“(U)niversity of (N)othing’s (I)mpossible”

March 16, 1990 was a historic day for the University of Northern Iowa men’s basketball team.

To write that is a big understatement.

Maurice Newby...the man who made the shot that sent the Cedar Valley into a frenzy. (UNI Athletics Communications)
Maurice Newby…the man who made the shot that sent the Cedar Valley into a frenzy. (UNI Athletics Communications)

Twenty-five years ago today, in their first ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament as a Division I-A program, the 14th seeded Panthers faced the Missouri Tigers, who were seeded 3rd and at one time, were ranked #1 in the polls.

UNI, tied with Mizzou, 71-71, with 10 seconds left, had the ball on the sidelines. Troy Muilenburg inbounded the ball to point guard Dale Turner. Turner dribbles the ball to the right, then reverses back to the left. Maurice Newby comes towards Turner, as Mizzou’s Anthony Peeler doesn’t switch off Turner quick enough as Newby receives the pass from Turner. Newby, with time running out, gathers himself behind the three-point line and lets one fly…

…swish.

The Tigers, with no timeouts to use, hurry to inbound the ball and heaves it past the basket into the crowd as the buzzer sounds.

The Panthers won, 74-71 over the Tigers. It was one of the biggest upsets in the 1990 tournament and goes down in the annuals as one of the most memorable in Iowa sports history.

There is a distinction that has to be made here, if you don’t mind.  The 2010 win versus Kansas in the second round of the NCAA tournament was the biggest win in the program’s history. The Jayhawks were the top seed and nationally ranked in the top 5 during the 2009-10 season.

While many fans, and rightfully so, will say Kansas ranks #1 as the biggest win, the victory over Mizzou was the most “defining” win for the Panthers’ basketball program.

Huh?

You can’t dismiss what that win over the Tigers meant to UNI. Until 1981, UNI was a Division II school. When they made the leap to Division I, they went through plenty of growing pains. To Iowa, Iowa State and the rest of the state, Northern Iowa was a blip on the map. Yes, they are a state school, but they were not always treated as equals like their big brothers were.

UNI is the school where the student body is slightly over 90% Iowan. It was known as Iowa State Teachers’ College until 1967. Norm Stewart, the losing coach for Missouri, was the head coach for ISTC from 1962 to 1969. Panthers athletics were known more for wrestling, volleyball, and most times than not, football.

Jason Reese cuts down the nets after the Panthers' 53-45 win over UW-Green Bay for the Mid-Continent tournament championship. (UNI Athletics Communications)
Jason Reese cuts down the nets after the Panthers’ 53-45 win over UW-Green Bay for the Mid-Continent tournament championship. (UNI Athletics Communications)

The 1989-90 season for UNI was a defining moment for the team for various reasons. They hosted the Iowa Hawkeyes for the first time in seven decades. The game, held in the UNI-Dome on January 3rd, created a buzz that hasn’t been seen since the Dome opened in late 1975. With the court raised and centered in the middle of Dome, 22,676 fans witnessed and were part of history. It was the largest crowd to watch a college basketball game in state history. That record still stands today.

UNI, behind 15 second half points by reserve Brad Hill, upset the Hawkeyes, 77-74.

In early March, the Panthers hosted the Mid-Continent Conference tournament. After finishing in fourth place in the league, and losers of three of their last five games, there were plenty for UNI to prove. They lost only two games in “Eldon’s Dome of Doom” in the regular season.

After a wild triple overtime win over Illinois-Chicago in the first round, Northern Iowa got a go-ahead basket to lead (Southwest) Missouri State 63-61, the Bears had the ball and a chance to tie or win the game. They were called for traveling with 4 seconds left. The Panthers advanced to the title game against a Wisconsin-Green Bay team that beaten the twice during the season.

With a loud raucous crowd behind them, Northern Iowa stymied the Phoenix and star player (current Virginia coach) Tony Bennett, 53-45, to earn their first ever appearance in the “Big Dance.”

Jason Reese (left) and Nick Pace joking around during a 2012 reunion of the '89-90 UNI team on campus. (Courier archives)
Jason Reese (left) and Nick Pace joking around during a 2012 reunion of the ’89-90 UNI team on campus. (Courier archives)

Purple fever was running white-hot through the Cedar Valley and the state. Panthers fans had something to boast about and a moniker for the team: University of Nothing’s Impossible: beating Iowa, winning three games in three nights to win the conference tournament. Nothing was impossible for this team: Jason Reese, Maurice Newby, Troy Muilenburg, Dale Turner, Steve Phyfe, Cedric McCullough, Cam Johnson, Nick Pace, Brad Hill, Jonathon Cox, Scott Socha, Kent Pollpeter, and Steve Deering.

Northern Iowa drew Missouri in the Southeast regional at Richmond, Virginia Friday morning, March 16th.

Here is the full game, without commercials.

See what I mean why I say a “defining” moment for UNI basketball? That season gave the Panthers the foundation they needed to build success…and what we see today, as Northern Iowa returns to the tournament to face Wyoming on Friday.

Since 1990, Northern Iowa has made the NCAA tournament in 2004-06 and 2009-10, and won the Missouri Valley Conference tournament in 2004, 2009, 2010, and two weeks ago.

Steve Phfye holds the Mid-Continent trophy in the air. (UNI Athletics Communications)
Steve Phfye holds the Mid-Continent trophy in the air. (UNI Athletics Communications)

The win against Mizzou turned UNI from a “blip” to a place where getting an easy win was no longer possible. Before beating Kansas and Missouri, Iowa was their biggest win, only to eclipse that two months later, knocking off the Tigers.

Northern Iowa may still be the little brother Iowa and ISU would rather not be bothered with, but there is no disputing this: UNI is no longer a pushover. They’re the ones doing the pushing around, which makes the rivalry between the three public schools, and Drake, something that fans in Iowa can appreciate and enjoy.

Nothing is impossible for the Purple and the Gold.

Nothing.

 

A Tiger’s Roar: Pat Mitchell (1939-2015)

Dean Smith coached Michael Jordan, James Worthy, Rasheed Wallace, Larry Brown, and Kenny "The Jet" Smith. (Courtesy: WUNC)
Dean Smith coached Michael Jordan, James Worthy, Rasheed Wallace, Larry Brown, and Kenny “The Jet” Smith. (Courtesy: WUNC)

Dean Smith, the legendary University of North Carolina basketball coach, passed away Saturday evening at age 83. The recurring theme over the past several days is not about Smith’s won-loss records and being one of the best college basketball coaches ever. It was about Smith the individual: principled, graceful, teacher, and a father figure. Dean Smith lived a full life.

Mentioning Smith gives me an opportunity to tell you about another individual, who passed away last Wednesday. Similar to Smith, he too was principled, graceful, teacher, and he was one of the best coaches in Iowa.


Pat Mitchell was the head football coach at Cedar Falls for so long, I thought he was the only coach the Tigers ever had.

For a long time, I never thought there was anyone before him (Ed Lyons) and I swore that there would be no one after him (Brad Remmert).

Pat Mitchell taught and coached at Cedar Falls High for 47 years, 24 trips to the post-season, and 39 playoff wins. (Courier archives)
Pat Mitchell taught and coached at Cedar Falls High for 47 years, 24 trips to the post-season, and 39 playoff wins. (Courier archives)

From 1967 to 2014, no one was identified with Tigers football more than Coach Mitch, who died on February 4th after an extended battle with cancer.  If there was anyone else who knew how to use the UNI-Dome to his team’s advantage, Mitch was the master of it. Playing the Tigers in the UNI-Dome was a house of horrors for opponents far and wide.

Mitch’s teams played smart, strong, and fast. If you dug yourself a hole against CF, good luck trying to crawl out of that hole…you were cooked. That’s what happens when you face a guy who is 4th all time in wins (344-138-2) in Iowa prep football.

But Mitchell was more than a coach…he was an iconic figure in the annuls of Cedar Valley sports, particularly in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls area. He coached against Reggie Roby, Kerry Burt, Jerry Moses, Chris Klieman, Tim Dwight, and many others who have become stars and legends in Iowa prep football.

Mitch is on the list of local coaches, that if you just mention their last name or nickname, people knew who you were talking about: Dick Marcussen and Dan List at CF, Howard Vernon, Steve McGraw, and Dave Natvig at East Waterloo, and George Dutcher, Bob Siddens, and Glenn Strobridge at West Waterloo.

The players Mitch coached, I either watched or played against: Terrence Freeney, Chris Nuss, Jason Hamrock, Mike Flagg, Matt Purdy, Barkley Hill, and Gabe Hurley, among so many.

But it was the rivalries…oh those rivalries. When East, West, CF, and Columbus got together on a Friday night, it wasn’t a football game…it was a battle royale. The heydays of the old Big 8 Conference was a special time: iconic coaches, outstanding players, and the stadiums that were rocking. There was pride on the line…and a city championship to be won.

There are three program defining games, in my view, that made Mitchell and the Tigers’ the formidable powerhouse that they are now. Incidentally, all three was against a city rival, East Waterloo.

In 1971, the Tigers were leading East 24-13, late in the 4th quarter at UNI’s old Latham Field. Behind talented Tiger quarterback Bill Salmon, CF jumped out to a big lead. But, the Trojans rallied with two touchdowns in the last 5 minutes of the contest for a 25-24 win. East went on to win their 6th straight mythical Class 4A state title.

That loss set up the second defining moment in 1972 when CF pulled off a 10-9 upset win over East. That win was all the momentum they needed to qualify for the playoffs, which was instituted that year by the IAHSAA.

Jeremiah Longnecker and Pat Mitchell with a celebratory hug after the Tigers' 15-14 win over Linn-Mar to win the 1986 Class 4A state title. (Courier archives)
Jeremiah Longnecker and Pat Mitchell with a celebratory hug after the Tigers’ 15-14 win over Linn-Mar to win the 1986 Class 4A state title. (Courier archives)

The third program-defining game was the 1st round playoff game against East in 1986. In the regular season, the Trojans pancaked the Tigers, 49-14. In the rematch at the UNI-Dome, CF stymied East and stunned the favorite to win the 4A title with a 12-6 win. It was the Tigers who went on to win a state title that year, defeating Linn-Mar, 15-14.

The Tigers would repeat that effort again in 1987, by losing to East in the regular season and beating the Trojans in the 1st round again, but fell short to Dowling Catholic, 21-3 in the semifinals.

The 1986 title was the only one Pat Mitchell would win. Mitchell and the Tigers came close several times, finishing as runner-ups 4 times (’82, ’99, ’05, ’08).

No one had a bad thing to say about Coach Mitch. Why should they? Being a coach is not about play calls, touchdowns, and championships. It’s about people. His players loved and respected him. Cedar Falls rallied behind the Tigers, all due to Mitchell’s personality: positive, delightful, tenacious, and never giving up.

It never dawn on me that one day Mitch would finally hang it up. For the last ten years, Brad Remmert and him were co-coaches and the Tigers continued the high level of success in Class 4A. Mitchell made the decision to retire before the start of the 2014 season.

In December, my brother-in-law was inducted into our high school’s basketball ring of honor. During the ceremony, I was mentally looking back how those moments and the people I was fortunate to watch, read, and listen, as well as played against, have shaped my view of respecting history and traditions. Yes, I am biased towards my alma mater, East High, but it would be foolish to not include a guy like Pat Mitchell, a rival, in being such an important figure in our community, with regards to sports.

Mitch’s passing feels like an end of an era for me. It’s hard to imagine one person, being at one school for nearly your entire life (I recently turned 39. Mitchell was at CF for 47 years). It was a little hard this past fall to not to see a highlight of Mitch on the sidelines. It was because I, and so many of us from the Cedar Valley, were so used to it.

The roar of the greatest Tiger in Cedar Falls High School history is now silent.

Pat Mitchell lived a full life and people will remember the person that Mitch was. The wins and losses are secondary.

As it should be.

Marshawn Lynch Doesn’t Have To Speak, But It’s Up To Him To Conquer His Anxiety

I’m not a good talker. I like conversations, but I am not a serial “conversationalist”. If given a choice, I would prefer to listen, read, and observe things and write what I see everyday.

But, that’s not how the world operates. You have to talk if you need help, to explain things that people do not understand, and to blend in with the human race.

I am a stutterer. Many people who know me understand that I will fumble over words and phrases awkwardly. I prefer not to talk, unless I need to say something.

"Beast Mode" (aka Marshawn Lynch) doesn't have to talk to the press, but that should not excuse him for not seeking help to resolve his anxiety and fear of public speaking. (ESPN)
“Beast Mode” (aka Marshawn Lynch) doesn’t have to talk to the press, but that should not excuse him for not seeking help for resolve his anxiety and fear of public speaking. (ESPN)

Which brings up the topic of Marshawn Lynch. Lynch, a star running back for the Seattle Seahawks, have become a storm of controversy, as if there isn’t enough controversy around pro football these days, for his “combative” nature in refusing to answer questions from the media during press conferences.

Various reports have said that Lynch battles anxiety attacks when pressed to speak to people. Lynch’s approach to all of this is to sound combative, to the level of being dismissive when he is peppered with questions by the press.

The story of Duane Thomas and his awkward exchange with Tom Brookshier brings back uneasy memories.

I don’t have an opinion of Lynch, but I do know what it is like to fear public speaking and anxiety.

Public speaking feels like walking down death row for many people, such as myself. Growing up, I hated to talk, because I was ashamed of my stuttering. As much as I wanted to voice my opinion, say something informative, or approach a girl, it was a virtual hell for me.

Years of speech therapy did help in some areas, but sooner or later, I would have to figure the rest of it out on my own: learning how to start a conversation, using the phone to order pizza, ask a receptionist for directions, to name a few.

I found public speaking to be tolerable: typing what I am going to say, rehearsing it, and reading it in front of a large crowd. I use a few tricks to help me get through it.

Bill Belichick does not have a fear of public speaking. He chooses to be difficult towards people, with a level of contempt.
Bill Belichick does not have a fear of public speaking. He chooses to be difficult towards people, with a level of contempt.

My advice to Lynch, the Seahawks, and the NFL is this: if he does have an anxiety disorder, then get help for it now, and address it to the public. The better the public knows about it from Marshawn Lynch, the more they are willing to give him a break.

If he does not have anxiety problems and this is mere insubordination on his part, he need to stop playing games with people. If Lynch is using anxiety as an excuse to blow off doing interviews (so far, it has not been confirmed by a doctor if he indeed has an anxiety disorder), then he is insulting and embarrassing the people who actually do battle with social anxiety disorder.

There’s no way getting around that.

If he allegedly did not have a problem with speaking during his time at Buffalo, what changed now with him in Seattle?

No wonder why the media is bashing him, fair or not. I don’t hate Lynch the person. I am disappointed in how he is handling this, and I blame the people around him, including the Seahawks, for not helping him learn how to deal with public speaking in spite of his anxiety.

By not addressing his anxiety, Lynch and the Seahawks open themselves up to criticism about him, his behavior, and who he is as a person.

All of this can be resolved…if everyone would stop pointing fingers at each other.

Here’s one simple resolution: if Lynch is consistently uncomfortable speaking due to his anxiety disorder, the NFL and the Seahawks have to make concessions and not force Lynch not to do mandatory press conferences. The same needs to be applied to players and coaches, not named Bill Belichick, who do have legitimate documented cases of social anxiety disorder.

In return, Lynch has to willingly seek help to treat his anxiety and work on adapting ways to deal with his fear of public speaking. If the NFL and Seattle have to accommodate Lynch in some form, then he has to get help on working to conquer his anxiety problems.

I had to learn how to speak and have conversations with people, in spite of my anxiety. I can choose not to talk, but no one is going to change their environment to accommodate me when I demand it for my self-interest.

This is a controversy should have never developed into a what it is, along with the New England Patriots being accused of deflating footballs to gain an advantage.

In the end, it’s on Marshawn Lynch to help himself conquer his fear of public speaking.

No one is going to fix it for him, unless he’s willing to do so himself.

Talent Is Not A Number

When the sun comes out, it always shine on Wartburg's Old Main.
When the sun comes out, it always shine on Wartburg’s Old Main.

One of the things I always look forward to is heading back to my alma mater, Wartburg College, to take part in Scholarship Day. The campus holds three of these days between November and February. High school seniors and juniors come to Wartburg to participate in several events and do interviews. The interviews are based on several factors such as activities in and outside of school, leadership, faith, and service, among others.

Lately, there have been criticism about the new generation of young adults (no, I’m not talking about you, Millennials, you’re safe for now) and how they behave, talk, and if they have any drive to be successful.

I interviewed eight students on Sunday that were diverse and different. A faculty/staff member, a current student, and an alumni made up the interview teams, and each interview was held in classrooms throughout the campus.

Hopefully this post will help erase some doubts about the newer generation that are walking into the halls of high school and college.

One student from Colorado described how she, at age 10, and her mother created a foundation to host birthday parties for kids who never had a birthday party. A student from southeast Iowa went to the Iowa State Capitol and advocated to the governor to consider moving the start of the school year to after Labor Day, because students who are in 4-H are involved in farm programs and shows at the Iowa State Fair and it’s an educational opportunity for those students who are considering going into the agriculture industry.

If you don't think that the Iowa State Fair is going to be huge issue when it comes to the start of the school year this legislative session, then you've eaten way too many corn dogs. (Iowa Public Radio)
If you don’t think that the Iowa State Fair is going to be huge issue when it comes to the start of the school year this legislative session, then you’ve eaten way too many corn dogs. (Iowa Public Radio)

A student from eastern Iowa explained how he missed a field goal that would have won the game for his team, but redeemed himself by kicking the game winning field goal in overtime. Rather than celebrate the win, he went back to his school, and kicked field goals until 1:00 am…after a game.

The interview that stood out to me was a senior from the south side of Chicago, who created a high school group to work towards ending gun violence in their neighborhood schools by doing peace movements. The group wanted to film their efforts and show it to other schools. The group went to Kickstarter to start their fund-raising campaign. Over $35,000 later, they made the movie.

The common themes that kept running through my head were: initiative, accountability, self-starter, motivation, creativity, and maturity.

“Why do you want to come to Wartburg?” my interview team asked each student.

“It’s the right fit…”

“It’s a community here, and I already feel at home…”

“You’re not a number, you’re a person here…”

“I want to go to a school where I can be challenged, not just show up for class…”

This post isn’t about Wartburg, though the loyal alum in me would wax poetically about it.

Many of us have been a number, be it at work or school. Several of us have lived or worked at places where we felt isolated and held back from growing in our careers. Some have gone through the sense that they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. We’ve also have been told that our skills and talents do not fit in places where you can’t flourish. It’s a tragedy when a company or someone who says they want creative and talented people to work for them, only to hire them and do the opposite: dismiss creativity, drive, passion, and cut off their talents at the door.

Andy Stitzer is a late bloomer. It takes time to finally find that place where you can find success in life.
Andy Stitzer is a late bloomer. It takes time to finally find that place where you can find success in life.

I’m raise my hand and say that I’ve experienced those circumstances.  Late-bloomers like me have a longer road to travel to get to that place in our lives where we can be creative, flourish and have passion. The talents that we have are taken for granted because we don’t realize we use them every day.

Sunday afternoon reaffirmed that all is not lost with these kids who are finding their way towards their aspirations and dreams. We (adults) need to let them find their “voices” and use them, not constrain them to where they do become disaffected, disillusioned, and stop believing that they are creative, and their talents and skills are useless.

You Don’t Need To Win An Award To Be A “Hall-of-Famer”

Dan Marino and Charles Barkley are considered the best athletes in their respective sports, football and basketball. Both of them are hall-of-famers despite the fact that they didn’t win a NBA title or a Super Bowl.

There are critics who feel that Marino, Barkley, and others should not be in the hall of fame, because they didn’t win the “big one.” According to conventional wisdom, winning a championship validates your legacy and punches your ticket into the hall of fame.

As the case, many great athletes have been inducted into their hall of fames without ever winning a championship.

The greatest athletes are enshrined into a hall of fame.  Does this apply to regular people and regular life?
The greatest athletes are enshrined into a hall of fame.
Does this apply to regular people and regular life?

There is a sense in local young professional circles that if you haven’t receive an award for making a difference in your community, then your accomplishments have no value.

Last October, at a YP event, a facilitator gave a group an assignment to write their dreams and what goals they wanted to achieve individually. On a majority of “dream” lists, YPs listed a plethora of dreams, but the majority theme on their lists is being named to “important lists” such as the Business Record’s Forty Under 40 and Juice’s YP of the Year Award.

After the event, several of us YPs read what was written on each list. A few of us found it troubling to read that the “end all be all” dream of many is “winning an award”. The question we asked was whether an award, being named to a board, or being recognized as an “up and comer” should validate a young professional’s status in the Des Moines business community.

Juice and YPC will announce the 2014 winner of the YP of the Year award in early February.
Juice and YPC will announce the 2014 winner of the YP of the Year award in early February.

As someone who have won two awards for community service, there is an harsh truth about winning awards: it doesn’t always validate your status and presence in the eyes of the community.

It doesn’t raise your profile as much as you think it should. For some, it does, which is why many YPs feel that Forty Under 40, the Business Record’s yearly honor list of 40 individuals under 40 who are making great strides in Central Iowa, is such a big deal.

None of those distinctions have landed me a permanent (or better) job and a higher profile. I’ve gotten a pat on the head for being a great volunteer, but nothing else. In 2011, there wasn’t much fanfare

The “checkbox “ that YPs are using to measure each other in the area of life and career is disturbing. If we’re not obsessively networking, gathering up as mentors, and taking leadership classes, then we must be failing and not living up to the standards of “being successful”.

Have Gen Xers and Millennials fallen into the "checkbox mentality" of trying to be noticed and admired?
Have Gen Xers and Millennials fallen into the “checkbox mentality” of trying to be noticed and admired?

It’s the Gen X/Millennial version of the “rat race.”

Last July, Juice’s Josh Hafner asked “do YPs do more than network, find mentors, and learning about leadership?” It was a great question because he was seeing a trend that I didn’t notice. When I look back at my experience as a YP over the past decade, I have struggled more than I have achieved. I didn’t get that big promotion, lofty job title, or the things that everyone I know already has: family, house/condo, significant other, et cetera.

Hafner’s column resonated to me. Being a young professional should be more than networking for your career, being mentored by great leaders, and learning how to succeed as a leader.

You are starting to learn how to live life: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Not many YPs are going to have mentors. Either we can’t find the right mentor for the right fit, or a mentor may have no interest in mentoring you.

Many of us may be unable to sign up for leadership classes, if time permits us. There are leadership classes that will not be the best fit. Would it be better for me to take a Leadership Iowa class than GDMLI, because I’m interested in how leadership is done on a statewide basis, plus my interest level goes beyond what goes on here in Des Moines.

Despite those challenges, the list of finalists for the 2014 YP of the Year do not just sit on a bunch of boards, have a Rolodex of networks, have great jobs, and have mentors. Their interests include building houses for low-income families, encouraging women to run for elected office, raising money for children with serious illnesses, among other activities.

YPs understand that we have lives outside of the professional world and cultivating our individual lives is paramount for our sanity.

rat-race
Gen X and Millennials are now experiencing their own “rat race” to success.

I have accepted that I will never be named to the Forty Under 40 list. I’ve never had the career or job that I could advance up the ladder in and have it linked to the activities I have done or doing in the community.

There are too many factors going against me for this honor. I’m at peace with never getting it. That’s one less thing I have to worry about.

I never sought out to win the YPC Ashley Okland Community Service award or receive the Iowa Governor’s Volunteer award. It was never a goal. Individuals nominated me because they felt that a person who is dedicated to what they love and believed in should be honored.

I never bring those awards up to brag or remind people about. Nobody cares.

It’s 2015, not 2011.

It’s nice to have them, but how many people remember that I received them?

I volunteer and network because I enjoy staying busy and giving back in a small way. Personally, it takes my mind off of feeling lonely and dealing with my own personal battles (health, lack of work). If volunteering and connecting people make a difference in one person’s life, I consider that a victory.

YP of the Year Award finalists (from left) Josh Dryer, Andrea Woodard, LaVerne Greenfield, Megan Ruble, Brianne Sanchez, Emilee Richardson, and Tyler DeHaan, Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015, at the YPC 2015 Kick Off event at Jasper Winery in Des Moines. (Juice)
YP of the Year Award finalists (from left) Josh Dryer, Andrea Woodard, LaVerne Greenfield, Megan Ruble, Brianne Sanchez, Emilee Richardson, and Tyler DeHaan, Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015, at the YPC 2015 Kick Off event at Jasper Winery in Des Moines. (Juice)

In her blog “BS in the Midwest”, Brianne Sanchez wrote about being fortunate in living in a city that let’s her do her job, pursue her passions and hobbies, spend time with her family, friends, and colleagues. Also, she never feel stressed out to hit those “self-made benchmarks” that most of us YP’s have unconsciously set for ourselves.

“Whether or not I “win” the YP award in February, the fact the I get to go to work in a job I love and live in a community that lets me pursue and explore so many ideas (and embraces me when all I want is to hang out in my sweatpants), is a huge reward in itself.”

Is an athlete a Hall-of-Famer, if they never won a championship?  The answer is yes.

Is someone a “Hall-of-Famer” if they don’t receive an honor or award, based on their accomplishments?

That answer should always be “yes.”

Baker’s Dozen: Most Insightful Stories of 2014

I have not done a considerable amount of writing in 2014 (21 blogs to be exact) for me to pleased about. Life does get in the way. It was a good and bad thing. The good is that I’m not using my laptop excessively. The bad is that I missed some opportunities to write about something.

My goal for 2015 is to write more. That’s a personal goal of mine, and I hope none of it is about Skip Bayless.

I didn’t have the desire to write about all of the stories that took place in 2014. Social media has a large role in my decision. It is hard, at times, to have a voice, ask questions that no one else will ask, offer a perspective laced with facts and experience, only for it to fall into the “noise” machine.

Trust me when I say this: I’m not alone with that sentiment.

As I start re-focusing my priority to this blog , I have a Baker’s dozen list of selected long-reads (columns, articles, or stories) that I have archived throughout 2014. Regardless if I agreed or disagreed with what was written, these pieces gave me insight into topics and perspectives that I wanted to know more about.

The format is set up in this manner: a synopsis of each story and a quote from the pieces are in bold italic.

Without further ado…

Bruce_Braley_photo
Bruce Braley is a nice guy, but he’s no Tom Harkin, and that’s why he lost, according to Michael Gartner.

1. Michael Gartner held nothing back in his weekly commentary in Cityview’s “Civic Skinny” column about the Iowa U.S. Senate race between Bruce Braley and Joni Ernst. Gartner, a staunch Democrat, didn’t resort to blaming Ernst for Braley losing, like many liberals did. He blames Bruce Braley for losing the race himself. “…while Harkin was disciplined, Braley went off on his “merry way”. And unfortunately for Democrats, that “merry way” led back to Waterloo.”

2a. Jamie Kilstein and Allison Kilkenny (Salon) with a strong piece on  the day when Jon Stewart “quit” and The Daily Show became irrelevant when it comes to activism. “Real activism doesn’t work that way. You can’t appoint a progressive messiah and listen to him snipe through your flat screen and expect for things to magically get better.”

2b. If that didn’t help Stewart, his comments on Election Day, didn’t do him justice either, according to Zachary Goldfarb of the Washington Post. “While there’s no denying that a surge of support for Republicans was going to make this a nasty election for liberals like Stewart, his viewers are part of the problem. We’re talking about young voters, who sat out the election and helped cost Democrats votes.”

Ben Bradlee presided over a golden era of the Washington Post, which included Watergate, and bring in talented writers like Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodard, Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon.
Ben Bradlee presided over a golden era of the Washington Post, which included Watergate, and bring in talented writers like Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodard, Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon.

3. Rachel Jones of Voice of America remembering the late great Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee. Bradlee was larger than life, but as Jones wrote, Bradlee used his authority and power to empower and take Jones under his wing at the Post. “There is a magic that is potent beyond human understanding when someone in a position of power extends him or herself on your behalf, based on nothing more that a belief in your potential…And that moment when Ben Bradlee took the time to act as my personal career counselor sealed my fate.”

4. Rob Havilla of The Concourse with a great long read about Craig Ferguson‘s tenure on CBS’ “The Late Late Show” and why the show and Ferguson was a perfect match. “He (Ferguson) has a very silly but somehow also calm, comforting, genuine-feeling rapport with a very specific genus of up-and-coming actress; some may outgrow him, fame-wise (think Anna Kendrick, maybe), but many refuse to abandon him.”

BenMilne_headshot
The startup community in Des Moines continues to push boundaries and evolve, thanks to those like Ben Milne and Dwolla, Geoff Wood, and many others. Expect that to continue in 2015.

 

5. Dwolla’s Ben Milne on being an entrepreneur and the emotional toll of being away from home while building a  startup and a dream. “It’s time for me to go home & that’s ok. When it’s time for you to go home… Don’t lie to yourself and convince yourself it’s not ok.”

6. Credit to SI’s Richard Deitsch for this story by N.R. Kleinfield of the New York Times. A man faces his phobia of water and makes “the leap” into the pool to conquer it.   A lesson about how we have to work on conquering our fears, be it big or small.

7. Blogger Batty Mamzelle took issue with feminists who use racism when their efforts to slut-shame women and other feminists (notably Beyonce and Nicki Minaj) falls flat. “…our feminisms will differ depending on our intersections, and that’s okay. It is perfectly acceptable to acknowledge that different women have different needs. But the constant gatekeeping of mainstream feminism reveals the deeply entrenched racism within the movement.”

8. David Carr, the stellar media reporter, for the New York Times, on how the Washington media whiffed on Congressman Eric Cantor’s loss and their propensity to be blinded by all things in the beltway.

9. Derek Thompson of The Atlantic writes about a personal pet peeve of mine: people who say they want hard news, but really don’t. “Ask audiences what they want, and they’ll tell you vegetables. Watch them quietly, and they’ll mostly eat candy…Audiences are liars, and the media organizations who listen to them without measuring them are dupes.”

10. Carl E. Esbeck writes an opinion for Christianity Today on the Supreme Court ruling in favor of allowing prayer in public meetings, based on the case of Town of Greece vs. Galloway. Esbeck said that while most evangelicals call it a victory, he cautions that not all Christians are exuberant about the ruling, because it’ll open a door to a lot more trouble. “Already this is occurring in the Town of Greece, where a Wiccan priestess has offered up prayers to Athena and Apollo. An atheist has also petitioned, by appealing to “inclusion,” that she be allowed to take a turn at rendering the invocation. She did so, not because she wanted to pray, to protest the city policy by rendering it absurd. The Supreme Court’s ruling means we will be seeing more of this mischief.”

Mara Wilson (of Mrs. Doubtfire and Matilda fame) didn't fall into the proverbial traps and pitfalls of being a child star.
Mara Wilson (of Mrs. Doubtfire and Matilda fame) didn’t fall into the proverbial traps and pitfalls of being a child star.

11. This column is from 2013, but it is so good, everyone should read it. Former child actress Mara Wilson (“Mrs. Doubtfire”, “Matilda”) pens a guest column for Cracked of her experience of being a child star and her perspective on how child stars go crazy and self-destruct. “Years of adulation and money and things quickly become normal, and then, just as they get used to it all, they hit puberty — which is a serious job hazard when your job is being cute.”

12. The Daily Beast’s David Freelander on the growing rift between Democrats and EMILY, an organization that supports female candidates that are pro-choice. Most liberals are claiming that EMILY is on the wrong side of the political divide. ““I think EMILY’s List has really lost their way,”…“Here in Hawaii they seem to not understand the politics. Brian Schatz has been a 100 percent down the line supporter of women’s issues. I understand their rule is that they only endorse women, but they don’t have to endorse at all when they have a champion running who is a man.””

The New Republic 's owner Chris Hughes (left), and editor Franklin Foer (right). The union between owner and editor deteriorated over time, with Foer being fired and most TNR's writers leaving en masse.
The New Republic ‘s owner Chris Hughes (left), and editor Franklin Foer (right). The union between owner and editor deteriorated over time, with Foer being fired and most TNR’s writers leaving en masse.

13. Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker on the epic downfall of The New Republic, which is one of the best I’ve read this year. “(Franklin) Foer wanted to hire someone with a strong background in magazine publishing, but (Chris) Hughes overruled him, selecting Guy Vidra for the job. In a press release announcing that he’d been hired, Vidra described T.N.R. as a “storied brand,” a corporate phrase that rankled some writers there. The release made no mention of Foer and suggested that Vidra now had editorial control of the magazine.”

That’s a lot of stories to cover. There are a few more, but I’ll stop here.

The takeaway is that it we think we know the story, but we really don’t, until the entire story is told.

“March Madness” Finally Comes to Des Moines

The 2013 NCAA Wrestling Championships at Wells Fargo Arena . Hosting this proved that Des Moines was ready to host any major sporting event.
The 2013 NCAA Wrestling Championships at Wells Fargo Arena . Hosting this proved that Des Moines was ready to host any major sporting event.

Remember when Wells Fargo Arena and the Iowa Events Center opened in 2005?

Remember when people complained about paying $6 for a beer at Wells Fargo?

Remember when the Polk County Board of Supervisors had that ridiculous iron-clad contract to put an AHL team inside Wells Fargo?

Remember when people expected Wells Fargo and Des Moines to land a NCAA men’s tournament game right away?

Funny how we forget those moments. People stop complaining about the price of beer. It’s cheaper than venues like Solider Field and Yankee Stadium.

After the first fiasco of having an AHL team, the Board of Supervisors finally got it right by having the right owners and an affiliate that was in the region (Minnesota Wild).

And all that talk about never getting to host March Madness?  That debate ended today.

NCAA2016_DesMoines_logo

This morning, the NCAA has announced that Des Moines was selected as one of eight cities to host the first and second round games for the 2016 Division I men’s basketball tournament…aka March Madness.

Yes…our city. How about that?

See what patience and proving doubters wrong can do?

Des Moines was ready for this moment to come. It took a few “no’s”, but here it is.

This is why the IAHSAA and the IGHSAU moved their tournament dates up a few weeks early, much to their displeasure.

This is why Des Moines was willing to host the NCAA Track and Field Championships, the women’s basketball early and regional rounds, Iowa State hosting the volleyball regionals, and the coup d’etat, the NCAA wrestling championships in 2013.

And not to mention, Des Moines has hosted the AAU Junior Olympics the last few years as well.

This is why after listening to what they needed to do to improve their chances at hosting the men’s tournament, Des Moines, quietly and patiently, worked diligently to put as many of the pieces together. A new hotel will be built next to the Events Center complex in the next two years.

So that excuse of not having a hotel on site can no longer be used as an excuse by the NCAA or anyone else.

This news even surprised WHO-TV’s Andy Fales, who thought Des Moines was going to miss out, yet again:

…after the announcement:

The more you doubt a person or something, the more they can prove you wrong.

The credit goes to the Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau and others like Iowa State, Drake, and sports fans. We earned this. We proved that anything can happen…patience is a virtue.

Is hosting a major national sports event still a “useless folly”, Mike Draper?  I didn’t think so. The CVB just got scoreboard.

That also goes for those who will continue to find ways to player-hate on Des Moines. You can quietly exit stage left.

The haters are not going to ruin this day for sports fans. We’ve waited for a long time for this to happen. When 2016 arrives, it’ll be 44 years since March Madness was held in an Iowa venue (Hilton Coliseum hosted the 1972 Midwest regionals).

There are a few other things I want to add about the news (for one, it’s long overdue for the NCAA to find new cities to host tournaments), but for today, it’s a good day to see that the work towards getting March Madness paid off.

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