I'm not the greatest fan of the NBA. The old adage, "You only have to watch the last few minutes of a game" to find out a result still holds true IMO.
Yet the recent championship run of the Milwaukee Bucks led by the remarkable Mr. Everything Giannis Antetokounmnpo deserves plaudits. His is really a Horatio Alger story about a Greek-Nigeria immigrant who came to this country with his family and rose through hard work and talent to the pinnacle of a major sport.
He wasn't a widely regarded "can't miss" recruit but the Bucks took a chance on him and he rewarded the team and its fans with only their second NBA title and the first since 1971. It was nice to see stars of that earlier team, Oscar Robertson and Kareem-Abdul Jabbar (still known in 1971 as Lew Alcindor), seated together during Game 4 as the Bucks evened the series against the Phoenix Suns.
As a free agent, Giannis turned down bigger offers from more glamorous teams. He chose being comfortable in his surroundings and with his teammates and ignored the popular notion that "the gra$$ is always greener on the other $ide of the track$."
Another touch of class Giannis displayed was after the final Game 6 victory over the Suns in Game 6, he invited Phoenix coach Monty Williams into the Bucks' locker room to pay homage to his worthy opponent.
That was a remarkable moment and speaks volumes about what kind of real sportsman as well as competitor Giannis Antetokoumnpo really is. Once you break it down, his name is not too hard to pronounce. It sure is classier and more respectful than calling him "The Greek Freak".
Knick fans should remember Monty Williams who drafted him and let him go too soon. It is so hard to repeat in any sport or league these days, pro or college, but it would be nice to see a repeat of these two teams from smaller markets.
An ironic sidebar to the thrilling Game 6 was the fine play of Suns backup center Frank Kaminsky, the former Wisconsin Badger great who was once the national Player of the Year.
One final note of praise for the Bucks - they drafted on July 29 Mike Smith, formerly of Columbia and the University of Michigan. He is a undersized point guard to be sure, but he showed during Michigan's thrilling 2021 ride to the Elite Eight that he possesses a lot of skills as ball-handler and leader.
AND NOW TO THE BASEBALL TRADING FRENZY:
I fear that the gap between the rich and the poor in baseball will now be wider than ever. There is no relegation principle in American sports as there is in European soccer. If you are consistently bad in European soccer, you get demoted to a lower league. Not so in America.
So it looks like the underclass of teams without a prayer of competing for a title will grow. Recent members have included my Woerioles (with one of the weakest starting pitching staffs in baseball history), Pirates, Rangers, Diamondbacks. Marlins, Rockies, Tigers (though they have had a good season even if still under .500), Royals, and quite possible the Angels despite the presence of Shohei Ohtani and now oft-injured Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon.
After the stripping of many of their core players, it looks like the Cubs, Nationals, Twins, and the soon-to-be-renamed Cleveland Guardians will join the also-rans. As always, there is nothing that fans and loyalists can do about this unfortunate situation.
The current Basic Agreement expires in December. It will be very interesting to see if there is an any consideration of the current lack of "competitive balance" throughout baseball. I'm not holding my breath. Especially since financial aid to the poorer teams was eliminated in the last Basic Agreement.
Here is one minor change in the rules that Jim Henneman, Baltimore's astute sportswriter, has suggested.
Why not eliminate the bunt rule where a bunt with two strikes is an automatic out? Let every bunt be considered just another foul ball.
The reasoning is that such a new rule would keep the third baseman near his normal position and not playing right field on two-strike counts as so often happens under the new "analytic" schemes. Padres third baseman Manny Machado has made some spectacular throws from the right field corner, but I can give them up for a return to relatively normal positioning.
If commissioner Manfred could institute by fiat this season the three-batter-minimum rule for relief pitchers, maybe he can bring up the bunt change up and get bipartisan agreement. Not predicting anything positive happening but as someone who believes in "least worst" solutions, changing the bunt rule might be a good place to start.
It may not be as ludicrous as it sounds because so many players are coming from college programs where the bunt is still a big part of the game. It might be easier to implement than one might think.
That's all for now. Next time I'll report on my experience at Chautauqua teaching Baseball and American Culture again with the focus on the period from the Black Sox Scandal through westward expansion of MLB in 1950s.
Until then, remember to stay positive, test negative, and take it easy but take it!