Posts Tagged ‘football’

Days until the Presidential Election: Day 65. College Football.

September 3, 2012

Ok so autopublish didn’t work: apparently you have to keep the lap top ON to do that.  Whoops.  The phrase “American as apple pie” has always confused me: I mean, apples aren’t American and filled fruit pastries are as universal as creation stories (hmmm….interesting thought).  But football, American football, is as U-S-A as it gets.

This past weekend provided the kick off the college football season: usually pretty boring, smaller Division I schools offering themselves up to larger schools to pay for the athletic budgets.  The weekend provides some surprises: Ohio University upsetting Penn State and Alabama rolling all over Michigan (sorry, that was too easy to pass up).

Maybe you have to grow up in a football crazed part of the country to truly understand why a defeat at the hands of Vanderbilt, Northwestern, and Kansas ranks up there as a calamity.  It’s fun, it’s a break from routine, home games bring huge amounts of revenue into the local communities.

Yes there are very real conversations that need to happen in the arena of college graduation rates, the exploitation of the student athlete in a handful of sports and how sports is perceived in the wider community.  College football, as an institution, is far, far from perfect.  However, in a few areas of the country, for a few hours each week, we can put life on pause and have some fun.  And if you’re really adventuresome, try those Oreos with beer.


Days until the Presidential Election: 71 – 66

September 1, 2012

It was a busy day at the day job and then the watermelon incident : 2 watermelons + one cat = one huge sticky mess.  So, convention number one is over: convention number two about to start (lies, lies and damn lies) and a twitter account about an empty chair.  Let the countdown continue. . . . . .

71: The Smithsonian(s): All of them.  Most are free.  Yes, most of them are on the Mall in DC which is its own mess but really? Everything from The Fonz’s jacket, to a returning Gemini capsule and the Hope Diamond scattered around DC.  Look, I love the British Museum, the Louvre, MOMA but the single collection of an eclectic bunch of museums dedicated from everything from Air and Space, to different indigenous populations to flat out quirky American pop culture all in one place.  I hate going to DC for all of the reasons that make sense but a long weekend trip to the Smithsonian is completely worth it.

70: Dunkin Donuts.  New England bias; but really, somebody has to make the donuts.  There can be a raging debate (and don’t get me started on the ones in metro Boston not being open 24×7 OR making their own donuts) about what is the “best” donut (honestly, there is something insanely decadent about a  hot Krispe Kreme donut).  But millions of New Englanders greet the day with a regular coffee: which of course means with cream and sugar.

69: The Little League World Series: It’s our sport, but teams from all over come to compete.  Did you catch the team from Uganda this year? First time an African nation won a game (sorry Oregon).  Did you see the introduction of the players without subtitles? Did you see kids getting to be kids?  It’s a slice of summer.  And it’s a reminder that really, it’s a game.  Some of those kids might get college scholarships, a lucky few might make a living out of sports but for one summer, they were on the top of the kid world.  And I feel so bad for the loosing team.  They really are just kids.

68: The Roll Call of States:  Each convention does it.  Somebody stands up and casts the delegate votes for each state, territory, commonwealth for the party nominee. It’s not just the act of voting (more later on that) but how: Alabama: The state with the 3 last national college football champions.  Each state with the opportunity to proclaim something grand, funny, sometime snarky about a neighboring state casting the assigned delegates won in primary battles.

67: The Parade of Mini-Vans: aka, dropping kids off at college. Yes, every nation has something equivalent.  However, I live in the Boston area where we have what is known as Allston Christmas.  People moving in/out of apartments en masse: couches have been known to be stolen thinking they were for pickers.  It’s a riot/terrifying/annoying/hysterical event.  Parents lost, not wanting to leave their child, college students all to happy to have the mini-van turn around.  And yesterday, as far as the eye could see on I-90 east…moving vans, mini vans, jam packed cars.  Thankfully, I was going west.

66: Tailgating: It’s been elevated to a new level by my crazy Kansas cousins.  (Beer and Oreos: breakfast of champions).  Grilling out before the game be it in West Lafayette, Austin, Boise or Athens there is something about the fall ritual of donning your team colors, cheering them on and watching the sport.  And Muck Fichigan: I’m for O-HI-O.

73 days until the Presidential Election: Oreo Cookies.

August 25, 2012

Ok, I was going to start on Day 74 but that would have involved a tirade on trying to find lavender that can be used in cooking in Boston which would have become a long rant on various annoying things people do at grocery stores which is the exact OPPOSITE of what I’m trying to do.

So, expect 73 blogs (give or take) of things that are good about these 50 states, various territories, outposts and things that we have accomplished. Some will be silly, some serious and some historical. All will be written with my inherent bias of a white, lesbian native Midwesterner with a mild disability living in the Boston area.

But today, I choose to uplift the Oreo cookie. Why? It’s simply the best selling cookie in the US. It is proof that one can eat vegan and have a horrific diet. The Oreo, in its simplicity, can spar hours of debate on the proper way to eat an Oreo. I admit doing some light (read Wiki) research. Remember how people (read probably a parent or grandmother) used to try to pass off Hydrox as Oreos? Oreos were invented by Nabisco to compete with Hydrox. Who says copies can’t be an improvement.

Yes, I try to eat as much non-GMO, 100% locally grown food as possible. But let’s face it: there are days that demand Oreos. And water. Never milk. And keep in mind that there is a reason that in October, especially around the 3rd Saturday, orange colored but not flavored filling comes out in the Oreos. We all know who the Oreo gods side with during that game. You never see a crimson colored Oreo. That would, of course, be blasphemy.

Penn State and how the NCAA made the right decision

July 23, 2012

I grew up in Big Ten country (long before PSU became a member!): there were coaches that even the most die-hard Buckeye fans had to offer up (begrudging) respect.  Joe Paterno was one of them.  He ran a clean program.  He stood for what college athletics is about: winning with class.  Yes, he should have retired about 15 years ago but he was JoePa as iconic to Happy Valley as John Wooden was to UCLA.  This past year we just didn’t learn there wasn’t Santa: we learned that Santa stole from our best friend to give to our most despised enemy.  I know, in part, that is why it hurts.  We didn’t want to believe that one of the greater than life legends of college athletics knowingly covered up the sexual abuse of children.  We wanted to believe one of his last interviews with Sally Jenkins that he didn’t know what was going on.  The emails, the notes when they became public weren’t so much stunning revelations as much as confirmations of what we didn’t want to believe.

As the NCAA fast tracked the investigation process, rumors swirled about the death penalty.  A part of me wanted PSU to receive a total death penalty (with scholarships honored) for all sports, Paterno set the culture at PSU.  PSU has a history of discrimination in athletics (case and point, Renee Portland).  A larger part of me realized that the death penalty for PSU football beyond punishing the players who were not on campus at the time of the coverup, punished the wider community.  The local economy depends on football season: State College is a town of roughly 42,000 people: the football stadium houses 106,000 people.  The tax revenue alone probably funds a majority of the local government budget.  The restaurants, bars, stores, the minimum wage workers all suffer the most with a death penalty.

Is 60 million dollars enough: I’m not sure.  The football revenue in 2010 was 52 million dollars.  Football, in part, funds non-revenue sports (and scholarships).  Is it a good move that the money will be placed into a trust not to be used by the university but administered to assist and raise awareness of the childhood sexual abuse.  The NCAA is allowing all current players (including freshman) to transfer without penalty.  The huge scholarship limits over the next four years will force PSU into massive rebuilding.  The additional sanctions by the Big 10 in not allowing revenue sharing from bowl games will be an additional reminder.

The NCAA penalty “lack of institutional control” has been seen as laughable.  Before, it would mean an extra year of probation or maybe an additional scholarship.  The NCAA spoke loud and clear today: even though an NCAA violation did not occur (really), the NCAA acted in a manner which will serve as a reminder for years to come.  While those in Happy Valley will mourn what was: maybe they will (eventually) see that just like Santa, Paterno’s legend was mythical.  He was a flawed man who made a horrible mistakes.  As the leader of the organization, even in his death, his corporation must be punished.  They will suit up in Happy Valley this fall.  They will play for the love of the sport.  And at the end of the day, maybe, just maybe more individuals will have the courage to come forward and speak up about corporate corruption, harm to children and issues which need to be voiced.

If any good is to come out of this tragedy, may it be that if you and three of your friends go out for drinks, one of you was probably abused as a child.  It’s time we start to have that conversation and build resources to help survivors heal.  There will always be pedophiles.  When the shame of being a victim is one begins to lessen through education, awareness and action that we can learn from because of Penn State, only then can we say we learned a lesson from Sandusky and Paterno.

Sigh, and the the response? Oh, never critique college athletics!

January 4, 2012

Earlier this week, I had a post about a now former UT player who wrote a letter to the editor that demonstrated exceptionally poor grammatical skills.  Look, I’m not a wordsmith.  Being terrifically dyslexic I rely on spell check, grammar check and often have to go back and make basic corrections because I simply do not see the errors.  What disturbed me about the letter was the capitalization (hey, English is pretty clear on this *one* rule!) and a letter with so many errors, that for me, it demonstrated an individual who did not have the basic writing skills that should be indicative of a high school graduate.  I received a reply back to my blog….and approved it….and have been chewing on it:

This is such an ignorant arguement. Their are thousands of international students that attend Universities that can barely even speak the English language yet alone write a coherent sentence, but they are graduating from the top Universities with math, science, and engineering degrees. Who are you to judge a man’s intelligance based soley on one writing sample and form an entire biased arguement against he and every other student athlete. Who are you to speak for Notre Dame, Michigan or Michigan State and who they decide to accept into their institutions. Why do you care what happens to college athlete’s after their playing days are over. They make up less then 4% of the entire student body. Why not take into account all those millions of students across the country who CAN “write a proper English sentence” but are majoring in fields that can’t even get you a decent hourly wage in today’s times. Yet all these students are leaving college 50-60k in debt. For the average student colleges say to them, “You pay us, we’ll educate you in whatever you want to study.” But for the college athlete that same University says “We’ll pay you to play, and we’ll give you an outstanding education, while you make us money to help market our Univeristy on television and gain private donors and corporate dollars to build new facilities and add prestiage to our name. We will also give you personal tutors and every educational resource we have available to keep you eligable.”

So if anything, college athletes have more of an advantage to a more effecient college education because these college’s and Universities have more of an investment in these students athlete’s for them not to fail, as opposed to John Doe who is majoring in Art History or Archeology of the Aztec Empire. Hence, college athlete’s leave their respective Universities  better prepared to succeed in life and with as much education then the average student.”

Sigh.  I think I just proved my point.  A few responses:

“Why do you care what happens to college athlete’s after their playing days are over.”  Put it this way: if somebody goes through high school and college/university and cannot write a basic letter to the editor, there is a fatal flaw in the education system.  I’m not into stalking former wide receivers at a university: I do hope that when an athlete leaves his/her sport she has the skills to succeed in life.

Who are you to judge a man’s intelligance based soley on one writing sample and form an entire biased arguement against he and every other student athlete. I’m not judging his intelligence.  I am saying that there is a major problem with the system. Look, we all receive judgement based on a first impression: when you look for a job, it is often your cover letter/resume.  When you apply to colleges, it is often your essay.  Both require writing skills that were not demonstrated in the letter.

Why not take into account all those millions of students across the country who CAN “write a proper English sentence” but are majoring in fields that can’t even get you a decent hourly wage in today’s times. I do.  Having a BA in American History and a Master’s in Theology, I don’t exactly have the most practical degrees.  I’m hacking down my student loans, live very bare to the bones and after being laid off from one job, my ability to write is what landed me the interview (how do I know? I was told by the person who hired me).  That being said, if you are going to major in political science, you need a plan b.  You need to develop marketable skills.  Being able to write a proper sentence IS critical to success, even in our hyper-abreviated forms of communication.

But for the college athlete that same University says “We’ll pay you to play, and we’ll give you an outstanding education, while you make us money to help market our Univeristy on television and gain private donors and corporate dollars to build new facilities and add prestiage to our name. We will also give you personal tutors and every educational resource we have available to keep you eligable.”  Ok, the university better not be PAYING anybody to play except via a tuition/room/board/books stipend.  And given the letter to the editor, isn’t it concerning that despite the resources available, the individual still could not write a correct letter to the editor? Again, this isn’t the fault of the University of Tennessee: where were the high school English teachers?

The NCAA and member schools are doing a disservice to the athletes when they do not ensure that the students enrolling are able to make the grade in the classroom.

Oh, Right, College IS about Athletics

December 31, 2011

I admitt a more than a passing interest to collge football.  After the Penn State scandal, I’ve found my interest waning over the sport.  I still occasionally read on-line articles about the University of Tennessee Volunteers.  Earlier this week, a freshman wide receiver, DeAnthony Arnett, asked for an unconditional release from his scholarship to return to a school closer to home due to his father’s illness.  I don’t know the ins and outs but the comment section of the News Sentiel is lighting up on both sides of the argument.  Arnett went public with an open letter stating his reasons for wanting an unconditional release.  The letter states in part:

“My mom is in a finacial bond my father was forced to retire from his job at General Motors because of a Lung Diseas on Disability, so I started recieving social security checks for a monthly payment of 1100 a month. I was 14 years old when most of this occured so I was un able to recieve my own check until I turned 18 years old so she always controlled my money and she used that as part of her income. When I turned 18 years old the checks came in my name but my mom and I always shared the funds with her. When June came upon my graduation I  recieved a letter from the social security adminstration that my checks would be cut when I graduated so a 1100$ of income was taken from my mother household. She only attended one game this past season.

As this season went on I never was use to my parents not being at my games so it made the season a little harder for me but I still competed hard in my classes as my transcript grades from last semester were three B’s and C and I appeared in all 12 games as a true freshman this season working hard every weak to earn my playing time.”

UT is not the best school in Tennessee: the main campus is probably the 4th best in the state (private and public).  How did Arnett manage the grades he did? Better question: how did Arnett graduate from junior high, let alone high school? How did Arnett manage to qualify academically?  He may be a gifted wide receiver.  He may be a wonderful 19 year old kid.  Maybe I’m judging a book by its cover (or the standards of UT and other programs by one letter) but what on earth is going on in the public education system that allows spelling and grammar like the one Arnett wrote to be considered acceptable (as I am guessing this is close to his style of writing)? What happens to people like Arnett when the playing days are over and skills may not be there for the next level?

College athletics is a money making venture for  the schools.  It is fun for the alumni and students to attend games.  Make no bones about it: being a D-I college athlete is a full time job: to balance academics and athletics is nearly impossible (it is part of the reason the NCAA gives 5 years of scholarship dollars to complete a degree) which is why basketball programs like Duke, UT Lady Vols, the UConn women deserve a nod for very high graduation rates.  Not everybody who attends a university is going to come from equal academic backgrounds.  But the ability to write a basic (without glaring grammatical or spelling errors) letter to the editor of on a subject matter should be at the very least a requirement for graduation from high school.

Much has been debated (almost ad nauseum) about the rise of China, the slipping of the United States as an international power.  With an education system that allowed Arnett to graduate from high school and be admitted to a mid-ranked university with the writing skills he displayed is a national tragedy.  It’s time we put the money we spend on sports aside and use it towards education.  It is the very least we can do for a future.  While I hope Dooley grants the release, I also hope that Notre Dame, Michigan and Michigan State do not offer Arnett a scholarship: the kid simply doesn’t have the writing skills to compete at 2 of the top schools in the country in the classroom.

I’m so mad I could. . .

November 12, 2011

think about how we (usually) fill in the blank in moments of extreme anger: kill some one (or if your like me axe murder somebody with a crossbow – don’t ask how that came about, I’m pretty sure that beer was involved).  I think I wrote about this earlier this year when Rep. Giffords was shot and some of the blame was heaped on Sarah Palin.  As much as I’d like to, I can’t blame her for the act of a mentally ill person (it’s like blaming Jodie Foster for the actions of John Hinkley).  The scandal at Penn State had me thinking about how we use language in a new way.

This has been stuck in the back of my head for a bit: I’m trying to think the last time I heard the word ‘rape’ in causal conversation to mean anything other than an act of sexual violence.  Of course, it is with much irony I note that the word ‘rape’ in Spanish means monkish as I learned while in Spain.  We use our language carelessly: I’m sure fluency in most languages leads towards metaphors that may have some what violent underpinnings.  I wouldn’t know: I’m a fluent mongolot.  Well, sorta, I can understand slowly spoken French, German and Italian.  Reading, add in Spanish – especially within context like a menu, traveling, art.  Speaking, with a trusty guide-book I can stammer out what I need.  But, I digress.

At some point we learn, it’s ok to say we are so mad we can murder/kill somebody.  We also learn we don’t say “I’m so mad I can rape somebody”.  Is it because it of the intrinsic understanding that the violation that comes with rape might be worse than murder? (And really, nobody is around for a cross comparative study).  Is it because at some level we know the probability of being murdered (or knowing somebody who has been murdered) is low compared to the high probability of knowing a survivor of rape?

Is it, because it is a visceral fear or the worst reality? That something that should be an act of intimacy becomes an act of brutal horror that has us saying we’d kill somebody because we know that is a statement of extreme anger and unreality versus the very reality so many have survived?

Maybe the lesson of the tragedy of Penn State will be that open conversation about rape and sexual violence, about how reaching the tentacles can be for survivors and their loved ones.  Hopefully, we won’t move on to another tragedy once the football season ends, that we will take the time to pause and think about how we can make this world a safer place for everybody. If we can’t manage that, maybe, just maybe we can embrace those who struggle with recovery from sexual violence helping to lessen the shame.

Penn State Missed an Opportunity

November 10, 2011

I can’t find the transcript of what Penn State representatives chose to say to the media last night. Quite honestly, I’m not interested in reading it.  I’m going to let the college students rioting thing be what it is: hopefully in a few years they will understand why it as a dumb move.  I made the mistake of reading the grand jury findings.  I’m not sure what I was looking for when I read the document.

I found myself becoming angry.  Angry at the conversations about the way “Paterno had to leave”.  Joe Paterno sealed his fate: he stated he “regretted” his decision when the graduate student came forward: he had years to speak up, this didn’t happen in June.

Paterno said in a statement he was “absolutely devastated” by the case, in which his former assistant and onetime heir apparent, Jerry Sandusky, has been charged with molesting eight boys in 15 years, with some of the alleged abuse taking place at the Penn State football complex.

“This is a tragedy,” Paterno said. “It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.”  So do we all, Joe. So do we all.  Coming forward the day of your firing to try to have one more home game shows, to me, that you can’t do the honorable thing.  You should have walked away.  Penn State, instead of firing you and others involved should have said “We are Penn State University: we do not tolerate this behavior at any level by anybody associated with our school.”  Penn State isn’t alone in this, but any school that doesn’t say when dismissing an individual for ethical violations to crimes against others we do not tolerate this here is just as complacent as those who stood by and did nothing.

Joe Paterno has 17 grandchildren.  Statistically speaking one of them will be the victim of sexual abuse before his/her 16th birthday (actually, probably 2).  How can he look at them and know that he condoned through in action the type of behavior which destroys a life.

It does destroy a life.  The life can be rebuilt but there is always something missing.  Rick Reilly has a sublime article on ESPN: read it.  There is always something missing when you have been the victim of sexual abuse as a child.  You intrinsically learn distrust (and some where Erik Erikson is smiling as it’s one of his flipping 8 stages of human development).  You learn silence. You learn self-doubt.  You are told people won’t believe you.  I can go on but I won’t out of self-preservation.

There are 8 young men who had their lives ruined by an iconic institution.  They came forward and spoke out through the legal system.  They will rebuild their lives.  Slowly.  We all do and at some level the pain never goes away.  I hope they have people around them who will support them and hold them through the difficult days.  They are the heroes.  They said what many adults can only say in a whisper and many years later.

But Penn State? What should they have done. Cancelled the remainder of the football season, cancelled it until they were sure that every member of the Penn State faculty and staff who were involved in the cover-up of the rape of children were no longer welcome in Happy Valley.

Instead? The game goes on – with the witness coaching.

And Paterno? I hope he can find a way to look in the mirror and answer “were those wins worth the lives I destroyed” honestly.  Only then would I think about letting him out of the seat next to Sandusky in hell.

The Women’s World Cup

July 19, 2011

An open letter to the US Women’s National Soccer Team (that probably only my mom will read),

You didn’t win the World Cup.  It bites.  Not meeting a goal always does, it’s why we set them.  Pundits, philosophers, teachers all say you learn more in losses than in victories. Meh.  I’m not convinced. Sure, as an athlete it gives you game tape to break down, improve your skills (a rarity for a career, I can’t look back at mistakes on my day job with a tangible copy to see how to improve. Luckily, I don’t do anything important!).

I heard a few of you say you want make your own chapter, loose some of the shadow of ’99.  Maybe it’s a good thing; maybe it’s something that as a non-athlete I don’t get.  What I do know, is that most of you were probably in the crowds cheering on that magical ’99 team.  There were a few lightening bolts for those women: at home, coming off the ’96 and ’98 Olympic games where the women’s teams dominated (soccer, basketball, softball and hockey).  The ‘99ers were the Title IX daughters.  The ones who had to fight to get on boy only teams as playing fields slowly opened to girls.  I know, they are my age and when I heard them speak about being the ‘only’ girl, or shortening the name of Patricia to Pat, I nodded.  My sister and I were the first two girls in our town’s t-ball team.  We were very bad players (ok, let’s face it, t-ball isn’t really a sport…it’s about learning teamwork!).  The boys didn’t want us on their team, we were clueless (my sister asked why they didn’t sell peanuts at t-ball games) and well, maybe managed a hit every other game and played the minimum.

By the time we were in high school, the t-ball teams were full of little girls.  No longer were girls relegated to swimming, diving, track and other individual sports.  Slowly, “powerhouse” universities started to emerge in team sports for women: UNC for soccer, LaTech, Tennessee and later UConn for basketball, UCLA and later Arizona for Softball, Stanford and now Penn State for volleyball.  Look at your roster now: you don’t have to go to UNC to become a national team member (Ok, Julie Foudy would yell Go Cardinal!).

Your legacy can’t be the same as the ‘99ers.  They fulfilled Title IX.  Your team, your generation has done so much more.  You are risk takers: you went to different schools and created traditions.  You’ve tried so hard to get a women’s league going, again.  You’ve won an Olympic Gold Medal (and let’s face it: I know the World Cup is your sport’s pinnacle, but in so many ways, the Olympic title is much easier understood).  You represent with class, and dignity.  You don’t make excuses.  And you left your all on the field.

You are the next generation.  Your expectations are greater, they should be.  But the world is catching up and that is better for all women.  You captivated a nation during a long summer of divide.  My nephews watched with their sister.  Their sisters pointed out the men didn’t medal, and “the girls won the silver.”  I know I have to attend a few soccer matches in the fall for a pair of 6 year olds who at last check were trying to hit beach balls with their heads.

In a few years, when you ask a 12, 13 or 14 year old what they remember about the 2011 World Cup.  The probably won’t say “You lost to Japan.”  You’ll probably hear about teamwork, not giving up, some crazy headers and how it looked like fun.  And you might hear a story about a kid who picked up the game from watching.

You might not have won a trophy: but you made an impact.  Once again, you reminded young women and little girls that we can do anything.  And you picked up the respect of a few boys for how you played the game, and that is never easy.  And you reminded us all, that sometimes, the struggle is the victory.