Webster says – ” a fanatic is an enthusiast, a zealot, a monomaniac”…..

So there you have it.  That I am.  For darn sure.   Thus this sporadic burst of sports trivia. Those of us – male or female – who, for whatever reason have this syndrome is hard to explain.  It is deep-seeded and leads us to read the sports page first thing each day or , in today’s tech world , go to our computer  or whatever connection we have to the outside world to check the scores/ results of yesterday’s sporting events to find out scores.  we become involved in a certain sport or sports often those we have played ourselves or a family member – brother, sister, husband, wife.  An emotional connection is born.  How?  Why?  Tis a mystery.  At least, that is how I look at it.  In my case, growing up with brothers who played football and basketball and a father who enjoyed sports.  As a young girl, I joined them in playing in the yard or the street ( a quiet one) when the weather was good..  We listened to the Reds every game and occasionally going to Crosley Field  which started the hero worship and the loyalty.   In those same early years, we lived a block away from Xavier University.  Attending a college football game was but a hop, skip and a jump away.  We all trooped there together.  Myself,  I played basketball and field hockey both in high school and college along with early tennis lessons at the Cincinnati Tennis Club though not until some years later did I become serious about the game.  As did Mike ( always a natural athlete) and our children due to Charlie Rice , the wonderful pro at the Lyceum who taught tennis and , more importantly, lessons of life…..it became front and center as the game we all played.  Still is.

Which leads me to the rhyme or reason, I started this dialogue in the first place.  My racquet has for years now rested in a closet somewhere – dusty and warped.  My arthritic shoulder aches as a reminder of a fairly decent serve ( though the serve in women’s tennis these days is far more powerful – eg. Serena now with child).  My role as “Captain America” in the 60’s and 70’s  over a rag tag but enthusiastic group of ladies sparks rousing memories of both glory and defeat neither of which truly mattered.  It was simply the camaraderie of playing a game.

So – now as I see my 90th birthday looming over the horizon, coupled with the fact that pro tennis has become almost a year-round phenomenon and with The Tennis Channel,  I follow tournaments, both major and satellite, almost daily.  I see progress in many up and coming youngsters along with the regulars.  I have my favorites .  This can become obsessive and emotion creeps in.  Fanatic is the word.  You see their faces up close and personal.  You can read their mindset in the midst of play.   You cheer their victories.  You suffer each loss.   Mike used to watch as well after his playing days were over.  He critiqued their games from his own knowledge.  I believe I do the same now – an armchair coach.   Nobody has sought my expertise to date.  Nor ever will.

Wimbledon goes into week two tomorrow.  There have been some upsets as well as thrilling wins.  Without Serena, the ladies winner is up for grabs.  My choice is from the USA – Coco Vandeweghe or Johanna Konta from Great Britain …….. just because I have followed their progress.  In the men’s – well , who do you suppose I want to win?   Roger, of course.   The chances are good.  He has been on a roll   His record speaks for itself.  A long shot – Sam Querry  USA.  Just because,  A low key kind of guy with a big serve and a great attitude.   But, look out for the other big Four – Murray, Djokovic, Nadal.

The All Star baseball game is Tuesday  .  Pretty soon the Bengals will be on the field.  A lot of golf to be played and Soccer and Auto Racing and Cycling.  Don’t think those are on my priority list.   Besides – enough is enough for any of my followers whoever you are.

One added thought …….. a granddaughter of mine was married in May in Washington, DC…….. a fabulous wedding it was.  I was asked to give a toast at the reception.  Some of the guests were sorry that happened.  I grabbed the opportunity.  Nobody had ever asked me before.  My son, Michael, clocked me at 22 minutes.  So, I overdid that .  I may be doing the same with this Blog……… and, nobody asked me……….

 

 

Selected snippets of relatively unknown names in sports scenarios………

Gennett 1

Scooter Gennett……. surely any baseball aficionado by now either saw on tv or read about this aptly named Reds new utility outfield/infield acquisition who two nights ago made baseball history by hitting 4 home runs, one being a grand slam, in one game …. at least for the Reds, not since Walker Cooper (who ever he was) in 1939.  Not even Babe Ruth or Hank or Aaron or Ted Williams or Barry Bonds or Mickey Mantle.  Actually, he was born in Cincinnati and after a circuitous road as a youngster and a beginning baseball player, brought him to where he now, modestly, has become a household name.  The look on his face in light of such an accomplishment – a grin from here to there told it all……….

And, originally, he was not even listed on the line-up.  How cool is that?

del Potro 1Juan Martin del Potro……… tennis player from Argentina with more than his share of injuries over his career – playing Nickolas Almagro from Spain on the red clay  in Paris at the French Open last week – a touching story of good sportsmanship.  Two sets in to the match, Almagro fell backwards with an injury thus lying on the ground, sobbing as he was obviously aware of his condition and sobbing as a result – del Porto climbed over the net and was the first to reach his fallen opponent, gesturing for aid and eventually helping him to his feet.  Together they walked to the umpire for an official ending to the match as del Portro still holding Almagro in his arms for comfort then taking him to the bench to vent.

He understood all too well tennis injuries and that his opponent was a new Dad and that his heart and health came first before tennis.  You don’t see that kind of sportsmanship in tennis or any other sport very often.   Kudos to Juan…….

Padraic Harrington ………( never miss an opportunity to follow an Irishman!) pro golfer of note had a bizarre injury trying to teach a fellow golfer about his swing while on the range, was struck by the amateur’s club  on his elbow during the swing enough to cause Harrington who had just come from neck surgery to withdraw from the final PGA tour event ahead of the US Open.  No broken bones but a nasty gash.

Padraig 1

The luck of the Irish paid no heed.

 

 

 

Harriette Thompson (see her at the top!) …….. 94 year old petite lady wearing her trademark bright purple running gear and RED lipstick putting aside her latest cancer treatment and back on the starting line of the Rock’n’Roll San Diego Marathon as the oldest woman to finish as she did cranking in at 13.1 miles at a pace of just over 17 minutes per mile finishing in 3 hrs. 42 min. 56 sec.  She was a concert pianist. She has had unbelievable health issues……

At 94 she says, “I feel like I did at 16 but can’t move as fast”…….. “You go, girl”…..

Jelena Ostapenko………. an 19-year-old tennis player from Latvia has displayed unbridled joy and talent at the French Open using the go-for-it strokes on a series of high ranked players taking her to the finals of this prestigious Major tournament.  Her enthusiasm is engaging.   She is now in the Finals.  After  the quarters win she said, “I mean, of course, when I came here, I didn’t expect to be going into the semis, but I was playing better and better every match.  So, I think if I keep it up, anything can happen”.

And it did……… another you go, girl”

Jelena-Ostapenko-813895

Hank Williams, Jr……….. “Are you ready for some football?”   After a six-year hiatus from ESPN due to “political correctness and by popular demand, he will be back on Monday Night Football.”    I sure am ready. Are you folks out there?

The Kid named Ken wins big time …..

My younger brother, the one with the hook shot who I bested so many decades ago (that, of course, is him  –  in that jaunty hat) ……With the last blog., Brother Ken sure put his big Sis in her place with his pithy words of basketball knowledge from the inside out.  The “absentminded professor” as was his moniker then and even now.  Particularly, for me recollecting our early interests in sports and playing games by the garage or in the street where there was no garage – a couple of skinny kids just having fun, trying to avoid the big brother who was always getting into trouble – then blaming it on one of us.  Anyway, his first, hopefully of many, shenanigans guest comments left me with a hard act to follow.

cropped-ralph-and-ken-h-11.jpg

As an aside, in reading his story re Danny Ainge in reference to the draft choices of two questionable characters thus disturbing some fans – a comparison to Mike Brown and a recent NFL pick for the Bengals also with some baggage.  The Celts picks have proven to be fairly reliable and good fits.  For the Bengals, time will tell.

Ms. Shenanigans has been dealing with numerous issues of late coupled with preparing for the road to Washington, DC. commencing this Thursday.  Scheduled event – the nuptials of Lizzie Brevard and Denis Doorly.   Our family.  Their families and a host of guests.  A great event it will be.  Shawn and David know how to put on a memorable function ……… hmmm, David, really?

So, how about a quick look at sports of the moment…….. tonight, a “Must” for the Celts.  They have gone from fame in beating the Wizards to shame facing LeBron and his mighty Cavaliers.  Poor Ken.  He is praying for a miracle ………  Our mostly young Reds started out surprisingly strong with decent spot in the standings.   Recently, things turned around but we did come from behind last night with the help of some timely hits and a great pitching by a just brought up reliever name of Asher Wojciechowski – say that four times …..his first major league win.  How cool is that?

I glance at the Sports stats today and TV appearances ……… look at the sports I miss.  Auto Racing and Beach volleyball and College softball and NHL Hockey and Drag Racing and College Lacrosse.   Gives me an idea.  Another guest column maybe by my big time CEO nephew of Gray Advertising in NYC and former (some years ago) All American Lacrosse player from Williams College and major follower of the NFL New York Giants and the ever formidable baseball New York Yankees.  Why not give it a try?

Here is another suggestion for local followers – check Cincinnati Enquirer Sports page today – Paul Daughtery’s heart-warming and real story – or for anyone interested in good news in our topsy – turvy  (sp?) world ……..

This is a pleasant way to end a Blog……..til we meet again.

On the Subject of the Celtics, the Power of Love, and Not Being Pithy After All . . .

The following contribution comes from the shenanigan’s younger brother Ken, now residing in Florida, and himself an avid sports fan, most particularly when it concerns hoops.  Stick with him, it turns out he has a lot to say:

So Sugi needs a guest columnist. Given that she’s desperate, she’s pretty picky about the requirements.  Apparently, you have to have 80 years of experience as an obsessed sports fan. Well I can only claim to have 78 in actuality, but Sug gave me extra credit for being run over by Joe Nuxall (fortunately on the playing field not route 4) when he was playing fullback for the Hamilton High freshmen. Not so incidentally, the following June at age 15 he pitched a couple of innings for the Reds.

I also wanted points for remembering that Dick Heekin, fullback for Ohio State, was on the cover of the 1939 College Football Magazine; however she refused, claiming it was a form of nepotism, whatever that means.

Still, you’ve got to admit she has a pretty thin bench. Think “Hoosiers” (apparently I’m coach’s only choice, the uncoordinated short guy with the matching haircut trying to avoid his gaze.) By the way, if you don’t know that film, rent it forthwith. Even so renowned a critic as Paul Pierce said it was his favorite movie.  I’m padding here. Sugi said make it pretty long, and I really don’t do long. Big on pithy though.

What I’m pretty sure that Sug was looking for is a column on my current obsession and single area of expertise, the Boston Celtics – on the other hand she likely didn’t have a homily in mind.  Nonetheless, Ken had an epiphany and surely that is worthy of note. Even St. Paul had only one that I know of. What happened was I came across a manifestation of Christ where I just wasn’t looking for it. So that’s my story:

When he played for the Celtics, Danny Ainge was considered a colossal pain in the ass. I’m using  pain in the neck in deference to Sug and her readers, but it doesn’t really capture the totality of his obnoxious attitude and conduct. Tommy Heinson, Hall of Fame player and coach and 30 year announcer for the Celtics, reported once that Red Aeurbach, his mentor and patron saint of Celticdom, said if you’re going to harass the opposing player be the instigator. The retaliator will always be the one called for the foul. Apparently Danny took Red’s advice to heart, and pushed, poked, elbowed and harassed his way to infamy. Even today on his office door the motto reads, “In Red We Trust.”

So imagine my surprise to discover Danny is a Bishop in the Mormon Church. It seems that certain lay people in the Mormon Church, on a volunteer basis, carry out many of the pastoral duties that are the responsibility of, well, the pastor in the Catholic Church. They are elected Bishop by their congregation and Danny Ainge was one. Who would have guessed.

In 2009 Danny Ainge has a heart attack. By then, he’s the extremely hard working GM of the Celtics, and the father of a family of six children. Just his travel schedule is mind boggling. He watches games of every college player his scouts think might be interesting and all the prospects in the European leagues as well. In the current year he has two NBA ready players, playing on the Celtics D League team in Maine, as well as a Frenchman stashed in China and a Croatian playing for the Israelis.  Besides the above activities he was with equal vigor carrying out all of the many and varied activities of a Mormon Bishop.

The heart attack was a powerful message. There would have to be accommodations. So many were counting on him. Friends, family, fans, players, owners, and the Church. He could organize and delegate, but the one thing he would not mitigate was his commitment to serve as Bishop.

In his 2015 article titled “Danny Ainge’s Balancing Act,” ESPN’s Ian Thompson quotes him as follows:

So when I was called to be Bishop, it was like, oh my gosh … I wondered can I do this? It’s probably 500 people in our congregation. The basic responsibilities of a Bishop are to watch over and strengthen the families and individuals, and take care of the needy. To watch over the flocks so to speak.  I spent most of my Sunday’s going from church to homes to minister and visit the needy and the sick, and visiting hospitals and those that were sick.

And I spent time counseling people, mostly on Wednesday nights and most of my Sundays.  You’re just helping those in need. And there is a great satisfaction in life that comes from that. And the great perspective to life that you learn from that. And a great gratitude, to see so many people that can still be so happy through all of this. It helped me to understand that Christ lives. And that his priesthood is here on earth. And every time I laid my hand on someone’s head to give them blessing, I could say I felt really inspired every time; but that’s not true. There were times that things came out of my mouth that were not mine; but there were also times when the human side of me probably didn’t do as well communicating.

But every time I felt this increased amount of love toward the person that was receiving the blessing. Whether they were going through a struggle in their marriage, whether they were going through addictions. Whether they were sick, or getting ready for major surgery or cancer or whatever it may be. There was this amazing increase in love toward the person that was receiving the blessing.

And you really come to understand that love is endless. I remember the feeling when I had my first daughter, like, how could you love someone more than that? Then having my son: How am I going to love my brand-new son as much as I love my first daughter? But then as you get older, you realize there is no limit on love. Love is for everybody.”

Who knew? Who even suspected? Who even talks like that? A real stunner. A revelation. And a welcome one.

For me it also explained why he drafted Marcus Smart. For Danny, Marcus was a twofer and maybe even a threefer. What the Celtics needed in the summer of ’14 was a shooter or a rim protector. Marcus Smart was neither, which surprised and disappointed a substantial number of fans, and, furthermore he also represented a considerable risk. In February while playing for Oklahoma State he had been suspended for 3 games for shoving a Texas Tech fan. Other GM’s were reluctant to touch him.

At 12 years old, “dead or in jail” was the predictable outcome for Smart. USA Today wrote, “Rage burned inside him after seeing one older brother die of cancer and another almost killed by cocaine. Anger boiled inside him while he confronted a neighborhood south of Dallas he called a war zone amid duplexes. He desperately sought to inflict others with the pain that incessantly gnawed at his 12 year old heart.”  The support of his mother, her moving her family to the suburb of Flower Station, Texas, the outlet provided by sports, and classes in anger management enabled him to turn his life around.

At 6’4″ 225 he became a formidable point guard for Oklahoma State. He was a defense and pass first type of player who made others better. He was a team leader and of particular interest to coach Brad Stevens, because of his size he could guard the 1, 2 and 3.

This is all speculation on my part, but I’m pretty sure Danny Ainge found him irresistible. Not only did he get the kind of hard-nosed, chip on his shoulder, type of player that he loved, but one who could still benefit from guidance, and the positive environment of the Celtics team first approach to the game. Yeah, he’s twofer. A player and a project. Maybe even a threefer – the heart and soul of a future championship team.

Is Danny happy? You have to watch a few games to make a judgement. 5’9″ Isaiah Thomas is king of the 4th quarter, and he’ll give you 10, 15 points, whatever it takes. But he does have to have the ball to do that, and Marcus considers that his job. He’ll steal opponents passes, grab defensive and offensive rebounds amidst players six inches taller, he’ll yank the ball right out of their hands, and fifty/fifty balls are all his. He’s still a work in progress. Recently an obscene gesture cost him $25,000.  But, yeah, on the whole I think Danny’s pretty happy with his decision.

One reason l think that is the case is that the following year he drafted in most particulars the same kid. Until he was 10, Terry Rosier grew up in Youngstown, “the murder capital” of Ohio. In Terry’s case it was his grandmother who after a custody battle with his mother moved him from the mean streets of Youngstown to Shaker Heights outside Cleveland. There, as in Marcus’ case, Terry found his outlet in basketball. Danny drafted him only to receive more criticism than he did with Marcus. Fans actually booed at the announcement on draft night.

As I write, Terry Rosier is proving himself NBA valuable in the second round of the playoffs. How he and Marcus will finally work out will be fun to follow. Because of NBA cap rules, the Celtics probably won’t be able to keep both of them, but if one of them helps propel the Celtics to their 18th championship, and if both enjoy long and fruitful NBA careers, Danny will have all the satisfaction he needs.

“Soft you now, a word or two before I go.”

About Sugi’s bona fides. Sugi was always a sports freak. At 11 she had a crush on Ernie Lombardi, catcher for the Pennant winning 1939  Cincinnati Reds. Sure, young girl swoons over male athlete. No big deal unless you know his nickname (well deserved) was the Schnoz. Ugly was appropriate only if you’re in to understatement. No, it was the pre-steroidal home runs.

Furthermore, even at that age she could throw a perfect spiral. Today we have unbelievable female athletes.  Serena, Ronda, and Lindsey to name a few, but I’ll bet my Isaiah Tee they can’t throw a perfect spiral. Up to 30 yards she was as good as Brady. Hey, I should know, I was her Edelman.

Finally. yeah, yeah, whatever happened to pithy? I didn’t get my basket over the garage door till we moved to Glendale. No doubt, in part because we didn’t have a garage. In any case, I worshiped at that particular altar with a devotion worthy of a hermit saint, and came to feature myself, as well, not bad.

The one cloud on that horizon was try as I might, I simply could not beat Sug at 21. Preposterous. Not to mention ego diminishing. Sugi played girls basketball, a remarkably ladylike endeavor. Six players, three offense, three defense, each confined to its own half court, the two handed one bounce dribble, and I can’t beat her at 21. Sweet Mither of Mercy. Finally at age sixteen I took a game. No more, “Hey Sug, you want to shoot a few.”  Quit while you’re ahead.

Good advice when you’re writing too.  Oh – So who said you were ahead.

In progress and continuing week of sports events……..

Sports week   April 1 – April 9 …… tennis and basketball and baseball and golf……oh!  my ! and this is no April Fool joke so stick with me as I follow along with my reporting which will end going back to the NCAA basketball occurring in 1966 when some of you were not even born as my friend, Dorothy Ecker has supplied  me with a scrapbook saved.

Beginning with today’s Women’s Final at the Miami ATP tournament……the finalists were Caroline Wozniaski (Denmark) vs Johanna Konta ( Great Britain)  And the winner was Johanna who grew up in Australia, moving to GBR in her early  teens and  relatively unknown til recently.  She is the first woman from Britain to bring home a trophy.  Her game and style is low key – no frills in her attire .  Save for the likes of Princess Diana (deceased) or Princess Kate, she would not stand out in a crowd.  We shall see more of her.  Then tomorrow, we have ( once more!) Roger and Rafa in the Men’s Finals.

In between the NCAA with Gonzaga just barely beating South Carolina , followed by  North Carolina and Oregon.  I will have finished this by the time that is over.  You can read about in you local paper or maybe you are watching it yourself right now.  Catching their breaths the next winner will be on tap Monday night to end March Madness.

Hold it, fellow sports fanatics, there is more on Monday as the Annual Parade winds it’s way through downtown Cincinnati heralding Opening Day.  You may need a program to check out who is who on the field as so many gone or on disabled list or simply just new faces.  That is the nature of professional sports. Yet I shall always yearn for the Brandon Phillips smile.  Be still my heart, there at first base , stands Joey Votto.   All is not lost.

In between comes the start of THE Masters that prodigious golf tournament on the beautiful course with all the big names vying for THE green jacket.  We now are aware of the news that Tiger will be there but not to play.  Somewhat melancholy.  With all his past issues, he stull remains a credit to the game and a player for the ages.

Now , we walk back in time to 1966 and UC.   Beginning with the Oscar Robertson era in 1956-1957, the Bearcats had become virtually unbeatable at the Cincinnati Gardens ( now  being demolished ) and where they built a 10-year jinx for rival Xavier. This  defeat of Xavier in the final regular game took them to Lubbock . Texas for the NCAA’s Midwest Regional Tournament..  There they clinched the MVC crown by beating Drake 56-49.  Interestingly, the scores in those days were low – nothing like today.  That win put UC in the NCAA in the big tournament for the 7th time in 9 years.  Next in line – Texas Western- a really tough team to face especially big on defense…..So back to Lubbock and the “Sweet 16″….  The teams in those days were much fewer than we see today.  It does not feel like the present “March Madness”  even though there was indeed the pride and disappointments that are followed in each intense displays of emotion and skill and hard driving play that we see today.   An way, the Miners did oust the Bearcats but only by a score of  78-76 following which they lost in a consolation round to SMU  89- 84..

UC did itself proud in those days as well as off and on in the years up til now.  More importantly, lest I forget, in the  UC Hall of Fame, hangs a plaque commemorating Ike Stewart ( Mike’s Dad)  for his record of playing in the following sports ……..Football, Basketball, Baseball, Track, Swimming, Tennis and Gym.  Year:  1914.

Now there was a star.

“if you come to a fork in the road take it” – Yogi Berra

100 Posts100 Blogs from sugishenanigans – an awesome feat if I do say so myself.  I had no such goal in mind.  The Blog was the brain-child of my Editor, daughter Shailah, a facilitator in her own right – a force in education in Massachusetts and a sports enthusiast herself and an event planner extraordinaire  and a free spirit with a zest for all things beyond  the imagination.   The concept began with her Rule – just sports – no going over the line into politics (God forbid)  or, for that matter, any other subject matter of interest.  I have followed these rules faithfully .  Now we come to the fork in the road.   After this milestone, I feel compelled to digress.  So, stay with me as I get personal with just a bit of family  newsworthy accomplishments in recent days involving the grandchildren …… players in the game of life.

Blessings to Stewart Brevard McMillan who on the 24th of February ( exact date predicted and since Stewart follows in her mother’s footsteps of organization and on time!) presented me with my first great-grandchild,  Henry Jennings McMillan.  An event of majestic proportion for my entire family – bordering on hysteria.  The kid has already been photographed  as frequently as was Prince George was in his first year .   As it should be.

Moving right along  to the low-key opening of Longfellow, a simply grand and planned Bar/Restaurant with the aura and welcome as is it’s owner , Mike Stankovitch, husband  of Shailah Maynard, bringing his dream  come true. The atmosphere reflects the owner -warm and comfortable and neighborly and unique.  and friendly.  Success will follow as time passes.  As a , once upon a time IBF ( Irish bar fly) , it gets great marks – and from the community itself which is area known as Over The Rhine – a happening destination spot in Cincinnati.

Along those lines, google METTA , a brand new restaurant in Brooklyn which just opened last Monday.  A really cool looking spot.  The connection here is not just the place itself but the incredible amount of tableware hand produced by Aleah Stewart-Souris on her very own kiln in the Catskill area.  How she – alone – made over about 400 pieces of plates and cups and saucers and candle holders and hanging light fixtures leaves me breathless.  One amazing young woman who single-handedly built the foundation of success in the world of pottery.  I should mention that her brother, Damon, came to her rescue particularly in the delivery of this order to METTA.   A good team, they are.

Phew!  this has turned into a bit longer Blog than anticipated.  There are so many other family members following their dreams.  They will have to await another day.  Good sports all of them in their own field.  ….. players and followers and cheerleaders  and doers. A lot of apples have fallen from the Stewart-Heekin tree.  Not a rotten one in the bunch!

Now, back to that fork in the road…….where might that take me ?   Perhaps back to my world of sports – specifically tennis – where yesterday, Roger the greatest walked away – or soared away with another title at Indian Wells.

Magic man on a court.  A joy to watch.  He isn’t finished yet………..