Winter is over here in the Upper Midwest (I think). The sun is out (sometimes) to let you know Spring is here (except in the morning hours). When precipitation falls, it’s in the form of rain (except for the sleet last Saturday). Yes folks, May is here and you may rejoice. As I crawl out of hibernation- judging from the lack of comments you didn’t notice -I’m excited to resume scribbling down my random thoughts about the sports world as it pertains to me as well as other newsworthy stories that appear. No folks, you’re not going to get CNN wall-to-wall coverage here, you’re going to get severely biased CNN news (wait, isn’t that the same thing?) stories that resonate with me. It is, after all, the Chronicles of Jeff, not the chronicles of Anderson Cooper or Robin Meade. Of course I will continue to lean in the direction of the sporting world as it remains a large interest in my life, but as odd popular culture stories strike my fancy, I’ll probably talk about those too. So, in conclusion, expect more of the same, unless of course the cold weather returns and I find myself asleep at the wheel for another couple of months. Which would be sad…because I might miss out on stories like this nugget:
Manti Te’o, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football player who conducted a fake relationship, had his fake girlfriend make the Maxim magazine annual “Hot 100″ list at No. 69. So what is worse, having to be jabbed again by this story, or being the girl who came in directly behind at No. 70 (which apparently was a model named Nina Agdal)? Since he was officially drafted into the NFL by the San Diego Chargers, the ribbing will surely continue at off-season training camps and eventually during the real thing this Summer. Will he receive cute little notes saying “Nice fake tackle” and “That INT didn’t count, it’s fake during drills, duh” on his locker? Only his teammates will be able to tell. I feel sorry for him but at the same time, it will truly teach him social skills useable for the rest of his life. Kick it old school Manti, and just talk to a girl face to face.
2013 has been in full swing for a couple of weeks and the sporting world is again bustling with excitement. I hope everyone enjoyed the 35 collegiate bowl games, and judging by the television viewership, you didn’t. You can put your dismay aside because NHL hockey is back. Yes, the smallest of all the four major sports just concluded its third work stoppage in the last 18 years, effectively increasing the annual monies lost for some 12 teams in the league who actually lost less when they weren’t playing. Here in Minnesota, hockey fever returned with a blink of an eye, as evidenced by myself on the Wednesday morning when single game tickets went on sale, selling out the Minnesota Wild’s opening night in less than an hour. How will the fans’ interest lay after several weeks into the 48 game season? Will they still show up when teams are on 4-5 game losing streaks, effectively killing any sort of playoff push? As the previous lockout suggests, which canceled the entire 2004-2005 NHL season, they’ll be back in droves.
Not to be outdone by the fastest game on earth, however, comes along one last college football story. This one involves a star linebacker from the University of Notre Dame, Manti Te’o, whom apparently had an imaginary girlfriend named Lennay Kekua that fictitiously died from leukemia. The biggest question has been about his involvement. Did he help concoct the scheme or was he an innocent victim of online-fabricated correspondence, texting, and phone calling love. The general consensus cannot decide on a motive, as his only gain seems to be the sympathy he received about said fake death. The flip side to the story is friend Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, a musician buddy who purportedly used photos from a different woman to setup Lennay’s fake online profile. Why would a buddy want to humiliate a friend in such an elaborate manner? What would be his gain to the fall of Manti? The story is so confusing at this point I haven’t even been able to wrap my own sober opinion around it.
Which brings me to my last comment, raise a glass gals and gents. You’ll need that little bit of alcohol in your system to tolerate several weeks of rusty hockey and to understand why superstar collegiate football players need pretend girlfriends. Cheers!
When the iPhone 5 launched on September 21, 2012 I decided to skip posting about it. Why? Not because the iDbaggery was becoming redundant, I was just too lazy coming up with another comical post title. Today seemed different- a good day to return to the humor as Apple scheduled an 8am PST/10am EST release of its newest product, the iPad mini. As suspected, the fanfare was out in full force in places like San Francisco, producing a result that didn’t require my own humorous interjection. With a line of 80+ people when the doors opened, all patrons entered the store in about 15 minutes, including one gentleman who was in line since 2am and a handful of others since 5am. Was a wait of that length worth it? You do the math. Today’s launch queue line may have been “mini”, borrowing from the product’s namesake if you will, but it was such a notion victorious iDbags were certainly thankful for.
About a week ago St. Louis and Atlanta squared off in the first game involving Major League Baseball’s new Wild Card playoff round. The single game, winner-take-all format was created to duplicate the drama from the last day of the 2011 MLB season. Well, drama is what they got, albeit the result of controversy instead of say a pitcher’s duel. In the bottom of the 8th inning, Atlanta’s Andrelton Simmons hit a shallow fly ball into left field. St. Louis shortstop Pete Kozma was on the verge of catching the ball when all of a sudden he ran forward and the ball dropped between he and St. Louis left fielder Matt Holliday. Atlanta, already with one out in the inning, had runners on both first and second base at the time. The crowd roared due to the unexpected error making the bases loaded. It wasn’t until the scoreboard operator placed a “2″ next to the number of outs that they realized something else had happened. That something else was the infield fly rule:
An Infield Fly is a fair fly ball (not including a line drive nor an attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, when first and second, or first, second and third bases are occupied, before two are out. The pitcher, catcher and any outfielder who stations himself in the infield on the play shall be considered infielders for the purpose of this rule. When it seems apparent that a batted ball will be an Infield Fly, the umpire shall immediately declare Infield Fly for the benefit of the runners.
In obvious protest, the Atlanta fans decided to litter the field with anything they could get their hands on, stopping the game for almost 20 minutes. St. Louis went on win the game and Atlanta filed a formal protest with Major League Baseball which was denied. Thus, the big talker over the next several days was about this particular and rarely called rule. Most chose to focus on the fact that the umpire didn’t make the call immediately or that the shortstop’s effort running into left field to make a catch was considered “ordinary”. I personally focused on the position of the catch, err, almost catch. The St. Louis fielders were more than 50 feet from the dirt path that marks the infield. Since the infield fly rule was created to protect the runners, I was asking the question aloud to myself- “What benefit would St. Louis had gained if the rule wasn’t called?” They certainly would not have had enough time to achieve a double play. At best they could have gotten the lead runner out at third base. How were the runners protected in this situation? Anger in Atlanta will live on, the rule’s debate will live on…until the next sporting controversy.
Winning cures all ills
If you win, they will come
There are many different ways to illustrate it in writing. Some people argue that performing to the best of your ability is all that should matter. Collegiate presidents and athletic directors may not directly say so but they depend on it. No matter your personal take, no one can argue that people love a winning college football program. For the University of Minnesota, traveling the road to success in the last 5 years has been a daunting task. As I sat within the walls of TCF Bank Stadium last night watching the 2012 Golden Gopher football team gain a 17-10 victory over the Syracuse Orange, I couldn’t help but smile at the vast excitement of the fans around me as our team improved to a 4-0 record. Last year’s hiring of head coach Jerry Kill away from Northern Illinois University no longer seems like a whim, already eclipsing the 3 win total from 2011. This year’s team seems to be the most athletic in quite some time, not to mention a defensive effort that seems to make plays every single game. The biggest change I personally noticed is that Golden Gopher football games are fun again. Of course, competitive football and a string of victories will do that to a fan. I know the BigTen is not the SEC, where football is the sole purpose for one’s livlihood. However, in a town with every major professional sport, they are poised to make this competitive football program the top sports talker. Funny how simply winning some football games will do that.
Chris Singleton from ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight” had an interesting Twitter exchange last night as the Milwaukee Brewers and Philadelphia Phillies both reached the .500 point record-wise and stood 4 games back of the second wild card team in the National League. Poor logic? Confusion? Regardless of whichever it is, when you are an “expert” on television you had better figure it out. In the back of my head, it plays out like an old Doonesbury comic strip
This past Friday night, September 7 2012, I found myself completely focused on the one-hour telethon which aired on all major networks and probably half of those on cable. The sponsor? Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), a charity organization started several years ago by media and entertainment leaders. The unique aspect I like about this organization is that 100% of publicly donated funds go directly to research- none to costs. That is a bold tenant to declare in general, let alone for a charity program. You donate money and you immediately know it’s going towards research aimed at finding a cure for cancer. A power thought for those of us not in the media, entertainment, or philanthropy. Appearances by celebrities such as Jessica Biel, Samuel Jackson, Tom Hanks, and Julia Roberts helped buoy the somber and supportive broadcast co-produced by Gweneth Paltrow. I learned that being a cop in Baltimore isn’t nearly as hard as treatment from one survivor and that a certain 3 year old boy won’t ever let cancer take himself away from his Legos, even if he doesn’t win the fight. Many many words and stories packed together in one short hour. The most intriguing moment of the evening was recording artist Taylor Swift singing “Ronan”, a song she penned with the mother of a blog who lost her 3 year old son to cancer last year. A very powerful hour of television aimed at defeating a very powerful disease. As evidenced by the $81 million raised by the telethon, people seem to think cancer won’t stand a chance much longer.
He was traded for during the off-season before the 2011 MLB season. Rumor has it he’ll be traded today (certainly by the end of the week before his next scheduled start for Sunday). Zack, we hardly knew ya. The Milwaukee Brewers gave up significant assets in order to obtain his services, including starting shortstop Alcides Escobar, center-fielder Lorenzo Cain, pitcher Jake Odorizzi, and (troubled) pitcher Jeremy Jeffress. Did they get value on this trade? Hard to say they didn’t. 2011 brought the Brewers a first division title in the National League, not to mention an appearance in the 2011 National League Championship Series. Of course the objective was to sign Greinke to a contract extension, but I think he’s intent on exploring free agency. Once such a fact is known, said player becomes the infamous “rental” that contending clubs would like to have to put themselves over the proverbial hump. In fact, the Brewers know the process well. Last year during “the run” they obtained Francisco Rodriguez from the New York Mets in July 2011. And, as they also found out, no one knows how the off-season will play out…K-Rod eventually accepted the Brewers tender offer when his prospects on other clubs weren’t so great. Maybe Zack will come to the realization that a couple of million (!) won’t make a huge difference on his happiness and wallet. Maybe the Milwaukee Brewers will be one of his suitors again, this time in free agency before the 2013 season. Regardless, thanks for being a good ballplayer and teammate Zack, I’m sure you’ll be missed in the Brewer clubhouse.
UPDATE- Greinke was traded to the Los Angeles Angels for shortstop Jean Segura, pitcher Ariel Pena, and pitcher Johnny Hellweg on 07/27. Thanks to John Axford for this picture.
Yup, that was the exact reaction of one Michael Jordan when told about comments from Kobe Bryant saying this year’s Team USA basketball team could definitely defeat the 1992 team. Jordan went on to say that there is “no comparison” and that Kobe suggesting the comparison was “not one of the smarter things he ever could have done”. Bryant began his commentary by saying the Dream Team “wasn’t athletic” and that most of the players were “past their primes”. Jordan countered those statements by pointing out the fact that “almost everybody was in their twenties” and that they were “very smart (basketball players)”. In case you forgot, the 1992 Team USA Olympic basketball team contained players such including Jordan’s NBA teammate Scottie Pippen, Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, amongst other superstars. That team went on to win their games by an average of 44 points en route to the gold medal in Barcelona, Spain. Prior to 1992, Team USA was made up of college basketball stars, who finished in a disappointing 3rd place finish at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, Korea. The United States then decided to fill its roster with NBA players after the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) opened international competition up to professionals in 1989.
Since that historic shift in international basketball rosters, a better comparison would be the Dream Team vs. current European all-stars now that global basketball proficiency has caught up to the United States (a mere 20 years even). I think Kobe meant no disrespect, however, he was simply making a statement about his perspective on the NBA competition he faces season to season; a narrow point of view when you consider players of years past. He feels his teammates on the current Olympic team are the best players in the world. As a basketball fan his whole life, I’m glad he’s confident as to his team’s ability and nothing makes me happier as a United States citizen who’ll be rooting for them in two weeks. But the laughable fact still remains…they wouldn’t stand a chance against the Dream Team. Or could they?