I was also fond of
President Kennedy. As an elementary school student at the time, I
was just learning about our political process. I was enthralled with
the concept of all people participating in their government and
doing things to make our communities better. I liked a lot of the
programs he was pitching, like the Peace Corps, because I really
felt he wanted to make the world a better place and that he wanted
American citizens to think that way also. He wasn't perfect, but I
think it was a stunning loss for our country when he was taken down.
I also have enjoyed our current president, although I didn't think
much of him when he first got elected. All politics aside, I think
it is remarkable to keep your head when all others around you may
not be. He has withstood attacks, criticisms, allegations and
charges, and I have no idea whether any of them have any merit or
not. What I do know is that I see a strength of character in this
man that you seldom see in this world today. Love him or hate him,
you have to believe that he is a man of conviction who will stick to
his guns no matter how much pressure or controversy goes against
I have learned much from these great leaders. I can only hope
that this generation of Americans will regain the fascination to
support and encourage our leaders, as in some ways, leaders are only
as good as the citizens make them.
Another thing that I appreciate about these leaders is that they
are "real" people. And because of this and because of the accounts
I've read, I know that they enjoyed sports. Do I need any more
convincing proof to share with my wife as to how important the games
truly are than to point out to her that EVEN the president of the
United States thinks they're important enough to get a piece of his
time? I think not.
Whether I'm correct or not in this issue is not of eternal
significance. However, I like February so much because it reminds me
to once again focus on our presidents and to remember again how
blessed this country has been to have the kind of leadership that it
has been endowed with. I just want to submit this Mutterings in
honor of the presidents of the United States of America!
And speaking of America, how 'bout those Olympians?
I think the United States Winter Olympics team claimed 25 medals
at Turin, Italy. That was down from the 34 they won as the hosts of
the Salt Lake games but shattered the record of 14, which stood as
the most ever won at games outside of U.S. soil. I know as a sports
reporter I'm supposed to get all caught up in the prolific
accomplishments of our American athletes who medal. And I do to some
extent. But what really jazzes me up is just the competition. To be
able to qualify for the games to represent your country is really
beyond my comprehension.
I have to confess that I enjoy the Winter Games a little more
than the summer counterpart. That's only because the U.S. is usually
not recognized as the world leader in very many of the winter
sports, and anytime one of our athletes medals in something, I can
just imagine the European press calling it an upset because one of
their local heroes was ousted by one of us "soft" Americans! I love
that. And I really like it when it is an unheralded athlete who
maybe has never even performed well in the World Championships, or
any other major venue, but then excels at the Olympics. Maybe
someone like U.S. Alpine skier Julia Mancuso, who was not favored to
be anywhere near a podium but took gold in her slalom race! Or, what
about the men's curling team that captured bronze, the first medal
ever for the U.S. in the sport!
An athlete doesn't even have to medal to be impressive. Emily
Hughes was eating dinner with her family when they got the call that
Michelle Kwan would be unable to participate, opening the door for
Hughes. She finally got to Italy and was just taking in the entire
experience. No, she didn't medal. I think she finished in seventh
place. But her smile may never leave Torino! She milked the entire
experience and enjoyed every minute. Now there's an athlete who gets
the competition and friendship angle of the Olympic experience.
My son always asks me in every event: Who do we want to win? And
do we want someone to fall down so that we can win? He was startled
by my reply. I told him that we want every athlete to do their very
best. That way the best athlete on that day in that event wins. And
his smile was even bigger than the one left by Emily Hughes!
I'm not an expert on Olympic competition so I don't know if the
USOC will evaluate these games as a huge success for America or not.
Money, marketing and TV ratings will probably rule that discussion.
As for me and my house, I was glad to see countries of the world
uniting themselves in these games and for just two short weeks
demonstrating for my family and the entire world that we don't have
to be killing each other to make the world spin. In fact, could it
be that events like this that promote peace, sportsmanship and unity
could possibly even be a catalyst for some talks on global peace?
Railers on to the postseason
Around the time that this column is posted, the Lincoln Railers
will be in the process of trying valiantly to make a deep postseason
run. The Railers may be small in stature, but they have the
collective heart of a champion. I believe their draw pits them
against Normal U-High and former Lincoln coach Cal Hubbard in the
opener. Should the Railers survive that test, they would then likely
play the winner of the Ottawa-Normal West winner for the regional
championship. These all could potentially be exciting matchups, as
could those looming on the horizon if Lincoln makes it to
sectionals. I will not jinx them by even talking about those
prospects until they win the game at hand. The LDN just wants to
salute them on yet another super season and wishes them well on
their road to state!
We also salute the Lady Railers, who won the regional
championship! I believe that if you look back to what we said
earlier in the year, we felt that Lincoln would surprise some
people, and they certainly did. Congratulations, Lady Railers, for
ending your season on such a high note!
Angels threepeat their way to nationals!
The Lincoln Christian College Angels, under the fine coaching of
Amanda Bowman, won the Midwest Regional for the third consecutive
time and are currently in sunny Florida trying to make a deep
national tournament run. They will face Crown College on Wednesday,
with the winner taking on the No. 1 seed, Kentucky Christian
College, on Thursday. No matter what transpires, hats off to the
Bowmans and to the Angels for just another outstanding season!
The LCC Preachers closed out their season on high note as well,
as they upended Emmaus College at the Midwest Regional in Dunbar,
Wis. With a brutal schedule and a team in transition, first-year
coach Matt Clark turned in a masterful job in his first season at
the helm. Congrats to the Preachers for ending your year on a high
[to top of second column]
Lincoln College postseason tourneys to be
played at LCC
In the past LCC had to host some of their regional tourneys at
LC. This time it is time for LCC to share its beautiful Laughlin
Center with Lincoln College, as both the Lynx and the Lady Lynx will
be hosting their regional tourneys in that complex later this week.
In fact, I believe the Lady Lynx (17-13, 7-7) will play Wednesday
night and host Lincoln Land, and the Lynx (25-5, 14-2 and No. 5 in
the nation) will open their tourney on Thursday night. Their
opponent was unknown as this story went to post. However, the LDN
wishes both Lincoln College squads great success in their quests for
Illini in the home stretch
I was absolutely giddy about the Illini's week. In bookend games,
Illinois disposed of Indiana and then took out Iowa on senior day.
The only thing that dampened the whole experience for me was the
loss at Michigan. It wasn't just the loss there that bothered me,
but rather it was the way in which we lost that was troubling. To
win road games, a series of good things have to happen. I felt the
opportunity presented itself and Illinois simply did not grasp the
good fortune at hand. Such has been the story of this Big Ten season
for our "men in orange."
I have no idea how they'll do at Minnesota and Michigan State or
even how they'll fare at the Big 10 tourney. I do know that they
appear to be capable of so much more. As to whether they will find a
way to click on all eight cylinders, the jury is still out. I do
know that a few more wins would go along way toward a coveted higher
NCAA seed. If they have any visions of progressing far in the Big
Dance, that high seed will be imperative. We said goodbye to Dee and
James on Saturday, but I am not ready to do that today, so I'll save
that for another column. Let me just say that when you're 25-5 and
9-5, that's a pretty darn good season, no matter what the critics
Cook emerging on the NBA scene
If you have access to NBA national TV games, then you likely have
been as pleased as we are watching the emergence of Lincoln's Brian
Cook on the NBA scene. We've been saying all along to get Cook some
playing time and he will shine, and the stats bear us out. I pulled
this off the Web and found that in 13 games Cook played where he got
at least 24 minutes of action, he is averaging 16 points per game
and six rebounds per game. In those contests he's shooting an
incredible .610 from the field! When he gets less than 24 minutes,
he's still shooting a respectable .444. Not coincidentally, it seems
that the more Cook plays, the more the Lakers win. Now there's a
Odds and ends
How 'bout this from the coaching carousel since Bill Self left
Illinois and Bruce Weber joined the Illini. During that three-year
span Bill Self's Kansas team is 67-23 for 74.4 percent. Over that
same span Roy Williams' North Carolina ballclub is 71-21 for 77.2
percent. Illinois' Bruce Weber over that time frame is a whopping
86-14 for 86 percent! I know it is still early in the process, but I
like where this trend is heading!
If you don't think seeding is important in college basketball,
how 'bout this tidbit from the NCAA. Over the last 21 years, the
time since the NCAA went to 64 teams, 64 of the 84 Final Four teams
were top three seeds. During this time, 12 No. 1 seeds have claimed
the national title, four No. 2 seeds have won it, and two No. 3
seeds have taken home the hardware. So, it probably behooves the
Illini to win as many as they can from here on out to claim one of
those top three seeds!
I know that golf, NASCAR and baseball are all under way, and I'll
try to get you some stuff on all that as soon as I possibly can.
A tribute to Bill Hull
Our community has lost an icon as Bill Hull has been taken from
us. It is a blow on several fronts. Our community can ill afford to
lose such quality servants. Bill has been a great friend to me as
long as I have known him. He encouraged me in my work at the college
and was always a faithful supporter of my coaching. If you've ever
coached, you know how few backers you ever truly have, so any are
welcomed with open arms. Bill went out of his way to prove his
loyalty. He would call me after a tough loss or an exciting win just
to let me know that he was keeping track of my team's progress. He'd
invite me to Rotary to share my team's story with all the
professionals there. In his introductions he made me feel like I was
the coach of the Illini or some really big-time program, when we all
knew that I was just toiling in Lincoln. He commented often on how
critically important the local colleges were to our local economy.
When I crazily agreed to serve as the economic development
director, Bill was one of the first on the scene to offer me his
help, his advice, his creative ideas or his shoulder when I was
taking some hits. If there were people who were more pro-Lincoln
than he was, I didn't meet many of them. In my lifetime he is truly
a gentleman I can point to who really "got it!"
Since his stroke last week I have really been bummed. I used to
go into the bank and he and I would solve many world problems. We
would bounce ideas off each other regarding local developments. And
then eventually the conversation would turn to Illini sports. You
should've seen him light up on that topic. Few fans will ever be as
well-versed as Bill was on Illini football and hoops. He always
understood the "big picture." And he, like me -- even though we knew
that there were certainly more important things in life than the
Illini -- was just always so proud of our "men in orange." Maybe
Bill's Illini will finish this season in a special way to
commemorate one of their greatest fans.
I don't know what's going to happen to me the next time I go into
his bank. I'll probably avoid that for a while. I drove his
colleagues crazy the last 10-12 years going in there asking them if
Bill was out of his meeting yet so we could discuss "some really
important issues." I may break down totally myself, because that
place won't nearly be the same without him. I always thought of him
as a gentle giant. I guess there will be other bank vice presidents,
because you have to fill slots, BUT there will never be another Bill
Hull; he was one of a kind!
In this day and age when we have a skewed concept of what true
heroes and role models ought to be like, I offer up Bill Hull. If
anyone can be like him, then in my book, they've lived a pretty
successful life. Farewell and Godspeed, my friend!