Archive | Sports Columns

Confessions of a sports addict: The best month in sports

Brace yourselves, sports fans. I have terrible news for you.

March Madness is over.

Well, kind of. The Final Four college basketball teams will square off for the national championship this weekend, but it’s not March anymore. That’s because March gave way to the best month of the year for sports fans: April.

Other months have bigger individual events. October has the MLB playoffs. January has the NFL playoffs. March has most of the NCAA basketball tournament, as I mentioned earlier. June and July have the World Cup.

But no month puts it together for sports fans quite like April.

The beginning of the month opens a new MLB season after a five-month break. It also brings us the Final Four of the college basketball tournament, as people closely follow their brackets to see just how badly they predicted the tournament.

The middle of the month marks the start of the exciting NBA and NHL playoffs after a long (probably too long!) regular season.

And if you only like football, April has something for you as well. The NFL draft happens at the end of the month in most years.

At IWU, we have the baseball, softball, track and field, golf and tennis teams all in the heart of their spring seasons as the weather warms up. So many great Wildcat teams will compete out at the athletic complex this month or at nearby golf courses.

Does it get any better than April, IWU sports fans?

I don’t think it does. At least, besides final exams.

Do you agree that April is the best month in sports? Leave a comment or tweet @sojournsports with your favorite sports month.

Posted in Sports, Sports ColumnsComments (0)

Will the real 6th Man please stand up?

WWB vs. Taylor Feb. 25 112

Our student section at basketball games is beyond pathetic.

Yeah, I said it.

Pathetic.

Shambles.

Lackluster.

Dare I say boring? Yes, yes I do. Because we are boring. We’re pitiful. We’re melancholy and we’re wretched. Was that too dramatic?

I barely scratched the surface.

During the final home game of the season last week, I looked around Luckey Arena, and it was filled, which delighted my soul. Except then I noticed that while our male seniors were being honored at their final regular season home game, a solid portion of the audience had their heads buried in their phones.

Buried.

IWU, it’s time to hop off the “if we don’t Facebook/Tweet/Instagram this event did it happen?” train. Of course it happened, we just missed it because we were too busy texting our friends who we have to talk to every minute of every day.

I talked to Athletic Director Mark DeMichael about our student section and we were definitely tracking along the same lines.

“In the entire conference I would say that we have the best attendance out of our students in anybody in the league, so I’m very proud of the fact that we get so many students that come to games – that’s positive,” DeMichael said. “I wish they got more involved in the game … most of the time I look over and half our student section is staring at their phones during the game and they’re not engaged.”

So kudos to you, IWU students. When it comes to showing up, you sure know how to show up.

But evidently that’s all you can do – and it’s extremely noticeable.

Maybe you aren’t aware because you were too busy Instagramming that picture of your McConn coffee cup, but our men’s and women’s basketball teams are on the brink of championships.

The men’s team is the No. 1 seed in the Crossroads League Tournament and the women’s team is the No. 3 seed in the Crossroads League Tournament. The women trounced Taylor 59-37 Tuesday night. We have some of the top teams in the Crossroads League and none of you seem to care.

Why don’t you care?

Maybe you don’t realize the effect that you have on the basketball players. Yes, you people sitting in the stands texting and occasionally looking up to do a score check have a huge impact on our players.

“When we hear the crowd erupt after someone hits a big shot it’s an awesome feeling that you can’t describe,” said guard Jordan Weidner (sr). “It gives us goosebumps on the court and I think it makes the game more exciting for the fans.”

Why are we denying them this feeling?

I talked with men’s basketball head coach Greg Tonagel, and sitting during the games doesn’t go unnoticed. He called our student section a “mixed bag,” saying we have good cheering days and lame cheering days, and you never really know which one you’re going to get.

It’s embarrassing when one of the head coaches of the basketball team knows you’re sitting there not caring about the hours of time they put into practice. All the sweat, pain and energy that they put into this game.

DeMichael even said that the “6th Man” effect is vital to our athletes.

At this point I’d say we’re more of a virus than a vital component.

We’re supposedly vital, and it’s becoming clear that all we’re concerned with is our smartphones.

At the women’s game against Taylor last night, 27 people sat in the 6th Man section (I counted) and the loudest person cheering was a little old seventy-something-year-old woman in a turquoise sweater.

Pathetic.

So what’s the deal?

Are you not cheering because you’re too cool?

Because you feel awkward?

Don’t do it! Don’t be too cool or feel awkward! Be the biggest fan. Start chants, clap loudly, scream, yell, cheer, stand, applaud! Make posters – do something!

But don’t be rude, because when you’re rude it discourages others from getting involved in cheering – plus it makes me want to knock you off the bleachers.

So I ask you to be clever, not obnoxious. Be loud, not silent. Be the enthusiastic fans that cheer our basketball teams to national championships.

Coach Tonagel asked for one more thing.

Unity.

“Everybody there is together and they’re one and they’re part of our team. We appreciate the time they’re taking to show up to the game and you know, if someone can start chanting then the rest will follow,” Tonagel said. “And if they’re unified in their chants and their cheering then that brings us a lot of energy.”

We get one more chance before spring break to prove ourselves, but Tuesday night’s women’s game against Taylor really did nothing to help our case. So prove me wrong.

Tonight.

Men’s quarterfinal game against Taylor. 7 p.m.

Will the real 6th Man please stand up?

Posted in Front Page, Sports, Sports ColumnsComments (3)

Confessions of a sports addict: An inspirational story

On Monday, Feb. 17, the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers signed a contract with Kevin Grow.

Grow isn’t your typical NBA player. He’s a high school senior at Bensalem High School just outside of Philadelphia, and he serves as the manager for Bensalem’s varsity basketball team.

But something else sets Grow apart: he has Down syndrome.

Grow, who had managed the basketball team for four years, finally got his chance to shine Feb. 7 and 8, during the last two games of the basketball season. Bensalem’s coach put Grow in to play both games. Grow didn’t disappoint, scoring a combined 14 points in the games, sinking four three-pointers and putting in a layup. You can watch his highlights here.

The 76ers only signed Grow to a two-day contract, and he won’t see the court for a single second. But he participated in practice, ate a meal with his teammates and received an authentic 76ers jersey with his name on it, according to the team’s official website.

That’s a pretty cool move by the 76ers organization, if you ask me.

Feel-good sports stories are few and far between in these days of performance-enhancing drugs, self-centered athletes and other unsportsmanlike activities from sports figures.

But when 76ers President and General Manager Sam Hinkie saw footage from Grow’s inspirational performance, he made the classy choice to sign him.

“What do you say?” said 76ers head coach Brett Brown, according to the team’s official website.

“You just walk away and have a little bit more appreciation for a bunch of things. It’s a grounding effect when you see something like that.”

Kevin Grow’s story is a welcome sight, and a great model for other sports franchises to follow in the future.

Posted in Sports, Sports ColumnsComments (0)

Confessions of a sports addict: Athletic trainers

I like underrated people.

Last semester, I wrote a column paying respect to athletes whose contributions go beyond the stat sheet.

This week, it’s the athletic trainers’ turn.

America watched the Seattle Seahawks’ Richard Sherman lie on the gridiron in pain after injuring his ankle in Sunday’s Super Bowl. Who arrived first to help Sherman off the field? Athletic trainers.

Athlete trainers don’t usually get athletes at their best, either. As an athlete myself, I don’t feel like talking to anyone after an injury. But the athletic trainers are always there, asking ticked-off jocks where the pain is and what it feels like. Then they have to warn the athlete that the injury could be a torn ACL or some other horrible affliction.

Fun stuff.

And despite all the times athletic trainers step onto the field of play, they toil on in anonymity. Has anyone heard of Aaron Nelson? If you said he’s the head athletic trainer for the Phoenix Suns, I’m very impressed, because you are right. The Suns’ athletic training staff has been recognized as the NBA’s best many times, yet their leader is a total unknown.

I’m not saying we should all memorize the names of our favorite professional sports teams’ athletic trainers (but feel free to do so), but we should start to appreciate their work. They keep the superstar players we enjoy watching on the court, and bring them back as soon as possible when they do miss time.

And if you are an IWU athlete, be sure to thank our athletic training staff any time they help you out. They will surely appreciate it.

Posted in Sports, Sports ColumnsComments (0)

Follow The Sojourn on Twitter