Empty seats don't mean Greeks are at a loss


OPINION: The thousands of empty seats at the Olympic venues actually make me want to go to Greece. The Greeks apparently have found something else to do in their country that's more interesting than attending the Olympics, and whatever it is, it must be pretty good.

Fact: The Orioles are 55-52 this season against all opponents other than the Yankees.

Opinion: Guess Bud Selig's contract extension is sort of a present from the baseball owners marking the 10th anniversary of the World Series he killed.

Fact: The total of 4,650 air miles the Ravens are scheduled to log this season (including all preseason and regular-season trips) is by far the lowest for any NFL team. San Francisco is scheduled to fly a league-high 35,756 miles.

Opinion: To those predicting big things for the 2004 football Terps: Let's see them beat Northern Illinois first.

Fact: Denny Bautista, the 24-year-old pitching prospect the Orioles traded for 36-year-old Jason Grimsley, is 4-2 with a 2.47 ERA in nine starts for Wichita, the Royals' affiliate in the Double-A Texas League. "I thought it'd be midseason next year before we'd see him up here [in the majors], but he's ahead of schedule," says Royals GM Allan Baird.

Opinion: I'm apparently in the minority, but watching other people play poker on TV is about as exciting as listening to a buddy give a stroke-by-stroke replay of the 97 he shot on the golf course that morning.

Fact: No team from Maryland has ever won the Little League World Series, first held in 1947.

Opinion: Watching Melvin Mora today, it's hard to believe he endured seven-plus seasons and more than 2,300 at-bats in the minors before making it to the majors at age 27.

Fact: The Arizona Diamondbacks are on pace to lose 113 games just three years after winning the World Series, which exceeds the Orioles' feat of going from a Series title in 1983 to 107 losses in 1988.

Opinion: Numerous questions persist, but a baseball World Cup is a tremendous idea.

Fact: The Orioles' season attendance total is going to rise this season after declining in each of the past six seasons.

Opinion: Edgar Martinez is a legitimate Hall of Fame candidate, no different from other specialists such as closers, all-field Bill Mazeroski and just-elected Paul Molitor, who couldn't field a lick. But the ultimate DH is going to have a hard time making it with just 306 home runs and slightly more than 2,200 hits.

Fact: One Orioles front officer on the David Newhan pickup: "Sometimes you get lucky."

Opinion: Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella has a chance to deliver on his "we won't finish last" prediction because the Blue Jays have fallen apart.

Fact: Tiger Woods has finished ahead of Vijay Singh in just three of golf's past nine major championships.

Opinion: Smarty Jones' abrupt retirement illustrates horse racing's biggest obstacle in trying to regain a share of its once-broad public. A star instantly becomes so valuable as a breeding commodity that running him and risking a breakdown is foolish. So he disappears forever, even before the cheers have died down.

Fact: Baltimore was ranked No. 8 in sports fan passion out of 40 top American markets in a survey conducted by the Philadelphia-based Center for Sports Psychology and DirecTV.

Opinion: The sports fan passion survey was ranked No. 5 among meaningless sports surveys in a survey conducted by me.

Fact: Olympic headline posted on Sportspickle.com, the sports humor Web site: "Eight Horses Drown in Water Polo Match."

Opinion: As long as his broken ankle heals, Jerry Hairston could easily beat out Luis Matos in center field next season.

Fact: The past two Super Bowl champions (and three of the past five) each failed to qualify for the playoffs the next season.

Opinion: With coach Brian Billick, senior consultant Jim Fassel, offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh and quarterbacks/receivers assistant David Shaw all whispering in his ear, Kyle Boller is probably getting enough coaching.

Fact: There's a Baltimore connection to the 1896 Summer Olympics. The ex-wife of Demetrios Golemis, a Greek who won the bronze medal in the 800 meters, later moved here with her daughter. The daughter - Golemis' child - graduated from Towson High School.

Opinion: You're no one in this town until your name appears in colleague Peter Schmuck's new column. Put me in, coach!

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