bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: The sports world loses Tony Gwynn to cancer

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Tony Gwynn died last week. For those who are not familiar with him, he was a baseball player who played for twenty seasons in the majors, all with the same team, which is something that is a rarity anymore. Fans of the San Diego Padres got to call him their own from 1982 through the 2001 season, and he was probably the best hitter I ever had the pleasure of watching. His death was caused by cancer of the salivary glands. He spent many years chewing tobacco, and it seems pretty clear that the habit led to his death.

Gwynn was a joy to watch. He was one of those guys that seemed to really enjoy and love the game, and he played it at its highest level with a swing that appeared effortless and a smile to match. He made the All-Star team 15 times and won eight National League batting titles, finishing his career with an incredible .338 batting average. He was one of the first guys to study his hitting extensively via watching video, spending countless hours preparing for upcoming pitchers and analyzing every detail of his swing and approach. After his death last week, I read some amazing statistics about him. He faced Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux 91 times during his career and hit .429 against him. Even more amazing, he did not strike out a single time in those 91 at-bats. He also had 35 at-bats against the great Pedro Martinez, who was even more of a strikeout pitcher than Maddux, and never struck out against him. Amazing.

Gwynn’s death has led to another round of discussion about whether Major League Baseball should ban the use of chewing tobacco. There is currently a rule that it cannot be used within view of the fans, but that is a fairly recent rule and doesn’t go nearly far enough, in my opinion. Granted, these are grown men who can make decisions for themselves, and the use of chewing tobacco does not have the secondhand-smoke issue that cigarettes have, obviously, so it is harder to argue that the league should step in. Still, you see someone like Gwynn lose his life and its hard to not think something should be done. When he had his first surgeries back in 2010 after being diagnosed, a side-effect of the procedures left him unable to smile. He was one of those guys who always seemed to be smiling, and he was robbed of that by this insidious habit. Now he has lost his life, and others will likely follow if no change is made.

The union would need to agree to any kind of ban, and I don’t know how likely that is. I wish these guys would just learn from seeing one of their own go down, but I am not sure that will happen. Addison Reed, the closer for the Arizona Diamondbacks who played for San Diego State while Gwynn was the coach there, has decided to give up the stuff in the aftermath of Gwynn’s death. If more follow, something good will have come out of this tragedy. Again, I understand why it is a difficult thing to legislate. I just don’t understand why people do it, I guess. I am amazed when I still see people smoking, honestly, especially when they are teenagers. We really don’t know enough about this stuff now? How does a kid start smoking in 2014? I saw two kids buying cigarettes at a convenience store the other day and it blew my mind. I’ll admit that I took pleasure in seeing that a pack of cigarettes cost them each $6.50. I’d be happy to see that doubled, with the additional money going to cancer research.

Bad sports, continued:

2) Major League Baseball changed a bunch of rules this year in order to try to avoid collisions at home plate. In spring training, it was obvious that players, coaches, and umpires were all pretty confused. Now, in late June, it appears that nothing has changed on that front. A play at the plate during the Pittsburgh Pirates-Cincinnati Reds game on Wednesday was initially called correctly by the umpires, but the call was overturned on replay based on an erroneous understanding of the rules by the replay officials. Brutal.

3) During Mexico’s win over Cameroon at the World Cup tournament last week, a chant containing a gay slur went up in the crowd. Apparently, this chant, directed at the opposing keeper to throw him off his game, is popular in Mexico. Even though FIFA is investigating the incident, Miguel Herrera, the coach of the Mexican national team, thinks it’s just fine.

4) Running back Mike Goodson, who is facing a possible prison sentence on gun charges, failed to show up at the New York Jets minicamp last week and was subsequently released by the team.

5) Spain, the defending champion of the World Cup, was eliminated after two straight losses to start the tournament. After being crushed by the Netherlands a couple of Fridays ago, they lost to Chile on Wednesday and were sent packing.

6) Here is one I bet you have never seen before. The Milwaukee Brewers scored three runs on a wild pitch on Saturday. The play included the wild pitch itself, a bad throw by the catcher to try to nail the first runner at the plate, which led to the second runner scoring, and then a totally boneheaded move by Colorado Rockies pitcher Christian Friedrich, who retrieved the ball but then walked slowly back to the mound thinking the play was over. Jean Segura then scored from third base, taking advantage of the snoozing pitcher.

7) Hope Solo, the goalkeeper for the U.S. Women’s National Soccer team, was arrested in Seattle on Saturday for allegedly assaulting her sister and her nephew. Her lawyer denies any wrongdoing.

8) Isaiah Austin, a basketball player from Baylor who was expected to be a first-round pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, will instead have to quit basketball due to a genetic condition called Marfan Syndrome, with which he was diagnosed after an odd EKG finding during a physical at the recent combine.

Good sports:

1) It has been a big year for upsets in the World Cup so far, with none bigger than Costa Rica’s win over Italy on Friday, which not only left Italy on the edge of elimination, but actually sent England home from the tournament.

2) The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office canceled six different trademarks belonging to the Washington Redskins, ruling that the name is disparaging to Native Americans.

3) Lucy Li became the youngest golfer to ever compete in the U.S. Women’s Open last week. She is eleven years old. She failed to make the cut, but she had some great moments during her two days at the tournament.

4) Michelle Wie was once the phenom that Lucy Li might be becoming now. She was 13 when she broke onto the scene in a big way. Now 24, she won her first major on Sunday by taking the U.S. Women’s Open by two shots over top-ranked Stacy Lewis.

Bad sports, good sports appears early each week

Alan Spoll is a software quality assurance director from the suburbs of Philadelphia where he lives with his wonderful wife and children. He has spent his entire life as a passionate fan of the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, Flyers, and Penn State. Recent Phillies success aside, you will understand his natural negativity. Follow me on Twitter - @DocAlan02
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