Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Tuesday Grab Bag: Golf!

Is there anything more American than Single-A baseball? As I found out recently, there really isn't.  In a setting such as a small farming community on a weekend evening, the old edifice of what once was still shines bright, and hearkens back to the Satuday Evening Post version of our collective zeitgeist.

Earlier this month, while on vacation in California's Central Valley, I devoted a significant amount of time to the pursuit of this quiet slice of Americana, and found it refreshing and vibrant.  Catching games in Modesto and Visalia (the Nuts and Rawhide, respectively), I became enamored by the encroaching smallness of the game I have always experienced on the grand stage. There was an earnest pride in these towns for the collections of never-will-be's assigned to their care; no shame or reservation under the knowledge that the players in front of them are decidedly minor league.  Glitz and glamour put aside, the interstitial moments were honest, with the advertising for local airport service to Sacramento, or the local farming family who had been sponsoring the team for years.  The cynical aspect of baseball was gone, replaced by something wholesome, organic.  No stream of stats, no monotonous bloviating from the color guy -- the big business of baseball made farm-to-table.
The scene in Visalia
There's something unique to truly cherish about baseball's minor league system.  Certainly, my love and passion for the game played a big part in my experience, and your mileage may vary, but I can't recommend small-town baseball enough.  Tiny, intimate stadiums offer cheap prices on beer and tickets.  The local boy scout troop carries the flag out to center field for the anthem. Players you can relate two (Visalia's shortstop wears the same cleats I do!) replace the preening mega-stars of the bigs.  If you're a real baseball fan, make some time for it the next time you're out and about. You won't regret it.


Today in the bag, I'm talking a renewed rivalry, the British Open, and the Gold Cup.

Click below for the bag...

Air Force is back on football schedule after a 40 year break - 

Coming as both a surprise and a fait accompli, it was announced this past week that CU and the Air Force Academy will, after an extended hiatus, finally renew their football rivalry.  That's right, for the first time since 1974, the Buffs and Falcons will square off on the gridiron.  The games will be played in 2020 and 2022, are currently scheduled for home sites, and conspicuously start around the same time that the series with CSU is ending.  I couldn't be happier with the arrangement, and welcome the varied intrastate flavor to the upcoming schedule.
Would be a good game for some throw-back unis. From:
Of course, the obvious question is: as they're only separated by about 90, why has it taken 40 years to get these programs back together on a football field?  Well, the answer is both humiliating and petty.  Back in the early 70s, at what would become the tail-end of the old series, Boulder served as an especially hostile venue. Wrapped up in the anti-Vietnam War, anti-establishment feelings of the era, CU students (in particular) treated the Academy's representatives terribly, hurling detritus at leaders and vandalizing the uniforms of visiting cadets.  The stories are shameful and embarrassing.

In that light, I certainly understand the reasoning behind pausing the series at that point.  CU as an institution didn't deserve to share the field if that's the way we were going to behave.  But, as it usually does, time passed.  That era of both American and Boulder history faded, and it became increasingly awkward that the series was never renewed.  As I understand it, while CU athletics was interested, it was an absolute non-starter at the Academy, with 40 years of leadership saying a definitive no.  In recent years, former Air Force Athletic Director Hans Mueh was quoted as saying "I will never forget (the hostile reception in Boulder)... it's still with me." Despite entire generations of undergrads and athletes passing through the University of Colorado, it was assumed at the Academy that nothing had changed in the football stands up north. An odd parsing, as CU and the Academy would meet, without incident, in basketball, soccer, tennis, and volleyball over the intervening years...
There was no riotous welcome for the Falcons when they came to the CEC this past winter.
For his part, Mueh is no longer calling the shots in Colorado Springs, having retired after the 2014-15 season.  I guess, with the former AD and his extended memories out the door, it was only a matter of time before the Falcons reappeared on the schedule.  Since Colorado is no longer interested in playing with little brother, it only makes sense as the Falcons stand as an ideal source of local flavor to fill out the schedule.

Hopefully, those Falcons fans who've held a 40-year grudge against the state's flagship will make the two hour jaunt northwards in 2020.  What they will find may surprise them - the only open hostility they will encounter is to the Buffs having to defend the triple option.  Yeesh, that's going to be a nightmare to prepare for... on second thought, what's Wyoming up to?

A dramatic finish on the Old Course - 

It was a perfect setup.  With the fourth and final round of the 2015 British Open pushed back to Monday from the Old Course at St Andrews, a tight grouping at the top of the leaderboard was racing neck-and-neck to the finish line.  Chasing his third consecutive major title, Jordan Spieth soared up the board with a monster 50-foot birdie putt on 16, and seemed to be in position to force his way into the developing four-hole playoff.  All he would need was a birdie on 18... It wasn't to be, however.  His approach shot whipped back down a hill under the force of backspin, and his potentially saving up-hill putt scooted just wide.  The dream of a natural Grand Slam fading in the insistent Scottish breeze.
Spieth nearly stole the show, but it was Johnson taking home the hardware.
With the world's current best out of the way (try and argue), that left a tasty grouping of Louis Oosthuizen, Marc Leishman, and Zach Johnson to battle it out for The Open's crown.  What's another four holes for a tournament that had already stretched into a fifth day?  With the golfing world breathless, it was Johnson who walked away with the Claret Jug, posting a -1 on aggregate over the bonus holes.  A pretty good result for a player who didn't even know where the Open was going to played as the year opened.

The stretch run and the playoff made for excellent lunchtime viewing for yours truly.  While the ugly conditions present on Friday and Saturday made for less than fair play, they at least gave us the gift of an absolutely enthralling Monday.  Let me tell you, little work was done at my desk as the tournament reached its peak. Still, it was disappointing to see Spieth's bid end a few inches short.  I had bought in on 16.  When that putt landed, I thought it was destiny.  I guess the 21-year-old will just have to try again next year...

America continues to soccer - 

If your soccer itch remains unscratched after the USWNT's run to World Cup Glory, I'm happy to offer that international competition continues on in the form of the men's CONCACAF Gold Cup.  Certainly a lesser tournament, the GC, played biennially among the members of North America's soccer governing body, still provides some distractive entertainment while we all await the on-rush of fall's busy sporting calendar.
Not completely without difficulty, the USMNT has been rolling through the Gold Cup.
Luckily, just as the US Women ran through the World Cup, the men have been comfortably running through play in the regional tourney.  Similarly, they even 'struggled' in group play, nabbing wins over Honduras and Haiti and a draw against Panama to claim top honors.  While not particularly pretty, the performances were at least fruitful, allowing the team to advance to the knockout stages relatively unscathed.

In their quarter-final meeting with Cuba on Saturday the Americans cruised, knifing through the Caribbean minnow with little difficulty.  Scoring early and often, the US put up six unanswered goals on their island neighbors en route to victory.  Not exactly a surprise, but, with cup rivals like Mexico and Panama struggling with their own weekend tilts, a breezy US victory was quite welcome.
Deuce has been a scoring machine in this tournament.
The biggest note to take away from the action so far has been the play of Clint Dempsey.  Recently stripped of the captaincy he'd held for over two years, the man known simply as 'Deuce' has been scoring at will. While the level of competition in this tournament always leaves much to be desired, his performances over the past few weeks (six goals in four games) have, none-the-less, reminded how important and impactful the fiery Texan can still be at 32 years old.  Dempsey is on the downward swing of one of the best American careers ever (a long-shot to make the 2018 World Cup roster), but he's got some gas left in the tank, and it's been a joy watching him put the pedal down.

Realistically, the Gold Cup mostly serves as a primer for World Cup qualification (starting up later this year), allowing head coach Jurgen Klinnsmann a lower-profile opportunity play around with the roster.  But, with a trophy on the line, along with a guaranteed berth in the 2017 Confederations Cup, it's still a title worth winning.  The US look to continue their pursuit tomorrow afternoon in the semi finals against Jamaica. Coverage will start at 4pm MT on Fox Sports 1.

Happy Tuesday!


Claroofus Jones said...

Ooh, you meant Clint Dempsey but you typed the name of the writer for the Post (ex of the Camera) Chris Dempsey.

RumblinBuff said...

Yeesh, where was my head at?