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Sunday, July 6, 2008

Run Weiner, Run

Jim Cryns on Sports

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It’s been a while since then-Pittsburgh Pirate Randall Simon took a good-natured swipe at the oversized Italian sausage at Miller Park. Swinging from the dugout steps, Simon swung the bat as the costumed consumable strode past, striking a 19-year old Brewers employee and causing her to nose-dive into the warning track in front of the dugout. Simon was escorted from the park in handcuffs, a ridiculous display of authority and overkill. The security power-play was reminiscent of the Harold Brier days when jaywalkers were ticketed and people going a few miles over the speed limit were sent to jail for the unpaid violation.

I was given the opportunity to run the race as part of my effort to replicate George Plimpton forays into sports, although I never played during mini-camp for the Detroit Lions as Plimpton had. Former Brewers’ outfielder Geoff Jenkins ran in the sausage race as he returned to action from the DL, and said it was the perfect time for him to run the race, working his way back into the lineup.

In the early ’90s, the races first appeared on what the Wizard of Oz would have referred to as the "clinking, clanking, clattering, collection of caliginous junk" known as the scoreboard in the old County Stadium. By the mid ’90s, the Brewers knew they had something. Laurel Prieb, the former vice president of marketing for the Brewers, didn’t envision the race would have the appeal it still holds. It’s a mainstay in Miller Park: The crowd buzzes as these wieners race around the park, celebrities in sausage casing. I’d like to do it again someday, only this time I wouldn’t run hard, I’d rather bump into the other sausages, run backwards, all the goofy stuff I’ve watched them do over the years. A question I’ve had numerous times since I raced: ‘Is the race rigged?’ As far as I know, it’s not, or at least it wasn’t the night I ran.

There are a few things I know to be true in this life with a modicum of certainty. Simon Cowell and his sidekick Ryan Seacrest need a good old fashioned ass-kicking, Britney Spears is mentally ill, and Tiger Woods is either the spawn of Satan, or sold his soul to the fallen angel. Nothing else could explain the sheer talent and ability to win other than this type of sordid pact. Like a lot of golfers, I am horrible on the links. I will occasionally rifle off a textbook drive or a decent wedge shot, but for the other 17-holes, I’m duffing, slicing, finding the woods or water, or hooking more than Tanya Harding on Sunset Strip. It’s not a difficult game, it’s an impossible game. When I was growing up I didn’t have much respect for golfers as athletes, but I’ve since consumed those words multiple times. Aside from hitting a baseball, striking a golf ball with any consistency may be the hardest thing to do in sports. It requires the eye of Marty Feldman and the wrist strength of a teenage boy with a box of Playboy magazines. I don’t know how many tournaments Woods has won in his relatively short career, but I am never surprised to learn on radio or the sports page of the paper when he does win. You come to expect it. Sure he puts in hours on the putting green and driving range, but so do the rest of the mutton-heads on tour. Woods hits shots from the sand, over water, from behind trees where he intentionally breaks his club, ramming it against the tree to swat the ball on the green. A 300-yard shot with an iron, all in a days work. Then, what is referred to as the greatest golf shot of all time prompting the announcer to scream, “Oh my goodness, in your life have you seen anything like that.”

When he’s down a few strokes in a major tournament coming up on the last few holes, you absolutely know the guy is not out of contention. If he’s in the lead, you can bet your kids he’s probably going to hold on for the victory. It’s beyond excellence, and I’m sure his daddy, (Mephistopheles,) is proud of his little boy.

Derrick Turnbow’s career with the Brewers may not be entirely dead,but he shouldn’t wait until the last minute to fill out his organ donor cards. In a move which didn’t even surprise Turnbow’s mother the reliever, formerly known as intimidating, was removed from the roster, and providing the Brewers with 10 days to trade him, release him, or ask him to be assigned to the minors. Brewers GM Doug Melvin insists Turnbow is still a part of the organization, pretty much like Fredo was a member of the inner circle of the Corleone family.

During his last few outings, Turnbow couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat. Even Ned Yost couldn’t envision a spot to use Turnbow, unless the team was up five runs with two outs in the ninth. Wait, even that move would be ill advised. It’s a little sad. Turnbow has always been one of the nicest guys in the clubhouse, a big kid with a Beatles mop-top. Relievers are in a difficult spot. Sure, you can clamor that’s what he’s paid for, but it doesn’t make the job any easier. You should try doing your job in front of 40-thousand cheering and jeering fans and see how you fare.

Got an idea for a future topic for this column? E-mail Jim at Mindpool@earthlink.net.

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