Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Mark Cuban on Political Correctness

When the Donald Sterling tapes first surface, Dallas Mavericks owner distanced himself from the L.A. Clippers owner's racist rant but noted that in this country people are allowed to be morons.  However, Cuban also noted the dangers of a slippery slope on ad hoc applications of political correctness.

But after new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver lowered the boom on Donald Sterling and basically banned him from basketball, the Mavericks owner changed his tune.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Now Uecker Is Always Charitably in the Last Row

The last row of Section 422 in the upper deck at Miller Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin are under the pivot of the retractable roof.  These nosebleed seats which are obstructed by the support girder which sell for $1 on game days have long been referred to as "Uecker Seats", referencing a funny Miller Lite ad in which Uecker thinks that he "must be in the front row."

Now there is a good reason aside from fanatical frugality for fans to choose to sit in the Uecker Seats.  Brian Maughan, a sculptor who has created four bronzes for the Brewers (including a "Mr. Baseball" statue of Bob Uecker) outside of the park created another bronze for the last row of Section 422 with Uecker.

The artwork depicts a smiling Uecker sitting down wearing a blue shirt and tan pants.  The unique aspect of Maughan's sculpture is that it includes an extra seat so that fans can donate to the Brewers Community Foundation and the Make a Wish Foundation and take a photo next to the bronze of the Hall of Fame Brewers announcer.

When the Brewers first thought about having another statue to Uecker in the ballpark, the legendary 81 year old announcer rejected it as he jocularly claimed "I thought that they wanted me to work up there." But it was a project championed by local media movie critic Gino Salomone, who prepared a tribute video for the event. 

Uecker quipped about the Terrace Level spot for the statue: "They had to make sure it was the worst seat."  But Uecker warmed up to the statue by intimating that when he shakes his mortal coils that he might come to rest "up right and above ground."

It is remarkable that a player who played only two of six seasons in Milwaukee (for the Braves before they moved down the Atlanta highway) and left the majors with a .200 batting average merits two statues at Miller Park.  That shows the esteem which Wisconsinites hold for Mr. Baseball.  His honest, happy-go-lucky, jocular personality serves as a great icon for the land of Cheeseheads, brats and brewskies for 43 seasons.

The wisecracking Uecker was one upped by one of his guests at the "Last Row" statue unveiling.  The ceremony included Brewer Hall of Famers Robin Yount, Rollie Fingers, current Brewers skipper Ron Roenicke, several current Brew Crew players, family, friends  et ali.

Bob Uecker [third from R] at the "Last Row" Statue unveiling ceremony April 25, 2014

The statue was unveiled at the top of Miller Park but the ceremony took place on the field.  This allowed Yount  to observe: "God, this is unbelievable. Fifty thousand empty seats. What a ceremony."

Despite the friendly ribbing, the Last Row statue is so popular that the Brewers organization limits access to the "Uecker Seats" statue during the game, so the obstructed view fan can enjoy the ballgame.  The statue is even covered late in the game and afterwards so that fans will egress from Miller Park. For now, pictures are only permitted in the pre-game.

Well, how about that. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Michael Phelps on a Comeback

Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympic athlete ever, winning 22 Olympic medals (18 gold medals including 11 individual golds).  After the 2012 London Summer Olympics, Phelps reasoned: “I would be past 30 by the time the next Olympic. I have achieved what I wanted to achieve. If you can say that about your career, then it’s time to move forward, time to move on to other things. I finished my career how I wanted to.”  

Yet twenty months later, the Flying Fish is back in the US Swimming pool at the US Grand Prix in Mesa, Arizona.  Not only did Phelps win his first comeback race in the 100 meter butterfly, but his 52.84 time was the fastest qualifer for the final. 

The 28 year old Phelps is non-committal about whether he intends to compete in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics, but this sort of result after only six months of training bodes favorably for a fifth Olympic appearance. 

Michael Pineda on Cheating

The New York Yankees had a couple of early April series against their arch-rivals the Boston Red Sox. Due to the cold weather in the Northeast at the start of the season, pitchers may have some trouble getting a grip on the ball.

On April 10th, Pineda pitched six strong innings for the Yankees in the Bronx.  In the fourth inning of that game, Boston's manager John Farrell became aware that Pineda had pine tar on his hand, but did not protest to the umpires.  When questioned about the incident, Pineda insisted that it was dirt on the palm of his right hand.

Less than a fortnight later, Pineda was again pitching against the Bo-Sox. Pineda claims that he could not feel the ball and he did not want to hit anybody, so he put on pine tar.  Yet instead of hiding the banned substance, Pineda smeared some pine tar on his neck, and was thrown out in the second inning. This time Pineda admitted that it was pine tar. 

MLB rule 8.02 states that a pitcher may not "apply a foreign substance of any kind to the ball." Rule 8.02 (b) states a pitcher may not "have on his person, or in his possession, any foreign substance. For such infraction of this section (b) the penalty shall be immediate ejection from the game.

Some Major League Baseball players sounded somewhat sympathetic to using something to get a grip in adverse weather (cold, extreme humidity).  But reactions to Pineda's application of pine tar to his neck were less understanding as it was so obvious.

What do you think?

Is it OK for Major League Pitchers to use Pine Tar to "get a grip"? free polls 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Atheists Go to the Mat To Forbid Scriptural T-Shirts on High School Wrestlers

For over a decade, wrestlers from the Parkersville South (West Virginia) High School have chosen to wear shirts which bear the scriptural verse: "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."  This motto was also emblazoned on the team's website.

After a complaint from the Wisconsin based Freedom from Religion Foundation, Wood County (WV) School Superintendent Pat Law, demanded that the team take the motto off their web presence, but for the time being the students can continue to voluntarily wear the shirts. It was prudent for the grapplers to take the verse off their website so that there is no question about the separation of church and state.  But the privately funded tee shirts with the empowering message are another story altogether.

The school is concerned about agitation from aggressive atheist groups who want to wipe any expression of Christian faith from the public square, while balancing the rights of citizens.
Even though the Parkersburg South wrestlers had been voluntarily wearing these shirts (paid for by parent boosters), the school system rolled at the raising of one complaint.  Presumably this was to avoid costly law suits.  It is dubious if the Wood County will dare to bar other t-shirts which others might find "offensive".


Aside from the outcomes of games, high school sports teach valuable lessons. The Parkersburg South Wrestling kerfluffle demonstrates that a lone dissenting voice can overcome an empowering message with the quisling support of a politically correct administrator.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Rosie Ruiz on Running

Rosie Ruiz, a 27 year old Cuban American hailing from New York City, was declared the winner of the 1980 Womens' Boston Marathon with a time of 2 hours 31 minutes 29 seconds, which would have been the fastest female time in the Boston Marathon ever and the 11th quickest recorded time for any female marathoner.

Bill Rogers winning 1980 Boston Marathon
Bill Rogers, the four time winner of the Boston Marathon, including his last victory in 1980, sensed that there was something wrong with Ruiz's hobbled first place finish as there were no perspiration stains under Ruiz's armpits or on her back.  Rogers thought that a big mistake was being made.  At the post Boston Marathon press conference, Rogers asked Ruiz about her training and what intervals she did and Ruiz had no clue as to what Rogers was referring.

When a reporter asked Ruiz how she was able to best her marathon time from the New York City marathon by 25 minutes, Ruiz quipped that she woke up with a lot of energy that morning.  Ruiz could not remember anything about fans at Wellesley College, a female Seven Sister College of the Ivy League, which always roots loudly for the leading female runner in the Boston Marathon.  But the most damning evidence from the Hub came from two Harvard students who reported that Ruiz burst through a group of spectators on Commonwealth Street, a half mile from the finish line.

New York Marathon officials investigated a report from a freelance reporter who stipulated that six months before the Boston Marathon she rode the subway train with Ruiz and watched her report herself injured by the finish line, and she was credited with finishing the NYC marathon in 11th place, thereby qualifying her for the Boston Marathon. 

After doing their own investigation, the Boston Athletic Association disqualified Rosie Ruiz and declared that Canadian Jacqueline Gareau was the winner with a time of 2 hours 34 minutes and 28 seconds, which was the fastest time for a woman in Boston Marathon history. 

 The BAA staged a ceremonial photo finish for Gareau with 3,000 spectators to give the woman her due, but Ruiz had stolen the spotlight by grabbing the garland that Patriots' Day and remains infamous. 

Will Ferrell on the Boston Marathon

Neil Weygandt on the Boston Marathon

Boston Marathon

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Consequential Extreme Sports

For those who seek the adrenaline rush of extreme sports, they ought to consider opportunities in the military. But admittedly not everyone is called to serve.

There is some crossover between extreme sports and military training. The Department of Army has instituted the Warrior Adventure Quest, which is a training tool to introduce soldiers to alternative activities to avoid aberrant activities after finishing a deployment.  

These adrenaline rush high adventure activities  (like bungee jumping, rock climbing, mountain biking, paintball and whitewater rafting) are intended to help introduce coping activities to returning soldiers as they realize their new normal after deployment.

These civilian extreme sports somehow seem calm compared to what forward deployed troops do as they recreate in a combat zone. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

"We are Boston, we respond, we endure, and we own the finish line."

To mark the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon Bombing, Vice President Joe Biden participated in the solemn memorial tribute.  

The Vice President gave a stirring speech which ranged from an emphatic whisper to a defiant proclaimation while speaking before the invitation only crowd of 2,600 people at the Hynes Convention Center, close to the finish line where three people were killed and 260 people were injured in a terrorist attack by two ethnic Chechen Muslims.

Alas, Biden's bloviating had some awkward elements. In commending the Boston Strong ethos epitomized by many in touched by the travesty, the Vice President pronounced "It was worth it."  

To be fair, here is the quote in context:

"Let me say to those quote ‘survivors’ [who spoke previously]. My God you have survived and you have soared. It was worth it, I mean it sincerely, just to hear you speak. You are truly, truly inspiring. I have never heard anything so beautiful.”

Biden is known for his sui generis verbal gymnastics which seem awkward but can still win over the home crowd.  Biden's tribute fused fanfare for the common man, a defiance to terrorism and some sports metaphors.  Not surprising for a 71 year old Democrat preparing for his own race.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Sporting a Green Jacket to Celebrate at Waffle House?

For the second time in three years, Bubba Watson is wearing a Green Jacket after winning the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta Georgia.  Watson finished his final round nine under par.  But since Bubba shot so well in previous rounds, Watson speculated that he could shoot a 90 (par at August is 72) and he would still be triumphant.

After Watson clutched the victory on the 18th hole, Bubba was met by his wife Angie and his baby boy Caleb.  Watson celebrated at Augusta National by giving  high fives as many well wishers as he could on the 18th green while holding his son.

After all of the pomp and ceremony of being awarded the green jacket and a ceremonial $1.62 million check for winning the Masters, Bubba Watson took his family and some friends to the Waffle House at 1:30 am to celebrate.  It is unclear from the selfie picture as to whether Bubba was still wearing his green jacket while enjoying his grilled cheese and hash browns.

Bubba Watson has long shown a special affinity for the southern breakfast institution.  After Watson won his first Masters in 2012, he considered serving Waffle House fare for the Championship Dinner at Augusta the next year, but did not follow through with this velleity.  Nonetheless, Pat Warner, the Waffle House Vice President of Culture, noted that Bubba was a regular at Waffle House. Warner stated:

 It's a testament to Bubba's character that even though he has two green jackets, he still comes to us for his grilled cheese and hash browns. All of the Waffle House Nation is proud today."

Watson believes that he was able to come back and win again at Augusta because he changed his attitude by becoming a father and striving to be a role model for his son.  Bubba displayed that by celebrating his big victory at Waffle House.  Bubba is the same guy that he always has been, except he choose to sport two green jackets when dining at his favorite all-night eatery.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Hank Aaron Strikes Out at GOP As Political Commentator

As Hank Aaron reflected upon America in the forty years since he surpassed  Babe Ruth's then record of  714 Home Runs, the former Braves slugger offered a provocative political answer.  The 80 year old slugger claimed that not much has changed in race relations since his 22 years in the Major Leagues, where he received some cruel correspondences as he chased the legendary mark of the Sultan of Swat.                                                                                                                           To underline his assertions, Aaron essentially asserted that Republicans have treated President Barack Obama like the KKK, except that they wear neckties and starched shirts rather than hoods.  USA Today summarized theses reflections with the headline: "40 Years Later, Hank Aaron's grace a beauty to behold."  It is dubious that those in the GOP smeared by this biased broadside of bigotry would agree with that assessment. 

Although Barry Bonds now holds the MLB  record of 769 Homers surpassing Aaron's mark of 755 in 2007, even Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig still consider Aaron the Home Run King.  Aaron's strength, skill, longevity and perseverance without steroids to pass Babe Ruth was commendable. It is a pity that he tarnishes his legacy with a polemic political philippic.

While public policy partisans may quibble about priorities or programs, no one is entitled to their own facts. It is rich irony that Hank Aaron compares the GOP to the KKK.  Perhaps he has forgotten that Jackie Robinson and Martin Luther King supported Republicans, because of what the Grand Old Party did to ensure Blacks freedom in the 1860s as well as their key role in enacting civil rights protections in the 1950s and 1960s and rejecting the Klan.

Of course, there is also the legacy of Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), who had had actually been a Grand Kleagle in the KKK. Some dismiss this charge noting that Byrd was not in the KKK long enough to get his sheets broken in.  Yet Byrd was an ardent opponent of civil rights legislation in the Senate during the 1960s. 

Yet Hank Aaron has the audacity to imply that the GOP are doing the high tech lynching, to borrow a phrase from Democrats excoriating  President George H.W. Bush's nominee  Clarence Thomas during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings. 

In his time, Aaron was an outstanding slugger behind the plate.  But as contemporary political commentator, Hank "the Hammer"  strikes out badly.  May Aaron not continue to follow the lead of his fellow Georgian octogenarian, President Jimmy Carter, who makes outrageous opinionated outbursts which sully his legacy.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Major League Clu Haywood Chit Chat at Bat

Twenty five years ago today, the number one box office hit movie "Major League" premiered.  In the film, Clue Haywood was a triple crown winning slugger who had Indian's pitcher Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn's number until the end.   

What lent additional authenticity to the diamond drama was the inclusion of a real Major League ballplayer in some of the scenes.  Clu Haywood was played by 11 year MLB journeyman pitcher Pete Vuckovich.  Major League's writer/director David S. Ward encouraged Vuckovich to improvise during his batting scenes in order to say something which ballplayers would say during an at-bat.  

Clu's quip to the Indians catcher was meant to  unnerve the opponent during a crucial at-bat.  But the damn Yankee's  (sic) jibe did not distract the key members of the fictitious Tribe when it most counted. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Sarah Palin on Life in Amazing America

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) continues to be a conservative cultural vanguard who is adept at reinforcing her own brand.  

Palin's latest project is a reality series Amazing America with Sarah Palin on the Sportsman Channel.  

The series is intended to be an anthology which explores the people, places and pastimes which makes America great as exhibited through outdoor living.  Ms. Palin, who some have dubbed "The First Lady of the Outdoors", will host the weekly half hour show in which she chooses the topics and the guests.

Amazing America will be co-hosted by comedians Mark Christopher Lawrence and Jerry Carroll.  Carroll claims: "I bring that good ol' boy, dare I say redneck, blue-collar experience to the viewers."  The patriotic rockers Madison Rising wrote an original theme song for Amazing America theme.

Amazing America will highlight outdoor sports and spectacles not normally in the limelight, like a blacksmiths' championship, or spotlights on professional shooters,  knife makers and taxidermists.

But Momma Grizzly's creative control should allow for messaging which reinforces her political and cultural weltanschaaung, such as her selfie challenge to young women.

Amazing America premieres at 8 PM EDT on the Sportsman Channel.  

h/t:  Breitbart

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Don Cherry on Common Sense

Not only is Don Cherry's sartorial style on Hockey Night in Canada loud, but so are his opinionated analyses, such as comparing traditions in baseball and hockey.