Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Unholy Trio

If you're a true sports fan you have teams and schools that you truly can't stand.

If you're a member of the Red Sox Nation you hate the Yankees. You went to THE Ohio State University? You probably can't stand the sight of maize and blue.

For me there are three which hold a special spot on my sporting dart board and nothing brings me more pleasure than to see them fail at every turn.

They are the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Duke Blue Devils basketball team and the entire Stanford University athletic department. Those three teams/programs irk me in ways that non-sports fans can't understand.

Seeing them succeed no matter how heart-warming the story at the time, absolutely makes my skin crawl. And if that sounds a little over the top, it is. But I have perfectly good reasons for all three.

First and foremost are the Dodgers, who I have been groomed to hate over my 27 years on this earth like no other team in sports. I am a Giants fan through and through, and that's really all you need to know about that.

Second would be Stanford, which when compared to my father's alma mater Cal, stands as the bastion of spoiled-brat schools where as long as you can afford it, you can go there. Oh, and I want to burn that stupid tree to the ground, or beat the tar out of it like Cal's mascot Oskie did.

Last, but certainly not least, would be the Duke Blue Devils and their men's basketball program. When I first got into college basketball I was a fan of Michigan's Fab Five who, with their baggy shorts and black socks, stood in stark contrast to the lily white, buttoned-down Dukies.

There's just something so off-putting about those guys, and before you go calling me a racist, I've never like their black players either.

The strangest thing however is that while in general I've got running vendettas against all three, there still manages to be something about them that I admire, and even(gulp) like.

You know what I'm talking about. Vikings fans hate the Packers, but most of them have a healthy respect for Brett Favre. And as much as Red Sox fans want to see the Yankees go down in flames, most of them recognize the effort and classiness of Derek Jeter.

So here now, the "unholy trio" of things that I actually like about the Dodgers, Stanford and Duke. I feel dirty just saying that.

Vin Scully - Play-by-Play Announcer:

A huge part of truly enjoying a baseball game on television or on the radio is the ability of the play-by-play man working the booth.

In some places, like San Diego, people are forced to choke down the over-the-top and hardly-accurate musings of guys like Matt Vasgersian. However in Los Angeles fans are treated to the silky smooth tones of one of the greatest sportscasters of all time, Vin Scully.

Sure Scully is getting up there in age and he will sometimes butcher a player's name, but no one tells the story of a baseball game like Scully.

The man has forgotten more about baseball than most of us will ever know. He's steeped in anecdotes about players both past and present, and listening to him wax poetic about a funny moment or a dramatic play is truly a treat for those of us who love the game.

On top of that he's still a sharp baseball mind, who pays attention to what's going on in the game and does so much homework that often he'll be able to give you a full bio on players who don't even play for the Dodgers.

In an era of broadcasting that is fully in love with the three man booth and semi-illiterate former players as color commentators, Scully commands his one man show like no other.

As much as I hate the Dodgers and all that they stand for on the field of play, it is an honor to sit down to a Giants/Dodgers tilt with Scully behind the mic.

Mike Krzyzewski - Head Coach:

As fully annoying as I happen to find the Duke players, their head coach is another matter completely.

Krzyzewski is the model of what a collegiate coach should be. Dignified, classy, intense and a wonderful teacher of the game. Coach K is as interested in growing quality young men as he is in developing big time basketball players.

On the court, his pressure defense and precision offense are what make the collegiate game stand out from it's professional brethren, and no one does it better.

There are a few coaches in big time collegiate athletics who I would gladly send my child to play for, safe in the knowledge that they will truly get an education in both sports and life. Tennessee's Pat Summitt, Washington's Tyrone Willingham and Zrzyzewski would top that list.

Too many coaches are in it to win at any cost and in the process neglect to give all of their kids, from the stars to the walk-ons, the best of themselves as people. This is not the case with Coach K, which you can tell by the relationships he keeps with his former players.

Few things in sports bug me like watching Duke trampling ACC opponents, but I can certainly appreciate the efforts of Coach K both on and off the court.

Tiger Woods - #1 Golfer in the World:

This one proves that even the best have at least one fatal flaw, and for the greatest golfer of all time (that's right, I said it), it happens to be his choice of school.

If you've read my blog at all you know how much I love to watch Woods play and he is easily one of my top 5 athletes of all time. Still, it irks me that of all the places in the world (or the West Coast for that matter), Woods chose to go to Stanford.

I suppose I understand the decision given the school's prowess on the national collegiate golfing scene, but that doesn't excuse the lapse in judgment.

You don't need me to tell you about all the amazing things Woods has accomplished on the golf course, and for all the scrutiny he gets for not taking many political stances off of it, his Tiger Woods Foundation has done more to help kids around the country than most star athletes.

Even though watching him freak out during the Stanford/Arizona basketball game in 2004 was truly annoying, Woods is the man without question.

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