This is a continuation of my last post where I listed my Top 10 Sports Moments (See Post #2257). However, there were just too many others that need to be mentioned. Because of my media connections and extensive travel opportunities, I’ve had the good fortune to attend 9 Final Fours (New Orleans 1982, Minneapolis 1992, Indianapolis 1991, 2000,2006, 2010, and Houston 2011) and 4 World Series, plus numerous auto races, games, championships, playoffs, tournaments, inaugural events, matches, stadiums and venues. To recall all of this was all a real test for my memory banks, aided greatly by diary mentions.
I grew up in Elkhart, Indiana, about 100 miles east of Chicago. There was little in the way of sports on TV when I was a kid, but on occasion my dad would take me to games in The Windy City. I wanted to see Mickey Mantle play, so we went to Comiskey Park, home of the White Sox. We also went to Wrigley Field and on one trip, he took me to lunch in the Prudential Building with Jim Coker, a catcher for the Philadelphia Phillies. I also had an uncle who coached football at the University of Notre Dame and a cousin, Denny Murphy, that was an Irish tight end. I remember meeting him at a game against Cal. In addition, he took me to a N.D. basketball game at the Athletic and Convocation Center (ACC) that looked like a giant bra. These were my first personal connections with top athletes. I went back to Notre Dame in 2017 for the stadium remodel, my boss, a N.D. grad, gave me front-row seats for the unveiling.
My dad would often take me to high school basketball games at nearby North Side Gym, one of the largest in Indiana. He knew John Longfellow, the coach for the Muncie Central Bearcats, one of the best teams in the state. I got to go into the locker room after the game, another brush with greatness. Other than the annual high school basketball tournament, this venue mainly hosted some concerts, professional wrestling with Dick the Bruiser, and Roller Derby matches when the Bay City Bombers would come to town. Before single-class basketball was eliminated, I watched a classic battle for high school supremacy from our Hoosier Dome suite that I could never had imagined when I first went to Hoosier Hysteria games with my dad. A national record 41,046 were in attendance in 1990 when future I.U. star Damon Bailey led Bedford North Lawrence to the title, upsetting top rated and undefeated Concord High School and future NBA star Shawn Kemp 63-60. Concord was only about 15 minutes south of my hometown. It would be the last of 61 consecutive IHSAA finals sell-outs.
By my 10th birthday, I had lost interest in the Yankees and took my dad’s suggestion of picking a team closer to home. As the White Sox played in the 1959 World Series, I was able to watch on black & white TV my catching idol, Sherm Lollar of the Sox play for the first time. We did go to a few games to see him in person, but I never got to meet the man. He and his teammates have become the main focus of my baseball card collection and lifelong allegiance to the Sox.
I wrestled in high school and ran some track, but sports surprisingly were not a priority. Elkhart High was a big school with over 1000 students in my graduating class. We were state champions in football, wrestling, cross-county, and track, but I remember only occasionally going to Blue Blazer games or meets. I chose Albion College in Michigan after actually considering Purdue and played some intramural flag football for East Hall and eventually my fraternity Sigma Chi. I probably also attended a homecoming football game to watch the Britons. My frat brothers were hot on hockey and talked me into a Red Wings game. I also went to Milwaukee in 1971 as a weekend getaway and ended up at my first NBA game to watch Lew Alcinder and the eventual champion Bucks’. Outside of Chicago baseball, these games were my initial foray into professional sports.
A year later, I transferred to Indiana University, rode for the Sigma Chi Little 500 team, and settled into an apartment with my high school classmate, Alan. I do not remember going to an I.U. game at the old fieldhouse, but I do recall a blowout win against Notre Dame at the new Assembly Hall. I met George McGinnis at a party and began to follow the Hoosiers. I must have come back to Indianapolis in 1971 from Bloomington to see my high school team compete for a state championship. I couldn’t get tickets for the game that was played at historic Hinkle Fieldhouse on the campus of Butler University where the movie Hoosiers was filmed. I ended up watching the game on TV at the Sigma Chi house across the street. The Blue Blazers topped New Castle, and future I.U. big man, Kent Benson 75-70 in 3-overtimes. Benson led the undefeated Hoosiers to an NCAA title in 1976, an accomplishment that hasn’t since been repeated. A loaded East Chicago Washington squad won the championship game 70-60, but without ticket connections, I must have gone back to Bloomington. Ironically, I would never have to want for a ticket ever again!
I do remember getting excited about I.U. basketball when they made it to the Final Four in 1973 but lost to UCLA. I had a flat tire that morning and badly cut my hand on a piece of glass trying to fix it. I still have the scar as a reminder. The next few years, despite marriage and the birth of Adam, I became obsessed with basketball for the first time since I played in grade school and went to basketball camp.
I began to follow sports even more once I got in the radio business and began to sell sponsorships for Blue Blazers basketball and football, plus Hoosier Hysteria, Notre Dame, Purdue, and I.U. games throughout the season. Eventually, our family moved to Ft. Wayne, another hockey town, anchored by the Comets on our 50,000-watt competitor and music became my major selling point. Free concert tickets and trade were job bonuses. Plus, working with our National rep I began to travel to New York City, Boston, Chicago, and Detroit. I went to Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, and Tiger Stadium. I also worked a deal with the Chicago Sting and played against the Harlem Globetrotters. However, it wasn’t until I got the job at WIBC radio in Indianapolis that I truly found my calling. I now had the Indianapolis 500, Colts, Indians, and Pacers to promote.
As a newcomer to the Capital City, I was asked by station management to host our suite for the Coca-Cola Circle City Classic. It was more than a football game between two black universities, it was a halftime battle of the band’s extravaganza. Apparently, no one else wanted to do it! This was my first experience with entertaining at events and would become the key to seeing every major sporting event or concert that came to town. The station had suite and hospitality access at Market Square Arena, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Hoosier Dome, and Victory Field. I also made my own partnership deals for racing through The Machinists Union, BRG Sports, Blackburn Sports Marketing, and Indianapolis Raceway Park. Many of these deals transitioned with me when I moved to WISH-TV. In addition, CBS Sports had almost every major sporting event from the Masters to the Superbowl, along with baseball and the Olympics.
Beat The Pro was a promotion we sold at the insistence of my golf-loving boss. I had to spend most weekends on the golf course measuring distances to the pin. The only benefit for me was tickets to a White Sox suite, another memorable sports experience. I also earned a similar day at the park with the Wheel of Fortune syndicators. I was never in a suite at Wrigley, but they did have a club that served hot dogs on fancy Cubs’ china plates. They have since updated their facilities.
During my time in Indy, I attended and worked with the AAA Indians at Bush Stadium where we had both press box seats and season tickets. I once celebrated on the field with Randy Johnson after a league championship. In addition, I frequently took clients to Colts training camp and on the field. World Gymnastics once did an exhibition, the U.S. Track and Field Championships and NCAA Finals provided autograph sessions with Gayle Devers and Michael Johnson, the PGA Championship came to Crooked Stick Country Club, while John Daly was the upset winner. NCAA Swimming and Diving was another big draw for the city. I also had ringside seats for a gruesome light heavyweight bout won by Marvin Johnson. Finally, I sat many times on the floor to watch the Pacers and Reggie Miller, including the NBA Playoffs.
When I moved to Lafayette, it was all Purdue, but I.U. came to town at least once a year in basketball and every other year in football. I quickly learned that when Purdue won, business was better, so I put my Hoosier allegiance on hold. Plus, my mother-in-law was a big Boiler fan, so I presented her with front row seats for a game. I also had press passes, hospitality, and a beautiful stadium suite. I got close to the Purdue Athletic Director, along with Black & Gold Magazine and expanded our local coverage with the Joe Tiller and Gene Keady Shows. My wife was at WISH, so we continued to benefit from suite access to concerts and events. We saw Cathedral, where her girls went to school, win the state high school football title at the Dome. We also went with clients to the RCA Tennis Championships, with hospitality and great seats. During that timeframe, I played on the WISH softball team, as well as the traveling Pearson Group club, that appeared in the Media World Series held in Dallas, Phoenix, and Ft. Lauderdale. Add three more World Series to my list! I would eventually go to Omaha and the College World Series but only as a spectator.
Most of my attention was still focused on racing, like the Indy 500, but I tried to diversify with other speed events like the U.S. National Drags and the Carquest Sprint Series at Raceway Park. They were each a far cry from the New Paris Speedway dirt track and the side-show demolition derby that I went to back in high school. While still part of the Indy media, I once spent an entire IndyCar season as a weekend warrior, going from track to track around the country. I was on the pit crew at Mid-Ohio and worked with sponsors at Elkhart Lake, Michigan International, the Milwaukee Mile, PIR, Monterey, and Laguna Seca. I also got tickets for the inaugural Las Vegas 400 Nascar Race. This all started when we would supplement our broadcast media packages with show car appearances, suite hospitality, driver endorsements, and sponsorship logos. However, in the month of May I was usually at the track with my all-access Gold Badge every day working these partnerships.
Years later, the track expanded to include Nascar’s Brickyard 400, Formula One’s U.S. Grand Prix, an IROC Series, and the Brickyard Crossing PGA Championship. I was there for all four of these inaugural events and in the future secured tickets through my wife to the Daytona 500 and Austin’s Circuit of the Americas. We’ve also used her connections to see the Mariners and Seahawks in Seattle, the MLB All-Star Game/Home Run Derby in Miami, and several Portland Trail Blazer and Timbers MLS games, including a Playoff match. Most of the Blazer games were from the suite, but one was another unforgettable front-row seat.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been back to Bloomington, but I’ve still managed to keep up with I.U. sports. I’ve been to Ann Arbor, Champaign, West Lafayette as previously mentioned, and East Lansing for games and went to Seattle to watch the baseball team play Oregon State at T-Mobile Stadium. I drove to both the Liberty Bowl and Independence Bowl to experience Hoosier football, but never smelled the roses. My wife and I also traveled up to North Texas for an I.U. gridiron loss against the Mean Green. I’ve seen the Hoosiers win at Conseco and Lucas Oil Stadium and lose year after year in the Big Ten Tournament. They did not make the Big Dance when it was held exclusively in Indy, but I was there in the midst of the pandemic. Hoosier soccer fell short in the championship game I attended in Santa Barbara with a college friend. Twice, I’ve followed the Hoosiers to Hawaii for the Maui Classic. On the first occasion I met Bob Knight and got his autograph.
The Oregon Ducks became a favorite when we moved to Portland. I’ve been to both Autzen Stadium and Matthew Knight Arena. I’ve also seen them win in the Rose Quarter aka Moda Center for two Phil Knight events. Oregon State also played there. Plus, friends and I went to two Les Schwab Invitationals to watch several prospective college recruits impress the scouts. While living in central Illinois, we supported the Illini, so Assembly Hall was our new home for basketball and Memorial Stadium for football. I sat with retired Coach Lou Henson for a game.
On the NBA front, I’ve been to America West in Phoenix to watch the Suns, Orlando to see the Magic at Amway Center, and to San Antonio’s AT&T Center for the Spurs, long after that initial big-time-basketball exposure at Milwaukee County Stadium while I was still in college. The Pacers and Blazers were the result of station-owned season tickets. The Knicks were always the favorite team to visit, especially when Reggie and Spike Lee were at each other’s throats.
I’ve never been to the Olympics but have experienced the Olympic Track & Field Trials in Eugene after it was delayed a year due to Covid. I also sat and watched the Olympic Freestyle Championships in both Breckenridge, Colorado and Stowe, Vermont when I was there on ski trips. Speaking of games on ice, exposure to the game of hockey has been sadly limited to the Ft. Wayne Comets, Indianapolis Ice, the Detroit Redwings 50 years ago, and the Portland Winterhawks a few years ago at Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum.
Another of my bucket list goals, was a Super Bowl. We had access to tickets every year but never wanted to pay the price. It likely will never happen, but I certainly can’t complain about a lack of big tickets throughout my lifetime. I thought about going to Miami when the Colts played the Bears, but honestly couldn’t decide on which team to support. My first football love was Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts, who conveniently moved to Indianapolis in the middle of the night. However, the ’85 Bears had pushed the needle once again to Chicago sports. I’ve been to Soldier Field and continue to follow the Bears after all these frustrating years. I’ve worked closely with the Colts players and coaches through the years and have been to several Playoff home games. Road games have been in Houston and Chicago. I saw the Bears play in Indy.
The one Chicago team that has had the most success is the Bulls. I was never a fan and actually picked a suite game the year after Michael Jordan retired. I tried to give them away, but no one was interested. The Pacers Market Square Arena suite was nothing more than a long couch in a closet positioned behind a glass panel. It was hardly fit for entertaining but came with extra tickets and a bartender. At the last minute, I ended up giving them to Adam and hours later M.J. announced his return. They were suddenly the hottest tickets in town and Adam reaped the benefit. His friends were even previously reluctant to go, but I remember his pager (prime technology at that time) buzzing like a hive of wasps on our coffee table just before game time. It was certainly one of his greatest sports moments. We probably could have made a fortune selling them, but scalping was illegal, and they were technically the station’s tickets. I just didn’t want to go through the hassle of unloading them because no one really knew I had somehow picked them at the beginning of the season.
Baseball has endured as a consistent favorite from early childhood throughout today. I’ve already shared my stories of Chicago and Detroit games growing up and the four World Series attended. I never went to a college baseball game in Bloomington but got into it when we lived in Austin and learning the phenomenal record of longtime coach Texas Longhorn coach, Augie Garrido, who won two College World Series in his tenure. It was really the first time that I sat down and watched the entire tournament, inspiring me to attend one day. While in Portland, I began to follow the Oregon State Beavers and went to a few of their games at Hillsboro Stadium, home of the Hops, and at Portland State.
I enjoy baseball but it’s often boring, too many times ideal for a nap. It’s easier to mention the Major League stadiums I haven’t been to: Milwaukee’s Miller Park, Minneapolis, San Diego, Philadelphia, Arlington’s Globe Life Field, Atlanta, Montreal, Arizona, and Oakland. Two stadiums, Coors Field and Progressive Park in Cleveland I’ve only just jogged around, while I saw the Texas Rangers play in their former Arlington home from a luxury suite. Our Dallas TV station carried their games, but Covid prohibited a planned visit to the new facility two years ago. I’ve also been to Minor League Stadiums in Round Rock, Texas to see The Express, Jupiter Beach for the Cardinals, Surprise AZ, Charlottesville FL, Hohocum Scottsdale, and Cool Today, our neighborhood Braves Spring Training facility. The other day I drove around the Baltimore Orioles’ Buck O’Neil complex in nearby Sarasota.
Visits to Cooperstown, the College Football Hall of Fame, and recently the NFL Hall of Fame rekindled many emotional sports memories. Recently, my wife and I went to see our local Venice High School Indians host a football playoff game, with thoughts of her two girls at the Hoosier Dome championship game we all went to before our marriage years ago. My dad gave me a love of sports at all levels, and we shared this passion throughout life. It continues with Adam and his favorite teams since childhood, the Dolphins and Cubs. What will be our next great moment?
We arrived in Portland just before midnight and have been on the go ever since. I met up with a friend first thing on Thursday to make the drive to Netarts Bay. We spent the night there with two small mishaps. First, the bed in the camper collapsed on me in the midst of a drunken stupor, causing me to humorously wake-up disoriented on the floor. Secondly, the cat bit and clawed me to raise concerns about “Cat Scratch Fever.” I was already feeling a bit of hypochondria, with the potential of a positive Covid test that could have ruined our cruise plans. The unprovoked cat attack just gave me something else to worry about. However, there was undoubtedly enough alcohol in my blood stream to prevent any virus or infection.
My time in Oregon was certainly blessed with good sports fortune. Hoosier football won an overtime thriller over the Hilltoppers while we were watching the Ducks beat BYU in a McMinnville bar called Two Dogs. The White Sox beat the Guardians and took two out of three from the Tigers. The Timbers tied with Columbus, while Oregon State Beaver football won in their stadium while theirs is under construction. Fantasy Football is leading going into tonight’s Bears vs. Packers game that could prove that the Monsters of the Midway are indeed for real after an undefeated preseason and opener. The only of my favorites to fall short were the Colts and the already eliminated Cubs.
We both passed our Covid tests today and will make our way to Vancouver tomorrow on another First Class flight. It will be an early morning run tomorrow after an eventful afternoon touring the Nike campus. I’ve managed to get my miles in despite the drastic changes in time zones and routine. Alaska here we come.
I have fond memories of the College World Series or CWS for short. This dates back to living in Austin in 2009 and watching the Texas Longhorns make it to the final game in Omaha. They had won it in 2002 and 2005 under coach Augie Garrido, so expectations were high as we followed them throughout the season at nearby Disch-Falk Stadium. I can remember sitting in a bar with a friend for the final three games culminating with a disappointing 11-4 blowout loss to LSU. At that time, I thought it would be really cool to make the trip to Omaha.
The CWS tends to be more of a Southern and West Coast tradition, since the last Big Ten team to win it all was Ohio State in 1963. Indiana made the final 8 in 2013, adding to my interest in going to the event. When we moved to Oregon, I adopted the Oregon State Beavers who had won back-to-back titles in 2007 and 2008. In 2018, a good friend and I decided to make the trip to Omaha and were rewarded with a somewhat surprising Oregon State presence. (See Post #1707). It was a remarkable experience watching the Beavers ultimately win it all after moments of Arkansas triumph and obnoxious chants of Pig-Sooey! Because of some rain delays, I did not get to watch the championship game but listened to the final innings when I arrived back in Portland. Beaver catcher and tournament MVP, Adley Rutschman, was just called up be the Orioles a few weeks ago to make his Major League debut. It’s fun to follow these kids from college into the pros, as was also the case with Indiana’s Kyle Schwarber, Dansby Swanson of Vanderbilt, and Jackie Bradley, Jr. of South Carolina.
I’ve continued to follow the CWS games on TV every year, starting with the initial NCAA seeding. Indiana has not been back since, and once again the BIG will fail to have a presence. My Hoosiers were eliminated in the conference tourney by Iowa and never make the field of 64. Unfortunately, Oregon State games are often televised too late for me to watch on the East Coast. I was able to watch them beat Vanderbilt on Sunday afternoon and advance to the Super Regionals (Sweet 16). They will play the first game of a best of three series against Auburn on Saturday night starting at 10:30 p.m. my time. I will probably find out the results by monitoring my phone sometime in the middle of the night. Hopefully, they can get back to Omaha and the game times will be earlier. I will not be there this year, but the memories remain.
Last night I stayed up “late” to watch the Oregon State Beavers win their second straight elimination game in the ninth inning to continue their run for another College World Series (CWS) title. They did not have a great 2021 season with 23 losses but managed to eliminate #6 ranked TCU and forced a second game with Dallas Baptist last night in Fort Worth, a team that had put them in the loser’s bracket two days earlier. These two meet again this afternoon to determine who goes to the Super Regionals. Meanwhile, the #10 ranked Oregon Ducks dropped only 15 games this season and face LSU for a second straight day in hometown Eugene, hoping to punch their Super ticket. The Ducks were an unprecedented 5-1 against the Beavers this season and haven’t gone this far in the postseason since 2014, losing then to Vanderbilt. Two years prior they made it to the Super Regionals but no further. 1954 was their only trip to Omaha, while 1957 was their last conference crown.
Watching the CWS brings back great memories of traveling to Omaha in 2018. (See Post #573). My good friend and I were going regardless of the fact that Oregon State might not even be there. Instead, they not only made the field but won the whole enchilada. Since then, I’ve religiously followed the college baseball seasons of both the Beavers and Hoosiers. This year, the Ducks have really stood out, while Indiana baseball faded down the stretch and failed to make the first round of the tournament. The Beavers were fortunate to get the nod, going 6-8 in May to finish the regular season and finishing a disappointing 6th in the conference behind Arizona, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, and Arizona State. Indiana finished 4th in the BIG at 26-18, while Nebraska, Maryland, and Michigan got into the dance. Last year Covid canceled the event.
Nebraska, the BIG champion knocked off #1 Arkansas (Pig Sooie!) last night. They will play again tonight for the chance to move on. Michigan and Maryland both failed to advance to the Sweet 16. 8 teams will ultimately travel to Omaha and Ameritrade Field. It would be exciting to see both Oregon and Oregon State in the mix. Step one is tonight for both teams with the season on the line, along with the precious opportunity to continue playing in the CWS.
I was having another great sports evening, watching the Cubs, White Sox, and IU Soccer, but in the end it was spoiled. A goal with time running out in overtime gave Marshall University its first ever NCAA soccer title. It derailed what could have been a 9th championship for the soccer Hoosiers and sent me to bed shaking my head. IU was seemingly outmatched during the entire game and barely held on to get to overtime. Where did these guys come from? They took out #1 seed Clemson, perennial favorite Georgetown, the home town Tar Heels, and storied Indiana to sweep through the tournament. Another unforeseen ending to an already strange Covid disrupted season.
Marshall has survived one of the greatest tragedies in sports history. The movie “We Are Marshall” depicts the aftermath of the 1970 plane crash that killed 75 people: 37 football players on the Marshall University Thundering Herd football team, along with five coaches, two athletic trainers, the athletic director, 25 boosters, and a crew of five. They’ve since achieved two NCAA Division 1-AA championships in football, but this is their first NCAA title outside of that sport – a long time in the making. It’s well deserved, even at the expense of my Alma Mater.
Just like Marshall – “We’ll Be Back,” and eventually get our 9th. The Herd may very well develop into a national powerhouse in the sport with few seniors on their squad. Despite the Hoosier loss, there were several positive recruiting stories in both basketball and football yesterday, as a legitimate 7-footer and several football studs entered the university athletic programs through the portal. Plus, both the White Sox and Cubs won last night, with Oregon State product Nick Madrigal, the Pale Hose second baseman, getting his first Major League homerun, while the Cubbies felt the temporary pain of former teammate Kyle Schwarber’s (IU/Cubs/Nats) dinger. These Chicago victories were worthy of sweet dreams in lieu of the “We Are Marshall” nightmare.
I’m back home again from Indy with a busted bracket, hangover, and little sleep. Not quite as bad as the 1987 Final Four in New Orleans, but 34 years older and out of drinking shape. O’Reilly’s Irish Pub turned out to be our rendezvous spot between games. My friend who secured the hard-to-get tickets was following Illinois to their disastrous end, while my Indy buddy and I saw an assortment of teams live at both Lucas Oil Stadium and Banker’s Life. Purdue failed to please, falling to The Mean Green, as the sole representative of the state’s once-renowned round-ball heritage. IU stumbled once again and missed the Big Dance altogether. Oregon’s opponent was eliminated by Covid and the only other Beavs fan I met was due to a rest room break at a bar appropriately called The Wild Beaver. I was wearing my Oregon State baseball shirt.
The three flights in from Portland to Indianapolis went relatively smoothly but sleep was hard to come by. A 5:30 a.m. run through a nearly abandoned terminal at O’Hare got me through the night – that’s 2:30 a.m. Portland time! The first stop after the airport was The World of Beer where I enjoyed my first cold one. Former IU star Dan Dakich hosted a live radio show that was organized by another friend of mine. I tried my best to work in some of my oldest media pals into our fast paced schedule while I was in town, while grabbing some BBQ wings. The Day 2 lunch was at the Workingman’s Friend with other dudes from my past. Next, on the agenda were stops at The Yardhouse, Slippery Noodle, Harry & Izzy’s, and 10 West. For me, it was an exhausting trip down memory lane in the town where I spent 15 years of my life. I was proud that the Hoosier State could pull off this basketball extravaganza, but without the packed arenas and screaming crowds these efforts were futile.
Over the two night span, I got together with 7 fellow basketball buds and made a few phone calls to those who couldn’t be there. Everyone was curious about the unprecedented experience of all these games in central Indiana, but the crowds were disappointing and the venues seemingly empty thanks to Covid. Zip ties were used to disable seats that were strategically socially distanced. At first, it looked like you could move down to empty chairs closer to the courts, but you couldn’t sit in them. Entire sections were blocked off and the atmosphere was sadly sterile. Plus, the mask patrol was monitoring everyone on cameras and warning us of ejection. I’m sure the players were glad to have live supporters, but their voices were lost in the cavernous void. It was better to stay home and watch the action on TV, because the party crowds on the street or in the stands were sorely missing. A year ago downtown Indy was bustling with activity even on a normal day, but the tourney came off as a ghost town despite all these teams and fans in attendance.
One of my highlights of being back home again in Indiana was a bacon and maple cream long john, made by a popular donut spot. This was a late night surprise left on the doorstep of my good friend’s condo. His place is a bit far from the downtown action, so he did a lot of shuttling us around. We had a great time as always, bemusing about the miserable IU season and speculating on a new coach. March MADness took on new meaning with the anger we expressed in both 2020 and 2021. I’m home and back in the blog business, with lots of good weekend memories.
I can’t help think back to the TV show Leave It To Beaver starring Jerry Mathers (As “The Beaver” Cleaver). It aired from 1957-1963 in glorious black & white. Ipana toothpaste might have been a sponsor with a mascot named Bucky Beaver. Since this is a family blog, I won’t get into any other childhood Beaver references. All silliness aside, our move to Oregon seven years ago put me in touch with both Beaver and Duck sports, so I’ve become a fan. I’ve visited both campuses and watched both schools play on several occasions. As a Hoosier, I liken it to the rivalry between Purdue and Indiana, but instead of an Old Oaken Bucket, it’s a Civil War.
A few years ago, I followed the Baseball Beavs to the College World Series in Omaha with a good friend. We also watched both basketball teams play at the Moda Center for two of Phil Knight’s Nike Invitationals, the first to celebrate his 80th birthday. We then saw the defending national champion Beavers play at T-Mobile Stadium in Seattle, along with our Alma Mater, Indiana. In addition, there were Oregon State baseball games at Ron Tonkin Field, home of the Hillsboro Hops, that we attended. I even saw the team play at Surprise Stadium in Arizona for a preseason tournament.
It was almost exactly a year ago that I was on a flight to Phoenix with the Beaver baseball team. In route, all their games were cancelled along with Spring Training and the NCAA basketball tournament thanks to Covid. Next weekend, I finally get to go to a live sporting event after this year-long hiatus. Despite only 25% capacity, we have tickets to the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Indianapolis. Today’s Selection Show will determine if I’ll get to see the Ducks or Beavers play. They are my dogs in the fight. (See Post #1626).
The Beavs had to win the Pac12 title to make the Big Dance, a remarkable feat they pulled off last night. Three straight victories over UCLA, Oregon, and Colorado elevated their overall record to 17-12, while claiming the conference automatic bid. It was their first ever Pac12 tourney crown, earning the ticket to Indianapolis. Mine was hard to come by, but not that hard! I’ll pack my Beavers and Ducks gear and take-in the tournament aura in my former hometown. I’ve got Duck Dreams and Beaver Fever!
It’s March and on the last two days of the regular season I don’t have a dog in the fight. I.U. was the first to be eliminated. Their season is mercifully over. Purdue was beaten a few days ago by Ohio State. The undefeated Zags easily won their tournament a few days ago so they aren’t playing this weekend. The Beavers beat the Ducks in basketball, while the Ducks prevailed in baseball, a rare flip-flop of program strengths. My four most hated teams are battling it out for the BIG bracket title, a tournament that I.U. has never won since inception. Not much to look forward to over the next few days except the tourney draw.
When I get to Indianapolis next weekend, I will struggle with allegiance. The Ducks and Boilers will get another chance for post season glory, while the Zags should cruise through their first two games. Oregon State will only get in, despite three straight Pac12 wins, if they beat Colorado today, a team they’ve lost to twice. The number 12 has been added to their jerseys as a reminder that they were picked to finish last in the conference by the pre-season pollsters. They could win the Pac12 tourney for the first time in program history. Now that’s a fighting Dog!
The Hoosiers were the worst kind of dog, finishing with six straight conference losses, rather than peaking for a March Madness run. They face an off-season of uncertainty as Archie Miller’s fate is determined. Trayce Jackson-Davis will not be back though I don’t see much of a future for him in the NBA. He certainly got to the free throw line frequently but the rim doesn’t favor his short game and he can’t shoot well from the charity stripe. He could be a star if he stayed in college two more years, but Archie is not a teaching coach. The G-League is his certain destiny. The only guy that did hit free throws this year, Al Durham, could come back for another year – but probably won’t. I’m not at all looking forward to next year without the shooters, big bodies, or innovative coaching that can effectively compete in the BIG. Unless there is change, my hapless Hoosiers are nothing but a barkless dog without a fight!
It was no coincidence that I chose a “Jealous” graphic with a green background because I’m Green with Envy. Too many programs in the BIG conference have now surpassed my Indiana Hoosiers in building success. A team that I grew up with and saw win National Championships and even go undefeated is now in the bottom tier and in danger of not even going to the NCAA tournament for the fourth straight year. As I watch this morning against Michigan, I’m preparing myself for a third straight loss and what will probably extend to five before the BIG tournament. All the pregame talk is about #3 Michigan and not even any speculation for an I.U. upset. I’m jealous!
Once upon a time, Michigan was a triple victory on the way to a 1976 National title at 32-0. Purdue was at the very least a split every year, but Coach Archie Miller has not been able to beat them, with only one last chance this season. It could very well be the last few games we’ll even watch him as the Indiana coach. Juwan Howard has risen to the top of the BIG in his first year as coach, while Archie is in his fourth year and dwindling in the conference basement. Each week another team breaks out of a slump against the Hoosiers. The last two games they’ve built big first half leads only to fall apart in the end. Other teams can make free throws or three-point shots and take care of the ball. Not I.U.! I’m no longer mad – just Jealous!
The Oregon Ducks are making a stretch run, Purdue is solidly in the tournament field, Gonzaga is undefeated, but Indiana is on the outside looking in. I’m Jealous! More and more Indiana high school stars are going to out-of-state schools, if not they want to go to be a Boilermaker. The Hoosiers can’t hit the side of a barn or defend against the three and seem to just be going through the motions. I miss the days of good fundamental basketball, but mostly I miss winning. Other teams are winning – I’m Green with Jealousy!