Cheaters never prosper

A lot of baseball fans were upset that the Houston Astros players who participated in a sign-stealing scandal in 2017 and 2018 were never punished. But one fan took matters — and a megaphone — into his own hands.

Photo credit: New York Times

Dude’s name is Tim Kanter. He’s a White Sox fan (obvi, from the photo above) but he lives in San Diego. Due to the pandemic, the baseball playoffs are being played at neutral site stadiums in warm weather locales. The American League Championship Series between the Tampa Bay Rays and the aforementioned Cheatin’ Astros was hosted at Petco Park in San Diego. Tim works at a software company whose offices overlook the stadium. So he and his buddies pooled $200 to buy a mega-powered megaphone. And during Game 4, Tim spoke for most fans:

Hear, hear! Attaboy Tim! Thanks for giving voice to the feelings of so many fans.

(The quotes above are from this New York Times article. It’s well worth the read. Tim Kanter seems like an interesting person.)

If you cheat, you should pay a price. The Chicago White Sox players who “threw” the 1919 World Series were banned for life. Pete Rose broke the rules by betting on his team and was banned for life. The Astros clearly cheated, and while the manager and GM were suspended for a year (and wound up losing their jobs), and the club was fined $5 million and lost draft picks for a couple of years, the players involved never had to miss a game.

Last night was Game 7 of the ALCS. Tampa Bay beat Houston. Fair and square.

Sports is life

Hall of Fame baseball pitcher Bob Gibson passed away Friday night, after battling pancreatic cancer. He was 84. As fate would have it, the book I’ve been reading over the past week is a collection of essays by the great sportswriter Roger Kahn.

And I was smack dab in the middle of the Bob Gibson essay when I heard that he passed away. The best years of Gibson’s playing career were mostly before my time (hard to believe when I’m so old), but I remember my dad telling stories about his baseball prowess. What I didn’t know until I read the Roger Kahn profile was his backstory. He grew up in a four-room shack in Omaha, Nebraska, the youngest of seven kids. His dad died three months before he was born. His mom worked at a laundry. One night during his childhood, a rat bit him on the ear while he was sleeping.

He loved basketball, and his dream was to play college hoops for Indiana University, but they rejected him because they had already met their “quota” of Black players. Instead he starred in basketball and baseball for Creighton University in his hometown. And when he graduated, he signed with the St. Louis Cardinals AND the Harlem Globetrotters, playing sports year-round to earn the princely sum of $8,000.

Most of the obits mention Bob Gibson’s competitive nature, and how it manifested itself on the mound – how he’d hit batters to keep them from digging in against him. You’d probably have a bit of an edge too, if you grew up poor and fatherless, and were denied opportunities due to the color of your skin.

We think we’ve come so far in race relations since the 1960s, but when you read the excerpt below from Bob Gibson’s 1968 book, it’s easy to see similarities in the way he was perceived back then, and the backlash that Colin Kaepernick received in 2016, or the “shut up and dribble” comments directed toward LeBron James earlier this year:

“In a world filled with hate, prejudice and protest, I find that I too am filled with hate, prejudice and protest. I hate phonies. I am prejudiced against all those who have contempt for me because my face is black and all those who accept me only because of my ability to throw a baseball.”

From Gibson’s book From Ghetto to Glory

In another essay from The Roger Kahn Reader, written during the Watergate era, Roger Kahn sums up “sports is life” nicely… and his words still ring true half a century later:

“Sports tells anyone who watches intelligently about the times in which we live: about managed news and corporate politics, about race and terror and what the process of aging does to strong men. If that sounds grim, there is courage and high humor, too… I find sport to be a better area than most to look for truth.”

The truth is Bob Gibson is a Hall of Famer. The other truth is that his path there was a lot rockier due to his circumstances. And the saddest truth of all is that a fatherless child from the ghetto is probably no better off today than Bob Gibson was when he was born in 1935.

The Old Man Olympics

Several times over the past few weeks, I’ve done a kayak/bike ride combo. I lock up my bike near my kayak destination (#1 below), then drive upriver, launch my kayak (#2), paddle down the river about 4 miles, lock up my kayak and pedal back to get my car. (Actually, it’s my son’s SUV, because his has a roof rack and plenty of room to stow the bike.)

The fact that the starting and ending points are near breweries is merely coincidental.

The launch point and the destination are both along the same bike path, so I don’t have to dodge cars on my bike ride. And the bike path extends far beyond the kayak launch point, so I can tack on more bike miles if I want. It’s a nice way to spend a weekend morning.

I also bought a $20 waterproof speaker, so the past couple of kayak rides, I’ve been able to listen to music as I paddle along.

If you count the steps I take hauling the kayak to/from the river, it’s basically the same as the Ironman Triathlon. Or the old man equivalent.

Ballers just want to have fun.

If you were a basketball player and you were on a team that won 25 games and made the Sweet 16 your freshman year, and a team that went 6-14 in conference your sophomore year, which would be more fun? The answer is the latter team, at least if your my wife’s cousin’s daughter. (OK, “first cousin once removed” if you must insist on the proper terminology. Who are you anyway… Emily Post?)

Meggie Burgess transferred from Christopher Newport, a school in Virginia that is a perennial D3 powerhouse. Her old squad is ranked #22 in the country, won their conference tourney last night and is headed back to the NCAA tournament with an impressive 23-4 record. But those victories aren’t very fulfilling if you rarely see playing time, and Meggie had the fewest minutes played of anyone on last year’s 25-win team.

“I was sitting on the bench last year saying, ‘I hate this. I don’t know if I want to do this. I don’t know if I want to play anymore.’”

from this Carroll County Times article

She transferred to McDaniel, a D3 school closer to her Maryland home. The team was in rebuild mode, with a brand new coach, but Meggie finally got a chance to contribute, playing in 21 games and averaging 2.5 points and 2 rebounds a game, including a 13-point/3-rebound/2-assist effort in their final game. The WNBA probably won’t come calling anytime soon, but that’s not the point. It’s feeling like you’re contributing to the overall squad.

“Just coming here and being on this team and playing well during practice, and actually getting to participate during practice, was more energizing and more motivating in itself.”

Same article as above.
Photo: David Sinclair

Transferring isn’t always the best option… sometimes you have to work through adversity. That’s not just how sports work, that’s how life works. But in Meggie’s case, she was able to go from a virtual non-entity to a valued member of a team. And that sense of purpose is really rewarding… in sports as well as in life.

“Meggie has grown, I think, more than anybody else in the last couple months… Coming from a situation at Christopher Newport where she wasn’t really in the playing rotation, and then coming here and being able to get minutes and be a contributing factor is huge.”

McDaniel women’s basketball coach Christin Gowan, in the same article.

Besides, Meggie’s new team is called the Green Terror… that’s way cooler than being on a team called the Captains.

The full article from the Carroll County Times is here.

Photo: David Sinclair

Award-winning moments from the 70s

You can keep your Survivor and your Bachelor. The Masked Singer can stay masked forever for all I care. Because way back before reality shows made celebrities out of ordinary people, there was a reality show that turned celebrities into pseudo-athletes. And it was pure television gold. Feast your eyes upon the glory that is… Battle of the Network Stars!

  • Howard Cosell at his bloviating best
  • Robert Urich at his jerky worst
  • Mr. Kotter kicking butt
  • Epstein loving Mr. Kotter kicking butt
  • Richie Cunningham and Laverne together
  • Farrah and Wonder Woman together
  • Kojak, baby!
  • 50% of the “athletes” smoking heaters
  • Schneider from One Day at a Time
  • The original Richard Hatch
  • Bruce Jenner when he was Bruce Jenner
  • “hullabaloo”

Truly a wonderful way to spend nine and a half minutes. Aw, who am I kidding? I watched that sucker three times, just trying to luxuriate in the glorious 70s-ness of it all.

Most of these folks have left us, but Gabe Kaplan is still around. (All that running kept him in shape… or maybe it was the lack of smoking.) I think he should lead the U.S. delegation in the opening ceremonies of this year’s Olympics.

The Joker gets serious

While most of America was watching Hour 88 of the Super Bowl pregame hypefest, Novak Djokovic was capturing his 17th Grand Slam title in the Land Down Under (which might have to change its nickname to the Land That’s On Fire).

I’m happy for “The Joker”… and not just because he’s my doppelgänger. (OK, he’s 23 years younger, much more athletic and much better looking… but if you squint you might see a slight resemblance.)

Djokovic or Dubbatrubba? You decide! Photo: Getty images

Djokovic’s career has overlapped with the heyday of both Roger Federer (20 Grand Slams) and Rafael Nadal (18) and he probably doesn’t get nearly the acclaim he deserves. Slowly yet steadily, he’s been gaining ground on both in overall titles and Grand Slams. He’s six years younger than Federer, and a year younger than Nadal. Before his career is over, he just might be the all-time leader in Grand Slams.

Photo: Getty Images

Novak also seems like a good dude. After the Australian Open final, he wore a jacket with Kobe Bryant’s initials and NBA numbers on it, and in his victory speech he offered some heartfelt words about what really matters in life.

“This is a reminder to all of us that we should stick together, now more than ever, being with our families, stay close with the people that love you. Of course, we are part of a professional sport. We compete and try our best, but obviously there are more important things in life. It’s important to be conscious and humble about things that are happening around you.”

Sounds like a winner to me.

Photo: Getty Images

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