Friday, August 31, 2012

Another way to look at the public-private issue

The debate about how schools are grouped and divided in the OHSAA might as well be represented by the infinity symbol.

Will we ever see issues about competitive balance settled? Will private schools break away from the public schools and form their own organization, or vice versa?

Instead of continually arguing about the differences, maybe we need to embrace them. That's right, give schools the choice of what they want to be -- stick to traditional ways, or go all out in search of athletic supremacy.

With that in mind, I've put together guidelines for the two groups - future and traditional.

You might notice that these points are football-centric. That's OK because every public-private argument usually ends up being about football, anyway.

-- Football games will be spread out over Thursday, Friday, Saturday afternoon and Saturday evening to accommodate regional television opportunities.
-- Schools will be encouraged to open their borders to attract the best student-athletes possible in order to win more games and appease corporate sponsors.
-- Each school will be a part of a megaconference. The first eight games will be scheduled in advance. The last two will be announced after Week 8, so as to maximize computer-point and attendance potential.
-- Every school will make the playoffs, which will last until the weekend before Christmas. The seeding will be determined by a combination of computer points, a selection committee made up of retired coaches and how many Twitter followers a team's official handle has.
-- Each player will only be eligible for one sport. When that sport isn't in season, the player will do specialized offseason training and receive coaching specific to his position by an expert referred to as a "guru."
-- Preseason rankings will be based on how many Division I scholarship offers a team has and its combined star rankings on recruiting websites.
-- Bands and cheerleaders would be considered unnecessary expenses. That money would used on strength and conditioning equipment.
-- On national signing day, afternoon classes will be canceled so the school can hold a pep rally and look good when its blue-chip prospects make their college choices on live television.

-- Students can only play sports in the district they and their families live in -- the entire immediate family.
-- The coaching staff will only consist of teachers at the school.
-- Conferences will have eight schools. They will play three nonconference games, followed by seven league games.
-- There will be no playoffs in football. The last game of the season will be against a neighborhood rival, and it will have a nickname like "The Big Game." A trophy will be on the line, something like a hubcap found on the side of the road, half in one team's city, half in the other's -- because things like that happen for a reason.
-- The end of football season will be followed by a mandatory week off before winter sports begin. No practice, no conditioning, no film, no anything (besides studying).
-- Players will not be allowed to wear wristbands with codes written on them. The only plays a team can run are the ones everyone remembers.
-- Teams can travel no farther than 20 miles on a school night, or 50 on a weekend. Schools in rural areas will be allowed a surplus, measured in country miles.
-- No sports drinks during timeouts. Only water.
-- All fans will voluntarily buy a strip of 50/50 raffle tickets, then give back a portion of the pot if they win.
-- On national signing day, students will fax letters of intent to their colleges of choice in the morning and then go to class.

- Howard Primer

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Football picks: Week 1

Each week during the football season, Sports Editor Mark Podolski will pick NFL, college and high school games.

This is the second year I'm putting my football knowledge (which isn't much) on the line. The only prediction from last season I'm patting myself on the back for was getting the winner and the score of the Division V state title game, won by Kirtland, 28-7, right.

The plan in 2012 is to try for two. Since the NFL season is a week away, we'll go with four college games and one high school. Here week go:



Boise State (+7.5) at Michigan State: The Spartans are generating buzz as having one of the nation's top defenses. I agree. Prediction: Michigan 27-13


Alabama vs. Michigan (+11) at Cowboys Stadium: Michigan should be very good in 2012 with QB Denard Robinson, but probably not as good as the Crimson Tide. Prediction: Alabama 28-24

Miami (Ohio) (+20.5) at Ohio State: Coach Urban Meyer wants his Buckeyes to be angry. Let's hope his team is better than the 6-7 record from last year first. Prediction: Ohio State 34-10

Ohio (+15.5) at Penn State: Many are saying the Bobcats are the best of the Mid-American Conference. You know what everyone is saying about Penn State football. Let the doom and gloom begin in Happy Valley. Prediction: Ohio 21-17



Mayfield at South: Last week, Kareem Hunt went video game on NDCL with 460 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns. Mayfield needed overtime to beat Nordonia, and hopes to keep up with the Rebels' offense with its spread attack. The Wildcats' defense will be the key and must contain Hunt. Prediction: South 34-20

- Mark Podolski | @MPodo

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

New running shoes from a speciality store are worth every penny

Today was a milestone day in my life.
For the first time in all my years of running, I finally broke down and bought a real pair of running shoes.
I went to Second Sole in Mentor where Doug helped me pick out the perfect pair.
He started by measuring my feet. I don't think I've had my feet measured since I was a little girl trying on shoes at Januzzi's in downtown Lorain with my parents many years ago.
After Doug figured out my size, he checked out my feet to see what type of support I needed.
Then he patiently brought out pair after pair of awesome running shoes.
Since the last pair of shoes I bought were worthless Reebok EasyTone running shoes (on sale at T.J. Maxx for $24.99), I was super impressed with the service I was getting.
Honestly, it was a nice change of pace to try on so many styles.
We narrowed it down to a cool light blue pair of Brooks which fit every category I was looking for - good support, cool design and light weight.
The bargain basement shoes I blogged about a few weeks ago were making my feet numb by the third mile of my runs. At first, I thought I tied the laces too tight. But even when I loosened the laces up, the shoes hurt my feet.
That's what you get when you buy cheap shoes.
Now I don't have any excuses.
I will have to go out and put these new Brooks to the test.
The good news is, I can return the shoes if I'm not satisfied. But I doubt I'll be doing that. The shoes felt like a pair of slippers in the store. I'm sure these babies won't make my feet numb after the third mile.
I can't wait to try them out.

-Theresa Neuhoff Audia

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Sunday, August 26, 2012

A new fantasy football strategy

With our annual News-Herald fantasy football league draft Sunday morning, I decided to employ a new strategy.

After years of compiling cheat sheets and extensive - admittedly sometimes far too extensive - research, this time the "don't overthink" option made the most sense.

That meant no prior research, no discussing who was the better eighth option at running back with others. Nothing.

That meant looking at what position I wanted in a particular round, the top 3-4 options according to ESPN's PPR (points per reception league) board and trusting my instinct.

There have been years during which I have actually compiled cheat sheet rankings by taking multiple cheat sheets, averaging their rankings together and using that as my own.

In the end, though, does it really give you all that much of a competitive advantage?

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy fantasy football a lot. It just seems like, if because of a variety of factors you may end up at .500 or a league champion while doing significant research or not doing so at all, you might as well not.

In the end, I think I did all right. Drafting No. 8 in the 12-team N-H league, here's what I ended up with as a team:

1QB: Eli Manning, NYG
2QB: Josh Freeman, TB
1RB: Trent Richardson, CLE
2RB: Jonathan Stewart, CAR
3RB: Kevin Smith, DET
4RB: Michael Bush, CHI
1WR: Larry Fitzgerald, ARI
2WR: Roddy White, ATL
3WR: Anquan Boldin, BAL
4WR: Kenny Britt, TEN
5WR: Nate Burleson, DET
1TE: Vernon Davis, SF
2TE: Coby Fleener, IND
1DEF/ST: Houston
2DEF/ST: Atlanta
1K: Alex Henery, PHI

So much of fantasy football strategy is reliant on depth and luck. Let's see what happens.

- Chris Lillstrung | @CLillstrungNH

Friday, August 24, 2012

North-South at Classic Park: How long will the novelty last?

My colleague John Kampf recently wrote that one of high school football's appeals is fans get the action, excitement and community atmosphere of a sporting event without the expense of going to a professional game.

South and North are going to test that Oct. 26, when the Civil War football game is moved to Classic Park.

Tickets are $8 in advance ($5 for students) and $10 at the gate. A 16-person suite can be purchased for $560 ($35 per person). Parking in the city lot is $5.

Prediction: The novelty of playing a high school football game in a minor-league baseball stadium will wear off fast.

The first priority, as it is when games are played at Cleveland Browns Stadium or with basketball games at Quicken Loans Arena and baseball at Progressive Field and Classic Park, is giving the players an opportunity to have a lifelong memory.

The benefits of playing football at Classic Park drop off quickly after that.

Participants talked about drawing 6,000 fans for the game. I wouldn't assume that. Just billing it as South-North won't be enough. Further incentive is needed to get fans to pay more.

South is expected to be one of the top teams in the area this year, possibly going into the game with a 9-0 record. North isn't. The Rangers are replacing 18 of 22 starters. So this game might not have playoff or Premier Athletic Conference championship implications. But the prices will.

Fans who have watched a college bowl game played at a major-league stadium know about another issue: Baseball ballparks were not designed for football. Some of the seats will have great views of the field. But many fans will be sitting at odd angles and craning their necks to see around those in front of them.

Another issue involves the turf, although that problem is more for the city of Eastlake and the Lake County Captains. It will cost $20,000 to prepare the field.

This game might do well the first time because of the novelty. But if the Rangers and Rebels come into the 2013 game without the playoffs or a PAC title on the line as a drawing card, the prospects of paying $8 to $10 plus parking won't seem appealing.

Better get the fireworks ready.

- Howard Primer

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Lake Catholic volleyball program is rich in tradition

As a newcomer to The News-Herald volleyball beat, I was curious to check out a preseason practice at Lake Catholic High School.
What struck me as I walked into the gym was how many girls were actually at the practice 30 minutes before it was set to begin. In various sports at some schools, athletes stroll into practice about five minutes before its scheduled start.
Not the Cougars.
This group was ready to roll.
One explanation could be the success the program has had during Rich Severino's 23 years as head coach. Over the past four years alone, the Cougars have won a Division II state championship (2010), finished as the state runner-up (2009) and been one trip away from state twice, losing in the regional final game (2008, 2011).
The Cougars have set the bar high and this year is no exception.
With two Division I players on their roster, the team is poised to make another run to state.
Leading the way will be 6-foot-1, junior setter/right side hitter Abby Detering, who has verbally committed to Florida, and 5-5 senior libero Sammy Kline who has committed to Duquesne.
When you have two Division I players on your squad, it's got to set the tone for the rest of the players.
It's got to give them a lot of confidence going into games in which opponents will be gunning for them, just because they are Lake Catholic.
What a great atmosphere to compete in.
Of course it makes the players want to come to practice early. It's also got to make the players want to dream big and think this could be their year, just like it was for the players who came before them.
The sky is the limit for the experienced Cougars who are proven winners.
It will be fun to see what they can accomplish this year.

-Theresa Neuhoff Audia

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Fantasy football Q&As, predictions

Before we get started, The News-Herald is hosting a Fantasy Football Q&A night at its office at 7085 Mentor Ave. in Willoughby on Wednesday at 7 p.m. Food and soft drinks will be provided plus prizes. To RSVP, email Sports Editor Mark Podolski at or call 440-951-0000, x680. 

OK, let's get into a few fantasy football questions and answers and predictions:


1. Will Cam Newton repeat last season's fantasy year? Doubtful, but it will be close. As a rookie, Newton threw for more than 4,000 yards as a rookie and had 35 total touchdowns, including a whopping 14 rushing TDs. Expect closer to 3,000 passing yards, 20-plus TD passes, somewhere around eight rushing TDs and more than 500 rushing yards. Don't be afraid to take Newton early.

2. Where should Vikings RB Adrian Peterson be drafted? The earliest I would take Peterson is Round 3, which means I likely won't have AP on my fantasy team. The first two picks on a fantasy team must produce and the question with the mega-talented Peterson is how much he will produce. He suffered a serious knee injury late last season, and right now it's too much of a gamble to expect elite numbers from Peterson in 2012.

3. Is it safe to take a quarterback in Round 1? YES, YES, YES. After Ray Rice, LaShaun McCoy and Arian Foster, the rest of the running backs out there all have questions. Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady do not. Don't hesitate taking one of these guys early in Round 1.

4. Who are some mid- to late-round round sleepers? QB: Colts' Andrew Luck, Bears' Jay Cutler, Falcons' Matt Ryan; RB: Bengals' Ben-Jarvis Green Ellis, Chiefs' Peyton Hillis, Giants' Ahmad Bradshaw; WR: Lions' Titas Young, Steelers' Antonio Brown, Patriots' Brandon Lloyd 

5. Will Trent Richardson produce No. 1 RB numbers? The short answer is NO. However, Richardson is mega-talented, but two factors will stunt his fantasy production this season. First, he basically missed the entire preseason recovering from minor knee surgery. Second, the Browns will be counting on a number of rookies, Richardson included, on offense. That rarely rarely bodes well in fantasy. Richardson is a year away.


1. The Titans' Chris Johnson won't return to 2009 form (2,509 yards rushing and receiving, 16 total TDs), but he'll be great again in 2012 with at least 1,400 rushing yards and more than 10 total touchdowns. A nice value pick in Round 1.

2. Unless there's a quick upgrade at QB in Arizona, this is the year to stay away from Larry Fitzgerald as a top pick. The depth at WR is too great in later rounds.

3. Broncos QB Peyton Manning outscores his younger brother, Eli of the Giants, but it's close.

4. Speaking of the Broncos, WR Eric Decker will be this year's version of the Packers' Jordy Nelson and Victor Cruz of the Giants.

5. The Colts' Andrew Luck is the rookie QB to own this year in fantasy, not the Redskins' Robert Griffin III.

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Talk about a long road trip

In taking a glance through The News-Herald area high school football schedule for the season, one game caught my eye. It wasn't because of X's and O's or respective reputation of the teams, but rather the distance involved.

In Week 5, Villa Angela-St. Joseph will host Portsmouth Notre Dame.

Nonconference football games between teams which normally don't see one another is a common occurrence as schools look to fill their schedules as best they can.

But this might be especially significant because it's almost impossible to stage a game between two Ohio teams that are further away from each other.

Thanks to Google Earth, here's Portsmouth Notre Dame ...

... and here's VASJ (yes I know they play at Sparky DiBiasio Stadium; this is just a comparison) ...

... and here's how far away they are from each other:

That's 243 miles between the schools, or 4 hours, 26 minutes according to Google Earth.

Talk about a fun bus ride.

In comparison, let's say we put together the schools - albeit far from our coverage area - on the northeasternmost and southwesternmost points of Ohio in a theoretical nonconference game.

Conneaut is the northeastern point...

... and North Bend Taylor is the southwestern point ...

That would amount to this:

It's a 328-mile odyssey that, according to Google Earth, would take 5 hours, 39 minutes.


So while it may not literally be the longest theoretical road trip for a high school football game in Ohio, that Week 5 VASJ-Portsmouth Notre Dame encounter proves once more that when it comes to filling a schedule, you've got to do what you've got to do.

- Chris Lillstrung | @CLillstrungNH

Friday, August 17, 2012

Hernandez shouldn't have been allowed to make starts in minors

Associated Press
Indians pitcher Roberto Hernandez made four minor-league starts while serving a three-week suspension for playing under the false name Fausto Carmona.

Going by the result of his first start of 2012 with the Indians on Wednesday, an 8-4 loss to the Angels, they didn't help much.

Even if Hernandez was better prepared to return to the big leagues after those outings, he shouldn't have been allowed to make them.

Players under suspension from the big leagues shouldn't be allowed to participate in official games with affiliated teams.

Hernandez's four minor-league turns should have been taken by pitchers who were eligible for competition.

- Howard Primer

Thursday, August 16, 2012

New prep audiocast on deck

The N-H Varsity Insider weekly audiocast is a new feature set for this fall, featuring area football coaches, players and insight from staff writer John Kampf.

Listen to the first installment this Monday with interviews with returning co-Fisher Award winners running back Kareem Hunt of South and quarterback Mitch Trubisky of Mentor. Weekly discussions with area football coaches will follow.

The audiocast will be available at

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Harvey picked the right coach to turn its program around

Harvey's first-year football coach Michael Tucci has his work cut out for him this year.
He is taking over a program which has gone 16-34 over the past five years.
Last year, the Raiders won one game.
How is he going to turn it around?
He's going to start by instilling a winning attitude in the minds of his players. He wants them to forget the past few years. He wants them to think of themselves as winners even though they haven't won a single game yet.
How is he going to achieve that?
He is going to care more.
Not that coaches in the past haven't cared at Harvey. I'm sure they all have.
It's just obvious to me that Tucci cares.
He is at Harvey for the long haul. He wants to transform the program this year and for many years to come. He wants the community to support his team and he wants his players to achieve their dreams. Overall, he wants to make an impact.
At practice Wednesday afternoon, it was obvious Tucci is already doing that.
Players talked about the discipline they have this year. They talked about hanging out with the right crowds, doing well in school and putting in the hard work.
They don't want to be just average this year.
They are striving for perfection on and off the field.
When I was interviewing them for the preview, I felt the need to tell them that even if they don't win a game, they are already winners. In the middle of the summer heat, they were working their butts off. That is impressive to see.
What they are doing now will impact them for the rest of their lives.
Hopefully, they are building a solid foundation in Tucci's first year as head coach. These kids can work with Tucci to change the culture at Harvey.
It's not going to happen over night.
It's going to take some time.
But it's already happening.

-Theresa Neuhoff Audia

Michael Tucci has been hired as the next head football coach at Harvey.

Tucci was the quarterbacks coach last year at Maple Heights. He has been a head coach at Mt. Gilead and an assistant at Warren Champion, East Liverpool and Lisbon Beaver.

Tucci takes over for Marwin Walling, who stepped down at the end of last season. Former Harvey coach Devlin Culliver briefly accepted the position before deciding to take the head coaching job at Maple Heights instead. Tucci was approved at a board meeting on May 23.

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Sunday, August 12, 2012

London Olympics lived up to hopes

I still remember sitting on the runway at Gatwick Airport outside London with my wife on July 6, 2005 as we finished a seemingly once-in-a-lifetime vacation.

Moments before our flight took off for Cleveland, the pilot came on the PA and announced the International Olympic Committee had awarded the 2012 Summer Games to London.

A round of applause ensued through the plane, and shortly thereafter I leaned over to my wife and said, "I want to be there in 2012."

Unfortunately, that dream didn't come to fruition. But it has been a thrill to watch the Olympics these last two weeks nonetheless.

First and foremost, the highlight has been witnessing the United States as our athletes racked up more than 100 medals won, turning a competitive head-to-head competition at the top of the medal count with China into a runaway.

It's also been about emotion, the athletes' tears of joy as the national anthem played as they realized their goals and for a moment reminisced about their journeys.

It's been about the backdrop of one of the world's great cities, as one portion of it - for a while almost forgotten and passed over by time - was revitalized and in turn welcomed the world.

As the world heads back home, London will turn its Olympic venues into a legacy. The Olympic Village will become a residential area. The Olympic Stadium will continue to host track and field, and it appears revered English soccer club West Ham has the inside track to make the facility its new home. The aquatics center will also host events but also open its doors to the public.

There are also plans to open an Olympic Museum there in 2014.

One thing is for sure: When it comes to the Olympics, the thought of taking in the whole experience, my thought in 2012 is the same as it was in 2005.

I want to be there.

Maybe one day, I will.

- Chris Lillstrung | @CLillstrung

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Best movie QBs of all-time

The football season is fast-approaching so for no particular reason or than that, it's time to rank the best movie quarterbacks of all-time.

Quarterbacks must be fictional, so QBs from films based on true stories such as "We are Marshall," "Remember the Titans" and "Friday Night Lights" are out of consideration. We'll keep the list to the top 5. Remember this is one man's list. Here we go:

1. Levander "Bird" Williams from "Wildcats" (1986): Played by Mykelti Washington, best known for his role as Forrest Gump's Vietnam buddy, Levander was the man when he finally agreed to play for Coach Goldie Hawn's inner-city rag-tag team in this '80s cult classic. His performance in the city championship game was one for the ages. Real-life comparison: Cam Newton.

2. Reno Hightower from "Best of Times" (1986): Played by Kurt Russell, the film is about a man (Robin Williams) having a mid-life crisis years after dropping a pass from Hightower in the high school game of his life. Hightower is back for a reunion game, but does Williams take advantage of a second chance and make the immaculate reception? One thing's for sure, Russell comes to play. Real-life comparison: Joe Namath.

3. Paul Blake from "Necessary Roughness" (1991): Scott Bakula plays an over-the-hill, 30-something has-been from the country who plays for a small Texas college. The movie's ridiculously bad, but the diminutive Bakula is ridiculously good. Real-life comparison: Doug Flutie.

4. Joe Kane from "The Program" (1993): Speaking of ridiculous, this film about an out-of-control renegade college football program has all the stereotypes and Kane (Craig Sheffer) plays his role of an alcoholic QB with Heisman hopes so bad, it's good. Real-life comparison: Kerry Collins.

5. Johnny Walker from "Johnny Be Good (1988): Another one for the it's-so-bad-it's-good bin. If you can get past that Anthony Michael Hall played a dweeb in "The Breakfast Club" you might - I stress might - think the actor could pass for a QB. I say yes. For those wondering, Hall plays Walker, the nation's top QB recruit, who not very big. Still, he mulls offers and plenty of extra benefits from the big schools before settling on staying home to play for the local college. Real-life comparison: Colt McCoy.

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Reebok's EasyTone running shoes may not be a bargain afterall

I was desperate for new running shoes today so I went to my two favorite stores, Marshall's and T.J. Maxx.
Obviously, I am not a running shoe connoisseur.
I am too frugal to shop at a running shoe specialty shop. But I may start treating myself.
On my first stop at Marshall's, the selection was slim.
Being the frugal shopper I am, I started looking in the clearance section, but couldn't find any running shoes in my size. Then I went to the regularly priced area where there were plenty of gray and black shoes, but no cool white ones.
Cool white shoes with highlights of color are a priority for me. Shoes that have a lot of cushion are also a priority.
Again, I am no shoe expert.
When I couldn't find what I liked at Marshall's, my next stop was T.J. Maxx.
Sitting there on display were cool white shoes with pink highlights.
The price of $24.99 was right so I tried a pair of Reebok EasyTone shoes on. They fit, but I felt a little off balanced when I stood up. But how could I go wrong with these shoes, they have "moving air technology," - whatever that means. Also, they were the only cool shoes available in my size (with lots of cushion).
So I bought them.
But now I am rethinking my purchase.
When I did a quick search of Reebok EasyTone shoes, I came up with a website that linked me to the Federal Trade Commission.
Oh, this can't be good.
According to the FTC report which was released Sept. 28, 2011, the shoes were at a bargain price for a reason.
"In its ongoing effort to stem overhyped advertising claims, the Federal Trade Commission announced that Reebok International Ltd. has agreed to resolve charges that the company deceptively advertised "toning shoes," which it claimed would provide extra tone and strength to leg and buttock muscles. Reebok will pay $25 million as part of the settlement agreement."
Being the stubborn woman I am, I am going to keep the shoes and try them out.
Really, how bad can they be?
They have to be better than the old worn out New Balanced shoes I have now (which I bought on clearance for $35 at Marshall's by the way).
Maybe one day I'll learn and go to a real shoe store.
For now, I'll take my bargain and run with it.

-Theresa Neuhoff Audia

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Monday, August 6, 2012

Ray Chapman's death detailed in graphic novel

I stumbled upon a graphic novel at the library titled, "Hit by Pitch: Ray Chapman, Carl Mays and the Fatal Fastball."

If you're an Indians fan and interested in baseball history, it shouldn't be a surprise Chapman played for the Indians in the early years of the 1900s. Or the fact he's the only player in Major League Baseball history to die from an injury inflicted on the field.

What was eye-opening is the tale of the players involved, Chapman and Yankees pitcher Carl Mays. Molly Lawless' graphic novel is a riveting, tragic tale with unique, revealing drawings.

From the beginning, the tale of Chapman and Mays is strange. They were born the same year (1891) in Kentucky 150 miles apart from each other.

Mays, a pitcher, was not a likable character, while Chapman was as charismatic as they come. Think a modern-day Omar Vizquel and, say, John Rocker.

Chapman married the daughter of East Ohio Gas Company president Martin Daly. In the offseason, he was the treasurer-secretary of Pioneer Alloys. As a player, Chapman wasn't much of a hitter, but was quick on the basepaths and a superb fielder.

According to the novel, teammates of Mays called him "sulky" and "an odd bird." Sportswriter F.C. Lane summed up Mays this way: "A strange, cynical figure ... virtually friendless."

Off the field, Mays was the loner and Chapman was the darling. On the field, Mays, a side-arm right-hander, was the brushback artist and Chapman the plate crowder. When they met at the Polo Grounds in New York in 1920, their encounter was fatal.

The first pitch from Mays to Chapman struck the Indians shortstop in the left temple. Indians coach Jack McAllister said he heard "an explosive sound." One account said Chapman's left eye was hanging from its socket.

Chapman was taken to the locker room and the game resumed. On the field, Mays complained to the umpire the ball did not hit Chapman, claiming the batter was faking injury. Wally Pipp, who famously lost his first-base job to Lou Gehrig, intervened, telling Mays to stop.

Lawless portrays Mays as an uncaring individual for most of the novel, but a moving drawing of a distraught Mays in the locker room is powerful stuff.

Chapman was rushed to a hospital, but died the next morning. The story does not end there. The aftermath was a story in itself.

Mays was called a murderer, and many players in the league, including the Tigers' Ty Cobb, wanted payback. Indians players wrote and signed a petition stating they would refuse to participate in any game Mays was pitching. The only one not to sign was Indians manager Tris Speaker, who was convinced Chapman's death was an accident. Eventually, the petition went away, but the hatred toward Mays did not.

Mays never contacted Chapman's wife after his death, nor did he attend the funeral. Mays, who died in 1971, insisted attending the funeral would do more damage than good.

The first interview he conducted in the midst of the controversy only added fuel to fire. Mays said he was "absolutely blameless," and that "it was the umpire's fault" for not replacing a ball that was roughed up.

As for the fatal pitch, there is a belief it was a strike. Chapman was well known as a player who hung over the plate. Mays' side-arm delivery only made matters worse, since side-arm pitches are generally difficult to see.

Things only got worse for Mays the next season, as he was accused of throwing a game during the 1921 World Series. Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who famously banned many from the 1919 White Sox accused of throwing the Series, found no proof of foul play and did nothing to Mays.

As for the memory of Chapman, a service was held on Sept. 3, 1920 at League Park in his honor. Unfortunately, years later in 1928, Chapman's wife, Katy, committed suicide. Daughter Rae Marie, born in1921, died a year after her mother's suicide after contracting the measles.

A 175-pounder bronze plaque dedicated to Chapman hung at the entrance of League Park until that facility was abandoned for Municipal Stadium in the 1940s. During the move, Chapman's plaque was packed up and lost ... until 2007, when, by accident, it was found. The plaque has since been fully restored and installed at Heritage Park at Progressive Field.

As for the tale of Chapman and Mays, I'm a bit embarrassed I didn't know the details behind this terrible tragedy. Sports history fascinates me, and this story is as fascinating and tragic.

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Team GB pride at the Olympics

In addition to the obvious pride of watching Team USA perform well thus far at the London  Olympics, it's also been fun to watch the pride of Great Britain on display as it cheers on its own on home soil.

That fact was probably never more evident than Saturday as British track and field star Jessica Ennis wrapped up an Olympic gold medal in heptathlon, and then Sunday when Andy Murray won gold in men's tennis at Wimbledon.

Ennis is a face of these Games if there ever was one - her image is on virtually every billboard in that country advertising the Olympics, and it's also a familiar image all over the Internet because of how much her country has invested in her potential success.

Murray's story is well known throughout the sports world, in large part to fans who don't follow tennis closely, because of the incredible pressure he faces every year Wimbledon comes around because a British player hasn't won that storied tournament since 1936.

Great Britain takes its sports seriously - with no exaggeration, athletes who perform well on the grandest stages can usually expect to be knighted.

Ennis and Murray both brought great pride to their host nation by grabbing gold.

The roar in the Olympic Stadium as Ennis crossed the line to win the 800-meter run and subsequently secure the heptathlon title was overwhelming, and it's probably fair to say Roger Federer hasn't seen such a hostile environment as facing a British player at Wimbledon in the Olympic gold medal final.

You can see Murray's ceremony here and Ennis' ceremony here.

Of course hearing our national anthem brings out the most pride, but for me it's also pretty cool in a secondary sense to watch British athletes overcome as "God Save The Queen" plays during a medal ceremony.

Much like how American athletes probably felt winning gold in Atlanta, it has to be the ultimate for British athletes to do the same in an Olympics at home.

- Chris Lillstrung | @CLillstrungNH

Friday, August 3, 2012

Oscar Pistorius' so-called advantage

Associated Press
I can't wrap my head around this idea that Oscar Pistorius has an advantage over his fellow competitors in the Olympics.

Pistorius, who had both of his legs amputated below the knee before he turned 1, runs the 400 meters for South Africa.

I've read about the studies done on Pistorius and his prosthetics -- he can swing his legs faster because they're lighter, but the prosthetics take longer to get going at the start of a race (Sports Illustrated covered it in depth in this week's issue, but you need to be subscriber to get to the story at

What I can't get past is how can someone who's missing the bottom of both of his legs have an advantage in anything?

Forget science. To me, the truest test of prosethetics will come when an able-bodied runner voluntarily has one or both legs amputated in order to gain the so-called advantage of using artificial devices.

-- Howard Primer

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Football Hall of Fame preps for 50th anniversary

The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton is finishing what Joe Horrigan calls Phase 1 of its Future 50 renovation project.

That includes the addition of a 17,000 square feet wing called the Ralph Wilson Research and Preservation Center. Named after the former Buffalo Bills owner, it's will be the archives wing of the Hhall. Horrigan said it will display as many as 20 million paper documents about the history of pro football.

Another project to promote the Hall's 50th anniversary doesn't include 20 million pages (to Horrigan's delight, I'm sure) - 295 to be exact - but it's impressive nonetheless. The Hall has published a book celebrating 50 years simply titled, "The Pro Football Hall of Fame 50th Anniversary Book: Where Greatness Lives."

Horrigan, the Hall's vice president of communications/exhibits, and John Thorn edited the book, which took just under two years to complete. Their work is impressive. If you've never been to the Hall, flipping through the pages is the next best thing.

"That is what we tried to do, among other things," said Horrigan about the book, now in stores. "For people who haven't been (to the Hall), it's a chance to see some of the really fine exhibits we have to offer."

The coffee table-sized book's chapters chronicle each decade beginning with the early days of the game (1892 to 1919), then each decade thereafter. The last chapter is the Hall's 11 greatest moments in Pro Football history, a lesson for fans, young or old.

Browns fans will especially enjoy the chapter of the 1950s, when the team won seven championships, including three NFL titles. Interesting visual tidbits include a metal contraption invented by Paul Brown to dry footballs during raining games (unfortunately for Brown, the invention did not work well) and the helmet worn by quarterback George Ratterman in 1956 that Brown equipped with the first-ever radio receiver. The league immediately banned the receiver, but it paved to way to how coaches and players communicate during a game on Sundays.

"For us, it's been fun looking back," Horrigan said of the book project. "(The book) humanizes what is now a billion-dollar business. But reliving the roots of the game was just so much fun."

Other features in the book include question-and-answer sidebars with living hall of famers, pull quotes and  tidbits galore.

Horrigan said Phase 2 of the Hall's Future 50 renovation will include adding another 17,000 square feet of exhibit space.

"It's been a process for sure," he said.

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Kirtland football team impresses

Defending Division V state champion Kirtland could go winless this season, and I'd still be impressed.
When I walked into their practice today for an upcoming preview story, half of the team was in the weight room lifting.The other half was in the gym stretching.
It was obvious all the guys were working hard.
The Hornets have a lot to live up to this season, but it appears they aren't letting the state championship title get to their heads.
They don't seem to be ready to rest on what they accomplished last year.
They are ready to move ahead and start a legacy of their own.
A lot of it has to do with the way Tiger LaVerde coaches.
The seven-year Kirtland coach is a humble guy who has taught his players to be the same way.  
When I interviewed a few players, they weren't focused on the fact they went 15-0 last year and won their first state title in school history. They were focused on the moment. They were focused on working hard in hopes of having another successful season.
It's so good to see high school kids who are doing something so positive in their lives.
On a hot, sunny, summer afternoon, they could be out doing a lot of other things.
But they are devoting their time and talents to getting prepared for the upcoming season. What they are doing now is going to impact the rest of their lives whether they realize it or not.
Their hard work is impressive.
I'm looking forward to writing about them for our upcoming football preview section which is running Aug. 20, 21 and 22.

-Theresa Neuhoff Audia

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