Mint juleps, Carling Beer and trash pandas

Bob Baffert, the white-haired horse trainer extraordinaire, has done it again, winning a

record-breaking seventh Kentucky Derby with 12-1 shot Medina Spirit. The win also gave

jockey John Velazquez his fourth Derby victory, one behind the all-time record shared by Eddie

Arcaro and Bill Hartack. A little horse that could, Medina Spirit led the entire mile and a

quarter, holding off three thoroughbreds, including odds-on favorite Essential Quality, in an

exciting four wide stretch Run for the Roses.

The Derby, along with the Indianapolis 500, is one of the annual rites of springtime that

sports enthusiasts look forward to each May. Wasn’t it great to see over 50,000 spectators at

an event again as we slowly but surely climb out from under Covid-related restrictions? I’ve

never attended the Louisville Classic but my younger daughter Lauren has, mostly

remembering an infield crowd of 100,000, rain, mud, and a few overpriced mint juleps!!

Well, the NFL draft has come and gone, a three-day happening that each year seems to

captivate more and more of the public’s curiosity. Cleveland did an outstanding job of being

this year’s host city, restoring some of the excitement missing from last year’s Covid-related

event. Is it just me or is everybody else sick and tired of the phrase, “Covid-related”? Anyhow,

the Browns and Bengals seemed to have filled roster spots that will shore up each team’s

weaknesses although there will be some second-guessing of the Bengal’s selection of LSU

wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase with the fifth overall pick rather that Oregon offensive tackle Penei

Sewell. Let’s hope QB Joe Burrow has enough time to find his former Bayou Tiger teammate

open as the offensive line is still questionable—it’s hard to complete passes while on your

backside looking up at the sky!

The Browns did well with their first round pick of Northwestern cornerback Greg Newsome

—you need to have an abundance of quality CBs to counter today’s pass-oriented offenses.

Newsome arrives with a reputation as a premier coverage defender.

Speaking of the Browns, how many of you remember back to the days before TV networks

started covering the NFL? Some of my earliest memories include Sunday afternoons watching

Browns’ games listening to Ken Coleman doing the play-by-play and Jim Brown, Bobby

Mitchell, Paul Warfield, Milt Plum, Dr. Frank Ryan, and all the other greats who wore orange

and brown having one winning season after another. Who can forget the Carling Black Label

beer commercials and Mabel the waitress? Those were special times as every single game is

now available for viewing on one of many platforms. I see that beginning in 2022 Amazon

Prime Video will be the exclusive home of the NFL’s Thursday Night Football package through

2032. This could have a huge impact on those viewers who don’t have Amazon Prime access,

although hopefully it might be that local stations in the markets of a game’s participating teams

will be allowed to air the contests. I guess you can call that progress but I’m not sure!

Minor league baseball returns this month after a year’s Covid-related (there’s that phrase

again!) absence. It will be interesting to see how the development of talent at the lower levels

has been affected. The Dayton Dragons move up to the High A Central League (basically the

old Low A Midwest League) after major restructuring of the minor league system in which 40

teams were eliminated following the 2019 season. The Dragons opened the 120-game season

Tuesday night against the home standing Great Lakes Loons. Minor league communities, for

the most part, embrace the family friendly pricing and color and entertainment that teams

provide, along with some of sport’s greatest nicknames. How can you not get excited about

rooting for the Blue Wahoos (Pensacola, FL), Lugnuts (Lansing, MI), Muckdogs (Batavia, NY),

and Trash Pandas (Madison, AL) among many others? Trash Pandas you wonder? Named

after Alabama’s mischievous, clever raccoons!

Finally, it’s great to hear that UD Arena will be hosting the Ohio High School Athletic

Association’s boys and girls basketball state championships again from 2022-24. The Arena is

certainly fan-friendly and is a great site and size to hold the final weekend of the tournaments.

I know that local fans will certainly appreciate the proximity and ease of access to the Arena

and the knowledgeable staff that is so used to handling large crowds so efficiently. What a

great opportunity to watch the state’s best high school teams in action! Until next time stay

healthy and active!

Dr. Alex Warner

Shots in the Darke

Dr. Alex Warner is a contributing columnist for the Daily Advocate