Golf is NOT Boring

13 08 2007

Just about every casual sports fan knows that yesterday, Tiger Woods won the 13th major of his career at the PGA Championship. (Nice call Ben!) Unlike most sports fans (well, at least those in the US), I had follow Tiger’s march to victory by continually clicking the ‘refresh’ button on the leaderboard and live blog pages of the ESPN.com golf page. Not very tigerwoods.jpgvisually stimulating, I know, but it did provide a good amount of suspense. (Especially since the pages usually took a minute or two to reload.)

As I was thinking about how I ‘watched’ the PGA Championship yesterday it struck me that, at one time, I would have considered my actions to be a total bore. I mean, I remember thinking the only good thing about watching golf was that the slow pace and the hushed tones of the commentators helped you get that afternoon nap you really needed.

Now I’m riveted by how the little numbers on the online leaderboard might or might not change, for crying out loud!

It’s a sad state to be in, I know. But here’s hoping the internet connections will still be good when the time for the Ryder Cup rolls around.

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2 cent Bonds

8 08 2007

Barry Bonds broke the “most hallowed individual record in sports” last night, hitting his 756th career home run.

For what it is worth (probably less than one thread of one stitch of that ball Bonds crushed for no. 756), here’s my two cents on the whole matter.

While Bonds has not been proven guilty of taking steriods, I’m with the vast majority of fans who believe he knowingly took performance enhancing drugs. For me the proof is in his unnatural physical growth at a time way past puberty or even a “late growth spurt”. Most (if not all) of his perceivable physical changes – especially his ballooning head size – are tell-tale signs of steroid use.

Still, in my book, Bonds won’t be guilty until proven so.  But, in the same right, he’ll always be suspect until definitively proven otherwise. (His case could be compared with that neighborhood dog you saw chewing on a discarded T-bone -last night’s dinner- right after you spent 30 minutes picking up your trash after a mysterious garbage spill. You are sure the dog did it, but you can’t really complain to the dog’s owner because you didn’t actually see the dog get into your garbage and it is possible – although only very very slightly so – that he was munching on someone else’s T-bone leftovers. The evidence is all there, except the smoking gun.)

That having been said, history has been made and that should be celebrated. I don’t really care for Bonds, but I got goosebumps watching that home run and I probably will when I see it again. (Just like I get goosebumps whenever I see Laettner’s last-second shot to beat Kentucky in the Elite Eight.  To put it lightly, I don’t care for Duke nor Laettner, but I do love sports history and drama.)

I’m just hoping I get the chance to have those goosebumps trumped by another career homerun record breaking blast in my lifetime.

A-Rod hitting it in a Cubs uniform would be extra sweet.





Let the Madness begin!

16 03 2006

JUST DON’T LET ME HEAR ABOUT IT!

Today, I begin my self-imposed blackout of all NCAA hoops news. Since we don’t get CBS over here in Togo, I won’t be able to watch the NCAA tournament until tapes of the games arrive in a couple of weeks. (Huge props to Chris, Dave and Forrest. You guys get extra stars in your crowns for helping a brother out!)

Nothing beats watching the first few rounds wondering who’s going to make the big shot and having your brackets get shot to pieces by some underdog. We try to keep that feeling (even with a two week tape delay) by shutting out any news about the tourney. So, Tracey will be screening our emails and I won’t be visiting ESPN.com anytime soon.

It is small price to pay to get a little taste of March Madness – even if it is in April or even May!

My Big Ten tourney champion Iowa Hawkeyes aren’t getting any love from the media, but I think they’ve got a great shot to get into the Elite 8 and beyond. They’ve got one of the best defenses in the nation and a bunch of seasoned, hungry seniors who’ve weathered a tough Big Ten schedule. That’s usually a recipe for success in the Big Dance. Getting by West Virginia, Texas and Duke or LSU is a tall order, but you never know…

For what it is worth, here are my Final Four picks:
UConn, Villanova, Texas & Gonzaga

UConn will stop the ‘Horns in the final game and take home the hardware.





Tagged

25 02 2006

Well, I’ve been “tagged” twice now (thanks Anthony and Carter!), so I guess I’d better play. Looking at the categories, I can tell this is going to be a bit torturous for one who lives so far from home, but I think I can manage. I’ve also taken the liberty of adding a “Four Favorite Pets” category.


Four Places I’ve Lived:

Davenport, IA – My only home until I left for college. Great place to grow up.

Memphis, TN – Lived here while in grad school, preparing to leave for Togo. The best BBQ in the world can be found at The Cozy Corner.

University Park, TX This is actually in Dallas, but the Park cities have their own police, city council, etc. Very upper class. We would have lived there if our sponsoring church, Preston Road Church of Christ, wasn’t located there and owned an apartment next door. We had to laugh driving our beat up Honda Civic around while everyone else was driving a BMW, Mercedes, Hummer or Rolls Royce!

Albertville, France We lived here for 8 month while in French language school. It is right in the French Alps, definitely the most beautiful place we’ve ever lived. Outside our living room window, we had a great view of the medieval town Conflans and the mountains. You know, my French isn’t as good as it should be, maybe we need to go back for a refresher course…

Four Jobs I’ve Had:

Counter clerk – Village Bakery – Bettendorf, IA – My high school job where I baked cookies, sold merchandise, cleaned the shop and washed more cooking trays that I could ever count! Sweet (literally) perks were all-you-can eat goodies and trading day old stuff for leftover Happy Joe’s Pizza (see below).

Laborer – DRI Railroad – Davenport, IA – “I’ve been workin’ on the railroad…” I did this for two summers and one winter break my first two years of college. While repairing railroad track, I learned to really appreciate getting an education — shoveling rock for 8 hours in sweltering heat will have that effect on a young man! I also learned that one actually can smoke 4 packs of cigarettes a day (Rod), use more curse words than not (forgot that guy’s name) and be a complete idiot except when behind the controls of a backhoe…most of the time (Rick)!

Chemistry Lab Assistant – Harding Univ. – Searcy, AR – Not much excitement here, it was just fun to mix chemicals and help students do their experiments.

Youth Minister – Holmes Rd. Church of Christ – Memphis, TN — I kind of fell into this job, but it was a great experience that taught me a ton about people, churches and ministry. All those kids we worked with are in or out of college now. Scary how time goes by!


Four Movies I Could Watch Over and Over:

Since we don’t have a Blockbuster nearby, we re-watch movies often. It is tough to narrow it down to four.

Hoosiers – I get goose bumps whenever I hear the theme music. After watching, I have to go shoot some hoops.

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – A couple of days ago, I was telling a friend how I wish I could see them all over again, as if it were for the first time.

U2 – Rattle and Hum – The most movie-like of the U2 concert DVDs I own. I remember seeing it on the big screen when it was released. The last 30 min. is golden.

Any comedy with my teammate David Reeves – His laughter is highly contagious. Rat Race and Barbershop particularly stand out, but just about any funny movie will do the trick for us. (I’m actually afraid to watch Napoleon Dynamite with him for fear that one of us will end up with a hernia!)


Four Books I Could Read Over and Over:

The Gospel of John – My favorite book in the Good Book.

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis – So very poignant and still relevant. This book reminds me what really is important in Christianity.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien – Read it for the first time in 2000 and have read it thrice more since. Better than the movies (but it takes longer).

The Brothers K by David James Duncan – This book tackles religion, Vietnam, baseball and family in a beautifully woven, majestically written story. It is outright hilarious in parts and heartbreakingly tragic in others. (I’ll get your copy back to you someday Andy!)

Four TV Shows I Watch:

On tape (sent by our dear friends and family)…
Law & Order
CSI
Without A Trace
Everybody Loves Raymond

On DVD (we are year behind on these as we wait for the DVD release – no spoilers please!)
Lost
24
Alias

*Ed — The one show we really, really wish was out on DVD, but isn’t.


Four Places I’ve Been on Vacation:

Yosemite National Park – Tracey’s favorite place to go when she was growing up. We went here on our honeymoon.

San Diego, CAOur kids love the zoo & wild animal park, we love the beach and great weather. We also get our favorite Mexican food there. Would love to live there someday…if we could ever afford it!

Coconut Grove Beach Resort, Ghana – Another family favorite. We thought it was paradise the first time we went (it isn’t, but we were in culture shock then) and it hasn’t disappointed us in the many visits since.

Pendjari National Game Park, Benin – Our ‘home’ game park is only 4 hours away. I try to go at least twice a year. It’s the best game park in W. Africa. We seen elephants, lions, hippos, antelope and all kinds of exotic birds.

Three Websites I Visit Daily:
My Yahoo
Hawkmania
ESPN.com

Four Favorite Foods:

This is the killer category. I can’t tell you how many times we think about these foods…
By the way, Tracey is an awesome cook! I’m just listing my favorite specialty foods.

Happy Joe’s Pizza with Whitey’s Ice Cream for dessert — The best pizza and ice cream in the world and you can find it only in the Quad Cities! Each place was within 2 blocks of our house growing up.

Cozy Corner BBQ –- Memphis, TN – The best of the best Memphis BBQ. Makes my mouth water just thinking about it. Got to go for lunch or early dinner, though, the neighborhood is too rough for them to be open at night!

Nati’s Mexican Food San Diego, CA – A family favorite for generations (Tracey’s side). It’s 3 blocks from the Ocean Beach pier and less than a mile away from Grandma’s house. Owen had been there 5 times before he was even a month old (we lost count of the inutero visits)!

Les TrappeursCol de Tamie, France – Fantastic fondue and crème brule. You can also grill you own meat at the table (‘La Braserade’). We loved going here while were living in Albertville. Need to get back there someday…

Four Places I’d Like to Be Right Now:

Another tough category as it is something we think about often…

First/Second round site of the NCAA tournament – 6 games in two days, (plus all the others you watch on TV). The only thing make this sweeter is if I get cheer the Hawkeyes on to victory in person.

Somewhere in the Rocky Mountains – I love the mountains and could use some cold weather.

Mare Bali, Pendjari Game Park – A relaxing, if not comfortable, place to sit and watch all kinds of animals come and get a drink of water – and, if you’re lucky, a meal!


Anywhere with Tracey
– Corny, but true!


Four Favorite Pets

Shama – The first dog I ever had, she was part beagle, part dauchund. She’d keep my feet warm at night during the winter.

Smoky – The first cat we ever had. He was a tom that came and went as he pleased. One time he brought home a live mouse which he released in the middle of my sister’s slumber party. I couldn’t have done a better job of scaring those girls myself. Who said the only good cat is a dead cat?

LaRoy – Our chameleon former known as Leroy (we changed her name when we found out that she was she, not a he). She changes colors all day and is great fun to watch eating dragonflies, grasshoppers and praying mantises. And she was free! I caught on the road outside our teammates’ house.

Hawkeye – Our first family dog. He’s a hyper German Shepherd who loves to jump and play fetch. He also has a pretty mean bark which scares off any unwanted visitors. (He’s got a great name too!)

People to Tag:
David Reeves
Matt Miller
Brett Emerson





Hawks On Top

14 02 2006

I’ve hesitated for long time to say anything about my Hawkeyes and their recent success on the hardwood because in recent years, good things haven’t lasted with the Iowa basketball team. To validate my feelings, the boys choked at Northwestern (ouch!) last Wednesday. I feel much better saying something now after a big win at Indiana. Now, they are a ½ game ahead of Ohio State with 5 games left to play. Still, I’d better say something while I can!

I’ve got to include a pic of the new all-time leading rebounder at Iowa, Greg Brunner, doing what he does best. “Bru” is, in my opinion, the epitome of Iowa hoops – slow, white dude who plays his guts out. He sports my old number too, which puts him in even more rare company!

Tonight, Michigan State visit Carver Hawkeye Arena. This is a huge game. Hopefully the Hawks have learned something from the 30 point thrashing the Spartans gave them earlier in the year and will actually the play the kind of defense that has made them among the nation’s top defensive teams. I’d love to see them win and go on to the Big Ten regular season title, but beggars (this is Iowa we are talking about here) can’t be choosers.

Honestly, a top 3 finish in the Big Ten regular season, good showing in the Big Ten tourney (semis or finals) and a run to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament would be fantastic. Still, after a number of years of just hoping to see Iowa mentioned as a possible bubble team, it’s just nice to see them down as “lock” to make the tournament. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see what the rest of the season brings.

In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the fact that my team is first in its conference and try not let may expectations get too high! They’d probably be disappointed.





Sporting Event Memories

16 01 2006

My buddy Dave Parks recently e-mailed a list of the ticket stubs he had saved from various games he attended with me and/or our good buds Forrest and Chris. It was treat to think about those good times with good friends and it got me to thinking about all the special sporting events that have been a part of in my life.

So to add to Dave’s list, I’ve noted a few of my own sporting event memories. The list isn’t as impressive as a sports writer’s might be, but it is special to me.

Unlike Dave, I’ve not been good about saving the ticket stubs, so exact dates (and in some cases, visiting teams) are a bit fuzzy. Good thing the memories aren’t!

Early 1980’s –
Harlem Globtrotters v. Washington GeneralsWharton Fieldhouse, Moline, IL

Dad took me to see this game when I was just a little kid and we had good seats near the court. Here is what I remember… The big crowd, amazing ball-handling displays by Curly, the ‘ball on a string’ freethrow act and jumping out of my skin thinking one of the ‘Trotters was throwing a bucket of water on us only to find realize it was just confetti. I saved the confetti as a souvenir.

Summer 1984Chicago Cubs v. Philadelphia PhilliesWrigley Field, Chicago, IL

First-time to attend a Major League game. Cubs lost both games of the double header and remember thinking my brother Andy was a traitor for cheering for the Phillies and his hero, Mike Schmidt. At the end of the season, the Cubs went on to blow the NLCS vs. San Diego – breaking my heart in the process.

Spring 1992 – Chicago Bulls v. LA Clippers Chicago Stadium, Chicago, IL

Accomplished one my ‘lifetime goals’ of seeing Michael Jordan play in person. It was also the last season the Bulls played in the old stadium. Because of tickets were scarce, we had restricted view seats under the mezzanine but that didn’t matter. When MJ got the ball on a fast break, my heart stopped as I thought I was going to witness one of his signature dunks in person. Alas, he was hacked and I had to settle for watching my hero shoot free throws. Former Iowa Hawkeye B. J. Armstrong had a bigger game than Jordan so that was cool. The Bulls won and I had one less thing I ‘had to do before I died’.

Nov. 1992 – Iowa Hawkeyes v. Minnesota Gophers – Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, IA

The only Iowa football game I’ve been too. We got the tickets the day of the game, drove to Iowa City, watched the Hawkeyes win the battle for Floyd of Rosedale – the bronze pig trophy the schools play for each year and listened to a rowdy, mostly drunk student section sing the unoffical Iowa fight song “In Heaven There Ain’t No Beer! (That’s Why We Drink It All Here!)”

Dec. 1993 – Iowa Hawkeyes v. Duke Blue Devils – Carver Hawkeye Arena, Iowa City, IA

I’d been to a couple of Hawk hoops games before, but those were games against the likes of Athletes in Action and Colgate. Dick Vitale and ESPN was in the house for this heavyweight fight and the crowd was pumped. Iowa led for awhile and kept it close to the end. But the Hawks were toast when Duke started to let future NBA all-star Grant Hill take his man 1-on-1. Even though the Hawks lost, it was a fun game to attend.

Summer 1995 – Chicago White Sox v. Cleveland Indians – Cominsky Park, Chicago, IL

Carter Davis and I drove up to Chicago to pick up Chris Williams. The three of us were to leave soon for a summer in Uganda, but not before eating brats with sauerkraut and watching some baseball! I think the Sox won, but more importantly, we survived the forray into Southside Chicago.

Well, that’s it for now. More to come later….





Uncle Rico’s Togo Comeback

1 01 2006


For you Napoleon Dynamite fans out there!
Happy New Year’s everyone!
Go Hawks!
Crush those Gators in Tampa!