7:30 PM PST, February 13, 2013
Cupid's juiced. Lance Armstrong's head is corked. Is there anything left to love about modern sports, the apparent bastion of liars, cheats and psychopaths?
Well, here are 100 Valentines dedicated to all that's still good about sports. "There are really 100?" you ask. OK, maybe 99:
—The poetry of the phrase "pitchers and catchers report ..."
—The thwaaaack of a well-hit anything (baseball, golf ball, puck).
—Kevin Costner's "small-of-a-woman's-back" speech.
—Soccer in the rain.
—Football in the snow.
—Bill Murray singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."
—Dodger virtuoso Nancy Bea, the poor man's Dudamel.
—Coaches who still wear plaid.
—Cheerleaders who still wear wool.
—Teams that would never consider moving: Bears, Steelers, Red Sox, Eagles ...
—The first Saturday in May.
—The last Saturday in October.
—Two words: "Sandy Koufax."
—Two more words: "Riders up!"
—The squeak of sneakers on a hardwood court.
—The guillotine sounds of NHL skates.
—Sons and dads playing catch.
—Dads and daughters playing catch.
—U.S. women's soccer.
—The new-car smell of a decent baseball glove.
—New-school player safeguards.
—A 5-year-old's first hit.
—Baseball socks worn high around the knee.
—Andrew McCutchen's total game.
—Al Michaels' total recall.
—That guy who always announces: "Welcome to Dodger baseball ..."
—The best fan club on Earth: L.A.'s Baseball Reliquary.
—The best fan base on Earth: Green Bay.
—The Grambling marching band.
—The Rose Bowl in November.
—Chavez Ravine in April.
—Hail Marys with seven seconds to play!
—Wild pitches ka-thunking off the backstop with a runner on third.
—The Army-Navy game.
—Tony "Instant Replay" Verna.
—Vintage Jim Murray quotes: "I'd like to borrow [Muhammad Ali's] body for just 24 hours. There are three guys I'd like to beat up and four women I'd like to make love to."
—Vintage Red Smith quotes: "Dying is no big deal, living is the trick."
—The best baseball book ever: "The Boys of Summer."
—The second-best baseball book ever: "Shoeless Joe."
—Bend your knees!
—Keep your head down!
—The parents who chalk AYSO fields at 6 a.m.
—Youth coaches who don't scream or throw stuff.
—Echo Park's Short Stop bar.
—Wrigleyville's Cubby Bear saloon.
—Chick Hearn's Staples statue.
—John Wooden's Pyramid of Success.
—Division III football.
—Old beat-up baseballs, starting to bronze.
—Old baseball cards, starting to gray.
—Ace vendor Roger Owens.
—The ultimate triple play: Dodger dog, bag of peanuts, beer.
—The best role model in sports: Chris Paul.
—The sweaty cologne of a well-used high school gym.
—The sunrise drive to Phoenix for spring training.
—The evening train to Angel Stadium.
—The view of downtown from Parking Lot P.
—Running backs who don't run out of bounds to avoid hits.
—Black diamond ski runs.
—Mavericks (the surf spot, not the basketball team).
—Matching the hatch.
—The Toledo Mud Hens.
—The Richmond Flying Squirrels.
—Fans who hand foul balls to little kids.
Chris Erskine will appear at the Los Angeles Times Travel Show at the L.A. Convention Center, Feb. 23-24, at 1 p.m. each day.
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