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Thursday, November 30, 2006


SPORTS

Thursday, November 30, 2006

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Hockey team rampages through Alamo City By Gabe Mendoza The University Star When thinking of a hockey town, San Antonio isn’t exactly the first place that’s going to come to anyone’s mind, as many may not know Central Texas hockey fans have it right there in their own backyard. Not too many Texas State students are familiar with the San Antonio Rampage, the AHL, or even the NHL for that matter. But the minor league affiliate of the Phoenix Coyotes has been turning sports fans into hockey fans since they arrived in the Alamo City back in 2002. Now with the team’s College Night, students can get their fill of the greatest game on ice. The San Antonio Rampage, now in its fifth season in the American Hockey League, is already the longest running hockey franchise for the city of San Antonio. Since their arrival in the Lone Star State, the Rampage have been building a loyal fan base, winning over the diehard hockey fans, and the moderately curious as well. “San Antonio is a nontraditional city when it comes to hockey, but we can bring people to the game,” said Pat Conacher, second-year head coach. “Our diehard fans are out here every night and they’re great, but people love winners, especially here where the Spurs have set the bar so high; we’re trying to win some games because that’s what people want to see.” For a franchise that has a split obligation of developing players for the NHL and fielding a winning team at the same time, the end product is usually a compromising balance of the two. “We’re a little bit different here in San Antonio,” Conacher said. “You want to develop playAustin Byrd/Star photo ers, but the organization has an investment in the team so you PROTECTING THE NET: Defender Travis Roche, a former all-star and American Hockey League want to win some games too.” champion, chases down the puck during the San Antonio Rampage’s Nov. 18 3-1 victory over the As with any professional franHartford Wolf Pack.

“I

’m not going to be the guy in the locker room that’s going to be getting in people’s face. From what I’ve seen, the less you say, the more you’re respected.” — Travis Roche Rampage defender

chise, winning is the big sale for getting fans to the game. But for those that aren’t too familiar with hockey in general, a Rampage game at the AT&T Center is a great, inexpensive way for students to spend an evening on the ice. The AHL is a mix of new and old. Rampage defender Travis Roche is a former all-star and AHL champion. He is one of the veterans of the league and has been around the game since he was a child. “All my life I’ve wanted to play hockey,” Roche said. “Growing up in the northwest territories (of Canada), there wasn’t much else to do, really. My dad and I would sit down and watch it on TV and it was really easy to get involved.” The hard-hitting defenseman from the Northwest Territories of Alberta, Canada may be all business on the ice, but when the skates are off has thoughts of another possible career down the road. He might just be the next great crocodile hunter. “Growing up in Canada, you don’t get the same TV channels you get out here,” Roche said. “I saw that show and fell in love with the Croc Hunter. All that is so interesting to me, and I wouldn’t mind maybe pursuing it in the future.” Maybe someday he’ll be chasing crocs through the swamps of Australia, but for now he’s setting an example for the younger guys on the ice with his play and his attitude.

“I’ll tell the younger guys that if they want to be a good professional, they should just follow Travis for a week or two,” Conacher said. “The guy is a professional on and off the ice as well.” Guys who have been around as long as Roche has show the respect for the game that defines a true leader. “Going about what I’ve done in this league for the last six years, I just try to keep the other guys accountable on and off the ice,” Roche said. “I’m not going to be the guy in the locker room that’s going to be getting in people’s face. From what I’ve seen, the less you say, the more you’re respected.” Students who want to catch Roche and the rest of the Rampage in action can get in on it cheap with College Night. On Thursday-night home games, those presenting a student ID get a game ticket, hot dog, chips and a soda for $9.95. In addition to the game itself, students are invited to a pre-game meet and greet with the Ice Girls and the Miller Lite Kiss Miss Team. Each night, students can enter a drawing to win grand prizes, ranging from $50 gift cards at H-E-B, Valero and Simon Malls on Nov. 30, to a roundtrip ticket on Southwest Airlines on Dec. 14. On Jan. 4, the team will be giving away a spring break trip. The Rampage will return to the ice for college night, Nov. 30 at 7 p.m. when they take on the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights.

Culhane making voice known with start of basketball season By Carl Harper The University Star The voice of Bobcat radio, Bill Culhane, has been living his dream for over a decade at Texas State. He has been a broadcaster for college and high school sports since 1993, mainly working as the man for Texas State sports. The most intriguing part of Culhane’s presence in San Marcos has been the relationship he has built on the air. “It has been a family atmosphere,” Culhane said. “The most rewarding thing is the relationship I have here with all the coaches and everybody in the department. I feel blessed to have this opportunity and if it all ended tomorrow, I would have no regrets.” Culhane has done multiple seasons with Bobcat and San Marcos High School Rattler football, but his focal point rest with the men’s basketball team, where he will be working this season. “I’ve been with the men’s basketball team since ‘94 without a break,” Culhane said. “There were two seasons in the late 90s I didn’t do football. A man named Woody Johnson came in and pushed me aside. But after he moved to Ohio for another job, I was brought back on board to do football for the 2000 season.” The Maryland native got his start in broadcasting in 1992 when Rick May, currently the voice of Baylor women’s basketball, asked him to be his statistician. At the time Culhane was a student at then-Southwest Texas State and May’s co-worker at a property management company at the Arboretum in west Austin. Through conversation, May mentioned he was doing Baylor football for KRZI radio. Along side of May was former Dallas Cowboy Burton Lawless, who was the analysts at the time. “That one football season with May and Lawless, I thought, ‘this is too cool, these guys get paid to go to games,’” Culhane said. Culhane took the opportunity to do stats for May and eventually moved up to doing post-game live coverage. He revealed his talent to Texas State and did his first radio coverage on KTSW, the student-run radio station, for the volleyball team in November of1993. It wasn’t until just one year later that the opportunity to broadcast football was given to him. “In the summer of ‘94, Tony Unanski was doing Bobcat football, but then was asked to do play-by-play for the San Antonio Iguana hockey team,” Culhane said. “I was still a student at the time, but the athletic department asked me to be the voice of the team anyways.” When football season was over, the need for a voice of the basketball team was up in the air. Culhane took that

Austin Byrd/Star photo VOICE OF THE BOBCATS: Bill Culhane, broadcaster for Texas State and San Marcos High school athletics, has been working in Texas sports radio ever since his start as a statistician in 1992.

opportunity and has stuck with it ever since. Right out of high school in 1982, Culhane joined the U.S. Air Force and spent the next ten years traveling around the globe. His first station was in Champagne, Illinois where he worked with the University of Illinois athletic department. His occupation was parking cars for the football players for a free sideline pass to the games. From 1984 to 1987, Culhane was transferred to England where he worked in the Nuclear Surety. “I was basically responsible for checking the certification of every personnel in the Air Force who worked around nuclear weapons,” Culhane said. Culhane moved back to the United States in 1987 for an assignment at Clemson University to work on Aerospace Studies until 1991, and then went to South Alabama University to

continue his studies for his final year with the Air Force. After leaving the military, he moved to Austin and became a Bobcat in 1993. “In the Air Force I went to school wherever I was stationed,” Culhane said. “In Europe I took online courses through the University of Maryland. I was classified as a sophomore when I got to Texas State.” In the winter of 2002, KTSW was losing their ability to webcast Bobcat sports. The federal government was coming down with new requirements and created a financial problem for Texas State. Rather than paying more, KTSW was going to stop screening the games. “Guys in the athletic department knew I had (sports information director) background,” Culhane said. “They approached me to put something to-

gether.” Culhane created what was known as BoosterCast to screen Bobcat basketball. “I couldn’t see Texas State not having the opportunity for the parents of the athletes to be able to hear about their kids,” Culhand said. “We also started doing Rattler football to reach out to the community. It gave students the opportunity to get broadcast experience.” After a year of the successful BoosterCast, College Sports TV and Bobcatsports.com took over and the need for webcast screening faded. Culhane said it served its purpose for a year and was thrilled that it worked. Culhane’s partner on Bobcat football, Brant Freeman, entered the broadcast picture in 2003. Culhane took Freeman under his wing and helped jump start his career.

Freeman has been doing Bobcat football since 2003 and now works in Smithson Valley at KGNB 1420. “Two words that describe Bill are ‘ultimate professional’,” Freeman said. “His knowledge of the game is very crisp and very good. He flat out loves the Bobcats and bleeds maroon and gold more than anyone I have met.” Culhane lives with his family in Pflugervile and does sales for a company that provides document management and solutions for Fortune 500. When not working or spending time with his loved ones, he roams Hill Country speaking for the Bobcats. “I’m a Bobcat,” Culhane said. “I have had other opportunities come up in the past where I could have left, but I’ve got my career doing Bobcat radio. Until they tell me ‘thanks, see ya later,’ I will do everything I can for Texas State.”


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Sports programs get booster shot with Signing Day additions By Jacob Mustafa The University Star

Austin Byrd/Star file photo NO PADS HERE: Players grapple for control of the ball during the Texas State club rugby team’s game against Texas Tech Sept. 9 at the West Campus practice field.

Longhorns visit in final match By Richard Lopez The University Star The Texas State rugby team will take on Texas on Friday at the West Campus practice fields in the final game of the semester. “UT is a tough team. We usually have the muscle and they have the game plan. Their backline is quick and their pack is well disciplined,” said team captain Christopher Mutschler. “They will be a tough match and I hope we can muster up a win to keep us rolling into the spring semester.” The team will look to take advantage of the opportunity to sap a bit of the Longhorn’s pride. “Our team always looks forward to this game as we all have a grudge to beat the Longhorns. They are a proud team and there are few things sweeter in the sport than beating a proud team,” Mutschler said. “Anytime I get to hit a UT player is a great feeling. We dislike that team and love getting to beat up on them when we play.” There is still one half of the season to go, in the spring semester. Philip Laney, exercise and sports science junior, encouraged the student body to come out and see what Renegade Rugby is all about in the season finale. “Come out watch a game whether or not you know what is s going on,” Laney said. “It’s a great atmosphere with lots of excitement. This game against Texas will be a good milestone to see where we stand as a club.” The team, known as the Renegades, has enjoyed a successful semester, with two second-place finishes. The team also won the annual Cowtown Tournament in Fort Worth. The Renegades are 2-0 in cup matches this season, which are four games played to determine the seed-

ing in the state championship. The top two teams in the state will advance to Westerns, which is a national competition held in Colorado. The two cup match victories came against the University of St. Thomas in Houston and rival Sam Houston State. This year’s team saw much change, as familiar faces were replaced by new additions to the squad. Although many would see that as an obstacle, Mutschler sees the quality of the newcomers as part of the reason for the team’s success. “We had about 40 rookies try out for the team. From those, about half stuck around once the contact started. Rugby is one of the most physical games there is and it takes a tough person to really enjoy it,” Mutschler said. “The rookies have been phenomenal. They have picked up the game very quickly and are the most aggressive bunch I have helped coach.” The captain also credited the young squad members for preparing the team sufficiently in practice. “Our rookies hit harder in practice than some other teams hit in games,” Mutschler said. “By taking this raw talent and changing the mindset from football to rugby, these guys have matured nicely and have really brought class, respect and hardnosed rugby to the Renegades, and we could not be where we are without them.” Another high point this season has been the dedication that not only the players have shown to the team, but the coaches and fans as well. The support also includes 25 female students known as the Renegades Roses. “We have great, dedicated, strong athletes with a lot of leadership. We couldn’t do it without Scot Courtney or James Summers, our alumni coaches,” said Brian Sauer, mass communication junior. “Our alumni and parents always come out to support us.”

Texas State athletics programs have wasted no time in bringing in new talent with this month’s Signing Day, ranging from instate talents to proven junior college players. Men’s basketball was among the many programs to fill needs for next year, signing 6-foot9-inch, 240-pound center Ty Gough and 6-foot-8-inch, 230pound power forward Jonathan Sloan, who both add a great deal of size to a front court lacking in the area this season. Basketball also signed point guard Ryan White, a Houston native who is ranked as the 28th best high school player in Texas by www.rivals.com. White is a speedy scorer who works well in an up-tempo offense, something Coach Doug Davalos acknowledged he can not teach to anyone. “We always look for things we can’t coach,” said Davalos, “and you can not coach size an you cannot coach quickness.” Davalos believes the basketball program’s recent change in strategies to a higher scoring, faster-paced style of play will help entice young players from around the state and country to join the Bobcats and get involved in the team. “Kids are going to see our scores,” said Davalos. “And they will know right away, we play a fast-paced system. And players want to play like that.” Further adding to the depth for the Bobcats are Cameron Johnson and guard Brent Benson; the latter was the all-time leading scorer at his alma mater, Gainesville High School in Gainesville, Ga. Benson has since had a successful run at Coastal Georgia Community College, while Johnson is the 35th ranked Texas player according to rivals. com and should adapt every well to the Bobcats’ system, Davalos said. “We want to be balanced,” Davalos said. “Right now we have a lot of combo forwards and guards that we will use to our advantage, but the goal is to bring

“W

e always look for things we can’t coach, and you can not coach size an you cannot coach quickness.” — Doug Davalos men’s basketball coach

in new players and get balanced.” Where the men’s basketball program looks to continue a rebuilding process, the women’s volleyball team and Coach Karen Chisum have the benefit of recent years of success to help entice new recruits, of which the Bobcats have added three, including Melinda Cave, Shelbi Irvin and Stephanie Puckett. Puckett is a versatile talent who also participated in track and field at Allen High School. Irvin is a one-time nominee for the Houston Chronicle’s Girls’ Athlete of the Week, while Cave is from Placentia, Calif., where she helped El Dorado High School to a 10-0 record in league play this year. “I just think getting good people is huge,” Chisum said. “I promise them and their parents that they will come here and be surrounded by good people, which is something I try and do here.” Along with their personalities off the court, Chisum said she the way Puckett, Cave and Irvin carry themselves on the court, where hustle can help propel the team to another Southland Conference championship after coming up short this year. “That (hustle) is going to catch your eye,” Chisum said. “They hear about us and the success, but when they visit, they just fall in love with the campus and the school.” The Texas State baseball team also had an eventful signing session, as they added eight new players, including four incoming freshmen and four transfers from junior colleges. The recruiting class includes infielder Bo Mer-

rell, brother of 2005 alumnus and first baseman Cody Merrell. Bo has twice been drafted by the San Francisco Giants. Baseball also picked up center fielder Bret Atwood and all-state pitcher/shortstop Brian Borski, who hails from St. Thomas High School in Houston and has led his team to a state final appearance. Coach Ty Harrington said he is enthused about the class he has signed for next season and thinks his team is more complete than a year ago. “For us, it certainly answered a lot of immediate needs,” said Harrington. “We, like every program, are always looking for good players, but we are happy with this year’s class.” The women’s basketball team’s incoming additions are Kim Cessna, a star at San Antonio/ McLennan Community College where she was named among the top-50 female junior college players, and Sarah White, who has been a student-athlete at Texas State for a year, but was not eligible for play in the current 2006-07 season. The softball team has added two student-athletes from the greater Houston area in corner infielder Jenna Emery and outfielder Allyce Rother. Rother is currently a senior at Tomball High School and is expected to become a utility player. Emery is a power hitter who ranked in the top 10 in RBIs in Houston high schools as a junior; she has primarily played third base, but may spend time at first. The women’s golf team added three new players, Caitlin Bliss, Adin Stromgren and Jordan Rhodes. Rhodes qualified for the 2006 US Girls Junior Championship and a ranking of 53rd in the American Junior Golf Association Polo Rankings. Stromgren is a Topeka, Ka. native who was a first-team all-state player in 2005 at Washburn Rural High School, and Rhodes is student at Churchill High School in San Antonio, where she won the Woodlake Invitational and South Texas PGA State Mid-Year Championship in tournament play.


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Loud Crowd the heart of Bobcat fandom By Jacob Mustafa The University Star At the men’s basketball season opener earlier this month, opponent and Texas Lutheran guard Nate Walton may have had a hard time focusing because of Texas State’s premier, raucous fan group, the Loud Crowd. “If we can get their players taken out of the game,” said Frank Bartley, Loud Crowd founder and president. “Then yeah, I’d call that a success.” The Loud Crowd is a student organization unofficially founded in 2004 by four Texas State students who wanted to have a little more fun at men’s basketball games at Strahan Coliseum. While the operation may have begun as an unofficial gathering of friends who wanted to be louder than usual, the group has blossomed into the school’s primary support group for athletics, venturing into football and volleyball cheering and heckling, which the group emphasizes. “Athletics is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical,” said Jon Janis, vice president of the Loud Crowd. “Anytime you can

“I

think we are obligated to developing a tradition of pride in the university and our athletics.” — Frank Bartley Loud Crowd co-founder

get into the other team’s head, that’s big for us.” The group’s intended purpose, according to its mission statement, is to “promote school spirit both on and off campus.” However, the group may be best known for its willingness to heckle, berate and frustrate opposing teams. “The reactions we get from the players are priceless,” said Anna Shoemaker, pre-mass communication freshman. “When you can get a player from the other team to almost start crying or almost get arrested, it’s fun.” As fun as it may be, Bartley said the organization may be known for their ability to denigrate, but its intended purpose

reaches for more than simple screaming. “We are trying to perpetuate pride and traditions, and we want to be supporting every part of Bobcat athletics,” Bartley said. “It might take some time, but that is what we want.” Bartley said there is a lack of enthusiasm throughout the school for many of the sports that have much bigger audiences at other universities. The group of approximately 40 members not only takes pride in its energy and intensity that can bother teams visiting the Bobcats, but it also speak highly of its ability to, well, speak highly. “It gets really loud,” Shoemaker said. “It can get to where

Photo courtesy of Mike Strunk THE REBEL YELLS: Members of the Loud Crowd show their emotion during a Bobcat football game at Strahan Coliseum. The group has been registered as a student organization at Texas State since 2005.

sometimes I can not hear the person next to me.” According to several group members, outsider response, ranging from fellow students to San Marcos residents, has been overwhelmingly positive. The games and the Loud Crowd’s involvement have been one of the group’s best tools for increased membership, as friends and bystanders watch a group of people show no trepidation in having fun and doing whatever helps for their team. “I had a friend from my hometown in the group,” Shoemaker said. “I went to a game with them and saw how much it could be.” Shoemaker not only believes it can be enjoyable for any Bobcats fan but said it can help female fans who had been reluctant to show their fandom break out of their shells and become the fanatics they truly are. “I think it is a great way for girls to go out and cheer when they are not cheerleaders,” Shoemaker said. As the Loud Crowd adds members, it continues to make sure they have young fans; the four founding members are now close to graduation. “These freshmen and sophomores just have that excitement,” Publications Director Mike Strunk said. “They just want to go out there and have fun.” The group nears its third year of existence and is faced with the reality that four buddies who thought basketball games were not quite loud enough now are the foremost athletic fan organization at a major university. This weighs on Bartley, and he said he thinks the group is taking it in stride. “I think we are obligated to developing a tradition of pride in the university and our athletics,” Bartley said. “We want to decorate The Quad for big games, and we are selling rally towels, and we just want to do things like that to get people involved.” Despite any obligations the Loud Crowd’s members may feel, the ebullience of being a part of the group at a home game is what it was created for. “It’s just like a tidal wave,” Strunk said. “I think every person who enjoys any sports has that crazy fan in them, and that is what it is about.”

HIGH HOPES: Sophomore guard Brandon Bush (3) slams home two of his career-high 27 points in the opening minutes of the Bobcats’ Nov. 10 game at Strahan Coliseum against Dallas Baptist.

Austin Byrd/ Star file photo

Men’s basketball off to rocky start By Nate Brooks The University Star Growing pains are part of the process in any coaching change and subsequent program overhaul, and Texas State is learning the road to becoming a successful basketball program is not going to be easy. After winning their season opener against Dallas Baptist, the Bobcats have struggled to put together a complete game, dropping four straight contests. Losses to North Texas, Arkansas-Little Rock, Texas-Pan American and Centenary College leave the Bobcats looking to improve over the winter break in time for conference play, which begins Jan. 4. The Bobcats’ inability to put together two good halves of basketball has been a pervading theme so far this season. A great second-half effort against Centenary was not enough after falling behind by 21 points late in the first half. Then after taking a three-point lead to halftime over Arkansas-Little Rock, Texas State was outscored by nine in the second half on its way to an 83-77 defeat. Texas State took North Texas into halftime tied 40-40 but couldn’t rebound from a Mean Green 17-4 run to start the second half on way to a 95-77 loss.

To turn the corner, Texas State must improve on defense, which is surrendering 87.8 points per game and allowing opponents to 52 percent shooting from the floor. The Bobcats are averaging 81.8 points per game, and shooting 44.2 percent from the field. Fouls have also been a problem for the Bobcats this season as well, allowing opponents to shoot an average of 41.6 free throw attempts per game compared to just 27.2 for the Bobcats. Preseason second-team selection Charles Dotson has been a bright spot for Texas State so far, leading the team with 16.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. Sophomore Brandon Bush has been solid as well, averaging 13 points and four rebounds per game, while shooting 41 percent from three-point range. However, the road ahead only gets tougher for the Bobcats when they take on Baylor on Dec. 2, and 25th-ranked Texas on Dec. 16 on the road. Texas State then travels to play TexasEl Paso Dec. 19. The Bobcats will host games against Texas-Pan American (Dec. 9), Texas-Permian Basin (Dec. 13), Texas A&M International (Dec. 28), and Centenary College (Dec. 30) before starting up conference action Jan. 4 against Central Arkansas.


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Thursday, November 30, 2006

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NRA might have to shoot down competition By Lew Freedman Chicago Tribune

Ken Love/Akron Beacon Journal QUESTIONING THE RULES: The Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James drives down court while playing the Portland Trail Blazers Nov. 15. NBA Players Association president Derek Fisher said more young, influential, players like James are needed to gain more bargaining power against Commissioner David Stern.

NBA players feeling the pinch of new behavior rules By David Aldridge The Philadelphia Inquirer PHILADELPHIA — Antonio Daniels always has worn a suit to and from work. He always has been one of the NBA’s most accessible and quotable players, not to mention one of the best assist-turnover guys in the game. He never has caused a minute of trouble as a solid role player for five teams. So he doesn’t appreciate being treated like a child. “I’m 31 years old,” Daniels, now a Wizards guard, said last week. “I’ve been in this league. This is my 10th year. I don’t even feel right thinking like that.” Daniels, like many NBA rankand-file players, is continuing to grumble about the latest in a series of behavioral rules changes handed down by the league. For all the griping about the new ball, players are much angrier about a new edict that gives referees more latitude in calling technical fouls. The league insists it is not a zero-tolerance policy, as some players have said, but a way to keep players from complaining without end about calls and non-calls. But many players believe it is part of a pattern by the league, an attempt to homogenize behavior. “To me, a lot of the things that are being done are a sign of things to come,” Daniels said. “It went from the dress code (players were prohibited last year from wearing non-dress jeans, sleeveless shirts or shorts, Tshirts, jerseys or bandannas on the bench). And you realize, ‘OK, now that’s the small piece. Now it’s going to keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger.’” “Then it goes to the ball. Then it goes to the shorts. Then it goes to no chewing gum, no moving during the national anthem, no antics during fouls. So it’s just like a sign of things to come. Who knows what’s next? Your hair has to be shoulder length? Your tattoos have to be covered up? So where does it stop?” Billy Hunter, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, said recently that he was contemplating suing the league. The union has been canvassing players all month to see exactly how strong they feel about the issue. A lawsuit is still a long shot. Newly elected Players Association president Derek Fisher said by telephone last week that he would have to know that the vast

majority of players — about 75 percent, Fisher said — were on board. Still, Fisher knows that players are looking to the union to say something. The main issue with players is that they weren’t consulted or allowed to have a say on any of the changes. “The guys are looking at us like, `What are you guys doing? If they can just put down rules without talking to us, what’s the point of having a union?’ “ Fisher said. “And guys are coming down on us right now.” Stern’s unilateral powers have been challenged before by the union. In the last collective-bargaining agreement, the union won a concession that any player suspension greater than 12 games now could be appealed to a neutral arbitrator instead of Stern. “We’ve just got to try and figure out how to improve that part of our relationship with Commissioner Stern and the rest of the league,” Fisher said. “There’s still these situations where the power’s flexed and there’s not much we can do about it. And if we file a grievance or a lawsuit, then we look like the bad guys.” “Commissioner Stern’s just like (President Bush). He’s got the veto power on just about everything. You can do all this stuff, but at the end of the day, based on the (collective-bargaining agreement), he’s the end-all. The arbitrator, even if they agree with us, once they read that language, there’s not much they can do.” Fisher said he also needs the support of some of the league’s young superstars, such as LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. “We don’t have that star-power representation that will make Commissioner Stern and those guys say, `OK, we’ve got to listen up and hear what these guys are saying,’” Fisher said. Asked last week if he should be more active in the union, James said: “I agree. I have to get involved at some point. Myself, Dwyane, Carmelo (Anthony), all the younger guys, we have to. When we figure out how we’re going to approach it, then it’ll probably be much better. But if they look at us as the face of the NBA, or however they see us right now, at some point we’ll have to voice our opinion.” In the interim, the players would just like more input. “It should be somewhat of a compromise and not a dictatorship,” Daniels said.

The membership of the National Rifle Association is 4 million and it is rare to hear a hunter or competitive shooter make strong statements against the organization. That’s because the NRA is viewed as the uncompromising, stalwart, shooters’ rights defender. So when Ray Schoenke, former Washington Redskins football player, a life-long gun owner and an avid hunter says, “They don’t speak for me,” it is an attention-getter. Schoenke and his partners appeared at a national outdoor writers convention in Lake Charles, La. recently to muster awareness and support for the new American Hunters & Shooters Association, billed as an alternative to the NRA. The association, said Schoenke, president of the new group, is more middle-ofthe-road politically than the NRA. “We think for most hunters and shooters, that’s where they are,” he said. “There’s a middle ground.” The NRA’s position on gun control is best epitomized by former group president Charlton Heston’s legendary stance indicating the only way he would give up his gun is if someone pried it from his cold, dead hands. For the Hunters & Shooters Association, the issues do not have to be black and white. “No one needs an assault weapon,” Schoenke said. Robert Ricker, the Frederick, Md.-based group’s executive director, said there are millions of Americans who are neutral, or who don’t have informed opinions about gun ownership, hunting and the shooting sports, and they must be reached by an organization that doesn’t seem extremist.

“W

e want to change the impression of hunting and shooting in the minds of the general public.” — Robert Ricker American Hunters & Shooters Association executive director

“We want to change the impression of hunting and shooting in the minds of the general public,” Ricker said. “The heritage, the fathers and sons, gets forgotten. Instead, `It’s all bad.’ What we have to do is teach all these people in the middle.” Not surprisingly, the NRA is attuned to such challenges from competing gun rights groups, hinting that the Hunters & Shooters Association might be a fifth column on the side of gun-possession foes. Though it sounds far-fetched in this case, the NRA says beware of enemy “antis” in sheep’s clothing. The Hunters & Shooters Association might be “trying to market itself as a hunting group,” said Andrew Arulanandam, NRA director of public affairs. “I would say they do support the (President) Clinton gun ban which encompasses semi-automatic weapons. We have no gray area in our support for hunting.” The NRA is the 800-pound gorilla. The organization has many friends who trust the NRA to head off threats to gun ownership and count on its lobbying muscle. “We have a presence in Congress,” Arulanandam said. “We have a presence in all 50 states. Politicians at all levels pay attention to us. We are the largest hunting orga-

nization in the country.” The Hunters & Shooters Association believes there is room for compromise in areas such as assault weapons. But the NRA has an all-or-nothing outlook and that approach has worked for it. The NRA is well-funded, established, has a powerful voice and is a well-known brand name that resonates even with people who are not hunters and shooters. The organization isn’t welcoming because it doesn’t see a need for assistance, certainly not from a group that might water down the NRA’s hardcore message. “If you are a law-abiding American, we don’t think your (gun ownership) rights ought to be restricted,” Arulanandam said. “We’re interested in getting guns out of the hands of criminals. Go after the criminal. Leave the ownership of firearms to those people who aren’t a problem.” The Hunters & Shooters Association has no illusions. The NRA has millions of members and the new association has hundreds. Schoenke and Ricker are convinced that making believers out of the vast numbers of Americans who have no strong opinion about hunting or shooting sports can benefit activities. Logic says they are right, that there are always many undecideds. But we live in a time when politics is dominated by sound bites, not well-thought-out views. The modern political world is characterized by absolute positions, not middle ground stands. The NRA is right at home with that. The Hunters & Shooters Association is banking on a willingness to listen that may overestimate its intended audience. “Part of our job is to bring back the view that hunting is our heritage,” Schoenke said. “We don’t want the soccer moms out there to be frightened of us. It takes time and it’s hard.”

Sam Cook/Duluth News HEADING HOME: Dave Hall and his son, Austin, head back to their truck after a morning of hunting woodcock in St. Louis County, Minn. The new American Hunters & Shooters Association aims to support sport shooting in a more moderate fashion than the NRA by emphasizing aspects such as father-son bonding.


Page C8 - The University Star

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Thursday, November 30, 2006

11 30 2006 Section C  
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