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Archive for Omnibus

Nov. 21, 2017 — Goodbye, Danica

With an eruption of flames coming from under her tube-framed race machine made to look like a Ford Fusion, Danica Patrick’s full-time racing career is, for the moment, in hiatus.

She still will be running a car for next February’s Daytona 500 and will jump into a Champ Car for the Indianapolis 500, but beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess.

Patrick has been lauded since her entree into big-time American motorsports as a marketer’s dream. She led her first Indy 500 deep into the race, won an oval race at Twin Ring Motegi in 2008, and even held the pole at Daytona for her first race as a NASCAR full-time driver in the top series.

But even with a recognizable face, thousands of fans across the country, and those always nebulous “Q” ratings, she did not have a major corporate backer heading into 2018.

She is not alone.

Next year, top-level motorsports in this country will be without Patrick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Juan Pablo Montoya, Greg Biffle, Casey Mears, and Helio Castroneves.

Think about that. And it’s about time we ask why this is going on.

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Sept. 27, 2017 — The “other” firing

This afternoon, it was announced that Hall-of-Fame basketball coach Rick Pitino was being fired from his post at the University of Louisville, a day after federal investigators indicted a number of basketball coaches and a representative from Adidas in a wide-ranging investigation into bribery in the collegiate game.

While Pitino and Adidas global director Jim Gatto are likely to be the two biggest names implicated in this widening circus, there is one name which is likely to be forgotten.

And that’s Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich.

Jurich, to be sure, led a scandal-plagued shop. There was the time when Pitino was being blackmailed for sleeping with the wife of his team’s equipment manager. There was also a time when the head women’s lacrosse coach was being accused of abusing her players. and there was also the 2015 scandal when a former Louisville staffer procured prostituted and strippers for players and recruits.

All the while, Louisville switched conferences like a waterbug switching lilypads.  In just 11 years, the Cardinal athletic programs went from Conference USA to the Big East to the American Athletic Conference, then found their current home in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

There’s been plenty of benefit from the Cardinals’ current association with the ACC, especially in field hockey and lacrosse.

But the baggage that Pitino brought eventually became too much for the university to withstand.

That it had to have been such an enormity of baggage was Jurich’s fault and the fault, frankly, of the athletic administration.

You see, when Jurich’s top lieutenant, Julie Hermann, flamed out at Rutgers after just 30 months, you had to know that the problem wasn’t necessarily with the administrators sitting in the seat, both in Piscataway and in Louisville.

Instead, it seems to me as though athletic administrators, once exposed to the ways and means of revenue generation and operating in the dark web of secrets within college sports, are completely consumed by this corruption.

Somehow, I don’t think heads have stopped rolling here.

Sept. 20, 2017 — Thoughts on a retirement

I didn’t want to go too far along in the fall field hockey season without recognizing an excellent coach for whom this is her first year out of the game since the fall of 1972.

Judy Lee retired over the offseason, leaving an indelible mark as field hockey coach at Martinsville Pingry School (N.J.). She had previously coached at Roselle Park (N.J.), but it was at Pingry where she truly made a name for herself and her team.

Pingry is a college preparatory school which has, in the last few years, led a parallel existence between the state’s public and private schools. It joined with a public-school league for most of its athletic pursuits, sometimes participating in the state tournament in the private school ranks.

In field hockey, Lee was part of a trend which made the NJSIAA rewrite an entire section of its manual. Between 2000 and 2004, Pingry won four of five Group I titles. A decade later, fellow private schools Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) and Pennsauken Bishop Eustace (N.J.) were also winning state titles.

By 2013, the NJSIAA had instituted a Non-Public state championship bracket for the various private and parochial schools whose field hockey teams were starting to rival the public schools for top honors year over year.

Lee finished with more than 500 career victories in field hockey.

But the thing is, it wasn’t her most impactful sport. Lee was the swim coach not only for Pingry (both boys’and girls’ teams), but also lent her summers to the recreational program in Westfield, N.J. for four decades.

Westfield, a community about 15 miles northeast of Martinsville, is a place where swimming runs deep in the community and in the soul of those who practice and compete, even the U-8s who dogpaddle a crooked line towards a wall that never seems to come quick enough.

Thousands of swimmers were under Lee’s influence over the years, and went on to varying degrees of success as state champions in their own right.

Lee’s effects on her students and athletes is undeniable. She will be missed.

Sept. 2, 2017 — A preview of the future of high school sports?

This morning, in Somerset, N.J., hard by the banks of the Weston Canal that used to transport goods to the Atlantic Ocean, a girls’ soccer game will be played.

But instead of any of the local high schools taking part, the two teams are the U-14 teams representing Sky Blue-Players Development Academy and F.C. Virginia, two of the 69 teams in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy.

The Development Academy is an 11-month league which trains players who are committed to improving their soccer in an environment which eases transition to a potential youth national team.

A matchday between two clubs is not just one game, but four, as the clubs’ U-14, U-15, U-16, and U-18 sides will play games all day at one site.

This is the inaugural season of the girls’ Development Academy; the boys have had their own league for a decade. But the girls’ DA will have some immediate effects on the high-school athletic scene.

Of course, it will be interesting to see which young soccer phenoms will ditch their high school teams to play DA ball exclusively. It’s notable that, although there are currently 69 clubs in the DA, there are some large swaths of the country that do not have a team.

Note that the season for the Development Academy is 10 months: a good soccer player who happens to play three sports for their school won’t be able to play, say, basketball or lacrosse or softball with her schoolmates.

Ultimately, it will be notable to see what happens after the first year, with players deciding that the DA is not for them and rejoining their school teams in not only soccer, but other athletic pursuits at their old high schools.

I think, depending on the athletic culture of their particular states, the Development Academy will affect certain athletic teams more than other.

But as this site has prophesied, I think the national governing bodies of sport are looking to get more involved in high-level player development as the NCAA doubles down on football and men’s basketball.

Which means that it’s not going to be very long before you start seeing an all-day matchday between, say, XCalibur and the W.C. Eagles in field hockey, or Hero’s and the Yellowjackets in girls’ lacrosse.

How long do you think it will take for this to happen? Five years? Ten?

Sept. 1, 2017 — A milepost for 19 years

It was 19 years ago this month when the first words of this website were first set to HTML code.

Of course, much has happened since then. We’ve documented some of the excellence that has occurred in field hockey and lacrosse, and watching the ways that teams like Voorhees Eastern (N.J.), the University of Maryland, University of North Carolina, The College of New Jersey, and Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.) have created dominant athletic powerhouses.

We’ve seen players and teams succeed, other manage spectacular failures. We’ve seen astounding growth in girls’ high school lacrosse which is just starting to flow through to the collegiate game. We’ve seen field hockey fighting to hang on with expansion in some places, albeit with retrenchments in others.

But something has also happened in the last couple of days that has given your founder sudden pause. USA Field Hockey has released the rosters of five women’s national Masters teams for upcoming international tournaments.

On these rosters are more than two dozen players whom the Founder has seen play in high school.

That’s when you know you’re getting up there in age.

Aug. 16, 2017 — The war on ice goes international

The last we checked with the two stalemated pro women’s ice hockey leagues in the United States, there were still four Canadian teams in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, the four U.S. franchises in the National Women’s Hockey League, and the city of Boston playing out as the battleground between the two, as the only market with two teams.

Recent plans for both leagues are showing that while the American league is remaining pat for a third season, the CWHL is looking east. Make that the Far East. China is the home of two new CWHL teams, Kunlun Red Star and the Vanke Rays. While Kunlun has rapidly organized, holding training camp and hiring a general manager, the Rays team’s plans have been on a stealth level. The Rays’ intention of joining the league were reflected in a social media post that disappeared on a weekend.

So, Thursday night is the CWHL’s entry draft. I’ll be interested to see of the Rays will participate.

 

Aug. 7, 2017 — An eye-opening story

Today, all over the world, there are athletic competitions taking place featuring everything from men and women running against the clock, men riding bicycles up steep mountain roads, and people chasing an inflatable bladder trying to put it into a goal using their feet, and people trying to hit a leather ball using a wooden stick.

And for those professional and amateur sports under the control of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), there is also a competition between people looking to cheat their way to high performance and doctors and scientists looking to catch them.

There is a new documentary out on Netflix called “Icarus,” and it follows documentarian Bryan Fogel as he goes from trying to prove the folly of the current anti-doping system through the acquisition of performance-enhancing drugs, to doing the same through helping to smuggle a key witness out of Russia.

And that Russian witness is why you see athletes of Russian nationality competing at the IAAF World Championships this week, but not under their flag.

This documentary should make you question just about every kind of control that has been on sports the last two decades.