Monday, April 13, 2009

Yet Unnamed Monday Weekend Sports Re-Kap

Sometimes in sports, certain events occur that are almost too much fun to watch. They can be unusual, they can be unique, and they can be outright hilarious...and if you are lucky, all three can come in one delightful package. I give you...Walter Herrmann's running style.

To put it simply, I have never seen anybody put as much effort into running up the floor as Walter Herrmann does on a nightly basis. It's as if he is running in an Olympic sprint, saving up four years worth of energy for one mad dash to the finish line...only he's doing it 30-40 times a game. There have been some interesting gaits through the years. Dennis Rodman would always bring the knees up high, covering immense ground with each stride. Cameron Maybin (in baseball) gained fame during his short time in Detroit with his wild running style, always windmilling one arm frantically, as if he was a speedster centerfielder and veteran 3rd base coach all wrapped up into one. But Herrmann and his "max effort, with all body parts moving at once (and I mean all)" takes the cake.

The situation might go something like this. The Pistons are playing the Knicks. Herrmann is open in the corner, but the ball never gets to him. Instead, Rip Hamilton takes a 14-footer from the elbow that rims in and out. The Knicks corral the defensive board, and without any real numbers advantage, decide to walk it up the floor. Only Herrmann notices that his man, Quentin Richardson, is jogging upcourt and is 2-3 steps in front. Boom!! Herrmann is now in a full sprint, arms akimbo, legs flailing, mini-ponytail dangling in the Palace wind, desperate to catch up with the harmless Richardson. Finally, as they reach the other end, Herrmann breathes heavy, like Seabiscuit after the final stretch at Pimlico. He has caught his man. Only one thing...Knick point guard Chris Duhon is now just advancing past halfcourt, with 19 still left on the shot clock. The effort from Herrmann is respected and sets a good example for others, but you wonder if he is aware that not every single motion on the court requires 150% intensity at all times.

The Pistons have bumbled and stumbled through this entire NBA season. Just when you think they have hit their stride, they take a false step. On the rare occasion, they put forth a sterling effort and the results are reflected in that. Take the Sunday afternoon victory at Boston last month, or the continued domination of the 58-22 Orlando Magic. But far too often, that perfect stride has been interrupted, or completely fallen apart. The 1st half in a nationally televised game at Cleveland, where the Pistons trailed by 33 after just 24 minutes, comes to mind. If only they could find a way to mirror the effort put forth by Walter Herrmann on every one of his jaunts up the court. It may not look pretty and it is anything but smooth, but Walter is usually able to get to where he wants to go. With a 1st round matchup at powerhouses Cleveland or Boston waiting in the wings less than a week away, it is now or never for the Pistons. Either go out with a whimper, or take a page out of the bizarre playbook of Mr. Walter Herrmann...and start running like your hair is literally on fire. Worst comes to worst, at least we'll be treated to a real good laugh.
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Anybody seen Donyell Marshall lately?? If you have not, let me ask politely, "How could you miss him"??? Man has gotten positively LARGE. The once athletic and dare I say sleek power forward has now ballooned to astronomical proportions with the Philadelphia 76ers. I'll admit, I have always had a slight fascination with Donyell.

I tend to like any big guy that steps out and shoots the 3-ball (Terry Mills, Arvydas Sabonis), so following Marshall throughout his career was a no-brainer. Throw in the fact that he once tied the NBA single game 3-pointer record with 12, and I was a fan for life. Which makes his latest eating binge all the more unsettling.

When the Pistons played in Philly a few weeks ago, and Marshall hopped off the bench, ripped off his warmups, and stepped on the floor, I was literally taken aback. "No way...that can't be him!" I mean, Donyell was never Charles Atlas or anything. But still, I never expected him to enter the "Guy who doesn't take his T-shirt off when he goes swimming" phase of his life, either. Three possible explanations for Donyell's unfortunate transformation...

1. Change of location. He spent the tail end of last season in Seattle, where the only items available to consume are coffee and salmon. He then moved to Philly, where cheese steaks are available in all shapes and sizes. Sadly, after this weight gain, so is Marshall.

2. Reduced playing time. This year marks the first time that Marshall has averaged less than 10 minutes of court time per night. Without the ability to get out on the floor and run a little bit to burn some calories, our man has no way of staying in shape. Don't the 76ers realize that Marshall has buried over 900 long balls in his career? How about just a dozen minutes every game so he can start looking more like an NBA player again and less like FOX-2's Alan Lee??

3. He ate Lamond Murray. This one actually makes the most sense. Think about it. Murray, the former standout at Cal, was still enjoying a very successful career in the NBA when he became teammates with Marshall during the 2003-04 season. Coming off the highest scoring year of his career averaging about 17 per game, Murray began slowly whittling away as Marshall started putting on the pounds. In their two years together, Murray's career (and life) slowly came to an end as Marshall continued to take full advantage of this new, untapped source for increased body mass and strength. Five years later, Marshall is as big as a house...and Murray has not been heard from since. A very logical, but tragic explanation. My heart goes out to Lamond Murray. Especially since his already went to Donyell Marshall.
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There were dozens of baseball games on the major league schedule this weekend. Managers made hundreds of decisions all across the league. Pitchers were removed, pinch-hitters were summoned, and sacrifice bunts were ordered. And you had The Masters. While the players were executing the shots, it was the loyal caddies that were assisting with club selection and helping to judge the wind. But the most impressive coaching move of the weekend came courtesy of a most unlikely source: Bill Straub, the women's bowling coach at the University of Nebraska.

The women's NCAA bowling championship took place on Saturday in Canton, Michigan. Thankfully, ESPN2 was there to cover all of the excitement. The whole scene during the title game was quite bizarre, actually. It's a team bowling event, so players are taking turns rolling each frame. Understandable. But get this. The players that are not bowling that frame are ALL standing up...the entire time. Who doesn't sit down when they're done with their roll? So the girl goes up to get ready to throw her ball, and behind her stands 10-12 of the most unfortunate looking women you will ever see. Don't start watching thinking that you'll see an Anna Kournikova or Natalie Gulbis-type out here. It's "women's" bowling...but really, in name only. I'm not saying it was actually men out there on Saturday, but the difference was negligible. And regardless of whether the woman rolls a thunderous strike or an inexplicable gutter ball, they proceed to high five every single teammate waiting for them when they are done. I saw one girl roll a 6, leaving an impossible split to deal with, and within seconds, she's being congratulated back at the ball return like she just capped off a flawless 900 series. But back to the brilliant coaching move.

Nebraska was battling famed athletic program Central Missouri in the pivotal opening game of the best-of-7 series. It was late in the contest, and one of the Husker ladies just left a nasty split with her first ball. What happened next will surely be remembered in Lincoln for years to come. Straub gives her the hook, and brings in another bowler to clean up the mess. How about that for a gutsy call? Who knew you could even do that?? Spare ball upcoming, pins scattered, Splitsville City on the horizon, and Coach Billy Straub makes the call to the pen. And ya know what...the girl nailed it! The dreaded empty frame was avoided, as female Eckersley came in and absolutely punished those pins like they just borrowed her belt sander and forgot to return it before that night's lumberjack contest.

As a coach, if you're wrong there, you know you're getting second guessed all night long on SportsCenter. Talk radio would have beaten the decision to death. Most likely, the Lady Huskers would have turned on him...and that's just a very unenviable position to be in. But when you're right, and it leads to a National Championship, nothing is sweeter.

Bill Walsh...Pat Riley...Walter Alston...Bill Straub. Those names belong together now. All coaching legends that have etched their permanent place in sports history.

It was a single substitution, but one that will leave a lasting impression on anyone lucky enough to have witnessed it. I'm grateful to be one of them, and I'll never forget it.



I am not proud of what I have just written, and will now go take a long, hard, look in the mirror. E-mail me your thoughts on Walt Herrmann, Donyell Marshall, and Coach Bill Straub, at highsockslegend@gmail.com
Or just drop a comment below...

2 comments:

Aubrey said...

Not your Vydas...but Arvydas!!! One of the great NBA Live players of our time!! Who knew dude could dunk from the free throw line!

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