Turning The Calendar

March 3

In sports, there is always a “next.” Olympics done, time for baseball and March madness. Then it’s the Masters, then the buildup to the World Cup.

***

The Giants opened up against the Mariners in Arizona today, and based on today’s proceedings I’m ready to make my 2010 predictions.

Aubrey Huff might have given us the season in microcosm during the first inning: hit a jack on the first pitch he saw, and later dropped a throw to first base for an error. I’m gonna say he hits 80 home runs with 80 errors this season. Would you be willing to put up with that ?

Obviously the pressure of two Cy Youngs has gotten to Tim Lincecum. He returned today a mere shadow of his former self. No control, no command, the curveball wasn’t snapping. It’s going to be a long year for the Freak.

That’s OK, Madison Bumgarner is ready to take his place. He threw two shutout innings. Move over Tim, here comes Next.

I’ll be in Scottsdale later this month, when all the #67’s and 91’s have been re-assigned. Then I can give you a better assessment of the real Giants. March 3rd doesn’t mean squat.

***

Don’t ask me about March Madness yet. I have scarcely paid attention to college hoops this year aside from Bay Area teams and my strugg-l-ing Bruins. I’ll cram for the final exam just like millions of kids are doing this month.

***

Don’t look now, Tiger’s Madness might trump college basketball’s version in the headlines. Jack Nicklaus thinks Tiger will return before the Masters, and I’ve said all along I’d be willing to bet anything in my wallet ( right now, $13 and two Forever Stamps ) that Woods will be at Augusta. Tiger Watch: activated.

At Elin’s behest, Billy Payne might not only ban Martha Burk, but every woman more attractive than Susan Boyle. ( In other words, every woman. )

***

Bill Simmons on ESPN.com says Tiger will face more pressure in his comeback than Muhammad Ali experienced. That might be true, but we’re talking apples and oranges here.

Ali was banned from the ring for nearly four years and risked prison time for his political views, in an emotion-charged time. He took a bold stand at personal risk, and the nation caught up a few years later. Tiger has been tabloid fodder for being a serial philanderer, and has been away from golf only a few months.

I find it hard to mention him in the same breath as Ali, but their stories show how times have changed. We’re more interested in who a guy is bedding than what he stands for.

Although Tiger is under a 24-hour media microscrope he has only been gone a short time. It’s not like he can’t get his groove back quickly. Besides, golf really doesn’t matter for him until the the first major.

Ali had to get back on track in a physically demanding sport, a young man’s game. Although it will be tough for Tiger to maintain his dominance, I don’t think his comeback compares to Ali’s effort to regain a belt after a long layoff. He had a big chunk taken out of his prime years.

***

As the World Cup approaches, the British have a prurient diversion that has shoved Tiger from the headlines. Wayne Bridge, one of England’s best players, has taken himself out of consideration for the World Cup Team because fellow Brit John Terry slept with Bridge’s baby-mama. The Brits could use Bridge in South Africa.

Terry, a la Tiger, was given leave from his club last month so he could fly to Dubai in an effort to save his marriage. The woman in the middle of the cleated triangle, French underwear model Vanessa Perroncel, supposedly has a lucrative newspaper deal to spill all the beans. Now Terry has lost the captaincy of the national squad.

When Terry returned to the pitch, he tried to shake Bridge’s hand before a match, and was rebuffed. So the crowd booed Bridge. BOOED him.

Yeah, Bridge, what’s the matter with you — can’t you let bygones be bygones ?

It’s heartwarming to know that across the Atlantic, our different societies have so much in common.

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