Giant Inconsistencies

New York Giants v Tennessee Titans

-Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Football: a great American game in which grown men collide with each other, where toughness and consistency are rewarded.

They are two attributes that the NFL admires and welcomes. However, it’s also a pair of traits that the league is lacking when it comes to handing down punishments for domestic violence cases.

The most recent incident involves New York Giants kicker Josh Brown, who was recently re-signed by the team, despite the franchise’s knowledge about his pending domestic violence arrest.

The league, which claims to be more strict towards these type of offenders after the Ray Rice case, handed the 37-year old kicker a measly one-game suspension. On top of that, Giants owner John Mara has publicly defended his kicker and the rationale behind keeping him on the team despite the knowledge of possible domestic violence.

The Giants knew about his arrest and the circumstances surrounding this issue. To voluntarily keep him along when there is an abundance of kickers in free agency is morally reckless. It’s irresponsible.

Congratulations Roger Goodell, John Mara, and the New York Giants, for helping the NFL drop the ball once again when it comes to dealing with these type of issues. You haven’t done a spectacular job of policing these cases and with each claim and revised rule to show promise — you take three steps back.  (more…)

Advertisements

Wonder Women

OLY-2016-RIO-CLOSING

-FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

With the Olympic flame extinguished in Rio de Janeiro, the world bids farewell to the 2016 games.

It also says goodbye to some of the greatest athletes to have ever graced the Olympic games — Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt. Although, if you ask me, I think we’ll see one, if not both, of them again in 2020 at Tokyo. (But that’s a story for another time.)

Speaking of the future, the women of Team USA have shattered many more glass ceilings, while setting a gold standard moving forward. They have become an example for the rest of the world, who needs to catch up to them.

The United States boasted the largest Olympic roster with 554 members, and for the second straight time, the women (291) outnumbered the men (263).

The women took home more medals (61 vs. 55) overall, but also combined for 27 of Team USA’s 46 golds.

If the U.S. women were their own country, it would tie the entirety of Team Britain for most gold medals in this year’s Olympics. This domination and level of accomplishment is unrivaled by the female athletes in other countries, let alone some of the men.

This all seemed unimaginable many years ago.

In 1972, Team USA’s male athletes tripled the amount of medals women brought home. In today’s games, you have gold medalists like Simone Biles in gymnastics and Allyson Felix in track and field. Back then, Team USA gymnastics couldn’t find the podium and had no gold medals came from the race track.

However, that same year, Congress passed Title IX. The act prevented any discrimination based on gender in regards to education programs and institutions that receive federal funding. Although Title IX covers various facets of gender equality and discrimination, it changed the face of athletics moving forward. Female participation in sports skyrocketed as a result and 44 years later, the country is reaping its benefits. (more…)

We Need More Activist Athletes

2016-espy-awards-brings-somber-moment-from-lebron-james-images

-ESPYs

There’s no doubt America loves its sports, and its champions.

Earlier this week, two-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers went on the radio waves in Milwaukee, where he shared that he felt NFL culture and its administration discourage its players from being vocal and speaking out on social issues.

The Green Bay Packers quarterback pointed at the NBA, where players are promoted to speak out. It’s an environment that he praised Commissioner Adam Silver for creating.

Although Rodgers admitted that he, himself, is not exactly the most outspoken, he would like to see more players freely share their opinions.

He had a chance to do just that. After the weekend riots and unrest in Milwaukee, on Monday, Rodgers was in front of microphone once again and was asked to give his opinion on what had just happened.

He said: “I don’t know the specifics about it, but I do know that our heart goes out to those affected down there. This is a connected world. Anytime there’s a disconnect like that, it’s disappointing to see. Our thoughts and our prayers go with all of those affected, and we hope that the violence doesn’t continue down there.”

After digesting Rodgers’ sentiments on the Milwaukee riots and athletes speaking out, as well as, processing Jabari Parker’s heartbreaking essay in The Players’ Tribune on his experiences in Chicago and how he and fellow citizens can make it a better place — I was thinking. (more…)

America Should Salute, Not Berate, Gabby Douglas

587768194-gabby-douglas-rio-national-anthem

-Getty Images

Gabby Douglas became the face of U.S. gymnastics after capturing hearts across the world, and a couple of gold medals, during the 2012 London Olympics. Her status and fame made her seem a lot bigger than just her 5-foot-2 frame.

Fast forward four years later to this year’s games at Rio, where Douglas and her teammates struck gold yet again in team competition. However, this time around, Douglas has been shrunk down by the American public and placed under the microscope, with criticism and torment launched at her for every move she makes.

Douglas has been unfairly targeted and disparaged by some members of American society that deem her “unpatriotic.”

On August 9, the “Final Five”–the nickname given to the team of U.S. gymnasts composed of Douglas, Aly Raisman, Simone Biles, Laurie Hernandez, and Madison Kocian–stood atop of the Olympic podium, as they listened to the Star-Spangled Banner play throughout the arena.

It was a beautiful moment for a team whose 8.2 point difference over second-place Russia, the largest margin of victory in 56 years, capped off a successful title defense.

However, some armchair and couch-sitting “Olympians,” watching from their households back in the United States, noticed something that made them furious. Something that enraged them enough to mock, berate, and bully Douglas on social media.

Four out of five members of the Final Five had their hands placed on their hearts as the national anthem played. The last person didn’t–that person being Douglas.

To them, the golden moment was tarnished, and it was only the beginning of the attacks towards Douglas.

Since then, she’s still receiving hate-filled, racially-charged insults for her behavior on the podium, comments on her hair, and being called selfish for not cheering on her teammates “hard enough.”

Douglas should not apologize to these critics, but she did–all before sobbing privately after the press conference.

She is the one donning the red, white, and blue. She trained to represent Team USA. Her gold medal performances in London seemed long forgotten. She helped her team win again for the United States.

Yet, she’s getting unfair criticism from those who are sitting at home. The ones who didn’t train at the highest level to represent their country at the world’s biggest stage. From people who didn’t sacrifice hours and years of their childhood to train in order to fulfill an Olympic-sized dream.

Douglas didn’t do anything disrespectful, she stood at attention. She hasn’t cheated, used performance-enhancing drugs, or sabotage her fellow competitors. She won gold for the United States fair and square.

Go to any major sporting event nowadays and you will see that a majority of people don’t put their hands over their hearts while the Star-Spangled Banner plays. Others don’t even remove their hats. Some are giving their orders at concession stands or walking to the bathroom.

Why is this a big deal?

In the 2012 London games, McKayla Maroney became famous for her unamused scowl, as she stood with her arms crossed on the podium. No one criticized her then. In fact, she became a viral internet meme, a hilarious joke that was celebrated.

Michael Phelps laughed during a medal ceremony last week while the national anthem played because of an inside joke between him and his friends. The joke involved the Baltimore tradition of screaming “O!” during the anthem. His hometown pride was appreciated. No one called him un-American for laughing.

The 1992 Dream Team–regarded by many as the best basketball team to ever grace the hardwood–only had a couple of its members salute the flag while standing on the podium. 11 of the 12 players on that team became legendary Hall of Famers.

Chris Mullin, Scottie Pippen, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, and Michael Jordan–yes, his Airness–are among some of the Dream Teamers who did not salute the flag. They didn’t get criticism.

This is not a knock on any of the aforementioned athletes; they have achieved gold medals in the name of the United States. It’s more of a critique on how the American people received them in comparison to how some are treating Douglas.

She stood respectfully during the anthem. She did not gesture wildly, flip off audiences, or dance gleefully for winning a gold medal. She didn’t showboat, nor were there any displays of bad sportsmanship or treason.

Why should Douglas be held to an unfair double standard?

At 20 years old, she’s considered old in the sport of gymnastics but still very young in the game of life.

Maybe it’s her youth that make some people feel the need to give patriarchal or parental advice, with adults feeling the need to impose their wisdom on a younger Douglas. Based on looking at some of the tweets on social media, it’s clear that some of the vitriol is racially motivated.

Let’s face it, women are looked at much more closely in regards to their appearance, how they compose themselves, and how they act in comparison to men. They are judged a lot more for their behaviors. Throw race into the picture and the magnitude increases, especially given the racial tensions that are prominent in the news and today’s society.

Regardless of what the motive may be, whether it may be related to gender, racial, or just an overall disdain for Douglas, only one thing should matter in an American and Olympic context–the colors red, white, and blue.

Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple. While some have voiced their support for Douglas, using the hashtag #LOVE4GABBYUSA or through other means over social media, the positive messages won’t stop the continued downpour of venomous messages from pundits.

The only unpatriotic act that has been committed in all of this mess are from those who wish to see her fail.

Shame on them.

Douglas continues to compete, despite the negativity. She could have withdrew from her events, give in, and make it about herself.

But she didn’t.

She isn’t the one being un-American. Those that go out of their way to wish for ill will on Douglas, who has won gold in the name of the stars and stripes, are the ones who disrespect the flag.

They owe an apology.

One-and-Done: No Place for Cheaters in the Olympics

636068138045740748-USATSI-9464004

-John David Mercer/USA TODAY Sports

Usain Bolt was at it again on Sunday night, harnessing his energy like electricity flowing through his body to fuel his machine-like pistons for legs. He spurred ahead of the pack to take home the gold medal in the 100m sprint for the third straight Olympics.

Amongst those that he outraced was the United States’ Justin Gatlin, a rival that has gotten close to catching the world’s fastest man throughout the last couple of years. Like all other races before, he was unable to do so, but did put up a valiant effort in challenging Bolt.

As exciting as it was to see Bolt and Gatlin square off at the sport’s highest level, the allure was tarnished by Gatlin’s past.

The 34-year old Brooklyn native had been previously banned twice from track and field for doping.

Frankly, Gatlin should not be able to take home the silver medal.

He shouldn’t have had the opportunity to compete in the Olympics to begin with.

The anti-doping conversation began earlier in the Olympics, when American Lilly King took down Russia’s Yulia Efimova in the swimming pool. King publicly disparaged Efimova after the semifinals and backed up her point by winning gold in the 100m breaststroke.

Efimova tested positive for DHEA, a performance enhancing drug, back in 2013. As a result, she served a 16-month suspension that was lifted in early 2015. Back in March 2016, she tested positive for meldonium, the same PED found in tennis star Maria Sharapova (currently serving a two-year ban).

Efimova was banned from swimming once again, but it was put on hold while the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) further investigates. She was quietly reinstated into the Olympics, but the boos that came her way for every race she competed in were far from reserved.

After defeating Efimova, King became a firm voice in the conversation regarding where athletes caught doping should stand in the Olympics. She believes that there is no room for them at all–a point that isn’t just for Efimova and Team Russia, as it is investigated for a state-wide doping scandal.

“Do I think people who have been caught doping should be on the team? They shouldn’t,” King said, when asked about if U.S. athletes who had been caught doping in the past. “It is unfortunate we have to see that.”

Unlike the overwhelmingly villainous role that Efimova has been given, the reception for Gatlin has been mixed. Spectators were quick to shoot down Efimova, and deservingly so. Meanwhile, Gatlin has received both boos and cheers, with some coming to his defense.

It’s easy for the United States’ supporters to criticize those who don’t suit up for the stars and stripes, especially when it comes to Russia and the long-standing Olympic and historical rivalry between the two countries.

However, in this case, Americans should not support their own who cheat. Lilly King is correct, there is no place for cheaters–past or present–in the Olympics.

Lilly-King-wins-gold-jpg_10140726_ver1.0

-Vaughn Medley/Getty Images

While some pundits have criticized King for being a poor sport by being harsh towards Efimova, I applaud her for being able to voice her opinion and stand up for what is right–calling out cheaters. That is the opposite of being a bad sport. She won the gold medal fair and square.

This the highest level of athletic competition in the world, allowing those who have used PEDs to compete is placing a giant blemish on the integrity of the Olympics and the value of medals.

Like Efimova, Gatlin had been caught twice. He has spent a combined five years away from track and field. While he may adamantly proclaim his innocence and insist that he has served his time, he should not be able to compete in the Olympics.

The International Olympics Committee (IOC) needs to place a harsh no-strikes rule for all cheaters who have used PEDs. One-and-done.

I do not buy an athlete’s excuse in claiming he or she did not know a banned substance was entering their bodies. An athlete claiming naivety is simply reckless. One needs to be far from reckless when it comes to training and preparation. In order to be in tip-top shape, especially at the rigorous level of the Olympics, you have to closely monitor what is going into your body. Aside from the athletes themselves, they have coaches and trainers who are also monitoring their activity. Someone has to know.

A one-and-done rule will bring athletes, coaches, and trainers to look even closer to see what substances are present in a supplement or diet. There should be no excuses to test positive for PEDs that bring a competitive edge.

Should an athlete appeal his or her ban, a further investigation should uncover the truth. If there is a mistake, he or she will be reinstated. A harsh, one chance policy will minimize on doping–especially when a life-long ban from the Olympics is at stake for those who cheat.

The IOC cannot be soft when it comes to dealing with PED users. We’ve already seen what happens when a league’s administration chooses to look the other way or fail to address its doping problem with Major League Baseball.

The MLB chose to look the other way when it came to steroids, as the sport needed to recover from low ratings around the time of the strike in 1994. There’s no coincidence that it was lax in testing its players–as the league saw excitement once again, with home runs flowing in the late 90s, and fans got to see the compelling home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.

It wasn’t until the 2000s that baseball began to really crack down on steroid users, and it wasn’t just limited to star players.

The Mitchell Report in 2007 unveiled approximately 90 MLB players allegedly linked to steroids or other PEDs. The use of PEDs is an epidemic that the MLB is still trying to weed out and overcome today.

The Olympics doesn’t need to succumb to the same fate. The IOC needs to place a high standard for its athletes now. After all, this is a competition for the top athletes in the world–encompassing way less than one-percent of the human population. Allowing past or present PED users contaminates the field and harms the credibility of the competition.

There should be no sympathy for athletes who are known cheaters and PED users. They stole a spot on Olympic rosters from others who attempted to qualify cleanly, and some have even snatched a medal away from other competitors.

Gatlin, Efimova, and all others who tested positive for PEDs deserve their boos and criticism. It’s time for the IOC to set that clear, high standard moving forward so that there is no controversy and no questions to be asked.

PED users should not be allowed in the Olympic games and those caught with PEDs after the fact should have their results vacated and their medals stripped away.

Because, let’s face it–there is something off when an athlete with a tainted past represents a country or finishes ahead of the one who did things honestly and fairly.

The Silver Lining in Michael Phelps’ Final Individual Race

Swimming - Men's 100m Butterfly Victory Ceremony

-Stefan Wermuth/TSRIO2016 REUTERS

Michael Phelps has certainly built quite the resume to be called the greatest of all time–he is the most decorated Olympic athlete with 27 medals and has the most gold medals with 22, shattering numerous Olympic and world records along the way.

Some would even say that Phelps is immortal in the swimming universe, especially after breaking a 2,168-year old record for most gold medals in individual events. It’s a feat that seemingly withstood the test of time, until he set a new mark earlier this week.

However, on Friday night, the world got a reminder that Phelps is not immortal. And frankly, it’s not a bad thing.

In fact, it’s actually beautiful poetry.

There was no Kodak moment, no splashing in celebration, and no opportunity for Phelps to raise four fingers into the air to signify a four-peat as a gold medalist in the 100m butterfly.

Instead, Phelps’ streak of gold medals was put to a shocking halt by Singapore’s Joseph Schooling. The 21-year old swimmer set an Olympic record en route to holding off Phelps and the rest of the pack to victory.

It might not have been the send off Phelps wanted in his final individual Olympic race but in some ways, it was.

Phelps’ mentality started to change since the London Olympics in 2012. Medals and accolades are certainly great for his legacy, but he also wanted to be an ambassador and a pioneer to bring more change and attention to the sport of swimming.

This change was realized on Friday night.

It was a coronation for the new generation of swimming. Not only did Schooling beat Phelps, the man he grew up idolizing as a young swimmer, but he also beat South Africa’s Chad Le Clos and Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh–two of Phelps’ rivals in the last couple Olympic games.

Going in, many thought that the 100m butterfly would be a three-man race between Le Clos, Cseh, and Phelps.

Le Clos and Cseh wanted to beat Phelps, just as he wanted to beat them–but it wasn’t their night. Neither one was able to achieve aquatic supremacy and instead tied one another in historic fashion, as they deferred to Schooling, who beat them by nearly a full second more.

In fact, he schooled them in the qualifying and semifinal heats, clocking in the top times in each round before going into the finals.

Schooling first met Phelps shortly before the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The United States Swimming Team was training in Singapore, when Schooling–as a 13-year old–got to meet his idol. He excitedly got a picture with Phelps and received his autograph too.

Surely, he couldn’t imagine what would transpire eight years later.

160813-world-phelps-schooling-8-year-old-548a-jpg-0548_a4c960044c9e2882b7edcfa58c91280b.nbcnews-ux-2880-1000

-Reuters

Aside from besting the most dominant swimmer the world has seen for over a decade, Schooling began his own path as an Olympic trail blazer. After all, it runs in the first time Olympian’s family.

His granduncle, Lloyd Valberg, was Singapore’s first Olympian, competing in the 1948 London Olympics. He inspired Schooling to strive for the Olympics as a young boy. Now, his Olympic record finish brought home the first ever gold medal to Singapore.

It’s a feat that demonstrates the growth of swimming worldwide. The sport is starting to take shape and foundations are being created in other countries–some of which, you won’t expect or wouldn’t have been quick to name as a contender.

It’s a medal that Phelps won’t be able to challenge in the 2020 Tokyo Games, and an Olympic record he won’t get to race for.

It’s a changing of the guard, the post-Phelps era has already begun.

Phelps set out to change the swimming world and to inspire others, Schooling is that idea personified. He is the new champion of the 100m butterfly, dethroning Phelps and his rivals himself.

The swimming world doesn’t have to worry. While one of it’s most iconic faces will be stepping away from the pool at the conclusion of the Rio Games, there shouldn’t be any shortage of exciting competition in the years to come. Phelps’ defeat reaffirms that.

There will be more new faces and swimmers by the time the next Summer Olympics roll around and while it will be a strange sight not seeing Phelps don his black swimming cap with the United States’ flag emblazoned on it, he will get to marvel at the future of swimming and where the sport is headed.

For now, this is it for Phelps. If he doesn’t change his mind, the sport will be just fine in the hands of Schooling and every one who wants to be like Mike.

A Storm is Brewing

la-sp-russell-westbrook-20151030

-Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

Russell Westbrook put an end to the speculation surrounding where he will be once his current contract expires at the end of next season.

On Thursday, Westbrook inked a deal worth over $85 million to last for the next three seasons that will keep him in Oklahoma City. He will have the option to enter free agency after the 2017-18 season but for now, the Thunder have him locked in for at least the next two years.

The news came as a great sigh of relief for Oklahoma City and its fans, who have already experienced one thunderous blow of heartbreak when Kevin Durant left for Golden State this summer.

Not only did Westbrook’s new contract put an end to hypothetical scenarios of Westbrook playing in Los Angeles or for another team, it also has shown the growth of his persona. (more…)

Fly, Antonio, Fly

 

800px-Philly_(45)

-Lincoln Financial Field

“When you begin working for the Eagles, you will quickly begin to realize that the best part is getting to know the fans you will meet along the way.”

That’s what I was told at the end of a four-hour interviewing process on a perfect, sunny Friday afternoon.

I didn’t buy it.

Don’t get me wrong, I love meeting new people and hearing the stories they have to share. As a former barista, I enjoyed interacting with the customers that shuffled in and out on a regular basis, but I was about to begin working for the Philadelphia Eagles, an experience I was fortunate to have during my junior year of college.

As someone who hopes to work in the sports world, this was a big deal. I was more excited to meet the revered gridiron heroes that conquer Sunday television than I was to meet the average fan. In fact, the one line on my resume felt more important than the thousands of fans that came through the stadium. How could the best part of working for the Eagles simply be getting to meet the fans?

After all, they just blend into one enormous consolidation of green week in and week out. We would have short-term memories; chances are they wouldn’t see or remember me, and I would feel the same way for them.

At least, that’s what I thought. (more…)

The End of an Era

San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Lakers

-Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

 

The NBA is going to look very different next season, as two of its superstars are retiring–Kobe Bryant and as of Monday, Tim Duncan.

Bryant and Duncan have been around for what feels like forever. Their playoff clashes on the court during the early to mid-2000s seemed just like yesterday. The comparisons between the two can easily fuel a ‘who-is-better?’ conversation for hours.

Out of the last 18 championships, they amount for 10 of them–five for Kobe and another five for Duncan.

San Antonio was fortunate to have Duncan for 19 seasons. Los Angeles was blessed to have 20 years of Bryant–the only player to have spent more seasons with one team than Duncan.

Next season will have a different feel to it, with the Lakers losing its iconic face of the franchise for two decades and the Spurs saying farewell to the one player that has been a part of all five of their NBA championship teams.

Not only will the league and its fans miss seeing the two long-time stars suit up for their respective teams, but they also represent the end of an era. (more…)

Et tu, Kevin? NBA Free Agency Has Become a Farce

-The Fumble

-The Fumble

Let’s talk about free agency, shall we?

After seeing the events since July 1st unfold in the NBA, one line comes to mind for me.

If you’ve ever seen the movie Good Fellas, you know what I’m talking about.

“F*** you, pay me.”

Ever since striking mega deals with television networks ESPN and TNT, the NBA has a new revenue stream that is not just from putting butts in seats or from selling short sleeved jerseys.

No, it is a river of cash flowing with greater force than the Mississippi and brings richness to anyone who inhabits it like the Nile.

As a result, the NBA salary cap–the one device implemented in this league that tries to keep parity afloat–has grown at such an astounding rate.

The inflated cap has caused a series events that has taken the life out of the NBA. It has made bench players multi-millionaires and has allowed for the formation of a super teams that have come to dominate the league year in and year out. It has taken away parity of the game, mainly because the superstars of the league have control of every little nuance of the NBA on and off the court. (more…)