Wednesday, February 22, 2017

NM State Aggies vs Bryant Bulldogs Baseball 2-19-17

Aggie baseball didn’t get off to a good start this season.  They lost their first two games.  I listened to the Friday night game and heard a bit of Nolan Fox flying solo, calling the first game of a double header on Saturday.  I had some opportunity to go to the second baseball game after going to the women’s basketball game in the afternoon, but after I got dropped off back home, I had no desire to go back out.  Sorry, Aggie athletics. 

I feel like that was a good decision.  It got cold and windy and the whole double header went from 2:00 in the afternoon to 10:00 at night.  I’m not an iron man like broadcaster, Adam Young, who went from calling the basketball game to calling that second baseball game.  Also, I got to hear the Aggie men’s basketball game where they gave up over 100 points, but still won. 

I did get to hear what may be the weird play of the season for baseball.  A Bryant Bulldog player hit what would have been a game-tying three-run homer, except he passed the first base runner, as both were watching the ball go out.  Here’s the reason you listen to the radio broadcast, even when you’re at the ballgame, because nobody in the stands likely figured out what happened.  The batter was ruled out (3 unassisted) and credited with a single and two RBI’s.  That lost run was the difference in the 9th as Ruger Rodriguez came in with the bases loaded and one out and the Aggies up by a run.  He shut the door.  The Aggies won 4-3.  Ouch.  What do you say to the team as a coach in that situation?         

The weather forecast was never promising for Sunday, but the sun was playing peek-a-boo enough to make you think that it might be a nice day anyway.  It was in the 50’s with a breeze.  Not wanting to miss all of the Opening Weekend, I layered up and took a windbreaker in case the predicted rain showed up.  There were a couple of buses in front of the softball stadium.  I wish somebody at the university would have published the full schedule for the softball tournament and not just the Aggies’ games.  I guess I could have went to the guest teams’ websites and reconstructed it, but with baseball and basketball, I wasn’t going to be seeing the other games anyway.  Still, I was interested in the other games since getting one ticket for the day could get you into several games. 

The baseball parking lot had a few RV’s parked there.  This was one goal of the coach, Brian Green.  He wants tailgaters at home games.  You know what Sundays at the park means: $1 hot dogs.  From what I saw during the game, they sold plenty.  With that discount, I went ahead and tried something new with it: corn in a cup.  It’s corn in a cup, obviously, but with melted cheese on top.  It’s good too.   

I was hoping to talk to Adam Young at some point and ran right into him after getting my lunch.  He still remembers me.  (I’m guessing sports broadcasters have to be pretty good with names and faces.)  I wanted to tell him that I’d enjoyed his commenting on the volleyball and basketball this season.  I was especially impressed with his volleyball call, and he confirmed that is a very hard sport to broadcast.  I also found out that Kaylee Neal was doing an internship with the basketball team, somewhat clearing up that mystery.  I actually got to tell him something about the basketball, relating the story of Brooke and the brave trumpet player, which he’d missed while being focused on production.  I probably could have chatted for a while about various sports, but one of us needed to get up to the radio booth.

You could tell it was Opening Weekend since the bunting was out and a big crowd came for the game.  There were families and individuals like myself.  Some smart people brought blankets with them.  There were plenty of young attractive women, as usual.  I didn’t see lovely Megan Hart from the volleyball team, who’s not hard to spot at 6’5”, but I think I saw a couple other members of the team.  (I was too shy to talk to them.)  The softball team wasn’t there on their day off, but maybe they were watching their next opponent at the softball field.  (Which I now realize may mean I passed up an opportunity to sit with them there.  Damn.)  The trees behind the outfield wall seemed a bit more filled in, but I could still see the orange of the Tennessee softball team at the softball stadium facing the ballpark.  It’s too bad Ron wasn’t able to come.  I don’t think his nemesis, the loud old man, was there.  I didn’t see Ron’s “niece” either.  He would have missed her.     

There’s a new Diamond Club section along the left field line.  They took down the pavilions that were out there, which I’m thinking they regretted in the third inning.  We’ll get to that.  Also new is the female PA for the ballpark.  She did a good, well-spoken, enthusiastic job for the game.  I don’t know if she meant to, but her Aggie player at-bat introductions sounded more flirtatious than excited.  The guys probably liked it.  For the anthem, the Aggie players stood along the third base line.  After the music finished, they waited three beats and then all left as one unit.  It looked good.  They formed a circle and let out a cheer before the game started.  Play ball!



Marcel Renteria took the mound for the Aggies.  He has his own cheering section in the stands, likely consisting of his parents.  I figured Bryant would come in angry after last night’s loss.  Their second batter of the game blasted a home run.  The wind was blowing out for most of the game.  Balls in the air had a tendency to float and carry in the outfield all day.  In the second, they doubled in another run.  2-0 Bryant. 

Then the bottom of the second happened.  This was one of those times I was happy to see my scorecard destroyed and confused as the Aggies sent 12 men to the plate.  They scored 8 runs on, get this, on two hits.  In order for this to happen the Bulldogs had to give up five walks, one hit by pitch, an error, a passed ball, and a wild pitch.  Bryant pretty much pounded the self-destruct button, but credit Dan Hetzel for the big blow, a three-run home run.  He’d be pleased to know the girls behind me liked him even before the home run.  (They made some comment about “Hetzel’s Pretzels.”  I don’t know what they were referring to.  I’m just going to leave it at that.)  8-2 Aggies. 

What’s amazing is that the only other hit, which started the scoring, was an easy Brent Sakurai fly ball that the left fielder completely lost in the sky.  That was the biggest mistake of the inning and it wasn’t even an error.  I can’t be too critical though.  I lost just about every ball that fouled back.  It was a difficult sky, alternating between heavy clouds and sunlight constantly.           

Of course, all this took quite a while to play out.  The Bulldogs went through three pitchers in the inning, along with many catcher and coach visits to the mound.  The fans were into the game, but given the weather conditions, they weren’t happy with all the delays.  The Bryant fans got on the ump for the strike zone.  The Aggie fans wanted the ump to pick up the pace of play. 

An ominous rain cloud rolled overhead to start the third.  Men’s basketball coach, Paul Weir, and his family made an appearance.  His little toddler son motored around all over the place.  I thought I recognized him, but wasn’t sure until Adam and Nolan mentioned it.  I was looking for an opportunity to say, “Hi coach, nice win last night,” but they left after a half inning.  As the temperature dropped and the skies became more threatening, I don’t blame him.  A little PA recognition wouldn’t have been a bad idea when he came in, especially with team coming off a win. 

In the bottom of the inning, the Aggies tacked on another run.  9-2 Aggies.  The Bulldogs made another pitching change.  “How many pitchers do you guys have?” I heard from the crowd.  I didn’t record things right on the scorecard with their pitchers at the time.  I gave up trying to reconstruct it.  The cold was making my nose drip, but I refused to use my new Aggie hoodie to wipe with.  Suddenly, there’s sprinkles and my scorecard was getting wet.  I quickly put on my windbreaker to protect the hoodie. 

Gasp!  OMG!  OMG!  Can it be?  Ashley Ford, women’s basketball assistant coach/goddess, is in the house.  This is it!  This is my moment.  My chance has come!  She walked up the stairs and went directly into the pressbox.  I didn’t see her for the rest of the game. 

Well.

That was disappointing.

Sigh.  Back to baseball.

A nice double play finished off the top of the inning.  The rain went back to sprinkles, as the cloud had moved on.  I started hearing loud music and announcements.  The game at the softball field had started.  I could see Tennessee players, but never saw their opponents.  Were they wearing camouflage?  I could even hear the girls cheering at times during their game. 

The Aggies batted around again in the bottom of the fourth.  They were aided by two hit batters, three walks, a wild pitch, and an error.  Two hits drove in five runs, including a two-run shot by Mason Fishback.  The Bulldogs had to burn another pitcher.  14-2 Aggies.   

“Stacy’s mom has got it going on!”  This came on at my game during the break.  I hope that song becomes a ballpark staple.  Okay, by this point the game had been pretty much decided, but that didn’t mean the scoring stopped.  The Bulldogs tacked on a run in the fifth.  In the sixth, I knew the Aggie trivia question, but not being anywhere near the press box, I had no chance at getting the prize.  The Aggies put up two more runs with passed balls, a wild pitch, and a walk again aiding them.  Bieber’s “Sorry” played over at the softball field to end our inning.  16-3 Aggies.

Oooh, I saw a gentleman wearing a retro Brewers hat.  It looked completely sweet.  By the seventh, a parade of one-inning relievers appeared for both sides for the rest of the game.  The most effective of the Aggie relievers was Chris Butcher with a no drama 9th inning, though there was a great catch by a fan in the Diamond Club.  The others gave up four runs, including a three-run homer.  More walks and an error gave the Aggies two runs in the seventh.  In the eighth, the Aggies finally got an honest inning of scoring with three hits, including a Brent Sakuri two-run homer.  Our final was Aggies 20, Bulldogs 7.  That would have been a good game for the Aggie football team on the road.

Several of the Bryant Bulldogs had a good game hitting, but the pitching and defense were so bad today, it didn’t matter.  My defensive player of the game for the Aggies was Marcel Renteria.  He went six innings, giving up three runs in the win.  Given the wind blowing out, it was a good outing.  Marcel certainly showed what he was made of in the third.  After two easy outs, an error and passed ball put two runners on.  He got a strikeout to end the inning without allowing a run.  There’s several choices for offensive player, but I’m picking Brent Sakurai.  He scored four times, drove in three runs, and hit a home run.  We’re waiting to see what his mom sends from Hawaii to give the team good luck this year.
          

The game ran in a nice tidy three hours, 40 minutes.  This was one brutal four game series, likely running over 15 hours total.  You know it was bad when the broadcasters were lamenting this game wasn’t subject to a run rule or a curfew.  I couldn’t hold it any longer and ran to the bathroom in the eighth.  On the way back, I noticed the baseball posters got rained on.  Then they got picked up before the end of the game, so I should have gotten them when I came in.  I thought I’d read that there was an autograph session after this game, but that didn’t happen to my knowledge.  I was tired and had a bit of exposure by the end, but God help me, I was still was happy to be back at the ballpark.               


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

NM State Aggies vs UTRGV Vaqueros Women’s Basketball 2-18-17

With three Aggie sporting events going on today, I picked this one.  Free tickets from work helped to make that decision, but I really did want to see these girls live one more time this season.  This was their last home game and Senior Day and my last opportunity to wear my “Back to Back WAC Champions” t-shirt.  Ron was happy to see the girls again, and I got an extra ticket for him.  After a delicious meal at Aggie sponsor, What-a-Burger, we were at the Pan-Am Center early for the game.  The arena filled in well at probably around 1,200.  It was a Pack the Pan-Am event, but way short of last years’ 5,000+.  I’m not entirely sure they were even offering discounted tickets.  In any case, given that the university had already hit up local businesses last month for a similar event, this was likely the best that could be expected.

As we came in, I looked over at the band section.  The brave trumpet player from the last game was now playing away from the group, up in the rafters, as per the restraining order.  He’s still my hero.  In fact, inspired, I brought in my own signs for Aggie assistant coaches, Ashley Ford and Blanche Alverson, diagramming my intentions with words and pictures.  (These were immediately confiscated at the door.)  I saw these two and Kaylee Neal in conference before the game at the benches.  They all looked very glamorous and elegant.  I’m still dying to know what volleyball player Kaylee was doing working for the basketball team.         

The court was empty when we got there, but soon there was a profound howling noise coming from the tunnel to the locker rooms.  The lights went out, and a camera view on the video board showed the team coming in doing a war dance, reminding me a bit of New Zealand’s All-Blacks rugby team pre-game ritual.  Below us, I could see Adam Young getting ready to do the TV broadcast.  He was doing the baseball season opening game yesterday, and he’d be doing the second half of a double header tonight.  On Sunday, there’s another baseball game and then a softball game on Monday.  If Adam likes calling a bunch of different sports all at once, he must be enjoying himself this weekend. 

In a bit of a surprise for me, the seniors on the team were honored before the game.  (The ceremonies I’ve seen in other sports were done after the game.)  Brandee Walton, Tamera William, Tyler Ellis, Brianna Freeman, and Moriah “Mo” Mack were all brought out with a video and friends and family, and presented with a mounted jersey.  The anthem started right afterward.  The players on both teams stood at attention on court, interlocking arms with their teammates.  I noticed two little boys standing by the band with their arms around each other, looking up at the flag in a Norman Rockwell-like moment. 

The Aggies introduced their starters.  Brooke Salas waved to Pistol Pete as she came out.  By this point, Ron was complaining about standing up and down for all this.  I reminded him, he should also remain standing until the opposing team scores, which would turn out to be about three minutes into the quarter.  This game was again supposedly on ESPN3, which I’m still skeptical of.  Like last time, there were again problems.  This time, the shot clocks weren’t working.  They’d come back on here and there during the quarter, before they finally gave up on them.  Later, I noticed another shot clock on the floor near the band, which is what the teams had to use for this game.  The girls on the benches would start shouting out a 10 second countdown when it came up.  This was an embarrassing problem for a national broadcast.


Things were a bit confusing to start off the first quarter with the faulty shot clocks.  The referees weren’t helping, as they were calling plenty of tacky fouls.  Both teams pressed up court and played up tempo when they could.  The Vaqueros managed to spread the scoring around.  The Aggies came out mostly cold.  Tamara had two travelling calls against her, and her and Brooke would finish the quarter with zero total points.  Mo, on the other hand, was on a mission for her last home game.  She scored 10 points in 10 minutes.  Brandee Walton was brought into the quarter late.  I was glad to see her playing.  It was 18-18 after one quarter.

There were a couple of disturbing announcements.  One, a ticket-holder number was announced for a $10,000 half court shot.  I did not check my ticket.  It wasn’t going to be worth the embarrassment.  Two, the volleyball team was cryptically announced to be playing at the softball field this afternoon.  I may have made the wrong choice here.  I would have liked to have seen that.  (The Aggie PA voice is great.  These things happen to the best of them.)  And with this, we began quarter number two.  

Mo was still putting on a show.  She made a great, leaping steal on an inbound to start the quarter.  She did pick up two quick fouls four minutes in that tempered her play afterward.  For all the fouls in the game, neither team shot particularly well at the free throw line.  Brooke and Tamara were there to pick the team up with a pair of three’s.  Tamara’s three was likely after the shot clock buzzer, but it was never reviewed or questioned.  There was another travelling call, this one on Tyler.  I don’t know if the Aggies were playing sloppy or if it was the officiating.  Brooke turned it up late with a coast-to-coast layup.  Gia Pack came in and got a steal.  Her shot down court missed, but Brooke picked up the rebound and the score.  Gia finished off the half with a three at the buzzer.  39-30 Aggies at the half.

The half time show featured a little girl dance troop.  I missed it, going to the bathroom.  I could hear the crowd cheering for them, so I assume they did a good job.  The $10k half court challenge was a bad, granny shot miss.  Ron suggested that he should have done an overhand throw at it, but I doubt that would have made any difference.  There wasn’t even a consolation prize.  I’m glad that wasn’t me out there.  I could see Pete across the court, playing with Brianna’s large graduation doll, while hanging out in the boosters’ section.

I should mention that Vaquero bench was their own cheering section.  They kept it up for most of the game and were good and loud.  I compliment them on their spirit.  They have a pretty international cast with girls from Turkey, Iceland, and Australia.  One of the girls from Turkey (there were two) had an actual last name of “Turk.”  The girl from Iceland had a ten-syllable last name that the PA was clearly straining on.   The opposing coach wore in a black suit with a black turtleneck and white-soled tennis shoes.  He looked like he should be reading poetry in a beatnik bar.  UTRGV has an interesting team.      

The third quarter started off with an early three by Brooke.  Unfortunately, she picked up her third foul right after and came out for the quarter.  The Aggies didn’t miss a beat.  The team got three threes before the Vaqueros even scored, driving up the score to 48-30.  There was an injury on the Vaquero timeout after that run.  I missed it, but one of the cheerleaders fell out on the court.  She stayed out and kept performing, but looked pretty unsteady for the rest of the game.  What a trooper. 

Later in the quarter, Tamara got my play of the game.  She drove the lane, made a beautiful between the legs dribble, pulled up and hit a jumper.  There was a foul on the shot away from the ball.  The Aggies got the ball back and fed it right back to her, where Tamara drained a three.  Five points on one trip down court.  During a break, Pistol Pete played air guitar in front of us.  With two minutes left, the Aggies had a less successful trip where they made five shots, got four rebounds, and ended up with zero points for the effort.  Tamara made a turnover on a bad pass.  Later, Gia was given a foul on defense which had the crowd up in arms over the questionable call.  But at the end of the quarter, it was 66-48 with the Aggies hitting seven three-pointers.           

Brooke came back in to start the fourth.  Brandee also came in and frankly had a bad appearance.  The coach called her over for a talk after a foul.  She was almost certainly trying too hard.  Moriah’s day wasn’t done.  She made a great assist to Brianna under the basket.  The girl from Iceland fouled out to the great relief of the PA.  Tamara, always hustling on defense, got a steal, but missed a contested layup.  The ball immediately went back to the Vaquero end, and there was Tamera, almost getting another steal under their basket. 

A lady behind us was really into the game.  There was no radio call for this game, but it was almost like having it anyway with her commentary.  Zaire Williams, who’d been going nuts with five three-pointers in the game, also had a great pass down court to Brianna, again under the basket.  Brianna Freeman went out with a bang in her final home game, with 12 points in the fourth quarter.   

With the game well in hand in the last two minutes, Coach Trakh put all five seniors out on court together.  On the next stoppage, they all came off together to a standing ovation.  I got choked up at the time.  I’m even choked up now just writing about it.  The final was Aggies 87, Vaqueros 67.  The Aggies are 11-0 in conference play with three games left to play.  With five players in double digits, my player of the game is whole team.  Nicely done.

Me and Ron hung around for a while after the game.  The senior girls got their picture taken on court with Pete.  Four of them were all smiles, getting flowers and having pictures taken with fans and family.  Brandee, God bless her, was crying her eyes out.  I felt so bad for her.  She really seems like a tremendous person.  After Brandee graduates, the university really needs to hire her to do community relations and PR.  She’ll double ticket sales, just on her sweet personality alone.  On that note, I’m going to miss Tamara’s hard work on court and her adorable, ever-present smile.  And for next season, I hope Brooke can pick up where Moriah has left off in her steady leadership.  These girls have really made it easy to root for the team this season.  I’ve really enjoyed coming out to see them. 

Some kids were out taking shots out on court.  Ron’s little Aggie “niece” was out there.  She can dribble well and dropped in a three.  Hey, coach!  Lock her up now with a commitment.  Meanwhile, the actual players didn’t want to leave the court.  Eventually, Coach Trakh had to repeatedly call them to get them to come off.  He left with Brooke next to him as they went up the stairs out of the arena.  Members of the band where also leaving across the section from them.  I think I saw the coach say something to them.  I couldn’t hear it, but I’ll guess, “Stay away from my blonde!”

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

NM State Aggies vs GCU Lopes Women’s Basketball 2-12-17

The weather today still wasn’t as bad as forecast, at least until later in the day.  (It’s actually raining as I write this in the evening.)  I could have conceivably tried going to the softball game before going to the basketball game, but since I was going with Ron, I had to choose.  Just as well, during the radio broadcast, it was mentioned that the softball team lost 11-3.  I’m wondering who the third starter is for the team.  Anyway, after a great meal at Schlotzsky's (I even thanked the chef), we were at the Pan-Center. 

We sat opposite of the benches at mid-court.  I was a bit closer than previous games.  At first, it looked kind of sparse inside, but that was only because of the basketball game I saw last night between the men’s teams from these schools.  Grand Canyon doesn’t have a big arena, but they totally packed it and handed out white shirts to everyone.  For the Aggie guys, it was a close first half.  They built up a 10-point lead in the second, and then completely collapsed, giving up 19 straight points in a bad loss. 

In any case, it was a really good crowd for the women, announced at 1,741.  Many of the fans were little girls in cheerleader outfits.  They’d figure into the halftime show.  The Aggie players were in pink sweatshirts with pink headbands for the game for a low-key cancer awareness event, except for Brooke Salas.  She wasn’t wearing the headband.  Don’t know what that’s about.  It wouldn’t have looked good on her anyway.  The Sundancers were also in pink.  I pointed out Blanche Alverson and Ashley Ford, my Aggie assistant coach crushes, to Ron, as well as pointing out some of the other players.  Volleyball player, Kaylee Neal, was again on the Aggie bench, this time in a very nice skirt and blouse.  I’m still wondering why she’s there.            

Ron was worried right out of the gate.  He noted that the Aggie girls weren’t hitting anything in shoot-around, while the Grand Canyon girls were.  I had seen the Aggies play these girls via a Youtube broadcast, and they handled them pretty well on their home court.  The Lopes huddled up in an enthusiastic circle when their practice was over.  I could see Adam Young and Nolan Fox across the court with radio call standing for the anthem before the game.  Hey Adam!  Where were you yesterday when I needed your play-by-play for the softball?  I couldn’t score anything right.  We lost the radio call right before this game started.  I could see Adam furiously working with some cables before the broadcast came back.  Karma.  Actually Adam had some interesting comments during the game about the NCAA switching women’s basketball to four quarters, instead two halves.  Given today’s attendance, he also suggested that NMSU should schedule more Sunday games.       


In the first quarter, the Lopes did indeed come out shooting well, and the Aggies were flat.  The Aggie defense picked up eventually and the Lopes’ shooting cooled off a bit.  There were two great steals on inbounds passes by Brooke and Moriah (“Mo”) Mack that turned into points.  However, it was 18-21 GCU after 10 minutes.

Between quarters, Pistol Pete was working the crowd of little cheerleaders behind the north goal.  For the second quarter, the Aggie girls still weren’t shooting well and also started getting sloppy.  They were down as many as 10 in the quarter.  Coach Mark Trakh was groaning on the bench with his head in his hands after a couple of turnovers in a row.  The Aggie defense was still there though.  After stifling the Lopes on a long possession, the Brooke got a fast break down the court and dished a great pass to Brianna Freeman under the basket for a bucket.  By halftime, it was still an unpromising 28-37 Lopes. 

The GCU was shooting 45% for half and out-rebounding the Aggies.  Specifically, Marina Laramie was killing the Aggies with 16 points.  I remembered her from watching the Aggies playing the Lopes last month.  It’s easy to pick out a large 6’2” redhead on the court.  Coach Trakh had countered with his own 6’2” player, Tyler Ellis, off the bench against her.  Jessica Gajewski was also lighting it up for the Lopes with 10 points.  Brie Mobley had 11 with four coming from free throws.  Mo had 10 to lead the Aggies, with Tyler and Brianna chipping in six each.  The rest of the Aggies were pretty quiet in scoring.  Brooke in particular didn’t have her shooting touch. 

For halftime, the little girl cheerleaders came out and filled up the entire court.  They were the Razzle Dazzles.  A couple of the Sundancers were working with them from the sidelines.  After the performance, they mostly left, leaving a sizable hole in the crowd.  Meanwhile, I noticed and pointed out the little girl that Ron gets a kick out of seeing at various events playing ball on the sidelines.  She’s everywhere for the Aggies.

With the start of the third quarter, things started getting physical with the girls.  Adam and Nolan agreed that the refs were “letting them play.”  The light refereeing was not to the coach’s tastes however, as Coach Trakh and Blanche were both up in arms and screaming after one particular no-call.  The Aggies came out for this quarter in a high-pressure defense.  They were in a full-court press and trapping on every possession. 

If the set offense shooting wasn’t there for the Aggies, their defense was creating opportunities.  Mo was a steal machine and converting it points in this quarter.  Memorably on one particular play, Brooke got a block and tossed it down court.  The pass was intercepted, but Moriah picked the player’s pocket immediately and threw it to Tamara William for an open three.  The big D strategy worked.  Finally, the Aggies got the lead, 49-47 to end the quarter.             

If the third quarter was physical, the fourth was downright rough.  A person at work, who’s a big basketball fan, mentioned that he hated officiating girls’ games.  He said there’d be scratching and hair-pulling on court.  This was not that bad, but as I said to Ron at one point, “This is like a men’s game.”  The refs finally started calling physical fouls, but by now, the crowd wasn’t having any of this change of heart.  Brooke was called for a charge early on that got the fans all over the officials. 

Tyler Ellis completely sold out in this quarter and left everything out on the court.  There in the paint, she finished off a point after the team had gotten two rebounds on a possession and then on consecutive plays, she hit the deck, fighting for the ball at both ends of the court.  As the Aggies started to pull away, the Lopes went to their own pressure defense, but it was too late.  All they could do was do was put Brooke and Tamara, two of the best free throw shooters in the conference, on the line.  Our hard won final score was Aggies 67, Lopes 60.  The game was not without injury.  Zelor Massaaquoi went down late with a knee injury.  She got a nice round of applause when she came off, and when she attempted to come back out on court.  Thankfully, the coaches didn’t put her back in the game limping.                

Marina Laramie was the runaway high-scorer for the game with 26 for the Lopes.  The Aggies never really stopped her, even double-teaming her for most of the second half, but did slow her down.  Moreover, they did shutdown everyone else.  Okay, I miscounted somewhere on the Lopes’ scoring.  I thought I was doing such a good job today too.  Damn it.  Scoring all the bench points, Tyler Ellis, is our Aggie player of the game.  Not only did she anchor the Aggie defense in the middle, Tyler’s emotions on court after making plays fired up the crowd and the team.  Let’s hear it for shooting free throws too.  Brooke and Tamara essentially iced the game with 10 points from the charity stripe in the 4th.      


Okay, forget all this.  The play of the game occurred in the stands late in the fourth, with game more or less in hand.  There in the band section, several members were holding up signs which collectively read, “Brooke stole my (heart symbol)” and an arrow pointing at a trumpet player at the end of the line.  After the game and with a good deal of jazzing from her teammates, Brooke received a bouquet from her erstwhile suitor.  She even got her picture taken with him by the official Aggie game photographer.  Frankly, I’m doubting this young man was actually her boyfriend (nor is he likely going to be), but for that well-coordinated, nuts-up play, he has my and the crowd’s admiration.      

       

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

NM State Aggies vs UTSA Roadrunners Softball 2-11-17 Game Two





For night-cap, the wind picked up, making note-taking more an exercise in keeping a hold of my papers than writing.  My gift popcorn got spilled down the aisle.  The temperature also started dropping, and I regretted not getting my pullover from my truck during the intermission.  The crowd thinned out considerably.  The two cute female security guards didn’t have much to guard while roaming around the park.  Last years’ catcher, Tatum Reedy was at the scorer’s table along with another girl, who seemed familiar.  These softball girls really look different out of uniform, so I don’t know if it was somebody else from last years’ team.   

There was a little girl doing play-by-play behind me for awhile, but that didn’t help my scorekeeping.  The little boy in front of me finally settled down to eat his nachos, which had been out in the sun for over two hours by this point.  I lost my appetite for the rest of the night.  He taunted the opposition and encouraged the home team with a voice that vaguely reminded me of Urkle from Family Matters.  He was also wearing a hat that was the same style as my own, except in desert camo colors.  So much for having a custom hat.

The Aggie Game Two starter was Samaria Diaz, a new freshman player.  I had seen her in a couple of exhibition games in the fall and was impressed with her.  She seems to have a fairly easy, relaxed attitude out in the circle.  Samaria has a nice smile, which strangely seems to come out on ball calls by the ump.  Right now, she seems to be working on an off-speed pitch, that’s not quite there yet.  She needs to be able to throw it for strikes more consistently.  Anyway, Samaria’s pleasant to watch work.

Also for Game Two, freshmen, Caity Szczesny (there’s a spellcheck word for you, I’m looking right at it and it took me four tries to type it correctly) and Jeanelle Medina, were in the starting lineup.  This paid off dividends immediately in the first inning.  Caity tripled in two runs and Jeanelle knocked her in right after.  The Aggies led 3-0 after one frame.  The PA suddenly gave the usual end of inning stats that you usually get at a ball game that help you with the scoring.  Unfortunately, this is the only time this happened over the course of the double header.  Thankfully, the scoring in this game would be more straightforward than Game One. 

In the 3rd, Lindsey Stewart knocked in Angelica Nino for the Roadrunners.  Caity made a great dive at the ball from second, but it just got through.  3-1 Aggies.  The defense picked up in the 4th with Brandy Hernandez making a great catch, high and deep in left field, and Jeanelle following that with a great catch on a liner at third.  In the top of the 5th, the Roadrunners had a serious threat going with two runners who got on via tough balls that the fielders just missed making spectacular plays on.  Samaria, un-rattled, quietly closed out the inning.

In the bottom of the frame, Brandy got a nice round of applause as she came up, being a local girl.  Misty Hoohuli, next, reached on an error.  Kelsey Horton drove her in with a powerful double to right field.  The fielder just missed it.  I wonder if the wind was playing with those balls to the outfield.  4-1 Aggies.  During the game, I’m noticing Kayla Green in the Aggie dugout.  She seems to always be standing when inside and having fun with the other girls outside the dugout between innings.  She seems like a bundle of energy.       

By the 6th, much of the remaining crowd was deserting.  The PA told the crowd to get up and dance.  On his way out, the nacho kid started dancing for Tatum at the scorer’s table.  Presumably, he was on his way to the hospital to have his stomach pumped.  Freshman Destiny Blueford pinch hit for Freshman catcher Shelby Shultes in the 6th.  I mention this mostly because she got on in a painful fashion, as her grounder to short bounced up and hit the girl in the face.  No harm done, I think.  In the 7th things got interesting as, with two outs, two runners got on with a pair of dinks that just went  past the infield.  Again un-rattled, Samaria struck out the final batter looking to end the game.  Aggies win 4-1.

First, let’s give it up to Lindsey Stewart for going 4 for 4 with an RBI in a losing cause for the Roadrunners.  On the Aggie side, Kelsey again showed some muscle going 2 for 3 with an RBI on a deep double.  The two freshmen infielders had a great game with Caity going 2 for 3 and 2 RBI’s, and Jeanelle also driving in a run.  Are they going to impress enough to start at their positions this season is the question.  Samaria went the distance and never looked labored out there.  Her delivery is apparently as easy on her as her demeanor appears to be.  There were runners on in six out of the seven innings, but she scattered her 7 hits and 2 walks, only allowing 1 run.  Looking good so far.  And whatever the scoring was for errors for the Roadrunners, the Aggies didn’t have any for two games, so good team effort there.

I was glad for a fairly quick end to the game, because the temperature had dropped with nightfall.  If the wind had kept blowing, I would have been freezing.  I had no trouble getting out the university and getting home.  However, the enormous crowd that was coming for the WWE show was backed up severely trying to get in.  If I had any thoughts of getting a ticket to see if Sasha Banks was here, they were completely dashed.  But, I was more than content with the softball entertainment I’d gotten for Opening Day.   



Monday, February 13, 2017

NM State Aggies vs UTSA Roadrunners Softball 2-11-17



Ah, Opening Day.  I had this day marked on my calendar.  I had also been nervously monitoring a progressively deteriorating weather forecast during the week for the weekend.  Thankfully, somebody up there wanted to watch the games too and a bright, sunny day instead materialized.  It was so warm out, I even decided to forgo wearing a jacket.  I was still halfway convinced the weather would turn immediately after I purchased a ticket though. 

As I drove past the Pan-Am Center, I saw a couple of trailers for the WWE show that night.  That show had bumped the women’s basketball game to Sunday, thus also eliminating the conflict with the softball.  I don’t generally watch pre-scripted athletic entertainment, except for the NFL, but I admit to a huge crush on female wrestler, Sasha Banks.  Since there was little chance I was going to the show, I didn’t really see if she was going to be there or not.  (Okay, since I brought it up, no, I don’t think the Superbowl and the Patriots’ dramatic comeback was staged . . . entirely.  The NFL wanted the game to be more competitive after halftime, but they certainly didn’t want them to win.  The commissioner must have been puking on himself before handing that MVP award to Brady.) 

I drove into the softball parking lot with Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” playing over the PA.  I’ve heard it so often at these events, it’s like the unofficial Aggie theme song.  There was an RV flying a UTSA flag there, and I saw some other Roadrunner fans outside.  Inside, I picked up a poster with the friendly, smiling faces of Haley Nakamura and Misty Hoohuli, two island girls from Hawaii and the team’s only seniors.  Designated bomber, Kelsey Horton, was on the schedule card.  I think I met her handing out programs at a football game.  It was hot enough that I swallowed my pride and bought a $3 water bottle at the concession stand, which hasn’t changed, but has changed its orientation for some reason.           

The PA gave an extremely quick read through both teams’ rosters.  The starters were introduced and lined up along the foul lines.  From where I was sitting, the Roadrunners were right in front of me with their backs turned.  During the anthem, they all had their thumbs up and pinky fingers out behind their backs.  Everybody seems to have a different ritual.  I can’t help myself and have to mention this.  Taylor Oberg on that team was really got my attention and every time she came up to the plate as well.

The honor of the Opening Day start went to Kayla Green, one my favorite Aggies.  I just love watching her pitch.  Kayla seemed to be working from a new pitching motion.  I seem to remember her using two different windups last season.  This one seems a bit more simplified.  Sometimes, she seemed to get out of whack with a more complicated wind up and this may be trying to correct that.  Kayla’s got a lot of power in that slim frame of hers, but it’s a matter of getting it under control.  I never noticed her using that jaw-dropping offspeed from last year today either.  It seemed more like a slow slider this time.  We’ll see if that offspeed makes a comeback in later in the season.  Local girl, Alexis Maynez completed the battery behind the plate.  I like her positive chatter back there.

     
Okay, I had some problems figuring out how to score plays in this game.  The short newspaper account of the game and I agreed on the number of Aggie hits, but there seems to be some issues over how some of the other batters got on, whether as a fielder’s choice and an error advancing the runners, or just an error all the way.  I’d defer to the paper, but I’m pretty sure they got Kelsey’s line wrong for Game One, so I’m questioning their scoring.  Where’s Adam Young’s radio call when I need him?

Things started in an unpromising fashion.  In the top of the 1st, a triple and a double promptly scored a run for the Roadrunners.  0-1 Roadrunners.  In the bottom of the frame, a double play pop up, essentially ended a bases loaded threat by the Aggies.    In the 2nd, the Aggies again had the bases loaded, but a pair of weak grounders led to a couple of easy plays at the plate to end that. 

In the 3rd, I spotted Miranda Cosgrove in the crowd.  Yes, ICarly herself was there watching the game.  I could have been wrong and maybe it was just a girl who may have been copying her look, but I really should have tried to get her autograph anyway.  Also in the crowd, I more definitely spot Megan Hart and Tatyana Battle from the Aggie Volleyball team.  There were even other good-looking girls in the stands.  These girls usually just come out for the baseball.  I saw a girl in a UTEP softball shirt.  I wonder if she was a scout.  Some members of the baseball team also came by.  I’ve seen the softball team at the baseball park, but this is the first time I’ve seen the guys at the softball field.  I’m sure the girls would be pleased to know they came.    

In the bottom of the 3rd, the Aggies once again loaded the bases, but came away with nothing.  Pinch hitting in the inning was my new favorite player name: Caity Szczesny.  That’s Kate-e Sez-nee, just like its spelled.  In the top of the 4th, the senior citizen fans around me, not having much to complain about with the umpires, started heckling each other.  Kayla dropped in a good offspeed for a strikeout, and Victoria Castro in centerfield made a great catch to end the inning.  Meanwhile, a kid in front of me has left his nachos untouched and out in the sun for an hour.  It’s now a disgusting, cheesy mess.  I may never eat nachos again.  More fans enter the stands, but a bunch of pretty girls sitting next to me leave, so I consider it a net loss in attendance.    

The UTSA fans behind me were still feeling pretty good by this point, but they shouldn’t have been.  After allowing a couple of hits, Kayla was steadily mowing down Roadrunner batters, and regardless of how it’s written on the scorecard, they weren’t helping themselves in the field, giving the Aggies extra runners and bases.  The bottom of the 4th was where their luck ran out.  Misty singled and stole second.  Rachel Rodriguez drove her in to tie the score at 1-1 and stole second.  The USTA fans got upset either about ump’s call on the steal and/or about the count to the batter.  Amy Bergeson got on (error/fielder’s choice?).  The Roadrunners wanted nothing to do with Kelsey Horton in this situation and intentionally walked her.  At this point, I have trouble reconstructing the inning.  Sorry.  No doubt the Roadrunners had trouble figuring out what happened as well, but when the dust settled the Aggies were up 7-1.  The standout plays were Haley Nakamura’s two RBI double, and Amy sliding into the catcher and knocking the ball loose to score.  Awesome.    

The 5th started with Kayla issuing a walk.  Coach Rodolph came out to make a change.  What happened next though completely surprised me.  Kayla and Fahren Glackin at first base changed places.  I’ve seen Fahren pitch, but Kayla going to first was a complete shock.  Kayla does field her position well in the circle, but it was still so strange to see.  If there’s an autograph session, I’m going to have to ask her about this and if she can hit.  (All pitchers think they can hit.)  Fahren had no trouble finishing off the inning, especially as Kelsey, who was also playing at an odd position for her at second instead of first, made a great catch on a liner to end it.  Kelsey wasn’t done.  In the bottom of the inning, an unnatural quiet fell over the crowd as she came to bat.  Everyone could almost sense what was about to happen.  And then the boom, a towering homer flew over the wall to left center.  We may be expecting big things from Kelsey for the rest of the season.    

The PA started playing the Macrena between innings.  The baseball and volleyball players made some attempt at it.  The 6th started with a bunt hit for the Roadrunners.  Fahren and Kayla exchanged places again.  I’m sure this was done just to deprive me of seeing Kayla taking an at bat.  This was a good call though.  Next batter, Fahren made a great grab on a high bouncer on the line and stepped on the bag for the out.  Kayla managed to fool the last batter of the inning on an offspeed that actually sent the batter spinning around on the swing. 

A nice lady gave me her popcorn before she left the game in the 6th.  No need to visit the concessions now.  Before the top of the inning ended, another lady in front of me asked if the mercy rule was in effect.  I shrugged.  Fahren took a walk to start the bottom of the frame and was replaced by freshman Jeanelle Medina on the bases.  (I think.  I tend to forget to mark all the substitutions down, because I don’t understand softball substitution rules.)  Jeanelle stole second and third and then scored on a wild pitch.  Now at 9-1 Aggies, the game suddenly ended.  “Now we know,” I said to the lady in front of me. 

Because of the ambiguities of the scorecard, I’m just going to go with what I’m sure of for players of the game.  Kelsey Horton’s home run was awesome.  She’s my offense player.  Kayla looked good pitching and is apparently more versatile than I thought out in the field.  She’s my defensive player.  I went to find some shade between games and helplessly attempted to figure out my scorecard.
        
Game Two Recap



Monday, January 30, 2017

NM State Aggies vs Utah Valley Wolverines Women’s Basketball 1-28-17

This was new.  I was standing in line waiting to get a ticket for the game.  There was even a queue to get into the arena.  The parking lot in front of the Pan-Am Center looked fairly full.  Inside, there was a bigger crowd than I had seen the last couple of times.  I’m not sure what official paid attendance was, but there might have been nearly 1,000 people there.  I’m chocking this up to the girls holding a kid’s basketball clinic before the game.  I told a couple people at work about it.  They were interested for their kids, but unable to go.  I admit I would have liked to have seen this clinic from the floor-level and been able to listen to the girls’ instruction.  I’m sure it was 100% adorable. 

The Aggie women are still undefeated in conference play after an OT game on Thursday.  Moriah Mack and Brooke Salas both had career games with 26 points (as per the newspaper coverage).  I missed that game coverage (and the men’s game).  The last game I saw was via the Internet at Grand Canyon University on their Youtube channel.  During a pre-game before a men’s game, Athletic Director Mario Moccia, mentioned being amazed that he could watch the girls play at Bakersfield over the Internet.  I guess this explains why NM State doesn’t offer the same service.  (They may offer it as a pay service.) 

Today’s game was, according to the schedule, being broadcast on ESPN3.  There was a long desk with a shelf on top on the sidelines, which looked new for the game.  The breaks in play certainly ran longer than usual.  I didn’t see anything that said “ESPN” there though, and everything on the monitors I could see said it was WAC network game.  Adam Young wasn’t doing a radio call today, but was across the court, doing TV.  A couple of my co-workers at the men’s game last week, saw me with my earplugs in and taking notes and said I looked, “intense.”  I was probably more so today without the radio helping my scoring and notes.  Another co-worker questioned why I was listening to a radio call of a game I was at.  A good radio call adds to the game experience, and I wasn’t there with a couple of kids like she was.            


(Photo from the Las Cruces Sun-News)

I settled in with my lightly salted pretzel with cheese and a drink and stinging a bit from it all being a bit overpriced.  I saw several of the Aggie girls were now wearing black leggings under their shorts.  The newspaper pictures had warned me.  I assume they help keep their legs warm, because they certainly weren’t a fashion statement.  On that note, assistant coaches Blanche Alverson and Ashley Ford looked cool and elegant.  (I admit they fascinate me.)  I noticed Tamara William on court had undone her braids and looked nice with just her hair tied back.  Jeneva Toilolo I think had some pretty new highlights in.  This is the kind of coverage I don’t do for the men’s team. 

Across the court, I noticed that today’s opponent, the Utah Valley Wolverines, had 14 players on the scorecard.  What a change from Chicago State bringing six players.  Their warm up was interesting as their assistant coaches took part.  There was a young man in jeans, two men in ties with their jackets off, and an attractive woman in heels with a jacket on, out on court passing the ball around to the girls.  It’s a hands-on staff. 

The Roadrunner Review band was sounded good and rev’ed up today.  They were the loudest cheering section for the game.  In addition to the cheerleaders and Pistol Pete, the Sundancers were even present.  As usual, there was little to no interaction between the two spirit squads.  The cheerleaders took the court several times during the game, but the Sundancers only performed by the south basket.  The dancers fell into a couple of good coordinated dancing routines, but mostly shook their pom-poms and looked good, while the cheerleaders did flips and made human pyramids.  (I’m just waiting for a fight to break out.)

                                           
The video board montage was back on for today’s game.  The kids from the clinic were on court for the intros.  The starters ran through a pair of lines of maybe 100 little kids altogether, giving them high-fives along the way.  And with that, we begin.  Last week, I was flipping stations during football and ran into a nationally broadcast college women’s basketball game between Mason and the University of Richmond, both of the A-10 conference.  I was amazed by the score and the time elapsed.  It took nearly five minutes before somebody finally scored.  It wasn’t even the defenses.  Both teams were taking terrible-looking shots.  I was flashing back to that game as this one started badly for both teams.   

They were playing very uptight on offense.  Unlike that other game, it may have been the defenses that were stifling the shooting.  The Wolverines were small, but very quick on defense in the half-court.  The Aggies were using their height advantage and a full-court press.  The Wolverines scored first on a three.  I think I counted five Aggie trips down court before they finally scored.  Moriah Mack (“Mo”) made a steal and a layup for the first Aggie points, four minutes in.  That first quarter score on my scorecard is correct.  It was 7-7 after 10 minutes. 

If ESPN3 was broadcasting this, they couldn’t have been happy.  The quarter also had lots of fits and starts with constant stoppages.  Neither team found a rhythm.  I, on the other hand, had a great quarter.  Pistol Pete came by and liked my custom hat.  Sweet validation!  During the stoppages, I also noticed a much shorter, attractive young woman on the Aggie sidelines with the assistants with very long, pretty hair.  She was dwarfed in the team huddles.  The girl looked familiar and indeed she was.  It was Kaylee Neal from the volleyball team.  A gentleman who spoke to her after the game confirmed it when I asked him.  Craving news of the volleyball team, I would talked to her myself, if I’d had the opportunity.  In any case, I wonder why Kaylee was there working with team.  She didn’t appear to be into being there, so maybe it was class assignment or work experience.

In the second quarter, Brooke made a second bad pass into traffic for a turnover and was then taken out after a bad foul.  She had a brief animated discussion on the sidelines with Coach Trakh.  I bring this up now to preface what will happen later.  After Brooke came out, Brianna Freeman took a beautiful pass under the basket for a bucket.  (Sorry, I didn’t get the player assisting.)  Tamara went coast-to-coast on the next possession, but the run ended quickly.  Utah Valley had picked up their defense and was actively trapping isolated players.  Their tenacious interior defense was stifling any easy passes inside near the basket.  Gia Pack came in off the bench, but didn’t have her shooting touch from the outside. 

Zaire Williams hit a three for a momentary spark late in the quarter, but Mariah Seals of the Wolverines answered it immediately with another three.  Late in the quarter, Mo made a highlight reel, behind-the-back pass to Gia, who hit an open three.  There was a sub-last-second shot by the Aggies that was waved off on review.  22-21 Aggies at the half. 

At halftime, the Aggie equestrian team was announced to have won today versus Texas A&M, the number one team in the nation.  The NMSU equestrian team is the school’s only nationally-ranked sports program.  In other news, they’re also officially being disbanded after this season.  Ah, well.  The halftime show featured a large number of little kids bouncing basketballs.  They are a team called the Pistoleros.  Very cute.  Our halftime stats had the Aggies shooting 35%.  Utah Valley, however, was only shooting 27%.  Both were 25% on threes and in double digits in turnovers.  The Wolverines had the advantage in rebounds, in spite of being generally smaller.      
               
For the third quarter, the Aggies came out motivated.  Tamara beautifully fed Brooke in the lane for points.  Mo made a two so quick, I missed it while scribbling notes.  Tamara got a steal and layup.  The team got three rebounds on one trip, though they came up empty on that possession.  Brianna took great pass down low for a bucket.  I wasn’t sure why, but Brooke got chewed out by the coach after that play. 

The crowd started getting a little unruly as the refs made some unpopular calls.  I had Statler and Waldorf directly behind me, giving a steady stream of commentary.  During a timeout, there was an air guitar contest, and I briefly jammed with Pistol Pete.  He was a one-man cheering section in this quarter, going everywhere, getting the crowd into it.
After two rebounds on a possession, Mo put it away from point blank.  Britta Hall on the Wolverines made the best shot of the game with three from the corner, but the Aggies started pulling away here.  Utah Valley’s Leya Harvey fouled out.  The crowd knew it before the announcement and started serenading her.  She was not happy.  The player was in for much of the game and had accumulated five fouls with zero points.  If this was hockey match, I could tell you why she was out there.  As the quarter ended, the Aggies absolutely shut down the Wolverines on offense, nearly causing a shot clock violation.  48-36 Aggies.

The band played a great version of “I want candy” with a trumpet solo during the break.  The Aggies came back out still focused on defense and forced couple more shot clock violations.  The offense wasn’t lacking either.  Brooke was on fire from outside the arc, hitting threes.  She also got a great assist to Tyler Ellis inside for a basket. 

During a timeout, hats were tossed into the crowd.  I noticed there were a couple of people at the desk who would hold up a finger to let the refs know when they were about to come out of break and when to allow play to resume.  Jeneva picked up her fourth foul and got a quick lecture from the coach.  No doubt he doesn’t want to be like that Wolverine player that fouled out.  Tamara was also in foul trouble and had a quiet game.  She did get a great pass to Moriah Mack for her 1,000 point.  There was a timeout and the crowd gave her a round of applause with the announcement.
    

Even having two more players, the Aggies seemed to have worn out the Wolverines by the fourth.  The Aggies were up by 20 at one point.  Sweetness herself, Brandee Walton came in for the last minute of the game, while across court, Adam Young put on his jacket for the TV post game.  Our final was 63-46 Aggies.  I haven’t named a player of the game in a while for some reason, but today it’s an easy one.  Brooke Salas put in 24 points, including five three-pointers in the second half alone.  She’s only a sophomore.  If Brooke stays healthy, she likely gets even better as she plays more.  Thanks to the Aggie PA announcer for being very diligent today calling the game so that I could keep up.  The girls’ last two weekend games have conflicts with Aggie softball and baseball, but I really hope to at least see the senior day game.   


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The new Monster Energy EXXXXtreme NASCAR!


NASCAR is finally changing its rules.  F yeah!  About f-ing time!  Bolt on those machine guns.  Strap on the rocket launchers.  The last man standing is the winner!  Now I can’t wait for the new season.  Thanks to Monster Energy drinks for finally propelling racing into the death sport future we all knew would happen someday.

Okay, I got that from just reading the headline of the news article.  I’d better actually the read the whole thing here.  You know, due diligence and all that.  But I’m sure that . . . Hmm . . . Err . . . Wait, what?  Ties are now possible?  Drivers who hold the lead for seven straight laps score a “Nas-Down” and are awarded 7 points?  Participation trophies in Victory Lane for all the drivers?  There’s now a UFC octagon in pit lane for after race fights?  Drivers are required to slam down a Monster Energy drink every 50 laps?  I don’t know.  This new NASCAR may not be for me.  Oh, what’s this?  Live cut-a-ways to NASCAR driver girlfriend/wife fights in pools of mud, hot oil, or Jello depending on the venue?  Woo Hoo!

Actually, the specifics of this deal are less exciting.  Races will now be divided into three segments with the first two segments awarding points to the top 10 drivers, and the final one awarding points to the winner and the rest of the field.  Further, segment winners and race winners get separate bonus points that apply to the “don’t call a Chase anymore” playoffs.  The “playoff” format is unfortunately unchanged.  There will be a stoppage after each segment for a driver interview.  This is also supposed to increase the green flag race coverage, since there will now planned stops in the race.  I think, much like side-by-side commercials, what will actually happen is that the number of commercials will increase by two breaks and the amount of green flag racing will decrease.

NASCAR is hoping this will cause the drivers to race harder during the early and middle parts of the race, since they will now be racing for something.  So in addition to the extra stoppages, we’ll also have some more wrecks.  I give it one full season at most before either some competitors find a way to game this system and break it (like Kenseth’s championship strategy the year before the Chase), or the race broadcast times go up unacceptably (from planned stoppages and additional wrecks) and they’re forced to dump it.  The scramble for points at places like Daytona and Talladega may even pose unbearable safety risks, like when F1 went to a one set of tires per weekend rule a few of years ago.  (Yes, really.  They tried that.)   
  
This is supposed to make NASCAR more palatable to modern audiences.  “If we created motorsports today, this is exactly how we would have done it,” says Brad Keselowski.  Unfortunately, he’s talking about this format and not Global Rallycross, which was created recently with a much more TV-friendly format of running short heat races.  NASCAR has flirted with such a format on dirt tracks with trucks, but never gone all the way with it on paved ovals.  We can maybe look forward to this possibility in the future, because this format is not going to last.  It involves the same lousy TV coverage and the same death march of an overly long race.  No combination of rotten eggs makes an omelet.

If NASCAR wants to be more like the NFL, it needs to do what the NFL does.  In needs to have more vague in-race rules so it can manipulate the outcome of events and create controversial moments that will have people talking and debating during and after the race.  The drivers need to get into more trouble off the track.  Most importantly, it needs to develop a fun, addictive betting mechanism for the fans and then refocus the sport to service that gambling action. 

NASCAR tried something like this new format last year in a Busch/Nationwide/Xfinity Series race.  I couldn’t figure out what was going on.  I doubt anybody watching got it either.  Needless to say, it didn’t hold my interest.  And that was just for a single race.  They’re going to have to spend the whole season explaining this format to viewers, which is where they’re going wrong.  I mean the infield fly rule only comes up every so often in baseball.  They don’t have to talk about it every game.  NASCAR, don’t put that drawing board away, you’ll be going back to it soon enough.