Greetings From Portland, OR

Greetings from Portland Oregon. We are in the final stages of our odyssey; we will be in Portland for the next day or so and then board a train in Portland bound for Chicago and then on to Washington DC. Where did the time go…?

In the past week or so, I have gotten e-mail commentary from “Mike G.” who is a sports historian with knowledge beyond mine. His commentaries involve my contention that the trading/selling of Babe Ruth from the Red Sox to the Yankees was the single worst baseball trade ever and my compilation of the worst college football programs over the long haul. Here is his note to me regarding the Babe Ruth trade:

In defense of Harry Frazee, ESPN once had a well-done “Five Reasons You Can’t Blame” episode on Frazee and the Babe Ruth “trade”, which was actually a sale.

    5. WWI: With rosters depleted by about 20% because of the war, Ruth saw action as both a pitcher and outfielder, making him a HR hitter. After the players returned from the war, Babe became bigger than the Sox because his HRs were the talk of baseball and he no longer wanted to pitch.

    4. Ban Johnson: The AL president limited Frazee to the Yanks and Chisox, as the only teams with whom Frazee could make deals with by pressuring the other five teams not to make any trades with Frazee.

    3. Babe’s antics: He was an alcoholic, often drunk only hours before games. He also jumped the Bosox several times, including the last game of the 1919 season, which was the final straw.

    2. Ed Barrow: Frazee’s right-hand man was GM and field manager. Barrow knew how much of a troublemaker Babe was. When Frazee wanted to send Ruth to the Yankees, Barrow said the Yanks didn’t have any players he wanted. Ironically, Barrow left the Bosox after the 1920 season to become GM of the Yanks and built them to 1923 World Champs by acquiring 7 players from the Sox (four of which were on the 1918 World Champ Bosox).

    1. Babe’s holdout: Ruth forced Frazee’s hand by holding out after the 1919 season, asking for $20,000, which was twice as much as he had been making during 1919. During the holdout, Babe planned other ventures, such as getting into boxing and acting. Frazee was pissed over the holdout because he had given Ruth relatively generous bonuses after both the 1918 and 1919 seasons. Finally, with Ruth’s demands so high and after several occasions in which Ruth had already jumped the team, Frazee felt he had no choice but to dump “The Babe”.

My response to these points goes as follows:

    If Babe Ruth did not want to pitch, he still did so for the Yankees who figured out that playing him at a position most of the time was a smart move. The Red Sox could have accommodated that “desire” since they clearly did not have anyone on the squad who could hit nearly as well as Babe Ruth.

    Ruth’s alcoholism and erratic behavior continued unabated with the Yankees who found ways to deal with him for most of the time. Indeed, the Yankees had to suspend Ruth a few times when he was outrageously outrageous.

    Ed Barow was probably right; there was not an abundance of talent on the 1919 Yankees for the Red Sox to acquire in a trade.

    The Yankees found ways to accommodate Ruth’s off-field endeavors – including acting and film making. It seemed to work for them.

As to the idea that Ruth’s contract demands were too steep for Frazee, I guess they were if he was also hell-bent to fund that Broadway production that would suck wind and drive him to a financial point where he had to sell the Sox. I think ESPN needed to come up with reasons to exonerate Harry Frazee in order for them to complete their feature; I continue to believe it was the most unbalanced exchange of assets in the history of baseball.

As a post-script to that message, “Mike G.” added this note:

“Originally, the plan was to trade Babe to the Chisox for “Shoeless” Joe, but when rumors of the Black Sox scandal came out after the 1919 WS, that trade was put on hold and then thrown out when Joe’s name was mentioned as one of the possible conspirators. That was an honorable mention reason not to blame Frazee.”

I have to agree here. Had Frazee traded Babe Ruth for a guy who would be forever banned from baseball, that would have been worse than selling him to the Yankees…

With regard to my recitation of the worst college football programs over the long haul, here is the note I received:

“You need to include K-State on your worst football program list. Sure, they’ve been very good in the Bill Snyder years, but if you go back to “1934” through 1990, you will see that they only had five winning seasons, 29 seasons in which they won two games or less, and had only one bowl invitation over that 56-season period.”

Indeed that sounds like a justification to put K-State on the “bad football program list” and so I went and did some checking to make sure it was as bad as “Mike G” made it out to be. It was. Consider:

    For the decade of the 1950s, the cumulative record for K-State football teams was 30-66-3.

    For the decade of the 1960s, the cumulative record for K-State football teams was 14-80-1. In there, you will find 3 winless seasons and two seasons with a single victory. YOWZA!

    For the decade of the 1970s, the cumulative record for K-State football teams was 36-74-0.

    For the decade of the 1980s, the cumulative record for K-State football teams was 21-87-3. That decade contained two consecutive winless seasons followed by a one-win season. YOWZA!

The evidence shows that “Mike G” is right on with this one. I should have a added K-State to that list of football futility.

Finally, only Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times would dig up this obscure sporting item and turn it into a brilliant play on words:

“An American Legion baseball game in Juneau, Alaska, was briefly interrupted because a bear was roaming along the outfield fence.

“It nearly became the first game called on account of game.”

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

Greetings From The Dalles, OR

Happy 4th of July to all and greetings from The Dalles, OR by way of McMinnville, OR and Dayton, OR. Careful readers may recognize McMinnville, OR as the home of Linfield College about whom I write during football season in NCAA Mythical Picks. Indeed, I have pictures of me in Maxwell Field where the Linfield team plays its home games. Until this week, I had no connection to Linfield College other than an intellectual interest in their streak of winning football seasons that dates from 1956. As of now, I can say that I have seen from whence it all emanates…

I have mentioned here more than a few times some of the creative promotional stunts put on by minor league baseball teams. Well, there is a sort of “minor league” soccer league in the US called the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL). That league has more than 80 teams around the country competing in a variety of divisions and conferences; the reality is that it is a league one notch below MSL. One of the teams in the NPSL seems to have contacted and channeled the ghost of Bill Veeck when it comes to promotional opportunities.

One of the stories of the World Cup matches was the “biting incident” involving Luis Suarez (Uruguay) and Giorgio Chiellini (Italy). Suarez’ bite cost him a suspension in the Group Play games. This is not the first time Suarez had had a “biting incident”; he served a suspension in the English Premier League for the same offense. So, how might that story translate into a promotional gig for a minor league soccer league team in the US?

    The Fort Worth Vacqueros played the Dallas City FC in an NPSL game a few days ago. The first 50 fans to show up for the game were given “Luis Suarez teeth” – actually more like vampire fangs – that would go in one’s mouth and make it particularly unpleasant to be on the wrong end of a “biting incident”.

    Somewhere in the cosmos, Bill Veeck nodded approvingly…

Greg Cote had this World Cup commentary in the Miami Herald a while back:

“England trained in South Florida for the World Cup and played friendlies here against Ecuador and Honduras. What we learned: Wayne Rooney leads all the world in hair transplants.”

Having a nightcap this evening, I met a young man – he cannot possibly be more than 35 years old – from Alpharetta, GA who is a huge college football fan. We got to chatting; and, of course, he is convinced that the SEC is far and away the best college football conference there ever was or will be. When he found out what I did as my retirement hobby – writing these rants – he wanted to know which teams I thought were the best long-term programs in the major conferences. I explained to him that the idea of curmudgeonly commentary was to think about which teams were the long-term worst programs in all of those conferences. And so, from there, off we went.

    Illinois (Big 10): They can be good once in a while, but when they are bad they are truly bad.

    Indiana (Big 10): I told him that I could not remember the last time they went to a bowl game. It turns out that was back in 1994. Looking up the stats after the fact taught me that the last time Indiana won the Big 10 was in 1967.

    Maryland (Big 10): The Terps were not major players in the ACC; their move to the Big 10 – along with Rutgers – may take some of the heat off Illinois and Indiana.

    Kentucky (SEC): I could not remember them ever winning the SEC; it turns out they won it twice since joining the SEC in 1932. Once was in 1950 when Bear Bryant was the coach; the other time was in 1976.

    Vanderbilt (SEC): They have been on the upswing in the last couple of years but just lost their coach to Penn State. Question:

      Did Coach Franklin chart a new course for Vandy football or are they about to resort to “conference doormat status”?

    Duke (ACC): Yes, they won 10 games last year; looking at their record over the past 20 years, that is an aberration. In fact, that was the first time the team won more than 8 games in a single season since 1941.

    Iowa State (Big 12): I said they had never won the conference championship unless it was “back in the 30’s”. I was wrong, the last time – and the only time – they won a conference championship was in 1912.

    Kansas (Big 12): They had a brief resurgence about 8 or 9 years ago but seem to have reverted to form as a great Homecoming opponent. Checking the stats, Kansas has won only 14 games in the last 5 seasons.

    Washington State (PAC-12): The last time they were “relevant” was when Ryan Leaf was their QB – and that was a long time ago. It turns out that since 2004, the Cougars have won a total of 38 games.

Remember, this was a conversation over nightcaps about major collegiate conferences and not about which team may have sucked wind in the Ivy League or the Southern Conference over the last 40 or 50 years. With that in mind, whom did I miss?

Finally, here is a college football comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:

“The annual Orange Bowl game reportedly is switching title sponsors from Discover to Capital One, begging the question: ‘Who gives a crap!?’”

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

Greetings From Crater Lake National Park

Greetings from Crater Lake National Park. This is our fifth National Park on this road trip; and like all of the others, it has been a wonderful experience. We are staying in the lodge in the park – a room with a view of the lake I might add since my long-suffering wife had the foresight to book this accommodation a year in advance. It is not difficult to see why folks thought this parcel of land should be preserved as a park.

In my last ramblings, I mentioned some highly unbalanced baseball trades and in so doing mentioned Ryne Sandberg. The Hall of Fame second baseman has returned to the Phillies as their manager having taken over for Charlie Manuel in the latter stages of last season. Things are not going swimmingly for Sandberg; the Phillies are not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs; but in actuality, they are done. Sandberg is trying to go against the odds here; great players – and he was a great player – tend not to make very good managers/coaches.

My hypothesis, which is not testable, is that great players are great because of their instincts or because of their physical prowess. Neither of those things is “coachable”; therefore, the great player has difficulty explaining to his young wards how to do what he had been so good at doing. Consider a few examples:

    Ted Williams: He was the single best hitter I ever saw play baseball. Anyone who doubts he was a great player is an ignoramus. As a manager for 3 seasons, the closest his team came to winning the AL was 23 games; cumulatively, his teams were 41 games below .500/

    Alan Trammel: His first season managing the Tigers produced 119 losses for the season. He lasted two more years and those years combined to have his teams 38 games below .500.

    Wilt Chamberlain: He actually coached an ABA team for a year. The San Diego Conquistadors – usually referred to as “the Q’s” in headlines – finished 37-47.

    Bill Russell: Russell’s initial success as a coach probably had a lot to do with the fact that Bill Russell was also a player on those Celtics teams. In the late 70s, Russell had a stint with the Sonics and it was undistinguished; the Sonics missed the playoffs in 2 of his 4 seasons there. Later, he coached the Sacramento Kings and did not finish out the season; when he left, the team was 17-41.

    Norm Van Brocklin: Yes, the Vikings were an expansion team when he became the coach. Nonetheless, in 6 seasons there, he posted one winning record and a cumulative record of 29-51-4. Later with the Falcons for six and a half years, his cumulative record was 37-49-3.

    Forest Gregg: He had three coaching stops – Cleveland, Cincy and Green Bay. (The man had to love cold weather, no?) His cumulative NFL coaching record was a less-than-exciting 75-85-0.

    Otto Graham: As a QB, Graham had a record of 114-20-4; as a coach for the redskins from 1966-68, Graham had a record of 17-22-3. The disparity there speaks for itself…

Yes, there have been a few great players who went on to be pretty good coaches too. Billy Cunningham comes to mind; so do Mike Ditka and Yogi Berra. However, I would say that the odds facing Ryne Sandberg are not good. I wish him no misfortune, but I will not be surprised if his tenure with the Phillies is not a happy one for him or for Phillies’ fans.

Finally, here is an item from Greg Cote of the Miami Herald regarding Ryne Sandberg:

“Sentences I Never Imagined Writing (one in a series): ‘Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said that, as a child, he’d snack on Friskies dry cat food.’ ”

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

Greetings From Klamath Falls, OR

Greetings from Klamath Falls, OR – by way of Mendocino, CA, Fort Bragg, CA, the Avenue of the Giants, Ferndale, CA, Redding, CA and Lassen Volcanoes National Park. Since we rented our vehicle in Oakland 2 weeks ago, we have put 1700 miles on the car. This has indeed been a “road trip” and there is more to come.

By the way, if you live on the East Coast of the US, you have probably never heard of Lassen Volcanoes National Park; neither had I; nonetheless it was a great visit. If you live on the West Coast of the US, you may have heard of Lassen Volcanoes National Park but you probably have not visited there. You ought to go.

A couple of nights ago, I was at a local bar sipping on a pint of Guinness – actually , it was a 12-ounce glass so I had two – and overheard three men at a distant booth discussing some trade or proposed trade that involved the SF Giants. I did not get the details because one of the gentlemen in the group – in a voice that might have been heard in Chicago – asserted that it was/would be the “worst trade in history”. That set my mind to wondering and got me to ignore any more of what they said so I could make some notes on a napkin.

In my opinion, the worst trade in baseball history was when the Red Sox sent Babe Ruth to the Yankees in exchange for $100K in cash and a low interest $350K loan. The Red Sox co-owner had a play he wanted to open on Broadway and needed cash now and a loan to carry him through so he traded away the best player in the history of baseball. That Broadway play was a total bust and he had to see out is Red Sox team only a few years later.

I was not alive when the Babe Ruth “exchange” happened so I guess the worst trade that I can remember was the one that sent Lou Brock and a couple of guys from the Cubs to the Cardinals for Ernie Broglio, Bobby Shantz and a couple of guys. Now, with that as the yardstick, here are some other really bad trades that I can recall. [Aside: I am doing this on a motel WiFi network that is so slow it would have to speed up to crash so these are from memory…]

    Dodgers trade Pedro Martinez to the Expos for Delino DeShields in the mid-90s.

    Orioles trade Curt Schilling plus Steve Finley and some other guys to the Astros for Glenn Davis.

    Reds trade Frank Robinson to the Orioles for Milt Pappas.

    Phillies trade Ryne Sandberg and Larry Bowa to the Cubs for Ivan DeJesus.

    Phillies trade Jack Sanford to the Giants for Reuben Gomez and Valmy Thomas.

I do not know what my bar compatriots were contemplating in terms of a trade – I cannot find any reference to a Giants’ trade in the past few days that might evoke such emotion – but if those gentlemen might sober up a tad and consider the exemplars above when it comes to unbalanced exchanges in baseball history, I think they might just decide to have another cold one and move their conversation on to another topic.

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson of the Omaha-World Herald after Russia and South Korea played to tie in a World Cup game:

“Whereupon Vladimir Putin suggested the tie be broken by a military invasion.”

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

Greetings From Tomales, CA

Greetings from Tomales, CA. Use Google maps to figure out where that is. We use it as a way station between Monterey and Mendocino.

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times had this comment regarding a recent event in Portland, OR – a city that is on our itinerary on this vacation:

“The World Naked Bike Ride was held last week in Portland. Just think of it as The Chafe for the Cup.”

Actually, I think there is a far more important message contained in that brief note. Go to Google Images and search for “World Naked Bike Ride Portland”. Now that you have viewed a couple of those images, here is the important lesson for everyone:

    Never – as in NOT EVER – should you consider buying a used bicycle in Portland, Oregon.

Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot had this observation:

“Stat stuff: The no-hitter by L.A. lefthander Clayton Kershaw this week was – ho-hum – the 19th that Dodgers broadcasting legend Vin Scully has called. It’s a record that’s going to be hard to beat.”

Actually, with Kershaw being only 26 years old and with his consistent level of pitching excellence, he might be someone to challenge the nominally unbreakable record of 7 no-hitters thrown by Nola Ryan in his career. Assuming that Kershaw does not succumb to major arm injuries, he could have another 10-12 years of productive baseball in that arm of his. Maybe there are 6 more no-hitters in there – or maybe even 7…?

All NFL nose tackles are big human beings. Eagles’ nose tackle, Bennie Logan, added some weight in the off-season as suggested by the Eagles’ coaching staff. Reportedly, he is now a solid 319 lbs. A reporter covering the Eagles must have asked Logan about adding weight to an already sizeable frame and this is how Logan justified his 319 lbs:

“Most people, when they picture a nose tackle, they picture a 330-plus guy, just clogging up the middle. But the way we play our defense, you’ve got to be able to run. And I don’t feel I’d be able to run or do the things our coaches, in our scheme, require us to do. That’s why I’m not 330, or put on that much weight.”

For most “normal folks” purposely adding weight to get up to 319 lbs would be sufficient to have family members put such folk in the Fitness Protection Program.

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

“What do you get when you cross the World Cup and ‘The Waltons’?

“Ghana defender John Boye.”

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

Greetings From Monterrey, Ca…

Greetings from Monterrey, CA – by way of Kings Canyon National Park, Sequoia National Park and Cambria, CA. We have seen lots more beautiful places – and the drought-infected part of the California Central Valley too. Things are going very well; my long-suffering wife has not yet chosen to slip ground glass into my morning cereal…

Brad Rock of the Deseret News recently had an item related to Metta World Peace leaving the NBA behind to go into coaching a high school girls’ team. However, Peace did give an assessment of his skill level, which Professor Rock chronicled for us:

“…I am not retired. I am still so good. Wow, I’m good. I can still execute any offense a coach has at a high level. My team defense is still amazing, and my one-on-one defense is better at my worst than some at their best.”

Suppose for just a moment that Metta World Peace’s self-assessment is absolutely correct. In that case – and with only a minor paraphrase –, I think that NBA general managers would do well to recall the words to an old song by The Beatles:

    All that I’m saying is give Peace a chance…

In Bob Molinaro’s column last weekend in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot, he tacitly endorsed my approval of the British announcers that ESPN has retained for use in the World Cup matches. Here is what he had to say:

“Salsa style: Tired of British voices on World Cup broadcasts? Then turn to Univision’s coverage of the Copa Mundial, where announcers and analysts excitedly talk and shout and always appear to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. And that’s before the games start.”

Speaking of the World Cup, defending champion, Spain, has lost its first two matches this time around. That assures that they will not make it to the Elimination Round and that also assures that the kind of reception the team gets at the airport as they fly back to Spain will be very different from what it was 4 years ago.

I happened to have a chat with a young man who is a baseball fan. He said that he had been to about a half-dozen big league baseball stadiums and plenty of other minor league stadiums but that his goal was to take a trip and to see Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium and Wrigley Field all on the same swing east. When I told him that I had been to all three venues – the last iteration of Yankees Stadium but not the current incarnation – he would not have been more impressed had I shown him the actual Holy Grail. I told him that Fenway and Wrigley lacked lots of the amenities of modern stadiums and that he would need to be prepared for that reality

He asked me my favorite major league stadiums. Here is the list I gave him:

    Fenway Park: The history and the “vibe” of the place overcome the lack of modernity. It is a fun place to watch a game… [Aside: Wrigley Field is not a fun place to watch a game; it is just old. If I yearn to see “ivy-covered walls”, I would go to one of my college reunions.]

    Camden Yards: The prototype for the modern baseball stadium in a downtown area.

    AT&T Park: I was only there once, but it is such an improvement over Candlestick Park that it must be recognized.

    Citizens Bank Park: Easy to get to; good sight lines; good food.

    Safeco Field: The friendliest place to go and watch a game. Fans there gave Ken Griffey Jr. – playing for the Reds – a standing ovation when he hit a home run against the Mariners in that stadium. That would not happen in Philly…

    PNC Park: My personal favorite stadium for baseball. Great sight lines and a great view of downtown over the right and center field fences.

Finally, Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald had some good career advice for Dodgers’ manager Don Mattingly recently:

“Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly recently told the media, ‘We’re just not that good.’ I’m not sure what Mattingly plans to do when he leaves baseball, but we can rule out motivational speaking.”

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

Another Postcard From Yosemite National Park

Greetings again from Yosemite National Park. This is our final night here before we depart for two other National Parks – Kings Canyon and Sequoia – in Northern California. My long-suffering wife’s toast at dinner this evening with a glass of wine was, “Life is good!” That is a testimony as to the wonderfulness of this place; remember, she is here with me!

The Miami Heat’s try for a “threepeat” came to a screeching halt the other night when the Spurs dominated them in Game 5. I expected a much closer game but in the second and third quarters, the Spurs looked as if they were scrimmaging against a JV practice squad. The cumulative score in the middle periods of that game was a horribly lopsided 55-29. Many of the folks watching the game in the bar area at the hotel here left early in the 4th quarter of that game.

Kawhi Leonard was the MVP of the Finals and deserved the honor. In the deciding game, all he did was to shoot 7-10 from the field scoring 22 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. It looks as if he has a significant future ahead of him in the league; after all, he is all of 22 years old at this moment.

For those of you who are LeBron James haters because of “the Decision” a few years ago, the Heat’s loss in this series was absolutely NOT his fault. LeBron James is the best individual player on the planet but basketball is a team game and one guy cannot beat five guys. The Spurs were the better team despite LeBron being the best player. Folks, trust me on this; I spent a lot of time watching Wilt Chamberlain (the best player on the planet at the time) lose consistently to the Celtics’ teams. This is not news…

Greg Cote had this item in the Miami Herald even prior to the final loss by the Heat. It will be an interesting off-season in Miami:

“ESPN reported the Heat has been in internal talks to figure out a way to acquire Carmelo Anthony in free agency and create a Big 4. Too bad that, instead, the Heat hadn’t been in internal talks to figure out a way to acquire a win or two earlier this week.”

I got to the bar area too late to see the USA’s first goal against Ghana; I got there 4 minutes into the game. After Ghana tied it in the 82nd minute, I hoped that the US could hold on for a tie because Ghana had the better part of the game for at least 60 minutes of the game to that point. Only a few moments later, a US sub – pressed into action due to an injury to a starter – scored the winning goal with only 4 minutes of regulation play left. The win puts the US in a good position to advance because Portugal lost its opening game to Germany 4-0. In a tie situation, that kind of goal differential will be hard to overcome.

You may recall that I said I would be doing these brief commentaries on the road because of inspiration from Scott Ostler’s coverage of the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Well, last weekend in his column in the SF Chronicle, Scott Ostler recalled that coverage and summarized it here. I recommend you read it in its entirety. You will learn more about the Roadenhogginblogginwagon…

Finally, here is another item from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald with regard to the Brazilian team in the World Cup:

“Brazil began with a win over Croatia. I love Brazil’s flowing style but mostly its names, which are not only singular but often weird. For example, two of its players are Fred and Hulk. I wish this became a trend in America, and the Super Bowl was won on a 48-yard pass from Ralph to Aquaman.”

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

Greetings From Yosemite National Park

Greetings from Yosemite National Park. If you have never been here – as I had not until yesterday – add it to your list of “Things to Do” or “Places to Go” or whatever sort of list you keep. It really is a magnificent place.

Here in the lodge in the park, I overheard several gentlemen talking about the dominant win by Martin Kaymer in the US Open. I did not see the tournament but when someone shoots under par in the US Open, it is usually an indication of a dominant performance. Kaymer shot 9-under par for the tournament. Lest anyone think that the course was set up in an easy fashion for the tournament, consider that the two players tied for second both shot 1-over par for the tournament.

As I said, I did not see the US Open, but I did read that Donald Trump tweeted that the “horrible look” of the course at Pinehurst would hurt TV ratings. With Tiger Woods not playing and with Kaymer running away with the tournament, his “prediction” may indeed be right – for the wrong reasons. Moreover, you have to look through those remarks to recognize that Donald Trump owns a bunch of golf courses and would just love to host a major at one of them so that he can “advance his brand”. Personally, I do not think this is such a good way to achieve that end, but I am not “The Donald”…

According to an AP report, the city of Natal in Brazil is under a flood alert. The only reason that is interesting is that Natal is supposed to be the site of the US/Ghana game in the World Cup later today. The AP says that Natal has already gotten its normal amount of rainfall for June and there is no indication that the rain is going to end very soon. Brazil has come under lots of criticism with regard to the World Cup preparations and spending in recent months; now, it might appear as if Mother Nature is voicing her disapproval.

Speaking of the US/Ghana match, Bob Molinaro had this observation over the weekend in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Say what?: If the U.S. doesn’t win its World Cup opener on Monday, American hopes are Ghana be in jeopardy. Sorry about that.”

It is a good thing that he apologized for that comment…

In that same column, Professor Molinaro had this more meaty comment regarding the World Cup Tournament:

“All the comforts: Naturally, Brazil is favored to emerge the winner in its own country. It’s a little like Kentucky’s basketball team getting to play all of its NCAA tournament games in Rupp Arena. Actually, the odds are even better for Brazil. Not counting exhibitions, it hasn’t lost a match on home soil since 1975.”

Finally, Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald had this to say about Kentucky’s basketball team:

“The SEC is considering allowing beer sales at football games. In a related story, the Kentucky basketball team’s goal is to keep a player from turning pro until he’s old enough to drink.”

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

Greetings from Chicago…

Greetings from Chicago. The sporting world may be focused on Brazil today as the World Cup commences whether or not Brazil is ready to stage the games in the tournament, but my long-suffering wife and I have chosen to avoid South America for our trip. We took a train to Chicago; it is a leisurely way to travel. The scheduled time for the trip is 17 hours; we arrived 2 hours late. Not to worry, we booked a 5-hour connection here in Chicago and our tickets for a sleeping car accommodation give us access to Amtrak’s Metropolitan Lounge. That is the origin of this note.

When you tune in to see one of the World Cup “fixtures”, ESPN will have a top-shelf group of announcers for you including:

    Derek Rae: I remember him from the 2010 World Cup; he was paired with a Scotsman named Allie “Something”. [Sorry, I do not remember that gentleman’s last name.] I do recall that they were a pair that worked well together and were informative in their call of the games.

    Adrian Healey: He seems to be from the “minimalist school” of play-by-play broadcasting; he lets the action on the screen speak for itself and he tries to explain background stuff for the game.

    Ian Darke: He is my favorite. In addition to being another member of the “minimalist school”, he is a master wordsmith. At least twice a game he will explain something in a couple of words that captures the essence of the moment.

Enjoy these gentlemen. Then wonder why we cannot have NFL announcers who do the games similarly…

US National Team’s coach, Jurgen Klinsman, has come under criticism for remarks he made that the US had no chance to win the World Cup this year. Frankly, I think all he was doing was giving voice to reality. Here is something to keep in mind:

    The only difference between a cynic and a realist is whether or not you agree with him.

I read somewhere that national teams entering the World Cup tournament traditionally generate team slogans for themselves. They are motivational adages if you will. I like the one for the French team this year:

“Impossible is not a French word.”

I took 2 years of French in college in order to fulfill my foreign language requirement and even with that rudimentary exposure to the language, I can tell you that “impossible” is indeed a French word – and in fact, it is spelled exactly the same in French as in English.

I am not sure where or when the next of these will happen; but when it does, I shall put it on the board

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

Just Cleaning Up Stuff…

Last week, I cited a column that tried to explain how paying college athletes in the “revenue sports” might work in light of Title IX. Later that day, I got an e-mail from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times with a proposed remedy to any problem that might arise here:

“One way around the paying athletes/Title IX issue: Instead of calling it pay for athletes, call it profit-sharing – if your sport turns a profit, that is. (Would it be cruel and unusual to ask athletes in money-losing sports to open their own checkbooks and write one to good old State U?)”

There is a creative way to look at the issue. Not only does it draw an objective line between those folks who will receive compensation (profit-sharing not wages) but it also provides an incentive for participants in other sports to find ways to turn those activities into profit centers. Being against that is almost like being against:

    “Truth, justice and … the American way.”

And to answer Professor Perry’s question about asking athletes in money-losing sports to subsidize those activities, I say why not? After all, most of the parents of those athletes have already become accustomed to shelling out cash from the family discretionary spending account to pay for their kid’s athletic endeavors. Think about all the travel teams, regional tournaments in cities hundreds of miles from home, special equipment, private trainers and the like. Parents have found ways to pay for that when the kid was not on scholarship at “good old State U”; so why change now?

    [Aside: Mark Emmert is certainly not the most popular man in the US about now. Nonetheless, he can make himself even more loathsome by suggesting anything that is even close to my proposal above. Do not look for my idea to gain any traction at any time.]

Speaking of collegiate athletics that do not generate a ton of revenue, there is an NAIA school in Kentucky that just acquired a young woman named Shelby Osbourne to play defensive back on their football team. Notice, she is not going there hoping to be the placekicker; she is going to try to make the team as a cornerback. Osbourne is listed at 5’ 6” and 140 lbs. Her high school football experience in Indiana includes 5 games on the varsity team playing cornerback and a JV career playing cornerback, safety and wide receiver. No one would confuse NAIA football with the kind of football played in the so-called “power conferences”. Nevertheless, Ms. Osbourne will need to be tough as nails at her size and/or as fast as a speeding bullet to succeed.

Bonne chance, Shelby Osbourne…

I met someone at a social event recently and he asked me a question I had not thought about before. He asked why it is that baseball players – when a game is over – ritually shake hands with their teammates but not with the opposing team. He said that in all the other sports he could think of, ritual handshakes were always with the opponents.

Now that he mentioned that, I think he is right. Even in individual sports such as tennis or golf or boxing, there is a ritual congratulating of the opponent when the game/match/bout is over. But that does not happen baseball; the winning team congratulates itself and the losing team gathers up its “stuff” and heads for the clubhouse.

I am not sufficiently steeped in the history and lore of baseball to know why this is the case and a very cursory Internet search did not turn up any insight. Now that I have thought about this a bit, it also seems as if “fraternization” in baseball is exhibited to a far lesser degree than in other sports. For example, after an NFL game it is commonplace to see opponents greet and hug one another and to see players from both squads join in a prayer circle on the field. I have never seen anything even close to that at a baseball game.

If anyone here knows why this is the case, please enlighten all of us. Thanks in advance…

Yesterday, I mentioned a few minor league baseball promotions that will take place this month. Today I want to tell you about a minor-league club that might be putting its fanbase in harm’s way. The Potomac Nationals – the A affiliate of the Washington Nationals in the Carolina League – are going to provide an incentive for fans to eat more bacon. The plan is to sell bacon for $1 per strip; however, fans can also get three strips for $2; at the top of the triglyceride pyramid, fans can also get ten strips of bacon in a souvenir cup for $5.

    Memo for Potomac Nationals’ management: Have you checked the demographic for baseball fans? They are generally not teenagers and millenials. To maintain your fanbase, do you really want to pump that much bacon down the gullets of geezers?

In Scott Ostler’s SF Chronicle column last weekend, he demonstrated that he has embraced the essence of the modern sports radio school of argumentation. The great Greek philosophers did not argue this way but most random callers to sports radio shows have taken this argumentation path and turned it into an eight-lane highway. Here is a perfect example; imagine the caller is “Tony from da Bronx”:

“If Gregg Popovich is such a great coach, how come he coached Pomona-Pitzer for nine seasons and never guided the Sagehens to a Final Four?”

“Tony from da Bronx” has a point there; however, when he wears a hat no one would notice.

Finally, here is an item from Greg Cote of the Miami Herald regarding the way players in the NBA psych themselves up for games:

“Parting thought: Before a recent playoff game the Heat’s Chris ‘Birdman’ Andersen was screaming a rap song called Brick In Yo Face, with lyrics about cocaine and AK-47s. Just once, I’d love to hear an NBA player pump himself up by softly crooning Frank Sinatra’s Summer Wind.”

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