Taking a bunch of related items and ranking them is lazy journalism to be sure, but judging by the number of lists produced by old and new media alike and the publicity often surrounding said lists, they’re undoubtedly popular.
And the public’s appetite for lists shows little signs of abating, despite the fact that many lists are unnecessary (Rolling Stone’s recent “500 Greatest Songs Ever” list is almost the exact same one they published just five years ago, and neither included REO Speedwagon’s “Time For Me To Fly” or Paul McCartney’s “Band On The Run” – what?) or horribly illogical (Entertainment Weekly’s just-published “100 Greatest Characters of the Last 20 Years” left off Seinfeld’s George Costanza, The Larry Sanders Show’s Hank Kingsley, The Office’s Michael Scott, and The West Wing’s President Bartlett, to name just a few inexcusable omissions).
So, far be it from me to deny the public what it craves, here is my list of once-hotly debated, now all-but-faded recent sports stories that we are remembering on Memorial Day 2010. (This isn’t Lost; it’ll make sense once you read on.)
1. The Vultures Circling Ken Macha. The biggest surprise for me last week wasn’t that Lost ended confusingly (so the island was purgatory all along? Where/when did the sideways world stories happen? Where did Cheech Marin’s character go?) or that Jack Bauer and Chloe O’Brian survived the final episode of 24 (c’mon, they’re making a movie; somebody has to be in it). It was that Brewers manager Ken Macha was not fired after a stretch in which his team lost 11 out of 12 games.
While I wouldn’t consider Macha totally off the hook, the fact that since the Brewers have as of this writing won five of their last six, including two in a row from the red-hot Mets, the talk of a managerial change seems to have quickly abated. But as we saw with the dumping of Ned Yost, Brewers ownership reserves the right to fire people at any time of the season.
2. The Miller Park Curse. Obviously related to number one above, one of the most confounding stories in baseball this season not related to Ken Griffey, Hanley Ramirez, or Milton Bradley was the fact that just a week ago the Brewers were faring worse at home than any other team in baseball. Though an 8-15 home record as of this writing still stinks, five victories at Miller Park last week indicate that the curse is being reversed.
3. The “Boring” NBA playoffs. A week ago, the 2010 NBA postseason was as exciting as this year’s American Idol. But just as the surprise appearance of Bret Michaels saved that show’s finale, the surprising comebacks by the Orlando Magic (versus Boston) and the Phoenix Suns (versus the Lakers) have somewhat saved this year’s basketball playoffs.
Sure, it would have been better had either of the conference finals had gone to seven games, but it did look for a time that both series would end in sweeps. That would have been disastrous coming on the heels of a conference semifinal round that saw three of four series end in sweeps. And although a Boston/Los Angeles series smacks of redundancy (it will be the twelfth time and second in three years those teams have met to decide the championship), the matchup has the potential to be a terrific finale.
4. The Brett Favre Soap Opera. The fact that Favre had ankle surgery and the fact that the Minnesota Vikings seemingly have no backup plan at quarterback mean this soap opera is as dead as Guiding Light and Port Charles. Favre wants to play. Favre can play. Favre will play. I’m sure Aaron Rodgers for one is happy for two more chances to beat him.
5. The Super Bowl in Lambeau. The NFL’s awarding of the 2014 Super Bowl to the new outdoor stadium in New York/New Jersey had some wondering whether the NFL would ever consider holding the game in Green Bay. Forget it. It’s a nice idea, but Green Bay hosting the Super Bowl would be like me hosting a Justin Bieber concert at my house.
There just isn’t the infrastructure to deal with all the demands that come along with hosting the biggest sports event of the year. However, Green Bay would probably be preferable to most than the site of Super Bowl 39, which was held in – of all places – Jacksonville.
6. The Packers’ Disappointing End to the 2009 Season. Yes, how the Packers lost to Arizona hurt. For a long time. But slowly, fans seem to have turned their thoughts to next season. If Aaron Rodgers and the defense can play close to the level they played at last season – and given their youth, it’s not unrealistic to expect them to play even better – and if the Vikings drop off even a little (which, given their growing list of question marks: their offensive line, Brett Favre’s health, the loss of Chester Taylor, Adrian Peterson’s fumble-itis, seems likely), then the Packers seem poised to back up Peter King’s assertion in Sports Illustrated that the Green and Gold will be next year’s Super Bowl champions.
7. Gary Coleman. OK, this is a sports blog, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t send a little love Arnold Jackson’s way. Dennis Hopper (who also died this weekend) might be an icon to an earlier generation (or at least his Easy Rider character is), but for me as a child Gary Coleman was it. I, and certainly many other people my age, found out about the dangers of drugs and the dangers of child predators through Arnold and his friend Dudley, a fact that probably says less about the brilliance of the Diff’rent Strokes producers and writers than it does for my parents and their comfort level in broaching such topics.
So much did I enjoy Coleman that I sought out laughably forgettable TV movies such as The Kid From Left Field, Scout’s Honor, On The Right Track, and The Kid with the 200 I.Q. For all his success as a child actor, Coleman’s life story – like for his co-stars Dana Plato and Todd Bridges – was a sad one, complete with disease, parents who stole from his trust fund, suicide attempts, bankruptcy, and numerous arrests. Here’s hoping Coleman is now at peace and that somewhere Conrad Bain is being comforted.
Have a great Memorial Day weekend. Remember those who deserve to be remembered and go easy on the brats.