Thursday, December 31, 2009

100-ish things I want to do in sports

Here is a list of things I want to do in sports. It is kind of a running list I have always had in my head, but just never put on paper. Some of them are already crossed off the list. Some of these things seem pretty simple, I just haven't gotten a chance to do it yet.

My teams

1. Watch Penn State play at Beaver Stadium
2. Watch a game from the sideline at a Cowboys regular season game (I have done it for a scrimmage against the Texans).
3. Watch Manchester United play.
4. See the US men's soccer team play
5. See the US men's soccer team play outside of the United States
6. Watch the Bearkats win an NCAA Tournament game (not the opening round)
7. See the Braves play in Atlanta
8. See the Cowboys play on the road
9. See the Cowboys play on the road in a game not in Houston
10. Go to a Cowboys game on Monday Night
11. Go to a Cowboys game on Thanksgiving
12. See the Cowboys play in the playoffs
13. See the Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game
14. Watch UConn play in college basketball

The Rivalries
15. Watch Duke-Carolina basketball game
16. Go to the Iron Bowl (Alabama-Auburn)
17. Go to Texas-OU football
18. Go to Texas-Texas A&M football
19. Go watch Army-Navy football
20. Go see Harvard-Yale football
21. Go see a Yankee-Red Sox game
22. See the US men's soccer team take on Mexico
23. Go to a Cowboys-Redskins game
24. Go to Michigan-Ohio State football game
25. See Federer vs. Nadal

The Stadiums
26. Watch a game at Old Trafford
27. Watch a football game at the Big House
28. Watch a football game at LSU
29. Watch a football game at Notre Dame
30. Watch a football game at Tennessee
31. Visit the Roman Coliseum
32. Visit every Major League Baseball ballpark
33. Visit every minor league ballpark in Texas. (MLB affiliated clubs only)
34. Watch a college basketball game at Rupp Arena
35. Watch a college basketball game at Pualey Pavilion
36. Watch a college basketball game at Madison Square Garden
37. Watch a college baseball game at Rosenblatt Stadium.
38. Watch a Big 5 game at the Palestra.
39. Watch a game at Cameron Indoor Stadium
40. Watch an afternoon game at Wrigley Field from the bleachers
41. Watch a game at Lambeau Field

The Events
42. Go to the Final Four.
43. Go to the Super Bowl
44. Go to the World Series
45. Go to the BCS National Championship game
46. Go to the Cotton Bowl (the game, not necessarily the stadium)
47. Go to the Rose Bowl.
48. Go to the Sugar Bowl
49. Go to the Fiesta Bowl
50. Go to the Orange Bowl
51. Go to the College World Series.
52. Attend the Masters.
53. Attend the US Open
54. Attend the British Open
55. Attend an English Premier League match
56. Go to the MLB All-Star Game
57. Go to a World Cup match
58. Go to a World Cup match outside of the United State
59. Go to a World Cup Final
60. Attend the Heisman Trophy presentation
61. Attend an NHL game
62. Attend an NHL playoff game
63. Attend a Stanley Cup Final
64. Attend an NHL game in Canada
65. Attend a NASCAR race (I just have to see what the big deal is)
66. See a UEFA Champions League Match
67. See a UEFA Champions League Final
68. Attend the Olympic opening ceremonies
69. Attend the Olympic closing ceremonies
70. Attend an Olympic event
71. Attend the NFL Draft
72. Spend a weekend at the Big East basketball tournament
73. Spend a weekend at the ACC basketball tournament
74. Attend the Big 12 football Championship game
75. Attend the SEC football Championship game
76. Attend the FCS National Championship game
77. Go to a Texas High School Football State Championship game.
78. Go the McDonald's All-American game.
79. Go watch a match at Wimbledon
80. Go to the tennis US Open
81. Go to the French Open
82. Go to the Kentucky Derby

Just do it
83. Take batting practice at a major league ball park.
84. Play a round of golf at Pebble Beach.
85. Play a round of golf at St. Andrews.
86. Sit in the outfield for home run derby.
88. Catch a ball during an MLB game.
89. Never see another NBA game in person again (Last one was 2007 in San Antonio and I only went because it was free.)
91. See every NFL team play
92. See every Division I men's basketball team play
93. Touch the Heisman Trophy
94. Walk 18 holes (as a spectator) with Tiger Woods
95. Hit a hole in one
96. Step in the batters box against a major league pitcher
97. Watch the first round of the NCAA Tournament at a casino in Vegas (obviously if I don't work in college athletics)
98. Broadcast a game at Madison Square Garden
99. Go to a Texas HS 6-man game
100. Go to all three rounds of the NCAA Tournament in the same year.
101. Do a bowl game tour (see as many bowl games as possible in the same season.)
102. Play in the Main Event of the World Series of Poker

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Empire is Evil again; baseball offseason

I cringed this morning when I heard the news -- Curtis Granderson will be going to the Yankees. You have got to be kidding me. Granderson is such a good guy and someone I like to root for. I can't do that if he is in New York.

The Tigers have always been my American League team to root for, so I took a liking to Granderson. He is just a guy who seems to play the game the right way. Plus with everything he is involved in off the field as well, you just can't help but wish for good things for him.

Now he is a Yankee. My only hope is it doesn't last long.

The Braves have spent the offseason looking for a couple of arms for the pen and seem to have found them in Takashi Saito to replace Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez. I think Saito is solid, but I don't know what to expect from Wagner. I have seen him play quite a bit going back to his Houston days.

If Wagner can settle into the closer role, I think the back end of the pen is in good shape. The Braves are also set with the starting rotation, with six starters signed right now. Someone is probably going to have to go and I wouldn't mind it being Derek Lowe.

The last think they need to address is getting a stick. If they move Lowe's 15 mil off the books, that could really open up some opportunities for Frank Wren in the free agent market. The two big names out there right now are Jason Bay and Matt Holliday. I think Atlanta will probably be priced out of those negotiations meaning they will have to take a look at the next level of guys, including Jermaine Dye. I wouldn't mind seeing the former Brave coming back to Atlanta.

After the strong push at the end of the season, with Wild Card talks going to the last week of the season, there is reason for some excitement going into this season. I think they do need one, maybe two more bats to put the whole package together.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Has it been that long?

Wow. I can't believe I haven't been on here since the first of May. I guess it has been busy around here. We have wrapped up a pro baseball season and are damn near through with college football, at least for the Bearkats.

I am going to have to get on here more, because there is so much that has been going on. The Braves made a run this year and then just ran out of gas at the end. But I do like the direction they are going and think next season they have a good chance to contend for another division title.

The Cowboys are always going to be a rollercoaster ride, and frankly, it is the only rollercoaster you will ever see me on. A month ago, Romo was crap and on his way out the door and Wade wasn't going to finish the year. Now after four staright wins, people are talking a playoff run and I have even heard "Super Bowl contender" from someone in the national media.

I don't know what to think about the Cowboys. They still scare me to death. My heart was racing a mile a minute for fear they were going to get destroyed last week at Philly, and why not? What have they ever done in recent memory to make me think otherwise. After beating the Eagles I jumped up, gave a fist pump, and nearly dislocted my elbow in the process.

Penn State is playing some good ball and is in position for a New Year's Day Bowl game again. I had hopes of a BCS Bowl early in the year, but knew they my fall short on the offensive end. Don't get me wrong, Daryl Clark is a great quarterback, but it is tough to replace three senior receivers and win the Big 10.

My Bearkats have been, well, we will leave that one alone. But basketball looks to be in position for a great season, and this may be Bob Marlin's best team top-to-bottom yet. I watched practice the other day and they looked good. Can't wait to see them Saturday night. Also can't wait to get back on the air. I haven't call a game since June when baseball was in the NCAA Regional in Rice.

Looking forward to a great finish in 2009 for the Cowboys and Nittany Lions and hopefully Marlin and the Bearkats will make the first few months of 2010 one to remember as well.

Friday, May 1, 2009

And with the 151st pick of the NFL Draft …

The New York Giants select – a story line.

So Rhett Bomar is going to be in New York. For most athletes making the move from Sam Houston State to the Big Apple would be a huge shock to the system. I am sure Rhett will experience some of that.

One of the aspects of playing in New York that a lot of people seem to have problems with is dealing with the New York media. That is an area I don’t think Rhett will have any trouble with. He is certainly better equipped to handle the throng of reporters in New York than any other athlete coming out of Sam Houston State.

First off he was the starting quarterback at Oklahoma as a freshman. Since the Sooners are about as close to a professional team as you get in Oklahoma he has had a taste of what it is like being in the spotlight.

Since coming to Huntsville he faced no shortage of interview requests and the questions were all the same. I didn’t matter how good of a game Rhett had played for the Bearkats, the national media only wanted to talk about Oklahoma. ESPN’s Outside the Lines was on campus to do a feature on Rhett before he ever played a down for the Kats.

In addition, Rhett has done interviews with Sports Illustrated, LA Times, The Dallas Morning News and The Houston Chronicle just to name a few. I can’t tell you have many interviews he did over the last three years or how many we turned down because we just had a bad feeling about it.

All the interviews were the same. The guys would start off asking about life in Division II football and Rhett would have to correct them and tell them this is Division I. Then they would lob a few softball questions about how the season is going before working their way to Oklahoma. Rhett always answered the questions the same way, but each reporter had is set in their head they were going to be the one to uncover “the real story” at Oklahoma.

Three quarterbacks were selected in the first round this past weekend and they will all get the scrutiny that comes with being a first-round QB. There will be a host of other rookie quarterbacks heading to camp this weekend and they will be just like any other player new to the team. When they do talk to the media it will mostly be about what happened on the field that day.

Rhett will face the media this weekend as well. Someone will toss him an easy question about how his first day went and he will handle it like any other rookie. But unlike the other rookies, Rhett will then have to respond to questions about something that happened more than four years ago. It won’t matter how seasoned the reporter, no one will ask Rhett a question he hasn’t already heard. He also won't give an answer they haven't heard.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

A few college basketball items

I posted this on the 12th Street blog as well, but I wanted to get it up here as well.

One story that has not gotten much coverage is a situation that happened this week in the America East Conference.

Voting for all-conference can be tough. I have done it for seven years and there are always varying opinions on who should make first team and who is the player of the year. Most of the voters only see a player in action once or twice in a season and have to make a determination at the end of the year of who are the most deserving 15 players.

It can be a difficult process and there is always going to be someone left out. It is the nature of the beast. But what happened in the America East Conference this week is inexcusable. Binghamton won the regular season and guard D.J. Rivera led the league in scoring. He was also top 10 in rebounding, but when the all-conference list was announced, he was not player of the year.

The problem with this story is that he also was not named to the first team. Rivera, along with a teammate were both second team selections. Apparently, Rivera was denied the honor by a group of coaches in the league as a protest to an NCAA decision to allow Rivera to play after transferring from St. Joseph's without sitting the required season for moving from one Division I university to another. Rivera was granted a hardship waiver from the NCAA and was allowed to play this season.

The most unbelievable part of this story is the conference office is not only confirming the coaches voted with an agenda, but is also condoning it. Conference commissioner Patrick Nero said "It wasn’t a protest toward the kid at all. It was a protest toward the NCAA in allowing him to be eligible. It’s unfortunate, I don’t think it’s right. It’s unfair to the young man. He didn’t do anything wrong."

Nero should be ashamed of his comments. This should have never been made public. If Nero had any sense what-so-ever, he would have taken care of this internally. The coaches who left Rivera off should have had their ballots thrown out and never counted toward the final vote total. Rivera may still have not been the player of the year, but my guess is he would have been a first team selection where he belonged.

Binghamton and Rivera got their revenge, winning the America East Conference Tournament to grab a spot in next week's dance. Rivera fittingly was named tournament MVP.

I stayed up for all 6 OT's

When I got home from Katy on Thursday, I wasn't planning on watching much basketball. After seeing the Kats knocked out in the first round, I just wasn't up to it. But the Big East tournament game between Syracuse and UConn was on and I have always been a Husky fan so I turned the game on to watch the second half. Little did I know that would turn out to be a three hour commitment.

I was texting a few people at the end of regulation after they declared Eric Devendorf's 3 to win the game had come as the final horn was sounding. Syracuse seemingly had a victory and it was taken from them. A few people wanted to see the game end that way, but I was glad it was going to OT. I am a sucker for drama and overtime always brings drama.

Midway through the second overtime I sent out a text saying they might as well play 5 OTs. And then the fourth OT came and went and I really couldn't believe I was watching a game go to the fifth. In the fifth OT I didn't think either team was going to score. Both teams were gassed. Syracuse resorted to playing a walk-on who had a total of 60 minutes all season.

After the fifth overtime ended, I didn't see any foreseeable way either teams was going to win. It was a tournament, so someone was going to have to move one. Even though I was rooting for UConn to win, I wasn't upset when Syracuse sealed the deal in the sixth and final OT.

It was fun to watch those guys lay it on the line for 70 minutes of basketball. They were still diving on the floor and running and gunning even though you could see the guys who had been out there the whole time had nothing left.

I still think UConn is a No. 1 seed. Despite the loss in the first round, I think they showed enough in that game they deserve a spot on the top line of the bracket. Amazingly Syracuse knocked off West Virginia the next night in overtime once again, and then pushed Louisville to the brink. I always like Syracuse in the NCAA tournament. Jim Boeheim is one of the best coaches in college basketball and he always finds a way to win. I just have to wonder how much this run in the Big East Tournament will affect them in nest week's Big Dance.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The search of the "noise"

I am reading a book right now called "Bloody Confused" by Chuck Culpepper that I am really enjoying. He is a sportswriter who has become disenchanted by American sports so he spent a spring in England watching the English Premier League.

During the early part of the book he talks about the reason people love sports is for a particular moment. What he calls that noise. An moment in a game that gets the crowd and atmosphere in general to create a noise that "might swim in your ear canals and rustle your soul and electrify your skin and maybe even prolong your life."

He writes about a goal between Portsmouth and Manchester City as being that it moment for him that truly hooked him into the EPL. He was not even at the game, but watching on TV, but he could just feel the noise through the television.

As a sportswriter Culpepper has covered 11 Super Bowls, seven World Series, five Olympics, 25 major golf tournaments and countless bowl games among other events. But one he remembers most is a moment he missed. When Kirk Gibson hit his famous home run off Eck in the '88 Series, Culpepper was in the hallway outside the Oakland locker room waiting to interview the supposed winning pitcher Dave Stewart.

He witnessed one of the biggest home runs in baseball history on a monitor in the hallway at Chavez Ravine and said he only wishes he knew what the noise in the stadium sounded like.

That got me thinking about whether I have ever experienced that noise. That moment in sports that "rustled my soul or electrified my skin." Have I ever experienced a moment that some people search their entire sporting lives for? Some never find it.

I guess I have been lucky. In my 31 years of the pursuit of the "noise" I can pinpoint four times I experienced it. That moment that not only qualifies as a fantastic moment in a game, but changes the environment around you. For that reason, the finish to the Sam Houston State/Eastern Washington playoff game in 2004 doesn't qualify because the game was in Cheney, Washington. Although the silence in that stadium was awesome.

The first was in 1997 at the Alamodome at the NCAA Basketball Midwest Regional. With the UCLA Bruins trailing 73-72 to Iowa State Cameron Dollar sprinted the length of the floor after a shot by Iowa State's Shawn Bankhead scored to put the Cyclones up with 10 seconds left in overtime. Dollar floated a 3-footer over the outstretched arm of Kelvin Cato to give the Bruins a thrilling victory.

To top it off, it was the second game of what had to have been one of the most exciting nights in NCAA regional history as Minnesota had beat Clemson in double overtime the first game of the night. When Dollar hit the shot, the place erupted. I have never experienced anything like. It was my first NCAA Tournament and I loved every second of it. Probably because of that night, I have been to the Big Dance four more times.

My second it moment was another college basketball game (this is going to be a theme here.) This is my only Sam Houston game on the list. It was the 2003 Southland Conference Championship game. In overtime, Donald Cole hit a 3-pointer with 18-seconds left to beat Stephen F. Austin.

I was sitting on press row right next to the Bearkat bench. The final moments of that game are a blur. To noise in Johnson Coliseum was indescribable. I have since watched the shot again and it looks nothing like I remember it in person. I had been to the NCAA Tournament two times before, but that shot meant I was going to see my Bearkats in the Big Dance. That was one of those moments.

The next one stings. Simply known as the 18-inning game. The 2005 playoff between the Astros and the Braves. As a Braves fan the game was absolutely gut-wrenching to watch. I don't remember what inning it was in, maybe the 15th or 16th, but the Astros hit a ball that looked like it was in the Crawford Box, that just drifted foul. For a moment I thought I was going to puke.

After getting stop after stop and forcing yet another inning, I just kept feeling like the Braves were finally going to break through and get a run. And then in the bottom of the 18th Chris Burke of all people hit a bloop that managed to find its way into the seats.

The Minute Maid crowd erupted. It was easily the most energy I had ever felt from a stadium. I don't think I even saw Burke cross home plate. As soon as the ball dropped in the Crawford Box I was out of my seat and heading to the exit.

The thing I remember the most is being in the concourse afterward and heading down the escalators. We were the only two people out there as you could here the noise out in the stadium. There was an eerie clam heading down the escalators. Little did I know at the time, but that is the last time Atlanta has walked off the field in the postseason.

The final moment for me was this past year at the Final Four. My fifth trip to the NCAA Tournament and my first Final Four. I was assisting the media services staff and had the fortunate pleasure to watch the games courtside. I was standing just off the baseline on the opposite end of the court when Mario Chalmers hit the 3-pointer to force overtime in the National Championship game.

Once again, the energy in the Alamodome that night was indescribable. While there was still five minutes of overtime to play, you just had a feel there was no way Kansas was going to lose. Before the game started a friend sent me a text and asked me who I thought was going to win. I sent back and said I didn't care, I just wanted to see the greatest game in NCAA Championship history. I think Chalmers certainly gave me a chance to make that claim.

All of these moments are ingrained in my memory not because of what I saw, but because of what I felt in that moment. Culpepper says these are the moments in sports that "rustle your soul and electrify your skin" and I have never thought about it that way before, but it is so true. Now here's to hoping they also help prolong my life.