Most days when I write I present answers—which readers are free to agree or disagree with. Today, I present questions, which readers are free to answer or not answer.
Question 1: Do you care about The NBA playoffs? The ratings would seem to indicate that a lot of you do. Certainly having The Miami Heat playing the role of villains is helping a good deal along with the emergence of genuine young superstars like Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant. The saga of Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd and The Mavericks is also worthy of attention. And, when I have watched on occasion, the quality of the games has been better than in recent memory.
That said, I still have trouble really caring. I certainly don’t care about The Heat—although like a lot of people LeBron James can’t lose enough to make me happy. I recognize his brilliance, he’s an absolute physical freak, but I simply can’t put The Decision behind me even though I don’t live in Cleveland. I think he took the easy way out and I have trouble respecting that.
There’s also the issue of when the games are played. Afternoon games have basically ceased to exist and the way these series are being dragged out makes me crazy. The way the first three games of Bulls-Heat was scheduled I was beginning to wonder if David Stern had a secret plan to replace the NFL by playing once a week. Three games in eight days? Someone said that James might be a free agent again before this spring’s playoffs are over.
The late night thing, I realize, is just my problem. On school mornings I have to be up at 6 to get my son out of bed and on the road. There’s just no way I can stay up until the end of a 9 o’clock game. Plus, they’re often not 9 o’clock games. The other night I checked in on Bulls-Heat before I went to bed and the first QUARTER was just ending at 10 o’clock. Who is in charge here, Bud Selig?
Question 2: Are you like me in that you don’t care that much about horse racing but you’d love to see a Triple Crown winner?
My knowledge of horse-racing is slightly better than my knowledge of fashion. I can name most Kentucky Derby winners of the last 40 years and a lot of Preakness and Belmont winners too. I almost always watch The Triple Crown races although I skip the two hours of pre-race features. Put ‘em in the gate and run.
I know there have been star horses in recent years and that a lot of people take The Breeders Stakes very seriously. But like the golf fan who only watches Tiger Woods—and thus isn’t really a golf fan—I am more a Triple Crown fan and I’d like to see a horse accomplish it again sometime soon. I DO remember The Affirmed-Alydar classics of 33 years ago. Who thought then that no one would win another Triple Crown for 33 years? Heck, weren’t there three in six years (Secretariat ’73; Seattle Slew ’77) at that point? Yes. But if you go back and check—which I did—it had been 25 years since Citation accomplished the feat when Secretariat did it in 1973.
Think how iconic those horses all became. Horse-racing needs an icon.
Question 3: Did anyone notice that Connecticut was just stripped of two basketball scholarships for failing to meet NCAA minimum academic standards?
Who would have thought that U-Conn would end up as the symbol of all that is wrong with the NCAA? As I’ve said before I like Jim Calhoun a lot personally. I think he’s a great coach and the rebuilding job he did when he took over U-Conn in the 1980s is one of the greatest of all time. But where is the line drawn? U-Conn admitted to major recruiting violations and the NCAA slapped their wrist so damn hard that they were still wincing collectively while collecting the national championship trophy. Now the school has failed to meet academic minimums set so low by the NCAA it is almost impossible not to meet them. Any Connecticut fans out there wondering what is going on? Of course not—they just had a parade.
That’s the rule in college athletics: win a national title and you can do anything you want to. Go 5-22 the way Brad Greenberg did at Radford this past season and get nailed by the NCAA for about as minor a violation as you can imagine (taking an ineligible player on the road to WATCH games during Thanksgiving and Christmas rather than leave him home alone on campus) and you get fired.
Question 4: If The French Open is being played in Paris and no one outside the Bois de Bologne really cares, is it really being played?
Seriously folks, I know tennis junkies are agog about Novak Djokovic’s winning streak and certainly if he ends up playing Rafael Nadal there will be interest but beyond that does anyone care? There’s not a single woman in the draw anyone outside of family, agent and friends really wants to watch play and no American man has been a contender in Paris since Andre Agassi and Jim Courier moved on to the hit-and-giggle world. Does anyone remember the days of Evert-Navratilova; Graf-Seles; McEnroe-Lendl or Agassi-Courier? For that matter where have you gone Michael Chang, our nation turns its lonely clay-filled eyes to you.
The only reason to watch The French Open this week and next is if you have Tennis Channel and you can watch Mary Carillo—who told ESPN to take a hike last fall—explain the game as only she can.
Question 5: Why oh why do I torture myself, even for 10 minutes, listening to the morning pitchmen? One reason is that The Sports Junkies seem to always be in commercial when I’m in the car, and I mean for the entire 10 minutes.
This morning my friend Jayson Stark was on. His is usually one of the few listenable bits on the show if the two pitchmen will SHUT UP with their fake bickering long enough to let him talk. This morning though, Jayson was talking about Mets owner Fred Wilpon’s comments about some of his players in this week’s New Yorker.
Wilpon was—at most—mildly critical of some of his stars. He said he made a mistake signing Carlos Beltran (for the record, Beltran, when healthy has been one of the Mets BETTER signings: Can you say Oliver Perez? Jason Bay? Pedro—one good year on a five-year deal—Martinez?) and that he wasn’t going to give Jose Reyes a “Carl Crawford contract.” David Wright—according to WIlpon—is a very good player but not a franchise player.
First of all, everything Wilpon said is true. The mistakes he’s made go well beyond those three players and are too numerous to list here. (Yes, I’m a frustrated Mets fan). But Jayson, who is one of the few real reporters ESPN has, felt the need to imply that Jeffrey Toobin, who wrote The New Yorker piece, got these comments from Wilpon because WIlpon didn’t realize he was being quoted when he said what he said. One of the pitchmen chimed in to say Wilpon just thought he was, ‘schmoozing,’ when he made the comments.
Oh come on fellas. This reminds me of the time when I was sent to John Riggins’ house in Lawrence, Kansas in 1980 to ask him why he wasn’t at Redskins training camp. He had refused to talk to anyone so my boss sent me out there to try to talk to him. After saying repeatedly he had nothing to say, Riggins finally started talking and answered several questions. Later, when several regular Redskins reporters asked him why he had talked to me—a complete stranger—he said he thought we were talking off the record.
Really? Did he think I flew to Lawrence, Kansas because I was personally curious about his holdout? Did Wilpon think that Toobin came out and spent hours and hours with him because he really wanted to know what he thought about Carlos Beltran. It is worth noting that WILPON has not used this excuse.
So, I ask one more time: Why or why do I do this to myself?