Ahhhhhh Twitter... the joy and scourge of humanity. Sports personalities have taken to Twitter to tout themselves (Chad Johnson/Ochocinco); let everyone know what they had for dinner (every known athlete in the universe); or embrace friends and blast enemies (again, too many to mention).
I do not currently have a Twitter account. I am on Facebook, and am rather active on it at this time. Which brings me to sports personalities. How many times have personalities pressed "send" and wished they hadn't? Passions can be a good thing-- but not immediately after something has happened. Many places have a seven-day wait to purchase guns-- maybe a seven-minute wait would be good before making a statement to the Twitterverse.
I do not do a # yet; not to say I won't eventually. It may be a matter of time before you see an @tomlee address. But for now, I am Twitter-free, in my personal life anyway. The stations I work with DO have Twitter accounts, and I follow them for sports scores during my broadcasting in season. You can follow as well at the Original Company Vincennes' Twitter sites; I recommend it-- it is the best way to keep up on scores from across southwest Indiana. I don't have Twitter yet... but a little bird is tweeting me it may not be long in coming...
-- The United States of America wins the Gold Cup on Sunday. Now with this being a World Cup preparation year, all the teams sent basically their "B: level squads, but I saw something with the U.S. team Sunday. I have seen it all tournament long-- the U-S is maturing as a soccer team and nation. I saw a possession-based team taking shape under Jurgen Klinsmann. Now it doesn't necessarily mean that will transfer over against better soccer nations, but 11 straignt national wins is still nothing to sneeze at. The U-S is showing great maturity-- and let's hope its transfers over when the games start really counting again. The first one is September sixth against a ticked-off Costa Rica team, with the next in Columbus against Mexico. The USA is still in a great position to qualify for the World Cup-- but finishing it off against two other teams probably heading to Mexico themselves would help a lot...
-- The Hall of Fame elected three dead people to Cooperstown-- the most noted of which is Col. Jacob Ruppert. Ruppert was the owner of the 1920's and 1930's Yankees teams featuring Babe Ruth. This is the first year since 1965 that no living members were selected to the Hall of Fame. The steroid era has decimated the Hall of Fame pool-- but eventually Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will get in. The two biggest names of the steroid era proved their worth before PED's-- especially Bonds. Bonds gets in on the strength of his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, before steroids inflated his career numbers while a member of the San Francisco Giants. Bonds' godfather was Willie Mays, and while with the Pirates, bonds played like Mays 2.0. He gets in on that performance alone. As for Clemens, his talent was not enhanced as much-- in my oppinion-- by the enhancers. He was a great despite them. Those two belong in-- the others... not so much...
-- Ryan Newman broght the Brickyard title back home again to Indiana. But has the Brickyard become just another race? I have leard a lot of opinions saying place the Brickyard as Race #1 of the Chase, and run it under the lights. All I can say is-- agreed on both counts. I am totally for both ideas.
-- Finally, a legend recaptures his lost youth at Muirfield. Not Tiger Woods-- but Phil Mickelson. Good to see Lefty returning to the top of his game. Woods? We are still waiting. But mark my words-- it WILL happen for Tiger. He will take at least 2 more majors-- and would it be poetic justice if he reached exactly 18, the same number as Jack Nicklaus? For a long time, I have said the two men, in talent and in a few other ways, are equals. I think they should have the same talent level, and belong on the same pedestal. That is a step up for me-- I never considered Tiger as Jack's equal before this... but I have come around some.
It was one of those situations that you have to love as a person following the professional arcs of two Vincennes professional baseball players. I was traveling home from Louisville last Sunday, after spending the weekend with my kids. One one side of the dial was my kids' hometown team, the Louisville Bats-- featuring starting catcher Nevin Ashley. Ashley was a player I had the privilege of covering in the early 2000's when he was at North Knox High School. On the other side of the dial, my beloved Cincinnati Reds were playing the Pittsburgh Pirates-- featuring Vincennes native, and starting shortstop, Clint Barmes.
I couldn't help but thinking... I must be the only person in the world to have that privilege of listening to these two great Knox county athletes playing-- at the same time-- on my radio. One playing for the Louisville Bats in northeast Pennsylvania-- and winning... and one playing away from his Pennsylvania home, at Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park. My beloved Reds won that one, by the way...
How did I keep up with both those great players-- and their teams-- as part of my 2 hour, 40 minute trip home? Radio. And a promotional plug-- you can hear the present players from Vincennes, North Knox, and other places on your Original Company radio stations. And just in case you missed it... football season starts August 23rd....
"Don't give up...don't EVER give up!" The late Jim Valvano quoted that phrase in 1993. That phrase is worth more than a thousand words-- it is worth 115 million dollars, and counting. Valvano used his speech at the inaugural ESPY Awards to rally support for cancer research, which at the time he felt was not getting enough attention.
Thanks to Valvano, and other events such as the Relay for Life series, fighting cancer has become a highlighted cause. The V Foundaton for Cancer Research has raised 115 million dollars, with more large amounts expected in coming years and decades. We lost Jimmy V a month after his inspiring speech as part of his winning the original Arthur Ashe Award for courage-- and eleven months before he promised to return to give the Arthur Ashe award at the next ESPY Awards. It was a promise he tried to keep, but his battered body wouldn't let him complete.
Indirectly, Jimmy V has a tie to this area as well. As a favor to an old friend in Long Island, New York, Valvano took on a 6-8 project player in the mid-80's at North Carolina State. That project went on to a great college career, and a long and successful NBA career. His name was Tom Gugliotta; his brother, Frank Gugliotta, moved from Long Island to Bicknell, where he remains to this day. All three of Gugliotts's children-- Chelsea, Richard, and currently Maria-- have played basketball at North Knox High School, with Chelsea being named to the Indiana HIgh School All-Star team.
ESPN is doing its annual package giveaway today, to benefit the V Foundation. If you don't have an extra 8,000 dollars or so laying around the win the packages, you can donate 5 or 10 dollars to the V Foundation. Both gifts are welcomed equally. Anyone wishing to give to the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research are encouaged to call 1-800-4-JIMMY V.
Don't give up...don't EVER give up. One phrase is worth 115-million dollars, and counting. Thanks Jim Valvano-- and thanks to all of those who give-- in ANY platform-- to help in the battle against cancer.
It has almost gone un-noticed, but the United States of America-- land of the free and home of many soccer haters-- has become a decent soccer nation. I must admit-- I played soccer in high school, and my 9 year-old son plays it as well (and, in his father's biased opinion, he is a decent goalkeeper)...
I played soccer at a time when the United States was not a good soccer nation. It was the early to mid-1980's... the NASL was crumbling, and there was no real league to pick up the pieces. If you wanted to play soccer at that time, you went indoors-- to play a game that was a hybrid of soccer and hockey. Mind you, I played indoor soccer some-- and it was, and is, fun-- not to mention a great workout. But it wasn't a lost cause-- the U-S Soccer Federation got its act together, and got a team that qualified-- against all odds-- for the 1990 World Cup. It was the first time in 40 years the U-S qualified for the Cup-- and the first of a current run of six Cup finals in a row, with a seventh almost a certainty for 2014.
Play in America has improved-- because MLS has done it right. They have cultivated home grown talent, and exported much of it to the European and Mexican leagues. The experience has led to stellar careers for goalkeepers Tim Howard and Brad Guzan-- both in England, forward Clint Dempsey (England again), and Jozy Altidore (Holland last year, now in England)-- and others. Americans are playing in England, Germany, Holland, Norway, Sweden, and Israel-- and have played in Spain, Italy, France, Greece, and other European countries. They also play-- and star-- south of the border, in the Liga Mexicana. And yes, Major League Soccer has had its share of talent-- like Taylor Twellman, Chris Wondolowski, and Landon Donovan. There are others as well-- but those are just the first few I can think of right now.
Soccer clubs are also very profitable. The top sports club in the world? Sorry New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys-- that honor goes to Manchester United. Ask a Vietnamese kid who Robinson Cano is, and he would probably have no idea. But ask the average kid about David Beckham-- instant recognition. Man U has cultivated its image worldwide-- and it has made the Red Devils the most popular club in the world. But in a bow to the "Evil Empire," they have signed a co-marketing agreement with America's best-known sports brand. Kinds sounds like a sports version of "Despicable Me..."
Earlier this morning, WZDM Morning show host Aaron Lange discussed the Tour de France. This year marks the 100th year of the venerable bike race.
If you aren't aware of the Tour de France format, here it is. Around 200 riders-- on over 30 racing teams-- race for three weeks across the French-- and occasionally, other countries'-- countrysides. The race also includes various time trials, and trips into both the Alps and Pyrenees mountains. The winner is the one who can endure best, and make it to Paris wearing the yellow jersey.
Americans have done relatively well in the Tour since Greg LeMond won the title in 1986. However, the other two American winners have been involved in what I call a "tour de farce." Both Lance Armstrong and Floyd Landis have had their wins vacated as part of blood-doping scandals. LeMond won three titles-- cleanly, as far as we know-- in 1986, 1989, and 1990. Usually, the man wearing the yellow jersey into Paris on the final day will wear it as the Tour winner-- but not in 1989. That year, LeMond-- still recovering from receiving 60 lead pellets in his body, courtesy of a hunting accident in California-- went on a tour de force on the final day of the Tour de France. He trailed Frenchman Laurent Fignon by 56 seconds going into the final day. That year, the final day was a time trial-- 15 miles from Versailles to Paris. No champagne ride for the winner that year, as LeMond-- riding the quickest time trial seen to that time-- beat Fignon for the title by 8 seconds. No Tour title has ever been closer-- and that year marked the last time the yellow jersey changed hands on the final day. Conversely, no other time trial has ever been held on the final day of competition since.
It has been 24 years since LeMond's Tour de Force in the Tour de France. This year, Britain's Chris Froome looks like he will raise the Union Jack in Paris. But a lot can change in the Alps-- can he hold on to the lead-- and the win? Time-- and the mountains-- will tell.
Happy 100th, Tour de France. It has been Tour de Force, and Tour de Farce-- but in the end, it is still here, and isn't going anywhere soon.
Today marks the 99th anniversary of Babe Ruth's entrance into the Major Leagues. George Herman Ruth broke in with the Boston Red Sox on July 11th, 1914, and was-- as teammate Harry Hooper described him-- "an overgrown, green pea." He also met the woman he eventually married-- Helen Woodford-- his first day in Boston, and settled in on a farm in Sudbury, Massachusetts.
Who would have known that this kid-- 19 years old when he broke in with the Sox-- would become the greatest icon in baseball history. He also broke in as a pitcher-- a good enough pitcher to be considered by some as the best lefthanded pitcher in all of baseball in the 1910's. He also set a scoreless inning streak in the World Series in 1916 and 1918 that would stand for 43 years, until Whitey Ford broke it in 1961. Later, in the 1980's, the Los Angeles Dodgers' hurler Orel Hershiser would break Ford's record, and Hershiser's mark still stands today.
Remember now, that was in pitching. But Babe Ruth isn't known as a pitcher-- he is known as a hitter. The dead-ball era lasted until 1921; before the ball became lively, Ruth still had an over 20-home run season in 1920. It was his 59 home runs in 1921 that caused baseball to change for good-- and he topped THAT with a 60 home-run season in 1927.
He is also remembered for living the the same way he was hitting-- fast and loose. Today, the papers are filled with players using performance-enhancing drugs; in his day, Ruth filled the papers-- at least until 1929-- with his, let's say, indulgences. But something changed in 1929. That year, he married for the second time-- to Claire Hodgson-Ruth. She put him on a short leash-- and suprise of surprises, he loved it-- and her.
Old-timers said there was none like him. I agree. In the series "Baseball," editor Daniel Okrent said Ruth's dual abilities as a pitcher early, and as a hitter late, was like (composer) "Beethoven and (painter) Cezanne being one person doing the same work." Columnist George Will compared Ruth to "an Everest in Kansas." One this is for sure-- there will be great players, and great characters of the game, but NO ONE will match Ruth. He changed the game-- in more ways than one.
Hello. I am your elevator porter-- welcome on to the Major League Baseball Elevator. We go up, and we go down-- visiting various floors of professional baseball.
On the top level-- Major League Baseball. The Show. Even this level has levels-- there is a penthouse for the legends, and soon to be legends-- those heading to the MLB Hal of Fame. Below that are the players whose careers will be fruitful, lucrative-- and forgotten, except for statistics in the Elias Sports Bureau, and some clippings of their achievements on the sports pages of newspapers and magazines across the country.
Sometimes on the elevator that is Major League Baseball, paths cross-- one player going up, one going down. That happened Sunday evening in Columbus, Ohio, when up and coming Louisville Bats catcher Nevin Ashley faced former Major League star Daisuke Matsuzaka. Ashley-- a North Knox High School product-- is a catcher who is one level removed from "The Show." He is also one foul tip injury away from promotion to the Cincinnati Reds. Ashley-- and the rest of the Triple A hopefuls-- are trying to get where "Dice-K" was at one time-- a star in "The Show." Matsuzaka was a "Show" stopper... a great pitcher with the Boston Red Sox in their best years. He even won a World Series ring with the Sox. But in recent years, injuries and time have taken their toll, and Matsuzaka is desperately trying to regain what he lost.
This day though, Dice-K had Ashley's number. Nevin came into the the game hitting a very respectable .294 with three homers and 18 RBI's for a team struggling to score runs. This day though, he went 0 for 2 against the Asian trailblazer. But in the words of the late, great Buck O'Neil-- "Baseball can bring you up here... but don't get too cocky, because tomorrow, it can bring you down there. But the good thing is, there will always BE a tomorrow. You got me today-- but I'm coming back!"
Baseball is a game of tomorrows-- and of elevator rides. Ashley's is heading up; unfortunately, Dice-K's may be going down. This baseball elevator has been taking players for rides since Alexander Cartwright codified baseball in 1849... and for the 164 years since. Going up, going down-- that's life on the baseball elevator.
I attended the parade Saturday in my hometown of Connersville that included new Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens. However, I did not see him pass by my location. The call of nature came at a most inopportune time, and I missed him. Plus it was raining like crazy that day, and rain and the open air is not a good combination.
That was only half of the allure to that parade. I also got a chance to see a hometown legend from Connersville-- former anchor and ESPNNews announcer Betsy Ross. Somehow, Betsy Ross participating in a parade just after the Fourth of July makes sense. But anyway, I had a chance to say hello to her as she passed by.
She doesn't know this, but she left an indelible mark on me back in my formative reporter years. Before coming here to Vincennes, I served as a news director for the Connersville station in 1995-96. I did a report on the dedication of a fine arts center in Connersville, and Ross was the featured speaker. I asked about how she enjoyed her celebrity-- as she was with ESPNNews at the time-- and she said something interesting... "We're all reporters." No matter who or what level we report on... it was a very true statement. When it comes down to it, we are all the same.
Thanks to Betsy Ross-- a Connersville legend, who left a mark on a Connersville native who was about to go west, and take that lesson to heart here in Vincennes. Thanks again.
Do you want to know what humiliation is? I got cut-- yes, CUT-- from my 8 year-old youth baseball team. It was 1975, and it was in the Connersville, Indiana Little League. Now, let's be honest here... that hasn't been the case in many decades. Thankfully, leagues have become a lot more inclusive in the years since.
When it came to baseball, I was not talented at the age of eight. I had a rough childhood as far as coordination goes, and to this day, I am still not really well-coordinated. But these days, everyone gets a chance-- and that is a good thing. Fortunately, the story had a good ending-- I discovered basketball a year later as a nine year-old, and played soccer and basketball in high school. I was about as lost in basketball as I was in baseball, but they were patient with me and their patience paid off.
My point is, it is good we have evolved to a point of including everyone in youth sports. Now, there is a time that you have to make cuts for people who don't have the talent level, but that time is not when a kid is 8 years old. After al, with a little training and a lot of patience, who know what that seemingly uncoordinated kid can do? Maybe become a sports broadcaster for 23 years and counting???
One more point here. It is pointless not to keep score in youth soccer. Vincennes Cub League keeps score and standings, and no one has suffered. Now I AM a bit old school here. The players keep score, the coaches keep score, and the fans keep score... Why not use scoreboards-- at least for the older ages-- U-10 and above? I understand the concept-- the youth leagues aren't about winning first, they are about developing technique. But winning does matter to the kids, and they know who won or lost on a certain day. I have experience in both areas-- my son Jonathan has played soccer as a U-8 team that went about 500, played for a U-10 team that won one game; and in his second U-10 season, won more than he lost. In all circumstances, I did not mind using a scoreboard to let players and fans know how much time and score was left.
Like I said, I get the point-- technique is king-- but Cub League keeps track, and now it's soccer's turn-- at least in the older levels.