by Kent Sterling
This is the week. This is THE week. The NFL hit the halfway mark of the regular season, the NBA is ready for opening night. The World Series is now a best two-of-three series. College football is heating up as teams are halfway through the conference schedule. The NHL is about ten games into its season, and the exhibitions are giving us a peek at what we can look forward to in college hoops.
Life doesn’t get much better than this.
Last night’s result notwithstanding, the World Series has been thrilling. As outraged as Cardinals fans must be this morning after watching Kolton Wong get picked off to end the game, they also have to be pleased that Wong is the kind of young man who faces the fire after the fact. His post game media work was heartbreaking.
Of course, being a runner whose run is meaningless without the man behind him scoring, you would think that he would shorten his lead a little, but I doubt he makes that mistake again. I was always taught that you never take a lead with both feet off the ground at the same time so that you can always more back to the bag. No matter how quick the baserunner, he can’t get back to the bag while he is in the air. The Cardinal Way is to avoid getting picked off, but to face the fire of the media afterward, and in that way Wong was magnificent.
That Game Four climax – the first pickoff to end a game in postseason history – came of the heels of a strange play Saturday night that allowed Allen Craig to score the winning run on an interference call. This has been a wacky series through four games where mistakes have been magnified – just as it should be with baseball.
The Red Sox have appeared to be the better team though out, but the Cardinals have been able to eke out a couple of wins, and stay alive. That’s the only way for a team without any hall of famers to compete during the postseason – pitching, defense, and the occasional consecutive hits to squeeze out a run,
The Colts enter week nine with a 5-2 record and the AFC South in a stranglehold. If they can take care of business against Houston and Tennessee, and then beat the Rams or Jaguars, the championship is locked up.
I am trying to figure out just how good a quarterback Andrew Luck can be. I can’t find an area where he doesn’t deserve an A. His physical skills are virtually perfect. He’s smart as hell, accurate most of the time, fast, and durable. Luck is able to shrug off most contact, and from a leadership standpoint, I can’t imagine anyone better. Not only does Luck set an incredible example, he defers attention and credit to the rest of the team.
It would take nothing short of virtual perfection to keep Colts fans from pining for Peyton Manning, and Luck has made most fans forgive Jim Irsay’s decision to release the current best quarterback who ever lived. Given a choice today which you would want to start a Super Bowl, I would take Luck – not for the future but for that one game.
The Pacers are going to open the season at home tomorrow night against Victor Oladipo and the Orlando Magic. This is the first NBA season since 2004 that has experts considering the Pacers as a threat to win the NBA Championship. No one knows exactly what might happen this season, but the Pacers appear to be a team willing to listen to its coach and leader, and work exceptionally hard.
Paul George is a splendid talent, but David West leads this team. If the Pacers needed a guy to reboot a teammate’s hard drive, who would you rather have do that – West or George. I would take West too. Nothing against George, but West is a serious guy whose eyes bore holes right into the core of your character.
Purdue is in rebuilding mode, but Indiana is inching closer to relevance. They need three wins in their last five games to qualify for a bowl, and given two road games against Ohio State and Wisconsin, it stands to reason that the home games vs. Minnesota, Illinois, and Purdue are the best chances. Minnesota is coming off upset wins against Northwestern and Nebraska, so they are to be respected.
It’s impossible right now to tell whether the Boilers, Butler Bulldogs, or Hoosiers will be stars or stiffs during the college basketball season. All could be very good, or mediocre. Brandon Miller enters his first season as a head coach at Hinkle Fieldhouse, and the Bulldogs first season in the reconstituted Big East. Experts have them picked ninth of ten, but Butler is used to being underestimated. Indiana is talented but young. Tom Crean has shown a knack for building bodies quickly, but can the Hoosiers mature to the point where freshmen play like juniors? That will tell be the bellwether for Indiana’s fortunes. Purdue will sink or swim based upon A.J. Hammons. He is capable of playing at the highest level, and also playing with indifference.
There is so damn much to write and talk about that making the choice is the fun part of the day. Today, I decided to not decide, and write about all of them.