Category Archives: Sports

Adrian Peterson? F That Guy

 

I’ll begin with full disclosure.  Not long after buying our house, myself, my wife and her daughter were grocery shopping and the trip wasn’t going very well.  K was around six at the time and was acting terribly, screaming at her mother for reasons that I honestly can’t recall.

Trying to get her attention, I “flicked” her ear, one of those thumb and index finger snaps that smarts for a second but isn’t intended to really hurt. She howled. She howled like I had just cut the entire lobe off. To this day I don’t know if it was pain or surprise, but my first attempt at establishing myself as a disciplinary figure was a complete failure.

Her sister was much younger when she got her surprise.  Old enough to know that she wasn’t supposed to bite, but young enough to not fully understand why.  She toddled over to me, clamped down on my forearm with more force than I’d have thought possible and seemed determined to remove a large portion.

She may have but for a reflexive smack across her bottom that surprised me as much as it did her.  She didn’t cry but her eyes and mouth both went wide.  A stern talk about not hurting others followed, the first but not last bit of hypocritical parenting that I’ve done.

 

I make these confessions because I’ve spent the last few days listening to people call into local sports talk radio and try and defend spanking as a legitimate disciplinary tool, to defend the actions of free agent running back  Adrian Peterson.  Peterson, if you aren’t aware, was suspended most of the 2014 season after accepting a plea deal with the state of Texas mandating counseling and dropping from a felony to a misdemeanor charges of child abuse.

The charges against Peterson originated because he beat his four year old son with a tree branch, causing cuts and bruises to his thighs, back, and testicles. The child told authorities that he had been previously punched in the face and that the leaves from the switch were shoved in his mouth to prevent any further crying out. This took place in Peterson’s “whooping room”, a dedicated area of the house just for punishment.

There have also been allegations of Peterson leaving a scar over another son’s eye for cursing.  His response was that he “never imagined being in a position where the world is judging my parenting skills or calling me a child abuser because of the discipline I administered to my son.” He has yet to express any remorse of admission of wrongdoing. These are pictures of a four year old boy taken four days later.

 

AP = POS
Houston Police Department

 

I bring up a case from three years ago because Peterson is now unemployed after the Minnesota Vikings declined to pick up an $18 million option for the upcoming season, an absurd number for a 32 year old running back with a history of knee problems.

I bring up the case because over the past several days Peterson has been visiting with The New England Patriots, the reigning Super Bowl Champions. For various reasons the Patriots aren’t my team, but Boston is my city, home to my Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins. I recently wrote a piece defending it’s fans after they were generalized by several ESPN hosts as racist but I’m having a much harder time justifying  their defense of the team even taking a look at this guy. I understand wanting to win, wanting to have the best players on your team; any fan would.  I don’t understand selling your soul, rooting for an over the hill piece of garbage that should never see the field again.

 

I understand not wanting to judge another person’s parenting. We’ve all had days that we wouldn’t want paraded before the court of public opinion.

What we don’t all have, what no rational human being would have, is a “whooping room”, a collection of switches, or small children with dozens of lacerations across their legs and back. We don’t have a reason to welcome the sort of guy that does onto our favorite team.

As of this writing the Patriots haven’t signed Peterson, nor is there any real indication that they will.  I think that working him out was a bad look for a team that has a reputation, justified or not, of doing anything possible to win, but also understand that their job is to do precisely that.

That doesn’t mean that fans need to blindly accept everything done in that pursuit however.  Sports talk radio callers should never be considered a proper representation of a fan base but I’m still disgusted and saddened by what I’ve been hearing. I’m hoping that most in this area would echo the opinion of my wife, a true Patriots fan, administrator of multiple New England Sports Facebook pages, and voice of the people:

“Adrian Peterson? Fuck that guy.”

 

do the right thing pats
the true voice of Pats Nation

 

 

 

Who We Choose To Cheer

 

One of my favorite sports weekends of the year is the NFL’s Wild Card round, this past weekend being extra special as my Miami Dolphins were participants for the first time since 2008.  They got manhandled, too many injured players leading to a 30-12 drubbing and prompting many to question why I’m a fan of theirs to begin with.  I’ve lived in New England all my life, all of my other teams are based in Boston.  What’s the story?

As a young kid just starting to become interested in watching sports, I wasn’t concerned with regional loyalties or what teams my friends liked. I wanted to watch the guys that were fun to watch. In those days that was a long haired quarterback named Dan Marino chucking the football all over the field to wide receivers Mark Clayton and Mark Duper.  Thirty five years later I’m still waiting for them to reward my loyalty with some sustained success.

 

Who we root for
we won this one!

 

How we choose what teams, and more precisely, which players, we root for has been on my mind a lot these past few days.

Last Tuesday the NBA’s Boston Celtics hosted the Utah Jazz, defeating them 155-104.  The biggest stories to come out of the contest were before hand, Celtics fans cheering for Utah’s upcoming free agent Gordon Hayward, and after the game, when current Celtic starting forward Jae Crowder voiced his displeasure about the reaction to reporters and went on a Trumpian twitter spree.

What started as a disgruntled player feeling disrespected by fans that would like to see him replaced soon turned into something much different.  Members of the national media, including ESPN’s Bomani Jones and Israel Gutierrez suggesting that Boston fans wouldn’t only rather have Hayward than Crowder because they think he’s a better player, but because he’s white.  Jake O’Donnell of SportsGrid.com going so far as to call Boston fans “gross.”

It’s an idiotic premise, but one that is good for debate and inciting emotion, two things that sports coverage, like just about every other corner of the news world, seems to be more dedicated to than actual reporting.

I don’t think that anybody would disagree with the notion that sports fandom is itself inherently illogical.  Those players I watched as a kid are long gone but I still find myself emotionally involved in the success or failure of other guys, strangers all, that are playing games wearing the same jersey.

Our reasons for liking individual players can sometimes make sense.  There are players that simply awe us with their skill level.  Michael Jordan, Walter Peyton, Ken Griffey Jr  or Serena Williams.  Other times it is the player’s backstory that appeals to us.  Monica Seles returning after an on-court stabbing or Josh Hamilton’s battles back from addiction.  When he was just a gritty, hardworking rebounder with the San Antonio Spurs and not yet a cartoon character I always enjoyed watching Dennis Rodman play.

Sometimes they make less sense.  I don’t watch much NASCAR but my favorite driver would be Joey Lagano because he’s from Connecticut.  On the PGA tour I like Bubba Watson because it’s fun to say Bubba.  Shaquille O’neal has always been entertaining but my favorite non-Celtic center of all time is Hall of Famer Arvydas Sabonis – because he’s Lithuanian, of course.

 

Who We Cheer For
The Legend

 

The one thing that we all want is to have the players on our teams that will give us the best chance to win.

I’d personally rather keep Jae Crowder’s defense over the extra scoring we’d get with Gordon Hayward and don’t like the idea of cheering for any opposing player when they come onto our court, but there is a lot to like about a 26 year old player averaging 22.4 points and 6 rebounds a game, especially compared to Crowder’s 12.7 and 5.

There are a number of other reasons that some might like Hayward better.  He grew up in Indiana, the same as Celtic legend Larry Bird.  He played his college ball at Butler under current Celtic coach Brad Stevens.  Maybe some people like that he’s a tennis player or that he’s a twin.

Chances are there really are some that would just rather have a white small forward on the team than a black one. To assume that the majority feel that way is not only insulting but ignores the simple truth about who we choose to cheer for : it often makes very little sense at all.

 

 

 

 

Ballers Are Parents Too

 

I don’t do this very often, but every few years or so a day comes along when for one reason or another, I’m just not in the mood to go to work. No matter what I’m actually doing, I’ve found that “belly issues” always makes the best excuse for not coming in. It evokes instant sympathy, nobody wants to be anywhere near you, and there usually are no further questions.

It’s probably the excuse new Boston Celtic Al Horford should have used when missing Monday night’s game against the Miami Heat for “personal reasons.” This is Horford’s first year as a Celtic, signing a four year, $113 million deal this off season and greatly raising expectations for the team. Having already missed nine of the first sixteen games with a concussion, many in town felt that with a contract like that he needed to be out on the court, even after hearing what his “personal reasons” were.

 

horford-2

 

His reason turned out to be the birth of his second child, a daughter named Alia. The main source of contention being that since she had been born Sunday night in Atlanta, he really had no excuse to not be on the court Monday in Miami, a short flight away.

Personally, I think he should have skipped Wednesday night’s game against the Pistons as well. Under the collective bargaining agreement of the WNBA, the women’s professional basketball league, players who become pregnant have no time limit set for when they are expected to return and are paid 50% of their salary for as long as they are absent. Most resume practice after eight weeks and return to playing a month after that. Some of this discrepancy in expectation can be attributed to the physical demands and recovery from childbirth, but how much is also the notion that it is more important for a newborn to have this early bonding time with its mother than with its father? Sheryl Swoopes, the very first player signed to the league in 1997, missed the first six weeks of the inaugural season after giving birth to her son and was lauded for how well she played upon return. Al Horford was criticized for taking off a single game out of 82.

 

swoopes

 

According to a 2012 report by the Department of Labor, nine out of ten US fathers take time off from work after the birth of their child or in order to adopt a child.  Only 13% of these were paid paternal leave and 70% were forced to take ten days or less off. Right now California, New Jersey and Rhode Island are the only states that provide paid family leave to both fathers and mothers equally and only 14% of US employers provide it voluntarily, almost all in white collar, high income professions.

Becoming a parent is never more real than in the first days and weeks after the baby arrives. Having both parents home during this time provides so many obvious benefits for the entire family, both short and long term, that it’s nonsensical to demand fathers immediately return to the workforce. This is no longer our only role and it’s time for that to be recognized. 79 of the 167 countries in the world provide paid paternity leave. We need to start appreciating the new realities of fatherhood here as well.

 

 

 

 

Return of the Kaep

 

The NFL’s Buffalo Bills continued their surprising early season success this weekend, easily beating the San Francisco 49ers 45-16. Other than perhaps checking the statistics of a handful of players for fantasy football purposes, it was a game that I typically would have payed very little attention to.

This weekend was a bit different, an added element compelling me to pay attention to the play of the newly promoted starting quarterback of a 1-4 team based on the other side of the country.

That quarterback was Colin Kaepernick.

Kaepernick, you may recall, was the player noticed to be sitting during The National Anthem before a preseason game a few months ago. When asked about it after the game he said that “I am not going to stand up and show pride for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”  You also might recall a piece written here , later reprinted on The Good Men Project , that was critical of the display while also recognizing the problems he was referring to and strongly defending his right to peaceful protest however he saw fit.

A lot has happened in the six weeks since then. After a meeting with former Green Beret and NFL player Nate Boyer, Kaepernick started kneeling rather than sitting in an attempt to show more respect to members of the military. His jersey became the top seller on the NFL’s official shop website and he has pledged to donate all of those proceeds, plus the first million dollars of his 2016 salary, to community charities.

Other players, first from his team, then from others, then from across all aspects of the sports world have taken up his cause. Seattle Reign soccer player Megan Rapinoe knelt and remarked that as a gay American she knew “what it meant to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties.” Before the first game of the WNBA playoffs the entire Indiana Fever basketball team knelt. Several NBA teams have started locking locking arms and bowing their heads. Other players are raising their fists.

 

celtics

 

As the protests continue, so does the backlash. Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall lost several endorsement deals. The Washington Spirit played the anthem before players took the field. Several kneeling Miami Dolphins players followed up by holding a town hall meeting on improving race relations with youth leaders and members of law enforcement. The local police union responded by pushing its members to refuse to escort the team to the game, apparently not realizing that picking and choosing who they serve and protect is one of the underlying problems these players are trying to bring attention to.

Kaepernick was booed loudly in Buffalo on Sunday. T-shirts with his face in the cross hairs of a gun and others saying “shut up and stand” were sold in the parking lot.

I wanted Kaepernick to play well, mainly because so many wanted him to play bad. I don’t know what good, if  any, will come from his actions and still feel that acts done to “raise awareness” are often more symbolic than helpful, but I respect what he is trying to do and admire his conviction.  It seems ironic that fans chanted “USA, USA” when he came onto the field as a means of expressing their displeasure. The right to peaceful protest is something just as quintessentially American as the game of football itself. The louder people yell for him to shut up, stand up, stop what he’s doing, the more compelled I feel to hope he continues.

“I don’t understand what is un-American about fighting for liberty and justice for everyone.”  – Colin Kaepernick

 

kaep

 

 

Big Papi, Hurricane Matthew, and Perspective

 

This isn’t the post that I had planned on writing today. After a week spent closely watching the weather reports and storm tracking, Sunday morning my wife and I suited up in our Red Sox apparel and headed to Boston for an afternoon of football watching and a night at Fenway Park, hoping that the home team would be able to come through in a must-win elimination game against the Cleveland Indians in the American League Division Series.

If the Sox had won I would have written about resiliency and never giving up. Down two games to none the 1999 Red Sox had faced a similar situation against these same Cleveland Indians and rallied to win three straight before losing to the New York Yankees in the following series. They did the same in 2003 against the Oakland A’s before suffering the same fate yet again against those hated Yankees  but the following year completed the greatest comeback in sports history, winning four straight games to finally get past their nemesis and into the World Series.

If they had lost I would have written about loyalty, about how much sweeter that first championship was after the previous few disappointments. I would have written about being in the stands for the last game of David Ortiz’s career, about how the Dominican born star came to become one of the most beloved players in New England sports history and a symbol of the city’s resolve in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing.

 

papi

 

The game was a great one. With two outs in the ninth, my team was down by one. The tying run was on second base, the winning on first. It was ultimately a season ending loss, but the outcome was in doubt until the very last pitch. It was everything that we love about sports.

It was also played on Monday. Instead of watching from a right field loge box, I got glimpses every now and again from televisions in patient’s rooms as I worked.

 

The reason for the game’s delay, the reason I’m forced to let go of any anger or disappointment, was Hurricane Matthew, the last remnants reaching Boston later than had been previously forecast.

Before mildly inconveniencing me, Matthew killed almost 900 people and left tens of thousands more homeless in Haiti, a country still trying to recover from a massive 2010 earthquake. Here in the United States 34 people have lost their lives to date. As of this writing 1500 are still trapped by flooding in North Carolina. Thousands have been forced to flee their homes. As I was sitting in a Boston sports bar, forlornly watching the rain fall outside, one of my best friends was sitting in the dark in Palm Coast Florida, one of millions still without power.

 

matthew

 

Its not always so easy, our own issues put into such dramatic perspective. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still harbor some bitterness, but that bitterness pales in comparison for the relief I feel that my friend is OK. My compassion for those and their families that weren’t as lucky.

There will be other games.

 

To help those still in need, visit the American Red Cross Here

 

Photos via Flickr, labeled for commercial reuse