350 miles west of Cheyenne, Wyoming — As the dusty hills and this wide expanse of land blurs by, my brother and I pass the time listening to bad albums from the 1990s and chewing on sunflower seeds.
In other words, we are minor league baseball players. Subject to long roads through and to nowhere, punctuated only with drab music and the macho comfort of spitting something into a cup.
It is, all in all, a good life.
Earlier, we passed through Salt Lake City, where remnants of the 2002 Winter Olympics still stand. That city is also the final burial ground of the Mike Davis era at Indiana, as his 2006 Hoosiers lost to Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament there.
A few days ago, we drove through Sacramento, where this year’s Indiana team met its end. Although both my brother Mike and I find Sacramento to be a lovely city, we did not stop. There’s too much else to see.
Interstate 80 stretches out in front of us, running past mostly nothing more than the small shrubbery that can survive here. We’re cruising at 80 MPH under impossibly light clouds and a sky the color of chlorinated water.
It’s been awhile since we’ve heard from Coach Sampson.
Today, the IU athletic department posted a Q&A with the men’s basketball coach on their website. He covers most of the relevant topics regarding the IU program currently including his first season with the Hoosiers, the incoming recruits and the departing seniors.
The most ironic part of the Q&A is the fact that there are actually no questions, just talking points. Just saying.
Click here for the link to the story.. Let me know what you think.
Hamilton Southeastern defensive tackle Nick Sliger has given Indiana a verbal commitment.
Sliger, a 6-3, 285-pound lineman, is the second player to join IU’s 2008 recruiting class.
I’ll have more about Sliger after talking to him, hopefully tonight.
As Doug noted, I spent the end of last weekend in St. Petersburg attending a sports journalism summit where some of the best in the business gathered to teach the rest of us how to sports write more good. Or something like that.
Anyway, brutal assignment. The weather was 80 degrees and sunny. St. Pete is located right on the water. I can’t go on reliving it. But I survived.
A lot of the talk that you guys would care about centered on a discussion about the broadening intersection of sports and culture. Race was heavy on our minds for many reasons: the Imus situation, the Duke lacrosse case, the anniversary of Jackie Robinson crossing the color line.
I don’t know if we do a good enough job tackling these issues. Dealing with race is always so touchy. But as many of the panelists — guys such as the sports editor of the New York Times, big shots at ESPN, Woody Paige and Bill Plaschke of Around the Horn Fame and many other bright minds — pointed out, sports is one place where so many of us are confronted with, and ultimately deal with, race.
So, for your blog-reading pleasure, a few quick takes on the above stories:
Imus — So, explain this to me: Hasn’t this guy always been an idiot? I mean, that’s his thing, right? I’d like to get ahold of him and ask him “Don, on the list of most hurtful and asinine things you’ve ever said, where do the Rutgers remarks actually rank?” Because I’m not sure he thought anything of it. He said it, like’s he said so many things during his career, flippantly and without care.
Look, I’m glad he’s gone. And it’s interesting that when he made the remark about athletes — even fringe athletes like women’s basketball players — the sports media jumped on him and forced action. That happened when Rush Limbaugh made the comment about Donovan McNabb a few years ago. As I said, sports sometimes allows us to deal with race in ways we rarely do.
Blatant racism – such as that shown by the KKK – is absurd and should be ignored. What the Imus case showed us, I think, is that we need to be more vigilant in looking for casual racism. Stereotypes and generalizations are the enemy. They damage slowly but thoroughly.
Duke lacrosse — A tragic case in so many ways. Three young men had their names smeared through the collective mud of America and will struggle with the accusations, bolstered by an over-zealous prosecutor, for the rest of their lives.
The first concern of the reporters and editors who helped botch this story should be to examine their techniques and develop ways to ensure that knee-jerk reporting never gets in the way of factual reporting ever again.
But there’s a story worth looking into here, for sure. Strippers are called to houses full of young men on a regular basis, by sports teams and frats and others, so the issues of power and sexism are raised over and over again. And how many places in America offer situations where white privilege abuts minority struggle, as with Duke and Durham?
Jackie Robinson — I touched on this in the column I wrote before I left, but let me just restate my opinion. I agree that an effort to draw more young black kids to baseball should continue and be strengthened, but I don’t want that to take away from the fact that Robinson opened the doors to other sports, too.
If young black athletes gravitate toward basketball and football — they do, and for so many different reasons — then let them. So many are making good lives either professionally or by earning a free college education.
If there’s tons of money floating around to develop inner-city baseball programs, I hope a large part of the program becomes an emphasis on education. An education can work for anyone, while a career as a pro athlete goes only to the truly gifted.
OK, that’s all for now. The family and I are rolling through California toward Yosemite. Hope all is well in Bloomington.
Fort Wayne Harding junior wide receiver/defensive back Marquelo Suel has given a verbal commitment to play football at IU, according to the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.
Suel was an all-conference defensive back last season and as a receiver caught 50 passes for 959 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Class 2A state champs.
Suel’s decision was reported in a brief in today’s Journal Gazette. To read it, click here.
â€¢ In case you havenâ€™t heard yet, Jarmarcus Ellis was named the Junior College Player of the Year earlier this week. Ellis, who led his team to a 33-3 record averaged 17.1 points, 8.6 rebounds and 6.0 assists a game this season.
â€¢ The NCAA has recommended a ban to eliminate text messaging between coaches and recruits. As it stands now, coaches and recruits can â€œtextâ€ each other on an unlimited basis, and this isnâ€™t thanks to Verizonâ€™s new wireless plan.
Unlike phone calls and official visits where there are set restrictions, text messaging has existed for the past several years without guidelines. Iâ€™ve talked to several recruits who said they have been constantly bombarded with text messages from head coaches and assistant coaches around the country. The messages come so frequently that one recruit told me he has to turn off his phone during the day, just to not be distracted.
If the ban is approved, coaches will find themselves recruiting without what was considered their new favorite toy. Basketball and football programs will have to resort to Amish-like technology and only e-mail and phone recruits. I can hear Bruce Weber complaining in the distance.
â€¢ No word yet from Eli Holmanâ€™s camp. I talked to Richmondâ€™s principal Orlando Ramos briefly yesterday, but because of school privacy laws he wasnâ€™t able to disclose any information to me regarding Holmanâ€™s test scores. Ramos was aware though that Holman had recently taken the SATs, but that is as far as the information exchange went. Iâ€™ll let you guys know as soon as I hear something.
â€¢ I got an e-mail this week from a reader who was happy to hear the Hoosiers were recruiting big men, but wanted to know a little bit more about the players. Here is a brief scouting report to give you guys an idea:
Beas Hamga: Extremely athletic, great shot blocker and rebounder. His offensive game is a little raw, but nothing a season or two of coaching canâ€™t polish.
Philip Jurick: Great inside the paint. Nearly averages as many rebounds as he does points. Like Hamga, raw offensively, but he has the size to be a force in the Big Ten.
Angel Garcia: This guy is a bit of a mystery to me. I watched him play in the state championship game and was impressed. For a 6-foot-10 guy he has a nice outside shot. But I also remember him putting a goose egg or two up this season. Letâ€™s say the jury is still out.
Stormin Chris Korman is on a fast break this morning down to St. Petersburg, Fla. for the Sports Journalism Summit that convenes today at the Poynter Institute, so I’ll be playing one-on-everyone in today’s 11 a.m. Q&A.
While Chris is rubbing elbows with Sally Jenkins, Dave Kindred and Woody Paige, we can hang out here in our own cyber sunshine state and chat about Hoosier sports. So with spring football over and the spring basketball signing period still underway, what’s on your mind this week?
Just click here to join the live discussion.