Category: Sports

A memorable year

The LA Dodgers swept the NY Yankees in the 1963 World Series. Of 36 innings, Sandy Koufax pitched 18; Don Drysdale 9: Johnny Podres 8 1/3; and Ron Perronoski 2/3. 1963 was my last year of baseball cards. The sport moved down several notches in my consciousness due to adolescence and due to some major events in 1963.

On May 3, high pressure water from fire hoses and police dogs were unleashed on Civil Rights demonstrators in Birmingham. The children and youth began to stir the conscience of white America with their powerful witness.

On August 28, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. That was only peripheral for me then, but its significance has grown with time.

On September 15, Addie Mae Collins (14), Denise McNair (11), Carole Robertson (14) and Cynthia Wesley (14) were killed by a bomb while attending Sunday School at Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church. “Infamy” is an appropriate word.

On November 22, news of President John Kennedy’s assassination was broadcast over our school intercom. My 7th grade science teacher wrote on the chalkboard “Lyndon Johnson,” and then “John McCormack” after reports of LBJ’s chest pains. This began several sad days and 60 years of wondering “what if” (regarding Vietnam, especially).

From “Rep. John Lewis’ Fight For Civil Rights Began With A Letter To Martin Luther King, Jr.,” by Kerrie Hillman, Aisha Turner and Emma Bowman, NPR, January 17, 2020

Big, strong, fast, acrobatic precision

It’s hard to keep up with all the bowl games. We’re down to the national championship game on Monday night. We watched UT/Clemson and Bama/Kansas State, then bits and pieces of other games. By the time the semi-finals came around on Saturday, we recorded, then fast-forwarded through the TCU/Michigan and Georgia/Ohio State games. I caught the last minutes of Tulane/Southern Cal.

We never watched the British drama series The Crown, so we’re catching up. Queen Elizabeth II was two years younger than my mom and I’m two years younger than King Charles. I grew up closer to Mayberry than Buckingham, but The Crown brings back many memories. Last night, weary of football, we opted for two episodes of The Crown in lieu of the Bengals/Bills game.

A news app on my phone alerted me that Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field in Cincinnati, was given CPR and rushed to a hospital. As of midnight, he was in critical condition. Today’s players are big, strong, fast, and acrobatic. The sport’s leadership is trying to preserve the amazing precision of athletic skill while making the game safer. That’s a difficult task.

From “More than $1 million donated to Damar Hamlin’s foundation Monday night,” Fox 19 News, Cincinnati, January 2, 2023

Humbly confident adaptability

How can we use technology for ethical, healthy purposes while limiting its destructive uses? The daunting nature of rapid change can keep us humble while we muster the confidence to face the future with adaptability that is purposeful and flexible.

John E. Kelly III, in Thomas Friedman’s Thank You for Being Late, describes three eras of computing: (1) a tabulating era (1900s-1940s), with single purpose mechanical systems to count, sort and interpret data; (2) a programming era (1950s to 2007) of computers, the Internet and smart phones; and (3) an emerging cognitive era, with the capacity to write multiple algorithms that could teach a computer to make sense of unstructured data … and thereby enhance every aspect of human decision making.

Three examples: (1) the rise, fall and re-purposing of IBM’s Watson; (2) Nick Saban’s complex “process” that adapts to changing excellence in athletic acumen and skill; and (3) the Internet of Things (IOT) via the “cloud,” a word for connected data storage systems. The insurance industry is excited about self-driving vehicles because this technology will be safer than human drivers. I’m excited because it may get here before the kids take away my keys,

From “How Champions Think: Coach Nick Saban and the Process Thinking Mental Model,” by Ryan Duffy, Knowable, April 4, 2022.

Caleb’s journey

I enjoy the second Saturday in December. The Army-Navy football game is unique. Joe Bellino was a childhood hero. He won the 1960 Heisman Trophy as a Navy halfback, but I’m always impartial. This year’s game went into double overtime. I would have been happy if it had ended in a tie. I always pull for both teams.

The Heisman Trophy ceremony follows the Army-Navy game. The stories of hard work and sacrifice are inspiring. This year’s winner, USC quarterback Caleb Williams, gave a very impressive Heisman acceptance speech. He was effusive in his thanks for those who made it possible. His offensive line was in the audience.

While this may be an individual award, I certainly understand that nothing, absolutely nothing in this sport nor in life is done alone. … As we say in the locker room … there can never be a great book or a great story without some adversity in it. ,.. To his offensive line, calling them by name … who are all here to celebrate our accomplishment, this doesn’t happen without each one of you. … Thank you.

From Heisman Award Ceremony, ESPN, December 10, 2022, via YouTube

All the teams are above average

Thursday, the two Mississippi teams in the Southeastern Conference met for the annual “Egg Bowl,” which determines who holds the egg-shaped trophy for the ensuing year. Both teams emerged with 8-4 records, so both will go to post-season bowl games.

Yesterday, Arkansas and Missouri met for their “Battle Line Rivalry.” Arkansas joined the SEC in 1991 after 76 years in the Southwest Conference. Mizzou joined the SEC in 2011 after 104 years in what eventually became the Big Eight Conference.

Arkansas and Missouri didn’t see much of each other until Missouri joined the SEC. They played against each other in football twice in the 20th Century (1906, 1944). They met in two bowl games (2003, 2008). Their first SEC match was in 2014.

Last night, I looked up the meaning of the “Battle Line Rivalry.” Arkansas and Missouri share a long state line, which (like Tennessee and Kentucky) coincides with the old boundary between the US and the Confederacy.

Yesterday, Mizzou won 29-27, so both teams finished the year with 6-6 records. Both teams are bowl eligible this year. Like Lake Wobegon, where all the children are above average, in the SEC, all the football teams are above average.

Maybe one day the trophy for the Tiger-Razorback winner will be redesigned as an “Olive Branch” trophy to remind us that the Civil War is over. Hey, if Missouri can be in the Eastern Division of the Southeastern Conference, anything is possible!

From “Battle Line Rivalry Trophy Unveiled For Annual Mizzou-Arkansas Games,” arkansasrazorbacks.com, November 23, 2015

For the Birds

This post is for the Birds of Corbin, Kentucky. Sarah Elizabeth Bird (1871-1964) was my great-grandmother. When I was about 12 or 13 she and I crossed paths at the home of her son (my grandfather). She was very petite. All I remember from the conversation was her saying, “I saw them pour water on your head.” As one of the liturgies says, “Remember your baptism and be thankful.”

As a child, visiting Tennessee and Kentucky family, I heard stories about cousin Calvin Bird. I saw some graffiti (on a railroad overpass, I think) that memorialized a rare 1959 football win over Tennessee as “Bird 20, Tennessee 6.” I thought of that on Saturday when UK fell 44-6 to a resurgent UT. Four Bird brothers played at UK: Jerry (1935-2017), Calvin (1938-2013), Billy (1940-1975), Rodger (1943-2020),

Oddly, the most famous bird from Corbin is Harland Sanders’ Kentucky Fried Chicken. (No relation.)

From a Mountain Sports Hall of Fame Facebook post about the four Bird brothers

For the Ages

Discipline, teamwork, and being a good sport are important life skills that can be developed through athletics. As I watched the Alabama-Tennessee telecast tonight, it became clear that this game would have far too many critical plays to remember. It was like watching a ping-pong game.

When I was 10 or 12, I became so distraught during the radio-cast of an Alabama-LSU game that my mother was afraid I might have a stroke. I thought she was over-reacting to my over-reaction. Now, I no longer stew over losses. Now, it’s hard for me to remember the details about most games.

UT fans’ joy after a last-second field goal made it clear that there was a new member of the “ten most memorable” games in this rivalry. I messaged son Cully: “Go, Vols!” He replied that if UT defeats Georgia, there might be a rematch with Bama (for the Conference championship in December). By then, I might be ready for a rematch, but for now I’ve had as much excitement as I can stand.

It was one for the ages.

From “Tennessee Defeats Alabama 52-49,” by Rick Russo and Carissa Simpson, WMC-TV ActionNews5, Memphis, October 15, 2022

For the Win

A USA Today feature is For the Win.” After Thursday’s January 6 hearing and prior to Saturday’s Alabama-Tennessee game, I pondered the mystery of winning and losing. This year, UT has a great opportunity to record a long-awaited win in a great rivalry.

I had a Tennessee grandfather and a Kentucky grandfather. In 1935, my Tennessee grandfather took my dad’s two older brothers to the UT-Alabama game in Knoxville. My uncle described the pre-game hype about an injured Alabama end named Paul Bryant who was not expected to play. He did. Bama won.

That was one of the “ten most memorable” games in the rivalry. The one I remember best was Bama’s 11-10 come-from-behind win in Knoxville in 1966. Cathey’s ring-tone for our son Cully is “Rocky Top.” He’s a big UT fan. For me, Saturday’s game is a win-win situation. We need more of those.

Thursday’s January 6 hearing included a White House staffer’s report that Donald Trump told Mark Meadows, “I don’t want people to know that we lost, Mark….” One who admits defeat and congratulates the victor creates a win-win situation. The only real loser is one who cannot admit defeat.

Roll, Tide! Go, Vols!

From “Remembering When Bear Bryant Came to Tennessee–As a Player,” by John Shearer, The Chattanoogan, September 15, 2013

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