Spring officially came to an end this past weekend and though I am happy to see the arrival of the summer and hopefully a less hectic work schedule, I am somewhat sad to see the spring go. My melancholy is not linked in any way to my occupation nor the weather, but has everything to do with my passion for SPORTS. Well, actually let me re-phrase that ... my passion for WATCHING sports.
This past spring has been one of (if not the most) exhilarating runs of noteworthy sporting events. For a glutton like myself, I have devoured as much sports-watching as I can these past few weeks. Every night SportsCenter has been "must-see-TV" and every morning my radio is tuned to "Mike and Mike in the Morning." What has added to the thrills is that for the past few weekends my schedule has been quite clear and I have been able to enjoy a number of glorious sports-watching weekends. You know the type ... where there is a series of meaningful national (or international) sporting events on the television and you have no weekend obligations or "to do" projects. And with the sweltering heat one weekend and torrential rain another weekend, all the stars were aligning for the perfect sports fan month, meaning there was absolutely no reason to leave the couch.
Let's just look back at some of the thrills:
- Tiger Woods victory on the 91st hole of the U.S. Open in San Diego at Torrey Pines. Not only did he accomplish the feat by sinking clutch putts on the 72nd and 90th holes, but we now found out he pretty much competed on one leg. This will be one of the most memorable sporting events of my life.
- EURO 2008. I am typically only a soccer fan during the World Cup, and I tend to prefer Women's soccer over Men's Soccer. But I must say that I have been drawn in by the UEFA Euro cup games. I am not really rooting for a specific team, but I have enjoyed the Spain and Turkey games most.
- NHL Stanley Cup Finals. Two great historical teams in Detroit and Pittsburgh. Youth versus experience. Thrilling games, including the 3 OT Game Five Penguins victory. I was rooting for Sydney Crosby and the Pens, but was happy for Detroit as they are deserving champions in a city that still appreciates hockey.
- Ken Griffey hitting 600 home runs. In my mind there are only four legitimate members of the 600+ home run club now -- Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, and now Ken Griffey, Jr. For me Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa cheated to get there and don't deserve the recognition.
- Dale Earnhardt, Jr. wins again on the NASCAR circuit and I was actually watching -- well most of it. Watching left turns for three hours can get a bit boring.
- Fresno State's run in the College World Series. My fingers are crossed that the truest of Cinderella teams can complete one of the biggest upsets in all of college sports history.
Unfortunately, I can't claim this spring as perfect since a number of the big sporting events ended in great disappointment. Let's take another look back:
- The death of Jim McKay. There is very little to say except that the sporting world loss a true gentleman and the greatest story teller of all-time.
- Big Brown's failure to deliver (sorry had to do the requisite UPS joke). I am not usually a fan of horse racing, but I got drawn into the Triple Crown hype mainly because Big Brown is a beautiful horse that appeared to have an amazing personality. Unfortunately, his trainer turned out to be a bit too arrogant.
- The Boston Celtics won the NBA Championship. Though I am happy for Kevin Garnett, I am a bit sick of Boston championships. Thankfully though I can always flashback to February and just think of 18-1. THANK YOU N.Y. GIANTS.
- Roger Federer was another who failed to show up during the French Open against Rafael Nadal. That was one embarrassing loss. Hopefully he'll be a bit more competitive at Wimbledon.
And in a class all to itself is my miserable N.Y. Mets. Words don't even begin to describe the the misery of being a Mets fan this year. The collapse of last season was a bitter pill to swallow, but then we signed Santana and got Church and Schneider from Washington and things were looking up. But unfortunately my team has decided to re-define the word INCONSISTENT. There have been some "ups" but so many "downs" culminating in the horrible way the team performed in firing Willie Randolph. It is not Willie's fault that his team could not be consistent, does not have a true leader, and that upper management had it in for him. A few years ago I gave up my fan-hood of the Miami Dolphins for the embarrassing way the team performed and ran itself (can you say Ricky Williams). I pray the Mets can get out of this funk or else I may be putting my Mets fan-hood up for sale on eBay.
OK, before I go way off track and have to re-name the Hopkins Insider Blog to some catchy sports blog title (too late???), let me get to the ultimate point of this entry. See last night after watching the thrilling golf I was flipping through the channels and found a sports movie. Lo and behold, it was also a classic ... Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. Classic might be stretching it as this film is no Miracle, or Field of Dreams, or Hoosiers, or Bull Durham, or ... well you get the point. Surprisingly, the humor of Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly's "shake and bake" tandem of NASCAR legends Ricky Bobby and Carl Naughton Jr. was exactly what I was looking for to wrap-up another day of great sports.
While watching the film for what might have been my 30th time, I brainstormed this new blog entry. [[[Bet you didn't see that coming. You are probably what I am talking about now ... well stay tuned ... there is a point.]]]
Throughout the movie, Ricky Bobby is famously quoted in the movie as having the trademarked slogan:
If you ain't first, you're last.
Though a great line from a great comedy, it made me think that actually second place sometimes ain't that bad. And recent Johns Hopkins athletics history has shown that you can celebrate 2nd place finishes. [[[I told you this would come full circle and relate to Hopkins in some fashion. Pretty clever, huh?]]]
This past spring was one of the most successful in Hopkins athletic history, and topped off an amazing academic year for the Blue Jays. No, we were not able to raise the NCAA Championship plaque like we have done in the past (2005 and 2007 NCAA Lacrosse Championships ring a bell?), but we did finish as runners-up three times in the last few months. So unlike what Ricky Bobby says, we weren't first but we can still celebrate.
MEN'S LACROSSE TEAM REACHES NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME FOR FOURTH TIME IN SIX YEARS (and beats Duke again!!!)click here
During its 125-anniversary season, the Men's Lacrosse team had an up and down regular season but finished ranked fourth in the nation. They earned a #5 seed in the NCAA tournament and rode an 8-game winning streak to the national championship game, finishing overall with an 11-6 record. The Blue Jays fell 13-10 in the title game to Syracuse, but there was not a huge level disappointment after the stunning upset of universal favorite Duke in the semi-finals. For a full re-cap of the historical Blue Jay Lacrosse season, .
The greatest season in Blue Jay baseball history came to a disappointing end with a national runner-up finish at the NCAA Division III College World Series. Led by a strong offense and stellar pitching staff, the team fought off elimination in the NCAA tournament on six separate occasions. The Blue Jay's magical run in the tournament did end with a loss to Trinity during the final game of the World Series, but the day before the Blue Jays did defeat Trinity for that team's only loss of the entire season. Read a thorough re-cap of the entire Baseball team's season by clicking here.
On the final day of the 2008 NCAA Division III Men's Swimming Championship, sophomore John Thomas won the NCAA title in the 200 meter backstroke and propelled the Blue Jays to a second place finish, the best finish since the team finished second in 2003. This was the team's ninth straight top-10 finish and in all, Hopkins broke nine school records during the three-day tournament. This second place finish is all the more impressive when one factors in that the first place team, Kenyon College, has won the NCAA Division III Swimming title for now 29 straight years. To read all about the Blue Jays successful year in the pool, click here.
These three second place finishes ended one of the best years in Hopkins sports history. Evidence:
1 - Individual National Champion
3 - NCAA Runners-up (Teams)
5 - ESPN The Magazine Academic All-Americans
5 - Centennial Conference Champions
11 - Teams in the NCAAs
16 - FINAL DIRECTORS' CUP RANKING
Got to love sports!