What An Opportunity

Archive for January, 2013|Monthly archive page

31.

In Life on January 29, 2013 at 8:05 pm

Let’s walk back in time

back to when she was less of a rhyme

and more or less the reason

that this apparatus would stop beating

just for a second

 

Back to the conversations on pillows

as the wind bent the willows

outside that window

and she let you see clear

through the pain and fear

to the eternity inside

 

Back to the perfect in imperfection

the school punishments without the lesson

the  “you know i’m just messin”

and that smile

or the times it went away

with the words you didn’t say

and the thoughts that brought the fray

and to this day,

can’t say that it mattered

 

Back to the double-take

and the crushes real and fake

and the things we give but can’t take

and the reasons why

and the “hi, my name is shy”

and this is not goodbye

and i promise you that

 

but we only go forward with time

yet, these choices are still mine

 

guess with age comes tries,

but im feeling old, and not very wise.

 

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The NCAA and you.

In Sports on January 24, 2013 at 12:15 am

 

 

Are you worried about making sure your school is doing the right thing? Are you worried about making sure you can do the best you can for your student-athletes? Then you are at the right seminar! We are the NCAA…and we are here to help. Now we’re sorry if we can’t get to all the questions that you have but we will cover what we can.

So let’s get started. First, we can all agree that these student-athletes are amateurs. They are, after all, students first. So…they should not be paid for their sporting endeavors. If, as a school, you happen to make money off a player’s name, number, talent, etc., it is your right as the school to pocket that money. After all, you are providing an education. Moreover, we will sanction video games such as NCAA Football and NCAA Basketball, and partner with media partners like ESPN, but we will leave the players’ actual names off the game so no one can will know. For example, it is impossible for someone to confuse the cover boy of NCAA Football 11, #15 from Florida, as Tim Tebow. We’ll keep that between us.

Now, about that education. Like we said, you will provide athletic scholarships so these individuals can go to school. Also, there will be mandatory study time so the athletes don’t feel overwhelmed. If practice times are too stressful and impede with academics, you can be sure that the athletes would pick an education over sports. There is nothing in our college sports culture that would cause a student-athlete to prioritize sports over an education. Furthermore, no coach would ever intimate to a player that college is just all about the sport. Coaches have to balance the rigors of sports with the realities of gaining a quality education.

In addition, no coach is to help an athlete get a grade he/she did not earn or herd them into courses that are less rigorous with an understanding about the situation; those situations would be unethical. Therefore, we are establishing an Academic Progress Rate. If your athletes fall below a specific number we deem as unacceptable, you will be banned from postseason participation.

Brief aside: Except you, football.  Don’t worry guys. You make us the most money so just keep doing what you’re doing.

Anyway, as I was saying…banned!

Now, let’s talk about criminal proceedings. Most of the time, we don’t really care; we’re not that type of organization. Still, if it makes big enough of a public stir, we’ll poke our heads into it. So, if it’s a crime that involves athletes, we will prosecute to the full extent of the law that we made up for that day; you can’t adjust for everything, you know. And because we made it up that day, we are not accountable for telling you why you received such a punishment. We punish as we see fit.

You see, it’s not our fault…oh, wait. I almost forgot. If we have turned a blind eye to your school’s misgivings because you were winning influential games, do not take that for granted. If you slip up when you are not relevant, we will lay down the law. Furthermore, there is no one we will not talk to in order to get our point across to your institution. That includes the defense attorney of the person that is in prison for providing impermissible benefits to your athletes. We have no reason to doubt the statements of that defense attorney towards said institution and will use them in our court of law as judge, jury, and executioner.

Now, as I was saying before, it is not our fault that you universities are utterly helpless. As beacons of academia, your lightbulb is beginning to dim; and some may argue, have been dimming for some time. It is tough to make money, apart from tuition hikes, so you force faculty to publish as much as possible to get the most money into your school. Yet, sometimes that isn’t enough. So you began to rely on donations.

That method makes alot of sense until the boosters decide that instead of a building named after them, they want to see a winning football team. Coupled with the media contracts and sponsorships associated with popular sports like football and men’s basketball, and the fact that we say you can’t pay your players, you have a wonderful revenue stream. Well, kind of. The actual math is kind of tedious but pretty much only some schools make a profit on sports through ticket sales and sponsors but that’s neither here nor there.

All that you need to know is that we are here and we are here to help you. We are the NCAA. Any questions?

Up, up, and away.

In Sports on January 19, 2013 at 2:03 pm

 

I miss Smallville. I’m ok saying that out loud. I watched Smallville from beginning to end and Superman became my favorite superhero; I felt like I somehow knew him. Smallville ran for 10 seasons, from the now-defunct WB to the CW. Spanning from the beginning of the 5th grade till the end of my junior year of college, Smallville was just the coolest thing to me. Clark Kent’s struggles with stuff we go through, and then the added pressure of having the ability to save the world, made for engaging television. Through it all, he eventually becomes a symbol of all that is good and represents the best of humanity and human nature.

However, The Last Son of Krypton is not the focal point of discussion today. Thinking about Smallville also got me thinking of the intro: “Save Me” by Remy Zero. Interpolated within scenes from the show and cast members, “Save Me” captured the plight of Clark Kent in song. I always thought the song suited Smallville and I think it’s a good place to begin our discourse.

“Somebody save me…”

To imply that athletes are held to a moral standard that supersedes that of most of society is not exactly an original thought. Athletes, and sports teams for that matter, make money based upon consumer-ship. Buying tickets to games, jerseys, a brand or the products of a sponsor are all activities that lead to investments in athletes and their teams. Therefore, we seem to impose the highest moral standards upon them. If you have the most talent that allows you to make the most money, then you deserve the most scrutiny. Athletes are then supposed to become symbols of all that is good and represent the best of humanity and human nature.

“And I would give you anything you want, know

You were all I wanted”

So what happens when they can’t be the best on the basis of their talent or work ethic? What if there was a way to provide more of the material that makes them great? What if greatness was in a needle? Did PEDs make the pitches for Roger Clemens? Did PEDs hit the ball for Barry Bonds? Did PEDs save thousands of lives with the research from the Livestrong Foundation? What if you gave everything to achieve greatness? You could inspire so many people and all you had to do was take an injection. What if this was an opportunity to play on a level playing field with everyone else? You could make enough money to donate to charities and give back to your hometown and local communities where you play. All you have to do is choose what truths to tell and what lies to defend. What if you could be Superman?

“And all my dreams are falling down”

And after the Hall of Fame election of 2013, or lack thereof, and the story of Lance Armstrong, Manti Te’o made headlines; his story has not so much made headlines as much as it seems to have dominated the national discourse. A feel-good story that instantly became shockingly bizarre. We will know more as time goes on but this is what we know so far: Lennay Kekua did not exist.

For those who don’t know, or those looking for a refresher, I’ll say what I know; or more specifically, what I have heard and choose to accept this far.

Manti Te’o was a senior middle linebacker on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. On a nationally broadcast game in September against Michigan St., those watching found out that this young man had lost his grandmother and his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, during the same week. An unspeakable tragedy, we watched a young man have a great game, seemingly inspired by his situation.

Throughout the season, his story became the story of the Notre Dame football team as they rose to #1 in the national rankings. The public was treated to stories of Te’o’s devotion in Kekua’s last days and his unrelenting love and affection. Te’o was a finalist for the Heisman, partly for his great play and partly for  his inspirational story of aspiring for, and achieving greatness, in the face of immense tragedy. Notre Dame went on to play for a national championship in January. Even after a disappointing loss in the championship game, Te’o was seen as a wonderful story that embodied all that is good and represented the best of humanity and human nature.

Then a strange report came out. We were led  to believe, with extraordinary detail, that Lennay Kekua did not exist. Account after account suggested that her, and her story, had been fabricated. Immediately, it became clear that we all had been duped. We all had bought into a fable, with a substantial moral, but a fable nonetheless. Now, as more details come out, one is left wondering whether Te’o knew about the hoax. Was he “catfished” by some elaborate prank or a willful participant? Is he a very trusting young man who was taken advantage of or a narcissistic sociopath with the audacity to believe he could pull off such a ruse? We may never know. Either way, we know this: Manti Te’o is not the player we thought. The court of public opinion is split and the conversations I have had with friends have touched on just about every theory out there. And really, can one be refuted at this point?

Even still, with the allegations against the prominent members of the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot and the confession of Lance Armstrong, it is safe to say that there is a disillusionment towards heroes. There is a sense that if you probe just below the surface, we will find a shell of a human being that is propped up on their talent, commercialism, and the belief of fans.

And whatever direction this Manti Te’o story takes, it is safe to assume that he too wanted his chance at greatness. Whether as a star-crossed dreamer or a calculated associate, he was Superman. But one may argue the hero was never really a hero at all. And maybe worst of all, as was the case with Bonds, Clemens, and Armstrong, some of us thought that. But we wanted to believe anyway. Superman’s gone, but we will wait for someone else to put on a cape and paint a “S” on their chest.

I guess Smallville had it right all along:

“Somebody save me
Let your warm hands break right through and
Somebody save me
I don’t care how you do it
Just stay, stay
Oh come on
I’ve been waiting for you”

 

My Take on Manti

In Sports on January 18, 2013 at 6:37 pm

We have all heard some version of the story by now, a story first reported by Deadspin.com on Wednesday. Notre Dame’s poster-boy linebacker – Heisman runner-up, National Championship runner-up, national sympathy recipient and projected top-10 NFL draft pick Manti Te’o – had been involved in a hoax of staggering proportions. Deadspin revealed that his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, who he had spoken of as an inspiration throughout their relationship and in her death of leukemia in September, never existed. She was nothing more than an online personality and an unknown voice on the phone. When this broke, Manti’s role in the hoax was unknown; did he perpetrate the story for sympathy, for attention on a run at the Heisman, or some even deeper motive, or was he simply a victim of a cruel and terrible Catfishing scheme? An anonymous source in the article said he was “80% sure” Manti was knowingly involved from the beginning. As I read the Deadspin article late Wednesday afternoon, my own head began to… ahem… spin. I felt like I had vertigo. My first reaction was, like everyone else’s, shock and disbelief. But it was the second reaction where I diverged from about 90% of Twitter users; I did not immediately point an accusing finger at Manti Te’o. This is because, having gone to school with him for three years, having several mutual friends, and working with the Notre Dame football team for an entire season, I had the privilege of getting to know Manti a little bit. And it’s readily apparent when you spend any time at all with him; he’s really a good guy. Whether that makes me biased or more qualified to judge the situation probably depends on your stance. I think it has helped me maintain perspective.

When the story broke, many rushed quickly to judgment. Twitter exploded with assessments of the situation, with tweeps calling him an attention whore who wanted the media notoriety for a Heisman run, a closeted gay who made up a girlfriend as a cover, a pathological liar, or even mentally troubled. I can see where an outside observer could draw such conclusions – it looks awful from the outside looking in – but my own personal experience with Te’o led me to sincerely doubt these as true. Nevertheless, many questions remained in my mind. There were still a great deal of inconsistencies in the story. I couldn’t believe that the hoax was his idea, but what was my alternative?

Then I watched Jack Swarbrick, Notre Dame’s athletic director, give a press conference a few hours later. He explained the idea of Catfishing, that Manti was the victim of a hoax, and that a private investigator hired by ND had discovered online chatter – “casually cruel” chatter, according to Swarbrick – between several parties who perpetrated the hoax. His sincerity, emotion, and willingness to stick his own neck out for Manti convinced me fully of Te’o’s lack of involvement in the planned perpetuation of this fraud. You see, I also know Jack Swarbrick. I have had several conversations with him, and I have been unreservedly impressed each time. He spoke to a small group of young men in my dorm last year as part of our Distinguished Speaker Series, and after sharing his personal story, he facilitated the most frank and straightforward question-and-answer time I have ever seen from any figure in sports. He also later met with me one-on-one to discuss my career prospects, and to advise me on how to move forward in my goal to become an athletic director myself one day. He was nothing less than generous, welcoming, and honest, and I really grew to admire him through these experiences. When I watched the press conference, I no longer had any doubt about how this whole hoax began. (Sources have since divulged that Ronaiah Tuiasosopo perpetrated this hoax without Manti’s knowledge, thus confirming my beliefs).

That only clears Manti to a point though. What about the many inconsistencies in his story? What about how he said he met Kekua in 2009 after an ND-Stanford game, and they had a moment where they touched hands and locked eyes? What about how she has supposedly visited him in Hawaii? How could he never have met her in a year? There are a lot of holes in his account.

And this is where I have to cut him down. He lied about a lot of things. He made it worse. He definitely handled it poorly in some ways. He REALLY needs to stop hiding out now, and just face the music. He’s making it worse for himself and for everyone who is defending him and believing in him, and that needs to stop. He and the Irish had such an incredible season, but it seems to be spoiling more and more by the day. Talk to us, Manti. Admit where you lied, where you were duped, and share the truth openly.

Now, though there is no acceptable excuse for lying as he did, I also contend that people need to get off Manti’s back a little bit. Twitter has been especially heinous. First of all, there is little to no proof that he was behind the hoax in the first place. In fact, Deadspin’s “80% sure” anonymous source is the the only actual evidence I’ve heard, despite egregious amounts of accusation taking place. So there’s that. Next, consider the stakes and the circumstances here. You have to understand the shock, horror, embarrassment, mortification and head-spinning questions caused by the phone call on December 6th. He didn’t even believe it for a while, I’m sure. Then the Heisman ceremony was December 8th; should he have said, “Oh, by the way, guys… my dead girlfriend is fake” live at the Heisman ceremony? Come on. I’m sure he needed quite a bit of time to deal with these appalling developments, and as Jack Swarbrick has recently divulged, to try to follow up on it himself. In addition, imagine the questions that arise if he comes out with this news soon after the Heisman ceremony. He would be vilified even more for playing with the voters’ sympathies in an effort to win the trophy! The suspicions of this being a hoax for attention would be even more heightened. I’m also sure that once he confirmed that he had in fact been duped, in mid-to-late December, he did want to talk to his parents in person instead of over the phone. So he waits a bit for all that to clear up… but then if he comes public with it in late December- early January, it becomes the biggest distraction of all time for the Irish before their first national championship game in 22 years. If the Irish lose and Manti has come out with this story beforehand, he takes a good deal of the blame. That seems undesirable. First he was the victim of a terrible hoax, then upon its revelation, was placed in a terrible situation where there was NO WIN for him. At all. Just judgment and suspicion from all sides, except from Swarbrick and those who actually know him. If I could see Jack Swarbrick today, I would give him a huge hug and I would probably cry on his shoulder for sticking his neck out so damn far for this great kid. Not a perfect kid… just a great kid.

You see, they’re all just kids. Manti Te’o is almost two years younger than me. And the attention and platform and pedestal is all OURS, not theirs. Sure, he embraced it; he told a story that was incredibly moving for him. He had no reason not to. But he doesn’t check his humanity or his privacy at the door when he decides to attend Notre Dame. Just because he is in this spotlight doesn’t mean he ceases to be a college student. Maybe these stakes make it more complicated than a simple, indignant “He should have told everyone immediately as soon as he got that call!”

Maybe he should have told his parents in person in New York, even if he wasn’t sure what to think yet. I think he should have gotten it out sooner. He should have never lied about meeting her or any other lies he told. He was probably embarrassed about how their relationship started and was proceeding, and I can definitely feel him there. That still doesn’t make it okay by any means.

But please, consider this as well; he has also done so much on and off the field for Notre Dame. I’m truly grateful for all that. It was an amazing season, and he overcame REAL anguish and heartbreak this year (regardless of this debacle, his grandmother did die, and he did genuinely believe that another person he had grown to care deeply about passed away as well) to play a spectacular season for a team that went on an incredible run. Let’s not discount that. Between the emotional trauma and the embarrassment and the massive amount of good he has done in his 4 years at Notre Dame, I am willing to reserve some of my vilification for the obvious wrongs he did commit. He was the victim more than the perpetrator here. Maybe he should have been more suspicious in the first place; I’m sure he will be from now on. Maybe I’m too soft. But I think he needs support and understanding more than the BS he’s getting from everyone right now.

Maybe I say this because I can understand; I’m a very trusting, maybe even somewhat naive, romanticizing person. I can easily put myself in his shoes. I would be embarrassed as hell about telling the national media how I fell so hard for someone I had never met in person. Then, if a tragedy was getting me so much attention, I’d probably run with it and exaggerate the details a bit too. It’s not right, but it’s understandable. I think he just needs a little bit of understanding. Then in a week or so, a good tongue-lashing for what he did. Maybe instead of a real, live girlfriend, he should find a good, solid mentor. He is, after all, still just a kid.

Thank you.

In Life on January 15, 2013 at 11:30 pm

“This is Jeopardy!” the television murmured in the living room.

She stood over the kitchen sink as she placed the last dish on the rack.

“Want me to dry?”

Her heart skipped a beat. Old age can do that to you.

 

“Oh, Sam…you scared me half to death. I thought you were sleeping.”

The television flickered and she pulled her sweater closer to her chest.

“So sorry, my dear. The offer is still on the table.”

“You might as well.” she responded.

She took a seat as he grabbed the dish towel in his hands and began to wipe the dishes dry.

 

“You know…”

“I know you didn’t need help,” he interjected. “I just wanted to do something nice for you.”

“Well, thank you.” she responded as she sat at the kitchen table and watched him.

“You talk to the kids, lately?”

She was lost in her thoughts.

“The kids…uh…yes. Just the other day. They grow up so fast.”

He continued to dry as she talked.

 

“I guess he’s worried about his future and what will happen to his family. I keep telling him, ‘Growing up is not giving up .’ Doesn’t want to listen.”

“Wonder where he gets that from?”

“Nobody asked you, Samuel.”

She was not impressed by his wit but she could hear the satisfaction in his tone.

 

“Anyway,” she continued, “I keep telling him to not worry about the things that seem less important these days. It happens. Part of growing up. When you get to my age, it’s funny what seems trivial and unnecessary.”

“Woefully self-aware as always, my love.”

“Thank you, Samuel. I know there’s a compliment in there somewhere.”

The light flickered above the kitchen table as he smiled as he hung up the dish towel. He sat with her and listened.

 

She spoke about the kids; their two boys and a girl. She talked about how the neighborhood had changed. She talked about the local college team and how those children dress these days. He listened. And smiled. And chuckled to himself.

“…Like I always say, ‘You can’t move on till you can accept where you are.”

“Contentment.”

“Exactly.” she answered.

“Oh look at the time, it’s almost 9. I must be getting to bed. Are you going to stay up, darling?”

 

“Dear…”

He held her hands and looked her in the eyes.

“Sam…I know…”

The thoughts that had filled her head couldn’t leave her lips. As if, once they escaped her lips, they would be real.

 

“You passed many years ago,” she said as she touched his face.

“I miss you a little everyday. But He knows best. And your time here was over. Sometimes it is difficult knowing I los…”

“You never really lose anybody, my dear. Not as long as there is a God in heaven. You never lose anybody.”

 

He stood up from the table.

“My dear, let’s dance like we used to…”

And there, they danced as her memory of him began to fade.

“You are never alone, my love. Happy birthday.”

“Thank you. Thank you…”

 

Pegulaville.

In Sports on January 15, 2013 at 8:04 pm

Pegulaville: Home of the Buffalo Sabres.

Population: Not as much as you would think.

What is the sport that most Americans watch today? I would give you three guesses but you probably only need one: football. Not a game where the ball is kicked with the foot (unless you’re a kicker or punter) but rather is thrown, caught, handled between the chest and forearm, and thrown ruthlessly into the ground to exhibit dominance and emotion. Football is the most watched sport in the United States and has been for some time now. For some people, it is the execution of well-laid plans and precise details being performed at humanity’s physical and mental peak that draws them. However, even the most contemplative of viewers lets out the complimentary, “Ohhh!!” when a player is “laid out” at any given point in the game. One of the biggest reasons people watch football is for the big hits. Keep that in mind as you read on.

What is the sport that most people in the world watch today? I would give you three guess but you probably only need one: football. A game where the ball is kicked with the foot and can be touched by the head, heel, knee, chest, shoulder, back, etc. but no hands…or lower forearm really; unless you’re a goalie or Diego Maradona. For almost everyone watching football, it is the execution of extricate passes, exemplary form, and extraordinary talent that drives viewership. While the pace may not be everyone’s cup of tea, most fans appreciate the build-up of play that leads to “that one moment” that produces a goal. MLS has seen a substantial uptick in its viewership and TV deals with NBC Sports Network and ESPN speak to its growing popularity in these United States. Scoring is at an absolute premium and that is one the biggest reasons people watch football. Keep that on the back-burner next to that other oblong-shaped thing.

Then’s there’s basketball. Basketball is unique that in while it was created in the United States, there was a purposeful effort to expand the game globally. The growth of the NBA, as a brand, is a credit to David Stern and an emphasis on an open-door policy that allows for the many international citizens in the Association today. As for the popularity of the sport of basketball, it is the pace of the game that draws people; to contend that basketball is dull due to game speed is a tough argument to rationalize.

So let’s take a look at what we have here: American football is popular, for many reasons, but one of those reasons is the physicality of the sport. Football is the most popular sport on the planet and the most important reason might be how hard it is to score. Finally, basketball is popular in the U.S. and the rest of the world because of the pace of play.

Which brings us to hockey. Born in Canada and played around the world and in the U.S. Hockey has the physicality of American football (with fighting, mind you), the scoring premium of football, and the pace of basketball and yet, is routinely ignored. TV ratings for hockey, especially in championships, seem to be consistently jockeying baseball for third behind the NFL and the NBA. Why is that?

One reason could be weather. In the U.S, there are just not enough places that are cold enough. In many European countries, a dominantly cold climate allows for the prominence of ice; the same can be said for our neighbors to the North. As for the U.S., many of the states are in warm climates that are not conducive to ice. While it is obvious that there are indoor rinks, if individuals do not grow up around ice, can they appreciate it as much?

Secondly, there is the economics of it all. The NBA has been able to incorporate corporate sponsorship in media timeouts that help “pay the bills” as they say. MLS has it a bit tougher but sponsors on jerseys help to remind the viewer of products to be consumed. As for the NFL , they have done the best job of infusing commercialism into every facet of the game. The pre-game show is sponsored by companies, there is a media timeout after the first kickoff, media timeouts after punts, and media timeouts after touchdowns and extra points and the ensuing kickoff. There are even sponsors for the post-game show and the highlight shows after the post-game show.

The NHL? There are really no issues there. Miscellaneous media timeouts throughout the game are congruent with the other sports leagues.

There is also the idea of hockey as a foreign entity. Is that the answer? American football, derived from rugby, has been the symbol of the U.S. when it comes to sports. American football is not played in any other country at a level that rivals the United States. There are countless heroes, stories, moments, etc. that are so ingrained in the fabric of the stars and stripes that you must separate football from soccer.

Basketball was created in the United States and diversified its investment to the rest of the world. As for soccer, its popularity worldwide, along with the performance of the United States National Teams in competitions, has assisted in an increased importance in our sports climate.

The NHL? Not as lucky. Hockey is tied to international entities who seem to define its growth. Hockey consistently has low ratings in the U.S. and much higher ratings in Canada. Why is it that the NHL cannot find a foothold? The majority of its season is after the NFL season is over. Yes, it does compete with the NBA but shouldn’t that be a fair fight?

Finally, you have the appearance of a sports league that is woefully out-of-touch with its players and fan base. Three lockouts in one commissioner’s tenure? A revenue stream that is fifth in the world as of 2011 behind the NFL, NBA, MLB, and the Barclays Premier League? That is not a business model that exactly screams efficiency.

No doubt, it is some combination of these factors and possibly, other confounding variables. Still, the question has to be asked: Why does a sport that combines the physicality of football, the scoring premium of soccer, and the pace of basketball not have a lot of viewers? Then again, maybe that is the wrong question. Maybe that is the wrong thought process. Maybe the question is: Why does a business, that has the best hockey players, not have many viewers?

Pegulaville.: Home of the Buffalo Sabres

Population: Not as much as it should be.