Tag Archives: Wilmington Star-News

My old friend Tyler Hicks survives kidnapping in Libya, and tells about it. Mascot Madness. And a really splashy world record

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You ever meet someone in your life and you think, “Man, that guy is just cool. He totally has life figured out?”
That’s kind of how I felt when I first met Tyler Hicks (that’s him, above) in 1997. I was working at the Wilmington Star-News as a young sportswriter fresh out of college. Tyler was just a few years older than me, and he was a staff photographer. Hard to describe Tyler other than saying he was kind of like Dan Cortese’s character on “Seinfeld” that one time; just a guy who floated through life, happily and acting goofy. He was a sweet guy who was always friendly and always took great pictures.
I lost track of Tyler for a few years after he and I both left Wilmington, and then saw that he’d landed at the New York Times, as a war photographer.
His photographs were nothing short of amazing. Every once in a while I’d pick up The Times and see Tyler’s photo credit on pictures from Serbia, or Iraq, or Bosnia, and be amazed at how good he was, and marvel that this was the same guy who used to shoot New Hanover vs. Laney high school tennis matches I was covering.
I don’t want to exaggerate my relationship with Tyler; we haven’t talked in many years, but I always followed his career and was happy he was doing well.
As you probably have heard by now, Tyler and three other journalists were kidnapped while in Libya last week, and for four days they endured horrendous treatment and conditions.
Tuesday the Times published a first-person account from Tyler and the three others, and it’s absolutely compelling reading.
This is happening more and more to my fellow reporters all over the world; dictators think that by capturing members of the press, they can stop the flow of information.
Fortunately, Tyler and the others survived. Knowing Tyler, he probably can’t wait to go back to Libya.
Though personally, I wish he’d go back to shooting high school tennis matches. Rarely do you get kidnapped from those.

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**So you may have noticed if you read this blog a lot that I love, love, love mascot stories. I am truly fascinated by people who dress up in funny costumes and wear giant feet just to entertain thousands.
A Maryland TV station recently hosted the 2011 Mascot Madness competition, and the results, well, who cares? I just had some good laughs watching them play basketball.

**Finally, a short video of a crazy stuntman. This is Professor Splash, and this is him diving 35 feet off the ground, down into a kiddy pool filled with shallow water.
I have no idea how he didn’t kill himself doing this. Guess that’s why he’s a stuntman.

Obama’s birthday, Joe Poz to SI, and why I’m rooting for the Islanders (temporarily)

loudobbs

So whenever sports columnists don’t have one great idea for a newspaper column, we cheat a little and write 4 or 5 little things, instead of one big idea. That’s what I’m doing today,  because, well, I’m on my last day of vacation and am a little pooped.

***Memo to all you Republican nutjobs and Lou Dobbs: Barack Obama’s birthday was Tuesday. You know, Barack Obama, the President of the United States who you REFUSE to believe was actually, you know, born in the United States. Just wanted to make sure that while you continue to search high and low for Obama’s REAL birth certificate, the one you claim shows  that Obama was born in Africa, you also get a belated birthday gift for the Prez.

May I suggest one of those Ancestry books that are always so popular? Or how about some light reading for the President, perhaps the copies of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and the Honolulu Advertiser that announce his birth?

Someone asked me today how come CNN lets Lou Dobbs continue to do his show, given that he’s so clearly insane. I said that’s exactly why they let the Lou-natic ramble on; because you never know what he’s going to say next, and that makes for good ratings!

I know this is a couple of weeks old, but I’m a little slow on my Daily Show clips. As usual, Jon Stewart nails this controversy right between the eyes. (For some reason the embed isn’t working:)

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-july-22-2009/the-born-identity

— As a sportswriting junkie, I love discovering the great ones before they’re really famous. Of course, I don’t actually do anything to help their career, I just tell everyone I know and meet how awesome they are, and why they must read them.

I first started reading Joe Posnanski in 1998, when he had just started writing a column for the Kansas City Star. I was working for the newspaper in Wilmington, N.C. back then, the Star-News, and I remember scanning the wires one night and coming across this fantastic Posnanski column on how the Chiefs lost a playoff game in the final minute.

I had never heard of him, but my friend Carter Strickland said I had to read this column, so I did. I’ve rarely missed a Joe Poz column since. He’s quite possibly the greatest sportswriter working today, and I’ve become kind of an obsessive follower.

He writes with passion and heart, with the love of a fan and the grace of a writer who never takes himself too seriously, but always finds the humanity in everyone he writes about. He can be really funny, like in this blog post he wrote about his favorite day ever in sports (it involves wrestling cows and an unbeatable Russian), and he can be beautifully poetic, like in this recent column about an old Kansas City Royals scout named Art Stewart.

Anyway, I’m feeling great today because Posnanski just announced that he’s been hired by Sports Illustrated full-time. Perfect. The best sportswriter going to the Bible of sportswriting. It’s weird, but I almost feel like Poz is a rookie I watched years ago who’s now become an All-Star, or something like that.

One point intrigued me, and led me to this excellent Dan Shanoff column: Posnanski described writing for SI as his dream job; it’s certainly my dream job, and always has been. Shanoff wonders if, for the younger generation, SI is still seen as the holy grail.

*** Rafael Nadal says he’s healthy and ready to come back to the pro tennis tour, starting next week in Montreal. Not a moment too soon, Rafa. I desperately want he and Roger Federer to meet at the U.S. Open for the first time, and at least now Rafa will have a few weeks of tune-up matches before the open.

The Nadal-Federer rivalry has been so good the last few years, it’s like we’ve been cheated these last few months.

islanders

***Finally, I hate the New York Islanders. Loathe them. Curse their very souls. (on my Most Hated Sports Teams list, the Islanders are right there with North Carolina basketball and Miami Dolphins football). As a die-hard Rangers fan the Islanders tortured me throughout my childhood (screw you Kenny Morrow for that crap goal in the 1984 playoffs Game 5, not that I’m still mad about it or anything).

But over the last decade or so, it hasn’t even been fun to hate the Islanders. They’ve been so pathetic and inept, rooting against them is like kicking a lifeless animal on the side of the road. But now they’re in serious financial trouble, and for the last couple of years it’s seemed likely they might be forced to move off Long Island. They just fired their radio announcers to save money, for God’s sake.

I would hate this because the Rangers would lose their biggest rival and because the people of Long Island have shown they will support the team if it was good. Anyway, I’m rooting for the Islanders off the ice now, as owner Charles Wang tries to get a new $4 billion real estate project built that would include a totally revamped arena (Nassau Coliseum is a total dump, believe me) among other buildings.

Seriously, this is probably the last shot current owner Wang is going to take: If the Nassau County government doesn’t approve the project by Oct. 3 (Wang’s deadline), the Islanders are as good as gone.

And as much as I hate them, I still want them around. So the Rangers can kick their tushes for the next 30 years or so.