Sunday, September 30, 2012

Ending the month with a few sports notes

Let's get to a few odds and ends before the month of September disappears.

Football season is in full swing, which has me paying attention to the St. Thomas Tommies and, locally, the Austin Packers. It was homecoming week for the Packers, who were hoping to continue the momentum of their victory from the week before which snapped a 22-game losing streak (the longest streak in the state). Unfortunately, the Pack was back in the loss column with a 42-14 loss to Rochester Mayo on Friday.

The Tommies are 4-0 with an impressive 43-21 victory a couple weeks ago at the rival St. John's. We'll see if I can get to a game in St. Paul this season to watch what has become a powerhouse football team in the MIAC.

Twins finish off the year
As for the boys of summer, the Minnesota Twins are three games away from the end of another disappointing season in which the honeymoon is definitely over at Target Field. They finished up at home today with the series finale against Detroit. The 31-50 home record for the Twins is the worst in Major League Baseball. That's pretty sad, considering the Twins have typically had success on their home turf.

With three games left in Toronto, the Twins are fighting with the Cleveland Indians to see who will finish in the A.L. Central Division's basement for the season. I suppose some good news is the Twins won't lose 100 games this year, even though they will come close, just like last year.

For some other good news, Joe Mauer is hitting well enough to compete for the American League batting title. So there's that. Tsuyoshi Nishioka did the team a favor this week. The Japanese infielder was released by the Twins (finally!) and he even turned down the remaining $3.25 million on his contract. What a guy. I'll be glad I don't have to see him in a Twins uniform anymore.

Another lockout for the NHL
Now with the Twins winding down, I would normally turn my focus to the Minnesota Wild as they gear up for their season with new superstar-players Ryan Suter and Zach Parise along for the ride. Unfortunately, the NHL is locked out. The preseason is already down the drain, and I'm sitting here with my fingers crossed hoping that this doesn't turn into an entire season loss, like just a few years back in 2004-05.

I really hope they can get a deal done as soon as possible. It just figures that the Wild would generate some excitement with summer signings and then a lockout would happen.

In the meantime, the Austin Bruins just got their season started here in town, winning their home opener. They had some playoff success last year and always seem to draw big crowds. We'll see how they do with the loss of some key players, like local favorite John Kirby.

Enjoy the fall, sports fans.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Andy Roddick announces his retirement

At the ripe old age of 30 (barely), American tennis player Andy Roddick announced he will retire from the sport after this year's U.S. Open, the Grand Slam going on now in Flushing Meadows.

The announcement surprised me Thursday, and I'm guessing I wasn't alone. Roddick made the move on his 30th birthday, which I thought was a nice touch. If your birthday falls during your home country's grand slam tennis tournament, you might as well leave your mark to make it memorable somehow.

From what I gathered, it sounded like it was just the right time for Roddick to retire. He said he can't put everything into it like he has before, both physically and emotionally. Some athletes retire and then come back to the sport because they can't stay away or want to give it one more shot. I don't know if I see that happening with Roddick.

Success that didn't happen
Roddick won his only Slam in 2003 at the U.S. Open. His career appeared to be on the upswing with lots of wins and other Slam titles to follow. Unfortunately, no such luck.

Like many other elite men's tennis players, Roddick had the unfortunate reality of playing in the same era as the greatest tennis player ever: Roger Federer. This was all too clear in the 2009 Wimbledon final when the two played an amazing match as Federer won his record-setting 15th Grand Slam. It was a heartbreaker for Roddick.

There's also been the Federer, Rafa Nadal rivalry, plus the rise of Novak Djokovic. I'm certainly not saying these are entirely the reasons why Roddick didn't have more success. He had his own problems, too. Plenty of times he would have early exits and get upset by opponents. He would choke, essentially.

Tough times for American tennis
Coming on the heels of American tennis greats like Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, it's really too bad that Roddick couldn't continue that trend for men's tennis. The U.S. men's tennis drought, as some have called it, has been well documented. It's something worth nothing, but I'm not all about the country. I want to watch good tennis players, and they come from all over the world. Good enough.

Roddick is a fine player, and no one knows better when it's time to set the racquet down for retirement than the player himself. If Roddick feels this is his time, I'm fine with that. I'd much rather see players stop before they reach that point where it's obvious they need to stop and often don't know when to hang it up.

Happy birthday, Andy. Here's to a memorable final U.S. Open before a happy retirement.