Category: Sports

Earth Day

At a recent conference about climate change, we discussed our individual choices about how to conserve energy, recycle, etc.). My friend Joe Elmore (in his 90th lap around the sun) said the scale of the problem requires governments to take action. The US can reach our target for 2050 net zero CO2 emissions by 2050 through a bill in the US Senate (a carve-out of President Biden’s original “Build Back Better” program) that would provide $555 billion to address climate change.

Yesterday, Heather Cox Richardson and Diana Butler Bass both cited a stirring speech by Michigan state senator Mallory McMorrow, who said: “People who are different are not the reason that our roads are in bad shape…. We cannot let hateful people …. deflect from the … real issues that impact people’s lives.”

Jeff Borzello’s ESPN story about the retirement of Villanova men’s basketball coach Jay Wright after 21 seasons quotes former Baker Dunleavy, former Villanova player and now head coach at Quinnipiac: “Coach Wright’s true legacy will not be his championships. His legacy is the set of values he has instilled in his coaches and players.”

From Earth Day: The Official Site, one initiative is The Canopy Project: “Home to about 80% of the world’s biodiversity, forests are collectively the second biggest storehouse of carbon after oceans, absorbing significant amounts of greenhouse gasses. They also enhance biodiversity, while protecting waterways, enhancing soil nutrition, and providing buffers from natural disasters.”

Peacockery

I’m not superstitious (knock on wood). I’m not into horoscopes, but changing the Zodiac is poppycock. On the other hand, I wonder if the stars are lining up for the Peacocks.

On Friday night, the talented Purdue Boilermakers were upended by a pride/ostentation of Peacocks from Saint Peter’s University. The Peacocks’ story is stranger than fiction, to coin a phrase.

Don’t believe anyone who claims to have a perfect NCAA men’s bracket this year unless it’s verified by the Arizona legislature and the Cyber Ninjas. The Peacocks became the first 15th seed ever to enter the “Elite Eight,” and on the obscure “National Peacock Day,” now famous after one unforgettable evening.

Today, the Peacocks face the North Carolina Tarheels. UNC has the tradition of Dean Smith (1931-2015) and the Tarheel Nation. SPU has a Galilean fisherman, the Society of Jesus and fans with rosary beads. UNC is favored by 8 points, but 74% of betters are taking the Peacocks. This one looks too close to call.

From saintpeters.edu

Commanders

Sometimes, life in the pandemic has felt like listening to my parents’ hand-crank Victrola playing a 78 RPM vinyl recording at 33 RPM. As management prepared for a new name, the Washington NFL team played two seasons as the Washington Football Team. I read yesterday that they will be called the Commanders. Names can be significant, or not. I remember a church league softball game between the Prince of Peace Lutherans and the More than Conquerors Faith Church.

In our first national election in 1789, presidential electors unanimously chose George Washington, former Commander in Chief of the Continental Army. In “Becoming the Commanders: How Washington’s NFL team found its new name,” Nicki Jhabvala wrote in the Washington Post that after 40,000 fan submissions, months of focus groups and team meetings, the team affirmed “some shared ideals they felt a new name should convey: resilience and grit, tradition and unity.”

Were the unveiling’s jersey numbers intentional or coincidental? Primarily because the NFL had not yet been formed, the first big event in the new Federal City was not a football game. On September 18, 1793, President Washington laid the cornerstone for the US Capitol in the District of Columbia.

From “Washington Football Team announces new name, Washington Commanders,” by Drew Weisholtz, TODAY on NBC, February 2, 2022

The generosity of generous generativity

Four years ago, near the end of a national championship game, it appeared that Georgia would defeat Alabama. I readied a “Go Dawgs” text message to a friend. When DeVonta Smith caught the game winning touchdown, I didn’t send it but I knew Kirby Smart and the Dawgs would be back. Late Monday night, I sent the message. She replied that 41 years ago she and her husband were at Georgia’s last national championship victory and they were “so happy to finally see another win (on TV this time)!”

Nick Saban was still intently focused on winning with 54 seconds left when ‘Bama received the kickoff after Georgia’s “pick six” interception put the Dawgs up by 15. He still believed victory was possible. All it would take was a quick TD, onside kick recovery, another TD, and two 2-point conversions. No problem.

In mere moments, the old coach’s laser focus on victory was followed by his gracious congratulation when his former 11-year assistant coach’s team knocked off the Tide. This was a display of Erik Erikson’s concept of generativity: the stage of life when one strives to nurture future generations, by parenting, mentoring or contributing to positive changes that benefit future generations. Roll Tide. Go Dawgs.

From article by Ryan Gaydos, Fox News, January 11, 2022

Perseverance

I’ve learned to neither inquire about or assume whether a couple of people are a couple. I’m not disinterested in one’s marital status or gender identity, though my natural tendency to be oblivious and/or preoccupied sometimes helps me. They appeared to be a married couple.

They either arrived together at the North Carolina-NC State football game or they became quick friends. They kissed after every score. One wore a Carolina blue cap. The other wore a jersey with Wolfpack Red. They won the attention of the camera person and the director.

Rivalry games make the season’s statistics irrelevant. Both teams showed great perseverance. NC State jumped to a quick lead and appeared to dominate. The Tarheels won the middle of the game and appeared to have won when a late field goal put them up by nine points.

With 1:42 left, NC State cut the lead to two on a long pass after a sack, reminiscent of the “Seattle” pass from Tua to DeVonta in January 2018. A recovered onside kick led to another long pass, acrobatic catch, and a Wolfpack victory. The couple continued to cheer and kiss. Both persevered.

They both won, ESPN via YouTube

Living with ambiguity

Last night, CNN’s Pamela Brown interviewed Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. His agenda was to promote his new book, Integrity Counts, which he deftly mentioned each time he answered a question. Brown’s agenda was to ask (repeatedly and unsuccessfully), “Why did you vote for Trump when you knew his claims that the upcoming election was rigged were untrue?”

Public figures are always on message, to the point that it can be wearisome. We’re in a moment of history when ambiguity is out of fashion. A little ambiguity now and then can be a good thing.

I miss the days when football games could end in a tie. When Alabama and Texas tied 3-3 in the 1960 Bluebonnet Bowl, it simply made me appreciate Alabama’s kicker, Tommy Brooker (1939-2019). The last college football game to end in a tie was in 1995, when Illinois and Wisconsin tied 3-3.

In the next few posts, I plan to consider the tension between the virtue of moral certainty and the reality of moral ambiguity.

To watch the last play of the 1995 Illinois-Wisconsin game, click here (via Facebook)

A legend within a Legend

The person who might have enjoyed this World Series the most died in January. Hank Aaron (1934-2021) was best known as a legendary hitter. He was one of the best all-around players, but even that doesn’t fully describe his legacy.

In 1967, when Astros manager Dusty Baker (now 72) was drafted by the Braves out of high school, Aaron told Baker’s mom that if he signed to play with the Braves, he would treat him “like a son.” In 1968, Baker spent the first of 8 years with the Braves. He played 11 more years and he has had a long career as a Major League manager. He still feels like part of the Aaron family.

Braves manager Brian Snitker is in his fourth decade with the organization. He was a Braves minor league player when Aaron was in charge of player development. He told Snitker he didn’t think he could make it in the big leagues, but he wanted him to coach for one of the Braves’ minor league teams. He soon was promoted to be a minor league manager. Now he’s managing in the “Big House.”

When Aaron died, Snitker said, “He’s the epitome of grace, professionalism, just the man he was. He never called me when I was a minor-league manager and the first thing out of his mouth wasn’t, ‘How’s your family?’ and ‘Can I do anything for you?’”

From “Brian Snitker and Dusty Baker Jr. Photos,” Getty Images via Zimbio

Pearl on navy

When the Atlanta Braves last went to the World Series, Bill Clinton was president. Mike DuBose was the head football coach at Alabama. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 25% that year to close at 11,497.12. The Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role went to Roberto Benigni for Life is Beautiful–in 1999.

When I was a child in the late 1950s, I could tell you the Braves’ starting lineup and pitching staff. Hank Aaron, Eddie Matthews and Warren Spahn were stars–for the Milwaukee Braves. They were my team and I remember the excitement when they moved to Atlanta in 1966. Every game was on one of our local radio stations.

Life changes. It’s been 30 years since I could tell you the Braves’ starting lineup–it was their surprising 1991 season when the Braves went from worst in 1990 (65-97) to first in 1991 (94-68) to make it to the World Series. I watched a few innings of just two games this season–including last night’s game with the Dodgers.

Braves outfielder Joc Pederson was born 16 days into the 1992 season. He leads the team in accessorizing. For the post-season, he sports a string of large white pearls. They look great on the Braves’ navy blue (away game) uniforms. Jewelry is an important part of the game today. In the 1950s–not so much.

What’s Up With the Pearls?“, by Bob Nightengale, USA Today, October 21, 2021

Go Vols!

We live in a very quiet place, surrounded by trees and the animals that live in and around them. The night quiet is sometimes broken by an owl or two preparing dinner, or a coyote buffet, but most of the time it’s silence until the morning birds began to sing.

We’re tent camping at a Tennessee state park. The first days were stormy and cold. I kept humming “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” But, it cleared up and warmed up and we’ve met some nice neighbors, such as Sophie, Gabby and Olive. Their humans are nice, too.

This park is convenient to shopping and easy access to two major highways that aren’t quite as close as they sound. I’ve lived near highways so I know to imagine it’s the sound of waves at the beach and it quickly lulls me to sleep.

But, all in all it’s a quiet, peaceful place and a great location to soak up the mountains that surround it. Well, it was quiet until Friday. Now it’s as full as Knoxville’s Neyland Stadium on Saturday. It appears that we’re part of a community Vols tailgate party. Go Vols!

From “Tips for a Stylish Southern Tailgate with Draper James,” Lone Star Looking Glass

Division of labor

This Labor Day brings some light-hearted levity from down under: an insight from the Governor of Alabama. No, not the one in Montgomery. The real Governor, Nick Saban.

Saturday, James Burnip played in his first football game. Usually, before one takes the field in a major college game, he or she has had some high school gridiron experience, but Burnip’s first time between the hash marks was for the University of Alabama against Miami on national TV.

Burnip played some rugby in his native Australia, but not real football. Well, not American football. The Alabama coaching staff looked at film of him punting a football and Saban had an intercontinental Facetime conversation with him. The 6’6″ Aussie was awarded a scholarship.

When asked about Burnip’s lack of football experience, Saban said, “We’re not asking him to play football. We’re asking him to punt it.”  When business schools teach classes in management, they can point to James Burnip to illustrate the division of labor principle.

So, in this age of specialization: Happy Labour Day, mate!

From “New Punter James Burnip bringing Aussie style to Alabama,” by Tony Tsoukalas, BamaInsider, September 3, 2021