Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Stefen Curry Is A Monster!

If you stayed up late last night and watched the NBA Western Championship game, you saw one of the best performances in the second half by a single player in recent NBA history! Curry willed his team to victory by raining threes, driving the lane and even using the glass when appropriate in the second half and passing the ball like nobody has since Pete Maravich.

Curry had 36 points (13-24 FG, 7-12 3Pt, 3-3 FT), eight assists and five rebounds in 40 minutes during last night's 96-88 Game 7 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Curry put the finishing touches on an historic series comeback for the Warriors, scoring 15 points in the final period Monday to help his team advance to a second consecutive NBA Finals. 

As he has done time and time again this season, the MVP dominated in a must-win situation, nailing two three-pointers in the game's first five minutes and controlling the tempo throughout. The 36 points were Curry's most since he tallied 40 points off the bench in Game 4 of the Warriors' second-round series with the Trail Blazers.

He was simply dominant and fun to watch as the Warriors completely dominated Oklahoma City and their star Kevin Durant. It was worth staying up to watch history in the making. Especially when you consider Oklahoma City was up by 13 at one point in the first half, the comeback by Golden State was especially dramatic!

Very few teams have been down in a championship series 3-1 and come back to win three games to clinch a series. That includes not only the NBA, but also the major sports that play seven-game series like the National Hockey League (NHL) and Major League Baseball (MLB).

Here is a photograph from last night's game:

His ever-present mouth guard seems to always be hanging out of his mouth even when he nonchalantly steps to the free-throw line and sinks two or three. However, his focus is always on the basketball. The intensity in his eyes is admirable and fun to watch.

I must admit I do not watch many NBA games during the regular season because they tend to always come down to the final few minutes and the stars take over in one-on-one matches and the games are decided by a couple points. The playoffs are different, especially for Game 7's because it is win or go home.

I much prefer watching college basketball because for the most part they are playing for the love of the game and not millions of dollars.

For example, Curry's contract is for $12 million this year. He will become a free agent after next year and certain projections are putting his new contract to be around three times that per year! Other sports have found paying certain players that much money has not worked out. It will be interesting to see what happens with him.  

This was a record-breaking year for the Warriors, as they became the first team to go 73-9! The record had been 72-10 held by the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls led by Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.

Now, it is on to the Finals against the Eastern Champions Cleveland Cavaliers and their star-studded cast led by Lebron James. Since Golden State has the better record they are the top seed and will get home court starting Thursday night.

I know it is a big deal in Cleveland since no major sports team from that city has won a championship in 52 years when the Cleveland Browns won the NFL Championship. That was before the Super Bowl era. That ranks them third among city droughts behind Ottawa back to 1927 and 89 years since winning the Stanley Cup. Second on the list is San Diego at 53 years when the Chargers won the old AFL Championship in 1963. That was also pre-Super Bowl era.

Many people are hoping the Cavaliers will win this Championship. Personally, I hope the Warriors win their second straight championship behind Curry's second consecutive MVP Award!

As always, I look forward to your comments.



Monday, May 23, 2016

One Pitch Can Change Everything!

One pitch can change everything from a walk off home run in the bottom of the ninth in game seven of the World Series to keeping a young Iowa junior high school team from going to the state tournament.

Iowa, unlike its neighboring states, of Minnesota, South Dakota and Nebraska has run its baseball program in the summer. The Iowa High School Athletic Association feels it is necessary so young boys can participate in their summer months and run track in the spring if they choose so. In Iowa, I could play four sports. I played baseball in the summer, football in the fall, basketball in the winter and ran track in the spring. I only did that one year as I started going to school in Worthington and commuted with Dad who had started coaching and counseling at Worthington State Junior College in September 1968.That was in my eighth grade year. We stayed in Sibley until our house was completed in February 1969.

The first picture I want to show you is when we were getting ready to go to the 9th District Tournament Championship game to qualify for the Iowa State Tournament:

The next picture is the rundown of our game as it appeared in the Sibley Gazette:

The next picture was our practice picture and does not have all the team members at practice.

I want to show you our team of student/athletes at our practice field, which doubled as a demolition derby on weekends at the Osceola County Fairgrounds. It was an all dirt field with very little grass in the outfield. My dad was our coach, bus driver, groundskeeper and third-base coach. He had to reinstall the pitching rubber every Monday after a demolition derby that weekend and performed any other tasks deemed necessary. He is standing on the far right. He also coached the high school team.

Our loss came on one pitch in the bottom of the seventh when Mark Huisenga hit a smash up the middle and the pitcher blindly snagged, which abruptly ended our rally and our season. It was a sad ride home that day.

Baseball was fun to play and watch. I miss being able to play catch with my dad with a baseball, football or shoot baskets with him teaching and mentoring me all the way.

The regulations that govern Iowa baseball state your birthday has to come before a certain day to be eligible to play on that team. We were lucky because our three best players all have the same birthday falling into the parameters in the rulebook. Bob Wahl, Dan Pomerenke and Mark Huisenga were those players.

I built lifelong friendships with that team and still keep in touch through Facebook with a few of them, their friends, sisters, wives and other people from Sibley. We only lived in Iowa for two and one-half years; but it was an active, carefree, fun existence for a young boy in a quiet, little town in northwest Iowa in the late 60s!

I often think about what other memories we would have made if that pitcher had not made that one pitch!

Now, I get my coaching and mentoring fun by watching the Minnesota Twins and the University of Minnesota's Gophers men's basketball team. Both of them have been hard to watch lately.

As always, I look forward to your comments.



Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Some Friendships Last A Lifetime!

I had a great experience yesterday when three of my close friends from the dorms I lived in in Berkeley during the 1974-'75 school year flew in for a few hours of sharing old memories and making new ones. Karen "Smalley" Bixby called me a couple days ago and asked if she could fly from a conference in Chicago for a few hours and then go back later yesterday afternoon.

I replied, "Of course, that would be great, but I could not come to get you at the airport. Maybe Mike Ross could pick you up and take you back when you needed to fly out?"

Kathy (Keen) Mancuso lives in Houston now and when Karen proposed the idea to Kathy, Keeno was ready to come if she could get good flights with corresponding times.

Here is a picture of the four of us, as they were getting ready to leave:

As always, click on the image to make it larger:

Mike had me order some Chinese take-out food for lunch, which they picked up on the way to my apartment. Karen helped feed me with chopsticks, which she was very adept at using! There is no way I can use those sticks!

The year I was in Putnam Hall was the first year the Physically Disabled Student Program (PDSP) started integrating students with disabilities into the general student population. UC Berkeley was way ahead of its time! The program has since dropped the first word, Physically, from its title and is now known as DSP. It is housed in the Ed Roberts Campus, which is located a few blocks from campus and was started to honor all of the work Ed did around the world for the disability community. I have written about him before and you can find that post by clicking on his name in the labels at the end of this post.

Karen was a Resident Assistant for Freeborn Hall. She went out of her way to make friends with the three students with disabilities that lived in Putnam. It was no easy task since Greg was unable to speak and had to spell everything slowly on his lapboard. Gary lived on the other side of me and spoke very slowly and non-discernible by most people. I became his interpreter and when anyone new would join us at lunch, they would look to me to tell him/her what Gary was trying to say.

Another story everyone remembered fondly was getting my mail because I could not open the mailbox, which was high on the wall and down one floor. When my mother would send pictures of my little brother, Chad who was just a few months old when I moved to Berkeley and he was learning to walk, she would send a half dozen pictures a week of Chad as he grew and changed every week. Mom would write "Do Not Bend" on the envelope in several places!

Whomever got my mail would run up the stairs screaming, "Mike, you got another, 'Do Not Bend'" We all knew what that meant so several people would gather in the lush courtyard right outside the cafeteria and pass around a half-dozen more pictures of Chad looking left, Chad looking right, Chad sitting up, Chad standing up. You name it, Mom will deny this but she was encouraging me to come home in her subtle ways! The funny thing is, it worked!

I tell everyone that asks what was the best thing I have ever done? I tell them, "The second best thing I ever did was move to Berkeley." 

Their response is always, well then what was the best thing you ever did? I always reply, "I moved home." I say that not because of my friends I made in Berkeley and the growing I did on a personal level, but rather how my life has grown in so many ways since moving back, finishing my degree at the University of Minnesota and the changes my life has taken since I left Berkeley in 1975.

Another irony in this move was several years after I moved back and Chad graduated from college he moved to Southern California and has been there for many years now! It was fun for Kathy and Karen to see pictures of Chad now as a forty-two-year-old entrepreneur living in Southern California!

We shared stories of our memories of the fairly short time in our lives where we were actually together and how that school year has made lasting friendships that have lasted more than forty years!

I want to close with a picture of the three of us men who attended our dinner at Trader Vic's Restaurant in San Francisco when I took eight other friends and myself to a four-hour dinner for $150! We had a blast that night and stories abounded about who remembered what from that treat. I like this picture because the three of us all had cool 1970s hair!

Besides Mike Ross In his flashy velvet jacket and me was Doug Hamblin, Mike's roommate.

As always, click on the image to make it larger:

Like I said earlier, the four hours just flew by and I wish it could have lasted longer. I do not believe a minute went by when somebody was not talking, usually while somebody else was telling her or his memory of a particular story!

It always amazes me how all the stages of my life keep coming back in various ways by people who made a difference in that particular piece of my life. At 61, I have a hard time believing I have managed to live in so many places and acquire so many friendships on levels I cannot describe. I have managed to live more than forty-four years with a high-level spinal cord injury and I am feeling the aging process along with everything that goes with my injury. Yet, there are many days I feel like I can turn those numbers around and I feel 16!

As always, I look forward to your comments.