Sunday, June 10, 2012

AZ's Slant on Sunday - Mood Swings and Finger-Pointing That Accompany Horse Racing

PETA, if you don't like my post, then go back into your cubicles and make more inappropriate advertisements and PETA porn, mmkay? Now that I got that out of the way...


No, really, horses are cool. So cool that they can run great distances in a certain length of time. Seeing them race each other is pretty darned exciting at times. What's even better is seeing people lose hundreds of dollars betting on these beauties.

But anyway, it's interesting to see so many people invested in one athletic colt.

For the record, this is considered a colt since he is under the age of four. (Thanks, Wikipedia!)
Ladies and gentlemen, it was announced on Friday that the colt above, named I'll Have Another, had been scratched from the big race at Belmont. After winning the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, this dandy of a horse was a favorite to win the Belmont, ultimately becoming the first horse to win the Triple Crown since the horse named Affirmed in 1978. After a little run around the stable the other day, I'll Have Another (which will be shortened to IHA during the rest of this post for my own sake) was feeling tension in his leg. After medical attention, it was noted that there was a swollen tendon, leaving the owners no choice but to scratch IHA from the race on Saturday.

He will be retired.
Most of America cries at this announcement.
I know I did.

The thing that fascinates me is how many people get invested in the Triple Crown races just because one horse defies the odds and wins the first two races. Sure, the races are incredibly grueling; the Belmont race is the longest of the three--a mile and a half, actually--and it can really wear out horses. There are other people that probably didn't bother watching the Belmont Stakes because IHA wasn't be in contention. I remember back in 2004 when Smarty Jones was in the running to win the Triple Crown and all of Philadelphia was rooting him on.
(Aside: 2004 was a really awkward year in Philadelphia sports, I'll tell you that right now. The Eagles were in the Super Bowl in the 04-05 season, for cripes' sake.)
The whole area was rooting for this little guy, and about 98% of the people in Philly never knew about this colt until the Kentucky Derby. It was pandemonium, and that was only in the city. I could only imagine what went on nationwide.

There are mood swings that often accompany horse races. When you turn on the television, you'll probably say: "Wow, those are some well-groomed horses," or if you're a female: "Awwwww, they're so cute! I want one!" Then when the guy on TV says "...and they're off," you turn into a hardcore football fan waiting for the fourth down play. It's like, "C'MON [insert long horse name here]!! HANG BACK! PACE YOURSELF!" Then during the final stretch, there could be one of a few things: jumping up and down, garbled yells, the soul-burning stare, or the mid-chew pause, among other things.

Does the media make the horse? In some ways they do, but in cases such as IHA, all you had to do was watch to see the horse come from behind in the Kentucky Derby and see the considerably smaller horse make quick work of the other big guys. When it comes to animals, I think a lot of people have that soft side to root for the horse that just races and runs around for a living.
There are others that think it's animal cruelty and should be stopped. Are there reasons behind that? Sure. The horses are being trained to do it, and to make them go faster, there are times when they're whipped in the behinds. The aspect of gambling on horses can be mentioned too, although that usually isn't the reason brought to the forefront. Don't mention the words "glue factory" either; I think that would make any person cry to hear that be the outcome of any horse.

Horses--and even animals in general--don't really have to do much but act in their own natural ways to win crowds over. Think Shark Week; those things could kill you, but when you see what they do on TV, it's pretty awesome and you just think sharks are the coolest thing ever. Horses run around and eat lots of oats and draw carriages, but watching them race is rather hypnotizing. Is it cruel? I don't think so. They're doing something that's absolutely natural to them, so there's no reason to be upset that they're competing in the human world. If you asked them to swim an Olympic-sized pool, on the other hand, I'd consider that to be cruel since that's not a natural thing for them. I invest a lot of emotions in these guys, and frankly, I don't really mind it.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

I Know Why the Caged Tiger Sings

With the U.S. Open in about a week, golf fans and assorted people that check in from time to time are wondering if Tiger's back in top form.

After previous talk of sex addiction, among other problems, he slowly but surely came back after the torture he suffered from his "problems" and the media two years ago.

Yes, I even wrote about it while it was happening. Terribly.
[This was back when the blog was only about three weeks old and I had no idea what I was doing with it. I want to puke knowing I wrote some of this stuff in the very beginning.]

This Sunday, Tiger Woods 'rallied' as ESPN referred to it to win the PGA Memorial Tour, tying with Jack Nicklaus for PGA Tour wins. After watching replays and such, he did look like the old golfer everyone started hyping about back in the late 90's. Some of those shots were being marveled over by oldies and newbies alike, and honestly, I'm pretty happy for him. Why? The media and every other big thing isn't riding on his back like before.

Let's look back for a little bit. When this whole thing with his ex-wife happened, he was a poster child for a lot of male products like razors. He was a huge male icon in the world of golf; the whole world was watching him. People might not understand the game of golf, but they knew him and knew how good he was. When the infidelity scandal happened, everything just went out the window. His endorsements went sour, his image was tainted, and then all comedy outlets raised all kinds of ...
All of the coverage was probably enough for a weaker man to commit suicide. Over the next four months, he shot out of the public eye, fired his caddy, finalized his divorce, and ended his endorsement deals. Throughout this, the media still attacked him, making all of these accusations based on reports made by neighbors, relatives, and other people closed to him. Soon after, he practically went into hiding and started fixing himself. Apparently he went to therapy for this so-called "sex addiction" (which I still think is strange on how there's an addiction to that), and he then began working on his material again.

To put it simply, Tiger Woods came back to the game on a clean slate. And it's helped him.

In the past year, he's come back slowly but surely, and is golfing very well. In golf age, he's still relatively young at 36, and he looks like he's got a clear enough mind to keep going for a long while. Even the old guys like Nicklaus still have faith in him.

That's what so cool about life. You can start over again in some facets if you want to. Sure, there are going to be idiots out there constantly heckling you, but what Tiger Woods has done to overcome the things he went through two years ago and nabbing titles is pretty impressive. All we can do now is wish him the best in the U.S. Open.

Welcome back to your form, sir.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Draft: Worth, Significance, Time

Last night, the MLB Draft began its incredibly long process in recruiting young talent from college and high school to have a major league career. Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, the #1 overall draft pick from the past two drafts have been holding up with the Washington Nationals (the Tommy John was just a speed bump).  That's pretty cool, I guess.
What about those other guys?

That's what I begin to have a problem with.

Don't get me wrong, the Draft can be incredibly important in sports like the NBA, NFL, and MLS, but in the NHL and MLB, you have to ask questions on the significance of the draft.
With the first leagues that I mentioned, note that those leagues do not have an extensive minor league system. The major problem that I have is that the shining talent who were drafted out of, say, LSU or Michigan could never see the light of day in the big spotlight. For instance, say an LSU outfielder was drafted in the third round in his senior year. There's a pretty big chance that he could never make it past AA or AAA (which would be worse because that's a step before the big leagues). For another example, say a kid from Michigan was drafted in the sixth round out of high school and hockey is all he wants to do. He may be stuck in the AHL for many years after signing, and might not even make it to the NHL for a long enough pro career.

If I worked hard for something, I'd wanna get it within a few years if you get what I'm saying.
Not like this...but humor me.

With something like the NFL Draft, sure they have the preseason and their own forms of tryouts and such, but you at least get a chance to play against the big guys before the cutting time comes. In MLS, you play with the reserves (even the big time guys) who don't start the games. In the NBA, they have their D-League, but there's always the chance of being brought up due to the roster length and injuries.

Another issue I have is certain drafts only broadcasting the first five rounds or so. From what I know, MLB has about 40 rounds or so (dead serious) and hundreds of men are drafted every year. I almost sounds like World War 2 every year. Luckily, they have the choice of signing or not (too soon?). Some boys will go to great length to get there.
Oh look, I'm pointing fingers at Bryce Harper again. He drops out of high school, gets his GED, goes to Junior College and then gets what he wants. That's almost like...the process mentioned :20 into this video. It's a bit extreme. But I guess that's what people will do for love.

But anyway, back to time consumption.
Is the draft for everybody?

The few times I've watched any draft, I started falling asleep. Yes, me, the one who writes about sports. I've even dozed through the NFL Draft. There are some hardcore people out there who do follow the college sports and can follow the draft religiously. I'm not really at that level. It's not because I'm a woman, it's just the logistics of the whole thing is a massive turnoff. It's like a huge game of Stratego played across the country. It's a game intense enough to make you wet your pants in fear.
You see, I don't get entertainment out of that kind of pain. Other people wouldn't want it, either. Unless if you really, truly follow the sport and watch NCAA like it's your absolute job, then the draft is not for you. This isn't a career yet, so I can't say that I like the draft. Yet.

To me, the draft is just something that happens. It's almost like the Circle of Life. You get caught up in it, but this "circle" drops you off somewhere in which you find your role. It's something you can't avoid. If you don't get it, then don't try too hard to understand it, because your head will really hurt since there are all of these guys you don't know coming out of the woodwork. Some women would like that, but only in person.
The draft is incredibly complex and can often be a waste of time for some talent. While it's an accomplishment to be drafted, certain dreams won't always come true. In other cases, people's heads will hurt as to how the process works.

Hopefully I won't be one of those people soon enough.