Cardinals blazing a red-hot trail...
...as they have
the best record in the National League (second only to Detroit's
mark in the majors) in a somewhat surprising fashion. I say
"surprising" because they lost a lot of talent from last year's
ballclub. Starting pitchers like Suppan, Marquis and Mulder have
been somewhat up and down. And staff ace Chris Carpenter is on the
disabled list. The Birds have used a platoon of Aaron Miles and
Hector Luna at second base, and the outfield has been a potpourri of
players not destined to become household names. On top of that are
two catchers who are not hitting .200. Those are not the makings of
a division-leading club. But as this is written, the Cardinals find
themselves in first place by an unfathomable five games. And if you
really want to be surprised, did you know that the Cardinals have
won nine straight series at new Busch Stadium? Not too bad.
Is everybody now officially on the Albert Pujols bandwagon?
Everybody acts as if they just discovered gold, sliced bread or
some kind of a vaccination shot. They seem to be amazed that Pujols
has slugged 25 homers and 65 RBIs. As they admire his record-setting
pace on these numbers, I have one question for all of them: Where
have you been the last stinkin' five years?! Albert is simply being
Albert. IF you didn't notice long before now, that's your problem.
The astute baseball fan was well aware of Albert a few years ago and
would already tell you that the only truly amazing thing is that
pitchers and managers are STILL pitching to him. As we go around the
league a second and third time, I expect that to come to a
It will be up to guys like Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds (IF he can
get and stay healthy) and others to punish teams for giving Pujols
the free pass. That, as much as anything, will determine how good
the Redbirds will be offensively. Their pitching will have to
improve to make the postseason and beyond... I mean it's been good
enough to get them this far, but I don't think it's
Indy 500 goes to Sam Hornish Jr.
...and had some wild stuff down the stretch. People making pit
stops at the exact right time or the exact wrong time and making
decisions on tires and how far to go on fuel, etc. It was just wild.
So wild, in fact, that a 19-year-old rookie came within a whisker of
winning the storied event. Young Marco Andretti appeared to be
ticketed for the checkered flag, but the wily veteran dashed around
him just in front of the bricks to take home the trophy.
Lots of Danica Patrick doubters out there pointed to another lost
trophy. I, on the other hand, will point to another top 10 finish.
There were a lot of guys light years away from that... so you tell
NASCAR and Lincoln Speedway racing
...are both under way. I have spent so much time going to
weddings and graduations that I have no report to give on any of the
action. Maybe Laz and Rick can write something up, send it to the
LDN editor, and maybe she'll find some room for it!
Orange never fades... not even in summer...
I mean we're like over five months away from the tip of the
Illini basketball season, and fans are acting like it's just around
the corner. I can't say that I blame them. If I were king,
basketball season would never end. For many fans of the Orange
Invasion, the season NEVER does end. In the offseason they are on
every possible recruit that has ever even glanced towards Chambana.
I will state for the record once again that I don't care who the
Illini recruit. I have enough confidence in Bruce Weber and his
staff to make up for all of Illini Nation. They will take the kids
we have and mold them into a competitive bunch. Heck, Greg Taylor
might even be right -- this next edition of the Illini might not
only surprise people, they might shock 'em -- and let me just say
I'm certainly in favor of that.
I know ISU has lost some players, but I'm hearing some glowing
reports about those juco kids that they recently signed. You might
keep your dialing trigger finger handy for the ticket number if some
of the kids are on the verge of exploding come MVC time.
And speaking of the MVC... the Bradley Braves' adventure and fun
ride may not be over just yet. Coach Jim Les is reportedly
recruiting up a storm himself. Maybe Bradley will become a regular
force on the MVC scene.
...neither does green...
The Railer camp is pretty quiet. However, I look for them to have
some tricks up their sleeves next season. Some have already
dismissed them as missing their window of opportunity. Not me.
They'll be right in the mix, just like always.
World Cup on the horizon
And as many of you know, soccer is just one of many sports that I
don't know too much about. However, I do know how much it means to
so many people. I think the USA is seeded or ranked something like
No. 6 going into the tournament but drew a tough pool for the
preliminary round, as I understand it. It would be pretty exciting
to see the Red, White and Blue advance to at least the quarters or
maybe the semis before it is all said and done; but that will
probably be a much more difficult task that I can even imagine.
U.S. Open coming up as well
And of course that brings back many significant memories for me.
One of the last real quality trips my dad and I enjoyed together was
when I took him to the 1990 U.S. Open, eventually won by Hale Irwin.
I drove up from here in Lincoln and he flew up from Tulsa, and we
spent a wonderful weekend in Chicagoland.
This year the field appears to be wide open, as Tiger Woods
hasn't even played a competitive round since his father passed away
in April. You loyal LDN readers know me too well to count out Tiger
at this juncture. He might shake off the rust and win another major
Others to keep you eye on include, but are not limited to, Phil
Mickelson, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Ratief Goosen and Fred Funk, just
to name a few. As wild and windy as Winged Foot is, the advantage
will go to the players who can consistently muster straight shots
and stay out of the alfalfa! Goosen, who has struggled of late,
might not be a bad choice for this event.
Just as a reminder, I think the PGA Championship will be played
at Medinah later this summer. If you can get a ticket to that event,
I guarantee you that you won't be disappointed!
...at Roland Garros is also happening while we speak, and the men
are void of U.S. competitors at this point in the proceedings. I do
love the clay, and this event is on my list of events I would
someday like to attend.
(Oops... I spoke too soon. America's James Blake did come back
after a darkness delay and went on to win and advance to the next
round. I'd like to see him prove all the experts wrong and go on and
win the whole thing!)
[to top of second column]
People I dig...
Cat Osterman, the 37-2 pitcher of the Texas Longhorns, as she
tries for instant immortality at the Women's College Softball World
John Guzzardo, former mayor of Lincoln, because he's always doing
something to help somebody else or to make Lincoln a greater
Mario Andretti, former Indy great, now father of kids' racing,
because he always wears his feelings on his sleeve.
Andy Roddick, just because he's a great player.
Maria Sharapova, for the same reason. I know I probably
shouldn't, but I do.
James Augustine and Dee Brown (man, am I going to miss those
guys?), former Illini hoopsters (and all our guys for that manner),
just because of the way they are with kids, if nothing else.
Adam Wainwright, relief pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, and
not just because he hit a home run on the first major league pitch
he ever saw. Also, he leads Cardinal relievers with a 1.99 ERA and
John Gall, Memphis Redbirds outfielder. Time is running out on
his window of opportunity, but at least he has one fan pulling for
him in Lincoln.
Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state, because she seems to be
well-prepared, carries herself extremely well, has a great sense of
diplomacy and seems to get things done.
And speaking of the CHIEF...
I'm probably not qualified to even speak on the matter. Though
I'm a semi-educated person and I'm not sure what constitutes an
honored symbol being "hostile and abusive." One of my best friends
is a judge, and he says it depends on who's making that
determination. In the greatest country in the world, mired in
education problems, it's simply unfathomable to me that teams'
symbols or mascots could emerge as targets for those in favor of a
politically correct society.
I have lived a large portion of my life in a culture where the
Democratic platform was prominent. I have also lived a great deal of
my life where the Republican lifestyle was the culture of choice.
But, I must say that I have seldom come across too many people in
either circle who want to be ruled by a minority of people who might
not be totally informed on a subject. That is what I have both seen
and experienced when it comes to the Chief ordeal.
While I probably won't die on the spot the day they declare the
Chief dead. And whether his longevity is of eternal value is beside
the point to me. Why do the powers that be even consider it worthy
of attention, not to mention worthy of the massive amounts of
dollars that have already been spent legislating the decision? I
just don't get it.
Everything I have read or heard in reports seems to show people
on one side of the issue or the other. To me, many have only missed
the point. Do the majority of Americans have to step aside every
time one group or another is offended by something? There are
hundreds of things that I find offensive, but that doesn't mean any
of them are going to change. I also don't expect massive nationwide
reform every time I am offended by something. That's what seems to
differentiate those in favor of a PC world versus those not in
favor. Once the PC thing takes root, I believe that there is no end
to that kind of thinking.
The U of I hasn't made a final decision as to whether they will
appeal the ruling or not.
So, I've made my own ruling. Of course it is not binding for any
institution that legislates collegiate athletics or for any
university or for any group for that matter. It is simply a very
local mandate. As for me and my house... we will honor the Chief. We
will continue to display the Chief wherever and whenever we can (so
if you want to come over to our house to watch Illini games with the
Chief prominently displayed, please be our guests). If we can find
athletic gear (probably only available on eBay now) that proudly
contains the Chief symbol, we will happily purchase and wear said
items to games, in public and especially at all championship events
(I look forward to a cold football game when I can offer a freezing
PCer shelter under the Chief blanket or hot cocoa from the Chief mug
-- I wonder how hostile and abusive he seems then? -- just a
When my son continues to ask questions about the Indians of
Illinois (which he has done repeatedly since I took him to his first
game -- and, by the way, PCers, do you think he would have asked
those questions if you changed our name to the Orangemen?), I will
strive to continue to do more research to answer his questions that
will honor said tribes even more.
No, the confederation of Illini tribes will NOT be forgotten in
our home no matter how many PC police or PC people emerge. By the
way, my veins flow with a small percentage of Native American blood,
and I'm not... offended.
Linda Marini dedication
Just want to say a heartfelt thanks to Linda Marini of the
Lincoln Area YMCA as she concludes her time there as the director. I
feel she accomplished a lot while among us, and I am grateful for
her efforts. Best wishes to her and husband Tom as they move to (are
you ready for this?) Lost Nation, Ill. (I guess the PCers haven't
discovered that place yet)! Thanks for all your accomplishments
among us, and our thoughts and prayers go with you!
I also want to take this opportunity to welcome the employees of
the new Sysco facility out on Lincoln's west side. I had the chance,
with some other local business people, to physically go to their new
building earlier this week to welcome them in person; and it is
truly a very beautiful building. And what an addition to this Logan
County community... Kudos to our local leaders for demonstrating the
teamwork necessary to attract such a wonderful company. Best wishes,
and may God bless a long run for you here in Lincoln!
There are probably dozens of other things I should've written
about, but when you're constantly being a hounded by a 5-year-old
wondering if Daddy remembered to sign him up for tee ball, swimming
lessons and the PGA Tour, you will probably leave a few things out.
At any rate, have a great month, everybody!