(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.


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Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day Weekend Observations

From the local to the national:

1. We had friends over for barbecues on Saturday and Sunday, and the dads succeeded in tiring out the kids by playing the old-time favorite, "running bases." You set up two bases, and dads stand at each one, throwing a ball back and forth, while the kids try to run back and forth without getting tagged out. Some kids stay within the baselines, while others tend to venture into your neighbor's yard. At any rate, the combination of laughs and pink cheeks indicated that on both nights we succeeded in tiring the kids out. And, yes, the barbecue was good too. Just pick an excellent rub for your ribs and you, too, can be a master chef.

2. I am convinced that if kids work on their fundamentals daily they can become better baseball and softball players fast. We have a batting tee and pitchback in the back yard, and the kids are working on their catching and footwork with the pitchback and on their hitting with the tee, and the results are showing. You don't need to read the book "Prophet of the Sandlots" to figure out that if they practice correctly every day they'll get better -- and fast (the book, by the way, is excellent). With so much on the schedule of the average kid, that kid just doesn't get the opportunities to practice enough. If he/she does this every day, he'll get a lot better.

3. Barry Bonds hit #715 and was fortunate to have done so in San Francisco, because it seems like the rest of the nation met this feat with a collective yawn. He tried to be warm and sincere in his post-game interview, but given his public image, few paid close attention to his words. Was this a big yawn or what?

4. Some of our weekend guests speculate that most of the NFL is on HGH since there is no test to detect it, and they speculate that MLB players are on it too. As Buster Olney wrote the other day, you can't prove either way whether a player is -- or is not -- using. That's a shame, but how many 300+ pounders do you come into contact in everyday life (then again, the average ice cream section in your local supermarket is huge). Has the human species evolved so dramatically that the average o-lineman is 50+ pounds heavier than he was say in 1975? True, training and eating methods are more advanced, and some people are just plain big and fat, but the lack of a test for certain substances leaves open the possibility that players are using. And that's a shame in and of itself.

5. Remember when the Indy 500 was something really special? Remember when NASCAR was just a bunch of good 'ol boys? What happened to the Indy racing phenomenon? Did the civil war with the CART drivers kill the allure of the sport? How many of you really stopped what you were doing on Sunday to watch the Indy 500? Remember when that's what we used to do, when the drama was so compelling, with ABC covering the race, Jim McKay up in the booth and Chris Economaki down on pit row? Today the sport seems like an afterthought.

6. Can't say I'm following the NHL or NBA playoffs just yet, and can say that I'm disappointed that so many teams make the post-season and that the post-season lasts as long as it does. I'll hunker down and watch soon, so long as the playoffs don't interfere with my World Cup watching. I'd prefer a Suns-Pistons final, although the Mavs have really stepped it up this year. I'd rather not see the Heat. I like Shaq and Dwayne Wade, but not Gary Payton or Antoine Walker or, for that matter, Pat Riley. Did the Pistons get a step too slow that fast? And imagine the Suns when Amare returns.

7. We're going to the NCAA Division I lacrosse finals today at Lincoln Financial Field, my first foray into that stadium. A good friend gave us some tickets, and given that we have no allegiance to either UVA or UMass we'll do the good old American thing and root for the underdog, which is UMass. I'm no lacrosse expert, but I think that if UMass were to win today, it would be one of the two biggest upsets in Division I men's lacrosse history, with the other being Princeton's first national title in 1992, when the Tigers, in their first DI final, upset Syracuse in double overtime to win it all at Penn's Franklin Field. And therein lies the synergy -- Philadelphia was the home of the other upset 14 years ago. Could it be the home of another huge upset today? The UMass Minutemen faithful are certainly hoping so. My son's one lament is that he has no shirts that are in the colors of UMass.

8. As for the World Cup, the U.S. team has its work cut out for it to get to the second round, the round of 16. There are eight groups in the first round comprised of four teams each, and two from each group will advance to the second round. The U.S. is grouped with Czech Republic, Italy and Ghana, and the conventional wisdom says that the U.S. will not advance (even though they've been consistently ranked in the Top 6 in the world, which has me thinking that the FIFA board royally screwed the U.S. when they came up with the groupings). I will debate that conventional wisdom and predict that the U.S. and Czech Republic will advance to the second round. The Czechs are talented enough and play well enough together that they could win the entire tournament, while I'm not convinced that the Italians will defend well enough to get to the next round. And, if their talented striker Francesco Totti isn't fully healthy, they might not play well enough on offense, either. The U.S. played well in the 2002 World Cup and has a deep enough team to do some damage, and the conventional wisdom doesn't always work in these tournaments. Witness what has happened to the French and Argentine teams in recent tournaments. Your national team can't mail it in in the first round and advance to the second round. I'll have my predictions for you next week.

Have a great Memorial Day!


Anonymous tim in tampa said...

It's a shame the Indy 500 isn't what it used to be, because good midwestern boys like myself still do stop what we're doing to watch, and yesterday's race was the most exciting one I've ever watched in my 27 years. Of course, I had a horse in the race, being 1) a huge Patrick fan and 2) having followed Hornish's career since he was a kid (he grew up nearby, my mom was his high school English teacher and his new home is about a mile from my parents'). The Andretti family drama was great, too. NASCAR can't match the drama that can unfold with cars that go as fast as open-wheels.

11:04 AM  

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