So When Do We Really Learn About Sports?

I have been writing this blog for a little over a month. I have received many nice comments and e-mails from family, friends and new readers (keep them coming). A common theme seems to be, “Great job Guru, but I don’t know anything about sports”. Well maybe either I’m not doing what I set out to do (see May 20, 2008 blog or click on I am not a Sports Nerd tab) or my friends and family are a few logs short of a cord.

I’ll go with the theory that some of my family are not the sharpest tools in the shed. Sports Guru’s Sports Son #1 plays lacrosse (game played with sticks and a hard rubber ball that hurts when it hits you). Not only does SGSS #1 play lacrosse, he is a goalie. That means the hard rubber ball is thrown at hit him very hard (high school players can throw it in excess of 80mph) by boys who don’t like him and hope that if the ball does not go by him for a goal, it hits him in the arm or leg so it hurts a lot. I know what you’re thinking now, goalies wear all that protection and it’s only a small ball. Wrong…

Ice Hockey goalies (SGSS #1 did that for 8 years also) wear protection that makes them look like this.

But lacrosse goalies wear such little protection they look like this.
Lacrosse is played on a field that is almost the same size as a football field. Each team has ten players and depending on what position they play on the field, their stick can vary in length from three feet long to six feet long for defensemen. The rules are pretty simple. You get to run around and hit your friends, and if they have the ball, you get to take your stick and hit them (hands and stick) with it. When you’re not being hit by your friends and smacking them in the hands, the object is to get the hard rubber ball past the goalie (the guy who is a few cards short of a deck) and into the net. It really is a great sport (especially if you’re not the parent of the kid whose elevator does not go all the way to the top floor).

One of the things about lacrosse that has made it very popular during the past 10 years is the possibility of a college scholarship for those players who have talent. Some of the best colleges in the country have a long standing history of playing lacrosse. Duke, Virginia, Georgetown, Cornell and many others are looking for the brightest student athletes to come play for their universities. So even if your kid is a few fries short of a Happy Meal and can get that hard rubber ball past SGSS #1, Harvard might be calling your son.

For some additional information about lacrosse you might want to check out the US Lacrosse website http://www.uslacrosse.org/the_sport/index.phtml. Remember if little Jimmy is a few Fruit Loops shy of a full bowl, lacrosse might just be the sport for him.

Your Friend in Sports (yes I’ve been accused of being a few threads short of a sweater),

Dave the Sports Guru

A Walk Down Memory Lane

I found a great website the other day that you should know about: www.on-this-day.com.  You can look up all sorts of great things (Happy 55th Birthday to Cyndi Lauper) that nobody remembers (West Virginia became the 35th state).  So what does this have to do with learning about sports?

Abraham Lincoln once said, “History is not history unless it is the truth”.  Well, sports is steeped in history.  For many, it is what we love about sports.  Sports fans can always debate and argue about which team or player was better.  Who was faster or who jumped the furthest.  But like Lincoln said, the “truth” is what matters the most. 

So how do sports fans find the “truth”\?.  I believe it’s in the small agate type pages you find in the newspaper each day.  You know the pages that have lists and lists of standings, averages and transactions about all sorts of sports and teams.  I would argue that a non-sports fan would rather have a root canal than read these pages.  I would say (remember it’s my blog) they are wrong.  The “truth” about sports is in all those tiny numbers.

You do not need to be a nuclear scientist or have an MBA to understand these magic numbers.  You just need to take a few minutes and soak it all in.  Trust me it’s not very difficult.  Here is a small snippet from today’s USA Today sports section http://www.usatoday.com/sports/baseball/standings.htm.

AMERICAN LEAGUE
East
 TEAM PCT  GB  HOME  ROAD  L-10  STREAK 
 Boston 46  29  .613  –  28-7  18-22  7-3  W-2 
 
 Tampa Bay 43  29  .597  1.5  29-11  14-18  6-4  W-3 
 
 N.Y. Yankees 40  33  .548  21-15  19-18  8-2  W-7 
 
 Baltimore 37  34  .521  22-12  15-22  6-4  W-3 
 
 Toronto 35  39  .473  10.5  18-17  17-22  3-7  L-5 

 So what does it all mean?  What you see here is the American League East standings in baseball for June 20th, 2008.  It lists the five teams in the division, the number of games they have won this season (W), and the number of losses (L).  So we can say that Toronto has won 35 games and lost 39 so far this season.  Pretty easy stuff so far.  The next column (PCT) is the teams winning percentage.  Toronto has played 74 games and their winning percentage is .473 (35 wins divided by 74 games) yes, I know not all of you did well in school during math class.

The lesson continues with GB.  GB stands for games behind.  This column reflects how many games behind the leader (Boston) each team is.  Looking at the Yankees, you will see that they are five games behind Boston.  What that really means is that for every game Boston would lose and the Yankees win, that number would decrease by one.  It’s a little tough to figure out today as both teams have not played the same number of games at this point in the season.  The easier way to figure out how far behind or in front a team is, is to look at the difference in the loss (L) column.  The Yanks are four games behind the Red Sox based on the loss column.  So if the Yankees win the next four and Boston loses the next four they would be tied for first place.  The next two columns are pretty easy to understand.  The home and road columns list how each team does when it is the home team or visiting road team.  Good teams will usually have great home records (Boston 28-7, they have lost only 7 games out of 35 at Fenway Park).  Teams that go on the road and play about .500 baseball are also going to have very good seasons.  The last column is the team’s record during the last ten games.  You can see that the Yankees have done very well winning 8 out of their last 10 games.

So there you have it – the “truth” about the American League East.  Tomorrow morning run down (you need the exercise) to the local 7-11 and pick up the sports section and find that page with all the tiny print and dive right in because you are on your way to becoming a “Sports Fan”.

Have a great weekend.

 

Your Friend in Sports,

 

Dave the Sports Guru 

Why Is the US Congress Interested In Horse Racing?

When you click on my “I am not a Sports Nerd” tab on the blog, you will see that I say that “I love my country”.  It’s true, I wave the Red, White and Blue and support our Olympic teams and our military every chance I get.  What I don’t love about this country currently is that our senators, congresswomen and congressmen are spending so much time worried about sports in this country.  

We have troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, the economy sucks, gas and milk prices are going up through the roof, most of the rest of the world hates us and somehow our elected officials find the time to look into the Mitchell Report (steroids in baseball), as to whether or not Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte (baseball pitchers) “mis-remembered”, Spygate (did the New England Patriots illegally tape other teams) and earlier today the horse racing industry.

So why did the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection spend the day questioning those who run the horse racing industry in this country?  When Eight Belles finished second in the Kentucky Derby last month, and suddenly broke both her ankles leading to her being euthanized right there on the spot, there was a public outcry (so says Congress) to do something about horses getting hurt and dying.  Again, doesn’t Congress have better things to do.

So they (Congress) called a meeting and even invited our friend Dick Dutrow (trainer of Big Brown) to attend.  Dutrow decided to stick it to Congress by not showing up (claimed he was ill) and not letting them know that he would not be attending.  My words here (it’s my blog), “good for him”.  While I’m not a big fan of his, Congress had no right to call him on the carpet.  In the states where it is legal, Dutrow injects his horses once a month with steroids.  He claims “that it helps the horses to eat better.  Their coats brighten. They’re more alert. It helps them train”.  True or not, why is Congress interested?

Maybe some of the politicians in Washington are lousy handicappers.  Maybe they lost a few bucks on Big Brown not winning the Triple Crown earlier this month at the Belmont Stakes and want to get back at his trainer and owner.  Or is it that they really have nothing better to do?  If that’s the case, here is my suggestion (remember it’s my blog), throw them all out on election day this November 4th.  Now I’m not telling you the Democrats are any better than the Republicans or vice-verse, just vote out the incumbent and vote in the person who is running against them.  Send a message that what this country needs is change (I got off my soap box after typing change).  No good can come out of our government poking it’s nose into the world of sports in this country.

Now that I have that off my chest (and a few inches thanks to my trainer Ryan T.) it’s time to go home and talk to your family at the dinner table tonight about the important things in sports like:  Jaba getting it done for the Yankees earlier today, Germany knocking off Portugal in Euro 2008 and Tiger’s knee surgery.  You can do it (thanks Rob Schneider)!

Your Friend in Sports,

 

Dave the Sports Guru

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now What Do We Do?

When the Boston Celtics finished up their 17th NBA Championship season last night with a 131-92 rout over the Los Angeles Lakers 4 games to 2, we closed the book on the 2007-2008 winter sports season.  Two weeks ago, it was the Detroit Red Wings winning the NHL Stanley Cup to finish up the hockey season.  “But Guru, it hasn’t been winter around here for a long time”!  Well if you live in New Zealand, ski season opened last Saturday June 14th.  That’s one of the things about sports in the 21st century, the seasons never end.  The Celtics will be back in training camp 100 days from now to defend their championship. 

So you think that all we have left is baseball (except in Pittsburgh, Seattle and Kansas City, where baseball season ends on opening day) until NFL training camps open up next month.  But the truth is, there are lots of sports going on right now and all throughout the upcoming summer to keep a sports fan very happy and occupied.

In seven weeks, the XXIX Summer Olympics will open in Beijing, China.  One of the great things about an Olympic year is the way the USA (and many other countries) picks its team members.  They are called the Olympic Trials.  Last weekend in Las Vegas the wrestling and judo trials were held. Today is the beginning of the diving trials in Indianapolis.  Tomorrow the gymnastics trials start in Philadelphia and next weekend the USA will pick it’s track and field athletes at the trials in Eugene, Oregon.  For a complete list of the teams, athletes and remaining trials try http://www.usoc.org/.

NASCAR and Indy racing go throughout the summer and into the fall.  Plus there is auto racing every weekend in almost every state.  Small tracks run events every weekend night.  It’s lots of fun, loud and you get to meet people with names like Butch, Johnnie and Walter.  Remember you are going to see the cars go around the track, not crash into each other.  Here is a website that lists the major racing series for the 2008 season http://www.usatoday.com/sports/motor/schedules.htm  All you need to do to find a local race track is google “auto race track in (your state)”.  

Minor League Baseball is a fun and inexpensive night out.  Most tickets are less than $10 and food is also less expensive, compared to the Majors.  If you find yourself some place in the country this summer that is not home and have a few free hours, check out this website http://web.minorleaguebaseball.com/.  The Sports Guru and his posse will be in Midland Michigan (Great Lake Loons) and Beloit Wisconsin (Beloit Snappers) next weekend.  More about my posse next week.

Golf (without Tiger Woods), tennis, horse racing and soccer are all summer staples.  A little web surfing will turn up some great events like :Cowtown Rodeo  http://www.cowtownrodeo.com/, Mountain Biking  http://www.visitpa.com/visitpa/mtnRacing.pa?pg=schedule, Archery – 124th US Nationals in Colorado http://www.usarchery.org/html/2008NationalTargetChampionship.html and if you find yourself in New England this summer, check out some horseshoe competitions http://www.newenglandhorseshoes.com/ 

Just because three of the four big sports are done for now, that does not mean your lessons are over.  Sports school is never out.  So your homework for tonight is to find a local sporting event near you this weekend you know nothing about.  To get an A on your assignment you can take me up on this kind offer.  All you have to do is send me an e-mail telling me where you are going to be and when.  I’ll send you back a few ideas and the rest is up to you.

Your Friend in Sports,

 

Dave the Sports Guru

A Wild Two Days of Sports

When I started this blog last month, the intention was to educate my readers who might not consider themselves “true” sports fans.  They wanted or needed to learn more about sports to fit in at work or a social setting.  I hope some of you are up to speed, because today is going to be a little heavy on the sports and a little light on the humor (I know it’s my favorite part also).

Yesterday at Torrey Pines in California, Tiger Woods defeated Rocco Mediate in an eighteen hole (actually went nineteen) playoff to win the US Open Championship in golf.  This is a very easy sentence to write and also easy to read.  There was nothing easy about the world’s greatest golfer beating a guy from Pittsburgh, PA named Rocco yesterday.  Just a quick recap because as sports fans you need to know this stuff.  Mediate and Tiger were tied after the last (72nd) hole on Sunday.  To break the tie, they would play each other on Monday in a fifth round of golf.  Tiger took an early lead, Rocco charged back.  Then Tiger went ahead again, leading Rocco by 3 strokes with just eight holes left.  Much like a good heavyweight fight (yes I know there has not been one in years) Rocco stormed back and took the lead by one stroke with two holes to play.  Just like on Sunday, Tiger beat Rocco by one stroke on the 18th hole to end the round tied again.  This forced a sudden-death (yes you know this term) playoff, one hole at a time.  On the 19th hole, Tiger made a par and Rocco made a bogey (one over par) giving Tiger Woods the championship.  If you really want more info on this great round of golf, I suggest you read Pat Forde’s article for ESPN. http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/columns/story?columnist=forde_pat&id=3446891&sportCat=golf

Very early this morning, one of the most vile and cruelest acts by ownership and their general manager in baseball history took place.  The New York Mets fired their manager Willie Randolph.  I am not questioning whether that was right or wrong, my beef is how it happened. 

During the 2006 baseball season, Willie Randolph led the Mets to within one game of the World Series, losing game 7 of National League Championship to the eventual world champions St. Louis Cardinals.  Last season Randolph had the Mets in the lead of the National League East division for most of the season.  With only seventeen games remaining on the schedule the Mets held a seven game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies.  When the dust cleared on the last Sunday of the season, the Mets finished the biggest collapse in baseball history by being beat out of first place by the Phillies.  2008 has not been much better for the Mets, they were two games under .500 entering last night’s game against the Los Angeles Angels with a 33-35 record.

For almost a month now there have been rumors and speculation that the Mets were going to fire Randolph.  The team’s General Manager, Omar Minaya, held meetings and press conferences with Randolph letting the press and fans know that ownership (Fred and Jeff Wilpon) has given him the authority to decide on Randolph’s fate.  Every time the Mets lost a game (thanks Billy Wagner) the rumors would swirl that Randolph was a goner.  After beating the Texas Rangers this past Sunday in game two of a double-header, there was more speculation that Minaya was going to fire his manager.  It made sense considering the Mets were about to board a plane for a six hour trip to California.  Randolph survived the flight and led his team to a 9-6 victory over the Angels last night.  But after his post game press conference, and after his post game meal, Randolph was called to Minaya’s hotel room where he and two of his coaches (pitching coach Rick Peterson and first base coach Tom Nieto (why Nieto was fired is really a great question?)) were axed.  It was past midnight in California, and after 3 am on the east coast – too late to make the morning newspapers.  Why drag a guy completely across the country to fire him and why in the middle of the night?  Shame on the Wilpons and Minaya.

A very big soccer/football match will take place this afternoon in Austria.  Defending World Cup champion, Italy will have a re-match against 2006 runner-up France in the 2008 European Championship.  The loser is out after the first round, and the winner can move on if Romania does not beat the Netherlands.  Believe me, it really is a big deal.

Tonight in Boston, the Boston Celtics play the Los Angeles Lakers in game 6 of the NBA Finals.  Boston leads 3 games to 2 and with a victory will win their seventeenth championship and first in twenty two seasons.  If LA finds a way to win, game 7 will be Thursday night for all the marbles in Boston.  Remember, the Guru picked the Celts in 7.

 

Your Friend in Sports,

 

Dave the Sports Guru

Golfers – Are They Athletes?

For a long time at the Sports Guru’s house, we have had the conversation about which sports have athletes and which have guys and gals that just do the sport. There is no doubt the major sports: football, basketball, baseball are played by athletes. Secondary sports like horseshoes, poker and archery are played by everyday people who do not have to be in the best physical shape. So what about golf?

For many years, golfers were heavy (Craig “Walrus” Stadler, John Daly) and many smoked (Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus in the old days). Not today. These guys are pumped, finely tuned machines who hit a tiny white ball with a stick very far. You can credit one person for this change, Tiger Woods.

When he burst on the scene at age 21 he was a scrawny 155 pound kid. He is now a chiseled 32 year old weighing around 180 pounds, with large arms and a very thin waist. The thin waist is very noticeable among professional golfers these days. While no one knows for sure exactly what Tiger does when he works out (National Security is not as tight as Tiger’s Security Team) Golf Magazine in its August 2004 issue took a crack at it.

They reported, five days a week of three to five hour sessions at the gym; thirty minutes of aerobic warm-up followed by thirty minutes with a physical therapist to stretch his entire body; another half-hour of cardio on a treadmill, bike or stepper followed by strength training; on some days, he does lots of lifting and on others he uses all the equipment you would find at your neighborhood gym (you’ve been lately?), finally a cool down and he is done. Did I mention that he also runs three to four miles everyday (on grass)?

So when Tiger needed arthroscopic left knee surgery on April 15th, 2008, just days after finishing second at this year’s Master’s Tournament it came as a surprise. He left himself eight weeks to recover for the US Open in California. As you must know by now, Tiger is playing today in an eighteen hole playoff with Rocco Mediate for the championship.

Why did I say “must know”? Saturday evening, Tiger put on one of the greatest displays of golf ever seen. NBC was lucky enough to be broadcasting in prime time and the nation was able to see him get two Eagles (two under par) in the last six holes. Throw in an incredible chip shot that bounced in on number 17 for a Birdie (one under par) and for those who witnessed him grimacing in pain and limping on that left knee after every shot, we were left shaking our heads again. Tiger begin Father’s day with a one stroke lead and while he started terribly, he steadied the ship and was in contention to win. Again it came down to dramatics as Tiger needed to make a 12 foot Birdie on the 18th hole to force today’s playoff with Rocco Mediate. Tiger took his time, measured the shot and made the putt. He followed the ball dropping into the hole with a lot of fist pumping and hand slapping with his caddie Steve Williams.

No matter what happen today between Tiger and Rocco, Tiger Woods has ended the argument for all time about if golfers are athletes. Heck the guy has his own sports drink named after him……

Your Friend in Sports,

Dave the Sports Guru

Friday the 13th – I Hate Billy Wagner

Unless you suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia (fear of Friday the 13th) or need to spell the word in a spelling bee (love it when they get a word wrong and that bell rings) this is going to be an informative blog.  

According to the Dutch Centre for Insurance Statistics.  Friday the 13th showed fewer accidents and reports of fire and theft compared to other Fridays (and my friends think I have too much free time on my hands).  In the past two years, Dutch insurers received reports of an average 7,800 traffic accidents each Friday.  But the average figure when the 13th fell on a Friday was just 7,500.

The number 13.  That is the number that Billy Wagner of the New York Mets wears.  Wagner has been terrible of late.  In his last three relief outings he has entered the game with his team in front.  This is what they call a save opportunity.  Wagner has blown all three of these chances (blown save), twice allowing the opposition to tie the game in the 9th inning and once giving up a game winning home run in the 8th.  I think his teammates now just call him Toast.  (He gets burned, get it?).  Triskadekaphobia (I know, another word for the kids to spell) is the fear of the number 13.  From now on it should be used every time Billy Wagner shows his face in the Mets bullpen.

A 1993 study published in the British Medical Journal titled, “Is Friday the 13th Bad for Your Health?” found that compared to Friday the 6th, “the risk of hospital admission as a result of a transport accident may be increased by as much as 52 percent (maybe Billy Wagner was in town?).  Staying at home is recommended.”  Go find your friends Nigel and Graham and ask them what they think (just don’t mention England and how they are out of Euro 2008 [Soccer/Football reference])?

The number 13.  Wilt Chamberlain (basketball, the guy who slept with 20,000 women) wore number 13.  Dan Marino (football, Nutra System helped him lose 20 pounds) wore 13.  Alex Rodriguez (baseball, he of the $275 million contract) wears number 13.  Steve Nash (basketball) of the Phoenix Suns and Mats Sundin (hockey) of the Toronto Maple Leafs wear number 13 and they are all great players.  One of Iceland’s all time best handball players, Sigurður Sveinsson, wore the number 13 when he played for the national team.  Maybe 13 is not such a bad number.  No, on second thought, Billy Wagner wears number 13.

The Sports Guru’s Sports Daughter’s favorite number is 13.  Colgate University also considers 13 to be a lucky number. They were founded in 1817 by 13 men with 13 dollars, 13 prayers, and 13 articles. To this day, members of the Colgate community consider the number 13 a good omen.  In fact, the campus address is 13 Oak Drive in Hamilton, NY and the all men a capella group is called the Colgate 13. 

The number 13.  The Devil’s luck.  Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, Theodore Bundy and Albert De Salvo (Boston Strangler) all have 13 letters in their names (Billy Wagner does not, but William Wagner does).  There are 13 witches in a coven (you look it up).  Did I mention Billy Wagner wears number 13?  The Hindus believe it is unlucky for 13 people to gather together for dinner (have you ever tried to get a reservation for 13 at any restaurant?).  The ancient Vikings (not the ones who play football in Minnesota) have a story about this also. 

Twelve gods were invited to a banquet at Valhalla. Loki, the Evil One, God of Mischief, had been left off the guest list (so was Billy Wagner) but crashed the party, bringing the total number of attendees to 13. True to character, Loki raised hell by inciting Hod, the blind God of Winter, to attack Balder the Good, who was a favorite of the gods.  Hod took a spear of mistletoe offered by Loki and obediently hurled it at Balder, killing him instantly (Billy Wagner would have missed him).  All Valhalla grieved. And although one might take the moral of this story to be “Beware of uninvited guests bearing mistletoe,” the Norse themselves apparently concluded that 13 people at a dinner party is just plain bad luck (like rooting for Billy Wagner).


 

Have a Happy Fathers Day.  Watch out for mistletoe, 13 guests and Billy Wagner.

Your Friend in Sports,

 

Dave the Sports Guru (not Billy Wagner)