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Sometime between the amazing flurry of daily high school baseball and softball games and occasional breaks in Stanley Cup Playoff games and late-season snowstorms, you might find time to go to a movie, as a way to celebrate the change of seasons.
They are changing, aren’t they? Or, on Dylan-Fest week, maybe it’s just the times that are a-changing.
If you do go out to a movie, try really hard to avoid John Wick 3. Now, I didn’t see 1 and 2, but my wife, Joan, and I went to Marcus Theaters and paid for the giant screen version of John Wick 3, and it was not only a terrible waste of money but also time. I would love to see an accounting of all the fights, murders, mayhem, and horrible atrocities that give the term “gratuitous violence” a bad name. It must have set a record for punches thrown, kicks delivered, bullets fired, stabbings stabbed, fights fought and chases chased.
If you need an example, we have Keanu Reeves in the starring role, never smiling, always fighting, and in about the dozenth time he whips a dozen or so assailants, he wrestles a guy down to the floor and after a lengthy struggle, manages to pound a knife that he’s straining to stab his foe with his other hand, so that he drives it into the guy’s eye. It’s enough to put you off your popcorn.
And then, the beautiful Halle Barry helps Reeves escape on a trek across the Sahara Desert, where he — still wearing his suit and tie — and Halle part ways. She has part of a liter of bottled water left, tells Reeves he will need it and hands it to him. As he reached for it, she withdraws it, guzzles the remaining water, swishes it around in her pretty mouth, and spits it back into the bottle. Then hands it to Reeves. Those, I’m afraid, were typical of what passes for entertainment at the movies these days.
Better to go out and watch a high school ball game. For example, Denfeld and East played a baseball game last week and for a time tried too hard, kicking a few balls around and trying to give away the game. Then they suddenly straightened up and played 12 innings before East won 6-5 on a wild pitch.
“We scored two in the 10th, but they came back and got two in the last of the 10th,” said East coach Chris Siljendahl, whose team is among those trying to play makeup games every day it’s not snowing, as they head into their final regular season week. Softball, too, is heading into sectional play this weekend.
As far as baseball goes, we all have to be impressed — no, astounded — by the early season success of the Minnesota Twins. A great starting pitching corps is supporting Jose Berrios and Kirk Gibson, and the club keeps hitting huge home runs in enormous quantities.
Yes, I have my concerns. My main thing is that the first four weeks were filled with everybody hitting well and hitting home runs in the process. That has slowed down. The injury to Mitch Garver hurts bad, because he is well over .300 and joined Jorge Polanco in leading the over-.300 guys. The rest of the club stopped hitting recently, however, and only Polanco has remained a beacon of outstanding at-bats.
Last time I looked, the Twins were winnbing three out of four at Seattle, a team that started hot and is now ice cold, and while Polanco was at .331, Garver and his .329 average have gone on the DL. Byron Buxton has faded to .271 and Eddie Rosario is .257, and Miguel Sano is striking out with alarming frequency and has a .158 batting average.
If you’re watching the Stanley Cup, I hope you enjoy watching the Boston Bruins more than I do. I love the fact UMD’s Karson Kuhlman is getting a chance to play, but otherwise, I don’t enjoy watching Zdeno Chara cross-check everybody he approaches, without ever being noticed by the officials. The Bruins are very good, and could well win the Cup, but they brutalized Carolina and scored on virtually every power play they were awarded.
If St. Louis finished off San Jose, I’m pulling for the Blues, which would be a phenomenal story, since the Blues were last in the entire NHL on January 2 and are on the verge of keeping the upsurge going through the finals.
The Carolina Hurricanes flat ran out of gas against Boston, and it appears San Jose ran out of bodies against the hustling Blues. Erik Karlsson, who scored an overtime game-winning goal after an apparent hand-pass went uncalled by the officials, has now been battered into submission and may not have been able to go in Game 5 Tuesday night. A brilliant passer and player, Karlsson has been getting ridiculed for a turnover that led to the first St. Louis goal.
Are we getting a little too critical here? Karlsson chased the puck down behind his goal, and as a forechecker approached from his right, he had a teammate on the boards to his left in Branden Dillon. So Karlsson flung a pass to Dillon, who was back-pedaling at the moment, and somehow the pass went through his legs like a croquet ball through a wicket. It caromed off the left boards and the ricochet headed toward the slot, where Oscar Sundqvist one-timed it for a 1-0 Blues lead. The announcers and writers all jumped on Karlsson for a “turnover.” Whatever, four Sharks were knocked out of commission by the aggressive Blues in the game, and after Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko scored for a 3-0 lead, Schwartz scored twice more to finish a stunning 5-0 rout Sunday.
Schwartz was a big star for Colorado College in his days in the NCHC, and when he turned pro, the Tigers fortunes took a bit of a nosedive. Great to see those college guys come through.
If you get a chance, however, catch a game involving the Russians and Sweden in the World Championships. They beat an outstanding Switzerland team on successive nights this past weekend, Sweden winning 4-3 and then Russia beating the Swiss 3-0. Russia has a power-play unit featuring Nikita Kusnetsov centering Alex Ovechkin-Malkin and Alexander Malkin on the forward line. Amazing teamwork and passing, much like the old Red Army days only with much more forceful — but clean — physical play.
And then, of course, we have the Indianapolis 500, which runs this weekend. Simon Pagenaud won the pole for Roger Penske’s team, with Ed Carpenter and Spencer Pigot on an all-Chevrolet-powered front row.
The race will come down to Chevy power, with five of the top six qualifiers, against Honda’s staying power and consistency. Honda has 11 of the top 19. If you’re choosing sides, look for Will Power, Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan to lead the Chevy brigade, in 6th, 12th and 16th, while the Honda racers are led by the Andretti and Ganassi teams, featuring Colton Herta, who broke in at fifth just before his 20th birthday, while Simon Bourdais (7th) Alexander Rossi (9), Marco Andretti (10), and Takima Sato (14th) follow. Graham Rahal is 17th, and Ganassi stalwart Scott Dixon 18th, with Oriol Servia 19th. Ryan Hunter-Reay had qualifying issues and is 22nd.
And when it comes to racing, we have to go back to some curious antics in horse racing. First, the Kentucky Derby disqualification of winner Maximum Security, who veered to his right and was protested by Country House, giving the victory to Country House. Now, in my opinion, Country House would never have won the race, and while it came on from the outside to take second in the actual race, Maximum Security and Country House squeezed nearly together and forced a horse named War of Will to drop back out of contention.
If any horse got cheated, it was War of Will at the Derby. So I picked that horse in the Preakness, and, sure enough, he made a dash up the rail to win by well over a length. Sometimes justice prevails.
Interesting that owners of Maximum Security and Country House both chose to bypass the Preakness. Maximum Security’s owners filed a protest against the claim, which made me think the horse should have been in the Preakness. Imagine if it had won the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes, and then won its protest. It would be the Triple Crown winner, but it now forfeits that chance.
You also have to enjoy watching the University of Minnesota romp to victory in its softball NCAA regional, blanking North Dakota State 5-0 and then shocking Georgia 8-1 at Cowles Field on the University of Minnesota campus. We can take extra pleasure in the Gophers success because Jamie Trachsel is in her second year coaching Gopher softball and with Amber Fiser pitching and solid hitting and defense, the Gophers have a good chance to win their own regional this weekend and take a real run at the NCAA championship.