June 8, 2010
I suppose a brief mention of the recent throttling my wimpy Los Angeles Lakers absorbed at the hands of that lunch-bucket brigade, the much more manly Boston Celtics, is in order. Come to think of it, by the time this sees print, yet another such drubbing might well have occurred.
Oh, woe are we who find favor with those upstart sporting franchises way out West where the states are square and rectangular and, in a few cases, polygonal and — figuratively anyway — somewhat trapezoidal. We should have known that the moral high ground would once again reassert itself and the proper sporting traditions would be upheld.
Actually, the weekend was pretty much a "push" as far as wins and losses. Although the NBA finals were certainly making the loudest splash, other sporting endeavors could be faintly heard above the din.
My Dodgers continue to plod along near the top of both the National League West and the Wild Card standings. It seems to bother them not a bit to go for weeks on end inching up the standings without either scoring runs or pitching effectively. No matter! They eke out, therefore they are!
Of the mainstream sports, baseball holds my interest far more than most. I find its balance between the mental and physical games to be more intriguing — and its sidebar stories to carry far more subtle profundities.
To wit, by far the best story of the year came out of a missed, seemingly game-ending, bang-bang-play call at first base that negated what would have been a "perfect game" by Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga against the Cleveland Indians.
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What arose from first-base umpire Jim Joyce’s surreal blown call was an affirmation of the on-field ballet we call baseball and the human arena in which it is performed. All was forgiven by all involved! We are flawed but we strive for perfection. But, as Galarraga added with a genuine smile, "Nobody’s perfect." Can your sport do that?
Another couple of quite-inspiring stories to come out of baseball this year concern two freshly-scrubbed rookies with an immediate flair for the dramatic. Both Jason Heyward, the Atlanta Braves right fielder, and Andrew McCutchen, who roams center field for the Pittsburgh Pirates, are bringing the uninhibited joy of youth back to the game.
And then, of course, is the impending arrival of Stephen Strasburg making his first major-league start for the Washington Nationals June 8 (yesterday) against the Pirates. This cat, who pitched for Tony Gwynn at San Diego State, has received more pre-show hype than Lady Gaga.
And how could we allow the Stanley Cup Finals to carom off the boards without a mention? The Chicago Blackhawks are currently up 3 games to 2 on the Flyers of Philly and with a victory tonight could wrap it up and get all mushy with each other as they take turns toting Lord Stanley’s goblet around the ice. A more profound no-holds-barred demonstration of "man love" would be hard to find.
The French Open tennis tournament gets ink in this space due not to my being a fan but, rather, because a dear friend would bully me no end if I were to give it short shrift. Actually, I thought it quite cool the way the women’s winner, the Italian Francesca Schiavone, came out of nowhere and, in ecstatic celebration, had her way with the red clay of Roland Garros.
And then there was rugby! Can you believe it? It seems like only a couple of generations back that rugby was de rigueur in these parts. It was "necessary according to etiquette," as they used to say at the Alamo Saloon. The sport, and the local bloodied and beer-sodden Muckers who played it, defined Park City as a town back then.
Well there it was, all over the tube this weekend. The first-ever USA 7s Rugby Collegiate Championship was yet one more tutorial NBC is giving the country on 7s rugby prior to its inclusion as a full medal sport in the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Rio and ruggers: now there’s a marriage made in heaven. If they think Carnival tests the limits of the flesh, well wait ’til they get a load of this bunch. No doubt, though, by the time the games roll around, NBC will have painted them in tones much more muted than those to which we have grown accustomed.
Anyway, the good news is that the University of Utah rugby 7s side upset Cal Berkeley for the national championship in overtime in a quite exciting match. Sam English would have loved it!
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and a freelance writer with a background in commercial and community radio, among other pursuits. He has been a columnist and feature writer for various Park City publications going back to 1973.