The greatest upset in sports history

I have seen many upsets during my many years of following sports. Football, basketball, baseball, golf, you name it, have produced many memorable upsets. Even losing the championship game of my intramural flag football league in college had to go down as one of the biggest upsets ever in sports! But my vote for the biggest upset ever in any sporting competition occurred on February 22nd, 1980 when the USA hockey team beat the Soviets 4-3. After the game, one of the sports commentators summed it up the best. “It is like a group of college all stars from Canada beating the Pittsburgh Steelers”  Just 13 days prior to that game, the Soviets pounded the USA team 10-3 in an exhibition game. The Soviets also had a winning record against several NHL teams and had some of the best talent in the world. It was a classic case of David vs. Goliath.

Many people are probably too young to remember that game. I am not one of them. Even though I was just a young teenager at the time, memories of that Friday evening are still in my memory bank, sort of like you just never forget certain events in your life.

Interestingly enough, the game was not televised live in the United States. It started at around 5 pm local time and was to be replayed later that evening on ABC.  Unlike today, where nearly every big event is televised live, they only had a certain amount of Olympic coverage, maybe 3 hours only on one station per day.  I was not really bummed out about not seeing it live. After all, who would think the USA had any chance in the world against the hated Russians, who were not well liked at the time and know as the evil empire of the world. I figured they would do well just to stay within a couple of goals of the Soviets.

Throughout the course of that evening,  I began getting score updates through a local station. My first update was that the game was tied 2-2 in the second period. Then it was 3-2 after 2 periods for the bad guys. I just figured the Soviets would blow open the game in the 3rd. Boy was I wrong! The drama began to unfold in the last period. 3-3, then an update which sent shivers up my spine. The USA was up 4-3 with 8 minutes left. Could the unthinkable happen?  Finally, a final score was announced which had me and many people around the country jumping for joy. The USA had pulled off the shocker of the century, winning 4-3.  I had to watch the replay of the game just to make sure this was actually true! The USA had taken down the mighty Soviets, say it isn’t so!! David takes down Goliath!

The aftermath of that win was unreal, funny how a hockey game can stir up a nation. At the time, things very kind of bleak in this country. We had the ongoing hostage situation with Iran, we were just getting done with the awful Carter administration with their failed policies. The country seemed to be tearing apart. We were in a tense Cold War struggle with the Soviets. They were our enemies. Our ideology of freedom was in stark contrast to their communism.  Beating the hated, arrogant Soviets only made this victory that much sweeter.

I  have watched replays of that game about 5 times and could watch it for another 100. Seeing the excited in the crowd with all those US flags is something I have never seen in a sporting event. And hearing the famous words of Al Michaels at the end is truly a great moment in American sports history. It still sends shivers up my spine when I see the ending of that game! Not only for sports purposes but for life. Miracles can happen and David can beat Goliath. There will be more upsets in sports in the coming years, but I doubt there will ever be another shocking upset like the miracle on ice.

State budget battles and deficits

We all know that the federal deficit is running out of control much like a runaway freight train going down the tracks. But many state governments are in similar situations. In fact,  49 of 50 states are now running a deficit which should really surprise no one.  Here in Minnesota, we are 1.2 billion in the red and unlike the federal government, it is mandated by our state constitution that lawmakers balance the budget for the upcoming cycle. As you can imagine, this leads to certain cuts in state aid and services. Last Monday, our Governor, Tim Pawlenty announced a budget which would eliminate the deficit and as expected, there was plenty of opposition and criticism to his plan. Before I go any further, let me just say that Pawlenty is a Republican and the House and Senate are controlled by Democrats. So therefore, you have two different sides and ideologies about how to solve the deficit and things promise to get very interesting around here very soon.

So why are we in the red in the first place?  Balancing or should I say, keeping to a budget is not exactly rocket science!! If I make 60,000 dollars per year at a job, would it not be foolish of me to go out and set my budget  for the year at 70,000?  Unfortunately, some of our lawmakers in this state and I am directing this at mainly the Democrats, need to understand this simple concept of economics and accounting.  A few years ago, they came up with a budget proposal with expenditures exceeding revenue!! That is really good thinking!! These are tough economic times for many people and because many people are out of work or not working as much, tax revenue is way down.  People need to understand that everyone has to tighten their belts and make sacrifices.

Two of the major cuts in Pawlenty’s proposed budget are cuts to human and health services and local government aid to counties and cities.  Cuts to human and health services will have an impact on poor people and that is very unfortunate. I think one of the top priorities for lawmakers are to make sure these people are taken care of. But spending for those programs have gotten out of control in the past few years. According to the Governor’s spokesman, health care funding and subsidies have increase by 36 percent from the last budget cycle. There is absolutely no way we can keep up that kind of out of control spending. It will bankrupt this state in short time.  There has to be a better way of controlling those costs.

Pawlenty has also been criticized for cuts in local government and city aid.  Since these cities and counties are not getting their subsidies from the state, many have raised their property taxes. In fact, in a town where I attended college,  the percentage of increase in property taxes last year was greater than the reduction in local government aid!! And I wonder how many of those small towns and counties even have a wage freeze in place? Believe me, there are counties and cities out there who cry out for not getting aid from the state, yet they give their elected officials pay raises.

A common complaint I heard this week by people is that Pawlenty wants to cut health care from the poor, yet give tax breaks to companies and corporations. At first blush, this would seem like a very valid criticism but let’s look at this even further.  Suppose companies did get tax breaks. Wouldn’t you think they would now have the money to grow and therefore hire more people including those poor people? More people hired means more tax revenues for the state. But the most important thing to consider is that those who have to depend on those health and human services handouts from the state will become fewer and fewer, thus costing the state less.  And maybe by giving tax breaks for companies and investors, companies will want to come to Minnesota and relocate. Currently, we have on of the highest corporate tax rates in the United States.  We would all benefit from having an increase in companies and jobs.

Solving our budget mess will not be easy and people need to sacrifice. Everyone including myself has had to make sacrifices in the past few years. But if we can stop the out of control spending that goes on in this state and encourage more companies to come here and hire people, our revenues will far exceed our expenditures and everyone will be happy. It is really refreshing to know that we have a Governor who understands this simple concept of accounting. While I do not always agree with him, I fully stand by his fiscal ideology. Gosh!! I wish more people in our state government would understand simple accounting too. And come to think of it, maybe the national level too.

Tiger’s apology

There has been a lot of discussion in the last 24 hours about Tiger Wood’s new conference and whether his statements actually did him any good to win back some of his popularity, or if it was just a scripted ploy on his part with no sincerity behind it.

Having watched the news conference,  I thought Woods said all the right things by taking full responsibility for his actions. I even agree with his attack on the media for invading the privacy of his wife and children. There is no reason for members of the press to follow his children back and forth to school and subject them to that kind of scrutiny.  But I feel Woods needs to do a whole lot more to win more people over.  The fact that the news conference was held in such a controlled manner without any questions is somewhat troubling, but at least it is a start. Maybe in a few months from now, he will agree to a prime time special with his wife next to him and they will talk about this ordeal and how he wants his wife and fans to forgive him. That would win over so many more people.

Standing up in front of a camera for 13 minutes and reading an apology script is fine but in this case, actions will speak much larger than words.  What is truly inside Tiger’s heart will be revealed in the coming months.  Anybody can act out a script and say that they are sorry but I want to see their actions after the apology. If Woods and his wife patch things up, will he turn back to his old ways of cheating and womanizing? Or will he have learned a painful and costly lesson and become a much better family man, husband and father?

The jury is still very much out on Woods and whether he can change things around. Just because he is getting treatment at some sex addiction place, does not mean that he will be totally cured. I really wonder what his wife thinks about him now and whether she can still trust him. Somehow, I have my doubts about this. Imagine if you caught your spouse cheating on you with multiple partners.  My guess is that many people would not hesitate to find the next available attorney. How can you possibly trust someone like that?

I really hope Tiger can work out his problems with his wife and they can patch things up.  This would be a tremendous  achievement and give inspiration to the many people in this country who are going through the same things in their marriages. But Woods will have to perform a magic act much greater than anything he has ever done on the golf course.

The Winter Olympics, a nice change from the same old sports

These are typically the dog days of sports viewership. After the Super Bowl, there is about a 4-5 week lull in the action before March Madness kicks in. Except for the Daytona 500 and the NBA all-star game, which in my opinion is a very overblown event, there is really not that much to get to get excited about. For those of us, like myself with cable,  I am reaching the point of burnout with all those meaningless college basketball games on several networks.  I probably only care about 10 percent of the games. Wake me up when the tournament starts! But yesterday, while doing some channel surfing, I actually came across something that was new and fresh, the Winter Olympics.

I started watching the ski jumping competition and began imagining myself in those athletes shoes (or boots!!).  If I ever tried something like that, I would probably land on my head and break every bone in body!! Later on, they had another ski event where the racers were doing a jump off a cliff, followed by a quick burst down a hill at about 80-90 mph. Being able to jump like that and go downhill without falling, is an amazing feat of athletic ability. After the ski jumping came the speed skating competition which is not only an event for top notch athletes but involves a lot of strategy and planning. I really admire those athletes for their tremendous speed, balance and endurance.

Many of the events in the Winter Olympics are sports which very few people even know about or recognize. Sports fans like myself are sometimes humbled when we turn on the television and find ourselves trying to figure out what is going on. I know a lot about hockey but what about sports like curling, skiing, luging or bobsledding. Sometimes, it rather interesting to watch a new event and try to understand what goes into that sport. I find myself asking many questions during these events.

Whether you like the sports or not, you have to take your hat off to these athletes who have spent many, many hours of training for their events. Some of them have trained for hundreds of hours for an event which will just last seconds. Imagine the heartbreak these athletes have to endure if they fail or slip and fall. All that training and hard work has just went down the drain. I cannot imagine the feeling that many of them have to go through. Unlike many team sports where there is always another game to bounce back in, they will have to wait another 4 years for another opportunity. That in itself is another reason to watch. For some, it is their last chance at getting a gold medal.

In a few weeks for now, the closing ceremonies will take place and it may be another 4 years before I watch another ski jumping competition. But in this day and age of overblown sports coverage on television, it is nice to watch non traditional sports.  I can hardly wait for the curling finals!!

Marriage from a single guy’s perspective

Valentine’s Day is typically thought of as being the most romantic day on the calendar and a great day for guys to pop the question to their ladies. But before you ask that all important question, do you really know what you are getting into? Since I have never been married, my opinions certainly are not coming from an expert, but I would like to share my take on marriage and what the ideal marriage should be about.

Before I go any further, I am very much for marriage. I strongly believe that  successful marriages between men and women can have very positive impacts on our society. In many cases, these people also raise good families. Having good people in our society is extremely vital for our success and usually good, quality people are the product of a loving, solid relationship by their parents. And they tend to grow up and have successful marriages as well. The cycle just continues on and on. I feel it is very important for more people to get into that good cycle.

There has been a lot of criticism about the great institution of marriage in recent years. Divorce rates continue to stay just over 50 percent, just about everyone probably knows at least a few people who have gone through a divorce. I know several people, who I never, never, thought would get a divorce, end up with one. It can happen to the nicest couples in the world and sometimes, you just scratch your head and wonder what went wrong.

So how come so many marriages end in divorce? I believe it simply comes down to a few issues. The main issue is communication and not just communication but proper communication. Sure a couple can sit down and talk ever night about their relationship, but what usually happens is one party starts accusing the other and things gradually boil over. Men and women are different in many ways and a good share of  couples cannot understand that.  Men are typically not as sensitive about things as women and that can lead to many problems. I also find from personal experience with dating, that many women tend to read into things way too much, without really communicating their thoughts. Most guys can relate to what I am saying. All of sudden, bang! I am put on the defensive! But it should not be like that. An open honest talk with each other without throwing out harsh accusations towards each other is usually the best way to communicate. I also think that it is very important to put yourself  in the other person’s shoes when communicating. Like, How would you like it if  she said to you, what you just said to her! Insulting someone is an extremely poor way of communicating and will just build to the tension. And the time when you talk is very important as well. Let things simmer a bit if you had a big disagreement or argument.

Another issue is the me, me, me, what is in it for me, attitude.  If I am dating a woman and find she has that kind of attitude, I will dump her like a bad habit! We are all selfish by nature and that has to be put aside in order for a marriage to work. It is about we not me! You really need to compromise. I find many things can be worked out if you can stay flexible.

The final issue is that many people get married when they are too young and not ready. It never fails. Ever year, you see these young, cute couples in their early 20’s get engaged and married. In my opinion, usually, that is way too young.  Many couples only look at the short-term when getting married. But marriage should be a life time thing! Are you still going to love and cherish your wife or husband, when you are 30,40,50,60 and 70 years old? That hunk that you married may start losing his hair or start getting heavier. I would never marry someone just based on looks. People do change a lot in many ways  from the time they are 20 to 30 and so forth. And another thought you should consider. What if the person you are getting married to suffers a crippling injury and winds up paralysed? Would you still love that person or run off and find someone else?

In closing, I really believe people get married for all the wrong reasons and this in turns, causes a lot of problems in our society. Before I close, I would like to share with people something I heard many several years ago that I have never forgotten. A marriage is like a banking account, every time you do nice, little things for your spouse, you add to the account. But on the other hand, if you treat your spouse like dirt, it takes away from the account.  A good marriage should be have an account full of money and a lasting supply of money.

My take and prediction on the Super Bowl

I don’t now if it is just me but it seems like such a long time ago when the NFC and AFC championship games took place. The NFL should consider having the game take place the week after the two conference championship games. Forget about the week off and especially, the very lame Pro Bowl game! But anyways, in just a few short hours from now, New Orleans and Indianapolis will play in Super Bowl XLIV.  So who is going to win the game and hoist the trophy on Sunday evening?

There is a  theory floating around among sports fans that dome teams cannot have success in the playoffs and both teams have proven this myth to be totally wrong.  Overall, these two teams had the best seasons and therefore, it is only fitting to have the two best regular season teams battle for the ultimate prize in football. I think it is kind of ironic that these two teams will play outdoors on a natural grass surface. I really do not feel it will favor either team although the Colts may have a slight edge on that type of track.

Very seldom do teams without a good quarterback win in the post season and that is very true of both teams.  I think the most interesting matchup of the game will involve the  quarterbacks. Peyton Manning is playing at such a high level now and should continue on Sunday. Drew Brees has had a wonderful season although his numbers have been a little down in the post season. Still, he is capable of having a huge game and I look for him to also have a stellar game on Sunday. In fact, I expect this game to be a real, high scoring, entertaining game with both teams moving the ball up and down the field at will.

I feel the game will really be decided by a few big plays or turnovers. The Saints have feasted on turnovers all year-long and they need to force a couple from the Colts to win the game. I just do not see them slowing down Peyton Manning.  The Colts have a better offensive line than the Vikings and Cardinals and I doubt the Saints defensive line will have the same effect in this game.  I also feel the injury to Dwight Freeney will be huge and the Saints will capitalize on it. But having said that, the Colts defense is somewhat underrated and is more than capable of making a few big stops.

Many people are overlooking a key factor that could influence the game. Suppose the weather turns sour and it rains heavily turning the game? How will both dome teams adapt to those conditions? But in the end, I will put my money on Peyton Manning and the Colts. Not only will Manning pick apart the Saint’s defense, I believe the Colt’s defense will be huge factor in the game. I like the Colts to win 41-27. But it would be a fabulous story if the New Orleans Saints win after what that city has gone through.  Somehow, I have a feeling that many people like myself will be rooting them on. But it should be another Super Bowl win for the Colts on Sunday.