Some random thoughts from the past week:
— Last Friday night, I was watching highlights on the MLB Network, waiting for the Dodgers-Cubs to start.
The prized clip was a rarity in baseball… a turnaround as the Reds beat the Rays, 2-1.
But what caught my attention was the player who scored the point, Mark Kolosvary.
“Wait a second,” I thought, “that’s the University of Florida wide receiver who helped the Olean Oilers reach that 39-7 regular season record and a playoff sweep en route to the 2016 New York Collegiate Baseball League title.
Indeed, Kolosvary became the first Oiler to qualify for the major leagues when Cincinnati called him up last season.
What amused me was that Friday night Kolosvary was a pinch runner, starting the 10th inning at second base under MLB extra inning rules. And while he had the “good speed for a receiver” cliche, it wasn’t necessary as the denial gave him a bye after being dropped to third.
But this episode brought to mind my favorite baseball story.
In 1963, the Mets, led by the iconic Casey Stengel, were in their second year of existence. They traded for a receiver named Jesse Gonder, who played for the Yankees among other teams.
His reputation was that of a solid hitter with unusual speed for his position, but defensively substandard.
A reporter once asked Casey about Gonder’s unique speed and he replied in his deadpan style, “Yeah, he’s the fastest receiver I’ve ever seen chasing after a passed ball.”
— Lately, it occurred to me that a love affair with a sport had been missing for years.
There was a time when, after racquetball, tennis was my favorite participatory sport.
In the late 70s and early 80s, the place our family rented in Maine coincided with the men’s and women’s Wimbledon finals. The cottage didn’t have a TV, so on the Saturday and Sunday of the finals, I biked to downtown York Beach, found an open restaurant with a deserted bar, turned on his TV, and watched the championship games. of Wimbledon.
For me, it was must-have television.
In recent years I’ve seen a few points, but not enough to match a single full game.
Obviously, tennis has been losing popularity for several decades. There’s a reason NBC stopped live coverage in 2011 and ABC only resumed it this year. In between, ESPN carried the water from Wimbledon and still carries most games.
Back when I was a fan, talented Americans were among the sport’s elite – Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe, Chris Evert and naturalized Martina Navratilova from Czechoslovakia – all of them not only had tremendous skills, but also great charismatic personalities.
Tennis these days is full of cookie-cutter players, including those from the United States, who have impressive abilities but don’t move the call-o-meter much.
It’s a reality that men’s golf faces. There are no Arnold Palmers or Lee Trevinos and not enough John Dalys and Tiger Woods that we love, or love to hate, ringing the ratings bell. There is so much money at stake, the cost is the loss of the true personality of the PGA and ultimately the affection fans have for the game.
— Speaking From a dying “sport” – a word its detractors wouldn’t agree with – greyhound racing is all but dead.
It was introduced to me about 40 years ago in Maine as there was a track near Seabrook, NH and I became a weekly regular until it was banned from virtually every facility in the New England in 2008.
Still, whenever the Bills played in Miami, Tampa, or Jacksonville, I would look for the nearest track the day before the game. However, the last of twelve facilities in Florida closed two years ago and at the end of this year one track in Arkansas will close, meaning 45 of the 47 US facilities will be closed.
I know the arguments, the concern about abused or drugged greyhounds, and in all honesty most of the closures have been the result of voter mandates.
Yet, as a dog lover, I choose to take the myopic – some would say hypocritical – view and prefer to believe that doesn’t happen often.
These days, there are only two greyhound tracks left, both in West Virginia, Wheeling Downs, which I visit when the Bills travel to Pittsburgh, and Mardi Gras, just outside of Charleston.
Several years ago Seabrook added simulcasts of Wheeling and Mardi Gras and, I admit, once a week in Maine I go there to “bet on the dogs”, my myopia firmly in square.
But every now and then I get a break.
On Friday night at Buffalo Raceway, in race three, a trotter named Hard Handed Hannah broke a hind leg before the stretch run and was euthanized.
It was a sad reminder that whenever animals are in the race there is a risk.