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Saturday, July 2, 2011


Baseball at Yankee Stadium
 "And they'll walk out to the bleachers, and sit in shirt-sleeves on a perfect afternoon. They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they'll watch the game, and it'll be as if they'd dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick, they'll have to brush them away from their faces.

People will come, Ray.

The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It's been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again."

-- Field of Dreams

The NFL argues the merits of how to divide some $9 billion dollars and the merits of an 18-game season.  The NBA argues percentages of basketball related income and the fact the latest system of cost certainty brought about a pretty high cost for low living. The NHL tucked the coveted Stanley Cup at North Station in Boston and it has made its way to bars, restaurants and casinos throughout the northeast after the Boston Bruins defeated the Vancouver Canucks in an exciting seven-game series. The WNBA, while in its 15th year of existence, has yet to entertain the masses. And, in the USA, MLS and women's world cup soccer don't sratch much of the itch of sports lovers.

Breakfast at Wimbledon is pretty damn good, although Roger Federer decided to take the weekend off as Spain's Raf Nadal and Serbia's Novak Djokovic create their own page in tennis history while 2004 Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova of Russia and the Czech Republic's Petra Kvitova close-out a tournament where an American need not apply for a quarterfinal winner's share. All nice and good but the sport hasn't captured the average sportsfan since Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe battled it out in the '80s.

That leaves us with Baseball. Baseball on the 4th of July.

The crack of the bat, a hot dog and a cold beer, 90-mile an hour splitters slamming into a catcher's mitt as the umpire yells, 'Strike Three."  It doesn't get much better. The smell of freshly cut grass. the look of young children when they first see the landscaped field, young fans and old, alike, begging for autographs during the leisurely feel of batting practice.  It's so relaxing.

Yes, the winter sports have the intensity and pressures which include buzzer-beater jump shots and overtime defensive stances of pro and college basketball or the acrobatics of a hot goalkeeper stoning his opponent late into the third period of a 1-0 Stanley Cup final. There is no greater pressure in sport than the intensity faced by goaltenders in overtime of an NHL playoff game, unless you want to factor in the feelings of a gambler preparing for the feature race with five winners on a Pick 6 ticket at the Breeders' Cup. But, as the winter sports fade into the history books as spring turns to summer, Baseball becomes our pastime.

The 4th of July marks the halfway point of the major league season. Thus far, it's been a good one with surprising hot start by the Cleveland Indians to warrant a first-place ranking in the American League's Central Division, the annual battles of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox in the AL East and tight races throughout the league, as only the National League East has its third place team more than 6.5 games out. The playoff races look promising, but we'll wait until Labor Day before we pay too much attention the the Won-Loss columns.  It's the lazy days of July and we want to relax. We toss aside the Saturday paper, thin as a dollar bill, because its headlines tell us about nasty bankrupt divorce-court Dodgers, ill-fated investors and ponzi-schemed Metropolitans and, the worst, a generation on steroids and a trial soon-to-come.  We don't want to think about that stuff when the sun is shining, the BBQ is heating up, Vin Scully is within ear-shot and the umps are ready to exclaim, 'Play Ball."

It's July, so it's Baseball and Inter-League play.  You can stand witness to the vaunted Boston Red Sox vs. Houston Astros rivalry or the Kansas City Royals at the Colorado Rockies, oh boy. Maybe inter-league is not a perfect science, of course, and it certainly beats us down with the geographic match-ups of Mets vs. Yankees, Dodgers vs. Angels, Reds vs. Indians, White Sox vs Cubs and, umm, the San Francisco Giants vs. Detroit Tigers? But regardless of the matchups, it's time to root-root-root for the home team, especially when the set-up man tosses it to the closer and the people stand to see 'three strikes and you're out.'

Out. Just like the NFL and NBA.

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