Saturday, June 30, 2012

EA Leaving ESPN

Watching sports on certain networks seem natural. And we become comfortable with personalities call those events. My first memory of a sporting event leaving one network for another, and a personality not being associated with it was the 1988 Summer Olympics. As long as I could remember, the Olympics were on ABC (except the American boycott of the 1980 games in Moscow and NBC held its rights) and Jim McKay was identified with those events. Although I was two at the time, McKay made his Olympic mark in Munich as the one who let America, and perhaps the World know that Israeli athletes had been shot. Since then the identifiable icon of the Olympics in American is Bob Costas. Whether it is the Summer or Winter games, Costas welcomes us to the venues, culture and athletes.

I'm not using McKay to compare the stature of these personalities of today, but instead I use it say we can associate tv personalities with the events we watch over the years. One example of that is College Football and its coverage on ESPN.

Every Saturday morning fans across American tune into ESPN's College Football Game Day. Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso, Desmond Howard, and Erin Andrews. The chemistry of this crew is among the best on television. Andrews was the 8am host and transitioned into the core of the show when Fowler took over. This crew felt like they went to college together and was the current day form of the Brat Pack talking sports. It was announced on Friday Andrews would be leaving this crew to pursue opportunities at another network.

2006 was the rare opportunity Andrews worked as an announcer for a Hawkeye Football game. She was on the Thursday night crew and subbed for Bonnie Bernstine on ABC as Iowa played at Michigan. Before the game my video staff and I hung around on the field watching pre-game warm-ups. Andrews spotted us wearing our Hawkeye gear and came over to talk a little bit about the team. I'm not sure what the first question was, nor anyone in our group, as we were in awe of "Erin Andrews" instigating a conversation with us. I do remember we talked about her and her plans for making game 1 of the World Series in Detroit that night. She described herself as a "ball cap and jeans girl" who has become a Red Sox fan living in Atlanta based on the friendships she started with the team. Just a real easy conversation from one of the network's rising stars.

Speculation has her landing the sideline gig for FOX's College Football coverage which includes the Pac 12 and Big Ten Championship games. It won't be any of the BCS games that she is a pro at. Yes, she's the blonde "hottie" on the sideline, but enough credit doesn't go to her reporting on the sidelines. Most importantly she will be missed Saturday mornings hanging out with her fraternity brothers.


He hasn't been around long, but for his lifetime he only knows the Cubs as a  winning team. Born Friday morning, little Andrew has watched the Cubs beat the Astros 4-0 and 3-2.

Andrew has an exciting life ahead of him. Mom, Dad and a big brother look forward to riding bikes, playing little league and teaching him life's important lessons. His big brother already has plans on taking him to see the Iowa Cubs, riding trains around Chicago and watching the Disney Channel with him. Mom is looking forward to another fine young adult and Dad loves having another little buddy experiencing ballgames with him.

The first day of July is another Cubs home game, and Andrew looks forward to watching it with his family.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Little League

It was a warm and humid. And it was approaching a holiday weekend, but a majority of my little league team showed up to play. It would've been easy to pass it up, and some of the parents didn't want to expose their son or daughter to the heat. Maybe it was because they spent most of their day outside at camp, or the 100 degree heat index was a threshold deemed unnecessary to put their kids into. But yet, there were 8 of 12 little boys and girls showing up to take on a team that fielded a same number.

Our team is the Twins and it is made up of 12 boys and girls in the 7-8 age group. Most of them all go to same elementary school in Coralville and a number of them have been on a team of mine for the past four years. The first year we were the Rockies, then the Yankees. A year ago it was the Rays and now we are the Twins.

There are different skill levels and different interest levels. Some play the way they see their idols play it on tv. Some are there because their parents insist on it. And some just want to spend some extra time with their friends.

The fun part for me is watching these young individuals work to improve and listen to their parents and coaches to do what many of them did at their age. Little League is a great experience for everyone. Parents can sit back in lawn chairs, have dinner of just a soda and watch them play America's past time. It is encouraging for me listening to their encouragement and re-enforcing what we continue to teach them.

On a warm and humid night like tonight it is easy to let one's mind wander. It may be more fun to make different sand sculptures while playing the field. Fielding a grounder may be tougher than just getting in front of the ball, it is maintaining one's attention on each pitch that gets whiffed at more than contact is made. And enforcing the idea of throwing the ball to first, covering the bag, or running the ball may sound easy, yet difficult to do when needing to make a decision very quickly.

In our league score is not kept, yet afterwards I am always asked by a player if we won. Whether or not we have more cross the plate than our opponent I think I am the one who wins. It is a special couple of hours to have fun with my son and his friends playing a great game.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Cubs Cardinals, June 23, 1984

This is a day I remember well. My Dad and I would take a trip to Chicago every year on a charter bus that left Cedar Rapids the day of the game. It was the second straight year we had done this. $33 for each of us. We didn't have to worry about parking or traffic. The bus would drop us off outside the outfield wall of Wrigley Field and pick us up after the game.

The year before it was the Braves at Wrigley Field and Steve Trout was the starting pitcher for each game. The Cardinals started someone we had never heard of, Ralph Citarella. It was the STL pitcher that looked like the everyday name early in the game as the Cardinals reached out to an early lead. My Dad, the eternal pessimist and Cubs fan (I think it goes hand in hand), became frustrated and took a walk around the old ballpark around the third inning.

The Cubs mounted a comeback, but it was hard to imagine they could come back to win this. The day before he and I watched on tv the Cubs win on a Leon Durham late inning home run, 5-4. And as fun and magical as the 1984 season had been, we were still Cubs fans and a win like this was improbable.

But the Cubbies made a comeback while Willie McGee was hitting for the cycle from the visiting dugout. McGee was just one of the notable names that were on the World Series winning team just two years earlier. McGee, Herr, Smith (both Ozzie and Lonnie), and Sutter to name a few. It was a good team in Chicago, but the Cubs had some names as well. Moreland, Bowa, Davis and Durham were some of the more notable, but it was Sandberg that became a name that day.

In the midst of all-star voting only those who knew of Ryne Sandberg were either from Chicago or Philadelphia, the system that developed the young second baseman. Fans of Chicago's team knew they had a pretty good player at second, but two hits in this game made this day forever known as "Ryne Sandberg Day" by Cubs fans.

In the 9th and again in the 10th, Sandberg hit home runs off former Cubs closer, Bruce Sutter. Wrigley went nuts and my Dad looked at me with the biggest of grins. Neither of us could smile well, but it wasn't tough to show excitement and enthusiasm to what we were witnessing.

Then it was the 11th inning, the bases were loaded with no outs and a unknown infielder who had spent some time playing at triple A Iowa, who we followed at the time, Dave Owens singled in the game winner.

Wrigley is an older ballpark, and in 1984 it didn't offer many modern amenities so getting out of the upper deck took a while as no one left until the final out. As like a herd of cattle, we slowly made our way down the ramps, and as we did, I could barely hear Sandberg being interviewed over the old loudspeakers. I think it was NBC's Tony Kubek, but I could've been wrong. The roar hadn't subsided and the interview was barely audible.

The Cubs went on to a magical season which found them in post-season play for the first time since 1945. This game may not have been what propelled them to the post-season, but it was definitely one game we knew people would talk about for quite some time. Being able to enjoy it with my Dad made it a memory I will never forget.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Phil Haddy retiring after 41 years

After 41 years of service to the University of Iowa, Phil Haddy is ending his career at Sports Information Director for the Hawkeyes. Haddy has worked in the SID department all of those years, and has led it since 1993.

A golf outing and reception were held for Phil on the University campus Tuesday. Representatives from  Iowa State, the National Football Federation and Capital One Bowl were in attendance as well as Mark Rudner of the Big Ten Conference. Family, former sports information students and friends of Phil came back to wish him the best in retirement. And former Iowa play by play announcers Ron Gonder and Bob Brooks took to the microphone and gave a story or two of Haddy.

Dan Gable took to the podium. As former head wrestling coach at Iowa, Gable had many good memories of Haddy. Phil has been the PA announcer for wrestling meets since the 70s, and one of the sports biggest supporters. Gable reminisced about a time where Lincoln McIlravey got the nickname, "The Dakota Destroyer" as Phil introduced him in front of a near sell-out crowd at Carver Hawkeye Arena.

Phil will definitely not depart from the University quickly. He will still be seen at many home Hawkeye events, and will continue to contribute as much as he can. It will be tough for him to leave the Kinnick Stadium Press Box, the free steak meals on road trips, and escape the background of many television shots.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Game Times Released

I think what sparks many football fans' interest in the months after their team's spring ball concludes are the times and networks of the upcoming games.  The most interest is that of what games are determined for under the lights, then which games are of a national focus, and then when is the time of those first few games. Today we found out what those times are, and Iowa fans can't be too disappointed.

Since the first game is technically a "home" game for Northern Illinois is Chicago's Soldier Field, the Mid-American Conference holds the television rights to that game. When Iowa played Northern in Chicago in 2007, ESPNU picked it up and showed it at 2:30. Last year the NIU Huskies played a similar game against Wisconsin, but that was only shown on the ESPN3's internet channel. But this year, the Huskies and Hawkeyes are back to a 2:30 start time, and once again on ESPNU.

Then come two intra-state games with Iowa State and Northern Iowa. Each give the fans of the Hawkeye State a little extra time in the parking lots tailgating as those start times are 2:30, on the Big Ten Network.

Three other home games have already been tabbed. Minnesota and Nebraska each will begin at 11am in Kinnick Stadium, while Penn State is the lone night game for the Hawkeyes. That start time is 7pm in Iowa City.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

An Extra with Greg Davis

This is something I should've posted weeks ago. Big Ten Network Football personality, Gerry DiNardo was in town during April for a sit down with Iowa Offensive Coordinator, Greg Davis. At least 35 minutes of footage was shot for a piece that aired for 6 minutes. Two plays were discussed, and the variations from each play. It was explained how the different offensive positions play into each scheme, and Davis took time at the chalk board for added insight.

At the beginning of the interview DiNardo asked Davis, a veteran of the collegiate coaching ranks, how important video is to the college coach. This was a sampling of their Q&A, but well worth being published somewhere.