Warning: array_slice() expects parameter 1 to be array, boolean given in /home/uvatha/public_html/kayhoflander/wp-content/plugins/my-twitter-widget/widget.php on line 164

Warning: key() expects parameter 1 to be array, null given in /home/uvatha/public_html/kayhoflander/wp-content/plugins/my-twitter-widget/widget.php on line 164

Category Archive: Sports

Mar 09

Bring on the Brackets! Basketball in March—the way it is supposed to be played. (From archived columns and first published on March 7, 2012, in The Examiner, an eastern Jackson County daily newspaper.)

“Basketball is a game that gives you every chance to be great, and puts every pressure on you to prove that you haven’t got what it takes. It never takes away the chance, and it never eases up on the pressure.”– Coach Bob Sundvold (former head coach at UCM and assistant coach at Mizzou and Missouri State)

ncaa_2x

I guess you could say that the game of basketball during March Madness is the way it is supposed to be played – flying high just like kites in the March wind.

During most of the regular season, basketball players know the pressure never eases up, and they know they have a chance to play well.

Normal everyday operating procedure for a ball team.

Come March, however, they know they have a chance not just to play well but also to be great, exactly what Coach Bob Sundvold said. And certainly, they know the pressure will ratchet up.

March Madness blows in with a fury each year when we flip the calendar from February to March, as though the weatherman just announced a severe wind advisory.

Conference championship tournaments begin, and miraculously and mysteriously, these very same players who played reasonably well during the regular season, now can fly and perform other inhuman feats, for one, levitating themselves toward the basket. Simply put, it is March Madness and flying happens, among other remarkable things.

We have seen it before, but we do not understand it.

Award-winning novelist John Edgar Wideman, described what basketball is like when it is played the way it is supposed to be played, especially in the month of March: “…basketball happens in the air; flying, floating, elevated above the floor, levitating the way oppressed peoples of this earth imagine themselves in their dreams.”

That thought leads me to an epic game played on March 12, 2009, at Madison Square Garden between Syracuse and Connecticut. Syracuse, No. 18, beat No. 4 Connecticut in six overtimes 127-117. According to an AP story at the time, everyone was left “exhausted, and except for the losing team, exhilarated.”

I know we were watching every minute of it in our household. When the game went into the first overtime, we thought we should call it a night, but just couldn’t quit watching. And according to my ESPN research, the game did not end until 1:22 a.m., three hours and 46 minutes after it began. I remember the exhaustion and the exhilaration.

Furthermore, I didn’t really care who won because it was the fact that the game was mesmerizing, played just the way it should be in March.

Not only were the players on Syracuse and Connecticut elevating themselves to astonishing heights and greatness, they were also enduring implausible pressure.

According to the AP account of the game, Jonny Flynn, a Syracuse point guard, inexplicably “had 34 points and 11 assists in a game-high 67 minutes, only three fewer than were played.”

The kid played 67 minutes without sitting down!

And that is why I love March Madness. They play the game the way it is supposed to be played—flying high.

Bring on the brackets!

Apr 03

Ode to Opening Day When Any Team Can Win the Pennant

Dear Readers: This column was published back in the day when there was not much hope about the Kansas City Royals winning the Pennant, let alone the Division. That changed, as the photo below shows, with the Royals celebrating their big win in the 5th game of the 2015 World Series v. the Mets in New York.

Here then is a look back at one of my columns about the Kansas City Royals–Ode to Opening Day when any team can win the Pennant (Go Royal Sox!) First published April 9, 2009, in The Examiner, an Eastern Jackson County, Mo., daily newspaper.

 

Royals win World Series 2015

Photo flashback: Royals win 2015 World Series 

“You always get a special kick on Opening day, no matter how many you go through. You look forward to it like a birthday party when you’re a kid. You think something wonderful is going to happen.” – Joe DiMaggio.

Brimming with optimism as I drove along the interstate, I tuned the dial to sports radio hoping to find a pleasurable experience listening to the Kansas City Royals on Home Opening Day 2009.

And truthfully, I found one, even though the “boys in blue” had already lost their season opener away at the Chicago White Sox.

Yes, each spring, baseball makes us believe all over again that all things are possible, for a few weeks at least.

Any team can win the Pennant on opening day, maybe even the World Series.

The worst team in the league can be at 500 in mere days. The coaches have winning records, and the pitchers have great stats. Every batter can be Babe Ruth, every fielder Jackie Robinson, on opening day.

“There is no sports event like Opening Day of baseball, the sense of beating back the forces of darkness,” author George Vecsey writes in A Year in the Sun (1989).

Thus, beating back my own disappointing memories, I decided to believe, really believe, in the home team despite its heart-breaking precedent and its past mediocrity.

The ghosts of failure would not haunt me this season, I vowed.

After all, it was Opening Day. They might win!

They did not.

However, these guys are pretty good, or so they say in Chicago.

The son who moved to the Chicago area called to say the local media there were highly respectful of the Royals and that they have some real talent on board this year. “The Sox won,” he reported.

The son who moved to Boston sent an iPhone photo from Opening Day at Fenway where the Boston Red Sox were playing Tampa Bay. “The Sox won,” the lucky duck texted.

So, should we rename our team Sox, I pondered? How about the Kansas City Royal Sox? Has a nice ring to it.

Not discouraged yet, I called the son who lives in Kansas City to tell him how great the Royals were in defeat. He quickly reminded me that I say this every Opening Day.

Baseball-almanac.com agrees, “Regardless of the outcome, Opening Day still remains as the number one date in the hearts, minds (and on the calendars) of baseball fans everywhere. The official countdown begins after the last pitch of the World Series when we can’t wait to hear those two magic words again, Play Ball!”

And if you will, those magic words, “We won!”

The late Jack Buck, St. Louis Cardinals sportscaster, summed up best our Opening Day dreams with his original on-air radio poem, titled “365”:

“When someone asks you your favorite sport
And you answer Baseball in a blink
There are certain qualities you must possess
And you’re more attached than you think.

In the frozen grip of winter
I’m sure you’ll agree with me
Not a day goes by without someone
Talking baseball to some degree.
The calendar flips on New Year’s Day
The Super Bowl comes and it goes
Get the other sports out of the way
The green grass and the fever grows.
It’s time to pack a bag and take a trip
To Arizona or the Sunshine State
Perhaps you can’t go, but there’s the radio
So you listen-you root-you wait.

They start the campaign, pomp and pageantry reign
You claim the Pennant on Opening Day.”

 

Feb 05

First-timers visit the Super Bowl — a look back.

Super Bowl 2012

Lucas Oil Stadium

Super Bowl  XLVI (46)–Feb. 5, 2012

From my archived columns, first published in The Examiner on February 9, 2012. The Examiner is a daily newspaper, Tuesday through Saturday, serving Eastern Jackson County, Mo.

“Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark; professionals built the Titanic.” –Author Unknown

First-timers, amateurs, novices—that is how you could describe my husband and I as we set out last weekend for Super Bowl 2012 in Indianapolis.

We weren’t afraid, we just had no idea what to expect, or for that matter, who to cheer on to victory. We did not have a favorite team, but happily, we did have free tickets thanks to a drawing my husband won through his work.

And, we had a parking pass, which turned out to be golden.

Pure “awesomeness” as one of our grandkids remarked when he heard Grandma and Grandpa were going to the Super Bowl.

I began to refer to our trip, however, as “Ma and Pa Kettle Go to the Super Bowl” because we were clearly ‘babes in the woods’. Nevertheless, it did not take us long to acclimate ourselves to the energy and excitement of Downtown Indy and the Super Bowl experience. It goes without saying that right away I began to jot down some observations of the day, knowing I would want to share them with you when I got home.

My Super Bowl 2012 observations & reactions from a newcomer to the scene:

–Go early, buy a parking pass before you arrive and take plenty of cash. Essential.

–At the Super Bowl, don’t spill any popcorn. It costs 15 cents a kernel.

–Best Tweet: from @JerrySeinfeld: Ok Bill B, grotesque grey cutoff hoody officially not ‘lucky’! Can we move on? #jos.abankfirststoptomorrow.

–If I were younger, I would ride the block-long zip line near Super Bowl Village.

– Star sightings in the stadium included announcers and commentators Kurt Warner, Aaron Rogers, Dan Patrick, Al Michaels, Chris Collingsworth, Tony Dungee, Bill Cowherd and others we “thought” we knew. And stars, such as “Biff” Henderson from the David Letterman Show, Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman, Meg Ryan, Guy Fieri of Food Network, and on and on. My husband and I would continually tap each other on the shoulder and whisper, “Who was that? I know who it is but I can’t think of the name.” Yes, we admit, we were star struck.

–Luckily, because I’m tall,  I could stand on my toes and shoot a few pictures of sports celebrities over the partition designed to keep gawkers such as me from disturbing the NBC commentator’s pregame booth. That plan worked for a few seconds until security made me move. However, I still wanted a close-up photo of Aaron Rogers. Seeing my disappointment as I was being sternly told to move on, a very tall young man asked if he could help. He grabbed my camera, stood on his toes and leaned over the partition to snap a picture of Aaron Rogers for me, handed the camera back and ran. Good boy. It was all I could do not to break into a “discount double check” Aaron Rogers’ move.

–The Players:

Since we arrived in the stadium at 2 p.m., we had plenty of time to watch the players warm up. Eli Manning wore sweats, no pads, and no helmet and practiced passing to his receivers, over and over and over again. Then he performed a series of exercises and jogged. After the informal early practice, the teams went to their locker rooms and came out later in their full gear for an “official” practice. I took a lot of pictures of both teams. Then, I asked the Patriots fans who were seated all around us, where’s Tom Brady. I don’t see him. They laughed and said, ‘Oh he’ll be out later. He doesn’t practice much before a game.” You may draw your own conclusions from that.

–Halftime:

This may sound like a bolt from the blue to some of you, but honestly, I thought it was the best Super Bowl halftime show I have ever seen. Some people apparently hated Madonna’s performance, but most reviews called her outstanding. In fact, there were non-Madonna fans that found her to be surprisingly and unexpectedly excellent. Watching Madonna in person was a treat, to say the least. We thought her to be the consummate entertainer, talented and stage savvy with strong vocals and great moves for a 54-year-old (I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the fact that she can still gyrate). She gets my vote. I suppose I can overlook the self-centered attempt by M.I.A. to get world attention. From where we sat, we could not see M.I.A. “gesture”, and apparently, the cast didn’t see it either as they later reported. NBC and the NFL apologized to viewers. Frankly, there is always something or someone trying to grab the headlines, and I don’t really care to give M.I.A. any more ink. Madonna, that’s another matter. No wonder some call her the high priestess of the music industry.

–Tickets:

Before the game, we listened to a band in Circle Centre Mall while waiting for nearby Lucas Oil Stadium to open its doors. It didn’t take long for us to strike up a conversation with a man from Tennessee who was there trying to buy tickets for himself and his elderly dad. Going to a Super Bowl was on his Dad’s bucket list, the son said, so they just got in the car and came. He was confidant he would find some for $1,000 each, his bottom dollar, but so far no luck. Ticket prices on the street ranged from $2,000 to more than $15,000 a piece.

So there we were, not quite believing our luck. We simply took it all in and relished this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Granted, the trip was not on our “Bucket Lists” before we went, however, we are certainly glad it is now. And it’s crossed off, too.

“Awesomeness”, yes that is a word I use a lot these days.

Older posts «