Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A decade's worth of clutter

There are two file cabinets in my basement office containing much of what I need but mostly what I don't.

After 10-plus years covering Reds baseball, a reporter can amass quite a collection of "stuff". Of course, one person's clutter is another's treasure.

In need of some space for, you know, more junk, I decided to take advantage of a rainy spring day and clean out my closet, so to speak. But what actually transpired was a trip down memory lane. For me, it became a scenic Sunday drive.

The press release from the Ken Griffey Jr. trade - ah, remember it well. Feb. 10, 2000, a cool, drizzly afternoon throughout which this reporter prayed that the much-rumored deal would wait for another day. With a spiking fever and horrible virus, the last thing I wanted to do was venture down to Cinergy Field into a sweaty jam-packed media room to discuss the deal of the decade. But, that's what I did.

Not to be morbid, but several Reds notables have died while I was on the beat, most notably Marge Schott - I still have the funeral announcement. That was another rainy day, by the way (why do I always recall the weather?) - , Joe Nuxhall, and Glenn Sample.

Scorecards, why do I keep them? I didn't. Tossed a stack of 100 or so. Kept only those that recorded notable events or achievements. Made certain to keep any scorecards and game notes from the first game at Great American Ball Park and last at Cinergy/Riverfront.

Lots of Great American Ball Park stuff, mostly construction docs and opening game items. Kept very little. I recall writing stories for a construction newsletter, everything from the seats to the scoreboard.

Found my media credential from the Cinergy Field implosion. That was an early morning. Hal McCoy and I consumed a great deal of caffiene before the Big bang.

The sheer number of press passes found in my files convinced me of one thing: I spent far too much time away from home. Sorry, honey.

Weird stuff: the police report from Ryan Freel's DUI arrest and some legal documents/police reports from Dernell Stenson's murder.

In the end, it's all just paper. Memories can't be pitched, at least not voluntarily.

New coach, mostly same 'Cats

My first University of Cincinnati spring practice report has been filed to Sports XChange:

Initial impressions of first-year Bearcats head coach Butch Jones:

A no-nonsense football coach. Not the salesman/politician combo that was Brian Kelly, but more of a bare-bones guy. Players seem to like his open-door approach. Practices are just as spirited as they were under Kelly, and perhaps a bit more fast-paced. Jones' offensive philosophy is similar, although look for the running game to be more of a factor next season.

On a sunny, spring-like day at Nippert Stadium, you could almost smell fall.

10 weeks for 19 seconds

University of Cincinnati senior swimmer Josh Schneider, about whom I wrote two stories for the Cincinnati Enquirer in the past couple months, wasn't about to let this opportunity slip past.

With Olympic sponsorships at stake and still stinging from a poor finish at last year's NCAA Championships, Schneider chose to forgo his vices - no drinking, no late nights, no fast food, and no motorcycle riding.

For 10 weeks in preparation for the NCAAs in Columbus, Schneider "disconnected himself from the world". Talk about commitment.

The strategy paid off. Schneider, the top-seed in the 50-meter freestyle, won the event with a record clocking of 18.93.

"I feel complete" he said afterwards.

The victory could net Schneider enough sponsorship cash to allow him to train full-time for the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Good luck in London, kid. I'd keep that motorcycle at your parents' house until '13.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Moments of magnitude

Perhaps for a moment, or two, Dee Dee Jernigan considered the magnitude of what she was about to accomplish.

It was a layup, a shot she'd made countless times during her college basketball career, in high school, on the playground, or by just tossing a wad of paper into the nearest receptacle.

But this was more than just a layup, or two.

It was a chance to clinch a signature victory over top-seed Stanford in the Sacramento Regional final, thus sending the Musketeers to their first Final Four.

But, instead of instinctively placing the ball into the basket like she'd done so many times before, Jernigan guided it. No, she Google mapped it and printed directions.

In the waning seconds of Monday night's game, Jernigan found herself alone under the basket. Not once, but twice.

She missed. Both times.

Then, in an almost pre-scripted result, Stanford's Jeanette Pohlen raced the length of the court for a buzzer-beating layup to give the Cardinal a 55-53 victory.

Pressure is part of the game. It's an obstacle to be overcome, like a 1-3-1 zone that seems impenetrable.

If it was easy, those 4-foot putts at Augusta would find the cup without fail.

Xavier's gut-wrenching defeat reminded me of another local moment of magnitude - last year's Frozen Four title game between Boston University and Miami University.

The Redhawks led 3-1 with less than one minute remaining, a seemingly insurmountable deficit in hockey terms. But the battle-tested Terriers rallied for three unanswered goals to win the national title in overtime.

Redhawks goalie Cody Reichard, who surrendered BU's winning goal as a freshman, has helped lead Miami back to the Frozen Four.

The next time he's thrust into a game-saving situation, Reichard will understand. He'll brush pressure off his red sweater like a speck of lint.

Unfortunately, Jernigan's college career is over. She won't get a chance to atone for Monday night, at least not on the basketball court.

I bet the next time the East Chicago, IN native attempts a layup, she'll drain it.

When life requires a greater degree of difficulty, Jernigan will be better prepared. She now knows what it takes, to hit or miss.