Archive for the 'Sports' Category

A real stinker

October 20, 2008

The headline on columnist Bob Kravitz’s take on the Colt’s game says it all: “A game so putrid even the unflappable coach got angry”:

And notable because these kinds of games just don’t happen to the Colts. This team has won 12 games or more five seasons in a row. Now they have three losses. And it’s hard to escape the nagging feeling that there’s something dramatically wrong with this group that can’t or won’t be fixed in due time.

They are almost — what’s the word? — unrecognizable.

Man, did they stink in about every way it is possible to stink. So now we have this team that had it’s one shining moment and has been sinking ever since. Based on that shining moment, they got themselves a brand-new gigantic stadium at taxpayer expense. Think they’ll keep it filled?

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60 minutes

October 13, 2008

Memo to the Indianapolis Colts:

See, isn’t it a lot more fun to play a whole game the way you played in the last quarter of the Houson game? Try to remember that if you make it to the playoffs.

Lousy game, great five minutes

October 6, 2008

I don’t know how I’d rank the Colts’ comeback yesterday on a technical basis, but on the emotional-satisfaction level, it has to rank in my top five of all time. The team slid after its Super Bowl year, and this year looks to be even worse. So to see them go from being down 27-10 to winning 31-27 in the space of about five minutes was nothing less than exhilarating. It was especially welcome at the end of a very long week with nothing but diaster after disaster coming from Washington. And let us be magnanimous in victory and admit to even feeling a little sorry for Houston and its fans:

“Everybody in the locker room was in disbelief,” said wide receiver Andre Johnson, who caught nine passes for 131 yards and a touchdown. “I’m sure a lot of people won’t sleep tonight.”

“I’m actually going to try to wake up tomorrow and hope this didn’t happen,” linebacker Morlon Greenwood said.

Imagine. Dominating the game for the first 55 minutes, then losing because of a couple of stumbles in the last rive minutes. Actually, we don’t have to imagine. Sounds a lot like life.

MadCaps

October 3, 2008

My reaction to the Wizards foofaraw was probably the same as a lot of other people’s: The TinCaps is a pretty silly name, but the logo is awesome. But Ben Smith says a lot of other names probably seemed silly at first:

Tell me, too, how it’s any dopier than “Red Sox” or “White Sox” or any other nickname we’ve all come to regard as iconic over the years. I still get amused snickers when I try to explain Komets-with-a-K to people outside the Midwest. And you just know there were piles of folks in Toledo wondering what the heck kind of nickname “Mud Hens” was the first time they heard it.

And Angry White Boy says the logo was cribbed from a car company logo (sorry, can’t link; it keeps locking up my browser when I go to www.fortwaynenews.com).

At least the name has some local history behind it, though it depends too much on the myth that John Chapman was just a poor itinerent appleseed-strewer. He was actally an astute businessman who traveled westward just ahead of the migrating hordes and figured out the exact places where his apple nurseries could flourish. But sports and myths go well together, so maybe the name will grow on us.

The main problem with it, as with Mad Ants, is that it is a name that means a lot locally but has to constantly be explained to people outside of Fort Wayne. That means that until the name sinks in and becomes familiar, we’re going to get a lot of giggles.

Screwed again

September 25, 2008

Still paying off a building after it’s torn down. Only government would have the audacity to do something so breathtakingly irrsponsible:

INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis leaders on Wednesday did what a homeowner could never legally do — demolish a building while the mortgage is still unpaid.

 

The original debt for the RCA Dome, which had its roof deflated Wednesday — a precursor to demolition — not only hasn’t been paid off, it’s 50 percent bigger than when the dome was built, 6News’ Norman Cox reported.

[. . .]

At that point, the debt climbed to $73 million. Since then, about $4 million has been paid off, leaving the taxpayers’ tab for a building that soon will be demolished at $69 million.

At least Memorial Stadium was paid for — barely — before it was abandoned. No irresponsible government here!

A toast to the team

September 24, 2008

This will go over well:

Mayor Richard Daley said today the city will ask bars near Chicago’s baseball stadiums to voluntarily cut off alcohol sales after the seventh inning of home games where the Cubs or White Sox could clinch a playoff series.

While other city officials cautioned that they had yet to discuss the plan with bar owners, the mayor said it was a no-brainer.

“What we’re asking is common sense. You can drink as much beer for seven innings as you want,” Daley said. “Give me a break. This is common sense, that’s all it is. We’re asking for the cooperation of everyone.”

Common sense when talking about sports and alcohol? I lived in Michigan City for eight years and, as a result, have followed Chicago sports for about 30 years. The seventh inning — or the fourth quarter, as the case may be — is exactly the time when you need a good, stiff drink. Remember — Cubs are just little Bears. Next year! Oh, wait, they’re winning! Go, team! No, they’ll blow it. Maybe not. I don’t know. Where’s my drink?

Buckle up

September 8, 2008

Colts kinda stunk up the joint in their Lucas Oil premiere game, didn’t they?

So for a week the Bears, not the Colts, are the Super Bowl contenders. Heck, having beaten Peyton Manning and with Tom Brady injured, maybe the Bears are Super Bowl favorites.

Surely I jest. Yes, surely I do. But the Bears are a week ahead of where they were expected to be in, say, December.

I’m both a Colts and Bears fan. Looks like it’s gonna be a bumpy ride this year.

Another rat jumps ship

August 28, 2008

And the band kept playing “Nearer My God To Thee”:

In a bombshell announcement in the world of sports journalism, star columnist Jay Mariotti has abruptly resigned from the Chicago Sun-Times.

Only after taping his last ESPN TV from the Sun-Times newsroom today did Mariotti open up.

Mariotti told CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker that he decided to quit after covering the Olympics in Beijing because newspapers are in serious trouble, and he did not want to go down with the ship.

“It’s been a tremendous experience, but I’m going to be honest with you, the profession is dying,” Mariotti said, “I don’t think either paper [Sun-Times or Chicago Tribune] is going to survive.

Sigh. When we talk in terms of print being “a dying industry,” I always think of specific newspapers I’ve liked (not to mention ones I’ve worked at). Reading the Trib and the Sun-Times to see how they each covered specific events differently was one of the great joys I had in the eight years I lived in Michigan City.

FW in ’28!

August 19, 2008

I don’t want to alarm anybody, but the International Olympic Committee has already narrowed the host for the 2016 summer games to a short list of four (Chicago, Tokyo, Rio and Madrid), and the list of bidders for the 2020 games is already growing — India, Peru, Birmingham, Ala., and St. Petersburg, Fla., are definitely in already.

If Fort Wayne wants to make a bid on the 2028 games, city officials better get cracking. The Netherlands and Kenya are already thinking about it, so the competition will be stiff. Neither one of those is a Birmingham, of course, but we can’t expect the major players like Toledo and Kalamazoo to all stay on the sidelines.

I know 20 years seems like a long way off, but just consider that the Harrison Square baseball stadium will have already outlived its usefulness by then. Why wait until the last minute and just replace it with another stadium in southwest Allen County when we can start expanding it for Olympic use now? And there are a lot of issues — traffic and parking, to name just two — that we need to start thinking about. Several of the streets downtown are sure to need an extra lane.  And just think of the thousands of hotel and motel rooms that will be needed. Now is not to soon to start looking at some good sites on Bluffton Road.

We have done several things that, as the urban planners keep saying, have put us “on the road” to being a world-class city, chief among them putting “International” in the airport’s name and banishing public smoking to New Haven. But to finally achieve that status, we must be proactive and think outside the box. Just think of how they’ll envy us in Indianapolis!

The countdown to London begins!

August 18, 2008

Thank goodness Michael Phelps won his eight gold medals. It would have been a shame to waste all that good hype. This is from the normally un-gushy Christian Science Monitor, under the headline “The Phelps Olympics: An epic fit for ancient Greece”:

Almost without question, he is now “the greatest swimmer in history,” says David Wallechinsky, author of “The Complete Book of the Olympics.”

He is the winningest Gold Medalist in the history of the modern Olympics. Trying to jump from that defensible fact to other superlatives is something we ought to be careful attaching “almost without question” to.  At lest Wallechinsky doesn’t say Phelps is the best Olympic athlete ever, which I’ve heard a lot in the last two days. Later there is this:

Simply by the numbers, his eight gold medals is something that could only be accomplished in swimming or gymnastics, making the debate over whether he is the greatest Olympian problematic.

The reason is that no other sports offer an athlete – no matter how good he or she is – the opportunity at that many gold medals.

“A marathon winner is never going to win eight gold medals at one Olympics,” Mr. Wallechinsky says. “It’s apples and oranges.”

If it’s problematic even to compare Phelps’ swimming prowess with the prowess of other disciplines, how can we say he’s even the best athlete at this Olympics? All we can really say is that he is better than his peers — swimmers who currently compete in world events.

Did I say that out loud?

August 12, 2008

Journal Gazette cartoonist Dan Lynch and I were hang-out-on-break-together buddies, and we even got together a few times to mess around with guitars (he could actually play his). He used to describe one of his co-workers this way: “You know that governor you have in your head that tells you when to stop talking because you’re in danger of going too far? And sometimes it even tells you not to speak at all? Well, he doesn’t have one of those.” This — a “Did I really say that out loud?” moment for Bret Favre — made me think of Dan:

“There were times in practice today I wondered if I made the right move,” Favre said. “I knew today would be tough. I was probably overly excited and I’m going to pay for it tomorrow.”

After all the crap he put Green Bay fans through and all the instant adulation from Jets fans, he wonders if he made the right move? No, Bret, you didn’t. Go become a professional wrestler next.

Dan once said to me, on a day when I must have taken Casual Friday a mite too seriously, “So, jes’ come inter town fer supplies?” I don’t stand out that much these days, though. A lot of people dress casually at work every day of the week. Some even look like they belong in the stands at a football game.

An Olympic moment

August 11, 2008

Speaking of the Olympics, Indiana was home for a while to the first African American ever to win an Olympic gold medal.

When people talk about how Hitler had his idea of Aryan supremacy demolished as a myth at the 1936 Olympics, they usually just talk about Jesse Owens. But there were 18 black athletes representing the U.S. at Munich, and they won 14 medals, including eight gold. One of them was John Woodruff, who took a gold in the 800-meter (before any of Owens’ races) with an unusual tactic. He was boxed in by other runners, so he just stopped dead on the track and let everybody pass him. That gave him room ro run, and he was so fact that he caught up with and passed everybody.

Then he came back to this country, not exactly to adulation for having shamed Hitler:

After the Olympics, we had a track meet to run at Annapolis, at the Naval Academy. Now here I am, an Olympic champion, and they told the coach that I couldn’t run. I couldn’t come. So I had to stay home, because of discrimination. That let me know just what the situation was. Things hadn’t changed. Things hadn’t changed.

Woodruff, who died last year at 92, lived in Indianapolis with his wife for a number of years. That city’s Crown Hill Funeral Home and Cemetery has just honored him with a memorial bench on his grave. I guess that’s supposed to be symbolic of “giving up the race” or something, but it somehow doesn’t seem appropriate for someone so fast, whose stop-and-start maneuver was called by one newspaper the “most daring move seen on a track.”

Go here for audio of Woodruff talking about his Olympic experience (keep scrolling down).

An Olympic truce

August 11, 2008

Here are the Georgian sharpshooter and the Russian sharpshooter, embracing after winning medals in the Olympics as their countries were teetering on the brink of war. You can tell which camp people are in by whether they react by saying, “Olympic athletes demonstrate how countries should behave” or by saying, “Here’s an Olympic illusion to enjoy while the real world is in flames.”

You probably don’t have to guess which camp I’m in.

During the original  Olympic Games, a truce was observed, and runners were sent to participating cities to announce it; armies were forbidden from entering Olympia, wars were suspended, and legal disputes and the use of the death penalty were forbidden. None of that these days, but  President Bush apparently gave Valdimir Putin a piece of his mind at the Olympics in Beijing. Guess that looking into his eyes and seeing deep into his soul thing is over.

Amateur hour

August 8, 2008

I don’t often agree with The Nation, but it’s hard to argue with this:

When the International Olympic Committee formally awarded Beijing the privilege of hosting the 2008 Olympic Games seven years ago, they accepted assurances from the historically repressive government of China that the country would dramatically expand its commitment to protecting human rights within its borders.

[. . .]

China has failed.

The IOC has failed.

The Olympics will open without progress when it comes to upholding even the most basic standards for individual liberty in China.

But we should not lie to ourselves about the healing power of the Olympic spirit.

That spirit has been crushed – along with the hopes of human rights activists in China and around the world — by the crude cynicism of the Chinese government, and by the determination of the the International Olympic Committee and too many world leaders to turn a blind eye to the broken promises that disminish and demean the Summer Olympics of 2008.

China wants to use the Olympics to make everybody else take it seriously as a responsible world citizen. Most of that “responsbile” world hopes the games will force China to change its ways. It is wildly optimistc to count on either.

Just the facts, Ming

August 7, 2008

Let’s keep reminding ourselves that, no matter how much Chinese officials polish up the place during the Olympics, China is not really a citizen-friendly nation:

Living in Beijing? The government wants to know your shoe size, blood group, political affiliation and where you get your money from, according to police in at least one corner of the security-obsessed Olympic host city.

[. . .]

Residents of the capital have got used to over-zealous police intruding into their lives. Visitors, even those who stay only one night, are expected to register at the local police station. Police sometimes call to ask why if they do not.

Compounds in the city centre have demanded even long-term residents carry special identity cards, while one restaurant owner said his staff had been warned by police not to speak to foreign customers about anything but their orders.

But the police forms seen by Reuters, which were aimed at Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japanese businessmen and foreign non-government workers, were unusually intrusive with detailed personal questions, some of which implied a criminal record.

Among some over 100 categories to be filled were “the last time of breaking the law”, date of release from prison and source of funds. The document also asked about “cultural level” — or educational background — distinguishing features, and favourite hangouts.

I’m glad police are allowed to ask people such questions in this country. I’d end up in jail just because of all the things I can no longer remember. And my shoe size is, of course, a closely guarded secrect.

(Ming is the sixth-most-common character in Chinese first names. It means “bright.”)

Sorry, so sorry

August 6, 2008

The beginning of a story about the Olympics:

Four US Olympic cyclists who caused an outcry when they arrived at Beijing airport wearing smog masks have today apologised to Games organisers.

The four – Mike Friedman, Bobby Lee, Sarah Hammer and Jennie Reed – said that they were wearing the masks because of pollution fears, a touchy subject for the Chinese authorities.

And the beginning of the very next sentence:

As the Chinese capital remains shrouded in smog today,

Now, that’s really sorry.

So long to the dream

August 4, 2008

Say it ain’t so:

While Indiana may never shed its hard-earned and well-established reputation as a basketball state, those who have watched the evolution of the two sports over decades say football is at least closing the gap between the sports in popularity and prestige.

“It’s different school to school, but I’d say football passed basketball five years ago,” Center Grove athletic director Jon Zwitt said. “The pendulum swings for everything and for over a decade, football has more than surpassed basketball at the ticket window.”

In Indiana, the numbers seem to validate the trend. In 1965, the combined attendance for all rounds of boys basketball playoff games was over 1.5 million. Football didn’t even have an Indiana High School Athletic Association playoff system until 1973.

Since 1985, when the IHSAA implemented a five-class system for football, the two best-attended five-game state finals have come in the past three seasons: 51,217 watched the five championship games in 2007, 44,303 in 2005. The IHSAA does not have total playoff attendance numbers for football.

Meanwhile, the 2008 boys basketball playoffs had a total attendance of 427,974, the second-lowest total going back to 1960. Attendance for the four 2008 boys state finals games was 27,963; in 2007, it was 26,215.

If basketball is still king in Indiana, it’s at least sharing the throne with football, some might say.

Really, how can Hoosiers even bear to go on if the state loses the whole kid-at-the-driveway-hoop-with-a big-dream myth/legend? What replaces it? Kid with a big dream throwing a football in the street?

Seriously, though. Some will say this is a temporary challenge to basketball’s supremacy, because of several factors: the ouster of Bobby Knight and IU’s troubled program with Kelvin Sampson; the popularity of Peyton Manning and the Colts; the lingering anger over the imposition of class basketball. But I think the writing is on the, er, gym wall. The kids can do the math and see how many more slots there are in college for football players than for basketball players. And, face it, fans, football is just a lot more interesting game to watch.

China doll

July 31, 2008

One more reason to not be sad about missing the 2008 Olympics:

AP) Polishing up Beijing for the Olympics has extended to the city government telling residents what not to wear, advising against too many colors, white socks with black shoes, and parading in pajamas.

The advice, on top of campaigns to cut out public spitting and promote orderly lining up, was handed out in booklets to 4 million households ahead of the Olympics, an official said Thursday.

The etiquette book giving advice on everything from shaking hands to how to stand is part of a slew of admonitions on manners, said Zheng Mojie, deputy director of the Office of Capital Spiritual Civilization Construction Commission.

So, they’re shutting down factories and getting cars off the road so the air will be breathable. They’re urging citizens to spiffy up and get some manners. The Commie thugs will probably even be on their best behavior. Working toward an illusion that’s just perfectly apt for the Olympics, aren’t they?

It’s coming, it’s coming!

July 31, 2008

Who says there’s never anything fun to do in Fort Wayne?

Right now you can buy your tickets to WWE World Wrestling Entertainment BEFORE the public. The free presale password for the WWE World Wrestling Entertainment show in Fort Wayne gives access to tickets for a short time.

Wow, a secret password that can get us in ahead of that nasty old public. You remember the public. They’re the ones who scream at the performers so loudly that it’s hard for the rest of us to concentrate on the brilliant strategies employed by these fine athletes.

Peyton plays

July 30, 2008

Never mind the gubernatorial race, the condition of Indiana’s economy, the worry over gas prices and the housing crisis and all that other silly stuff. This is what Hoosiers really care about:

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – Peyton Manning has taken his next step on his road to recovery. The Indianapolis Colts quarterback has arrived in town.

Exactly where is still in question.

[. . .]

Manning had been at his Indianapolis home recovering from July 14 surgery to remove an infected bursa sac from his left knee. The team said then that his recovery time would take between four and six weeks.

Dungy made it clear the team will not put Manning on the practice field until he’s ready.

So when will he be ready, huh? When, when, when? Unless we’re talking dynasty, which would seem to be overstating it for the Colts, Super Bowl teams fall apart awfully fast. This year is pretty much do or die for a repeat, so we need a healthy Manning. Of course, that super duper expensive new stadium will probably get us at least one touchdown a game, what with the players’ self-esteem being so high and all. Still, we need Peyton our there playing his heart out.

Out of the pool and into the court

July 18, 2008

Anybody left who still thinks the Olympics are about international good will and the purity of amateur competition?

Gold medalist Laura Wilkinson has sued to gain a synchronized diving spot that would remove Elwood’s 15-year-old Mary Beth Dunnichy from the U.S. Olympic team.

[. . .]

The 10-page filing asks that Wilkinson and Jessica Livingston be placed on the team in the synchro 10-meter platform event, or that another competition be held against Dunnichay and Haley Ishimatsu.

[. . .]

Even though Wilkinson and Livingston had a slightly higher average at a selection camp, 329.88 to 327.32, a panel picked the Ishimatsu/Dunnichay team because it had the highest single score (346.98) of four rounds and a higher “projected competition score,” according to the complaint.

I wonder why nobody’s done a reality show yet in which the contestants try to come up with the most inappropriate things to sue someone over. No, that wouldn’t do — it would threaten the integrity of the criminal justice system, wouldn’t it?

Thanks for helping, now go away

July 14, 2008

Ah, remember the “family farm,” which politicians regularly praise the virtues of when they’re taking billions from us to give to corporate agriculture? Add another to the list of myths and illusions we’re paying to maintain: the one about the “family of four” that takes a day off to enjoy a leisurely day at the ballpark. From 1991 to 2006, the NFL’s average ticket price jumped 147 percent. It was up 110 percent in the NBA and a whopping 151 percent for major league baseball. In the same time span, the average median household income in Indiana grew 68 percent.

So a lot of families in Indiana are giving up their season tickets for the Colts and the Pacers and even skipping the occasional game. Said a Zionsville couple who gave up seats they’ve had for the Pacers for 15 years, “We’re spending $425 to just get in the door, and nobody has had a snack or dinner and nobody has parked a car.”

And this isn’t some accidental evolution:

Instead of the “family of four,” long the Americana image of game-going fans, experts say teams and leagues are now targeting the single corporate fan, usually male but sometimes female, late 20s or early 30s, with disposable income and more generous spending limits. Also, corporations increasingly are buying up large blocks of tickets with which to entertain clients, often leading to empty seats in prime locations (and undoubtedly irking the families who can barely afford the “cheap seats” up near the rafters).

“It’s about catering to a different market,” said Raymond Sauer, Clemson University economics professor and creator of the online blog The Sports Economist. “They’re pricing that (family) segment of the market out more and replacing it with big money people.”

What’s galling is that the government makes ordinary people pay for this nonsense through taxes that help build lavish new stadiums, and then have the nerve to brag about how much good the politicians are doing for economic development and what a good deal such things are for the quality of life here.

Foul ball

July 1, 2008

Only in Indiana. People play basketball in the street. Neighbors complain. Police issue warnings. There is mass outrage, and police back off:

Now Town Council President Bill Guarnery admits the town might have overreacted and will curtail strict enforcement of ordinances.

“We will go back to enforcing ordinances when there is a complaint,” Guarnery said.

Yeah, can’t have any of that pesky “strict enforcement” of ordinances, especially when it interferes with the state religion. That might give people respect for the law or something.

Zee deal, she is made

June 19, 2008

Finally:

Comcast Corporation and the Big Ten Network announced today that they have reached a long-term multimedia agreement for Comcast to carry Big Ten Network programming across television, broadband and video-on-demand in time for the 2008 college football season.

Under the terms of the agreement, Comcast will initially launch the Network as part of its expanded basic level of service to promote it to the majority of its customers residing in states with Big Ten universities (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, with the exception of the Philadelphia region which will launch on a broadly distributed digital level of service) starting August 15th.

I’m not sure yet, but I may have finally given up on IU basketball, so this is a little late for me.

Attention, sports fans

June 19, 2008

The News-Sentinel’s Reggie Hayes, writing about the possible name change for the Fort Wayne Wizards baseball team, brings up only to dismiss rather flippantly a worthy suggestion:

Today, we’re talking team names, a topic both frivolous and essential. It’s frivolous because it doesn’t affect the way a team plays and primarily serves as a marketing tool. It’s essential because fans have to feel a sense of pride in their team’s name. No one wants to wear a T-shirt that says Fort Wayne French Impressionists.

But let’s consider the merits of a team called the Fort Wayne French Impressionists. That would marry the most precise of sports — what would the game be without its states? — with one of the most abstract styles of painting. We can show the whole world that Hoosiers can be sports fans and aware of art forms not involving three chords or Quentin Tarantinto. There would be some cool opportunities for colorful uniforms, not to mention team memorabilia. And we shouldn’t have too much trouble coming up with a mascot.

Oh, hey, wait. Let’s go all the way and really impress people: The Fort Wayne Fauvists. Much more colorful uniforms.