Battle of Berlin 251 is gonna be just that — a BATTLE!!

BerlinBelt

Berlin Raceway Vice President Chris Danielson was very honest when he said the goal was to put butts in the bleachers at the race track this summer.
He was joking when he called his place of business “The All New and Improved Berlin Raceway and Entertainment Complex,” telling me I could drop “the all new and improved” part at any time. But the part about bringing people back to the small-town track was all about business.
Danielson and the folks at the Marne, Michigan track are going about that in a big way. Take the June 16 “Battle at Berlin 251.” OK, so guys like Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart aren’t going to be there, but Berlin Raceway is looking to the future the same way NASCAR is grooming its young stars.
Chase Elliott, son of NASCAR legend Bill Elliott will be back. He’s finally growing up — he’s 19 — and he has been hand-picked by Hendrick Motorsports to take over for Jeff Gordon in the No. 24 car.
He’s what racing folks are calling a rising star.
Erik Jones also is gonna be racing in this special 251-lap race, that will feature necessary, instead of mandatory, pit stops this year to add to the excitement. He’ll be driving one of the regular Berlin cars being built by a familiar face around these parts: Mike Bursley.
“The car is being built as we speak,” Bursley said during a media get-together on Wednesday, May 13. “I had to come to the shop just to talk to you guys. I couldn’t be more happy to be part of this event.”
A lot of Berlin regulars are expected to be on hand, including Johnny VanDoorn, the winner of the last two 251-lap races.
Danielson also said they’re working on getting more out-of-town racers up to Michigan, particularly people from further south.
The winner’s share will remain at $10,000, but the entire purse has ballooned up to $100,000, giving more drivers more incentive to consider more a trip to West Michigan on June 16.
“A lot of people are scared to come up here because they hear that Berlin Raceway (and Entertainment Complex) is so tough on newcomers,” Danielson said. “We’re offering more money to get more people up from down south … and the live pit stops are going to make it more exciting, too.”
As one who has witnessed many, many, many races at Berlin Raceway, from the big-winged Sprint cars to the 4-cylinder cars that buzz around the (almost) half-mile over like a swarm of bees (according to ask.com), I can tell you that pretty much every time there are 10 or more cars on that track, there’s a good chance something exciting will happen.
Having over 30 quality racecar drivers in the Late Model cars that tour the oval at an average of close to 100 mph will make it intense, as well.
You know as well as I do that guys that win games or races or whatever enjoy the paycheck that goes with it, but once the puck is dropped, the first pitch is thrown or the green flag is waved, the only thing that matters is winning.
It’s not being called the Battle at Berlin 251 for nothing. That’s why y’all should get your butts in the bleachers on June 16. General admission tickets are $20, $10 for children ages 8 through 11.
Oh, I forgot to mention the belt that goes to the winner. Take a look as Don DeWitt, Berlin Raceway CEO and Danielson show it off.

Mega 80s night: Not so Mega, not so 80s, but still pretty costly

When we were out with friends on a recent Saturday night, we hooked up (in a 60s sort of way) with another younger couple, Jeff and Kathy. Illy and I were out with friends at a “Mega 80s” night at a local watering hole (yet another 60s term) in lieu of going to see a movie, which we often do.
At one point, the three women and John, the other guy in our group, headed for the dance floor where more people were standing around talking and drinking than dancing. I commented to Jeff that “when I was in my 20s, I would have no problem heading out there with the others and leaving our coats and drinks right here.”
That’s the difference between 20s and 60s, apparently. Or maybe it’s the fact that with society changing in oh-so-many ways, I’ve become a lot more skeptical. But then, my wife left her purse on the table, too, and who’s to say someone would not seize on that opportuntity for a snatch-and-grab.
That being said, there were other aspects of our evening that I approached with a different attitude at age 63 than I would not have had at age, say, 23.
First and foremost was the cost of the evening. Doors for this “Mega 80s” night did not open until 8 p.m. The four of us arrived a bit after seven, so we had an hour to kill on an evening where the temps did no go above 20 degrees F and there was a bit of a chilly breeze emanating from the north/northwest. Not wanting to stand out in the cold, we found a coffee shop kitty-corner from the club, so we sat there for about 45 minutes. Cost for one “house” hot chocolate with caramel an sea salt: $5.10.
Eight o’clock came and went so we crossed the street for our night of adventure. First thing when we got in the door, tickets were $10 each. We wandered around for a bit while a D.J. on the stage was playing a whole string of 80s songs, but remixed with a heavy bass and drum undercurrent, making the songs sound more like early 2000s rather than 1980s.
Of course, we stopped at the bar and I bought a mixed drink for Illy and a draft for me at a cost of $12.50. Didn’t need to tip the guy, but I did: $3 more.
At one point during the D.J. time on stage I texted one of my sons that we were listening to the Vanilla Ice pirated version of the Queen/David Bowie collaboration of “Under Pressure” where a single bass note was added and they changed the title to “Ice, Ice Baby.” I laughed. Geoff texted back, “Sweet.”
And the music played on. And I ordered another draft: $5.50, the beginning a tab to be run up.
And the music continued, sounding less and less like the 80s each time a different artist played. But the bass line and the 4/4 drum beat continued.
Then I got another beer, ending my tab at a second $5.50.
Then the D.J. closed out his very long set and we were treated to four videos: “Love Shack” by the B52s, “Jump” by VanHalen, “Hurts So Good” by John Cougar Melenkamp, John Cougar and John Melenkamp, and “You Shook Me All Night Long” by AC/DC.
Then the live band came out. I’m not sure what the name of that group was, but a short intro on the screen mentioned something about Tangerine Productions and the words “Good Shit” kept appearing, disappearing and re-appearing on the screen.
Then they played. Four songs. None of them familiar. Then Ruth said she was getting a migraine, so we left.
Had I been 23, I probably would have called it a good night. I was at a club with a lot of people, I had a couple of drinks and I hears a lot of music. But I’m not. I’m 63 and life events take on a whole different perspective.
As you might surmise, I would not call this an outstanding evening. The D.J. played way too long and the music was often difficult to figure out. The videos were good, especially the B52’s, but I’m not a big Mellencamp fan. And the band? Um, no.
Plus we had to walk about a half-mile back to our car. And it was still cold outside.
All told, we spent about four hours together with our friends, which was nice. But I spent $46.50 for four drinks and one $3 coat check and my wife and I agreed the highlight of the night was watching the young people try to dress like we did when we were in our 30s. And we lost count of how many Madonnas were walking around.
I think we should have gone to see a movie instead.

Still feeling guilty, but why??

Drove past the home of a former church member at a former church the other day and it reminded me of the last time I saw “Jim.” This former church was having an anniversary celebration that we went to a number of years ago and when I saw Jim, I naturally asked him first how he was doing, then his wife, who was not there with him. I was looking for a hole to climb into and trying to find the right words to see when “Jim” looked me in the eyes, lowered his voice and his head and replied: “She died about a year ago.”
Not that there was any way for me to know other than to read the obits on a daily basis, but the recent drive past his house suddenly rekindled some other feelings of guilt that I’ve ever held onto for a number of years or that have just recently washed over me.
For instance, I’ve had some free time the past couple of months, so I’ve dug into the pile of baseball cards I’ve collected over the years and started sending the cards out to the players pictured on them with a short note thanking them for playing the game I love to watch and, subtly, including in the note that I would like an autograph.
A couple of the cards were returned with notes from either a spouse or a child informing me that said player had died within the past couple of years; if I had been more careful, which I now am, I would have read their on-line bio to learn that, yes, indeed, he was dead.
Now I’m feeling guilty not only about embarrassing myself, but also reminding the survivors of their loss.
Then there was the time when I was about 10 when I took my brother’s BB gun and shot a bird, but not just any bird, a robin, a protected “state bird” here in Michigan. I don’t know why I did it — picking off a sparrow could have been an option — but as soon as I did I was asking myself, “Why did you do that?” Fortunately for me, or maybe because of God’s graciousness, all I did was wing the little critter. I knocked him to the ground, but after a few seconds he got up and flew away.
Now I know we’ve all got guilt with which we must deal, but I’m wondering why some guilg feelings stick around for a while. I’ll get over writing letters to dead people, but for some reason, thoughts of offending “Jim” and shooting a robin keep popping up.
I’m just wondering: When will they go away?

Hey, wrestling ain’t so bad!

I always tell my wife where I’m off to when I get an assignment to cover a sporting event for my newspaper, The Holland Sentinel. Frequently, I will tell my sons as well. They have been interested in my job/career choice since they were younger and when they were younger, one or more of them would accompany me to the local home games. They especially enjoyed going to the local Division III school, Hope College, where they were “hang” with the players and usually get some sort of life lesson from longtime (and since retired) men’s head basketball coach Glenn Van Wieren.
Then there’s wrestling, which I covered on Saturday, Feb. 21, when three local high schools — Hamilton, Zeeland West and Holland — each had some participants qualify for the Michigan Division 2 regional tournament for individuals. This is different from the team tournament which is coming up next Saturday.
When I’m headed out the door for wrestling meets, I usually just tell them I’ve got a game to cover, but over the years, my sons have seen through my reluctance to report my destination. It’s not that I don’t like wrestling; I find the guys who love this sport love it with a passion. And wrestling parents can be, um, shall we say, boisterous when their children are on the mat.
My sons love to give me grief, though. It all goes back to the exchange between a couple of characters from the film “The Breakfast Club,” a favorite of mine and of my boys: Geoff, Ryan and Corey.
It goes something like this:

Andrew: Look, you guys keep up your talking and Vernon’s gonna come right in here. I got a meet this Saturday and I’m not gonna miss it on account of you boneheads.
Bender: Oh, and wouldn’t that be a bite, huh? Missing a whole wrestling meet!
Andrew: You wouldn’t know anything about it! You never competed in your whole life!
Bender: Oh, I know. I feel all empty inside because of it. I have such a deep admiration for guys who roll around on the floor with other guys.
Andrew: Ah, you’d never make it. You don’t have any goals.
Bender: Oh, but I do!
Andrew: Yeah?
Bender: I wanna be just… like… you. I figure all I need is a lobotomy and some tights!
Brian: You wear tights?
Andrew: No, I don’t wear tights. I wear the required uniform.
Brian: Tights.
Andrew: [short pause] Shut up!

So now, when I reluctantly admit to going to a wrestling match, my kids tease me: “Oh, you’re going to watch a bunch of high school boys in tights? Nice.”
Yeah, we love each other. Life is good.

Event highlights
Now that this event is over, and my story is filed, I’m looking back on my notes and noticing there’s some things the paper just didn’t have the space print.
For example:
• If there were a “Toughest Wrestler in the Tournament” award, this weekend’s trophy would have gone to Paul Douglas, a 140-pounder from Muskegon Reeths-Puffer High Schools. Douglas, according to his coach got head-butted in his opening match, opening up a gash on his left eyelid, the kind you often see when boxers have a cut opened up from getting hit in the same spot too often.
Douglas did not qualify for the regional individual championship, but he did win third place — after getting four stitches to close the would so he could continue wrestling! He scored an 11-1 decision in the consolation finals and will be wrestling at The Palace of Auburn Hills for a state championship in two weeks.
And you thought hockey players were tough.

• For the sixth time this wrestling season, Zach VanValkenburg from Zeeland West High and Michael Visscher from Holland High met each other on the mat in the 215-pound class. And for the sixth time this season, VanValkenburg, a junior, beat Visscher, a sophomore.
“But they were all close,” VanValkenburg said after a 3-1 win with four seconds remaining in the FIFTH PERIOD. Yup, they’re that evenly matched.
“When you wrestle somebody six times you definitely get closer because you know what he does and he knows what you do and you kind of adapt to each other,” VanValkenburg said. “A lot of the stuff doesn’t work because they know what you’re doing.
“How I got him down … I got a reversal in the second overtime and that’s what sealed it for me.”

•There are good wrestlers and there are REALLY GOOD wrestlers. Hamilton’s Tate Knapp, a senior, is a good wrestler. He entered regional competition with a 38-3 record and won his first two matches, the first on a forfeit when a kid from another school with an 8-5 record pulled a no-show; the second with a 6-0 decision against a guy who had 36 wins before Saturday.
Then there’s Josh Colegrove from Lowell High School. He’s REALLY GOOD. Colegrove is a reigning state champion and he was undefeated in 30 matches prior to Saturday’s tournament. He pinned his first opponent in a minute-10 (1:10 if you prefer), the got his next victim’s shoulders to the mat in 1:30.
Tate Knapp fared a little better, getting into the second period with Colegrove before the match was stopped at 3:32 on a technical fall with the score at 15-0. That’s right, a guy with 40 wins couldn’t even score a point against Colegrove.
Knapp’s coach, Hamilton’s Gregg Stoel, called Colegrove “the best wrestler in the state at his weight in ANY division.”
Now, that’s REALLY GOOD.

The Blacklist takes a look at The Good Samaritan. Say what?!

The official summary of the Thursday, Feb. 12 episode of “The Blacklist,” titled “Ruslan Denisov,” reads as follows: “The task force must rescue an undercover CIA agent who was kidnapped by separatists in Uzbekistan; Red thinks they are up against a dangerous past associate known as Ruslan Denisov.”

After listening to our pastor deliver a message on the biblical “Parable of the Good Samaritan,” I saw a strong connection. As the story played out, FBI agents Keen and Ressler are sent to Uzbekistan to investigate and, perhaps, to rescue the undercover agent who, according to the CIA, “may or may not be” one of theirs. That, however, was just one of the subplots. The main event, as it were, involved Ruslan Denisov, a leader of a band of rebels who Reddington describes as “quite melodramatic, not to mention violent and entirely unreasonable.”
Seems Denisov has been kindnapping foreign representatives of American corporations and demanding ramsons “far about market value,” according to Reddington. As Reddington is describing Denisov to agent Keen, we see Denisov killing one such representative because “your company refuses to pay your ransom.”
Long story short, Denisov’s latest kidnapping of the CIA agent (posing undercover as a priest) is because of his claim that an American petroleum company is poisoning Uzbekistan’s soil and water with leaks from poorly constructed pipelines that, we find out, were authorized by a previous administration two years before “official” documents were signed and a second, more efficient, pipeline was installed.
We see examples of what the polluted water is doing to Uzbeki citizens: externally, they are getting skin lesions and/or having their skin separate from muscles and tendons. Internally, major organs are breaking down and hundreds have already died.
In essence, Denisov is trying to take care of the citizens of his country much the same way the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37) took care of the traveler who was victimized by thieves on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho.
Reddington, who has absolutely no trouble working for one faction or another, all in the name of profit — “There are no sides, just players,” he tells Keen — gets involved because Denisov and others like him “have cost me and my partners considerably more than he is worth.”
Of course, when Keen and Ressler go to Uzbekistan, they are pressured by the government there to take their side. Only after they are kidnapped by Denisov and shown what is happening to the people are they convinced that what Denisov is doing is a good thing. A Good Samaritan kind of thing, but with a different approach.
Long story short: The head of the oil company announces that his company is pulling out of Uzbekistan, only to have, very soon, a French company move in, thanks, of course, to Red Reddington. But the bad guys and their bad motives are eliminated and things will eventually turn out well for the Uzbeki people.
In the end, the guy who granted the original, illegal contract is crated and handed over to Denisov (by Reddington), the CIA backs down from killing everyone involved, and Reddington walks away with a boatload of money for being the middle man between the FBI, Denisov and the French fuel company.
As Reddington said, “There are no sides, just players,” and he was the biggest player. A Good Samaritan, like Denisov, as it were. But with a bigger ego and different ulterior motives.

More on the W. Mich. Golf Show

For Day 2, I’m still being lazy. This came directly from the publicist via my e-mail, but it has all the necessary info:

The 27th West Michigan Golf Show on Feb. 13-15 in downtown Grand Rapids is an opportunity for area golfers to get in the spirit of the game without an embarrassing four-putt. Void of ice and snow and inside the spacious and warm confines of DeVos Place, winter-weary patrons will walk the Show’s aisles and receive a vicarious spring-like boost from all of the exhibitors, events and seminars. Here are some of the highlights about this largest winter gathering of golfers in West Michigan:
• Widely acclaimed for its headliners, the Golf Show welcomes the Kathy Gildersleeve-Jensen, the current National PGA Teacher of the Year, and Brian Manzella, a Golf Digest Top 50 Teacher. Both will provide free seminars.
• Ladies’ Night is Friday and offers special events, seminars and giveaways just for women. The first 500 women on Friday receive a goodie bag.
• The most popular attraction of the Show remains the Treetops Par-3 Challenge where patrons will compete for prizes at a fully landscaped par-3 and with a chance to win $25,000 while raising funds for Patriot Golf Day.
• “Try before you buy” at the demo club area where many top club manufacturers will have the latest equipment for patrons to hit inside the huge hitting net.
• Stop at the Bridgestone Golf Ball-Fitting Challenge booth and find out the best ball for your swing speed and game. The Science Eye Launch Monitor allows Bridgestone to enhance your performance in a free fitting session.
• Check out the new “Mizuno Iron Shaft DNA” fitting booth where patrons will quickly discover the best shaft and shaft flex for their swing. Only taking 5-10 minutes, the fitting process results in five key metrics about each participant’s “shaft DNA.”
The top golf courses and resorts in Michigan as well as destination courses in Indiana, Kentucky and Florida will offer pre-season values and tee times.
Got Kids? Get ‘em excited about golf in the PGA Family Fun Zone where they can take a swing at Golfzilla, and clinics from The First Tee, or play a round of Putt-Putt golf! Plus great info on PGA Jr. League Golf and the Drive, Chip, & Putt Championship.
Thanks to the Michigan P.G.A. and Boyne Resorts, golf pros are giving free lessons all weekend, providing patrons with golf tips to start the season right.
Sponsored by Gun Lake Casino, the $10,000 Longest Putt Challenge will also raise funds for the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.
West Michigan is also known for quality & affordable golf and 26 local courses have booths.
Benefitting First Tee of West Michigan, there’s a Saturday morning pancake breakfast (for only $5) starting at 9 AM in the Grand Gallery at DeVos Place.
Sunday is “Junior Golf Day” with the first 100 kids receiving a free golf glove and a voucher for a free bucket of range balls— every day of the year!—from Maple Hill.
Produced by ShowSpan Inc. and sponsored by Treetops Resort, Gun Lake Casino, Golf Association of Michigan, Boyne Resorts and the Michigan PGA. West Michigan Golf Show’s hours are 2:00 pm-9:00 pm, Friday; 10:00 am-7:00 pm, Saturday; and 10:00 am-5:00 pm, Sunday. For more information, visit http://www.westmichigangolfshow.com

Local Golf Show at a Glance

First post concerning the West Michigan Golf Show this weekend. It’s a lazy post — cut and paste style — but more will be coming.

When: Friday, Feb.13, 2 pm-9 pm
Saturday, Feb.14, 10 am-7 pm
Sunday, Feb.15, 10 am-5 pm

Where: DeVos Place, 303 Monroe Ave. NW, downtown Grand Rapids

Tickets: 410 for adults; $4 for children ages 6-14; children 5 & under free.
Tickets at the door and online at http://www.WestMichiganGolfShow.com

Parking: Best place to park is under DeVos Place. Enter off Michigan St NW or Lyon Ave. NW. The Rapid line 11 bus stops in front of DeVos Place

Seminars: With Kathy Gildersleeve-Jensen, ’14 National PGA Teacher of the Year
Brian Manzella, Golf Digest’s Top 50 Teacher in the U.S.

Specials: Friday is Ladies Night with special events and goodie bags for the first 500 women. The $10,000 Putting Challenge — one putter might sink a 50-foot putt for $10,000. Free golf lessons c/o of Boyne Resorts & Michigan PGA. Sunday is Junior Day when the first 100 kids receive a glove.

Sponsors: Treetops Resort, Gun Lake Casino, Golf Association of Michigan, Boyne Resorts, Michigan PGA

Other: Check out the Local Golf Loyalty Card, free with every admission, that rewards local golfers. Saturday: To benefit First Tee of West Michigan, apancake breakfast for $5 at 9 AM @ Grand Gallery. Other Show charities: Patriot Golf Day, Folds of Honor

Info: Produced by ShowSpan Inc., 800-328-6550