Behind the Mic: Oil and Water

One of the great benefits of sports is that, for a few hours, one gets away from the trials and tribulations of everyday life and watches cars go around an oval, a pass being thrown, a homerun being hit and, … well, you get the picture.

And one of the focal points of everyday living certainly has become politics.  There has not been anything more polarizing in our society since this last election.  Everyone not only has an opinion, they have very strong opinions and they do not particularly want to hear yours!

So it is probably best if the sports worlds and the political worlds are kept separate.  It certainly didn’t help Chris Christie’s popularity in New Jersey when he attended the Dallas Cowboys game against Detroit as the guest of the Cowboys’ owner.  Seems Christie does not root for the Jets, the Giants, or the Eagles – the three closest NFL teams to New Jersey – he roots for the Cowboys.  He would have been better off politically if he had just stayed home.

The sports and politics worlds collided again this past weekend.  The LPGA held the U. S. Women’s Open at Trump National in Bedminster, NJ.  This did not sit well with a large number of protesters, both at the course and around the country, who felt the women should not be playing at a course owned by the President whom they feel has sexually harassed women.  To make matters a bit worse (if that’s at all possible), there was video of Trump driving across a Trump National green a few weeks ago.  Driving across a green – this violates all rules of golf etiquette (unless you own the course, I guess).

And the players got caught in the middle.  This is the most important championship in women’s golf.  It has the largest purse and is the most prestigious.  To ask them to skip the tournament in protest against the host seems unfair.  During the week, the players went out of their way to stay out of the controversy because they are well aware that any answer would be seen as the wrong answer by so many.

So they played.  And the President showed up.  To the President’s credit, he did not get too involved other than watching from his temporary bungalow.

There were some peaceful political demonstrations, but the tournament took center stage and it was a great one.  An amateur almost won and the three-day leader couldn’t hang on until the end.

Politics and sports came together, but much like oil and water, they did not mix and that’s the way it should be.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. At the MLB All-Star break, two rookies are making the most impressive news.  In the National League, the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger has 22 home runs in 52 games and hit 10 homers in 10 games, a record.  On Sunday, he hit for the cycle.  In the American League, the Yankees’ Aaron Judge has set the Yankees record for home runs by a rookie (30) and leads the majors in six categories.  And, he was the first rookie to win the Home Run Derby.
  2. Speaking of the MLB, the games so far this year are taking longer than ever – three hours and nine minutes.  This is five minutes longer than last year.  ESPN’s 18-inning game lasted six hours and five minutes.  Rule changes to speed up the game are on the horizon.
  3. What has happened to the Cubs?  As I write this, they lag five-plus games behind the Brewers.  They are in the bottom third in the league in runs scored and hitting.  Their pitching is giving up almost five runs per game.  Joe Maddon will need some second-half magic.
  4. Jeongeun Lee played in the US Women’s Open but was listed on the board as Lee Je6.  On the Korean LPGA tour, she is the sixth player with the exact same name.  There was another Jeongeun Lee in the Open and she was, as you might expect, Lee Je5.
  5. We finish up our Blue Mountain League game of the week next Tuesday, July 25.  It has been a great year in the BML with very competitive teams and games.  The playoffs should be terrific.  If you’re a baseball fan, get out to a game or a series.  Thanks to the League officers and the managers for all their help.

Behind the Mic: Bryce Harper – Enough Already!

Easter Sunday was a really nice day.  The whole family was present with everyone making it to the house.  Once again, my wife put together an extensive dinner, maintaining the traditions of a Ukrainian Easter; paska (Ukrainian bread); one egg shared by all to start the dinner; and a Ukrainian hymn signifying that Christ had risen.  It was sunny and warm outside and inside.  Even sports took a respite for the day.

And then at 11:00pm, I watched the news which has become the most dramatic program on TV these days.  And I always check out the Phillies results.  The Phillies lost.  Bryce Harper hit his second home run of the day on a 3-2 count with the Phils leading 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and two on to Washington.    Do the math – a 6-4 loss.  It was Harper’s 18th home run against the Phillies in his five years with the Nationals.

If you root for any team other than the Nationals, Bryce Harper is not your favorite player.  He just seems to have a way of ruining one’s day.

But, let’s face it – Bryce Harper is REALLY, REALLY good.  He is a baseball superstar who truly lives up to the description every day he steps on the field.  I knew a bit about his journey to the major leagues, but I decided to investigate a bit further.  Wikipedia is always a good place to start.

  • He received his GED after his sophomore year in high school so he could begin his path to professional baseball career at the age of 17.
  • He played one season for the College of Southern Nevada as a catcher with his older brother pitching on the team. Harper was the Player of the Year in the conference.  He topped that honor by being named the best amateur player in the country.  And he played only one collegiate season.
  • He was drafted #1 by the Nationals in 2010; signed a 5-year, $9.9 million contract with 26 seconds left before the signing deadline. His signing bonus was $6.25 million.
  • He struggled early in his minor league career because as an optometrist told him, “You have some of the worst eyes I’ve ever seen.” Once he received contact lenses, he hit an amazing .480.
  • His major league debut occurred on April 28, 2012; he was an All-Star that year; and he was named the National League’s Rookie of the Year.
  • Including this season, he has hit a home run on opening day every year in the majors.
  • His longest career home run (461-feet) is, naturally, against the Phillies.
  • He is a Seventh Day Adventist and drinks no alcohol.

A 4-3 Phillies win at the end of a nice Easter Sunday would have been a perfect way to end the day, but now that I know more about Bryce Harper and his road to the majors, it’s very hard not to respect his talents and his work ethic.  I wish he just wouldn’t be so hard on the Phillies.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. The Eagles might want to consider hiring the “Easter Bunny” as a linebacker. Take a look.

https://twitter.com/Nationals/status/853686707555840000/photo/1

And it was a legal hit – the bunny did not lead with his EARS!!

  1. Image, either good or bad, is so important for professional athletes. It often determines their future once they decide to leave the game they play.  Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning always appeared to be one of those squeaky clean guys, much like his brother Peyton.  Now we hear he may be involved in a memorabilia scam to sell items advertised as game-used when they were not and is being sued.  I have never been enamored with sports mementos, but this should be an interesting story.
  2. Last week, I spoke of some potential rule changes to shorten baseball games. The first report is out for this season and the games are averaging over five minutes longer than last year.
  3. The Chicago Cubs passed out their championship rings this past week. 108 white diamonds, 33 custom-cut red rubies and 46 blue sapphires make up the face.  The inner band features the infamous goat.

Cubs Rings        5.  Our first look at Lafayette’s new head coach, John Garrett, will take place on Saturday, April 29, when we televise the Lafayette Maroon-White game. The action is LIVE at 1:00pm.

Behind the Mic: What’s in a Name?

 

The US Patent and Trademark Office has canceled the Washington Redskins’ trademark registration. They did it because they considered the name “disparaging to Native Americans.” This would mean that the team would NOT have exclusive rights to the trademark, thus allowing others to sell merchandise using the Redskins’ logo – possibly a PR and financial disaster. Owner Dan Snyder has vowed never to change the name and has appealed the decision of the Patent Office.

There are other examples of teams dealing with similar controversy. In 1997, the Washington Bullets looked to change their name because of the rise of gun violence across the country. They became the Washington Wizards. Not the best choice since Washington is predominantly African-American and a “wizard” is the name for someone highly ranked in the Ku Klux Klan. This was a true case of “out of the pan, into the fire.”

The Kansas City Chiefs have faced attacks similar to the Redskins, but they have fought any attempt to change their name. So, too, have the Atlanta Braves. They have discontinued use of their “screaming Indian” logo, but continue to come under fire by Native Americans. Other teams of note are the Chicago Blackhawks, the Vancouver Canucks (considered a derogatory term for Canadians), the Golden State Warriors, the Cleveland Indians, even the Boston Celtics (their pot-bellied, pipe-smoking Irish leprechaun has been considered offensive by some).

Perhaps the worst choice came when an Ontario professional baseball team called themselves the London Rippers named after Jack the Ripper and their logo featured the image of Jack holding a baseball and a bat in a very menacing way. Fortunately, the team suffered financial problems and lasted only one season.

So, what’s in a name? Well, there once were more than 3,000 American Indian mascots and names used in athletic programs across K-12 programs in the US. More than two-thirds of those have been changed. So, amid all the controversy, it does appear that eventually all teams will have to consider what underlying meanings their nicknames and logos contain and whether tradition wins out over real and/or perceived insult.

Watching the appeal process by the Washington Redskins versus the US Patent and Trademark Office will be very interesting. I believe, since the trademark was first registered over 40 years ago, the Redskins will win their appeal. Whether they win in the court of public opinion, however, is a completely different story. Here, I suspect they will lose. There are just too many groups, ironically, “circling the wagons.”

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)
1. Now that baseball is past the mid-season, are Phillies’ announcers Jamie Moyer and Matt Stairs improving? They certainly had plenty of room to get better and generated a great deal of negative criticism when the season began. My feeling is they are getting a wee bit better. Stairs still has trouble with mumbling and completing sentences. Moyer’s is more interesting, but his delivery is just plain boring. From the reports I have read, Comcast sees them as works in progress. They believe they are getting better and have confidence in their ability to stay long-term. I do not see the Philly fans being so patient.

2. The Phillies started the season at 15:1 odds to win their division. That has now dropped to 100:1 and even that seems too high. The Cubs, by the way, are 1000:1 to win their division and the Astros are 5000:1. Right now it looks like the Dodgers against the Angels in the World Series.

3. With football camps now beginning their workouts, you might be interested in the Las Vegas odds for the 2015 season. The Seattle Seahawks are favored to win the NFC Championship and the Denver Broncos are favored to win the AFC title (sound familiar?). Seattle beat Denver 43-8 in the Super Bowl last year. The Broncos are 6:1 odds to win the Super Bowl. Most fans felt the same way last year. The Eagles are 15:1 to win the NFC and 28:1 to win the Super Bowl, listed as the 10th best team in the NFL.

4. Speaking of last year’s Super Bowl, it was the most watched television program in history with 111.5 million viewers. The halftime show which featured Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers had 115.3 million viewers. I guess many of the wives just wanted to watch the concert.

5. A final note concerning the Blue Mountain League. The teams are in the playoffs now with the semifinals and finals on the horizon. If the playoff games are as competitive as the regular season, get out and watch a game. It is good baseball.