Sport and Society for Arete - Through Wind and Rain

Time is an interesting construct. Looking back over the past week, it is difficult to believe that it was just last Saturday that Hurricane Irma began to have its impact on Central Florida. It seems in many ways much longer than seven days ago.

At the time of the greatest impact in my neighborhood, between about noon Sunday and 5 a.m. Monday, time moved at a snail’s pace. Late Sunday afternoon after the high winds and heavy rain were being felt with some force, it seemed impossible that the predicted peak of wind and rain was still nine to ten hours away. The clock wasn’t moving.

In Sportsworld outside of Florida and Houston, time moved at its regular pace indifferent to what was happening here. In Florida, football games at the interscholastic, intercollegiate, and professional level were postponed and cancelled. The two major league baseball teams in the state became perpetual road teams. All sorts of sporting events at all levels were blown away by Irma.

On television and other electronic devices, the games did go on. As the wind and rain picked up, I could see tennis matches, football games, and baseball games being played in the sunshine. Far from my immediate concern over potential flooding or the sudden departure of the roof, the world of sport continued to produce its normal flow of great performances, silliness, nonsense, and pure stupidity. In many ways I could not have cared less. And yet, there were pennant races heating up and other news to digest.

Just before the weather began to deteriorate and while still uncertain about the path of Irma, the Woman’s Final of the U.S. Open was played. I believe it was Saturday. It was an all American final with two breakthrough players who are very close friends. Both are coming off serious injuries and playing in their first Grand Slam final. Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys were on the court for only a little over an hour as Stephens moved through an easy second set 6-0. This followed a well-played first set in which Stephens broke Keys’ serve twice. Stephens had moved into the final by defeating Venus Williams in a very interesting match 6-1, 0-6, 7-5. Madison Keys had beaten CoCo Vandeweghe 6-1, 6-2 in the semi-finals.

It is certainly a good sign for the future of U.S. Women’s tennis that all four semi-finalists were Americans, and the two finalists, both in their early twenties, were making their first appearance in a Grand Slam final.

In some ways, more interesting than the match itself was the immediate post-match reaction by these two close friends. Keys and Stephens embraced at the net and exchanged congratulations for what seemed like an unusually long time. A few minutes later, they sat side by side talking and laughing and enjoying themselves immensely. It was difficult to tell which of them had won. What a great scene and marvelous example of friendship and sportsmanship.

The other interesting development in Women’s tennis was the publication this week of Maria Sharapova’s mistitled memoir “Unstoppable: My Life So Far.” Having just returned from fifteen months in which she was stopped by a suspension, Sharapova uses her memoir to proclaim her innocence on a drug violation. More inappropriate is that fact that Sharapova obsesses in her memoir over the fact that she has been repeatedly stopped, even dominated, by Serena Williams, who is clearly in Sharapova’s head. It is a remarkable revelation and worth reading and contemplating, although certainly not evidence of “unstoppability.”

Meanwhile at the NFL the season has started and Roger Goodell, as usual, is entangled in several controversies. In the NFL of oversize flags and patriotic tributes, protests centered on the status of Colin Kaepernick now seem routine. Protests of all sorts are spreading across the NFL landscape. Goodell seems flummoxed. The courts have once again stopped any suspension for Ezekiel Elliot. Week two of play is now underway with initial reports of declining television ratings adding to Goodell’s woes. And of course, looming in the background, is the concussion issue that seems to be growing in terms of public discourse and concern.

Over at the offices of the National Hockey League, Gary Bettman has now crossed the Rubicon, and there will be no turning back from his idiotic decision to kill NHL participation in the Olympic Games next year. Only someone as dense as Bettman could think it wise to pass up the greatest vehicle for the promotion of hockey available internationally.

While all of this was going on, there were two remarkable developments in Major League Baseball. First, there is the case of the Los Angeles Dodgers who seemed to be on their way to a record setting season. There were some projections that the Dodgers would rack up 118 wins before the season finale. Some asked if the Dodgers were the best team in the history of the game. The answer has now been delivered by the Dodgers.

The wheels came off. The hitters stopped hitting and the pitchers stopped pitching--one win in sixteen games, with the highlight being a ten game losing streak. Just one word comes to mind from the great baseball commentator and former pitcher, Joaquin Andujar: In baseball “Youneverknow.” The Dodger reversal is inexplicable and that is precisely what makes this sport and, in fact, all sport such a fascinating human activity.

While that was taking place on the West Coast, out east on the river that once burned, the Cleveland Indians were putting together a streak of their own. As the winds of Irma blew at my house, Cleveland’s streak helped to keep me distracted from any potential disaster. Then on Thursday night, after the storm had passed, came the greatest challenge to the continuation of the streak. The Indians were down by one run with two outs and two strikes on the batter in the bottom of the ninth when Francisco Lindor cracked a pitch into the left field corner to drive in the tying run. The Indians chalked up victory twenty-two in the bottom of the 10th.

The twenty-two wins set a new record for consecutive uninterrupted wins, a nice technicality that sports people so love. In that period Cleveland has scored 140 runs while allowing a measly 36. Then last night the streak ended as the Indians fell to Kansas City, 4-3 when the “Mighty Lindor Struck Out.” Nonetheless there was plenty of joy in Cleveland as the fans cheered their team and the streak.

What any of this will mean for the Dodgers or the Indians in October remains to be seen, because “YOUNEVERKNOW.”

On Sport and Society this is Dick Crepeau reminding you that you don’t have to be a good sport to be a bad loser.

Copyright 2017 by Richard C. Crepeau

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