A GRIP ON SPORTS
Yesterday was one of those up-and-down days that make being a sports fan so worthwhile. Read on.
• The day began on a high note. I took some time in the morning to watch summer high school basketball in a local gym. The weather outside was perfect, there was a car show going on in the parking lot and the basketball inside was worth watching, if only for the effort being shown. It set the tone for the day.
• Then the Belmont happened. I'm not sure but I do believe California Chrome jockey Victor Espinoza got lost somewhere on the backstretch. It sure seemed as if his GPS went out. That's the only way I can explain why he decided to take Chrome to the outside, losing ground with every stride. And that came back to bite the horse in the backside on the stretch, when there was nothing left. I'm not sure if we'll ever see another Triple Crown winner in our lifetime. If it isn't the lack of talent, then it's the lack of great jockeys. If it isn't a lack of stamina, then it's a lack of horses competing in all three races. Something always comes up.
• The M's got me back to smiling a bit later when they played the kind of baseball game winning teams play. They scored just enough, got just enough pitching and their closer pitched a 1-2-3 ninth. That makes three consecutive games Fernando Rodney has come out of the bullpen and not allowed a base runner. Of all the shocking things I've seen in sports in 2014, that might be No. 1.
• Another smile emerged when the Sounders overcame Chicago's slash-and-burn defensive tactic – the Fire slashed at Obafemi Martins all game and he finally got burned up, lashing out and being ejected – to win a road match, 3-2. The Sounders enter the World Cup break with the best record in the MLS, or as they say it in soccer and hockey, the most points in the league. And the U.S. National Team also won in its last tuneup for the Cup, so there is that.
• Speaking of hockey, the Stanley Cup Finals are worth every penny, even if you don't have to pay a cent for them. Overtime. Double overtime. Games ended on goals you didn't see coming. Great action all game long, tough play, smart, fluky goals, great goaltending, suspect goaltending. You name it, it's happened. And the team of my youth, the Kings, are just two wins away from their second title in three years.
• Finally, the day ended on the highest of high notes. My alma mater, UC Irvine, outbattled Oklahoma State 1-0 last night (pictured) and, for the second time, is headed to Omaha and the College World Series. (By the way, the story sent out by the Associated Press had an awful error in it. It said UC Irvine became a Division I program in 2002. Uh, no. That would be 1978, after winning back-to-back Division II titles in 1973 and 1974. The program was disbanded due to finances in the early 1990s but was rebuilt thanks to a student vote at the turn of the century.) I am thinking about hopping in the car and taking it all in. Again. I flew back the first time the Anteaters qualified but that seems so last decade. A three-day road trip, '70s music blaring from the stereo, windows down, my old jersey hanging in the back seat, a real good-looking blonde surfer babe in the passenger ... wait, wait, reality interrupts here. Stopping ever two or three hours to sample a rest-area's bathrooms, almost falling asleep somewhere in Wyoming, my hip hurting from sitting too long. I have to balance all those things before I make a decision. What should I do? Should I go for it, throw caution to the wind and take off? Or should I act my age and watch the games in front of my TV? Let me know what you think.
• As I was writing this morning, my computer dinged and another Father's Day memory arrived. Thanks. We want your memories of your dad and sports. Of times good – and bad – you spent with your father playing catch, watching golf, running Bloomsday. Whatever. The time he yelled at an umpire or told you he was proud of you or embarrassed the heck out of your brother. We'll put them together and run them in their entirety here on SportsLink. Some might even be featured in the Review. Don't worry about polish, just share what's in your heart. Send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll take care of the rest. Make sure to include your name, as the newspaper needs it for confirmation purposes.
• Indians: Times do change. That's the one constant, even in baseball. We have a nice feature to pass along today on a former Spokane Indian who has lived an incredible life.
• Shock: This was a game the Shock needed to win. Jacksonville has struggled and wasn't much of a challenge. OK, that last sentence may be true when the Shock are at full strength. They aren't right now and it shows. They lost 34-28, as the offense did nothing in the second half. I mean, really, it did nothing. The Shock did not score after halftime.
• Preps: A couple of local prep baseball players were selected on the final day of the Major League draft.
• Shadow: Spokane won again yesterday, 4-1 over the Seattle Stars.
• Mariners: Yep, the M's won yesterday, though they didn’t win the post-draft bidding war for former Mariner Kendrys Morales. He – and his bat – ended up in Minnesota. The win, 7-4 in Tampa, was powered by Dustin Ackley (pictured) – or "Kyle Ackley" as Dave Sims called him (Sims has had a rough week) – and the pitching of Roenis Elias. ... Speaking of the draft, the M's finished up by taking some local players. And it is Sunday, so we have Ryan Divish's power rankings from the Seattle Times.
• Sounders: The 3-2 win in Chicago was worth three points in the standings. But coach Sigi Schmid didn't think the Sounders played their best. Maybe that was because of the way Chicago played. ... No matter what the Fire did, they ended up on the losing side. ... As we said, the Sounders will enter the World Cup break as the MLS' top team.
• Have a great Sunday. Let me know what you think about the road trip. It might make a great screenplay someday. Until later ...