Monday, July 10, 2006

Feast Or Famine


Feast or famine. So often, for a guy like myself who loves sports, it's either a full plate or starvation. Let's start with some games I didn't compete in - the televised sports for the weekend.

The Red Sox, champions from 2004, are playing a three game set against the Chicago White Sox, last year's champions. Through Saturday's game, the Carmine Hose (as one or two florid sportswriters from past years described them) have taken two. David Ortiz and Jim Thome have been having their own battle within a battle, with Ortiz barely hanging on to his league lead in home runs. Great stuff.

Of course, the World Cup final goes on Sunday. I really enjoy the World Cup, but have no feeling whatsoever for MLS soccer - or soccer in general, really. I sort of follow the Aston Villa team from England - I have a scarf that I picked up over there many moons ago - but you barely have any opportunities over here to actually see them play, unless you buy pay-per-view of Premier League Soccer, and I don't.

As much as I enjoy the World Cup, I've come to the conclusion that I'm a jinx. Every country I've rooted for has gone down. I started off being very jingoistic, rooting for the United States, and that didn't turn out to be much fun. After they went home, I adopted Trinidad & Tobago. Their goaltender has one of the great names in all of sports - Shaka Hislop. How can you not like someone named Shaka Hislop? Well, maybe you can't, but I do. Anyway, he played a good net, but Trinidad & Tobago didn't score a single goal, so back to the islands for them. Then I cheered for England. Nope. Then Portugal. Same story. Now I'’m rooting for Italy in the final, so that means France is a lock.

(By the way, I've figured out why soccer will never be big in the United States. Americans are only interested in watching the best athletes perform. Football [gridiron], baseball, basketball, hockey - we are conditioned to believe [and for the most part it's true] that we have the best athletes in the world, in these sports, competing on American soil. Our soccer league isn't even in the top three or four. Until that changes, it's strictly a secondary sport here.)

Lots of golf this weekend. The Senior U. S. Open is interesting. The whole idea of any sport having a successful senior division, wherein the athletes don't come across as totally washed up relics, is interesting. The only sport where this could happen is golf, really, since the participants aren't called upon to do anything much more physically challenging than take a three-mile walk in the countryside, while swinging a stick some 70 or 72 times, over the course of four or five hours.

(I say such derogatory things about golfers knowing full well that my own skills at the game were almost totally non-existent. That game was much more strenuous for me than it is for them, though. I used to swing a stick 100 times, and I'd walk an extra mile or so more looking for my ball - and occasionally get in some jogging when I found a snake where I thought my ball was.)

I do enjoy watching golf on TV. It's very relaxing, what with the announcers whispering half the time, and there are the occasional opportunities for unintended high humor, such as at this weekend's Cialis Open. Whenever a spectator would say, "In the hole!" or one of the golfers, urging on his shot to the green, would opine, "Come on! Get up! Get up!", it was hilarious.

All in all, though, I think I enjoy watching golf so much because it makes my own participation in fast-pitch softball appear Herculean in comparison.

Ah, yes - softball! After so many rainouts this year, the make-up games are backing up on the schedule. So, whereas previously I was playing too little to get into - and stay in - shape, this weekend I'm playing back-to-back doubleheaders. These are a good workout for me, but just a touch too much ball for my 49-year-old bones to completely handle comfortably. I'm thankful that I'm not the only catcher this year, as was the case in a couple of other years. I'm playing some first base - hell, I actually pitched an inning-and-a-third today.

(That came about because we only had one real pitcher. He expects to throw both games tomorrow, too, so I mopped up for him in one game today to give him a break. I gave up four runs on a grand slam and lowered my career ERA, so that will give you some idea of my effectiveness as a pitcher. I had previously pitched once before in this league, walking both batters I faced. They subsequently scored, so my ERA had been infinite. With today's stellar performance, I lowered it to about 45.00, I think.)

Of course, I'd rather have the extra workout than none at all. No complaints. And I think I'm finally getting into a small hitting groove this season. Small consolation, when the team itself is 1 and 5, but we have the other two games to play tomorrow. We can move into fifth place with a sweep. Top six (of ten) make the playoffs at season's end, so not too bad if we can take a couple.

Canadian Football is on now. Three downs instead of four, no fair catches, and the wonderful rouge. Those wacky Canucks!


So, feast or famine. In the entire month of June, I was on the winning side of one softball game. Thus far, July has been worse.

You may remember me bemoaning my own execrable performance sometime back in the middle of June. In another outstanding proof that softball is a team game, I've gone 21 for 32 (.656) since that time - which is about as good an average as it's humanly possible to have in these leagues - but the team results have been 1 win and 10 losses. I'd rather have batted .000 and had the won-loss reversed. It's maddening to be only about halfway through the seasons of my two teams and know that my streak of not being on a championship team is probably destined to stretch out to 42 years.

Don't get me wrong - I love the playing for its own sake and I love the camaraderie with my teammates. And I haven't been the reincarnation of Ted Williams - 19 of those 21 hits I've piled up have been singles, with a fair amount of bloopers and seeing-eye grounders. Every guy on both teams is a good fellow and it isn't that anyone is dogging it. Everybody is giving it whatever he has to give and you can't ask for more than that. However, I suspect that some of the guys are getting into the habit of looking for excuses - blaming umpiring, bad hops, whatever. Those things almost always even out over the course of a season and it does little good to dwell on them. I've found that teams that start believing in their own bad luck tend to perpetuate it. Once that starts happening, there's never any recovering from it.

And enough whining. I'm 49-years-old and still able to run around in the sunshine playing a kid's game. Win or lose the games, just being out there is a personal victory and I've got no right to complain about whatever else happens on the field. There are many thousands of folks who would trade places with me in a heartbeat. Hurray for me!

And hurray for Italy. The team I was rooting for in the final actually won. Amazing. Of course, they won on a penalty kick shootout. I hate that rule. Just keep playing the damn game until someone scores a real goal. Penalty kicks are mostly just an exercise in luck; may as well flip a coin.

See you Tuesday, when I have another game; another opportunity to prolong my childhood a few days more. Another day to count my blessings.


Stu said...

Why soccer won't make the big time in the USA: There's little or no fighting, the action is more methodical and less violent, no contact, and the men wear shorts. All of this, in a addition to the fact that people won't go to enough games because of our lower standing against most other nations, lays the ground for a lack of soccer supremacy.

Also, Go Sox!

Unknown said...

All the kids play soccer now, the US will be able to compete someday.