Saturday, May 29, 2010
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Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: District tourneys have lost meaning

This week's Q&A-Mac is sponsored by The Third-Place Game: Proudly sending your undeserving high school team to regionals since 2006.

Q: Ooh, you sound bitter today. What's up?

A: High school district tournaments just aren't what they used to be. Minimal stakes. Sagging drama. So many teams make the regionals that things don't get interesting until next week.

Q: How can you say that? Aren't these kids still playing for district titles?

A: Yeah, I suppose. But I miss the tension. You used to have some very good teams getting ousted this week by the rivals they hate most. This year, outside of a 16-4 Northside baseball team, it's hard to find deserving squads that were eliminated in games we've seen thus far.

Q: How would you change things?

A: Two bids per district, unless you need more to fill out an eight-team regional field. Definitely no more than eight teams per region. I'd award the district tournament champs the top seed out of their league. The regular-season champ still would earn an automatic bid to the regions as a reward for a great season, but the league tournaments would have consequence again.

Q: Don't fans love district tournaments the way they are?

A: I wonder about that. At the Western Valley District boys soccer title game on Thursday -- an overtime thriller won by PH against city rival William Fleming -- you could have fit the crowd in a phone booth. And don't tell me Patriots fans don't care about boys soccer. Just wait for Monday's regional opener against Heritage. The students will be there waving flags and going nuts, because they know that's when the real games start.

Q: Enough about high schools. Did you see that performance from Virginia Tech pitcher Justin Wright Thursday night in the ACC tournament?

A: I did. Very, very impressive: complete game, 15 strikeouts, and only four hits allowed against a potent Georgia Tech lineup.

Q: Would you say he had ... the "Wright" stuff?

A: No. And if you ever put a pun in quotes like that again, you're fired.

Q: Phoenix Suns forward Amare Stoudemire, who's been a much better player since Game 2 in the Western Conference finals, credited his resurgence to "just playing chess." Has he been hanging out with Al Groh or something?

A: Sure sounds like it. If the Suns get ousted in Game 6 tonight, buckle up for some poetry.

Q: Al's replacement, Mike London, has been featured in that show, "Virginia Football: The Building of a Program" that's been airing on Comcast Sports Net. What do you think of the series?

A: I haven't seen a better infomercial since Dr. Nick Riviera unveiled the Juice Loosener ("IT'S WHISPER QUIET!") Nah, actually the parts of the show I've seen got me pretty pumped for football season.

Q: How bad have things gotten for the Baltimore Orioles?

A: Very bad. As if having the worst record in baseball weren't enough, Wednesday was Nolan Reimold Bobblehead Night at Camden Yards. One small problem: Reimold -- counted on as a key piece in the team's rebuilding effort -- had already been shipped to Triple-A after hitting .205 in the first 29 games.

Q: Who wins Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte?

A: Sigh. Jeff Gordon. You can quit asking that until he wins one.

Q: Speaking of NASCAR, did you see that something called "Michael Waltrip's Comedy Garage" is coming to the Roanoke Civic Center?

A: Yep. Apparently, Waltrip is launching a second career as an impresario. His two featured comics are Tim Wilson and Jon Reep, the latter of whom is best known for asking "Is that a Hemi?" on the Dodge commercials. Good luck to Waltrip with this one. I'm thinking he might want to stick to the restrictor-plate arenas in his first year.

Q: How will you spend your Memorial Day?

A: Probably working. In fact, I'll probably be covering a regional tilt involving two teams that made the tournament by winning third-place games.

Q: I'm sure their coaches will appreciate today's column. Won't you still have to ask them questions after the game?

A: Aww, nuts.

Read Aaron McFarling's Daily Sports Briefing weekdays on The Press Box Blog at roanoke.com/sports.

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