Column: Line Drives — Four years hold special memories

[This is my column in the June 30 issue of The Commercial Review.]

Four years.

Saturday marks four years as sports editor of The Commercial Review.

I didn’t expect to be here this long.

No, that’s not to say I don’t want to still be here — I do — nor am I on my way out the door.

If you don’t mind, I think I’m going to stay for a while longer.

I just never thought I’d hit four years.

I thought I’d put in a year or two and move on. It’s the epitome of small-town, community journalism — get a foot in the door, gain experience, go elsewhere.

But I don’t want to.

And I’m glad I haven’t.

It’d be hard for me to imagine not being around to see the culmination of the high school athletic careers of four local athletes.

Four years ago I came to Portland not knowing what I was getting myself into.

Four years later, the class of 2017 is the first group of student-athletes I’ve gotten to cover all the way through high school.

There are four in particular whose careers have stuck out the most.

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Column: Line Drives — Question from a fan was a surprise

[This is my column in the Nov. 19 issue of The Commercial Review.]

It was a question that caught me off guard.

Saturday in Monroeville, the Jay County High School girls basketball team had just finished beating the host Heritage Patriots.

It was the second win in as many games — also the second game I covered this winter sports season — and the eighth consecutive regular season Allen County Athletic Conference victory for Jay County.

Usually I’m the one asking the questions following a game. Sometimes, I even catch the athletes off guard with one of my inquiries.

The table was turned Saturday.

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Column: Line Drives — Lapse in security needs answers

[This is my column in the Nov. 5 issue of The Commercial Review.]

How does it happen?

Given the surge in security measures taken at sporting events since Sept. 11, 2001, how is it that fans are able to smuggle things into professional sports stadiums?

Take Monday night’s football game between the Indianapolis Colts and Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Those of us who watched the game on TV were treated to footage of two people who rappelled and displayed a sign from the upper deck of the stadium protesting Bank of America’s involvement in a liquefied natural gas plant.

Initially it was unclear what they were doing. Gregg Doyel, a columnist for the Indianapolis Star, tweeted a photo claiming that they were technicians fixing a TV camera.

Makes sense.

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Column: Line Drives — Jay will compete for ACAC titles

[This is my column in the Aug. 13 issue of The Commercial Review.]

The elephant is no longer in the room.

Now that Leo High School has moved to the Northeast Eight Conference, let’s talk about Allen County Athletic Conference.

It was supposed to be a cakewalk for Jay County, the biggest school in the conference.

At least, that’s what many people were saying leading up to Jay County’s inaugural season in the ACAC.

The Patriots compete in 20 sports, and all but one — gymnastics — have a conference affiliation.

But after a full year of competing in the ACAC, only two Patriot teams are defending conference championships.

Two.

And they both came from the same sports season.

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Column: Line Drives — Playing multiple sports is best

[This is my column in the July 30 issue of The Commercial Review.]

John Smoltz, one-third of arguably the best three-man pitching rotation in the history of Major League Baseball, was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday.

During his speech, he touted those who helped him throughout his baseball career.
But he also had a message for young athletes and their parents regarding Tommy John surgery.

“It’s an epidemic,” said Smoltz, who to date is the only HOF member to have had the procedure. “It is something that is affecting our game. It is something that I thought would cost me my career.

“I want to encourage the families and parents that are out there to understand that this is not normal to have a surgery at 14 or 15 years old. You have time. Baseball is not a year-round sport. You have an opportunity to be athletic and play other sports.”

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Column: Line Drives — Jerseys need team’s colors

[This is my column in the June 25 issue of The Commercial Review.]

I need to rant.

It seems as if teams have gotten away from wearing uniforms that have their team colors.
Case in point, the University of Oregon.

I will admit some of its schemes look really good — the all-white and all-black uniforms are slick.

Those, however, are not the official Oregon Ducks colors of “Lightning Yellow” and “Thunder Green.”

Another example is the San Diego Chargers’ Powder blue uniforms.

While the Powder blues are technically not part of the Chargers’ colors, they are the best uniforms in the NFL. As is almost anything Oregon wears.

The “Wolf Grey” alternate uniforms for the Seattle Seahawks are indeed a little odd, but according to the team’s website it is one of their three team colors — College Navy and Action Green.

So they will get a pass.

The Atlanta Hawks, however, do not.
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Column: Line Drives — It’s hard to simply enjoy a game

[This is my column in the June 11 issue of The Commercial Review.]

I can’t do it anymore.

Sports are meant to entertain.

I can no longer watch sports for the entertainment value.

My job is to thank for that.

On his radio show Monday, Dan Patrick had Bob Costas as a guest and they chatted about a wide array of things, from American Pharoah to Caitlyn Jenner to being a sports fan. Patrick and Costas are two of my favorite sports media figures.

Patrick offered a comment that perfectly sums up what it’s like for me to watch sports.

“Instead of just sitting back, taking a deep breath and having a beer, I’m always sort of looking at what the storylines are,” he said.

He hit the nail on the head with that one.

For example, last summer I went to Major League Baseball games at Miller Park in Milwaukee and at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Both times I was fully engulfed in the games, keeping score and noticing trends.

I also had to explain to the lady next to me at Wrigley Field what was happening. As the afternoon progressed, she became more and more inebriated, and less and less aware of the flow of the game.

The Atlanta Braves scored seven runs in the first three innings before leading 10-2 after the seventh-inning stretch. The Cubs responded by scoring twice in the seventh and three times in the eighth, but the rally ended there as Atlanta won 10-7.

I went to Victory Field in Indianapolis on May 31 with my friend Eric, his girlfriend and their toddler. Eric and I are both Detroit Tigers fans, and Detroit pitcher Justin Verlander was making his first rehab start for the Toledo Mud Hens against the Indianapolis Indians.

We jumped at the opportunity to see him pitch so close to home — Eric and his family live in Carmel.

But throughout the game, it was difficult for me to be a fan.

Sure, I sat back, took some deep breaths and had a beer, but I wasn’t able to just let the game happen and watch. I had to analyze it and think of the storylines.

Verlander got torched. He had a difficult time finding the strike zone and failed to make it out of the third inning. He gave up three earned runs on six hits while walking a pair. He also struck out three and only recorded eight outs.

I want to sit back and be a fan. I can’t do it anymore.

Tuesday, I started watching game three of the NBA Finals midway through the third quarter. As I got caught up to speed, again, I couldn’t help but look at the storylines up to that point.

Matthew Dellavedova was playing the best defense I have seen in a long time from a professional basketball player. He was shutting down Steph Curry, who only had three points at halftime.

LeBron James was being his normal, freak-of-an-athlete self.

And as the Cleveland Cavaliers built a 20-point lead in the third, I couldn’t help but ask myself a few questions.

Can the Cavaliers sustain their dominance? Will Curry go the entire game shooting so poorly? Can LeBron truly carry this team to an NBA championship, proving all of his doubters wrong?

The answers to the first two questions proved to be a resounding “no.”

Golden State trailed by as little as one point in the fourth quarter before eventually losing by five, 96-91.

Curry scored 17 of his team-high 27 points in the fourth, making some of his signature 3-pointers from either deep beyond the arc or with little space in the corners.

That last question is yet to be answered.

Sometimes I find it difficult to separate work and pleasure.

But it’s a good thing, right?

It must mean “work” has no longer become “work.”

From time to time, though, I’d like to simply attend a game or watch sports on television.

I just can’t do it anymore.