A Passing Mark in Blathering 101
Frank: Hey, remember how I was
wondering when our epic 100th column would appear? I went to my files and
pinned it down.
Artie: Great! When's the big
Frank: Last week.
Artie: Well, it saves on party
Frank: Even though this is
Column 101, we can review some of the themes we've presented for almost two
Artie: Um, such as?
Frank: That everyone involved
in running big-time sports seeks to move as much money as possible from our
pockets to theirs.
Artie: Not original, but
always true. Hey! I know another theme, but first we need to mark the passing
of Hall of Fame pitcher Robin Roberts, whom I saw a couple of times at County Stadium
going against our Braves. That's Hall of Famer Robin Roberts, who had fewer
career shutouts (45), a higher ERA (3.41) and one fewer win (286) than…
Frank: Devoted readers know
what comes next.
Artie: That's right: Bert
Blyleven, who amazingly remains a non-Hall
Frank: But he was only five
votes short in last December's voting. When he succeeds this year, it'll join a
long line of our predictions to come true.
Artie: My memory's fuzzy
again. What were some of those predictions?
Frank: Well, I know you
predicted the Packers would play in the last Super Bowl.
Artie: And they darn near did,
if losing in the first playoff round qualifies as "darn near."
Frank: The highlight of my
brilliance came in deserting my own team, the Yankees, last season. I said they
wouldn't make the playoffs, so of course they went all the way.
Artie: I sure hope that's not
an omen for our joint prediction that the Brewers will march back into the
playoffs this October.
Showing Some Sense
Frank: I know a recent example
of our sage advice being accepted by a sports authority.
Artie: No kidding? Which
advice was that?
Frank: The NCAA was thinking of
pumping up the Division I basketball tournament to a whopping 96 teams. We said
that would be crazy, devaluing one of sports' most exciting events with at
least 25 undeserving teams.
Artie: We were OK with adding
a handful of teams to the current 65. There are always a few teams that get
screwed by the 31 automatic spots for conference champions—but only a few.
Frank: And what did the NCAA
do? It added three teams to make it 68.
Artie: No need to thank us,
NCAA. Sage advice is our business.
Frank: It's unclear how
they'll fit 68 teams into six rounds. But we can only do so much; the
muckety-mucks have to figure out the details.
Artie: The NCAA figured one
out just fine. By opting out of the previous TV contract for the tournament,
they got a new deal from CBS and Turner that's worth $10.8 billion.
Frank: Not that it's about the
Artie: Somewhere in that $10.8
billion they should be able to find a consulting fee for us.
Bowlfuls of Nothin’
Frank: At least holding the
tournament to 68 keeps NCAA basketball from being the postseason joke that NCAA
football is. There are more than 340 Division I basketball programs, so a
96-team field would have had about 30% of them reaching the playoffs. That
would be nuts—but not as nuts as what happens in football.
Artie: You mean the endless,
meaningless bowl games, ain'a?
Frank: There are only 120
Division I football programs. But the NCAA recently said there would be 35 bowl
games next season—35! Which means 70 teams, almost 60% of the total, will get
an extra game, and extra dough. But how many will deserve it? Last season eight teams went 6-6 but got into
bowls; now there's talk that even a couple of 5-7 teams might qualify.
Artie: Let ’em go ahead. I
won't be watching.
Frank: The newest bowl is
something called the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, which will be at Yankee Stadium.
Artie: That's the Yankee
Stadium that's in the Bronx, where it tends to
be cold in December? The Yankee Stadium that doesn't have a retractable roof?
Frank: True and true. This
bowl will feature the third-best team in the Big East…
Artie: Cripes, do they
actually have four football teams in that hoops loop? Seems like Marquette might be the
fourth-best, and they haven't had football in 50 years.
Frank: The opponent will be
the sixth-best team in the Big 12.
Artie: Holy cow, I might
rethink this. Or not.
Frank: How about the great
Taser incident last week?
Artie: I would love a Taser.
Man oh manischewitz, do I ever have a list of candidates that deserve a good
Frank: I let that sit. But
what about the teenager in Philly who called his father from the ballpark to
say he wanted to run on the field. The dad said he shouldn't, so of course he
did, and he got Tasered. Was that excessive force?
Artie: Not at all. When
someone runs on the field, no one knows his agenda. Does he just want to make
his buddies laugh or is he maybe packing a knife or a gun?
Frank: It hasn't happened yet
in baseball, but a stabbing ruined Monica Seles' tennis career. Remember the
father-son team of Chicago
Artie: You're being redundant.
Frank: …who pummeled Royals
coach Tom Gamboa in 2002? And I was covering the Brewers in 1999 when another Illinois drunk jumped on Houston's Billy Spiers in right field. Gamboa
and Spiers weren't seriously hurt, but they could have been.
Artie: Fans, stay off the
freakin' field. There's another of our themes.
Granny Knows Best
Frank: And here's more good
advice: Hitters, stay off Dallas Braden's freakin' mound.
Artie: That's the Dallas
Braden nobody heard of until he picked a fight with Alex Rodriguez last month.
Frank: The Oakland left-hander got riled when A-Rod,
jogging back to first base after a teammate hit a long foul, went up the mound
and directly over the pitching rubber.
Artie: In other words, when
A-Rod, for reasons known only to divas, did something nobody ever does in
Frank: Exactly. I know it
sounds silly to talk about the "unwritten rules" of the game...
Artie: Remember Davey Lopes,
when he managed the Brewers, yelling at Rickey Henderson for stealing a base
late in a San Diego
blowout in ’01?
Frank: Some fans called Lopes
a crybaby for invoking the "unwritten rules." But I think he was
right, if only because the guy involved was the self-obsessed Henderson, who
was just padding his stats.
Artie: Self-obsessed, you say?
I wonder who else fits that description.
Frank: A-Rod, even though he's
on my favorite team. I know Braden was dumb to overreact, implying there'll be
some future showdown, but when A-Rod said he didn't realize what he'd done I said,
"Baloney." The Yankees were losing and he was trying to get into
Frank: Yeah, but he was just
being a jerk. I heard some caller on a radio show claim that what A-Rod did
happens all the time. That's baloney too. I've seen something like 1,000
major-league games in person and I've never seen it done.
Artie: A guy might run near
the mound, but not up and over it.
Frank: Never. And by the way,
the Yankees still lost.
Artie: Well, people know
Braden for something else now—the 19th perfect game in big-league history.
Frank: After he dominated Tampa Bay
on Sunday, A-Rod tried to make nice, sort of.
Artie: While Braden's
grandmother said, "Let's forget it, uh-huh—and stick it, A-Rod."
Frank: Stay tuned. The Yankees
return to Oakland
on July 5.
Artie: If Braden doesn't bean A-Rod, his grandma might.