Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy new stuff, and things

I'm going to be in Dallas, and likely not anywhere near Blogger, for a few days, so before I go, I'd like to do two things:
1) Wish you all a happy new year. So...happy new year! And thanks very much for reading my blog
2) Revisit some of 2007, because it was the most eventful year of my life. Here we go!

I had shoulder surgery two days after New Year’s. It sucked. What kind of idiot starts a year that way? However, having that operation meant that, in all likelihood, the rest of the year would be a whole lot better.

I spent most of that month either in physical therapy, or sitting in my room hating my life (or getting sick on campus buses...when the label on a painkiller says "take with food," they mean to take the damn thing with food. Don't disobey, or you might also get sick in a public space. Not pretty.). It didn’t help that my best friend and wonderful roommate had to move out, but my beslinged arm and I made it through to…

Typically my least favorite month of the year, but some cool stuff happened. Well, cool stuff happened on Valentine’s Day, but as far as I can recall the rest of the month was a waste. On Valentine's Day,
1) My physical therapist told me I could quit wearing my sling. I had grown a little bit attached, as it was a great conversation piece when I met Ryan Shealy for the first time. He and Ryan Braun signed it, so of course I still have it.
2) My brother proposed to his wonderful lady friend, and she said yes. (Yay!) More about them later.
And then Spring Training started! Yay again!

March Madness followed the typical custom of being Husker-less, but I participated in a pool or two nonetheless, and made a few bucks. The tournament kept me happily occupied as I waited for Opening Day. I think I probably went to school and stuff too, but that wasn’t important.

Here is a random picture of my roommate's cat in a box, to break up the monotony of the offseason.

April 2, 2007, was one of the happiest days of my life. Is there a way for a baseball nut to adequately describe the joy that comes with Opening Day? Before this year, I had never been able to make it to KC for the opener, but this year I said, “To hell with classes!* I’m not missing another Opening Day!”
So to Kansas City I went, along with two of my brothers and two of their friends. The weather was perfect, the BBQ was perfect, the game was perfect. Gil Meche made his Royals debut, and dominated the Red Sox. Manny and Papi went a combined 1-7 on the day, whereas the Royals worked together to score 7 runs. On that day, and only on that day, the Royals held a slice of 1st place in the AL Central. It felt wonderful, while it lasted.
April was also when I started my job with the O-Royals, which is the best job I’ve ever had, and I never want to give it up. I wonder if there’s an upper age limit for Powerade girls...

*This move resulted in my VisLit professor almost failing me. I think it’s because he hates me, America, and baseball…a lethal combination.

The school year ended, and my grades were decent. I finally moved to Omaha so I didn’t have a 55-mile (each way) commute anymore. At the end of the month, I jumped off the dugout onto the edge of a step and sprained the hell out of my ankle. It didn’t break, but I wish it would have.

I have a whole new appreciation for athletes who have to be on the DL a lot (I’m looking at YOU, Ryan Shealy). It sucks, even if you don’t actually play a sport. Not that the boys had many home games in June, because that was College World Series time at lovely Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium. Because I was stuck in my house (or, again, in physical therapy, because the 20 weeks I did it for my shoulder weren’t enough for the year) resting the stupid ankle, I only made it to one game – the perverted-sounding Beavers/Eaters matchup. After the CWS, I finally got to return to work for the Powerade Power Team, after 32 days of sitting in my room hating my life (see a theme here?)

Scott Elarton gave up a bunch of home runs in the first 2 innings of the game on my birthday, so the O-Royals did not win for me (those jerks!). But I did get to wear a festive lei, so all is forgiven.

To make up for all the time they’re on the road during the CWS in June, the O-Royals played at home almost every day in August, and I worked every single game. I am not complaining about that; given a choice between working a game and having a day off, I’d take working 10 out of 10 times. Remember the proposal my brother made in February? The wedding was in August, on the one weekend in which the O-Royals were on the road. What splendid timing! The wedding was wonderful; everyone in both families was happy to welcome new members into the fold, and I was thrilled to finally have a sister after two decades of life with four brothers and no sisters.
August was also the month in which I got to meet Mike Sweeney. See, it always comes back to baseball.

The O-Royals were done for the season, so I moved back to Lincoln for another year of schooling. School is kind of lame, so I won’t bore you with the details. It was especially hard to transition from the fun and glamorous baseball life to the dull existence of a poor college student.
During September, Nebraska’s football team and fan base were excited to see what the super-hyped ASU transfer Sam Keller could do for our offense. He (and the rest of the team) looked mighty fine against Nevada (who, by the way, got in a bowl game despite being so thoroughly crushed by a Nebraska team who didn’t even have a ghost of a chance to get a bowl game. Silly, eh?), but started a steady decline after that, including an almost-loss to Ball State (who also got a bowl invite).

I don’t remember if anything happened in this month. I watched the MLB postseason and went to Husker football games, and I think that was all. Oh, my favorite sportswriter – the reason I even want to be a sportswriter – told me at some point during October that he thought I was a decent writer. That was pretty significant. I may have printed that e-mail and showed it to everyone I know. Unless that would be pathetic, in which case I totally kept my cool and went about my merry way.

Another boring month. Baseball ended, Nebraska’s football team was doing poorly, which led to the happy (for me) end of the Bill Callahan era. At least I had a new year of Nebrasketball about which to be excited. It’s head coach Doc Sadler’s second season, and many of the most ardent Nebrasketball fans are sure it’s the year in which Doc will lead us to the promised land, the Big Dance.

I grew up in a tiny town in the southwestern part of Nebraska, but I do consider Omaha my town too. So when, at the beginning of December, tragedy struck in an Omaha mall, I felt it too. That’s not supposed to happen in my town, right? After that, my petty hatred of winter seemed pretty small.
Now Christmas has come and gone, and it was awesome as always to spend time with my parents, all of my brothers, and my sister-in-law. On New Year’s Day, I will be going to Dallas for the national conference of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). If you are the praying sort, I'd appreciate a prayer or two for safe travel, and open hearts, and such.
Meanwhile, my dear brother is traveling through Europe, mostly in Italy. Color me completely jealous.

Yep, that was my year. I'm sure I left a thing or two out, but I hit the main points -- gaining a sister, meeting Mike Sweeney, and Opening Day. After reading that, you either "know" me a little bit better, or you feel like you've wasted your time. To ensure that it's the latter, I'll leave you with a random thought about Mr. Gerard Butler.

I think Gerard Butler is handsome. Very, very handsome. But I don't know that I would recognize him if I saw him on the street; he looks like a completely different (but still devastatingly good-looking) man in every movie in which I've seen him. In this photo, he's standing next to a poster of himself, and he still doesn't look like himself. How does he do that?

All right, if you're still with me after all that, I thank you for sticking around. Let's see what the heck happens to this site in 2008; I am hoping for good things, and maybe a few new readers (tell all your friends!), and that enough baseball happens in my life that you never have to hear my musings on Gerard Butler, ever again.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Soul of Baseball

It embarrasses me a little bit to say that I just finished reading Joe Posnanski's book, The Soul of Baseball, for the first time. I mean, Posnanski is may all-time favorite sportswriter, the main reason I want to be a sportswriter too. I'm not entirely sure why I didn't get my hands on the book before "Santa" brought it to me yesterday morning. What kind of fan doesn't even read her favorite writer's book? I suppose I could have checked it out at my university's library -- I checked, and they do have it -- but I have a tendency to avoid the library, even though I love reading.

Anyway, what that all amounts to is the fact that I had Christmas music playing in the background as I read stories about Buck O'Neil and a huge cast of other people, from baseball greats to a random woman in a red dress. My music of choice this year has been a steady stream of Trans-Siberian Orchestra tunes. I've known about them for a number of years now, but this is the first year I have listened -- really, truly listened -- to all of their music and the messages behind it, and I've found a lot of similarities between their songs and Joe Po's stories about Buck.

One thing I love about TSO's songs is their insistence that everyone hold on to the wide-eyed magical feeling that surrounds Christmas when one is very young. The songs say that sometimes with lyrics, but the song "First Snow" says it best with no words at all. It sounds exactly like how it felt to be a kid and to wake up to find the yard and everything was covered with snow for the first time, and to want nothing more than to be outside, rolling in the snow, building things with it, catching it on your tongue, not caring how cold it might be outside or how slick the roads might be. Snow meant joy back then, and even though I mostly hate it now, in the few minutes of that song, I feel exactly like I did when I was little and I still loved it. The music is teaching me to recapture the joys of being a kid instead of the cynicism of being a starving college student.

That's what reading about Buck O'Neil feels like for a baseball-loving soul thirsting for goodness in an age of steroids, too-big contracts, and all that crap. This book invigorated my spirit in a way I forgot a book could do. I know in my head that I love baseball, and I'll tell that to anyone who will listen, but I think my heart had forgotten the true depth of the joy that the game brings to my life; simple things like seeing how many sunflower seeds I could spit into a bucket near my usual perch next to the O-Royals dugout, or the steady, comforting rhythm of batting practice.

I read all of TSOB in one day, begrudgingly putting it down only when I had to join my family for Christmas dinner and some card games. After that and some Wii-playing, it was back to the book. After several hours, nestled in my bed with my dog, Shadow, sleeping soundly on the floor next to me, I realized a had a bit of a headache so I looked away from the page for a moment. When I looked up, I caught sight of Shadow's back paw twitching just a little bit. As I watched, that one paw's tiny twitch turned turned into all four paws flexing back and forth, their movement rippling through muscles all the way up his legs. My stately, dignified, perfectly behaved 9-year-old black lab was staying young at heart too, by chasing squirrels in his dreams. And I got to see it; man I love my life. Anyhoodle, I will likely read TSOB again many times, but first I am giving everyone else in my family the chance to read it, so maybe their souls can feel as happy as mine does as we wait and we count days until we get to gleefully place ourselves where baseball, and the simple but deep joys that come with the game if you let them, are.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

....and to all a good night!

(Click image for full-sized version)
(Or click here for the alternate version I made for my Mom...Marky Christmas?)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Let's go bowling!

This year, I made my bowl picks based on the first random thought that floated through my brain when I read the matchup. This is partly because I've been busy with pre-Christmas stuff and finals, partly because my dad needed my picks right away to get them into a bowl pool, and partly because there's a good chance that my arbitrary picks will do me better than if I had spent more time thinking about the games.

Here's who I have winning, and why. You can skip around, just look at your team's game, or the big games, or whatever. Here we go:

Poinsettia Bowl Tonight, 9 pm Utah vs. Navy
I picked Navy
because I just got a feeling.
Actual result: Utah 35 - Navy 32. I'm 0-1

New Orleans Bowl Dec. 21, 8 pm Florida Atlantic vs. Memphis

I picked Florida Atlantic
because ...well? I don't know. I think it's because the last person I met from Memphis was kind of a jerk.
Actual result: Florida Atlantic 44, Memphis 27. Back at .500! Bowl Dec. 22, 1 pm Cincinnati vs. Southern Miss
I picked Cincinnati
because I finally know how to spell it. (What? Don't judge me.)

New Mexico Bowl Dec. 22, 4:30 New Mexico vs. Nevada
I picked Nevada
because I felt like rooting for the away team

Las Vegas Bowl Dec. 22, 8 pm BYU vs. UCLA

I picked UCLA
because I reeeeeally hate BYU. I mean, I hate them both, but I begrudgingly went with the Bruins because I see them as the (slightly) lesser of two evils.

Hawaii Bowl Dec. 23, 8 pm East Carolina vs. Boise State

I picked Boise State
because we all know they can make the bowl game magic happen.

Motor City Bowl Dec. 26, 7:30 Purdue vs. Central Michigan

I picked Purdue
because the voices told me it was the right pick.

Holiday Bowl Dec. 27, 8 pm Texas vs. Arizona State

I picked Texas
because Nebraska played so well against them. Better for the Huskers if the 'Horns see some success. Plus I typically root for the Big XII. However, I don't totally hate ASU, so I wouldn't mind being wrong here.

Champs Sports Bowl Dec. 28, 5 pm Boston College vs. Michigan State
I picked Boston College
because go Catholics!

Texas Bowl Dec. 28, 8 pm TCU vs. Houston
I picked TCU
because how could I pick against the Horned Frogs??

Emerald Bowl Dec. 28, 8:30 Maryland vs. Oregon State
I picked Oregon State
because I like their baseball team.

Meineke Car Care Dec. 29, 1 pm Wake Forest vs. Connecticut
I picked Wake Forest
because they were a Nebraska opponent early in the season.

Liberty Bowl Dec. 29, 4:30 UCF vs. Mississippi State

I picked Mississippi State
because I like the letter 'S'.

Alamo Bowl Dec. 29, 8 pm Penn State vs. Texas A&M
I picked Texas A&M
because go Big XII!

Independence Dec. 30, 8 pm Colorado vs. Alabama

I picked Colorado
because ...Again, Husker opponent, conference, yadda yadda...

Armed Forces Bowl Dec. 31, 12:30 Air Force vs. California

I picked Cal
because I already picked Navy to win their game, and I can't pick more than one branch of the military to win a bowl game.

Sun Bowl Dec. 31, 2 pm South Florida vs. Oregon
I picked Oregon
because I have a friend or two who are genuine Ducks fans.

Humanitarian Bowl Dec. 31, 2 pm Georgia Tech vs. Fresno State

I picked Georgia Tech
because I felt like it, gosh!

Music City Bowl Dec. 31, 4 pm Kentucky vs. Florida State
I picked Kentucky
because as my dad said, "Do you think ANYONE picked Florida State?" (Hi, Dad!)

Chick-fil-A Bowl Dec. 31, 7:30 Auburn vs. Clemson

I picked Clemson
because ...can't I just say "The Tigers" so I know I'll be right?

Insight Dec. 31, TBA Indiana vs. Oklahoma State
I picked Okie State!
because Mike Gundy is a MAN, and he's FORTY!

Outback Bowl Jan. 1, 11 am Wisconsin vs. Tennessee

I picked Tennessee
because I know a bunch of Vols fans.

Cotton Bowl Jan. 1, 11:30 Missouri vs. Arkansas

I picked Mizzou
because Husker opponent, nose-picking QB, Big XII team, all that jazz.

Gator Bowl Jan. 1, 1 pm Virginia vs. Texas Tech

I picked Texas Tech
because Conference, etc. Sorry, nothing witty here.

Capital One Bowl Jan. 1, 1 pm Michigan vs. Florida

I picked Florida
because I hate Michigan, I love seeing them lose. I also hate Florida, but I think Mr. Heisman Tebow should be able to take the Gators to one more win.

Rose Bowl Jan. 1, 4:30 USC vs. Illinois

I picked USC
because Illinois might be out of hilarious upsets. I'd love to be wrong though.

Sugar Bowl Jan. 1, 8:30 Hawaii vs. Georgia

I picked Hawaii
because it's the last chance for these guys to "prove" they belong in a big bowl. They've got a fire under their bellies.

Fiesta Bowl Jan. 2, 8 pm Oklahoma vs. West Virginia

I picked West Virginia
because I had to go against my "pick the Big XII rule one of these days. It's 2007; anyone could win any game.

Orange Bowl Jan. 3, 8 pm Virginia Tech vs. Kansas

I picked Kansas
because I want to believe that the team that so horribly destroyed my Huskers is good enough to pull off a bowl win.

International Bowl Jan. 5, 12pm Rutgers vs. Ball State

I picked Ball(s) State
because I'm still bitter about how they almost beat Nebraska. See my bias coming through?

GMAC Jan. 6, 8 pm Tulsa vs. Bowling Green

I picked Tulsa
because ...I have no idea. I don't know much about either team, honestly.

BCS "National Championship" Jan. 7, 8 pm Ohio State vs. LSU

I picked LSU
because screw OSU!!

So there you have it. If I'm wrong, you can laugh at me.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

It's that time of year again

"If you want to arrange it, this world you can change it. If we could somehow make this Christmas Day last, by helping a neighbor, even a stranger. To know who needs help, you need only just ask." -Trans-Siberian Orchestra, "Old City Bar"

Whether you're of any religious persuasion or not, this is still a beautiful time of year in which anyone can -- and most people do -- show the best they have to offer for their neighbors. Yesterday I saw a cashier at my university's bookstore (typically an evil place, no?) skip her lunch break because she saw that her co-worker had a long line of customers and she didn't want anyone to be stuck in line all afternoon. A teller at my bank (another entity not usually associated with Santa's Nice List) took a few minutes to help me with my Spanish after I told him that my final in that class was tomorrow. It's the time of year when a lot of people remember that giving is really, really, really easy. Anyone can do it, regardless of age, abilities, income bracket, religion, or anything else. I like the little drummer boy; he gave everything he had to offer, even if it was just playing a drum.

So if all you have is a love for video games, there's a place for you too. Child's Play might be my all-time favorite charity. It was started in late 2003 by two gamers who were sick of the way their fellow gamers were portrayed in the media as bloodthirsty monsters, and the project grew into an overwhelming avalanche of gifts that required three separate moves into ever-larger storage spaces. At first they gave to one hospital, now they give to 45. Last year, the gaming community raised over a million dollars' worth of games, toys, and cash contributions. Can they do it again? I don't see why not; at this writing they stand at $851,000. If gamers -- people who are not typically thought of as the world's best philanthropists -- can do that, everyone else can too.

Whatever holiday you'll be celebrating in the coming weeks, I hope you have a good one.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Because I love lists: What to do in the offseason

“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” –Rogers Hornsby

With all due respect to Mr. Hornsby, there is a lot more to do in the winter than stare out the window and wait for spring. A fan can:

1) Actively count days/hours/minutes/seconds until Opening Day
2) Count days/hours/minutes/seconds until Pitchers and Catchers Report to Spring Training Day (Items 1 and 2 are wholly separate activities, each with its own level of almost frightening devotion to The Game.)
3) Start a trade rumor just to find out how far it will go (10 bonus points if it makes mlbtraderumors, eleventy billion bonus points if it makes the Hot Stove Report)
4) Follow other trade rumors that may have been started for the same reason
5) Hand-make Christmas cards for her favorite players
-- For added fun, include marriage proposals with cards sent to bachelors. See what happens!
6) Watch other sports and try to apply baseball statistics to them
7) Make enough money for great Opening Day seats by betting on fall/winter sports (Gambling problem? Call 1-800-BET'S OFF)
8) Re-create the 1986 season Strat-o-Matically
9) Create your own baseball awards
10) Create fantasy baseball teams, based on arbitrary categories. Examples: Tall guys, short guys (Dibs on Ozzie Smith!), the ever-popular "hot guys" category, players with long last names (Graffanino-to-Grudzielanek-to-Mientkiewicz sounds like a good DP combo to anyone else?), an all-Smith team (still don't want Jason), an all-Encarnacion team, you get the idea.

11) Engage in baseball trivia with friends and strangers alike at IHOP (best if done between the hours of 1-4 a.m.)
12) Learn a new language
13) Create a tapestry depicting your team's ballpark, made of sock lint
14) Attend classes, study hard, earn good gra--oh, who am I kidding? I could never get through that one with a straight face.

Basically, there isn't a whole lot for a hopeless baseball addict to do to get through those 182 days when the regular season ends and Opening Day finally dawns. I'm trying to make it, but it is hard to deny the fact that winter is long, and almost 100% crappy. I don't know what I can do to make the time go by faster. All I know for sure is that right now, I only have 105 days, 12 hours, 22 minutes, and 2 seconds left to burn.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

That did just happen

A lot of people didn't bother to make the drive from Lincoln to Omaha for this afternoon's matchup between the Husker men and #16 Oregon. They said it wasn't worth driving through fresh, wet snow to see Nebraska get embarrassed by a team that vastly outmatched them. If you know what's going to happen, why bother?

I'd like to direct those people's attention to Exhibit A.

I had a post all planned out in my mind that had something to do with how lovely it would be if the players on the court were the ones who decided the outcome of the game instead of the officials. The refs today were outrageously bad. I thought that if a ref took a bribe from one team, he'd at least try to hide the fact that he's doing his best to hand that team the game.

Fortunately for all of us (and the safety of today's officiating crew), Nebraska was, by far, the better team on the court at the Qwest Center today. To me, they won two games: One against Oregon, and one against the refs. Sure, they had their ugly moments, like Aleks Maric missing a wide open layup with under 2 minutes left, or Steve Harly fouling Oregon's Tajuan Porter as Porter sank a 3 to tie the game with 9 seconds left. Or all the travels, flagrant fouls, and even double-dribbles that Ducks got away with, or all the times Husker players were called for fouls when they were barely in the same neighborhood as the Duck with the ball. (For example, Ade Dagunduro fouled out today, but in a game with real refs he would have only had three fouls, and the dude from Oregon who threw Ryan Anderson to the floor three different times would have fouled out before halftime.) But it had more highs than lows, like Porter missing his free throw with 9 seconds left, allowing us to head to overtime, or Ryan Anderson nailing a three pointer to start the extra frame. Heck, I'm still on a high from the game, and it ended hours ago.

Yes, this game took its fan from some pretty harsh lows -- "Maric, how could you miss yet another layup?!?" -- to some lofty highs -- see again, Exhibit A -- and left many of us with the feeling that this could be The Year for the Huskers. Time, and the Huskers' performance in conference play will tell, but if they make it to March, you heard it here first.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The not-so-big reveal

So. Let's talk about the Mitchell Report. Was it wrong of me to expect more fireworks?

Sure, we got entertaining things like the fact that Jason Grimsley has ugly, girlie, tulip-laden checks (page 389 of the report), but nothing in it blew my mind.

Back in high school, I would sometimes ask lazy freshmen (we'll call them LFs) to write sports stories. "Hey, you little LF," I'd say, "Why don't you write a story about the track team?" They'd agree to do it, but we'd hit the deadlines for stories and my LF would have nothing for me. At the very last minute, the LF would give me a story in which she (it was almost always a she) had interviewed only one person -- her best friend, who happens to be on the track team -- and given me a really crappy story. But deadlines are deadlines, and we had to run something, so the crappy, one-source story would run.

That's exactly what this investigation looked like to me. One trainer. One clubhouse attendant. For what, exactly, was that $40 million? Was it really just so that Mitchell could bully two people -- and not even guilty players -- into some kindergarten-caliber tattling? I thought Mitchell could have...oh, I don't know...gotten legitimate sources from more than two teams, and maybe given a thorough report filled with something other than he said/she said tattling nonsense. Color me unimpressed.

Texas Gal over at Ladies... had this to say (nestled amongst a ton of other brilliance) about the report as a whole:
....the Mitchell investigation is horseshit. Incomplete, inaccurate, hearsay-filled nonsense with no teeth.
Yep, that about sums it up.

In some actual news, the Royals have traded Billy Buckner for Alberto Callaspo.

Monday, December 10, 2007


Wednesday afternoon, I didn't get to eat until after 2:30 or so. I was pretty hungry, so I went to the dining hall I can't stand, because it was the closest one still open. But what I saw when I entered the cafeteria was the shocking news....well, you know by now that I'm going to say it was about the shooting in an Omaha mall.

I didn't write anything here for several reasons. Part of it was that I had school things and social things happening, and part was that on Wednesday I just didn't know what to say. Wednesday turned into Thursday, and then it became the weekend, and I figured it was too late to say anything meaningful. And then I realized how utterly horrible it is that before the funerals have even happened, my MTV-generation mind has already classified this horrible occurrence as "old news," that people might be disinterested in a piece of writing about eight people losing their lives unexpectedly and, by my best judgment, unfairly.

The truth is, I'm angry at Robert A. Hawkins for senselessly taking 8 lives and his own. I didn't realize until tonight in my Bible study that I was still pissed off, that I hadn't moved on to whatever the next stage of grief is.

My brother described the shooting as "numbing and incomprehensible" in his post about the shootings, and that is right on. This kind of thing does not happen. Now I get it when people respond to tragedies with "I never thought this could happen to me." Why would anybody ever predict that they'd be a part of something so horrible, so thoughtless, so devoid of humanity?

I never wanted to know what it felt like to make phone calls to my friends and family and ask the question "is everyone alive?" but now I know. All because a young man -- he's my age, which is weird to me -- decided that the best way to become famous was to make it rain bullets in a shopping mall at Christmas time.

Hawkins said in his suicide note that he wanted to "go out with style." I've been racking my brains since Wednesday and I still can not think of anyone who thinks it's stylish to tear eight families apart during a time of year when things are supposed to be happy and full of love. Those victims were probably shopping for their loved ones, anticipating the joy that comes with giving a gift. Instead, they had everything taken away, all in the name of some demented idea of "style."

I'm hoping that I remember to remember all the people whose lives were torn apart by this shooting, even if CNN has quit updating their stories on it. I pray that I haven't lost touch with humanity to the point where I only care about something like this for as long as the news networks do, and then my attention turns to the next story, never to revisit this one. But mostly, I pray for the people who never thought that the last time they saw those 8 family members was the last time they'd see them, forever. Robert A. Hawkins has given them the least merry Christmas of all.

Sunday, December 09, 2007


A few minutes into today's Nebraska basketball game against Rutgers, I was afraid of the Scarlet Knights' offense. Really, really scared. I had watched them pour in threes during their pre-game shootaround, and was afraid they'd keep dumping those shots in once the game started. For a little while, they did. Nebraska looked a little bit helpless, actually. In the meantime, only two referees had taken the court, so the day looked like it was going to be a disaster.

But after a while, something started working, and the Huskers went on a 24-6 run to finish the first half. They had to; something had to happen for the Huskers to stay perfect at home. As they mounted this rally, all of Nebraska's players worked together in a way that surprised most of us in the Red Zone.

Example: Aleks Maric typically gets the ball inside, and no matter how many guys are on him, he'll try to force a shot. But the more time goes on this season, the more he's willing to kick the ball back out to a teammate on the perimeter rather than force a layup that will ultimately fail. It's fantastic, and it results in Husker wins.

During that run, the Devany Center became electric. Before the game, it seemed like the fans, even those in the Red Zone, were not in Game Day Mode. We didn't do our usual chants during the announcing of the Rutgers lineup. We only clapped weakly when the band played our fight song. But once the Huskers started battling back from a 15-8 deficit, the fans started noticing that this was turning in to a really good game. Gone were everyone's concerns about their upcoming final exams, and the hatred of the bitter cold outside. Funny how basketball can do that.

The Husker defense started to stick better than ever, and Rutgers struggled to even get a shot off on some possessions. I can't even remember the last time before today that Nebraska forced a shot clock violation. It was grand when it happened today, though. Sek Henry only contributed two points today, but they were my favorite two points of the entire game. In the height of the pre-halftime rally, Sek grabbed the ball away from a Rutgers player, stormed all the way down the court, and capped it with a dunk. That dunk took the crowd from "excited" to "elated."

But then...halftime. Halftime stopped the Huskers in their tracks, and had the same effect on the fans. The first few minutes of the 2nd half looked a lot like the opening minutes of the game; Nebraska gave up some really dumb turnovers and for a brief moment it looked like the lead we had taken in to halftime was slipping away. Fortunately the team woke back up, and came away victorious. In fact, fans were so assured of victory that people had already put coats, hats, mittens, and scarves on before the game hit its final minute -- a strange occurrence for Husker sports.

Regardless of how sloppy things started out, and how prematurely fans got ready to leave the Devany Center, the result was a Nebraska win, and a still-perfect home record. This was a lovely non-conference win, and much needed after Wednesday's disastrous overtime loss at Western Kentucky. The sentiment among most fans I know is that if Nebraska can beat Oregon next Saturday, the nation will finally see the Huskers in the NCAA tournament. Yes, Nebraska men's basketball. Yes, that tournament. If it is ever going to happen, this is the year.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

So much for Andruw

Yesterday afternoon I wondered what the Royals would do with their outfield if they indeed landed Andruw Jones from Atlanta, but it turns out it doesn't matter: Andruw is now a Dodger.

And apparently, the Royals might not even have Jose Guillen right now, either. So what's happening? If the Guillen deal falls through, who is left for KC to pursue? In the same MVN article linked above, Craig writes that Fukudome is supposed to have decided between the Cubs and the Royals by about...4 minutes ago. I wonder when that decision will be made and/or broken. I will be mighty tempted to stay home from class to check the Hot Stove reports. (I likely will not stay home, though...hi mom!)

Anyway, I'm enjoying this rumor mill way too much. I suppose that's what have to do to get me through the remaining 116.5 days of the offseason. Sigh.

hot-Hot-HOT Stove

This is FUN. Watching winter trade season unfold is like watching a suspenseful movie. It's a ton of fun to conjecture and try to figure out what's going to happen, but ultimately all you can do is sit back and watch the plot reveal itself. It's not at all like watching a game, where you can affect the outcome depending on whether you're wearing your lucky underwear, had your official gameday breakfast, or are wearing your hat just right.

It's only Day 3 of this round of meetings, and already this offseason has seen more trade fireworks than all of last winter combined. So far it kind of looks like the Tigers are the big winners, after landing Miggy Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis without losing a single "big name" player. But word is that either the Royals are the Cubs are about to strike gold in the form of coveted Japanese player Kosuke Fukudome. And the Royals are still rumored to be in hot pursuit of one Mr. Andruw Jones, even though they've already signed Mariners castoff and notorious clubhouse bad guy Jose Guillen.

If it's true that KC is going to land Jones, what happens to the Royals outfield? A lineup with both Guillen and Jones would lend a lot of weight to the rumors regarding David DeJesus and Joey Gathright being traded. (I've also heard talk of Mark Teahen going to the Cubs for Matt Murton, but I don't lend that rumor a whole lot of credibility. Nothing against Matt Murton, I actually like the guy a lot, but it has been sad -- truthfully -- in many places that he is simply a right-handed version of Teahen. Hopefully GMDM is not that hell-bent on getting the letter "R" into Hillman's lineup cards.) Acquiring Jones would also mean that Emil Brown is gone for good -- good news for many of us.

By the time I click "Publish" for this post, some other deal will have gone through. Maybe Johan Santana will be with Boston in exchange for Jacoby Ellsbury (much to this guy's chagrin). Maybe Fukudome will have chosen an American ballclub with which to grace his presence. Maybe the Royals will have dumped Emil Brown. Already, the Royals have officially announced David Riske's departure for Milwaukee, a move we heard about Monday.

I don't know what's going to happen next. Things are just now heating up.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Riske to Miluakee?

Clark Fosler at Royals Authority has word that David Riske will be going away, after all. In the comments for this post, Clark writes:
On another note, Riske is gone to the Brewers, probably to be announced on Tuesday. Interesting turnabout - one of Allard Baird’s long sought after targets - Kevin Mench - may be the guy moved off Milwaukee’s 40 man to make room for Riske.
We'll see tomorrow, I suppose.

My brother Ryan had this to add:
if [Fosler's comment] is true, and Dayton is that shrewd, then the Royals will be in the playoffs before you graduate, Minda. No shit.

P.S. It's really fun to hear both Denny and Fred say the name "Mench."
I hope the first part is true, and I agree wholeheartedly with the postscript. It kind of sounds like "Maynch," but not quite. It's pretty entertaining.

More on the Riske move tomorrow, if it happens.