For this week’s column, I wanted to again bring about the odds and ends of sports that we have experienced this week.
First off, I want to comment on Benton High School’s athletic complex.
I visited the complex for the first time last weekend to cover the Conway softball and boys soccer state championship games and I was quite impressed with the facilities and the proximity they all have to each other.
It’s probably the best athletic facility I’ve seen at the high school level and probably rivals many collegiate facilities.
If you haven’t had a chance to visit, I recommend heading down to Benton some time to check it out.
Now, into this week’s sports action.
UCA baseball’s 5-4 win over McNeese State last Saturday brought about the last Southland Conference competition any UCA athletics program will compete in.
UCA athletics are heading to the ASUN Conference this summer and I believe it will be a good move.
Sometimes change is necessary and from things that I’ve heard around and have gotten confirmed, it seemed like now was a good time for the Bears to move out of the Southland, join the ASUN and create a new football conference.
UCA athletics had quite a bit of success in the Southland Conference and will join what seems like a great mid-major conference, which I will explore both at a later time.
Switching gears to the NBA, it’s playoff time and here we go again with fans being at their worst.
Not all fans, but some are showing that they don’t need to be at games, and are justifiably banned from sporting events.
Three separate incidents happened within the last week that have resulted in fans getting banned from future games.
Washington Wizards guard Russell Westbrook got injured in Game Two of their best-of-seven series with the Philadelphia 76ers and a fan dumped popcorn on Westbrook as he was leaving the floor and heading into the locker room.
Then, in another Game Two between the Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks, a fan spit on Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young.
Finally, three fans were removed from the Utah Jazz’s and Memphis Grizzlies’ Game Two because of insults they shouted toward Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant’s parents.
While I’m not going to say fans of other sports are better than NBA fans in terms of their behavior, I will say NBA fans seem to have more issues with their interactions with NBA players.
Pre-pandemic, it seemed problems rose often between players and fans, and here we are where fans are allowed back into arenas and the same problems, if not worse, are occurring.
Maybe NBA fans sit too close to the floor or have too easy of access to the players through tunnels or what not, but fans have to be better than this.
Yes, you paid for a ticket, and these athletes are getting paid more than a lot of us will see in our lifetime, but in no other atmosphere would this be acceptable behavior and it shouldn’t be acceptable at NBA games or any sporting event.
Going from a frustrating note to more of a fun note.
Thursday’s game between the Chicago Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates featured one of the dumbest and smartest plays I’ve ever seen on a baseball diamond in my life.
To set the stage, it was the top of third with the Cubs shortstop Javier Baez batting. Cubs catcher Willson Contreras just stole second.
Baez was facing an 0-2 count with two outs in the game as the Cubs led 1-0.
Baez grounded a ball toward third, which Pirates third baseman Erik Gonzalez threw to first to force Baez out and end the inning.
However, Gonzalez’s throw pulled Will Craig slightly up the first-base line toward home plate.
Instead of continuing to run toward the back, Baez retreated back to home plate.
Craig confusingly chased Baez back home instead of touching first and ending the inning.
All while Baez heads back to home plate, Contreras took third on the ground ball and then advanced to home to try to score.
As Baez neared home, Craig flipped the ball to Pirates catcher Michael Perez, who tried to tag Contreras, but Contreras was called safe.
Baez, caught up in the play at the plate, motioned safe with his arms and then realizing he still had not touched first, sprinted to first.
Perez threw to Pirates second baseman Adam Frazier who was slightly off first base, but the throw went wide into right field, which allowed a sliding Baez to get up after touching first and then sprinted toward second.
Had the lowly Pirates touched first base during that stretch, the Cubs wouldn’t have scored on Baez and Contreras’ play.
Even if Frazier was standing on first after Contreras scored and Perez threw to Frazier to force Baez out, the run wouldn’t have counted.
Instead, the Cubs scored their second run of the inning as Cubs centerfielder Ian Happ blooped a hit into shallow center to allow Baez to score from second.
It was a Major League Baseball team looking like a children’s league team with its head-scratching decisions.
Though, it was a fun play to watch overall despite the Pirates’ decision making.