By Stan J. Griffin: March 5, 2015

Over the years the movie-going public has been treated to a great number of cinematic classics involving the world of sports.

And while the hoity-toity movie critic crowd tends to turn up their nose at flicks that glorify games on the field, have fairly simple storylines and are designed to elicit inspirational and sometimes sappy messages, the sports movie genre has attracted some pretty high-caliber actors to lend their incredible talents to make these epics particularly special.

Robert Redford, Robert Deniro, Walter Matthau, Matthew McConaughey, Denzel Washington, Gene Hackman, Dennis Hopper, Dennis Quaid and Gary Cooper among others.

 And if you are anything like me in terms of movie tastes, then classics such as Pride of the Yankees, Brian's Song, Miracle, Raging Bull, and of course all of the Rocky movies will always inspire special memories and sentiments.

And for some of us "tough guy" types, some of these flicks can actually cause us to become downright weepy.

So what makes a great sports movie?

While there are a ton of enjoyable ones that have been produced, for it to reach that "truly special" level, where it can even compare to treasures such as Rocky, Remember the Titans or even newer winners such as Million Dollar Arm and Draft Day, there are several ingredients that are always extremely crucial.

These include a strong cast and preferably an ultra-strong leading character such as a Redford or Deniro, a great script, an athlete with almost mystical powers or perhaps even a cornfield with magical powers and realistic and dramatic sports scenes set to the tone of equally-dramatic and emotion-churning musical interplay.

By Stan J. Griffin: March 4, 2015

University of Alabama women's basketball coach Kristy Curry noted recently that she and her team were treating the Southeastern Conference Tournament as a brand new season, and a chance to wipe the slate clean from a largely disappointing conference season.
And although the Crimson Tide put forth a mainly competitive and gritty effort against Vanderbilt in the first round of the tournament Wednesday at the Verizon Arena in Little Rock, Ark., it could not prevent its season from ending with a 66-56 defeat to the Commodores.
Alabama, which loses only two seniors in forward Briana Hutchen and guard Sharin Rivers, finished its season at 13-19.
“There are so many moments that we’ve had this year during the game where we just don’t sense how difficult it is or how hard we have to play, and I think as we continue to teach and build we have got to understand that,” said Curry. “I thought tonight that hurt us in critical moments when we were tied, or needed an easy finish inside, or couldn’t come back down and get a stop or just put back-to-back-to-back quality possessions together. We will grow. We will learn. We are building. The future is incredibly bright.”
Freshman Hannah Cook started the game the same as she did last time out, knocking down a 3-pointer to get Alabama on the board first. The Tide continued to lead over the next three minutes until Vanderbilt evened the score at 7-7 before taking the lead on its next possession.

By Stan J. Griffin: March 2, 2015

Mitch Gaspard's University of Alabama baseball team endured a frustrating weekend in Hoover as it dropped two of three games to the visiting Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns.
The Tide fell, 14-2 to ULL on Sunday afternoon, dropping Alabama to 7-4 on the young season.
“Louisiana-Lafayette swung the bats extremely well today,” said Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard. “They also received a really good start from their freshman starting pitcher (Gunner Leger). Looking at the big picture, this is why I like to play good teams early – it shows us what we need to work on going forward. I believe in this team, and I know we will bounce back.”

Alabama collected four hits on the day, three of which went for extra bases. Mikey White highlighted the Alabama offense, going 2-for-4 with a double, solo home run, RBI and two runs scored on the afternoon. Casey Hughston also contributed a triple, his second of the season and his 13th extra-base hit this year. Hughston has now recorded an extra-base hit in nine games thus far.
The Ragin’ Cajuns got out to an early 1-0 lead on the power of a two-out, solo home run by their No. 3 hitter. Alabama answered in the bottom half of the inning with a two-out rally. White collected the Tide’s first hit on a double to the left-center field gap and was followed by Hughston, who lined a triple to right field and evened the score at 1-1.
Louisiana-Lafayette would add one in the top of the second and maintained its one-run lead until the fourth inning. In the top of four, ULL strung together three hits resulting in four total runs to push the lead to 6-1. The Ragin’ Cajuns would add another four spot in the top of the sixth, and then added two more runs apiece in the seventh and ninth innings. Both four-run innings frames featured a Crimson Tide error that extended the inning for ULL.
Alabama added one in the bottom of the ninth on a home run to left by White, but the Tide would add no more on the way to a 14-2 final score.

The following is a recap of the other two games in the series:

ULL 6, ALABAMA 5 (Saturday):
Alabama fell in a tight one Saturday to the Ragin' Cajuns as ULL knotted the series at a game apiece.
With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Mikey White singled back through the middle and Casey Hughston followed up with a double it the next at-bat. An errant throw from the Louisiana-Lafayette right fielder rolled into no-man’s land and gave White an opening to try to score the tying run, but the ULL third baseman retrieved the ball and was able to cut down White at the plate. Hughston moved to third on the throw, but an infield groundout ended the contest with ULL hanging on for the 6-5 win.
“We want to play aggressively, and that is exactly what Mikey did,” said Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard. “Their third baseman had to make a play, and he was able to get the ball to the catcher in time. We preach that aggressive style of play, but Louisiana-Lafayette did a good job on the defensive end.”
The two teams were near-even all game, with both squads finishing with 11 hits on the day, but Louisiana-Lafayette was able to claim the extra run for the victory.
The Ragin’ Cajuns struck first in this afternoon’s contest, scoring one in the second and two in the fourth to maintain a 3-0 lead heading into the bottom of the fifth inning. Alabama would not sit by idly, and recorded a five-run bottom of the fifth to take the momentum and the lead away from ULL. The inning began with

By Stan J. Griffin: March 3, 2015

On many occasions during his distinguished University of Alabama basketball career, senior guard and captain Levi Randolph has taken matters into his own hands and literally carried the Crimson Tide to victory.
Tuesday night's contest against Ole Miss was another example of this, as on a night where he and teammates Rodney Cooper and Dakota Slaughter were honored on Senior Night, Randolph erupted for 32 points (one point short of his career high), including a school-record 17 for 17 night at the free throw line.
Unfortunately for Randolph and his team,  the Madison native's big night was not quite enough as Andy Kennedy's Rebels used a huge run, and a 55-point second half to defeat Alabama 82-74 in the Tide's regular season home finale.
With the loss against a team that it has historically dominated in Tuscaloosa, the shorthanded Alabama team playing without Ricky Tarrant and Shannon Hale for the rest of the season fell to 17-13 overall and 7-10 in Southeastern Conference play. Ole Miss improved to 20-10 overall and 11-6 in SEC play.
Alabama entered the game with a 72-10 all-time mark against the Rebels in Tuscaloosa.
"The credit goes to Ole Miss and they played extremely well tonight, and we knew coming in that they were a high scoring team," said Alabama coach Anthony Grant. "We had to do a complete job from a defensive standpoint and we weren't able to get that done for both halves tonight. Nevertheless, I am really proud of our seniors for what they've meant to our program over the last four years. You always want to send them out with a win on Senior Night. We're obviously disappointed that we couldn't get that done for them tonight. But it takes nothing away from what they've meant to our program over the last four years."
Cooper and Slaughter also had solid nights for their regular season farewell to Coleman Coliseum, contributing 14 and eight points respectively, but it was a disappointing night for Grant's team overall due to the big Rebel second-half surge led by junior guard Stefan Moody.

By Stan J. Griffin: March 1, 2015

After the No. 4 University of Alabama softball team split a twinbill against No. 5 Louisiana Saturday, including a 2-1 loss in the second game where it failed on a couple of occasions to produce a tying or winning run, junior outfielder Haylie McCleney said she felt it was very important that Alabama take Sunday's deciding game of the series.
And thanks to her late-game heroics, the Crimson Tide captured the series against the highly-regarded Ragin' Cajuns with a riveting 2-1 victory at Rhoads Stadium.
Alabama overcame a game-tying homer in the top of the seventh to win in walk-off fashion in the bottom half on a sacrifice fly by the All-American centerfielder.
“I had no doubt that Haylie was going to get it done today,” said Alabama Head Coach Patrick Murphy. “I thought she was going to get it done last night in the final at-bat, but sometimes things like that happen.
McCleney battled through a 10 pitch at-bat before sending a line drive into right field, allowing pinch runner Andrea Hawkins to tag up and score from third base on the sacrifice fly.
“As the at-bat progressed, I though she got more comfortable and I just felt she was going to get it done. Andrea did a great job running too. Most people would have taken off immediately but their outfield was pulled in so Andrea did exactly what she needed to do by waiting, tagging and scoring.”
Alabama (15-4) saw a slim lead erased twice by Louisiana (15-2) in each of the final two innings, but the Tide answered every Cajun run with a run of their own in the bottom half of the innings. Tide starter Leslie Jury pitched a strong 5.0 innings in the start, allowing just one run on five hits with seven strikeouts, but was pulled in the top of the sixth with a pair of runners on. Sydney Littlejohn (7-0) was looking for a save but ultimately ended up earning the win, allowing just the one run in the seventh inning before the comeback in the bottom half.