To Fitz: I'm dedicating this blog entry to John "Fitz" Fitzpatrick, a friend of mine who died of cancer five years ago last week. Fitz and I shared a passion for life's pleasures, including sports. We played golf on some of the best courses that Arizona and Florida had to offer. From Seattle to Miami, San Diego to Boston and most points in between, we conducted business, discussed life and enjoyed many a baseball game in each other's company. A lifelong Philadelphian, Fitz was a Phillies fan. Unfortunately, he passed away just nine months before their first World Series title since 1980. For Fitz, the world was his playground. I remember one evening during a conference in San Francisco, Fitz suggested that we go across the bay and attend an Oakland A's game, even though he was staying in San Jose because of an early meeting there the next morning. He enticed me and two others to join him by offering to pay for the tickets if we picked up the beer. We decided to take him up on it and rode the BART train from the Embarcadero station to Oakland-Alameda County Stadium. Since it was a Tuesday night in May, attendance was light. To our surprise, it turned out to be $1 night, so all it cost Fitz was $4 for the tickets. The beers were cheap, but nowhere near $1. I never did find out if Fitz knew about the $1 tickets beforehand. He ended up leaving in the seventh inning to cab it back to his hotel in San Jose, but not before spotting the rest of us a last beer on him. I never got to say goodbye to Fitz, as the last time I saw him was at a guys' golf weekend in Phoenix in November of 2006. Although I didn't know it at the time, he had just been diagnosed with the disease that eventually took his life. He never told me, apparently to spare me in some way. I wish I'd known. He passed away fourteen months later. I miss him greatly and certainly wish I could have seen one last game and had one last beer with him.
Lance, Lance, Lance: I have to say that this is the last time I will ever mention Lance Armstrong in one of my blogs or publications. The arrogance with which he conducted himself is truly unfathomable. He allowed esteemed journalists and fellow athletes to defend him, while he was the one masterminding, funding, overseeing and perpetuating a world-class performance enhancing technology conspiracy. In addition, his attempts to circumvent the rules of his sport may have contributed to the cancer from which his recovery and subsequent foundation launched his popularity far beyond his on the road exploits. I vehemently defended him for years based on his lack of testing failures and his fervent denials of any wrongdoing. But I, just like millions of others, were duped by a lying, cheating, manipulative and cruel individual. Shame on him and he certainly deserves whatever comes his way.
Manti Te'o, Why all the Fuss? I think we've truly crossed the line between covering sports and invading personal space in college athletics. So there was a hoax, a kid got conned, some people were cruel and blah, blah, blah. Why should anyone except Te'o himself and the others personally involved really have such an interest in this? He's a college student who fell for a gag. And if for some reason, he didn't fess up to getting duped, give him a break. I don't know about anyone else, but I have far more important issues to deal with. Let's just forget about it and move on.
Two Great Legends Leave Us: To many in St. Louis and Baltimore, Stan Musial and Earl Weaver were still the faces of their respective home town baseball teams. Stan the Man, at age 92, passed away earlier today. Even as great as his accomplishments were, he was reportedly even a better person. He spent all 22 seasons of his Hall of Fame career with the Cardinals, winning seven batting titles and three World Series crowns. There are not one, but two statues of him at Busch Stadium. He was still a regular at Cardinal games and was known even by young fans, quite an accomplishment in this digital age. I'm just old enough to remember seeing Musial at the end of his career, by then just a shadow of the hitter he was in his prime. But what a hitter he was!
And then there was Earl Weaver, the iconic manager of the Baltimore Orioles who took his team to four World Series, winning in 1970. It was his Orioles against whom the Miracle Mets of 1969 completed their amazing feat by winning the World Series. Weaver was known for his feisty arguments with umpires which resulted in 91 ejections during the course of his career. He also has a statue in his honor outside Camden Yards, the Orioles' home stadium. Weaver, who didn't necessarily consider himself a Hall of Famer, nonetheless gained entry into Cooperstown in 1996. Unlike Musial, I have great memories of watching his Orioles teams, especially the early ones with the great pitching staffs and Brooks Robison at third base. Because my parents grew up in Pittsburgh, I was a Pirates fan and followed the 1971 World Series with particular interest. It was the third in a row for the Orioles and also included the debut of the first night game in the Series. For the games during the day, we would listen to the first part with ear buds plugged into small transistor radios and then rush home after school with hopes of catching the last inning or two on television. By 1979, I was in college and the Orioles and Pirates were once again matched in the Series. This time I was in graduate school and was fortunate enough to watch the three games in Pittsburgh live at Three Rivers Stadium, phoning reports back to the campus radio station. We watched as Weaver's Orioles took a commanding three games to one lead, only to have the Willie Stargell-led "We Are Family" Pirates defeat Mike Flanagan, Jim Palmer and Scott McGregor in succession to win the title.
Surprise, Surprise in the NBA: Dare to take a guess on who leads the Eastern and Western Conferences in the NBA? The Knicks in the East, the Clippers in the West, you say? Try again. Maybe San Antonio in the West, Brooklyn in the East, you surmise? Nope. How about the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma Thunder, last year's NBA Championship finalists? Good choice. And although the Heat aren't exactly on a hot streak, they are coming off a west coast road swing where they went 3 - 2 in their last five games. The Thunder are on a six-game winning streak, the longest active stretch in the league. Will we be seeing these two teams facing off again this June? I wouldn't bet against it.
In Case You Didn't Notice (and you probably didn't): The NHL began its lockout delayed regular season today. Now you can turn over and go back to sleep.