Category Archives: Sports news

Three cheers for public TV

Some readers of this blog might know that I am a big fan of public television. I worked for a time as a freelance blogger for a public TV station in Amarillo — Panhandle PBS, based at Amarillo College — not long after my print journalism career ended.

Whenever I hear the name Ken Burns attached to a public TV special, I perk up instantly and commit to watching whatever Burns assembles for the public air waves.

I just finished binge-watching a four-part special on The Greatest, aka “Muhammad Ali.”

Wow! What a special! What a man Ali became.

Ali died in 2016 at age 74 of complications from the Parkinson’s disease with which he had been diagnosed since 1984.

Burns and his staff of colleagues, producers, editors and writers assembled a fantastic broadcast journey that took viewers through Ali’s childhood in Louisville, Ky., to the 1960 Olympics in Rome, to his professional boxing career, his wins and losses, his exile for following his religious objection to the Vietnam War, his becoming a Muslim, his troubled marriages to four women (and his relentless womanizing along the way), his status as a cultural icon and how he became the Most Famous Man in the World and finally to his death.

You are reading the words of a longtime fan of Muhammad Ali. I cannot watch without crying his 1996 appearance at the Atlanta Olympics when he lit the torch. It was a seminal moment in Ali’s journey from world-class athlete to world-class human being.

Public TV brought all this to viewers. It was a stunning bit of television. Then again, none of us should be surprised that Ken Burns — arguably the world’s foremost documentary filmmaker — could deliver such epic TV programming to our living rooms.

If you get a chance, check out this latest contribution from Ken Burns. You will learn something about The Greatest.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Let anthem stand on its own

The older I get the more of a fuddy-duddy I become.

There. I’ve admitted it. What caused this admission? It’s the inclusion of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” at professional football games which is now being sung alongside the National Anthem.

“Lift Every Voice and Sing” has become a sort of de facto “black national anthem.” It’s a lovely song. I don’t know the words, but I do hear it on occasion and I like the melody.

Do we need to sing it at pro football games as a statement that we recognize the injustice being done to African Americans to this very day? I don’t think so.

I prefer to sing only the National Anthem — the “Star Spangled Banner,” if you will — at sports events. How come?

We have one National Anthem. Just a single tune. Its lyrics were penned by Francis Scott Key in the early 19th century. It stands as the song we all learned as children. We sang it in school. We sing it today at public meetings and, yes, at sporting events.

I don’t want to dilute the meaning of the national anthem, which proclaims we are the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” Do I ignore the injustice that continues to occur? Do I accept that some Americans are treated unfairly? That they face discrimination? No! I reject all of that!

However, this notion that we sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” alongside the “Star Spangled Banner” just doesn’t feel right.

OK. I’m a white guy. I also am a fuddy-duddy. Deal with it!

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Football game = diversion

I do enjoy the occasional welcome diversion from the issues of the day. One of them came across my sight this afternoon.

The Oregon Ducks played the Ohio State Buckeyes in a college football game in Columbus, Ohio. The Buckeyes were ranked No. 3 in the nation; the Ducks came in as the No. 12-ranked outfit.

The Ducks won the game in the stadium they call “The Shoe.” It was filled with 100,000 or so screaming fans. Dare I say they weren’t wearing masks? Oh, what the hey … I’ll save that one for another time.

I am an Oregon native. I didn’t attend the U of O, but I cheer for them when they show up on national TV. I did so today, alarming Toby the Puppy when it appeared near the end of the game the Ducks would win.

We all need to have our attention yanked away from those things that dominate the TV airwaves, or the printed pages of newspapers, or our computer screens.

My wife and I rolled out early this morning to attend a 9/11 commemoration at a fire station in Princeton, Texas, where we now live. It was a wonderful event. They played “Taps.” They hoisted the flag and then lowered it to half-staff. The deputy fire chief delivered some heartfelt remarks about the heroism we all witnessed 20 years ago today when the terrorists attacked us.

Then we went about our day.

I took some time away from scouring news sites for matters on which to comment. I just cheered for my favorite college football team.

Dang! It was great to see the Oregon Ducks win a huge football game in front of the whole nation.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

UT, OU move to SEC? Well, it has its rewards

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I am not well-versed on the business of intercollegiate athletics to offer much reasoned commentary on the pending move of the universities of Texas and Oklahoma from the Big 12 to the Southeastern Conference.

I’ll leave the economics of it for others to parse and to examine. However, I want to proclaim that I see one big tangible benefit to seeing this move occur: One major football rivalry is going to revive itself and another one will remain intact.

Texas vs. Texas A&M? Remember those days? The Longhorns and the Aggies would play on Thanksgiving Day. The whole state stopped to watch that game. The Longhorn-Aggie rivalry was among the biggest and most cherished in all of college football.

Then it ended when A&M moved to the SEC a few years back. I lamented then the end of the rivalry, wishing it could return. Guess what. It’s gonna come back. Will they play the game as they did in the old days, on Turkey Day? I hope so.

Oh, and then we have the UT-OU rivalry, the Red River Showdown, the game that occurs every year during Texas State Fair time at the Cotton Bowl. That rivalry ain’t going anywhere, it appears to me, as both the “Horns and the Sooners are making the move to the SEC.

I just don’t want ’em messing with the location. It needs to stay in Dallas, which is just about smack in the middle between Norman and Austin.

I know not everyone is happy about this big change in the intercollegiate athletic landscape. It’s especially critical as it involves the football programs at schools such as Texas Tech, TCU and Baylor. I’ll leave it to them to figure out their next steps.

As for rivalries returning and retained … bring it!

What if she had competed … and failed?

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Simone Biles’s critics are terribly quick to condemn the iconic gymnast’s decision to bow out of the Olympics team competition, contending that she “quit on her team.”

Hmm. Well, let’s ponder something for a moment. Shall we?

Suppose Biles had decided that her mental and emotional issues were no big deal and she competed in the team competition. Then she tanked terribly. Suppose a horrible performance would have cost her team a chance at any medal, let alone the gold medal.

By stepping aside, Simone Biles not only didn’t quit on her team, she well might have enhanced its medal prospects simply by being there to cheer her friends on.

Did she “quit” on her teammates? No … way!

Here’s a thought. Let’s just give this courageous young woman the space she needs to deal head-on with whatever is troubling her.

Can we really understand this pressure?

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Simone Biles has walked away from Olympic glory.

Or has she? The premier U.S. gymnast took herself out of the team competition at the Tokyo Olympics the other day, citing emotional stress and unreadiness to compete.

I am not going to weigh in with a heavy-duty critique of what she did. Nor am I going to try to assess why she has bowed out and might be done altogether as the current Olympic Games plays out.

You see, few of us outsiders can understand fully the pressure, the intense scrutiny, the proverbial weight of the world pressing down on the shoulders of a young athlete who competes at the highest level imaginable.

For that reason alone — my ignorance of what she is enduring and has endured during her years on the world athletic stage — I am going to give this young woman a pass.

I want her to find peace. I want her to expunge whatever demons are lurking inside her soul. I wish her the very best … which I suppose when you add all this up is my  endorsement of Simone Biles’s decision to bow out.

Soddies have firm grip on fans

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Amarillo’s Central League baseball team, the Sod Poodles, are struggling a bit on the field this year. They are in last place in their division.

But … there’s some good news to report on the team that won the Texas League pennant in their first year of existence in 2019.

The fans are still flocking to Hodgetown, the shiny new ballpark that sits along Buchanan Street in downtown Amarillo. How do I know that, given I now live in Princeton, a suburb of Dallas?

I get the Sunday Dallas Morning News each week. I went out this morning to pick it up off my driveway. I opened the sports page and turned to the Central League box scores. I saw that the Sod Poodles had lost a game Saturday night at home to the Frisco Roughriders. However, they played before a packed house at Hodgetown.

This is good news on at least one important level. It tells me that the Sod Squad — a social media group — isn’t just a gaggle of fair-weather fans who cheer the Sod Poodles on only when they win. They’re with ’em through thick and thin. Let’s face it, they’ve hit a “thin” patch this season after sitting out all of 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

I remain proud of the baseball community in Amarillo, where my wife and I lived for 23 years before relocating to the Dallas ‘burbs.

Retired Amarillo College President Paul Matney, a vocal proponent of bringing minor-league ball back to Amarillo, once referred to his hometown as a “baseball city.”

That means they’re in it for the long haul with the team that many folks fought hard to bring to the High Plains.

Cleveland … Guardians?

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

OK. I am fine with the Washington Football Team of the National Football League jettisoning the name it used to call itself: the Redskins.

But, something inside my old man’s body tells me the Cleveland Indians’ decision to change its name to Guardians is a step too far into the realm of political correctness.

The Washington Football Team’s former name clearly had been interpreted as a slur against Native Americans. Old-time western cowboys would use the term as an epithet against Indians.

However, to change the name of one of Major League Baseball’s more storied franchises to the Guardians? I don’t get where this is going or where it might go.

As a friend of mine noted earlier today on social media, a Native American suited up for the Cleveland team many decades, becoming the first indigenous American to play big-league baseball. Thus, it is believed the Indians named the team in his honor.

Maybe I shouldn’t tread onto this ground, given that I am the grandson of immigrants from southern Europe. I don’t understand how a Native American might feel about an MLB team named the Indians. It’s just that to my eyes and ears the team nickname has a decidedly neutral sound to it, unlike the former name of the NFL team that plays tackle football in Washington, D.C.

How many more teams are going to succumb to the pressure that continues to mount?

Sigh …

What tastes best at the ballpark?

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Someone who belongs to a social media group to which I also belong has asked what well might be the most, um, silliest question ever posed.

She wants to know “What’s the best thing to eat at the stadium?”

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw this question posed on Facebook. The query comes from a member of the Amarillo Sod Poodles fan club.

I am going to presume something implied in the question. I will presume that “stadium” refers to the ballpark where the Sod Poodles play baseball in Amarillo.

My answer was unequivocal. I said, “hot dog.” I should have put a few exclamation points behind it.

I mean, I can think of nothing that tastes better at a ballpark during a baseball game than a hot dog smothered in mustard. I believe the late talk show host Mike Douglas once said that a hot dog at a baseball game was equal to “a filet mignon.”

Man, he was so right.

I am not going to make fun of the question or the questioner. It just boggles my noggin that “hot dogs at the ballpark” isn’t known universally as among the best eatin’ ever.

Pujols finds a new team … yes!

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Albert Pujols will take his place in due course in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.

But first the former three-time National League Most Valuable Player, two-time World Series champ (with the St. Louis Cardinals) and arguably the best right-handed hitter in the past 60 years will get to play one season for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The LA Angels gave Pujols the boot in the final year of the huge contract he signed prior to the 2012 season. The all-timer didn’t perform up to the standards he set while playing for the Cardinals.

Free agent Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Dodgers agree to major-league contract (msn.com)

He is now 41 years of age. He doesn’t have much time.

The only downer I see in this signing is that Pujols won’t get to play the Cardinals in St. Louis this year, as he did in 2019 when the Angels visited Busch Stadium for a three-game set against the Cards. The reception the St. Louis fans gave Pujols was remarkable in the extreme.

I’ve shared this video already, but it’s worth seeing again.

Enjoy …

Cardinals fans give Albert Pujols a standing ovation in his return to Busch Stadium – YouTube