John Adams — by day a senior IT analyst at AT&T — has been beating his big ol’ bass drum at virtually every Cleveland Indians home game for 35 years. His devotion has been immortalized in the cinematic goofball classic Major League and through the issuance last year of his own bobblehead doll. Recently I asked Adams to view his twin passions of baseball and technology through the prism of his unique experiences. Here’s what he had to say.
Q. How have you coped with the Indians’ shocking demise at the end of last season?
A. Disappointment lasted for about one day. I was very proud of my team. They never quit. The two best teams in baseball played each other and one of them had to lose. The Indians/Red Sox series was truly the World Series.
Q. What are your likes and dislikes about how ball park technology has evolved?
A. I like the fact that exciting plays at the game can be captured and relived along with the fans’ response. Signs that the fans bring are recorded along with their faces. The spontaneity of the game and the fans are preserved and shared around the world. I like technology at the game to be an observer and information-dispenser. I dislike technology when it is used to tell a crowd when to stand up and when to cheer.
Q. Money’s no object. What technological bells and whistles would you add to Jacobs Field?
A. Since I sit under the scoreboard, I would like to have another one put across from the bleacher seats so I could see it, too. Maybe they could use it as a billboard to sell advertising when the games aren’t going on.
Q. What do you think about all the camera phones and BlackBerries fans use during games?
A. I think it is great! It just makes for more fun at the game. However, people sitting behind home plate should not be allowed to have cell phones in use. All they do is act like idiots when they get a call from their friends that they are on TV. Maybe technology could give us a fake background of fans when someone gets a call behind the plate.
Q. Have any of your fellow fans asked you to solve their computer problems?
A. Yes. As soon as they find out I work on computer systems, the questions start to flow. It’s like owning a van. When people find out you have one, you get lots of calls for moves.
Q. That drum is pretty low-tech for a computer guy. Why haven’t you jazzed it up?
A. A drum is not low-tech. In fact, technology is catching up to a drum. A drum has been a digital/analogue form of communication since man discovered rhythm. The drum beat is either heard or not heard. Is that not what digital is — a series of on and off values? A drum beat can be accented at different levels just as digital values can be different. So, with the use of accents and spacing I can communicate an infinite amount of messages. All of this is done using analogue technology so as to communicate with people who still have analogue ears.
Q. I don’t recall exactly how you were depicted in the movie “Major League” (been too long). Were you happy with it?
A. Imitation is the highest form of flattery.
Q. And here’s a philosophical one to finish up: How is maintaining a computer network like managing a baseball team?
A. They are identical. Every part or player must perform well to get the job done. Anything can happen with a network or at a baseball game — and it always does. That is why it takes talented and creative people to make it all work.