Archive for HJ Sports

Wolves Botch Draft Again – A Reflex

I wrote this on Thursday, so I did not know at the time how the draft went for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Stating that the Wolves botched the draft yet again is just a reflex at this point.

It does seem like the Wolves did a solid job last night. With the 20th pick they grabbed Josh Okogie, a Georgia Tech guard who has the ability to be a 3-and-D guy. With their second round pick, they were able to steal Ohio State Forward Keita Bates-Diop. Both guys have styles of play that fit great with the current NBA structure, so although it is way too early to tell, it seems that the Wolves did the best they could with their picks.

Often, the best teams in the league are built on draft success and it only takes drafting the right star to become a prominent NBA team for many years (see Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan, LeBron James, Karl Anthony-Towns etc).

For a recent example, take a look at the Golden State Warriors. Most people get angry when you talk about the Warriors, since Kevin Durant, a top 3 player in the league, joined the 73-9 Warriors and have won the past two NBA titles.

However, the Warriors built their team through the draft and won a title without Durant. In 2012, they drafted Draymond Green in the 2nd round at 35th overall. In 2011, they drafted sharpshooter Klay Thompson 11th overall. Lastly, in a year that Wolves fans vividly remember (and have been trying to forget), the Warriors drafted two-time MVP Stephen Curry 7th overall.

I can’t be the only one to remember exactly where I was on that fateful night. I was at my cousin’s house and we were thrilled to have the 5th and 6th overall picks. This is not common in any sport, especially in the NBA, where two top 10 picks can turn around the fortune of a franchise immediately. My cousins and I pleaded with our TV that one of the two picks be Steph Curry. We looked up at the sky and prayed. We promised to change our ways forever if this draft just worked out once for us, because they historically didn’t.

With the 5th pick, we watched David Stern announce that the Timberwolves selected Ricky Rubio, point guard from Spain. A young and promising guard, it was hard to be super upset about this pick. Minnesota needed point guard help and Rubio could maybe answer that call.

Now, we assured ourselves that Curry would be next. “We need the shooting. They don’t really play the same position necessarily, so they can play together. Rubio is the passing guard and Curry is the shooter.”

With the 6th pick in the 2009 draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select: Jonny Flynn, guard, from the University of Syracuse.

Our hearts sunk immediately. Upon missing on the best shooter in NBA history, twice, the Wolves managed to select two non-shooting point guards with two top ten picks.

That is the worst it has ever been, potentially for any team in history. Teams have missed on amazing players many times. One example is Sam Bowie (Who?) going 2nd overall to the Portland Trail Blazers. Some guy named Michael Jordan went 3rd overall to the Chicago Bulls. You know how that story played out.

But nobody has missed on back-to-back picks in the catastrophic way that your Minnesota Timberwolves did.

In the Wolves defense, it has been better in recent years. The Wolves traded for Jimmy Butler on draft night last season, using players we drafted in Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn. They also have traded a disgruntled Kevin Love for the 1st overall pick in 2015 Andrew Wiggins. Lastly, the drafted some guy named Karl Anthony-Towns 1st overall in 2016.

Last night seemed to continue this new trend of draft success. They needed to add some shooting, defense, and bench depth and seemingly did so with Okogie and Bates-Diop. Or they can invest in a time machine, go back to June 25th 2009 and do what every other NBA franchise would have done.

As always, feel free to send me an email at any time during the week if you have a topic, opinion, observation, or snide remark for me.

Sportsmanship At Its Finest

When you watch sports on TV, you don’t always witness the best behavior. For example, in the NBA there are characters like Draymond Green who berate officials constantly and swear at opposing teams excessively. In the NFL, we can watch guys like Ndamukong Suh purposely step on people and any number of players can always be seen taunting.

Basically, professional athletes are not always the best example of good sportsmanship. Last week, a local high school baseball player showed all of us just how to handle one of the biggest moments in an athlete’s career.

Mounds View High School’s Ty Koehn was pitching in a section final game against Totino-Grace. The game was seemingly in hand with two outs in the last inning. Totino-Grace sent up Jack Kocon to the plate, a player who just a few games earlier had the game winning hit against Mounds View. Kocon also happened to be lifelong friends with Koehn.

After throwing strike three and sealing the trip to the State Tournament, the Mound View players jumped up and sprinted to the mound in jubilation, as anyone in that situation would do. Kocon’s head fell as he knew his high school baseball career was over.

Instead of celebrating with his teammates, Koehn headed straight to home plate. He even had to shrug off a teammate to get to Kocon, who he locked up in a strong embrace. According to multiple interviews, he told him that he loved him and reminded him that their friendship was more important than any game.

Let’s take a second for some self-reflection. How many of us could honestly say we would have done the same thing in that situation? That moment, a state tournament trip hanging in the balance, is what every high school athlete dreams about. You pour your heart and soul into the game for nearly your whole life. The natural reaction is to rejoice at the accomplishment of your team. Even if I had just struck out my father, I can guarantee you my instant reaction would be to celebrate as my emotions ran wild.

Instead, Koehn did what very few of us could do. He was there for his good friend to let him know that it would be okay. After consoling his friend, Koehn then was able to celebrate with the rest of his teammates.

If you haven’t seen the video online, it is worth the watch. All of the local media outlets picked up the heartwarming story as well as many national outlets like ESPN. Koehn even received many interview requests, but insisted that Kocon also be on camera. Another sign of a true friend.

We all take sports too seriously sometimes. At the end of the day, sports are there for our entertainment, to create lasting relationships, and to learn life lessons. Koehn reminded us all of the life lesson that winning isn’t always the most important thing.

As always, feel free to send me an email at any time during the week if you have a topic, opinion, observation, or snide remark for me.


Hollywood Sports Complex to dedicate softball field June 16

HOLLYWOOD, MN – The ball fields at Hollywood Sports Complex will be named after Ken and Delores Thiesen, creators of the first field with lights at Hollywood, in a dedication ceremony Saturday, June 16.

More than 50 years ago, Ken and Dolores Theisen purchased The Hollywood Store. One of the first projects the Theisen’s thought of doing to increase business was to build a new softball field with lights. The sport of softball had been growing over the years, and the area players were excited about being able to play under the lights.

The Hollywood store had a field that was originally built for baseball in the 1940s, and in later years, became a place for Sunday softball games. Evening games were rarely played because the setting summer sun would shine directly into the batter’s, catcher’s, and umpires’ eyes.

In 1969, it was decided to flip the field, so home plate moved into left field, and lights, dugouts, and a concession stand were added.

Because the field was not a public park, meant that the cost of maintenance needed to be paid by the Theisens, themselves. The investment did pay off as they hosted more than 400 games the first year. The August tournament hosted 16 teams from all over the state. Later on, another field was added in order to get more games in.

The idea initiated by the Theisens led to the owner of Watertown Lanes, Mac McKittrick, moving his bowling lanes to Hollywood. The bowling alley, along with the baseball field, then became Hollywood Sports Complex.

Fifty years later, everyone is welcome to come celebrate with the Theisen family of the late Ken and Delores. The dedication will take place Saturday, June 16 at Hollywood Sports Complex at 4 p.m. There will also be a fastpitch softball tournament being played Saturday and Sunday.

(Article by Bruce Johnson, Herald Journal)

Our Own Hollywood

I asked my friend a few weeks ago if he would like to sub for my sand volleyball team. He said sure and we headed out for the game. A few things struck him on the short ride.

First, we passed the Watertown Rod & Gun Club. He was familiar with gun clubs, but did not realize that there would be 30+ cars on a random Wednesday in the summer. “That’s rural Minnesota for you” was the only explanation I could give him.

His second observation that made him laugh out loud was when we arrived at our destination. “Hollywood?” he asked as though he was waiting for a punch line. “Yup, we’re in Hollywood.”

If you live in the area, you hopefully were on the same page in understanding we are not talking about the Walk of Fame version (which on a side note, is incredibly overrated). The Hollywood Sports Complex was our destination, which it is for me and many others every summer.

Just this week I had a modified softball game, a sand volleyball game, a double cheeseburger, and could have stopped in for a drink or bowled a few rounds. I have even played a music gig there with my band the Young Funks. (Shameless plug, catch us at Prairie Days on July 14th or Rails to Trails in Watertown July 20th, or both.)

Hollywood still boasts 3 softball leagues (Fastpitch, Men’s Modified, and Co-ed Slowpitch), 3 volleyball leagues, many bowling leagues, live local bands, yearly tractor pulls, and gives locals plenty of reasons to stop by year round.

Another reason to stop by is for Choppers Annual Fastpitch Softball Tournament on June 16th and 17th. Along with a tractor pull on Father’s Day Sunday, there will be a dedication of Theisen Field to celebrate 50 years of fastpitch softball. It is to honor Delores and Kenny Theisen, who in the 6 short years of owning the complex they; added a dining area, a second ball field, switched the orientation of the first field and added lights, added coolers, a kitchen, got a liquor license and began serving food. Basically, the Theisen’s made the changes that make Hollywood what it is today.

If you happen to drive by Hollywood, it may look like your typical small town establishment. However, the people at Hollywood are what make it special.

Have you witnessed “local legend” Tom Schmidt do a somersault while playing third base and throw out the guy at first underhanded? We’ve learned not to test his cat-like reflexes, even if that cat is Garfield.

Thousands come out to the Hollywood Sports Complex each year and have made memories with their friends and family for many years. Heck, I’m sure there have even been many people who met their spouse there.

Hollywood may be just place in a small town in rural Minnesota, but it has become a local staple for food, festivities, and fun for everyone in the area.

As always, feel free to send me an email at any time during the week if you have a topic, opinion, observation, or snide remark for me.


KOVAR: Enjoy high school basketball for what it is

I was planning to stay out of it this time. I guess I just couldn’t resist.

During Monday’s Minnesota State High School League board meeting, the proposal of adding a 35-second shot clock to the high school basketball game for boys and girls was rejected by the board of directors. Shortly after that decision was announced, the shot clock enthusiasts came out in full force on social media.

To get it out of the way right away, I’m against adding shot clocks to the game of high school basketball. With that being said, I do see both pros and cons to a shot clock being added, and despite what I think or hope happens, I do see a shot clock being added at some point.

There are plenty of pros and cons about adding a shot clock. What really bothers me is when people want to make a drastic change to the game because of just one or two games that take place over the course of one season. Of course, I am referring to the Waseca and Marshall girls’ basketball game that ended with a score of 17-4.

Outrage over needing a shot clock emerged following that game. After one game. One game out of thousands that were played throughout the season, people declare that is the reason we need a shot clock.

The word that bothers me the most when people argue about shot clocks is need. In order for them to be needed, something must be lacking right? I’ve watched a lot of high school basketball games and played in a lot, as well. There’s nothing lacking about high school basketball. Actually, it’s the only true form of the game left, and why would we want to change that because of one game each year?

High school basketball is not part of the entertainment business, such as the NCAA or NBA. Let’s stop trying to make it like that.

The goal of high school hoops is not to develop these kids to play in college or at the professional level. Yeah, some kids are good enough to, and will play at those levels. The goal of high school hoops is to see kids playing the sport they love and dealing with success and failure on the court. When they learn how to deal with it on the court, they can be prepared to deal with success and failure in the real world.

There’s nothing wrong with the game of high school basketball right now. It’s not broken. It doesn’t need to be fixed.

Yes, I will admit, in some circumstances, a shot clock being added would add some extra intrigue and drama for some games. There’s no doubt it would. But at what cost do we change the game entirely to make it more like a game at the college or professional? Those kids are hand-picked to play in college. Those players playing in the NBA are some of the best athletes in the world. There not high school kids dealing with things that high school kids have to endure.

The biggest reason I am against having shot clocks is that it takes away a lot of strategy. If a team wants to run an offensive set for a full minute in order to ensure a good shot, there’s nothing wrong with that. If a team has a six-point lead with just under two minutes to go and wants to hold the ball, there’s nothing wrong with that.

You don’t want them to stall? Go get the ball. It’s that simple.

People can never admit that it takes two teams to stall. They always point the blame at the team holding the ball. Well, if you don’t want them to hold the ball, go out and defend them. It’s impossible to stall when being pressured.

On the other side of it, the idea of running out the clock takes skill and decision making. If a team is able to pass the ball around for an extended period of time without turning it over, why should they be penalized with a shot clock and have to put up a contested shot just so the other team gets the ball back? It doesn’t make sense at this level.

The game of high school basketball is perfectly fine the way it is. Let’s appreciate it for what it is, and that’s something that we all enjoy and love. Especially when section and state tournaments come around.

These are high school kids playing the game. Not college or professional athletes. Let’s stop trying to make this game like the NCAA and NBA, and enjoy what high school basketball really is – a chance for high school kids to play the game they love with their friends while their family watches.

Myocarditis – A Break From Sports

This week, I am going to venture into a different side of sports that isn’t typically talked about. Minnesota Sports has been bleak and I figured now was the time to mix it up. This week, I am going to inform you about Myocarditis (because I am assuming you know nothing about it, considering I hardly know anything about it myself).

The natural and appropriate question in your mind should be: Why? You also might be thinking to yourself: I thought this column was a fun Minnesota Sports column; why would you spend time on Myo-carda what?

Well, this is my column, so I can do what I want. Plus, there is a both a personal and sports angle, so you might as well read on.

Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle. The typical symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain, and/or an irregular heartbeat. The way I have come to understand it is that it is basically a common cold on your heart. However, it is much more serious than a stuffy nose or bad cough. It typically happens to young people and it is unknown whether there are any long-term effects.

In the past two years, each of my brothers have spent time in the Children’s Hospital in St. Paul for Myocarditis. They felt some pain in their chests, went to the doctor, and when tested were told they had the virus and were rushed to the hospital.

The way they detect it is by the level of Troponin in the heart, which is a regulatory protein in the bloodstream. The typical level is .8. Austin and Isaac were at 27 and 31 respectively. I don’t entirely understand what that means because I am not a doctor, but I at least understand that 27 and 31 are far greater than .8. Roughly 37 times greater if it matters. Thankfully it was detected early with both of them and they have made full recoveries.

The reason it relates to sports is because this virus can be the cause of heart failure and cardiac arrest if during physical activity. Thankfully in both my brothers’ cases, they were not doing physical activity, unless you count video games and golf as rigorous activity (I don’t).

There are many deaths that occur each year due to this disease, usually to young athletes, but I will not name any of them out of respect to them. However, the most famous case actually happened in 1993 to Boston Celtics guard Reggie Lewis. Lewis collapsed during the first game in the 1993 NBA playoffs due to Myocarditis, and died a few months later in an off-season practice due to cardiac arrest.

On a side note, doctors believe that repeated cocaine use damaged Lewis’ heart, contributing to his death. As far as I know, my brothers have not done cocaine.

Dr. Barry Maron, of the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, established a registry of sudden deaths in young athletes. Since 1985, the registry has collected almost 1900 reports of sudden deaths in young athletes who participated in competitive sports.

This isn’t a super common thing and probably won’t happen to your child. But if your child has an unusual shortness of breath or chest pain, it is worth taking them to the doctor; even if they are just playing video games or golfing.

As always, feel free to send me an email at any time during the week if you have a topic, opinion, observation, or snide remark for me.