RIP Nick Charles

Nick Charles died earlier this week. My first memory of Nick Charles was when he was doing the sports on the 11:00 news for a local station in Baltimore; later he did a short gig as the sports anchor for a station in DC. On a national level, he and Fred Hickman went head-to-head with SportsCenter in the early 80s; those two were the heart and soul of CNN’s sports department back in the days when CNN actually telecast news programs instead of opinionated nonsense. Nick Charles battled cancer for several years before he succumbed this week. As a TV sports journalist and personality, he was top-shelf.

RIP, Nick Charles…

Vancouver and Buenos Aires are separated by more than 80 degrees of latitude. Nonetheless, the two cities seem to share an affliction when it comes to their sports fans. Recall that Vancouver “fans” rioted when their Canucks lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. There was no pretense of celebration here; this was just a bunch of fans finding an excuse to create havoc. Those folks must have kin – - or at least kindred spirits – - in Buenos Aires.

One of the storied franchises of Argentinean soccer is River Plate. The team has been in existence for 110 years and it has been in the highest echelon of Argentinean soccer competition for every one of those years – - until last weekend. River Plate played what amounted to an elimination game against Belgrano to see which team would be relegated to the next lower level of Argentinean soccer; River Plate needed to win by two goals to stay in the top level. The final score was 1-1.

With about a minute to play in the game – - at least the Vancouver knuckleheads waited until the Stanley Cup game was over – -, violence broke out. Fans threw things at the players on the pitch; police responded with high-pressure fire hoses and the fight was on. It took little time until the violence carried over to the outside of the stadium and in the end, 55 people were arrested and 89 people were treated for injuries. In addition to those totals, 35 police officers were injured in the rioting.

Do not conclude here that the officials were asleep at the switch. They anticipated the potential for problems here and had more than 2000 police officers on hand for security at the match. Even that was insufficient…

The police used water canons, rubber bullets, tear gas, attack dogs and had helicopters at their disposal; that was insufficient to keep things under control. The final game of the Copa America tournament – - a soccer championship for all of the South American countries – - is supposed to happen in Buenos Aires at the River Plate stadium on 24 July; the ruling body for South American soccer says that game will happen as scheduled; imagine if Argentina is in that final game and loses it to arch-rival Brazil…

The fans who started all this inside the stadium are known as “Los Borrachos del Tablon” which translates comfortably I am told to “The Drunkards in the Stands”. The reason that River Plate had to win by two goals to avoid relegation was that these teams had played a game a week ago at the Belgrano home field where Belgrano won 2-0. In the middle of that game, River Plate fans broke through a security fence and stormed the field to taunt and accost the River Plate players. That is right; the River Plate fans were taunting and accosting their own players not the opposition. And then last weekend, all Hell broke loose in Buenos Aires…

    Memo to Argentinean Football Honchos and Police: You might want to find a way to keep those folks from sitting together in the stands for that Copa America final game next month. Even better, maybe you can find a way to keep them separated in different counties in Argentina. Just saying…

Here is another soccer item from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times:

“What’s worse than just mailing it in? E-mailing it in after that.

“Real Madrid star Marcelo found himself left off Brazil’s national team for the Copa America tournament after he boasted in an electronic message that he faked an injury to avoid playing in a friendly against Scotland.

“Alas, Marcelo’s e-mail inexplicably listed one recipient too many: Brazil coach Mano Menezes.”

Modern technology is wonderful but like everything, it has its dark side. When I was a kid, I could comfortably maintain the thought that my sports heroes were decent folks who worked hard, said their prayers and gave it all for the team every day. Now, with texting and twittering and facebooking, it is harder for a lot of athletes – - and politicians too – - to keep up that façade as they send things around the Internet in the form of messages like the above or in the form of pictures of their genital areas. Today, it is harder to maintain the belief that “heroes” are really that…

For several years now, I have been telling readers here that Ichiro is one baseball player who is worth the price of admission all by himself and that if he comes to your town, you ought to consider going to a game just to see him. Ichiro is having a down year so far in 2011 – - at least a down year for him; nevertheless, here is what syndicated columnist Norman Chad had to say about him:

“Ichiro Suzuki might be the most underappreciated great player of his generation. Part of this is he’s been stuck on a losing team most of his career. Part of this is because he’s Japanese; on our field of dreams, we prefer homegrown athletic superstars. Part of this is he’s playing in the Pacific Northwest; many Americans couldn’t locate the Pacific Northwest on a U.S. map, and most Mariners games end about the time Carson Daly is interviewing some indie actress I’ve never heard of.”

Ahem, I am not the only one who thinks Ichiro is worth going to see… has a report saying that the Knicks might be considering Kwame Brown as an upgrade to their center position and that he might just be the missing piece in the puzzle for the team. Having watched Kwame Brown try to play in Washington – - where he was the first overall pick in the draft by the Wizards – - and having watched him sporadically in his peregrinations around the NBA, that is a frightening thought. If a team thinks Kwame Brown is the answer to their problems, then my first thought is that they have no idea what their problems really are…

Finally, here is one more item from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times:

“Ex-lightweight champ Juan Diaz has quit the ring to attend law school at Dartmouth, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

“In other words, he’s going from boxers to briefs.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…

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  • rainier beacher  On June 28, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    Re: Ichiro.
    Another reason he’s overlooked is he is a singles hitter in the height of the steroids era.

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On June 28, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    rainier beacher:

    That too. Disregarding all the factors Norman Chad pointed out and your on-the-mark comment, Ichiro is worth the time and the trouble and the money to go and see.

    I will take my annual trip to Seattle in August this year to visit a dear friend who happens to have access to a pair of GREAT seats at the Mariners’ games. That is approximately a 6000 mile round trip journey and if I get to see Ichiro – - and Felix Hernandez – - in my trio of games, I figure it is a great trip!

  • rainier beacher  On June 30, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    Good for you. Hit Elysian Fields brew-pub before the game. It has the best combination of good food and moderately priced beers in the area.

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