Wednesday, July 2, 2014

World Cup Musings

Disclaimer: I'm about to embark on an analysis of a sport which I am pretty severely under-qualified to write about. I have never in my life played competitive soccer, not even as a little kid (I played tee-ball and swam instead). But the "gripping drama" (copyright Ian Darke) of the last few weeks has certainly gotten me in its hold; hell, I don't think I've seen more than a few innings of baseball since the World Cup started. Don't worry, footy fans; I'm no Ann Coulter who's going to blather about how soccer is a sign of moral decay. I thoroughly enjoy the sport, but I just don't know it as well as many other people. Experts (paging Richie and Michael), feel free to chime in on the comment board if I make a mistake. Otherwise, onwards and upwards (copyright John Reimers, for those of you who get that joke).

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

NBA Draft Science

Well, the NBA draft is finally here this week to kick off an off-season full of questions. Will the Heatles break up, with LeBron moving back to Cleveland? Where will all the big-name free agents (Carmelo, Luol Deng, Pau Gasol, Lance Stephenson, Kyle Lowry) go? Will Minnesota trade Kevin Love, and if so, where? And most importantly, how long is this ugly Clippers saga going to drag on, and what will be the end result? In the meantime, let's all enjoy the deepest draft in many years, and potentially one of the deepest ever, with lots of good building blocks and a few potential big-time stars available. It should be a complete reversal of last year's uninspiring event, which featured a crop of players that might produce two or three All-Stars IF everything breaks right.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Influential Coaches #6: Michael Minthorne

Previous entries:
Series Overview
January: Paul Westphal (basketball)
February: Tara Gallagher (basketball/softball)
March: Robert Joseph Ahola (rugby)
April: Rickey Perkins (swimming)
May: Bob Smith & Mike Craig (baseball)

This sixth entry in the yearlong series is the first of three in which the profiled coach is actually someone who is a contemporary, and not only that, but younger than me. Michael also happens to be a rising star in coaching, someone who has made the most out of the opportunities he has gotten and who should receive more (and better) opportunities in the future. And because of the work he does, he has the ability to affect the performances of many more athletes than most coaches.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Sacramento's Crowd-Sourcing Strategy

As all of you NBA fans are aware, the league held its annual lottery last Tuesday night, and for the third time in four years, Cleveland won the prize and their choice of Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, or Joel Embiid (or alternatively, for a team desperate to make the playoffs next year, trading the pick for an established veteran star who fills a need - say, Kevin Love?). This is shaping up to be one of the deepest drafts in years, with anywhere from four to eight future All-Star talents, and potential solid rotation pieces all the way into the first round. Because of that wealth of talent, several teams engaged in rather shameless tanking this year in order to get the best chance at hitting the mother lode. Thankfully, Cleveland was a team that was actually trying to win basketball games, and cashed in a 1.7% chance. They've been lottery regulars since LeBron left town in 2010, and they've had company along the way.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Influential Coaches #5: Bob Smith & Mike Craig

Previous entries:
Series Overview
January: Paul Westphal (basketball)
February: Tara Gallagher (basketball/softball)
March: Robert Joseph Ahola (rugby)
April: Rickey Perkins (swimming)

Mike and Bob are emblematic of the thousands of youth and high school coaches across the country who volunteer their time and money in order to provide a fun environment for kids. There certainly never would have been a Valdez High School baseball team without their efforts (and indeed, with the Craig family now living in Anchorage and both Smith children long since graduated, a team does not currently exist). And from a personal standpoint, I can say that without their team and their invitation to include me as a part of that team in one capacity or another for all six of my summers in Valdez, I would likely not have enjoyed those summers nearly as much as I did, nor would I have developed as many friendships, in particular with a few guys whom I consider to be among my very closest friends.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Influential Coaches #4: Rickey Perkins

Previous entries:
Series Overview
January: Paul Westphal
February: Tara Gallagher
March: Robert Joseph Ahola

Patience. That is the trait that leaps to mind first when I think about Rickey Perkins as my coach for the Northern Lights Swim Club in Anchorage, Alaska. Rickey was incredibly patient with me, and I was under his tutelage for something like five years across a couple of different levels. Beyond that, Rickey was an excellent technical coach who had a major role in producing a rather astonishing amount of quality swimmers for NLSC, a role that was actually a side gig to his job as the head coach at the University of Alaska-Anchorage. And that patience has served him well in a long career that has seem him go through some fairly out-of-the-way places.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

2014 MLB Preview: NL East

And so here we come to the last entry in our preview series, the NL East. This looks like a battle between two very good and very deep teams, with the other three cleaning up the scraps. The Marlins are on the seventeenth rebuilding project in franchise history before they once again dump their young stars the moment they start to threaten eight figures in the salary department. The Phillies will attempt to fight the undefeated Father Time with the oldest group of regulars in the National League. Mets GM Sandy Alderson may talk about 90 wins, but it's hard to see that coming this year with Matt Harvey on the shelf thanks to Tommy John surgery. The Braves and Nationals are both loaded and looking for bounce-back performances from a couple of key players (Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton for the Braves, Adam LaRoche and Ross Detwiler for the Nationals), although the Braves are also dealing with a rash of pitching injuries.