Salem Radio Network News Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Sports

Column: We could do without 3rd-place game, all these bowls

As the World Cup holds a game to decide third place — who cares? — and a tidal wave of unnecessary bowl games gets cranked up — really, who cares? — we’re reminded that sports, as great as it can be, has a few things we could definitely do without.

Modern pentathlon, anyone?

We’ll get back to that befuddling sport in a moment.

For now, let’s focus on a World Cup game of zero significance Saturday between Morocco and Croatia, plus the first of 42 major college bowls — only three of which mean anything — being played Friday in a country (the Bahamas) that has no real affinity for American-style football.

Morocco made a stunning run at the World Cup, becoming the first African team to reach the semifinals while sparking joyous celebrations in the Arab world and beyond.

For all intents and purposes, that electrifying performance ended with a 2-0 loss to defending world champion France in the semifinals Wednesday. The Moroccans should be at home now, reveling in the adulation of an appreciative nation.

Instead, they’ll be back on the pitch one more time in Qatar, deciding the tournament’s third-best team when they face a Croatian squad that lost to Argentina 3-0 in the other semifinal.

The players tried to act like this means something.

Trust us, it doesn’t.

Morocco and Croatia will long be remembered for making it to the semis. The winner of the third-place game is sure to be quickly forgotten.

Morocco coach Walid Regragui summed it up best.

“You are so disappointed,” he said. “You’ve just lost a semifinal and then two days later, you have to go back out there.”

Of course, when it comes to worthless contests, nothing beats the college football bowl system.

Four teams — Georgia, Michigan, TCU and Ohio State — have berths in the College Football Playoff. The Peach and Fiesta semifinals, followed by the national championship game, are the only major-college postseason games that matter.

Yet, over the next 2 1/2 weeks, there will be 39 more — essentially serving as huge bloc of holiday programming for ESPN and a few other networks, as monotonous and insignificant as all those Hallmark Christmas movies.

In a match-up of 6-6 teams that had never faced each other before and had little reason to travel to the Bahamas for their first meeting, UAB held on for what was admittedly a thrilling 24-20 victory over Miami of Ohio.

Beyond all the whooping and hollering from the players, the reaction to a game-winning tackle just short of the goal line was silence. The stadium appeared to be largely empty, as it should have been.

At least UAB and Miami got to enjoy a week in paradise.

Other bowls are set for decidedly non-paradise locales such as Boise, Idaho; Shreveport, Louisiana; Fort Worth, Texas; and Montgomery, Alabama.

Why?

While we’re at it, here’s a few other things we should sweep into the dustpan of sports history:

— The aforementioned modern pentathlon, which somehow remains an Olympic event even though only a few dozen people in the entire world seem to know what it is. We’re told it has something to do with mimicking the skills needed by a pre-20th century soldier: shooting, sword fighting, swimming, running and riding a horse. The riding part appears on the way out after a coach — apparently a fan of “Blazing Saddles” — was accused of punching a horse at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Here’s a better idea: Let’s just get rid of the whole sport.

— Roman gladiators are no longer a thing, which we can all agree is a good thing, right? There’s no need in a modern, supposedly civilized world for the “sport” (yep, I’m doing air quotes) of MMA, which is essentially two people in a cage attempting to beat each other to a bloody pulp, break someone’s arm or choke the other fighter into unconsciousness.

— All-Star games, of any kind. The NFL sort of wised up, eliminating its farce known as the Pro Bowl, though it still plans to have a skills competition and flag football game (FWIW, I won’t be watching that, either). Major League Baseball’s all-star game once served an actual purpose, matching the best players from two leagues that didn’t face each other during the regular season, but interleague play ended that. As for the NBA and the NHL, their midseason showcases are defense-free affairs that in no way mimic actual games.

— LIV Golf. One professional golf tour was boring enough. Why in the world would we need two? Especially one that’s funded by the repressive Saudi regime and led by the insufferable Greg Norman?

— Fishing is something you do to put a delicious meal on the table. It’s no more a sport than raising chickens or shucking oysters. Please quit trying to pass it off as such.

— Cornhole is a good way to get through the holidays without having to carry on a real conversation with annoying relatives. It serves no other real purpose. I shouldn’t come across cornhole matches on my TV at 2 in the morning when I’m having trouble sleeping.

Though, come to think of it, cornhole might serve one other purpose: a cure for insomnia.

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Paul Newberry is the national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry(at)ap.org or at https://twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Steve Breen
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