Blogs > From The Bleacher Seats

A roundup of news on sporting events, people and places in Southeast Michigan by columnist Jim Evans.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Taps is no catchy tune

I played Taps.
First-chair trumpet player in the high school band, so I got the nod.
Sadly, business was steady during the Vietnam War.
They’d pull me out of school and I would head to one of the local cemeteries. Family and friends would be tear-stained and grief-stricken and I’d play Taps.
It was haunting, even if I did not know the soldier they were laying to rest.
I would hit rewind on Memorial Day.
The parade would end at the veteran’s memorial, and I’d play Taps again.
That’s as close as I got to serving.
By the time I got of age, the draft had ceased. Instead, they had the lottery, and believe me, when my birthday was announced, it was number 320 or something like that.
I was ecstatic. By that time Walter Cronkite spent a small chunk of every newscast giving the daily box score. So many American soldiers were killed today. So many North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers were killed today. It was like ESPN’s SportsCenter with a much more tragic twist.
I never kept a tally on how many times I played Taps. It was way too often, though.
I hope you went to a Memorial Day parade on Monday. My wife and I always do. It’s the least any of us can do. They always play Taps at our hometown parade. It brings back memories.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Fight Club with a maternal instinct

My wife and I have four kids.
Every parent knows it is not the easiest job in the world. Nobody at the hospital hands you an owner’s manual before you hit the door marked Exit. There is no money back guarantee, either.
Those kids are yours for better and for worse. And it’s ‘til death do us part. How come nobody talks about the birth vows?
When anyone asks me how the kids are doing, I flippantly respond that since I have never had to bail any of them out of jail, they are doing fine.
That drives my wife nuts. Actually they are doing great. They are hardly kids any more. They range in age from 34 to 19. Two boys and two girls.
But sometimes things happen that make me shake my head.
Did you see the story about the Florida mom whose conduct was splashed all over YouTube as she spurred her 16-year-old daughter onto greater glory during a fight with a classmate?
That mom, April Newcomb, 39, pleaded no contest to contributing to the delinquency of a minor and must attend a one-day parenting class. One day? I have a feeling that is nowhere near long enough. Ah well, it is probably too late anyway.
YouTube videos show Newcomb standing right there with a bunch of teens in a vacant field near Palmetto High School while the fight rages on screaming such warm and fuzzy advice like “Don’t f---ing stop!” and “Punch her in the f----ing body.”
Now, I grew up on a steady diet of 1960s sitcoms, and I might be mistaken, but I don’t remember one Donna Reed episode with similar dialogue. Did Harriet Nelson ever talk like Angelo Dundee in Ali’s corner?
As if that story was not bad enough. I had barely finished shaking my head when I came across another tale about parental love gone seriously south that nearly gave me whiplash.
This one occurred in rural Washington state, when an irritated dad had the audacity to take away his teenaged daughter’s cell phone. So what does she do in response? Stomp her feet? Run to her room and slam the door? Swear she will never talk to him again? Start f---ing punching him? Punch him in the f---ing body?
None of the above; the darling 15-year-old pulled out a hunting bow and proceeded to fire an arrow at dad.
The Sky Valley Chronicle reports that the man from the small community of Tahuya was admitted to the hospital “with a serious injury” after his daughter shot him with an arrow.
As if doing the Robin Hood number on Pops wasn’t bad enough, the lovely lass supposedly refused to let her father use the phone to dial 911, so he had to crawl to a neighbor’s house.
She was arrested in the woods behind her home with the bow and a few dozen arrows.
Cupid, draw back your bow. Isn’t the love between a father and daughter is a wonderful thing?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Evans experiences labor pains

I’m being selfish.
I do not really know the finances of the ongoing labor problems in the NFL.
All I know is that shortly my Sundays will be endangered.
And I do not like that.
I do not know about profit margins.
I do not know about salary caps.
I don’t know about any of that stuff. I am a sportswriter and a fan, not an economist.
I know Doritos. I know bean dip. I know I just bought a television with a 50-inch screen and have the high definition box from the cable company lining up in the backfield.
And I know I did not get that television to watch “The View.” I did not get it to watch Oprah’s last show. It’s not for Ellen or Cops or even SportsCenter.
It is to watch sports, and more specifically, it is to watch the National Football League.
So I have a vested interest in the players and the owners getting a deal done.
So does my wife, Kim, who probably does not want to deal with a cranky husband relegated to raking leaves, planting bulbs and generally doing busy work around the house this fall.
So let’s get at it, owners. You, too, players. I know you both think you are the only two sides in the negotiations, but you are forgetting the most important part of the equation.
The fans should have a seat at the table, too. I am serious. I know the owners think they pay all the bills, but who enables them to pay those bills? Who fills the seats on Sundays? Who buys the television packages during the season? Who wears the home team’s jerseys and flies the home team’s flag and who gets to the stadium four hours before kickoff to grill ribs and brats and chicken and dish out baked beans? Who turns on the television when the team is on the road?
We are getting back to the 50-inch Panasonic. That is very much a luxury item in the Evans’ house. It replaces an old-style 27-inch Zenith, that kind that weighed about 1,234 pounds. But we needed a new television. I told Kim I couldn’t wait to see the Discovery Channel specials on it. I told her I really was looking forward to watching the National Geographic Channel on it and boy wouldn’t our five-disc series “Planet Earth” look spectacular in high definition?
Honestly, I felt ashamed even as I extolled the virtue of those vistas. Inwardly, I could not wait to see Ndamukong Suh turn someone into corned beef hash. I relished witnessing Calvin “Megatron” Johnson soar over a couple of Lilliputian defensive backs in the corner of the end zone to make a catch that actually counts against the Bears. I wanted to see Louis Delmas turn a receiver’s legs to Silly Putty with a monstrous hit and Matthew Stafford rear back to throw a bomb to Nate Burleson, who did not even have to break stride to haul the football in.
So you see, the fans have a lot at stake in the ongoing labor dispute. There are more than two sides at the table.
There is also a table filled with dips and chips and beer and soda and pulled pork and fried chicken and barbecue ribs and more food than the early Pilgrims ever figured could be gathered.
Get this thing settled. I swear on Pete Rozelle’s grave, if not I am going to have to haul that television back to Costco. Reason for return, they’ll ask? The ongoing labor dispute in the National Football League, I’ll answer. I’m not sure if they’d buy that rationale. It seems to me the return policy only extends 90 days.
Please do not make me watch that five-disc Planet Earth collection. I have nothing against the environment, but I would prefer that environment comes with a whole lot of slam dancing on Sunday afternoons.
I swear on a stack of baby harp seals, I am beginning to panic.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

JOY TO THE WORLD: The Davids are in the Hall of Fame

HAZEL PARK - “They needed a ride.”
Hence, the simplistic bottom line of Joy and Lee Davids’ long-standing involvement in amateur wrestling.
That is how Joy Davids claims it all got started anyway.
The Davids’ kids needed rides to practice. They needed rides to meets.
What began as transportation turned into a lifestyle. Joy and Lee Davids have been an integral part of the fabric of wrestling both locally and nationally for years.
The Davids will be inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Michigan Chapter during a ceremony at the Kellogg Center in East Lansing Sunday. The reception will begin at 4:30 p.m., with the awards presentation following dinner. The purpose of the banquet is to honor and recognize individuals for their years of commitment as positive role models to our student-athletes.
Joining the Davids will be Frank and Angel Beck, Rocky Shaft, Edd Bankowski, Bruce Bittenbender and John Major.
A day earlier, from 7-10 p.m., Saturday, the Davids will be the guests of honor at an open house at the Hazel Park Recreation Center. Pizza, salad and cake will be served.
Many friends will be in attendance at both events. Many are friends through wrestling.
“I’ve met so many nice people over the years,” said Joy David, who graduated from Madison High School, but moved to Hazel Park when she and Lee got married. “If your kids were with wrestlers, you did not worry about them.”
There were a lot of worry-free days, then.
Mark Davids, 61, is the oldest of the Davids kids. He finished second in the state while competing at Hazel Park High School. He went on to wrestle at Eastern Michigan University, where he finished second in the nation at 134 pounds. He is a retired physics teacher from Grosse Pointe South High School.
Billy Davids is 59. He was a state champion at Hazel Park High. He went on to wrestle at the University of Michigan where he was a Big Ten champion and a two-time All American. He, too, is a teacher. He is a history instructor at Blaine High School in Minnesota.
Mary, 58, might have been the toughest of them all, said her mother, smiling.
“Mary says she raised her younger brothers. Did you know that by the time she was 12, she could cook a full Thanksgiving dinner. I never taught her that, either. It was something she picked up,” said Joy Davids. Mary is a second grade teacher in Hillsdale.
Johnny, 51, also wrestled at Hazel Park High School and the University of Michigan. He is an architect.
Tommy, 49, was a state champion in high school and went on to wrestle for the Wolverines in Ann Arbor. He works in the family business, Davids Gold Medal Sports on John R in Hazel Park, a full-service wrestling equipment store that also carries a line of hunting and fishing gear. Tommy has coached both at Hazel Park and Ann Arbor Huron high schools.
Mark and Billy were probably 10 and 12 years old respectively when they really got interested in wrestling,” said their mom.
It was 1962 when the Davids served as hosts to a couple of the athletes from a touring team from Japan.
Their oldest boys were intrigued by the Japanese athletes.
Joy admits she was not always so intrigued by wrestling.
There was a time when Joy had, as she so succinctly put it, “one child in her belly, one on her hip, and three running around.
“Years ago we were at the high school and Lee asked me if I wanted to walk up stairs to watch wrestling, and I told him I would not even consider walking upstairs to see wrestling,” she said, laughing. “I did not even like wrestling.”
Lee and Joy first met at a teen club.
“Do you know what the first thing he said to me was?” she asked. “It was `Hey girlie, your slip is showing about half a mile.”
A year later they were married. Soon enough, they were populating the wrestling world.
Lee and Joy Davids have 11 grandkids. There are 14 great grandkids.
That is a lot of wrestlers. That means a whole bunch of rides. Something tells me that Lee and Joy will not mind one bit.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A CHAMPAGNE TOAST: Come celebrate Timmy's retirement from Ferndale High

What: Celebrate Timmy Champagne, a Ferndale High legend
When: Thursday, May 19, from 7-8:30 p.m.
Where: In the Ferndale High gym
How Come: To Say thanks for 40-plus years
What Else: An Open House, with light refreshments
For More Info: Call AD Shaun Butler at (248) 586-8632

Athletes get the headlines.
You know how it works. So and So Scores 25 Points in Big Win. What’s His Name Smacks Walk-Off Homer In The Seventh. Such And Such Gets Winning Goal In Pivotal Game.
It is probably the way it should be. High school sports are all about the kids. That much is certain.
But there are plenty of folks behind the scenes that make sure those teams function properly.
Tim Champagne is retiring after more than 40 years at Ferndale High School, his alma mater.
His job description has been varied. What never varied was his enormous dedication and unwavering devotion to Ferndale High.
“Timmy has been with the program for as long as I can remember,” said Gary Sophiea, an administrator in the district. “He was doing what he does now back when I was in school.”
Sophiea graduated from Ferndale High School in 1970. Timmy Champagne was already a fixture around school when Sophiea was a ninth grader in 1966.
“He was an unofficial trainer. Back then we did not have trainers. Coaches did the taping and all of that stuff, but Timmy put the medicine kits together. He put the uniforms together. He was like a team manager. He assisted the players in many ways. He got the ice when we needed it. He was just always there for us.”
Sophiea was later a teacher and varsity basketball coach in the district before he became an administrator.
“People like Timmy are very, very important. They are an example of dedication. While I don’t think kids today are as thankful as they used to be, everybody appreciated Timmy. I remember when my players wanted to have gum on the bench, Timmy would bring packs of gum. Anything you could think of, he would somehow get,” said Sophiea. “Ferndale High has been Timmy’s life. He has been a very, very dedicated person.”
Soon, one of the real fixtures at Ferndale High School will be stepping down. Timmy Champagne is retiring.
There is a distinct possibility that you never even known Timmy was there.
He won’t be behind the bench passing out towels. He won’t be the sidelines making sure people have water. He won’t be taking uniforms to be laundered or making sure the team benches are set up just so.
He will not be doing jobs most of us did not even know existed or adhering to a job description so varied it seemed longer than Tolstoy’s rough draft of War and Peace.
Timmy Champagne never complained. He never said a cross word. His glass truly has been half full.
“I’ve known Timmy since 1966 and I have never seen him mad at anybody. I have never seen him lose his temper. I have never heard him say anything negative about anybody. That is just not something he would do. He does things for players and coaches and he happily does them. His entire being is about helping out the programs and the kids,” said Sophiea. “Timmy Champagne is about the nicest, most dedicated person you have ever met.”
People like Timmy Champagne are good for high school sports. Finally here is a headline for you, Timmy, and I am proud to have provided it.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Saying thanks to Mom

Mom was always there.
She was maybe not the most knowledgeable person watching, but she was there.
At our football games. At our basketball games. At our baseball games.
Whatever we played, mom was there.
Not because she loved sports.
It was because she loved her sons.
All things considering, that was a nice bottom line to a whole bunch of box scores.
Mom is in her 80s now. She is coming over for Mother’s Day and we will all go to the park and have a picnic.
We’ll eat chicken and potatoes; fruit salad and probably cookies and brownies for dessert.
The menu does not seem to vary much.
Either does mom. She gets around fine. We do not worry about her as much as we probably should.
Mom lives alone with her dog, Brady.
He is a mutt; part German Shepherd and part origins unknown.
Brady has mom trained pretty well, too.
Just like she trained us as kids.
It couldn’t have been easy.
Mom and dad had three sons. That was good with dad, not so much with mom. I was her last hope for a daughter and I failed miserably.
Legend has it that a big groan was uttered in the delivery room way back when and it had nothing to do with labor pains.
Mom already had the name Cathy picked out.
Enter Jim, and exit the child bearing business. Three strikes and yer out! I was the third of three boys.
She wasn’t out of the mom business, though.
Along with everything else, mom taught us the importance of a work ethic.
She raised three kids and somehow worked full time and earned both a masters degree and a PhD.
She worked long hours as an educator, and still came home to make dinner.
All right, so some nights it was liver and onions, but at least there was food on the table.
Other nights it might have been Banquet pot pies and Tater Tots, or on Sundays it was usually a roast on the table with potatoes.
So this is Mother’s Day, and this is for all the moms out there who do not get enough credit.
It has not been easy for mom for awhile now.
She had to retire from a job she loved to serve as a caregiver.
First it was her own dad who died of complications from emphysema. Then it was her mom, Grandma Hedberg, who succumbed to cancer. Dad battled colo-rectal cancer for five years before he died and mom was largely alone when my brother, Bill, was stricken by a rare neurological disease that slowly but inexorably caused his death.
But mom hung in there because moms hang in there. It’s part of a job description I would absolutely not want to accept.
So this is a Thank You note.
Thank you for much, much more than you know.
For always being there, then and now.
For sitting in the bleachers when other accommodations would’ve been a lot more comfortable.
For food on the table, clothes on our backs, and love at the bottom of all of those box scores when we were growing up.
Thank God you will be with us today. Thank God you are with all of the other days.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.
Go on and have something to eat.
Nope, liver and onions is not on the menu.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Tooting my own horn

I played the trumpet for years.
That is about it.
There was nothing cool about it, either. In the 1970s, an era of electric guitars and girls fawning over unintelligible singers in constricting leopard skin pants, I was wearing wingtips, toting a brass instrument and playing Herb Alpert music.
The coolness factor was non-existent.
So maybe it is no surprise that I have two sons who are in bands. Kyle plays in Green Collar. Jordan’s current group is The Hand In the Ocean.
Both loiter a little on the softer side. The Hand In the Ocean is a folk group. That is a departure for Jordan, whose musical tastes have always run a little louder and edgier.
But he likes his bandmates. They are buddies and that is good.
Green Collar is Kyle’s first foray on stage. He has played the electric guitar for years now. Green Collar bills itself as an acoustic rock and jam band and plays regularly in the tri-county area.
So my two sons are cool. So are my two daughters, who aren’t in bands.
Dad is not cool. But that is cool, too. I love going to listen to their music.
There is not a trumpet anywhere in the mix.
Maybe it’s time I request A Taste of Honey. I’ll be the one leaping on stage with the horn in my hand.