Ten years ago, on May 1st, President George W. Bush stood on board of the USS Abraham Lincoln 30 miles off the coast of San Diego and declared “major combat operations in Iraq have ended” and that “in the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.” It was a bold, impressive claim, given the war had officially begun only 43 days before. But, at the time, G.W. seemed like a pretty impressive man. Before the speech, he’d reportedly become the first sitting president to make an arrested landing on an aircraft carrier.
Bush’s Top Gun moment turned out to be astoundingly premature, of course. U.S. combat involvement in Iraq went on, and on; thousands more Americans died there. The speech, meanwhile, quickly became a cornerstone moment of the Bush era. Images from its broadcast – the nearby “Mission Accomplished” sign, Bush’s olive flight jacket and the ejection harness between his legs – in time accrued a farcical touch and made Bush’s words seem boastful.
For sure, we’ve seen some pretty outlandish claims and bad and/or off-base boasts made by influential sports figures.
Mostly, they’re predictions gone awry. And, mostly, they’re pretty laughable in hindsight. Which is the great thing separating sports and entertainment from more serious aspects of society.
Here are some of the worst sports boasts of all time:
Geriatric smack talk.
It’s not a fledgling punk band, or some ridiculously titled new lipstick flavor.
It’s what star players from two of the most dominant college basketball teams in the 1940s haven’t seemed able to curtail every time the topic is brought up: Did Adolph Hitler, Hirohito and the University of Wyoming swipe a national championship which should have belonged to the Fighting Illini?
The Wyoming Cowboys won the NCAA championship in 1943, then beat the NIT champions for good measure, but many contemporaries believed Illinois was by far and away the nation’s best team that year. The “Whiz Kids” of Urbana-Champaign were two-time defending Big Ten champions, ranked No. 1 in the nation, won 11 of their 12 conference games by double digits and finished the season on the type of roll that could put Cinnabon out of business: their last three wins were 50-26 against 1941 national champ Wisconsin, 86-44 against Northwestern and 90-25 against Chicago.
Ahead of Illinois was the NCAA tournament and an eight-team field including Georgetown, Texas and Washington. In later years, the Whiz Kids agreed they would have swept everybody else away. “I think we could have walked through it,” ‘43 team member Jack Smiley told The News-Gazette in 1999. “We weren’t even close relative to competition from below.”
“We would have won it all,” his teammate Gene Vance agreed.
So, what happened?
I had a good interview with Wadie Moore, the assistant executive director for Arkansas’s organizing body for high school athletics, about the enduring issue of incomplete records. Here’s the resulting article:
When Wadie Moore started compiling a record book for the Arkansas Activities Association around 1996, he wanted it to be as comprehensive as possible.
The assistant executive director for Arkansas’s organizing body for high school athletics combed through archives and drew on the contacts he’d made in his decades of sportswriting for the Arkansas Gazette.
All the while, though, Moore knew the record book he was creating told an incomplete story of his state’s athletic past. He knew there had been two high school sports associations divided by race until 1967, when the all-white Arkansas Activities Association integrated with the all-black Arkansas State Athletic Association.
When compiling the book, which includes a list of state champions in various sports and all-time leaders in statistical categories, Moore used official records kept by the AAA dating back to the early 1900s. But he didn’t find any records kept by the ASAA. The paperwork, if it existed, apparently wasn’t transferred to the AAA headquarters. So, Moore didn’t include marks set by all-black powerhouse programs in basketball, football and track like Pine Bluff Merrill, Little Rock Dunbar, Horace Mann, Scipio Jones, Hot Springs Langston and Texarkana Washington high schools.
The result affects not only the AAA record book, but all the news reports that use it as a source.
Read the rest of the Arkansas Times piece here.
In researching this topic, I’ve discovered every Southern state has made different degrees of progress in exhibiting the history of its pre-integration, all-black athletic association.
West Virginia appears to have made the most headway of all non-Northern states with a deeply segregated racial past. The border state appears to have the oldest all-black association – dating back to at least 1925 – and today has an active All-Black Schools Sports & Academic Hall of Fame that holds ceremonies to celebrate an aspect of that state’s heritage that likely would otherwise remain vastly under-reported.
The following is my mini profile of golfer Stacy Lewis, a former Razorback All-American who this weekend was ranked No. 1 in the world. Beneath, I’ve attached some previously unpublished questions and answers in which she discusses more of her Arkansas connection:
Before daring to imagine a pro career, golfer Stacy Lewis simply focused on getting through her first year at the University of Arkansas. She’d already battled scoliosis through her teen years in Texas. In public, she wore a back brace under her clothes.
But the toughest test came with intense pain following a summer 2003 surgery to straighten her spine. Doctors had to deflate a lung and move organs to fit a steel rod in her back. Confined to bed for eight weeks, even getting up for the bathroom was a major ordeal for Lewis.
In the end, all that misery bestowed a supercharged gratitude and work ethic toward the game. Lewis became better.
Much, much better.
As in 12-tournament-wins-in-college and 2007-NCAA-champion better.
Those Razorback days have helped catapult her to great success in the professional world. The Golf Writers Association of America named Lewis its 2012 Player of the Year. On March 8, the 28-year-old gets her latest honor: induction into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.
“It is a huge honor,” Lewis wrote in an e-mail. “I never planned on playing golf past college so this type of award is a surprise and a bonus.”
[The above piece originally published in Arkansas Life magazine.]
Original Q & A
Q: You’ll be one of the youngest inductees ever to the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.
What went through your mind after you were notified you would be inducted?
Is this something you imagined happening this early when you were a freshman at the UA?
A: I was surprised and excited about this award. It is a huge honor to be recognized by the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame. When I began my collegiate career, I never planned on playing golf past college so this type of award is a surprise and a bonus.
Q: Outside of track, very few – if any – Razorback student-athletes got All-American honors all four years. With such an overall successful career, what do you consider your most satisfying moment playing golf in college? Why?
I ran across some interesting numbers today in an Arkansas Gazette clipping from March, 1972.
Here are the average salaries in the major sports leagues at that time:
From left to right, you’re looking at the NFL, MLB, ABA (which rivaled the NBA in the late 1960s/early 1970s), NHL and NBA.
The article pertaining to this graph notes that rival leagues were a main reason NBA and NHL led the pack in average salaries:
The NHL hasn’t been able to keep pace in recent decades, as these December, 2011 numbers show:
|National Basketball League (NBA)||$5.2 Million|
|Major League Baseball (MLB)||$2.5 Million|
|National Football League (NFL)||$1.75 Million|
|National Hockey League (NHL)||$1.3 Million|
I admit it.
I don’t follow track nearly as much as I should. My roommate during my freshman year at the University of Arkansas, Ramon Washington, was a triple jumper on the UA sqad, but I am ashamed to say I never watched him compete.
Over the years, I’ve taken it for granted my alma mater would consistently pump up out national championship caliber cross country and track and field teams. So much so, I never actually examined how many national championships these programs won.
That ends now:
Men’s Cross Country
NCAA Championships – 11 Titles
Year UA Points Runner-up Points Margin Host
1984 101 Arizona 111 10 Penn State
1986 69 Dartmouth 141 72 Arizona
1987 87 Dartmouth 119 32 Virginia
1990 68 Iowa State 96 28 Tennessee
1991 52 Iowa State 114 62 Arizona
1992 46 Wisconsin 87 41 Indiana
1993 31 BYU 153 122 Lehigh
1995 100 N. Arizona 142 42 Iowa State
1998 97 Stanford 114 17 Kansas
1999 58 Wisconsin 185 127 Indiana
2000 83 Colorado 94 11 Iowa
CBS, that grand old lady of a network, sure has taken to Arkansas subjects lately.
For starters, there’s a new feature focused on the Razorbacks’ Heisman Trophy candidates and Paul Petrino’s salty, salty mouth which will debut on Sept. 19.
Receiving less publicity, but of far more significance to the state as a whole, CBS Evening News will feature Lonoke County and surrounding areas in a four-part series on the effects of this summer’s drought on the Arkansas River and the states through which it runs. Gene Sullivan, who helps run the Bayou Meto Water Management Project, told me he spoke at length with a CBS producer and reporter last week about the area’s special challenges, and their effects on local rice and soybean farmers. This segment will come out likely in mid or late September and will be part of a four-part series. Other parts will focus on the Arkansas River in Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado.
OK, enough of the non-sports talk. Topically, I may be flowing a bit outside my banks here.
Below is more on the upcoming Hogs series:
CBS Sports Network and CBSSports.com present COLLEGE FOOTBALL CONFIDENTIAL: ARKANSAS, an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at one of the most intriguing teams of the 2012 season, the Arkansas Razorbacks. The series of seven shows debuts on CBS Sports Network on Wednesday, Aug. 29 (7:00 PM, ET). CBSSports.com complements the television series with exclusive all-access online content beginning Monday, Aug. 20, available at CBSSports.com/collegefootballconfidential.
Admit it, the first time you heard the girlfriend of history’s greatest Olympian attended Lyon College, your first reaction was “What?!” Then, if you are me, you learned the Cali native attended the north Arkansas school to play soccer, and you immediately craved a statistical assessment of her effectiveness as a player.
It’s one thing, after all, to be a fashion model traipsing around Nebraska, Hollywood and London, keeping a relationship with a greatest Olympian of all time under wraps for seven months before declaring your love after the gold dust clears with pictorial Tweet-testaments of love with that same greatest Olympian ever - all the while keeping the gears turning for a possible acting career on the side.
It’s quite another to dominate the TransSouth Athletic Conference of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
So, how did Megan Rossee stack up as a student-athlete?
Pretty well, it turns out. After transferring from Long Beach City College, she was a major contributor to what with a little imagination can be construed as the “Golden Age” of Lyon’s nine-year soccer history. Rossee played from 2007 through 2009, a stint including two of the top three seasons in program history:
Year Overall (record) Conference
2003 2-14 2-4
2004 3-12 2-5
2005 3-14 2-4
2006 13-6 6-2
2007 9-8-1 4-4
2008 12-5-2 4-1-1
2009 10-2-2 3-1-2
2010 12-4-1 4-1-1
2011 10-9 3-3
Rossee only started four of 17 games her first season, scoring a goal and an assist, but by 2008 was firmly entrenched at defender, starting all 19 games. In 2009, the 5-feet-9 Lakewood, Cal. native went out with a bang – scoring two goals on the year. Defensive stats aren’t readily available, but one can imagine Rossee was a pretty good complement to a forward who pretty much became the Michelle Phelps of Lyon College soccer. Angja Klotzle is the school’s all-time leader in goals (51) and assists (33).
Throughout the Rossee era, the Scots lost to the likes of Arkansas State, UCA and Harding University, but sure did beat the living kilt out of Central Baptist College and the University of the Ozarks. This kilted Army, however, never conquered beyond its conference tournament semi-finals.
On Twitter, Rossee has been talking up the possibility of heading back to Batesville soon. If so, expect her to walk through the doors of Cowboy’s Barbecue and – if a certain someone’s at her side – make quite a splash in the process.
Below are Lyon soccer career record holders. I vote “Creeia” as having the coolest name:
1. Anja Klotzle 51 2008-11
2. Sarah Ruegger 40 2006-08
3. Katy Smith 30 2006-10
4. Katie Marshall 19 2009-10
5t. Angelique Armenta 18 2006-07
5t. Jordan Kalie Aliviado 18 2008-11
7. Creeia Nuckols 13 2010-Present
8. Cethlinn Cunningham 12 2007-11
9. Sarah Poncher 11 2006
10. Amber Mathieson 10 2007-10
Player Assists Lyon Career
1. Anja Klotzle 33 2008-11
2. Katy Smith 25 2006-10
3t. Marisa Browne 17 2007-10
3t. Sarah Ruegger 17 2006-08
In Southeastern Conference territory, competition is a way of life. Year after year, SEC sports programs spew jetstreams of cash to beat each other on and off the field. Stadia, facilities, coaches’ salaries, TV contracts just keep getting bigger and better. There’s really no choice. Snazzy helicopters, after all, can only do so much to lure the big-time recruits which make college sports’ premier conference go round.
With the Summer Olympics opening ceremony this Friday, though, now is a good time to figure out which SEC state is top dog in terms of all-around athletic talent. For this exercise, we’ll tear down institutional walls which divide states. No Auburn/Alabama or MSU/Ole Miss delineations here. We only care about state borders, and the Olympians who grew up between them.
With this in mind, it turns out the biggest states have produced the most gold medalists at all modern summer Olympic Games since 1896. Not a surprise.
It gets interesting, however, when examining the numbers on a per capita basis:
Breaking Down SEC states’ # of Gold Medalists Per Capita
# of Gold Medalists
# People per Gold Medalist
Most Impressive Olympians?
|1||Mississippi||22||2.97 million||135,000||Calvin Smith, Ralph Boston|
|2||Missouri||31||5.99 million||193,226||Henry Iba, Helen Stephens|
|3||Arkansas||14||2.92 million||208,571||Earl Bell, Scottie Pippen|
|4||Louisiana||21||4.53 million||215,714||Rod Milburn, Karl Malone|
|5||Kentucky||16||4.34 million||271,250||Muhammad Ali, Mary Meagher|
|6||Alabama||17||4.7 million||276,471||Harvey Glance, Jennifer Chandler|
|7||Georgia||35||9.69 million||276,857||Gwen Torrence, Angelo Taylor|
|8||Texas||72||25.15 million||349,306||Babe Zaharias, Michael Johnson|
|9||South Carolina||12||4.63 million||385,833||Joe Frazier, Katrina McClain|
|10||Florida||`43||18.80 million||437,209||Bob Hayes, Rowdy Gaines|
|11||Tennessee||11||6.35 million||577,273||Wilma Rudolph, Tracy Caulkins|
I traveled to Fayetteville a couple weeks ago and sat down with Hogs pitcher D.J. Baxendale on the same afternoon the news broke that Petrino hadn’t been alone, and Razorback football changed forever … the baseball team isn’t as hot as it was a month ago, but fortunes can change in the crack of a bat. That could happen as soon as this weekend against Ole Miss on the road…
Courtesy: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Granted: if D.J. Baxendale had to choose a place to call home, it makes sense central Arkansas would be it. The preseason All-American pitcher graduated from a Sherwood high school and has lived in Vilonia, Conway and Jacksonville. He still visits plenty of friends in the area, and helps kids on his dad’s traveling teams based there.
That Baxendale considers any one area a home is a bit of surprise, though, considering this admission: “I probably lived in 50 or 60 houses throughout my life.” Mostly, his parents’ work caused the moving. D.J.’s father Greg Baxendale has been a Cleveland Indians scout, a recruiting assistant for Rollins College in Florida and the head baseball coach of Hendrix College in Conway. D.J. Baxendale says the moving – which included two stints in Arkadelphia and a stint in Massachusetts – didn’t faze him. He learned to easily make friends, to constantly adapt.
Few baseball players have adapted so well in an Arkansas prep career. At semester of his 10th grade year, Baxendale moved from Arkadelphia to a Jacksonville area just north of Sherwood, where he attended Abundant Life School, an affiliate of the Sylvan Hills First Baptist Church. He immediately helped the school make the 2A state championship game. “Even at a young age, he was not easily distracted,” says Wes Johnson, former coach at Abundant Life.
After Johnson left to coach elsewhere, Baxendale and two other players transferred to Sylvan Hills High School across John F. Kennedy Blvd. By the time the dust cleared on two seasons there, Baxendale had finished one of the state’s best careers in recent history with a 6A state title and 4.12 grade point average. The accomplishments stoked great expectations for the college level.