“42” Reverberates into today’s sports world

42What is amazing about quality period pieces is the ability to draw parallels between that particular time and the present. To use the past or the future as a window into the current makes everything feel a bit more real. The Jackie Robinson biopic “42” does exactly that.

“42” is a fine sports movie although it is nothing special. I left the theatre entertained and enlightened in certain aspects of Robinson’s journey, but this movie will be up for no awards. What the film did do well is highlight the brutality Robinson was met with on a daily basis. The seething opposition aimed at one man was truly horrendous, but accurate. Overall, the film is a poignant examination of intolerance, ignorance and cruelty among the masses.

Jackie RobinsonBreaking barriers is an immense challenge. While I am extremely proud and thankful that Jackie Robinson had the emotional and mental fortitude to accomplish such a change, the work is not over. Today, we face a new barrier.

The sexual orientation barrier.

There is not a single openly gay active athlete in America’s four major sports (NBA, NHL, MLB, NFL). Players have come out but only after retiring. Is our sports culture so single minded that closeted gay athletes are afraid to come out? Will they be met with the same vitriol that Robinson was once forced to endure?

Magic--Gay AthletesOf course, there are some examples of courageous honesty that are met with nothing but support. Brittney Griner, the likely number one overall pick in the WNBA draft, recently confirmed the rumors of her sexual orientation. “Be who you are” Griner said in her statement. All Robinson wanted to be was a ballplayer but for the longest time the public wouldn’t let him, only because he was a littler different than them.

Change is a slow process. It takes years to gain full acceptance in some instances. We can only hope that society has changed enough that a gay athletes would even be a blip on the radar anymore.

Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker, Brendon Ayanbadejo, has expressed his staunch support for gay marriage and worked hard to spread acceptance throughout the NFL. In fact, Ayanbadejo says that they are in talks with up to four current players about coming out publicly. This would forever shift the landscape for gay athletes and truly test the sports culture’s readiness for such a change. But, what would be the reaction both in and outside of the locker room?

Hate MailLet us hope that unlike in Robinson’s era, we do not see everything in black and white.

Instead, let us hope for a little rainbow-color in there.

Redefining success in the NFL

Calvin Johnson

In life, there are certain benchmarks that indicate accomplishment. These indicators are tangible symbols of success.

Numbers often times provide the road map of a success for a given field.

But, what happens when those numbers are no longer as indicative as they once were? When benchmarks become outdated, when they no longer reliably reflect success, progress and perception?

AJ Green

In sports, attaining a 1000-yard receiving season in the NFL is considered upper-echelon.

Dig deeper and recent trends suggest that these numbers are not as trustworthy as once believed.

The gold standard of 1000-yard seasons for pass catchers no long indicates elite talent. Twenty pass catchers reached this mark last season. 19 players reached it the year before. 

The NFL is rapidly shifting towards aerial based offenses. As a result, the league has become saturated with pass catchers. The plethora of options closes the gap between talent classes.

Wes Welker

No box score can truly convince me that players such as Michael Crabtree and Jordy Nelson are among the elite WRs of the NFL. Guys like them may have some talent, but they are far from being considered the best at their positions. It’s like the mirage of stardom American Idol casts over its contestants. Sure, they’ve all got amazing skill. But, the majority of winners eventually fade away after their lone victorious season.

Offenses can no longer be judged by whether or not they contain a true No. 1 WR who consistently tops 1000 yards. The game has changed and it’s time the way we view it changes as well.

NFL: Contract killers

Joe FlaccoWord broke recently that Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco will be the NFL’s highest paid player. The two parties have agreed to a six-year deal worth $120.6 million.

Excuse me? Come again?

Is this the same Joe Flacco whose completion percentage has been under 60% the last two seasons? The same Joe Flacco whose career post-season percentage is 55.5%?

Joe Flacco 2Now I understand that Flacco is coming off a very impressive post-season run. He is the reigning Super Bowl MVP and has won nine playoff games.

But is he worthy of the richest contract in NFL history?

Well, is Charlie Sheen a role model for kids?

No chance.

This is still the same guy who gets rattled when pressure is in his face. This is still the same guy who was at the helm of a listless Ravens team at the end of the season. Do four great playoff games completely erase the frequent periods of offensive stagnancy that has plagued Baltimore the last couple years?

Joe Flacco 3

Joe Flacco is a solid quarterback who has won some big games. But he is not more valuable in terms of dollars and on field performance than Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees. You could make the argument that a hand full of other QBs are more valuable as well.

As my brother smartly pointed out, most of the major contracts are dictated by the market and not actual value. Supply and demand are going to jack up prices for prime time free agents. But I still don’t see the logic here. Baltimore could have easily made Flacco a top five paid QB instead of sacrificing the ability to add talent to a roster that has some holes.

Everyone knew Baltimore had to pay the man. But they didn’t need to be an accomplice to robbery.

The Super Bowl black out

Super DomeAccording to this article, Superdome officials have been worried for months at the potential for a power outage during America’s most popular sporting event.

The level of incompetence involved in this is breath taking. How can the Super Bowl venue be so ill equipped? If they believed there was a better then average chance of a black out occurring, why didn’t they prepare against it? The article sites considerable concerns over the condition of the stadium’s electrical feeders. These concerns had been voiced months beforehand and yet the issue was not dealt with. How can the Super Bowl be handled with such apathy?

Super Bowl XLVII - Baltimore Ravens v San Francisco 49ers

Now, the NFL has said that the black out will not affect New Orleans’ chances of hosting another Super Bowl in the future. But, I’m sure league officials were distraught  behind closed doors. Such a massive screw up is inexcusable for the most viewed event of the year.

Step ya game up.

Ray Lewis and PEDs


The above video is an impressive highlight compilation from Ray Lewis‘ career. If the Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl victory didn’t further cement Lewis’ legacy as one of the greatest linebackers of all time for you, then you clearly have not been paying attention to the NFL. What makes the middle linebacker’s accomplishment this season even more amazing is his incredible recovery from a torn triceps. Lewis returned a mere 10 weeks after the injury when the average recovery time is known to be around six months.

But, as reported during media week, Lewis may have utilized a banned substance to aid in his recovery. Yet, no one seems to care that much. Yes, the media covered it and asked Lewis all of the important questions. But, it appears as if the general public is just as happy to sweep this under the rug and let Lewis ride off into the sunset.

Ray Ray

As columnist Bill Simmons argues in his article “Daring to ask the PED question”, the public should hold NFL players to the same standard as other sports. We should demand an even playing field and shun those that fail to adhere to the rules. And yet for some reason, we don’t. Commissioner Roger Goodell doles out a four game suspension for first time violators and the media move on.

Why is that?

Are we so entertained by the sheer brutality of football that we subconsciously want these behemoth athletes to continue growing stronger and hitting harder?


The league, the media, and the fans should value fair competition over bone crushing hits and inhuman athleticism. Performance enhancing drugs are a part of professional football. It’s about time we address that.

Dismantling The Gun Culture in Professional Sports

James Harrison Gun PicAre guns synonymous with toughness?

Do they make one appear cool?

Have guns become necessary for protection?

Are they simply a guilty pleasure?

The answers to these questions differ depending on whom you ask. The one guarantee, however, is that guns are an increasingly prevalent aspect within the professional sports world.

Luke Scott, currently with the Tampa Bay Rays, said in a 2006 interview with ESPN that he estimates that 50 percent of MLB players at the time owned some type of gun. In the same article, Roger Renrick, a body guard whose worked for NBA stars such as Jalen Rose and Paul Pierce, guessed that roughly 60 percent of NBA players possessed a gun. NFL free agent receiver Jabar Gaffney estimated that close to 90 percent of NFL players owned a gun.

Of course, it is perfectly within one’s right to own a firearm. Many athletes use guns for sport and protection.

But, let’s review the past few years. In 2010, All-Star guard Gilbert Arenas was suspended for brandishing a gun in the Wizards locker room during a dispute with teammate Javaris Crittenton. A year later, Crittenton was arrested for the shooting death of a 22-year-old mother of four.

Gilbert Arenas mocked the locker room incident shortly after during pre-game warm ups.

Gilbert Arenas mocked the locker room incident shortly after during pre-game warm ups.

In May of 2012, All-Pro linebacker Junior Seau committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest multiple times. In late 2012, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher fatally shot the mother of his child a total of nine times before killing himself shortly after.

These are only three examples out of the many gun related incidents involving professional athletes.

Many athletes grew up in crime ridden areas where gun possession was wide spread. To carry a firearm was similar to having a cell phone, barely an after thought. Whether it was for protection or other uses, owning a gun was commonplace. Unfortunately, that same mentality has manifested itself into an epidemic at the professional level.

The association between guns, coolness and toughness is deeply embedded. These childhood tendencies and viewpoints have clearly stayed with many of the current professional athletes.

NFL receiver Plaxico Burress was sentenced to two years in prison for criminal possession of a handgun.

NFL receiver Plaxico Burress was sentenced to two years in prison for criminal possession of a handgun.

Pop culture has contributed to the mainstream acceptance of guns. Our television shows, video games and movies are saturated with gun violence to the point that it has desensitized us to the true dangers. Popular musicians in the Hip-Hop genre frequently praise their weapons in their lyrics. American culture regularly employs fake violence as entertainment. Growing up in this type of environment is bound to condition one to associate positive attributes to negative actions.

For every professional athlete that has a fascination with guns, there are a handful of regular people with the same affliction. There are young kids who look up to these athletes as role models and emulate their behavior. If they are bombarded with popular media that reinforces the coolness of guns and see their heroes using them frequently, it is only reasonable to expect them to do the same. Gun culture may be a critical problem within the sporting world, but its effects seep into everyday life as well.

Ultimately, there needs to be a better understanding of the dangers that accompany guns. Incoming players need to be further educated on gun violence and proper firearm conduct. There have to be programs that counter the negative effects entertainment yields in regards to guns. Players, as well as regular people, need to be shown that guns don’t make someone cool and tough and instead can lead to horrific violence. When examples like Jovan Belcher, who owned over eight guns, surface it crystallizes the fact that the need for weapons exceeds mere protection within this culture. There are other factors under the surface that are driving this fascination and it is these factors that need to be addressed.

The core issue is not just that there exists a gun culture among professional athletes, but that a gun culture exists throughout the country.

As with many problems, the mentality behind this attraction needs to be changed for the good. It may be extremely difficult to break habits that have developed since childhood. But, we are seeing the NFL attempt to do it with player safety on the field. There should be increased focus for safety off the field as well.

In a recent interview with Jon Stewart, Bob Costas discussed the gun related issues that plague professional sports. Costas succinctly argued that their needs to be a greater emphasis placed on combatting the attitude towards guns rather then repealing the Second Amendment. The issue is not the infringement of one’s rights and the changing of laws. Rather, it is the popular nature of guns among the players. There is a lack of understanding, regardless of intent, of what guns are capable of.

Costas goes on to say, “What are the chances that out of every 100 incidents, that these [guns] are being used for sporting purposes, or just legitimately for self-defense, as opposed to something tragic, even if it’s unintentionally tragic, happening?”

It’s time that the major sporting organizations join together and dismantle the gun culture that exists within professional sports. This will serve as the first step for disbanding gun culture as a whole.