Grand Forks Red River defeated crosstown rival Grand Forks Central 25-16, 25-10, 25-18 in girls high school volleyball Tuesday night on the Knights’ home court. The Roughriders were led by Maggie Steffen, who had 15 kills. Korri Gust, Bailey Jaeger and Jaylin Perrault had four kills each to lead the Knights. Red River upped its record to 6-9 in Eastern Dakota Conference play and 11-16 overall. Central fell to 1-13 in conference play and 5-20 overall. (Check out more photos from Russ Hons here.)
A chilly Sunday morning gradually blossomed into a gorgeous, late summer afternoon. But being a golfer of marginal talent and fully aware that our local football team had an enticing matchup in Pittsburgh, I still wondered if I’d made the right choice. Our annual fraternity scramble was on tap at the University of Minnesota course, and I’d reluctantly agreed to once more expose my shaky game to all those alums eager to sneer at my worm-burning iron play.
After watching the Vikings cruise past New Orleans in surprisingly easy fashion last Monday, it was tempting to leave my cell phone on when we gathered at the first hole for our late morning tee off. But I’d convinced myself that I would avoid all distractions and forget about football … for at least a few hours.
Before long, we were sharing old stories, shedding our windbreakers and even making a good shot or two. So it wasn’t until we were returning our golf carts and sipping on beers, that someone mentioned the Purple. “They were losing big, the last I checked,” said one of the brothers.
Suddenly it hit me. I’d managed to spend a Sunday afternoon away from the Red Zone Channel and hadn’t suffered NFL withdrawal symptoms. In fact, I found myself grateful to have reconnected with old buddies and gotten some much-needed exercise and sun, in the process.
What should be worrisome for Roger Goodell and the rest of the league’s cronies, is that my revelation about life without pro football is happening to many others these days. And that spells trouble for a business already too greedy for their own good.
Let me attempt to connect the dots by starting at the bottom of the food chain of a multimillion dollar operation that has been captivating Americans for years. Or conning them … depending on your perspective.
Ruben is an avid pro football fan. We’ll call him “Rube” for short. He loves the Vikings, wears everything purple and shells out thousands of dollars to occupy a nosebleed seat at US Bank Stadium. Rube watches NFL games Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays. He plays in six fantasy leagues. But lately, Rube has been angry and frustrated for a variety of reasons.
First, there were those annoying preseason games where he was forced to pay full-price for tickets in Row Z. The games where the teams played mostly third stringers to protect their stars from getting injured, since they still figured the studs would get battered around in weeks to come.
Then Rube put in months of planning to prepare for his fantasy draft and was thrilled to land the top-rated running back, David Johnson, of Arizona. But a couple of days later, Johnson went down with a season-ending injury. In fact, many top players were dropping like flies, tearing ACLs and separating shoulders.
Speaking of injuries, Rube was really down in the dumps when he learned his favorite quarterback, Sam Bradford, also had to sit out for the Vikings on Sunday. Why, just a few days ago, Bradford had displayed laser-like accuracy in carving up the Saints, only to come down with a mysterious swelling of the knee prior to the Pittsburgh game. No wonder the Steelers throttled our boys, 26-9.
And remember, Sam was supposed to be replacing Teddy (as in Bridgewater), the previous Viking QB who suffered his own major injury just a year ago. Poor Rube had envisioned a dream where his squad would be the first NFL team in history to play a Super Bowl in its own stadium, since Minnesota will host the event this February. Now, in Week Two, that already seemed highly unlikely.
Realistically, Rube already knew he’d never be able to afford a seat at the Super Bowl anyway. Most of those would go to rich folks or corporations. Now his team might not win half its games, with a worst Case (as in Keenum) scenario at quarterback. His fantasy teams weren’t looking much better with all those injuries.
So here’s what’s unfolding: The Rubes of the world are beginning to notice a few things. Their wallets are lighter. The endless games they’ve been watching seem less interesting. Every team in the league lacks depth, at one position or another, resulting in poorer execution.
An obvious sign of trouble is already evident in Los Angeles. Since departing from San Diego over the winter, the Chargers made their home field debut in La La Land Sunday. Capacity for StubHub Stadium is 27,000 and only 25,381 purchased tickets. Far fewer actually showed up. Fittingly, the home team lost in the closing seconds when their rookie kicker blew a 44-yard field goal attempt, more evidence that rosters are short on competency.
For Minnesota fans, at least misery loves company. Their biggest rivals, the Green Bay Packers, got blown out by Atlanta last night. Already missing their two starting tackles, the Pack had six more players leave due to injury. Defending champ New England was beaten at home by Kansas City last week and is without several key players. Both have stellar QBs in Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady yet are no better than 1-1 thus far.
A watered down product due to countless injuries, skyrocketing ticket prices and numerous off-the-field issues are penalties that have NFL owners losing ground with followers. Too many games on too many nights have made even important contests seem less significant.
As we walked off the golf course Sunday, one of my buddies mentioned how happy he was that he didn’t “waste another weekend” watching football. Another said he’d taped the Viking game but now planned to skip reviewing it, after learning of the result.
It’s only September. Maybe when the snow begins to fly and we’re cooped inside, I’ll be glued to my television. Watching Case Keenum engineer a comeback to help the Vikes finish at 8-8. Then again … there’s always bowling.
I spent last week in Southern California learning how to be a better photographer. I attended the Sports Shooter Academy 14.
First a little history. Fifteen plus years ago, several professional sports photographers got together and decided to put on a sports photography seminar called the Sports Shooter Academy. Famed USA Today sports photographer Robert Hanashiro set out on making this the best sports photography training seminar in the nation. He recruited many highly sought-after photographers to join him as instuctors for this hands on training.
Many seminars instruct and show you how do improve your craft. This one however, was to be hands-on.
With the help of a commitment from Nikon Professional Services to help sponsor the event, they began the seminars. Over the years, other sponsors have join in, including ThinkTank, the makers of camera bags and many other photography items, and Samy’s Camera.
The instructors at the Academy are a Who’s Who in photography. Many of the instructors have covered all or most of the Super Bowls, the World Series, many Olympic games, professional baseball, basketball, hockey and soccer, as well as covering and photographing sports stars and hollywood celebrities on a regular basis for publications like Sports Illustrated, ESPN and USA Today. One of the instructors had to leave early Sunday to go photograph Nicole Kidman, and another has a shoot Monday with Robert DeNiro.
The academy only accepts about 50 applicants who have submitted a portfolio of their work, an essay on why they want to attend and what they hope to achive by attending. If an applicant is in college and accepted, Nikon graciously sponsors their tuition. The rest of us are on our own for that, but the price is reasonable and well below what one would expect to pay for this kind of training from these professionals.
I arrived in Costa Mesa, Calif., on Tuesday evening and quickly met some of the attendees in the hotel lobby. We discussed the fact that the training did not start until 1 p.m. Wednesday, but we were all eager to start taking photos, so we set plans in motion to go to Huntington Beach at 5:30 a.m. Wednesday morning to photograph surfers.
The surfers flock to the beach in the early morning hours before work and school to take advantage of great waves. The weather was beautiful, the waves were great, and I was able to take some photos of the surfers young and old that morning. After a late-morning breakfast at Ruby’s out on the pier at Huntington Beach, we returned for some great training.
Wednesday afternoon was spent in the classroom. We had lectures and training from Seattle Seahawks photographer Rob Mar; Matt Brown, California Angels director of photography; and Nikon’s Ron Taniwaki. The evening was capped off with the keynote address by famed Sports Illustrated photographer Robert Beck, who has over 130 Sports Illustrated covers to his credit.
After midnight, it was time to get to the room to get a few hours of sleep before heading out to shoot sports in the morning.
The next three days consisted of several different tracks the students could choose from. There were various sports they could choose to shoot and also a portrait lighting seminar put on by photographer Joey Terill, who shoots for clients such as American Express, Coca-Cola, Disney, Golf Digest, Major League Baseball, Red Bull and Sports Illustrated.
The sports that we were scheduled to cover were a professional beach volleyball tournament at Huntington Beach, horse racing at Santa Anna Raceway, track and field at Cal State Fullerton and swimming and diving. I chose beach volleyball for Day 1.
Approximately 15 of us headed to the beach with cameras and lenses in tow. Nikon Professional Services brought hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of new high-end camera and gear for students to borrow and use during the training.
We shot thousands of shots, each trying to get the best shots we could, while the instructors were there to guide us with suggestions on things to look for, techniques for shooting and to answer any questions we might have. We then returned to the class room in the evening to begin quickly sorting through our many photographs and looking for our top photos.
Again, instructors were there to look over our photos, make suggestions on things we could do better, point out photos they thought “made the cut” and to give us general guidance on the work flow of sports photography.
We were then required to narrow our favorite photos to a maximum of three, caption them properly and submit them to the academy. One of the instructors, after reviewing my photos, made an exception and had me submit four.
After this late-night editing session, the night got longer as all of the attendees’ photographs were then reviewed on a projected screen for the instructors to discuss, critique and give their opinion. They also voted on each photo to keep it or not. This narrowed the photos down to their top 10 photos of the day.
Two of my photos were chosen to be in the top 10 of the day, and ultimately two of the top four were mine. To say I was humbled and honored would be an understatement. There were some tremendous photographs from many accomplished photographers from around the United States, Canada, France and Japan. One of my volleyball photos was ultimately chosen by the faculty as the Photo of the Day, and I was awarded a camera bag by one of the sponsors.
It was almost 2 a.m. before I got to bed and was back up at 7 a.m. on Day 2 to head out to shoot the Big West Conference Track and Field finals. There we practiced setting up remote cameras as well and looking for the best angles and equipment to cover the different events. It was a long day of shooting nine events between the men and women.
With three cameras, including a remote one, I shot almost 8,000 photos!! These were narrowed down to less than 100 “keepers.” After some software troubles caused by operator error, I was able to narrow my top picks down to three and get them submitted by the 11 p.m. deadline. The faculty again critiqued and voted on photos, and one of mine made it to the top 12 before being eliminated.
Day 3, while others were off to track and field, horse racing, and swimming and diving, I choose to stay at the hotel to take in Joey Terrill’s lighting seminar. We spent the morning hours learning about the use of flash and light to enhance photographs. After lectures and hands-on practice, we had a model come to the hotel in the afternoon for us to take turns lighting and photgraphing. This was the most educational day for me. I can’t stress how much I learned about working with light.
Sunday morning, we returned to the work room and worked on photos, reviewed the previous days photos and then had another business and ethics in photograpy lecture from Joey Terrill. Then it was time for the judges to vote on the three Photos of the Day and pick the top photo of the week.
There was intense discussion between the judges, who argued between my volleyball photograph and a track and field photo of a javelin thrower. The javelin photograph won on a split vote. I would have voted for it, too. It was a beautiful photograph.
After some goodbyes by the instuctors, and all of us attendees wishing each other well, the academy ended.
I can’t express enough how much I learned from this school. From better work flow with my photos during and after an event, to how to look for the right photos during an event. I made tons of great contacts within the sports photography industry and met many great people from all over the world.
I look forward to bringing back all this information to better serve my clients and fans in the Grand Forks area. Thank you to everyone for the encouragement and kind comments on my photos.
Congratulations to the Moorhead Spuds boys hockey team and to the Shanley High Deacons girls basketball team. Each team and their coaches represented their communities and schools extremely well.
My nephew, Steve Jacobson, coach of the Deacons, overcame some serious heart and health issues, claiming that basketball provided the outlet he needed to heal. Only in the Jacobson family could sports be a healing factor! For most of us, the excitement would bring on a heart attack … but then, we’re not Jacobsons.
My brother-in-law, Neal Jacobson, now of Bismarck, is the father of Steve and also was head boys basketball coach at Shanley. Tim Jacobson, Steve’s uncle and Neal’s brother, coached basketball at Shanley before moving over to Davies High School. (Nope, it’s not named after me, but my dad, Judge Ronald N. Davies.)
There are other Jacobson men in the family. I don’t know all of them well, except for Doug, Neal’s brother and Steve’s uncle, who is trying to find me a 1957 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser two-door that I can afford. (That means he’s hunting for some rich person who wants to make a generous gift to a retired elderly man — that would be me.)
Back to Moorhead High and a little-known fact, at least in my world: If you watched these awesome young men, you know they can really play hockey. But did you notice the haircut on their equally awesome coach? Well, if you didn’t, look again at the pictures of the team. You’ll see that every single one of them had a haircut just like their coach’s. Well-trimmed and well-groomed. What a tribute to the coach and to their parents!
Not that there’s anything wrong with long hair … but today, you usually associate long hair with athletes. I’m old enough to remember back in 1957, my senior year at Shanley, when there wasn’t a male in Fargo who had anything but neatly cropped style.
Shanley had Sid Cichy, and Fargo Central had Acey Olson. If you’d come into their locker rooms with long hair, they’d have cut your hair on the spot.
Back in my day, Moorhead, Shanley and Central all played intercity games. It really created local excitement. Considering the cost of athletics today, wouldn’t it be nice if somehow the athletic association rules could be changed to once again allow all-city sports rivalries?
Think of the crowds you’d get … the travel expenses saved and travel time reduced … and the ability of friends and relatives to see more games. It’s probably not going to happen, though. Just my two bits’ worth: Some good things from the past should be restored.
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Back across the river in North Dakota, the Legislature is still at it. This time, its dealing with a measure close to my heart.
I have relatives in law enforcement; I have friends in law enforcement; and I have friends who have relatives in law enforcement. While I haven’t taken any large poll, I can tell you for sure that those to whom I have spoken to do not like House-Senate Bill 1169, the measure that allows open carry of guns without a permit.
Given that POTUS 45 just signed an executive order that allows people with mental illness to own a weapon, I have to think that some North Dakota legislators ought to have mental exams for their warped thinking.
The fact that other states permit unlimited open carry does not make it right. Look at gun deaths and injuries across the country. You’ll note that the absence of weapons is certainly not a problem.
Burleigh County Sheriff Pat Heinert, who is also a legislator, supports the proposed law as long as the individuals possess a state-issued identification. Methinks someone conked him on the head to get him to take this position.
An identification card does not qualify you for anything except proof you are alive.
Most law enforcement folks can’t or won’t speak out on this issue. But if they could, I can assure you that they do not favor open carry … much less open carry with no training.
The permitting process is based on the presumption that those who take the tests will learn firearm safety and practices. In other words, the process is an attempt to ensure you know how to safely own, carry and discharge the weapon. You have to be tested to drive a car, but not to openly carry a weapon … and that makes no sense.
It is dangerous enough for law enforcement to investigate and arrest suspects without the additional factor of every Tom, Dick and Harry having a concealed weapon. When Heinert cites his law experience as a basis for supporting this bill, I can only assume he’s a deskbound lawman who doesn’t work out in the cities, counties and state.
My assumption is based on common sense. What harm can the permitting process cause? Can permits help law enforcement? This isn’t a constitutional or gun rights issue — it’s all about common sense.
I repeat what I’ve said in the past: If a fight breaks out in a large crowd in which everyone is armed, will they keep their weapons concealed … or use them? If they use them — and they will — how will the Law be able to tell the assailants from the defenders? That’s right. They can’t.
Have a great week. Amen.
Last year, when I was getting ready for my 50-year class reunion of the 1965 graduating class from Hettinger (N.D.) High School, I dug through boxes of keepsakes downstairs and found my senior class yearbook. It was actually an expanded edition of the Hettinger Hi-Lites, our high school newspaper, but it was the same format as a yearbook, slick paper and about 40 pages, just cheaper to print than a hard-cover book.
One of the goofy things we did in those days was to print a “Class Prophecy,” in which a bunch of us on the newspaper staff (I had two passions in my high school days — journalism and golf — sat around a big table and made up stuff about each class member based on what they liked to do at the time. (I served on the newspaper staff and played on the high school golf team.)
Art Barclay, for example, was a good dancer (and it turns out, the only gay member of our class, although none of us knew very much about that kind of thing in 1965; the term gay had not yet been invented, I don’t think, at least not in Hettinger) and his prophecy was “Art Barclay is now owner and operator of Arthur Barclay’s Dance Studio in New York City.”
There were other kind of funny and sometimes kind of cruel things like “Carol Edrman (who dated Dean Schoeder, the son of the manager of the Co-op Grocery Store) is now the head butcher at the Hettinger Co-op Store”; and “Charles Carter (a notoriously fast and reckless driver in high school) has returned to HHS and is now teaching Safe Driving”; and “Don Davidson (who had red hair and blushed a lot around girls) has just discovered a permanent cure for red hair”; and “Harvey Jeffers (who played guitar and started a band) has just made the Dave Clark Five the Dave Clark Six”; and “Jim Goplin (kind of a ladies man and slick dresser) has become a famous fashion expert and has just put on the market lipstick repellent shirts”; and “Karen Solseth (the tallest and skinniest girl in the class) has just been elected National President of TOPS Club.”
And there was this: “Jim Fuglie has just replaced Arnold Palmer as World’s Champion Golfer.”
I had two idols in High School: my dad and Arnold Palmer. Both were golfers, and both were the best at what they did, where they were — my dad was club champion at Hettinger Country Club many times, and Arnold Palmer, of course, “The King,” was the best golfer in the world in those days.
I was a golf fanatic in high school, playing on the school golf team, practicing every day from 3:30 p.m. until dark; working at the golf course raking those sand greens and practicing putting when Joe Manning, the course owner, wasn’t looking; playing after supper every night when I got off work from my summer job building steel grain bins and didn’t have bales to haul, and all day Saturday if I wasn’t unloading a train car load of beer at the Hettinger beer distributorship, and all day Sunday from the time church got out until dark.
And I was alternately, in my mind, each time I swung that club, either “Doc” Fuglie or Arnold Palmer (and there was a time I was pretty sure my dad could beat Arnie).
I never got as good as either of them, but I wasn’t bad, and I actually earned a golf scholarship of $50 per quarter for the first two years I attended Dickinson (N.D.) State College. I know, it doesn’t sound like much, but tuition then was $115 a quarter, so it wasn’t bad.
Arnold Palmer died this week. It’s hard to imagine. In my life, I have never known a time without Arnold Palmer. He rose to fame, and the game of golf rose in popularity, as I was growing up in the late 1950s and early ’60s. He basically reinvented the game of golf, and he brought a generation of young people like me to the game, as Tiger Woods has done more recently. And he never went away.
When he got surpassed by younger men like Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson, he started the Seniors Tour and then created the Golf Channel on TV. And I saw him in a TV commercial for some medicine last week, still flashing those strong arms and that shock of blond hair and that giant smile.
No, I never replaced Arnold Palmer as World’s Champion Golfer. But I got close to him a couple of times. The first time was in 1970, and I was in the Navy, stationed at Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida, going to school to learn to be a motion picture cameraman. I was going to be assigned to an aircraft carrier in the Gulf of Tonkin, and my job was going to be to take movies. Some in my class were going to be underwater cameramen, like a high school classmate of mine, Larry Cregger, but I was going to sit up on the O-7 level of the aircraft carrier and make movies of flight operations and shoot film of the occasional Russian Bear airplane that would fly past us at low levels, taking still photos and making movies of our ship.
The Bears were big planes like B-52’s, and when they came by at about the same level as I was at, up seven stories above the flight deck of our ship, the photographers in their plane and I would wave at each other as we shot our film. But I digress.
In Pensacola, at motion picture school in the spring of 1970, our final assignment was to actually make a movie, from start to finish. Script it, shoot it, develop the film and edit it into a final production. Choose any subject you want. You’ve got a week to get it done.
Well, I decided to make a movie titled “How To Play Golf.” I got one of my classmates out to the base golf course, and we filmed him swinging the club and putting, and I started writing the script. There was no sound on these movies, so we used subtitles like, “Keep your left arm straight on the backswing,” and “Keep your head down and your eyes on the ball.”
And then I read in the paper one morning that the Pensacola Open Golf Tournament, an official PGA event, was going to be held in Pensacola, just down the beach from our Navy base, the next week. Jackpot!
On Thursday, the first day of the tournament, I grabbed my old Bell and Howell windup camera with its three-lens turret and headed for Pensacola Country Club. I decided I was going to film a famous golfer and then use the footage of him in my golf instruction video with my subtitles.
Well, I set out looking for Arnold Palmer, my hero. And I found him somewhere in the middle of the course, in the middle of his round, and I got a hole ahead of him and stationed myself on the tee box, waiting for him to arrive. Sure enough, he came striding down the path from the previous green in that long gait of his, and I damn near wet my pants, I was so excited.
I had decided what I would do is turn up the speed on the camera as I shot the film, so that when I played it back, it would appear in slow motion. I wound up that baby as tight as it would go because I knew I’d only have 30 seconds or so at that speed before it wound down and stopped. Arnie stepped up to the ball. Just as he began his backswing, I hit the start button.
But I had forgotten how much noise the camera made at high speed, and in the dead silence on the tee box, as The King was taking his swing, my camera made the loudest WHIRRRRR you’ve ever heard on a golf course. A hundred people on the tee box looked around to see where the noise was coming from. Luckily for me, Arnie didn’t — he finished his famous lunging swing, and I got it on film before I was descended on by a tournament official and Arnie’s caddy, who politely asked me not to do that while Arnie was swinging.
I apologized, and quickly explained what I was doing — that I was in the Navy and making a movie for a class assignment. The caddy grabbed Arnie’s clubs and took off down the fairway.
I followed at a safe distance, deciding I would follow my hero for a few holes before I headed back to the base. The crowd following Arnie was considerable, but not overwhelming like crowds at PGA events are today, and I puffed up my chest as I thought to myself, “Today I am part of Arnie’s Army! Boy, I wish my dad could see me now!”
I got behind the green at the end of the hole, watching the players putt, and as they left the green, the caddy spotted me and shouted “Hey, Navy man, come over here.”
Oh boy, I thought, I’m in for it now. I walked over. Arnie was already headed for the next tee. The caddy said “Mr. Palmer says if you want to come out and make movies of him tomorrow on the practice tee, that would be OK with him.”
Well, that was a wonderful gesture but, of course, I had spent all the money I could afford to get in the gate that day and needed to get my movie made the next day, and I really had the one shot I wanted to get, which I did indeed use, in slow motion, in the final product I handed in to my instructors a couple of days later. It wasn’t great, but it got me graduated from Motion Picture School and on my way to the Gulf of Tonkin. And it was my first experience as a member of Arnie’s Army.
Arnie only won a handful of tournaments after that. He won most of his 50 or so tournaments in the 1960s, and the new, younger players like Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, Tom Watson and Ben Crenshaw were building their great careers in the 1970s.
But Arnie kept playing, and I got to see him play one more time, in 1978, at the Phoenix Open. I followed him as part of the Army for 18 holes the last day of the tournament, and I remember he finished fifth. He was playing right in front of Lee Trevino, the “Merry Mex,” and I would hold back on some of the holes and watch him, which was just as much fun. Trevino finished second. It doesn’t matter who won.
Well, the King is dead. We’ll not be able to say “Long live The King” because there will never be another one. There will be golfers who dominate the sport from time to time, like Jack and Tiger and Jordan, but there’ll never be another Arnold Palmer.
But I have my memories. I just wish I had that movie.
The world of golf lost a legend Sunday. Arnold Palmer, who was nicknamed “The King,” died in a Pittsburgh hospital while awaiting heart surgery. Palmer won seven major championships during his professional career, which spanned more than five decades. He won the Masters four times, The Open twice and the U.S. Open once. Here are some photos taken by Russ Hons of Grand Forks while Palmer was in Grand Forks in September 2008 to dedicate King’s Walk Golf Course. Check out more photos from Russ Hons here.
How long does it take to get a black belt in karate? Do you think my kid has a chance to play ball in high school or college? These are questions I’ve been asked numerous times throughout my teaching and coaching career, and the answer is always the same: It depends.
As our kids take their journey in sports, there’s a battle to be fought. The battle is within ourselves as we struggle with what we know to be just good parenting and the irresistible urge to push our kids to become superstars. It’s a battle that must be won for the sake of our kids.
People reach their goals within different time frames. Interest level, natural ability, attitude and perspective all play a role in how long it takes. Finances and other responsibilities are also part of the equation. Regardless, staying on your true path and avoiding shortcuts is the quickest way to reach your destination. This takes patience, perseverance and endurance on the part of young athletes — and their parents.
Shortcuts can get you lost, while increased effort will reveal the way.
When we take shortcuts, it’s usually an attempt to speed up the process and put ourselves on the fast track to the future where we hope our pot of gold exists. But by focusing too much on the future, you cease to live in the moment, you lose your way and your training becomes erratic and disconnected. As time passes, very little progress is made, disappointment sets in and by seeking more shortcuts, your efforts become a cycle of failure.
So live in the moment day by day, week by week, month by month and year by year as you train, and you will reach your goals when you’re supposed to — when you’re ready. If you wish to reach your goals quicker, instead of seeking shortcuts, increase your effort.
People with a good work ethic are less likely to look for shortcuts.
Good work ethic leads to “real” success. Whether they are 7 or 17, all athletes should be taught this truth at appropriate levels according to their age. One of my biggest pet peeves in this area is, after a hitting lesson with me, the student heads for the door leaving his/her parents to pick up the gear and haul it out to the car. As long as a parent allows this lazy, disrespectful behavior, it will not only continue — it’ll probably get worse.
When parents don’t require good effort from their children, seeking shortcuts becomes their way.
We all want success, and given the option would no doubt choose the quickest, easiest route every time. But if the goal is high, this truth applies: “Seeking shortcuts amounts to weak training with weak results.” When striving for a black belt in karate or a college scholarship in baseball, my students find out real quick that there will be no talk of shortcuts. Staying on the path and being consistent in correct training is crucial for a person to achieve these very high goals.
We all need to find the balance.
When kids are young, we should make sure a proper balance is struck between teaching technique, competition levels and having fun. If we can strike this balance, kids will enjoy the process. But if we make kids specialize too soon and treat them as professionals, not only are we taking shortcuts, we are denying them a normal childhood experience.
By trying different things, a child’s true passions can be revealed. If allowed to follow their honest path with realistic expectations and without pressure to perform beyond their current ability, young athletes will joyfully take the necessary steps toward reaching their goals. Thoughts of cutting corners will quietly disappear, skill will begin to develop and with encouragement, young athletes will come to understand the meaning of, “Not taking the shortcut, is the shortcut.”
If kids learn this valuable life lesson in sports, they will apply this philosophy to other areas of their life as well. It’s not all about winning — it’s about learning how to win!
Order a signed copy of Coach Chuck’s book, “How to Play Baseball: A Parent’s Role in Their Child’s Journey,” at www.chuckschumacher.com.
Did you hear the one about the four Minnesota sports fans who walk into a bar?
The Minnesota Wild hockey fan is bragging to the others about his team’s good fortune. “We just hired one of the winningest coaches in NHL history!” he crows with glee.
Unimpressed, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ fan is quick to respond. “Well, we just hired one of the winningest NBA coaches AND we have a couple of back-to-back Rookies of the Year!”
Not to be outdone, the Minnesota Vikings’ fan shakes her head and chuckles. “Big deal. We have a great coach, are defending division champs AND are about to open a $1 billion stadium!”
About this time, the Minnesota Twins’ fan is cowering in the corner. As all eyes shift to the balding fellow sporting the TC logo on his tattered cap, the old guy reluctantly responds: “That’s nice, but have you tried our new hot pretzel bites or Signature Pecos River Red Chili?”
With apologies to Chef Jeff Tiedeman, whose Unheralded.Fish recipes are to die for, fans shall not live by bread alone. Such is the sad state of affairs at Target Field these days, where our beleaguered baseball buddies have been battered and beaten beyond belief.
Since I’d like to begin on a positive note … and I happen to be that aging chap wearing the Twins’ colors … there are plenty of great seats available and the weather is turning quite nice. Not to mention, those hot pretzel bites aren’t bad, either.
Now for a dose of reality. At 10-31, the Twins own the worst record in baseball. With one winning season since 2011, attendance is plummeting every year. But maybe worst of all, there is not one phase of this year’s team that appears to be headed in the right direction.
The starting pitching is lousy. The bullpen is worse. The offense is sputtering and leads the league in strikeouts. Dismal defense. Base-running blunders. Rookies regressing. Misguided moves by management.
To get some perspective on this level of ineptitude, consider these facts. The 2003 Detroit Tigers own the worst record ever, for a major league team playing 162 games. They finished 43-119. At their current pace, the Twins would win 40 games.
Need a stat to make you feel better? Actually, the 1899 Cleveland Spiders would appear to be secure in maintaining the worst percentage ever. They only played 154 games back then, but their 20-134 record makes that .130 mark awfully tough to top.
Sounds like the Spiders needed to get a few of the bugs out. But they have little on the Twins, who have picked a terrible time to showcase their woes when there’s never been more intense competition in town for the almighty sports dollar. Here’s a quick breakdown on the team’s breakdown:
In fairness to Manager Paul Molitor, who could have possibly predicted this mess just two months ago in spring training?
- Phil Hughes was 27-19 in his first two seasons with the Twins and looked primed to be the team’s ace. He’s now 1-6 with a 5.70 ERA and a sore arm.
- Ervin Santana missed half of last year for using performance enhancing drugs, then came up with a lower back strain in late April and wound up on the disabled list.
- Kyle Gibson got shelled repeatedly after a decent 2015 campaign, then joined Santana on the DL with a bad shoulder. He’s still not back.
- Ricky Nolasco finally put up a few quality starts before reverting back to his disappointing ways.
- Tommy Milone was ineffective.
- Tyler Duffey had an awful spring and began the year in the minors.
- Even rookie sensation Jose Berrios was forced to pitch at the big-league level sooner than the Twins had hoped, leading to control problems, short outings and an ultimate departure to Rochester.
While this might be the biggest reason for the Twins’ horrible start, it’s probably the one that’s most defensible and least predictable. Yes, the decision-makers never pursued a true ace in the off-season. But there are other areas where coaching and management appear far more culpable.
Last year, the hiring of pitching coach Neil Allen looked like a breath of fresh air after several seasons of decline under Rick Anderson. But the wheels have fallen off this year and it’s only May.
- The Twins have used 13 relievers this year. With the exception of lefty Fernando Abad, not one has an earned run average less than 3.00. They should have seen this coming, for a number of reasons.
- Closer Glen Perkins was outstanding until the All-Star Break last year. But his sharp decline in the second half gave hints that age and injuries were catching up to the Minnesota native.
- The Twins patched things together with the acquisition of Kevin Jepsen, who saved several games down the stretch. But his history was one of wildness and inconsistency.
- Predictably, Perkins got hurt and Jepsen got shelled as the Twins lost their first nine games in 2016. Minnesota didn’t have a backup plan.
Middle “relief” has been even worse. Consider this:
- Casey Fien was sent packing after several bad outings.
- Trevor May throws hard but his poor location has led to lots of long balls.
- Ryan Pressly can’t throw strikes. The team did little to address this area in the off-season.
The Twins have a reputation for being “free swingers.” That’s a nice way of saying that they strike out frequently. So in the off-season, their biggest acquisition was free-swinging South Korean slugger Byung Ho Park.
Yes, Park has hit nine home runs for the Twins, so his power is undeniable. But he’s also struck out 43 times. That would be fine, except that nine other Twins already have 20 strikeouts or more. And Park’s home runs have not been launched with runners on base, as evidenced by his meager RBI total of 15.
Instead of adding patient hitters who can put the ball in play and occasionally force defenses to make plays, the Twins make it easy on opponents by whiffing constantly.
I’m not a batting coach. But how many times must we watch Brian Dozier attempt to pull every pitch to left field and either strike out or pop up? That means you’re stuck with a lead off hitter batting .208.
Oswaldo Arcia has a powerful stroke, when he makes contact. But watch his swing and you’ll notice he drops his hands slightly before every pitch, making it difficult to adjust in time to 95 mile per hour fastballs.
Miguel Sano has 60 Ks already! Youngsters Byron Buxton and Eddie Rosario teamed up for 55 more, eventually forcing the club to demote both, for more seasoning.
Joe Mauer is unquestionably the team’s best and most patient hitter, but even he has faded lately. Today, his average is a mere .265, with an even 26 walks and 26 strikeouts. Not to mention, a first baseman driving in only 11 runs won’t help much.
This is where Twins’ management deserves its greatest criticism. Remember that classic song, “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown?” The Twins’ defense reminds me of Leroy’s face, which “looked like a jigsaw puzzle with a couple of pieces gone.”
Sano’s natural position is third base. But because the Twins still have serviceable Trevor Plouffe, Sano is left to lumber around aimlessly in right field. Plouffe could be moved to first base, but then, that spot is occupied by Mauer. His natural position is at catcher, but concussions have rendered him incapable of returning to his best location.
The Twins did trade for a catcher in the off-season, but John Ryan Murphy failed to hit even .100 and like so many others, was shipped off to Rochester.
Infielders are forced to play outfield, when young outfielders can’t hit big league pitching yet. On and on it goes. With so many players forced to man positions of unfamiliarity, Minnesota’s defense has been embarrassingly bad.
This is the area where ineptitude has been most surprising. Sano tries to stretch a double into a triple and is thrown out at third. Danny Santana tries to leave early to steal second and is picked off easily by an alert pitcher. Mistakes happen, but these blunders occurred in the late innings with the game on the line.
Manager Molitor was arguably one of baseball’s best, on the bases. For whatever reason, his strength hasn’t translated over to success for his 2016 team. Seeking an identity for this struggling squad hasn’t been easy, but one would think that at least smart, savvy base running would be the hallmark for a Molitor-coached club. It has not.
Few, if any, baseball prognosticators saw this kind of collapse coming. After narrowly missing the playoffs last year, optimists hoped for a few more wins this season. Realists perceived the Twins to finish somewhere in the middle of the pack. Even pessimists figured Minnesota would muster at least 70 victories or so.
At the quarter-mark of the 2016 season, the Twins look overmatched against almost every team in baseball. That is stunning, to say the least. They have already been swept a remarkable eight times. Their record within the American League Central Division is 4-17.
Logic says there will eventually be improvement. Starters Santana and Duffey are trending upward. Gibson will return to the rotation soon. Buxton has regained confidence in his swing and may be recalled in the next few weeks.
After all, things can’t get any worse. Or…can they?
If so, it could prove to be a long, lonely summer at Target Field. At least the lines for those pretzel bites and Pecos River Red Chili should be much easier to negotiate.
As a college professor, every so often I would encounter a student who left me perplexed when it came time to determine their final grade. A strong score on the last test was encouraging, but their overall numbers were still barely good enough to pass the class. Were they struggling to comprehend the curriculum or simply putting in just enough work to get by? Should I pat them on the back for surviving or scold them for underachieving?
That pretty much summed up this year’s edition of the Minnesota Wild. Stops and starts. Ups and downs.
So when things finally came to an end Sunday, with a gut-wrenching 5-4 playoff loss to Dallas in the Xcel Center, no one should have been surprised. In fact, the closing contest proved to be a microcosm of their crazy season.
With survival on the line and trailing three games to two in the best-of-seven series, Minnesota had to win. Somehow, despite a horrendous close to the regular season and a string of seven consecutive losses, there they were, playing before a full house at home with a chance to even the series against the top-seeded Stars.
Just two days ago, this group that backed into the postseason with the fewest points of any playoff club, had found a way to rally and win in Dallas. Once again, Midwesterners ready to cut ties with their schizophrenic hockey team, were nevertheless lured back into believing that there just might still be hope.
A touching pregame tribute to our fallen entertainer Prince and a big-screen boost from Minnesota hockey legend Willard Ikola had more than 19,000 fans revved up and ready to roll.
So for two wretched periods of Game Six, the Wild did just what they’d done for much of the season. Take ill-advised penalties. Get behind by several goals. Suck the life out of the building.
Just when most of us were contemplating an early departure and cursing about the price we’d paid to watch it, the “good” Wild decided to make one more final appearance. Before half of the third period was complete, it was 4-3, and the Stars were desperately in need of a timeout. The Wild were flying and dominating play, narrowly missing a tying goal when Jason Zucker mishandled the puck after a mistake in front of the net by Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen.
Unfortunately, “close” only counts in horseshoes, dancing and as we all know, Minnesota sporting events. Conjuring up nightmares of Blair Walsh’s blown, chip-shot field goal, there would be the predictably fluky goal to sneak by Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk followed by one more rally. Then, in fitting finality, a last minute pileup in front of the Stars’ net that revealed the Wild had ALMOST tied the game. Replays across social media had the puck briefly sliding within a millimeter of crossing the goal line. A 5-4 Dallas victory and another disappointed departure into daylight.
Hockey can be a strange game, so it’s hardly unusual for pucks to take quirky hops and teams to occasionally be handed defeats that may not be deserved. For some fans, that uncertainty is what adds to the game’s appeal. For others, it may lessen the credibility of the sport.
But in the several decades of watching a variety of local sports, I can’t remember any team that has been more maddeningly unpredictable than this Wild club.
A promising start. An awful January. Five straight wins. Seven straight losses. A five-game season sweep of the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. Embarrassing defeats against teams with nothing to play for. It was good enough to be among the final 13 survivors of 30 NHL teams Sunday. Yet bad enough to get one coach fired and another interim one probably not expected to return.
There are a few deficiencies that undeniably have contributed to Minnesota’s malaise in the middle of the league standings year after year. With the exception of Marion Gaborik several seasons ago, the Wild has never had a true, superstar scoring threat. Even hard-working Zach Parise has had to earn every tally, by fearlessly skating into areas that probably contributed to his injury-plagued 2016 season.
The team is almost always in the middle to lower half of the league in goals scored, making it a viable competitor for defensive-minded playoff action but not really equipped with enough firepower to get very far.
But something else seems to be missing, too. Consistency.
In Game One in Dallas, the Stars looked faster and more polished with the puck. Conventional wisdom said the sluggish Wild would need to keep the score down to have any chance to win the series.Yet they appeared to more than match the Stars’ speed in their two victories, scoring five goals each time and four more in Sunday’s tough loss.
General Manager Chuck Fletcher has some difficult decisions to make this off season. Young players like Zucker and Matt Dumba have underachieved. Veterans with big contracts are getting older and less productive. Minnesota has both youth and experience, but few players in their prime.
But the biggest question might be in choosing a new coach.
When the team hit its biggest swoon in mid-February, Fletcher had little choice but to fire Mike Yeo. Two months later, Yeo is expected to land a job elsewhere, and it appears clear he wasn’t the problem. John Torchetti briefly brought new energy and a better connection with some of the younger players he’d coached at the Wild’s minor league franchise in Iowa. But he couldn’t solve the consistency crisis either.
For 43 minutes Sunday, the Wild gave us serious concern that this operation might need a major facelift. Then for the next 17, they reminded us that there is apparently enough talent to skate with the league’s best.
Good luck finding someone capable of figuring out why.