Archive for the ‘Sports just because’ Category

Statue Frenzy

Posted: August 17, 2011 in Sports just because

Preston on Sport’s faithful, this summer has been rather uneventful when it comes to opinionated issues. Sure I have ranted amongst friends briefly, perhaps edited a facebook status to voice my displeasure but not much has really irked me to write.

This morning when watching the sports highlights I noticed that the Philadelphia Phillies erected a statue commemorating former broadcaster Harry Kalas, now in the hall of fame.

This triggered the immediate reaction of “really? Another statue?” The thought process behind this reaction is that it seems every week another team is erecting another statue. This is not to say that the people are not deserving of recognition or honour, but at what point will these stadiums be surrounded by an army of brass look alikes?

From what I can remember, this summer the following statues were unveiled: Nick Saban (Alabama Football Head Coach), Tim Tebow (Florida Gators QB, Heisman winner), Cam Newton (Auburn QB, Heisman winer). Karim Abdul Jabaar littered sports headlines earlier this summer when stating his claim that he felt slighted about not having a statue in front of the Staples Center in L.A.(Currently there are five statues right now: Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Chick Hearn, Wayne Gretzky and Oscar De La Hoya)

Pittsburgh Pirates have multiple statues, Boston Garden and Fenway Park also have multiple statues around their stadiums recognizing the many greats over time.

But at what point do we need to find a new form of recognition? These players, most of them at least, probably or will soon have their bust forever enshrined in their respective hall of fames for which ever sport they played. That would be the ultimate commemoration of their career no?

I am all for recognizing your athletes, but I think statues and retiring numbers are too permanent and can limit abilities going forward. First off, these statues cost a lot of money and weigh a lot. Once they are placed in front of the stadiums, athletic facilities, etc. they are near impossible to move. What if the stadium is old and a new one is built? What if the player disgraces the school or ends up being a serial killer?

That last option is obviously outlandish, however the point is you are permanently linking yourself to this person and a lot of statues right now are awarded very early. They are recognizing players before their lives are over with, which is to say, a few great things makes you statue worthy. Nick Saban has won only one national title for the Alabama Crimson Tide, yet he has a statue already, so the value I think is being decreased as we move on.

Retiring numbers is a whole other story. What would you say defines the criteria to have ones number/jersey retired? Sure, Gretzky, Jordan, Ruth, Magic, Kareem, Howe, Orr, The Rocket, these players amongst others transformed cities and their team for years and rightfully made their mark on the game and are in the hall of fame. But should teams perhaps up the anti on their standards?

The New York Yankees for example, have multiple players right now on their roster who could have numbers retired. A-Rod, Jeter, Rivera, could and should all have their numbers retired given the standard for other teams. However the Yankees have had so many greats, and will continue to have so many greats on their teams that they may very well run out of numbers if they keep retiring the way they should. The Boston Celtics and the LA Lakers suffer from the same storied success. They have had so many great players on their teams and so many legends that their rafters are littered with retired jersey numbers which players can on longer don.

The problem now becomes, do we find an alternate for recognizing the greats? Is there one standard for the league with which we hold our retiring criteria to? Or do we allow the organizations who specialize in historic greatness and remembrance to take charge of deciding who deserves to be immortalized in the games history?

Frankly I think we should just leave it up to the Hall of Fames to do the bronzing and displaying of jerseys. What I saw with the Pittsburgh Steelers that was really cool when I visited their stadium, is that they had on display tons of awesome memorabilia in replica locker stalls of their greats. Let the fans see that to remember them by. There is no need to bronze a larger than life replica outside your stadium every time someone does something great.

Now as always, don’t get me wrong I enjoy the idea of remembering contributions by the greats. Discussing history about sports is great and there is nothing I enjoy more than old NFL films, watching old NBA or NHL games on cable when a good one presents itself.

But at what point do we say “Thanks you did a good job, good luck with the hall of fame” and give them a bobble head night and be done with it? I mean these guys made money, have fame in that city and they want more? The fact that Jabbar feels he deserves a statue or is slighted kind of bothers me. You are in the hall, the all time scoring leader, you’ve got rings and everyone in LA loves you. Do you really need more? You’re going to let a piece of brass deprive you of complete and utter happiness with your legacy?

To sum up, recognition is good but at what point is enough, enough? People will get inducted into their sports respective Hall of Fame, which is the ultimate prize with a championship ring. The Hall is saying you are one of the best of all time, congratulations. How many times does one need to hear that after their career is done? I support legends nights, a postcard or bobble-head night, but statues are for leaders, society difference makers. The brass should refer to the people in the front office making new legends and running the teams, not standing outside as a pigeon stoop.

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So in case you haven’t noticed, or haven’t chosen to notice, the Women’s World Cup of soccer has been on the past few weeks and I have actually tried to pay attention. Why some might ask? I answer to them, why not?

Sports are sports at the end of the day, and I find myself helpless when I see a team playing in all red and white. Regardless of the sport, they are playing for their country with pride and in return I have almost a duty to cheer for them and care about their outcome.

Now don’t get confused over there, I’m certainly not jumping on any soccer band wagon. I respect the sport very much and appreciate everything about it, but I remain a casual soccer fan and have no allegiance to any team. I merely see women’s sports as something that deserves more help and more support.

Back to soccer, have you seen these girls play?! I’m sorry, but when I see the morning highlights of the WWC and the things some of these women can do, they’re doing very good justice for women’s sports everywhere.

Going into this tournament, shows on ESPN like Around the Horn and PTI were giving daily shout outs to the US Women’s team and talking briefly about the sport, as much as they could. What really has impressed me is the continued coverage on ESPN.com and how The Score does their highlights rather early on in the broadcast, ensuring people get to see them.

This may or may not be a thought out strategy, but good for them for bringing women’s sports to the fore front. It may not be the men’s world cup, but it is still a global event playing the world’s game so it has significant importance in that regard.

Now onto what I have been seeing, the women’s Brazil team I could swear is an MLS team in disguise. They play with such flow and passion it is remarkable. I actually see as much, if not more intricate foot work with the women than I saw in a lot of the men’s highlights. They play with the ball with their feet as if there are magnets that bring it back anytime it gets too far away.

Marta is the women’s Ronaldo, she is by far the most talented individual player and Brazil is looking to her to bring home the title. And why shouldn’t they? She has blazing speed, indescribable foot work and cannons in her legs. Like her male counterparts, she can place herself with the ball anywhere she wants on the pitch and at any second let loose a bullet of a shot.

But she is not the only talent in this tournament, far from it. Her teammates have almost as much talent in their feet as Marta does, and they waste little opportunity to show off just how good they are. Crisp passing and precision plays are what I have noticed works well in this tournament.

In fact, I will argue what is great about women’s sports these days, is that they still focus on the team approach. Have you watched women’s college basketball lately? Probably not, seeing as they focus on the pass, the set up and swinging the ball to make sure the best opportunity to score is found.

Women seem to have a lot of patience in their sports, and come on men we all know is one of their many talents in real life. How else would they put up with us allt his time? They manage to excel at that skill even more so when playing the game.

The men’s world cup was extremely good, lots of great plays, but there was also a lot of individual stardom trying to shine through. There was constant talk about the individuals and not so much the team. This isn’t the NBA where one star can take over just like that and change the outcome of a game. There needs to be a complete team effort put into play here and be executed.

Now, am I going to sit hear and randomly list off names of the player’s so that I can come off as an expert on the game, especially the women’s side? Absolutely not, I would never jeopardize the integrity of PrestononSport’s like that.

What I will say is maybe, especially in international competition, the women’s tournament’s deserve an equal and fair chance to entertain and impress fans of sport.

I still remember the 2010 women’s gold medal game for Team Canada and how great it felt. I was at the gym warming up on the treadmill, and of course I knew the game was being played as I was watching it at home before I left. I looked around and saw only three or four other TV sets turned to the same channel, all mid 30s-40s aged women.

I was offended because this was hockey and a Canadian team was playing for gold medals, how could every single person in the country not want to watch that?! It blew my mind, and I still remember the goose bumps I felt when they won. The second the time when to 0.00 I clapped as loud as I could and cheered a bit too, totally out in public at my gym where everyone could see and hear and I was proud of it.

Of course the other women that were watching cheered too, although much quieter and probably a little surprised that a loud man was leading the cheer for our women. But hey, I was damn proud of those girls and I can’t wait to cheer them on in the next Olympics.

The point here is sports are sports, young, old, boys, girls. If they are competing on an international stage then they are the elite of the elite for their country, which means they are talented.

Women got the vote, they’ve broken through the glass ceiling of employment, isn’t it time that for something other than main stream economics and politics we give them the respect, nay the fandom, they deserve?

Save Your Sorry’s

Posted: June 15, 2011 in Sports just because

Why is it that every time an athlete says they are sorry it always seems so scripted? How are we supposed to know that an athlete is truly sorry given the many privileged positions they are in?

This post was sparked by the apology presented to us by one Terrell Pryor, formerly of the Ohio State Buckeyes. The disgraced former starting quarterback had a masterful career at the Big 10 powerhouse amassing a 31-4 record, both a Sugar Bowl and Rose Bowl victories while collecting the Rose Bowl offensive MVP and various other school records including most passing touchdowns by a quarterback (tied with Bobby Hoying with 57).

I watched some footage of his press conference apology and got a different take from it. As Pryor sat at the podium with super-agent Drew Rosenhaus it seemed more like the beginning of something else, rather than the conclusion of a tainted collegiate career.

Pryor was very cold faced, focussed almost, as if he was making sure he remembered each line that Rosenhaus had written out for him in order to minimize criticism. He thanked Ohio State and referred to Jim Tressel as a second father. Really? Didn’t know that he attended your little league games and birthday parties but with all his other NCCA violations I guess it’s believable he was there.

This reminded me of the fake Michael Vick apology where he promised us he would be better, that he needed to be better. Now several years later after having served his prison sentence, resurrected his football career and participated in over 20 animal rights events he seems sorry for his actions.

On the day of his last press conference before prison however, he made a very heart felt apology or so it seemed. It was later discovered that his speech which appeared to be sincere and original had in fact been scripted and written down for him to present to us as if it were on the spot emotion and humility.

I am sick of these fake apologies all in the name of image. If normal people can’t get away with fake apologies why should professional athletes? I’m not asking you to say you’re sorry, I want you to actually be sorry or just shut up.

When A-Rod apologized for using performance enhancing drugs during his MVP years in Texas during his first monster contract deal, I didn’t want to hear it. It was read off a piece of paper at the Yankees spring training facility and he clearly recited it word for word.

Emotion? None. Sincerity? None. He was doing this for two reasons only, to have some shot at cleaning up their image as an athlete so that the fans would cheer him on at home and stop asking questions. He wanted the people to still chant his name when he came to the plate. Secondly the money, by admitting to his mistakes, no matter how little genuine remorse he showed, he could still sign endorsement deals.

That is why athletes do this, for marketability, otherwise why would they even bother wasting their time reading something aloud to the media and the fans that someone else wrote?

Another great example is Tiger Woods, although Nike has stayed with him Gillette and GM dropped Tiger as a sponsor after his personal problems came to light last fall. Nike stuck with him why? Because financially they had no choice, Tiger makes them a lot more money than they pay him so from a business stand point moral ground was nowhere to be found.

I understand that, but Nike never tried to hide from the obvious, they simply stated they were staying with Tiger and their business together. What I like about that is no smoke screens, no tricks. It may be a topic of debate of whether or not Nike should have stayed with him, but given their past problems with labour disputes ethical and moral standards is not one of Nike’s main concerns.

Sometimes I even feel like these athletes are mocking our intelligence when they organize a press conference to make these fake apologies. They make it a big dog a pony show, welcome us to the set, thank us for sharing our time, then get to business. There are some small thanks given, maybe some sponsors thanked then about a two to three minute apology read from the transcript. After which there might be time for questions, if they want.

How is this always controlled by the athlete? Why do people keep showing up for this? If you are to hold a press conference you must be subjected to questioning, that is the right of the media. They showed up to hear you talk, the least you can do is answer 10 questions about the incident and why you are apologizing.

Shouldn’t the apologizer be made to explain why he’s there apologizing? Or how he plans to better himself? How can Drew Rosenhaus dismiss everyone and not answer a single question yet expect people to cover these apologies?

Clearly something needs to change in the great world of sports when it comes to a press conference and the responsibilities held by each party. Sadly, I don’t think that will change anytime soon.

We have become accustomed to the fake apology, the lying and cheating that happened before it, but never expect a true resolution. Well that ends here, Preston on Sports is calling out every past, present and future athlete who wants to make an apology. You want to say you’re sorry? No reading, no press conference, no agents. Here are the ground rules for us as sports fans to believe you:

1) There must be no written material for you to read off of. If you’re sincere, let it flow from the heart, we do not need to be read what other people tell you to think or feel.

2) If it is done in a press conference you MUST answer questions from the media. I will say this time and time again and never waver on my position, the media and athlete have a joint partnership in the sports entertainment business and you must answer their questions because without the media, you have no exposure, end of story.

3) No family members, agents, coaches, etc. on stage with you, you are alone at a podium. You alone were the one who committed the acts that require attonement and as such you will face your audience the same way, alone.

4) You will dress smartly, not in track suits, jeans, but in at least a suit minus the tie.

5) Take it seriously. You are asking forgiveness for your wrong doings from us, the fans, and the people who pay to see you play. We have been wronged by your errors and you sincerely want us to forgive. If you don’t, tell us to shut up and get on with our lives, but never pretend like you care if you don’t, we don’t need to be humoured.

Am I the ruling power over what makes an apology real/fake? No, I am not. But I know what I like and certainly what I don’t like and fake apologies is one of them. In the words of George Costanza, I can only leave all you fake sorry people with this, if you’re going to stand up there and lie “You can stuff your sorry’s in a sack, mister!”

Coaching changes in professional sports happen all the time, it is a fact of sport, like sweating. There is the typical phrase thrown around “what have you done for me lately?” that appears to be embraced by most owners and general managers, but more so in college, when it comes to assessing a coaches value to a team.

Yet somehow the decisions don’t always seem to be clear to us, or even the players for that matter. Every time a star team makes a change there are rumblings amongst a team or within a locker room because their superstar was not consulted before the hiring. The recent issue that brings this thought process to life is the hiring of Mike Brown to coach the Los Angeles Lakers now that Phil Jackson is done.

To give some background on the subject, Phil Jackson had an imaginary contract renewal for next year, he didn’t need to say it but we all knew that if he wanted to come back another year and coach he could. The Buss family would never push him out after 5 great championship seasons in LA and neither would anyone else in the greater Los Angeles area.

The whole time however, those watching closely all felt that assistant Brian Shaw was the heir-apparent to the Lakers throne. After sitting by Jackson’s side since 2004 as an assistant, and being a part of the past two NBA championship Lakers coaching staff, it seemed to many as a formality that the Lakers were to hold a press conference this off-season announcing Shaw’s promotion to the big boy chair.

But that promotional tour never came, the phone never rang, and Brian Shaw did not get a new fancy corner office to watch film and laugh it up in. Instead he, like many coaches in his line of work, is left without that assumed promotion. He has to continue to stay on the back burner and be an assistant, for now that is, I read that he had an interview with the Golden State Warriors.

Loyalty and unwritten agreements is not the issue of this post however, I was motivated to write as per a statement released today by executive Jim Buss, son of Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss. The ESPN.com article which unveiled this statement was titled “Lakers regret not talking Brown hire with Kobe.”

So sorry Kobe, not only are we going to pay you the so called “owed” money of $24,800,000 for all your years of service and championships, we’ll also let you run the team. Nope sorry, can’t convince me, this is not how things operate, not in today’s world when it costs 100s of millions of dollars to buy a team.

This mentality of consulting the superstar is one unwritten rule in sports that no longer applies as far as I’m concerned. Not when your pay roll is over $80 million dollars and you’re spending serious luxury tax money to field a champion.

The Lakers had one responsibility here, to hire the individual they felt was best equipped to run the organization on the court from the sidelines. To hire an individual they trusted with the responsibility of organizing practices, mentoring players, and strategizing the best way to accomplish their lofty goals which are the same every year, to win it all. If the Lakers felt that they were able to find this in Mike Brown without having Kobe’s approval then so be it. He gets paid six times what the coach will, he can learn to listen to someone else and play by others rules.

But this scenario goes for all sports at all levels, although the political games-monster that is college sports is tough to compare to professional sports as trustees, alumni, boosters, etc. make college a whole different world.

In the professional ranks however I think players need to understand their role, you are a valued asset and contributor to the organization. You make yourself, as well as the leagues and teams, plenty of money. If the team wants to bring in a new coach however and you have some petty grudge against him/her, or you don’t like something about them but everyone else seems to get along, you’re the veto vote? You have to learn to get over it and compete at your best still. Based on your privileged position in sports and income earnings, if the owner/GM likes how a coach fits the “team” then you better learn to be a team player.

I don’t understand how fans can seriously side with the players on this, for those that do. I was one of the captains of my high school basketball team but I didn’t get to decide who the coach was. Granted he was the same all three years, but you better believe I knew my place and if I was told to run, I ran.

I honestly feel that the player’s need a serious reality check in many areas of sports, and team management is one of them. Do I believe that a player can have input? Sure, however teams do not need to apologize because they didn’t call a player about a hire. The player and coach should mutually reach out to each other and address any issues, but if the best coach and the best player hate each other they should be able to work on that relationship themselves, together.

Brown and Bryant will earn almost $30 million combined next season, between the two of them I’m sure they could afford a very talented couples counsellor, at the very least they could buy some very nice wine to accompany some very delicious steaks to talk things over.

Case in point, management is management and players are players, and they should stick to doing that. Mike Brown won’t be dressing in gold and purple anytime soon and putting himself into the starting line up at Staples Center, nor should he. The same should be said for star players feeling they need to OK everything. You’re an employee, you work for the Lakers, let the Laker’s worry about management and you worry about winning titles. While you’re both doing your jobs, you can learn to work together as a whole and that, my friends, is what we call team work, as a team.

OH BOO YOURSELF

Posted: May 24, 2011 in Sports just because

Sports fans, I’ve got a bone to pick with some of you and I told you that this past Sunday at the Sky Dome. My issue this time around has to do with the support, or lack thereof, of the home team when times are tough. As a fan you have a responsibility to uphold when you buy that ticket just as much as the player does and too many times you’ve let your teams down.

The “Boo” is one of the most common expressions shared at sporting events big and small, next to the clap and cheer. It is used by fans that are unhappy with the performance on the field, a call made by a game official, or anything that upsets the general population in the stands. They jeer with hands covered over their mouths to amplify its effect and make sure that as many people as possible will hear this emotion.

Yet to me, there is an art to being a fan which I like to call an informed fan, and as someone who buys a ticket you owe it to yourself to be an informed fan when you attend such events. I remember several incidents myself where there were misinformed boos and they stuck with me because they were ridiculous and unnecessary.

Let’s stick with the responsibility of the fan first off and how they have let their teams down in too many instances. There have been countless games which I have attended, be it basketball, baseball, hockey, where the home team has been down but not out. They have shown signs of improving and starting to get some life into them and all they needed was that extra little push. Where is that push to come from? Are they to guzzle down some Red Bull on the bench at the next break? No, it’s the fans’ job to help them out.

The fan is typically referred to as the Sixth man in basketball, the 12th man in football, etc. They are the extra part of the puzzle for the team. Player’s always thank the fans for this and that, yet the fans don’t always seem to be there when their team needs them, how come?

I always marvel at the fans in Los Angeles and how they support their Lakers at games, it’s great. Now I will absolutely acknowledge that it is much easier to support a team that always wins, or at least fields a strongly competitive team every year. I cannot ignore that fact, it’s the same as being a Yankees fan or Red Sox fan; it’s not hard to cheer for a winner.

With that said, Lakers fans have been complimented by some reporters as the most intelligent fans in sports and here is why. I watch a lot of Sunday and Saturday afternoon Lakers games, Kobe is amazing and I love watching him play so I watch but I’m not a Lakers fan. They have plenty of fans both within the greater Los Angeles area and all over North America who love to support only a winner. What I’ve noticed is informed fandom and it makes me smile.

In times of trouble, when the Lakers may be down or facing a hot streak by the opposing team what do the fans do? They cheer in unison “D-FENSE! D-FENSE!” and they rally behind their team in an effort to motivate them to stop the run. When the ref makes a call that’s clearly the call they don’t boo, they understand and grumble amongst themselves.

One of the worst things a fan can do is boo at the official when the call is clearly correct. This brings me to the Buffalo Bills game this past season in late November at Ralph Wilson Stadium. I forget the players involved, but the Bills were on defense and a pass interference call was made against the Bills and the fans were irate. They all were booing, cursing at the refs while the play was being replayed on the jumbo screen for everyone to watch.

Can you guess what the call was? It was correct, the Bills player was all over this guy, and I mean all over him. The Steelers player was tackled as if he had stolen some old lady’s purse and the Bill’s player was chasing after him and caught him, before the ball got there though. It was an obvious penalty and yet they were booing, why boo the official for doing a good job? Do you boo your mother when she bakes a cake for dessert and it’s delicious? I certainly hope not, good cake deserves nothing but praise, not boo’s.

Another example of lack of informed fans occurred at the Blue Jays game in Toronto vs. the Houston Astros at the Sky Dome (It is not, and will never be, the Rogers Centre to any true Jays fan). The team was playing Ok baseball, not great, and were certainly never out of the game and yet the crowd seemed so out of it, as per usual. There were the odd cheers of “Let’s Go Blue-Jays” but minimal support, besides my friends and myself who were several sections over.

This was upsetting later in the game as the team was playing good baseball, they just needed an edge. This is where the fans are supposed to cheer in less than stellar situations to let the team know “Hey! We’re behind you! You can do it!” but cheering go jays go, let’s go blue jays, whatever you want. Just something to give them the extra support to know “Hey, we’re here to support you not be against you, don’t worry about it just go out there and kill it.” However no such support came to life until the very end of the game, almost when it was too late.

This to me in unacceptable and a great example of misinformed fandom, if you have a chance to cheer on your team to success then do it, why else would you attend the game? You cannot expect the player’s to do all the work all the time. They want you to support them and to like them. No one likes getting booed and it certainly doesn’t inspire anyone to get better, but positive support with cheers, chants, clapping, just about anything can get a team going.

Booing officials is a different story, I can understand when a call is either questionable or visibly incorrect that you would voice displeasure, but sometimes it seems as if the fans are booing to say “C’mon, give us a break!” I’m sorry, did you want them to call the game in your favour to taint the win? Oh Ok sure, let’s have the home team get all the calls all the time so the home team always wins that’s a great idea. If you boo because you feel the officials are being too hard on you then go cry to someone who cares, which is no one.

Never ever blame the officials for a game unless they clearly made game changing calls that undeniably cost your team the game. By the way, that never happens unless say your team got 8 penalties in hockey and the other team was 8/8 on the power play. Even then the argument can be made that they just have an awesome power play and you should have stopped them from scoring so much.

In the end, I just want to see fans cheer when their team needs it and only boo the other team, that’s who deserves it if anyone. The home team is there to be cheered, to be celebrated; they’re not there to be booed because they didn’t win on your first attendance of the season. When I was in East Lansing to watch a Michigan State football game, they were down and it was silent and I said to a fan beside me “Wow, no one is booing this is awesome”. Their response was “Ya of course not! You don’t boo your own school, their your team, cheer them on don’t bring them down”

What a revolutionary concept, don’t bring them down just cheer them on. If only we had this attitude in more things in life a lot more would get done, and get done well. Next time you’re at the game and you want to boo, go the washroom and do it to the mirror first.

I’ve seen lots of articles in the news lately about gay awareness and after two separate articles posted on ESPN yesterday (both must reads I highly suggest you look at them) it’s time we take yet another look at it. Homophobia in sports needs to stop, and athletes are the ones who can give this movement a much needed push.

Homosexuality in sports has been an issue forever it seems, mostly associated with the macho mentality put forth by athletes involved but also by those who watch. Athletes are warriors, gladiators, manly men. They drink beer, they hunt, they’re big, strong, appealing to women. This all sounds like a load of crap to you too doesn’t it?

Yesterday it was reported that Phoenix Suns (NBA) president and CEO Rick Welts came out on Sunday. Can you guess how he did it? If you thought a big huge press conference was called, with gay rights activists present and a piece sung by Elton John you’re sadly wrong. Although a nice mash-up of Tiny Dancer, Rocket Man and Bennie and the jets would add a nice touch. No Mr. Welts simply picked up the phone and called the NY Times and informed them he was gay.

That’s all it took, one small phone call and again we have national, and I guess technically international, news about a member of the sports community coming out of the closet. Are you surprised? Because I’m not, and if anything I think it’s time, again we’re saying this, to just accept the times we are in and get over it. What is the big deal? Are people seriously concerned about sharing a locker room with a gay person? So what?! Personally, if they find me attractive enough to look at I’ll take that as a compliment.

Maybe it’s because people like Tim Hardaway still have their heads in the sand and refuse to update their personal views past the Stone Age. In 2007 while talking to Dan Le Batard in Miami, this beautiful quote was issued:

“First of all I wouldn’t want him on my team,” said Hardaway. “Second of all, if he was on my team I would really distance myself from him because I don’t think that’s right and I don’t think he should be in the locker room when we’re in the locker room.”

Should not be in the locker room when we’re in there? Who are we? Are all of you so afraid of things you don’t know? It’s not like he’s going to grope you in the shower, he’s a man not an animal. Secondly he is your teammate, do people not think that they are people too? Just because I like women doesn’t mean I’m going to be all over every single one I see walking down the street, it’s called class, and it exists whether you’re gay or not.

There are lists of athletes both big and small who have come out, but like the ESPN articles make mention of, they come out after their playing time is done. Why is that necessary? Why can’t they attend the drafts with their family and maybe their partner, and still be celebrated? “I thought, there might be some young people out there who were in the same position I was, who love team sports … but are afraid”(TAKEPART.com)

Good for you Mr. Welts, add your name to the list with the others who are trying to make a difference. The fact these people are afraid, in what’s supposed to the land of free and the home of the “brave” is a disappointment to me as a Canadian fan of American sports. You know what’s brave? Being able to go in front of an entire country and proclaim your true feelings knowing that many will look at you in disgust now. You know what’s disgusting? Is looking at this man any different, or any athlete that shares these feelings for that matter.

Now I may not have been “Mr. pro-thinking” my entire life, I merely chose to ignore the issue or not make anything of it at all. It just didn’t affect me so I chose not to get involved, but now that I have a medium in which to express my thoughts and back them up, I’m going to.

In the second article posted yesterday on ESPN, it featured a former Villanova basketball star and the journey he has taken on since leaving organized sports. He is an underground musician in New York, works in the fashion industry, and his name is Will Sheridan. Like a lot of gay men, if you looked at him on any given day you’d probably just think to yourself he’s another guy walking down the street, accept he’s much better than you at basketball and probably some other sports too.

He came to the realization he was gay and couldn’t hold it in anymore during his freshman year at Villanova. He shared it first with his college roommate Mike Nardi, who was also on the basketball team. The way he came out? While hanging out one night in their dorm room as freshman talking. He simply told Nardi he had something to tell him, and he did. Nardi’s reaction was exactly how everyone’s should be, or along the same lines at least, “I mean I was surprised because it was new to me. I had never really experienced anything like that, but it’s not like it mattered. I don’t know. I mean, we were friends. Who cares?”

It’s not like it mattered…we’re friends, who cares. Exactly, who cares? Sheridan went on to play four strong years at Villanova during their rise as a national college basketball factory. They have put together strong teams for almost a decade now, and all the while who knew a gay man had seeped through the cracks. Crazy isn’t it?

“I remember at some games, especially Saint Joe’s games, they were unreal…At first, I was like, my grandma is sitting right there”

And yet he soldiered on, played those games and played them well. Why sports, of all things, is it so tough for people to admit who they are? The Brotherhood, the bonds, the memories, the friendships, and all these great things can come out of sports yet such an ugly shadow still hangs over it.

Sadly we may never see this issue resolved as there will always be the haters, those who need to hold others down because they can find no other fault in the person than something they have no control over. That would be like me being hating that I’m tall, but why would I? I like being tall, being tall is awesome I’m good at sports, I walk faster than most people which leads to better seats on the GO Train, and I know when it rains faster than most people. To hate myself would be the same thing as hating people because they’re gay, c’mon, seriously? I was made tall thanks to genetics and science, it’s just the way things happened. Will Sheridan was born gay, yes he was born that way. He did not choose to be gay, no more than I chose to be tall. He was given many gifts and has been able to create what seems like a great life out of every single one them, both his personal and physical characteristics. Hate is such a strong word and you’ve got way better things to worry yourself with than who someone brings home at night.

This is not simply a pro gay rant because it connects with sports, and they can have such an incredible influence. When Tim Tebow did a pro-life ad I was disappointed when I saw it because it was a personal issue, not a global-societal issue. Tim Tebow, a great athlete, is also a devout Christian and feels compelled to share that message. Now when you see the ad it is up for debate how “Christian” it was, as there is no specific mention of a sponsoring church. But abortion and gay rights are totally different, as the factors influencing the decisions of abortion are limitless and there is not enough time in the world to discuss every situation and what makes them unique.

A gay athlete however is a gay athlete, plain and simple. That is a genetic selection they have been given that they have no choice whether to be gay or not. They like people of the same sex and love competing against them too, is that so wrong? Like it or hate it, there can never be enough about this message and I’m just trying to spread the word after hearing it myself. Please see the articles below at ESPN for further information, more knowledge never hurt anyone, only those who pretend it’s not there.

http://sports.espn.go.com/ncb/columns/story?columnist=oneil_dana&id=6488036
http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=6556998

TO STAY OR GO??

Posted: April 28, 2011 in Sports just because

There comes a time in every athlete’s life when he/she must ponder the question “Do I stay or do I go?” I am referring to the inevitable question that must be asked when a player’s contract is up and they are afforded the luxury of being a demanded talent. This post was thought up when reading a recent article on ESPN.com discussing the option facing Wilt Ch…oops I mean Dwight Howard, and what he should do after next season when he can exercise his opt-out clause. If you aren’t the biggest NBA fan and somehow haven’t heard of him, Dwight Howard is an unmistakable talent in the NBA with incredible size, athleticism and pure basketball talent. He averaged a super-human 23pt 14 rebounds and 2.4 blocks, all numbers which should earn him co-MVP honours with Derrick Rose but that’s another issue for another post. The article I read had multiple writers saying that Dwight Howard should leave sunny Orlando Florida and its Magic fans for greener pastures after this extension is up. I take issue with this because why are we always siding with the player’s on this? Should the owner’s have control over their movement? Maybe slightly more like the NFL so players don’t take over the league and ruin it. More importantly though I believe players have a responsibility to these teams to some extent, let me explain.

When you are drafted into a major sports league number one you have just won the lottery. Will your winnings be entirely monetary based? No, or at least they shouldn’t be because you have now reached what should be your dream, and the dream of millions of others. You have been granted the opportunity to play a game for a living, a very modest living at that. Now before you start saying “well hey the owners make much more, ‘the owners this’ and ‘the owners that” these owners are very rich well before they bought these teams. Please remember that to own a team you need a minimum net worth as you have to be able to purchase the team and also continue to support it financially to ensure the teams existence. So, let’s not side 100% with the player’s or the owners because at the end of the day everyone makes money, some more than others but hey that’s capitalism and that’s the world we currently live in. There is a reason that I am writing this blog and not sitting in my corner office at MSG. Once the player’s have been drafted and signed their contracts they are not just an employee of the organization, I look at them as more than just an employee. Are they a role model? No, they are not. Your children should be looking up to strong world leaders, doctors, educators, peaceful activists and all the other good people that are changing the world in a positive light not athletes. However they are now a member of the community. They own at least one piece of property in that community, they buy groceries there, drive on the same roads, share the same mayor and more importantly they both have a vested interest in the sports team. This connection alone should make the player both proud and want to succeed not only for themselves but for the fans. Isn’t that why they play the game? You play for yourself and for the fans? I always here athletes say “this one is for the fans! I want to thank all our fans!” Well if it’s for the fans then why are you leaving them? Why would an athlete want to turn his back on those that supported him both emotionally and financially from the start to go to another town that is jumping on the bandwagon?

A great statement I’ve heard being used in the past few years is “doing what’s best for me and my family.” Please, you know what’s best for your family? Staying healthy and playing the sport you used to love purely for the game and not the amount of zeros it gets you on your bi-weekly paycheque. Again, I understand the business of sports and that these guys want to make the most money wherever they can. However, when you’re a star, a top 10 star both in talent and recognition inside and outside your sport, you’ve got financial security for at least 2 generations after you if you’re smart. With countless players now making eight figure salaries before endorsements the onus is on them to be smart with their finances and not spend on everything they could possibly want or see. So saying moving from your home town where childhood friends, family and countless supporters are is best for your family is bogus. When you make over $10 million a year you can make any situation best for your family.

So now that I feel I’ve covered the financial reasons that do not support leaving your current team, as there are none really, let’s move on to the sentimental reasons supporting the stay factor. When you embark on your professional career there are certain obligations that I feel you must meet, some are current and some are just my own. You must: workout with the team, practice with the team, attend your meetings, meet with the media 75% of the time as you are partners in the industry, speak one of the official languages of your countries employer so all fans can understand your quotes, be involved (not a leader, just involved) in your community and play with heart. The team obligations are of course mandated in your contract, but being a part of the community comes with the territory and part of that is the connection with the fans. You are now one of them, communities embrace their stars like a proud parent and that should make you feel so wanted and adored that you could never leave. Yet players leave all the time, why is that? In today’s markets any team can keep their star if the star wants to stay. Alexander Ovechkin without the help of an agent negotiated his own deal with the Washington Capitals in 2008 why? Because he liked the team, liked the city and its fans and he wanted to stay. He could have left to any team in the NHL, any team would gut their roster to have his calibre of talent (amongst many other young stars in the league) on their team. He chose to stay with the team that drafted him and odds are likely he will finish his career there too.

This all comes together and is important to me as a fan because I like nothing more than when I see a player stay with the team that drafted him, give back to both the team and the community and become the ultimate athlete. This is not their duty if you will, but it’s something that I think every athlete should at least feel they should do as the right thing. Their talents are a gift from their family’s gene pool and very few people get to have those opportunities and to take them for granted by ignoring supportive fans that live vicariously through their success is disappointing. Take for example the recent summer of LeBron James and his big move. I know I know, we’ve heard all the stories all the opinions we don’t like how he did it, why he did it, the collusion of players, etc. I’m done with hating and wishing poor success upon the franchise, but what I’m left pondering is why? Sure you get to play with your friends in Miami minutes from the beach and have a water front mansion but you probably already owned a house there anyways. Miami is not your home though, Cleveland and Ohio was your home. They were your neighbours, your friends, family, teachers, mailmen, they were one of you. The rarity of that opportunity coupled with Cleveland’s historically bad luck in professional sports made that opportunity so unique and so one-of-a-kind I still don’t understand how he turned his back on it. Again, a team in the NBA with the soft cap rules can buy any players they want and still make money. If your team is winning and winning with entertaining players they will pay to see it. Maybe not so much in team sports like hockey where one player cannot make the difference, but in basketball when one player can be the whole show people will pay to see it. This is the same fate facing Dwight Howard next year and many other athletes at one point or another in their careers, why leave a good thing when the benefit you will receive from leaving will have such a negative impact on so many others?

If there’s one thing I can leave you with after this piece it’s that athletes are fully entitled and within their rights to leave any situation they want to go to any other one that will have them. I just expect a little more from my professional athletes. Now do I expect they will all be the saviours like Drew Brees? Or the comical and advertising juggernaut that is Peyton Manning? No, but they can make a difference both in their sport as well as the communities that support them. This goes beyond your annual charity bowling party, fans are people too and they should also be considered. If you’re going to be on TV acknowledging the fans are the ones that drive the sports, which we are, then treat us the way we deserve to be treated, don’t dump us because we gained a little weight. Take the time to work on the relationship and give it time, good things come to those who wait and great things come to those who commit.