Deep in the Dead Zone
by Jim Alderson, 6/10/02

The calendar has turned to June, moving us deeper into the Dead Zone of sports. This is not the worst of Dead Zones, however, as there do seem to be some interesting diversions provided over and above my usual summer sports viewing fare of observing Anna Kournikova lose opening round tennis matches. Although a third NBA season is going to pass by without benefit of my watching the first minute of action, the playoffs of another winter sport have piqued my interest, the NHL, due to a strong run by the Carolina Hurricanes, whose geography practically makes them a local team for me.

I am not a huge hockey fan, although I do admire a sport where the players carry weapons. Imagine how much more effective Ben Taylor could have been had he carried a club. I realize some Hokies might have problems rooting for a team whose nick is Hurricanes, but not me, as I marvel at the strong programs put together by both, and the cheer ‘Go Canes’ rolls easily off my tongue, or would if I actually engaged in cheering any televised sporting events not involving Tech, Anna or the Williams sisters, which I don’t.

The Canes are tangling for Lord Stanley’s Cup with the Detroit Red Wings, whose fans have one of the more remarkable habits in all of sports, the flinging of dead octopi onto the ice. I wonder how that would go over in Lane? Perhaps this is something the Tech administration could employ to increase basketball attendance; hundreds of octopi hitting the Cassell floor following each Tech score would be unique, although procuring a steady supply of both baskets and octopus could prove tricky.

There is another sport played these days that catches my attention every four years, soccer’s World Cup (although I don’t care what billions of people around the world might call it- it ain’t football). This seems to be a fairly big deal in just about every country in the world except this one, and, unlike virtually all Americans, I rather enjoy watching the world’s best players go at it, carrying out strategies designed by coaches to do what seemingly every rule in the sport is designed to discourage, scoring a goal. I admire defense in all sports, and one where 3-0 constitutes RUTS will have my attention for a few weeks. This is a sport Bud Foster could get into.

Of course, holding matches in Asia has dampened what is already weak television demand in this country, but I arise at 0530 most mornings, and have gotten into the habit of watching World Cup matches while reading the morning news on the Net (which cuts into my radio listening time- sorry Vip, and John Boy and Billy- it’s only for a few weeks). The most amusing match so far has been Germany’s 1939-style 8-0 blitzkrieg of Saudi Arabia, roughly the equivalent of Tech laying 140 on some dog. This kind of RUTS (the German coach left his first string in throughout, a sure sign of RUTS) has piqued my rooting interest, as I search for a team for whom to root, given that the USA entry is pretty lousy, finishing dead last in 1998, although fans of the Americans, like those of Rutgers, claim they will be much better this time around. That remains to be seen.

Even with hockey and soccer to occupy my mind, my interest never strays too far from college football, and the news there is about what it usually is this time of year. The movement by SEC members to have the entire conference placed on probation took a hit when an investigating committee comprised of Roy Kramer and CBS sports programming executives reported that there was no academic fraud at Tennessee, none whatsoever. According to the Vols, that Walking class involved chewing gum, making it part of the UT Honors program.

Obviously the player(s) involved need a lightened academic load, which I am sure Phil Fulmer is now demanding, and getting. This ‘Three Blind Mice’ approach to rules violations was championed by retiring SEC commish Kramer, who pointed out that there would not be a lot of ratings potential in conducting a Vanderbilt intra-squad game for the SEC championship, now would there? The ‘See No Evil’ findings were heartily endorsed by officials at LSU, who requested that the very same people who whitewashed Neyland Stadium investigate them. They were not so chipper at Alabama, where a collective "Huh?" greeted the news, or at Arkansas, where they await the NCAA hammer to fall on both football and basketball, or at Kentucky, where they are suffering from the humiliation of demonstrating that even when they cheat at football, they still can’t win. It’s a typical off-season for the SEC.

It’s June, and while we are still a ways away from football, we do have hockey, soccer and SEC shenanigans to keep us busy. It’s not so bad as far as Dead Zones go.

Jim Alderson, who first made his mark with 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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