Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Sports Talk: A fun hypothetical game thought

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published Nov. 28 , 2012.
I’ve held out hope for the last week and a half that I would have reason to write this Sports Talk piece, and, as predicted, I was not let down.
Regular college football season has come to an end and only two teams have maintained a crisp, clean record: Notre Dame and Ohio State. Too bad they will never get the chance to face off.
Anyone who follows college football closely knows that Ohio State was ruled ineligible for post-season play (aka, the BCS) this year and the simplest summary of it I found comes from Allan Brulett, a Bleacher Report correspondent, who wrote:
“The NCAA banned Ohio State from poststeason play this season because five players admitted to receiving freebies and discounts in exchange for memorabilia, and it turned out the Ohio State coach knew about it.”
I understand rules and regulations. I worked three summers with the Governor’s Scholars Program where there are black and white rules and if one is broken, no level of justification, begging, or pleading changes the result. If you start to make exceptions, you are headed down a slippery slope, so I am not here to gripe about the NCAA’s enforcement of a rule.
However, I do think it is necessary to note the punishment received is up for debate. First, the punishment is coming down on a team completely remove of the violations. Second, the violations were not harmful. Just kids being COLLGE kids.
With their faces and names plastered on ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and throughout sporting goods stores, it can easily be forgotten that these guys are not yet pros. While they may have their college paid for, they aren’t exactly rolling in the big bucks and every college kid is up for making some extra cash. So they violated an NCAA rule? Punish them, but I hate that it’s being brought upon a group entirely removed from the scandal of two years ago. (And I’m 99% sure those involved hate that their actions are affecting an innocent Buckeye crew.)  
All I am saying is, it’s too bad the stellar group of athletes this year is paying the price for something they had no hand in.
Honestly, it’s too bad for every team in the Big 10 and NCAA division 1.  Ohio State would likely be a top ranked team in the BCS standings, but instead we will say they just “don’t count” and one lucky team will be spared having to face the Bucks.
I suppose, in the bigger scheme of things, being that college football does not have a playoff system in place (and won’t for another two years), and the BCS is simply a bunch of sports analyst “experts” choosing each individual BCS matchup, it takes away some of the blow. Ohio State just won’t earn a match up from by a so-called expert this year.
Reality is even if Ohio State was playing a BCS game, it wouldn’t necessarily be Notre Dame but one can’t help but wonder how a game would turn out. Their last meeting was the 2006 Fiesta Bowl where OSU took the title; however, when I asked former Casey News sports writer (and big brother, Buckeye fan), Nic Dixon, his thoughts on a hypothetical meeting, he bowed to Notre Dame’s defense, accepting that OSU’s defense would have trouble stopping the Fighting Irish. Then again, that may have been a standard prediction prior to many of Ohio’s 2012 games, but somehow they always pulled out the ‘W’. Bottom line is, we will never know.
For me, there is a bittersweet side to the fact Notre Dame and Ohio State will never play this season: I truly love both teams. (Of course, on the occasion the two do play, I’ll be sporting scarlet and silver every time.)
I’m proud and excited for both undefeated teams. I am so happy that Urban Meyer has found a way maintain the Buckeye Nation I love, no matter what stipulations the NCAA casts upon the powerhouse. No BCS playoffs? Who cares! We had a tremendous season of cheering O-H-I-O in their come-from-behind wins and can now close it out with a victory over Michigan that rounds out a loss-less season. Not too much to complain about.
Believe it or not, rooting for Notre Dame has not just come about due to my Hoosier husband. Whether it’s the Catholic thing, the incredibly beautiful campus, or the inspirational tale of Rudy, I find it impossible to dislike Notre Dame football. With their legacy of championships, it was only during my college days I began to question why “Notre Dame football” was held in such high esteem when, in fact, (cough) they weren’t all that good…
I’ve enjoyed their returned power in the past few seasons, peaking (so far) with this one. Nothing would make me happier than seeing their first national title since 1988 come with a victory over Alabama, if planets align for such a match-up in January. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sports Talk: The Trifecta is to Strike Again

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published Nov. 14, 2012. 
Well, well, well, look at that wouldcha now! The trifecta states of Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana lead the pre-season basketball rankings and are expected to be dominant forces yet again this year. Last week’s debut of games finally gave us all the taste of our teams we’ve all been waiting for and, luckily, we have no reason to doubt the rankings yet.

I am happy to see Indiana atop this list not simply because my husband is a Hoosier, but because of what Indiana basketball was throughout my childhood. Unfortunately the team began to slip on the radar as I grew older and did not even make NCAA tournament appearances a couple of times in the last decade.  Then an unfortunate Kelvin Sampson era only brought a bigger negative light to what was once a revered college basketball program.

I love that despite coming in with a 6-25 season—the worst in school history--Tom Crean has managed to not only keep the favor of the school and fans, but turn around began as a depleted team when he took over in 2008. Four years later, he has a team that consists of seniors who were merely freshmen during that 6-25 season but have stuck with him and took fifth in the tournament last year and are now holding the number one pre-season ranking. Hoosier basketball is back, baby!

My Facebook feed flooded with the name “Jarrod Polson” last Friday when the junior was the clutch player in the Kentucky win over Maryland. As the number three ranked team and defending national champions, it’s nice to already see the Wildcat bench is something to be worried about as much as the big name recruits John Calipari landed the last several months.

Last year’s dominant forces (that are now gone…) were a thrill, but a team needs bench depth and Polson’s performance proved that opponents will need to worry about more than those new recruits. While bringing in the best of the best was part of the coach’s tactic for replacing what went pro, he has not neglected the skill sets that have been sporting blue and white and working under him in previous seasons. I am hopeful Calipari will bring Big Blue Nation another loveable season.

On the flip side, while I do want to see a fun, winning Wildcat season, I am equally if not more excited about the Cardinal season with their pre-season number 2 rank. Because of UK’s basketball legacy, the Cards have always been overshadowed with its fan base being centered primarily around city residents, students and alums. However, the last 10-15 years, with thanks to Rick Pitino, UofL basketball has become a presence in the national scene.

After losing to UK in the final four, Louisville did not see their roster take an exit for the big leagues, but instead saw some seniors graduate and a few players transfer out. While UK fans were quite proud of their number one and two draft picks , I know Cardinal fans are proud to support a top-ranked team made up of the standard student-athletes who are pursuing educational goals as a primary focus. I am excited for Peyton Siva’s senior season. Even if you don’t care for UofL Siva deserves your respect simply for his personal story and the type of leader he is on and off the court.

Last but not least, are them Buckeyes! Most often football is the spotlight sport for Ohio State University. (Not to mention their marching band, of course!) I am always excited to see OSU’s basketball team in the higher ranks despite the shadow cast by football—and to prove their athletics are more than a one-sport-wonder.

There is no doubt I’m sad to be without Jared Sullinger, but Aaron Craft may have been my preferred Buckeye the last two seasons anyway. With defense having always been my (self proclaimed) specialty as a basketball player, I love watching Craft put pressure on an offense. The guy has averaged over two steals a game during his college career and, to me, nothing feels better than coming out of nowhere to snipe the ball. I sure hope he doesn’t disappoint this season.

Of course, we all know, pre-season rankings mean very little except to put excitement in the hearts of fans and give more to celebrate when a lower ranked team defeats a top 20 team. It’s nice to be officially into the season, and it makes me that much more excited to see our Rebels and Lady Rebels jump into play as well in the very near future.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Fall's evolution of color

I love October and am always sad to see it go. However, the fleeting array of colors the Bluegrass state is naturally blessed with in its trees and wildlife are a true blessing from our great Creator. No one can create beauty like Him. I get a little nuts with my camera during these special weeks of the season. In the blink of an eye we go from green glory to nearly bare branches. But for a moment in between, there is magic.

October 2012, you were lovely. Thank you.