Tired, tedious sports debates

tom jones' two cents

Last week a blogger for Time magazine listed Tropicana Field as the third-worst sports venue in the country. My immediate reaction: Yeah, I know. The Trop stinks. I get it already. The Rays have been playing there since 1998, and other than rearranging some furniture and a few coats of paint, the Trop is pretty much the same dump it has always been. And this blogger is just now weighing in? Even the team that plays there is begging for a new stadium, so why do we have to keep talking about how crummy this one is? We're just going around and around. Anyway, can anyone other than St. Petersburg's mayor stick up for the Trop with a straight face? This whole thing has been beaten to death. Here are some other sports debates, arguments and statements we're sick of hearing.

Complaints about B.J. Upton

Has a Tampa Bay area athlete ever been more maligned than the Rays centerfielder? He strikes out too much. He pulls too many rocks on the bases. He loafs. That's what his detractors say. But it's time to pump the breaks on this talk. Upton is not a kid anymore. He's 27. He's in his eighth season. This is who he is. Yes, you're right, he strikes out a lot. He strikes out a lot looking. Then he complains about it. That hasn't changed over his eight seasons. It's notable how consistent his strikeout numbers have been. And yes, he occasionally makes a boneheaded decision on the bases. But let's put to rest this notion that he sometimes dogs it, because it isn't true. Do you honestly believe that Joe Maddon, whose only rule during a game is to play hard, would tolerate anyone, including Upton, who wasn't playing all out? Upton's 162-game averages are .257 batting, 18 homers, 74 RBIs and 39 stolen bases. Throw in stellar defense and a good clubhouse presence. Why not celebrate all that he does instead of criticizing all that he doesn't do, especially because he isn't ever going to be that player you want him to be. He's never going to be Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle, and to expect him to be that is absurd.

Baseball's strike zone

I'm convinced those strike-zone graphics might be the worst technological innovation in the history of television. We as viewers have become obsessed with whether a pitch was a quarter-inch outside the strike zone. We spend entire games griping about the calls the umpire has supposedly missed.

And here's the thing: I watch games on TV, and I'm convinced a pitch was still a strike (or a ball) regardless of what "FoxTrax'' or "K-Zone'' says.

Beyond that, why can't we accept that umpires are human beings and sometimes make mistakes? We also must accept that each umpire's strike zone is slightly different.

Other subjects we've grown weary of:

• Pete Rose should/should not be in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

• Baseball's Bud Selig and the NHL's Gary Bettman are bad commissioners.

• Any time he birdies a hole, Tiger Woods is suddenly "back.''

• Football is a violent sport.

• The media in New York are tougher than anywhere. (They're not, by the way.)

Pitchers were better back in the day

That's another argument from the old and cranky baseball fans. We hear it all the time about how pitchers such as Bob Feller and Robin Roberts and so on would throw like a thousand pitches in a game and would pitch every other game. Back in the "good ole days,'' there were no pitch counts or one-inning closers or five-man rotations. All of that is pretty much true. Yes, those guys back then were tougher. They threw more pitches, and they threw more often. But this isn't 1955. The game has changed. Get used to it.

Baseball's designated hitter

You still hear people who like to call themselves "baseball purists" complain about the American League using a designated hitter. Yeah, well, back in the 1800s batters used to be able to call for the type of pitch they wanted, and you don't hear the "purists'' prattling on about that.

Oh, there's this, too: It's fine to not like the DH, but don't think calling yourself a purist and complaining about the DH adds points to your IQ score.

The DH rule was adopted in 1973. That's nearly 40 years ago. The first DH was Ron Blomberg, who is now 63 years old. I'd say the DH is here to stay, folks.

Tony Dungy or Jon Gruden?

It's the most heated debate in Bucs history, and maybe in Tampa Bay sports history: Who was the team's better coach, Tony Dungy, above left, or Jon Gruden? Did Gruden win a Super Bowl with Dungy's players, or did Gruden do something Dungy would have never done in Tampa Bay?

Here's our answer: Who cares? In case you hadn't noticed, this franchise isn't any good right now. Why not look back fondly at the only Super Bowl championship this team has won instead of turning red in the face arguing over who gets credit for it? Why not give a pat on the back to both men and leave it at that?

Soccer is boring/soccer is great

I've never quite understood the soccer debate in this country. For some reason, those who love soccer desperately want everyone else to love it. Why do they need validation? I don't see how their neighbor or co-worker liking soccer affects their enjoyment of it.

And those who dislike soccer spend their time trying to convince others how boring it is. That strikes me as just strange. Why do they care that there are people who watch and love soccer?

Who's right? Neither side. Both sides.

Here's my solution: If you like soccer, watch it and enjoy it and leave everyone else alone. And if you don't like it, don't watch it and mind your own business. But please stop talking about it. Neither side is going to convince the other, and that's fine.

You can substitute other niche sports in this category, too, such as hockey, NASCAR and mixed martial arts.

Idiotic statements about the NBA

Here are some statements people make about the NBA:

• Everyone travels, and the referees let them get away with it.

• The last minute of an NBA game takes 20 minutes.

• All you have to do is watch the last five minutes.

• The players can't shoot because all they do is dunk.

• No one plays defense.

Know who says those things? People who don't follow the NBA. People who never watch the NBA. Advice to those people: Don't say things like that because it makes you look really stupid. Seriously. You sound like fools.

Are NASCAR drivers and golfers really athletes?

And the correct answer matters … how?

Tired, tedious sports debates 05/12/12 [Last modified: Saturday, May 12, 2012 9:46pm]

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