Monday, April 30, 2012

N-H 2012 Senior Bowl waiver form

The Road to the Kentucky Derby

This the final installment in a four-part blog series previewing the upcoming Kentucky Derby on Saturday at Churchill Downs in Louisville.

The field of 20 is all but set, the prep races are over and now it's time to start handicapping the Run for the Roses and make your selection ... or is it?

Good handicappers will wait until Wednesday night to start doing any serious breakdown of the Kentucky Derby because by then you will know where all the horses will be in the starting gate.

The post position draw is Wednesday at 5 p.m. This is of enormous importance and those of you trying to find an edge should pay close attention to it. With a 20-horse field, there are certain horses who will not want to be in certain spots at the gate.

Speed horses on the rail or on the far outside is difficult. On the rail, there are 19 horses to the outside and the chance of getting trapped is likely. On the outside, it is a lot of ground to cover to make the lead and expends a lot of energy over a distance never run before.

Actually, the rail is a tough spot for any horse just because of the traffic issues (See Lookin at Lucky in 2010).

There are some horses you know will be among the favorites no matter where they land at the post position draw like Bodemeister, Union Rags and Gemologist. But, it is important to see how the 20 horses shake out before actually starting to put together a strategy for betting the race.

At least, that is one railbird's opinion on it.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Has Mr. Irrelevant ever stuck around?

Saturday, Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish became the latest recipient of an honor known as Mr. Irrelevant - the last player taken in the NFL draft. Harnish went to the Colts with the 253rd selection this year.

For most, this is their moment in the sun. They get their own schedule of festivities - and it all sounds very nice, by the way - known as Irrelevant Week - details of which can be found here. (Irrelevant Week even has its own Twitter handle - @irrelevantweek)

A few have actually made it to have a productive career and not been cut in training camp, going on, as they say in the NCAA commercials "to be pro in something other than sports".

The first final pick of an NFL draft to really make it was Stu Clarkson, chosen in 1942 out of Texas A&I. He went on to play nine years with the Bears before sadly losing his life in 1957 while coaching high school football.

Jalen Rose's father, Jimmy Walker, who was a two-time NBA all-star, was the 445th and final pick of the Saints in the 1967 draft as a wide receiver out of Providence, but instead elected to pursue basketball as a career and never played a down in the NFL.

Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop was Mr. Irrelevant in 2009 out of South Carolina. He was 24-for-30 on field goals last year.

A couple other quick notes: The deepest Mr. Irrelevant came in the first year the award was presented in 1976, when the Steelers took wide receiver Kelvin Kirk with pick No. 487. He never stepped on the field in Pittsburgh, or anywhere else in the NFL. The Browns had four Mr. Irrelevants in six years in the 1950s, although none had a career of note with the team.

So with all that said, best of luck to Chandler Harnish. Here's to hoping his NFL on-field fortunes are a little better than most of his Mr. Irrelevant counterparts.

- Chris Lillstrung, @CLillstrungNH

Friday, April 27, 2012

What's at stake for LeBron James in the NBA playoffs

A look at what LeBron James has riding on the outcome of this year's NBA playoffs:

-- If the Heat win the NBA title: He has his ring, and he can tell all his critics what to do with their opinions.

-- If the Heat fail to win the NBA title: It could be career altering. Miami would be 0-for-2 with their Big Two and Chris Bosh. Do they break up the trio? Who would go? For James, his career might be jumping the shark. The 2012-13 season will be his 10th in the league. He's incurred a lot of wear and tear in nine seasons, plus at least two Olympics. Forget that he's 27. His body might only have a couple more elite seasons in it. If he's ringless when he hits 30, he might turn into what Shaquille O'Neal was at the end of his career -- a player who's most valuable as a box-office attraction and for his potential trade value, and not necessarily what he's doing on the floor.

- Howard Primer

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Think before you tweet

This blog post is for anyone who has a twitter account.
My advice is to be careful what you tweet.
Especially if you are a teenager in high school.
You may not realize it now, but your words can be harmful.
Sure, you are free to express your thoughts at any given moment.
But think before you tweet.
Would you want your mother or father to read what you are writing?
What about your little brother or sister, your grandma or grandpa?
While going through my tweets the other day, I realized I was following a handful of people who repeatedly tweeted negative comments that were over the top.
The comments were so harsh, I can't even rewrite them.
In the end, I quit following about five people - mostly high school kids in our coverage area.
When I was in high school, Twitter did not exist. I'm grateful for it because I probably would have tweeted things I would have ended up regretting.
Now I mainly tweet scores and highlights. I try not to touch on anything negative. Especially when it involves high school kids.
It's just not worth it.
So please, think before you tweet.
People do read what you write.

-Theresa Neuhoff Audia

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Road to the 2012 Kentucky Derby

Oh, what a mess we have on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs in Louisville.

Is Bodemeister a monster or a horse that took advantage of a soft pace in Arkansas? Is Union Rags nothing more than a troubled third in the Florida Derby or a contender with holes in his resume and can't live up to his hype or is he sitting on a huge race and as good as many experts think? Gemologist is unbeaten, but how good is he? Can Take Charge Indy, Dullahan or I'll Have Another use big prep wins to move forward and win the most precious jewel in the Triple Crown? Do you still like talented thoroughbreds like Alpha and Creative Cause?

So many questions, so few answers right now. 

Of the 20 3-year olds that have earned enough graded stakes earnings to start in the 2012 Kentucky Derby, it could be argued that more than half the field has a legitimate chance to wear the roses. That should be reflected in the odds, which will benefit the sharpest railbrids who can pick a winning trifecta or superfecta ticket.

This is the deepest, most talented field in years at the Derby.

Good luck picking a winner. Stay tuned for more analysis, especially after the post position draw on May 2.

It's closing in on post time for the Kentucky Derby and settling on a winner has never been more difficult.

That's the beauty of this sport and of the art of handicapping.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

If you build it, sometimes they won't come

While planning for a summer vacation in July, it was interesting to discover on a road map being a big fan of the sport that a stop at the National Soccer Hall of Fame could be a distinct possibility on the way.

That is, if there were still a National Soccer Hall of Fame.

Over the years, I had heard (albeit vaguely) of a physical hall of fame building for soccer in the United States, located in a town called Oneonta, N.Y., on Interstate 88.

As it turns out, more investigation confirmed it no longer exists. To little fanfare in 2010 - during the World Cup, no less - the National Soccer Hall of Fame closed its doors, quietly packed its belongings and sent them off to different parts of the country. The biggest reason? Apparently hardly anyone cared. They still induct a Hall of Fame class every year, but there's no museum in Oneonta.

To be honest, it came as a bit of a shock. In any popularity contest, soccer in the United States would probably in a best-case scenario have a fighting chance at fourth. That's just the way it is.

But consider what we regard as "tourist destinations" here. There are such luminaries, with all due respect, as the world's largest teapot, located in Chester, W.Va., and the TV tower for station KVLY in Blanchard, N.D., the third-tallest structure in the world and tallest in North America.

(And by the way, while I can honestly say I haven't visited the KVLY tower, you have to see this video of a worker doing repairs on the tower since it got a cheap plug.)

Anyway, it is amazing a National Soccer Hall of Fame couldn't develop more of a fan base. It's a shame, because it's a good idea that obviously did not go as planned.

- Chris Lillstrung

Friday, April 20, 2012

Waiting for 10:05 Indians games brings back memories

When Seattle Mariners manager Eric Wedge made a pitching change at 1:20 a.m. Eastern on Tuesday morning, I had a flashback to one of the craziest Indians games of the 2000s.

Wedge was the Tribe's manager when the Indians scored 11 runs in the ninth inning to beat the Royals, 13-7, on Aug. 9, 2005.

Back then, our deadline for the first edition was 11:40 p.m. When an 8:05 game in Kansas City -- or 8:11 in Chicago -- passed the three-hour mark, things got interesting in the newsroom. With Wedge's grinding, patient-at-the-plate approach and Rafael "Molasses" Betancourt in the bullpen, things often got interesting when the Tribe was on Central time.

The Indians started the top of the ninth trailing, 7-2. Thanks to clutch hitting and some un-clutch fielding by the Royals -- they made three errors, including a dropped fly ball by left fielder Chip Ambres in the picture -- they came out leading, 13-7.

While that crazy half inning was unfolding, we had one eye on the clock. Meanwhile, half our staff was at the Geauga Lyric Theater to shoot the cover for that year's high school football preview. It might have seemed late for a photo shoot, but it was a night shoot and we had to wait for the sun to go down.

Between communicating about the football photos, monitoring the Indians and watching the clock, it was getting tense.

According to the box score, Bob Howry pitched the ninth with no pitching changes. But I remember Wedge either made a trip to the mound, or perhaps the camera showed him looking like was going to. At that point, I yelled at the newsroom television, "LEAVE HIM IN! HE'S A PROFESSIONAL!" Somehow, the game ended in time.

I was off Monday night, but I felt for my colleagues when Wedge made his deliberate, grinding, patient walk to the mound at 10:20 p.m. Pacific. But they got the game in Tuesday's print edition.

When we're waiting for these 10:05 p.m. starts to end, I can assure you there is a lot of deliberating and grinding, but not much patience.

- Howard Primer

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Cold calling can be awkward

The story I wrote this week on the 1987 Indians and Sports Illustrated picking the team to win the American League that year was one of the most enjoyable stories I've worked on in years.

I was 17 at the time of that iconic SI cover, which will never fade from my memory, so doing the research for the story hardly seemed like work.

A goal while writing the story was trying to capture what 1987 was like for an Indians fans after the SI prediction rocked the baseball world. I also knew the story wouldn't be complete without perspective from at least one-half of the duo from the Indians on that April 6, 1987 SI cover.

That meant tracking down either Cory Snyder or Joe Carter. Fortunately for me, the Indians helped me get in contact with Snyder, now the batting coach for the Jackson (Tenn.) Generals of the Double-A Southern League.

Therein lies the problem sometimes as a journalist. I don't know Snyder, and he doesn't know me. As I called his cell phone, I was hoping my call would go to his voice mail, thus allowing me to explain who I was and why I was calling.

It didn't happen that way. After three rings, Snyder answer. Then, the awkwardness began:

Snyder: "Hello?"

Me: "Is this Cory Snyder?"

Snyder: "Yes it is."

Me: "Hi Cory, my name is Mark Podolski. I'm the sports editor from The News-Herald up here in the Cleveland area, and I'm working on a story and was hoping to ask you a few questions."

Long pause ...

Snyder:  "Uh, OK?"

Me: "My story is about the '87 Indians and you and Joe Carter being on the cover of Sports Illustrated and the magazine picking the team to the pennant."

Snyder: "Uh, yeah, sure I can talk."

From there, the tone of conversation became less awkward. A few minutes later, it became much more comfortable on both sides.

At the end of my call, I apologized to Snyder for blindsiding him, but he insisted it wasn't a problem at all.  

Snyder, now 49 with dreams of one day making it to the majors as a hitting coach, couldn't have handled a potentially awkward situation any better.

The lesson to be learned? Hope your cold call goes to voice mail, but be prepared if it doesn't.

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Mentor athletes work together to achieve success

This past week, I went to Mentor High School to work on a story about the boys track team.
This season over 25 football players have gone out for track compared to just five last year.
The difference this year is first-year head boys track coach Bill Dennison is working with football coach Steve Trivisonno.
Trivisonno encouraged his athletes to join the team this spring. The addition of the new athletes has formed a stronger track team.
At practice, every boy stretches out together. Every boy runs a lap around the field before splitting up in their respective events.
A year ago, the Cardinals met for practice at different times depending on what their assistant coach set up.
Dennison believes having the group work out together benefits the Cardinals in numerous ways.
For one, the athletes are getting to know one another. Also, because they know one another, they seem to be cheering for one another at track meets.
"We are getting guys out to compete," Dennison said. "Our faster sprinters are our football guys. It's nice because we are helping the football guys. I'm pushing them out on runs, even though they don't like all that running. But we are looking at the cardiovascular that is good for them."
Dennison, who is also the boys and girls cross country coach at Mentor, coached the distance group on the track team last year. In the past, his distance crew has helped carry the team.
This year, the distance crew is pleased to have some help.
"Do we have all of the answers? No," Dennison said. "Was Rome built it a day? No. But I feel like we are on the right track."
Leading up to the South Invitational, the Cardinals were undefeated in big meets. At South, they placed runner-up.
"I thought it was a very winnable meet for us," Dennison said. "When I look back, we didn't get enough out of our field events. I also held some people back. But do you try to get ready for every meet or the postseason?
"We are getting ready for the postseason. I think we can do some damage there this year."

-Theresa Neuhoff Audia

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Road to the Kentucky Derby

This is the second of four parts of a series reviewing the key prep races and taking a look at the contenders for the upcoming Kentucky Derby on May at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.

Oh, boy. Race on, thoroughbred fans.

The 2012 Kentucky Derby is officially a wide-open, free-for-all with close to half the field being legitimate contenders to take home the roses on May 5.

This past Saturday's two key prep races - The Blue Grass Stakes and the Arkansas Derby - had winners that were impressive and force the avid railbird to take a second look when handicapping the Kentucky Derby.

Dullahan rallied from well off the pace to nail front-running Hansen in the Blue Grass to put trainer Dale Romans on alert as the trainer of the self-proclaimed Derby favorite. Great late-running style for the 1 1/4-miles at Churchill Downs, but the synthetic surface is a possible detraction.

The most visually stunning prep win of the season goes hands down to Bodemeister, who destroyed the field at the Arkansas Derby by almost 10 lengths. The Bob Baffert-trained colt ran a big Beyer Speed Figure and seems to be blossoming as a lightly raced horse who didn't make a start as a 2-year old.

So, now what?

Stay tuned. The top 20 graded stakes money earners will head to the post position draw in a few weeks. We will continue to monitor the field and try to help pick a winner.

This is shaping up to be one of the deepest Derby fields in a long time.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Halfway to another World Cup

Hard as it is to believe, we are almost halfway to another edition of the World Cup in 2014 in Brazil.

It seems like only yesterday I was cramming like I was still in college taking a final compiling notes and doing video analysis on all 32 World Cup teams in 2010.

Fast forward almost two years, and another World Cup cycle is in full swing.

With that in mind, I thought it would worthwhile to see where each qualifying tournament stands:

AFRICA (40 teams left): They are into Round 2 after a play-in round with 10 groups of four each. Play commences June 1 across the continent and continues through Sept. 6, 2013 (remember FIFA mandates certain dates during which international matches take place). Group I could be particularly interesting at first glance with Cameroon, Libya, Togo and Congo DR, starting with an intriguing fixture June 1 between Libya and Togo.

ASIA (10 teams left): We are into Round 4 in Asia, with two groups of five each. Matches will be June 3, 2012 through June 18, 2013. On paper, I like the look of what could be a highly competitive Group B with Australia, Iraq, Jordan, Oman and Japan. All teams will get two matches in by June 12, a date that features a clash between Australia and Japan.

EUROPE (53 teams left): The reason Europe has all of its teams remaining in the World Cup cycle is because of its continental competition, Euro 2012, this summer. Once that tournament has been completed, Europe will commence Round 1 play on Sept. 7. It would probably be best to watch Euro 2012 play out before jumping to any conclusions about any of the World Cup groups - featuring eight groups of six and one group of five.

NORTH/CENTRAL AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN (12 teams left): CONCACAF is through to Round 3, which has three groups of four teams each. That starts June 8 and continues through Oct. 16. The U.S. should be virtually a lock to advance, but I do think it's a little bit of a tricky Group A of which they're a part with Jamaica, Guatemala and Antigua and Barbuda.

OCEANIA (8 teams left): Round 2 is upon us in the South Pacific with two groups of four each. The fixtures have not yet been set, but the groups have: Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Samoa and Tahiti in Group A and Fiji, New Zealand, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea in Group B. It's worth noting the winner of this competition does not get an automatic World Cup berth - they earn a play-in spot against a CONCACAF team.

SOUTH AMERICA (9 teams left): Group play is already under way in South America, with Uruguay, Argentina and Venezuela all tied for first with seven points, but there's still a long way to go. They will be playing matches through Oct. 16 in this round. The first cycle of group matches took place in October and November of last year.

So we have 132 teams left in World Cup qualifying, and as crazy as it sounds, we're not too far away from having our field for Brazil - especially if how quickly the last nearly two years have gone is any indication.

- Chris Lillstrung

Friday, April 13, 2012

Looking at the prep football playoff expansion

The OHSAA will expand the high school football playoffs to seven divisions beginning in 2013. The key points are 1) all divisions will have 32 teams in the postseason, 2) Division I will have 72 teams, the other six will average about 108. Here's a look at who will be affected most:

-- Smaller Division I schools in the current setup: They have to be thrilled about being bumped to Division II. Even though they will be competing in a division with 36 more schools than the one they're leaving, they will become the biggest schools in D-II. Instead of hoping to put up a good fight in the first round, they can be optimistic about practicing on Thanksgiving.

-- Coaches in the new Division I: No pressure to make the playoffs right? With 44 percent of D-I teams set to make the postseason, new coaches will have about two years before parents and fans start asking why their school isn't in the playoffs. Is it fair? It depends on the situation, but that's what it's going to be.

-- Division I powerhouses: For schools like Mentor, Solon, St. Edward and St. Ignatius, they can count on 11-game seasons every year. Those smaller D-Is that racked up computer points like South, Glenville and Mayfield are leaving. But they're not being replaced. Not only will it be easier for the big boys to make the postseason, but those first-round games will be against five-, six- and seven-win teams. That will affect ...

-- Winter sports scheduling at those powerhouse schools. If I'm a winter coach at a school that's regularly in the Associated Press Division I  poll, I have to assume football season will last at least 12 weeks every year. I might be doing that already. Starting in 2013 it's much more likely.

-- The OHSAA: Adding one division and 32 teams to the postseason means more revenue. Making it easier for the biggest schools to qualify will help, too. Having 29 percent of the field come from the top two divisions ensures a minimum number of big schools with big fan bases will be in the postseason every year.

- Howard Primer

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Smell of this Rose stinks

Only in big-time college football can a semifinal round produce three teams for a national championship game.

That's one of the proposals under consideration for a college football playoff. Seriously.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 are so bent on carrying on the tradition of the Rose Bowl, they're willing to make a mockery of a college football playoff.

Let's go through it ... quickly.

An idea that's been discussed is preserving the Rose Bowl matchup between the Pac-12 and Big Ten should the two conferences have a team or teams ranked in the final four. In that instance, those two would play in the Rose Bowl, and the next four teams would play in two other playoff games.

The finalists for the championship game would then be chosen among those three winners.

It's utterly amazing grown men - powerful men in the world of sports - are being paid huge contracts to think of such nonsense.

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Euclid needs more teenagers like the VASJ sprinters

On April 9, 2012, the lead story in The News-Herald was titled "On alert for BB guns."
The subhead to the story was "Euclid Police use 2008 law to prosecute those using 'replica firearms.'"
I live in Euclid so this story hit close to home.
Just as I was feeling a little down on my community, I visited a group of sprinters and their coaches from Villa Angela-St. Joseph on Monday afternoon.
My boys track notebook lead was on the talented VASJ sprinters who have the potential to advance to regionals and possibly state this season.
I left the practice feeling very proud of my community.
The sprinters -  C.J. Germany, Marcellus Embry, Rodney Burse and Devon Bolden - impressed me.
They were working hard with their coaches toward their goal of advancing to state in the 4x100 and 4x200 relays and possibly a handful of individual events.
"Why can't more teenagers in the Euclid community be like the sprinters from VASJ,?" I thought to myself.
These kids are dedicated.
Here they were practicing in the middle of spring break on a sunny afternoon at school. They could have been roaming the streets and possibly getting into trouble, but instead they were working hard.
Their parents, coaches, teachers and community can be proud of these kids who actually have positive goals for their future.
They aren't wasting their time getting into trouble.
Even if they don't make it to regionals or state, they have already achieved success.

-Theresa Neuhoff Audia

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Monday, April 9, 2012

Road to the Kentucky Derby

This is the first of four parts of a series reviewing the key prep races for the upcoming Kentucky Derby on May at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.

It was quite a weekend for fans of thoroughbred racing and handicappers focusing on the upcoming Kentucky Derby.

Union Rags - the probably Derby favorite was beaten in the Florida Derby on March 31 - and last Saturday, big-time contenders Alpha and Creative Cause came up short in big prep races for the Run for the Roses.

It appears the Kentucky Derby is wide open now, and with the Arkansas Derby and Blue Grass still on tap, who knows how many legitimate contenders could go to the gate on May 5.

It appears Gemologist - unbeaten and the gutsy winner of the Wood Memorial - could emerge as the post-time favorite in a few weeks in Louisville, but there is still a lot of time before the gates open on the first Saturday in May. I'll Have a Another outlasted Creative Cause at Santa Anita, but can a California shipper take the roses for the first time since Giacomo in 2005?

Stay tuned to the preps this weekend and we will begin to break down the contenders individually once the field for the Kentucky Derby really starts to take shape next week.


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Mocking NFL draft hype

It's kind of funny to watch the hype play out for the NFL draft.

Fans can't get enough information about the draft, so you can understand it to a degree.

A couple things, no matter the year, always strike me as the days near to this annual spectacle.

No. 1, how much weight people tend to put in pre-draft news conferences. Pretty much all of it is posturing. Do you really think any management type in their right mind would put all their cards on the table and say in whom they're specifically interested, in genuine honesty but not to throw other teams off the scent? Or their plan to draft best player available later on and by need early?

But as someone wise once said, "The people demand it."

No. 2, it's amazing how many people consider themselves draft experts when the truth is many of them would have better luck determining future quality by throwing darts than actual evaluation.

Did you know if you Google "2012 NFL mock draft" it brings up 53.6 MILLION results? Now it's nothing quite like searching for Justin Bieber (637 million results) or Lady Gaga (1.31 billion), but that's still a lot of people throwing their hat in the ring to predict who will go where.

I give people credit because there's a lot of folks out there who make a living off their draft prognostications.

Personally, though, I prefer to a certain extent to just wait and see what happens. It's OK to talk about it of course, but coming up with 53 different scenarios is a waste of time.

- Chris Lillstrung

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Phil: Your best friend and mine

For as great as Tiger Woods once was (he's not back yet), it was always a different experience watching him, as opposed to Phil Mickelson.

When Woods dominates, it's like watching greatness from afar. You don't dare try to approach him to shake his hand or pat him on the back. When Mickelson dominates, you want to high-five him, hug him and pat him on the back.

The reason is simple: Mickelson is always smiling, cordial and inviting. He's like your best friend. That was the scene following Mickelson's awesome round on Saturday at the Masters and his dramatic birdie on the 18th hole.

CBS' cameras followed Mickelson off the green with fans and well-wishers lining his trek. He joined the fun, fist-pumping, slapping high-fives and even hugged two people he appeared to know.

Woods would never do that after a third-round at the Masters. The fans wouldn't dare try to interact, either, which further demonstrates the difference between golf's most recognizable players.

When Mickelson's in contention, it's easy to smile. When Woods is in contention, it's awe-inspiring.

I'll take some Phil on Easter Sunday. Thank you very much.

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo

Friday, April 6, 2012

How do you stop Wonderlic score leaks?

Someone leaked  the Wonderlic score of NFL draft prospect Morris Claiborne this week. There's a person who needs one of those Gregg Williams bounties.

This happens on a nearly annual basis. Sometimes it's a Wonderlic score. Other times it's an injury or an admission of drug use. It's all in hopes of hurting a player's stock.

The NFL always follows the reports with a grand statement about severe punishment for anyone who leaks that kind of information. But unless a rat shows up in the lobby of Commissioner Roger Goodell's office, there isn't much the league can do except blow a lot of hot hair about taking a stand.

The players go to the scouting combine and take all the tests and answer all the questions in good faith. But the people who leak the results aren't acting the same way.

It's a terrible situation because outside of top prospects like Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, players don't have a lot of leverage. If they refuse to take the test or skip the combine, they could be risking up to millions in salary by falling in the draft.

The leak is only half of the equation because a media outlet is needed to broadcast or publish the test score. It would be great if reporters turned down the opportunity to spread what should be private information. But the chance to make a big splash and get some cheap web hits is usually too tough to decline.

I haven't included Clairborne's score. You can easily - and unfortunately - look for it in a search engine. But I hope you won't.

- Howard Primer

Thursday, April 5, 2012

College football playoff: Be careful what you wish for

If reports are true those in charge of the BCS are considering a four-team playoff to decide college football's national championship, they should be applauded.

It's the step in the right direction. The next step, deciding the logistics of the semifinal round, and of course, the national championship game, is just as important.

The format for a four-team playoff has to be right.

Four proposals are under consideration, according to reports:

1. Play all three games at bowls.

2. Play the semifinals at bowls, and selecting a bowl game site for the title game.

3. Play all three games at neutral sites and not brand the games as bowls.

4. Play the semifinal games at campus sites and select a bowl for the title game.

I like what's behind No. 4, and it's not close. It makes the most sense, and would work logistically. The proof is in a lot of NCAA tournaments we see in other sports. 

Plenty of early round games during March Madness are played in front of empty seats, as are women's basketball and college hockey tournament games. Then, when those tournaments get to its final four stage, it's a fan extravaganza and an easy sellout.

In football, it's not that simple. Two mega trips in back-to-back weeks won't be easy for the fans, mostly because of cost and location.

For example, say Ohio State and Texas play in the Orange Bowl in a semifinal game with the winner advancing to the Rose Bowl in the national championship game. No doubt, a select number of fans could afford to pull that off, but probably not as many as you think. Don't forget, the NCAA tries to keep the highest-seeded basketball and hockey teams as close to home as possible. It's not just for the fans, it's for the teams too, because after a successful season, it deserves it. That isn't the case every time, especially with tournaments with large fields, but the NCAA tries its best.

Awarding the Nos. 1 and 2 ranked college football teams at the end of the season with a home playoff game in the semifinal rounds is easy, and would make for quite a scene. The excitement for the semifinal games would be incredible, with the possibilities and the intrigue endless. It wouldn't be the same in cities such as Miami, Glendale, Ariz. and New Orleans.

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Chagrin Falls boys track team has lots of potential this year

I don't want to put any added pressure on the Chagrin Falls boys track team this year, but I will.
Based on what they did last year, the Tigers have the potential to accomplish even more this season.
The Tigers are led by senior Mike Hageman who finished in a tie for sixth place last year in the Division II high jump.
Also leading the group are seniors Bill Cale and Anthony DeCamillo. Cale was 13th last year in the 400 dash. DeCamillo was a state-qualifier in the 4x400 along with junior Bradley Munday.
That state experience is significant for the Tigers who have a strong core of returning letterwinners in the sprints and a good group of young athletes.
"We have athletes who advanced to the regional and state levels last year," said Chagrin Falls' 19-year coach Dave Kirk. "We have several athletes returning with state experience and All-Ohio performances, but we need to do it again.
"We must build on these successes and move forward."
Kirk said his younger athletes must accept the culture at Chagrin Falls of "expecting to win." They must also accept the "culture of work" that comes with success.
The Tigers had 13 regional qualifiers last year, seven state qualifiers and one All-Ohio finisher in Hageman.
This year, they have the talent, dedication and motivation that is needed to not only return to state, but come home with even more medals than last year.

-Theresa Neuhoff Audia

Monday, April 2, 2012

NFL Draft needs to come ... and go, already

I love this time of year and hate it all at the same time.

It's kind of like Christmas for NFL fans and Halloween all rolled up into one - because everyone seems to dress up and become draft experts at this time of April.

How many "draft experts" can there possibly be? It seems like anyone with a laptop and too much time on their hands can be an analyst on the upcoming NFL selection meeting, but yet we all have an opinion and credentials aren't necessarily required or tough to get.

Every radio and TV station, every blogger that comes along, your neighbor, co-worker, auto mechanic and the perfect stranger on the street wants to break down this year's QB crop. And the funniest part is prior to seeing these players play one down in the NFL or throw one pass on Sunday, they seem to know whether it is a good pick or not. In other words, if RG3 is selected No. 2 by Washington, the Redskins automatically get an 'A' on their draft report card. If Griffin is a bust, it won't really matter to the draft gurus because Washington already has the 'A' to put on the refrigerator.

Conversely, if Oklahoma State QB Brandon Weeden gets taken in the top 20, that team gets an 'F' grade, and it won't be til Weeden surprises the experts and becomes a good NFL starter that the grade will be reconsidered.

I like the anticipation and hate the hype. I like the passion and can't stand the egotism of some of the experts, especially the ones who do it as a hobby and not full time like Mel Kiper or Todd McShay. We all miss and we all hit on our picks or thoughts on the draft. Just have a little humility when assessing players that haven't played a moment in the NFL yet - no such perfect science for it no matter how loud you get on the radio or how nasty your words get in the newspaper or on the Web.


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Please deliver with "One Shining Moment"

It is a rite of passage every year, something that has been covered in this space in the past.

It's all well and good if the NCAA tournament final is a classic and a team someone picked on their bracket to win it all actually does so, but maybe carrying just as much weight for a few of us in The News-Herald sports department is what occurs after the game.

So what there's a deadline to meet. We all pause for 3-plus minutes, like many who also grew up doing the same thing across the country, for "One Shining Moment".

Some will argue it's too sappy, and they're entitled to their opinion. (Except that they're wrong.)

If you've never heard the story behind the song, check this out.

So yes, it would be great if Kentucky and Kansas put on a clinic. It will be cool to watch Anthony Davis and Thomas Robinson go head-to-head in the paint.

But once that's over, all I'm asking for is a good "One Shining Moment". The 2010 version, featuring Jennifer Hudson, was a PR disaster and quickly replaced by Luther Vandross' cover of the song that had been part of CBS' montage since 2002 before Hudson took over for one year.

 Give me more of this ...

... and I will be happy.

- Chris Lillstrung