Today's thoughts

Category: OLD SPORT SHORTS (Page 1 of 57)

An old guy’s perspective on all sports

Retirement is not without Hassles: Hey June #2345

The year is going by quickly, as the trivia calendar rolls over to June. It starts with this Amazing Fact: In Japan, many splintered bats are turned into chopsticks. They are known as “kattobashi,” which translates to ‘get a big hit.’ It’s NCAA tourney month, with the Hoosiers, Beavs, and Ducks all getting first round wins. In women’s softball, the Sooners continue their amazing winning streak. Even the White Sox started June with a win, beating the Tigers 3-0. I can only hope this good fortune continues and that all my teams enjoy kattobashi. 

We’re watching the final episodes of Ted Lasso, with familiar segments of our recent visit to London. It featured an outdoor pub scene with a musician singing “Hey Jude,” reminiscent of our walk across Abbey Road. The pub crowds were rowdy, extending into the streets and a focal point of British culture. Fish and Chips washed down with a warm beer. Soccer or “football” is the favored sport, although the Cubs and Cardinals play baseball at London Stadium later this month. 

The fate of two recent IU basketball stars will be determined in the upcoming June NBA draft and the Nuggets play the Heat for the crown, as round ball attempts to get a foothold in this busy month of sports and don’t forget about the French Open that leads up to Wimbledon. Also, my wife’s birthday, her trip to Indy for my niece’s bachelorette party, Juneteenth, fathers’ day, Flag Day, and D-day are unforgettable June celebrations. “Remember to let her into your heart. Na na na nananana, hey June!”

Retirement is not without Hassles: Carpe Diem #2319

Another Saturday has arrived after an evening with the neighbors. In two more Saturdays, we will be in Cairo. There is a dinner with my wife’s bridge group tonight. Next Saturday, I have the day to myself since my wife has theater tickets and a dinner date with a girlfriend. Tally and I will have to fend for ourselves, along with Sophie, our schnauzer guest for the night. Another episode of Succession was our late night entertainment, after I listened to the White Sox blow another game to the Rays. 

I make the Sunday morning drive to St. Pete for the final game in the series, as the Sox try to salvage a single victory. A former Ft. Wayne radio friend will meet me in the Publix parking lot where 275 branches off from I-75 near Palmetto to cross the Sunshine Skyway bridge. We’ve attended many White Sox games together, including the last two years as residents of Florida. My son has to work today, so he won’t join us for this year’s reunion. 

I’m wearing my #10 personalized Sox jersey with the 2005 World Series patch. It has been eighteen years since that monumental occasion, with little hope for an encore. The team is quickly sinking (stinking) to the bottom of the division with a 7-14 record to start the season. Tampa Bay is now 18-3, by far the best in baseball. Lucas Giolito is on the mound with a 4.29 ERA, facing unbeaten Zach Eflin. 

I just got word that another media friend has passed away. Between classmates, co-workers, and acquaintances it’s hard to keep up. He had a heart attack years ago and was revived but not this time, sadly. I need to start approaching every day as if it’s my last and stop worrying about tomorrow. Seize the Day – Carpe Diem. 

Old Sport Shorts: Opening Day “W” #2296

It’s baseball opening day, so I’m glued to the T.V. and free games from Apparently, it was the earliest ever opener for the Cubs at Wrigley Field, celebrating their 148th season. I have a ticket stub from April 3, 1998, one of the memorable openers for me. The Cubs won 6-2 over the Montreal Expos with Steve Trachsel as the winning pitcher and hitter with two hits while Rod Beck got the save. There were no homers but Sammy Sosa had two errors and got caught stealing. I’m sure the famous ivy vines were just as dead-looking as today with the temperature at 42 windy degrees. I stuffed napkins in my shoes to keep my toes from freezing.

Vladimir Guerrero played right field for the Expos. He was 23-years old that year, while his son, Vladi just turned 24 and is a designated hitter for the Blue Jays. Like father like son, both Canadian stars. I’m watching him play against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium, another opening day experience in my life as a baseball fan. That was the inaugural opening of the downtown St. Louis stadium in 2006. However, as a White Sox fan, I can’t say I that I’ve ever started a season there. The Sox play the defending champion Astros this evening.

I drank the White Sox Kool-Aid last year, so I’m not falling into that trap again this year. Let’s just say I have limited expectations for the team, especially without Abreau. Plus, I have no idea how the Cubs will perform with a fully reconstructed lineup, but they did get off to a great start this afternoon by shutting out the Milwaukee Brewers 4-0. Dansby Swanson, former Atlanta Brave, ended the day with  three hits in his debut and Marcus Stroman was impressive on the mound, while Michael Fulmer was credited with the save. Fly the “W.” I’m not yet used to no Kyle Hendricks on the opening day roster or Willson Contreras wearing rival red. 

Aaron Judge was appropriately the first home run of the season in his very first at-bat, mimicking Roger Maris the season after his Ruth-besting power performance, with Judge ultimately topping both of them with the Yankee record 62-dingers. I have a few Judge cards in my collection along with Adley Rutschman of the Orioles who had a historic 5-5 opener, including a homer. Shohei Ohtani started perhaps his final Angels’ season with 10 K’s in six shutout innings. Another collection favorite, Kyle Schwarber of the Phillies, sadly went 0-5 against the Rangers. 

The Brewers and Cubs rivalry dates back to June 13, 1997. As of today’s victory, the series is now tied at 209-209. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have taken the lead on a Paul Goldschmit single, in their opening day matchup. I’m simply not a fan of the Redbirds after being caught in the midst of obnoxious central Illinois fans for the years we lived in Decatur. They haven’t won a championship in 12-years (I was there), while both the Sox and Cubs can claim more recent greatness (I witnessed both), even though neither team will ever get to that impressive 11-title-mark.

All in all, it was an outstanding Opening Day with the Cubs, Sox, Braves, and Orioles all with wins, while the Cardinals and Brewers lost. My kind of baseball. 



Old Sport Shorts: March Sadness #2292

March Madness is filled with Sadness and Gladness, but for the I.U. men it ended early on a sour note. The sad part is that we’ll never see this starting lineup again, as graduation and the NBA takes its toll. It’s particularly difficult because there are no supportive players, with the exception of Xavier Johnson if he gets another year, and sole returning starter Trey Galloway, that made any kind of significant contribution this season. Granted, Geronimo, Leal, and Duncomb have been hurt, while Reneau had to play in the shadows of TJD and Race Thompson. Gunn, Banks, and Bates have been disappointing, so we’ll have to rely on the transfer portal and the two incoming freshman, Jakai Newton and Gabe Cupps, to put together any kind of competitive team.

The BIG 10 once again failed to deliver in the tournament, showing that the talent in our league is relatively average. The Big East and SEC each have three representatives. The defending champion Big 12 has two competitors, while the remaining eight conferences send one each, including the Big 10 that started with eight possibilities. Michigan State in 2000 was the last BIG to win it all, twenty-three long years ago. To be fair, Indiana was the runner-up in 2002 to Maryland, before the Terps joined the conference in 2014.

I.U. has yet to win a BIG 10 basketball tournament in the 25-years since its inception, let alone add another national championship banner. Adding more teams will make this even more difficult, not to mention physically draining after a long season of butting heads. As a fan, I find this all very discouraging. Thinking about next year’s chances certainly doesn’t make me feel any better. Mine is a seemingly hopeless, two-decade-plus case of March Sadness. 



Retirement is not without Hassles: Games #2291

Another Sunday is upon us, with nothing on the calendar – no guests, no dinner plans, and no events to attend. Basketball will be the priority, as the final eight teams complete the Sweet Sixteen. Will Indiana be one of them, or will this be the final time this team plays together? Back Home in Indiana, Kokomo and Ben Davis will battle for the 4A state championship. Of course, there’s a touch of snow on the ground. It’s even cool here in paradise with a brisk wind. 

An active week looms ahead with multiple visitors, a boat ride, dinners, baby sitting, more basketball to watch, and a baseball game on the agenda. The Hoosiers could play Houston on Friday, or will Miami steal that slot? The women, after defeating Tennessee Tech without All American McKenzie Holmes, also face Miami on Monday, but times have yet to be announced. A double victory would be sweet! My bracket is still competitive since none of the other participants predicted the shocking upsets. The way is cleared for a new National Champion with the Kansas loss to Arkansas! Soooey!

As if anyone really cares, I managed to solve my 100th consecutive Wordle game and am hooked on a Solitare Cash app. Speaking of game playing, we got involved in another heated contest of Code Words with friends last night. It was a gift from my wife’s youngest daughter after being introduced to it in Kauai. We’ve played twice in the last month after dinner on the lanai. Wine again clouded our communication skills. It was also a factor, along with the cold wind, in this morning’s shortened run. It will be a good day to sit inside, watch hoops, and eat chili. 


Old Sport Shorts: Kent State #2289

It was a late night for the No. 4 Seed Hoosiers in Albany, but the 71-60 final score over No. 13 Kent State says it all about the ‘Magical Rule of 60.’ In its simplest form, keep the opposition from more than 60 points and mark it in the victory column. By the same token, No. 1 Seed Purdue fell short of No. 16 Farleigh Dickinson 63-58, marking the third consecutive NCAA Tourney year that the Boilermakers have been stunned by a team seeded 13 or worse. Defense is still the key to winning key college basketball games.

I.U. got only 4-points from the bench, but Trayce and Race combined for 44-points and 20-rebounds, earning the right to play No. 5 Seed Miami for a potential trip to the Sweet 16. The Hoosiers got to 60 on a TJD dunk at the 8:12 mark, securing a 12-point bulge over the Golden Flashes. It was the first step to the second round of the NCAA Tournament since 2016, reminiscent of the 2002 match-up between the two teams when Indiana made a Cinderella run to the Elite Eight and then defeated Oklahoma, coached by Kelvin Sampson, to get to the finale against Maryland. Sampson’s Houston team looms ahead in this year’s bracket. 

The top-seeded, I.U. women face No. 16 Seed Tennessee Tech in their NCAA Tourney opener in Bloomington. Mackenzie Holmes, matching Trayce Jackson-Davis’ honors, was also named a First Team All-American. The regular season champion Hoosiers failed to win the BIG Tournament, falling to Ohio State, despite a team-high 20-point performance from Grace Berger. They hope to regain some momentum in their drive to win the program’s first National Championship. 

Old Sport Shorts: Tourney Time #2286

I was out of town for the last three games of the season and had to monitor the play-by-play via the internet. When I first checked the score against Michigan, Indiana looked to be off to in good start on senior day at Simon Skjodt. The Hoosiers widened the margin to 14 at 4:02 before a Kobe Bufkin dunk started a run for the Wolverines and I could just hear Don Fisher saying, “suddenly, Indiana’s lead is just two at the half 29-27.” Fouls were a big issue as Galloway had three and Schifino two. Fortunately, Michigan was just 2-for-11 on 3s, while I.U. continued its season-long struggle from beyond the arc at 1-for-9. the second half for Indiana. The Wolverines pulled ahead 49-38 with 14:02 remaining and still had a double-digit lead at 10:02.  Thoughts of melancholy senior speeches, just like last year, entered my head.  However, the Wolverines seemed to stall on 59, as if they were haunted by my ‘Rule of 60’ and let the Hoosiers close the gap to 60-59 at 6:11. Despite the fact that Michigan got to the magic mark first, the game would go to overtime after both Hunter Dickinson and Trayce Jackson-Davis missed game-winning opportunities. 

I.U. took advantage of new life and scored the first six points in overtime to make it 75-69, but Dickinson’s trey cut the lead to 75-72 with 1:58 left. Race Thompson could have sealed it with12.5 seconds left, but missed both free throws and again with 4.1 seconds remaining. However, his hustle and rebounding became the difference in a 75-73 much-needed victory. He also finished with a double-double, second in scoring behind TJD’s 27-points, coupled with nine rebounds, and 4 assists, in both players’ final home game. It earned them the No. 3 conference seed in the BIG tournament, with Maryland as the first opponent.

First team All-American, Trayce Jackson-Davis and BIG Freshman of the Year, Jalen Hood-Schifino sought revenge against the Terps and responded with 24 and 19 respectively. Once again, foul trouble haunted the Hoosiers, but the bench bailed them out. Reneau and Bates were both impressive as part of the 13-point back-up contribution. It was also the eighth time  Indiana has been behind in the second half of a game but came back to win anyway, a habit we could probably do without, responding to the seven-point Maryland edge. The final score of 70-60, once again supports the magic nature of the number 60. As a result, they got the chance to avenge their worst road loss, after giving up a ridiculous 18 made three-pointers by the Penn State Nittany Lions in Un-Happy Valley.

Sadly, the United Center was also unfriendly to the Hoosiers, falling short to Penn State, missing a third shot at sweeping Purdue, and winning their first Big Ten Championship in 22 tries. However, the 22 total victories this year plants them firmly in the field for the first time in seven long seasons. I was not on the edge of my seat waiting to see if they were bound for the NIT. 

The three-point-shot continues to consistently be the downfall of this team. They either can’t make them or defend against them. Although Penn State only managed 8-23 this time, the Hoosiers responded with a disappointing 2-14 in the 77-73 loss. At the 5:25 mark, Camren Wynter hit his second trey of the night to make it 61-51, and although I.U. came back at the end, Hood-Schifino missed the game-tying three with :09 seconds to go. He finished with only 11-points playing more like a freshman than top NBA draft choice. Trayce Jackson-Davis had another double-double, as Purdue went on to win the Big Ten Tournament Championship in addition to their regular season crown and I.U. settled for the No. 4 seed in the Midwest against Kent State. The Hoosier women claimed a No. 1 tourney seed.



Old Sport Shorts: Hawkeye Horrors #2280

The women’s season has shown very consistent play throughout the year, but with the men you never know if Hoosier-Jeckyl or Hoosier-Hyde will show up on the court. At 26-1, the #2 women faced another ranked opponent with the #6 Hawkeyes. The game reflected the competitive nature of both squads with Iowa edging ahead at the end of each quarter and leading 40-39 at the half. Applying the “Rule of 60,” the third quarter ended ominously at 61-58 in favor of the Hawks and their fierce leader, Caitlin Clark. She then proceeded to hit a dramatic buzzer-beater to win the game 86-85. With this wake-up call to the men, who were in danger of a let-down after Purdue, I felt strongly that they would respond on the home court by coming out strong. How wrong this fan was!

Following the lead of the women Hawkeyes, the men jumped out to early leads of 8-0, 16-5, and 21-12 on three Kris Murray treys. By halftime it was nearly the reverse situation from the first game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, with the Hawks comfortably ahead 47-36 in Bloomington. Back in early January the Hoosiers held a 50-40 lead but faded down the stretch. This time, Iowa continued to stretch the lead for a 90-68 rout.

Kris Murray finished with 26-points and Tony Perkins added 23, plus 10-rebounds, and 8-assists, just short of a triple-double. The hot Hawkeyes crossed 60 at 15:44 with a dominant lead of 61-40. They would ultimately make 13-threes thanks to Payton Sandfort’s five. Indiana only hit two from beyond the arc in eleven attempts. Turnovers were not the issue or even free throw shooting, but rebounding again reared its ugly head, as I.U. missed their opportunity to clinch a double bye in the upcoming conference tournament. The high-flying Hawkeyes were coming off an unbelievable 13-point comeback in the final 94 seconds against Michigan State.

Trayce Jackson-Davis led the hapless Hoosiers with 26-points and 13-rebounds, following up nicely after his worst game of the season against Purdue. However, the hero of the Boiler bash, Jalen Hood-Schifino was disappointedly mediocre with 8-points, 5-rebounds, and 2-assists. TJD will play his last home game on Sunday against Michigan, but JHS may not be such hot property after these last few days of discussions and interviews about top draft expectations. He may need more NCAA time to prove consistency with his game. This fan is counting on a better performance just in case this freshman sensation is truly experiencing his Senior Day early.

Old Sport Shorts: Stretch Run #2276

It was the Hoosiers that came out “Spartan Strong,” jumping to 17-10 lead on a Miller Kopp trey and didn’t commit a turnover in the first eight minutes of the game. I think both the Spartans and their fans had mixed feelings about playing in the wake of a tragedy. The lead then grew to 22-13 before I.U. was outscored 22-7 in the final minutes of the half. This collapse coincided with the exit of Jalen Hood-Schifino after picking up his second foul. Trayce Jackson-Davis appeared to be lackluster without a break and managed nine points while committing four ugly turnovers. 

It seems as if Indiana is not taking advantage of the three, despite their efficiency. Tyson Walker countered with five in seven attempts, while the Spartans doubled the Hoosiers from behind the arc. It was 61-48 at the 8:24 mark, with I.U. failing to follow the “Rule of 60” in an 80-65 loss. TJD finished with 19-points, 7-rebounds, and 5-assists, followed by JHS with 16. The loss was the 24th out of the last 26 trips to East Lansing, reflecting my disappointing “O for East Lansing” fan experiences at Breslin Hall. 

With foul trouble and tired legs, the I.U. bench has provided little support for the starters, offering just one basket and four free throws. Tamar Bates was again scoreless and has averaged only 2.4 points per game since his 17-point gem in the first Spartan meeting at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. 

I don’t like the way this season is ending. Rather than finishing strong and on a roll, the Hoosiers look tired and wounded. With no bench strength, the Purdue five looking for revenge, a rematch with Iowa, the BIG tournament, and the Big Dance ahead, it’s looking like a recipe for disaster. We also don’t know what to expect from Xavier Johnson if and when he returns? If he can give Indiana 10-15 productive minutes a game, it could be just what the doctor ordered down the stretch.

The productive Spartans also dominated the boards, out-rebounding Indiana 33-24 overall. This will be a big factor in the upcoming Boiler battle, the second of the double road test, the first of which just fell flat on its face. Purdue went 11-1 at home in 2020-21, 16-1 in 2021-22, and 13-1 so far this season. It could prove to be Mission Impossible, since no one on this team, including Coach Mike Woodson has ever won in West Lafayette. 

Coach Knight apparently continues to support the Woodson era, reporting to practice once a week. 38-years ago he hurled a chair across the Mackey court following a technical foul. The upcoming matchup will feature two consensus All-Americans for the first time since 1992-93 when Calbert Cheaney led Bob Knight to a pair of wins over Coach Gene Keady and Glenn Robinson. They did not necessarily go head-to-head like Zach Edey and Trayce Jackson-Davis. 2013 was the last Hoosier win in West Lafayette, since then it’s been nine straight Boiler wins, a habit that needs to be stopped!

While the men stumbled, the women thrived, claiming a Big Ten title for the first time in 40-years. They topped the Boilermakers in Bloomington on Senior Day as I.U. star Grace Berger and backup big Alyssa Geary received their accolades. Mackenzie Holmes and Sara Scalia have also been in the program for four years but still will maintain eligibility. At 25-1, their only loss this season has been in troublesome East Lansing, without an injured Berger. Former Boiler player, Teri Moran is completing her ninth year in Bloomington, as the women’s all-time winningest coach. South Carolina remains the only undefeated team left in the country. Thanks to Maryland, the upcoming game at Iowa is no longer a tie-breaker, as the Hoosiers, who beat the Hawkeyes earlier this year at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, claimed the outright regular season championship. 

When the men finally took to Gene Keady Court, I was not expecting what happened, as the odds were definitely against the road-weary Cream and Crimson five. For the first time since 1983, I.U. completed a four-game home-and-away sweep in men’s a women’s basketball. It still seems unlikely that both will claim a Big Ten title, as was the case 40-years ago, although the Woodson team is only 2-games behind with two to go, plus there is also the tournament championship possibility. He did finally secure his first win in West Lafayette as both coach and player in the 79-71 victory and move to 20-9 overall. Most importantly, the Hoosiers crossed the magical sixty mark first on a Trayce Jackson-Davis jumper at 9:55 for a 61-50 bulge. 

Reminding me of Isiah Thomas, freshman Jalen Hood-Schifino proved his worth as a potential NBA draft pick with a career high 35-points. Trayce Jackson-Davis scored just ten but dished-out seven assists, relying on the support of long-time teammates Trey Galloway and Miller Kopp, who each added 13 points.  Zach Edey proved to be a legitimate candidate for national player of the year. There is no rest for the weary in this stretch run, as the Hoosier women travel to Iowa and the men tackle the Hawkeyes at home. 





Old Sport Shorts: Woodson #2274

Trayce Jackson-Davis surpassed his coach, Mike Woodson (2,061), for fifth place on the all-time Indiana University basketball scoring list (2,081). After the narrow Illinois victory, his total stood at…. Calbert Cheaney leads the pack at 2,613, followed by Steve Alford at 2,438, Don Schlundt at 2,192, and A.J. Guyton at 2,100. TJD needs just 20 more to top A.J. Most likely that will happen in East Lansing. 

Coach Michael Dean Woodson was I.U. player Woodson from 1976-1980, under the watch of Coach Bob Knight. That team won the 1979 NIT over rival Purdue 53-52 on Tourney MVP Butch Carter’s dagger. Carter was also the hero with two seconds to go against Ohio State when he sank two free throws to get them to finals. Woodson was named to the first team All-Big Ten and went on to win a 1979 Pan American Games gold medal as captain of the U.S. basketball team. His senior year at I.U., Woodson, along with Isiah Thomas, won the conference title, was named the 1980 Big Ten Player of the Year, recognized as a NABC All-American, and ultimately awarded the Chicago Tribune Silver Basketball. Purdue evened the score with Woodson, upsetting the #2-seeded Hoosiers 76-69 in the 1980 NCAA Sweet 16. He then went on to play and coach in the NBA, winning a championship ring with the 2003-2004 Detroit Pistons as an assistant during the 2003–04 season.

The number 60 probably means little to Coach Woodson. He was born in 1958 and turned 60 in 2018 while serving as an assistant for the Los Angeles Clippers. The Atlanta Hawks hired him as a head coach in 2004, where he served in that capacity for six years before moving on to guide the New York Knicks 2012-2014. It’s now his second year at Indiana University. 

Coach Woodson was undoubtedly proud watching TJD score 26-points, grab 12-rebounds, and block five shots in leading the Hoosiers over the Illini 71-68. It was the senior’s fourth 25-10-5 game. Per ESPN Stats and Info:No other player in the Big Ten has more than one such game in the last 25 seasons. In fact, the rest of the Big Ten has recorded 5 such games combined over that span.” It took that kind of effort to pass his coach on the list of I.U. scoring greats. 


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