27 April, 2008

Life in the Fast Lane

Catching up with the fast
est person in Salem State Track history

"I just tried to run as fast as I could and do what I had to do," said Eddie Bynum III aka Da Flash, after successfully defending his NCAA Division 3 indoor 55m dash title by posting a record time of 6.25 seconds. "It's a great feeling to come out on top again. I know my family and coaches are really proud." Bynum says "it feels good" to be successful so close to home. "Going back to [Lynn English] high school and meeting with some of my old teachers, and them reading about what I have accomplished feels good," he said. "It feels good getting the recognition of those that are in your community." Those close to Bynum have always influenced him, and his athletic family can be credited with his decision to run track. "I started running track in my junior year of high school," Bynum said, "Some of my immediate family members participated in track and were relatively good, so I was curious how good I would be." Good would be an understatement while describing the career Bynum has had at Salem State.

Da Flash is a four-time All-American and two-time National Champion. No other SSC sprinter has even captured one National Championship. In his senior season Bynum came out of the blocks quickly, qualifying for the national championship in the first meet. He would go on to defend his New England, Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC), Massachusetts State College Athletic Conference (MASCAC), and All-Alliance championships this winter, before closing it all out with his second D3 National Title. Bynum has won the NEC and MASCAC titles three times, as well as holding some titles in the indoor 200m race.

SSC sprint coach Jeff Rockwood, who head coach Dennis Floyd credits with bringing Eddie's talents to the highest level, said, "He looked better than he ever has," when referring to Bynum's title defense. "Eddie has established a quiet confidence and gained tremendous respect from his opponents. It's not a surprise he was able to defend all his titles, because he was so focused, relaxed, and driven." This mindset is visible in everything that Bynum does. Outside of track, Da Flash likes to "relax and chill" with his friends and family. He also enjoys playing basketball, video games, and watching Justice League cartoons, where he found his nickname. Even though he is very laid back, Bynum's drive can't be questioned; when you take into account that he has been running with a bone fracture in his lower back all year. He recalls "enduring through pain during races."

Hopefully the pain goes away for Eddie Bynum III aka Da Flash, becuase he plans to keep running after college. He plans to "try to qualify for the Olympic trials" or "run track professionally" at some time. If his focus, drive, and determination remain intact, then Da Flash's success in
sprinting is far from over.

Salem State Lacrosse has a steller return to Division III; Finishes regular season 8-4

Salem State Lacrosse stumbled out of the gate, as it began its first season as a Division 3 varsity program since 2003. The Vikings lost their first game 10-4 against the Seahawks of Salve Regina University on a cold and windy Monday, March 10. The Vikings, who captured top honors in the Pioneer Collegiate Lacrosse League B-Division in 2006 and 2007, received goals from sophomore attackman Justin Jones (Danvers), sophomore attackman Logan Godrey (Haverhill), senior midfielder Scott Aronian (Chelmsford) and junior midfielder Alex Verity (Hyde Park).

Next, the Vikings made quick work of the Monks from St. Joseph's (ME) College on Wednesday, March 12, 22-1. State saw 14 different players put the ball in the net that day, headed by Senior Torey Nicholson's (Andover, MA) four-goal performance; as well as hat tricks from sophomore attackman Justin Jones, sophomore attackman Logan Godrey.

Next, Salem State traveled to Boston on March 18, facing off against the Lions of Emerson College at their home field at Rotch Playground, under I-93. The Vikings only lead 5-4 at the half way mark, mainly due to sloppy play in transition, but rebounded nicely in the second half to cruise into a 13-6 victory; the teams first win streak in "forever," as coach Trevor Eaton remembers it. Jones recorded his second consecutive hat trick; increasing his team leading points total to 11.

Salem State took the momentum from the Emerson win with them to Biddeford, ME on Saturday March 22, where they met the Nor’easters of the University of New England. The fans who came out that day saw an excellent game of lacrosse, and the visitors came away with the close 10-9 victory. UNE led SSC for the vast majority of the game until sophomore attackman Justin Jones tied the contest at 8-8 on an assist from freshman attackman Jonathan Falls (Seekonk). Falls would then put the Vikings ahead to stay when he scored just 14 seconds after setting up Jones 1:05 into the final quarter. Sophomore Nate Snow, who also scored the Vikings first goal, recorded the game winner for Salem State with only 10:06 remaining in the fourth quarter, after UNE tied the game just a play prior; the Viking offense showed excellent poise, controlling the ball efficiently to drain the final three minutes off of the clock. Freshman Goalie Greg Gaudet (Lynn, MA) made six saves, earning his first NCAA D3 victory in his first career start at State.

Gaudet played another great game between the pipes on Tuesday March 25, when the Vikings defeated the Huskies from the University of Southern Maine, 9-4. Senior middie Scott Aronian tallied two scores for the winners, while sophomore long-pole middie Mike Carpenito recorded a goal on excellent transition play and a great feed from senior captain Ross Arnold.

The Vikings improved to 5-1 on March 25th, in New London Connecticut, when they faced off against the Pequots of Mitchell College. SSC won handily, defeating Mitchell 17-2. Sophomore attackman Justin Jones once again led the Vikings, recording eight points on five goals and three assists. Freshman goalie Greg Gaudet had another strong game in the net for Salem State, even earning himself an assist in the match.

Salem State's momentum was brought to a screeching halt, as the Corsairs of the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth jumped out to a 7-1 lead at the half en route to a 13-6 win over the Vikings in a match played at North Dartmouth, MA on Saturday April 5. SSC (5-2), who was outshot, 39-20 by the hosts, had its five-match winning streak end. The Vikings received three goals and a pair of assists from freshman attackman Jonathan Falls and two goals from sophomore attackman Justin Jones. Junior middie Padriac Boscoe (Dartmouth) also scored for the Vikings. Senior middie Mike Carpenito (Leominster) also picked up an assist for SSC. Junior goalkeeper Keith Hardy (Walpole) made 10 saves between the pipes for SSC.

The bad luck continued for the Vikings as they faced off against the Buccaneers of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. The home team outscored the Vikings, 3-2, in the final quarter en route to a 9-7 victory in a match played Tuesday April 8 at Buzzards Bay. SSC (5-3) received a pair of goals from junior middie Alex Verity and single tallies from freshman Justin Jones, senior Ross Arnold (Salem), sophomore Luke Metraw (Chelmsford) and freshman James Cross (Beverly).

Salem State turned things around on a beautiful Saturday April 12, against the Colonels of Curry College. SSC (6-3) received four goals from sophomore attackman Justin Jones, three goals from freshman attackman Jonathan Falls and single scoring strikes from senior attackman Ross Arnold, junior middie Alex Verity, sophomore middie Luke Metraw, junior middie Tim Bartlett (Danvers) and sophomore middie Robert Mulroy (Swampscott). Falls and Arnold set up three scores each while Jones, Verity, Metraw, and senior middie Scott Aronian picked up single assists. SSC junior goaltender Keith Hardy recorded the win between the pipes, making 19 stops.

Using a fast-paced, skilled offense and transition, the Western Connecticut State University Colonials scored eight first half goals en route to an 18-3 victory over the Vikings in Danbury, CT on Tuesday April 15. The Vikings (6-4) received a pair of goals from sophomore middie Luke Metraw and a scoring strike from freshman attackman Jonathan Falls. Sophomore Mark Duran (Lynn) registered SSC's one assist. The hosts outshot the Vikings, 46-26, for the match. SSC junior goalkeeper Keith Hardy finished with eight saves.

The Vikings got back on the winning side when they received a final minute tie-breaking goal from senior attackman Ross Arnold of Salem en route to a 9-8 come-from-behind victory over the University of Massachusetts/Boston in a match played at Dorchester on Tuesday April 22. Arnold's goal with just 45 seconds to play capped off a rally for the Vikings that saw the visitors net four goals over the final 8:16. Junior midfielder Alex Verity finished with three scoring strikes for the Vikings (7-4). In addition to Arnold's game-winner, SSC received single tallies from sophomore attackman Justin Jones, sophomore middie Robert Mulroy, freshman middie James Cross, junior middie Tim Bartlett and sophomore middie Nate Snow (Salem). Jones also registered three assists while senior middie Scott Aronian set up a pair of goals. Arnold, Mulroy, freshman attackman Jonathan Falls and sophomore defender Marshall Jutras (Beverly) each picked up a helper. Junior Keith Hardy stopped a dozen shots between the pipes for the Vikings.

The Vikings (8-4) jumped out to a 15-3 lead at the half and then coasted to a 20-4 win over Becker College (7-6) in their final regular season match played Thursday April 24 at Alumni Field. SSC sophomore attackman Justin Jones led the offense with five goals while sophomore Nate Snow (Salem) added a pair. Single scoring strikes were tallied by sophomore Mark Duran, sophomore Mike Carpenito, sophomore Marshall Jutras, senior Jeff Rolke (Millis), sophomore Luke Metraw, sophomore Robert Mulroy, junior Robert Basile (Bedford), sophomore Derek Buckley (Chelsea), junior Tim Bartlett, sophomore Logan Godfrey and junior Scott Aronian. Jones, Mulroy and senior Torey Nicholson each added a pair of assists. Junior Keith Hardy and freshman Greg Gaudet shared the goalkeeping duties for the Vikings with each playing a half. Hardy made four stops and Gaudet one.

The Salem State College Vikings are currently awaiting the selection process for the post-season tournaments to begin. They are practicing hard, and hope to continue their post-season success.

22 April, 2008

'I'm All-In': A Foxwood's Story (Based on Actual Events)

"Cedars Steak House was a great choice," I said lovingly to Stephanie from across the small wooden table at the Foxwood's restaurant, "my lucky charm picked another winner." She really had though, my Angus-burger was actually cooked to medium and her Salmon salad was large and fresh. All of this after winning $98 on the 'Lucky-Seven' slot she had picked. Hitting the 'Red-White-Blue' combo after only seven or eight pulls was just the thing I needed after spending six hours in the Bingo Hall and not winning a single dollar. We had to play the bingo though; everyone did it for my mom's birthday. It was the reason we were came here for after all.
"So what games are we going to try next? I still need to try the dice game," said Steph, taking that adorable tone and performing her pre-roll ritual of blowing twice into her closed hand and tossing the dice, "and I need to do something exciting after sitting in that room forever!"
"We can play what ever you want Lefty," I said playfully with a smile, "and it's called Craps baby. You love craps remember!" The joke was getting old, but ever since her trip to Canada where she owned the table and declared 'I love craps!' I haven't been able to let it go.
"Ewww. You know I hate craps," she joined in, showing how perfect we are for each other, "and you also know damn well that I don't know anything about this place or how to get around it, that's why I keep you around." She really is a dream come true.
"OK. Why don't we meet back up with the family then and we can pick something around there to get into." I didn't really care what we played; I was just excited to still have money in my wallet. "No more slots though!" I really wanted to get into some table games; I had yet to play Blackjack in any of my two previous trips to the Casino. "I'll call Adam and see what he's up to."
"Oi, Oi, " I shouted into my cell phone, "What up bro? Whatcha playing?"
"Oi, Oi," replied my middle brother Adam, "just thinkin' about hittin' the Hold-em room. What about you? Let's go get in on some $1-2." Adam was 22 and a considerably better poker player than me, but that was all the more reason to go to the World Poker Tour room and play some Texas Hold-Em with him. I had told myself to wait for Day Two to play poker though. I had a plan.
"Adam wants to play some Hold-Em," I said in the way that husbands do, asking with out doing just that, "what do you want to do baby? I can call my mom and find out what her Sharon and Paula are doing. We can call Erin and Brendan?" I really wanted her to be entertained and she had told me she didn't want to play poker.
"What? Mom, and Auntie Paula and Auntie Sharon are playing video poker in the Rainmaker. I don't know where Erin is, do you wanna play cards or what?!?" He yelled back, confused and clearly annoyed as usual.
"I'm not talking to you, hold on a second," I yelled back to him. It really was hard to hear with the constant activity of the slots and video games. "What do you want to do baby!?" I yelled again, unnecessarily considering Steph was standing right next to me.
"You said you didn't want to play Hold-Em today didn't you?" she said, as if she could read my mind, visibly against this choice of gambling activity, "but we can play what ever you want darling, I am staying with you where ever you go though."
"I wouldn't want it any other way baby!" I squeezed her close to me and kissed the top of her head, "you are my good luck charm." I knew she would get bored quick at that table, but hold-em was the game I was most looking forward to. The Cadillac of Poker.
"Me and Steph are going to come and play some poker," I yelled again, as I put the phone back up to my ear, "we'll meet you down there." I hung up the phone, kissed my girl again, and gripped her hand as we headed off to the poker room.
Adam and me put our names on the list at the same time, but we ended up being seated at different tables. Deep down I was glad for this, if I wanted to play against my brother I could have stayed back in Mass. Me and Steph we led over to a table set in the corner, there were already 6 other players seated when we walked up.
"Here's an extra seat for your wife sir," said the Poker Manager politely, "thank you for playing with us and good luck," she added as she walked away. She had obviously made these accommodations for players before.
The minimum buy-in on the $1-2 No-Limit Texas Hold-Em tables is $60; I looked into my wallet and counted $160. I looked at Steph and looked back at my wallet. "I'll take eighty," I said to the dealer. I could already see my future wife getting tense; it's amazing how nervous she gets at these games. "Don't worry baby, I’m only going to play good hands," I spoke softly to her, to be honest these tables always made me anxious too, “Grind it out baby! You'll see." I could tell by the look in her eyes she didn't believe me, but she loved me no matter what.
"Would like to play now or wait for the big blind?" the dealer asked, the same way fast-food servers used to ask if 'You'd like fries with that...' I opted to wait, it was only two hands.
"No need to pay the extra, right baby?" I kissed her softly, I had to make sure I kept her involved if I was going to sit here that long.
"Right darling," she responded quietly, not quite sure what had just taken place.
"I'm not going to pay twice the blind to play right away," I added, "I can just pay the regular blind in two hands." I finished, realizing that I was probably just confusing her more.
"Right darling, we're waiting for the blind," she repeated, pretending that she was on the same page. I really did love having her at the table; I need to do it more for my home games.
After waiting two fairly quick hands go to the quiet guy with the headphones seated two seats to my left, I was finally dealt my first hand, after posting my $2 Blind. 7-3 unsuited. Possibly the worst hand I could imagine, but the table checked to me.
"Check," I said firmly, trying to show strength with my low cards. I didn't think it was working, but I had to try something. 7-3-K unsuited on the flop. Can't get much better than that right? The table checked to me again, was this going to be a regular occurrence? "$20," I said as I tossed my chips in front of me. Time to take control of this hand I thought.
"Baby?" said Steph cautiously, "are you sure? What about slow?"
"Don't worry baby," I answered softly, trying not to give anything away.
"Call," said the quiet guy with the headphones. "Fold," said everyone else at the table.
3 on the turn. Jackpot! I had to be good now right! I just turned my rags into riches with a full house on the turn!
"$20," I bet again trying to keep up my act of strength, but now trying to keep him into this hand to pay me out.
"Call," he said quietly, after taking some time to stare me down through his sunglasses. I really should tell this guy that we are inside and it's the middle of the night. Everyone has his or her thing though. 8 on the river. This card was perfect, I had my boat and I was going to take him to the house.
"Check," he said again, obviously wanting to see what I was going to do first.
"I'm All-In," I said confidently, pushing my remaining $38 into the pot, I was sure that I had this locked up and I wanted to make sure I got the most out of it. Full Houses aren't that common. At least that's what I thought.
"Call," he said quickly as he turned over his hole cards. 8-8.
"You have to be kidding me!" was all I could manage. "Wow!" I added for dramatic effect.
"What happened baby?" asked Steph, aware that something had just gone wrong.
"Player has Full House, Eights over Threes," said the dealer, "there's nothing you can do about that," she said to me as she pushed my chips over to the quiet guy with the headphones and the sunglasses to my left. "Would you like to buy more chips before this next hand?" she added, clearly unaffected by my loss. I looked at the $80 remaining my wallet and looked at Steph again. My heart was beating so hard I thought it was going to leap right out of my chest. My hands were sweating and hand taken on a slight shake.
"Why don't we go see what your mom is up to baby?" said Steph soothingly, she could tell that I was hitting Tilt fast and hard. "Let's go walk this one off and save the rest for tomorrow, we have another whole day darling." She was right, as always. I definitely needed to walk away from that table.
"Well that was fun," I said sarcastically, "let's go tell Adam what happened before we head out." I really couldn't believe that just happened. I was trying to remember what Ticht Nhat Han taught. 'Breathe in. Breathe out. Be Calm.'
"Just meditate on it baby," said Steph; once again my soul mate was reading my mind. I reminded myself how lucky I am to have her with me; otherwise I would piss the rest of my money away at that table right now.
"I will do that baby," I said lovingly, holding her close to me and breathing in-and-out in the Zen-Buddhist teachings. "Thanks for being here for me," I added, she really is my lucky charm I thought, "I love you". Maybe it'll be better luck next time.

For the record, I went back into that poker room the next day and turned my remaining $80 into $680 over a three-hour session. Just goes to show you that anything can happen at the poker table, as long as you have a little luck by your side.

April is Poetry month, or so I'm told...

April is poetry month, and as it draws to a close I have decided to dig through my old notebooks and pull out some of the sports related poetry I have written. These three selections are from my junior year at Salem High; I only remember that because Steph and I met in Mr. Wallach's Honors English class that year. Who ever said alphabetical seating was a faulty method? Not I. Anyways, I digress, on with the rhyming.

'War Games'
Warriors march into battle.
As they face their enemies,
emotions sweep them away.
The battle will bring joy and pain.
Pain In Loss.
Joy In Victory.
Victory in the back of the net.

'The Quest' -This selection can also be found in Red Skies; Salem State's Online Magazine.

In great caves, with floors of glass.
We see great saves and the art of the pass.
Forwards fly on blades of steel.
With heads held high to make the steal.
Their bodies set, they shoot with skill.
It meets the net and brings the thrill.
Defensemen hold the lines of blue.
They must be bold with sticks like glue.
Shots like guns and bodies of stone.
Small forwards are done in they get them alone.
The padded wall with a bit of luck.
Goalies stop it all, each and every puck.
Wrists, slaps, and snaps. Shots of every kind.
Never time for a nap, always the sharpest mind.
These athletes compete to be on top.
Until everyone's beat they will not stop.
In 82 they've won and not,
but they're still here at the playoffs start.
You can see the desire in their eyes,
Lord Stanley's Cup is the prize.
If it ends in sixteen or it takes twenty-eight,
raising the Cup will still feel great.
Their names are engraved so all will know,
that they are the champions with the rings to show.

'From the mind of a Middie'
I get the ball and clear the zone, I look around and I'm all alone.
It's just me and a defensive hole, that brings me charging straight to the goal.
There's a goalie but I don't mind, he'll leave some room I'm sure to find.
I approach the net as calm as can be, with adrenaline pumping 'It's just you and me!'
I give a fake and he takes it big, It's his own grave hes about to dig.
My next move is the one for the kill, the 'behind the back' I perform with skill.
I let the shot fly and it's in the net, the keeper fishes it out looking quite upset.
My team celebrates but I keep my poise, I believe my actions make enough noise.
I look at him and feel bad for the kid, I know he'll never forget what I did.
He'll think on it and confuse his game, but I had to do it just the same.
That one play will open the door, cause while he's thinking I'll score some more.
I can't stop till the game is done, and I can't leave happy unless I've won.

10 April, 2008

When winning just isn't good enough....

Statistics could be the end of the sports we know and love

Everyone remembers the old cliché, “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.”

Kids have been spoon-fed this approach to athletics since gym class in elementary school or sooner — at least that’s how I remember it being at Witchcraft Heights right here in historic Salem.

It is old as game itself, yet the games played by men apparently do not follow these timeless traditions that end all T-ball games in ties. When you reach a certain age, you learn the terms that can ruin sports for you, if you let the numbers get to you. Penalties, strikeouts, losses and wins (yes even wins) are statistics that detract from the sanctity of the game being played.

Wins and losses are the beginning, and they are the numbers that will always drive the game. Maybe it is because we are told that they don’t matter that we put so much emphasis on them, but that is for psychologists to study and this journalist to pretend to understand.

Losses, obviously, are the worst statistic in sports. If you or your team are not getting it done at game time, it shows in the loss column — plain and simple. What is an athlete supposed to do, though, when wins are not even good enough? NCAA athletes know what it feels like to win a game, but just not win by enough for it to matter. Talk about a depressing thought.

Wins are the gold standard in sports; they are the goals, the touchdowns, and the finish lines. But what if you found out that if you didn’t beat your opponent by enough, it actually hurt your ranking to play the game and win it. This is the product of “power rankings” as well as “strength of schedule” rankings, both of which can cause games that looked like great wins at the time turn into a waste of time for the team in the blink of an eye.

Expecting teams to achieve certain scores for it to count toward rankings detracts from the game itself, making it clearly all about winning — and winning big no matter what. Athletics becomes much less about how you play the game, which takes away from what morality of competition. Sure, everyone thinks its great when basketball teams run scores up to 100. Or do they?

The hero tradition

Does this really help sports? Or is it a path for its destruction? I have wondered if enough is enough, but sold-out stadiums and skyrocketing contracts seem to leave no sign of things changing for the better anytime soon.

In 2006, Lincoln University set a Division III men’s basketball record when they defeated Ohio State-Marion 201-78. Lincoln’s Sami Wylie made an NCAA record 21 three-pointers in that game and scored 69 points. How does the coach not take this kid out when his team is up by 50 or 60? And 21 three-pointers for 69 points, that only leaves 6 points scored from someplace closer than 19 feet, 9 inches. NCAA men’s basketball has since voted to move the line back one foot, to 20 feet, 9 inches, for the 2008-2009 season.

This is not even the all-time mark, though, that was set by then-Division II Troy with 258 points against DeVry, Ga., on Jan. 12, 1992 — 258 points. Are they even celebrating when they scored basket 180? It is absurd. Wilt Chamberlin’s 100-point game against the Knicks on March 2, 1962 has to be partly to blame for kids playing college basketball like this. Everyone wants to be a hero.

Loyalist leanings

Also, in baseball today there is a culture of the “homerun chase,” leaving us with overblown records by questionable athletes. Count me among the loyalists who will remember Hank Aaron as the Homerun King until every player in the MLB can be proven without a doubt to be free of performance enhancing drugs.

I’m not holding my breath for this breakthrough of epic proportions any time soon, though. The Texas Rangers scored a modern era (post-1900) 30 runs against the Baltimore Orioles in the first game of a doubleheader on Aug. 22, 2007. In the first game of a doubleheader ... I mean, come on, shouldn’t you be saving some of that run production for game 2? Winning 30-3 is just insane, and sort of Bush League.

My major sporting league of choice, the National Hockey League, even had to address a drop in scoring (gasp!), which was being blamed on large goalie pads and the neutral zone trap. So they made the pads smaller! So fans can see more goals! I couldn’t believe it. I wonder if the NHL-record 16 goal game, won by those Montreal Canadiens against the Quebec Bulldogs way back in 1920, will be a record for much longer. The competition — and victory in that competition — is what makes you keep scoring though.

Learn from The Great One

This feeling is embodied, to me at least, in a quote from “The Great One” Wayne Gretzky, in an interview with John Kreiser of NHL.com in 2001.

It’s important to know that this interview was commemorating Gretzky’s five-goal game on Dec. 30, 1981. It was the 39th game of the Edmonton Oilers season, and Gretzky’s 46th, 47th, 48th, 49th and 50th goals — goals that shattered Maurice “The Rocket” Richard’s record of 50 goals in 50 games.

Gretzky would go on to score 92 goals that season, a feat that has yet to be repeated or surpassed.

In the 20 years since Gretzky made hockey history, only two other players, Brett Hull (86 in 1990-1991) and Mario Lemieux (85 in 1988-1989) have come been within spitting distance of Gretzky’s mark. No one has even broken 70 goals in a season since 1992-1993, when Alexander Mogilny and Teemu Selanne each had 76.

With the current defense-first philosophy, no player had managed as many as 60 goals until the 2007-2008 season, Washington Capital forward Alexander Ovechkin has lit the lamp 62 times as of this writing. And Florida’s Pavel Bure won the first two Rocket Richard Trophies, given to the NHL’s top goal-scorer, in the 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 seasons with 58 and 59 goals respectively.

And yet, after beating a storied NHL record, Gretzky said this in 1981: “It was a thrill to get 92 goals, but in some ways, I thought I let myself down by not getting 100. Maybe I should have pushed myself more.”

When being The Great One just isn’t good enough, and when winning just isn’t good enough, then there is something wrong with the game — or at least the way it is being played in society today.