Back And Forth And Back Again…

Today marks my 49th wedding anniversary. Today also the day of the year when my long-suffering wife looks in the mirror and asks the person looking back at her:

    What the Hell were you thinking?

Yes, we are already contemplating how to celebrate our 50th anniversary next year…

There seems to be a fluttering in the baseball world this week – it does not even rise to the level of a kerfuffle in my mind – about Bryce Harper’s decision not to participate in the Home Run Derby this year. For reasons that escape me, Harper is taking heat for his decision. To everyone who is voicing even the slightest disagreement with Harper on this issue, I would like to say:

    Just shut up!

In the first place, the Home Run Derby is an invitational event. Every player on every team does not have the ability to just show up and participate. Now, by definition, an invitation is something that can be either accepted or declined. An invitation is not a commitment or an obligation; the element of individual choice exists in every invitation. And, Bryce Harper has chosen to decline that invitation. There is really no reason to get your blood pressure up by even a single millimeter of mercury.

I heard one caller on a local sports radio show – remember I live in the DC area where Harper plays all the time – who said that Harper’s absence would “diminish the importance of the Home Run Derby”.

    Memo to Hyper-Fan: I am not sure it is possible to diminish the importance of an event that is as meaningless and trivial as the Home Run Derby. Please adjust your medication levels…

In another bit of news related to the MLB All-Star Game, the rosters were announced this week and people immediately began saying that A-Rod was “snubbed”. Look, if he had made the team, that would mean that someone else would be off the squad and that could just as well indicate that the other guy was “snubbed”. Can we please put an end to the nonsense of “snubbing” when it comes to All-Star Games or slots in the NCAA Tournament? If the selection process allows for “judgment” and “discretion” there are always going to be decisions that some folks will disagree with. Leave it at that.

Since the calendar says that we are in the month of July, it is time for the Tour de France – one of the least compelling sporting events put on television ranking right down there with bass fishing and synchronized snoring. Here is an overview comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald that addresses an issue not commonly contemplated regarding the race:

“Tour de France gets underway: Still going despite all of its various doping scandals, the latest Tour de Fraud France has begun. It must be so difficult for those cyclists to peddle up mountains while simultaneously providing urine samples.”

The qualifying rounds for soccer in the 2016 Olympics are underway. In the early stages of international qualifying, there are often outrageous mismatches because every country with an Olympic Committee can enter a team in a qualifying round. Often you see startling scores when a soccer powerhouse – say Germany – has a qualifying match against a cupcake – say San Marino. This week, there was an even more startling result.

The reason it is so startling is that the winner of the game was Vanuatu – a national team that should never be confused with a “soccer powerhouse”. In this qualifying match, Vanuatu beat Micronesia by a score of 46-0. That is not a typo; the score was 24-0 at the half. One player on the Vanuatu side scored 16 goals in the game.

Micronesia is just beginning to assemble a national team and to say they are having growing pains would be a monumental understatement. Prior to the debacle against Vanuatu, Micronesia had lost games to Tahiti (30-0) and to Fiji (38-0). I will go out on a limb and guess that Micronesia will not be in the Olympics next year. I wonder if Vanuatu, Fiji or Tahiti will make the grade…

The important data/stats from the Women’s World Cup tournament – the ones that involve money, TV ratings and fan interest – are in and they show that the sport is more than merely healthy. Consider:

    Total attendance: 1,353,506 (largest for a FIFA event other than a World Cup)

    Matches with 50,000+ in attendance: 7

    TV Ratings: CTV and FOX had highest ratings for a soccer match ever.

    FIFA website devoted to Women’s World Cup had 20 million unique visits.

    FIFA You Tube had more hits than same channel did for Brazil’s World Cup.

Women’s soccer did better on TV and online than men’s soccer did last year during the World Cup in Brazil. The important “business question” would seem to be whether that kind of interest can be sustained in the years when there is no international competition like the World Cup or the Olympics. I am not talking here only about in the US; countries like France and Japan and Australia and China also set TV viewing records for the games in Canada so it will be interesting to see how that surge of interest carries over into the sport of women’s soccer during “normal times”.

There were more than 20 million folks tuned into the USA/Japan final game last weekend. There is a professional women’s soccer league here in the US – the National Women’s Soccer League – and the players people watched last weekend play regularly in that league. The question now is how the league and the TV networks move to leverage the interest shown in the World Cup games – and particularly the final game – into something that can sustainably grow in the US sporting landscape. The league has a TV deal with FOX to televise a few games for the rest of this season and to televise the playoffs later this year. The next few months are very important for the future economic status of women’s soccer here in the US.

Finally, here is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are no longer an item.
“So No. 1 on the list of Golf’s Famous Couples is once again Fred.”

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

3 thoughts on “Back And Forth And Back Again…”

  1. Do you remember when the 2002 All-Star game was cancelled in the 11th inning? We could have used Bryce Harper then. Of course, he was only ten-years old at the time.

  2. Congratulations to you and the Mrs. on 49 tears together. Its nice she puts up with your sports habit.

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