Thursday, July 1, 2010

Opining on the World Cup, LeBron, Strasburg and Dottie Pepper-pot

A little of this and a little of that in the world of sports as we prepare to fire up the grill and the sparklers:

• When two members of Congress devoted pulpit time a few weeks ago to gush about the previous night’s exploits of Washington Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg, some groused that our elected officials should devote their time to more salient matters. Well, folks, it could be worse. We could be France, where legislators are grilling that country’s soccer officials about the Frenchmen’s poor World Cup showing. Or Nigeria, where its president recently fired the entire World Cup roster. Hey, at least the guy didn't order their execution.
• Dottie Pepper’s critical column about Rochester not deserving to host the LPGA championship landed in the rough. She is right that the final rounds of a major should be aired on a network with greater reach than The Golf Channel. But holding it in New York or Chicago or Los Angeles isn’t going to make that happen. What’s hurting women’s golf right now is the lack of an uber successful and charismatic American star. Take, for example, the draw of a Tiger Woods on the men’s tour. It doesn’t matter if a tournament is being held in Rah-Cha-Cha or East Podunk, if Tiger is in contention people are going to tune in. The LPGA could really use a Nancy Lopez in her prime. Great player, great ambassador.
• Ah, it’s great to be King. With NBA free agency officially begun, LeBron James is going to be courted like no other athlete in the history of sports. Personally, I would like to see him stay with Cleveland. But I can’t see that happening. I still think the allure of the New York teams is going to be difficult to ignore. Not that his legend needs any more inflating, but if King James were to go to the Knicks and lead that dysfunctional franchise to its first title since 1973, the Big Apple-hype machine would be out-of-control.
• Speaking of government interference in sports, isn’t it interesting how Mayor Bloomberg is part of that LeBron recruiting video? Then, again, maybe it’s justified. After all, one economist puts King James’ impact at close to $2.7 billion.
• Strasburg gave up three runs the other night in a loss to the Atlanta Braves. But he easily could have left the game without surrendering a single tally had his shortstop not muffed a routine double-play grounder. It is going to be interesting to see how Strasburg handles the stress of playing with a weak supporting cast. I do believe the Nationals are a franchise moving in the right direction, but they are still a young club a few years away from serious contention. There could be a lot of one-run defeats in Strasburg’s immediate future, and that can get to a pitcher, especially a young one.
• I was happy to read that the Red Wings are going to sign a two- rather than a four-year agreement with the Minnesota Twins. I still believe it’s a good paring, given the Twins reliance on scouting and player development. But Rochester’s Triple-A club doesn’t need to sell itself short, the way it did during the final years of its long-term marriage to the Baltimore Orioles. The Twins need to do a better job of not leaving the Wings in situations where their roster is lacking. Adding a few more experienced Triple-A players to go along with the prospects would be a show of loyal support on the part of the parent club.
• I saw where there’s a new book coming out that claims Lenny Dykstra used steroids during his MLB playing career. And in other shocking news, the sun reportedly rose in the East this morning.
• As a long-time fan of Eastern football, I was happy to see the renewal of the Penn State-Syracuse football series beginning in a few years. I would like to see it become an annual affair again instead of a once-every-four-years deal. And I wish the games were played on campus rather than at the New Meadowlands.

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