Category Archives: Sports observations

Et tu, Floyd?


You hate not to give Tour de France champion Floyd Landis the benefit of the doubt, but with all the talk these days about steroids and preformance enhancing drugs, allegations that his urine came back with high levels of testosterone must result in a collective sigh of disappointment.

Landis became a media darling, competing in the grueling bike race with a hip that seemed to degenerate with each mile. His comeback from eight minutes behind to vault into and maintain the lead is the stuff of made-for-TV movies.

Austin Murphy writes about it in a Sports Illustrated on-line extra. “He knows how bad this looks,” Murphy writes, “and told me, ‘I wouldn’t hold it against somebody if they don’t believe me.’ I don’t know what to believe. ”

William C. Rhoden makes it the topic of his column in today’s New York Times (“Just when fans allow themselves to feel warm and fuzzy about an apparent heroic sports performance, we get punched in our collective stomachs by yet another steroid scandal,” although technically this doesn’t seem to be the case.).

The “Sports Nut” column on Slate.com posits, “Wait, aren’t all pro cyclists cheaters?”

Undoubtedly many more articles will delve into this situation.

What’s next? Will some enterprising reporter discover that Tiger Woods is on something? How about the next poker champion? Perhaps he will show high levels of decaffinated products that make him extremely calm, resulting in a super poker face that will net him victory.

Jimmy Durante used to sing a song that included the line, “Did you ever have the feeling that you wanted to go, and still have the feeling that you wanted to stay?” As I get older, that’s pretty much the way I feel about following sports.

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The lost (baseball) generation

King Kaufman, sports guy for Salon.com, wrote a post-column about the slow murder of sports by television. For years, networks — and more recently cable TV — have insisted on starting games later and later. And let’s be clear here, the broadcast industry calls the shots, not the other way around.

The All-Star Game, which went on the air on FOX at 8 p.m. Eastern time, didn’t actually begin, according to Kaufman, until 8:43, even though the first pitch was “scheduled” for 8:20.

“Man, it must stink to be a baseball-loving kid in the Eastern and Central time zones,” he wrote in his July 12 column. “When I started caring about baseball my bedtime was 8:30. As late as middle school I was supposed to be in bed by 10. If I’d grown up on the East Coast instead of the West and Fox had existed and had the baseball contract back then, I’d have never seen beyond the fourth inning of a big game.” (See the rest of his column here).

That’s one part of the equation. The other is the tradition of the network to use the opportunity to plug its shows ad nasuem. Oh, look, there’s Tooth E. Actor, star of host network’s upcoming prime time flop, in the stands, munching on a hot dog. And there’s T.A. Starlet (who wouldn’t know a baseball from a boomerang if her personal assistant hadn’t spent 12 hours briefing her on it), desperately trying to resurrect her career, with host network’s gratingly annoying eye candy reporter with no sports background whatsoever. Now let’s look at that grand slam home run on instant replay, because we missed it due to the interview/plug.

And it’s not just baseball that’s guilty. Look at the recent NBA playoffs. And hockey. No, wait forget about hockey. The NFL does it right for the most part, keeping their important games in the daytime (except, of course, for the Super Bowl).

I caught the final inning of the game, in which the AL came from behind with two runs for the 3-2 victory. What amazed me was the stillness of the crowd. You would think it was an August game in the stadium of a last-place team.

TV and sports pundits constantly grouse about losing future fans, but, like the weather, no one does anything about it. Until some sports bigwig with some cajones starts putting his foot down, they shouldn’t cry over the fact that their losing the next generation.

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Baseball cartoons, then and now

Sigh.

        >        >        >        

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Blue moon nights (or the limits of Big League charity)


Listening to baseball games on the radio, it seems you can’t go a half inning without something “being brought to you by” someone. For example, at Mets and Yankees games, the fifteenth batter is brought to you by Geico, where a fifteen minute phone call can save you a bunch of money on your car insurance.
    Sponsors pony up for home runs, strikeouts, for stolen bases, etc. One of the most unusual I’ve heard comes from Azek Trimoboard, manufacturers of “compression polymers.”
     Here’s the deal: If a Mets’ pitcher retires a batter on a called third strike in the fourth inning, the Azek will donate $250 to A.L.S. research.
     That stuck in my mind: How often does such that happen? Seems very limited, a rare occurence which makes the $250 seem very paltry, so I did some research.
     As of June 8, Mets’ pitchers have retired the opposition in this manner 15 times; only once have two batters been erased thusly in a single inning. So that works out to $3750. Big wup.
     In contrast, for every strikeout the Mets’ staff colletcs, the Mets, Hyundai, and SportsNet New York donate $25 to the Hope and Heroes Children’s Cancer Fund. May not sound like a lot but those “Ks” add up, to the tune of more than $13,000 as of June 29 (even though that works out to about $8 from each of the three entities).
     AIG donates $250 for every home run the Mets hit at Shea Stadium. That amounts to to $11,750 as of June 29. They spread the wealth around, too: each new series benefits a different charity. So far, that includes such organizations as Feed the Children, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of New York City, Junior Achievement of New York, and Rusty Staub’s New York Police & Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund, among others.
     You’d think such business would be able to afford a to brak open the wallet a bit more. On the other hand, I suppose every little bit helps.
     Here’s a list of the Mets’ community work, as posted on their Web site. Each major league team has similar information posted.

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Where has Lima Been?


An article in the May 14 Sunday Times by Pat Borzi caught my eye.
Entitled “Mets’ Lima Has Searched For Excuses, Not in Mirror, ” it was a fairly caustic piece about the shortcomings of Jose Lima, a pitcher brought up to help fill the gap caused by injuries to two of the Mets regular starting rotation. (Actually his name is pronounced lee-ma, not ly-ma). Borzi chastised Lima for not accepting responsiblity for his mistakes, blaming the umpires instead.

Borzi wrote: “Lima claimed the plate umpire, Rick Reed, did not give him a called third strike on a borderline 2-2 pitch to Rickie Weeks in the fifth with a man on second and two out. In his first start last Sunday [May 7], against Atlanta, Lima accused the umpire Angel Hernandez of not giving him the corners because he was not John Smoltz, his opponent.”

Now, I’m not a great fan of Lima’s, but even I thought the tone of the piece seemed unusually harsh for a news story. Also self-contradictory when the writer concluded with the following:

“They needed me so bad today, because it was so tough last night,” said Lima, referring to the rain-shortened 2-0 loss in Philadelphia on Thursday. “I got the lead. I didn’t hold it. It’s not the guys’ fault. It’s my fault.” (emphasis added).

Sounds like a mea culpa to me, like someone who’s not looking for excuses. Make up your mind, Pat.

What made it even harder to discern was a small filler following the story which stated, “Other points of view on the Op-Ed page seven days a week. The New York Times.”

So was this a “point of view” then? If so a) there should have been something to state it as such; and b) it doesn’t belong in the sports news section. You can’t have it both ways.

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Might as well get used to it now…



In this week’s Sports Illustrated, columnist Rick Reilly offers some advice for Delmon Young, the Devil Rays prospect who registered his indignation over being called out on strikes in a minor league affair by throwing his tossing his bat, which hit the umpire.
“Regretlessly Yours” follows a mad-lib, fill-in-the-blank form for Young and his boorish brethren, fulfilling the obligation of apologizing without the actual sincerity.

As SI baseball writer Tom Verducci put it:

The disgraceful episode apparently wasn’t so much as a wake-up call for Young. Instead of giving an immediate, on-camera apology that night, he hid behind a prepared statement the next day. Quick accountability would have been a good place for Young to start rebuilding his image.

Keith Hernandez could also find the apolo-form helpful, writes Reilly. The Mets broadcaster objected to the presence of the San Diego Padres’ female massage therapist in the dugout with a “woman’s place is in the kitchen” mal mot. His attempt to lighten the momement by saying how much he loves “the gals” probably didn’t help. Washington Post sports columnist Tony Kornhesier was only one pundit to comment on Kaveman Keith.

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“Yes, Sir, Mr. Johnson, Sir!”

“…And don’t make me come back and have to tell you again. Got that, runt?”

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