Sports in ’07 tried to get bugs out of its system |

Sports in ’07 tried to get bugs out of its system

Fred Lief
Associated Press
Vial, CO Colorado
Amy Sancetta/APNew York Yankee head trainer Gene Monahan sprays New York Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain with bug spray as swarms of small insects swarm in the eighth inning of Game 2 of the American League Division Series against the Indians in Cleveland on Oct. 5.

They came off the lake and out of the night. Swarms of flying critters descended with a fury on the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees like a day of reckoning.

The midges ” or Chironomus plumosus (Linnaeus) for those keeping score at home ” all but exterminated the Yankees’ hopes of reaching the World Series.

The bugs feasted on the ample jowls of Yankee reliever Joba Chamberlain as if they had lucked into a seven-course banquet of human flesh. Derek Jeter flailed his arms at shortstop, swatting away at the pests. Catcher Jorge Posada visited the mound with insect repellant. After the playoff game, a 2-1 win in 11 innings by Cleveland, entomologists weighed in with commentary.

Yes, strange things were in the air in 2007, unpredictable gusts and shifting currents blowing across sports.

Maybe this whirlwind by Lake Erie, like some Biblical plague of locusts, was foreshadowed a month earlier in Cincinnati.

Gabe Gross of the Milwaukee Brewers inexplicably broke for third base on a steal. Brewers manager Ned Yost, it turned out, had a mosquito bite and started scratching. Third-base coach Nick Leyva misread the gesticulations for the steal sign.

“I looked up,” Yost said, “and saw Gabe coming and thought, ‘What the heck is going on.'”

A lot of people wondered that very thing when they heard about Ryan Boatwright. He’s a basketball star from Aurora, Ill., and Southern California coach Tim Floyd offered him a scholarship. Nothing unusual there. But Boatwright had yet to decide where he’s going to high school. He’s 14.

“Hmmm,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. “I’m not good enough to evaluate that far ahead. Someday I might.”

Youth ” and we’re talking really young ” was also served on the Nebraska-Kearney women’s basketball team. Coach Carol Russell was a few minutes late for a game, but please forgive her: She gave birth five hours earlier.

“I usually stand up for the whole game,” she said after the 108-75 loss to North Dakota. “But I didn’t have the energy.”

She was not the only pregnant woman with grit. Colleen Pavelka induced early labor because her husband, a rabid Chicago Bears fan, had tickets to the NFC title game. Dad did his part, though. He was there for delivery in his “Monsters of the Midway” shirt.

Bears fans clearly are a hearty breed. Scott Wiese, an office-supply store worker, made a bar bet in Decatur, Ill. If his team lost the Super Bowl, he’d change his name to whoever led Indianapolis to victory. Well, the Colts won and Wiese began legal proceedings to become Peyton Manning. He should be thankful the Bears didn’t play the Chargers, and tight end Brandon Manumaleuna was the MVP.

“I think I represent all Bears fans,” he said. “Not that I’m saying they’re all idiots like me.”

No idiot, Matt White. He’s a journeyman pitcher trying to make it in the Dodger organization. A few years ago, he bought 50 acres of land in Massachusetts from his aunt for $50,000. While poking around the property he found stone ledges in the ground. Now he’s sitting not on a gold mine but a quarry that could yield more than $2 billion worth of rocks.

“I’m just a small-town guy trying to get to the big leagues,” the left-hander said. “It’s beyond comprehension.”

Food and drink were assuredly on the menu in sports this year.

The English soccer power Chelsea warned that fans could be barred from games if they persist in throwing celery on the field. The fans have been singing obscene songs about celery for years, but club officials had enough once the veggies went airborne.

For Jonathan Papelbon’s bulldog, the cuisine of choice was rawhide. The Red Sox closer had the ball from the last out of the World Series in his Mississippi home. Then Boss got hold of it.

“He tore that thing to pieces,” Papelbon told the Hattiesburg American. “Nobody knows that. I’ll keep what’s left of it.”

As for the drink, a Nebraska veterinarian was accused of injecting horses with vodka before races at Fonner Park. The charges were dropped and left unclear was whether the horses preferred the vodka with tonic and lime.

Elsewhere in the judicial system, Mike Tyson served a one-day sentence in Arizona for DUI. The former heavyweight champion ate sloppy joes and read the book “American Gangster” during his stay. Like other inmates in the open-air jail, he was obligated to wear pink underwear beneath his black-and-white stripes.

And maybe in 2007 there was a lesson to be learned about perseverance in the face of grinding, utter defeat.

At the Asian Winter Games, Kazakhstan beat Thailand in ice hockey 52-1. Until the Thais scored in the third period their highlight came when defenseman Terani Harnarujchai checked a linesman into the boards. Thailand coach Michael Rolanti, a former American college player, assessed the wreckage and took heart.

“I think it was a good game for us,” he said, “because we did not give up.”

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