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"Sports Journalism" Archive

12/29/11

Ouch That Hurt: Swiping Cam Newtons Talented Butt Cheeks Across the Fiery Pits of Reality

 love Cam Newton.

Now that thats out of the way its time for me to swipe those cute little buns across the fiery pits of racial reality. Beware there are about to be some 3rd degree burns on those talented little ass cheeks.

ESPN posted an interview with Cam that will be in their Magazine next month where he touches on all of those who criticized him when he was coming into the NFL. If you remember scouts said a number of things–that he was one-read and his smile was fake among other (mostly petty and untrue) things. As you all know by now, along with breaking a boat load of records, Cam has shown himself to be mature, poised, and a more than capable passer and runner. In fact, he is rookie of the year no matter which way the vote goes. He has single-handedly reinvigorated the Carolina Panthers franchise despite a defense that Football Outsiders hasnt ranked above 30 all season long.

But on race, Cam has it painfully wrong:
I cant sit up here and look at it like, Oh man, my critics are racist, Newton said. I blame JaMarcus Russell and to some degree. If you have the opportunity to make that kind of money doing something you love to do, why would you screw it up? Im trying to be a trailblazer. If Baylors Robert Griffin decides to come out, I want people to say He can be the next Cam Newton instead of Hes going to be the next JaMarcus Russell.

What Cam doesnt realize is that the very need to link athletes who have little in common besides their race could be considered, itself, to be racist. No I dont think Cam is racist, I think that Cam, like most black people, live in a world where they worry about being judged by the actions of other blacks. This is a feeling that many blacks experience at different times in life but at work is where it haunts us the most. Often youll hear blacks say they dont want to mess it up for any blacks that apply for a position after them. Frequently its not until later in life when you realize that its wasted mental and emotional energy to try to take on the image of an entire race on your own. People who are racist like their racist thoughts just fine, and you shucking and jiving–despite what your parents may have taught you– trying to be one of the good ones is just one way to stress yourself into an early grave.

Cam will learn that as well–hopefully sooner rather than later. No matter how well Cam plays into the future it wont stop some folks from deliberately choosing to compare up and coming black QBs to black QBs who are considered failures. The entire time Newton was coming up, McNabb and Culpepper were right there as two very OBVIOUS available comparisons (if you just had to choose black QBs to compare Cam to) yet people, including Cam, prefer to hold up Young and Russell as barometers. What makes Cam think that performing well will afford future black QBs with a luxury he, himself, does not afford Robert Griffin III?

On some level, it seems Cam has forgotten he is not the first black QB to perform well. I think he has some research to do.

To speak specifically to Vince Young and Jamarcus Russell…they faced vastly different circumstances coming into the league. To compare the two of them is disturbing. Further, Young isnt the first interception King to lose a starting QB position and to go play backup with a chance to someday start again. And that experience is certainly not limited to black athletes. Washington Redskins QB Rex Grossman, who is white, went to the Super Bowl, played backup for the Houston Texans and now starts for the Redskins. Russell wasnt the first QB or player to underperform, display poor personal conduct and find himself out of the league altogether. That is something that happens to both black and white athletes on a yearly basis, take your pick there are many available comparisons. Ryan Leaf?

Ill save my tirade on how Russells problems werent completely his fault for another post. But for now…

The undercurrent here is that two big dumb black studs squandered an opportunity that some people think they never should have had in the first place. But failing to meet expectations is not special to black folks. And I wish Cam would have taken a step back and thought about why the connection between the three of them was ever even made. When I see Cam play, I see more of Ben Roethlisberger than anyone else who currently plays. Football Outsiders said he was Peyton Manning and Herschel Walker rolled into one. I think thats a much more thoughtful comparison.

As far as Robert Griffin is concerned I think theres something else to remember before we peg him. The college game is very different from the NFL game. Griffin is a good rusher but hasnt shown me anything that says he has a rush first, pass second mentality. I think Griffin is, at his core a passer first. He could spend his entire NFL career somewhere near the pocket and passing on the run ala Tony Romo when necessary. Its too soon to know. And its certainly too soon to limit our thoughts of what Griffin can be become by only considering comparisons to players he shares very little with beyond skin tone.

Back to Cam: Unfortunately, I wasnt surprised by what he said. In fact, I was alarmed by Cams earlier comments during the summer when asked about whether he thought black QBs were treated differently. He was very dismissive. But not dismissive in a way that indicated that hed given it any thought. Id love to hear Cams comments in a few years once hes lived a little outside of the deliberate shelter of big money college athletics.

But then gain, he could just end up being another Michael avoid-any-subject-that-could-hurt-my-pockets Jordan. And that would make me sad.

What we do know, for sure, is that most of the ticket buying public doesnt like to hear about race no matter how valid the conversation. Personally, Id rather Cam coddle those folks by avoiding the topic altogether in lieu of giving them some pseudo post-racial poster boy.

12/23/11

A Look Back on How We Used To Think Of Michael Vick

Reading through the Sports Illustrated Vaults are how I like to spend some of my free time. Some of the best and most crisply written sports pieces lie in the internet pages of SI.com and I wish I could read every story. Anyway, the other night Timbaland’s E! True Hollywood Story came on television and it got me reminiscing about growing up in Tidewater Virginia and what it was like for me–the good and the bad.

One of the good things was seeing people from around the area make it big in entertainment and sports. I remember my friends and I used to do talent shows hoping to be discovered by somebody like Teddy Riley who was also from Tidewater and produced and sang in the groups “Guy” and “Blackstreet.” Other names from Tidewater ring bells too: Missy Elliott, Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo (together known as the Neptunes), super hot producer Lex Luger (who is from my hometown of Suffolk), and sports stars like Allen Iverson, Alonzo Mourning, Bruce Smith, Aaron Brooks, Deangelo Hall, Ronald Curry and Michael Vick.

When I was growing up Ronald Curry was the “it” guy and people didn’t talk too much about Vick although I remember him pretty well. This SI.com story  provided an opportunity for me to dip even further into my memory bank. I still remember the lead up to the Hokies going to the Sugar Bowl, it was all we talked about at school.  I even remember my, now deceased, former neighbor had been a teacher of Vick’s and Vick had made sure that he got a ticket to the game. Sidebar: I undertook a similar memory dump when I watched Allen Iverson’s 30 for 30 documentary which brought up a lot of memories about Tidewater and my complex relationship with my home.

The most striking thing about the SI.com story on Vick is the comments that Vick’s mother and former coaches and teammates make about him. They talk about how sweet and polite and “good” he is and how that it is so uncommon. I think people forget that when Vick was found to be running a dogfighting organization, the perception of him, at the time wasn’t of some bad boy athlete. In fact, some of his previous negative coverage in the news was almost dusted immediately under the rug–although I think most of us remember him flipping the crowd the bird and the whole “Ron Mexico” story.

When I read stories like this I’m reminded of how complex people are, and how we tend to get pulled in different directions. There are competing priorities, thoughts, intentions and yes, ego sometimes trumps common sense. And I think that Vick is a example of what can happen when that occurs. Reading this story now, for some of you who are unfamiliar with his best, will either put Vick’s life in context OR it will confuse you even more.

Life is funny that way.

I encourage you to read the whole article, but I’ll post my favorite excerpt from the story on Vick’s admiration of Ronald Curry:

Two years ago, when Vick first reported as a freshman, he was so overwhelmed by the complexity of Virginia Tech’s multiple-set offense and its demands on the quarterback that he considered asking to be moved to another position. “I’m going to tell coach I want to play receiver,” he confided to fellow quarterback Meyer during preseason practice. “This is too much. I can’t take it all in.”

“He’d come out to practice, and his eyes would be big and wild and full of stars,” says Meyer. “He was just awed by everything. Michael didn’t even recognize how good he was. He didn’t understand that he had the tools to do whatever he wanted.”

“Ain’t no way I can learn all this,” Vick would mumble to himself in practice.

Rickey Bustle, the team’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, pulled Vick aside one day and told him to settle down. “You’re a freshman,” Vick recalls Bustle saying. “You’re 18 years old, and you just got here. Why do you expect to do so much?”

It was a question Vick couldn’t easily answer. At Warwick High, Vick had been one of the state’s top recruits, coveted by major college programs nationwide. But he played in the same district and at the same position asHampton’s Ronald Curry, who in 1997-98 was the most heralded schoolboy athlete in the country. Vick so admired the way Curry played that he mimicked some of his moves, and once, when Curry got hurt, Vick’s family sent him a get-well card. “I lived in his shadow,” says Vick. “At the end of my senior year I ended up second-team everything. The papers would have a huge picture of Ronald Curry, with poor little Mike Vick down in the corner about the size of a stamp. I never held it against Curry—just the opposite, I was happy for him. But being second was something I had to deal with, and deal with a lot.”

 

Sidebar: anyone remember scouts trying to convince us that Vick’s brother Marcus would be better than him one day? Yeah.

 

 

 

 

12/7/11

New MLB Dress Code: What About Women Reporters Who Are Hired To Be Sexy?

So essentially the MLB and apparently some reporters think that the MLB press boxes have gotten too casual and the league has released a dress code. They include men under their umbrella since no one wears suits or suiting jackets and ties anymore, but most of what’s included in the dress code is really about keeping women covered up.

I have no issues with the dress code, but I have to mention why I find it funny.

The whole idea of “dressing professionally” at work or having dress codes at clubs is spurred by the same concept–that dress clothes attract higher quality. Higher quality people, higher quality behavior and thus higher quality work. And many times that thinking does hold true and I’ve been known to complain about colleagues attire in the past. I do think people are more conscious of themselves and their surroundings when they’re more appropriately dressed.

So yeah I get it, although I’m curious as to what professional behavior the MLB is trying to encourage or if they’re just working to prevent a “Sainz scene” which one reporter on the dress code panel all but admitted. Remember, Inez Sainz was wearing tight jeans when she showed up at Jets practice but her behavior was also light-hearted which led to what appeared to be a mutual flirting back and forth that most would consider unprofessional on both sides.

Or would they?

Some reporters, like Sainz, are hired to dress the way they do and to add sexual tension to sports reporting (like it or not!). In Latin America they’re more open with it (I once had a colleague who was a reporter in Colombia and she said she was encouraged by her boss to get breast implants that they would pay for), but in America is not all that different. And it’s partly why many female broadcasting roles are on the sidelines where networks can take advantage of full body shots without having to add a real female opinion on the game to the fray.

Again, that’s not all hires. Let’s be clear on that. But certainly the MLB doesn’t seem to be on the same page as the networks that helped create the dress problem in the interest of ratings.  All of this is relevant to women reporters who shoot live footage at a ballpark which is a good majority.

After those Sainzish reporters of course, bloggers were the next to be blamed.

The skimpy attire worn by some of the TV reporters covering the Marlins in Miami drew particular scrutiny.

“We just thought it was time to get a little organized, to put it in place before there was an incident,” said committee member Phyllis Merhige, an MLB senior vice president.

“There’s no one who expects reporters to wear a suit and tie,” she said. “But with the advent of different media, there are now individuals who are not part of a bigger organization that may have a dress code.”

Cause you know bloggers are soooo much less informal and unprofessional than those networks who WANT women to dress sexy. As a blogger myself I appreciate the freedom I have now not to look like a sex pot–not that I could cause I don’t have the ability. But my point is the reporting world and blogging world aren’t nearly as separate as they once were so that was kind of bogus to me. But in my view female bloggers (many of which do not even vlog) have less incentive to wear sexy stuff to the park.

And I don’t know who is wearing footflops, also now banned, but that seems more indicative of being silly than being a blogger vs. being a reporter.

As far as professionalism is concerned, Jessica Quiroli, who writes for Baseball Digest and tweets under the name “Heels on the Field”  brought up some good points on her twitter page.

 

Essentially, professionalism only seems to be a concern when it comes to a specific thing. We’re worried that women may be wearing a one-shoulder top (no, really, one shouldered tops are banned. That just eliminated part of my wardrobe!) but not that men may be (even if unintentionally) sexually harassing women or otherwise making them uncomfortable. That is why I scoff at the professionalism angle the MLB is spouting.

And oh by the way, I can’t speak for all women, but I’m not a fan of those ill fitting khaki shorts so many guys are a fan of. ICK!!!! Can the MLB and all leagues ban those in stadiums (not just the press box).

Where was I?

Oh yeah…Dress code: Whatever. Intentions: Questionable. Impact: ???.

Bright side: a tight knee-length pencil skirt and blazer on the right body blows ripped jeans and a tank top out of the water on the right shape. Just a tip.

11/21/11

Former DT Kris Jenkins Says Football Is Hell — Gives Good Insight Into Football’s Reality

Kudos to the NFL for actually linking to the NYT Kris Jenkins post on NFL.com. They've taken their heads out of the sand.

The NY Times, which has done great work on the NFL’s concussion issues, compiled some quotes from DT Kris Jenkins on the behind the scenes parts of football. He describes football as hell and gives some good details about what it does to the mind (foggy thinking) and body (chronic pain and numbness).

The first thing people do when they hear football players talk about the consequences of playing football is get defensive. Reactions range from uninformed ( “Well, they get paid a lot of money so…”) to wildly exaggerated ( “They know the consequences when they begin!”) to irrelevant ( “I don’t feel sorry for any of these guys.”) to blatantly racist (“Well if they weren’t playing football they’d probably be in jail.”)

Being the nice girl that I am, I’ve covered all those bases for you so that you don’t have to. That way, all you have to do is read Kris’ thoughts without being feeling pressured to say something dumb.

The entire piece can be read here.

Here are a couple of the excerpts that stuck out to me the most.

N.F.L. fans, people outside, they have no clue what goes on. This isn’t like playing Madden. This isn’t like being the popular kid in high school. When you do those things in the real world, and it don’t work out, you still have your health. The thing about football is you’re directly playing with your life, the quality of it and the longevity of it. The stakes are up there.

You ever been in a car crash? Done bumper cars? You know when that hit catches you off guard and jolts you, and you’re like, what the hell? Football is like that. But 10 times worse. It’s hell.

I got my first N.F.L. concussion against Green Bay, my rookie year. I jumped, and my feet got clipped, and I hit the ground face-first. Bang! No shoulders. No chest. Nothing. Just my face hit. I got up, and I had the punch-drunk feeling, seeing starbursts and feeling giddy. I knew where I was. I knew what was going on. I also knew I had my bell rung. I made tackles back to back, and I remember one coach saying, the way he’s playing right now, the concussion probably did him some good. I played the whole game.

The debate about concussions wasn’t there yet. I’ve had more than 10, including college and the pros. Nobody cared. And that’s the thing. We play football.

I remember one game, at Carolina, my second year. We played Arizona, and the double team weighed 780 pounds combined. They just kept double-teaming me, hoping I would fold and cave in. I didn’t. But that was probably the most painful day I had.

From the double teams, over the years, I wore the left side of my body down. I was past hurt. I was at the point of numb. Like my body was shutting down nervous systems, so I didn’t have to deal with pain.

 

I mean, guys play hurt, but it’s a choice. They do a pretty good job now, with all the scrutiny around concussions. On the line, it’s still painful. By the end of the year, half an offensive line might be getting shots, draining fluid from their knees. Most stay away from cortisone now, because it’s degenerative.

Everything gets off center. Bulging disk. Herniated disk. For linemen, it starts in the lower back. Throws everything off.

I can’t blame anybody for my death. I made the choice to play football. I made the choice to walk through the concussions. I could have stopped. I could have said, my head hurts. It was my choice, as a man. We consider football a gladiator sport because we understand you’re going to get hurt. You’re putting your life on the line. You might not die now, like in an old Roman arena, but 5, 10 years down the road, you could. You know that.

I wouldn’t change anything.

 

When we come into the N.F.L., we’re idiots. Because you’ve been groomed from childhood to think the rules don’t apply to you.

So this is what happens. You’re going to be warned. The first warning is the first meeting you have with an agent, when you realize this is real. My choices count at this point. I’m going to be prostituting myself for the next 18 years of my life.

That’s the first warning. The next one is that good old combine.

That’s when you realize, when you march in that room half naked, I’m a number now. They’ve changed the recruiting process to a percentage.

That’s what you are.

The third warning is when you get that contract. Most of the language in there is standardized. The gist of it is, stay in line, or else.

Your last warning is in training camp because there’s no learning curve. That’s when you realize that it all ties in together, and it will be that way as long as you’re playing.

I went through so much in Carolina, it was ridiculous. People checking up on us in clubs. Concerns with the locker room. John Fox was our coach. He was a big cliché guy. He’d say, do as I say, not as I do.

That didn’t make sense to me.

 

Right now, it’s more important than ever for guys to take care of themselves off the field. The Patriots do it right. They have an acupuncturist on staff. They do Pilates. That’s one secret to their success: recovery.

You can do a lot off the field. You can lift. You can run. But that trauma, that rattling, that impact, there’s nothing you can do to stop it. Your body is going to naturally react. Your muscles will tighten up. Fluid builds.

The unfortunate thing is the timing of the off-season. You don’t have enough time. You get a month off, and you use that to mentally relax.

But your body is still tense from all that impact, from all that pain.

I don’t think the science is keeping up with the changes in the game.

We’re not on grass anymore. We’re on turf, which is disgusting for fat people. I hate turf. It’s the worst thing ever invented for a lineman.

Your knees absorb the impact. It’s being bounced up through your body through the concrete. Into your lower back. Into your lower spine.

People don’t want to put up with the gunk and the mud, but that was one of the best parts of the game. Playing in mud, when you can’t get a grip, when it’s disgusting. That’s football. The entertainment value was just fine back then.

The thing is, when guys retire, then stuff happens to their body; they’re coming back, screaming like we’re the martyrs in all this.

 

My primary observation is that the more I read former players’ experiences in football,the more I believe there will be a point where society moves past football due to the brutality of it. Jenkins and other former players like Jamie Dukes and current players like Ray Lewis refer to football as a modern Gladiator sport. I think this comparison is valid for a number of reasons and just as society became too civilized for Gladiator battles it will at some point become too progressive for football.

Information is always the beginning of the end. The only variable is time.

When I was growing up, I was a huge fan of boxing. In fact, I wanted to be a boxer at one point. As I got older watching the sport made me cringe. I’m getting to that point with MMA however the repeated blows to the head in boxing made me more wary of it than the more total body sport of MMA. At any rate, I’ve heard a number of reasons given for why boxing is no longer popular. But what people rarely say is that society just isn’t into the raw brutality of organized blood baths anymore. And watching heroes like Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali struggle post-career makes it much harder for some of us to enjoy current boxers cause we’re now hyper-aware of what comes next.

What keeps football relevant and growing is the distance between the players and fans. The padding, the helmets, the fantasy of it. No, football isn’t Madden, but IS Madden to the viewer. The guys aren’t real or human in any sense of the word to the average fan. They’re largely faceless interchangeable pieces unlike boxers who are bound to and thrive off the extreme individuality of their sport. But now that former players are coming forward telling their stories — not for money, not for sympathy, but just for your information–they’re pouring the warmth of humanity over a sports dish best served cold and nondescript. We’re inching ever closer to thinking about football the way we’ve always avoided thinking about it.

I love football, I believe it is the greatest sport on earth. I enjoy going to games and experiencing the energy of the crowds, the crack of the helmets, the flying turf, the intensity of two teams laying it all on the line. I get into the sheer enormity of something that was just supposed to be a small piece of entertainment. But would I let MY son play? Hell no.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10/31/11

TMZ’s Harvey Levin Talks About Women Being Kept On The Sidelines in Sports

When asked about women color commentators, Michael Strahan had nothing to say. I wonder if his gap has an opinion?

Harvey Levin’s crew struck again when they caught former NY Giant Michael Strahan, Atlanta Falcons Tony Gonzalez, and Jay Glazer outside of a restaurant and asked them why women aren’t allowed to do color commentary. None of the 3 guys saw fit to comment. They basically just looked goofy and gave no response. I’d actually love to hear what Strahan thinks about this–he obviously has an opinion on pretty much everything else under God’s green earth. I’m SURE he has some thoughts on this. Whether they’re sharable, who knows…

Women being relegated to the sidelines (literally, as sideline reporters) is something that bothers me. And I especially don’t like the fact that people are always talking about how these women bring nothing to the broadcasts. First of all, most sideline reporters (male or female) add nothing to the broadcast. And since this has been the case for years my assumption is that they’re not hired to bring anything to it. Sideline reporters are there to make the broadcast FEEL interactive, not to elevate the sports discourse.

I don’t think it’s fair to make an assessment of what hiring more women could potentially add to sports broadcasting by basing it on the performance of women who were specifically hired to do not much.

Not only are women not doing color during games, they’re not really giving analysis on sports shows either. Most are either hosts or anchors whose job it is to facilitate discussion, not to actually add their own opinion to the conversation. I am hoping, myself, to be one of the women that gets to opine about sports so that door needs to be busted wide open immediately.

Also, if the requirement is that all women sports broadcasters look like they belong on Sideline Hotties then the pool of candidates is automatically narrowed. That has nothing to do with women not being able to provide commentary. It’s all about what the viewing public prefers to see.

I thought it was pretty random that this seems to be a topic that got Harvey’s attention, although I didn’t understand his reference to Jackie Johnson. Maybe you guys do? If so, set me straight in comments.

 

 
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