Andrew Hamm: the Bipolar Express

Ruminations on theatre, music, and just about anything else that crosses my bipolar brain.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

What a Day in Sports

You expect the opening day of College Football to be big and boisterous and exciting, but this year it was unique. Some random thoughts on what I got to watch and listen to yesterday:

Appalachian State Mountaineers 34, Michigan Wolverines 32.

Holy smokes. Would ya look at that.

A lot of the press this morning is reading this way: "1) We knew Appalachian State was a good program, but 2) Who knew Michigan could blow it this badly?" Well, I'm going to take the opposite view: "1) We knew Michigan has a long history of blowing National Championship aspirations with an ugly September loss, but 2) Who knew Appalachian State was this good?" I'm wracking my brains trying to think of a bigger upset like, ever, in any sport, and I can't come up with one. I'd say the Texans beating Dallas in their first game, but Dallas hasn't been good since 1995. This is the equivalent of a minor league team beating the Yankees, except bigger. Maybe sweeping a series with the Yankees.

All I can say is, three cheers for Division 1-AA.

Incidentally, Caitlin Upton, Miss "give maps to U.S. American students so we can help South Africa" Teen South Carolina announced this week on the Today Show that she plans to attend Appalachian State. Coincidence?

Virginia Tech Hokies 17, East Carolina Pirates 7.

After an emotional pre-game ceremony honoring the 32 victims of the April massacre, the Hokies looked drained. The game was unremarkable; sloppy VT offense covered by world-beating defense and special teams. But this was the first major sporting event for Virginia Tech since the world changed in April, a chance to move on and define the school by something other than unimaginable tragedy.

I didn't get to watch much of this game; I had errands to run and band practice. But here's what I really loved about the game. In a departure designed so no one would boo, both teams' marching bands participated in the pre-game festivities, and both teams charged onto the field simultaneously to massive applause. How great that was. I would advocate making that the rule for all college and high school sporting events.

Boston Red Sox 10, Baltimore Orioles 0.

The one game I got to watch a lot of was this one, which I saw from the fourth through the end. Pretty darn good one to choose, since it featured a no-hitter from Red Sox rookie Clay Buchholz.

Scouts and Sox fans know Buchholz's name, but few others do. His start was of the emergency variety, to give Boston's injured and aching starters a night of much-needed rest. Who knew he'd be giving the bullpen the night off as well? Buchholz's no-no came in his second freaking major league start, which is somewhere about 16 miles beyond unbelievable. It's not, however unprecedented; Bobo Holloman pitched a no-hitter in his first career start, and Wilson Alvarez, like Buchholz, in his second. Holloman won three games that season and nere returned to the bigs; Alvarez won 102 in a serviceable career, playing until he was 35.

Buchholz, 23, would have merited a close look even if second baseman Dustin Pedroia hadn't made that incredible diving catch to save the no-no late in the game. This wasn't a fluke like Holloman, and looks to be a harbinger of at least Alvarez's potential. Buchholz is known for hitting upwards of 96 on the speed gun, but he mowed down Oriole after Oriole with a fastball in the low-90s, a devastating changeup, and a curve that bit deeper and deeper with every inning. The last pitch of the game was the whole night in a nutshell, a filthy diving curve dipping right past an oblivious Oriole with a bat slung helplessly over his shoulder. The future looks promising for the Red Sox rotation if Buchholz takes this success and runs with it.

Don't ignore the fact that the Orioles, though struggling this year, had not been shut out this year until Buchholz came along. This was just what the Red Sox needed after the Yankee sweep, not just a shot in the arm but a massive and completely unexpected one. Buchholz wasn't supposed to draw national attention last night. He wasn't even really supposed to win, honestly. He was supposed to eat up some valuable innings and give Wakefield and Schilling another day. Who knew?

What a great day for sports.

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  • At 9/03/2007 2:09 PM , Blogger Frank Creasy said...

    Well, as the husband of a Wahoo with family connections in the Chartlottesville area going back before the Civil War, I was very disappointed in UVA's outing at Wyoming. The Hoos traveled with over 15 returning starters from last season and served up a limp and impotent offense against a decent, but hardly powerful, Wyoming team. Let's hope the worst is over for the Cavs, or it's going to be another painful season. I'm starting to understand how Red Sox fans must feel.

  • At 9/04/2007 10:35 PM , Blogger Frank Creasy said...

    One other thought on the sports vein: Last week in Indianapolis on business, I was interviewing applicants for a job opening. I interviewed a guy named KURT SCHILLING. Sadly, the guy's interview skills sucked and he clearly was nowhere near qualified for the job...but out of respect to you and Scott, I HAD to give him an interview!


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