Tag Archives: World Series

Soccer or football? Still a foreign game to Americans

I don’t know when — or even if — soccer will ever catch on in the United States the way it has in much of the rest of the world.

Indeed, the game we call “soccer” is known as “football” in places like Mexico, Brazil and in most of Europe. The Spanish term for “football,” by the way, is “futbol.” Get it?

The World Cup is over. They’re going nuts throughout France, which defeated Croatia 4-2 in the final game. I’m glad for the French. It’s their second World Cup title.

To be candid, I remain decidedly lukewarm toward soccer. It just doesn’t thrill me the way it would, say, my extended family members in Greece, where soccer is a big deal, too.

I’ve been exposed once in my life to World Cup fanatacism. It happened in June 2006.

My wife and I were in Copenhagen, Denmark. We caught up with some friends from Amarillo, Texas, who were in Copenhagen attending the same Rotary International Conference as my wife and me. We were strolling through the city looking for a place to eat.

We would stick our heads into this or that restaurant. They were full. Everyone was watching TV. Oh, what were they viewing? A soccer match between Denmark and (I believe it was) neighboring Germany.

The Danes were screaming their lungs out at every move their national team made on the field, er, pitch. We could hear them from everyone eating establishment up and down the street.

The four of us had difficulty that evening finding a place to eat. We finally did, though.

My point is that I had never witnessed such soccer/football fervor. It consumes Europe, Latin America, as well as portions of Asia and Africa.

I still get worked up over the Super Bowl and the World Series. The World Cup? Not so much. I’m afraid to tell my soccer-loving friends that at this stage of my life, the World Cup isn’t likely to hook me.

This award transcends athletic prowess

I cannot stop smiling when I think of this news item.

J.J. Watt and Jose Altuve have been named Sports Illustrated’s co-Sportspersons of the Year.

Why does this bring a broad smile to my face?

For starters, Watt — a standout All-Pro defensive end for the Houston Texans — hasn’t played a lot of football this calendar year; he has been injured. He did, however, step up in a big way to help Houston’s beleaguered residents recover from the battering delivered by Hurricane Harvey this past summer.

Watt helped raise more than $37 million for hurricane relief. He became the voice and the face of Houston’s still ongoing battle to rebuild after being inundated by record-breaking rainfall that Harvey brought with it.

And then there’s Jose Altuve, the American League’s Most Valuable Player in 2017. He had a stellar season for the World Series champions. However, SI decide to honor both young men because Altuve, too, embodied the “Houston Strong” motto that has helped fuel the city’s recovery from Harvey’s wrath.

As the Associated Press reported: “I think the World Series gave the people a big smile and hope during the tough time they were getting through,” he said. “And I feel really happy that we did it because they really deserved it.”

For those of us who have grieved along with the Texas Gulf Coast residents affected by nature’s intense power, this award sends a heartfelt message that professional athletes — who often receive their share of criticism for their off-the-field antics — are quite capable of exhibiting heart and compassion to those who are struggling.

Indeed, many professional athletes have done much to lend their high profiles to worthy and noble efforts. This award should be seen as a statement of thanks for all the good work that these men and women do when most of aren’t looking.

Sports Illustrated chose well.

When did WH visit become an issue for champs?

I have long thought that when a sports team wins a national championship a White House visit at the invitation of the president was a done deal. No questions asked. Nothing to consider. Let’s just go and have fun!

No longer … I guess.

The Golden State Warriors won the National Basketball Association title this past season. They balked at attending a White House ceremony over disputes with Donald J. Trump and his criticism of on-field protests by pro football players. The president then disinvited the Warriors.

Now we have the Houston Astros, who’ve just won the World Series.

Astros Manager A.J. Hinch says the team will decide later whether to attend a White House ceremony to commemorate their stirring victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Eh? When did this become a discussion point? Oh, I know. It became one about the time Trump became president and continued his campaign of divisiveness, anger and rancor.

He’s managed to alienate professional athletes because he throws his presidential weight around over issues that usually don’t concern presidents of the United States.

Now it appears the World Series champs are going to take their time to decide whether to accept a White House invitation.


Houston, you have reason to cheer

I’ll get this off my chest right off the top: I am not a huge fan of the Houston Astros, who’ve just won the 2017 World Series of baseball.

I am, however, cheering mightily — if quietly at this late hour — for the city of Houston, which has suffered grievously at the hand of Mother Nature.

Hurricane Harvey inundated Houston, along with the Golden Triangle, where my family and I lived for nearly 11 years before we moved to the High Plains of Texas. We have many friends in Beaumont and in Houston.

They’ve been through hell, along with millions of other Gulf Coast residents.

Tonight, though, they are smiling because the Astros won the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Astros have won the first Series in franchise history. That’s a 55-year drought!

Houston needs this win to help lift its spirits. It is still struggling to recover from Hurricane Harvey’s wrath. Tonight, though, my guess is that the daunting recovery seems a little less so as Houston and Gulf Coast baseball fans celebrate the Astros’ biggest win in their history.

How ’bout them Astros!

This year’s World Series is going to carry very special meaning to one of the cities represented in Major League Baseball’s championship event.

I’m talking about Houston, Texas, from where the Houston Astros hail. They won the American League pennant with a stirring seventh-game victory over the New York Yankees.

OK, here goes. I’m going to pull extra hard for the Astros to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Fall Classic.

Houston has been through Hell on Earth since Hurricane Harvey inundated the nation’s fourth-largest city under 50 inches of rain that fell over a 24-hour period. The heartbreak and cataclysmic misery felt throughout Houston defies description.

Indeed, as the Astros and the Dodgers prepare for the World Series, the city is still seeking to reconstruct itself. Its millions of residents are trying to make sense of their lives upended by the deluge.

My heart usually rests with the American League team as it is. I grew up rooting hard for the New York Yankees. I was a Mickey Mantle-worshiping kid. Indeed, I truly enjoyed big-league baseball long before the Age of Free Agency changed the game forever by giving players opportunities to move from team to team — which they have done with stunning regularity for the four-plus decades since free agency became the vogue in MLB.

I used to follow the careers of players who stayed with one team their entire career: Ted Williams (Red Sox), Stan Musial (Cardinals), Roberto Clemente (Pirates), Cal Ripken Jr. (Orioles), Tony Gwynn (Padres).

I long have watched the Astros compete in the National League. Then they switched to the AL, which means the Astros are the first big-league franchise in baseball history to compete for the World Series crown representing both major leagues; they were swept a few years ago by the Chicago White Sox.

Here we are. In the moment. Houston has suffered terribly from the savage beating delivered by nature’s wrath. Its residents are in dire need of something to cheer.

A World Series title by the Houston Astros would be the nearly perfect tonic for a city in deep distress.

MLB honors Say Hey Kid

This story kind of slipped past us as we have been fixated on Puerto Rico’s hurricane recovery and assorted troubles afflicting the Donald J. Trump administration.

Major League Baseball has announced a new award it will bestow in honor of one of the greatest men ever to play professional hardball.

The Willie Mays Most Valuable Player Award will go henceforth to the player who earns it while playing in the World Series.

Willie Mays is now 86 years of age. He played in four World Series. His New York Giants won one of them, in 1954, against the Cleveland Indians. During that Series, Mays made “The Catch,” in deep center field off the bat of Indians slugger Vic Wertz.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred made the announcement on the 63rd anniversary of that spectacular catch.

Mays crafted an iconic career over more than two decades playing for the Giants — first in New York and then in San Francisco — and for the New York Mets. And just so you know, I got to watch Mays play ball in August 1964. It was in Candlestick Park in San Francisco against the Cincinnati Reds. If memory serves, Mays went hitless that day … but, hey, he’s Willie Mays, man.

I am glad to see this great athlete’s name placed on an award that will be given in his honor.

Willie Mays could do it all. And he did it with verve, panache and tremendous skill.

Cubs forgive infamous ‘fan’

Winning is such a miraculous balm. It cures the deepest pain among the most ardent followers of sports teams.

Consider what occurred in Chicago, which welcomed a World Series championship this past year when the Cubs defeated the Cleveland Indians.

Do you remember a guy named Steve Bartman? He was the fan who was sitting along the left-field wall in October 2003; he reached out over the field and disrupted the Cubs’ Moises Alou, who was running to catch a popped-up baseball. Had Alou made the catch, the Cubs — who were leading at that moment — would have been just four outs from winning the National League Championship Series playoff game against the Florida Marlins. He didn’t, thanks to Bartman’s interference. The Marlins won the game — and the pennant. The Cubs would be denied their first NL pennant since 1945.

Bartman has been scorned ever since. He has kept the lowest of profiles.

Well, the Cubs gave Bartman a World Series ring earned from the title they won in 2016. It’s the Cubs’ way of saying, “We forgive you, Steve.”

Bartman was touched by the gesture. “I humbly receive the ring not only as a symbol of one of the most historic achievements in sports, but as an important reminder for how we should treat each other in today’s society,” Bartman told WGN in a statement. “My hope is that we all can learn from my experience to view sports as entertainment and prevent harsh scapegoating, and to challenge the media and opportunistic profiteers to conduct business ethically by respecting personal privacy rights and not exploit any individual to advance their own self-interest or economic gain.”

As the late Vince Lombardi once said, “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.” In this case, it turns out to have been the only way for the Cubs to demonstrate they had no hard feelings toward one of their more ardent fans.

I happen to think the Cubs did something very cool.

Cubs’ celebration goes the right way


Have you noticed what you haven’t heard about in the wake of the Chicago Cubs’ historic victory in the World Series?

It’s the apparent lack of violence as Cubs fans have celebrated their team’s big win over the Cleveland Indians.

We’ve heard of many instances over many years about fans’ enthusiasm erupting into violence as they “celebrate” their teams’ big victories. Cubs fans waited 108 years for this one, although surely no one today was around when the North Side team actually won the Fall Classic way back when.

They still have a parade to stage through the city. I’ll wish them well as they continue their partying and carrying on.

And the lack of violence? It seems genuinely poetic that it would be Chicago — the City With Broad Shoulders, the Windy City and the city with the terrible reputation for crime — would react in such a positive manner to this huge athletic victory.

I’m happy for them. I also am happy for the rest of the nation that can enjoy a bit of vicarious thrill as Chicago jumps for joy.

World Series dominates the news … thank goodness!


I awoke this morning, turned on the TV, surfed the major networks’ morning talk shows and discovered the following: The Chicago Cubs won the World Series!

The election? That desultory exercise in democracy? The miserable contest between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Donald J. Trump? It took a back seat to the really big news of the previous night.

What a wonderful relief from the home stretch of this campaign!

To be candid, I didn’t have a dog in the World Series fight. I didn’t particularly care which team won. I get that Cubs fans waited 108 years since their team’s last World Series win. The Cleveland Indians have their own futility streak; the Indians haven’t won since 1948.

The joy in Chicago is overwhelming. Good for them!

And good for the rest of us who have been given a slight — and all too brief — respite from the hideous campaign for the presidency.

Take care, Cubs fan(atic)s


I am perhaps a bit paranoid, but I’m going to express this concern anyway.

The Chicago Cubs are playing in their first World Series since 1945. They haven’t won the Fall Classic since 1908.

That’s 108 years since the City with Big Shoulders has had a chance to cheer. That means to me that Cubs fans have a lot of pent-up anxiety.

My concern is what might happen in Chicago if the Cubs manage to beat the Cleveland Indians — who haven’t won a World Series since 1948.

Chicago has developed a reputation in recent years as a rough-and-tough city. Lots of violent crime occurs there. Republicans are fond of blaming the city’s Democratic leadership — led by Mayor Rahm Emanuel — for the big uptick in crime violence in the Windy City.

So, what awaits the city if the Cubs win this thing?

About the worst possible outcome might be if the Indians were to win on a last-inning controversial call by a field umpire that costs the Cubs the victory.

Too many cities over the years have erupted into violence when their teams win, be it the Super Bowl, the NBA championship, the Stanley Cup … and the World Series.

Chicago fans have been waiting a long, long time for a chance to cheer the Cubs’ biggest victory.

I’m holding my breath. I am hoping for the best. If the Cubs win, then I hope the fans can celebrate … without someone getting killed!