Monday, June 14, 2010

The Anti-Summer Slump

We are in that valley of the year where athletic organizations from high school to the professional level start to seem like a small town on a Saturday night…boring and restless. Media outlets from ESPN to sports radio shows are talking about the NFL already…which seems to be just fine with a mass of American sports fans. The Stanley Cup Finals are over and an NBA Champion will be decided in a few days. These months are known notoriously as the “summer slump” in the world of sports. Not this year…
There is no rest for the weary this year. Wives, who have no interest in sports, and were looking forward a few months in the summer where the whole family could just enjoy each other by the pool on a Saturday afternoon, sorry. Ladies…let me enlighten you as to why you will not be resurrecting and watching the entire series of Felicity during the weekends this summer! Reasons why there is no slump this summer…what to watch…and what to talk about besides the NFL.
• 2010 FIFA World Cup: I know so little about soccer. I know even less about the World Cup...I don’t even know what FIFA means. I know it is in South Africa, that fake soccer fans all over the USA are flocking to watch it and that the USA team had a draw (tie) against England. This draw was a huge success for the red, white and blue. England, known for their football (soccer) pagentry world-wide, was due to completely roll over the American team. They didn’t and good for the US…but any sport where we as Americans are thrilled with a tie instead of a whoopin’ is no sport for me!
• NCAA conference re-alignments: Though the media seems to say very little on this subject, except statements of opinion, because no one is clear on much of anything yet, this topic alone is worth watching Sports Center for. When I worked at the University of Oklahoma Athletic Department, summer was for cleaning, organizing, media guide preparations, and camps. However, my friends at the AD have noted that their heads are spinning and that there is certainly more going on this year due to this time of uncertainty and change. Nebraska will head for the Big 10 in 2011, Colorado will begin play in the Pac-10 in 2010, and Boise State (UGH…to be beaten in a bowl game by a team that plays on a blue field is just unbearable) will settle into the Mountain West. Watch and wait on Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A & M and Texas Tech, to decide what conference they will align themselves with. (see earlier post for more details)
• The College World Series in Omaha: The College Baseball World Series is not something I typically get too excited about. I honestly have not good answer as to why. My love of baseball derived for my love of college baseball (no not college baseball players…at least not entirely). However, the OU Sooners are one game away from their first CWS appearance since 1995, one year after their 1994 National Championship. TCU topped Texas for their first ever trip to the CWS. Texas was ranked second for the season. OU is playing Virginia for this coveted spot tonight, a team who ended the season ranked fifth.
• Champions Tour PGA Golf…The Majors: What is not to like about golf really? Those making bleh sounds as you read this…have you ever tried to learn more about these guys? The Tour is made up of some of the most fascinating professionals in sports. Check out or check out The Golf Channel…heck just get on Twitter. It is hard to get an idea of what the PGA is all about by only watching The Majors. No matter how far back Tiger and Phil are they will get the majority of air time shared with the leading pair. However, do some home work and really enjoy The Majors this season. Follow online and on The Golf Channel. US Open, June 17-20, Pebble Beach California, Lucas Glover holds the title. The Open Championship, July 15-18, St. Andrews, Scotland, Stewart Cink. PGA Championship, August 12-15, Whistling Straights, Kohler, Washington, Y.E. Yang.
• MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL: Summer IS baseball! It starts with T-ball….co-ed softball leagues, high school summer leagues and the College World Series. MLB baseball does not start in October (playoffs)…it starts in April. Being the obsessive baseball fan that I am I am always highly annoyed by the comments “there is a lot of baseball left to play” or “it is only one game.” The Minnesota Twins (my beloved team if you didn’t know) have had to play a play-in game the past two years to earn a playoff spot. Don’t tell me every game does not count! One devastating loss a month leads to six within a season. Let’s just say your team was lucky enough to only have six losses…which they won’t ever be… there was an average margin of six games between the wins of the top two teams in each division last season. Meaning, if on average, second place teams had one seven more games they would have won the division! EVERY GAME COUNTS IN BASEBALL. So tune in now. Pick out your favorite rivalries and learn to appreciate the drama and entertainment that is America’s Past-time. Nothing says summer like the ballpark!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Straight Sick!

Cy Young once said, “Gosh, all a kid has to do these days is spit straight and he gets forty-thousand dollars to sign!” I assure you Stephen Strasburg didn’t have to spit at all! Strasburg, baseball prodigy and pitcher for the Washington Nationals, will make his major league pitching debut tonight (Tuesday, June 8, 2010) in Washington against the Pittsburg Pirates. It is the most anticipated debut in MLB history. Care to know why #37 Jerseys have been selling like water on a hot Texas day…when Strasburg hasn’t played one major league game?
Strasburg, 21 native of San Diego, has sold out every venue he has pitched in since high school. Tickets to his debut with the Nationals sold out in two hours and 200 media credentials were distributed, three times the normal amount. The 2009 Baseball America High School Player of the Year skipped his final two seasons of high school ball and earned his GED to play baseball at San Diego State Junior College in 2010. His record at San Diego State was 8-3, with a 1.57 earned run average and 133 strikeouts in 97 1/3 innings. And…just so you won’t question his ability as a well-rounded star…he can also play third base (3B) and right field (RF).
Beyond highly touted and compensated to reflect his clout, anyone with even a slight interest in baseball should wonder…will he be worth the hype? Strasburg was handed a 15.1 million dollar signing bonus in the 2009 Major League Baseball Draft as the number one overall pick by Washington. In 2001 the Cubs drafted pitcher Mark Prior for 10.5 million (record setting signing bonus till the 15.1 million awarded Strasburg) Prior was released by the San Diego Padres in 2009. Another prospect in 2001 was dealt 9.5 million by Texas Rangers. However, Mark Teixeira, also a client of the famed agent Scot Boras (known for being a lethal negotiator in baseball and Strasburg’s agent) has had a little better luck. Teixeira garnered the largest signing bonus given to a position player (3B) in draft history. After seasons with the Rangers, Angels and Braves…Big Tex signed a Texas sized $180 million dollar package deal with the New York Yankees in December 2008. In addition to owning a 2009 World Series Championship ring, he also led the AL in both home runs (tied with Carlos Pena of Tampa Bay) with 39 and RBIs with 122.
So will Strasburg be a Mark Prior or a Mark Teixeira? Reports are that he will be a Stephen Strasburg and unlike anything seen in baseball history. The excitement surrounding him is certainly unlike anything the Washington Nationals have ever seen. For now it is watch and wait…something the baseball loyal will all be doing tonight!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Sailing to the Coast? Not Without Choppy Waters!

The latest meetings and rumors concerning a total makeover of certain NCAA conferences have certainly perked up some ears! A smooth sail to another conference by Big 12 schools may be jarred by a resist to change and a struggle for the upper-hand. Rumors state that six Big 12 schools have been invited to join the Pac 10 Conference: Colorado, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A & M and Texas Tech. Though, both conferences are meeting separately at this time, these are just said to be RUMORS…with some very real potential if you ask me. However, according to an article on ESPN, Big 12 Commissioner Don Beebe said today that he is "comfortable" the league will remain intact.
That’s not exactly the tone school athletic directors were taking. In an interview this week University of Oklahoma Athletic Director Joe Castiglione said “We (Big 12) make our own decisions…we have always made our own decisions.” The comments by Castiglione, Osborne and other ADs did not lead one to think they would stay put, only do what is best for the Big 12 conference…and their respective programs. Question = what is best?
The Pac 10 is comprised of Arizona, Arizona State, Cal, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Washington and Washington State. Pretty solid programs! Add the six “invited to join” and you have a power conference. As an OU Alum do I fear the competition of this power conference? Isn’t sport defined by competition? In a game of numbers, yes, it would be more challenging to leave the Big 12 and join the Pac 10. The Pac 10 has won nine football national championships, six men’s basketball and a whopping 26 in baseball. The schools in the Big 12 have won a respectable 17 football national championships, four men’s basketball and 10 in baseball. Aside from Kansas’ men’s basketball championships and Nebraska’s football championships, most of that talent has been in the six schools being sought to take the leap of change. So, the Big 12 North would be worth ditching quite simply.
This leaves the next question, who will take the weak? The Big 6 just isn’t going to happen… talk about your next Mountain West Conference. Way below average (no last year’s TCU BCS bowl appearance does not boost this standing). No doubt a re-vamp by select NCAA conferences would equal more interest if not utter excitement, which basically equals money in the deep pockets of athletic programs involved. I find it exciting. Sounds a little like “This Land is My Land.” “From the Texas Hill Country…to The Port of Seattle…this conference was formed for victory!”