Friday, April 04, 2008

Cuba's Final Four
Well . . . while most of the sports world's attention is turned toward San Antonio for the NCAA men's basketball championships, I am planning on watching baseball. Of course, I'll take in as many Braves' games that are directed my way. I'm also enjoying the free preview of MLB Extra Innings on Direct TV. Mostly, though, I will be watching games on the Internet as the semi-finals in the Cuban National League get under way tonight.

I have gone on 4 mission trips to Cuba. My first trip in 2002 was during the baseball playoffs. We went to the game in Sancti Spiritus, and it was in that atmosphere that I realized I might be a pitiful sports fan. The fans in the stadium, as well as the majority of the Cuban population pin their hopes on their local teams. They tend to live and die with each pitch of the game. Add a salsa beat to the mix and I think you can glimpse the picture slightly. I must also mention that the best popcorn I've ever eaten was in Sancti Spiritus at estadio José Antonio Huelga (and only 1 peso!).

One cool note regarding this year's semi-finals is that all of the Havana teams have been eliminated from the playoffs. Pinar del Rio swept Industriales and Sancti Spiritus took out La Habana (oh yeah, the other Havana team Los Metropolitanos didn't make the playoffs). I would liken this to having the Yankees, Mets, and Red Sox knocked out of the MLB playoffs by the wild card team --heaven for the for the rest of the baseball world.

Here's your final four preview.

Eastern Conference Finals - Santiago de Cuba vs. Villa Clara
Game 1 tonight (Friday 4/4)

What? Do you really think I can offer expert analysis here? Sorry, who do you think I am, Peter Gammons? Here's what I know, the Hornets (Santiago) are the defending champions and the Oranges are the Cinderellas at this dance. Quote from VC's web site: "Santiago is a freight train, but trains derail." OOOOOOHH!!

Western Conference Finals - Sancti Spiritus vs. Pinar del Rio
Game 1, Saturday night (4/5)

How'd you like your favorite team to be known as the Holy Spirit Gamecocks? I guess that's the best translation for Los Gallos de Sancti Spiritus who'll host the LowLanders from tobacco country Saturday night. Let's hope our boys don't lay an egg. I take back the Cinderella comment and give it to the Gamecocks. They finished third in their division and bring the worst record (48-40) into the playoffs. Wild card? OK.

Pinar del Rio is the home of current Minnesota Twin Livan Hernandez. They still miss him back home and have refused to let pitcher Pedro Luis Lazo retire (99's not just his jersey #) until Livan moves back home.

Wanna watch the games. Here's a link:

¡Vaya gallos!

1 comment:

Cliff Marshall said...

My favorite team is known as the Holy Spirit Gamecocks. :) I used your "I'm a bad mother" observation during yesterday's message. It got a lot of laughs. I did reference you before I said it. I hope "my buddy Chip" is enough credit, if not I'll go back next week and give credit to "The Reverend Emory Reeves, High Pope of Allendale."