New Castle News
NEW CASTLE —
Welcome to the first edition of “The Sports Blog.”
Yes, that is the best name we could come up with after literally weeks of thought. Each week, I’ll share my opinions and sarcasm on national topics, local teams and everything in between.
•Perhaps the biggest sports and cultural story of 2014 so far is the announcement by University of Missouri football player Michael Sam that he is gay. Sam is eligible for the NFL Draft in May. Following in the footsteps of Jason Collins, a former NBA player who came out last year, and with rumors swirling last summer that a big name NFL player was going to come out soon, we’ve finally reached the tipping point where more and more athletes will feel free to reveal their sexuality. Whatever your opinions or beliefs are, hopefully in the year 2014 we can accept that not everyone is the same and that all people deserve respect. I’m not naive enough to think that Sam won’t face difficulties due to his announcement, but I hope he’s not the biggest sports story of 2015.
•The 2014 Winter Olympics are nearing conclusion and the only thing I can think is — good riddance. What a dull, boring two weeks of “athletic” competition. It’s not that the competitors are not good at what they do, it’s just that they’re good at a bunch of niche sports. With the exception of hockey, there’s very little face-to-face conflict in the Winter Olympics, which only serves to dampen the excitement. About the only thing that would get me to watch the Winter Olympics again is if Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding came out of retirement. Even then, it might take another whack on the knee to liven it up.
•And speaking of the Winter Olympics, I know it’s been said many times before, but are we serious about Curling being an actual event at an athletic competition? That’s like giving me a gold medal for sweeping out my garage. If Curling is included, they might as well having bowling in the Summer Olympics, because I’m sure there’s more talent involved in that than sweeping ice.
•If you’re feeling hopeful about the Pirates chances after last year’s first winning season and playoff appearance since 1992, let me take a moment to rain on your parade. They have no established first basemen or right fielder, and the pitching staff is weaker, especially without A.J. Burnett, than it was a year ago when it was really the team’s only true strength. I don’t think the Pirates will be bottom feeders with Pedro Alvarez and Andrew McCutchen in the fold, but the Cardinals and Reds both look way better on paper than the Buccos. Paper doesn’t win championships, but it is the best place to start.
•The next great Pirates team might come in 2015 when prospects Gregory Polanco, a right fielder, and pitcher Jameson Tallion are more prepared to contribute at the Major League level. That’s also assuming the Pirates find anybody who can play first base and hit right-handers better than Gaby Sanchez. It might be Andrew Lambo, who hit well in the minors last year and is getting a look at the position this spring. However, there are no guarantees with prospects, who are exactly that — prospects.
•It’s WPIAL playoff time for local high school basketball teams, and few of them have been as entertaining as the Class AAAA number one-seed New Castle basketball squad. Here's what I like about the 'Canes — they're not afraid to play basketball. Coach Ralph Blundo has done a tremendous job of building a program that is full of basketball players, not just athletes. They defend all over the court, trapping the ball and taking risks, which leads to fast breaks, open threes and shots for everyone. When you look around the WPIAL, there are only a few other teams who play as wide open as New Castle, but that's really because no one else can. That's not a knock on anyone else, just a testament to how good of a job Coach Blundo has done in building a program of basketball players.
(Have a question for the Sports Blog? E-mail Greg at firstname.lastname@example.org)