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Archive for the ‘National sports’ Category

Big flies

In honor of the Homerun Derby, some of my favorite homeruns (and homerun calls) of all time. Enjoy:

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Draws are a drag

I’ve been trying to warm up to soccer.

Really, I have been.

But stoppage time aside (which will be the subject of a later blog rant, I’m sure), draws really hurt my interest in the beautiful game. Yes, I understand there are subtle nuances to a well-played, 0-0 game. And yes, I know that a hard-earned point in the World Cup (in group play) can go a long way.

Still, I can’t stand draws. They go against the nature of sport. The NBA resolves its ties. The NFL usually does. The NHL does, at least in the playoffs. Professional tennis does as well, even if it takes three days. And America’s pastime never has ties, either…well, except for the occasional All-Star Game.

Do you think this guy would have tolerated a draw?

The reason these leagues don’t have ties (or try not to) is because they go against the natural, human drama of sport. Modern sport, of course, largely stems from the ancient Greek and Roman athletic traditions. Do you think the original Olympic Games would have crowned a tie-er? Do you think a Roman gladiator could have nicked a lion on the ear and called it a day?

No.

The beauty of sport is the dichotomy between winning and losing. The pure euphoria of victory and the utter heartbreak of defeat (Minnesota sports fans should be very familiar with that).

And perhaps the most rewarding thing, as an athlete or fan, is recovering from defeat and climbing to the top. Victory is that much sweeter when you know how much anguish went into getting there.

So, I simply ask that one of the biggest sporting events in the world, one that comes but once every four years, goes away from ties. I understand friendly matches, or league matches, ending in a draw. But on the world’s stage, after working so hard for the moment, players and fans alike deserve more than a tie.

Hey, it would at least make a Roman gladiator proud.

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The tale of Brian Cushing — the young linebacker who tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug this off-season, not long after being named the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year — raises a number of interesting questions. What did he test positive for? Why was he using that substance? And why have other rookies (Julius Peppers and Shawne Merriman come to mind) kept R.O.Y. awards on their shelves after similar incidents?

If Brian Cushing (above) loses his award, should Alex Rodriguez (below) lose his?

But the question I want to focus on here is the potential can of worms opened up in other sports, chief among those being baseball. America’s pastime, of course, has been tainted by performance-enhancing drugs, with the likes of Alex Rodriguez and Roger Clemens holding awards and gaudy stats amid clouds of suspicion. So, does the Cushing incident set a precedent for taking the awards back? The NCAA issues similar punishment (see “1997 Minnesota Golden Gophers basketball”) during academic scandals, wiping out any record that a season ever existed.

Baseball too has dabbled in rewriting the record books — Roger Maris lived with that nasty asterisk for years. The argument, of course, is to make sure future generations know (or, in the NCAA’s case, don’t know) the indiscretions of a given team or player, whether founded or not.

This approach, however, does more harm than good, especially in today’s media age where EVERY record is stored in a million different forms. Want to take back A-Rod’s MVP trophies? Go ahead, but the video of him being honored (plus the blogs, and Web stories, and audio, and T-shirts…) all still exist. Memories fade, but they don’t disappear. Want to strip Cushing of his award? Go for it, but people will still remember what he won…and how the second guy in line got his trophy.

Instead, let these guys keep their awards. But don’t let them (or the sport-fan public) forget the clouds of suspicion. Future generations SHOULD know that A-Rod hit 800 HRs and won multiple MVP awards. But they should also know that he admitted to using PEDs at least once and likely used them more often than that. It’s part of the record, of the story of sports. Yes, this generation of athletes is far from spotless. But Ty Cobb was a racist, Jordan a gambler and Mantle a womanizer. Just goes to show that every generation has its fair share of black spots. Instead of trying to cover them up by rewriting the books, let the record speak for itself — now and forever.

Photo credits: Cushing (TexAlley.com); Rodriguez (Reuters)

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NFL Draft quick thoughts

I believe Steve Young is still yapping, but I’ll jump right in:

*Ryan Matthews will be Offensive ROY. Should be the feature back on a good team right away.

My pick for Offensive ROY: Ryan Matthews

*Along those lines, Derrick Morgan will be Defensive ROY. Another talented, polished player stepping into a good team who will use him right away.

*Gerald McCoy was the best dressed player I saw. Big man with a stylish suit and nice specs.

*Colt McCoy will be the best QB from this draft. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

*Speaking of QBs, Tim Tebow will be a bust, making his hour-long interview with Jeremy Schaap that much more of a waste of time.

My pick for Defensive ROY: Derrick Morgan

*Trading down (see: Patriots, Dolphins, Vikings) can be a good idea. Unless you’re the Denver Broncos. Then it’s just a puzzling idea.

*Kyle Wilson and/or Dez Bryant will be the biggest value pick, long-term.

*I think Jimmy Clausen ends up with the Cleveland Browns at 38.

*I like having the draft on a Thursday in prime-time. I dislike ESPN showing the players’ reactions 10 minutes before the pick is made.

*I’m looking forward to rounds 2-7.

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HOF Names

A Twitter pal (@jvomhofjr) and I were talking NFL Draft the other day, and the subject of Colt McCoy came up. We disagreed on his professional outlook (personally, I think he will be the best QB from the 2010 Draft when the dust settles), but we did agree on a point he made: Colt McCoy is a Hall-of-Fame-caliber name. It’s just cool, and perfect for a gunslinging QB.

The thought of HOF Names got me thinking, and on that note, here is a quick list of some of my other favorites. Please, please, please offer your own in the comments section…I’d love to see ones I missed!

In no particular order:

Spud Webb: Did the lilliputian leaper not simply look like a Spud Webb?

Coco Crisp: OK, it’s sorta a nickname. But just give the guy credit for having the last name Crisp.

John Rocker: Again, a case of a guy fitting his name.

Mookie Blaylock: I always wanted to be a Mookie growing up.

God Shammgod: If we were to rank this list, this name has to win, right? God Shammgod? Wonderful.

Thou shalt not find a better sports name than his (or is it His?)


Dick Butkus: He was so tough and cool, that he actually pulled this name off.

World B. Free (with honorable mention to He Hate Me): No, not given names. But creativity counts in my book.

Usain Bolt: Because he’s fast.

Mark Buehrle: Because he is in fact burly.

Yogi Berra: Bonus points for Yogi-isms.

I’m getting verklempt, so please discuss amongst yourselves.

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Let me establish from the onset of this post that I understand 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds still have worlds to learn and should be given some leeway as they mature. Heck, that even applies to 22-year-olds like myself (I hope).

But Urban Meyer is way out of line for confronting Orlando Sentinel reporter Jeremy Fowler for his use of a quote that came from wide receiver Deonte Thompson (see here for video of the Meyer/Fowler confrontation at practice). Thompson was discussing how the change at QB could benefit of him, and the young man (unintentionally?) criticized Tim Tebow somewhat (here’s the quote that started this whole mess).

Meyer’s strong reaction included a rant about how Fowler unfairly took advantage of a young man (Thompson) and used his quote out of context. Meyer proceeded to tell the reporter that if it was his own son in the article, the two would be coming to blows.

Here’s where I differ significantly from Meyer: Thompson is a young man, but he is also receiving public money (in the form of an athletic scholarship) to go to a public institution for free (I am assuming this is the case…I have not checked Thompson’s specific scholarship status). Because of this fact, Thompson is not a typical “young man” who should be coddled and protected. He is a public figure, and with that status comes the responsibility of dealing with the press…and the consequences of your quotes. Even if you’re 18, 19, or 20.

Meyer too needs to understand that he’s a public figure, and his team is largely a public entity because it represents a public university. So to lash out at the press–and threaten to cut off their access–is an embarrassment. Mr. Fowler took an accurate quote, used it in a story, and attempted to give it some context (again, see the blog post that started the whole thing, which is linked above). Urban, if you think your team and you personally deserve public money in the form of scholarships, contracts and endorsements, then please respect the First Amendment and treat the press with some respect.

Now I’m going to return to being an irresponsible 22-year-old. Too bad a college football coach won’t coddle me.

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I wanted to blog tonight. And because I couldn’t think of anything overly insightful or meaningful, I decided to make my picks for the upcoming Big Ten men’s basketball tournament (starts Thursday in Indianapolis):

Michigan(8 seed) 70, Iowa (9) 54

Iowa is terrible. And I’m not just saying this because I’m a Gophers fan. They truly looked bad when I saw them on Sunday, and they just honestly don’t have much talent.

Northwestern(7) 62, Indiana(10) 64

I’ll take the de facto home team in a small upset.

Minnesota(6) 73, Penn State(11) 65

I think the Lions are better than both the ninth-seeded Hawkeyes and the tenth-seeded Hoosiers. But the Gophers are more talented and will survive a scrappy test.

Ohio State(1) 82, Michigan(8)65

The Buckeyes may be the best team in the country. They definitely have the best player.

Wisconsin(4) 66, Illinois(5) 50

Illinois is reeling and the Badgers should have no trouble beating them like they did easily just a few days ago.

Purdue(2) 74, Indiana(10) 56

Nice first round upset, but Purdue is too good for IU. Easy win close to campus.

Michigan State(3) 67, Minnesota(6) 69

Gophers almost beat Sparty twice this year, and with MSU struggling a bit lately, a minor upset here.

Ohio State(1) 68, Wisconsin(4) 60

The Badgers will slow Turner and crew down some, but OSU is just too good.

Purdue(2)65, Minnesota(6) 63

A good game the last time these two met, this will also be a close one. But Purdue knows how to win big games, while the Gophers seem to know how to lose them.

Ohio State(1) 73, Purdue(2) 68

Good effort toward the end of the season without Hummel, but again, OSU is just really that good. A legitimate Final Four contender, the Buckeyes will win the Big Ten.

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