Sunday, February 28, 2010

US/Canada Hockey As Good As The Super Bowl

Riveting. The Gold Medal match between the United States and Canada’s Men’s Hockey Teams was off the charts. I don’t watch a lot of hockey, but give me one of those match ups every year right along side the Super Bowl please. You have to love the non-stop back and forth action, sans timeouts and commercials every 5 minutes like so many of the other sports. It was 3 ½ hours of hold-onto-your-seats excitement. Canada trotted out its team of NHL All-Stars against our roster of NHL No-Names. It may not have been the underdog battle of the US vs. Russia 1980, but it was close. Here are some of the players on Canada’s roster:
--Joe Thornton—1st overall pick 1997 NHL draft; 6 time NHL All Star
--Jonathan Toews—3rd overall pick 2006; 2009 NHL All Star; Team Captain
Chicago Blackhawks
--Sidney Crosby—Arguably the best player in the NHL, and arguably the best
player since “The Great One” Wayne Gretzky.
--Martin Brodeur—Perhaps the greatest goalie in the history of the NHL. NHL’s all-time wins and shutouts leader. A 10 time All Star.
--Scott Niedermayer—6 time NHL All Star
--Chris Pronger—2nd overall pick 1993 NHL draft; 5 time All Star
--Brendan Morrow—Captain of the Dallas Stars
--Dany Heatley—2nd overall pick 2000 NHL draft; 5 time All Star
--Roberto Luongo—4 time NHL All Star
--Patrick Marleau—2nd overall pick 1997 NHL draft
--Rick Nash—1st overall pick 2002 NHL draft

If you look at the league leaders for the NHL this year, it’s dominated by Canadians. Sidney Crosby is #3 in total points. Joe Thornton is #5 in total points. Patrick Marleau is #3 in goals. Dany Heatley is #6 in the league in goals. Rick Nash is #11 in goals made. Canada was loaded! That the United States was able to take this team to an overtime, sudden death finish in the Gold Medal game after already beating them in an earlier round was just short of miraculous.

One of the most exciting sporting events I’ve ever attended was a Minnesota Gophers hockey game on the Gophers home ice in Minneapolis. They have their own ice arena that would be the equivalent to basketball’s Hilton Coliseum. I was attending Bethel College at the time in Minneapolis, and some friends invited me to go along. It was amazing! The atmosphere was every bit as exciting as a big home game at Hilton, and their fans are just as serious about hockey as Cyclone fans are (or used to be) about basketball. If you are a sports fan and have never attended a Gophers hockey game, put it on your bucket list of things you must do in your lifetime.

The hockey world probably gained a few extra fans on Sunday. If you watched this years Super Bowl, you have to admit this game was every bit as exciting. I had forgotten how much fun hockey was to watch since that trip to the Gophers game many years ago. Now I remember.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

“Office Pool Prep 101”

March Madness is upon us. Just like a test in high school or college, you always do better if you don’t wait until the last minute to study. So, for the next several weeks leading up to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, I’ll help you study up so you can enter your office pool with the utmost confidence.

Since a 16 seed has never defeated a 1 seed, we won’t waste our time with those. This segment, we’ll focus on the 13, 14, and 15 seeds. These teams and seeds are based on Joe Lunardi’s “Bracketology” predictions as of February 22.

15 Seeds—Morgan State, Coastal Carolina, UC Santa Barbara, North Texas
--Not much to consider here. I wouldn’t choose any of these teams to pull an upset. A 15 seed has only defeated a 2 seed four times (and yes, Iowa State getting beat by Hampton was one of those four). The only team I would pay any attention to in this group is Morgan State. They are 21-9, have a high scoring senior guard—Reggie Holmes (21 ppg), and many of their losses have been to good teams—Louisville (90-81); Minnesota (94-64); Baylor (79-63). They beat Arkansas 97-94.

14 Seeds—Sam Houston, Weber St., College of Charleston, Oakland
--A 14 seed has beaten a 3 seed fifteen times since 1986. There are some teams with decent RPI’s in this group—Oakland (67), Weber State (70), and Sam Houston (76)—but I still don’t see quality wins out of this group. The only exception would be College of Charleston with a three-point win over North Carolina. College of Charleston also has 4 guys who average double figures, and a solid guard court led by Andrew Goudelock, so they are a team to watch out for. Sam Houston is a high-scoring team that only lost to Kentucky by 10 points, 102-92. Oakland doesn’t have a big-name win, but 5 of their losses have come at Wisconsin, at Kansas, at Memphis, at Michigan St, and at Syracuse, so they are battle-tested.

13 Seeds—Kent State, Northeastern, Murray State, Utah State
--A group to watch with some potential gems. Utah State is 22-6, with an RPI of 35. They are one of only three teams to have beaten #11 BYU this season, winning by 10. Murray State is 26-4 and has five (nearly six) guys that average double digits in scoring. They don’t have a big-name win, but anytime you can get that consistent scoring from six guys, you will always be dangerous. Kent State is 21-8 with an RPI of 49. They also have balanced scoring, with four players averaging double figures. They have good guards and two of their losses were at Xavier and at Pitt. Look for one of these three teams to pull a first-round upset.

All said, I see four teams out of this group to watch out for: College of Charleston, Kent state, Murray State and Utah State. If I had to pick a Cinderella out of the bunch, I would go with either Murray State or Utah State. Next segment, we'll look at seeds 10, 11, and 12.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Royals Lose In Final Seconds

I don’t know what to write. I really don’t. I fell in love with this team, and they took me and many others on a three-month joy ride, making an otherwise horrific winter enjoyable. The boys left it all on the court tonight; they played their hearts out. It was one of those nights where everything the opponent did went right for them. They played nearly flawless. Everything went in the basket. Everything for the Royals went in and out. This is why it stinks to play a team three times in a season—they figure things out. To Coach Wynja and the team, the last year has been one of the most enjoyable of my life. You brought so much excitement to the Colo-Nesco basketball community and created so many great memories for all of us. To the two seniors, I’m sorry it had to end this way. You helped your team finish 20-3 and that’s something to be proud of. To the rest of the team that will be back next year, keep your heads held high and use the feelings you have right now as motivation for next season. It can’t get here soon enough.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Here We Go!

Focus. Take two deep breaths—big inhale, long exhale. Relax. Repeat as necessary.

It’s gonna be that kind of week for basketball fans in central Iowa. If you’re like me, you’re probably nervous, excited, exhausted, and ripe with anticipation all at once. The Colo-Nesco boys need to win 3 games in 5 days to advance to the Boys State Tournaments. Up first is Grand View Park Baptist on Tuesday night, a team the Royals have beaten twice this season. You can’t take anything for granted this time of year—it’s one and done—but assuming a victory, Colo-Nesco would then face the winner of Ankeny Christian and Madrid on Thursday night in Ankeny. Ankeny Christian is rated #10 in Class 1A. Their only loss of the season was to Iowa Christian, the team Madrid just beat by 16 points. A win Thursday would place the Royals into the sub state game for the third consecutive year. They say the third time is a charm. Lets hope that’s true this week. The likely opponent looks to be Lamoni, with a record of 18-2.

In girls’ action, the Ballard Bombers are gunning for their fifth consecutive state tournament appearance. Ballard is the defending State Champion and faces Pella on Tuesday night in Saydel. The Bombers are 21-1 and rated #5 in 3A. Their only loss of the season was a 6-point defeat to the #1 team in Class 4A: Linn Mar. Pella is rated #14, and Ballard beat them by 16 points in the first game of the season.

Good luck to all, and hopefully next Sunday I’ll be blogging about State Tournament Previews!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

One Down, Three To Go

It was a Brandon Eley dunk that seemed to shake the rust (and the rim) off the Royals in the first leg of their 4-stage journey towards Wells Fargo Arena. After trailing much of the first quarter, Eley’s rim-rocker gave the Royals a 14-11 lead and they never looked back, winning 69-29. Colo-Nesco went on a 16-2 run in the second quarter to take a 34-18 lead into the locker room. The second half defense was again phenomenal as the Royals allowed just 11 second-half points to the Blue Devils of Martensdale St Mary’s. Kudos to Bryan Angel who gave the team a big spark off the bench with 10 points, and to a great crowd on-hand tonight to cheer on the hometown team. The Royals play Grand View Park Baptist Tuesday at 7 pm in Colo. In the rest of the district, Madrid beat Iowa Christian 58-42 and Ankeny Christian beat Woodward Granger 64-45.

Scoring: Eley (24), Neuendorf (13), Angel (10), Guy (8), Larsen (6), Jamison (4), Lawson (2), Thompson (2)


For Sale: Looking to sell a 6 foot 10 inch power forward. 230 lbs; 22 years old; From Palmdale, CA. Averaged about 20 points and 10 rebounds last year. Has gone backwards this year, but hey, we all have bumps in the road every now and then.
--Location-Ames, IA
--It’s not ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

Thud. That’s the sound of Craig Brackins' NBA stock officially hitting rock bottom. The box score itself doesn’t look terrible—14 points and 7 rebounds—but the shots Brackins was chucking up against Oklahoma State Wednesday night brought flashbacks of my 8-year olds Parks and Rec games. Brackins was 3-17 shooting, looking nothing like the NBA prospect he’s tabbed to be. He consistently tries to do too much on his own, and right now, he’s a detriment to both himself and the team. The way Brackins is playing, it looks like he’ll be back for a fourth year. Only question is—Do we want him?
(I’ll answer that at the end of the season)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Face of ISU Athletics

Quick. Who is the best basketball coach in Iowa State University history? How many of you said Johnny Orr? Larry Eustachy maybe? I bet there were a few Tim Floyd answers out there too. The answer is one of the most under-rated, under-appreciated people in this state’s sports history—Cyclone Women’s Coach Bill Fennelly.

It’s true, Johnny Orr brought “Hilton Magic” to Ames from 1981 through 1994, elevating the Cyclone men’s basketball program from irrelevant to national relevance. He won 218 games and took ISU to 6 NCAA Tournament appearances. His winning percentage at Iowa State was .522.

Tim Floyd had a magnificent run of his own from 1995 through 1998, compiling a 81-49 record (.623) and advancing to 3 NCAA Tournaments before bolting for the NBA's Chicago Bulls.

Larry Eustachy won two Big 12 Conference championships, advanced to 2 NCAA Tournaments, and won 101 games during his tenure from 1999-2003. He guided the Cyclones to the Elite 8 and won 63 percent of his games while at Iowa State before his infamous termination.

And then there’s ISU Women’s Coach Bill Fennelly. Is he the most under-appreciated coach in this state’s history? That could be debated. Certainly it’s not because he’s disliked. He’s one of the most likeable public figures in Iowa. But he’s the coach of a women’s basketball team, a team that even though they’ve been the most successful program (Men’s and Women’s) in this state over the past 15 years, they don’t get the publicity they deserve because…it’s women’s basketball, and traditionally, women’s basketball doesn’t sell. Traditionally.

But if Fennelly keeps his women’s program going the way it is, and the Cyclones and Hawkeyes men’s programs continue at their wretched pace, tradition may go out the window--quickly. Fennelly is about to eclipse the 500-win plateau. He is 324-145 at Iowa State in his 14 seasons. Prior to his arrival, the ISU women’s program had only won 237 games in its history! At ISU, Fennelly has racked up 9 20-win seasons, 2 Big 12 Championships, 10 NCAA Tournament appearances, 4 trips to the Sweet 16, and 2 trips to the Elite 8. He is a 3-time finalist for the Naismith Coach of The Year Award. Perhaps most impressively, the Iowa State women have consistently ranked in the top 10 nationally in attendance. The year before Fennelly arrived, ISU averaged 733 people per game. Now, they average over 9,000 per game and ranked third last year in attendance finishing behind Tennessee and UConn—two women’s basketball powerhouses.

It’s time to appreciate Bill Fennelly for what he is—the best basketball coach in Iowa State University history, maybe in Iowa collegiate history period, and certainly—the current face of ISU. Now, can I trade in the rest of my men's tickets for women's please?

Friday, February 12, 2010


With a 55-41 victory at Nevada Friday evening, the Colo-Nesco boys’ team broke the school record for most wins during the regular season with 19 (19-2). The previous marks were held in 1988-89 and 1989-90, when both teams finished the regular season with 18-2 marks. (In case you’re referencing Royal Reign, I accidentally put some of the post-season wins into the regular season record in 1989). After leading by only two points after the first period and three points at half-time, the Royals used a solid third quarter to pull away from the Cubs (4-14). Travis Guy scored 7 of his 17 points during a 13-3 run to start the third quarter. The defense came alive as well, allowing only 16 second-half points to Nevada.

Three years ago, when I began researching and writing the initial pages of Royal Reign, I had no idea who Coach Wynja, Brandon Eley, Travis Guy, Michael Warren, Austin Larsen, Weston Neuendorf, Ethan Jamison, ANY of the players on the current boys Colo-Nesco basketball team were. They had no idea who I was. I was out to write a history book, mostly about teams from 20-plus years ago. In fact, the boys team was coming off an 11-12 season; the girls off a 17-7 year. The book was mostly about these current players parents! The fact that the 2010 Colo-Nesco boys have just written their own piece of history is really cool. Congrats to Coach Wynja, the student body, and all the players and fans. But before we get too excited, the Royal boys have only conquered one mountain. The bigger mountains, the more significant peaks, lie directly ahead (thus the picture of a basketball hoop among mountains). Starting on Thursday, the Royals begin the trek toward State Tournament Mountain, a place the boys’ program has not been for 20 years. It’s been a great season—a record breaking season; but hopefully the best is yet to come.

Leading Scorers: Eley (20); Guy (17); Neuendorf (8); Larsen (8); Warren (2).

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Valentines Tribute

“The Team That Won My Heart”
Celebrating the 25-Year Anniversary of My Favorite Sports Team of All-Time

Maybe Iowa State University should cancel the rest of the Cyclone Men’s regular season in 2010 and show re-runs on the big screen from 25 years ago. I’m dead serious; it would be so much more exciting. 1985 was a pivotal year for the Cyclones--much like this year, except in a positive direction. Barry Stevens, Jeff Grayer, and Jeff Hornacek led the team to just its second-ever NCAA Tournament appearance, and first under Head Coach Johnny Orr. ISU finished 21-13, but it seemed more like a 30-win season. Stevens, a senior, led the team with 21.7 points per game. Grayer, a freshman, averaged 12.2 points and 6.5 rebounds. Hornacek averaged 12.5 points. All three later played in the NBA. The team was deep with Gary Thompkins at the point guard spot, Ron Virgil, Ron Harris, Sam Hill, and even a young Lafester Rhodes on the bench.

Grayer and Stevens were nicknamed “The Flintstones” due to the fact they were both heralded recruits from Flint, Michigan. The Cyclones upset 10th ranked Kansas twice that year, and I can remember watching the Cyclones pre-game show with Pete Taylor like it was the Super Bowl. The Saturday noon tip-offs at Hilton Coliseum on Channel 5 were must-see TV, short shorts and all. Grayer ended his career as the Cyclones #1 all-time leading scorer. Barry Stevens is #2. Stevens died, unexpectedly in 2007. Here is an excerpt of a Des Moines Register Article by Randy Peterson and Jon Naughton on 2/21/07:
"Unbelievable," said Hallihan, an assistant to coach Johnny Orr during Stevens' Cyclone career. "When I got the call from the basketball office, I couldn't believe it." "Barry and Ron Harris are the two guys that turned the Iowa State program around," Hallihan said. Stevens came to Iowa State from Flint, Mich. Harris came from Chicago Heights, Ill. "Without those two guys, Iowa State might be a ... I don't know ... a whatever," Hallihan said. "They made a commitment to come out here to Ames and play, and the rest followed."

“In 1985, Stevens scored 47 points against Morgan State — the second-most points in a game by an Iowa State player. Stevens' career scoring mark placed him No. 1 in Cyclone history at the time, passing the then record of 1,752 set by Hercle Ivy. Fans loved Stevens' outside shot and breakaway dunks. "The thing I remember was him setting up deep in the corner, almost behind the basket," Hoiberg said. "That's when I really started following Iowa State basketball." Hoiberg wasn’t alone. If only I had a time machine.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Favorite Super Bowl Memories

Why am I not excited about this year’s Super Bowl? If only the Vikings wouldn’t have thrown and fumbled the NFC Championship away. I can’t stand the Colts (not a Manning fan, and too many Hawkeye players on their team) and I’m pretty impartial to the Saints, even though I’m rooting for them. I’m not going to give you a bunch of analysis or a lengthy preview of Sunday’s Colts vs. Saints match up--you can get that kind of stuff anywhere. So here’s a list of some of my favorite all-time Super Bowl memories instead:

First Super Bowl Memory—-I may be dating myself a little here (not as much as some of you out there), but my first Super Bowl memory was the 1983 contest between the Washington Redskins and the Miami Dolphins. In fact, that Redskins team was my first NFL love. And how could it not be? Watching a team with an offensive line called the “Hogs” and their pig-snout wearing fans, along with quarterback Joe Theismann, bruising running back John Riggins, Art Monk, and Dexter Manley were more than enough to win over the heart of a 7 year-old. They even had a wide receiver named Charlie Brown! Could it get any better than that? I remember getting a pair of Washington Redskins gloves for Christmas that next December--those big vinyl, astronaut looking kind. Man, those were cool. The Redskins beat the Dolphins, 27-17, and had one of the greatest seasons ever the following year, but were unable to repeat as champions, losing to Marcus Allen and the Raiders.

Favorite QB Match Up—1985; Joe Montana vs. Dan Marino—I was your typical bandwagon jumper at this stage of my life. By 1985, Dan Marino had won my heart, and I was sporting one of those sweet teal and orange Dolphins jerseys. It was one of my all-time favorite pieces of clothing. Miami had that great receiving duo of Mark Clayton and Mark Duper, but no running game to go with it. Joe Montana and the 49ers had a good running game with Roger Craig who scored three times as they annihilated Miami. By the way, the 49ers have some of the worst uniforms of any team in any league.

Best Super Bowl Team of My Lifetime—1986 Chicago Bears. I hate to admit it now, but the ’85 Bears were one of my favorite teams of all-time. Told you I was a bandwagon jumper. Isn’t it amazing that one of the greatest teams ever only went to one Super Bowl? Jim McMahon, Walter Payton (Loved Him!), Willie Gault, William “The Refrigerator” Perry, Mike Singletary, Richard Dent, Dan Hampton, Wilber Marshall, Jay Hilgenberg—what an incredible list of superstars that team had. And SO many different personalities. That’s what made this team really fun. And who can forget the Super Bowl Shuffle?

And that’s when it all changed for me. After the Bears’ championship excitement wore off and Walter Payton’s career began to fade, I set my allegiances to one team and one team alone: The Denver Broncos. The reason? John Elway—still my favorite athlete of all-time. There was NO ONE better in clutch situations than #7. There was no one more fearless, more confident, and more fun to watch than him. Never will be. I had to endure three humiliating Super Bowl defeats in 1987, 1988, and 1990, but that just made Denver’s Back-To-Back titles in 1998 and 1999 all the sweeter. Elway retired after that 1999 win, going out on top, and the Super Bowl has never been the same for me since. It’s still fun, but not what it used to be.

If you really want to know who’s going to win this year’s big game, I pick the Colts, 35-28, as Peyton Manning secures his status as one of the greatest ever. Ugh. Anybody have any 80’s Super Bowls on VHS I could borrow? And send some Doritos and Throw-Back Pepsi with it.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Secretaries of Defense

Maybe President Obama should add the Royal Guard to his military arsenal. After all, no one is defending like the Royals these days. Colo-Nesco held its second opponent of the season under 30 points Friday night with a 56-27 victory over Gilbert. The Royals improved to 18-2 and have now held 9 consecutive opponents under 50 points. Since their last defeat nearly a month ago, the Royals have held opponents to an average of 38.6 points per game.

The quick hands and feet, hustle, and shot-blocking ability of the Royals continue to give teams fits offensively. Gilbert’s only lead was 3-0, before Colo-Nesco went on an 8-0 run. The half-time score was 26-15, and the defense clamped down even tighter in the second, allowing just 12 second-half points to the frustrated Tigers. I’d like to give you an accurate box score, but the Royals' hands weren’t the only pesky hands in the building. I had my daughter along for this one, and her energy nearly matched that of the Royals, causing me to lose track of one of the scores. (Speaking of mistaken box scores, the six assists in the Jefferson-Scranton game should have been credited to Austin Larsen). Here’s what I got: Eley (25), Guy (10), Larsen (6), Neuendorf (5), Jamison (4), Warren (2), Angel (2), and Michael Warren had somewhere close to a million blocked shots. The Royals finish out the regular season next week with games against Meskwaki (Seriously, how did that get on the schedule? I could have some amazing creativity with that blog!) and Nevada.

And another note: Thanks to Shane George for helping me with my new Sports Caffeine logo! He’s the best.

Correction: According to the Ames Trib. this morning, Brandon Eley had 23 points, and Ethan Jamison had 8 points. Hopefully this is official!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Royals Get Big Win; Tourney Brackets Set

The Royals victory against Jefferson-Scranton Tuesday night not only kept them in the hunt for the most regular season wins in school history, it also gave them the #1 seed in their district heading into tournament play. Colo-Nesco won 51-41 behind a big night from Travis Guy (20 points), Michael Warren (10 points and 4 blocks) and Ethan Jamison and Austin Larsen-who contributed with great rebounding and playmaking. It takes an entire team effort to make a state tournament run, and the Royals proved they could still win against good competition without a big scoring night from Brandon Eley.

The District pairings came out today, with Colo-Nesco receiving a first round game at home against the winner of Martensdale St. Mary’s (3-13) and Twin Cedars, Bussey (3-15). That game will be played Thursday, February 18th at 7 pm in Colo. Assuming a win, the Royals would then face the winner of Melcher-Dallas (9-7) and Grand View Park Baptist (8-11) on Tuesday, February 23rd at a site to be determined. The District Championship will be held on Thursday, February 25th at 7 pm in Ankeny. The opponent will come from a group of Ankeny Christian (15-1; #2 seed), Woodward-Granger (3-11), Iowa Christian (12-1; #3 seed), and Madrid (11-5). The sub state game will be held on Saturday, February 27th at West Des Moines Valley against a likely opponent of either Lamoni (16-2) or Murray (11-6). (Note: Melcher-Dallas, CN’s potential second round opponent, handed Lamoni one of their two losses earlier in the season).

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Coolest Plane Ride EVER

Although it happened over three years ago, I didn’t have a writing outlet at the time. So I’ll tell the story now.

I’ve taken many a plane ride over the course of my 34 years, but none were as unique as this one. (Well, okay, the time I sat right behind adult movie-star Ron Jeremy may have been a bit unique, but not in a good way. And the only reason I knew his identity was because some of my co-workers explained to me who he was and what all the commotion was about. Anyway, that was an interesting experience in its own right. The guy fell asleep, and while he slept with his mouth wide open, nearly EVERY passenger on the plane took the opportunity to walk past and snap a photo with his or her camera-phone! But I digress).

As I was aboard my American Airlines flight to Orlando this past week, my mind raced back to my last trip to Florida three years ago for my brothers wedding at Sanibel Island near Fort Myers. The whole family was with, including my daughter who was just 1-½ years old. It was her first experience on an airplane and it was not pleasant—for any of us. In fact, if the story I’m about to tell hadn’t happened, it would have been one of the most miserable three hours of my life. She screamed for about half the flight, especially on take-off and landing, probably due to the tubes that had just been put in her ears shortly before our trip. Since there were five of us, I was in a seat directly across the aisle from the rest of my family, seated next to an older couple who was nicely dressed and friendly looking. They noticed my Red Sox attire and began to strike up a conversation with me, telling me they were from Boston. Surprised by my enthusiasm for the Red Sox and my knowledge of the team as a Midwesterner, we began talking as though we were lifelong friends. By that time, my daughter had calmed down, and the couple had taken such a liking to her, that she was sitting on their laps while they read books to her! It wasn’t long into the conversation that I found out that the couple I was speaking with was none other than Mr. And Mrs. Ed Brickley. Now that name probably doesn’t mean anything to you, but Ed Brickley was the public address announcer for THE Boston Red Sox from 1997-2002. By the end of the plane ride, Mr. Brickley had given me his business card, wrote his personal cell-phone number on the back, and told me to call him for a personal tour of Fenway Park the next time I was there! His title at the time of our visit was “Legends Suite Host” and his role was to entertain famous guests to the ballpark inside the Legends Suite.

Although I haven’t been back to Fenway since, and I don’t even know if Mr. Brickley is still there, that plane ride three years ago--screaming toddler and all--was one of the coolest experiences of my life. I think the Lord just knew that day that I needed something a little extra special to get me through that flight…And that’s how the story of an airplane ride fits onto a sports blog.