Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A bad day for ARod

My five-year-old nephew put it very succinctly years ago.


“I’m having a bad day!” he said when I asked him what was bothering him one day.


Okay. We all have bad days.


Well, Tuesday, Alex Rodriguez had a really, really bad day. Regarded as the best player in baseball by many, one who will qualify for the Hall of Fame a half-dozen ways by the time his career is over, Rodriguez hit into two double plays, struck out twice – the second time to end the game – and committed an error in the New York Yankees’ 7-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox.


Was it a game the Yankees’ had to win? Yeah, except really, they aren’t going anywhere. It’s all over.


But you have to go down fighting. Rodriguez didn’t. Or it didn’t look like it. Not Tuesday. And he was roasted for it in the media, which I guess is fair.


I know the guy makes a billion dollars a year, but I feel sorry for him. I mean, kind of. You make that kind of money, and the fans think you have to come through every time. That isn't realistic, but it is real.


Rodriguez does have a penchant for failing at the worst possible times, though.


I’m not a big fan, but I hope he gets a chance to redeem himself.




Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Not a must-win game, but ...

So, right now, today, they are very confident over at Syracuse University.


The football season starts Saturday at Northwestern, and the Orange really believe they can have a big season.


SU doesn’t absolutely, positively have to win this game. Hey, things have been so bad for so long, you have to take what you can get. Battling the Wildcats down to the wire would be a big plus. It would at least prove the Orange can compete, and that’s something, given what has gone on in recent years. A win? A win against a Big Ten team that has a high-powered offense and seems capable of eight or more victories would send SU’s confidence level through the roof.


To win, even to make it close, SU will have to play nearly mistake-free football and force some turnovers, or get an outstanding performance from someone who has been hiding in the shadows for a while.


If the Orange get hammered, well, you don’t even want to think about how ugly this season could become.



Monday, August 25, 2008

Thome an all-time favorite


Two more home runs, and Jim Thome of the Chicago White Sox will tie Mickey Mantle’s total of 536.


That’s something. Mickey Mantle was one of great stars of all-time, and a particular hero when I was growing up. No star in any sport today was any bigger than Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays were in the 1950s and 1960s.


You’d think I’d root against Thome equaling and then surpassing Mantle, the most significant athlete of my youth, beloved by every kid in my old Niagara Falls neighborhood, but I don’t. Thome long as been one of my favorite players. In fact, I’d say he and Jason Varitek of the Red Sox are indeed my absolute favorites.


I’ve always loved Thome’s power.  And it is power that no one ever has suggested was boosted by steroids or human growth hormones. Thome is just a big, strong man with a great swing who drives in runs and smacks home runs in bunches.


Beyond that, Thome always has projected dignity and class. He does his job, keeps his mouth shut and seems to treat everyone with respect. He’s regarded as one of the friendliest players in the big leagues.


I don’t’ mind Thome passing Mickey. He just turned 38, so who knows how many at bats he has left, but I hope he hits 600

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Olympics turn watchable

So, I wasn’t going to watch the Olympics.


I just wasn’t interested.


But, not for the first time, I’ve had to eat my words.


The Michael Phelps saga made me watch, for sure.


And I have been watching beach volleyball, even though I think it is stupid and not much of a game. Repetitive beyond belief. And although I have nothing against athletic women in very skimpy bathing suits, I think it is pretty embarrassing to have people playing a sport looking like that.


I haven’t watched any basketball. Let me know when we might have a close game.


Last night, we were watching the trampoline competition. One guy in the office said the “sport” didn’t belong in the Olympics. I said it did. What’s the difference between the trampoline and the balance beam or floor exercise? If the trampoline doesn’t qualify, neither does gymnastics.


Anyway, as I told my colleague, I don’t think he couldt bounce about 400 feet in the air like that and come down and bounce up again. He’d be flying off into the stands someplace and be seriously injured or worse.


All kidding aside, I’m not sure what makes an Olympic sport – apparently softball and baseball don’t qualify, or won’t in 2012 – but I know you have to be a great athlete to use a trampoline that way.




Saturday, August 16, 2008

SEC's Mike Slive enjoys trip home

Mike Slive was in Utica today for Utica Free Academy’s 50th reunion.


Slive was an outstanding quarterback on a couple of outstanding UFA football teams, including the 1957 Central Oneida League champions, and went on to Dartmouth College, were he lettered three years in lacrosse.


He’s had a great career since then as a lawyer and judge, collegiate athletic director (Cornell University) and conference commissioner. He’s been the commissioner of the Southeastern Conference since 2002 and has done a great job cleaning up the conference’s image while maintaining its competitive edge, which has resulted in numerous national championships in major sports.


Slive obviously is highly thought of by his peers. A graduate of both the University of Virginia and Georgetown University law schools, he was coordinator of the Bowl Championship Series the last two years, and will be the chairman of the NCAA Division I basketball committee this academic year.


Mike was a great guy to talk sports with, and I know he thoroughly enjoyed spending time with his old teammates and classmates.



Thursday, August 14, 2008

Comments on Wright just too much

I’m an old-fashioned guy.


Or, you might say I’m a stick in the mud.


You know. I don’t carry a cell-phone, although the day is coming when I probably will have to, and my computer skills are still pretty rudimentary.


I do love the internet as a research tool and even as a source of entertainment. However, I am more likely than most to see its dark side.


By dark side, I mean the ability it gives to racists, nut jobs and other creeps to say whatever they want whenever they want with anonymity and without accountability. I can’t stand it.


An example is the reaction to the news this week that former Thomas R. Proctor and Syracuse University basketball star Josh Wright had been arrested. Whatever anyone might think of Wright or his culpability in the matter, he and the reading public didn’t deserve the kind of extreme trash talk – much of it blatantly racist – that I saw on one newspaper comment page. Besides being ignorant beyond belief, much of it also was demonstrably inaccurate. It should be taken down in the name, at the very least, of good taste, a virtue that is rapidly eroding in our country.


This kind of thing does nothing to get to the truth and eats away at a sense of community.    


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

No, SU not likely to go 7-5

Recently, Fred Miller and Gene Conte of WIBX Radio’s Sportswatch asked me on the air how Syracuse University’s football team would do this year.


SU’s program has fallen on hard times, without a winning season since 2001. The Orange now are well below the radar, and this year the Big East media picked them to finish last in the league.


Well, Fred and Gene went down the schedule and asked me, game by game, if SU would win. When they added it all up, I had predicted seven wins and five losses.  


Do I really think SU will go 7-5? No. I hate making predictions. Media people who make them are just full of it. And there is no risk. If the record isn’t as good as what you forecasted, it’s the team’s fault. If better, the team has overachieved and you can’t be blamed for not seeing that coming.


Still, everyone expects sportswriters to make predictions. And those guys kind of trapped me into it!


If the Orange do go 7-5, we’ll have a parade down Erie Boulevard. My response was based on the possibility of winning games. It isn’t beyond reasonably for the Orange to beat Northwestern, Akron, Northeastern, Pittsburgh (at the Carrier Dome), Louisville (also at home), Rutgers and Connecticut. I don’t think they can beat Penn State, West Virginia, South Florida or Notre Dame, at least at South Bend. It is possible they can beat Cincinnati, too, but that would mean eight wins. That’s just too much for a team that has won seven games in three seasons. Now that I think of it, they are more likely to beat Cincinnati than they are Pittsburgh.


On any given day, they SU can beat any team on the schedule, but it’s rare to have seven or eight “any given days.” The Orange do have four straight games at home after opening at Northwestern. If they can go 4-1 or 3-2 in those games, their confidence will grow and  a good season is possible. I hope that’s what happens, for coach Greg Robinson’s sake and for the future of the football program in general.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Harrington is very hot

Tiger Woods or no Tiger Woods, you've got to hand it to Padraig Harrington.
Woods hasn't been in the picture since winning the U.S. Open, so some people get the idea that Harrington's victories in the British Open and the just-concluded PGA Championship are somehow tainted.
Well, maybe, but the guy sure is playing great golf. Harrington is so hot, I'm not sure even the prospect of facing down Tiger in the final round of either tournament would have cooled him down. He shot 32 the final nine holes at Royal Birkdale, and he fired back-to-back 66s in the final two rounds of the PGA, on a fierce course.
With his victory in the British last year, that's three majors in 13 months. That is Tigerish, to be sure. 
I hope Harrington's game stays sharp when Tiger returns next year, and I love Tiger Woods. If he isn't the greatest golfer of all time and one of the greatest competitors in any sport ever - even if I sometimes wonder about the spontaneity of some of his celebrations - he certainly is in a extremely elite group. But he really needs a genuine rival to further legitimize his legend, and for the good of the game. His dominance has been so thorough for so long that there often is no drama when he plays, and no interest when he doesn't.
So, cheers for Harrington. 

Friday, August 8, 2008

New hunting law a good one

I was gratified to see that participants in The Observer-Dispatch’s Friday Forum generally approved of the new law signed by Gov. David Paterson that allows 14- and 15-year-olds to hunt big game with a firearm.


Aside from the fact that New York was the only state that did not allow youngsters of those ages to hunt with a firearm, the mentoring program that goes along with the law will, in the long run, produce safer, more ethical hunters.


The argument that young people are not mature enough to handle firearms simply doesn’t hold water. Teenagers already are the safest hunting age group in the state. They seem willing to be instructed, and they don’t assume they know it all, as some older hunters do.


We have had a few young hunters in our camp over the years. Some of the fathers have taken their children out to sit with them on stand and observe years before they were eligible to hunt.


If you are against hunting in the first place, you’re going to be against the law. If you approve of hunting, or don’t really care one way or another, you have to believe that a mentoring program is a very good thing. Most kids of 14 or 15 who are interested are going to hunt in a couple of years anyway. It’s a good thing to be able to have knowledgeable adults train them in the field.





Thursday, August 7, 2008

Golf isn't easy, but it's fun

I was talking to a friend the other day about golf.


He said he doesn’t like the game. He isn’t good at it. He won’t play something he isn’t good at.


I understand that, but I long ago came to terms with golf. I still become angry with myself because of my lack of propensity for the game, but not too much. Another friend once told me to just go out there and laugh. It was good advice.


Now, every now and then, for as long as eight holes, I actually can keep the ball in play and maybe play bogey golf.


But never for longer than eight holes. I was on my way to a 42 on the front a couple of weeks ago, hit a good drive off of Number 9, ended up with an eight and finished with 46. Don’t even ask about the back nine.


Hey, it’s a tough game, and I play maybe every three or four weeks and practice perhaps twice a year. Where am I going?


Anyway, I don’t think if I played five times a week and practiced the two other days that I’d be much better than I am. I think maybe my hand-eye coordination isn’t so great, especially at my now-advanced age.


So, when I’m out there, I do my best and live with the results. I love the game – the history, the settings, the strategy, the concepts of course management – and I almost always have a good time. It’s four hours spent outdoors, and I usually hit just enough good shots to keep me coming back.


So, I probably will never get my friend to love the game, but I sure do.







Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Lomong is just a great story

Well, at least now I have a reason to watch the Olympic opening ceremonies.


I’d love to see Lopez Lomong carry the Stars and Stripes, leading the American team into the games.


That’s in part because I covered several cross country races and track meets that Lomong competed in for Tully High School, usually against some of the top runners from the Mohawk Valley.


It’s also in part because of his story. Lomong is one of The Lost Boys of Sudan, who came to Central New York as refugees after suffering mightily in their home country and through 10 years of hard living in a Kenyan displaced persons camp.


Talk about the American Dream. This is a guy who was thought dead by his parents for many years after he was kidnapped by soldiers. Who didn’t’ know how to turn on a light switch when he first came to the United States. Who had no idea how to regulate the water temperature in the shower, instead shivering under the cold water and thinking that’s how white people became white.


I remember Lomong as a long and lanky running machine, very good, but not always better than the guys from around here. He went on to a great career at Northern Arizona, made the Olympic team in the 1,500 meters, and now will enjoy what many consider the ultimate honor for an Olympian.


That’s pretty cool. We wish Lopez nothing but the best in Beijing and hope he earns a medal, but whether he does or not, he’s already a winner.





Monday, August 4, 2008

SU opens practice for make-or-break season

Syracuse University opened football practice today, getting ready for a season that everyone – meaning the media and fans – assumes is a make or break season for coach  Greg Robinson.


The Orange are coming off a 2-10 season, they’ve lost the two biggest weapons from an offense that wasn’t so hot in the first place, and they have about half the starters back from a defense that was pretty leaky.


But Robinson, 7-28 in his three seasons, didn’t want to talk about his future during Monday’s season-opening press conference. In fact, he cut off questions about it before one even was asked. He wanted to talk about his team and it’s potential for this season.


That’s fair. The fact is, the immediate future does not look promising, but surprises do happen. The Orange have a good quarterback and at least three running backs who show great potential. However, the loss of receivers Taj Smith and Mike Williams has to be mitigated in some way, and the much-maligned offensive line has to show great improvement. On defense, well, at some point, the defense just has to stop somebody.


The season opens Aug. 30 at Northwestern, then the Orange play four  straight home games. That’s a good thing. If they can capitalize on the favorable schedule – well, I wouldn’t even guarantee a victory over I-AA Northeastern – maybe something good will happen.





Saturday, August 2, 2008

Yankee's old-time infield was pretty good

There are old timers days, and then there is Old Timers Day at Yankee Stadium.


The best one, by a mile.


They held one again today. I caught just glimpses of it now and then as I was kind of busy.


I did see Johnny Blanchard introduced, a role player on the great Yankee teams of the late 1950s and early 1960s, but a favorite of mine. And Moose Skowron, a good hitter and 20-homer guy who also was a very good first baseman.


I spoke to Skowron in Cooperstown a few years ago. Maybe it was more than a few years ago. They’re starting to run together now. Anyway, he was great to talk to. I told him how terrific I thought that Yankee infield of the early 60s was – Skowron at first, Bobby Richardson at second, Tony Kubek at short, Clete Boyer at third. Very tight. He agreed, of course, as he should have.


Those teams were known for their power – they hit 240 home runs; Roger Maris hit 61, Mickey Mantle hit 54; Skowron hit 28 and Blanchard hit 21, by the way – but they benefited from that infield, too.


You don’t hear about good infield’s anymore. Good guys at second, third and short, but you don’t hear about good infields. They still make a difference, though.





Friday, August 1, 2008

Monk deserves Hall of Fame honor

Art Monk will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame today.


That’s a good choice.


Monk was not a flashy guy on the field or off, but he was amazingly consistent during his career with the Washington Redskins, with whom he won two Super Bowls. He caught 940 passes in his 16-season career, including a final two years with the Jets and Eagles. He averaged a modest 13.5 yards a catch – those are tight end type numbers – four touchdowns per season. He wasn’t going to scare you to death deep, but he moved the chains, and that is far more important than some fans realize.


Monk was very consistent during his four-year career at Syracuse, too. He was the team’s top receiver his last three seasons, in 1977, 1978 and 1979, when he teamed up with the Orange’s two other big guns of the time, Billy Hurley and Joe Morris, and he still holds SU’s record for catches in a game with 14 in a 45-34 win over Navy in 1977.


Monk was consistent, hard-nosed, reliable for a long, long time, and he won two titles. He deserves to be in there.