Anne Delaney

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Delaney: Down The Middle Willie

Some interesting people died in 2009. I was reminded of that this morning while flipping through the pages of a year-end issue of Sports Illustrated. Dom DiMaggio. Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Wayman Tisdale.

There were others, of course, outside of sports. Shriver's brother, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Michael Jackson, and former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.

None of these people, while all talented and influential, meant more to me than William J. Delaney, Jr.

The oldest son of a Boston-area family, Delaney grew up playing ice hockey on ponds. He went to school, went to war, married and raised a fairly well-adjusted family. Bill Delaney was my father. Dad was 88 and in ill-health when he died Dec. 14. Despite how his full life ended, at times confused from a lack of oxygen due to heart and lung disease, I miss the man I remember.

A big part of my father included sports. This is where I come in. I watched games with him when I was growing up. For better and worse, I chose a profession based on a love of sports. It was our bond.

I think Dad would've watched the New Year's Day NHL Winter Classic at Fenway Park with particular interest. From his home in Pennsylvania, it's likely his TV remote would've shuffled between the Flyers and Bruins and Penn State and LSU in the Capital One Bowl.

I will never look at a golf course the same way, I imagine, now that my father is gone. I do not know anyone who loved anything more than my father loved golf. He played on Christmas Day, Thanksgiving Day, and New Year's Day when possible. In an infamous moment, he left a family gathering my parents hosted to play golf.

He saw Jack Nicklaus play as an undergraduate at Ohio State when my parents lived in Columbus, and he watched the game on television long before Tiger. In the 1970s, he wore the same gaudy, plaid pants as the pros. My father never cared how he looked, or anyone else for that matter.

Dad was meticulous about cleaning his golf clubs. He kept golf balls in a sock drawer, and my mother regularly awoke to the rumble of the balls rolling around as dad got ready for a morning tee time.

My father was a pretty calm guy, but frustration with the game at least once led him to the breaking point. He threw a golf club into a tree. A sand trap rake was tossed up to dislodge the club from the tree's branches but the rake also got stuck. My dad, probably never weighing more than 150 pounds at any time in his life, was then hoisted into the tree to retrieve the club and the rake.

I never caddied for my dad, but I loved watching him play. I went to the Bucknell University course with him whenever I could. He often bought me a grape soda while we talked with his friends and I wonder if this is why I still love grape soda. My father had the funniest swing. It was smoother than Charles Barkley's but still sort of a choppy, old-man swing. His buddies said more often than not dad hit it in the fairway. He could not always see where his ball landed. Challenged since birth with poor eyesight, my father relied on playing partners to help him find his ball off the tee.

"Down the Middle Willie" his friends called him. I hope he's playing a round right now. Thanks for everything, Dad. Hit 'em straight.

Happy New Year

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Delaney: Hamlin World Cup-best finish in Norway

Remsen's Erin Hamlin had her luge World Cup series best finish Sunday in Lillehammer, Norway. She finished third and earned a bronze medal in the final race of the fall. Hamlin's medal was the first for a U.S. woman in a World Cup event since 2005 when Ashley Walden won a bronze in Winterberg, Germany.

The World Cup series will take two weeks off for the holidays before resuming Jan. 2-3 in Koenigssee, Germany.

Hamlin, who completed qualification for the U.S. Olympic team last week (Dec. 6), wrapped up the first half of the season in very good shape. Her finish in Lillehammer bumped her up to fourth place in the season standings.

"It's a nice way to end the first half," Hamlin said, quoted in by The Associated Press. "Obviously it would have been very cool and continue after my first run and be first, but I'm definitely not disappointed with a third place. I have been sliding really well all week, so it's nice to cap it off with a good race."

Hamlin had not raced in Lillehammer - on the track that hosted the 1994 Winter Olympic luge competition - since the 2004-2005 season. She was second that year as a junior slider. Despite the unfamiliarity with the track, Hamlin was in first place after the first run with a time of 48.791 seconds. Hamlin's two-run time was 1-minute, 37.616 seconds.

World Cup series points leader Tatjana Hufner of Germany was third after the first run but came up with the fastest second run (48.723) to win.

Hamlin qualified for her second Olympic team last week, and was the first U.S. slider to do so. The rest of the 10-man team is beginning to take shape. Other athletes securing nominations: Tony Benshoff, Bengt Walden and Chris Mazdzer in men's singles; Julia Clukey win women's singles; and the doubles team of Christian Niccum and Dan Joye.

Three women's singles sliders, three men and two doubles teams will compete in Vancouver in February.

Men's doubles Olympic silver and bronze medalists Mark Grimmette and Brian Martin will race off against Matt Mortensen and Preson Griffall for the final doubles slot. Kate Hansen, and sisters Megan and Emily Sweeney will race off for the final women's slot. Clukey, who sustained a neck injury during training earlier this month, was selected on coaches' discretion.

The race-offs are Tuesday night or Wednesday morning in Lillehammer.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Delaney: Proctor's Kiesel likely out for season

Thomas R. Proctor standout junior point guard Brianna Kiesel, the leading scorer on the Raiders’ girls basketball team, is apparently out for the season with a broken bone in her left wrist.

Kiesel broke the scaphoid bone in her left (non-shooting) wrist Saturday during a tournament in Albany. Kiesel fell during the third quarter of the Raiders’ 54-53 win over Albany High School and slammed her hand on the ground.
Kiesel scored 27 points at the time of her injury, but with a 12-week recovery Kiesel is looking at the end of her season.

“There’s a big chance of it not healing correctly if blood flow is disturbed,” Perrotta said. “It doesn’t look.”

Kiesel, the Central New York Counties League National Division co-player of the year last season, is one point shy of the school's all-time scoring mark (1,245).

“There’s a big chance of it not healing correctly if blood flow is disturbed,” Perrotta said. “It doesn’t look good.”

Perrotta said Kiesel and her parents are evaluating treatment options.

The injury, while disappointing, is not likely to hurt her ability to play Division I basketball. She is ranked 18th among point guards for the Class of 2011 on an ESPN.com list and is being recruited by several schools including Big East Conference members Georgetown, Rutgers, Syracuse, Miami and Notre Dame. Also Illinois of the Big Ten, Arkansas and Alabama of the SEC and PAC 10 power Stanford.

“It’s nothing that’s going to be for the long term,” Perrotta continued. “It’s about healing and getting better.”

The Raiders (2-2 through Tuesday) will have to become a different team in Kiesel’s absence. Juniors Tiffany Alpert and Danielle Felton will platoon at point guard. Proctor has relied on Kiesel to be its primary scorer for the last two seasons at least. Perrotta has long sought a post presence to take some pressure off the 5-foot-6 Kiesel, and a balanced game will now be even more important.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Delaney: 3 Sauquoit girls on all-state soccer team

The Sauquoit Valley girls soccer team, undefeated until its Class C state final loss to Stony Brook, placed three players on all-state teams.

Senior forward Amanda Orsino and senior midfielder Kelsey Hogel were first team selections in Class C, according to NYSSCOGS/NYSSWA.

Junior forward Sierra Kiss was a second-team selection, and Indians coach Tim Clive was co-coach of the year with Mark Maningo of Section XI Stony Brook. Stony Brook defeated Sauquoit Valley 2-1 in the Class C championship game Nov. 21 at Cortland State.

Four other Utica area players earned all-state recognition, all from Class D.

Remsen senior defender Sandy Roberts was second team; Hamilton junior forward Emily Truett and Poland senior midfielder Ashley Huckabone were third team and Remsen eighth grade forward Erin O'Connor was fourth team.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Delaney: Merry Christmas, Erin Hamlin

The timing of Erin Hamlin's finish at a World Cup series luge race Sunday got me thinking.

What a great Christmas present for the 23-year-old Remsen woman to lock up a place on her second Olympic team.

Hamlin pre-qualified for February's Vancouver Games with her World Championship gold medal earlier this year. She added the bow to the package Sunday in Altenberg, Germany with a second run that moved her to fifth from eighth place. A top five was all she needed to complete her qualification for Olympic sliding on the fast track in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada outside of Vancouver.

'A Charlie Brown Christmas,' a holiday staple for forty years, is on this week. As a tribute to Hamlin, we give you a one-verse luge version of the climactic final scene where Charlie Brown's gang sings 'Hark The Herald Angels Sing.'

Merry Christmas, Erin Hamlin

Hark the Herald Angels sing, Erin Hamlin's sliding rings
Peace on Earth and mercy mild, U.S. luge fans reconciled.
Joyful all ye Remsenites rise, Join the triumph of the sleds
With Alten-berg in the books, Hamlin earns Olympic look.
With Alten-berg in the books, Hamlin has a Whistler look.

Delaney: Hamlin is Vancouver bound

Erin Hamlin did it again. A big result in a big spot and Hamlin is a two-time USA Luge Olympian. She was the first American slider to clinch a spot for the Vancouver Games on Sunday at a World Cup series race in Altenberg, Germany.

Hamlin will race Feb. 15-16 on the fast track in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada outside of Vancouver. Hamlin was fifth at Whistler in one of the final World Cup series races last season.

She seems to be at her best when the odds are getting smaller. Four years ago, Hamlin came out of the USA Luge shadows to race onto the U.S. Olympic team for the Torino, Italy Games. She was 12th there and has gone no where but up since.

Even her World Championship gold medal came with a bump on the track. The day before the race in Lake Placid Hamlin suffered a migraine during training. She said there was no doubt she would compete in the Worlds but no one knew how she would perform.

Well, she won the World Championship with a second-run track record. As the reigning World Champion, Hamlin was pre-qualified for the Vancouver Games according to USA Luge qualification guidelines. She just needed a top five finish in one of the first four fall World Cup series race to lock up a spot: Calgary; Igls, Austria; Altenberg and Lillehammer, Norway.

When the schedule was released it looked like a lead-pipe synch. Hamlin was very happy to see Igls - host track of the 1976 Winter Olympics - in the first half of the season. Hamlin finished a World Cup-series best fourth there last year.

Hamlin did not clinch in Igls. She finished ninth. With two more chances for a top five entering this weekend, Hamlin's window of opportunity was closing. She was eighth last year in Altenberg and had not raced in Lillehammer since she was a junior.

So what happens? Hamlin bounced back from a shaky first run in Altenberg to move to fifth from eighth place on a track where she probably did not expect to do well.

That seems to be when she's at her best.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Delaney: No defense, no commercialism

I was raised on Touchdown Jesus. Formal religion, though, has eluded me for some time.

Still, I cannot help but think those who do commit to a faith-based life must feel dismayed at this time of year. The commercialism of the holiday season stifles the true meaning, even in a sluggish economy.

I see little need for anyone to wear their religious views on their sleeve. That is my preference. But it also my preference not to be smothered in Christmas materialism. I always thought the purpose of the December holidays is to overlook philosophical differences and come to an understanding about our fellow man.

In the words of Charles M. Schultz's Lucy Van Pelt, the misanthropic nemesis of Charlie Brown, "we all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket. It's run by a big eastern syndicate, you know."

This year, I'd settle for the gift of a defense capable of stopping a Big East Conference syndicate and Touchdown Jesus in a bowl game.

Happy Holidays.