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Michigan Radio's sports commentator John U. Bacon provides a round-up of everything Michigan sports.
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Although it’s the offseason for most major American sports, there’s still plenty of action in the sports world. Michigan sports has seen some important moves in both professional and collegiate athletics.

Michigan Radio sports commentator John U. Bacon joined Stateside to explain all the recent moves.

 

Draymond Green, a Saginaw native and Michigan State alumnus, will play for Team USA in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
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Some players have opted out citing the need for rest after a grueling NBA season. Others have said they might not participate because of concerns regarding the Zika virus. But Draymond Green, the Saginaw native, former Michigan State basketball standout, and current Golden State Warriors power forward, will represent the United States at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. 

Fans hold up a flag in support of the U.S. Men's National Team.
Flickr user Dinur/Flickr / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

 

Soccer’s popularity in the U.S. has grown remarkably over the last decade. But why has a sport that was once reviled by many Americans grown so fast?

University of Michigan professor Andrei Markovits has one answer: video games.

Gordie Howe's Hockey Card at age 43.
Trish Thornton / Flickr

Gordie Howe lived so long that most Americans don’t know that he set just about every record there is, he helped the sport expand, he got hundreds of thousands of Americans playing the game, and millions more watching.

Howe was one of nine kids born in a farmhouse in Floral, Sasketchewan – a town so tiny, their post office closed in 1923. During the Great Depression, a neighbor brought over a gunnysack full of used things, including a beat-up pair of skates.

ARNIE LEE / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

It has been a difficult couple weeks for sports fans in Michigan. On the day of Muhammad Ali's funeral (Ali spent nearly two decades of his life in Berrien Springs, Mich.), it was announced that hockey legend Gordie Howe passed away at the age of 88. And on Monday, June 13, while the hockey world was still grieving the loss of "Mr. Hockey," Michigan State coaching legend Ron Mason died at age 76

A tribute wall for Gordie Howe outside Joe Louis Arena.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit Red Wings fans and former hockey greats alike lined up at Joe Louis Arena Tuesday to pay their last respects to Gordie Howe.

The legendary player known as Mr. Hockey died last week at age 88.

Howe’s family and the Red Wings organized a day-long public visitation for him from 9 am-9 pm, honoring his iconic number.

Howe’s pro hockey career spanned five decades, making him one of the most durable and greatest players of all time. He spent most of that career with the Red Wings, leading the team to four Stanley Cup championships during the 1950s.

Former Michigan State hockey coach and athletic director Ron Mason passed away early Monday at age 76.
Courtesy photo / MSU Athletics

Ron Mason, who spent 23 years as Michigan State's head hockey coach and ranks second on college hockey's all-time wins list with 924 career victories, passed away early Monday at age 76. 

Benny Parsons won 21 career races, including the 1973 NASCAR championship and the 1975 Daytona 500
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If you live anywhere near Brooklyn, Michigan, you're probably seeing a lot more RV traffic.

It's race weekend at the Michigan International Speedway and NASCAR's top drivers will be in town racing for the Firekeepers Casino 400.

In honor of the big race, we take the time to tell the story of one of the sport's all-time great drivers and personalities: Benny Parsons.

In an unlikely underdog story, Parsons went from a Detroit taxi driver to a NASCAR champion before lung cancer claimed his life in 2007.

Gordie Howe circa 1966.
Arnie Lee / Wikimedia Commons

Hockey legend Gordie Howe has died. He was 88 years old.

Howe played pro hockey longer than anyone else, and he remains “Mr. Hockey” to generations of fans.

Gordie Howe played hockey with an intensity he learned as a boy in Saskatoon during the Depression.

In his 2014 autobiography, Howe wrote about playing for his school team -- not on the right wing where generations of hockey fans were used to seeing him -- but as a goaltender.

Carol Hutchins.
video screen grab / BTN Network

Under coach Carol Hutchins, the Michigan softball team has won 19 Big Ten titles, and nine in a row -- more than the rest of the Big Ten combined. She has led her team to 18 regional crowns, and made it to the College World Series 12 times in the past 22 years.

But what’s more impressive is how she’s done it.

Since 1995, every player who’s played on Carol Hutchins’ Michigan softball team for four years – which is pretty much all of them – has made it to the College World Series.

Muhammad Ali lived with Parkinson's Disease longer than his career as a boxer
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With the passing of Muhammad Ali, there has been no shortage of praise that has been heaped upon the boxing legend, who to many, was more than just a fighter. Michigan Radio sports commentator John U. Bacon says while his list of accomplishments in and out of the ring was worthy of admiration, it was how he lived his life in his later years that deserves the most credit. 

Red Wings player hoists the Stanley Cup
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For a record 25th straight season, the Detroit Red Wings made the playoffs. For the seventh straight season, they didn’t get past the second round.

Well, no matter, Wings fans because whether the Pittsburgh Penguins or the San Jose Sharks raise the Cup, they will be following in your favorite players’ footsteps.

How so?

A referee at a football game.
Flickr user Brandon Giesbrecht/Flickr / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Verbal and physical assaults on referees have become an issue so serious that Michigan may be joining 20 other states in specific legislation that protects sports officials.

Mark Uyl is the assistant director for the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA). He believes some of the greatest concerns for referee safety comes from recreational and youth-level programs, where volunteer coaches lack accountability.

Tigers pitcher Francisco Rodriguez, who contracted the Zika virus while in Venezuela during the offseason.
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Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Francisco Rodriguez got off to a slow start in 2016, allowing three earned runs in his first appearance of the season. His list of excuses, however, is rock solid: He may have still been fighting the long-term effects of the Zika virus.

 

John U. Bacon
John U. Bacon

Michigan Radio sports commentator John U. Bacon joined us today to talk about college sports recruiting. Specifically, the wooing and courting that happens when a college or university-level coach has his or her eye on a "hot prospect."

Tigers manager Brad Ausmus argues a call in 2014.
Keith Allison / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Detroit Tigers entered this season with expectations as big as their payroll. It’s currently at $196 million, the fourth-largest in the major leagues. The only teams who spent more are the Los Angeles Dodgers, the New York Yankees, and the Boston Red Sox.

You know, big city teams that compete for things like the World Series.

The Tigers might have been paying like the big boys, but they weren’t playing like them.

Women’s minor league soccer is coming to Lansing

May 18, 2016
soccer player kicking a ball
Flickr user Bronski Beat Follow/Flickr

The Michigan Chill will begin their inaugural season in the Women’s Premier Soccer League this summer. The team draws players from around the world and local universities. The Chill does not pay its players, but Coach Jorge Eufracio wants to help them achieve their goals and take steps into professional leagues. “We were going to be a development team… We might have to sacrifice some games and we might have to lose games in order to make sure these players are playing the best soccer that they should be,” he said.

 

Maya and Gene Washington
Maya Washington

When you see a college football team run out onto the field, it's hard to remember that not so long ago, few, if any, of those young players would be black. 

A powerful documentary from filmmaker Maya Washington tells the story of when and how that changed. 

Through the Banks of the Red Cedar shows us the way Michigan State University coach Duffy Daugherty confronted racism on the football field by bringing young black players from the South to East Lansing. 

Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland
Detroit Tigers

The Detroit Tigers have the fourth-highest payroll in major league baseball, behind the Los Angeles Dodgers, the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. Despite this, the Tigers have lost 11 out of their last 13 games.

 

Peter Payette

There’s a lot of complaining these days that youth sports are too expensive and competitive. And, in fact, kids are dropping out and most sports are on the decline in the U.S.

One sport that is not losing players is hockey, which has also changed the way it trains young athletes. The approach has been so successful that the U.S. Olympic Committee recently adopted it.

At a Big Ten event.
Big Ten Facebook page

In 1895, seven university presidents created the Big Ten – the world’s first academically-based athletic conference.

It was a good idea, and caught on across the country.

The conferences they created weren’t just a random group of schools thrown together. They sought kindred spirits, and they were amazingly good at finding them. So good, in fact, that nothing defined our nation’s regions better than these conferences.

National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell at the podium at the 2009 NFL Draft, at the Radio City Music Hall, New York City.
Marianne O'Leary / wikimedia commons

  Last week, more than 4,000 people crammed into Chicago’s redundantly named Auditorium Theater to watch NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announce the names of 256 players. Two-hundred-thousand more watched the action on big TVs in Grant Park.

The NFL's Lombardi Trophy on display
Mobilus In Mobili / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1rFrzRK

Michigan Radio sports commentator John U. Bacon breaks down how the Detroit Lions did at the NFL Draft, which included the selection of two Michigan Wolverines. Bacon also talks about the NCAA reversing its decision to ban satellite football camps.

Listen to the full interview below.

Eastern Michigan University
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Eastern Michigan University was featured in an episode of HBO's Real Sports, highlighting athletic departments that are losing money and students who are footing the bill. Many have suggested, including Michigan Radio's John U. Bacon, that the school's struggling football program should be dropped or at least moved down to a lower division.

EMU's mascot, "Swoop."
Eastern Michigan University

HBO’s “Real Sports” ran a feature last week on the arms race in college sports. It questioned why Eastern Michigan University still spends so much money to compete in Division I football.  Michigan Radio sports commentator John U Bacon has been asking the same question for a decade.

Detroit Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy
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It has been a rough week for Detroit sports over the last week. The Pistons and the Red Wings both had their seasons come to an end in the first round of their respective playoffs. The Tigers were swept at home by their division rival, the Cleveland Indians. But on the horizon later this week, the Detroit Lions are getting ready for the 2016 NFL Draft.

The Red Wings will host Game 4 at Joe Louis Arena on Tuesday.
Mark Goebel / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

It’s playoff time for a pair of Michigan sports teams as the Detroit Red Wings and the Detroit Pistons have kicked off their respective post seasons.

The Wings emerged from the weekend trailing the Tampa Bay Lightning two games to one, with the all-important Game 4 at the Joe Louis Arena on Tuesday.

The Pistons are in what many are calling a “David vs. Goliath” matchup with the top-seeded Cavaliers, and dropped the first game of the series 106-101 in Cleveland.

Both teams have challenges in front of them. But can they advance?

Jim Harbaugh didn't like the call.
MGoBlog / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Mens sana in corpore sano.

Sound mind in sound body.

It’s a simple philosophy, which states that exercise is good for your brain. What was revolutionary a century ago is common sense to us. It’s also the best reason to support school sports, something Americans believe in more than any other culture.

Courtesy of Frank Boring

When you ask anyone about women’s professional baseball, the majority of people will make some reference to director Penny Marshall’s 1992 film A League of Their Own. The movie stars Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, and Madonna and tells the story of the real-life Rockford Peaches of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL). The league was created to provide sports fans with entertainment while the men – including many star major league baseball players -- were away fighting in World War II. 

Jim Harbaugh watches closely during Michigan's Spring Game.
MGoBlog / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Last week, the NCAA finally ruled on Jim Harbaugh's satellite football camps for the University of Michigan.

They said that teams are no longer allowed to hold camps outside of their own facilities.

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