Saturday, May 9, 2009

Who will win the Indianapolis 500 pole?

I'm not going to make any predictions.

That's because I'm usually wrong and in trying to pick a pole-winner since 1978 (when I was a smart-alec kid in high school), I've only got about three or four right. No use in trying to look foolish here.

In some ways picking the pole sitter for the Indianapolis 500 should be easy--think Penske or Ganassi, but once in awhile a real dark-horse comes through--think Teo Fabi in 1983, however watching the run for the pole is anything but dull.

As of this afternoon, the fastest on the track has been, surprise, a Penske-owned car, but it wasn't two-time race winner, one-time dance king and current IRS champion Helio Castroneves. It was his new teammate, Australian Ryan Briscoe in a Dallara-Honda, and he clocked in at a 225.981 clip around the famed two-and-a-half mile oval.
But Castroneves, driving the sister car was just a tick behind at 225.438 mph.

Put don't put your money on those two just yet. As if it couldn't get any more fun, two former champions are third and fourth with 2007 champ Dario Franchitti third fastest and last year's milk drinking Kiwi, Scott Dixon fourth.

Everyone's favorite Go-Daddy girl and Kathy Ireland wannabe, Danica Patrick is out to try and make history by being the first woman on the Indianapolis 500 pole and she's got a great chance to do so as she had the fifth fastest speed at 224.755 mph.

Still care to make a prediction?

Not me, especially when you have seven more drivers who worked the track in excess of 224 mph. This bunch included the grandson of 1969 champ Mario Andretti (Marco), another former Indy 500 winner with Dan Wheldon, and the heir-apparent to the late, great Lloyd Ruby in that he should have won at least won race, Tony Kanaan. Throw in Graham Rahal, the son of 1985 champ Bobby Rahal and you have the makings for one of the more exciting pole runs in recent seasons.

And for good measure lurks one guy who said he was robbed of victory in his last outing, who wants to make amends. Paul Tracy, the thrill from West Hill, Ont. is making his Indianapolis 500 comeback, seven years after he took a controversial second place behind Castroneves at the 2002 race.

Tracy is never one to be shy about his status and is unquestionably the Ric Flair of the IRL.

"(The fans) either love me or hate me. I have a polarizing effect on people," Tracy said. "But there was a lot of fan support today, a lot of well-wishes, a couple birds, but in general it was 98 percent to the good, so I was happy about that."

Or maybe with the weather conditions being so unpredictable in Indiana (especially in May), there could be that unknown driver who has the qualifying run of his life. Could someone like Mario Moraes, Raphael Matos or E.J. Viso become the next Teo Fabi?

Don't bet against it.

I won't, but then again I won't be betting for someone either. This isn't Vegas, it's Indy, and even when I'm in Vegas, I don't bet. Instead I'll just sit back at the Speedway press center and watch.

And let you guys make the predictions.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Indiana High School Wrestling

Once again another season of high school wrestling has come to an end.

Sad really as it's one of few sports in my opinion that can take on basketball--but don't get me wrong, I love basketball too. It's just that in wrestling, like swimming, track, tennis and golf, it's one of the few sports where your team may lose, but if you win, you go away with at least a degree of satisfaction. Nevermind good teamwork for once.

The only problem I can see with wrestling is in Indiana.

Oh the wrestling is excellent and top-notch, but there's only one class. The state needs at least two and possibly three classes like in the neighboring states. The reason for that is pretty obvious--money, but for some reason the powers that be that run the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) don't see it that way and they've never seen a dollar sign they didn't like.

That was evident when they made class basketball a decade ago. It backfired in their face, but they would never admit that. Same here. I've been given the same lines "well it's great there is only one champion. Makes us better than Iowa."

Not quite.

Now I don't want to get into a discussion of who's better (we already know it's Iowa), but even that grand state has three classes for the masses. And they make more money at it and in the long run there's more collegiate wrestlers in Iowa than Indiana as a result.

Colleges look at two, three and four time state champions more than a one-timer and in Indiana, it's rare to win more than two or three times. Sure it happens, but a three-time champ lost last night in the semis. A couple of kids could have been champion had there been class wrestling and what's so wrong about that? Not only would a little extra pride in a community reeling under a current deficit be great, but don't you think that would help out everyone involved--wrestler, coach, parents, students, school, community?

Class wrestling has many benefits and can only lead to more exposure for all (see the above paragraph) not to mention the fan base would grow and reach into their pockets.

And maybe then you can compete with Iowa.

Is the IHSAA listening?

Probably not and for that reason unfortunately, wrestling will always be a side-show for Hoosiers when it deserves better.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Basketball and Babies Don't Mix

Here's one that took me by surprise. Sort of.

A freshman high school girls basketball coach faces up to three years in prison (if convicted) of leaving her infant son in a running car while (and get this) she played basketball.

She wasn't shopping, she wasn't at the ex-boyfriend's, and you can bet she wasn't running to get the formula and extra Pampers.

She was playing basketball.

Now the alleged guilty party shall go nameless here (you can find her name out on the news or policewire in Mooresville, Ind., but this goes under the "what the hell were you thinking?" listings.

The probably-soon-to-be-ex-coach, 23, is an assistant basketball coach for her alma mater, Mooresville High School. I remember seeing her play when her team would face either Greenwood, Franklin or Whiteland, the teams I've regulary covered. I remember her being tall and a pretty decent player. Decent enough in fact to merit a college scholarship along the line.

I also remember asking a few Mooresville administrators about her. Where's she going to college? Can she play D1?

The response was, "she's a decent player, BUT she's really not the smartest girl in Mooresville." Interesting observations I thought, but when I look back at that converation, which wasn't more than four years ago those people were spot on.

Unfortunately. For her, her son and the community.

Here's the story about "coach."

On January 30, police say the coach left her nine-month-old son alone in her unlocked car in the Mooresville High School parking lot. The car's flashers were on and the engine was left running. The police say during that time, the coach was busy playing basketball in the gym. This was supposedly a faculty vs. student game for homecoming.

The authorities had coach paged and asked her, well, "what was she thinking?"

Coach didn't miss a beat and said sonny boy "was okay" in the car.

The police beg to differ. I do too.

For one, it's not smart to leave a vehicle running and a small child in it. First, it's just not smart and second, would you leave that same child near a heated stove, in the tub with running water, next to a hungry pit bull?

Coach, without missing a beat, told the police sonny boy was sick and needed a nap, so she left him in the car to sleep while she played H-O-R-S-E, and besides, her brother was supposed to be keep an eye on sonny from outside the school.

Sorry, but this one time Big Brother wasn't watching.

When the policeman, who was only doing his job had the temerity to tell coach that sonny should be a top priority over a pick-up game, coach got a bit flustered and aggravated with him.

"I am (fill in the blank) and nobody would take my baby! People don't steal cars in Mooresville and besides, there are cameras everywhere!"

No apologies. No remorse and no excuses.

Even more depressing is the fact when the police called coach's mother, the mother berated the police officer for arresting her daughter.


I guess the apple really doesn't fall far from the tree, worms and all. The mother was like her daughter in that she, too, thought she was immune to misfortune and did not think anything would have happened to sonny.

Well, after all the mumbo-jumbo, coach is charged with neglect of a dependent, a Class D felony, and if convicted she could face up to three years. That's a long time just for shooting a few baskets.

Coach is scheduled to appear in court later this month. Maybe mom should appear too as a classic example of why some parents shouldn't be allowed to procreate.

It's too late in this case and there can only be losers here.

Coach is an obvious loser. Mom too, but that's also obvious. The bad thing is baby sonny is the real loser and has the most to lose.

And he didn't even play.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Biggest Lie in Sports

Already the hype has begun. And so have the lies. And once again America has bought into it.

Next week, some 40-something souped-up family cars will take to hot-roddin' around in circles at the world-famous Daytona International Speedway. The Daytona 500, that venerable race that traditionally begins the NASCAR season will draw its millions of viewers and try to draw a few million more with its perfect lie of "the world's greatest racing drivers!"

Excuse me, but world's greatest?

Well, NASCAR does have a driver from Columbia, the versatile Juan-Pablo Montoya, so that gives some credence for an "international" field, but world's greatest?

I wonder how current world champion Lewis Hamilton feels about this. Heck, I wonder how seven-time race winner "The King" Richard Petty feels. Does this mean he has to turn in his cowboy hat crown?

Now the "good ole boys" know how to run fast (on restrictor plates) and go 'round in circles, but that's inside the boxes they race, American (and now Japanese) manufactured cars that indeed look like the ones mom and pop take on the Sunday afternoon drive to church and the local Cracker Barrel. Some of those drivers are actually purty good too, with Indiana's favorite Hoosier, Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards among the greatest. But world's greatest?

NASCAR will have you believe the lies. Back in December, Edwards was invited to take part in the annual Race of Champions event in England. Edwards was one of two Americans in the race, the other being little-know stunt and rally driver Tanner Foust. Edwards won his first round event against an obscure teen-aged Spanish driver which even NASCAR kept its tongue in it's cheek at the news. But then when Edwards beat retired-seven time world champion Michael Schumacher, the news was delivered world-wide with lightning speed--never mind the fact Schumacher hadn't raced competitively in a few years. It was glory days in Daytona and throughout NASCAR forums all over, but in his next match, Edwards couldn't beat the recently-retired F1 racer David Coulthard, who finished the race on three wheels.

Three wheels. Apparently Coulthard had such a huge lead on one of the "greatest drivers in the world" that he could hit the wall before crossing the finish line and take the win. Yep, NASCAR's the greatest, but they can't think outside of the box when it comes to bad news like losing to a "furriner" racer.

In the past, many top-name open-wheeled racing stars have crossed over into Dixie and beat the good ole boys at their own game. Johnny Rutherford, Jim Hurtubise, Dan Gurney, Mark Donohue, A.J. Foyt and some Italian-born driver by the name of Mario Andretti, came, saw and kicked NASCAR butt. Current drivers with vast open-wheel experience like Montoya, Stewart (who can't fit in an Indy Car anymore) Jeff Gordon, John Andretti (Mario's nephew), Robby Gordon and Casey Mears (nephew of Rick Mears) have had success.

But please name me one NASCAR driver who crossed over to open-wheel and won. I'll give you all day to answer that one.

Not even the "King" himself was the world's greatest, and he won 200 stock car races--but he never raced in the Indy 500 nor anything without fenders.

Perhaps NASCAR really believes in its own lies, propaganda, fables and deceit.

It's just too bad the American public has to listen to it. Fortunately, not everyone is buying into it.