Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Looking for a few good fans

One of our faithful Ledger-Enquirer readers, Sam Ruffner, recently asked me about resurrecting a feature that used to appear in our sports section during college football season.

He proposed bringing back a weekly Top 25 poll as voted on by readers.

I figure our readers can't do any worse than a panel of sportswriters or coaches, although it wouldn't surprise me if our top 10 included Georgia, Auburn and Alabama in some order based on fan loyalties in this area.

Anyway, I pitched the idea of the poll to our sports editor. He liked it.

The next step is to determine what form it should take.

My thoughts are to make it online-only. We put a poll format on our web site and you log on and vote. I figure we can leave the polling open from Sunday morning until Monday night so those folks who lack computer access on the weekends can limit their productivity at work by deciding whether to put South Florida ahead of Missouri.

Anyway, let me know what you think about the concept.

And, if you have any ideas for a name, we're open to those as well (I think "Super Fan Football Extravaganza" might be a little wordy and sounds a bit too similar to a Japanese game show).

Monday, August 04, 2008

A distinctive voice goes silent

If you follow the Atlanta Braves, this particular call from Skip Caray will live in your imagination forever:

"A lot of room in right-center. If he hits one there we can dance in the streets. The 2-1. Swung, line drive left field! One run is in! Here comes Bream! Here's the throw to the plate! He is ... Safe! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win! ... Braves win!

"They may have to hospitalize Sid Bream -- he's down at the bottom of a huge pile at the plate.''

I remember where I was when Caray called the moment during Game 7 of the 1992 National League Championship Series. I was sitting in the living room with my late father, watching Francisco Cabrera's line drive drop and watching Bream chug around the bases and just barely beat the throw. The great announcers frame such moments without overpowering them and, in that regard, Caray obviously learned well from his legendary father, Harry.

What made Skip Caray, who died in his sleep Sunday, stand out even more was the fact that he told it the way he saw it. Even though he was expected to be something of a homer while covering the Braves for TBS, he put his sarcasm to effective use when the team wasn't performing well. His wisecracks, about everything from Shea Stadium to the Montreal Expos' oddball mascot Youppi, provided the perfect balance to the prim and proper baseball scholar, Pete Van Wieren.

He represented one of the last members of a sports broadcast generation that existed without yelling, screaming and shameless self-promotion, a breed that included gruff but cuddly curmudgeons like his father and smooth stylists like Vin Scully.

"His legendary calls and trademark wit on TBS baseball are what resonated most with fans nationally and will not soon be forgotten,'' Turner Sports president David Levy said Monday in a statement.

Turner Sports will honor Caray over the next several weeks on its family of networks. There will be rememberances of hims during its upcoming telecast of the PGA Championship on TNT, a feature on its Aug. 10 Sunday MLB on TBS telecast and another set for an Atlanta Braves' game on Peachtree TV on Aug. 12 to coincide with what would have been his 69th birthday.

Those ideas are nice, but the best and most appropriate way to pay tribute to the impact of Caray's work would be enshrinement in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Today's dose of strange

LSU football coach Les Miles must be one straight-up, loped-out G.

You don't know what I just typed. Frankly, I'm not sure what it means either.

But know this: Les Miles has more street cred than any other Southeastern Conference football coach at the moment, and not just because he won the Bowl Championship Series national title trophy back in January.

He's rollin' with the homies. Or one rather famous homey.

It seems, based on a story that just came across the Associated Press wire, that Miles and rapper Snoop Dogg are buddies. Or, in hip-hop parlance, they're crew through and through.

The Doggfather visited Miles in Baton Rouge and -- get this -- accompanied him to a Rotary Club meeting. According to the AP's account, Snoop put on an LSU jersey and said he just wanted ''to give his love and support'' to Miles. Miles told the AP that he became a fan of the music and the man through his son, Ben.

Could you picture any other SEC head coach hanging with the Snoop D-oh-double-jizzle? Or any other rapper for that matter?

Nick Saban in Kanye West's venetian blind-style sunglasses?

Mark Richt in baggy jeans and gold chains?

Bobby Petrino busting a funky rhyme?

Nope, not seeing it.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Ailing in Atlanta

The headline atop our sports section this morning read: "Big deal: Braves trade Teixeira.''

To which I say, with more than a little sarcasm: Big deal indeed.

Take Tuesday's trade of first baseman Mark Teixeira to the Los Angeles Angels as confirmation that the Atlanta Braves' season is effectively kaput, a train wreck that rivals Tila Tequila's love life.

The Braves acquired Tex last season, thinking his big bat would invigorate their lineup and enable them to separate themselves from a tightly-bunched National League East race. It might have worked if Tex had been equipped with another skill set aside from his excellent fielding and power hitting -- say the ability to perform orthopedic surgery or fill in as a closer or starting pitcher in a pinch.

And this season has presented one interminable pinch, what with Chipper Jones and Tim Hudson on the disabled list, the bullpen's revolving door and the health issues affecting John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Mike Hampton.

What the Braves got in return for Teixeira wasn't particularly remarkable: first baseman Casey Kotchman (.287, 12 homers, 54 RBI) and minor league pitcher Steve Marek. But, with this season spiraling further out of control after ghastly performances against Philadelphia and St. Louis, the Braves had to try to get something in exchange for Teixeira.

He was destined for free agency and its accompanying bidding war.

The Braves' gamble on Tex didn't yield significant gains for the franchise, largely due to circumstances beyond their control.

This season has been a disaster to date. It's time to set a new course and plan for 2009. There's no point in pretending there's still something to play for in the present when an 18-35 road record, four-game losing streak and crowded training room say otherwise.

Monday, July 28, 2008

It's all Greek to me

You might have visited my blog 'hood last week in search of updates from Southeastern Conference Football Media Days in Birmingham.

I had planned to oblige with anecdotes about everything from Tim Tebow saving orphans to Urban Meyer referring to himself in the third-person to Alabama fans tearing through the merchandise in the nearby Bama Fever store on the day Nick Saban arrived to Phil Fulmer looking as if he as trying to pass a kidney stone while avoiding questions about his subpoena.

All very entertaining stuff.

Unfortunately, technology did not cooperate.

For some reason, the wireless computer network at the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover left me helpless and hopeless in an unsuccessful attempt to navigate a language barrier.

When I used google or attempted to sign on to my blog, the templates came up in German.

I kid you not.

I was left to try to decipher words like Bloggenglobben and Heffweisen.

OK, I made up those words. But it still doesn't change the fact that my screen was filled with characters that, when read, sounded a lot like a lead-in to a Def Leppard song: "Unduh gleeben globben globen ...'' Or something like that.

Anyway, I'm happy to report that my search engines and blog templates are in English again.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The fish are biting

Did you see the story that ran on page A2 of Wednesday's Ledger-Enquirer?

It seems a 6-foot catfish in Berlin, Germany, died after trying to consume a soccer ball. According to the Associated Press story, the fish was found floating atop the water in a canal with a blue and white soccer ball in its mouth.

A police spokesman said the fish tried to eat the ball and it got lodged in its mouth, leading to its death. Personally, I'm reluctant to bite on that story. The situation warrants further investigation because soccer fans in the country were undoubtedly riled up after Spain's 1-0 victory over Germany in the Euro 2008 championship.

Perhaps some German soccer hooligan took out his or her frustration on the fish -- especially if the catfish hailed from somewhere like Barcelona or Madrid.

Either way, it's fishy.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Point guard or power forward?

Very soon, lil' NBA commish David Stern will step up to the podium (and, being short, he will have to step up) to officially begin the NBA Draft.

Are you counting your goosebumps yet?

I'm not sure how many folks care about the draft in this part of the country, but I'll pretend as if a significant number actually do.

This year, we won't get to berate the Atlanta Hawks for their curious talent appraisals (Marvin Williams over Chris Paul AND Deron Williams?) since they will be sitting idly by, having traded away their first round pick (No. 15 overall) to Phoenix.

So, instead of hating on the Hawks, we'll busy ourselves with sorting out the question of Derrick Rose or Michael Beasley with the No. 1 pick.

Chicago will have to decide between Rose, the supremely gifted point guard who left Memphis after his freshman season, and Beasley, the double-double-producing power forward who left Kansas State after his freshman season (anyone notice a trend?).

Advantage Rose.

He's quick off the dribble, comes with a creative grab bag of passing skills and possesses the sort of speed, size and power that will have him an major physical advantage over most players at his position. He's not a great perimeter shooter, but does he really need to be given his ability to drive to the basket?

Beasley isn't a bad option, mind you. Sure, he shrank from his college-listed height of 6-foot-10 to 6-8 after pre-draft evaluations. At the same time, his ball skills and activity level on offense make regular 20-point, 10-rebound nights inevitable.

Still, Rose should be the pick because the way talented point guards can transform a mediocre team into a great one.