Sunday, January 20, 2013

It's hard when heroes die

Perhaps it's fitting that yesterday, amidst headlines of fictitious girlfriends and admissions of doping, we had a sports hero who, just as quietly as he excelled, passed away at the age of 92.

Stan Musial was my first sports hero.  Musial was, as to many men of that generation, my father's hero and thus he became my hero as well.  It didn't take much to bond my father and I together, as I worshipped the man that he was, but I now realize that it was Musial who, in many ways, was a key link for us when I was initially developing my interest in sports.

My dad was a St. Louis Cardinals fan as it was the closest franchise to our small town in eastern Kansas, and the Kansas City Athletics were a major league franchise in name only.  Many were the Sunday afternoon or weekday night that we would tune in Harry Caray on the transistor or car radio, listening to the tinny speakers carry descriptions of our Cardinals versus their National League foes.

I can remember my father straightening up in his seat or lawn chair when Caray announced that Musial was coming to bat.  And, I had seen enough television and photos of "the Man" to picture, in my mind's eye, the at-plate crouch and the number six turned to face the pitcher.

My favorite memory of Musial, my dad, and me was on a warm Sunday afternoon--July 8, 1962.  Dad and I were out by the orchard of fruit trees, lawn chairs in place, cool beverages in hand, and battery-powered transistor tuned in.  On that special day, a 41-year-old Stan the Man became the oldest player ever to hit three home runs in one game.  I vividly recall my father's glee as each Musial at bat brought the excitement of what he would accomplish that day.

I have found, in the past 24 hours plus, that many of my friends had similar bonds with their fathers via Musial.  And, I've re-connected, through the writing of Joe Posnanski and others, to Musial's unparalleled achievements and the humility in which he carried himself, both on the field and off.

An athlete who never was kicked out of a game and who seldom refused an autograph--what a contrast to the headline-stealing antics of others in sports over the past few days.  We miss you, Stan the Man--you were our hero.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

On the ground in South Florida

Greetings, all my cold-climate peeps, from sunny South Florida.  You're on-the-ground correspondent is reporting in on all of the festivities surrounding the national championship game tomorrow night between Notre Dame and Alabama.

- Reports of ticket demand among the Notre Dame faithful are being supported by the overall presence of Notre Dame fans, as measured by adornment of licensed apparel, here in Miami and Fort Lauderdale.  Reports from the Miami Herald indicate that 95% of available hotel rooms are booked for the weekend.

- A reported 50,000 Notre Dame fans attended the Irish pep rally last night on South Beach.

- The Notre Dame team hotel is The Diplomat in Hollywood; the Alabama team hotel is the Fontainebleau in South Beach.

- There is one more BCS national championship game, in 2014, before the new four-team college football playoff kicks off at the end of the 2014 regular season.  Next year's BCS championship game will be held at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA.

- While this year's game has been a boon to South Florida, there is concern here about the ability of the region to attract future national championship games.  The playoff's championship game will move, year-to-year, from venue-to-venue based upon host markets who bid for the right to host the game.  South Floridians are concerned about the size of Sun Life Stadium, compared to other venues, as well as the aggressiveness of other regions who may be willing to offer larger subsidies in order to host the event.

- Favorite t-shirt to date:  "Catholics vs Cousins."

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Championship game could provide record viewership

It should come as no surprise, given the extreme demand for tickets to Monday night's national championship game, that television viewership for Notre Dame-Alabama may break BCS records for most eyeballs tuned into the final game.

The highest rated championship game in the BCS era is Texas-USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl.  That dramatic game, won by the Longhorns, was seen by 21.7 percent of U.S. households.  The 2006 game was broadcast on ABC, meaning the game was available to more viewers, but experts speculate that this year's game, on ESPN, will compete with those lofty '06 numbers.

Other highly rated past national championship games include:

2001 - Oklahoma and Florida State (17.8)
2000 - Florida State and Virginia Tech (17.5)
2007 - Ohio State and Florida (17.4)
2010 - Alabama and Texas (17.2)

Last year's Alabama-LSU contest had 14% of U.S. households tuned in; the lowest rated championship game was in 2005, USC and Oklahoma, which had 13.7% viewership.

Source:  Birmingham News