In each of the last two sports seasons I've done a column of 25 thoughts. With so many things happening, it seemed like a good time for a third installment.
1. With the formation of the Sandusky River League, the Midland Athletic League will be history after next school year. It's sad because of the great competition that has occurred under the MAL banner since 1985. It also was nice to have 10 local schools in one conference. I will miss the league for selfish reasons, but at the same time, nothing ever stays the same, especially in athletics.
2. When I arrived in Tiffin, we had two main leagues - the MAL and the Northern Ohio League. Twelve of our 14 area high schools were under one banner or the other. With the formation of the SRL, The A-T's coverage area will have schools in at least five leagues, and possibly a few more before this all shakes out. There's the NOL (Columbian), SRL (Calvert, Old Fort, New Riegel, Lakota), Northern 10 (Buckeye Central, Mohawk, Carey, Seneca East), Northern Buckeye League (Fostoria), Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference (Upper Sandusky) and undeclared (St. Wendelin, Bettsville). The mid-2000s were a simple time.
3. So, there was a news story that Ray Lewis won't do his dance in the Super Bowl pregame. I know my life has been altered irreparably by this news.
4. Do we really need an extra week before the Super Bowl? The "news" from New Orleans this week has more filler than a Judd Apatow film.
5. Last week I went to see the University of Dayton's nationally-ranked women's basketball team. The Flyers' point guard, Amber Deane, was especially impressive in a game they won handily. Deane had a steal and layup to begin the contest. It took five seconds before I remembered I wasn't covering the game and was allowed to applaud.
6. Joey Simcoe has done a marvelous job with TU's wrestling program. Simcoe, in his second season, has guided the program to national prominence. The Dragons are ranked 25th in the Basford Division II national rankings. TU 197-pounder Alek Hughes, a Seneca East graduate is ranked fifth in the nation.
7. Heidelberg's wrestling team rolled to a win over John Carroll this week. The team is undefeated in Ohio Athletic Conference matches, and is making some noise again in Division III. Of course, that noise isn't nearly as loud as the orange shirt and tie assistant Nick Sanchez was wearing Tuesday night at the JCU match. The former national-qualifier for the 'Berg appeared to be paying homage to pumpkins.
8. This year's Old Fort boys basketball team is the best MAL boys team I can remember since I've been here. The Stockaders are ranked No. 6 in Division IV. It will be really interesting to see Old Fort go up against New Riegel, which also is really, really good.
9. How good is Tiffin University guard Joe Graessle? Heading into Saturday's game with Ohio Dominican, he was sixth in Division II in points per game (23.5), and tied for fourth in the nation in steals (64). Someone who ranks ahead of Graessle in steals? Upper Sandusky graduate Alex Falk, who has 65 for West Liberty in West Virginia. As for Graessle, his numbers are especially impressive considering he's almost always double teamed, and his name is the first every opposing coach brings up.
10. Nate Davis probably is remembered best nationally for his ricochet dunk last December (type Nate Davis dunk into YouTube, it has more hits than some countries have people). But the Heidelberg senior is having his best season, by far. In an overtime loss to John Carroll Wednesday, he recorded his 19th career double double, with 25 points and a career-high 23 rebounds. It was the first time in Davis' collegiate career he had more than 20 rebounds. Davis has always been a remarkable athlete, but this year he's been a great basketball player, averaging 15.7 points and 10.6 rebounds a game. When he's on, there's no one better in the OAC.
11. Tiffin University's Jessica Harris has battled through injuries to have a really nice career for Pam Oswald's Dragons. The senior is averaging a double-double in points and rebounds this season. But what's most impressive about Harris, aside from her toughness, is her ability to take over a game, especially inside. She seems to have a knack for being at her best when a game is on the line. Harris has had to carry a heavy load for TU, with the graduation of Mandy Jaeb and the season-ending injury to Karli Mast.
12. Heidelberg junior Kathleen Phillips had 36 points Wednesday in a loss to John Carroll. Phillips has been an impressive offensive player since the second she stepped on HU's campus. I think her jumper is one of the nicest in the OAC.
13. Every Groundhog Day I wake up wondering if I'll live the same day over again. Doubt I'm the only one. Bill Murray movies stay with you.
14. Travis Hafner signed with the Yankees this week. If he hits 30 homers and spends no time on the Disabled List, you are allowed to believe Cleveland sports are cursed.
15. Super Bowl predictions: Ravens win 29-21. There are three funny commercials, two that will offend the masses, and one Wendy's girl commercial that will cause me to throw a brick through my TV screen. And Phil Simms will take a few breaths between monologues. But not many.
16. Art Modell didn't make it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. What people always seem to forget is he was on the ballot for years before moving the Browns to Baltimore. So if he wasn't good enough before, why would he make it after?
17. I want to thank Tiffin University for not including "Call Me, Maybe" in its pregame song mixes. You can only hear that song so many times before a game.
18. Kyrie Irving is an incredible player, but its been frustrating to see the Cavs lose so much again this season. I understand it's not realistic for them to be good without more pieces, but after the seasons the Indians and Browns had, this is hard to take.
19. New manager Terry Francona likely will make the Indians a .500 team by pure willpower. But I don't see how Cleveland can contend with so many question marks in the rotation.
20. Still not sure why it took so long for Cris Carter to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Glad he did, but here's what I don't get: He retired from the NFL is 2002, so he's been on the ballot for a while. Have his stats changed since then?
21. Not to rush winter, but this spring is gonna be exciting for local sports. Calvert's Olivia Smith will look to defend her state title in the 800, Mohawk softball and Seneca East baseball are coming off appearances in the regional finals. Should be fun.
22. LeBron James back to Cleveland? I doubt it. It'd be nice if only because the Cavs would get better faster. But does LeBron really miss February in Ohio?
23. Why does everyone keep asking which pro quarterbacks are "elite?" Here's a clue. If they're in the Super Bowl, they're elite. Trent Dilfer was elite in 2001. It's all about winning.
24. No one made baseball's Hall of Fame this year. Some deserving (and clean) players likely didn't make it, and that's not fair. But it's also the price the sport pays for having no performance-enhancing drug testing at all until 2003.
25. At some point, the Browns have to get good just out of dumb luck, right?