Category Archives: sports

Albert Pujols

You have probably gathered by this point that I like Albert Pujols.  Of course, that would be the wrong conclusion for you to draw.  I LOVE Albert Pujols.  And I am not alone.  Not only did the man take my favorite team from the doldrums of the 90’s to World Series titles in 2006 and 2011, but he did it with a work-ethic, a grace, and a power that restored my faith in a sport that had been rocked by scandal and steroid use.  He restored my faith in humanity.  He is not only a sports hero.  He is a really great human being… a super hero.  Did you watch the 60-Minutes’ piece?  There isn’t anything more to say about that.  Humility is part of the equation.

 

I got my love of baseball from listening to games on the radio with my Great Grandpa Raymond.  We listened to the Minnesota Twins take on the baseball world on KGLO Radio in Mason City, Iowa.  I heard Harmon Killebrew smack homers and Tony Oliva get key hits in crucial situations.  I followed the exploits of Rod Carew.  And then, the St. Louis Cardinals took over the 60’s.  They were in the World Series three times and won it twice.  Bob Gibson was pitching.  Lou Brock played Left Field and stole bases.  It was miraculous.  I would go on to live and die with the Cardinals every baseball season, even though I could only follow them through the newspaper and occasionally when they played the Cubs on TV.   Tim McCarver, Ted Simmons, Willie McGee, Tommy Herr, Ozzie Smith, Jack Clark, Mark Macgwire, Scott Carpenter, Scott Rolen…  If those names don’t mean anything to you then you are not really a baseball fan, and you probably didn’t read this far anyway.

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Anyway… he did it.  600 home runs.  He is now part of an elite group in the record books.  And there is no doubt he is one of the best baseball players that ever lived.

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Filed under autobiography, baseball fan, cardinals, heroes, inspiration, sports, St. Louis

Sad Times For a Cardinals’ Fan

 

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Yes, we are out of the playoffs.  Even though we won the last game of the year against the evil Pirates, we fell one game short.  The evil San Francisco Giants beat the hapless Dodgers.  No, that’s not quite right.  The EVIL San Francisco Bullies With a Glandular Problem beat the worthless Dodgers whom you can never depend on when you need them to win!  And so, believe it or not, I must now root for the Cubs to win it all in the National League.  Yes, the Cubs, even though they took the Cardinals out of the playoffs last year during the Cards’ 100-win dominant season, are the least detestable team still in the playoff hunt for the World Series.  Donald Trump may be the next president of the U.S.  The Fukushima nuclear plant has irradiated the entire Pacific Ocean.  Global warming is out of control.  And the Cubs might win the World Series.  Humanity is doomed.

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But it gets worse.  I am also a loyal Arizona Cardinals fan (a condition I have suffered since they were the St. Louis Cardinals, before evil billionaire Birdy Bidwill moved them to Arizona in a petulant fit about stadiums and sky-boxes).

Last year the Cardinals were poised to be Super Bowl contenders.  Even though they lost last year to the Panthers, they were favored to be one of the teams in the big game this year.  But then they lost a squeaker to New England in the first game of the season.  They lost last week to a suddenly potent Buffalo defense.  And yesterday, the EVIL Rams not only snatched victory away in the 4th quarter, they wounded Carson Palmer again, this time with a possible concussion.  At one win and three losses, this will have to be a come-back season… if it is not lost already.  Maybe the world needs to end to put me out of my misery.

 

 

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Filed under baseball, baseball fan, cardinals, feeling sorry for myself, humor, sports, St. Louis

The Annual Appointment with Disappointment

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Since the 1970 St. Louis Blues’ Stanley Cup Final where they lost to the Boston Bruins in 4 straight games, I have waited for the chance to return and have one more shot at rooting for my team to win their first hockey championship, their first Stanley Cup.  We were in the finals and we had beaten the two best teams in hockey to get there.  But hockey playoffs are more grueling than any other sports playoffs. We lost in 6 games.  I am a dedicated fan.  And I will be one for life.  And I will root for them again next year.  And they will very likely lose again this time of year next year.  But that’s not the point.  They will always be my team.

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Filed under feeling sorry for myself, hockey, sports

The Second Round

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It went to seven games just like the Chicago Blackhawk series.  I was fully prepared to see the Blues lose and be out of the playoffs… again.  But it didn’t go quite that way this time.  Hope has returned to roost in the heart of this Blues fan.

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The Blues are going to the Conference Championship series for the first time since 2001.  It will be a chance to return to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1970.  The Blues have never won the Cup.  Now that the string of first round playoff exits is ended, I have reason to hope that some of the endless frustrations are coming to an end.  The next round will either be against the Nashville Predators or the San Jose Sharks.  The Blues have already defeated much tougher foes in the first two rounds, the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks and the division champion Dallas Stars.  But I am, of course, aware that either team is capable of upsetting the Blues.  I am mentally prepared for a loss.  However, there is reason to hope.

St. Louis Blues goaltender Brian Elliott

St. Louis Blues goaltender Brian Elliott stretches just before the start of the game against the Carolina Hurricanes at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on January 14, 2016. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI

The reason to hope is goalie Brian Elliot.  He stood up to more than 30 shots on goal in last night’s game.  Only one got past him.  The other side was not nearly so lucky… or so skilled.  Combined with the scoring abilities of Vladimir Tarasenko and Paul Stastny they should be unstoppable.  I know I am rattling on with my own self-absorbed fascinations and ephemeral joy at last night’s victory.  And I know it may not be any more than a moment’s flicker of light and hope and happiness… but that’s what being a sports fan is all about.

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Filed under hockey, sports, St. Louis

St. Louis on a High Note

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My all-time favorite hockey team beat the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Chicago Blackhawks, in the seventh and final game of their first round playoff series.  They will now take on the hometown Dallas Stars in round two.  I can’t afford to see them play here in town, or even on TV, which we don’t have at the moment.  But I can root on the Blues to defeat the hometown Stars, and maybe… just maybe… it is finally our year!

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Tarasenko is the scoring star of this year’s Blues team.

I have been a Blues hockey fan since the team was founded in the 60’s.  Their first three years saw them in the Stanley Cup finals against the Montreal Canadiens in ’68 and ’69 and the Boston Bruins in ’70.  They represented the six expansion teams from the six-team expansion division, and they didn’t stand a chance.  They lost all four games in all three series.  But I was hooked.  I was a hockey fan and Blues fan for life after that.  And they haven’t been back to the Stanley Cup Finals since.  They have had great teams capable of it.  They have had stars like Brett Hull, Al MacInnis, Curtis Joseph, and Brenden Shanahan.  Hall of Famers like Glen Hall and Jaques Plante gave them their previous chances at the championship.  This year, it will be up to team captain David Backes, goalie Brian Elliot, and Vladimir Tarasenko to lead the team to the wins they have never managed before.

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It is premature for me to celebrate already.  The Blues play the Dallas Stars in the next round, a resurgent team led by Jamie Benn, an emerging superstar.  But the Blues have lost in the first round of the playoffs for three years in row, even when they were the favorite to win the Cup.  And it was the Blackhawks who did it to them last year.  This year is big even if they don’t win another game.  But I think it is significant that they have taken out the biggest roadblock to victory already.  There is hope.

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Filed under hockey, sports, St. Louis

Elmer Mater Does Good!

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I am a graduate of both Iowa State University, where I earned my Bachelor’s Degree in English, and the University of Iowa where I got my remedial master’s degree so I could teach English.  It sometimes makes rooting for college sports difficult due to divided loyalties.  But not yesterday.  Yesterday we rocked the NCAA basketball tournament.  The Iowa Hawkeyes beat tenth-seeded Temple 72 to 70.  The Iowa State Cyclones beat Iona 94 to 81.  And my little sister’s team, the UNI Panthers, even stunned the tournament by beating Texas with a last second shot 75 to 72.  All three Iowa teams in the tournament advanced to the second round.  It was the first time ever.  And Iowa State is looking especially good as an advancing number 4 seed.  I rarely get such a chance to gloat over Elmer Mater’s success.  (I do realize it is supposed to be Alma Mater, but we are Iowa country folk… Elmer sounds more likely.)

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NCAA Basketball Tournament - First Round - Northern Iowa v Texas

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – MARCH 18: Paul Jesperson #4 of the Northern Iowa Panthers celebrates with his teammates after hitting a half court three pointer at the buzzer to defeat the Texas Longhorns with a score of 75 to 72 during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Chesapeake Energy Arena on March 18, 2016 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

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Filed under humor, Iowa, sports

The Superb Owl

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Explaining to my wife why I had to watch the Super Bowl, even though my favorite team was humiliated in the last round… I tried to text her about the game.  The auto-correct kept insisting I was planning to watch the Superb Owl on the big-screen TV.

Well, it was kind of a Superb Owl.  I went in hating the Panthers for their treatment of my team.  I have also always been a Broncos fan.  I actually played for the Broncos in high school.  I played outside linebacker for the Belmond Broncos in Belmond, Iowa.

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Carolina was supposed to win because Cam Newton had been so dominant through the entire 2016 season.

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A lot of people I know hate Cam Newton because of the dancing and celebrating.  They seem to think he is inappropriately arrogant and somehow bad because of it.  But I don’t agree.  I kind of like him.  He has that easy Magic Johnson sparkle in his eyes.  Talent and ability roll off him and infect his whole team with confidence and swagger.  I actually like the thing he started with giving touchdown footballs away to kids in the crowd.  I think he’s a gifted athlete and a good role  model.  But, of course, I do not have that innate redneck ability to find fault in people of color.

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Of course, this was probably Peyton Manning’s final game.  It was nice for him to win a final Superb Owl to finish off such a monumental career.  He is suffering from numerous injuries and eroding skills.  He had to win the game with his brain instead of his arm.  He is also under a cloud of suspicion about using human growth hormone to come back from injury.  I am also not offended by athletes that want to take advantage of pharmacological science to prolong and enhance their careers.  If it is actually cheating and not just something we are presumptuously trying to protect them from, then I don’t think the players themselves are primarily responsible.  The clubs, the owners, and the media drive that problem and are enablers.

Despite all the ruffled owl feathers, the game was a classic good game.  And the team that most deserved to win is the one that took home the Superb Owl trophy.  Denver has a magnificent defense, and they were able to keep Newton and the Panthers from doing all the remarkable things they are capable of doing.  I wish Arizona’s defense had played that well.  The MVP Von Miller personally helped the Denver defense score a fumble-recovery touchdown that probably decided the game.  He also stripped the ball from Newton late in the game to take away Carolina’s last shot at a come-from-behind victory.  The Broncos earned that victory.  Peyton didn’t actually win it, so much as he preserved it by not messing up so badly the Panthers could recover.  It was not a showboat game like the Cardinals played against the Steelers in 2009.  It was a good defensive game.

And I am not one of those people who want to make fun of Cam Newton for being upset at the loss.  He has a right to disappointment, especially considering how drastic his personal change in fortunes really was in this game.  My team was where he is now two weeks ago.  So, this was an ugly, messy, hard-fought game, and I am really glad I got the wife to let me watch it with her on the big-screen TV she bought at Christmas time… Superb Owl 50!

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Filed under feeling sorry for myself, football fan, humor, sports