Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Rick Cleveland: March is the sweet spot

If you've played golf or baseball, you surely know about the sweet spot.

In baseball, it's when you swing the bat and hit the ball, and you can't even feel the percussion. You hit the ball flush, right in the middle of the barrel of the bat and the ball just jumps off the bat. Ted Williams knew all about the sweet spot.

Same deal in golf. You swing that driver and catch the ball perfectly on the clubface, right in the center, in the sweet spot. If you've never felt it, it's hard to describe. If you have felt it, you want to feel it again and again. It's the sweet spot. Heaven on Earth.

We are entering, as March winds down and April arrives, this sports fan's sweet spot on the calendar. For me, at least, it doesn't get any better than this.

We're slap dab in the middle of March Madness, winding down to the Final Fours of both the NCAA Men's and Women's basketball tournaments. For drama – the late Jim McKay's “thrill of victory and agony of defeat” – it surely doesn't get any better. While TV Ratings for some sporting events lag and ESPN's revenue suffers, the NCAA Tournament's ratings continue to soar.

We are winding down to a men's Final Four that will be played on April 1st and 3rd in Phoenix.

So what are you supposed to do on April 2? Funny you should ask. That's the start of the Major League baseball season. You know: Hope springs eternal and all that. Last year, the Chicago Cubs broke a 108-year drought and won the World Series. The 2017 season will have a hard time topping that, but we'll see.

Later that week, we get The Masters, always the first of golf's four major tournaments. Every sports fan has his or her favorite event to watch. Mine is Sunday at Augusta National. The sport, itself, has changed so much over the years. Sweet spots are larger for one thing on these high-tech golf clubs. The players hit the ball so much further. But Sunday, at Augusta, never changes. Something will happen such as what happened to Jordan Spieth last year. Somebody's heart will be broken. And somebody – Danny Willett, anyone? – will seize the day. I can't wait.

But there's so much more. In Mississippi, spring means college baseball. In no other state do baseball fans converge on college ballparks as they do in the Magnolia State. You can look it up.

At Ole Miss, for instance, the 14-6 Rebels drew more than 25,000 fans this past weekend for a three-game weekend series with Vanderbilt and won two of the three games. Scott Berry may very well have his best team ever at Southern Miss. It's certainly the most powerful. The 16-4 Golden Eagles have slammed 26 home runs in 20 games, including seven in a three-game road sweep of nationally ranked Louisiana Tech this past weekend. State, 12-9, is off to a slower start, in large part due to injuries to pitchers. But the Bulldogs' season is still a puppy. There's time. Hope springs eternal, don't you know.

We are also getting to that time on the sports calendar when NBA games begin to really matter. The 82-game monstrosity and monotony of a regular season is winding down. Pretty soon – April 15, to be exact – they will start playing for keeps. They will play – and play harder – for a few more weeks and then the Golden State Warriors will be crowned champions. You read it here first.

Now, I know that many in this state will argue that fall is the real sweet spot for a Mississippi sports fan. That's when football takes center stage, baseball winds down to the World Series and basketball season launches.

Nevertheless, I'll take spring. On this, I side with the late A. Bartlett Giamatti, who besides serving as baseball commissioner, was the president of Yale and a Renaissance scholar, who once wrote of baseball: “It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone...”

Rick Cleveland is a Jackson-based syndicated sports columnist. His email address is

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS