Adam Reger | Freelance Writer

Pittsburgh-based freelance writer

Tag: Slate

I am minimally famous, Part II

A few weeks ago I was elated to have won the trivia contest of Slate‘s “Hang up and Listen” podcast. Well, everyone: I did it again.

What’s more, I got some pretty good props, again, from the panelists. My name got spelled out, albeit in support of the same incorrect pronunciation, and they called attention to the fact that I’d won a few weeks prior. (The really satisfying part was when the moderator, Slate editor Josh Levine, cited “HuaL”‘s reigning trivia champ, Carmen Tse, and said that he was probably hearing footsteps. It’s far too soon for me to say any such thing, but I appreciate the suggestion.)

Most gratifying, they gave me a shout-out by correcting the record: as I asserted at the time, I am not a furry. Mike Pesca said that I was beating up a furry in my Facebook photo, which is loosely true (I am ripping the detachable tail off a furry dressed as a gecko). But still. The vindication is sweet, so sweet.

Oh, and here was the trivia question: “During the first half of the 1980s, in major league baseball two players were in the top 10 repeatedly in a major offensive category. These two players have the same name (first and last), with only two letters being different.”

I’m paraphrasing; it was a somewhat confusingly worded question, and I got quite turned around in what it meant that two letters were different (e.g., “If I take all the letters in ‘Tony Armas,’ is that within two letters of ‘Mike Schmidt’?”). But after sifting through lots and lots of baseball stats for the years 1980–1985, what I came up with was this: in steals, Willie Wilson of the Kansas City Royals and William “Mookie” Wilson of the Chicago Cubs showed up on the same list at least once. (They may also have shown up on the triples list, but that seems less of a “major” offensive category.)

A friend asked, after the first trivia win, if I was going to try to be a repeat champ. I said I didn’t think so, that that Dustin Hoffman-themed question seemed like a one-off and, really, the only kind of trivia question I was likely to get. Winning this time has opened the possibility that I can compete when the questions are weird, and more conducive to someone getting obsessed with the question and pursuing it for an hour or two at a time than someone just having lots of sports knowledge. If there are any more of those, maybe I’ve got a chance at future wins.

More Sports (Pan-Pennsylvanian Edition)

Two sports-related posts within a single (sports-related) post!

As a kind of follow-up to this post, on the woeful Pittsburgh Pirates, some recent stuff in the news about the team and, especially, the reasons for its awfulness:

A Slate article asking the question, “Should the Pirates Spend Money to Win Ballgames?” and looking at the ins and outs of how they’d even go about doing that. Fascinating tidbit:

“Sabermetricians . . . have figured out ways to determine how much an individual player’s performance contributes to his team’s victories. Correlating those performance metrics to actual market prices for free agents shows that it costs management something like $5 million to purchase each additional win. (For example, by signing a $10-million-quality free agent, a team might improve its record by two games.)”

It does present more of an obvious dilemma for the Pirates’ ownership, as well as casting attention back on the greater disparities among large- and small-market teams within MLB.

Then again, if you’re feeling overly sympathetic, you might look back to the revelations that provided the impetus for the Slate article: leaked financial documents showing that the Pirates, among several other teams (most egregiously the Florida Marlins), made bank despite being among the worst-performing teams.

Moving over to football, I should say by way of preface that there’s only one professional team whose doings I give a fig about: the Philadelphia Eagles. The much-maligned, long-suffering, beleaguered Eagles.

Yet also the perennially in-contention Eagles. It’s true that, at this time of year, hope springs eternal for all 32 teams. Hope seems to be springing a bit too forcefully for the Eagles, by my estimation of their chances this year. Having dealt Donovan McNabb in favor of back-up and heir apparent Kevin Kolb, they’ve been tabbed by many to go through a rebuilding phase this year. I mostly agree with that: I have them finishing in the 8-8 or 9-7 range, and think it’s more likely they’ll finish a game or two below that than above it. And to that I say: That’s life. It’s rare that any team can rebuild on the fly, and still maintain—in spite of what I’ve just said—the chance to surprise people and remain a playoff contender.

That said, I’ve been cheered by reports like this ESPN profile and this Peter King column item that say Kevin Kolb is the real deal. I love that he’s getting this kind of praise, and that by all accounts it’s coming from inside the locker room. But I’ve periodically felt the need to throw cold water on myself, because buying into this sort of sports reportage feels like a shortcut to some kind of jinx: there’ve been so, so many big-money rookies and (as with Kolb, third-year) heirs apparent who’ve been similarly pumped up and anointed, only to fail dramatically or quietly, but in the end to fail, and to slump away into obscurity. Philadelphia, certainly, has had no shortage: Shawn Bradley and Mike Mamula are the first names that come to mind.

I don’t expect failure from Kolb. It’s just that, on the hype versus realistic-attainable-results spectrum, I don’t want to raise my hopes quite so high, at least not yet.

With that said . . .

E-A-G-L-E-S Eagles!!

I am minimally famous

. . . for having won last week’s “Hang up and Listen” (a sports-themed podcast done by Slate writers and editors) trivia contest. I was all aflutter over it late last week, after posting (what I and others believed to be) the correct answer on the HuaL Facebook page. I simmered down over the weekend, but felt a surge of pride and embarrassment at just now hearing my name read out on the podcast. I briefly considered writing to prompt them on the pronunciation of my name (which is Reger as in beggar; unfortunately I haven’t been able to think of a better illustrative rhyme) but didn’t and am glad, because although they got it wrong (Reger as in eager) I find I don’t mind so much.

For posterity, here’s the trivia question: “What do Sparky Anderson, Shawn Kemp, and Dick McGuire have in common?”

My winning answer: “All have nicknames that are Dustin Hoffman character names: ‘Captain Hook’ (Anderson), ‘Reign [Rain] Man’ (Kemp), and ‘Mumbles’ [from Dick Tracy–nice] (McGuire).”

Josh Levin, Slate‘s sports editor and host of the podcast, rightly complimented Mike Pesca, the trivia guru, for an inventive and difficult question. Pesca said that he thought this was his favorite question so far, and I definitely agree.

Update: Perhaps I spoke too soon in my fawning, appreciative remarks about the shout-out I received during the podcast: during the end (or “Cocktail Chatter” or, in this one, “Riggins’s Rigs”) segment, Pesca mentions being impressed by my getting the trivia answer (good), then checking out my Facebook page (worrying), and concludes that I am a furrie (bad, very bad).

He uses this to springboard into a funny, non-Adam-related bit, but still. Let me correct the record right now. Thinking I am a furrie is understandable, given that my photo has me at Anthrocon, grasping the detachable tail of a giant gecko. But readers will note that I am dressed as an ordinary citizen, and for good reason: I am one. To reiterate: I AM NOT A FURRIE.

Thank you for your time.

Later Update: It occurred to me that Mike Pesca’s explanation of how he came up with this trivia question is noteworthy for an extra reason, which is that, by apparent coincidence, he came to the topic of Dustin Hoffman character names a week before the man’s birthday. More synchronicitously, this meant that the podcast appeared the day after Hoffman’s birthday (which is August 8). I saw that while running down the answer: I came to Dustin Hoffman’s Wikipedia page to confirm the names of his characters, and noticed the birth date. “Clever, clever Mr. Pesca,” I thought at the time. Apparently, though, it was mostly dumb luck. Go figure.

Favre isn’t over, no matter how much you or I may want it

Following, inevitably, off this post and its naive tone of finality, I and every other media outlet was duped by the Brett Favre retirement announcement. It doesn’t take heavy psycho- or media analysis to figure out why: when a good friend says she might leave your party, you inveigle, cajole, persuade her to stay just a little longer; when a jerk says he may leave, you slap your thighs, stand up, and say it was great to see him and here’s his coat. Re: Brett Favre’s retirement, this classic dorm-room poster said it best.

If someone with no interest or background in American sports, and professional football specifically, were to read this, he or she would quite reasonably wonder, whither all the bitterness and schadenfreude? It’s one of those deals where the answer is long and convoluted, if you wanted to really convey the worst of this affair, which—for my money—is the long, drawn-out nature of it; it’s not only lasted through the entire off-season, it’s happened the last three+ seasons.

Now, just in time, there’s an interactive graph that illustrates the absurdity. Via Slate, three years worth of waffling