Archive for category Basketball
This column runs in the Fall 2020 issue of Heart Beat of the Texas Hill Country
Summer 2020 continued to be a crazy period for sports while each entity tried to put together safe plans to resume play despite outbreaks in COVID-19. Gone were the TV reruns of every Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Championship and College Championship. Even the most avid fan was tired of the same endings, but willing to watch anything for the fix.
NBA Basketball proved to be the most creative and successful as twenty-two teams were invited to the “Bubble” – a closed to the public, hotel complex in Orlando where each team was sequestered at a hotel and only allowed to go back and forth to the arena to play. Families of the players were not allowed from Mid-July until the end of August during the second round of the playoffs.
Professional Hockey followed a bubble concept also except they had two bubbles, both in Canada. Twenty-four teams, the best twelve out of each conference, reported to Edmonton or Toronto for a one-week quarantine before resuming play August 1st.
Major League Baseball plotted a 60-day regular season beginning July 23rd. Instead of the bubble concept, they tried playing by geographical regions so travel would be limited. This idea forced teams into an interleague schedule with the leagues playing each other on a regular basis. The designated hitter, which for years was rejected by the National League Teams unless in interleague play at an American League stadium, became a mainstay. Arguments with umpires were accomplished with proper social distancing, masked and no spitting. No worries, the guys still got the bench clearing brawls in at least once a week! Some teams at the beginning struggled with players who tested positive for COVID and series would be postponed or re-matched with open teams. There were lots of doubleheaders at a reduced seven innings each to keep everyone on schedule for a planned regulation season ending September 27th. No one was complaining – America’s past time was back!
Sports had one thing in common — no fans in attendance. Players quickly learned the heart and soul of the game were the fans and the cheering or jeering. The sounds were solved with last year’s game noises piped in. Within a few weeks, sound engineers had it down to a science with the pop of the bat, groan of a misplayed ball and of course, the roar of a crowd when a homerun was launched. As for fans, support staff and the bullpen pitchers, all socially distanced and masked, were scattered throughout the lower deck. It still wasn’t the same and the TV audience yearned for more. Enter cardboard cutouts! Teams got fans involved offering their picture on the cutout for a donation to the team’s local charity. And, it didn’t stop with the fan. Bark in the Park had been a mainstay since launching several years ago. Well, canine cutouts had it even better! Instead of the normal outfield seats of previous years, the dog cutouts had seats behind the dugout and even Home Plate!
As I write this, some college football teams and the NFL have started with a few states allowing fans in the stands at twenty-five percent capacity. It’s baby steps, but maybe, just maybe, sports will be back to normal soon.
This column runs in the Summer 2020 issue of Heart Beat of the Texas Hill Country
No one saw it coming. Wednesday, March 11th, 2020. Fans at Chesapeake Arena were excitedly waiting for their Oklahoma City Thunder to tipoff against the Utah Jazz. It was an important game with playoffs just weeks away; especially for the Thunder who were on a three-game winning streak, nipping at the heels of fourth place Utah. Twenty-thousand fans in the stands watched the warmups, then the gathering of the head coaches with the referees as the pump-the-team-up music blared throughout the arena. Thunder fans had a reason to be excited. The Jazz’s weapon, center Rudy Gobert was not in the line-up due to illness. Suddenly it became evident that the nationally televised matchup was on delay. Coaches were still conferring with the referees while the players shrugged at each other and TV broadcasters tried figure out what the holdup was. Finally, the head coaches returned to their benches and herded the players off the court and back to the locker room. Fans started to boo as the head referee donned headphones at the scoring table. The announcer leaned over the microphone. “Due to unforeseen circumstances, the game tonight has been postponed” followed by “You are all safe” twice.
Within minutes, breaking news came over TVs across the nation – Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert had tested positive for COVID-19!! The NBA had already decided to start games minus fans the following night because of this strange virus which had recently surfaced in Washington state in a nursing home and was showing up in other states. But now an NBA player had tested positive and it just happened to be Gobert who just two days before had joked around with reporters touching every microphone and recorder in sight! By the end of the next day, every sport began shutting down!
Major League Baseball advised players to leave spring training facilities and return to their homes. The National Hockey League “paused” their season which was just a few weeks from the playoffs. Major League Soccer and the World Cup qualifying cancelled. The Players Championship golf tournament in Florida was stopped at the end of the first round. While college basketball’s “March Madness” was days away from their conference tournaments to be followed by the selection process, some conferences considered playing to an empty house; others cancelled theirs. The conference tourneys and selection process never happened. The Summer Olympics was postponed until 2021. Even NASCAR shut down when it was evident that support teams would be too close to each other while servicing the cars. Sports went on hiatus for sixty-six days!! Never had sports experienced such a disruption since World War II.
On Sunday May 17th, NASCAR paved the way for other sports to resume. They ran nine races in sixteen days at just two tracks in two states. Masked support crew numbers were cut in half, drivers wore masks when not in their cars, practices cancelled and the stands were empty of fans. Other sports began processing plans acceptable to states and health experts while fans crossed fingers and toes that all sports would be back soon!
This column runs in the Summer 2019 issue of Heart Beat of the Texas Hill Country
I’ll never forget the day – May 5, 2015 – 5:09PM. The email read, “Hi Carlotta, Long time no see. Was wondering if you would care to write for our magazine. Noticed that Happenings has gone dark and I always loved your columns. Would you have any interest? Either way keep writing cowgirl! -Greg”
The following day, our call lasted over an hour. I could tell right away this was going to be a fun gig! It was so easy talking to Greg. He understood my passion for sports and respected my ideas. More importantly, he was as “pumped” about my column as I was!
For the fall issue that year, he dropped me a line a couple of weeks before deadline. “Do you think you could focus on Texas football? Your take on the upcoming NFL/college season? Hoping to have all editorial in by the 15th. We’re at third down and goal to go!” I already had the column finished when I read his email. It started with, “For those of you reading this that haven’t lived in Texas, let me explain. Football is the culture — an array of delicacies from the traditional fantasy football leagues to Friday Night Lights to Big 12 and SEC rivalries to The ‘Boys at Jerry’s House or JJ Watt and Company at the NRG. Fall is Texas football!” Greg’s response? “Girl — You rock!” Go figure – it was what he wanted.
Greg not only communicated with me in sports lingo, he also recognized my other passion – the canines! He already knew about my years of chairing the Bark For Life cancer fundraiser. When I asked him to run a flyer on a Kerr County Bark in one of the issues, he said he would. A few days before print, he discovered the copy in his spam. He emailed me saying, “Hi, somehow you got in my spam list. Just noticed this morning. All is good now. Thanks! (I mean “woof!”)”
I normally decided which sport my column would touch on. Last year, he had a special request. “How about a piece on Manu Ginobili? I know NBA season will be over by summer but I would like a tribute to him.” I had just volunteered for and attended the NFL draft in North Texas. My plan was to write about that. Instead I went with a Ginobili tribute. It’s always nice to keep the boss happy. And apparently it made the readers happy too! The feedback as Greg would say, “Rocked!”
I delayed the NFL Draft to the fall issue. When he got the copy and pictures, he called me. “Girl! You met the NFL Commissioner! Girl! You have your picture with him!! Girl!! You were on the floor of the NFL draft! You didn’t tell me about THAT when I asked you to run something on Ginobili! Manu could have waited! “ We both laughed!
That was the last time we laughed together. Greg was diagnosed with liver cancer that fall. I tried to reassure him. I had been on a caregiver’s journey back in 2015 with my husband’s cancer. Medical science had made great strides. Get the treatment and stay on it no matter how awful the side effects are. Attitude is 99% of the cure. Stay strong and listen to your body. Get lots of rest. You will get through this.
We talked one more time in early March. There was nothing more the doctors could do and the end was near. He passed away on the 18th of that month. While others think they will see Greg again on the beach in the Jamaican part of Heaven, I know I’ll find him near the San Antonio Spurs angels waiting on Manu. You rock Angel Greg. RIP my MVP.
This column appears in the Summer 2018 issue of Heart Beat of the Texas Hill Country
As I write this, I just finished watching the elimination game of the San Antonio Spurs to the Golden State Warriors. Sadness fills me as it is possibly the last game we will see the #20, Manu Ginóbili on the court. Manu was again in double digits just as he was in a lot of the games – Mr. Dependable. After the game was over, he immediately headed to Golden State Head Coach Steve Kerr. The two men go way back – they were teammates for the Spurs in 2002 – Kerr’s last year as a player. As the two men hugged (Yes, real men hug and eat quiche!), the reporters’ microphones caught part of their exchange. “Keep going, OK?” Kerr quipped. Seriously Steve?!? I know better! Manu and a healthy San Antonio team is the LAST thing you want to see next season.
If this was indeed Ginóbili’s ride into the sunset, he sure went out with a bang – record after record!! He became the only player in NBA history to have multiple 20-point games off the bench at age 40 or older. He was also the first player in his 40s to score 15-plus points in back-to-back games since Michael Jordan in the 2002–03 season. He surpassed David Robinson’s franchise record of 1,388 for most steals – with 1392. Teammate Patty Mills refers to him as “Grandpa Juice.” I beg to differ – he’s more like the Energizer Bunny leaving the younger players in the dust! Whatever he is doing, I want his secret formula!
In addition to Michael Jordan, Manu is in great company with others in the “Over 40” club for athletes. There’s Jack Nicholas, the oldest Masters winner in history, when he was 46. Five days before his retirement, 40 year-old Babe Ruth went 4-for-4, three of those home runs. Who could possibly forget Nolan Ryan’s seventh no -hitter thrown when he was 44?!?! I was at that game. Jack Daughtery had left me comp tickets behind home plate. In the 7th inning, I saw the scoreboard and excitedly said, “LOOK! Nolan has a ….” Before I could say what I planned to say…. “a you-know-what,” my hubby’s hand was across my mouth!!
We’ve seen Ginóbili through two Olympic medal winning performances for Argentina, four NBA Championships with the Spurs and two All-Star appearances. Yes, Manu…. You can flirt with the “R” word…. or heed Steve Kerr’s advice. Either way, we’ll see you someday in the NBA Hall of Fame.
My article in Heartbeat of the Texas Hill Country – Winter Issue
What an exciting year 2016 was for sports! It’s not too often that one sees so much history in the making as we did. The year started out with a Cinderella ending for NFL great Peyton Manning as he guided the Denver Broncos to a Super Bowl win. What a way to end a career!! He hasn’t done too badly in post-football either. There’s rarely a day that doesn’t go by that I don’t see Peyton in a commercial. I think the funniest is the one where he’s sitting on the couch in his bathrobe and sipping coffee. Lionel Richie is singing in the background, “It’s Peyton on Sunday morning.” Manning is on the phone with brother Eli wanting him to come and watch Sunday football on his DirecTV set-up. Eli’s seen in the Giants locker room explaining why he can’t – he’s playing football. “I’ll pencil you in for Tuesday,” and Peyton writes “Eli” in the empty calendar.
March Madness in college basketball made history too when the number fifteen seed Middle Tennessee upset number two seed Michigan State in the first round destroying just about every basketball fan’s bracket including mine! The “experts” had predicted Michigan State to make the Final Four and some had even picked them to win the championship. And it didn’t end there! The fourteenth seed Stephen F. Austin upset number three seed West Virginia and Syracuse became the first tenth seed in history to advance to the Final Four. The finals were held in Houston where Villanova upset North Carolina to win the championship on a three-point shot at the buzzer!
The NBA followed suit when the Cavaliers brought Cleveland their first sports championship in fifty-two years! Hubby was happy as he’s from the suburbs of that city on the lake. As Rick watched the TV coverage, he wondered which speck was his nephew Bret and was probably secretly envious because he wasn’t there too.
Even car racing re-wrote history when both the June and July NASCAR races at Pocono Speedway had to be postponed due to weather as well as the Indycars at Texas Motor Speedway finishing the end of the June race in August due to weather. Weather delays are never fun for fans as a lot of the spectators travel in and postponements cause havoc on hotels, car rentals, transportation and work plans. We know only too well after waiting out a few ourselves only to be watching concession stand commercials on Big Hoss and covered cars on the track as the rain dripped off our hair and clothes.
But no greater history was made with the conclusion of the Major League Baseball season! For a while, it looked like both Texas teams, the Astros and Rangers were destined for the playoffs. Houston had a September meltdown, and then the best in the American League Texas Rangers found themselves swept by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1st round of the playoffs. Our home became a war zone with my husband’s Cleveland Indians and my Boston Red Sox meeting in the AL Championship. I was the queen of trash-talking only to eat my words as Rick’s Indians swept Boston and moved on to the World Series.
I quickly found myself OK with t he loss when I realized that I was watching sports history unfold yet again! The Indians were in the World Series in 1997 when they lost in extra innings in game seven to the Florida Marlins. They hadn’t won the title since 1948. The Cubs hadn’t won the title since 1908, and hadn’t made it to the World Series since 1945 – the infamous series where the Billy-goat curse was put on the team. We were witnessing one of the two longest championship droughts in baseball finally come to an end! It looked like destiny was going to hang onto the coattails of the Cavaliers and side with the Tribe, who jumped out to a lead of three games to one. Then Chicago shocked themselves and the Indians not to only to piece together back-to-back wins, but they also forced a game seven and won in extra innings! . I just wonder if sports will ever repeat a year like 2016!
Just finishing my 1st month at KWQQ Radio. Originally, I thought I would be doing three sports segments a week. By the 2nd week, I was doing 1 minute sports and 1 minute state news during the top of the hour news segment starting at 5am – 9am. I also have my 5 minute sports for the local schools, colleges and universities in Iowa running Mondays and Tuesdays 1am, noon and 6pm, 5 minute professional sports and Cubs, White Sox, Royals and Cards coverage on Thursdays and Fridays 1am, noon and 6pm and 5 minute “Sports Snapshot” perspective running Wednesdays 1am, noon and 6pm and weekends. Here’s a recent Sports Snapshot:
Hope you’ll tune in — in addition to broadcasting on 1610AM and 106.3FM Farmington, IA, we’re on the Internet — Click here to Listen
As I write this column, I am recovering from a night of four hours of sleep. Why, you may ask? I stayed up until midnight-thirty watching the LA Clippers at the Houston Rockets for game six. Now if you are a fan of basketball and also watched that game, you will remember that at the end of the third quarter the Houston Rockets were behind 92-79. Most “normal” people would have just turned off the TV and waited until in the morning to hear or read about the results — especially if they had to work early the next morning.
There is a type that is not the “norm” who is a sports devotee such as me. I have superstitions like wearing the same “lucky” attire down to underwear. It is not usual to start yanking off clothes mid-game and substituting with might have been the “lucky” color or item. During a Super Bowl, my team was losing until I discovered after going through my checklist that I had the wrong hair holder on my pony tail. I know, it sounds certifiable, but the team made a turnaround and eventually won. There are also the rituals of “if I don’t get the dishwasher unloaded before a series of commercials ends” or “if my contact lens doesn’t get unstuck by the third try;” my favorite driver won’t get a top five in a race. How many wives would stay planted at a TV to watch the Super Bowl on their honeymoon instead of basking on the sands of the Waikiki? I also found myself setting my alarm for 325AM to watch the Medal run of the 4-Man Bobsled in the 2014 Olympics.
YES, I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning to watch the fourth quarter of game six of the LA Clippers and Houston Rockets game as the fat lady was obviously tuning up. I even found myself having doubts there was any way they could muster a comeback. Then it happened!! The comeback of the year! I did not miss witnessing the Rockets unbelievable run of forty-nine points to LA’s eighteen in the last fourteen and a half minutes!! Sure I could have watched on the morning news four hours later, but there’s something about the instant euphoria of the win and then the adrenalin that doesn’t allow one to fall asleep. Was it worth it? Sure! Could I have watched it on a replay four hours later? Sure! Would I in the future? Nah…. That’s not part of being a sports aficionado — it’s just not allowed!