Notes From Wonderland: Buck, Gladding and Soccer

It's the middle of June and I'm stumped for topics. Other than the Diamondbacks, the only other sport I am watching is the World Cup. I don't like golf or tennis and could care less about the WNBA, so topics are limited, or are they? There has been some interesting news at the UA and around the world of sports.

*Arizona hired their new cross-country coach, James Li of Washington State. Li is originally from China and gives Arizona another minority hire. More importantly it gives Arizona another quality coach.

"We're very excited to have someone of James Li's caliber come to Arizona," said newly promoted head track coach Fred Harvey. "He has coached world class athletes and I'm confident that he'll coach many more here at Arizona."

*Jack Buck's passing is sad for baseball and to a lesser extent, America. To me Buck was one of the finest announcers ever. Both my parents grew up in the Midwest and Buck was a fixture on St. Louis' KMOX. I recently saw a replay of the "Icebowl" on ESPN Classic and realized that he was one great football announcer as well.

I still remember his call of the dramatic Kirk Gibson homerun, "I don't believe what I am seeing." I was in Arizona stadium, listening to the CBS Radio broadcast. I was giving updates to the crowd around me. I told the small crowd that Gibson was up and they all told me that was impossible, he was hurt. I told them, "Jack Buck said he can hardly walk and may have to hit a home run, because he can't run the bases." I guess he knew what he was talking about.

The best part of that call was when they show it with the NBC video. You can see the usual Los Angeles crowd leaving, their tail lights are clear in center field. As soon as the ball is hit and Buck starts yelling, hundreds of tail lights light up.

Jack Buck is an icon. Right there with Harry Carey, Vin Sculley, Mel Allen and Ernie Hallwell. I for one will miss his talents.

*Jennie Gladding left the softball team to be closer to her family which lives in Florida. Some have speculated that Gladding wasn't sure what her role would be with the team since the Wildcats were bringing in three high school pitchers (one was recruited as an infielder). I've spoken to Gladding on a number of occasions and have found her to be a nice, well spoken, very engaging interview. I wish her all the best, but her departure will put Arizona in a bind. The Wildcats will go into the season without an experienced pitcher on the roster.

*Bill Laimbeer was named the head coach of the WNBA's Detroit Shock. I don't even have a joke here. The very thought of Laimbeer coaching in the WNBA cracks me up. I still picture the Right Guard ad where he is "toughening up" Grant Hill. I can just imagine the practices that the former "Bad Boy" would conduct.

*Barry Bonds is complaining that his pitchers aren't backing him up. Maybe they think all of that Rollerball body armor is all the protection he needs. Or maybe they wanted to talk it over with him, but they aren't allowed in the "compound" that Bonds calls his locker.

*Speaking of Bonds, why does he get so much press and Sammy Sosa doesn't? All Sosa has done is have the greatest string of power seasons in the history of the game while still being cordial to the media. You'd never know that Sosa plays in the third largest media market in the country. For some reason there is a debate over his Hall of Fame candidacy. If he was in Yankee pinstripes he'd be a first ballot guy. He's one of the few players who looks like he is having fun playing the game. Is it all an act? Maybe, but I'd rather catch Sammy's act, than the truth according to Bonds. Do you think the people who have benefited from Sosa's generosity in the Dominican Republic care if it is an act? He is a hero there and should be here.

*I'm hooked on World Cup soccer. Not only the USA, but all of the games. The Ireland/Spain game was one of the most thrilling overtimes I had seen. The Irish fans were amazing. Not only were they boisterous and exuberant, but they handled a tough, tough loss with class. They praised their team. They celebrated their team. Sure they should have one, but they supported their "Boys in Green."

I'm still not a huge soccer fan. I won't be watching MLS anytime soon. I may pay some attention to European Club soccer, but I don't think I'll have that International Soccer subscription coming in the mail anytime soon.

The best part of the whole World Cup is the passion. The passion of the fans and the players. The fans cheer non-stop. The South Korean crowds are the BEST sports crowds I have ever seen. They spent 90 minutes moving, making noise and being a huge influence on their team. It looked like the stadium was alive. I also love the passion of the players. I love the fact they are allowed to celebrate. The NFL should take notes. Now if we could do something about the flopping and the whining…

Brad Allis is editor of Cat Tracks Magazine. His column can be read every Wednesday and on other days that he is inspired to write. He can be e-mailed at 


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