Today's thoughts

Category: OLD SPORT SHORTS (Page 1 of 38)

An old guy’s perspective on all sports

Retirement is not without Hassles: Average #1521

I tried to run faster this morning, but it was to no avail. With stiff joints and poor balance, I seem to have only one speed – slow. I do get the job done but it’s never pretty. There was something about the word “average” when it came to my running pace that struck a chord. It’s always been difficult for me to digest. I want to look younger and perform better than just average. I was always a “B” student and on the “B” team, so I’ve never been considered exceptional. There have been some “A” moments in life and rarely a “C,” so my achievement expectations continue  in my race towards seventy. 

The average life span of a white male in 75.3 years, so I certainly hope to be above average in this category.  This means I have at least five good years left or or 1,825 running days. This would put me over 6,000 consecutive days. There was also a point where I was 6 feet tall, but I am quickly shrinking to average height. My weight is slightly over average but that’s not necessarily a good thing. I often wonder how my spindly legs have held up all these years when most of my bulk is in my torso. Yesterday’s Thanksgiving meal certainly didn’t help.

Today, college basketball and football will keep me busy. We’re up to date on Yellowstone with Season 4 not expected until mid-2021. Shameless has a final season airing in a few weeks, so the Suits series is now our primary evening entertainment. There’s also one last episode of Fargo to watch. Only 8 days until we land in Kauai, if all goes well next week with Covid testing. At one point, this Hawaii trip was planned with intentions of following Indiana basketball in the Maui Classic. That event was of course delayed a week to start on Monday and moved to Asheville, North Carolina. I.U. football meets Maryland tomorrow, as the Hoosiers try to hold on to their #12 ranking. They fell short in their comeback effort against #3 Ohio State last weekend. I’m glad to see that I.U. football is no longer considered average. 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Paranoia #1516

I woke up this morning with all the classic signs of Covid 19: chills, headache, fever, scratchy throat, and congestion. This has happened at least once a week since March when the possibility of catching it was initially discovered. One of the by-products of being a pessimist is also being a hypochondriac – if it’s out there, I’m certainly going to get it! The first thing that comes to mind is that I’m going to end up in the hospital and my 4,347 day running streak will come to an abrupt end. On the other extreme, I’m thinking that I won’t be able to pass the Covid test to get to Hawaii with my family in a couple of weeks.

Nonetheless, I got out of bed and made the 3.1 mile run, at first thinking I would just do the minimum mile in my frail state of health. As I got going, all the symptoms seemed to disappear, as often is the case when I’m either not feeling well or hung over. It would have been easy to get up this morning if I.U. would have pulled off the upset yesterday against Ohio State. All that adrenaline would have still been flowing through my veins. Instead, I was a bit depressed when the Hoosiers fell short. Of course, no true pessimist would have expected them to win anyway, so I got what I imagined! It looks like the loss has literally made me sick, or at least pretend sick.

I hope we can get to the island in early December. The boredom of sitting in an apartment all day is getting to me. I don’t have the yard chores or outdoor home projects that keep my friends busy. All I have is my running, writing, dog outings, and T.V. watching. The snacks in between are also a problem, like the chocolate chip cookies my wife baked for me yesterday. Live sports at least adds some excitement to the day, even if its not always the desired outcome. My half-sister sent me photos of her at the Alabama vs. Kentucky game yesterday to rub it in. I haven’t been to a game of any game since January, as is the case with most of American fans.

Yes, I’m paranoid that something will prevent us from traveling to Hawaii, as has been the case with Bali and Egypt this year. Retirement is supposed to be all about exploring the world, but just not going to work is certainly adequate reward, just as long as we stay healthy. Unfortunately, I can’t keep my mind from dwelling on the things that could go wrong. It’s a defense mechanism that I adopted early in life and protects me from disappointment. I believe that if you think of all the things that could possibly go wrong, it rarely does. However, paranoia like this  does have it’s price! 

Old Sport Shorts: Nuts #1515

There’s been a lot of hype this week about I.U. football after unprecedented victories over both Penn State and Michigan. Could they possibly also add the Ohio State Buckeyes to this list, despite 25 straight losses? After watching the first couple plays, my doubt is growing. This same Indiana team lost at home to the Buckeyes last year 51-10, so my expectations aren’t great. In fact, we look like I.U. football of the past in the first few series, including a hike over the head of the quarterback and several dropped passes. Ohio State scored early on two passes – too easy! 

We are clearly intimidated on the field, particularly on offense. The defense has grabbed two interceptions but we haven’t been able to capitalize.  We’re lucky to be down only 7-0 in the first quarter. The Buckeye ground game has been effective, while I.U.’s has not. However, a long pass has just allowed us to tie the game. It’s almost unbelievable that we’re still in the game. Then, suddenly we’re behind again, giving up another big play on the ground. As we overplay on the pass, it’s creating big holes for the running backs. 

I.U. has not been able to convert the third downs that allowed us to beat Penn State and Michigan. However, since then, those teams have shown to be not as traditionally strong. This is really the Hoosier’s biggest test, and so far they are failing. They needed a time out to make some defensive corrections to stop the rush. Missed tackles now seem to be an issue. 21-7. Hopes are fading, as they’re starting to look like the #3 team in the country!

We counter with a 51-yard pass, but an injury to an official destroys our momentum, followed by a fumble. It’s another comedy of errors for I.U. football, with tragic results. Dam* refs – one limps off and the other gets in the way! We can’t hold on to the football or their running backs, as they get in scoring position with time running out in the half. Plus, they get the ball to start the second half. 28-7. This was what I was afraid of all week in anticipation of this game. Overrated!

The BIG doesn’t have much this year. It’s Ohio State followed by the rest of the conference, without even the usual three contenders. The Hoosiers are proving to be pretenders and on the verge of embarrassment. Ohio State has 168 yards rushing so far, with IU at minus 6. People were “NUTS” if they thought we could beat the Buckeyes. S.O.S.! Thankfully, basketball season starts this week!

 

 

 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Hoosier Hysteria #1513

I’m making an effort to be a little more constructive than counting blinking lights, picking up lost coins, and watching T.V. I did make Italian Beef for dinner last night and had a couple of friendly phone conversations. Most importantly, over the past two weeks, I’ve started writing another book. This one a sequel of the unpublished “Blueberry Hill,” a project I worked on 30-years ago. So far, there’s been no attempt on my part to publish any of my writing, including the hundreds of poems I’ve offered in this blog. 

A+ Killer,” my recent fictional attempt to create a serial monster, was not received favorably by some close friends, but it did keep me constructively entertained many hours during this pandemic. As I continue to experiment with content ideas, eventually I’ll produce something worthy. “Tribulations and Trials,” the working title of this latest attempt, is about the early 1970s “War on Drugs,” through the eyes of a college student. It’s based on a true story. I’m also currently reading Michael Connelly’s, The Law of Innocence, his latest novel. All authors are heroes of mine and maybe someday I will become one myself. 

Tonight, Indiana University basketball finally returns with a virtual Hoosier Hysteria, the annual exhibition to start the season. The Hoosiers were one of few teams to finish the basketball 2019-2020 year with a tournament victory. However, their next game was cancelled, like so many others due to the onset of Coronavirus. In a recent conversation, I talked to a friend who was at that BIG 10 tourney game in Indianapolis, when the crowd booed the announcements that any games going forward would be played without fans. Next came the total shut-down of the event, and the end of the season. I felt the same disappointment after plans to attend baseball Spring Training games in Arizona were cancelled on the same day. This was almost exactly eight months ago. 

For 2021, the NCAA just announced that all March Madness tournament games will be played in Indianapolis. This 2020-21 season will start with some other unusual twists like The Maui Classic being played in Asheville, but all indications are that it will at least start. Any questions regarding fans in attendance will be a factor of when a vaccine can be distributed. Hoosier Hysteria will go on tonight for the first time ever without a live audience. Fans can watch via a Facebook feed, another first. IU basketball is back, after eight long months, the longest I’ve ever had to wait between games. Go Hoosiers!

 

Old Sport Shorts: 0 for East Lansing #1509

I made it through Friday the 13th and running day number 1339, as I settle in front of the T.V. for The Masters and college football. The 10th ranked Indiana Hoosiers face another BIG nemesis, as they travel to East Lansing. I coined the phrase “0 for East Lansing” after many years of zero success in both football and basketball. Every time we visited it was a fruitless experience, never returning with the Brass Spittoon. The Spartans lead the football series 48-16-2, without a loss there since 2001, a game I must have missed. 1986 was a rare year of success for I.U., but then you have to go back to 1967-69 for victories, a few years before I was a student in Bloomington. 

To win in East Lansing would be another season jewel and a chance to go head-to-head with the Buckeyes for all the BIG marbles next Saturday.  I’m of course concerned about a let-down, after knocking-off both Penn State and Michigan. I could never be optimistic about I.U. football after so many years of disappointment. Purdue is also undefeated against Northwestern today, and Oregon meets Washington State later this afternoon. Between games, I’m taking a drive to McMinnville for lunch with the boys at Two Dogs. It’s the mid-point for our “Leadership” group whose regular meetings have been disrupted by the Coronavirus. It will be good to get together, eat a cheeseburger, and watch The Masters

My extended weekend of football started on a good note when the Colts beat the Titans on Thursday night, but soured when my high school team lost their Regional match-up last night. It was their first year of being Lions, abandoning the Blazer name in a merger with the Chargers. “Once a Blazer, always a Blazer” is our class motto, but Elkhart’s return to a one-high-school town, as it was when I attended, brought new strength to a steadily declining athletics program. It was enough for an undefeated season and Sectional Championship in the inaugural year. A great hometown achievement!

On Monday Night Football, the Chicago Bears get another chance for victory under the leadership of a new offensive coordinator, as the 5-day sports weekend  continues. Hopefully, Da’ Bears can end a bad stretch of losses after a strong start. In addition, the Portland Timbers also match-up against Dallas in the first-round of the MLS playoffs next Sunday, a week after final round coverage of The Masters comes to a close. However, the key to a successful weekend is to end my “0 for East Lansing” curse. 

P.S. Final Score: I.U 24 Michigan State 0

 

 

 

Old Sport Shorts: Easy Come…Easy Go #1503

George Strait recorded the Dean Dillon-written song, Easy Come Easy Go, in 1993. It was also an Elvis Presley movie in 1967. 

Goodbye, farewell, so long, vaya con dios.
Good luck, wish you well, take it slow.
Easy come girl, easy go.”

This morning I picked up both a dime and a quarter – a very prosperous day of running. With all the leaves on the ground, I wouldn’t have spotted the dime without stopping to grab the quarter. However, by the time I went to put them in my pocket, the quarter was missing from my gloved hand and despite efforts to find it, the coin had disappeared. Maybe tomorrow I’ll find it again or it will be swept away with the leaves? Easy come…easy go.

The coin flips have also gone my way in the world of sports this weekend. My former Elkhart Blue Blazers, now Lions, moved on in the Indiana High School football playoffs with a victory over Chesterton. They play Merrillville next on their quest for a state 6A championship. The winning momentum continued with I.U. football dominating the University of Michigan, a team they hadn’t beaten in 33-years and 24-attempts. This will vault them into the Top 10, a status no Indiana football team has ever held. Michigan State is next weekend, followed by a chance to beat Ohio State, another BIG 10 team with a decades-long history of head-to-head thrashings. It’s hard to believe that Hoosier football has a much better chance of national prominence than basketball. But, like the quarter I found this morning…easy come…easy go.

You’ll never find me being overconfident when it comes to I.U. athletics, despite witnessing three National Championships in basketball. As a 20-year season ticket holder in football, I never once expected I.U. to achieve this level of success on the gridiron. It’s never been easy to be an I.U. football fan. An optimist might even look forward to a BIG 10 championship and Rose Bowl. Is a National Championship even possible?

Yesterday’s football action concluded with a ho-hum Oregon Ducks win over Stanford and a thrilling double-overtime victory by Notre Dame over Clemson. It was the first loss by the Tigers in 39 games…Easy come…Easy go. Today, I hoping that the Bears can rebound against the Titans, the Colts can top the Ravens, and Portland Timbers soccer can get back on the winning track. Without overseas travel, fine dining, live music, and Broadway shows to keep me entertained, I’m grateful that sports have survived and my teams are winning…but realistically…easy come…easy go. 

 

 

Old Sport Shorts: Pessimistic #1497

I must be dreaming – I.U. football ranked #13 in the country? It’s the highest honor since 1987 – the last time they beat Michigan – 24 consecutive bitter losses ago. Given the history of the Hoosier football, it’s the sure recipe for another disappointment this weekend when the Wolverines came to town. I.U. sports and I have always gotten along because I’m a pessimist and rarely expect them to win in a football game. Something bizarre always happens! For example, the recent TD lunge for the goal line against Penn State that I thought for sure would be reversed, or last week’s 8-lateral TD that Rutgers pulled off. It’s taken me years of frustration to get to this level of pessimism. 

1987 was an exceptional year for I.U. athletics.  Soccer was just a year away from one of its eight current collegiate crowns. Basketball won the NCAA National Championship and football went a remarkable 8-4, despite a last minute loss to Tennessee in the Peach Bowl. Oddly enough, this year’s team also squandered a lead to Tennessee in last year’s season-ending bowl match-up. These are the kind of endings that I am used to when it comes to the gridiron! I’m also sadly starting to get used to losing in basketball. This week’s disappointment was the recruiting failure of securing Trey Kaufman, who decided on Purdue of all places. Salt in the state rivalry wound!

I can only hope that I am wrong when an angry Michigan team comes to Bloomington on Saturday. The are ranked below Indiana for the first time since 1988 when they started their 24-game winning streak in head-to-head match-ups. The Wolverines have to be living in “Harbaugh Hell” this week after losing to rival Michigan State. Two straight losses might mean the end of his Michigan coaching career, with follow-up challenges against Penn State, Ohio State, and Wisconsin. You thought you were having a bad 2020! He’s probably commiserating today with his brother, whose Baltimore Ravens lost a heartbreaker against the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers yesterday. 

The oddsmakers agree with my pessimism, favoring Michigan by as much as four.  Historically, Michigan has dominated the Hoosiers with an overall record of 59-9. I.U. won in 1928, 1936, 1944, and 1945, but only four times in my lifetime, and only once since I graduated from there in 1973. This provides solid ground for my pessimism. As a result, I will either be right or victorious on Saturday. If they somehow beat Michigan and start 3-0, they get the dubious honor of playing Ohio State next for a potential Rose Bowl bid. Talk about being pessimistic – stay tuned! 

Retirement is not without Hassles: End of 2020 #1496

I run the distance equivalent of a marathon every nine days – 3 per month – 40 a year. I know from experience, that it’s certainly not the endurance challenge of completing a 26.2 mile race, but at my age I don’t think my body could handle it any more. It also might cause an injury that would jeopardize my 4,126 day streak. I certainly think about it frequently, but at my current pace it would take over six hours – twice the time it took to run my first one 41 years ago.  I always wanted to run the Boston and New York City Marathons but never got the chance. Now, you can run them virtually – even earn a medal from Paris. Unfortunately, with social distancing restrictions, it’s the only option for today’s competitors.

The intersection by our house is now a pumpkin graveyard with dozens of smashed remnants littering the street. It’s the only evidence that I saw of last night’s Halloween riots, inspired by a full moon. Violence rarely extends to our near- downtown neighborhood, but apparently no pumpkin was safe last night. It made me think of the alternative rock band, The Smashing Pumpkins and their hit song Tonight, Tonight. Yesterday, I did cut a pumpkin in half so my wife could make soup and dessert bars – two of my seasonal favorites.  The huge carving knife I used put me in the Halloween spirit, with thoughts of Freddy Krueger!

Sports were once again the highlight of my day, as I.U. and Purdue football moved to an unprecedented 2-0 BIG 10 starts. After last week’s controversial win over Penn State and unfamiliar #17 national ranking, I was worried that I.U. would stumble against Rutgers. The Hoosiers got off to a slow start but soon had the game in hand until a crazy 8-lateral TD gave the Scarlet Knights the faint hopes of coming back. It was typical I.U. football bad luck, but upon further review was reversed. Their next challenge is to put an end to the 24-game losing streak to Michigan. The Wolverines will certainly be on top of their game after being upset by rival Michigan State yesterday. It will be “Harbaugh Hell” in Ann Arbor this week, knowing that a loss to lowly I.U. could signal a coaching change. Purdue may not play in week 3 because of Wisconsin Covid issues. 

It will be an interesting week. This morning I felt out-of-sync with time change, but early morning light was welcome. November also arrived today with blue skies. Election Day will finally be here and the end of political commercials. I’m sure the outcome will be controversial, sparking more rioting and economic uncertainty. I only hope the stock market won’t overreact. I’ll spend today watching NFL football and admiring the beautiful fall colors outside my office window. Before we know it, Thanksgiving and Christmas will be here, along with the welcome end of a tough 2020. 

 

Old Sport Shorts: Fantastic Finishes #1489

It’s a fantastic finish only when your team wins, otherwise it’s a nightmare! I saw two such glorious endings yesterday, in pandemic times when excitement is often hard to find. Thankfully there are at least live sports to watch on TV, plus I.U. athletics are up and running again. Yesterday, I was consumed in college football and World Series action. Even when my team isn’t playing I can always find another to hate and therefore someone else to root for. This is the case in the Fall Classic as the L.A. Dodgers battle the Tampa Bay Rays. The adrenaline was still flowing from the Indiana vs. Penn State game that kept me on the edge of my seat for four hours. 

I watched my Hoosiers fall behind early, as the Nittany Lions dominated the line of scrimmage but not the scoreboard. Two missed field goals, two interceptions, and critical penalties penalties allowed I.U. to lead 17-7 at half time. The end of the first half was a comedy of errors by both teams, so it was an emotional relief to take a break and catch-up on other scores. I.U. had not beaten a top-ten ranked team since 1987 at Ohio State. Penn State was ranked #8 in the country, so a 10-point halftime lead and getting the second half kickoff put the Lions on the ropes. I could smell blood in a moment of temporary insanity, but the punch-less Hoosiers could only muster a 48-yard field goal in the second half and fell hopelessly behind 21-20 with 2:30 remaining in the game. After a futile attempt at the two minute drill, the Nittany Lions were in a position to run out the clock. Miraculously, Penn State running back, Devyn Ford, took an unadvised step into the end zone. He realized his mistake too late, giving the Hoosiers one last chance. It led to their only TD of the second half, followed by a 2-point conversion to tie the game at 28. With 22-seconds left on the clock, I thought we were headed to overtime but a squib kick attempt went array, allowing Penn State a last second field goal attempt – it was their third miss of the day, just short of the school record distance. 

Both team scored in overtime, as the I.U. faithful like myself continued to sense another close loss. The game came down to a gutsy 2-point conversion by Hoosier QB Michael Penix, Jr. I held my breath as he attempted a dive for the goal line. It was unbelievable how he launched himself towards the pylon in desperation. It was questionable if he scored, but after a thousand replays it was confirmed. The decision was the break we needed to destroy the curse of loss expectation that has plagued the program since I can remember. A fantastic finish!

But there was more on this day of breathtaking endings. As a Cubs and White Sox fan, I have many reasons to hate the Dodgers more than the Rays, so picking a favorite in this year’s World Series is easy.  I watched a back-and-forth game-four with the evil Dodgers hoping to gain a 3-1 advantage over the less-evil Rays. They led 2-0 in the 3rd, 4-2 in the sixth, 6-5 in the seventh, and 7-6 in the eighth. The Rays had one last chance to win or send the game into extras, with rookie hero Randy Arozerena due to hit if they could just get a man on base. Kiermaier singled with one-out, while Wendle lined out to left. It was the World Series scenario that every kid dreams about, even in Cuba. Two-outs, full-count, and a home run wins it all. It was all set up for a Bill Mazeroski walk-off moment, but instead “Randy-Roza” walked in less dramatic fashion. However, he was soon to make an impact, as Phillips then singled to right center, scoring the tying run. Arozerena tried to stretch his luck, as Taylor bobbled the Phillips blooper and stumbled rounding third base on a dramatic attempt to score. The throw to the plate was mishandled, allowing Arozerena to score the winning run and tying the series. Another unbelievable, fantastic finish – two on the same day for my favorites.

 

 

Old Sport Shorts: Healthy Anger #1488

BIG 10 football is back – basketball will soon follow. The Hoosiers are projected to go 4-4 in the shortened conference-only regular season. This is an unexpected show of respect for a school where football was always a second thought. It was a sport that Indiana fans only tolerated because they knew that basketball would get revenge over all the schools that kicked our gridiron butts. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case any more. The Cream & Crimson stripes are also projected to be in the middle of the conference pack. This is sad news for me, spoiled by years of being on top. It’s hard to believe that we have an equal slim chance of winning a conference championship in each sport this year.

We’ll see if I.U. can compete against Penn State in today’s match-up. They almost beat them last year in Happy Valley. However, the Nittany Lions football program is seeing a resurgence from their fall from grace, while I.U basketball has sadly failed to recover in the post-Knight years. I.U. football has always been mediocre, so I’m excited to see some hope. More importantly, I’m glad the conference finally gets to compete, when the season was pronounced dead just a few months ago. Basketball will be delayed a month, with the Hoosier hoopsters traveling to Asheville for a less than glamorous Maui Classic setting. Baseball, soccer, and swimming will have to wait until Spring. 

Today’s game will be played in front of a small home crowd, limited by social distancing rather than lack of interest. During my tenure as a football season ticket holder, a full house in Bloomington only happened when Ohio State fans bought up all the tickets. Otherwise, there was social distancing in the stands long before it was medically necessary! There are no warm-up patsies this year to bolster our record. Instead, we jump right into the fire with the #7 ranked team in the country. There’s no chance to knock the rust off! The only thing normal about the 2020 schedule is the Purdue game, but held in mid-December rather than the traditional Thanksgiving slot. It will likely be freezing cold with a chance for snow. 

The last I.U. sporting event was seven months ago when the basketball Hoosiers beat Nebraska in the only game of the BIG Tournament before cancellation. At least, we haven’t been living with a loss all this time, even though we lost our chance to finally return to the Big Dance. I haven’t yelled at a television screen in all this time, even though Da’ Bears have caused some moments of despair. Today, I’ll frighten my wife and scare the dog! Nothing in life makes me angrier than a bad I.U. performance, and I’m missing the relief of venting this pent-up internal irritability. I especially need it after too much time of being cooped-up at home. Healthy anger will certainly be the case today when Penn State comes to town!

P.S. IU wins in overtime, breaking a 33-year losing streak against top teams. It was a controversial ending with a stretched body holding the football that barely crossed the chalk line. PSU also gave the Hoosiers a chance to tie the game in regulation with a touchdown and two-point conversion by scoring too early. It was a game of close calls and poor decisions, but somehow I.U. prevailed. It was the most exciting game I’ve ever watched, and may very well be the turning point for Hoosier football culture. They found a way to win rather than lose!

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