The day before and the day after Major League Baseball's All-Star Game are among the few times each year when none of the major professional sports (football, baseball, hockey and men's basketball) is played. So it's a good time to check in on some so-called minor sports.

Track and Field -- Not really a minor sport. Track and field is the third most popular sport among high school boys, behind football and basketball, and the second most popular for high school girls, after basketball. And that doesn't count the thousands of high school kids who run cross-country or indoor track.

Watching the tryouts for the U.S. Olympic team, I can see why people enjoy track and field. Everybody likes a good race. What kids haven't raced their friends to find out who's the fastest in the neighborhood?

The Olympic tryouts have been great. The men's and women's 100-meter races are always among the 10 most exciting seconds in sports. This weekend should be exciting, too, as Fairfax's Alan Webb tries to make the U.S. team in the 1,500-meter run.

Swimming -- Here's another sport that lots of kids do. Seems like every kid I know is on a summer swim team. But swimming doesn't show up on television or make the newspapers much except every four years when the Olympics roll around.

I've been watching the Olympic swimming tryouts, too. Like track and field, the races are great and super close. I feel sorry for the third-place finishers. Sometimes they lose a spot on the team, and an Olympic dream, by tenths or hundredths of a second. Think of it: You swim for hours every day for years, then miss making the team in the blink of an eye. I know that sports are tough and you have to cut the squad someplace, but that just doesn't seem fair.

Cycling -- Kids ride bikes, too, but no one rides like the world-class athletes in the Tour de France. Those guys sprint at speeds of more than 40 miles per hour and "cruise along" at 28 to 30 miles per hour. That's flying.

What I like most about the Tour are its traditions. Like, how the riders wait if one of them falls. Or how they agree to let a rider lead the pack if the Tour goes through that person's home town. That kind of sportsmanship is cool.

Everybody is Tour-happy right now because American Lance Armstrong could win the world's most famous bicycle race for an unprecedented sixth straight time. But I'm not rooting for Lance. I'm rooting for Tyler Hamilton. He's the guy who raced last year with a broken collarbone, so you know he's tough.

But the real reason I'm rooting for Hamilton is because he's from my home town, Marblehead, Massachusetts.

If he takes the Tour, that would be a "major" win for Marblehead.

Fred Bowen writes KidsPost's Friday sports column and is the author of sports novels for kids.

Cyclist Tyler Hamilton and swimmer Katie Hoff are racing for major glory. Alan Webb is

in the running

for a spot on the

U.S. Olympic