From Swinging in the Dirt to Top of the Baseball World, Cubs Are Finally Champs

Observing the super-enthused (and equally nervous) fans packed in and around “The Friendly Confines of Wrigley” on TV, one has to believe that a fire marshal or three MUST be looking the other way. The opportunity to take part in, literally, a once in a lifetime event—the Cubbies haven’t gotten this far since 1945, or won it since 1908—has a ‘gotta do whatever it takes’ effect on people.

I have to relate the situation with a recent real estate client, which has a totally different time line. We met last Wednesday, and being a dedicated agent, one who explores all possible avenues to get clients in the right position (a la Cub manager Joe Madden)to ‘win’ the home-buying game, I’d found and previewed a for sale by owner (FSBO) townhouse, at a bargain price, by Saturday. While client was unable to see the property because of Sunday commitments, it was a known tax lien that couldn’t be cleaned up by Monday that prevented victory– or at least entry into a multiple bidder ‘playoff’– for an almost ideal home. Better luck…y’know, next time.

It’s easy to make a decent real estate analogy for the quantity of in-the-dirt curves and sliders that Cleveland Indians pitchers got Cub batters to take futile hacks at, but those faithful, long-suffering fans would have had a tougher time with their traditional “wait ‘til next year” mantra after a 103-win regular season. My personal desire to help fire fighters overcome lip service about their importance–but with frequently less than significant supporting action–gain their piece of the American Dream, is because aid from the crew at Station #14 (Cotswold) gave me another Christmas with my Dad. While that kind of pales in comparison to Chicago fans collective angst, just recognize that when you feel deeply about something, its got to be legitimate to keep actions in line with beliefs.

The Reality is that many potential home buyers are in essentially the same ballpark with opportunities. Even knowing what is necessary—laying off the low/in the dirt pitch—they want to get to the plate without the most necessary implement to hit with, which is pre-approval. While buyers have a much greater possibility for success (being involved in home ownership) than finding a ticket for or playing in the World Series, it’s still about handling specific functions properly. Real estate brokers can steer through and around many obstacles in the buying process, but 99.5% of the time, they will demand clients have at least a loan pre-qualification letter before getting in the game.

(Ed. Note- That Cub hitters DID stop swinging at pitches in the dirt, especially from Indians pitcher Korey Kluber– who struck out 15 in his last Series outing– is why they triumphed in Game 7. After hearing retiring Cub catcher Mark Ross tell first baseman Rizzo to contain his excitement about a 5-1, 5th inning lead until the 9th (usual end of games), the Cubs endured a 17-minute rain delay at start of *10th inning* with game tied 6-6 and triumphed. The joy of their exceptionally long-suffering fans justifiably knows no reasonable bounds.)

The pleasure of taking in the ivy-covered walls on a sunny day and singing ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’ in the bottom of the 7th inning is significant; so is being seated on the legendary rooftops beyond left field wall for a once-inconceivable night game—in 43 degree temperature– or being massed outside Wrigley in anticipation during the Series.  The fire fighters/first responders I work with will never have to wait ‘til next year to be a home buying winner, and on a very real bottom line, the discipline of getting pre-approval is a lot more reasonable than trying to hit pitches in the dirt.

Congrats to the Cubs and their fans. I’ll do my best on object of home buyers desire to find a place that qualifies as “the friendly confines,” although for 108 years would be an impossibly long time.




Panthers 7-0 After Rainy Monday Night Almost Slipped Away

Two essential Truths about unbeaten teams are that not everything is going to work perfectly, so sometimes you’re going to have to buckle it on *strong* and WIN the game, dammit! Secondly, clutch field goal kicking is going to figure in there significantly.

For the vast majority of Monday nights 29-26 victory, in front of an above-average crowd that endured steady and sometimes heavy rain (bless their hearts), the vaunted Panther defense made Indianapolis QB Andrew Luck look exceptionally human. The Colts had only 40 yards passing after three quarters, and he leads the league with 12 INTs after Carolina picked three, including the gamer in overtime. After Cam Newton’s TD pass (16-of-35, 248 yds., 2nd TD- Philly Brown) to Greg Olsen, the 23-6 lead looked like a kickin’, even though Gano missed the PAT.

Luck’s final yardage was 231, but overtime belonged to the kickers. The Colts Adam Viniteri, showed his chops with another clutch kick in his career-long string, thumping a 50-yarder, then Gano answered with one. After Kuechly, who dropped an interception possibility at the end of regulation, grabbed one in OT– Ted Ginn also dropped a possible TD in admittedly lousy conditions– Gano took care of business with a strong 52-yarder.

If the game looked kind of ‘Done Deal’ after the Olsen TD, its going to help Charlotte (and fans) in the future, because it became a game where that ‘unbeaten’ could have come off their resume. When they beat Seattle two weeks ago, that certainly charged expectations up, Seattle being a constant pain over the last couple meetings. Of COURSE there’s a whooooole lot of ‘Can they beat Green Bay/Aaron Rodgers?’ now, and thats a legitimate question. Should it make any difference that Rodgers had an ugly night vs. Denver and might have a chip on his shoulder when he gets to Bank of America stadium? In a word,’No’, because stopping his usual surgery on offense will test whats been the teams strength–its D– and you *HAVE* to nullify his big plays to win in all cases.

Moral victories don’t count, and no denying Green Bay is a premier team. It will be a massive game, and there’s every reason for a full stadium till the end, which is, or should be, a standard for this level of event. The Panthers haven’t been ‘Lucky’ yet in getting to 7-0— even without Charles Johnson (knee) and Kuechly (out three games, concussion protocols), the defense has been flexible with personnel, AJ Kline and Shaq Thompson stepped up, and opportunistic– two of ace cornerback Josh Norman’s 4 picks were returned for TDs. While TV analyst John Gruden continued to sound pessimistic about having Newton run as frequently as he has this year, his 41 looked good, and his 3rd down conversion rate has helped Carolina’s running game all season.

The Hornets have picked up their game with a 2nd win, after stumbling out of the starting game 0-3. Last night they rode (Less Big?) Al Jefferson’s 15-18 shooting for 31 points to bury the Dallas Mavs 108-94. Much has been made of Al being 25 pounds lighter this season, but it was an excellent team scoring effort, which was essentially the Hornets ‘must fix’ problem from last year. Marvin Williams-17, Kemba Walker-14, Cody Zeller-11– and with ALL due respect for Jeremy Lamb’s 16 off the bench— Coach Caldwell can continue blending process on where points come from.

Frank Kaminsky hasn’t been overwhelming yet, and losing Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (MKG) to a shoulder injury at end of pre-season are adjustments to continue. Caldwell, who is dealing with many new and clearly talented parts very successfully, feels getting roles set is a priority, even after a 7-1 preseason that included a pair of victories in China.

On the Verge of Restoring My Sports Writing Credibility

670px-bank_of_america_stadiumHaving neglected my own blog because I’m posting on Pulse and upping my profile (got to #2 in my category a few weeks ago) rank by responding to numerous subjects/slices of opinion on LinkedIn, I’m also working through the technology on a site that will put me back into the ‘getting paid for the effort’ area for my long time expertise in sportswriting –

It’s not a done deal yet, and the semi-hangup is having to (as in *mandatory*— pieces don’t go through without it) link to two other pieces. Not MY work mind you, just anyone who has done something for the same outfit, and that’s not something I’ve felt comfy with. It’s not collaboration, its simply this new site (about two months in business, Euros don’t you know) trying to ensure their writers get more views, which will increase how much they get paid. Now, I’m not against more $$ at any point, but when I’m done knocking out something on the local Carolina Panthers, trying to put (in my humble opinion) *legitimate* links in when the possibilities are about fantasy football or the futbol played in the rest of the world, I’m not crazy about that.

The lure of getting my opinions in front of thousands of readers is driving me though. Back in the early ’80s I earned my writing muscles while writing several features a month for IT’S SPORTS! magazine in Tampa, FL– muscles but not much cash. When I arrived in Charlotte 20 years ago, there weren’t the possibilities for publication there are now, and this city is *busting* with all levels of sports, even beyond the headlining NBA (Hornets) and NFL (Panthers) teams: there is AHL hockey (Checkers), an International League baseball team (Knights) that lead the league in attendance with their classy new stadium last year; lacrosse! a mens and womens soccer organization with a mission (non-profit!) you probably wouldn’t believe, and of course, NASCAR is still kinda big hereabouts.

I know I’ll get the hang of that linking thing soon, and I’m goal-oriented enough to state that I want to be read and considered an EXPERT about Charlotte sports in places like Belgium or Wisconsin. If you’re reading this now, please try and find me on again soon– I’ll make sure its worth your while.

Glenn S.

ACRC as Much Spiritual as Ruck ‘n Roll

With all due regard given to the need for writing cover letters to resumes–and a decent quantity of progress on two sexy chapters for next book– it shouldn’t have taken me a month to knock out a blog in praise of the ten game slate of American Collegiate Rugby Championships matches assembled by Steve Siano’s Sevens Sports operation. Showcased at the Rugby Athletic Center on South Tyvola Ave. in Charlotte, NC, the event was, for every ex-rugger, newbie enthusiast, or player in attendance, a Friday afternoon-all day Saturday slice of what live sports is supposed to be about.

From the 4 tries by Corey Patton of North Mecklenburg— correctly identified as a star to watch in a gorgeous full color glossy tournament guide– in their 33-5 whacking of Hough in the high school exhibition that kicked things off, through the 53-19 pillaging of previously unbeaten (8-0) Army by the electric lime-green stockinged hordes of major independent Life(their ‘B’ side punched out Western Michigan 42-10 in Saturdays top-‘o-the-morning match), it was glorious stuff to watch.

Boston College beat Iona 29-19
North Carolina St. devastated Texas St. 63-7 in Fridays nightcap
UMass pounded North Texas 46-0
Kutztown (9-1 as Rugby East champs, only loss to Army) overwhelmed Michigan 43-17
American International pulled out a highly competitive 46-40 thriller over Bowling Green
Clemson (Atlantic Coast champs) pulled away from 20-14 halftime score to beat always a rival South Carolina (Southeastern CRC champs) 40-14 in after-Life Bowl Series finale

Beyond the almost un-rugby-like precision that the schedule maintained, it would be a serious breach of sports journalism not to give generous credit for the overall effect to the RAC facility and Sevens Sports as well.

While Saturday was sunny, and the weather of a satisfying Fall crispness all the way, viewing a premier pitch from the comfort of the triple-tiered and sub-divided into ‘booths’ arena a former golf driving range created, was an exceptional experience. There was never a peep of negatives to be heard about *anything*– despite its college-age participants, beer was cold and available, the toilets clean and always operational; even the fire pit between the foosball table and the 3rd level concession stand created its own smoky ambiance. The fact of $2 for 16-ounce PBRs, $4 cans of Guiness, and the meaty warmth of Chik-fil-a sandwiches were appreciated Goodnesses for anyone who ever lugged their beverages field-side (and then wondered where to take a leak). Enjoying said supplies with a nephew who was left off the Stony Brook (Empire Conference champs and 21-20 victors over West Virginia) roster was cool, as was his low key “thanks for letting me use your extra jacket” after several hours.

While its never been on any personal ‘bucket list’, watching Life’s continuous forward motion as tackled runners popped short passes to others blasting along in close support, made believing their program is every bit of what its advertised to be a Real Deal fact. Having been involved in a 52-0 ass-kicking by Old Blue in a 20-minute halves tournament game (Saranac Lake, NY) almost 30 years ago, and earning a last-play-of-the-game karate chop to left ear (think cartoon sound of broken china when shaking head) for getting close to tackling an Old Blue inside center, brought memories to what a full game of barely slowing down the other guys must’ve felt like.

Memories are actually rugby’s stock in trade, so here’s a pretty good one: Seeing an older gentleman (NCHSRA President P.J. Anderson) in Springbok yellow/green outfit at the games required relating how the city of Albany (NY) hosted the South African team in 1990, when it was still an athletic pariah. Lacking a definitive “you can’t do it” from the state, mayor Erastus Corning ignored anti-apartheid protesters– and a small bombing of the ticket office– to allow the game against the Eastern Rugby Union (ERU), played in a driving rainstorm.

In relating that meeting to a random ex-rugger, it turned out he’d BEEN to the game, even got in free. Part Two, he’d played for Binghamton, a member of the Upstate Rugby Union I’d played in. Memory Part Three, telling Sevens Sports leader Steve Siano about the coincidence of talking with guy who went to that game brought reply (believe it or not) that he’d PLAYED at fullback in the game as a college sophomore.

What more could you ask for from a weekend of rugby, an exceptionally well-run event that brings ancient memories into close order with what those participants (and my nephew) will be part of forever? Not sure who won the ‘canoe races’ between rivals UMass and Boston College, but someone will probably still be telling stories about that this Christmas break.

Glenn Shorkey

Booing for W’s? Nahh, Otherwise Philly…

As I’ve maintained throughout the Bobcat years– especially when owner Bob Johnson complained about not getting the community love he’d expected– if there is anyplace that knows what good hoops looked like, it was North Carolina. I also opined that since people could watch at least two ACC games/their alma maters a week for free, ‘supporting’ over-priced nobodies (sorry Mr. Wallace) that even Hubie Brown couldn’t coach wasn’t high on a lot of people’s lists.

Yes, the home opener featuring the return of Hornets name and that knowledge base presented a mixed emotional bag; the crowd certainly had expectations for Victory #1, since Milwaukee was last years worst club. In the third quarter theHornets were down 24 and playing lousy enough to elicit significant boos says something; giving them props for actually turning things around for a 108-106 overtime win is equally legitimate. While Kemba Walker went 9-28 FGs, he nailed both the tying trey in regulation and the gamer; the chances of very many more victories will diminish with 31% shooting nights. Its every fans right to express displeasure in the product being presented– as Madden memorably said, “Philly fans even boo Santa Claus.” (I saw the game, it was a pretty raggedy, stupid acting Santa), and I salute the crowd for their candor, especially since it worked.
There must’ve been a couple fans who were willing to try motivating more inspired play by expressing displeasure at the big Thursday night Panthers-Saints game as well. The final was 28-10, but if you watched it, you never got any feeling the now 3-4-1 Panthers would come out on top. Okay, nice that Cam’s running effectively again, his big stretch to stick a TD in at the cone another of those things we will definitely cheer, and become antsy about when its lacking.

Two weeks ago commentator Howie Long said this wasn’t the 2013 Panthers #2-rated in league defense, which provided the backbone to their 12-4 record. If you allow (I don’t) for “we don’t have Greg Hardy” laments, the secondary hasn’t been getting toasted as regularly as many might’ve suspected; clearly, getting field goals offensively instead of TDs has killed them, even more than fact other teams keep putting together multi-play drives on the D. Moral victories for defensive intensity in a 13-9 loss the previous week to Seattle Seahawks mean nothing– I was pretty sure those 3 FGs by the Panthers Gano would be cancelled out if Russell Wilson of Seattle put a single drive together, and thats exactly what happened.

There was some booing done Thursday, although my noise at home was more groaning-griping about Panthers trying to cover Saints freaking star tight end Jimmy Graham one-on-one. I’m a Drew Brees fan, and he probably could’ve passed to someone else if Graham was doubled, but it looked like pitch and catch at times. This moves the Saints back into divisional lead, but almost everyone in the NFC South is still in the hunt on that point.

I’ll reserve booing at this point, although I believe it actually made a difference at the Hornets game. If booing always worked, Philly would be a dominant contender in every sport; right now I WOULD actually boo if that would eliminate the next 150 Hagan-Tillis ads I’ll inevitably be subjected to between now and Tuesday night. This Senate race is a STUNNINGLY ugly piece of negativity– there’s not a commentator in the country that doesn’t mention the mudslinging that **$200 MILLION** in outside funding has financed. How does that *obvious* a twisting of ‘voting voice’ truly relate to that of the North Carolina electorate? I don’t know, but yeah, I’d boo! it.

Glenn S.

Gorgeous Fall Day, Bro Left Game Before Big Ending

Having gone to neighborhood pocket park with good rims down the street to shoot some hoops after a disappointing first half of Panthers game, its a little two-faced to fault my brother for leaving Panther-Bank of America Stadium before the really good stuff happened at the game yesterday. I haven’t researched how crowds reacted elsewhere in NFL during a day that involved several amazing rallies, but I have noted Charlotteans early departures from games; to me it seems a basic un-goodness to bail on events, even when the home team isn’t covering themselves in glory. (Stinking out the joint in a driving rain, ya got a case…)

My real regret for the day was denying two young– maybe 11-12– black men the chance to shoot with me and swap some sports talk. A lot of times, if people have their own ball (they did) they use basket at other end, but they’d given theirs to two younger kids, the obvious assumption being we’d just use mine. It was a dumb case of bad social grace that I decided splitting shots in the limited time I’d allowed myself wouldn’t quite work for me. Forget about any gimpy knee, my lack of real schedule could’ve allowed for extra time to get my ya-yas and still be a good guy, sharing time and opinions, because those guys had opinions about LeBron and upcoming NBA season, and I’ll usually yak with anybody about sports.

I promise I’ll do better the next time, just like I’ll do good about buying a bicycle tube, the second half of a necessary repair job after pulling a major piece of steel out a two-week unfixed flat Saturday morning.

Putting those three events in perspective, not expecting a miracle finish from the Panthers wasn’t the most negative thing. The *best* was tight end Greg Olsentell the post-game sideline reporter having his 2-year old son TJ– who recently had a 4th heart procedure– on the field during pre-game warmups meant more than catching a game-winning 2nd TD against his former team (Bears). You can never go wrong feeling good about stuff like that.

Glenn Shorkey