Monday, January 2, 2006

FROM MY SEAT: Cheers (and Jeers) for New Year’s

Things this sports junkie has gotta (and is gonna) do in 2006.

Posted By on Mon, Jan 2, 2006 at 4:00 AM

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Ten works of Shakespeare and 11,315 push-ups. These were my New Year’s resolutions for 2005. I chose to alternate my leisure reading between books (loved Conrad Black’s biography of Franklin Roosevelt) and plays by the Bard (enjoyed “Titus Andronicus,” still trying to figure out “Love’s Labor’s Lost”). As for the push-ups, 31 a day, every day, all year (happens to be my number, that’s all). But what about 2006? Following are eight sports-related resolutions I’ve got on the docket.

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I resolve to watch a Nextel Cup Race, start to finish. Who knows if I’ll pull this off with next month’s Daytona 500, but I’m going to try. I can do without sports fads, but the craze over NASCAR is one I’m honestly intrigued by, one I wouldn’t mind sharing (at least to an extent my already sports-addled wife will tolerate). The only race I’ve ever witnessed in its entirety was the 2003 Sam’s Town 250 at Memphis Motorsports Park (won by Bobby Hamilton Jr.). I’m overdue for an afternoon with Tony, Jeff, Jimmie, and Dale Jr. trading paint at 150 mph.

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I resolve to find a silver lining in DeAngelo Williams no longer suiting up for the Memphis Tigers. Less downfield blocking necessary from receivers? No more dog-earing the rushing records in the media guide? Third-and-long can be good for developing quarterbacks? Help me here.

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I resolve not to bad-mouth the Regions Morgan Keegan tennis championships at The Racquet Club (at least not in February). The Memphis stop on the ATP Tour used to be one of the year’s sports highlights. Long before NBA basketball or Triple-A baseball arrived, local sports fans enjoyed the winter delight of seeing stars like Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl, and Pete Sampras duke it out in that magical, reflective light of the Racquet Club’s stadium court. But with the decline of pro tennis in general-- and the American men’s version in particular -- so our tennis tourney has suffered. Since Andy Roddick won in 2002, Memphis has crowned champion Taylor Dent, Joachim Johansson, and Kenneth Carlsen. And nary a one of them led the highlights on SportsCenter. Until Roger Federer makes his Memphis debut, we have a second-tier event. Great venue, great fans, but a second-tier event. I’ll keep this to myself next month.

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I resolve to mute my television every time a sideline reporter “interviews” a football coach leaving the field for halftime. These are the most vacuous, predictable conversations in any media. Here’s a sampler for every such chat, past, present, and future. If the coach is winning: “We did some things right, but there’s a lot of football left. That’s a tough team over there. We’ve got to cut down on mistakes.” And if the coach is losing: “We’ve got to cut down on mistakes. We knew we were in for a dogfight; that’s a tough team over there. There’s a lot of football left.”

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I resolve to take at least two people to AutoZone Park who have never been. I should make this number 20, but they’d get suspicious in the press box.

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I resolve to be at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, if Troy Aikman is inducted this August. I was 16 years old, without a car and anything that might resemble a bank account when my football hero of heroes, Roger Staubach, was inducted in 1985. With a few more variables in my favor, I’ll be there for the latter-day Staubach . . . if the Hall selection committee does the right thing next month.

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I resolve to take a family tennis outing. Forget whatever problems the local pro tournament may have. Is this not the best game to share between parents and children? Tennis is one of those sports that will condition your body while you’re actually enjoying the workout. A game that can be played at the pace of your choosing. And a game that retirees can enjoy as much as the kiddies. Gotta remind my wife how to hit a backhand, and we’ll be on our way.

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I resolve to make at least one trip -- with family -- to the new Busch Stadium in St. Louis (Opening Day is April 10th). And with a rose for my Dad.

 

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