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Saturday, June 30, 2012

John Thorn: Nerd Is the Word

“John Thorn’s wonderful and inspiring keynote speech delivered at SABR 42…”

SABR has been great for me, for its members, and for the game … but now I think it is poised to be even better. The “New SABR”—in its new location, with new leadership, a new digital publishing program, and a new initiative of sponsored conferences—has been embraced halfheartedly by many longtime members. They liked the “Old SABR” just fine the way it was, and have opined, in effect, that if a thing ain’t broke, why fix it? Given the troubling demographic trends of our membership, the question confronting the Society appears to be whether we may continue to enjoy it as we always have—in my case for thirty-two years—or whether we ought to do some “estate planning,” to leave something of enduring value to those who follow.

I have long described SABR as baseball’s best-kept secret. That was once a compliment but became a problem. I believe that SABR’s leadership, in a moment of crisis, has seized an opportunity to promote the Society’s work before a broad fanbase, and to raise awareness of the broad benefits to baseball of historical study and statistical analysis. Set aside for the moment whether—as a byproduct of, for example, SABR’s newly announced relationship with Major League Baseball Advanced Media—membership increases, remains stable, or marginally declines. Set aside whether the new readers SABR gains at will be researchers or, more likely, consumers, unconcerned with how the sausage was made. Writers ought to want readers, and more of them rather than fewer.

Will the New SABR have to change its focus? Will those who loved the Old SABR be cast out of the revamped organization, at the hands of some death panel? I would like to suggest that the new opportunities to extend our message and to enhance our value require the very traits that have permitted SABR to continue into a fifth decade. We are nerds, you and I. We endure the predictable slings and arrows on the whole cheerfully, not only because we know who we are but also because we live in the age of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and other nerds for whom data, when shared, become life’s most rewarding currency.

Repoz Posted: June 30, 2012 at 07:33 AM | 29 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: sabr

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. McCoy Posted: June 30, 2012 at 10:23 AM (#4170015)
Be warned people. I might actually attend the Philly convention next year.
   2. Foghorn Leghorn Posted: June 30, 2012 at 10:37 AM (#4170018)
I am missing this years. Next year in Philly is a slam dunk.
   3. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq. Posted: June 30, 2012 at 10:46 AM (#4170022)
If any of you nerds wants to indulge in my other nerdery next year the day before the convention, Gettysburg is only about 2½ hours from Philly.
   4. RobertMachemer Posted: June 30, 2012 at 11:04 AM (#4170028)
Other nerdery? Like playing the Game of Thrones Board Game or what?
   5. Steve Treder Posted: June 30, 2012 at 11:08 AM (#4170029)
Yeah, we're missing you, Chris.
   6. McCoy Posted: June 30, 2012 at 11:26 AM (#4170035)
There isn't a GoT card game?
   7. Bruce Markusen Posted: June 30, 2012 at 01:50 PM (#4170071)
Put me down for next year in Philly!
   8. Steve Treder Posted: June 30, 2012 at 02:27 PM (#4170083)
See you there, Bruce!
   9. Bruce Markusen Posted: June 30, 2012 at 03:06 PM (#4170103)
So, how are things going in Minny, Steve? Who's done the best presentation?
   10. Srul Itza Posted: June 30, 2012 at 03:34 PM (#4170116)
Yeah, we're missing you, Chris.

Foghorn Leghorn = ??
   11. Shock Posted: June 30, 2012 at 03:36 PM (#4170117)
   12. Steve Treder Posted: June 30, 2012 at 03:52 PM (#4170124)
A SABR convention without Dial is really not quite the same. Though I am getting a lot more sleep.

So, how are things going in Minny, Steve? Who's done the best presentation?

You mean besides mine? ;-p

Giacalone delivered a great one on the complex intertwined dynamics of the franchise relocations and expansion in the late 1960s. But probably the best I've seen so far was from Mark Armour on the rise and fall of artificial turf in MLB. He concisely tied together multiple threads, including the overlap between MLB and the NFL in the multipurpose stadia of the 1960s/70s, and the economic, technological, and aesthetic issues. It was excellent content, entertainingly delivered.

Last evening we had a highly enjoyable time at the ballgame at Target Field. It's a wonderful park, very comfortable, reminds me a lot of Petco Park in San Diego.

Following the game we ambled back to our hotel, just down the street from the ballpark, and retired to the bar for a nightcap. There several of us noticed some hightly attractive young ladies hanging around -- not exactly your typical SABR groupies. Then someone figured it out: those young men over there are Kansas City Royals players. They're staying at this hotel too.

   13. Steve Treder Posted: June 30, 2012 at 03:58 PM (#4170128)
Oh, and Armour figured out a way to work in not one, but two Brady Bunch slides into his Powerpoint deck. That's worth extra credit points right there.
   14. Forsch 10 From Navarone (Dayn) Posted: June 30, 2012 at 04:30 PM (#4170151)
I'm definitely going to try to make next year's.
   15. AndrewJ Posted: June 30, 2012 at 04:35 PM (#4170156)
I was at a planning meeting for the Philly convention last weekend. I'll probably be a volunteer for it. Hope to see everybody there.
   16. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: June 30, 2012 at 04:44 PM (#4170163)
Philly? I think I can convince my wife on that one.
   17. McCoy Posted: June 30, 2012 at 04:45 PM (#4170165)
Which hotel is it going to be at in Philly? Anyone know?
   18. AndrewJ Posted: June 30, 2012 at 05:20 PM (#4170189)
They've narrowed the hotel choices to four, all in Center City.
   19. base ball chick Posted: June 30, 2012 at 05:40 PM (#4170203)
just out of curiosity, how many female SABR members are there? I know there are a few actual female members

   20. McCoy Posted: June 30, 2012 at 05:42 PM (#4170204)
They've narrowed the hotel choices to four, all in Center City

Which ones? I've either worked for them or know them pretty well.
   21. AndrewJ Posted: June 30, 2012 at 05:52 PM (#4170209)
I don't remember. I can say that Friends Select School at 16th and Ben Franklin Parkway will host the presentations.
   22. McCoy Posted: June 30, 2012 at 06:09 PM (#4170217)
That's kind of weird. I used to work on 17th and Sansom. Fun little area.
   23. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: June 30, 2012 at 07:34 PM (#4170245)
I can say that Friends Select School at 16th and Ben Franklin Parkway will host the presentations.

Embassy Suites, Four Seasons, and I think a Wyndham are right near by. I'll be there for my first.
   24. King Berenger Posted: July 01, 2012 at 02:26 PM (#4170595)
I've been considering a SABR membership for a while, and I get a discount being less than 30 and everything. For those who are members, or have been members, or for those who aren't but think they know something - is it worth it? I almost certainly won't be planning to go to any meetings or anything let alone the convention, and I probably won't be doing research on my own, but the literature, etc., that comes from it, is it worth it?
   25. AndrewJ Posted: July 01, 2012 at 07:20 PM (#4170869)
Short answer (having belonged to SABR for nearly 30 years): Yes.

The publications themselves are worth the membership, and you also get free access to the entire Sporting News archives online (caveat: its search engine is not the greatest) and the PDF to the annual Emerald Guide to Baseball. And if you can make a regional meeting every so often, I think you'll be impressed by the originality and depth of the presentations and the general camaraderie.
   26. Jim Furtado Posted: July 02, 2012 at 07:03 AM (#4171078)
SABR is well worth the money. It's been a few years since I've attended the convention. Each year I regret not finding a way to attend, especially when I see pictures of all the great people hanging out. Hopefully, since it's a relatively short drive next year, I will be able to make it to Philly.
   27. Repoz Posted: July 02, 2012 at 07:07 AM (#4171080)
I will be able to make it to Philly.

I'll be on my corner. Pick me up.
   28. Lassus Posted: July 02, 2012 at 07:12 AM (#4171083)
Philly is practically around the corner, and I'm not even in NYC any more. I'll be going for my first time.
   29. McCoy Posted: July 02, 2012 at 12:15 PM (#4171295)
Plus Philly has a casino now.

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