May 27, 2018
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High school playoffs again prove memorable


    A few random thoughts while wondering if by the time I read this in print the Boston Celtics will have won Banner 18 or if Kobe Bryant is the king of the NBA world.

— The high school baseball and softball state championship games are Saturday, and the road to the finals has featured a little bit of everything.

There were some stunning upsets on the baseball side, like Brewer topping previously unbeaten Bangor and No. 8 Orono outlasting No. 1 Foxcroft in 11 innings.

There were results more anticipated, like Waterville and Central Aroostook of Mars Hill winning regional titles in Classes B and D.

As for softball, Sam Bedore and the Bangor Rams finally have broken through to win their first Eastern Maine Class A title, with a chance at statewide glory just one win away.

And who wouldn’t want to be Hermon’s Sami Schultz these days? Schultz went up to the plate with her team one out from elimination Wednesday and slammed a two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh to give the Hawks a 4-3 win over Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln in the Eastern B final.

Now that’s a memory for a lifetime.

— Is it just me or is it inevitable that Manny Ramirez will tweak a hamstring at some point during his return to Boston this weekend? Perhaps he’ll do it getting off the plane, or maybe exiting the base of the Green Monster after what could only be described as “Manny being Manny.”

— Fine, the Boston Bruins have named Cam Neely president. Now can they go out and get a few more guys who can score like No. 8 did back in his playing days so fans don’t have to go through another playoff embarrassment like this year’s collapse against the Flyers? One of the top two picks in Friday’s NHL draft will be a start.

— Enough of the hockey talk. Now on to my next favorite pro sport, World Cup soccer.

I understand all the national pride that seeps into such events, but for someone whose soccer watching involves high school games — which I thoroughly enjoy — I’ve found the first week of the World Cup quite non-compelling.

And I must not be alone, given that the big story to come out of South Africa has nothing to do with the game on the field, but with the fans at the stadiums and their nonstop horn blowing — I mean vuvuzela blowing.

As for the action on the field, the first 18 matches produced just 33 goals and a whole bunch of ties. At the risk of being labeled an unsophisticated soccer hack, I’ve come to believe that while the players are immensely skilled athletes, most of them just can’t shoot.

Take Spain, for instance. They lost to Switzerland the other day despite outshooting Federer Nation 24-8. But just eight of those 24 shots were on goal, a 33 percent effort that conjures visions of Shaquille O’Neal shooting free throws — or perhaps Rajon Rondo during the NBA Finals — or any golfer on the Champions Tour trying to make a putt beyond 12 feet.

I talked to one local football coach recently — granted a coach of American football, not the world’s brand — and he suggested World Cup soccer could benefit from a shot clock.

At first I thought that might not be a bad idea, until I watched parts of a couple of matches and realized how off the mark the players might be if they were actually rushed into their shots.

The World Cup has three more weeks to change my mind, but for now the “beautiful game” may be beautiful to play, but for U.S. sports fans in general I’m not so sure.

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