Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Rays: If You Build It, They Won't Come.

In the classic film, "Field of Dreams," Shoeless Joe Jackson tells a farmer that if he builds it his late father will come. In retrospect, the Tampa Bay Rays have built an exciting ball club; yet hardly anyone comes. You can argue like President Clinton and say, "Its the economy, stupid;" or perhaps you like to watch baseball in the comfort of your home. If you subscribe to the latter, you're in the minority. You see, baseball is enjoying record attendance all over the country except in Tampa Bay and Miami. The lack of support here, however, is staggering. Against Toronto, reporter, Todd Kalas, described Tuesday's crowd as lite. From the looks of things, The Rays drew less than 16,000. The Little League World Series will draw that many for batting practice. The Rays, on the other hand, are a club in the midst of one of the most memorable seasons in major league history. A team with a paltry payroll of $44-million is leading the Yankees and Red Sox who routinely pay half that amount to one player. Despite the lack of fan support, the Rays hustle, never give up, and compete until their last at bat...and then some. Unfortunately, all those attributes may not be enough to hold off the well heeled Yankees and Red Sox. Believe me, both teams are charging fast. In fact, Boston will be here Sept 8th; and if you decide to wait until then, it may be too late for the Rays.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Two Women Outrank Phelps as Greatest Olympian?

Looking back on the phenomenal performance of swimmer, Michael Phelps, it's hard to believe he is not the greatest Olympian of all time, but if you listen to veteran Olympic historian, David Wallenchinsky, Phelps ranks sixth on the list of magnificent Olympians. In fact, two women are graded ahead of him. Phelps' eight gold medals, notwithstanding, are a remarkable accomplishment; however 18 swimming world records were broken during the games in Beijing. Of course, the enhanced swim wear and pool design played a large role in the record setting performances; but envision 18 world records being shattered in track and field, or weightlifting; two sports tremendously more demanding on the human body. According to Wallenchinsky, Phelps routinely competed in two events on the same day; imagined a runner having to double in the 800 also the mile within 24 hours...not happening. Wallenchinsky does not try to discredit the great Michael Phelps, instead he puts the prodigy in perspective. According to Wallenchinsky, the top Olympians above Phelps are: Olympian, Carl Lewis; runner, Paavo Nurmi; Gymnast, Larisa Latynina; Birgit Fischer-Schmidt, Germany, kayak; and Steven Redgrave, United Kingdom, rowing. Compare Lewis, for example, to Phelps. Lewis won Olympic Gold in the long jump in four Olympic games spanning 16-years of competition. That's not even considering the gold medals he won in the 100, 200, or the relays. Phelps acknowledges he will not compete beyond the 2012 London Games. From 1920 to 1932, Numri furthermore, won 9 gold medals in long distance track. He was so dominant the Olympic committee banned him from the games. As far back as 1980, Wallenchinsky notes Brigit Fischer won eight gold medals in rowing, and 24 years later as a 42-year old mother of 2, she won 5. Finally, the gymnast, Larisa Latynina, won 9 gold along with 18 total medals over three Olympic Games. Phelps, on the other hand, is an extraordinary athlete; however he gets a great assist from the streamlined Speedo dolphin outfit designed by NASA scientist. In contrast, Abebe Bikila, for crying out loud, won an Olympic Marathon barefoot. Of course when Phelps was asked if he considered himself to be better than Bikila and all the other greats, he replied, "That's for you to decide."

Friday, August 08, 2008

Anyone Believe the Village Idiot?

One of the primary reasons the Dallas Cowboys moved their training camp to Thousand Oaks, CA was to avoid an annual media feeding frenzy. In a mouth foaming football town, the Cowboys realize unscrupulous and desperate sportswriters would prey on the emotions of rabid fans. The Cowboys go to these extremes to prevent the Dallas press corps from disrupting team chemistry with reckless innuendo. Looking back on the local media coverage of quarterback, Brett Favre, vs Jeff Garcia, the Bucs' general manager also coach were called liars and truce breakers; in a half hearted defense of Allen and Gruden, players such as Manny Ramirez, Brett Favre, also Kobe Bryant are athletes transcending their generation; management, therefore, must inquire about their availability when they're open to negotiations. The Bucs, for example, would have been lambasted by these same reporters for not pursuing a player of Favre's caliber. In another sport, no one cared about Eric Henske's feelings when the Rays asked about Manny Ramirez. Why then is everyone concerned about Bucs' quarterback, Jeff Garcia? If you argue as writer, Rick Stroud, did that he saved Gruden and Allen jobs then Garcia was only doing what he's supposed to do: win. To imply the Bucs treat their players differently then other teams? Please explain why the Jets unceremoniously unloaded quarterback, Chad Pennington, who led the club to three playoffs victories. Garcia was slighted, but to infer, he will not play hard is absurd. Even with Garcia, nevertheless, the Bucs struggled offensively finishing in the bottom third in scoring with serious short comings in the red zone. It is silly to read more into this than Tampa simply trying to improve itself with a superior player. On the flip side, the Bucs chasing after Favre only confirms their unwillingness to be patient while building through the draft. Instead, they only look for short term solutions which partially explains why the team has short term success. In summation until Tampa Bay becomes something besides a football town, the team will always be dealing with nervous reporters looking for a scoop; and when they don't find one, they'll make up a story a la the Tampa Tribune. The Cowboys believe in shielding their players, wives, and children from this callous form of predation. Perhaps, the Buccaneers are assuming no one would be silly enough to believe the village idiot.