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TLT: Sampras can still play

Tennis rules. This much you should know if you’re reading this site. It rules so much that a friend of mine and I have started a site devoted to tennis. Well, Richard created it. I just write stuff for it every now and then.

Like this: The Let Tennis: Sampras can still play

Best. Interview. Ever.


CAROLINE WOZNIACKI: Well, yesterday I got the question by the media, they said that my press conferences were kind of boring. Yeah, that I always gave the same answers.

You know, I find it quite, you know, funny because I always get the same questions. So I’m just going to start. I know what you’re going to ask me already. So I’m just going to start with the answer.

I felt great out there today on the court. You know, I think I played a pretty good match. I am happy I got the revenge since I lost to her in Sydney last week. It was not an easy match. She went out there, she was really on fire.

You know, I’m happy to be through to the next round. I don’t know who I’m playing, so maybe you can ask me that afterwards. But I’m really looking forward to playing my fourth round. It’s the second time in a row that that’s happened.

I mean, what I do need to do to win this tournament, if I feel like I played too defensively today. I actually feel like I had to do that. I had to run a lot of balls down today because, I mean, she was playing really aggressively, trying to hit from the first point.

But I felt like, you know, when I had the chance, I was really focused and tried to step it up, especially with my serve a bit. When she put the second serve in, I tried to take the advantage straightaway.

Uhm, if I deserve to be No. 1. If this was maybe another proof that I belong there. Again, I don’t feel any pressure to be No. 1. I really enjoy myself. I think I’ve had a great year and a great tournament so far. So I’m just happy to be in the next round, and hopefully I can pull a win through.

My racquet feels really good (laughter). I feel like the racquet is really helping me out. I feel like there is no problems. I really, uhm, enjoy playing with it. So I feel like, uhm yeah, I’m just happy to be here. Hopefully this was a little bit different than usual, and now you can maybe, yeah, give me some questions that are a little bit more interesting, a little bit different than what I usually get.

OWH: Millard board remembers fallen

They bowed their heads, closed their eyes and stood in silence.

After a few moments, the Millard school board did its best to resume regular business Monday night, the board’s first meeting since the Jan. 5 shooting at Millard South High School.

OWH: Millard board remembers fallen

Another Slam first round, another disappointment for Querrey

Perhaps it’s the new American plague.

Forget about the birds falling from the sky and the predictions of a biblical-esque plague that will soon end our days, I’m talking tennis here; something that has a real impact on our lives.

And in America, for gifted, tall men’s tennis players, times are bleak, plague-like bleak.

Day One of the Australian Open: America’s next great hope: 23-year-old Sam Querrey.

Australian Open photo

This is the American who’s supposed to rip the “top-ranked American” label from No. 8 Andy Roddick later this year. Don’t get me wrong, Querrey still can and might. But usually a good first step is winning the first round of majors, something Querrey has done just eight of the 18 times he has played in Grand Slam.

Eight for 18 in first-round matches. That stat alone is somewhat mind-boggling, but also consider this: As Querrey has risen in the rankings, from No. 174 in 2006 to No. 18 in 2011, his Slam performances have stayed relatively the same: In five of his last nine Major appearances, Querrey has failed to get past the entry bout.

Which brings us to this year’s Down Under Major: Querrey against Lukasz Kubot, the 28-year-old from Poland ranked No. 72 in the world. Although Kubot advanced to the fourth round of last year’s Australian Open courtesy a third-round withdraw from Mikhail Youzhny, he was hardly a formidable foe for Querrey.

Yet he was. That, and so much more, beating Querrey in five sets.

It is not so much that Querrey lost in the first round – upsets happen. But rather, how Querrey lost that is so regretful.

It was much like his fourth-round match of the 2010 U.S. Open, when Querrey had a chance to finish the match, ride the blustery winds of momentum and sail into his first-ever quarterfinals.

Instead, he lost.

Day One, Australian Open: Querrey battling Kubot. He seizes the momentum, snatches a 2-1 set advantage. The wind, however, is again a factor. And Querrey has not learned enough from this last win-aided defeat.

Rather predictably, Querrey lets Kubot back in the match and Kubot obliges, 5-7, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1, 8-6.

Querrey’s U.S. Open quarterfinal loss to Stanislas Wawrinka: 6-7(9), 7-6(5), 5-7, 6-4, 4-6.

The momentum was his. The match was there. But not that day. Not with the wind gusting and the pressure on.

And until Querrey can win those matches, those five-setters, those ones he usually doesn’t, we can forget about the top 10 talk. Heck, we can even forget about him passing Roddick, which would make for one lackluster 2011 for the top two American men.

Storytelling with compassion

A fantastic interview with Jacqui Banaszynski.

WUWM. Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist Calls for Compassion in Reporting

OWH: School left with its own wounds

Omaha World-Herald: The gunfire at Millard South made a long-time coach there shake his head — his school was now the one on television, the one everyone was reading about and the school that would have to recover from its own shooting.

“It hurts a lot,” said Larry Ribble, 67, who retired after coaching boys track and basketball at the school for 30 years. “With time, some wounds will be healed, but it’s just really a setback.”

(Far, far better reads about the Millard South High School shooting on

Covering the Fred Phelps gang


A little more than a month ago, the Westboro group came to Columbia, Mo, on a weekend I was working.

That’s where I stopped writing this blog post in November 2009. For whatever reason, I didn’t want to keep writing about the “Westboro group stops here again,” Columbia Daily Tribune.

But I’ve kept coming back to my website and kept seeing this unfinished draft, so, to avoid this post smelling worse than it does, I’ll briefly finish what I started.

We all know the Phelps crew. And we probably all dislike the Phelps crew. They stomp on our flags. They say ludicrous things at sensitive times. And they do not care what we say or think about them.

We all know that. What struck me about the Phelps gang is how well they understand the game, how well they know what they doing. To the news reporters covering them, the Phelps crew was as kind as can be.

To the people shouting at them, the ones arguing and cussing to no end, the Phelps crew shouted back, unwilling to take such insults without a comeback.

We bother them because they bother us; their actions appall the good in all of us. But when we shout and pay attention to them instead of blocking their access or getting in their way like the successful anti-protesters, we play their game, the one they’ve been playing for years and the one they know better than us: the game of insults.

And we lose every time.

OWH: Calming, familiar presence

Omaha World-Herald:

“Sector 1, go ahead.”

“OPD is en route to South 28th Avenue for smoke in that area,” a female dispatcher says.

The night begins with an assignment, a rarity for Daniel Hagen, an Omaha Housing Authority security guard. Most of the time, Hagen patrols the Southside Terrace Garden Apartments, the largest remaining public housing cluster in Omaha, on his own.

He cruises the neighborhood, coasting down hills, lurching up streets, waving to some people, waiting for eye contact from others.

But he’s rarely told what to do, except for right now, about 10 p.m. on a recent Friday.

The temperature in the teens, the wind in the 30s. And smoke in the area.

OWH: Malcolm X Center opens in Omaha

Omaha World-Herald: Sharif Liwaru moved here from California as a 17-year-old who knew one thing about Omaha: It was Malcolm X’s hometown.

Liwaru became second vice president of the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation while attending Omaha North High School.

And on Thursday night, he led a ceremony that fulfilled one of the foundation’s longtime goals: the grand opening of the new Malcolm X Center, 3463 Evans St.

Trying to make sense of the Texas Tech game

AP photo

Most of the time, I can’t stand reading sports columnists’ day-after column. They almost always oversimplify it, save WallJ. They say, oh, Coach Smith should have done this, it was so obvious, if only Coach Smith weren’t so dumb team x would have won the game. Well, Mr. Columnist, it’s always more obvious a few hours after the game. And, if it’s so easy to be a head coach, perhaps you should try it. You’d certainly get a raise out of the deal.

Most of the time, I just shake my head at the second-guessing. But the recent play-calling of Missouri offensive coordinator David Yost has even this loyal fan wondering, what the heck he is thinking?

As you know, Missouri lost to Texas Tech last weekend. As you know, Missouri was ranked No. 7 a couple of weeks ago after its epic win over Oklahoma, which doesn’t seem so epic after Texas A&M walloped the Sooners as well. As you know, Missouri was on its way to one of the best years in school history. And, as you shouldn’t know, this year looks to be just like a regular year, just when so many of Mizzou fans had let our minds wander to something different, to a New Year’s Day game or even to a BCS bowl.

Oh, well. Missouri is still fun to watch. Games are still enjoyable. We all still love Mizzou. Life goes on. I’m not distraught over Mizzou not having a chance to win the Big 12. There will more games played this year and next year. I’m just trying to understand how the hell it happened, how a team that looked like it was going to obliterate its opponent ends up losing to a team that had lost four straight and didn’t play all that well.

Let’s recall the first quarter: the Tigers pulled a Cornhusker on the Red Raiders, going almost untouched on runs of 71 and 69 yards. This was going to be a route. Missouri was going to cement itself a place among the top 10 best teams in college football. That’s how it seemed.

After Nebraska dashed untouched, the Cornhuskers did it again, and then continued to pound the ball, eventually running 47 times for 364 yards. It was a smart strategy; why change what’s working? And Nebraska won, 31 to 17 in a game that was never all that close. The win showed Nebraska played better that day and showed they belong to among the best in the Big 12. Good on them.

But, unlike Nebraska, Missouri decided to mix up its play-calling even though the Tigers showed a superior advantage in running the football. After the two long runs, offensive coordinator Yost showed a propensity to throw the ball deep, as if he were going for the kill, trying to put the nail in the coffin, as people like to say. And, hey, if it works, fantastic, 21-0. Mizzou is rolling with the run and the pass.

But it didn’t.

On at least a couple of those deep balls, Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert overthrew his receiver, foreshadowing what we would eventually learn: Gabbert wasn’t having his best night of tossing a ball on green grass. (Unfortunately, he finished an embarrassing 12-30 for 95 yards against the 119th-ranked pass defense. We’ll get to the unfortunately part later.)

This is the same type of play-calling we saw against San Diego State, a game Missouri would have lost if not for a missed clipping call on a 68-yard touchdown pass with under a minute remaining. Consider this from a Sept. 25 story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,

Against San Diego State, MU was running with ease in the first half but was off-kilter in the passing game.

Certainly, MU could have run more, but Yost and Pinkel both noted the Tigers were a whisker away from numerous 30-yard plus gains in passing. Had a handful of drops, a few tough catches or a couple errant throws clicked instead, Yost said, MU would have had 24 or 31 points at halftime and changed the complexion of the game.

Again, they didn’t complete the throws, and choosing to pass instead of sticking with the run certainly changed the game, making it far more closer than it should have been against the Aztecs.

Against Texas Tech on Saturday, there was no Moe Miracle, no last-second jubilation, no victory. Missouri had lost to the worst team in the Big 12 South at a not-packed stadium against a less-talented team.

Depressing. Frustrating. Insane. Beyond belief. Defies logic. Throw them all out.

Since Saturday’s downer, one loss has darted in my mind: Navy of 2009.

Now, no offense to the Midshipmen, but Missouri was more talented than Navy last year, and should have won the game. Yet, even if the Tigers didn’t win, it shouldn’t have been a 35-13 shellacking. (Thanks, Barack.)

Navy defended Missouri with a three-man front, dropping eight to defend the lofty throwing game, keying on Danario Alexander. But Missouri scored less than 30 seconds into the game when Alexander dashed 58 yards to the end zone.

The route is on, right?

Whoops. Navy stuck with the three-man front, Missouri stuck with the pass for some reason, and Navy thumped the Tigers.

Here’s Dave Matter of the Columbia Daily Tribune:

But the running game soon faded. After piling up a season-high 243 yards on 22 carries in the first half, the Tigers ran the ball just nine times for 17 yards in the second half.

“We just came out with a different game plan in the second half and try open up some other things,” Lawrence said.


So, maybe Missouri should have ran the ball more. But in looking back at the past two years, this lack of running doesn’t seem to be a yearly trend but more of a game-by-game trend. The data show in Missouri’s seven wins this year, the Tigers ran 44.3 percent of the time. On Saturday, they ran the ball on 50.8 percent of their plays.

Game Run % Pass %
v. Illinois 37.7% 62.3%
McNeese St. 43.5% 56.5%
San Diego St 34.6% 65.4%
Miami 62.3% 37.7%
Colorado 49.2% 50.8%
at Tx A&M 34.7% 65.3%
Oklahoma 48.1% 51.9%
at Nebraska 44.7% 55.3%
at Tx Tech 50.8% 49.2%

Missouri, however, is running the ball less of a percentage during victories than it did last year in Yost’s first year as OC. Missouri averaged running 52.4 percent of the time during wins in 2009, about eight percent higher than in 2010.

So, how do you fix it, how do you avoid these awful losses? The easy answer is stick with what’s working. Of course. Maybe run more against three-man fronts, maybe not pass the ball when your All-American QB is having an off night, but that’d be me being like a Monday Morning Quarterback columnist, so I’m not sure how to fix it.

Let’s be clear: Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel has done an outstanding job. He’s brought top-level talent to Columbia, Mo., just look at Jeremy Maclin, Ziggy Hood, second-rounder William Moore and that’s not including undrafted Heisman finalist Chase Daniel and the undrafted Alexander.

But, for whatever reason, Missouri continues to not play up to its potential in the strangest of games and the play-calling is a logical place to examine.

Call it pathetic, call it Mizzou’s luck, but it’s the coaches’ fault, no matter what you call it. That’s why they get paid a lot of cash, and that’s why we can dissect their decisions and try to understand them, no matter how baffling.