Alright, this is how I decide who I cheer for in the baseball playoffs…when one of my teams are not involved. First, I always go for the Midwest teams. That mean’s St. Louis, Kansas City (just go with me on this one) Minnesota, Milwaukee, both Chicago teams, maybe Detroit. I then automatically eliminate the Mets or Yankees…certainly the Yankees. Then, no California teams whatsoever. There are freaks that live on the West Coast, I’m not giving into them. I’m partial for the Midwest. Yes, it’s crazy, but fan is short for fanatical. So, what do I do when there are three CA. teams, the Yankees, and no Midwest clubs? Cheer for the Phillies.
I don’t often wander outside the realm of sports in these commentaries, but I’ve been so fascinated by the presidential election over the last few days, I can’t help it. We are a nation of laws. The state of Florida has laws to deal with a close election. Under those laws, they are conducting a recount. When the recount is complete, the losing side might fight further in court. Anyone who is worried about waiting several weeks to determine a winner should remember that this country survived over a hundred years of elections without electronic communication to give us an instant result. The judicial system is part of our republic. But both sides need to stop waging a hyperbolic war of words in the press. Behave like leaders, not petty children. The campaign is over. Challenge the results if you must, but do it in a dignified manner, calmly, in the courts. And when the result is final, accept it, and move forward. The rhetoric being hurled back and forth merely inflames emotions, and whatever the result, will leave our next president with a cloud of uncertainty hanging over his administration. That is not good for any of us, Republican, Democrat or otherwise.
Trouble is brewing for both of Missouri’s NFL teams. The Chiefs have been swept by the hated Raiders for the first time since the ’80s. And the Rams have lost their two biggest offensive weapons to injury. Neither team has a running game or a defense. The Chiefs have not been able to run the ball all year. Elvis Grbac threw for 504 yards Sunday, but the Chiefs weren’t close to winning. They managed just 39 yards rushing. Even more disturbing, was the fact that they absolutely could not stop the Raider offense. Defense hasn’t been a problem before now. As for the Rams, their running game disappeared when Marshall Faulk’s knee locked up. The Rams were almost completely injury-free last year when they won the Super Bowl. Now, Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk are both gone for a month. If the Rams are fortunate, both will step back into the lineup for the stretch run and play like they normally do. But you never know. Marshall Faulk may not be the same player for a while. So with election day pending, let me say this: I like Marshall Faulk, I’ve seen him play, and Justin Watson is no Marshall Faulk.
After a nightmare finish for the Mizzou football team last season, it was hard to imagine that things could get any worse. They could, and they did. The 2000 season has been a complete bust, and will cost Larry Smith his job. The only chance Smith has is to win the final three games and finish 5-6. That would show progress. But that’s not going to happen. Not with Kansas State looming in the season finale. Even if the Tigers beat Colorado and Baylor, they will end up 4-7, and on the heels of last year’s disaster, that would constitute moving in the wrong direction. In addition to the poor record, consider the discipline problems the Tigers have had, and the large portion of the most recent recruiting class that never qualified. Smith picked the Missouri program up off the floor and took it to two straight bowls. A lot more people are sitting in the seats at Faurot Field than there were when he arrived. And he’s had bad luck with injuries. But he won’t be around next year. Take heart, Tiger fans. Basketball season starts in 13 days.
It is great to see the Chiefs willing to use the weapons they have on offense. Elvis Grbac is playing the best football of his career, and taking advantage of his Pro Bowl tight end, Tony Gonzalez, and emerging receivers Derrick Alexander and Sylvester Morris. Marty ball is gone. The Chiefs are throwing the ball all over the lot. It’s a heckuva lot of fun, BUT…. we are seeing one very disturbing trend. The Chiefs are not merely CHOOSING not to run the football. They CAN’T run the football. In the second half yesterday, the Chiefs wanted to chew up the clock with a nice long drive and tried to run the ball. And they couldn’t. Everybody wants to have an offense like the Rams these days, but keep in mind, the Rams have shown they can pound the ball with Marshall Faulk. The Chiefs’ missing running game is especially disturbing considering where they play. One of these Sundays is going to be a cold, blustery Arrowhead day, the kind of day on which the Chiefs usually thrive. But if they can’t run the ball, Arrowhead may not be such a home field advantage.
Nobody in these parts wanted to see a Subway Series, and I’ll confess, I didn’t either. But now that we’re four games into it, I have to admit, it’s been a thrilling series with tight games. The Yankees appear poised to win their 4th title in five years, but any of the first four games could have been won by either team. Todd Zeile is about ten inches from two home runs that could have given the Mets the first two games at Yankee Stadium. Had those balls gone out, or had Timo Perez run hard from first base, or any other small things happened a little differently, the Mets might have swept the series. Likewise, change one or two small moments from game three, and the Yankees would have swept. We hear a lot about how the Yankees have veteran playoff experience, and that’s why they are up 3-1. Well, maybe. But I don’t think veteran experience kept Todd Zeile’s two fly balls from traveling another ten inches. And if they had, and the Mets were up 3-1 right now, we would be hearing that the Yankees are old, not experienced.
Fear not, Rams fans. The greatest offense in the NFL is in good hands. If there is any position where the Rams could afford to lose their starter, it’s quarterback. I don’t mean that as a swipe at Kurt Warner. He is the league’s best quarterback right now, and has done amazing things over the last season and a half. But in Trent Green, the Rams have a starting quarterback disguised behind a clipboard as a backup. Will there be a dropoff in performance? Sure. It would be absurd to expect ANYONE to perform the way Warner has. But Trent Green knows this offense, and will run it well. While he starts for the next few weeks, Green will put up numbers as good as any quarterback in the league, and the Rams will keep scoring. If you want to worry, worry about the offensive line. That unit, which has played so well, is extremely banged up. The Rams may not have the depth to replace those guys, many of whom are already playing hurt. Actually, if you want to worry, worry about the defense. Unless Kevin Carter and Todd Lyght start playing like Pro Bowlers again, it won’t get any better.
Everyone is up in arms about Roger Clemens firing a chunk of bat at Mike Piazza the other night. It was a bizarre scene, and Clemens acted foolishly when he threw the bat, but I really think it’s a stretch to accuse him of throwing the bat AT Piazza. Clemens is a fiery player. He gets fired up when he pitches. When Piazza’s bat went flying at Clemens, he thought it was the ball. How can you tell? Have you ever seen any player actually try to field a broken bat? No, they jump out of the way. But Clemens saw something coming at him, caught it in his glove, saw it wasn’t the ball, and because he was so jacked up, fired it out of play. Now, it was stupid to throw the bat like that, no matter what his intentions were. But I don’t think Roger Clemens knew Piazza was there. People should forget how the Rocket threw the bat, and focus instead on how he’s been throwing the ball. In his last two outings, Clemens has gone 17 innings, allowing three hits and two walks, and wiped out the reputation that he can’t win in the post-season.
It was a shootout, the kind of dazzling offensive performances the Rams have been using to whack opposing teams all season. But this time, it was the Chiefs whacking the Rams. Kansas City handed St. Louis its first loss of the season, 54-34, knocking out Rams quarterback Kurt Warner in the process. Before the Chiefs injured Warner, they picked off two of his passes, and the Chief offense turned those turnovers into a quick 10-0 lead. Then Bracy Walker blocked a punt and Mike Cloud carried the ball into the end zone for a 20-0 lead. The Chiefs battered Warner several times, but it was a standard snap from center that broke his pinky finger. Warner may miss four to six weeks, though he hopes to return sooner. Trent Green stepped in after halftime to throw three touchdown passes. With or without the aid of turnovers, the Chief offense dominated the Ram defense, passing for 362 yards. Kimble Anders, named the starter at tailback, rushed for 102 yards, 69 on one play. Both Derrick Alexander and Tony Gonzalez had five catches for 117 yards, and each scored a touchdown. The Chiefs are 4-3, with a road trip to Seattle next. The Rams are 6-1, and travel to San Francisco.
I planned to talk today about the Chiefs-Rams game on Sunday. Missouri’s two NFL franchises will square off at Arrowhead Stadium. I wanted to go into detail about why I thought this could be a dangerous game for the Rams, who don’t play outdoors very often. But the more I thought about the game, the more I thought about what wouldn’t happen Sunday. Mel Carnahan would have presented the Governor’s Cup to whichever team won the game on Sunday. Today, the state is mourning its governor. Often, you’ll hear a sportscaster say that a death really puts sports into perspective. I hope that’s not true. I hope we all have sports in perspective already. Which team wins Sunday won’t affect what we do with our lives Monday. Pulling for the Chiefs or the Rams brings us a little pleasure. But it’s a very small part of our lives. We don’t know how much time we have. I hope we use it to make this place a little brighter than we found it. I lived outside Missouri during most of Mel Carnahan’s time as governor, but it seems to me, he used his time pretty well.