Can’t help but notice how good are local team has been playing as of late. As of the end of play Tuesday night past, the Rays are 51-44, two games behind Boston for the lead in the AL East, and would get the first of two wildcard spots if the season ended there. 

Notice that I’m not using the right letter word beginning with P just yet. There are 67 games left in the regular season, so a lot can and probably will happen. 

The one thing I’m noticing that has me optimistic is this team is gaining confidence, especially since taking three out of four from the Red Sox recently. Belief is important when the best teams lose 60 times a year. 

Hoping there’s something good ahead, but we baseball fans are a superstitious bunch. Let’s not get overhyped. 

Offshoots And Variations 

The Home Run Derby. 

Big 3 basketball. 

Skills competitions at All Star Games of various sports. 

Can’t say I care for any of them, because they are offshoots of bigger sports. Though I admit women playing beach volleyball has appeal to me, maybe for the wrong reasons. There is a big tournament held every year over in the Lutz area north of Tampa, held by naked teams of six at a nudist colony. Never had the desire to see it. 

Miniature golf has always interested me, but it’s rarely played on TV professionally these days, and when it is, it’s not for a lot of money. 

Rhythmic gymnastics during the Olympics? Don’t get it. 

I do enjoy seven on seven rugby as a variant to the two disciplines of rugby, Rugby League and Rugby Union. 

The CFL is not really what I’d consider a complete offshoot of American football, as each game evolved differently from rugby. 

I’ve seen 20/20 cricket and one day cricket before. Each beat test cricket that goes on for days. 

Video gaming played competitively is an offshoot of itself. I imagine the games will keep changing. 

Online poker used to be a thing here until the government intervened. I don’t see them disengaging that anytime soon. 

I guess the big games get boring, so smaller big games will always be around. 

The First Breakfast

I’m sitting here behind the computer on a Tuesday morning coordinating a few things. On my left, I have ESPN on, and they have a Venus Williams match on from Wimbledon, against some Russian lady I don’t know who goes “Whoop!” every time she serves. As I typed this article, Williams won her match and moved into the semifinal round of the ladies tournament.

I’m old enough (46 years old on September 6th) to remember a time when Wimbledon wasn’t aired live in the United States at all, but tape delayed. This was done mainly for two reasons, one being that there was a five hour time difference between the eastern US and the UK. Secondly, ESPN didn’t start up until September of 1979, so if you wanted to see sports, you saw them when the networks wanted you to see them. Very few events were carried “live via satellite” from other parts of the world because it was a relatively new technology, and probably had a bit of a price tag to it in terms of cost.

The seven year old version of myself was probably expecting to see an array of cartoons on the Saturday morning of July 7th, 1979. Instead, my Dad told me that we’d be watching the men’s championship match of Wimbledon starting at 9:00 that morning on Channel 8, our NBC station here in Tampa Bay. Bjorn Borg, the reigning king of tennis from Sweden, outlasted Roscoe Tanner in five sets to take his fourth straight title that day.

I sure I asked my Dad why they were planning so early, and that he explained to me the whole thing about time zones, which probably lit a few cartoonized light bulbs in my head. Funny what you learn when you learn other things.

The Old Guy With The Semi-Afro

Binion’s Horseshoe in Las Vegas.
The last time I was in Las Vegas was sometime in April of 2000. I had to Greyhound it back to Charlotte, North Carolina, and settled up where I had lived downtown with a few hours to spare.

I walked around the downtown casinos, mainly because I didn’t know if and when I’d head back again. I made a point to stop inside Binion’s Horseshoe casino, because I had just missed the start of the World Series of Poker by a few days.

Mind you, this was a few years before the series of tournaments they hold each year was immortalized by ESPN and the “poker boom” that came with it. I stood and watched the action from the rail for a few minutes, and noticed this older gentlemen with a bit of hair on him. It almost looked like the Afro hairstyle that was so popular in the 70’s.

Heading east, I wondered to myself, “Who the heck wears his hair like that?!?”

Fast forward a few years. I’m back in my home area of Tampa Bay, and ESPN is airing the World Series of Poker that Chris Moneymaker won. One episode introduced most sports fans to the successful but enigmatic Phil Hellmuth, but I recognized one of the men at the table who had the semi-Afro at Binion’s.

It was T.J. Cloutier, who not only was a top tournament player, but an author of a poker book or two in his day. At one time, he held the all-time record for the most tournaments win on the poker circuit, but I’d have to think someone has that eclipsed by now.

It was one of those “if I knew then what I know now” moments in my life, and I have my share of those.

Money Making More Money

MMA champion Conor McGregor.

Over the years, I have enjoyed watching prizefighting. I guess my Dad, who was quite a fight fan, taught me to love it.  The Rocky movies helped that out too, I guess. But this proposed piece of prizefighting between Floyd “Money” Mayweather and Conor McGregor, I can’t help but think that this is a scam of the highest order.

As I’m sure many of you sports fans of a younger age than me know, McGregor is not a boxer by training, but an MMA fighter. If I understand the rules of the bout correctly, the fight will not be under MMA rules, but the normal rules for boxing in Nevada, with the fight taking place in some Las Vegas venue to be determined in late August.

It’s a one of a kind fight, sure. But taking an MMA fighter and turning him into a boxer is kind of like turning a chess grandmaster and teaching him checkers. Apples and oranges. Mayweather is one of the great fighters in this era where boxing has become a forgotten and ancient science, thanks in part to the UFC and other MMA circuits like it.

If Conor wins, I’ll be the first to admit I was wrong. But even at 40, I don’t see how Mayweather loses, unless he slips and busts his head.

Let’s See Three

I can remember the day I did this, only because I heard someone threw a no-hitter (Matt Young) and lost: April 12, 1992. On that day, I went to see three Florida State League games in one day.

Before we had the Devil Rays, and later the Rays, if you wanted to see baseball in the Tampa Bay area, you went to see minor league games. Several cities in my area had teams back then: Clearwater, Dunedin, St. Petersburg, Tampa, Lakeland, and Sarasota. St. Petersburg would lose their team when the Devil Rays came to be, but all of the other teams are still around, hoping you can catch some FSL ball.

I drove from my home in Largo to catch a 2pm Clearwater Phillies game, as they played the Osceola Astros. From there, I drove down US 19 (long before it became the highway without traffic lights it is now down to Pinellas Park), hung a left on Central Avenue and entered Al Lang Field to watch a St. Pete Cardinals doubleheader with the Charlotte Rangers that began at 5pm, making it there about 5:30pm.

In minor league baseball, doubleheader games only go seven innings. The first Rangers-Cards game goes the distance, but the second game would go on and on into the night, tied after inning after inning, but I stayed and watch the game to it’s finish.

In the FSL, they used the designated hitter the American League uses, so pitchers don’t usually hit. But, the DH can go into the field and play a position, but in doing so, a team loses the “privilege” of having a designated hitter and the pitcher has to bat. This would happen to the Cardinals as the attrition of an extra-inning game takes its toll around the 14th or 15th inning or so.

The game would go 16 innings before the Cards finally won it. For hanging in there and watching the game conclude, the Cardinals handed me tickets to an upcoming game. Work would keep me from going to that game, so I gave the tickets to my mother who worked at Largo Medical Center. I’d figure she’d give the tickets to someone deserving of them.

By the time I made it home, it was almost 1am in the morning. Needless to say, I never tried to go see three games again.

Twin Bill

In a couple of days, Tampa Bay and Oakland’s baseball teams play two games against each other in the same day. 

Two things make this doubleheader unusual. One, the games will take place back to back, with a half hour break between the games. These days, doubleheaders are usually played with a game in the early afternoon and a game at night, so that teams can charge separate admissions for each game. 

The other unusual part of this attraction Saturday is that this was a scheduled doubleheader, not something done for inclement weather. Plus, this is only the second such event at Tropicana Field, because usually domed stadiums prevent weather from interfering with the game. 

It’ll be interesting how well this regularly scheduled doubleheader draws. Tropicana usually holds 30,000 for baseball, though it can 40,000 if there is demand for it. If it draws well, maybe this becomes a yearly attraction.