So after this chapter titled, “College Basketball” comes to an end for me, it’s always a quick shift to the chapter titled, “Kentucky Derby.” Even quicker this year because the first Saturday in May happens to be the first day in May.
I’d like to say I’m following the Derby preps as closely as I should be all along, but the fact of the matter is that when you’re traveling from New York (Big East tournament) to New Orleans and Syracuse (NCAA) then Indianapolis (Final Four), you’ve become so immersed in college basketball for a month (and even before) that you arrive at the Kentucky Derby Chapter in need of serious cramming.
Sometimes it’s a cruel transition. In a previous job, I once came home from covering what for me was a huge assignment — Indiana against Louisville in the NCAA Tournament — to find myself assigned to a girls’ high school softball game. And while I found a pretty good feature at the softball game, it wasn’t quite the screaming throngs I had encountered at the NCAA Tourney.
Luckily for me, the first serious horse racing assignment I usually pick up pre-Derby is the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, and even more lucky, I guess, is that the story of the winning connections each of the past two years has provided a story compelling enough to draw even those who don’t follow horse racing regularly into their realm.
Last year, it was Tom McCarthy, who made it to the Derby with General Quarters, after 50 years of trying. And today, it was Tom and Jack Conway, yes that Jack Conway, attorney general, whose Stately Victor won at 40-1 to land them a surprise Derby berth. You can read that column Sunday.
Regardless, I know others move quickly to other chapters: “Baseball,” and “Basketball Recruiting” and “Spring Football.” And I’ll be jumping into all of those this week, too, once I finish the chapter titled, “The Masters” today.
And then there are the various things you would like to have written on the past several weeks but have been too busy with basketball:
— Did the L.A. Times really call for the Breeders’ Cup to move permanently to Santa Anita Park? As I recall, the attendance numbers there last year were cooked more than a Madoff statement, and if the Angels hadn’t been booted from the playoffs, the Breeders’ Cup would’ve been fighting for its life for a little front-page play in the Times.
— Major League Baseball season has begun, and already I’m hearing whining about the length of games. This is the biggest non-issue in baseball. Big-league games clocked in at around 2 hours, 52 minutes on average last season. The average length of a college football game in 2009? 3 hours, 12 minutes. Baseball games are fine.
— What? Tiger cussed on the golf course on Saturday? Stop the presses. Who cares? At some point, he’s just going to have to be himself out there and let people take it or leave it. The bigger story? We could be headed for a classic Sunday at The Masters. Lee Westwood, No. 4 in the world, is leading, but has No. 2 Phil Mickelson playing great golf behind him, along with No. 1 Woods. Throw in Fred Couples and K.J Choi, right in the hunt.
— Oh, also Sunday, just in case there weren’t enough — Cuban pitching sensation Aroldis Chapman makes his U.S. professional debut in Toledo for the Louisville Bats (who open at home on Wednesday). First pitch is at 2 p.m. Catch the call on WKRD-790 AM.
I suppose we’re all fortunate to have so many pages to fill.