Tag Archive | Competition

UConn Basketball: The Best and Worst Thing About Women’s Hoops

The UConn Women’s basketball team has dominated the sport for years now. They’ve won 11 championships in 20 years, and have won 4 championships in a row. In their last two years, every victory for UConn has been by double digits. They are the gold standard for women’s basketball and among the greatest program in all sports regardless of gender or sport. Geno Auriemma is one of the greatest coaches of all time, and Breanna Stewart is one of the greatest players in her sport. It’s a marvelous unit and outstanding team to watch and support. The state of Connecticut takes a good amount of pride in their Huskies, as they should. It is some of the best basketball anyone has the privilege of watching. They are among the best parts of women’s basketball.

However, it can, and I believe it does, hurt the sport. How? Because if the sport is not competitive, people will be less inclined to follow and watch it. Sports are fun because they are competitive and you’re not sure who is going to win. We watch for the thrill of competition and potential for both sides winning. It’s more fun when both sides are actually in the game and have a chance to win. In theory, anyone could defeat UConn. But for the last few years, that has not been the case in practice. UConn has so clearly dominated in the women’s game that it almost isn’t worth watching for any reason other than to watch how good UConn can be. Admittedly it is fun watching them control their opponents, especially as a Connecticutian. But when I step back and take a look at it from a wider perspective, I can see some major problems with this, especially when compared to the men’s college game.

This year’s Men’s tournament was unpredictable, filled with consistent turns and had many teams who could win the championship. And this resulted in one of the greatest college basketball championship games ever played between North Carolina and Villanova. The tournament this year demonstrated what college basketball is at its best. Women’s basketball is still a fairly young sport when compared to the men’s game and needs a few more storylines than just “UConn is destroying everyone”.

Dan Shaughnessy wrote his response to the domination of the Huskies and drew a tremendous amount of flack for it. I think that Shaughnessy is partly right. I think he is correct that it does hurt the sport if UConn is not even close to being beat. No game summed this up more than this year’s National Championship game against Syracuse. Keep in mind that I am a Big East basketball fan who will always want Syracuse to lose. The basketball fan in me wanted to see the game be somewhat close. I wanted it to be tight and see UConn rise to the challenge. But there was no challenge to rise to, and there certainly was no effort that Syracuse could muster to top the clearly superior Huskies. That is harmful to Women’s hoops, especially when the Men’s championship the night before was so compelling and entertaining. That can make them the worst part of the sport too.

The way to improve the sport is not to complain though, it is for at least one or two other programs to get some good recruits and build a strong program, which is certainly possible. There are other historically succesful programs in Women’s hoops, like Tennessee, Texas A&M, Notre Dame, and Baylor. There are other programs that can rise to challenge the Huskies. Women’s basketball can be a major sport, but more competitors are needed to elevate the sport. They need a set up something like what the NBA had in the 1980’s. There were two top teams in the Celtics and Lakers, and there were worthy opponents in the Rockets, the 76ers, and the Pistons. There were several talented units that played intense basketball and elevated the sport to a higher level. UConn is doing that by themselves, but no one else is joining them on their pedestal. The Women’s game is simultaneously benefiting and suffering from this, and all decent fans want to see it improve, myself included.

MIT: Sports Home?

So I’ve written about my escapades calling games for BU many times. I’ve called swim meets, track meets, basketball games, hockey games, hosted radio shows, gone to playoff games with friends, lost bets on those games, and had many more adventures not recorded here. Today I expanded my horizons and worked Water Polo games at MIT. Yes you read that correctly, I called multiple competitions in a fringe sport at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a school known for 2 things: Brilliant academics and legendary drinking. Not really for their athletic prowess or school spirit. After today, I have a very different perspective on their athletic program. It’s quite fun! It’s a division 3 athletic school with competitive teams and good facilities. 

I also learned that I enjoy the sport of Water Polo! Think of it as a combination between the scoring strategies of basketball and soccer, the defensive strategies of the Detroit Pistons of the late 80’s and early 90’s, and some of the terminology of volleyball in a pool. It’s quite a tiring sport for the players and a remarkably fun sport to watch. It’s a pretty short game, only four 8 minute periods with temporary time stoppages after penalties, goals, timeouts, and after each period. Total game time tends to last for only about an hour to an hour 20 minutes. It’s over fairly quickly, but it’s still quite exciting and so much fun to call. Matter of fact, you can watch a replay of my broadcast via on demand videos on the MIT athletics website. Here’s the link to the first game, vs Connecticut College. http://portal.stretchinternet.com/mit/full.htm?eventId=236337&streamType=video

The on demand for the second game vs Brown will be posted when I have access to it. 

Thanks for a fun day MIT! You people know your sports!  

 

Pedro Martinez: Competitive Anger on Display

I love Pedro Martinez. He is among my favorite baseball players ever, and is one of the athletes who got me interested in sports as a kid. When he was voted into the Hall of Fame in January, I was excited that one of my heroes was elected to th greatest honor possible to reach in baseball. When it was announced that Pedro was releasing an autobiography, I was thrilled! 

  While I don’t read a ton of fiction books, I do read a good number of histories and biographies. I find these sorts of stories a bit more compelling than fiction books because they actually happened and can be hard to believe. 

Such is the case with Pedro’s story. His rise from poverty in the Dominican Republic to stardom and wealth in the best baseball league in the world is pretty remarkable, especially when you consider that he is small for a major league pitcher: 5’11″(but probably a little smaller than his official height). He was slighted at every turn and was not expected to do anything in the hotbed of Dominican baseball. 

How did he make it out? Simple: He was mad as hell!  

 No, I mean that quite literally. Pedro Martinez pitched mad his entire career. He was unafraid of hitting his opponents, and with a few exceptions, fearless on the hill. And he held a vendetta against the coaches who slighted him in the Dodger’s baseball academy in the Dominican, the coaches with the Dodgers who knew him as merely Ramon Martinez’s younger and smaller brother. He held a grudge against the Boston media for being intrusive and asking hilariously dumb questions. He attacked every batter as if they were a mortal enemy of his. 

I picked up the book knowing that Pedro had a competitive fire that defined him, but I had no idea the extent to which he was fueled by rage. I knew that he was a talker. I knew he could be zany and had some moments that gave reason to legitimately question his sanity, and I knew that he was a fun guy for teammates most of the time.  

  

 I didn’t realize that he was so completely fueled by insecurity and just being pissed off. I now have a whole new level of appreciation for relentless competitive drive and animosity towards the media, opponents, management, etc.. He channeled it so effectively and turned himself into one of the best pitchers in the history of baseball. He deserves to have his number retired by the Red Sox, and he is rightfully honored as one of the greats of the age. 

Pedro’s story is a remarkable one that people with an interest in sports should read. Even non sports people would appreciate the anger with which he pitched and the passion with which he continues to live. It’s an approach I want to implement, to a certain extent, into my own life. 

Why I’m Watching the Stanley Cup Finals

Ive said before on this blog, hockey hasn’t been the top sport on my list before and it’s still not my top sport. I know the least about it and my interest in the sport is, at least for now, a parochial attachment to my school, BU, and my pro team, the Bruins. While I do hold a nostalgic attachment to the Hartford Whalers and I wish the NHL would return to Hartford.  

 Hey, I can dream, right? We have the Wolf Pack here and as fun as they are, it’s not NHL hockey. 

Anyway, while I don’t put hockey at the top of my sports list and while neither of my teams are in the finals, I still have some good reasons to watch these finals. 

1. High Quality Hockey. 

Yes, I know I just said hockey isn’t my favorite sport, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it. It’s fast paced, intense, and a unique sports experience. Hockey is the most physically demanding of the four major team sports in North America. It calls for more of its players, coaches, and fans than any other sport emotionally. There’s a good reason why hockey players are known to be tougher than any other athletes in the world: their sport demands it. They have to skate, take huge hits, give big hits, speed up, stop on a dime, shoot a puck, stick handle, and do remarkable athletic things on ice. It’s such a fun sport to watch at any level. It’s at another level in the NHL. It gets better in the playoffs and is at its best in the Stanley Cup Finals. As much as I love baseball’s opening day, the NBA postseason and finals, and the Super Bowl, very few things top the Stanley Cup Finals. I wrote up a piece for TRL Hockey, where I discuss the best 10 Stanley Cup Finals Series, and these moments show how wonderful the Finals can be. I’ll let them make my case for me. 

The first series I ever watched was the 2006 Finals between the Hurricanes and Oilers. I enjoyed it so much and I’ve watched almost every finals since then. I got into it big time in 2010, when the Flyers played the Blackhawks. I rooted so hard for the Blackhawks because the Flyers had beat the Bruins after being down 3 games to 0 in the earlier playoff round. I wanted Phili to lose so badly, and I was sweetly rewarded. Thank you Patrick Kane. When the Bruins made it in 2011, I watched every second of every game and loved the result, with my team winning a championship. Washington knocked out the Bruins the next year, but I still watched the Finals between the Kings and Devils. It was entertaining hockey, and I enjoyed it. I knew then that I was a hockey fan. I’ll happily watch today.

2. Potential Dynasty?

No team has won successfully defended the Stanley Cup since the Detroit Red Wings won in 1997 and 1998. There have been some consistently good teams in recent years, and one of them is trying to win their 3rd championship in the last 6 seasons. The Chicago Blackhawks have been one of the best teams in hockey, rivaled only by the LA Kings, 2 cups in the last 3 years, and the Bruins, 1 title and 2 trips to the finals. The Hawks have a chance to seal their reputation as a dynasty in the NHL with a victory in the Finals this year. Patrick Kane seals a spot in the hall of fame if he helps his team to a title, and will be considered among the greatest players of the age.  

 They will have a hard matchup against the Lightning, but the more compelling story in the long term is with the Blackhawks. 

3. Boo Chicago!

  While the Hawks have a great story on their side, I still don’t like them much. They gave me one of the most painful moments in my total fandom when they knocked the Bruins out of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2013. Yes, I’m pulling the parochial fan card here. I do it all the time in choosing a team I pull for. I did in the NBA finals! I don’t really like the Blackhawks after the 2013 finals and I don’t hate Tampa. In fact, the first NHL game I ever went to was in the 2006 season in Tampa when the defending Stanley Cup Champion Lightning played the Florida Panthers. The game went into a shootout, and Tampa Bay won. I’ve had a small spot in my heart for Tampa and I will root for them to win. I think Chicago is a better team, and I think they will win the series in 6 games(checkout the predictions of the TRL Hockey people, including me, here). But I want Tampa to beat the Blackhawks!  

 I’ll be sure to enjoy this finals series. I hope you will be too! 

Holy Rollers!

I’ve been involved in a Bible Study with a great crew of people for the last two years. The study can at time look like a feast where we talk about scripture, ok well actually that’s what it is most of the time. I’ve learned so much about how to read and appreciate scripture, how to open my heart to God, and how to enjoy good company of quality men. Our study meets on Monday this year, so we had our study today, sorta. We decided to take a breather from doing scripture reading tonight. We got off campus and went to King’s Bowling near the Prudential Center in Boston. I hadn’t been bowling for many years before going tonight. So that made for an interesting time. We played two games, the first as just a fun game, and the second one had a good competition: Winner gets drinks from the people he beats. Unfortunately for me, I did not win either game. In fact I finished last in the game that decided drinks… Oops. Well I figured out what I needed to do to play well and I bowled a few strikes. It was a good night with awesome company. Plus it was a good last reprieve before final exams and papers. 

    

See You Down at the Track

If only I were fit and fast enough to compete in Track and Field. I had a chance to take part in my high school track team a few years ago, but I had too many other time commitments to allow me to do it. Oh well. I still respect track and field people and admire their strength and ability. This weekend, I got to work my first track meet, as the Public Address Announcer for the John Thomas Terrier Invitational.

Common reactions I hear for track are things like, oh the meets are so long and so boring. And to the untrained eye, I can understand that for some events. For example, watching a series of 5K’s is not the most exciting event to watch, for the same reason that watching a Marathon is not the most exciting or aesthetically pleasing. But to watch endurance running is to look into the human will and the best of it can show in a good quality run. Also, the field events are so cool to watch. Tell me how it’s not amazing watching people fly through the air the way they do in the pole vault.

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Not to mention the blazing fast sprints, the great competitions you get out of the mid distance runs and the relays, track and field is actually entertaining in many respects, once you learn and know what to look for. It’s not the greatest sport for PA announcers, but truthfully, unless you’re in basketball or boxing, where the announcer is more featured but still secondary to the sport itself, people don’t go for the announcers. They go for the sport, entertainment, social setting, or intensity of the game. It was fun calling a track meet. I hope I get to do more work like this in the future!

Family Game Night! Strategy and Bargaining

When all four members of my family, me, my mom, dad, and brother, are all gathered together, we always play some board games, card games, or have some form of friendly competition. Tonight was game night and the game of choice was Settlers of Catan. This game requires serious patience, negotiating skills, and a willingness to renege on previous contracts to win. So basically its the best way to learn how to play the political game. It always takes a few hours, always is filled with hilarious moments, like when it seemed that 6 of 8 consecutive rolls came up 7, which costs people resources and shuts off a production tile, or the funny kibitzing that consistently happens in any game of ours. It was a friendly reminder of all that I love about being home with my family. I’m gonna settle in, as I’ve got a few more weeks of this!