Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Before CMU's Exam Week, Sounds of Squeaking Sneakers and Bouncing Basketballs

Some Gus Macker teams played in front of Finch Fieldhouse on the Dream Court where Gus Macker founder Scott McNeal playfully did play-by-play announcing (below).

There was $18 on the line. That was a lot in 1974, when 18 kids gathered into a 3-on-3 basketball teams to play for the money on a driveway.

Scott McNeal expanded the tournament and traveled to five cities in 1987. More than 10,400 players played the tournament that year and propelled Mr. McNeal's brand — Gus Macker.

At Central Michigan University, where Scott McNeal graduated from in 1979, Gus Macker closed a street adjacent to the library on April 27 and 28. Amidst the sounds of bouncing basketballs, squeaking sneakers and cheers, Mr. McNeal speaks into the microphone at the Dream Court.

"There's Puke with the shot," Mr. McNeal said, referring to a player's nickname, "and it's too strong off the rim."

The Gus Macker was somewhat branded this year by CMU — it became the only college in the country to facilitate the tournament completely with students. The students said it was a semester project for a Recreation, Parks and Liesure class, a culmination of planning, coordination and planning the physical layout of hoops and court space.

Mr. McNeal donated $10,000 to CMU for the Dick Parfitt Gymnasium, a multi-sport practice facility near McGuirk Arena.

Today, Gus Macker tournaments are held in 75 cities in which nearly a quarter-million players participate. The tournaments, nationwide, draw nearly two million spectators. All-time, according to the Gus Macker website, it has drawn 2.2 million players ages 7 to older than 50, and 23 million spectators.

The tournament drew 174 teams in various age groups. Each team, according to Gus Macker rules, is guaranteed to play three scheduled games. 

Gus Macker was played on a street adjacent to the Charles V. Park Library on the campus of Central Michigan University.
Scott McNeal does play-by-play announcing during a Gus Macker tournament game on the campus of Central Michigan University on April 27, 2013.
Gus Macker founder Scott McNeal set out Toilet Bowl trophies on the table near the end of a tournament game on April 27, 2013, on the campus of Central Michigan University.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Threads Fashion Show: Ooh's, Ahh's and Applause

Kristine Opaleski's work on display was driven by The Lion King.

The 15th annual Threads Fashion Show at Central Michigan University featured theme-based designs from movies like The Dark Knight, Black Swan and The Lion King.

Twenty-four C.M.U. students designed for the show on April 13 in the university's Warriner Hall. A collection of movie trailers at the beginning of the show introduced the audience to the themes used in the designs.

Kristine Opaleski's designs based on The Lion King were among the more talked about designs from the show. Her peers gave her more awards than the other designers. It was her third year designing for the show, she told Central Michigan Life.

“I was inspired by The Lion King,” Ms. Opaleski told Central Michigan Life. “I find the movie itself very majestic. It’s extremely moving. There (are) incredible themes I never caught on to as a kid, and every kid watches that movie and loves it, and when you get older, you love it for different reasons and that’s what I wanted to personify.”
Opaleski created six designs that she spent about $400 to make, along with some sleepless nights, according to an interview with C.M.U. Some students paired together to work on designs from a theme.

Opaleski's designs were made with basic earthly colors assembled in unique patterns.

Jason Gagnon's collection, "Memoirs of a Geisha."
Kristine Opaleski's "The Lion King."
Kristine Opaleski's "The Lion King."
Kristine Opaleski's "The Lion King."
Dress by Shermane Fouche, a C.M.U. apparel design faculty.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Election Day, Through the Eyes of a Candidate

Rep. Kevin Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant, speaks with his campaign managers Ben Greene and Matthew Golden during breakfast on Election Day at Stan's Restaurant in downtown Mount Pleasant.

When state Rep. Kevin Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant, woke up Tuesday on the day of his re-election, he wasn't nervous. He was hungry, not only for breakfast, but for a second term in office. He met at Stan’s Restaurant, 220 E. Broadway St., with his campaign strategist, Matthew Golden, and his campaign manager, Grand Rapids senior Ben Greene.
“If you’re nervous on Election Day, that means you didn’t do your homework,” Mr. Cotter said. “It’s like trying to finish a book report the day it’s due.”
Mr. Cotter, 35, was projected by many people to defeat Adam Lawrence, the Democratic challenger for the 99th District.
The first priority of the day was breakfast – two eggs, over-easy, with buttered toast and a coffee with no milk and sugar. With a few other patrons eating and talking in the restaurant, Mr. Cotter and his staffers spoke about the growing lines at local precincts and news about long lines for voting in Detroit and Miami.
He shook hands with other patrons in the restaurant. They wished Mr. Cotter luck in the election.“I’m sure you’ll win,” a man said.
The Cotter campaign took what could be described as a laid-back approach to his re-election campaign. Mr. Greene said they “knocked on a lot of doors” but they kept themselves from an “in-your-face” approach. Mr. Cotter said his previous term brought him recognition in the 99th District, which has traditionally been heavily Republican.
Mr. Greene began at CMU as a broadcasting major. His interest in politics shifted his major to political science, and he soon became involved in local campaigns. He developed the campaign plan with Mr. Cotter, a CMU alum.
“It’s tough to get away from the ‘bug,’ ” Mr. Greene said. “That’s what I call it.”
Regardless of projections, predictions and popularity, Mr. Cotter knew thorough campaign work had to be done.“I think the hardest part of our job is prioritizing,” Mr. Cotter said, about executing the campaign plan.
Mr. Golden usually works in Lansing but he took vacation time to stay in Mount Pleasant with Mr. Cotter.
“I’m just here because I’m a nerd,” Mr. Golden said. “I love this stuff.”
After breakfast, Mr. Golden drove behind Mr. Cotter to the Union Township office to vote. He waited in line for 12 minutes to complete and cast his ballot.
Mr. Cotter met at his campaign headquarters in an office space, 113 W. Broadway St., where his campaign signs were secured to the large window-front. In a back room, he spoke with Mr. Golden and Mr. Greene about Election Day events and made plans for preparing his victory party at Hunter’s Ale House, 4855 E. Blue Grass Road.
Throughout his first term, Mr. Cotter said he voted 53 times against his own party on various issues. He posted the results of each vote on Facebook, along with explanations for why he voted the way he did. Transparency and accountability for his official conduct was as much of a priority, he said, as meeting with constituents. During the campaign, he made it a point to avoid negative campaigning against Mr. Lawrence.From the headquarters, Mr. Cotter left to sit in on meetings regarding his official work as representative. Then he prepared for the evening, and had dinner with his family.
Mr. Cotter drove to Midland for the Midland County GOP Victory Party at the H Hotel, 111 W. Main St., a three-star hotel with a large conference room where Dave Camp held his victory party.
Rep. Kevin Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant, speaks at the Midland County GOP Victory
Party at the H Hotel in Midland, Mich. on Election Day.
Mr. Cotter met with supporters, took an interview with a local TV news station and spoke briefly about his hope for Republican victories in the local and national elections. After spending about a half-hour there, he headed back to Mount Pleasant for his party at Hunter’s Ale House. There, he greeted his family and friends, spoke to the gathering and then met with supporters as Mr. Golden continually updated the results numbers of his election, along with the presidential race and other local elections on a 200-inch screen.
Mr. Cotter’s supporters, expecting a victory, were more relaxed than in 2010, when he was elected to the House for the first time.
He was ahead of Mr. Lawrence by about 2,700 votes with just a few precincts left to report. Mr. Golden calculated the votes and made sure that the remaining number of votes were negligible in determining the winner. When Mr. Golden saw that the math guaranteed a majority of votes, he gave Mr. Cotter the thumbs-up.
Mr. Cotter’s wife, Jennifer, and his father, Bob, congratulated him after he declared victory at 12:30 a.m. Wednesday.
He left Hunter’s Ale House at about 2 a.m. and stayed up until 3:30 a.m. with his laptop, keeping tabs on state and national elections.
Mr. Cotter’s hunger for re-election was satisfied. Mr. Cotter said his dad’s congratulations meant a lot to him.
“He congratulated me and told me to keep up the good work, and he was especially proud of the way we ran this race,” Mr. Cotter said. “He’s always been against negative campaigning, and said he was proud of the way things were run. That makes me feel really good.”
Jennifer Cotter, wife of Rep. Kevin Cotter, watches live election results as Cotter's campaign managers collect voting results at Hunter's Ale House in Mount Pleasant, Mich. on Election Day.

Rep. Kevin Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant, right, waits in line to vote on Election Day.

Rep. Kevin Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant, talks with a campaign manager at the H Hotel in Midland, Mich. on Election Day.

Rep. Kevin Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant, speaks in an interview with WNEM 5 News at the H Hotel in Midland, Mich. on Election Day.

Reliving My Hockey Years, Through a Long Lens

Dan Farley, coach of the Ontonagon Midget BB ice hockey team, talks with players during intermission of a game at the state tournament in Negaunee, Mich. on Feb. 28, 2013. "You guys need to step up," Farley said. "Be leaders out there."

Ontonagon right wing Travis Houtari is pulled away from the Fraser Titans goalie on March 1, 2013 during a state tournament game in Negaunee, Mich.

When I went home for spring break, I stopped in Negaunee, Mich. in Michigan's Upper Peninsula for a state hockey tournament that my hometown's team played in. Five years ago, it was the arena where I played my last hockey game in 2008, on the same team.

I rented a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 for break. Hockey games are a great way to use the lens. I was guaranteed three games to shoot and I didn't have to worry about credentials or limited photographers' space. Free reign, for a photographer, is hog heaven.

I drove from Mount Pleasant and arrived in Negaunee in time for Ontonagon's first game. After staring out my windshield all day, it was great to see friends. And hockey. I stayed in nearby Marquette with a friend, and then spent a night at a hotel with my grandfather, Stan, and my sister, Audrey.

Following hockey through a long lens, however, is difficult. Try following a hockey game with one eye through binoculars. You get the picture. The work of shooting hockey is not following the game, it's framing the game in the image, and anticipating where the game is going on the ice. I played hockey for 12 years, but my knowledge of the game did not make anticipating with a camera any easier. It's much easier to anticipate as a player than photographer.

Still, I hoped to see them win.

Westland celebrates a goal against Ontonagon on March 1, 2013 during the state hockey tournament in Negaunee, Mich.

Last year, Ontonagon competed for a state championship in Alpena, Mich. The team, more or less consisting of the same players as the year before, had another chance to win. Unfortunately for them, they lost. Their story ended the same as mine: Their last game together as a team was in Negaunee.

Ontonagon defenseman Jeff Pestka before a face-off against Westland on March 1, 2013 in Negaunee, Mich. during a state tournament game.

Fans watch Ontonagon play Blue Water Sting in their first game of the state tournament in Negaunee, Mich. on Feb. 28, 2013.

Dylan Morris of Ontonagon fends off a Westland player during a state tournament game in Negaunee, Mich. on March 1, 2013.

Dylan Morris, left, and Drew Pollard sit dejected after losing a state tournament game 8-2 against Westland in Negaunee, Mich. The loss eliminated Ontonagon from the tournament, making it the last-ever game together as a team.