Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Bullfighting Report

Yes, really.  I flipped around the stations after the Charlie Brown special on Sunday night and ran into a live bullfight on a Juarez station.  Live.  In all my years of watching Mexican television, I have NEVER seen this. 

I came in at the end of one bout.  The bull was, well, kinda small.  He spent most of his time trying to run away from the matador.  For his part, the matador did at least finish things very cleanly with a sword thrust and the bull died immediately.

I got to see the entirety of the next bout.  The matador was interviewed beforehand.  (The bull declined.)  For the beginning of the fight, the bullfighter sat on his knees in front of the bull chute, holding his cape out in front of him.  Oh My God!  A large, angry bull suddenly burst out and the matador barely dodged him.  This is a larger bull.  I’ve seen bigger, but I would not be comfortable in an enclosed space with this bull. 

The matador was able dance around him for a while, tiring him, before the lancer came out on an armored horse.  The bull got the worst of this engagement.  If you think a cape isn’t a lot of protection against a charging bull, try a pair of small javelins.  The matador managed to jab two sets of these into the bull’s shoulders.  The matador returned with a cape, and while the bull was in the act of dying, he was more dangerous.  The bullfighter got a little too close and was trampled briefly.  The TV coverage gave several replays of this.   

Here was the greatest act of courage, in my opinion.  The matador was not injured, but went back to face the bull.  He returned with a sword for the final act and drove it hilt deep between the beast’s shoulders.  This did not finish him off.  It got him good and angry.  The matador went at him with three more swords, nearly getting gored each time.  Finally, the bull laid down, beaten.  Another matador finished him with a dagger to the back of the head.    

Strangely, I didn’t feel sorry for the bull.  The average domesticated bull goes down with a shot to the head, never seeing it coming.  The fighting bull is not leaving the ring alive, but at least has a chance to die well, perhaps even taking out a tormentor or two.  “Sometimes the bull wins,” as they say.  Given the anger they display, if you could ask them, this is probably how they’d want to go. 

For the bullfighter, it’s an act of courage, bordering on insanity.  I read a Sports Illustrated article once, profiling a matador.  The list of this man’s injuries was chilling.  He'd broken nearly every bone in his body and had had even testicles torn out.  No one accuses a matador of doing what they do because they hate bulls.  Like a big game hunter, they respect their opponent.  Likewise, the audience respects the bull too.  They admire the matador’s courage and skill.  They know the bull is doomed, but very capable of ensuring a tragic end for the bullfighter.  It’s not a sport, it’s actual life and death.

I suppose I won’t sound very enlightened to say that I’d watch this again given the opportunity.  Not for the blood or potential death (that’s what UFC is for), but there was a certain brave artistry to it.  Don’t feel bad for the bull.  If he didn’t enter the ring, he was surely going to be slaughtered at some point anyway.  Certainly the bullfighter has the advantage in the ring, but it’s not like he’s going in with a gun.  There’s no subtlety of hunting either.  The combatants can see one another clearly.  If the matador wants cover, he has to run for it.  This wasn’t just interesting, it was thought-provoking.  Somehow, the hyperboles of other sports are probably going to ring a little hollow with me for a while.

Here's a view of the stadium.

The image is from this blog, by a person who clearly knows more about this sport than I do.  It's from a couple of years ago.  There are many other pictures there.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Sports Journal 4-20-14

[I’m taking another week off from RPG’s, though there will be more coming.  Tomorrow’s post will be about a sport that I never thought I’d be covering.  After that, I’m reviewing Community Season 5 for the rest of the week.]

NBC scheduled three playoff games over the weekend which I caught.  The Saturday afternoon one between the Blues and the Blackhawks was particularly good.  The Blues got a literal last-second goal to end the first period and a goal with six seconds left in regulation to tie it, winning in OT 4-3.  If you put it to me, I’ll admit that this game was probably better than any given baseball game that day. 

That said, I’ve only been watching Saturday afternoon baseball for like over 20 years.  Props to NBC for making the most of a non-golf tournament weekend where the network competition had vacated the field.  Some temporarily scheduled hockey is no substitute though.  Meanwhile, I don’t know about your Fox affiliate, but mine shows crappy movies in these situations.  Really crappy.  I don’t think I’ve ever watched a weekend afternoon movie on their station.  They’re fairly recent movies (within 10 years) that have stars in them you know, but movies that you’d never pay full ride to see in a theater, if you’ve even heard of them.  Then they showed King of Queens (no complaint there) and some informercials.  You can’t tell me, baseball was getting worse ratings than this crap (and please don’t tell me if it was).

As long as hockey is the topic, I’d like to praise the NHL for moment.  They’ve made some rules changes that have really helped the game.  First, no substitutions on Icing calls.  I know that seems minor, but it is a God-send to the viewers.  Teams used to Ice the puck all the time to change lines, and it just killed the rhythm of the game.  Next, moving the Blue lines back helped the offense and offside calls.  Going to the 4 on 4 OT and Shoot-out were also great ideas.  Anything to avoid a tie.  I also appreciate the lack of constant commercial interruption, unlike other sports (ahem NASCAR).

I’d like to offer a few suggestions though.  Work on those camera angles.  Vary them up a little.  It’ll make the rink advertising on the other side more valuable.  A single, panning camera sort of works for basketball because it’s a much small playing surface.  With hockey, you’re missing too much.  I swear that most of the games I’ve watched have gone into Overtime.  If that’s representative, it defeats the purpose of calling it Overtime.  How about going 4 on 4 if it’s ever tied in the Third Period?  Finally, and this should be obvious, no more labor problems.  You NHL guys are lucky that people love hockey so much, because you really should be out of business.

I’ll probably keep watching the occasional fight, but I’m not commenting on them anymore, unless I get a decent show.  I watched Fox’s UFC Saturday night fight.  (Yeah, they can put this on, but not baseball).  I saw my first women’s bout.  Bottom line, it just doesn’t appeal to me.  Admittedly, a couple of the women do, but that doesn’t mean I want to see them hitting each other.  This wasn’t worse fight I’ve seen, and it was a bit different than a men’s match, but not to my preference.  I don’t know who the target audience is for women’s fighting.  I don’t think it appeals to most men.  Women, who are fight fans, want to watch the guys too. 

The main bout started off excellently.  You didn’t just hear how hard these guys were hitting each other, you felt it.  Seconds after they mentioned the favorite in the fight had never been pinned, he was pinned.  Unfortunately, the challenger clearly won the first three rounds of the five round match, and the two combatants essentially stopped fighting to win.  The loser was too winded after the first round to attack (he was literally looking up at the clock waiting for the fight to end), and the winner just played it safe.  I’m deliberately not using the names of the fighters in a show of deliberate disrespect, the same they showed to the audience.  Neither of them had ever fought for a full five rounds, and that was obvious.   

Speaking of deliberate disrespect, I also watched a boxing match between Bernard Hopkins and some Asian-looking fellow named Shumenov, from a country whose flag I couldn’t identify (the broadcast was in Spanish).  Hopkins was clearly taking the bout very seriously as he came out wearing a little green alien mask.  He also stuck his tongue out during the match, wound up his fist like Popeye once, and generally taunted his way through the fight.  The other guy shouted out every time he threw a punch.  Seems like a bit of a tell there.  And they went at it like that for 12 rounds.  The judges’ decision. . . AAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!  (Deep breath.)  AAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!  I’ve just wasted my night watching another boxing match without a decisive win!  Hopkins really shouldn’t have been acting like an ass.  He only won on a split decision.

It was a little sparse this weekend.  I wasn’t getting good reception to listen to the Rangers games.  I did hear the Chihuahuas get creamed Sunday afternoon, 11-4.  The highlight of the game was veteran outfielder, Jeff Francoeur, getting his first pitching experience.  He pitched a 1-2-3 8th inning, smiling the entire time.

Meanwhile, the good people of El Paso have been repeatedly assured that the stadium will be ready next week for its debut.  Tim even reported that the Chihuahua’s opponents for the home opener are excited about being there.  Work is continuing around the clock.  Speaking of which, the large clock that was on Insights children’s museum that they dynamited to put the stadium, has been re-installed on the stadium.  Isn’t that nice? 

I saw a news report where the police are concerned that they’re going to have to pull officers off their regular patrols to provide security at the stadium on game nights.  You know, booting cars at expired meters, setting up DWI checkpoints next to the stadium, handing out a bunch of traffic tickets, you know, lucrative security.  So the good union workers are getting plenty of overtime working on the stadium and so will the police, along with another tax referendum being set up to pay for more officers.

I question the parking situation downtown, now that I know more about it.  For fans, clearly the park and ride bus service from various parts of town, seems like the best deal for $3.  A parking garage or lot would be the next best, but it doesn’t look like there’s much in the area.  I also suspect those are mostly reserved, and not for regular fans.  The last resort would be the 1800 newly installed parking meters.  They say you’ll get 4 hours for $10, but you’ll have to parallel park in the street and trust the meter and keep an eye on the clock.

I thought local entertainment businesses downtown were supposed to benefit from the games being there though.  If you’re taking the bus or parked at a meter, you’re not sticking around downtown after the game (not that you’d want to anyway).  They should blown up a few more buildings in the area to put up some more parking garages.  Of course, if they get lousy fan support after the first week, parking won’t matter that much. 

The best baseball game I saw was the animated feature, Charlie Brown’s All-Stars.  This one was either the second or third Peanuts cartoon special, so it’s really old (though the print for the broadcast was crystal clear).  I’ve never seen it.  Given how big a fan I am, that means it’s probably been decades since it’s been broadcast. 

This was Old School Peanuts.  They were cheerfully cruel to old Charlie Brown in this.  It was also really funny, and there was a sweet ending for it.  I recognized the old comic strips they used as a basis for the story.  It was tightly focused on baseball and was stitched together well.  Definitely watch this if you get the chance.  

Friday, April 18, 2014

Baseball Journal 4-15-14 Meet Chico

[Odd week.  Not sure what's coming up next week.  I'll get back to RPG stuff at some point.  I can't believe how much I wrote last Sunday night about sports.]

The El Paso Chihuahuas introduced their new mascot today.

It’s a guy in a dog suit. 

I know that’s obvious, but I’m disappointed.  I was hoping for actual Chihuahuas.  I was looking forward to seeing a small herd of little trained dogs running the bases for the seventh inning stretch to the theme song from Beverly Hills Chihuahua.  (Sorry I can’t link to it here.  Look it up on Youtube.)  You could have contests where people picked their favorite.  You could get these dogs from the shelter and then offer them up for adoption to the fans.  But instead, it’s just a guy in a suit like every other team’s mascot.  (I hope the marketing department was already smart enough to figure out that they need to hook up with the Animal Shelter for some promotions, at least.)        

What happens when the Chihuahuas eventually change their name?  What happens to Chico?  Maybe he can go fight Godzilla in his next movie.

On to actual baseball, I got to more or less hear the full game Monday night.    The dogs are still in Tucson playing the Reno Aces.  My questions from last time have been mostly answered.  The crowds have been small, but seemed to be fairly enthusiastic for their former home team, along with a few fans from El Paso

Since I was listening at work, I could not give the game my undivided attention, but at least I got to hear that eventful bottom of the third.  Voice of the dogs (the dog trainer? the dog whisperer? the handler? the breeder?), Tim Hagerty, got to show off all of his baseball broadcasting skills here and displayed that he really does know his stuff.  While Aces manager, Phil Nevin, was arguing a fair/foul call, Tim was able to correctly articulate the rule governing the situation.

Phil got some more quality time with umps that inning as Cameron Maybin of the dogs, perhaps forgetting the number of outs, walked away from occupying first.  Thankfully the pitcher had called time before that, so Maybin was allowed back on the field, to the opposing manager’s chagrin.  The dogs would go on to score four runs in the inning, though during one of the scores the PA starting inexplicably playing music during the play.     

While I’ve heard of several of the players on these teams, imagine my surprise that I’d actually seen one of them play in the majors.  The only major league game I’ve been to was on September 11, 1999.  There the Diamondbacks blanked the Phillies 4-0.  Randy Wolf was the Phillies pitcher that day and the Reno Aces pitcher today.  Over the years, I’ve run into Wolf playing in other games and always remember having seen him and have been amazed by his longevity.  Tim related some of his career.  I suppose it would have been impossible to not talk about him.  God bless you Randy.

Nevin would argue with umps again later, no doubt endearing himself to them.  Tim would show off his rule book and trivia skills by talking about how a pitcher could get a save by pitching for three innings and finishing the game, regardless of the score.  The example he gave involved an extremely lopsided game.  I had to look this one up.  As per the rule book, the qualifying pitcher must “effectively” pitch for those three innings, leaving some room for interpretation.  Dogs win 5-3.

Meanwhile in the big leagues, suddenly a cacophony has started over their new Instant Replay challenge system.  This was completely unanticipated.  Apparently the Red Sox were jobbed on a clearly blown replay call, thus initiating the crisis.  If this had happened to 27 other teams in the league (obviously not including the Yankees and Dodgers), it would have been an amusing sidebar. 

What did anybody really expect?  The NFL has been doing this for years and still routinely screws up reviewed calls.  The excuse for them at least is that their games are all fixed.  I don’t know if there’s enough betting action on individual, regular season baseball games for that to be a factor here, so the MLB doesn’t have any real excuse. 

Well, start immediately tinkering with system.  That’s worked really well for NASCAR and their “Chase” rules.  I’d like a system that doesn’t involve any manager challenges, which will used for pure gamesmanship purposes in the playoffs, and just fixes the obvious blown calls and perhaps questionable plays directly effecting scoring.  (No more Jeffery Maier.)  It’s too much to ask for apparently.     


The Chihuahuas meet their new arch-nemesis, the Albuquerque Isotopes, for the first time.  According to Tim, Albuquerque fans and people around and on the team, already hate the little dogs.  From a typing standpoint, let me tell you, I’m already sick of “Chihuahuas” and “Albuquerque.”  I don’t know how much longer I can keep this blog topic up. 

I used to have an Albuquerque Dukes pennant from back when I lived there as a child.  The Dukes were a great team (and easy to type too).  Generations of Dodgers went through the Duke City, and they were a great tradition.  New fans may wonder why they’re called the Isotopes, a name which is, thanks to the Chihuahuas, now only the second dumbest name in the PCL.  Whatever you think of it, at least there’s a story behind it.  On an episode of The Simpsons, their city of Springfield lost their beloved Isotopes to Albuquerque.  When Albuquerque lost their franchise and acquired another Triple A team, the opportunity was too ironic to pass up.

My listening was sporadic while at work.  I learned that they use a humidor for the baseballs because of the high altitude (the thin air makes the baseballs more jumpy).  This had no discernable effect on tonight’s game, 11-6 ‘Topes, which included several home runs.  I don’t know what the attendance was, but they sounded numerous, loud, and enthusiastic. 

Tim had to break out the rulebook again on a play that sent a ball into one of the dugouts.  He did not question the umpire’s interpretation, but rather their view of events.  Given that it would have involved an early run for the dogs, it was important.  Replay?  Meh.  Don’t get me started on that again. 


Once again I was able to listen to about the whole game between the dogs and the Isotopes.  This joust was strangely something of a pitching duel compared to last night.  The Isotopes would prevail 3-1.  Swirling winds may have tempered the bats.  I got the impression the weather may have been a bit threatening (I could be wrong), but the patrons were not dampened in spirits or attendance from what I could hear, particularly one girl, who in the 9th, screamed on every pitch.  She must have had a decidedly personal interest in the outcome.

“Do you mind if I tell you a story?” Tim is so polite calling the game.  I got busy and missed the subsequent story, but I did hear him talk about interviewing Tommy Lasorda.  He also related the Simpsons’ angle to the Isotopes’ name and that there are statues of the cartoon characters around the stadium.  I also learned that Bryan Cranston, star of Breaking Bad, was also a big fan of the team when they were shooting in Albuquerque.   

I didn’t hear the call of the end of last night’s game.  I did not know that dog’s infielder, Jake Lemmerman, came in and pitched an inning.  He gave up one run, which wasn’t bad for a guy throwing a “Dancing Vulcan” offspeed pitch that looked like a knuckle ball.  And I forgot to mention my new favorite name, Albuquerque Isotopes player, Chili Buss.  

[I've tagged previous Chihuahua posts with a label, so you just click on that and see where I begged them not to pick that name a year ago.]

Thursday, April 17, 2014

NASCAR Journal Darlington 4-12-14

I’ve suddenly remembered that I haven’t blogged about NASCAR since Daytona.  I did keep some notes, but nothing that materialized into a post.  So, let’s catch up here a little with some random observations.

Fox Sports took my advice about the race ticker.  Thanks.  Unfortunately, that’s the last nice thing I’m going to say about them in this post.

Danica, when not good enough to win or finish well, makes sure to wreck to get airtime for her sponsors.  You watch.  I’m right.

Full house in Darlington.  Great crowd in CaliforniaBristol, terrible crowd.  What?  Lesson, good races and good weather attract fans.  Somewhere between the repave, bad economics around Bristol, and changing race dates has really hurt attendance at one of NASCAR’s show tracks.  Something must be done!   

Two of the coolest looking cars I’ve seen so far are Kyle Larson’s Clorox car from Phoenix and Ricky Stenhouse’s Zest car at Las Vegas.  I feel silly writing this, but at the same time, wouldn’t be too proud to own little die-casts of them. 

NBC is eagerly anticipating taking over NASCAR coverage from ESPN next year.  They’re even doing a NASCAR show now.  From a personal standpoint, I’m looking forward to their coverage too.  Kelli Stavast will be part of their crew.  Need I say more?  (Running gag.  Just go with it.)

Up to date now.  The biggest news in NASCAR should probably be the emergence of Chase Elliot, Bill Elliot’s son, in the Nationwide series.  He’s won two in a row, including Darlington, not a rookie friendly track.  More on this story as it develops.

After Daytona, two of the best races have been Fontana and Darlington.  These are two races that the drivers are fighting the track more than each other.  Is my memory faulty or didn’t Fontana used to be a terrible race?  The degraded track surface there is tearing up tires the way that the old Darlington surface used to.  Darlington itself is still hard on the tires, but harder on the drivers.  The competition was mainly between the drivers and the Darlington walls.  There were no winners in the conflict, only survivors. 

Kevin Harvick would make the least mistakes and take the victory.  I went back and read a Darlington blog from 2009.  I was shocked.  There, Jimmie Johnson started in the back, worked his way to the front and finished second, which is exactly what happened here in 2014. 

There was a full house in Darlington.  It was the only way to see the race.  They say fans are staying home so that they can watch sporting events on their big screen TV’s from the comfort of their own homes.  This makes sense for NFL attendance, but the theory breaks down with NASCAR given how bad the TV coverage is.  Nothing like spending good money on a TV so you can watch commercials while the race is going on.  Don’t worry, if there’s any significant action during the break, they’ll show it on replay.  Given the amount of commercial time, this statistically very likely.  NASCAR is a bit like PBS.  The constant pledge breaks tend to destroy the value of the content.

TV Coverage-wise, this had to have been one of the worst races of the season, including the rain delays.  Every time they went to commercial, which was frequently, they came back under caution, they’d show pit stops and replay the crash, and then go back to commercial.  Thankfully, they’d come back in time for the restart (a couple of years ago, they weren’t). 

I predict eventually coverage will consist of this: they’ll show the first lap full screen, the next nine laps in a small window, then three hours of commercials with a one minute race update every five minutes, then the last ten laps full screen (not including Green, White, Checkers restarts).  Wait, that wasn’t much of a prediction.  It’s what we’re basically getting now.  Since I’ve actually seen races with limited to no commercial interruption (the way God intended), I can’t put up with this mockery of race coverage.  As soon as somebody can explain to me how they can broadcast 45 God**** minutes (plus extra time) of Angola vs. Poland in a World Cup match uninterrupted, but can’t show 15 ****ing minutes of a NASCAR race without going to commercial, twice, I’ll stop complaining.  

I’m imagining Fox Sports showing that Bradley/Paciquiao fight.  “You don’t need to show all three minutes of a round.  We could jam in a minute of commercials.  The audience probably won’t miss anything.”  Joe Buck could call the fight and demand replays on every hit, wondering if it was a legal hit.  Tim McCarver could come out of retirement and complain that the fighters aren’t hitting each other where he tells them to.  Larry McReynolds could provide between rounds commentary as the fighters get filled up on their Gatorade Fight Fuel and several other branded products.  (McReynolds only function in NASCAR broadcasts is to remind everyone of the tire and fuel sponsors.  He could be replaced by an mp3 file, played on cue.)  Daryl Waltrip could provide the clich├ęs and license out the return of Digger, the canvas gopher.    

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Sports Journal 4-13-14

It’s been a Scarlett Johansson sort of weekend.  I saw her in two movies on Saturday.  (No, this isn’t a sports take.  I’m getting to it.  Be patient.)  There she was with an English accent in The Other Boleyn Girl with Natalie Portman.  David Morrissey and Eric Bana were also in this, along with a blink-and-you’ll miss him Benedict Cumberbatch.  I’d like to say I enjoyed it, but it’s Henry the VIII and Anne Boleyn.  You know how it’s going to end.

More surprisingly but probably not coincidentally, I later saw her with her Captain America: the Winter Soldier (now playing in theaters) co-star, Chris Evans in the MTV produced The Perfect Score.  This movie must be about ten years old, but you can already see them practicing for their future parts.  Evans, the leader of these high school Avengers as they scam to steal the SAT test answers, at one point rallies them in a very inspirational manner.  (Though he has a very un-Captain America like moment when he leaves somebody behind that gets caught during the heist.)  Scarlett as a gothy, punk school girl, after his speech, imagines herself (I’m not making this up) clad in black leather, performing wire-fu and taking out a bunch of security guards single-handed.  Destiny.  The film was okay, I think, since I was flipping back and forth between this and the fight.          

They make a lot of the “Original Six” teams whenever they’re playing each other for some reason.  With the broadcast schedule, by and large, it’s the “Exclusive Eight,” whom they mix and match together all season for the NBC national game, ignoring the other 22 teams entirely.  I guess with the morning timing of these broadcasts, they are limited to East Coast games, but since they’re not doing regional broadcasts, it might be nice to see a few more good teams, maybe some western teams. 

The Sunday game was a 3-0 blanking of the Blues by the Red Wings, but the Saturday game was pretty good.  Very late in the third period, the Flyers took the lead, but moments later, the Penguins scored and tied it, sending the game to overtime, where the Flyers would win it on a soft goal.  What made it great was the full team brawl that took place at the end of regulation.  This how every hockey match should end. 

On Saturday, Fox Sports 1 had a double header of action.  Yes, you guessed it!  One of the games was Yankees vs. Red Sox.  If they could get both teams to play an actual double header every Saturday, they’d do it.  No, I still don’t have an upper tier cable package to watch these games.  No, I’m not paying to watch Yankees vs. Red Sox every other week, much less a premium, and much less listen to Joe Buck’s histrionic play calling and demanding replays on every close play.  Without even having seen a game that Bucks’s called this year, I know that’s what he’s doing.  That’s how tedious and predictable he is.   

On Sunday, I invited my dad over so he could watch the Masters, so I missed listening to most of the Rangers and Chihuahuas’ games on the radio.  Has any son ever made a greater sacrifice?  (I also bought dinner.)  From what I could tell lately, the Rangers have forgotten which end of the bat to hold.  Every team goes into an offensive slump sometimes, but they’re playing the freaking Astros!  At least they won, by the minimum, 1-0. 

The El Paso Chihuahuas, meanwhile, were continuing their “home” series in Tucson, playing the Reno Aces.  Yes, that’s a little confusing.  I don’t know what the baseball situation is in Tucson since El Paso enticed away their team, but this seems like a cruel taunt to baseball fans there.  “Hey, the stadium we bought for your team isn’t ready yet.  Mind if we use yours for a few more games?  It’s not like anybody else is using it.”  Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to listen to the last few games.  I’m sure these questions have been answered. 

Tim Hagerty was joined in the booth by Mark Miller, whom I really can’t tell you anything about, since I wasn’t able to listen much.  I do hope he’ll be there for other home games at least.  The dogs lost 6-4, but apparently did have some El Paso fans in attendance for this faux home game.  Tim mentioned they had a cheering section of two Little League teams who made the trip to see them.  That’s cool.     

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Boxing Journal 4-12-14

Wait, what?  How is this happening again?  I’m not even a boxing fan.  If I want to watch guys hitting each other, I’ll watch hockey, where they fight for real and on ice.  Boxing isn’t even my second choice for that matter, I’d rather watch UFC instead.  Granted I might end up watching some horrific spectacle that leaves me scarred for life or, alternatively, see a “fight” that only lasts 23 seconds, but I figure UFC gives me about a 30% chance of an entertaining fight.  With Boxing, I’m not even getting those odds. 

I blame peer pressure.  There are people at work watching, and I need to keep up (since I’m not joining any of their football pools).  There’s also the small matter of not getting any Saturday afternoon baseball leaving a gaping hole in my life.  A man will grab a cactus if he’s falling off a cliff.

Once again, here’s the next “big” fight: Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao versus Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley, the Re-match.  Jdh “Never Gets to See a Good Fight” 417 saw their first bout where Bradley won in a rigged, err… I mean split decision.  Because of that travesty, I missed Pacquiao’s next fight, which featured him hitting the canvass like a sack of flour.  It’s almost like they knew I wasn’t watching.

The undercard, which I watched intermittently as there was a movie on another station I wanted to see, featured some guy repeatedly running his head into the other guy’s chest.  I was not surprised he didn’t win, even with his unorthodox tactics.

For the walkout, Pacquiao looked genuinely happy to be there.  The crowd was overwhelmingly on his side (and presumably had money on him).  Bradley was getting something between a “boo” and indifferent silence.  I’ve seen Philadelphia Phillies home games like that.

Here’s Michael Buffer introducing the fighters, “Fighting out of the blue corner for the pride, the honor, and the glory of Mexico. . .”  “I’m from the Philippines!” Manny Pacquiao shouts out.  Buffer seems confused by a major fight that doesn’t involve a Mexican boxer, but continues on.  Bradley, in turn, drinks in the crowd’s overwhelming apathy towards him.  Though they’re in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand, that American flag he’s flying does not help him here.         

From here, my notes go into round-by-round commentary.  What was I thinking?  Do you know how much trouble it is to type something out from my crappy, handwritten notes?  This is almost like when I keep a scorecard for a baseball game.  What if I actually start keeping a judge’s fight card and counting punches?  I will need help at that point.  Somebody please stage an intervention.

1st Round: The boxers looked about evenly matched in height, weight, build, and enthusiasm.  They came out flying, with lively, hyper punching.  The TV Azteca announcers were eating this up as the crowd chanted out Pacquiao’s name.  I like the TV Azteca coverage crew.  If I had the option of listening to this in English, I’d still pick these guys.  The Tecate Girls bumper commercials between rounds, don’t hurt either. 

2nd Round: Bradley is staggered under Pacquiao’s onslaught, but still standing.

3rd Round: After two frenetic rounds, both fighters are looking a little worn out.

4th Round: The pace is still slow.  Bradley got in a very effect counterattack with a massive right to Pacquiao’s head. 

5th Round: The fighters are showing some wariness.  Bradley starts trying to play some mind games with some taunting.

6th Round: Bradley gets pinned to the ropes by Pacquiao, but is saved by the bell. 

7th Round: Bradley comes out swinging.  They both look tired.  Anger and professionalism are now driving them more than their physical conditioning.  Bradley goes into the ropes again.  The crowd and the announcers go crazy in anticipation of a Pacquiao victory, but the fight continues. 

8th Round: The fighters became tentative again, feeling each other out.  Bradley is again staggered at one point.

9th Round: Bradley is knocked into the ropes by what looks like an elbow and a push, and almost lays out on the canvas.  His taunting has ceased by this point.

10th Round: Interesting condom commercial preceding this round.  One couple is having sex during a stampede, while another couple is doing it in a flooded rowboat out on a lake.  I’m not sure I get the symbolism of the rowboat couple, perhaps they were using another brand and it leaked.  They still seemed to be enjoying themselves though.  Back at the fight, the combatants clinch with one another repeatedly, like they were watching that commercial too, though exhaustion is the more likely cause.  They both get their shots in fairly evenly.

11th Round: The fighters come out dancing now, their attacks are a little more focused.  Bradley seems to get in a couple of good, hard shots.

12th Round: This is almost a repeat of the first round’s frenzied melee.  Bradley is again driven into the ropes, but Pacquiao gets the worst of it.  He receives a cut over his left eye right before the end of the fight.  The referee momentarily delays the ending so that Pacquiao can be treated.  The fight resumes with ten seconds to go and finally ends with both men going at each other in a berserker fury.  Both are still standing at the final bell and the fight ends.  Thank goodness, because I’m out of adjectives.

The Decision: The judges unanimously give it to Pacquiao.  It’s the correct decision.  Pacquiao’s mom enters the ring to congratulate Bradley for a good fight, at least that’s how I’m going to interpret it.  They were indeed evenly matched, but Pacquiao had the better fight this time.  Next time, who knows?  My personal decision, while it was a pretty entertaining fight, my streak of not seeing a knockout remains unbroken.  At least there wasn’t some sort of bizarre controversy attached to the match to make a joke of it. 

In the post fight interview, that gash over Pacquiao’s eye had swelled up like a bloody walnut.  Very ugly to look at.  He was lucky that the fight ended when it did. 

“It’s part of the game,” said the Mexican interviewer in awkward English.

“It’s nothing,” replied Pacquiao.    

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Masters 2014

[It's looking like sports posts this week for a change.]

I was surprised to see that the Masters was on on Sunday.  I had been informed by ESPN that the Tiger Invitational at Augusta had been canceled, because he was unable to play.  I immediately assumed that the coverage was just a replay of a previous year when Tiger won, but, no, it was live!  Of all the nerve, holding a Masters tournament without Tiger. 

I can’t believe they actually handed out a green jacket to the “winner” at the end, like it was a real Masters.  I thought they had stripped the jackets away from all of the previous winners who had won before Tiger appeared.  At least, that’s the impression I had gotten from sportstalk radio.  There’s a reason they want the circus side show that is Tiger Woods at golf tournaments.  Just in case the on course action isn’t great, they could can just sit around and gossip about Tiger.  That’s what he’s good for at this point, a distraction.

Even more than other personality-driven sports, the PGA’s fortunes have risen and fallen on one individual.  Every other golfer on tour has been ignored and dismissed for the sin of not being Tiger.  NASCAR may have had the same problem with Junior, but at least there, every other driver has their fans.  If they win, they’ll get attention.  If you win a bunch, you’re Jimmie Johnson.  He may be hated by most fans, but he’s still got plenty of fans of his own. 

At some point in the near future, the NBA may have this problem.  Jordan left and begat Kobe, who had feet of clay, who begat Lebron, who’s basically a jerk.  A downward spiral of likeability, regardless of accomplishments.  Worse, NBA commentators have been actively running down other good players in the league to make Lebron look bigger.  When he’s gone or irrelevant, they’ll be scrambling for the next big thing. 

The NFL, to their credit, is not personality-driven.  Fans root for the name on the front of the jersey, not the back.  Sportstalk would love to reduce baseball down to a couple of teams (namely Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers) and a couple of players and ignore everything else.  Unfortunately, baseball is a game of near constant failure and losing.  It’s really hard to hype up individual baseball players and teams without ending up looking like an idiot, given that they’re going to slump, and badly, at that at some point in the season (not that that stops most sportscasters).  See my own picks for last season.

I can’t help but notice how the Masters are shown with very limited commercial interruption, in spite being a major sporting event with a world-wide audience.  If Fox Sports was running the coverage, they’d be breaking for commercial in the middle of golfer’s backswings.  “Do we really have to show the entire back nine?  Can we skip a few holes to put in a few more breaks and just show them in replay?  NASCAR viewers don’t mind seeing incidents only in replay.” 

Maybe I should talk about the actual golf.  I saw some really bad fashion choices there on Sunday, including some old, hippie dude with ponytail out on the course.  I’d name names, but I don’t follow golf and don’t know who these people are.  Okay, maybe this is why I don’t write about golf. 

Okay, actual golf talk.  The British Open is about battling the elements.  One wonders how the game came to be invented in Scotland under the conditions of a constant cold, blustery wind and driving rain.  The US Open is about fighting a golf course designed by golf sadists.  They don’t trim the greens there; they polish them.  (“You might want to leave this one left.  If you go right, it goes straight into the ocean.  You probably won’t be able to play it from there.”)  At the Masters, you’re battling your nerves.  Don’t rip a guy for “choking” there.  Even the winner gets broken at the end and will have a very emotional reaction.  Nobody in contention plays the final round of the Masters “loose.”

Rookie Jordan Spieth did a good job of being in contention.  He just had a couple of bad holes.  He didn’t crumble at that point, but wasn’t able to rally.  His emotions came out on course, but he showed some definite poise afterward.  Whenever rookies make good showings like this in major events (in any sport), but fall short, you hope that this isn’t the last you see of them.

Bubba Watson not only showed steady calm in seizing opportunities and taking the lead, he didn’t even let up.  With the tournament in his hands, Bubba took some risky shots, not because he needed to, but because he could, and he could make them.  The emotions that came out at the end showed what kind of strain he was under, regardless of cavalier play.  The shot of the match was obviously the camera shot of his toddler son going out to meet him on the 18th green.