Stark Truth: Scanning the News and a Few Views, TooJune 9th, 2008 by cstark
The Presidential Race
I’ve tuned in to CNN a lot more than I have ESPN lately. We’ve got a presidential race that’s big enough to overshadow even the biggest sports stories of the day. And whether you admit it or not, that’s not always been the case. I imagine there’s a lot of you who would be satisfied to just have more gas in your tank, but I hope you want more than that.
I’d like to think that the “my-vote-doesn’t-count” attitude is a thing of the past. This is the most important presidential race of my life, and maybe my parents’ life, too.
And it’s not because a black man is running for president. It’s a big deal because of the tough times we’re currently experiencing. War, the economy, health care. There’s so many important issues. I don’t know where you stand, and while I’ve made up my mind, I’m not about to tell you whether Barack Obama or John McCain is the best man to get us out our current mess.
I’d like to, but this isn’t the forum. I’ve got a few thoughts on some other issues in the world of sports, though. Here’s five:
1: Big Brown Turned Out to Be a Big Bust
I stopped by the A&C Tavern on Saturday – our local satellite wagering site – and bought a $2 winning ticket on Big Brown. Figured I’d put in a box somewhere and pass it on to the next generation. There’s only been 11 Triple Crown winners in the history of horse racing, and Big Brown was going to be the 12th after smoking the field in the Belmont Stakes.
At least, that’s what we’d been led to believe. No way the horse was going to lose. But as post time approached, I found myself rooting against Big Brown. I liked the horse, but the trainer, Rick Dutrow, was simply too easy to root against. He’d been spouting off at every opportunity, not showing even a hint of class while doing it.
“These horses just cannot run with Big Brown,” Dutrow said before the race. He said it was “a foregone conclusion,” that his horse would win the Belmont Stakes. “…I just don’t see no dogfight in this race.”
Big Brown, for whatever reason, turned out to be the only dog in the field. He finished last. I tossed my souvenir $2 Triple Crown ticket in the trash.
But I did cash a $3 win ticket on 38-1 longshot Da’ Tara. That made be feel doubly good. Dutrow got what he deserved, and, heck, I finally made a little money at the track.
2: Rafael Nadal
Nobody was surprised when Nadal beat Roger Federer in Sunday’s French Open finals, but I don’t think anybody expected such a dominating performance. Nadal broke Federer’s serve in the first game and won 6-1, 6-3, 6-0. That’s ridiculous. Not that long ago people were debating who was the most dominant athlete in sports: Federer or Tiger Woods. Federer’s game has slipped a bit this year, but the guy’s still got game. To win only four games in three sets? Nadal’s win might have been the most dominating in Grand Slam history.
3: M’s Fire Hitting Coach
Jeff Pentland took the first bullet, and as usual, Seattle management misfired. The hitting coach is not the problem. Starting pitchers Miguel Batista, Carlos Silva and Jerrod Washburn aren’t getting the job done either. Should the M’s fire pitching coach Mel Stottlemyer? Of course not.
Pentland’s not telling Seattle hitters to swing at bad pitches. He’s not the one looking at third strikes with runners on base. He’s not the guy who signed Richie Sexson to that multi-million contract. He’s not the guy who decided Jose Vidro was the answer at designated hitter. He’s not the guy who brought in Brad Wilkerson to be the everyday right fielder. Is it Pentland’s fault Ichiro Suzuki isn’t playing like an All-Star? Was he the reason Raul Ibanez hit .218 in May?
Good hitters make adjustments when things go bad, or they’ll seek out help from the hitting coach. Hitting coaches make a few tweaks and suggestion, and they look for flaws in players’ swings, but ultimately, it’s up to the guys swinging the bats. Pentland’s not telling Adrian Beltre, Yuniesky Betancourt and Kenji Johjima to hack at pitches up in their eyes or outside of the zone.
I do think it’s time the Mariners go in a different direction, but it’s time to clean out the front office, not the coaches from the M’s dugout. CEO Howard Lincoln, president Chuck Armstrong and GM Bill Bavasi have been given ample time to turn the team around. Just when you think it can’t get worse, it does. It’s time for somebody else to chart a new course for the Mariners’ sinking ship.
4: Watching Soccer
Greg Stensrud, a local fan who can’t get enough soccer news, shared this with me after reading a story in the Sports Business Journal. As Greg pointed out, it’s an interesting perspective.
SBJ founding editor Steve Bilafer writes:
“I went to my first MLS game two weeks ago. In fact, it was the first time I had ever attended a soccer match played by anyone over 10 years old. It was a fun evening all around, and all the families in our youth soccer group went home happy. Here’s my one beef: I missed both goals. In fact, it seemed every time I looked away, something exciting happened. Is this a reason why soccer struggles with the American audience? It’s not the sport’s fault. We just don’t know how to watch it. There are no whistles or predictable stoppages in play so you can do the things you’re used to doing at a sporting event, like talking, texting, reading the program, checking out the crowd … and don’t even think of getting up for a beverage. Don’t get me wrong. I’d go again. But when I do, I’m just not going to take my eyes off the field until halftime.”
5: NBA Finals
I’ve yet to see a single minute of The Finals between the Celtics and Lakers, so I’m going to defer to another source for his opinion. He shall go unnamed, but he’s a die-hard Boston fan who grew up in Massachusetts. He likes the Celtics almost as much as he detests Celtics coach Doc Rivers. He’s a Kobe hater, too. Go to unsportsmanlikeconduct.com. for all of his rants. Here’s a sample:
“As a longtime Celtics fan who waited so long for them to become relevant again, never mind so stocked with talent that anyone but Dick Vitale could coach them to a title, imagine my agony watching Doc Rivers screw up this amazing team game after game.”
That was before they got to the Finals. Here’s what he wrote after sunday’s Game 2:
“After the Celtics survived to win 108-102, Rivers opened the post-game press conference by saying his players lost the lead by trying to attempt difficult shots. Although he’s paid to know the game, Rivers apparently didn’t notice that his tired players were getting beaten on passes and loose balls and rebounds. Somehow Rivers didn’t see that Kobe Bryant was getting into the paint on drives that had been denied to him the first 7 quarters of the Finals by a team that no longer had the legs to stay with him.
“The sad part is that this is nothing knew. Ever since the playoffs began, Rivers has inexplicably abandoned the bench that helped the Celtics to a league-best 66 wins. Leon Powe, who powered the win with 21 points, surely wouldn’t have played serious minutes if Perkins hadn’t been injured and picked up early fouls to boot. After all, Leon — who turned in lots of games like this given the chance during the season — had seen more DNPs than Ps throughout the first three rounds as the Celtics struggled against the Hawks, Cavaliers and Pistons. Don’t expect to see much more of Leon unless someone gets injured or in foul trouble, even though he’s Boston’s best inside player. Or unless Rivers gets hit by a bus and someone with half a brain takes over as coach.”