Category Archives: Sports news

How can Olympics go on as planned?

I need to stipulate that I don’t have a dog in this proverbial fight, but I need to say it anyway: It looks to me that the 2020 Summer Olympics might carry too big a risk to the millions of spectators who will venture to Tokyo to cheer on their favorite athletes.

You know what I’m talkin’ about. The coronavirus pandemic.

The Japanese insist — at least for now — that the Games will go on as planned. They’re going to gather in the Olympic stadium on July 24 and watch the opening ceremonies. Then a Japanese athlete will light the torch and the Games will go on until Aug. 9.

That’s the plan. Is it feasible? Is it wise? Does it put too many people in potentially mortal danger of catching the coronavirus?

I have serious doubts.

To be candid, I am acquainted only with one person who plans to travel to Tokyo. Her daughter throws the javelin and will compete for the U.S. team. The family plans to fly to Tokyo and cheer her on.

I am going to pray that these folks — along with everyone else crammed into the stadium — don’t expose themselves to the virus.

There’s travel, too. Airlines are reducing services. Cruise ships might be able to dock, but are they any safer? Hah!

I just don’t know about the wisdom of proceeding as if it’s all OK.

Postpone it a year? I guess that would work. The Japanese can keep the venues spruced up until it’s safe to stage the Olympics.

A major disruption in the Olympics has precedent. They canceled the Games during World Wars I and II; the United States led a boycott of the 1980 Games in Moscow; the Soviet Union returned the “favor” for the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.

It seems to me that a global pandemic that might kill many thousands of human beings is sufficient cause to at minimum delay the Games … or cancel them altogether.

Be patient, sports fans

Those of us who enjoy watching sports activities — and are fortunate to stay healthy during this pandemic crisis — need to suck it up and be patient.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has issued a strict crackdown on gatherings of 10 or more people. Activities of all stripes have been postpone or canceled. Sports teams are put on hold. The governor’s order extends to at least April 3, although I wouldn’t bet my last dollar that he will lift the restriction on that date.

Baseball’s season is put on hold. That means Major League Baseball won’t commence hardball. Nor will MLB’s farm teams, the minor league franchises that flourish in smaller to mid-size communities around the nation.

Listen up, Amarillo Sod Poodles fans: That means you, too.

The Sod Poodles finished their initial season in 2019 with a Texas League title. They whetted the appetites of their thousands of fans who packed Hodgetown at every home game.

They likely will have to wait to resume their cheers.

Sigh. I’m with you, ladies and gentlemen. I wish you could settle into your Hodgetown seats on time, but this crisis compels us to be patient and to do our part to help “flatten the curve” of new cases of coronavirus.

Our sporting appetite will be fulfilled in due course. None of us knows when our government can declare some semblance of victory over the deadly virus. I hope it is soon. So, too, do sports fans in every community from coast to coast to coast.

MLB confronts a new season reeling from controversy

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred is a man with a spotlight shining on his every move.

MLB is reeling from a controversy involving a recent World Series championship team, the Houston Astros, who were caught in a massive sign-stealing scandal that has put a stain on their 2017 World Series victory.

What is happening now is that other teams’ pitchers are throwing “payback” pitches at Astros hitters. Manfred has vowed to be more aggressive than before in handing out punishment for pitchers who are determined to be exacting revenge on Astros players who were on that winning team three seasons ago.

Throwing “purpose pitches” is part of the game. Pitchers don’t like hitters crowding home plate. They will throw pitches that aim to “brush them back” off the plate. That’s a purpose pitch. Occasionally, pitchers take that practice to an extreme. When a hitter stands in the batter’s box to admire a home he has just hit into the stands, pitchers often take offense at being shown up; the next time up for the batter then becomes personal and pitchers occasionally hit batters on purpose as payback.

This year presents a serious potential problem for Manfred and managers who face the Astros. One of the competing managers, Joe Maddon of the Los Angeles Angels, has said he won’t tolerate that kind of behavior among his staff of pitchers. He said he intends to urge them to not throw at Astros hitters. The game must go on and teams must play it with integrity, Maddon believes.

I am all for that kind of approach.

As for Manfred, well, he has his hands full.

Many players and managers are angry that none of the Astros players involved in the cheating has been punished. I get that. However, that is not the players’ fault. Accordingly, throwing a hardball traveling at 95 mph at a player’s head constitutes a potentially deadly overreaction to a transgression that didn’t put anyone in imminent danger.

Let’s just play ball.

How will the Olympics fare under this coronavirus threat?

They’re going to light an Olympic flame later this summer.

It’s supposed to occur in Tokyo. It likely will occur there, even though Japan sits near the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak that got its start in Wuhan, China, which is just a bit west of Japan.

I have been wrestling with a supreme hypothetical question: If I had tickets to any Olympic event, would I still want to attend given the extremely contagious nature of the virus that is killing people around the world? I cannot answer that question because I do not possess a ticket to any event, nor have I purchased an airline ticket to Tokyo.

However, it is a question facing potentially millions of spectators who are set to go to Japan to cheer on athletes from their nations.

Do they move the Olympic Games? Can they possibly tell the Japanese Olympic organizers to fold it all up out of fear that event spectators will be stricken by a killer virus?

I have heard that London is ready to step up if Tokyo cannot stage the Games. The Brits played host to the 2012 Olympics and, I presume, their facilities haven’t rotted into decay the way many recent Olympic venues have been allowed to deteriorate.

It’s a conundrum, to be sure.

They’re getting anxious in Sod Poodles Land

I am hearing some faint — but growing — rumblings of excitement from up yonder on the Texas Panhandle, on the Caprock.

The fans of Amarillo’s Texas League champion Sod Poodles baseball team are counting down the days to the start of spring training in Arizona. The Sod Poodles will be preparing for their second-ever season alongside their parent club, the National League San Diego Padres.

It’s really quite cool for this former Amarillo resident to watch friends and former neighbors getting juiced up — no pun intended — in advance of the next season of hardball.

The Sod Poodles had the good fortune to win the Texas League pennant in their first season. Now comes Season No. 2. The team’s fans are getting hyped up. Heck, so am I … and I no longer live there!

Still, the Sod Poodles will play some games near where we live these days in Princeton. The Frisco Roughriders play in the same league as the Sod Poodles.

I’ll get a chance to watch the Sod Poodles this season just down the road a bit in Frisco. I’ll be there yelling loudly for the Sod Poodles.

I cannot join the fans in Arizona as the team prepares for their new season. It still excites me to see the anticipation building in the Panhandle.

‘No!’ to reinstating Pete Rose

I am directing these brief remarks to Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred.

Mr. Commissioner, do not knuckle or buckle under the pressure to reinstate Pete Rose, to bring the former Charlie Hustle back into MLB’s good graces. Rose has asked Manfred to be reinstated. He cites the relatively light punishment given to the Houston Astros for their high-tech sign-stealing in the 2017 World Series. C’mon, man. That’s apples and oranges.

Rose bet on baseball games. The MLB rules, which the commissioners knows better than I do, state categorically: Anyone who bets on big-league baseball games is subject to a lifetime ban from the game.

Lifetime ban needs to mean what it declares.

Pete Rose is still drawing breath among us. He broke a clear-cut, unambiguous rule. He should pay the price that he received from one of Manfred’s esteemed predecessors, the late A. Bartlett Giamatti.

Yes, he played a great game of hardball … even with supposedly limited athletic skill. He bet on baseball seemingly because he had a fetish he couldn’t control.

That’s too bad. He broke the rules. Pete Rose doesn’t deserve reinstatement.

Oops, the Chiefs play in, um, Missouri

To borrow a word … oops!

Someone forgot to tell the current president of the United States that the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs play their football in Missouri, which is across the Missouri River from the city in Kansas that shares the same name.

I am not going to beat up in Donald John Trump too badly over this gaffe, although I likely should.

Hey, the president has told us more often than many of us can count how smart, erudite, worldly he is. He calls himself a “very stable genius.”

It’s just that someone as smart as the president claims to be should know where the professional football champions do their blocking and tackling.

 

Look for big Texas connection to Chiefs’ big win

I am going out just a bit on a limb here, but I am betting that the Texas media are going to find every possible connection between this state and the Kansas City Chiefs’ victory in Super Bowl LIV.

The Chiefs beat the San Francisco 49ers in a thriller. The score was 31-20, but the game was a barn burner.

The Texas connection? Well, let’s see.

  • Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was born in Tyler, Texas, in the eastern part of the state. He attended Texas Tech University in the western part of Texas. It’s been noted that football-mad Texas now can claim that a pure Texas product has won the biggest pro football game of the year.
  •  The Chiefs were born as the Dallas Texans. A Dallas businessman, Lamar Hunt, created the Texans and joined them with the American Football League. They moved to KC in 1963, changed their name to the Chiefs and won the 1970 Super Bowl against the Minnesota Vikings.
  •  Clark Hunt, son of the late Chiefs founder, is the current owner of the team. Clark Hunt was 4 years old when the Chiefs won their first Super Bowl. He still lives in Dallas.

Do you get where I’m going with this?

Sure, the team plays its home games in far-off Kansas City, Mo. A lot of football fans here in Texas, though, won’t let the Chiefs and their fans know about this team’s roots.

Will the Sod Poodles’ fans show up at spring training?

Here is a test for how loyal and dedicated the Amarillo Sod Poodles’ fan base has become.

The Sod Poodles will be training in Arizona this spring alongside their parent National League club, the San Diego Padres. For what it’s worth the Padres will compete in the Cactus League against other teams that are getting themselves into playing shape for the 2020 Major League season.

The Sod Poodles already have demonstrated that their fan base loves the team. I mean, they packed Hodgetown game after game during the Soddies’ initial season in the Texas League. They cheered the Sod Poodles on to a league championship.

I am going to presume that the dedicated fans will trek out west to cheer for the team as it preps for the upcoming Class AA season.

While living in Beaumont, I became friends with a dedicated Houston Astros’ fan who every spring would travel to Florida to cheer the ‘Stros on as they prepared for the next season of hardball. He wasn’t alone.

I look forward to hearing how the Soddies’ fans respond to Season No. 2 of their team’s quest to retain the league championship.

Loving the Chiefs’ back story

I am happy to proclaim that for the first time since I cannot remember I actually have an interest in professional football’s final game of the 2019-20 season.

Super Bowl LIV is coming up. I am pulling hard for the Kansas City Chiefs to win against the San Francisco 49ers.

I have not a single thing against the Niners. They’re a fine team, coming from a fine program. They have wonderful fans; a beloved member of my family is one of them. They have a storied history of winning the Super Bowl.

Which brings me to one of the key reasons why I am pulling for the Chiefs.

You know perhaps already that I am a staunch American Football Conference fan, owing to my previous allegiance to the American Football League, of which the Chiefs are a charter member, although they did enter the AFL as the Dallas Texans; the Texans moved to KC in 1963.

The Chiefs have played in two Super Bowls, the first one and the fourth one. They lost the initial AFL-NFL World Championship Game — which wasn’t even yet called the “Super Bowl” — in 1967; the Green Bay Packers beat the Chiefs 35-10. Ahh, but the Chiefs came back in 1970 to defeat the heavily favored Minnesota Vikings; the score was 23-7.

So, it’s been 50 years since the Chiefs lined up in the Super Bowl. Fifty years! The 49ers have been to six of them. What’s more, the 49ers have won five of their Super Bowl games. Do you get where I’m going with this?

The Chiefs are long overdue to play, let alone win, this media extravaganza that now masquerades as a football game.

Do I care about the halftime show? Or the commercials? Maybe the halftime show; I mean, who can look away from Shakira and JLo, eh? The commercials … not so much.

I am intently interested in the behemoths who’ll be beating the daylights out of each other during the game.

So, there you have it.

Pass the popcorn.