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Posts Tagged ‘NHL’

 

Just Play the Game and Roll With It

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

A late season interview with a member of the Washington Redskins heard him remark that a win (while rare for the ‘Skins this season) was fun.  They just played the game, had some fun, and rolled with it.  Some recent antics in sports would seem to dispute that sentiment.

In a game that was billed as the “Crosstown Shootout”, local rivals Xavier and Cincinnati faced off in an annual hoops contest.  Both schools are in Cincinnati, and the annual game is looked forward to by many, much like a VCU vs. U of R game here.

In interviews and on social media during the week leading up to the game there was a significant amount of jawing and braggadocio.  Players and fans of both schools claimed prowess and challenged their opponent’s abilities.  Then came game time.

After Xavier led most of the game and seemed to have victory in hand, the verbal taunting that had ruled the contest blew up into a physical altercation.  With less than 5 seconds left in the game, a Xavier player pushed a Cincinnati player, benches cleared, and fisticuffs ensued.  Players grappled, swung, kicked, and coaches struggled to clear the floor.  In a most egregious display, one player was caught with a blindside punch that left him on the floor, and as he struggled to cover himself was kicked repeatedly.  The end of the melee saw a player standing on the scorer’s table celebrating with the crowd.  At this point, referees called the game.

Things got really interesting after brawl.  For some inexplicable reason, Xavier coach Chris Mack made some of his players available for a post-game news conference.  Tu Holloway of Xavier, who was the celebrant of the scorer’s table, said that their behavior was to be expected.  “That’s what you’re going to see.  We’ve got a whole bunch of gangsters in our locker room.  That’s what we said we were going to do, zip ‘em up,” said Holloway.  Like, zip up a body bag?  Because that’s what gangsters do?

Did we mention that Xavier is a 180-year old Jesuit, Catholic school?

It was a little different across the hall.  Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin lit into his squad and took away their jerseys.  They didn’t deserve them.  He then went in front of the cameras and lamented that most of his squad would be lucky to be representing the school come Monday.  More to the point, he would be lucky to be coaching the team.  Cronin told reporters, “It’s a complete embarrassment no matter who started what.  Toughness is doing the right thing.  True toughness, you walk away from it.”

An Ohio prosecutor was considering pressing charges against some of the aggressors in the brawl.  He later declined to move forward as the schools seemed to have things in hand.  Yancy Gates, who knocked Kenny Frease to the floor with the blindside, received a 6 game suspension.  Tu Holloway, a brazen ringleader, was suspended for one game.

Really?

In 2009, Oregon Ducks running back LeGarrette Blount punched an opposing player after a game.  He was “suspended” for the rest of the year.  He ended up sitting out ten games and is now a Tampa Bay Buccaneer.

Texas Ranger Yorvit Torrealba is keeping in shape this winter by playing in Venezuela.  It was there that the catcher struck an umpire after striking out.  Venezuela has suspended him for 66 games, which is effectively the rest of this year and next season.  Major League Baseball and commish Bud Selig are “looking into it”.

James Harrison of the Pittsburg Steelers and Ndamukong Suh of the Detroit Lions have been fined, chastised, suspended, and vilified.  Both use questionable tactics, but in Suh’s case, he was actually suspended for stomping on a player after a whistle.  Harrison has survived by paying several hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.

And at last we see the return of the NBA.

Players and owners went back and forth for months to see who was greedier.  Just when Disco Sports fans thought all was lost, they came to terms.   Our Christmas gift this year was to get to watch some professional basketball.  In their first game of a ridiculously short season, Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics put his massive hand around an opposing player’s throat.  Perhaps he mistook the nape for a Spaulding.  Kevin’s penalty?  Nada.

If any of these players were gloved up and squaring off in the Octagon then some of this would make some sense.  But it doesn’t.  The New York Times recently did a series on Derek Boogaard, an “enforcer” in the NHL.  An average skater and mediocre stick-man, Boogaard was, at well over 6 and a half feet, respected for his fists.  In a career that took him from Minor League Canadian hockey to the New York Rangers, he played in almost 300 games, scored less than 20 points, and spent over 600 minutes in the penalty box.  He died of a drug overdose of painkillers mixed with alcohol and an autopsy showed a degenerative brain condition caused by concussion.  He was 28.  At least one NHL player has admitted to retiring rather than having to face Boogaard on the ice.

Not a fan of the hockey fight, either.

If two people in a parking lot contested the same parking space and an altercation ensued, there would be consequences.  If one shopper sucker-punched another, charges would be pressed.  If a dispute at the drive-through saw a driver reaching through the window and choking the attendant, someone would be facing jail time.

“sport:  (spohrt) noun:  diversion; recreation; pleasant pastime.  an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess.”

It’s fun.  Just play the game and roll with it.

 

 

 

 

What’s Your Rabbit’s Foot? Disco Sports on Superstition.

Friday, December 9th, 2011
Brian Wilson and The Beard

“Look at the ball.  Don’t look up.  Don’t look up.  Back one step, two steps, and three steps.  Don’t look up.  Don’t look up.  Left once.  Left twice.  Darn.  Looked up.  Look at the ball, don’t look up…”

We’ve all seen the pre-kick ritual.  Watched the player at the foul line bounce once, twice. Watched the golfer look and wiggle and look and wiggle.  Many of us have heard the yell, “Mom!  Where’s my lucky hat?”  We have our own quirks at Disco Sports.

Where is the line between ritual and superstition?  Coaches and sports psychologists have long believed in the importance of a ritual and visualizing a goal.  Much of it helps to build and maintain a particular technique.   A good practice swing.

A study of collegiate athletes in the NCAA found a couple of interesting things:

  • Athletes in individual sports (golf, swimming) had a higher belief in superstition influencing results than team athletes.
  • Female athletes were more influenced than male athletes.
  • Gymnasts used more superstitious rituals than football players.

A different study of Canadian collegiate athletes found variations in the rituals by sport:

  • Hockey players focused on equipment.
  • Basketball players on action like sinking the last warm-up shot.
  • Volleyball players on food.
  • Swimmers on the color of a suit.

Maybe it’s Tiger Woods and his red Sunday shirt.  Maybe it’s Brian Wilson and his beard.  Superstition certainly makes the leap to the pros.  Tiger and Brian aren’t alone.

Kevin Rhomberg of the Cleveland Indians would only turn left.  He also had to touch anyone who touched him.  If he was tagged out he would return to the base to touch the player that tagged him.

Jason Terry of the Dallas Mavericks took a page from Michael Jordan, who famously wore his North Carolina shorts under his Bulls gear.  Except that Terry sleeps in the shorts of his opponent’s team before each game.  At least they were clean.  Steve Kline, a pitcher for the Cardinals would pick a hat, and wear it for every game.  One hat, all season, no washing allowed.

Sometimes it’s food.  Brian Urlacher started each game day with 2 chocolate chip cookies.  Never one, never three.  LSU Coach Les Miles also has a pre-game ritual meal.  He chomps down on a piece of turf.  Keeps him connected to the game.  Does he have to floss after Astroturf?  Wade Boggs was famous for his chicken dinners.

Boggs was also famous for his punctuality.  He always took batting practice at 5:17 and ran sprints at 7:17.  He must have been an influence on slugger Larry Walker.  Walker played for the Rockies, Expos, and Cardinals.  Every batting practice?  3 hits and a rest.  3 swings before every at-bat.  He always set his alarm for 33 minutes past the hour, got married on November 3rd at 3:33 p.m., bought tickets for charities in blocks of 33 seats in section 33, and requested a salary of $3,333,333.33.

Turk WendellThe Kindred Soul Award goes to the duo of Turk Wendell and Mark Fidrych.  Both right handed pitchers, both fan favorites, both superstitious.  Both were notorious hand-shakers, and both had an aversion to the foul line, leaping over it going to and from the dugout.  Fidrych started each inning by carefully grooming the mound and talking to his baseball, while Wendell ended each by brushing his teeth.  Wendell made a fashion statement with a necklace made from the teeth of animals that he’d killed, while Fidrych made his with a mane of unruly hair that earned him the nickname “Bird”, as in Big Bird.  Fidrych liked to take a victory lap around the mound with every strikeout, while Wendell kept his eyes on his catcher.  If his catcher stood, he would squat.  When the catcher went back to his squat, Wendell would stand.  This dance continued into the dugout and the clubhouse.  Musical Bullpen Chairs, anyone?Mark "Bird" Fidrych

 

 

Superstition isn’t limited to baseball or basketball.

Patrick Roy of the Montreal Canadiens was one of the best goalkeepers of all time.  It all started with his goal.  He would start at middle ice, skate backwards to the goal, and whip around at the last minute.  He liked to scare the goal into submission.  He thought that they would shrink in fear.  Like, physically get smaller.  He wasn’t without respect, though.  He would frequently talk to the goal, offer encouragement, and thank the posts for deflections and protecting him.

I wonder if he played against Bruce Gardiner of the Ottawa Senators?  Early in his career, Gardiner was having trouble putting the puck in the net.  A veteran player suggested that he was perhaps too nice to his stick.  “Go dunk it in the toilet.  Show it who’s boss!”  He did, he scored, and for the rest of his career took his equipment to the lavatory before hitting the ice.

If you’re a life-long Redskins fan, there are probably some players and seasons that you’d like to forget.  Do you remember journeyman punter Reggie Roby?  Not the fastest release, not the best hang-time.  The Redskins were one stop in a career that sent him all over the league.  Why do we remember him?  He always wore a watch.  Always.The late Reggie Roby