Saturday, August 9, 2008

Some food for thought...


I couldn't feel much further away from the sports universe. Here I am, sitting in the living room of the Red House in Center Sandwich, N.H. (basically the middle of nowhere).

Yes, there's decent Internet service. But no television, and no sports bars nearby. That's right — I'm on vacation from the 365/24 sports world, and I'm loving it.

But me being me (thanks, Manny, for the phrase), I haven't been able to completely shut myself out from what's been an eventful early August. My musings are below:

Tainted Olympics?: By the time I leave this self-proclaimed Utopia, the 2008 Beijing Olympics will be all but over. That means, of course, that I will probably miss all of NBC's 2,387,519 hours of coverage (ballpark estimate).

Oh, well, I'll survive. Here's how I know: When someone mentions the Olympics, the first thought that comes to my mind doesn't involve Michael Phelps going for a record eight gold medals; it doesn't center around the U.S. hoops team trying to regain control of the world; and, no, it has nothing to do with the men's 100-meter dash. Sadly, I think of how in the world Beijing got these Games.

An extremely polluted city; so bad, some athletes wore oxygen masks upon arriving. A government that has — against its long-ago promises — gone so far as to restrict what websites foreign journalists can use. A government that forced thousands of citizens out of their now-demolished homes so lavish Olympics facilities could be built. And the list goes on...

(And I haven't even mentioned all the doping that — I'm 118 percent positive — is going on.)

There are great athletes at these Games who deserve attention for their impressive accomplishments. And I'm sure they'll get that publicity, but not from me. I'll be doing my own Olympics here in the beautiful Northeast — climbing mountains and biking up long, twisting hills.

Manny trying now?: How frustrated must the Boston Red Sox be? A week and a half ago, Manny Ramirez could barely run out a groundball to first base. Now, he's batting better than .500 and jacking tape-measure home runs for the Dodgers.

Well, the truth is that Boston can't regret trading Ramirez no matter how well he plays for the Dodgers. He was miserable in Boston and there was no guarantee he would compete hard — or at all — for the rest of the season. He had to go.

But if Boston misses the playoffs and the Dodgers make it? Let's just say there'd be plenty of whispering in the current American City of Champions.

Favre stays with Green:
Hey, Brett Favre remains in a green uniform. Of course, the New York Jets wear a different hue of my cousin's favorite color than the Green Bay Packers. And now, more important (obviously!), they're a team to be reckoned with in 2008.

Will Favre have the great season he had in '07? I doubt that. He's a year older and doesn't have quite as much offensive artillery in New York. Plus, even the AFC East (and the almost-winless-in-'07 Dolphins) is better than the anemic NFC North — at least on the defensive side of the ball.

But even a mediocre season from Favre would be an upgrade from what the Jets had. There's no doubt that he can sling it a bit farther downfield than rubber-armed Chad Pennington.

And finally, as if the NFL needs another publicity boost, having Favre back will be a shot in the arm to TV ratings. Which basically means that the NFL will go from being America's most popular sports league to, well, its even more most popular league. Make sense? And Favre playing in New York? Hmm ... if the Yankees and Mets somehow make the playoffs, the sports sections of the Post, Daily News and Times might need to be doubled come October.

Low expectations in Ann Arbor: Ann Arborites should know that preseason college football rankings mean about as much to the actual season as Brittney Spears and Paris Hilton mean to Barack's chance at the presidency. Just ask the members of last year's highly touted team.

Still, it must be relaxing for the Wolverines to be ranked just No. 24 in the opening coaches' poll.

There is no pressure on this team. None, really. Sports Illustrated went as far to choose Michigan to finish 5-7 and in the bottom half of the Big Ten behind interstate rival Michigan State. Wow.

And while I don't think the predictions are far off (although 5-7 is a bit ludicrous), don't be surprised if Rich Rodriguez quickly transforms the Wolverines into a very explosive, fast and dangerous team. I won't hide my disappointment in Rodriguez as a person, but I believe in his ability to coach and ruthlessly recruit.

It'll likely be a rough first season, but the most refreshing thing about watching the 2008 Wolverines will be all the novelties. Everything about the team will be new, including some of the players, the plays called and the strategies.

It should be fun — if frustrating — to watch.

And finally: Minnesota Twins fans are a lucky bunch. Think about this for 13 seconds: The team enters every season with low expectations. That, certainly, was the case before this year. The organization had dumped its centerpiece, pitching ace Johan Santana. Nobody expected the Twins to do more than show up at the ballpark every night.

And now they're in first place? Unbelievable. They've won the A.L. Central four of the past six years and suffered just one losing record (79-83 last year). They're the polar opposite of this season's Tigers.

Low payroll. Low expectations. Overachievers.

Kudos to the Twins organization for their continued success.

All right, it's 1:09 a.m. Getting late for a vacation blog.

I'm out. Time to climb up the rickety old stairs.

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