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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Run Every Day From Thanksgiving to New Year's? Yes. It Can Be Done.

The author running.

I had never run more than seven days in a row until I heard about the Runner’s World Thanksgiving-to-New-Year’s-Day Challenge to run at least a mile during the year-end holidays. Of course even as a beginning runner I had heard stories of people who have run every day for 30, 40, and even near 50 years. Naturally, I considered those people not right in the head (not to say that many people consider me right in the head, either. But I digress).

The only time I had run at least seven days in a row was during a particularly stressful time at work, and the few people I told about my streak had differing opinions. The regular weightlifter said it probably was fine as long as I wasn’t running nine miles a day or something like that. The cross-fitter said I was probably going to damage something. Later, the cross-fitter claimed that any top cross-fitter could smash Ashton Eaton’s decathlon world record with a minimum of effort, but I had already stopped listening to his advice by then.

Nevertheless, the idea of “going streaking” was in my head. When I first heard of the RW Challenge, my mind was made up. 35 days or so in a row seemed very do-able. In addition, I had just moved and this seemed like a way to start things off right. Plus, it would let me explore my new town.

On Thanksgiving, I went for a morning run. My route was familiar up to a point, when I veered off to a new, untested portion of the trail. As tends to happen in these situations, I soon found myself not knowing where I was, and then in a mostly fenced-in private yard, which was really more like a ranch than anything else. Fortunately, nobody came out to yell at me, and nobody loosed the hounds to get the intruder. Still, I didn’t want to cross back through the property to increase the chances of either of those things happening. On the other side of the fence was the main road. Since there were no cars around, I hopped the fence and headed back, grateful that people tend to leave home during holidays.

The next few days I ran short distances, trying to figure out if a month straight was even feasible for a comparative newbie like me. I calculated that if I ran just a mile a day, I would do about 35 miles, a distance I would exceed in a normal month. Two miles a day would equal 70 miles, also a monthly distance I had exceeded before. The streak seemed more and more feasible.

I ran on. I discovered a new loop of about three miles. I cut it down to a mile and a half. I extended it to four. I reversed it.

After about ten days, there was a new challenge, although an inevitable one considering I now lived at four thousand feet elevation. It had snowed overnight, but not heavily. I had never run in snow before, having always said “forget it” every other time it had happened. I had instead gone for a walk or decided it was a good day to not go outside.

But this was different. This was part of “the streak.” Running a mile counted, walking a mile did not. Watching “A Hard Day’s Night” for the six thousandth time would not extend the streak. I had to go. I put on ski pants and felt like an idiot. I put on my lightweight running shoes and felt like a fool. I put on a windbreaker and a hat that covered my ears and knew I looked silly. I went outside and ran just over a mile on a short loop.

When I returned, my shoes were soaked and my feet were frozen, as were my fingers. But I didn’t care anymore about what I looked like. I was a runner and had done what real runners do- I ran despite the weather. I felt like I could do anything else that day, no matter how tough it appeared to be, and it would not be as difficult as running in the snow. I looked forward to the day where I could run when it was snowing.

The next day I ran with my regular running group. It was dark and 15 degrees when the run began. I ran four miles and didn’t care. I was a runner and knew I was going to complete the streak.

Over the next month I ran when it was snowing and when it wasn’t. I ran in my snow boots and I ran in battered sneakers. I ran in ski pants and I ran in ski liners. I ran in windbreakers, I ran in layers, and I ran in hoodies. I ran in the morning, I ran in the afternoon, and I ran in the dark. I ran when it was five degrees and I ran when it was 35 degrees. I ran just over a mile and I ran five miles. When the run group canceled one week because the weather was “too nasty,” I went out and did a mile anyway.

I ran close to 90 miles that December, my highest monthly total at the time. On New Year’s Day, despite being out way too late and having football watching parties to go to that day, I made time for a run. 

The next day I went out of town and the streak ended. I now understood how people could run 365 straight days, although I still didn’t understand why anybody would want to. Since then, I have rarely gone more than three days without running.

On Thanksgiving, I’ll start the yearly streak again. I’ll make time for it every day for more than a month, no matter the weather or the situation. I won’t run every day for 30 years. But 35 days or so in a row? That’s something anybody can do. Even if the cross-fitters tell you otherwise.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Baseball History: Chicago Cubs 1st Postseason

Posted on my "exclusively baseball history" blog, the very first Chicago Cubs postseason of 1885 helped create a rivalry that continues to this day. And the posteason ended how you might expect a Cubs postseason to end.


1885 Chicago White Stockings
 photo: en.wikipedia.org

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Pac-12 Football Week One Mini-Preview

Ah, the 100th year of the Pac-12. Except it isn't. The Pacific Coast Conference, which formed in 1915, was dissolved in 1959 due to scandal (shockingly, athletes were paid) and reformed with fewer members under a completely different name. Oregon and Oregon State were charter members of the PCC but weren't allowed to join the Athletic Association of Western Universities until 1964, meaning the Ducks and Beavers were independents for five years- and played all their former rivals anyway.

That deserves a separate post. We're here to capsule-preview Pac-12 football, so that's what's up.


Michigan Wolverines at Utah Utes, 6:30pm Mountain, Fox Sports 1

Are there any good storylines for this game? Look, the Wolverines won't make the Final Four, but they'll be out to prove something in Captain Harbaugh's first season. Michigan is the story coming into this game, but Utah will be the story coming out of it. They're better than you think.

Texas San-Antonio Roadrunners at #22 Arizona Wildcats, 7pm Pacific, Pac-12 Network

The Wildcats get no love. Only team to beat Oregon in the regular season? Got an at-large Big Six bowl bid? Returning plenty of guys and they're ranked lower than a Stanford team that disappointed everybody last year? I don't get it.

Colorado Buffaloes at Hawaii Rainbows, 7pm Hawaiian, CBS Sports Network

These teams were terrible last year and the game they played was no different. I don't expect Colorado to be great before President Kanye takes office, if at all, but it would be nice if they showed signs of not being a doormat.


Weber State Wildcats at Oregon State Beavers, 5pm PT, Pac-12 Network

Oregon State lost the best QB in conference history (Sean Mannion's record for passing yards might not last very long, but he has it) and the nicest head coach in college football (Mike Riley to Nebraska, and I'm not kidding). And even with that last year, they were terrible. New head coach Gary Andersen has already announced he's going with a two-quarterback platoon to start the year. This is not a good sign.

I'm excited... to be hung in effigy in two cities!

Washington Huskies at #23 Boise State Broncos, 8:15pm MT, ESPN

Just another small game on the schedule for the guy who made Boise State relevant nationally. Chris Petersen was the man in Idaho, now he's trying to make the Dawgs do the same. He wishes he could go back in time and not schedule this game. I don't. Boise State might win this by 30.


#21 Stanford Cardinal at Northwestern Wildcats, 11am Central, ESPN

Nerd Bowl alert! I'm not buying Stanford until Kevin Hogan is gone, but there's no way they should lose to Northwestern. Also if you are excited to be indoors watching this game on Labor Day Weekend you better be a graduate of both schools.

Portland State Vikings at Washington State Cougars, 11am PT, Pac-12 Network

Any excuse is a good excuse to watch Mike Leach's quarterbacks throw for 500 yards. Unless there's a kickoff before noon against a questionable I-AA team on Labor Day Weekend. So maybe next week this Wazzu will be worth watching.

Virginia Cavaliers at #13 UCLA Bruins, 12:30pm PT, Fox

The Bruins should have lost to Virgina last year and their QB situation is murky. They might be the worst 10-game winning team around. The first upset alert of the year.
High-stepping awesomeness.

Grambling Tigers at Cal Bears, 2pm PT, Pac-12 Network

There are few better places to be than Strawberry Canyon on a September weekend. The Grambling band will perform at halftime, that's worth the price of admission alone.

#15 Arizona State Sun Devils vs Texas A&M Aggies in Houston, 6pm Central, ESPN

The Pac-12 marquee game of the weekend. The Aggies have the home crowd advantage but the Sun Devils are good. I see a close game and ASU doing something stupid to lose it at the end.

Eastern Washington Eagles at #7 Oregon Ducks, 5pm PT, Pac-12 Network

For complete Oregon coverage throughout the year, visit AutzenZoo.com, of which I am a featured contributor (aka, I write stuff there too).

Arkansas State Fighting Clintons at #8 USC Trojans, 8pm PT, Pac-12 Network

The Trojans should be pretty good this season. But we won't learn anything about them this week. 

Overall impressions:

Eight wins by conference is very likely, ten would be great. Best chances to lose: Washington, Arizona State, UCLA, Stanford, Colorado, Wazzu (just because) and Oregon State. That's right, I don't think Utah will lose.

photos courtesy: Pac-12.com, mynorthwest.com, chron.com


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Kansas Jayhawks Football: Eight Is Enough

Beaty on the beat

When David Beaty opens the Kansas Jayhawks football season on September 5th against South Dakota State (11 AM Central Time), KU football will have had eight full-time head coaches since 1983.

KU men’s hoops has had eight full-time head coaches, period.

The last time both KU football and basketball started a season with new leaders was 1983, so that’s why I picked that year as the demarcation line. The new hoops coach that year was Larry Brown. The new football coach that year was Mark Gottfried.

Since Brown, the hoops head coaches have been Roy Williams (’88-‘03) and Bill Self (’03-until he dies).

After Gottfried, the football head coaches have been:

Bob Valsente (’86-’87), Glen Mason (’88-’96), (a common chant at the time: “Hooray for Glen! Hooray for Glen! Hooray for Glen he’s a horses @$$!”) Terry Allen (’97-’01), Mark Mangino (’02-’09), (letter to Jim Rome: “I’m glad Mark Mangino got fired. Sincerely, the buffet.”) Turner Gill (’10-’11), Charlie Weis (’12-14), and now Beaty. If you add the interim coaches- Tom Hayes in ’01 and Clint Bowen last year- KU football has had ten head coaches since ’83, or two more than the basketball team has had since before there were airplanes.    

I wanted Bowen to be the full-time head man, and said so as much last year. What’s great to hear is that Beaty was going to come to Kansas even if Bowen was made head coach and he would just be the offensive coordinator. That confirmed to me, and hopefully everybody invested in KU football, that Bowen is really, really good.

What it also should tell everybody is that Beaty will do everything in his power to turn this program around. It certainly helps that he and Bowen are buddies and are thinking the same way about KU football.

Really, there’s nowhere to go but up. There has been nowhere to go but up ever since it bottomed out in the Turner Gill era and continued scraping along during Charlie Weis’ two-plus years. Bowen was the jolt the team needed last season, and if Beaty does nothing but keep the team at that level for an entire season, it will be an improvement.

Beaty and Bowen promise that KU football is a sleeping giant. If those guys can’t make the program rise then the blame can be laid squarely on the university. If Kansas has to go get another football coach before they have to get another new basketball coach, then they might as well forget about fielding a football team.

Eight coaches in thirty-two years ought to be proof enough of that.

photo courtesy: kusports.com

Monday, July 27, 2015

San Francisco Giants: If Anyone Gets Traded, It's Brandon Belt

Looking over his shoulder, how apt.
With the clock ticking until the MLB trade deadline, the San Francisco Giants should be willing to give up only one major piece of the team, and that’s Brandon Belt.

I am one of many who have pulled for the Baby Giraffe since day one. I felt he was shoddily treated his early years in the big leagues, getting shuttled from the big club to the minors and back again on a seemingly regular basis. Then, was he a first baseman or a left fielder? That question, astoundingly, continues to play out. Belt has already played eleven games in left this season, two years after he played a full season at first (injuries kept him on the shelf most of last season. Though he did return to be a big difference in the post-season. You may recall the 18th inning in Washington during the NLCS).

You know why he’s been playing left field. It’s the same reason he should be the only Giant moved by the trade deadline. The reason is: Buster Posey.

There’s a sub-reason for this as well: Andrew Susac.

Posey is a better hitter when he’s not catching. It’s not a theory, it’s statistically backed.

But he’s a phenomenal defensive catcher. The Giants couldn’t consider moving Posey to first base until there was a good option at catcher.

Susac has proved to be that good catcher. I’m a bit biased towards Susac, having covered him when he played college ball for the Oregon State Beavers. Susac was one of the top players on OSU during those years. When the Giants drafted him it seemed like it would be an excellent fit. And it has been.

Susac played in just 29 games last season, his rookie campaign. This year, he’s already started 29 games at catcher and played in 41. The issue is that sliding into third base not long ago he sprained his thumb, and he’s now on the 15-day disabled list.

Might the Giants be hesitant to trade Belt because of Susac’s injury? Maybe, but probably not. Guys can get hurt any day, not just ten days before the trade deadline. Hector Sanchez, currently the Giants third catcher, isn’t exactly a bad backup himself.

With Susac, Posey, and Belt competing for two positions, the options are these:
  1. Move Belt permanently to left field. Then Posey is at first and Susac becomes the catcher. But Belt would be frustrated (although he wouldn’t say anything publicly). And it would cause friction in the clubhouse, because Belt hasn’t done anything wrong to lose his first base job. Resentment is not the sort of thing that will help the ballclub.
  2. Trade Susac. Then Sanchez is the adequate backup catcher, but nobody’s current idea of the “catcher-in-waiting.” Susac is a top backstop in the making, and to get rid of him would be incredibly short-sighted. Because the question is when Posey moves to first full-time, not if.
  3. Trade Posey. Then Susac is the starting catcher and Belt stays at first. This is obviously ludicrous.
  4. Trade Belt. Then Posey moves to first full-time and Susac becomes the everyday catcher.
It might help the Baby Giraffe to be moved anyway. Sometimes it seems like he’s pressing, like he’s afraid his job will be taken away.

Well, he’s exactly right about that.

A trade gives Belt a chance to become an everyday first baseman somewhere else. Then he can mature into the tremendous power hitter that we know he can be without having to look over his shoulder wondering when Posey’s going to take his job.

Frankly, this has been the biggest shadow hovering over the Giants season. Those three guys know that a decision needs to be made. I don’t see Belt moving permanently to left field. So he’s the odd man out.

Best of luck, Baby Giraffe. 

Like it's a relay handoff. Only missing the baton.

photos courtesy: ftw.usatoday.com, sfbay.ca 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Improving NBA Draft and NBA Summer League At The Same Time

I have always wanted to form an NBA D-League team made up entirely of guys who didn't get drafted. I would guarantee a spot on my team for Division One's highest remaining scorer, rebounder, assist man and shot blocker, plus several other categories I can't think of right now. I would also sign the highest stat guys from D-II. I guarantee we would win the league every year.

I mentioned this to a top basketball friend of mine, and he suggested that it would be better to form a team of those guys in the NBA summer league, so that they got to show their chops before the season began and get a chance to make a roster. Then a better idea developed.

We came up with the idea that the NBA Draft is only the lottery- 15 teams.

Then all remaining players who declared for the draft are pooled up and put on various NBA Summer League teams. Since all the games are played in the same gyms, it would be easy for the league to provide room and board.

At the end of the summer league, the draft continues in order.

It would draw more interest to both events. A guy who wasn't given much of a chance before draft who kills it in summer league then becomes highly coveted in the second half of the draft. A guy who's a bad teammate drops down and maybe doesn't get drafted at all.

Either way, the cream rises to the top. Who flourishes with new teammates? Which small-college guy proves he's a leader and worthy of a draft spot? Who's shown to be a jerk?

Right now the teams don't know this until after they draft and sign a guy. This way everybody learns at the same time.

Imagine the intrigue. If you have the 4th pick in the lottery, would you rather keep that or would you rather trade "down" to draft the top summer league guy? Summer trading would be much more interesting.

Obviously this would involve changing the timing of free agency and stuff like that, but it would end up being more beneficial to everybody. The second half of the draft would be in mid- to late-July, providing a ratings spike in the dog days of summer and just before NFL and college football training camps begin, so the only real competition would be baseball.

This seems like a no-brainer.

After that, I'd still want to have my D-League team. They'd still win.

photo courtesy: nba.com