Tricks & Treats

Early October is probably the single best time of the year in sports. There're enough sporting-world goodies available now to satisfy a Trick-or-Treating army of sumo wrestlers (who'd be artfully disguised as giant, flesh-flavored gelatin molds, no doubt): NFL, college football, NHL, PGA, NASCAR, Major League playoffs-baseball and soccer.

And, of course, locals can gallop over to the bi-annual Keeneland meet. And college basketball practice is close enough to (cough) camp out for.

But if that's not enough to stuff your jack-o-lantern, below you'll find some (Wacky) wafers and (Reese's) pieces pulled from the grab-bag of sports world treats.

Baseball's the ficklest of sports. When a team can, theoretically, lose its first 62 games and still make the playoffs, each of the 162 games, individually, seems unimportant. When determining which teams make the playoffs comes down to the final game of the season, as it did in the American League West this year, every game seems important.

The Texas Rangers finished its season 20 1/2 games out of first place in the AL West. The team was once owned by G.W. Bush. Not that that's an omen or anything.

But the Cincinnati Reds, not the Rangers, were the winners of the Bart Simpson Biggest Underachievement Award for the 2000 season. And the Reds still managed to finish in second place.

But in sports, second place is merely the 'first loser.' Ask Monday-fired Reds manager Jack McKeon, who is now going to vote for Bush because he has the better prescription drug program for under-insured seniors.

A poor year for Reds superstar Ken Griffey, Jr. was still better than most other players' career-best seasons. That's a testament to how good Griffey is-and can be.

Maybe Griffey had an off year because he was busy launching his own "Big Fly" line of denim products instead of home runs.

The Reds played the entire season without being shutout. The Cincinnati Bengals have already been held scoreless twice in four games. I'd take the Reds to Win, Place, and Show any day over the Bengals. In football.

The only team the Bengals Swiss-cheese defense could shut out is the Bengals offense.

Another thing fickle about baseball is that it's the only sport where the coaches dress like the players. Why? Well, I guess it's a highly classified government it shouldn't be too hard to steal.

Imagine Adolph Rupp, instead of the brown suit, donning a teeny tank top, or picture Bear Bryant trading in his tweed hat for a pair of tight white football pants. No, wait. Don't.

Most surprising team in professional baseball: the "underpaid" Oakland A's, AL West champs. Refreshing: a good team with a bad payroll.

Still, I'm pulling for the Chicago White Sox to go out there and win one for its "Gipper(s)," which is Shoeless Joe Jackson (and his buddy Kevin Costner).

Best line from Costner's movie Field of Dreams, "If you build it, they will come." Best line from a billboard seen recently, "If you come, we will build it," coined by Gateway Computers.

Most surprising team in amateur baseball: the United States Olympic team.

Speaking of the Olympics, did anyone, secretly, want to see Lithuania make that last-second three pointer that would've beaten the pompous United States 'Dream Team'?

Forget stripping the medal away from the Romanian gymnast for her 'doping,' which amounted to, for all intents and purposes, taking a Sudafed tablet. Instead, take the gold away from the United States men's 4 x 100 track team. Judging by their victory 'celebration,' these guys were the ones on drugs.

Enjoyably ironic: a bad team with a good payroll. Namely, the Washington Redskins, the most disappointing team in the NFL this year, save the beloved Bengals - but the Bengals don't really qualify. Sure Washington is tied for first-thanks to a Deion Sanders punt return in overtime on Sunday-but the Skins play in the dismal NFC (L)East, where being in first with a 3-2 record is as illustrious as being 6-5 college team and playing in the Raisin Bowl, which was contested a whole 5 times from 1946-49 (and last won by Occidental College.)

Although for UK football this year, 6-5 would certainly be illustrious. There's still hope. But there's also still Georgia and Tennessee. And recently South Carolina. And after last weekend, Miss. St. and LSU.

UK men's hoops will be good this year. But no matter how impressive UK's record, it will be not impressive enough for most supporters.

That same fans' mentality is now applied to UK football, which is a positive thing. The good is oft' the enemy of the best.

And finally, in case you have not heard, Rochester beat Minnesota 3-1 to win the A-League soccer championship last week. In case you have heard, what other teams participate in the A-League, please call me and most everyone else in this country.

And to think of the poor B-League.