Tag Archives: Sports

Why…Are We Still Having These Types Of Conversations?

The USA soccer team, arguably considered the best in the world, is currently playing a World Cup tournament in France. They have won three of the seven World Cups played, including the last one in 2015 and are playing in the semis next week. They have a chance to win a fourth World Cup but it won’t be easy

By comparison, since World War II, the men’s team has advanced past the World Cup round of 16 exactly once. They finished eighth in 2002. They are 24th in FIFA’s rankings and failed to even qualify for last years tournament.

According to audited financial statements from the U.S. Soccer Federation obtained by the Wall Street Journal, the women’s team has generated more revenue than men’s games over the past three years.

So why was the women’s team forced to file a federal employment discrimination lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation alleging that although they could earn a maximum of 99,000 for winning 20 friendly games this year, the men would earn an average of 260,000 for the same exact accomplishment.
For winning the 2015 World Cup, the women’s team received 1.725 million from the federation. For its 15th place finish, the men took home bonuses totaling nearly 5.4 million.
According to figures obtained from the Federation’s financial report, the women’s team helped the Federation exceed it’s overall projected revenue  for the year by 18 million.

According to the lawsuit, the women’s player association has proposed a revenue sharing model that would tie player compensation to revenue generated by the women’s national team.

Seems fair  and reasonable to me. Oh, and the men’s national team has issued a statement of support for the women’s team lawsuit and the revenue sharing model.

By the way, this is not just a USA problem. The best female soccer player in the world, Ada Hegerberg, from Norway, has not played for her national team since 2017, protesting what she states is gender discrimination from the Norwegian Federation between how it treats the men’s and women’s team. While Norway has since adjusted their pay scales and bonuses, it’s hasn’t done enough to encourage Hegerberg to return.

So the big question is why? How can an organization who acknowledges that women are generating higher revenues than men, continue to pay women less?

What year are we living in and when will this type of antiquated thinking finally be put behind us?

 

Norway’s Answer To Youth Sports

I recently watched a show on HBO that explored Norway’s approach to youth sports. It was eyeopening. Anyone who has participated or been associated with youth sports in this country during the past thirty or so years will tell you, if they’re being objective, that the model is out of control. We train, pressure and attempt to develop eight year olds as if they’re pro athletes, so it should surprise no one that a study performed by the National Alliance for Youth Sports found that 70% of American children quit sports by the age of thirteen. One of the main reasons given for dropping out is that sports in no longer fun.

Enter Norway.

They basically take the approach that the United States is using, and do the opposite. Back in 1987, Norway adopted a statement called Children’s Rights In Sports. It governs how kids participate in athletics and all national sports federations are obligated to abide by the rules. The basic premise centers on making sports available for all kids with the goal of having fun. Instead of the pressure for kids to participate in one sport year round at an early age, like we do in the United States, Norway wants kids to play sports because its fun and they enjoy it.
By the way, 93 percent of children grow up playing organized sports in Norway, where there are no economic barriers, travel teams aren’t formed until teenage years and adults don’t begin separating weak from strong until children have grown into their bodies and interests. Leagues don’t keep scores until the age of 13, there are no national championships for teams younger than 13 and no regionals until 11. Once a child reaches thirteen, has begun to grow into their bodies and expressed specific interests, Norway’s sports federation make top coaches available to athletes skilled in those sports, but until then, it’s only about participation and letting kids be kids and have fun. Their belief is that it’s impossible to say at 8 or 10 who is going to be talented in school or sport. All children develop, physically and athletically, at very different ages.

What a concept!! Letting a child have fun, living their lives and playing sports for the pure enjoyment of it.

One would think that a system like this would come up short compared to our system of national championships for seven year olds, parents hiring coaches for nine year olds and families traveling across the country for tournaments. But Norwegian athletes get just as much physical exercise without having to play the same sports day after day, year after year, while they’re young. Their development is all encompassing and they are able to enjoy friendships and family without the stresses and commitments we see in this country.

Their goal is not to develop the best college or professional athlete, but the best well rounded person.

Oh, and if anyone thinks this approach doesn’t breed success, take a look at the last Winter Olympics in 2018. With a population of only 5.3 million people, Norway took home 39 medals, more than any country in the history of the Winter Games. And yes, they also have the best female soccer player in the world.

Is it any wonder that Norway always ranks as one of the happiest countries in the world?

Youth sports in this country is a 16 billion dollar industry bankrolled by parents who just don’t understand the long term impact on their children.

In a country where money speaks first, parents dictate direction and children have become a secondary priority, there is little chance that we will ever see the type of youth sports revolution Norway adopted.

And once again, children lose.

 

 

When The Beast Wins, Children Lose

A ten-year old student in an ELA class at one of my schools was asked to provide an argument for something he felt strongly about. He chose a sports related topic. This is what he wrote, unedited.

Parents, teachers, coaches and kids! I call on you to change the policy that kids have to try out for sports. It’s wrong to not let kids join sports because it hurts their self-esteem, because it builds a nasty sense of competition and because all kids deserve to play if they want. 

Some pooh-pooh the idea that a kids self-esteem gets hurt but how do you think it makes us feel? I’ll tell you how it feels, it feels TERRIBLE. It feels lie everyone is staring at us , feeling sorry for us. It makes us wonder if we’ll ever be good enough. The truth is our school, coaches or parents don’t think we’re good enough to participate. They’re supposed to make you feel stronger or better, not destroy your self-esteem and confidence.

Not allowing other kids to join sports also makes kids competitive with each other. In one survey, 18 out of 20 kids said they would rather make the team than stay friends with each other. In an interview with a student who made the team, this article said, “I really don’t hang out with any of my friends now who didn’t make the team. They don’t have the shirt we have. I don’t know, I just don’t see them any more. You might think competition brings out the best in kids and maybe it does when they’re older but in elementary school it makes kids mean and lonely.”

The most important reason not to make cuts is that all kids deserve to play. For goodness sakes!!!! We’re nine and ten years old. Isn’t this the time we should be learning skills, getting stronger and having fun? A lot of people say it’s just sports, that’s how it is. But we’re not pro ball players. All of us deserve a chance to get better.

Change this policy, please. Give us the fast legs and strong bodies we deserve. Let us all be the athlete we want to be. 

Interesting discussion topic.

I have three daughters who played multiple sports through high school and I coached basketball and softball for quite a few years.

But it was a very different time in terms of youth sports. It was not all-consuming and I could probably write a short book on the strong feelings I have about children and the parents and coaches who affect their lives.

The immersion and consumption of time in sports today at a very early age has to be witnessed in order to be understood. I think the biggest fear for me is how it affects families and the time they spend together.

Or don’t.

It’s time that will never be returned to them and it passes so very quickly.

I understand that making cuts as it relates to some teams are the nature of sports and I think some kids learn from these disappointments, but some things this student said are pretty sad; specifically about the interaction between kids who make teams and those who don’t, and what competition brings out in children.
At younger ages, it should never be about the score. Who wins is irrelevant. How good you are at 8-9-10, is irrelevant. We’ve all seen stars at ten who burn out or fall behind others as they get older; stars at ten years old who never play a high school game. Coaches and parents lose sight of the fact that young children who choose to play sports should, as this child mentions, focus on basic skills and development, not winning and losing. Can both be accomplished? Of course. But all too often one takes control of the other. It’s the nature of the beast.

Most importantly, children at that age should be having fun. Sadly, and all too often, that simple goal is not part of a parent or coaches mindset.

Children should be allowed to be children and families should be allowed to enjoy those few precious years together.

Sports is a great outlet and competition is healthy as long as both are done intelligently and balanced properly.

I was going to conclude by saying that I hope this young man figures it out and finds sports to be a positive experience, but it’s really not his decision, is it?

So I hope the adults in his life figure it out and provide this child with a positive experience. Lord knows our children can use all the positive experiences they can get.

 

Unfortunately, it’s not always provided by those who have the opportunity to do so.

Greed, Violence And Sports

There is a 56-year-old man in Baltimore clinging to life today because he was beaten inside the stadium of a Baltimore Ravens football game.

In Alabama, the first three months of football season are the deadliest months of the year because of DUI fatalities.

Not long ago, before a college football game in Nebraska, police had to breakup a tailgate and force 3000 people to leave, after arresting fifteen individuals.

In separate incidents at different stadiums across the country, a group attacked a single man and stabbed him to death, two other people were shot at different times and two men suffered irreparable brain damage after being attacked outside different stadiums.

A two-year old girl who was out on a pumpkin picking trip with her parents will live her life as a paraplegic because of a head-on collision caused by a man who was driving drunk after leaving a professional football game.

Philadelphia Eagles fans are notoriously brutal; so much so that in the late 90’s the club installed a jail and courtroom in the bowels of their stadium where unruly fans were arrested, put on trial and sentenced by a judge who was forced to be in attendance for every home game.

These examples are a microscopic sampling of what goes on before, during and after sporting events in this country. Football games, both college and professional are especially  guilty of this type of behavior. I’m not even addressing the rioting that goes on after teams win or lose championships, as if celebrations need to be intoxicated examples of boorish and irresponsible behavior.

Why? In part, the short answer is alcohol, though the parties involved will quietly move away from that topic because of the financial implications.

Now, I have been a season ticket holder for New York Giants football games for 40 years. For the first 30 years I rarely missed a game, attending well over 300 during that 40 year period. I’ve seen some pretty ugly stuff during that time. I’ve also attended countless baseball games in several ballparks. Also not a pretty picture.

When you take upwards of 80,000 people, many with testosterone issues, and you place them in a parking lot where they’ve been drinking for 3-4 hours before a game starts, then cramp them into a stadium where large amounts of beer is sold, considering there are fans from both teams at these games, you have the strong potential of several thousand angry and drunk individuals. That’s a potent combination and a recipe for dangerous confrontations in and outside of the stadiums.

Statistics tell us that those who tailgate are fourteen times more likely to be legally drunk during or after a game and that one in ten people leaving these games are legally drunk. So in a stadium that holds 80,000 people, 8,000 people are walking out impaired and many of those are getting into car and hitting the roads. Multiply that by hundreds of stadiums across the country on any given weekend.

And yet, very few restrictions are put on these individuals before or after a game.

Look, I love a good tailgate as much as the next person and even though I don’t drink, I don’t have a problem with people who do, as long as they do it responsibly. But if I want to take a child to a game and it’s going to cost me upwards of 250.00 for two tickets, another 30.00 to park and who knows what else inside the stadium, I want to be able to enjoy the entertainment in front of me without  someone throwing around four letter words. I want  to know I can cheer for a team without being attacked because of it, regardless of what stadium I’m in. I want a safe environment and considering the billions of dollars these teams and leagues are generating in revenue, they should be able to provide that for me. It doesn’t seem like too much to ask.

But they won’t do that because the product would suffer. They don’t want to alienate the crazy fans who buy $120.00 team jerseys and they certainly don’t want their beer concession sales to suffer. Both would be a financial hit to the bottom line, and regardless of the smoke and mirrors they place in front of us, it’s always about the bottom line. Restrictions, random testing, increased security, removing people from games before incidents occur, implementing proactive measures to avoid injury or death; these are all things that should be considered but probably never will.

So lives will continue to be altered, families will continue to mourn the loss of loved ones or face a future of long-term care and the games will continue to be played.

Because greed and violence is as much a part of sports as the play on the field.

Anyone who tells you differently works for a team or a league office.

 

Football, Gambling And Life

I read an article a few days ago that estimates Americans will wager 95 BILLION dollars on college and NFL games this coming season. Of that figure, 93 billion will be bet illegally. Keep in mind, this is only one sport that essentially covers five months out of the year.

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In order to try to gain some perspective, that number is 30 billion more than Google’s 2014 revenues.

Now, I enjoy watching football, I attend games and even take part in some friendly and inexpensive football pools. I don’t bet on games and never have. Though it may be entertaining, for me, all forms of gambling is a fool’s game. If it wasn’t Vegas would be dark and the bookies would be selling cars.

There are many hypocrisies related to sports, with gambling being close to the top of the list. The NFL, as an example, realizes that, in large part, their popularity is tied into the money that is being gambled each week. All sports do, which is why they are all trying to find ways to legally grab a piece of that pie. Politicians are no different. Legalized gambling can generate significant revenues for states, which they can then use to____________ ( you can fill in the blank as sarcastically as you wish.)

As for me, I can’t help but wonder how much good we can do in this country with 95 billion dollars. I understand sports is an entertainment and we’re all entitled to spend our entertainment money in any way we like.  But 95 billion dollars? That’s a lot of good being spent on self-indulgence, isn’t it?

Whenever I doubt if I’m right in thinking our priorities may be a little distorted, I read an article like this and wonder how we got to a place where, with everything we see going on around us, we can read something like this and not even blink or react.

How much does the sandbox need to be filled before it can no longer hold its own weight? My guess is we’ll find out soon enough.

 

At The Intersection Of Ignorant And Clueless

So here comes Josh Smith who will be playing basketball for the Los Angeles Clippers this coming season, during which time he will earn the nice little sum of 6.9 million dollars. In case you’d like to put a name to a face, here you go. I’ll get to his ludicrous comments in a moment.

397162f28ba05d91cd8c9ad114fbf5ae_crop_northNow, Josh seems like a nice enough guy. The problem is, like many athletes, he lives in a world that’s very different from the rest of us. So when they speak, which their agents, team representatives and PR people should always discourage, we are often left shaking our heads at the absurdities that dribble from their lips.

As an example, here is Josh attempting to wax poetic about the 6.9 million dollar salary he will be paid this coming season, which is about half of the 14 million he was paid last season.

“At the end of the day, you know, I do have a family. So it is going to be a little harder on me this year. But I’m going to push through it, you know… I made a decision for me and my family.”

He’s going to push through it? Really? Are you @#$%^&* kidding me????

Sorry, but you need to slow your roll, big guy.

Now, before you go out and plan a benefit to help support ol Josh’s struggles and misfortune on the salary cut, you should know that he has played in the NBA for several years and has earned in the area of 91 million dollars, give or take a few hundred thousand.

That’s 91 million #$%^&* dollars!!

Should we ask The Stones to play Sympathy For The Devil for you, Josh, simply because you need to  cut back on that new loaded Escalade you were eyeing up or those extra thirty custom suits in rainbow colors or the first class trip to Bora Bora complete with concierge service you might have to rethink? Cause I know it’s not about being able to take the family to Chuck E Cheese  tonight and play some fifty cent video games, right?

I’d like to say this is an isolated incident but it’s not. Sports is littered with his type of oblivious thinking. Several years back a basketball player by the name of Latrell Sprewell was once offered a three-year, 30 million dollar contract which he found, “insulting.” LIke Smith, Sprewell didn’t think that salary would be enough for his family to live comfortably. Not long after, he was out of basketball and ended up filing bankruptcy. As I recall there were no tears shed for Latrell.
Sometimes Karma will come out and bite you in the ass if you decide to kick it around guys.

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So here’s my thing. If you want to live a lavish lifestyle that only supports you for the time you have a career and then causes you to lose it all because you never had the smarts or self-control to rein in your spending, plan for the future or take care of yourself and your family, that’s your choice. You have the ability to live large and take your friends out for thirty-five thousand dollar dinners? Good for you. It’s not my place to say how anyone should spend the money they earn and quite honestly,  I really don’t care.

Just please do me a favor and don’t insult the general population with comments like this, which paint you as a spoiled, greedy, single-minded, clueless individual who thinks the world revolves around the air you breathe.

We already have too many people like that in our lives at the moment. They’re called politicians. We don’t need jocks joining that dance.