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The Week at Wilson with Blair Rickers: July 4th

Hello All,

I hope everyone had a great Canada Day weekend.

Kvitova Great in Kvictory

Petra Kvitova was relentless in winning her first Grand Slam at Wimbledon this weekend.  Using her Tour BLX Petra continued her tremendous rise up the rankings, now #8, with a straight sets victory of Maria Sharapova.  Hey, I think Sharapova is a great champion and also a superb ambassador for the game, but can we get the networks to stop with the Sasha Vujacic shots during the match?  Dude played 24 minutes for the Lakers and he’s getting more airtime than McEnroe.  Kvitova is clearly a threat to make it all the way to #1.

On the men’s side it was tough watching Roger go down in the quarters.  Adrienne Straub and I were going through the apparel line while watching the match and it was very difficult to maintain focus.  Novak Djokovic is a deserving champion.  Being the first Serbian to win Wimbledon and achieve the #1 ranking will mean a great deal to all of his countrymen.

We’ll follow-up with more Wimbledon notes in the near future.

Apparel and Footwear for 2012 Getting Great Reviews

We are in full booking mode for Spring 2012.  Dealers, we need to get ALL the orders in the system by early August.  Let’s meet as soon as possible.

Rickers’ Ramblings

Quick take on Toronto’s teams:

Raps    I wonder if the Raptor brass is hoping for an extended lockout so that the Lithuanian draft pick can come save the day.  At least the Euro players that Toronto continues to hoard do not long for ESPN like their American counterparts.

Jays    Bautista dominates the all-star voting, but based on their division and dwindling crowds, that’s all the Jay’s fans will have to cheer about.

Argos   The Boatmen will go as far as Cleo Lemon will take them.  I’m reminded of the phrase, “Life is a lemon, and I want my money back”.

Leafs   If nothing else, the optimism of Leaf fans is amazing.  They are now convinced their new goalie will lead them back to the playoffs.  Leaf Nation can take comfort in the fact that Sports Illustrated ranked “Fifty Mission Cup” by the Tragically Hip as the 6th best sports song EVER.  You can hang your hat on that.

TO FC   A recent win over Vancouver halted a nine game losing skid.  I’m really missing Dwayne de Rosario.

Who Dat?

Ever head of Chelcie Ross?  This actor played Eddie Harris, the veteran pitcher in “Major League”, the feature that brought Charlie Sheen’s WILD THING to national prominence (check out the article in this week’s SI).  Ross also played Dan Devine in “Rudy” and the “fill-in” coach who tried to fire Gene Hackman in “Hoosiers”.  That, my friends is one impressive film resume.  It’s the holy trinity of sports movies..

Lo Charles R.I.P.

It seems that every week I need to eulogize the loss of an icon from my youth.  First it was “Macho Man” Savage, then Clarence Clemens, and this week Lorenzo Charles.  You might not be familiar with the name, but give me a moment to explain his significance.  When I was a junior in high school my family moved to Charlotte, North Carolina.  Previously, we had lived in Pittsburgh for a couple years where the sports landscape was dominated by football.  Friday was high school, Saturday was college, Sunday and the other days of the week were all Steelers.  In the early eighties Charlotte did not have any professional sports teams; what they did have was ACC basketball.  The vast majority of my friends were North Carolina fans, and why not?  Carolina had recently won a National Championship and was lead by a young man from Wilmington, NC, named Michael Jordan (perhaps you’ve heard of him?).  They had a stocked roster that included another NBA star, Sam Perkins, who had limitless talent but was later derailed by constant stops in drug re-hab.  Another fan favorite was the University of Virginia, lead by 7’4” Ralph Sampson, a three time player of the year..  He had the skills of a player 6’4”, which could be a bit of a detriment since at times he seemed hesitant to dominate the low post, preferring to play outside.  Big line amongst my friends was, “hey did you hear Ralph Sampson is dating a gymnast?  She 4’10”, he’s nuts over her.”  Yes, we were jerks.

Anyway, never wanting to be one to fit in with the crowd (while living in Pittsburgh I had been a fervent Cowboys fan), I chose to cheer for NC State.  A popular bumper sticker for Carolina fans read “Duke is Puke, Wake is Fake, but the school I Hate is NC State.”  By the way, Coach K had just arrived at Duke in the early 80’s and they had not attained their current prominence.

NC State was lead by a backcourt of Sidney Lowe and Derrick Whittenburg, two bulky 6’0” guards who had played together since 9th grade.  Up front, the power forward was silky smooth Thurl Bailey who did a little bit of everything and would have a solid career in the NBA.  Playing center was Cozell McQueen who obviously had a really cool name and also a huge wart on his shoulder that was exceptionally distracting.  Small forward was 6’7” Lorenzo Charles who’s game was not as developed as his sculpted physique.  Coming off the bench was 6”0 Terry Gannon who was the stereotypical white guy.  No hops, no defense, and was a threat to shoot as soon as he got of the team bus.

State’s regular season was hit with a huge setback when Whittenburg broke his ankle early in the season.  He remained upbeat and stated that his goal was to make it back for the ACC Tournament.  His void in the line-up was filled by Ernie Myers, a slick player with tremendous side-burns, though not a great pure shooter, he found a way to score.  State struggled through the regular season and even with Whittenburg’s return they had to win the ACC tournament just to make it to the NCAA’s.  Pulling off upset after upset, State ran through the ACC tourney and knocked off what seemed to be an unbeatable Virginia squad to win a ticket to March Madness.

I still remember watching State’s first game in the NCAA’s.  They were in the West region matched up against Pepperdine, so it was a late night game.  Watching on my 12” black and white TV I boiled over in frustration as they fell behind by double digits in the second half and then went into full hysterics as they mounted a late rally.  Despite their gallant effort, their cause seemed doomed when they fouled a 90% foul shooter late in the game.  The Pepperdine star calmly walked up to the foul line and bricked his free throws.  State would eventually win in OT.  They would follow up this miracle with a couple more close calls, including ANOTHER upset of Virginia to reach the Final Four.  After a beat down of Georgia, State was in the NCAA Final versus the University of Houston.

Houstan, a.k.a. Phi Slamma Jamma, was a team of studs lead by all-time NBA greats Clyde “the Glide” Drexler and Hakeem “the Dream” Olujawan.  On a side note, do you ever notice the importance of nicknames?  It’s like when Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka was wrestling Ed Smith, there was no doubt who was getting their butt kicked.  State was not given much of a chance against Houston, but again, they were able to keep the game close and had possession of the ball with seconds to go and the game tied.  Whittenburg had the rock knocked out of his grasp, and with the clock ticking down, he had no choice but to hoist up a desperation 30 footer.  As the ball floated through the air, time seemed to stand still.  Just as the ball was about to fall short of the rim, Lorenzo Charles, who was standing right under the basket (not ideal rebounding position), jumped up, snatched the ball in mid-air and slammed it home.  The horn went, the confused look on the face of Charles seemed to say, “what just happened, did we win?”  The arena erupted and State coach Jim Valvano was running around the floor looking for someone to hug.  Me and my buddy, Mike Dougherty, high fived and then went out to my driveway and tried to re-enact the last play (like Terry Gannon, we had no hops either, so there were no dunks involved).  It was totally exhilarating for 20 minutes until our neighbor yelled at us to quit making so much noise (it was well past 11:00 pm on a Monday night).

I believe the State win resonated so much with us because of the way an “average” team was able to catch fire and reach on thought of heights.  The players all felt like they were a team of destiny.  Down two with 30 seconds to go, the opponent’s best shooter on the line, no problem, State players knew they would find a way.  They had a run where they combined hard work, with skill and a little bit of luck to reach greatness. They made you feel like that was possible for all us.

Late last week Lorenzo Charles was killed in a bus accident in Raleigh, North Carolina.  He was 47 years old.  He never achieved success in the NBA, but he produced the greatest moment in college basketball history.

Blair’s LONG Weekend

This weekend the family drove to Laval, Quebec to watch my son’s soccer team play in a tournament.  My son, Jack, took the team bus, so it was me, Cheryl and the girls (Parry and Payton) in the mighty Ford Taurus X.  Great idea travelling on Canada Day.  A six and a half hour trip took eight hours.  Big slow downs in Ajax and outside Laval.  I drove past the exit to the hotel three times.  We have GPS in the car, but Cheryl turns down the voice and reads the instructions to me.   Not exactly sure why we need to introduce another layer of communication, but when I miss a turn, Cheryl swears a lot more than the GPS Lady.  The only thing that made the trip bearable was the stellar collection of tunes Cheryl put together.  Some great country from the 80/90’s (Travis Tritt really rocked it and is there an artist who has produced more tears and thoughtful reflection than Garth Brooks?  C’mon, you know it’s true).  We also went through both “Bat Out of Hell” and “Back Out of Hell II”.  We finally made it to the hotel late Friday afternoon, enjoyed a quick swim and then a great dinner at an Italian restaurant near the hotel.  Important mental note for future trips to Quebec: apparently “apportez votre vin” does not just mean you can bring your own wine or beer, but it also signifies they don’t serve ANY alcoholic beverages.

Saturday morning I got up early for a quick run, swim with Payton and then off to watch the first game.  After the game we jumped on the bus, then the metro and hit Old Montreal.  Huge crowds, but it was a beautiful day and we enjoyed a brisk walk around the gorgeous streets, followed by a lunch that was ridiculously expensive, but did have terrible service.  We made it back for the boy’s second game and then went for a team dinner that was again over priced and featured horrendous service.  All the waiters must go out of town for the long weekend.  We had one waiter handling a group of 50.  Our meal took three over three hours and we had players falling asleep while at the table.  One kid went face down into his pasta.   We thought we were gonna lose him.

I was up early Sunday for a run with another parent on the team.  He is a three hour marathoner so I tried to set a brisk pace so as not to embarrass myself.  Even at 7:30 the temperature was 26 degrees and it seemed to go up every five minutes.  Fortunately I made it through our 58 minute loop without collapsing.  After a swim and breakfast we caught the third game of the tournament and then headed off to Costco.  I had no idea why we were going to Costco, but Cheryl calls the shots, so I dutifully got us there.  Once in the store I realized why this was a crucial destination, 60 Coors Lite for $60.  C’est la belle province.

After checking out of the hotel we were back to the fields for the semi final game.  The boys from Guelph dominated play but could not put away any of their chances and lost in a shoot-out.  On the bright side, this meant that we were able to leave around 4:30.  Again the traffic was brutal, put powered by chocolate milk, Coke Zero and Meatloaf (by the time we made it home by voice was hoarse from hours of belting out “For Crying Out Loud”, “I Would Do Anything for Love” and “All Revved Up with No Place to Go”)  I was able to get us back home just after midnight.   We then went over to the soccer bubble to pick up Jack at 1:00 am.  The boys had got over the loss by the time they were out of Quebec and had a raucous ride home.  All in all, it was a great way to kick off the summer.

That is it for this week.  Talk to you soon.

A New Reality By Nicolas Pereira

This past week in the World Team Tennis ‘Bubble” I have seen the efforts to keep everyone safe while carrying on a team competition with around 60/70 players and coaches onsite. Counting organizers, officials, media, and support personnel are around 150 people trying hard to make this happen. I am very impressed by how the strict protocol has been handled and how everyone is invested in making this event a success, but The Open is a completely different scale of details.

ONcourt Interviews NGTL Co-Founder Yves Boulais

It does not matter that you get your rating playing locally or that you had spent an insidious amount of money playing the ITF junior tour tournaments. Your rating is your level of play (you get no bonus for playing more or playing far away). This allows us to break free of the ITF competitive structure potentially saving us time, money, and headache. We see this as a great opportunity to improve the logistic of our sport.

Brandon Burke (son of ACE President Doug Burke) Elected to WTA Board

As revealed in a recent news release issued by the WTA Tour – Brandon Burke has been elected to the WTA Board of Directors (to start officially in September). Oncourt got together with Brandon to delve a bit more into his background and to gain some insight into this wonderful appointment he has attained at such a young age.