Every now and then, we have to remind ourselves about some of the underrated things we love about sports. Money and scandals have turned us into cynics. We focus on the obvious and tend to get caught up in the bigger-than-life. We remember Michael Jordan but forget Steve Kerr. We rave about the Gators but ignore Florida A&M. We gasp at tape-measure homers but don't even think about a drag bunt. Along the way, fans often take for granted the sights and sounds that make sports more enjoyable. So here's another edition of the people, places and things in sports that are underappreciated.
Fans love to wax poetic about "cathedrals'' such as Wrigley Field and Fenway Park, and gush over the new Yankee Stadium. Dodger Stadium is awesome for its simplicity and class. Dodger Stadium says one thing: baseball.
That little box in the corner of the TV screen that shows the score, game time and other real-time information. When it was introduced, it was annoying and distracting. Now try watching a game without it.
TV's yellow first-down marker
Another gimmick, it shows on your screen where a team has to go to make a first down. If it's not there, viewers start to hyperventilate as if someone just sucked all the oxygen out of the room.
Not a brat. Not kielbasa. A regular hot dog with mustard and ketchup.
Organ music at hockey games
Forget thumping AC/DC music. Forget in-game public address announcers screaming about some goofy bingo game. Forget suped-up kids blasting T-shirts into the crowd. Just give us a little Beer Barrel Polka on the organ and we're happy.
The sports pages
This might come off as self-serving, seeing as how you're reading this in the sports pages. But these days, as cable TV and the Internet overload our senses with sports news, there's something to be said for waking up, pouring a cup of coffee and taking a few quiet minutes to look at box scores, read a few stories and think about something other than health-care reform and what you have to do at work or school that day.
The extra point
Perhaps the most overlooked, taken-for-granted thing in sports — until your team misses one. And doesn't it seem like every single extra-point attempt that is missed ends up affecting the outcome of a game? Misses never seem to happen in a 40-7 game.
We take it for granted here because it's been here for a zillion years, and now spring training games are even on TV. But skipping work and sitting at Dunedin Stadium or Joker Marchant in Lakeland beats working any day.
Florida State League
One of the best bargains around. Cheap or free tickets are always available. And in the future you can brag that you saw a star back in the day, just like fans do about having seen Pete Rose, Derek Jeter and Jim Palmer. It's like telling buddies about the night years ago you saw these four Irish guys named You-Two or something like that in a club with 20 other people.
If you need 2 yards, they get you 2 yards. If you need 8 yards, they get you 2 yards. No matter. They block, maybe catch a pass here and there, and they block some more. Think of Mike Alstott. Think of Matt Suhey. Think of Lorenzo Neal. Think of Jim Braxton. Man, those guys were football players.
Sports on the radio
Nothing beats listening to a baseball game in the back yard on a nice night in June. Listening to a hockey game on the radio, provided the announcer is good, can be as fun as watching it. And was anything cooler than listening to Jack Buck and Hank Stram call Monday Night Football games on the radio?
Time was, you had to wait for the 6 or 11 o'clock news to get the score you wanted. If you missed it, then you had to wait until the morning paper came. Now you get your score within minutes by watching the bottom of the TV screen. But is anything more infuriating than waiting for your score, missing it when the program goes to commercial and having to wait until the score comes around again?
Shady promoters, the ever-debatable decisions by judges, pay-per-view and the growing popularity of mixed martial arts has turned boxing into a cult sport. But when two skilled, trained boxers get into the ring, the sport still can be the sweet science and beautiful to watch.
They're a staple of college sports. You love hearing them in the background of a football or basketball game, even a hockey game. Sadly, because of football halftime highlight shows, we don't get to see their performances on TV anymore unless we go on the Internet during NBC's Notre Dame games … which we do.
'Eight Men Out'
When people list the greatest baseball movies, they usually pick Bull Durham, The Natural and Field of Dreams, and for good reason. They're must-sees. But there's never enough love for John Sayles' 1988 classic about the Black Sox Scandal. Great cast, great wardrobes, great story. Other underrated sports movies: Rocky III, The Sandlot, Downhill Racer and Breaking Away.
While everyone else sits around whining about Brett Favre, we remember a Packers quarterback who won five NFL championships, which is more than Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw, Troy Aikman and Johnny Unitas, and four more than Favre.
When it comes to sideline reporters, Erin Andrews, Michelle Tafoya and Jim Gray get all the attention and accolades. But Kolber's enthusiasm and information give us something to listen to every time she's on camera.
Big-time college football is as exciting as ever, but we still love watching teams such as Yale, Lehigh, Grambling State and Appalachian State. We love seeing little teams such as Robert Morris, Costal Carolina and Radford make the NCAA basketball tournament. We love it because we know the players are playing for nothing more than the love of the game.