Blogs > From The Bleacher Seats

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

Thursday, June 30, 2011

High infidelity

Don’t get the wrong idea; I have not lived my life on a pedestal.
When the Final Ledger sheet comes out, I’m sure my sins will add up like the national debt in this country.
I just hope God grades on a rather liberal curve.
But are us guys idiots or what?
The latest example of outright stupidity allegedly belongs to Chris Hansen, the host of NBC’s “To Catch a Predator,” who has reportedly been cheating on his wife.
Hansen, 52, a father of two who resides with his wife, Mary, in Connecticut, has been carrying on a four-month affair with Kristyn Caddell, 30, a news anchor at WPTV in West Palm Beach, Fla., according to National Enquirer reports.
The two have allegedly been hooking up for months.
How about this Anthony Weiner (yep, pronounced like the hot dog that goes by the same name) character? Supposedly intelligent, he goes and tweets lewd photos of himself to young women.
What is it about  people like Hansen and Weiner? Is it ego, a lack of common sense or both? I wonder how John Edwards is doing these days? Now there is a real champ. His wife had cancer. He had an affair. He already has kids. His mistress has a kid. Oh, the consternation; where do you spend Father’s Day?
Edwards was indicted by a federal grand jury over $925,000 spent to keep his mistress and their baby in hiding during the peak of his 2008 campaign for the White House.
Speaking of kids, what about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s litter? He hires a maid. He impregnates a maid. She has a child who is 13 years old now and I’ll bet you the Terminator did not attend one of that son’s birthday parties. Forget the fact that the former governor of California was already married with kids.
This blog could go on forever. It could be the War and Peace of blogs. Forget Evans, the author could be Tolstoy. There is certainly no shortage of sex scandals. Tiger Woods and his affairs. Larry Craig and his wide stance. Eliot Spitzer and his longing for paid employees. Bill Clinton and his ardent support of internships.
I’m no saint, folks, but the list of sinners seems to be growing longer and longer. Does anyone know Kwame Kilpatrick’s prison address?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

No tears in this Brian's song

ROYAL OAK - Role models aren’t always presented on pedestals in burnished brass. They are not forever remembered in monuments fashioned from white granite.
Sometimes they are flesh and blood and arrive with a whistle around their necks. They might have a basketball in their hands or maybe it is a football.
They can be physical education teachers. They can be coaches. Often, they can be both.
“Sports, and baseball in particular, have always been my life,” said Brian Gordon. “I had a lot of people who influenced me when I was younger. Dick Moore in particular when I was growing up in Clawson. He was a phys ed teacher and a football coach. He had a huge impact on me. I always looked up to him. I had him as a teacher and coach all the way through junior high and high school. He was my coach in football and basketball and I wanted to be like him.”
Moore was the varsity football coach at Clawson High for years. Gordon is a Clawson High grad.
It was not just Moore who influenced Gordon, either. So did coaches like Steve Balowski and Ray Podulka.
Balowski is a member of the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame. So, too, is Gordon. He was inducted as a member of the Class of 2011, along with Robert Gast of Lansing Sexton, Bob Kreszyn of Trenton, Dick VanderKamp of Grand Rapids Christian, and Glen Lake’s Randy Weber.
When Gordon got to Central Michigan University where he pitched, baseball coach Den Kreiner played a big role in his life. When he began his coaching career at Royal Oak Kimball, Hall of Famer Frank Clouser was also very influential.
Few, if any, influenced Gordon as much as his father, Bob, who was his coach through youth leagues and  Connie Mack baseball.
“My dad was in sales,” said Brian Gordon. “He owned a tropical fish store, Clearwater Tropical Fish, at the corner of 14 Mile and Main in Clawson for 20 years. He was also in the Clawson Fire Department. My dad was basically my only coach until I was 14.
“Later, when I was coaching myself, dad would come to my games and afterwards, he was always full of criticism,” said Brian Gordon, laughing. “Dad was big on throwing inside. He’d tell me that my pitchers had to hit a couple of kids to let the other team know the plate was ours.”
Bob Gordon died in 2003.
“He smoked like a chimney. He’d smoke between innings when he was coaching, and leave the cigarette burning in the dugout. If he could, he would’ve taken a cigarette out to the third base coach’s box with him,” said Brian Gordon.
Brian Gordon is just finishing up his first year as the athletic director and an assistant principal at Royal Oak High School. Previously, he had always been a coach and a physical education teacher. The job change meant he could no longer coach. Chris Lau is now the baseball coach at Royal Oak.
Gordon spent 20 years coaching baseball, first at Royal Oak Kimball and then Royal Oak High after Kimball and Dondero merged.
He was the junior varsity coach under Clouser for five years, and then took over the program from the Hall of Fame coach.
“Frank came to the Hall of Fame banquet,” said Gordon. “I learned so much from him. One of the most important lessons is that you learn a lot more with your eyes and ears than you do your mouth. It was an honor and privilege working with Frank. I got to eat lunch with him every day for five years, and if you think you know a lot about the game of baseball or coaching, all you have to do is talk to Frank to discover how little you really do know.”
In 15 years of coaching at the varsity level, Gordon’s teams only had two seasons below .500. One of those came in 1998 when the Kimball Knights went 11-22.
“I had a meeting with (Athletic Director) Chuck Jones after that season, and he asked me what  should I have done differently? We’d had a good season the year before, had beaten Brother Rice in the tournament, and had a nice tournament run after that. Consequently, I’d set up a schedule that Chuck knew was too tough. He knew we would get it handed to us, but he let me learn on my own.
“One thing about Frank; when I took the program over, he did not hover. He watched his son (Andy) play at Troy. Frank had built the baseball program at Kimball. It was his baby. I was thankful we were able to carry the torch and were able to be competitive.”
Gordon’s career record was 311-189. His teams won five district championships, a pair of regional titles, and advanced to the quarterfinals.
“I was proud of the fact that we always put a competitive team on the field,” he said. “Our kids expected to win every day. I know there were times when other teams could not figure out how Royal Oak Kimball or Royal Oak High beat them because they might have been more talented, but it was because we out-worked them.
“I am proudest of the fact that many of my players went on to become doctors, attorneys, architects, teachers and successful family men. I loved it when they came back and stood behind the backstop; that they cared enough to come back,” said Gordon.
Brian Gordon is a Clawson High graduate. He is also a member of the MHSBCA Hall of Fame Class of 2011. Both deserve hearty congratulations.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Saying goodbye to Ivy Loftin

Good friends Ivy Loftin (left) and Fred Fuhr coached together for years at Dondero High School in Royal Oak.

This huddle will be different.
It won’t be on the 50-yard-line. The venue has changed. It will be at the Kinsey-Garrett Funeral Home in Royal Oak.
Long-time Royal Oak Dondero football coach Ivy Loftin has died. He passed away Tuesday.
Loftin coached at Dondero 33 years. Here’s his obituary:
Iverson L. "Ivy" Loftin, age 84, a long time resident of Royal Oak, died June 22, 2011. He was born May 17, 1927, in Beebe, Arkansas to I.L. and Ruth Loftin. Mr. Loftin was a teacher and football coach at Dondero High School, Royal Oak, for 33 years, winning many championships and honors. He was a member of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame, the Dondero Hall of Fame and the First United Methodist Church, Royal Oak. Surviving are his wife of 60 years, Patricia (Haley); daughters, Cynthia, Adrienne and Melinda; brothers-in-law, G. Keith Haley and Charles (Muriel) Hinz; cousin, M. "Billie" Simpkins; two nieces and two nephews. Visitation Friday, June 24, from 2-8 p.m. at the Kinsey-Garrett Funeral Home, 420 S. Lafayette, Royal Oak. Service Saturday, June 25, 11 a.m. at the First United Methodist Church, 320 W. Seventh St., Royal Oak. Memorials suggested to the Parkinson Foundation.
Frank Carr was an All-State player for the Dondero Oaks. He went on to play football and baseball at Albion College, and is now the athletic director at Earlham College.
“I was lucky to be a kid in Royal Oak in the 60s and 70s. It was a great family community and there were great rivalries; especially the Dondero-Kimball game,” said Carr. “I remember my dad taking me to a game on a fall Friday night with the smell of leaves burning, approaching Dondero and the lights in the distance getting brighter as we got closer. I remember eating a salted bagel that they sold at the game and thinking ‘Man, I hope someday I can play here.’
“Ivy was an important part of that time in my life. Reflecting on him, he impacted me and my career in coaching much more than I may have known. Seeing him, sitting in the gym at a basketball game, bald head and smiling made him human. He was special,” continued Carr.
Carr’s younger brother, Thomas Carr, followed in Frank’s footsteps. Tom also played for Ivy at Dondero and then Frank Joranko at Albion.
“He was a very good man. He cared for us; as people primarily and as players. He had a mind that was always moving, thinking of plays that would work against certain defenses and he was stubborn. If he had an idea of what would work in the games he would stick with it, until the inevitable was proven - it wasn't going to work!
“And he believed in that philosophy of the pass that whenever you pass, three things can happen and two of them are bad; a completion, an incompletion and an interception, so we didn't pass very often!  The option was as daring as he would get with the ball in the air.  He had a good sense of humor and I can hear that rather high squeaky voice as I think of him,” said Thomas Carr.
Thomas Carr is the senior minister at the First Baptist Church in West Hartford, Connecticut.
Both Frank and Thomas Carr are members of their high school’s Hall of Fame.
John Roberts is the athletic director at Adrian High School. He, too, played for Loftin at Dondero.
“I had the opportunity to play for Coach Loftin in the 1980 and 1981 football seasons.  He was a great inspiration in me becoming a high school football coach.  I started coaching in 1984 at Dondero and have coached high school football every year since. 
“I remember playing in the Dondero-Kimball game when both teams were undefeated in 1981 on a Saturday morning featuring two legends of high school coaching in Michigan; Paul Temerian and Ivy Loftin.  Unfortunately for us, the Knights won and became the first playoff team from Royal Oak.
“Many memories of playing for Coach Loftin are still discussed when I get together with teammates such as Ralph Lawson or Chuck Moulis about moments in practice, in the locker room, on the bus to or from a game, or a game itself.  I can remember we used to sing a song called "We'll follow the Old Man" on the bus after each Oak victory. 
“Coach Loftin was a demanding coach of his players.  We worked hard in practice, but we also shared laughs with him, Coach (Gary) Bryce and Coach (Fred) Fuhr.  He was someone that high school football coaches of today could learn a lot from about what is important in the game. Coach Loftin was a heck of person and we were all better young men having spent time with him as Oaks,” said Roberts.
So there you go, guys from the huddle who now are signal callers in totally different venues. Coaches do so much more than blow whistles and doodle X’s and O’s on chalkboards. They don’t just growl and tell kids to get tough or make them run some sprints by way of penance.
They send players sprinting into life. They try to get them prepared for adversity that lurks not just inside the five-yard-line but beyond the goal posts as well. Ivy Loftin was one of the best.
It’s time to huddle up on more time, Oaks. The coach would like that.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Reflecting on cancer and its many victims

I’m a cancer victim.
At least I am the one on record.
There are other victims.
The first is probably my wife, Kim.
She is the one who bears the brunt of my disease.
There are errands to run.
It’s Kim.
There are bills to pay.
It’s Kim.
There is family discipline to instill.
Yep, it’s still Kim.
She makes appointments, picks up prescriptions, heads to the grocery store, picks up paint and brushes at the hardware store, etc., etc., etc.
The kids do not have it so great, either.
When I originally came home from the hospital a year and a half ago after the surgery to cut the tumor from my kidney, 23-year-old Breanna stuck it out with me.
She fetched things. She grabbed pillows and blankets. She made sure I wasn’t too warm or too cold. She endured watching hour after hour of “Cops” and “Dog: The Bounty Hunter.”
When I found out the cancer had spread to my brain a year or so later, I started to cry.
That was just about the time that our 19-year-old son, Jordan, came in the front door with some of his buddies.
He started to cry, too, and he did not even know why. He knew it had to be something serious if his dad, someone who never met a serious situation he could not attach a punch line to, was bawling on the couch.
The doctors took care of that small lesion and I am fine.
But Kim is still handling the chores. Breanna and Jordan are still tiptoeing around the house way too often. Our other kids, Kyle and Brittany, are letting their hugs linger a lot longer than usual.
Cancer is a crazy disease. I’m the one on the prayer list in church. My wife and kids are the ones I pray for when it’s time to check in with God.
They are its victims, too.

Huddling up around love

To have and to hold.
Does that mean don’t fumble the football?
‘Til death do us part.
Is that a reference to sudden death overtime?
It was 10 years ago when Thomas Perry (?) and Carrie Chambers took their wedding vows on the 50-yard-line at Hurley Field behind Anderson Middle School in Berkley.
“It was all Carrie’s doing,” said Perry, smiling. “I did not know anything about getting married on the football field until she told me.”
While Perry is technically correct, it was he who fell deeply and madly in love with both Chambers and football (not necessarily in that order).
“It was my wedding gift to him,” she said, smiling. “When I first asked Thomas where he wanted to get married, his first answer was Canton, Ohio. I automatically rolled my eyes and got irritated.”
Canton is the site of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The wedding took place on June 15, 2001. The couple celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary Wednesday.
Since, Thomas and Carrie have compiled their own roster; Tristen, who is nine; five-year-old Tanner; and Cassidy, who will turn three Saturday.
“We both wrote some nice words to each other for out 10-year anniversary,” said Perry. “A lot of what I do as far as individually as a family man or a coach, everything goes back to football.
“There are so many life lessons. Take the teamwork aspect. Carrie and I working together and raising the three kids. If I do not have her, it does not work.
“The same with the kids as far as having patience and knowing when to be stern and when to be a friend. The sacrifices you make to provide a good life for your kids are similar to the sacrifices you make to succeed in football,” he continued.
Hut one, hut two, smooch, smooch.
Perry grew up in Berkley. He played for the Steelers youth football organization, and then for coach Pat Fox at Berkley High School for four years.
In 1994, he joined the staff at Anderson Middle School as a volunteer coach. After three seasons, Perry hired on as a full-time assistant. In all, he was on the staff 10 years.
A few years’ back, the family moved to Carrie’s hometown of Clawson and Perry began coaching in the Mavericks youth football organization in that city. He’s still doing that.
“We hardly see each other with work and his coaching and the kids’ activities,” said Chambers, laughing.
She is a sales rep for an auto supply company. She works during the day.  He is on the afternoon shift at UPS in Madison Heights.
“Thomas is home with the kids all day long. We get to see each other for a few hours until he goes in for work,” she said.
While Thomas and Carrie went out for a nice dinner this weekend, their favorite anniversary gifts to each other were words. Here’s some of what he wrote to Carrie to recognize their 10 years together:
“How do I ever say “Thank You” loud enough? How do I look in the mirror and be so grateful that I have been with the love of my life for 18 years? It seems like we’ve weathered the storms, we’ve made sacrifices, we’ve argued and cried. We have laughed, enjoyed, smiled, embraced, triumphed and loved. I am so thankful for the things you have shared with me in your life.
“I remember our first date on July 1, 1993; we went and watched the fireworks on the Canadian side. I remember holding hands and talking non-stop with laughter and smiles. I remember slight brushes against each other that made me feel like I had never felt before. I remember sitting in my car and when we were saying good bye, I leaned in for a kiss and you touched your cheek and that’s where my first kiss landed. To this day that is the best moment of our relationship.
“How do you repay someone, or what gift is appropriate for a person who gives so much and ask for so little? You blessed me with 3 li’l people that will forever tug at my heart. You have blessed me with a feeling of hearing a child say “Daddy can you help me?”  You gave me touchdown-scoring children, loveable moments wrapped in tiny hugs and kisses.”
Tristen plays football, basketball and soccer. Tanner is still deciding if he enjoys sports. Cassidy is still a little young to join in the fray.
“Thomas loves coaching,” said Carrie. “He loves football. Everywhere we go in Clawson, he’s recruiting for the Mavericks.”
Perry will get home from work about midnight or so. Some nights he’ll stay up until the wee hours of the morning scribbling X’s and O’s. Tristen has recently acquired that trait. He showed his dad his own customized play complete with about five or six reverses.
Carrie reciprocated with her own written words of appreciation for her husband:
“So on June 15th, 2001, I stood on the 50-yard-line of Berkley's Hurley football field and said I do to a man that has made me laugh, smile, feel true love and he believed in me when I didn't even know who me was.
“Thomas you have made my life a fairy tale; thank you for being my prince on a white horse and carrying me off to a beautiful life. I feel blessed and lucky to have you.”
Who needs Hallmark? Thomas and Carrie have some true team chemistry. Congratulations on 10 years. So you’ve made it to the end of the first quarter of marriage.
Call me again when you get to halftime.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Endorsements and Exxxotica Expo 2011

Endorse cars. Look at Eminem and Chrysler.
Endorse candidates. Look at what Oprah did for Obama.
Endorse Chop-O-Matics and Pocket Fishermen. Look at what Ron Popeil did for himself and the fortune he made.
But endorse porn? That does not exactly improve one’s stature in the community.
The National Football League knows that, and league attorneys are investigating an advertisement for a porn industry event that apparently featured unlicensed images of NFL players. The players were pictured in uniform for an advertisement for the Exxxotica Expo 2011, which was held in Miami last month.
"The NFL office works on behalf of the clubs to protect their intellectual property rights in matters such as this," said NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy.
The ad features Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers and safety Eric Berry, Chicago Bears safety Major Wright, Houston Texans cornerback Kareem Jackson and Oakland Raiders wide receiver Jacoby Ford. It bills them as “hosts” of the event, along with three NFL rookies.
Wright, who played for the University of Florida, distanced himself from the event via his Twitter account, writing, "FYI..... I have NOTHING to do with the Exotic Expo @ the Rosemont! My pic was used without my permission. No Affiliation at all."
In response to inquiries on Twitter, Ford responded that he was not present at the event, adding he was not even in Miami when it took place.
Flowers and Jackson have not commented.
Exxxotica Expo 2011, which bills itself as the world's largest gathering of porn stars, is set to open next month in suburban Chicago.
I know five NFL players who will probably stay a long way away from the Windy City in July.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Remembering Ernie Harwell

I did not know Ernie Harwell well.
We’d say hi when we saw each other at Tigers’ games.
We sat together in a dugout once at Memorial Field in Royal Oak and talked about baseball for a good half hour or more.
The Royal Oak Sandlot League had named one of its leagues after the Tigers’ Hall of Fame announcer.
Harwell talked sincerely about his appreciation. He talked about his love of baseball, and how that love affair had begun. I asked him some questions, but mostly we just talked. I think Ernie appreciated that. I know I did. It was no interrogation.
It was in late in the winter of 2009 when I was going through my voice mail messages at work. There is nothing noteworthy about that since I do it on a daily basis.
But one message in particular immediately got my attention. It was the voice; the same voice that came through the Heath Kit transistor radio that my dad and I built when I was a young kid. I’d turn that radio  on late at night and listen to the Tigers’ games on the West Coast.
It was the same voice that said many times he stood there like a house on the side of the road when someone struck out; the same voice that said a man from Paw Paw or a woman from Ludington had caught that foul ball.
It was Ernie Harwell wishing me good luck because he had heard I’d gotten sick. That was the kind of guy he was. Ernie was succumbing to cancer by that point and he still took the time to wish me good luck with my battle with that same insidious disease.
The stories of Ernie’s kindness are numerous and legendary. So are the tales of his impact on people, some of whom he’d never met.
I remember talking to a woman years ago who was visually impaired. Because of her blindness, she had  never had the pleasure of actually seeing a Tigers’ game. Her conduit to the sport and her hometown team was Ernie Harwell and she loved him for it. The verbal pictures he drew for her were vivid.
I hear that “Ernie,” Mitch Albom’s play dedicated to Ernie Harwell, is well-worth seeing. The play’s run has been extended to Sunday, July 31, at the City Theatre, which is just one block from Comerica Park.
Ernie Harwell was 92 when he died on May 4, 2010, after nearly a year-long battle with cancer.
“Ernie” is set on Ernie Harwell’s last night at Comerica Park, when he was about to give a final thank you to the fans. Just before he walks onto the field, he encounters a boy who is anxious to know all about him.
Most tickets cost $20, and convenient show times make it easy to also catch a Tigers’ game.
Ernie Harwell would appreciate that. He always cared about the fans. That was just his nature.