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Archive for February, 2010

Nyeshia Stevenson. Dominique Kelley. Cat Redmon.

OK, I just wanted to type those names, first things first. Because it seems every time this season, and even going back into last season, that I thought, “I need to write about these players rather than just in passing,” somehow I didn’t get to it.

One of their teammates would have a big game, or some different story line would emerge. And I’d say, “OK, next time.”

So after this past week, when juniors Kelley and Redmon got to experience winning a Big 12 championship with their Nebraska teammates and senior Stevenson had one of the best offensive games of her career in Oklahoma’s huge win at Texas, I thought, “Gotta do it NOW!”
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Traveling from Sooner country to Stanford country back to Sooner country in a 10-day span … throw in watching the Olympics … and what’s been lost in the shuffle? Me posting my poll voting. I know everybody’s just been hanging on by a thread waiting for that. (Actually, you can go to the AP’s site and see it, but anyway …)
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I’ve thought this for a long time. But whenever the Olympic spotlight is on, and I hear/read mocking of sports like figure skating, I think about it a lot. I’m not sure I’ll articulate any of this nearly as well as I want to, but here goes:

I don’t believe it’s a “coincidence” that the sports that seem to draw the most derision in the Winter/Summer Games are figure skating, rhythmic gymnastics and synchronized swimming – two of which are women-only events and all of which emphasize so-called stereotypical “feminine” qualities such as grace, flexibility and elegance.
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Good to know there is apparently no consensus on national player of the year even from UConn fans. So maybe it’s not as simple as I thought.

But, speaking of “simple” and awards, the Big 12’s award for top freshman was probably engraved for Baylor’s Brittney Griner before she played a game. And, leading all Big 12 rookies in scoring and rebounding this season, she will get it. However …

It is important to point out that Griner is far from the only freshman making an impact in the league. Let’s just look at this week’s games so far, for instance.
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Years ago, when I started covering professional golf tournaments that were televised, one of the harder lessons I had to learn was when to do things the easy way.┬áMeaning that for the final round, unless only two players are actually in contention and they’re both in the same pairing, you’re better off watching the action on television in the media tent rather than spending the afternoon running around the course.

Oh, I know that seems totally lazy. Racing from hole to hole trying to catch several players sounds more like you’re really working. But the reality of golf is that you can’t see everything of significance that’s happening at roughly the same time on various holes unless you ARE watching on television.

If you’re not, you might miss an important shot(s) and then need to have somebody who was watching it on TV explain it to you.┬áSo, like I said, sometimes the easiest thing to do isn’t just the easiest … it’s also the best. But it can be a bit hard to accept that.

And what does this have to do with anything? Well, it’s something that popped to mind in regard to player of the year voting in women’s hoops.
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Tomorrow, we’ll get back to hoops … but today, Feb. 15, I want to remember a great loss in sports history. It was on this day, 49 years ago, that the United States figure skating team, their coaches, some members of their families and U.S. skating officials were killed in a plane crash on their way to the 1961 World Championships in Prague, Czechoslovakia.

The Sabena Airlines jet crashed while trying to land in Brussels, Belgium, where the team was to connect on its flight to Prague. All 72 on the plane and one man on the ground – a farmer struck by debris – died.

Figure skating is still a small world, and it was even smaller then. It was the year after the 1960 Olympics, so it was mostly the new, fresh faces of the sport who perished. That included women’s national singles champion Laurence Owen, who was 16 and appeared on the cover of “Sports Illustrated” the very week she died.
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Those of us formerly in the newspaper business have had to adjust to a different reality in the last couple of years. One of the things that has changed for me is that for the first time since 1984, I am not involved in any coverage of an Olympic Games.

From 1988-2008, I was either an editor or writer for Olympic stories. It was a couple of weeks after I returned from the Beijing Games in ’08 that I found out I wouldn’t be working for The Kansas City Star anymore.

So I wasn’t exactly sure how I’d feel about the 2010 Vancouver Games. Some friends asked me if I was upset or bothered by not going, and I said I was intentionally not thinking about it much.
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