I’m not sure how to handle all the hype related to IU basketball’s upcoming season. Top ten ratings, high projected seeds, and all-American honors make it all seem too good to be true. I drank the Kool-Aid a few years ago with Hoosier football and the water turned poison. I keep expecting a disciplinary problem, recruiting snafu, transfer threat, or “God forbid” serious injury.
I know the talent is there, but through the last two decades, IU has gotten little respect. Now, all of a sudden, it’s through the roof for coaches and players. It feels good to be back in the spotlight again, but I can’t handle more disappointment. It would be better to experience a surprise and witness some proof of success rather than just trust expert opinion. Vaulted pre-season expectations have come back to haunt many a good sports program.
I’m also struggling with the come back capabilities of the White Sox. They have short spurts of success, just enough to boost expectations, followed by a equally bad set-back. Their 10-3 series ending loss to the lowly A’s last night when they could have pulled off the sweep proves my point. It all averages out to the .500 ball they’ve been playing this year despite grandiose pre-season hype. It seems to be the story for all my sports favorites. It’s no wonder I’m such a pessimist!
The Sox can’t seem to get by the division-leading Guardians and are running out of time. IU basketball has yet to play a game, but they’re already expected to win the BIG. To make matters worse, they’ve never won the BIG Tournament and haven’t had a solid run in the Big Dance for 22-years. They have a lot to prove on the court, just like the Sox have to find a way to win consistently on the field.
IU football has managed to salvage victories in their first 2 games despite the lowest of expectations. The same for my Bears that pulled off a 49er upset and an undefeated exhibition season. I prefer these kinds of surprises instead of the mere hype of what might happen. It’s all too often too good to be true.
There’s no point in even mentioning the Chicago Cubs anymore as they continue to fall to the bottom of the National League Central. The Chicago White Sox, however, seem to have found new life under the guidance of bench coach, Miguel Cairo. Tony La Russa continues to recover and could soon be back in charge. It could change the momentum of the team that has won 8 or their last 10 games and claimed second spot in the division. They are only 1 1/2 games out of first behind the Guardians with four games yet to play against the division leaders. They could still make the Playoffs despite the injuries and lack of clutch play that has plagued them all year long.
One of the highlights of this particular White Sox run was a ninth inning rally this weekend, after being held hitless through the seventh. Oakland held a 3-0 lead but the stubborn Sox scored five to keep their streak alive. Too many times this season they had failed to score with runners on base. It restored my faith in the team after giving up on them countless times throughout this futile season.
Fantasy football officially begins today, although Cooper Kupp has already given us a lead from his steady performance Thursday night against the Bills. Our opponent failed to outscore him using three players, so we have an advantage heading into the rest of this week’s action. My son and I drafted the team a few weeks ago at Buffalo Wild Wings here in Port Charlotte. We were able to use last year’s winnings to fully pay our participation fees.
I was swinging a golf club again yesterday, during an outing with my grandson at Top Golf in Ft. Myers. As expected, I quickly tired of the activity but it was a good bonding moment with my son’s 15-year old. It was a good thing that I had selected an indoor course because it was pouring down rain most of the time.
Hoosier football once again responded in the second half last night with another come-from-behind victory. This time it was Idaho that took an early 10-0 lead, but Indiana scored the next 29-points and went to 2-0 with a 35-22 victory. They next face undefeated Western Kentucky with decisive victories over Austin Peay and Hawaii, followed by Cincinnati, Nebraska, and Michigan in their quest to become bowl eligible. I can still see wins over the Hilltoppers and Rutgers to get five of the six necessary conquests. Nebraska and Maryland are possibilities, with rival Purdue as a longshot. Let’s get ready for some football.
I’ve been expecting a run by the White Sox all season long. It’s hard to believe that with the lineup of stars that they have, they’re still in third place and have failed to outscore their opponents going into the last month of the season. There have been some teases like early last month when they won five straight games and moved into contention, only to fall apart once again. It’s been a consistent story of injuries, bad base running, poor defense and a lack of clutch hitting. Tony La Russa, the aging manager, has justifiably been under fire and has finally succumb to health issues. Miguel Cairo has taken over at the end of losing 10 of their last 12 games in August and falling once again below the .500 mark.
The temporary change in management has proven effective with 4-straight wins, including last night’s 13-0 rout over the Twins. A no-hit effort by Dylan Cease was broken up in the ninth inning. The White Sox are now only 2-games out of first and a game behind the Twins, but this is where the wheels fell off in August. I’ve never felt such frustration for a baseball team than I have this season. In any other division, they would be entirely out of the pennant race. I refuse to get my hopes up and once again dashed, but fortunately there’s only a few weeks left in the season. They need to somehow maintain this hot streak and get Tim Anderson and Luis Roberts back in the lineup. May luck finally be on our side in September!
Speaking of frustration, Indiana football failed to win a Big Ten game last year. They finally ended that painful draught with a 23-20 victory over Illinois this week, even though it was an ugly win. The team got some breaks for once and can build on the momentum. Missouri quarterback transfer and new Hoosier Hero, Connor Bazelak, led the come-from-behind winning effort with the clock running out. In the case of the Hoosiers and White Sox this year, it’s better to be lucky than good.
The fireworks have come and gone with the blazing heat of July yet to deal with. We start our 3,000 mile drive in less than three weeks, so the dog days of summer will be spent in many different cities. Tally has already shortened her walks and is especially reluctant to go out in the afternoon. The pavement is hot and the grass dry and stiff. I’m sure she misses the cool temperatures and soft grass of Portland, plus she’s spent a lot of time in our dark closet where she can’t hear the thunderstorms. We even bought her a Thundershirt, similar to what her sister Tinker once wore, to calm her nerves.
I got scammed yesterday over a grill that I supposedly won from Ace Hardware. I don’t know how enter-to- wins even exist anymore when they were once a staple in the advertising business. I had to hassle with the company and cancel my credit card, thinking I was dealing with a reputable supplier that I use all the time. The “helpful hardware man” was nothing more than a scam artist yesterday. I rarely fall for these things but must have had a brain fart – never again.
The White Sox lost again to the Twins last night but the Cubs beat the Brewers. Both Chicago teams are apparently not playoff worthy so I’m quickly losing interest in baseball this season. There’s also not much to look forward to in college or pro football. Therefore, Hoosier Hysteria can’t come soon enough, as the IU basketball program continues to gain respectability.
The question now is whether Carlos Santana will be able to serenade me on my 71st birthday? He passed out from heat exhaustion in his latest concert up in Michigan. The last two years, his Florida concert that we’ve held tickets to has been cancelled due to Covid and he’s missed shows for other health reasons. We’ve also lost one member of Earth, Wind, & Fire since then, so will this concert ever actually take place? Oye Como Va? Not so well.
It looks like the Twins are destined to rule the American League Central division this year after four straight victories over the White Sox. I thought for sure this was the year for the Pale Hose but after last night’s triple play debacle, I’m ready to throw in the towel. An 8-5 triple play had never happened before in the history of baseball, but of course it happened to the Sox last night. It was the seventh inning with runners on first and second after the tying run scored. There were no outs and it looked like the White Sox were destined for a big inning, with Adam Engel pinch-running at second and Joan Moncada at first. A.J. Pollock hit a long drive to center field that was easily run down by Byron Buxton. For some reason, neither runner tagged after the catch and both were caught advancing, ending the scoring threat. The Twins won in extra innings – the same outcome as the Cubs loss to the Brewers earlier in the evening. I Give Up!
It was a bad day in Chicago after a gunman opened fire on a local Independence Day parade. The game was nearly cancelled. The post-game fireworks were – long before there was nothing to celebrate. The White Sox are playing like their 77-year old manager, Tony La Russa, although he’s not the base coach. The team just lacks hustle and spirit. Injuries have plagued them all season long, while I was expecting a run before the All Star Break. They had just swept the Giants on the road and pulled within 4 1/2 games of the division leading Twins. Last night could have meant four straight victories and a step in the right direction. Instead, it was an embarrassing finish with clown-like baserunning and inability to take advantage of late inning opportunities. I Give Up!
In other sports news this past week, the BIG announced the addition of UCLA and USC to the conference. The Big Ten is now the Sweet Sixteen and Coast-to-Coast, as of 2024. It certainly means two more football losses for IU and more competition for titles in other sports, especially basketball. The odds for the Hoosiers to ever win a BIG basketball tournament now comes down to simply this year. Furthermore, the battle between the BIG and SEC for supremacy is looking more and more like the Civil War – North vs. South. Notre Dame is next to pick a side, even though they are well north of the Mason Dixon Line and Fighting to maintain their independence. Keeping track – I Give Up!
I know this is selfish, however, for once, Covid has had a positive affect. In this case, on the future of the IU basketball program. Trayce Jackson-Davis returns to Bloomington for his senior season after a positive Covid test kept him from pursuing his NBA dreams. I always felt that he had a lot more to prove at the college level and his draft stock was not high. Perhaps, First Team All American honors through another year of play will get him the attention he deserves. Without the Covid setback, he probably would have come back anyways but let’s give the virus its due!
The future of IU basketball looks bright, but I’m cautioned from chugging the Kool-Aid. (See Post #1840). I drank too much of it before last year’s IU football season, so I’m not ready to buy in to the preseason hype. Injuries and the transfer portal can easily put a damper on things, so I’ve always preferred reduced expectations. There’s already talk of a North Carolina match-up in the BIG/ACC Challenge, and perhaps another top-10 match up against the Big East. The Hoosiers are already headed to Vegas in December for a game against Arizona and a week later they travel to Kansas. They could have four quick losses before the BIG battles even begin! Hopefully, they won’t bite off more than they can chew and not have the Kool-Aid to wash it down.
Let’s instead start with the basics of beating Wisconsin, Iowa, Rutgers, and Purdue – four bitter losses last season. We did manage to stop the bleeding against the Boilermakers, but fell short in West Lafayette. It was indeed a positive finish for the year as the Hoosiers had their best showing in years in the BIG tourney. The team also barely got to the Big Dance for the first time in the TJD era but ran out of gas. Slowly mix-in four top recruits that should add depth and scoring and we just might have a delicious Kool-Aid concoction. Big gulps are not good but BIG wins are a priority. Let’s sip our way through the season and avoid a Kool-Aid hangover.
A year ago this day was our last in Portland, Oregon with a farewell Chinese dinner at Ling’s Garden downstairs in our apartment building. We have yet to find a Chinese favorite here in Venice. Last night, we tried Burgundy Square downtown and made the short walk to Kilwin’s for pralines & cream ice cream. There was not a concert in the park as expected so we drove home.
Our neighbors are hosting a brunch this morning, but the rest of my day will probably be devoted to basketball. Two IU basketball recruits are playing in the high school nationals, followed by the Final Four from New Orleans. The Duke vs. North Carolina match-up is getting the most publicity with Coach K’s retirement and the fact that country artist, Eric Church, cancelled a concert to attend this historic game. It caused a lot of controversy with fans that don’t understand his allegiance to the Tar Heels, but he did agree to do a freebee as a make-good. If he we truly a basketball fan, he would have scheduled his tour the night of the Final Four, so in my opinion he didn’t have much faith in his team in the first place.
While we were headed for ice cream last night, I spotted a guy in an Indiana t-shirt, so I asked him where he was from. “Vacationing from Fort Wayne,” he indicated, but when I told him that I worked for WMEE Radio there years ago, the conversation abruptly ended. I guess they just wanted to enjoy their ice cream and didn’t really care to reciprocate. So much for Hoosier Hospitality.
I now have a streak of 10 in Wordle, my latest word game challenge. It was just a matter of time before peer pressure drove me to try it. I barely solved this morning’s puzzle with a choice of three letters that could have each been correct. I FOUND the right one, a last second gasp similar to a game winning tourney shot. Speaking of basketball, I’ve still alive in the fantasy pool with Kansas – or will my small investment end up being “dust in the wind?” It’s been 35-years now since IU won the NCAA Championship in 1987 on Keith Smart’s buzzer beater. It’s also been twenty years since they reached the final game. Anymore, we’re just lucky to get into the Big Dance. It was also the year that Reagan and Gorbachev met in Washington.
We drove to Anna Marie Island and had lunch with Indy friends at the Beach House Restaurant. On the way there, a rock hit the windshield of my wife’s Lexus and cracked the glass. It’s just another hassle to deal with as I call the insurance company about my homeowners policy, as well. Mondays are probably a busy day in that business following a weekend of mishaps. In addition, I will call my sister about our plans to visit our cousins tomorrow in Bonita Springs. With a damaged car, a son who is now separated from his wife, and an unvaccinated sister, I’m not really in the mood for another drive. I do have to pick up my grandson this afternoon, also disrupting what might normally be “Matinee Monday,” It’s the last few days of our annual passes that will hopefully get renewed.
We did attend a rather pleasant concert last night with acoustic guitarist Cliff Erickson. It was a free show in our neighborhood events center. He was a good entertainer who got us old folks singing along to country and rock hits from the past, and ended with a couple original numbers. I took a call from my son in the middle of the show to make plans for a discussion about his future plans and to arrange a steak dinner with the grandkids tomorrow night. He also needs to help me hang three overhead light fixtures. Other than his marital ordeal, we have about three weeks of routine home life before we head to Singer Island. My wife is back to bridge club, while Tally spent the morning with her at the Dog Park. I’ll watch another episode of Winning Time this morning and a new season of Yellowstone starting tonight. Peace!
After nine days of entertaining guests, life is back to normal. I enjoyed seeing all my friends and showing off the Venice area, but I’m exhausted. Too much food and wine has me worried about stepping on the scale. Running with this extra weight only adds to this daily challenge, while swimming has been sporadic during this disruption of the routine. I’ve been to the ballpark, played pickle ball, been to a blues festival, ran a 5k race, went on an eco-tour, frequented numerous restaurants/bars, sunned on the beach, sampled wine, and sat in front of the TV watching tournament basketball. In the process, I’ve also celebrated an IU victory, suffered through a miserable season-ending loss, and went to a Beauty and the Beast performance. This morning I slept in a bit, struggled through my run, and got back to swimming a few laps.
It’s another day of round-ball action, as #3 Purdue battles #6 Texas for a spot in the Sweet 16 and a chance to spoil the Cinderella run of the St. Peter’s Peacocks. The Boilers knocked out Yale while the Longhorns overtook Virginia Tech. In other games of conference interest, Michigan upset Tennessee yesterday, while today’s slate for the other BIG survivors shows Illinois playing Houston, Ohio State meeting Villanova, Michigan State facing Duke, and Wisconsin tackling Iowa State. It’s a BIG day of basketball!
I’m back at the computer keyboard, banging out the highlights of the past week with friends. I missed a few events of the seventies in the process, with 1978 as the year smallpox was eradicated and 1979 was when the U.S.S.R. invaded Afghanistan, just like current Soviet aggression in the Ukraine. I hope we can soon see peace and the end of Covid, as they both continue to haunt my life with higher prices and social restrictions. Last night at the theatre, a group of neighbors were having a conversation during the intermission. They had all lowered their masks for the discussion, but the guy next to them complained to me when I did the same. It’s rare when a Florida venue has a mandatory mask policy, but this was done to protect the unvaccinated children and apparently was part of the actor contracts. Yet, they weren’t wearing masks on stage. This didn’t make sense to me, along with $4.09 for a gallon of gas, but clearly told me that things were definitely not back to normal!