Category Archives: Sports

Becoming a FRUShark: Breathing Ain’t Easy

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So, I’m a big FRU … it’s a fact!  In order to attempt to modify this fact I have attempted the following fitness activities:

  • Walking (the dog)/jogging/running – sometimes even with the assistance of a well developed C25K (couch to 5K) droid phone application.
  • Biking – no app required, just heavy metal music.
  • Sports – typically, this requires some social contact (ugh <rolls eyes>).
  • Fitness Equipment purchase – currently, a stopping place for half-empty, unpacked boxes and winter jackets that never made it to the annual winter, space bag consolidation phase.

All of the above options lead to one major problem: knee, ankle, and foot strain/pain.  You see, my right knee is a wreck.  I’m not talking about fender-bender style, either, here, people; more along the lines of say … Mack-truck-meets-smart-car.  However, I have found one activity that is low impact but gets my heart pumping and my big ass moving that does seem effective:

  • Swimming

WOOT! 

Double-bonus:  there’s a really large wet-space that is fairly well maintained near where I live … tada … linkage >>>  http://www.grantparkpool.org/?page_id=4 .  Looks like I have found my solution, right?  RIIIIIIIIGHT?!?!?!  WRONG!!!  It still seems that there are some obstacles to overcome:

  1. I am a big butch dyke.  This is another fact.  To strangers, I’m so rather androgynous, that I could probably pass for a male. 
  2. I DO NOT have the correct swimming technique.  I mean, I can swim (defined by: progressing through the water in a definitive fashion) but I have never been taught nor have I practiced correct swimming techniques. 
  3. I’m fat.

Now, #1 doesn’t cause too terribly many problems regarding the act of swimming (except for the whole “being big (aka fat)” part – this is discussed later, trust me).  But, let’s be honest with our gender-centric socialization by answering the following question:  If you look like a male, you are dressed as other male swimmers might be dressed, which dressing room/shower area would you be pointed to?  That’s right, ladies and gentlemen and everything in-between, the “Mens'” shower room.  To be sure, this is an issue that I deal with regularly.  I mean, can you imagine the double-takes my mere prescence causes on a daily basis in a corporate working environment’s womens’ bathroom?  What about at the grocery store, CVS, Wal-Mart, any resturaunt?  Ah … you get the picture; I digress.  Plus, it’s not like I truly believe that the guys in the mens’ shower room would actually care if I went walking through it to get to the pool area any more than a guy would care if I used the mens’ bathroom at the mall, CVS, Wal-Mart, etc.  What really grinds my gears (ha!) is when people double-take when I’m already in the womens’ restroom/shower area or when they misdirect me to the mens’ they assume two things:

  1. That they know how all men/women look and carry themselves; essentially, that this binary of male/female gender is the only one that exists, there is no “grey-area” of gender. 
  2. That I can’t read for myself.

The latter bugs the FUCK out of me!  Really?!?!?!  I mean, I get it, sometimes people of opposite genders walk into the bathroom by mistake.  But damn, what do you THINK is going to happen?  They enter a stall … and use it?!?!?! <gasp> Oh, NOOOOOOO! <runs, screaming>  The world is going to end because someone with a penis peed in a toilet that was labeled for use by women!  AHHHHHH!!! 

To this, I respond:  Get over yourself!  I mean, do you have “MENS” and “WOMENS” signs at home?  When you go to other peoples’ houses do you ask where is the mens’/womens’ restroom?  Should I start asking, “Hey, where’s the ‘BUTCH’ restroom?!?!?!”  Maybe I should … <scratches head, wondering if it would be any cleaner than the mens’ or womens’ bathrooms>

Anyway, on to #2 … Because I don’t know proper swimming technique, I have learned one thing: breathing is hard! 

I used to think that freestyle swimmers simply held their breath whilst their head was beneath the water and exhaled and inhaled as their head rotated from outside the water’s break.  Not true.  Apparently, swimmers are suppose to control release air into the water either through their nose or mouth as they go and then inhale as their head rotates from the water’s break. 

Brilliant!  From a sports science perspective, regular breathing will reduce the amount of C02 build-up in your body thus reducing the production of lactic acid.  The less lactic acid build-up, the less sore your body will be the next day.  The less sore you are the less fatigued you feel and therefore you can swim more, everyday even.  But it’s not easy!  Nope.  Not one bit! 

 

Coach Ron Hunter a Good Man for Georgia State

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(Administrator’s Note: This blog is to be read as though it were being told to you by a man much older than his years, wearing a funny hat and pants up past his stomach, sitting on a park bench – perhaps in Hurt Park or Woodruff Park or Library Plaza – feeding (and occasionally biting) pigeons. He is given to grouse, and you try to excuse yourself and walk away, but he hooks your arm with the crook of his cane and jerks you violently back into your seat, such that you’re scared try leaving again. Enjoy!)

In my day, Georgia State University had an accomplished and dangerous basketball program.

I used to go to games at the GSU Sports Arena in the evenings after class – your student ID got you in to all university athletic events for free – and watch the Panthers play – and beat – almost everyone I saw them up against. If it started getting late, I’d head on home and pick up the end of the game on WRAS 88.5 as I drove home down I-20 from the H.E. Holmes MARTA station. I loved watching those Panthers, led by Coach Lefty Driesell, play ball. It was like watching the Harlem Globetrotters take on the Washington Generals – it was exhibition play at best; pure theater.

Ron Hunter

Ron Hunter, head coach of the Georgia State Panthers, is a character with character -- and, evidently, a helluva hoops coach. (Credit: Zimbio)

Georgia State began to build a reputation as having a lot to offer recruits, from a chance to play downtown on an urban campus to the leadership of a legendary coach like Driesell.

From working, albeit briefly, in intercollegiate athletics at Georgia State, and from my work as an editor on the student newspaper for a few years, I saw first-hand how the team struggled to get fans to come to the games. There was always plenty of capacity when I went. The school was still largely a commuter campus; people parked, rode MARTA to the Georgia State station, attended class, and boarded the trains to go home. There wasn’t even any student housing within walking distance of the Sports Arena – you had to take MARTA or a Panther Express shuttle to the old Olympic Village (now occupied by Georgia Tech students and, I presume, still sinking). It was inconvenient to try to go to a game, especially to watch a team just trounce on Stetson or Mercer or Jacksonville.

All good things come to an end. Driesell retired in the middle of his 41st season as a coach and his lieutenant took over – a man whose tenure was so memorable that I can’t seem to find a reference to him from any reliable online source. Georgia State slid into the murky mists of obscurity, and losing once more became routine. “He Who Shall Not Be Named” was fired, and former Ole Miss head coach Rod Barnes was hired, leading the Panthers to a stirring 44-79 record.

And I, quite naturally, stopped caring about college basketball. (Just as, after this past season, I stopped caring about college football.)

But now, there’s something happening down near the corner of Courtland and Decatur streets. Georgia State – pegged in a conference coaches’ poll to finish second-to-last in the Colonial Athletic Conference – is presently tied for first. No small feat, given that the CAA has seen two of its teams wade into the Final Four in as many of the past two seasons. This is a small, but extremely competitive, little athletic conference.

Last night, while my wife watched her “stories” on the good TV in the living, I slipped into the office and watched Georgia State play on my old 27-inch set. I sat in my old armchair, smoked a pipe, farted around on my laptop, and watched the Panthers inch ahead, fall back into a tie, slip back, tie again, and then – somehow, jump out to finish with a 14-point win over the University of North Carolina-Wilmington.

I’ve never heard of UNCW, but then, not a lot of people have heard of Georgia State, either.

Not yet.

On the sidelines was Georgia State coach Ron Hunter, whose team has now won 12 of its past 13 games and scared the piss out of the formidable William and Mary – with whom GSU now shares the conference lead – on the road.

Coach Hunter was barefoot. The Panthers put down their traditional blue home jerseys for an orange that wasn’t quite Tennessee orange but was still unsettling. The cause was Samaritan’s Feet, which donates shoes to people in parts of the world who have none. (I could get behind a cause like that – I hate going barefoot. Even just wearing socks isn’t great for me. I like my house shoes. And I loathe open-toed shoes, like flip-flops and sandals. Toes break too easy. Besides, I had holes worn in the bottoms of my shoes once in college and walked through a puddle of some weird substance that MARTA had used to spray down one of its stations and got chemical burns on the bottoms of my feet. Even in the developed world, don’t underestimate the value of a good pair of shoes.) Students turned out for the game en masse – the largest crowd the Sports Arena had seen since 2008, when most folks were really coming to see Florida State play.

But the point is, people came. Not only that, but some sat outside on the sidewalk with tents and signs that said, “Hunterville.” On the news that night, there was a report about how Hunter was going to coach barefoot. Students got behind a cause. That doesn’t happen at Georgia State. It never did when I was there. The last time I saw or heard anything about the nearly 30,000-strong student body getting excited about anything was when we got a football team, and that was only for, like, one game.

People were impassioned about the coach – so humble that he’d coach in bare feet to raise awareness for a cause a world away. People were impassioned to watch the Panthers – their Panthers – take on a rival. People came out, braving traffic and vagrants and a MARTA station that always smelled to me of urine to watch a basketball game about a block down from the state capitol. It was televised. They talked about it on the news and wrote about it in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Basketball in Georgia has long been about Georgia Tech, who plays in the ACC with programs like Duke and NC State, and to a slightly lesser extent (again, as far as basketball is concerned) about Georgia, because it’s Georgia and that’s what people talk about. Hell, even their gymnastic program is admired – and more than just for the outfits the ladies wear.

Still, for this season – which is, perhaps, an aberration – folks are going to have to start talking about Georgia State (again). And, with Coach Hunter’s vision of where he wants the program to go and the breakneck speed with which he’s got it so far, Georgia State hoops is going to be about all anyone’s going to be talking about in Atlanta for a while to come.

Love ya’, Panthers.

Atlanta Sports Franchises: Win, Or Get Lost

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Am I a fair-weather fan?

You bet’cha.

I’m busy. My wife is in grad school, my daughter is 3, my job commands some 50 or more hours a week of my time, and my wife has three cats that I have to clean up after (and that’s an occupation in itself, because they’re furry, shed, and like to shit in the floor).

I am all for supporting a team. Hell, I’ll even buy apparel and go to games every now and then. But a team has to earn my attention, because, well frankly, there’s a lot of other stuff competing for it as well.

To garner my attention, a team must be local – Atlanta-based – and it must be good. Not just good enough to put on a show or not be embarrassed, but good enough to win. If I’m going to give a sports franchise my time and support, I expect something in return.

Last season, I was an enthusiastic fan of the Braves and Falcons, and both teams earned my following. I watched the Falcons become an elite team, winning by hook and by crook to post an incredible two-loss season, and I eagerly followed the Braves as they proved their resilience in overcoming injuries and adapting to hammer their way into the playoffs. Even though I knew they were destined for elimination, the Braves and I had come this far, and I sat up late to watch them lose squeaker after squeaker with a roster of benchwarmers to a team that would go on to win the championship.

I watched the Braves this season, too. Until about a month ago when the collapse began, anyway. I didn’t turn my attention away because I knew the team would coast into the post season on an eight-and-a-half game lead in the wildcard; I turned away because they began to blow it and I had better things to do with my time.

In the background Wednesday night, as I packed for my trip to Jekyll Island, the Braves game was on the television. Last season, I would’ve been fixed to the screen. This time, it all just seemed so… sad. Futile, even. The Braves had not earned a place in the postseason, nor had they earned my attention. I put my Braves cap in the top of the closet before we left the following morning. I guess I’ll begin wearing it when I mow grass or change the oil on the ManVan.

The Falcons, too, are losing me this season. I watched them all but try to give away the game to Seattle on Sunday, slipping away late in the game, and the loss to the Buccaneers was inexcusable. The players are racking up penalties to boot, playing sloppy – unprofessionally. Sunday is my laundry day; I actually have to bust my ass to make time to watch football, folding towels and hanging up clothes during halftime. I have to make sure I go to the grocery store on Saturday to make time to watch the game – and the grocery store is busy on Saturday. If the team can’t win, I can turn on an old movie and restore some leisure to my weekend.

Time is by far my most precious commodity. I’m constantly looking for ways to steal back a little time that I can use on things that I enjoy. I enjoy playing Xbox, I enjoy sitting on my porch with a pipe and I enjoy pizza and martini night. I enjoy grabbing half an hour here and there to blog. These things are treats, too rare and fleeting.

If the Braves and Falcons suck, well, that’s just more time for me.

Braves need player with big bat!

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I doubt many people stayed up and watched the entire thing but I watched a large portion of the Atlanta Braves’ controversial 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates in 19 innings last night/this morning. I’m not going to discuss the controversial call that made my wife scream out “[That umpire] just wanted to go home. That’s what that call was.”  I’m not going to discuss how the Pirates have already filed a complaint about it and MLB said “my bad.”  I’ll let the experts talk about that to death.

What interested me most about that 19 inning affair was how it represented everything wrong with this Braves team to me.  What interested me was how the Braves had 19 opportunities to pick up a hit with runners in scoring position but only connected twice (for those scoring at homes that’s a .105 batting average which makes Dan Uggla at his worst this season seem like an All-Star).  What interested me was how the team combined for a .223 batting average during a night when they were facing a struggling Pirates team.

It was fitting to me that the individual who knocked in the winning run was the pitcher who proceeded to immediately fall down in the field after he made contact.  The Braves have one of the best pitching staffs, from their No. 1 starter to the back of their bullpen, in all of baseball but their offense is abysmal.  Even considering Uggla’s struggles, the Braves still are the hitless wonder with only four players (Freddie Freeman, Brian McCann, Martin Prado, and Chipper Jones) with over 150 at bats who are hitting better than the league average (.251).  That reminds me, the best hitter on the team, McCann, strained his oblique during the 10th inning last night and is being placed on the disabled list.  And Jones has played in three games with six at bats over the last 20 days and will probably get hurt again this year.

Out of the eight teams that, if the season ended today, would qualify for the playoffs, the Braves are last in batting average and next to last in runs scored, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage.  The Braves aren’t creating runs with small ball either because they’re second to last in stolen bases with the lowest stolen base percentage as well.

What this tells me is that the Braves need to make a move before Saturday’s deadline.  This fact is made even more prudent because A) the Diamondbacks are making a run at the wildcard and B) the Giants have reportedly acquired a big bat in Carlos Beltran.  There are several players available but they all have a price tag that require the Braves to give up one of its top pitching prospect (Julio Teheran, Mike Minor, Arodys Vizcaino, Randall Delgado, and Brandon Beachy). 

While modern GMs resist trading away their top few prospects, I think Atlanta needs to pull the trigger.  Currently, the AAA rotation in Gwinnett would be better than four or five rotations in the majors so I have no problem with them trading away a few of their gems.  Let’s look at the Braves pitching rotation: Derek Lowe, Tommy Hanson, Tim Hudson, Jair Jurrjens, and Brandon Beachy.  Hanson, Jurrjens, and Beachy are all under 25.  The Braves also have Minor (potential No. 3 starter and the No. 26 minor league prospect by Baseball Prospectus), Teheran (potential ace and the No. 5 prospect), and Delgado (No. 2/3 starter and the No. 58 prospect) in the minors who should be ready to challenge for a big league spot next spring.  That’s six potential starters under the age of 25 who should be ready for the big leagues next spring, not including Vizcaino who is should be ready by 2013 and is ranked the No. 50 prospect.  Trade one (I would rather give up Beachy or Minor) and add a big bat in the B.J. Upton or Michael Bourn mold.  Both of those players are outfielders that provide added speed and more consistent hitting at the plate, which would improve our odds of going deep in the playoffs greatly.

Either way, if this team wants to make a deep run, they’re going to have to add a bat.  As I write this, the Braves just finished another extra-inning game, winning 2-1 in the 10th inning.  Even then, they still went only 3-for-13 (a .230 average) with runners in scoring position and had runners in scoring position during six different innings.  The Braves need help to overcome this anemic offense and they have to give something up.

Classy Move, Pittsburgh

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OK, so I missed it. If you have a job, you probably did, too. Somewhere around the point that it became evident that last night’s game between our Atlanta Braves and the Pittsburgh Pirates was going into extra innings, I turned off the television and went to sleep.

As we now know, last night’s game became this morning’s game. Nineteen innings, six-and-a-half hours – the longest game in franchise history for the Braves – ended with an all-in-all bad call.

Now, it was one of many that occurred that night, and all the ones I saw favored Pittsburgh. Nate McClouth and the (sometimes overly) docile Fredi Gonzalez were ejected for arguing strikes and balls while other players at the plate bit their lip over what were essentially awful calls.

But somewhere in the 19th inning, after a brutal dual that took its toll on both clubs (more so on Atlanta, I think personally) it’s as if home plate umpire Jerry Meals apparently decided that, if either team could get a runner within six feet of home plate, he’d call that a win. The runner was the Braves’ Julio Lugo – a player none of us had ever heard of before tonight and who we may never hear from again – and Pirates’ catcher Michael McKenry had him dead to rites. The tag was applied – twice, no less – before Lugo skidded across the plate.

“Safe!”

Ballgame.

Now (especially around these parts), Pittsburgh is going to get some grief because they’ve filed a formal complaint with Major League Baseball over how that game ended. The game meant a lot to both teams. The Braves, on a three-game losing streak, were sliding further behind the Philadelphia Phillies. The Pirates are on the hunt for their first winning season in almost 20 years, and the loss dropped them a game out of first in their division. After 19 innings, it seems any momentum either team was hoping to build is most probably exhausted.

No one really seems to dispute that the call was botched – including Meals, who said as much in an interview after the game. It reminds me of that old Jerry Clower bit, about the fella’ who went ‘coon hunting and climbed up in the tree after his quarry, only to find that he had treed himself alongside a mountain lion. To his shotgun-wielding friend waiting on the ground, the narrator of Clower’s story urged him to fire up into the tree.

“I can’t!” the friend protested. “I might hit you!”

“Just shoot!” the hunter replied. “One of us has got to have some relief!”

The Pirates were angry. The Braves did the smart thing, and shut the hell up and quietly etched a tally mark on the “WIN” side on their chalkboards.

Pirates president Frank Coonelly earlier today released a statement to go along with their complaint. The tone of the statement seemed a bit off at first, what with the line about how he “cannot begin to understand” how Meals missed the call for a tag applied “three feet in front of the plate.” One gets the idea that, were Coonelly a middle school kid forced to write out an apology for a fit he threw in class in one of those exercises where it’s supposed to make you reflect on how you acted (not that I’ve ever had to write one of those, mind you), that part of Coonelly’s essay would be written especially dark, where he pressed down hard on the paper.

But then, Coonelly’s statement said something sort of profound, all things considered:

“Jerry Meals has been umpiring Major League games for 14 years and has always done so with integrity and professionalism. He got this one wrong.”

Period.

This isn’t about the umpire, who had no vendetta (and if he did, it was almost certainly against the Braves). If it’s hard to fathom playing big-league ball for six-and-a-half hours, think about calling big-league ball for six-and-a-half hours. These umpires don’t head back into the dugout between innings, folks – they’re calling every single pitch, every single play, until that show’s over. Maybe Meals felt contrite when he called Lugo safe, realizing that he’d erred so often earlier in the game. Maybe he’d nodded off for a second. These things happen. And I’m not sure what the remedy is, if there is one, for his mistake. Surely Major League Baseball isn’t going to overturn the victory for the Braves, and ties aren’t allowed. Maybe make the teams replay the inning? That seems like a bit much, don’t you think?

Nah, this one’s in the books. Saying the call was stupid is well within Pittsburgh’s rights; it was stupid. But it’s not going to lead to a fourth man on the officiating team, in the booth, watching the replays and checking the calls. It’s not to make replay mandatory, of force the officiating team to get a consensus before making a call.

I don’t fault folks for complaining. I fault them less when they do it with honor and with class. The Pittsburgh Pirates did.

Going Down Hill: Athletes and the Law

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Kelton Hill

QB did a bad, bad thing...

There’ve been an awful lot of jokes made lately about that prison work farm out in Athens. I hear they have a football program, something like out of “The Longest Yard” (the good version, not the Adam Sandler tripe).

But it looks like the University of Georgia isn’t alone in its frequent brushes with the law. Though it’s unlikely any felony charges will result, Georgia Tech has had its troubles of late with the NCAA, and just this morning news broke that Kelton Hill – who likely was destined to be the starting quarterback for Georgia State – was arrested with another student for breaking into a dorm room through a window and stealing a $1,300 laptop.

My faith in Coach Curry had evidently been misplaced, since this quarterback (and a Lithia Springs alumnus) would have thought that he could get away with a felony burglary. Granted, it’d be one thing if he largely rode the bench and participated in the football program “just because,” but with the “true” starting quarterback, Drew Little, benched for violating team rules (whatever that means), Hill had the golden ticket.

I had assumed that the problems at UGA – and, to be fair, many other academic institutions with active athletic programs (thereby excluding Vandy) – were rooted in an inherent corruption that grows from coaches and administrators’ willingness to look the other way while over-feted and unpaid student athletes generally run amuck in a culture that would best be described as toxic.

Athletic directors and coaches are hired and paid exorbitant salaries to win games. Winning athletic programs make money for the schools they represent, through boosters and revenues from merchandising and ticket sales. This encourages administrators to look the other way all the way to the top. If a student athlete commits some small infraction here or there, what of it? If they can run, catch, throw, shoot, etc., then the consequences of their infringement on team rules, school code of conduct or Georgia Code would probably do more harm than good to the institution as a whole.

Coach Curry seemed to be more of a fire-and-brimstone coach. Miss a tackle? Watch him eat a kitten. Personal foul? Two kittens. Excessive celebration? You have to cut open the mamma cat and feed him the barely squirming unborn kittens.

Coach Curry’s going to eat a whole tassel of kittens over this Hill burglary.

This is serious stuff, man. Last season, their presumed starting quarterback, a transfer from Alabama who apparently couldn’t cut it under Coach Curry’s leadership, was late for the team bus, and Curry benched him. God only knows what Little did to get benched from his starting quarterback role for four games, but I’m guessing he didn’t wipe down the bench in the weight room when he was through using it.

So, even in the most rigid and strict of programs, we still find student athletes who are willing to take a chance in committing a crime. Why?

Now, granted, we’re probably jumping to conclusions here. Hill has been arrested, but not convicted, and there’s a possibility that he was not as involved with this as we might initially believe. But, seeing how often it is that these privileged athletes get away with the most heinous of crimes, you’ll understand if I’m slow to give Hill the benefit of the doubt.

Ultimately, these institutions – particularly the public ones – are here to educate us, not entertain us. I, too, loved being able to partake in the Saturday fun last fall, shuttling through channel listings to see if Georgia State’s game was going to be broadcast, following the Georgia State blog on ajc.com and generally being a fan. And I was at the school when the seeds that grew into this football program were sowed, with students themselves banding together to form an informal team, built on the support of their peers because we believed – myself included – that football belonged at Georgia State.

But even if the program generates revenue, I am left to doubt that it’s worth the price.