By Mike Bruu, TSB Sports Writer
1. How fun is it to be a sports fan right now? Almost all day you can flip on one of the six different NBC channels and find some Olympic action over in London. We have already had our first taste of the new NFL season and will get an even bigger bite this week as the first full week of preseason action kicks off. And lastly, we are now in the thick of the hunt for October in baseball with more than half the league in the running for one of the two Wild Card spots in both leagues. So without further ado, I say we talk some sports in this week’s edition of The Numbers Game.
2. I have decided that my favorite summer Olympic sport is handball. Ask me if I would watch the World Championships in handball in a non-Olympic year and I would probably respond with an emphatic no. However, the four-year gap between Olympic events is the perfect amount of time to attract sports fans like myself to events or activities we would never watch on a normal Sunday afternoon in May. While there are still many parts of handball that I do not understand, I find the sports highly fascinating and addictive. I have always felt that the more a sport makes me want to suit up and try it, the better the sport has to be. In the winter Games I have curling to look forward to, but every four years my summers will belong to the greatness of handball.
3. By the way, please stop telling me that Ping-Pong doesn’t deserve to be an Olympic sport. Watch five seconds of a match and you will realize that this isn’t your backyard table tennis event.
4. I feel like the time has come now that the Ranger fans are no longer looking at the club as a little underdog team that shocked the world and made it to back-to-back World Series. Now, that Cowboy influence is slowly seeping into the fabric of Ranger fans and the frustration of not having a winning football team in almost two decades is forcing many “baseball” fans to get angry at the slightest hint of disaster with this ball club. During a 162-game regular season, teams are going to go through stretches where they just aren’t very good. You can call it fatigue or you can call it complacency. We hate to admit it as diehard fans for our team, but we often times see players mail in a game every once in a while. It’s part of the game. But all of a sudden, the fans that I like to call football-baseball fans are trying to rationalize the Rangers difficulties over the last couple of months like they would if the Cowboys had a bad two games. Wholesale changes need to be made to this ball club. Washington needs to get animated and yell at his players more. Hamilton needs to be traded for whatever we can get for him. Michael Young needs to retire. Yu was a complete waste of money. All of these statements and many more I have seen on message boards and blogs over the last couple of weeks, and it’s comical at best.
5. Baseball is a totally different breed than any other sport, and while I love the fact that the DFW area has supported the Texas Rangers in the way that they have, the frustrated and bitter Cowboy fans make up a large population of said fan base and has created a football mentality to being a baseball fan. Two bad football games would equal about 20 games in a baseball season, in terms of importance. And yes, two football games can be the difference between the playoffs and a top-10 draft pick, but 20 games in a season is a third of the number of wins and losses every team records every year. Every team (with possibly the exception of the Houston Astros) will win sixty games and lose sixty games. It is what you do with the middle forty-two that determines whether you are a playoff team or not. I love the fact that baseball is so relevant in Dallas, but sometimes the football mentality in baseball conversations is very difficult to handle.
6. For those who don’t receive the NFL Network with their cable provider, I encourage you football fans to pony up $19.99 and subscribe to the preseason package on NFL.com. Yes, it is just preseason football you are paying for here. But if you are like me and are starving for anything NFL, being able to watch any game live over the next four weeks is pure gold.
7. I really didn’t know what to expect going into the season premiere of Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Miami Dolphins. I would tune into any team participating on Hard Knocks because I love the behind the scenes look the program offers, but I didn’t believe the Dolphins could live up to the greatness that the New York Jets offered two years ago. You can hate the Jets all you want to, but Rex Ryan and company provided some incredible moments in 2010, from the snack speech before a game to Antonio Cromartie attempting to list off his 10 different children on the spot. And while Miami is no New York, there are some very interesting storylines this season. Chad Johnson is back to being Chad Johnson and is making the most out of his second appearance on the show. Unfortunately, at least for this week, McKinney Boyd alum Jeff Fuller was not featured on the episode like some believed he would. Fuller, an undrafted wide receiver who signed with Miami after the NFL Draft back in April, joined up with his former college QB and head coach at Texas A&M, Ryan Tannehill and Mike Sherman. That angle alone should be enough to propel Fuller into a headline at Dolphins camp, so tune into HBO at 9 p.m. every Tuesday night to see if the former Boyd Bronco makes an appearance on Hard Knocks.
8. Song of the Week: Swimming Pool – Kendrick Lamar. At first listen you may believe that this is just another party song condoning drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and the misbehavior that follows. Think again little buddy. The very talented California emcee creates a tale in which he places himself in the role of an alcoholic, in which he realizes that if he were to condone all of this drinking in the current social position that he is in today as a world-renowned rapper, then he is influencing the masses that excessive drinking is OK to do. Expect a huge 2013 from Mr. Lamar, as he is sure to take over the charts with this track.
9. So Lil Wayne will take a break from rapping to further pursue his career as a skateboarder. For all of the hip-hop fans out there who have heard a Wayne track in the past few years, we collectively thank you for this vacation.
10. For those of you who enjoyed the daily updates from the Mickey Mantle World Series, I hope you found your way out to Al Alford Field to check it out in person. Congratulations to the Dallas Tigers Hernandez for winning this year series and to the Frozen Ropes Titans for representing the Mac well. I spent many hours at the park this past week and am still dreaming of scorecards and statistics in my sleep, but I had a lot of fun being able to see some great baseball every day. The volunteers and people in charge of the MMWS are some incredible people, so hopefully we can build on this year’s success and look forward to an even better 2013.
11. You want some bold playoff baseball predictions? The Oakland A’s and the Tampa Bay Rays will play the one-game Wild Card playoff game in October. Why? Because Oakland and Tampa have two of the best pitching staffs in baseball, and if history has told us anything, it is that pitching holds up over a full season greater than hitting does. The Rays’ ERA this season is 3.42, which is fourth in the MLB and first in the American League. Meanwhile, the A’s are 3.43 and good for second in the AL. Detroit and Los Angeles fall at 3.95 and 3.96 respectively, which aren’t bad numbers but are almost a half a run a game more than what Oakland and Tampa Bay allow. And while the A’s and Rays are both batting .230 on the season, both clubs rely on quality defense, strong pitching, and timely hitting to win ballgames in 2012. With Evan Longoria back for Tampa Bay, there’s no question that they are favorites heading into the final stretch after managing to keep their heads above water for the 86 games he was out with the hamstring injury. It may not draw in good ratings like the Angels-Tigers would, but an Oakland-Tampa Bay Wild Card game would be incredibly intriguing for baseball junkies.
12. Michael Phelps is kind of good at swimming. For someone who watched many of his races over the past couple of Olympics, he makes me feel absolutely ridiculous when I can’t hold my head under water for more than a couple seconds. I doubt we will ever see another Olympian take over a sport quite like Phelps did for so many years, so I was honored to have witnessed the swimmer at his finest hour.
13. I believe it is time to check out of the Numbers Game laboratory this week. I did leave a spare key under the mat in case anyone wants to come in after hours and check it out. Until next time, ladies and gentlemen.