Sports Commentary 2/28
Scott looks back at the week that was while he was away on vacation..
Some weeks away are more eventful than others. It’s hard to imagine being away for more signifant moments in the sports world than the week that was last week. The long anticipated NCAA sanctions against the UConn men’s basketball program for the violations during the recruiting of Nate Miles were released. While coach Jim Calhoun and athletic director Jeff Hathaway felt the sanctions, which included, but went beyond, self imposed institutional sanctions, were excessive, president Philip Austin said the university accepts and will comply with the NCAA’s ruling. One thing is clear about the sanctions. With no NCAA tournament ban the majority of the responsibility was laid at Calhoun’s door with his suspension from coaching the first three Big East games next season while losing three scholarships over the next three years. The NCAA did not accept the report from the university that sought to insulate Calhoun from any responsibility. Tiger Woods took another turn on the road to golf irrelevency last week when, playing as the number one seed in the Sam Snead bracket, he fell to the sixteenth seeded player in the opening round of the World Golf Championships Accenture Match Play Championship. There was a time when Tiger owned the World Golf Championship events, particularly the match play format. Where, under the previous two year accumulated scoring, Tiger had a lock on the worlds number one ranking, under the new system it’s become a revolving door. This week it belongs to Martin Kaymer, another of the young golf lions who haven’t learned to fear Tiger. It occurs to me, after spending some of my vacation finishing Jane Peavey’s remarkable “The Last Boy”, that the two best sports biographies I’ve read were both about male athletes, written by women. Peavey’s no holds barred look at the life of Mickey Mantle, which I ironically finished on the day Duke Snider passed, including a very painful journey through his last few months and days, is easily the best read of the year so far. It stands alongside Laura Hillenbrand’s “Seabiscuit” as the most engrossing reads of their kind. And then there was one. “Willie, Mickey and The Duke”, around whom the Capitol of Baseball was built in the 1950’s, the great center fielders of the Giants, Yankees and Dodgers, the iconic center pieces for the fans of each team around whom the argument continues to rage, “Who was better?” On his return from banishment to the New York Baseball Writers Dinner, with Willie and The Duke both in attendance, Mickey himself eloquently answered the question when he stood at the podium, acknowleged the other two and said publicly to his good friend Snider, “I don’t think we mind being number two, do we Duke?” The “Duke of Flatbush” was eighty four years old when he passed. He left a lifetime of baseball memories that today’s generation of fans could never understand enough to fully appreciate. And the UConn women are back where they belong. Clearing the cobwebs as I return to the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.