Wednesday, September 26, 2012

POLITICALLY CORRECT IDIOCY REACHES NEW LOW


Is there any foreseeable end to the politically correct rubbish that has permeated our society?
The latest is a local report that stopping or advancing a soccer ball can be deleterious to the health of our children. Wow, no wonder so many of these soccer kids are such a mess when they reach their teenage years. Perhaps we can trace road rage to this phenomenon.
Get this, politically correct idealists! If you look at anything close enough, you’ll find something ugly about it. Even the supple skin of a beautiful woman looks rough and scaly if you scan it under a microscope.
Before addressing the possibility of spawning a society of teenagers and young adults with fatal forehead contusions, let us understand how sports became such a vibrant part of American culture.
In the decades following the American Revolution, our nation was an agrarian-based society. As soon as youngsters could walk and think, they were engaged to help their families plant and harvest the crops and tend the farm animals.
The kids got plenty of exercise, although breathing in the fumes from horse manure may well have caused traumatic brain disorders.  Reading and witnessing politically correct horse manure surely does, but back to our history lesson.
With the advent of the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s, more and more Americans left the farm for 9-to-5 positions as bankers, manufacturing managers, lawyers, etc. They found that after a day’s work, they had leisure time.
Baseball, or some version of it, was being documented as part of life in New Britain midway through the 19th century. As Americans recognized the merits of enjoying the great outdoors and the health benefits of physical activity, other popular sports evolved in the century’s latter stages.
What are sports but a microcosm of war. Man’s violent nature and unquenchable thirst for excitement ignited many a bloody conflict since his very arrival on the planet. Sports provided an outlet so men could exercise their masculinity without killing each other.
Think for a minute how sports have evolved? Baseball rapidly became our national pastime. Pastime translates as an amusement or hobby. If you still think it’s a pastime, you haven’t been following the coverage it gets on all the incessant talk shows that have turned it into a soap opera.
The other part of that evolution is the games themselves.
In the NFL, they have all but done away with the kickoff return. Quarterbacks are placed in glass cubicles so when 300-pound men are hurtling toward them at maximum speed, they are expected to stop or be penalized.
Friends, football is a violent sport. If you venture to strap on the helmet and affix the pads, you are acknowledging the concept that you may get hurt. If you don’t want to get hurt, nobody is forcing you to play. If $3 million a year isn’t enough to convince you to play, become a data analyst and play golf on your day off.
What if bullfighting had been an American tradition? What about buzkashi, the national sport of Afghanistan where participants attempt to advance a headless goat carcass.
Yes, football is violent, and soccer can be, too. I’ve covered hundreds of games and witnessed myriad injuries.
Hundreds of incidents leading to injury could arise during games. How many soccer players have sustained a knee to the lower midsection where the family jewels are stored? A player could step in a hole and break a leg. Heading a soccer ball could cause a brain injury. So could a meteorite falling from the sky.
And is this so vital that it needs to become front-page news? Between that, and media outlets eviscerating the political candidates of their choice for making the simple mistakes inherent to being human instead of highlighting their differences so voters can make educated choices, I’m beginning to recognize the value of cultural isolation.
For so many years, I referenced the quote by former Chief Justice Earl Warren in support of my calling as a sports reporter.
“I always turn to the sports pages first, which records people's accomplishments,” he said. “The front page has nothing but man’s failures.”
After reading some of the trash in today’s papers and the sensational revelations about athletes in the new media that have nothing to do with the games, I use another famous sports quote uttered by a mere child on the steps of a Chicago court house nearly 100 years ago.
“Say it ain’t so.”

Friday, September 21, 2012

SAFETIES, TURNOVERS CRAMP NB'S STYLE


Southington 32, New Britain 7
Southington (2-0)      7  0  25  0 – 32
New Britain (0-2)      0  7    0  0 –   7
SCORING SUMMARY
First Quarter
S – Stephen Barmore 19 run (Kyle Smick kick), 6:43
Second Quarter
NB – Malique Jones 1 run (Juan Usuga kick), 9:49
Third Quarter
S – Safety, Jones tackled in end zone, 8:55
S – Safety, Lamar Bowsky tackled in end zone, 7:39
S – Alex Jamele 42 pass from Barmore (Smick kick), 6:59
S – Zach Jamele 3 run (Smick kick), 3:45
S – Barmore 10 run (Smick kick), :46.5
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
RUSHING – Southington: Jarrid Grimmett 15-34, Barmore 9-53, Z. Jamele 1-3, Preston Testa 2-(-6), Steven Hamel 1-7. NB: Bowsky 14-63, Jones 16-79, Dylan Krivickas 3-10, Bryan Gray 1-0, Marc Aponte 2-6.
PASSING – Southington: Barmore15-33-1, 211 yds.; NB: Jones 8-27-3, 83 yds.
RECEIVING – Southington: Anthony Bonefant 7-88, A. Jamele 3-89, Corbin Garry 3-21, Grimmett 2-13; NB: Gray 3-43, Kyle Anderson 2-23, Daequone Clark 2-13, Fitz Ingram 1-4.


NEW BRITAIN – The first half against arch-rival Southington left the New Britain High football team in an optimal position to win.
The defense kept the high-powered Blue Knights passing game in check. While the Hurricanes were rarely able to control the line of scrimmage, they left the field at halftime with the game tied.
An abomination of a third quarter separated the arch-rivals quickly.
Southington rode the momentum from two safeties in just over a minute to a 32-7 conquest in a CCC Division I West game that left some serious questions about where the season is headed.
In addition to the two safeties, the third quarter featured a steady parade of New Britain players, including top running back Lamar Bowsky, leaving the field with cramps. When a Southington touchdown followed the second safety to put the ’Canes in a 25-7 hole, the will to compete visibly ebbed from their play.
Head coach Tebucky Jones is not the excitable type, but the word “quit” bandied about his sideline is something he won’t endure.
“This stuff has got to be corrected,” he said. “If they can’t get it right, somebody else has got to come in and do it. It’s that simple. It’s all discipline – doing the job and trusting the guys next to you are going to do their job. Right now it doesn’t look like that.”
The Southington defense stuffed New Britain’s first possession of the second half and on fourth down, the center snap sailed over the head of punter/quarterback Malique Jones. Southington had the ball at the 13 but a holding penalty led to an interception in the end zone by Mikel Robinson.
An illegal block on the return put the ball at the New Britain 3. Two plays later, Malique Jones was ambushed in the end zone and Southington gained a 9-7 lead.
The New Britain defense, sparked by a second-down play by defensive end Jonathan Semidey, forced the Knights to punt. The referees ruled that Southington’s Corbin Garry downed the ball at the 1. Tebucky Jones said he saw Garry brush against the pylon, which would have been a touchback, but New Britain was once again in the shadow of its own goal post.
The defense swarmed over Bowsky as soon as he got the handoff just 1 minute, 16 seconds after the previous safety. It was all downhill from there.
“The punt unit is doing a good job getting down there,” Southington coach Mike Drury said. “Nate Bonefant did a great job punting. The defense hunkered down and really wanted it.”
Two plays after New Britain’s free kick, Southington’s stellar junior quarterback Stephen Barmore connected with Alex Jemele for a 42-yard touchdown.
Three plays after the ensuing kickoff, Garry picked off a tipped pass to put Barmore back in command at his 43. On third-and-12 from the 40, he hit Anthony Bonefant for 37 yards. Jarrid Grimmett ran for 20 to the 3 and Zach Jemele scored two plays later. Heads were down all along the home sideline.
“Once they get down, they don’t have that fight. That’s basically what it is,” Tebucky said. “To win games, you’ve got to learn that. Until they learn that, it will be like that the rest of the season. It’s in a person. If they don’t get it the JVs will get it. I’ll put them in the rest of the year.”
Southington took a 7-0 lead when Barmore raced 19 yards on a perfectly executed quarterback draw with 6:43 left in the first quarter.
New Britain began its lone scoring march when fullback Dylan Krivickas bulled for eight yards and Bowsky broke off a 28-yard gallop to the Knights’ 7. Malique Jones crossed the goal on a third-down quarterback sneak. Juan Usuga booted the extra point to tie the game two minutes into the second quarter.
When Southington went three and out, New Britain had the chance to take command of the game. Bursts by Bowsky and Malique went for first downs. A flare from Malique to Bryan Gray picked up another at the Southington 30. But a holding penalty bogged the drive down and Malique was intercepted by Tyler Hyde on third-and-14.
The game was marred by penalties. Southington was assessed 137 yards on 14 infractions. New Britain was found guilty on 12 for 113 yards. New Britain turned the ball over five times.
Cramping was as costly as it was painful for the host of players grasping their calves and hamstrings and writhing on the turf.
“We tell them every day to drink,” Tebucky said. “If you’re not [urinating] clear, you’re not hydrated. We give it to them here. This is two weeks in a row.”
New Britain seeks its first victory at home Friday against East Hartford.


Friday, September 14, 2012

NEW BRITAIN HIGH FOOTBALL PREVIEW


The New Britain High football program has never been at a loss for talent at the skill positions.

The list of former Hurricanes with flashing feet, soft hands and gridiron intuition is lengthy and impressive. The challenge for coaches over the years has been aligning enough tough kids with big bodies dedicated to winning the line of scrimmage.

Standing atop the list of skilled players whose hearts are enveloped in a sheath of maroon and gold is Tebucky Jones. Jones ran roughshod over the competition during his scholastic years, earned a scholarship to play at Syracuse and made a transition from offense to defense brilliant enough to play for pay on Sundays for seven seasons.

Now in his second year of giving back, resurrecting the program from a gradual deterioration that resulted in the Disaster of 2010, Jones has an ample mix of veterans and youngsters preparing for the next step forward.

“We have more older kids and more younger kids than we had last year,” he said. “The biggest thing is we’re farther ahead than last year.”

Jones said a bountiful sophomore class will be getting a lot of playing time and the junior class is thin, but he does have a senior core that helped the Hurricanes recover from the 1-9 mess in 2010 to post a 6-4 mark last fall.

Jones’ son Malique will again lead the offense from his quarterback slot. Tailback Lamar Bowsky has been logging varsity time since he was a freshman. Young Jones has a talented receiving corps in Fitz Ingram, Daequone Clark, Juan Usuga, Waterbury transfer Brian Gray, former backup quarterback Marc Colon and tight end Cam Lytton.

Tebucky said Malique prepared diligently for his senior campaign, but Tebucky leaves the offensive decisions to assistant and former Hurricane teammate Arnie Delio. One of the strengths of Tebucky’s regime has been to stow egos at the door and relegate specific duty to those most equipped to handle it.
“[Malique] worked out, trained and threw more,” Tebucky said, “but I don’t coach him. I don’t deal with offense. Arnold and the others put together the game plan.”

Bowsky generally was the second choice to run the football behind DeVante Gardner last year.“Hit him high and he’ll run over you,” Tebucky said. “He’s a strong kid.”

Dylan Krivickas will fill the fullback role when the offensive set dictates.

When it comes to the trenches, New Britain has long relied on the gritty and the rugged rather than the biggest and strongest. Linebacker Geovanni Medina is the perfect example. Medina, perhaps the best wrestler to ever come out of New Britain with a season remaining, makes up for his 5’9, 150-pound stature with intelligence, maturity, leadership and toughness. He’s the heart and soul of the defense and a leading candidate for postseason recognition.

“He’s a rah-rah guy,” Tebucky said. “No nonsense. He’s not that big but he’ll come up and hit you in the mouth. Everybody gets amped up when they see that. Pound-for-pound, he’s the toughest.”
Krivickas and Ben Fischbein line up alongside Medina.

Defensive end Jonathan Semidey is somewhat bigger than Medina at 6’2, 190 pounds, but his ability to impact a game doesn’t come from overwhelming size.

“He’s my motor man,” said Tebucky, who primarily remembers his players through the nicknames they earn. “He’s non-stop. He just goes and goes and goes.”

Lytton and sophomore Alex Swaby join Semidey up front. Twins Josh and Luis Rivera will also see time.
Tebucky’s method for arranging his defense takes the pressure off the individual players and applies it to their technical ability to interpret and execute it as a team.

“It’s all in the scheme,” he said. “We were the smallest team against everyone, but they really couldn’t run with us. It took time for us to start believing. [In 2010] we lost by an average of almost 30 points. Even last year, we could have been 9-1 if it wasn’t for some little things here and there.

“When I was playing (1990-92), we didn’t have size. The linemen had that quickness. It’s all in the heart. A lot of big kids are what I call ‘pudding pops.’ I don’t want soft, I want tough.”

The Hurricane linemen leave the custard in the cupboard. Senior center Michal Filipkowski brings toughness and experience to a key position.

“He’s been starting for three years. He’s the brains of the offensive line,” Tebucky said.

The Rivera brothers will flank him. So will senior Tyler Ounthongdy.

“The main advantage the other teams have is height, but we can get underneath them,” Tebucky said. “You have to have leverage playing the line.”

The ’Canes have no shortage of athleticism in the secondary.

Marcus Torres, the quarterback for the undefeated freshman team last year, will be a cornerback and deep man on kick returns. Mike Robinson possesses all the skills that defensive backs require, including a great vertical leap. Gray and Ashon Anderson is also in the mix.

The quarterbacks of the future currently stack up as junior Toby Taradeina and freshman C.J. Gaskin.

The ’Canes open on the road against Glastonbury (Friday, 6:30 p.m.) before hosting Southington (Sept. 21, 7 p.m.) in the home opener at Veterans Stadium.

NEW BRITAIN
Coach: Tebucky Jones (2nd year, 6-4)
Last Year: 6-4, 2-2 CCC Div. I West (tied for 3rd); ranked 16th in Class LL
Key Losses: DeVante Gardner, Larry Garcia, Kyree Largent, Garrett Shaw, Giovanni Viven, Lamont Priest, Jared Boddie, Mason Whistnant, Jose Gonzalez, Brandon Baskerville, Jose Palma, Axel Rosado
Key Returnees: Malique Jones (sr. QB), Daequone Clark (sr. WR/DB), Lamar Bowsky (sr. RB), Fitz Ingram (sr. WR/DB), Geovanni Medina (sr. LB), Michal Filipkowski (sr. OL/DL), Brian Gray (sr. WR/DB), Ben Fischbein (sr. LB), Juan Usuga (sr. WR/DB), Jonathan Semidey (sr. DE), Tyler Ounthongdy (sr. OL), Josh Rivera (jr. OL/DL), Luis Rivera (jr. C/DL), Cameron Lytton (jr. DE/TE), Mike Robinson (jr. CB), Dylan Krivickas (jr. FB/ILB), Toby Taradeina (jr. QB), Marcus Torres (so. CB/KR), Ashon Anderson (so. S), Alex Swaby (so. DE), C.J. Gaskin (fr. QB)
Of Note: NBHS football began in 1892, making this season No. 121. … Since the implementation of the CIAC playoffs in 1976, NB has won four titles – 1992, 2001, 2003, 2004. Coach Jones played for the 1992 team that clubbed Greenwich in the ‘LL’ final before moving on to Syracuse University and the NFL. … NB played in the Tri-Angular League with Hartford Public and Hillhouse from 1915-54 and then the Capital District Conference through 1983 before the formation of the Central Connecticut Conference the following year.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

GREAT BASEBALL NIGHT FOR THE UNDERDOGS


Boy did I have a good time Friday night.
Dear friend and voice of the New Britain Rock Cats invited me back for an on-the-field, pregame interview to reminisce about my 15 years covering the team.  With time to roam around instead of working, I ran into some old friends and enjoyed some great conversation.
But even more enjoyable was watching the Oakland A’s pulverize the Red Sox.  As those who are closest to me are well aware, I’ve been rooting for the A’s since 1960.  I truly enjoyed the great times – the World Series conquests in 1972, 1973 and 1974, and the Earthquake Series in 1989 – but they were all but curtailed as Major League Baseball went into its rich-get-richer phase.
I can’t fully explain the miracle that has Oakland at 74-57 and battling for a playoff spot after losing slugger Josh Willingham, top-notch starters Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill, and All-Star closer Andrew Bailey.  And then there’s the Red Sox.
The members of so-called Red Sox Nation who were populating stadiums across the league have suddenly either thinned out or stopped wearing their Sox garb since the team has fallen on hard times.  Suddenly, the Sox phenomenon has reverted back to the pre-2004 days when the Sox were still in search of their first World Series success since 1918.
It’s not like I detest any of the Red Sox players.  I interviewed many of them when they were coming through the Eastern League and I still cover the Portland Sea Dogs for the Portland Press Herald when the team visits New Britain.  David Ortiz was one of my favorite Rock Cats, and I think he is one of the most colorful, fun-loving players I’ve ever seen play.
It’s just the overspending, and holier-than-thou attitude that permeates the fan base and has them believing that winning 95 games every year is their birthright.  The Sox fans snickered when they snared Bailey and outfielder Ryan Sweeney in the offseason for outfielder Josh Riddick, first-base prospect Miles Head and pitcher Raul Alcantara.
Well get a load of Friday night’s results.  Oakland 20, Boston 2. Reddick went 2-for-5 with a grand slam and a double.  Sox castoff first baseman Brandon Moss went 4-for-5, scored four times and smacked a homer and two doubles. George Kottaras, a backup catcher who spent time in the Sox chain, went 3-for-5, scored three runs and hit two homers.
Oakland-turned-Sox reliever Craig Breslow yielded five runs in 1/3 of an inning.
I watched right until the final out, savoring it almost as much as when the A’s beat Boston in the 1989 ALCS.  The A’s have now won six straight against the Sox.  One Sox fan in attendance in Oakland wore a brown bag over his head.
To cap off a satisfying night, my equally beloved Cincinnati Reds extended their lead in the National League Central to 9 ½ games and are on the verge of welcoming Joey Votto back from knee surgery.  Plus, the bloated payroll powerhouse in the Bronx were dashed by the Orioles, who don’t look like they’re giving up.  A’s win, Reds win, Sox lose, Yankees lose?  August 31, 2012.
Sometimes those baseball gods ride shotgun right next to you, but like the nature of the game itself, they’re likely to turn on you any time.  I hope they’ll hang with me through the beginning of November, and then I’ll hope their football colleagues will take their place by my side and guide the Giants to another Super Bowl championship.