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SPORTS: Plenty to chew on for sports fans of every stripe

August 20, 2007

You leave town for a little vacation, but that doesn't mean the world of sports is going to stop spitting out news.

Therefore, thoughts about this, that and the other while I was away:

News item: Barry Bonds breaks Henry Aaron's home run record.

Thought: Yawn. I ceased to care long ago. Major League Baseball has gotten what it deserved for ignoring the steroid issue for so long.

News item: Tiger Woods wins his fourth PGA Championship, his second in a row, and his 13th major championship overall.

Thought: Ordinarily, I'm not one for dynasties. And like many of us, I tend to root for the underdogs. But I am absolutely captivated by Woods and, if television ratings mean anything, so are many Americans. If Woods is playing, I'm watching and, yes, that means even while I'm on vacation.

Woods' play in the Bridgestone World Golf Championship, when he beat an elite field by eight shots at Firestone Country Club, was amazing by itself. Then Woods backed it up by winning the PGA and, really, clobbered the field again, except for Woody Austin and Ernie Els, who at least made the final round compelling. At the close of play, CBS flashed a chart that showed only seven golfers had made the cut in all four majors. Of those, Woods had an overall score of 1-under-par. Whoever was second-his name escapes me and does it even matter?-was something like 20 over par. I've had a running argument (OK, discussion) with a golfer pal of mine as to whether the mature Woods being coached by Hank Haney is as good as the young Woods coached by Butch Harmon. And my stance is this: He's not only as good, but he's better, because the competition has gotten better, and he still kicks their tails.

News item: Mr. Pacer, Reggie Miller, is contemplating coming out of retirement and the cush role of TV analyst to join the Boston Celtics as a backup shooting guard.

Thought: As much as it would pain me to see Reggie wearing Celtic green-especially in Conseco Fieldhouse-I say go for it. It's his life and career, and no one should tell him how to live it or leave it. That said, I don't buy the notion that he doesn't owe the Pacers anything. I seem to recall, the Simons paid him for the final year of a contract he chose not to fulfill.

News item: Unless the Big Ten Network, which is set to hit the airwaves, or cablewaves, in the next two weeks, settles its dispute with the cable networks, 11 Purdue and eight IU basketball games won't be seen this winter unless you're one of the few who has a ticket or a satellite dish.

Thought: This is where the manure hits the fan. The BTN has been a pie-in-the-sky notion to this point, but reality is closing in. In the court of public opinion, no one, neither the conference nor the cable providers, will win. Everyone will lose, starting with the fans, many of whom will be longtime donors to the programs they can no longer watch on television. The good news, if there is any? You can become fully reacquainted with the consummate radio play-by-play skills of IU's Don Fischer and Purdue's Larry Clisby.

News item: NASCAR's television ratings are down.

Thought: Surprise, surprise. Even NASCAR fans can't be forced to swallow too much of a good thing. The schedule is too glutted, and the majority of the races are too long. And, believe it or not, ESPN-which is televising the remainder of the NASCAR races-does not have the reach of an over-the-air network.

News item: Dario Franchitti got airborne again at the end of the IRL race in Kentucky.

Thought: I know I said Reggie Miller has the right to choose how to end his career. But Dario, you've got an Indy 500 ring on your finger and Ashley Judd on your arm. If you want to fly, become a pilot. Otherwise, retire. The Good Lord is trying to tell you something.

News item: Two more of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick's alleged conspirators in the dogfighting scandal are preparing to plea bargain and turn state's witness.

Thought: Grrrrr, Michael. Grrrrr.

News item: Colts coach Tony Dungy's book, "Quiet Strength," is at the top of the New York Times' non-fiction best-seller list.

Thought: Vacations are made for bookreading and I chose Dungy's tome as my take-along. It is inspiring and uplifting, reaffirming that Dungy cannot separate himself from his faith because it is the basis for everything he is. I highly recommend it.



Benner is associate director of communications for the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association and a former sports columnist for The Indianapolis Star. His column appears weekly. To comment on this column, go to IBJ Forum at www.ibj.comor send e-mail to bbenner@ibj.com. Benner also has a blog, www.indyinsights.com.
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