Diamonds and Ice

Vacation’s over
December 29, 2008, 7:13 pm
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Took a week of vacation over Christmas, but am back in the office. Thought I’d share a few sports thoughts.

1. Love the fact that there are no Dallas Cowboys or New England Patriots in the NFL playoffs. Was stunned to learn that Dallas hasn’t won a playoff game in 11 years. Unbelievable. New England is the first 11-win team not to make the postseason. The Pats had an easy schedule this season, which no one seemed to want to point out.

2. My initial feeling is that hiring Paul Rhoads as head football coach was a good thing for Iowa State. He’s worked his way up through the ranks and appears to actually want to be in Ames. That’s a step forward. Can’t pass up the fact, though, that Rhoads was an assistant under Dan McCarney, whom was unceremoniously fired a couple of years ago.

3. Had a colleague write a column the other day saying he felt Drake and Northern Iowa would be factors in the Missouri Valley Conference men’s basketball race. Then the Bulldogs and Panthers go out and lose their first MVC games Sunday. UNI lost at home to Indiana State, believed to be the worst team in the league. Oops.

4. The Midwest League’s Beloit Snappers have Minnesota Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire and GM Bill Smith speaking at their annual winter banquet in January. Tickets are $25. The Cedar Rapids Kernels, meanwhile, are charging $45 (on banquet night) to listen to Jim Abbott. What’s a better deal?

5. Sincere congratulations to the Kernels for winning the John Johnson Award, presented by Minor League Baseball to the organization of the year. The Kernels played a big role in helping this community overcome last June’s flooding, and for that they have my utmost respect.

Thanks to the readers
December 17, 2008, 9:23 am
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Got quite a bit of feedback from my opinion column in Tuesday’s paper calling out Iowa State AD Jamie Pollard for not taking any blame for the hiring of Gene Chizik as football coach. I’d say it was about half and half, as far agreeing with it and disagreeing with it. Thanks to all for responding.

Thought I’d share an e-mail I got from one of the respondents. I think he kind of disagreed with me, but I’m not real sure. What do you think?

“What a disgrace you are the journalistic profession and to the other, mostly decent sportswriters at the Gazette. Once again you have latched on to an opportunity to make sophomoric and infantile insults in an effort to kick the Cyclones while they are down. It’s not professional. It’s not clever. It’s really quite sad and distasteful. I hope you never aspire to be more than a local hawk lapdog and blatant Cyclone hater, because it’s clear to this long time Gazette reader, that you have no other skills.

“Maybe the one bright spot in all of this …. is how you really have the opposite effect of that for which you strive. In all your efforts to degrade , belittle and minimize the Cyclones, you just give weight to the true significance of the ISU Cyclones. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have to spend so much effort trying to prove the opposite.

“I know this probably gives you pleasure to know you’ve ticked off another Cyclone fan. You’re most likely grinning ear to ear with nerdy delight. In the future, I suggest you just write “Hawks rule, Cyclones drool” and leave it at that. It packs the same intellectual punch as your other masterpieces, it will arouse the same drunken cry of “GO HAWKS” in trailer parks throughout eastern Iowa, and it will save you considerable time.

“(don’t waste your time with a reply – it will be ignored)”


At any rate, I make sport of people and teams, including Iowa State, from time to time in our Saturday “Pick ‘Ems” during the football season. Actually, most of us on the panel do because it’s supposed to be a light-hearted endeavor.

However, if you can’t see that Jamie Pollard’s two biggest hires thus far at Iowa State have not turned out very well, then you need to take off the cardinal and gold pom-poms and find a dose or reality. Quickly.

OK, what I am supposed to say now? Oh, yeah: “Hawkeyes rule, Cyclones drool.”

Actually I’m a big Coppin State fan, so can I say “Eagles rule, Cyclones drool” instead?

Aneloski coming back
December 16, 2008, 1:52 am
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Forgot to add these two items to my Cedar Rapids RoughRiders game story in Sunday’s paper.

Defenseman Bryce Aneloski is returning to the team this week and will play with the Riders the rest of the season. Aneloski should definitely improve the d-corps. He was a good player last season for Cedar Rapids, posting eight goals and 20 points in 59 games. He also was a plus-13. Aneloski spent the first semester this year at Providence College, playing in all 16 games for the Friars. He has decided to transfer to another school.

Also, forward Greg Burke is scheduled to have surgery soon on his injured right shoulder and is expected to miss the rest of the season, according to Riders Coach Mark Carlson. It’s a loss for the RoughRiders, considering Burke has a lot of talent. He was a sixth-round draft pick of the NHL’s Washington Capitals this past summer and is headed to the University of New Hampshire.

Burke had two goals in eight games this season. He has been placed on the Injured Reserve list, with Aneloski taking his spot on the active roster. Carlson said there are no immediate plans to make other roster moves, even though the club has eight defensemen and only 13 forwards.

Pollard gets another chance
December 14, 2008, 2:46 am
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You wonder why Iowa State athletics director Jamie Pollard kept everyone in the know about this Gene Chizik-to-Auburn stuff? Maybe because he wanted so bad for it to actually happen.

If that’s the case, Pollard got his wish Saturday when it was announced Chizik indeed was leaving ISU after two seasons to become Auburn’s head coach. Man, you gotta wonder what Auburn’s thought process is here.

Chizik did absolutely nothing in his two seasons in Ames, unless you think those five wins (against 19 losses) were impressive. He left the Cyclone program in worse shape than when he inherited it, if that’s possible. His team this season didn’t improve, evidenced by that 10-game losing streak that’s still intact.

Pollard pulled out all the bells and whistles for Chizik’s introductory press conference. He held it at Hilton Coliseum, with Chizik stepping out on a raised dais through a giant inflatable Cyclone helmet, with smoke pouring out of it. It was about a 9 on the hokey meter.

Turns out Pollard was blowing smoke up the skirts of Cyclone fans when he said Chizik was the guy who was going to brings ISU’s football program to new heights. Picking the former Texas and Auburn defensive coordinator after firing Dan McCarney turned out to be a horrible decision.

Now Pollard gets another chance, whether he deserves it or not. My bet this hire will be Turner Gill. Cyclone fans have to hope their AD finally gets this one right.

Iowa: The worst football state in the country?
December 2, 2008, 8:09 am
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Here’s a little something to get you folks riled up. CBS Sportsline is doing a series of stories on the 10 worst football states in the country.

You guessed it, Iowa is one of those 10. Sportsline’s reasoning is that Iowa has yet to produce an NFL Hall of Famer, though Kurt Warner is an odds-on choice to make it to Canton one day.

Here’s a link to Sportsline’s story on Iowa. Keep in mind that a lot of this is done tongue in cheek (I think):

Let me know your thoughts after you read it.