A Feel for the Game

Full count. Runners on first and second. Two outs. The last inning.

This is the type of scenario that hitters dream of when they’re growing up in the backyard, throwing up pine cones and hitting them with sticks. This is also the type of scenario that pitchers envision when they want to define themselves as a “pressure pitcher.” This is a clutch moment.

The pitcher grips the ball, the seams rippling under his fingers as he palms the ball, trying to figure out what pitch to deliver. His foot slides into a carefully-dug crevasse before the rubber. Spikes scrape the dirt, dust trickles up, giving the vibe of an old Western shootout. It’s a battle of who can get the better of who, the hitter looking to secure a comeback win for his team, or the pitcher looking to lock down the last inning to send his team home with the “W.”

The batter digs into the back of the batters box, scraping out the remnants of the back border to try and gain every millimeter of advantage that he can. He taps the plate with his bat twice and cocks, awaiting the pitchers’ best. Everything seems to blur in the background except for the mound, the pitcher, and the fence. In his mind, it’s quiet. Almost peaceful. This is what hitters dream of.

The fielders ready themselves. The runners take their leads. The shortstop fakes to second base to hold the runner on second close. The runner’s doing everything in his power to rattle the pitcher. Dancing, leaning, scraping cleats, clapping. All of the usual tricks. Anything to give his team that extra edge during this moment.

The catcher’s fingers flash, relaying signs to the pitcher. He runs through all the pitches, letting the pitcher control the moment and his destiny. Fastball, changeup, curveball, slider. Inside, outside, high, low. The pitcher gives a subtle nod and the catcher takes his place, knowing his job is to make sure that no pitch gets passed him.

The pitcher sets from the stretch, fingers on the seams, heart in his throat.

For a brief second a silence sets over the ballpark. Friends, family, bystanders are all silent as the climax of the showdown approaches. A stillness sets in. The batter and pitcher locked in a stare-down, a battle of wills, of who will crack first. Fielders punch their gloves, the on-deck batter stops his routine and watches. Both managers know the game is out of their hands now, as they stare intently at the scene unfolding in front of them.

It’s do or die.

The batter’s grip on the bat tightens, the grip twisting and creaking in his hands. The pitcher kicks his leg. The batter steps. Everything slows down.

God damn it, I love baseball.

Student Unions: An NCAA Nightmare

This past week, the Chicago district of the National Labor Relations Board ruled in favor of the Northwestern University football being able to form a union. The NCAA and universities collectively shit themselves.

This is a major step for student athletes, who I feel are largely taken advantage of. Now, I’m not an advocate of paying student athletes for their performance, I think that’s too slippery of a slope. I am a proponent though, of the NCAA taking better care of the student athletes and the athletes being allowed to profit off of their own image; neither of things currently happen. Tales of universities revoking scholarships and not paying medical bills of injured players and denying student athletes the education they were promised run rampant. The University of North Carolina is embattled in another “sham class” issue after having another brilliant essay turned in and given an “A-.”

The NCAA, an organization that is supposedly dedicated to bettering the lives of student athletes and allowing them a chance to receive an education, has become rich, bloated, and infatuated with making money off of the free labor of student athletes. They don’t pay them for performance. They don’t pay them to use their faces in commercials. They don’t pay them to do events. They. Use. Them. In 2010, the NCAA reached a TV deal with CBS and Turner Sports for a mere $11 billion for the rights to March Madness alone, and over $10 billion a year being funneled into college football TV deals, how can the NCAA not afford to provide better for student athletes?

Former Northwestern University quarterback Kain Colter’s testimony included allegations that players practice more than 40 hours a week, a clear violation of the NCAA’s 20/8 rule, which limits in-season practice time to 20 hours a week and offseason practice time to eight hours a week. Colter also added that he wasn’t able to pursue his preferred pre-med major because of football requirements. Definitely sounds like the NCAA and the university are looking out for players.

In the past, teams have meandered around that rule by having “optional” practices, which, any person who played on their high school sports team knows that “optional” actually means “if you miss this, have fun sitting the bench for the week.”

I really don’t think that players should be compensated for their performance on the field. I honestly don’t think that’s what this union movement is about, either. I believe that the players want rights. They want the right to decent healthcare, without worry that the university and the NCAA will dance around payments and have them sent to the player’s doorstep (as in 2013 when an Oklahoma basketball player’s mother received a $10,000 bill for her sons MRI). They want the right to a decent education, without the university limiting their choice of majors because of time constraints.

The biggest issue that I want to see resolved is pretty simple: cover the actual amount of a player’s year of college. Critics point out that the NCAA’s “full scholarship” actually leaves over $3,000 for the player to cover out-of-pocket. Oh, and they can’t have a part-time job, because that would take away from their sport. This little-known fact leaves player after player living below the poverty line and struggling to make ends meet.

Yes, $3,000 seems meager compared to the amount of debt that a typical student will rack up at a university. Hell, I’d love to only have to pay $3,000 a year for college, but I don’t dedicate every ounce of my free time to my sport. The NCAA has dabbled with the idea of $2,000 a year stipend for athletes, but, some simple math will deduce that $3,000-$2,000=$1,000 still not covered.

C’mon NCAA, get your shit together.

I think this Union movement will be awesome for athletes in college. I think it will make them better, safer, and more apt to succeed after sports. The NCAA and universities have become so concerned with making money off of their free laborers that they’ll do almost anything to have to fork out extra money to them. They’re too greedy.

The system in place worked extremely well back in the 1950s before the days of big advertising, sponsorships, and bowl games such as the Meinke Car Care Bowl, but today it’s an outdated system, and it has to be fixed. That’s about as simple as it can get.

A Preview of a Day in Ireland

As my journey in Ireland creeps closer and closer, I’m beginning to think more and more about what my day-to-day life will be. I’ll be finding out this week where I’ll be interning, which will reveal my hours, place, and people I’ll be with, but since I don’t know anything about that right now, I’m going to share what my imagination has created as my day-to-day operations. Hold on to your seat, it gets a little nutty.

Morning

I wake up at promptly 7:45 to the sound of birds chirping, the shower on in the bathroom (my roommate’s up early again, that dedicated son-of-a-gun), and the sound of bagpipes blares in the distance. I stumble out of bed to living room where I start a pot of coffee that I had illegally imported into the country (apparently the Irish haven’t hopped on board the “morning caffeine” train yet). I take a shower, eat some haggis and eggs, and hop on the bus to my internship. On the way there I see a mix of people: beggars, choosers, leprechauns, giants, and Sheamus from the WWE. We strike up a conversation about the local ales and how the rugby team has performed lately. You know, Irish things.

Afternoon

While at work, my coworkers make fun of me for my “accent” and my lack of understanding of their Gaelic words, which is fine, since I’ve convinced them that “shoodoopow” and “pocktizilly” are both American words meaning “fantastic” and “internet.” It’s amazing how proud of themselves they are for grasping those so quickly…Soon after we head to lunch for a Guinness and some more haggis. On our way there, we run into Dr. Cox from Scrubs, just casually hanging out and chugging some Jameson from a beer bong. The guy’s an animal. We finish the day early at 4:00 P.M. Time to sneak on to the golf course…

Mid-afternoon

As me and Patches O’Hoolihan jumped the fence on to the local Links, we could see the higher-ups giving us the death glare. We jumped on to number 10′s tee and started playing, like we’ve been there a million times. Boss status. We finished up our round with an ale in the clubhouse and headed on home.

Night

Night out. Time to show them how the US gets down.

 

The rest is a blur, so we’ll leave that out.

 

So that’s a brief preview of how I think a day in the life of Colin will be in Ireland. If you haven’t yet, please donate to my cause, considering that this internship is unpaid.

Go Green!

Colin

http://www.gofundme.com/ColinsIrishAdventure

Why I’m Becoming a Hockey Fan Again

I used to be one of the biggest hockey fans on the face of the planet. I had catalogs of hockey cards, ranging from the really cool ones like Steve Yzerman to the dumpy ones like Claude Lemieux. Hell, I even had the rookie edition where Topps spelled Dominik Hasek’s name wrong. I watched every Red Wings game, rooting for Darren McCarty as he got into his fifth fight of the game, or watching in awe as Brendan Shanahan ripped a wicked wrister past poor Ed Belfour. I was into it.

Then I stopped playing hockey to focus on the sport designed for short, vertically challenged people: basketball.

For years, I couldn’t have cared less about the NHL. I was wrapped up in college basketball, the dwindling Detroit Pistons’ dynasty of the early/mid 2000s, and working on my world-famous jump shot. I didn’t know who the best team in the league was or who led the league in goals. Hell, I was mindblown when the Atlanta Thrashers were relocated up to Winnipeg to revive the Jets franchise.

That all started changing this year.

I finally was beyond fed up with the media machine that is the NBA. I didn’t care about what new jersey the Brooklyn Nets were wearing or if LeBron James was going to win another MVP award. Honestly, who cares? Living with four roommates who all eat, sleep, and breathe hockey helped me start getting back into the game. Watching the Red Wings consistently lose in overtime was a bit disheartening, but once the Olympics rolled around, it was go time.

It was time to wake up at 7 a.m. (with a little bit of a hangover) and watch the USA go to work. Watching the likes of Patrick Kane and Johnny Quick was awesome. Watching TJ Oshie make Russia his lapdog in the shootout was the most exhilarating hungover experience of my life. I was hooked.

The hockey resurgence in my life was capped off recently by attending the jersey retirement ceremony for Wings’ great Nick Lidstrom.

ImageThis brought me back. Back to the days when I watched “Stevie Y” dangle Rob Blake and the Avalanche. Back to the days of watching Dominik Hasek send Marian Gaborik front-flipping through the air on a breakaway. It was the same game, just with new faces. New faces that I’m quickly learning. The likes of Wings’ stars like Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are still there, but the new guys like Tomas Tatar and Riley Sheahan (AKA the drunk Telletubby) are making their statement.

I’ve quickly learned, they’re fun to watch, as is hockey again. So do yourself a favor; turn off the damn Miami Heat/Milwaukee Bucks game (spoiler alert, the Bucks lose) and turn on an NHL game.