Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Grete Waitz

Earlier this month, C and R were very saddened to hear that the great marathoner Grete Waitz passed away from complications from cancer. She was only 57 years young. She was a personal hero of R’s, and admired by both of us.

Super pen pal TH was also saddened and so wrote to us:
“I was a competitive runner in college (and a bench warmer on the basketball team in high school!).  So when I heard the news of Grete Waitz's death, I was heartbroken and felt compelled to write a piece about it.”

She sent it into the Oregonian Newspaper, and they published it online. It puts Grete’s accomplishments in context with her times. Last month, during my track and field unit with my middle school students, I shared that the “powers that be” wouldn’t let women run more than a few miles in Olympics races for fear they would “hurt themselves.” Never mind that they thought women would hurt their reproductive organs and not be able to bear children, that discussion would be saved for another day. I shared with them the fact the first Olympic Marathon for women was held in 1984. The students were incredulous about the olden days, the dark ages. That was only 27 short years ago. And Grete was at the forefront of history. Oh, why don’t I let TH tell you all about it.

Here is her gracious and gracefully written article, reprinted with permission from the author. (Okay, hear that everyone, we got permission!)

Why we’re lucky to have known Grete Waitz

Some athletes arrive at a time when the world is still too small to fully appreciate their enormous physical talents.  But instead of shrinking away from their calling, these giants make the world bigger, and we grow to love them for it.  Athletes like Jackie Robinson, Babe Didrikson, and Jim Thorpe are a few who come to mind, but so does the lesser known Grete Waitz, a high school teacher turned marathon runner who died of cancer earlier this month at age 57.  Her domination of the sport of marathon running includes nine wins between 1978 and 1988 at the elite New York City Marathon, a feat no other human being has replicated.

In the early 70s, at the beginning of Waitz’s running career, the International Olympic Committee enforced an antiquated ban against women running any race longer than the 1500 meters—a distance just shy of four laps around the track.  As history would soon show, the 1500 meters was about 25 miles too short to be Waitz’s optimal racing distance, making her appearance at the 1972 Olympics that much more impressive.

By 1978, Waitz was ready to retire from track as a relative unknown and return to teaching full time.  But first, as a lark, she agreed to appear at the New York City Marathon as a “rabbit,” to set an early pace for the “real” contenders.  Instead, she crossed the finish line ahead of 99% of the 8,000 men entered in the race, won the women’s competition, and set a world record.  Astonished crowds looked for the racing bib pinned to the blur in pigtails--“Go number 1173!”

The 1978 marathon was the beginning of a beautiful marriage of talent and opportunity and undeniable proof of what women could do if they were allowed to do it.  In 1978, there were no “running shoes” marketed to women.  It would take another five marathon wins by Waitz, speeches on the floor of the U.S. Congress, and a concerted effort by women around the world before the International Olympic Committee agreed to let women run long distances—including the marathon—at the 1984 summer Olympics.  That year, Joan Benoit, the American, won the gold; Grete Waitz took the silver.  When the two met again at the New York City marathon in 1988, Waitz finished first.

Grete Waitz was a fantastically gifted runner.  She had an elegant, efficient stride and never looked tired, at a moment when women athletes simply could not afford to.  The times she posted in the marathon do not have the faded and remote look of historic stepping stones.  Her winning time in the 1980 NYC marathon would be fast enough to have won last year, or in 2009, or in 2002.

In 1992, Waitz came out of retirement to jog the NYC marathon alongside Fred Lebow, her friend and the head of the New York City Roadrunners Club who first invited her to take part in the race.  Lebow had been stricken by brain cancer and the two crossed the finish line together holding hands.  According to one New York Times contributor, the friends returned to the finish line at dawn the next morning, “after Central Park had been cleared of any hints of a marathon race,” to roll out a finishing tape for a disabled athlete, the last entrant to complete the race.

Grete Waitz demonstrated year after year that the American running craze was more exciting if everyone was included.  It’s hard to underestimate her role in making the neighborhood mom’s or the 10th grade girl’s 5-mile jog from home an utterly unremarkable event.

Grete Waitz’s modest and dignified brand of competition stood out among the flamboyant firebrands who achieved fame in the sporting world of the 1970s and 80s.  She was, in many respects, miles ahead of us, but gracious enough to pull us along.  We’ll miss her.

-- Tiffany Harris competed in middle-distance and distance running in high school and college. She is a lawyer in Portland.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

WNBA Off-Season

In the college basketball off-season, C and R like to look towards the WNBA for our basketball fix, especially now that two of our favorite Stanford Women's Basketball players that we have been following for the past four years, Kayla Pedersen and Jeanette Pohlen are in the big show. Too bad the WNBA is in their off-season, too. Training camps open around May 15th, we think, and opening day is June 3rd. Still a lonnnnng way aways…anyway, the WNBA did make some news by finally picking a president to replace Donna Orender.

Thinking strategically, they went with a “veteran marketing executive” in hiring Laurel J. Richie. She most recently served as the Chief Marketing Officer for the Girl Scouts. (Got cookies? Will players have to raise their right hand and promise to be loyal and trustworthy? Will they all go camping for a team bonding experience… actually, that last one is not such a bad idea…C and R love camping. Who wants s’mores?) Back to Richie, her resume is impressive for “branding” and marketing, two things the WNBA needs to promote itself and make money to keep having teams, but….. What does Richie know about basketball? If we have another on-court brawl like the last few seasons, is she going to give them all a time out (Here, have some thin mints and promise to play nicely). Perhaps she should have been vice-president in charge of branding and marketing and making money and keeping the league afloat and partnered up with someone who has more basketball cred. Former prez Donna Orender was a former collegiate and professional basketball player. We’re just sayin’.

In other WNBA news. R found this really strange article states that some professional gamblers love the WNBA since no one pays any attention to it, they can make small fortunes betting (?!) I know, right? One gambler estimates he made $100,000 betting on the WNBA.

One gambler thinks it is easier for the mafia to come in and bribe a woman to throw a game! Okay, there are just so many things wrong with that statement, but ya know, you can always argue that the WNBA has really hit the big time if the mafia is paying attention to it! (Wonder if our former Girl Scout exec is aware of the mafia hovering around the WNBA gyms, a mini black sox scandal in the making! Hee hee).

-This just in, C and R give up their day jobs and now make living gambling on WNBA.-

Gee, spending hours poring over statistics and analyzing players tendencies and reading box scores (When you can find them) and surrounding ourselves with multiple monitors tuned in to all the women’s WNBA games on satellite TV every day in the summer and then making money. Sounds like a dream job!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Preseason Basketball Favorites

Okay, so C and R are in a bit of a lull, a daze, if you will. Still partway shell shocked from Stanford’s final four loss, and half-way dreaming of November yet hoping for warm weather soon so we can plant our tomatoes.

So imagine our surprise and, well, excitement, when we saw a preseason women’s college basketball ranking! Bold and brave move by Charlie Creme, ESPN specialist. He predicts the top 25 teams for next season.

C and R get down to business. We instantly scan for the Stanford “S”. There we are, number five. He mentions the “new order” trio of Nneka, Chiney and Toni (Ogwumikes and Kokenis). Yes, C and R agree, but what about the other two spots? He gives us a glimpse by flashing a freshmen’s name, Amber Orrange. (And no, that is not another one of our  infamous typos, it is really how her last name is spelled, thank you very much, which is a cruel trick to play on us typing challenged, and oh, my spell check is going to hate me for the next four years).

So, anyhoo, fifth. Now that’s out of the way, lets take a peekie-weekie at who or whom he has in first. Baylor!? Didn’t Texas A & M prove them to be defeatable? And speaking of the reigning champs Texas A & M, he has them fourth, one above Stanford, and UConn, hee hee sixth, one below Stanford. Hee hee again, proving UConn was very Maya-Moore-heavy last year. Okay, okay, we’re feelin’ ya dog, to quote the young people, but who is second and third? Tennessee and Notre Dame. Okay, we’ll give you Notre Dame who made it to the championship game and still has Skylar Diggins coming back, but Tennessee!? Tennessee, the same team that lost in the elite eight? Tennessee, the team that just lost Kelly Cain and freshmen Lauren Avant? Second?

Wait, what was that about two players leaving Pat Summit’s program? Mechelle Voepel reports red-shirted Kelley Cain will forego her final season of eligibility at UT. She is set to get her degree this spring and her knee is just not up to going another year. MV always says the freshman is leaving because “things didn't click this season in Knoxville.” Hmmm, seems like it will be hard for Tennessee to stay in the top three. (Incidentally, Mechelle also agrees with Baylor as the early number one team for next year, darn it).

Well, it was fun to daydream about women’s basketball, even if only fleetingly. Who’s in you preseason top ten?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Stanford’s Kelsey to Wisconsin

Congratulations to former Stanford assistant coach Bobbie Kelsey, who was hired as the new head coach of Wisconsin’s women basketball. We are sorry to see her go, but at least she won’t be coaching in the PAC-10 against Stanford.

What are Kelsey’s qualifications? Well, in the four seasons she was as assistant with Stanford, the team went 137-14, with four trips to the final four. Yeah, it helps to have a genius for a head coach in Tara VanDerveer, but Bobbie related well to the players and got them emotionally fired up, at least that’s the view we had from our seats. Tara’s legacy is rock solid, already getting enshrined in the Naismith and Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and joining the 800 wins club. Now the last puzzle piece to further cement her place in basketball history is to see how well her assistant coaches, and players who have become coaches, do in a coaching role. Tara has already said her two graduating seniors, Kayla Pedersen and Jeanette Pohlen would make great head coaches.

C and R wish Coach Kelsey continued luck.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Stanford Goes Seven and Nine in the WNBA Draft

Stanford Women’s Basketball player Kayla Pedersen was selected seventh by the Tulsa Shock in the 2011 WNBA draft. Another Stanford star, guard Jeanette Pohlen was selected ninth by the Indiana Fever. Top Ten for each, baby! Wow, congratulations to the women for all their hard work and for Stanford and Tara VanDerveer’s program to get them “pro” ready. Now they just have to make the team, although top ten picks are expected to. (C had a little bet with R about where Jeanette Pohlen would be drafted, and, well, let’s just say, C failed miserably and R had every faith in Jeanette).

And it was great when Kayla’s name was announced, after hugging her parents, she got a big hug from Jeanette at the next table. We are sure Kayla would have returned the favor when JP was drafted two spots behind her, but she was probably busy doing interviews and posing for pix and stuff.

A huge surprise for C and R was Gonzaga’s Courtney Vandersloot getting picked third and going to Chicago. Congratulations to her, we look forward to following her WNBA career. She looked incredible in her highlight reel.

First pick, of course, was Maya Moore, who was selected by Minnesota. Minnesota also got the fourth pick and selected Xavier’s Amber Harris, a big post player who can dribble, much like Kayla. We are excited for former Stanford player and current Minnesota player Candice Wiggins, whose team went from cellar-dweller to play off team with just those two picks.

And now C and R can officially say we LOVE Maya Moore. They were showing her highlights again and she is just amazing. Such a pure jump shot. And they showed her playing on the USA National Team, and said how she held her own on what is essentially a WNBA all-star team and against other country’s veterans. We are looking forward to her long and illustrious pro career.

So the second pick selected by Tulsa, was an Australian National Team player, Elizabeth Cambage, who did not come to the US to play college. We have been hearing about her the last few days as draft day counted down, especially since she is 6’8. We figured she must be a seasoned veteran in her 20’s. Turns out she is 19.

Now, the WNBA has this really great rule saying that a player cannot be drafted until their graduating class has made it through four years of college. This is to prevent players from jumping early to the pros, like in the men’s NBA. Essentially, colleges with men’s teams are “renting” male players for a year or two until they turn pro, or else they skip college altogether, (Kobe, LeBron). It is rare to see a college senior on a men’s team, and it also decreases the graduation rate (Maryland’s Men’s Basketball team only graduated 8% of its players this year).

Not so in the women’s game, which has a far higher graduation rate, probably because of the WNBA rule. One notable exception is Epiphanny Prince who left college a year early to play in Europe and get a paycheck for her family. She came back to the WNBA the following year when the rules said she could.
Actually, this is a more complete explanation of the WNBA’s eligibility: you must have turned 22 years old, graduated from college, completed your eligibility to play or played at least two seasons for another professional league. So Lizzie played for 2 years in an Australian professional league, starting when she was 17. So she gets to come to the WNBA when she is 19? But other 19 year olds can’t be drafted? Seems like they should stick to the 22-year-old rule for everybody.

Well, Lizzie can always room with Kayla Pedersen in OK. And now Kayla can say she’s not the tallest player on her team.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

(Stanford) Draft Day Dreaming

The 2011 WNBA draft will be televised live Monday, April 11th on ESPN at 3:00 PM West Coast time.

Chris Hansen of HoopGurlz online has Stanford Women’s Basketball Player Kayla Pedersen projected as a number five draft pick. He says she could have gotten her numbers up but unselfishly did whatever the team needed rather than worry about statistics. Always praises her “good decisions on the floor and should have a long career.”

BTW, Minnesota Lynx have the first pick and everyone and their brother says to take Maya Moore. We spoke informally to our girl Candice Wiggins and she said she is excited to get a chance to play with Maya. However, what we really wanted to point out is the Los Angeles Sparks have the fifth pick, so wouldn’t it be cool if Kayla went to LA (Where we could take a road trip and see her) and play with Candice Parker?

Chris Hansen has another Stanford player, Jeanette Pohlen, listed as number 16. He recommends she go to a team that will put her back in her “natural” positions of off-guard instead of point.

Now Frank Della Femina of ran a mock draft and has Kayla Pedersen going eighth to the Atlanta Dream, and Jeanette Pohlen going 12th to the Seattle Storm, so you just never know how these things are going to go.

Now we checked out the WNBA official mock draft and they have Kayla going fourth to… Minnesota! To be reunited with Candice Wiggins and play with Maya Moore. Oh to dream! They have Jeanette going ninth to Indiana, and that is a heck of a road trip for C and R!

Okay, Ben York of Slam Online has Kayla going sixth to the San Antonio Silver Stars, where she would be reunited with Jayne Appel! Unfortunately, he doesn’t’ have Jeanette Pohlen in his top twelve. C and R think they should quit dreaming while they are ahead and just tune in Monday.

Other notables, Gonzaga point guard Courtney Vandersloot is in the top ten of most mock drafts, and C and R were amazed by her, and wish her luck. Playing for a “smaller in stature” team then a traditional powerhouse, she received a lot of exposure in Gonzaga’s  NCAA run, and most notably when her team was trying to knock off Stanford.

So Texas A&M’s Danielle Adams is in the top twenty. She led her team to its first National Title, knocking off Stanford in the Final Four along the way…ungrind teeth and keep typing… and C and R are going to make a bold prediction. A bold prediction that is in no way fueled by bitterness and supported by the Courtney Paris model. We believe Adams will get drafted but will not make the team’s starting day roster.

Courtney Paris, you’ll recall, had a stellar college career, setting rebounding records and “double-double” records, points coupled with rebounding records, etc. She also battled weight issues her whole college career, and her weight caused her to be out of shape and have trouble keeping up with the pace and flow of the game. Sound familiar? She was drafted but couldn’t lose enough weight to enable her to keep up with the WNBA players and was cut. She has since been signed again by the LA Sparks and it remains to be seen if she will make this year’s team.

Danielle Adams had similar problems with weight and with making it up and down the court in both the Final Four games we saw her in. In fact, her team would have to walk the ball up the court to allow her to get up the court. If she cannot keep up with the pace of play in the WNBA, she will not make her team, and perhaps teams might remember how Courtney didn’t pan out and might not want to waste a valuable draft position on her. With only 11 roster spots on the 12 WNBA teams in the league, jobs are at a premium. Even if you are drafted, there is no guarantee you will make a team.

One last notable, they have Brittany Spears getting drafted! Oh baby, baby…hee hee...Hit me baby, one more time...

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Congratulations Are in Order

Congratulations Stanford Head Basketball Coach Tara VanDerveer for being named to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame's Class of 2011. (Note, this is not the “Women’s” hall of fame, which Tara was elected to in 2002, but the “basketball” hall of fame, so read “men’s.”  To tell you how rare this is, she is the ninth women’s coach inducted). She is joined by former Warriors star Chris Mullin, Bad Boy Dennis Rodman, Artis Gilmore, Arvydas Sabonis, Herb Magee, Tom "Satch" Sanders, Teresa Edwards, Tex Winter and Harlem Globetrotter Reece "Goose" Tatum. Tara coached Teresa Edwards to one of her four Olympic Gold Medals in 1996.

Congratulations again to Stanford Head Basketball Coach Tara VanDerveer for being named the Naismith Women's College Coach of the Year. It is her third National Coach of the year award this season and second Naismith honor in her career (C and R don’t understand the distinction, can’t we just have one award?). Tara also won WBCA and Associated Press National Coach of the Year Awards this season, although she had to share the AP award with Geno Auriemma and Miami's Katie Meier.

Congratulations to Kayla Pedersen for being named to the Pac-10 women's five-player all-academic team for basketball, and for being  named Pac-10 scholar athlete of the year for women's basketball.

Congratulations to Stanford's Sarah Boothe, Lindy La Rocque, Melanie Murphy, Nneka Ogwumike, Jeanette Pohlen and Mikaela Ruef for being named honorable mentions to the Pac-10 all-academic team for basketball.

Congratulations to Nneka Ogwumike for being named to the State Farm Coaches' All-America Team for the second consecutive season.

Congratulations to Kayla and Jeanette for all the records they set this season and we wish them more basketball luck and success as they try their hand at the WNBA.

Congratulations to the Women’s NCAA tournament and to ESPN who broadcasted it, for increasing their average viewership for the entire tournament to almost 1.9 million people from more than 1.6 million.

Congratulations to the Women’s National Championship game for increasing their viewership from 3.5 million last year to 3.8 million this year. Wait, last year was the Stanford-UConn final. C and R guess the rumors we read out on the internet are true that people get tired of “traditional” power houses always playing out in the final game.

Congratulations to TG for winning the Women’s Talk Sports Bracket!

Congratulations to Joanne Boyle being named Virginia Women’s Basketball Coach and condolences to Cal.

Congratulations Stanford….
For a wonderful season.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

It's Root Root For…

C and R asked who Stanford fans were going to root for in the Women’s Championship game. Let’s go to the ol mail bag to see what people said, shall we?
Hi C and R:
The only way I have been able to feel better is to declare the two upsets a victory for women's basketball and celebrate the fresh faces coming in to the final game.
Let's face it, Notre Dame owes a debt of gratitude to Stanford for showing them that UConn could be beat and how to do it.  How many times did Muffet McGraw watch that game film for ideas and inspiration?  She seems like a good coach and a good person.  If she wins, let's hope she calls Tara to tell her thanks.
I guess, if pushed, I am rooting for Notre Dame, only because I am becoming more gender biased in my old age and I know that over 50% of Div. I women's teams are now coached by men and it would be nice to see a woman take home the prize.  That being said, the Texas A&M kids seem really neat and they played wonderful defense against our beloved team (trust me-- it pains me to say it), so if they win, it would be well deserved.  You have to credit them with coming out so strong in the regionals against Baylor, their home town oppressor.
After much consideration and deliberation, I'm rooting for Notre Dame  tonight. Too much chest bumping from the Aggies for my liking.  I know it's better to lose to the eventual winner but I'm still mad at them for beating Stanford.
I’ll be rooting for the Aggies
It’s little consolation to be able to say you lost to the national champions, but A&M’s run is a good story, Gary Blair seems like a good guy, and I generally root against Notre Dame no matter the sport (Sunday night against UConn excluded). Skylar Diggins is one heck of a player. The men’s championship game certainly isn’t a tough act to follow.
SA, From Rule of Tree
I left Indy on Monday am. Don't care about final so much, but will cheer for ND because Diggins/Wiggins are friends, and I'm not a fan of A&M's 'style" of bball.
Getting over it
The nice thing about losses like this are that in 15 or 20 years, the pain will subside and we'll hardly even think about it anymore.  Like that awful overtime loss to Old Dominion in 1997, Nicole Powell hitting the front iron on a three that would have beat Tennessee in 2004, Candice Wiggins getting called for charging into Seimone Augustus in 2006 as Krista Rappahahn swished what would have been a game-winning 3-pointer, Tennessee breaking us with pressure in 2008 when in looked like it was our year, Jayne's ankle in 2010.... 

Almost never bothers me anymore!

I guess it's the nature of the sport - even with 4 straight years in the Final Four, unless you win it all, the whole season - 33-3, the win over UConn, undefeated Pac-10 season, Regional championship - somehow feels like a colossal failure! (It isn't).

And, you know, I'm already starting to think that next year is looking very bright...
who am I rooting for?
I'm rooting for A&M. They were staying at my hotel in Indianapolis and could not have been more pleasant. They made it a point to say "hello" as they passed in the hall. When I wished them good luck (maybe I shouldn't have now that I think about it), they were so gracious. At their pep rally, you could really see the excitement about their first Final Four. They shook hands with fans and their coach spoke about what a class act he wanted everyone to be…"no booing in the stands," he said. I attended the Stanford pep rally also. I was surprised by how bored they seemed about it all. The committee was there cheering Stanford on as they arrived. The only time the team smiled was for the team picture. I was so excited to see them and called out to Chiney. She looked up and practically glared at me. I was so surprised by this. I left very disappointed in my team, but still rooting for them on Sunday. Perhaps they were just giving off their "focused" vibe. Still, it came off wrong and I felt sorry for the committee for all the work they put into the event. I will say that Melanie Murphy seemed to be the most pleasant of the bunch. She posed for pictures and took several herself.
Ouch that last part of the final letter hurt, but maybe it needs to be pointed out, it’s not an automatic to go to the final four every year…

Well, congrats to Texas A & M. Now we can say Stanford lost to the champs. C and R still rooted for Notre Dame and Skylar Diggins. Every time they said, “Diggins makes a play,” we kept hearing “Wiggins”, as in Candice Wiggins. Brought but a flood of memories, so we know what TG means when he says, facetiously, the pain goes away and no one remembers the errors.

Looking forward to next year.
C and R

Monday, April 4, 2011

Now What?

Sometimes I think the sole reason for the existence of sports is to break one's heart.

This was written by our friend, LM, who is also a Cal fan but we don’t hold it against her.

C and R were so bummed last night we couldn’t even enjoy Skylar Diggins tearing up UConn. Incidentally, did you see our girl Candice Wiggins rooting for Skylar? She got to know her on a recruiting trip to Stanford. And could you have imagined if Diggins came to Stanford. She’s only a sophomore. At least UConn also losing eases the sting and erases some of the stigma the media was set to heap on Stanford.

So, the question has arisen for C and R; whom do we root for in the final final four game? Do we root for Texas A & M so we can say at least Stanford lost to the eventual champions? Or do we root for Notre Dame to “exact our revenge” on Texas A & M and say, see they didn’t belong there. What are your thoughts Stanford nation? And let us know if you are a Cardinal fan stuck with plane tickets to come home Wednesday and have to stay until the bitter end.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Basketball Sisterhood

C and R knew it! We knew there was a special connection between the Stanford sisters, Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike. We’ve been saying it all year. Now a great article by Mechelle Voepel confirms it.

We have seen them always find each other on the court, gravitating to each other for a high five or “it’s okay” word of encouragement. And since the start of the tournament they seem to not only finish each other’s sentences, they finish each other’s baskets. We weren’t imagining it, Mechelle says they have sisterhood and “twin speak,” or sister speak. We knew it, they are just that connected.

Ands now they have incorporated Kayla Pedersen into the fold. She grew up with all brothers like C, and is welcoming this new-found sisterhood. Cutest quote:
"I can define 'sister-speak' like this," Chiney said. "They'll call a play, and I never have to say, 'What?' Because Kayla will say automatically, 'Chiney, don't worry, go here.' And that's what Nneka has been doing all season.
Here’s more from Chiney:
"Nneka and I can just look at each other and communicate without saying anything. We can do that with Kayla, too. I think the whole team is starting to get it, but Kayla's really got it down."

You go sisters. All you sisters.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Cal’s DeNesha Stallworth to Transfer

No April Fools Joke, DeNesha Stallworth is leaving Cal, according to her father.
From the ESPN site:
"She has a signed release and we're communicating with some schools and setting up some visits," Chris Stallworth said. "It wasn't a bad break, it just wasn't a good fit."

Uh Oh, what’s going on across the Bay?