Friday, March 26, 2010

Your shining moments

Wow, there were some great responses to my column last week on shining moments. Here are some of my favorites. We'll start off with the "One Shining Moment" video from last year. You can play the music as you read... and it's a nice balm for those of you who might be Tar Heel fans. There's a lot here, but it's good all the way to the end. Enjoy.

I too had a shining moment concerning softball. As a 4th grader at Collinswood Elementary School in the school year of 1959/1960, we had "recess" each day as an entire class. Usually, the girls jumped rope or played hopscotch while the boys played ball together. On certain days, the teacher made us all play together. One spring day, that occasion arose when 2 boys were named "captains" to choose sides for the whole class to play softball together. The boys moaned as much about the situation as the girls did but generally, the girls all were sent to outfield where we "congregated" in constant chatter playing very little attention to the game. Actually, few balls came to the outfield anyway and if they did, the infield boys covered our territory if possible, deeming us incompetent as fielders.

As my team was in the field for the final inning, we were ahead by 1 run. As the opposing team had one final out remaining, a really good hitter (boy, of course) came to bat. He slugged it deep into the outfield straight toward me. Our captain began screaming at me to catch it, knowing if I didn't I would be the scapegoat for the loss that day knowing a dropped ball would surely allow a score by the opposing team.

I HATED catching fly balls!! It seemed like eternity for the ball to reach me as I panicked...

The yells were in unison for me to catch it. I was positioning myself underneath the spot I thought it would drop as I picked up the full and gathered skirttail on my blue corduroy jumper to provide a large "net". I held my skirttail out as fully as possible and I did, in fact ,"catch" the ball...BATTER OUT!

My team won! Game over... my teammates were ecstatic, yelling my name in victory. The boys even ran to congratulate me on a great "catch" while the girls screamed that I showed my petticoat to all the world while I held up my skirttail as a "glove". I could have cared less....the boys all talked about my "catch" as we all went back into the classroom. For that one (and only) day, I had a shining moment as the heroine and it felt great!

--Vicki Lowery

We love baseball and the lessons it teaches our kids... Often the lessons are about perseverance, learning from mistakes and other character building issues. The summer of 2008 brought a great opportunity for my son's Cal Ripken 12 Year Old All Star team at the Matthews Athletic Association.

Michael had seen a hot summer of daily practices leading up to the State Tournament - a shoulder injury kept him from playing much of the tournament.

Although his team did not do well in the State Tournament, they had been awarded a spot in the Southeastern Regional Tournament that Mara was hosting later in July. He was missing his last year of church camp for the tournament, but thought this special tournament would be worth it. Their team, the Nationals, lost their first game. The coach did not see his abilities quite as his parents did (ha! isn't that always the case!) and he had not played much that game. He was very discouraged. In the second game he was given more opportunity in the field and did well, but the host team was behind by one in the bottom of the 6th and looked like they might not come away with a win at all. 2 outs - runners on 2nd and 3rd, Michael's up to bat - I can't remember the count - I was too nervous for him. But he came through with a fabulous line drive through 1st and 2nd - one run scored, the second runner comes in with a terrific slide to win the game.

Michael was awarded "Player of the Game" in the Ceremony afterwards - a great memory for a 12 year old!!

Can't get enough baseball !! (or softball, for my girls!!)

-- Beth Henry

The year was 1971 and I was a tenth grader at a boarding school called The Episcopal High School. If the game involved any coordination I was at the bottom of anyone's list. I could, however, run. I was a JV middle distance runner on the indoor track team. The Varsity needed someone to be second to our star, Brian Ross, in a 600 meter run. Coach Jim Sidulie told me before the meet that I would be in that event. I did not know what to do so I sat on Brian's shoulder. I had no thought of winning, Brian was a senior and very strong. The two of us easily pulled away from the field. It first hit me at the top of the back stretch on the last lap that I felt good. So I hit the accelerator and went by Brian. He had nothing left and I cruised in for the win. One of Coach Sidulie's policies was that the first EHS runner in the 600 anchored the 4 x 400 relay. Three seniors and me in the last event of the meet. We won that too.

That was my greatest day in sports.

-- Garry Ballenger

I had an unexpected shining moment. I was a junior English/Latin major at UNC-G entering student teaching. In the early phase at Page High in Greensboro, my supervising teacher, Iris Hunsinger, stayed in the room. My senior English class was canvassing TV watchers about their preferences and hours of show-watching. A girl named Allen raised her hand and told the class about what she had learned from neighbors. Her voice was raspy, but not exceptionally so. At the end of class, my teacher told me that Allen hadn't spoken aloud in years. As though a fairy godmother tapped my head with her wand, I felt certain that I was meant for my chosen profession, teaching language arts.

-- Mary Ellen Snodgrass

I had the exact same play happen to me when I played left field as a 10-year-old. But here's my other one: the following year, While waiting on deck I overheard the other team's coach tell the pitcher "just throw strikes". When I got to bat, the first pitch was eye-level for a ball. Now playing catcher, I knew the pitcher would aim better for the strike zone and probably take a little off of it. It was a dream pitch, eye-level and just above the knee. With my trusty 29 inch "Al Kaline" bat I leaned into it and followed through with my swing. 2 steps towards first I looked to left field to see if it may just be a home run. Richard Smith, whom I'm still friends with today 49 years later, went all the way back to the fence and lifted his glove high. Leaning on the fence, the sun must have gotten in his eyes because the ball hit him in the head and went over the fence! The umpires stopped me at second base while they conferred with another man in the bleachers that said if the ball hit the fence and went over, it was a ground-rule double. WRONG! I was robbed of my first home run! But I'll never forget that day and glow of confidence it gave me from then on. this happened in 1962 at Westover Hills Park across from the old Revolution swimming pool.

-- Randy Martin

In 1992, my partner, Annie, died of breast cancer. After moving to Charlotte soon afterwards and many years later of not knowing how to grieve or really how to move past the grief, an opportunity arose to bring the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure to Charlotte. I fell in love with their four-fold mission of education, prevention, providing treatment and funding cutting-edge research, and thought that this could be my way to help. The Charlotte Observer picked up the story and wrote about my idea. The result was that women from all over Charlotte Mecklenburg called to say they wanted to help.

With a core group of dynamic women planning together, the sky was the limit, and we all felt it and knew we were on to something big. When we were finally approved to bring the Race to Charlotte, our race date was not to happen for a year and a half – October 4, 1997. However, we needed every minute of those 18 months to plan a successful event, and success we had. We expected 1,000 runners and walkers, but received over 2,300! The Mint Museum on Randolph Road and the Eastover neighborhood behind it was brimming sidewalk to sidewalk with thousands of people providing their time, energy and dollars to find a cure for breast cancer. My lifetime shining moment: when our 30 or so breast cancer survivors released their pink balloons (representing the number of years they have survived) into the sky and our first annual Charlotte Race For The Cure was finally over…only our feelings of hope, strength and love would be with us throughout the year… until the next race and then we would do it all over again.

-- Penelope Wilson

Mine is not about me but about our son, Jon's moment, some 30 years ago when he made an unassisted triple play while playing second base in t-ball. Jon was the second baseman with runners on first and second. The hitter hit one right at him. Jon caught it and as his hand came down, he tagged the runner who was going from first to second. Jon then ran to second to complete the play. Sports editor Bob Quincy caught the moment for posterity -- mainly because his son Mark was playing on Jon's team.

-- Alex Coffin

Today, as we are surrounded by every sport imaginable (luckily 24 hours a day thanks to the electronic world we have come to depend upon) my “One Shining Moment” came in a much simpler time. Like so many of us who are now approaching retirement, we had our special sporting moments in the heat of summer playing organized baseball for the first time..

My team, The Bugs, were part of the opening ceremony for a new season and a brand new ball field to be dedicated that day. We were led by Coach Kipp. A chiseled and grizzled retired Marine who had come through WW II and Korea. As the ceremonies began and my team mates and I stood on the foul lines in as straight a line as 12 year olds could make. Hats held over our hearts, I found myself beside Coach Kipp who was standing ram rod straight as any Marine would do. With the ceremonies nearing completion it was time for the national anthem to be played as the American flag was raised. Just as the anthem was reaching its end, I glanced at Coach Kipp who was as tough a disciplinarian as I had met and found tears streaming down his cheeks. I asked him “Coach, what’s wrong?” He replied through quivering lips, “Son, promise me that every time you attend a sporting event and they play that song and raise that flag you will think of this day and remember that without that flag and all it stands for…along with the men and women who have died for it… you and the rest of these kids would never have had the chance to play this or any other game of your own free will.” With that he saluted the flag, wiped his tears and returned to the same tough drill sergeant he had been before that shining moment.

So even now some 50 years later, after all the sporting events I have attended, my one shining moment is with me each time that flag is raised and as Coach Kipp asked, I never forget the freedoms that flag has allowed me to enjoy all these years. My “One Shining Moment” has lasted a life time. The balls I caught, the ones I dropped along with the games won and lost have begun to fade but that Shining Moment remains forever.

-- Wayne Harrison

My shining moment also involved a baseball glove.

My family moved from Greenville, SC to Raleigh in 1967 when I was in the seventh grade.
The next summer my Dad took me to little league tryouts. (I had participated for a couple of summers, but this was before everyone got "participation" trophies. My teams were known as losers.)

After all of the league's teams had made their picks and filled their rosters, there were enough of us skill challenged kids left over for a team. The leftover Dads talked it over for a few minutes and a couple of them volunteered (or drew the short straws) to coach a team.

We not only didn't win a game all season we didn't even score. I don't even remember any of those regular season games or any of the other kids on the team.

After the regular season, the league had a tournament and since we were in last place, we played the first place team.

They came in to the game laughing at us, but we took the field anyway and I headed to my spot at third base.

First pitch, long fly ball to center field and some other kid on my team had his shining moment, very similar to yours. Alright! One out and we're still tied 0-0. Bring on the next batter! Well, he got a hit. Somebody in the outfield actually fielded the ball and made a throw to the shortstop (who caught it!) to cut him off at second. Well OK! Two batters, one out and no runs yet. This was unfamiliar territory for us. Third batter steps up and here comes a screaming line drive down the third base line right at my head. Self preservation instinct took over and I stuck my left hand out while I turned my head to protect my face. Man that ball stung when it hit the middle of my glove. It took me a second to realize I had caught it, then I lifted my head and looked around. The runner on second had taken a big lead off the base and was going to steal third even if there had not been a hit and he was trying to stop to keep from hitting me. I remember the look on his face as he realized his plan to bowl me over was not going to work and he needed to get back to second. I took a step towards him as he wheeled around thinking I could tag him, but instead tossed it to the kid at shortstop and he tagged him. WOW! A double play and I had been part of it! We had held the best team in the league scoreless for the first inning.

The rest of the game is pretty hazy, but I do remember those three quick outs shook that other team's confidence and that was a win for us!

-- Mark Puckett

I read your article and decided I should perhaps, share one of my shining moments that would eventually define me in my adult years. Surely, it isn't anything spectacular, nor is it something that would alert the paparazzi, but it was my own little revolution in a world full of "No". In the aftermath of St. Patrick's Day, I am reminded by a very unique St. Patrick's Day when I was 10 years old.

I became deaf at five years of age. Mind you, this was in the early eighties - when embracing disabilities and diversity was not yet in vogue. To say the least, it was a maddening experience - doctors, oceans of white lab coats, poking and prodding, hearing aids, bulky FM systems strapped to my chest- which was literally "the weight of the world on my shoulders" - a bit too heavy for a five year old. At the time, deaf culture and sign language was thrust into the dark ages. Mainstreaming was "in" - this meant being in "special" education among hearing children.

While my classmates enjoyed part-time kindergarten, learning to make colorful accidents with paint, musical chairs, and plaster of paris reliefs, I was a full-time student. Mornings were spent in speech therapy, auditory training, and a replete boot camp regimen of "how to be hearing: 101". When lunchtime rolled around, I was finally allowed to join my classmates fresh off the bus, an influx of chatter, glee, and laughter. But I was already dead tired and held a secret grudge against the other kids.

It went on like this all through elementary school. I always lost at musical chairs. I was always the late starter in the fifty-yard dash, and always watched with envy, the school's St. Patrick's Day musical program which we, the "special" kids were not allowed to participate in.

Finally, in 5th grade, I worked up enough courage to politely inform my "special teacher" Ms. Lee, that I WILL participate in the musical program. With one eyebrow raised, staring down at me over a cup of sugary coffee- she gave a long pause. I was adamant, tired of speech therapy - I firmly told her that I will go to chorus class with my friends in the afternoon. Ms. Lee finally put down her coffee, and said "why don't we go talk to the music teacher?"

I stood my ground and told her that I want to be in the program, and I want to compete against Eleanor (the school's fastest limerick speaker in the musical program). She hesitated and looked at me incredulously, looked at Ms. Lee, then looked back at me a few times. The women shared a silenced of stunned chagrin. I was handed the score, and the words to the limericks.

Over three months, I practiced tirelessly with my speech teacher, memorizing tongue placements, speed, pitch, you name it, I tried it. Once a week, I would join Chorus Class with my classmates and learn the words to the songs as well.

Mind you, I couldn't hear anything - therefore, I couldn't carry a tune, couldn't match a pitch, nor could I keep tempo to save my life. I was told to lip-sync, which I did - grudgingly.

St. Patrick's Day rolls around - the school files into the auditorium. Eleanor steps up to the podium and went through the limerick of Irish surnames so fast, I'm not even sure I had a chance to blink. Thunderous applause ensued, and my heart sank to the pit of my stomach. I was next! The spotlight, the sheer heat of it was blinding - on top of not hearing anything at all.

I took a deep breath and belted out the words, forcing my tongue and my voice this way and that - like dance choreography I had tattooed into my mind. I finished, slowly walked back to my mark, and saw a good number of people standing - everyone was applauding! I grew an entire foot taller.

Then the Irish-themed songs started, and the chorus began to sing. I looked at the Chorus teacher leading, followed her lips, and belted out each and every word.
In hindsight, I'm sure it was not music to anyone's ears. At 31, I still can't carry a tune, still lose at musical chairs, am the late starter in any track race, but never believe anybody when they say "you can't." I can, as sure as Irish eyes are smiling, that little 10 year old rebel can.

-- S. Jordan Wright

A middle school basketball game, we’re playing one of our rivals and the gym is packed. We’re down one and the clock is ticking, I get a pass on the wing (This is before the three point line, so it's ancient history, shortly after peach baskets!) And throw up a shot from the baseline, my favorite spot on the court (Remember the old “fan” style backboards?), and it rattles out. There’s a BIG “sigh” from the home crowd! I’m in a daze and cannot belief I missed from my favorite spot. The world comes crashing down on me as the opponents dribble the ball toward their bucket. It seems that I’m all alone!

But wait, one of my teammates makes a steal and chucks the ball toward me and I happen to be standing under the basket. I make the catch and throw in the lay-up, and as the ball comes thru the net the horn sounds. The place goes bananas and I’m being mobbed by teammates and cheerleaders. (Probably the only time in my middle school life that a girl actually hugged me!)

The next day I was still on “cloud nine”. I actually asked the little red-headed girl (Julie) in front of me in Chemistry class for a date. Unfortunately, basketball season had turned into baseball season and I struck out! Good Grief!

-- Ruben

I was one of those kids who was never good at sports; the one never picked, but appointed to a team during gym class. It wasn't until I was 35 that I found out that the operation I had on my eyes back in the 50s to correct lazy eye had cost me my depth perception. I could not see a ball coming at me until it was too late to react,so to eighth graders, I was just a klutz.

One day it was the classic last inning with 2 out and basses loaded and my team down by 2...........and I'M up to bat. The groan of my team was deafening.......... until I hit that ball. Well, I stopped at 3d base to see where it went and a boy was still running after it! So I leisurely walked to home plate, and for just that one day, I was a hero!

-- John Denti

I have made the winning shot at the buzzer,and I have scored the go-ahead touchdown.But my shining moment was being surrounded by all four of my grandchildren at the same time for the first time!

-- Ike Grainger

Playing basketball my senior year against our arch rival... ballgame tied in the 4th quarter with less than 15 seconds left... ball inbounded to me - the point guard, and as my coach is frantically calling time out I dribble the length of the court, weaving between their players, and swish the game winning shot at the buzzer. I found out later that no one heard my coach calling time out except the players on the other team, so the players were walking off the court for a time out that was never granted. Apparently, that's how I made it down the court with such little resistance! My coach told the reporter that it was his "brilliant coaching maneuver" that allowed the last second shot to be made! We still laugh about it to this day, more than 20 years later!

-- Susan Wolford

I was 51 years old when I had a moment I will never forget. On January 6, 1990, I set the N.C. state record for anyone 50 or over in 2:59.16 at the Charlotte Observer Marathon. This didn't happen by accident. I started running as a 40 year old 180 lb. English teacher at St. Stephens High School. I had been asked to coach a men's cross country team in 1978. I had never been on a team before . No little league, no middle school teams, and really no high school teams( Basketball and Baseball were the only sports available, and as a country boy, I had no way of getting to or from practices) were available for a young man graduating from high school in 1956 in Catawba County. After holding a watch and coaching for a year, I started running with my teams. Three years later at age 43, I ran my first marathon ( Charlotte Observer-1982) in 3:10.

I ran The Boston Marathon in 1984 in 3:10, passing 903 runners. That was a great experience, but it was not the moment I will never forget. I coached cross country and track at St. Stephens Higfh for 15 years, winning 14 Conference Championships. Two of my runners made all-state, and two were State Champions in the 3200 in track. After retirement in 1993, I coached cross country at Lenoir-Rhyne University for 4 years as head coach. For the last 4 years, I have been a volunteer assistant track coach at L.R. As a head coach in high school and college, I posted a record of 643 team wins and 252 losses. I have been honored to have coached such great young men and women.

But, the moment I will never forget is when I crossed the finish line in Charlotte in 1990, finishing 59th over-all, first in age 50 and over, with a State Record of 2:59.16 at age 51, weighing 145 lbs., soaking wet. This moment happened because a country boy, who had never been on a team, was willing to run up to 85 miles a week (with a year around base of 50 miles per week). This State Record held up for 17 years.

-- Loyd Hoke Jr.

There are memories of moments or events that will stay with you forever and this is one of those. Spring had arrived and I had promised my son, David, that I would take him bass fishing at a friend’s farm pond .This trip was going to be different because he would be graduating from cane pole fishing to using a spinning rod and artificial bait for the first time. It was a perfect spring day when everything sounded alive and awake and I could tell by the looks of the pond that we would have good fishing. After teaching him the basics of casting and using artificial worms it was time to fish. On his second cast he caught a 2lb Bass and we did a victory dance with lots of whooping and hollering. I put the bass on a stinger and in the excitement of the moment threw the bass and stringer in the water! Off swam the bass with the stringer in his mouth! Wow! I felt like I had just shot Bambi! My son cried; I cried and I prayed a small prayer, “Please, Lord, Let David catch another fish”.

Well, he caught eight more Bass that spring day and I only caught two! I will never forget his excitement as he ran up and down our street showing his friends his stringer of fish! I’m retired now and my son has grown into a fine man who has become my best friend. I’m happy to say that he has passed his passion for fishing to his sons and they share lots of fishing together. I recently picked the hobby of fishing back up after years of not fishing and that memory of David’s first Bass; well, it was like it happened yesterday!

-- Dave Causey

When you're a kid and basketball is your thing, you shoot until you make ten in a row or you can't go home. You shoot from half court as you count down, three, two, one........."He scores!!! So & so wins in triple over time on Waters' half court hook shot!"

Well, for me in little league years, I was like you and that Rexall Drugs baseball glove. After sixth grade, my friends grew twelve inches taller into young men and women with hair and muscles and stuff. I stayed a kid.

I couldn't compete in team sports any more. So I took up Golf and Table Tennis/Ping Pong. I placed 2nd in the YMCA Table Tennis Tournament, losing to Bobby Snyder, who won it every year it was ever held. He also played middle linebacker.

Golf became everything to me. I caddied for my dad, (the bag was bigger than me), hit hundreds of balls a day on the range, picked up the balls on the range, brought out the carts in the early morning, and would go out and play four balls around eighteen holes every day all summer long. Pretending the balls represented me, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino and Tom Weiskopf.

At thirteen years old, I made a hole in one. I'd one upped my Dad already. He played to the tune of a zero handicap for nine years but never had a hole in one.

At 16 years old, I was playing in junior inter-club matches. We at Riviera Country Club would play against the juniors at Scioto or Muirfield or some other central Ohio clubs.

Well, Jack Nicklaus was from Upper Arlington where Scioto Country Club was located. The day I went to play there, I was matched against a very tall Jack Nicklaus Jr. You've seen him carrying Jack's bag on TV many times, including Jack's last major win at the Masters at the age of 46.

That day I was so nervous there was no spit in my mouth to swallow. We played nine hole matches. I teed off the first hole and hit it as good as I could about 190 yards right up the middle. My friend caddying for me punched me in the arm and exclaimed you nailed it! The punch hurt and then Jack Jr hit his about 250 yards down the middle of the fairway. I was in for a long day.

Long story short, as we approached the seventh green, I was two up. I placed my approach shot on the green. Jack Jr. hit it pin high about 25 yards to the right of the green. We got rained out and walked in.

Neither club was declared a winner and the rematch never materialized.

Good enough for me. I picked up my bag and floated to the parking lot. My caddy friend could barely keep up. I remember it like yesterday. I can smell the grass and feel the eternal grin of the Golf godz on me!

Two up, two to go, I'm putting and he's off the green.....

I'm calling it a win for the ages!

-- David Lee Waters Sr.

A shining moment happened to me many years ago; Donna and I had been in our house on Mimosa Ave. for about eight years from 1984. Our neighbor, a guy named Spencer, had moved in a couple of years before and had become a good neighbor and a friend.

That summer, about 1992, Spencer had been diagnosed with AIDS and was going through a very rough patch; all of us on the street looked out for him and gave him what support we could. It was probably never enough, but we did our best.

One day, I was out hanging up clothes in the bright sunshine; a weekend with chores to do and other stuff to think about. To pass the time, I started singing; I sang whatever came to mind, but finally settled on my favorite hymns from my childhood.

As I sang, I let the words and music carry me to a gentle place, a place without fear, and a place where I just felt good. I sang with my heart, my voice, and my soul and it made me feel great.
At one point in this self concert, I noticed that someone was on the other side of the fence. I realized that it was Spencer, with his mother; she had brought him out of his house to be in the sunshine and be around the flowers in his garden.

They had stopped to listen to me sing.

Instead of stopping or saying hello, I continued singing. I sang as if this was going to be my last time singing; I sang because this person was paying me the greatest compliment a performer could get: he stopped what he was doing and let my singing transform his day.

As I finished singing a him (I think it was "Come Thy Fount of Every Blessing"), I walked to the fence to thank Spencer for his kindness.

He beat me to it: he thanked me for sharing my songs and for making his day brighter.

My shining moment was being able to share my song with someone who used it to mitigate their own pain; for a a little while, I helped him sing, too.

-- Alvin Johnson

To appreciate my "One shining moment" you will have been born before 1950 or be a really big football fan.

I was a skinny lad and a freshman in high school in Omaha, Nebraska. As I lined up for my heat of the 100 yard dash (yes, yards and not meters) I looked to my right and eyed a muscular young fellow from our school's main rival.

For some reason, I was quite fast back then and I ran the race of my life. When I finished first I looked over to my right and saw that other guy's friends congratulating him. "Nice going Gale, you're getting faster and you're going to kill them in football next year." He did too for this guy was none other than Gale Sayers and he did kill them in football the next year and for many years thereafter.

-- Michael Fortune

Monday, March 22, 2010

A few thoughts on health care

1. This is like any other big change in our lives, like buying a house or taking a new job -- some of the things that will be a big deal are things we haven't even thought about, and a lot of the things we're worried about will not be a big deal. I'm glad the health-care bill passed. But of course there will be problems with it, and it'll be inefficient in places, just like every other government project from Social Security to the military. Whatever the problems are, at least in my mind, are not as important as the prospect of providing health insurance for millions of uninsured Americans.

2. As much as all of us would love for government to be clean and clear, it's always messy and confusing and frustrating. President Obama and his Congressional leaders did what every other president and Congress has done -- they used the power they had to do what they think is important. That's what we elect them to do.

3. As a purely political issue, I suspect this will help Republicans in the midterm elections this fall, because most of the benefits of health-care reform won't have kicked in yet. By 2012, as the heat dies down and some of the benefits take effect, it'll be a plus for Democrats. After that, it won't be much of an issue one way or the other. It'll just be part of our lives.

4. One of the underrated effects of health-care reform is actually, I'd think, something conservatives would like -- it'll now become easier to freelance or start your own business. Most of us get insurance through our employers, and for most of us it's way too expensive to buy on our own. Now freelancers or entrepreneurs can go to a national insurance exchange to find a better deal. (Here's a Q&A on the topic from August -- I don't think the details are out of date, but holler if they are.)

5. I listened to a little bit of Rush Limbaugh today, wondering if he'd mention anything about Costa Rica. He said on his show recently that health-care reform might force him to "go to Costa Rica" -- although he said later that by "go," he didn't mean "move," he meant "fly there for treatment." Either way, I didn't hear him mention it, but I didn't catch the whole show. Did he bring it up?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

My brackets

If you're reading this you probably know all about "One Shining Moment," the subject of my column this morning, but it never hurts to watch a few before the tournament starts to get fired up. Here's the one from two years ago, featuring some (but not enough) of Davidson's run to the Elite Eight.

Not especially happy with my picks this year -- not enough upsets. I wouldn't mind winning my pool, but it would be so much better if I won because I had Cornell making the Final Four or something. I don't see a Davidson this year.

Upsets in bold.

Rounds 1&2

East: Kentucky over East Tennessee State, Texas over Wake, Cornell over Temple, Wisconsin over Wofford, Marquette over Washington, New Mexico over Montana, Missouri over Clemson, West Virginia over Morgan State. Round 2: Kentucky over Texas, Wisconsin over Cornell, New Mexico over Marquette, West Virginia over Missouri.

South: Duke over ARK-PB, Louisville over Cal, Utah State over Texas A&M, Purdue over Siena, Notre Dame over Old Dominion, Baylor over Sam Houston, St. Marys over Richmond, Villanova over Robert Morris. Round 2: Duke over Louisville, Utah State over Purdue, Baylor over Notre Dame, Villanova over St. Marys.

Midwest: Kansas over Lehigh, Northern Iowa over UNLV, Michigan St. over New Mexico St., Maryland over Houston, San Diego St. over Tennessee, Georgetown over Ohio, Georgia Tech over OK St., Ohio State over UCSB. Round 2: Kansas over Northern Iowa, Michigan St. over Maryland, San Diego St. over Georgetown, Ohio State over Georgia Tech. (I have pretty much ensured that San Diego State will lose in the first round by 20.)

West: Syracuse over Vermont, FSU over Gonzaga, Butler over UTEP, Vandy over Murray St., Xavier over Minnesota, Pittsburgh over Oakland (only if Franco Harris is healthy), BYU over Florida, Kansas St. over North Texas. Round 2: Syracuse over FSU, Butler over Vandy, Xavier over Pitt, Kansas St. over BYU.

Sweet 16: Kentucky over Wisconsin, New Mexico over West Virginia, Duke over Utah State, Baylor over Villanova, Kansas over Michigan St., Ohio State over San Diego St., Syracuse over Butler, Xavier over Kansas State. (I have now ensured that Xavier will lose in the first round by 30.)

Elite 8: Kentucky over New Mexico. Baylor over Duke. Kansas over Ohio State (best game in the tournament -- I would've picked Ohio State for the Final Four in any other bracket). Syracuse over Xavier.

Final Four: Kansas over Syracuse. Kentucky over Baylor.

Title game: Kentucky has so much talent, but they've been on the edge of flaming out all season. This is when it happens. Sorry, Ashley Judd. Kansas, 83-61.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Reactions to the Jake column

By now I've written a couple thousand columns, and one thing I've learned is that you can never predict how readers will react. People have loved some columns that I thought were barely publishable, and hated some of my favorites. And a few columns I've felt great about have landed on the page to the sound of crickets. There's nothing worse than no response at all.

But I've never been more surprised at how y'all responded to a column than I am about my Sunday column on Jake Delhomme.

The column was about Jake's tears at his farewell press conference, and my take that he cried because he knew his prime as an NFL player was past.

I'm used to some people agreeing with the column and others disagreeing. But y'all took this column in two entirely different ways. It's like you were reading two different columns.

Let me try to sum it up through some of your comments:

From Carol Connor (mother of Panthers LB Dan Connor):

Wow. I've never written to a sportswriter before about an article, but this was such a meaningful one (Saturday's paper). I'm sure he cried again when he read it, we all did. It reminded me of the recent animated movie, keeps moving on and we don't even know how quickly it's passing us by. I am saving this article. Loved it.

From Rick:
The article you wrote, "The Real Reason Behind Jake's Tears" is a really good piece. It touches on what every human being experiences at some point in their life. It was not ill-spirited toward Delhomme...just an honest portrait of real life.
From Nanit:
Could it be that he was crying because he hates saying goodbye? I tend to believe him that he was blindsided. If he never saw it coming after getting that contract, I can understand it.
He is the kind of guy who wouldn't hurt a fly. You are cruel to someone who doesn't deserve it.

From mrbernz:
You are saying he was crying because he realized he was past his prime? Are you really saying that? Tell me you only wrote this trash to get comments, otherwise you are a fool. Delhomme was a Panther at heart. He may well be past his prime but if you really think that's why he was crying, well, never mind i think i said it already.

So... yeah. Two very different reads.

I sure wasn't trying to be cruel to Jake, although I can see why some folks see it that way. I opened up with a couple of lines that I'd heard from people ripping him that day, as a contrast with the more meditative ideas later in the column. Some of y'all were in tune with that; others weren't.

What I was trying to do was make that moment about something bigger, about something that all of us might feel at some point in our lives.

That's a stretch, of course, and for some of you it was a stretch too far. Which is fine. Part of my job is to make you think, and one of the best parts of my job is when the comments make me re-think the whole piece. Today was one of those great days. Thanks.

And for the record: I loved watching Jake these past seven years. We should always celebrate the people who bring joy to our lives. He took us to the Super Bowl and dang near won the thing. Let's never forget that.