June 3, 2012 |
They went at each other like Ali and Frazier, again and again and again, so close they could hear each other's labored, desperate breathing, so close they could see the other's shadow, so close, so agonizingly close - ah, so close you wanted a dead heat because neither deserved to lose. And so it went, one riveting duel after another, one glorious race against each other after another, until the head-to-head total reached 10, which is incomprehensible in this day. Affirmed and Alydar.
May 27, 2012 |
It is High Noon in the Heartland, on the day in May that we set aside for remembering, and also for the worshiping of speed, which accounts for those 33 land missiles disguised as cars lined up in 11 meticulous rows, three across. The grandstands are massive, stretching out to the far, flat Indiana horizon, and the air is heavy and fat with the smell of gasoline and adrenaline and anticipation. There is the singing of "Back Home Again in Indiana," a paean to sycamores and the Wabash, and to little green apples, and then 33 drivers, wiry and small with no nerves and flame-retardant suits, shoehorn themselves into their land missiles and await the word, wait to be waved on their way, wait for this thunderous command, the most recognizable in sports: "Gentlemen and Ladies, start your engines.
May 21, 2012 |
AnnnnnnnnDrewwwwww . . . Down through the corridors of time it echoes still, loud and demanding and desperate, and punctuated for emphasis with a stomp of a shoe on hardwood that crackles like gunfire: AnnnnnnnnDrewwwwww . . . In odd moments I am surprised to hear it come to call again . . . and yet, almost 30 years later, it seems like just yesterday. It is Billy Cunningham, the coach of the 76ers, and he is calling out once again, an exasperated reminder, for Andrew Toney, whose talent is breathtaking but whose attention span is in periodic need of a helpful nudge.
May 13, 2012 |
He was born Salvatore Anthony Maglie, but he was best known as Sal the Barber - in honor of his high, hard one that gave hitters a close shave. He had a dark five o'clock shadow and a menacing glower that could melt steel, and he turned the knockdown pitch into an art. In the 1950s he pitched for all three New York teams, and over his career had a 23-win season and a no-hitter, and pitched in three World Series. "If you try to dig in on him," one batter said, "there goes your Adam's apple.
May 6, 2012 |
We're not a conservative team, we're a let's-bleeping-giddy-up-and-go type of team. - Peter Laviolette For what seemed like forever, the Flyers of Philadelphia played dump-and-chase hockey, paying homage to that old reliable "system" that keeps oral surgeons in business. It was just enough to tease them, and us, into thinking they were always just a hot goalie away. Then along came Giddy-Up. No more trying to stuff round pegs into square holes. Every shift was an exercise in storming the beaches, Teddy's Rough Riders taking San Juan Hill.
April 29, 2012 |
The Long Goodbye, Part 1 He takes a mighty cut, as they all are, and whiffs on high heat. He strides briskly back to the dugout, his face betraying no emotion at all, but you wonder if, inside, he isn't dying. Because we on the outside sure are. The first commandment of this profession is: Thou shalt not cheer in the press box. Rarely is this a caution that is difficult by which to abide. Until along happens a Jim Thome. (Or as my 98-year-old mother fondly calls him: Big Boy.)
April 23, 2012 |
Nicky Silver, the Wynnewood-born-and bred playwright whose edgy plays sometimes have seemingly nice or clueless people turning awful, had his Broadway debut Monday night with a solid, edgy play in which someone basically nice or clueless turns awful. In the case of "The Lyons," it's the son of a four-person nuclear family who becomes ballistic in a desperate search for the human connection that is the play's solid theme. But I'm making "The Lyons" sound far too serious; it's an outrageously funny comedy — at times, uncomfortably funny because Silver exploits a man's late-stage cancer for laughs.
April 22, 2012 |
All right, mind that next step now. Easy. We're going over to the northeast corner, the lower deck. It's the primo vantage spot. Woooooo! There it is again. Hear it? Wooooooo! Like some lonesome lovesick coyote trolling in the prairie night for a partner. Woooooooo! But no, these are human voices, a wailing chorus coming from those crooners in the home stretch here at Franklin Field, the ones who worship speed, the faithful who make the pilgrimage to Philadelphia in the shank of every April, drawn by that revered rite of spring, the Penn Relays.
April 15, 2012 |
They are young and he is not. That shouldn't matter, but eventually, inevitably, it does. If you have ever been a parent who survived those wonderful teen years, then you can relate. Doug Collins has been there, done that. Not only as a father, but as a grandfather. There is, on average, roughly 40 years distance between them, the children of the 76ers and their baby-sitter, the coach. They may find it difficult to fathom, but he knows more basketball than they do. Tons more.
April 8, 2012 |
First come the beards. You can't have the competitions for Lord Stanley's cherished chalice without the growing of the beards. And neatness definitely does not count. None of that trim and thin sissy stuff. No, we're talking great clumps of facial forestation. Beards so thick and tangled that birds could nest in them. Think Grizzly Adams. Or a boatload of pirates. Who don't wash. It's unclear exactly what prompted this ritual of the hirsute, but it probably had something to do with superstition.