Monday, July 17, 2006
Page 2 Quickie: July 14, 2006
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:
The "Barbaro Death Watch" is one of the most fascinating stories of the year.
Start with the notion that all of our pathos is for a horse. There will be no inspiring speech at Sunday's ESPYS. It is classic anthropomorphism.
Layer in the idea that no one but the biggest track junkies had even heard of Barbaro until he won the Kentucky Derby.
Finally, consider that fans are finding time to care about horse racing, a sport that almost eclipses boxing as a 20th century sports pillar fading into irrelevance or worse.
Now, the circumstances of Barbaro's rise and fall are unquestionably dramatic:
• Winning one of American sports' most prestigious titles
• Then the giddy sprint to inflate Triple Crown expectations
• Followed by the dramatic in-race injury at the Preakness
• And finally the breathless day-to-day reports of his health -- at first it looked like some miracle of collective prayer and a champ's vitality, but now his survival is being called a "long shot" by his doctors.
I was racking my brain (and Google) for anything in recent sports history that matches this concentrated three-month cycle of birth and (literal) death of national stardom.
In fact, this kind of universally shared fan emotion can ONLY be for an "athlete"
that is a horse.
For human athletes, there will always be haters; by merely competing, someone will always root against you.
In this case, Barbaro transcended that. You can legitimately question the fuss (you'll be hissed at), but you'd never say "Good riddance."
Even the disinterested can agree with fans in rooting for Barbaro's pain to be eased.
(Update: His doctor said Barbaro was doing "much better" this morning. The roller coaster of coverage goes on
MLB Hit List
Teixeira explodes: For those wondering what happened to the Mark Teixeira of 2005 (43 HR, 144 RBI) in 2006 (9 HR, 49 RBI through the All-Star break), he has an answer: 3 HR and a career-high 7 RBI in Thursday's 15-1 win over the Orioles.
Liriano fizzles: Maybe it was an All-Star jinx after fans (including me) lobbied so hard for his inclusion on the AL All-Star roster. The Franchise was thumped for 3 HR in his worst outing of the season.
(Meanwhile, there would be no jinx for Travis Hafner. In fact, call his the "The All-Star Snub Reverse Jinx." He hit his 26th HR, increasing his already AL-best SLG, OBP and OPS averages. But, nah, he's no All-Star.
"Don't Pitch to Pujols!" It's nice to see that it works as effectively at the start of the second half of the season as it did at the start of the first half. Pujols hit a walk-off HR in the 14th. Of course he did.
MLB Trade Talk
All I can say is that names like "Gary Majewski" and "Austin Kearns" better be foreshadowing an active two-week swap meet, rather than the high point of what fans are going to get.
(Let's hope the speculation is right that the Nats' acquisition of Kearns opens the door for a sizzling deal to trade Soriano to a contender.)
Other names tossed around: In a SP-thin market, the White Sox dangling Javier Vazquez and/or Freddy Garcia for quality pen help will get attention; it seems like Bobby Abreu is always available.
Meanwhile, what's the trade "ideal"? Houston found out yesterday when new acquisition Aubrey Huff, imported to inject some pop into their anemic lineup, hit a 3-run HR in his Astros debut.
MLB Best/Worst Buys
Kieran Darcy's must-read list of Best/Worst Buys in MLB is a nice complement to Clayton's NFL "Best Team Money Can Buy" from Wednesday.
Let's put it this way: For the price of Steve Finley ($7M), you can have Utley, Cabrera, Reyes, Mauer, Morneau, Wright, Kazmir, Howard, Bay, Papelbon and Liriano, with almost $2 million left over.
Michelle Wie's first-round 6-over-par 77 puts her 13 strokes behind the leader and a near-lock to miss the cut after today's second round at the Deere.
What a disappointing display after last year's near-miss (2 strokes) there and her third-place finish at the LPGA's U.S. Open two weeks ago.
All it will do is fuel those who don't think she should be participating ("exemption" invites should include "exemption" from critics).
Michelle should continue to ignore the haters; she'll break through at one of these events. At only 16, she has a good 20 years of cachet left.
Hmm, no wonder the Bengals took Virginia LB Ahmad Brooks in the third round of the NFL's supplemental draft yesterday:
Linebacker Odell Thurman, Cincy's top tackler, was suspended for the first four games of the 2006 season for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy.
(Fans might have seen it coming: Thurman was suspended for last season's Week 16 for violating unspecified team rules.)
Between Thurman, fellow LB A.J. "Best Teammate Ever" Nicholson and Chris "Three Strikes" Henry, it's possible the Bengals have a slight discipline problem.
USA in World Cup
Frustrated by the U.S. performance in the World Cup? You're watching the wrong World Cup.
Because in the World Cup of SOFTBALL, the U.S. is THE team to beat:
Offense like Argentina!
Flair like Brazil!
Defense like Italy!
Heart like Ghana!
The team got off to a great start last night with a 14-0 trouncing of Britain. Catch the show for yourself on TV a few times this weekend.
(FRI: vs. Canada, 7:30 p.m., ESPN; SAT: vs. Australia, noon, ESPN, vs. China, 8 p.m., ESPN2; SUN: vs. Japan, 1 p.m., ESPN)
Sure, Louisville football coach Bobby Petrino has turned the program into a perennial Top 25 team.
(Disclaimer: I have a soft/bitter spot for UL after picking the Cards in the 2005 preseason to play for the national title last year.)
But that's quite a payday he earned from the school:
$1.6 million a year, plus bonuses of up to $1 million every three years for not bolting to another college team or the NFL.
(You're forgiven for asking whether Louisville officials thought they were writing a check to "Pitino" and just misspelled the name.)
Unfortunately, that loot won't help Petrino when Louisville is lapped by West Virginia in the Big East and for status as 2006's "trendy pick."
I saw an article yesterday in the Boston Herald about "SoxTease", a clothing line of Red Sox fan T-shirts made for women.
So I went to their site to buy a "This Babe's For Gabe" T-shirt for my wife in honor of our kid, when I was intrigued by some of the other options:
I'm Hot For Trot
This Fanny's For Manny
I'm a Wreck for Tek
Ortiz? Yes Please
I'd Get It On With Papelbon
(On that last one: Sorry, ladies! You'll have to outwork all the Red Sox Nation fanboys currently man-crushing on him.)
Then there's the bargain bin:
I'd Go Wicked Fah with Millah
I'm Claimin' Damon
I'd Do Porn With Bellhorn
Stumbling onto that last one, my eyes have been scarred. It will haunt my nightmares. (And now yours.)
Quickie Book Club
"Feeding the Monster": How fortuitous that author Seth Mnookin was in The Show on SportsNation yesterday talking about his new book, which I highly recommend as a July/August beach read.
You don't have to be a Red Sox fan to appreciate the insider (all-)access Mnookin got from the team (key-card to Fenway? Envy!) and how it lets him spin one of the best books ever about a year with a sports team, particularly the details about the ownership and front office.
It makes a fantastic bookend with Simmons' "Die in Peace," with Bill staking out the fan's perspective, and Mnookin delivering a passionately reported journalist's take about the most intriguing team in baseball.