Friday, December 30, 2011

Favorite Sports Stories of 2011

Another year of sports is coming to an end. Last year I put together my top ten sports moments but this year I want to focus on the stories so here are my top ten.

10. The NCAA College Football National Championship Game: Yeah, Oregon lost, but it was great to be there. What an amazing experience to get to see the team you love play in the biggest of games.

9. Emerson Middle School Boys Basketball Buzzer Beater: Our boys got to play at the NBA All-Star Jam Session at the Convention Center downtown. They earned there way by winning several close games but the most dramatic was their come from behind victory over Gompers with Jordan hitting a jumper as time expired. "Jordan hits the game-winner!" Has a familiar ring to it, doesn't it?

8. Tim Tebow: I have not been a fan of Tim Tebow but his late game dramatics have been a pretty incredible story to watch and I love the Tebowing phenomenon.

7. Game Six of the MLB World Series: I was not all that excited about watching the Cards and the Rangers in this year's fall classic and at the start of game six, with all those errors, I wondered if either team really wanted it. But with the Cards down and the Rangers a strike away from the title, the Cards come up with the hit. And then they come up with more hits and in the eleventh they win it. And then they win it all. Pretty crazy and I was super happy for former Dodger, Furcal.

6. Matt Kemp's Triple Crown Run: There was not much to cheer for from the empty stands of Dodger Stadium this season. But with a Cy Young pitcher on the mound and Matt Kemp vying for the triple crown, I was still watching our boys in blue this past September. And as Dodger fans say, "Wait 'til next year."

5. Emerson Middle School Boys Flag Football City Championship: Once in a while a special team comes along. Five years ago it was a special Emerson girls basketball team who won the city title and this year our boys' flag football team made an incredible run. They finished their undefeated season with a come-from-behind win on a catch by Jordan with no time on the clock (yes, the same Jordan who hit the game-winning basketball shot at the All-Star Jam Session).

4. Uganda's Little League Team: My hometown of Bend, Oregon made it to the Regionals of the Little League World Series but their story wasn't as powerful as the one from Uganda, a team who never made it to the Little League World Series because of paperwork discrepancies. They are still playing baseball in Uganda and there is no doubt we will see them in Williamsport one of these summers.

3. VCU V. Butler at the Final Four: When Number 11 seed Virginia Commonwealth was set to play against Number 8 seed Butler I didn't know which Cinderella to root for. But after watching VCU coach Shaka Smart getting his team fired up with his Iron Man drill, I knew who I was pulling for. 

2. The Japanese Women's World Cup Soccer Team: A devastating earthquake and tsunami, and a bunch of short soccer-playing girls. Yeah, I wanted them to upset the Americans in the World Cup Final and when it came down to PKs, Hope Solo couldn't make the save. A few key misses handed Japan the crown and I'll just try to forget all of the racist slurs that cluttered the twitterverse shortly thereafter.

1. The Final Day of the MLB Regular Season: Okay, so the scenarios on the final day: Boston and Tampa Bay were in a dead heat for the AL Wild Card, and Atlanta and St. Louis both still had a shot at the NL Wild Card. When the Braves lost to the Philllies, the Cards watched and waited after their own victory over Houston and then celebrated Atlanta's collapse. Then, in the course of moments, with the Rays down 7 in the eighth against the Yankees, it looked like the Sox had slammed the brakes on their fall skid, but then they blew the lead, and the Rays walked off on an Evan Longoria homer. The Red Sox were eliminated ending an incredible final day of the regular season.

Monday, December 12, 2011

My List of Top 5 Players...

You know how people have their lists: the celebrities they are allowed to fantasize about being with? Well, D and I both have our lists, but we tend toward athletes. I don't know who's on his list although he said Hope Solo but I think that was just to make me mad. So, as a counter the distasteful MILFs, I've come up with my list of PILFs (active players).

Feel free to gawk, sound off, and contribute your own PILFs to the list.

5. Jason Taylor: I love defense and those eyes, seriously. He lost some points a couple of years ago during Hard Knocks but he still makes my list.

4. Mark Sanchez: During the Jets' Hard Knocks season, Mark Sanchez won me over. I usually go for defensive guys, but he's an underdog (at least now that's he's not at SC anymore) and he's a prankster. And he cracks me up in press conferences.

3. Ray Allen: My only NBA pick, I've been crushed out on Ray Allen since he was Jesus Shuttlesworth. And Laker fans hate him which makes him all the more appealing to me.

2. Carlos Beltran: Although a little injury plagued, I love me some Carlos Beltran. That smile, come on. Charming. But I'll always have to imagine him as a Met. Now that he's a Giant, it's kind of over.

1. Matt Kemp: MVP stats, re-signed with my Dodgers, you had to know Matt Kemp would top my list.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

PAC 12 > SEC In My Humble Opinion

I know the powers that be, so many sportswriters, pollsters, pundits etc... have a love affair with the SEC. I know they've won so many BCS titles... but after the past two weeks of football (in particular) I'll take the PAC 12 any day.

Yes, I'm an Oregon Duck fan and I've never pretended to be neutral or unbiased, but the SEC game of the season, LSU v. Alabama, ended 9-6 in OT with the favored team winning. BORING. Our game of the season, Stanford v. Oregon, ended in an exciting 53 - 30 upset.

They can take their Roll Tide/ War Eagle. I'll take the Oregon/Oregon State Civil War, "Fight On" from SC fans, a tree mascot, barking from those Dawgs at UW, and even that silly pitchfork from ASU.

Besides, I think I smell roses

Monday, September 26, 2011

Told You So...

Not sure if you've noticed, but as long as I've been alive, no baseball player has won baseball's triple crown. It's actually rare for someone to even come close. So during a season when Dodger fans have had very little to cheer about, I just have to point out that I called it. Like Babe Ruth calling a shot I saw that Matt Kemp was different this season (here's a link to that blog post in case you don't believe me). He might end up falling a few points shy of the triple crown, but I've been stalking him all season and during innings when I was able to make eye-contact, I'm pretty sure he hit over .500. If any other MLB players would like to book my stalking services for next year, please leave a comment including stats and your off-season training plans.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Going Back After 9/11

D and I joke that we belong to the church of baseball, but in September of 2001 baseball, like the rest of the sporting world, came to stunned halt. The attacks on 9/11 left so many of us shocked and scared and in the need of healing. So when baseball started up again, D and I made our way to Dodger Stadium.

From the stands above the field on that cool fall night, we watched the familiar palm trees sway in the outfield. We looked out on the sage hills of Chavez Ravine as the sky glowed like stained glass. Vin Scully’s voice cracked and echoed into the stadium and a hush spread across the crowd.  That steady, familiar voice calmed me as Vin's put the week's event in perspective.

Then, LA firefighters and police officers joined Dodger and Padre players unfurling a flag across the length of the outfield. We took a moment of silence and in that quiet, a quiet like none I’ve ever heard in Los Angeles, void of helicopters or planes in the distance, words, whistles or coughs, I saw how our country, our world, could come together again.  Among the crowd of 42,000 under empty LA skies, the ruffle of the American flag served as the backdrop to all the images of the past week and that night, I looked down through the twilight and thanked God for baseball.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Home Town Pride at the Little League World Series

I love this time of year. Shark Week and the X Games are over, the promise of football season awaits and the Little League World Series takes priority on our TV. Every summer I get pulled into stories of boys who love America's past time and the LLWS really does make it feel like our game once again.

So I was pretty thrilled to get to see my hometown, Bend, Oregon making it to the regional finals this past weekend. They made a great run putting away Bothell, Washington in the semis and facing a team from Billings, Montana in the final. Watching those kids and their families made me think back to the games I played in and watched growing up in Bend.

A lot has changed in Bend. It has grown in population from 20,000 when I moved away in 1992, to almost 80,000 today. But the little league fields at Juniper and Stover Park remain crisp in my memory. I watched my brothers on those fields after I decided baseball was too boring. I cheered them on just like the families from Bend cheered on their boys in the Northwest regional.

Bend lost the regional final to Billings and for the first time ever, Montana punched a ticket to Williamsport. But those kids from Bend having nothing to hang their heads about. They made this Bendite and many others extremely proud.

Oh, and there's another team who won't be traveling to Williamsport for the Little League World Series. If you have seen this ESPN story on the team from Uganda, it's worth a watch.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

World Cup, Twitter and Racial Slurs

You might have watched the US Women's team play Japan in the Women's World Cup Final on Sunday like I did. It was a well-played match with the Japanese team winning after coming from behind twice to win in penalty kicks. I watched with family and although we were disappointed (we were pulling for the US team even though we are Japanese American) we got over the tough loss and were happy for the Japanese team.

from the Palos Verdes News volume XIV
Later that night I checked into twitter to find "Jap" trending. What? I clicked on top tweets and found many posts by people as horrified as I was. But when clicking on all tweets I read tweet after tweet using the derogatory term Japs. This was upsetting but not as upsetting as the tweets asking how the term Jap was offensive. So, here is a lesson for the kids (since many of the tweets were authored by youngsters) or others who don't know.

Jap was used as a pejorative during World War II. It was used interchangablely for the people of Japan who America was at war with, as well as Japanese-Americans (many of whom were removed from the west coast and interned or served in the armed forces). According to both the Oxford and Merriam-Webster dictionaries, it is considered a racial slur. It is not the equivalent of Brit or Aussie. Unless you intend to come off as a racist, do not use this slur.

This link is to a discussion of the twitter phenomenon and here is a link to the Densho: The Japanese American Internment where you can learn more about the treatment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Offense or Defense?

So, despite this Nike ad from a few years back...

I love defense and pitching. Home runs happen all the time but a great catch at the wall, a super-smooth double-play, a perfect game, a no-hitter, those keep me coming to the ballpark (particularly since Chipotle no longer gives two-for-one burritos for homers at Dodger Stadium).

I did marry a guy who once pitched a perfect game, but what do you prefer in baseball? Do you dig the long ball like Heather Locklear or is your favorite part of Baseball Tonight the Webgems?

Offense or defense? What say you?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Another Family's Hoop Dreams "Off the Rez"

I grew up playing basketball in Central Oregon, and I got my first lessons in Rez Ball early and often. Quick middle school guards from Madras ran circles around me and my team. In high school, the Pendleton forwards could handle every ball their guards passed to them. Hearing the NPR interview and then watching the documentary "Off the Rez" airing on TLC, the Schimmel family brought me back to those players and teams. I'm pretty sure my older siblings played against Shoni Schimmel's parents and the girl's got game. Following one family from the Umatilla Reservation, to Portland, and into the world of competitive girls basketball. Set your DVRs and move "Off the Rez" to your sports documentary watch list.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Maybe NOT Saying "Perfect Game" or "No Hitter" is the Jinx

Our wedding tables: names after ballparks.
photo by John Riedy Photography.
The Dodgers win at Shea.
D and I went on a baseball tour for our honeymoon in 2002. As we watched Dodgers pitcher Odalis Perez put away his 18th straight batter from the cheap seats at Shea, a guy explained to his date why Mets' fans were applauding Dodger put-outs saying, "He's pitching a no hitter." I looked at the guy, then looked at D and asked, "Uh, he's  perfect, right?" In the next inning Odalis walked a batter and then gave up a two-run home run.

D has forever held me responsible for ruining Odalis' perfect game, but recently, as we've watched pitchers go deep into flawless games only for them to give up perfection in the last few innings, I got to thinking. Maybe we have it backwards. Maybe these events are so rare because people don't call them as they see them. The tension from the crowd gets the pitcher all stressed out and it's lonely how no one talks to the guy in the dugout. Commentators somehow get to mention what's happening and ESPN covers possible history, so why can't we say it? Maybe fans should start saying "perfect" and "no hitter" and then they'll happen more.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Matt Kemp Redeux

At my first preseason game at Dodger Stadium this spring I noticed something different. First I noted the things that hadn't changed: the beauty of Chavez Ravine, the smell of garlic fries and Dodger Dogs. But then I noticed something different: a player, warming up away from fray. He was on his own and focused. He didn't join his teammates when we stood for the National Anthem. He simply removed his cap, watched the flag and then resumed his warm-ups. Huh. That's different, I thought. Hopefully Matt Kemp will be different this season.

So far, he has been. He's stealing bases, running out infield ground balls and hitting walk-off homers. Welcome back to baseball, Matt Kemp. We've missed you. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Fab Five Discussion We Should Really Be Having

Just before this year's NCAA tournament tipped off, ESPN aired The Fab Five as part of their 30 for 30 series. I couldn't wait to watch. I was a high school senior in 1992. I remembered this team fondly and the documentary didn't disappoint. It captured the excitement and controversy surrounding these guys and I loved hearing the players' memories of their two years together at Michigan. For me the highlight was hearing the Fab Five talk smack about Duke. I hated those Duke teams (particularly Christian Laettner) and I loved that the Michigan guys shared my sentiments. I was also disappointed that Chris Webber didn't participate, that we didn't have the opportunity to hear his version of events. 

Much of the media response to the film has focused around Jalen Rose's use of the term Uncle Tom and Grant Hill's response. While this discussion about race is important, I wish we could talk about another major problem in collegiate athletics: the huge profits being made on the backs of amateur athletes. With so many young student-athletes coming from humble beginnings, how can we keep programs, players and families clean? What responsibility does the NCAA have to enforce its rules? What about the professional leagues and agents? Should players share in some of these profits?

I wish I knew how to fix it, but I am just a fan tired of the violations and allegations. It's sad to see players and teams stripped of accomplishments and punished for transgressions. But there is no end is in sight unless we change the way our most talented athletes navigate their way into college programs and onto professional leagues.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

ESPN's 30 for 30 Series: STILL Required Watching

I wrote about this documentary series this past October, but since then I've had the chance to see a few more and so here are five more worth watching:

Little Big Men: The story of a little league team from Washington State and where they are now.

Into the Wind: A kid gets cancer and decides to run across Canada on a prosthetic leg.

The Fab Five: Relive the magic of CWebb, Jalen, Juwan, Ray and Jimmy.

Fernando Nation: The man who brought Latinos back to Chavez Ravine. "If you've got a sombrero, throw it to the sky." Vin Scully

Winning Time: Trash talking at it's best. Reggie Miller v. the Knicks.

Oh, and even though it's not part of this series and instead is part of The Year of the QB, The Color Orange about Condredge Holloway breaking the QB color barrier at Tennessee is awesome.  

---original post from October 2010---

I know there's a whole lot of sports to watch right now with the MLB LCS, along with college and NFL football, but if you are a sports fan and you haven't started recording ESPN's documentary series 30 for 30, you should.  I arrived a little late to the show and still have a few to catch up on, but here are my favorites so far.

Run Ricky Run A thoughtful look at the complexities of Ricky Williams.

June 17, 1994  I'm sure this date rings a bell.  The Knicks were playing the Rockets in the NBA Finals, the US was hosting the FIFA World Cup, and Arnold Palmer was ending his career, but none of us could turn away from OJ Simpson's white Bronco. This film has the footage to prove it. 

The Two Escobars  This is the film I imagine Entourage's fictional Medellin could have been.  It illuminates the lives and deaths of Columbian soccer player Andres Escobar, and the drug lord Pablo Escobar.

Guru of Go  LMU, Paul Westhead, Hank Gathers, Bo Kimble, and a left-handed free-throw that still brings tears to my eyes. 

Four Days in October  Remember when the Red Sox were a team of playful, lovable idiots, cursed for 80-some years?  Remember when you felt for Red Sox and sympathized with their bad luck before they became almost as annoying as Yankees fans? Here are the four unbelievable days that changed Red Sox Nation forever.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Emerson Boys Hoop It Up at the NBA All-Star Jam Session

I spend many a weekend coaching boys and girls sports teams at the middle school where I teach: flag football in the fall, basketball in the winter, softball and soccer in the spring. If I posted about each of these weekend events, all Throwing Cookies would be is an Emerson Middle School sports blog, but this weekend, our student athletes had an opportunity that only comes once in a lifetime and with that I present my first Emerson Sports blog. Los Angeles hosted the NBA All-Star game and Emerson's boys basketball team earned their way into the NBA Jam Session Invitational.

FIrst, Emerson had to beat Nightingale at Miguel Contreras Learning Complex. They pulled off a come-from-behind victory almost as dramatic as their win the previous week over Palms. 
When our student-athletes arrived at the Los Angeles Convention Center, an NBA rep met us and provided our players with shooting jerseys and Gatorade starter packs. They then escorted the team through the Convention Center to the Jam Session.
The team stretched and shouted out one last Emerson before their first game.
On Saturday, Emerson met Henry in their first game and after scoring four points in the first ten seconds they never trailed. In their second game, a tough team from Gompers led by six in the final two minutes. Tough Emerson d, clutch foul-shooting, and a last second shot sent Emerson to the tournament's final four in dramatic fashion.
On Sunday, foul trouble and a tough Portola squad ended Emerson's tournament run. Congrats to all our Panthers and thanks to the NBA for an amazing experience for all of the teams, families and schools.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Disturbing Truth: Scout is an Auburn Tiger

War Damn Eagle. 
Until they won the national championship on Monday, I didn't know much about the University of Auburn.  I didn't even know what state Auburn was in.  But after some extended exposure to their fanbase a frightening reality was exposed.  Even though D and I are Duck fans, our dog is an Auburn Tiger.

  • Her name is Scout Finch and she's from Maycomb County, Alabama.
  • She keeps barking, "War Eagle."
  • She wore a cocktail dress and insisted her boyfriend wear an orange oxford (tucked-in), khakis and loafers to the dog park. 
  • She smiles and wags her tail as she talks smack about the Ducks and then insists that she isn't being rude at all.  
  • She keeps lifting her paw into the Heisman pose.  
  • She gloats about how SEC football is just, "A way of life 'round here.  Family, All In."
  • She's told five different versions of the War Eagle legend.
  • She keeps barking, "Bodygetta Bodygetta Bodygetta Bah Rah Rah Rah Sis Boom Bah Weagle Weagle War Damn Eagle Kick em in the butt, Big Blue Hey," whatever that means. 
  • She suddenly outweighs everyone on the Oregon line by 45 pounds. 
  • She keeps insisting, "Hey, y'all played a real good game."
  • She says she had no idea her dad took $180,000 for her to play. 

Friday, January 7, 2011

BCS Tickets, Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

Me:  It couldn't possibly be that hard to find tickets to the National Championship game.
Ticket God:  Have you checked Stubhub?  Oh, my bad.  Just kidding. 
Me:  So it is that hard.
Ticket God:  Possibly.  You don't have a few thousand dollars?
Me:  No.
Ticket God:  Well...
Me:  Is there anything I can do?
Ticket God:  Just show up.  I'll see what I can do.
Me:  Thank you, Ticket God.  Thank you.