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HODGEPODGE, CATCH-ALL, GRAB BAG….TAKE YOUR PICK by the Sports Philosopher

September 5, 2010
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      Here’s a couple of recent chat-worthy items from the Sports Philosopher grab bag….

      I woke up the other day, flipped on ESPN2, and Skip Bayless—a relatively famous sports journalist—was busy doing what he does, debating another sort of famous media dude on sports issues near and dear to him on the ESPN2 talk show “First Take”.   In this case his colleague was Rob Parker, a somewhat lesser-known but admittedly successful ESPN sports “journalist”.   The morning’s hot topic was this: Who has been the bigger disappointment in his career, NFL quarterback Matt Leinart or tennis player Andy Roddick?

Life Lessons of a Harvard Reject

      At first I wasn’t paying attention.   I was groggy.   I’d been up late watching an old Greta Garbo/Charles Boyer movie from 1937 about Napoleon….which, now that I think about, should probably be the subject of my next column for my other LVO column, “UPON FURTHER REVIEW”, where I review movies nobody has ever heard of….we’ll see.

This is Andy Roddick’s wife---and we’re comparing him to Matt Leinart???

This is Andy Roddick’s wife---and we’re comparing him to Matt Leinart???

 

      Anyway I wasn’t paying attention at first, but then my sluggish brain finally activated itself and it hit me.   Andy Roddick vs. Matt Leinart?   Who’s the bigger disappointment?   Are they kidding???

      This is why a lot of people are down on sportswriters.  Including me.   The utter nonsense that comes out of their mouths (and pens) sometimes is truly hard to believe.   Matt Leinart has been a complete bust in the NFL.   Well, not so much a bust as a non-entity.   After winning a Heisman Trophy and a couple of national championships at USC, and signing a $51-million dollar contract with the Arizona Cardinals, naturally the expectations were high.   In 2006 the Cards made him the 10th pick in the whole draft.   When you go that high, and get that much dough, you are expected to be good.   Really good.

      Or at least you are expected to start.   Leinart soon lost his starting job to Kurt Warner, not once but twice.   Yes, I know Warner is a future Hall of Famer and one of the best quarterbacks ever, but when you are drafted high and paid like a junk bond executive, and the other quarterback is in his late 30s and has had several concussions, you are supposed to be the starter.   And now this pre-season, with Warner retired, Leinart has apparently lost his job again….to Derek Anderson, who was run out of Cleveland, of all places, because he was one of the worst quarterbacks in the league.

      In four NFL seasons Leinart has thrown barely 600 passes, has only 14 touchdowns, and has pissed off several coaches.   And he’s still not the starter.  

      Okay.   So WHY, then, why are these ESPN idiots comparing Leinart to tennis star Andy Roddick, as if they are cut from the same disappointing cloth???

      Is it because Roddick just lost his 2nd-round match at the U.S. Open to a nobody?   Big deal.   The best 100 tennis players in the world are all about the same in ability anyway, they are all really, really, really good.  Therefore, as a result, sometimes top-ten players lose to lower-ranked players.   That’s tennis.   But are we so much of an instant-analysis, bored-out-of-our-skulls, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately society that one of the best players in his sport has an off day and is instantly relegated to being compared to Matt Leinart???

      Now let’s take a quick look at Andy Roddick.   In all of professional tennis, Roddick is currently ranked #9 in the world.   He is therefore the 9th best performer in the world at what he does for a living.   If you were to stand on a street corner and yell out the name the 500 greatest current NFL football players in order of ability and accomplishment, by #500 you still would not have bellowed Leinart’s name.   Conversely, Roddick has been ranked in the top-10 in the world of tennis continuously since 2002.   Only Roger Federer, maybe the greatest player of all time, can also make that claim.   Roddick has also made it to the Wimbledon finals an astounding three times, losing to Federer each time; twice narrowly.   Now if Federer isn’t the greatest player of all time, he is at least, most assuredly, the greatest and most successful grass court player of all time.   Are we going to start comparing tennis players to Matt Leinart if they lose to Roger Federer on grass in the Wimbledon finals?   Is that how far the excellence quotient of the Human Race has fallen???

      In 2003 Roddick reached the pinnacle of his sport, won the U.S. Open, and made it all the way to Number One in the world by the end of the year, Numero Uno baby, before he and everyone else fell into line behind Federer (and then Rafael Nadal) for the rest of the decade.   But Roddick has still managed to stay in the top 10 all this time.         

      And “journalists” are comparing him to Matt Leinart?   Matt Leinart???

      What’s next, America?   Asking who is the biggest disappointment, George Washington or George Bush?   Homer the Greek poet or Homer Simpson?

      I think maybe some tennis pundits are disappointed that Roddick hasn’t been able to become the next transcendent American player, thereby following immediately in the huge, unfillable footsteps of Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras.   So what?   Just because he’s not as good as Sampras and Agassi we resort to comparing him with Matt Leinart?   As if this proves Roddick’s career has been a disappointment?

      By the way, in one way Roddick is Number One not only now but of all time.   The speed of his powerful serve.   He once served a tennis ball at 155 miles per hour.   That’s the fastest tennis ball ever put into play.   That same year, 2004, he hit a serve 152 mph at the U.S. Open, the fastest serve ever struck in a Grand Slam tournament.

      Personally I think he should fire a 155 mph serve at Skip Bayless’ head.   We’d both probably feel better.

      Speaking of balls moving quickly through the air….

      ….Let’s reach back into the grab bag and talk a little baseball.   Because there’s a kid throwing hard cheese in Cincinnati you should probably be made aware of.   His name is Aroldis Chapman.  He’s only 22 years old, and is a relief pitcher for the Reds.   As of this writing he has only appeared in three major league games in his life.   Three.

      So what is so special about Aroldis Chapman? — other than being the only person I’ve ever heard of named Aroldis?

      Well, how about being able to propel a 6-ounce baseball 104 miles an hour.

      Yes, that’s what he did.

      Yes, that’s the fastest pitched ball ever recorded.

      His first big-league pitch was 98 miles an hour, and he was throwing 103 by the end of the game, and then, the next night, he hit 104 on the jugs gun.   Twice.   They call that a “radio” fastball, folks.   You can hear it, but you can’t see it.

      The previous fastest pitched ball ever indisputably recorded by Mankind was thrown by former major leaguer Mark Wohlers.   Wohlers hit 103 mph on the gun.   Now I’m not saying that no one has ever thrown faster than 103.   This kind of radar-based, “jugs-gun” technology is pretty new.   For all we know, legendary fastballers from a hundred years ago like the great Walter Johnson (the “Big Train”) and the lesser-known but almost-as-fast Amos Rusie (the “Hoosier Thunderbolt”) might have thrown 110 miles an hour.   We’ll never know.   Be we do know that Mark Wohlers had been the fastest ever actually recorded and measured, until now.   This is the same Mark Wohlers, by the way, who almost singlehandedly blew the 1996 World Series for the Atlanta Braves.   And then he forgot how to throw a strike and was soon washed up.   Just ask my Braves-loving brother Jeff about it, if you want to hear a story told in so depressing a way that you will want to immediately kill yourself.   So pitching a ball really fast doesn’t guarantee success at the big-league level.

      But it sure is fun.   So far big league hitters are having a hard time solving the left-handed Chapman, and he has been nearly unhittable.   And it’s sure fun to watch the lanky, reed-thin, 6-foot-4-inch lad do his stuff on SportsCenter.

      Chapman is a really good story in another way, too.   He’s a defector.   A Cuban defector.   I love Cuban defectors.   Makes me proud to be an American.   Actually he first tried to defect back in 2008 and failed, prompting Cuban president Raul Castro (brother of Fidel) to ban him from competing in the 2008 Olympics.   But Chapman got his revenge the very next year, when in July of 2009 he defected while playing in a tournament for Cuba in Rotterdam, Netherlands.   ‘Just walked casually out of his hotel and right into a waiting car, and sped off to freedom.   That’s as cool as any cloak and dagger espionage Movie-Of-The-Week I ever heard of, how about you?   And this guy must really hate Communism and really love his freedom; he left behind his mother, father, two sisters, his girlfriend, and even their newborn baby for Rusie’s sake!   Yeah, he must really love his freedom, all right….or maybe he loves the $30-million-dollar contract the Reds gave him.   I’m not sure which.   And I don’t wanna know….

      But he’s obviously a story worth following.   Maybe the brothers Castro will send over a crack team of baseball-loving covert operatives and try to kidnap him back.   Stay tuned.

meet….The Sports Philosopher!image0021

Brad Eastland is an author, historian, film buff, undiscovered fictioneer, and scourge of dumb sportswriters everywhere — in no particular order.   Brad’s other recent columns for LaVerneOnline can be found in Sports under ‘The Sports Philosopher’ and also in Viewpoint under ‘Brad Eastland’s View’.    Brad has also written 4 novels and over 20 short-stories.    Samples of his best fiction work can be discovered within the mysterious links below:
 
http://www.bosonbooks.com/boson/fiction/gamble/gamble.html
http://www.bosonbooks.com/boson/fiction/basket/basket.html
http://www.bosonbooks.com/boson/freebies/freebies.html

 

 

 

 

One Response to “HODGEPODGE, CATCH-ALL, GRAB BAG….TAKE YOUR PICK by the Sports Philosopher”

  1. Great article Brad. I agree with you on comparing Roddick and Leinhart is crazy. Leinhart hasn’t done anything as a pro and I think he is lazy and just doesn’t work that hard. I don’t think his team looked at him like a leader.

    He made a ton of money and never really earned it. Roddick has been to the top and his match two years ago in the Wimbilton finals against Roger Federer was a classic!! No contest comparing the two.

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