Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Media Day at Spring Practice

Outside of the annual Spring Game the media is allowed to visit Iowa football practice once. Many members of the local media have at least twenty minutes to get some photos, shoot some b-roll as well as get an idea to how the Hawkeyes practice. They are asked to leave before the competitive team periods begin, but two members of the Big Ten Network were allowed to stay. Gerry DiNardo and Howard Griffith, anchors of the Network's Studio Show watched on as they prepare for their coverage of each conference school's Spring Games. Each have had their history with the conference before joining the Big Ten Network. DiNardo had a short stint as Head Football Coach at Indiana while Griffith played his college football at the University of Illinois. Find out what they learned from their trip as well as how the Hawkeyes end their fifteen spring practice period when the Big Ten Network airs the Iowa Spring Game on April 17.

Lost March 30

A Jin and Sun episode and it may have been one of the better of the season. Maybe not as good as Richard from a week ago, but we are in a good series of episodes. Anyone with thoughts that this group from the island somehow is united in the sideways world at the end? If so, how would they come together?
Next week we have a preview of Desmond making a return, but I don't think I'm going to like what will happen. It has to do with the bagpipe playing of Amazing Grace through the preview.

Also, thanks ABC for putting that annoying "V" countdown on during the entire episode. Blocked the view of what Jin was writing for Jack.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Iowa Baseball 2010

Over a month into the 2010 season, the Iowa Baseball team is coming off a three game win streak and took on South Dakota State at Duane Banks Field. Typically in mid-week games the pitching is more by committee than a starter being able to go deep in to the game. That was the case tonight as the Hawkeyes gave up 7 runs within the first 4 innings.
A good crowd turned out to support the baseball team on what was a windy, but warm night to enjoy college baseball in the corridor. A refreshing aspect to the baseball season is start times based on a coaches decision, not be television. On this night the game started at 6pm allowing my five-year old to watch a couple of innings before having to go to bed.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

2010 Iowa Football Coaches Clinic

The start of spring football also is a sign the Iowa Football Coaches Clinic is close. Over the weekend over 450 high school football coaches from within the state and surrounding areas came to the University of Iowa campus to be educated on the game in order to make their program better. Along with the Iowa Football staff led by Head Coach, Kirk Ferentz, high school coaches throughout the company were among the clinicians. The featured speakers were Norm Parker, Defensive Coordinator for the Hawkeyes and former Offensive Line Coach at Iowa, Joe Philbin who is currently the Offensive Coordinator of the Green Bay Packers. (see below)

The two-day event ended with an inside look at the Iowa facilities as well as practice inside Nile Kinnick Stadium.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Cubs 10th Inning

Now that the Chicago Cubs have a different owner from the radio station it has an identity with for many years, WGN has dropped its popular Sports Central nightly call-in show in favor of "Cubs 10th Inning." It is no surprise to see WGN step up their commitment to the North Side baseball club. As Tom Ricketts and his family take over ownership of the Cubs, new revenue streams are important. And one possibility would be selling the radio rights to a higher bidder. WGN and the Cubs have a deep relationship, and the Tribune company would not want to lose the city's most popular team.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Start of Srping Ball 2010

If you were driving on Hawkins Avenue in Iowa City after 4pm there may be a look and feel of October rather than March. Lifts were in the sky, a light drizzle was falling as the clouds kept the sun away, and the temperature was much like the days leading up to a Big Ten showdown with Wisconsin, Michigan or Ohio State. But rather than preparing for the upcoming opponent, the Iowa Hawkeyes were beginning their quest to take their program to higher levels than the 2009 finish of an Orange Bowl victory. Today the Hawkeyes began Spring Practice, thus the unofficial start to the 2010 season.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lost March 23rd

Definitely one of the best episodes of the Lost saga. We now have some answers to the Black Rock ship, the statue with the one foot, and how Richard Alpert does not age. We can only hope that the final episodes are as good as this one, if not better. I do know, this show may be the best example of Conflict and would definitely have a place in my freshman English class. Here's a link to the discussion of the show.

Pro Day 2010

You are invited to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, but the local Pro Day at your University allows all draft eligible athletes to perform. And on Monday at the University of Iowa, scouts and coaches from around the league worked out the Hawkeyes who aspire to play football at the next level. The NFL personnel test the players in areas as the 40 yard dash, bench press, shuttle run, vertical jump and long jump to name a few before running them through drills to see how ready there are for the NFL.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sittin' In the Prinicpal's Office

Spring Training was everything I was hoping for it to be. I enjoyed weeing major league teams as up close and personal as I would their minor league affiliates. And although this Cub fan enjoyed watching his team train in Arizona like my father had always wanted to do, a favorite memory is watching the Dodgers play the Angels. Two Southern California teams re-igniting a freeway rivalry creating an opportunity that doesn't come often for this Midwesterner....As you can see from the adjacent picture, there is nothing like a Father and Son attending a baseball game together.....Of course Ronnie Woo Woo finds his way to HoHoKam. I have pictures of that as well......Growing up in Iowa and cheering for both the Hawkeyes and Drake Bulldogs the Northern Iowa Panthers has never been a team I've had a liking for. But how could any Iowan not be excited for what the basketball team did recently in upsetting number one ranked Kansas Jayhawks. The Missouri Valley has always been an underrated basketball conference. No matter if it has been Indiana State, Bradley, Southern Illinois, Creighton and most recently Drake, the conference has provided some very memorable games. While labled a "mid-major," there is nothing minor about the quality and consistency of play in the MVC.....

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Iowa Pride

An outsider may not find anything glamorous about living in Iowa. They may visit and see farmland for miles. They may smell the hoglots that are frequently found in the rural areas. And the largest city in the state isn't among the top 100 in the nation. But one this that outsiders should notice is the pride residents of the Hawkeye State take in Iowa, and Iowans aren't afraid to show it.

Recently when travelling through the western part of the United States, it was easy to spot the Iowans, and it wasn't because of their pasty complextion due to the lack of sun over the winter months, it was due to the pride they took in wearing the colors of the schools they support.

No matter if it is the Hawkeyes, Cyclones or Panthers, the three state schools, or one of the smaller private colleges or universities Iowans aren't afraid to state their allegiance.
Our vacation began in Las Vegas and upon walking into the lobby of the MGM Grand the first t-shirt I saw was that of Northern Iowa on a college student. Obviously it was spring break and most college students will travel in a shirt sporting that of the school they attend, but as we continued to walk around Sin City, it was evident there were many more Iowans. On two other occasions that day I saw two older gentlemen wearing University of Iowa shirts and another college student with an Iowa State sweatshirt on. Then when it became cooler and I had to wear my Iowa Hawkeye jacket, I began to hear supportive comments. Two people said, "Go Hawks" and another offered to open the door for "a Hawkeye."

Now Las Vegas is the number one spring break destination and many of the in-state schools were out at the same time, but the common theme continued into Arizona. The Phoenix area is a popular place for the snowbird Iowans. Seeing individulas support their Iowa schools shouldn't be abnormal, but they don't shy away from it.

Sitting by the pool at our hotel we find one older man walking by wearing a Northern Iowa shirt. Then at the Cubs spring training game, there were a number wearing "Hawkeye" shirts walking around the parking lot. Once I would say, "Go Hawks," the response was very enthusiastically as if the recent success of the football team made them more proud to be from Iowa.

And as you can see from the above picture, the pride Iowans have in their schools also exists in the businesses the transplanted one open away from home. This business with the tigerhawk logo is on one of the busiest streets in Mesa, Arizona, Country Club Drive. Definitely the Hawkeye logo may be frowned upon by the fans of the local Arizona schools, but obviously the owner doesn't care.

But the pride didn't stop with the state's three schools. Also at the Cubs game my wife and I saw two individuals with Drake t-shirts and on the streets of Tempe was a gentleman with a "Simpson College Baseball" shirt.

It isn't out of the ordinary for fans to support their teams wherever they go, but for Iowans it doesn't matter the size of the school, it is their team...and that their team represents where they are from.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Lost March 16

Due to the trip I am a little late on the links to the latest Lost episode. I was forced to watch it in black and white due to issues with the hotel tv, but I don't think I missed anything. I also saw this bus travelling through downtown Tempe...not sure if there are any of the Oceanic Six on board. Looking forward to Richard next week.

Spring Break - Cubs v Rangers

The last stop on the spring break trip was a visit to HoHoKam Park in Mesa, Arizona, the Spring Training Home of the Chicago Cubs. Since the 1950s the Cubs have called Mesa home, and pending a vote in the fall, will continue to do so with improved facilities.

The Cubs are the most popular MLB team in the Cactus League. We attended the March 16 Cubs - Rangers game where the Cubs won 4-1 in front of 13,157 fans, the fourth most attended game in the history of HoHoKam. Newly acquired pitcher Carlos Silva allowed two hits, struck out three in four scoreless innings. Silva came to Chicago from Seattle in exchange for Milton Bradley. Many Cub fans are excited to have Silva no matter the record, just as long as Bradley is no longer wearing the Cub pinstripes.

Among the advantages of attending spring training games is the proximity fans have to players and Cub icons. Radio voice of the Chicago Cubs, Pat Hughes was making his way from the press box to field level. Along the way he stopped for autographs and photo opportunities.

The umpires meet with coaches of each team prior to the game to exchange lineup cards. The only starter not in the line up for Chicago was Derek Lee.

Another new addition to the Cub roster is free agent Xavier Nady. Overcoming shoulder surgery, Nady has been spending time in the lineup as the DH. Once 100 percent he will platoon in the outfield.

A favorite of the Engelbert household is Ryan Theriot. Last November a student at Colin's elementary won a Sports Illustrated for Kids contest having their favorite MLB player attend their school. Theriot showed up at Wickham, and Colin sported his Cubs shirt.

Former Iowa Cub manager, Michael Quade has been the third base coach since Lou Pinella began managing Chicago. Quade spends a few minutes with Ranger manager Ron Washington between innings. This was the day before news broke of Washington testing positive for cocaine.

There are many good seats at HoHoKam and it was standing room only. The advantage of spring training games to the regular season is the proximity the fan has to the field.

Game time temperature was 75 degrees, and as the PA announcer reminded us, it was 54 in Chicago.

Chicago Cub Manager, Lou Pinella spends time outside the dugout watching the action. In the forefront is Mike Maddux, pitching coach for the Rangers and brother to future Hall of Famer and former Cub pitcher, Greg Maddux. Greg is with the Cubs in an advisory role to General Manager Jim Hendry.

Starlin Castro is the hottest prospect in the Cubs organization. Lou has announced the shortstop will start the season in Des Moines for the triple A Iowa Cubs. The middle infield has been a hot topic for the Cubs during the spring. Currently Theriot and 2B Mike Fontenot have solidified their jobs, but Castro has performed well making the media and fans wonder when he will be elevated to the major leagues.

The Cubs win 4-1.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spring Break - Dodgers v Angels

After the weekend in Vegas, the Cactus League was our next destination. First up was the "Freeway Series" of the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Angeles of Anaheim. This rivalry has taken on different meaning as this is the second year the Dodgers have trained in the Cactus League, allowing fans of the team to easily make the trip to Arizona for Spring Training rather than trekking across the country to Florida.

Tempe's Diablo Stadium was the home for this battle. Although been around since the early 90s, it recently finished a renovation project that brings the entire Angel Spring Training operations to Tempe, rather than splitting them with Mesa. A little closer to home, the Angels' single A franchise is the Cedar Rapids Kernels.
Since it is closer to Los Angeles, fans are now able to follow their team. Here they surround the Dodger dugout looking for a photo, autograph, or just a closer look to their favorite players.

Spring Training games have a different feel to them. Starters are routinely taken out after playing a few innings. But one difference between these exhibition games and the regular season is the structure. Above Dodger Manager Joe Torre meets with Angel Manager and former Dodger, Mike Scioscia. This meeting wasn't prior to first pitch, but in the middle of the first. This is when Joe made it to Tempe Diablo Stadium. Joe walked in from the right field fence with another of the team's coaches and stopped to meet with the Angels manager on the way to his dugout.

Scouts are plentiful at Spring Training games. This is an opportunity to watch many of the opposing team's entire roster. Not only can they acquire information for future scouting reports, but also evaluate talent for future trades.

Tempe Diablo Stadium is nestled into the hills. It is only a few minutes from downtown Tempe as well as Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.

As the game worked its way into the later innings, some names began to sound familiar from their playing days for the Cedar Rapids Kernels. Here former Kernel Freddy Sandeval steps up to the plate.
This game brought out the best of Angels and Dodgers fans. Although there were more Angel fans, the Dodger fans made more noise.
Indianola native, Casey Blake warms up prior to taking his turn in the box.

The newest Angel is Hideki Matsui. Matsui was picked up in the off-season after spending his entire MLB career with the New York Yankees. Against the Dodgers Matsui was the DH, where he most likely will fit into this team.

Also making an appearance is Ivan DeJesus. I am unaware of the relationship to former Chicago Cub SS, Ivan DeJesus.

A prominent figure sitting alongside the Angel dugout and right behind manager Mike Scioscia is team owner Arthur Moreno. The franchise has progressed well since he took over.

At the completion of the game members of the media took to the field to interview.

Spring Break - Las Vegas

In a change of pace my wife and I decided to spend a few days away, leaving the darling little child at home with the grandparents. We decided to break up the trip into two parts. The first began with a weekend in Las Vegas.
Not only was it our spring break trip, but it was the spring break trip for many college students throughout the county. Recent statistics show that Las Vegas is the number one destination by students for spring break. They blended in with the regular tourists.

Temperatures were beginning to warm up. Our first night was the last cool evening before temperatures warmed up into the 70s. Even though the wind cooled things off, the sun continued to shine brightly and warmly.
A favorite stop of my wife's was the Bellagio Hotel. Adjacent to the hotel's registration area was a miniature botanical center. Flowers and giant displays were delicately cared for. I compared it to the hotel capturing one of the floats from Pasadena's Tournament of Roses Parade and setting it up for the Vegas tourists to see.

No need to worry. The Giant ant is a metal statue, not real. My wife is not its awaiting prey.

We knew our son Colin would be jealous to know we got to ride the Vegas tram which connects the Bellagio to the Monte Carlo with stops at the new City Center along the way. This was a terrific way to manuever the Vegas Strip as it was free and shortened the walk.

We also knew Colin would be jealous to know we met the M&Ms. One of the specialty stores on the strip is the M&M Shop. Four floors of everything that is chocolate.

Vegas is full of fantasy. It allows you to be someone different or be somewhere different. The resorts on the strip can take you back in time or transport you to various destinations. Above is the replica of the Arc de Triumph and below is the Eifel Tower. Both originals are in Paris, France, but these miniatures give the Paris Hotel and Casino their European feel. Inside food, drink and accomodations are Paris-like.

Las Vegas is known to constantly re-invent itself. The newest spots on the strip is City Center and the newest hotel and casino on the strip. Centered in the photo is Aria and it is as glamorous as this picture illustrates.
Not only can you have the feel of Paris, but you can get the feel of the Big Apple, but in a very miniature fashion at New York New York. Inside is a smaller Times Square, Harlem and the different boroughs of Manhattan. Outside is the skyline as well as the Statue of Liberty.

The MGM Grand was our home for the weekend. The MGM has been home to many of boxing greatest title fights, concerts and future home to the Country Music Awards Show. It also has some of the best dining, gaming and nightlife on the strip. My wife's request was to eat at Emeril's restaurant inside and the meal didn't disappoint.

Las Vegas is also known for its different styles of gambling. Slots, tables and sports books are found in may of the hotels. Various odds found were the following: Cubs to win the World Series, 5-1. Green Bay to win the Super Bowl, 7-1. Zach Johnson to win the Masters, 22-1. Iowa to win the BCS, 20-1. Of course this information is for entertainment purposes ONLY.

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Good Listen

A week ago while driving home from work I was listening to WGN, AM 720 out of Chicago. At this time of the year I frequently listen to this station on my commute to get caught up on the latest Chicago Cubs news, as they are the flagship station of my beloved team. On this day following the latest sports news of the day by Dave Kaplan, afternoon host Steve Cochran asked him to stay and relay the following story. Well worth a listen at the following link...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Lost March 9

This may have been the best episode of the season--very well written and I'm sure we will learn more next week with the captions. When Ben is involved interesting things follow. I'm interested to know where Jin and Sawyer have been the last couple of weeks. And now we have a Widmore sighting. How long until Desmond returns? Read more about it here...and check back Wednesday for another link.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Final Hawk Talk

As one who is unable to attend a Hawk Talk during the Iowa Football season, I decided I would take the family to the final call-in show of the 2009-10 athletic season. And in the main room of the Mexican restaurant Carlos O'Kelly's, Iowa play by play man Gary Dolphin and engineer Kevin Dolan were joined by Hawkeye basketball coach Todd Lickliter. It wasn't a large crowd, but the basketball version of Hawk Talk has never been a huge draw, but it was some of the most loyal fans and friends of the program.

Tommy from Des Moines was one of the earliest callers. And as he was introduced to the patrons a few applauded as they knew whatever was on his mind would be heartfelt. Tommy lives for the call-in shows, whether they are with the coaches of the state's universities, or of the general post-game variety. Tommy doesn't miss an opportunity to speak his mind to the entire listening area.

And there sat Dolph. Every week Gary drives ninety minutes from his Dubuque home in all sorts of weather to take questions from the most loyal of fans, some educated, some not. But after a while what is left to be asked. He knows on this night there may not be as many calls. The team is enduring its worst season in years and the passion for the basketball team wanes, but Dolph put on his best broadcast face and knows he will have to carry much of the ninety minute show. Gary can find a way to turn a simple question into an in-depth, thoughtful prose covering many different angles.

On this night Todd walked in with his wife who sat with friends. He found his way to the head table during a caller who felt the head Hawk needed to adjust his strategy for not only the upcoming Big Ten Tournament, but into the upcoming season. Todd listens and knows the questions won't be easy, but what is when he is as disappointed as anyone with a team at 10-21 with the Michigan on the horizon in round one at Indianapolis.

This was the final Hawk Talk and the next one will have a more festive atmosphere to it. It will feature Kirk Ferentz as he talks with the fans about the upcoming football season. Although the Hawks will not have played a game the expectations will be high. The Iowa fan base is expecting great things. They want to put this basketball season behind them. And Tommy will be busy in the next five plus months to put together his first question...first out of many.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Good Days of the Girls Union

Watching the latest edition of the Iowa Girls State Basketball Tournament made me appreciate living through some of its best years. It was tough to turn on the 2010 event as I know how great this one week of basketball use to be, and what it meant to Iowans.

The Girls Tournament I remember promoted the "Iowa Girl" and showcased her talents. The "Iowa Girl" was a brand before brands were marketed and the entire week was about her.

My first recollection of the week-long experience was its nickname, "the Sweet Sixteen." Sixteen schools from Iowa fought their way to play in the capital city. To make it to Des Moines meant you were the best from your area. One team could play four times in the first week just to make it out of their district. It may take another three games to qualify for state. Once at state there were no classes and the smallest of communities may have to battle a school from a major metropolitan area.

Once in Des Moines the state's focus centered on these sixteen teams for five days. Opening-round games were on the first two days followed by the quarters on Thursday, semis on Friday. On Saturday the consolation preceded the championship, each on a state-wide television network, just like the semi-final games. As the week progressed tickets were harder to come by. Not only fans of the participating teams would be on hand, but other high school teams from around the state came to watch the team from their area battle schools that they only hear about in the newspapers. Also, farming families would make a week out of this tournament. It wasn't out of the ordinary to find rural moms and dads spend the week in Des Moines just to watch the best the state had.

The state's media turned out in droves. Local radio stations and newspapers shared press row with broadcasters who also were the voices of the state's largest universities. For many years people like Jim Zabel and Frosty Mitchell, who were also known as the play by play voices for the Iowa Hawkeyes would also broadcast the state finals who may make up the smallest of communities. But to these girls and towns, it meant everything.

While at the tournament it was all about those playing the game. With sixteen teams, and the state's interest it was easy to get to know a young lady from a small high school miles away. One time scoring leader Lynne Lorenzen from Ventura made a name for herself as a freshman when she and her sister advanced to state. Although losing in the first round, fans of the game from around the state knew of Lorenzen and followed her career.

The in-tournament pageantry was provided by young ladies and gentlemen from throughout the state. High School drill teams, vocal groups and jazz bands was the entertainment. Awards given out were to the athletes who achieved not only in basketball, but in other sports. The Hall of Fame induction ceremony was a big deal. At halftime of the championship game the lights were dimmed and spotlights on the newest inductees. The awards were nicknamed the "Victoria's," a feminine way to say Victory. The Iowa Girls Basketball Tournament was the high profile event for the Iowa Girls Union. And at the end of the week the all-tournament team was a selection of the best athletes the state had to offer.

But the latest tournament offered a difficult watch. Regardless of the game changing to five-player, many of the qualities that set it apart has vanished.

Instead of one champion, there are now four, one representing a different classification. With redistricting and consolidating of schools it is an easier path to state than twenty-five years ago. The argument is to give smaller schools a competitive advantage to winning a state title, but there have been times over the years I would like to see a 1A team battle their "bigger sister" for the right to say they are best in the state. The field has doubled from its "sweet sixteen" days to 32 and four state championships. Games starting early Monday morning, lasting through to Saturday night.

The awards have lost their identity. The presentation for Hall of Fame has lost its specialness. Done early on Friday night, they were announced following a presentation given to a long-time referee. He received the Jack North Award, an honor that at one time was presented to a basketball and softball player. I don't recall any male receiving an honor at the state tournament in the glory days of the tournament.

Announcing the games on tv is a core of announcers that can be seen doing all of the other state tournaments, male or female. The current play by play man will work next week's boys tournament as well as already calling the state wrestling and football play-offs.

Jazz bands, drill teams and vocal groups have been replaced by pre-recorded music. While lifting the championship trophy, each winning team was serenaded to "We Are the Champions." Although this is a generation of players who are better motivated by this type of music, it has cut out the opportunities for others throughout the state to showcase their talents in front of an audience unfamiliar to them.

And finally corporate sponsors have taken over the tournament. The Girls Union now has a corporate sponsor tag put on them. Farm Bureau is seen all over the tournament with the head of the company, Craig Lang handing out the medals to the all-tournament teams of each class. Pizza Ranch awards the most outstanding player in each class while the Iowa Pork Producers present a grilling package to the "Fan of the Game" in each class.

I cringe now every time I tune in to watch the Girls State Basketball tournament in Iowa. I'm glad I can appreciate how good it once was, and it is too bad that today's athlete don't know what they are missing.

(picture from the 1993 tournament. Montezuma v Atlantic. The last year of the Six-Player tournament at Veterans Memorial Auditorium)

Putt Fore the Library

Many local residents had the opportunity to practice their putting stroke as the Coralville Public Library hosted the 2010 Putt Fore the Library. Eighteen miniature golf holes were scattered among book shelves and computers, each presented by a different local business.

Some of the holes were creatively designed and a few with a direct reflection of their business. Above the Johnson County Historical Society used a covered wagon as an obstruction. On a different hole New Pioneer Coop made golfers work their way around fresh produce and grains.