2014 was a “bucket list” type of year — a lot of first-time-evers.
We covered this year for the first time two all-star games (MLB, WNBA) and ancillary events over a 10-day span. I also attended my first-ever game at Fenway Park and my first-ever National League game in Phoenix.
My “Only One” exploits this year included the first-ever Big Ten men’s hockey tournament in St. Paul, the NCAA women’s hockey regionals, and the Gophers’ winning comeback in the NCAA softball tournament opening round. I watched two all-Black junior nationals girls’ volleyball teams this summer as well.
We duly reported on this area’s two most successful teams of both genders — Gophers
women hockey and the Lynx. We proudly pointed out that a Black man (Melvin Tennant) was largely instrumental in securing a future NCAA Men’s Final Four for the still-being-built Vikings stadium. We pushed for Tony Oliva’s induction into Baseball Hall of Fame and a new statue in front of the Gophers football stadium to honor the school’s first Black athlete.
We cheered Torii Hunter’s return, but we also bemoaned the departure of two longtime team leaders — Pam Borton and Ron Gardenhire. We also saw the local media smack-down of a once-beloved superstar (Adrian Peterson), whose face still adorns the outside fence of the aforementioned stadium construction site.
We again saw White privilege in full bloom: A racist team owner gets banned for life from the NBA, yet still profits by at least a billion dollars when forced to sell the team, while another team owner still makes big dough from a longtime racist team nickname. A White man tweeted disgusting insults about a Black woman and almost kept his job, while a seasoned veteran Black female sports reporter was apparently demoted because she’s 50 years old in favor of a younger and blonder White female.
And 2014 was no different than past years as “View” each week provided more than rehashing final scores and game stats, instead offering pertinent and timely news commentaries, highlighting locals and out-of-towners, and discussing important issues that typically get short-shifted if not totally ignored in other media. We regularly kept on the front burner such topics as the college graduation gap between Black and White players; off-field diversity hires, or non-hires if you will, in pro and college sports; and race, society and sports.
However, mainly because we either ran out of word space or time, some items didn’t make it during this year. The following are just a few such omissions in this, our last column of 2014:
Negro Leaguers honored
“It’s an honor for my father to be recognized,” said the son of the late Negro Leaguer Gordon “Hoppy” Hopkins, who in 1991 was inducted as a “living legend” at the Baseball Hall of Fame. We met Dr. Paul Hopkins at this year’s MLB All-Star Fan Fest while he waited for Negro Leaguers Jim Robinson and Pedro Sierra to finish a radio appearance. He remembered traveling with his father, “living with the players…and hearing the stories and knowing what the struggle was all about” as a youngster.
“I was able to see the life and the times he went through,” recalled Paul.
“I think Negro Leagues baseball, in my opinion, is the most important chapter in the history of baseball,” noted Sierra, an All-Star pitcher with the Indianapolis Clowns and the Detroit Stars (1954-58) before pitching in the minors for Minnesota (1962-66) and Washington (1970-71). He wants the present generation as well as others to “understand that we went through a lot of hardships, but we stayed in there because we loved the game.”
“It’s great for the kids — it shows them the history,” added Marie France. She and her husband took their two young sons to get Sierra’s and Robinson’s autographs.
Attending to the W
When asked what more can be done for the 18-year-old WNBA to get more media attention, Los Angeles GM-Coach Penny Toler responded, “We need other writers such as yourself who’re passionate about the sport to continue writing about us all the time.”
Wiggins gives back
“My whole life is to make awareness and eradicate the stigma behind AIDS,” stated Los Angeles Sparks Guard Candice Wiggins, whose dad Alan Wiggins died of the disease when she was age four. The seven-year WNBA veteran is currently working on a story of her father, as well as carrying out her philanthropy work as a community advocate.
“I’m at a point in my career now that I look back and see all the benefits I’ve had, and I want to give that back in any way I can as much as I can,” concluded Wiggins, who last month represented the W as an educational and sports diplomacy envoy in Chile.