Winning Isn’t Everything

June 6, 2010

With the legendary UCLA Coach John Wooden’s passing on Friday night, it was what I witnessed on Saturday that reminded me of the real meaning of sports.

Wooden not only built a winning program for the Bruins, but he built better people out of those players that went through his program.

Bill Walton, who played under Wooden, recounted the story of one of his first practices with Wooden, demonstrates this.

Walton said that Wooden kicked him out of practice, telling him in the process not to return to the program until he go a haircut.  This is a far cry from the game of today of people having tattoos up and down their bodies, wacky haircuts ranging from mohawks to the rainbow from Dennis Rodman, and most of all the players that are all about themselves, rather than that of the team.

The biggest thing that Wooden demanded was that his players played hard, showed sportsmanship, and most of all, play as a team.

Flash forward to today, as I was helping referee games in a tournament put on by the University of South Carolina, girls high school basketball teams from around the south came to participate.

The most meaningful game to me however was not the game I gave a coach a technical, or the one that went to overtime.  The biggest game was not even close.

I’m not going to mention the teams specifically, because it does not pertain to the story.  All I will describe them as a out-of-state elite team and a high school varsity that also had to travel to Columbia.

The elite team got out to a 69-0 team (I’m not making this up).  With about 2 minutes to go in the game, the high school team got a lay-up, giving them their first basket of the game.

The final score to the game was 73-4, but the score is not important in what I took from this game.

Both times when the weaker team scored, the Blatt PE Center erupted, a moment that I will remember for the rest of my life.

The winning team, their parents, and a couple other teams waiting to play all gave the team a standing ovation.

What this sports talk radio host and part-time basketball official hopes that both teams took away is that you never give up, regardless of how down you can be.

The players may not have felt this way, but this by far is something that builds character, and I hope that team goes on to have a great season.

They are winners in my book, and its about building character and team cohesion, something that helped John Wooden dominate college basketball for over a decade.


Selig, Joyce, Galarraga Handle Perfect Game Blown Call Admirably

June 3, 2010

The biggest disaster Major League Baseball could ever imagine occurred Wednesday night in the league’s most famous one-hitter.

Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga, umpire Jim Joyce, and Commissioner Bud Selig have all handled the after effects of the blown call that cost Galarraga the 21st perfect game in major league history and the third perfect game in as many weeks.

Joyce called Cleveland Indians shortstop Jason Donald safe at first on a play in which first baseman Miguel Cabrera ranged way to his right to make the play, and threw the ball to Galarraga who was covering first.

Replays clearly showed that Joyce missed the call, and Donald was out, as Galarraga snow-coned the catch and tagged first base before Donald reached.

Joyce initially told Tigers manager Jim Leyland that he saw Donald reach the base before Galarraga tagged it for the force out.

The hours afterwards proved to be toughest for the veteran umpire, as he publically admitted that he missed the call at first, costing the young Tigers pitcher lose his perfect game.

What was more amazing is what happened after the game.  Armando Galarraga was very understanding of what happened after the game.

Joyce and Galarraga met following the game, in which Joyce apologized to Galarraga for missing the call, causing the young pitcher to get what his teammates call a 28 out perfect game.

Then Joyce had to face the public, which is tough for any official to come out and tell anybody, that they blew the call.

“It was the biggest call of my career,” said Joyce, “and I kicked it.  I just cost that kid a perfect game.”

The call came after rookie center fielder Austin Jackson made an over the shoulder catch in the outfield, making it feel like Galarraga was destined to have the perfect game.

When Donald grounded towards first, it was going to be a close play at first.

“I really thought he beat the ball,” Joyce said, giving his initial reaction to the play.  “At that time, I thought he beat the ball.”

After the game, Jim Leyland said that, knowing Joyce, after he sees the replay, he is going to be the sickest man, knowing he missed the call.

Leyland, being around the game for many years, was right.  Joyce apologized profusely to the Tigers, Galarraga, and the public.

As the new day arose, Joyce knew it was going to be one of the toughest day’s of his career.

Joyce apparently had the option not to work today, where he was scheduled to be the home plate umpire in the series finale between the Tigers and Indians.

Dealing with everything that has come about since last night’s call, Joyce indeed reported for work today, behind the plate.  Trying to fight back the tears, Joyce took the lineup cards from the Indians and the Tigers.

Who brought the Tigers’ lineup card out today?  None other than Galarraga, who publically shook Joyce’s hand.

New today was talk about whether or not Major League Baseball Commssioner Bud Selig would make Joyce’s call null and award Galarraga with a perfect game, using the “best interest of the game” clause.

Selig announced today that he would not invoke his powers as commissioner, saying that human judgment is part of the game.  This is the right move by far by Selig.

Utilizing this rule would unlock a can of worms that would bring a bigger black eye to the sport.

The only thing that made this call such a big deal was that it came with the last hitter of a potential perfect game.  If it was with the 6th hitter (2nd inning), this is a non-issue.

But what has happened since then shows what makes America’s past-time so magnificent.  One of the last sports that is still ruled by the human eye, this will bring more talk about expanding replay.

“I know nobody’s perfect,” Galarraga said after the game.

One thing is for certain, while Galarraga was imperfect according to the box score and Joyce imperfect in the call, there is something we have learned that is perfect about both of them.

For everything that each could have said following this, they are both perfect individuals for how they composed themselves after the mess, and for that, I will always respect them for that, even if their careers end tomorrow.

James’ NCAA Conference Realignment Theory

June 1, 2010

With all of the talk of teams switching conferences, it brings to light the ideas about conference realignment.  We talked extensively about it on today’s episode of “Section 26 Sports,” so to make your searching pleasure easier, here are quick links to each part of the realignment theory.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Big Ten Update