John Updike died this week. I was going to write some sort of somber tribute post, but I have no idea how to go about doing that, and doing it well enough. Updike was a writer who inspired the writers who inspire me. What the heck am I supposed to say about a man like that? I have no right to even try.
I’m just some idiot who just waited in a line outdoors for a few hours for a basketball game my team was almost sure to lose. I screamed, cursed, pointed, pulled my hair, jumped up and down, and screamed some more when the calls weren’t going our way, the score was tight, and the minutes were draining away. There isn’t really a point to getting that worked up over a game, is there?
It’s a basketball game, not a battlefield. I don’t have to carry any of the burdens of the hardwood home with me, and yet I chose to drag every missed call, every stupid shot, every blown opportunity along as I trudged through snow and slush to get home. I drug them, block after block, and they are still weighing on my mood. And my throat hurts…
How stupid is that? It’s a game. This crazy world is full of much bigger problems – heck, my room is full of more urgent issues than whether Nebraska beats Kansas. So why the heck do any of us bother giving so much emotional energy to what doesn’t really matter?
Maybe it is stupid to be a big sports fan. Maybe smart people are above such frivolity. But probably not – smart people love sports too…smart people like John Updike. If Updike, with that level of intelligence and that much loving patience with the English language, saw sports as a fitting pastime that was worthy of his masterful words, than I feel OK with it too.
But, as usual, someone else said it better than I: Joe Posnanski’s column about Updike.
…and Updike himself said everything better: Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu
A record number of hockey things for you today:
Hockey thing #1: Sometimes I wonder about the future of our world - whether my generation and the one just below me can really carry the planet into a better future, or if all of our negative qualities will burn the whole world into the ground. Then I read cool stories about teenagers inventing brilliant things, and I feel better.
Take this kid, for example.
While daydreaming in his high school chemistry class, hockey goaltender Trevor Leahy began to think about the opposing forwards who buzz around him when Pingree School hits the ice.
What are they looking for, he asked himself.
But why does he wear dark blue pads that let shooters zero in on a target?
Using computer skills he learned in a graphic design class at the private school in South Hamilton, Leahy sketched out new leg pads that blend into the goal netting behind him. He wanted pads, a trapper, and a blocker that are white with a raised double-stitched design, just like the goal. He applied for a design patent and had them custom-made by a Canada-based pad maker.
How cool is that? This young man noticed something that many goaltenders have probably never given a second thought: His pads make the empty parts of the net behind him more visible. Then he took it many, many steps further and actually did something with his idea. It may not save lives, and heck, it may not even help his team win games, but it’s outside of the box and it took some creativity and initiative. I applaud this young man.
And besides, those pads are pretty snazzy-looking. I’d wear ‘em.
Hockey thing #2: Another goalie story.
This poor guy. He recorded an amazing NINETY-FIVE saves in one game…and still lost, 4-0. Now, I am no hockey expert, but I cannot imagine how it is even possible for a team to get 99 shots on goal in one game. That is just astounding.
If I were a goalie, and saved 95 shots in one game, I’d want to celebrate. That’s a ridiculous number of saves, and is something this guy will likely remember forever. But it goes down in the books as a loss, and it’s pretty un-classy to celebrate a personal accomplishment when your team ends up losing. And he did allow 4 of those shots to get in….
Hockey thing #3: Looks like I picked the wrong year to start liking Pittsburgh. When I was a kid, I sort of liked hockey. One of my brothers rooted for the Detroit Red Wings (for some random reason or another), so I took them on as “my” team too.
When the long hockey labor strike happened, I just…left. It wasn’t hard to find ways to fill up my time without hockey, because Versus didn’t exist in those days and ESPN rarely airs the sport anyway. I never felt like I was missing much, so when play resumed after the long holdout, I paid no attention.
This year, I decided it was high time I started paying attention to the NHL again, a process which would be much easier if I chose a team to root for. I wanted a clean slate, so I didn’t pick up rooting for Detroit, where I had left off. A friend and I chose the Pittsburgh Penguins for some reason or another.
In the immortal words of Ron Burgundy, I immediately regret that decision. The Penguins aren’t having the greatest of seasons, currently sitting at 4th place in their division (and thanking some deity that they have the Islanders to beat up on). Meanwhile, the team I abandoned is leading their division, and, you know…won the Stanley freaking Cup last season. Remind me again why I didn’t stay a Wings fan?
It’s because I’m an idiot, that’s why.
This thought bears repeating, because it is so ridiculous: The Arizona Cardinals are Super Bowl-bound.
I’m not, by any means, an NFL analyst or anything close to it. And I don’t know anyone in real life who is a Cardinals fan – but I “know” one through the Internet, and his Twitter updates from inside the stadium today said it all.
It turns out, it’s fun when the team I arbitrarily choose to support during the playoffs actually wins.
What a ridiculous game. Though Arizona enjoyed a hefty lead at halftime, I wasn’t convinced they had it wrapped up. What I did NOT expect was that Philiadelphia would score THAT MANY unanswered points to start the 2nd half. After Philly took the lead, 25-24, I was scared. Had the Eagle defense figured out how to cover Larry Fitzgerald? It really didn’t look good. I’m certain that actual fans of the team have all kinds of blood pressure issues to sort out tonight, and those problems will return in two weeks.
In two weeks. The Super Bowl. Will include the Cardinals. What is going on here?
I have a Twitter account, but I don’t ever use it. The sole reason I signed up was for the Shaquille O’Neal feed. His Twitter feed is actually more insightful in its 140-character bursts than a lot of full-blown blogs written by people who don’t routinely get caled “oafs” like Shaq does.
Sometimes, we get adorably self-conscious evaluations of O’Neal’s status in the NBA: “Is yao ming really a half a million all star votes better than me, my twitterish broth ers and sisters” (link)
He also gives us his opinions about the rest of the NBA, even if it’s not about him: “Whos the mvp this year Kobe, lebron, or d wade Im a go with kobe” (link)
Many times, we just get a sampling of O’Neal’s favorite motivational quotes – and he has a LOT of favorites. Some are his own thoughts, and others were first uttered by someone else, and one thing I’ve noticed is that Shaq always attributes the quotes. I like that.
Tonight, he put up the following, one right after the other:“Dnt believe crappy websites such as mediatakeout.com If it doesnt come from me verbally or twitter wise, disregard The horse has spoken” (link)
and“Get it straight from da horses mouth” (link)
I assume he’s referring to this story about a woman who once accused Shaq of stalking her (I think), posted Wednesday on Media Takeout. If this had happened to most other athletes, we might see some kind of press release from a team of half-sincere publicists who are only ever sorry about things when their clients get caught.
Not O’Neal. No, our almost-doctor has a huge crowd of followers (30,767 at this posting) who instantly saw his own refutation of the story, completely unfiltered. I’m not saying O’Neal is a saint – I have no idea what kind of person he is – but I’m more inclined to believe him right now than some PR squad at a press conference. After all, I heard it straight from da horses mouth!
**UPDATE: OK, this one that just came in made me literally LOL. Sayeth Shaq: “I cant sleep gotta get 2 walmart”
Just…wow. I love it! Wal-Mart?? Really?
In years past I may not have cared if I missed a weekend of NFL playoff action. For a good chunk of my life, I’d watch an NFL game if it was on, but wouldn’t go out of my way to see any games, and wouldn’t feel bad if I missed some games, as long as I was around for the Super Bowl.
But this weekend, a bunch of real life happened*, so I didn’t get to watch a single NFL playoff game. And darn it, this was the year that I watched more paid football than ever! To miss a whole weekend of playoffs after giving the sport that much time during the regular season was just absurd.
*the short version of the story: I got a call on Saturday offering me a new job, but in order to take it I’d have to move and begin training/working immediately. So, I accepted the job.
Now the Eagles, Cardinals (!), Ravens and Steelers have lived to see another weekend – from what I’ve read, nobody won in dominating fashion, but these four teams managed to not lose – and fight for the AFC and NFC championships.
I always do a better job of following playoffs if I have a team to follow, so I have chosen Arizona. I realize I am setting myself up for sure disappointment this way, but I’d rather choose to follow a team that eventually loses out, than follow no teams into the wild world of the playoffs.
Anywho, coming back to read a bunch of game recaps has me dizzy and feeling a little sad. I feel as though, by not actually seeing the games, that maybe I missed something important. Why can’t real life arrange itself around the sports world?
I absolutely, with every cell of my body, despise the University of Oklahoma. I hate them, and especially their football program. They make me sick.
Does that sound irrational at all? It shouldn’t – I’m a Nebraska fan. When I hate on Oklahoma, it’s carrying on the legacy of a truly fabulous rivalry. My Huskers and the Sooners have produced some really amazing games over the course of many decades, games that still get shown at least once a year on ESPN Classic, and of course – The Game of the Century. You know a rivalry is good when a chapter of it gets a title with that many capital letters.
It is my duty as a proud Nebraskan to despise those Sooners, and I do. But tonight, everything changes. I am rooting HARD for Oklahoma to beat Florida in the BCS title game. Tonight, the Sooners are not my sworn enemy; instead they are proudly representing my beloved Big XII conference. And even when my Huskers don’t have a memorable season, one thing I can always fall back on is pride in the Big XII. I think it’s a wonderful conference, and I always root for its teams*. To heck with the SEC!
*In fact, picking the Big XII to win bowl games is about half of my Bowl Pick ‘Em strategy. My system is not very complicated – Always pick the Big XII, always pick against Notre Dame, BYU, and a few others, always pick Boston College to win. Place the most confidence in Big XII games. That’s about it, and it kind of works!
The game is in only a few hours, and I am excited. This is disgusting, rooting for Oklahoma, but it’s my duty as the ultimate conference homer. It’s an unpleasant job, but somebody’s got to do it!
I am trying my best to enjoy the NFL playoffs and the college bowl season, the latter of which just got a WHOLE lot more enjoyable since Texas pulled out a win at last. But there are certain things I miss about baseball season that can’t be replaced with winter sports.
Obviously there’s the game itself, with its infinite poetry and grace and also its vulgarity and simplicity and all the other facets. There are also a lot of little, teeny-tiny, random things besides the action on the field that I just looooove, and miss terribly in the winter.
Seeds: There’s just something comfortable about how acceptable it is to spit things when I’m at a ballpark. I don’t eat sunflower seeds anywhere else, but I sure do enjoy them at ballgames. Nobody objects to anyone having seeds – as long as everyone shares, and no shells accidentally end up in anyone’s hair or beer.
Eyeblack: Scientists have wondered whether or not it actually works, but it looks delightful. Yeah, football players do use it too, but I associate it with baseball more strongly. And deliciously. (I DO know a lot about sports. Really. But when nice-looking things appear in front of my eyes, I appreciate them too!)
Chatter: Baseball’s slow pace allows for a lot more yammering from fans, players, coaches, and umpires. In no other sport (to my knowledge) can it really be called “chatter,” but it’s the perfect word for all the baseball phrases that float around ballpark. One of the great joys of going to a game early enough for batting practice is hearing all the chatter uninterrupted by other noise.
AM radio: This is where I reveal how weirdly old-school I am at times, even though I love stats and other new-fangled things. I love few things more than listening to ballgames on AM radio. That hum that accompanies the broadcast…it just sounds like comfort. Even though I grew up listening to one of the crappiest teams in baseball (the Royals), I love that old-school hum and tone of an AM radio broadcast.
The excited little feeling when I realize the Royals are on TV: Some days I forget to check the TV schedule until the mid-afternoon, and it feels great when I find out that a game will be on TV, and – better yet – I’ll actually be at home to watch it live. I warned you: These are LITTLE things I miss about the season.
Fans who have scorebooks: One advantage of going to as many baseball games as I do in a year is that I get to meet a lot of really great fans. I love the ones who keep a scorebook, which I guess is another weird old-school thing for me to love. Every scrap of information that goes into a scorebook will be available right after the game on the Internet, but these awesome fans still bring their scorebooks and tiny pencils to the park, carefully marking every batter and baserunner.
Parents keeping their little ‘uns at the ballpark event though bedtime has passed: Here’s another thing that I adore about being at bunches of games. At any close night game, you can find parents who are struggling with their desire to see the rest of the game even though they know their small child should be getting home. It’s especially amusing when only one parent (often the father) is with the child, and they ask people in nearby seats what to do:
Dad: “The game is close and I’d love to see what happens, but my kid needs to get to bed.”
Nearby fans: “Does your wife like baseball?”
Dad: “Yeah, she likes it pretty well.”
Nearby fans: “She’ll understand. Stay until the game is over!”
Dad: [sigh of relief]
I always get the feeling that the dad is going to stay at the game no matter what the fans around him suggest, but he has to ask so it seems like he wanted to get the child home and into bed on time. It’s sort of adorable.
The news broke this morning that the Dodgers’ Andruw Jones is reworking his hugely bloated contract so the team can free up funds for players who will bat higher than .158.
Whether Jones did this out of the goodness of his heart, or because Dodgers’ front office people “strongly advised” (aka forced) to, I have no idea. What I do know is that plenty of athletes in all sports continue to collect huge paychecks even when their performance doesn’t add up to the dollar value on their contracts.
Here are 7 random* athletes who should follow Jones’ lead and quit taking money they haven’t earned:
Starbury: Sources indicate that Stephon Marbury might make his comeback with the Celtics after a year of sitting on the Kincks’ bench. For all that pine-riding, Marbury has made about $19 million. I can sit on a cushioned folding chair too, but you don’t see anyone throwing millions my way for that, do you? Continue Reading QuickList: 7 random athletes who should give back some money…