1989 WMU Football Coulda Been

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Apropos of nothing, I found this ticket stub from the Sept. 2 1989 Western Michigan vs. Temple game (WMU won, 31 – 24.) I leaned on College Football Reference for help in finding the score.

In looking at Western’s 5-6 record that season, I noticed the Broncos lost four of those six games each by just a point:

  • 21-20 home loss to Eastern Michigan
  • 14-13 road loss to Central Michigan
  • 19-18 road loss to Toledo
  • 31-30 home loss to Bowling Green

With a little luck, a 3-5 conference record could’ve been 5-3 or, with a lot of luck, 7-1.

Carry on.

30 Years Later, Baseball Card Collection Still Treasured

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Shortly before Thanksgiving I was re-reading* Peter Walsh’s book “It’s All Too Much“, a treatise on de-cluttering home, office and life. (*Actually, I was re-listening to it as an audiobook. Nevertheless…) Walsh, who is a regular on Oprah, TLC and other TV shows, made one particular point in this reading that hit home: If something is valuable and cherished, why is it in a box in your garage?
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After hearing this I immediately glanced over at my crudely boxed baseball card collection and thought, “Yep. They deserve better.” And what better time to do this than over the holidays and near the start of a new year?

My Favorite Author Dies

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David Halberstam was killed Monday morning in San Francisco and I’m more than a little bummed.

For a fuller obit, read the one from his former paper, The New York Times.

Halberstam was my favorite writer and I suppose he still is. The first book of his that I read was “The Summer of ’49” a wonderfully researched and written tale of an epic battle for the American League title.

The Breaks of the Game” about the 1979 Portland Trail Blazers is another classic.

October 1964“? Terrific

Yes, the man wrote about much more than sport but that was how I was introduced to him.

I did have the pleasure of being in the same room with the man once. It was the fall of 1994 and my wife and I were in a theater in downtown Chicago waiting for the film “Quiz Show” to begin. Before the lights were dimmed I noticed Halberstam sitting across the theater from me.

I knew then that I needed to say something to him and would regret that I didn’t take advantage of the opportunity. But I felt like I’d be bothering him and chose not to do anything.

Today I regret that decision even more.

11:15 a.m. PT Update:

Others weigh in: Peter Gammons on “The greatest journalist of my lifetime.”

Will Carroll in BaseballProsectus.com.

Getting Real About, and Ready for, NE Valley Wildfire Threat

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By Mike McClary
The Arizona Republic

Like many Arizonans, I’m not originally from here. I hail from Michigan and have spent time in Colorado and Texas, places that have distinctive summertime threats.

Whether it’s a tornado, severe thunderstorm or a Houston chemical plant explosion, you eventually learn how to prepare and respond.

When I was living in those other states, I’d see footage on television of raging Arizona wildfires and think “Wow, that’s scary.” Then I’d turn the channel.

I recently said the same thing, but I wasn’t watching TV and couldn’t flip to ESPN. I was standing on my front porch, watching the flames from the “Bart” fire that burned more than 23 square miles of Sonoran desert last month near Bartlett Lake.

While it might have been a mildly interesting news report to someone in, say, Chandler or Tempe, to those of us living in the Rio Verde foothills, the blaze was an unwelcome sneak preview of how vulnerable our area is this time of year.

By all accounts, the conditions today – dry weeds and scrub brush, fueled by heavy winter rains – are more dangerous than usual. It’s the same devilish recipe that cooked up the “Troon” and “Rio” fires in the 1990s. It’s why so many of us in Rio Verde are taking precautions to keep our wildfire threat under control as much as possible.

When we moved to the Rio Verde area three years ago, the first thing we did was gleefully donate our lawnmower, weed trimmer and lawn edger to Goodwill. Twenty-some years of lawn maintenance were enough.

But after the soaking rains of winter, our property began to look more like South Dakota prairie than Arizona desert. And with each passing day, the lush green weeds quickly became an unruly fire hazard surrounding our house, not to mention the other 50-plus homes in our neck of nowhere.

That’s why we – and several neighbors – recently were at the hardware store, picking up new weed trimmers.

Our neighborhood usually is quiet on weekends, not counting the kids on four-wheelers, but lately it has been humming with the sound of weeds being whacked.

It’s a strange feeling, really, doing all this work and merely hoping it pays off. We understand that despite our preparations, we’re still at the mercy of a careless smoker or a random lightning strike.

We only can do so much.

Unfortunately, not everyone is taking the fire threat seriously. That leaves all of us at risk. I heard of one resident who told a neighbor that he moved out here because he can’t stand homeowners associations. He doesn’t want anyone telling him to clear his yard.

Get over it.

Let’s face it. Every day that we go without rain is another day that our area turns into a bigger box of matches.

As Dr. Phil would say, we need to “get real” – or prepare to see our homes engulfed in flames on the evening news.

Mike McClary is a free-lance writer who lives in the Rio Verde area. He can be reached at michael.mcclary@gmail.com. The views expressed are those of the author.

Everywhere You Look, NE Valley is Going to the Dogs

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By Mike McClary
The Arizona Republic

Note: This is an updated version of this column. Orginally the paper rejected it claiming it didn’t have a news angle. Recently, in response to a heroin bust, the Scottsdale school district voted to allow drug-sniffing dogs in the high schools next fall. I had found my news peg and here’s what they ran. Also, the column ran alongside an AP photo with the caption: “A Rottweiler sits in the driver’s seat awaiting his owner’s return. What, he wasn’t allowed in the store to shop for himself?”

What’s all the commotion about allowing drug-sniffing dogs to roam Scottsdale high schools?

If you hadn’t noticed, dogs seem to be permitted just about everywhere else in Scottsdale, so why not the halls of academia?

According to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association Inc.’s Web site , there are approximately 65 million owned dogs in the United States.

I’m convinced 10 percent of them are here.

Don’t believe me? The next time you’re out running errands, look around. Dogs are everywhere in the Northeast Valley.

Define “everywhere,” you say? I’m glad you asked, because I’ve kept a running list: the bagel shop, the coffee shop, the hardware store, the warehouse club, the crafts store, the grocery store . . . shall I go on?

Notice I didn’t mention a pet store or park, two places where I spend little time but would expect to find a hound – or several dozen.

Of course, I’m not talking about guide dogs or a pooch chained to a tree while its master runs into the quick mart for antacids. I’m talking about ol’ Rex going for a leisurely stroll with his pet parent in the paint section of a big-box hardware store. And little Lulu sitting in the cart while Aunt Mimsy shops for picture frames.

Maybe it’s just me, but isn’t there enough danger inside a stadium-size hardware store with the forklifts and teetering stacks of lumber? Should I have to worry about my daughter once again coming face-to-face with a German shepherd on aisle seven?

On a couple of occasions, I’ve seen store managers ask a dog owner to take the mutt outside. In both instances, the dog owner looked incredulous, as if to say, “Are you kidding me? I’m buying this socket wrench for the dog!”

Can you imagine the payday if a shopper’s dog bit someone inside a store – especially a store that didn’t sell four-legged animals?

Until recently, I looked forward to sitting outside a bagel shop on weekend mornings, munching on breakfast. Nowadays, though, it’s a tough choice. Do I want to listen to the chorus of dogs barking at each other, or do I want a bowl of oatmeal at home with my screaming kids?

Oh, I know what you’re thinking: Hey, pal, I don’t want to eat next to your screaming kids any more than you want to eat next to my frothing Rottweiler.

Trust me, I don’t want to eat with my screaming kids either, but until laws are loosened so I can leave a baby home with a bowl of water and a chew toy, I’ll be bringing them with me.

Yes, I know the day will come when my kids beg me to buy them a puppy. If I’m at all like my parents, I’ll eventually succumb to the pressure.

Not because I’m a sucker, though. No, it’ll be because I want my kids to live in the real world – even if it’s Scottsdale’s version of the real world.

And to do that, I need to get them used to being around dogs everywhere they go.

Mike McClary is a freelance writer who lives in the Rio Verde area. He can be reached at michael.mcclary@gmail.com. The views expressed are those of the author.

Led by the Comish, NHL Owners Living in Denial

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My gut feeling since the NHL lockout began on Sept. 16 was that the season would get canned and commissioner Gary Bettman himself would suffer the same fate shortly thereafter.

As our friend Jack Walsh told The Duke in the film “Midnight Run“: “John, you’re in this mess because you’re in this mess. I didn’t put you in this mess.”

In the 1990s, Bettman expanded wildly without any concern for the fact that while these new owners might have been able to scrape together a franchise fee, they had little left over for a tiny detail called “payroll.”

So, because of his maniacal desire to turn transform a quaint hockey league into a diluted on-ice version of the pathetic NBA (complete with salary cap Bettman helped design as David Stern’s lieutenant), he’s got no revenue for at least one year.

Hmm, sounds like a great business plan.

Now, if I’m Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch, I’m furious that because of Nashville and the small-market Canadian teams, I get bubkus this year (at best) and whenever they come to some agreement, I get to see declining revenues so I end up with one superstar and a bunch of rookies all so Atlanta can make the playoffs every other year.

This is why I had no problem with baseball’s approach. I had to come to grips with the fact that the Yankees are the Red Wings and I can’t bitch about the one and delight in the other.

Another reason why I think Bettman is the key conspirator here is because the players showed continued effort to give back – including the one thing they said they “never” accept: a salary cap. The owners offered zilch in return and should be ashamed.

I watched Bettman’s weasel press conference and came away convinced that the man is out of touch. By the by, is he getting paid this year? I wish I had seen the NHLPA news conference but I had to get a few things done by end of day. The players, I would suspect, will get more people on their side…at least for a while. Eventually fans will get fed up (if they aren’t already) and lump players with the owners as one big bunch of wealthy shmucks.

We hear all the time that Sports is a business. True, but it’s still in a world of its own. Imagine if I said to my creditors, “You know what? I can’t afford all this stuff. I’m locking you out. You can send your bills but they’ll sit in my mailbox until I get more income and you lower your payments.”

What if I told Wells Fargo Mortgage that, yes, we agreed to the terms of the mortgage but I’ve decided I simply don’t want to pay that much every month for this house.

I’m thinking they’d begin their reply with “Tough shit, sir.”