Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Sport: it's a funny old game

Today I ache: it's 48 hours since a guy eight inches taller, twenty years younger and two stone lighter than me made my face, nay my whole head, turn puce.

These days, aside from creaky tennis and playing cricket with Rory, my main exercise comes from squash. Normally it's reasonably sedate, 40 somethings playing canny shots to the corner and no-one running very much. But there's one bloke in my league who lollops around like a greyhound puppy; whacks the ball with ballistic force...and also has the tendency to lob the ball over me right to that crack between the back wall and the floor. Suffice to say I lost.

Even though I don't play much, I still love sport. I'm really looking forward to seeing Wasps in the Guinness Premiership final on Saturday at Twickenham; I'm mourning the fact that my football team - Wycombe Wanderers - lost out in the promotion play-offs, and I'm looking forward to a day out at Lord's tomorrow, despite the fact that my beloved Middlesex County Cricket Club are possibly the worst first class county side in England at the moment - probably the decider on who's the absolute worst will start at the end of the week when Middlesex take on Derbyshire.

Over my decades of following sport, I've nearly always gone for the underdog - there's something uplifting to me about watching sport in adversity (though I have enjoyed Wasps' many successes).

Perhaps that's why I was drawn to watching and following the Tampa Bay Rays. Now, for more than a decade, as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the Florida expansion franchise struggled to make any impact on US baseball's American League. Perennial strugglers, the Rays' chase for the World Series would inevitably be over as May rolled over into June - never mind as the dog days of September rolled in. Post-regular season was another country.....but not any longer.

New owners, plans for a new stadium, home-grown talent coming through and some astute trades have seen the Rays (and yep, they've dropped the 'Devil' too) storm to the top of the American East with a winning percentage of .608 - outstandingly top across the Leagues.

I'm not used to these heights, in fact if they don't stop pulling away from the Red Sox, the Orioles and the New York Yankees (who are rubbish this season), I'll probably get a nosebleed - or have to start supporting the Washington Nationals.

I'm used to the adversity of sport - not all this winning. Still, it's a funny old game.

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