Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Sports Talk: A twist on bracketology

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published Mar. 27, 2013. 

I’m always hesitant to fill out my March Madness bracket—mainly because I don’t feel like I have a clue on what is right or wrong, but then again, hasn’t time taught us that not even the experts really know a thing when it comes tournament time?

The beauty of March Madness is you truly do not know what might happen. Even the greatest team may fall unexpectedly due to one bad game.

As usual, I did fill out a bracket—at the last minute. But, as usual, I am glad I did. It’s always 10x more fun to watch and keep up with the games when you have a team to root for or against…. Although, a small part of me sometimes wants the underdog to always win despite what my bracket may say.

One of my biggest disappointments about my bracket usually has to do with my early success that never goes anywhere. I have actually done fairly well certain years in randomly picking the upsets. One year I was even leading at work, which was a pool of nearly 70 people.

However, what’s most disappointing is the early success usually means nothing. You earn so few points in the first few rounds that if you don’t hang on to your final four—or the majority of your elite eight—you’re probably out of luck for winning your pool.

A friend at work has a unique twist on how he and his friends have fun with March Madness predictions and competition. Rather than filling out brackets, they have a draft.
Each person (they have eight total) gets to draft eight teams. Points earned are based on the rank of a team. If your team wins, you collect the number of points of their rank. Suddenly a number one ranked team is not that attractive in your draft.; max, they can earn you six points.

On the flip side, if this year you had drafted Oregon, you would already have 24 points from one team even if they don’t win another game. In this game, it’s a better risk to pick underdogs and hope for upsets than to go with the safe plays.

The 10, 11 and 12 seeds, according to my coworker, are some of the top picks in their draft. They can capture a nice set of points with just a single win, even better with two.
The 5, 6 and 7 seeds are also popular, as they have a chance at advancing into the elite eight. The 1 and 16 seeds are usually the last to go. A top seed maxes out low and a 16 seed’s odds of earning any points are too low.

This game’s winner is usually determined within the first three, maybe four rounds, but I like the new twist it adds to the excitement. I also appreciate that it puts the value in the early wins rather than the final four.  I mean, I might as well try it out next year right? See if my early luck works out for me?

As for this year, I’ve survived the opening weekend of nonstop games with my final four still in tact. OSU and IU gave me a scare there for a minute, but those Cards are staying steady.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sports Talk: Fun with Frisbees

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published Mar. 20, 2013. 
A disc, or Frisbee, is a very under appreciated item in the sports and recreation world.
The simple flat, round flying saucer like item can be used in so many ways to bring entertainment and what’s even better—anyone can do it. No really. I cannot throw a Frisbee straight to save my life.
But even this weekend, I found myself tossing one between myself (who is not very good), my husband (who can throw one in the exact direction he intends for a solid distance) and our three year old nephew (who doesn’t know the difference in throwing it outward and overhanded).
If you’ve never actually used a Frisbee for sport, you’re missing out. Throwing with a dog is great practice, particularly if the dog is trained at retrieving; then it doesn’t matter what direction the disc ends up going, you get it back. But beyond fetch with an animal, there are two games I’ve enjoyed with a disc, despite my inability to throw one straight or far.
One is Frisbee golf. If you’ve ever been to a park and seen the metal structures standing about four feet high with chains hanging down and wondered what the world they are for (I always thought they looked like some sort of space craft), now you know they are for Frisbee golf.
You can actually buy different style discs, similar to the way you have different clubs on the golf course. There are putters and drivers, etc. For me it doesn’t make a lot of difference what kind of disc I’m throwing, I end up in the trees (very similar to my actual golf game). You don’t have to have multiple discs to play the game. One will suffice; however they are smaller than the typical Frisbee.
It’s a fun relaxing activity. If you’ve never played, consider it on one of the non-rainy days this spring. Parks all over Kentucky have courses including one at Henry Jackson Park in Danville, Ky. You can also find them in Somerset, Harrodsburg, Nicholasville—the list goes on.
The second game I enjoy is quite the opposite of Frisbee golf. Aside from involving a disc, Ultimate Frisbee is basically the reverse style game. It is extremely fast-paced and far from what I would call relaxing. Think of it as soccer but with a disc. You’re constantly moving and playing with a team of others.
The beauty of this sport, much like soccer, is that it can be played anywhere with some open space. While competitive leagues exist and official field sizes and goals also exist, a playing field can be any size and a goal can simply be deemed as the space between two objects.
Some people play the sport regularly through the summer, but, again, you do not have to be practiced in it to play. You may not get picked first for teams, but if you’re like me, it doesn’t bother you that much anyway. (I know I’m not very good…)
As the weather turns, consider learning more about one or both of these sports and see what friends may be interested as well. If you’re the highly competitive type and want to stay active through summer, I suggest Ultimate Frisbee. Do some research and see what leagues might be nearby. If you just want a fun activity to enjoy with friends this summer, see what parks near you have a Frisbee golf course.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Memories of a Championship

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published Mar. 6, 2013. The Casey County Lady Rebel basketball team captured the 47th District title the week before.
I found myself slightly surprised when I heard the piece of news that came with the Lady Rebels’ win over Somerset Saturday night that gave them the 47th District title…. It is only the second time in school history for the team to have achieved back-to-back titles.
Really?” I thought.
Then I paused for a moment and realized it was my junior and senior years at Casey the Lady Rebels took back-to-back titles.
Well, no wonder my thoughts on Casey’s ability to claim titles is a bit exaggerated… I have experienced some great luck around the team, so in my mind winning is the only option, right?
We won in 2003, my junior year.
We won in 2004, my senior year.
I was M.I.A. from Casey County and Lady Rebel basketball for the next seven years while living in Louisville.
I returned and began writing in 2012 to see us win.
Now we win in 2013.
From my perspective, it’s been FOUR straight district titles for the Lady Rebels.
So my initial thought of not being able to believe that back-to-back titles were so rare was not out of a sense of arrogance for our team (although, we always have rocked…let’s be honest), but just out of the fact I couldn’t believe that the only two times it had happened were in my most recent Lady Reb experiences.
The ’03 and ’04 wins came within the 45th District, as Casey County did not migrate to the 47th District until ’06.
The 2003 victory was 58-44 win over Boyle County. It was led by a lone senior, Amanda Wethington, along with a strong class of juniors.
In 2004, when those juniors became seniors, Meagan (Murphy) Davidson, Kelli (Warner) Gould, Beth (Patterson) Littlejohn and Tabitha (Yaden) Wesley led the team in a triumph over Danville, 57-46.
Seeing the joy and true sense of accomplishment and victory in the faces of this year’s Lady Rebel team brought back the flood of memories from my on ’03 and ’04 experiences.
While I chose to give up my uniform after my sophomore year, I did stay on the Lady Rebel squad to travel as a manager, as my heart was still in the center of the special team composed of most of my best friends. I was on the bench when the final buzzer rang and were officially champs. I even found a piece of my 2004 net while reminiscing this weekend.
While I got in my car for a quiet drive home with my husband on Saturday evening, I wondered about the special bus ride home the Lady Rebels were having.
Did they have a caravan of cars behind them and in front of them?
Were they singing, laughing and acting a fool? It’s funny how something so simple like that made the night that much more special… Coach didn’t care how crazy we were. For that night, the team earned it. 
Once in city limits, the bus would take us on a lap around the town for congratulations, hootin’ and a hollerin’ from parents, fans, classmates and friends. Back at Casey’s gym we’d continue to celebrate.
Usually by then we had picked out whose house (whichever parent would have us) we would head to for closing out the night. Usually other friends would join us here as well and it would be a late, late night
I’m not quite up on the current traditions for celebrating a district title, but whatever they may be, I hope those girls had a blast on Saturday night with each other, with their coaches and parents, and with all of their best friends and fans.
I can guarantee you that no matter how long basketball stays in your life or how close in touch you keep with those teammates in the future, the memories of celebrating this accomplishment will stay with you.
Now, I just hope my good luck streak with the Lady Rebels and district titles continues…and I have not just jinxed it instead!