Wednesday, June 26, 2019

To Umpire Is To Dream

What happens when 100-plus youth baseball umpires get together in one location?

Well, as much fun as it might have been to regale you with Umps Gone Wild tales ... sorry ... it isn't quite as exciting as that.

A hundred-plus colleagues and I recently had the opportunity to umpire a national 12-and-under tournament at Cooperstown Dreams Park, which is located in the central New York town best known as home to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The 165-acre complex includes 22 well-manicured, lighted fields, each enclosed within green walls to form its own little stadium. Here is a shot I snapped from the grass berm outside the main field, which is used for opening and closing ceremonies, the championship game and other big events.

From the CDP website, here is an aerial view of the entire facility.

You'll note the white buildings in the middle of that photo. Those are the "barracks" that housed the teams and the umpires. 

I was in #30B. The outside wall of each barracks featured a replica baseball card of an all-time star who wore the number, in this case Orlando Cepeda.

The barracks included numerous bunk beds and little else -- not exactly glamorous. Each umpire got one full set of bunks, the bottom to sleep on, the top to store his gear and other stuff.

On our first day, Saturday, June 15, we were placed into 5-man crews. Mine was headed by our crew chief, Gary, who has been umpiring at CDP for many years. 

Our crew also had the youngest umpire of the entire week, 19-year-old Kody, as well as 82-year old Ken. 

Age-wise (and experience-wise), Brandon and I were in the middle of those extremes. We spent a lot of time together on and off the field.

Just as teams came from all over the country -- from California to New England and from Florida to Utah -- we umps were from everywhere. Brandon lives in Tennessee, as you might have guessed from his Vols hat.

On that first night, they ran the skills competition, featuring running, throwing, fielding and hitting contests. Our crew worked the "Golden Arm" event, which rewarded points for the accuracy of throws from 125 feet away.

The games started Sunday, June 16, with each team scheduled to play twice over three days.

"Scheduled" is the operative word. Heavy rains moved in Sunday morning, and things got pushed back by several hours. My first game, which had been scheduled for 1 p.m., didn't start until 11:30 p.m. After showering, my head didn't hit the pillow until 2:10 a.m.

Thanks to the composition of the fields, the equipment they use and the dedication of the grounds crew, CDP does an amazing job getting fields ready quickly after rain stops. 

Still, they aren't miracle workers, and Sunday's final two games couldn't be played. So one game was added to each of the next two days' schedules. I worked three on Monday and two on Tuesday.

Here I am on the bases for one of my Tuesday games. 

The above photo (and many others) was taken either by my sister-in-law Sandy or my brother Al. They made the trek from their hometown of Philadelphia to get a little vacation time in a less-hot, picturesque part of New York state. 

Given that coaches and parents aren't always pleased with our calls, it was nice having my very own "umpire groupies"!

One of the popular activities of the week is pin-trading. Each team produced its own pins, and kids from all over the country exchanged pins with each other. Umpires also were given pins to hand out.

Below is the pin of the team from the Matthews Athletic & Recreation Association -- the MARA Cobras -- who sponsored my trip to Cooperstown. The photo also includes the official CDP tournament baseball, as well as our umpire pin.

Each team selects an umpire, usually from its region, to go to Cooperstown Dreams Park. I'd like to thank the MARA Cobras, coached by Chad Bost, for choosing me. (To avoid conflicts of interest, umpires do not work games involving the teams that sponsor them.)

Wednesday, June 19, marked the start of the single-elimination tournament. Here are a few shots of me at the plate in the first game of the day.

Waiting for a pitch

Strike 2!

Recording a lineup change

Here are Sandy and I outside the field after one of my three Wednesday games.

The tournament concluded Thursday, but in general those games were handled by the most experienced umpires. That was fine with me, as I wanted to get going to Easton, Pa., where I was to meet my wife for a few days with friends. 

Before leaving CDP, I picked up my American Youth Baseball Hall of Fame ring. 

And before leaving Cooperstown, I met Al and Sandy for a quick stop at the Hall of Fame. I had been there years ago with my son Ben, but it was nice to check it out again for a couple of hours. 

This time, I took special note of displays involving umpires ...

... and the media.

Being a lifetime Baseball Writers Association of America member, I'm guessing that I was probably the only umpire at this tournament who also has a Hall of Fame vote.

All in all, my week in Cooperstown was an outstanding experience. 

I got to meet a lot of interesting people, work in an amazing facility, and share a love of baseball with both kids and fellow kid-like adults. 

I also took advantage of being surrounded by folks with decades of umpiring knowledge. I like to think I improved at my craft, and it was great getting to know so many others who answer to "Blue" at ballfields all across the country.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Oh Boy, Oh Boy ... Look Out World, Nadels Are Reproducing!

Robbie and I had a great trip to Chicago from May 3-6, visiting Ben and Sammi. So what the heck ... this is as good a time as any to share some great news with The Baldest Truth's tens of readers ...

Sammi, our marvelous daughter-in-law, is pregnant. Due around Sept. 1, give or take. Here she is, looking radiant!

I would have said she is "with child," but that wouldn't have been accurate.

She actually is with ... children.

Here is a dramatization of Sammi and Ben discovering a couple months back that they were having twins:

They recently learned they will be having boys, and I'm sure little Kirby and Harmon ("Twins" - get it?) will be amazing additions to our family.

Twice the love, half the sleep!

Our nephew Russ and his wife Tara recently had their second son, too. And of course, I'm the youngest of 4 boys.

Boy oh boy, do we Nadels make boys!

Sammi is doing well, as are the future grandkids (according to all medical reports so far). She has a lot of energy, as she showed in the long walk we all took on the lakefront.

A few days after we got home from Chicago, soon-to-be-Aunt Katie visited us in Charlotte for Mother's Day weekend.

Here are Grandpa Mike, Grandma Robbie and Aunt Katie celebrating our pending family additions in advance.

Katie and Robbie better enjoy that photo. Pretty soon, all the Nadel girls will be vastly outnumbered by boys!

Thursday, March 21, 2019

All I have to say is ...


The Baldest Bracket

March has been a rough month for basketball, with my Ardrey Kell Lady Knights falling in the 3rd round of the state tournament to a Butler team that I honestly felt we should have beaten and my Marquette Warrior Eagles struggling to close out games and falling to a 5-seed in the NCAA tournament. And don't even get me started about the Hornets. Please.

One thing we know about March, though ... it is full of opportunities for redemption and for amazing surprises.

It's too late for my Lady Knights this season, and it's been too late for the Hornets for awhile. But Marquette ... my heroes are still a dangerous team because we can play defense and hit 3s.

In online brackets and among hoops pundits, the most popular 12-5 upset is Murray State -- led by future NBAer Ja Morant -- beating Marquette. I actually am buoyed by that group-think, and will enjoy seeing so many people be so wrong.

I, on the other hand, am predicting Marquette to go a long way. Yes, I am a fan. And I could be proven so wrong in a matter of hours.

Anyway, here's one guy's bracket. I will not reimburse any followers' foolish bets!

I know it's kind of small, but that's the only way I could make it fit the page. Click on it and you can actually see it.

Oh, and no fair laughing.

Have a great rest-of-March, everybody!

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Conference Champs!!

It wasn't easy, and that's OK.

Important sports victories aren't supposed to be easy. You're supposed to have to work for them, fight for them, go after them with every ounce of energy you have.

AK's Michelle Ojo (right) battles Berry's Jordan McLaughlin.
(Photo by Jeff Siner, Charlotte Observer)
So, so proud of our Ardrey Kell Lady Knights for doing just that -- winning 3 games in 4 days, including Friday's 44-43 triumph over Berry, for the SoMeck7 title.

Front: Riley, Kennedy, Meghan, Lucy, Trinity
Middle: Nia, Michelle, Evan, Stephanie, Grace, Emerson, Torrie
Back: Coach Nadel, Coach Buseick, Melissa (manager), Coach Queen
(Photo by Roberta Nadel)
It's AK's 6th consecutive season with either the regular-season title or conference tournament championship (usually both).

We have excellent team chemistry, we work hard, we have fun together, we have talent, everybody knows their roles, we're tough, we have heart. That's how a team wins!

Evan Miller and  Meghan Rogers
celebrate as final horn sounds.
(Photo by Jeff Siner, Charlotte Observer)
After a 1-2 start to our conference season, we finished with a 12-game winning streak in league play. We take a 22-5 record into the North Carolina 4A tourney, which starts next week. It's AK's 9th straight season with at least 20 wins.

I've only been around for the last 2 of those seasons, and I'm honored to be associated with this outstanding program, thrilled to work with these dedicated athletes and privileged to do anything I can to help Coach Jeff Buseick and our other assistant, the incredible Queen Smith.

Coaches huddle during time-out to discuss strategy
before Coach Buseick talks with team.
(Photo by Roberta Nadel)
Onward and upward ... let's see how long we can enjoy this crazy, exhilarating, wonderful ride!


Congrats also to the Ardrey Kell men's team, which also won the conference title with a dramatic, one-point victory over heavily-favored Olympic.

It was an exciting game that, like ours, came down to AK getting a defensive stop on the very last play.

Way to go, guys!

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

All basketball is fun, and winning basketball - as at Ardrey Kell and Marquette - is most fun of all

Our seniors -- from top, Steph, Riley, Nia, Kennedy and Deeya (manager) --
make a pyramid with Coach Buseick.
On Jan. 4, our Ardrey Kell Lady Knights opened the 2019 portion of our schedule with a loss to our archrivals, South Mecklenburg High. We blew a 12-point fourth-quarter lead. It was our 3rd loss in 4 games, a highly unusual stretch for a program that has been consistently ultra-successful. And it gave us a 1-2 conference record, with both losses coming at home.

We were hurtin'.

Our fine coach, Jeff Buseick, had talked about the Buster Douglas-Mike Tyson fight earlier in the season, and I decided to expound on that theme after one of our practices.

Remember how Coach talked about the Douglas-Tyson fight? Well, he was only a few years old when that took place while I watched it live, but he still did a great job talking about all of the highlights. The one thing he left out was this: Tyson actually knocked Douglas down in the 8th round. The ref was counting ... 1-2-3-4 ... if it gets to 10, Tyson wins by knockout ... 5-6-7 ... Buster is in trouble ... 8-9 ... Douglas got up at 9 and then the bell rang. He literally was saved by the bell. And then, 2 rounds later, Douglas knocked out Tyson to complete probably the greatest upset in the history of sports.

Well now, we've been knocked down. At AK, we're not used to it, but it has happened. How are we gonna respond? Six of our next 7 games are on the road, including games against the 2 teams we just lost to. What are we gonna do? Are we gonna quit, or are we gonna get up off the mat and fight? Let's get up off the mat, ladies, and show the world we're still AK!

The girls all cheered and it was a feel-good moment for us. As an assistant coach, I don't usually get to give rah-rah speeches.

Fast-forward to the present. Last night, we finished the regular season by rallying for a great win over Olympic on Senior Night. It was our 9th straight conference victory since that 1-2 start, and we're near the top of the league standings again.

I'd love to say that my speech had a single doggone thing to do with it, but I know better. These girls are tough-minded and talented, and they deserve all the credit.

Besides, given the way we've dominated the conference the last many years, one could argue that WE are Mike Tyson in this analogy!

Whatever, it's fun to be winning again.

We take a 19-5 record into next week's conference tournament. The state tourney is the week after that. This time of year is so much fun.

Go AK!

One of our players called this photo
"Ending Segregation."

And speaking of basketball ...

Huge win Saturday for my Marquette Warrior Eagles, the No. 10 team in the nation!

A few days earlier, we had lost at home (to St. John's) for the first time all season, and now we were playing the defending national champions.

We got 38 points from our star, Markus Howard, and solid contributions from several other players, and defeated No. 14 Villanova 66-65.

Getty Images
It was what we call "National Marquette Day," when folks from all over the country gather in their cities to watch the event on TV.

I was "volunteered" to run our event in the Charlotte area.

We had a nice turnout and a lot of fun!

Followed that up last night with a decisive victory against DePaul. It was fun going to a sports bar with Robbie to watch that game right after the AK girls had defeated Olympic -- a great double-header for me.

We're ready to take the Big East title and have a great run in the NCAAs.

We Are Marquette!

Monday, January 28, 2019

Marquette Wins & Family Fun -- How I Spent My Winter Vacation

Got back a few days ago after spending most of a week in the icy Midwest. While in Milwaukee and Chicago, I was fortunate to see a lot more than just my breath: I also visited with my son and daughter and their wonderful spouses; my little brother and his fiancee; college buddies; former neighbors; Marquette's incredible student media set-up; and last but definitely not least, 2 (more) wins by my Marquette Warrior Eagles.

Wow ... what a trip!


With about 6 inches of snow falling in Milwaukee, Robbie and I weren't sure our flight was going to take off. After all, such a snowfall in Charlotte would have shut down the airport for about a month.

Thankfully, Milwaukee is used to handling wintry conditions with ease, and our flight actually landed early. My brother Dave and his son Connor picked us up at the airport and took us to their house in Mequon, where we met Dave's future wife Heather. We also posed for this picture as proof that we were, indeed, officially in the frozen tundra. Brrrr!

After dinner with Dave and Heather, we went to a bar in downtown Milwaukee to meet up with my old college buddies Tom, John and Jim. (Jim also brought his wife Mary Ellen and son Brian.) Tom drove in from Detroit and the others from the Chicago burbs.

It was great catching up with the boyz. At various stages of my MU life, the 3 were my roommates. Junior year, Tom, Jim and I shared one of the diviest dives ever with a fourth guy. (Wherefore art thou, Mike Greene?) John was my roommate senior year. I hadn't seen John in several years, so it was great to finally spend some time with him. He was the best man at our wedding, but he isn't the greatest at keeping in touch. (And I'm not blameless, either.)

While we were flying from Charlotte to Milwaukee on Saturday, my daughter Katie and her husband Ben were flying from Seattle to Chicago. They also made it in and stayed the night with my son Ben (yes ... lots of Bens) and his wife Sammi in their place on the North Side.


The kids (and kids-in-law) drove up from Chicago to join us in Section 224 at the Fiserv Forum -- the new home of our Marquette Warrior Eagles. All in all, we had 13 in our group.

Here's the family, looking very blue and gold ...

And here's my Class of '82 gang ...

Our heroes treated us to a nice come-from-behind victory over Providence on Dwyane Wade Day, a great experience from start to finish.

Afterward, we said our goodbyes to our friends and then the 8 of us headed to the greatest frozen treat emporium in the world ... 

Ben (the son) couldn't limit himself to a double-dip of Leon's amazing butter pecan frozen custard, so he got a triple. Not to be topped, Ben (the son-in-law) went back and got a second double-dip. I'd call 'em pigs ... but it's hard to blame 'em!!

After snarfing down our Leon's, we said goodbye to Dave and Heather. We then drove to the Marquette campus for a tour of Johnston Hall, where Robbie and I spent a huge percentage of our time as students. In addition to being home of the College of Journalism (now called the College of Communications), Johnston is where all the student media is housed. 

Robbie and I both worked at the Tribune (newspaper), and I also wrote for the Journal (magazine). In fact, in 1981-82 -- when I was Trib managing editor as a senior and Rob was sports editor as a junior -- we were part of the very first Tribune staff to use computers to produce the newspaper. Quaint, eh?

As you might imagine, things have changed a little since then. 

Mark, who is in charge of student media, and student editors Sydney and Tara gave us a personal tour of the state-of-the-art newsroom, TV studio, radio station, server room and lots of other cool spots that weren't even a twinkle in Marquette's eye back in the early-80s.

Here we are in the middle of the newsroom ...

After going to the Marquette Spirit Shop to buy some new gear to wear at future events, we got on the road and drove to the Chicago burbs. There, we met up with Sammi's parents Linda and Mickey and sister Jenna to catch up on everything going on in our extended family. We hadn't gotten to spend time with them since Sammi and Ben got married some 10 months earlier, and it was nice seeing them again.

Following our meal, we drove to Sammi and Ben's place for a couple days/nights of Nadel family fun.

Much merriment ensued, including libations, food and, naturally, board games. I'd love to say I emerged victorious more than the others, but that would be lying.


One of the highlights of the trip was the big lunch we had Monday with our great friends from our old Bell School neighborhood -- the Brundidges. It's always wonderful getting together with Darcia and Mike, and this time was even better because their sons Troy and Chris were able to join us, too.


Katie and her Ben had to get back to Seattle, and Rob eventually made her way to the el to start her trip back to Charlotte -- I mean, somebody has to support me, and I can think of nobody better at it than my Sugar Mama!

I decided to stay a couple extra days to hang out with my Marquette bud Tom, and we had primo seats to see the Blackhawks beat the Islanders in a shootout.


Tom and I drove back up to Milwaukee for the Marquette-DePaul game. Another resounding success for our 12th-ranked heroes.

First, I had to get a shot of me chilling with Bango ...

My friend Rob Judson, special assistant to MU coach Steve Wojciechowski, was kind enough to get us a couple of amazing seats -- 5th row center court. Here was our view from the best seats I've ever occupied as a non-journalist "civilian" at a major sporting event ...


The problem with great trips is that they have to end. Tom dropped me off at Midway Airport and I flew home to Charlotte, where Robbie picked me up.



Thankfully, my wonderful week didn't end with the trip.

On Friday, it was nice to re-join my Ardrey Kell Lady Knights for our big conference game against Providence. They had upset us at our place back in December and we not only wanted a little payback but we needed to win to stay in the conference race. 

In an exciting game, we kept building small leads and Providence kept cutting into them, but we finally held them off at the end, 57-53. 

I really appreciate Coach Buseick (and the girls) for giving me a little time to spend with my family and close friends, and I was glad to be back for that wonderful, hard-fought victory. We're now 14-5 overall and 5-2 in the league.

And then on Saturday, Marquette wrapped up a stellar 3-0 week by rallying for a gutty road win at Xavier, improving the record to 18-3 overall and 7-1 in the Big East. What a season for the guys!

Life is good, baby! Hope all y'all can say the same.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Here's My Baseball Hall Call for 2019

As I have gotten older (and hopefully, but not necessarily) wiser, I have tried hard to not get too worked up about stuff I can't control. The state of politics in this country makes that challenging many days, but I'm trying.

And so it is for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

This might have been my last year as a voter, as rules that were put in place a few years ago aim to slowly weed out "fossils" like 58-year-old me. I follow the major leagues as closely as I ever have -- perhaps more closely now, because I don't have the kind of Cubs/White Sox tunnel vision I had for most of my writing career. I take the responsibility seriously, I think I do a good job of vetting candidates, and I respect both the Hall and the process.

However, I do understand that other ex-sportswriters might not follow the game as closely as they once did, and I understand how that concerns the Baseball Writers Association of America and the Hall.

So if this is my last year as a voter (it might not be, but one year soon it will be), I'm not going to get worked up about it. It will have been a good run.

Along those lines, I didn't get my undies in a bundle last month over the selection of ex-White Sox slugger Harold Baines by the "Today's Game Era Committee."

Baines was a very good ballplayer, but there was a reason he was rejected by hundreds and hundreds of Hall voters for several years: His career was not Hall of Fame material. Led by White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, however, 3 of the 16 people on the committee had close ties to Baines and lobbied hard to get him into the Hall.

It is not supposed to be an old-boy's network, and this certainly diminishes the stature of the most-watched and most-respected Hall of Fame in all of sports.

But again, I can't do anything about it, it doesn't affect my life, and if that's what the Hall wants to do, well, whatevs.

I will admit that as I looked at this year's ballot, I found myself saying a couple of times, "This guy's not a Hall of Famer, but if Harold got in ... " I decided not to change how I vote, though. 

As always, I couple my first-hand knowledge of a player's career with his statistics, and I make my selections.

Having said all that, let's get to this year's ballot, starting with the newcomers whom I did NOT choose:

TODD HELTON had a dominant 7-year stretch for the Rockies from 1998-2004, averaging 35 HR and 118 RBI. But his stats were SO much better in the thin air of Colorado that it's difficult to not look at his overall numbers as somewhat artificial. He also saw a pretty significant performance decline in the second half of his career. 

LANCE BERKMAN had a fine career, mostly with the Astros. He put up some good run-production numbers and finished in the top 10 of MVP voting 6 times. With six 100-RBI seasons in 15 years compared to three in 22 years for Baines, Berkman seems every bit as deserving of the Hall as Harold. But I've already said Harold isn't deserving, so I'm not going to lower my bar.

ANDY PETTITTE had enough success over a long pitching career to receive some consideration, but I'm going to invoke my 5-year rule for steroid cheats and not even think about voting for him until the 2024 class ... if he is still on the ballot and/or if I am still a Hall voter then.

ROY OSWALT had a great first 8 years to his career (2001-08), pitching kind of like a poor man's Pedro Martinez. He finished in the top 5 of Cy Young voting 5 times, had a 129-64 record with a 3.13 ERA, and averaged 200 IP and 167 whiffs (OK, OK ... a VERY poor man's Pedro). But injuries derailed his shot to be Hall-worthy. 

FREDDY GARCIA and JON GARLAND played major roles in Chicago's first World Series-winning team in 88 years and first pennant winners in almost a half-century ... but they weren't close to being Hall of Famers.

TED LILLY rates special mention ... but only for his hilarious Tanner/Bad News Bears, glove-slamming exhibition after giving up a soul-crushing 3-run homer to Arizona's Chris Young in the 2007 NLDS.

Other first-time Hall candidates who have no chance: RICK ANKIEL ... JASON BAY ... TRAVIS HAFNER ... DEREK LOWE ... DARREN OLIVER ... JUAN PIERRE ... PLACIDO POLANCO  ...  MIGUEL TEJADA ... VERNON WELLS ... KEVIN YOUKILIS ... MICHAEL YOUNG. Hey, at least Baines has all of them beat!

As for those who have been on the ballot for multiple years but have not earned my check mark, I discussed them in last year's article: HERE.

I did vote for two players in their first year of eligibility:


Duh. The greatest relief pitcher ever, and it's not even close. I'm not going to waste my time and yours by reciting his stats.


In an era that introduced the coddling of starting pitchers, Halladay was a throwback: a workhorse who wanted the ball every 5th day and always wanted to finish what he started. 

In the 10 seasons after he became a regular in Toronto's rotation in 2002, he averaged 17 wins and 219 innings, had a 2.97 ERA, won the Cy Young Award in each league (AL 2003 with Toronto, NL 2010 with Philadelphia), and was selected for 8 All-Star Games. He led his league in complete games 7 times, and innings and shutouts 4 times each. 

Halladay also pitched the 20th perfect game in MLB history, and threw the second postseason no-hitter ever. 

An outstanding, Hall of Fame body of work for a man who died too young (plane crash, November 2017, at age 40).

My other five selections are holdovers from last year and were discussed in previous years' editions of The Baldest Truth.

Here are the 7 players who received my check marks for the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2019:








The Hall of Fame will announce its 2019 class on Jan. 22.

** A quick look-ahead to next year: 

Derek Jeter is a slam dunk, but otherwise the newcomer list will look pretty unimpressive: Bobby Abreu, Jason Giambi, Adam Dunn, Cliff Lee.

After Jeter, the best newcomer to the 2020 ballot will be Paul Konerko, the captain of the 2005 champion White Sox.

Even though I really like Konerko, my knee-jerk reaction is: Not a Hall of Famer. Then again ...

His numbers are at least as good as (and in most cases better than) those of Harold Baines.

Monday, December 10, 2018

No power in Charlotte - or for the Panthers; Also, big wins for my Marquette men and my AK ladies

Well behind our subdivision, separated by a thick wooded area, is a clearing with Duke Energy towers and power lines. 

A minute or two after we lost power at about 4:30 p.m. Sunday, there were a couple of loud booms. I was in my office and Roberta was in another room when she said: "Mike! There were just some explosions in those Duke towers!" 

I got up and went to the window just in time to hear a third explosion and to see what looked like something from a sci-fi movie: a colorful burst of blue and red and orange and green at the top of a tower. I assumed a few transformers had blown ... although I admit I wouldn't know a transformer from a transistor from a rock if somebody showed 'em to me.
I said, "Holy ----, this could be a long outage!"
During Hurricane Florence, we didn't lose power, but one of the neighboring subdivisions was without electricity for more than a week, so we were bracing for the worst.

A wintry mix of rain and snow was falling but it was still light outside, so we gathered all of our flashlights and candles and matches, made sure we knew where emergency supplies were, etc. We settled in for a long night, fully understanding that it could just be the start of a long week.

Snow in Charlotte (Getty Images photo)

As it started to get a little cool in the house, we turned on our gas fireplace and it nicely warmed our home to a pleasant temperature. We ate a dinner of turkey sandwiches and salad (quickly opening and closing the fridge to keep the inside cold), we played cards by candlelight, we read books by flashlight, and we used the occasion to chat about some of our financial goals for 2019.
Our friends Allie and Jeff live about 2 miles away and didn't lose power. They offered to bring over their generator, but we said we'd be OK and then reassess in the morning. Very kind of them.
At about 11:30, we turned off the fireplace and went to bed, hunkering down under our comforter and blanket.
Not sure why, but I woke up at about 12:45 a.m. and noticed light filtering into our bedroom. At first, I thought it was morning, but then realized it was from the lights we had left on throughout the house. I got up, turned them all off, and went back to bed, smiling before I drifted off because I was pleasantly surprised the power had returned so much quicker than I had expected.
All was fine Monday morning, and Roberta went to work.
While she was getting ready to go, she said out loud what I had been thinking: "I'm pretty impressed with Duke. That looked really bad."

I have not always been so thrilled with Duke, which has hurt our environment with its toxic coal-ash ponds. But I have to admit they responded swiftly to this situation, and for that they have my gratitude.


Unfortunately, our power did not go out early enough to prevent us from watching the Panthers choke away another game.

That's five straight losses -- including four in which they either held the lead or could have taken the lead in the fourth quarter.

Cam Newton and his Panthers are stopped in Cleveland (AP photo)

Just over a month ago, the Panthers were 6-2, and national observers were calling them one of the NFL's best half-dozen teams. They are now 6-7, playing just well enough to lose one close game after another, and reports are starting to surface that Ron Rivera could be out as coach after the season.

That'll teach me for believing we might have a Super Bowl team this season!


Much better news on the basketball front.

For the second straight Saturday, my Marquette Warrior Eagles defeated a top-15 team. This time the victim was our evil state rival, Wisconsin, which was ranked No. 12.

The game went into overtime, and my gallant lads prevailed 74-69.

Sam Hauser celebrates Marquette's big OT victory over rival Wisconsin (AP photo)

The goat of the game was Wisconsin irritant and infamous flopper Brad Davison. Not only did the 90% free-throw shooter brick all three of his attempts from the line ... and not only did the Badgers' third-leading scorer fail to register a single point ... but in OT he cemented his reputation as a dirty twerp by intentionally smacking Marquette freshman Joey Hauser in the ... um ... place where guys really don't want to be smacked.

Davison was assessed a Flagrant 1 foul (it should have been a Flagrant 2, IMHO, and he should have been ejected). Joey (younger brother of MU junior star Sam Hauser, pictured above) calmly stepped to the line to make his two free FTs, and my guys went on to beat the Badgers for the third time in four years. 

Exactly one week earlier, the Warrior Eagles had defeated Kansas State, ranked No. 12 at the time. As a result of the two big wins, Marquette moved back into the AP poll. At No. 21, it is our highest ranking in five years. 

It's great to see our program back among the best.


I actually watched the second half of the Marquette game while sitting in the bleachers at Butler High School, where my Ardrey Kell Lady Knights were waiting to play in the LBI Best of the Carolinas Holiday Classic.

Thankfully, Marquette completed its victory over Wisconsin about 15 minutes before my AK girls tipped off, and I got to focus fully on our exciting 81-61 victory over Carolina Prep Academy of Chapel Hill.

The win capped a 3-0 week for the Lady Knights. We are 7-0 this season and are No. 3 in the Charlotte Observer's area rankings.

All of our girls played well Saturday, but a special shout-out to junior Evan Miller, whose 30 points tied the school record. Given all the great players to have come through coach Jeff Buseick's program, that's quite an achievement.

As a sophomore last season (my first as an AK assistant coach), Evan was a bit player on a senior-dominated squad that reached the state Elite Eight. She has worked extremely hard to become a fine all-around performer, and the 5-11 guard now is a go-to scorer on yet another talented AK team. In our three wins this past week, Evan totaled 69 points and also had oodles of rebounds, assists and steals.

We open conference play Friday against Providence, which figures to be one of the most improved teams in our league. I'm psyched to see how good we can be -- and to see if this is the first step toward AK's sixth straight South Meck 7 title.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Big Milestone For My Favorite Basketball Coach

There are a lot of things I enjoy about being an assistant high school basketball coach. For one, our Ardrey Kell Lady Knights work extremely hard in practice, play all-out in games, get along with each other, respond well to coaching and are just plain fun to be around.

For another, it has been an honor and an incredible learning experience working under our head coach, Jeff Buseick. 

Our 2018-19 season began last week, and we are off to another good start. We're 3-0, and have improved each game.

The second of those victories was the 100th of Coach Buseick's career. Given that he is only in his 5th season, it's quite an accomplishment.

Coach Buseick stands between AK principal
David Switzer and athletic director Brian Knab.

In his first four seasons, our young coach (he's the same age as my daughter) won 25, 24, 24 and 25 games, with four conference titles and three trips to the state Elite Eight. His career record is now 101-21.

Every season presents a unique challenge for a coaching staff, and this one certainly is no exception.

Our top three players from 2017-18 by pretty much any measure -- points, rebounds, assists -- are now in college. We still have a talented team, but just about every player has had to take on a different role. 

Coach Buseick has re-worked our offense to emphasize our speed, aggressiveness, versatility and 3-point shooting. It's been an adjustment, but so far the girls have been up to the challenge. Coach is excited about what this team can accomplish, and so am I.

Last year was a huge jump for me, going from middle-school head coach to being an assistant at one of the best high school programs in the state. I'm still learning so much ... especially how much I still have to learn! I'm lucky to have such a knowledgeable, enthusiastic, hard-working head coach as a mentor.

Just like the players, I listen intently during time-outs, too!
Our practices are amazing, demanding and action-packed, with just about every second accounted for. It's truly awe-inspiring watching Coach Buseick get the most out of our team every day, and I continue to be impressed with his attention to detail and organizational skills. 

Based on my decades as an observer of basketball coaches -- from Phil Jackson and Coach K during my years as a sportswriter all the way down to those in the youth rec leagues I now referee -- I believe Jeff Buseick would be an outstanding college coach. 

However, he has said he loves it at Ardrey Kell, the second-largest public school in North Carolina, and his wife Anna also has taught there. Additionally, he is a doting dad to two beautiful daughters. It will be interesting to see how he responds if and when college programs start recruiting him.

After his 100th victory last Friday -- a nice win over private-school powerhouse Providence Day in a Thanksgiving holiday event -- Coach Buseick asked me and my fellow assistant, the wonderful Queen Smith, if we thought he should cancel the Saturday practice he had scheduled.

Unbeknownst to him, the girls were planning a post-practice, mini-surprise party to celebrate No. 100. So Queen and I were like, "Oh no, Coach ... we think the girls can really use the work. We'd better practice." 

Thankfully, he agreed to run a light practice, and he was surprised and touched by the presentation.

A very humble guy, Coach Buseick probably wouldn't like me writing all of this. But tough ... he deserves it!