Monday, April 28, 2014

Racism In America

I do not usually post this close together, but some events have happened the last couple days that have elicited some very strong feelings and the need to write in me. Please indulge me.

First it was Cliven Bundy, the wealthy Nevada rancher who is feeding his cattle on federal land, not paying federal grazing fees for more than two decades like thousands of other ranchers do, and saying things like, "Black people were better under slavery," to telling reporters over the weekend he recalled driving by a public housing project in North Las Vegas, Nevada and seeing 'at least a half-dozen (black) people sitting on the porch, they didn't have nothing to do. Because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?'"

He added, "They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because he never learned how to pick cotton. And I've often wondered are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn't get no more freedom. They get less freedom."

All the while Mr. Bundy claims he is not a racist and states we need to have a, "Serious discussion on racism in this country," he continues to make statements like these and lives his life like he believes he should by not paying his taxes and living off the government.

In the video I saw of him talking about how he was so against the government intervening in his affairs and how we didn't need the government, he was riding his horse proudly displaying an American flag! That to me is the epitome of hypocrisy!

The next story I want to discuss concerns an unfolding daily and getting better every time I watch another report about Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his remarks caught on tape by his girlfriend, V. Stiviano.

Everyone knows our justice system presumes innocence until proven guilty in this great country. As we all know, with 24/7 cable news stations, social media, smart phones and yes, even cameras everywhere, there is very little we can say or do that is not scrutinized in the court of public opinion. It seems everything we say and do comes back to us in ways we never expect in the form of a video, text message, instant message or email. Some people do not even have a cell phone yet! Can you imagine? What did we do before cell phones?

The point is Miss Stiviano has numerous recordings of Donald Sterling's tirades about brown and black minorities and his apparent hatred for anyone whose skin is not the same color as his.

According to the website, 76.3% of their players are of African–American dissent. That is the highest of any of the major sports. The NBA has led in that category for many years.

Here is an interesting chart on diversity in the NBA. Click on the image to make it larger:

If Mr. Sterling does not want his girlfriend to talk to, have her picture taken with or bring to an NBA game which he owns, I wonder why he wants to have anything to do with owning an NBA franchise with only 19% white players and allegedly made this comment which was recorded by Miss Stiviano, "I support them and give them food, and clothes, and cars, and houses. Who gives it to them? Does someone else give it to them? … Who makes the game? Do I make the game, or do they make the game? Is there 30 owners, that created the league?"

It has already reached the highest office in the land and undoubtedly one of the biggest sports fans in the country when President Obama was speaking in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. According to the Associated Press, he said, "incredibly offensive racist statements," before casting them as part of the continuing legacy of slavery and segregation that Americans must confront.

"When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, you don't really have to do anything, you just let them talk," Obama said when asked to respond to the reported comments from Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

It will be interesting to see how these two very different cases play out. Thank you for letting me vent. Both of these guys disgust me. It is a sad state of affairs when we still have to be talking about racism in America in 2014.

I look forward to your comments.



Saturday, April 26, 2014

Wrigley Field Is 100 Years Old!

The first game ever played in Weeghman Park, which was later named Wrigley Field when William Wrigley, Jr. bought the stadium from Charles Weeghman after the Independent Federal League folded in 1915. The Independent Federal League was giving the American and National League a run for their money and paying customers, but its original eight teams could not keep up. 

That game was played April 23, 1914. Please forgive me as I missed the exact date by two days. The Chicago Federals and the Kansas City Packers played the first game ever played at the new stadium, which was built for $250,000 in 1914. The Chicago Cubs moved into the stadium in 1916, where they have remained ever since in the second oldest ballpark in major league baseball just a couple years newer than Fenway Park in Boston.

Here is a photograph of the stadium just after completion in 1914. The seating capacity was 14,000 people. Click on the image to make it larger:

Wrigley Field has undergone many changes and growth since this picture. Most notably the planting of the Ivy covered outfield wall in 1937. Obviously, there have been other additions including the centerfield scoreboard which is still operated manually and updated inning by inning of the other games going on and additional seating to get it to where its capacity is today of just over 41,000 people.

In February 1914, workman tore down a few old seminary buildings on the corner of Clark and Addison on the North Side of Chicago. By mid April they were ready to play ball. That is amazing when you consider how long it takes to build a stadium today! Of course it is like comparing apples to oranges, but just think of the comparison in construction techniques and size of stadiums.

I wanted to give you a little history behind the stadium because it is now a Mecca for Cubs fans from all over the country. People who have attended games in Wrigley Field tell me the atmosphere is like no place else! I have heard stories about how fans and players alike feel differently when they walk or roll into Wrigley Field! I find that incredible. Can AT&T Park in North Texas make that claim? At a cost of $1.8 billion, Jerry's World, as is affectionately known and is now the largest stadium in the country is the epitome of opulence and Jerry Jones arrogant ego!

I know people that will take their children and go to a three-game weekend series in Chicago to experience three days of baseball in the confines of beautiful, old Wrigley Field.

I have mentioned my attendant, Robert, in previous blogs. He grew up in Chicago and tells fondly of going to games in Wrigley Field. He said his greatest memories revolve around the taste of the hot dogs, hoping to catch a fly ball with his tiny glove, and most importantly the sound of the bat hitting the ball and trying to watch it fly over the Ivy covered wall.

He has not been at a game in more than three decades, but those memories remain vivid.

We have all heard of the Bucket List. One of the items on my Bucket List is going to Wrigley Field and experience a weekend of baseball in this cool old stadium. Fenway Park is another one on my list. Of course, I love watching baseball. If you are not a baseball fan, you may not feel the way I do. However, you may still like going to Wrigley or Fenway just for the experience.

Here is another photo from the outside of Wrigley Field I enjoy:

Matt Snyder wrote this on CBS's Eye On Baseball two days ago. Obviously, he grew up in Chicago and still writes for the Cubs:

"If we could leave the business end out of things, the across-the-street rooftop gatherings are also part of the equation.

And, of course, there's the ivy on the brick outfield wall, which isn't yet grown out this season, given that it's still April. By the middle of the summer, though, the ivy will be a full, beautiful green, just as it has been since Bill Veeck decided to plant ivy out there all the way back in 1937.

Those features alone are worth a visit for non-Cubs fans at least once. Wrigley is a bucket-list type stadium.

Every baseball stadium has a potpourri, but Wrigley's is so endearing. It's like a mish-mash of peanut shells, stale beer, brick dust, freshly-mown lawn, hot dogs, popcorn and hope. Yes, hope. Our good friend Andy Dufresne taught us hope was a good thing long ago and Cubs fans would be wise to embracing this mantra years later in the great Wrigley Field. Hope is a good thing, Red, maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies.

For generations of Cubs fans, though, it's so much more than the look and smell and even, yes, the necessary hope. Wrigley Field is a shrine. It's home, in a way. It's where we first heard bleacher bums chanting "left field sucks!" and "right field sucks!" in taunting fashion directed at each other. The view of the outfield when first emerging from a tunnel in the grandstand with the ivy and scoreboard as the backdrop on a beautiful summer day cannot possibly be described or matched. It's just so perfect; so gorgeous.

Each of us has a childhood memory that stands out above the rest — mine being that I saw an Andre Dawson homer that didn't count in his MVP season (the game was rained out before the fifth inning was completed and eventually restarted from the top). I went home and made sure to grab No. 8 in Little League because I wanted to be like the Hawk.

Similar stories could be told through the years about players like Gabby Hartnett, Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Ryne Sandberg, Mark Grace, Derrek Lee and a host of others. Or pitchers like Fergie Jenkins, Greg Maddux and Kerry Wood."

You can see his passion for Wrigley and the Cubs.

There is just one more thing to say, "Play ball!"

I look forward to your memories of Wrigley Field. As always, I look forward to your comments even if you have never been to Chicago or Wrigley Field.



Sunday, April 6, 2014

7 Seed Versus An 8 Seed!

If you are following the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, you know tomorrow night's championship game matches two teams that were not supposed to be there according to the tournament committee who sets up seeding the brackets.

This year's tournament had many upsets and many great games! There were a record overtime games, with five overtime games so far, four of those happening on the first day. All in all, it has been an exciting tournament to watch even with everybody's brackets being busted to smithereens! I do not think anybody would have picked Kentucky or University of Connecticut, or as they are better known, UConn to win the whole thing. Warren Buffett's offer was safe after the second round.

But, I do not really want to talk about The Big Dance in this post. I would rather address that other tournament and who won it on Thursday night! That is correct, I want to take a few minutes and discuss our own Minnesota Gophers and their National Invitation Tournament Championship and what I believe it means to the program, the University, the head coach and recruiting for next year. A first-year coach has a 25-13 record, which is officially the most wins by a Golden Gopher basketball team, loses only three seniors, wins the NIT in only his second year as a head coach, has his mother and Hall of Fame coach/father cheering him on from right behind the bench is quite a feat!

But first, let me give you a quote from junior point guard DeAndre Mathieu who looked as he was close to crying as well as beaming a huge smile right after the game. "I can't stop smiling. It's like the best feeling. I know it's not the NCAA tournament, but this feels so good … Were going to all hopefully have a big summer and hopefully make a run in the big-boy tournament next year."

Granted, the NIT does not carry the prestige it used to before the NCAA tournament was expanded from 16 teams to 32 teams to 64 teams to 65 teams and now, 68 teams. However, you cannot take away a national championship trophy from this group of student/athletes, coaches, trainer and manager in this picture: 

Click on the picture to enlarge the photo:

It was fun watching the confidence and self-esteem build in these players as they won all five games in the tournament! It was especially fun to watch the underclassmen play three good games at Williams Arena as they came into their own.

There were times we wondered if they were going to make it to New York, but as each game developed and players came through in clutch situations, you could see them growing as basketball players. That is what a coach wants to see!

In the final game at Williams Arena, senior guard and team co-captain, Austin Hollins played a key role down the stretch to win that game and send them off to play at least one game in the Mecca of Basketball, Madison Square Garden (MSG). As it turned out, they narrowly beat Florida State in the semifinals in overtime 67-64 to go on and beat Southern Methodist University in the championship game 65-63.

Both games in MSG were hard-fought, back-and-forth, good games with several mistakes on both sides; but, in the end our Golden Gophers won a close game by only two points! It was fun to watch!

First-year coach Richard Pitino was only hired in April and did not have a chance to get a good hold on recruiting some top-notch players. Now, with a national championship trophy in tow and five of his top seven scorers returning, he has some positive building blocks to show new recruits.

I am looking forward to next year already. The Barn will be rockin' again come November. I cannot wait!

As always, I look forward to your comments.



Wednesday, April 2, 2014

March Madness Rolls Into April

March Madness is alive and well in both the men and women's college basketball tournaments! My bracket was busted way beyond repair when I picked the wrong early upsets like picking Ohio State over Dayton. Three of the twelve seeds upset the five seeds, and that has never happened before. I only picked one of them right. I had Michigan State winning the whole thing. That was in the NCAA Men's Tournament. But that is not what this post is about.

I want to talk about who is still playing basketball in April. If you are a Golden Gopher basketball fan like I am, last night's game was a real nail biter. Bobby Knight was the analyst and could not say a nice thing about the Gophers almost all night long. He really got on Richard Pitino for the way he handled the last play of the game and the last play in overtime.

On a side note, years ago I asked Coach Knight what he thought when he brought his Indiana teams into Williams Arena, better known in these parts as The Barn. He told me he loved playing in The Barn because his teams always beat the Gophers! I have another Bobby Knight/Bill Musselman story but that is irrelevant to this post!

I want to talk about how there are only two Big Ten teams playing yet in April. Wisconsin is in the Final Four. The other Big Ten team to be playing for a national championship is our own Minnesota Gophers tomorrow night in Madison Square Garden for the National Invitation Tournament (NIT).

Granted, the NIT is not The Big Dance they wanted to be playing in, but with a win tomorrow night they can still hang another national championship banner in Williams Arena!

Had they gotten into the NCAA Tournament, they would have been a low seed and probably be watching that Final Four like every other team in America except for Florida, Kentucky, Wisconsin and the University of Connecticut, better known as UConn, on Saturday.

I think playing these extra five games has helped the Gophers tremendously! The younger players have five more games of experience in which to build their confidence. Joey King has played very well and you can see the self-confidence building in his game. DeAndre Mathieu has shown the entire country just how quick and fast he is. I have watched him grow into a very good point guard, which the Gophers have needed for a long time. Mo Walker has also shown a tremendous increase in his presence around the basket and his ability to shoot from outside the Paint. Andre Hollins has also shown what he is capable of doing on any given night. He still needs to be consistent, and hopefully that will come in his senior year. I am anxious to watch them play next year.

Whatever happens tomorrow night the Gophers can call coach Richard Pitino's first season a successful one. Granted, they didn't make the NCAA Tournament, finished only 8 and 10 in the Big Ten conference, but could end up with a 25 and 13 record and a national championship. That spells a successful first year for me.

Another fun part of watching the game last night was how much the announcers talked about and showed Rick Pitino during the game. It was fun to see him sitting behind his son watching him cheer for the Gophers. I am sure there will be more of that tomorrow night in the National Invitation Tournament Championship Game in Madison Square Garden in New York City! That is fun to say!

Go Gophers!

I look forward to your comments.


Mike Patrick U of M '80 Basketball Season Ticket Holder for thirty-three years!