Random thoughts from a random mind…

Posts tagged “Baseball

Don’t Believe the Hype! (we were warned)

In the immortal words of Chuck D and Flava Flav – “Don’t Believe the Hype!” We should have stuck to this advice as we so eagerly awaited the start of another season, but Sun Devil Nation was in awe of what could be.  With talks of a Pac-12 South title, a spot in the first ever Pac-12 Championship game, and even a few whispers of a National Championship, Devil fans around the nation were on the edge of their seats in anticipation for this, possibly, legendary season.  I mean, how could they not be good this year, we were returning 30 seniors! And then, injuries…oh yes, the unthinkable, season-ending injuries of some of our top players began to deplete this team, and deflate the bubble of hope yet again.  Spring and summer practices brought more hope though, as the team began to show depth in the positions affected by the devastating injuries.

The season began with the standard “cupcake” game, and a Devil win.  Week two would record the first Black Out game at Sun Devil Stadium, and a big win against Missouri – could this be a sign of the strong season everyone had been talking about? Nope…It was just the first blip of false hope that had been an ASU tradition for way too long.  Proof of this would be the lack of being able to close out a close game on the road (and a weak secondary), as the Devils lose to Illinois by 3.

The biggest “upset” of the season was the commanding win against USC.  I say this was the biggest upset, because it was the biggest tease to make us think that things could be different for the Sun Devils.  They shut an arguably, overrated Matt Barkley and USC team down, showing other teams that if you can get to Barkley, he WILL crumble (see you in the NFL, kid).  With this win, Devil fans began to feel that this really could be the sign of hope we had been looking for.  With a win over USC, all we needed to do was, at the worst, come in second to them in the Pac-12 South, and we’d be in the championship game – and looking ahead at the schedule, this seemed doable, with the only major road-block being the Oregon game in Eugene – which, in fact, turned out to be our next loss.

At this point, we were still in the hunt of the Pac-12 South title – sitting at 5-2 with the next 5 games being ones where we would definitely be favored.  This “great” season was still within reach – Pac-12 South title, Pac-12 Championship, and even a possible BCS game.  But this was when reality hit, and the wheels fell off.  The hype had run its course, and we lost 4 of those very winnable 5 games.  “Very winnable” is an understatement here; we lost to a Washington State team with a coach who has only won 9 games in his four years at the helm.  We also lost THE game; the one that can cost you an entire season if you lose no matter the final record.

Ending out the season at a measly 6-6 was never a thought for this team.  There was no reason that the Sun Devils should not have won at least 9 games with the talent on this team, and the state of the teams they played.  The hype was just that, hype. As usual, the Sun Devils are placed in a category before the season starts, and are unable to perform.  The sad thing is that each season when the critics talk about ASU and their potential of being a “good” team, it is followed with the thought of being able to live up to the hype.  When the critics take note of the trends that are followed each year, and aren’t able to put much stock in “potential,” there are definite problems.

As I am finishing this post, it was just announced that Erickson will be let go as the Head Coach of the Sun Devils – well, he is “retiring.” (Wonder how that translates into buying out his contract?)  Should it stop with the coach though? What about the AD? Currently, the hype “issue” doesn’t stop with just the football team:

  • The basketball team has struggled for a very long time now.  Although, I truly feel that Herb Sendek is the man for the job; he just needs better backing from the top.
  • The baseball team is still in its appeal process for violations stemming back to Pat Murphy’s wrong doings.

Are we cursed as Sun Devils? Or would putting more money into our facilities, recruiting and coaching staff make things better?  Would hiring a $10+ million coach be the answer? Who knows, but I do know, it is hard to be a Sun Devil, and I will ALWAYS be one!

 

Sparky and I at the ASU Alumni Tailgate at the Utah game


There’s “Bandwagon” and Then There’s “Confusing”

Some of my collection: ASU hat, Tigers hat, Red Wings hat, D-Backs hat from Opening Day 1998, 2001 World Series "Official Ball," ASU flag and Suns throw.

Have you ever sat back and really thought about how big a role sports plays in our lives?  I mean think about it, we complain about the millions and millions of dollars these guys make in a year, but we pay millions to see them play.  Cities (and you) pay millions to billions to be able to build the next, state of the art facility for their team or teams to play in.  I remember as a kid, and even still today, when I fly into a city, I’m always looking around trying to see the arenas or stadiums from the air. It’s the only time you get the opportunity to see the whole thing other than a photo.  Sometimes you don’t realize how pivotal the placement of a sports facility can be until you’ve seen it as you descent into a city from the air.

As a guy, you often get the question: “what is your favorite team?” This can often be a tricky question to answer.  If you happen to say a team that is currently playing really well, then you quickly have to justify the answer to not be tagged as a “fair-weather” or guilty of “jumping on the bandwagon.”  There are even times that if you happen to say the wrong team, you could be looking at a fist fight due to the person asking being a die-hard fan of a rival (slightly over-exaggerated, but could happen).

This question has often bewildered many friends of mine through my answers.  I could, at times, be accused of trying to hitch a ride on a couple of wagons, but I can justify all of my answers (at least to myself, and that’s what counts).  You see, growing up in various places throughout this sports-loving nation, it is very difficult to just have one favorite, or be a fan of just one team.  Is it really a crime to be a fan of multiple teams from a few different cities?  Feel free to judge.

When it comes to college that’s an easy one, Arizona State (Go Devils!!!) – You become slightly biased when you’re an alumnus, no matter how good or bad your teams may be.  When it comes to the Devils, not too many people are jumping on your wagon (hoping that 2011 proves to the hype for the Devils in football.  Unfortunately, hype, has never bode well for the Devils in years past).  The Lady Devils just won the softball National Championship and the baseball team is still battling its way to Omaha, but being a fan of the Sun Devils has been very trying over the years (Ahh to be a Sun Devil).  I will admit though, being a member of my wife’s family has also made me a fan of the Irish (fan, not a favorite…is that ok? Oh, and living near South Bend for a few years may have helped this as well).

When it comes to professional sports, it is a much harder story to tell.  My first professional influences came from the NFL.  It all started in the mid 70’s when we lived in Powell, Wyoming, and my father was a sports announcer for the local radio station.  They just so happened to cover the Orange Crush – you may know them better as the Denver Broncos.  I had a little plastic helmet that my dad had painted to mach a Broncos helmet, they were my team….until I heard about the Cowboys.  Yes, I do live in Dallas now and wouldn’t exactly consider myself a true blue Cowboy fan, but back in the day, yes, I was a fan.  Ok, so they were in their heyday (one of them).  Can a five-year-old boy really be guilty of jumping on a bandwagon? The point is, that at the time, living in “the middle of nowhere,” Wyoming, there weren’t any teams to be a fan of.  Looking elsewhere was your only option, even for a five-year-old.

Now is when it all starts to really get messy – at the age of 6, I was relocated with my family to Arizona.  Actual years are needed here for clarity, so this would have been 1981/82.  What that means for those of you not in the know, is that there weren’t any professional sports teams in Arizona except for the Phoenix Suns (NBA), but I didn’t really learn of them until a few more years down the road.  We lived in Kingman, AZ, again, middle of nowhere.  Like most families, my family went in different directions.  I lived with my mother and sister, so there weren’t many influences on sports.  I did enjoy playing baseball, soccer and basketball though.  Finally I became more aware of the sports world that was out there.  I began to learn more about professional teams around the nation – again, none in the local area.  I learned of the Phoenix Suns, and to no surprise, they became “my team.”

In 1986, I again relocated.  This time we moved to Michigan, Trufant, Michigan to be exact.  AGAIN, middle of nowhere! (Starting to get the picture?)  By this time, I was really getting into sports.  I knew all the best players on all the best teams in all professional sports, except hockey (more on that in a moment – remember, in Michigan now).  January 1987 was the year that I got to watch “my” Sun Devils down the Michigan Wolverines in the Rose Bowl.  I knew then that I wanted to be a Sun Devil.  I was still a fan of the Broncos (NFL) – even after all of the Elway (still one of my favorite players ever) chokes in the Super Bowls, the Cowboys (NFL), and the Suns (NBA).  Raise your hand if you thought KJ was the man!  I knew all about baseball and its best players/teams, but hadn’t really thought about a favorite team yet.  Again, it was hard to have one when there wasn’t a team nearby to follow; I mean, the Tigers were all the way over in Detroit, a 4-5 hour drive from Trufant.  Many of my friends would follow the Tigers.  It didn’t take long until I began to follow suit.  I also found myself becoming a fan of the lowly Atlanta Braves as we watched them climb from the trenches to go from “worst to first” (OK, maybe this one was bandwagoning, but it was a great story and hard not to follow).  Soon, I became used to the cold Michigan winters, and began to learn of hockey.  I truly fell in love with the sport, and what better place to be than the state of Michigan, home of the Detroit Red Wings (NHL)!  This was definitely a team that was hard not to love.

Ok, just to be sure you’re keeping track: Sun Devils (NCAA), Broncos (NFL), Cowboys (NFL), Cardinals (NFL), Suns (NBA), Tigers (MLB), Braves (MLB), and Red Wings (NHL).  Confused yet? Oh, yes, I’m sure you noticed the addition of the Cardinals in there – even living in Michigan, I still felt a connection to Phoenix/Arizona.  My dad still lived there, and kept me abreast of the latest happenings.  They moved to Phoenix from St. Louis in 1988, so I slowly began to adopt them as one of “my” teams, even though they were horrible for many, many years.  So there I was, now a teenager, all confused with who was my favorite team, and then I graduated HS and made another move back to Arizona.  This time I was off to college, to be a Sun Devil.

I moved to Phoenix in the summer of 1994.  Shortly thereafter, a new team had come into my life.  This one isn’t considered a definite “favorite,” but they are still a team that I will follow.  The Winnipeg Jets had made a move to the desert and had become the Coyotes.  Yes, there was now hockey in the middle of a place that was too hot for anyone to exist let alone play on ice.  It’s hard not to be into a team when you see them grow before you.

Which brings me to the next state of confusion…the Arizona Diamondbacks.  In 1998, the D-Backs franchise joined Major League Baseball.  Again, and even more-so, it is very hard not to be a fan of a team that you get the opportunity to see start from the very beginning.  The 2001 World Series win over the Yankees might have helped a little too (I say this as I look at my “Official Ball” from the 2001 Series that is on my desk).

Now I find myself living in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Now, as you may recall, the Cowboys were “one” of my original favorite teams, but I truly don’t follow them in the same way.  In fact, I honestly find this current team to not fit into any class that earlier Cowboy’s teams have.  Romo just won’t ever be the leader that Staubach, White or Aikman were.  As for the other teams here: I don’t have any plans to ever follow the Stars for the Wings had my heart long ago; it was fun to see the Rangers go to the World Series, and I enjoy going to a game now and then, but the Tigers and D-Backs are enough for me; and lastly, yes, the Mavs are currently in the Finals, and I do honestly hope they win, but not as a fan, more as being not a fan of the Heat and the egos of Wade, Bosh and that other guy…oh yeah, the “King.”

So, would you consider my choices of “favorites” a sign of bandwagoning? I’m sure some could argue a few of them, but I feel that my mobility through life from town to town and the confusing nature of some of my locales has legitimized my choices.  When it comes down to it, I’m a fan of sport, of competition.  I am one that will watch a game, because I know it will be a good one.  Not caring who will win, just wanting to watch some good competition.  Maybe some of my “favorite” choices are because of this i.e. Atlanta in the 90’s, but that’s ok to me.

 


Ahh to be a Sun Devil – the disappointment continues

So, here we are, 2 games into the CWS, and 2 games out of the CWS.  The Arizona State Sun Devils came into this year’s College World Series as the #1 seed – apparently that didn’t mean sh*t (pardon the expletive), as usual.  I mean really, the Sun Devils hadn’t lost 2 games in a row ALL season! – Until tonight.  They were one of the last college teams to even lose a game in the regular season (24-0 to start the season, 25-0 if you count the exhibition game).  I say as usual, because what else can we really expect being a Sun Devil fan.  I hate to be so cynical, but one can only take so much heartbreak.

Do you remember January 1st, 1997? I do, I was there…oh the horror!  This was my first taste of the drama of ASU athletics.  The UNDEFEATED Sun Devils had won the Pac-10 title and were on their way to the Rose Bowl to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes whose only loss was to Michigan in their last game of the season.  Here is the wrap-up:  With just over a minute remaining, Jake “the Snake” Plummer scrambled to lead the Devils to a 17-14 lead over the Buckeyes.  OSU got the ball, and began driving down the field, finding themselves on the 5 yard-line after some crappy penalties called on ASU.  With only 19 seconds – YES, 19 seconds – on the clock, David Boston walked into the end-zone untouched after blown coverage by Courtney Jackson (who’s jock strap can probably still be found on the 5 yard-line) to take the lead – 20-17.  Game Over!  Standing the bench seats in the stadium, in the corner directly above the aforementioned touchdown, we went from jubilant screaming and yelling to a deathly silence drowned out by the scarlet fans 50-plus yards away.  We could have been the National Champs!!! – Thanks Courtney.

What about the numerous “good” teams that Bill Frieder led onto the court only to flop below expectations – Ok, we made the sweet 16 ONCE, but what was that? Now we have Herb Sendek, who is doing a great job of re-building.  We can only hope the cycle will be broken…although that early exit from the NIT this year wasn’t exactly a good sign.

And how about the countless times that Dirk Koetter’s squads were listed as a #2 favorite (second to USC) in the Pac-10, to end up having a losing season? Koetter was Kut and now we have a proven coach, Dennis Erickson.  Please Dennis, let’s get this turned around!!!

And now baseball…well not now, but it is just the latest example.  Pat Murphy was brought into this storied club from Notre Dame to lead ASU to another championship.  He did that, but only Pac-10 championships (4 of them).  He got ASU into the post-season numerous times, but missed the expectations each time. This year was just one more sampling of the heartache a Sun Devil fan goes through each year.  The Devils were in the top 5 in the nation all year long…hell, maybe top 3.  They went into the post-season this year as the #1 seed – only to end up the first #1 seed to go 0-2 at Omaha since 1999.  Again…they didn’t lose 2 games in a row all season! – Hope be for next season, once again, due to the fact that this team is young.  Only 4 seniors on the squad (providing no one leaves early).  Best of Luck Esmay!

I love ASU, if you know me, you KNOW this.  I am always reppin the Sun Devils; whether it be shirts or my sweat-laden ball cap, I’m representing Maroon and Gold.  It is great to be a part of such a HUGE family.  In fact it is like being part of a family…at times, they make you so happy, and other times, there is disappointment…but, you still love them, you will still do anything for them.  It is just hard to go into each season with the high hopes (sometimes) – due to the stupid analysts and their predictions.

BUT…we love you Sun Devils, and we ALWAYS will.  Go Devils!!!

OK…this last line is being added for one reason and one only – superstition!  Prior to this line, when I ended with “Go Devils”, my word count was 666…that along with “Go Devils” was just a little too creepy…hope you understand.

Oh, and Go Devils!!!