The year of the underdog continues

Sports commentary - October 12

It all started last January when the New England Patriots stole the Super Bowl trophy from the “unstoppable” St. Louis Rams.

On the heels of an improbable football

national-title push by the Oregon Ducks and an inconceivable come-from-behind World

Series win by the Arizona Diamondbacks in late 2001, the stage was set for a year of underdog fever.

This was the year we would see the New Jersey Nets (the New Jersey Nets!) reach the NBA Finals, and the Maryland Terrapins win the NCAA basketball tournament. It was the year that the low-budget Oakland A’s — sans Jason Giambi — would win the American League West, and the lower-budget Minnesota Twins win the A.L. Central.

The Montreal Expos actually approached respectability this year and finished ahead of the $100-million New York Mets. The perennially disappointing San Francisco Giants took out the World Series shoo-in Atlanta Braves and are poised to knock off the Cards. The Anaheim Angels (the Anaheim Angels!) beat the mighty Yankees in the first round and erupted against the Twins in Game 5 to earn their first-ever World Series appearance.

Even our hometown Hood River Valley Eagles have surprised a few people this season by starting the season 5-1 with a 55 points-per-game scoring average. Underdogs or not, they still weren’t picked to finish higher than fourth in the Intermountain Conference. With all due respect, that fits my definition of a “dog.”

The only teams that have gotten in the way of a perfect underdog record this year have been the Miami Hurricanes, who won the college football national title; the Detroit Red Wings, who won the Stanley Cup; and the hated L.A. Lakers, who won their third-straight NBA title.

But, while some of the favorites lived up to expectations in 2002, many of them cracked under the pressure — which is almost as fun as watching underdogs win.

The Rams imploded in the Super Bowl. Duke fell over in the NCAA tournament. The defending-champion Diamondbacks bowed down to the St. Louis Cardinals in three quick games. The pompous and unruly Yankees lost unceremoniously for the second straight year (can I get an Amen?).

At this point, few people outside St. Louis, San Francisco, Anaheim or Minnesota care who wins the World Series. We’re just happy that it won’t be the Bombers. Even The Boss’ pocketbook wasn’t deep enough to overcome the stars that have aligned for the underdogs this year.

That’s why I’m going to predict two things right here and now. Although the Super Bowl and the NBA Finals are both slated for 2003, I’m going to say that the Cinderella luck of 2002 will continue, and we will see four different teams battle for the NFL and NBA championships.

The Rams, with their 0-5 start, have already opened up the NFC spot in the Super Bowl. The Patriots, while still a formidable team, have showed cracks in the armor and will be fighting for their playoff lives come December.

The Nets simply can’t repeat their Cinderella 2001-02 season, while MJ and the Wizards are much improved, so I’m betting against the Nets to repeat out of the East. And then there’s the Lakers. The stinkin’ Lakers.

I would give my left pinkie toe to see those spoiled, ungrateful buffoons go home empty-handed. Come on Sacramento! Let’s make the circle complete.

Nothing can beat the fall of the Yankees, but a close second would be the demise of the Lakers. Now, if the Ducks or Cougs could just figure out a way to fit into the glass slipper and dethrone Miami, my underdog sports trilogy would become a reality.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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