Category: Sports

Indians logo harmful to all

And thus, another Columbus Day has passed in which the Cleveland Indians continue to ignite controversy with their mascot. 

The organization’s ongoing hesitation to abandon its longstanding, racially insensitive logo, the red-skinned, feather-haired Native American caricature “Chief Wahoo,” has attracted the scrutinous ire of protesters, prompting many to actively root against Cleveland’s success for the duration of its second consecutive playoff stint. Any previous attempt on the organization’s part to remedy this divisive issue has been a half-measure at best, ostensibly altering its primary logo to a stylized “C” in 2014, yet stubbornly clinging to past traditions by sporting Wahoo for 71.6 percent – 116 of 162 games – during its 2017 regular season schedule, according to Sportslogos.net. Worse, the Indians proudly wore Wahoo on their caps during their entire 2016 American League Championship campaign and has thus far opted to do the same during the 2017 playoffs – on a nationally televised stage, Cleveland broadcasts Wahoo to its largest audience. 

During a radio interview with WAKR-AM over the summer, Indians owner Paul Dolan insisted that “we [the Indians and MLB] will come to some understanding relatively soon,” and that the club is trying to “find the right balance” to appease the “pressure on a national scene.” However, by failing to fully and immediately commit to a change, Cleveland has alienated a considerable sum of casual baseball viewers who refuse to support an organization that passively accepts a harmful stereotype.

It’s a shame, because, by all other measures beyond logo, mascot and name, Cleveland should otherwise represent the vigorous underdog darling that America typically becomes infatuated with. A small-market midwestern team now possessing the longest active World Series drought in the MLB, the Indians’ focus on balanced team fundamentals and overwhelming pitching, accentuated by an occasional dramatic flair, is the exact concoction of skill and luck that consistently produces an MLB champion. Top to bottom, their lineup is stacked with tremendous, dynamic talent that can hit for both average and power, and their pitching staff is downright oppressive. During their historic 22-game winning streak through August and September, the Indians reached a pinnacle of play so staggering that they practically turned the science of baseball into an artform.

To see an organization boasting so few financial resources possessing such a plethora of explosive talent, and to see that talent blend so beautifully into a synergistic winning machine, is a major win for the little guy in an industry polarized by wealthy coastal teams. What’s more, their first round matchup is against the New York Yankees, arguably the most infamous team in professional sports, one that even the most casual of spectators love to hate for their abundance of wealth and titles. Taking everything into account, the Indians should be the team everyone wants to see go the distance. 

But, because of Wahoo, they aren’t. I’ll be honest – and this is where I might lose some of you – I’m a diehard Chicago Cubs fan until the day I die, but should they fail in their pursuit of a repeat, I’d be happy to see Cleveland overcome the final hurdle and win their first title since 1948. Perhaps it’s out of a tremendous mutual respect for the Indians players and coaching staff following the dazzling 2016 World Series or through the ability to empathize with a desperate multi-generational championship pursuit. However, I believe it’s primarily that I simply admire their brand of baseball – Cleveland plays the game with such fluidity, grace and passion that, as a rabid fanatic of America’s pastime who’s followed their story for years, it’s hard not to betray sentiment toward them. 

But that’s me, an absolute baseball nut, and to every non-baseball nut questioning why I would potentially support a team with such a tasteless mascot … well, it’s increasingly difficult to justify. Cleveland could own October as the face of American sports, but they’re shooting themselves in the foot by refusing to abandon an insensitive, antiquated logo, thus alienating a general audience. It really is a shame.

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Oles win nine straight, claim first round bye

Willis uplifts rushing attack vs. Hamline

St. Olaf football finally broke through for its first conference victory of the season, claiming a pulse-pounding 40-33 Homecoming win over Hamline. The Oles dominated on the ground as the rushing game exploded behind the dominant performance of running back and kick retuner Khayleb Willis ’20, who rushed for 157 yards and a touchdown, averaging an impeccable 4.9 yards per carry on 32 total rush attempts. With his emergence, St. Olaf can potentially achieve a more balanced offensive attack together with quarterback Jack Goldstein ’18, presenting a more dynamic, fearsome offense against future opponents.

Q: Describe some of your football background. How did you get into it? How did you know it was something you’d want to pursue even after high school? 

A: I’ve played football for the majority of my life, 16 years. My family has a rich background in football. My dad and uncles all played football at the collegiate level and some even at the pro level. Also, my oldest brother is trying out for the NFL this upcoming spring. I knew it was something I wanted to pursue after high school because it was always my dream to play college level football. I believe seeing all the hard work and dedication my brother puts into football really inspires me to work as hard as I do. My brothers are my biggest role models.

Q: What do you feel is your greatest strength as a running back? Where do you think you could still improve? How will you go about improving it?

A: I think my greatest strength as a running back is my speed and toughness. I may not be the biggest running back in the MIAC (5ft 5’ – 160lbs) but I am definitely the fastest and I think I can take a hit as good as anybody. I think I can still improve in my blocking skills. I will improve that by hitting the weight room to get stronger and getting my technique down during practice. 

Q: What was the biggest difference maker that contributed to your breakout performance?

A: I think the biggest difference maker in my breakout performance was the way in which the team practiced all week. We practiced with a lot of energy and enthusiasm which translated to game day. And of course I give all the credit to the big boys up front [the offensive linemen]. They opened up holes for me so big a car could drive through. Our chemistry is really starting to pick up; I foresee a lot of big runs in the future.

Q: How does kick returning compare to rushing as a back? What elements of kick returning helped you succeed as a running back? Which do you prefer?

A: I love running back, but there’s nothing like the first kick return of the game to set the tone for the team. I think being the kick returner has helped my vision at running back. It allows me to see the open holes and hit them as fast and hard as I can. It definitely benefits me as a running back.

Q: You had nearly double the amount of carries against Hamline than your previous high for this season against Luther. Does this signal a shift towards a more aggressive rushing attack for you guys? What effect did this have on recovery after an increased physical toll?

A: I’m not sure if this signals a shift towards a more aggressive rushing attack but if it helps the team win more games then I’m all for it. I think our coaches do a great job every week breaking down the film of our opponent and making sure we expose their weaknesses on game day. That week they believed our running game would be effective and they were correct. But if the O-line continues to play as good as they did, then I don’t see why we wouldn’t run the ball whenever we want. With all the carries I had, I think I had a few more nicks and bruises compared to other games, but at the end of the game, knowing we won and seeing all my teammates and fans happy, I really didn’t notice any major physical toll. 

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Oles win nine straight, claim first round bye

St. Olaf signs deal with Under Armour

Last May, St. Olaf Athletics signed an agreement with Under Armour giving the athletic apparel brand exclusive rights to outfit 27 St. Olaf athletic teams with uniforms and athletic wear. The partnership will last for five years – until the spring of 2022 – and St. Olaf will purchase Under Armour products at a discounted rate. 

The deal only applies to St. Olaf Athletics, meaning other St. Olaf gear, such as the T-shirts and hoodies in the St. Olaf  Bookstore, are unaffected. The deal is facilitated by BSN Sports, who will serve as a liaison between St. Olaf and Under Armour, and St. Olaf teams will transition from their previous brands to Under Armour over the next couple of years. The only exception to this agreement is that St. Olaf may purchase apparel from another brand if Under Armour cannot provide it.

“If there’s something that we need that Under Armour can’t provide, we would purchase it through another vendor,” Athletic Director Ryan Bowles said. “So – swim team swimsuits. [Under Armour] doesn’t do swimsuits, so we will continue with Speedo.”

Previously, St. Olaf teams purchased uniforms and apparel from a variety of brands, including Nike and Adidas. 

“[The deal] allows us to get a little more bang for our buck, if you will, because we’ll be buying exclusive to one brand,” Bowles said. “It also allows us to get a better handle of our brand, meaning that the logos and those types of things will look universal across the stuff that we have.”

Bowles hopes the perks of the deal will extend beyond student athletes. 

“Within the contract, we’ll hopefully be able to do more for our student athletes and just enhance what they’re able to get,” he said. “And then there’s going to be some fun things. We’ve got these Ole Pride events, maybe raffling off different Under Armour gear to students that come.”

In true St. Olaf style, Under Armour was chosen by an “Apparel Task Force” made up of Bowles, Associate Athletic Director Mike Ludwig and a number of men’s and women’s coaches. 

“We looked primarily at Under Armour and Nike,” Bowles said. “Financially, the deal with Under Armour was better for the College … customer service was a big part of it as well, the ability to deliver the products on time, and high quality.”

The group convened to first determine what St. Olaf Athletics was looking to get from a potential partnership, and then put in a request for an RFP – a Request for Proposal. BSN Sports then worked with brand representatives to pitch possible options to the Apparel Task Force, who chose three finalists and eventually settled on Under Armour.

“I think [the deal] is still kind of in its infancy – things are good so far,” Bowles said. “We really just want our student athletes to feel a positive benefit from this move, and I’m confident that this will allow us to do more for them, and I’m confident that the whole campus will see a benefit from it.”

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Oles win nine straight, claim first round bye

Star power carrying volleyball to resurgence

In the Manitou Messenger’s fall sports preview, we predicted that St. Olaf volleyball would most likely undergo a developmental season after losing several key starters, featuring younger players who would need time to adjust to an intensely competitive conference.

Boy, have they proved us wrong. Thus far, the volleyball team has easily been the most surprising athletic team on campus in 2017, jumping to an impressive 17-8 overall record and overcoming some tough rivals to emerge 4-2 against MIAC opponents. Though being thoroughly outmatched by perennial conference threats Gustavus and St. Thomas by a score of 3-0 in each match, the Oles have emerged victorious in nine of their last 12 contests, including  dominant performances against Hamline, Macalester and Bethel. Of those nine wins, six have been shutouts. 

Altogether, St. Olaf appears destined for its first winning record since its incredible 2010 season, and potentially a postseason appearance along with it. If the regular season ended today, the Oles would be the sixth and final playoff seed. 

What’s most surprising, however, is the staggering offensive proficiency that St. Olaf has demonstrated, a complete reversal from a 2016 squad that ranked ninth among MIAC teams in kills and tenth in average kills per set. By comparison, it ranks first and fourth respectively this season.

The dramatic improvement of both Megan Grimes ’19 and Lauren Rewers ’20, as well as an extraordinary breakout season from rookie Summer Reid ’21, has provided the Oles with a powerful triple threat on offense that has utterly overwhelmed most opponents this season. The trio currently possess the top three kills totals out of all conference players. Rewers in particular has been a gem, leading all players in the MIAC with 293 kills and 3.66 kills per set. 

That’s not to say St. Olaf hasn’t impressed in all aspects of the game. Though the loss of immaculate digs leader Abby Slack ’17 was expected to significantly hinder the Oles’ defense this season, Haley Langeslag ’20 has nearly mirrored the former’s production, posting 413 digs and 4.86 digs per set, second and third in the MIAC, respectively (by comparison, Slack produced totals of 457 and 5.02) during her senior season. Lexi Wall ’21 has provided the backbone support, topping the conference with 11.14 assists per set. 

Breakout performances from several young stars have breathed new life into St. Olaf volleyball, pointing towards an optimistic future and building tremendous excitement for a potential 2017 playoff run.

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Oles win nine straight, claim first round bye

Men’s soccer earns first victory vs. St. Mary’s

To put it lightly, the St. Olaf men’s soccer team didn’t produce an especially encouraging start to the 2017 season. After starting the fall with five consecutive losses, only scoring once during each of those contests combined, the outlook for the remainder of the schedule appeared particularly grim.

However, the dearth of offense finally vanished this past weekend, as the Oles claimed their first victory of the season, a tense 2-1 win over conference rival St. Mary’s. Though the team’s overall record currently rests at an unsettling 1-5, securing this road win boosts their conference record to a modest 1-1. This is an exponentially more surmountable hurdle to overcome provided the young starters can continue improving individually and progressing as a team. According to the veteran players, though the relative inexperience initially presented an obstacle, the new faces on the team are quickly emerging into noteworthy talent.

“Obviously our goalkeeper graduated and our two centerbacks graduated, so we’ve had a lot of younger players stepping up,” veteran

midfielder Simon Broccard ’18 said. “We actually have three freshman starters this year, so they’ve been very impressive with their play. Some of the players who didn’t get as many minutes [last season] have also been doing a really good job of stepping up.”

Most prominent among this collective of new starters is goalkeeper Ben Westermeyer ’19. Though he struggled to shake off the rust during the season’s initial few games, surrendering seven goals in three contests combined, Westermeyer has stepped up his game during St. Olaf’s recent stretch of play. During the past two weeks, he’s only allowed one score in each of the Oles’ three matches, including a convincing six-save performance against Loras to keep the contest scoreless through regulation. If he can continue to minimize the damage and keep St. Olaf within a realistic striking distance of victory, men’s soccer can easily turn things around.

“[Ben] was in Ole Band last year, so that conflicted of course,” Broccard said of the team’s new goalkeeper. “But it’s great to have him on the team now, he’s been a very strong presence back there in goal.”

Though St. Mary’s struck early, the Oles finally found their groove on offense late during regulation, with rookie Thierno Gueye ’21 delivering a dramatic score at 84:21 to send the game into overtime, his first goal for St. Olaf. From there, veteran Kyle Leemon ’18 capitalized on a depleted Cardinal defense, administering the climactic final blow while claiming the team lead in goals (2) en route to a 2-1 Ole win. Finally, St. Olaf hurdled beyond their dearth of offense to deliver in the clutch.

“Offensively, we’ve been struggling, so we put some different players in our attacking tactics, and that seemed to pay off,” Broccard noted of the victory. “The second goal was inevitable for the other team, as they [St. Mary’s] had gotten a red card with ten minutes left, and that brought us into overtime.

You could tell that it was just going to be either 20 minutes of them defending or a goal [for St. Olaf] pretty quickly.”

Despite a severe scoring drought culminating in an overwhelmingly discouraging beginning to the 2017 season, St. Olaf finally has some semblance of momentum heading into a home stretch of conference games against Gustavus and St. John’s. Overall record aside, if their winning percentage within the conference remains in a positive direction, the Oles can easily bounce back.

“I think we’ll keep [these tactics] in mind for the future,” Broccard said. “We still didn’t play as good as we wanted. We probably could have possessed the ball a little bit more, and we have to capitalize a little more on our chances, but overall I think we’re moving in the right direction, and getting a win is a really nice feeling at this point in the season. Plus it’s really helpful because it was a conference game, so we’re starting the conference 1-1, which is respectable.” 

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Oles win nine straight, claim first round bye