Olympics and baseball add excitement to dull month

By Brooks Taylor, Mt. Pleasant News


Okay, I?ll acknowledge it ? some of you don?t like the headline on this column.

You have my apologies, but many columns are comprised of personal beliefs, and February doesn?t come close to making the list of my favorite months. I?ve said as much in February columns in past years and generally receive some feedback ? from those who agree and those who disagree.

February, I think, is just in the wrong place on the calendar. Let?s face it ? most of the time it has been a long winter by the time February rolls around, the glow and cheer of the holidays is a memory and when looking outside, all that is seen is barren trees and brown grass (if not covered by a mountain of snow). Not an aesthetically pleasing site by my definition.

Every four years the Winter Olympics add excitement to the month. Although the U.S. is not as dominant in the Winter Olympics as they are at the summer venue, just watching athletes giving it their all, no matter what country is listed on their jerseys, is worth your time.

A friend, who is a sports fan, is not an Olympics fan, reasoning that some of the ?sports? don?t fit his definition of sports.

I see his point. Whether the biathlon, where contestants cross-country ski, stop and take three shots at a target, then ski some more before stopping to shoot again, tends to stretch the definition as does curling.

However, it is not my decision or his on whether all activities are sports or not. I did watch the biathlon (the television options were extremely limited at the time), and while my friend may not think it is a sport, there was no doubt the participants were good athletes.

Although my Olympic viewing has been limited this year, the athleticism of the contestants cannot be questioned. For example, the athletic skill of the competitors in snowboarding would rival that of athletes in any other sport.

The best of February is just beginning. Major league baseball teams are in spring training which is akin to seeing the first robin of the year. Spring is just around the corner.

As you know, a certain groundhog saw his shadow two weeks ago, meaning six more weeks of winter. The best joke I heard from Groundhog Day is that since the groundhog saw his shadow, it will take baseball free-agent pitcher Yu Darvish six more weeks to make a decision on which team will have his services this year, Darvish, however, scissored the prediction, signing with the Cubs eight days after Groundhog Day.

This year, spring training has been overshadowed by the lack of progress in the signing of free-agent players. Various reasons have been given for the delay, all with some degree of merit, such as teams wanting to avoid the luxury tax, collusion, teams not willing to give long-term contracts and a strong free-agent class next year.

My take is that ownership finally is grasping an air of reality, realizing that they can?t throw millions of dollars at mediocre players. And you know who helps with those hefty price tags ? Joe Fan. Ticket and concession prices at major league parks is becoming so high that it is difficult for a middle-income family of four to justify the expense.

Baseball means the Cubs to many in southeast Iowa. We Cub fans formally lived by the ?wait ?til next year? philosophy. That all changed in 2016 and now we want more. There are some (most of them are Cardinal fans) who term Cub fans as the most conceited fans in the game. We may be proud, but not conceited. After 107 years of frustration (and repeatedly hearing about it), we had a lot of pent-up pride.

There are a lot of new faces on the north side of Chicago this year. The bullpen had a complete makeover. However, with Joe Maddon still calling the shots, the bullpen, as it has been the past three years, will be burned to a crisp by August. There is no manager worse than Maddon in handling a bullpen.

Reading that last paragraph, you have detected my dislike of Maddon. A baseball writer recently used the adjective ?kooky? in describing him. I can think of other adjectives, such as arrogant. I have a difficult time developing fondness for someone who will never admit a mistake and constantly uses excuses.

If the Cubs have a successful season this year, it will not be because of Maddon. It will be in spite of him.