The O Zone…

Among many, one definition of the word perspective is “A mental view or outlook; a visible scene, especially one extending to a distance.”

Looking into the distance, i.e. the future, it’s easy to put this past Flyers season in perspective. Granted Philly sports fans, yours truly chief among them, are not exactly founding members of the “Let’s Keep Things In Perspective Club”, but from time to time we are able to see the proverbial forest through the trees.

It would be easy to sit here and bash the Flyers for the way their season ended, an embarrassing 6-0 drubbing at the hands of the more-talented Pens. But I’m not going to do that.

Instead, I will practice the long-lost art of perspective.

Consider…

  • This is the same organization that finished dead last in the entire league last year… DEAD LAST.
  • This is the same organization that just this year was in real danger of not even making the playoffs, let alone the ridiculous thought of advancing to the Conference Finals.

So, looking at this past Flyers season from a standpoint of say… perspective, it was a wildly successful campaign. And I for one was pleasantly surprised by their improbable run.

On the other hand — And why is it always the other hand that gets you in trouble? — … anyway… on the other hand these playoffs have exposed some weaknesses the Flyers must address in the offseason, most notably, DE-FENSE! DE-FENSE!

Derian Hatcher has had a nice career and from all accounts is a nice man. But so is my dentist but I don’t want him manning the blue line, either.

Clearly, the Flyers greatest need are puck-carrying defensemen. Unfortunately you can’t exactly go on eBay and Craigslist to find them.

Say what you want about the Flyers but one thing is clear: this team will not look the same next year as GM Paul Holmgren will go out and find the help this team needs, or at the very least, will try to find the help this team needs.

In keeping with the improbable theme… what was more unlikely to happen this past weekend? A horse NOT named Big Brown would win The Preakness OR Rod Barajas would go 4 for 7, knock in 6 with 2 HRs including a Slam and score 3 runs over 2 games?

Un-flipping-believable…

Let’s see, last year Roddy with the Big Body was making $2.5 mil and in 48 games with the Fightins and hit .230 with 4 HRs and 10 RBIs and did one very good Tin Man impression (Translation: No Heart).

This year for the Jays, he’s making a meager $700,000 and in just 23 games is hitting .273 with 3 HRs and 10 RBIs. No word on whether or not he ever saw The Wizard.

So… he’s making $1.8 million LESS yet hitting 43 points HIGHER with the same number of RBIs.

Of course it should be noted the bulk of Rocking Rod’s batting prowess over the weekend came at the expense of Adam Eaton, so there really should be an asterisk or something, don’t you think?

In the annals of ridiculous, insane, downright blockheaded rules this one has to rank right up there…

Did you hear about this one? Seems a mother of a little-leaguer was scheduled to volunteer at the league’s concession stand but was unable to serve her duty as she was not able to get the necessary time off from work.

League rules state however that if a parent cannot show up for their assigned concession stand shift, their child faces suspension or in this case, a benching.

Yeah, that’s right folks. A 7 year-old was benched cause his Mommy couldn’t get off work to (wo)man the concession stand.

And here I thought these kinds of illogical and asinine rules were reserved for groups like the NCAA.

You know we hear all about and talk about kids and sports and what lessons they learn and how valuable they are and how important team work is and on and on and on.

And then we hear about something like this.

The parent does something wrong… yet the child is the one punished.

Yeah, that’s a great message to send. Good job Little League. I certainly will sleep better knowing the kids of today are in such good hands.

And now you’re in for a real treat… an exclusive if there ever was one.

Many who know me, know of a certain “relative” I like to call on from time to time to get his unique perspective (there’s that word again) on a given topic.

Named after former Phillie Robin Roberts and former Sixer Neil Johnston and formerly known as The Unc or Uncle Robs, he is now known worldwide simply as… Team Haberle.

His insight keen, his knowledge vast, his rancor toward all who oppose him steadfast, he is truly one of a kind.

Since he is a renowned equine expert, I asked Team Haberle a question regarding Big Brown’s march toward immortality.

TOZ: Is there any way Big Brown can lose The Belmont Stakes and if so, how?

TH: I really see only two (2) ways he can lose The Belmont: 1.) Injury; and, 2.) Being hemmed in.

By injury, I mean this: Big Brown has a history of hoof problems. We really need to see how he came out of The Preakness. Keep in mind Big Brown, until The Preakness, had never run a race with less than a five (5) week layoff. And, he was shelved in January of this year with hoof issues. Now he’s being asked to run three (3) Grade 1 stakes races in a matter of five (5) weeks. You cannot minimize the impact that will have on the Big Guy’s feet. That said, he looked healthy to me coming out of The Preakness. He seemed to have plenty left in the tank and didn’t appear to be walking gingerly. Let’s all just hope that nothing happens to Big Brown like it did Spectacular Bid (who stepped on a safety pin – the proverbial needle in the haystack – in his stall the night before The Triple Crown’s 3rd leg in 1979). If, God willing, it doesn’t, this is a non-issue.

Now, about being hemmed in. Let’s all hope this is not the strategy of the others in the race. The idea should be for every horse, every jockey, every trainer, and every owner in The Belmont to try to win that race. The object should not be to try to keep Big Brown from winning The Triple Crown. Let that sink in because there is a huge difference Let’s not forget the great “Philly Flyer”, Smarty Jones, who came up just a little short in his Triple Crown bid in 2004. Jerry Bailey and Alex Solis didn’t try to win The Belmont; they tired and succeeded in keeping Smarty from winning because they set a blistering pace knowing full well that Smarty never, ever, wanted to see any horse ahead of him. Many forget the pride of Philadelphia Park set record fractions in the Belmont (including a mile that was even better than the great Secretariat’s 33 length Belmont victory of 1973) before tiring in the stretch and finishing 2nd to Birdstone. If the 2008 race is run fair and square, I don’t think anyone in the field can touch Big Brown. And, he may, in fact have the largest victory margin since Secretariat.

If you’re going to bet The Belmont, you will need to look for value in the exotics (i.e., exacta and trifecta wagering). Big Brown will be a prohibitive favorite (and rightfully so). He’s the real deal. He’s Big. He’s Brown. He’s Big Brown. Play him on top with some longer shots underneath and you may be “cashing not trashing”. Then, we can talk about where he ranks with the sports all-timers (i.e., Affirmed, Seattle Slew, Man O’War, Citation, etc.).

‘Til next time.

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