Here’s what’s happening in the sports world, relevant to my interests:
- The Wonderful Saga of Ricky Williams continues. Here’s the scoopula on running back Ricky Williams. The New Orleans Saints traded all their picks one year to ensure that they could get him in the college draft. They did. He performed very well on the field, but didn’t really fit in with his team-mates. He got traded to Miami, and I was very excited for him to be a Dolphin. He performed very well for Miami, then suddenly decided to retire. A couple of weeks before training camp started. At first, his decision to retire seemed kind of noble – “football doesn’t interest me anymore, and I’m more interested in pursuing other things in life”. While it was maddening to have him quit when he did, I could accept it. Then it gets revealed that he’s really retiring because he was going to be suspended a year anyway for drug violations. He was an admitted marijuana user and was found in violation of the NFL’s (too strict, in my opinion) drug policies. He spends the season “finding himself”, camping out under the stars in the Australian outback, finding spiritual enlightenment in Asia, being a generally odd type of person (as far as typical sports figures go). He then claims he’d like to return to the Dolphins and play again. He’s given up smoking and wants to commit to the team fully. This claim comes shortly before it’s revealed that he owes the Dolphins something like 6 million dollars for breaking his contract earlier. His commitment to football seems somewhat dubious based on his debts. Still, after a 4 game suspension last year (the backend of his original suspension), he plays again for the Dolphins, primarily as a backup, and has a surprisingly good season. By all accounts, he is the model athlete, and while still rather aloof to his team-mates, is in no way considered a disruption to the team. The opposite, in fact. After last season, it gets reported that he’s broken the drug policies again (although this time it’s not marijuana), and will once again be suspended. He claims he hasn’t knowingly broken the rules, and places the blame of the positive drug testing on some herbal supplements that are part of his vitamin regimine. He appeals and loses. He gets banned for the upcoming season. Enter the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL, who’d love to have him play for them. The Dolphins (who still own his playing rights) say they’d rather not have him play in the CFL and expect him to be back with them next season (2007). After assurances that he’ll return to Miami as soon as this season of the CFL ends, the Dolphins coach gives him permission to play with Toronto. So, now, Ricky is an Argonaut and will play this summer/autumn with them. How much weirder can this guy’s travels get? And, still, after all the consternation he’s caused us Dolphins fans, I’m finding that I’m still rooting for him to succeed.
- Formula One raced last weekend at Monaco. While it’s hailed as the prestigious race of the season (due to the exotic locale and racing through the streets of Monte Carlo and all), it’s usually a bore of a race to watch. Very little passing, and once you get passed the thrill of seeing these super-fast cars racing around very narrow streets at seemingly impossible speeds, it becomes not much more than watching cars parade around for a couple of hours. At this race, more than any other, being on pole at the beginning of the race is critical. Stay at the front and you don’t have to pass anyone ahead of you. Much better chance to win the race. So, during the qualifying on Saturday, Michael Schumacher had the fastest so-far qualifying time, and as the hour of qualifying was drawing to a close, it seemed like he’d be on pole. However, with only enough time to finish the qualifying lap each driver was currently on, Michael’s chief rival, Fernando Alonso was on a lap that looked like it would beat Michael’s already-posted time. So, Michael, who was ahead of Fernando on the track, had some sort of mechanical problem, and stalled on the course. This brought out the yellow caution flags and effectively ruined the last timing-lap of those behind him. Therefore, Alonso lost his chance to beat Schumacher’s time (and it seemed like he would beat it to, based on earlier interval times on the lap). Michael shrugs off the incident and blames it on a lapse in concentration or some such thing. Everyone else, though, cries foul, and accuses Michael of cheating. Of purposefully ruining the final qualifying lap of Alonso. A seven hour hearing is convened and results in finding Schumacher guilty of purposefully stopping on the course. His penalty is rather severe – all his qualifying times are wiped away, and he’s forced to start the race at the back of the grid. Alonso, who had the second fastest qualifying time, then achieved the pole position. Alonso then went on to win the race, and Schumacher actually performed quite remarkably, finally ending in 5th or 6th. What makes this so interesting to me is that Michael Schumacher, in my mind, the greatest race-car driver ever to sit behind a wheel, has had more than his share of controversial moments in his career. He was stripped of a season of points about a dozen years ago when he was found guilty of intentionally running into Jacques Villeneuve, who was his chief rival in the Drivers’ Championship. Other incidents, too, have marred his spectacular career. But I don’t recall any incident of his being so unanimously and vehemently chastised as this one. The whole of Formula One is up in arms against him and it could potentially damage or tarnish his reputation as a champion. And even through all of his dubious shortcomings, I still find myself cheering for him because of his immense and deep talents as a driver.
- The World Cup is about to start, and I can’t wait. Being of Scottish heritage, I find myself forced to cheer on England. Failing that, I usually sub-cheer for one of the Scandinavian countries, followed by one of the more underdog of the South American entries. I find it hard to cheer for Germany or France, and all those African countries are just too much of a puzzle for me. I am unable to cheer on the USA in any international sporting event, even in an underdog situation like this, where them doing well would likely increase the popularity of the sport here in North America. Depending on how the officiating goes (not so many dubious calls in favour of the home country please), I’ll go with my heart and say that this is the year that England wins. And really, wouldn’t that be the best?