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Sports & Rec Week

Sunday, July 22, 2012

This is the year; this is the day

Posted By on 07.22.12 at 09:00 AM

Ron Santo was always a passionate guy—as a player and as a broadcaster—so it should come as no surprise that there's an eddy of swirling emotions surrounding his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame Sunday.

There's gratification, vindication, relief. His induction was inevitable for so long—Bill James had identified him as the best player not in the Hall of Fame going back to at least the mid-90s—that it's a triumph to have the day finally upon us.

Yet that's just the thing: He did belong in the Hall, and had belonged there for a long time. So there's anger that Santo didn't live to see the day.

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Friday, July 20, 2012

Adam Dunn, all is forgiven

Posted By on 07.20.12 at 01:10 PM

Heir to Dave Nicholson, reminder of betrayal
Here at the office, I'm looking sharp today in my sky blue Adam Dunn American League All-Star T-shirt. It's a birthday present from a clever friend. My birthday's today, so the rigid Reader dress code has been relaxed for me.

On the train ride downtown this morning, I didn't spot anyone else wearing the Adam Dunn All-Star shirt. And a check of Google Maps Adam Dunn All-Star T-Shirt View confirms that I am, in fact, the only person in downtown Chicago wearing the shirt today.

It was the perfect gift. As some of you are aware, I've been one of Dunn's biggest supporters since the Big Breeze blew into town 319 strikeouts ago.

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Let the pennant race begin

Posted By on 07.20.12 at 10:20 AM

Adam Dunn homers against the Tigers earlier this season. We need more.
  • Paul Boucher
  • Adam Dunn homers against the Tigers earlier this season. We need more.
And, like that, the biggest game of the baseball season is upon us.

It's a rare weekend without baseball in Chicago. All the action will be going on elsewhere (including one event I'll be writing about on Saturday). Yet, without question, the biggest game of the season in Chicago takes place in Detroit, where the first-place White Sox open a three-game series against the second-place Tigers.

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It's never your fault—blame the clubs

Posted By on 07.20.12 at 06:54 AM

This guy hates himself
  • This guy hates himself
I "bought" my golf clubs from the basement of an apartment building I once lived in. I don't feel bad about it. They looked like they had been sitting in musty basements for years, and I'm almost certain they came from the well-to-do college-aged kids that lived below me and drank themselves dumber on Natty Light each day. The clubs were rust-beaten and neglected, tucked away in between a pair of ancient tube TVs and covered in spiderwebs. In my mind, I rescued them.

Like so many, my experience with golf up to that point had been with the two far ends of the spectrum: putt-putt and driving ranges. I gave up putt-putt when I stopped going on junior high dates, and though I love driving ranges—there's nothing quite like hitting a golf ball really fucking far—I always gnarled my hands with blisters by, number one, never really knowing how to hold a driver properly, and, number two, always trying to hit the golf ball past some unattainable distance or structure. It was time to move on.

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

On dust and dogies: an introduction to team penning

Posted By on 07.19.12 at 06:44 AM

Team penning in Albion
  • Team penning in Albion
Today, for Sports & Rec Week, I'm here to tell you about a competition you may not have heard of. Until a few days ago I hadn't. It's a sport, I suppose—it demands, at the very least, the athleticism to ride a horse.

The first person I noticed as I entered the Albion, Nebraska, fairgrounds at dusk was a lean teenage girl in jeans riding hers with serious elan. She galloped past me on a quarter horse, and soon I became aware that dozens of horses and riders were about—some teenagers but most of them older men, raw-boned or heavyset, all sitting comfortably in their saddles. I came upon a holding pen full of Black Angus steers, none yet a year old, docilely shuffling their hooves. There was no gamboling about the premises for these mute beasts—whose most powerful attribute is their placid incomprehension of their pending doom. To my right was the grandstand that stretched alongside the dirt oval of the fair's main event, the stock car races. And then there were the twinkling colored lights of the Ferris wheel. I'd seen higher and more fearsome looking Ferris wheels even in traveling carnivals. But this wasn't a carnival. It was the Boone County Fair, an annual celebration of a way of life.

I was headed for a much smaller grandstand, where family waited. We were gathering in Albion for the funeral of my mother-in-law, who died in the local nursing home at the age of 95. But this night was our own, and my sister-in-law Annie had proposed we spend it at the team penning competition, watching the very riders I'd just passed through. A minute-two is the time to beat, said Annie, by way of greeting. She was keeping score.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

In praise of butts up

Posted By on 07.18.12 at 06:45 AM

Now all you need is a wall.
  • Christopher Johnson/Wikimedia Commons
  • Now all you need is a wall.
An excerpt from a recent, lengthy, and fantastic interview with Spike Lee, conducted by Will Leitch for New York magazine's Vulture:

[Leitch:] I cannot imagine what it must be like for you to walk around Cobble Hill now and see wheat-germ places and Pilates.
That does not bother me. What bothers me is that these kids do not know the street games we grew up with. Stoop ball, stickball, cocolevio, crack the top, down the sewer, Johnny on the pony, red light green light one-two-three. These are New York City street games.

This nostalgic lament reminded me of the many games my friends and I used to play on the playground (I am dubious of red light green light originating in New York City). Yet of all of them, I have a particular fondness for butts up.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The return of Ozzie Guillen

Posted By on 07.17.12 at 06:55 AM

Ozzie Guillen, back in the day.
I miss Ozzie Guillen.

Not that Robin Ventura hasn't been the perfect tonic for the White Sox this season, but Ozzie was a joy to listen to. He was always honest—or at least said what he honestly thought at the moment—and ever entertaining.

I can remember him holding forth before one of the World Series games in 2005, and then ambling off to the field, at which point some national sportswriter shook his head in disbelief and said, "Is he always like that?"

"Every day," we replied.

He returns with his new Miami Marlins Tuesday to play the Cubs on the wrong side of town. I can only wonder if he'll refer again to the rats at Wrigley Field and what a pit it is—especially for visiting teams in the cramped locker room packed high up under the first-base grandstand.

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Monday, July 16, 2012

This week's Variations on a Theme: let's play ball

Posted By on 07.16.12 at 10:30 AM

The Sox's Chris Sale is now at triple digits, as in 11-1
  • The Sox's Chris Sale is now at triple digits, as in 11-2
Even as our coverage of Pitchfork continues, we fans of work and pleasure have christened this Sports & Rec Week on the Bleader. Sunday got things off to an auspicious start baseballwise, with afternoon wins for both the Cubs (3-1 over the Diamondbacks) and Sox (2-1 over the Royals, behind All-Star pitcher Chris Sale). The Cubs' victory capped off a rare sweep, just their second this season, and gave them four straight—they've actually won 12 of their last 16 games and, for now, no longer have the worst record in baseball. The Sox, meanwhile, are at ten games over .500 and continue to cling to first place in the AL Central, with a four-game stretch in Boston up next and the Tigers hoping to pounce in the aftermath.

But what's that you say? You don't give a shit about baseball?

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