Monday, December 30, 2013

Mike Ditka on Talent

Perhaps ESPN execs had these thoughts in the back of their heads after the Week 17 NFL Countdown Show.

But we shouldn't be too hard on "Iron Mike" after his televised nap.  After all,  Ditka did suffer a minor stroke in November 2012.  And neither the New York Jets nor the Miami Dolphins were playoff-bound. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Unexpectedly Forged from the Iron Bowl Smelter

The number one ranked Alabama Crimson Tide had a perfect 10 and 0 recording playing against their arch-rival number five ranked Auburn Tigers.  With seconds left in the game and the score tied at 28-28, the Crimson Tide attempted a long field goal to stop  the game from going into overtime.

Going into the game, senior Alabama placekicker number 43 Cade Foster had a 91.7% success rate for field goals.  But during the 2013 Iron Bowl, Foster missed three field goal attempts.   But with one second left on the game clock, the Crimson Tide put in red shirted freshman Adam Griffin for a 57 yard field goal attempt.  Griffin had kicked a 60 yard field goal in practice and the Crimson Tide had favorable winds.

The resulting play inspired an iconic play-by-play call by Auburn Football radio announcer Rod Bramblett:

The 109 yard punt return by Auburn Tiger Chris Davis, Sr. winning the game 34-28 along with the exuberant announcing by Bramblett will long be remembered as an exciting end to the Iron Bowl.

A few days after the event, former President George W. Bush wrote Cade Foster a short note.

While it is easy to bask in the glory of a miraculous last second victory, it is admirable to offer encouragement in a "personal growth moment" suffered on a sports field.  

Kudos to the class of "43".

Friday, December 6, 2013

Two Minor Earthquakes in Seattle

[L] Saints QB Drew Breiss, [C] Seahawk DE Michael Bennett  12/02/2013

The last  NFL Monday Night Football game pitted the New Orleans Saints (9-2) against the Seattle Seahawks (10-1) at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.    Many sports writers, including hometown ESPN sports personas were betting against the Seahawks in this battle against NFC leaders.

However, Seattle  took control early in the game due to fumble recovery by  Seahawk Defensive End Michael Bennett who then ran the football 22 yards for a score.


The stomping in the stands and the eruption of cheers by the 68,387 Seahawk fans generated a sound which measured  137.6 decibels, which set a Guinness Book of World Record outdoor stadium record.   Seismologists from the nearby University of Washington estimated that the cheering generated between a 1 to 2 magnitude earthquake which could have been felt outside the stadium.

The Seahawks went on to victory at 34-7, increasing their record to 11-1.

The second minor earthquake occurred during an after game interview when Michael Bennett was interviewed by 710 ESPN Radio Seattle personality Jim Moore.  The sports broadcaster expressed chagrin that he thought that the Saints would win.  When the humbled host asked the Michael Bennett how wrong he was, the defensive end’s answer was another amusing earthquake.

When Obamacare becomes a punch-line amongst jocks even in the bluest of blue states like Washington, the political  ground may be shifting even in the Pacific Northwest. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Roger Bannister on the Four Minute Mile

British running Roger Bannister broke the four minute mile in 1954. Now, the Mile world record holder is Hicham El Guerrouj of Morroco who ran 3:43.13 in Rome in 1999.  And the new "King of the Mile" Guerrouj also lived. 


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Darren Flutie on CFL Football

The 2013 Grey Cup Canadian Football League Championships pitted the Hamilton (Ontario) Wild Cats against the Saskatchewan Rough Riders in Regina, Saskatchewan.  

It is interesting to note that the Grey Cup's 101st year is the second oldest professional sports trophy in North America behind the 120 year history of the Stanley Cup, (which NHL hockey teams have been awarded since 1926).

Yet this storied history did not seem to impress Darren Flutie or diminish the ambition to play in the NFL.

Friday, November 15, 2013

 Mike Krzyzewski on Winning

Coach K knows about winning basketball games, as he has lead the Blue Devils to four NCAA National Championships, 11 Final Four appearances, 12 ACC Regular Season Titles and 13 ACC Tournament Championships. 

His philosophy is teamwork and working hard.  But based on his surname, I am not sure if teams would be naturals for the National Spelling Bee.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Honoring the Unsung Sports Hero--The Walk On

Marquette Golden Eagle no. 34 Dylan Flood scoring 1st college basket 11/12/13

Marquette University’s basketball team was drubbing the Grambling State Tigers by nearly forty points well into the second half.  Marquette had three freshmen on the court which somewhat subsided the alluvia of scoring.  But with thirty seconds left, Marquette Head Coach Buzz Williams ordered an intentional foul to allow for one last substitution.

Marquette's Dylan Flood
In the last half minute of play, Dylan Flood, a 6'4" 200 pound Junior Forward from Lisle, Illinois took to the court.  This move brought a lively cheer from hometown crowd which remained at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee.   The broadcast crew commented that Flood was a fan favorite as he was a walk on player who rarely got any game time.  When Marquette moved the ball up court, the players passed the ball around the horn and set Flood up to take a shot.  He smartly dribbled into traffic and scored his first points in a college game.

This incident would be a minor moment which could easily pass without notice.  Yet while watching the replay of Flood’s  shot, one could not help but notice the exuberant reaction from players on the Marquette bench to Flood’s hoop.   The final result of 114 to 71 was not in doubt. But the whole hearted applause from the bench to Flood’s  first NCAA points was like fanfare for the unsung hero: the bench player.

Both college and pro sports programs often have hoopla when introducing starting players at games.  Sometimes the sixth man in basketball gains renown as being the dependable first substitution.  But there are fourteen men on the team and the NCAA only allows thirteen scholarship players.  So the walk on player works hard in practice, often simulating what opponents  will do offensively and defensively, without accruing much actual game time.

Aside from their contributions in practice, these walk on players serve as an inspiration for their teammates.  They work hard without glory or scholarship recompense.  So the cheers from the bench for a walk-on’s basket show a respect for the team member not in the spotlight.

Watching  Dylan Flood’s practice reel shows that he has some skills on the practice court. Now that the first point barrier has been broken, perhaps that will open the Flood gates.

 Congratulations on making into the MUBB record-book.  May his hard work make the team ready for the Big Dance in March.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Sports Salute to Service

Over this Veterans Day weekend, the NCAA and the NFL made major efforts to have a Salute to Service for those men and women who serve to defend our freedom. 

This year the NCAA held the Armed Forces Classic basketball game in at Camp Humphreys Army base in  Pyeogtaek, South Korea where the 19th ranked Oregon Ducks beat the Georgetown Hoyas 82-75 before a crowd of hundreds of soldiers.  

Both teams wore special camouflage uniforms.  In lieu of having their names emblazoned on the back of their jerseys, the Oregon Duck players IDs  read "USA"  and the backs of the Georgetown Hoya jerseys had mottoes like "Courage", "Integrity" and "Respect.    The coaches of both teams wore combat boots and military styled cargo pants.

Oregon (light camo) playing against Georgtown (dark camo) at Camp Humphrey Army Base in Pyeogtaek, South Korea

Many NCAA football teams made efforts to give a Salute to Service.   There is controversy attached to the Northwestern University Wildcat football special uniforms. The Wildcats intend to honor the Wounded Warrior Project during their November 16th game against the Michigan Wolverines by abandoning their regular purple and white garb and donning uniforms flag inspired uniforms. 

 Under Armor tried to further stylize this equipment by having red accents on the patriotic design to give it a rough, worn out look.  After the game, these uniforms will be auctioned for charity. But some are seeing red as the Wounded Warrior Wildcat uniforms have red splotches on the helmet, sock and cleats so these design elements can be interpreted as blood. That is an ugly connotation for something that is intended to honor and support the Wounded Warrior Project

The NFL has nearly a half century of working with the USO to support our military men and women in uniform.  During the 2013 season,  the NFL has designed 32 games throughout November as Salute to Service games where the NFL will donate $100 per point scored to each of its three military related charities, the Pat Tillman Foundation, the USO, and the Wounded Warrior Project.  In 2012, the NFL donated nearly $800,000 as a result of the Salute to Service campaign. 

During these games, players use special footballs, gloves, patches, hats, sweatshirts and camouflage towels.  All of these Salute to Service game worn merchandise will be auctioned off, with proceeds going to the aforementioned non-profits.

There are many different Salutes to Service at NFL stadia.  During the Salute to Service games, all of the Field Goal posts had camouflage padding. In Green Bay, Lambeau Field fans used cards to thank those who served with a card stunt during the National Anthem. 

The Packer half time featured all veteran parachute teams landing in the middle of Lambeau Field. Similar sorts of celebrations will occur for the Monday Night Football game in Tampa Bay, which is in the shadows of MacDill Air Force Base and United States Central Command. 

Pat Tillman as Army Ranger
Kevin Blackistone
This sort of patriotic appeal and honoring must drive outspoken ESPN sports commentator Kevin Blackistone crazy, as he has repeatedly chastised sports teams for playing the National Anthem and honoring Pat Tillman (an NFL player who left pro ball to serve as an Army Ranger and died in a friendly fire incident).  While it is unclear how much money will be raised by these fundraising auctions, it is laudable to try to honor and serve those servicemen who sacrifice for us.  However the photo from the Pittsburgh Steeler's Salute to Service shows the poignancy of such tributes. 

A recent book entitled "The War on Football"  points out that many of the traits which are esteemed in football are the same characteristics inculcated in military training. Moreover, sports are an important connection with home for military members and their families.

 So in a society obsessed with celebrity, it is good to see organized efforts to offer a Salute to Service, and honor the virtues of service, teamwork, selflessness and courage.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Some of Book Review on The War on Football by Daniel J. Flynn

Daniel J. Flynn
So many of those who write about sports come from a liberal persuasion.  So it was refreshing to read Daniel J. Flynn’s book "The War on Football: Saving America’s Game” (Regnery Publishing, 2013 216 pages) as he iconoclastically uses science, history and social relations to defend a beleaguered sport.  Perhaps Flynn’s tenure as the former Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia inspired the author to include over 50 pages of footnotes to score his points, lest anyone doubt him. Flynn surveys the sport on the Pop Warner level, collegiate football programs even womens’ football leagues as well as the pros to try to discern the truth about football.


The battle against football is not simply for safety but it mirrors a “wussification” of society as well as reflecting the lessons which we want to teach our children. So instead of giving football a proverbial pat on the back for instilling discipline, teamwork and the virtues of hard work, football is given a kick below the belt by pointing to questionable science to win their game.

There is no doubt that football is a physically demanding sport, which requires conditioning and practice.  However, the mainstream media weltanschauung is colored by a perception that football is an American version of a gladiator sport.  While there were periods in history, such as 1905 and 1968, where many mortal injuries on the playing field occurred, Flynn contends that rule changes and better equipment mitigate those serious casualties.  So today anti-football fanatics concentrate on concussions. 


 Flynn’s "The War on Football" book debunks these simple conclusions as they are not bourne out by the facts.    Cheerleaders are more at risk for concussions than football players, but which athlete embodies the fearsome warrior traits so disfavored by Cocktail Party elites?  

Scientists can not find a causal effect between football and CTE.  However hucksters selling safety are able to profit hawking equipment with dubious extra protection. 


The pro-football settlement regarding concussions may have a ripple effect which could well diminish the lower levels of the sport.  Some anti-football crusaders want to ban the sport to minors.  This nanny state protection for the children, which would effectively kill football as the physicality of the sport make football a young person’s sport.  In addition, the skills required for teamwork, precision and strategy takes time to develop to attain the athletic achievements that American football fans admire.  


 Flynn’s iconoclastic arguments against the junk science concerning concussions and football were compelling and often ignored by a sensationalist, liberal leaning mainstream media. 

The tone of the book was fair but decidedly not objective.  I appreciated the cynical asides peppered throughout the book questioning junk science or the tongue in cheek critique on litigators: “They don’t teach physics in law school.”    Flynn had so won me over that I was rooting for a blowout at the end instead of the more restrained conclusion that: “Football is good for you.  Play. Watch. Cheer.”


Monday, November 4, 2013

President Obama on Championships

President Obama welcomes 2013 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Black Hawks, 11/04/2013

"To the Bulls, Bears, Cubs, White Sox — I am term-limited, so you guys have got to get moving. I need to see you here soon. Championships belong in Chicago."  
                                  ~President Barack Obama

It should be noted that the Chicago Black Hawks have been the only professional sports team from Chicago who have won championships during Mr. Obama's time in the White House. 

Read more here:

Mia Hamm on Motivation

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Johnny Damon on Winning

Granted, the BoSox broke the 86 year old Curse of the Bambino in 2004.  And Red Sox Nation's fans also rejoiced after a World Series victory in 2007.  But Damon's quip still brings a smile to a cynical sports fan's face. 

Wisconson Waterboy TD Thrills Town

LaChute Mustang Football Player Noah VanVooren after scoring first touchdown

Noah VanVooren, is a  Senior at Little Chute High School in Wisconsin, who has served as the Mustang football team's  Team Manage Water Boy for years. 

While VanVooren has Down Syndrome,  the team treated him as just one of the guys on the field.  Senior fullback  Chet Pereenboom noted VanVooren's positive attitude and enthusiasm which he shared with the team.  So the Mustang team wanted to do something special for VanVooren.   

Little Chute Football Coach Mike Ryczkowski asked Noah if he want to play in the final home game.   Ryczkowski thought that VanVooren would be nervous but the Team Manager turned player confidently strode onto the field wearing number 14.   Noah was made the honorary team captain for the Senior Night game and  helped lead the team on the field.

With 1.2 seconds left on the clock and Little Chute leading 57-0 over Clintonville High, the crowd shouted out "Noah, Noah" and VanVooren was sent in for the last play.  Mustang Quarterback Sam Merrifield handed off to VanVooren.  The Clintonville Truckers team let number 14 through, and VanVooren ran 35 years for the touchdown as he was surrounded by his teammates.

Although the score did not count for the record books, as both teams and the officials facilitated VanVooren's touchdown, one would never know it based on the enthusiastic reaction from the Little Chute crowd.  VanVooren was swarmed by fans.  After scoring his first TD, VanVooren exclaimed: "I feel great. I scored a touchdown.  It was great." Later Noah enthusiastically sang the school song in the postgame team huddle.

Noah VanVooren's father remarked: He was born 18 years ago and the doctors told us he would never be able to walk, talk or do anything. And then to see him 18 years later, it’s amazing." VanVooren's father also expressed gratitude to the Little Chute community who had backed up and loved his son.

The idea for a touchdown came from a group of Mustang Football Seniors who approached an Assistant Coach.  The plan then got the approval of the opposing Clintonville football team as well as the officials. 

LaChute (WI) Mustang Football Team, [front row] no. 14 Noah VanVooren

Sports can chronicle achievements but they also mold and reveal character.  This Wisconsin Water-Boy's TD embodies the finest virtues of character building through sports.  It echoes the triumph and sportsmanship depicted in the film Rudy (1993)

According to Little Chute High Principal Dan Valentyn, the school prides itself on being a place that is small enough to maintain a family-type atmosphere and give a personal focus to assist those who may be struggling personally or academically.  The  sportsmanship shown by the Mustangs for an underdog who had long supported the team and inspired them was noteworthy and commendable.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Albert Einstein on Baseball

This is the response that the famous physicist gave Boston Red Sox great Moe Berg when the professional catcher wanted to barter Einstein for math tutoring. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Al Hrabosky on Ambition

Boston Mayor Menino Muffs Red Sox Reference

When the Boston Red Sox make the Major League Baseball World Series,  all of New England feels compelled to get on the bandwagon,  Blaze Radio host is a Boston Bruins booster who does not care much for baseball, but admits it is prudent to root for the Red Sox now that they are in the "big dance". 

It is expected that the hometown Mayor would lead the charge in civic cheerleader. But five term Boston Mayor Thomas Menino (D-Boston) manged to muff his MLB reference.  Boston Globe reporter Maria Cramer tweeted that Mayor Menino told a pack of reporters that he hoped that the Red Sox would win the World Series Cup and that their fans would be responsible.  

Mayor Menino seemingly melded MLB's Commissioner's Trophy with the NHL's Stanley Cup.  Oops.  This was not the first of Mayor Menino's missteps in sports quips.    But it is understandable as not every politico is an avid sports fan and they may not have access to the Teleprompter of the United States (TOTUS) to make them sound good. 

While it is amusing to twitter at Menino's sports ignorance, it is more more maddening to consider how Mayor Menino has been part of efforts to polemically politicize professional sports. Menino has been a prominent supporter of Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG).  For the last few years, MAIG has been running expensive $100,000 ads during the Super Bowl to promote their gun grabbing initiatives. 

If an elected official is a sports fan, let them go to town when their team is in the championships.  If not, stick to a script on rooting for the home team.  And be gracious about the city bets, rather than turning your nose at the hospitality in the World Series wager of the opposing side, as Menino did with St. Louis' offer of fried ravioli.  Finally, stop playing partisan politics with a veneer of sports, like with MAIG Superbowl ads.