North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

June 20, 2013

Robert Carter: Grab bag — All-stars, hockey and Lefty

By Robert Carter
North Jefferson News

COMMENTARY — Like the bag of Chex Mix that I just polished off, it’s time to dig into an assortment of sports items not big enough to fill a whole column...

Basketball all-stars in June? Well, the NBA is still playing, isn’t it?

I’ve been asked by a few folks why we are just getting around to naming our NJN All-Star teams in wrestling and basketball — two sports which wrapped up high school action more than two months ago.

The reason is very practical, and not just because I’m lazy (which I am). These days, the post-season schedules of winter sports overlap with the start of spring sports, particularly softball and baseball. We literally go from hoops sub-regionals on a Friday and Saturday to baseball the next Monday.

So in order to give enough space to everything as play moves from one sport to another, we simply put off handing out our winter honors until the end of the school year.

There’s another good reason: Once school is out for the summer, there’s not much for us to write about on the old sports page, since we are so heavily invested in our local high schools. Holding our All-Star teams until the summer holiday also serves to fill in that dead time.

Convinced yet? Well, I tried.

Old-time hockey! At the risk of sounding like Paul Newman’s character from the iconic sports movie “Slap Shot,” there are few things I like better than watching a couple of old-time NHL teams go at it on the ice.

However, with the huge influx of players from Europe, the current state of play bears little resemblance to the days when the boys would throw down the gloves and engage in fisticuffs at the drop of a puck.

So the closest thing we’ll get to old-time hockey is a couple of old-time teams, which is what we have in this year’s Stanley Cup Finals with the Chicago Blackhawks and the Boston Bruins. They are two of what’s called the Original Six — the six teams that formed the membership of the league for a quarter century after Word War II, and still dominated the playoffs after the NHL went to 12 teams in 1967.

The Bruins took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series by shutting out the Hawks 2-0. A good defensive struggle, but nothing really spectacular — alas, I’m a Chicago fan, so I may be a bit biased. At least this one was done in regulation time, as the first two games needed at least one overtime periods (and the opener took three overtimes).

But nobody has dropped the gloves yet. At this rate, the chances of seeing a Gordie Howe hat trick — a goal, an assist and a fight — are slim.

I guess I’ll have to watch one of the old “Don Cherry’s Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Hockey” videos instead.

Always a bridesmaid. You can’t help but feel for Phil Mickelson.

Perennially one of the most popular players on the PGA Tour as well as one of its best, “Lefty” just can’t seem to get the job done when it comes to the U.S. Open.

He has three Masters green jackets plus a PGA Championship. His best finish in The (British) Open is second place. But at the U.S. Open, he has been the runner-up, or tied for that spot, a record six times.

I thought Sunday would finally be the day he broke through, as he took aim at the wicker baskets at Merion. But it was not to be, as the severe test of golf that is the U.S. Open was simply too much for Mickelson. Another second place finish, this time to Justin Rose of England.

To paraphrase the quote attributed to Mark Twain, another good walk spoiled.