Kansas City Royals v Chicago White SoxSpending all day – every day – immersed in sports is a bit like working at Pizza Hut and eating nothing but pizza. If one is unburdened by such matters as personal health and waistline size, pizza is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, too much of a wonderful thing is likely to leave one no longer believing the wonderful thing to be all that wonderful.

Sports are really, really great. However, the more time you spend reading and writing about a topic, the greater the chance that its ugliness will be realized. This is why our focus often becomes embittered by all of the negative aspects present in sports. We forget why sports are so great to begin with. And so, that’s where The Sports Culture Happiness Index comes to play.

Every week, I’ll present the ten things that are making me happy from the world of sports. It might be a particular article, it could be a winning streak, it may even be an animated GIF. No matter what, it’s from sports, it made me feel good inside, and I hope it does the same for you.

Without further ado, sports the good:

1. Baseball

And so it begins. The 2013 Major League Baseball season is underway, and it’s a wonderful thing.

Unless you’re a Marlins fan, Opening Day represents that wonderful point in the season when hope still abounds. No matter how horribly your team falls apart in August – and they always do – you can enjoy late March and early April because the promise of a successful season hasn’t gone completely off the rails, landed in a wasteland and been splattered in the defecation of all the other teams that are much better than the one you support.

No matter the circumstances, there’s still hope. Take the Houston Astros. No, seriously take them. After beating the division rival Texas Rangers, they’re on pace for a 162-0 season. That’s obviously not going to happen. In fact, the Astros aren’t likely going to win 70 games this year, but far be it from me to ruin a Houston fan’s dream at this point in the season. The Astros will do a good enough job of that by early July.

Take a look around the league. Bryce Harper is going to hit all the home runs this year. Clayton Kershaw looks as though he could pitch in every single game for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Luke Scott hasn’t killed an endangered species, yet. Vernon Wells is in the starting lineup of a Major League Baseball team. And an umpire hasn’t made a bad … okay, well there are still a lot of reasons to be optimistic.

We’ll have the next few months to gripe and groan over disappointing baseball, unexpected injuries, horrible managerial decisions and terrible officiating. For the next little while though, baseball fans can focus on our respective teams’ opening series, and the more-than-likely delusional hope that this will finally be our year.

Baseball!

2. The Jason Dufner Photograph

jasondunfer

If Jason Dufner isn’t best known for blowing a five stroke lead at the 2011 PGA Championship, it’s as the golfer whose caddie carries a spit cup with him on the course. Dufner’s chewing tobacco of choice is Copenhagen Fine Cut, and you’ll forgive me for assuming there wasn’t a plastic can within reach during his scheduled time with students at the Salesmanship Youth and Family Center ahead of a kick-off luncheon for the Byron Nelson Championship.

This is the worst smokeless tobacco withdrawal since Josh Hamilton turned into Miguel Olivo without his dip, and of course it inspired several pieces of Photoshop genius.

3. Big Men Dropping Threes


Chris Bosh may not be a typical back-to-the-basket type of big man who bangs his way to rebounds and uses his size to his advantage on defense, but that doesn’t stop him from being considered one of the better post players in the league, nor does it make watching him hit a game-winning three any less enjoyable.

While this isn’t quite to the level of a 335-pound lineman recovering a fumble and running an exhausting 40 yards for a touchdown, Bosh’s 28% shooting from behind the arc makes him an unlikely target when a game-winning three is needed. Nonetheless, in the absence of LeBron James, he came up with the unexpected on Sunday night, serving to confirm that athletes performing duties beyond their typical role is always cause for celebration from sports fans.

4. 150 Meter Races On Elevated Tracks In Brazil On A Beach Won By Usain Bolt


Usain Bolt is the fastest man on earth, and there’s an odd sort of pleasure that comes from watching him run. It’s not perfect form. He’s far from the most graceful of runners, but he’s the best. He drives his own body like a normal person might drive a car. There seems to be a detachment between Bolt as a person and Bolt as a will-powered vehicle. Anyone experiencing crippling levels of self-doubt should be prescribed footage of the Jamaican sprinter winning events at 100 and 200 metres.

On Sunday, Bolt won an exhibition race on a Copacabana beach in the 2016 Olympic host city (!), Rio de Janeiro. He covered 150 metres of beachfront track in 14.42 seconds, only 0.07 seconds short of the World Record he set for this distance in 2009.

I’ve always liked the 150 meter distance because it reminds me of the time, following the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, when 100 meter champion Donovan Bailey of Canada raced against 200 meter and 400 meter gold medalist Michael Johnson of the United States at a “catch-distance” after the American claimed that he deserved the title of the “world’s fastest man.” Bailey pulled off to a massive lead within seconds of the start, and Johnson stopped running shortly after that claiming he had been stricken with a leg injury. Of course, he never sought a rematch.

5. Baseball Pranks

Major League Baseball’s rules stipulate that active rosters consist of no more than 25 players. Some teams like to carry 12 pitchers and 13 position players, other teams prefer 13 pitchers and 12 position players. Personally, I like rosters comprised of a dozen pitchers, a dozen position players and one guy whose job it is to do nothing but pull pranks.

6. Coast To Coast Hockey Goals


With three minutes and 22 seconds remaining in last Thursday night’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul found the puck in his defensive zone, and simply outskated two members of the opposition en route to an NHL 94, across-the-goalmouth tally. Hockey’s speed makes the sport exciting, but nothing exhibits the combination of speed and skill better than an end-to-end or coast-to-coast goal.

7. Oakland Raiders Schadenfreude

Oakland Raiders v Atlanta Falcons

The Carson Palmer experiment is essentially over for the Oakland Raiders after they acquired quarterback Matt Flynn from the Seattle Seahawks for a fifth-round draft pick in 2014 and a conditional pick in 2015. Rumors suggest that Palmer will be on his way to Arizona in the coming days once the Raiders and Cardinals work out a deal with minimum compensation attached.

Update: It’s already happened.

This is hilarious to those of us who despise Oakland because not only was Palmer supposed to save the franchise when he joined the team ahead of the 2011 season, but Flynn, who has started only two games in five seasons as a professional, was actually a backup in college at LSU … a backup to former Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell. Oakland selected Russell with the first overall pick of the 2007 NFL Draft. Given such leverage, the young quarterback held out until the Raiders signed him to a contract worth $61 million, more than half of which was guaranteed. During his three seasons in Oakland, Russell was an unmitigated disaster, eventually getting released ahead of the 2010 season.

My personal hatred of the Oakland Raiders stems from a combination of being an admirer of division-rival Denver Broncos and someone who grew up as in a small-town where the local toughs would clothe themselves in Raiders merchandise while terrorizing normal kids and committing petty crimes.

8. Dog And A Beer

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I love that moment in Field of Dreams when Kevin Costner’s character asks James Earl Jones’s character what it is that he wants. The writer goes on this long monologue about his history and only wanting to be left alone, now, after giving so much of his life to a social movement. Costner’s character then clarifies that he was only asking what Jones’s character wanted from the concession stand.

Jones replies, “Dog and a beer.” And moves on.

CNN Money looked at how far $20 will go – in terms of hot dogs and beer - at every Major League Baseball stadium. The list ranges from the $20 you’ll pay for three 14 ounce beers and five hot dogs at Great American Ball Park to the one 14 ounce beer and two hot dogs the same amount of money gets you at Rogers Centre in Toronto.

While I appreciate the process of learning all the prices, the results are utterly disappointing.

9. Pictures From The U.S.A. Vs. Costa Rica World Cup Qualifier

Costa Rica v United States - FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier

Last week, the U.S. Men’s National Team taught a nation of non-soccer fans all about the convoluted qualifying system used by CONCACAF to determine its World Cup finals entrants by moving into second place in the Hex with a 1-0 victory  over Costa Rica. Adding to the drama inherent in such a close score was the weather in Denver, which heaped down buckets of snow on the field.

While members of the Costa Rican national team were less than thrilled not only with the results, but that the match was played at all under such averse conditions, the culminating snow inspired some of the prettiest sports photographs to be taken so far this year. The Score’s Counter Attack has a gallery of some of my favorites.

10. Andrew Wiggins


I had the opportunity to see Andrew Wiggins play with his Huntington Prep Academy team earlier this year in Hamilton, Ontario. I had never witnessed someone so young look so comfortable with his complete domination of everyone around him.

This coming Wednesday, Wiggins, from Vaughan, Ontario, will participate in the McDonald’s All-American Game with and against the very best basketball players from the graduating high school class. However, ahead of the big game, the the 6-foot-8 phenomenon competed in a dunk contest on Monday, earning perfect scores for the series of dunks seen above.

It was an impressive performance, but not all that different from what the 18-year-old is able to accomplish against actual competition.


He might have a career in this whole basketball thing.