“High Five”: A Jockey’s Triumph, Rainbow Gorillas, Goodbye to a Golf Great

I know I say this a lot, but the reason I write this meager little sports offering isn’t home runs and hockey goals, but the stories that stay with you, get you thinking. Or are just uber-cool. Here are five of the best headlines (out of dozens), and some other notes to know for the upcoming week:

1. Higher Power at the Preakness
Kentucky Derby winner “Orb” didn’t take the Preakness, but the real story Saturday was jockey Gary Stevens. Already a Hall-of-Famer, now-fifty-year-old Stevens retired in 2005 with debilitating knee pain and became a TV commentator. But he returned to the track in January this year after struggling with alcohol, depression, and a sense of loss that only racing could fill. Undergoing an intense physical and psychological rehabilitation program last year, he shed 25 pounds and embraced total sobriety. Riding Oxbow, Stevens led wire to wire for the win.

"Rudy" or "Rrrrow"? Either way, he will be missed.

“Rudy” or “Rrrrow!”? Either way, he will be missed.

2. Venturi Highway to Heaven
I admit I had never heard of Ken Venturi when it was announced the golfer had died of pneumonia complications at age 82. Great people die every day, and 82 is a pretty solid life.

But Venturi was the “Rudy” of golf (though quite a handsome devil). He overcame a severe stutter, suffered repeated just-this-close losses in big tournaments, struggled with lasting injuries from a car crash, and endured a years-long slump that would have most people typing up new resumes. Then in 1964, in 100-degree heat and with life-threatening dehydration, Venturi finally won his first major title at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., nearly collapsing in tears of joy and exhaustion. He became a longtime CBS golf analyst and member of the World Golf Hall of Fame.

PS–2013’s “Congressional” as most call it (officially the “AT&T National,” but I won’t say that until AT&T’s 4G isn’t full of it) with Tiger Woods and his frenemy Sergio Garcia starts June 27.  And on a lighter note, take a look at the video of Belgian golfer Nicolas Colsaerts at the weekend’s Volvo World Match Play, in which his ball lands in, let’s just say, a place that caused some “toilet humor.”

3. Baylor Stars Speak out on Gay Rights…and Wedding Gifts
After years of the speculation that—come on, people, we all do (out loud or in our own minds) about people with certain affectations–Baylor basketball phenom Brittney Griner has publicly confirmed she is a lesbian. Now an alum of the private Baptist school, the Phoenix Mercury WNBA rookie is openly discussing what she feels is the rainbow gorilla in the room of women’s college basketball—don’t ask, don’t tell, just rebound. She claims coaches and other advisors told her not to discuss her sexuality because it would hurt Baylor’s recruiting. More to come in the next ESPN the Magazine.   

Meanwhile, Baylor-star-turned-Redskins-QB Robert Griffin III is getting married July 6, and naturally some fans located his gift registry on Bed, Bath & Beyond. But when the 2013 Rookie of the Year Tweeted a picture of thanks—him standing in front of a mountain of opened boxes—detractors spoke then and did not hold their peace. Obviously a star athlete hardly needs help from the public to furnish a 10,000-square-foot house, so demands for him to return or donate the gifts to charity flooded his phone (as well as jokes—“put a better defense on the registry” said one Skins fan). Whatever he does, I personally want to thank him, at least, for his store choice. As a multi-platinum bridesmaid who once attended a bride registered at Tiffany, a $30 Lazy Susan option is always appreciated.

4. Jayhawks Hatch Fledgling High School Star
Whenever you doubt your kids will emulate you, take heart in this one. The #1 high school basketball recruit, Andrew Wiggins, announced last week he will attend Kansas. The 6-8 small forward (here I demonstrate “small forward” with awkward family photos) can play multiple positions and is as good a defender as offensive player. His father is former NBA player Michael Wiggins, and his mom is Canadian Olympic sprinter Marita Payne-Wiggins. They gave him great athletic genes, but they also ensure he maintains his 3.2 GPA at West Virginia’s Huntington Prep.

But, Wiggins is already a heavy favorite for the 2014 NBA Draft. Like, next year. Which is something to discuss with your kids as this year’s draft starts tomorrow. Should a player be allowed what they call a “One and Done?”—one year of college, then on to the pros? What is the proper balance between money and education? How do you prepare for a future if your original dream fails? Lebron James is doing just fine, and he didn’t go to college at all. But far more professional athletes find that dreams of fame and money lead to bankruptcy, addiction, and worse. Speaking of Lebron…

5. Playoffs Continue on Court, Ice
The Memphis Grizzlies/San Antonio Spurs and the Indiana Pacers/Miami Heat NBA matchups are now underway. Winners of the two series will meet for the finals beginning June 6. Sadly, my hometown Grizzlies (key names: Pau Gasol, Zach Randolph) were declawed Sunday 105-83 (Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, once married to “Desperate Housewives’” Eva Longoria), but the teams meet again in the best-of-seven series on Tuesday. The Pacers (Roy Hibbert) will meet Lebron’s Miami Heat for Game 1 on Wednesday.

In hockey, the Chicago Blackhawks (Patrick Sharp – or as I call him, “Why Wasn’t HE Cast Cast as the New Superman?”) and the Detroit Red Wings (Henrik Zetterberg) series continues this week, along with:

  • Boston Bruins (David Krejci) vs. New York Rangers (Derick Brassard)
  • Current champions L.A. Kings (Mike Richards – also Hollywood worthy) vs. San Jose Sharks (Logan Couture)
  • Pittsburgh Penguins (Evgeni Malkin) vs. Ottawa Senators (Sergei Gonchar)

Now go forth into this good week and conquer, ladies, knowing that your kids look to you, that no one can tell you how to live your life, and that you can conquer anything if you just Don’t. Give. Up.

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2 thoughts on ““High Five”: A Jockey’s Triumph, Rainbow Gorillas, Goodbye to a Golf Great

  1. Seeing Ken Venturi finish in 1964 is my first tv golf memory. Golf on tv was big back then, with Wide World of Golf every Sat.

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