Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mayfield junior XC runner Waed Eid impresses

Over the weekend, I was impressed by Mayfield junior cross country runner Waed Eid.
She finished third in the Cleveland Running Company Invitational at South High School.
What was most impressive wasn't her time of 20:22 (a personal record).
It was the determination with which she ran the race.
Eid, a Muslim, spent a month fasting during Ramadan. The morning of the race, she got up at 4:30 a.m. to eat and drink with her family. Following the race, she could not drink a drop of water due to her religious beliefs. She also couldn't use her inhaler for asthma. In fact, she couldn't do either until the sun set later that night.
While interviewing her, Eid said something that struck me.
"People complain about the smallest things," she said. "It's just like you are so fortunate to have the smallest things. For me to be able to do this has taught me so much."
What an insightful teenager.
Eid is realizing at an early age how important the simplest things in life are such as a cool drink of water, having the freedom to practice her religion in a country that embraces all religions and having caring family, friends, teammates and coaches in her life.
She appreciates it all.
It takes some people a lifetime to get to where Eid is currently at in her life.
She is standing up for what she believes in, even when the path she has chosen in life isn't an easy one.
I admire her.
To see Eid explain her beliefs in her own words, watch the video below:

-Theresa Neuhoff Audia


Monday, August 29, 2011

Fantasyland open for business

Plain and simple, people shouldn't be this excited about fantasy football.

Let me rephrase, I shouldn't be this excited about fantasy football.

Doing a draft on Sunday, it actually felt like the NFL was around the corner after months of doing nothing more than talking about a lockout.

I loved every minute of the draft. The waiting for guys to pick in the 15th round. The cold pizza waiting upstairs. Having the guy I wanted to pick get swiped right in front of me.

In a way, I like the draft more than I like the regular season ... primarily because I do better drafting than my guys do playing. Sort of. Sometimes. Maybe.

Bottom line is fantasy football season is officially here and I couldn't be more excited.

It's actually probably unhealthy.

- Bill Tilton

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Arsenal will be back

OK, granted. Arsenal had one of its worst days in club history Sunday.

If you're a renowned club off to a bad start with a multitude of injuries and departures, and then you go to an archrival and get owned - it's not good.

No way around it - Arsenal was pasted by Manchester United at Old Trafford, 8-2. I cringe when I see a scoreline like that with my area high school teams, so I can only imagine how manager Arsene Wenger and company feel after the club yielded eight goals in a match for the first time since 1896.

<a href="" target="_new" title="">The Red Devils bring the fire!</a>

With midfield stalwart Cesc Fabregas completing his long-rumored move to Barcelona and Samir Nasri off to Manchester City, obviously Wenger needs to make some big-time signings before the end of the transfer window even though that's not typically his style. And he especially needs help in defense. If England international and respected attacker Theo Walcott finished up Sunday against Manchester United as a right back, they've clearly got a problem.

But here's the thing. It's not some run of the mill club. It's Arsenal. Yes, an Arsenal that hasn't won trophies in a few years, but it's still Arsenal.

If the Yankees or Red Sox are fourth in the AL East after two weeks, do you really think they're going to stay there deep into September? I don't either.

I don't have a favorite Premier League team - for some reason, during my years following the English game, I just never picked up a favorite club and am not sure why. But I've always respected Arsenal.

It's ugly right now. But with the resources the club has at its disposal - some money to spend, a great fan base, a quality attack paced by Robin van Persie and Walcott and Wenger on the touchline, there's just no way Arsenal isn't a top-five club by the end of the year.

If Arsenal are in a relegation battle in March, I'll admit I was wrong. As bad as it seems right now, though, there's no way this form will sustain itself over time at a first-class club like that.

- Chris Lillstrung

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Letters, questions, comments

Do you have a question for The News-Herald sports department?

Do you want to voice your opinion about any sports topic, via a letter to the editor?

Or do you simply have a comment or a suggestion for us?

Here's your chance to be heard. Send your question, letter, comment or suggestion to Sports Editor Mark Podolski at:

- Mark Podolski

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hold the celebration, Cam Newton

After scoring a touchdown during the Panthers-Bengals preseason game on Thursday, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton celebrated by doing an imitation of the LeBron James powder toss.

That routine would be unpopular in these parts for obvious reasons. But, more importantly, he missed on something else: You don't give that away during the exhibition season. He's lucky no one noticed or didn't care.

Even Newton's teammates didn't see it coming. They started slapping him on his helmet and patting his back before he was finished. Good thing he wasn't really using powder. It would have stung their eyes.

- Howard Primer

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

NFL training camp area update

Three former area high school football standouts are in NFL training camps. Here's how they are faring in August:

Ricky Stanzi (Lake Catholic): The fifth-round pick of the Chiefs has been the team's No. 3 QB in training camp and has been OK, completing 10 of 20 passes for 92 yards in two appearances. He's also thrown an interception and been sacked eight times. Stanzi and Tyler Palko of Pittsburgh are battling for the backup spot behind starter Matt Cassel.

Mike Preston (Euclid): The undrafted free agent of the Titans said he's done some good things in practice, but has not had an opportunity in Tennessee's first two preseason games.

Eric Kettani (Lake Catholic): The Navy graduate spent the last two years completing his military obligations. He was signed by the Patriots two years ago, but Kettani said he recently had surgery after getting injured early in training camp. "Just taking it day by day," said Kettani.

- Mark Podolski

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

High school girls golfers are learning a sport they can play forever

I spent Tuesday afternoon at Manakiki Golf Course covering a dual girls golf match between visiting Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin and South.
South coach Mark Habat and NDCL coach Sam Rayl were kind enough to cart me around on their golf courts while their girls played nine holes of golf on a bright, sunny day.
I was so impressed by the girls.
They played so well.
Both teams are expected to go well into the postseason this year, especially the Lions who have advanced to state three consecutive years.
What I wanted to tell each of the girls was to stick with the sport. They won't regret it. It's a sport they can participate in for the rest of their lives.
My younger sister Kelly Neuhoff is a perfect example.
We attended Lorain Catholic High School which did not have a girls golf team. Kelly instead played for the boys golf team. She was one of the only girls in the area to play golf.
Years later, my sister is a successful businesswoman at Nationwide Insurance. She often golfs for work and with friends in her free time.
She is the best golfers I know, male or female.
She hits from the men's tees and often amazes everyone around her with the strength in which she hits the ball.
My sister impresses me in countless ways, and I am so proud of her for so many things. Golf is just one of the many things she excels in.
I wish I could golf.
Maybe one day, I'll learn.
Until then, I will live vicariously through my sister, a three-sport athlete in high school, who to this day is the fittest woman I know.

-Theresa Neuhoff Audia

Monday, August 22, 2011

Behind the NH High School Football Preview

News-Herald community sports editor Howard Primer might not be a household name to high school football players, coaches, parents or fans.

Maybe he should be.

After all, if you enjoy our annual high school football preview section, you should realize it wouldn't be the same experience without him at the helm.

Because without any hesitation, I can tell you without Howard Primer, the section doesn't get done. Or if it did, it wouldn't look nearly as good.

The four high school writers at The News-Herald as well as some help from other staff members do the interviews, videos, writing, typing, some photos, etc. We are the ones with our work out in the open and usually with our name attached to it. But behind the scenes, working endless in anonymity, is Primer. I have said for years, any award we get for the high school football preview - and we get plenty - should land on Howard's desk.

Every word, every comma, every photo, every cutline, every graphic, every EVERYTHING that you see in the preview section is in a place and looks the way it looks for a reason. That reason is because nobody works harder or takes more pride in the section than Primer.

It is not an ego trip to assume we will get some nice comments on the section this weekend at the Week 1 games. Those compliments are welcomed, obviously, but the real puppetmaster of the preview section, the man pulling all the strings is Howard Primer.

I just felt it was about time someone recognized all of his hard work. He is only about halfway through this year's 4-day, 32-page preview, but I know it will be great.

It always is. If you agree, email or get on Twitter and let him know.

- Bill Tilton

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Wide, wide world of sports

Sports really do come in all different shapes and sizes. There are the most obvious competition sports that come to mind - baseball, basketball, football, hockey and soccer - but the range beyond those staples is tough to fathom.

It got me to thinking. Is there a place that lists every sport contested in the world? Of course.

Wikipedia (hey, save the Wikipedia flak for a second) actually has such a list, and it is fascinating.

The categories never seem to end, and with that in mind, since I respect those of you who read this, I won't list them all.

What I will do, though, is find a few sports on the list I have never heard of.

Fistball - This seems to be a variation of volleyball, only it's played on a grass field. If you were wondering, the current world champions are Austria for the men and Brazil for the women.

Ringo - No, Beatles fans don't take turns benchpressing Ringo Starr. As they explain it, this is a game contested mostly in Poland where two teams take turns on a court, similar to volleyball, hitting a rubber ring to each other without it hitting the ground.

(I have to say, I love this video because it sounds like one of those science lab videos we'd have to watch in junior high.)

Kite fighting - Oh there's no misunderstanding folks. Two people get together with kites, and the goal is to bring the other person's kite to the ground. This is apparently a very popular sport in Nepal and Afghanistan.

Considering I don't think kite fighting can be beaten, I think my work here is done.

- Chris Lillstrung

Friday, August 19, 2011

Who's on the cover of this year's high school football preview?

Our high school football preview hits news stands and driveways beginning Monday. We've featured an area player or storyline on the cover each year since 1996. Here's a look at who we've featured:
1996: Euclid running back Tony Fisher
1997: Kirtland lineman Rob Turner
1998: The first year of the Premier Athletic Conference
1999: Playoff expansion
2000: Robert Smith, the No. 1 player in our top 10 of the 20th century countdown
2001: Brush receiver Roy Hall
2002: Lake Catholic quarterback Mark Petruziello
2003: Mentor's Greg Godic, Angelo DiFranco, Thom Abbott, Paul Burger, Matt Lieb, Scott Goodwin, Chad Mayse and Tony Martucci.
2004: Chardon linemen Gary Schussler and David White
2005: Euclid linebacker Thaddeus Gibson
2006: Mascots playing poker
2007: Football education (with yours truly as the teacher)
2008: Ohio, the battleground state in an election year
2009: Running backs Tim Wetzel of Mayfield, Gary Harmon of South, Mike Korecz of Mentor and Richie Sanders of Lake Catholic
2010: Perry's Mitchell Hokavar, South's Ray Russ, Kirtland's Paul Guhde, North's George Gresko, Mentor's Tom Strobel, Lake Catholic's Chase Hounshell, Ledgemont's Danny LaRosa, Kenston's Pat Porter and Lake Catholic's Richie Sanders.

Who will be on this year's covers? Our preview publishes over four days beginning Monday.

- Howard Primer


Canal Park is a hit

The crown jewel of minor league baseball venues in Ohio is Huntington Park in Columbus, home of the Indians' Triple-A affliate, the Columbus Clippers.

Not too far behind is Canal Park in Akron. Co-workers and I checked out the home of the Aeros on Tuesday in what turned out to be a perfect night for baseball.

Baseball phenom Bryce Harper, the No. 1 overall pick in last year's draft, was on display across the diamond for the Harrisburg Senators. Harper had a rough night, but it didn't put a damper on our experience.

Canal Park is worth the visit. The stadium, which opened in 1997, takes its name from its location adjacent to the Ohio and Erie Canal, which runs behind the left-field wall, but isn't visible from your seat, or at least our seats on this night.

Speaking of our seats, it was the best view I've ever had at a ballpark, and for good reason. It could not have been any better. Behind home plate, first row. Loved it.

The entrance to Canal Park is eye-pleasing with a warehouse-type look that gets you into the baseball mood. The field is perfect, the scoreboard is huge, there's a right-field concourse with bleacher seating, a kids play area and a restaurant. Everything a baseball fan could possibly want.

Capacity is just over 9,000, and the drive from Cleveland is an easy one. If the Captains' level of play is a bit too low for you, check out the Aeros, a collection of Double-A talent two call-ups from the big leagues.

Canal Park isn't too shabby either.

- Mark Podolski

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

One more reason why I love Brett Favre

There are many reasons why I am a big Brett Favre fan and always will be.
The future Hall of Fame quarterback is a man's man for one.
He's talented, tough, sensitive, funny and compassionate all rolled into one.
He owns records that may never be broken including his consecutive streak of 297 games over 19 seasons as a starting quarterback.
He fought through pain, injuries and heartbreak to keep the streak alive.
Even the death of his father couldn't keep him off the field.
One day after his father died, Favre played in a Monday Night Football game in which he passed for 399 yards in a 41-7 win over Oakland on Dec. 22, 2003. He completed 73.3% of his passes and finished the game with a 154.9 passer rating - the highest in his career and just 3.4 points shy of perfection.
Favre played with so much heart that it was refreshing to watch him game after game.
Earlier in the week when Browns quarterback Colt McCoy said he called Favre for tips on the West Coast offense during the NFL lockout, I wasn't surprised to hear Favre invited McCoy to come to his home in Mississippi.
Favre even picked McCoy up at the airport.
Can you imagine?
It's just one more reason why Favre will forever be my all-time favorite NFL player.

-Theresa Neuhoff Audia

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Too bad for Andorra

Earlier this year, I took time in this space to pay tribute to the five proud yet unfortunate countries who made up the absolute bottom of the FIFA world rankings. They were San Marino, Montserrat, Anguilla, American Samoa and Papua New Guinea.

Fast forward to August, and we have a new team in the bottom four with, sadly, zero points in the rankings.

Welcome to the bottom, Andorra.

For those of you who can't dominate Sporcle geography like I (sadly) can, allow me to throw some knowledge at you. Andorra is a tiny landlocked nation tucked into the Pyrenees mountains surrounded by Spain and France. It's a little more than twice the size of Cleveland.

It's a beautiful country, but it's just not particularly good at soccer (although their stadium looks awesome).

Andorra's all-time record is 3-86-9. Their goal differential is minus-242. Their last win was in 2006. They have scored 31 goals in their history and have been shut out all-time by Belgium, China, Croatia, England, Faroe Islands (Faroe Islands?!?), Finland, France, Gabon, Iceland, Netherlands, Slovakia, Spain and Ukraine.

A lot of those teams are really good. A lot of those teams are really not.

Things have been looking up a little lately, though. In two Euro 2012 qualifying matches this year against Slovakia, a top-30 squad, both were 1-0 losses.

And more young players seem to be working their way to other leagues in Europe, including a few in Spain.

Hey, it's a start.

- Chris Lillstrung

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Thank you, whoever you are

The strangest thing happened to my son and I on Monday night.

The two of us took in the Captains game. For me, it was chance to check out Chin-Soo Choo in a rehab start. For my son Sam, 2, it was a chance to gaze at the field and his surroundings while woofing down a hot dog, french fries, chips and a drink.

He was having the time of his life, and actually sat in his seat for three innings! Then, on our way to the pressbox to visit News-Herald peers David S. Glasier and Jim Ingraham a very nice woman turned the corner, took one look at my son, asked how old he was, and gave him a baseball, his first ever at a game.

After Sam said thank you, the woman disappeared around another corner. She never told me her name, so whoever you are thank you for making my son's day.

He walked through Classic Park the rest of the night proudly holding his newest prized possession. In a world so cruel at times, a simple act of kindness by this mystery woman can make all the difference.

- Mark Podolski

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

XC season is in session, watch for kids running on the streets

Cross country season is here and that means area high school kids will be running on the streets to train.
Recently, I talked to a high school coach who was dismayed over the complaints he/she has been receiving about his/her kids running on the streets in his/her community.
Come on.
Who complains about kids running in the street?
These kids aren't running in the middle of the road.
They are running safely on the sides of streets.
They do this daily. They aren't out to get hurt and make drivers miserable. They are out there often in groups minding their own business.
If anything, drivers in the community should beep and wave while they pass high school runners.
Hand out water, set up a water station, cheer the kids along.
Aren't there enough problems in the world?
Save your complaints for real problems.
Leave the kids who are training on the streets alone.
They are just out having fun, doing what they love.
They are healthy, happy and full of life.
Give them the space they need.
Let the kids run.

-Theresa Neuhoff Audia

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Ohio State might have receiver problems

Alright I know, it was only the first practice of the season on Monday for the Ohio State football team.

I know the players weren't wearing pads, and I know any player is bound to have a rough day.

But that being said, if Monday is any indication, Ohio State might have some issues at receiver this season. Aside from DeVier Posey, no one really stood out - and Posey has to sit out the first five games of the season to serve a suspension.

Posey looked phenomenal in his practice time, as usual.

The best receivers besides him were a former quarterback (Verlon Reed) and a former running back/part-time running back (Jordan Hall).

Admittedly, I was excited to see what 6-5 Shaw product T.Y. Williams would do this year all offseason. But he was pretty bad on Monday, and reports are he wasn't much better on Tuesday, with his hands.

Harvey product Chris Fields looked decent, but not spectacular.

Some of the best hands looked to belong to freshmen Evan Spencer and Devin Smith.

What does it all mean? Perhaps not much. After all, it's just the first week of practice.

But the fact remains OSU has to replace the productivity of Dane Sanzenbacher while also covering up for Posey's absence the first four games.

I'm not convinced the Buckeyes will be able to do that.

A lot can change in the coming weeks. If the Buckeyes are going to have any kind of balanced offense, things are going to have to change.

- John Kampf

Monday, August 8, 2011

Fantasy baseball turns nightmare

Maybe it is time to retire from playing fantasy baseball.

This isn't sour grapes, it is just a punch-in-the-face reality that maybe I'm not cut out to be successful in this activity.

Currently, my team is the 2nd HIGHEST scoring team in the News-Herald league. I am only 20 points behind the leader, who happens to be 11-6 and solidly in the playoff chase. My team averages 223 point per week - for the season. What's that gotten me? A ticket toward a last-place finish as I'm cellar dwelling at 6-11.

I have faced opponent who have scored 3,800-plus points. My opponents are averaging 231 points per week.It's easy to win when the team you play only goes for 195 a week. I'd be a winner too most of the time.

You can draft well, make solid moves during the year, put up big points consistently, but if your weekly opponent just keeps throwing up huge numbers you are in lots of trouble. It is conceivable I could win the high point total for the league and finish in last place.

Sour grapes? Nope. Just crush those grapes and bring the wine to my fantasy baseball retirement party.

It's just not in the cards for me to win, I guess. Oh, well. There is always football season.

- Bill Tilton

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sweet music: Choo's crack of the bat

I've always believed the difference between a major-league hitter and a minor-league hitter is the sound the ball makes off the bat.

Case in point Sunday at Classic Park. Shin Soo Choo, recovering from a broken left thumb, is ahead of schedule in his bid to return to the Indians' lineup before September.

The outfielder took batting practice with the Captains before their night game on Sunday, and Choo didn't disappoint, looking and sounding good.

Choo didn't talk much after the workout. His bat did all the talking, and it sounded so good. No offense to the Captains players who joined him in the batting cage, but the ball coming off Choo's bat sounded different. Major-league different.

Maybe it was Choo's bats, or the fact his swing is major-league ready, and contact is that much more precise coming off his bat. Either way, there is no sweeter sound in sports than the ball meeting the wood of a major-league hitter.

I can't explain why. It just does. Watching - and listening - to Choo take batting practice was mesmerizing. He sprayed the ball to all fields, and even took aim at the Captains' batting practice building way beyond the right-field fence. The swing looked effortless, but the ball sprang off the bat.

Choo's swing sounded that good, and he's not even 100 percent back from his broken thumb. It was sweet enough.

- Mark Podolski

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English fantasy soccer - and not the EPL

It's good to see you again, fantasy football.

No, not the NFL (looking forward to that, too). The other kind of football.

The English season started this week in the lower leagues - the Championship, League 1 and League 2, which are the divisions below the Premier League that commences next weekend. I did my part to celebrate by joining a Championship (second division) fantasy league - Texaco Fantasy Football - for the second straight year.

The terms and conditions say I'm eligible to participate in the contest despite being all the way in the United States. The prizes are great, but I don't know if I can even win them.

Still, here I am, looking forward to seeing what happens. It's a game I enjoy playing.

I think I picked a solid starting XI to start the Championship campaign - GK Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester City), D Curtis Davies (Birmingham), Jason Shackell (Derby), Craig Cathcart (Blackpool), Ian Harte (Reading), MF Kevin Nolan (West Ham), John Eustace (Watford), Gary McSheffrey (Coventry), Ryan Tunnicliffe (Peterborough), F Frederic Piquionne (West Ham), Robert Earnshaw (Cardiff).

Nolan is the best player in the division, coming down from Newcastle. Davies seemed on track to be a consistent England international while at Aston Villa before injuries derailed him a bit. Earnshaw is a proven goal scorer playing close to home in Wales.

So will this group net me prizes I may not be able to claim? We'll see, but so far so good. Davies and Shackell both scored goals Sunday, and Schmeichel recorded a shutout.

(Watch Championship managers react to the opening weekend HERE.)

I don't know if I'm bound for Wembley, but I'll give it a go.

- Chris Lillstrung

Friday, August 5, 2011

Tiger's REAL return is going to take time

You expected something similar to Rome being built in a day?

Tiger Woods struggled on Friday in the second round of the WGC Bridgestone Invitational. After looking promising in Thursday's round, shooting a 2-under 68, Woods took a little step back on Friday with a 1-over 71.

Many were surprised.

They shouldn't have been.

Prior to teeing it up on Thursday, 11 weeks had passed since Woods had last played a competitive round of golf.

In many ways, Woods is starting over again. Not only has he not played on a healthy set of legs in nearly three months, he hadn't PLAYED for nearly three months.

Woods was erratic on Friday. He missed a two-foot putt for par early in the round. He lipped out a birdie putt a hole later.

Getting to his second nine of the day, he drove the ball into the rough and took an unpenalized drop because he had hit the ball so close to the fairway. As he lined up for the next shot, he thought hard, changed his mind on what club he was using and proceeded to hit the ensuing shot into a sand bunker.

But it didn't get much better. He hit a poor sand shot and two-putted for par.

Two holes later he scored a double-bogey on a birdie-friendly Hole 6.

All the while, fans cheered his arrival to tee boxes and greens. They shouted encouragement and showed support.

Tiger is back on the course, he's just not THERE yet.

And it's going to take some time.

Woods warned everyone of this. He said that while his game felt crisp during practice rounds, playing competitive rounds were a different story.

He was right.

Whether it is because he has healthy legs for once or has fixed his swing a bit, Woods is hitting the ball farther and more crisp than ever before. It's throwing off his game a bit.

As far as his short game is concerned, the touch is on-and-off. He had 29 putts on Friday, making a few nice ones but blowing a few others.

Woods was adamant afterward that he could still win the tournament.

"Why show up at a tournament if you're not there to win?" he asked rhetorically. "There's no reason to come."

When a reporter suggested that some golfers would ratchet back expectations coming off a three-month layoff, Woods cut him off and said, "I'm not other guys."

Until he re-calibrates his distance with his clubs and regains his putting touch, that's exactly what he is.

- John Kampf

Thursday, August 4, 2011

With Williams, Scott will thrive

Adam Scott was a fine golfer before he brought Steve Williams on board as his caddie.

With Williams, Scott has a chance to be exceptional.

Championship-caliber material.

Scott leads after one day of the Bridgestone Invitational, holding a one-stroke lead over Jason Day.

To be honest, it's nothing new. Scott is a seven-time winner on the PGA Tour. And even though he is looking for his first win of the 2011 season, he knows how to win.

Adding a caddie who knows how to win better than any other caddie in the game can only help.

Williams was surprisingly let loose a few weeks back in a much-publicized separation from former boss Tiger Woods. Woods' self-inflicted loss will be Scott's gain.

There's a certain intangible Williams can add to Scott's game. As Woods' caddie for 12 years, Williams KNOWS how to win and he knows how to help a golfer win.

And the best part about it is this: Scott is willing to take the tutelage. Some golfers might feel it is beneath them to have their caddie critique their game brutally. Sometimes the truth hurts, and they're not willing to hear it.

Scott is.

"He thinks I can be as good a player as I want to be," Scott said of Williams, "but he's adamant that you've got to put the work in and I think he sees that I am putting the work in. Been a big refocus over the last year or so in my game, doing a lot of things I need to do to become better. It's all a bit of a process, but slowly and surely I think I'm seeing glimpses of it.
"He's fairly blunt in his assessment of my chipping, but I'm going to work on it."

Scott added, "It's been a fortunate situation for me, I think, and I'd like to take advantage of that. But you know, I've been very impressed with the way he caddies. He's very professional, and that's what I'm looking for in a guy out there."

No one knows for sure if Scott will hold on and win the tournament. Over the long haul, no one knows how good Scott will be or how many championships he will win.

But one thing is for certain. His chances are better with championship-tested Williams on the bag and on his team.

- John Kampf

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Graphic novels: the future of sports bios?

Graphic novels, if you were to summarize, have been the cool way to read about super heroes for some time.

They are comic books with an edge, and I've enjoyed them for a long time.

Graphic novels aren't just for super heroes, however. Author and artist Wilfred Santiago has changed that. The story of baseball great Roberto Clemente is now in graphic novel form. After reading it, I would recommend it to everyone, especially to young readers. I plan to have my son read it one day, because Clemente's tale is an interesting one.

The official title of the graphic novel is "21: The Story of Roberto Clemente." It chronicles the former Pittsburgh Pirates' life growing up in Puerto Rico, his great baseball career, his humanitarian missions and tragic end to his life on Sept. 18, 1972.

I've always been intrigued by Clemente. He's the only major-leaguer to finish his career at exactly 3,000 hits. He did so on the final day of the 1972 season. Then, in the offseason, he was flying back to his home country to assist in relief efforts following an earthquake. His plane never made it, crashing and killing all aboard.

Because of that, Clemente remains a bit of a mystery to those who never saw him play, but Santiago's graphic novel brings Clemente to life in glorious fashion, and is not be missed.

- Mark Podolski

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Golfers are intrigued by Woods, too

So you're interested to see how Tiger Woods does at the Bridgestone Invitational?

Don't think you're alone. There are 75 other golfers in the field at Firestone Country Club who are wondering the same thing.

After an 11-week layoff, what is Woods going to bring to the table when he tees off at 1:40 p.m. on Thursday afternoon? Surely he's not going to be the same guy who tied for 78th (out of 80 golfers) last year at Firestone.

But to expect him to be the player he was when he was the top player in the world is probably a little out of the question, too.

Will he control his Ruthian drives? Will his short game be there? Will the red shirt again dominate Sunday? How is this whole changing caddie thing going to work out?

No one knows.

But it is THE topic dominating Bridgestone this week. At least that's what the first two days of practice rounds suggest.

Such as these snippets from participants:

- Luke Donald, on his thoughts of Tiger's chances: His expectation is to win. ...
You know, Tiger has done it a few times. He's obviously been away through injury a few times, so he's getting used to it a little bit. But I don't know what his expectation is. Obviously he always sets his standards very high, and that's the way he should be.

- Hunter Mahan on his expectations for Woods: "It's difficult because we don't -- he's so secretive. We don't know how much of him is back. Is his leg good? Is it not good? You just don't know. Hopefully he's healthy. It seemed like this was the cutoff point for his year, either he was going to be healthy and play or he wouldn't because after this, it's kind of -- he'll probably play in China or somewhere, I don't know, but it was going to be a long time before we saw him.
I think he took -- he maybe forced it earlier in the year trying to win, trying to get back, because he's so competitive. There's no one more competitive than him, and for him to sit for a length of time again after the first ACL injury, that had to be hard for him. And him working with Foley now, I'm sure he's very eager to go out there and see what he can do on the golf course. I think it's working on the range and he's doing everything he wants to do, so I think he wants to go see it on the course. I'm sure he's somewhat curious, as everyone else, to see what he's going to do out there. I think he's pretty confident in his abilities right now, and it's good that he's -- it's great for us to go play against him because he was the standard. I think I saw kind of the -- (radio interruption) I totally lost my train of thought. I need a caddie right now to get me back focused.
He was the standard of the game that we've never seen before, getting his game back there and back to where he knows he's capable of doing because it was pretty special for a while. And I think he's -- I'm biased with Foley, but I think he's got the perfect teacher, and they're going to work on the right things, and there's no one that's going to work harder than that guy. I think he's doing all the right things right now.

- Mahan, on Woods changing caddies: "Boy, like I said, you never know what's going on with Tiger in his head. You don't know what's going on in the camp. I was surprised that Stevie started working for Adam Scott. I thought that was kind of a sign that just seemed kind of strange. So maybe that was the first indicator.
I don't know, I never really -- you never really believed it until you actually heard it. I never really did. So I was surprised that they did kind of split and go their own ways. But you know, Tiger hasn't made too many bad decisions in his career. He's made a few, but when it comes to golf, the guy trusts himself and he trusts his instincts. I feel like he's making the right decision for himself. I don't know, he's Tiger Woods. I don't know if he needs -- he may just -- it might be good for him just to have a friend out there and have it kind of relaxed out there a little bit and go back to playing golf and playing Tiger Woods and his own thoughts in his own head. I'm sure he's going to be comfortable out there. He's with a buddy. I think he'll enjoy this week for sure and have fun."

- Rory McIloy on what he expects from Woods: "I don't know. I mean, I really don't know. The last tournament he played, he had to pull out after nine holes, so I think just to see how his knee holds up over 72 holes. And if he can do that, then I think the week has been -- no one expects him to come out and play well. I'm sure he expects himself to come out and play and compete, but given the length of layoff and considering that he's only been able to hit full shots for the last two weeks or whatever, it would be an unbelievable effort if he was to come back and compete.
But I think just get through 72 holes and maybe finish in the top 20 I think would be a really good effort."

Woods is simply the biggest story of the tournament, and that isn't going to change no matter if he shoots well or not.

The only question is this: What's the bigger story - if Woods plays well or if he falls apart.

Everyone wants to know what it's going to be.

Including those he is playing with.

- John Kampf

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Breitsch brothers band together to finish 100-mile race

I am so impressed with triple brothers Nathan and Evan Breitsch.
They ran the 100 Mile Burning River Endurance Race in Willoughby together last weekend.
Their third brother, Brian, would have joined them, but he was out of town.
Nathan, a student at Ohio University, signed up for the race with friends from college. When they couldn't join him, he decided to run any way because he paid his entrance fee of $160.
Evan, who runs at Allegheny College, joined his brother at the 55-mile mark and planned to do 20 miles. Evan had never run a marathon before, but last Sunday he completed 46 miles total.
He could not leave his brother.
He felt Nathan would not be able to finish the race without his support.
What could be better than that?
I covered the Breitsch triples when they ran track and cross country at Chagrin Falls High School. Their closeness always impressed me.
When I heard they completed 100 miles together, I wasn't surprised.
The love between brothers and sisters is that powerful.

-Theresa Neuhoff Audia


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Bridgestone '11 could be something special

Imagine if Tiger Woods lives up to the words he spoke on Tuesday at Firestone Country Club.

Imagine if the former No. 1 golfer in the world actually finds his magic - and stroke - again.

What a brilliant, and memorable Bridgestone Invitational this could be.

Woods talks as if the world was finally right for him on Tuesday after a nine-hole practice round on the South Course. He comes into Firestone - a venue in which he has dominated seven times - with the healthiest body he he has had "in years" and a new caddie.

He finished tied for 78th last year.

He WILL be better this year - rest assured.

Good enough to win it? It's hard to tell.

But if he IS good enough to win it, this could be the most impressive Bridgestone perhaps in history. Especially if:

- Darren Clarke continues his impressive play displayed a few weeks ago when he won the British Open;'

- If the meteoric rise of golf's wonder boy Rory McIlroy hits another peak;

- If Phil Mickelson actually finds a good round on Sunday, which never happens here at Firestone, but one can dream;

- If Martin Kaymer puts together a championship round he did just short of a year ago when he won the PGA Championship; and

- If some others, such as the likable Padraig Harrington, stogie-puffing Miguel Jimenez or fast-riser Jason Day wins.

And consider the hoopla if, just by chance, Woods finds himself paired with Adam Scott on Saturday or Sunday. Imagine THAT cold war between Tiger and former caddie Steve Williams, who is now on the bag for Scott.

The possibilities for a remarkable and memorable Bridgestone are endless.

If Tiger is at or near the top of the leaderboard come Sunday afternoon, it would make it that much more special.

- John Kampf

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Monday, August 1, 2011

Day 1: High School Football Camp Opens

Believe it or not, it's here.
The high school football season unofficially opened Monday - or at least tried to - with the start of two-a-day practices. Some were delayed or pushed back or had time on the field cut short by lightning in the area. Any sign of lightning is a 30-minute delay under OHSAA rules.
Even with the day being cut short in many instances, it was nice to see coaching staffs back together, orange pylons on the practice field and players getting geared up for the fall of 2010.
It's fun to see returning players, new faces and everyone in between on the opening of two-a-days. It is just a different feel than any other day on the prep calendar. Just like the day after Thanksgiving signifies the beginning of the Christmas season, so Aug. 1 was the unofficial kickoff for this high school football season.
Bring it on, huh?
Some quick thoughts from a day peeking in on camps Monday:
n Mentor was on the field all of 5 minutes in the morning when the lightning flashed and sent everyone running off the turf at the JTO. It was a crowded locker room and a crowded weight room with nowhere else safe to be outside.
n South was forced off the practice field by the weather, and just outside the Athletic Director's office, a tree was struck by lightning Monday morning.
n North coach George Burich gave his team a "brunch" break in the morning to kill time waiting for the weather to pass.
n Riverside coach Dave Bors was hopeful to get a second session in after the storms as the sun came out in Painesville after noon.

- Bill Tilton