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Archive for August, 2009

Kit & Kaboodle

Hope Springs…Basement Athlete

 

So we drop another game on the Yankees and I’m scraping the bottom of my barrel of optimism…

 

Clay Bucholz has almost been solid in his last couple outings. Mike Lowell can hit wrist-shot home runs while hobbling on my grandmother’s hip. David Ortiz isn’t late on every fastball. The glass is half full, even if it’s leaking!

 

Only a game out of the Wild Card! Hope lives. 

 

Lone Star Extravaganza

 

Like a grounded Battlestar Galactica the new stadium in Dallas is more of a metropolis than a local gridiron.

 

The place is mind-boggling. Two 180 foot wide by 120 foot tall sets of sliding glass doors dwarf the sliding doors off our family room. These are the only two entrances to the stadium, and a jumbo-tron hangs over the center of the field like an enormous hockey arena. What?

 

A billion dollars? (No, literally) Does every fan get a complimentary massage and bottle of champagne as they leave? 

 

I’m just jealous that my house doesn’t have the 11,200 square foot HGTV that will entertain fans between plays of the 8 games a year (plus playoffs??) that will be played in this 8th wonder of the modern world.

 

Comebacks, Colosseums & Clones

 

Far from my mind when Tom Brady crumpled in the pocket last September was that I would be present the next time he threw a out-pattern in a competitive game. My Dad, my sister, and I mingled with “friendly” Eagles fans at the Pats first preseason game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. Believe it or not, it was my first, live football game (of any kind, at any level). Ah, the recovered joy of watching the methodical, surgical march of a Tom Brady drive. 

 

A truly different experience in person. We were spectators at a war-game. It was simply pre-season, but we sat in a modern colosseum as we watched warriors surge and retreat to gain dominion over desired territory. Roars erupted from a raucous crowd that made it easy to envision myself a citizen of ancient Rome. Minus the lions.

 

BREAKING NEWS: My favorite Patriot, Wes Welker, has cloned himself. The other Wes, disguised as #11 is sneaking around under the identity of rookie receiver, Julian Edelman. The similarities are almost eerie. You have to check their jerseys to see when they switched. I may have a new 2nd favorite player.

 

Maybe I just have a bias towards short, white athletes.

 

Tiger is Human

 

Tiger Woods blew a lead in a major. 

 

In other news: Keanu Reeves can suddenly act, Peyton Manning turned down an advertising deal, and the Jews and the Arabs are getting along swimmingly. 

 

The Days Ahead

 

The Little League World Series is upon us. I love it. Why is it on my mental, sports calendar? We ordinary people can relate to it. I watch with my dad and my little brother and we all get it. We’re all Little Leaguers (or former Little Leaguers). A 12 year old kid from Peabody, MA (just minutes from where I was born) hit a walk-off grand slam on national television last Friday to send his team to Williamsport. You think his grandkids might hear about that one a couple of times?

 

Grant and I will continue perfecting our 1-on-1 backyard, baseball games. Actual competition is emerging from our efforts, as we refine our 7 year old versus 21 year old competition. Friday’s game ended early when I hit him in the leg with a pitch. It was tragic.

 

All the Nation’s eyes are on the Red Sox trying to save their season this weekend against the Yankees at Fenway….sigh….

 

If you see a story that you think should be included in the hopefully recurring “Kit & Kaboodle” please email me at adamshorey@enjoyinggrace.org.

 

 

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You know, I’ve always said the best way to steal second base is to get a nice lead and outrun the throw by the catcher. – Joe Morganradio_announcer_1

 

It all started as a good idea. Somebody realized that it would be compelling to have partners announcing a sporting event. The play-by-play announcer anchors the team – the straight man…the Abbot to the color commentator’s Costello. His job is to communicate what is happening in the game and leave the interesting stories and insights to the more experienced and flavorful “color commentator” – someone who had been on the field/court/course themselves and could speak from their own memories of the heat of competition. 

 

Some of these “color guys” are masters. Others…not so much.

 

We live in a sports world that is awash with cliches. Color commentators are the chief proprietors of these weathered words. Even the most painful cliches are not off limits-“The best offense is a good defense”, “This guy gives 110%”, and other lifeless lines that make you groan and roll your eyes in good-natured condescension.  

 

Some of these Color Commentator Phrases (CCP’s) aren’t quite as painful but still verge on groaners. Hall of Fame quarterback Phil Simms – a refreshing exception to the color commentator stereotype – insightfully noted that a couple of these useless phrases are: “They need to win the turnover battle” and any reference to “half-time adjustments”. 

 

These folks are also inventive – offering up words that nobody else uses. Teams “stave off elimination”, and pitchers get out of innings “unscathed”. Was the pitcher really in danger of being “scathed”? [Merriam Webster Dictionary: 1. to do harm to, scorch, sear; 2. to assail with withering denunciation.]

 

Then there’s the utterly ridiculous. “Did the Game-cocks win this game, or did Golden Gophers lose it?” Um….both?

 

When color commentators run out of regurgitated cliches to spew at random, they fall back on the excruciatingly obvious. Worse, many of these guys are former athletes, which they assume gives them a certain weight and authority. It’s not just any Joe Schmo telling you that, “Sergio definitely misread that putt.” – it’s self-proclaimed golf legend Johnny Miller. “Back in the day, Jack, Arnold and I would have…”

 

I don’t need to hear a golf analyst tell me, “If Mickelson hits a lot of fairways and greens and makes some putts, then he has a great chance to win this golf tournament”. Did you hear that, Lefty? All you have to do is put the ball in that hole faster than those other golfers and you might win!

 

A single to center field in baseball and, as the replay rolls, we get to listen to insightful color commentary. They inform us that the hitter kept his head on the ball and singled to center because he’s a good hitter, and “good hitters get hits”. (Another classic Joe “Morganism”) Sometimes they are only “Micro-Morganisms” like “they really need to score some runs to get back in this ball game”. 

 

I enjoy some color commentators (some of my best friends are color commentators).  As I mentioned, Phil Simms offers insights that are informed, relevant, and add to the experience of watching the game. As a Red Sox fan, I love the way NESN’s Jerry Remy relates to the ordinary fan, self-deprecatingly draws on his history as a player, and simply doesn’t take himself too seriously. “One of my 7 career home runs was off Catfish Hunter, you know!”

 

Many excellent play-by-play guys compensate for color commentator deficits. They have become less and less like bland, comedy-team straight men, and the best of them illustrate what color guys should be.

 

The almost child like eagerness and knowledge of Bob Costas or the descriptive imagery of Joe Buck draws you right into their passion. Their observations and reactions add to the experience of being a spectator. Big games feel even bigger when their voices are describing the action.

 

A good partnership of announcers definitely adds to the game, but to whom it may concern: we need more announcers who don’t “mail it in” but “take it one game at a time” and “leave it all out on the field”.

 

 

 

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patsAnd Why My Little Brother was Born a Day Late

 

 

What do sports mean? It’s just a game right? Not to me.

 

Sports are many things to many people – obsession, indifference, camaraderie, diversion, god, community, simple entertainment, or – tragically – a passive-aggressive form of spousal abuse. 

 

For me:

 

Sports are the moments they create. I’m not talking about the moments on the field. I’m talking about the moments that arise in the stadiums or – far more often – the basements or the living rooms where they are watched with family and friends.

 

Sports are sitting on my dad’s lap, watching the Red Sox on the nearly 100 degree Thursday that I got home from the hospital as a newborn baby. (I remember it like it was yesterday!) 

 

Sports are the comforting hug my dad gave me after Aaron Boone broke our hearts in 2003 and my Michigan-born cousin, Brittany, insightfully declared, “It’s okay guys. It’s just a game.” 

 

Sports are the very different hug we shared a year later. “Well,” Dad told me, “the Red Sox won the World Series and Grandpa got to see it. Sleep well tonight.” As short-term New England expatriates in Maryland, we searched the greater-Gaithersburg area to find the World Series T-Shirts we had ached to wear for so long.

 

Sports are my Mom, without a second thought, delaying the birth of my brother Grant by a day so we could watch the Patriots win their first Super Bowl together at home in our living room. The doctor said that they needed to induce labor, and that they had an opening on Sunday night. My mom said: “Sunday night? Don’t you know that the Super Bowl is Sunday night? How about Monday?” That Sunday night I sat with my knee in an immobilizer after ACL surgery and saw my Dad leap for joy as an Adam Vinatieri field goal split the uprights. The mighty Rams were defeated and Lonie Paxton made a “snow angel” in a dome.

 

Grant was born during the parade. 

 

Sports are every member of the family sitting in the same seat for every game of an entire playoff run. They are making signs that we hung over the TV, with the full persuasion that the sign was a major contributor to the victory. Tom Brady was 10-0 in the playoffs until the one year we didn’t make a sign. Just saying….

 

Sports are my sister Abigail doing every detail of the scorebook on every Red Sox playoff game for the last four October runs. She doesn’t alter her efforts based on the state of the game. She’ll sit in front of a heart-breaking demolition, where the Red Sox are being mercilessly blown out, and record every pitch. The scorecards she has framed make it all worth it.

 

Sports are a Wes Welker game-winning touchdown launching a six year old Grant off the arm of the couch with a shout of glee and a carelessly abandoned certainty that I will catch him. 

 

Sports are many things to many people.

 

To me – sports are family.

 

 

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2007-0218_cheatingTechnology in sports has run amuck. This week at the World Championships of swimming Olympic hero, Michael Phelps, threatened to boycott all international competition, until the full-body, polyurethane swimsuit worn by German rival Paul Biedermann is banned by the people who have the power to do such things. 

 

Is there anything more basic than swimming? Can you get from here to there in the water faster than the next guy? 

 

Today we have square heads on golf clubs that resemble toasters. And the little dimpled balls they (we) hit were not in our grandfather’s bag. 

 

Don’t even get me started on baseball. A culture of illegal drugs, maple bats, and juiced balls makes broken-bat home runs seem reasonable. 

 

I would think that swimming would be an unlikely candidate for being fundamentally altered by technological advancements. I would be wrong. The super-suit that Biedermann was wearing shaves an average of .75 seconds per one hundred meters. In a sport where .01 seconds won a gold medal in the last Olympics, this seems significant. In the two hundred meter race in question, Biedermann gained 1.5 seconds because of his outfit. Phelps lost by 1.23 seconds. Why didn’t the guy just strap an outboard motor to his back?

 

Some sports have turned into an arm’s race more than an athletic competition. 

 

The effect? These sports have no history. Each is an entirely different sport than the sport of the same name in the previous generation. Equipment nearly as incomparable as a space shuttle and the Wright brothers’ plane completely dissolves all sense of heritage and legacy in sports. 

 

Comparing generations in any sport is a challenge. Even when equipment isn’t a factor. What boxing fan wouldn’t love to see the outcome of a battle between Joe Lewis and Muhammad Ali? 

 

Tiger Woods is constantly declared the greatest golfer of all time. He may be. His game is mind-boggling. On the other hand, Tom Watson (just months short of 60 years old and coming off a hip replacement) with new equipment can come one 12 foot putt from winning a British Open where Tiger misses the cut. It makes you wonder. Sixty years old makes you the Dick Clark of sports. What would dinosaurs like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, or even Ben Hogan have done with modern equipment in their physical prime? Were their skills as good or better than Tiger? We will never know. They didn’t have the option of customizing balls wound so that they would soar, loft or spin a certain way depending on their style of game.

 

What’s the greater accomplishment? Jimmie Foxx leading the league with 35 home runs in 1939, or Mark McGwire hitting 70 in 1998? Your guess is as good as mine.

 

I won’t hold my breath, but it would sure be fascinating to see sports like these standardize key equipment? Would it be outrageous for the MLB to say that bats are going to be made out of one kind of wood? Why has swimming equipment changed at all? (Ah, yes, “the love of money” in the words of Scripture is at the root of all sorts of evil.)  Don’t leave out sponsors, just make it so that all suits have to be made out of one material and cover a set portion of the body. Please don’t interpret this as an endorsement of skimpy, European men’s speedos. The image alone makes me want to shake the Etch-a-Sketch of my mind.

 

Sports are about what you as an athlete can do with your body. They should not in any sense be about what your equipment can do. This is baseball, swimming, golf, etc. – not NASCAR. We’re talking about real sports here.

 

Sports, at their essence, nearly define the concept of fairness. Cliches like “an equal playing field” or “playing by the rules” arose because true sport can only exist within defined parameters. Whether it’s game 7 of the World Series or Wiffle ball with friends it comes down to beating your opponent within a defined set of agreed upon rules and common equipment. No excuses. If you miss the fastball, can’t drain the jumper at the buzzer, or if you lip out that four footer, thats it. You have nothing to say. 

 

Please, if the gods of sport are listening, stop making Big Bertha’s with sweet-spots big enough to make _____ (my second cousin, once removed) think he has the silky-smooth power stroke of Ernie Els.


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Thanks to Steve for pointing this out.

 

“With the Patriots planning a season-long celebration of their 50th anniversary, which includes four games in which the team will wear throwback jerseys and its Pat Patriot logo, sports cartoonist Phil Bissell responded with flair last week when asked about the return of his creation.”

http://www.boston.com/sports/football/articles/2009/07/26/further_spreading_his_wings/?page=3

 

Apparently I am not alone.

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Dear Bob Kraft,old_patriots_logo_retro

 

Thanks for your previous letter. I had no idea you were so fond of shrimp.

 

Thank you also for everything you have done for the team. Since you bought the Patriots in 1988 almost everything has gone right. You took one of the most hapless franchises in the history of football and turned them into perennial contenders and a model of team-building and success. The Patriots have experienced 5 Super Bowls since you took the reins, compared to only one previously. I think you are the best team owner in football.

 

You have made one deeply unfortunate blunder, I’m afraid. You are responsible for giving Pat Patriot the pink slip. Pat made the old logo cooler than John Wayne. He wasn’t a swoosh with a face like the poor excuse for a logo that is the “Flying Elvis”. He was a Patriot (a Revolutionary era Freedom-fighter!) playing football. Doesn’t that make sense? He is undeniably one of the meanest looking dudes I’ve ever set my eyes on. It takes some gumption to look him straight in the eye. Imagine plowing into a pile for a loose ball and finding that guy staring back at you. That would shake you up more than accidentally seeing Joan Rivers without makeup. 

 

The logo-switch was even more egregious because the “Flying Elvis” is simply inexplicable. I barely know what it is. If there was a “logo draft”, Pat Patriot would easily get taken in the top ten, while the Flying Elvis might manage to get picked in the 6th round. Not like the “Tom Brady 6th round”, more like “Sherrod Gideon 6th round”. Who? Exactly.

 

Take comfort, Bob (may I call you Bob?). You are not the first to trip up on logos. Many teams have abandoned their historic logos in an effort to look hip. The Broncos, Bills, and, Buccaneers are also offenders. 

 

Take heart – it’s not too late. The Chargers made the right decision and switched back to their white helmets with powder blue uniforms. Pardon an NBA reference, but the 76ers also recovered their historic uniforms. Now Philadelphia’s fans can see Elton Brand sit injured on the bench in the very same jersey that Dr. J wore. How great is that?

 

So please Bob, just say no to ugly, modern logos. For all of us. 

 

Please greet Coach Belichick for me and ask him why he hasn’t responded regarding the defensive strategies I sent. If Giselle is around with Tom, please apologize again that it didn’t work out between us. (Between you and me, my new bride is better looking anyway.)

 

Say “hi” to the fam for me. Looking forward to this season.

 

Forever yours,

 

The Basement Athlete

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oly4As a rule, I tend to be able to set aside the debates or controversies surrounding a significant sporting event and simply enjoy. Last July, however, it was common to hear me saying “We should not be participating in the Olympics this year.” Give the Chinese tyrants a world-wide platform to strut their stuff and portray a golden image of culture, beauty, and opportunity? Are you kidding? But I know how naive can be the instinctively black and white opinions of youth, so I would appreciate your opinion.

We are approaching the one year anniversary of the 2008 Summer Olympics. A little time for reflection. Last August the attention of the world focused on Beijing, China for this greatest spectacle in sports. The Olympics (as the global coverage declares ad nauseam) symbolize the coming together of nations and are intended to celebrate equal opportunity for every people of every nation and race. A sprinter who grew up in poverty-stricken Jamaica can blow away competitors from nations all over the earth. The goal is that the only discriminator be talent, and athletic ability. (How cool is it that the fastest man in the world was born with the name “Bolt”?) 

So what’s my problem? The simple reality that this host nation represented the exact opposite of these principles. 

China is an oppressive, communist dictatorship. The laundry list of offenses is readily available. Who can forget the young, idealistic student standing defiantly in front of tanks in Tiananman Square? Nobody knows where he is today. We could unpack truck-loads of Chinese offenses against human rights and how they use their 1.3 Billion people as cogs in a brutal machine. Estimates of people making under a $1 per day range between 100,000,000 and 350,000,000. People who can’t afford to feed their families watched as sports complexes were built costing a total of 50-60 Billion dollars.

The People’s Republic cleans up well though. As eyes from all over the world fixed upon them, they unveiled what many believe was the most spectacular opening ceremony in recorded history. What a show!  The program was a stunning event portraying a culture filled with history, art, and beauty. Much of it true. Missing was the abundant legacy and lasting reality of oppression, violence, and corruption. 

So it’s been a year – and this all may seem like old news – but with the benefit of hindsight, where do your opinions fall? Was this a good idea or a bad one. 

I know many who care about people, freedom, and justice viewed all of this as a tragic gift of world-endorsed Chinese propaganda. 

Others of equal credibility and thoughtfulness have suggested that giving China the Olympics exposed many in China to tastes of information and glimpses of free cultures that could plant seeds of change. Information and exposure to free people, after all, has often been the beginning of an antidote to unaccountable tyranny. Certainly a similar dilemma confronted free nations at the 1938 Olympics in Munich, Germany. In that case the extraordinary accomplishments of African-American Jesse Owens (and others) offered a defiant and breathtaking refutation of Arian ideology – all while a pale, bristling Adolph Hitler looked on. A triumph for justice and a loud argument in the case for basic human equality.

I am revisiting this topic because I want to hear your opinions. Please comment and give your thoughts on this issue. Was it a good idea to give China the privilege of hosting the 2008 Olympics? In 20 years or 50 years, how will we measure the effect of this event on the people of China and the state of the free world? Feel free to respond with a simple “yes” or “no”. Definitely, also feel free to give your thoughts (brief or extensive). I want to open up a discussion here. Express yourself.

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