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Mr. Jones

30 Aug

University of Minnesota CB #15 Marcus Jones

I love a touching story, especially in the realm of college athletics.  Granted, I am in a small bubble when it comes to my bias towards Minnesota sports, however, a good story is a good story, no matter where you come from.  Especially one about a student athlete overcoming adversity, a medical one in this case.  And, as it turns out, an educational one perhaps as well.  In a matter of a couple minutes of reading, I was introduced to the character of University of Minnesota junior football player, cornerback Marcus Jones.

You see Marcus has overcome something very few of us after-work-hit-the-gym athletes has ever experienced- an ACL knee injury.  Twice.  Once in each knee.  Watching Minnesota Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson recover from this type of injury didn’t make Marcus’ recovery amazing to me.  What did was his motivation.  Lost in all the drama about the NCAA making billions of dollars on college athletics is the real reason the student athlete is called such- they are students.

Marcus was asked why put oneself through the rehab, twice in two years, for ACL knee injuries to merely play a violent sport such as football, a tough task for someone who is 5’8” tall weighing 166 pounds:

Why? Whooo. I don’t know. There’s so much about it that I love. I even love the summer workouts. I love everything about the game.  A lot of it is the camaraderie between teammates. A lot of it is that you get to use that aggression, that speed. Everything that is a positive for you, you get to use to your advantage.  I couldn’t play basketball. I was too small. I tried baseball for a while and had a couple of injuries there. Football has meant a lot to me. You get a scholarship to play and a lot of your life turns into football at that point, because you’re so grateful, because a lot of people do not get this opportunity.  Football means so much because, the way I see it, if it wasn’t for college football, I wouldn’t get an education.

That last sentence stopped me.  You can feel those words he spoke.  He’s so motivated simply because of the opportunity to go to college, something you never hear in the age of big NFL contracts and autograph hawking Heisman trophy winners.  Marcus is the kind of kid I want going to my alma mater.  Marcus has the kind of character I want playing on the University of Minnesota football team.  If fact, his presence, which includes both those repaired knees, was immensely felt in the first game of this collegiate season.  At the start of the second half of last night’s 51-23 victory by the University of Minnesota over UNLV, he returned the kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown.  A very nice opening chapter to the Marcus Jones story this year.

A small act of baseball kindness

6 Aug

Miller Park

In lieu of the recent Biogenesis PED scandal involving Milwaukee Brewer left fielder Ryan Braun, I was happy to read the following story on the opposite end of the spectrum.  It’s a genuine act of kindness, coincidentally, at a Milwaukee Brewers baseball game on August 4th 2013.  As a young boy in search of an elusive game-used ball, I remember going to baseball games early during warmups or sneaking down close to the field in the later innings.  I can certainly related to the little guy’s excitement, albeit, his was the result of an anonymous stranger.  Take a look, I was glad I did 🙂

http://www.thearenaupdate.com/2013/08/the-mystery-man-at-miller-park.html

Busted.

23 Jul

ryan_braun_busted

In a baseball context, Ryan Braun’s “day of reckoning has come” and rightly so. Still trying to absorb and process the information learned over the last 24 hours, one thing is for certain- Ryan Braun will no longer play baseball in 2013 and will forfeit approximately $3.25M in salary. Unless you’ve been living in a sporting world abyss, you’ll probably be familiar with the topic of this post. Yesterday, July 22 2013, Major League Baseball suspended Milwaukee Brewer left fielder Ryan Braun for the remainder of the 2013 season for his connection and involvement with the Biogenesis Clinic of Miami, FL. By not appealing and instead releasing a public statement, Braun effectively admitted guilt to his tie with performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). Major League Baseball nor Braun have explained a definitive reason for suspension, however, it is believed to be the result of “non-analytic positives”-violations without a failed drug test.

Reaction to the news within the media has been about as harsh as one would expect. Zero sympathy. Public image and legacy ruined forever. Probably be treated as if he were a convicted felon by baseball fans the rest of his career. On a personal level, I’m still trying to process my own feelings. Back in February 2012 I wrote on this blog how relieved I was to see him exonerated from a failed drug test accusation. Now, as I sit here today I realize he did indeed get over by technicality. Has he been a chronic PED user? Yes. Are his statistics the result of PEDs? I don’t know. I’m currently under the belief that PED usage helped Braun mainly in the way of fatigue and injury recovery. I don’t have any basis for this theory except that his career statistics have been a virtual straight line while having very few injuries. Again, it’s merely my opinion and I’m sure over the months ahead many many others will generate their own.

Does Ryan Braun owe me an apology? No. Despite a great acting performance during that press conference in February 2012, I don’t know him from any other professional athletes let alone on a personal level. But as sports fan and a fan of the Milwaukee Brewers baseball club, I am allowed to be disappointed. I’m allowed to feel sad. I feel that way because a man resigned to cheating in order to obtain a greater reward from his occupation. I have no idea whether that reward was monetary compensation, team success, or personal glory. This incident simply reinforces the idea that some athletes will. This incident reminds us that we do not know these athletes except for the sporting “characters” they play. We cheer for them because they play for the teams we love. When they have success we want to know them on such intimate levels because of the way we feel. And when they make poor decisions we question why we cheered for them in the first place. We ask ourselves ‘Would I do the same thing?’ In the meantime, my #8 Milwaukee Brewers alternate road jersey will simply continue to hang in my closet, unsure if it will ever be worn again.

Nike must have failed Geography 101

17 Jul

nfl_nike_panther_tshirt

Whoops.  In the midst of my chuckling, I’ve been trying to figure out what is worse- misidentifying South Carolina as North Carolina or getting this error past the quality control department.   On Tuesday July 16th 2013, clothing apparel giant Nike released a statement that a small quantity of Carolina Panther t-shirts emblazoned with the above geographical error were mistakenly made available for sale.  While the apology was certainly aimed at the picture mistake, could it have subconsciously been directed at North Carolina residents also?  The snafu seemed to suggest both states may have recently completed a merger, moving all people and operations into South Carolina while retaining the “North Carolina” label.  I know if Minnesota was suddenly grouped into Iowa I’d have to become an Under Armour brander for life.  Environmentalists need not fret, i’m sure Nike Outlet stores will begin selling this t-shirt soon enough.

Case of the Mondays no match for May swoon

13 May

Bill Lumbergh

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.

Hockey and a hoax in the New Year

17 Jan

Manti Te'o And His Fake Girlfriende_gf

Minnesota Wild The NHL Is Back

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!

And now…stay classy Atlanta?

11 Oct

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.

College football reborn

23 Sep

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.

Major League Baseball’s second wildcard confuses even the experts

12 Sep

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 🙂

So long Zack

26 Jul

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.