October is probably the best sports month, but March has to be a close second. The arrival of Spring Training, college basketball's March Madness, and the NBA getting ready for its stretch run. After a post-Super Bowl lull in February, and the weather warming up, the sound of a baseball game on the radio after a four-month hiatus gets the blood flowing, and makes one want to get back outdoors again.
This happens every year, but in 2012, March 1 was significant on a couple of sports-related notes. Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig has decided to expand the playoffs, and to do it this year. I wrote about it nine months ago (More Playoffs May Be Good Thing For Wrong Reason—June 6) that I don't like it, but at least it will make the division races mean something. Also (and I'm not sure if this is good or bad), the extra round will be only one game! A team could fight all year to get into the playoffs, get there on the final game of the season, and then be eliminated the next night. It could be exciting, though. It also lessens the value of the regular season—A third-place team could win the World Series.
Braun bashing: When news came of Ryan Braun's positive drug test came out last fall, a lot of us thought that the National League MVP was not the type to use performance-enhancing drugs. Hopefully, we were right. His 50-game suspension as a result of that test was overturned last month. Braun vehemently denied ever using PEDs, but remember Pete Rose boldface lied to us for years when he said he never bet on baseball. Braun better not be lying. We will find out.
East Coast Bias: With exactly half of major league baseball teams now training in Arizona and half in Florida, you would think ESPN would give more attention to the teams that train in the desert. Not so. The Worldwide Leader is televising ten spring training games in March, and nine of them are from Florida. The lone Arizona game (Angels vs. Giants on March 27) is on ESPN2, while the others are on ESPN.
East Coast Bias II: With the Oakland Athletics hosting the Seattle Mariners Friday in the first exhibition game of the spring, you would think that sometime during ESPN's 30-minute Baseball Tonight program that day they would have at least mentioned it. They never did.
Kings Are Staying in Sacto: Not only does March mean the arrival of Spring Training and the approaching of March Madness, but the NBA had set a deadline of March 1 for the city of Sacramento and the owners of the Kings to reach a deal for a new arena. The two sides met over All-Star weekend, and a deal was announced a couple days later. The city, in order to avoid taxing its residents, will privatize the parking spaces downtown, leasing them to the highest bidder for an estimated 255-million dollars. The Kings will kick in about 73 million, and arena operator AEG would add about 58 million for a final price tag estimated at 391 million dollars. The Sacramento City Council will vote on the proposal Tuesday, but that seems to be a formality. I've never seen anything wrong with the current arena, but everyone says it is antiquated. The building opened in 1988.
Wilt's 100 turns 50: Friday March 2 was the 50th anniversary of Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game, the highest scoring achievement in NBA history. Chamberlain's Philadelphia Warriors defeated the New York Knicks 169-147. The game was played at a neutral site in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and the attendance was just 4124. There is no video of the game, but you can hear the radio call on YouTube. You can also watch a clip of his appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show two nights later.
The Sacramento Treat: I did something Friday night that I haven't done in a long while. I listened to a Kings game on the radio. Very few people outside Sacramento know what a treat it is to listen to Gary Gerould do play-by-play. The best word to describe him is smooth. He knows the game, is enthusiastic, and you can feel the excitement without him ever yelling or screaming at you. The Lakers beat the Kings 115-107, with “G-Man” using many adjectives in his extensive vocabulary to talk about Kobe Bryant's 38 points and the face guard he was wearing after suffering a broken nose in the All-Star game. He gets on the officials a little now and then, but that only adds to the enjoyment. It was such a privilege to sit next to Mr. Gerould for 11 years at Kings games. San Francisco may have Rice-A-Roni, but Sacramento has Gerould.-----
He's Outta Here: It was three years ago Saturday that KUBA Radio decided they could no longer afford to keep me on as morning news anchor and sports reporter (because my salary was so exorbitant). In order to commemorate that occasion, my top five songs about being out of work...
#5 The Silhouettes-Get A Job (1958)
#4 Johnny Paycheck-Take This Job and Shove It (1977)
#3 Toyes-Smoke Two Joints (1983) “Hard work good, and hard work fine, but first take care of head”
#2 Todd Rundgen-I Don't Wanna Work (I Wanna Bang On the Drum All Day) (1983)
#1 Offspring-Why Don't You Get A Job (1998)
Note: Even after the massive savings Nevada County Broadcasters enjoyed by eliminating my salary, they sold the station 18 months later for less than what they paid for it, and about the price of a decent California three-bedroom home. Not that I'm still bitter.