During the New York Knights’ mid-season downfall, Roy Hobbs was told time and time again in clubhouse meetings that losing is a disease in “The Natural.” Hobbs, the greatest hero of any baseball motion picture, stormed out of the meeting because he couldn’t sit and listen to it anymore. Hobbs went on to knock the cover off the ball, literally, and then hit a home run to win the pennant for the Knights. Losing certainly was a disease, but for this team, it was curable.
Some teams in this prime sports season are in great search for their own Hobbs, or even actor Robert Redford, just to fill a void that has plagued their seasons. The NFL, the pennant races and the hockey preseason make way for some dismal days ahead for professional sports fans.
I know, like the lucky guy in that Budweiser commercial, that there are some championship teams out there that are making people very happy. But there are just so many loser teams out there who have tried their hardest to win the race for last place, that I feel compelled to mention a few. And no, I will not begin by mentioning Philadelphia sports in the month of September. Oh well, too late. Obviously it takes a special team to blow a 21-0 lead in their home opener. Thanks to the local Washington Redskins, who actually deserve a worse punishment for their disastrous finish on Sunday, the Eagles were not the only team to blow such a lead. The Redskins did it in style by blowing their entire 21-point lead in the fourth quarter and then losing in overtime to the Dallas Cowboys.
Now, maybe it’s me, but I think San Diego football fans should be very afraid this season. I can’t remember the last time a team was told they were not playing on opening day. I can envision NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue sitting down Chargers’ owner Alex Spanos and new head coach Mike Riley and saying in a calm voice that it might be better if they just watch right now.
Okay, so maybe it’s because the rebirth of the Cleveland Browns gives the NFL an uneven 31 teams. A big congrats to Cleveland for its 43-0 debacle at home to Pittsburgh. You’ll get `em next time Browns fans. At least Tim Couch didn’t enter the game and throw an interception in his first career NFL play. Oh, wait. And after Denver’s first home loss to Miami after 24 straight wins at Mile High Stadium, the AFC East has a much different look going into week two.
What does not have a different look after about half a decade now is baseball’s powerhouse, the American League Central Division. There is sweat and competition, day in and day out, as every team but the Cleveland Indians fight for the not-so-stellar cellar position. Chicago, Detroit, Minnesota and Kansas City should take great pride knowing that the Indians only clinched the division four weeks before the season ended.
Right now, the Kansas City Royals are the team to watch. This 57-win mammoth is involved in two pennant races. The Royals are about two and a half games ahead of Minnesota for last place in the division and the American League. But they are in a no-holds-barred battle for sole possession of last place in the entire major leagues with the Chicago Cubs and Florida Marlins. One team to watch these days is the Philadelphia Phillies. There aren’t many teams who are in the midst of a 12-game losing streak, a team that is now 16 games under .500 since the all-star break.
If any of you are hockey buffs, you’ll know there is now some other Ted Turner-owned team in Atlanta called the Thrashers. And if any of you are real hockey fans, you’ll think of teams like the Canadians, Red Wings, Maple Leafs and Islanders. As pre-season begins in the NHL, the Southeast Division’s (doesn’t the ice melt down there?) elite crop of teams, including the Carolina “we used to be the Hartford Whalers so you understand our problems” Hurricanes and Florida Panthers, postponed their preseason game on Wednesday because of Hurricane Floyd. This is why hockey should be a northern sport where there aren’t teams, but rather real organ-I-zations.
(While I’m mentioning hurricanes, I want to say I think the latter portion of the alphabet doesn’t usually get enough name recognition. The disastrous hurricanes many of you have heard about include Camille, Andrew, Bonnie, Hugo, Gloria and Floyd. I can’t remember the deadly hurricanes Solomon, Xena, Yegor or Zach. The fact that there’s a tropical storm Zia hitting Japan right now makes me proud.)
Anyway, losing is a disease. It is curable, though, eventually. The Wilford Brimley-managed and Roy Hobbs-led New York Knights cured their disease over the course of one season, something that the many teams aforementioned might not be able to do. The New York Yankees who are playing all too humanlike for a normal Yankees team heading into October are being challenged by the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox, who probably have the worst luck of any baseball team ever, are doing their best to win a World Series and end the 80-year old curse of the Bambino. But let’s be honest, it won’t be cured anytime soon.