Sunday, May 21, 2006

Another Excuse to Type the Words "Boof Bonser"
We haven't done a sports-themed post here for a while, and Sunday afternoon seems like a good excuse to do one. So here we go.

Item: Barry Bonds finally hit his 714th career home run yesterday, tying Babe Ruth for second on the all-time list.

Comment: A sports-talk host I was listening to this morning suggests that Bonds' achievement, steroid accustions or not, outshines Ruth's because Ruth played in a time when major league baseball was made up entirely of white Americans, while Bonds' opponents have come from all over the world, and in an era when athletes are more physically talented to boot. That may be true, but we can't rely only on the numbers to prove it, and in a sport that venerates numbers like no other, that matters. Barry Bonds may deserve a far higher pedestal than many people are willing to put him on, but we'll never know for sure--and it's nobody's fault but his.

Item: Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro breaks a leg at the Preakness Stakes; Sam Hornish wins the pole position for this year's Indianapolis 500.

Comment: Every year in May, we're reminded that the Triple Crown of horse racing and the Indy 500 are mere shadows of their former selves. The Triple Crown is being done in by demographics, in the United States, at least. Where's the new generation of American horse-racing fans coming from? Answer: nowhere. The new power base in the sport is Middle Eastern money--and in the world we live in right now, it's hard to imagine Americans embracing a sport where the big winners are people from Dubai and Bahrain. If Barbaro hadn't been seriously, perhaps terminally, injured yesterday, a fraction of the people who are aware of the race today would have noticed the result. The demise of the Indy 500, like Boof Bonser's first name, is self-inflicted. At the precise moment in the early 90s when NASCAR stock-car racing took off, the people who own the Indianapolis Motor Speedway made the idiotic decision to start their own racing league for open-wheel cars, and anyone who wanted to compete at Indy had to run in several other no-name races. As a result, the major stars of the sport--the Unsers, the Andrettis, and others--stopped running at Indy, and the race became as compelling to the national audience as minor-league baseball. Since then, the Indy Racing League has developed its own stars--Hornish, Helio Castroneves, and most famously right now, Danica Patrick--and has lured a few of the older stars back. But the Indianapolis 500 has now become the second-most popular race at its own track, overshadowed by NASCAR's Brickyard 400 every August.

Item: The NBA playoffs still have a month to go.

Comment: When the Milwaukee Bucks won their lone NBA title in 1971, they wrapped it up in late April. The NBA has expanded its roster of teams and the size of its playoffs since then, and now the season ends around Father's Day. It's an easy argument to make that in general, the playoffs would be far more compelling with half the teams and half the games. However, three of the four conference semifinal series this year will go to a deciding seventh game, one today and two tomorrow, and each one has had a storyline to snare even the casual fan: the rise of Lebron James to Jordan-like stature as he attempts to lead the underdog Cleveland Cavaliers over the favored Detroit Pistons; the struggle of the Dallas Mavericks to finally get past their arch-rival, the defending champion San Antonio Spurs; and the stunning performance of the Los Angeles Clippers, long the most mismanaged franchise in sports, having to prove quarter-by-quarter than they're not a fluke, and largely succeeding. Not that I'm going to actually watch any of these games or anything--but I won't automatically turn off the sports talk shows when they start talking about them, either.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?