Another Weekend To Remember

July 18

The United States did not choke in the women’s World Cup final, but they will forever rue the one that got away. On top of that, Japan had something more to play for, something intangible.

Driving home on Sunday, I listened to the second half of the match on KNBR 1050. I told my wife that Japan wouldn’t quit, and I didn’t like Team USA’s chances if the game went to penalty kicks. Twice, USA let a late lead slip away.

After Abby Wambach scored on a header in extra time, the Americans turtled, going against their nature, and it backfired as Japan scored in the 117th minute. That took all the wind out of the Americans’ sails for the penalty kicks, won by Japan 3-1.

As much as a soccer victory can provide comfort for a battered nation, Japan’s women accomplished that Sunday with a brilliant effort. They also beat the top seed and host Germany as well as Sweden, so while they were cast as underdogs, they were not to be trifled with.

***

Darren Clarke is graying, smokes cigarettes on the golf course, and has a bit of a paunch. As Gary Radnich would say, he has “lived a little.” In fact, he has lived a lot.

He goes against the trend of the young, slim, fit, super-talented crowd that has supposedly taken over the golf world. He’s 42 and a widower. After the death of his wife five years ago, his focus shifted to raising his two boys and he dropped out of the top 100 in the world.

Clarke has dealt with the storms of life, and he was the perfect guy to deal with a weekend punctuated by squalls and howling winds at Royal St. George’s. He shined through it all with a three-stroke victory for The Open Championship, his first major.

His renewed golf game mirrors his life. He has a fiancee now, and after his win he partied deep into the night, the third player from Northern Ireland to win in the last six majors. Well done and well earned.

***

It’s a common notion that Giants closer Brian Wilson likes to live dangerously. That notion is fortified by a spandex tux at the ESPY’s, and by the fact that he doesn’t seem comfortable unless he puts runners on base in a save situation.

However, Wilson gets into jams precisely because he doesn’t want to live dangerously. He just doesn’t give in to hitters unless absolutely necessary.

A few years ago, Wilson was blowing people away with 98 mile an hour fastballs. A smart guy, he has learned that he can’t do that forever and must add pitches such as the cut fastball, slider and two-seam fastball.

He still has some pop on these pitches, but it’s more about deception now. Wilson himself has said he wants to last a while in this game, and doesn’t want to be just a three-year wonder. In his mind, altering the repertoire is a way to accomplish that.

Wilson runs into problems if he gets the wrong umpire. That was the case with Marvin Hudson Sunday in San Diego, and he walked three batters in the bottom of the 11th. At one point it looked like he was barking at Hudson, but he also induced a double play ball and weak grounder to second base to end the game.

His stats are changing, and to some that’s a red flag. His WHIP is as high as it’s been in three years, while he’s not getting as many swings and misses. He’s no longer striking out more than a batter an inning. ( It’s now a batter an inning ). He has four blown saves, on pace for his career high of seven.

But two stats that matter most to Wilson are pretty consistent. He has 114 saves in the last three years and has led the National League for the last year-and-a-half; he has given up just 8 home runs in 191 2/3 innings in the last three seasons.

If you’re looking for style points, look elsewhere. He demonstrated that clearly at the ESPY’s. His transition as a pitcher can be more uncomfortable to watch than a guy in any kind of spandex. Then again, do you want Armando Benitez back ?

***

There are a few times in life when it’s okay for a man to cry. For example, losing a grand to a backdoor cover. For another, getting kicked in the nether regions.

More seriously, any man fortunate to give his daughter away at a wedding has the right to turn on the waterworks. A little bit. That was me on Saturday.

I wasn’t a blubbering fool, but I can tell you the eyes got moist as I walked her down the aisle. She came in on a horse-drawn carriage in a flowing white gown and looked more beautiful than even I imagined.

It’s times like these that a parent can sit back and think they’ve done something right in life.

Gotta stop writing now. Waterworks again.

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2 Responses to “Another Weekend To Remember”

  1. Jim from Napa Says:

    Wow Ray; congrats; a magical moment with your daughter! 🙂

  2. mamayuen Says:

    Congratulations on gaining a son! So sweet to hear a dad’s perspective on his daughter’s wedding day regarding something other than the cost!

    Back to sports — your impressions are once again spot on. I was wondering why the USA Women’s Soccer team was playing not to lose — which of course contributed to their loss. God bless the Japanese for their “fight” — I suspect that’s an indication of their approach to their real life tragedies.

    As far as BWeezy . . . I’m glad he’s still saving games. If it affords him to purchase some more unitards, so be it. I can take less of him off the field (especially need less of him on The Franchise!), but as long as he’s contributing to Ws, I’ll continue to defend him.

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