Well, my friends, spring has sprung, the grass is rising, and the birds and the bees are doing whatever it is they do. There's so much going on in the sporting world that it would be unfair to focus on just one element. So, like Marshall Mathers before me ... I'm cleaning out my closet. Sorry, mama, but here are some points of interest in the oh-so-zany world of sport.
The NCAA basketball tournament is in full swing, and I'm sure your brackets look a lot like mine: pathetic. Who would have thought that Kentucky and Stanford would bow out so soon? Somewhere, there's a secretary in an office pool who's going to look like Billy Packer or Dick Vitale with her ability to prognosticate. This is akin to taking your wife or girlfriend to the dog track, having her pick the mutts based on their "cute" names, and watching her win the trifecta. It's a painful yet valuable lesson to us guys: We really don't know shit about sports despite having watched them our whole lives.
Speaking of the NCAA tourney, isn't it refreshing to watch these kids play mostly for the love of the game? Sure, there are some studs that look like they're auditioning for the first round of the NBA draft, but it's awesome to watch a game where a superstar doesn't show up his coach by refusing to go back into a game. That's right, the third pick in last year's NBA draft (Carmelo Anthony) refused to return to a game in which his Nuggets were being blown out simply because he didn't like that some of his teammates were questioning his heart. Way to prove them wrong, 'Melo!
Even with this episode, Mr. Anthony (how can I call him "Mr. Anthony" when I'm old enough to be his father?) is light years behind Allen Iverson in the race for "biggest punk in the NBA." If you missed it, Iverson refused to play at all when his coach, Chris Ford, wanted to bring him off the bench rather than starting. Quoth the Answer: "I'm a starter. I've been a starter here for eight years. I'm not a sixth man." I love the NBA more than most people, but when stuff like this pops up I can't help but agree with those detractors who say that today's NBA is populated by whining millionaires who don't know the meaning of the word "team." The most unsettling aspect of today's NBA player is that a many of them were raised in near-poverty in our inner cities, yet when they gain fame and fortune they lose track of how lucky they were to find a way out. Let's be honest here: What the hell would Allen Iverson do for work if not for pro basketball? I'd sure hate to see what would happen if he got passed up for a promotion at a "regular" job.
Spring training is getting started for Major League Baseball, which means one thing for me: The Red Sox are just a little bit closer to once again collapsing and losing to the New York Yankees. Just when I finally pushed the image of Aaron Boone's extra-inning home run knocking the Sox out of the American League Championship Series out of my mind, along comes baseball again to break my heart. I don't know if it's the curse of the Bambino, or if it's the fact that the Yankees are based in the No. 1 media market in the United States and thus have the cash to get arguably the best player in baseball (Alex Rodriguez), but it sucks. I have a strong connection to New England, as I lived there from 1972-78. Thus, I root for the Patriots and Red Sox, and if not for the Patriots' recent success in the NFL I would be a complete loser when it comes to sports. (I'm a Magic fan too. Talk about a trifecta.)
I've been giving serious consideration to allowing my son to pick his own baseball team for which to root. Just because his dad is unfortunate enough to be shackled with the Sox doesn't mean that he should be deprived of the joy of one day seeing his team hoist a world championship pennant. Granted, I'll have to burn the photographs of him in his Red Sox onesie that I bought especially for last year's ALCS, but who wants those around anyway? "Look, son ... this is when you became a baseball loser just like your old man!"
Still, you just have to love the spirit and myopic devotion Sox fans show their team. They could lose every game next year to the hated Yankees, and the Sox fans would still chant, "Yankees suck and Jeter swallows!" There's something to be said for that, but I'm not sure what it is. Something tells me that it would feel a bit unsettling if the Red Sox were to beat the Yankees, go to another World Series, and subsequently win. Dogs and cats would start living together in peace, Janet Jackson would stop showing off her boobies, and Burger King would go back in time to when they didn't suck. There likely wouldn't be any rioting and looting in Beantown should the Red Sox win a pennant, as the fans wouldn't know how to react. Wicked pissah.
On a final note, the NFL has actually canceled its plans to have a big concert to celebrate the preseason. After the infamous "wardrobe malfunction," I suppose the NFL now feels they can't trust anyone to keep their clothes on. I can hardly wait to see what the halftime show for this year's Super Bowl will be. "Ladies and gentlemen, please respectfully put your hands together for UP WITH PEOPLE!" I never thought I'd miss the XFL, but I actually do. The stage is definitely set for a football league targeting adults where GWAR and the Genitorturers will play to packed stadiums, the players will be encouraged to abuse substances, and the referees will be allowed to curse while announcing penalties. "Unsportsmanlike conduct! The fucking idiot tried to take off the quarterback's head. Fifteen yards, shitheads!"
That's some football I'd like to see.