Yes it’s a Thursday (business day four, if you’re counting), but I have reader mail to get to. And darn it, I’m going to get to it. It’s either that or sit here nervously thinking about the Boston College/Virginia Tech game tonight. I’ve made my choice. Reap the benefits, world.
Kim (Quincy, MA) – How can I love [Manny Ramirez] when he’s such a douchebag all the time?
–You have a choice, sports fans. You can either get by on hearing the same emotionless “toe the company line” post-loss interview trash you always hear (“we’re just taking it one game at a time,” “we didn’t execute tonight,” “this is a setback, but we’ll show up to play tomorrow”) or you can hear what someone actually wants to say. Which would you prefer? Actually, that’s the wrong question. Which is more insightful? Personally, I want to hear someone drop a “there’s always next year” or a “we’re really, really angry and feel like the series is slipping away” because it provides a much better window into the actual psyche of the players being interviewed. Manny is, to use the godawful term, being Manny here. He’s telling it like it is because you asked him. I will always take that over someone reading a script.
Meghan (Brighton, MA) – Considering the talents of Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin, what do you think the Super Seven’s chances are at meeting and/or surpassing the success of the Magnificent Seven (1996 Atlanta) at next year’s Beijing Olympics.
–It depends on how you define success. Can they duplicate the gold medal victory in the Women’s Team Competition? Of course. They’ve got a deep team this year and are well-aquainted with success. Liukin has been dominant on the uneven bars and balance beam for what seemed like an eternity in the women’s gymnastics world, but everyone from Bieger to Worley is capable of artistically complex world-class performance. But the true success of the Mag 7 was toppling the Soviet Union. It was like the “miraculous” hockey win over the USSR in 1980 – an utterly unexpected turn of events that captivated the world. Can that be duplicated? No. Unless they post record scores in every event and then go on to hold every seat on the Supreme Court, the level of success of the 1996 team won’t be seen again.
Mike (London, UK) – What do you think the Chudley Cannons record will be at the end of the season?
–Knock knock? Who’s there? Quidditch. Quidditch who? Quidditch isn’t real. That said, I think there’s no better than a .500 team.
Mike (Descending back to reality, MA) – How can a fantasy football team that’s averaging 156.5 points a week loose a game?
–Because undefeated fantasy teams don’t exist. They just can’t. Bye weeks are poison. Injuries are poison. Tom Brady playing against you is poison. There are too many factors to consider. As Bill Simmons pointed out in one of his columns recently, if you lose a guy in fantasy, you’re toast. If an actual football team loses a guy, they have other guys they can swap in mid-game. Any wheel that falls off your team won’t be fixed before the final scores are posted. Take your one loss and keep preparing for the playoffs.
Michelle (Quincy, MA) – Where does heart and “wanting the win” come into professional sports? Does it? I am thinking specifically of the Red Sox right now. They are a good ball club and can beat the Indians – but the last three games (before tonight) saw them be outplayed. Is that because the Indians just wanted games two through four more? What about in football and hockey? Heck, even basketball, even though I haven’t watched a game in about two years.
–If you’re being payed to play a game in front of millions of people, and are currently in the final weeks of your season, odds are you have heart and want to win. That much is a given. I doubt that any player taking the field to determine if they are the best at what they do in the world is only just kind of thinking about the game. You gotta have heart. But I do believe in momentum. Look at an MLB, NFL or NBA roster and you’ll see folks in their late teens and early twenties. When something crummy happens at your job, you get ticked off and down-trodden, right? Imagine how a 19 year old feels when he screws up in front of ten million people? Think they’re upset? Think they’re thinking about the mistake the rest of the day and the rest of the next day? I’ve never met a teenager in my life (barring those dealing with life-threatening illnesses or African civil war) that are strong enough to put a mistake seem by millions behind them. Momentum shifts. Athletes play with their heads low until momentum shifts back to them. All the players have heart. But not all of them are feeling at the top of their game on any given day. I think that factor, as much as talent level and injuries, determines who wins a game.
Duck (Lower Township, NJ) – How much, or how little, are you anticipating the release of George Mitchell’s report on steroids in MLB that supposedly will “name names”? How much impact do you honestly expect it to make?
–Honestly, I think the boat is going to be rocked hard when the Mitchell report is going to come out. The simple reason is that the news would be horrendous. If Jeter or Youkilis or one of those NL stars that apparently exist is busted for sterioid use, the game would be devastated. I don’t think McGwire and Bonds jersies are flying off the shelves anymore, so imagine what would happen if the hammer dropped hard on the game’s current untouchable heroes. If the Mitchell report hits the media and star players on every team are indicted, the sport would be set back on a level rivalling the strike. That is, of course, unless it is kept entirely in house. If there is a leak-free process and MLB works quietly with this committee to resolve the issue without throwing individuals under the bus, then the boat will be rocked very little. But of course, that’s not going to happen.
If anyone as any questions, please feel free to send them to my via the comments section of this article or any other BD1 post! Thanks all.