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Tag: sports

When the Most Valuable Player is a dog

hankdog

It’s a wonderful story — what the Milwaukee Brewers did for Hank.

By taking in the stray dog that wandered into their spring training camp in Arizona, and bringing him back with them to Milwaukee, they assured the little bichon frise mix of having food, shelter, medical care and the love of not just a whole team, but hordes of fans.

hankapWhich brings us to part two of the story — what Hank is doing for the Milwaukee Brewers.

As anyone who has rescued a dog knows, you generally get far more out of the deal than you put in.

That’s quickly becoming the case with the Brewers — a team whose fans didn’t have too much to cheer about last season, in terms of wins, attendance, or highly adored superstar players, like the great Hank Aaron, after whom Hank the dog was named.

The summer of 2013 saw the Brewer’s biggest star, Ryan Braun, the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 2011, suspended for most of the season for using performance-enhancing drugs.

hankmerchHank, we’re certain, won’t fall into that trap. And already he has given fans something to feel good about, judging from the turnout at a Hank “meet and greet.” Hundreds lined up to say hello to Hank, or pick up a souvenir from the Brewer’s new line of Hank merchandise.

The Brewers front office is making the most of the fluffy little mutt. As team spokesman Tyler Barnes noted, one couldn’t have dreamed up a more effective publicity stunt.

“I wish I was smart enough to have thought of this as a stunt,” he said at a recent event held to introduce Hank to Brewers fans. Hundreds lined up to meet the dog in the stadium gift shop.

“The Brewers have promised not to exploit Hank, though they didn’t say anything about making a few bucks along the way,” wrote Journal Sentinel sports columnist Jim Stingl. “You know a bobblehead is in his future.”

Some readers of the paper are saying enough with all the Hank coverage:

“Still with these DOG STORIES,” bemoaned one reader. “It’s sad I know more about the happenings of a dog that is a ‘Stray’ then I do of the Brewers and how their Spring Training went. This Dog got more coverage, and still is, then the actual team. And I applaud the Brewers for their great marketing tactic while removing the spotlight from the status of the team and cloud of Braun. Can the Newspaper please report about Baseball and not a dog, millions of dogs everywhere are offended they are not getting the same treatment, and once someone or something is offended things must change.”

We don’t entirely follow the logic toward the end of that reader comment — especially the part about millions of offended dogs. Dogs aren’t spotlight-seekers. That’s just humans.

But the newspaper did, for some reason, feel the need to say, in a blog post, that it might not be reporting on every single thing that happens in Hank’s everyday, non-official, non-Brewer related life:

“That everyday life doesn’t generate stories every day. We’ll have Hank Watch updates when events happen — but there will be days when they don’t,” the post read.

Meanwhile, Hank is living his new everyday life at the home of Marti Wronski, vice president and general counsel for the Brewers, and how often he’ll be making appearances in the stadium is still being figured out.

Wronski said that while ”we’re giving Hank a home … it’s very clear this dog is the fans’ dog.”

hank crowdHank flew to Milwaukee earlier this month on a chartered flight with Brewers executives, and several hundred fans showed up to greet him at the airport, including the mayor of Milwaukee, bearing peanut butter treats, according to the Brewers.

Hank merchandise went on sale last week, including T-shirts, buttons and pennants.

The team is giving a portion of proceeds from those sales to the Wisconsin Humane Society,

(Photos: Hank dozes off during his meet and greet at Miller Park; by Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Hank in Arizona, by Morry Gash / Associated Press; fans line up to meet Hank at Milwaukee’s Miller Park, by Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Puck, yeah: Dog-friendly hockey games

We’ve written a lot about dog-friendly baseball – days (or nights) set aside by Major League and, more often, Minor League teams for fans to bring their dogs to the ballpark.

But dog-friendly hockey matches?

At least three teams have them, including the Charlotte Checkers, an American Hockey League franchise that will be holding its fifth annual Pooch Party this Sunday (March 23) at 1:30 p.m. at the Time Warner Cable Arena.

Tickets for the “Pooch Party” are $15 with $5 going back to Project HALO, a local no-kill animal shelter which focuses on rescuing and adopting stray and abandoned dogs.

The video at the top of this post is from last year’s Pooch Party.

On Sunday, the Checkers will be playing the San Antonio Rampage, another AHL team that holds dog-friendly games. The Rampage claims to hold the dog attendance record — 842 dogs attended their 2012 event, which also featured a “Smooch the Pooch Cam.”

At least one other AHL team, the Milwaukee Admirals has held dog friendly nights.

For the Checkers game, all participants bringing a dog to the game must fill out the Pooch Party liability and registration form. You can print the form out here, complete it and bring it to the Pooch Party entrance, located on Trade Street.

While baseball and dogs strike me as a more natural pairing, I’m all for dogs being allowed into sporting events — even when it’s only once a season, and especially when it’s for a good cause.

My only worry is that, hockey being hockey, the dogs might pick up some bad behavior from watching the humans on the ice.

If so, I would hope their owners take a more proactive role than the referees at this recent semi-pro game did.

Vick to speak at event honoring NC athletes; thousands express outrage with the choice

vickTens of thousands are expressing their outrage online over the selection of Michael Vick as the main speaker at an ”Evening of Champions” event in Raleigh.

The event, held to honor local athletes, is scheduled for Feb. 12.

Officials with the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, which is sponsoring the event, say they’re reviewing the complaints that have flooded in online about the appearance of the quarterback, who was convicted and served time in connection with his dogfighting operation.

But they say they have no plans to disinvite Vick.

“There is a group of folks, who are very unhappy with Mr. Vick for a variety of reasons — and they are passionate about it,” said Harvey Schmitt, president and CEO of the chamber.

But, he added, “Mr. Vick has an interesting story to tell. It is one of an attempt for his personal redemption.” Schmitt also stressed the event isn’t about honoring Vick, but spotlighting local sports stars. “The recognition is not for Mr. Vick,” he said.

The announcement of the event on the chamber’s Facebook page has drawn more than 1,000 comments, almost all of them negative.

“If you want a few Champions to speak to your little group, how about inviting the people who had to rescue and rehabilitate the dogs that survived their experience with Michael Vick? Or lets hear from the people that had to deal with the bodies of the ones that did NOT survive Michael Vick? THOSE are the true champions,” wrote a woman who identified herself as Sandra Melvin.

A group organizing a protest at the event has seen 1,600 sign up to attend, according to its Facebook page.

Meanwhile, a petition demanding the chamber remove Vick from the program has been signed by nearly 70,000 people on the website Change.org.

Organizers say the event is an opportunity to “learn the real story about his incredible NFL career, his meteoric rise from poverty to riches and fame, his downfall, and his improbable comeback.”

The program is being held at PNC Arena, with tickets running as much as $75 each.

Chamber officials declined to say how much Vick is getting paid for the appearance, according to WNCN, which first broke the story.

Vick,  currently a free agent, played for the Atlanta Falcons at the time of his arrest and, after his prison sentence, was hired by the Philadelphia Eagles.

A wrestler’s dachshund, a pitcher’s boxer

jeffhardyA professional wrestler’s dachshund has a broken paw, and a major league pitcher is blaming his torn meniscus on his boxer– both injuries apparently the result of some overly enthusiastic play between athlete and dog.

Former WWE Champ Jeff Hardy — that, in case you couldn’t guess, is him to the left — was playing with his dachshund Sophie when she jumped off the back of the couch and landed on the floor.

Hardy and his wife suspected the dog only suffered a sprain.

But after a few days of limping, Sophie was taken to a vet and diagnosed with a cracked bone in her paw, TMZ reported.

sophieShe’s now wearing a splint.

Meanwhile, in the world of real sports, Texas Rangers pitcher Derek Holland had arthroscopic surgery Friday after a run in with his dog.

Holland told ESPN his boxer, Wrigley, bumped him while bounding up the stairs, causing his left knee to hit a step.

The impact tore cartilage in his knee, and he is expected to miss half the season.

“He was running up the stairs and clipped me,” Holland said. “I hit my knee on the step, and if it wasn’t for me grabbing the rail, I might have fallen all the way down the stairs and cracked my head open.”

Why don’t more dogs play golf?

gsgt 303

Last weekend, I went out to take some photos of golfers and ended up with mostly photos of a dog.

His name is Rufus, and he’s a very well-behaved six-year-old boxer.

A tournament at the golf course where I’ve started working, part-time, as a bartender seemed a good opportunity to test my new camera and try to take some photos of people (instead of dogs) for a change.

gsgt 249Then Rufus caught my eye, and wouldn’t let go. He was riding along patiently in the golf cart with his owner, staying there on command, and galloping along on the fairways when his owner gave him permission.

It made me wonder why there aren’t more dogs on golf courses. They would seem — were country clubs not such stuffy places — to go together nicely.

My bartending job is at Long Creek Golf Club — a not at all stuffy place. It’s a public course just down the road from my house in Bethania.

Last Saturday a charity tournament was being held there to raise funds for Green Street United Methodist Church in Winston-Salem, in memory of parishioners Neena Mabe and Justin Mabe.

gsgt 229

I proclaimed myself official photographer for the event, commandeered a cart and started taking photos of golfers — at least until I saw Rufus.

By morning’s end, I had about 150 photos of golfers, and about 50 of Rufus. I couldn’t help myself.  Boxers, it seems to me, have among the most expressive of all dog faces — including that one that seems to say, “What, you’re not going to take me along?”

That may or may not be why the owner of Rufus, who was competing in the tournament, brought him along. Rufus had perfect manners, didn’t bark once and seemed to totally enjoy the outing. As far as I could see, he bothered nobody, and charmed dozens.

gsgt 026

I’m sure those who take golf ultra-seriously would probably be averse to dogs on the course. Dogs could be distracting, or slow down play. But with one as well-behaved as Rufus – or, generally speaking, Ace — I see no problem with them tagging along with their owner, on a slow day, assuming their owner is cleaning up after them.

Given golfers have to bend over at least 36 times anyway — between teeing up and getting their ball out of the cup — what’s one or two more squats to pick up a little doggie waste?

Having a dog along could even be helpful — at least for me. I generally need a search party to find where my ball landed. (Usually it can be found in the ruff.) Plus, I could blame all my bad shots on him.

I don’t play golf much because it can lead to me getting very frustrated. With a dog along, that might be less likely to happen, given dogs tend to both help us keep things in perspective and soothe us when we get ourselves frazzled.

gsgt 298I’m not sure Ace would be as good as Rufus is at riding in the cart — or whether the two of us can even fit in one — but I’m determined to give it a try. (Yes, we could walk, but to me driving the golf cart is far more fun than the actual game.)

Sometime in the next month or two, on an afternoon I’m not behind the bar, we’ll put a few bottles of water in a cooler, and perhaps a beer or two, pack up a bowl and some poop bags and hit the links. Rest assured, we’ll give you a full report.

And we’ll prove, maybe — or maybe not — that dogs and golf are made for each other, assuming the dogs can learn a few simple rules:

– Don’t pick up the golf ball, unless you’re improving my lie, or moving it closer to the pin.

– Be quiet, and courteous to other golfers.

– Stay with your group and, at least until they’ve hit the ball, behind them.

– Don’t pee or poop on the greens.

– And, of course, always tip the bartender.

(Do you golf with your dog? Know any dog-friendly golf courses? If so, please feel free to share your tips and experiences — good, bad and ugly — via a comment.)

No way, Jose: Another reason to hate soccer

It’s unfair to cast aspersions on an entire sport because of the actions of just one player.

Then again, it’s unfair to pick a dog up by the neck and hurl it into the stands.

That’s what Enzo Jose Jimenez  did when a dog wandered onto the field in a minor league match between his Bella Vista team and the San Juan team in the Tucuman province of Argentina.

A referee flashed a red penalty card and the player was expelled from the game.

We’d like to see him expelled from the team, the league, the sport and, at least for a year or two, from free society.

Fox Sports de Argentina broadcast images on Tuesday showing the player using both hands to grab the mid-size black-and-white dog by the neck and throw it toward the bleachers.

The dog struck a chain-link fence, but quickly got up and ran away with no injuries, or at least no apparent ones.

There are no reports of any charges being filed against the player, but it’s being reported that the soccer club terminated Jimenez’s contract yesterday.

Club Sportivo Bella Vista, issued a statement last night calling his actions “incomprehensible” (assuming this translation is correct) and saying he had been kicked off the team.

Hurler Buehrle hoped Vick would be hurt

Chicago White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle admits he and his wife sometimes rooted for Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick to be injured on the field — as payback for Vick’s mistreatment of dogs.

“He had a great year and a great comeback, but there were times where we watched the game and I know it’s bad to say, but there were times where we hope he gets hurt,” Buehrle told MLB.com. “Everything you’ve done to these dogs, something bad needs to happen to these guys.”

Buehrle’s comments were later removed from the MLB.com article that was published Wednesday, but the author of the article, Scott Merkin, tweeted some of them, according to the Sporting News.

The Buehrles own three dogs and are active in the rescue community.

Of course, Buehrle wasn’t the first person to wish bad things on Vick, who — in addition to teaming up with the Humane Society of the United States to send an anti-dogfighting message — has managed to have mostly good ones come his way since serving 23 months in federal prison for his role in a dogfighting ring.

First there was the Ed Block Hero Award, presented in Baltimore last year. Last week he received the key to the city of Dallas, and this week he was named the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year.

“Even if you are not a dog lover, how can you sit there and make two dogs fight and one is going to die?” Buehrle was quoted as saying. “How could you do that if you are somewhat sane?”

Buehrle’s comments were much tamer than those of political commentator Tucker Carlson, who said in December that Vick should have been executed for his crimes.

Carlson later said he “overspoke.”

That seems to be a common ailment among humans these days.

Nils Lofgren’s riff on Michael Vick

Perturbed by the praise Michael Vick has been receiving for his performance on the field, guitarist Nils Lofgren has written an open letter to sports reporters, arguing Vick doesn’t deserve all the cheerleading, an MVP award, or even a place in the NFL.

“I am so disheartened and disappointed by your collective, lopsided praise of Michael Vick due to his recent spectacular on-field performance,” Logfren, guitarist for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, begins.

“I support his right to earn a living. But, while I can’t fault him for taking great advantage of the opportunities afforded him by playing in the NFL, I feel he does not deserve that lofty a place in our society and culture. However repentant he may be, he committed acts whose vileness will resonate down the years. When you do what Vick did, a second chance should never include the rare gift of an NFL career and the potential bounty it offers.

“Shame on the NFL for not banning him permanently.”

Apparently the letter was prompted by a comment made by Jemele Hill on ESPN’s “The Sports Reporters,” that if Josh Hamilton could win one of baseball’s MVP awards after recovering from alcohol and drug abuse, why couldn’t Vick win the award in the NFL?

“Well, for one thing, Hamilton has neither tortured dozens of dogs nor murdered defenseless animals,” Lofgren wrote. “ … In Vick’s case, I believe his second chance should certainly allow him to be free and to love and raise his family. I think he should make speeches about the error of his ways and help animal groups. I understand that he is doing some of these things and I applaud that. He’s also admitted to being haunted by his dogfighting days. That growth is welcome and necessary, but comes too late for me and those dogs.

Vick, formerly quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, was convicted on dogfighting charges and served nearly two years in prison. After his release he was signed last year by the Philadelphia Eagles.

“How can we justify this saga to our children?” Lofgren asked in the letter. ” …Well kids, although doing those things is wrong, two years after you admit to doing them the NFL will let you have a job that may lead to an MVP award and many millions of dollars in a new contract.

Lofgren added, “…(T)he cynic in me thinks maybe if Vick were a third-string lineman, the NFL would have set an example and banned him for life. Maybe many of the other significant charges Vick was facing wouldn’t have gone away if he didn’t have the prestige of being an NFL quarterback who can afford high-priced lawyers to wrangle pleas and deals.

“For the NFL to be that forgiving of evil, vicious behavior is a terribly inappropriate act of forgiveness and has brought a sick, sad, dirty feeling to many of us fans who have loved the game for so long.

“And to you reporters, whom I enjoy and respect, the sentiments in this letter are suspiciously absent in your hundreds of hours of Vick coverage … Just because the NFL lost its spine and common sense on this matter doesn’t mean you reporters have to get in line and go along.”

A new Uga is picked for U of Georgia

Uga VIII — the University of Georgia’s eighth bulldog mascot — will take the field for the first time this Saturday at the school’s homecoming game with Vanderbilt.

White English bulldogs, all from the same family line, have been serving as the school’s mascot since 1956, PeoplePets reports.

In 2009, UGA VII passed away from heart problems after less than two seasons as mascot. His five-year-old half-brother “Russ” was brought to serve as the school’s interim mascot until a permanent replacement could be found.

All eight mascots have come from the same purebred bloodline and are owned by the Seiler family of Savannah, Ga.

Uga VIII, also known as “Big Bad Bruce,” was named in honor of Dr. Bruce Hollett of the university’s school of veterinary medicine. He will take over as mascot this weekend in a ceremonial “passing of the collar.”

The new Uga, like the previous ones will sit in his own house on the football field as the game takes place.

Vick tops lists of most-hated athletes

For the second year in a row, Michael Vick has been rated the most hated man in sports, according to an annual Forbes magazine poll.

The NFL quarterback, who completed his sentence on dogfighting charges last year, was disliked– or worse — by 69 percent of respondents.

Vick, now with the Philadelphia Eagles, was one of five NFL figures on the 10 most-hated list.

Al Davis, owner of the Oakland Raiders, took second place on the list with a 66 percent disapproval rating. Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Rothlisberger, who was embroiled in a sexual assault investigation this spring, ranked third with a 57 percent rating.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones tied for fourth with Tiger Woods.