It is easy to assume that we, as fans, are far more invested in the outcome of our teams’ games than the players themselves. After all, they are getting paid whether they win or lose. It drives us (or at least some of us) crazy to see players on different teams being chummy with their opponents during a game. As a passionate (some would say obsessed) fan of numerous sports, my favorite players are the guys who seem to care just as much as I do, and who appear to despise the other guys while the game is still being played. For some of these athletes, that kind of demeanor comes naturally, even if it is not for real. Those guys have it easy, I guess. The game does not need to be life and death for them, as long as they are giving their all when it counts. It is easy to forget that these are people who have lives of their own off the field, and that their performances may well be impacted by things that have nothing to do with sports. This week, real life intruded upon the sports world in a big way for a couple of people, and, by extension, their teams.
The Indianapolis Colts announced on Monday that the team’s first-year head coach, Chuck Pagano, is battling Leukemia. The coach, who was the defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens last season, was dealing with unusual fatigue all through training camp and the beginning of this NFL season. During the Colts’ bye week, he went to a doctor and that visit led to the diagnosis. He will be hospitalized for a significant period of time for surgery and recovery, and assistant coach Bruce Arians has been named interim head coach. Pagano intends to remain as involved as possible, and his team appears to have been inspired by his fight. On Sunday, the Colts beat the heavily favored Green Bay Packers on a late touchdown drive. Quarterback Andrew Luck and receiver Reggie Wayne, who combined for the winning score, dedicated the win to their ill coach, a father of three and grandfather of two. The prognosis appears to be reasonably good, but this is leukemia, not the flu, so it is very difficult to predict how it will go for Pagano.
Last Tuesday, Oakland Athletics pitcher Pat Neshek and his wife welcomed the birth of their first child, a boy they named Gehrig. The A’s were in the process of clinching a playoff spot when Neshek left to join his wife in Florida. There are people who would give him a hard time for being away from the team at such a critical time, but I think those people will feel otherwise once they know what occurred. The baby appeared to have been born healthy, but less than a day later, he died with no apparent explanation. I can’t even begin to imagine the horror and incredible pain that the Nesheks must be dealing with at this time. There is no parent out there, and likely few people of any kind, that does not immediately ache for these people as soon as they read something like that. Astonishingly, Neshek rejoined the team a few days later and he pitched in his team’s win over the Detroit Tigers on Saturday night. The team wore uniform patches in memory of the baby, and Neshek patted the patch and pointed to the sky as he left the mound after retiring the two batters he faced.
A story in the Union-Tribune in San Diego this past summer talked about the struggles Chargers cornerback Quentin Jammer had on the field last season while dealing with his divorce. Depression, illness, and tragedy are hard enough for people without having to deal with experiencing it in the public eye. If we didn’t know about Neshek’s loss and he had pitched poorly, we would have ripped him and called him no good. Events like these make it clear that we should remember that these are human beings who may have bad days that have nothing to do with sports.
Bad sports, continued:
2) Ronald Rouse, a high school football player from South Carolina, died on Friday night after collapsing on the field following a play in which he was involved. The cause of death is not yet known.
3) Texas Christian University quarterback Casey Pachall was arrested for DUI on Thursday. He had failed a drug test earlier this year and had not been suspended. Predictably, he had also not learned any kind of lesson.
4) The Infield Fly rule is one of those baseball rules that most people do not understand. I will admit to being in that group myself. Still, I am pretty sure that the play in the eighth inning of the Cardinals-Braves game on Friday was not one that this rule should have impacted, considering that it occurred out in left field. With two runners on, Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons hit a fly ball to shallow left field. Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma sprinted out to try to catch it, but veered off at the last minute as left fielder Matt Holliday was on his way in and appeared to have called him off. Instead, the ball dropped between them and it looked like the Braves would have the bases loaded. Instead, umpire Sam Holbrook called Simmons out due to the Infield Fly rule, which is intended to keep teams from letting a popup drop intentionally in order to try to get a double play. For this call to happen on a play in left field late in a one-and-done playoff game is simply outrageous. Braves fans showered the field with bottles and garbage. Their team, which was down 6-3 at the time, went on to lose the game.
5) A pair of scissors was found on the ground in the middle of the field late in the first quarter of the Virginia Tech-North Carolina football game on Saturday. I’d love to hear the explanation behind that one.
6) Ohio State backup quarterback Cardale Jones is the next athlete on the list of guys who should not be on Twitter. On Friday, he sent this piece of wisdom out to the world:
“Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL, we ain’t come to play SCHOOL, classes are POINTLESS.”
Beautiful. And those geniuses at the NCAA said Penn State had a culture problem…
7) Golfer Paul Casey had an odd day on Friday at a pro-am event in Scotland. He was preparing to putt for eagle on the 12th hole when a dog ran onto the green, scooped up his ball, and took off. The ball was retrieved a few minutes later, and Casey went on to make a birdie on the hole.
1) Three months ago, the Oakland A’s were 13 games out of first place in the American League West division. On Wednesday, they came back from a 5-1 deficit to beat the Texas Rangers and win their division.
2) Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera became the first Major League player to win the Triple Crown (home runs, runs batted in, batting average) in 45 years this week, leading his team to a division title in the process.
3) Not content to simply be the greatest swimmer of all time, Michael Phelps is now trying to show he can be pretty good in other sports as well. While competing in the same pro-am event as Paul Casey that I mentioned above, and in fact actually paired with Casey, Phelps sank a 153-foot putt on Friday. It is believed that this was the longest successful televised putt of all time.
4) Drew Brees set the record for most consecutive games with a touchdown pass on Sunday night when he connected with Devery Henderson for a 40-yard score in the first quarter. Johnny Unitas had held the previous record, 47 games, since 1960.
Bad sports, good sports appears every Monday
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