Category Archives: Women

Women’s sports coverage

Pat Summitt of Tennessee Wins Maggie Dixon Courage Award

When Pat Summitt was announced the winner of the Maggie Dixon Courage Award on Sunday, nearly everyone inside Madison Square Garden gave a standing ovation to the Tennessee basketball coaching icon. This included the coaches and players competing on the court, who broke from their in-game huddles to acknowledge Summitt. Baylor coach Kim Mulkey and star player Brittney Griner each gave Summitt a hug before she walked off the court.

“If I see her, I’m going to hug her. I hugged her and told her I loved her,” said Mulkey, who called Summitt the “John Wooden of women’s basketball.”
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Mothers Day

It takes a special kind of mom to live in a house with four males and no females, as my mom does — especially when the men are obsessed with sports.

When the television is on, it’s usually showing a game. In the winter it’s college basketball. In the spring and summer it’s baseball. These sports are on virtually every night. Fall is the easiest for her, because college football is pretty much relegated to Saturdays.

I suppose a mom in this situation has two choices: rebel or accept. Now, don’t get me wrong — my mom is a big sports fan. But even for her I think it’s a bit much to have nearly every dinner conversation touch on a sports topic.

For the most part, though, she joins in. She really enjoys College GameDay, ESPN’s Saturday morning football pre-game show, and clearly she pays attention: This past bowl season, my family competed in a bowl pick ’em competition with 20 people. My mom won the whole thing.

Come March, my friend Lee and I always discuss the NCAA Tournament bracket. Lee loves college hoops as much as I do. He can tell you who’s the best foul shooter on Louisville and whether Arizona’s point guard prefers to drive to his left or his right. Yet when he calls me after Selection Sunday, the first thing he asks is, “Who does your mom like coming out of the West?”

My mom earned her reputation as a guru of the Dance by picking Cinderellas like Gonzaga, before people knew Gonzaga existed, and Kent State. She often beats the rest of our family in the bracket contest, though some have said she’s been slipping the past few years. Perhaps she is watching too much football in December.

My mom is the most knowledgeable sports fan of any mother I know. I’m pretty sure she could tell you what a 6-4-3 double play is. She knows how many fouls before a player fouls out. And although we laugh when she asks us to remind her, I’m confident she knows how overtime works in college football.

Sure, she sometimes gets frustrated when the Mets are on the television for the twelfth straight night, but watching the Mets and frustration go hand in hand. Putting up with four guys isn’t easy, and my mom does a great job.

So to my mom and mothers everywhere, whether they like sports or not, happy Mother’s Day!

LPGA Star Lorena Ochoa Retires at 28

Because of Lorena Ochoa, I broke a cardinal rule of sports journalism very early in my career: don’t ask an athlete for an autograph.

It was on May 21, 2006, the day Ochoa won the Sybase Classic at Wykagyl Country Club in New Rochelle, N.Y, and in my defense, it was for my mom; possibly a belated Mother’s Day present. She had already been keeping an eye on Ochoa and the fact that she had won in our hometown made my mom an even bigger fan.

I was only a teenager, and, at the time, it was the biggest event I had ever covered. I remember listening to Ochoa speak in the media room, though I was too nervous to ask a question in front of the professional writers. But Ochoa was nice enough to speak with me privately afterwards. When I was done with my questions, I asked her to sign a sheet of paper from my notepad.

On Friday, three years to the day after she replaced Annika Sorenstam as the No. 1 golfer in the world rankings, Ochoa confirmed her retirement from golf. It marks the end of a relatively short, but remarkable career for the 28-year-old Mexican.

“This isn’t a surprise because I have planned this for many, many years,” Ochoa said during a media conference call after her session with the Mexican media. “I wanted to play for around 10 years. I wanted to be able to achieve my goals to stay at the top. Then after that I wanted to move on.”

And stay at the top she did. Ochoa retires as the No. 1 player, having spent 157 consecutive weeks there since she took over three years ago. She was named the LPGA Rookie of the Year in 2003, won 27 Tour events, and collected four Player of the Year awards.

The 2006 Sybase victory was a critical one, as it was the first time Ochoa won an event in which Sorenstam participated. She took over the money lead that day, too — it was the sixth straight event she finished in the top two.

Her career took off from there. Her domination for certain stretches was just as impressive as what Tiger Woods was doing on the men’s Tour.

Ochoa excelled off the course as well. For a star athlete not to have any haters is almost unheard of, but good luck finding a golfer, media member, or golf fan who doesn’t adore Ochoa.

The big story after that win at Wykagyl — and something that was noted throughout her career — was how Ochoa represented her country with such pride and grace. She was known for interacting with fellow Mexicans, even in the middle of a round. “That’s very special for both of us,” she said on that rainy day in New Rochelle. “I represent them.”

Ochoa was a great ambassador for women’s golf, and it will be interesting to see how the LPGA copes with losing its biggest star for the second time in less than two years (Sorenstam retired in 2008). While Ochoa may have had this in mind since she turned pro, 28 is a young age for retirement from the sport. But last December, Ochoa married 40-year-old Andres Conesa, the CEO of Aeromexico who has three children from a previous marriage.

“I’m ready to start a new life,” she said. “I just want to be a normal person.” Ochoa was certainly confident in announcing her decision, adding, “There are so many other things that I’d like to do. I’m really happy today, and I’m pleased. I’m 100 percent complete.”

Only time will tell whether she’ll be at peace with her decision in a few months, or a year, or further down the road. For someone as competitive as Ochoa to step away from the game before the age of 30 is atypical, but she knows what she wants better than anyone else.

So next week’s Tres Marias Championship, in Mexico, will be Ochoa’s last Tournament, though she plans to compete annually in the Lorena Ochoa Invitational, held in Guadalajara each November. The game will certainly miss her, and I’m glad I got to cover her, even if I was a bit unprofessional.

I’m happy to report that I haven’t broken that journalism rule again. Then again, I haven’t met an athlete as captivating as Lorena Ochoa.