If you love global sports then yesterday was a hell of a day. A new national champion was crowned in American college football. Major League Baseball added a new Hall of Famer. FIFA gave out its annual awards and in North London a guy named Thierry Henry made a historic and triumphant comeback for Arsenal. Now you may or may not care about all of these events but I love sports and I wanted to give my quick take on these events. I will pare down my Hall of Fame vote and BCS playoff rant as I could write 10,000 words on that alone but here we go.
The University of Alabama won the BCS national championship game last night in New Orleans in possibly the worst championship game in the history of American sports. I found myself comparing it to the awful Connecticut versus Butler basketball final just last year for worst all time title game. However, being as though this game had no business happening in the first place, it takes the cake.
I root for Alabama. I used to date a girl that went there about 9 years ago and I went to several games in Tuscaloosa and always had a blast. What’s not to love about wearing a shirt and tie to the game whilst sneaking flasks of bourbon into the stadium. Gotta love the SEC! However, Alabama didn’t deserve to be in this game. They didn’t win their own conference or even their own division within their own conference. LSU won both as they beat Alabama head to head in November. That said, it’s almost futile to argue anything except that we should have a playoff like every other sport in America. I hate the BCS and the human votes. This is another thing I could go on forever about but I will leave it at that.
Congrats to the Crimson Tide for their resilience and dominating performance. They have the best coach in college football without a doubt and I am happy for all their students and alumni who were affected by the devastating tornado that nearly wiped out Tuscaloosa last year. I am interested to see if there is a split national title although I don’t think there will be after how badly LSU played and I don’t think Oklahoma State will get the support needed to win the AP votes.
Across the pond there were two major soccer events. The annual FIFA awards ceremony in Zurich and the return of legendary Arsenal hit man Thierry Henry. Being as though Henry is the reason I got into soccer in the first place and the reason I am tortured with loving Arsenal, I will start with him.
He made his debut on loan from the New York Red Bulls of MLS last night. He came on in the second half as a substitute and promptly scored the game winning and only goal for an otherwise anemic Arsenal attack. It was inspiring and awesome, I actually screamed at the TV when he did it. He is likely the greatest ever Arsenal player and for certain it’s all time leading scorer. Last night only added to his legend. His ability to finish around the net is why Arsenal won trophies with him on their front line and likely why they haven’t since he left for Barcelona in 2007. I am excited to see him for the next few months and hope he can carry Arsenal deep into the Champions League plus re-qualify for next year.
Meanwhile in Zurich the little magician aka Lionel Messi won his third consecutive Ballon D’Or as the world’s best soccer player. Barcelona won La Liga and the Champions League last year where he was the leading scorer. He is simply awesome and if you don’t like soccer, just watch him play one time. It’s breathtaking. He is the best I have ever seen and he does everything the right way.
His coach Pep Guardiola won world coach of the year and several of his Barcelona teammates were named to the World XI team for the best players in global football. Players from only Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United made up the team. Last year it was also only players from three teams changing Internazionale Milan for Manchester United. I don’t agree with all the selections and believe much of the vote is a popularity contest based on past performance or their club but again, politics is a major part of sports when the voting is subjective.
Finally, that brings me to the Hall of Fame which is extremely near and dear to my heart. Baseball is my biggest passion in life and the Hall of Fame is somewhat of a visceral thing for me. I love going there and I care deeply about who gets in and the current situation drives me insane with the steroids issue as I have written about a million times.
Barry Larkin (below) was the only player elected yesterday and will be inducted this summer alongside the late Ron Santo who was previously elected by the veterans committee. Larkin was a very good player and probably hall worthy but I am shocked he made it so quickly and easily with such a significant jump in votes this year. Sometimes I think the voters feel obligated to vote for someone. Next year with all the biggest names of the steroid era coming on the ballot this was the best chance for Larkin to get in and he did.
Speaking of steroids, Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire both got a small percentage of votes which drives me bonkers. I know they cheated-everybody knows it. But so did everybody else in this era. You cannot in good faith keep them all out of the hall as a referendum on their morality and this era. The writers should not be able to vote in my opinion. They decide to play God and act as a moral authority. I have said it a million times; the hall is a museum, not a church. There are plenty of bad guys and cheats in the hall. This era will be stained forever and should be noted as such. But to keep the greats of this era is counterproductive and stupid. It makes no sense.
What happens next year when the best hitter and pitcher any of us have ever seen come up for election and neither is elected, i.e. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Add that to the all time hit king, Pete Rose, not being in and you have an incomplete and unjust representation of the best players ever.
Other shocks from the vote were that Jeff Bagwell, Jack Morris and Fred McGriff all got hosed. They are all Hall of Famers in my opinion and have never come under suspicion for any wrong doing.
And finally, Bernie Williams, one of my all time favorites only got 9% of the vote. That really pisses me off. He was the heart of the greatest dynasty of our lifetimes when the Yankees won 4 of 5 from 1996 to 2000 plus two more pennants in 2001 and 2003. I am not saying he should be elected but he should get more respect than that.