A GRIP ON SPORTS
Today is America's birthday. And like with every birthday, a card is called for, no matter how tacky it may be. Remember when you were a kid and buying a card seemed like the hardest task in the world? But it was expected, so you made something with a crayon and notebook paper, just to see the look on mom's face? We do, so in an ode to those days, we went a different route today. We decided to go with a video. And, if you're wondering, it didn't cost a thing. Read on.
• Many newspaper editors use the Fourth of July as a reason to reprint the greatest piece of political writing every done, Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence. It's a great time for it. But we're a sports blog, so we're going a different way. My memories of the Fourth revolve around baseball, from when I was just a little tyke to the last few years. And what could be more in keeping with the baseball tradition than listening to James Earl Jones, a great American voice, read “Casey at the Bat,” a great American poem by Ernest Thayer. I hope you enjoy it.
• One other thing on this Fourth. Boston general manager Danny Ainge gave Kelly Olynyk the greatest gift he could ever give him yesterday afternoon. He named 36-year-old former Butler coach Brad Stevens (pictured) as the Celtics' 16th head coach. With one decision, Ainge made Olynyk (and his hair) an afterthought in the coming season and, in the process, took all the pressure off his first-round draft pick. If Ainge had hired just about anyone else – say former WSU head coach Kevin Eastman, a long-time Celtic assistant – to fill the role, everyone would have known the coach was a place-holder, put in the chair to keep it warm until the Celtics' roster improved. Then Ainge would hire the coach he really wanted. So all the scrutiny would have been on Olynyk and his progress. That's a lot to put on Olynyk's shoulders. But with the Stevens move, Ainge has changed that dynamic. No matter what happens with Olynyk and the rest of the Celtic players, the Boston media will be dissecting Stevens more. He'll be the focal point of the unblinking eye. Which gives Olynyk time to develop his game in about as much anonymity as the NBA allows. And it doesn't hurt that Stevens is known as a great teacher of the game who is smart enough to surround himself with others of the same ilk, albeit more than likely with a lot more NBA experience. In one day, Olynyk went from being under the gun to being in one of the better spots he could be in.
• Gonzaga: The Zag schedule is coming together, though we are piecing it together piece-by-piece. The latest game to be announced (by Kansas State) comes Dec. 21 in Kansas.
• Indians: After an 11-0 win in Tri-Cities, the Indians are back to .500. … That's something for Marcus Greene to put on a canvas. Chris Derrick's feature relates the news the Indian catcher is also an artist.
• Mariners: Felix Hernandez started and pitched well enough to win, but didn't. Again. The M's battle back to tie and force extra innings. Again. And they lost… wait, no, that's not right. They won, 4-2 over the Rangers on Kyle Seager's two-run 10th-inning home run. And Tom Wilhelmsen's perfect bottom of the 10th, earning him another save, his first since early June. The win also ensured the M's of a series win, something that doesn't happen often in Arlington. … In other good news, Brad Miller seems to be getting the hang of this shortstop thing. … In the bad news category, Danny Hultzen won't be pitching a while but the M's think (hope?) his shoulder soreness isn't that big of a deal.
• Sounders: A 2-0 win shouldn't be marred by any negative thoughts, but the Sounders' victory over D.C. United was. After all, many of Seattle's fans didn't get to see the first few minutes of the game and some even missed Obafemi Martins' game-deciding goal, which came 19 minutes in. At least they saw his other one, in stoppage time at the end of the game. See, the new security measures at CenturyLink caused delays of up to 40 minutes before they were finally suspended. It took away focus from the Sounders relatively easy win despite not playing all that well.
• I'm done here. Hope you have a fun and safe holiday. I expect to. Hot dogs off the barbecue for lunch, a movie in the evening. Which sounds more patriotic, “White House Down,” “Man of Steel” or “Despicable Me 2?” Until later …