Category Archives: Sports

A Silent Sideline

 

This Saturday was spent, as it feels like every Saturday has been for the past ten years, watching one of the kids participate in a youth sporting contest.

There was a different feel to this particular game, quieter, more subdued.  A certain usually boisterous father uncharacteristically keeping his big mouth somewhat shut for a change.

The reason for this silencing was an e-mail from the soccer league earlier in the week informing parents of a new “silent sideline” rule that had been implemented. Applause for good play was still allowed but other than that we were basically told to stand there and shut up.

The reasoning seemed valid. The stated goals being the development of player on field decision making without sideline intervention, improving the player’s communication with each other by reducing the outside noise level, and supporting and aiding in youth referee retention by eliminating dissension from spectators.

 

silent sideline

 

The reasons were valid but I hated it. Hated it and found myself unable to comply. I understand the need to let the coaches coach, try not to yell instructions at my kid during the game. I understand that these referees are all volunteers, feel that I do a pretty good job of not telling them about their mistakes. I’ve never mocked an opposing player for poor play or scolded one of ours.

I yell things like “nice job”, “nice try”, “nice pass!”  Sometimes I yell “get ready defense”, “spread out girls”, “you’re going the wrong way!”

 

silent sideline

 

Anybody that has spent any time at these games has come across the kinds of parents that these rules are intended to curtail. Jackasses that yell at their kids, that yell at the refs, that embarrass themselves and their children. Maybe I’ve just been fortunate, but I’ve found those situations to be very rare.

The e-mail stated that this change had come at the request of a player, leading me to believe that there was some parent at some level of competition that was acting like a fool. I’m fairly confident that it wasn’t me.

As uncomfortable a conversation that I would imagine that to be, I think that the coaches involved in that game should have taken that parent aside and talked to them. Further occurrences could lead to the removal of that child from the team, an unfortunate result that I would hope any reasonable parent would try their best to avoid.

I tried, I really did, and I think it was the quietest I’ve been as a spectator of any sporting contest that I’ve ever attended outside of a PGA golf tournament and even at that I went as nuts as anybody when Notah Begay dropped a twenty five foot birdie putt on the final hole to win.

My daughter is six, playing a sport she’s not very familiar with, and she’s busting her butt, hustling every play, getting better every week. All these girls are. I can give them high fives and words of praise at halftime and after the game but is that really all that fun for anybody, all that exciting to little girls that deserve to be cheered, need that encouragement?

I’ll bite my lip, do my best to tone it down a bit, try and honor the league’s wishes as best I can but if a “silent sideline” is really the result that is ultimately desired I’m probably going to need a muzzle.

 

 

 

How Much Should Sports Matter?

 

I’m both honored and blessed to have readers from all over the world, but I know that much of my core audience resides here in New England, know that many of you, like me, are sports fans. I know that the devastating injury to Gordon Hayward has completely changed your expectations for the Boston Celtics this year, the early playoff exit once again for the red Sox, combined with the New York Yankees success, is causing you emotional pain. What I don’t know, but what I can guess, what I can extrapolate from  my own feelings, is how there is a part of you that is not sure how to feel about how much these things bother you. With so much going on in the world, so much tragedy and pain, what the hell is wrong with us that we get this upset about a game, a game that in the big picture really holds so little meaning?

For those that don’t know what I’m talking about, Hayward suffered a fracture/dislocation of his ankle 315 seconds into his Celitcs career. The Red Sox were knocked out in the first round of the playoffs for consecutive years, their manager fired.

Should any of this matter in a time of Harvey Weinstein, North Korea, and Puerto Rico?

It does. It does because sometimes even those of us that consider themselves well informed, that pay attention to what’s going on in the world around us, that are trying to make some sort of little difference, need to turn it off, to watch something besides the ever depressing news channels.

It’s why I understand those that complain about the anthem protests  from the perspective of not wanting politics to intrude on their escape. It’s part of what makes it an effective protest, an uncomfortableness in having to think about issues at a time when we are trying to escape them.

Rather than boycott the NFL as some people are now doing, my wife and I took a different approach, planning an entire vacation around games that our teams were playing in Tampa Bay and Miami, Florida.

 

should sports matter?

 

I’ll admit that we missed the anthem at both games. Food, beer and poor time management leading to us arriving at our seats afterward. We didn’t know what the players did, didn’t know what the crowd did, just knew that for the next three hours anybody in that stadium wearing the same colors as us were on our side.

After my wedding and the birth of my child, of course, some of my happiest moments have come based on grown men playing children’s games and celebrating those moments with those around me. The Dave Roberts steal, the 12th inning home run by David Ortiz in that same game, the final out of the 2004 World Series, the 24 point comeback by the Celtics against the Lakers in game four of the 2008 NBA Finals. To this day I’ve never seen my father more excited and animated than when Tate George hit his game winning shot for the UConn  Huskies in the 1990 NCAA tournament and he’s not even that big of a sports fan.

Is it silly, an unnecessary expenditure of energy and emotion that would be better served directed elsewhere?

Of course. That’s kind of the point.

 

how much should sports matter

 

 

 

No One To Cheer in This Fight

 

 

Even if you don’t follow boxing, mixed martial arts, or pay any attention whatsoever to the world of sports, chances are that you are aware of a pretty big fight happening this weekend. Floyd Mayweather, one of the greatest boxers of our generation, undefeated in 49 matches, is coming out of retirement to fight Conor McGregor, reigning Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight champion and former featherweight champion. Not a professional boxer, McGregor is currently the biggest name in MMA, fighting in the main event at four of the six highest selling fights in the sports history.

Mayweather is expected to earn at least $100 million dollars, with a chance to earn up to four times that depending on pay per view sales. McGregor should earn at least $75 million dollars. I’m a fan of both boxing and MMA, having bought fights in both sports multiple times in the past, including ones that have featured these two guys. Neither will be earning a penny from me this weekend.

Critics may call it a cop-out, an inability or refusal to take a side, but I’ve always seen the world in shades of grey. Very rarely is any situation as black and white as it may outwardly appear. I like to think of it as a reasonable and realistic point of view that I wish more politicians and people of influence would embrace.

It’s part of the appeal of sports. While watching a sporting contest, you simply pick a player or team, sometimes for the silliest of reasons and sit back and enjoy.

The real world doesn’t work like that.  I can be outraged by the footage of Philando Castile’s death and also the murders of the Dallas policemen. I can agree with what Black Lives Matter is trying to accomplish while not condoning violent protest or the obstruction of federal highways. White supremacy groups are an embarrassment to the American ideal and should be condemned loudly and publicly by any elected official that claims to represent those ideals. Also despicable are the actions of the various Anitifa offshoots, the anarchists responsible for much of the looting and rioting after the inauguration of Donald Trump. As pitiful as I find our President’s response to the violence in Charlottesville, there is no denying that there actually were some “very bad people” on both sides of the confrontation.

 

Blac Bloc “protesters”

 

I don’t want these shades of grey in sports. I want somebody that I can cheer for and I can’t swallow my bile and celebrate the victory of either of these two.

Floyd Mayweather is a beater of women. He has multiple arrests for assaulting the mothers of his children and women in Las Vegas nightclubs, though to date has only served sixty days in jail. He’s remained unrepentant, refusing to acknowledge any wrongdoing despite the frequency of these allegations since 2002.

Conor McGregor is a racist. Throughout his career he has been known to use racial slurs as a way to antagonize his black and hispanic opponents, calling them “dancing monkeys” and worse. During the lead up to this fight he has repeatedly referred to Mayweather as “boy.”

Pre-fight press conferences have been cringe worthy exercises in toxic masculinity, both sides using homophobic slurs, bigotry and intolerance to hype an event that will bear little resemblance to a competitive match, McGregor having never boxed professionally. This isn’t sport, it’s greed driven spectacle, the only real competition regarding which fighter will be willing to act more publicly crass.

Despite their enhanced physical abilities, professional athletes are just as fallible as the rest of us, emulation a road to eventual disappointment. We ignore these character defects for the sake of entertainment and diversion, but what happens when these flaws become part of the show, the main source of attraction?

I won’t be around to find out. I need somebody to cheer for, a reason to watch. I need my sports to be metaphorically black and white, not used as a tactic to sell tickets.

 

 

Playing Hard, Kicking Tail

 

We had our last softball game of the season this past weekend, Alaina’s inaugural attempts at the sport an overall success. Having bypassed T-ball for coach-pitch she still needs some work on her swing and gets confused about where to throw the ball after fielding it, but she’s shown a cannon for an arm and no longer thinks that the goal of the game is to out race her teammates to every ball that is put in play.

 

our love of sports

 

There were no participation trophies given out, but had there been I would have let her keep hers and she would have displayed it proudly. Contrary to the recent statements from Washington Nationals star Bryce Howard, one of the best players in the game and presumably not somebody that came in second place very often, I’m not worried  that six and seven year year olds will never be motivated to succeed if they know that their efforts will be praised regardless of outcome.

I would have told her that she got the trophy because of her hustle. That even thought the third baseman doesn’t need to retrieve foul balls near the visitor’s dugout, she was running hard. I would have commended her sportsmanship, reminding her that while running the bases we don’t pick up a ball hit by a teammate and hand it to the opposing players. I would have told her how proud I was of her hard work, all the hours spent in the backyard practicing, the innings spent at catcher after she determined that would be the best way to improve that aspect of her game, the dramatic improvement shown in a relatively short time.

I told her all those things anyway. We didn’t keep score in any of her games and she never asked for one. Teaching was the goal, not winning.  She learned a lot.

 

love of the games

 

Also in the last week was “field day”, the town’s kindergartners and first graders massing on the athletic fields for various “stations” of outdoor recreation. There were no “three legged” or “potato sack” races, very little in the way of competition actually, with no ribbons awarded. The only activity with winners and losers was a wet sponge relay race that embarrassingly ended in a shoving match between my kid and a little boy from the winning team that she felt was gloating a bit too enthusiastically to some of her slower teammates. She was reprimanded and reminded to keep her hands to herself but I’ll admit to having to hide a small smile of pride while doing so.

How successful I was is uncertain but I made no such attempt at the next station, an un-timed obstacle course set up for them to traverse at their own pace. There weren’t meant to be winners or losers but Alaina and that same kid treated the course as if Olympic gold medals were at stake. They both were convinced that they were able to get through it the fastest but this was indeterminable and there was no repeat scuffle.

 

school field day

 

For now her cleats and glove will be packed away, not too deep in case one of our nights at the minor league park inspires us to some backyard batting practice or I talk her into a game of catch. In the fall another set of gear will be dug out, soccer registration mailed in just as her big sister is about to hang up her own cleats.

She went out with a bang. This past season has seen Kayla’s playing time dramatically decreased, a several year hiatus and accompanying conditioning loss relegating her to defensive back-up status.

That hasn’t stop her from making the most of her time out there though, her hustle and effort impressing.  Last weekend her squad participated in a full day, four game tournament that meant a lot of extra time on the pitch, conditioning tested for both players and spectators alike.  I didn’t last the entire day but did return in time for one of her prouder moments in a long time. She didn’t score a goal or prevent one, didn’t do anything that anybody else watching would have thought significant. She just knocked a dude on his ass.

The kid was one of the better players on the other team, looked about twenty five and brought it on himself. Streaking up the field he had a teammate wide open for the cross and instead chose to challenge the girl coming up to defend. Perhaps thinking that he was going to run right by her and continue on to glory, the look of surprise on his face as he looked up at the clouds was matched only by the smile on hers.

 

love of sports

 

Competitiveness is an important quality, one that should be encouraged to prepare our children for future success. Just as important though, sports foster a desire for self-improvement, a mindset of always striving to do better then YOU did before, not just being better than the other players. Sometimes they will win, other times lose. There may be first place trophies, participation trophies or no trophies at all.  As long as they are working hard and striving to be better, I think that the real lessons of youth sports are being learned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Perceived Arrogance of Boston and the Political Elite

 

perceived arrogance

 

I think that  even the most ardent of Red Sox haters would agree that Fenway Park is a pretty cool place to watch a baseball game. It’s a national treasure, one of the most recognizable sports venues in the world. Fenway is the oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball, opening in 1917, and also one of the smallest, a full capacity of just over 37,000.

Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones has a much less positive opinion of the park, having been subject to racial taunts and a thrown peanut bag during a game on May first.

It was an unfortunate incident, an embarrassment for the Red Sox and it’s fans, but not one that I found overly surprising. Not because of any prejudice that might be held by the people of Boston, but because anytime that you put 37,000 people in one place and give the majority of them copious amounts of watered down beer, there are going to be some that behave poorly. This just seems a mathematical probability, something that happens in all sports and in all stadiums.  According to the Society for American Baseball Research, 36.3% of major league players were something other than American born and white, but just 6.7% were African American.  As reprehensible as it is, it stands to reason that these players, being such a minority, would be singled out by ignorant, intoxicated miscreants.

In any city or stadium.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the narrative in the three weeks since the incident. What should have been a discussion about efforts made to try and discourage this type of behavior, both in the stands and everywhere else in society, has instead turned into another opportunity to label the city and it’s fans as racist. Players from other teams, CC Sebathia, Torii Hunter and others have been trotted out to tell stories of abuse hurled their way by unruly Bostonians. Once again we are reminded that the Red Sox were the last team in the league to field a black player, a signing that occurred in 1959 and hardly seems relevant to current perceptions.

So why won’t this story, this perception go away?

I think that for many it’s simply an easy way to insult, as lazy and unimaginative as the slurs yelled by the occasional bigoted jackass. Boston’s teams have been among the most successful in all of sports and their fans aren’t afraid to remind others of this. The city is home to elite colleges and hospitals. Thought to be among the most progressive in the nation, Massachusetts is squarely “blue state” in a time when that seems to have become synonymous with “elitist arrogance.”

A lot of people seem to think that we think that we’re better than them, and there is nothing more satisfying than finding ways to prove somebody like that wrong.

 

Its a lesson that I think politicians would be wise to learn. I’m convinced Al Gore, John Kerry, and Mitt Romney all lost their Presidential elections in part because to a large segment of the population they were just too unlikable, they presented themselves as arrogant and smug, smarter than anybody else in the room.  When Hillary Clinton rolled her eyes and smirked at Donald Trump’s incoherency during last year’s debates she was perceived as inferring that he was beneath her attention. She helped make an elitist narcissist appear relatable, a limited vocabulary and knowledge of the issues suddenly a benefit to his popularity, a stark contrast to her attitude of superiority.

Take a moment and think about the people you dislike the most, be they athletes, celebrities, politicians, co workers or the fan bases of certain sports teams. The majority of them are people that you feel hold themselves in higher regard than they do you.

 

Later this evening the NBA’s Boston Celtics will host the Cleveland Cavaliers in game one of the Eastern Conference finals.  In the stands will be plenty of people in brand new Kelly Olynyk jerseys. Olynyk was the improbable hero of the Celtic’s victory over the Washington Wizards, the reason why the team was able to advance to face the Cavaliers. A gritty reserve player, Olynyk came off the bench to score twenty six points, twelve of those over a pivotal three and a half minute stretch in the fourth quarter.  Undoubtedly there will be inferences about his new found popularity in Boston being in part due to the fact that he is a white player.

Boston will be huge underdogs in this series. The Cavaliers are led by Lebron James, considered by most to be the greatest basketball player on the planet right now. No matter who he was playing I’d be among those rooting for him to lose, aggravated by my perception of him as somebody that has no problem putting himself onto that pedestal.

I hate people like that.