Weekend of mediocrity spoils holiday

July 05, 1994|By Phil Jackman

Bummer.

No, I'm not talking about the middle digit on the left hand that came out looking like a question mark as a result of the failed attempt to flash athletic mediocrity of decades past in the annual backyard volleyball marathon. No doubt turf toe will begin its month-long visit tomorrow.

The worst part of the extended weekend was sports and its surrounding neighborhood.

It was no big setback, the U.S. soccer team losing to Brazil yesterday, 1-0. That score was fine considering it could have been a class one pummeling. All the pregame hype that suggested something mystical might happen just because it was the Fourth of July probably ended up having the reverse affect of that intended, casual fans continuing to think we stink.

And look at Wimbledon. Hustling to finish off at least one chore prior to the 9 a.m. starting time of the men's singles Sunday, the score of the first two sets of Pete Sampras' sweep of Goran Ivanisevic makes it sound like a match. Two tie-breakers, wow, it must have been a classic.

Hardly. The men took turns firing 130-mile-an-hour serves at each other with nary a rally in sight. Imagine just one of 206 points in the match going beyond four strokes. Ivanisevic, perhaps feeling sorry for the audience, hurried the conclusion along by ducking out of the third set, 6-0.

If that one scored high on the waste-of-time list, a pair of golf tourney finishes late in the afternoon had you asking: What is this, qualifying round for the Rubber Mat Open?

OK, there's a lot more going on on the Senior PGA Tour than Jack Nicklaus, Ray Floyd and Lee Trevino, although they can still draw more attention than any three players you can name on the regular tour. Simon Hobday, Graham Marsh and Jim Albus promised excitement as they teed it up as the last threesome in the Senior Open.

These guys have struck a million shots apiece in their day and, at the age of 50-plus, they're not supposed to be making shots as if they're carrying a bagful of 2x4's. Hobday, a South African, held on to win with a 75, testifying, "Other people played bad enough to lose it."

Coming up the 18th fairway and convinced he would probably end up tied by one or both of his rivals, Hobday's tongue was hanging out and he was giving one of the great choke signs of all time. But par was good enough.

At the Western Open, Nick Price proved the last man standing as a half-dozen men threatened repeatedly, but only two could break par after the field had shot the eyes out of the course the previous three rounds.

Back to the World Cup and Saturday's matches. German rushed out to a 3-1 lead at intermission and was seemingly well in control until Belgium got a second goal and received the worst no-call perhaps ever that could have earned a tie.

Unlike baseball, where everyone assumes they could call balls and strikes better than the men in blue, few pretend they could referee a soccer match well. That is until seeing Swiss ref Kurt Rothlisberger allow a couple of defenders to fold, spindle, mutilate and mug Josip Weber of Belgium as he sped to within 8 yards of the German goal a half-step in front of his pursuit.

It deserved a penalty kick, with a couple of yellow cards thrown in for good measure. Rothlisberger motioned play on and now he was up to his ears in irate Belgians.

One saving grace of a game at the Rose Bowl Sunday was Romania eliminating Argentina. Once again disgracing himself by failing to pass a drug test, the once brilliant Diego Maradona was banished from the tournament, but not exiled. Argentina begged that he be allowed to work as a television commentator and the game's governing body agreed. See, the guy has a $1.3 million contract to be with the Argentine team but it obviously doesn't state that he must compete.

This and the fact that a reportedly terrific man by the name of Andres Escobar, who was gunned down upon his return to Colombia after the team's disappointing first-round elimination, have pall over the proceeding which have nearly two weeks to run.

Thing is, as time goes by, the murder will take its place in World Cup lore as an example of the emotion and passion wrought by the tournament, and the U.S. will continue to be knocked for not accepting soccer as some sort of national religion.

Oh, and how about .195-hitting Class A outfielder Michael Jordan insisting he's through with basketball? One piece of advice, Mike: Don't play any pick-up games on the cement driveway out back. It gets more and more hazardous to your health as the years roll by.

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