Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Farewell Luuuuuuuc!

Luc Robitaille is retiring. Like many sports greats, he probably waited 1 or 2 years too long to do so. That, in no way, limits his greatness on and off the ice.

Robitaille had his rookie season for the Los Angeles Kings in 1986 and won the Calder trophy (rookie of the year) that season. In that time when I first heard him interviewed, I felt right then that he was special. He came across as a guy in awe of what he was doing. Unlike so many sports figures, he never seemed to feel he was entitled to any special treatment just because he played professional sports. "Lucky Luc" always played with exuberance and class. He played aggressively but rarely was in fights. He scored goals prolifically and was a major component of the finest era the Kings ever had, that being the Wayne Gretzky days of the late '80s and early '90s. I, and many other fans were heartbroken when the King's traded him to the Penguins after the '93-94 season.

I have many memories of some great plays he made and great goals he scored (a spectacular game-winning goal against Edmonton in the playoff's comes to mind.) I actually think Luc Robitaille's defining moment to L.A. King fans is when he helped the Detroit Red Wings win the Stanley Cup and arranged to show the famous trophy in Los Angeles. This was clearly Robitaille showing his appreciation to his long-time fans.

They called him "Lucky Luc" but it is us fans who should call ourselves lucky to have had the privilege to watch and enjoy him.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Who are these Guys?

Spring is in the air (well, sort of, it's actually raining right now). I usually have a little more bounce in my step this time of year. It's warmer, I can smell the flowers starting to bloom, and baseball season has started. Baseball is the greatest sport ever invented (sorry if it's seems slow and too cerebral to many of you, but it really is.) Opening day was almost like Christmas or my birthday. I would count the days and could hardly sleep the night before. Why am I not this excited any more?

One reason is that I now have a life/wife. :) There's no getting around that. Sports of any kind doesn't quite rule my life the way it once did. Yet, as my interest in sports has declined somewhat, baseball has been the biggest casualty in this decline. I can really only come up with one reason: FREE AGENCY! Yes, it exists in one form or another in every major professional sport but baseball has it big time.

I remember a Seinfeld episode where Jerry Seinfeld deduces that fans don't cheer players, they cheer the uniforms. Unfortunately, there is a lot of truth to this and I, personally just can't follow sports that way. On the other hand, many fans now resort to rooting for individual players and it doesn't matter what team they are on. People who don't give a hoot about the Green Bay Packers just love Brett Favre. Even worse, some "fans" only follow individual players because they belong to their own fantasy team. I am not of this ilk either.

Call me old fashioned but I want to root for a team. I used to live and die with the 1970's and 80's editions of the Dodgers. I rooted for Sutton, Lopes, Garvey, Smith, Yeager, Guerrero, Scoscia, and Valenzuela. When Bill Buckner was traded in 1977, I was saddened and felt like I'd lost a good friend. These teams weren't always the greatest but I felt they were my team and when they lost, it hurt me and when they won, it was so great. I care so much less for the current flavor of the Dodgers because there's no one on the team I can identify with. 75% of the roster seems to change every year. I realize a lot of this has to do with the fact the Dodgers haven't been very good for a while but it's out of control free agency that is turning rosters around all over Major League Baseball. Am I supposed to like Jeff Kent now? I hated him all of his career until last year when he was a member of those filthy, slimy, maggots known as the San Francisco Giants. It's probably okay, though, he'll likely belong to another club within a year or two because that is how baseball works now.

Let's look at his in another way:

Sandy Koufax: A Dodger who has legendary status in Los Angeles.

Randy Johnson: What team(s) did he play for? What city will remember him best, Seattle, Phoenix, New York, his next team?

Johnny Bench: A catcher who hit with power and drove in a lot of runs and will always be remembered in Cincinnati. A prominent member of the "Big Red Machine" of the 1970's. (Man, I hated him.)

Mike Piazza: A catcher who hit with power and drove in a lot of runs. He was great as a Dodger, he helped the Mets get to the World Series, he is now a Padre and was briefly, a Marlin. What uniform will he be wearing when he gets elected to the Hall of Fame?

For those who follow players, who is a fan of Reggie Sanders? He's a pretty good player who has played for the Reds, Padres, Braves, Diamondbacks, Giants, Pirates, Cardinals, and now the Royals. If you're a Reggie Sanders fan, does that mean you once rooted for all these teams?