Friday, February 28, 2014

Conflicted About Recent Request for $12M in State Funding for the Uht

 "City of Erie Requests $12M in State Funding for the Uht" Yes, this is the type of headline appearing this week in the local paper that makes you do the proverbial double-take. As in "WHAT????" $12 million for improvements to an already beautiful ballpark. And, then when you realize it's state money, oh well, that's not so bad. Of course, when you consider again that you are a taxpayer in this state...Okay so maybe those weren't your reactions, but they certainly were mine.

And then there is this bit from the story in the paper, "The planned improvements at the ballpark, which is managed by the Convention Center Authority, include new enclosures; expanded concessions; a team store; elevated decks and the expansion of corridors at the stadium; an exterior marquee; a larger children's area; and new lighting and walkways. 'Uht Park needs all of these improvements,' said Roger Richards, a Convention Center Authority board member who heads its Strategic Planning Committee."

Alright, I don't know about you, but I'm not sure any of that stuff is really "needed." I mean I was at the park at least a half dozen times last year and I never remember thinking, "Wow, I wish there were more concessions (maybe more variety) or a better exterior marquee."

Those were my initial thoughts at least. Digging a little deeper, apparently Erie Insurance is building or has built a five-level parking garage somewhere in the area, at a cost of $11.2 million, which the city has submitted as the majority of the matching funds required to get the funding from the state. The Convention Center Authority has pledged to put up the other $800,000. So, basically, for the a total of $800,000, the Convention Center Authority, with the backing from the city, is hoping to get $12.8 million in improvement money for Uht Part from the PA State government (as well as use of the parking garage I'm assuming, so maybe we throw another $11.2 million on top of that). I guess that is a good deal for us, although why the taxpayers of PA are funding improvements at a ballpark that only serves Erie (as well as the teams, primarily the Seawolves, that play there) is beyond me. A lot of the conflicts associated with municipal funding of stadiums utilized by privately owned teams are addressed in Gregg Easterbrook's wonderful book about football - The King of Sports. I can't recommend this book more if you are fan, like I am, of all things football, but sometimes find yourself questioning, "why?"

Anyhow, I guess I hope we get the money because if we don't some other equally, or even more, nefarious project somewhere else in the state likely will, but seriously....ah well, I guess I should just shut up and enjoy the Uht!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Otters Blow 3-0 Lead; McDavid Scores Highlight Reel Goal

So, I'm kinda embarrassed about it, but last night was the first time I saw the already legendary Connor McDavid in action. McDavid, who now has 20 goals and 60 assists, on the season was great. He scored a highlight reel goal on a breakaway in the first period  (Link is to Youtube video. McDavid's goal is at about the :22 mark) to give the Otters a 3-0 lead. Here's how the Otters' Web site described it: "Connor McDavid was sprung through the neutral zone on a pass from Darren Raddysh. McDavid entered the offensive zone, turned defenseman Brady Austin inside out, and beat Patterson on the phenomenal individual effort to give Erie a three goal lead."

Unfortunately, it was all downhill after that, as the Otters got tired and/or lakadaisical and were outshot 12-6 in the second period - enabling the streaking London Knights to tie the game. London then scored on a power play with less than a minute left in the game to win 4-3. Kind of a big loss as Erie was one point ahead of London in the standings going in, and while Erie has been slumping, London has won like eight in a row.

Anyhow, it was nice to see McDavid, who is the presumptive top pick in the 2015 NHL draft, which means he was one more year in Erie (and then maybe many in Buffalo)! Hope to see him many more times.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Great night for D-10 Playoffs; Otters at Home Tonight vs. London

Amazing night of basketball in D-10 last night. McDowell smoked Prep for AAAA title, while East beat Oil City to advance to AAA final. Meantime, Farrell came from way down in the fourth quarter to knock of SV and spoil a potential East-SV AAA title match-up. SV still has chance to advance to states with win over Oil City in third-place game.

So, one night after having the opportunity to attend the very exciting Prep-McDowell game - full house at the Hammermill Center/Audi, I'm heading to see the Otters for first time this year, against the London Knights, who I am told are coached by ex-NHLer Dale Hunter - a great fighting scorer type, who also has Ty Domi's kid on the team - apparently another scorer/fighter type. A great week of sports for me (love it when my buddies call me up with extra tix.) Looking forward to seeing Connor McDavid and hopefully the rest of the Otters on the ice tonight.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

New MLB Plate Blocking Rule Confusing

The new MLB rule designed to prevent homeplate collisions, is somewhat confusing, at least in its initial form. It's an experimental rule designed to limit plate collisions. Apparently, there would have been too much retraining of catchers required in too short a time period to completely eliminate collisions. But, to me the way the new rule is worded leaves too much discretion in the umpires hands and could lead to a hit first, ask questions later approach by base runners.

In particular I think the second comment associated with the rule is particularly vague: (From an ESPN story): "unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score." The runner shall be declared safe if the catcher violates that provision. In addition, it is not a violation "if the catcher blocks the pathway of the runner in order to field a throw, and the umpire determines that the catcher could not have fielded the ball without blocking the pathway of the runner and that contact with the runner was unavoidable."

Later in the story it says Orioles catcher Matt Weiters would "like to get clarifications from Major League Baseball on exactly what is and isn't permitted." I agree.

Yanks could face FSU QB Winston

In spring training game scheduled for today: Winston, of course, won the Heisman and led his team to BCS title this fall. He's also a Yankee fan. Go figure.

Happy Tuesday.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Yankees Once Traded a Bigot for a Racist

Yes, this all happened in the madcap world that was the MLB in the late 1930's. Check out Steve Wulf's entertaining piece on former ball player Jake Powell and his quote about beating (well, you know)s with a black jack to stay in shape in the off-season. Back then apparently you did need to Twitter to go virile!

Winter Olympics over - Baeball around the Corner

Going to miss the Winter Olympics. They only come once every four years, and this is probably good, as I don't know how much skiing, ice skating, bobsledding, and even hockey I can watch, but it sure is fun when it comes around. The colors of the uniforms and the scenery are a big help. I mean who doesn't enjoy watching a Swedish All-Star hockey team in bright yellow with three blue crowns on their chest, battle the red-and-white Canadians and their maple leaf insignia?

Baseball season is just around the corner. Major League training camps have already started. I'm trying to get my coaching house in order. Looks like I am going to be managing the Post 11 NWPA Junior Legion team this year, taking over for a guy who did a great job last year. I got to coach last year,  a job which was pretty much gravy: you show up and do baseball stuff. Now, I have to do some admin/paperwork stuff as well. Ugh. But, what are you going to do? We have a good group of kids and are hoping to have a great season.

Still some confusion over what I'm going to do for Little League/Junior League for my boys. There was some serious doubt about whether Erie Little League was going to be functioning this year, but that seems to have been alleviated. I guess there is a Facebook site up there, but I can't seem to find it. So, I guess we'll see. One of the guys I coached with  last year has already said he is going over to MYAA, which is something I am considering, despite my history with Erie - but I still want to go with Erie. Let's hope we can get our proverbial stuff together!

Finally, just finished up a great book by the outstanding sportswriter Roger Kahn -  A Flame of Pure Fire: Jack Dempsey and the Roaching '20s. Dempsey seemed like a great character to write about, but then again, maybe it was Kahn's great writing the portrayed him that way. Everything in the book was well crafted - up through the acknowledgements at the end!

Kahn is best known for his The Boys of Summer portrayal of the 1950s Dodgers, which was published in the early 1970s. I tried reading it on the recommendation of a friend, maybe when I was in junior high. Maybe because I am a Yankees fan, or maybe I was just too young to grasp it, but I didn't really enjoy it nearly as much as my buddy did. But, then, maybe 15 years ago, another buddy of mine gave me a signed copy of The Era, 1947-1957: When the Yankees, the Giants, and the Dodgers Ruled the World, and I loved it. It was apparently published in 1993. The Dempsey book was published six years later, and I also immensely enjoyed that. So I don't know. Maybe I'll go back and read Boys of Summer or maybe I just like Kahn's later writing.

That all said, like the 2014 Winter Olympics, I am going to miss hanging out with Jack Dempsey and his colorful 1920's set.


Have a great week!


Monday, February 03, 2014

Physicality Wins Postseason NFL Football

Well, it at least helps a lot. The last three Super Bowls have been won by the Seahawks (last night) preceded by the Ravens, and the Giants. Non of these three squads would be what you call finesse football teams. They all featured physical, strong defenses, and more or less older-school offenses. All three champions' offenses could run the ball - with the Giants and Ravens also specializing in the deep ball, while Russell Wilson is a bit more of a "West Coast" offense guy, who is still a very physical with his ability to run and throw absolute bullets on shorter passes.

Let's just ignore the physicality of the defenses, which is somewhat obvious, and look at the quarterbacks for a minute. Wilson, Flacco, and Eli Manning were all relatively younger guys, with Eli, at 31, the oldest of the three. Tom Brady last won the Super Bowl when he was 27. Granted, he's been in a couple Super Bowls since, but it seems that in general youth prevails in the playoffs these days. Aaron Rogers, Ben Roethlesberger and Aaron Rogers have both enjoyed tremendous postseason success under 30, and while Payton Manning and Drew Brees seemed like veterans when they won their Super Bowl titles, each was still only 30. (Going back 10 years, you start to run into Brad Johnson and John Elway, who were older, so we'll restrict our argument to the last 10 years.)

Colin Kapernick probably needs to be mentioned here, as well. After somewhat struggling, as Wilson did, during the 2013 regular season, Kapernick acquitted himself nicely with two wins in the playoffs - and, in light of the Super Bowl, the close loss to the Seahawks in the NFC championship game cemented the contention that the 49ers were the second best team in the NFL this year. Kapernick is interesting because he is a very athletic quaterback who was chosen as the the starter over the less athletic, but solid Alex Smith. While Smith was let go and enjoyed a fine regular season with the Chiefs (probably better statistically that Kapernick's), his team was one-and-done in the playoffs, while Kapernick's went 3-1 for the second straight year. Russell Wilson, meanwhile, is now 4-1 in the playoffs for his short career.

Bottom line is that the key to playoff/ultimate success in the current version of the NFL seems to be a strong, physical defense, and a strong, younger, physical quarterback. Which isn't really too different when you think about from the formula the Stillers used to win four Super Bowls back in the 1970s.