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Tag Archive: spring fever

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!

Oct 19

A look back at my columns about the Kansas City Royals: Part 6 — Spring fever, baseball and trying to focus. First published March 17, 2011, in The Examiner, an Eastern Jackson County, Mo., daily newspaper.

Spring fever, baseball and trying to focus

“It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want – oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache,you want it so!” ~Mark Twain

Last week about this time, I was soaking up the desert sun while watching the Kansas City Royals play spring ball in Surprise, Arizona. Today, I am sweeping slush from the driveway and watching the snow melt.

It does just fairly make your heart ache.

Since, I promised to write some more this week about spring baseball, I will. However, I have such a bad case of spring fever right now or whatever it is that I want, it is difficult to focus on or even remember last week.

I am far more smitten with the idea of anything associated with the month of March. Crocuses and daffodils pushing up through the snow, the frogs in my backyard pond singing their mid-March “spring is here” song, St. Patrick’s Day, March Madness and green grass.

But I will try to remember.

Here are some things I didn’t tell you about in last week’s column about spring ball in the Cactus League. There I discovered curious surprises in Surprise, some of which left me puzzled.

* For example, I realized that I knew the words to all the songs played at the Royals game. Such as Dizzy, I Wanna Hold Your Hand, and 59th Street Bridge Song. Could this have anything to do with the fact that Sun City is just across the road, I wondered?

* Another question: why do the outfield billboards at Surprise advertise such things as urgent care, hospitals, rehab centers, lift chairs, scooters and $8.88 oil changes? No Hooters or sports bars advertised there. I think I just answered my own question.

* A puzzler: why did the Royals’ coaches leave the ballpark in the middle of the fifth inning? We were sitting close to the field in the first row behind the dugout and overheard one coach give an order to the others, “Come on boys, we’ve got work to do. Let’s go.”

And with that a herd of coaches quickly picked up their clipboards and walked past left field, let themselves into the bullpen and out through a rear exit, leaving the third-base coach Rodriguez alone to finish the game.

What’s up with this? Almost the same thing happened the following day when we were at the Angel’s game in Tempe. Most of their team packed up their duffels and left the stadium, again in the middle of the fifth. Only a skeleton crew of Angel players remained in the dugout waiting for their turn to bat.

* But back to Surprise where the players occasionally toss a ball to the kids in the crowd. Kids? There were only a few people under the age of 60. I wonder if that was because school-age kids were in school that day and the stadium sits next door to Sun City?

I think I said this already.

* Observation: in spring ball, mistakes happen. On one occasion, a Royals player sprinted excitedly from the dugout to substitute for the injured second baseman. As he reached second base, another player ran onto the field yelling, “Hey, not you. I’m the one supposed to go in.”

Mistakes were the order of the day for the public relations team as well as players.

Early in the game, the gargantuan scoreboard proudly announced that Willy Blumquist, formally of the Kansas City Royals, would be batting next for the Diamondbacks. The only problem was that the Diamondbacks public relations office apparently did not get a photo of Willy in a Diamondback uniform in time for the game. There was Willy on the Royals big screen proudly wearing his Royals uniform but batting for the D-backs.

Later in the game, the same thing happened when Juan Miranda, formerly of the New York Yankees, came up to bat for the Diamondbacks. The photo of Miranda on the scoreboard showed him in his former #46 Yankees uniform.

There were more examples of similar peculiar mistakes, but it’s spring ball after all, and details do not matter. Baseball is beautiful, it’s spring, and it’s the sound of a bat on a ball that makes our hearts sing.

I am going back next year.

Mar 17

Spring fever, baseball and trying to focus

“It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want – oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache,you want it so!” ~Mark Twain

Last week about this time, I was soaking up the desert sun while watching the Kansas City Royals play spring ball in Surprise, Arizona. Today, I am sweeping slush from the driveway and watching the snow melt.

It does just fairly make your heart ache.

Since, I promised to write some more this week about spring baseball, I will. However, I have such a bad case of spring fever right now or whatever it is that I want, it is difficult to focus on or even remember last week.

I am far more smitten with the idea of anything associated with the month of March. Crocuses and daffodils pushing up through the snow, the frogs in my backyard pond singing their mid-March “spring is here” song, St. Patrick’s Day, March Madness and green grass.

But I will try to remember.

Here are some things I didn’t tell you about in last week’s column about spring ball in the Cactus League. There I discovered curious surprises in Surprise, some of which left me puzzled.

* For example, I realized that I knew the words to all the songs played at the Royals game. Such as Dizzy, I Wanna Hold Your Hand, and 59th Street Bridge Song. Could this have anything to do with the fact that Sun City is just across the road, I wondered?

* Another question: why do the outfield billboards at Surprise advertise such things as urgent care, hospitals, rehab centers, lift chairs, scooters and $8.88 oil changes? No Hooters or sports bars advertised there. I think I just answered my own question.

* A puzzler: why did the Royals’ coaches leave the ballpark in the middle of the fifth inning? We were sitting close to the field in the first row behind the dugout and overheard one coach give an order to the others, “Come on boys, we’ve got work to do. Let’s go.”

And with that a herd of coaches quickly picked up their clipboards and walked past left field, let themselves into the bullpen and out through a rear exit, leaving the third-base coach Rodriguez alone to finish the game.

What’s up with this? Almost the same thing happened the following day when we were at the Angel’s game in Tempe. Most of their team packed up their duffels and left the stadium, again in the middle of the fifth. Only a skeleton crew of Angel players remained in the dugout waiting for their turn to bat.

* But back to Surprise where the players occasionally toss a ball to the kids in the crowd. Kids? There were only a few people under the age of 60. I wonder if that was because school-age kids were in school that day and the stadium sits next door to Sun City?

I think I said this already.

* Observation: in spring ball, mistakes happen. On one occasion, a Royals player sprinted excitedly from the dugout to substitute for the injured second baseman. As he reached second base, another player ran onto the field yelling, “Hey, not you. I’m the one supposed to go in.”

Mistakes were the order of the day for the public relations team as well as players.

Early in the game, the gargantuan scoreboard proudly announced that Willy Blumquist, formally of the Kansas City Royals, would be batting next for the Diamondbacks. The only problem was that the Diamondbacks public relations office apparently did not get a photo of Willy in a Diamondback uniform in time for the game. There was Willy on the Royals big screen proudly wearing his Royals uniform but batting for the D-backs.

Later in the game, the same thing happened when Juan Miranda, formerly of the New York Yankees, came up to bat for the Diamondbacks. The photo of Miranda on the scoreboard showed him in his former #46 Yankees uniform.

There were more examples of similar peculiar mistakes, but it’s spring ball after all, and details do not matter. Baseball is beautiful, it’s spring, and it’s the sound of a bat on a ball that makes our hearts sing.

I am going back next year.