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EA Sports' 1st Look at Football, Hoops, Baseball

Column by Bo Light and Brian Petersen
SportsColumnists

Welcome back, sports fans, to another year of EA Sports. That's right, your favorite source of bad jokes, worse predictions, and general misinformation about the world of athletics is back after a long and restful R/O Week. For those who missed our summer columns, we've added a new feature, "Inquiring Minds Wanna Know," in which we explain complex issues in the world of sports, like why team earned-run averages are on the rise in baseball, or how illegal defense works in basketball (actually, we can't even explain that).

Unfortunately, our new feature won't run this week; now that we've told you all about it, we don't have enough space left to actually run it. However, look for "Inquiring Minds" next week, when we plan to start writing more than an hour before our deadline.

Pigskin Report

Hey, did anyone notice that football season started last week? Despite the fact that few people realized exhibition season hadn't ended yet, excitement was the name of the game around the NFL in week one. Sunday was punctuated by late comebacks and fourth-quarter heroics, not least of which was Drew Bledsoe's poise in taking the Patriots down the field for the game-winning touchdown on their final drive of the game. Most of Sunday's games were decided by less than a touchdown, and even the two expansion teams lost close games.

Monday was slightly less exciting, as Dallas manhandled the Giants to the tune of 35-0. The Cowboys have started the season in playoff form, and if they can maintain this intensity for eighteen weeks (no mean feat), even San Francisco might be no match for "America's Team." The highlight of the game for New York was the retirement of Phil Simms' jersey at halftime. Perhaps Phil should have suited up for the second half.

Oh yeah, there was college football, too. Only a few major events in the minor league to announce: Miami (Fla.) played like Miami of Ohio against UCLA, eventually taking a 31-8 beating. New coach jitters, you say? Seems to us that years of scandals might finally be catching up to the Hurricanes. Actually, an 0-11 season is just what Miami needs. Here's hoping.

Speaking of playing like Miami of Ohio, once-mighty Notre Dame didn't play much better against Big Ten doormat Northwestern. Did you know that your parents probably weren't alive the last time Northwestern beat the Irish? And speaking of the Big Ten (boy, the segues come so easy this week), one power that did win their season opener was Michigan. The Wolverines and freshman quarterback Jeff Driesbach spotted Virginia a 17-point lead over the first 47 minutes of the game, then spent the last 13 taking it back. The game ended with a perfect toss from Driesbach to Mercury Hayes, who made the catch in the end zone with no time on the clock and about three blades of grass between his foot and the sideline. Interestingly enough, this marks the first time in Michigan's one-hundred-umpteen year history that the Wolves have come back to win from more than 14 points down.

Hoops Report

As you may know by now, the NBA is in a whole heap of trouble. The owners have locked out the players, the mega-rich players are busily trying to convince the little guys to decertify the players' union, and the start of the season is nowhere in sight.

We at EA Sports think that this is another case of both sides of the table being too greedy, and neither side wanting to give in, out of spite more than anything else. Well, we won't stand for it. We can play basketball ourselves, most of you out there probably can too, and we won't have to pay exorbitant fees to watch each other play. As we did with baseball, we refuse to report on the sport of basketball until we see some sign that the season will start. You want basketball, break out those Cons and meet us at the gym.

The Batter's Box

Major League Baseball has certainly had its ups and downs this season. On the up side, home runs, diving catches, and double plays have all been seen frequently throughout the league, as the individual games have made up for in excitement what the pennant races lack. And who really needs a pennant race when at least a half dozen teams are still alive for the wild card spot in each league?

The Cleveland Indians, perennial losers until last year, are favorites for the World Series, the Colorado Rockies could make the playoffs faster than any expansion team in history, and two nights ago Cal Ripken, Jr. made a little history of his own by playing in his 2,131st consecutive game. Yes, this could be one of the greatest seasons ever. Of course, this won't be one of the greatest seasons ever, if only because of the low points that have hurt the league this year.

We begin, of course, with the fact that this is a strike-shortened season, and with eighteen fewer games to catch records, this season will be no more than an interesting asterisk in the history books. Also, the memory of last season's abrupt end is still fresh in the minds of many fans (and ex-fans), and the fact that there is still no labor contract does not bode well. Attendance remains down throughout the league, with a league-wide drop of almost 20% this year. We were also saddened by the retirements of sluggers Kirk Gibson (who retired just before a game) and John Kruk (who retired in the sixth inning of a game). Of course, the saddest part of the season was the passing of the great Mickey Mantle, who succumbed to liver cancer only weeks after a transplant had supposedly saved his life.

The Mick may not have been the most beloved player of all time, and there are those who say he deserved what he got, but he was one of the best to play the game. In this age of abusive athletes who deny all responsibility for their actions, it was refreshing to hear one man say, "I was wrong; don't be like me." Mick, we loved you not for who you were, but for what you did.

Rest in peace.

Trivia Question

On Wednesday, Cal Ripken, Jr. broke the Major League Baseball record for most consecutive games played. However, he still has more than half a season to go to break the world record for consecutive games. Who holds this record? (Hint: the answer was in The Boston Globe earlier this week) Send your answers, along with comments and David Stern's home phone number, to easports@the-tech. Winners, as always, will see their names in print.

Answer to last month's questions: The highest finish by the United States in a World Cup was third, in 1950. Nobody could answer that question, but Walter Sun '95, Kevin Dahm G, Eric Allen G, and Henry Huang '96 all correctly answered the second question: The last year two baseball teams finished the season with over 100 wins was 1993, when both Atlanta and San Francisco accomplished the feat.