Blogs > From The Bleacher Seats

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

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hail to these victors!

Daily Tribune Photo/Liz Carnegie
Royal Oak coach Jeff Hill instructs his players during their season-opening win over Lake Shore

Nathaniel Hawthorne could’ve been a sportswriter.
Hester Prynne knew plenty about shame.
She had that Scarlet Letter. Here’s was an A. Change the color scheme and move down the alphabet a bit and the football players from Royal Oak High know exactly how she felt.
It was downright shameful to be in the huddle for awhile at Royal Oak High. Prynne had her A. The letter on their foreheads was an L.
Twenty seven straight losses. Twenty eight if you add that final game of the 2007 season when the Ravens fell to Oak Park to finish 5-4.
“These coaches believed in us when I am not sure we even believed in ourselves,” said Nolan Jones, a middle linebacker on the Royal Oak squad.
Is there a dermatologist in the house? They can eradicate tattoos, right? How about Scarlet Letters?
The Royal Oak Ravens put a period at the end of that infernal lingering sentence with Thursday night’s 21-20 victory over visiting St. Clair Shores Lake Shore.
They achieved the win in the most definitive way, too. Coach Tom Iwanicki’s Lake Shore squad decided to try for a two-point conversion and go for the win after scoring with just 25 seconds left.
The Royal Oak defense rose up and smacked the Lake Shore running back well short of the goal line.
“That felt so good,” said David McPherson, a two-way lineman for Royal Oak. “Just to hit the guy and know we stopped him.”
McPherson had been with the program for four years, the last three on varsity. That means he was part of all 27 of those losses.
So were Jones, Brandon Fredrikson and Robert Gibson.
“It was a great feeling. To get this for the school, the community and mostly for the team. We’ve put so much work into this. We’ve been out here for a long time working,” said Gibson.
He was walking with a noticeable limp Friday morning. He had gotten injured in the previous night’s game. There was no grimace on his face. It was a smile that would not go away.
“I love the game. I love Royal Oak and I love the team. Not winning is difficult, but giving up on the guys would’ve been even more difficult. I would never do that. We tried our best each and every night. We never gave up.”
A lot of guys would’ve quit. A lot of guys would’ve packed up and left the field if not town altogether. Football is hard work. The nine-week regular season is barely dirt under the finger nails. There is the lifting in the off-season. There is the abbreviated summer because of conditioning, passing camps and the like.
There were the tears of joy and almost disbelief shed on the field after the game. That is among the memories that Fredrikson took away from Thursday night’s game.
Wesley Howell and Harrison Long are also seniors on the Royal Oak squad. They’ve been with the program all four years in high school and have been on the varsity the last two. They grew up playing youth football together.
The Chargers and the Chiefs are the breeding ground of young players in Royal Oak.
Howell is a defensive end/tailback. Long is an outside linebacker/offensive tackle. He weighs in at about 150 pounds.
They were both on the field when the final two-point conversion was attempted.
“The coaches told us all week about Lake Shore’s tendencies on offense. They run the same two or three plays frequently,” said Howell.
The defense was called. The gaps were plugged. The victory was secured.
Howell and Long don’t only play football. They are also part of a band called Armour The Lion. Howell plays bass and Long is on the drums. A buddy, Sam Urich, does most of the vocal work, as well as play lead guitar and keyboards.
Armour The Lion has played at a lot of the local venues including the Crofoot in Pontiac and the New Way in Ferndale. An EP is coming out soon.
It might be time to cut another tune. How about Hail to the Victors on a Stratocaster?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Carpe diem: Seize the football

A message to all of the high school football players: “carpe diem.”
Loosely translated, that means seize the day.
At least I think it does.
I’m a sports writer, not a linguist.
I’m 56 years old and that puts me just a dive play shy of the Paleozoic Era.
I played high school football.
We wore tortoise shells for helmets.
Our cups were fashioned from clams.
All right, not really.  But it was a long time ago.
My buddy, Tom, was one of my teammates.
Our final season was in the fall of 1971. That June, we graduated and off we went. I headed to college and Tom joined the Army.
Figuring the war in Vietnam was still raging, I figured I was heading in the right direction.
Tom got lucky. He went to Germany.
But it was in Europe during some sort of maneuvers when a troop carrier overturned. Tom was killed.
My dad told me when I was home for spring break.
You never figured something like that was going to happen.
Killed in Vietnam, sure. But in an accident in Germany? Who would’ve figured?
So carpe diem. Seize the day.
Appreciate things even if your team loses more than it wins.
Appreciate your name in the program and on the lips of the public address announcer.
Appreciate the coaches, the cheerleaders, the marching band and your parents.
Appreciate the Friday Night Lights because eventually they get turned off.
Things come to an end.
I don’t even know where they buried Tom.
I was never much for mourning.
Not when I was younger anyway.
These days, I pay more attention.
I think it’s because I am older.
Mortality is no longer just a theoretical.
I have cancer.
I am doing great, but that sort of diagnosis makes your ears perk up.
You don’t just shrug.
You think about things.
Carpe diem.
I’m telling that to the football players and all of the other high school athletes.
I’m reminding myself of the same thing.
Everybody have a good season.
Everybody appreciate what you have.
I went to college. Tom went to Germany.
He also went from the sports pages to the obituaries.
He was just 19 years old.
You never know.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Pat Summitt deserves our admiration

My mother-in-law has hardly acknowledged me over the last couple of years at least.
Not that I deserve to be lauded. I’m a pretty ordinary guy whose time on the pedestal has been limited. I have been a pretty good husband to her daughter, but my name is not Trump and we hardly live in a mansion.
My mother-in-law has Alzheimer’s. She is an artist. She used to paint voraciously and was very good at it. Her artwork adorns our home and many others. She played golf several times a week and loved it. She hosted family functions and made some of the most spectacular meals this side of Julie Childs.
Now, she resides in an assisted living center. She mostly sits quietly. She goes to church with us on Sundays. My wife, Kim, visits her during the week.
But I’ll ask her a question and mostly there is no response.
Once again, I don’t deserve a soliloquy. It would be nice to get a response occasionally, though.
I wonder how the University of Tennessee women’s basketball team will respond to Pat Summitt once the season gets underway?
If she neglects to call a timeout at a key moment, will the whispers start? If the legendary coach gazes away from the court momentarily, will she be scrutinized more closely?
Summitt announced that she has been diagnosed with early-onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type.
Summitt went to the Mayo Clinic in May. She underwent a series of tests and received the stunning diagnosis.
The 59-year-old Summitt, who has 1,071 career victories and has led the Volunteers to eight national championships, is determined to continue coaching and is planning for her 38th season. She has the support of the University administration.
She’s also feeling confident enough to go public with her condition.
I admire her courage and pray the condition progresses slowly, or better yet, not at all. Pat Summitt deserves our admiration. But I can’t help but feel sorry for her, too.
Good luck, coach. Go win another national championship.
For you. For the team. For the university. For all of us who admire your courage.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A judge's hard cell approach to drunk drivers

A district court judge in Oakland County is too tough on drunk drivers.
At least that is what some people are saying.
I say B.S.
If Judge Kimberly Small rules within established sentencing guidelines, so be it.
If you ask me, those parameters are too lenient anyway.
Just ask Rick and Debbie Moskwa of Hazel Park.
Their son, Ricky, died because of some idiot who chose to drink and then drive.
It was nearly a decade ago and the Moskwas are still mourning.
“Ricky would’ve been 34 in May,” said his dad, Rick. “He died nine years ago. We put the balloons up again this year.”
Thirty four balloons and every one contained a note.
“Things like ‘Happy Birthday and I miss you, Ricky,” said his dad.
Former University of Michigan Fab Five member Jalen Rose, an ESPN analyst, should’ve known better.
Rose, 38, was arrested March 11 in West Bloomfield after crashing his Cadillac Escalade on Walnut Lake Road.
Rose registered a 0.08 on a roadside Breathalyzer, which is the legal limit to be considered drunken driving. Later, a blood test showed a level of 0.12.
Rose pleaded guilty to a single count of operating a vehicle while under the influence, a 93-day misdemeanor. It was reduced to 20 days in jail.
“I have no one to blame but myself for endangering the community,” he told Small.
Rose, a Detroit native, has done some outstanding work in the community.
Still, that was hardly an outstanding decision to get behind the wheel.
Thank God nobody was hurt or killed. Everybody including the Moskwas are thankful for that.
Miguel Cabrera should’ve known better, too.
There he was on the eve of spring training this year in St. Lucie County charged with driving under the influence and resisting arrest.
Cabrera was spotted by a deputy in a car with a smoking engine alongside a road in Fort Pierce. Inside the vehicle, Cabrera smelled of alcohol, had slurred speech and took a swig from a bottle of scotch in front of a deputy, according to the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office. He refused to cooperate and more deputies were called to the scene.
The arrest occurred about 110 miles southeast of Lakeland.
Cabrera also had an embarrassing conclusion to the 2010 season. An all-night drinking binge turned into a fight with his wife and a 911 call to Birmingham police. Team general manager Dave Dombrowski picked him up from jail. No charges were filed.
Thank God nobody was hurt or killed. Everybody including the Moskwas are thankful for that.
In a motion filed earlier this week in district court in Bloomfield Township, it’s claimed that Small violates the constitutional rights of defendants by putting almost all-first time drunken drivers in jail.
That is B.S.
Should first-timers get a gimme? Is there a mulligan in there somewhere; an implicit agreement that one impaired driving offense should be shrugged at?
There was no gimme for Ricky Moskwa. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 33,808 people died in traffic crashes in 2009 in the United States including an estimated 10,839 people who were killed in drunk driving crashes involving a driver with an illegal blood alcohol count of .08 or greater.
So Judge Small is too tough? I say the law is not tough enough.
Keep it up, judge. Hopefully the more people who visit jail, the fewer times we have to go to the funeral parlor or the cemetery.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Heugh and cry at Troy Athens

Former Rochester High soccer coach Todd Heugh opened practice at his alma mater, Troy Athens, on Monday.

Homeward bound
I wish I was
Homeward bound
Home, where my thought's escaping
Home, where my music's playing
Thanks Simon. Thanks Garfunkel. Thanks Todd Heugh.

As if on cue, music was actually playing as Heugh made his return to Troy Athens High School, his alma mater.
Heugh, who resides in Macomb, officially opened his tenure as the boys’ soccer coach at Athens Wednesday.
The background music was provided not by Paul Simon or Art Garfunkel but the school’s marching band, which was also getting limbered up for the upcoming school year.
Soccer practice opened across the state Wednesday, and Heugh was holding tryouts on the auxiliary soccer field adjacent to the band’s practice area.
The new coach was surrounded by countless hopeful players, all justifiably anxious because the rosters of the Athens teams have not been set yet.
Heugh certainly knows how the young players felt. He was in their shoes a couple of decades ago.
“My freshman year was the first year they had junior varsity soccer. Prior to that, all they had was varsity. We heard in middle school that there would be 100 kids trying out for soccer, and only 25 would make the team.
“It was great when they started junior varsity soccer, because that meant 40 or 45 kids were now included in the program. Still, we knew we had to be fit and we had to compete if we wanted to make either team. There were standards to meet,” continued Heugh.
Heugh played for junior varsity coach Bob Blake two years, and then moved up to varsity where he played for Tim Storch.
“We were not coming in just to make a team; we were here to win a state championship every year. That was the mentality back then. Obviously soccer has spread to other communities and things are different now,” he continued.
Heugh, a 1990 graduate of Athens, played on the 1989 Class A squad that defeated Plymouth Salem 1-0 in the title game. A year earlier, the Red Hawks fell to Brother Rice 2-0 in the semifinals.
Heugh later played at NCAA Division I Eastern Michigan University.
“I had tremendous respect for Coach Storch,” said Heugh. “He helped me get on the Eastern Michigan team as a freshman. I was never an all state player here; I was a member of two good teams. I cherished a lot of those moments to the point that I already knew that when I was leaving high school that I wanted to be a teacher and a soccer coach.”
Heugh is also a teacher at Larson Middle School in Troy.
Storch had been the only soccer coach Athens ever had. He retired from teaching in June. Storch and his wife, Liz, have moved to the family vacation home on Grand Lake and he is now coaching the boys’ team at Alpena High School.
Storch established quite a legacy in 30 years as the boys and girls soccer coach at Athens, winning nine state titles and amassing more than 900 wins.
Storch started the soccer program at Athens in 1981. He won five state titles with the boys, and four with the girls.
Heugh might be new to Athens, but he is hardly a rookie coach himself. His high school coaching career began in 1996 as a junior varsity boys’ soccer coach at Troy High. He stayed with the Colts through the 1999 season.
He was the boys’ varsity coach at Rochester High from 2000 to 2006. His Falcons won the OAA Red Division championship four consecutive seasons. His 2002 squad won the state championship, defeating Plymouth Salem 1-0.
He also coached the girls’ squad at Rochester. The girls won four district championships and in 2007 made it all the way to the state title game, losing 2-1 to Novi.
Heugh also coaches several Vardar teams. He will coach the girls’ team at Athens in the spring.
“I will really miss the people at Rochester, but I could not turn this job down,” said Heugh. “There was something about the four years I spent at Troy Athens that were very special.”
There was a 20-year reunion of the Class of 1990 at The Royal Park Hotel in Rochester. Very quickly during those festivities in the venue’s plush surroundings, Heugh found himself huddling up with six or seven of the guys he played soccer with. They swapped story after story.
He is huddling up with Athens’ soccer players once again. Only they call him Coach Heugh.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Keeping track of Margaret Beaudoin


Margaret Beaudoin, 11, of Berkley, puts the shot during the National Junior Disability Championships at Morley Field at Saginaw Valley State University. 

The value of sports?
In the best of moments, it can be measured a long way from the headlines.I am not talking signing bonuses, long-term contracts, agents, accountants and mansions so large you need two different return addresses.I am not talking dollar signs.
 I am talking 11-year-old Margaret Beaudoin of Berkley.
Most of us get to use the starter blocks in the delivery room at least.We get to sprint into life. If we’re going to get nicked by fate, it usually comes later on.
Margaret Beaudoin was not afforded even that response to the starter’s gun. She has left hemiplegia, the result of a stroke that occurred in the right side of her brain before she was born. Her vision was impacted. So were some of the motor skills on the left side of her body.
Still, Margaret Beaudoin competed in the National Junior Disability Championships held at Saginaw Valley State University July 17-23. She competed in the Under-14 F36 class. Athletes were placed in divisions determined by their physical abilities.
She had a marvelous meet, finishing first in the javelin; second in the shot put, discus, long jump and 100 dash; and third in the 200.
“I got my personal best in the 100,” said Margaret Beaudoin proudly. An incoming fifth grader at Pattengill Elementary in Berkley, she competed on the Shrine Academy team in the spring.
Track and field events are not her only endeavors in athletics. She also runs cross country, plays soccer and is a cheerleader.She was with the Cheetahs Running Club at Burton Elementary School. The group would gather both during lunchtime and at other times. Margaret Beaudoin and the others would earn tokens for the number of laps finished. She cashed those in for things like a T-shirt, a badge, a bracelet and a key chain.
According to the Children’s Hemiplegia and Stroke Association, hemiplegia in infants and children is a type of cerebral palsy that results from damage to the parts (hemispheres) of the brain that control muscle movements. 
This damage may occur before, during or shortly after birth.The term hemiplegia means that the paralysis is on one vertical half of the body. 
A similar medical term, hemiparesis, means a weakness on one side of the body.  In children with hemiplegia, the paralysis in the body occurs on the side opposite the affected part of the brain.  For example, if the left side of the child's brain is injured, then the paralysis will be on the right side of the child's body.
Margaret Beaudoin qualified for the national meet by her performance at the Thunder in the Valley Games also held at Saginaw Valley in June.
“I would have qualified in the 400 also, but they could not find my time, so I did not make that event,” said Margaret Beaudoin.
She favors the javelin, an event she practiced for by using a broomstick in the playground at Rogers Elementary School near her home. The broomstick was her father’s idea.
Her father, Chris Beaudoin, is in sales at E.A. Graphics in Sterling Heights. The company is the official supplier of the Michigan High School Athletic Association.
Chris and his wife, Christine McNish, have two other daughters; Emma, 12, and four-year-old Elizabeth.
“Margaret is very grounded,” said her father. “An event like the Disability Championships is very important. The growth in her is remarkable. In terms of confidence, it has just been amazing. We found that with quite a few of the competitors, too.“
The other reality is that Margaret got to see there are other kids who have challenges. She made friends with a girl from Chicago and another girl from Louisiana. There was this great camaraderie among everybody.”
Margaret Beaudoin was one of 300 athletes who competed in the National Junior Disability Championships. It was the first time in the event’s 27-year history that it has taken place in Michigan.
She was helped in her training by Wright Wilson, the varsity track and cross country coach at Shrine.
“I got an email from Chris who said they were going to the national championships and wondered if we had any shots or discs they could use to practice with,” said Wilson.
He provided the equipment.Margaret Beaudoin brought the determination and ability.
There’s no doubt the value of sports can be overrated. That certainty is proven anew when a defensive lineman is promised $60 million or a golfer crashes his SUV outside of his home in Florida while being chased by an enraged wife.
Margaret Beaudoin enjoys sports. There is no way to put a price tag on that. No matter how her story began, that’s the end of it.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Have you hugged a teacher today?

I’m tired of politicians bashing teachers.
I adore what teachers do.
Politicians, well, I might adore what they do if I could figure out what exactly that is.
Few people have been more important in my life and the lives of my kids than teachers.
From kindergarten through college, they have provided direction. From crayons to laptops, they have provided education. They have been there from graham crackers to Alexander Graham Bell; from naps to Napoleon at Waterloo.
So what if teachers are paid fairly well?
Who deserves it more?
Who bears more responsibility in life? They take our kids and mold them. From the ABCs to bachelor and masters degrees.
So all of our kids are not Mensa members; is that a teacher’s fault?
When do we as parents take any responsibility? Moms who sit their kids in front of the television set all day long. Dads who might play video games with their kids, but never think to pick up a book and read to them.
We’ve raised a generation that knows Super Mario but not Stephen Crane; that embraces Facebook but not chapter books.
But the politicians – now there is a bunch of high achievers – are after teachers. They say teachers get paid too much. They want to reduce their income. They want to take away their bargaining rights. They want to take away tenure. They want to reduce benefits, pensions, and self-esteem.
I can’t think of one politician who has meant squat to me in my life.
It wouldn’t take me 10 seconds to come up with 10 teachers who have been influential.
Fire the politicians. Hire more teachers.
The world would be a much better – and smarter - place.