National / Sports / November 12, 2009

Ah, hello winter

Baseball is over. The Yankees won it all. They appear primed for a dynasty. People are crying about their payroll. Our national pastime is boring once again.

But fear not! Football is here, college basketball is on the way, and bowl season is almost upon us (I personally can’t wait for the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl!). But in the interest of providing a meaningful article for this six-week break, I’ll give my five favorite stories and events of 2009.

5. Ken Griffey Jr. tickles Ichiro Suzuki

Wait, what? Yep. According to Larry LaRue of the Seattle News Tribune this June, Griffey will occasionally tickle Ichiro’s ribs and armpits whilst the Japanese superstar stretches in the locker room before games. Ichiro, while silly and quirky and childlike and all that, does not usually interact with his fellow Mariners. When asked about the tickling, Ichiro said if any other Mariner attempted to do this he’d “punch them in the face.” Well, so much for team chemistry. Perhaps Ichiro will de-pants Griffey next season as he scales the wall to rob a home run — ah, who am I kidding? Griffey can barely climb the steps of the dugout.

4. Serena Williams scares line judge to death

Williams is intense. Actually, both sisters are intense. And they are lauded for it — as they should be. Tennis players have always been abrasive, if not whiny. Even the seemingly perfect Roger Federer is prone to the occasional bitchfest. But Serena took it to another level with an f-bomb filled tirade during which she threatened to shove a tennis ball down a woman’s throat. It cost her the match and a lot of her reputation.

3. Alex Rodriguez redeems himself to complete idiots

After a career that has been defined by steroids and an inability to produce at Herculean levels in sporadic and small sample sizes, A-Rod finally got his ring. While no one is forgiving his unforgivable sin of steroid use, New Yorkers will no longer wonder (quite stupidly) whether or not A-Rod is “clutch.” Fun fact: A-Rod’s career postseason OPS now stands at .977, .012 points higher than his regular season total. A rule of thumb for baseball fans: good hitters are usually good all the time; bad hitters are usually bad all the time.

2. Tom Watson makes everyone feel really, really sad

Aw, man. This really sucked. If you weren’t rooting for Tom Watson to win the Open Championship in 2009, you are a terrible person. A no-good, rotten, miserable person. That even goes for Stewart Cink’s wife. And his children. And his parents — assuming they’re alive.

But yeah, you get it. I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t love Tom Watson. In terms of golfers from the pre-Tiger era, he may be the most likable. Jack Nicklaus is a little crusty, Tom Kite makes me uncomfortable, Seve Ballesteros is European, Arnold Palmer is just waiting around to die, Johnny Miller is the Billy Packer of golf commentators, Hale Irwin has been playing on the Senior Tour since 1953, and Lee Trevino is still living off the whole being struck by lightning thing.

You get my point —Watson’s just an affable fellow. And when it looked like he would one up Jack Nicklaus’ historic 1986 Masters victory at age 46 (Watson was 59 during this year’s Open), the golfing world waited with baited breath. But Watson bogeyed his 72nd hole and got winded during the playoff, losing to a similarly likable guy in Stewart Cink. Oh well — at least it wasn’t Greg Norman again.

1. Mark Buehrle throws a perfect game, I watch from my couch

July 23, 2009. I had just quit my job at Alpine Bank in Rockford. It wasn’t the most graceful exit, as I simply walked out, leaving a post-it note on my monitor reading “I quit.” And while I was originally thrilled at my stroke of 21st century George Costanza-esque genius, I realized I needed the money. Feeling down in the dumps about this career choice, I decided to cheer myself up by heading to a White Sox game on the 23rd.

But there was one problem: my bankroll was a little light. Knowing that I’d need all the money in the world to live in London (thanks American economy!), I decided to set a limit for myself price-wise.

When I signed on to Stubhub on the 22nd, I found that tickets were just too much — unless I wanted to sit in the upper deck, but my crippling fear of heights made that unpalatable. So I stayed home. We all know what happened next: Josh Fields hit a grand slam.

Plus Mark Buehrle threw a perfect game — only the 18th in MLB history. Plus DeWayne Wise (the bane of my existence at this point) made the best catch I’ve ever seen. At least I saw all nine innings.

But my favorite moment ended up being the peak of the sporting year, as the White Sox soon fell apart and out of the AL Central race. Quite sad, I must say. At least my sadness is allayed by their recent acquisition of Mark Teahen. Start printing those playoff tickets, Chicago.

For further lamenting about the White Sox using Mark Teahen at third base, the offensive output of the Illinois Fighting Illini basketball team, the Bowl Championship Series, Tim Tebow, Joakim Noah’s facial expressions, Bobby Jenks’ arbitration settlement, or anything else that comes to mind, please do come back around following your winter break.

Kevin Morris

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