Thursday, August 15, 2013

Will's Choice

If you factor out anything to do with lacrosse or the Giants in the Super Bowl, then TigerBlog would be willing to say that the World Cup is his favorite sporting event in the world.

He gets that it's not an annual event, though the drawn-out drama of the qualifying rounds makes it pretty close. Either way, he loves the World Cup.

Looking ahead, he's rooting for these five countries to make it - Egypt, Costa Rica, Ireland, Israel and the United States. It's possible all five will, though TB doubts it.

Should Egypt qualify - and the team has advanced through two rounds to the final home-and-home play-in in October and November - it would be one of the most amazing stories sports has seen in a long time, what with the complete upheaval in the country combined with the steady hand of American (and Princetonian) Bob Bradley as the head coach, one who has had to guide his team through not one but two violent revolutions.

Why Ireland? TB was there once and liked it. And because the Irish were hosed last time by a goal that never should have counted (due to a blatant hand ball) in the final qualifier, against a French team that completely tanked in the actual World Cup with a performance that is among the most disgraceful in the event's history.

Brazil, as the host country, already has a spot. So does Japan, Iran, South Korea and Australia. A total of 112 nations have been mathematically eliminated, with 87 countries still playing off for 27 remaining spots. 

The entire 2014 World Cup field will be decided within the next three months, which is very exciting. Then there will be the draw, followed by a proclamation that whatever group the U.S. would be in would be the "Group of Death."

The 2014 World Cup starts next June 12, and the championship game will be July 13.

At the complete opposite end of the spectrum is TB's least favorite sporting event, which happens to begin today. The Little League World Series.

Most sporting events that TB doesn't like he simply ignores. They don't anger him.

The Little League World Series angers him. Not the concept itself. Well, maybe the concept itself. But definitely the overkill of it all.

These are 12-year-olds. They shouldn't be experiencing the highlight of their entire lives at this age. And they shouldn't be glorified the way they are by TV. They're too young to handle it.

And just leave it at that.

While we're on the subject of baseball, TigerBlog saw the movie "Trouble With The Curve" the other day and liked it more than he thought he would. It's cute, and it has some smarter-than-normal-sports-movie moments to it, especially the part where Gentry rips a curveball over the fence in his last high school at-bat.

Don't worry. If you didn't see the movie yet, that doesn't ruin anything for you. It's just that in any other sports movie, he would have struck out. In this one, the point is made even better with the home run.

And then there's the continuing saga of A-Rod, who is actually being defended by some people on sports talk radio, both on-air hosts and caller. How can anyone defend him?

He's being singled out more than the others, is how it goes. Gee, could it be because he is more of an offender than they are?

The interesting side of the whole PED situation is that nobody is above suspicion anymore. Would it shock you to find out anybody at all in baseball was juiced or was juicing? No. Derek Jeter? Cal Ripkin? Mariano Rivera? Who knows for sure, right?

Jack Clark was fired from his radio job for suggesting that he had information from a trainer from 13 years ago that Albert Pujols was using steroids. If that story turned out to be true, would you be shocked?

And then there's the position of those who aren't juicing, or at least the assumption can be made that they aren't. People like Princeton alum Will Venable, the Padres' outfielder. Here's part of what he had to say to the AP about the situation:

"My personal opinion is that the penalties need to get back to the contracts. I believe that if you cross over and decide that you are going to use the banned substance, you also should forfeit the support of the players' association."

Read more here:

It's not easy for clean players, especially those from teams who have someone who has been suspended, like the Padres do. What are they supposed to say?

Look at Venable. He's established himself as a legitimate Major Leaguer. He has a career-best OPS of .779, as well as a career-best 15 home runs with six weeks left to the season. He figures to make a run at topping his career-high of 51 RBIs (he has 39 now), and his .257 average is more than respectable, especially considering what a great defensive outfielder he is.

For this he is making $2.68 million, which is an unfathomable amount to most people but a below average amount in the Major Leagues.

Now ask yourself this question - What if Venable had decided to take steroids, and the result was that his numbers went up? As did his earnings.

So many other people in the sport made that decision, and so many of them profited way more than Venable has.

This is the dilemma of being a Major League baseball player for the last, well, longer than it should be.

Maybe the game is being cleaned up. Maybe it isn't.

The position that players like Venable have been thrown into is an awful one. There are health risks. The risk of having one's entire career summed up in the word "cheater."

But there's the upside of more money than most players even could ever imagine.

It's not hard to see why so many of them went the steroid route, especially when for years the game turned away from it.

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