Monday, May 15, 2006

Randomization, 05/15/06

Please don't boo their national anthem. The behavior of the occasional sports fan has been proven to be stupid in the past. We know that when you gather 19,000 people in one place, there are bound to be some bad apples around. The guy who won't stop screaming at the other team's coach. The guy who won't stop spilling beer everywhere. The guy who throws his peanut shells wherever he feels like. The guy who won't sit down...ever. The guy who boos the national anthem of the other country. In most NHL games, the Canadian and US anthems are both played. 99 percent of the time, both anthems are either cheered politiely or loudly, and either way, the idiots who boo either anthem are drowned out and not heard.

That wasn't the case a few times around the start of the Iraq war, when fans in Chicago, Boston, and Montreal, among others, took turns booing the national anthem of the visiting country. It wasn't just a hockey thing, with fans at Wrigley Field booing the Canadian anthem before a Cubs-Expos game. But fans on both sides of the border were quick to discredit the behavior, calling the booing immature and disrespectful.

This crap ceased until last night, and now I can only hope it doesn't continue. Fans in San Jose apparently got wind of a smattering of boos toward the Star-Spangled Banner in Edmonton on Friday night, and they took to booing loudly during "Oh, Canada" before Game 5 of the Sharks-Oilers Western Conference semifinal series. San Jose fans are better than that, and they know it.

There is no excuse - none - for booing someone's national anthem. Especially when half of your team is comprised of players from the country whose anthem you are booing (12 of 25 Sharks players are Canadian)! I hope Edmonton fans are smart enough to cheer the American anthem on Wednesday night, because booing it would give idiot sportswriters in the States another reason to mindlessly rip a sport that they know nothing about.

Speaking of mindlessly ripping hockey...Did anyone catch "Around the Horn" last Thursday? The ESPN show takes four sportswriters and gives them a chance to argue back and forth for a half-hour on various sports topics. It's actually a decent show, despite the best efforts of loud and overbearing host Tony Reali. Anyway, they brought up hockey on Thursday, discussing the length of playoff overtimes in hockey, a discussion spawned by Edmonton's triple-overtime win over Calgary the night before.

In a development that was less than shocking, the panelists on the show, including ESPN's Woody Paige and Michael Smith, Chicago sports hack Jay Mariotti, and Dallas writer Tim Cowlishaw, almost unanimously ripped or made fun of hockey. Paige and Smith tried to act like hockey was cool, only to back down immediately when Reali tried to quiz them on the Oilers-Sharks game. Cowlishaw stood up for the game, and then Mariotti made an idiotic argument (something he's good at) about how playoff games should go to shootouts after two overtimes.

What's funny about this is that Mariotti has covered the baseball scene in Chicago for many years, and he has probably sat through more than one endless extra-inning baseball game. Maybe Mariotti would have advocated a home-run derby to decide Game 3 of last year's World Series, which the White Sox won in 14 innings. That game lasted five hours and 41 minutes. Wednesday's Edmonton-San Jose game lasted about four and a half hours. Don't you hate it, Mariotti, when facts stand in the way of your mindless drivel?

Congrats to Buffalo and Carolina. As reported in this blog last month, Buffalo and Carolina are heading to the Eastern Conference Finals. That's right, your sometimes-humble sports correspondent nailed the East playoffs up to this point. I'm perfect, having successfully predicted the outcomes of each of the first six series played.

The West playoffs? Well, we'll just conveniently forget that any predictions were made on those series. Yikes.

OMG PUJOLS!!! I still don't know why anyone would pitch to Pujols at this point, but that's exactly the point. At least in a few cases to this point, teams aren't really pitching to Pujols, and he's hitting the ball a mile anyway. Unlike Barry Bonds, who has never really been great at hitting bad pitches a country mile, Pujols can take a bad pitch and hit it forever. That makes it tough to pitch around Pujols without officially issuing him an intentional walk, something that is usually not a good idea. Pujols already has 19 home runs this season, and he's on pace for something in the general vicinity of 80. The Cardinals play San Francisco September 15-17, and wouldn't it be great if Pujols had a chance to tie or pass Bonds' single-season record of 73 that weekend? I know it's a bit early in the season even for Pujols' pace at this point, but it would be great theater. I wonder if MLB would "celebrate" the breaking of that record. I'm guessing that Bud Selig would try to recreate the scene around Henry Aaron's 715 home run by running side-by-side with Pujols around the bases after the record-breaking home run.

College softball. The hidden gem of late spring sports television, the NCAA Softball Tournament starts this weekend with regional play.

Why is it such a hidden gem? Well, Cat Osterman is one reason why. Figure it out.

I'm not so terribly interested in the matchups or who is good. Just show me more Cat.

(Actually, I can tell you that Osterman's Texas Longhorns are really good. UCLA is the top national seed. They lost to Michigan in last year's championship series. Michigan is seeded ninth overall. The Women's College World Series starts June 1 in Oklahoma City.)

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