Well, it was a really rough year, but at least it was a good year for sports! Right? Right!!
Penn State fans are very excited to be going to the Rose Bowl next week. Watch out for the tear gas, kids!
Sportswriters and pundits are wrapping up 2016 by telling you that even though the year sucked, it was still a great year for sports.
The year that …
Muhammed Ali died.
Miami Marlins Pitcher Jose Fernandez, 24, was killed in a boating accident.
Donny Everett, 19, a Vanderbilt freshman pitcher, drowned the day before his team played its first game of the college post-season.
The run up to the Summer Olympics in Rio — zika, crime, cost overruns, polluted water, more crime — was like a car chase scene out of Mad Max.
Oh, and the entire Russian Olympic team was doping.
Last month, a hard-scrabble Brazilian soccer team was killed in a plane crash, when the plane ran out of fuel.
Concussions are still rising in the NFL and no one cares. Seventy-eight percent of fans recently said that the preponderance of concussions in football had no effect on their opinion of the game and four percent — I am absolutely serious – said they are watching MORE football because of the concussions.Embed from Getty Images
Former Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig was the best the “Today’s Game Era Committee” could come up with for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Of course, if “Today’s Game Era Committee” was the best name that the committee could come up with for themselves, I’m sure these guys are setting the bar pretty low. Selig, the man that whistled past the graveyard during the steroid era, was also the second-longest tenured in the Commissioner’s job. And, staying in the same job for a really long time, apparently, is all you need to get in the Hall of Fame these days.
(I hope this means the Hall of Fame is going to give a good look at Jamie Moyer, who pitched from 1986 to 2012, putting him at number six on the list of most seasons played. I have been waiting nearly five years to mention Jamie Moyer on here.)
And, after 67 years, legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully retired.Embed from Getty Images
Seriously? All that, and still, well, the sports year was better than everything else going on in the world.
I mean, 2016 had its sports moments.
The Baltimore Orioles played one game in the post-season, so I had a few hours of that.
In other momentous Orioles news this year, I enjoyed General Manager Dan Duquette when he admitted he wouldn’t sign Toronto Blue Jays free agent Jose Bautista because Baltimore fans didn’t like him. (I promise you, if Bautista wasn’t an elderly 36, Duquette wouldn’t have given a rat’s ass how the fans felt about him. And, just wait til Bautista is put on the “Sure I’ll sign for one year” bargain shelf in a couple weeks. You know that coupon-clipper Duquette will cock his head to the side, wrinkle his nose, and take another good, hard look. You just wait.)
Apparently, the Chicago Cubs World Series and LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers NBA victory are enough to wash away all of the badness and sadness of 2016.
Dear Cleveland Indian and Golden State Warrior fans, I know you had a rough year, finishing #2 and all. But, remember, the Baltimore Orioles 2016 post-season lasted exactly 3 hours and 25 minutes, and here it is December and O’s reliever Zach Britton (baseball’s AL Reliever of the Year) is still warmed up and waiting to get into the game.
Plus, finishing second isn’t that bad. It got Bud Selig into the Hall of Fame!
Before we settle on 2016 being such a great year in sports history, just because a bunch of Chicago Cubs fans are quite certain it was, I looked around …
New York Post sportswriter Mike Vaccaro wrote a book insisting the greatest year in sports was 1941. It was the year of Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Joe Lewis, and Whirlaway, so sure, you can get a book out of that kind of year.
In their December 1941 year-end review, The New York Times agreed that the year had been sportserific.
Of course, the front page of The New York Times that day does hint that there was something else much more important going on in the world.
And, that’s what it comes down to, people. Don’t fill up your newspaper columns and airtime this week with stories about this being a great year for sports, as though that will somehow make up for all the suckiness in the world.
I don’t think many people in Syria care about the Cubs, they just care about making it to tomorrow without being caught in the crossfire of a tragic civil war.
It’s hard being The Baseball Bloggess when there are many, many much more important things to write about than baseball. By “many, many much more important” I mean probably everything.
But, during dark times maybe there’s a role for a rodeo clown. And, maybe that’s what sports is for us … a distraction in our darkest times.
In January 1942, Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis (he’s the guy who served longer than Bud Selig), wrote to President Roosevelt and asked, “The time is approaching when, in ordinary conditions, our teams would be heading for spring training camps. However, inasmuch as these are not ordinary times, I venture to ask what you have in mind as to whether professional baseball should continue to operate.”
President Roosevelt wrote back the next day. The next day! He was fighting a war, but he still wrote right back. I find that absolutely amazing.
And, in what we today call “The Green Light Letter” here is what he said:
“ … [W]hat I am going to say is solely a personal and not an official point of view.
I honestly feel that it would be best for the country to keep baseball going. There will be fewer people unemployed and everybody will work longer hours and harder than ever before.
And that means that they ought to have a chance for recreation and for taking their minds off their work even more than before.
Baseball provides a recreation which does not last over two hours or two hours and a half, and which can be got for very little cost. And, incidentally, I hope that night games can be extended because it gives an opportunity to the day shift to see a game occasionally.”
He then emphasized that healthy men “of military age” should go into the service, but even if teams fielded older players, that would still make for good baseball.
“Here is another way of looking at it,” he concluded, “if 300 teams use 5,000 or 6,000 players, these players are a definite recreational asset to at least 20,000,000 of their fellow citizens – and that in my judgment is thoroughly worthwhile.”
(Before he even looks at this copy, I can tell you Editor/Husband is going to be very excited that President Roosevelt advocates for baseball that “does not last over two hours or two hours and a half.” EDITOR –“That is correct.”)
See President Roosevelt’s full letter here.Embed from Getty Images
President Roosevelt, Opening Day, 1940. In 1942, the press speculated that Roosevelt might toss out the first pitch on Opening Day in Washington, despite the war. He didn’t, as The Baltimore Sun explained: “President Roosevelt, due to the press of work and the war, gave way to Vice-President Wallace and the well-known ‘old boomerang thrower’ stupefied the crowd by tossing the horsehide all the way to second base …” To his credit, though, unlike most Presidents, Wallace stayed for the entire game.
So, yay, Chicago Cubs, you won the World Series … you broke the 108-year curse. You might have unleashed a Pandora’s Box of crazy when you did, but, hey, those things happen.
No World Series victory or happy sports story will make up for the pain and sadness and tragedy and disease and war that will show up at some point in each of our lives. Some days will be truly, truly awful.
Sports can’t fix stuff.
But, sometimes a little distraction from the awful – a little recreation — is about as good as it gets.
So, maybe 2016 wasn’t such a bad sports year after all. The Orioles went to the post-season, you know. And, they’re going to win the World Series.