Silver lining for every gray cloud during sports year in Las Vegas

For every action there is a reaction.

If you were paying attention in physics class, you might recognize that as Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion.

But Ike Newton never wrote about local sports.

If he did, he would know that for every story that makes the Review-Journal’s year-end Top 10 list, there usually is a good side and a bad side, a bright side and a dark side, a winning side and a losing side. There also is a silver lining for every gray cloud but only for the three days in February when it rains.

Bobby Thomson hits a baseball into the seats, and the Giants win the pennant. Good.

Ralph Branca throws the pitch that Thomson hits into the seats, and the Dodgers lose the pennant. Bad.

You see how this works.

This, then, is the way R-J sports columnists Ron Kantowski and Ed Graney viewed the yin and yang of the year in local sports, with Kantowski mostly focusing on the good stuff and Graney on the not-so-good stuff.

10. Marathon session

For the first time, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon and Half-Marathon was held at night, under the bright lights of the Strip. Participation increased from 28,000 runners to 44,000.

So did complaints, as irate runners bellyached of tainted drinking water and a crowded circuit on which to run.

The water grievance was unfounded, local health officials said.

The crowded circuit is a good problem to have.

9. Fists of fury

In a battle royal every bit as intriguing, action-packed and, in the end, disputed as their first two fights, Manny Pacquiao earned/was awarded a majority decision over nemesis Juan Manuel Marquez in front of a raucous sellout crowd at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

The real winner, for once, was boxing. Every now and again, the sport of fisticuffs and Mexican warriors shows how compelling it can be when two highly skilled, evenly matched fighters try to knock each other’s block off.

Even if one of them has been known to drink his own urine.

8. All hail the Gaels

Bishop Gorman won its third consecutive state high school football championship. The Gaels scored 72 points in the title game, incurring even more wrath from public school rivals precluded by leaps and boundaries — financial leaps and geographical boundaries — from recruiting the kind of players that Gorman always seems to get.

A lot of people cheer against the Yankees, too.

7. UNLV football fumbles, stumbles

The Rebels lost to unheralded Southern Utah as well as New Mexico, which was even less heralded, and extended their string of losing seasons to 137 or so. UNLV completed fewer passes than the shy kid at a high school dance.

As a result, there’s nobody who won’t play the Rebels.

That should make scheduling a breeze.

6. Buschwhacked

Kyle Busch nearly lost his sponsor after crashing into a rival driver on purpose.

Older brother Kurt Busch lost his ride after cussing out an ESPN reporter on pit road.

Race fans continue to boo the racing Busch brothers of Las Vegas and throw The Finger at them. This is especially true in places such as Talladega Superspeedway.

Like Rain Man, the Busch brothers are excellent drivers, or nobody would boo and throw The Finger at them. And in America, everybody who says they are sorry gets a second chance.

That said, NASCAR fans at Talladega probably would have made somebody like Marv Albert grovel a bit.

5. UFC becomes must-see TV

The Las Vegas-based Ultimate Fighting Championship went even more mainstream by signing a seven-year multi-media rights agreement with Fox. One also can watch the UFC on Spike and Versus.

The UFC is getting like “Seinfeld” reruns. It seems every time you turn on the TV, two guys who used to be college wrestlers or have developed kung-fu grips are beating each other up inside an octagon.

Boxing promoter Bob Arum is none too pleased by this.

4. Stadium seeding

People at UNLV are talking about building a new stadium, and a guy from Texas with a big hat and a debatable number of cattle is talking about building three new stadiums.

All the talk about new stadiums that might attract pro sports is getting everybody excited. Like when U2 comes to town, or the Monster Trucks.

One of these days, they might even break ground by letting Bono and The Edge drop the hammer on “Grave Digger” and “Big Foot,” and two weeks later the Clippers will announce they are moving to Las Vegas. And then we’ll all be sorry.

I mean happy.

We’ll all be happy.

3. Death at the speedway

It was supposed to be a revival of high-speed, open-wheel IndyCar racing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. And for 11 laps it was, with a bunch of fast guys and a fast girl, Danica Patrick, defying gravity and the odds while hurtling around the high-banked oval in a never-before-seen, tightly packed 34-car bunch.

And then Dan Wheldon, a popular two-time Indianapolis 500 winner, failed to defy the odds in a 15-car pileup in Turn 2.

There’s no way to put a positive spin on that, no matter how hard one tries.

2. Mountain West unravels

Utah is gone and Brigham Young is gone and Texas Christian will be gone next year and Boise State and San Diego State — San Diego State! — will be gone the year after that.

The Mountain West Conference is falling apart like a nervous witness under cross-examination from Perry Mason.

But if the MWC folds or merges with Conference USA, it will mean its terrible TV deal also will be gone.

And then people will make like Martha Reeves and the Vandellas and dance in the streets, except in Laramie, Wyo., where they probably will do the two-step to George Strait.

1. Rice, Rice baby

When Lon Kruger left for fame and fortune — not necessarily in that order — at Oklahoma, UNLV hired one of its own to replace him as basketball coach. And it hired Dave Rice real cheap. Which is good, because UNLV is broke.

And when the Rebels upset No. 1 North Carolina at The Orleans and followed that with another impressive victory at No. 19 Illinois, it didn’t seem like such an indignity that Kruger had left for fortune and fame, in that order.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.


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