ALTA Division Champions!

•February 16, 2009 • 4 Comments

Me and Linda at the net

Me and Linda at the net

Our Pangborn Mixed Doubles team won our Division yesterday! We only won 2 of our 5 matches, but that was all we needed because of the lead we had going into the week. It has been a few years since I’ve been on a team that won a division so I’m happy we got it done.

Next week we start the playoffs. Every ALTA team I’ve been on that has made the playoffs has lost in the first round, so I hope we can win at least one match. As I write this, I’m starting to sense a theme: I’ve not played on many winning teams. Perhaps that says something about my playing ability? I choose to blame it on the tough luck of the teams I’ve been on.

What I like about the Pangborn team is that although we like to compete and win, we don’t take it too seriously. We have fun and are good sports, win or lose. A few years ago I played on an excellent A-level mixed doubles team that won its division but I didn’t enjoy it since several of the players on the team were jerks who took things WAY too seriously. Most of the people on the team were cool but there were about 4 or 5 who would routinely get into nasty arguments with the opponents or do things like slam racquets or balls around like spoiled brats. It was embarrassing to be associated with those guys (and gals). Even though I knew they had a chance at the city championship the next season because the roster was so stacked, I opted out because I didn’t want to play with that group any more. Sure enough, they won the city championships (they might argue, because I wasn’t there!).

Maybe it takes a win-at-all-costs type of team attitude to win an ALTA city championship. I hope not. Who knows, maybe our Pangborn team will get hot in the playoffs and make a run. Either way, we’ll have a good time.

Coach Steve explains how it should be done.

Coach Steve explains how it should be done.

Pete's backhand looks like James Blake's.

Pete's backhand looks like James Blake's.

Mike and Sheila on the attack.

Mike and Sheila on the attack.

It looks like I'm almost catching air. Actually I Photo-shopped it a little.

It looks like I'm almost catching air. Actually I Photo-shopped it a little.

Pangborn Mixed Doubles Team

•February 10, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Our Pangborn B-3 ALTA Mixed Doubles team won 3 tough points again this past weekend against Gold’s Gym. We go into our last regular season match needing to win 3 out of 5 matches to clinch a Division championship. We will be playing a solid Carl Sanders YMCA team on the road on clay courts so it will be a challenge. We will also be without some of our top players, but I’m confident we will get ‘r done. It should be a fun day.
Our team has played well all season long and has won many close matches that could have gone either way. I think it’s our season to win.
If I remember I’ll bring my camera to the match and take some action photos, so maybe next week I’ll have some celebration photos to post. Or some photos of us drowning our sorrows.

Texas Longhorns 2008 Football Season Review

•January 27, 2009 • 3 Comments

coltmccoyqbs2008 was a strange season for the Longhorns. It started out with relatively low expectations, with many experts picking the Longhorns to finish third in the Big 12 South. Other than Colt McCoy, Brian Orakpo and Roy Miller, the team didn’t have many big-name players like previous recent Longhorn teams, and McCoy was coming off an inconsistent sophomore slump 2007. The team had lost star RB Jamaal Charles and TE Jermichael Finley to early departures to the NFL, and those proved crucial losses. The running game struggled all 2008, and when Finley’s replacement Blaine Irby suffered a season-ending knee injury against Rice the Horns received virtually no significant receiving production from its TEs the rest of the season. So, let’s see: the offense played this year with a running back-by-committee of unspectacular runners and essentially no TE. Oh, and the secondary started two freshmen and a sophomore. Not exactly promising, especially with the Big 12 improving across the board.

Fortunately, someone forgot to tell the players all of this. As an avid Longhorn fan, I can sometimes be their harshest critic but I have nothing but the highest praise for how the team played this season. I think it all started back in November 2007. Let me back up a bit before I get into that.

I think it’s fair to say that in general the Longhorns under Mack Brown have had tremendously talented teams, but they have sometimes underachieved, whether it was because they occasionally lacked focus, killer instinct, or were overconfident or what. They certainly won their share of big games (including several in the Greatest Season Ever-2005 and of course the Greatest Game Ever with USC), but they also had sprinkled in some frustrating losses to teams they should have beaten. But when they lost to an inferior Texas A&M team in November 2007 for the second season in a row, I think something finally snapped in the team’s psyche. After that game, the team reportedly decided they were going to take every game more seriously and not just expect that they would win games because they should on paper. Before their Holiday Bowl matchup with Arizona State, the team adopted a boot camp-type preparation approach with a team-centered emphasis. And when the game transpired, their intense preparation was evident, because the team came out with a rarely-seen crispness and ferocity right from the start. Their performance and demeanor was so clearly improved from the lackadaisical style they previously displayed in games that season against teams like Texas A&M and Kansas State. The game wasn’t as close as the score indicated, and the Horns defense pummeled Rudy Carpenter like a piece of McRib in Andy Reid’s mouth.

I believe the Horns carried over their intensity of preparation and performance from the Holiday Bowl into 2008 because this season’s team exhibited the same style. Despite being in my opinion one of the least talented Longhorn teams of the past ten years, this team came within a whisker of going to the national championship. I think that was because this team displayed more heart, fight and character than any of Mack Brown’s previous teams. That’s not a slight on the other teams so much as a compliment on this one. We didn’t have a superstar like Ricky Williams, Roy Williams, Cedric Benson, etc to carry the burden; we had a team of hard-working overachievers like Chris Ogbonnaya, Quan Cosby and Jordan Shipley.

coltsignWe did, of course, develop one superstar though: Colt McCoy. McCoy was the perfect player to lead this year’s team because he epitomized it. He came to Texas relatively unknown, underdeveloped and, compared to his predecessor, physically unspectacular, but he has worked his way through maturity, hard work, leadership and competitiveness into a legend. The way he willed his team to victory after victory, leading the team in rushing and yet also shattering the NCAA completion percentage record–you couldn’t ask for more from a quarterback. He had the misfortune of having a phenomenal season in the same season as Bradford and Tebow did too. McCoy’s performance this season far surpassed that of some recent winners, such as Eric Crouch, Jason White, Troy Smith or even Tebow last year. And in the one game he did lose, Texas Tech, you certainly can’t blame him–he led his team back from 19 points down in a hostile environment, including a late-game drive to score the winning touchdown. If Blake Gideon holds on to an easy interception on the play before Michael Crabtree’s touchdown, the Heisman race is not even close: McCoy would have won easily with Bradford and Tebow battling it out for second (and probably Tebow getting the edge). Oh yeah, and Texas would have gotten the nod to play Florida in the BCS national championship.

Ah, the BCS. I don’t want to beat a dead horse on rehashing the blatant injustice of how Oklahoma was given the edge over Texas to play in the Big 12 Championship game and then the BCS title game. A lot of ink has already been spilled on that travesty. Any 5-year-old could tell you how ridiculous it was. I think all you need to know is the Big 12 is planning to revise its rules to fit the SEC and ACC tiebreaker clause so that three-way ties are broken by eliminating the lower ranked team and then looking at the head-to-head between the two higher ranked teams. That is essentially an impartial organization saying, “Look, we messed up royally. It was embarrassing on a national stage and we’re going to make it right.” The other telling sign was in the final week’s voting poll where a lot of voters who previously had Oklahoma ranked ahead of Texas switched because they realized the injustice of it all. Only the computers pushed Oklahoma over the top based on the Sooners’ ridiculous running-up-the-score in the later games. Meanwhile, classy Mack Brown is pulling Colt McCoy early in the fourth quarter of the Texas A&M game. I believe it is for decisions like that one, not to mention Texas’ gutsy play, that Mack was recognized as the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year in 2008. There may be slicker or more innovative coaches out there, but I wouldn’t trade any of them for Mack Brown. He’s the kind of guy you want representing your team and university.

Will Muschamp will have some mighty big shoes to fill when he eventually takes over, which I hope is a long way off. There’s no doubt Muschamp has fire, passion and defensive savvy, but I worry he won’t have Mack’s character and composure. I could see him losing his cool after a tough loss, like Mike Gundy. We’ll see. Obviously, Mack Brown and DeLoss Dodds had to be pretty darn impressed with him to make him the coach-in-waiting offer after less than one full season. I also can’t help but wonder what longtime offensive coordinator and National Assistant Coach of the Year in 2005 Greg Davis had to be thinking when a newcomer, youngster Muschamp got that offer.

While the heartbreak of the Tech game and the injustice of the BCS fiasco left a bad taste in my mouth, overall this was a very exciting and satisfying season for Horns fans. Though the Horns fell just short of the ultimate prize, I think they succeeded in maximizing their potential and displaying a lot of heart and class in the process. I couldn’t be prouder of them.

Now the Dallas Cowboys on the other hand…well, I’d better save that for its own separate post.

Sick Day Thoughts/SI Tennis Link

•January 23, 2009 • 1 Comment

I’m at home today with a bad sore throat. I really need some ice cream bad to soothe it. Maybe that will be lunch.

This week  Sports Illustrated tennis writer Jon Wertheim generously mentioned my new tennis-related short story in his online tennis mailbag at my request. That meant  my new blog had a big spike in views from my daily average of about 3 to around 400. Now the wave of viewers has subsided though. I feel like I wasted an opportunity since I really don’t have much content on my blog yet. It’s like if you were building a museum and a big tour bus showed up to tour your place before you’d put up many exhibits. I guess they at least got to see the story, although admittedly it is a little long for online reading and somewhat disjointed and in need of editing. Oh well, I’m pretty busy these days so it’s hard to find time to post content, much less figure out how to get people to find the blog.

I think I may try a new template look for my blog too. This current one, called Emire, is a little bland.

I like to add random photos to break up the text. Here’s a cool one of a great blue heron I took recently.blue-heron-launch3

Show me the love

•January 14, 2009 • 2 Comments
Pearce looking cute in the yard

Pearce looking cute in the yard

Ok, this is my second day of the blog. I’m ready for the swarm of readers. Where are all the readers? I thought I’d be famous by now.

I guess I need to put something interesting or revealing. Here’s something I realized about myself the other day. Much of what I do in life is motivated either by indulgence or guilt. They are the yin and yang of my actions.  You know, drink too much coffee/beer, eat crappy food, spend too much money (such as on a new racquet) and goof off, then feel guilty and compensate by working hard, eating better (for a meal or two), being cheap, etc. I think a lot of Americans feel the same way. We are constantly prodded through advertising and societal pressure to indulge, and then chastised for being broke, fat, sick, and so on.  There’s a magazine that’s usually in the breakroom at work called “Women’s World” and I always get a kick out of it because half the articles are about great new desserts and the other half are about how to lose weight.

My New Racquet/ALTA match

•January 14, 2009 • 1 Comment

I just bought a sweet new racquet, the Dunlop Aerogel 200 (http://www.tennis-warehouse.com/Reviews/DAG200/DAG200Review.html). I played with it during my ALTA mixed doubles match on Sunday. It took awhile to get used to but I really like it. It has more control and less vibration than my old Prince racquet which should be better for my wrist.  It has a little less power than I would like so next time I’ll probably string it a little looser.

My partner Claudia and I won our match. She is a great player, really hits an unbelievable forehand, which gives me lots of poaching opportunities. Our team took all five points for the week overall and we’re tied for first place. Good start so far.

Free Thoughts

•January 13, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Welcome to my new blog. I’ll periodically post essays, short stories or just random commentary here. Why? Because there isn’t enough of that type of content on the internet, is there? I guess I feel every now and then I’ve got something to say too. If you don’t like it, well, you get what you pay for, hence, the blog name.