Yes, I know it’s the Holidays. Christmas, New Years and all that and I hope it’s happy. Also, it’s not only the end of the year, but also the end of the Decade. But if you’re expecting anything Holiday or Fin de Year/Decade related, or a sad parade of Top 10 Lists, well, best prepare yourself to be disappointed. Or at least, dispense with those expectations entirely and then you won’t be disappointed at all, and might, when all is said and done be somewhat pleasently surprised, albeit vaguely.
Most likely, I will leave the Decade Stuff, the Best O’ The Year Stuff, to better, simpler minds. There is one GREAT Best of The Decade List I saw recently, and i highly recommend it. Ben Cohen has complied a Top 10 Best American Sports Writing Of The Decade. This is GREAT reading. Fabulous stuff. If I could write 1/10th as well these sportswriters…well…I’m begging the question. Onward.
While having a beer at the Grumpy Troll this afternoon, I got to wondering about when, exactly men’s basketball shorts stopped being short. There had to be a moment, or a descending series of moments when that occurred. What got me thinking about that was that I was watching the replay of last night’s Wisconsin vs. UW-Milwaukee basketball game, and UW-Milwaukee has this big galoot trudging around out there, 6’7″ 310 pound (yes, you read that right) James Eayrs, who looks more like one of those Eastern Europeans sumo-wrestlers. Anyway, those basketball shorts on him looked especially ridiculous….you could’ve used them to wrap up a Minneapolis-Moline Tractor as a Christmas present. If fact, he looked like a Minnneapolis-Moline tractor. So it made me wonder…when did this goofy trend start.
Doing a little digging, I re-discovered my memories of University of Michigan Fab 5 from the 1991-92 season. The Fab 5: Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Chris Webber, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson began the 1991-92 season as freshman finished the season by winning the NCAA Championship. They popularized and propelled the trend towards baggier and longer basketball shorts. When they first hit the courts in their long baggy shorts, and black shoes and socks…they were like nothing anyone had ever seen…and they played like nothing anyone had ever seen. Long and baggy became cool, and pretty soon College and then NBA players began adopting the new look. BUT…
The look didn’t start with the Fab 5 however. While I haven’t pinned this down to the exact moment…the actual origin of the look began with the Arkansas Razorbacks basketball team during the 1990-91 season. Back then, the Razorbacks were not nationally televised and though a pretty good team that made it to the Elite 8 that season under head coach Nolan Richardson, they weren’t poised on the brink, so to speak. They didn’t have the flair and the style that Michigan had the following year.
Early in the 1991 season, Michigan assistant coach Brian Dutcher noticed his players pulling their shorts down to their hips and wearing their jerseys untucked. Remembering seeing the Arkansas team wearing longer shorts the previous season, he ordered shorts for the Fab 5 to wear that were about 2 to 4 inches longer than average. Juwan Howard liked them, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Well…it really IS the end of the Noughties…and as much as it galls me to spit those words off my tongue, I guess there is no avoiding the reality of it. And a dreadful decade it was from a cultural, political, economic, social, emotional, ethical standpoint. If not for sports, the Noughts would have been even more a total miserable hell than it already was.
Sports survived it all. Even the Milwaukee Brewers were able to rise above by the end of the decade.
And speaking of the Brewers…
On the evening of the last day of innocence, September 10th, 2001, my wife Emily and I were at Miller Park in Milwaukee watching the St. Louis Cardinals trounce the Milwaukee Brewers 8-0. It made my wife, a Cardinals fan, very happy. Me? Grumble grumble grumble….
Watching Mark McGwire smash homeruns during batting practice, she decided to name our new dog, who we were to pick up from the breeder in about 7 or 8 weeks, McGwire….Mac for short. McGwire cranked a 2 run homer off of Brewer’s starter Jamey Wright in the 2nd inning. Wright was chased in the 4th inning as the Cards put six more on the scoreboard. Cardinals starter Darryl Kile pitched 6 shutout innings scattering 9 hits. Mike Matthews came on in the 7th and pitched 3 scoreless no hit innings to gain his first save of the season.
But the next morning, the 31,780 fans in attendance at Miller Park awoke to find a very different world. A world that was changed forever. I was driving in to work the morning after the game, and tuned in to Mike & Mike on ESPN radio and heard Mike Greenberg say “….in light of what has happened at the World Trade Center, we wont be doing our regular show…” And he mentioned a plane crashing into the World Trade Center and I immediate thought, well, a plane trying to land at LaGuardia or JFK had gotten off-course or had some dire problem. but it quickly became apparent that this was more than just some tragic plane crash. And in the span of a descending series of moments on Tuesday, September 11th 2001, the world was changed forever in an ugly and brutal and terrifying way.
The world stopped and was very silent for several days. But then, sports, baseball and the NFL, began in earnest…in some cases, like the first game at Yankee Stadium after 9/11, almost as an act of defiance. Sports brought us back to life, and normalcy….albeit a new and different sort of normalcy.
The first Major League Baseball game played after 9/11 was, ironically, in Canada at Stade Olympique between the Montreal Expos and the Florida Marlins. At 7:10 PM EDT, Expos starter Javier Vasquez fired a called strike to Marlin’s shortstop Luis Castillo, and America’s Pastime was back in business, albeit in Canada. And at 7:19 PM EDT baseball was back in business in America in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh when, perhaps simultaneously (I HOPE so), Philadelphia right-hander Robert Person tossed up a ball to Atlanta Braves 2nd baseman Marcus Giles and Pirates starter Todd Ritchie fired a called strike past New York Mets right-fielder Matt Lawton. Montreal blew a 6 run lead and lost 10-6. The Mets beat the Pirates 4-1 behind flawless picthing by Al Leiter. Philadelphia stole one from the Braves and their starter Greg Maddux, winning 5-2.
And yes, The Cardinals and the Brewers also resumed their series on September 17th 2001. At 7:29PM CDT Cardinals starter Bud Smith (yes, that Bud Smith…the one who ended 2001 with a 6-3 record and would go on to notch a 1-5 record in the 2002 season and disappear forever from the annals of major league baseball) fired a called strike past Brewers 3rd baseman Lou Collier (wtf?). Unlike their game on the last day of innocence, this one was a pitchers duel. Now the names of Ruben Quevedo and Bud Smith do not conjure up visions of a pitchers duel….they conjure up visions of dousing the pitchers mound and the infield with cans of gasoline and flicking those bluetip matches all over the ballpark. Smith got the better of Quevedo. The final score was St. Louis 2 Milwaukee 1. Grumble grumble grumble…
Sports survived and though the economic landscape of sports has been altered, the games go on. Baseball survived 9/11 and it survived the steroid scandal. Mark McGwire’s legacy has been tarnished, and even my wife has turned her back on him. But we go to the Cardinal/Brewers games and she wears her Cardinals gear and I wear my Brewers gear and as the decade wore on, she grumbled more after games and I’ve grumbled less.
But….we almost didn’t get Mac. After 9/11, Emily came very close to giving all the money she’d set aside for Mac to the Red Cross. The world had come to halt. The world was in mourning. The world had changed forever, and what is one dog to the entire world and the lives of the many who suffered terrible losses. But after thinking about it, Emily decided no…we would get Mac. Like the return of sports to America, and the millions of other almost desperate attempts to regain some normalcy, it was her way and our way of saying that the terrorists will not win…they will not take our souls and crush our spirits.
In November, Emily and I drove to Janesville to pick up Mac from the breeder. He’s wonderful little dog and has been through and survived a lot himself, including a debilitating and rare brain disease. The next year, we picked up his “sister” Mei from a breeder in Kewaskum. Without Mac and Mei, for Emily and me, this last decade would have been unbearably worse.
I need to amend what I said earlier.
If not for sports and dogs, the Noughts would have been even more a total miserable hell than it already was.
“Okay folks, listen up. I won my 4th Craftsman Truck Series Championship this season in the #33 Longhorn Smokeless Tobacco Chevrolet Silverado by being tough and persistent all season. I never gave up and neither did the best Anime shows of 2009. It was a year when Men were Men and Girls were Girls, and it was almost as great as my 4th Craftsman Truck Series Championship. Here are the top 9 Anime shows of 2009;”
- Eden of The East
- Seitokai no Ichizon
- A Certain Scientific Railgun
- Spice & Wolf II
- Hatsukoi Limited
Truth be told, Ron Hornaday called me up a few minutes ago and told me he’d come to my house and kick my ass if I didn’t do a top 9 Anime list like I did the last time he won the Craftsman Truck Series back in 2007. So there it is. I’ve kept my word. No top 10 list. And kudos to Ron Hornaday for being one of the elite drivers in NASCAR. Only 4 other drivers have won 4 championships in NASCAR…and as I mentioned before, he joins Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon, and Jimmie Johnson in hallowed company.
As previous mentioned, Danica Patrick WILL save NASCAR despite what Joe Menzer thinks. Danicamania is in full swing and it’s not all smoke and mirrors and godaddy.com videos. Danica means fuckin’ business and anyone who thinks otherwise is just kidding themselves. She’s rolling up her sleeves and getting after it like the talented professional that she is.
But I should point out that Danica Patrick is not the only IRL driver testing at Daytona for a run at stockcars. Away from the media frenzy of Danicamania….Danica’s fellow IRL driver,Venezuelan Milka Duno is also testing at Daytona for the ARCA Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 at Daytona on February 6th 2010. Milka Duno has been racing since 1996 when she finished 2nd in the Venezuelan GT Championship. She’s raced in several sportscar car series and won the Panoz GT Championship in 2000. She joined the American LeMans series in 2000 and in 2007 finished 2nd at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona with teamates Darren Manning, Ryan Dolziel and Patrick Carpentier. She passed her rookie qualifications for IRL in 2007. In the 2007 Indy 500 she crashed on lap 65 in turn 1. In 2008 and 2009 Indy 500’s she finished 19th and 20th respectively.
I’m pulling for her as well. And hope to see both her and Danica on the grid for the ARCA race in February. But I hope it doesn’t come down to THIS little bitch-fest:
A Typical Christmas Eve and Christmas in America
Well…I guess I’ll wrap this up. My little Christmas present for y’all. Something you can unwrap and read. Not quite like getting a book for Christmas, but in virtual sense, a little bit like it. I’ve tried not be didactic about the end of the year and the end of the decade. I’m not sure if I succeeded or not. But here it is. Time for me to play Santa and send this on its way.
I took the title of this from a P.D. James novel The Skull Beneath The Skin. In it, one of her characters, the dying theatre critic Ivo Whittingham describes the perfect sermon as having no possible relevance to anything but itself. Ministers take note and check yourselves.
Anyway, since I’m just about as sick of Christmas music by now as y’all are, here’s this:
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Me and Emily and Mac and Mei.