A Rockie Decision
By Jim Alderson, 6/21/00

The Dead Zone of sports continues to drag along. The television networks attempt to make do, as I understand from reliable sources that this yearís NBA season has ended in time for the next one to begin. The same source informs me that the Lakers have won the championship, although they managed to accomplish this feat without the benefit of one second of me watching. Tiger Woods again laid waste to the entire PGA field at some tournament without my observation of even one drive or putt and baseball season for me has become a series of what seems to be the enduring image of the only reason to even play the sport, the Baltimore Orioles, the opponentís tape measure home run as the Oís bullpen blows yet another save opportunity.

The Deuce continues to prove they have entirely too much air time on their hands as regular fare these days includes guys picking up the back ends of cars, with victory apparently awarded to he who can hold his off the ground the longest, others racing up flights of stairs, leading me to ponder if there are actually children out there who, as little Johnny and Bobby declare their intentions to grow up and play in the NBA or NFL, state that their goal is to grow up and enter the Running Up the Stairs competition, and the must-see television of dogs jumping into water, complete with judges holding up scores. I kid you not. Do you think the boys in Bristol arenít joining us in wishing for the last week of August to get here, and quick?

There has been little for this sports observer to do except watch tapes of that magical 99 Tech football season (I have watched Tech-Miami about a dozen times and we havenít lost yet), attend funerals, add to my MP3 collection such favorites as that most spiritual of Warren Zevon works, ĎRolan the Headless Thompson Gunnerí and every last byte of Pink Floyd I can find (Messerís Zevon, Gilmore and Waters can rest assured that I have listened to their work one time and one time only and even as I type am arranging payment, yuck, yuck), mark the days until August 27 off my calendar and make up an entire football season. There has, however, been the little diversion of the baseball draft.

It seems the Colorado Rockies chose the 30th round of the recent baseball draft, that nether region where most picks involve using a dartboard, to select our own Michael Vick. And while it seems that these days MV would be of more use to the Broncos, there we have it. The Rockies seem to be serious, as some team official prepared to head to Hampton Roads to pitch the virtues of life in the lower minors and Tech announced that our quarterback would meet with them unless he did not. Interesting stuff here, which sure beats watching dogs leap into water.

The first thing that popped into my mind upon learning that Colorado desired to make Vick a Rockie was two words: curve ball. It has been quite some time since MV has seen one, and while my observation from watching a couple of rookie league games is that while there is not a lot of difference between pitchers at that classification and the ninth grade, there is some, and Michael has no experience at facing it.

While I imagine that the first runner at third that challenged the outfielder Vickís arm and attempted to score would be in for quite a surprise, I also donít doubt that there are a few pitchers who are salivating at the prospect of bringing a high hard one under the chin of the guy adorning so many magazine covers and then making him look silly by breaking a curve into the dirt. Hitting a baseball requires some skills not necessarily acquired hitting Davis on the fly, determining the exact instant to break containment or running the two-minute drill to perfection against West Virginia, and Vick has spent no time learning them. The only thing that kept me from a long and prosperous career in professional sports was a total lack of talent, and chief among them was a rank inability to hit most any kind of pitching. Lots of luck, Michael.

Two more words later popped into my head: Michael Jordan, another superstar who tired, for a while, of collecting NBA rings and gave baseball a shot. A batting average that hovered around the Mendoza line against minor league pitching gave us some solid evidence of what our Michael can expect when he steps into a batterís box. I did watch some of the College World Series, at least until my personal favorite, the Hyphenated Louisiana, was eliminated, and saw guys who have spent high school careers learning how to hit baseballs instead of wide receivers, and this is what MV would be up against. Again, lots of luck.

After further reflection, two more words popped to mind: Kenny Kelly. There are many excuses as to what happened to the Canes outstanding quarterback prospect, ranging from lack of desire to the Butch factor. My feeling is that there was nothing wrong with KK (that comeback against BC was magnificent) other than lousy timing in entering the Big East at the same time as Vick, but there is the suspicion that attempting to serve two sports masters interfered with the one not providing him with regular paychecks. From a purely selfish standpoint, I would much rather hear of Vick working on timing with receivers such as Wilford and Harrison than patrolling some minor league outfield. And that is selfishness on my part, which brings me to another little item.

Unlike Virginia Tech, the Colorado Rockies propose to pay Michael Vick. I have no knowledge of the personal financial situation of the Vick family, but would hazard the guess that they are not of such independent means that a little cash MV might knock down from a summer job wouldnít come in handy. When he graduated high school in Alaska, Trajan Langdon signed not only a Duke letter of intent but also a contract with the San Diego Padres. He spent two summers in their organization before discovering that, like me, he couldnít hit a lick and bagged the entire business. He did keep the money, however, and the situation amounted to the Padres paying Trajan to play basketball at Duke. If the Rockies propose to do the same with Michael, it would be difficult to say no. It should also be considered that if MV is cashing Rockies checks, he might just not feel financial pressures to skedaddle to the NFL any earlier than we could reasonably stand.

In the end, all of this will be Michael'sí choice. Judging by the sound of the grinding teeth as Frank Beamer proclaimed that he wished for only what was best for MV, I think we know how he feels. But it is up to Michael. I have no doubt that he knows where his professional future lies and whether he decides to participate in what I still suspect is a scheme to sell Salem Avalanche tickets, perhaps next year, he knows that his best interests reside in quarterbacking the Virginia Tech football team. And besides, if this thing drags on just a little longer, it will be time for practice. Now, back to the diving dogs.

Jim Alderson, best known for his biting political commentary on the A-Line email newsletter, also brings a unique, sarcastic, and well-informed perspective on college sports, particularly (1) Virginia Tech sports and (2) ACC sports.  While Hokie fans currently have very little use for subject number 2, Alderson is an entertaining and informative columnist on subject number 1.  For even more fun, visit Jim's A-Line home page.


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