Outside Oberlin

Fall Fever Begins with National League Divisional Races

While Major League Baseball’s American League division races have been long over, the run for division titles in the National League couldn’t be any closer and any more down to the wire.
While most people in the sports world have heard of Barry Bond’s chase for the elusive single season home run record, it has not generated the same level of excitement that Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa’s home run chases did. Other big stories such as Cal Ripken and Tony Gywn’s farewell season, and Ricky Henderson’s run at Ty Cobb’s single season runs scored record (Henderson is two hits short of 3,000 with five games remaining) have kept it interesting in the baseball world this season, the competition for the National League’s East, Central and West Division titles have been somewhat overshadowed.
What is incredible about the way this season is playing out in the National League is the consistency in which the six teams involved — the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, Houston Astros, Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants — have played tough against each other throughout the year and stayed within a few games of each other at all points of the season. Certainly the Seattle Mariners were a surprise in the American League, especially to the degree in which they dominated everyone else in the league, but the New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians were relatively unsurprising as division champions.
However, in the National League, the Braves yearly wave of domination in the East Division is still slightly in jeopardy. Although the Phillies lost to the tomahawk choppers last night to fall three games back of first place, both squads have three games remaining and anything can happen in that time span. The Phillies travel to Cincinnati for three games, while the Braves play host to Florida for a three-game series. It is highly unlikely that the Braves will drop three straight to the Marlins, but whoever fails to win the division between Atlanta and Philadelphia will also fail to make the postseason altogether as either the Houston Astros or St. Louis Cardinals have a lock on the wild card position.
After last night’s games, the Cardinals have a one-game lead over the Astros, but the two teams will go head-to-head at Busch Stadium for a three-game series to end their seasons and ultimately decide who will raise their flag as the Central Division Champions. After falling to San Francisco last night, the Astros accumulated their sixth straight loss, and the momentum certainly seems to be in favor of the Cardinals and the hot-hitting slugger McGwire.

By defeating the Astros, the Giants moved to within two games of Arizona, and while San Francisco hosts the Los Angeles Dodgers for a three-game series, the Diamondbacks head to Milwaukee to face the hapless Brew Crew. Without a doubt, everything is pointing in Arizona’s favor to win the West Division, while the loser will be sent home without a ticket to the postseason. A problem for the Giants in their next three games could be all of the hype surrounding Bonds’ chase for McGwire’s home run record. The Dodgers’ manager has already made it clear that he will refuse to pitch to Bonds to allow him to break Big Mac’s 70 home run mark, which will ultimately hurt the Giants’ chances of winning as Bonds has been the key factor for San Francisco all season — home run record or no record, Bonds has had one of the most amazing seasons of any player in history. He has over a .510 on-base percentage, which is nearly unimaginable in today’s game, and is also close to breaking the all-time slugging percentage record. Bonds has already walked more in a single season than anyone else in history, and don’t expect the series starting tonight against the Dodgers anything indifferent. In all likelihood, Bonds will walk and the Giants will lose their race to the Diamondbacks in the West.

With that said, it is very likely that the Braves and Cardinals will go on to win their respective divisions, with the Astros picking up the wild card slot. The postseason series could prove to be rather boring in comparison to the American League games, but then again, that opinion is coming from a rather American League-biased writer. Take it for what you will, but I would much rather see the Yankess take on the Oakland Athletics and the Indians face arguably the best team in history, Seattle, than see the Astros play Arizona and the Cardinals face the Braves.
For the second half of the season, the leading teams in the American League dominated opponents as a whole, whereas in the National League, the battles for playoff spots have seemingly been more a fight to stay above mediocrity. Nonetheless, these next few days could be quite a battle for these teams to make the giant step from being mediocre to becoming a postseason organization.

Not to take anything away from these National League races, but let me mention a few other stories to keep your eye on in Major League Baseball this last weekend of regular season play. Of course, it’s Cal “The Iron Man” Ripken’s last season of baseball, and tomorrow, the Orioles will host the Boston Red Sox at Camden Yards for his last game. Ricky Henderson, who as previously mentioned is only two hits shy of 3,000, will play in three games for San Diego as they host the Colorado Rockies this weekend.

Whether or not Bonds will be able to break McGwire’s home run record will be seen this seen this weekend as the Giants play the Dodgers. The Seattle Mariners still have a chance to break the single-season wins record if they can win their series against the Texas Rangers this weekend.
Taking all of these great stories and tight division races into consideration, it has been a hell of a year for baseball, and the postseason, baseball’s biggest event of all, is still right around the corner.

Note: Next week’s “Outside Oberlin” will document two weekend games, as Review co-Editor-in-Chief Jacob Kramer-Duffield will visit Camden Yards on Saturday to witness Cal Ripken’s last game in the majors and yours truly pays homage to the bleachers at the Chicago Cubs’ Wrigley Field. Expect stories full of history in the making, perhaps a few tears, drunken fans and above all, those $8 hot dogs that you just can’t resist.

Doug Flutie Proving He is More Than Just a Flake

Doug Flutie is the man. Because he is the man he has his own cereal, Flutie Flakes. Why is Doug Flutie the man? Better yet, why isn’t he? This man should be revered as a god on the football field.
For those of you who don’t know Doug Flutie, quit reading. I’m in a bad mood tonight and don’t really feel like explaining to someone why this man is a god. He just is. There are no questions asked.
Well, since that doesn’t make for a very good article, I guess I might as well explain to all you imbeciles why Doug Flutie is the shit.

A few years ago Doug Flutie was a nobody. He was a backup quarterback on a struggling Buffalo Bills team. The starting quarterback, whoever the hell he was, got hurt — big surprise. Flutie comes into the game, releases the magic that is Doug Flutie and all of a sudden the Bills are playing well. Some say he just gave the team the spark they needed to jump start their season, but if that was the case Flutie would have been removed from the scenario once the starting quarterback was recovered. I don’t really remember the exacts of the situation, but all I know is Flutie won the starting job and well, the rest is history. The Bills signed him to a huge contract and the next year signed another no-time to showtime quarterback, Rob Johnson, to a huge contract.
With the signing of Johnson, Flutie resumed the role of backup, and the Flutie magic had once again left the field. Johnson definitely has some special gift of his own. It’s called tenaciousness. This man plays harder than most, laying his body on the line numerous times every game. The only problem is his body can’t play as hard as his heart does. Johnson, the last few seasons, has found himself on the sidelines with injuries. When healthy, he is a proven team leader who has the ability to win games, but not like Flutie. Johnson takes it upon himself to win a game, whereas Flutie, the ever thinking quarterback, manages to get his surrounding cast to play above their ability.

Flutie is an outstanding quarterback, he proved himself as a starter, then took the backseat in Buffalo because that’s what the team felt would be best. He knows above all that winning is the ultimate goal of a team, and if they feel he can’t get it done then he is willing to accept that. We all know that Flutie can win, and even when he took a backseat to Johnson he got his opportunity and proved himself yet again. Johnson once again went down due to an injury and Flutie took charge of the team, elevating everyone’s game.

At the end of last season, Flutie left Buffalo for the sunny beaches of San Diego, with the ever exciting task of taking the reins of a 1-15 San Diego Charger team. For many, they felt this would be the end of Flutie. He had become yet another great stuck on a pitiful team.

Coming into this season, critics and fans of Flutie had the distinct feeling that the Flutie magic wasn’t nearly enough to help this team. Even with the addition of rookie running back LaDanian Tomlinson, super-fast stone-handed veteran Curtis Conway and the great white disappointment Tim Dwight, most felt that this team would win maybe one or two games this year. I mean, they do play the Browns and the Bengals, right? Everyone knows the Browns haven’t been the same since that evil, evil man, whose name is a sin to mention in Ohio, moved the team to Baltimore. The new Browns are an expansion team and will get on their feet sooner or later; most likely later, though. And the Bengals, well, the Bengals should just forfeit the rest of their season and rent the stadium to Billy Graham, because at least he could fill it.

But back to Flutie. The Chargers are 3-0 to start the season, and the Flutie magic is back. For Flutie, going to the Chargers has proved that he truly can elevate the game of people playing around him.
Flutie is a natural winner, a leader and well, as I said before, he is the man. Flutie, when compared to any other quarterback, comes up short in almost every category. He has a weak arm, isn’t very fast or terribly tall. But none of that matters when it comes down to it because he knows how to win and having that quality is more important than all the athletic ability in the world. When it comes down to it, there is no better man to have leading your team on the field than Doug Flutie.

Flutie, once thought too small to play quarterback in the National Football League, spent years in Canada doing who knows what. Supposedly he was playing football up there, but does that really exist in Canada? There is arena football, but we all know that just isn’t the same. Whoever thought Flutie couldn’t do it should be shot. His career record is 33-14 and thus far this season the bumbling Chargers, picked to go nowhere, have scored 77 points inside the 20 yard line this season.

Doug Flutie is a champion on and off the field. For this, he has been given his own cereal, the aforementioned Flutie Flakes, and an MCI 10-10-220 commercial. This is quite an honor, not only because he is kick-ass on the field, but also because the money raised by the cereal sales and the commercial goes to the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation. The Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation is in honor of Flutie’s son, who is afflicted with autism.

The mission of the Flutie Foundation is to aid financially disadvantaged families in the care of their children with autism and to provide money for research. Since 1998, the Flutie Foundation has raised over three million dollars through fundraisers and corporate donations and has given out $850,000 in New York, Massachusetts and other parts of the country.

That is the true reason why Doug Flutie is the man.

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