Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Final Four Tenths

Last night, the University of Florida mens' basketball team did something amazing in this Era of sports that I like to call Parody. They repeated as National Champions by beating Ohio State and it's fabulous freshmen 84-78 in the title game.

I really didn't watch much of this year's tournament. I wasn't that interested and I've been distracted (by my sick dog and then my sick self). Both of my teams sucked out pretty fast. My favorite school I didn't go to (Duke) lost ignominiously in Round One and my favorite school that I attended (GWU) scored 29 points in a frighteningly awful display of offense (or lack thereof). I noticed both my teams lost to schools that begin with the letter 'V'. I do not pretend to understand the mysteries of the universe but it seems to me that is one fact that cannot be ignored. And that comforts me.

Moving on. In a rare whoop and holler, S.O.L. proudly points out that the NCAA bracket I filled out on ESPN correctly picked the 6 of the Elite Eight teams, all of the Final Four and the eventually national champion. I picked the final score of 78-75, which is pretty damn close and I only missed ONE game in the Southwest Bracket (thanks a lot Duke). I finished with a 99.6 percent winning percentage, which means only four-tenths of the rest of the entries were better (the bad news is that translates into 10,408 entrants). Still, we're talking about more than 2 million entries. Not bad, eh?


It has arrived finally. Green grass, glove leather, the crack of ball on bat. Monday was baseball's opening day, a season that S.O.L. has been looking forward to ever since a certain NY outfielder's knees got buckled back in October. I'm a Mets fan. Maybe not the world's biggest but I'm up there. I only say this because you'll be hearing a lot about my Mets obsession during the course of the season. I'll be giving regular updates on the state of the team that many folks expect to be in the World Series this year, having missed going last year by the smallest of margins.

The Mets have one of the best lineups in the majors, certainly in the NL, but they have a lot of questionmarks on the pitching staff. Their first two starters are 40-year-olds and the next three are all kids with not a lot of Major League pitching experience. After one game, the future looks bright. Forty-year-old future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine pitched Sunday night against the World Champs in St. Louis and the Mets won 6-1. Tonight is game two against the Redbirds.

Speaking of baseball, a few friends wrote to me about MLB's inaugral Civil Rights Game, which was played on Saturday, an exhibition game in Memphis, not far from the site of Martin Luther King's assassination.

It doesn't take a cynic to see that the underlying reason for the Civil Rights game is to draw more African-Americans to the game, both as fans and participants. Turns out that the numbers of American black players (not from a Latin country) have dwindled in recent years to a small percentage of major league players. It was 8 percent last season -- in 1975, it was 25 percent (according to Major League Baseball). The reason why is still being debated (MLB is studying the issue and a report is due out next year) but from what I can tell the consensus seems to be several reasons from the obvious (lack of ballparks in big cities) to the fact that it's easier in other sports to get to the professional levels (there's no minor leagues in football) and that it's not the kind of tv-oriented sport that big time college basketball and football is.

You could take the cynical approach and you'd have a point but what struck me most about the coverage and the events surrounding it was the reaction by the ex-black players -- like Frank Robinson and Joe Morgan -- who seemed really into the whole thing. And these guys aren't exactly known for lock-stepping to MLB's hierarchy. Robinson, baseball's first black manager, has long been known as a maverick, for example. My point is that if they think the Civil Rights game is a good thing, who am I to argue?

I did find one thing very curious, however and that is the selection of the teams involved. The game pitted the the St.Louis Cardinals against the Cleveland Indians. That's right, the Indians. Who says irony is dead?

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