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?
I’ve certainly had my share of great stadium accommodations, including luxury suites for the Colts, Pacers, St. Louis Cardinals, Longhorns, Purdue, Texas Rangers, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Circuit of America, Portland Trailblazers, and Chicago White Sox, plus front-row seats for the Pacers, I.U., Trailblazers, Boilermakers, and Notre Dame. I’ve been on the field, in the pits, sat in the Press Box, celebrated on the court, and frequented numerous VIP sections and hospitality rooms watching a variety of sports from the Domes to the Velodromes. With this in mind, I’m challenged to pick my Top 10 Lifetime Greatest Sports Moments.
Although we didn’t have the usual great seats, we were fortunate to even secure tickets to Game 5 of the first World Series at Wrigley Field to see the Cubs win on Halloween Eve of 2016 (#3). The night before we were there for the loss against the Indians. (#4) Both games will forever be near the top of my list, but overall, I’ve been to four World Series in three cities, Chicago, St. Louis, and Cincinnati. The White Sox opening game win against the Astros at Cellular One in 2005 was the beginning of a four-game sweep. I had media passes for that game and rode with my WAND-TV camera crew. (#5).
Several other unforgettable events for me happened at Wrigley, including Sammy Sosa’s 61st and 62 homers on Sunday, September 13, 1998. (#6) My dad, son, and best friend were with me that day. The following year on Opening Day a special Tribute was held for announcer Harry Karay on April 3rd. He died February 18, 1998, and never got to watch that great season-ending showdown between Mark McGwire and Sosa. McGwire was the home-run king with 70, but both have failed to make the Hall of Fame after steroid suspicions. Adam, Gavyn, and I have a commemorative brick at the park thanks to my wife. The “3-generations” first got together for a game on September 10, 2007, and the Cubs won 12-3 over the rival Cardinals. (#7).
The top two moments on my list would have to be at the Louisiana Superdome in 1987 when I.U. Basketball won the National Championship. Keith Smart’s winning shot happened in front of my eyes on Monday, March 30, 1987, against Syracuse. (#1). Two days earlier, Steve Alford beat UNLV on the same court. (#2) It was an unbelievable road trip with Bill, Mark, and two close friends of Peter, who set the whole trip up but couldn’t go because his father passed.
The three final Top 10 sports moments were more about the transportation than the events themselves. A friend flew me to Bloomington on his private plane from Ft. Wayne for an I.U. basketball game. I don’t remember the date or game details, but this special V.I.P. treatment will always stand out in my mind. (#8). Similarly in 1998, I was whisked into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway by helicopter while entertaining our television station owner, Craig McCaw. A golf cart took us to the Hullman Suite to watch the race and the same chopper brought us back downtown, avoiding the massive crowds. (#9) Last but not least was the Chauferred, PINK limousine that took two close friends and I to a big Monday Night Colts Game at the Hoosier Dome. It was Halloween night, and we wore costumes that you had to see to believe. One buddy and I were dressed as George Dickel whisky bottles with a twist-off cap as headgear. The other pal was Colts running back star Eric Dickerson, but in this case, “Dickelson.” Each of us wore pink tights. On the back of our outfits, it read, “We’re Dickeled Pink to be here.” Never, have we attracted more attention, including a newspaper article with pictures. We, of course, celebrated the victory with shots of George Dickel. (#10).
After the Alaska/Hawaii adventure, we’ve finally gotten back into the retirement routine, just in time to leave again. We had dinner guests last night and afterwards watched another episode of Yellowstone. I was monitoring the I.U. soccer revenge match against Marshall, the team that stole their NCAA Championship away last year. We already have achieved eight titles, but that is never enough, as the Hoosiers once again make it into the Elite Eight. They play UNC Greensboro this Saturday for a Final Four bid. It almost makes up for a miserable performance in the Old Oaken Bucket game, another loss to Purdue. The Boilers were fueled by a potential trip to the BIG Championship game in Indianapolis, as the Western Division winner, a first for the program. Their accomplishment here was partially attributed to the schedulers that left both Ohio State and Michigan off their list of opponents this year.
Purdue had a huge weekend of success on the basketball court as well, crowned as the PK Tourney Champions out in Portland. Decisive victories over Gonzaga and Duke moved them to #5 in the polls, overshadowing a Hoosier move into the Top 10, a lofty position they haven’t held in years. It also means that the Boilers are now the BIG favorites for conference dominance. I.U. was the preseason choice, so both schools are getting plenty of attention in the press. The Hoosiers face struggling North Carolina two days from now after the Tarheels dropped dramatically from #1 to #19 with back-to-back losses. I.U. was hoping to take down another top-rated team in Bloomington, but instead they are now the betting favorite.
With the recent Purdue success, I’m reminded of the Joe Berry Carroll teams under George King that went to the finals of the 1979 NIT and 1980 Final Four. The big guy this year is Zach Edey at a towering 7’4.” He was named the MVP at the PK Tourney and will be a force in the BIG 10. It’s great that both P.U. and I.U. are good this year and there will be no conflict until they meet head-to-head where I always pull for the Hoosiers, my alma mater.
There was no time to write this morning after my 5k run due to a stops at Home Depot, Wawa, and the chiropractor. We were then able to officially make it “Matinee Monday” with the movie, The Fabelman’s. Our other typical weekly kickoff tradition, “Meatless Monday” was met with a ham salad sandwich violation since we had so much left over from Thanksgiving. We will not honor either of these routines over the next few weeks in Hawaii. It will also be difficult to keep up with writing this daily blog and getting in my daily run, with all the time changes, island family activities, and overnight stopovers in Seattle. By the time we get back to Florida, we’ll once again be fighting jet lag and the challenge of getting back to what we see as retirement “normalcy.”
I’m Jonesin’ for a sports fix since I haven’t been in front of a TV for 20 days now. Plus, the game I last watched was the Packers beating my Bears, leaving a bad taste in my mouth. Today, is Game Day and I.U. lost another football game that I couldn’t thankfully see, while the nemesis Boilers stayed on track for a Bowl game invitation. The baseball playoffs are going on but all I can do is monitor the play-by-play on my phone. We’re in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on a cruise ship, and live TV or streaming is not available. The MLB app can’t figure out where I am. To make matters worse, both the White Sox and Cubs did not make it to the postseason. Even my high school team games, the most likely to win each week, is limited to just a score. Yes, the Elkhart Lions did win – 35-0.
I.U. Basketball’s annual “Hoosier Hysteria” event was yesterday, and although I’ve never been, at least at home there are opportunities to see some of the action. Can’t See at Sea! Right now, the Rays and Guardians are scoreless after 14 innings in a game of potential elimination, but I’m limited to the ESPN app updates. It will be another few days when I finally can get on shore in Hawaii to sit in a bar and watch a live game. I thought that might happen a few Sundays ago in Juneau when I stepped inside the swinging doors of the Red Dog Saloon. However, for some reason, there was no live TV, just monitors showing beer commercials. Our fantasy team also lost this past week, with spotty access to scores on the internet. I need a fix!
It’s college football Saturday and at least I have scores to monitor. It’s five hours earlier than our Florida Eastern time zone, so I don’t have to stay up late, but all I can do is check my phone. Friends are headed to the ballpark, while others have checked in from Memorial Stadium in Bloomington. Everyone else that I know is watching at home or on their phones. I’m stuck in the middle of nowhere, no land in sight, with access to plenty of on-board bars showing nothing but boring monitor programming. There’s even a whisky tasting later today, but I’ll have to do it without a game in the background. It just doesn’t seem right – I’m Jonesin’!
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!
I have been to many IU-Purdue basketball games in my lifetime and have never seen the Hoosiers lose – neither at Mackey Arena or Assembly Hall. Of course, I haven’t gone in many years, especially during this recent streak of 9-straight Boilermaker victories. I would have liked to have been there last night when the Hoosier fans stormed the court, something that Bob Knight would have never have approved of doing. His philosophy was to conduct yourself as if you’re expected to win. However, considering the past five years, I admittedly had no expectations for a win.
The #4 Boilers have bullied the Hoosiers of late, and Rob Phinisee knows better than anyone, having never beaten them in his four years of school. He grew up a Lafayette kid and raised eyebrows with his decision to go to Bloomington. Last night, for the first time, he felt that he had finally made the right choice. His heroics of “Rocky-like” proportions, ended the Black & Gold domination. “Phin for the win!” It was perhaps even more dramatic than Christian Watford’s dagger against top-rated Kentucky eleven-years ago, but nowhere in comparison to “The Shot” by Keith Smart to win the 1987 National Championship. I was there in New Orleans for that historic moment.
It was JUST Purdue this time, another BIG Conference victory, but for hungry, deprived IU basketball fans, it was the sweetest moment ever. It might mean an elusive NCAA Tourney bid for the Hoosiers, regardless of the outcome of the re-match at Purdue, a team that could go on to win it all. After all, the 1981 I.U. National Champs lost at Purdue by two-points, before the 3 was ever a factor, and cruised through the tournament. I’m actually hoping for the same thing to happen for Purdue this year. They are a good enough team to finally hang their own banner. However, let’s take this moment to celebrate. Take that you BIG Bully!
On June 19,1926, DeFord Bailey became the first African-American to perform on Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry. The Opry house has since moved to Opryland, but the historic Ryman Theater, that housed the Opry acts through 1974, is celebrating its 130th anniversary. It will be part of our summer tour up through the Midwest that also includes Panama City, Tuscaloosa, Indianapolis, Mackinac Island, Cleveland, Canton, Asheville, and Hilton Head. We plan to take the Nash Trash Tour, a comedy show on wheels through the key sights of the city on that Tennessee stop along the way. A night at the famous Grand Hotel is our ultimate destination, and the northernmost point on our drive. Other Michigan city destinations will include Ludington, Petoskey, and Traverse City.
We just returned from Vanderbilt Beach and Bonita Springs after an overnight stay with Indy friends and lunch with hometown Elkhart acquaintances. My wife is hosting a bridge club this afternoon, while I try to figure out what happened to my whiskey delivery from Flaviar? They report it delivered and signed for two weeks ago. I have video of the delivery person who set off my Ring doorbell and walked away with the box since no one was home. It required a signature, so I’ve been waiting for the second attempt, but Sonic Transportation claims the delivery was made. Someone will probably lose their job over this, but I hope they enjoyed my spirits.
I probably would have needed that sedative spirit tonight for the I.U. vs. Purdue basketball game, but I have other liquids to ease the pain. I have a bad feeling about this one after nine straight Hoosier losses. It will be tough for the Hoosier big men, TJD, Durr, and Race, to contain the #4-ranked Boiler twin towers of Williams and Edey. The “Good Guys in Crimson” also have Jaden Ivey and Sasha Stefanovic in Black & Gold to contend with on the perimeter. I’m certainly tired of losing to Purdue, and the only hope is that IU has not yet been defeated at home this season. When I most desperately need them – Where are my spirits?
I woke up again this morning with a sore throat, probably an indication that my Covid test results will come back positive. However, my run this morning was the best my body has felt in some time, so maybe I’m already on the path to recovery. There was little back pain and no trouble breathing. It was day #4,752 of “The Streak” to kick-off the New Year. I’ll continue to take it easy the rest of the day – more Bowl games to watch, as the National Championship has come down to a SEC showdown. IU also has a basketball game against Penn State tomorrow afternoon if it isn’t cancelled. It’s hard to anticipate and get excited about anything these days with the dreaded virus looming. Purdue ended their football season on a positive “note” in the Music City Bowl against Tennessee.
A college fraternity buddy sent me a New Years greeting this morning, reminding me of a hometown party I supposedly took him to when we were Freshmen. At least I think it was New Years Eve 1969 but could have been 1970, more than 50-years ago. It was before drugs were ever a factor in my life, and a friend of mine’s Italian mom would let us drink alcohol if we were confined to her home. There were no girls at any of these basement parties that I can ever remember, except Eleanor. We were still of course underage but with her supervision things never got out of hand. Probably the most exciting part of the evening was a game of RISK, seeking World domination. Either year, Notre Dame would have played Texas in the Cotton Bowl, so we probably stayed the next day to watch it. I hated ND back then, but any good Catholic family like this one would have supported the Irish. It was in a time when a Bowl invitation actually meant something.
IU did not earn a bowl invitation this year after a disastrous season that had high expectations. Purdue certainly added a exclamation mark by reclaiming the Bucket. I haven’t been to a Bowl game since New Year’s Eve of 1993, 28-years ago. The Hoosiers lost to the Hokies in Shreveport, but we salvaged the occasion by making it to the streets of New Orleans for a midnight kiss from strangers plus a reward of beads, a memorable New Years Eve. Last night was not so memorable with both of us a bit under the weather. A bottle of bubbly and a tasty pasta put us both to sleep early. I woke up near midnight but just before the ball completed dropping the TV timer shut off automatically. Welcome 2022!
I try to start each day with a little history lesson in conjunction with the number of my blog post. In this case, I take you back to the year 1884: “May 17 – Alaska becomes a United States territory. June 13 – LaMarcus Adna Thompson opens “Gravity Pleasure Switchback Railway”, one of the earliest roller coasters, at Coney Island, New York City. August 5 – The cornerstone for the Statue of Liberty is laid on Bedloe’s Island in New York Harbor.” I also forgot to mention in yesterday’s ramblings that the Brooklyn Bridge was built in 1883.
I hope to get to Alaska in 2022, leaving only Maine on my 50-state bucket list of visitation. The cruise we are taking will make four stops in the vast territory that has now been part of the United States for 137-years and officially became the 49th state in January of 1959, 62-years ago. We then cross just south of the Bering Strait at Dutch Harbor into Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Russia, ending in Toyko, Japan. According to the Viking Cruise site, only 284-days to go until launch in Vancouver, B.C. It will be a memorable way to see the high seas.
Continuing with yesterday’s rant, I am a bitter man about sports. This is nothing new, stemming from years of envy of other fans while my teams always seemed to fall short. I’m tired of losing to Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, and Wisconsin – not to mention every other BIG program. Purdue finally achieved #1 status for the first time in history, but I felt resentful. After IU basketball lost at Wisconsin for the 19th straight time, I also felt hopeless. There should be little satisfaction in knowing the the Boilers lost last night on a last second shot by Rutgers – their claim to #1 short lived. Yet, it brought a certain sense of relief, but only because I don’t know any obnoxious Rutgers’ fans. It puts Baylor in the driver’s seat with a chance for back-to-back titles.
In recent years, I’ve seen IU lose to Maryland for the NCAA soccer crown. I’ve watched the endless streak of victories by Purdue over IU in basketball. I’ve been through a winless conference season by IU in football, after silly expectations of a potential championship. Even the bucket went back to West Lafayette. I’ve witnessed the string of coaches that have come and gone at my Alma Mater after failing to be competitive. In the process, other schools have surpassed us in prominence and this has led to great anguish and disappointment.