The NCAA men's basketball tournament is often more than enough to fill my yearly quota of underdogs and sentimental favorites. A couple weeks of fans and media swooning over the latest Coppin State or Hampton - Emporia State, unfortunately, has never made the tournament - usually has me begging for the sports world to snap back into its accustomed hierarchy. I'm almost happy to look up in April and find it's time to concede the Yankees another World Series title.
It is therefore with great dismay and profound chagrin that I report that the gods of Sport have seen fit to unleash upon us a torrent of cuddly, scrappy li'l underdogs. From major league baseball and the NHL to the XFL, the red-light district of the sports world, these painfully lovable Bad News Bears rip-offs are threatening the upheaval of all we hold sacred. What can a man count on if not the virtual certainty of the Cleveland Indians running away with the AL Central?
You can't tune into the Worldwide Leader in Sports or open the morning paper without running into the Minnesota Twins or the Toronto Maple Leafs or the San Francisco Demons (well, actually the Demons can be avoided rather easily). I'd rather pull my own toenails out with rusty pliers, gangrene be damned. I will not put up with another instant of this saccharin nonsense.
Fortunately, none of it will last. Well, I hope not. I know the Twins won't last. There's a reason God made the major league baseball season 162 games long (yes, it was God, not Ford C. Frick) - it's so plucky youngsters like the Twinkies can't make the postseason with a couple quick hot streaks. Such teams may start fast, but they are soon weeded out by the law of averages.
The law of averages holds that David Ortiz and Doug Mientkiewicz (Mint-KAY-vich, for those of you reading aloud to elderly parents) will not continue to slug better than .700, and that Cristian Guzman, while a nice shortstop prospect, will stop hitting like A-Rod. When the Minnesota hitters return to their normal levels, all the pitching and defense in the world won't get Tom Kelly into the postseason.
A source close to the Twins confirms that they in fact did lead the AL Central by 3 1/2 games before last night's games. Of course, this is as much the result of the woeful struggles of the rest of the division as it is Minnesota's splendid 9-3 record. Each of the other four teams is below .500. Moreover, the Twins' franchise-best start represents less than 8 percent of the season. If they were the Vikings, 9-3 would be something to get excited about. They're not. It's not.
Over in the NHL playoffs (smooth transition, huh?), the seventh-seeded Maple Leafs are up 3-0 on second-seeded Ottawa. In three of the four Eastern Conference series, the lower seed is leading. I'm not sure whether this means the dregs of the NHL ain't so dreggy or the class of the league ain't so classy, but I won't stand for it. Someone must speak out against a league that so regularly (several times in the last few years) produces top seeds that can't hold up in the postseason. How else do you think the Capitals made the finals in 1998?
Alas, it appears as if the Leafs will hold up longer than the Twins. They should at least usher the Senators from the playoffs for the second straight season. Only 31 times in NHL history has a team come back from a 2-0 playoff deficit, much less a 3-0 deficit. Ottawa (whose idea was it to let Ottawa be the No. 2 seed in the first place?) will not make it 32.
This plague of scrappy underdogs extends even to the godforsaken netherworld of the XFL. Unless your last name is Ebersol or McMahon, you haven't noticed, but the San Francisco Demons, who finished 5-5 in the regular season, upset the 8-2 Orlando Rage in the first round/semifinals of the playoffs. The Demons, whose credentials as a legitimate football operation include the coolest logo in the league, are a heartwarming, never-say-die bunch that charged out of a 16-0 hole to quell the Rage. I'm already getting nauseous, and I haven't even mentioned the stomach-churning idea of promoting San Fran quarterback and former NFL washout Pat Barnes as a marquee star.
So I call upon the Indians, the New Jersey Devils and the Los Angeles Xtreme to restore some semblance of normalcy to our beloved World of Sports. Crush these scrappy underdogs under your collective heels like so many cockroaches. They're a menace that must be eliminated.
Or maybe just get the sports media to shut up for a minute and stop shoving the cute li'l rascals down my throat.