Monday, July 26, 2010

True Sports Confessions

Posted By on Mon, Jul 26, 2010 at 9:33 AM

Opinions are to sportswriters as feathers are to a peacock. Some we keep to ourselves. (One of my top-five favorite athletes of all time is a hockey player.) Some we share openly. (If you don't know my baseball team of choice, you're new to this eight-year-old column. Welcome.) I's time for me to confess a few opinions, to display some feathers, you might say. * I don't care if Brett Favre plays another football game. And I haven't cared for two years, since he last took off a Packer helmet. A report on Favre comes on the tube ... click. A report on Favre in the paper ... next page. It's called over-saturation.

* I abhor the designated hitter; this is no secret. But there are two things in baseball today I like even less. The major leagues should not be in Florida. It's spring-training country, and the crowds the Marlins and Rays draw -- I use the word loosely -- would fit in stadiums where teams train each March. On top of the misplaced franchises, Tampa Bay -- in the Sunshine State, remember -- has the last permanently covered stadium in the big leagues. I hate this. Evan Longoria and Carl Crawford deserve better.

* I've been in lots of locker rooms and on lots of sidelines. But only twice have I overstepped my credential to seek out a post-game handshake. In both cases, it was after the last home game of a Memphis Tiger football player: Danny Wimprine in 2004 and DeAngelo Williams in 2005.

* The most awkward element of interviewing an athlete is when it becomes clear the athlete didn't watch his sport at all as a child. Particularly since I've become a father, I find it kind of sad when a young person discovers a talent for playing a game ... but honestly doesn't really like it. Happens more often than you'd think.

click to enlarge dick_vitale.jpg

* I like listening to Dick Vitale do college basketball games. Okay, it's on the record. (My dream team would be Gus Johnson on play-by-play, with Vitale on color. Johnson: "Jackson through the lane, kicks it out to Barton on the wing. He shoots ... PURE!" Vitale: "No fair! No fair, Gus!! Too many diaper dandies on the floor at the same time! Too many, Gus!!")

* My primary rooting interest in golf is to see Jack Nicklaus hold on to his record for major championships (18). I cheer this way for my dad, may he rest in peace.

* I've long known the secret to Shaquille O'Neal's struggles with free-throw-shooting. (Why haven't I shared it earlier? He's never asked.) However Shaq has adjusted his grip or shot over the years, he's always leaned forward upon his release. This reduces the arc he's able to give a shot, which reduces the "softness" of the ball upon hitting the rim. The best free-throw shooters finish perfectly straight, or even lean back slightly.

* Among my life's missions is to see Hollywood do a major film on the 1934 St. Louis Cardinals, the Gashouse Gang of Ducky Medwick, Pepper Martin, and Dizzy Dean. Why it hasn't been done over the last 30 years is anyone's guess. (I've written Matt Damon's production company. Seriously, I have.)

* The single most troubling sports-related news of the last 12 months -- and I'm not sure what would be second -- was Chris Henry's autopsy report that indicated the 26-year-old football player had degenerative brain damage BEFORE he died in an accident last winter. If you have a child playing football, this story must keep you up at night. (Among the reasons I count my blessings for my two daughters. Though check back with me when the dating begins.)

* Josh Pastner will win a national championship. Only question is whether or not it will be as coach of the Memphis Tigers.

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