About BTiell Sports Reports

Dr. Bonnie Tiell writes a monthly column for the Tiffin Advertiser Tribune Sports Department (http://www.advertiser-tribune.com/). This blog archives each column and dates back to the 2008 Olympic Academic Experience in Beijing, China. Check out the Blog Archives to read more. Check out info about the TU Olympic Academic Experience at http://www.tuolympics.blogspot.com/ and contact Dr. Tiell at btiell@tiffin.edu

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

May 19, 2009 The magic of May sparks connections from the NFL to the Olympics

There is something really special about living in Tiffin that makes the month of May a great time to enjoy the treasures of sports. It's finally time to come out of winter hibernation and enjoy the great outdoors.

The beginning of May brought NFL receiver and Tiffin University graduate Nate Washington back to campus to share in the graduation ceremonies for his cousin, Brytni White. The new Tennessee Titan was very low profile, hanging out with his family in a corner of the Gillmor Student Center and politely glad-handing everyone who stopped by to say hello. Nate talked candidly with faculty and staff who seemingly expressed more curiosity about whether he would complete his college degree rather than what he plans to do with his new multi-million dollar contract in the NFL.

I'm not even sure if Nate was wearing either of his two Super Bowl rings from his recent days as a Steeler. He spent a lot of time describing how the NFL Continuing Education Program will assist him in completing the few courses he has remaining at TU to earn his BBA degree within the year. Chalk one up for the good guys who realize the value of a college degree, even for a millionaire professional athlete.

May is also the month that drivers need to heed more care in the presence of an increasing number of joggers and bikers on the roadways and parks. Hedges-Boyer was a great location for the Relay for Life event this month, which had record crowds enjoying a great atmosphere for a great cause. The Frost-Kalnow and Heidelberg tracks have been consistently occupied by the young and old. TU and the 'Berg have had tremendous success sending runners to San Angelo, Texas and Marietta for their respective NCAA II and III national meets. Speaking of the 'Berg, it was great to follow coach Matt Palm and the success of the Heidelberg baseball program - again.

Speaking of baseball - I love this month when you can head down the steep hill on Charlotte Street and catch Columbian's tennis courts, softball field and baseball diamond in full swing just before coming up to a packed house watching the play on Calvert's fields. Beyond the outfields, you can usually find a group barbecuing or a pack of little leaguers warming up, waiting for the dugouts to clear for their practice.

Last week I was jockeying for a parking place away from foul ball territory and heard a group of little leaguers stretching behind a collapsible fence shouting "GO EMILY!" Emily Tiell, a senior captain on Calvert's softball team, volunteers to help coach a group of fifth graders, and has become a little icon to impressionable future Senecas. It's great to give back, and that is what Emily is doing.

Speaking of softball, I recently had lunch with Lauren Lappin from the USA Olympic team, which has re-written the definition for world "domination." The USA outscored opponents 51-1 in Athens, and had an amazing record with three straight gold medals until it dropped a heartbreaking decision and took silver at the 2008 Beijing Games. A little pitcher named Yukiko Ueno from Japan snatched the only Olympic victory from the USA team since the sport's inclusion at the 1996 Atlanta Games.

I invited the silver medalist to address several hundred participants at the Women's Leadership Symposium (WLS) for Intercollegiate Athletics in Chicago this month. Lappin brought her silver medal (it is gorgeous) and highlighted the rewards of the coaching profession, since she is an assistant at Northwestern. Her remarks included a passionate appeal to join the cause to bring softball back to the Olympics in 2016. (The IOC voted in 2005 to drop softball and baseball from Olympic competition after the 2008 Beijing Games).

Christine Brennan, who writes for USA Today and broadcasts for ESPN and ABC, was also with us at lunch in Chicago and recounted how the IOC's vote was such a blow to gender equity (the IOC has 111 members, which includes only 16 women). Brennan stands by her comment that the IOC got the two sports confused and that is what sealed the fate for softball. Perhaps baseball deserved to get ousted for its weak drug testing policies and the fact that major leaguers will never play in the Olympics. But softball certainly didn't deserve the same consequences. Softball is one of seven sports vying for two open slots in the 2016 Games. Baseball, golf, squash, rugby, karate and roller sports are the others which will learn their fate this October.

Lauren, Christine and I reminisced about the emotional sendoff of the five USA Olympic softball players, who left their cleats at home plate signifying their retirement after the devastating loss in Beijing. Christine and Lauren were in China - Chris was covering the gold medal women's soccer game and Lauren was at Fengtai field standing outside the USA dugout (here's another shot at gender equity the women played their gold medal soccer game at Worker's Stadium while the men competed at the world famous "Bird's Nest" National Stadium, site of the opening and closing ceremonies).

I had left Beijing a few days earlier and was half way around the globe - sitting in the Gillmor Student Center with my laptop catching the live images streaming on the Internet and texting back and forth with Cat Osterman's aunt, who was sitting in the stands describing the spellbinding scene unfolding on the softball field. Technology allowed us to share that important moment across the world.

Another poignant moment was captured when players from the three medal teams (USA, Japan, and Australia) took the field with buckets of softballs to spell out 2016 for the world to see. Lappin said after months of candid team discussions with no clear consensus of how to make a public statement for bringing softball back to the Olympics, the on-field gesture was completely impromptu. I learned Monica Abbott, the Hot Rod pitcher from the University of Tennessee who replaced Lisa Fernandez on the 2008 team, initiated the idea to use the buckets of balls. Abbott and Jes Mendoza led the way to the other dugouts to elicit a united effort to leave a public impression for their sport. Any signs of a language barrier were quickly overcome when Japan started the rousing chant in English "Back Softball Back Softball." Lappin alleged that the "Back Softball" chant is what inspired the cyber home for the official initiative to bring softball back to the Olympic Games in 2016 and beyond - http://www.backsoftball.com/.

Softball is a great sport in which many men pick up on the recreational side to keep active in leagues and tournaments. May was the month for the inaugural Jeremy Shock Memorial Co-Ed and Men's Tournament at the Green Springs Community Park - with its new lights. Jeremy was the Tiffin University graduate and husband of another Tiffin University alum, who lost his life fighting in Iraq. It's a great day in May to remember a fallen hero through sport in his hometown.

Yes, May is a kickoff month for the weekend warriors and tons of outdoor sports enthusiasts from the casual jogger to the avid golfer. Congrats to my husband, Greg, for his third-career hole-in-one this spring and to young Jeremy Hanna and our friend Scott Hall, who each notched their first hole-in-one this month. Stay tuned for next month's column when summer sports start to REALLY sizzle in Tiffin

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