Saturday, December 31, 2011

What's in an athletic name?

Michael Jordan. Brett Favre. Jerry Rice. Aaron Rodgers. If you know anything about sports, you probably know these four men are some of the top names in their respective sports. But did you know that they now have relatives trying to pick up where they left off?

Here is some background on five young athletes trying to make a name for themselves, even though the names on their jerseys belong to some of the best athletes in history:

Jeffrey and Marcus Jordan

Jeffrey and Marcus are both sons of legendary NBA star and current Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan. They both currently play on the University of Central Florida’s men’s basketball team. Jeffrey is 23 and Marcus is 21. ESPN actually televised some of the brothers’ high school basketball games in the mid-2000s as they led the Loyola Academy basketball team in Illinois to a conference championship. Jeffrey played three seasons at the University of Illinois prior to transferring to UCF before the 2011-12 season. Now a senior, he’s seen very limited playing time at the college level. Marcus, however, has had more opportunities to play and is averaging an outstanding 17.5 points per game as a junior this season, following up on a year where he scored over 15 points per game. The two point guards will likely never come close to matching their dad’s prolific NBA career, but it should be interesting to see which one can make it to the next level and how he ends up doing. Wouldn’t it be something to see another Jordan on the Bulls’ roster?

Dylan Favre

Dylan is the nephew of longtime NFL quarterback Brett Favre. He is just a freshman and plays quarterback at Mississippi State. In 2011, Favre saw some action and threw for 119 yards on 13-of-26 passes along with a touchdown and no interceptions. It seemed as if he came in more often for wildcat plays and unique formations, demonstrating an ability to be a little more mobile than his uncle was. In high school, he set a Mississippi high school passing record. If Dylan has the passion for football that kept his uncle from un-retiring all those years, you never know what the 19-year-old’s future might entail in another few years.

Jerry Rice, Jr.

Not only does this kid have his dad’s last name, but he also has his first name. Jerry Jr. is a redshirt sophomore wide receiver for the UCLA Bruins football team. The 20-year-old has only seen limited playing time thus far in his college career. He still has a long way to go to prove himself as a potential NFL player. Oddly enough, he is three inches shorter than his father and a few pounds lighter. The good thing he has going for him is that he’s at a recognized school in UCLA. His dad, who attended Mississippi Valley State, essentially came out of nowhere in the 1985 NFL Draft.

Jordan Rodgers

Most people know Aaron Rodgers by now since he won Super Bowl XLV back in February. But did you know that Aaron’s little brother, Jordan, is a college football quarterback? Jordan is the starting QB for Vanderbilt University. The 23-year-old attended Butte College in northern California where his brother also played. He started his first game for the Commodores on Oct. 22, 2011 and led the team to the Liberty Bowl – a rare bowl appearance for the school. In 2011 as a junior, Rodgers had a solid 119.6 QB rating, throwing for 9 touchdowns, 9 interceptions, and completing 51.5% of his passes. Aaron certainly did not appear to be a future NFL star in college at California, so who knows what the future may hold for Jordan.

Fortunately, these five players share the names of very successful athletes. Unfortunately, simply having a name won’t mean you will be successful, and that goes for any profession. In fact, they may even have a tougher road than most athletes because everyone will be comparing them to the ones who came before them – just like I did in this blog post!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Spammers need grammar lessons

The other day, I got an e-mail from someone named Emil Chepiga. The subject line was simply “Well well.”

Here is what the e-mail read:

Here is [NAME REMOVED] writing to you.

My age is 21.
Don't you remember me? We met at the park.
I was at the party with my friends and we made some crazy and cool videos.
You must check the videos, here is the attachment.
Shampoo comma deodorant black barge
Bed chronometer lunge bra

Hope you like it. Keep in touch sweetheart

The name of the attached file was “grdokyux.htm.”

First of all, it looks like a 3-year-old wrote this (nothing against 3-year-olds, though). Or it’s someone whose first language is something other than English, which is probably more plausible. Plus it is confusing because the writer is talking about a park and then mentions a party and the fact that there are videos from the party.

Do people actually fall for e-mails written this poorly? This e-mail is much less convincing than some of the ones sent by Nigerian e-mail scammers. But it is beyond me that people will actually send money to those who send them these fake e-mails about how they are the great-grandson of a prince and need to get out of the country, but must make a financial transaction with someone in order to do so. In this particular case, you’d have to be just as ignorant to open the attachment. Good luck getting rid of the virus on your computer afterward.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Packers have a rich history in Largo

This is a story I wrote for a local online news site several months ago, but they never published it. So I thought I would share it here on my blog:

Packers have a rich history in Largo

By Greg Lindberg

April 2011

The NFL’s Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers aren’t the only sports team with a large following. If you live in Largo, there is a popular Packers squad right in your backyard.

The Largo High School Packers have a rich history when it comes to athletics. The school is known for its successful football and basketball teams, in addition to its storied cross country program, which captured 10 state championships in the 1970s and ‘80s.

So where exactly did the Packer name come from? In its early days, the school was located near a large orange packing plant at the corner of Missouri and East Bay Avenues. Trains would come through to pick up the oranges for distribution to other areas. It was only fitting that the school took on the Packer name for its athletic teams.

Aside from the Packer name, the official mascot is a razorback hog. According to Largo athletic coordinator Jim Casey, a principal at the school in the late 1950s and early ‘60s was a graduate of the University of Arkansas and was a huge Razorbacks fan. The school adopted the pig as a result. Some also claim that the football team would practice near a pig farm in the area. Animal farms were once a common site to see in Pinellas County.

The pig mascot also represents the rural aspect in the history of the school and its longtime rivalry with the city-centered Clearwater High School.

“It was always the farmers against the city folks,” Casey said. “Every time [Largo] played Clearwater, kids would dress up in overalls and straw hats.”

Rick Rodriguez has been the head football coach at Largo since 2000. But he previously coached at Clearwater High for 16 years prior to joining the Packers. Rodriguez admitted it took some time getting used to coaching on the other side of the rivalry.

“But I’m all Largo blood now,” he said.

Rodriguez’s teams have dominated his former school. The Packers, who wear helmets that show a mean-looking hog with its teeth sticking out, are 12-1 against the Tornadoes in their last 13 meetings.

“We’re one of the best football programs in Pinellas in the past 10 years,” Rodriguez said.

Because of how popular Largo football is, students dress up in school colors – blue and gold – for pep rallies and football games. The pig mascot has appeared at football games as well. In the past, a senior would dress up in a razorback costume and attend games to cheer on the Packers. But because it was so hot to wear the heavy costume, nobody volunteered to do it last fall. It was also discovered that the mascot was missing from the team’s field house. It has not yet been replaced.

“I think somebody stole the thing,” Rodriguez said. He wonders if it was a Clearwater fan who took it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

It's just not fair

Many sports pundits have debated for years about having a minimum age requirement for college basketball players to enter the NBA draft. The current rule states that players must be 19 years old the year of the draft in order to qualify for it.

So why not also have a maximum age limit for athletes to compete in college sports?

The Oklahoma State Cowboys are currently ranked No. 2 in the nation in college football. If they win the rest of their games, they will likely play in the BCS National Championship Game. Brandon Weeden, their starting quarterback, is 28 years old. He played five seasons of minor-league baseball before joining the Oklahoma State football team. Weeden is a decade older than many of the freshmen on the team. He got his driver’s license when many of his teammates were starting kindergarten. This must beg the question: why in the world is he allowed to play? It is not fair to other players to have to play against a guy who could be a fifth-year NFL quarterback. The NCAA must change the eligibility rules right here, right now.

College students between the ages of 18 and 22 have a reputation for being wild and crazy and doing stupid things. This stereotype might be accurate in some cases, and research has shown that humans’ brains are not fully developed until the mid-20s. That is why young adults often make poor and rash decisions. It also reflects the major differences in the abilities of college football players and NFL players. Yet Weeden, at age 28, must be fully matured and a step ahead of his teammates and players on opposing teams, right? It is obvious why his team is the second-best in the country. No other team has a QB at his maturity level. In fact, it would be embarrassing if he didn’t have his team in their current position.

Back in 1999, the Florida State Seminoles had Chris Weinke playing at quarterback. Weinke, also a former minor league baseball player, was 27 years old and won a national championship at FSU that season. He also won the Heisman Trophy the following year to become the oldest player to ever to win as a 28-year-old. At the time, people probably felt the same way about Weinke as they have to about Weeden.

It just does not seem right that athletes of a certain age who have professional experience under their belts are allowed to play at the college level. Perhaps the fact that these older players are quarterbacks – arguably the most important position to play – gives their teams even more of an advantage. Sure, people go back to school later in life to earn their degrees. But when competing in athletics, those with professional sports experience like Weeden had in minor-league baseball are obviously far superior both physically and mentally than everyone else on the field when they play. If Oklahoma State wins the national championship this year, there should be an asterisk next to the team’s name in the record books. I’d even vote to add one to the ’99 Seminoles.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A tumultuous end to an unprecedented run

The recent news out of Penn State University that former football defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky allegedly committed a slew of sex abuse crimes against children has taken the nation by storm. Any story with details of this nature is terribly disturbing, but this case is particularly polarizing because of who is involved – and who might have been involved. None other than legendary Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno is being questioned about what he did or did not report to both school officials and local authorities about what he apparently knew was going on.

Paterno, who has been a coach in some fashion at Penn State since 1950, has had a reputation as one of the most unique and beloved faces in sports, primarily because of his age and longevity at one school. In today’s era of what-have-you-done-for-me-lately, it is rare to see a head coach remain at one job for a fraction of the time that Paterno has held his position in State College, Pa.

Many fans were probably wondering when Paterno would ultimately decide to hang it up. In 2011 at the age of 84, he was quoted as saying he would like to coach “another four or five years.” But because of the Sandusky scandal and obvious pressure from all directions, Paterno announced on Nov. 9 that this would be his final season as head coach. Only the school’s Board of Trustees will determine if he can finish the remainder of the season or if he will be forced out sooner.

Clearly, this entire situation is just awful from every angle. First and foremost, you certainly have to feel for the victims of the alleged crimes. But from a college football fan’s standpoint, isn’t it an absolute shame it had to end like this? Regardless of whether “JoePa” is sent out the door before the 2011 season is over or gets his wishes and finishes with an ounce of dignity, who would have ever thought such a celebrated career would end on a note like this? It pains me to think that the “grandfather of college football” has to take a bow on such ugly terms. I don’t even know how to view the man any longer. In all likelihood, that view won’t be shaped completely until the entire saga is unraveled. We will never see another Joe Paterno. And because of that, it makes you sick to your stomach.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A small revival of my childhood

The 1990s decade continues to fall further back in history with each passing day. But a ‘90s TV staple is now back – and hopefully here to stay.

On the night of October 27, “Beavis and Butt-head” returned to MTV with new episodes for the first time since 1997. Many of today’s youth were not even born when the cartoon was cancelled after seven seasons. But for someone who was a kid back then, it was awesome to see these rowdy teens back on the tube.

I had always wondered if Mike Judge would pull some new episodes out of his hat after “King of the Hill” ended its run on Fox in the spring of 2010. When the news broke in the summer of that year that a “B&B” return was on the way, I immediately updated my Facebook status with the exciting news and shared my enthusiasm with my roommate at the time.

The first new episodes, called “Werewolves of Highland” and “Crying,” were quite different compared to each other. Yet they were just what viewers expected out of Judge and the producers. “Werewolves” had a much more complex plot as the boys thought they had to be bitten by a werewolf in order to get chicks when the saw the movie “Twilight.” On the other hand, “Crying” was simply about how Beavis’ eyes watered when eating an onion and the fact that Butt-head poked fun at him about it for the rest of their lives.

It was great to see some familiar characters as well, with Mr. Van Dreesen, Coach Buzzcut and Stewart Stevenson making appearances. In addition, the voices of every character sounded just like they did in the show’s original run. People’s voices do change a bit over time, but obviously the voice actors for the show – especially Judge – don’t fall into that category.

MTV has been the subject of numerous jokes over the last several years about how the network still calls itself by letters that stand for “Music Television,” but it rarely plays music videos. This episode featured several current music videos and TV shows that air on the network with the boys making fun of them as usual. Their impressions of the “Jersey Shore” characters were spot-on – and funny.

We all know that things change over time. People move away. TV shows go off the air. Life is constantly on the move. But when something that so many people enjoyed in the past returns, it makes you remember how great it was and gives you a chance to enjoy it again. “Beavis and Butt-head” may just be an inane, time-waster of a cartoon to some people. But to me and others who grew up in the ‘90s, it’s a childhood attachment of ours. And it’s great to see it back on television.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

How sports can unite a community

This past Sunday, ESPN aired an outstanding in-depth piece on Outside the Lines about how high school football has helped heal some of the pain that will be forever felt in Joplin, Mo. This is the town that was devastated by an F5 tornado in May and lost over 160 of its residents.

Joplin High School was essentially wiped off the map by the storm. Students are now attending classes at a nearby mall. But the school’s football field, which was off-campus, remained mostly intact and allowed for players to practice and eventually play football there. The story was narrated by the Joplin Eagles’ head coach and members of the team. They all said that it was their goal to have football bring some stability back to their tattered community.

Over time, sporting events have been shown to be incredible emotional boosts for those who have endured a significant misfortune in their lives. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York, playing football and baseball helped bring people together, especially when the New York Mets hosted the first baseball game in the state following that horrific day. When Hurricane Katrina turned New Orleans upside-down in 2005, football fans rallied around the New Orleans Saints – a team that was experiencing success for the first time in years. Quarterback Drew Brees seemed to be someone everyone looked up to at the time, and Brees has gained a reputation for helping others in the New Orleans community.

The fact that sports can unite a group of people in need of some good news is an interesting concept. It just goes to show how fun and exciting athletics can be. Whether it’s the play on the field, the mascot dancing to a song blaring on the loudspeakers, the cheerleaders throwing each other in the air or any other entertaining element of a game, it is a time when everyone in a community can gather in one place and have a great time. It also gives people a place to go and temporarily forget about some of the stresses of life that we all experience. For those in Joplin, these stresses have reached terribly high levels over the last few months. That is why they are so glad to have something to cheer about now.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Newer college coaches means growing pains in Florida

Mid-October means we are in the thick of the college football season. At this point, it is starting to become clear who the frontrunners in most conferences will be come December.

However, for the first time in a long time, the state of Florida may not be a factor in these races whatsoever.

On October 9, the Associated Press released its weekly poll of the top 25 teams in the nation. After a streak of 472 consecutive polls, there was no team from the Sunshine State included in this elite group. This marks the state’s first absence in such rankings since 1982. And there are a few more schools in Florida playing in the FBS (formerly Division I-A level) than there were back then.

There is one glaring reason that could explain why this streak came to an end. The BCS programs at FSU, UF, Miami and USF all have head coaches in either their first or second year. In the meantime, the programs at UCF, FAU and FIU certainly aren’t making much of a case to pick up their big brothers’ slack.

But as St. Petersburg Times columnist John Romano points out in a piece on this subject, Florida is a hotbed of high school football players, many of whom have starred on national championship teams at the college level and on Super Bowl teams in the NFL. In fact, the state has produced 10 national titles in college football. Clearly, even to this day, the athletes are there.

The challenge then becomes attracting top players to these schools. It is much easier for an athlete to pick a school that has a well-established, successful coaching staff in place. It is less tempting to play in a program surrounded by uncertainty due to the newness of its coaches.

So, as college football enthusiasts living in Florida, where do things go from here?

The answer is hurry up and wait. Fans will have to be patient for another two, three, maybe five years before they see the Sunshine State’s teams consistently ranked among the top programs nationally. In addition, these new coaches will either prove themselves by winning conference championships or will be forced out due to a lack of progress. Because of the pressure to succeed at these tradition-rich schools, time is not on the side of these coaches.

Friday, September 30, 2011

An unforgettable night

It was the night of Wednesday, September 28, 2011. It was an important night, at least in my eyes. That night, the Tampa Bay Rays were playing the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field. It was the final game of the regular season for both teams. But it was far more important for the Rays as its result would determine the team’s future. If they won and Boston lost, the Rays would claim the American League wild card and a postseason berth. If they lost and Boston won, their season was over. A similar result in their game and Boston’s game meant a one-game playoff the following day to determine the wild card winner since the two teams had the same record.

Just a few innings into the game, the Rays trailed by what seemed like an insurmountable lead. It was 7-0 after Rays starter David Price struggled to one of the worst outings of his career. Meantime, the Red Sox had grabbed a 3-2 lead in Baltimore and were in the middle of a rain delay.

For some reason, I kept the Rays game on TV in the background. At the very least, I wanted to see how their season would end, thinking this would be the final day of it. At that point, I was glad I had turned down a friend’s offer to go since it was getting worse and worse.

Then something started happening in the eighth inning. The Rays started putting men on base. They started scoring some runs – just a few – to make the scoreboard operator do something. But when Evan Longoria stepped up to the plate and belted a pitch to left field, I knew the Rays were not done. You could just feel something special after listening to TV broadcaster Dewayne Staats call the three-run homer, which made it 7-6. Tampa Bay was a run away from tying the game after only collecting a pair of hits in the first seven innings.

Then came the ninth inning. Dan Johnson, who had struggled just to stay in the majors all season long, was at the plate for the Rays with two outs and no one on base. He was a strike away from ending what appeared to be an amazing comeback if he had swung and missed the next pitch. But he didn’t. He made solid contact and hit a ball that barely got over the right field wall to tie the game at seven. How in the world was this happening?

Fast-forward to extra innings when the Rays were batting in the 12th inning. The game was still knotted at seven. In Baltimore, the Orioles were threatening to tie the game against Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon. Before I could flip over to ESPN from Sun Sports, the O’s had tied it at three. Then, somehow, some way, Robert Andino drove in the winning run with former Rays leftfielder Carl Crawford diving to make a play but coming up short.

Since Baltimore had taken care of business and knocked off the Red Sox, the Rays were on the verge of history. In mere minutes after the other game had ended, Evan Longoria launched a pitch to left field and, somehow, some way, it left the yard and landed in the blue outfield seats, sending the Rays to an improbable comeback in their game and a trip to the playoffs that nobody could have ever imagined. If only I had been there.

I may be young, but I can’t imagine ever witnessing such dramatics in sports for the rest of my life. I also got to share the moment with my brother on the phone. He had called me no more than 30 seconds before Longoria’s game-winning blast to find out if I was watching. Fortunately I was. He had taken a nap when it was 7-0 and later awakened to see a tied ballgame. We both screamed and laughed when it was all said and done, finding it hard to believe what we had seen occur. A team with one of the lowest payrolls was in the playoffs. A team with one of the highest was not.

Timing is everything in life, and it was totally proven on this night.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Athletes with Character

Finding character in current and former athletes and coaches can oftentimes be a tough task. With the frequent news of athletes getting arrested for a variety of crimes, it has to make you wonder why Americans support certain players with long rap sheets.

That is why it is a pleasure to highlight some former athletes and coaches with character. The recent passing of Tampa Bay Bucs Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon prompted this blog post. Selmon was a rare figure in his sport. Not only is he still the lone Buccaneer in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but he is also perhaps one of the most respected, genuine men to ever wear a helmet and shoulder pads.

It is difficult to find other athletes who can be compared to Selmon, However, there are a few other current and former football icons with Florida connections who come to mind – Tim Tebow, Tony Dungy, and Derrick Brooks.


One of the most fascinating figures in college football history is Tim Tebow. Love him or hate him, the University of Florida graduate has an international following – and is only 24 years old. His commitment to Christianity shined brightly during his prolific college career. He even had a scripture written in the eye-black on his face. For many years, he and his family have also been involved in missionary work around the world. He is currently the third-string quarterback for the Denver Broncos. If Tebow can find a way to succeed in the NFL, he could revolutionize the image of future athletes because of how unique he is as a human being.


Tony Dungy may be the most soft-spoken individual to play and coach football. But he was extremely successful at it, leading the Indianapolis Colts to a Super Bowl championship to finish off the 2006 season. While coaching the Tampa Bay Bucs from 1996-2001, Dungy established himself as a leader in the community and dedicated himself to numerous charitable efforts. n August 2007, former President George W. Bush appointed Dungy as a member of the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation. He is now an analyst on NBC’s NFL coverage and the author of “Quiet Strength: The Principles, Practices, & Priorities of a Winning Life.”


A future Hall of Famer, Derrick Brooks spent 14 seasons as a top linebacker feared by many players in the NFL, playing his entire career with the Buccaneers. Brooks continues to be involved in charity work in the Tampa Bay area and oversees many of his own charities (see Brooks was a recipient of the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2000 and the “Whizzer” White NFL Man of the Year Award in 2003. He and Selmon seem to share more in common than most because of the positions they played along with their on-field talent and off-the-field demeanor. When it comes to being a person of character, Brooks is already following in Selmon’s footsteps.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Bull-ish Effort

The University of South Florida football team won perhaps the biggest game in school history by beating Notre Dame this past weekend. Skip Holtz returned to his roots in South Bend, Ind. where both he and his father, Lou, coached to capture a tremendous victory for the Bulls and for Holtz personally.

Although the game received much more media coverage due to two lengthy weather delays, two major sports stories also unfolded at Notre Dame Stadium – how good USF’s defense looked and how inept the Fighting Irish looked overall.

The Bulls have always been known for their play on the defensive side of the ball. Ever since the team vaulted to No. 2 in the nation back in 2007, the Bulls have had some of the toughest, hard-working players on the field taking on a variety of offensive attacks. USF defensive coordinator Mark Snyder should receive major kudos for their effort last Saturday as the defense essentially won the game for the Bulls. They recorded five total turnovers including a 96-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown by Kayvon Webster. USF also had three interceptions, two of which were in the endzone to halt two potential scoring drives by Notre Dame.

On the other side of the field, the Irish looked completely out of sync in a home game they were predicted to win by at least 10 points. Clearly, head coach Brian Kelly has his work cut out for him in his second year with a tough schedule on tap. Pulling starting quarterback Dane Crist for backup Tommy Rees at halftime appeared to be a smart move as Rees completed 24 of 34 passes for 296 yards and two TD’s. But it also shows the uncertainty ahead in South Bend, thanks in large part to USF’s defensive effort.

Don’t let the stormy weather rain on the significance of this win for USF. Any team that can beat Notre Dame at home is special because of how hard it is to do. The rich tradition of the program makes every Irish football game a major event in the Hoosier State, and rightfully so. Just look at the history of the program. However, for a few hours – or more like six – the USF Bulls enjoyed the national spotlight on NBC and also took another step in becoming a team that all college football fans will recognize one day.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Damon Effect

I have always been fascinated when I see veteran athletes – particularly those who are older – perform at a high level. The great Satchel Paige was 59 years old when he pitched in a game in 1965 for the Kansas City Athletics. In 1991, Nolan Ryan tossed a no-hitter at age 44 for the Texas Rangers. Brett Favre had the best statistical season of his NFL career at age 40 with the Minnesota Vikings in 2009.

Here in Tampa Bay, it has been a privilege to watch the ageless Johnny Damon play for the Rays. Clearly a future Hall of Famer, Damon has had countless clutch hits for his team. Recently, he was hitting .417 with the bases loaded this season before launching a three-run, bases-clearing double that was inches shy of being a grand slam.

Damon is 37 years old. He will turn 38 on November 5. Although he can’t quite compare age-wise to players like Rickey Henderson or Jamie Moyer who played well into their 40s (and maybe he’ll be there someday), it is still incredible to see a guy who has played in the big leagues since 1995 continue to get it done at such a high level.

Damon has never been outspoken when talking to the media. But you have to believe that he has emerged as a leader in the clubhouse since joining the Rays. In fact, it was reported early in the season when the team was struggling that Damon arranged a team meeting to talk about how the players needed to relax a bit because they were pressing too much at the plate. The team responded and subsequently set a record for going from worst to first in the AL East in such a short period of time. For an athlete at his age to step into a new and unfamiliar clubhouse and take on the role it appears he has is also a testament to how great a player – and human being – Damon really is.

The Rays had Wade Boggs. They had Fred McGriff. Someday, Carl Crawford will likely be in that category of greatness. But it is hard to argue against the fact that Johnny Damon may be the best baseball player to ever don a Rays uniform. He has two World Series rings, one with Boston and the other with New York. If he stays healthy and maintains that natural baseball instinct, wouldn’t it be something if he added a third ring to his hand in Tampa Bay?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Journalism and change

This past week, I had the opportunity to attend the 2011 AEJMC conference in St. Louis. Basically these conferences are a gathering of journalists, professors, and others who have some kind of footprint in the journalism and mass communication world. The main reason I attended was to present a research paper I did with a professor over the past year. The paper is called “Why your grandpa is on Facebook: A Survey of Uses and Gratifications of Facebook by Older Adults.” In simple terms, this study looked at why people over age 45 use Facebook. The main two reasons were for entertainment purposes (to play games) and for social interests (viewing others’ profiles).

But enough about me and my work. There has been so much discussion about how journalism is in trouble these days. Fortunately after attending this conference, I came away with a different impression. There were so many people there it was hard to tell that there was any problem at all – or even any shortage of journalists. From educators to professional journalists, it seemed as if everyone had a positive attitude about an industry that has endured more cutbacks and changes than almost any other industry in the world.

The main point people should understand is that journalism is not “in trouble” – it’s changing. Whenever change occurs, some people panic. The status quo is no longer so and suddenly things are different. Get used to it, though. Sometimes change is for the better. Even though thousands of journalists have lost their jobs in recent years, other kinds of jobs are beginning to open up for them, especially in online media. is a venture that comes to mind. Launched in December 2007, this website consists of hyperlocal pages devoted to news coverage in communities across the country. Each site has its own editor-in-chief along with a slew of freelance reporters. Perhaps many of these individuals once worked for “traditional” news organizations. In my view, Patch has become about as traditional as anything today.

So just remember that journalism is in flux. It may always be that way due to how quickly new technology takes hold. But once this constant change becomes normal, if it hasn’t already, most people will realize what the new definition of journalism really is.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Rays rookies making a splash in 2011

No, that splash sound you just heard isn’t a 250-pound man leaping into a swimming pool. It’s the sound of several Tampa Bay Rays rookies making a splash this season.

Since Stuart Sternberg’s group purchased the Rays over six years ago, the team has had one of baseball’s top farm systems. The club has produced some of the most talented young players who have already made their mark in the big leagues.

Here are a few guys who, in just a short time, have proven to be major-league caliber players this season:

1) RHP – Jeremy Hellickson
Aside from James “Complete Game” Shields’ tremendous turnaround this year, Hellickson has arguably been the second best pitcher for the Rays in 2011. As a baby-faced 24-year-old, he became the first 10-game winner in the rotation. Earlier in the season, he had a stretch of 14 consecutive innings without allowing a run and also notched a slim 1.36 ERA for the month of May. He currently sports a 10-7 record with a 3.15 ERA. Hellickson truly has a chance to become Tampa Bay’s ace someday assuming the organization hangs on to his talents.

2) RHP – Alex Cobb
Most Rays fans had likely never heard of Cobb until he was called up for a start on May 1 due to an injury in the rotation. He was involved in a no-decision in an outing against the Yankees during which he allowed just two runs on three hits. He also struck out nine in a road game against the Mariners. More impressively, he never suffered a loss in his first seven major-league starts – a rare record for a rookie. Cobb has a 2.79 ERA with twice as many strikeouts as walks.

3) OF – Desmond Jennings
In high school, Jennings played baseball as a centerfielder, basketball as a guard and football as a receiver, QB and defensive back. He was a Division I prospect in all three sports (according to Rays beat writer Marc Topkin). These talents seem very similar to former Rays leftfielder Carl Crawford, who is arguably the greatest player in franchise history. He has already made his mark by hitting .354 with two triples, three homers and a solid .708 slugging percentage. Rays TV broadcaster Dewayne Staats has called Jennings a “special player.” He is already living up to that description.

4) C – Robinson Chirinos
Perhaps the name Robinson just sounds like a good baseball name because of some of the greats who have had it. Although he has only seen action very recently, Chirinos has already put himself in the category of one of Tampa Bay’s most exciting catchers after recording the game-winning hit against Toronto in the 12th inning on Aug. 4. The Venezuela native spent over a decade in the minors before getting an opportunity with the Rays this year. In 13 games, he has a .273 ERA with a homer and six RBI. Rays fans can only hope he’ll provide more offensive production than any catcher they’ve used this year – or maybe ever.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Appreciating life

Last night, I was flipping through TV channels and came across an episode of “20/20” on ABC. In terms of journalism, this is one of the best shows on television, along with “Dateline” on NBC and CBS’ long-running “60 Minutes.”

This particular broadcast focused on the subject of progeria, an extremely rare disease that affects children. It involves rapid aging and most kids who are diagnosed with it rarely live to see their teenage years. Barbara Walters did an outstanding job of telling the stories of three young girls with progeria and how the disease has affected their families. She interviewed the girls, their parents, and a few doctors. One striking statistic that stood out is that there are only 16 documented cases of the disease in the United States. Even though it is clearly a condition most people don’t have to deal with, Walters and her producers made it seem important to the viewer.

Can you miagine being in the shoes of a child with progeria? Or a parent with this child? It is hard to even fathom how they must feel knowing their fate is closer than that of their parents. Their health is practically in greater jeopardy than that of most elderly people. One mother commented that she wakes up every day “wondering if this will be the day” she loses her daughter. Just think how difficult it would be having a child in this situation.

Watching this broadcast was somewhat disturbing, but it made me appreciate life more than ever. There are individuals living among us who are in more difficult positions than we will ever be ourselves. To me, these people should be rewarded. I’ve never really bought into the mindset that everyone should live life to the fullest and take risks, probably because I’m a little more cautious than most people. But now I can understand why people feel this way. Life is a precious thing that we should all, at the very least, cherish.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The problem with hotel pillows

Have you ever paid attention to hotel pillows when traveling? If so, you probably know where this blog post is going.

I have had the opportunity to travel both around the country and internationally. Along the way, I’ve stayed in numerous hotels and motels. There is one thing that the pillows at these homes away from home all seem to have in common. They are lumpy and lame. Right as you plop your head on them, they sink in, almost as if they aren’t even there and your head is propped on the actual bed.

I know it’s kind of an inconsequential complaint, but don’t people want to be comfortable when staying at a hotel? I sure do. Sleeping in a bed other than the one at home is tough enough. Even the higher-end places that charge a fortune and have fancy rooms with all the amenities imaginable still fail to provide comfort for your head. Using these pillows is basically like sleeping on the floor.

I know I can’t be too crazy if there is a Facebook group called “I hate hotel pillows,” can I? I have to believe that this complaint is more prevalent than some may think. The next time I stay at a hotel, I think I will bring a big sign with lyrics similar to those of the holiday tune that goes, “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth.” It will read, “All I want in my room is a firm pillow.”

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A day with no sports section

Almost every day of the year, something is going on in sports. A baseball game is being played in Cincinnati. A basketball game is tipping off in Los Angeles. A football game is at halftime in Green Bay – with the score knotted at 21.

But there is one day of the year when newspapers can practically forget about printing their daily sports section and ESPN may not even need to air SportsCenter. Today is that day – the day after baseball’s All-Star Game.

There is really no reason to check for scores, no reason to dial 1-800-555-TELL (a sports score resource) to get updates on games. That’s because nothing is going on. And this rings true even louder this year in the midst of both the NFL and NBA lockouts.

The biggest event going on in sports right now is the women’s World Cup. Forgive me if I offend anyone, but soccer is just not a sport I have ever been interested in as a fan. It’s not one of the big four leagues in this country and probably will never become the fifth. Although I might feel slightly more patriotic knowing that the USA team has played quite well in this tournament, it is hard to get excited about it.

So what do us sports enthusiasts do on a day of no sports? The simple answer is to turn off your fandom for 24 hours. Give it a rest. Then focus on something besides athletics for once, like your significant other – or video games. Hey, why not pop in Madden or an NBA game to get your fix? Or instead of rooting for your favorite team, root for the calendar to turn to tomorrow. It will be here before you can put on your Rays hat.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What's in a sport?

This Fourth of July marked the 96th annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island in New York. The competition was once again broadcast on ESPN. I often wonder why competitive eating is considered a “sport.” It has been shown on ESPN for years. But so has the Scripps National Spelling Bee. And other non-athletic events. Just because something is broadcast on the home of SportsCenter doesn’t mean it is a sport.

People often debate what a “sport” really is. Does it have to involve a ball? A stick? Physical ability? Mental strength? According to Merriam-Webster, the long-trusted American English dictionary we all consider to be an official source, the word “sport” as a noun has several definitions listed, which furthers the debate about its actual meaning. The top three definitions call it “a source of diversion,” “sexual play,” and “a physical activity engaged in for pleasure.”

I guess an event like an eating competition could be described by two of these three meanings. It is definitely a diversion from everyday life. Rarely will you witness someone devour 62 hot dogs in a matter of minutes. It could also be considered a physical activity because one must position their bodies in a certain way as they chow down on the increasing amount of solid food going down their esophagus. The more salacious definition, however, doesn’t seem to apply here, unless there is a food fetish involved. (For your benefit, I won’t delve any further into that one.)

So perhaps there is some merit to including specific activities in the category of sports that some of us think have nothing to do with sports. I’m still not totally sold on the fact that eating – even in enormous quantities – takes nearly as much effort as playing football or basketball at the professional level. That is why five-time hot dog eating champ and 2011 winner Joey Chestnut will never rise to the level of Joe Montana or Michael Jordan.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Stepping up to the plate

This is the first post of my blog. I plan to use this as a platform for writing about various subjects, probably more about sports than anything. Hence the baseball reference in the title of this post.

I have been a Tampa Bay Rays fan since the team had "devil" in its name. Although I probably shouldn't be biased toward any team as someone who aspires to be a journalist someday, I am happy to report that the Rays beat the Cincinnati Reds tonight on a walk-off home run by Evan Longoria. The slugger's batting statistics have been less than stellar since returning from the disabled list, which has been a while now. He recently ditched his batting gloves and decided to hit with flesh on wood. I don't think I want to know how that would feel. But Longoria put the gloves back on and hit the game-winner, so it's a good sign that he might be getting back into his normal groove - with the appropriate gear on.