Feeds:
Posts
Comments

(Editor’s note: I received a lot of feedback from this column. From Minnesota to Arizona to Kansas, people told me of ways they would have handled the situation and of their desire to do something good. As a secondary note, I can’t believe I haven’t posted anything since January.)

Christian Lopez is my hero. And he should be for anyone who craves the purity of sport or just the merits of doing the right thing.

If you don’t know who Lopez is, he is the 23-year-old cell phone salesman who wound up with Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit in his hands Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.

There’s nothing special about that; it’s what he did with the ball that is. He gave it to Derek Jeter.

Just like that.

No strings attached.

It’s been estimated the ball holds a cash value of $100,000 to $250,000. Most people would have held the ball for ransom — cash, signed memorabilia, a kiss on the cheek from Jeter’s girlfriend, actress Minka Kelly, or whatever it is that floats their boat.

Not Lopez.

During an in-game interview, Lopez revealed he asked for nothing. Lopez’s gesture touched the Steinbrenner family that they gave Lopez four tickets in the priciest seats for every remaining home game through the postseason.

He told reporters in what had to be a surreal post-game press conference that the ball — and the moment — belonged to Jeter.

Here is a 23-year-old kid, a year out of college who didn’t let greed blind him. He had no machinations of what any proposed bounty could do for him. Rather, he saw the situation for what it was.

Meanwhile, on sports talk radio Lopez was shredded by callers because he didn’t maximize the potential of the situation. To that I disagree. Lopez unknowingly took a stand. His good deed was paid forward.

Too often it’s all about me-me-me, or how my kid is the next great thing. Lost in the shuffle are the Christian Lopezes of the world.

If a stadium with more than 48,000 fans, and those who hear this story, learn to act selflessly when the world tells you otherwise, we’ll all be better.

What we should learn from Lopez doesn’t just apply to sports, but in life. Do some good and maybe some good will come back to you.

Fittingly, after Jeter, the second-largest ovation of the day was saved for Lopez.

http://www.norwichbulletin.com/archive/x1249728873/We-should-all-learn-from-Christian-Lopez#ixzz1RvNpQN5V

When UConn takes the court tonight in Chapel Hill, N.C., to take on the 11th-ranked Tar Heels, it will be facing a different team than the one it beat by 41 points.

The biggest reason for the difference is the return of forward Jessica Breland, who missed all of last season after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
It proved the biggest challenge in her life.

“I don’t think I ever encountered anything like that in my life,” she said of feeling helpless. “I could say it was up there with going through treatments; having that mindset of going into the hospital and sitting there and not be able to do anything but get chemotherapy.”

Breland saw how much her teammates missed on the court as North Carolina went 19-12 and lost in the first rounds of both the ACC and NCAA tournaments a year after winning 28 games. Through six months of chemotherapy, all she could think about was her return.

She was cleared to resume basketball-related activities last February, but the going was tough. Between chemotherapy, and the emotional and physical tolls taken on her.

“I’ve (had) been thinking about my first game ever since I was going through the treatments,” she said. “Now that I’m getting back on the court, it’s like, ‘Wow.’ I haven’t been on the court in a long time so I don’t know what to expect or how to feel.”

The cancer was detected early enough that it is in remission, and according to her coach Sylvia Hatchell, Breland won’t be “cancer free for five more years.”

“It’s just a joy to have her back out there,“ Hatchell said. “She’s such an inspiration to the rest of the girls, especially when she steps in there and takes charges with all that she’s been through. She’s a come back kid.”

As a result of Breland’s return to health, a foundation was started in her honor at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center called the Jessica Breland Comeback Kid Foundation. All the funds go to the pediatric division at the center.

Breland, a senior, has started all but one game this season and is second on the Tar Heels in scoring at 13.2 points per game — nearly a point off her career best — and leads the team with 8.0 rebounds per game.

On top of the numbers, she was included in the list of finalists for the Wooden Award.

“That should be an inspiration to every kid playing basketball,” said UConn coach Geno Auriemma. “Every person that’s not even involved in sports. I think it goes to show you that part of getting well, part of getting healthy in life is your outlook and how positive you are and the kind of attitude you have, Obviously, she has a tremendously positive personality and had a passion for wanting to get back to playing basketball and was able to do it.”

College basketball season starts officially tonight, so no better time to share with you my thoughts on the women’s game (Yes, I like it). I’ve written the national preview for the Sporting News the last three years, and while some of the content is already outdated (it was written in June), the overwhelming majority still holds true.

During the process, many coaches shared their take on players and teams, and not just theirs. That goes into the equation for Top 25 and All-America selections.

Rather than typing everything in again, I’m just going to post a link so you can see the great job the Sporting News does in presenting my words. Talk about putting lipstick on a pig. I kid. I’ve also added a poll so you can vote for who you think will win the national championship.

Enjoy!

2010-11 Sporting News

Giants bench coach Ron Wotus argues a call in 2009. Wotus will participate in his second World Series with San Francisco. (Photo credit: San Francisco Chronicle)


When the leaves change color and the air becomes crisp, Ron Wotus thinks of Connecticut.

His mind takes him back to the fields of his youth, vivid memories of soccer matches won and lost on penalty kicks. The Colchester, Conn., native had planned to return Monday for his annual visit home. But that will have to wait at least another week.

Wotus and the San Francisco Giants, for whom he serves as bench coach, begin the World Series tonight (7:57 p.m., FOX) against the Texas Rangers. It’s Wotus’ second Fall Classic after reaching it with the Giants in 2002.

In his 22nd season with the organization, Wotus joined as a player and worked his way up from minor league coach and manager to his current position, which he reached in 1999.

“The biggest thrill is getting back into the postseason,” he said. “I think anybody who is a competitor or in sports, you strive, your motivation is to win. That’s what you plan on doing when you go to spring training.

“There’s a sense of accomplishment when you execute and you perform. Certainly as a coach, that’s what you want the players to do. Getting into the playoffs and having a shot at going to the World Series is what you play for.”

The Giants last won the World Series in 1954.

Wotus was on the staff when the Giants played in their last World Series. He knows the opportunity to play in baseball’s biggest event doesn’t happen every year.

Just ask the Yankees.

“It’s very difficult to get where you are going; it’s one bad pitch, it’s a bloop hit, it’s a matter of inches on a hit or not,” Wotus said. “You really have to be appreciative when you get here and do everything you can to win.”

In 1979, Wotus graduated from Bacon Academy where he was an All-State honoree in baseball, basketball and soccer. He averaged 30 points per game on the hardwood and was the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 16th-round draft choice, but his heart was on the pitch. Wotus was All-New England in soccer and set the state scoring mark.

“I enjoyed them all, but soccer was special to me,” he said. “We enjoyed a lot of success. Not that I didn’t enjoy the other ones, but it was special. I had a lot of great coaches in Frank Aloia, Dave Shea and John McKiernan.

“Maybe it’s something about being outside and playing in the fall. Maybe it’s in my heart. I always come home in the fall. The fresh crisp air and the competition in soccer, I loved it growing up. I loved all the sports. That had a special place. I can’t put my finger on it but it was special to me.”

Wotus’ family still calls Colchester home, and several members were in Philadelphia on Saturday to watch the Giants beat the Phillies for the National League championship. He hopes to be back in Connecticut in January for the World Baseball Coaches Convention at Mohegan Sun.

Wotus’ All-State basketball photo and a basketball with his career point total are still on display at Bacon Academy. School legend Shea coached Wotus in basketball, and remembers him being all the things you want in a student-athlete: Hardworking, dedicated and a good teammate.

“He was a great competitor regardless of the score,” Shea said. “He always played hard and played to win, right up to the final buzzer.”

Joining Wotus on the Giants are eight former Norwich Navigators/Connecticut Defenders — Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Sergio Romo, Brian Wilson, Jonathan Sanchez, Travis Ishikawa, Pablo Sandoval and Nate Schierholtz. That gives this World Series a Connecticut feel.

Wotus said the topics that came up most among the teams’ alumni are the local fishing hot spots and the difficulties playing at Dodd Stadium.

“We talked a little bit,” he said. “The thing that always comes up is it was an extremely tough hitters’ park. It was difficult to hit there in Norwich. I certainly always told the guys I lived up the road in Colchester, and they knew where it was at. I always heard about how crazy it was in our area on the lakes.”

And if the Giants were to win the World Series, it may serve as the perfect send-off for Wotus, who expressed interested in the Pirates’ managerial opening to MLB.com. The Pirates drafted Wotus in 1979 out of Bacon Academy.

“It’s not really the right time for me to speak about it on the record,” he said. “I can’t say I’m definitely interested in managing Pittsburgh or any club that would be interested in me. That’s what I’d like to do and it’s certainly out of my control. That’s up to the people that are doing the hiring. … I’ve been here my whole career as a coach. The personal thing of managing is great, but it’s not at the forefront for me, it’s finishing a job that we set out to do here.

“This is what it’s all about right now.”

The New York Jets sure know how to draw attention to themselves. But for all of their bravado, if reports are true, they’ve gone too far.

The Jets should know better. They’ve drawn a gigantic bull’s eye on their backs with their mouths, added to it with their appearance on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” and then supposedly behave as if they live in a cave. The latest news is that members of the organization harassed a female reporter.

If true, they — the Jets — were dead wrong. But they aren’t the only ones to shoulder blame.

From what published reports are detailing, the Jets, led by assistant coach Dennis Thurman, overthrew passes intended for defensive backs so that the balls would land near Mexican television reporter Ines Sainz. Later, head coach Rex Ryan joined in as did linebacker Jason Taylor. Taylor decided he needed to learn a new position. My guess is “Dancing with the Stars” wasn’t enough.

It didn’t stop there. Once in the locker room, the purported harassment continued. When another reporter checked to see if Sainz was OK, big nose tackle Kris Jenkins yelled something along the lines of it being the team’s locker room, suggesting it can do as it pleased.

But also at fault is Sainz.

This is the same person who once had a pair of Indianapolis Colts carry her around on their shoulders at Super Bowl Media Day to draw attention to herself — not her work.

Before anyone becomes indignant with me, understand that Sainz (yes, that’s her AT WORK below) is a reporter. That means that she, like any professional, should approach her job as such.

Showing up to report on Mark Sanchez or any other subject, sports or otherwise, you show respect for yourself and for your assignment. Wearing jeans a few sizes too short is inappropriate.

This is what she claims to have been wearing Saturday. Just to be clear, that picture was not taken Saturday. There are Web sites that have that photo posted as far back as April of this year.

Listen, my trunk is bigger than average, but I’m not going to show up anywhere wearing clothes in which I couldn’t smuggle air. And I don’t think she can only find clothing at Baby Gap.

There are two extremes. A colleague of mine believes in arriving late to assignments and wearing clothing that is equipped with armpit stains or with holes. None of those are acceptable, so it isn’t a case of gender discrimination. If my colleague and Sainz switched wardrobes, it would still be unacceptable.

There are some who might point to what is culturally acceptable for Mexican television opposed to in the States. But if someone were to go to another country to report, you should follow the guidelines or norms of that culture. For example, had Sainz dressed as she’s known to at a soccer, er, football match in Saudi Arabia, she would have been in hot water. The excuse of this is what is acceptable in Mexico wouldn’t fly — and it doesn’t here, either.

The Jets’ players and staff, who were apparently aware of what happened, were 100 percent out of line and should be punished. And I can understand that maybe they found Ms. Sainz distracting, still she deserved to be treated as a person and not some piece of meat.

While I can’t tell you exactly what she was wearing, her track record of leaving little to the imagination in what is supposed to be a professional environment disrespects everyone.

It’s just a shame that neither Sainz nor members of the Jets believed professionalism mattered.

NEW LONDON, Conn. — Outside the walls of the Coast Guard Academy, there’s little faith in the 2010 Bears’ football team.

One poll, conducted by the coaches of the New England Football Conference, predicts the Bears finish no better than fifth in the Bogan Division. One poll has them finishing their nine-game schedule 0-10.

Coming off a 4-5 season, Coast Guard Academy won’t concern itself with what anyone else thinks when it begins the season today with the Secretaries’ Cup on the line against the Merchant Marine Academy at Cadet Memorial Field (2:30 p.m.).

“We’re aware of what the polls are, and we know what level we’re capable of playing to …,” said senior left guard Paul Gerow. “The outside polls are … somebody else’s opinions.”

There is certainly reason for optimism.

Strong quarterback
Quarterback Jesse Karr returns with second-team All-NEFC honors attached to his name. He became the first quarterback in school history to throw for 300 yards twice in his career en route to 1,640 yards and 13 touchdowns on 141-of-264 passing.

Karr missed most of the final three games of the year with an injury, but another camp under his belt in the no-huddle offense has him confident the team will improve.

Karr’s offensive line is seasoned, but lacks starter experience. There are four new starters, two of whom are seniors. The lone holdover is Gerow, the left guard.

Getting solid play from the line will be crucial, said coach Bill George. George, who is also the position coach for the O-line, said that line’s ability to protect Karr on pass plays will set up the Bears’ running attack.

The Bears won’t expect Gerow to carry the weight of the entire line.

“You can’t put much pressure on a player to take charge of a group,” George said. “I’ll just say that anywhere. It’s different if you have two or three seniors who have been playing and one freshman pops in there, then they can carry that guy along.”

Experienced defense
Defensively, the Bears have eight returning players with starting experience, although George noted that not all could start in 2010. Among those making a return to the field will be cornerback Pat Bennett. Bennett was an Eastern College Athletic Conference Northeast and NEFC Bogan Division first-team selection in 2008. He sat out 2009 to concentrate on academics. Another returning player is linebacker Kyle Ennis. Ennis, who led Division III with solo tackles in 2008, but missed last year with an injury.

What will ultimately determine the Bears’ success when they don’t have the ball is whether they can stop the run and pressure the quarterback.

“I know last year we were young at a lot of spots on defense,” said senior linebacker Ben Barrett,” and especially with the additions of Pat Bennett and Kyle Ennis, we’re looking to really step things up on that side of the ball and help out the offense as much as possible.

NFL Predictions

We take a look at the start of the NFL season, predicting where teams will finish and who has what it takes to reach Dallas in February.

NFC East
1. Dallas
2. Philadelphia
3. New York Giants
4, Washington

NFC North
1. Green Bay
2. Minnesota
3. Chicago
4. Detroit

NFC South
1. New Orleans
2. Atlanta
3. Tampa Bay
4. Carolina

NFC West
1. San Francisco
2. Arizona
3. Seattle
4. St. Louis

AFC East
1. New York Jets
2. New England Patriots
3. Miami Dolphins
4. Buffalo Bills

AFC North
1. Baltimore
2. Pittsburgh
3. Cincinnati
4. Cleveland

AFC South
1. Indianapolis
2. Houston
3. Tennessee
4. Jacksonville

AFC West
1. San Diego
2. Kansas City
3. Denver
4. Oakland

Playoffs
NFC
WILD CARD

Minnesota at San Francisco, Philadelphia at Dallas
DIVISIONAL
Minnesota at Green Bay, Dallas at New Orleans
CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP
Dallas at Green Bay

AFC
WILD CARD

Pittsburgh at Baltimore, New England at San Diego
DIVISIONAL
San Diego at Indianapolis, Baltimore at New York Jets
CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP
New York Jets at Indianapolis

SUPER BOWL
Green Bay over Indianapolis

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.