Round of Applause
The best of high school sports series is finally over after this final week in which I shared my top 10 senior athletes from the last year. I’ve had the pleasure of watching a many great skilled high school athletes over my three years with CN and my three prior years at Woodland, and this crop of seniors was just as good as any. From Naugatuck’s star soccer players, Tiago Martins and Stephanie Santos, to Woodland’s record-breaking superstars, Jack DeBiase and Heather Framski, the class of 2011 won’t soon be forgotten in the discussion of best athletes in recent memory. Of course, there were many more great senior athletes that deserve to be mentioned, and they have been throughout out award-winning coverage during the season. I’m already looking forward to seeing what the class of 2012 and beyond has in store for us starting in just a couple of months.
The NBA lockout is by no means a negative thing. I’m sure I’ve previously shared my opinion that the NBA is one of the least exciting sports to watch. There are a great many reasons for this, including the selfishness of most of its “superstars,” the lack of defense, the absurd average salary (nearly $4 million, the highest of any league on the planet), and more. Anyway, the NBA just takes away attention from college basketball, hockey, tennis, golf, croquet, sailing, painting, competitive eating and anything more exciting than watching the NBA. I don’t usually side with owners on labor disputes in sports, but this time the owners are right—the players are making too much money and have too much control. If the league loses its season, I couldn’t possibly be happier. Good luck.
Backyard volleyball is very possibly the best backyard sport there is to play. Nothing makes a summer party more complete than a few solid games of volleyball. Sure, it’s usually nowhere near the level of play you’d hope to see in a high school gym during the fall season (or even during gym class), but there is way more room for people to make fools out of themselves in the backyard (with or without inebriation). There is the inevitable round of anger, followed by laughter, followed by the argument on whether the ball was in or out, followed by the mandatory rematch challenge when one team loses—even if it loses by 20 points. Of course, backyard volleyball isn’t always fun and games…
Chorus of Boos
…backyard volleyball also usually results in the temporary damaging of one’s pride and anatomy. I rediscovered this the hard way last weekend during two separate incidents on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, my team lost, 2-1, to a group including a pair of 9-year-old cousins, a neighbor with a bucket hat, and an uncle who repeatedly prodded me for my internship team’s name being taken from a seagull. For as tough as that was to swallow, I emerged unscathed physically. I cannot say the same about the events of Sunday. After playing a few games with and against all-NVL volleyball player Heather Framski and all-state spiker Jessica Patrizi, a few friends and I decided to play a four-on-four match against them and a couple others. Early in the first game, Patrizi decided to show us all up with her jump serve, and for some reason I tried to receive it with a set in the back row. Needless to say, this was a bad idea. I sprained my thumb, which still hurts as I revert to the hunt-and-peck method of typing without the use of my right thumb to strike the spacebar. But I will take three things to my credit: First, I finished the match and my team actually took the second game from our opponents. Second, I did not hold this incident—and their laughter pointed at me—against them in choosing the top senior athletes of the year. Finally, I was consoled when Heather told me opposing girls had cried from receiving her serve during the season. I did not cry.
Yankees all-stars are embarrassing. I give credit to Curtis Granderson and the other Yankees, who actually decided to value their all-star selections by both attending and playing in the game. In an era when being named an all-star is constantly losing importance due to the inflation of the rosters, repeated replacements due to pitching restrictions and injuries, and other factors, these guys respected the game and were full participants in all of the festivities. However, the others—Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and CC Sabathia—were not so respectful. A-Rod gets a pass (for once) because he just underwent knee surgery and was resting the injury. But what excuses do Rivera and Sabathia have? None. They’re both multi-time all-stars but there’s no reason to disrespect their fellow players, coaches, and fans by not even attending the festivities. And as far as Jeter, I’ve never liked him as a diehard Red Sox fan, but I’ve always respected him for his dedication to the game. But this time, he was completely wrong for not even showing up. Nobody was going to make him play as he was still nursing his calf strain, but MLB wanted to recognize him for his 3,000th hit before the game on Tuesday. Nope. Jeter claimed he was “emotionally and physically exhausted.” Really … really? It’s an awful excuse for disrespecting the fans’ vote and baseball—something I never thought I’d say about Jeter. Oh, and if you’re one of those who thinks that it’s not just Yankees who blow off the all-star recognition, you’re wrong—four of the five players selected as all-stars that didn’t show were Yankees, and the other was Chipper Jones, who just had knee surgery.
The MLB All-Star Game really shouldn’t be for home-field advantage in the World Series. I went back and forth on this for a few years after it was instituted following the tie game in 2002 in which both teams ran out of pitchers. I understand that this is a way to make players and fans take the game more seriously—still not as seriously as the players took it in the ‘30s, ‘40s, and up to the start of interleague play—but it’s just become unnecessary and unfair. Sure, maybe I’m feeling this way now that the National League has won the last two games, but I think it’s more so that there are so many players that don’t play in the game. The AL had a ton of players (especially pitchers) that didn’t play, and the NL had its fair share, too, so the best of both leagues aren’t even deciding the game’s outcome. MLB needs to return to the team with the best record during the regular season earning the advantage in the World Series.
Tony’s back for a couple of takes as he enjoys another summer between hanging out in the 203 and the 401. So without making you wait any longer, here’s Tony…
1. Congratulations to Derek Jeter on becoming the 28th player in baseball history to earn his 3,000th hit on Saturday with a home run. He’s always done it the right the way.
2. No wonder Ben Roethlisberger and Hines Ward are such good teammates on the Steelers—they’re both involved in crime. [Overtime note: Ward was arrested this week on DUI charges.]
1 Undefeated team—Peter J. Foley—left in the 11-12-year-old District 3 Little League Baseball tournament
2 Local high school football players—Woodland’s Ian Bures and Naugatuck’s Ruben Berger—who played for the New Haven County All-Stars in last weekend’s Hall of Fame Classic in West Haven; New Haven lost to Fairfield, 34-14.
2 Wins last week for Prospect-Beacon Falls American Legion Posts 194-25 after PBF won just two games over the first month of the season.
2 Straight wins for the National League in the All-Star game following its 5-1 win in the 82nd playing of the game on Tuesday; the NL hadn’t previously won since 1996.
12 Home runs by Robinson Cano in the final round of the Home Run Derby, beating Adrian Gonzalez, who had 11; 12 homers in the final round is a new record.
14,000 Dollars in taxes that could be incurred by Christian Lopez, the fan who caught the home run for Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit; Lopez was given signed memorabilia and season tickets, which could be hit with a huge gift tax.