Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Issues in the Sporting World

Apologies for being absent from the blog since last Friday, but there wasn't anything that really struck a nerve with me to bang out an opinion on. Wait a few days, and suddenly, there is plenty.

The Carolina Panthers face Pittsburgh on Thursday night to wrap up the pre-season. Thank goodness, the fake games are almost over. of course, the fake games are quite real for the guys trying to earn a roster spot. Plan on seeing a lot of Matt Moore and Brett Basanez against the Steelers, as Jake Delhomme and the rest of the starters will get a light night of action. The team will then trim the roster for 53 on Saturday, and then it's on to San Diego for the season opener.

As for the "bubble guys," this is their last chance to prove that any positive evaluations made by the coaching staff are legit, and enough to earn them a job. I've said it before, and I'll say it again--cutting the roster down has to be one of the toughest things for a coach to go through, as a person.

Tough break for Jason Carter, suffering a torn ACL against the Washington Redskins last Saturday. I love the way he plays, he's got great hands, quick feet, and a great attitude. I hope he recovers fully from this, and the Panthers give him another shot in 2009. To me, he was a lock to make the team, and even dress on gamedays, but now he is done for the season.

I am so excited about college football as well. NC State kicks off at South Carolina Thursday night, Appalachian State opens Saturday afternoon at LSU, ECU and Virginia Tech at Bank of America Stadium on Saturday, and loads of other games of note. Just the fact that we are closer to those crisp fall afternoons, the sounds of full venues with screaming fans, loud marching bands, and the recital of school songs and cheers is enough to get my heart racing.

I like NC State's chances against South Carolina, although I don't think they are going to be able to win the game. Losing Jamelle Eugene is a blow, and Russell Wilson could very well be a deer in the national headlights. Have to wait and see, but I love the fact we'll actually be able to see something!

The LPGA handed down a new directive on Tuesday, saying all players that have been on tour for 2 years through 2009 must take, and pass, an English language evaluation. Failing the evaluation could lead to suspension from the tour.

Wait, did that just happen?

A sporting organization based in the land of the free, and home of the brave, is going to (for lack of a better word) discriminate against non-English speaking players?

This is a DUMB rule. Yes, I capitalized dumb.

The only thing this rule does is ensure that someone speaking English will meet the media after a tour win, or event. Is this really necessary? To me it isn't. Players that struggle with English could have a translator there with them for interviews and the like. If the player that wins can't speak English, oh well. She doesn't make the broadcast to talk about her round, and week. Insisting that all players be adequate to proficient in the English language shouldn't be a part of the job description of a professional golfer. Shouldn't be in the conversation.

Yes, the LPGA has the right to make its own rules, but this one is ridiculous. How much talking are the players doing while on the course? I've covered the Women's US Open at Pine Needles, the US Open at Pinehurst, the Wachovia Championship, and other golf tournaments in my career. The only time the players are heard talking is at the driving range, or on TV.

Funny thing about this, is that Se Ri Pak, a former major championship winner in her own right, publicly said she was ok with the LPGA rule, saying things like (paraphrasing here), that it's good for players to have some English knowledge. There are 45 players from South Korea on the LPGA roster and 121 international competitors from 26 countries. Personally, I don't get this whole deal. In the big sports landscape, the LPGA hardly registers. In their quest for relevance, this may not have been the best route--but then again, I just hacked out a couple paragraphs on it. Give me great players with great stories, and great shot making ability. Give me great rivalries on the LPGA tour. Don't give me gimmicks. The LPGA is better than that.

Major League Baseball will dive head first into the 1990's and institute replay for boundary calls, starting Thursday. For the purists who say replay will ruin the game, I say pipe down. The umpire is not being replaced, he is being given a tool to get the calls right. When it comes to baseball, I don't care about opinions, I care about the correct call. I will boo when I think an ump misses a ball or a strike call, or when they botch a close play at the plate or whatever. I accept the human element of baseball. Replay being used for boundary calls (fair or foul, home runs actually making it over the fence, etc.), is like a better drill bit for a construction worker. He still has to drill the holes, this just makes it easier to get the job done right. When you think about it, how many times, in any given game, will replay actually be used? My guess, not much at all. It will look like a waste of resources at first, but when the time comes, it will be good to see the calls being made correctly.

Tennis fans, if you are looking ahead to the Citadel Groups Championships at the Palisades in a few weeks, the field has grown (in a big way) to include Croatian Goran Ivanisevic. The former Wimbledon champ joins a field that includes Jim Courier, Todd Martin, Mark Philippoussis and Wayne Ferreira. The tournament runs September 24-28th at the Palisades Country Club. It;s always a fun time. Check it out if you get a chance.

I'll effort a live blog during the Panthers-Steelers game on Thursday night, and it may incorporate some of the NC State-South Carolina game as well. Check back around kickoff on Thursday (7pm)--I'll likely be here!

Mike Solarte

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