Sports and the eternal bond

I work for a smallish newspaper in West Michigan, so imagine my surprise one summer night in 1998 when I walked into the office after staffing a sports event and the managing editor hit me with “How would you like to go to Europe with the Hope (College) men’s basketball team?”
Needless to say, I couldn’t turn my body quickly enough to allow my arm to be twisted.
Oh, there were arrangements to be made. I had to cancel a family vacation with my wife and three sons to Pittsburgh and I had to find someone to take five tickets off my hands for an anticipated visit to watch the Pirates.
I had to coordinate coverage of local events while I was gone while making sure anything I filed from “over there” would get back home in time for publication.
Most importantly, since the date of the trip was only about a month away, I had to arrange to get my passport updated. Yeah, it cost an extra $80 for expedited processing, but how often do you get to go to Europe on the company’s dollar.
Specifically, I was joining 12 players, three assistant coaches and one grandparent, the father of the college’s Admissions Director, on the 11-day trip to The Netherlands. It was called a “Homeland Tour” since Hope College, located in Holland, Michigan, has nicknamed its men’s athletic teams The Flying Dutchmen, a reference to the founders of the school being from “the old country.”
The trip had its share of adventures. On the flight over, for example, one of the players swiped my wallet out of my tote bag while I was sleeping and noted that the final three numbers of my driver’s license were 007.
To make our relationship more memorable — we were going to be spending 11 days together, remember — one of them, Brandon Goodyke, immediately tagged me “Lambo,” a reference to a combination of James Bond (007) and Rambo, a reworking of my last name. To this day, players still mention that nickname when I talk to them following their games.
Also on the trip, I got to be very close with the “grandpa” who joined us. As he and I were the only two travelers who were not directly involved with the basketball team, we took time during practices and meetings and such to do some sight-seeing together. And we would meet every afternoon in the hotel lobby for “warme melk en koekjesor,” better known to us as “warm milk and cookies.” Almond cookies.
During some of our daily conversations, I learned that Jim Bekkering, forever to be known by me as “Papa Bekkering,” was college friends with both my father, Peter Lamberts, and my uncle Jack, Jacob Lamberts. “Papa Bekkering” told me some of the misadventures experienced by my father that I planned to share with him when I returned home.
On the night of August 20, I stayed up until 2 a.m. to call my sister’s house back home at 8 p.m. to wish my mom and dad a “Happy Anniversary,” their 63rd.
I’m glad I did because it would be their last. Dad died a couple of months later, on October 30, from complications due to a stroke. Twelve years earlier, on the way to watch his grandson’s high-school football game, dad suffered a massive heart attack. My oldest sister, Ann, told me some years later, than the EMTs had to stop the ambulance twice on the way to the hospital to keep him alive, so we treasured every day, every year, we had dad with us.
I was feeling sorry for myself after the funeral when I mentioned to my other sister, Joan (who has since passed away), that I regretted missing mom’s and dad’s final anniversary together because I was enjoying myself along with a college basketball team on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.
Joan, who was walking alongside of me at the time, stopped in her tracks, turned around and got as close to getting in my face as she could despite being about four inches shorter than me.
“Look,” she said, her eyes burning and her nostrils flaring, “I don’t want to hear another word. You will never know how proud your father was, walking around telling his friends that ‘My son is in Europe. On business.’”
I hear those words in my head every time I think of my dad, which, all these years later, is still a lot. And I am just amazed how a single moment in time, “arranged” as it was because of God and sports, could create a bond between a father and son over such a long distance.
I miss my dad, but I can take comfort in the fact that both of us were glad that I did not miss that trip to Europe.

4-5 Grand Valley State football team displays plenty of pride

Midway through the third quarter Saturday night, November 8, Grand Valley State University quarterback Heath Parling fired a pass about 40 yards down the field.
Jamie Potts was the intended receiver, but as the play developed, it appeared as though Potts and the ball would not arrive at the same place — near the 25-yard line — at the same time.
So, like any wide receiver worth his salt, especially a preseason Division II All-America pick, Potts left his feet, stretched out and attempted to catch the ball.
Not quite. The ball caromed off his fingertips and skidded several more yards down the field as Potts picked himself up.
It was a valiant effort indeed, but one that needed not be so valiant. You see, Grand Valley already had a 42-0 lead against visiting Tiffin University at Grand Valley’s Lubbers Stadium, so the yards and the (assumed) ensuing touchdown would have been more of a formality that a necessity.
Ah, but for a team that had been embarrassed at home a week earlier by a lesser foe, for a team that had muddled its way to a 4-5 record after reaching the postseason tournament’s national semifinal game a year earlier, a sub-.500 season was a disappointment.
On this particular night, which ended with Grand Valley winning 42-7, pride was on the line for a number of seniors who were playing their final home game as Lakers.
Parling was one of them. He responded by passing for 254 yards and four touchdowns while running for 40 yards and two more touchdowns, the first two rushing touchdowns in his five-year collegiate career. Parling was red-shirted in 2012 when he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the third game of that season.
Parling joked about his first touchdown, a 22-yard scamper, the longest run of his career, that ended when he dived over the pylon at the front-left corner of the end zone.
“I kind of scrambled out to the left and I thought there was a guy behind me so I was like, man I’ve got to run faster, I’ve got to get the jets going, I’ve got to oil up my brace a little bit,” Parling said with a winning smile on his face.
“When I saw the corner I told myself I was going to dive in. I’ve never done this at Grand Valley, so it felt good. I had that planned from about the 10-yard line.”
Yeah, right. You can joke after winning 42-7.
Senior runningback Chris Robinson had a great ground game, rushing for 126 yards. He also caught a 49-yard pass from Parling for a touchdown, one of two catches he had Saturday for 62 yards.
“It’s definitely huge to go out with a win in our last home game,” Robinson said. “We have a very competitive team here and just because things didn’t go our way this year, we’re not going to put our tails between our legs.”
Grand Valley coach Matt Mitchell, who guided the Lakers to the Division II playoffs a year ago for the first time since his first year as head coach (2010), said he didn’t think there was a need for extra motivation just because Grand Valley entered the Tiffin game at 4-5.
“I think, basically, if you’re a competitive person, every time you head out you want to play and compete,” Mitchell said. “I would think these guys have a passion for football and they want to play the game.
I understand our record isn’t what we wanted it to be, but that doesn’t matter; if you’re a competitive kid, you want to go out and play. They weren’t going to not go out and compete because of the record.”
And the Lakers didn’t as they rolled up 572 yards of offense and controlled the ball for one second shy of 30 minutes.
Now THAT is Grand Valley football. And that’s why a guy like Jamie Potts was diving for an uncatchable ball with a 42-point lead.

Let’s keep politics out of bowling!!

I was reading a story culled from USA Today about possibly making bowling an Olympic sport. Hey, cool, I thought, until I read the entire story. Seems some committee wants to change bowling to make it more viewer friendly and, subsequently, easier for viewers to understand.
Before you read the clip I’m about to cut-and-paste, let me make a comment. Bowling has NEVER been that popular with television audiences; if it was, we might be seeing more PBA events on the tube on Saturdays or Sundays instead of things like baseball, college and/or pro football, hockey, tennis, whatever. As far as the popularity of bowling, however, call any bowling place on a weeknight during “bowling season” and try to get a lane or lanes before 10 p.m. Not gonna happen, folks.
OK, so here’s what the International Olympic Committee is proposing. To avoid any suggestion of plagiarism, I repeat, this has been cut-and-pasted from USA Today via Facebook:
In a move that is ultimately aimed at grabbing the attention of the International Olympic Committee, a new scoring system is being tested at this weekend’s World Bowling Tour finals. If it sticks, it could change the face of the game.

“We have had an image problem,” said Kevin Dornberger, president of World Bowling, the sport’s international governing body. “Not enough people understand the way the game is scored and that can make it boring for them to watch.”
So, for (the first weekend of November) at least, it is out with the old formula of 10 frames and an accumulated score up to a maximum of 300, and in with a new set of rules that borrows heavily from the kind of golf scoring used in events such as the Ryder Cup.
In the Tour finals, held at the South Point Bowling Plaza in Las Vegas on Sunday, matches will effectively become a frame-by-frame showdown, with each bowler initially rolling a single ball per frame.
If a player outscores their opponent, they win the frame and go “one-up”, like in match-play golf. If both hit a strike, each gets a half. If both hit, for example, an eight, each competitor would attempt to complete their spare, with the higher scorer taking the frame. Matches tied after 12 frames continue until there is a winner.
The format is designed to increase suspense, speed up the game and offer greater broadcast appeal, all factors seen as vital to have a shot at Olympic inclusion.

Match Play bowling, eh? Sounds intriguing, but if some of the comments posted along with the article are indicative of the feelings of bowlers, Olympic Bowling is going to get some horrible ratings. But then, people might watch just to see how it works.
My take on it: Keep politics out of sports. (Yeah, right.) What I see here is an attempt to turn a popular sport into a sort of Electoral College. It’s easy to see in golf where a guy could, in Match Play, win a round, but have a higher score than his or her opponent, if, of course, the actual score is kept. The only trouble is, if one guy gets a birdie and the other guy is still in the bunker, he just picks up instead of taking a bogey, double bogey or worse.
The same thing is going to happen in bowling. Bowler No. 1 gets a “Big Four” split and bowler No. 2 gets a strike: Frame over. Strike guy gets 1 point, Split guy doesn’t. But down the line, Split Guy might get a consistent run going while Strike guy goes up and down and they “halve” most of the frames.
It’s kind of like government voting where a guy could win the Electoral College vote with voters in the bigger states, but lose the popular vote.
For me, bowling ain’t broke, so why are they trying to “fix” it?

Dad’s gone, but his memory lives on

It’s later in the evening as I write this. I made it through what could have been a tough day, but I had my Special Education students and my coworkers to keep me occupied. Only now, with one of my wonderful sons, his wife and their daughter in the other room and no one else around, do I have time to reflect on the fact that on this date, 16 years ago (1998), Peter M. Lamberts, the most wonderful father this lad could have had, passed away at the age of 88. Oh my gosh, yes, I miss him so. On my parents’ wedding anniversary, Aug. 20, 1998, I was in the Netherlands, traveling with the Hope College men’s basketball team on their 11-day trip around “the old country.” I stayed up until 2 in the morning to wish mom and dad a happy anniversary, not knowing at the time it would be their last anniversary together. At dad’s funeral, I mentioned to my sister, Joan, who has since joined mom and dad in the heavenly choir, that I felt bad not being back home to be part of the anniversary party. Joan looked me in the eye and said, simply: “Don’t ever say that again. Your father was quite proud of the fact he could tell people his son was ‘in Europe, on business.'” That was dad, always putting the importance of others ahead of himself. He did that when he birthed the City of Kentwood back in 1967 and served as its first Mayor until 1979. Then he retired and lived a relaxing life with his wife, my mom — Sue, who died in 2013 just three weeks shy of 100 years. I have tried to model myself in that same way. I hope I have succeeded. And I hope I can live as long … and prosper. I love you, dad.

No. 1 Dux run past Holland Christian

It may not have been such a surprise when the Holland Christian football team stopped Zeeland West on the Dux’s first possession Friday night.
After all, only one team in the last three games — Holland High — was able to reach the end zone the first time it got the ball against the Maroons.
What was not much of a surprise was that Zeeland West, the No. 1 team in the state in Division 3, recovered from giving the ball over on downs at the 10-yard line.
The Dux scored on their next six possessions and converted all six of their two-point conversion attempts on the way to a 48-12 win over Holland Christian.
Zeeland West is now 9-0 and has to wait to see who its first-round opponent will be in the Michigan high-school playoffs.
Though Holland Christian kept Zeeland West out of the end zone early, Zeeland West still scored first. Casey Brinks’ 37-yard pass to Jayk Slager got the ball close to the goalline and Dakota Geurink finished the drive with a 1-yard run.
The Dux scored three times in the second quarter on runs from Brinks (12 yards), Nick Jasch (10 yards) and Geurink (12 yards), but Holland Christian stayed fairly close on Lukas Bruxvoort’s 42-yard reception and Caleb Brink’s 27-yard catch of Jared Stygstra’s pass.
That latter touchdown came with 0:00.5 showing on the clock and got Holland Christian to within 32-12, but the Maroons were unable to sustain any possible momentum they gathered.
Holland Christian won the coin toss to begin the game and chose to receive, so Zeeland West got the ball back to begin the second half.
The Dux scored got touchdown runs from Brinks and Jasch in the third quarter to ensure there would be no late rally.
Jasch had 15 carries for 129 yards to lead a Zeeland West attack that ground out 376 yards. Geurink had 95 yards on 10 carries and Brinks rushed for 95 yards and threw for 70 more.
Holland Christian threw a lot more than it did a week earlier against Unity Christian as Stygstra completed 17-of-30 passes for 209 yards and the two touchdowns. The senior quarterback also ran for 73 yards.

Holland High School football: About winning and other things

By getting a first down they deserved — though it took about 10 minutes for the officials to decide — the Holland High football team got a win it most definitely earned Saturday afternoon.
With about 10 ½ minutes to play in the game with Spring Lake, after the Lakers had scored to cut Holland’s lead to 22-20, the Dutch let the ensuing kickoff sail into the end zone, giving them the ball at the 20-yard line.
As football rules dictate, the nose of the ball must touch the backside of the 20-yard line, meaning all the team has to do is reach the 30-yard line for a first down.
Well …
On fourth-and-one from the 29, Holland’s Elroy Payne, who had 20 carries for 85 yards and two TDs, reached the 30-yard line and got the first-down signal from the referee.
Um, not so fast, sir.
Spring Lake coach Jerry Rabideau asked for a timeout and a measurement, which, when the down markers were brought out on to the field, indicated the ball was inches short of the first-down marker.
Holland coach Andrew Pratley pleaded his case for nearly 10 minutes, repeatedly pointing to the 30-yard line stripe that the ball was touching, which should have indicated a first down.
The officials finally conceded that the ball touching the stripe did, indeed, indicate a first down and gave the ball back to Holland.
Two plays later, Holland’s Brandon Davis broke off a 51-yard run for a touchdown and Holland won the game 28-20.
What made the first down/no first down/first down call so odd is that Holland Muncipal Stadium has artificial turf, so there’s no way the lines could be crooked. Come to find out, the guys holding the “sticks” marked their spots in the middle of the yard-line stripe, not the edge.
I saw other odd plays as well in that game.
• On Holland’s first punt the ball traveled about 15 yards, then bounced back Holland’s way when it hit the turf, allowing the punter to down his own kick.
• On another play, Holland was set to receive a punt, but the punt returner let the ball bounce in front of him, just a couple of feet away, before fielding it. He was hit, he fumbled and his team lost the ball. I’m wondering if, perhaps, he lost the ball in the sun.
• Friend and fellow writer John Jarvi, formerly of the Muskegon Chronicle, insisted that one penalty on visiting Spring Lake, an illegal substitution call (aka too many players on the field) was the result of a female trainer not exiting the turf fast enough as the play unfolded. I’m not sure about that, but I’ll take John’s word for this one.

Either way, kudos to the Holland High Dutch. They didn’t win their first game last year until the final week of the regular season. This year, after two games, they’re “batting” .500. And they’re feeling good about themselves.
Now, all they have to do is revamp their away jerseys. White numerals on white cloth with a thin red outline? Sorry, guys, it’s not working, especially for public address announcers in the pressbox. They do look nice up close, though.

WWDD: Traveling like dad might

Dear Dad:
Your daughter-in-law and I took a little trip the other day. We wanted to get away for several hours on Labor Day so we decided to take a little run down to St. Joseph. But we did it dad’s way.
We could have hopped on I-196 — which we actually did for a little bit — and driven all the way to the St. Joe/Benton Harbor exit. But we didn’t, not all the way, at least.
My original plan, after looking closely at a Michigan map, was to go south to Exit 30 and move over the County Road A-2 and take that south until we got to St. Joe. Well, we crossed A-2 at Exit 36 so we picked it up there and drove through little towns like Glenn and Ganges. The sky was overcast and there was a threat of rain, but we stopped at one antique store and even paid a visit to a small county park that I can’t find on the map.
We stayed on A-2 until it merged into State Road 63 past Benton Harbor and into St. Joe. And then it rained. HARD. So hard we didn’t even realize we were crossing the drawbridge that crosses the St. Joe River. Oh, wait, we did stop at the Covert Township Park and walked to the edge of the hill overlooking Lake Michigan, but we did not go down the many steps. We could see the rain coming in off the lake and we did not want to get soaked. Lots of trees also (probably) meant lots of mosquitos and your daughter-in-law doesn’t like those little buzzers.
As we drove through a few backroads of St. Joe — we were looking specifically for the pierhead and the lighthouse — the rain let up and we found a place to eat. Schu’s was a bit overpriced for what they served. They had my fried perch sandwich on one of those over-rated pretzel buns. I ate the fish and the bottom of the bun, but sent the rest back. Daughter-in-law had an S-L-T, salmon, lettuce and tomato. When she ordered that all I could think of was the line from the movie “Princess Bride” when Miracle Max was waxing on about the perkiness of a mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich. Your daughter-in-law thinks I’m nuts; like she hasn’t figured that out yet?
By then the rain had stopped, so we walked around downtown a bit before heading down toward Silver Beach County Park. We stopped at the entrance because Berrien County, apparently, thinks their park is worth $5 admission. We disagreed, parked the car along Water Street and walked along the St. Joseph River. The city has some neat artwork on the walking/bike path and I chatted with a fisherman. He reported catching “one small one,” but I’m sure you already heard our conversation. Up the hill, on Port Street, there’s a band shell where a (mostly) brass band was playing. So, while we sat in the shade on the riverfront, we tapped our feet and clapped along to some Sousa marches — I know how much you loved those — and then a medley of Big Ten fight songs. They save the best for last, MICHIGAN STATE!! Yay.
A neat thing about that area is that the Amtrak rail has to cross the river, but when there is no train present, a bridge that contains train rail is turned sideways so boat traffic can pass by. We saw no train or boat large enough to force the drawbridge to raise, but we enjoyed ourselves immensely.
What a neat, neat waterfront.
On the way home we passed the Harbor Shores Golf Club, a Jack Nicklaus-designed course. I may have to play that someday with brother David. We pulled of I-196 at the South Haven exit for Arby’s then got home around 8.
Side roads, rain, sun, train tracks, a river with fish in it and good food. Dad, you would have loved it!!
Your son