THIS YEAR IN SPORTS
Since I’ll be out of town next week and unable to blog, I’m taking an opportunity now to sum up the year that was. Hopefully, by the time I return, I’ll have figured out a way to allow people to comment on blog-posts again, though due to past misuse of the privilege, I will not be allowing anonymous postings.
In terms of sports – or at least professional sports -- there was clearly a central theme: in the immortal words of #7, Yogi Berra, it was déjà vu all over again.
The year began with football and the return to greatness of the
Did you see the recent Super Bowl? It was held in
So thanks to 2006, the Pittsburghers have “one for the thumb,” the elusive goal they have whining about for a quarter of a century. Good for them. Pro football being the hotbed of parity, however, the Champs have returned in the fall of 2006 to define mediocre. That’s right, with two meaningless weeks left to go in the season, the Steelers are 7-7 and heading for a January of golfing, girlfriend beating and DWIs (or whatever else pro football players do in the off-season). As for the fans of
What? Do you think I forgot the Pirates? I didn’t; the fans of
After football, let’s turn next to professional basketball. In the NBA, a
It’s great to see that lethal inside-outside combo, much like it’s fun to watch a brilliant QB/WR tandem, or a wonderful line in ice hockey. What, did I say ice hockey? The hockey season was also reminiscent of the past – specifically, the time back in the 19th century when nobody cared about professional hockey (mainly because professional hockey didn’t exist until 1904). That’s right, thanks to the recent hockey strike, nobody cares about it once again! Good job, players and owners. Way to stand up for principle over profit – at least I’m assuming there was a principle there, because that strike may come to nail you in the wallet for a long, long time.
Next, let’s turn to baseball. An argument can be made that this was a good year in baseball if for no other reason than that the Yankees didn’t win. But the fact is that the Yanks haven’t won a Title in years. In fact, the Yanks this decade are starting to resemble the Braves of the last decade; every year they make the playoffs and then, almost invariably, they figure out a way to crash and burn. Screw them and their payroll; they can’t lose enough for my taste.
As for the “déjà vu” aspect of the year, it was definitely the triumph of baseball’s second most successful organization: the St. Louis Cardinals. It has been a while since the redbirds have won it all, but the fans in this “small market” town have nevertheless supported them in droves. You can’t help but be happy for the “greatest baseball town in
Well there you have a look at what’s happened to the Big Four, but what about the more “minor” sports? It was a bad year for NASCAR because the GOP lost the midterm elections. There you have it – a summary of all that I know about auto racing. As for golf, this year was indeed a return to the past: (a) Mickelson choked in the U.S. Open, and then (b) Tiger decided that for the next several months, he’d win everything in sight, (c) except the Rider Cup.
Predictable. But no less predictable than the fact that Roger Federer would dominate the men’s tennis tour. OK, so he lost to Nadal in the one major championship that’s played on clay. That’s also the only major tournament in which Nadal – or anyone else in tennis – has a chance to beat Federer. Just as it seems inevitable that Tiger will break Nicklaus’ grand slam victory record, it seems equally inevitable that Federer will break Sampras’ analogous record in tennis. But here’s the rub: whereas the entire sports world seems to care about Tiger’s quest, hardly anyone cares about Federer’s.
The problem isn’t simply that Federer takes on the personality of his native
Speaking of brash personalities, they certainly are dominating the sports world at year’s end. On December 16th, the NFL’s favorite narcissist, Terrell Owens, spit in the face of an
Finally, let me close with what I thought was the most pathetic aspect of the sports year. That was the way the baseball gurus on TV discussed the candidacy of Mark McGuire for Pro Baseball’s Hall of Fame. It’s no secret that McGuire won’t make it in his first year of eligibility due to his steroid abuse. McGuire never admitted to using steroids, though he has not only been fingered by others but when he had a chance to clear his name in front of Congress, he repeatedly refused to answer the Representatives’ questions. Essentially, he pled the 5th.
Given that information, I would have expected Tim Kurkjian and the other baseball “journalists” to blast McGuire’s candidacy for the Hall, but that’s the opposite of what happened. Kurkjian and his fellow talking heads showed up on TV saying that
If you want to know what’s going on here, I don’t think it’s stupidity, unfortunately. Sports “journalists” make their living by getting access to the players and coaches who star in each sport. That means that the journalists can’t afford to take positions that are particularly unpopular with the players – lest they end up getting scooped by everyone under the sun. Tragically, the fraternity of players seem to want to brush the scourge of steroids under the rug. I guess they’re too fearful of the consequences of speaking out against it – it’s easier to keep your mouth shut and “get along.” The result is that the journalists who feel the need to curry favor among the players are likely to vote the steroid abusers into
As for me, I’ll still be hoping that someday, one of my childhood heroes, Tony Oliva, makes the Hall. Tony O had one of the sweetest swings in the history of baseball – at least as sweet as his more hyped teammates, Hall of Famers Harmon Killebrew and Rod Carew. But Tony O’s career didn’t last long enough to generate the gaudy lifetime stats needed to punch a ticket to