Sports Illustrated-Adam Morrison vs. Larry Bird

Adam Morrison vs. Larry Bird

Gonzaga forward Adam Morrison has been turning heads with his infallible game — 3-point bank shots at the buzzer, 43 points againstMichigan State — and unflattering looks: a hairy caterpillar mustache and long messy hair.

All the excitement has led to some lofty comparisons with another shaggy-haired, mustachioed, do-it-all basketball star by the name ofLarry Bird. Personally — because I can’t resist adding my own shameless interpretation — Morrison looks more like a cross betweenPete Maravich (colorful tube socks), Steve Prefontaine (mustache), and the teenage Amish kids who used to sell pies on my rural Ohiocollege campus (locks-ridden bowl cuts).

I caught Morrison’s performance at the Maui Invitational, where he led the Zags to a ready-made classic triple overtime thriller overMichigan State. I happened to be sitting a few rows behind a certain former Boston Celtics player and current head honcho. Speaking of hair worth watching, as a lifelong redhead, I was a little chagrined to see Danny Ainge sporting hair a shade brighter than my own. Two words: frosty tips.

I glanced over at Ainge every time Morrison did something eye-popping (which was often), and make no mistake, the man looked like he was watching a Celtic ghost as Mr. Gonzaga lit it up with impossible bank shots, hard drives, and crisp passing. There was a magic in the gym, aside from the Thanksgiving Maui heat and customary college basketball coach paunches that were bouncing along the sideline through the button-down Hawaiian shirts.

Watching Gonzaga take on and defeat a talented and equally sound Michigan State team was a joy. There were four missed free throws in the entire game. Both teams rode players with hot hand throughout the game instead of forcing play, and they both attacked the basket, boxed out, and took care of the ball.

This “how-to” college basketball extravaganza was a tough act to follow, and was proceeded unceremoniously by an Arizona-Connecticut stinker marred by sloppiness and offensive disarray. That’s right, I referred to a matchup between two of college basketball’s storied programs as a stinker. That’s what watching Gonzaga and Morrison will do: make you remember and appreciate a style of basketball that is well-executed, thoughtful and well-played.

Rolling into conference play, Gonzaga had played one of the tougher non-conference schedules in the nation and was 10-3, including a two-point loss to Connecticut and a four-point loss to Washington. They have won with injuries and despite the fact that Morrison is stoppable, especially when teams collapse four defenders on him (yet, he still leads the nation in scoring).

After Morrison purposefully banked in a shot from an impossible angle to beat Oklahoma State in December, an NBA scout sitting next to me turned and proclaimed, ” Larry Bird.”

Yes, impressive, I thought, but even more electric was watching Morrison miss and then sprint — trust me, that is a generous statement for a man who runs about as gracefully as a penguin — to catch his mark. He also routinely engaged his supporting cast in a heated lecture after a turnover or foul, especially when the game got close down the stretch.

What seemed most Bird-like to me was Morrison’s fire. He did not make every shot, but he kept his team’s intensity up and buoyed their will to win.

The Bird comparisons flow freely these days. Morrison has an eerily similar jump shot that is fired up like a pinball and trickles down like a raindrop. He is also small-town and a gym rat. They have both overcome adversity: Bird his father’s suicide; Morrison his diabetes. Rumor even has it that Morrison idolizes Bird.

Yes, this all makes a nice tidy story. But Morrison also reportedly has sported a Che Guevara poster on his dorm room wall, and not because Che is from the same country ( Argentina) as Manu Ginobli (there is more to life than sports, people.)

Perhaps Morrison is trying to lead Gonzaga in a guerilla revolution at the NCAA Tournament, or maybe just trying to make college hoops a little more sharing, a little more Marxist. (Just for the record, hold up a photo of Morrison next to the classic photo of Che. Now you are seeing a ghost, Mr. Ainge.)

Jokes aside, there is a literal connection here. Part of what makes players like Bird and Morrison fly, aside from a thick-winged moustaches, is that they do have a little socialism in them, the ability to be great without being greater than.

At the end of the day, the can’t-miss kid obviously has a lot of influences, basketball and non. He is Larry Bird and Che Guevara, a natural leader who sparks a successful team and a successful system. He makes shots and draws defensive attention, passes out of double teams, finds the cutting man, runs hard up and down the floor, and his team is right there with him.

Nobody ever said that being a team player and leader meant you had to be boring.

Sports Illustrated-Gopher Glory

Gopher Glory

In my hometown of Minneapolis/St. Paul, we are blessed with something not even New York City can boast: a major university and franchises in all four major pro leagues. That’s a lot of sports to watch.

So on a cold snowy night, when it’s time to warm up from a long day of ice fishing (yes, local lakes can be enjoyed without Vikings on party boats), it’s not our multimillion-dollar miscreant crybabies we turn to, but the college kids on ice skates who are playing for the love of the game.

First things first: a non-Midwesterner might struggle to understand why an educated person would pay top dollar to go from the outdoor patch of ice that is the Minnesota winter to an indoor patch occupied by a bunch of college kids. You simply need to be grounded in a more global understanding of sport.

Aside from Chivas, the soccer power from Guadalajara that prides itself on fielding only Mexican-born players, I am unaware of many teams that limit their pool of talent to locals. But until five or six yeas ago, Minnesota’s hockey program survived almost entirely on homegrown players.

“Every kid who plays hockey in the state dreams of being a Minnesota Gopher,” says current Minnesota captain Gino Guyer, who was born in Coleraine, Minn. “I’ve always thought of hockey in Minnesota like football in Texas. It means that much.”

Call it arrogant, misguided, ‘Sota-centric, or whatever, but it worked. See: Herb Brooks, Neil Broten, and the rest of the 1980 Olympic hockey team. Now, only a select few Dakotans and the occasional Wisconsinite are given temporary visas to cross the border and score goals for the greater good that is Gopher hockey.

One must also recall the sights and sounds of fascism in Italy. When the Golden Gophers score, the entire crowd stands up, right arms extended with clinched fists, and spells out M-I-N-N-E-S-O-T-A, accentuating each letter with a punch to the air. The salute lasts about 15 seconds and ends with a twirl of the right arm above the head and a final exclamatory punch forward.

This can get tiring on a good night, and the casual fan might decide to take a breather. But the dedicated follower in aisle 18, seat 7, the one with the Gophers hat complete with fuzzy protruding ears, will stare at you threateningly.

“It’s a thrill to play in front of a crowd like that,” says Calgary Flames defenseman Jordan Leopold, who manned the Gophers’ blue line from 1998-2002. “There’s a six-year waiting list for season tickets. The building holds 11,000 and it’s sold out every night, every year, every game.”

The college kids in the stands are just as entertaining as the ones on the rink. Piling into the section behind the visitor’s goal, backed by the enormous pep band made up of clarinets from the Iron Range and tubas from the prairie, these kids are tipsy, but witty. I’m sure I’ll change my tune when I begin taking my own son to games, but for now, listening to U of M students chant “Union College” (an opponent) is simply hilarious.

At a recent Gophers game, my father and I were treated to eight goals and thorough home team domination, but something was missing. Yes, it used to be even better.

Across the street from the still sparkling “new” Mariucci Arena, where we sit, is the “old” one. It was our first true sporting love. We are warmed by memories of homemade caramel corn, a low ceiling pocketed with dents from flying pucks, and old clanking radiators that served as warm perches for the cigar-smoking old timers between periods. We gaze longingly at the ramshackle rink. Like the first car we ever owned, she’s a little run-down, but, man, was she fun.

Our nostalgic hallucinations were shattered by an unwitting Union College forward who made the very unfortunate decision to run straight into the Gopher’s goaltender. Five of Minnesota’s more massive players quickly piled on and proceeded to “Eddie Shore” any Union player who came near the fray. With Reg Dunlap glee, the crowd delighted in seeing their own beat the crap out of the liberal arts travelers from upstate New York.

Yes, this all might sound a bit old fashioned and even hooligan, but it gets at the heart of why college sports can be much, well… much more. Most of these kids are not burdened by trying to feed their families on mere millions of dollars. They are having fun. So are we. What is better than that?

Sports Illustrated-Harvard vs. Princeton Game turns 100. Who Cares?

Between the Red Sox‘s season-saving victory over Cleveland, the annual Head of Charles Regatta and the Bikram Yoga regional championships (no, this is not a joke), Saturday was heaven on earth for any Boston sports fan. But the most historic event took place with very little fanfare. That’s right, Harvardand Princeton battled for the 100th time on the gridiron.

-Jesse Hardman, Cambridge, MA

I was on hand for the big event and asked everyone I could find — from coeds to old timers — about the significance of the game and most returned my question with a chuckle. Others gave me an empty look and returned to smoking cigars and fixing their VERITAS lapel pins. Needless to say, this wasn’t exactly Ohio State-Michigan.

One exception was Harvard junior Blake Brown, who was flipping burgers and drinking beers with 30 other members of the H-Club, a school sponsored tailgate organization. Brown apologizes for the low turnout. “It’s 12:30 on Saturday, and most students are sleeping or doing homework. We’re trying to not be those kids.”

On the bright side, Brown says the beer was paid for by the University. ” Harvardpaid for this whole tailgate. Our tuition is finally doing something for us.”

All told there are just over 100 people gearing up for the game in the tailgate area. I move over to the Princeton side to see if the Tigers are any more ferocious. Pete Allen and Collin Anderson greet me and recount their hijinks from last night.

“We went up to Cambridge and walked through their territory last night. All I can say is go big or go home.”

Pete and Collin are decked in bright orange shirts, orange foam No. 1 fingers and bright orange hunting hats. They look like construction cones. These two friends try to muster a few taunts, calling Harvard fans “lackluster,” and telling them to “Warm up the bus, it’s a long way back to Cambridge.”

But they say the reason they came to the game is to convene with the notable Princeton community. “You’ll get people here who graduated eighty years ago,” Allen says.

Harvard alum Bill Temby is not quite that old, but he did graduate from Harvard just after World War II. “I’ve been to every Yale game since 1946 except for two.”

Temby is loyal to Harvard football in part because it has maintained the spirit of collegiate sports. “These are people who will graduate, take their place in life, not a whole lot different than if they hadn’t played football.”

As I make my way into the 30,000 seat coliseum that is Harvard Stadium, I am struck by two things. First, how can a school with an endowment of around $30 billion have a football stadium with no actual seats, just concrete slabs? Second, how did I buy a ticket to a football game and wind up at a Brooks Brothersfashion shoot?

At just about any other college football stadium, the crowd would be a sea of beer stained sweatshirts and windbreakers. At Harvard, gameday apparel consists of bow ties, tweed blazers and khakis. I sit down in front of a guy named Sumner and a few rows down from a Kennedy (I wasn’t sure which one, but the woman in the row behind me wouldn’t shut up about it). The three gentlemen in front of me are decked out in cardigans and nibble on Ben and Jerry’s ice cream bars. One of them yells at friend who passes in a suit and tie, “You look dapper. You know this isn’t a political fundraiser.”

Laughter ensues, but if I did not know better, I would say that is exactly what is going on here. Much of the crowd is wearing nametags with their graduation year and the years of any legacies they may have produced. Firm handshakes and million dollar smiles abound.

As I watch Harvard‘s lone baton twirler spin and drop her baton for the fifth time, I have to smile. Yes, she’s had more drops than the Crimson receivers, but she’s out there because she wants to be. Nobody gave her or anyone on the field a scholarship to be here. Student athletes do not go to Harvard or Princeton for football, and maybe that is partly why the game is fun. Everybody is an amateur, including the fans. It is competitive, but it’s just a game.

In this century old rivalry the prevailing attitude is that life will go on, which is a good thing when you consider who is in the crowd. If these powerful Ivies got too worked up about a little football game, stock markets might crash, politicians fall, and who knows what other catastrophes would hit. Yes, the world can rest easy tonight knowing that a good natured football game happened this weekend, and few will remember.

NPR – Scenes from a Struggle with Parkinson’s Disease

I have wanted to document my dad’s battle with Parkinson’s for a long time. As many reporters can attest, it can be a hard transition from the detached impartiality required for most journalism to documenting someone close to you. For nearly 10 years, thoughts of interviewing my dad felt forced — and frankly, the idea scared me. Did I really want to know the difficult details of his battle with the disease? On a personal level, I had gotten into the habit of assuming he was OK, and only drawing from his general successes, not what is inevitably a progressive breakdown of the body.

While visiting my parents a few months ago, I woke up one morning and saw my dad was getting ready to go to a Parkinson’s support event. I grabbed my recorder and a microphone and joined him.

 

Dart Center-Radio in Chile: Voice of Recovery

When the magnitude 8.8 earthquake hit south-central Chile early on February 27, everything went silent. No electricity, no cell phones, no computers, and most importantly, says Mauro Morshiatti, no radio. But within 15 minutes Morshiatti and his team of engineers, producers and reporters at the Radio Bio Bio network, headquartered in Concepción, a town of a half million people near the epicenter, had broken the silence with a simple broadcast. He had no information about the extent of the damages or the government response, but Morshiatti knew he had to get on the air.

“When there is silence it means you’re absolutely alone. And after an earthquake that’s distressing. And the newspapers can’t solve that, it has to be the radio,” he said. “It has to be a voice.”

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MPR-Freelance journalists often face big-league dangers

Freelance journalists often face big-league dangers by Jesse Hardman January 21, 2010

The Wall Street Journal recently compiled its list of the 200 best to worst occupations, taking into consideration levels of physical demands, stress, employment outlook, income and environment. Reporters ranked toward the bottom, well below nuclear-plant decontamination technicians. Perhaps it’s not surprising that during a year when the Great Recession has compounded a decade of newspaper revenue declines and newsroom firings, reporting has become a career on par with garbage collectors.

What is surprising is that so many young people continue to want to become journalists despite this bleak reality and the unknown future of the industry. Graduate school applications at institutions such as Columbia University, NYU and Northwestern’s Medill are up. Columbia had a 38 percent increase in applications, despite continued low wages and few opportunities in the industry.

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Simon Bolivar Rides Again!

Last December page A-27 of the New York Times displayed a picture of a very American-three story house complete with Christmas adornments and a welcoming open door. Above the house sat a caption in big bold letters, “How Venezuela is Keeping the Home Fires Burning in Massachusetts.” Yes, that’s right, Venezuela, a country most Americans could not pick out of a Latin American lineup a year ago is beating its chest in the New York Times.
Now people from Quincy, Massachusetts to Chicago’s barrios know the name Hugo Chávez, Venezuela’s president, and many consider him a good and generous man who wants to help them pay their winter heating bills. This positive image of Chávez has emerged despite the fact that the U.S. government vehemently hates him, and the truth that as a leader, he floats somewhere between good, amusing and at times extremely divisive.  Since Hurricane Katrina and the U.S. government’s visible failure to respond to the needs of its own people, Venezuelan officials have waged a large-scale public relations effort to sell their country as the new super power on the block.

Tribal Radio

This past May, we spent nine days driving around the southwestern United States visiting some of the 33 Native American reservations that have their own radio stations. We knew before the trip that tribal radio would be unique but there was no way to predict how much so. Every station we visited was a different mix of professional old hands, volunteers, elders, youth, tradition, and innovation. The more community members we spoke to, the more clear it became that radio, often dismissed as outdated for the Web 2.0 era, was the most essential medium of communication in Indian country, whether it was serving a reservation the size of a small European country or one just a few square miles long.

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Providing a Lifeline of Information in Sri Lanka

Internews has given nearly 3000 transistor radios to families who have been forced to flee their homes by the conflict in Eastern Sri Lanka. The radio distribution is part of Internews’ “Lifeline” project to meet the information needs of Sri Lankans living in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Kowsalya Murugaiah, the local leader of the Alunkulam welfare camp in Sri Lanka’s Eastern Batticaloa District, calls out to her fifty-some constituents and then waits patiently under a shady tree.  Mostly women and children emerge from small one-room huts where they seek shade from the unbearable heat that defines afternoon in this part of the island. The men are out doing physical work like cutting and hauling firewood from the local jungle.

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Media Training in Sri Lanka

This morning the Sri Lankan government began letting thousands of refugees leave the camps where they’ve been held since the country’s 25-year war with the Tamil Tigers ended last May. According to news reports the government said the Tamil civilians who had been held in the camps would be allowed free movement but would be required to register with local authorities. Some 300,000 people had been displaced by the war.

Jesse Hardman was a reporter here at WBEZ. He’s also been Worldview’s World Cup Commentator for the past two years, and writes the blog Put Me in the Game. Most recently he spent a year doing media training in Sri Lanka, working with local reporters on a project to improve access to information for people who’d been displaced by the war. His group of reporters produced a daily radio show called Lifeline. In order to gather material for the program, they went to the areas where those who’d been displaced by the war were living. Jesse talks to us about what the mood was like in the country when the civil war ended.

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Music in the Midst of Sri Lanka’s Civil War

One of the stories of 2009 was the end of 25 years of brutal civil war in Sri Lanka. Government troops forced the surrender of the Tamil Tiger rebels in the island nation just south of the Indian continent.  One Minnesotan who got an inside view of the conflict was journalist Jesse Hardman In the midst of the chaos he came upon an amazing story of a forgotten people.

Jesse Hardman went to Sri Lanka to train and lead a team of local journalists. They travelled the length and breadth of the country, talking to some of the tens of thousand of people in displacement camps.  These were people pushed from their homes by outbreaks of violence, often at a moment’s notice. Some had been out of their homes for months. As Hardman’s news team came into each community they set about spreading information the people desperately needed.

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A Young Hawaiian Clears An Imposing Hurdle

In Hawaii, where few public schools are known for their academic achievements, a student’s chances of landing a spot in a big state school is remote. But Peni Fiuangaihetau, a larger-than-life high school senior from Maui, has beaten cultural and academic odds to land a college spot in Utah. Hawaii ranks dead last in U.S. high school academic testing. Very few students in the state go on to college.

 

Chile: Rebuilding After the Earthquake Part II

In Chile the south of the country continues to piece itself together after it’s massive earthquake at the end of February. They’re trying to get million children back in school. 800,000 people are still homeless. Jesse Hardman is a former Chicago Public Radio reporter who’s been working with Internews in Chile. Internews is a non profit that works to empower local media in more than 70 countries. Hardman says local radio has played an important role in the Chilean recovery.  Listen Here ->

 

Commonwealth Magazine-A Condo Boom Forces a Town to Grow Up

On a brisk October weekday, the only deals going down on Broadway are at Christy’s, a small pizza stand. At 1 p.m., the lunchtime crowd consists of two construction workers who have made the trip from Dracut, 30 miles away, just for a slice. Jerry and Bob have been coming to Salisbury their whole lives, but one of them gives a tough assessment of the town: “It was hopping 30 years ago. Now it’s dead.”

Broadway, since little else is open around here during the late fall or the winter. On the two-block stretch nearest the beach there is a ghostly row of vacant arcades and fried-food stands, and the beachfront itself is lined with old concrete buildings. One sports a faded painting of a palm tree, a vestige of past summers when it served as a bar and music club.

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