The Blog Squad

Friday, July 25, 2008

2008 Rhymes with Great

It’s a little more than halfway through the year, and I would have to agree with an old high school friend. He calls 2008 perhaps the greatest sports year ever.

His evidence.

• A Super Bowl that saw the ultimate Cinderella team beat another that was vying for the perfect season. The margin of victory came on a last-minute drive. Before the big game, the New England Patriots were considered the greatest team in the history of pigskin.

• An NCAA men’s basketball championship game that was won by a team that needed a contested 3-pointer at the buzzer. The miracle shot extended the game five more minutes as Kansas claimed the crown.

• The greatest U.S. Open possibly ever, won in the most dramatic fashion possible by the best golfer in the history of the game. Remember Tiger Woods won his third U.S. Open and 14th major title while suffering from a torn ACL and a double stress fracture of his tibia.

• The return of the Celtics and Lakers rivalry in the NBA Finals. It wasn’t Larry versus Magic, but it was nice to see Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen win a ring. Now their careers are complete. It was equally enjoyable that Kobe Bryant was denied a title.

• A cancer survivor throws a no-hitter in his first full season. Boston Red Sox Jon Lester was diagnosed with lymphoma two years ago. On May 19, he beat the Kansas City Royals 7-0 on 130 pitches and nine strikeouts. His cancer is in remission.

• Josh Hamilton is “The Natural.” The kid has overcome a five-year battle with drugs that included an addiction to crack. After coming back last season, he is perhaps the second-most feared hitter (behind Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez) in the American League. Go get ‘em Josh!

• The Wimbledon men’s final was considered the greatest of all-time. First-time winner Rafael Nadal beat five-time title holder in Roger Federer, 6–4, 6–4, 6–7(5), 6–7(8), 9–7. Their unforgettable match lasted in four hours and 48 minutes.

I would have to say my buddy has compelling reason to believe his claim. And if Greg Norman, 53, had won the British Open last weekend, my friend could rest his case without including the second half of the year.

So what could possibly be next? Vietnam winning a gold medal at the Olympics? The Tampa Bay Rays piling on after capturing the World Series? Or my beloved Washington Redskins dominating the NFL (and eventually winning the Super Bowl)?

Hold me, I’m scared.

OUT AT HOME: I went to Camden Yards recently for a day game. The Orioles lost but it reminded me that baseball is meant to be played when the sun shines at its highest point. If you ever get a chance, go watch a day game, whether it’s in Baltimore, Washington or here in Richmond.

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: Is wrestling fake? - Watch more free videos

Friday, July 18, 2008

Don't Come Running Back

Back on March 5, I wrote that Brett Favre prematurely retired. That it was disheartening he would walk away with gas left in the tank.

I argued the quarterback had been blessed and owed a debt to the game that treated him so well. That he needed to play until the very end, the point when the body begs for mercy.

My final line was that he would likely miss the game more than we missed him.

It turns out that he does miss playing, so much so that he’s willing to dispatch the very team and community that have made him a football legend.

The situation is already ugly and approaching sad.

There’s a lot of finger pointing between the Green Bay Packers and Favre right now. There’s even accusations of tampering. Of all teams, the Minnesota Vikings are involved. Talk about the black and blue division.

No matter where Favre ends up playing, his comeback will be a huge bruise in a remarkable career. Had he not retired, something could have been worked out between him and the Packers.

But it’s not fair that Green Bay, which has clearly moved on with alternative plans, should be faced with this public relations nightmare. The Packers selected two quarterbacks in the recent draft—highly touted Brian Brohm from Louisville in the second round and Matt Flynn of Louisiana State in the seventh round. That’s not to mention Aaron Rodgers, who is the only quarterback picked in the first round to never start a game in his first three professional seasons.

It’s evident that Green Bay is prepared to begin and finish the season with those three at quarterback.

And I’m glad. Favre has played yo-yo with the franchise for the past three or four seasons. He threatens retirement at the end of the campaign, only to announce his return at the very last minute.

It’s time that the Packers assumed control of this situation.

So it’s my guess that Favre will not play in Green Bay. If that’s the case, where will he end up?

Let me first say that he better not become a Washington Redskin. My team does not need him to regress the development of current quarterback Jason Campbell. Plus, the Redskins are now in the business of getting younger and building a team for the long haul, not renting players for a short fix.

His signing in the nation’s capital would go against everything the Redskins have done this offseason. I don’t want to win one championship, I want to hoist the trophy multiple times by building a team that’s gonna last.

Plus Favre will be expensive, and Washington will have to make moves to fit him under the cap.

That pretty much leaves Tampa Bay, who has money to spend and it will be like Rich Gannon or Brad Johnson or Jeff Garcia coming in to play for Jon Gruden. The guy loves a veteran under center.

Favre would be the perfect fit.

There’s also Minnesota, which is probably a quarterback away from a Super Bowl run. The Vikings can run the football and stop the run, two lethal combinations. What they can’t do is sustain drives or stretch the defense through the air. The gunslinging style of Favre will make the Vikings virtually unpredictable and unstoppable.

There’s also talk he might end up with the Bears, which would be in the division, or the Dolphins, or blah, blah, blah.

You know what?

When he retired back in March, Favre said he was mentally tired. Now it seems, he has created a situation that has left everyone else feeling the same way.

OUT AT HOME: My daughter is closer to the truth. She used to say ducks like to eat cars. Then she said ducks like to eat worms. The other day, she claimed ducks like to eat fish. I’m pretty sure she’ll discover the answer before I do.

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: These guys are insane.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Parents Go Away and Let the Kids Play

I can promise you that I will never raise a family in Beachwood, Ohio, where the kids will grow up all the same.

Did you hear?

This suburb of Cleveland has decided to do away with tradition and eliminate the Little League All-Star game for children ages 9 to 12.

The reason?

Apparently, Mayor Merle Gordon and the entire place agreed that All-Star games hurt the self-esteem of the young players. Meaning, it’s not fair that one player is better than another, especially at the crucial and ego-building ages of 9 to 12.


The impetus of the move was spurred by an article written by Fred Engh, who is the founder and CEO of the National Alliance for Youth Sports in West Palm Beach, Fla. It’s hard to read his article and take it seriously. Here’s one gem.

The injury factor. Stress fractures, trips to specialists and surgeries come into play when these seasons are extended with extra games and practices. They take a toll on young bodies and lead to an avalanche of overuse injuries.

I wonder what Mr. Engh did as a child. Did he even play sports? Come on. When I was a kid, our entire neighborhood, big kids and small, played sports all year round. When it was the summer, we played baseball, every day. When it was fall, we tackled each other HARD in football games. In the winter, we jumped perhaps a million times on the hard courts in pickup basketball games. Imagine the toll that took on our knees. And in the spring, we rode bikes or skateboards and wrecked at least once a week. We didn’t wear helmets either.

This guy, Mr. Engh, is worried that kids might suffer stress fractures and need surgeries because they play a few extra organized baseball games. That’s absurd.

And so what if they do get hurt? It’s a battle scar they can boast about for years.

The most disturbing part of Mr. Engh’s article is that he doesn’t believe we should recognize those kids who are superior. Read this:

If you’re feeling reluctant to do something, consider all the children who feel hurt, left out and embarrassed by being passed over every season.

Youth sports aren’t meant to single out only a handful of kids; they’re about making every child feel special, including those who won’t make the All-Star team.

No, sorry. Sports, as in life, are meant to single out the exceptional. They are also meant to motivate the less talented. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school team. He found inspiration from failure.

All great success stories, and I’m comfortable in using the word “all,” are founded on disappointments, hurt feelings and embarrassments. These are the building blocks of character and heart.

How can any athlete or person develop a true sense of their worth if they are never gauged against someone else? Why even play organized sports? Why even keep score? Let’s just get our children to hold hands in a circle and tell each other how great they are.

Here’s a departing thought. When I was a youngster participating in sports, we all knew the kids who were really, really good. We admired them. We wanted to be on their teams. We wanted to be their friends.
I remember working very hard on my skills to become as good as them. I did improve.

It’s rarely the child who is jealous of another child’s success. It’s usually the parents. That’s the saddest part of all.

OUT AT HOME: Here’s the lede of an Associated Press story: Brian “Young Gun” Krause bested his father Rick “Pellet Gun” Krause to win this weekend’s International Cherry Pit Spitting Championship in Michigan.

And my question to you is… how far do you think the winning spit went? My guess was 24 feet. The answer.

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: Ready for the Olympics? The Chinese are. Check out this commercial.

Beijing 2008: Adidas "Together" Olympic Spot from R2 Studios on Vimeo.