#sportstalk: Why athletes won’t and can’t just “stick to sports”

When I’m writing this post, the sports world has been shaken up. Most notably the NFL, but other leagues such as the NBA, NHL, and MLB have been also. With the current political climate, systematic racism and blatant white supremacy, there’s no way athletes won’t and can’t just stick to sports.

As a sports fan, I’ve personally never understood why fans only wanted their athletes to “stick to sports.” It always baffled me when people said it and it still does. Basically what they’re saying is they want the athletes to go out and entertain them and that’s it. You don’t want them to have any substance or life outside of their sport.

That’s not only completely ridiculous but also unrealistic and hypocritical. Let’s tackle that first word. It’s ridiculous to assume players are just going to put their heads down and play sports. They weren’t put on their earth to just play sports. They’re humans with feelings, emotions, and families just like everyone else.

It’s unrealistic because no one can just center their life around sports. Not one single person only thinks or plays sports all day long. Then sports would no longer be fun or entertaining. Everything would be boring and there’s already enough of that in the world.

Hypocritical can stretch out to anything but I want to deal with the protests. No one looks at JJ Watt and tells him to “just stick to sports.” No one looks at Gronk and tells him to “Just stick to sports.” It’s white privilege that makes them not say anything. As soon as someone noticed Kap, everyone was quick to shun him, create offensive t-shirts, make him into a meme or bash his character.

Kap created a camp for black children to learn how to deal with the police, donated almost a million dollars to various charities working in oppressed communities and has just announced the addition of another camp. No one wants to talk about what good he does and instead focus on the way he protested.

The protest that originally started as a way to bring attention to police brutality, black lives matter and inequality in the United States. It has since been reduced to “disrespecting the American flag and our military.” Then again, people would have a problem no matter how or what the athletes protested.

Sticking to sports takes the athlete’s identity and throws it out the window. Football is their career, but it’s not their everything. As evidenced by the video of Michael Bennett, being an NFL player doesn’t spare you from police brutality. He was almost killed after an incident he wasn’t involved in. Just let that sink in for a moment. He was almost killed for not being involved with an incident and instead for being black.

If that thought doesn’t sicken you, there’s something wrong with you. If you push the protest off as being unamerican, you’re the problem. Making a change in the world sometimes means making a change in yourself and looking inward.That’s what athletes are doing and trying to get others to do. Systematic racism will only change if the system changes and the system will only change if people make it change.

Athletes will no longer just stick to sports and it’s about time. They’re putting their lives at risk every day, sometimes just by walking outside. The least you can do is respect them.

 

#sportstalk: Loving a team with problematic players

Oh boy, I’ve been dreading actually making a post about this but I knew I had to and what better way to than a #sportstalk? It’s basically just a post where I throw all my feelings out on the table. Even though I’m writing this really early (hi from the past!), this is something that’s been bothering me for a long time.

I’m a huge sports fan. While I don’t blog about it as much, sports are a huge part of my life. One issue I always struggled with was loving my team despite some of the players being…well human garbage. I’m a Dallas Cowboys fan, I’ve always been and I always will be.

I love my team, but I don’t love everything about them especially their players. While my two favorite players are pretty good guys, the whole team isn’t. Look at Ezekiel Elliott who was accused of domestic violence and is still a member of the team. Whether he’s guilty or not, it’s despicable and something I don’t tolerate. However, it proves more an even bigger point.

NFL front offices don’t care about what you do, who you’re with or how you spend your time as long as you win games. It’s a sad reality and one I have a hard time grasping because it’s so unrealistic. No one accused of what Elliott did would still have a job right now. They would have been unemployed a long time ago and look at Lucky Whitehead.

Whitehead wasn’t even the one in the video, but he was released. He was quick to point the finger at the Cowboys as he rightfully should. He wasn’t necessarily helping the team win so they got rid of him. It’s an easy concept to grasp and something I noticed in 2015, too. Even with such a horrible record, the Cowboys still kept Greg Hardy.

One player I absolutely detested was Greg Hardy. Every time I think about him, my stomach turns and I feel sick. He’s such a horrible person and deserves to be far away from the league and people in general. He not only denied any wrongdoing but also believes the survivor injured herself. It’s sickening but it proves how far a team will go to win.

While there’s a lot of blame at the feet of the NFL front offices, I blame both the NCAA and the players themselves. The recent scandals at Ole Miss and Baylor are all the proof you need to hear. College athletes are given whatever and whoever they want to do whatever they want with. Meanwhile, coaches and other staff will cover it up as long as they win games. Starting it off early only furthers the problem.

The players are to blame as well. When you’re an NFL player, there are entirely different standards. The younger crop of players is really starting to go against this. Rookies are allowed to get away with more and more and no one is questioning it. Statements like ‘Boys will be boys’ or ‘He’s just young, give him a break,” excuse them instead of treating them like the men they’re supposed to be. If they’re man enough to play in the league and cash those checks, they are man enough to be held to certain standards.

Last but not least, I blame the fans, myself included. Football has become such a huge part of the zeitgeist and we want to be entertained. We want to forget about the world and our problems for a while so we ignore it. Yes, you can love a team and cheer for them, but not for everyone. It’s alright to call out players who are problematic and not root for them.

It’s a hard truth people don’t like to hear but we need to shout it out. As much as you support your team, it’s your job to call out those who deserve to be. I don’t think it makes you any less of a fan or loves the team any less. You just want your players to not just stick to sports and there’s nothing wrong with that.

 

Rico Gathers is a glimpse of the Dallas Cowboys future

I hate to admit this as a Cowboys fan, but I didn’t watch the Hall of Fame game. I actually thought it was next week…oops. My dad didn’t watch it either so oh well haha. Either way, I’ve heard a lot of buzz about the game and no one more than Rico Gathers.

Gathers was a 2016 draft pick in the later rounds. A former Baylor basketball player turned TE, Gathers has seemingly become the future of the Dallas Cowboys. Before you start questioning me, I know Dak and Zeke were the future. They’re not anymore, they’re the present Dallas Cowboys and I couldn’t be happier.

Dak and Zeke are set up for success and as leaders of the team. I obviously love them, but they’re not the future anymore. It’s time to look at Gathers. Honestly, I wasn’t even sure if I’d get to see Gathers on the field. He was definitely a longshot, but he has proven himself and could be the heir to Jason Witten. I know it’s a little bit early, but Witten isn’t getting any younger.

If we’re being realistic, Witten probably has no more than 5 years. If he even makes it 5 more years, Witten will be 40 years old and that’s old at least for the NFL. Then again, 30 is old to me haha. Regardless, Witten only has a few more years left of play in him and only a few years left to finally get a ring. If he doesn’t get a ring, I’ll be incredibly upset as will many, many other Cowboys fans.

After Witten’s time is done, it wasn’t clear who the Cowboys would turn to. Now, their choice seems a little bit easier. Fortunately, I’m glad the Cowboys didn’t stick with Gavin Escobar. Escobar was supposed to be the successor to Witten but has failed to live up to expectations. Escobar has since moved onto the Kansas City Chiefs and hopefully will find more success.

It might be a little while until the Cowboys call up Gathers, but he’s showing he’s up to the challenge and is way above his draft stock. Gathers will join the long line of Cowboys who were low draft picks turned studs. This was truly a breakout for Gathers and the media and fans alike are starting to take him seriously.

The future for Gathers is bright. While Witten is consistent, he isn’t the fastest or most explosive player on the field. That’s why Jason Garrett could bring in Gathers for a few plays to pick up some necessary first-downs or maybe give Gold Jacket a few minutes to catch his breath. The future of the Cowboys TE could be in safe hands even if they’re not in Witten’s.

Appreciating sports icons and their legacy

On Friday, I was off work and my uncle and cousins decided to head to Washington D.C. which is roughly a 3-hour drive from where I live. We ended up taking the subway into the city to avoid high parking costs or trying to find a place.

We went to the air and space museum, the Holocaust museum and the African-American museum of history and culture. The last one was easily my favorite even though it was the one we spent the least amount of time in. To be honest, it was packed with people and I can see why you had to have tickets to get in.

However, the one thing I wanted to see was the sports section of the museum. Located on the 2nd floor, it was easily one of the best tributes to athletes I’ve ever seen. The sports section was located in another large section encompassing religion, medicine, and activism.

My favorite attraction was easily the entire Muhammad Ali exhibit. I’ve never really talked about it on here, but I love Muhammad Ali. While I wasn’t around when he was popular, I always harbored a respect and love for him. He’s my favorite athlete and someone I look up to as an inspiration and a pioneer for civil rights, religious rights, and the sports world.

I still remember the day he passed away. My editor at the time texted me and told me and I assumed it was just a health scare. Later that night, the news broke and I was crushed. Someone I had admired for so long was gone off the earth. Someone I’ve never had a chance to meet or tell how much he met to me. It was hard to believe, but he had suffered a majority of his life and I knew he had longed for peace.

It still didn’t ease my pain, but I felt relieved for him. Since then, I have become even more invested in Ali and his life. Going there, I was able to look around at the exhibit dedicated to him and his life. It was such a powerful and breathtaking experience and probably the closest I’ll ever get to see him. The exhibit shared all different parts of his life and I felt like I was right there.

That exhibit only helped me appreciate Ali for who he was, what he did and the legacy he left. I can’t wait to go back when it’s not as crowded and look over everything in detail but Ali wasn’t the only one I stopped and stared at for a while.

There were sections dedicated to a majority of historic black athletes. The other one that really blew me away was Jackie Robinson. While there weren’t much memorabilia for Robinson, he had a statue of him sliding into a base. Looking at it brought a smile to my face and made me think back to writing a paper on him.

Robinson left such an immense legacy in professional baseball and I can’t even imagine what he’d think now. He was also an activist and used his platform to try to make a change in the world. In the same vein, there was a statue of Jesse Owens. Owens raced in the Olympics in 1936 and is one of the most celebrated track-and-field stars ever. Both of their stories have been turned into water-downed movies with only some truth to them but their legacy lives on.

One of the more recent statues featured depicted Tommie Smith and John Carlos, reaching their fists during the medal ceremony. It’s another moment people tend to forget about but such a powerful one. I only got a brief glimpse at it, but it made me happy to see their gesture is appreciated.

Some of the most recent athletes featured were the Williams Sisters, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and Gabby Douglas. It was so amazing to see these athletes being appreciated for their achievements in sports and seeing those already have a legacy and still are expanding on it. It was such a moving experience and one I highly recommend everyone to check out.

I have come to appreciate sports stars and their legacies a lot more since Ali’s passing and that’s something I hope others do. Yes, they’re here to entertain us but they’re people, too. I’m so glad I saw the few parts of the museum I did and a lot of great athletes were given the recognition they deserve.

I’ll probably make a longer post about my trip and share the pictures, but I figured why not share the impact it left on me? I’m so glad I was able to visit it for the short time I did and I can’t wait to go back and explore it further.

 

Being a feminist and a sports fan

If there’s one thing I love almost as much as food, it’s sports. I haven’t always been a sports fan, but now I can’t imagine my life without sports. One issue that has always plagued me is stuff players are allowed to get away with. What morally is considered wrong is right in the NFL and it doesn’t sit right with me.

As a feminist, I believe men and women should have equal rights. Women are held to such a different standard than men over multiple different aspects. One of which is domestic violence. It’s tough to watch the NFL talk so casually about such a horrible epidemic. The more I think about it, the more it makes my blood boil especially when names like Greg Hardy are mentioned.

Even though Ray Rice was the first case, I consider Greg Hardy to be an even bigger problem. Rice walked away from the NFL and has since moved on with his life. I do have some hard feelings about Rice and I believe he should have gotten a harsher punishment, but that’s in the past. I don’t feel bad for Rice or his situation, but he is working to spread awareness and make a change.

Greg Hardy is doing nothing but victim-blaming and being a human trash can. He has continued to claim his innocence because charges were never pressed. The issue I have there is Ms. Holder didn’t show up to the trial. Who knows if he threatened her? What if she was too traumatized? What if she simply didn’t want to have to recount the events of that horrifying night?  Even if it wasn’t any of those things, her not showing up to the trial doesn’t mean anything.

It’s the constant trash spewing from Hardy’s mouth. He’s easily one of the most controversial players ever but he isn’t the only one. Almost every single team in the NFL has a player who has been accused of domestic violence, sexual assault or violence against another person. It’s sickening to think about how staggering that number really is.

The more I think bout it, the sicker to my stomach I get. You might be asking yourself, why do I still support the league and watch the games when I could just quit it all cold turkey? Let me tell you, there isn’t one second I haven’t thought about giving up on football and putting my passion somewhere else. It would be hard letting it go, but there’s a huge reason why I don’t.

I write about the NFL because I want to make things right. If I and other sports ladies aren’t trying to make a change, who will? Certainly not the male fans of the sports world so someone has to do it. As frustrated as I am, I’m going to keep fighting for players to be punished accordingly, victims to be treated fairly and women to be taken seriously in the NFL. If we make up 50% of the fanbase, you can damn sure bet we’re not afraid to call out a league who undervalues us.

The NFL needs women like us out there. Women who aren’t afraid to stand up for what’s right, to scream when no one’s listening and to make the league safe, fun and enjoyable for everyone who watches. I’m going to stand on the sidelines and do nothing, I’m going to get in the game and show everyone not to underestimate ladies.

I tip my head to those who were there before and currently fighting and the future fighters. Most importantly, I especially tip my head to Katie Nolan. Without her Garbage Time videos and outspoken personality, I probably wouldn’t be writing this. She’s easily my favorite sports personality and something I aspire to be. If I can even be half as awesome as her, almost all my goals will be accomplished.

The NFL might not welcome me with open arms, but I’m pushing my way through. Girls run the world after all 🙂

 

Being hopeful in the despair of sports media

Earlier this summer, the biggest sports media company ESPN laid off a slew of workers, mostly journalists. Jane McManus was the name that made my eyes wide. She was part of the Trifecta and the other two members were safe. It was crazy to not think about her being there or to not read her articles on ESPNW, a platform she was instrumental in creating.

Then more recently, Fox Sports laid off almost all their journalists. Honestly, this is the layoff I didn’t understand. They laid off people so they could push their video content but it’s only hurting them. They’re not on top of the news anymore and don’t have anyone there to write up quick blurbs or news pieces. The more I think about it, the more frustrated I get so I’ll just move on.

All these recent layoffs hurt my heart and my head. My heart hurts for those who had their dream ripped away from them so soon. My heart hurts for them, their families and friends who have to dodge questions. My heart hurts for those feeling guilty that they weren’t the ones to go. My hearts just hurts, because sports media is a tough business to get into and an even tougher place to stay.

My head hurts thinking about these companies and their idea to get rid of such valuable and important writers. My head hurts, thinking about how these companies are going to spiral down without their talent. The mission for sports media wasn’t to become a completely digitalized world. It was about getting a chance to tell a story and get the truth out there. Now it seems like all anyone cares about is views and that’s extremely sad.

I might be at the bottom of the ladder now, but soon I won’t be. I’ll be using my platform to do good, tell a story and inform. I might only have a little bit of hope now, but this blog has made me all the more confident.

With all that being said, I’m going to shift my focus a little. I’ll still be talking about books and my life, but more about sports. I don’t want sports writing to die and I won’t be the one who goes down with it. I’ll keep writing my opinions about sports, teams, and players to anyone who will listen.

It might not mean much, but it’s what I love to do. I’ll be damned if I’m going to let someone else take that away from me. I might not have been affected by the layoffs, but it’s been a wake-up call for me. I’m going to use my voice to talk, rant and scream about sports to anyone and everyone.

 

How will Tony Romo be remembered?

Tony Romo was the heart and soul of the Dallas Cowboys for years. During his tenure with the team, Romo became the laughing stock of the NFL but Cowboys fans saw past that. They saw a man with the world on his shoulders, trying to balance his career and his health with heaps of criticism. With a new sports broadcasting job, how will Tony Romo be remembered by Cowboys fans and fans in general?

Obviously, NFL fans will remember him because of his fails. Being a sports fan always means focusing on the worst. Look at the Falcons, all they’ve been hearing for months is the 28-3 jokes. Eventually, it will grow old but it hasn’t for Romo. Many consider 2014 to be the peak of his career and still the jokes never ceased. It’s weird to imagine the world where fans didn’t make jokes about him.

Jokes might not be what Romo intended, but he’s still being talked about. It might not be what he hoped for, but his name will forever live in infamy. A few years from now, people will still be making jokes and he’ll still be rolling in millions of dollars. You see who the real winner is there.

Then there are the Cowboys fans. As a fan myself, it was hard to see Romo walk away from the game. He was the quarterback I grew up with and was my first jersey so watching him hang up his cleats so suddenly was heartbreaking. The thing that makes me the saddest is he was never able to get a Superbowl ring. He was able to get close but never could make him the final leap. Then again, Superbowl rings don’t mean anything at the end of the day. Greatness isn’t always measured by how many rings someone has.

For Cowboys fans, remembering Romo will be in his glory. Leading the team to a fourth-quarter comeback, playing through injury and his final touchdown pass to Terrance Williams, just to name a few moments. Memories of Romo will live on in Cowboys fans hearts forever and it’s hard to think about him not being a captain. He left the team with grace and respect, handing the reins over to Dak Prescott who righted the ship and kept hope alive.

This isn’t the end of Romo, though. He’ll be a part of the CBS Sports broadcast team and hopefully, be on our TV for many years. He’ll be saying goodbye to his professional football career but won’t be saying goodbye forever. Seeing him once a week or even a few times a week will be sure to bring a smile to a Cowboys fans face.

Romo might not be remembered as one of the all-time greats, but to me, he’s so much more. He was a player who sacrificed it all, moved aside when the time was needed and bravely started a new chapter. Whether you believe he was great on the field, he’s a great person and that’s how I’ll always remember him.