The Opening Pitch: Admit it — you'll kind of miss the Yankees in the playoffs.
No matter which team you root for, there was always the Yankees to root against. (Loathing: The foundation of any fan's postseason experience.)
It is easy to mock the Yankees' official elimination from the playoff race last night — even though we have seen it coming for weeks, if not months. But it's a momentous deal: Thirteen straight playoff appearances, the entirety of Derek Jeter's career. If you are in your 30s, that’s nearly half your life. If you're in college, you probably can't remember an October without the Yankees.
During the past 13 autumns, champions came and went, but your ability to root lustily against the Yankees in October was the constant.
Yes, it IS a wonderful day for the many of us who don't count ourselves among Yankee Nation. But it's a little wistful: I mean, who do you root against?
As of today, it's official: The Red Sox are the new Yankees — the first playoff season during that 13-season stretch where the Red Sox and not the Yankees are playing.
Your postseason loathing may now continue without interruption.
MLB Playoff Push!
— N.L. Wild Card: If a Prince Fielder walk-off HR can't inspire the Brewers to close out strong and win the Wild Card, nothing can. Milwaukee stays 1 GB the Mets, with five to play.
(Apparently it doesn't matter HOW the Mets finish: GM Omar Minaya will reportedly be retained. Wow: Even if the Mets choke themselves out of the playoffs for the second year in a row? What a comfy gig.)
— A.L. Central: When you root for a team in a pennant race in the final week of a season, all you hope for is the Schedule Gods allowing for a head-to-head series.
And, playing at home in a playoff atmosphere, the Twins are now 1.5 games behind the White Sox. Still: They need to win one of the next two, at a minimum, to make the weekend interesting.
Milestones: The Rays' 95th win broke the record, owned by the 1991 Braves, for the most wins by a team who had the worst record in baseball just a year earlier. (So much more impressive than the Celtics' regular-season turnaround in the NBA, by the way.)
(Are the Rays the best MLB turnaround ever? They are the best regular-season U-turn ever; they have to reach the World Series to match those '91 Braves as the best 180 in baseball history.)
NFL players Donate Brains for Concussion Study: Good for this group, led by vocal ex-pat/ex-Pat Ted Johnson. Yes, it's a little gory-sounding, but here's to more players helping future generations of players by advancing the study of the impact of concussions.
NFL QB Machinations: The Rams will bench Marc Bulger for Trent Green; the Chiefs may start Damon Huard. (And, really, given how atrocious these two teams are, does it really matter? Let's all agree on "No.")
CFB: Beanie Wells is "probable" for this Saturday vs. Minnesota. In the same way Terrelle Pryor’s arm made Todd Boeckman dispensable, isn't it possible Pryor's legs make Wells irrelevant, too?
NBA/Fashion: I normally don't like pinstripes on a basketball jersey, but the Magic's new uniform harkens back to their first season, 20 years ago. Plus: Stripes are slimming — Dwight Howard will look even more intimidating.
NHL: Erik Johnson's season is over, thanks to that freak knee injury he suffered getting out of a golf cart at a team-sponsored event last week. Player attendance at next year's event? Zero.
The Last Word: Lance Armstrong is officially back. He will announce his return today in flamboyantly powerful style — at the Clinton Global Initiative.
He's got his old manager to run his Astrana team; he's got a world-renowned doping expert to test him; he's got an under-23 team he is creating to extend his legacy.
No contemporary athlete — certainly no superstar athlete — has used their platform to advance a humanitarian cause like Lance has done with cancer research awareness.
Dan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com.
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