The Sports Exchange - weekdays from 4-5pm
With my schedule at WKTY it is usually hit and miss when I am out covering a game. Whenever I go to a sporting event I am always asked if I am "working" or if I am just there to watch a game. I would say more times than not when I am at a game I am "working", my 3 kids aren't old enough yet that I would be covering a sporting event that they are participating in.
On Friday night I covered a game at Onalaska when they were playing against Aquinas. Sometimes when I am covering a football game I sit up in the press box with the rest of the media, that for sure has it's advantages. Not only do you get a perfect view of the game, it is also fairly quiet it makes it much easier to pay attention to the game and the sound quality on the air is probably better too. Up until last Friday night every game that I was covering this season I was sitting in the press box, either at UW-L or at Logan, most stadiums outside of LaCrosse though I end up sitting in the bleachers or standing somewhere along the sidelines.
On Friday night when I was in Onalaska I was sitting in the bleachers, shortly before the game started I saw a familiar face. My old high school football coach from Westby Neil Hoven was at the Onalaska/Aquinas game, he had another man with him that I had never met before it was legendary Aquinas coach Jack Nockles. Coach Hoven greeted me as he always does, with a smile from ear to ear and telling me a joke. As we were sitting there talking about the glory days, Neil started telling me about coach Nockles and how they coached in an all star game together. Coach Hoven had picked him up from the nursing home so he could go and watch his old football team. Coach Nockles had a stroke and no longer talks, but his actions and the expression on his face did all of the speaking for him. It seemed everyone that was wearing Aquinas blue that walked near him he waved to and they all waved back, he knew everyone in the crowd and everyone knew him. His former players came up to him and would shake his hand, there was a man that brought his son up to him so that he could meet "his old football coach". The smile on coach Nockles face is probably still there today, he was so happy to see everyone, and everyone seemed very happy to see him too.
Friday night the game went into 4 overtimes and it ended with a field goal, as far as a high school football game goes and "not having a horse in the race" it doesn't get much better than that. There were rushing touchdowns, passing touchdowns, interception for a touchdown, and game winning field goals. That night though the memory that I will always have is about my old football coach getting one of his old coaching acquaintances out of a nursing home so he could be happy and watch his old team play football. I know this week I am going to be sitting in another press box, but I look forward to the next time that I am part of the crowd while I am "working" at a football game.
This weekend is a HUGE weekend for football all around. In the NFL the Packers and Vikings are looking to rebound from tough week 1 losses, the Bears are going to try to stay on top of the NFC North with a win against the Vikings. In college football the Badgers for the first time this season are a rare underdog going into a game at Arizona State, and the game with the biggest hype of the season is where "Johnny Football" and Texas A&M are going to try to beat Alabama for the second time in 2 years.
On the local stage where there aren't controversies like who got paid for signing what and who should or shouldn't be suspended. In high school football it is a very important week. In the MVC there is a full schedule starting out with Sparta @ Tomah, after tough starts by both teams (0-3) and playing in a tough conference like the MVC wins will be hard to come by for both teams this season, this is a big match up for both teams. Onalaska is at Logan, Onalaska has had a couple tough losses including a conference lost last week to a tough Holmen team, but they also had a big win against their former coach when they held on for a win against West Salem. Logan had a tough loss in the opening week, but since then has had 2 wins including a very impressive win last weekend against a previously beaten Aquinas team. It should be a good match up as well to see if Onalaska can prove they are a contender in the conference or if Logan proves that they are one of the top 2 or 3 teams in the conference. The biggest match up of the night is in Holmen where Central comes to town. Both teams are 3-0 the Central offense is highly flammable, and the Holmen defense has allowed only 3 points all season long, it is a clash is styles, Holmen is big and strong, Central is small and quick. The conference champion very well could be one of the 2 teams playing this game tonight.
In local college football UW-L is trying to rebound from a loss to the University of Dubuque when they play North Central College. Last season UW-L was an underdog against this school and ended up beating them, the question is can they do it 2 times in a row? Saturday afternoon we will find out! The weather forecast looks like perfect football weather, if you can't find a game to go to this weekend, you aren't trying very hard. Good luck to all teams!
There have been a lot of politics tied in with sports as of late. To name a few there was Dennis Rodman going to North Korea, there has been political debates about what has happened at the Boston Marathon. Charles Barkley has taken shots at different political parties, religion has always been in sports. The Miami Heat wore hoodies to support Trayvon Martin not that long ago, and recently the biggest political issue in sports has been when Jason Collins and Brittany Grinner came out and said they were gay.
Sports figures in the past have been associated with political stances as well, this isn't anything new as a matter of fact one of the biggest ties with politics and sports was back in the 30's when Jesse Owens won a gold medal. There was also the 1980 men's hockey team who proved to the world that our will is as strong as any in the world. In the 60's there were many athletes that were protesting the war, and used their fame to gain attention about it, maybe the most famous being Muhammed Ali. And we still celebrate today Jackie Robinson day and what he did for baseball.
The most recent story has been about Vikings punter Chris Kluwe supporting the idea of having gay teammates. Kluwe has been vocal about many issues in the past, and the viking organization has said that they found it amusing. I agree with them, his drawings have been very amusing and his stances on issues while not everyone agrees with all of them are still entertaining and just. I don't know if anyone will know why Kluwe was released by the Vikings, I do know that they didn't have a problem with him last season, but that some started getting fed up with him when he was complaining about having to play a game at the university when the Metrodome roof fell in a couple years ago. The last punter from the Vikings was Mitch Berger, he was known for keeping candy bars in his socks and eating one before he punted the ball. Kluwe will be known for in my opinion something much more important, he will be known for standing up for his beliefs no matter who agreed with him or disagreed with him, even if it cost him his career.
The reason most of us watch sports is to escape reality, unfortunately sometimes sports and reality mix. You can agree with a political stance or you can disagree with it, but there is always something to be said about the one's who are brave enough to take a side and to stick with it. While it is debatable on whether or not it is important to be heard, there is still a lot more to a person than their political views. You know, more important things like can he catch or throw a football, or can he pin the opponenents deep in their own territory..........you know, the stuff that really matters when we are watching them on the field.
Even though the weather doesn't feel like it we are just DAYS away from the start of another baseball season. If you are a Twins fan, you know the feeling of coming off of a 96 loss season. Last season was not one to be optimistic about at all, going into this season for me the only hope is that Mauer stays behind the plate this season and that Justin Morneau can stay healthy. That is a very good 1-2 punch in a lineup and they need to keep those guys on the diamond as much as possible. Speaking of Diamond the kind of season the Twins have could rely on their pitching staff and how well Scott Diamond pitches, if he can stay healthy that is. Playing in a division that includes the Detroit Tigers and the Chicago White Sox does not give you a whole lot of room for error, and this Twins roster at the beginning of the season seems like there is plenty of error.
If you follow the Milwaukee Brewers they are coming off a season where they looked by the end of the season they could possibly make a playoff run only to come up short in the end. The started last season with the Ryan Braun controversy and him winning his appeal of a 50 game suspension, they had signed Aramis Ramirez and had high hopes for Mat Gamel to fill in for the loss of Prince Fielder, add that with Zack Grienke in the starting rotation and John Axford bringing his closing streak to the table and it seemed like the Brewers would be alright. For the most part they were, but they still came up short.
Going into this season Axford's streak is long gone, Grienke is playing anywhere that will pay him the most. Gamel is still hurt, and Ramirez didn't come close to living up to expectations. The only thing that did stick around is the controversy surrounding Ryan Braun. They are not being as "loud" about it this time but there are new stories about 3-5 times a week about the possibility of Braun being suspended after they found his name on a list. You add that with the unknown of the young pitching staff and there are plenty of reasons for doubt about this season.
With all of the negative I just said let me leave you with this. It may or may not be a run for the World Series for the Twins and the Brewers, but a wise man once said it is about the journey not the destination. And this journey consists of playing catch in the backyard while Bob Uecker is firing off one liners and the smell of brats on the grill are in the background. It is tailgating in the parking lot before AND AFTER the game, it is high fiving complete strangers just because they are wearing the same shirt that you are. it is fireworks on a Wednesday night just because they beat the rival. It is that feeling you get in the back of your neck when the music starts playing and you catch a glimpse of the closer coming out of the bullpen. It is the joy and agony of looking at the standings and seeing where your team ranks in the playoff standings. This is only to name a few things, everyone has memories of seasons past that are special memories to just them. If you ask me, World Series or not the journey is MUCH more important than the destination.