John U. Bacon http://michiganradio.org en The influence of a little league baseball coach can last a lifetime http://michiganradio.org/post/influence-little-league-baseball-coach-can-last-lifetime <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Last summer, I told you about</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;Coach Mac, my little league baseball coach who believed in me, and helped me</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;rise from the team’s worst player to become the team’s captain in one season.</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">I didn’t know where my old coach was, but after the story aired, I received&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">a thank you letter from Coach Mac himself. This week, Coach Mack passed away.</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The summer before Mac McKenzie became our little league baseball coach, I spent&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">the season picking dandelions in right field, and batting last. But just weeks after&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Coach Mac took over, I rose to starting catcher, lead-off hitter, and team captain.</span></p><p> Fri, 11 Jul 2014 14:37:47 +0000 John U. Bacon 18343 at http://michiganradio.org The influence of a little league baseball coach can last a lifetime Remembering a dose of humility from Jeopardy! http://michiganradio.org/post/remembering-dose-humility-jeopardy <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:2;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-2f6a479e-db73-3e5b-0b1d-5d96f012ef30"><span style="font-size: 19px; font-family: 'Times New Roman'; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: transparent;">Last night, I tried my luck on the NPR game show, “Ask Me Another.” &nbsp;It brought back memories – traumatic ones – of my disastrous try out for the Jeopardy! game show 24 years ago.</span></span></p><p dir="ltr" style="line-height:2;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: 19px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 2; background-color: transparent;">"I'll take 'Humility' for $100 please, Alex."</span></p><p dir="ltr" style="line-height:2;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-2f6a479e-db73-3e5b-0b1d-5d96f012ef30"><span style="font-size: 19px; font-family: 'Times New Roman'; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: transparent;">"He was one of fifty people to fail the Jeopardy test on June 21, 1990."</span></span></p><p dir="ltr" style="line-height:2;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-2f6a479e-db73-3e5b-0b1d-5d96f012ef30"><span style="font-size: 19px; font-family: 'Times New Roman'; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: transparent;">"Ah, 'Who was John Bacon?'"</span></span></p><p></p><p dir="ltr" style="line-height:2;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-2f6a479e-db73-3e5b-0b1d-5d96f012ef30"><span style="font-size: 19px; font-family: 'Times New Roman'; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: transparent;">24 years ago, it seemed like a good idea. &nbsp;There I was, lying on the couch, watching Jeopardy!, and yelling out things like "Millard Fillmore," "The St. Louis Browns" and "Mesopotamia," when they invited anybody who would be in Los Angeles to try out for the show. &nbsp;Turned out I would be, so I figured, Why Not? &nbsp;&nbsp;</span></span></p><p></p><p dir="ltr" style="line-height:2;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-2f6a479e-db73-3e5b-0b1d-5d96f012ef30"><span style="font-size: 19px; font-family: 'Times New Roman'; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: transparent;">Why not? &nbsp;Here’s why: It’s a poor predictor of success on the show, only 3-percent pass it -- &nbsp;oh, and you can’t really study for it. &nbsp;&nbsp;That’s why. &nbsp;</span></span></p><p> Fri, 27 Jun 2014 11:00:00 +0000 John U. Bacon 18181 at http://michiganradio.org Remembering a dose of humility from Jeopardy! Michigan football has sold its soul; here's how to get it back http://michiganradio.org/post/michigan-football-has-sold-its-soul-heres-how-get-it-back <p>Last week,<a href="http://michiganradio.org/post/michigan-athletics-loses-magic-and-fans-thanks-brandons-policies?nopop=1"> I explained why Michigan students are dropping football tickets in record numbers</a>.</p><p>It touched a nerve – actually a few thousand nerves.&nbsp; Not just among Michigan fans, but college football fans nationwide.</p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">It’s all well and good to criticize Michigan’s athletic administration – and cathartic for the fans, apparently.&nbsp; But it doesn’t solve the central problem: How can they keep fans happy?</span></p> Fri, 13 Jun 2014 13:25:37 +0000 John U. Bacon 17990 at http://michiganradio.org Michigan football has sold its soul; here's how to get it back Michigan athletics loses magic and fans thanks to Brandon's policies http://michiganradio.org/post/michigan-athletics-loses-magic-and-fans-thanks-brandons-policies <p></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">L</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">ast week, Michigan Athletics admitted student football ticket sales are down —from about 21,000 two years ago to just 13,000 this fall. &nbsp;</span></p><p>How’d Michigan lose so many students so fast?</p><p>A lot of hard work.</p><p>Athletic Director Dave Brandon has often cited the difficulty of using cell phones at Michigan Stadium as "the biggest challenge we have."&nbsp; But when Michigan students ranked seven factors for buying season tickets, they ranked cell phones dead last.&nbsp;</p><p>What did they rank first?&nbsp; Being able to sit with their friends.&nbsp;</p><p> Fri, 06 Jun 2014 10:00:00 +0000 John U. Bacon 17878 at http://michiganradio.org Michigan athletics loses magic and fans thanks to Brandon's policies Advisers aren't doing Michael Sam any favors http://michiganradio.org/post/advisers-arent-doing-michael-sam-any-favors <p></p><div><p>When Michael Sam told his University of Missouri teammates he was gay before last season, it wasn’t a big deal. It’s a safe bet that NFL teams – who know what kind of gum their prospects chew – already knew this, too. But when Sam came out publicly, it changed the equation.&nbsp;</p><p></p><p>The NFL has already had gay players, so that’s not new. But publicly declaring you’re gay is new – and so is the onslaught of media attention.</p><p></p> Fri, 23 May 2014 10:00:00 +0000 John U. Bacon 17715 at http://michiganradio.org Advisers aren't doing Michael Sam any favors What did the NCAA teach Mitch McGary? http://michiganradio.org/post/what-did-ncaa-teach-mitch-mcgary <p></p><p></p><p><span style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial; font-size: small; line-height: normal;">When Mitch McGary played high school basketball in New Hampshire, he was one of the nation’s top recruits. Michigan fans were rightly thrilled when he decided to play for the Wolverines. &nbsp;&nbsp;</span><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial; font-size: small; line-height: normal;" /><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial; font-size: small; line-height: normal;" /><span style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial; font-size: small; line-height: normal;">In his first NCAA tournament, last spring, McGary played so well folks thought he might jump to the NBA. Instead, he returned for his sophomore year – then injured his back so badly, he needed surgery mid-season. The Wolverines weren’t doing much better at 6-4, with Big Ten conference play still ahead. It looked like Michigan might miss the NCAA tournament.&nbsp;</span> Fri, 02 May 2014 14:47:43 +0000 John U. Bacon 17444 at http://michiganradio.org What did the NCAA teach Mitch McGary? A runner's long journey to Boston http://michiganradio.org/post/runners-long-journey-boston <p></p><p></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">In 1896, the first modern Olympics in Athens staged a marathon. The next year the Boston Athletic Association followed suit. Just 18 men ran that day, with the winner finishing in about three hours – something office workers can beat today.</span></p><p>Most people thought the runners were crazy – if they thought of them at all.</p><p>Marathoners don’t care. After winning the 1952 Olympic marathon, Czechoslovakian Emil Zatopek said, “If you want to win something, run 100 meters. If you want to experience something, run a marathon.”</p><p>Greg Meyer knows exactly what Zatopek was talking about. Meyer grew up in Grand Rapids, and enrolled at Michigan in 1973. That spring, Michigan got a new cross-country coach, Ron Warhust, a Vietnam vet with two Purple Hearts, and a hard-earned lesson: “The world doesn't stop because you’re scared.”</p><p> Fri, 25 Apr 2014 14:39:14 +0000 John U. Bacon 17359 at http://michiganradio.org A runner's long journey to Boston Remembering the quiet dignity of baseball's Hank Aaron http://michiganradio.org/post/remembering-quiet-dignity-baseballs-hank-aaron <p></p><p></p><p><span style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial; font-size: small; line-height: normal;">You’ve heard of Babe Ruth. If he’s not the best known American athlete of the last century, he’s in the top five. He was more beloved – by Americans of all stripes – than probably anyone. Ruth loved the fans, and the fans loved him back.</span></p><p><span style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial; font-size: small; line-height: normal;">&nbsp;</span><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial; font-size: small; line-height: normal;" /><span style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial; font-size: small; line-height: normal;">In 1961, when fellow Yankee Roger Maris – a nice, humble guy – was approaching Ruth’s record of 60 home runs in a season, he became so stressed his hair started falling out.</span><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial; font-size: small; line-height: normal;" /><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial; font-size: small; line-height: normal;" /><span style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial; font-size: small; line-height: normal;">When Hank Aaron started approaching Ruth’s career home run record, he had it worse, for two very simple reasons: 714 home runs was the record in baseball that even the casual fan knew. And second, unlike Maris, Aaron is black. Of course, that shouldn’t matter in the least – but it mattered a lot in 1974.</span></p><p><span style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial; font-size: small; line-height: normal;">Aaron grew up in Mobile, Alabama, one of seven children. They say his wrists were strong from picking cotton, and also his unusual practice of swinging “cross-handed” – that is, holding the bat with his left hand on top, instead of his right, a habit he didn’t break until the minor leagues.</span><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial; font-size: small; line-height: normal;" /><span style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial; font-size: small; line-height: normal;">&nbsp;</span><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial; font-size: small; line-height: normal;" /><span style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial; font-size: small; line-height: normal;">Aaron made it to the Milwaukee Braves in 1954, one of the first African-Americans to play major league baseball. According to Daniel Okrent, a best-selling author who invented fantasy baseball, this was baseball’s richest decade for talent, because every kid grew up playing baseball – not soccer – and, finally, everybody was allowed to play.</span></p><p> Fri, 11 Apr 2014 11:10:00 +0000 John U. Bacon 17185 at http://michiganradio.org Remembering the quiet dignity of baseball's Hank Aaron Move toward a college football player's union should be a wake-up call for the NCAA http://michiganradio.org/post/move-toward-college-football-players-union-should-be-wake-call-ncaa <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-bb2dafbb-2ca3-b35c-fd1d-bf491f003b67"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: 'Times New Roman'; background-color: transparent; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Last week’s ruling made a big splash, but it’s actually very narrow. The decision by the National Labor Relations Board applies only to private schools. Further, the players still have to vote on it, and the university is going to appeal, in any case.</span></span></p><p><span style="background-color: transparent; font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: 16px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">But the players have been very shrewd, starting with their leader, senior quarterback </span>Kain<span style="background-color: transparent; font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: 16px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;"> </span>Colter<span style="background-color: transparent; font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: 16px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">. I got to know him while researching my latest book, and he’s a very impressive young man. &nbsp;&nbsp;</span></p><p> Fri, 04 Apr 2014 12:33:24 +0000 John U. Bacon 17100 at http://michiganradio.org Move toward a college football player's union should be a wake-up call for the NCAA There's no such thing as a "Walmart Wolverine" http://michiganradio.org/post/theres-no-such-thing-walmart-wolverine <p>One debate I could do without is this: Who are the real Michigan fans?</p><p>I realize that sounds pretty stupid. Anybody who cheers for Michigan is a Michigan fan, right? But we make it harder than it needs to be.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Some folks believe only people who <em>graduated </em>from Michigan can call themselves real Michigan fans.</p><p>The rest? They are mere “Walmart Wolverines” – fans who pick their college teams the way they pick their professional teams: mainly by geography.</p><p> Fri, 28 Mar 2014 11:30:00 +0000 John U. Bacon 17009 at http://michiganradio.org There's no such thing as a "Walmart Wolverine" Powerhouse basketball programs in Michigan playing the right way http://michiganradio.org/post/powerhouse-basketball-programs-michigan-playing-right-way <p></p><p><span style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial; font-size: small; line-height: normal;">On Sunday, the Michigan Wolverines faced the Michigan State Spartans in the final of the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament.</span></p><p><span style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial; font-size: small; line-height: normal;">After a decade of domination by the Spartans, John Beilein’s Wolverines held the upper hand the past few years. They surprised just about everyone when they won the regular season Big Ten title this year by three games. Now they had the rare chance to beat the Spartans three times in one season.&nbsp;</span><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial; font-size: small; line-height: normal;" /><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial; font-size: small; line-height: normal;" /><span style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial; font-size: small; line-height: normal;">Well, they say beating your archrival three times is almost impossible, and that proved true.</span></p><p> Fri, 21 Mar 2014 13:09:32 +0000 John U. Bacon 16910 at http://michiganradio.org Powerhouse basketball programs in Michigan playing the right way Remembering William Clay Ford http://michiganradio.org/post/remembering-william-clay-ford <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">In the course of his 88 years, William Clay Ford, who died Sunday, captained Yale’s tennis team, earned an engineering degree and chaired Ford Motor Co.’s finance committee, which is enough for any lifetime.</span></p><p>But he will likely be remembered mainly as the owner of the Detroit Lions, during five woefully unsuccessful decades. Since he took over the franchise in 1964, the Lions have won exactly one playoff game, and remain the only NFL team to miss out on all 48 Super Bowls.</p><p> Fri, 14 Mar 2014 19:10:59 +0000 John U. Bacon 16879 at http://michiganradio.org Remembering William Clay Ford If John Beilein is not the Big Ten Coach of the Year, Michigan should demand a recount http://michiganradio.org/post/if-john-beilein-not-big-ten-coach-year-michigan-should-demand-recount <p>Once Tom Izzo got Michigan State’s basketball team rolling in the late ‘90s, the Spartans dominated the state for more than a decade.</p><p>Izzo’s<span style="line-height: 1.5;"> teams have earned 16 straight NCAA invitations, seven Big Ten titles, five Final Fours, and one national title, in 2000. Along the way, </span>Izzo<span style="line-height: 1.5;"> took 18 of 21 against the Wolverines, who have had four different head coaches during his tenure.</span></p> Fri, 07 Mar 2014 11:00:00 +0000 John U. Bacon 16755 at http://michiganradio.org If John Beilein is not the Big Ten Coach of the Year, Michigan should demand a recount The Winter Olympics might be corrupt, crass and silly, but we still love to watch http://michiganradio.org/post/winter-olympics-might-be-corrupt-crass-and-silly-we-still-love-watch <p>Why in the world are the Winter Olympics in Sochi, one of Russia’s warmest places? &nbsp;</p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Chalk it up to corruption – both the Russians’, which we’ve come to expect, and the International Olympic Committee’s – which we’ve also come to expect.</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The IOC hasn’t just shown a </span><em style="line-height: 1.5;">willingness</em><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> to be bought, but an </span><em style="line-height: 1.5;">insistence.</em></p><p>That’s how you get a Winter Olympic skating rink built in the shade of palm trees. The warm weather is funny, unless you spent your entire life training for these Olympics, and there’s no snow. Then it’s just&nbsp;heartbreaking.</p><p> Fri, 21 Feb 2014 14:40:37 +0000 John U. Bacon 16540 at http://michiganradio.org The Winter Olympics might be corrupt, crass and silly, but we still love to watch Brendan Gibbons, and the UM athletic department’s response http://michiganradio.org/post/brendan-gibbons-and-um-athletic-department-s-response <p>The University of Michigan named a new president last month, and the football team landed another great class of recruits last week. But there’s another story that keeps eclipsing those two. Michigan Radio sports commentator John U. Bacon has details.</p><p>I’ve been reluctant to write about the Brendan Gibbons’ story, because so little is clear – from the incident that started this saga five years ago, to the various responses since.</p><p>One thing is clear: the athletic department continually fails to follow the advice legendary athletic director Don Canham,</p><blockquote><p>“Never turn a one-day story into a two-day story.”</p></blockquote><p>This story starts in 2009, when Wolverine kicker Brendan Gibbons had an encounter at a party with a female student. Ultimately, only two people know what happened, but we do know she contacted the Ann Arbor Police, then decided not to press charges. Fri, 14 Feb 2014 15:15:54 +0000 John U. Bacon 16448 at http://michiganradio.org Brendan Gibbons, and the UM athletic department’s response Write these 2014 sports predictions down. You won't be disappointed. http://michiganradio.org/post/write-these-2014-sports-predictions-down-you-wont-be-disappointed <p>Since I review the year in sports each December, my editor thought, “Hey, why not preview the year in sports in January?!?”</p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Why not? Because I have no idea what’s going to happen. Nobody does.</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">That’s why we watch sports: We don’t know how it’s going to end. It’s also why we shouldn’t watch pregame shows: everybody is just guessing.&nbsp;</span></p> Fri, 17 Jan 2014 13:49:57 +0000 John U. Bacon 16064 at http://michiganradio.org Write these 2014 sports predictions down. You won't be disappointed. The Year in Michigan Sports, John U. Bacon looks back http://michiganradio.org/post/year-michigan-sports-john-u-bacon-looks-back <p>The year in sports started out with the Detroit Lions missing the playoffs, and hockey fans missing the entire National Hockey League season.</p><p>The NHL lockout started the way these things usually do: The players thought the owners made too much money, and the owners thought the players made too much money.&nbsp; And, of course, both sides were dead right. Fri, 20 Dec 2013 15:09:11 +0000 John U. Bacon 15777 at http://michiganradio.org The Year in Michigan Sports, John U. Bacon looks back Former MSU president used football to build an academic powerhouse http://michiganradio.org/post/former-msu-president-used-football-build-academic-powerhouse <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Every university has got its giants, of course. But those schools born around the Civil War needed bigger men than most to carve these campuses out of forests and fields, then build them to rival the world’s greatest institutions. And they did it all in just a few decades.</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">At Michigan State, that man was John A. Hannah.</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Hannah was a proud graduate of Michigan Agricultural College in 1923, earning a degree in poultry science. Eighteen years later, he became the school’s president – at the ripe age of 39.</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Hannah’s timing couldn’t be better.</span></p><p> Fri, 13 Dec 2013 11:30:00 +0000 John U. Bacon 15673 at http://michiganradio.org Former MSU president used football to build an academic powerhouse Pressure builds on Michigan Football as Athletic Department's budget grows http://michiganradio.org/post/pressure-builds-michigan-football-athletic-departments-budget-grows <p>I’ve often joked that some Michigan football fans aren’t happy unless they’re not happy.&nbsp; But after 11 games this season, even they could be excused for having plenty to be unhappy about. A week ago, the Wolverines were 3-and-4 in the Big Ten, with undefeated Ohio State coming up next.&nbsp;</p><p>The Wolverines had been surprisingly bad all season -- until the Ohio State game, when they were suddenly, surprisingly good, falling short by just one point in the final minute.&nbsp; It was the first time I have ever seen Michigan fans feeling better after a loss than before it.&nbsp;</p><p>Still, the heroic performance was bittersweet.</p><p>Where was <em>that</em> team all year?&nbsp; Which team will return next year – the one that got crushed by Michigan State, or the one that almost beat the Buckeyes?</p><p>But Michigan’s bigger problems are off the field, not on it. Fri, 06 Dec 2013 16:42:52 +0000 John U. Bacon 15552 at http://michiganradio.org Pressure builds on Michigan Football as Athletic Department's budget grows When football players boycott http://michiganradio.org/post/when-football-players-boycott <p></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The </span>Grambling<span style="line-height: 1.5;"> State University football team plays in the unheralded Southwestern Athletic Conference, in the division beneath the big boys. They had an 11-game losing streak, stretching back into the 2012 season.</span></p><p>In short, this was not a team that warranted national attention.</p><p>But the Tigers finally got some last month. No, they didn’t notch their first win that day – or even another loss. They didn’t play – and it wasn’t due to bad weather or a bye week. The players simply refused to take the field.</p><p> Fri, 22 Nov 2013 06:00:00 +0000 John U. Bacon 15375 at http://michiganradio.org When football players boycott