Volleyball Vacations

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By John Rezell

An entire volleyball team, coaches and parents packed more than a few tables shoved together at the Hard Rock Cafe in Seattle a few years ago, when the waiter asked the 14-year-old girls if they had any musical favorites they wanted to hear.

A lot of pop music requests followed, just as he figured, until one gal pipped up, “How about AC/DC’s Thunderstruck?”

The waiter burst out laughing and asked, “Whose daughter is this?”

My wife proudly confessed, and a few minutes later the place was rockin’.

As we closed out the Sports Events Vacations February issue I paused and took a trip down memory lane when driving around to youth volleyball tournaments gave us a chance to explore beyond the gymnasiums of a city.

I’m pretty sure our trip to Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture might have slightly influenced my daughter’s music selection that day. Well, that and more than a couple of AC/DC songs playing on the five-hour drive up from Eugene.

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Gazing out across Puget Sound from the top of the Space Needle after a ride on the Seattle Center Monorail, or strolling through an ocean of fresh seafood in the Pike Place Market are great memories of Seattle.

When volleyball took us to San Francisco, we gorged on sensational ice cream at Ghirardelli Square and warmed up from the cold winds blowing off the Pacific Ocean with clam chowder in sourdough bowls at Boudin Bakery.

Fact is, I don’t remember much about the volleyball, per se. The other memories, though, they will last a lifetime.

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Best Valentine Gift: A Workout

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By John Rezell

Each Valentine’s Day I’m reminded of the best February 14th present I ever handed out.

Oh, it had nothing to do with chocolates or flowers.

It had everything to do with affairs of the heart.

Only a few months into my role as outdoor columnist for The Register-Guard newspaper in Eugene, OR, I wrote a column on using February 14th to remind everyone that the best gift you could give anyone in your life is to keep your own heart strong, healthy and ready to live a long, enjoyable life.

I wrote the column and then, of course, went on a hike. I received a few nice notes about it, and it pretty much slipped off my radar.

A little over a year later, I received a letter from a reader. She literally took my column to heart.

She said when she read it that Valentine morning it hit her hard. She used to love hiking and being very active outdoors. Somewhere along the line, life got in the way of that.

So, she cut out that column and placed it on the refrigerator door. Then she began hiking up Spencer’s Butte, a local hiking trail with a challenging climb to the top. She did it religiously, nearly every day for a year.

She wrote me a year later to say thank you. She shed a significant amount of weight, started eating healthier and, more important than anything, she felt good about herself again.

We went on a hike together to celebrate. I took her to one of my favorite waterfalls. Without question, it is one of my best hiking memories.

When you have the honor of writing for an audience, you never quite know who is listening or why. But every once in a while, you get to listen to a heart-warming story that makes you day.

Or, in my case, makes every Valentine’s Day just a bit more special.

 

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Planners Praise Oregon Sports Summit

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Photo courtesy of MatchPoint Photography

By John Rezell

The beauty of sports and those who make it their business is how contagious athletic passion can be. You can literally feel it in a room.

On a cold, rainy February day in Oregon — with ice and snow threatening in the weather forecast, no less — more than 140 sports business enthusiasts gathered at the Valley River Inn for the first Oregon Sports Summit.

The brainchild of Janis Ross, Executive Director of the Eugene, Cascades and Coast Sports Commission, the event focused on giving sports planners of all levels the opportunity to learn, share and grow with sessions throughout the day.

Initially Ross thought the event would be a Lane County endeavor, but as soon as word got out, she received requests from across the state to attend.

That makes perfect sense, since the number of participants in sporting events, the number of events and the number of facilities across the nation continue to grow.

The turnout proves that sports planners are hungry to learn more and grow their properties. With Sports Commissions on the constant search for more business, helping arm planners with information is a great way to create partnerships.

When events grow, the entire industry benefits.

“The inaugural Oregon Sports Summit was a resounding success,” Ross said. “Educational content was outstanding, attendance exceeded goal, and our partners were ecstatic with the connections they were able to make. Our goal is to grow the Summit into an annual, and potentially multi-day, conference.”

Richard Maher, Race Director for the Eugene Marathon, praised the event.

“The Inaugural Oregon Sports Summit was a great opportunity for us at the Eugene Marathon to further engage with our local sports community,” Maher said. “It allowed us to share our knowledge of event production that we have gathered over the years as well as get some new ideas from up and coming events. The breakout sessions covered a wide variety of topics that appealed to all of our staff members. I cannot wait to see how this event grows in the future years.”

Vin Lananna, president of Tracktown USA and the United States Track & Field Association, was the keynote speaker. Lananna talked about the city of Eugene’s rise in the world of track over the past 10 years as the moniker “Tracktown USA” moved from being a local phrase to worldwide recognition.

In the past 10 years Eugene has been host to numerous U.S. Olympic Trials, NCAA Championships, a Junior World Championship. The city is preparing to become the first in the U.S. to host the World Championships in 2021.

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Photo courtesy of MatchPoint Photography

 

 

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Super Bowl: $5 Million for 30 seconds

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By John Rezell

Born and raised a Green Bay Packers fan as a child in Wisconsin, I sat on the living room floor some 50 years ago watching the first AFL-NFL Championship game that would later be renamed the Super Bowl.

For the life of me, I can’t remember any of the commercials. That’s because commercial time was saved for a full-on screaming and hollering debate about the game.

My, how things have changed.

The cost of for a Super Bowl commercial is up to $5 million, according to Ball State University telecommunications professor Dom Caristi.

Yes, for $5 million you get a shot at grabbing the attention of the huge audience for half a minute. That’s up from $4.8 million last year.

Kantar Media, a global market research company, estimates the cost to advertise during the Super Bowl has increased by 76 percent over the last decade, generating about $2.59 billion for the NFL from 2007 to 2016.

Caristi reports that a major change this year for viewers is that Fox, which is broadcasting and streaming the game, will insert local commercials into online viewing of Super Bowl LI

“While this might just look like the natural progression of video to the web, it marks a major milestone,” Caristi said. “Instead of losing viewers to the Internet, local over-the-air television stations will still have local audiences see their commercials. Fox will make it possible for local stations to reap the financial benefit of online viewing, allowing them to charge advertisers in their local markets.”

Fox Sports will broadcast Super Bowl LI on Fox Sports GO, the streaming platform that showcases all of Fox Sports’ live events and studio programming.

Caristi noted that about 170 Fox affiliates are partnering with Fox Sports to program local digital ads.

“This will be a nice shot in the arm for local Fox affiliates,” Caristi said. “Many people watch the Super Bowl more for the commercials than the actual game. So, people will pay attention when the local advertisements pop up.”

Maybe, if they don’t save that commercial time for debates.

 

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Electric Football

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By John Rezell

Imagine for a moment waking up as a small child on Christmas morning and running downstairs to find the tree dark and house more than a little chilly.

If you are really imagining this scenario through the eyes of a child, then you know the lighting and temperature are irrelevant. What matters are presents. And there are plenty beneath the tree.

When I think back to Christmases past, very few revolve around sports. My birthday lands in June, so warm weather and summer vacation bring plenty of sports presents. Christmas, for me, not so much.

On this particular morn, a Christmas Eve blizzard knocked out the power in the area, thus no lights and no heat. Needless to say, it didn’t matter. At first.

We dug into the presents as kids usually do. Then Mom handed me a big flat box. I had no idea what it was, so I ripped it open with a little added energy.

It took me a minute to figure it out. Then it hit me. Electric Football.

Growing up in Wisconsin during the Packers Glory Years, it didn’t get much better than this. Football was king. Neither team was painted. One team was white. One team yellow.

Without hesitation, I decided to pin a number on one player. I peeled off No. 24 from the decals and planted on the back of a yellow player. Willie Wood came alive.

We spent the next few hours playing with everything else under the tree while slowly adding layers of clothing. I never remember another Christmas without electricity. Nor a Christmas when electricity was in such dire need.

Eventually the electricity came back on, and a nanosecond later, the game began to vibrate. As players zoomed all around the field, I focused on No. 24. One of my heroes, the only Packer I honored with a number, Willie Wood, simply spun around and around in circles like a top, going no where, but certainly standing out from the rest.

Ah, the memories.

More than a few years later, another Wisconsin blizzard just after Christmas paid big dividends. My buddy Jack and I spent the better part of three days wandering around the neighborhood shoveling driveways and getting paid handsomely.

After putting my required portion of loot in the bank, I had enough to buy myself anything I wanted. We went straight to Sears where I got an update Electric Football Game, complete with painted players. The New York Giants and Los Angeles Rams.

We didn’t quite take it to the level some people do (you can watch this youtube video to see true obsessions with Electric Football https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zccZueUD42M). But inside was a catalog where you could order other teams.

Eventually, I had six or seven teams. The teams we didn’t like, we repainted ourselves. We had a league in the neighborhood with six teams. It was great fun. Eventually we repainted every team.

I had the teams packed away somewhere for decades. Last Christmas my little brother surprised me with a new Electric Football Game. Ah, the memories …

Do you have a Christmas sports memory to share? Let us know!

Contact John Rezell, Executive Editor, at jrezell@coveypubs.com.
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Round Rock Express Wins Service Award

FROM MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

ST. PETERSBURG, FL – Minor League Baseball named the Round Rock Express the recipient of the fourth annual John Henry Moss Community Service Award.

The award was created in 2013 by Minor League Baseball in honor of the late John Henry Moss, who founded what would become the South Atlantic League in 1959 and headed the circuit until 2007. The Express will receive their award at the Baseball Winter Meetings Banquet on Sunday, Dec. 4, at Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland.

“The Round Rock Express is honored to be named the winner of the 2016 John Henry Moss Community Service Award as one of our core values is to passionately give back to the community and it is something our staff proudly promotes and practices throughout the year,” said Express president Chris Almendarez.

“We are able to make Central Texas a better place to live and play through this great game of baseball and this year. We were able to make an impact on an international level with the founding of Jana’s House, a home being built for orphaned girls in Zambia in honor of my wife, Jana. Receiving this award is a testament to the hard work of our staff, players and coaches and the community itself for continuing to support us in our charitable efforts all year long.”

The Round Rock Express engage in a wide variety of community service initiatives to provide assistance to area programs, charities and educational organizations in Round Rock and the surrounding communities. The Express have more than 75 community partners, 13 youth programs, 11 military appreciation initiatives, 25 in-game fundraising and awareness events and 10 community outreach initiatives.

“The Round Rock Express continue to be a model franchise when it comes to community service and engagement,” said Minor League Baseball president & CEO Pat O’Conner. “Despite working through an incredibly tough and emotional year, the club managed to do so much good in and around its community, and of course with their efforts to make Jana’s House a reality. Their efforts were second to none, and it is my honor to present them with this award.”

This year, the Express took the field in specialty jerseys six times to benefit community charities. In total, specialty jersey nights provided $31,710 to charitable organizations. Together with their hospitality sister company, Ryan Sanders Sports Services (RS3), the Express raised over $600,000 through in-stadium events such as auctions and raffles. The franchise donated a grand total of over $788,000 in 2016.

The 2016 season brought considerable sadness to the Round Rock baseball family with the passing of Jana Almendarez, creating a renewed sense of purpose. Rallying around one another, the Express staff adopted a yearlong motto of “One Team” that transcended the front office to the players and coaches, sponsors, fans and the entire Central Texas community.

In the months that followed Jana’s passing came record-breaking attendance numbers, inspired events like Military Appreciation Day and Cancer Awareness Night, and the undertaking of Jana’s House, a home under construction in Zambia that will house 12 orphaned girls in Jana’s honor.

The Express go to great lengths to serve the youth of their community by hosting year-round baseball and softball camps, partnering with libraries for reading competitions, holding Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts nights at the ballpark and much more.

The Round Rock mascot, Spike, made over 117 appearances throughout the season at fundraisers, assemblies, youth sporting events and other community gatherings. Additionally, the Express made players available for public speaking events and autograph sessions.

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Cedar Rapids launches Fat Bike Rides and Expo

FROM GO CEDAR RAPIDS

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA — An interactive, fun night ride, free expo, raffle and a three-hour endurance ride on a 3.75-mile course are all part of the GO CR Fat Sac & Fox Enduro Ride set for December 9-10.

GO Cedar Rapids along with the Cedar Rapids Parks Department and Linn Area Mountain Bike Association (LAMBA) are coming together to host the largest Fat Bike event in the Cedar Rapids Area.

The event kicks off Friday, December 9th with registration and an interactive on trail/off trail night ride that begins at 7 p.m., taking riders on trails and pathways that are not part of the normal bike trail system. Along the way riders will make pit stops at several Cedar Rapids locations for food, drink and surprises. Friday’s ride ends with a celebration at the SAG Wagon Deli & Brew.

Saturday’s events begin at the Indian Creek Nature Center with a free expo for riders, fans, and the public starts that at 10 a.m. The expo will include panel discussions, Fat Bike demonstrations, and a fun family area with bike related games and activities along with a Fat Santa Kids ride.

A raffle for a 2017 Specialized Fatboy SE Fat Bike (MSRP $1400) will also be part of the event. Attendees will be able to stay for lunch with multiple onsite food vendors then cheer for the riders of the GO CR Fat Sac & Fox Enduro Ride which begins at Noon.

The enduro ride will take place on a 3.75-mile course using parts of the Sac & Fox Trail. Individual and team riders will ride as many laps as possible in the three hour race.  Winners will be awarded in both individual and team categories. Awards and celebration will take place Saturday night at Broken Spoke, Cedar Rapids.

Updated information, tickets, merchandise and raffle tickets along with host hotel information and rates are all available through the event website: GOCRFatBike.com.

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