick of me talking about how awesome Iowa was. I would talk about how much better our gamedays were than theirs. I was insufferable. I’m sure they just went back to their 72 degrees and baseball in February.

I also actually haven’t seen the full Stanford performance. I haven’t seen Iowa’s either. Part of it is because the reports I’ve read say ESPN cut away because of the content. I don’t really see proof that that is the case. I’m actually curious besides the Hawkeyes that made the trip if any of my other Hawkeye friends that are upset about it saw any more of the show than I did. Basically the gist I got was “They’re making fun of us because we’re farmers.” If anyone has a full video, I’d love to see it. Because unless they take a dump on a Grant Wood at the 50 yard line or something, I don’t really see where all the anger comes from.

UPDATE: I did find a script from the band’s Facebook page. Seems pretty tame.

“They’re not a good band”
While shooting, I spent a ton of time around the Stanford band. There are aspects that can be childish and annoying, but they are the best at it. I always appreciated the huge commitment they had to their job. As a band in the stands, I don’t know of many better ones. I would love to see a compiled catalog of what they play. It’s always pretty bleeding edge, especially for a format that is 100+ years old. They were the first band I’ve heard play “Black Skinhead” in the spots where other bands might play “Mars”. (They play that one though too.)

They are at all the events and do their main job really well: entertain.

Stanford band at the NCAA tennis tournament
Stanford band playing “All of the Lights” at the 2011 NCAA Tennis Tournament. This song was a single in November 2010 and they’re playing it in May 2011. When did Freddie Mercury die?

“Even Stanford fans were apologizing for them”
I saw this quite a bit at Stanford. I once saw a Stanford baseball player heckle the band as they went on the field at a football game. He was turning to those around him and saying, “We’re embarrassed by them. We don’t like them either.” So I guess the folks that are mad at the band can find solace in that. Even Stanford hates them.

But when that baseball player is back at a game 10 years after graduating and hears “All Right Now” played after a touchdown, he’ll probably get goosebumps.

“Iowa fans booed them off the field”
First, unless they stopped their show halfway through, that’s not totally true. I’m sure they did boo them as they went off the field. And while they were on the field.

A few of my friends who were complaining about this are big pro wrestling fans. The Stanford band is playing the role of the heel. They were doing their job and Iowa fans were doing theirs: booing them. That’s awesome. That’s what makes it fun. I’ve always appreciated that guy who goes into pro wrestling and takes on that role. It’s easier to be the hero. It’s easier to just play “Bohemian Rhapsody” for the 100th time.

Stanford tree and the Dollies before the UCLA football game
They know their tree is ugly. No need to point it out.

“Let’s sic the Iowa Nice Guy on them”
Scott Seipker does a fantastic job of setting the record straight in a not-your-usual Iowan way. He’s normally targeting reporters or politicians who are just missing the mark but a comedian arguing against comedy is a little different. Yeah “they’re all farmers” is a stereotype. I’ll admit it’s a pretty lazy one. But Stanford’s band works in stereotypes the way other artists might work in oils or clay.

It seems kind of weird to be upset about that though. Aren’t there a ton of farmers in Iowa? Aren’t Iowans like really really proud of that? So much so that we somehow get past NCAA rules to post a political statement on our helmets every game.

“We were already losing 35-0”
This is why most people are upset. At this point in the game, we were getting our asses handed to us. It may not have looked like it, but the band planned this show weeks in advance. I was really hoping they’d call an audible and come out and make a “35-0” formation. Maybe even dig into the Iowa band playbook and play a Journey medley. Or go edgy and play Michael Jackson. But they certainly weren’t going to say, “You know what these poor people traveled across the country to see at least one point scored and they aren’t getting it. Let’s go easy on them.” It would have been sadder if they felt sorry for us.

The band cheers a Stanford touchdown against UCLA
Look at how much fun they’re having winning football games

“Respect the Rose Bowl”
I’ve also seen a bunch of words that 60 year old Republicans use like “tradition” and “class” and “respect”. That’s what ends up offending me more. It’s a football game that we are watching for entertainment. We’re not going to get any points for having the least amount of fun.

Some of my baseball pictures get the Ken Burns treatment

There’s no “Ashokan Farewell” here but my buddy Bud from Stanford and the Buck Cardinal Clubhouse put together an interview/video piece about Stanford’s baseball coach Mark Marquess. I enjoyed watching the video since I’m a huge “Nine” fan but it was also nice to see some of my shots mixed in with some great archive shots too.

Mine are a lot of the modern color photos. There are some huddle shots that aren’t mine that I wish were. I believe those are by Kyle Terada.


It’s been a while since posts. I keep thinking I’ll catch up but I figured instead of thinking about past posts I’ll start posting new stuff as it comes up. Maybe you’ll get that old stuff. Maybe you won’t. I’m sure you aren’t too worried either way.

Newsflash

If you’re coming to me for your news, then you have problems but there were a couple of Stanford/sports/Zach related things today.

David Chung of the Stanford Cardinal men's golf team tees off during a practice round for the Gifford Collegiate Championship at CordeValle. Chung played two rounds at the Masters as an amateur and shot four over in total.
David Chung of the Stanford Cardinal men's golf team tees off during a practice round for the Gifford Collegiate Championship at CordeValle. Chung played two rounds at the Masters as an amateur and shot four over in total.

David Chung of Stanford shot an opening round par at the Masters as an amateur today. I’ve shot David before during a practice run at CordeValle. I am not a golfer but definitely enjoyed shooting it. I hope he enjoyed his run. I would have enjoyed shooting it. Today he shot four over so it looks like he won’t be making the cut. Good two rounds for an amateur at the Masters though.

Stanford and Cal stand at attention as the National Anthem is sung during their first game against each other of the 2011 season. Cal baseball has been reinstated after fundraising efforts.
Stanford and Cal stand at attention as the National Anthem is sung during their first game against each other of the 2011 season. Cal baseball has been reinstated after fundraising efforts.

Also, the back and forth of California baseball has a new resolution. They are being reinstated thanks to fundraising efforts. Stanford still has their conference games against Cal but I did get to see them play a “non-conference” game against Cal at home. It’s good to see a school with such a strong baseball tradition keep going.

Senior Games Rugby

Saturday morning I went over to join John at the Senior Games held at Stanford.

A rugby player smiles as he heads to the ground during the Senior Games at Stanford.
A rugby player smiles as he heads to the ground during the Senior Games at Stanford.

We had talked about kicking off ISI Workshops with a workshop at the Senior Games but luckily we did not make that happen because the weekend was very rainy and would have made it miserable for the workshop participants.

A Senior Games rugby player chases a loose ball.
A Senior Games rugby player chases a loose ball.

The rain did make for an awesome atmosphere for rugby. But this wasn’t just any old rugby. It was older rugby.

At the Senior Games rugby, even the waterboys have beards.
At the Senior Games rugby, even the waterboys have beards.

I didn’t spend a lot of time on the field but I definitely enjoyed my time there. When I first showed up, I stood on the sideline and talked to a few of the guys. One guy asked with a chuckle, “Documenting the ancient?” He told me that his team was made up of old rugby buddies who played together in law school and hadn’t played together in twenty years. I think other teams were more regularly organized.

A rugby player laughs and teases his fellow players from the sideline.
A rugby player laughs and teases his fellow players from the sideline.

Any other time I’d try to avoid commenting on the mental state of the athletes, but this time I think even the participants would agree, they’re crazy. These guys went all out. I saw guys get dragged across the pitch, get crushed by four or five other dudes and wince in pain.

A rugby player is dragged by an opponent at the Senior Games at Stanford.
A rugby player is dragged by an opponent at the Senior Games at Stanford.

Eventually and sadly, the craziness had to stop. One player went down hard enough that the paramedics had to come. You could tell all the players felt for their fellow rugger. They all stuck around to see him through and to continue to rag on each other like they did all game.

Rugby players stand around during an injury at the Senior Games.
Rugby players stand around during an injury at the Senior Games.

Stanford Baseball vs. Long Beach State

Friday night Stanford baseball was back on their normal weekend series schedule. This time Long Beach State was in town. Unfortunately the first game went to the Dirtbags, 6-3.

Zach Jones and Mark Appel of Stanford baseball stand at attention with kids during the singing of the National Anthem before Stanford's game against Long Beach State at Sunken Diamond. Stanford lost 6-3.
Zach Jones and Mark Appel of Stanford baseball stand at attention with kids during the singing of the National Anthem before Stanford's game against Long Beach State at Sunken Diamond. Stanford lost 6-3.

In this case, Dirtbags isn’t a derogatory term. Although the rest of Long Beach’s teams go by the 49ers, the baseball team goes by the Dirtbags. The first time I heard it was from the public address announcer. It was my first time seeing this guy behind the mic and when he said that, he said it with a grin. I seriously thought he was taking poetic license because he had some past relationship with the school or something.

The Stanford baseball team encourages their pitcher, Mark Appel, from the dugout.
The Stanford baseball team encourages their pitcher, Mark Appel, from the dugout.

Mark Appel was on the mound and allowed 6 runs after four innings which was enough for Long Beach State.

Mark Appel of Stanford baseball looks to first during Stanford's game against Long Beach State at Sunken Diamond.
Mark Appel of Stanford baseball looks to first during Stanford's game against Long Beach State at Sunken Diamond.

I’ve been trying out some different positions lately. One of the positions was from the TV camera stand behind the centerfield wall. When I was out there I saw a crazy play. I caught it on camera but nothing visually spectacular from my angle. Stanford’s leftfielder Tyler Gaffney plays pretty balls out. That might be attributed to the fact that he’s a runningback on the football team for Stanford too. There was a deep foul ball heading toward the bullpen and Gaffney tried to chase it down. He ran at the bullpen with a full sprint. The other night I saw the opposing team’s rightfielder run straight into the bullpen fence without stopping. He was down for quite a while. Gaffney ran without stopping too but instead he hurdled the fence at the last minute. It was a straight up track hurdle. Unnecessary but impressive.

Kenny Diekroeger was out for the game so Eric Smith stepped in at short. This was a chance to get some fielding shots of him since he doesn’t start very many games.

Eric Smith of Stanford baseball tags out a potential base stealer during Stanford's game against Long Beach State.
Eric Smith of Stanford baseball tags out a potential base stealer during Stanford's game against Long Beach State.

Visit StanfordPhoto.com to see the rest of my images from the game.

Up and down on verticals

Since Wednesday’s game at Pacific was canceled, I thought I’d dump this little internal back and forth I’ve been having on here.

When I first started focusing on being better at taking photos a while ago, I thought a very novel idea was turning your camera sideways. I felt like a lot of casual camera users tend to shoot wide only. The revelation became a sort of crutch though. It was easy to make a shot, especially of a person, look better or more professional by just going tall on the image. This was the way I felt until I really started to work with John and Stanford Photo. I started looking back at the challenge of making a good wide shot. At a late night hangout with some photo buddies, I made a proclamation like each of these steps was some sort of evolution. Like verticals were all of a sudden amateur again just because I moved past them. I immediately recognized the arrogance and started questioning my opinion. Now I’m starting to embrace a good vertical now. Especially with baseball, you know, most baseball cards are verticals.

Dean McArdle of Stanford baseball waits to pitch during Stanford's game against Santa Clara University at Sunken Diamond. Stanford won 9-1. Kenny Diekroeger (fuzzy) and Tyler Gaffney (fuzziest) wait on field in the background. This along with the image of Eric Smith waiting off field in a scrimmage helped me come back around to the vertical.
Dean McArdle of Stanford baseball waits to pitch during Stanford's game against Santa Clara University at Sunken Diamond. Stanford won 9-1. Kenny Diekroeger (fuzzy) and Tyler Gaffney (fuzziest) wait on field in the background. This along with the image of Eric Smith waiting off field in a scrimmage helped me come back around to the vertical.

I still feel I rely on verticals too much when a good wide shot can be had, especially since wide images seem to be more in demand with the way my images are being used on screen. But at least now, I’m learning to embrace both orientations, so long as it’s a good one.

Stanford baseball vs. Santa Clara II

Tuesday night Stanford baseball was able to fit another game in. This time it was an added game against Santa Clara. Due to the Michigan series getting canceled for weather, Stanford added another game with a local team.

Kenny Diekroeger of Stanford baseball throws to first after fielding a grounder during Stanford's game against Santa Clara University at Sunken Diamond.
Kenny Diekroeger of Stanford baseball throws to first after fielding a grounder during Stanford's game against Santa Clara University at Sunken Diamond.

They scheduled an afternoon game which made for some good light.

Austin Wilson of Stanford baseball watches the ball go into the outfield after safely stealing second during Stanford's game against Santa Clara University at Sunken Diamond. Stanford won 9-1.
Austin Wilson of Stanford baseball watches the ball go into the outfield after safely stealing second during Stanford's game against Santa Clara University at Sunken Diamond. Stanford won 9-1.

The first basemen Brian Ragira had a heck of a day offensively. He started out with a triple, then had another extra base hit in his second at-bat with a double, then he had a smooth swinging home run to leftfield. So with a the extra base hits under his belt, everybody was whispering “cycle” when he came up to bat. Sure enough he hit a blooper over first base, completing the cycle in four at bats by the sixth inning. Pretty impressive. To top it off he got on in his next at bat with an infield single.

Austin Wilson congratulates Brian Ragira on his home run during Stanford's game against Santa Clara University. Ragira hit for the cycle.
Austin Wilson congratulates Brian Ragira on his home run during Stanford's game against Santa Clara University. Ragira hit for the cycle.

This was my first time getting to see regular Sunday starter Dean McArdle pitch at home. I of course am rooting for the entire Stanford team, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a special place in my memory card for Iowa’s own. McArdle is from Council Bluffs. I made sure to get a nice all-American shot of him during the Anthem.

Zach Jones and Dean McArdle stand at attention for the National Anthem before Stanford's game against Santa Clara.
Zach Jones and Dean McArdle stand at attention for the National Anthem before Stanford's game against Santa Clara.

Stanford ended up winning the game 9-1.

Zach Jones of Stanford baseball stands at second during a break in action for an injury during Stanford's game against Santa Clara. Santa Clara's rightfielder went over the bullpen fence chasing a foul ball.
Zach Jones of Stanford baseball stands at second during a break in action for an injury during Stanford's game against Santa Clara. Santa Clara's rightfielder went over the bullpen fence chasing a foul ball.

Visit StanfordPhoto.com for more photos from the game.

Stanford baseball vs. UC Davis

After some major rainouts, Stanford was able to squeeze a baseball game in on Monday. What was originally scheduled as an away game, Stanford ended up playing UC Davis at home due to wetter fields in Davis.

Ben Clowe slides safely into third base during Stanford's game against UC Davis at Sunken Diamond. Stanford won 3-2.
Ben Clowe slides safely into third base during Stanford's game against UC Davis at Sunken Diamond. Stanford won 3-2.

It seems like it’s been raining forever here but I walked out to sun with some really cool clouds. I was excited to shoot after we gained an hour of daylight a couple weekends back. Throw in some awesome clouds and I was psyched.

The rare cloud sighting occurs over Sunken Diamond as the Stanford baseball team warms up prior to the start of their game against UC Davis.
The rare cloud sighting occurs over Sunken Diamond as the Stanford baseball team warms up prior to the start of their game against UC Davis.

I didn’t have the 400mm for a bit because I was sharing time on the lens with another photographer, Rick, who was covering the softball game. So I took some time wandering around and trying out some different things. That’s something I look forward to more and more as I get more stock-type stuff in the can. I’d like to try more extreme viewpoints or sit on specific shots.

Chris Reed warms up in the bullpen during Stanford's game against UC Davis. Reed earned the save after pitching in two scoreless innings.
Chris Reed warms up in the bullpen during Stanford's game against UC Davis. Reed earned the save after pitching in two scoreless innings.

It was a pretty low scoring game and not a ton of offensive highlights except for Tyler Gaffney’s two run home run. He always runs hard out of the box and I was focusing on his run that I didn’t even know it was a home run until he was rounding first more slowly. Being a rescheduled game, there weren’t a ton of fans there to scream and let me know it was clearing the leftfield wall.

Jordan Pries pitches during Stanford's game against UC Davis.
Jordan Pries pitches during Stanford's game against UC Davis.

The extra light was nice to have and as always the practice of shooting another game is nice. Since this was a last minute change, there were few fans there and even fewer event management folks. This helped boost my confidence in going places that may normally obstruct fans or draw the attention of a person in a red jacket. I’m really getting the hang of the stadium and of what to try to expect when covering baseball. I know there’s a ton more I can learn, so it’s good there’s another game tomorrow.

First basemen Brian Ragira and pitcher Mark Appel run off the field after the end of the second inning during Stanford's game against UC Davis.
First basemen Brian Ragira and pitcher Mark Appel run off the field after the end of the second inning during Stanford's game against UC Davis.

As always, more photos from the game on StanfordPhoto.com.

Basement Baseball

I am not a sabermetrician. Not because I don’t “believe” in it but because I’m not really smart enough/dedicated to try to understand it. I have read Baseball Between the Numbers and Moneyball (even though that’s not really a book that teaches sabermetrics), so I get the concept and that some of the old ways of analyzing baseball aren’t really accurate. An easy one to prove is wins for a pitcher. Look at last year’s Cy Young winner.

Despite my sabermetric inadequacies, I do have a friend who gets it and I regularly follow some of his favorite writers, namely Rob Neyer and Joe Posnanski. The latter I do not follow as closely because he is the king of long-form posts. Kind of funny since I’m kind of the prince of verbosity. Willing to write tons of pages about myself but not willing to read any others. Probably says something about me and about why I don’t have a ton of regular followers.

One of the Joe Posnanski posts I managed to break down and read entirely was this one. It’s an interesting post that begins by mocking a writer who used the typical “mom’s basement” term to demean some nerd who understands things a lot better than him. Posnanski goes on to talk about the great games that took place in his mom’s basement when he was a kid. Fun to read about but mostly it reminded me of the games I played with my brothers. Games I hadn’t thought about in a while.

There was one game that I played with both my brothers and, many times, visiting cousins or neighbor kids. We called it Basement Baseball. I think you can kind of understand the premise just from the title, but there were some interesting quirks about the game. First, our basement had those high up basement windows that let enough light in just to remind you that it was daylight out and you were in your basement playing Sega. Because I had actually broken one once and had to pay for it, we made sure to use balls that wouldn’t break the windows. These came in the form of those cheap plush mini balls you get in a random kids’ meal. Ours came from White Castle. Funny, because I never recall actually eating White Castle as a kid.

Historians never documented basement baseball. This photo of Tyler and I hanging out in another basement will have to suffice. Tyler is the one wearing a raquetball racket cover on his head. I was busy writing and had no time for such foolish actions.
Historians never documented basement baseball. This photo of Tyler and I hanging out in another basement will have to suffice. Tyler is the one wearing a raquetball racket cover on his head. I was busy writing and had no time for such foolish actions.

Also in the confined quarters of a basement, a regular bat would not work. If you swung it, you might end up bopping the person in the ondeck circle (the bottom of the stairs). So we had to improvise. Our family was way ahead of the recycling curve. Back before there was home pickup of recycling, we used to store our recycling in bins under the basement stairs until the stairs were overflowing and then we’d load up the Ford Ranger (probably sitting four across the front, with the stick shift between one of the boys’ legs) and take it out to Clermont County on our way to the garden and recycle it. I would like to say it was because we were an environmentally concerned clan, but I have my suspicions that it was more a way of keeping from paying for more garbage bins per week. So with a bin full of two liters and Sunny Delight bottles under the steps, we had our pick of Eastons and Louisville Sluggers.

Each “bat” had its own specific qualities. Lotsa Red Pop had a cheaper, thinner plastic. I think this helped envelop the ball and direct it down the third base line better. Big K Sparkling Punch was a tighter plastic and the ball kind of popped off of it. Plus as an added bonus, you were using a pink bat that smelled like strawberry chemicals. My personal favorite was Sunny D. We used it sparingly for some reason. I think we liked to police ourselves and not get too much of an advantage. The ball seemed to go farther off of it. I’m not a physics teacher but I think it had something to do with the size of the gallon bat. It also made the most satisfying “whoomp” noise when you caught the meat of the bat. Gallon milk jugs were the occasional failed experiment due to their lack of a neck and a round body.

The writer taking his basement technique to the backyard. Check out those leg muscles powering through the foul tip.
The writer taking his basement technique to the backyard. Check out those leg muscles powering through the foul tip.

But the bats weren’t the only unique element these little Doubledays came up with. We also had a strange playing field. Our basement was unfinished for many years and right in the center of the open space was a metal pole. It was clearly an important support for the house but it was a very unfortunate part of Sanderson Field. But as kids with limited construction budgets we made do. In fact it was just a little off center in the basement to the point that we could make it our third base and foul pole. To the right side we had a cement wall where we positioned first base across from the pole. Second base was against the adjacent wall which also doubled as our centerfield and outfield fence. Both first and second were represented by large pillows. I don’t remember the exact rules about fouls and homeruns. I believe if you managed to get the ball up in the windowsill, that was a homerun. Also walls were in play. So there was a lot of strategy to ricochet shots. In fact one method of attack was to get the ball to bounce back into what is normally foul territory. Sometimes if you were lucky the ball could end up buried in the dirty clothes or get stuck behind the toybox in the back corner.

With limited players we of course had ghost runners. Also with limited players we had ghost defense. Instead of forcing an out at first you just threw the ball at the wall. If it beat the runner, the runner was out. But in tag situations, you didn’t even have to tag the runner. You could just bean the runner with the ball so long as they were off the bag. We called these “soakies”. I have no idea about the etymology on that word and as a kid thought it was a universal term. I think this rule benefited my older brother Justin the most because he had an excuse to wing a plush ball at his little brothers without getting into trouble.

The three inventors of Basement Baseball before their moment of genius. I think Justin's jambox as well as the Little Tikes Coupe spent some time in the basement on Heatherglen.
The three inventors of Basement Baseball before their moment of genius. I think Justin's jambox as well as the Little Tikes Coupe spent some time in the basement on Heatherglen.

Justin is seven years older than me and nine older than Tyler. At ~14 he was basically an adult to us, so he was required to play the game from his knees. I imagine if he played on his feet he would be able to get from home to first in two strides. I think when Dad participated he played from his knees too. Dad was also pretty good at runner interference. He would reach out his giant adult man arms and just pull you in as you rounded first until Justin found the ball and pegged you with it.

We played Basement Baseball enough that everything was pretty well established including placement of pillows and usage of bats. I think we played long enough that I was eventually big enough to have to play from my knees. It was an awesome game that ended in a lot of stubbed toes or scraped elbows. Then we refinished the basement and created a whole bunch of new memories there. Like windowsill slam dunk contests and knee races around the pool table.

I’ll have to use another post to tell you about another invented game Tyler and I played: Bookseeds (or two man baseball). With preemptive apologies to the Nagys’ lawn.

Stanford rainouts

There have been several instances of rainouts lately for Stanford baseball. The entire series with Michigan this weekend was rained out. To the point, Michigan didn’t even bother coming out. Good thing they didn’t because it was pouring Friday and Saturday. This was a huge bummer to me because not only did it mean less baseball, it meant my gig covering the Michigan team for Michigan was rained out and it would have been my first real day game of the season.

The only positive I saw out of it was Niall, the baseball media director used one of my off-field photos. He uses my photos all the time for the GoStanford website but I like how he used an image that probably wouldn’t see a lot of gametime otherwise to tell the story. I’m sharing the image here but the caption is borrowed from Niall’s description.

Eric Smith and the Cardinal will have to wait til Monday to return to action.
Eric Smith and the Cardinal will have to wait til Monday to return to action.