RIP Jerry Tarkanian

Jerry Tarkanian died yesterday. During his time on the bench, I was convinced that he was a cheater and a slimeball. However, I did have to admire his defiant attitude and behavior with regard to the NCAA as an institution. On balance, though, I did not think highly of him. Nonetheless, I prefer not to rejoice in the passing of any person who is not a heinous human being – and Jerry Tarkanian was hardly in that category.

RIP, Jerry Tarkanian…

Speaking of basketball coaches, reports say that George Karl will take over as the head coach of the Sacramento Kings right after the All-Star break. Karl is a certified basketball lifer and he is a very good coach. He has turned sorry-assed franchises in to respectable franchises in the past; the man knows what he is doing. So this is a prime catch for the Kings, right?

Unfortunately, I have to answer that with “Maybe”. Consider:

    The Sacramento Kings franchise has been around since the dawn of the NBA – and even before that truth be told – residing in cities such as Rochester, Cincinnati, KC/Omaha, KC (by itself) and now Sacramento. This peripatetic franchise has won the NBA Championship exactly 1 time and that was in 1951. To give you an idea of how long ago that was, the Rochester Royals were winning the NBA championship about the same time that President Harry Truman was in the process of relieving General Douglass MacArthur of command in the midst of the Korean War. This franchise does not have a winning tradition.

    The current – and newly minted – owner of the Kings is an impatient man who believes that he has great professional basketball insights. It appears to me that he is a guy who will plant a crop of vegetables and then pull up each plant once a week just to be sure the roots are developing and then put it back in the soil. Months later, he will be surprised when his crop yield is below normal… In short, he seems to be what Danny Boy Snyder would be like if Danny Boy bought and NBA team.

Bonne chance, George Karl…

By now you must have heard about how the team that won the US Little League Championship last summer had that title vacated because they used ineligible players from districts that were not the same as the team playing in the tournament. Just a few comments:

    The kids did not do this; adults nominally in charge did this. Why not punish the adults in a way that does not punish these kids who went out and won games on the field?

    On the other hand, who is to say that the Chicago team would not have been eliminated several rounds earlier absent the “out-of-district ringers”?

    Once again, overzealous and less-than-honorable adults screwed up what ought to have been a wonderful experience for the kids on their team and for the opponents of that team. If I were to learn that those adults suffered some horrible setback in life, I do not think I would be moved to tears.

I have been a constant and vocal critic of the commercialism of the Little League World Series for more than a decade. I think Little League is a great thing; I played Little League baseball as a kid; the team from our district made it to the Little League World Series once back in the mid-50s (without any participation on my part to be sure). A childhood friend made the team that went to the Little League World Series that year; he passed away last year but he often spoke of that event as an important week of his life. The Little League World Series is a big deal and ought to be a big deal – FOR THE KIDS. The problem is that it has become far too big a deal for parents, coaches and television execs. Anyone who claims to be a concerned advocate for “exploited college athletes” needs to focus their attention on the Little League World Series if he/she wants to see what a young exploited athlete looks like.

One of the bedrock principles here in Curmudgeon Central is that just about any situation can be made worse if you just try a little bit. In that spirit, let me tell you how the folks who pay the money to televise the Little League World Series can go to the folks who nominally run the show and make it worse:

    ESPN offers the Little League mavens an extra “six-figure amount per year” if the powers that be arrange to put on a Little League Home Run Derby.

How horrific an idea is that? Do you doubt for a moment that the Little League mavens would turn down the scratch?

Moving from the idea of Little League where kids between the ages of 9 and 12 – unless your name is Danny Almonte – play baseball, I want to take a look at a semi-pro team in Japan called the Ishikawa Million Stars. This team just signed as a player-manager 56-year old Julio Franco. Yes, that Julio Franco. He is the guy who holds the record in MLB as the oldest player to hit a home run (he was 48 when he did that) and the oldest player to hit a grand slam (he was 47 when he did that). Franco’s career in MLB started in 1982 and ended in 2007.

The Million Stars play in a six-team league called the Baseball Challenge League. One of the players on the Million Stars is a 23-year old female knuckleball pitcher named Eri Yoshida. It is close, but she is about young enough to be Franco’s grand-daughter in addition to his teammate on the field…

Finally, an interesting rhetorical question from Greg Cote of the Miami Herald:

“Coral Springs High won the state title in competitive cheerleading. Question: Do cheerleading teams have cheerleaders?”

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