Thursday, July 20, 2006

Sweet sun, please have mercy...

Sometimes you have to look to the weather for inspiration... or you can simply despise it...

Writer: It’s hot.
Readers: How hot is it?
Writer: It’s so hot that I caught my oven cracking the freezer door open to keep cool. It’s so hot that bank thermometer has resorted to showing a frowny face instead of a temperature reading.
It’s so hot that I’ve decided to begin a column by imitating a lousy stand-up comedian with a series of horribly unfunny jokes.
Anyway, here are the thoughts that have been occupying my mind when I’m not pondering whether people would laugh at me for appearing in public with bags of ice taped to my limbs.
Royal turnaround...
When is a 32-60 overall record a reason be excited? When you’re a fan of a team that opened the Major League Baseball season by winning as often as a blackjack player that can’t comprehend basic arithmetic.
With a 32-60 record, the Kansas City Royals have the same record as the 2005 team at this point in the season. Granted, the Royals lost 106 games last season, but the point is that Dayton Moore’s crew is no longer on pace to set a new record for futility.
On top of that, it has been the improvement of some of the youngsters that has sent them in the right direction. Since being recalled from Triple A- Omaha at the beginning of June, 24-year-old third-baseman Mark Teahen has raised his average 80 points and hit seven home runs to tie Reggie Sanders for the team lead (9). Since recovering from an early hamstring injury, 26-year-old outfielder David Dejesus has raised his batting average to .309 and his on-base percentage to nearly .400. Meanwhile, 26-year-old catcher Jon Buck is ahead of the league averages for catchers in both home runs (4) and RBI (18) with 8 and 31, respectively.
The season could go in several directions from this point, but opportunities to support optimism with actual results are always welcome.
Best moment (x)2...
The annual ESPN award show, the ESPYs, aired Sunday night and included many light-hearted moments, from host Lance Armstrong cracking jokes to actor Will Ferrell breaking into song. Nevertheless, it was an award and the ensuing acceptance speech that made the most-lasting mark. Jason McElwain received the “best-moment” award for coming off the bench to score 20 points in the final four minutes of a high school basketball game.
McElwain, an autistic teenager from New York, cheered in excitement when his name was announced, hugged his family and gave an acceptance speech that served as a reminder of the joy sports can bring to someone’s life. As is the case with the replay of Jimmy Valvano’s speech at the 1993 ESPYs, I may or may not have “had something in my eye” by the time McElwain’s moment was through.
46 days and counting...
It can be disappointing to think that summer is passing quickly (aside from escaping heat that could make a cactus sweat), but with summer subsiding, fall football season draws closer. There is just a month-and-a-half, only 46 days, until the Ron Prince era at Kansas State University officially begins with the opener against Illinois State.
There are still a number of unknowns heading into the season, with Prince stating in the spring that nearly all starting jobs are up for grabs. Even the K-State backfield looks murky at this point. The quarterback position still appears to be a four-man race with Allan Evridge, Josh Freeman, Dylan Meier and Allen Webb, while runningback could come down to a choice of Carlos Alsup, Thomas Clayton or junior-college transfer James Johnson.
One thing that is certain regarding the 2006 Wildcats - they will have something to prove. They are being picked to finish fifth or sixth in the Big 12 North in several publications. It will be up to Prince, his staff, and the Wildcats on the gridiron to prove the critics wrong and return to the postseason.
How will the Wildcats fare this season? Naturally, that is a topic for another time.
Now excuse me while I attempt to invent a portable air conditioner.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Sports Fan Bill of Rights...

In honor of Independence Day...

The Fourth of July.
Independence Day.
The mere mention of the day provides memories of fireworks, barbecues, and parades, all in the celebration of our freedom. As Americans, we have freedom of speech and freedom of religion along with many other luxuries that can be taken for granted in today's society.
Likewise, American sports fans also have several rights, but it struck me that there is no official listing of these rights to refer to. There is no Bill of Rights for the American sports fan. Thus, I feel it is up to me to explain some of the most basic rights of sports fans here today.
- The right to vote for anyone without worrying about the next four years
I'm not referring to politics here, but to elections for professional All-Star games. While the name of the contest may suggest that only the best and brightest of a particular sports would be entered, sports fans have the right to choose any player in the league on their ballot. And if the name isn't there? Write it in.
Even players who aren't active can make the roster. In 1992, Magic Johnson was voted in as a starter for the Western Conference All-Star game, despite having retired from the NBA in November 1991 and not having played in a single game that season. He played in the All-Star game and won the MVP with 25 points and nine assists.
- The right to be hopelessly optimistic
Are you a fan of a Major League Baseball team that has lost over 100 games in two straight seasons and added nothing but veterans who were never considered elite players in the offseason? Write a column and pick the team to finish third in its division. It may make you look like a fool, but you'll be a fool that is still able to enjoy the wins the team does pick up while in the comfort of your own home.
- The right to speak highly of an athlete you have never seen
In athletics today, the word "potential" is thrown around as often as the word "ouch" in a knife juggling class. It is the right of every sports fan to brag about any five-star recruit your favorite college team may sign, using terms like "4.4 40" or "42-inch vertical" as acceptable support for your argument. It does not matter if you have never seen this athlete, and you have no visual evidence that he can even put his shoes on the right feet.
- The right to associate yourself in an inaccurate manner
"I can't believe we lost that game," said Joe Schmo, the unemployed Betamax repair man.
When did Mr. Schmo sign a contract with the local professional football team? Why is he still driving that 1978 Pinto if he is now a professional athlete?
Mr. Schmo may have put on a football helmet in his life. He might not be able to throw the pigskin farther than a cricket can jump, but he can refer to his favorite football team as if it were his wife and kids without any consequences whatsoever.
With these rights in place, questions may now arise concerning what actions in the sports world do result in consequences. The answers lie in another column.
For now, enjoy that stud (runningback/point guard/pitcher) you signed. Although I have never seen (him/her) play, I hear (he/she) (runs faster than the wind/has the court vision of an eagle/throws a wicked slider). (He/She) will probably (scored 30 touchdowns/average 14 assists per game/throw three no-hitters) next year.