Tag Archives: sports

Half-time pep talk

I’m not an avid football fan, but even I know Joe Namath was one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.

Out on the PR trail for his memoir All the Way: My Life in Four Quarters, Namath was interviewed on National Public Radio this morning. Among other subjects, he talked about aging.

“I decided to make a plan at 50,” he said. “Fifty was halftime, man. And you’ve seen — I’ve seen a lot of games won and lost in the third and fourth quarter. I don’t want to go out on a bad note. I want to keep growing, being productive, keep learning and keep loving, man. I want to be a positive dude the rest of the way.”

Keep growing, keep learning and keep loving. What a great mantra for one’s third and fourth quarters.

With a grandmother who lived to 104 and me in the midst of my 52nd year, I could argue I’m just beginning my third quarter. I feel like Namath’s interview was like a coach’s half-time pep talk: Keep growing, keep learning and keep loving, man (woman!). Be a positive lady the rest of the way.



There’s almost nothing like a Game 7 in the World Series

Oh. My. God.

Not only are the Chicago Cubs in the World Series, but they’re playing Game 7 of the World Series. Just when fans thought all was lost, they won Games 5 and 6 against the Cleveland Indians to force a Game 7.

True baseball fans love Game 7s. If nothing else, they stave off the boredom of winter for a least a few days. Who wants to watch a sweep except the victors? They’re boring for everyone else.

But Game 7 in the World Series? It’s like making love in slow motion. The post-season is weeks of build-up. The first six games of the World Series are filled with moments of drama and intensity. Game 7 is three hours of pure excitement. And that last out? If it goes in your favor, it’s a sense of relief and elation like no other.

And even if you lose Game 7, you know you put up a good fight.

There has only been 36 other Game 7s in World Series history.

The Cubs and Indians have played only one other Game 7, and they both lost. For the Cubs, it was in 1945, the last time they played in the Fall Classic, and they lost 9-3 to the Detroit Tigers. For the Indians, they lost 3-2 to the Marlins in 1997; it was the Indians’ last appearance in the Series, too.

That means one team will not only win the World Series tonight, they will vanquish their Game 7 sorrows.

Of the 37 Game 7s including tonight’s, 18 have occurred in my lifetime. Four of them go down in my memory banks as mind-blowing.

  • 1987: No Twins fan worth her salt would ever forget this one. I was a college student at the time, and there’s no better excuse to skip class than to watch the games at a downtown bar the night before get a little tipsy. It was the first World Series Championship for the Twins when the Twinkies beat the Cardinals 4-2 in Game 7.
  • 1991: Easily one of the best baseball games in history, the Twins beat the Atlanta Braves 1-0 in 10 innings when Jack Morris went the distance. Now, in an era of pitcher specialists — long relievers and middle relievers and closers — Morris’ accomplishment is a feat we probably won’t see again. I was living in Ohio at the time so I enjoyed having the right to gloat among Cincinnati Reds fans.
  • 1997: I watched this game with great interest, but I wasn’t rooting for the Indians then either. I spent the entire series on a road trip using up vacation time before taking a new job, and I watched every game over a plate of nachos in a different bar. It was an awesome way to make vacation last longer. And it was the Marlins first championship, so it was particularly sweet.
  • 2001: I was a fan of the Big Unit (pitcher Randy Johnson) when he played for the Seattle Mariners and manager Lou Pinella so therefore I was a fan of the Arizona Diamondbacks when he was traded there. To watch pitcher Curt Shilling with his bloody heal start his third game of the series and then to watch Johnson, normally a starter, come in as a reliever — wow! The best part was watching Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera melt down. I still hate the New York Yankees. So this game was pure joy.

I’ve got to believe tonight’s game will be similarly memorable. If it’s not already obvious, I’m rooting for the Chicago Cubs because a) I live in Illinois, and b) I’m a Twins fan so rooting for the Chicago White Sox is out of the question; rooting for the Cleveland Indians — who play in the same division as the Twins — is similarly loathsome.

I’m still a little bit afraid of what might happen if the Chicago Cubs win a World Series, which hasn’t happened in 108 years. Seriously, it’s gotta be a sign of the apocolypse. But still … it would be fun if zombies don’t show up.

Go Cubbies!

Where a Twins fan’s loyalties lie this month

There’s no baseball Switzerland in Chicagoland: Either you root for the Cubs or you root for the White Sox.

That’s not to say you can’t be a fan of another team — the Minnesota Twins, for instance — but real Chicago fans will dismiss such nonsense and demand you ally with a real team. Since the Chicago White Sox appall and terrify me (I mean, c’mon, they’re in the same division as the Twins), I therefore am a Cubs fan.

OK, there’s a little bit of bandwagon going on (since it’s impossible to root for the Twins in this postseason), but besides their non-White-Sox-ness, the Cubs have earned a little (or a lot of) postseason compassion. Without a World Series title in more than a century, how can root against the Cubs?

This means, in this golden month of the baseball season when defeats are agonizing and victories are thrilling, I’m organizing my days around the Cubs games.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to being afraid. If the Cubs would be so fortunate as to throw off a century of superstitions to actual win the World Series, I’d be looking around for Jesus in the clouds or hell to freeze over or a passel of zombies to appear on the horizon. 

Surely that would be a sign of the apocalypse.

But still, go Cubbies!

Winning and losing on a big stage … and all the little ones

When you’re an Olympics junkie, you’re interested in who wins the gold medal, of course. That story of triumph is told over and over again during the Winter Olympics, this year in Sochi.

But more interesting, at least for me, is seeing how the silver medalist reacts. Or the athlete who comes in fourth (thereby missing the medal stand altogether). Often, these places are decided by hundreds of a second or hundreds of a point.

What is it like to spend your life training for something and then miss getting it by a hair’s breadth?

Some people might want to go home and crawl into a hole forever.

But these athletes never do (or at least, they don’t do that during NBC’s wall-to-wall coverage so if they do that, we don’t hear about it).

Instead, they shrug and smile. Or they get mad and come back next time for “redemption.”

That’s part of what made Lindsey Jacobellis’ story so fascinating four years ago in Vancouver. She was the snowboarder with the blonde curly hair. NBC told the story of her “tragedy” in Turin about a half dozen times: When she was almost assured of getting the gold medal eight years ago, she hotdogged on the last hill in the last competition and blew it. Vancouver was supposedly her chance for redemption, but in the end she blew it again and finished fifth.

Most of us never would have made it to Vancouver. We might have punished ourselves mercilessly for being so careless. But she made it to her second Olympics (logically, even that is a grand achievement), tried again for gold, and failed.

“I’ve had a great career, but sometimes I dominate and sometimes I fall into a funk where things like what happened today happen,” she said at the time. “It’s not the end of the world.”

Well, logically, of course it’s not the end of the world. She lost a snowboarding competition. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t get more inconsequential. But she failed to earn a medal in the Olympics, the biggest sporting competition in the world. She failed.

Fran Tarkenton puts a great perspective on Lindsey Jacobellis’ Olympic failure and on one’s own failures in life.

“Winning means being unafraid to lose,” said the former Minnesota Viking and, for you kids from the 1980’s TV generation, a host on “That’s Incredible.”

Lindsey Jacobellis was unafraid to lose. She took a chance. Losing didn’t kill her. She would never try to win if she was afraid.

So it’s the courage we ought to admire in the silver medalists and the fourth place finishers. They are willing to try and strong enough to lose.

We’ll get to see Jacobellis again Sunday when she competes in her third Olympics. Now coming back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, she’s a favorite.

It just figures

My dog is a canine vacuum. If there are crumbs on the floor, she finds them.

She’s picky though. Dirt? Leaves? Inedible detritus? Well, those remain on the floor until I sweep, mop or vacuum, but if there is food to be found, she’s on it.

So her bowl of food spills this afternoon, and there are kibbles and slimy bits of soft dog food strewn around, and where does her nose go? Into the empty bowl!

On any other day, she’d be gulping down human food on the floor she’s not supposed to be eating and here she is, surrounded by food made especially for her palate … and she’s licking an empty bowl.

Dumb dog. She’s a sweetheart. But she’s not winning any awards for timely mess rescues here.

Speaking of dogs with bad timing, did you see the Chicago White Sox didn’t make the playoffs?

Hats off to those nice Minnesotans

The phenomenon of Minnesota Nice makes appearances even to people sporting Chicago Cubs hats on their beat-up Jeeps.

Of course, the Cubs have won even fewer games than the Twins, an impressive feat for teams which are No. 15 and No. 12 respectively in annual payroll, so maybe it’s pity Minnesotans are showing, not niceness.

Nice hat!

My Beloved has a penchant and corresponding talent for fixing just about anything, and he was irked he couldn’t puzzle out why the third brake light on his fix-up project wasn’t lighting properly. So he did what any Virgo might do: He covered it up this tiny imperfection. With a Chicago Cubs hat he found in my closet.

He didn’t choose the Cubs hat because he’s a Cubs fan. He chose it because it had a “C” that looked vaguely similar to the Chicago Bears logo. But he certainly didn’t want to waste one his Bears hats on the effort; he’s not the baseball fan in our house — he’s the football fan. (Not very nice, if you ask me, but he’s originally from Illinois so go figure.)

In any case, he wired the hat to the light securely and thought he could forget about his inoperational brake light.

But noooOOOoo.

Minnesotans behave with polite friendliness (some say passive aggressiveness) even in traffic. And even to Cubs fans.

As we’ve driven through Wisconsin (they’re nice in Wisconsin, too, unless they’re protesting unions or union busting) and Minnesota the past week, he’s been politely interrupted at least a dozen times at gas stations and in parking lots by people who think they’re being helpful: “Hey, don’t forget your hat!”

“OK, thanks,” he says and rolls his eyes.

I laughed out loud when we were stopped in traffic and a woman in the car next to us said, “Hey! Your hat’s on the back! I’m a Cubs fan, too!”

He nodded and said something noncommittal like, “Yeah, thanks!”

The light was still red, and she said, “At least the Twins kicked the butts of the White Sox last night!”

Something else Cubs and Twins fans have in common: We don’t like those pesky White Sox!

How nice.

Horsing around

Arlington Raceway, Arlington, Ill.

This pastoral scene, skewed a bit for an artsy perspective, filled my afternoon view at the race track.

The weather was wonderful, and big puffy clouds drifted through the blue sky on our annual visit to the horse races. It’s a fun place to visit if ever you’re looking for an activity to occupy your time on a summer afternoon in Chicagoland. The horses, as usual, were beautiful athletes; it’s almost startling to see how fast they go on those delicate little ankles.

My bets were less than wonderful (I lost every $2 bet plus one super-longshot $12 superfecta box bet mistakenly placed for me by my Beloved), but that didn’t dampen my fun. My seatmates had much better luck — good enough luck, in fact, to spring for Lou Malnati’s pizza for dinner, so my bets were simply what they were intended to be — entertaining.

A lazy Sunday afternoon punctuated every 20 minutes with a pulse-pounding race to the finish: The ideal prescription for the dog days of summer.

I hope the White Sox like what they got, whoever he is

Watching Francisco Liriano pitch is like living in a dysfunctional family.

As a fan of the Minnesota Twins, I never knew which Frankie was going to show up on the mound. The stellar strike-out pitcher I respected and appreciated? The hit-and-miss thrower who would get himself into a bases-loaded nightmare and then clean up everything with pinpoint accuracy and a shrug? Or the flaying mess that melted down in the first (or third or fifth) inning, making me wince and want to sneak quietly out the exit?

I was at the Metrodome watching him pitch when he got injured in 2006; eventually, he had Tommie John surgery. When he finally returned to the mound, he was never the same.

I always hoped for the young phenom but in recent years (and especially weeks), I didn’t know what to expect and I just prayed he performed well enough to be picked up by another team.

I couldn’t be happier for the despised Chicago White Sox, which now lay claim to the craziness and take on the Twins again this week. Liriano may actually pitch against his old team. That’ll be entertaining — either Liriano will hurl a perfect game against the Twins or he’ll walk in the winning run.

How White Sox general manager Kenny Williams thinks Liriano will be able to withstand the withering scrutiny of rabid Chicago fans, I don’t know. I suspect this trade will turn out more like Chuck Knoblauch, the impressive rookie second baseman with the Twins who couldn’t hack it with the Yankees and ended up in left field, than David Ortiz, the designated hitter who was mediocre with the Twins but turned into “Big Papi” with the Boston Red Sox.

Whatever happens, I’m glad the Twins dumped Liriano. I couldn’t take the unpredictability, and there’s no Al-Anon for fans of dysfunctional pitchers.

Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack

So rife with advertising, Major League Baseball’s All-Star game was barely watchable.

There are the regular commercials, of course, and the ads on the backstop. The announcer’s lead-in ads are nothing new, but the picture-in-picture ad for the new “Ice Age” movie was more than I could take.

So I turned to Twitter. Ah, yes, I know, hardly a space with less advertising, but I heard the Sports Tax Man was worth following.

Ray Raiola was profiled on National Public Radio this morning. He’s an accountant — a “financial quarterback” — who advises big names on their sports contracts and dishes about sports from a money perspective.

Prince Fielder is being paid $125,000+ a day? Wow. It’s no wonder there’s advertising on every square inch of the All-Star game’s TV screen.

Clash of the Titans

The Minnesota Twins and Chicago Cubs battle for the bottom this weekend at Target Field in their first interleague tangle since 2009.

Longtime readers will recall the sorry tale of my lost visit to Wrigley Field when the Twins played the Cubs in Chicago. A thunderstorm in Dallas foiled my plans. I still hate you, American Airlines, for that. Having lived in Illinois five years now, I still haven’t seen a game at Wrigley Field.

This is the first time the Cubs play at Target Field, and that’s the extent of the news about the series. Both teams are so bad this year, there’s nothing else to look forward to.


The Twins have the worst record in the American League, and the Cubs, a perennial loser, are especially bad this year with the second worst record in the National League and three fewer wins this season than even the Twins. The preview on the series in Chicago papers focuses on who will be designated hitter (it’s Alfonso Soriano).

It’s hard to be a baseball fan in this atmosphere. Or at least it’s hard for me. I’m a Twins fan always and everywhere, but living outside Chicago I root for the Cubs (because I simply cannot stomach rooting for the White Sox). So who do I cheer in this mess? Well, the Twins, of course. But a shining victory like the Twins winning their fourth series in a row would be tarnished because I would just jfeel bad for the Cubs.

Coincidentally, I’m in Minnesota for the matchup, but there’s no way I’m spending any cash on tickets. With my luck, a thunderstorm would rain out the game.