With Jim Tressel’s ouster at Ohio State - and the fact that more and more transgressions seem to be coming to light - I don’t see Terrelle Pryor playing football for the Buckeyes again.
And if they were truthful, I believe there are plenty in OSU’s inner sanctum who would tell you they’d love to see the” to-hell-with-everybody-else-I’m-gettin’-mine” quarterback hit the bricks.
Former Buckeye running back and Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George sees it that way, too.
“Now that Tressel is gone and Luke Fickell takes over, you got to ask yourself the question, ‘Do you really want (Pryor) to come back with all that baggage with him when you’re trying to move on from that?’’ George told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “I don’t think he’ll be back with the Buckeyes this season and I don’t think he’ll be remembered by the Buckeye faithful the same way.”
Former OSU great Chris Spielman told ESPN something similar. He too believes Pryor’s won’t ever play again for the Bucks.
For all his football upside and he has plenty - he has helped OSU win three Big Ten titles and both the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl games in his first three seasons - Pryor’s off-the-field actions have made him a liability to the program.
And I get the feeling we don’t know half the stuff this kid is involved in. Every few days now it seems as if another questionable involvement related to him comes out.
He’s already been suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season because he broke NCAA rules by trading memorabilia and autograghs for tattoos and money.
Now, the Columbus Dispatch reports that Pryor is being further investigated by Ohio State and the NCAA because he may well have traded far more memorabilia than anyone imagines. He also seems to switch cars the way most people change socks.
This week’s issue of Sports Illustrated has a damning cover story alleging years of violations at OSU under Tressel’s watch. Just hours before the story came out, the already embattled coach resigned. Sources say he was forced out by OSU trustees who are reeling from the stain the scandal has put not only on the athletic program, but in some ways the school itself.
While six players have been saddled with suspensions to start the 2011 season because of their memorabilia for tats and cash transactions - NCAA violations that Tressel (in a decision that would cost him his job) kept from his bosses and the sanctioning body - SI quotes a former worker at the tattoo parlor who claims he witnessed similar violations involving nine other current players. Among then he mentioned Beavercreek High’s Zach Domicone and Northmont’s CJ Barnett.
But by far, the current player who comes off the worst in the SI story is Pryor.
SI claims Pryor may have had as many of eight different cars during his three years at OSU, all of them possibly linked to a Columbus car salesman who it’s reported may have provided over 50 cars to OSU athletes and their relatives at NCAA-violating reduced prices
With all that going on Monday - with coach Jim Tressel having just resigned and scrutiny heightened — Pryor showed up for a team meeting driving a black 2007 Nissan 350Z said to be worth up to $27,000.
He had 30-day tags on it. A Columbus TV station checked and found the quarterback was driving with a suspended license. He’d lost it when he couldn’t provide proof of insurance after one of at least three traffic stops he’s had at OSU..
As for the tattoo parlor, Pryor is said to have been a regular there. SI quoted a guy who worked there who said the quarterback seemed to have a never-ending supply of OSU stuff to trade away:
“(He) estimated that Pryor alone brought in more than 20 items, including game-worn shoulder pads, multiple helmets, Nike cleats, jerseys, game pants and more. One day (he) asked Pryor how he was able to take so much gear from the university’s equipment room. (He) says the quarterback responded, “I get whatever I want.”
Certainly Tressel deserves blame for fostering the quarterback’s idea that he gets a special pass. But much of this is on Pryor himself. More than any one player, his actions helped bring about his coach’s demise.
He has to take responsibility for his actions. But that’s not really his style.
Rather than take responsibility, he just takes.
I think plenty of folks around Ohio State have had enough of that. He;s not representative of most athletes at OSU or for what the university stands.
Pryor certainly realizes his star is fading here. Maybe he’ll try to jump into the NFL ‘s supplemental; draft this summer or maybe, if things keep coming out, Ohio State finally will nudge him out the door.
However it happens, I don’t see him spending five low-key, trouble-free weeks in exile to start the season and then taking back over at quarterback.
I don’t see him playing at Ohio State again.
He’s part of the problem, not the solution.Tweet
After months of trying to put band-aids on a severe and ever-widening wound to its reputation, Ohio State finally got the sad, but necessary surgery it had to have to make itself right again.
Jim Tressel, the once venerated Buckeyes football coach, is gone.
The Columbus Dispatch broke the news after obtaining a memo university president E. Gordon Gee sent to OSU trustees Monday morning.
“I write to let you know that later this morning we will be announcing the resignation of Jim Tressel as head coach of the University’s football program,” Gee wrote. “As you all know, I appointed a special committee to analyze and provide advice to me regarding issues attendant to our football program. In consultation with the senior leadership of the University and the senior leadership of the Board, I have been actively reviewing the matter and have accepted Coach Tressel’s resignation.
“My public statement will include our common understanding that throughout all we do, we are One University with one set of standards and one overarching mission. The University’s enduring public purposes and its tradition of excellence continue to guide our actions,” Gee wrote.
While Gee’s statement said Tressel resigned, it’s known that behind the scenes there has been growing pressure by several big-money boosters and influential OSU academics who wanted the school to remove the coach, not just for the NCAA violations that have happened under his watch, but for the way he hid those transgressions on numerous occasions from the university and the NCAA.
In the process Ohio State’s image has been getting more and more stained each week as additional revelations of wrongdoing and alleged wrongdoing keep coming out.
With growing scrutiny of its program nationwide and a pending NCAA investigation that could deliver an even more crippling blow, OSU power brokers might have determined enough is enough.
Or maybe Tressel came to that realization on his own.
Either way, this seemed like the only tenable move as the trouble kept mounting.
In this everybody’s-got-a-forum, tell-all age of Twitter and Facebook, one former Buckeye athlete after another told of questionable practices they witnessed or were a part of while at OSU.
Last week it was former Buck Ray Small who said he and other players sold memorabilia and got discounts on cars while playing football.
He said some players “don’t even think about NCAA rules”
He said he sold several Big Ten championships rings and said players received discounts from car dealerships
Six players—including starting quarterback Terrele Pryor, standout running back Boom Herron and top receiver DeVier Posey — have been suspended for those infractions, but Small alleged that there were more players involved. “They have a lot (of dirt) on everybody,” he claimed, “Because everybody was doing it.”
Recently the Columbus Dispatch found that at least 50 OSU athletes or their relatives had gotten cars from one Columbus car salesman, who may have discounted deals, a practice that could be in violation NCAA rules.
Last week former OSU basketball player Mark Titus wrote on his blog that he’d always wondered how Buckeye football players kept driving cars that most students never could afford, let alone scholarship athletes. “I’ll be shocked if the NCAA doesn’t find anything when they look into this car scandal,” he wrote.
Other former football players have also claimed they were part of or at least privy to the questionable actions that have gotten the current players sidelined for the first part of the season.
Tressel knew some of this was going on but he held it from his superiors and the NCAA, while secretly sharing the information with the Pennsylvania businessman who serves as Pryor’s so-called mentor.
Not only did he fail to fess up the matter for more than 10 months - until he was finally confronted by the facts his OSU bosses discovered while investigating another matter - but Tressel signed a statement to the NCAA that he knew of no violations in his program.
When you add in a couple of especially troubling situations from the past - the multiple violations that swirled around Youngstown State quarterback Ray Isaac and the incidents at Ohio State involving Maurice Clarett and Troy Smith - Tressel was starting to resemble the emperor with no clothes.
That’s too bad because while he was at OSU Tressel had done much good on the field and off of it. He won a national title, seven Big Ten championships and was 9-1 versus Michigan. He helped a lot of kids along the way and he and his wife were big donors to the university, especially its library.
Although it wasn’t that long ago that Tressel said he wouldn’t consider resigning - and he had hired a big-time attorney to represent him - the coach may have seen more trouble on the horizon, Maybe there are more revelations that are about to come out or maybe he got wind that the NCAA enforcers were going to drop the hammer.
Then again maybe the whole resignation matter wasn’t his choice at all.
Maybe folks at OSU - just as they once did with the beloved Woody Hayes - decided no one coach is bigger than a much-acclaimed school.
With Tressel leaving, assistant coach Luke Fickell - who was slated to guider the team as Tressel served an OSU self-imposed, five-game suspension to start the season - will guide the Bucks throughout the 2011 campaign.
And so athletics director Gene Smith summed it up Monday in a statement he released:
“We look forward to refocusing the football program on doing what we do best - representing this extraordinary university and its values on the field, in the classroom, and in life.”Tweet
Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was talking about “evil” - which is a subject he knows oh so well.
The Baltimore Ravens heralded linebacker told ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio that the NFL lockout could cause higher crime rates:
“Do this research if we don’t have a season — watch how much evil, which we call crime, watch how much crime picks up, if you take away our game. There’s nothing else to do, Sal.”
Most people wouldn’t think of crime as the first substitute for watching football, but Lewis sure was able to dovetail the two at the Super Bowl in Atlanta 11 years ago.
He was indicted on murder and aggravated assault charges there after he and some if his pals had some involvement in the beating deaths of two Ohio men - Richard Lollar and Jacinth Baker — on the street outside a Buckhead nightclub.
Later, when Lewis agreed to testify against two of his companions, the murder charges were dropped on him. With some witnesses changing their stories, the other two guys eventually were acquitted and so, to this date, no one has been held truly responsible for the murders.
Lewis’ career has blossomed - thanks to his ferocious play, good public relations people who retooled his image, his avoidance of more headlines-grabbing trouble and sports fans’ tendency to often overlook away-from-the-game transgressions when the athlete has great success on the field.
Meanwhile, the two families in Ohio have been left with nothing but loss from that brutal attack.
I got to know the Lollar family Here’s something I wrote on them some years back.
As Ray Lewis makes his pronouncements, the story of shouldn’t be forgotten.
AKRON - Joyce Lollar opened the scrapbook she’d been holding in her lap, and for the first time all afternoon the sadness melted from the room.
“That’s when he was 7. Look at him, he sure was a handsome little guy,” she said with a smile, as she touched the old photo, running a loving finger across her grandson Richard’s curly hair, his olive skin and that gap-toothed grin.
As she flipped the pages, she took you on a childhood tour. There was the 5-year-old boy in the white cap and gown of his Head Start graduation. There were pictures of his peewee football and baseball teams, another of him as a Boy Scout. There were prom pictures, one of him when he was voted Barber of the Year and a portrait of his fiancé and their 3-year-old daughter, India, born a month after he died.
Joyce pointed to photos of a wedding party in Georgia. “These are the last pictures we have of him.”
Actually there are two more - both of which with she wants nothing to do:
One is the January 2000 image of her grandson - stabbed to death, covered by a sheet and lying near his slain buddy Jacinth “Shorty” Baker - on a street in the Buckhead section of Atlanta after Super Bowl XXXIV.
The other, she said, is the one painted by the lawyers for NFL star Ray Lewis and the two other guys arrested for the murders.
“They did everything they could to portray my grandson as a street person,” said Joyce, making reference to three minor drug arrests that had been hammered on. “They tried to make Richard out to be a nobody. And that’s wrong. I want people to know he was somebody - somebody special.”
It’s been more than 3 1/2 years since the two young men from Akron were killed. Since then - Lewis with far greater success - has sought the same thing for himself that Joyce has for her 24-year-old grandson.
Once the most tarnished person in pro football, Lewis - in one of the most mind-boggling transformations in sport - now brings a polished image and burgeoning endorsement portfolio into Cincinnati this Sunday when he leads the Baltimore Ravens against the Bengals.
He has more than $1 million in endorsements - along with a new $50 million contract extension with the Ravens - is being considered for movie deals and has the NFL trumpeting him as one of its most charismatic stars.
Wednesday, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis - who coached the Ravens’ intimidating linebacker in Baltimore - was gushing over what a good influence Ray Lewis was on everyone around him. And earlier this year, Bengals rookie Carson Palmer teamed with Lewis in a funny commercial - the veteran defender intimidating the kid quarterback to do pushups - to promote the league.
What has happened?
First of all, the six felony charges against Lewis were dropped because of weak evidence, witnesses changing their stories in court and a plea bargain to a misdemeanor obstruction of justice charge. In turn, Lewis agreed to testify against his co-defendants, Joseph Sweeting and Reginald Oakley, who ended up being acquitted.
Since then Lewis - who the season after the incident became the NFL Defensive Player of the Year and Super Bowl MVP - has avoided trouble, involved himself in charity work and, probably most importantly, hired good public relations people.
“When you first meet Ray you see this well-built, intimidating guy. But once you spend a little time with him, he is not the same guy he is on the field. He is a quiet young man who comes across extremely well on camera,” Sandy Sandoval, director of athlete relations for EA Sports, a manufacturer of video games, told the St. Paul Pioneer Press . “Here is a guy, whom if he had not been in that position would have made zillions of dollars off the field. There are still opportunities … Ray has cut some baggage and Ira (marketing director Ira Rainess) has him moving in other directions.”
The riddance of baggage concept didn’t set well the other day at Joyce Lollar’s little yellow house on Hartford Avenue in West Akron.
“Nothing has been, or ever will be, the same,” the 68-year-old grandmother said as she sat with her daughter, Cindy Lollar-Owens, Richard’s aunt. “It’s hard to get closure, when those responsible for the murders haven’t been held accountable. But whoever did this don’t need to be walking this earth. Not the way they done those boys.”
Cindy nodded and whispered: “They said it was a massacre. The knives they used. The way they sliced ‘em up and how the crowd beat ‘em. The Baker boy - he was a little guy, just 5-foot-3 - they flipped him over and kept stomping on him when he was out cold. At least Richard’s face was OK.”
The confrontation had occurred outside a Buckhead nightclub. While no one is sure what caused the fight, Lewis’s group - some say there were close to a dozen people - piled into the 40-foot stretch limo he had and fled the scene.
“They ditched their bloody clothes and Ray Lewis told them all to keep their mouths shut,” Cindy said. “That’s not the actions of innocent people.”
In the end, Lewis got 12 months probation for obstruction. After the other acquittals, no one else was charged with the murders.
While Lewis has been named in two civil lawsuits - one brought by Shorty Baker’s grandmother and the other by Richard’s fiancé, Kellye Smith - Joyce and Cindy said they aren’t involved in the legal actions. What they do want is peace of mind.
For the living it’s not easy, she said: “The counselors tell us we should all sit and talk about it, but we can’t. Richard’s oldest brother was suicidal a while, until he realized what he’d be doing to me. I can’t bury two grandsons.”
Joyce put a bumper sticker on her car asking for justice, and Cindy showed up at some Cleveland Browns games and then Super Bowl XXXV in Miami to pass out fliers that asked the NFL, “What about the double murder?”
“That’s the Super Bowl the Ravens won and I was scared to death,” Cindy said. “I only handed out about 20 leaflets and quit ‘cause I could tell people were angry.”
Joyce nodded: “That’s how it is with fans . Fans don’t get mad about what happens away from the field. They just want the team to win. The only way it would bother them is if it was their own kid laying up there in the cemetery.
“As for guys like (Ravens owner) Art Modell, the people promoting the NFL and all the people selling the clothes and video games, they don’t care nothing about Richard Lollar. It’s all about making money.”
And Lewis is doing that. As Sandoval told the St. Paul paper: “Ray sells.”
But while the future seems more and more promising for Lewis, Joyce Lollar is left holding nothing but the past.
“Richard started cutting hair for people right here in the basement,” she said proudly. “Couldn’t a been about 8 or 10. He’d cut the hair of his brothers and sisters and friends. And when I’d get home from work, Richard was real respectful. He’d tell ‘em, `Nana’s here, cut down the music.’
“He kept that same attitude when he graduated from barber school. He won awards for his work, and when Shorty told him he’d do better moving down to around Atlanta - that he could cut movie stars’ hair and one day get his own shop - he went.
“And when he met Kellye and they were gonna have a baby, he was real excited. It was the first child for both of them. The day before he was killed he called me and told me he was going to those Lamaze classes with Kellye. I told him, `I didn’t know men folks did that these days.’ And he told me he wasn’t like other men folks. He was gonna be special.”
As she fought back her emotions, Joyce shut the scrapbook and whispered:
“He just never got the chance.”Tweet
For the past couple of years some University of Dayton fans have been talking about what Anthony Grant - a Flyers favorite son — could do for them and the school.
Now there’s a chance for folks here to do something not just for Grant, but for the people of Tuscaloosa - and all of Alabama - after the devastating tornadoes that struck there April 27.
An EF-4 level tornado with 190 m.p.h. winds tore right through Tuscaloosa - the home of the University of Alabama where Grant is the head basketball coach and a sports-obsessed city even more so than Dayton. At least 41 people were killed in Tuscaloosa — and 238 around the state - and the damage is in the billions of dollars.
Grant - who was the team captain, leading scorer, leading rebounder and team MVP his senior season at UD - has found real coaching success with the Crimson Tide, He did the same when he lifted the VCU program into national attention and he had much to do with the Florida Gators hoops triumphs when he was Billy Donovan’s right hand man and top recruiter.
When UD seasons hit a bump in the road the past couple of years, Grant was the pie-in-the-sky guy many Flyer Faithful thought would be the perfect replacement should a change come involving then head coach Brian Gregory.
Gregory moved on to Georgia Tech after this past season and UD hired Archie Miller as the new head coach.
Grant had been interested in the Flyers job when Oliver Purnell left in 2003, but has moved far beyond that now. When I interviewed him for a big story I did in today’s newspaper on him and his Sweet Home Fund (please read it if you get a chance ) he seemed a bit surprised that he had been cast as the savior by some UD factions.
“Hopefully Brian (Gregory) doesn’t hold that against me,” he said with a laugh. “I think he did a great job. Two years ago I was cheering them as hard as I could when they won the NIT. And I’m happy for Archie Miller. I think he’ll do a great job. I’m really proud of my alma mater. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for my UD experience.
“I came in there a boy trying to become a man. And I think it allowed me to become the man I am now.”
I’ve know Anthony Grant since he was a high school player for the Miami Stingarees in Miami, Fla. and I was the sports columnist down there for the Miami News. I wrote about him then, when he came to UD, when he dabbled with a pro career and I have done things on him throughout his coaching career.
I can tell you this, there is not a finer guy in the coaching ranks.
Grant will be back in Dayton Wednesday to speak at the Agonis Clubs annual sports awards banquet.
Right after the tornado hit Grant and his wife Chris — as did much of the Crimson Tide athletic community, including football coach Nick Saban and his wife — became heavily involved in their community and the state trying to help people any way they could.
Anthony and Chris started the Sweet Home Fund.
You can find out more about it and donate by visiting the website: SweetHomeFund.com.
Or you can donate directly to the Sweet Home Fund, c/o Bryant Bank, 1550 McFarland Blvd. N., Tuscaloosa, Al. 35406. The bank’s phone number is 205-464-4646.Tweet
Punchers & Painters —- the popular celebration of boxing and art that debuted last summer — is returning to downtown Dayton July 9 and it will run through August 12.
There will be two outdoor fight shows — John Drake’s “Fight Night” in a ring set up on Fourth Street July 16 and the Dayton Dragons’ show at Fifth Third Field August 12.
Former world heavyweight champ Buster Douglas - the man who knocked out previously unbeaten Mike Tyson in the biggest upset in boxing history - will be honored at a reception at the Color of Energy Gallery in the Oregon District.
Douglas once played basketball here at Sinclair Community College.
The late Davey Moore - the Miami Valley’s only Olympic boxer and professional world champion— will be celebrated with another reception (July 9) that will feature acclaimed sculptor Mike Major, who has made the eight-foot stature of Moore that will be erected in Springfield, Davey’s hometown.
Moore’s widow Geraldine will be here, as will his loquacious brother James, his children and some of his old sparring partners A collection of memorabilia and photos of Moore - who died from injuries suffered in a defense of his featherweight title at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles in 1963 - will be on display.
There will be other parties and art shows honoring various fighters, artists and musicians during the five-week Punchers & Painters II celebration.
Almost all the events are free.
Last year’s inaugural Punchers and Painters celebration honored former junior welterweight champ Aaron “The Hawk” Pryor, Olympic hopeful Chris “Sweet Pea” Pearson from Trotwood and Drake put on great Fight Night that drew a crowd of more than 2,000.
The addition of the Dragons show — which drew over 1,500 last September —- makes for a perfect closing event. This year the Aug. 12 show could include two of the teams from the World Series of Boxing — the L.A. Matadors for whom Pearson fights and a team from overseas..Tweet
I have to admit it took me a while to fully appreciate Brandon Phillips. I always liked what he did on the field, but I didn’t fully embrace his unvarnished outspokenness in the beginning. I’ve gotten to like that, too. And when it comes to the fans, there is no one on the Cincinnati Reds team who is more accessible, more sharing with them than the All Star second baseman.
He’s been a regular on the Reds Caravan since he came to town in a trade five years ago. He goes out of his way to rub elbows with fans and seems to enjoy that facet of the game. Add in his defensive prowess - in my book he’s the best defensive second baseman in the big leagues - and his capabilities at the plate and I think he’s as much the MVP of the Reds as is Joey Votto.
Here’s the story I wrote about him reaching out to a 14-year-old eighth grader from Sidney:
CINCINNATI - If you think Brandon Phillips’ hard-charging, bare-handed grab of a Jason Bourgeois chopper - a play which he finished off with a jaw-dropping toss between the legs to throw out the Houston hitter - was something special earlier this month, well, what he did last week even tops that.
“I still can’t believe it,” Connor Echols, the 14-year-old Sidney Middle School eighth grader was saying the other evening. “It’s wild It’s just so weird.”
“It’s wonderful,” said Connor’s mom Brenda.
Last Thursday afternoon, just before Connor left his Shelby County home for his Little League game with the Cincinnati Flames U-14 select team at the West Chester Baseball Complex, he happened to check out the Twitter account of Phillips, the Cincinnati Reds popular second baseman who is one of his favorite players.
It was the Reds day off and Phillips had tweeted (@DatDudeBP) that he was be at Joe Morgan’s Honda dealership in Monroe.
“Connor knows where that car lot is because we go by it every time we take him to a game,” Brenda said.
On a whim, Connor sent Phillips a tweet asking him to come to his game.
To his amazement the Reds All Star responded “where and when.”
On the way to the game Brenda and her husband Randy tried tempering Connor’s expectations. “Brandon hadn’t responded back to Connor’s last tweet so we told him, ‘Look, don’t count on him being there’” Brenda said. “Never in a million years did we think Brandon really would show up. So when we got to the game we never said anything to any of the other parents.”
Meanwhile, as he was finishing eating, Phillips said he thought about that last-minute invite.
“I had been asking everybody what I should do that day and a lot of people gave me ideas and the next thing I got the tweet from (Connor),” Phillips recounted in the Reds clubhouse the other day. “I still had time and I thought, ‘Dang, that’s something new to do so why not go support the little man?’”
Although he sent out a general tweet - “I think I might check out my fan C Echolzz today,” - Phillips said he didn’t tell Connor he was definitely showing up because he didn’t want to make him nervous.
Wearing a black t-shirt bearing his cartoon likeness, camo shorts, shades and shiny black sneaks with bright red laces, Phillips got to the game in the top of the second inning. The visiting Flames were at bat. Connor was in the dugout.
“Randy saw him first, so we went up to him and explained we were Connor’s parents and thanked him for coming,” Brenda said.
Once he returned to his third base position, Connor had all he could do to keep his mind on the game once he spotted Phillips. And then before he came to bat in the top of the third, he made his way to the backstop and introduced himself to the big leaguer.
“I don’t really get nervous a lot, but that’s the most I ever had butterflies in my stomach in my life,” Connor admitted. “I just didn’t want to embarrass myself.”
And he didn’t.
He immediately hit a run-scoring double and when he reached second base, he said he looked back at Phillips: “He was pointing at me so I pointed back and he just smiled.”
Brenda said as the game wore on Phillips - who would stay for six innings - was “bombarded by people. He must have signed a hundred autographs. Connor kind of wanted to invite him into the dugout to give him some relief, but it seemed like Brandon was enjoying himself. And whenever Connor got up to hit, he’d always stop and watch him.”
During the game, the Reds second baseman sent out tweets about his experience: “Watching my friend CEcholzz go HAM. So far an RBI single, a double and two runs.”
With a chuckle, Connor added: “He tagged MLB on it and said ‘I’m witnessing the next big thing.’”
Echols ended the game with two doubles and a single to help lead the Flame to a 12-4 victory over a team that had previously beaten them. Afterward Phillips posed for pictures with the team, some of which he posted on his twitter account.
With Connor’s older brother Cory - who plays baseball for the Ohio State University branch in Lima - also posting messages about Phillips’ surprise visit on his Facebook page, word spread quickly.
“By the time the game was over I already had three missed calls and 18 text messages” Connor said.
The acknowledgements have just kept coming and the family has been swept along on the euphoric tide.
“I don’t think any of us got any sleep that night,” Brenda laughed. “We were just on such a high.
“Brandon really is a good guy. So often all you hear are negative things about star athletes, but this was just the opposite. This really showed the good side of Brandon Phillips. It’s something none of the kids - or the parents - will ever forget.”
The past few days Connor has been sort of a mini-celebrity in school as word spread about his new BFF.
“I’ve always been a fan of his because he makes some sweet plays,” Connor said. “I had a lot of respect for him before, but I’ve gained even more now. I don’t know of any other Major League player or anyone else like that who would actually do this.
“Out of everything he could have done that day, he came to a Little League baseball game.
That’s just crazy!”
Not that crazy said Phillips:
“I had a good time. The parents were really into the game, everybody had a lot of fun and it reminded me again of why I play and why I do what I do on the field and off.
“It’s about love. I just love the game.”Tweet
CINCINNATI — Before Sunday’s game at Great American Ball Park, some of the Cincinnati Reds bullpen players were trying to show Aroldis Chapman - the team’s young Cuban flamethrower— how to grip and fling a football.
Yet, strange as it sounds, a baseball - even though he can throw it faster than any big league player in the game - may feel just as foreign to Chapman these days as does that oblong pigskin.
For the third game in a row, Chapman had a disastrous outing for the Reds.
With Cincinnati up 9-2 on St. Louis coming into the ninth inning, he was brought into the game, faced five batters and walked four. That helped reawaken the Cards, who would score five runs before Francisco Cordero finally closed the door on a 9-7 victory.
The win cemented a stunning, three-game sweep of the Cards, who came into town leading the NL Central by 1 ½ games and now leave trailing the Reds by the same margin.
While many Reds talked about the ramifications of this sweep and what it does for the psyche and confidence of this young team, there was the one nagging loose thread of Chapman’s sudden unraveling.
In his last three games, he’s faced 12 batters, walking nine, giving up a hit and hitting another batter while registering just out.
Although bringing Chapman into the game with a seven-run cushion seemed to offer the kind of low stress situation that could help him get back on track, it became just the opposite said manager Dusty Baker:
“Word is getting around the league now and they were just up there talking. It was his third wild outing in a row and it’s sort of disheartening. He has so much talent and he’s such a fine young man.
“It’s a matter of him focusing and remaining confident. Everybody’s confidence is so fragile sometimes.”
As Chapman’s troubles mounted Sunday, Baker visited him on the mound: “ I went out and told him, ‘Hey Man, don’t see any hitter don’t see anybody. Just see Ramon’s (Hernandez) glove. The only thing you can control is one pitch at a time.’”
Hernandez said the same thing:” I told him look it only takes one hitter to get fixed. And you can get on a roll. You go one, two, three and you get your confidence back “
As Chapman struggles, it is playing havoc with the Reds bullpen. With Chapman flaming out instantly, Nick Masset was called in after little warm up. He faced just one batter and gave up a double.
Then Cordero - who also had warmed up very little - was brought in. He gave up a two-run double to Nick Punto and then hit Albert Pujols. With the go-ahead run at the plate, he then got Matt Holliday to hit into a force out and then he struck out Lance Berkman to give the Reds the 9-7 victory.
The game ended with players from both teams yelling unpleasantries at each other, The incident had been ignited earlier by Cardinals back-up catcher Gerald Laird who got quite nasty in his vocal claims that Cordero had intentionally hit Pujols.
“Gerald Laird just went off the whole inning he was cussing, yelling, saying stuff you you’re not supposed to say to nobody,” Cincinnati Reds catcher Ramon Hernandez said of the Cardinals’ back-up catcher. “The umpire even turned around and told him to be quiet, that that was enough.”
Laird kept it up and as the game ended he was joined in his dugout chorus by Cards pitching coach Dave Duncan and some other players.
In response, Cordero and fellow pitcher Edinson Volquez yelled back from the field.
“Of all the guys they have, all the great hitters, the great players, Gerald Laird doesn’t even play and he’s the one yelling and pointing at me? said Cordero, who was surprised at the outburst from Laird with whom he had been teammates in Texas.
“Like I told him, that’s not how I play. I don’t try to hit guys . And why would I want to hit Pujols? Then I’ve got to face Holliday next. He’s one of the best hitters in the National League. And Lance Berkman is another great hitter after that. They can take the lead in one swing.”
Pujols, for his part, said he knew Cordero didn’t try to hit him.
As for Chapman, Cordero said, “I can try to talk to him and get him to listen. I went through some stuff like that when I was young and coming up in the big leagues with the Rangers. I was wild, but it’s just a matter of time. It’s all mental. He’s just got to be patient. He’s real young He will understand what’s going on and will come out of it. I think he will be okay.”
An hour after Sunday’s game - with most of the other players already gone from the clubhouse — Chapman suddenly reappeared in the Reds dugout still wearing his uniform.
As he engaged in a long, animated cell phone call, he pulled out a big cigar, put a flame to it and soon was puffing away.
When the smoke clears - whether Chapman is back on track as Cordero thinks he will be - that is one of the big questions now facing the Reds.Tweet
It’s safe to say no other Miami Valley moms will be celebrating this Mothers Day weekend quite the way Shawanna Woods and her two daughters, 22-year old Shanice Bailey and 21 year old Kaleshia Bailey - both of whom are mothers themselves — will.
All three - members of the Dayton Diamonds women’s football team - will be knocking heads with the Toledo Reign tonight in a Women’s Football Alliance game in Toledo.
The women are just three of at least a dozen mothers on the Diamonds roster. Shawanna played three sports at Middletown High. Shanice played volleyball at Colonel White and Kaleshia was a four-sport athlete at Thurgood Marshall High.
“When guys hear I’m playing football,” said Shanice, “they’re like, ‘Football? What some type of Peewee football?’ I say ‘Noooooo it’s a women’s professional league.’ And they’re like, ‘Oh my God, you‘re serious! We gotta come see it.’ Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. But those who show up, they’re shocked. Really shocked.”
The Diamonds are also the subject of my column in today’s newspaper. And as one of the veterans of the team, Karen Huff, a mother of two girls, once told me: “You can’t say we’re average moms “Not when it comes to working a job, taking care of your home AND football maybe three times a week.”
The Diamonds have two home games left this season. May 21 they play West Michigan. June 11 they play Detroit. Both games are at 7 p.m. at Northmont High — the Diamonds home field. To find out more about the Diamonds website or see more of Rodney Kuschel’s photos check out www.daytondiamonds.net. You can also see Kuschel’s work at rodsactionphoto,photoreflect.com
If you are wondering about the Diamonds nickname, owner Tanya Jackson said it has nothing to do with the Centerville strip club of the same name.
“We keep our clothes on,” she said with a grin.
Nor, she said, is it a play on the city’s Gem City nickname.
It’s real simple,” said Jackson. “All women love diamonds.”
And as Shanice Bailey put it, if men come out to watch them play, they’ll love the Diamonds, too.Tweet
Wednesday night’s “And They’re Off!” Kentucky Derby party at the Color of Energy was a smash hit. It drew a packed house to the Brown Street gallery in the Oregon District.
“I thought it was just a fabulous evening,” said Judge Dan Gehres, who partnered with local artist and Color of Energy owner Mike Elsass to put on the event. “We brought a very diverse group of people downtown on a week night and they made the place rock ‘n’ roll.”
Revelers, many who dressed in the spirit of the occasion — from Greg Lockhart, the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District in a white suit that would have made any railbird sharpie proud to women with big spring hats that would fit right in at Churchill Downs for this Saturday’s Running of the Roses — got an equine greeting when they arrived at the event.
Roadhouseblue, a five-year-old rescue thoroughbred with a victory and three in-the-money finishes in a five-race career ended by injury - was stationed out front on Brown Street and drew some of the biggest attention of the night.
The evening also served as a kickoff to a superb horse racing photo exhibit by long-time River Downs race publicist - and Dayton resident - John Engelhardt. The show will remain up through the Triple Crown races.
Celebrated Dayton thoroughbred owner and breeder George Smith - accompanied by his long time partner in the horse business Dr. Wilbur Johnston and former Ohio racing commissioner and Kettering vet Dr. Jim Gable - spoke on the jounery of a foal one day ending up in the race track starting gate.
Personable Ed Meyer, host of the Winning Ponies show, handicapped this year’s Derby field. And Dale Walton and his son Evan provided the evening’s music.
The Sidebar restaurant, whose patio is behind the gallery, served mint juleps, Kentucky Bourbon, Hot Browns - similar to the beloved Derby staple of fabled Brown Hotel in Louisville — and horse race pie.
“The whole thing was tremendous, everyone was raving,” said Elsass. “I think we’ve got ourselves another annual event for downtown.”Tweet
Because of Osama bin Laden — the guy who was the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks on America a decade ago and then this past Sunday was killed in Pakistan by a team of Navy SEALs — several things (both big and small) in the world of sports have been changed very much.
There now are security checks of your bags and your person to get into stadiums and arenas at every major sporting event. There’s the ever-popular, bring-the-crowd-to-its-feet singing of God Bless America during the seventh inning stretch at many big league ball games.
And at Bellbrook High football games, a tradition was born after those Sept. 11 attacks of 2001.
Just a few days after the twin towers of the World Trade Center were felled, the Pentagon was left with a gaping hole and a fourth airliner was crashed into a Pennsylvania farm field before hijackers could pilot it into another high-profile Washington D.C. target, Golden Eagles football player Charlie O’Dell picked up an American flag and led his team onto the field for its first game of the post 9/11 era.
After that — season after season — Bellbrook players have on many occasions reenacted that run before home games.
It has become maybe the most heartwarming, nation-reaffirming local sports tradition carried over from those dark September days of a decade past.
After Bin Laden was killed, there were scenes from around the nation of folks waving flags and showing their national pride and that reminded me of O’Dell’s unscripted Stars and Stripes sprint.
Back in 2001 the moment was captured by Bellbrook photographer Nick Falzerano. Sports Illustrated saw his picture and ran it in its next edition.
“Nick’s photograph captured the essence of what we were looking for” said SI photo editor Jim Colton. “It was very poignant and colorful and the kid carrying the flag had a great expression on his face. It showed these kids weren’t ruffled. And the background — with the scoreboard reading 1st-and-10 — very subtly expressed the challenge ahead.”
O’Dell is now a social studies teacher at Bellbrook Middle School. He also helps coach the varsity football team.
Here’s a story I wrote a few years ago remembering the night Charlie led his team onto the field and how that moment is recalled today.
It is a tradition — born from sadness and fear — that quickly turned into a pronouncement of pride and perseverance, thanks to a bunch of teenage football players and their attentive coaches seven years ago.
When the Bellbrook High Golden Eagles first take to the field Friday night, Sept. 12, to play visiting Monroe, they’ll follow one of their veteran players who’ll be hoisting the American flag as he crashes through the big banner held by the cheerleaders and leads his teammates into a swell of hometown cheers.
“Running in behind the flag is something we still feel is pretty important,” Bellbrook head coach Kevin Basinger said. “But truthfully, I don’t know if people still know why we do it.” To understand that you only need to keep an eye on the stadium scoreboard’s ever-changing video screen and catch the stirring image — shot by trumpeted local photographer, Nick Falzerano, who runs Nicholas Studios — of that first time the Eagles followed this very same flag into a Friday night football game . Then again, you could just go to the Bellbrook sidelines and ask first-year Eagles assistant coach Charlie O’Dell about the whole flag deal.
Seven years ago — just three days after the deadly terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the airliner that crashed in a Pennsylvania field — O’Dell was the centerpiece figure in a commemorative act that not only was immortalized in a two-page Sports Illustrated photo, but was forever seared into the hearts of anyone who was there that emotional night in 2001 when Bellbrook played Northridge.
With so many people sad and suffering and afraid, no one was sure it was even time for games that night. The NFL and major college football teams had called off their weekend games, but Miami Valley high schools had decided to play on.
“September 11th that year was on a Tuesday, and then everything had been shut down Wednesday,” Basinger said. “I remember we had a light practice Thursday, but nobody was sure how the kids would respond Friday night.
“I remember we talked to the team about being American and the freedom and privileges we had, and then Todd Paul, one of our coaches, took out the flag he’d brought along and asked if someone wanted to carry it onto the field. And that’s when Charlie — he was our most vocal captain — stepped up.”
O’Dell — a beefy, burr-headed, senior lineman — had spent three years paying his dues as a junior varsity and backup player. He’d never given up on football, worked hard in his final prep off-season and became a team leader who’d eventually go on to play football at Wittenberg University.
He was the epitome of standing tall in tough times when he volunteered to lead the team onto the field for what always was high theater at Bellbrook games.
Back then, the purple gates in front of the goal post would open and the team would come charging through a magical blanket of smoke provided by parents with fire extinguishers. And on this night, here came Charlie — American flag held high in his left hand, teammates rumbling in right behind him on both sides — as the band played the school fight song and many in the stands began to weep.
On the field to shoot the entrance, Falzerano began back-pedaling and managed to fire off just four frames of film. But one held that classic image — “one of my most memorable shots ever,” Falzerano still calls it — which he sent to SI on speculation.
“Nick’s photograph captured the essence of what we were looking for,” Sports was very poignant and colorful and the kid carrying the flag had a great expression on his face. It showed these kids weren’t ruffled. And the background — with the scoreboard reading 1st-and-10 — very subtly expressed the challenge ahead.” Sports Illustrated picture editor Jim Colton said.
The picture was published in the front of the Sept. 24, 2001, issue and throughout Southwest Ohio it — along with the “United We Stand” poster Falzerano made with the same image — became a prized totem of the time.
“It’s something we’re all very proud of,” said Basinger, who has a framed copy of the photo and the SI cover hanging behind his desk in his classroom. “But its not so much that we were in Sports Illustrated as the fact that we could be the picture of the nation that night. That’s what was so humbling.”
As for the now 25-year-old O’Dell, it wasn’t until he started teaching seventh-grade history at Bellbrook last winter — and noticed the previous teacher, like so many others in the building, had the poster up on the wall of his classroom — that he began to realize the true impact of that September night in 2001:
“Sure, back when it happened it had been kind shocking to see the picture in Sports Illustrated, but then or now I never really looked at it as my picture. I just happened to be the guy who volunteered — just a guy in the right place at the right time — but what made the photo special was all of us being in that picture together.”
While 9/11 is downplayed or forgotten by many these days for a variety of reasons — from short attention spans and no sense of history to the avoidance of some of the most disturbing and painful images in this nation’s history — O’Dell said there’s “not a September that goes by that I don’t think of it.”
It strikes a chord with him, he said, not only because he’s a history teacher, but because “we’re part of the 9/11 generation.
“We were seniors in high school — 18 years old — and we’d be the youngest ones to answer the call right away, the youngest who could enlist in the service to protect our country. And I believe this is a war that’s going to go on for years and one our generation will have to face and fight — so, yeah, it means a lot to me.”
But his remembrance has little to do with that flag picture, he said: “That probably wouldn’t have crossed my mind if you hadn’t brought it up. I don’t talk about it. I even get a little embarrassed when that picture pops up on our scoreboard.
“I just want to be known as a good teacher and a good coach, not necessarily some guy who got his picture in a magazine carrying a flag.”
And yet, he is a good teacher not just because of what he does in the classroom now, but because of what he did that night seven years ago when he not only lifted a flag, but a lot of people who watched him or later saw his image and found themselves being pulled up by a bunch of kids charging ahead, unbowed.Tweet
When it comes to visual expression, Jim Tressel is taking a beating on both sides of the state line these days.
Here’s an editorial cartoon by Kirk Walters that appeared in the Toledo Blade the other day:
And here’s a photo the Associated Press moved of a billboard that’s just been unveiled along I-94 in Michigan:
With the killing of Osama bin Laden - the man behind the deadly September 11 attacks on America in 2001 - I’ve thought back to that terrible day and the people who perished, including six former University of Dayton grads at the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan.
Photographer Ron Alvey and I spent almost two weeks in New York - much of it at Ground Zero - chronicling those days with pictures and stories of people who perished and their families, others who survived, firemen and police who came to the rescue, as well as many other stories that tried to capture the frayed fabric of a wounded city doing the best it could to weave itself back together.
A year later Ron and I returned, visited many of the people and places we had before and also attended a moving ceremony on Long Island that honored the six UD grads killed the year before.
The grads included Kristy Irvine Ryan, Mary Lenz Wieman, Al Niedermeyer, David Wiswall, Joe Zucalla and William White.
Here is the story I wrote right after the ceremony:
A DAY FOR REMEMBRANCE
UNIONDALE, N.Y. - His three kids went off to rummage through the food tables that had been set out for the reception, but Marc Wieman - who had taken a seat under a tree in the courtyard - did not follow. When you’ve been carrying the weight of the world for almost a year, you grab every moment for rest or reflection that you can.
“We had our husband-and-wife fights about who was not pulling their weight,” he said quietly. “I’ll tell you, I didn’t realize how much she did until we lost her. The day-to-day demands can be overwhelming. Something needs to be washed and ironed by morning. The music teacher says they need sheet paper by the next day. The schoolbooks all had to be covered last week. Christopher made the baseball team. Alison has dance and is on the traveling soccer team and Mary Julia’s got dance and soccer, too.”
From behind him came a little girl’s voice: “And Brownies, too.’
Seven-year-old Mary Julia had a chocolate cookie in her hand and the remains of at least one more smeared on her lips, cheek and chin.
“How many cookies have you had?” Wieman said, shaking his head.
He called to his 13-year-son to find a napkin. When Chris shrugged off the request, Wieman did his best to swallow his wearied exasperation.
“This is a struggle every day,” said the 1978 University of Dayton graduate and a manager at AIG. “The ball game is on downstairs, but the girls need to be put to bed. Next thing I’m there and we’re talking about death. Since September 11th, you never know what’s going to be hard and what’s not. You want to be able to laugh again, but you end up with a lot of tears. You just don’t know. We’re all just feeling our way through this.”
And that’s what Wieman and a lot of other people associated with the University of Dayton were doing at a special ceremony - “A Remembrance For Those Who Died on Sept. 11th” - on Saturday afternoon at Kellenberg High School on Long Island.
Mary Lenz Wieman - Marc’s 43-year-old wife, the girl he’d met at a Founders Hall party on the UD campus 26 years ago, a business executive with the Aon Corporation and a 1980 UD graduate - was one of six UD grads who were killed in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center last year. Several other grads had loved ones killed there, and still others with UD ties were able to escape the carnage.
The University of Dayton has deep roots in this area. Nancy Riedl, president of the UD alumni association of New York, said the school has more than 3,000 graduates in surrounding New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Wieman lives in New York.
Saturday’s memorial included a Mass by the Rev. Thomas Cardone, followed by some warm and reassuring remarks by new UD President Daniel J. Curran. A low-key reception followed. A similar remembrance will be held for UD grads in Washington, D.C., this morning.
On Saturday, some of the families of the UD victims attended the memorial and some did not.
The family of David Wiswall, a senior vice president at Aon and a 1969 UD grad, held their own funeral service on Long Island on Saturday. Wiswall’s remains were identified by DNA samples just two days ago. As for 1965 grad William White, an Aon insurance broker who also perished, UD officials said they had been unable to contact his family.
And Nancy Niedermeyer - whose husband Al, a Port Authority police officer and 1983 UD grad, died while rescuing people in the South Tower - decided not to attend the service. In early October, she had found out she was pregnant and 4 1/2 months ago she gave birth to Angelica Joy, the couple’s second child. She is one of at least 102 women who have given birth after their husbands were killed in the Sept. 11 tragedies.
“Nancy just wants this all to be over,” one of Al’s fellow officers said. “She’s drawing her strength from her family and close friends now and she’s having the baby baptized later this month. That will be her ceremony.”
Madeline Zuccala showed up at Saturday’s service with her two grown daughters, other relatives and a few Delta Gamma Omega fraternity brothers of her late husband Joe, a 1968 UD grad who was working at a Japanese bank at the WTC. “Maddy just doesn’t want to talk,” said Charlie Dos Santos, one of Joe’s closest pals from UD. “She’s knows as soon as she starts talking about him, she’ll cry.”
That’s the tricky thing with memorials - especially with the Sept. 11 anniversary in just three days. Everybody reacts differently. Some people stay away, some people attend in silence, others talk. “The goal is to institute control at a time that marks an event that was out of control,” Dr. Terence Keane, a Boston University psychiatry and psychology professor told The New York Times .
As Stu Irvine - the father of Kristy Irvine Ryan, the 1993 UD grad who was killed in the collapse of the South Tower - explained at the memorial service Saturday: “Every day is a memorial to us. You can’t get away from it. Every day ends up being 9/11.”
His daughter, Wendy Toomey, reached out and rubbed his back and Stu was able to stave off the emotional slide. “I haven’t gone to a lot of these memorials, but I wanted to be at this one,” said Irvine, who lives on Long Island. “UD was always very dear to Kristy, and I’ll tell you, the school’s meant a lot to our family through the years.”
Irvine’s daughter, Tracy, also graduated from UD, as did Tracy’s husband Brian Janess, and Stu’s father-in-law, Joseph “Chief” Wagner. That concept - UD as family - was part of Curran’s message to those gathered Saturday. “We’re a community and all of us - students, faculty, staff and graduates - are here for you.” He told those assembled to visit him if they come to Dayton, and later Wieman said he just may do that some time.
“I’ve never been active in the alumni association, so I don’t know many of the people,” he said. “I thought that might make this ceremony easier to attend.’
Because of the circumstances of Mary’s death, some of the memorials have been especially difficult. She was preparing to run a meeting on the 105th floor of the South Tower and when word came to evacuate, she and several others started down the stairs. Although she was a fitness buff who worked out six days a week, she inexplicably decided to take the elevator at the 78th floor. Many of those who stayed on the stairs survived. The elevator never made it.
“Some of the people who were in that same meeting with her made it and they have tremendous issues now,” Wieman said. “They have a survivor’s guilt. One guy who I’ve know a long time basically couldn’t look me in the eye. He feels so guilty. There are a lot of people like that who need professional help… . It’s not easy for any of us.
“From Sept. 11th forward, everything’s been a struggle. But I have to hold it together for my kids. I have to let them get on with their lives. They’re entitled to be kids.”
That can be easier said than done. Saturday during the service, the youth choir at Kellenberg sang “Be Not Afraid” and as they did, Wieman wrapped his arm around 9-year-old daughter Alison and held her snugly. “That song wipes me out every time I hear it,” he said later.
Across the way, 66-year-old Stu Irvine wrestled with his emotions. “No one’s doing real well, but we do what we can,” he had said earlier.
It has been especially tough for him because his daughter’s remains were never identified. “We just don’t know,” he said. “Did she suffer or not? We took the mayor’s tour of Ground Zero, the Fresh Kills site where they took everything on Staten Island and then the medical examiner’s facility so we could see and hear what they do. They told us if she was asphyxiated, it took maybe 5 seconds. If she was vaporized, it was instant. I just didn’t want her to suffer.
“As I wrestled with this, I got a seven-page letter from an 83-year-old nun in Chicago. I don’t know her or how she found us, but she said something that really hit me. She said, ‘It won’t be long and I’ll be visiting your daughter and late wife. And soon you will, too.’ Well, I don’t know if I liked the soon part, but then I understood. In the grand scheme, this is just a short time till I see them again. If anything gave me closure, that did.”
Irvine said while their family lost a daughter, they also got an addition when Tracy and Brian adopted a child this year. “You do your best to keep living,” he said. “That’s all you can try to do.”
Wieman echoed those thoughts later. He talked of the kids’ involvements and he mentioned they all were in therapy. “The girls though aren’t impressed,” he said lightly. “Isn’t that right?”
Alison nodded: “Our therapist is boring.”
The chocolate-coated Mary Julia shook her head in disagreement: “No, he’s not boring. He’s orange.”
“He uses that fake suntan stuff,” Alison explained.
“Yeah,” Mary Julia said. “Sometimes he’s real orange.”
And finally Marc Wieman was able to laughTweet