As Sam Sees It

Remembering the Best

The second best sporting event in America just recently ended. That would be the NCAA Women's Softball Tournament held at Oklahoma City. The top such event is the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.

Those are just my opinions, of course, and you may feel free to disagree. I have not had the pleasure of seeing either of these events in person. Year after year, though, these are the best sports shows on television.

This year fans from the upper mid-west had a special treat. The Michigan Lady Wolverines bested perennial softball power UCLA to claim the title. This confirmed the arrival of parity to a sport that had been dominated by the teams from the Sun Belt: Arizona, UCLA, California, Texas and Oklahoma.

It is always better when the competition becomes truly national and that day has arrived.

The premier sporting event for me will always be the World Series of Major League Baseball. Some of those have been the stuff of legends. Others have been highly forgettable. Still, if you had to pick one major sporting event to see, a World Series game would be a pretty good choice. Of course, a whole series would be much better.

As most of my readers know, I was fortunate enough to see four games of the 2001 World Series between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the New York Yankees. All four of those games were played in Phoenix and all were won by the Diamondbacks. The Yankees eked out victories in the three games played in New York to stretch the series to a full seven games. The best game of the series was the seventh and final contest won by the Diamondbacks on the very last play of the game. It doesn't get any better than that.

The only other major championship contest I have seen was the last game of the 1955 NBA Championship Series between the Syracuse Nationals and the Fort Wayne Pistons. The Nationals won their only title in that game, played in the old Syracuse War Memorial Coliseum. Both the Nationals and the Pistons have moved to more lucrative pastures decades ago. The Nationals moved to Philadelphia where they became the Warriors before moving to San Francisco. The Pistons relocated in Detroit.

The Phoenix Suns have been in some memorable NBA play-offs, though they have managed only two trips to the finals. The team that recently lost in the Western Conference finals was one of the better and more interesting professional basketball teams you will ever see. We can only hope that most of the key players return and stay healthy next season. If that happens, a third trip to the finals could happen.

What should be the best sporting event in America isn't. If a reasonable play-off system for college football could be adopted, that would soon pass the basketball and softball tournaments in interest created. There have been many reasonable proposals made. Unfortunately, none have been adopted.

Television will benefit greatly when such a system is adopted. (It will be adopted, the real question is when.) Let's hope it does for football what it has done for basketball and softball and not what it did for college baseball.

It was the influence of television that caused college baseball to abandon its traditional double elimination tournament for a system that could allow two teams to come through the tournament with one loss, but only one to be declared the champion. It wasn't broken and the fix didn't improve it.

Old time sports fans will mourn the passing of George Mikan, the first of the really dominant "big men" in basketball. He played with the old Minneapolis Lakers, who, of course, have since moved to Los Angeles.

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