Sports

The Human Factor of the NFL Slide

A lot has been said and written about the declining viewership of the NFL. I even wrote about an aspect of it last year. While scrolling my Twitter timeline the other night, I came across this exchange:

It’s a really good point on one of the probable reasons the NFL is encountering a headwind unlike any other its had to weather before. The league has depended on and perpetuated facelessness and systematic replaceability for (most of) its players for decades. (An aside: the “most of” is a discussion unto itself.)

But now athletes, or anyone really, don’t have to go through traditional channels to have their perspective disseminated to the masses. There’s never been more access to the players, and many players are taking advantage of the opportunity to interact with fans despite the potential drawbacks from trolling and the like. As a result, there is more connection to the individuals who play the games than the league has ever seen.

The Information Age has also brought about more public knowledge about the risks associated with football. We always knew that football wasn’t the safest activity, but we now have unprecedented data into just how destructive it can be. The more is known about the players as people, the harder it becomes for fans to reconcile watching what these athletes do for entertainment alongside the knowledge of what it’s doing to them long-term.

However, not all the reasoning from fans reassessing their NFL support is altruistic of course. As evidenced by the pushback to player protests and demonstrations, there is a significant faction of the NFL fandom (like in general society) that doesn’t want to see the players on the same level of human as themselves. The ones saying their football watching is being impacted by the protesters are essentially saying that players asserting their humanness is making them recoil from the NFL.

Even in this instance, while opposite on the compassion spectrum from being uncomfortable because (consciously or unconsciously) you don’t like the toll the game takes on the players, the wane in enthusiasm towards viewing is directly connected to humanity.

The actions the NFL will take in efforts to stop its slide may not be clear yet, but one thing is clear: the playbook has to change and riding the fence is less of an option each day. Whatever moves it makes, the league will end up ostracizing a group of people. The question is: which side of the social issues swirling around it is the league willing to stake it’s existence on to stand? How much individual humanity is it as an entity willing to give its players?

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Sports

Random Thoughts: 2017 IAAF Worlds

Usually I talk gymnastics here, but I’m a fan of many sports. I spent the last 10 days watching a lot of London 2017, the athletics — or track and field — world championships. Here are some random thoughts I had:

Allyson Felix doesn’t get the shine she deserves for her track career. Following her 3 medal performance in London, she’s now the most decorated track athlete in history with a “sweet sixteen.”

Maybe Jamaica needs to reassess its nutrition and recovery efforts to a degree. The team had two athletes pull up during relays and not finish — one of whom being Usain Bolt during the final race of his career, which was really a bummer. Just a really off championships for Jamaica all the way around.

Keni Harrison made strides in overcoming her issues performing in high stakes races, but there’s still obviously work to do. Mainly, she’s gotta learn how to stay in her rhythm with someone matching her stride for stride. After squeaking into the final after a mishap with the first hurdle in prelims, she had a medal slip from her grasp in the 100m hurdles final after a good start.

If you want to see what celebration looks like when you’re expected to win vs when you have promise but not a set expectation, watch the aftermath of the women’s 4×400 relay and note the difference in excitement level between the American team vs the GB and Polish teams. Continue reading “Random Thoughts: 2017 IAAF Worlds”

Media, Sports

Who Gets To Be the Star of Their Own Story in Sports Media?

The secret’s not in the mayonnaise by the way.

That quote makes no sense without watching Toronto Star writer Morgan P. Campbell’s TED talk titled “Race, Sports and Telling True Stories.”

In his speech, Morgan does a great job breaking down who gets to be the star of their story versus who routinely gets relegated to a prop within a narrative. It’s a good listen.

Media, Sports

Previewing the 2017 Daytona 500

I made what is becoming an annual appearance on the Know the Score podcast to talk NASCAR this past week.

This year’s episode is a standalone. No other sports topics were discussed, just about an hour of me and three guys talking racing.

The topics touched on, included:

  • Jimmie Johnson’s run to a 7th title;
  • Carl Edwards’ sudden withdrawal from Cup;
  • Dale Jr.’s return;
  • Changes to the points system;
  • The Daytona 500; and
  • Who we want to see win this season.

Also, find out what scenario the social anthropologist in me kinda hopes occurs during the 2017 season.

It was a lot of fun to record, and I hope you enjoy it!

Sports

Sometimes You Don’t Know Where Someone’s Path is Leading Them

Carl Edwards will announce tomorrow his intentions to step away from NASCAR. There were rumors that a high-profile driver was about to unexpectedly step away circulating for the past month or so, but it’s always surprising to see someone retire in their prime — ala Barry Sanders or Marshawn Lynch — without health issues.

Conjecturing can bring you many viable reasons for an “early retirement” (or at least a sabbatical).

One, 13 years is a long career in sports and, in racing specifically, there’s been discussion about how drivers don’t have to race into their 50s anymore because of the monetary compensation they are now afforded. Not to mention, drivers are generally starting at younger ages. And, for Carl specifically, that 13 years doesn’t include the time it took to climb to the peak series of the sport.

Secondly, more and more light is being shone on the long term hazards of racing, which — make no mistake — has never been mistaken as safe, even with the advancements over the years. Even Ernest Hemingway famously commented, “There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games.”

In addition, Carl has a young family and I’ve heard others drivers mention the grind of the schedule and the probability of them having to make hard decisions as their kids reach school age. I hope that all is well for the members of his family, and it’s not a situation for one of them that has initiated this decision.

However, there is another angle to consider.
Continue reading “Sometimes You Don’t Know Where Someone’s Path is Leading Them”

Sports

The Boa Constrictor That is Bama Football

During a recent episode of the sports podcast Unanimous Decision its host, DPalm, made an analogy comparing the perennial NCAA football favorite Alabama Crimson Tide to the suffocating snake.

At first I laughed, but the more I thought about it the more it makes sense. The way Bama goes about defeating its opponents on the football field is reminiscent of how a Boa attacks its prey. Take, for example, the game that was played the weekend this particular episode of the podcast was recorded, the SEC Championship game against the Florida Gators.

The Tide started slowly by comparison. It was the Gators that struck first, scoring a touchdown on its opening drive. The next series saw the Tide score a field goal on its initial possession. But, much like when a Boa wraps around its prey, the process is slow and deliberate. The prey thinks, at first, it has a chance to escape — or in this case win.
Continue reading “The Boa Constrictor That is Bama Football”

Gymnastics, Olympics, Sports

Building A Stronger Team with Diversity 

This was one of my favorite moments of the year. During the ESPN special “A Conversation with The President: Sports, Race & Achievement” last month, President Obama gave a shout out to the Final Five during the segment on inclusion and how it can make the country stronger:

President Obama: “…We just went through an Olympics where we got more medals than ever and we were amazed. And you know what? More than half of the gold medals, and the medals generally we won, were from our outstanding women athletes. And the reason that happened was because we invested in Title IX many years ago. So we’re way ahead of [many] other countries in terms of giving young women the same athletic opportunities as young men. So that’s a good analogy for the country as a whole, and for our economy as a whole. When you get everyone on the team, when you’re drawing from everybody’s talents, then you’re going to field a stronger team. Everyone is going to be a lot better.”

Stan Verrett, host: “The gymnastics team is a great example of that.”

President Obama: “Absolutely. You’ve got a young Latina woman, you’ve got Simone…and they’re as cute as can be. They came by the White House. Itty bitty little things. [crowd laughs] And they’re doing stuff…I still don’t know how they do that stuff. Amazing athletes. Tiny, and funny too. They were just chattering away…”

I can remember U.S. team diversity being noted a few times, particularly since 1992, especially among gym fans. It was nice to hear the diversity of the team noted in a general sports discussion — and by the most prominent American in the world.
Continue reading “Building A Stronger Team with Diversity “