The ESPN Sports Business reporter Darren Rovell put out an interesting tweet this week noting that Thursday was the 20th anniversary of the day that the St Louis Cardinals baseball slugger Mark McGwire ‚Äď powered by steroids as it later turned out ‚Äď broke the single season home-run record by belting his 70th.
The ball bounced out of one fan‚Äôs hands, bounced out of another‚Äôs and was finally caught by a 17-year old fan, Phil Ozersky, who at the time was earning chump change stacking shelves.
The Cardinals asked him for the ball and offered in return a signed bat, ball and jersey. But Ozersky wanted one more thing. Yup, he told the Cardinals he wanted to meet McGwire, shake his hand.
McGwire was too much of a big shot, busy hitting more big shots over fences, and said no. So three months later, Ozersky sold the ball for $US3.05 million, bought a house for his handicapped father, gave six-figure sums to charity, married his high-school sweetheart and went on to live happily ever after ‚Äď while still driving now the car he had back then.
Ain‚Äôt sport grand?
Now you can call me an old ‚Äúromantic‚ÄĚ if you like, but I don‚Äôt care. See, by definition, every day that passes, big-time sports gets more ‚Äúmodern‚ÄĚ, which usually means more technical, more driven by statistics, and more littered with incomprehensible jargon like ‚Äúcorrugated iron‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúmarmalade jam”.
It means that, when you come across stories of big-time teams prospering because of embracing the old-time values, it is heart-warming. A prime case in point is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL side, who‚Äôve come from nowhere to open their account this season by beating two of the top-ranked teams in the league, including last year‚Äôs Superbowl winners, the Philadelphia Eagles.
Part of it is credited to coach Dirk Koetter doing something different in the off-season.
As reported in The New York Times:¬† ‚ÄúHe broke his team into groups of eight, mixing coaches with players, and had the groups hold meetings during which people took turns talking about their backgrounds or upbringing. The goal was team unity.‚ÄĚ
Yes, I know. Players actually getting to know each other, and care about each other, beyond football!
‚ÄúYou play with guys but you don‚Äôt know personal details of their lives,‚ÄĚ tight end Cameron Brate said. ‚ÄúIt was really eye-opening. A football team is built on communication and trust and truly being able to understand where someone is coming from and being able to open up to them. It created new pathways of communication and enhanced our trust in each other.‚ÄĚ
Everything is so old it‚Äôs new again. Next thing you know, you‚Äôll get players truly caring about the jerseys they play for, and speaking about the clubs they‚Äôve played for, for over a decade, in the first person, not the third person, as in: ‚ÄúThey‚Äôve been a great club, and really good to me.‚ÄĚ
As I have said many times before, if they were holding a group 1 horse race ‚Äď whatever that is ‚Äď around my house, I would pull the curtains shut and call the police. I just don‚Äôt care. Still, occasionally stories arise from the racing world that pique the interest, and a case in point comes from reader Paul Foster this week. He advises that all owners of new racehorses get to name their steed, often by seeking inspiration from their parents‚Äô names.
‚ÄúSo this fella has a horse by Benfica out of Loose ‘n’ Lovely. He called it Andiamo Fica, which is Italian for Let‚Äôs Go C—.”
For this effort, he‚Äôs just been disqualified from owning horses for 18 months.
My thoughts . . .
1. It‚Äôs great to get one over the authorities.
2. Don‚Äôt Racing NSW have Google?
TFF had a rant mid-week on the ludicrousness of SCG Trust Chair Tony Shepherd following Alan Jones’ lead by asserting that if the Sydney Football Stadium is knocked down, we risk a Hillsborough disaster ‚Äď where 96 lives were lost ‚Äď in Sydney.
My central point was this: ‚ÄúIf you do insist¬†that the SFS actually risks being a Hillsborough, how on earth did you or the government let last Saturday night‚Äôs final go ahead? You dinkum thought there was a risk of 100 people dying, and somehow ‚Äď ignoring your duty of care, to preserve the safety of spectators ‚Äď the match was allowed to proceed?‚ÄĚ
Precisely what happened that terrible day at Hillsborough thirty years ago remains a deeply sensitive topic but, as several readers pointed out, it‚Äôs a whole lot more complex than just assigning blame to the design of the stadium itself. Just two weeks ago, the man who was in control of police operations that day, former South Yorkshire Police chief superintendent David Duckenfield pleaded not guilty to manslaughter by gross negligence. The date for his trial is set for January. We will let their legal system get on with it.
Mick Malthouse at a Ballarat sports lunch on Thursday, on women‚Äôs football: ‚ÄúI don‚Äôt like it . . . I don‚Äôt say you shouldn‚Äôt play it, I say I don‚Äôt like it . . . I don‚Äôt like the women‚Äôs game the way it is. I would rather see them with a smaller ball, I would rather see it without any tackling, I would rather see it without any heavy bumping.‚ÄĚ
AFLW player Moana Hope on Malthouse‚Äôs comments: ‚ÄúHe said that AFL was a man‚Äôs game and not a woman‚Äôs game and he‚Äôs said that on stage in front of 50 kids who had just played a boys and girls game of football. I left after that. I was so disgusted and drove back to Melbourne. He can have an opinion but then there‚Äôs just degrading and disrespectful comments. We‚Äôre in 2018, not in 1942 . . . I will never be in the same room as him again.‚ÄĚ
Tiger Woods on his 80th tour win: ‚ÄúI was having a hard time not crying on the last hole. I just can’t believe I pulled this off. It hasn’t been so easy the last couple of years. It’s hard to believe I was able to do it again . . . [lightly sobs]‚ÄĚ
Cooper Cronk on whether he‚Äôll be 100% for this weekend‚Äôs grand final: ‚ÄúObviously there‚Äôs a point where you can‚Äôt get things right in a certain amount of time . . . at some stage God or science will say no, but until then I‚Äôll do everything I possibly can.‚ÄĚ
Shane Watson on the support for Steve Smith: ‚ÄúTo be able to see so many people come along to a grade game is incredible. We see the crowds that come along to a Sheffield Shield game or a JLT Cup as well, it’s nothing compared to this. It’s very impressive.‚ÄĚ
New Zealand great Brendon McCullum tweets his view that David Warner celebrated a grade century a bit too much: ‚ÄúGeez Davey! This celebration is the equivalent of Sir Ed Hillary giving it large climbing his front steps, post Everest! Hahaha.‚ÄĚ
Richmond young gun Jack Higgins on winning goal of the year: ‚ÄúFirstly, my heart is at about a thousand minutes per second, so if I screw it up, don‚Äôt hate on me.‚ÄĚ
Wallaby Ned Hanigan with a fine mixed metaphor: ‚ÄúWe can‚Äôt be sitting there kicking stones and letting it just get worse, we‚Äôve got to grab it by the balls and try and turn it around.‚ÄĚ
Melbourne Storm‚Äôs Will Chambers knows how the media rolls: ‚ÄúIt’s pretty easy to be a keyboard warrior, people don’t really say stuff to your face. It‚Äôs easy to print it in a newspaper, but they won’t come and say it to you. But everyone wants a story, it’s pretty funny don’t you think? I’m from a small town in the Northern Territory. You don’t get much media up there, it’s pretty cruisy, it’s not the Sydney press.‚ÄĚ
Michael Cheika aware of how quickly things can change: ‚ÄúThey wanted to cut Nathan Buckley’s head off last year didn’t they, and he‚Äôs in a grand final this week. That’s the way it goes.‚ÄĚ
Richmond coach Damien Hardwick after their elimination: ‚ÄúIt was an un-Richmond-like performance.‚ÄĚ
Jose Mourinho can‚Äôt explain why Manchester United players can‚Äôt fire up: ‚ÄúI can‚Äôt explain the difference of attitude because I never had a difference of attitude. For me it is difficult to explain that.‚ÄĚ
Team of the Week
Magpies/Eagles, Roosters/Storm. Play in this weekend‚Äôs grand finals.
Tiger Woods.¬†After his extraordinary finish to the season ‚Äď including his first victory in five years ‚Äď his world ranking has soared to 13, a nice improvement from where he finished in 2017, at 1193.
Central Coast Heart. This regional elite team just won the Netball NSW Premier League grand final last night, a big achievement for the only non-metropolitan team in the Premier League competition.
Tom Mitchell. As TFF predicted, winner of the 2018 Brownlow medal.
Nathan Buckley.¬†One of the most storied figures in Australian sport is about to add the one thing his glittering career¬† has lacked ‚Äď a premiership. After his Collingwood side finished 13th last year, they are today in the grand final against the Eagles.
Eddie McGuire. There is a very good reason they don’t¬†call him ‚ÄúEddie the Eagle”.¬† The Collingwood president is a Magpie to the marrow of his bones, and his decision not to sack Buckley last year now looks a like a master-stroke.
Mozzie Legends. Beat the young pups of the Weigall Wanderers in the Cook and Philip Park indoor soccer grand final. The significance is that the Mozzies have played in every single season held since this ex-Olympic venue was handed over to the public in 2001 ‚Äď meaning that the team, who now has an average age of 45, have compensated their loss of speed with an injection of guile and determination.
Peter FitzSimons is a Herald journalist, columnist and author, based in Sydney. He is also a former Wallabies player.