My Team MUST Win

team must win

I want my team to win. I always want my team to win. Why is it MY team? Am I part owner? No. Do I work for my team? No. Did my spouse, father, brother, cousin, friend or next door neighbour ever play for my team? Definitely not. But as I watch my team play, I sit on the edge of my seat and have that feeling deep within that my team must win.

It’s an interesting phenomenon. The love a person has for a sports franchise. Usually (not always) it’s because a person is a homer, meaning the person is a fan of the local sports club. What is a fan? Well, the word originates from the term fanatic. I did a search using my good friend Google and chuckled when I read the definition of the word fanatic. It is a “person filled with excessive and single-minded zeal, especially for an extreme religious or political cause” or a “person with an obsessive interest in and enthusiasm for something, especially an activity.”

For many people sports is a religion. For some people their passion for a sport crosses political boundaries. Their love of not only a particular game but of their team is true fanaticism.

Go to any live sporting event between two teams, and the fans for each team are quite clear. Some people wear a cap or jersey, while other people paint their bodies and dress head to toe in the team’s colours. Popular or legendary sports franchises like the New York Yankees, Toronto Maple Leafs, Manchester United, Dallas Cowboys or LA Lakers probably make more money off the sale of merchandise than they do from ticket sales.

I will admit that for the most part I am a homer. Carolina Hurricanes aside (yes they are clearly my team), I am a fan of the hometown team. I love my Blue Jays and Raptors. I have a Toronto FC shirt and you can bet I’m cheering on the Argonauts during this year’s playoff run. Okay, I even tolerate the Maple Leafs. Maybe it’s pride for my city or a warm feeling I have that I am part of a community when I cheer on the local sports franchise.

I cheer on my team whether it’s the best team in the league or one of the basement dwellers. I stick with my team through thick and thin. Each game, if my team is down by 7 runs or 23 points, in my head I say to myself, my team must win.

A true sports fan isn’t always straight in the head. As long as there are only two outs in the inning or a few seconds left in the period, the dream stays alive that my team can win.

And sometimes it happens. If you are a Blue Jays fan, you will remember Sunday, July 30th, 2017. The Jays were down 10-4 going into the bottom of the 9th. They quickly scored a few runs then Steve Pearce came to the plate with the bases loaded and his team down 10-7. And he hit a grand slam. The Jays beat the Angels 11-10, and that win became the biggest 9th inning comeback in the team’s history. For a fan like me, who watched it all unfold, the words running through my head, my team must win, came true.

My son, Matthew, was the inspiration for today’s post while he squealed with delight after his beloved Maple Leafs beat the Boston Bruins this past weekend in overtime. JVR scored the tying goal with one minute left in the third period. Then Marleau scored the winning goal for the Leafs in overtime. Matthew focused all his energy on ensuring his team would win. And they did.

A sports fan will never change. If you love your team, you love that team with all your heart. I think that’s great. Sports fans, please never change.

Left Handed People have a Faster Track to Major League Sports

left handed

Yesterday’s blog on my pride about being left handed energized me, so I had to do a second post on the topic. But it’s Sports Wednesday today, so how could I connect the two? I turned on the Cubs-Dodgers playoff baseball game last night, and as I watched the Cubs first baseman, Anthony Rizzo, make a play, it occurred to me. If you want a faster track to the most elite level of many professional sports, you just need to be left handed.

You see, Anthony Rizzo is left handed. So is the Blue Jays first baseman, Justin Smoak. In fact, one-third of first basemen in Major League Baseball are left handed. Remember, we only represent 10 percent of the population.

And the real gems in all of baseball are the southpaws, or left handed pitchers. I am not going to go into the technical details of facing a left or right handed batter and the various pitches that a lefty or righty may specialize in. I am just going to do some basic math.

As I have discussed already, only 10% of the population is left handed, but every baseball team desires a few lefties, on their pitching staff, often at first base and other positions on the team. So a left handed person simply has less competition amongst the general population to make such team. My son, Matthew, often comments on this, and he is dumb-founded that his two left handed parents couldn’t have made him a lefty.  My baseball-loving son tells me he is determined to make the major leagues one day, and he feels it will be harder because he is right handed.

Oh, for fun, here is a list of just some of the greatest baseball players of all time, who all just happen to be left handed:

Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, Reggie Jackson, Sandy Koufax, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, Tony Gwynn,  and Ty Cobb, 

I came across a fabulous British website, called Anything Left Handed, that was a gold mine of details about the advantages of being left handed in sports, in particular fencing, tennis, boxing and cricket (remember this is a UK-based website!). Here is one paragraph that particularly intrigued me:

The “leftie advantage” seems to emerge in sports demanding rapid reactions and good spatial judgement. In fencing for example 7 of the 16 top world fencers are left-handed, and so are 5 of the top 25 international tennis players and 4 of Europe’s ten best table tennis payers. In boxing, squash and cricket left-handers also enjoy more than average success. Among the scientists who have studied left-handedness in sport one in particular, a French neuroscientist named Guy Azemar, investigated the proportion of left-handers in world-class championships over several years. He reported that about a third of elite fencers are left-handed. One fencing great was the Italian Edoardo Mangiarotti who won a total of 13 fencing medals. Mangiarotti was naturally right-handed but was forced by his father to fence with his left hand as it was thought to be an advantage.” 

The left handed advantage is not just some crack pot theory of mine – there is scientific evidence backing me up!

I found some thoughts about left handedness and basketball on THIS website, where it states, “In basketball, left-handedness has a meaningful effect on the game itself, but it also mostly manifests itself aesthetically. Something about a left-handed jump shot seems beautiful, perhaps just because we don’t see it as often.”

Some of the most memorable lefties in basketball include Bill Russell, Toni Kukoc, Lamar Odom, Isaiah Thomas, CJ Miles, Nick Van Exel, among others.

In hockey, a left handed slap shot really is a beautiful thing. Some left handed hockey greats include Cam Neely, Phil Esposito, Roman Turek, Terry Sawchuk and Tom Barrasso. But I have also now learned, from an interesting New York Times article, that as many as 60% of Canadian hockey players shoot left handed, no matter which is that person’s dominant hand. Maybe they just know that left is best.

Maybe after two straight days of reading my musings you all now know that left IS best.

One Season Ends and Another Begins

season

In October, the seasons are supposed to be changing, from hot days to cooler, from flowers in bloom on trees to the leaves turning bright colours and falling to the ground. I know that any day now Fall will truly arrive. But that’s not the focus of today’s blog post. When I refer to the word season I am talking about sports. In my house, the baseball season, or at least the Blue Jays’ season, has come to a close. But hockey and basketball are just beginning.

My son Matthew is a huge sports fan. In fact, he is the inspiration behind Sports Wednesday. He just can’t get enough of sports. While I have been a sports fan all my life, Matthew takes it to a new level. For him sports is his life, and life is all about sports. So, the changing seasons are all about what sport is ending and what sport is beginning. For Matthew, it’s all about the life cycle of sports.

We all know that the Blue Jays did not live up to the potential that we had all hoped when the 2017 season began. They were out of playoff contention by April 30th. I won’t go into all the things that went wrong this season. The season is over for the Blue Jays, and we can all look ahead to next year. And hey, the baseball season is not over. October is all about the playoffs, and if you are a true fan of the game, not just one team, then this month is exciting.

If you are a sports fan in general, or at least a sports fan who lives in North America, October is an exciting month. It’s playoffs time for baseball, the football season is in high gear (Canadian and American), the playoffs will soon begin for Major League Soccer and a new hockey and basketball season are both about to begin.

Matthew can’t decide if he is more excited for the new hockey or basketball season. He loves to play basketball (he has set up a mini net in our living room!) and doesn’t like to miss a minute of any Raptors game. Matthew knows who almost every player is in the NBA and can quote stats like a walking encyclopedia. But then there’s hockey. He is a good Canadian boy and knows the importance of hockey in our society. While he doesn’t play hockey, he has grown to love the game.

I will admit that I failed to convince my son to be a Carolina Hurricanes fan. With the excitement in Toronto last year from the new young Maple Leafs’ team, Matthew was hooked. Yes, my son has joined Leaf Nation (it makes me cringe to type that). Tonight is the dawn of yet another NHL season. I am sure that hundreds of thousands of Torontonians believe that THIS season could be the one when their beloved team hoists the Stanley Cup. We’ll see.

So, as we say farewell to one season, we welcome the new one with open arms. Go Hurricanes go!

Extra Innings: Love Them or Hate Them

extra innings

Are you ready for Sports Wednesday? Are you exhausted, like I am, this morning? As a big baseball fan, I try my best to watch or listen to as many Blue Jay games as I can each season. Quick, efficient games are fun sometimes, but as I love the sport so much, the longer, more drawn out games are great too. And then there’s the games that go into extra innings. Like last night’s game.

I remember Matthew mentioned to me last night, somewhere just after 9:00 pm, that the Blue Jays game versus the Boston Red Sox was moving along rather quickly. It was already the 7th inning, I believe. Well that was the kiss of death. The Jays were up 2-0, and I knew that meant they would lose their lead and head into extra innings that night.

I was right.

I won’t get into the actual mess of the bottom of the 9th, where the Blue Jays lost yet another lead at the end of the game. A score of 2-2 at the end of nine innings means extra innings. It could be one more inning, or in the case of last night’s game, ten more innings!

You see, my problem is that I don’t have a strategy in place to watch extra innings in baseball. They are unpredictable by their very nature. Most sports use a set amount of time when the game is tied at the end of regulation. They play five minutes of sudden death in hockey, followed by the dreaded shoot-out. Basketball plays for five minutes, and if they are still tied, they do another five minutes. And so on. It’s rare that they are tied for too many of these five-minute periods.

But baseball? Well, they play on and on, with no time constraint. If the visiting team scores in the top half of the inning then the home team still has a chance. If the home team ties things up, well, they go to the next inning. But if no one scores, they keep playing.

That’s what happened last night. With everyone asleep in my house I made myself comfortable on the couch, ready for a few extra innings of baseball. Then it was 11:00 pm, and it was still going. And I was tired. I still had to make school lunches. Okay, I figured, I would do those then maybe the game would be over.

Nope. I puttered around the house a bit more and by 11:30 pm decided to head to bed and “listen” to the game on the TV in my bedroom. The Blue Jays had so many opportunities to score, and they never did. By midnight I was falling in and out of sleep, trying so hard to follow the game during shorter and shorter periods of wakefulness.

I remember hearing Buck Martinez say, “we are headed to the 16th inning” and couldn’t believe it was still going. Then I fell asleep. I don’t remember the 17th or 18th innings, but I do kind of recall that the Red Sox got a double in the 19th inning, after 1:00 am. I just knew, I just felt it, that this was it. Hanley Ramirez walked up to the plate and hit a single, which scored the game-winning run.  He did it six hours after the game began.

The Blue Jays lost 3-2, early this morning, in 19 innings. I don’t know whether I love or hate extra innings. There is something exciting about them, that keeps you on the edge of your seat, or at least it does for the first few innings. The stress on fans can be rough. Will their team win? Will they lose again? Or will the game go on so long that all we worry about is how exhausted we will be the next day. I was at that point by the 16th inning, when sleep started to take over.

So today I’m tired, and my team lost. I don’t know if I like extra innings.

What’s in a Name? Best Names in Sports

names in sports

Sports Wednesday is back! My apologies that I didn’t get my act together last week and write a post for you. This week I was thinking about memorable, interesting, funny and unpronounceable names in sports. The idea got into my head recently when I wrote an email to Matthew at camp and wanted to tell him about a new player on the Jays roster who had a great night. I couldn’t remember the player’s name because I couldn’t pronounce it! The player is Rob Refsnyder.  I  typed it I realize now it’s not that difficult a name to say or spell.

So, I am going to dive deep and look at some other players, current or past, with names I just have to write about. Let’s start with baseball. Every time I hear about Coco Crisp I want to go to my pantry and eat a bowl of cereal. I believe his actual full name is Covelli, but I prefer to call him Coco. He played baseball for 13 seasons and retired at the end of last season. Milton Bradley is a baseball player but also the founder of the board game company that bears his name. No, they are not the same person.

Then there is John Olerud,. He was one of my favourite players on the Blue Jays during their 1992-93 World Series run. I feel like his name was accidentally spelled backwards and should really be John Durelo. Don’t you agree?

Then there are the baseball players whose names need no explanation, like Dick Pole, Johnny Dickshot, Boof Bonser and Rusty Kuntz (less disturbing when you learn the last name is pronounced Koontz).

Looking at more names in sports, let’s move on to hockey. The National Hockey League has mainly attracted players from across North America and Europe, and sometimes the names make more sense in their original language. Or sometimes the name comes from a country where the local language is pronounced or spelled very differently than English. Sometimes the name is just strange.

Take Radek Bonk for instance. He is Czech, but it seems to me that the word “bonk” has a clear meaning in any language. Bill Quackenbush played in the NHL in the 1940’s and 1950’s. This is a Dutch name that means “swamp wilderness.” Håkan Loob is a Swedish name, and he played for the Calgary Flames in the 1980’s. Does “Loob” mean something less silly-sounding in Swedish?

The NBA attracts players from around the world, including of course North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. There is quite a variety of names in this league. My local team, the Toronto Raptors, has a number of players with great names. Serge Ibaka is a good one, and of course I just love Jonas Valancuinas. Not only does he have a cool name but he wears a jersey with #17 on the back. Anything with #17 is great, of course.

Ruben Boumtje Boumtje, from Cameroon, enjoyed a short NBA career, and at 7.0 feet tall and 260 pounds no one ever made fun of his name! Other notable names are Detlef Schrempf, Luc Richard M’bah-a-Moute and Al-Farouq Aminu, just because they sound great.

I could probably go on forever, but for now I will just add a few more of the best names in sports in general. Dean Windass played soccer in the English Premier League, Yourhighness Morgan (no joke), a former football player, another football player named Fair Hooker and Kim Yoo-Suk, a Korean Olympic pole vaulter (unfortunate only in English).

What do you think are some of the best names in sports? Do you have a favourite or one that is unique or memorable? Leave a comment here, or post on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

My Local Sports Broadcast Crew Must be a Homer

broadcast

Kinetic Motions is back to Sports Wednesday today. My son, Matthew, was my inspiration to devote at least one day each week to sports or a sports-related topic, and it’s challenging to be inspired with my muse away at camp. It did not occur to me that when Matthew is not home that there’s no one with whom to discuss strikeouts, trades and off-season signings. I have only, the internet, radio and television to get my sports fix, and that is just not sufficient.

And speaking of sports and radio and television, it occurred to me last night, while I watched the Blue Jays’ game on Sportsnet, that there is something comforting about listening or watching your home team’s broadcast. What do I mean by that? I will explain.

When I went to journalism school I learned that to be a good producer, writer or reporter, I had to be fair and unbiased. It was imperative to tell all sides of the story and be objective. But, that’s not the case in sports media, and it’s something I love about it.

When I flip on the radio or turn on my television for my local team’s hockey, baseball or basketball game, I expect the broadcast crew to be homers. Sports is about passion and excitement. If the play-by-play person didn’t shriek with delight when a goal is scored or a grand slam home run happens I would be terribly disappointed and would be less interested in listening or watching the broadcast.

I look forward to hearing Jerry Howarth’s “And there she goes” or Buck Martinez excitedly yelling, “get up ball” as he just wishes for the ball to jump over the outfield fence. I grew up listening to Joe Bowen screaming like a maniac “Holy Mackinaw” on the radio. Every city, large and small, with any kind of sports team, needs a play-by-play crew that roots for the home team.

The whole experience of watching the game is hugely enriched when the broadcast crew is a fan of the team. Last night, as I watched the Blue Jays game versus the Chicago White Sox, Rogers Sportsnet experienced some transmission issues. I don’t blame them – it happens sometimes, and it was clear they were trying everything humanly possible to get the game, with Buck and Pat, back on the screen.

While they worked on their technical issues they flipped a switch and aired the WGN broadcast of the game. WGN is a Chicago-based network, and it airs White Sox games. Naturally the play-by-play team were White Sox fans, and I felt almost empty and uncomfortable as I watched. My screen looked different, with the score and statistics graphics in a different location. While they were familiar with the Blue Jays players, they clearly did not know them personally like Buck and Pat do.

Every time the Sportsnet broadcast flashed on my screen I felt excited then disappointed again when WGN returned. Finally, the transmission issue was fixed late in the game, and I heard the familiar voice of Buck Martinez. I will admit that this was late at night and soon after I fell asleep and missed the rest of the game.

I’m a big sports fan, and it makes me happy that the people who broadcast the games I watch and listen to support my teams. They do a great job, and I love to listen to them and watch them. Speaking of which, there is an afternoon baseball game today, and as I sit at my desk and work I am looking forward to listen to Jerry and Joe on the radio, and maybe hear, “And there she goes” a few times. Maybe part way I will flip on my TV to hear Buck’s excited screams of “Get up Ball” as it sails over the left-field fence.

Sportsmanlike Conduct

Matthew is happiest at the ballpark

 

My son is a huge sports fan. I’m talking about living, breathing, touching, feeling and every other sense and emotion out there. Matthew starts his day checking the scores from the previous evening, spends much of his free time shooting hoops or throwing a baseball in our backyard and likes to watch his favourite teams play well into the night, every night.

I guess you can say that my dream came true. I have loved playing, following and watching sports since I was a child. I grew up on a quiet street and played ball hockey and baseball with the boys, I collected and traded baseball cards and I religiously listened to Tom and Jerry on CJCL AM 1430 radio (today the Jays can be heard on Sportsnet the Fan 590) as I did my homework every night.

I had my aha moment in grade 11 chemistry (yes the same class though not the same day that I created Kinetic Man) when I suddenly realized that I wasn’t bright or ambitious enough to go to medical school but instead wanted to be a journalist. Oh and not just a journalist but a sports journalist. Everyone, and I mean everyone, laughed at me.

It took me a few years to get back on track, but I took the first step in graduate school when I interned at ABC Sports Radio, in my final semester of journalism school at New York University. With a small production staff I had a quick learning curve, and it all culminated in the fall of 2000 when New York City hosted the famous Subway World Series – Yankees vs Mets. ABC handed me the ball one night and I handled the reporting duties, on the field at Shea stadium!

When I returned to Toronto the following year some great people took a chance on me and hired me to be a producer at the short-lived Team Sports Radio Network. Then I got an opportunity to join the Assignment Desk at Rogers Sportsnet, working with some of the greatest names in sports media. Many of those talented journalists are still at Sportsnet today or have moved on to other careers in sports media in Canada, and I want to thank all of them for teaching me so much about sports and sportsmanlike conduct.

So it thrills me that my son loves sports. Matthew loves baseball and basketball most and can’t bear to miss a game. Hockey is close behind. He lives for the Blue Jays, Raptors and Leafs (I’m a fan of the Carolina Hurricanes but that story is for another day) and he will support really any team if it’s home base is in Canada. Sometimes he takes the term “fan” to the level of “fanatic,” like when he insists that he watch the last quarter of the Raptor game in the car on my phone or he must watch the Jays game in full at 10:00 pm when they are on the west coast.

A child looking at the baseball diamond in awe
Matthew looks on in awe at the ballpark
Mom and son selfies at the Jays game
Selfie at the Jays game last year

Matthew loves sports so much that if none of his preferred sports are on TV he will choose almost anything, just to get his sports fix in. Maybe some of you love it, but I can’t bear to watch darts, poker or bowling. I draw the line at entertainment that involves throwing sharp objects at a board with people cheering them on.

Sporting the number 17 jersey playing basketball
Note his jersey number – that’s right, 17!
Defending on the basketball court
He takes pride in his basketball defensive skills on his school team

My husband doesn’t care much for sports, so it brings me a smile every day that I found my sports partner in life in my son. Matthew loves my encyclopedic knowledge of baseball and its many rules, and we literally can sit together for hours discussing the many nuances of the game.

showing off his baseball bat
Matthew has joined his school’s softball team
getting ready to swing the bat
Matthew’s first at bat of the season with his school’s baseball team

Matthew asked for one thing for his birthday this year – a trip with me, his mother, to Chicago this summer, to watch his beloved Blue Jays play the Cubs. Our flight has been booked, the hotel is reserved and we have a pair of tickets to the Jays at Cubs game on Friday afternoon, August 18. As a bonus, Toronto’s MLS soccer club is in Chicago that same weekend and we have scored a pair of tickets to the Toronto FC at Chicago Fire game on Saturday night, August 19. Now that’s a perfect mother and son weekend.