Pitching against time
Over the weekend we watched "For Love of the Game" and Vin Sculley's magnificent lead-up to the final inning — "You know Steve, you get the feeling that Billy Chapel is pitching against left-handers, he isn't pitching against pinch hitters, he isn't even pitching against the Yankees He's pitching against time." — made me think of a different spin on this sports stoppage due to the Corona.
We all know Father Time is undefeated — no matter how long Tom Brady continues to push the sun back into the sky for one final, warm day of summer.
Well, for the two biggest sports megastars of this generation, the delays and potential cancellations of the games because of the Corona are magnified.
Tiger Woods will be 45 on December 30 of this year. LeBron James will be 36 on the same day.
Tiger won the Masters last year. If healthy, he will be among the betting favorites at Augusta National for the next several years. (Hey, Freddie Couples has been an annual contender there, even with his balky back well into his 40s and beyond.)
LeBron and the Lakers were really starting to click before the NBA was the first league to suspend play because of the health concerns our country faces.
Think of what is at stake for both of those cats. Tiger is sitting on 15 major championships, three back of Jack Nicklaus. Lots of folks think Tiger is the GOAT, but the "Who has more majors" card is always hovering.
A fourth title — with a third team mind you — for LeBron would be a major addition to his résumé. Not sure some folks will ever listen to a LeBron over MJ discussion, but another ring or two in L.A. and that discussion gets a lot more even. (That said, the fact that LeBron is on track to be the all-time leading scorer in league history and top-five in assists is dang impressive.)
So yes, the games at some point will come back.
But time can never be reclaimed.
(Side note: Speaking of Vin Sculley — a national treasure by my measure — here's the erstwhile voice of the Dodgers quoting the famous Terence Mann speech from Field of Dreams we referenced Wednesday. Yes, it was supposed to be Opening Day. This is a couple of minutes with highlights — Gibson's '88 homer, Bush pumping a strike at Yankee Stadium after 9/11, Fisk waving his Game 6 homer inside the foul pole, et al. — with Sculley's pure tones that is worth your time.)
Happy birthday March Madness
For the regulars around here, we normally keep the "On this day" section into the question section at the bottom. And we will look at some of those a little later in today's show.
But this one is too big.
On this day in 1979, Bird-and-Magic met in the NCAA title game.
Think about the power of that rivalry for just a second.
It represented the birth of the NCAA tournament for the masses. Before that the NCAA tournament was a regional passion that was divided among the Blue Bloods in Carolina and the Commonwealth and the superpowers in Lawrence and Los Angeles.
Larry Bird at Indiana State and Earvin "Magic" Johnson at Michigan State captured the eye of the country and embodied the "anyone can win this thing" truth that is the field of 64 and a one-and-done tournament.
The Bird-Magic pairing also revived the NBA when they entered the league the following season.
Before those dudes got to the NBA, it was commonplace for Finals games to be shown on CBS on tape delay after the evening news. The league was a distant third among the big three in this country.
But Bird in Boston and Magic in L.A. redirected the path of the entire sport.
Yes, it was supposed to be Opening Day. Sigh. We discussed some of that yesterday.
According to this report, MLB and the players are hoping to be back in action in June. That may be optimistic, but who knows.
There are more than a few discussions about pushing the season back into the late fall. Heck there are talks out there of playing into December. (Granted those ideas were started by Scott Boras, the super agent who gets a percentage of his many baseball clients' nine-figure salaries. And those salaries are paid on a per game basis, so yeah, he wants as many games as possible.)
The one thing that is certain is that almost every season is going to be surreal, whether it's the NBA Finals in late July (or even into August) or the World Series ending on Thanksgiving. And it seems almost certain that when the games return, the first week (or more) will be played without fans.
A couple of ideas that make a lot of sense for baseball — beyond what we kicked around Wednesday, which — are playing longer series of four- five- or even six-game sets and extended time at the spring training facilities. (And as we noted Wednesday, the possibility of seven-inning games is definitely being discussed, according to commissioner Rob Manfred, who joined Scott Van Pelt on SportsCenter last night.)
Since there are no fans, put the teams in their spring training sites and play as many games as possible. That would help on travel in a big way too.
Happy Opening Day everyone. Lord knows it's one we'll never forget.
This and that
— As expected, TFP sports editor and the best high school sports reporter I've ever known Stephen Hargis has the update on the TSSAA's wait-and-hope approach about the state basketball tournament and the spring sports championships.
— Speaking of the Bird-Magic title game, that started a six-year run that really put the Madness in March. There was Bird-Magic in '79, followed by Louisville over UCLA in 1980, Indiana and Isiah Thomas the following year, Jordan's jumper over Georgetown, the NC State miracle run that introduced the country to Jimmy V, Georgetown's win in 1984 and its stunning loss to Villanova in '85. Wow. Yes, brackets have made March Madness a national craze, but that six-year run was amazing.
— Mike Trout lit the interwebs on fire earlier this year with a drive at a TopGolf that still has not landed. Well, his short game is on time too. Here's Trout hitting a lob wedge over the rail and into a Solo cup. The Lord has blessed Trout with some otherworldly athletic gifts friends.
— Wow, this is kind of eye-popping, if you ask me. The National Public Radio station in Seattle has announced it will no longer carry President Trump's briefings on the Corona because of "misinformation." Again, wow.
— We had Pat Kondelis, the producer of "The Scheme" — an HBO documentary on the FBI investigation into college hoops that will play some of the tapes of Will Wade and Sean Miller — on Press Row on Wednesday. Here's the podcast.
— Speaking of the Corona, man, some people need a good ol' fashioned walk to the woodshed. A Pennsylvania woman purposefully coughed on the fresh produce and in areas of the meat case and the bakery in a faux-Corona prank. The result was the grocery store having to throw away all of the items in those areas at a loss of about $35,000.
— Here's today's A2 column praising the Hamilton County Commission and county mayor Jim Coppinger for partnering with Baylor School to provide more tests and get the results much more quickly for the Corona.
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As for today, other than Bird and Magic taking center stage at the 1979 title game, let's review.
Some powerhouse birthdays today. Robert Frost would have been 146. Tennessee Williams would have been 109. Leonard Nimoy — aka Dr. Spock from Star Trek — would have been 89. Nancy Pelosi is 80 today. Keira Knightley is 35. Man, that Pirates of the Caribbean is excellent and holds up very well.
We're not done.
Singers: Diana Ross is 76, Steven Tyler is 72, and Kenny Chesney is 52.
Actors: Jennifer Grey is 60, and Martin Short is 70. James Caan is 80.
On this day in 1982, Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder released "Ebony & Ivory," so there's that.
Rushmore of superstar duets. Go.