Strat-O-Matic Celebrity Q & A with Jason La Canfora
In this edition of the Strat-O-Matic Celebrity Q & A series, Strat-O-Matic interviewed Jason La Canfora, NFL Insider for CBS Television Network’s NFL pre-game show, THE NFL TODAY, the CBS Sports Network and CBSSports.com.
Q: When did you first start playing Strat-O-Matic? Who introduced you to the game?
Jason La Canfora: Wow, I would say the mid-1980s, when I was around 10 (full disclosure I was born in 1974) or so. I started collecting baseball cards and really getting into the game and the players and we had just lost the Colts in Baltimore, so baseball and soccer were all we really had at the time.
Q: How often did you play?
Jason La Canfora: Very regularly, I know we had a few guys in the neighborhood who would come over to my house on days when it was oppressively hot and humid (not unusual) and we would play series at a time. We definitely tried to play out the 1984-1986 seasons at least for a few specific teams.
Q: We have heard stories from so many different journalists and broadcasters who would either write recaps of their Strat-O-Matic games or announce the games in some form as they would play. Was this the same for you?
Jason La Canfora: Absolutely, Guilty as charged. Not afraid to admit my inherent nerdiness. We would definitely “broadcast” them to some degree.
Q: What is the best Strat-O-Matic memory from your childhood?
Jason La Canfora: Hard to pinpoint one. Just a really great way to pass the time and connect with the game in a unique way.
Q: Do you have an all-time favorite Strat-O-Matic card?
Jason La Canfora: Might be a 1984 [Alan] Wiggins. Padres were my favorite NL team at the time. Would steal him literally every time he got on base.
Q: You cover football now for a living. Did you ever play Strat-O-Matic Football or were you exclusively a Baseball game player?
Jason La Canfora: Strictly baseball. It’s weird but like I don’t even think I knew the football version existed somehow. I would play some football simulation games on the old Commodore 64 computer, as well as baseball, but never any football board games.
Q: Do you know of any colleagues or other sportswriters who grew up playing Strat or who still play it today?
Jason La Canfora: Oh man, absolutely. Back when I was a cub reporter interning at The Baltimore Sun, it would definitely come up in conversations now and then. I seem to recall that my man Buster Olney, who was the O’s beat writer at the time, would play marathon games and I’m pretty sure Mike Waters, a college buddy of his who has covered hoops for the Syracuse Post Standard for a while, was in one of his leagues back at Vandy. Pretty sure Ken Rosenthal, who was a columnist at The Sun at the time I was there in the mid-1990s, was into it back in the day as well. It would definitely come up a fair amount back when I came up through the ranks covering ball.
Q: Did playing Strat-O-Matic influence the way you look at sports from an analytical perspective?
Jason La Canfora: It actually may have. I never really thought about it in those terms but I wouldn’t rule it out at all. Integrating numbers with performance and using the mind to try to quantify the propensity of certain events. Sure. Might definitely be something to that.
Q: Rex Ryan used to roll games of Strat-O-Matic Baseball all the time with his brother Rob when they were younger – even through college. Does this surprise you at all?
Jason La Canfora: It doesn’t. That’s pretty awesome and I didn’t know that, but I can definitely see it. Did they play with The Jays back then? I’m thinking it may have been when they were in Canada.
Q: You play our Baseball Express game with your kids at home. What is this experience like for you and do they enjoy playing?
Jason La Canfora: It’s awesome. I try not to push too hard – my kids are 10, 7 and 3, so still a little young – but I definitely suggest we play very often and someone is usually game to grab the dice. The 3-year old, Matteo, tends to disrupt things a bit but he always gets to roll for me when we play. My daughter, Chloe, is actually getting the most into it (she’s 10). Rocco, who is 7, is my big baseball fan, but he runs a little hot and cold. But when we got the full version in the mail – thanks so much – it was awesome because the O’s were facing up, and he couldn’t wait to check out the card of JJ Hardy, his favorite player.
Q: If you could play any person (former/current player, coach, broadcaster, family member, etc.) in a single game of Strat-O-Matic, who would you choose and why?
Jason La Canfora: Oh man. Wow. Great question. I might have to go with [Bob] Costas, especially if he agreed to broadcast the game as it unfolded. I mean, nothing could really beat that could it? He was an idol of mine growing up – will never forget sneaking into Memorial Stadium very early on Saturday morning and getting up to the pressbox to get him to sign a ball for me before a Game Of The Week broadcast. Earl Weaver would’ve been pretty cool too – especially if he treated it like a real game and went crazy with the verbal bombs – but, alas, that’s not going to happen.
Published: March 23, 2015
Published: March 23, 2015