Blogs > From The Bleacher Seats

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

Friday, September 30, 2011

Lions' Suh comes to aid of Detroit high school

The Detroit Lions' Ndamukong Suh helped the football players at Frederick Douglass College Preparatory Academy tackle a problem regarding equipment.

So what do used football shoulder pads bring on the open market?
I’ve got more than a few Pawn Stars episodes under my belt. A couple of hours spent watching Hardcore Pawn, too.
With that on my questionable resume, I cannot believe that a pair of football shoulder pads will bring in more than a couple of bucks tops.
So what was someone doing swiping all of the shoulder pads, helmets, cleats and stuff from the school’s field house at Frederick Douglass College Preparatory Academy for Young Men in Detroit?
It could not have been for the cash, but they did it anyway. Some idiots grabbed the used equipment and the theft was discovered Monday morning.
It was not the first time thieves have hit the school, either. Three years ago the field house was stripped of electrical wiring, copper plumbing and toilets.
Frederick Douglass was 4-1 through its first five games. That’s an outstanding record, especially since the team only has about 30 players on its varsity and junior varsity teams combined.
There are about 225 students at the all-boys school in grades six through 12.  Neckties are part of the daily dress code requirement.
The rest of the football season was endangered by the break-in. But thanks to the generosity of Quicken Loans, the Bob Maxey Ford dealership, Ndamukong Suh of the Detroit Lions, Birmingham Brother Rice High School and Plymouth High School, Frederick Douglass is still playing football.
It played its homecoming game against Detroit Denby Friday.
Still, what is wrong with people anyway?
Why would you swipe helmets and shoulder pads, hopes and dreams? Too many young people do not have enough options as it is. Funding for education in this state is anorexic at best. We are barely able to offer the three Rs anymore. Reading, ‘Riting and ‘Rithmetic and exit stage left.
Thankfully there are still a few extracurriculars left. Most schools have band instruments, even if they are so dented they could use a trip to the local auto collision shop. There are usually a couple of scripts laying  around,  too, even if a school is forced to do My Fair Lady for the 11th consecutive year.
Fortunately, a basketball or two do not cost much. Metal baseball and softball bats last a long time, too, and if a school has an asphalt oval and some sneakers, then track season is still a go.
But to swipe football equipment. To snatch away aspirations. Just what is wrong with people anyway?
Maybe a kid or two in the Douglass huddle is good enough to play in college. Maybe one in 1,000 who walk into the field house could someday find himself in the pros just like Suh.
That is really not the point, though. Having dreams is invaluable.  The 150-pound high school nose guard will watch the Lions at Dallas today and envision himself on the field. The kid who lines up behind center on Fridays thinks about playing on Saturdays somewhere.
I truly hope they catch the people who stole the football gear at Frederick Douglass. I’d just like to ask them what was their motivation anyway? It was not exactly the Brinks job. It wasn’t even copper plumbing and electrical work.
How much can you get for some old shoulder pads and refurbished helmets anyway?
Not much, judging by Pawn Stars. Almost nothing at all, figuring what Hardcore Pawn is all about.
I figure I’ll be watching Storage Wars in the near future and they’ll open a unit. It will be filled with dilapidated high school football gear.
Thank goodness for people like Suh. Thank goodness for the folks at Bob Maxey and Quicken Loans; at Brother Rice and Plymouth High School.
The Frederick Douglass players huddled up Friday.  In their new gear.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Saying thanks to Josh Ripley

Does anyone know Josh Ripley’s home address?
I would like to send him a Thank You note.
Thanks for restoring my faith in the power of sports.
Thanks for restoring my faith in the goodness of people.
Thanks for showing the sportsmanship is not some mummified concept that is packed away in the basement of some natural history museum next to the stuffed saber tooth tiger and mastodon tusks.
Josh Ripley is a cross country runner for a high school in Minnesota.
During a recent race, he stopped to scoop up a badly injured competitor and carried him in his arms about a half-mile back to the starting line to his coaches and medical care.
That done, Ripley turned around and started the race anew.
There were about 260 other runners in the 5K event, and either nobody noticed Mark Paulauskas of Lakeville South High School bleeding profusely on the ground, or if they did, nobody reacted the way Ripley did.
“I had heard this scream, and as I rounded a corner, he came into view,” Ripley told Joel Siegel of ABC’s Good Morning America. “He was against a fence holding his ankle, and it was bleeding pretty badly. I picked him up and ran with him in my arms. I asked if I could say a prayer for him, and he said that was fine. And I just tried to reassure him that everything would be OK.”
The 6-5, 185-pound Ripley carried Paulauskas, who is 5-foot-5, 100 pounds, carefully in his arms.
I love uplifting stories like that.
I like them a lot more then the trash that goes on way too often in sports.
- Like the brawl that interrupted a youth league football game in Florida recently when coaches and even a player or two set upon a referee they disagreed with.  Police have filed charges against four people.
The August 27 game between two teams of 13- and 14-year-olds turned violent when one of the Sarasota Gators’ coaches came off the sideline and, according to the police, began verbally assaulting the referee, Jayme Ream, who then ended the game. The coach responded by throwing a water bottle at the ref, prompting other people to join the melee.
The brawl grew as people continued to come off the sideline, including a 14-year-old Gators player who tackled the ref to the ground. The referee fractured his shoulder in the fight.
- Or when crooked NBA referee Tim Donaghy revealed that he helped fix games to affect the point spread. He also provided insider information to members of organized crime to help them win bets.
- How about Danny Almonte who led the Rolando Paulino All-Stars from New York City to the Little League World Series, where he pitched a perfect game in leading his team to a third-place finish? Trouble was, he was 14 years old, two years older than the Little League age limit.
- Or Rosie Ruiz , who took the subway to nearly the end of the Boston Marathon route to “win” the prestigious event. Trouble was, people quickly realized 50-year-olds in your typical Pilates class sweat more than she did and absolutely nobody else on the course recalled seeing Ruiz running.
- How about Tonya Harding’s henchmen acting like wise guys from the Godfather flicks when they put a tire iron to Nancy Kerrigan’s knee a month before the start of the 1994 winter Olympics in Lillehammer?
Josh Ripley, center, running in a meet for Andover High School. (Jeff McKeefry)

There are countless other tales of scandal and scandalous behavior in sports. An  entire era of major league baseball tainted by more additives than are in your typical hotdog; high profile college sports programs and athletes bought and paid for by boosters (Strippers in Miami, tattoo artists in Columbus and a not-so-Fab Five in Ann Arbor to mention just a few); the Spanish basketball team that captured gold at the 2000 Paralympics with a roster made up mostly of non-disabled athletes.
The list of embarrassments goes on and on. That is why I’d like to send a Thank You note to Josh Ripley.
Mark Paulauskas was transported to the hospital, where doctors determined he had been accidentally spiked by another runner’s shoe. They gave him 20 stitches to close the gash.
“He just picked me up without saying anything and started carrying me and trying to calm me down. He said, ‘It’s going to be OK. I’m going to get you to your coaches,’” Paulauskas told Siegel.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Latest cancer tale is a first-person story

I used to do a lot of stories on cancer benefit games like the one that took place at Armada High School Friday night.
Also on cancer survivors and victims, too.
While most were heart-wrenching, I found them courageous and inspiring.
While they still offer inspiration, I find the stories more difficult to do.
That’s because I have cancer.
Irony sometimes carries a reporter’s notebook and a couple of pens.
Armada took on Richmond in a football game Friday.
Special T-shirts were available for $15. Both teams wore pink jerseys. There was a bake sale, a raffle and a photo booth. Proceeds went to the Karmanos Cancer Institute.
I have been proceeding to Karmanos for a couple of years now after a very routine checkup turned into renal call (kidney) cancer.
The cancer was not content to just loiter in my left kidney, either.
It had gotten bored and decided to wander around. It visited a few places in my bones, a lung and even my oft-idle brain.
The docs at Karmanos have been outstanding. They fired off the line of scrimmage right away and proceeded to give the cancer a good licking.
So far, so good. Most of the tumors have disappeared. The holdouts have gotten downright anorexic. They are shrinking and I feel great.
Still, stories about benefit games are much more difficult to tackle.
I read the information we received from the Student Senate at Armada High School and honest to John Boehner, started to tear up.
So much for being an objective journalist. Cancer has gotten a whole lot more subjective.
There was another cancer benefit game Friday at Warren Woods-Tower. The Titans welcoming St. Clair Shores Lakeview. There sold T-shirts there, too. A luminary celebration followed the game.
Life needs illumination sometimes. Appreciate what you have. Take time to hug someone or tell them thanks.
Playing high school sports is something to celebrate.
I was in the office Friday night.
I took phone calls from high school football coaches and we talked mostly about triumphs.
About the quarterback who threw for 180 yards and three touchdowns. And the running back who accumulated 170 yards and scored twice. Or the linebacker who made 10 thumping tackles including three for losses.
The team that won its first game of the season.
The team that lost in overtime and that is fine, too.
Don’t dwell on the fumbles. Don’t fret about the missed blocks. Don’t get down about the C you got on your biology exam.
There will be other tests. There will be other chances to carry the ball and stick the block on that trap play.
Not everyone gets a chance to hit rewind.
It’s great what they are did at Armada High School. It’s great what they did at Warren Woods-Tower High School.
Anything that helps kicking the stuffing out of this insidious disease that impacts so many would be tremendous.
I was on the phone Friday night.
High school should be all about triumphs.
There are so many victories in life.
Two years later and I’m still feeling great.
I’m dancing in the end zone right now.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sarah Palin: A rogue sports reporter

I never thought I’d be writing about Sarah Palin.
After all, I’m a sports reporter and she is a rogue.
But there is a story that Palin allegedly had a brief relationship with Glen Rice back in 1987.
Rice was playing for the University of Michigan then, and the Wolverines were involved in the Great Alaska Shootout.
He was a junior at U-M and Palin was fresh out of college working as a sports reporter at television station KTUU.
Rice has supposedly confirmed the brief encounter, according to “The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin,” Joe McGinniss’ soon-to-be published book.
So be it. On a personal level, I don’t have any problem with a Palin-Rice one-on-one fast break.
But it’s different on a professional level. A reporter sleeping with a player pretty much obliterates every journalistic ethic there is.
So much for objectivity.
Less than a year later, Palin married her husband, Todd.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Help wanted?

What’s the price tag on self-worth?
People need jobs.
This country needs to get back to work.
I don’t care what the rhetoric is. I don’t care if Obama is babbling adjectives or Boehner is brimming with tears.
Take a drive around town.
Strip malls are scarred by vacancies. Empty storefronts pop up like kids in costumes on Halloween night. It is downright frightful.
That does not even take into account the urban landscape of places like Detroit, Pontiac and Flint.
We’ve turned our back on the cities and we should be ashamed.
Factories have closed. Well-paying blue collar jobs are largely non-existent. Even the bosses who wear white collar Izod shirts are only playing a couple of rounds of golf a week at the country club.
Some aren't playing golf at all.
How quickly people forget.
People in other parts of the country call Detroit appalling. Well, they were not appalled by the city during World War II. Then, Detroit was known as the “arsenal of democracy.”
Three months before Germany surrendered, Josef Stalin told Franklin D. Roosevelt that “Detroit is winning the war.”
The Big Three -- GM, Chrysler and Ford – had converted their assembly lines to crank out tanks, planes, trucks and other weapons.
Another war is raging and I don’t mean one fought with bombs and bullets. It is an economic battleground and we are not winning that war.
Work is being outsourced. Jobs are being sent overseas. We used to build cars. Now we wait tables or pour drinks.
America needs to get back to work. We need to create quality jobs here. I don’t know what the cost will be, but a feeling of self-worth is invaluable.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Sunday motorcycle run honors a hometown hero

The front lines aren’t always in places like Afghanistan or Iraq; they are in our own backyards.
Our military personnel don’t only hunker down in bunkers or other lonely outposts. They also occupy couches and engage in horseplay in our living rooms.
Barracks are filled with our sons and daughters. So, too, is Arlington National Cemetery.
“We had a lot of impromptu wrestling matches,” said Jeremy Freiwald, 25, of Armada. “What move was I known for as a little kid? I was not known for any moves. What holds was I afraid of? I was afraid of them all, especially the holds that hurt.”
With that, he laughed.
Richard and Terri Freiwald have four children. All are boys.
The family roster was headed by Jason, the oldest. He was followed in chronology by Adam, Erik and Jeremy.
Chronology wasn’t the only thing that made Jason a leader.
“He was the leader in the family. He gave us all direction,” said Jason, 25, who is a third-year medical student.
The Jason R. Freiwald Memorial Run will be Sunday. Proceeds from the motorcycle trip will benefit the Special Operations Warrior Foundation and the Navy Seal Foundation.
The starting point of the run is Detroit Harley-Davidson on Van Dyke in Center Line. Riders will start to gather at 10:30 in the morning for registration and a continental breakfast. The escorted ride begins at noon, rain or shine, and will continue to the Romeo Lions Club Fairgrounds. Lunch will be provided.
The cost for a rider is $20 which includes lunch. A passenger is $15 and that also includes lunch. It will cost non-riders who want to enjoy lunch at the fairgrounds $15.
Same-day registration is available for riders, passengers and non-riders.
“Jason always wanted to go into the military,” said Jeremy. “He left three months after high school graduation and joined the Navy.  His goal was to become a SEAL. Whatever he did, he wanted to be the best.”
Chief Petty Officer (select) Jason Richard Freiwald, 30, died September 12, 2008, from injuries sustained while conducting combat operations in Afghanistan. He was temporarily forward deployed from his assignment at Naval Special Warfare Development Group, Dam Neck, Virginia.
Jason Freiwald and Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator John Wayne Marcum, 34, both distinguished and highly decorated combat veterans, were fatally shot in Afghanistan during a battle with heavily armed militants on September 11, 2008.
"The deaths of SOCS Marcum and SOC Freiwald are tremendous losses for Naval Special Warfare and the United States," said Capt. Scott Moore, Commanding Officer of NSWDG. "These men were true warriors, dedicated to their country, their fellow SEALs, and the cause for which they were fighting. They died while taking the fight to the enemy, going in harm's way with the selflessness that resonated in their character and made them giants among men.”
Jason Freiwald entered active duty in November 1996. After completing both Recruit training and OPINTEL "A" School, he reported to Basic Underwater Demolition/ SEAL Training in Coronado, Calif. After six months of the most grueling and demanding training in the world, he graduated and reported to Basic Airborne School in Ft. Benning, Ga.
His personal awards include the Bronze Star, two with combat "V" signifying Valor in combat, Purple Heart, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal with combat "V," Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with combat "V," Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Gold Star, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with Gold star. Gold star signifies more than one award given. Three Combat Action Ribbons, Good Conduct with Two Bronze stars and various service and campaign awards.
Brothers Erik and Adam Freiwald are also members of the United States Navy.
All four Freiwald boys wrestled at Armada High School. Jeremy and Erik also played football; while Adam and Erik were on the baseball team, too.
Their father spent time as president of the high school boosters club. He was also an assistant wrestling coach.

For more information on the Jason R. Freiwald Memorial Run, call (586) 254-4541 or (586) 756-1284.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Sorry, ladies, but it is a mail-dominated society

We’ve lived in the same house for 26 years.
In all that time, I think we have had the same mailman.
I don’t even know his name, but I appreciate the job he does.
He’s always on time; even when the snow is so deep you’d seemingly need someone with experience in the Iditarod to deliver the mail.
He is a good guy, too. He smiles and waves when I’m sitting at the computer writing right by the front door. He smiles and waves when I’m out walking the dogs. And, when a package or something is too large to stuff into the mail box out front, he gets out of the truck and makes his way up the driveway instead of putting a note in the box telling me to show up at the post office to pick up the package myself.
That’s no small task, either. From the decided limp our mailman has acquired in recent years, he obviously has had some health problems.
Ours is not the easiest delivery in the neighborhood, either. More than occasionally, our mailbox is blocked by one of the kids’ cars, or the cars of their friends. Our mailman never complains. He must have some NASCAR in his rearview mirror, though. He amazingly weaves through all of that traffic to deliver the mail.
I just hope the mail keeps getting delivered.
The United States Postal Service is in trouble. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe warned that the Postal Service is on “the brink of default” as he battles to keep his agency solvent. Without legislation by Sept. 30, the agency “will default on a mandated $5.5 billion payment to the Treasury,” Donahoe told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmantal Affairs Committee on Tuesday.
And, according to the Associated Press, with no congressional action, a year from now, next August or September, the post office could run out of money to pay salaries and contractors, hampering its ability to operate, Donahoe said.
There will be more post office closing. There is serious talk about delivering five days a week rather than the accustomed six. There will be some layoffs.
I hope our mailman does not get laid off.
He is a great guy. The USPS provides a great service. Let's try to make sure we continue to be a mail-dominated society.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Idiots attack youth football referee

Some people are idiots.
The bottom line arrives at the top of this sad tale.
What other conclusion can be drawn after the outrageous attack on a referee during a youth football game down in Florida last week?
Three coaches and a player have been charged. Battery on a sports official is a felony in Florida with a maximum punishment of four years in prison.
Throw the book at them, please. Make sure it is a large book. Something by Tolstoy preferably.
The assault took place during the second quarter of a youth football game matching two teams populated by 13 and 14-year-olds.
Too bad most of the players were more mature than the coaches.
The Gators, one of the teams involved, disagreed with a call made by referee Jayme Ream. In a video shot by a spectator and later released by the sheriff’s department, Ream can be seen arguing with Gators coaches before turning around and walking away toward the end zone.
The video pans away briefly, but comes back to show the referee wrestling with two men who appear to be Gators coaches. Seconds later, a large group of men from the Gators’ sideline sprint over and join the fray. The referee gets punched. He gets kicked. He emerges with contusions, abrasions and a fractured shoulder.
While it was an outrageous display, conduct endured by game officials is often outrageous.
I’ve witnessed the idiocy countless times in a long sports writing career.
Coaches rant and rave. Players and parents join in on the act.
The verbal assaults are constant. It doesn’t matter if the ballplayers are eight years old, or they are playing in Major League Baseball.
The assault in Florida was much more than verbal. It got physical and it got nasty in a hurry.
Some people are idiots. Sorry for the redundancy. I just thought it should be reiterated.