Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Sports Bucket List

I've discussed my sports bucket list briefly on different occasions but I'm going to try to narrow it to five. I'll leave the obvious 'go to super bowl or final four' off the list because I'm sure they make most sports fans' lists. So in no particular order here they are: Attend a night football game at LSU-I love SEC football, despite being raised on Miami Hurricane football most of my life and Baton Rouge at night may offer the best atmosphere in the SEC. One radio host has described the smell at an SEC game as "barbecue, bourbon, and Chanel Number 5". I've talked about my love of college athletics and this is one of the best environments in college sports. See a team hoist the Stanley Cup-Live I'll preface this by saying it'd be even more special if it happens to be the Boston Bruins celebrating. The cup can be seen at the Hockey Hall of Fame but to see the joy and culmination of a hockey season live, would be extra special. I'd never touch the cup of course, since I hadn't won it, much like I did with the Calder Cup a few years back-no touchy. Play St. Andrews Golf Course-It is the home of golf and one of the best courses in the world. I love links golf and the creative shot making it often requires. Not that I'm very good at it, but it's fun. Did you know St. Andrews is also a public golf course? Unlike Augusta National or some other famous courses in the US, any average Joe can play the course. Attend an Army-Navy game-along with Harvard-Yale, this is a great rivalry game that no one talks about anymore. The pageantry and spectacle of the cadets entering the stadium and the bands playing. Yes the game was more 'relevant' 50 or 60 years ago, but it still means a lot to a lot of people. Take a west coast baseball trip-My brother & some friends and I took a trip in the (lost) summer of '94, starting in Milwaukee and working back east. We did the Wrigley-Comiskey day night double header, Jacobs Field and Three Rivers Stadium. We also managed to squeeze in the Football Hall of Fame in our six games in eight day road trip. I think AT & T Park in San Fransisco is about the best 'new' baseball stadium there is. Going to Seattle, Oakland, both LA Stadiums and San Diego would be added bonuses, particularly the history at Dodger Stadium and the Oakland Coliseum. Yes it will be harder to drive than our Midwest excursion of 1994 but just as fun. I actually had one extra one for this list but I will be fulfilling it shortly, meeting Bob Knight. Besides my love of Hoosier basketball, Knight, along with John Wooden is one of the greatest teachers of the game of basketball. Teaching is something I tried to focus on in my three years of coaching. Say what you will about the man, he knows more basketball than almost anyone on the planet and to hear him speak will be an honor.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Greatest Rock Band AMERICA has Ever Produced

This one has been kicking around in my head for awhile. While England has us beat in the rock department (See Beatles, Stones, Zeppelin, The Who), the US essentially created the genre. You can ask ten people at a bar who the best American rock band is and get ten different answers. I myself have only ever received one answer without hesitation, the Beach Boys. I know at least one of my Twitter followers wouldn't have to think about her vote for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. I love Springsteen as well as Aerosmith and Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR) but my vote is cast for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. They've undergone minor personnel changes in their 30+ years but they have been the best and most consistent rock band this country has ever produced. The release of the live anthology in November '09 confirms this. The one thing Petty was missing was a definitive live collection. Petty has few equals as a songwriter and Mike Campbell is as underrated as a sideman can be. Listen to the way Petty bashes the very industry he works for on "The Last DJ" cd. He also landed on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in the 70's for refusing to raise the price of his record, due to an increase in the cost of vinyl. He's always managed to put the fans first. His ticket prices have managed to avoid becoming outlandish as well. For my money he played the best Super Bowl halftime show as well, and yes I realize my favorite band, the Rolling Stones played the Super Bowl, previously. The tension between Petty and Simon Cowell on the Tonight Show was palpable. He wrote one of the best 'driving songs' ever, Runnin Down a Dream. It gets your foot tappin as you push down the accelerator. The list of classics is endless: American Girl, Breakdown, Refugee, Rebels, I Won't Back Down, Honey Bee, Saving Grace, etc. If you need further proof of the power of Tom Petty, ask Eddie Murphy. That's right Eddie Murphy. In 1987 Petty co-wrote a song with Bob Dylan called "Jammin Me"about commercialization and overexposure of personalities. The line "Take back, Eddie Murphy" prompted Murphy to respond "F**k, Tom Petty!" Murphy's career hasn't been the same since, because you don't mess with Tom Petty...EVER!

Monday, December 21, 2009

You Say Parity, I Say Mediocrity

With the semester wrapping up, I thought I'd write about something else which is soon wrapping up its season, the NFL. I heard Bernie Mullin speak about his love of basketball and how he believed that David Stern was the best commissioner EVER in any league. I squirmed in my seat a little at the thought of this, because if it were put to a vote in the U.S., I think Pete Rozelle would win in a landslide. He merged two football leagues into one, and had the vision to create one of the best sports "holidays" of the year, the Super Bowl. He had one big criticism during his career, playing games the weekend after the JFK assassination in 1963. If he were alive today, he would probably be asked about rumors of steroids and amphetamines in locker rooms in the 1970s and early 80s. That said, I'm not sure Rozelle would be happy with some of the aspects of today's NFL. He would like that television revenue sharing keeps small markets like Green Bay competitive with larger markets like New York. I don't know if he would like treatment of retired players who built the league or mediocre product on display on Sundays. Good teams used to routinely beat the bad teams and the cream would rise to the top early in the course of a season. The problem is that the cream doesn't necessarily rise now and a team can get hot in December and win the Super Bowl. Awful teams routinely beat good ones and quarterbacks are regularly asked not to lose a game rather than win it. The lowly Oakland Raiders have three wins against playoff teams (Philadelphia, Denver, and Cincinnati) and the then undefeated Saints were a botched field goal away from losing to a three win Washington team. The NFL has avoided the over expansion that baseball, basketball, and hockey have had in the last 20 years. Too many teams and a watered down talent pool. It has also surpassed baseball as our pastime in my 39 years on Earth. Unfortunately, the on field product and game have declined and I think Pete Rozelle would agree with me.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Weight of (Unrealistic) Expectations

Monday, Notre Dame fired their head football coach, Charlie Weis after five seasons. His 35-27 record was not acceptable by Notre Dame standards. Notre Dame while prestigious, has become a job that only a select few desire anymore. This is because of the unrealistic expectations placed on coaches to deliver them back to the old days when national championships were common place. In reality, Notre Dame hasn't won a national title since 1988 and hasn't really been relevant since Lou Holtz left in 1996. In reality, Notre Dame has won four national titles since integration and seven before it. Their 1966 national title came under scrutiny because number three Alabama may have had the best team but were punished in the polls because Bear Bryant didn't have any African American players. I don't know where football fans lost track of time but Notre Dame is no longer a football power when it habitually loses to service academies and doesn't draw top flight recruits anymore. SEC football, Big 12 and Pac 10 to lesser extents are played at a different level and at a different speed. Notre Dame fans would do well to lose the sense of entitlement because they think they are an elite football program. If they need help, they may look to the southern end of Indiana and the Indiana University basketball team. The fans have no illusions that the school is a work in progress and pretty much has been since the firing of Bob Knight. Tom Crean inherited two players when he took over in 2007 and is gradually building the program back to its place in the college basketball world. They still sit third all time with five national titles (tied with the University of North Carolina) behind Kentucky and UCLA. Take a lesson gold domers, rebuilding takes time. REBUILDING-learn the word.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

My Mount Rushmore of 20th Century Music

I want to talk about Mount Rushmore today. I'm talking about Mount Rushmore the concept rather than the historic landmark. The concept is putting four people, in metaphoric stone, above all others for eternity. My friends have a Mount Rushmore of NFL coaches for example. It generally includes Vince Lombardi, Chuck Noll, and Bill Walsh with the fourth spot being hotly contested. The Mount Rushmore I'm speaking of today is for 20th century music, which, with all due respect to Beethoven, Bach, et al, is when music took off with the birth of rock and roll. The first person carved into my rock is Robert Johnson. He laid the foundation for electric blues and the other three men on my monument. He only recorded 38 songs but they are some of the most important recordings in music history. Even Eric Clapton said he'd never heard anything more soulful. The second is Muddy Waters. McKinley Morganfield was from Mississippi, like Johnson and learned the guitar while working on Stovall Plantation. He took the blues sound to Chicago and electrified it, changing his name to Muddy Waters along the way. In the movie "Crossroads" Willie Brown says "Muddy Waters discovered electricity" and he couldn't be more correct. Waters crossed over and took delta blues to new heights. Howlin' Wolf is the third member of my Mount Rushmore. Wolf was an amazing vocalist and bandleader, who along with Waters, influenced some working class kids from England, with names like Clapton, Page, Jagger, and Richards, and started a revolution called the British Invasion. The last one may raise some eyebrows because I think he's the king of rock and roll but I'm in the minority; it's Chuck Berry. Now Elvis fans are going to be upset with me but there's some logic behind my thinking. I really thin Elvis was the first "brand" entertainer. He was bigger than just a musician. He was a movie star and American icon. We still print stamps of him 30 years after his death. Chuck Berry on the other hand, was a rock star. He also had a hand in the British Invasion and laid the foundation for modern guitar rock. These four gentlemen represent the most influential and best the twentieth century has to offer.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Death of Sports Loyalty

Today's blog is a buzzword that is thrown around in sports, LOYALTY. Older sports fans wonder what became of it and some even go as far as to say it ruined the game. Would the Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s have won four Super Bowls if there had been free agency in the NFL then? Would their star players have stayed for the championships or left for more money? On the other hand, with the current NFL salary cap Pittsburgh's management would have been forced to let players go? It seems that coaches, players, and management have free reign to go to the highest bidder. Now the average sports fan may preach loyalty, but they would have a hard time resisting the large sums of money that are offered in sports today. Even colleges have gotten in on the act, hiring big name coaches and luring coaches who are considered "hot names" from smaller schools. Coaches will also leave top schools for their "dream jobs" in what's basically a lateral move. These moves can enrage the passionate sports fan and create animosity towards teams, players, coaches, and management. Nick Saban has left multiple organizations for money and the stroking of his ego. Numerous baseball players have jumped from their teams to teams with deeper pockets. Can you really blame them as a fan? The days are gone when you knew your team would be together and your stars would always be there. Unfortunately this is what sports fans have to accept going into the future. Hired gun coaches will also be a part of it. As a fan of college athletics, this bugs me more. There won't be anymore Don Haskins, Bob Knights, or John Wooodens who spend twenty five plus years at one school and who's names are synonymous with their schools. College sports have gone the route of the pros and winning now and having the best pay at the best schools are paramount. I guess I need to get with the times too.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Two Words: Basketball Withdraw

Normally this time of year, I am polishing my offense and working out details for the upcoming basketball season. This year, I'm unable to coach because of my internship which culminates my college experience. I love working with the players and seeing them develop from the start of the year to the end. I like a good hard practice focusing on fundamentals of defensive basketball combined with a couple of new elements that players can learn and take away. Most of my drills are ones I've learned from college coaches and altered to suit my players. In three years, my teams have been among the best prepared and consistently at the top for free throw percentage, which is one of the most basic fundamental skills to me. I like the match ups against other coaches, whether it's substitutions or their offense versus my defense, etc. I'll be attending some games but it's just not the same thing. The hours of preparation and practice leading to to game success or failure are what I'll miss the most. That translation from teaching to doing is about the best part of being a coach. Hopfully, I'll have the chance to coach and teach the game next season.