Thumbs up, thumbs down

I had my first stint of winter illness this past weekend.
Actually, I’m not sure if it was a 24-hour ’flu or something I ate. Either way, let’s just say there was a point Monday afternoon where I was pretty sure I was going to expire.
It was that fun.
This is, without question, the worst year I’ve ever had in terms of health. I can’t tell you how excited I am that it’s almost time to turn the page on 2006.
I figure if I can make it through the next two weeks without getting run over by a transport truck or trampled by holiday shoppers, things only can be better in the new year.
So, you’ll excuse me if my mind isn’t quite focused on a single column topic this week. Instead, I thought I’d steal a segment from a television show and give my “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” to some of the major sports stories of the past seven days.
Let’s start with the positive:
•Thumbs up to Alex Parent
The Aquanauts’ swimmer just got back from competing in the world championships in South Africa.
Parent set personal bests in four of his five events—a promising first step in his journey towards the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing, China.
•Thumbs up to the Muskie court teams
Two weeks into the season, the black-and-gold court squads can be categorized into three categories.
1. The dominant
The senior boys’ basketball team only can be classified as the odds-on favourites to win the NorWOSSA crown this season.
The squad has enjoyed blow-out wins over both the Kenora Broncos and Dryden Eagles, and has pushed some of the stronger Thunder Bay teams to the brink during tournament competition.
The scary part of the equation is that this very strong Muskie team—dominated by Grade 11 players—shouldn’t be expected to peak until sometime next season.
2. The dangerous
The senior girls’ volleyball team would be the class of their division if Dryden wasn’t a provincial powerhouse. That having been said, don’t write off the Muskie girls’ chances of pulling an upset against the Eagles during the playoffs.
The black-and-gold gave the Eagles all they could handle during a league game last week—and only stand to improve as the season wears on.
Meanwhile, the Muskie junior boys’ basketball team also is rounding into shape at a remarkable pace.
I’ll admit to wondering if it was going to be a long season for the junior boys after taking in their season-opening loss to the Kenora Broncos here two weeks ago.
However, this team probably has come further faster than any team I’ve seen in recent memory. If they continue to make strides at their current pace, a NorWOSSA title is easily within reach.
3. The streaky
The Muskie junior girls’ volleyball squad has fallen victim to a trend that plagues almost every young high school sports team in that they play well for some stretches, but play poorly at others.
However, there is a lot of promise with this team. They are competitive against the Broncos right now and should be able to push the Eagles later in the season.
Junior players take time to develop. Let’s see where the team is in a month.
•Thumbs up to Muskie hockey
Statistics often don’t paint an entirely accurate picture but in the case of the Muskie boys’ hockey team, there is one stat that tells the whole story.
In 23 games this season (excluding last night’s contest versus Kenora), the Muskies have an amazing 22 wins.
I broke out the old calculator, punched in some numbers and, provided my Grade 10 math holds up, discovered that was a 96 percent win rate.
Good grief.
Let’s just say this team is pretty good and leave it at that.
And while the girls’ team hasn’t matched their male counterparts in the win column, there is reason to be excited.
After experimenting with potential line combinations during the early part of the season, the Muskie coaching staff appears to have found the right mixture of players.
Scoring is up for the black-and-gold in their last few games and that spells bad news for the rest of an extremely competitive NorWOSSA league.
And now the week’s worst sporting events:
•Thumbs down to the NBA
By now, most sports fans have seen footage of what the media is dubbing the “basket brawl” between the Denver Nuggets and N.Y. Knicks on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
Where to start with this one?
Carmelo Anthony’s sucker punch was one of the most ridiculous things I’ve seen in a while. Not only did Anthony wait until Mardy Collins was looking the other direction, but he ran to mid-court immediately after connecting with the punch.
Way to go, tough guy.
Then we have NBA Commissioner David Stern’s not-so-stern punishment of a 15-game suspension for Anthony.
Indiana Pacer Stephen Jackson received a 30-game suspension for running into the stands and throwing sucker punches at Piston players during the infamous “Malice at the Palace” incident two years ago.
Why wasn’t Anthony punished as harshly? If I had to guess, I’d say it’s because he’s one of the marquee young players in the league.
And finally, we have Knicks’ coach Isiah Thomas’ insane comments that the Nuggets incited the trouble by trying to run up the score.
Since when has beating the competition become a valid excuse for starting a brawl? If anyone out there can figure it out, please feel free to e-mail me at the address provided below.
•Thumbs down to Terrell Owens
In case you missed it, Owens spit in the face of Falcons’ cornerback D’Angelo Hall during Saturday night’s NFL game in Atlanta.
Afterwards, Owens said he was sick of Hall pestering him and that’s why he spat on him.
Good one, Terrell.
I can honestly say that not once, in all the times people have bothered me over the course of my 28 years, have I ever had the inclination to spit in the offending party’s face.
Instead of questioning Owens’ motivation, I’d rather ask the NFL why spitting on an opponent is not a suspendable offence?
It’s a disgusting act that shows no sportsmanship, no respect for the opposition, and no respect for the game.
acruickshank@fortfrances.com

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