Archive for June, 2010

The history of sports — in one week

June 9, 2010

By: Nate Jervey
Assistant Sports Information Director

Given that I work in collegiate athletics it comes as no surprise that sports in general (no pun intended) take up a good part of my life, both in and out of the office. While the professional sports world is in a bit of a down time at the moment (baseball in the dog days of summer, basketball beginning to wrap up its 8-month postseason, hockey nearing the completion of its season and no pro football) I feel that there have been an almost inordinate amount of historical performances in all of the professional sports and has made what is usually a rather drab time of the year on ESPN rather enjoyable actually.

In baseball, we recently saw perhaps the most dominating debut by a starting pitcher….ever…in 135 years of baseball. Stephen Strasburg of the Washington Nationals burst on to the scene in 5-2 Nats win over Pittsburgh’s AAA affiliate – the Pirates (I was just informed that the Pirates are in fact a MLB team. Huh, I guess I never realized that). Quality of opponent aside, Strasburg went seven innings, allowed two runs on four hits and struck out 14 while walking zero. No pitcher in MLB history had ever struck out that many with no walks in a debut and if I remember correctly, only five pitchers have ever done it period – Roger Clemens, Javier Vasquez, Mike Mussina, Randy Johnson and Brad Penny. Three of those guys are going to be enshrined in Cooperstown and the other two are/have been pretty good at times. Baseball reveres its history like no other professional sport and Strasburg’s performance just cemented itself as the gold standard for all rookie and veteran pitchers alike. Also of note, the city of Strasburg in the northeastern part of Virginia has offer to change its name to Stephen Strasburg in the event the phenom makes a visit to take in the many sights of the town of just over 4,000 people.

Something else that Strasburg’s performance did (hopefully) was take attention away from the most recent black eye for baseball. In case you may live under a rock and have no idea of what black eye in particular I am speaking about that would be the Jim Joyce blown call at first base that cost Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers a perfect game. Not only did Joyce miss the call, but he did so on the 27th batter of the game… the potential final out. Galarraga retired the next batter and settled for the complete game shutout, but his place in history was snatched from him following one of the biggest officiating blunders I can remember. I understand that the human element is inherent in all of sport. We have subjective humans trying to act objectively and in some cases we (umpires, refs, etc…) just miss calls here and there. But as I mentioned above, baseball loves, absolutely adores, its history and Galarraga’s perfect game would have been the third this season (the most ever in a season and it had not been since 1880 when two occurred in the same season), the 21st in MLB history and the first for the Detroit Tigers. However, the league’s history has been irrevocably altered as MLB commissioner Bud Selig decided not to reverse the call in light of instant replay showing the batter clearly out at first base. Baseball currently has instant replay in effect, however, it is only used to verify home run calls and Selig opted not to change the call on the field despite pressure from players and the media alike. There is precedent in baseball for rulings such as this. Former commissioner Fay Vincent and a special committee erased 50 no hitters from the record books back in the early nineties (without video replay it should be noted). So I ask – how, with the ability to use replay and the historical significance of the play in question, can Bud Selig be “comfortable” with his decision to not alter the play? Bud Selig in my mind may be the worst of the commissioners of the Big Four (Roger Goodell – NFL, David Stern – NBA and Gary Bettman – NHL) and will now be known as the commissioner who presided over the Steroid Era, called for a tie game in an All-Star game and was “comfortable” with the decision to rob a young kid of a chance in history. Selig also had the bright idea to buy the Chicago White Sox at one time and move them to Milwaukee. The White Sox, in Milwaukee? Seriously? With a track record like that, tell me again how this guy is making over $14,000,000 a year. With Selig at the helm through 2012 I shudder to think what else may be ruined, destroyed, botched (insert negative verb here) between now and then.

History, and in this case the good kind, also has a chance to be made in the NHL this week, perhaps as early as tonight. The Chicago Blackhawks (they of the coolest uniform in sports) are one win away from their first Stanley Cup title since 1961. Leading 3-2 over the Philadelphia Flyers, who are seeking their first title since the 1970s, the Blackhawks youth and energy has captured the city of Chicago in a way that it has not seen since 1998 and the last title the Bulls won with a certain No. 23. More importantly, the NHL absolutely loves this series. The series has produced outstanding TV ratings for NBC, its just too bad that games three and four were on Versus. For the NHL to have an Original Six team in a market as big as Chicago, with players as marketable as Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews (pronounced “Taves”, or as Rachel likes to say “Toes”) and Dustin Byfuglien playing for Lord Stanley’s Cup is a dream come true. I have often heard that if hockey is to succeed in the U.S. than it has to succeed and be successful in Chicago of all places and it appears that the much-maligned league is on its way to at least semi-relevance again. It is on its way for me as I am a casual hockey fan at best, but have enjoyed watching this postseason if for no other reason than the playoff mullets and beards.

Ray Allen of the Boston Celtics set an NBA Finals record with eight three pointers the other night to alter the NBA record book. Can’t say that I am surprised to hear that Allen hit eight triples in a game, but I can say that I am glad that one of the good guys in the league is making news for the right reason. I have not really followed the NBA too closely since Michael Jordan left the Chicago Bulls. I have come back to my Bulls a little in recent years, but, to me, the NBA is a farce of the basketball that I grew up playing and the negative press received from so many of the league’s players gave me little reason to keep following. That being said, Ray Allen seems to be one of the league’s really good guys on top of a being a really good player. He toiled in obscurity in Seattle back in better days when Seattle still had a basketball team. He had to play in Milwaukee before that. Imagine this, college All-American, absolute stud of a basketball player and you get drafted to go play in Milwaukee. I can think of no other place I would like to be a young professional athlete with piles of money than Wisconsin (I think I just threw up a little in my mouth), and I am FROM the Midwest. Anyway, the point is that in this day and age of star athletes grumbling about contracts and not getting paid enough and any number of other complaints, Allen has always remained rather quiet and let his play do the talking and I appreciate that a great deal.

Ok, to sum up: this Stephen Strasburg kid might end up being ok, Jim Joyce made a booboo, Bud Selig did not kiss the booboo to make it better, the Chicago Blackhawks have really cool uniforms and have become the darlings of the NHL and hockey is almost relevant again, Ray Allen made a bunch of shots from really far away and seems like a cool dude as well. Wow, I think I could have written this blog in about a third of the space….

Alas, summer has arrived!

June 1, 2010

By: Brian Laubscher
Sports Information Director

So it’s Tuesday, but there’s definitely a different feel today.  Of course yesterday was Memorial Day so starting the week on a Tuesday is always different, but there’s more to it than that.

Memorial Day always helps to signal the unofficial beginning of summer, but I always think of summer when the first week begins following graduation — now that is a different feel.  The students are gone.  Many of the professors and administration are taking much-needed breaks and the parking deck is wide open every morning.  Ahh yes, it’s summer and as much as I love being around the students and the W&L community as a whole, it’s always nice to come to work and know that the phone probably won’t ring, that my e-mail inbox will be a little less cluttered and to know that I have all the time in the world to accomplish my summer list of tasks.  But, before I get around to accomplishing them, I figured I would reminisce a little and give you my most memorable moments from the 2009-10 school year:

10. The Athletics Awards Ceremony – This is always the most memorable event of the year for me.  Plus it sort of unofficially marks the end of another year and signals the time for a bit of a respite.

9. Women’s Lax vs. Elizabethtown – This NCAA Tournament contest was set to begin at 4:30 pm and got pushed back to 8:00 pm.  Lightning then struck with 17:30 left in the game causing a delay that lasted well over an hour and forced the game to last until just after 11:00 pm.  In the end, the Generals dropped a 13-12 decision when a furious rally fell just short.  The worst part was sleeping on the couch in the office because of the late finish.  Now that was memorable. 🙂

8. Women’s Basketball vs. Virginia Wesleyan at home – The Generals dropped a 48-47 decision to Virginia Wesleyan at the Warner Center back on January 5 when the Marlins hit a shot at the buzzer (or at least the refs said so) to defeat W&L by a single point.  The Generals held VWC to just 18.5 percent shooting in the second half and that total would have been even lower if not for the shot that was counted by the zebras following an offensive rebound with less than one second remaining.  The shot could have definitely beat the buzzer, but it just as easily might have still been in her hand when the horn sounded.  As usual, the Generals didn’t get the call on their home court.  That’s okay cause it set up the No. 2 most memorable moment.

7. Alston James homers to beat Hampden-Sydney – The Generals knocked off Hampden-Sydney by a score of 3-2 in the ODAC baseball tournament on April 24.  The Tigers tied the game at 2-1 in the seventh inning, but James gave W&L the win with a solo shot in the top of the ninth inning, just his second home run of the season.  It could be higher on the list, but I wasn’t there to see it so it sits at No. 7.

6. W&L vs. Lynchburg field hockey game – The Generals led the 14th-ranked Hornets 2-1, but surrendered a pair of goals in the final 3:40 of the game to fall by a score of 3-2.  Jordan Warrington found the cage with the equalizer at 66:20 and Allie Weir banged home the game-winner with just two minutes remaining to stick the dagger in W&L’s hearts.  This one makes the list just because it was such a gut-wrenching loss.

5. Men’s tennis downs H-SC for the ODAC Title – This one was about as exciting as an ODAC tennis match will ever get (partially because ODAC tennis matches and exciting don’t really go together given the Generals’ dominance of the league over time).  The Tigers were the favorite heading into this one having defeated W&L in the 2009 title contest and the 2010 regular season meeting.  The Generals trailed 2-1 following doubles, but things started to look pretty good when W&L won matches at 2, 3 and 4 singles to go up 3-2.  Then, rookie Hayden White knocked off 4-time ODAC Player of the Year Will Moss at No. 1 singles for a 4-2 lead.  Word has it that it was the only legitimate ODAC loss of Moss’ career (he had one loss, but it was an injury default).  Not long after that, Will Hall won at No. 5 singles to close out the match.  Pretty intense day.

4. Women’s soccer wins ODAC title – The Generals hadn’t won the ODAC crown since 2003 and the ODAC was stacked again last fall with W&L, VWC and LC all ranked among the nation’s elite.  W&L felled the mighty Hornets, 1-0, in the semifinals and then advanced on PK’s over the Marlins, 3-2.  Ainsley Daigle scored the winning PK as All-America keeper Emily Leary held the Marlins at bay during the extra session.  Leary posted eight saves on the day in claiming ODAC Player of the Year honors.

3. Men’s basketball wins at Randolph-Macon – There are streaks and then … there was the mother of all streaks.  The Generals had not won at Randolph-Macon in men’s basketball since the 1958-59 season.  To put it into perspective, the Generals schedule that season also featured the likes of Virginia, Virginia Tech, George Washington, Richmond, Davidson and William & Mary.  On January 27, that streak came to an end with a 65-57 win over the ninth-ranked Yellow Jackets.  What made it even better was that the Yellow Jackets went on to advance to the Division III Final Four last season.  A great way to end a streak and one of the most satisfying game stories I have ever written following a game.  I only wish I had been there to see it after all the absolutely miserable defeats I had watched in that gym (including an 81-44 loss I witnessed in 1999 when the Generals were down 38-9 at halftime).

2. Women’s basketball wins the ODAC title – The entire run through the ODAC Tournament could count I suppose.  The semifinal win over EMU was pretty sweet.   Combine that with the fact that the Generals erased a nine-point halftime deficit by shooting 66.7 percent in the second half against the Marlins, and you have pure memories.  W&L ended up defeating VWC 64-56 and I then truly believed it was possible for W&L to win a conference title in basketball. After the game I stood on the court and watched the Generals cut down the nets and realized that I had never witnessed a team cut down the nets before.  That was pretty cool and will no doubt fuel the program to do it again.

1. I probably shouldn’t dig up old skeletons, but if I’m honest, it is without a doubt the most memorable moment of the 2009-10 season for me.  It is the Generals’ 35-34 overtime loss to Bridgewater in football.  I don’t really think I can elaborate except to say that the Generals stole defeat from the jaws of victory that day.  You can read about it here: http://generalssports.com/sports/fball/2009-10/releases/bwater10.31.

So there you have it.  The 10 most memorable moments from the 2009-10 school year.  I’ll be posting some blogs about once a week throughout the summer, but if you don’t make it back to read “From the Sidelines” until the fall, I hope you have a relaxing and enjoyable summer everyone. 🙂