Tag Archives: Sports

‘Before the First Pitch’

I love soaking up the atmosphere in a minor-league baseball stadium. I don’t even have to pay attention to what’s happening on the field; the real fun is people-watching, beer-drinking and hot-dog-eating on a soft summer night.

With that in mind, here’s a little video about the pregame preparations at McCormick Field in Asheville, N.C. , which is one of my favorite places on earth. (The city is pretty fantastic, too; I’ve been away a decade, and I still miss it.)

Bonus note: My old friend Chris Smith, who works for the Asheville Tourists baseball club, makes an appearance.

Enjoy the video.


Abdullah the Butcher: ‘He’s a big ol’ man’

So pro wrestling legend Abdullah the Butcher is still inflicting pain in the squared circle — at the age of 73?

Apparently so, according to this terrific NYT profile of Abdullah (real name Larry Shreve), who portrays himself as “the Madman from The Sudan” but is actually Canadian. Of course.

Aside from moving a lot slower, Abdullah has hardly changed in his 50-year career. He’s still a giant, tipping the scales at 400-plus pounds. He still gouges opponents with his trademark fork, the ultimate pro wrestling “foreign object,” which always materializes from somewhere deep inside his costume. He still slices his forehead to bloody ribbons during a match, transforming his psychotic visage into a “crimson mask.” And he’s still, shall we say, entreprenuerial.

…  Abdullah explains what motivates him. “Money,” he says. Then, for emphasis: “Money.” …

When first approached for an interview, Abdullah demands payment. “Everything has a price,” he says. “I’ve got to make a living.”

On the night of his match, before an interview is mentioned, Abdullah’s first words are, “Where’s my money?” When reminded that he will receive no compensation, he points to a stack of autographed photographs that sell for $10 apiece and says, “Buy one of these.”

It gets better. Deep in the story, you discover that Abdullah’s entrepreneurial spirit also manifests itself in an Atlanta restaurant — Abdullah the Butcher House of Ribs & Chinese Food.  It’s everything you’d expect from a house of ribs and Chinese food named for a maniacal pro-wrestling heel.

This is a great country.

A college ‘football’ realignment plan

This idea from the Wall Street Journalmodeling American college football on English professional soccer — sounds great in theory. I don’t think it would work in practice, though.

Here’s how English professional soccer operates:  At the end of the season, the bottom three teams in the standings in the top division (the English Premier League) get demoted to a lower division (the Football League) for the following season, and the top three teams from that lower division are promoted to the top league.

Now, imagine that system applied to college football. It’s intriguing to consider what would happen if a Florida Atlantic had a great season and got to tee it up against big schools currently in the SEC the following fall.

But the Journal‘s plan would be doomed by the obvious difference between American college sports and English professional soccer — amateur university athletes in the USA graduate. Because the best college football teams are invariably laden with seniors, especially in the case of unglamorous programs that come out of nowhere to have great seasons, your small-college upstart that goes 11-1 one year and gets promoted to a higher division probably will have lost most of its star players when the next season rolls around. How long would a team with a decimated lineup last in the top level? Maybe one year.

It’s possible that a newly promoted team could get a boost in recruiting, but the best players will still gravitate to the biggest programs. Think about it. If you’re a high school all-star looking to go to the NFL, do you take your chances on an up-and-coming Florida Atlantic based on one great season, or do you just sign with the University of Florida? I’m pretty sure most players would still go with the elite football schools.

Compare that with an English soccer team that gets promoted to a higher division. If the ownership has the cash, it can go out and buy better players to ensure that the team is competitive in the more prestigious division. At the very least, management would spend money to keep the current squad intact.

For that system to work in college football, the NCAA would have to change its rules to allow colleges to either buy players or keep them on the roster past the end of their eligibility. Don’t look for that to happen anytime soon.

Still, give the Journal credit for creative thinking.