New Team in Town: Collective Minds

So as those who keep up with my blog will know, I primarily cover topics related to sports or the culture itself. Recently, I’ve joined up with a couple of other great writers to come together and pool our talent in to one blog that will allow us to explore and cover a variety of topics and point of views we normally wouldn’t on our individual blogs.  Myself along with Appreciation Enthusiast Musicommentator , and molasses.blog will be flexing our collective talents and thoughts on the newly created  Collective Minds Blog . I will still continue to post on my main blog as well, so there will never be a shortage of rants and rational sports talk on my end, there will now just be a number of other topics I can rant about when sports has had enough of me. It’ll be a little something for everyone!

 

Under The Radar: 3 Reasons to Follow Rugby Right Now

It’s a shame that as a serious sports fan it has taken me this long to recognize such an amazing sport that has been sitting in front of me all this time. Oh how the Almighty John Madden would frown upon me now. I can almost hear his voice …suggesting audibles and plays without me asking.

Rugby, much like futbol, has not received the following in our country that a sport of such immense physicality historically has. Here we have a game that takes the violence and physicality of american football, the stamina and endurance of futbol, and the precision and coordination of basketball and mixes it all together and is put on display for 80 minutes of non stop entertainment. The major sports (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL) have cornered the market on American interest in sports, but I’m here to show you just why you need to give rugby a chance right now.

1.The Most Brutal Sport That’s Legal

Rugby players are truly some of the most intense and durable human beings to walk the earth. While any sport with high risk of physical contact (american football, hockey, lacrosse) requires extensive protective equipment, rugby players wear nothing but their uniforms, on occasion a protective cap and the blood of their enemies (I’m only slightly exaggerating). American football is sits atop the food chain in the United States ( with the Super Bowl being the highest viewed program every year, constantly breaking it’s own record for views each year) for one unanimous reason – Americans love violence. No one watches american football for the graceful floating of a football or the mesmerizing route running of a wide receiver. We watch because we want to see people colliding so hard that they somehow defy the laws of physics. American football does provide this to us in bunches while, rugby is a non stop pain train skipping every stop until it crashes with the train ahead of it. It’s clear that the two sports share a lot of similarities (considering the creator of rugby was playing a sanctioned match of football and decided to make his own tweaks to the rules) but what most fans love about american football is the what the embodiment of rugby is x9000

2. Home to One of the Greatest Franchises in Sports History

Baseball has the New York Yankees, American football has the the Pittsburgh Steelers and the world of rugby has the New Zealand All Blacks. Since their introduction in 1903, their achievements and trophy rooms would make the Los Angeles Lakers look like a JV team. Just to list a few accomplishments in their historic club tenure:

-77% winning percentage in test matches since 1903 (international play).

-Have only lost to 6 of the 19 rugby nations they’ve played.

– Have won the Rugby Championship 15 of the 22 years against teams ranked top 5 in the world (Australia & South Africa).

-Since the creation of the World Rugby Standings in 2003, New Zealand has held the the top spot longer than every other country combined.

-New Zealand has won World Rugby Team of the Year 10 times since the awards creation in 2001 with 15 New Zealand players winning World Rugby Player of Year over the same span.

With even more ridiculous accomplishments and accolades just continuing to piling on top of each other, it’s quite evident that this club deserves to be in the same category as the Yankees and Celtics. Want to know the best part? They’re still playing at legendary levels even now. Since they’ve entered rugby, New Zealand hasn’t had a losing record. If you want to witness history being made every year, just watch the boys from New Zealand.

3. It’s The Next Big Thing In the United States

While most of the more popular sports require you to be a freakish athlete with thighs capable of blocking out the sun, rugby is much more accessible for those of every age and body type. No average man in their 40’s is going to step on to a basketball court and try running up and down a court with a bunch of twenty year olds. Rugby clubs usually consist of athletes that range in body type. Someone with an average build or even a slightly overweight build would be able to compete on an equal playing field since most of the men or women on the pitch will be ranging in athletic ability and body type. It’s less demoralizing when you can look around and see others in your range and sense the feeling of hopefulness in your chances of victory. In any medium, if any product is easily accessible ad can provide equal or better service and results then there is competition to be had the marketplace. I won’t say the NFL is in trouble, but they shouldn’t bat an eye to rugby’s growing influence in the States either.

In conclusion, watch more rugby and the Mets still suck.

Less is Better, Even for Legends

I finally broke guys..I decided to talk about about LeBron James. That’s how you know I’m scrambling for readers.

I’ve never had any real desire to discuss a topic that has an infinite number of journalists already hinging on his every word, salivating like a pack of hyenas anytime he adjusts his headband a centimeter closer to his hairline. After watching ESPN for the last two weeks and seeing as every segment featured LeBron this and LeBron that and knowing this has been the cycle for the last decade and a half, I realized it was time to take a stand. Sports media eats, sleeps, and breathes LeBron….and I’d wish they’d stop.

Considering that prior to LeBron’s arrival, the most exciting thing to happen in Cleveland, Ohio was the Balloon Disaster of ‘86 (Do yourself the favor and google it) it’s no surprise this kid was going to bring some entertainment. He was a baby faced teenager entering the pros at eighteen and playing for an abysmal franchise in a not so entertaining city. It was going to make for interesting media coverage at the very least. No one could have guessed the media frenzy that would take place over the next fifteen years every time LeBron James spoke a word.

When the man takes a step down his driveway, analysts are ready to break down each step and argue till they’re blue in the face on why he is the greatest to ever walk a driveway in the history of owning driveways. I only wish that example were an exaggeration. It hasn’t stopped at just sports. His name reaches in to every possible nook and cranny of our culture. Pop culture references, song lyrics, sports apparel, film, television and even politics. He was everywhere you could think of, and that’s how it became a problem.

He’s everywhere….everyFUCKINGwhere. It’s equivalent to how I feel about The Rock since he started carpooling with Vin Diesel in some movie franchise I’m sure no one’s heard about. In the same way Dwayne is in every movie coming out for the next decade, LeBron being the center of the sport’s universe for the last decade is not what we need to continue to be a part of. Casual fans want variety and the die hard fans hate hearing his name every segment.

Since the NBA Finals ended, the last two weeks have showcased such memorable and meaningful moments taking place across the sports world. The World Cup kicked off last week with some of the biggest upsets in international futbol history, the Washington Capitals won their first Stanley Cup with one of the best players in the history of the sport, the Yankees and Red Sox are battling for the best record in the MLB, and the PGA had its first back to back U.S. Open winner since the 40’s. Sports of every kind are thriving, yet based on what’s shown to us you’d think they should all take a back seat to the “King”.

It’s a great time to be a sports fan, but ESPN keeps forcing us to be LeBron fans. The major sports outside of the NFL and NBA have been thriving yet the coverage has been mediocre at best in comparison to what LeBron receives daily. They’ll get some air time sure and a couple of highlights to showcase the “best” moments. Meanwhile, ESPN is pumping out the same segments constantly about LeBron James daily about what team he will end up going to over the summer. I understand that it’s a running gag of how ESPN’s coverage of the man ranges from useless information to “no one wanted to know this”, but is that what you want out of the world’s foremost leader in sports media? There’s no need for the biggest sports media company to instruct all their programs to cover the same exact topic that isn’t producing any actual information or has any progression in the story. C’mon ESPN, you have to bebetter than that boss man.

Golf, tennis and soccer usually sit at the bottom of the media totem pole in our country. Understandably it’s due to them not being as intense or satisfying to watch as other sports. But without consistent coverage then the public will continue to buy in to the notion that if someone isn’t being tackled or throwing down a windmill dunk then it isn’t worth watching. When there are major championships and events unfolding and are having to take a backseat to just one athlete who hasn’t even spoken to the media yet, then we have a problem ESPN. So in conclusion let’s recap: ESPN has a LeBron fetish, I still think he’s a great guy, and the Mets still suck (Have you seen their record lately?).

The House Always Wins

With a final boxscore of 6-3, the Supreme Court has done away with its nationwide ban on sports gambling and has ushered in an era that will finally give other states to proclaim themselves “as cool as Nevada”. With betting on everything in the sports world to players, stats, scores and every minute detail imaginable now legal, it has drawn in a line in the sand forcing everyone from players to politicians to take sides.

How Did We Get Here?

The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 was the knight in shining armor for sport purists and the gatekeepers of all that is holy and pure. The bill was proposed to Congress by New Jersey Senator and former NBA great Bill Bradley. Bradley’s argument in favor of the ban boiled down to the idea of preserving the integrity of the game(s). If left unchecked, athletes would become the equivalent of roulette chips at a casino and the humanity of these individuals would be lost amongst the potential payout. The PASPA outlawed sports gambling across the nation, barring a few states, but that did not stop it from becoming a billion dollar industry. The American Gaming Association estimated that illegal betting has grown in to a 150 billion dollar market. Does anyone else know of an illegal market that can advertise on television? The consensus among many state legislators is that rather than continue to allow it to happen without taxation or regulation, why not bring it in to the fold as another form of state revenue that could go towards the needs of the individual state. Not every state has the allure of a New York or California. New Jersey’s bigger attractions for decades has been the beaches, boardwalks and casinos found in Atlantic City. Atlantic City’s unemployment rate is now double the national average and becoming a city filled with the empty remains of casinos and establishments that could have flourished under legalized sports betting.

The Next Step

The uphevel of PASPA does not mean citizens now have free reign to begin placing their bets with their local bookies. Each state will now be able to pass legislation on how they will regulate sports betting. Fantasy League sites such as DraftKings have been the closest fans could get to legalzied betting. Fantasy leagues allow people to win cash prizes and other rewards based on a point system derived from the performance of professional athletes in the 5 Major Sport Leagues (NFL, NBA , NHL, MLB) and other sporting events such as MMA. The debate has always been whether or not fantasy sports constitute as gambling considering there are rewards up for wager based on the performance of real life individuals. This debate is null and void now as fantasy sports will now be deemed legal with no room for argument. Within the first two years, expect to see states such as New York, New Jersey and as some of the first to begin proceedings to establish legislation to get the ball rolling and have sports betting thriving.

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

The Good- According to the Nevada Gaming Commission, in 2011 $3.2 billion was wagered in the state’s casinos. $98.9 billion was bet by sports fans at the state casinos uring that year’s Super Bowl. College Football alone was within the $60-$70 billion range being illegally wagered during its season. The potential revenue for states with a lw influx of yearly tourism yet are home to multiple sports team could be benefit tremendously. The lure of sports betting can lead to higher viewer ratings and higher ticket sales for sporting events. The additional revenue can be disperesed among the state’s highest prioritized needs.

The Bad- Senator Bill Bradley was not wrong when he believed that sports betting would tarnish the integrity of the game. The potential for even more outside involvement in the outcomes of games and matches can lead to levels of corruption and point shaving the culture hasn’t experienced. With the the guarantee of more money being involved in the outcomes of games of, this can very much lead to the exploitation of young and financially challenged athletes making their way through college sports. Who’s to say that betting on pop warner football and AAU basketball tournaments won’t drastically spike? Athletes of any age of gender would now be seen as more of a roulette chip at a casino rather than human beings who play the game for the love of it. It’s not as if athletes aren’t dehumanized enough already, why don’t we make it worse?

The Ugly

Gambling is one of the country’s highest statistical addictions with over 80% of Americans over the age of 21 involved in some form of gambling on a yearly basis. Does legalizing sports betting now allow for a much wider lane for those suffering from a gambling addiction to now go crazy to their hearts desire? Now, a gambler won’t have to be put off by the idea of having to travel all the way to Nevada to participate in one of the easiest forms of gambling, they can now do it from the comfort of their own home or at their local sports betting establishment within the coming years. This may very well be provoking the addiction that many people suffer from, and may in turn only force their struggle with their inner demons that more problematic .

Personal Foul : Unnecessary Politics

We all know the story. Colin Kaepernick takes a knee during the national anthem, Donald Trump takes to Twitter to let the world know about his feelings, and the war on kneeling commences. Two years of back and forth between whether to kneel or stand, protest or watch, or complain or stay in silence and now we’re at 4th and Goal and it looks like the NFL is looking to pass (did you think you’d get through this without a sport pun?).

The NFL never quite knew what to do when player’s began to kneel during the anthem. They left everyone to their own devices as it became a national debate. You eventually had multiple groups that spawned in the wake of Kneel-Gate. Those who understood what the actions of the players represented, those who somehow interpreted the kneeling as being disrespectful to our troops despite players explaining what they were bringing awareness to, and those who want their sports to be untouched by the world of politics and remain as strictly entertainment.

Just a brief lesson in NFL policies for anyone unaware. Did you know that prior to the 2009 season, the policy in place only stated players “should” remain standing during the national anthem. Prior to 2009, player’s remained in their respective locker rooms for the majority of opening ceremonies. After 2009, the Department of Defense paid the NFL $5.4 million dollars to stage on field ceremonies and required player’s being on the field as well in order to promote a more patriotic image of teams. Even NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy went as far to as to confirm the practice beginning in 2009. Every ceremony, celebration and welcome home surprise for the troops we all shed a tear watching are all paid for. It’s paid patriotism folks, nothing about what goes on prior to games in genuine in any way on the part of the NFL. The NFL shows you that it is strictly a business, yet we expect it to operate in a way no billion dollar business would ever.

The policy instated now specifies that player’s may either remain on the field standing or wait in the locker room until after the ceremony if they refuse to stand. The team president of any player or team personnel found in violation of these policies will be fined and the team involved with receive penalties that will be enforced during regulation. The NFL is now calling the player’s bluffs. Fines usually don’t scare most player’s who make millions of dollars yearly, but the potential for outcomes of games possibly being determined by pregame actions could put the careers and livelihoods of the other 49 men who that individual must work with.  

Should we be surprised the NFL (a business) decided to invoke a new (business) policy that provides an actual answer to an issue that they had no control over for two years? I don’t believe it is as much of an infringement upon the player’s second amendment rights as it is that a business is trying to ensure their employees treat their workplace as an actual workplace. The NFL is not a platform for any player to use to push any political agenda. A business should never be expected to do so, especially one as influential and lucrative as the National Football League. The NFL is not stating that players cannot advocate for what they personally believe in, but they must now do it by remaining in the locker room. Journalists aren’t allowed to let their work be influenced by their political or personal beliefs unless their editor in chief allows otherwise. A workplace is not the place to demonstrate your personal beliefs. A business will almost always protect its investment before any employee and this an honest truth not many want to come to terms with.. Use your time outside of your place of occupation to voice your opinions and seek out others with the same beliefs. Unless your employer is directly harassing you or is making an obvious move to promote harm in a work environment, then why would you protest at work when your issue is not with the employer or company, but with an entity that exists outside of your office?

Colin Kaepernick and current Super Bowl champion Malcolm Jenkins are prime examples of demonstrating that change begins off the field. The same player’s that take a knee during the anthem should follow their example and go out in the world, meeting with their local leaders and advocate groups to help improve relations between their communities and law enforcement. Taking a knee and going on Twitter to talk about how terrible the country is, is the same as sharing a post on Facebook and thinking your good deed for the day is done.

I don’t agree with the NFL’s patchwork decision on the new policy, but they had to stop the bleeding somehow and for now it’s something. We’d all like to sit here and criticize the decision, but do any of us actually have a rationalize and appropriate decision that could have pleased everyone?  

 

To Ball or Not to Ball?

“Back in my heyday, I would kill Michael Jordan one-on-one.”. No this wasn’t the overly confident statement of a Larry Bird or a Magic Johnson. Hell, it didn’t even come from anyone that’s in the NBA currently. No, this grand stand of an embarrassing claim came from a one Mr. LaVar Ball. I’m sure this was the comment that pulled many sports fans in to the world of the NBA over the last year to witness sport’s world’s newest and most outlandish villain. From badmouthing reporters to teaching some not so admirable life lessons as a coach, LaVar Ball has been a spectacle unlike any fans have seen. What exactly makes him so hated? Is he really all about being the villain or is there more to the facade?                

The Ball family has become the sport’s family of the year to watch (for some not so great reasons). With two sons being highly sought after recruits in high school (LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball) and the third (Lonzo Ball) having just been selected number two overall by the Los Angeles Lakers in this year’s NBA draft, there is a high possibility we will have yet another set of siblings playing in the NBA. Now it is safe to assume that siblings with this much potential would without a doubt had a good amount of media coverage during their journey up to the NBA. It was when the father, LaVar Ball, decided to ramp up the push for attention for his sons and his “Big Baller Brand” that it became a topic of debate. Here are just a few of the antics Mr. Ball has been involved with since his sudden “stardom” *exaggerated cough*:

– During a game in which LaVar was coaching his AAU basketball team (which included his son), he instructed all his players to leave the court during the middle of the game after a call from a referee did not go his way. 

– Another game a few days later where LaVar was once again coaching, he received a technical foul from a female referee. He then threatened to pull his team off the court (again) if the female ref was not replaced. He blamed the unfair treatment by the referee on the celebrity status of him, and his son who was playing during the game.
– During an interview on a sport’s radio station, Lavar refused to acknowledge one of the co-hosts and became disrespectful towards the co-host after she simply inquired about the sales numbers of his Big Baller Brand shoes (which her male co-host also did but did not receive the same attitude). 

– LaVar Ball constantly compares himself to Hall of Fame players and brags about being able to beat them all in a one-on-one game in an attempt to grab at headlines. Ball averaged 2 points in college and never played in the NBA).

Now there are many more that could have been added, but hopefully you’ve gotten the gist. If sports media outlets continue to give this man attention and air time, he will continue his outrageous antics and continue to list off Hall of Fame players he can beat in a one-on-one game in his backyard. The media is fueling this fire and the executives of the biggest sports media centers are eating the act right up as they continue to allow LaVar Ball to be on their networks and airwaves. He is not the kind of entertainment that the culture needs. Sport’s coverage should be saved for stories that actually have worth and meaning behind. Inviting LaVar Ball on to a sports talk show to then argue about being something he is not isn’t what anyone wants to see.

For all the downright idiotic antics and comments that LaVar Ball continues to unleash upon the innocent sports fans of the world, we cannot forget that he is a father to three sons who he does love. He is not an idiot and he does understand that doing what he does and saying what he does, even if we all hate that it’s being done, is going to attract a lot of attention towards him and his sons. Creating his own sports-wear brand and then being able to use the platforms given to him through his antics have allowed for him to advertise his brand and reach an audience that could not have been accessible otherwise. He’s creating a future for his sons through his own means. He wants to provide for them by any means necessary and he does not care if the world hates him in the process. We can bash his antics and hate his comments, but not be so quick to forget he’s doing it for his family.

When it’s all said and done, do we condemn LaVar Ball for his antics because of the motive or do we chastise him for turning the NBA in to his own personal WWE story-line. I’m not in any position to pass judgement on someone I’ve never met. I can do all the research in the world and read every scrap of text related to him, but away from the camera I will never know what kind of man he truly is. I do not agree with his antics having any place in the sport’s culture and I believe it is embarrassing to watch. I’ll just have to wait until all his sons are in the NBA to see if it’ll ever end.

Kids Just Want To Be Kids, Obviously

Gone are the days where kids can just be kids. A majority of an individual’s character as they mature will be dictated by the environment in which they have been subjected to and the role models surrounding them whether they be positive or negative. The opportunity to play sports as early as the age of five allows parents to have their children participate in activities that can lead to life skills being instilled and fun being had memories that last a life time (Cliché I know). The problem lies within the dangers that a child could be placed in not only physically but mentally, emotionally and psychologically. A combination of physical contact sports with over aggressive coaching and parents who choose to ignore their children’s pleas to not want to participate in activities they feel threatened by has left a very important question on the table- should children be allowed to participate in sports at such a young age? 

A lot of motivation to discuss this topic came after I began to watch the first few episodes of a show entitled “Friday Night Tykes” (clever name resembling the title of one of the greatest sports movies to be made). The show follows five football teams in San Antonio Texas and chronicles all their highs and lows throughout the season showcasing the grueling practices and hard-hitting action. Players vomiting every practice and coaches getting in their grill as if they just stole their lunch money. Sounds interesting, right? Now when you realize the show is about eight-year old kids playing football then you begin to pause for a moment. These children are subjected to some of the worst verbal abuse from their coaching staff and are often physically pushed to their limits in ways that a child at that age cannot begin to cope with. Playing the game of football will come will adversity and will have many moments where coaches and others will provide you with tough love or a metaphorical kick in the ass to get your mindset ready for what’s to come. That’s something to be expected at least starting at the high school level. Children should be taught more about respecting one another, sportsmanship and having fun at that age. They should not be told, in the case of one former Marine turned head coach, to “Rip their f***** heads off!” when speaking about the opposing children. There is absolutely no excuse or reason that a grown man should be drilling and speaking to his child-players as if they are full-blooded marines. As a parent how do you stand by and watch as your child is on the verge of blacking out in 100-degree weather and having their self-esteem being chewed up and spit out by overly aggressive men who have an expectation of an eight year to act like a grown adult? This is the epitome of dangerous conditions for kids. Speaking of the parents, that brings me to the next problem in all this….     

Parents, you are the gate keepers, guardians and protectors the second they hold that newborn child in their arms. You agree to a non-verbal commitment to ensure this life you hold in your arms will never be harmed and will be loved for as long as you live. Parents and sports don’t always mesh and can often-times lead to children being forced in to playing sports that they may not even enjoy or fear playing. Once a child stops having fun, the activity is no longer anything to them but a monumental waste of time, and it should be a waste of time for the parent too. What sense would it make for you to force your child to continue doing something that they no longer enjoy doing and can easily cause them harm and you can stop it? Yes, quitting does not solve problems and kids should be taught certain life lessons. The issue is that as a parent you should not be ignoring everything your child says or shows and chalk it up to them acting up or overexaggerating. Not listening to your child and taking in everything they say is something that is unacceptable. If your child is afraid of getting hurt, why continue to put them in harm’s way?
For all the negative repercussions, there are also many positive results of children allowed to participate in sports. The physical activity aspect will provide the opportunity and freedom for children to exert all the pent-up energy that is released at home or school. Exercising will ensure that the children involved will have a much better chance at maturing in a much healthier state. The numerous life skills that can be learned ranging from social skills to self-esteem boosts. Peewee sports such as little league baseball, soccer and other non-contact sports are on the rise as more parents are choosing to keep their children away from the more hyper aggressive sports such as football and hockey. As a kid, getting to play outside all summer long is what they yearn for and they shouldn’t feel as if they are in danger when it’s a period of their life where they should be allowed to be somewhat care-free and just wanting to be a kid. There should be a healthy balance between discipline, learning and fun when it comes to children and sports. You shouldn’t push them past a certain limit and should encourage them rather than demoralize them when they fail. When that balance is found, a kid can have some of their greatest memories and experiences that they will hold on to even as they reach adulthood
 
What do you think is the right thing to do? Where do you think that healthy balance lies? At what point do you believe the line is crossed?