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My Awards for 2015: Coping with the No-Baseball Blues #5

Winter has arrived though New Yorkers are disbelieving. Christmas Eve and
Christmas Day will set record highs in the high 60s-even low 70s.
Unfortunately, it is rainy and we may miss out on both a white Christmas and
a sunny golden Christmas.

But be of good cheer – the days will slowly get longer and longer. Come mid-February “pitchers and catchers will be reporting to spring training,” still the greatest sentence in the English language. Even with the insane amount of money being thrown at players of fair-to-middling talent.

The Orioles are getting resigned to lose streaky slugger/good athlete Chris Davis to free agency. The team took off the table a reported offer of over $150 million for six or seven years. No other team has stepped forward in the bidding, but agent Scott Boras is rightly convinced that some panicked owner will step forward to up the ante for Davis. Without a salary cap or some kind of legal collusion, the salaries will keep going up in the off-season paradise (for players and agents) of free agency.

I was recently asked by Robin Valetutto, personable host of the Saturday noontime “Sports Angel” talk show on KVCE 1160 AM Radio in Dallas, Texas, for my sports highs and lows of calendar 2015.

Let me begin by disagreeing with Sports Illustrated’s choice of Serena Williams as Sports Person of the Year. Not that the tennis star didn’t have a fine year but it ended with a loss in the U.S. Open semi-finals. That would blemish her year for me.

If I had a vote on the matter, I would have given the nod to Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors. Not only did the Oakland-based basketball juggernaut win the NBA title in June over Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, but the Warriors started this 2015-16 season with an unprecedented 24 game winning streak.

My close second would have been golfer Jordan Spieth, who at age 23 won the Masters and the U.S. Open in sequence in 2015. He also came very close to winning the British Open. He is from an athletic and so far happily grounded family that includes his younger brother Steven, a guard-forward starter for Brown University’s basketball team in Providence, Rhode Island.

I also tip my cap to the Kansas City Royals for their aggressive style of baseball that resulted in their first World Series title since 1985 and the second overall in their history dating back only to 1969.

I don’t think many teams can duplicate their combination of speed and opportunism – honed by a patient intelligent farm system - but it is fun to watch a team hustling all the time and ready to pounce on an opponent’s weakness.

As for lows, I think Seattle's Russell Wilson trying a pass on second down near New England's goal line at the end of February's Super Bowl has to be the biggest boner.

I am happy though that Wilson, the former college QB for North Carolina State's Wolfpack and the Wisconsin Badgers, has the Seahawks ready to make it a run at a third straight Super Bowl appearance.

A runner-up for gaffe has to be Michigan's punting rugby-style when even a no-gain run would have virtually assured a Wolverines victory over arch-rival Michigan State.

But kudos to the Spartans who are enjoying great years in football and basketball and former Spartan QB Kirk Cousins has the Redskins on the verge of the NFL playoffs.

Meanwhile Bo Ryan's abrupt resignation as Badger basketball coach has left Wisconsin faithful wondering about the future of the program. More on this subject next month as we'll see if under Ryan's desired successor Greg Gard the Badgers can remain respectable in the Big Ten race.

That’s all for now – Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all, and back to you by the second week of January.

Always remember: Take it easy but take it!
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Currymania Comes To Brooklyn - Coping with the No-Baseball Blues, Installment 4

On Sunday afternoon December 6, Davidson College alumni came out 148 strong to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to support favorite son Stephen Curry and the unbeaten Golden State Warriors. I joined the group as the guest of a special friend who breathes Davidson Wildcat red and black.

Curry did not disappoint, scoring 28 points, a tick below his season average. His 16-point binge in the third quarter broke open a close game and the Brooklyn Nets became the Warriors’ 22nd straight victim, losing 114-98. Curry shirts were sprinkled among a capacity crowd that were pulling for him more than the Nets.

The Warriors are, of course, not a one-man show. Former Michigan State Spartan Draymond Green is the fuel that makes the show run. He rebounds, he leads the fast break, passes beautifully (as do all the Warriors), and has an improved three-point shot. Not bad for someone listed at “only” 6’ 7”.

It is an unprecedented streak that could be jeopardized against the improved Indiana Pacers as early as Tues night Dec 8. [I was too pessimistic about the Warriors juggernaut.
They scored 79 points in the first half at Indiana, and never were seriously threatened in their 23rd straight win.]

Ultimately the Warriors will lose. The law of averages, whatever that exactly is, dictates the likelihood. Curry even jokes that they will lose before the NFL’s unbeaten Carolina Panthers from his hometown of Charlotte.

Yet the defending NBA champions and the reigning MVP in Curry don’t really want the streak to end - when the playoffs near it will be good for the pressure of the streak to be over. N.B. The Warriors don’t play the perennially contending Spurs until March 19 in San Antonio.

My Sunday excursion to Brooklyn was my first visit to the Barclays Center. It is an impressive edifice, looming like a neon spaceship directly outside the Flatbush/Atlantic Ave subway and Long Island Rail Road stops.

It is the location where Walter O’Malley dreamed of building a new baseball stadium for the Dodgers in the 1950s but the NYC government was in no financial position to offer him the land. (A complicated tale to be explored at another time but please don't think that NYC Parks Commissioner Robert Moses was the main culprit in the Dodgers' flight.)

The arena inside is pretty awe-inspiring with good sightlines to the court from almost all of the seats. But as someone very cautious about steps, I wouldn’t want to climb to the nosebleed sections. I also wish that there were some variety in seat colors – I found the black and/or gray colors too ominous.

My bigger complaint focuses on the incessant replays shown on the plethora of TV screens scattered all around the Center. They were shown so often – always Nets highlights and nothing else - that the actual game on the floor was missed at many junctures.

My ticket was in the Honda hospitality center at one of the end zones of the arena. At times I needed to watch TV because sight lines to the court were often blocked. I realize there are not many Nets highlights this year - after the Sunday loss they are a disappointing 5-15. But there are fans of the opposition who like to see the actual live action of the game.

Basketball is no substitute for baseball, of course, but a phenomenon like Stephen Curry and the Warriors doesn’t come around often. I was glad to partake in a little of it.

I am also happy to report that my Wisconsin Badgers, after being humiliated at Oklahoma, won impressively at Syracuse and at home against Temple. Am hoping that Bo Ryan’s patient coaching will lead to another compelling season. They stand at 6-3 right now.

And Kyle Smith’s Columbia Lions finally won a close game on Sunday December 6 over the pesky Delaware Blue Hens. The final score of 82-69 did not indicate how close a contest it was.

After losing twice in overtime and once by one point and once by two points, the Columbia faithful were getting very nervous, at least this alum was. But solid defense emerged in the second half aided by a breakout game by freshman forward Lukas Meisner. 5-5 is not what a preseason Ivy League favorite expected, but the team seems talented and deep enough to make a run towards contention once the Ivy League season begins in mid-January.

That’s all for now. Always remember: Take it easy but take it!
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