Sports Equinox: For one of the few times in history, at 8:45 this past Sunday night, all four professional sports leagues were in action. Passes were being thrown, free throws were being taken, hockey pucks were flying and outfielders were catching fly balls. It was sports nirvana.
Former baseball greats Alex Rodriguez and Frank Thomas could present the national news at 6:30 every night so polished are they as evidenced by their talking head roles on the World Series telecasts. Not so Pete Rose, an angry, aging visage above a goofy bow tie.
The NFL was selling football to Europe and England bought in big time. Cheering every five-yard gain as if it were a soccer goal, they showed the world that American football should cross the pond sooner rather than later. Packed stadiums the past two weeks over there should hasten expansion.
On the biggest stage it has had in years, baseball still couldn’t top NFL Sunday. Baseball is best appreciated in person where the pastoral setting and slow, sometimes painfully slow, action unravels. Save bars in Chicago and Cleveland, few groups of fans gathered to cheer. It is simply the nature of the game that it is best enjoyed while conversing with another. So shall it remain, challenging futilely the speed, excitement and fervor that football, hockey and basketball provide.
Bill Murray singing a seventh-inning stretch “Take Me Out To The Ball Game,” channeling Donald Duck, just isn’t going to fly.
The Oakland Raiders’ Derek Carr was 10 of 13 in overtime, dragging in the ancient leg of Sebastian Janikowski to go wide twice on field goal attempts, before finally finishing off the Bucs with a touchdown pass. Five of the record setting twenty-three Oakland penalties occurred during that extra period. Meanwhile, the Bucs went three-and-out on their three possessions in overtime.
Quick takes on talking heads: Terry Bradshaw is funny. Shannon Sharpe and Skip Bayless are poorly paired. John Lynch is informed and polished. John Smoltz has a low-keyed approach perfect for baseball. Joe Buck and Steve Albert, through parentage, bespeak entitlement. Baseball managers Joe Maddon and Terry Francona are the real deal, cerebral and in control, unlike football coaches who have seven assistant coaches babbling on every play. Howie Long, Jimmy Johnson and Michael Strahan are polite and never talk over each other.
Matt Ryan was nine-of-ten passing in Atlanta’s final drive to beat Green Bay with a touchdown pass with :31 seconds left. That is superb leadership. Just prior to that, Aaron Rodgers had driven the Packers the length of the field to take the lead. The cameras caught Rodgers’ look of despair when Atlanta scored, sending him back on the field to an impossible mission.
Aroldis Chapman, consistently throwing 100 mph, was unbelievable in getting the last eight outs in relief for the Cubs. Maddon played poker with his closer coming in so early but Joe came up aces.
Maddon has proven he is among the best managers of recent years but in taking that chance on Chapman, he also showed great confidence. The move he and general manager Theo Epstein made in getting Chapman from the Yankees mid-season really paid off.