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All the buzz I am hearing in the sports world these past few days centers around the NBA Finals and how epic the six-game series between the triumphant trio (plus all those teammates) from Boston and the Kobe-fueled Lakers from lakeless Los Angeles. Well, you know what? I didn't watch a single SECOND of that finals round... didn't watch any highlights... didn't read any recaps... didn't care beyond the few snippets about the series I heard begrudgingly on sports-talk radio in the car and what people have gushed about it around this site. Basketball never really WAS my strong suit. I just don't really have a taste for the game; if I want five-on-five action I'll gladly take overtime hockey anyday. Frankly I'd rather be hearing all that coverage about the upcoming Tour de France or the tournament at Wimbledon or the ongoing Euro 2008 championships in Switzerland and Austria...

 

Woods and Mediate at the 2008 U.S. OpenOne snippet I did pay attention to on those drives around town over the past few days involved the incredible resilency, hard-fought victory and subsequent surgery which has been the recent tale of the man they call Tiger. Mister Eldrick Woods, now a fourteen-time major champion after his nineteen-hole playoff victory over Rocco Mediate in the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, is going under the knife for reconstructive knee surgery which will shut down his season. Both the PGA Championship and British Open will commence this season without Woods in the field. The biggest fear I have is that, if even one person denounces the winners of these majors for winning without Tiger in the competition, far too many people will discount the accomplishments of the champions.

Golf has been catching up recently to itself. I continually see debates popping up about whether Tiger Woods is the "savior" of golf. Woods may be a sponsor's dream and the most talented and decorated golfer of his generation, but what he is not is the be-all, end-all paean of his sport. The game which grew out of the links of the Scottish coastline (where, as Vanity Fair recently reported, Donald Trump is now attempting to assert his control) has felt an effortless flow of champions through its ranks. Tiger may end up the statistical best when he finally retires, but that will certainly not be the end of the game. Greats come and go, and Tiger is but one in a sea of many -- past, present and future...

... because that is the REAL beauty of Tiger's unfortunate early end to the season. I have been saying for some time now that it would be the future greats of golf, not the Phil Mickelsons and the Vijay Singhs of Tiger's generation, that will define how great we view Woods' career when all is said and done. We have seen Zach Johnson win, we have seen Trevor Immelman win, we have seen Geoff Ogilvy win... and now we see guys with names like Mediate hanging with the seeming legend that is Tiger. Now we will have the chance to see all these up-and-coming stars of the PGA Tour attempt to assert their own control over the sport. The end of Woods' season bears the start of a great future for golf... 

 

Bastian Schweinsteiger celebrates the thrill of victory...We have reached the time where Euro 2008 goes from a group competition to a single-elimination knockout competition. Today saw Germany, beleaguered after their surprise defeat to the resilient Croatian squad, earn themselves a largely-unexpected victory over Cristiano Ronaldo and his Portugese teammates. The sparkplug as well as the scapegoat of that Croatian defeat, Bastian Schweinsteiger, was the inspiration for the German victory. Portugal started the game badly overmatched, the changes to the starting eleven by German coach Joachim Low -- himself unable to sit along the sideline due to a scuffle with Austria's coach in the last group game -- serving as an energizing catalyst for some inspired football. Schweinsteiger was the center of that energy, earning a starting spot on his return from the red-card suspension from the Croat defeat.

Bastian hit the first goal for the Germans in the twenty-second minute, hammering home a low cross from early-tournament dynamo Lukas Podolski. Four minutes later, Schweinsteiger was doing it again, this time setting up Miroslav Klose for a clean header for the goal off a free kick. Portugal was reeling, on their heels yet unwilling to submit. Luiz Felipe Scolari, his mind perhaps somewhere en route to London, kept his team going forward in search of goals. Nuno Gomes pulled one back for the Portugese in the forty-first minute, poking home a Jens Lehmann deflection of a Cristiano Ronaldo blast on net. Both sides had several more chances, but the score ultimately ended up 2-1 at halftime...

The Germans came out in the second half fully determined to build on their advantage. Schweinsteiger once again led the charge to restore the two-goal cushion, finding Michael Ballack off another free kick. Ballack, pushing off his Chelsea teammate Paulo Ferreira (where Scolari will soon be coach to both of them), found space and headed past Ricardo to put Germany up 3-1. Ballack's goal would ultimately serve as the game winner, a late goal by Helder Postiga tightening up the scoreline to deceive the dominance of Germany's 3-2 victory.

Germany now awaits the winner of the Croatia-Turkey match played tomorrow at Ernst Happel Stadion in Vienna. We might just witness a rematch of that memorable Group B clash, this time for a ticket to the final on June 29...

 

What am I looking forward to in the coming weeks? I sure can't wait for the Tour de France set to start along the Breton coast in one of cycling's truest hotbeds; Wimbledon, as I said, is just around the corner and should be very exciting; but most of all what keeps me awake at night is the persistent nagging of the impending Olympic Track and Field Trials. Every time I walk out of the building where I work at the University of Oregon, I am greeted by the sights and sounds and road closures of last-minute construction projects at Hayward Field. The Jumbotron is already up and operational, new seating is being finished probably as I type this late into the Eugene night, and the town readies for the influx of anywhere between 75 and 100 THOUSAND people into this community... raising the size of the Eugene-Springfield metropolitan area by half again. It should be crazy, it should be long toiling hours putting out the food for these people. We'll be feeding Phil Knight and his Nike cronies; we'll be feeding the world's media as they cover all the athletic events. Catering will get nary a rest as long as those trials are ongoing... and I'll be sure, as only a non-traditional sports fan can, to keep you updated as to the happenings here on the west coast as we draw ever closer to Beijing and the Olympic Games.

For now, though, rest solemnly with this slightly-abridged and belated edition of A Non-Traditional Sports Fan in America... here's to hoping this solstice is finding you in sunny spirits and enjoying the summer season in a sporting fashion!

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