Friday, June 3, 2011 @ 8:30am
It's only June, but I'm excited about the Arizona Diamondbacks. Yeah…everybody here in Arizona knows that I am a diehard Minnesota Twins fan, but I am also a fan of baseball being played the right way and D-backs manager Kirk Gibson has this team going in the right direction.
I'll admit, I was only eight years old when Gibson hit his game-winning home run against the A's in the 1988 World Series, but when I moved to Arizona and found out he was with the Diamondbacks, I immediately read up on him.
While doing my research I read that when he signed with the Dodgers, there was a very publicized blow-up when pitcher Jesse Orosco put black shoe polish inside his hat during spring training as a prank. Gibson then proceeded to openly rip the team for its unprofessionalism after they had finished fourth in the National League West the year before.
To me, this story didn't sound too far off from the Kirk Gibson we came to know at Diamondbacks spring training this year. Gibson quickly established rules for the clubhouse that were both fair and clear. No talking on cell phones in the clubhouse, texting is allowed, but only up until 30 minutes before game time. Gibson also made a rule that there are no toys or remote control airplanes allowed in the clubhouse or on the field before games.
Gibson's approach since being named interim and full-time manager has always been the same….respect the players and it will be reciprocated. He understands not all players come from the same place or got to this level the same way. He knows not all players are motivated in the same way and he doesn't expect guys to push themselves to the breaking point like he did. What Gibson does expect is effort, integrity, focus and above all else, he expects the guys to have fun.
Gibson doesn't hide his passion for the game and that's part of what made him such an amazing player and now it makes him a great manager. He can look these players in the eye and say "been there, done that." He can relate to what they're feeling and thinking. He understands when to get on guys about things and when to pick them up.
The Diamondbacks are currently a half game out of first place in the NL West and they're 31-26. More than half of their wins (17), they've come from behind…that number leads the Majors.
The stats and numbers are a sign of the positive steps this club has taken but, really, it's Kirk Gibson's style that keeps me glued to the TV for all 27 outs.
Thursday, May 19, 2011 @ 10:00am
It's been a sad week for me and a sad week for all baseball fans with the passing of Harmon Clayton Killebrew. Just four days after he decided to stop treatment and end his fight with esophageal cancer, Killebrew died at his home in Scottsdale surrounded by his family on May 17th, 2011 at the age of 74.
Harmon Killebrew's legacy was not limited to the baseball field. He was one of the most humble, kind and sincere individuals I've had the privilege of meeting.
Harmon Killebrew was the kind of role model that everyone needs today. When I say everyone…I mean everyone…not just the 8-year-old playing baseball in his backyard but also teenagers, adults and other pro-athletes. He lived his life to the fullest by treating EVERYONE from Single-A players to famous Major Leaguers to kids and adults in autograph lines with the utmost respect and genuine care.
The modern era of pro-sports is filled with lots of misbehaving, arrogant, overpaid athletes and Killebrew's life should serve as a reminder that stardom is not a right but a privilege.
When Harmon Killebrew died this week, a sports hero died as well. He was a special man with a special talent but more importantly a special heart that is hard to find these days.
I've always thought that we should live our lives based on how we would like people to talk about us after we're gone. Harmon is proof that it pays off because I have not heard one negative story about him all week. We'll miss you Harmon and it was an honor to meet you.
Thursday, May 5, 2011 @ 9:41am
Covering pro sports for a living can turn you into a sarcastic, negative, jaded person. Day in and day out, I watch, listen and read about pro athletes. They talk about their monetary hardships with the lockout while they simultaneously tweet about their lavish vacations, their expensive purchases and their sponsorships.
Sometimes it's tough for me to take their emotions and their actions genuinely. I find myself thinking there's an ulterior motive or public relations stunt involved.
But Tuesday was a good day. Tuesday I was brought back to the good in sports while watching Derrick Rose's MVP acceptance speech. Rose made me realize that humanity still exists in pro sports. He showed us a personal, genuine side of himself that doesn't translate in an Adidas commercial or an NBA Playoff promo. He thanked his mom and he did it while fighting off tears.
"And last, I want to thank my mom, Brenda Rose," the 22-year-old MVP said. "My heart, the reason I play the way I play, just everything. Just knowing [about] the days when I didn't feel like I wanted to practice, having all the hard times, waking me up, going to work and just making sure I'm all right and making sure the family's all right.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011 @ 11:10pm
The NFL Draft is just hours away and I'm sure the Arizona Cardinals are set up in the war-room at their facility in Tempe.
There's no doubt in my mind they have every bit of information they need to make the right decision with the number five pick and throughout the rest of the draft as well. They're well prepared with every number and stat -- including 40-time, bench press, vertical leap, etc. -- but what about the intangibles…the things that are not measured by a number…what about their character?
In my opinion, the character of an NFL Draft pick is just as important, if not more important than the stats and the numbers. Character is who we are when no one is looking. Character is our values, morals, judgment and the decisions we make. Character is how we define ourselves and not how others define us.
If I'm the Cardinals, I want somebody who is talented and enjoys playing football but also a guy that enjoys working at it as well. I want a guy that makes good decisions on and off the field in his personal and professional life. A guy that makes the players around him better people, not just better athletes.
If I know Cardinals Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt as well as I think I do…character is a priority for him too. Very rarely do any current Cardinals make news for negative behavior (aside from Darnell Dockett's brilliant UStream shower video). Guys like Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston and Adrian Wilson go about their business, work hard, lead with their voice and by example -- encouraging their teammates to follow.
Fitzgerald spent his off-season delivering hearing aids to Africa, hosting a charity softball game and organizing workouts for any players that wanted to join him. Now that's a player I want on my team.
A lot of today's GM's, owners and coaches have decided that all the talent in the world isn't necessarily worth the trouble of negative publicity and bad chemistry that can happen to a team as a result of poor character players.
Gone are the days of selecting a player based solely on stats and numbers. Talent is tempting, but in the end it rarely outweighs the headache a player can cause.
Friday, April 15, 2011 @ 5:22pm
Some days I sit in my update booth and want to pull my hair out.
Friday was one of those days. I was listening to Gambo and Ash talk about Kobe Bryant's use of a derogatory, homophobic term toward a referee the other night and whether or not the punishment fit the crime.
Bryant was fined $100K by NBA Commissioner David Stern.
Gambo said that our society today is too "PC"…too Politically Correct. He also said it's unfortunate that people are too sensitive these days and when he was growing up several derogatory terms were acceptable.
Forget that the ref didn't hear what Kobe said, the point is that it was rude, inappropriate, offensive and derogatory. These guys are role models whether they like it or not. Athletes are public figures and what they say and do will be emulated by kids and adults everywhere.
There needs to be some responsibility accepted for the way they behave on and off the court, whether they're in the heat of the moment or walking down the street.
Let's not forget that technically Kobe was in a place of work and his employer is the NBA. If they saw what he said and they felt it was inappropriate, they have the right and obligation to reprimand and punish him. Yes, I think the fine was excessive and I am glad they didn't suspend him but something had to be done. He was wrong in saying it and he's owned up to it.
My feelings on this issue are not just associated with sports; they're associated with everyday life as well. Is it too much to ask that we think before we speak and take into consideration others' feelings? Is it too much to ask that we don't call names and offend people in the process? Why is it so difficult to refrain from insults?
At work I politely ask people to refrain from using the word "retarded" instead of stupid or "gay" instead of dumb. So often people see no problem in using these terms when they're not directly affected by it.
I am not a fan of behavior being excused because somebody is "in the heat of the moment" or they weren't trying to offend anyone.
My mom always told me, "if you don't have anything nice to say than don't say anything at all."
I think this week Bryant learned the same lesson, it just cost him $100K.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011 @ 11:11pm
I'll admit that the NBA is not my favorite professional sport to watch,
but I do enjoy watching a 7-foot, athletic, big man hone his craft and
dominate in the paint. Unfortunately for me, when Robin Lopez is on the
floor for the Phoenix Suns I get to see none of the above.
Lopez is dead
weight for the Suns and they need to come to their senses and get
rid of him.
The 7-foot, 255 pound big man was drafted out of Stanford in the 1st
round (15th overall) in the 2008 NBA draft by the Suns. When I saw this
pick I was excited about the potential. A big man with athleticism and a
brain, there isn't a much better combination in the NBA. Unfortunately for
Lopez and for Suns fans, he has yet to leave a positive mark on this team.
Lopez is now in his third season and his career averages are nearly 15
minutes, 3.3 rebounds and 6 points per game. But the disappointment in
Lopez's career is not just in the numbers, it's in the effort or lack-there-
of. Sometimes I wonder if Lopez knows what quarter it is when he comes
the game or if he even knows who's winning.
I once had a very good
source tell me that they "had never seen a basketball player hate playing
basketball as much as Robin does."
Really? The Suns are paying this guy
nearly $2 million dollars this season just to show up and act like he doesn't
even want to be there?
I know this is not the first time an athlete goes pro
and makes money but doesn't really enjoy the game. It's the only thing
some of these guys know how to do and have done their entire lives and
don't know what else to do.
I just have a
problem with athletes that have an amazing God given talent and the
opportunity to do something that not many people do and they blow it.
They take it for granted. I know he may not be the
most talented and most skilled but you can ALWAYS work hard.
I think it's telling when Lon Babby, the President of Basketball Operations,
can come on
the air and say that "there is nothing physically wrong with Lopez."
Meaning it's mental? If it's a mental issue it's definitely time for the Suns to
get rid of the dead weight and get rid of Robin Lopez. Time to fish or cut
bait. The Suns need to realize he won't be the player they thought he would
and nobody can EVER make somebody want something. They have to want
Against the Bulls Lopez was in for 3 minutes and had 4 fouls, 0 points and
0 rebounds. Against the Timberwolves he had 3 fouls in 6 minutes of play
with 0 points and 1 rebound. I rest my case.
Friday, April 1, 2011 @ 9:49am
As a reporter, I have covered pretty much every major sport at the professional and college level. Every game-night we receive a scoring sheet or a lineup card and every night they list the officials, referees or umpires by name. If I was an official, referee or umpire, I wouldn't want people to know my name or remember it because if they don't, that means I am doing my job.
I was thinking about this very topic as I was sitting on my couch watching the Lakers-Mavericks game Thursday night. Through three quarters of play, the referees called three technicals.
This officiating performance follows a game in which Ken Mauer ejected Zabian Dowdell and Aaron Brooks of the Suns in the final minute of a blow-out loss on Wednesday night. Mauer also T'd up five players in less than 10 seconds in a game in Minnesota earlier this season.
If I am Ken Mauer today, I don't want everybody knowing my name because that means I am not doing my job well.
My opinion, in pro and college sports, referees should remain nameless and they should prefer it that way. This means that referees should not make themselves part of the game. I always thought that the great officials are the ones we never see or hear about. Now don't get me wrong, I don't expect anybody to be perfect and I understand that they have a very difficult task but making bad calls and making yourself part of the entertainment are two entirely different things.
Too often these days we see umpires and referees that seem to be on a power trip. They seem to be trying to compete with the athletes for attention; taking advantage of the position they're in. Unfortunately, fans are not paying to see them and the refs will have to come to that realization. The fans are paying big bucks to be entertained by the athletes.
With baseball season upon us it's especially prevalent. It's probably the only sport where the umpires and the managers exchange profanities while yelling at each other face-to-face before the manager finally gets tossed. The ump shouldn't yell back, just toss the manager the second you feel necessary. Don't make yourself part of the game. This show isn't about you.
Maybe I am being too hard on these guys but I don't think it's too much to ask for officials, refs and umpires to step out of the way and let the athletes compete and let the fans enjoy the game.
There should be a mutual respect between refs and players/coaches. Both sides understanding how difficult the others job is but the refs understanding that they are NOT part of the entertainment and we SHOULDN'T know your name…other than the scoring sheet or lineup card that's handed out in press row.
Thursday, March 24, 2011 @ 10:26am
I was at work the other day and a co-worker said something that almost made my blood boil. For those of you that know me, sometimes it doesn't take much to get me fired up.
This co-worker of mine is a huge KNICKS fan and he was watching their game against the Celtics. The Knicks were blowing another lead and he said "it's too bad that Mike D'Antoni can't get these guys to play hard every night." My immediate response was, excuse me? These guys get paid millions of dollars to play a game every night and they can't find a way to motivate themselves? They are grown men that have been playing this game practically since birth. I know they play a lot of games and that night in and night out it can be difficult to bring the energy, but they owe it to themselves, the team and their fans to work hard and put the best product on the court.
It's not the responsibility of the head coach to get you to play hard. I was an athlete growing up and never once did I turn to my coach or even my teammates to get me fired up. Yes, coaches and teammates can help with motivation and inspiration but ultimately it comes down to each individual athlete, the attitude they choose to have and what they want to accomplish.
In my opinion the idea that it's the coach's job to get the guys playing hard every night is ridiculous. Yes, it's the coach's job to get the team ready to play with good practice, film and game planning but not with a "rah-rah" speech in the pre-game, half-time and during every timeout. In my opinion, the idea that it's the coach's fault if his team is not playing hard is just a sign of the times. More and more people in our society don't take responsibility for their actions. More and more people in our society are complacent and comfortable with letting somebody else take the blame. And I think these pro athletes in these situations are no different.
It's time for these pro athletes to step up and put on their Big Boy pants. Take some responsibility. It's the coach's job to get you prepared but once you're on the court, you're on your own. This is the athletes' time to shine and take full responsibility for the results, good or bad.
I think Suns point guard Steve Nash said it best after practice when head coach Alvin Gentry walked off without talking to the media because he was disgusted with his team's effort and energy.
"Sometimes we have to take keys from our coach and he's got to find ways to motivate and inspire us and unfortunately it shouldn't be his job everyday but today was one of those days where he wanted more from us."
Well said Steve Nash…well said.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011 @ 9:32am
I'm not going to lie…I don't know every single fact of the dispute between the NFL, the owners and the players. I have followed this saga throughout the season and throughout the two extension, right up until the union decided to decertify last Friday. So I know the basics. But as a fan of one of the greatest games on Earth, I really don't care how the millionaires and billionaires decide to divvy up their money.
As a fan I want to talk about and focus on the draft, free agency and how my Vikings will do next season without Brett Favre taking pictures of his "stuff" and sending them off to young masseuses.
Instead, I'm trying to wade through the "political-speak" of he-said-he-said. I'm wasting my energy trying to figure out which side is telling the truth. That sounds like what we deal with every day in our regular lives.
Fans love football because it allows them to escape the daily grind of money, the economy and politics. We tune into the draft to see the rookies get their name called, approach the podium and hopefully put on "our" team's hat. Now that moment of enjoyment may be taken away from the fans too! I understand that both sides are trying to prove that they have the leverage or the power. The NFLPA requesting that the top 15-20 picks not attend the draft and the league attempting to lock-out the players even after they've decertified. But aren't these childish behaviors? All in attempt to divide $9 billion dollars? Really?
Let us not forget that the fans ultimately foot the bill for the players and the owners by buying tickets, merchandise and TV packages. These are the same fans that may choose to take their money, their time and their attention elsewhere if the owners, the league and the players don't come to grips with reality.
The reality is that in the grand scheme of things, football doesn't really matter. Throwing a perfect spiral down the sideline to a streaking receiver for a touchdown is not the most important thing in life or in the world right now.
Yeah, we like our entertainment but there are enough sports and Charlie Sheen YouTube clips to go around and fans are growing weary of this silly, childish fight between millionaires and billionaires. This is a fight between two groups that have more money than they know what to do with (if' they're smart). The $9 billion dollars they're fighting over is more than any average person can even fathom or comprehend.
So in the end, I guess my take is this, let me know when the owners, the players and the union come back to Earth and come to an agreement on how to split up their billions. Until then, bring on the Charlie Sheen reality TV show.