Why Dave McLean’s misdeeds are his, and his alone

First of all, sorry for the language that follows in this blog. I wish I was more eloquent when it comes to matters of the heart. Deep breaths and hit send …

Dave McLean embezzled money from his Anaconda law firm.

Well, that’s what the headline should have read after it was released he was being suspected of misappropriating client funds at his law firm. Instead, the salacious, the wicked, the dumpster fire known as the Montana Standard – a rag I wouldn’t line my dog kennel with for not to sully the reputation of very shit being placed upon it run by organization, Lee Enterprises, famous for restaffing legends and redistributing those funds to line the pockets of corporate fat cats – thought differently. (STORY HERE)

In a way to bring more attention to the story, they lumped Dave’s daughter-in-law, the Lt. Gov. of Montana Angela McLean, into the story. You see, when you can’t sell a newspaper with misspelled and half-assed reported stories, it’s much easier to go for the throat of another.

I used to be in the newspaper business as a highly-opinionated scribe, once even employed by the Butte-based publication, but I still cannot see the use of this headline. It’s over the top even for sensationalist reporting.

The Montana Standard, and other dailies throughout Montana, not only threw the bus on top of the Lt. Gov, they may as well have listed her as an accomplice with the unquestionably-vague headline. Dave McLean took money from his own clients, something that even he knows is reprehensible. And all Angela McLean has done is have the man as a father-in-law.

Here is the headline from the Montana Standard:

mclean screenshot

And from the Great Falls Tribune:

GF Tribune mcLean

What’s worse, the Tribune ran a photo of the Lt. Gov. in the article. Really tasteful. Maybe instead of trashing an innocent politician they could use their time better studying correct grammatical prose. It’s “Lt. Gov.” not “Lt. gov” you mindless twits.

As a former reporter, it’s imperative to make the professional connection between Dave McLean the lawyer and Angela McLean the Lt. Gov. in the story. But you don’t do it in a headline when it has absolutely nothing to do with the story at hand.

Let’s get down to the facts of the case. Dave was turned in for the misappropriation by his partner, his son, Mike McLean, once he became aware of the matter in late July. Let that sink in. He had to forget about all of his familial love and loyalty to do what was required via his oath as a lawyer.That takes guts, more than I could probably muster.

Mike worked hard his whole life to return to Anaconda in order to raise his family and build a practice with his father. They accomplished that. And according to the letter written to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel by Mike, everything has been researched to have been above board from January of 2003 to the 2010 calendar year — reportedly when Dave’s impropriety began.

In fact, from 2010 until earlier this year when she was appointed to the office of Lt. Gov. by Gov. Steve Bullock, Angela McLean was a nationally certified American Government teacher at Anaconda High School and member and chair of the Montana Board of Regents.  Would her picture have been published and name been connected with Dave’s crime if she was still telling William Howard Taft knock-knock jokes to high school juniors and seniors? Hell no it wouldn’t have.

I’ve been in my fair share of trouble through the years. So, should the Montana Standard publish a picture of my mother for every headlock I’ve generously applied to those who needed it? Let’s just say her headlocks hurt worse, so do your damnedest.

Mike had to turn his father in for something that just doesn’t make sense. I can’t get my head around it. Neither can he. And making a few extra bucks selling a newspaper with a misleading and hurtful headline like this isn’t helping matters either.

Those who were duped by Dave will see justice – monetarily and criminally. Reportedly there are means to pay judgments from the State Bar of Montana, so clients will be able to retrieve any money that has been misappropriated. Unfortunately that’s not even scratching the surface of everyone this is affecting.

Mike and Angela are fantastic people. They raised a wonderful family in Anaconda and will continue to do so in Helena. Mike has been a good friend and a mentor to me and my family. Angela has been a champion for Anaconda students and is continuing that legacy for all Montanans since her appointment to Lt. Gov. In fact, the only questionable thing I can say about Mike is he probably needs a little help training his dogs how to not jump a fence.

Now on to Dave.

This just kills me. Dave has been in my life since I was a little asshole. He coached my baseball All Star team. I wish I still had the vivid-green coat with yellow trim he paid for every member of the team to have – each one had our names on the front.

He looked the other way in group settings when we were disrespectful little assholes in high school, only to corner us one by one and read us the riot act individually. He tells the story of us thinking we were sneaky while throwing parties at the family cabin on Georgetown Lake, and how he always knew when we were there because of our signatures of times and dates in the guestbook. Wow were we dumb.

He coaxed me into being a member of American Legion, one of the better decisions I’ve made in my adult life. He was a guiding light to Legionnaires battling for better medical coverage and treatment, and disability and retirement compensation throughout the country. He worked for a year straight without much sleep battling to get the Southwestern Montana Veterans Home built in Anaconda from 2009 to March of 2010, when it was awarded to Butte. To date, for whatever reason, ground has still not been broke on the facility. In my opinion, vets would already be enjoying it if the home was awarded to the rightful place here in Anaconda.

Professionally, Dave’s legacy may be tarnished. But after my many indiscretions, my speed bumps in life, my horrible decisions, Dave never judged me. He knew me for me and treated me like a confidant and friend.

His reputation will not be tarnished in my eyes. He will not go down with this bump in the road hanging over his head. Nor will his son and daughter-in-law.

Dave made a grave mistake. Don’t you do the same by putting his bad judgment off on the people who were lucky enough to love him for the man he is deep down inside – the Navy fighter pilot, veteran, Legionnaire, husband, father, grandfather, friend.

Oh, and horrible bowler.

I can understand many may feel cheated or dishonored by Dave, and honestly I can respect if you feel that way. However we will agree to disagree.

This is the memory of the man I will continue to cherish. For better or worse, I’ll never let my loyalty to the guy fade away. And I’d go down in flames fighting to protect his honor if need be.

Dave McLean America Legion

PHOTO COPYRIGHT CS PHOTO

ODE TO TONY: How his influence changed my life

IMG_0650By BLAKE HEMPSTEAD

I hate doing this now, but it may be looking like it’s time. Jesse, Tony’s oldest, and best looking son next to Beth (sorry, I have to make jokes just to get through this), told me a year ago not to write anything that resembled a goodbye. I’ve held back from every inclination to publish a blog sharing some of my favorite memories of Tony because of exactly that reason.

But I can’t hold back any longer.

Tony died Sunday, July 20, 2014, comfortable and at peace with his fate. Why was that easy for him to obtain? Well, because he lived life to the fullest and made sure to pass on his infinite amount of knowledge and compassion to anyone willing to listen. I’m lucky to have been one of the chosen ones in this regard.

Tony is so much more than just a proud Anacondan with a poor sense of choosing professional sports teams, he’s, well, I guess, he’s just Tony. Always with a smile, his IMG_0699patented crippling handshake made you aware he meant business. I always likened it to being Tony’s light switch – with every salutation and handshake came his undivided attention, almost like the whole world was blocked out when he was locked in and hanging on your every word.

You can’t tell me that’s the primary reason why Tony has been able to fight this disease for so long. Cancer could shut down every vital organ in his body, but there was no way it was going to touch his mind, his heart or his soul. I’ve never met a man so mentally tough, so passionate yet so approachable. And what I love most about those qualities is he’s passed it on to every one of his children.

I say mental toughness and all I can think about is Lisa. The way she banged her hands on the floor during a basketball game when the team needed a defensive stop. Or most notably when she robbed current Montana State women’s basketball player, Kellie Durham, of the ball during the 2009 girls’ State A semifinal against Miles City in the Civic Center. Down after the third quarter, Anaconda needed a big run to return to the state title game after winning in the year before over Glendive. Lisa stripped the ball from Durham, the Cowgirls’ freshman then, at half court then hit a spot up trey in transition when nothing seemed to go her way all game. That play reversed a game heading the way of the Cowgirls and spring-boarded the Copperheads past their Eastern A archrivals.

As history would tell you, Anaconda won that game and went on to win their second–straight state championship.

Even with all that success, Tony never let it get to Lisa’s head. He famously, or infamously if you will, challenged the Copperhead volleyball team during their Blue-Silver scrimmage the next fall. Then head coach Joe Mehrens always had Tony give the girls a talk about the game he’d been officiating forever. He challenged them on the spot, telling them to forget about basketball. He told them they haven’t done a thing in volleyball.

The two-time state championship-winning collection of senior girls were not impressed, nor were some of the parents. But Tony wasn’t your typical parent. He had kids who played sports—that he loved. But unlike your run of the mill parent, he never lived through his kids on the playing field. Of all the things I adore about the man, that’s probably atop the list.

When I was a wet-behind-the-ears radio broadcaster, let’s just say I was a little more IMG_3156opinionated than I should have been. Our boys’ basketball team featuring the likes of Zach Parks, Zane Kenny, Rochi Estes, Tyler Hurley, Sam Corey and Steve Antonich were in the State A tournament in Butte in 2006. They lost a heartbreaking opener to Glendive with some guy named Derek Selvig – a future Montana Griz standout – running the point. On Friday in loser out play, Anaconda was roughed up by a physical Miles City squad featuring former Grizzly football O-lineman Terran Hillesland, a 6-foot-6, 300-pounder, at center.

I let my emotions get the best of me that game and called out the officiating, which is a big no-no in the state of Montana. Through my eyes, a homer with a grudge at that time, I saw a three-man crew giving every single call to the other guys—which I know now just wasn’t the case.

A few weeks later, I saw Tony in the stands during the Wayne Estes basketball tournament in Anaconda. He was there to see his daughter, Beth, play with some college buddies from Miles Community College for Laslovich Construction. And I’ll never forget the ass chewing I got.

He came straight up to me, shook my hand, probably a little harder than usual, and told me how wrong I was. He listened to that game on the radio and couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He lit me up for a good five minutes without taking a breath. He told me I was going to write an apology to each and every official I called out and also to the Montana Officials Association for even hinting at any impropriety. He had friends on that crew and felt offended I would do such a thing.

I felt ashamed. At that point I never knew how influential my position on the radio was or could be. And with every written letter, Tony’s words gave me a whole new perspective on the game. Sure, I’m the biggest Anaconda fan there ever was, but now I’m an even better one because of Tony.

The lesson he taught me was simple; don’t blame others for your own faults. Look in the mirror, own up to your mistakes and move on. Tony called me out for being a blubbering idiot that day, and I’m so thankful he did. I don’t want to imagine how my life would be dragging around that kind of baggage and hatred, just because of a game. Because of his direction, I think I enjoy my job even more. I now focus more on the attributes and dedication of the kids on the playing field, court, course or wrestling mat rather than on how many state championships they’ve won as if it’s their only redeeming badge of honor.

I pattern my youth basketball coaching after Tony as well. I’ve never blamed an official for a bad call or a loss, not because it wasn’t warranted at one point or another, but because that’s the last thing an impressionable child needs to hear. The last thing my players need is to start blaming losses or calls gone wrong on an individual who has no personal interest in the game. Instead, they need to look themselves in the mirror, pick themselves off the ground and move on. And if nothing else, use that as motivation in order to get better.

If I’ve never said it before I’ll do it now. Thank you for setting me straight Tony.

I look at his kids and I feel such joy of the people they’ve become. I’ve got to know Kathy a little better over the years and realized just how tough she is as well. Anaconda just wouldn’t have been the same without them.

As for Tony, he treated me like a son, a friend, a man. I don’t know if I’ve respected or wanted to impress anyone else as much as him. I like to think I’ve made him proud at one point or another, whether it was in my conversations about his children or in the past year trying my best to help out in their time of need while he was fighting for his life.

In the end, it was all done in honor of a man who would’ve stopped at nothing to brighten another’s day.

Year after year, conversation after conversation, Tony was always teaching, laughing and loving. It’s just a shame something like this could happen to such an influential individual.

A tip of the cap to Tony. May his Green Bay Packers continue to break his heart from now until eternity, his San Francisco Giants win every World Series the Mariners aren’t in, and may he look down on Melissa, my children and myself and see that I’m trying my best to be the man, father, husband and friend he wanted me to be.

Until we meet again …

Montana USBC debacle 2.0; clarifying some issues

After reading the blog I posted Monday about my experience and thoughts on the 2014 Montana USBC Open bowling tournament being held in Anaconda, several officials and bowlers weighed in on some misinformation I published. I tried to clear those issues up below.

1. I was given some wrong information about the tournament possibly being split between Star Lanes in Butte and Cedar Park Lanes in Anaconda. It was clarified to me that it was our local association which voted to keep the entire tournament in Anaconda. According to my source, this was done for fear of losing the team event from a fully-functioning center such as Cedar Park and out of respect to their community of bowlers who would be tasked with volunteering during the tournament.

One member I spoke with said they felt an obligation to keep the entire tournament here because they weren’t sure if the state association would see distention and remove the tournament wholly from Anaconda if they voted to split the doubles/singles and team events. Whether that would have happened or not can be up for judgement, I will not speculate one way or the other.

2. The tournament shot. It was clarified to me that five bowlers (I will not mention their names) two left- and three right-handers, tested the shot out at Copper Bowl once it was drawn up. And I’ll fervently attest to the validity of these bowlers’ abilities (all of which I’ve beaten either head-to-head or in a tournament setting many times – sorry, I had to add that!). According to Mark Hodges, he confirmed the shot put out at Copper Bowl was extremely playable when bowled on according to all of the bowlers testing the conditions.

However, what happened from the day they tested the oil pattern and from what has been in play since is a mystery. According to a tournament official, two bowlers rolled a 300 and 278 last Sunday morning at Copper Bowl. Sincerely, good for them! But I will confirm and stake my reputation and ability on the following statement – they didn’t bowl on the same pattern I did 24 hours before. Maybe they didn’t strip all day Saturday. Maybe there was more oil out there from a days full of play. Or just maybe, like myself and a bar full of others witnessed after our 9 a.m. shift Saturday, some lanes were double and triple oiled when the oiler stopped running down the deck once it hit the arrows on Lane 6. No matter the case, some bowlers from the 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. shift bowled on completely different conditions – and I’m not just talking about typical carry down and less head old from non-oil, non-stripped shots. (And that’s what this board-certified competition shot was supposed to be protecting).

Kudos to Mike Evjen, the Montana USBC President, for taking upon himself to take the blame. It appears now, unlike before, the “shit” doesn’t roll downhill. With his response to my post, he clarified certain issues I spoke of intelligently and respectfully.

I would like to add this as food for thought. Because the state has since allowed a tournament director to reap the benefits in terms of payment who doesn’t set foot in the center other than when he/she bowls, where will we be during state tournaments to come? I will tell you right now, Ranie Kelly deserves far more than she’s being compensated. There’s no amount of money, other than the full administration fee the tournament charges, to give her. Nobody in their right mind will take it upon themselves to appoint a member of their local association to run a state tournament ever again if it doesn’t reimburse a tournament manager and/or volunteers accordingly. It’s too much work. So with that being the case, is the Montana USBC going to pay a member of the state board mileage and per diem to run these tournaments from Billings, Missoula, Great Falls, Libby or Miles City? What if they decline? Is Tom Brendgord going to travel to these tournaments and run them the way they should be? If that’s the case, if he can’t be at three at the same time with the Open, Women’s and Youth all going on at the same time, does he put the buddy system to work?

All I want to know is how the hell do I sign up for that gig? Or did Roz Gallup just hand it off to her Billings buddy for fear of losing some leverage on the state board?

And actually, that’s probably irresponsible for me to say. I don’t know if they are friends, acquaintances, bed buddies, etc.; but look at it from my point of view. Why does this USBC revolve around Billings? Is that just a false appearance or is it truly the case?

Blame who you want or call me an asshole for giving my opinion, but this tournament system and state board is a mess. For decades, the Montana ABC, WIBC and YABA all chose the best man/woman in their association to run their appointed tournaments. And when guys like Harry Shafer, Bill Meagor and Rich Potvin were in charge of it; they always worked beautifully. Sure, they were compensated nicely, but why wouldn’t they be? Why pay a Tournament Director who sits 250 miles away and basically does clerical duties and damage control instead of keeping all of that money in the local association? And actually, in terms of their compensation, they didn’t make a lot of money. It was a year-long process getting the entry forms ready, certifying averages, collecting money, getting the payouts correct, being their from the first ball to the last every weekend, verifying scores and issuing tough decisions consistent with the rule book. Now, the Tournament Director does far less with the help of a Tournament Manager, yet the state board employee is the one making the bigger payday while the local association takes it in the shorts.

In terms of Potvin, I remember he took it upon himself to buy equipment (balls, shoes, etc.) for youth volunteers, monetarily compensated others and, if I remember correctly, all but paid for the tournament-ending dinner we had after the final games were bowled. The way things are run now, Kelly will be lucky to pay for her food takeout and gas money during the two-month odyssey.  And I know for a fact Meagor did much of the same, if not more.

Evjen said the board wanted to go to more of a “standard condition” for championship tournaments. How can a state like Montana do that, especially in Anaconda where both houses have completely different environments and equipment (lanes)? I understand you want to hold these tournaments accountable for not giving an unfair advantage to the local bowler, but you don’t have to reinvent the wheel either. And especially when the handicap is now 95 percent of 235!

We’re basically bowling at 100 percent of our averages, so why not throw down a walled-up house shot to see the scores go through the roof? If your theory of fair play for one and all is truly the case, why not see bowlers leave with a smile on their face and not out of disgust for the game? I guarantee those of you who run leagues put out easy shots for over half of the bowlers who paid good money to come to Anaconda and compete in the state tournament. Ask them if they want a “challenge” when the go to a state tournament or a shot they feel comfortable on bowling with their buddies on week nights.

Or is our state board like other politicians, choosing to do what they feel is best for the tournament instead of asking their constituents? ASK THE BOWLERS WHAT THEY WANT! Despite what you think or what your years of experience tells you, a happy bowler is the only goal you have to achieve. Have the associations put out a shot that’s fair for all levels of abilities and make sure they stay with that same pattern from start to finish. You think local guys like Bill Edwards don’t know how to keep all levels of bowlers happy? He keeps a business afloat when he gets as much open play in a month or more as Missoula gets during a slow Friday night, and he’s competing with another center with six more lanes and 30,000 less people versus Missoula and Deer Lodge counties.

Here’s my advice, in summary. Get rid of this silly tournament director bullshit and give it back to the local associations which keep USBC alive and well. Stop over-thinking the “shot” in houses the board, collectively, has no intimate knowledge of. Keep your associations in check by communicating with their board of directors (which it appears you, Mr. Evjen, are doing a fine job with in your position).

Oh, and stop referring to bowling as a sport because the dudes and gals on ESPN tell you to. Anything you can do better while drinking/competing cannot be considered a sport (unless you’re a fan of San Francisco 49ers defensive linemen).

Peace!

 

Montana USBC tournament, Board of Directors; it’s time to do some ‘splanin’

Montana bowlers beware! This may not be what you want to read. Hopefully it either calms your nerves or prepares you for your impending trip to Anaconda in the next few weeks.

The incessant meddling, tinkering, toying and what I believe to be the ultimate demise of a great two-month event for Anaconda businesses was my take from my first experience in the Montana USBC State Open Bowling Tournament over the weekend.

And wow, I can’t wait to get started recapping that nightmare.

First of all, shame on the members of the board of directors, most notably USBC tournament director Tom Brendgord, for not fully accepting their duties of governing the biggest event in bowling for Montana kegglers. Collectively, you have put a black eye on Anaconda unfairly, and probably sealed the fate for the state tournament ever happening here again.

Let’s get the record straight, I knew right off the bat I wasn’t going to bowl well. I’ve thrown maybe 20 games in three years since taking a sabbatical from bowling to raise my children, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know the game better than most. I’m a 218 average bowler, thrown my fair share of honor scores, worked in the industry while attending college in Missoula at Liberty Lanes under Troy Haninnen, served on our local USBC board and ran a state juniors tournament in Anaconda. Ironically enough, after dealing with people intimately in Billings during that state juniors tourney, I stepped down from any and all dealings with the organization other than being a card-carrying member in good standing. Why? Because one thing I’ve realized while dealing with those people: the shit always ran downhill no matter the issue.

I’ll detail the issues I have with the tournament one by one.

1.  The shot.

What the hell were you thinking putting out an identically-specialized shot knowing that each house in play were as similar as black and white? Copper City, as you should have known before even sending out the entry forms for the Open, has wooden lanes so in need of repair (they haven’t been resurfaced since 2002 – and full disclosure, former owners were told the lanes could not be resurfaced any more IN 2002!) I don’t think they would burn if put to a flame. The heads are so burned up and exposed, all the oil is gone by the time warm ups are over. That wouldn’t be a problem if the pattern would carry down like most bowlers are accustomed to. Because the lanes are in such disarray, the oil is absorbed by the heads and evaporated into the porous surface so quickly it’s like pouring it down a drain.

Yet, Brendgord called for a universal pattern for both houses on old, unmaintained wooden lanes at Copper City and a synthetic surface at Cedar Park. This, my fellow USBC brethren, is where your membership dollars are going. Two weeks before the tournament, it was relayed back to Brendgord the shot wasn’t going to be popular with Montana’s typical median-to-low average bowlers after being tested out by over 10, 200-plus average players at Cedar Park. Luckily, we have board members like Mark Hodges who understands what the state tournament should be about (having a shot that the low to high average bowlers can have fun and score with). The shot was altered slightly and, I will tell you from bowling on it Saturday, is very fair – at Cedar Park, that is. Copper City is just a joke.

I’m a lefty with an above-average hand and solid velocity. I was the only one on our pair. My balls of choice were an Evolution Pro (scrapped by the end of practice) and a Columbia Spirit – a ball I drilled in Missoula in 1998. I averaged 164 with a high game of 189. Granted, I didn’t expect much in the first place having to go in scratch, but I at least wanted to have a good time with some friends I don’t get to hang out with much anymore. But realistically, who can have fun on that?

As a rule, I had to move – as a lefty, mind you – at least every fourth shot. That’s if I hit my mark every ball, which wasn’t the case. Now think of what the righty’s had to go through. Every ball they threw reacted differently. There was no strategy to the game, just a wing-it and pray mentality.

I’ll detail my setup from the first practice ball. I started standing 30 and looking 12-14. The first ball off my hand since the city tournament in February had a little to do with it too, but I hit the 3-pin going away hard. I threw harder hitting my mark, the same happened. I took hand out of the ball, it nosed through the head pin. I moved outside. I stood 15 and hit five. Same result. No matter what I did, no matter what I used, as soon as my ball hit the heads it was reading the lanes. Forget about building a shot or pattern, it was useless. In fact I would have started lobbing the heads if I was sure my ball wouldn’t have ended up in the basement. My only saving grace was knowing full well, after hearing the horror stories from the previous weeks accompanied with my already intimate knowledge of the bowling center, I was doomed from the get go. But then again, so was everyone else.  

My doubles partner John Hall, a state Hall of Fame member, finally had to quit in the fifth game as his hand and knee were nearly shot from having to throw so hard, lofting the ground up heads and sliding on very tacky approaches. Sure he’s in increasing age, but he can still throw a ball fairly well averaging 208 coming in to the tournament.

Bowlers like Hall are who we’re supposed to be protecting and thinking of during the state tournament. If we aren’t looking after the longevity of the game, promoting it from the youth ranks and making sure the playability and fairness of it coincide, why even have the tournament, or sanctioned leagues for that matter?

2. Having a tournament director not located in the city is a bad idea.

Brendgord should have already known all of this, yet our state board though this was the correct way to run these tournaments? When Rich Potvin ran the state tournament in Anaconda years ago, he knew. He had everything in control: the shot, the volunteers, the house owners – everything. Now, good people like Rainey Kelly, our association member designated as the on-site Tournament Manager, get to take the wrath of bowlers who entered this tournament thinking it was governed by a knowledgeable, coherent, caring director.

I remember dealing with certain bowlers who care to blame the facility, lanes, etc. instead of themselves on bad tournaments or outcomes. To say they are assholes is a disservice to all assholes out there. It just so happens now those assholes have a pretty good case (the same they did when Great Falls made us bowl at Pin N Cue and the illustrious lane with a ramp) and Kelly along with employees at the centers just trying to do their jobs are getting the brunt.

There are accounts of bowlers getting moved two and three times during a doubles/singles set due to overheating motors and other mechanical malfunctions. On Saturday, a guy next to us bowled out of turn and there were no employees who knew how to fix the error and get the arrows on the correct bowler. Again, is it their fault if they weren’t trained to help? No. That falls directly on the Copper City ownership. I will say the beer was cold, even if after my fourth I had to wait for a beer run to Albertson’s for another.

Last week, the ownership took out an ad in the local paper saying, among other things, Copper City was there to stay despite the rumors the doors would close after the tournament was completed – thus raking in the $9.30/bowler per event in lineage (already $4,929 not counting last week with still four weeks to go). Put it this way, to bring it up to respectability in order for the state to even consider bringing the tournament back to Anaconda again, it will be some sort of hefty financial commitment when there are currently only two competitive, USBC sanctioned leagues competing in the house (reportedly less than 20 bowlers per league). To make a conservative estimate, knowing the scoring systems, machinery, lane beds, approaches and gutters all need work, nothing short of $750,000 would make the place playable.

3. Bowling in small houses/towns can be done.

It’s simple, teams from Rudyard, Miles City, Missoula, Billings, Great Falls and Kalispell love bowling in Anaconda. It’s not often they get the opportunity to come to small towns and smaller houses to compete in a state bowling tournament, and I know our town has been hospitable to those who’ve traveled here. But nobody is going to come all the way to Anaconda to bowl on a terrible shot or on terrible conditions.

First, keep it simple stupid. Even the USGA has begun to see the errors of their ways over the years. They are making golf more inviting for the everyday player recognizing that they are the lifeblood of their game and not the low handicapper or touring pro. It’s the same with bowling. Because the average/handicap of the tournament is now a ridiculous 95 percent of 235, everyone in on the same playing field. So why throw out a shot that takes some ingenuity and additional equipment? If it’s selling merchandise in pro shops the tournament is after, well it’s working.

My thoughts are this: Why not just throw out a flat oil shot and let the bowlers dictate where it goes from there? Forget what you’re seeing on TV with the PBA; not only do most of the houses in Montana not have the capability to put out a shot like the specialized patterns bowled on by the pros, but many of the surfaces can’t hold it. With Copper City’s wood lanes the oil won’t carry down, instead it flares out and evaporates into the surface. At Cedar Park, that oil carries down the deck like it’s supposed to, but it also affixes itself to the rollers and ball returns. Over time, that increased accumulation takes a helluva toll on the older equipment, thus making it tougher for guys like Bill Edwards at Cedar Park to prepare and maintain such a long, sustained tournament with equipment malfunctions, repairs and cost overruns associated with the increased usage.

Then again, maybe this is what the big houses and cities want. Kicking Anaconda out of the rotation would make it better financially for Missoula, Great Falls, Helena, Butte and Billings because they get either the Open, Women’s or Youth tournaments a year sooner. If this is the case, even if it’s not spoken about in public, it’s a shame. We should leave politics out of our game and let the members speak.

Unfortunately, letting the members speak after this tournament will be a shame. So many bowlers are going to be upset about having to spend a weekend in Anaconda to compete on lanes like Copper City they are bound to shun us here. That’s why I felt it necessary to speak on Anaconda’s behalf.

If this tournament were run by our local association, doubles/singles would have been held at Star Lanes in Butte and the team even here in Anaconda at Cedar Park. Our association knew the facilities were inadequate to host a high level, quality tournament, yet the power that be refused to listen.

Like always, I’ll be the kicking post for Anaconda. As a board you can feel free to comment on your logic, call me a bitter ass who is just mad they didn’t perform well or try to dignify your decision to not listen to information you were being told since September. I know most of the board members, if only by name, from my time in bowling over the years, and I apologize if I’ve offended you. There are some good people who truly want what’s best for bowling serving their districts, but those who chose to turn a blind eye and leave it up to a tournament director located 250 miles to conduct our state tournament is either incompetent or in need of a wakeup call.

 Maybe this blog did just that.

Welcome to Anaconda bowlers, don’t hate the player or the game. Hate the clowns responsible for ruining what many saved-up and planned for since the second they finished the 2013 Open tournament.

Food for thought on the travel issue with Anaconda moving to Class B

There’s been plenty of data kicked around about the financial burden moving to Class B may put on Anaconda in terms of travel expenses. But in my findings, that’s just not the case.

I did a mock up schedule for football, volleyball, boys’ and girls’ basketball, boys’ and girls’ tennis and boys’ and girls’ golf, and it shows we can be lower in terms of mileage – in some cases significantly – and at no worse equal across the board when it comes down to it.

Regional scheduling is the key. If were to be put in the same conference as Missoula Loyola, Florence, Ronan, St. Ignatius and Deer Lodge, we have same level competition in non conference games available with short distance trips to Whitehall, Boulder, Townsend, Three Forks and even Manhattan.

Football, volleyball and boys’ and girls’ basketball and tennis travel becomes significantly less while boys’ and girls’ golf and softball would increase in the hypothetical scheduling. Wrestling, track and field and cross country won’t be much different due to the mixer style of events they already participate in.

One concern may be divisional and state tournaments, but I don’t think that’s fair to consider because success should be judged on a season-by-season basis. Girls’ basketball made the state tournament for the first time in three years this season, boys’ basketball hasn’t reached state since 2005, the Copperhead volleyball team hasn’t advanced to state since 2009 and the football team has made the state playoffs twice since 1995.

What I hate most about these numbers is seeing golf, one of the most successful programs over the years, having to move seasons. Head coach Mark Torney has worked his ass off with offseason practice schedules, even giving free lessons, and will now have to restructure his program if the change is made. But being the standup individual he is, he agreed he wants to do what’s in the best interest of all the kids of Anaconda. Although his program may see a decline with the spring scheduling, he’s still looking out for the best for AHS. Now that’s the sign of a great mentor and coach.

I love the competition in Class A. But I think it’s best we look at moving down to our rightful place in Class B. The numbers in terms of enrollment just aren’t up to par with schools in our division or conference.

Here’s a mock schedule which features regional scheduling.

mock schedule workup

My thoughts on Anaconda moving to Class B

On Monday, head coaches representing every Anaconda High sport met with AHS principal Paul Furthmyre, AD and vice Principal Shawn Hansen, SD10 Superintendent Dr. Tom Darnell and the board of trustees in order to consider a motion by Montana High School Association requesting the school to move to Class B. The move would take effect in the 2015-16 school year.

I reported on the meeting at kana580.com (click here for the article) but it’s no secret I think the school should consider moving to the lower classification for a number of reasons.

1), It’s time. We are competing against bigger school in the Southwestern A, and the only reason we aren’t as bad off in terms of numbers against the majority of schools is because the likes of Hamilton, Corvallis and Stevensville are fielding huge soccer and cross country teams (currently, Dillon, Anaconda and Butte Central are among the minority in Class A who do not offer soccer for either boys or girls). According to AHS head football coach Bob Orrino, we have approximately 30 kids out for football each year. I can confirm Dillon had nearly 60 on their JV-Varsity teams last year, not counting members of the freshmen team numbering similar to Anaconda’s entire program.

2), We need to stop fooling ourselves. Forget the recent successes we’ve had in the classification, those are on a case by case basis. Our girls’ basketball and volleyball teams from 2006-2011 were an anomaly. Sure they were among the best teams in the state regardless of classification, but so was Fairfield this year after completing a 105-game winning streak. Could they continuously compete against teams of larger enrollment? Possibly. But that success couldn’t be sustained.

3), I’m one of the biggest supporters of Copperhead athletics and love where we play. The SW-A has some great administration and coaching staffs, including our own. With that being said, it’s just not fair to our kids to keep fooling ourselves. We need to move to where our school can compete on a level playing field AS A WHOLE and not by using a case-by-case basis.

I will say I loved the passion by each coach stating their individual cases on Monday night. All were respectful of one another and expressed their own concerns in a civil, professional manner. I wish all of the issues hitting our school board could be conducted the same way. There’s passion, then there’s misguided anger.

I probably shouldn’t have even been at the meeting, but again I felt it necessary to say my peace. And I appreciate the coaches for bearing with what I had to say.

Being a numbers guy, I though it necessary to compare Anaconda to one of the two recent former Class A teams which dropped down to Class B due to the same concerns we are having. I used Bigfork as that model. Here’s what I found.

One of the last teams to move from Class A to Class B was Bigfork in 2009-10. But their collective downfall across the board was seen for years. Sure they had some individual success, but their team records were always at or near the bottom of the Northwestern A. They were competing with schools which had almost twice their enrollment, and although there were scattered wins here and there, sustained success was not realistically attainable.

In the case of football, Anaconda and Bigfork last met in Anaconda during the 2005-06 season. Anaconda, a 3-5 football team that year, beat Bigfork 21-7. The Vikings finished 1-7 overall that year, then went winless over the next three years with 0-7, 0-8 and 0-8 records before moving to their rightful classification. In 2009-10, the football team went a respectable 4-4, and immediately rebounded from embarrassing 30 and 40 point losses to division rivals. In 08-09, Bigfork was outscored 46.5 to 11.3. The year they moved, their scoring and defense improved dramatically. Although they still allowed 36.8 ppg, they also scored 24.9 ppg.

Then in 2010-11, they went 10-2 and won the Class B state championship. Four years leading up to their move they went 1-30. Five years since, 41-13. And that’s just in football.

In basketball, it was much of the same. The four year prior to the move the team recorded a 16-61 mark with the best record being 7-13 in 2005-06. Since, they’ve advanced to three state tournaments and placed twice going 98-24 over that span including a perfect 26-0 record and Class B state championship this season.

Anaconda is almost identical to the tough choice Bigfork made moving down a classification, but you can see what happens when a school plays against other schools of like enrollment.

Even if the goal isn’t to succeed like Bigfork has, it should be at least to give our student-athletes the opportunity to compete at a level comparable to their competition. Winning on the playing field breeds winning in the classroom. Like Shawn Hansen has always said, when the student athletes are competing at a high level outside of the classroom, his problems in terms of discipline, absenteeism and tardiness reduce significantly.

You thing Bigfork isn’t loving life competing against their level of enrollment and not against the like of Columbia Falls, Whitefish and Polson? Think again. Here’s a nice article speaking to their moving from The Flathead Beacon (click here to read the story).

Some against the move say the competition isn’t as good. I don’t agree. Sure, the crop of competition is lower due to the lower enrollments and larger amount of schools competing in the Class B (currently at 40), but when you get down to the final 8-10 teams, those squads, whether it any specific sport, would wipe the walls with teams one or two classifications higher on any given year.

What does change in lowering the classification is the sustainability of the programs. In Class AA or A, bigger class sizes allow for the ability to have more athletes to sustain success. In Class B or C, that probability lowers significantly. Sure there are some collectively better than others, but that goes back to the quality of life in each school district.

Unfortunately, our population is made up mostly of poverty level kids dealing with some tough childhood situations. Anaconda is tough, but even we have had some uphill battles with getting back on our feet from the Smelter closure. But we do what we can and offer some pretty amazing opportunities in terms of quality education and recreation. So why not level the playing field for our kids and coaches? Pit them against like enrollments in order to give us that ability to sustain a program? Why can’t we be the big fish, why must we always try to overachieve?

In terms of academic-athletic opportunities (now I just did football because it’s the easiest to track) for our students, football is very kind to small schools in Montana. I searched back four years in the Frontier and Big Sky Conference schools Montana and Montana State (last year and their recruiting classes this year), and the results are very encouraging.

Many will say the lower the classification, the harder it will be for our student-athletes to receive scholarships. However that just isn’t the case. Thanks to social media, collegiate coaches are more in tune with the smaller school now that ever.

Looking back at just football from the past four years, over approximately 869 players hailing from Montana were on Frontier rosters, and this doesn’t include Dickinson State (except for last year) or Jamestown College in North Dakota which loads up on small school athletes from eastern Montana. Of this 869, 319 came from schools from the Class B or C ranks. So in other words, 37 percent of all football players in Montana that go on to play college football in the Frontier Conference hail from Class B or C.

In terms of Montana and Montana State the ratio goes down slightly but is still significant. Last year, Montana had 26 locals on their roster with 2 players from small school. Montana State had 39 and 10. So 19 percent of all Montana football players at the Division I level are from smaller schools.

Lower the school into its correct classification won’t hurt their ability to earn a scholarship or even play at the next level in the least.

Being smaller doesn’t mean being worse. Let’s get that through our heads right off the bat. As soon as we can get that stigma out of our lexicon the sooner we can get back to a level playing field for our entire school district, not just on a case by case basis.

We’re all in this together, let’s hope we all make the right choice.

The School Board will vote on the issue on Wednesday night, if you have some input I advise you to attend no matter where you stand on the issue.

Don’t label me as THAT Seahawks fan

Let’s get something straight, I’m a Seattle Seahawks fan.

But I’m not THAT guy.

We all know THAT guy, the tool dressing up in garb pulled out of a 70s hookers closet, spouting off their knowledge of the team and professing THEY actually have some sort of divine connection with it.

I’m not THAT guy.

I know the game and I root for the same team I watched beat the Pittsburg Steelers 30-0 in 1986 in the Kingdome as a 9-year-old. It was my first NFL game and I was hooked. And even back then, there’s no way I would act like some of the poser fans who call themselves WE and US.

I’m not THAT guy.

I remember the 2-14 year of ’92. It signaled the end of one of my favorite Seahawks, Dave Kreig, and the search for his predecessor. Anyone remember Stan Gelbaugh? How about Rick Mirer? John Friesz? Or remember Gelbaugh actually beat out ’91 No. 1 pick Dan McGwire, brother of juicing slugger Mark? Think the majority of posers wearing neon green could even pick any one of these guys out of a lineup?

I’m definitely not THAT guy.

Who remembers the true reason instant replay was actually reinstated in the NFL? It’s because Dennis Erickson’s 1998 Seahawks got hosed in Jew Jersey when Vinny Testaverde scored a phantom touchdown that the NFL decided to install it into regular season games. Seattle finished with their second-straight 8-8 season and missed the playoffs by losing that game.

Honestly, I didn’t mind the call afterwards because it led to the front office hiring Mike Holmgren away from Green Bay and turning the team into an instant contender.

Tell me how many clowns running around Century Link actually remember Erickson as an NFL coach? They still think of him as the guy at Oregon State and Arizona State.

I’m not even close to being THAT guy.

Now everyone wearing Seattle colors remembers the debacle of the 2005 Super Bowl. The ‘Hawks got jobbed and everyone knows it. Even Bill Leavey, head referee in that game, came clean years later admitting he and his crew screwed the Seahawks. (Check it out here)

But Seattle faded away into obscurity and the land of punch lines following some 4- and 5-win seasons leading to the departure of Holmgren, and into the hands of the biggest pile of coaching feces, in my humble opinion, Jim Mora. Mora lasted one excruciating, mind-numbing year in Seattle in 2009 before being fired, with his most recognizable moment being calling out Olindo Mare – who just so happened to be his best offensive threat that year – for missing a kick vs. the Bears. And the kick didn’t even matter. They lost like 25-19 and Mare had already hit four field goals earlier in the game.

All poser fans can tell you about Mora is he’s the guy at UCLA who graduated from UDub and beat the Huskies this year.

Don’t even start calling me THAT guy.

Sure, I talk smack about the Seahawks. But I do it with friends. It adds some fun to the game. But there I was, watching the NFC Championship game all by myself in a quiet setting, enjoying some time away from my busy-as-hell life. And man were things good for those poser 49ers fans in the first half. Winning in Seattle, where they’ve been dominated for the better part of three years? All was good in Ninerland. Kaepernick was exorcising his prior failures in Seattle and they looked pretty tough.

But with halftime adjustments came a changing of the guard. Seattle turned it around and was the better team when it mattered most. Then I had to dodge haymakers from crazy fans who couldn’t take the shit they were shoveling.

You see, I’m just not THAT guy. I laughed when Richard Sherman’s true colors came out in the post game interview. Not because I’m a Seattle fan, but because I know how intense professional athletes can get. Forget Sherman was a Stanford educated Communications major, his sole purpose on this earth is to earn a living. Now how does he do that? By playing football. When his legacy can be defined and earning power maximized, Sherman’s intensity was displayed for everyone.

If you’ve ever had the opportunity to walk near a football locker room or on the sideline during a big rivalry, you’d see this behavior is not out of the ordinary. Why didn’t you see any other NFL players criticizing Sherman other than Michael Crabtree? Because they know football is a game of emotion, and one that could be ended with one play in every game they step on the field. It’s brutality for our entertainment, plain and simple. AND EVERY SINGLE NFL PLAYER TALKS SHIT AT ONE LEVEL OR ANOTHER ON EVERY PLAY. It’s just part of the game.

Should Sherman have acted in more of a civilized manner? Maybe. But he just secured reaching the caveat of his dreams by beating down a man who called him out at a charity event prior to the season, and he did it on the biggest stage. And moments later a microphone is shoved in his face to get his thoughts on what happened and he painted his picture of the events maybe a little too colorfully.

We joke about all the coach speak from players like Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, always spewing out the compliments as to not cross the line leading to bulletin board material. But when an athlete says exactly what’s on his mind we act like we’re in pure horror.

I like Sherman because he was real. He was put into a no-win situation, but he didn’t act as a poser. He owned up to his persona and said it exactly like it was. Now you can dislike him for being an ass, but don’t hate on him for being real.

Seattle is back in the Super Bowl, and now I get to enjoy a few weeks of buildup to seeing another football game I can root for. That’s all I really care about. And am I going to flick some stuff to my Denver Broncos friends, you’d better damn-well believe it. It will be all in good humor and fun, and in the end I know no matter how much I drink, cheer or hope Seattle will pull it off, it won’t affect the outcome of the game whatsoever.

Now THAT’s the type of fan I am.

Mitchell Stadium project back on track

With the news today of Montana Department of Revenue officials conceding it’s BS claims of “double taxation” by School District 10, it looks like we can finally put to rest an issue which stunted the growth of several district-building projects meant to enhance our schools.

For me, this specifically means that the Mitchell Stadium project is back in the works.

It’s no secret politicians with influence over the DOR and INTERCAP Loans programs threw our school under the bus for no good reason. They didn’t think renovating a “football stadium” with tax increment monies generated by the Mill Creek TIFID was in the spirit of why the fund was created.

But this is where I stand. Mitchell Stadium is a cathedral to me. When it was constructed, it was build by using Works Progress Administration dollars created by FDR’s New Deal. In other words, it put people in dire need of work in the Anaconda area to work during the Depression. In fact, it kept families together and alive.

The building of Mitchell Stadium, along with roads, sidewalks and other structures throughout Anaconda, kept laborers afloat, alive and well in our city. In fact, some of those families still remain today because of the WPA. Many went to work on the Anaconda Smelter or in the mines of Butte after WPA projects were retired.

So when Dr. Tom Darnell saw the need of reviving what has become a death trap of unstable footing, unsuitable restroom facilities and eroding buildings, the news swept through Anaconda like a brush fire.

Finally, because of Darnell and our Board of Trustees, Anaconda was going to have a brand new school facility we could be proud of free and clear of ugly band-aids and cost-cutting patchwork. WE were going to have one of THE premiere facilities for football and track and field in Montana. Well, until the suits in Helena got involved that is.

Hopefully we still push this project through. What better way to honor those who stayed in the Smelter City to raise their families during the Depression and built the grand stadium? Reviving the memory of those responsible for putting the original Mitchell Stadium in play while giving the future of Anaconda a grand place full of history to practice and play with pride while wearing “Copperheads” across their chests is exactly the way we should choose to honor that hallowed ground.

Now I know Anaconda is in need of several projects, namely a multi-use facility in order to serve all the student-athletes and citizens alike or even a new school, but first thing’s first. Rebuild Mitchell Stadium. Use local laborers once again to do so. Rebuild a sense of pride in our school and community by constructing something we can all rally around.

It’s again a good day to be a Copperhead!

‘Heads, Stetzner 1-for-1: claim titles at Old Works

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Caleb Stetzner recovers from a wayward tee shot on the Par 5 15th at Old Works Monday to win his first tournament of the season. © CS Photo

Playing in his first official high school tournament since his runner-up finish as a freshman a year ago, Caleb Stetzner shot a 3-over 75 in windy conditions to claim medalist honors at the Anaconda Invitational played at Old Works.

Then, powered by senior Jackson Wagner’s third-place 78, the boys’ team (351) recorded their first team win of the season as well, beating defending Class A champions Belgrade (363) by 12 shots in the process.

Ironically, Stetzner’s last high school round was also played at Old Works during the 2012 Class A state tournament last October. Unlike last year, Stetzner, who still didn’t putt spectacularly by any means, didn’t lose an excess of strokes on the greens. Because of that, he cut three strokes off his final round of 2012 en route to his first-place finish.

“Definitely hit more greens today,” Stetzner said, deflecting the emphasis off his putting, even if he said that part of his game was more precise than a year ago.

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Jackson Wagner tees off on the Par 3 17th at Old Works

Stetzner also had the joke of the year so far, lauding good friend Wagner for his steady round while chiding the rest of the team.

“He’s looking good, the first two of us are anyway,” Stetzner joked. “Towards the end at divisionals, we will all be there. I know it.”

Anaconda’s No. 3 and 5 players, Dennis Stanberry and Zach Dauenhauer, each carded 99s followed by sophomore Bryce Napier’s 119. All three were playing in their first varsity tournament.

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Alexandra Huber hits her tee shot on the Par 3 13th at Old Works © CS Photo

The Copperhead girls recorded two Top 10 finishes in seniors Alexandra Huber and Julia Peterson, finishing in eighth- and tenth-place with 102 and 104, respectively. Juniors Emily Morley shot 108 and Brittany Slaughter carded a 116 to round out the scores.

Polson’s Jaylin Kenney, who led after Day 1 of the 2012 State A tournament at Old Works and finished third, won the girls’ medalist honors with 91. Park’s Christal Tokash, the defending Class A champ, struggled in the windy conditions and finished fourth with 97.

Below is a complete list of all the competitors from Monday’s Anaconda Invitational.

Anaconda Invite results

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Anaconda’s Julia Peterson hits her approach shot on the Par 4 12th. © CS Photo

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Bryce Napier tees off on the 17th Monday. © CS Photo

 

 

Wagner wins SWMJGT final stop, earns season medalist honors

 

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Jackson Wagner hits his third shot on the Par 4 10th over Warm Springs Creek just close enough to drain a 60-foot par putt during the SWMJGT Tour Championship at Old Works G.C. Monday afternoon. © CS PHOTO,LLC

Jackson Wagner’s good play met some even better fortune Monday, carding a 3-over 39 on the back 9 on the way to a division-best 80 to run away with tournament honors at the Old Works Tour Championship Monday afternoon. 

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Wagner showing off the hardware he won at the SWMJGT today. © CS PHOTO, LLC

The win also secured his overall points championship as well, making him the medalist of the Tiger Woods Division (boys’ 16-17).

Wagner, the soon-to-be senior for the Copperhead boys’ golf team, has worked tirelessly on his game over the summer with sophomore friend and teammate Caleb Stetzner. Driven since finishing one spot out of All-State honors a year ago, Wagner has steadily lowered his handicap (now playing to a 7.1 hdcp) to become a viable contender with Stetzner — who won it as a freshman last season — for the Southwestern A golf title.

The Copperhead high school season begins play next Monday again at Old Works. Both boys’ and girls’ teams begin practice on Thursday at 2 p.m. at Anaconda Country Club.

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Alexandra Huber tees off on the Par 4 14th Monday at Old Works. ©CS PHOTO,LLC

Two other Anaconda golfer competed in the final tour stop today. Soon-to-be senior Alexandra Huber and Fred Moodry Middle School student Carter Morley both made the required stops to compete in the tour championship.

For more information on all SWMJGT events, go to www.swmjgt.com

TOURNAMENT RESULTS – Old Works Championship

FINAL TOUR STANDINGS

 

 

 

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Hardly a bad way to spend a Monday: Soon to be senior Alexandra Huber used Monday’s SWMJGT round to gear up for her senior season for the Copperheads. Here she tees off on No. 14 with the “A” Hill and Deer Lodge County Courthouse in the background. ©CS PHOTO, LLC