David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 326: Squeeze (Cool For Cats)

February 13, 2024

Today, I move from D&D to Strat-O-Matic. More accurately, when I moved from Morgantown to Bloomington, Indiana, to work on my Ph.D., my gaming shifted from my kobold-slaying obsessed friends to a set of baseball-obsessed friends. The friends may have been new, but the baseball-gaming obsession certainly wasn't. In Morgantown, I played a lot of APBA baseball, but thanks to these Indiana-based baseball geeks, I discovered Strat-O-Matic baseball, basically APBA on steroids, and soon found a group of guys (these groups are always guys!) for weekly (if not more regular) Strat-O-Matic baseball games.

Strat-O-Matic is a dice-based game creating baseball game action by aligning play probability with the statistical odds for each player from the previous actual season. In other words, I put Wade Boggs up against someone else's Roger Clemens, and the dice roll will lead to a result from either Clemens' very stingy pitching card or Boggs' very hit-happy batter card. If the result leads to a ball going to a fielder, say perhaps Omar Vizquel, than Vizquel's probability to make the play is also factored in with a dice roll.

It is all rather addicting, but mostly when you play full seasons, because through full seasons you can see if the final stats for Boggs or Clemens or Vizquel came close to the actual stats from that previous year. Add to that, a minimum of 6 to 8 obsessed baseball nuts in a league, you can then do a draft, build a team, and live the agonizing experience of baseball general manager (you can trade players during the season) and manager.

My first, and favorite, team (and I am getting to the required song-series reference) was the Paw Paw Cool Cats. Paw Paw was a tiny town in West Virginia, so I cherished them being able to support a major league baseball team. Obviously Paw Paw would need some feline-based name, so the Cool Cats served as a small homage to both Squeeze, with "Cool For Cats," and Queen, with "Cool Cat."

In fact, all my teams through those Strat-O-Matic years had music-inspired names. I am sure readers are shocked!

"Cool For Cats" seems appropriate for the rather misfit team assembled, whether the drafted player cards, or the 6-8 Indiana students assembled every Saturday morning for 5-6 hours of simultaneous game-playing. While Strat-O-Matic did give me a social setting similar to D&D as a primary reward, those Saturday games rarely had music playing in the background. We all took the games, more specifically, winning much more seriously. We often wondered what poor soul was wandering around Ballantine Hall on a Saturday morning only to be surprised by a sudden scream of "Thigpen, you piece of shit!" followed by the thud of a something on a table. Contrary to potential campus rumors, it was rarely our heads.

My cool cats were cool: Jeff Bagwell, Dave Hollins, Kevin McReynolds. Chris Bosio, Larry Andersen, Lance Blankenship to name a few who stayed with the team through multiple seasons. However, they did not often prove cool enough under pressure. I must have played for over ten seasons, including online once I moved to Detroit, and I only won the World Series once.

We probably needed to be a little edgier, like the Squeeze song we were named after: Chris Difford sings lead, something he rarely did. Perhaps I should have had Bagwell lead off. Perhaps, I should have drafted (or traded for) Joe Carter, so that I could have an Indian "send signals from the rocks above the pass" for when we needed to steal, a joke no longer possibly in a Guardian-protected world.

Overall, I probably just needed to be smarter, cleverer. I should have taken to general managing the way Chris Difford takes to lyric-writing in "Cool For Cats.” Sung at breakneck speed, the lyrics can be lost, which is a shame. Perhaps more than any other Squeeze song, lyrically, "Cool For Cats" justified the Lennon/McCartney comparison that Difford and Tillbrook lived with. The verses have several brilliant lines dripping with double-meaning.

In that opening stanza about the cowboys and Indians, it's "the squaw is with the corporal/she is tied against the tree/she doesn't mind the language/it's the beating she don't need."

In the third verse, when the protagonist looks to score at the local pub, we're told that "I give a little muscle/and I spend a little cash/but all I get is bitter/and a nasty little rash."

In the fourth and final verse, when he finds a girl, he admits that "I kiss her for the first time/and then I take her home/I'm invited in for coffee/and I give the dog a bone."

These were the lines that danced in my head every time I prepared for a Strat-O-Matic draft, or rolled my dice in a bases-loaded, two-out key situation, or updated my team stats after a Saturday of nine games played against my fanatical friends. Too bad I didn't stop to think about the whole song, where all these verses frame vignettes of chaotic loss that define (or defy) "cool for cats." My cool cats were never going to win consistently against the guy, basically the commissioner of our league, because every Strat-O-Matic league needs someone so obsessed that he will give even more time to the obsession. That guy had spreadsheets, in the day before Excel ruled the world, prepared for draft day and painfully calculated the odds for each player's card. He was the one who somehow pulled off the big trade in the middle of the season, his trading partner convinced he had gotten the better part of the deal.

You see, while I, and maybe others in the league, may have thought we were the cool cats, we were the ones squeezed by the predator.

Squeeze. "Cool For Cats." Cool For Cats. A&M, 1979. Link here.

Day 325: Dan Fogelberg & Tim Weisberg "The Power Of Gold"

Day 327: Salt-N-Pepa "None Of Your Business"

See complete list here.