Before the English started England, the Greeks had the Olympic games. The sports of which were somewhat basic and martial in nature. Running, jumping, wrestling, boxing, throwing weapons around, chariot racing. Yet the ancient Greeks didn’t leave us a legacy of any great team sport that we’re aware of. Did they even have any team sports? Tug-of-war maybe?
These contests were primitive, even primal. Who can go fastest? Who can throw or jump farthest? Who can beat the snot out of whom? Cavemen probably competed in fisticuffs, foot races and spear chucking. One might imagine the only team game Cro-Magnons had was warfare, which isn’t very sporting really.
Motor sports is thought to have started in France. But then that’s simply chariot racing with motorized chariots. Le Tour de France is more of the same on bicycles. Bobsledding is chariot racing down a slippery slope. Speed skating is foot racing on ice. A whole lot of sports are simply races, about the simplest type of contest you could imagine. How inventive is any of that?
It seems most popular sports around the world these days that aren’t races or folks fighting came out of Britain. Soccer, rugby, cricket, golf, snooker, and curling are all well known to be British concoctions. The familiar modern versions of darts and tennis, also devised by the Brits.
You could argue American football and baseball are derived from English rugby and cricket respectively. Both North American sports made the scene when America was largely British by heritage. Ice hockey fits that bill, too. As might basketball and volleyball. You could take a page out of the Winston Churchill book and credit it all to the English Speaking Peoples.
Even in boxing you have the English Marquess of Queensberry rules. So there is that. Wrestling and other martial arts on the other hand, not so British. As for fighting among the spectators, the Brits have a reputation for that, but we’re not so sure they started it.
In the end one wonders why so many sports from the British Isles conquered the world. Something to do with the British Empire maybe? Do Brits just know how to have more fun than other folks? We dunno, but the Industrial Revolution and the sports revolution seem to have started in the same place by our reckoning.
Thanksgiving is upon us and we all know what that means. Besides the usual gluttony and sloth there’s the deadly sin of football on TV, to overstate things. Pillar to post football on wall-to-wall TVs wasn’t always the case on T-Day. Besides TV screens being smaller, so were the number of games broadcast.
Back in the day the traditional Detroit Lions vs. whoever every Thanksgiving was the only game in town. Literally in town as I grew up a stone’s through from the Motor City, not that we threw stones in that direction as a habit. Though being a home game we didn’t get it on the tube since all NFL home games were blacked out back then, sold out or not.
Not to worry, not that you can worry about the past, our family had a work-around, a sort-of byproduct, if you will, since we invariably spent the day at our grandma’s house some miles north in Saginaw. Though that was in the blackout zone on a good day we might get a snowy broadcast out of Bay City. For the kiddies out there who only know digital TV and never heard of horizontal or vertical control knobs, we don’t mean weather snow that falls on the ground, but TV snow. How to explain… you had to be there. Or be then.
The Casual Sportsman recalls one particular game against the Green Bay Packers where… actually we don’t have any specific memories, just thought we needed to mention something about football this being the Casual Sportsman and all. Anyway, perhaps our personal reminiscing of holidays past isn’t that interesting. But we contend it fits the day, warm and fuzzy, family, that sort of thing. We’ll not weary you any longer except to say…
Happy Thanksgiving, and please pass the cranberries.
Sports TV viewership is waning across the board. Olympics, NFL, MLB, NBA, NASCAR, all down. Why might that be? The number of potential viewers is growing, as is the number and size of our TVs. Are folks fed up with the attitudes and antics of pampered, prima donna players? Have over-the-top garish uniforms, bizarre hair and tattoo festoonery all become more than sensible eyes can bare? Is the patter of the current generation of play-by-play crews and the color commentariat a punishment for the ears? Or, as less is more so more must be less, is there just too much of it?
We at the Casual Sportsman cannot answer for anyone else, but we have our own reasons for tuning out. As Yogi Berra said, “If people don’t want to go to the games nobody can stop them.”
Pay to Watch Play - A lot of sporting events we might watch (big might) have migrated to cable. Not only are we casual about sports, we’re casual about TV in general. For ‘casual’ insert ‘cautious with money.’ Or ‘cheap’ if you prefer. So, if it ain’t on free TV we ain’t going to watch it.
The Internet - Face it, there’s a lot of non-action action in sports. Most of a baseball game is guys standing around waiting for something to happen. There’s about 15 minutes of actual play in a two hour football game. And most of that isn’t very eventful. Soccer, even less. The absolute worst is Formula One where whoever enters the first turn first wins 95% of the time. So then, you can see all the eventful action of any sporting contest in a five minute highlight recap on YouTube or the like. That’s what we do anyway.
Father Time - We don’t go trick-or-treating, read comic books, pepper our speech with the latest slang, or stand in line for the newest release of Star Trek, Star Wars, i-gadgets and whatnot these days. At some point we grow up and move on. Or get old and boring, characterize it as you like. Like a lot of things from our salad days, we simply can’t get all gaga about such things anymore.
Still, while our fascination with sports has petered out over the years our interest in word and phrase meanings and origins hasn’t faded. Such as, how salad days means youth. Yet another coinage from old Willie Shakespeare, “My salad days when I was green in judgement, cold in blood.”
It happened decades ago and likely nobody under fifty years old will remember or care very much, but some fairly good evidence suggests Bobby Riggs took a dive against Billie Jean King in the so-called battle of the sexes.
A while back we mentioned something to the effect watching women’s soccer was like watching schoolboys play. Well, we admit we were wrong. It’s not that good.
So, the best of the best women soccer players in Australia, the national team, couldn’t keep up with 15 year-old boys. Or is that 14 year-old boys? Not sure what “under-15s” really means.
Your typical major league ballplayer has 20/12 vision. OK, what’s that 20/20 vision business mean anyway?, I hear myself asking. It means a person can see clearly something at twenty feet that is normally seen clearly at twenty feet. 20/12 means something at twenty feet is as seen as clearly as something at 12 feet. Big league hitters have the proverbial eagle eye.
Though an eagle is estimated to have 20/4 vision. Plus they have big-time magnification in their lenses, but we’re getting off track.
So, does 20/12 vision help hit a fastball? Maybe, maybe not. Some ballplayers wear contacts. Anyway, the amazing thing about hitting a 90+ mph fastball is the amount of time a batter has to see, decide, swing and make contact to drive the ball into fair territory. Actually, how little time they have, about the literal blink of an eye. Incredibly, major leaguers can often place their hits, which one guesses takes micr16-15econd timing.
Hitting a Major League fastball should be physically impossible - a short video
Of course, scientists also used to say bumblebees shouldn’t be able to fly. Now then, what’s the batting percentage of scientists?
In what some are calling the greatest story in football (soccer) history, Leicester City Foxes, a 5,000-1 bet at the start of the season, have won the Barclays English Premier League championship. While major upsets happen from time to time, most are in the form of single events or games, Leicester City’s rags to riches story ran over a 38 game season making it all the more improbable and amazing.
Not being sportswriters we won’t report all the details, which you can find all over the web in much finer form. We will just add a couple little curious twists to the Foxes tale. The title was clinched Monday when Chelsea tied second place Tottenham 2-2. Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri once was the manager of Chelsea. Eden Hazard scored the tying goal for Chelsea which cliched the championship, the same player who score the title clinching goal for Chelsea last year.
Lastly, we link to a video about the club’s amazing run made a month ago before the trophy race was decided. Anyway, now you know how the film should really end. No doubt the complete story will soon be told on video. Until then…
Billiards was first played with mallets instead of cues. It was sort-of like table croquet. The trouble with that was when the cue ball was frozen to the rail they couldn’t get the mallet head on it. In which case the shooter would poke it with the mallet’s handle end, called the queue in French. These days we dispense with the mallet head and use a long handle with a bit of leather on the end, which we call a cue.
Why is it called both billiards and pool? The billiards name came first. Pool comes from the venue where the tables started showing up for public use: betting parlors. You’re likely familiar with football pools or similar betting schemes. Pools are a common way to bet and old betting shops were called pool halls or pool parlors. These put in billiards tables for the betting clientele who started calling them pool tables. Eventually the game played on them became pool. Gambling and pool have gone together a long time.
After a time pool tables made their way out of stately homes and pool halls into middle class homes. Now, not everyone has a room big enough to accomodate a full-sized regulation billiards table. Or pool table. Same thing. There must be enough room around the table to swing a cue, after all. Well, not swing it, but when the cue ball is on the rail draw it back its full length, about four feet or so. Anyway, the point is folks often go for undersize tables.
One might think it’s easier to play on a smaller table, shots are shorter, right? Actually, in another respect it can be harder to play on a small table. Having less surface area there will be less space between object balls, which are still standard size. Cue ball control, maneuvering the cue ball around for your next shot, can be more difficult as a result.
There’s an 8-ball hustle that plays into that. The shark will offer to spot you five balls of their choosing after making their first ball. How it works, they remove balls of yours that are in the way making it easier for them to run the table. The sucker thinks they’re getting a break, but it’s the hustler who gets the advantage.
Our advice, don’t bet or play with hustlers whatever size table you’re on. You may still lose the rack, but not your shirt.
Click pic to play animation
The Casual Sportsman doesn’t follow the Bundesliga closely, actually not at all, but we did read lately how Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski came off the bench and scored five goals in 10 minutes. Which is pretty astounding.
That’s a full game rate of 45 goals per game. Which is pretty ridiculous. Just shows how silly it is to extrapolate an unsustainable short trend to a long trend. If you included all of Lewandowski’s previous games and goals it would hardly budge his career goals per game average at all.
Still, people like to get carried away with that sort of thing. That’s how pyramid schemes promise to make everyone a millionaire. Which they never do.
Did you invent your own sports and games, especially when you were young? Folks just seem to like turning anything into a contest, a game. We’re just naturally competitive. The old, “Anything you can do I can do better” mentality. Give a couple kids hockey sticks, a soccer ball, and a basketball hoop and they’ll make up a game.
Some variations on existing sports and games grow beyond a small group of friends and become more widely popular. Like the Nordic baseball, pesäpallo, we presented earlier. (see below) But wait, as they say, there’s more…
At the link you’ll find videos of sports like underwater ice hockey, played upside down on the bottom surface of the ice. There’s also head ping-pong, toe wrestling and more. One of the more being some guy surfing with a motorcycle!
You read that right, a guy surfing with a motorcycle. True, it’s a motorcross bike which is designed to go off-road. But on water? You gotta see it to believe it. Though we did wonder one thing while watching the video; what happens if he wipes out? Under water motorcross?
Some of these sports are for doing, not so much for watching. Hard to see how underwater ice hockey could be a spectator sport. That’s because, being under the ice, it’s literally hard to see. Then again, competitive eating seems to draw crowds even though that’s easy to see, but hard to watch.
If you don’t think people can make a sport out of just about anything, consider the county fair where growing fruits and vegetables are a contest. How about a dog show? Dog breeding and grooming as competitive sport. Reality TV, "Big Brother," has turned living with people into a contest. There seems to be no limit to what can be a sport.
When we think of Finland and sports we naturally think of winter sports, hockey, skiing and the like. That is, if we ever think of Finland and sports. Doesn’t come up much. Anyway, they have summer in Finland and so they have summer sports, too. For instance, they play baseball. Though not really baseball you’d recognize, a Nordic version of baseball invented about a hundred years ago called pesäpallo.
Finnish baseball is played on a five-sided dirt field shaped like a big, elongated home plate. In American baseball fair territory goes on forever and over the fence is homerun territory. In pesäpallo everything outside the lines enclosing the field is foul territory and so all homers are inside-the-park jobs. Though the batter only needs to reach third to get one. Which we suppose makes it a thirder and not a homer.
In pesäpallo the pitcher stands next to home plate (circular and not home plate shaped) and throws the ball up which the batter hits on the way down. Kind-of like two-man fungo. Since they don’t need a catcher behind the plate, he plays in front of the second baseman, who plays where American baseball first basemen play. There is no center fielder, instead there are two shortstops. Who play in the outfield.
Oddly, first base is to the left half way to third base. Second base is where first base should be and there’s no base at second. Third base is still third base though behind first base. (One imagines a new Abbot and Costello routine. “Who’s on first? Where is second? What happened to third?”) From third runners take a bent path in foul territory to a second home plate, which isn’t a plate but a big semi-circle where the entire team at bat lines up on deck.
Finns go for the designated hitter in a big way. They have three of them, which they call jokers. Being at the arctic circle, Finnish night games can be played without lights. Players wear helmets at all times. Though with the way they pitch, straight up and down, we wonder why. Granted, we don’t speak Finnish, but if you drop the umlaut and replace the Ps with Bs you get besaballo. Cue Garrett Morris, “Besaballo been bery, bery good to me.” Feel free to groan softly.
More about Finnish baseball at Pesapallo.net or this article from The Wall Street Journal. Watch a You-Tube video on the History of Pesäpallo. We say watch because it’s in Finnish. What can we say? Pesäpallo doesn’t have a big English speaking following.
Because baseball is managed so differently today than 100 years ago, there are many pitching records that will likely never be approached let alone broken. These have to do with decisions, innings pitched, and complete games. What with deeper rotations, middle relievers and closers, starting pitchers just don’t get the chance to ever approach, let alone break, those kinds of records.
I mean, if a pitcher won 20 games a year for 20 years they’d have 400 wins. Cy Young won 511 games, lost 316, pitched 7,335 innings and completed 749 games. All records. Now-a-days with a four man rotation your ace will get 41 starts. Jack Chesbro won 41 games in 1904. He also started 51 and completed 48 in a 154 game season instead of the current 162. These records were all set were during the dead ball era which might have something to do with it. Still, nobody has won 30 games in a season since Denny McLain in 1968, almost 50 years ago.
All the same there is one modern era (since 1920) pitching record that will likely never be broken. Cincinnati Red pitcher Johnny Vander Meer threw consecutive no-hitters against Boston and Brooklyn in 1938. Why this feat will probably never be topped is simple, to do so a pitcher would have to throw three consecutive no-hitters.
Trivia bonus: Vander Meer’s no-hitter against the Dodgers was the first night game ever played at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field. Houston Colt 45s (Astros) Ken Johnson is the only pitcher to lose a complete game no-hitter, 0-1 against, coincidentally, the Cincinnati Reds in 1964.
The Casual Sportsman tuned in for the Super Bowl of soccer over the weekend, the UEFA Champions League European Cup or whatever it’s called. We say Super Bowl because it’s an annual championship of club teams rather than national teams. Anyway, we wanted to see if Barçelona was all it was cracked up to be, the new dream team with the South American strike force of Leo Messi, Neymar Jr. and Luis Suarez.
The answer… we don’t know. They looked pretty darn good, but we don’t know and haven’t seen enough to judge how good. How do they compare to the great Real Madrid teams with Alfredo Di Stéfano and Ferenc Puskás? We never saw the Blond Arrow or Galloping Major play, so what do we know?
That’s one problem with trying to compare players or teams from different eras, most folks around today don’t get to see 50s era Real Madrid play. Nor are there endless highlights on cable tv or the internet. The only thing the Casual Sportsman feels safe to say, Barça 2015 have by far more idiotic hairstyles and bad tattoos.
There is one comparison we can make from watching soccer over the weekend. The European Cup was Saturday, some women’s World Cup was shown Sunday. While we said comparison there really is no comparison between the two. Imagine school boys playing in lead shoes, that’s women’s soccer. Less than scintillating. How do people even watch it?
How much difference is there between men and women athletes? Well, here’s a story of how the number 203 ranked men’s tennis player clobbered both Williams sisters, 6-1 and 6-2, in one afternoon. How would they rank in the men’s game? We doubt they’d even get to the pro ranks to be rated.
Oh yeah, in case you weren’t paying attention, the Catalan Kings beat Juve 3-1 to become the first two-time treble winner. That would be league champs (La Liga), national cup champs (Copa del Rey) and European Cup champs. Funny thing, if Jeventas had won they’d have won the treble. Only the Italian version.
When asked about Jackie Robinson in 1952 this retired ballplayer told The Sporting News:
“The negro has the right to compete in sports and who’s to say they have not?”
Who said it? Perhaps the last person most would suspect, Tiger great Ty Cobb. A good deal of what folks “know” about the man, not the ballplayer, is twisted or an outright lie. From the New York Post: How Ty Cobb Was Framed as a Racist
Which only goes to show baseless smears and libelous untruths can live on for decades. Heck, the fabricated equine perversion of Catherine the Great has lasted centuries. Once a thing like that sticks it’s hard to shake, facts be damned.
Sub-file under “people we love to hate” and cross-referenced to “don’t confuse me with the facts my mind is made up.”
The five interlocking olympic rings flag symbolizes the peoples of the world getting together in peaceful sport and games. There’s one ring for each continent: Africa, Antarctica, Australia, Asia, Europe, and North and South America. Wait, that’s seven. Who’d they leave out?
Antarctica is certainly missing. Nobody lives there. Or rather, there’s no indigenous population. There are no Antarcticans and no Antarctican olympic team. Not even for the winter games which you’d figure they’d be pretty good at if they existed. The Antarcticans, that is. The winter games exist, despite most folks not really caring that much.
I guess the other missing continent is Australia which is all one country. Still, it is a continent so why the snub? Then again, why should one country have a ring of its own?
All the same, Europe and Asia aren’t really separate continents in any geographical sense. It’s pretty much an ethnic division between white folks and other-than-white folks. But the Olympic ideal is bringing people together, not dividing them. So make it one continent. There’s already a name for it, Eurasia.
Now we’re down to four continents and four rings. But that’s the Audi logo. Can’t have that. Maybe we can let four rings represent the four continents and the fifth ring be the leftover non-continental bits. That sort-of works. On the other hand, who the hell cares? Let the games begin! Uh, next year.
We at the Casual Sportsman are, well, casual about sports. But then we’ve said that before. Still, we are so casual we didn’t bother watching the Super Bowl as it pitted two teams we really didn’t care about. Even lacking the viewer eyeballs of the entire Casual Sportsman staff, Super Bowl XLIX still managed to be the most watched television event in American history with 114.4 million viewers.
Even so, it didn’t come anywhere close to the most watched TV event in the world. On July 20, 1969, 530 million people watched the Apollo 11 moon landing. Almost five times as many as the Super Bowl. Yet, that’s not the record either.
The largest TV audience ever was for a sporting event most Americans don’t care about. In fact, I’d venture to say don’t even know about. It’s not the FIFA World Cup, you know, soccer’s world series between nations. Can you even guess what sporting event the record holder is?
We don’t have exact figures, but an estimated one billion people tuned in for this event on March 30, 2011. That’s right, billion with a B. And it wasn’t even the finals of the tournament, it was the semi-finals. If we told you who was playing you might be able to guess it. India vs. Pakistan and New Zealand vs. Sri Lanka. Got it now?
The 2011 Cricket World Cup
Inda beat Pakistan and then beat Sri Lanka in the finals. You didn’t really care? We thought not. Maybe you’re a casual sportsman, too.