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Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

The headlines are painful even if you’re a casual baseball fan and boy, are there headlines! For residents of the outer boroughs and certain parts of New Jersey who were addicted to the trials and tribulations of the team that almost was, today feels not just like deja vu all over again but like a new kind of torture especially designed for loyal fans. Does it hurt more when you fall from on high? You bet it does. Is it worse when you’ve come to the end of a roller coaster season? Oh yeah. How about if your team is beaten by the last-place Marlins or the team spot in the playoffs that was within its reach goes to a rival that earlier this year marked 10,000 losses, the most of any franchise? Don’t even go there. For the uninitiated, the Mets were seven games ahead – seven! – in mid-September and just a short three weeks later they were banished from post-season play by virtue of an unprecedented dive, one which will, in the words of one sports writer, “consign the 2007 Mets to baseball infamy.” Whether you blame the sluggish bullpen or the undependable Reyes or whether you’re ready to run the estimable Willie Randolph out of town on a rail, it’s all moot. We still remember the ball bouncing through Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner’s legs during the 1986 World Series (an error that resulted in a seventh game and a World Series title for the Mets, incidentally), so no one believes this meltdown will soon be forgotten – or even forgiven.

The hardest part is that I’ve watched the sports section in the New York Times for years to see if and when the Mets would top the Yankees for coverage and be featured consistently above the fold – the mark, in old-fashioned newspaper parlance, of a significant story. Well, they’ve made it, with the Yankees discretely consigned to page three while they rest up for their thirteenth consecutive payoff season. The Mets are all over page 1. But not like this, fellas, not like this!

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Some people yell at the television, especially during sports events. I yell at the newspaper. This kind of venting is supposed to be good for you, although I’m not so sure. The stories in today’s paper, which I was reading at breakfast, gave me ample opportunity to release my frustrations. For instance, when I read that millionaires in Silicon Valley still felt poor and struggled to “get by,” I said very loudly, “More? You want MORE?” (from the musical “Oliver”), which I thought was clever. I mean, come on people. Anyway, I felt momentarily better but then I read that new rules designed to reduce the practice of earmarking money for pet projects in Congress has instead increased it because our representatives are competing for our tax dollars for their districts and even bragging about snagging the extra dough buried in some appropriations bill or other. “Everybody over to the trough, free pork!” I shouted at the newspaper and shook it a little for good measure. When I got to the piece about about the changed domestic surveillance bill passing despite serious misgivings, I found myself yelling, “Then why pass it?”. By the time I had perused the other headlines (forclosures up, stock prices down, healthcare still insufficient or out of reach for most, elite child athletes are seeing sports psychologists for heaven’s sake!), I was inflicting serious damage to the paper and I hadn’t even finished my first cup of coffee. That’s no way to begin the day so I balled up the front section, along with business and sports sections (I’m cranky about Barry Bonds’ pursuit of my beloved Hank Aarons’ home run record), took a deep breath and with a sigh, picked up the arts page where, by avoiding any references to pop culture celebrities without talent, I was able to sooth my troubled soul and finish breakfast.

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I was reading the Huffington Post this morning and thinking about whether to jump into the comments section in order to inject a reasonable note into the back and forth of name-calling and insulting. I could have directed the passionate mud-slingers to my recent post on “Uncivil Society” but decided instead to check out sports, noting that the Mets’ uneven season and the wide-open Tour de France could drive even a casual fan crazy. I went to check my mail and read the lead stories: the Dow has passed 14,000 , Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal may soon be owned by Rupert Murdoch and Bin Laden is again making threats against the U.S. Oh boy! Meanwhile, the rain forecast has been upgraded to strong storms and it’s only four days until we find out whether Harry Potter lives or dies. Who knew summer could be so stressful?

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No Joy in Mudville

Philadelphia, stuck between snooty New York and power-hungry Washington, has always positioned itself as a Cinderella story waiting to happen. After all, Rocky ran the steps and proved that it’s possible to triumph over adversity. Yet Philadelphia sports fans, whose devotion borders on pathological, have been consistently punished for their loyalty. The old Veterans Stadium where the Eagles played until recently was considered one of the worst in the NFL, although it did have a holding pen for trouble-makers. Despite a slew of near-wins, the last championship team for the city was the 1983 Sixers. There are even “Tortured Philly Fan” T-shirts for sale that say “No cup. No Trophy. No Title. No Ring.” Now comes the news that the beloved but equally tortured Phillies have lost more games than any professional franchise in any sport. Not just baseball – any sport. During its 125 year history, the team has won exactly one championship but is closing in on 10,000 losses. Ouch, that’s gotta hurt.

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Sometimes I feel as if I’m living in a time warp – or maybe a worm hole. Roger Clemens is back pitching for the Yankees. Broadway is awash in Disney musicals based on movies we saw as kids. Half the clothes they’re showing for spring look as if they came out of my closet circa 1975. That might account for my cynical reaction to yesterday’s MSNBC headline that announced a “new strategy in Iraq.” All I could think of was: been there, done that.

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Crisis at the World Bank, crisis in the Middle East, ongoing crises in Africa: the news is dismal. Then there is the scandal plaguing professional cycling. I started watching the Tour de France in the early nineties but it was Lance Armstrong who really hooked me with his strength, his skill and his successful battle against cancer. We all bought the “Live Strong” bracelets in those years and we mostly discounted the rumors about artificially enhanced performance because he was our guy. But somewhere along the line money came into the picture, lots of it, what with all the endorsements, sponsorships and TV spots; then came drugs, notoriety and scandal. Now we have the disgraced 2006 Tour de France champion Floyd Landis spinning his wheels in a courtroom mired in tales of drugs used, drug tests failed and threats made by his manager against LeMonde, whose own difficult past has come to light. Looks like cycling hit paydirt; then the mud started flying.

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