It’s Not Midnight Yet, Cinderella

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Greetings From The Booth!

You can’t make up stories like this. If you pitched a script to Hollywood about the week Michael Block just had at the PGA Championship, you would be booted right out of town. Block, who just had a top-15 finish in golf’s second major championship of the year, was “the” story of the tournament. You could make the case that he even upstaged winner Brooks Koepka, who captured the fifth major title of his career on Sunday at Oak Hills Country Club.

The PGA Championship is unique in that a handful of PGA club professionals get to compete. Contrary to popular belief, PGA club pros play very little golf. Just ask your club pro about that. Their time is spent on the putting green with members, making sure the pro shop is stocked with golf clubs and gear, charging up golf carts, and ordering new sand for the bunkers. I just described a day in the life of Michael Block, who is the pro at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in California.

Not this past week…and maybe not for the foreseeable future.

Block captured the hearts of golf fans around the world by making the cut at the PGA, and for a while was in the top-10 with a chance to win. Surely, midnight would come for this Cinderella on the weekend, but it wasn’t until late Sunday that Block started to fade a bit down the leaderboard. Had the story ended there, it still would have been a good one.

Then came the 15th hole, where Michael Block slam-dunked a 7-iron for a hole-in-one, and became an instant folk hero. It was the cherry on his Sunday, as Block collected over $288 thousand for his top-15, and gets to play in next year’s PGA Championship. But the story doesn’t end there. This week, someone offered Block $50 thousand for that seven-iron he used for his ace on Sunday. Surely, he would have a sentimental attachment to that golf club and not give it away at any price. Nope. In true “everyman” form, he offered to hand-deliver it for that kind of money.

Then, Block’s childhood hero, Michael Jordan, sent him a text congratulating him for his PGA showing. And, guess who the crowds are going to be following this week as Block plays at Colonial Country Club? All pretty heady stuff for a guy who just a few weeks ago was probably giving someone a chipping lesson. But, anyone who thinks all of this newfound fame will change Michael Block didn’t hear the humility in his emotional interviews last week.

At some point, Block may fade from memory and become an asterisk in the annals of professional golf. But for this Cinderella, it ain’t midnight yet.

Until the next visit from The Booth…have a great Memorial weekend!




Friday Tidbits

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Greetings from The Booth!

Just a few “tidbits” today from the Booth, and I’ll start with my alma mater, Martinsburg High School. The rest of the Mountain State is a bit nervous today because the Bulldogs are welcoming back their legendary football coach Dave Walker, who comes back home after a 3-year stint in the college ranks at D-II Concord. Walker left the ‘Burg after leading the Dogs to 8 state titles, good enough to have the stadium at MHS named after him. It says a lot that last year’s10-3 season with an appearance in the state semifinals was a disappointment, but that is the state of the football program at Martinsburg. Not that things were left in bad hands–Walker’s assistant Britt Sherman, who took over the program when Walker left, was 28-5 with a state championship of his own. He will remain as OC, so it looks like the band is back together. Better make room on that “Welcome To Martinsburg” sign for some more titles…

I wrote several weeks ago about rules infractions and the VHSL’s enforcement of them. This week an otherwise great baseball season at Millbrook High came to an abrupt end in the Northwestern District tournament, when it was discovered that the Pioneers used an ineligible pitcher in their quarterfinal game with Handley earlier in the week. The issue was pitch count, and although there was some question about how many pitches the young man threw in a game against James Wood last week, several electronic devices confirmed that he had gone over the limit and was ineligible to pitch against the Judges. The rule is clear and the issue is black and white. Thus, the Pioneers had to forfeit, and Handley moves on to play in a district semifinal next week. A gut punch, for sure, and  heartbreaking end to the season for Millbrook, who made it all the way to the state quarterfinals a year ago.

Finally, if you want to see some great baseball this weekend, head over to Bridgeforth Stadium in Winchester, where one of 16 NCAA Division-II regional tournaments will be played. The Shenandoah University Hornets, one of the top 5 teams in the country, will be the host team for the 3-day double elimination affair, joined by Christopher Newport, Immaculata, and The College Of New Jersey. The revamped Kevin Anderson Field is incredible and the baseball will be top-notch, so grab a hot dog and enjoy some good old-fashioned baseball this weekend!

See you next time for more Views From The Booth!


Huggy Bear

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Greetings from The Booth!

I will start by saying I hate writing about the non-sports side of sports. The reason I watch sports is to escape the problems of the everyday world. The problem is that the everyday world has found it’s way into sports, and I can’t tell the difference between the two. It’s to the point now that I rarely watch a sporting event unless it involves the Washington professional football team (usually not a pleasant experience) or my beloved WVU Mountaineers.

Speaking of the old Blue and Gold, the Mountaineers’ legendary Hall-Of-Fame basketball coach Bob Huggins is now in hot water for (twice) casually using a homophobic slur during a recent radio interview on Cincinnati’s 700 WLW. In case you don’t know the backstory, Huggins was once the coach of the University of Cincinnati Bearcats, who had a fierce rival with Xavier, also located in Cincy. During the WLW interview, Huggins weighed in on the Xavier fans–you can look up what he said exactly–using the anti-gay term. Four hours later, “Huggs” released a statement of apology, and WVU said it was “reviewing the matter”

It now looks like there will be no firing of Huggins by the University. Instead, he will lose $1 million in salary, serve a suspension, and have to complete a sensitivity training course before he is allowed back on the sideline. Reaction on social media fan boards was mixed, with some wanting everyone to “move on,” while some wanted Huggins fired outright. Many thought the punishment amounted to no more than a slap on the wrist.

I love Bob Huggins. He bleeds Blue and Gold. But there is no good excuse for what he said, and Huggins admitted as much. Today’s coaches have to be aware of the day and age in which we live. That being said, I don’t believe in cancel culture. Bob Huggins has done a lot of good for the University and the state of West Virginia. That has to be considered when arriving at a just punishment. It’s easy to come out of the woodwork as so many pundits have done and reach for a rock to throw. The greatest Man to ever walk the Earth once said, “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Huggins has built enough equity to deserve a chance at redemption.

There are many who think that Huggs is a dinosaur, and that the game has passed him by. Those people now have some fuel for their fire. It does seem at times that Huggins is disinterested and devoid of energy as he sits on his courtside stool on game day, and has complained over and over about navigating the current landscape of college hoop as it applies to NIL and the transfer portal.

Huggins has since found a way, with the help of a wealthy coalition of West Virginians, to embrace the portal, and the Mounties have had one of the best off-seasons in the country. Until this incident, Mountaineer Nation was counting the days until basketball season in Morgantown. Now, we hold our collective breath hoping that the new players don’t jump ship. Time will tell.

It should be an interesting 6 months for Mountaineer fans…

Until the next visit from The Booth, GO EERS!




A Hard Lesson

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Greetings from The Booth!

Let’s jump right in. Recently, a listener of my morning radio show shared with me an open letter to the Virginia High School League (the governing body of scholastic sports in Virginia) from 19 members of the Handley High School boys soccer team. The VHSL had ruled that because the Judges had used an ineligible player in some of their games, those wins (4 plus a tie) would have to be forfeited, moving Handley from near the top of the Class 4 Northwestern district standings, to near the bottom. According to reports, the player met age and academic requirements, but had exhausted his eight semesters of eligibility.  Handley self-reported the violation when they became aware and the athletic department has apologized for not catching the mistake. The Judges, who have won three straight since the situation was corrected, are still eligible for postseason play.

The letter from the 19 soccer players is well-written and they make their case in a thoughtful manner. The players make mention of the diverse makeup and sportsmanlike nature of their team. They attempt to show the difference between intentional and unintentional infractions. They point out that the staffer who made the mistake is “really nice, usually does good work, and is liked by all the students.” The players cite the lost years of COVID, and make the argument that the VHSL makes kids “pay for the mistakes of adults.”

All of the above points, while passionately made, are, to quote Dustin Hoffman’s character in the movie Runaway Jury, “colored bubbles.” The “adult” mistake was made by a Handley staffer. While that person may be well-liked by all, etc., it was their job to make sure that the ineligible player was (or wasn’t) compliant, and they missed it. It was an error committed by the Handley athletic department, and they have owned it.

The time lost because of COVID, while unfortunate for anyone (not) playing sports during the pandemic, has nothing to do with this ruling. And the diverse and sportsmanlike nature of the team, both great qualities for sure, is also irrelevant.

I’m probably giving up my honorary Handley Pride status, but I have to put on the Black Hat on this one and side with the VHSL. To make rulings on a case by case basis is to open themselves up to much scrutiny and is too subjective. Rules are in place to insure a fair and level playing field for all. To say that the ineligible player didn’t have much impact on the games is to go down a slippery slope of trying to define “impact.” There is also the rabbit hole of intentional versus unintentional mistakes. While I’m sure this is a case of an unintentional error, how can you know with 100 percent surety?

The lesson here is that adversity is a part of life, and champions overcome adversity. The Judges, who lose an automatic berth in the regional tournament, still have an opportunity to do great things this year in the postseason. The Handley boys soccer team needs to use this ruling by the VHSL as a chip on their collective shoulder and channel the negative energy into a state championship. How sweet that would be!

Until the next visit from The Booth…GO JUDGES!



Green Grass and Blue Skies

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Greetings From The Booth!

Before I get to this week’s main topic…a note to the Washington Nationals: SCORE A RUN, PLEASE! The 5-13 Nats were shut out by the Baltimore Orioles in back-to-back games this week. In one of the games, Oriole starter Dean Kremer entered the game with an ERA near 10! Washington hard-luck pitcher Josiah Gray, who deserved a better fate in that 1-0 loss, needs to “lawyer up” and sue for non-support. He is now 0-4, with a respectable ERA of 3.74, but has received little help this year from an offense that is near the bottom of most NL categories.

This past Sunday, I finally got the golf clubs out of cold storage and played my first round of the year. It was a perfect morning as we stepped up to the first tee of the Boulder Course of Rock Harbor Golf Club. The 7:40 tee time meant that my twosome would get out ahead of the pack and be able to play at a nice pace. I now play the orange tees (no longer called the “senior tees”) and at 63, this has made the game more enjoyable for me. I decided to try something different and hit a nice 3-wood from the tee box instead of the usual driver, and nailed it right down the center to within 100 yards. A well-struck pitching wedge rolled just off the green, and my chip for birdie came up just 2 inches short. The tap-in par was a great way to start the golf season. The rest of the way was filled with some good shots, and some not-so-good ones, and a solid 41 on the back nine allowed me to break 90 by a couple of shots, which is in my wheelhouse of 85-92.

I’ve made some resolutions this year about golf, and I hope I can keep them until at least June. This is what I’m going to tell myself this year:

You’re not a pro. You don’t practice on the range and putting green for 10 hours a day, so lower the bar of expectation. Enjoy the round, the green grass and blue skies, the songbirds, the companionship, and don’t focus so much on score. Everyone, and I mean, everyone (even the touring pros) hit bad shots. Have a beverage or two, laugh at the duffs, dribbles, and slices, and revel in the occasional pars and the elusive birdies. No one will remember what your score was last week, but they will remember the good time they had with you on the golf course and at the 19th hole.

So there you are. My approach to golf this season. The slow play, three-putt greens, and snowmen (8’s on the card) will still upset me a bit, but not as much. Remember the old saying, “a bad day on the golf course is better than a good day at work.” There are worse places to be.

And one other thing: if you have a tee time on your favorite course this Earth Day weekend, remember to take care of the planet and replace your divots…

Until the next visit from The Booth…FORE!




Commanders & Caps: Closing The Chapter

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Greetings from The Booth!

My sports broadcasting & Sports Dogs Podcast partner Ryan (The Duke) Rutherford texted me this afternoon to say “The Witch Is Dead.” He was referring to what looks like the imminent sale of The Washington Football Commanderskins to the Josh Harris-led group (which includes basketball great Magic Johnson) for a record $6.05 billion.  I simply texted back that I’ll believe it when I see the puddle of water and Dan Snyder saying “I’m melting!” It certainly looks like the finish line is near for a 23-year dumpster fire of an organization that has provided DC football fans few moments of joy.

I could rehash all the failed football moves, the revolving door of head coaches, the toxic work environment, the investigations, lawsuits, and the scrap heap of starting quarterbacks, but we have beaten that horse to death. As the saying goes, when one door closes, another one opens. As I’ve written before, the new owners, in my humble opinion, must do three things:

Change the name of the team (again). Immediately. The name Commanders has no connection to a proud franchise that has 3 Lombardi trophies in the case. The recent name change was a half-baked effort that alienated many former players (John Riggins comes to mind) and has reduced a storied past to a faint whisper.

Build a new stadium. Whatever it takes, get this done. Fed-Ex Field is a dump and provides one of the worst game day experiences in the NFL. And build it anywhere but Landover, Md.

Finally, find a way to fill this new venue with your own fans. For too long, Fed-Ex has been filled with mostly opposing fans , and that is an embarrassment. It wouldn’t take a marketing genius to figure out how to do this. A winning football team would go along way to getting the home fans back in the seats.

It looks like a new chapter is about to begin for the Burgundy and Gold. It’s time to load up the clown car and get the circus out of town.

Changing gears, the Washington Capitals now look like the Nationals on skates. For the first time since 2014, the Caps are making tee times after this week’s regular season finale. There will be no Stanley Cup Playoffs this year, as it looks like a full scale rebuild is in order. As the team faded down the stretch, it sold off many of it’s core players who were part of the 2018 Stanley Cup Championship. It seems like only yesterday that the team was hoisting the Cup for thousands of fans on The Mall.

Like the Nats, the window has closed for the Capitals. You’ll be asked to be patient while you search your program for someone you recognize. Unlike the Nats, the Caps still have a superstar on their roster (Stephen Strasburg doesn’t count). Alex Ovechkin, who is zeroing in on Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goal scoring record, will certainly keep the fans coming to Cap-One Arena, but without a supporting cast, wins will be hard to come by.

As bleak as it may look right now, hold on to this: at least the Capitals won’t be knocked out in the first round this season.

Until the next visit from The Booth…GO SKINS! GO CAPS!







Putting A Bow On The B-Ball Season

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Greetings from The Booth!

Normally these “Views From The Booth” are written, but this time it’s special audio version of  VFB, as I am joined by Ryan “The Duke” Rutherford, as we put the wraps on the college hoop season, and vent a little about the Nats. Enjoy, and have a Happy Easter!


Opening Day & The Pitch Clock

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Greetings from The Booth!

I’m writing this week’s post on one of the great days in sport: Opening Day. Countless writers have waxed poetic about Major League Baseball’s Opening Day, and I’m not sure I can add anything new or original, but as has been said many times, Opening Day signals the renewal of all things, a true rite of Spring, when the outfield grass is greener, the uniforms are whiter, and everyone is 0-0 and filled with optimism about the upcoming season.

It’s only been 3 years since the Washington Nationals won the 2019 World Series (although we won’t count the 2020 COVID-plagued season), and what a tumble it’s been from World Champs to a 107-loss 2022 campaign. Gone are most of the players who were a part of that Championship year as the Nats continue their rebuild. One of those players is Patrick Corbin, who gets the Opening Day start in DC.  The lefty had his struggles last year, and although we aren’t supposed to pay attention to wins and losses in today’s world of metrics, Corbin was 6-19 last season. Corbin is now a pitch-to-contact hurler, who by accounts has had a great off-season and is in great shape, and ready for a comeback year.

The Nationals will need him, because (again) Stephen Strasburg is on the shelf. Since his $240-plus million dollar extension several years ago, Strasburg has pitched 26 innings. Do the math, and that’s almost $10 million per inning!  Pretty good money if you can get it. Unfortunately for the Nats, they are probably stuck with Strasburg, hurt or healthy, because no one is going to want to pick up that contract.

As Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo continues his rebuild, the future does look bright with a restocked farm system and several promising young prospects on the Opening Day roster. Patience is not in the lexicon of most fans who basically want to win now, but a realistic expectation level should be set for the 2023 season. Still, unexpected things can happen. You only need to look 40 miles away from Washington to see an example of that. The Orioles, another team in rebuild mode, contended for a Wild Card spot most of last season with a group of youngsters who had a collective “why not us?” attitude. Again, everything is rosy on Opening Day.

One of the things you’ll see this year when you go to an MLB game is the pitch clock. Generally, I’m a baseball traditionalist, but as games become longer and longer, younger fans have become less interested in the pastoral pace of the “grand old game,” so I’m generally for the pitch clock. Something had to be done to attract a younger demographic. No one wants to see a pitcher pace around the mound after each pitch, fidgeting with his uniform, going to the resin bag a dozen times, while the batter adjusts his batting gloves and takes forever digging into the box. It’s estimated that this change will cut 26 minutes on average from the length of a major league game.

As football has long since become “America’s Pastime,” baseball is now on the clock.

Until the next visit from The Booth, have a great Opening Day!





Back In The Race

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Greetings From The Booth!

So, let’s see a show of hands. How many of you re-seeded your NCAA brackets after arguably the craziest opening 2 rounds ever? There’s no shame in that–we did a Sweet Sixteen “re-do” in our friendly competition at work. Who saw not one, but two number-one seeds biting the dust. And there’s numver-4 seed Virginia, who fell to 13-seed Furman. Furman?!? It wasn’t quite UMBC, but still a one-and-done of major upset proportion. I still contend that the upsets happen early, but the cream always rises to the top, which is why I have Alabama playing Houston in the Championship Game.

If you listen to my morning radio show, you know that over the course of the last year, I’ve lost 48 pounds (thank you Brain & Body Health Center!). You also know that I recently ran a 5k race for the first time since 2018. Saturday’s Edward Jones Race For Education was the culmination of an almost year-long journey back to something I thought I would no longer be able to do.

That journey started right after the 2022 Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival. After looking at a pic of me and my buddies making merry at the “Bloom,” I realized that I was going in the wrong direction. At 210 pounds, I almost didn’t recognize myself in the photo. Sure, I had lost a few pounds on my own, but pictures don’t lie, and this pic was like a slap in the face.

Enter Dr. Evan Riggleman and his wonderful team at B&B. To make a long story short, they got me into some good habits and “reset” my metabolism in a healthy way. As for running, I started with some walks through the hills of my mountain neighborhood, gradually working in some short runs. By July, I was on my way to Deep Creek Lake minus 30 pounds, and ready for the challenging trails of DCL State Park. By late Fall, I was up to 20 miles per week and 48 pounds lighter. It was then that I targeted the Eddie Jones as my “comeback race.”

I navigated through the perils of the Holidays, managing to keep the weight off, and staying true to my running routine. At this point, Brain and Body started doing some amazing therapies on my arthritic knees, and shortly after the new year, the good doctor allowed me to play with some of his new toys which helped fight the nasty free radicals in my cells.  I was 63 going on 36!

Fast forward to race day. After a morning soak, I made my way to Warren County Middle School and the Edward Jones 5k. The butterflies were as big as 747s, not knowing how I was going to perform after 5 years of being away from running. The bar was low–finish, and enjoy the run. Period.

But, a funny thing happened. I got off to a nice early pace, running comfortably, even passing some runners in the first mile. The second mile, mostly downhill, was a bit faster, and as I started up the gradual slope of the final mile, I was faster still.  I paced myself behind a very nice lady who, with about a half mile to go, encouraged me to pass her and finish strong, which I was able to do with a nice kick to the line. How did I do? How about a top 20 finish overall, and winner of my age group with a time of 26:43. I had exceeded all expectations.

The journey continues in May with the Apple Blossom 10k…stay tuned.







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Greetings From The Booth!

A bit late this week, as I spent yesterday agonizing over WVU’s early exit from March Madness. The Mounties’ 67-65 loss to Maryland was no upset, by any stretch (Maryland was actually the higher seed), but kicked off a day of bracket-bustin’ that saw me go 9-7 in yesterday’s games–by far my worst performance in a long, long time. BTW, who had Virginia losing in 2018 UMBC fashion to Furman? Furman?!? I’m hoping to recover somewhat today, although at the time of this writing, the Kennesaw State Owls (who? see what I did there?) are leading perennial tournament team Xavier by 13.  Well, at least my Final Four is still intact.

Today is the perfect storm of St. Patrick’s Day and NCAA Basketball, so be responsible and remember to hand those keys to a Designated Leprechaun!

Staying within our b-ball theme this week, were you aware that the Winchester area had a pro basketball team? I have to admit that I did not, until Kenny Gordon, a friend and longtime co-worker at the Shenandoah University basketball scorer’s table, texted me recently to see if I would be interested in doing the public address announcing for the Virginia Valley Vipers.

The expansion Vipers are part of the Indianapolis-based TBL, which stands for “The Basketball League,” and kicked off their season earlier this month. They will play a 24-game schedule in the league’s Eastern Division, against teams from Reading, Syracuse, Atlantic City, York, and the Tri-State. The Vipers’ home games are played at the spacious Wilkins Center at SU.

The team is owned by TMOs (Team Market Owners) Rodney, Tina, and Rze Culbreath. Rze is part of the local flavor of the Vipers, having played some of his basketball at Millbrook High. He is not only an owner, but on the active roster of the Vipers as a guard, and has also played professionally in Europe. Other players include former Hornet Chris Chaney. The team’s Head Coach, Andrew Oates, also has local roots, having served as Assistant Coach at both Clarke County High School and at Shenandoah.

The basketball is high-level, but so is the team’s mission of community outreach. Visit the Vipers’ website and you will see their mission statement displayed prominently displayed on the home page: “…to strengthen our community through positive, family-friendly entertainment and provide athletes with the financial opportunity to continue their passion while giving back to the community.” To that end, players are vetted with background checks and social media activity to insure that they represent the team and the community in a positive way. In addition, players will be part of the Top Of Virginia Young Professionals group, and the team will partner with Winchester CCAP.

So, if you can pull yourself away from the NCAA Tournament this weekend, check out a Vipers game over at Wilkins on March 18th against the Reading Rebels and/or March 19th against the Tri-State Admirals. And don’t forget to wear your purple.

Until the next visit from The Booth…enjoy the Madness, and GO VIPERS.