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Monday, February 29, 2016

The Voice Of The Turtle

For, lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth,
The time of the singing of birds is come,
And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.
-Song Of Solomon 2:11-12 
It is one of the best times of the year for a baseball fan, as today marked the start of Spring Training games. Longtime time radio announcer Ernie Harwell once uttered a bible excerpt that become synonymous with the start of Tigers baseball. You could say that Harwell was the "Voice of The Turtle" heard on the radio throughout Michigan for nearly 50 years. Ernie announced the last two World Series titles for the Detroit Tigers, and called numerous playoff games nationally for CBS Radio and ESPN Radio. Nowadays commentators mostly receive negative attention, but the great ones make the games even better than they are.

From Harwell's era, only Vin Scully of the Dodgers, at 88, is still calling games. Ernie was known for his homerun call, "That one is long gone," among other catchphrases. Tigers fans were outraged when he was removed from broadcasts in 1993, and due to popular demand, he was brought back in 1995. Harwell retired in 2002, and returned as a guest announcer through 2007. In September 2009, Ernie Harwell was diagnosed with incurable bile duct cancer, and passed away the following May, aged 92. Harwell showed his wherewithal, up until shortly before his death he was still exercising regularly. He may be before my time, but I think it is important to recognize the career of the great Mr. Ernie Harwell.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

U.S. Women's Soccer off to a Flaming Hot Start in 2016 on the Road to Rio

It was a magical summer of 2015 for the U.S. women's soccer team as they captured the World Cup, and the hearts of many Americans, in a 5-2 victory against Japan. This July, they are looking to defend their Olympic gold, but will face competition from Germany, Japan, England, and the host country Brazil. Last Wednesday marked the beginning of the women's Olympic qualifying tournament, where the top two teams advance to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The U.S. breezed through the group stage with a 5-0 win against Costa Rica, a late 1-0 victory against Mexico on a Carli Lloyd penalty kick, and a 10-0 throttling of Puerto Rico.

The roster has changed, with only 13 out of 20 players from the World  Cup team. Abby Wambach, Lauren Holiday, Shannon Boxx, and Lori Chalupny all hung up their cleats this past December, while Christine Rampone is sidelined after minor knee surgery. Megan Rapinoe, tore her ACL two months ago and is questionable for the Olympic roster. Rapinoe is an important midfielder, and hopefully will be recovered for Rio.

We love the American stars - Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan, but some new young talents have been called up recently. Crystal Dunn, playing as a striker, scored five goals in the last match against Costa Rica. At only 17, Mallory Pugh is the youngest U.S. senior team player ever, and has already scored a goal in a January exhibition. Pugh is facing the challenge of being on the best women's soccer team in the world, as well as studying for Calculus. She currently has plans to attend college at UCLA, just a few miles from the U.S. Soccer training facility in Carson.

The U.S. still have more to prove in the semifinal against Canada this Friday. The Canadians are 11th ranked in the world and have won their first two matches of the qualifiers. Teams like Mexico and Canada are the quality that will be faced in the Olympics, so this match will be a true test of strength for the American ladies.

Upcoming Schedule:
February 19: Semifinals: USA v Canada (Olympic qualifying at BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, TX). 8:30pm. NBCSN
February 21: Finals (Olympic qualifying at BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, TX). 5:00pm. NBC Sports Live Extra (Replay on NBCSN at 11pm)
March 3: England (SheBelieves Cup at Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL). 7:30pm. FS1.
March 6: France (SheBelieves Cup at Nissan Stadium, Nashville. TN). 3:00pm. ESPN3.
March 9: Germany (SheBelieves Cup at FAU Stadium, Boca Raton, Fla.) 7:30pm. ESPN3

August 3-19: Olympics. NBCUniversal networks.