You know those weeks where it just feels like you’re on a roller coaster. One moment a bird poops on your shoulder, and the next, you find a $5 bill on a cold morning. Well, I had one of those weeks.
Let’s start on Sunday. Everything was going fairly normal. I was returning to school after a restful break and then boom, my friend Larp instant messages me in the middle of the afternoon. He told me Kirby Puckett had suffered a stroke, and it didn’t look good for our favorite pudgy baseball player. I try not to get too wrapped up in athletes since they, inevitably, will let you down, and Puckett was the greatest reason why.
He was revered like no other athlete in Minnesota’s history. Puckett led the Twins to two World Series titles and participated in the community more than any sports figure. Hell, he stayed in the Minneapolis area for the frigid winters. In short, he was the balls.
But then things started to unravel. He got glaucoma, a condition only a pot smoker on the level of Cheech and Chong or Chris “the Birdman” Andersen could really want and appreciate. He had to retire since hitting a blazing fastball or seeing the spin on a curveball needs two working eyes. After that, he began to slip from the spotlight and only reappeared for all the wrong reasons. His wife divorced him, claiming he had threatened to kill her while also maintaining various mistresses. This wasn’t the lovable guy everyone cheered on for 12 great years. Then in 2001, he was arrested for dragging a woman into a restaurant bathroom and groping her. He got off, but his sparkling-clean image now had the bird poop on it.
I wouldn’t say I was devastated, but I was disappointed. I mean, I named the family dog after him. Granted this wasn’t quite the same as Bob Costas naming his son after him, but still, it stings a bit. A Minneapolis radio personality put it best in a 2003 article in Sports Illustrated: Puckett’s reverence and subsequent fall from grace in Minnesota “makes us (Minnesotans) look a little stupid.”
But when I heard the terrible news of his stroke and then his death, I didn’t think about his trial or his cheating ways. No, I thought of Jack Buck pronouncing, “We’ll see you tomorrow night” during game six of the 1991 World Series, a game Puck singlehandedly won. So even though he wasn’t the nicest guy in the world, and at worst, a terrible husband, he was still Puck, and he still meant a lot to Minnesota.
But the week got a little better with more sports news. Barry Bonds came to the rescue for me. Personally, I think this guy is quite an a-hole, but he provides great unintentional humor. This week’s saga revolved around excerpts from a book chronicling Bonds’ delve into steroid usage. That isn’t the funny part – everyone with two working eyes and a bit of common sense knows he had to be on the juice. But the best part was the actual quotes from Game of Shadows. As Bania on “Seinfeld” said, “Gold Jerry, gold!” Here’s a quick sampling of the best I read. Number one, Bonds is evidently a racist despite growing up in an affluent, mostly white suburb, having a white wife and white girlfriend and his best boyhood friend being white. The slugger’s recurrent use of the phrase “Did I f—— stutter?” is great to imagine since you know he thinks he’s being incredibly clever. And finally, Bonds’ side girlfriend claimed his “head itself seemed to be getting larger, and the plates of his skull bones stood out in bold relief” as he used the ‘roids. That was obvious to everyone as he transformed into a human bobble head over the past five to six years.
I want to get this book. It would be the first non-school book I’ve bought in three years.
But that high was brought down by the events of the week for Michigan athletics.
Evidently, basketball coach Tommy Amaker was and is trying to take the heat off football coach Lloyd Carr. You could’ve thrown hockey coach Red Berenson in with Amaker if his team hadn’t swept Ferris State this weekend.
One play summed up the whole season for Amaker’s team. In the Indiana game, forward Graham Brown tried to heave a pass down the court. Instead, it hit a scoreboard speaker.
Wow, just wow. That’s embarrassing.
Then the Wolverines choked in their opening round matchup against Minnesota, burying any chance at dancing in the tourney. Amaker’s crew is destined for the NIT again, and a team with a decent amount of talent was wasted. I didn’t need to watch the selection show to know I wasn’t heading to the tourney with the team.
I’m not trying to have a pity party for myself. But this was my senior year, and Michigan sports have officially let me down with the basketball team failing to make the field of 65.
But sports redeemed the week for me like they usually do. On Saturday, my high school, the St. Thomas Academy Cadets won the boys state hockey tournament, allowing me to end the week on a high note despite the ups and downs. Sure, I’m not in high school anymore, but I have to take the wins and championships where I can if Michigan won’t fill that void.
Matt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.