Sunday, August 26, 2012

College Football: Our Man Matt

Matt Barkley drops back in a recent USC scrimmage (Photo / Orange County Register)

The August 20 issue of Sports Illustrated featured an article on USC Trojan quarterback Matt Barkley. For some players covered by SI, there seems to be little worth admiring about their lives away from the playing field. Not so with Mr. Barkley. When the Trojans were hit with NCAA sanctions in June 2010 that included a two-year bowl ban and a 30-scholarship penalty, Barkley stepped up and began calling recruits, confirming his commitment to  the program so that they would keep theirs.

Barkley proved true to his word last winter when, rather than leaving for an NFL deal that SI estimates might have earned him $15 Mn, he announced his intention to stay at USC and complete his final year of eligibility.

During his tenure at Southern Cal, Barkley has struck a friendship with Trojan legend Louie Zamperini, whose faith and resiliency - in addition to world class athletic talents - were the subject of Laura Hillenbrand's stellar Unbroken. It's his understanding of Zamperini's true hardships, relative to those encountered as a quarterback of a top-ranked college football team, that helps Barkley keep things in perspective.

"Whatever I do," Barkley told SI, "I can't ever measure up to Louie."

Thursday, August 16, 2012

College Baseball: Baltimore's Other Birds Take Crown

The Baltimore Redbirds knocked off the Bethesda Big Train to claim the CRCBL crown. (Photo /

After failing three times in prior league championshsips to Bethesda, the Baltimore Redbirds underscored their franchise resilience by beating the Big Train (27-18) late last month to claim the 2012 Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League (CRCBL) title. Playoff MVP Mark Zagunis (Virginia Tech) hit what proved the decisive home run in the third inning in a 4-3 victory. Fellow Redbirds Jack Carey (Wake Forest) and Sean Keselica (Virginia Tech) added home runs for Baltimore.

Perfect Game ( has the Redbirds (31-13) ranked eighth nationally among collegiate summer league teams in its final rankings. Last year, the Big Train finished the 2011 campaign as the top-ranked team in the country by winning the CRCBL crown.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Books: The Austerity Olympics

The Austerity Olympics by Janie Hampton (Image / Aurum Press)

In following these London Olympics, I've heard frequent mention of the 1948 London games, the first Olympics held following World War II. In referencing those games, the spare, post-war backdrop of their staging landed the Olympiad the nickname of the Austerity Olympics.

London was originally awarded the 1944 Olympics but due to the war there were no games held, nor had there been in 1940.

Compelled by the topic, I headed to and placed an order for The Austerity Olympics by Janie Hampton and thought I'd read it during the current games. Sometime shortly after clicking 'purchase' I read the (not so) fine print that the book ships in 1-3 months, so it looks like I'll be reading it instead during the college football season.

So rather than a book review of a book I've not yet read, here are a few facts about the '48 games.

  • Despite the bombing of the city during the war, its athletic facilities escaped relatively intact and Wembley Stadium hosted the opening ceremonies.

  • In helping it earn its Austerity Olympics moniker, there was no Olympic Village. The male athletes roomed at an army base in Uxbridge. The women athletes stayed in dorms at Southlands College.

  • Due to poor weather that bogged down the track and field events,the fewest Olympic records were set in the history of the games.

  • Rationing dating back to the war was still in effect in 1948, and many in London were still displaced or homeless in the wake of the German bombing.

  • 17-year old American Bob Mathias won the decathlon, despite having taken up the sport just four months earlier.

- TF

Sources: BBC Archive, Encyclopedia Brittanica migrated to

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