My high school English teachers would certainly be amazed by my positive (I think?) contributions to this newspaper over the last three years. It has been a great deal of fun, and I must admit I have at times enjoyed those 15 seconds of fame.
Footballs are again filling the air. Thomas Dale, Bird, Matoaca and Meadowbrook will again be providing the thrills of Friday Night Lights as four of the finest programs to be found anywhere. Excitement is high as the coaches have been preparing their troops throughout the month of August to take the field this week.
I’m sorry to say that over the last two weeks I came face to face with technology and lost. The time difference between London and the east coast was such that every time I switched on my computer, the results of the day’s premier event flashed before my eyes.
The spectacle of the XXX Olympiad is in full force as you read this. It was in 1896 that the ancient games were revived, thanks to the dream of the Frenchman Baron Pierre de Coubertin. The Baron was fascinated by the educational aspects of sport and by the enthusiasm that was generated by them.
My love of golf has been well documented through the life of this column. With my retirement as a classroom teacher in June 2008, I assumed that I would seize the opportunity to play a significant amount of golf throughout the calendar year.
With respect to our beautiful neighbor to the west, the heaven to which I refer to is the ultimate baseball cathedral, Fenway Park. As I wrote in this column several weeks ago, I looked forward to our pilgrimage with great anticipation.
Hope springs eternal for all baseball fans, as their favorite team jockeys for position during the season’s first six weeks. As the season has past the Memorial Day holiday, some fans can already begin to see whether their team will be in the marathon season for the long haul, or whether it will be another long winter ahead in waiting for next year.
When it comes to the sporting world, I am not a fan of the NFL. TV timeouts and the non-football activities have turned me away from the sport. I have also discovered the beauty of outdoor, family times on Sunday afternoons in the fall. In my old age however, I have begun to follow the Washington teams as my home teams.
Last week the Master’s golf tournament and baseball’s first pitch coincided, due in some small part to the fact that major league baseball is now marketing “opening week” instead of the more traditional opening day.
We are blessed to have one of the finest basketball coaches in America in our midst. VCU’s Shaka Smart is not yet 35 years old. He has taken his Rams to an unlikely Final Four and followed that up with a trip to the round of 32 after graduating nearly his entire team.
After the Hokies dominated the hopeful ‘Hoos in Charlottesville over Thanksgiving weekend, only to be totally thrashed a week later by Clemson in the ACC championship game, neither camp was very happy until the BCS again proved that you really can win by losing.
After introducing myself to the community through this column, I soon wrote opposing pieces on the tremendous life benefits taught through sport and then on the evil of sport perpetrated by the unbelievable power and money that are a part of today’s athletic scene.
“You better get out here this weekend. In a couple of weeks you’ll wish you had baseball.” The offhand comment of Nats’ color commentator, F.P. Santangelo provided the very small nudge needed for the Halls to make one more trek up 95 to celebrate baseball in our nation’s capital.
This week we are in the midst of the Little League World Series, which joins the Olympic Games and the World Cup of Soccer as the only three sporting events truly global in nature. Last week, 43,000 fans flooded Lamade Stadium, as a local team from nearby Lock Haven took on the youngsters from Kentucky.
The All-Star break is upon us and hope springs eternal for a dozen or so major league teams. As always there are the usual suspects, along with a few surprises. One thing is certain: the cream always rises to the top over the course of a baseball season.
Sports fans love to debate the relative merits of contemporary players as well as players from different eras. The liveliest of these debates was the Snyder-Mantle-Mays discussions that dominated the streets of New York in the 1950’s and continues among baseball aficionados today.
“I guarantee you, for all the success and fun we have had, we will never be as bad as we were in 2010”, so spoke Richmond Squirrels Vice President and COO Todd “Parney” Parnell at the conclusion of the Squirrels inaugural season.
The three weeks between Selection Sunday and the crowning of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Champion mark the most exciting time in all of sports. Although it is debatable whether March Madness can be classified as an “event”, it certainly has the nation abuzz each year.
The best places to live are always the places where the school is the focal point of the community. Chester and Thomas Dale High School are a perfect example of this. I grew up in Salem, Va., where Andrew Lewis High School certainly served this function.
We look forward with great anticipation to Sunday’s Super Bowl. The Packer-Steeler matchup should result in one of the most watched sporting events in history. Whether you are passionate about one of the teams, enjoy a good party or simply watch for the commercials, this is a dream game for the network.
Regular readers of this column know where I stand as to college football and the BCS. For much of my life (at least dating back to Joe Paterno’s first game at the helm of the Nittany Lions), college football was the bridge that carried me from the final out of the World Series to the “hot stove league” that warmed the coldest of my winter days.
The final weeks of 2010 hint that the economic downturn may be starting to subside. Although it was another stressful year, we have enjoyed many highlights in the world of local, regional and national sports. I hope you will again enjoy my reminiscences of the events of the last 12 months.
All I want for Christmas is a big league team. Richmond is a great city. Compared to Charlotte or Raleigh-Durham, well, there really is no comparison. “Richmond is not a sports town,” so goes the oft heard lament around the region.
September 11, a date that will live in infamy. Not to make light of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, but for the Hokie Nation, Sept. 11, 2010 was almost as dark a day. The Hokies had fallen 33-30 to Boise State on Labor Day and now, five days later, the unthinkable occurred when Tech fell to FCS-member James Madison.
The Chester community feels a heavy heart this week with word of the passing of long time Thomas Dale High School football coach Vic Williams. In the sports world, there are few who earn the right to be called simply by a single name.
I’ve had the great fortune to have served in the coaching profession for the last 33 years. My greatest joys have come from working with young people on some 70 teams. Thousands of coaching decisions have been made involving games, matches, meets and athletes.
“There’s a long drive ... it’s gonna be, I believe ... The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! Bobby Thomson hits into the lower deck of the left-field stands! The Giants win the pennant and they’re goin’ crazy, they’re goin’ crazy! Heeey-Oh!’’
The post-World War II era has seen a demise of the purest form of golf, match play. Match play, much more than medal play, pits player against player in a true athletic contest. Unfortunately, match play has totally disappeared from the professional circuit due mostly to its incompatibility with television.
“Where is the stadium?” This was the question addressed to me by one of my young golfers, who had just transferred to Matoaca from a high school in Texas. It was his assumption that our stadium was merely a practice facility.
The sports world is always transitioning from one season to the next, with Labor Day Weekend standing out as the most significant of these transitions. Depending on your perspective, baseball people see the tide going out and football folks see the tide coming in.
For many of you, I apologize in advance. This is after all a sports column and ballet, in and of itself, may not be sport. It is, however, a very serious athletic endeavor. Twenty years ago, I went kicking and screaming to my first ballet performance. I admit it was made easier by the fact that my daughter was cast as “a little mouse” in Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, but only a tad easier.
The first day of high school practices arrived last week, marking another new year in the truest sense. For any of us connected with education or athletics, the new cycle begins on the first Monday of August with the beginning of golf practice.
My daughter and I recently enjoyed a mountaintop experience at the spectacular Primland Resort located near Meadows of Dan off the Blue Ridge Parkway in Southwest Virginia. Some have described the Highland Course at Primland as possibly the most beautiful in the world.
I have been enjoying the development of this summer’s feature, Good Guys in Sport. It has given me an opportunity to more carefully investigate the local sports scene in search of those individuals who are truly “good.” What I have found is that what started out as an eight-week filler may indeed become a permanent summer feature.
A perfect game in baseball is one of the rarest of all occurrences. Since the advent of modern baseball, only twenty pitchers have achieved perfection. A perfect game is just that. Twenty-seven hitters come to the plate and are retired in succession without a hit, base on balls or an error. This requires a combination of great skill and tremendous luck.
“Your career starts once you get here. It doesn’t matter what you did in college or the minor leagues.” So says Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn. Gwynn has been very much in the limelight this week as the sports world prepares for the long-anticipated arrival of Stephen Strasburg to the big leagues. Gwynn was Strasburg’s college coach at San Diego State University.
From the 12th Chapter of Luke, verse 48, come these familiar words: “For to whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.” Most of us are amazed or even dumbfounded by the gifts that have been bestowed upon this generation of professional athletes.
I was fortunate to have been introduced to baseball during its golden age. Mays and Mantle were the M&M boys and listening to a game on the radio was as common as seeing someone talking on a cell phone today. Baseball and the radio were made for one another.
Next week, my friend Bob Gulley will be closing an illustrious career as the head track coach at Chester Middle School. He has also built Thomas Dale cross country into a regional power and has led the Knight’s indoor program for years. He is passionate about the sport we both love and has never shortchanged a single athlete under his watch.
No two words in the English language evoke such a spirit of joy and hope. Opening day in the majors occurred last week, but opening day for Richmond is tomorrow night, as the Flying Squirrels mark their inaugural appearance in the River City.
In the spring of 1972 and 1973, I had the privilege of playing on what I’m convinced was the best baseball team in the state. Our starting nine was void of any weakness. In what was the very end of the wooden bat era, Andrew Lewis High School had speed, defense, power, an unhittable ace and an extremely high baseball IQ.
In the middle of one of the most challenging economic times since the Great Depression, I travelled across the state to take a teaching job in a rural community. Early in the school year, I was approached by my assistant principal about taking a coaching job in a sport with which I was familiar, but certainly no expert in. As time went on, I gained confidence in my teaching skills and coaching abilities.
The winter that has been longer than any in recent memory is gradually being replaced by the sure signs of spring; daylight-saving time is just around the corner, the beauty of the crocus and daffodil is ever more evident, a back yard full of robins seems to have materialized out of nowhere and, of course, there is the crack (or ping?) of the bat.
A dear friend who happens to be a longtime educator in our community has a warning for the decision makers in our public schools. He asks, “What is it you remember about attending junior high or high school?”