Anne Delaney

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Delaney: Forget shock the world, let's shock ourselves

The Confederations Cup turned out to be a good tournament for the U.S. men's soccer team.

I can't help feel Sunday's final against Brazil should have been a win. Brazil might be the best team in the world and there is no shame in losing to the best. I'm not an expert, not by a long shot, but it looked as if the U.S. abandoned the attacking strategy that led to the two first-half goals in favor of a protect-the-lead mentality and hope to defend its way to the win.

The Brazilians are so good and move the ball so well. It seems to me as if this is more reason to attack: to maintain possession and dictate instead of letting what might be the best team in the world move the ball all over the field.

The difference between first place and second place in such a tournament is cosmetic. A win over Brazil would've been huge, perhaps the biggest victory in American sports history. The victory would've completed a stunning turnaround after the U.S. was thumped by Italy and Brazil in group play, and icing on the cake after a stunning semifinal upset of Spain.

Let's hope the experience of playing in South Africa against world powers will be beneficial for the U.S. next summer if it gets back to South Africa for the World Cup. Enough of this shock the world cliche. Let's shock ourselves.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Delaney: Score one for our side in world's game

I didn't see as much of the U.S. - Spain Confederation Cup semifinal soccer match as I would've liked. It pains me to admit that.

From what I did see, the U.S. turned in an amazing defensive performance to snap Spain's 35-match unbeaten streak. This win might have been more impressive than Erin Hamlin's February World Champion luge win which snapped Germany's 99-international event win streak.

The U.S. faced a ton of pressure with a 1-0 lead. There always seemed to be a defender in the right place at the right time to keep the ball from getting to keeper Tim Howard. Howard was big with eight saves.

The U.S. will play Brazil in Sunday's final but will do so without midfielder Michael Bradley who got an undeserved red card late in the match against Spain. Brazil beat the U.S., 3-0 earlier in the tournament.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Delaney: O Canada, oh yes!

O Canada, the Canadian National Anthem was played before the Baseball Hall of Fame Classic exhibition Sunday afternoon at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown. Then the Star-Spangled Banner.

I don't know why 'O Canada' was included. Maybe because Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins was playing in the game? Jenkins is a Chatham, Ontario native who was the first Canadian to get a plaque in Cooperstown (1991).

O Canada is a great song despite being the country's official anthem for less than 30 years. O Canada had been sung for 100 years before becoming the anthem of record in 1980. Weird. That seems like something that would happen in a less modernized country than Canada.

O Canada is a better anthem than the Star Spangled Banner. The music is beautiful, the words are moving and it's easier to sing. Have you ever heard a Canadian butcher O Canada? Remember Carl Lewis and Roseanne Barr?
Yes, Whitney Houston's Super Bowl rendition of the National Anthem was incredible. She's really, really good.

Next time you're in the shower, give O Canada a try. Here are the words:

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.

With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!

From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

Delaney: Hall of Fame Classic in the making

I think the future looks bright for the Hall of Fame Classic concept.

On Sunday - Father's Day - more than 7,000 people came to Doubleday Field in Cooperstown for an exhibition game between two teams comprised of former Major League Baseball players. The weather wasn't great and still 7,069 people came to an inaugural event. Who knew?

"Honestly, I didn't expect much," said Cooperstown's Erik Fredricksen, a baker at Danny's Main Street Market. "Since it was the first time, I wasn't sure what was going on."

Fredricksen said people were waiting outside the market door by 9:05 to get in - always a good sign in a tourist-based town. Fredricksen said he snuck over to Doubleday for a while to get a look at the crowd and people seemed to be enjoying themselves.

That was the goal, for both the fans and the players. Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson said the enjoyment of the players and the fans is the barometer of success. Idelson and Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association chief executive officer Dan Foster talked about doing a game for a while. They got a chance when MLB and the MLBPA discontinued the Hall of Fame last year.

"Ten out of 10," Foster said.

Players and fans seemed to agree.

"When I was asked to come out for a legends or old timers game, I said I'm not a legend and I'm not an old timer, but heck, ya," said Jeff Kent, who retired in January after 17 MLB seasons. "It's the game. This is for the fans."

Kent said that before the game. On the field, he looked like he was having fun. And especially so in an Observer-Dispatch photo where Kent was giving a high five to 11-year-old Zach D'Errico after the Schenectady boy started a double play.

D'Errico, a Mets fan, received the biggest fan reaction Sunday except for Bob Feller. The 90-year-old Hall of Famer started on the mound and faced Team Collins lead off batter Paul Molitor. Feller, who was the first Major League Baseball player to enlist in the military after Pearl Harbor, received a standing ovation when he was introduced and when he left the game in the first inning.

Chelsea Franklin of Syracuse had never been to Cooperstown before Sunday.

"It's a neat little town," she said.

The 24-year-old waited in the sun-filled stands after the game while her friends braved a large crowd trying to get autographs. Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson seemed to be in greatest demand, though there were plenty of fans crammed into limited space outside the field anxious to get Steve Lyons' autograph.

"It was good," Franklin said. "At Sky Chiefs games, when Major League players come in, you can't get them to sign. It's nice for the kids."

Delaney: Kent 'embarrased' by steroids

Jeff Kent couldn't have been more honest and upfront. About his chances for election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, about steroids and his role as a former Major League Baseball player.

Kent, the 2000 National League MVP and five-time All-Star, played 17 years with six teams. He was in Cooperstown on Father's Day for the inaugural Baseball Hall of Fame Classic and won the pre-game hitting contest. Kent didn't hide his disappointment about the steroid allegations in baseball.

"I'm embarrassed about steroids," Kent said. "The players association (MLBPA) and Major League Baseball won't stand up and say 'we made a mistake."

Kent retired just in time. He played with Barry Bonds in San Francisco during the years baseball's all-time home run leader suspected of using steroids. The game's 'Steroid Era' took on some legitimacy in April when Alex Rodriguez admitted using while in Texas. Kent played for the Dodgers last season and was a teammate of Manny Ramirez after the trade from Boston. Ramirez was suspended 50 games last month for performance enhancing drugs. Kent did not specifically address Ramirez.

"We should've as a union and Major League Baseball, we should've adopted a drug policy and it wasn't done," Kent said.

He retired at the end of the 2008 season as the most prolific home run-hitting second baseman of all time (351). Kent's home runs as a second baseman are 74 more than Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg. Kent had 377 career home runs and was a .290 hitter. He finished in the top 10 in the league in RBI in six seasons, and drove in 100 or more runs from 1997-2002.

The numbers look good, but Kent is not ready to pose for a plaque.

"I've never been a baseball historian and kept track of the game," Kent said. "My history is in the past. I hope things stand up for the good."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Delaney: Legal injustice

Donte Stallworth drives drunk, kills a pedestrian and gets 24 days in jail?

What, are you kidding me? Stallworth, a wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns, pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter. Vehicular manslaughter is the crime of causing the death of a human being due to illegal driving an automobile, including gross negligence, drunk driving, reckless driving or speeding, according to law.com

How does Stallworth go from a maximum penalty of 15 years to 24 days? Money. Stallworth, who will also serve eight years of probation, two years of house arrest, 1,000 hours of community service and a lifetime suspended license, got out of significant jail time because he has the money to buy his way out of trouble.

Is that justice?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Delaney: Wiggins, a pioneer, back to states

Thirty-three years ago, Franklin Academy softball coach Michelle Wiggins and some colleagues at the Malone, New York school started sports teams for girls.

None of them could've anticipated the opportunities that became available for female athletes or the place sports would have in society for athletes of both genders.

"Amazing," said Wiggins, a 55-year-old physical education teacher at Franklin Academy.

Wiggins and her state-ranked No. 9 Huskies will go back to the state semifinals for the third time in 32 years this weekend after defeating Oneida, 2-0 in a Class A state regional final. The shutout was the 16th in 20 games for Franklin Academy (19-1) which has allowed 11 runs all year.

Wiggins, whose team won a state title in 1995 and lost in the finals the year after, coached every year since 1976 except 1989 when her daughter, Beth, was born. Beth Wiggins played for her mother and just finished her sophomore year at Marymount University in Arlington, Va. where she averaged 6.1 points and 6.3 rebounds for the Saints women's basketball team last winter.

Franklin Academy defeated New Hartford in a regional semifinal in 2007, and lost to the Spartans in a regional final at Gillette Road last year. Wiggins never expected this year's Huskies to do so well.

"It's wonderful, especially with this crew," Wiggins said. "At the beginning of the season, I had doubts we'd be Section X champs. My young kids really stepped up."

Wiggins and Franklin Academy have come a long way.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Delaney: Sportsmanship at Gillette Road

Five members of the Whitesboro softball team were at Gillette Road Complex early Saturday afternoon for the Section III Class A final between Oneida and Phoenix. The Warriors players, wearing Whitesboro blue t-shirts, were there to support their Tri Valley League rivals with a sign that read, in part, 'Oneida and Whitesboro Co-TVL Champs.'

Oneida defeated Phoenix, 5-1 to win its first overall sectional title since 2001. The Indians will host a state regional game at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Gillette Road.

On another field, sportsmanship took a beating during the Class C final between South Lewis and Notre Dame. Notre Dame senior pitcher Keaton Perry was twice called for throwing illegal pitches. After the second call in the bottom of the fifth inning, Notre Dame coach and Keaton's father, Jon Perry, was ejected by third base umpire Marty Brefka. Perry said later Brefka told him Keaton was stepping forward with her right foot before she threw in the 3-1 South Lewis win.

Perry said something he shouldn't have said to Brefka and was tossed.

With Notre Dame leading 1-0 early against South Lewis, Perry talked with Section III officials including softball chairman Kerry Bennett about the umpire. Brefka worked behind the plate of South Lewis' previous game Wednesday, which Perry thought prohibited him from being on the field Saturday against the Jugglers.

If Perry is correct, then the rule should be enforced. Section III executive director John Rathbun said he'd look into it. A high school coach shouldn't be ejected from a game. Perry was standing up for his team, which understandable but at some point you have to let it go. What message does it send to the athletes?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Delaney: DeLude, RFA & Proctor have good days

Thomas R. Proctor and Rome Free Academy had good showings as a team Thursday at the Section III state meet qualifier at Cicero-North Syracuse High School. Lauren DeLude of Herkimer was the area's story among individuals. The Magicians sophomore qualified for the state meet in three events, including three wins making her the first Herkimer female track & field athlete to get to states in 10 years.

"I mean, it's an honor," said DeLude, who will compete in the Division II 100 meters, 200 and long jump.

In my story in Friday's paper, I wrote Erica Freund of Clinton will compete in two events at the state meet. Freund, a sophomore, will compete in one, the triple jump where she finished second to West Canada Valley Sarah Wiatr. Wiatr won the event with a jump of 36-4 1/4.

C-NS will host the state meet June 12-13. The school's track/football stadium, the Michael J. Bragman Athletic Complex is a great site. Section III athletes will have an advantage for states because they've competed at C-NS, and experience at the venue might help dim the bright lights of state-level competition.

RFA junior Jessica Razy had another good day. Razy, who trains year round, ualified for the first time in individual events, the 100 and 200 meters. Razy has been to states the last two years as a member of relays, and she'll compete in a relay again next week. Razy ran the anchor leg of the Black Knights' 4x100 relay team that turned out a season best time of 49.55 seconds. Judy Benjamin, Hilary Baker and Sarah Southwell are Razy's relay mates. Nicole Wasco (shot) and Kelly Benfey (pole vault) also qualified for RFA.

Proctor will send four athletes to states. Kierra Arthur and Shykiera Heyward will compete in two each. Basia Bowens (discus) and Pony Sokiri (triple jump) set school records to reach the state meet. Sokiri could hardly contain herself after nailing a 38-11 on her third and final jump. She faulted on the first two, and an approach adjustment by Raiders coach Ron Raux helped. Sokiri, who was ninth in the triple last year, dripped with pride and enthusiasm after her win.

"It's exciting," she said. "That's what you aim for the whole season. Ultimately, you want to go to states."

In Division II, Remsen's Rachel Roberts (shot put, discus) and Linda Hadfield (pole vault, 100 hurdles) are going on in two events.

Eliza Bell of Clinton (high jump) and Cooperstown's Anna Weber (400 hurdles) will each compete in one event. Weber fell on the final hurdle about 40 meters from the finish line Thursday. She bounced up, and later had the skinned knees to prove it, and finished first with a comfortable lead in 1:08.13.

Tityana Brooks of Proctor and Ashley Lekki of Oriskany set school records in their respective events Thursday but didn't qualify for the state meet. Brooks' record was in the Division I shot put (35-5 3/4) and Lekki's was in the Division II 100 where she was fourth in 12.8 seconds.

Delaney: Hadfield learning on the fly

You've heard of soccer moms. Gary Hadfield is a pole vault dad.

Hadfield is the father of New York Mills junior Linda Hadfield, one of the top scholastic pole vaulters in New York state. Linda earned another trip to the state meet Thursday at the qualifying meet at Cicero-North Syracuse. She vaulted a best of 12-6 to move on to states, which will be back at C-NS next week (June 12-13). RFA's Kelly Benfey, Hadfield's training partner and opponent, also advanced to the state meet with an 11-6.

Gary was there, in his familiar New York Mills blue polo shirt working in the vault area to encourage Linda and all of the other vaulters. Pole vaulters are small fraternity, maybe even a cult as Linda herself has admitted pole vaulters have to be a little crazy. Gary shares his daughter's enthusiasm for the specialty sport. He was a vaulter at New York Mills in the early 70s and coaches Linda at certain times of the year. Most of Gary's knowledge comes from following Linda, who trains at Tompkins County Pole Vault Club with coach Matt Scheffler.

"Everything I know to do the right way, I've learned from him," Gary said. "The hardest part is picking up the technique as they are moving."

Gary reacquainted himself with pole vaulting in 2000 when his son, Gary, wanted to try the sport. The younger Gary was a junior in high school and Linda, then in 7th grade, watched her brother and was hooked.

"It looked like fun, a challenge," Gary said. "It looked like a good time."

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Delaney: Decker's complete play helps Oriskany

Oriskany softball second baseman Brittany Decker had herself quite a day Wednesday in the Section III Class D-1 final victory over Poland. The junior was 4-for-5 with two doubles, a triple and an RBI. Decker also had two putouts and four assists, including one on all three outs in the fourth inning and drew praise for her all-around play from Oriskany coach Eric Enos.

"Brittany has been, she's playing on a hot streak," Enos said. "She's played good defense all year."

Enos also complimented the performance of Poland pitcher Erin Batson, who stepped into the circle as the pitcher on a state-ranked undefeated team which could see its season end with its first loss.

"She's a good pitcher," Enos said. "They're not undefeated because she can't pitch. She throws well."

Monday, June 1, 2009

Delaney: Back to Class, a refreshing day

Katie Couric taught me something today. Better said, Couric and two college seniors reminded me of some things today.

Don't be a hater. The world is full of them. The swirling vitriolic sentiments that flow freely through our open internet world is not a sign of progress. A friend of mine thought Couric was talking to me when she used the word hater. I don't think I'm that bad. Opinionated and sarcastic, maybe but nothing out of control. At the risk of going to the extreme in the other direction and ending up on Oprah, I do see the energy I've wasted hating on a New York City baseball team and a Southern California college football. These opinions, while well founded and understandable, could be construed as marks on my history.

Couric, the CBS Evening News anchor and managing editor, spoke Monday at Princeton University's Class Day. Princeton's Class Day is a pre-commencement tradition at a university with an endless line of tradition and pride in all of them. I was there because my nephew Andrew is graduating Tuesday morning and I couldn't attend the commencement ceremony.

I'm pretty sure Couric's speech, also including themes on hard work, perseverance and public service, weren't written with sports or athletes in mind. It could've been. Couric's words were universal: as were those of student speakers Jackie Bello and Jason Gilbert, both gifted writers who reminded me of the need for a sense of humor. Those themes should be an integral part of athletics from the scholastic level to the pros. The speakers' sentiments were refreshing for a person easily bogged down by life.

Andrew sat with several friends at the morning ceremony, including a top rower nicknamed Fish. All of the approximately 1,300 graduates wore gaudy 2009 class jackets they will keep for the rest of their lives and wear again at reunions and for the P-rade, a yearly procession of alumni and graduating seniors which is another pre-commencement Princeton tradition. Fish's women's varsity eight boat was sixth at the NCAA Championships Sunday morning, and she is going to continue training while she takes post-graduate classes this summer and fall. Hard work. Perseverance.

Andrew didn't have a noteworthy athletic career. Naturally handsome, Andrew isn't a natural athlete. He's 6-foot-3 or 6-4 and a bit uncoordinated. Yet he was a competitive and at times intense three-sport athlete for three years in high school. Andrew was cut from the lacrosse team in ninth grade. He didn't turn into the hater Couric warned us about. He found a solution. Andrew dedicated to getting in better physical shape, joined the cross country team the following fall and made the lacrosse team when he was in 10th grade. Hard work. Perseverance.

Andrew played club lacrosse at Princeton. Apparently, his skills didn't match his swagger. Andrew's teammates voted him most overrated this spring and he loved it. Overrated on a club lacrosse team? That's a sense of humor and Andrew's overflows. Don't lose that, buddy. Couric, Bello and Gilbert were right. Remember what they said and I'll try to do the same.

Congratulations.