Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Greatest Athlete I Ever Knew

The greatest athlete I ever knew was something of a diva. She was barely coachable. She would frequently pretend not to hear you and go off to do her own thing. She was incredibly fast and stronger than she looked, and she could run all day long without tiring (or swim, for that matter). She was smarter than many people gave her credit for. She was pretty and knew it, with her golden-brown hair and big ears. And she had a weakness for mushroom stems and belly rubs. The greatest athlete I ever knew was Mocha, our chocolate lab/"Chesapeake Bay" retriever.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Decay of the College Game

About three weeks ago, in my NCAA Tournament preview, I promised that I would write something about the malaise of college basketball as compared to the NBA. Several of my similarly basketball-crazy friends have more or less stopped watching college basketball because for them it isn't very entertaining anymore, and to that end they are right. But why is that? We are experiencing probably the deepest talent pool in NBA history, and yet the college game is full of rockfights in the fifties and low sixties. Most NBA players still come from the American college ranks, and even if they only stay a year or two, they should still theoretically be making the game better with their presence. Where have we gone wrong? (Although the recent tournament, which by and large was full of exciting, good basketball, provides some hope.)

Thursday, April 2, 2015

And Then There Were Four

After an exciting first day of the tournament that saw two three-seeds get upended early in the day, including many people's sleeper Final Four team in Iowa State (Baylor took a much less surprising pratfall), this year's NCAA tournament has gradually settled into a chalky affair (with the exception of the East regional, which lost its top two seeds) that in all likelihood will lead to the first undefeated season in almost forty years. And so the world turns. Some notes from the first two weekends:

Monday, March 16, 2015

March Madness 2015

The best time of the year is here! College basketball may be suffering from a few seasons of a much less interesting product and also from an incredibly entertaining NBA that is enjoying a heyday like they did in the eighties, but that's a topic for a later post (hopefully as part of a tournament wrap-up). Today, we're not here to nitpick the college game's many obvious flaws or their possible solutions; we're here to revel in the release yesterday of this year's 68-team bracket and spend the better part of the next two days poring over matchups or mascots (if that's your style) for the office pools that involve roughly $9 BILLION of people's money. Before we dive into the various regions, let's ask a few more general questions, starting with the most obvious.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Spring Training Preview: New York Mets

Being a Mets fan is rough. I've been suffering since I was almost six years old, when my dad's good friend from college, Rob Karin, took me with his daughters to what I recall as this game at Shea Stadium (I distinctly recall Gooden pitching and Strawberry hitting one of of multiple Mets home runs, and I'm pretty sure it was against the Dodgers). I had always liked baseball, but that was the moment that I became a rabid fan of any team. This became difficult growing up in Alaska, because the Mets were rarely good enough for national television in the nineties, which meant that I subsisted on rigorous reading of the daily box scores in the Anchorage Daily News (which I delivered for two years) and whatever games were televised against the Braves and Cubs on TBS and WGN. Since my conversion, the Mets have rewarded me with...three playoff appearances in twenty-six years? And those three appearances ended with Kenny Rogers walking in the series-winning run against the hated Braves, an excruciating World Series loss to the crosstown Yankees in which three of the five games were decided by one run (and the other two by two runs)*, and Carlos Beltran getting frozen by an Adam Wainwright curve over the middle of the plate in the exact situation that literally every baseball-loving child dreams about (Game Seven, bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, full count)? Hold on while I pour myself a stiff drink.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Spring Training Preview: Washington Nationals

What a wild winter it has been in baseball! The great news is, pitchers and catchers are only a few days from reporting to spring training sites in Florida and Arizona, which of course is always something to look forward to during the dark, cold days of February. And while there has been a lot of moving and shaking going on, perhaps no team more boldly announced its intentions to gun for a World Series title in 2015 than the Washington Nationals with their mid-January acquisition of Max Scherzer in free agency.* That bombshell followed a relatively quiet off-season for the team that saw them make only one potentially puzzling move, a trade of premiere setup man and great clubhouse guy Tyler Clippard to Oakland for malcontent shortstop Yunel Escobar, who will in all likelihood be the second baseman this year. Let's run down what has happened so far and what might still come before the start of the season for the presumptive National League favorites in the nation's capital city.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Influential Coaches #12: Marv Dunphy

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)
June: Michael Minthorne (strength & conditioning)
July: Steve Radotich (football)
August: Tessa Paganini (volleyball)
September: Lynn Seitz (swimming)
October: Micah Hartman (volleyball)
November: Steve Chronister (basketball/baseball)

One could make a case, by looking at my dozen years in coaching, that I have been at my best when coaching volleyball. What's funny about that is that if you count my baseball experience towards softball (and apart from the action between the mound and the plate, they are practically the same), I have significantly less experience with volleyball than with any other sport that I have coached save for football (and I was never a head football coach). My playing experience can be boiled down to a camp or two in southern California when I was in middle school and PE in ninth grade, but I didn't really learn the game until my freshman year at Pepperdine, for which I can thank my friend Alex Moore.